Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘San Francisco’

Wash, Rinse and Repeat

51azfjj8D1LDeath by Corporate America: Climbing the Corporate Ladder One Murder at a Time by Lex Ramsay. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

A great murder-mystery where the murderess is known from the start. Death by Corporate America turns this genre around by showing clearly who the perpetrator is of a series of murders at the fictional San Francisco conglomerate Mondrian Corporation (Mondo). There is no doubt that Adrian Banner, a 44-year-old African-American business geek, who is temporarily made an Executive Secretary on the companies board when one of their members dies in a balloon accident, is the culprit.

Adrian has had her fill of sexism, racism, and invisibility, by the board members of this company and decides to make the initial death just the beginning. “Commute, meetings, con calls, emails, IMs, PowerPoints and a hurried lunch eaten at her desk… wash, rinse and repeat. This was death by Corporate America, and she was one of the walking dead.” Ms. Ramsay has created a character that you root for, and hope she succeeds. The question isn’t did she do it, but how is she going to do it, and will she get away with it?

Ms. Banner is one smart woman. She learns about everyone’s vulnerabilities, what methods will work and how, and the means to have them go undetected. She is a mastermind in business. Everyone diminishes and dismisses her, assuming she is not the culprit and not able to have carried out such murders. The people she kills are assholes, and deserve to die (especially in her mind). There is also a homeless man, Jerome, who gives her ideas (unknowingly) about how to vanquish her business foes.

Death by Corporate America is rich in possibility for a good screenwriter and producer to bring the story to the screen. It is suspenseful, well-plotted, and never stops. Lex Ramsay has made revenge seem possible and satisfying, while also creating a character that you want to succeed, even though she is a cold-blooded killer. That is a hard feat to carry off, but she does it with class. This is not the kind of story I usually read, or enjoy, but there are exceptions, and this is one of them.

Meeting Her Parents

After going out for a year and a half and living together for four months, it was time to meet my wife’s parents. Her parents lived in Chicago and we lived in California. The day of reckoning had arrived.

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One day, as Audrey was talking on the phone with her mother (which she does every week for hours on end), her Mom told her that they were coming out to a convention in San Francisco and wondered if they could meet us for dinner. Audrey had replied, “Yes, we would love to.” and then informed me of it afterwords. I was reasonably shocked, but as ready as I’d ever be. She had told me a little about her parents and I’d talked to them on the phone, but had never met them in person.

I was nine years older than their daughter and already had three children from a previous marriage! Audrey had never been married, was only twenty-four and had grown up as an only child. And even though I had a Masters degree, at the time of our meeting I was working as a nursing assistant, which was as far away from their daughter’s previous boyfriend, who was going to medical school, as possible.

The meeting took place at what is now the Sheraton Hotel in downtown San Francisco. We met them in the lobby. I had on the one good suit I owned, that looked like something from the seventies and just as tacky. Audrey looked beautiful, as always. Her parents looked just like I had imagined, though her father wasn’t as tall as I’d expected. We exchanged formalities and went outside to get on the cable car and go down to Ghirardelli Square, where we went to a fancy Hungarian restaurant.

After being seated and making sure to follow everything they did, such as eating with the proper utensil and delicately sipping the wine, her father asked about the work I did and what I had done in the past. I tried to make health care, counseling and massage sound important and exciting, but I could tell it wasn’t going over real well. Then her mother asked about my kids. I gave her a glowing report and tried to convey how different that relationship had been, from the one her daughter and I had now embarked upon. Her anxiety and fears seemed to increase, despite my good intentions.

I must admit, if my only daughter was involved, at age twenty-four, with a man in his thirties who already had three children and worked as a nursing assistant, I would have had my doubts, concerns and clanging sirens of apprehension!

As we all stood on the trolley car, on the way back to the hotel, her father unexpectedly asked me where I lived. The one thing we hadn’t told them yet was that we were living together. Not sure what to say, I finally said, “I live real close.” Luckily, he didn’t ask where or how close. I’m not sure I could have pulled off another stretch of the truth.

As we were driving home that night Audrey said, “It will take time, but I think they like you. They’re just scared about my future, that’s all.”

“That’s all!” I exclaimed. “That’s quite a bit, your future.”

I admitted that in spite of all my preconceptions and notions about her parents, that I liked them as well.

Audrey and I have been married twenty-six years now and her mother and father (who has since passed away) are both close to our hearts and lives. They have loved all their grandchildren and great-grandchildren, including the ones that didn’t come through their daughter and even accepted their American son-in-law, who never became a lawyer or physician and still only has one good suit.

Mrs. Madrigal Is Back

9780062196248‘The Days of Anna Madrigal’ by Armistead Maupin
Reviewed by Ken Harvey for Lambda Literary
27 January 2014

Reading The Days of Anna Madrigal (HarperCollins), the ninth novel in Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City series, is a little like attending the reunion of one’s family–the logical rather than biological one, as Mrs. Madrigal might say. Characters some of us have known since the late 1970s are now in their sixties. Mrs. Madrigal’s former tenant, the now sixty-seven year old Brian Hawkins, is newly married to the big-hearted Wren, with whom he lives in a Winnebago. Brian’s former wife, Mary Ann Singleton, who returned to San Francisco in Maupin’s 2010 novel, Mary Ann in Autumn, is back (although briefly), as is Michael Tolliver, also known as “Mouse,” now married to the much younger Ben. And of course there’s Anna Madrigal, bestower of wisdom, still vibrant if not frail at 92, her life’s work now dedicated to “leaving like a lady.”

Many of the characters in The Days of Anna Madrigal may be from the past, but they fully inhabit a contemporary world. Maupin’s Tales of the City novels are nothing if not a reflection of the times in which they were written, and Anna Madrigal is no exception. Years from now, one can imagine a glossary at the end of these books to clarify what will become obscure references and dated language. Who will remember the Chick-fil-A boycott in fifty years? And what about expressions like “amazeballs,” “throw shade,” and “chillax”? Yet while Maupin has always had his finger on the pulse of contemporary language, he is also capable of elegantly written sentences that are so unobtrusive that their wistfulness and melancholy can almost go unnoticed. Of Mrs. Madrigal and her tenant and caretaker Jake he writes, “One afternoon last winter, after the first cold snap, he came home from the gym to find her asleep in her chair, the remains of an amethyst candle dripping off the end of the table like a Dali clock.” Of course it’s not just melancholy that Maupin weaves throughout the book. Also on display is Maupin’s trademark humor that emerges from the characters and situations: there are no clunky punch lines in this prose. Maupin’s wit is part of the novel’s fabric.

The Days of Anna Madrigal begins in present day San Francisco, but two road trips bring us to Anna’s hometown of Winnemucca and to Burning Man, the temporary city erected and destroyed in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert each year. Lasting only one week, the festival is among other things, an oasis of radical self-expression and self-reliance. Trips of a different sort are the flashbacks to Anna’s younger years, before she left Winnemucca at age sixteen. And so in addition to the former denizens of 28 Barbary Lane, we meet new people, too: the son of Anna’s childhood friend, revelers at Burning Man, and a different version of someone we’ve known for years, as we see Anna (nee Andy) in her pre-transition youth.

Quentin Crisp once referred to Maupin as “the man who invented San Francisco,” and it’s easy to see why. The city came so alive for its many readers that the books lured more than a few transplants to the Bay Area. If there’s an autumnal quality to The Days of Anna Madrigal, it’s not just its meditations on old age and dying (which, by the way, never weight the story down); it’s also because when Maupin sets his characters out on their road trips, we say goodbye to San Francisco, too. Maupin has announced that Anna Madrigal will be the last novel in the series, so it’s fitting that once we leave the city for Nevada, we don’t return.

Read entire review and much more at LAMBDA LITERARY

Flower Power

imagesFlower Power
by Gabriel Constans

Deja vu! This is a beautiful, colorful, nostalgic drink, brimming with healthy ingredients. Dandelion greens are a good diuretic; chamomile is a relaxant; red clover blossom is a blood purifier; and sage relieves sore throats. These can be found in most natural food stores, or n your garden or fields.

This smoothie was inspired by the “flower children” of the 1960s, who congregated in San Francisco and preached a lifestyle of peace and love. Burning incense and wearing a peace symbol and flowers in your hair while making this smoothie are optional, but recommended.

Yield: 4 cups

2 cups milk (dairy or non-dairy)
4 tablespoons honey or brown rice syrup (or agave)
4 tablespoons vanilla ice cream (or rice or soy)
2 mint leaves, chopped, or 1 tablespoon dried mint
2 tablespoons flower petals from nasturtium, dandelion greens, chamomile, red clover blossom, sage, and rose petal (as available).

Place all the ingredients in a blender, and blend on medium speed for 1 minute.
Pour, drink, dance and “let the sunshine, let the sunshine in”.

World’s Waste Potential

Beyond Recycling: On the Road to Zero Waste
by Beverly Bell
From Nation of Change
3 November 2012

Zero waste is both a goal and a plan of action. The goal is to protect and recover scarce natural resources by ending waste disposal in incinerators, dumps, and landfills. The plan encompasses waste reduction, composting, recycling and reuse, changes in consumption habits, and industrial redesign. The premise is that if a product cannot be reused, composted, or recycled, it just should not be produced in the first place.

Just as importantly, zero waste is a revolution in the relationship between waste and people. It is a new way of thinking about safeguarding the health and improving the lives of everyone who produces, handles, works with, or is affected by waste — in other words, all of us.

Zero waste strategies help societies to produce and consume goods while respecting ecological limits and the rights of communities. The strategies ensure that all discarded materials are safely and sustainably returned to nature or to manufacturing in place of raw materials. In a zero waste approach, waste management is not left only to politicians and technical experts; rather, everyone impacted — from residents of wealthy neighborhoods to the public, private, and informal sector workers who handle waste — has a voice.

Practicing zero waste means moving toward a world in which all materials are used to their utmost potential, in a system that simultaneously prioritizes the needs of workers, communities, and the environment. It is much like establishing zero defect goals for manufacturing, or zero injury goals in the workplace.

Zero waste is ambitious, but it is not impossible. Nor is it part of some far-off future. Today, in small towns and big cities, in areas rich and poor, in the global North and South, innovative communities are making real progress toward the goal of zero waste. Every community is different, so no two zero waste programs are identical, but the various approaches are together creating something bigger than the sum of their parts: protection of the earth and the natural riches which lie under, on, and over it. Here are a few examples of what is working:

* Through incentives and extensive public outreach, San Francisco has reduced its waste to landfill by 77 percent — the highest diversion rate in the United States — and is on track to reach 90 percent by 2020;

* A door-to-door collection service operated by a cooperative of almost 2,000 grassroots recyclers in Pune, India — now part of the city’s waste management system — diverts enough waste to avoid 640,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually;

* Aggressive standards and incentives for both individuals and businesses in the Flanders region of Belgium have achieved 73 percent diversion of residential waste, the highest regional rate in Europe;

* In Taiwan, community opposition to incineration pushed the government to adopt goals and programs for waste prevention and recycling. The programs were so successful that the quantity of waste decreased significantly, even as the population increased and the economy grew;

* An anti-incinerator movement in the Spanish province of Gipuzkoa led to the adoption of door-to-door waste collection services in several small cities, which have since reduced the amount of waste going to landfills by 80 percent;

* In the Philippines, a participatory, bottom-up approach has proven that communities have the ability to solve their own waste management problems;

* A focus on organics in Mumbai, India and La Pintana, Chile has produced real value from the cities’ largest and most problematic portion of municipal waste;

* In Buenos Aires, Argentina, grassroots recyclers focused on cooperatives and took collective political action. As a result, the city began separating waste at the source, an essential step toward its goal of 75 percent diversion by 2017.

While few locations are bringing together all the elements of a comprehensive zero waste plan, many have in common a philosophy driven by four core strategies:

1. Moving away from waste disposal: Zero waste moves societies away from waste disposal by setting goals and target dates to reduce waste going to landfills, abolishing waste incineration, establishing or raising landfill fees, shifting subsidies away from waste disposal, banning disposable products, and other actions. Government policies that promote these interventions are strongest when they incentivize community participation and incorporate the interests of waste workers.

2. Supporting comprehensive reuse, recycling, and organics treatment programs: Zero waste is about creating a closed cycle for all the materials we use — paper, glass, metals, plastic, and food among them. Such a system operates through separating waste at its source in order to reuse, repair, and recycle inorganic materials, and compost or digest organic materials. Separate organics collection ensures a stream of clean, high-quality material which in turn enables the creation of useful products (compost and biogas) from the largest portion of municipal waste.

3. Engaging communities: Zero waste relies on democracy and strong community action in shaping waste management. A lengthy initial consultation process can pay off with better design and higher participation rates. Residents must actively participate in the programs by consuming sustainably, minimizing waste, separating discards, and composting at home.

A successful zero waste program must also be an inclusive one. Inclusive zero waste systems make sure that resource recovery programs include and respect all those involved in resource conservation, especially informal recyclers whose livelihoods depend on discarded materials. The workers who handle waste should be fully integrated into the design, implementation, and monitoring processes, as they ultimately make the system function. In some communities, where waste workers come from historically excluded populations, this may require ending long-standing discriminatory practices.

4. Designing for the future: Zero waste emphasizes efficient use of resources; safe manufacturing and recycling processes to protect workers; product durability; and design for disassembly, repair, and recycling. Once communities begin to put zero waste practices in place, the residual fraction — that which is left over because it is either too toxic to be safely recycled or is made out of non-recyclable materials — becomes evident, and industrial design mistakes and inefficiencies can be studied and corrected.

Read entire Op-Ed at Nation of Change.

The Change He Promised

Dear Gabriel,

President Obama is coming to San Francisco to have a $7500 a plate lunch with 200 high-dollar donors.

We’re going to greet him with a big rally outside his fundraiser to send an important message:

It’s time for the change he promised us: President Obama must stop the Keystone XL Pipeline.

This is a great opportunity to deliver this important message directly to President Obama, and to his high-dollar donors who are in a unique position to talk to the president about this issue.

RSVP to join the rally on October 25th.

Here are the details:

What: President Obama “Yes you can Stop Keystone XL” rally.
Where: 3rd St. and Howard St., across from the W Hotel
When: Tuesday, October 25th 11:30 am
Why: Because Keystone XL isn’t CHANGE!

We’ll be printing signs and have buttons to hand out. Please RSVP so we know how many signs to print.

How appropriate that President Obama is having this fundraiser at the W Hotel.

Because if he approves the Keystone XL Pipeline it’s “W.” — not candidate Obama circa 2008 — that the President will be channeling.

The Keystone XL Pipeline — a desperate attempt to maintain our disastrous reliance on fossil fuels that will be “essentially game over” for the climate — is exactly what President Obama ran against in 2008.

The corruption and conflict of interest that we’ve seen in the State Department’s handling of the review process, are exactly the type of insider, closed-door cronyism and corruption that President Obama said we could all change.

That’s why so many of us spent so much time and money to work for his campaign in 2008.

It’s no secret that the Bay Area and Northern California were a huge sources of grassroots donations and energy for the campaign — with huge numbers of phone calls to swing states, huge numbers of people traveling to Nevada, Colorado — even Florida! — to get out the vote. And a whole lot of money.

Now President Obama is coming to the Bay, and we need to send this message to him, and his donors, loud and clear: “We want the change you promised us. You need to seize this opportunity for real leadership on energy and climate and reject the Keystone XL Pipeline.”

RSVP to join the rally on Tuesday, October 25th.

Thank you for continuing to fight for change and against the Keystone XL Pipeline.

Elijah Zarlin, Campaign Manager
CREDO Action from Working Assets

Free Love & Free Clinics

Excerpt from biography of Dr. Arnold Leff.
Paging Dr. Leff: Pride, Patriotism & Protest.

Free Love & Free Clinics

By the time Captain Leff arrived at Wright Patterson Air Base for his last year of military service, he was a changed man. He didn’t continue fighting city hall on base, but slowly worked his way into creating an alternative city hall in the way medicine was provided in the public sector. In addition to working in the outpatient clinic from 8 to 5 at Wright Patterson, he also jumped in feet first with the fledgling Cincinnati Free Clinic in the evening. That involvement turned him around to wearing longer hair and becoming more enmeshed in the counterculture of the time.

The Cincinnati Free Clinic provided a 24 hour suicide prevention line and support for people dealing with issues of drug abuse, V.D., and birth control. It ws based on the Haight Ashbury Free Clinic in San Francisco that had been started by Dr. Dave Smith.

The Cincinnati clinic was instrumental in changing the laws concerning parental consent so that young people could get the confidential treatment and health education they needed. All the docs working at the free clinics were volunteers. They provided countless hours to public health services that most communities now take for granted with their county hospitals and clinics.

Dr. Leff lived in a commune on McCormick Place in Cincinnati and commuted to the base to work during the day. He grew long hair and a beard and hung out with all his old friends to listen to music at the Family Owl. He was welcomed back into the fold, a composite of musicians, hippies and anti-war activists. Few of them realized the risks he had taken to stop the illegal bombing in Laos and his battles within the military for truth and accountability.

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