1 January 2000

It’s 2AM in San Francisco. The world did not end. The lights are on and the cable works. The web did not fail. I’ve sent and receieved email. There were no major riots. For a Friday night, it’s strangely calm and quiet South of Market, even though the bars have just dismissed their New Year’s Eve crowds into the streets.

Apparently, this “millenium bash” was one of the calmest New Year’s Eve celebrations in San Francisco history.

For my part, Dan picked me up at 7:30. We then grabbed Steve and Jamie and took the back rodas to a house near Geary and Masonic for dinner with some friends. We watched the celebration at Times Square. As we talked, we realized we’d all been watching the live coverage of the events worldwide all day. At this point, we gave up on all traces of urban sophistication and pretension (pretense?).

After dinner, we all drove back to Steve’s house on Potrero Hill to bring in the new year and watch the fireworks over the bay. It was all very low-key, we were seven nicely agreeable individuals, and Steve and I (the only two drinkers of the bunch) couldn’t even manage to kill off one bottle of champagne. We did have streamers and balloons (five of which are now in my living room) and cookies and bread and cheese.

We laughed at the sparse turnout for all of San Francisco’s “official” celebrations. I occasionally looked out the window to make sure than South of Market wasn’t on fire. It wasn’t.

In fact as we drove through the remarkably sedate Mission district and onto Folsom Street on the way home, I noticed that the crowds on the street were pretty small even for a normal Friday night. I think people were terrified. Or just tired of all the hype.

All in all, it was a damn fine New Year’s Eve. When I got home, I turned off all the lights I’d left on, emailed my mom to let her know I was still alive and now I’m going to bed.

The traditional collards and black-eyed peas will be served tomorrow afternoon, although Safeway was sold out of fresh greens. All in all, I’d say that this shortage may suggest that there’s hope for the Bay Area after all. Or at least a hell of a lot of Southern transplants.

That said, happy New Year to you all!

Planet SOMA 1999 Stats

Just in time for my fourth anniversary (with eight days to spare, yet), I’ve compiled the official 1999 Planet SOMA statistics, giving an exciting (OK, maybe not exciting) look at which pages are most popular, where links are coming from, etc. This front page, for example, was accessed over 128,000 times.

It’s no big surprise that the San Francisco front page is number one, with 22,333 accesses. It is a bit odd that my sex club page, which hasn’t been updated since I stopped going to sex clubs about three years ago, came in fifth. Anyway, the top ten is follows:

The strong showing in the 1970s section is largely due to a link on Suck.com a few weeks back (which actually shut down the site for a few hours), although the front page probably would have been in the top ten anyway. The loft boom is a result of this section’s being featured in a couple of Yahoo Full Coverage sections.

Yahoo was by far my largest traffic generator as a whole, along with several other search engines and “that interview” in Nightcharm.

Of course, all this can distract you from the fact that I still don’t have anything particularly exciting to write about. This weekend I brought in the New Year, solidified my good luck with black-eyed peas and collard greens, and drove upto Sacramento on Sunday (through the delta on Highway 160) just to get out of the house. And I worked.

It rained today. That was nice. And I had some really good pork chops for dinner. I almost threw a computer through a plate glass window at my evil and hateful part-time job today, which would have made an interesting story had I actually done it. And I won free stuff at the vending machine twice. But that’s about it.

Big damn deal, huh?

Bland, Slimy, and Annoying

Why is it that every time I see or hear the disposable sounds of the Grammy-nominated Backstreet Boys, I get this uncontrollable craving for a big ol’ mayonnaise and Velveeta sandwich on white bread? Has anyone else had this problem?

While I’m at it, does anyone else find this whole boy band thing to be a big insult to such classic boy bands as the Osmonds or New Kids on the Block? And has anyone else accidentally caught Joey McIntyre on one of his recent VH-1/MTV guest appearances and wondered at what a slimewad he seems to have become?

Speaking of slimewads, has anyone visited Cybersocket lately? I don’t recommend it; it’s a stupid publication with an ugly website. Even better, it features misleading descriptions of sites. Holy Titclamps, for example, is a “celebrity gossip” site while Planet SOMA is a big promoter of “queer culture”. I love the way that professional homosexuals try to re-work the universe to fit their narrow view thereof. If anything, my site’s function is to convince the world what a complete crock of shit the idea of “queer culture” is.

The above would be worth a brief chuckle if these assholes also didn’t keep spamming me (six messages yesterday) and telling me it wasn’t spam because I’d signed up for their “mailing list” Of course, this is bullshit, since the spam comes to specific addresses they harvested from my site and don’t use otherwise. It’s idiots like these who are responsible for the fact that I don’t have direct email links on the site anymore.

Other things I hate today, dammit:

  • All versions of Microsloth Word released after version 5.1 for Mac in 1992. It’s been downhill ever since for this increasingly bloated piece of crap which now does just about everything badly, except for word processing, which it barely seems to do at all.
  • A 15% price increase on Sausage McMuffins.
  • Radio stations with formats like “smooth jazz”, “new country”, and “the hits of the 70s and 80s with no rap, metal, or spontaneity”. OK, I made up the “spontaneity” part.
  • Those stupid “people do” Chevron commercials (still).

Links du jour:


The pace continues to be crazy down Planet SOMA way, so my apologies for the sparse update schedule of late. I do have some interesting stuff planned for the site’s upcoming fourth anniversary on Thursday.

Coming soon: the excitement of two trips to Salinas in one day, the surprise of hearing from an old friend after a couple of years, and more. Sounds enticing, doesn’t it?

Four Years of Planet SOMA

I was chain-smoking and developing a mild headache four years ago today, as I finished and uploaded the very first version of Planet SOMA. It was a simple little site and I had no idea that it would grow into such a life-altering monster.

Sentimental fool or just full of myself? You be the judge…

Unrelated to the anniversary:

I had the disturbing realization that I’ve now lived in California long enough that I’ve started silently correcting news reporters when they mispronounce place names. Not just San Francisco names, but statewide. Of course, I was named an “honorary native” by an actual one over six years ago. I’m not sure if any special privileges are associated with said honor.

Speaking of states I’ve lived in, I’m embarrassed to admit that South Carolina is one, although I only spent four months there. Come on people, give up the friggin’ rebel flag. If it’s such a goddamn symbol of “historical pride” or whatever, why did take the Civil Rights demonstrations of the 1960s to get it flown atop the state capitol?

It’s a symbol, all right, but it doesn’t have a damned thing to do with history. If it doesn’t come down soon, I want a refund of my state income tax from 1986, please. With interest.

That said, I’ll be spending the rest of the evening laboriously planning the next four years of Planet SOMA. Unless there’s something good on TV…

Leaving San Francisco?

I may spend Saturday buying the computer I threatened to buy a few weeks ago. Or I may just sit around the house enjoying the rain which seems finally to be arriving after a disturbingly dry rainy season. I haven’t decided yet. After the past couple of weeks, it will be nice to treat myself to a day of very few pressing commitments.

This evening at dinner, a new addition to the Friday night dinner thing I do with Dan and Jamie made the comment that “San Francisco sucks” and that he was planning to leave after living here considerably longer than I have. No one argued. San Francisco pretty much DOES suck these days. My friend Dave sent me email upon his return from vacation stating that, after more than two decades here, he’s decided that SF is “officially boring”.It seems at least half my friends are planning to leave San Francisco these days, and I think the right push might convice a significant portion of the rest as well. I’m not talking about bored 20-somethings with short attention spans here. I have several friends in their 50’s, people who have been here close to thirty years, who are either moving on or contemplating it.

This is not about dissatisfaction among “flavor of the month” types who’ve lived here a year as part of some Bohemian circuit. These are people who have made a significant emotional and time commitment to the city formerly known as The City. It’s sad.

I think this emotional investment is a large part of why I didn’t just pick up and leave a year ago. Frankly, I’m convinced that being near Oakland is about the only compelling reason to stay in San Francisco.

These voluntary departures combined with the many who have been forced out (and the many new and interesting people who can no longer afford to move here) don’t bode well for the San Francisco of 2010.

South of Market is already lost, of course. Underground culture and nightlife cannot thrive in an upscale residential area; “mixed use” of this variety is nothing but a fantasy. The bars along Folsom Street are already suffering, whether from lack of crowds and new blood or from the lack of energy among what patrons remain.

Most of the youth culture which used to offer regular tranfusions has now shunned recreation in favor of 90-hour work weeks. The remainder of the young’uns can’t afford to be here in the first place. And a large proportion of those of us in that 25-45 range (which used to be the prime Folsom Street demographic) have just plain had it. When I bother to go out at all, I almost never see people I know.

A lot has been written in the local press about gentrification, displacement of the poor, etc. Less has been written about the fact that San Francisco just isn’t any FUN anymore. The suits have changed into khakis and have managed to convince a whole city that pursuing a career instead of a life is not only acceptable, but preferable.

Barring another earthquake or an economic catastrophe, I fear San Francisco in ten years may well be nothing but a city full of career-obsessed drones whose only excitement will come from chance encounters with street people, the only low-income group which will survive this “great economy”.

Of course, I’m exaggerating, but I sure don’t want to be here in 2010 to see by how much. Which is a sad thing, since I used to believe I’d live here the rest of my life.


So I know there’s someone at Adobe Systems who reads Planet SOMA with some regularity. I can tell from my stats. Well, dear friend, the time has come for you to reveal yourself. Why? Because I’d like to get to know you better. To talk. To hang out. Maybe even to share a bowl of grits. And because I’m in desperate need of ATM Deluxe 4.5.2 (for Mac, as if there were any question) and I have absolutely no intention of shelling out 65 bucks.

How much do i love my new G4? Everything’s so much faster. Web browsing is fun again. I can use actual new versions of programs like Photoshop and Flash, although I promise to spare you any trace of animations or roll-over buttons, the latter because I still hate them with all my might.

The only problems so far have been my lack of font mangement and one unpleasant software conflict. Note to all who might consider it: do NOT install ATM Deluxe 4 on top of Mac OS9. Just don’t. Trust me on this one. And, of course, the new Mac keyboards and mice just plain suck, but that will be fixed soon (after shelling out another hundred bucks or so, alas). Oh, and did I mention that new Macs finally use actual normal VGA monitors? This is great unless you happen to have an old Mac monitor from the days of “we don’t need your stinkin’ standards”. Thanks to Dan for help with this mini-crisis.

All in all, though, I’m pretty damned happy. I keep dancing around the empty boxes chanting “I have a new computer. La la la la la la.”

The machine formerly known as “my computer”…

And what of my old machine? She’s still plugged in, although not on my desk anymore. There are lots more files to be moved, and she still contains the only video capture card in the house. But soon, I guess she’ll become my “kitchen Mac” relegated to serving up recipes and some occasional cooking music. I’m still sort of attached to her and I can’t imagine anyone would want the damned thing, despite its place in web history. And no, I wasn’t being serious about the”web history” part, dammit. I’m not THAT self-obsessed.

Oh, and I bought a new TV too, but it rather pales in comparison, being a $129 model from Sears and all. The sound is just plain awful, and I’m not exactly a connoisseur to begin with…

Randomly Thursday

Tuesday’s urgent plea about ATM Deluxe produced not one, but two replies from Planet SOMA readers at Adobe. Oh, the power of the Internet. Now, if I could just develop a fan base among people who work at RAM factories…

I like Verdana today. Maybe you could tell by its proliferation on the front page. I think I’ll be changing all those “arial,helvetica,geneva” tags to “verdana, arial,geneva” soon. I also started liking today’s journal entry on the evils of historic preservation so much that I made it into its own page.

And now I have nothing much else to say. Actually, I have plenty to say. I’m just too damned tired to say any of it. Seems I’m tired a lot lately. Probably because I’m working a lot and (more recently) because I’m infatuated with the new computer. The complete lack of exercise might play a part as well.

Damn. There’s the garbage men. Back in a second.

OK. Trash dutifully discarded.

Strange. I’ve been living in the same apartment and sleeping in the same bedroom since 1992 and I just now noticed that my bedroom window is about an inch out of plumb from top to bottom. It’s not a problem (nor a big surprise given a wood frame building in earthquake country). It’s just odd that I never noticed before.

Twenty-two minutes ’til the Simpsons. I’m out of creative ideas. I’m tired. But I keep typing. Most likely, this is because I just hate it when the left column is significantly longer than the right one. I’m very anal about balance. My mom says it’s because she passed her Libra blood on to me. I don’t buy it, though.

Anyway, link du jour should fill out the page:


Historic (P)reservation

Historic preservation. Just what does it mean? To far too many “historic preservationists”, it means creating a Disneyland version of someone’s idea of what a given street (or city) looked like during one specific week in 1895, without any attention to the fact that a place changes over time, sometimes for the better.

Case in point: Old Salem in Winston Salem NC. This is essentially the remnants of an old Southern town dating from the 1700s. A fairly large city grew around it. Fortunately, a lot of the old village survived and was eventually made into a park. Problem is, new buildings had also been constructed over time. A few years back, there was a debate about one of these “new” buildings, a huge landmark house from the mid-1800s. It was determined that this very significant building was of the wrong vintage and had to be removed so as not to clash with all the tri-cornered hats. This is what I define as an absolute bastardization of “historic preservation”.

Ever seen pictures of Colonial Williamsburg in the 1930s, before it was Disney-fied? When people were actually still using the buildings and it was still a living place? I think I liked it better before they made it cute.

The last few years of my grandmother’s life were made miserable by a “historic district commission” which told her what color she could paint her house, where air conditioners could be located, and more. In recent years, these “presevationists” have given her old middle class nighborhood an aesthetic makover and appearance it never had in the actual past. Too often, “preservation” essentially means “gentrification”.

But now, on to San Francisco, where the current controversy is over a 1960s-era sign at the former Doggie Diner on Sloat Boulevard. Think what you like about the property rights of the owner, etc. I’m not even getting into that here becuse I have mixed feelings myself. What bothers me is the tone of the debate over the sign. Over and over, people who should know better say this pop culture icon (featured in Zippy the Pinhead and elsewhere) is “not at all significant” and that recognizing it would “have trivialized the whole concept of declaring a landmark”.

Bullshit. A unique artifact like the Doggie Diner sign is at least as worthy of attention as one of thousands of look-alike Victorians in the Haight or the Western Addition. Why must historic preservation be limited to the long past and to grand “public” structures most people have never entered? Why are the commercial icons which shaped our daily lives (supermarkets, diners, giant advertising signs, etc.) not worth saving as well? Ultimately, these are the places people remember and discuss and miss.

Why would preserving the Doggie Diner (or the Camera Obscura, or the grand arched 1960s Safeway stores, or even Tad’s Steaks) be a “mockery”. Because they were commercial establishments? Because they were lowbrow popular places? Because they’re not “old enough”?

Or is it just because they’re not cute enough and don’t inspire memories of gas lit streets and hanson cabs? God knows, San Francisco has plenty of “cute”. Most “historic preservationists” seem not so much interested in history as they are obsessed with creating movie sets depicting some wet dream of a past which never really existed.

It’s the every day things which matter, not just the massive ones. It’s the unique things which people remember, and not just century-old ones. And it’s a fact that history, like it or not, did not end in 1895.

Related Note:

For good examples of groups which “get it” and realize that history didn’t end fifty years ago, visit:

Visitors from DC

Busy weekend. In addition to lots of work, I had two unrelated visitors from DC, both of whom are in the process of moving here, despite all my admonitions to the contrary.

People just won’t listen.

Did lots of work on Friday, while cursing my lack of font management and miscellaneous other system traumas, the result of moving old shit to a new computer. I’m more or less past profanity now, at least.

Got out of the house for a while on Saturday, and then picked up Matthew (DC visitor #1) at the airport. Went out to the neighborhood saloons. Was not much amused. Slept.

And damn, did it rain today. So after cooking breakfast (eggs, sausage, tomatoes, grits, toast , and fruit, for those of you keeping score) and helping Matthew find his temporary abode, I didn’t leave the house the rest of the day. I threw a corned beef brisket into the oven and started to work.

Jim (DC visitor #2) visited for a while to fondle my new Mac. Dan stopped by to help me eat the corned beef (along with kraut, mustard horseradish, salad, and ice cream, for those of you STILL keeping score).

And then we watched The Simpsons. It was painful. All good things must come to an end, and this one definitely has.

Ever watch any of those crappy made for TV Warner Bros. cartoons from the 1960s, where (for example), Speedy Gonzales, Daffy Duck, and Petunia Pig might all be teamed up for no apparent reason? The ones produced long after all the talent was gone from Warner Bros.? The Simpsons gives this same feeling lately. No life, no characterization, too many in jokes and trivia references and not much else. The whole show seems like a lame attempt to set up a few sight gags which aren’t particularly funny anyway.

It’s sad. I’d suggest a dignified euthanasia might be in order, but Fox probably wouldn’t agree given their current lack of hits (or direction).

Anyway, I worked even more afterward, and still didn’t finish everything I needed to, and now I’m going to bed. So there.

Good Frame of Mind

It’s been an insanely busy week (this is a recording…), but I find myself in a really positive frame of mind right now. It’s an unusual condition, and I’m sure it won’t last very long, so I’m figuring on enjoying it while I can.

Things just seem to be going well lately. I’m working a lot, but I’m not doing anything I hate (see exception below), and I even like all the people I’m working for. I have a zippy new computer, I’ve been maintaining generally good moods, and the house is even relatively clean.

There’s one weak link, my crutch, if you will. It’s the evil, hateful, soul-sucking on-site part-time job I still force myself to face 20-25 hours a week. I almost walked out last week. I foresee getting even closer this week. I just don’t care anymore.

It’s not so much that I hate any one single aspect of the job, although I do hate the fact that it’s much less flexible than it was when I was recruited into it a couple of years back. It’s more that I resent being there (and HAVING to be there at specific day and time), particularly now that I’m doing a lot more freelance work. I feel like I’m wasting my time when I could be spending it much more productively (at 2-3 times the hourly rate, thanks).

I particularly hate that I’ve become somewhat “indispensable”, more through lack of staff and training than through any particular greatness on my part. This, of course, makes my “flexible” part time job even less so.

So why don’t I just quit and spare myself the agony of this one glaring negative in an otherwise positive period? Largely because I’m scared to, I guess. It’s a sea of steady income in the feast or famine freelance world. And I’ve been working for this company off and on for over ten years, although I’ve spent the past two and a half in a wholly administrative capacity. And, if nothing else, it gets me out of the house once in a while.

I know. I need to give it up. I will very soon. Encouragement and long-term freelance projects actively solicited.

Things I love this week:

  • They Might Be Giants
  • Stouffers on sale, selected varieties, 4 for $5 at FoodsCo.
  • Mark, for doing me TWO big favors recently.
  • The book I’m reading on the history of Winn-Dixie.
  • Ma Pinkie’s Barbecue and Soul Food in San Mateo


Don’t really give a shit about football? Yeah, neither do I. But I DO love Super Bowl Sunday. It’s such a calm, quiet day. No one’s out roaming about. In a severely overcrowded place (by American standards) like San Francisco, a day like today is a special treat.

The best part: when I woke up early this morning, it was pouring down rain. A dark, rainy Sunday with no pressing commitments is a truly wonderful thing. At least until the sun comes out.

Or until you go the grocery store.

I hate Albertson’s. Again. Still. In my last four visits, I’ve been overcharged three times on sale items. Specifically, they charge me for both of their much-promoted “buy one get one free” specials. The first two times, I didn’t catch it until I got home. The third time, I didn’t buy anything on sale anyway. But by today, I checked my receipt at the register and realized I’d been screwed again.

I could see this happening once, but on three out of four visits, scattered over a month? It never happens to me at Safeway or at Raley’s (or Harris-Teeter or Kroger). Frankly, it ain’t a very good way for a company to make a good name for itself in a new market. I want Lucky back.

More things I hate today:

  • Yet another increase in the price of cigarettes.
  • The laundromat.
  • The sun finally came out.
  • Bad news via e-mail about my uncle who’s in the hospital.

On the plus side, things that I love:

  • My growing family of houseplants (now at 9).
  • The “Pop-up Video” version of “Leif Garrett: Behind the Music”
  • A good night’s sleep.

All in all, though, life is good. I actually rested this weekend. I needed it. And I feel better than I have in a month. I’ve made a few decisions about the evil part-time job as well, but you’ll just have to wait.

Now, if I could just quit smoking…