Sunday, December 15, 2013

6 Creative Ideas to Deal With Rising Rents in San Francisco

6 Creative Ideas to Deal With Rising Rents in San Francisco 

From the beat generation, to the hippies, to the Indians of All Tribes occupation of Alcatraz and the Gay rights movement, San Francisco has traditionally been a place where ideas and creativity are nurtured, where anything is possible, where revolution, free love and change is born.

But those days are gone and there is a new San Francisco on the rise. Even the incoming residents to the city have probably noticed that they can hardly browse their Facebook wall or Twitter feed these days (on their iPhone while waiting in line for a skinny latte and $4 piece of toast at the Mill) without reading about the rising rents, evictions and how the history that has made San Francisco great, is crumbling around us.

There have been a few creative actions so far from the grassroots 
getting press, like staging an altercation with a Google employee or holding a block party in favor of diverse neighborhoods, but by and large the news is all doom and gloom as usual. Here's a few creative ideas for the artists, students, firemen or women, service workers, etc... who are getting shut out of the city due to rising rents:

1) Coordinate a Tantrum Flashmob

Let your anger out by throwing a tantrum. Tantrums are deeply satisfying and if nothing else they will let everyone know exactly how you feel about what's going down in San Francisco. It SUCKS to be evicted or priced out of your neighborhood.
Take a cue from the movie, "Network," and open up your window and shout, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not gonna take it anymore!" Turn this action into a flashmob.
If everyone started throwing a tantrum, and shouting out of their window:

 "I'm mad as hell and I'm not gonna take it anymore," 

it would be so loud in the city that the noise pollution alone might cause those with power and influence to lobby on behalf of those without, for affordable housing options. (If for no other reason than to shut them up.)

2) Drown your Disappointment in Pie

Who doesn't love pie? Pie tastes good. It's celebrated in the classics like Little Jack Horner and American Pie. 
If you don't eat much pie then use your morning cereal or muffin or sandwich as a meditation on mulching away your disappointment in humanity. That's right. Set aside some time each day to imagine yourself chewing up disappointment and eventually pooping it out. You'll feel much the better for it!

In addition, there is a long tradition of pieing as a means of protest. Let's revive this tradition and begin a campaign called "PIES for GENEROSITY!!" We love generosity and dislike greed. Our campaign  would use the power of pies to shock people into remembering their innate generosity. Humans want to be generous, but it might take pie to get back in touch with that. 

3) Cast a Magical Spell*

Here's an example:

Don't be shy about creating your own. Print them out and leave them as offerings around the city, especially in places where dark energy lurks.

* Some may feel more comfortable with the term prayer, others may prefer the word, curse to describe this magical spell. 

4) Encourage your friends to take over the hashtag #douchebag 

Then regularly post with friendly irony, the things you love most about your favorite greed curmudgeons like developers, real estate speculators and tech companies that dodge taxes. 

5) Ask: What Would Quentin Tarantino Do?

By that I don't mean to advocate for violence, I mean to rewrite history taking principles from Gandhi and MLK while borrowing the brashness of Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained.  Reach out to local storytellers at Porchlight or the Moth Radio or Snap Judgement and flood them with your stories, but here's the catch, add on a Tarantino Twist. Rewrite the narrative arc to how it should go.  For example:

Johnny is on disability checks and lives in a rent controlled apartment. His checks are $900 and his rent is $500. One day Johnny was evicted...

What happens next? 

Maybe a GIANT wave of tantrum flashmobbers flood the city for days until City Staff and Council are so pressured they decide to make affordable housing a top priority and clarify strategic ways to do so?
You decide.

Is this a pipe dream? Maybe, but dreaming alternative scenarios is the first step towards bringing them into reality. Let's tell stories to dream alternative scenarios for the future of our city.

6) Rent a Bed or Rent a Bed?

If you happen to see a spare patch of sidewalk in your neighborhood and can spare a few extra blankets, why not put it on the market for rent! 
Think of all the housing you can provide to poor artists, while still making a cool $2100/month on the side.

Post your new offerings on Craigslist. Every week or Every day. Encourage your friends to do it too!
We can flood the market ourselves with affordable housing.

Monday, October 7, 2013

On Being a Woman

A friend who I've grown to love, recently told me that he thinks he'd rather be a woman. That's right, he's a man but he feels like a woman inside.
That got me thinking about being a woman. I've always taken for granted that I feel like a woman inside, and would rather be a woman. Fortunately for me, I am a woman, which makes everything a lot easier. Still, even if you are a woman, sometimes it's hard to feel like a woman. 

For example, I don't especially feel like a woman when I'm working at home in my pajamas and I sort of look like this:

When everyone knows women are supposed to look feminine and perfect like this:

Speaking of what we're supposed to look like. Sometimes it's a challenge to feel like a woman when you're 6 feet tall, which I am. (Ok, for all of those who know me, I may have tricked you into believing I'm only 5'11" and a half, but who am I kidding? With shoes I can be anywhere from 6' to 6' 2" tall. If I'm going to a standing room only concert I'll turn up as 6'9" just to ensure a good view.) 

I'm often the tallest person in the room and sometimes I end up feeling like this:

Then of course there are all of those snide comments over the years related to your tallness that can resurface in the back of your mind: 

"For a second I thought you were a boy." 

It was a cold morning. I was wearing ten sweaters, a baseball cap and my hair pulled back into a bun. I also had my hoodie pulled up over my baseball cap. My roommate in college said that to me. She saw the look on my face and added, "Well, because your so tall." But it was too late, she had already conjured images in my mind of soft downy facial whiskers, a cracking voice, the tendency to masturbate into socks and watch porn online and (if he were around then, which he wasn't) Justin Beiber. None of which I'm particularly fond of. 

Then there that time in high school when someone called me RuPaul. 

I was dressed up, wearing a super short skirt and heels because I was on the volleyball team and everyone was supposed to dress up that day to show team spirit for our match. I wasn't thrilled by being called RuPaul at the time, but if someone said that to me now I'd probably say, "Shut up! Thank you, that's awesooooome!" Looking back on it, I think the guy was trying to pay me a compliment while at the same time, looking cool in front of his friends. So thanks man, it took me years to get back to you on that one, but thank you!

There are so many things I love about being a woman. We can wear make-up, or not wear any. We can have short or long hair. We can dress like woman, or dress like men. If we cry that's OK. If we don't that's OK too. We carry and give birth to babies (how amazing is that!). There are smart, funny, successful woman out there who give us tips like Caitlin Moran's, How to Be a Woman or Tina Fey's Bossy Pants.

We aren't in the majority of the leadership positions, but that's because we're shaking up the world from the grassroots upward. Leadership won't look the same when we're done. It'll look more like a collaboration. When we're in touch with ourselves, our ideas spring from our rootedness to the earth, from our collective role as mothers, who understand instinctively that we must care for the land we live on for the sake of our children and our children's children. When we are in touch with ourselves, we are present, and we walk in love. 

Here's a shout out to all the ladies in the house. 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

A Forensic Artist Sketched Me

I had a forensic artist sketch me (actually some teenager I found on craigslist who had never seen me before). Based solely on my description of myself, it turns out I look a lot like a purple cauliflower. I'm not sure whether to be delighted or upset? Maybe Dove has the answer. Or maybe the producers of this video do?

Monday, March 18, 2013

Modern Mating Rituals in the Fitness Studio: A Study of Pole Dancing

In this weeks episode of "This is You and Me," where we look at what’s happening in the San Francisco Bay Area, we visit a fitness studio in the Financial District, to gain a deeper understanding of the popularity of pole dancing courses.

At "Sly Dance," where I attend an evening pole dancing class, the lack of men in attendance compared to other fitness classes offered there is immediately noticeable. Although this class is women only, several of the (non-sensual) courses are co-ed, and so far no men have signed up. Because fitness with poles originates as an exclusively male sport, few can grasp why men are not as attracted to these courses as women.

The students wear form fitting spandex and well made sports bras. To practice their moves on the pole, they wear only bare feet. (High heels are reserved for advanced classes only.)
The course itself is a beginners class where the women perform basic sensual moves on the pole. The goal in the first class is to learn choreography inspired by mating rituals found in the Blue-footed Boobies, seabirds, many of whom breed on the Gal├ípagos Islands. 

Unlike the Blue-footed Boobies, where the male dances for the female, in human culture, the female generally dances for the male. Just like the male Blue-footed Boobies, human females do this gladly in their desire to appear attractive to potential mates, and therefore, earn increased value in society.

I wrote this for a course called Aboriginal Worldviews and Education through Coursera. Our assignment was to watch the film "Barbecue Area," which re imagines colonialism in Australia (you have to watch it, it is so very very good!) and make our own ethnographic observations at a place of our choice in 250 words or less. Who knew that Blue-footed Boobies and act of Pole Dancing might share something in common?

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Many Faces of Success

There's a cartoon by an unknown artist that has been kicking around on Facebook for years now (see the top frame). Every year one of my friends post it, and I look at it and feel mildly encouraged, yet I know it is really not that black and white. So I started questioning what exactly it is about this cartoon that is encouraging, yet incomplete? The first thing I came up with is "I'll be happier if..." The I'll be happier if model of success is the thing I see most, the thing most patterned into our minds. We have many successes in life, graduating from college, quitting smoking, publishing a book, completing a film, falling in love, being good parents to our children, and yet as we reach each milestone it is never quite enough. While it is only natural to keep setting new goals for ourselves and pushing ourselves to achieve greater and greater things, the joy we should feel as we do this is often quashed by the internal mantra, I would truly be happy if... I had a house, if I had a better car, if my family wasn't so dumb and fartish, if I were creative and on and on and on... The success of reaching our goals is tainted by our feelings that we aren't actually successful at all.
The truth is, we deserve to be happy anyway even if our family smells and can only bother to talk about sports and even if we don't have the cool jobs, slim legs and creative genius of the characters we admire on TV. The "I'll be happier if..." cartoon is a model of success many of us are trapped in.
Then of course there is those of us who berate ourselves or sabotage ourselves and we struggle for our goal but it seems we never get there. We deny ourselves even the smallest successes (which are actually very important) like managing to eat healthy on a regular basis or making quality time for family and friends. We do pop out and have moments of enlightenment but then we are right back in the game, following the rules of play as we perceive them, and never feeling very good.
The last cartoon, "Redefining success," is where I think most of us, would end up, if we were only wise enough. Ideas about what success is, are very personal, but there is no denying there is a cultural definition of success that says our lives ought to look something like this:

You are young,  wrinkle free, have a cool apartment or house that you own and do not struggle to pay the mortgage on, a cool media approved job (architect, journalist, doctor, headhunter or spy for an elite agency etc...), a hot boyfriend or girlfriend or spouse, a nice car that consistently works, designer clothes,  ladies have 20 + pairs of high heels in your walk-in closet, women are thin, men are muscular, all are button-nosed attractive, famous or at-least semi-famous and earn lots of money.  

Once we come to our senses and understand we cannot quite attain all of those categories and in fact, realize that our obsession with one or more of those categories while fun for a while is actually destructive, we begin the process of making our own definitions of success. This step in creating our own story for our lives is not only important, but essential to happiness. In the cartoon I offer a few suggestion for what really counts, health, recognizing happiness and allowing ourselves to savor it, cultivating our friendships and knowing when we have our basic needs met, we really have enough, Everything else we might strive for is a bonus and we should view it as a fun challenge.  I ought to have also added KINDNESS to that new definition of success. If we are kind to ourselves, our family, and the earth that sustains us, there is probably no greater measure of a successful life than that.