Friday, March 30, 2007
Modern Times at El Rio
Near the wonderful used bookstore "Dog Eared Books" at the corner of 20th & Valencia...
...stands one of the oldest left-wing bookshops in San Francisco, Modern Times, which dates from 1971.
Unfortunately, it looks like nobody's bothered to redecorate since 1971. With its ugly fluorescent lighting and slapdash attempt at retailing, the place has some seriously depressing vibes. On its website (click here), there are the following appeals on the Homepage: "We Now Carry Used Books! And we need your help! This fantabulous development is part of our greater plan to resuscitate the bookstore..." and "Help Us Keep Our Doors Open. As you may know, these are perilous times for independent bookstores..."
There is a small room in the back of the store where panels and author events are held. Thursday evening's panel was about the San Francisco Municipal Wi-Fi project, with an equal mixture of technical wizards and non-technical, low-income community activists trying to explain the world to each other.
According to my friend Kimo Crossman (pictured above on the right), "there was a lot of passion, which was good, but not a lot of reason, which was not so good." The panel was moderated by Annalee Newitz, the brilliant cultural analyst whose "Techsploitation" column is one of the major reasons to pick up the "San Francisco Bay Guardian." (Click here for her website.) However, she wasn't a very good moderator, allowing the non-technical activists to drone on endlessly about their various oppressions while ignoring the actual subject at hand.
We fled after only fifteen minutes for margaritas and enchiladas at the true ancient icon of the neighborhood, La Rondalla restaurant. This meant we missed the appearance of Ron Vinson, the dissembling chief of the strange little Department of Telecommunications and Information Services in City Hall (click here for their website). They are the crucial link in the wifi giveaway to Google and Earthlink, and though Mr. Vinson was attending the panel as a "private citizen in the audience," at some point he couldn't take it anymore and insisted on speaking. Since nobody else from the Mayor's Office or Google or Earthlink had shown up, that was fine with the panel. Unfortunately, he got caught in a number of fibs, and spilled the beans about "conditioned fiber," which means that there are a number of secretive deals his department has made concerning the extensive fiber optic network in San Francisco. It seems that the "conditioned fiber" cannot be used in competition with any private corporations. Ever. We've been sold down the river again.
We continued down Mission Street to the venerable dive bar El Rio for a party celebrating the launch of the new GavinWatch website, which has had more lives than a phoenix. It's a funny, well-written and critical look at San Francisco's mayor. (Click here to check it out.)
There was lots of signage hung up in the backyard patio...
...and in the disco dance room beside it.
It was an interesting mixture of the homespun and the sophisticated...
...and it was obvious that the GavinWatchers have definitely been paying attention.
A photography station was set up with a lifesize cutout of Newsom...
...so that you could have a picture with the "photo-op mayor."
Except for the food bloggers, who are a whole continent to themselves, just about everybody who has a blog in San Francisco showed up to the party at some point, including Greg Dewar (above) of the N Judah Chronicles (click here).
Eve Batey (above) represented a small contingent from the "San Francisco Chronicle," and best of all h. brown (below) got to meet the fabulous Beth Spotswood. (Click here to get to his funny account of the evening with great photos by Luke Thomas.)
Beth was so taken by the ridiculously handsome TV newsman Dan Noyes, who was attending as a civilian, that she jettisoned all of her old best friends for her new one. (Read all about it by clicking here.) It was a fun evening.