Crazy Agnes

There’s this crazy lady at work. I’ll call her “Agnes” even though that’s not her real name. Agnes is about sixty years old, and is a recent migrant from upstate New York.

Agnes is all about gloom and doom, and can convince you that the most benign ailment or medication will undoubtedly be fatal. She also has an (ill-informed) opinion on nearly everything, and loves to rant, on subjects ranging from the natural superiority of northerners over southerners to the way that lazy immigrants or assorted minorities all try to get something for nothing. Of course, she uses cloaked terminology to show that she’s no racist. Interestingly, she also never hesitates to pad her own time card when the opportunity arises, but that’s another story, I guess.

Yesterday, Agnes was in a political mood. Somehow, we got on the subject of the national drinking age. Agnes, interestingly enough, believed that 18-year-olds should be allowed to buy alcohol, and I agree. However, Agnes doesn’t think they should be allowed to vote. Her rationale? They haven’t had time to learn how hard their parents had to work to earn money and they “don’t know their asses from a hole in the ground”. They need, she asserts, to experience the “real world”.

No, I didn’t really get the connection, either.

Ignorance is most definitely not limited to the young. And most 18-year-olds spend those essential years between 18 and 20 in college — not exactly the “real world” by Agnes’ standards nor anyone else’s. I’m also unaware of any Constitutional requirement that voters exhibit any particular level of financial maturity. There’s certainly no similar requirement that the candidates exhibit such maturity.

When I pressed, Agnes went into a tirade about all the problems Clinton caused when he “allowed all the 18-year-olds to vote back in the 1990s”. I calmly informed her that (a) an American President does not have the power to “allow” anyone to vote or not vote, (b) that a Constitutional amendment was required to change the voting age, and (c) that this amendment had been passed in 1971, two decades prior to the Clinton administration. Apparently, I knew more about the Constitution at age 18 than she knows at age 60. Sort of throws her argument out the window, doesn’t it?

I mention this not because Agnes is a blowhard and a bit of an idiot, which she is. I mention it because her lack of knowledge about how government works and her complete absence of critical thinking skills are, alas, not particularly uncommon. Like so many people who don’t want to engage in intellectual exercise, she believes what she believes no matter how faulty her premises. Facts are not going to change her mind. Clinton is the antichrist. Immigrants are evil drains on our economy, language, and culture. No one is “allowed” any fundamental liberty she finds distasteful — but no one better deny her right to do anything, since all her personal pursuits are completely pure and moral. Agnes prides herself on being patriotic, but she doesn’t know a damned thing about the Constitution, and probably has never even read it. Flag-waving nationalism and a little bit of dogma with a Bill O’Reilly chaser is apparently enough for her.

Unfortunately, Agnes is America: intellectually lazy, uninformed, and too willing to be told what to think. I don’t say this because her views are “conservative.” There are just as many, if not more, left-leaning lemmings about (witness San Francisco). In fact, I’d argue that a majority of the most vocally opinionated folks in the country have absolutely no intellectual basis for most of their very closely-held opinions. It’s a lot easier, after all, not having to do the work of thinking for yourself, and never stopping to ponder why you believe something.

Most people take the easy way out. Give them an “Obama is a Muslim terrorist” email message, or a “Proctor and Gamble is owned by devil worshippers” form letter and most will either not care or just be too fucking stupid or ignorant to evaluate the source and context. And most politicians are quite aware of this. Explains a lot, doesn’t it?

Christmas and stuff

All in all, it was a good Christmas. Mark was gone pretty much the entire month of December, a victim of year-end accounting at work. That sort of sucked, but we had our romantic rendezvous on the 23rd when I flew into San Francisco. Despite all my dread over flying at the holidays, the whole process was much more tolerable than I’d expected, thanks to a series of happy coincidences that resulted in very favorable seat assignments.

A few hours after I arrived in SF, we were on the way to Fresno to spend the holidays with his family. It wasn’t really any warmer in Fresno than it had been in Winston-Salem when I left, but it was quite a bit foggier. That made me happy.

There was Christmas Eve breakfast at the Chicken Pie Shop and random Christmas shopping before dinner at the home of the sister-in-law and family. I’m not showing pictures of our niece here, just because I think it might (understandably) creep out her mom a bit, but she’s adorable — trust me on this — and she also shared her crayons with me.

There was more food and family on Christmas day, and then we departed on the 26th for a quick one-night stand in San Mateo, where we had dinner with Dan, Jamie, and Eugene at Pancho Villa and then wandered around downtown and made the staff at Draeger’s nervous before bedding down in preparation for my really early flight the next day. The return flight, alas, was not nearly so pleasant as the westbound one had been.

The cool thing, of course, is that we got to have Christmas again when we got home: twice. The first was the traditional “fire in the basement” Christmas at home, where we gave each other our loot. For the record, I got a turntable (we’re now a two-turntable household), and lots of cool books and videos, among other things. We also got a quite wonderful vintage phone from Sister Betty and the happenin’ tiki lamp from Jamie.

And then, we got to go to Greensboro and do it all over again with my parents. Despite the picture, my mom really did have her eyes open through most of it, which we all appreciated.

Mark left this morning, and I have to take down all the decorations this afternoon. So I guess it’s over now, and it’s time for me to get back to the daily grind.

Maybe some day soon, I’ll even post pictures from the last two road trips. Right now, though, there’s a whole slew of exciting new shows on The CW and My Network TV that are just dying to be promoted online. And there’s a certain university bureaucracy that needs a cattle prod jammed up its ass. But that’s another story…


“So what did you and Mark do Saturday night?”

“We went out for dinner, and then saw a movie”.

“That’s nice. Where did you go for dinner?”


It’s nice having a husband who doesn’t think it’s the last bit odd to drive three hours (through three states) for dinner and a movie…

Email presevation

I sort of got the big geeky digital preservation bug tonight, and finally converted eleven-plus years of email — half of it in the old Eudora mailbox format — into the current Apple Mail format. It was harder than it sounds; this nifty little open source uttility was a big help. But now, I can read and search messages gong back to 1996, and they’re in what I believe to be a much more sustainable format.

Of course, such a project also meant I spent a little too much time reading old email. That’s always fun.

In case your inner geek is looking for some stimulation, note that the Eudora site above includes installers for some really old versions of that now-defunct email client for your amusement.

New hard drive

After dealing with one mini-catastrophe after another the past few days, I can no longer live in denial of the fact that (a) my primary hard drive is in fact failing, albeit in a slow and lingering sort of way, and (b) that my assorted patched and coping strategies are no longer working.

The replacement arrived from MacMall today, and its 500GB will double my capacity inside the G5 tower. I don’t anticipate drama, but if you don’t hear from me for a few days, you’ll know why.

Just in case I miss it, I’ll wish myself a happy anniversary right now, two days in advance of the actual date. I can’t believe I’ve been doing this for twelve years now…

Hard, barking roommates

Let me clarify my earlier statement: no discernible data loss except for some problems I had with Apple Mail.

And let me also clarify this: I don’t find it particularly complimentary when people bark at me, so please don’t assume I’ll be flattered if you say (or type) “woof” to me, no matter how affectionately it’s intended.

One more thing directed at my three (two? one?) remaining San Francisco readers: can someone please offer my husband a room? He’s really nice, and he never does stupid stuff like smoking pot or peeing on the carpet.

Snow comes to Winston-Salem

It wasn’t major, but it was the first relatively decent snowfall I’ve seen since moving back east two and a half years ago. Which sort of sucks. I remember when I was a kid that we always got a couple of fairly good snowstorms every winter, usually in the 3-4 inch range and very often more than that. Come to think of it, it seems like we even used to get one every time I came home to visit when I was living in San Francisco.

I guess we’re in a bit of a warm phase now. Maybe it will go away soon.

Music? With Video?

Interesting interview tidbit from a 1981 Hall & Oates syndicated radio interview that was in today’s “to digitize” pile. The subject is music video, and the potential effects of a just-announced music video channel on cable.

And yes, that does mean that I possess several disks full of syndicated shows like “The BBC College Concert” and “Rock Over London” from my radio days, all of which were supposed to be destroyed right after they aired. You wouldn’t begrudge me a moderately rare Lords of the New Church live performance and the occasional interview with a long-forgotten Britpop star, would you?

Videolog: Hey St. Peter

Hey St. Peter
Flash and the Pan, 1979

Welcome to the Videolog.

This is a new experimental feature, and what I plan to do is include seemingly (but not really) random music videos from YouTube or other sources, based on my mood and on whichever obscure pop song I happened to find a video for that day.

I like to think that I’ll be presenting that song you hadn’t realized you wanted to hear until you stumbled on it here. It will be mostly songs that either never quite made it to the top 40, or made abrief appearance and were never seen nor heard from again. You’re likely to see anything from 1990s alternapop and grunge to 1980s indie and technopop to best-forgotten 1970s disco and TV themes. There may be commentary as well. And there may not.


San Francisco nostalgia

This post was written upon the launch of an unsuccessful attempt at bring Planet SOMA back to life:

I’ve always been nostalgic about San Francisco.

I don’t mean that I’m nostalgic about it now that I no longer live there, nor that I “miss” it, per se. Actually, I was even nostalgic about San Francisco when I was still a resident. I was nostalgic for a San Francisco I never got to see, one whose existence — assuming it ever existed at all — concluded long before I arrived on the scene. I’m talking about the 1950s San Francisco of Herb Caen, martinis, Trader Vic’s, and little neighborhood Safeway stores in the middle of the block with no parking lots. And maybe even the San Francisco of the 1970s, with the relaxed attitude toward sex and cute shaggy-headed boys running around everywhere.

I moved to San Francisco in October of 1992. The city and the state weren’t in top form; there was a recession, and a string of well-publicized disasters starting with the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake and ending with the 1992 LA riots had scared much of the country out of ever wanting to live in California. But not me. After 28 years in North Carolina, I was ready for something a bit more urban. And 1992 was an amazing time for a sodomite with somewhat non-mainstream tastes to move to San Francisco.

It’s that long gone San Francisco of the early 1990s that I sometimes miss these days. I have pretty much no use for the current incarnation of the place, and I’m happy as can be that I no longer live there. That may have as much to do with my own growth and perspective as it does with the actual changes the city itself has experienced. I’m no longer in my twenties, I no longer drink and carry on until all hours of the night, and I’m concerned about than sex, booze, and rock, and roll. In short, I may be missing my own youth more than I’m missing some idealized version of San Francisco in 1992. I grew out of both.

That said, it was a great place to be at that point in my life, and it’s the San Francisco of the 1990s that this new incarnation of Planet SOMA will be all about. I’ll be posting about whatever I’m thinking about on any given day: stories from my own past, music videos, photos, random news stories from the era, memories of sex clubs and bars and places that no longer exist, and even the birth of the internet. You never know what you might find here.

In a sense, it will be like some of the earlier versions of Planet SOMA, dating back to its birth in January of 1996. In case you’re new to the site, here’s a crash course in Planet SOMA History:

Version 1 lasted for roughly two and a half years, from January 1996 to August 1998, and featured commentary on South of Market nightspots, sex clubs, and history, and also included road trip journals and occasional rants on miscellaneous subjects…not to mention the occasional dirty picture. The focus was on my neighborhood, the area south of Market Street in San Francisco, an area dubbed “SOMA” by any number of hipsters and real estate speculators.

Version 2 was launched in August 1998, and added a semi-regular web journal to the mix, which by this time didn’t feature sex clubs or porn anymore. The rants became more prominent and more varied. By late 2000, I’d split most of the personal material (the journal, and all my assorted “bio” pages) into a separate site,, which eventually resulted in Planet SOMA Version 3, a site which mostly contained rants about my growing impatience with the city by the bay.

Version 4 was finally launched in early 2004, once pretty much all the old content had either been retired or moved to Otherstream. I’d almost given up on the old site, as I was increasingly frustrated with San Francisco (and soon to escape for good) and didn’t quite know what to do with it. I thought this new incarnation as a photo site would inspire me to do regular updates. I did exactly four updates before moving back to North Carolina in 2005 and putting Planet SOMA into a stasis chamber.

Welcome to Version 5. We’ll see where it goes.

Videolog: Detachable Penis

Detachable Penis
King Missile, 1992

I vaguely remember meeting one of the members of King Missile on New Year’s Eve, 1993. I think it was at the Lone Star. I’m not sure, because I was exceedingly drunk that night, as was my customary practice at the time.

I’d loved the band ever since the first time I heard “Jesus Was Way Cool” several years before, and I thought it was really cool that they finally had something of a hit. At least on Live 105, back when it used to not suck.

5 October 1992: The arrival

I arrived in San Francisco on a Monday afternoon, a week after I’d left my family and most of my friends back in North Carolina. It was my first cross-country drive, and the first time I’d seen much of anything between the Appalachians and the Sierra Nevada. My friends had been amazed that I would take such a trip completely alone. I responded that I couldn’t have imagined doing it any other way.

I very much regret not keeping a journal nor any real notes on that trip. I’ve forgotten a lot of the specifics, but there are a few things I’ll always remember:

  • Having to pull off the freeway just a few minutes after I got on it in Greensboro, because I began sobbing uncontrollably.
  • Stopping at the Kinko’s in Nashville to fax my former co-workers at the Kinko’s in Greensboro.
  • Not being able to get a room at the Motel 6 in Kansas city and being horrified that I had to spend almost forty dollars to stay at the EconoLodge across the street.
  • Also in Kansas City, ditching some boy in a bar who was kind of cute but was giving me the creeps.
  • Deciding to spend not one, but two extra days in Denver, just because I liked it so much. I even hooked up my VCR in the motel room.
  • Finding a cassette copy of Laurie Anderson’s Big Science in a thrift store outside Denver, and thinking that was a really good sign.
  • Driving across the Rockies for the first time, with my car full of stuff, and comparing the experience to The Long, Long Trailer.
  • Walking into a bar in Salt Lake City and immediately running into the same boy I’d ditched in Kansas City four nights earlier. And having to ditch him again.
  • My last night on the road, in Winnemucca, where I got what would be my last good night’s sleep for several weeks and bought supplies (and a bottle of lotion I’d have for years to come) at my very first Raley’s supermarket.
  • Stopping at the Kinko’s in Reno to fax Steve and Todd, my soon-t0-be roommates in San Francisco, neither of whom had answered the phone for the past two days.
  • Stopping at the Target in Vallejo to call them again, and being relieved that one of them finally answered the phone this time.
  • Finally landing in San Francisco at the Market Street Safeway (I picked my landmarks very carefully even then, thank you) where I called for final directions to my new home.

I was pretty exhausted upon arrival, especially after driving around in circles trying to park in the Civic Center area. So (of course) we went out drinking on Polk Street that night. I didn’t have to start work until Wednesday, so I think we drank a lot.