Sunday, September 30, 2012

Chronic Bias:
3 Plaza Stories, 3 Districts & 1 Supervisor

The San Francisco Chronicle is favorably biased toward Supervisor Scott Wiener to the point that he's the paper's pet political to shower attention upon. No other supervisor enjoys as much ink in the major daily as he does, which is no surprise since he represents District 8 and District Downtown Business Interests and that second district surely includes our local Hearst rag.

Let's look at three recent stories about three public plazas in three separate districts and see which supervisors got quoted about public spaces on their home turf. All stories were part of the weekly "What's Not Working" column.

In early July, the Chronicle reported on the defecation problem at the 16th and Mission Street BART Plaza and omitted a quote from the district's Supervisor, David Campos. Who knows. He might have an idea about providing public toilets at the plaza or another potential solution.

At the end of July, the Chronicle informed readers of human excrement disabling the BART escalators at Civic Center Plaza, and that district's member of the Board, Jane Kim, wasn't asked for her opinion regarding unsanitary conditions in public space in her district.

On September 26, the Chronicle looked at controversies surrounding benches and homeless people at Harvey Milk Plaza, human poop was not part of the article, and guess who got his views, rather extensive ones too, out to readers?

Supervisor Scott Wiener, who represents the Castro, said the homeless presence at Harvey Milk Plaza was "No. 2 after nudity" in terms of complaints he receives from constituents. Wiener introduced a measure banning camping in the Castro neighborhood plazas, which the Board of Supervisors approved in January . . .

Wiener said that because the benches are the benefit district's responsibility, the decision to remove or modify them is up to is up that agency.

But he said he thinks the long-term answer is making the plaza more open and inviting. A redesign, he said, could help the plaza attract "a broader cross-section of the community." 

"When you open it up, sure, there will be homeless people there, but there will be a lot of other people there, meeting their friends and having a cup of coffee," Wiener said. "The homeless people won't be the dominant thing in the plaza, like they are right now."

It's a mutually beneficial relationship the Chronicle and this ambitious politician have, and the paper is welcome to be the mouthpiece for Wiener all it wants. Just don't expect to me to think Hearst executives and editors print unbiased news.

Not on SF Gov TV:  
Homeless Meeting Monday AM

OK, who knew there was an official panel in San Francisco controlled by the Mayor and the Board of Supervisors, and that it meets at the not-so-convenient time of 11 AM the first Monday of every month? Wish I knew about the Local Homeless Coordinating Board sooner.

The LHCB does a terrible job keeping the public aware of their existence and work, and I say that after a Google search turned up a handful of links only to City Hall and Homeless Inc sites. No relevant links to local mainstream, blogger or online news outlets are a sure indication of just how un-engaged beyond its membership the LHCB is.

You would think our biggest local rag with their obsessive reporting on homeless related matters, that never delves into solutions beyond band-aid cosmetic street level changes, would devote some or much space to the LHCB, right? Here's the most substantive minor reference to the LHCB in the San Francisco Chronicle in the past ten or so years. From snark columnist Heather Knight in February of 2008:

The [Newsom shelter shake-up] plan was crafted by the Local Homeless Coordinating Board, a mayoral and board-appointed group of service providers, formerly homeless people and others serving as the official advisory body to City Hall on homelessness.

That's all, folks, from the Chronicle on this board. Pretty shameful the paper has not tasked any columnist to attend the LHCB meetings, pore over past minutes and agendas, ask the homeless and the general public what they think of the board, and just bring some much-needed media attention to it.

The LHCB must also be held to account for doing a lousy job of public engagement. Check their minutes to see that public comment is exclusively the panel members or City Hall special assistants. If there are minutes where someone from the general public attended and spoke up, I ask the board to show me those records.

I'll be at the LHCB tomorrow, and one thing I'll be requesting is that they immediately move their meetings to a City Hall room with SF Gov TV cameras and that the November meeting be aired on the city's media platforms. Oh, also arrange meetings in the early evening. Make it easier for the general public and homeless population to participate. Excerpts from the agenda for tomorrow's meeting:
October 1, 2012
170 Otis St. 

Note: Public Comment will be taken after each agenda item. Public comment must pertain to the agenda item. Each public comment is limited to 2 minutes. General public comment is taken at the end of the meeting.

III. Update from Mayor’s HOPE Office
Standing agenda item for Bevan Dufty, Director of HOPE, Mayor’s Office

b. Project Homeless Connect Presentation: Angela Guida will present about the upcoming launch of the Every Day Connect Program of Project Homeless Connect.

d. Proposed Bed Bugs Amendment to San Francisco Health Code. Supervisor Kim has proposed an amendment to the San Francisco Health Code regarding bed bugs. Supervisor Kim’s office will provide a summary of the proposed amendment and an update on the status of the proposed amendment.

Chase ATM Moves In:
There Goes the Neighborhood!

Some random thoughts about housing issues in our Clinton Park and Valencia Street neighborhood, which is experiencing a spurt of construction and economic changes, not all of which are healthy for the area and low-income folks.

The newly- and fully-occupied expensive condo building at 14th and Valencia Streets, saw its first retail tenant on the ground floor get ready to open for business. That business is a Chase ATM in the corner space.

Until now, the only formula retail shop on Valencia Street has been the T-Mobile outlet at the corner of 17th Street. Chase is now the second big chain to set up shop and that makes me more nervous about how the neighborhood is rapidly gentrifying.

Curbed SF shares the details on the 299 Valencia apartments above the ATM:

The 36-unit building houses 1-bedroom units that start in the low-$400,000s, 2-bedroom, 1-bath units that start from the mid-$500,000s, and 2-bed, 2-bath units that start from the the high-$600,000s. There's parking. Monthly HOA dues will range from approximately $300 to $400.

Who can afford such housing costs? Only tech executives, I imagine.

Up the block from where Mike and I have lived since May 1996, is this former rental apartment building. It's been very gussied up in the past 6-7 months and is now on the market as a TIC, tenancy in common. According to the site operated by the real estate agent handling the sale of the three available units, the costs are quite robust:

176 Clinton Park - $625,000 Lower Flat - 2 bed 2 bath; 178 Clinton Park - $675,000 Upper Flat - 3 bed 2 bath; 178A Clinton Park - $395,000 Rear Studio - cozy hideaway.

I repeat my question asked about 299 Valencia. Who has the kind of dough to buy into this building?

Remember the frightening blaze in early May at Duboce and Valencia Streets, that displaced dozens of rental tenants in two buildings? Salvage work has been going on for two-weeks at the corner building but who knows when it will ready for occupancy again. No rehab work or signs of re-occupancy at the second damaged building, just to the left of Fred's Liquor Store on Valencia Street.

It's safe to say none of the moderate- or low-income rental tenants who used to live in the buildings could afford to buy a unit at 299 Valencia or 178 Clinton Park. Like many others, those tenants are priced out of the neighborhood where some had lived for decades.

Here's a very telling sign about the state of affordable housing both in our neighborhood and across the city. As of yesterday afternoon, the housing available section of the community bulletin board at Rainbow Grocery didn't have a single sign. There were five signs posted on the housing needed section. Plenty of demand, not enough supply of affordable housing anymore in San Francisco.

The anchor to much of the growth of the neighborhood is the former Levi's Strauss factory on Valencia near Clinton Park, which is now the San Francisco Friends School, a private institution.

While the administrators and parents are on the liberal-to-progressive political spectrum, and the school's student body is comprised of kids from diverse economic families, it's hard to watch all the latest BMWs, Mercedes SUVs and Volvos dropping off kids in the morning.

There has been much good having the school in the area, and administrators have expressed concerns about their economic footprint impacting and displacing longtime neighbors, but there's no denying the Friends have played a key role in the evolution of the vicinity that has changed our neighborhood from a mixed-income housing market.

Sadly, this evolution has helped displace residents and there's no end in sight to the expanding upscale housing units sprouting up, which makes a lot of longtime renters nervous. We feel our housing is in jeopardy and we know just how bad the dearth of available and affordable rental housing is in San Francisco.

What is to be done to better balance the needs of low- and moderate-income people, and and the folks with money who can snap up six-figure condos, and the big businesses that want a piece of the action?

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Weekend Woof #10:
Folsom Fellas & Big Pussy

The weather just didn't cooperate last Sunday for the annual Folsom Street Fair. Our famous fog didn't burn off till the early afternoon, and then a chill descended upon the fair for the last hour bringing out countless goosebumps on the acres of naked flesh.

Chill or not, there were plenty of fine fellas and gals parading around, or putting on all manner of consensual kinkiness for an appreciative public. Oh, and plenty of men wearing nothing more than boots and caps, displaying beautiful cocks. I enjoyed myself tremendously and salute the staff and volunteers of Folsom Street Events, the producers of this event and the Dore Alley Fair.

Previous batches of woofy men are here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

My friend Demetri Moshoyannis, the executive director of Folsom Street Events and just a terrific guy who is one of the most adorable shaved headed dudes around town.

Assorted sexy men in various stages of undress. The furry daddies in the second pic down said they were visiting town for their first Folsom, and that they're coming back for Dore and Folsom next year.

This friendly fella was happy to pose for me. Believe it or not, he was there with paperwork trying to sign folks up for a mail-order pharmaceutical service and hadn't signed up a single person when I chatted with him in the final hour of the fair.

Just two of the many men I noticed ignoring the hordes of homos surrounding them, to check their iPhones. I wouldn't be surprised if they're pinging pals at the fair asking, "Where are you?"

I wanna see this young slab of beefcake wearing a thick leather collar around his neck and down on all fours. He just had that butch bottom quality and maybe it was the fact he was boozed on beer that gave off submissive vibes.

He was the sweetest young thing I saw all afternoon and when I took this pic, he was striking a pit pose for a half dozen other men with cameras praising his pits.

Finally, I am a pussy man. No, not that kind. The sort that likes cats and this one calmly took in all the sites and didn't pull on her master's leash. See you at Dore and Folsom in 2013!

Friday, September 28, 2012

SF Nudists' City Hall Meeting

Bravo to Tommi Avicolli Mecca for his role in arranging a meeting between Scott Wiener and four nudist leaders at City Hall. Nudist organizer Mitch Hightower shared details of what happened, along with a photo of the guys in clothes!

The social and political vibrancy of the Castro neighborhood could use a huge injection of open forums with all of our queer electeds and appointees from Wiener to Leno to Ammiano to Campos to Dufty. One element we need much more of is public communication at town halls. We need Queer Question time with our electeds, if we're ever going to get a handle on the myriad controversies vexing all of us.

Here's the report from Mitch:

(Nudist activists, from left, George Davis, Rusty Mills, Woody Miller and Mitch Hightower pose at the top of the grand staircase in the rotunda. Dressed for a meeting at City Hall earlier this week.)

You may not recognize this group of men with their clothes on, as they are best known for being naked around Fog City.

On Tuesday, September 25, the aforementioned activists met with San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener at his office in City Hall. The meeting was set-up to discuss increasing complaints about the nudists at Jane Warner Plaza in the Castro neighborhood.

The supervisor indicated he believes the nudists have “taken over” the plaza and are preventing the rest of the community from using or having access to this public space. The supervisor also reported that the majority of complaints he has received are from affluent gay men who reside in the area.

The group of activists made a presentation including a petition and offered some solutions to ease tensions. Ideas included raising funds for plaza improvements. The supervisor indicated the problem had already progressed past the tipping point and no goodwill gestures can turn around the negative public sentiment now.

While the meeting was cordial and very respectful on all sides, there was no definitive outcome. The nudists agreed to continue to develop ideas and alternatives to ease tension in the neighborhood, and the supervisor indicated he would continue to communicate with the group.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

'Castro Commons':
Charming Vid of an Artist in the Plaza

A reader sent this email today along with the link to this charming video, and I have to share both with you:

I'm a daily reader of the Petrelis Files and a San Franciscan living in temporary exile in Paso Robles. I just now happened upon this sweet video and immediately wondered if you had seen it too. It's not at all political, just a reminder of the simple beauty to be found on every corner of this magical place we love so, so dearly. 

Thank you, Michael, for choosing to never be silent, and for taking the necessary actions to bring to light the important stories and news that we'd not be made aware of otherwise. Oh, and the art! Let us not forget stage, theater and men! Thank you for sharing them as well. With great admiration, Drew Staffen 

Thank you, Drew, for this lovely note and bringing the terrific video to my attention, and your words of support.

What turns me on foremost about the video is the slow mode of editing and visuals, allowing me to take in the painted images and the video footage in a relaxed style and no distracting flashy camerawork. It's a new perspective of my world, as seen through the eyes of painter Wendy MacNaughton and her video and musical collaborators and I like what they see and have reflected back in their finished work.

We must have a lot of this kind of activation in Jane Warner and Harvey Milk Plaza. No need to wait for fuddy-duddy Castro Inc leaders to give anyone permission to create all sort of art in our public plazas. Anyone can put out a call to have photos or drawings displayed. Maybe conduct a sketching class or host a poetry slam with a proper sound system.

The more I think of how the friendly nudists organized their bare-butt action last Saturday by just announcing where and when to meet, have a few folks propose an action and then going for a stroll down Castro Street, and everyone love being active, the more I think the best way to reclaim the plazas is to simply gather friends and strangers. Thinks will happen once we get together with simple themes or plans.

Memo to Drew Staffen: You must return to San Francisco soon and help put on something groovy at Castro and Market Streets.
SF Ex Scoops Bay Times:
Drag Nuns to Disrupt Catholic Rite

On Sunday, I blogged about a very incomplete story in the print and online versions of the Bay Times stating that unnamed activists were organizing to disrupt the installment of San Francisco's new Catholic archbishop.

Unbelievably, the Bay Times piece written by Dennis McMillan, who is also part of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence and goes by the nom de drag Sister Dana Van Iniquity, omitted the name of the group behind the October action at St. Mary's Cathedral.

Today's SF Examiner, in an excellent piece penned by Dan Schreiber, provides the details Sister Dana omitted from her Bay Times story:

The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence — a group of gay-rights activists whose members satirically wear the garb of Roman Catholic nuns — is furious about the recent naming of Oakland Bishop Salvatore Cordileone to lead San Francisco’s 91-parish archdiocese. The Sisters are targeting Cordileone mostly for his central role in advocacy and fundraising for Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage statewide in 2008 . . . 

While activists aren’t saying exactly what they plan to do for Cordileone’s Oct. 4 installation mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral, they’re signaling something more than garden-variety picketing. 

“Traditional demonstrations with signs don’t work anymore,” said Sister Zsa Zsa Glamour, who declined to provide a real name. “We’re still deciding on how best to respond to his installation.” 

George Wesolek, an archdiocese spokesman, said church leaders are aware of the protests and security measures are being put in place. 

“We are going to be fully secure,” Wesolek said . . .“They have to stay off the plaza. The police will be there, of course — we want to disrupt any attempt to disrupt the ceremonies.” 

Thanks, SF Examiner, for giving readers the "who" info that should have been in the Bay Times story.

Having two professional and impartial LGBT papers in this town would is a great benefit to the community, but both the Bay Times and the Bay Area Reporter suffer from serious ethical lapses.

In the case of the Bay Times, it can't decide if it wants to be publisher Betty Sullivan's high school newspaper giving space and glowing attention to her political and social network pals, or a serious publication adhering to journalistic ethics providing essential details like who is organizing an action.

With the BAR, the reporting standards are much higher but it fails to disclose publisher Thomas Horn's donations to politicians and ballot propositions when writing about them, hasn't covered how a big advertiser, the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, spent more than 58% of AIDS Walk revenue on expenses, and omits the fact that the Bob A. Ross Foundation, started by the paper's original publisher and now operated by Horn, contributes robust five- and six-figure checks to local charities covered by the paper.

This valid and constructive criticism of our local gay publications aside, you can count on lots of media coverage when the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence show up at St. Mary's next week to offer their own rituals as the new archbishop assumes his new clerical position.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Berlin & Beyond:
'Barbara', 'Faust' & Mario Adorf

The 17th edition of the Berlin & Beyond film festival kicks off tomorrow night, and this year's slate of German-language films and related events promises many pleasures for cineastes in the Bay Area. A few highlights pique my interest.

The opening night feature is "Barbara", pictured, directed by Christian Petzold, which won the Silver Bear Best Film award at the Berlin film festival in January and is Germany's submission for an Oscar nomination as best foreign language film. Here's a synopsis from the program notes:

Set in the East Germany in 1980, Barbara continues Christian Petzold’s engagement with Germanys East and West. The film follows its eponymous protagonist, played by Petzold regular Nina Hoss, as she is transferred from Berlin to a small-town clinic. The film hints at her recent imprisonment by East-German authorities, apparently due to her attempts to flee to the west - - it is an imprisonment that has left her lonely, suspicious, and now reassigned to the “provinces.”

International star Mario Adorf, whose entry states he's acted in more than 200 films and TV dramas in Europe and the U.S., is in town to receive the festival's Lifetime Achievement honor on Friday evening in-person from the stage of the Castro Theatre. 

Four films starring Adorf will be shown as part of the tribute to his enormous talents starting with his latest effort "The Rhino and the Dragonfly", continuing with "Lola" directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, a West German movie from 1959 titled "Ship of the Dead" and Volker Schlondorf's Oscar-winning classic "The Tin Drum". Except for "Lola", which unspools at the Goethe Institute, all Adorf movies will be shown at the Castro Theatre.

The print of "The Tin Drum" to be exhibited is newly-struck and is the director's cut version. Many fans of this masterpiece recall with regret the print that was shown here about three-years ago, badly faded and with green spots in several sections. Thankfully, that is not the print that will be shown.

The San Francisco Film Society and the Pacific Film Archive are co-presenters of "The Tin Drum", and it plays on Saturday night.

Also on Friday night, the new film from Russia's Alexandr Sokurov and with legendary actress Hanna Schygulla in a supporting role, "Faust", pictured, screens at 9 PM. Many American film lovers are familiar with Sokurov's films that have received distribution here including "Russian Ark" and the sublime "Mother and Son".

This is one director whose every new work deserves to be seen, regardless of critical or audience reception.

"Faust" was honored with the prestigious Golden Lion award at last year's Venice film festival. I'm sure it's as rich and rewarding as his other compelling films, especially "Moloch" and "The Sun", that enjoyed popular sold-out screenings when they played at the San Francisco International Film Festival.

Details from the festival guide:

A modern depiction of the classic tale, Alexander Sokurov’s version of Faust puts an eerie and surreal spin on the story of the skeptical doctor who sold his soul to the devil for knowledge. Taking a step away from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s popular telling, Sokurov explores through his own perspective humanity’s struggle with concepts of power and love. 

Click here for info on every film in the festival and associated events including opening and closing night parties, and how to purchase advance tickets. See you at Berlin & Beyond!
FBI's Cockburn File,
If it Exists, in National Archives?

Remember my Freedom of Information Act request in August to the FBI for any records they may possess on the late radical journalist Alexander Cockburn? It generated a response from the FBI saying they may have a file on him and that it potentially may be in the National Archives and Records Administration archives.

At the direction of the FBI, I queried NARA for Cockburn's file, if it exists, and earlier this week I received this reply, pictured, from the Archives II Reference Section at NARA:

The records of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (Record Group 65) are in the custody of this unit. This includes Classification 100 - Domestic Security. However, you will need to write a Freedom of Information Act request to our Special Access/FOIA division.

NARA doesn't clearly say if it does or does not possess any responsive records pertaining to Cockburn. We'll have to wait for my FOIA request to NARA, emailed today and NARA has replied with an acknowledgement the request has been received and the FOIA clock is ticking.

If there isn't an FBI file on Cockburn, I'll be quite surprised.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

BAR Letter:
Lower Milk Plaza Flag for Harvey Milk

(The Martyr of Castro Street should have the rainbow flag fly at half-mast in November in his honor. Credit: Dan Nicoletta.)

This is such a radical and beautiful idea proposed by Sacramento resident, and Castro visitor and consumer when he comes to town, Stephen R. Stapleton, I wish I thought of it myself when Veronika Fimbres, Bill Wilson and issued a suggested calendar of regular modifications in how the rainbow flag is displayed at Harvey Milk Plaza. Thanks, Stephen, for putting this suggestion out before the community. Our proposed calendar was given to MUMC almost two-weeks ago and we await their response.

Really, if we can't lower the rainbow flag for Saint Harvey, who is acceptable to the merchants in terms of deserving a simple, cost-free, lowering that would also activate the plaza? Here's Stephen's nifty idea presented as a letter to the current issue of the Bay Area Reporter:

There has been much controversy over the control of the rainbow flag at Harvey Milk Plaza in the last few years, what occasions it should be lowered, and who should receive such honors. In but a few weeks, on November 27, we shall be upon the very sad 34th anniversary of the death of Mr. Milk. Can we lay aside our differences and, on this sorrowful anniversary, agree the flag must be lowered to half staff? 

I call upon the Merchants of Upper Market and Castro and Supervisor Scott Wiener to insure the flag is properly and respectfully lowered in honor of the very man whose memory the plaza serves.

I call on all gay people and our friends everywhere, in the Castro and beyond, to contact MUMC at (415) 835-8720 and Supervisor Wiener at (415) 554-6968 to demand respect be shown by allowing the invisible flag of death to fly at the top of the staff and honor Harvey Bernard Milk. As Marcus Tullius Cicero said, "The life of the dead is placed in the memory of the living." 

Long live our memory of Milk.
Can San Francisco 
Be the First City to End HIV?

(Most recent HIV statistics from the SF DPH.)

My latest column for Edge on the Net has been published and I'm cross-posting here, to call attention to the views of local folks regarding the article's provocative question:

When the San Francisco AIDS Foundation’s executive director Neil Giuliano spoke the following words over the summer shortly after attending the International AIDS Conference, he raised the hopes of many in the local LGBT and HIV communities.

"I really think that [San Francisco] could be the first city in the U.S. to end the spread of new HIV infections," Giuliano said, in an article by Edge National News Editor Winnie McCroy after he made an appearance at New York City’s LGBT Community Center.

Long viewed and widely respected by domestic and international health experts as America’s AIDS Model City because of cutting-edge care of people living with HIV and innovative prevention programs, San Francisco could be one city likely to end HIV transmissions.

Recent statistics illustrate the effectiveness of the programs and individuals making responsible sexual choices in driving down the numbers.

The Department of Public Health in August released data for 2011 and approximately 400 new infections were diagnosed, compared with just over 500 in 2006. New infections have been steadily declining as far back as 2004, according to DPH researchers.

A combination of factors have led to the decline including treatment adherence reducing viral loads to undetectable levels, pre- and post-exposure prophylaxis options, proper use of penile and anal condoms, distribution of clean syringes injection drug users and sero-sorting.

Key leaders here were asked to weigh in on Giuliano’s assertion, and there were a range of opinions expressed starting with basic agreement from Dana Van Gorder, who leads the treatment advocacy group Project Inform.

"I believe that we now have the tools needed to make new infections in San Francisco extremely rare, certainly to stop growth of the epidemic, and promotion of PrEP with guys who are bottoming without condoms is critical," said Van Gorder in a recent email. "I think additions to the arsenal of prevention options, particularly microbicides and a vaccine, could end new transmissions."

Community leader and long-term AIDS survivor Gary Virginia feels that a public media campaign directed toward HIV-positive people to offer emotional support would be helpful on many fronts.

"Many poz men are battling pill fatigue combined with sustained loss of friends and an unnatural sense of living in limbo," said Virginia. "Years ago the ’Be here for the cure’ campaign offered hope during a very scary time of limited treatment regimens. Negative guys should be reminded HIV is no walk in the park, and survivors need to know they are not forgotten. There’s light at the end of this dark tunnel."

Some Doubt Whether An ’End’ to HIV is Possible

One voice offering a countervailing opinion is writer and veteran gay men’s health advocate Michael Scarce, who believes this city is not capable of halting HIV infections for a variety of complex reasons.

"First and foremost, this is not a walled city, neither within nor outside its imagined boundaries. San Francisco does, however, have a long history of failed attempts to socially quarantine disease both indirectly and institutionally [such as closing the bathhouses]. Even if HIV is bio-medically stopped, the stigma, disparity and divisive inequity that drives it will continue," he said.

Scarce, who’s played a crucial in organizing gay health summits, has long advocated a more comprehensive approach to gay wellness that looks beyond HIV as the defining health matter for the community, an approach that demands attention.

"Ironically, in Gay Mecca there is no San Francisco Department of Gay Men’s Health or even a city-wide task force coordinating efforts around our health issues," said Scarce. "As the non HIV-related health needs of gay men remain increasingly unaddressed, either HIV will not ’stop’, or it will be replaced by a constellation of equally devastating health problems."

Among those unmet health needs are developing and maintaining good mental health, dealing with anti-gay stigma, combating drug abuse, especially meth addiction, curbing alcohol and tobacco intake and social isolation, while also contending with ordinary daily pressure from employment and paying the rent, or finding and keeping a well-paying job and a decent place to live.

San Francisco Department of Health Director Barbara Garcia, who once headed the department’s large AIDS Office, didn’t directly answer the question about ending new infections, issuing instead a generic can-do statement.

"San Francisco is in a very good position to significantly lower new HIV infections due to the strong community-science partnership, the world class research, and the support of our leadership," said Garcia through a spokesperson.

The partnership Garcia speaks of took decades of controversial public discussions and individual conversations, hit-or-miss prevention messages, a deep understanding of why gay men make the sexual and health choices they do, and it’s led us to the current downward trend of HIV transmissions.

San Francisco may not become the first city to end HIV, but whichever city achieves that goal it will be because of the ideas developed or perfected here and everyone will applaud the achievement.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Video: Castro Theatre Manager
Hits Cameraman at Nudist Display

Someone should remind the current manager of our beloved movie palace about a little thing called the First Amendment.

I watched this video, which does not contain nudity and all male genitalia are obscured, and found the most shocking part was the manager ranting about supposedly needing a permit to film in front of the theatre. That's before he hits the cameraman with a clipboard. Huh? Is he about to insist all tourists visiting the Castro neighborhood get his permission before shooting videos?

At this point, with more anti-nudist hysteria stirred up by Supervisor Scott Wiener who is considering a law banning public nudity here, and knowing the nudist controversy has existed for his entire flaccid tenure on the Board of Supervisors, I say it's time for him to organize a town hall meeting to discuss this issue.

Like so many San Francisco politicians - Nancy Pelosi, Mark Leno, Tom Ammiano, David Campos, Bevan Dufty, et al - the Castro's supervisor is not known for holding regular town halls, or public forums when controversies erupt. Can you tell me when was the last time our Congressmember, State Senator and Assemblymember, Supervisors and Homeless Czar held a town hall meeting? The sound of crickets chirping fills the empty meeting halls.

Here's part of videographer Mike Skiff's written report about the bad behavior of the Castro manager:

The debate over public nudity heated up in San Francisco on Friday, September 21. Several nudists, including former SF mayoral celebrating Park(ing) Day by turning a parking space into the Garden of Eden beneath the iconic Castro Theater marquee. The Castro's livid general manager, Keith Arnold, interrupted interviews by repeatedly striking a news cameraman with a clip board (at the 2:25 mark) and forcing the law-biding nudists to move one store front down Castro street.

The Reel Gay news cameraman Mike Skiff (who is also a documentary filmmaker covering events during Leather Pride Week is SF) filed a criminal complaint with the SFPD against the theater manager. Irony abounds as the operator of a movie house, long known in the SF gay community for screening boundary-pushing indie artistic expression, acts intolerantly against a group of nudists who have creating a mini urban art space, and then assault a working member of the gay press covering the news story in broad daylight on the public street beneath his marquee.
Au Revoir, Lumiere Theatre:
A Cineaste Weeps Over Closure

(Sad irony. One of the last films to play here was "Keep the Lights On".)

After experiencing a mostly terrific Folsom Street Fair, photos and report coming later, I rode up to the Lumiere Theatre on California near Polk Street to say good-bye to a dear friend. Three friends, actually, because with the closure of the Lumiere we're losing three screens.

The Landmark Theatres chain couldn't negotiate an acceptable lease renewal with the building's owner, so a closure notice from the chain was announced last week. I've seen nothing online about the shuttering to suggest attendance was down at the Lumiere. The lobby featured a display card from John Waters' "Polyester" and plastic pink flamingos graced the crawl space above the entrance.

Last night, the manager allowed me to peak in on theatres one and two, which were showing films at the time, and both had a decent number of dozens of people in the seats. Theatre three was empty before the 8 pm show, so I grabbed shots of the silver screen and seats waiting to be occupied by butts.

A few posters of classic indies, Hollywood flicks and foreign fare were beautifully mounted on the wall over the concession stand.

Here's a list of just a few great films I saw there over the years: Antonioni's "The Passenger", Herzog's "Nosferatu" and "My Best Fiend", Lynch's "Inland Empire", Truffaut's "Day For Night", Fassbinder's "Marriage of Maria Braun", Sayles' "The Return of the Seacaucus 7", and so many others.

OK, a few of the framed posters in the lobby showcased low-budget camp classics, just perfect for this cineaste to pose with on the final night of operations.

I'm old enough to remember when Polkstrasse was lined with theatres either on the street or right off it including the Royal, the Alhambra, the Richelieu and the Cento Cedar, which was more of a screening room but still beloved by movie fans. Sadly, we have to add the Lumiere to that list of theatre.

Please visit your local independent theatre or art house or film archive!
SF Police A.M. Presser
Masquerades as 'Town Hall'

This morning, thanks to a Bay City News story carried at the SF Appeal, I learned that a community forum was happening a few blocks from our apartment:

San Francisco police will hold a town hall meeting on Monday to discuss concerns about a recent officer-involved shooting that has sparked demonstrations for the past two nights in the Mission District . . .

The shooting that inspired these protests was reported at 8:06 p.m. Thursday on the 200 block of 14th Street, police Sgt. Michael Andraychak said. Two plainclothes officers from the department's Gang Task Force were working along with two probation officers in separate vehicles in the area when they saw two people they thought they recognized as gang members . . . While running, the suspect pulled a gun, later determined to be a TEC-9 pistol, and the officer ordered him to drop the weapon, Andraychak said. Instead, the suspect turned toward the officer and began to raise the pistol. The officer feared for his life and shot at the suspect, Andraychak said . . . The town hall meeting is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Monday at Cornerstone Church at 2459 17th St., police said today. 

The 40-minute press conference was not a genuine town hall meeting by any stretch of the definition, and that 11:30 a.m. start time was just perfect to take advantage of noon TV broadcasts.

For the first fifteen minutes, Chief Greg Suhr spoke from a raised staged in the church's sanctuary, where an enlarged poster of the suspect and his weaponry were on display. Behind Surh sat other police brass, Supervisor David Campos and Police Commission president Thomas Mazzucco, and some of them made remarks.

When Suhr asked for questions, I started off asking if this was a true community meeting because it didn't feel like one to me. There were dozens of uniformed and plainclothes officers lining the walls, pictured, along with members of the district attorney's staff, many probably getting paid while attending the presser. Also well represented were local TV stations, mainstream print outlets and local news bloggers.

I said that there had not been enough promotion of the meeting/presser and that 11:30 a.m. was not an ideal time for a community forum. It's additionally intimidating, in my view, that there were so many cops present. The church location, not even half a block from the Mission police station, was very convenient for the officers to make an appearance.

Many of the other speakers offered praise for the cops and strongly denounced the parole violators carrying guns, while calling for arrests demonstrators who defaced the police station, local small businesses and bank branches. I estimate 20-25 local residents were at the presser, but where was more of the Mission community this morning?

As if to illustrate how this was not a town hall set up and ready to have a give a take between cops and the community, there was no designated spot for speakers to stand and offer public comment. A member of the audience would stand up from their seat to speak, begin talking and camera crews as photographers jostled for position near the speakers.

At about 12:10 p.m. the presser ended, and I left the church thinking the police had done a wonderful job of staging a morning event to make themselves look good, and to be able to claim they held a supposed community forum.

Some advice for Suhr and his department. Schedule a town hall in the early evening so more neighbors, business owners and community leaders can attend.

Consider holding the meeting at City Hall so it can be broadcast on SFGov TV. Structure the meeting so the police make remarks, followed by community leaders given an equal amount of time, clearly designated a spot with a microphone for speakers to offer public comment, and have an independent facilitator run the meeting. Also ask the camera crews to not position themselves in from the speakers on the stage, blocking the view of folks in the audience.

It's also time to ask Supervisors Campos and Scott Wiener, who jointly represent the Mission, to hold their own town halls about the violence and related issues. I can't recall the last time Campos or Wiener held an open forum, can you?

True community engagement from the SF police force was not on display this morning, and that is detrimental to all of us.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Bay Times: Gays Vow
Disruption at Catholic Installation Rite

(Activists protest St. Mary's Cathedral for cancelling the Gay Men's Chorus performance due to the use of "gay" in the choir's name, circa 1981. Credit: Rink Photography, Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art.)

One of the all important W's in basic journalism is telling your audience who is responsible for a political protest that is sure to upset religious leaders, elected officials and the general public.

Unfortunately, Bay Times writer Dennis McMillan and editor Betty Sullivan omitted the names of the individuals or groups vowing to stage an enormous, five-hour daytime protest on a weekday next month, from this story appearing in the current issue:

Thursday October 4, 1:30 - 6:30 pm in front of Saint Mary’s Cathedral, 1111 Gough Street there will be a huge demonstration against Salvatore Cordileone as Archbishop of San Francisco. Protesters plan to oppose and disrupt the Installation Ceremony because of apparent hatred for queers. 

In 2008, Cordileone raised $1.5 million, gave $6,000 out of his own pocket, and organized major evangelist figures, such as James Dobson, into activism to pass Prop 8, banning gay marriage in California . . . His actions have also targeted abortion freedom of choice. Cordileone does NOT represent San Francisco values. 

Are gay marriage groups organizing the protest? Maybe the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence or the gay Catholic group Dignity or straight Catholic church accountability activists? More details about who's staging the demonstration are needed from McMillan and Sullivan, and I hope they quickly amend the online version of their story with a name or two from the organizers.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Weekend Woof #9:
Nude-In Pix of Dudes and a Chick

The big lesson I learned today at the third annual Castro Nude-In is just how shy, yes, shy, the overwhelming majority of nudists are at heart. You're probably thinking the blazing sun this afternoon scrambled my head, but if you spent as much time as I did cajoling, pleading and begging the unclothed to take advantage of my bull horn, you'd understand.

Before we get to the photos, let's give some well-deserved applause to Nude-In organizer and all-around sweetie-pie Mitch Hightower, for taking the lead in this important action. Mitch has skillfully stood up to the bullying of Supervisor Scott Wiener, who is considering introducing a law to ban the human body from being displayed without clothes. Wiener would be wise to finally reach out to Mitch and the nudists to begin a dialogue before going the legislative route for a solution.

On the left is Nude Woody, longtime Castro bare butt boy and waiter at Orphan Andy's, talking to Mitch during the first part of the action. Over 80 people milled about Jane Warner Plaza, clothed and nude, from noon till 12:45 pm. Mitch and I used my bull horn to welcome everyone and talk about marching somewhere.

In the hot sun of the plaza were fine, happy dudes of all shapes and shades of colors and degrees of fur, smiling and posing for cameras and fans. The third photo down is my friend Michael who operates the great SF Civic Center blog, full of cultural and political insight.

 Out of the sun, along the cool shaded area of the 17th Street sidewalk were more terrific guys enjoying the parade of penises and pussies and no shame. Yeah, there were about 5 or 6 women there in the buff. We guys gave them a few cheers for diversifying the mix of nudists. Memo to size queens who appreciate the sight of white thick cocks: The two fellas with the toned abs in the bottom photo sported the best big erections. Needless to say, a horde of horned camera-wielding homos surrounded them to praise their pricks and good-natured attitudes.


There was a twenty-minutes march down the north side of Castro Street to 18th Street, where we made a U-turn and proceeded up the south side of the street before stopping for a speak out in front of the Castro Theatre marquee. That's where I made the strongest (and successful) effort to pull nudists up to the bull horn. They made be nudists, but when it comes to speaking at a mic these folks are not natural exhibitionists. Ask anyone who was there and they'll tell you, I really worked hard to bring out the voices of the nudists. The adorable furry youngster above was my fave piece of eye candy (blush).

This lovely lass attracted lots of eyeballs - including from known cocksuckers! She couldn't contain her enthusiasm and obliged everyone's request for special poses in her leather boots and thick black belt around her abodomen, with quite a set of knockers jiggling with her every move.

A whole lotta thanks to all the fabulous people who made today's Nude-In such a memorable event. And my thanks go out to all who expressed their love of my leadership and loud mouth, working with Mitch to create the fun demonstration we all wanted.

See you at the Folsom Street Fair tomorrow. It's gonna be the best ever!