Last week saw the 100th anniversary of Bloomsday, a celebration of the epic stroll through Dublin that serves as the centerpiece of James Joyce's masterwork, Ulysses. Bloomsday celebrations, named after the book's main character and held around the globe on June 16, have grown in popularity among scholars and Joyce fans, who come together for recitations, snacking, and costumed revelry. In the fervent spirit of the 100th anniversary, a Dog Bites correspondent donned his favorite bow tie and tweed and headed to the Mechanics' Institute Library, the scene of San Francisco's sold-out Bloomsday festivities, where a series of professorial and grad student types -- many in early-20th-century regalia -- read from their favorite passages to a rapt audience. Our correspondent emerged a few hours later, properly inspired, and filed this report:
Stately, plump James Leeper came from a room past the stairhead, bearing a handful of snacks. A brown sports coat, tweed, was becoming very itchy in the humid room, in which wilting Anglos were crowded. He tossed the snacks into his cakeshoot and intoned:
--Introibo ad altare Dei.
Halted, Mr. Mark Singer peered out into the hallway and called up coarsely:
--Come up, Leeper. Come up, you bow-tie aficionado.
Solemnly he came forward and mounted the square podium. He faced about and read joyfully from Ulysses. Then, catching sight of his favorite passage, he bent toward it and enchanted its hallowed words into the air.
--For this, O dearly beloved Bloomsdaians, is the genuine Joyce, body and soul and blood and ouns. Slow, music, please. Shut your eyes gents. One moment. A little trouble with those white corpuscles. Silence, all.
Mr. Leeper and other cheerful scholars spoke at great length and with relish within the inner organs of the Mechanics' Institute Library to a den of Joyce enthusiasts who, without air conditioning, began to stink like beasts and fowl, grilled mutton kidneys, and fine tang of faintly scented urine from the homeless wanderers on the sidewalk outside. Cup of box wine soon. Good. Mouth dry.
At the beginning of the night, host Mark Singer had said the next several hours would be set in Dublin. Several hours passed, still looked like San Francisco to Dog Bites. Japanese tourists, even.
The crowd mewed in approval and hunched stiffly the tables mewing. Just how they hunch over the trays of hardening cheddar cubes. Grr. Scratch my ass. Grr.
--Cheese for the pussins, he thought.
DEAR NERDY SAN FRANCISCO
--80 San Franciscan vestals, Dog Bites reported to his cellular phone, elderly and boorish, will sit and listen to this tome 50 and 53 minutes more at this building on Polk Street.
--Where is that? asked Dog Bites' yellow flower.
--By the Polo Store, with the croquet mallets in the window.
Dog Bites hung up. Set phone to vibrate. Perceived dirty looks on all sides.
Damp room reeking of malodorous dough. Against the wall. Face glistening tallow under his fustian shawl. Surrounded by aged hearts. Fans of Enya records. Read quicker, darlint! My word! I'm all of a mucksweat.
(Dog Bites glanced around at the audience. Then his eyes rested on the reader, touched his heated face, neck, and embonpoint. His falcon eyes glittered.)
Our worthy acquaintance, Mr. Dog Bite, now edged toward the doorway as the readers were finishing their apologue accompanied with a friend whom he had just re-encountered, who had late come to the event, it being her intention to grab some free Triscuits and a couple of Dixie cups of chardonnay. Mr. Dog Bite was civil enough to express a small bit of relish of the event, but quickly came forth with a project of his own for the cure of the monotonous evil that she had touched on. His project, as he went on to expound, was to withdraw from this round of idle pleasures and to devote himself to the noblest task of Bloomsday celebration for which our bodily organism has been framed: enjoying a pint of Guinness in private. He put his arms around her yes and drew her from the stinky room so he could feel her breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes she said yes I will Yes. (Nate Cavalieri)
Kathy Eder, a 42-year-old teacher at the prestigious Catholic Bellarmine College Preparatory in San Jose, received death threats last year after she created Operation Hidden Agenda playing cards, a satirical anti-war version of the administration's card deck of Iraq's most wanted. Undaunted, Eder's latest subversive publishing project is in the form of a faux children's book called No, George, No! The RE-PARENTING of George W. Bush. The story is about a little boy named George W. who wants to become president when he grows up, but has some naughty ideas about rigging voting machines, giving handouts to wealthy benefactors, and stonewalling journalists. The book sees him re-educated by a left-wing Truth Fairy, just in time to save the country. The self-published No, George, No! began selling at Tower Records and Books Inc. this month.
Dog Bites: Is No, George, No! for kids or adults?
Kathy Eder: It's for adults. I'm using humor to get people involved in what's really going on. I have footnotes at the bottom of each page [referencing investigative newspaper articles], because truth is what I'm trying to get people to realize. It's also my form of nonviolent protest.
DB: Did you have a hard time finding a distributor?
KE: Yes. I approached some places in my hometown of Los Gatos, and nobody would carry them. I thought, "Who doesn't censor around here?" I called Tower Records, and they realized there's a need for this anti-Bush stuff.
DB: What subject do you teach at Bellarmine?
KE: Social justice and morality. Social justice is about being a voice for the voiceless and has everything to do with the Catholic faith. There's a branch of the church called Catholic social teaching. We're supposed to be active members of our community and also active politically. Jesus spoke out about tax collectors and politicians, and we're supposed to do the same.
DB: What does your school think of your projects?
KE: The administration is not happy with me doing this, because when I did [Operation Hidden Agenda] so many people wrote in saying I should be fired. I was a guest on conservative radio shows, and The O'Reilly Factor, and people from across the nation would call me, call the school, saying I was a "Godless human being."
DB: What do your students think?
KE: I don't talk about it in class, because I'm selling these things, and that would be unethical. But I did see some students with the cards on campus. I would say about 50 percent were for the war, and 50 percent were against, until we started sharing that there are a couple of draft bills floating around Congress. Most of them listen to Fox News.
DB: Why is that, do you think?
KE: It's exciting to watch grown men yelling at each other and putting people down. That's why I used what I could to get my story across. This is my way of shouting, because I know us liberals are pretty boring. (Lessley Anderson)