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Dog Bites 

Wednesday, Jun 10 1998
Chronicle of Disgruntlement
For a dull newspaper, the Chron sure has a lot of grumpy staffers. Not that the gripers ever seem to take much action. A few huffy memos, a little bad blood, and some wistful comments at Chron staffers' going-away parties -- it never actually goes anywhere.

But that was before Chronicle staffers found an issue they could really get worked up over.

That would be the supply of goodies in a newsroom vend-ing machine.
Apparently, certain members of the editorial staff have, like pigeons in a B.F. Skinner operant conditioning experiment, learned that in order to be rewarded with food pellets -- in this case, powdered sugar doughnuts -- they must place a sign on a specific vending machine. No sign, no doughnuts. It's a simple equation.

Certain other members of the staff, though, find the sign annoying, and have defaced or removed it. "There's always comments on it," revealed our source, who has personally removed at least one sign. "The other one had 'Tubby' scribbled on it."

-- Laurel Wellman

The Great Unread
At some point, those of us who write for public consumption have to ask ourselves: Does anyone read this stuff?

So after participating in our small way in the Best Of San Francisco issue, Dog Bites thought the time might be right to see if anyone was paying attention -- and, of course, to ride any resulting wave of good feeling, preferably all the way to a free meal.

Over on Fillmore Street, we found that staff at Pets Unlimited's animal shelter had gone all out, enlarging our "Best Place to Adopt a Pet" item, affixing it to a large poster in the lobby, and decorating the result with glitter, gold stars, and numerous cat stickers. Dog Bites slunk out, thoroughly ashamed by the aesthetic excesses of cat people (and of course hoping fervently no one from the office ever has occasion to see our refrigerator door at home).

Next, we talked to Cynthia Abbott, associate publisher of the Nob Hill Gazette, and learned that the paper's owner and publisher, Lois Lehrman, was away on safari, climbing a volcano somewhere in the Netherlands Antilles. (Quelle coincidence! We're heading there next week!) "But she's tickled to death," said Abbott, noting that Lehrman plans to write us a letter thanking the Weekly for naming the Gazette best newspaper.

We also trekked to best-pizza winner Extreme Pizza, where manager Lance Boone reported solemnly: "We're very excited. It made us very happy." He did not offer Dog Bites a free pizza.

Finally, we called Britex Fabrics ("Best Fabric Store"), where, it turned out, none of the management had even heard we'd given the place an award.

-- Laurel Wellman

We Have Ways of Making You Read
With this conversation preying on our minds, Dog Bites went back to opening the mail -- and found that, as grim as things might seem, we were at least not alone in our struggle to make contact with readers. The Newspaper Information Club, based in San Diego, had contacted Dog Bites to ask for assistance: "We need a club with a chapter in every residential neighborhood to promote the reading of newspapers. Various methods will be explained in a newsletter edited, hopefully, by a member of your staff. Will you please find someone interested in earning $200 per month."

$200 a month! And probably tax-free, too!
Still, what we were really wondering was: What methods? Our editor likes to remind us writers, "Nobody is assigned to read you." Naturally, the idea that potentially we could assign people to read us --and maybe use these unspecified "methods" to make sure they did -- was, let's face it, appealing.

Though not, of course, nearly as appealing as it must be over at the Guardian.

Reading further, we found that the same man is trying to start a large number of other clubs, all of which sound, well, a bit odd -- particularly the "Occult Exposure Information Club," the "Secure Our Borders Club," and the "Speed Trap Victims' Information Club."

"The Newspaper Information Club will be successful only with the alliance of other clubs, using almost the same approach as a department store," explains the San Diego-based retiree/entrepreneur, who then goes on to request that we don't publish his name or address. "I'm not in a position to serve as an officer of the club," he says.

-- Laurel Wellman

We Read Jon Carroll, So You Don't Have To
After we'd mulled over the Newspaper Information Club's letter awhile longer, we realized our struggle to make the printed page more appealing would be best waged alone. So we asked ourselves: What is the biggest obstacle people face in reading their newspapers?

Well, if those people live here, the answer is clear: Jon Carroll. So as a public service, Dog Bites has decided to summarize last week's serving of Carroll columns for our readers, thereby saving everyone the time and trouble of wading through his gentle but largely content-free musings and whimsical yet somehow pointless asides.

Last Week in Jon Carroll
Monday, June 1
You don't need to know algebra once you're out of school.
Tuesday, June 2
Direct-mail marketers often target senior citizens.
Wednesday, June 3
The government and large corporations want to invade your privacy.
Thursday, June 4
The government and large corporations want to invade your privacy (Part 2).
Friday, June 5
It's nice to read a good book while you're on vacation.
-- Laurel Wellman

Dewey Defeats Truman!
In our very last (promise) Chron-bashing item -- at least this week -- we are pleased to note that U.S. Rep. Jay Kim (R-Ontario), who campaigned for his seat while under house arrest in Virginia for taking $250,000 in illegal contributions, has recently made some major changes in his life.

Or maybe it's just the copy editors at the Chronicle. Either way, the Chron's June 3 election wrap-up issue included an article on Kim's losing campaign, identified him as a Republican, and then ran a picture of Kim in which the paper called him a Democrat.

-- P. D.

Ginger: You're a Doll
It's not just Beanie Babies that are worth big money these days. Crazed collectors were already cleaning Star Wars memorabilia off toy store shelves when a whole new bombshell hit the knickknack enthusiasts' world:Geri "Ginger Spice" Halliwell announced she was leaving the Spice Girls.

The former nude model and Turkish game show hostess' shocking move could only mean one thing: Spice Girls dolls will become extremely collectible. But that's if you can even find one -- Patricia, in FAO Schwarz's dolls department, said the sets had been sold out for weeks before the surprise retirement announcement.

Galoob Toys, which makes the 11-1/2-inch tall dolls, hasn't been able to keep up with demand for them. A Toys "R" Us spokesperson said the chain has been out of stock for some time. When will they get more Spice Girls dolls? "Not until a truck shows up," he answered mournfully.

"The company is deciding whether to take her [Ginger Spice] off the shelves or keep manufacturing her," he added. "So that might even cause some more delays."

-- Laurel Wellman

A Public Service Announcement From Dog Bites
Thirty-five years ago, at the dawn of the decade of love, San Francisco didn't have much love to give a 6-year-old boy on a lonely stage, in a lonely ballroom at the Fairmont Hotel.

"I was too young to understand what was going on all that much," says Donny Osmond, recalling his first-ever concert in San Francisco. "But after you work so hard for a song and only two people clap, well, you kind of notice."

Despite being snubbed by San Francisco, Donny went on to earn more than 20 gold records, including "Puppy Love" and "One Bad Apple (Can Spoil a Whole Bunch of Girls)." Though his teen idol days are over, he's starred in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and recorded songs for the soundtrack of the Disney movie Mulan, opening this weekend. Currently, he's in production of a new version of the Donny and Marie show, to premiere in September.

And, for the first time in 35 years, Donny's coming back to San Francisco. He'll be here this weekend. He's bringing his wife. He wants to have a good time, maybe get to know the city finally.

If San Francisco knows what's good for it -- if it has any interest at all in repairing its long-damaged relationship with one of the greatest pop icons of our time -- it will be on its best behavior. So brush your hair before leaving the house. Weed your garden. Be friendly to strangers. Pick up litter.

It's not too much to ask to make peace with a legend.
-- Matt Smith

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


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