Meeting Jello Biafra

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He was standing against the wall, beer in hand, talking to a much younger blonde woman.  But it was getting late, and I was tired – if I wanted that autograph, I had to make my move.

Jello Biafra (former front man for the Dead Kennedys, political prankster and activist, founder of Alternative Tentacles Records, and all around punk rock royalty) was DJ-ing at my little dive bar, The Ruby Room, and I had vowed I would get the man to sign a couple of records.  I felt okay about this: after all, I had restrained myself from bringing ALL six of the LP’s I own, not to mention the handful of 45’s.

Jello’s work mattered to me.  Still does.

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Kicking Out The Homeless: Why I’m Kinda Okay With This

In the city where I live, there is a spit of land by the shoreline where people take their dogs on walks, let their children get their feet wet, and where an estimated 30 homeless people are living.

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Just this week, the city reached a settlement with the homeless, agreeing to pay each of them $3000 in return for a promise that they leave and not return to the property, which is owned by the city.

The legal issue is federal and state disability laws and Fourth Amendment property protections (which include shopping carts filled with stuff), versus the city’s “anti-camping” ordinance, the city’s way to prevent the homeless from squatting.

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Is It Art?

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Hmm.  Okay.  A dorm room fridge with a Black Flag sticker on it.

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Well, let’s see….

…it’s in a museum.

…it’s in a nice plexiglass box.

…a label describes the piece (Kaz Oshiro, “Small Fridge #5 (Black Flag)”, acrylic, bondo, canvas, 2005)

So, yes, it must be art…right?

Abstinence Totally Works – If You Want To Get Pregnant

Question: what’s the connection between “abstinence only” sex education programs in high school and normal human behavior?

Answer: super high teen pregnancy rates, yay!

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In Tunica, Mississippi (hey, it’s not my fault if Mississippi keeps walking into stereotypes), the sex ed lesson plan goes like this:

Should Crazy Cat Ladies Go To Jail?

The woman in this photo is being re-tried on animal abuse charges.  Her name is Jan Van Dusen.

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Just around the corner from our house there is a “crazy cat lady house.”  It’s tucked behind wild, unmanaged shrubs, the paint on the modest bungalow is peeling, and there are usually three or four cats – no collars – wandering through the front yard. I’ve never seen the owner of the house, but we have good reason to suspect that our cat, Spunky, who we found abandoned in our backyard with part of the umbilical cord still attached and her eyes still shut, looking like a rat or tiny ewok, might be the offspring of one of the cat lady’s cats.

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So: should crazy cat ladies with too many cats be arrested for animal abuse?

A “Super Awesome” Surprise

I went for the vinyl, I stayed for the awesomeness.

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The Oakland Museum of California is having an exhibit on vinyl records, so naturally I had to go and compare my collection to theirs.  That show turned out to be a bit of a bust for me, but right next to it, ten steps away in another wing of the building, was a show I hadn’t heard of:

Super Awesome: The Art of Giant Robot.

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Life’s Curveballs

Here’s why I’m never allowed to complain again – even silently, even just in my head – when Starbuck’s has run out of my customary multi-grain bagel, and perhaps even served the substitute plain bagel with cream cheese instead of the butter I requested.

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In fact, here’s why I’m not allowed to complain about anything ever again.  As I was chomping listlessly on that plain bagel, I glanced through the paper and read the story of a 17 year old boy named Rufus Wollo.

Rufus Wollo, 17, , 17,  James Logan High School Union City

Hero or Traitor?

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Recently tech pioneer Marc Andreessen (co-founder of Netscape and board member of Facebook, eBay and HP), in an interview with CNBC, called NSA leaker Edward Snowden a “traitor.”

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Many of his colleagues in the high tech world, whose technologies have been used by the NSA, perhaps unwittingly, perhaps not, to spy on, well, just about everybody, have generally taken a more favorable view of Snowden.  He was warmly received – via his lawyer, via satellite video – at the South by Southwest tech conference earlier this year, when his lawyer read a statement from Tim Berners-Lee, a respected computer scientist and internet pioneer who wrote that Snowden’s leaks were “profoundly in the public interest.”

Self-congratulatory applause all around.

Andreessen said he wasn’t surprised by the NSA spying.  “I just thought that’s what they were doing.  I thought everybody knew that.”

Well, if they did, they certainly had no shame in playing the fake righteous indignation card.

So who’s right?

Calvin and Hobbes is Back! (sorta)

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Bill Watterson is the J.D. Salinger of comic strip artists.  For ten glorious years, from 1985 to December 31 of 1995, he penned “Calvin and Hobbes,” the only reason I looked at the funny pages (well, that and “The Far Side.”).  And then, at the height of his fame, he stopped, and just seemed to vanish.

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Last week Watterson resurfaced, making a guest appearance in the comic strip, “Pearls Before Swine.”  He drew one panel in three different strips, and one can easily detect the maestro’s pen stroke and sensibility:

Me & Vinyl: A Love Affair

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They take up way too much space.  They’re heavy.  A mere particle of dust can scratch them permanently.  Their sleeves come apart over time.  The labor required to take them out of those sleeves and place them on the turntable feels like an onerous burden in the era of MP3’s and smartphones, and yet, I LOVE my vinyl.

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