Dog Bites, who has by now spent a number of summers in San Francisco, thank you, would just like someone else to acknowledge that it's unusually cold and damp this year. The record heat in other parts of the nation has been making news for weeks -- hell, there's a drought in the Southeast, and nobody seems afraid to speak of it on CNN. Are San Franciscans scared that the steady river of tourists queuing to drive the twisty block of Lombard will dry up if we just come right out and say the weather is horrible?
The weather is horrible.
Our own brief respite from the drizzle this weekend took the form of a field trip to Oakland's Lake Temescal, where we crashed the annual Chronicle Family and Friends Summer Picnic. We were a little nervous, particularly as we weren't able to know in advance whether we'd be properly dressed for the occasion -- a concern that consumes many of Dog Bites' waking hours as it is -- and whether anyone would ask our name, and whether if we gave a false one and then forgot to answer to it we'd be discovered, the way it always happens in movies, and so on.
Luckily, though, only a few people talked to us, and no one actually questioned us -- perhaps because attendance was so sparse that an extra person was actually seen as contributing, however slightly, to the festivities -- so we helped ourselves to a Corona and found a seat from which we could scan the small crowd while pretending to watch the softball game that was in progress.
Well, OK, let's be honest: We were hoping to see sensitive columnist Jon Carroll surreptitiously kick a dog or something, but he wasn't even at the picnic. In fact, none of the paper's big-name writers seemed to have showed up; one person with whom we made strained conversation let slip that most of the attendees were newer employees. Friday section columnist Dave Ford was also absent, as he was from the paper itself this week; we felt a little guilty on hearing that the column had just been discontinued -- according to rumor, at Ford's own request! -- and hoped our gentle mockery of him a few weeks ago hadn't been too much for the man.
Still, the sun was shining, we weren't actually cold, and -- as Carroll himself may well write someday -- "Barbecue-flavored potato chips: I mean."
In fact, we were having such a good time that we settled in to scarf potluck desserts from the vast array set out on one of the picnic tables, drink beer, and relax by examining our hair for split ends. All in all, it was a wonderful afternoon. And please, allow us to take this opportunity to pay our compliments to the creator of the peanut butter Rice Krispy treats with the melted chocolate topping: Whoever you are, you're a culinary genius.
Please, No Phone Calls
Meanwhile, in other news from the world of publishing, several hopeful readers have e-mailed asking for SF Magazine's phone number. Bad news: Editor/Publisher Aaron Poirier tells us he's already hired his core staff.
Where'd he get them from -- Salon? Poirier, who even refused to give us any details about his own background, though he says he's from the Bay Area ("off and on"), declined to answer. "I am not allowed to say much right now," he said. "However, I can tell you I'm thrilled to death about what we're planning. What we've developed is really a killer, killer, killer plan."
And while we're on the subject of city magazines, we'd like to offer our apologies to San Francisco's somewhat disgruntled Kevin Berger; he is the executive editor of that magazine, not the managing editor as we incorrectly stated last week -- and, as he pointed out, "We win journalism awards and stuff all the time."
Poirier, while making vague, gracious noises about San Francisco's "quality," claimed his new publication will be completely different from anything that's ever gone before. "Editorially, we are aiming to set a new standard both here in the city and in the genre of city magazines," said Poirier. "It will be very much in sync with what the sophistication of a city like San Francisco merits."
Hmm. So who's putting up the money? "We're privately funded. I can't say anything about financials," Poirier told us.
After much indirect questioning Dog Bites did learn SF Magazine will include dining, fashion, and entertainment sections; it will also be aimed at -- ahem! -- a younger readership than is San Francisco. "It would be difficult not to address some of the demographics issues," admitted Poirier.
Art for the Masses
Our busy week of cultural activities and laundry reached a high point with the opening of Guy Overfelt's "Cruzen USA" at the Jack Hanley Gallery; the show features a life-size inflatable rubber model of the artist's 1977 Trans Am, tricked out, as is the original, with screaming chicken hood decal and Board of Supervisors-annoying yellow Michelin Scorcher tires.
Other art on display includes two large color blowups of works from the Burnout Project, spectacular scrawlings of burned rubber on the pavement in front of blandly glass-skinned Silicon Valley office buildings. "That's the Oracle headquarters," Overfelt told us as we toured the show.
There is also a single tire mark on heavy white paper hanging in signifi- cant isolation on one wall. Dog Bites, immediately struck by how cool the piece would look over our couch, inquired as to the price. "Well, there's been some controversy about that," said Overfelt. "It's, uh, $1,200."
On hand for the festivities were two statuesque and significantly saline-enhanced blond models in stars-and-stripes thong bikinis. When we complimented Overfelt on the authentic car show atmosphere the models helped create he admitted they were a last-minute addition. "I ordered them off the Web," he said.
We're Number ... Seven!
While we're sure most of our readers already subscribe to the Business Times, we just want to note here that SF Weekly is, according to that publication, the seventh most-read newspaper in the entire Bay Area. The Chronicle is, uh, No. 1, followed by the Wall Street Journal and the San Jose Mercury News. The Weekly, the only alternative paper on the list, beat the Marin Independent Journal, the Examiner, and the Tri-Valley Herald.
What is particularly shocking to Dog Bites, however, is that the Weekly achieved this level of readership without providing the kind of practical service the Mercury News did last week, when the headline on the Merc's top story Fri- day bragged, "VCR Clocks Tell Time Again." Apparently, thanks to quick action by alert Merc reporter David Wilson, Northern Californians are once more able to program their VCRs properly. A faulty time signal broadcast by San Jose PBS affiliate KTEH had been causing victims' VCR clocks to run 24 minutes fast. (Let's just admit right here that Dog Bites, who has yet to tape a thing off KTEH, had no idea this was even a problem.) Wilson, a sidebar to the story noted, contacted a senior engineer at PBS headquarters in Virginia, who helped the local station's engineer make the necessary change "in minutes."
We are sure we are only one amongst the many heaving sighs of relief.