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Dog Bites 

Wednesday, Apr 22 1998
This Week in the Plutocracy
Multimillionaire gubernatorial candidate Al Checchi had to pull one of his campaign ads featuring President Clinton after Clinton complained. Turns out it's administration policy not to get involved in Democratic primaries. Oops.

But that didn't stop our Al from linking himself to other, arguably more statesmanlike presidents. Another Checchi ad appeared, featuring Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer of Kennedy and Roosevelt Doris Kearns Goodwin. Goodwin says, in part, "As a young man, [Checchi] was inspired by John Kennedy. He was there for Martin Luther King's great civil rights march on Washington. ... Having written about Democratic leaders who lived in the past, it is a pleasure to speak on behalf of a new Democratic leader who shares their values."

One tiny, infinitesimally small detail left unmentioned: Besides being an expert on Democratic leadership, Goodwin sits on the board of Checchi's Northwest Airlines.

Shameless Self-Promotion
This has been a good week around the Weekly's offices, starting off when film critic Peter Rainer, who works from the offices of our sister paper, New Times Los Angeles, was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in criticism. Though the prize ultimately went to New York Times book critic Michiko Kakutani -- one of two other finalists -- the judges called Rainer's work "versatile and perceptive." And they were right.

Then, much to the San Francisco Bay Guardian's chagrin, our computer gaming Web site, David Israels' PlayThing, went live on Wednesday. Something similar to, but less interesting than, our site was formerly hosted by our learned friends on the shoulder of Potrero Hill, where Israels free-lanced for almost 15 years. But, uh, now he doesn't, and we've got him, and his amazing knowledge of computer gaming, and they don't, and ... nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah.

Cough. Anyway, visit now for an exclusive preview of SimCity 3000.

Finally, in direct competition with writers at the Bay Area's major dailies, three Weekly staffers won first-place honors in the Peninsula Press Club Awards on Friday. Staff writers Matt Smith (technology) and David Pasztor (business) and Arts Editor Bill Wyman (entertainment review) vanquished the competitors with articles on, respectively, a hip software firm that died a corporate death, Al Checchi's takeover of Northwest Airlines, and the Rolling Stones' latest tour. Also, Smith and former staffer Chuck Finnie won second-place awards in (respectively) sports and business. And Lisa Davis received an honorable mention in the general news category.

No Ballot Stuffing, Because I Said So
As the Best Of San Francisco reader ballots roll in, Dog Bites is appalled to report that there seems to be a degree of, ahem, cheating going on. And you know who you are, friends of the band Psycho Betty. If we see any more of your oh-so-obvious entries -- almost all of you are voting for the same gym and the same pet-grooming place, too -- we're going to disqualify said band just on general principles.

Reverse Engineering
Perennial gadabouts that we are, what with our bulging expense accounts and even more bulging address books, the staff at Dog Bites was thrilled to receive a complimentary copy of the San Francisco Sidewalk Offline Restaurant Guide, which, it need hardly be said, claims to be "the definitive guide to San Francisco dining."

The really interesting thing about this publication is the use of the word "offline" in its title. It's a book, OK? Of course it's offline. (Though we must say we enjoy the novelty of the convenient interface. The way those thin strips of material -- we believe the elders once spoke of them as "pages" -- separate on one side so that we can access the information printed on them is really quite ingenious.)

Of course, there are still advantages to being online: Dog Bites was somewhat pained to see, in the offline Sidewalk, a glowing review of Rosmarino, an outer Sacramento Street restaurant that closed in December. Presumably, the Web version has been updated since then ....

I'm Serene, You're Serene, We're All So Very Goddamned Serene
And while we're more or less on the topic of language, Dog Bites would like to single out for special attention a newly ubiquitous word, a word that has drifted, mistlike, from its breeding grounds in home design publications, into fashion writing, and thence to restaurant reviews and advertising copy. The word is "serene."

Though we first noticed it in places like the Pottery Barn catalog, Travel & Leisure, and Zahid Sardar's weirdly turgid prose for the Examiner Sunday magazine, "serene" has made its inevitable way into the broader realm of Martha Stewart and Macy's fliers.

Without getting into a lengthy and unbearably obvious analysis of why serenity is so particularly attractive to consumers in 1998, Dog Bites notes that serenity is currently felt to be the optimal end-result of most recreational activity, and is certainly a major factor in buying decisions. Some items popularly believed to be serene include vanilla-scented candles, a cherrywood coffee table with a sandblasted glass top, a gray cashmere tunic, and sage-green bed linens. (Side note: Bed linens may be serene; sheets are probably just laundry.)

-- Laurel Wellman

Dog Bites welcomes tips, especially those pertaining to disgruntlement. Write to Dog Bites, c/o SF Weekly, 185 Berry, Suite 3800, San Francisco, CA 94107, or e-mail

About The Author

Laurel Wellman


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