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Pole Dancing Against Capitalism 

Amid the holiday rush, Olympia the artist attacks the System in her own unique way

Wednesday, Dec 18 2002
Last week Dog Bites received a press release about a guerrilla art performance that was to take place in the Financial District during lunch hour on Dec. 10. Dressed as a businesswoman, an artist who calls herself Olympia would pole dance like a stripper outside the corporate headquarters of the Charles Schwab discount stock-brokerage firm. The point, Olympia wrote in a burst of art-damaged rhetoric, was to investigate "the circuits of capitalist exchange and the commodifying dynamic at play within capitalism" during the holiday shopping season. Stapled to the press release was an irresistible action shot of Olympia, clad in staid executrix suit, legs scissoring a signpost, pantyhose and pumps flying.

Dog Bites loves it when people do weird things on the street, because it's, like, funny and stuff. A phone call to Olympia, however, confirmed that she was deadly serious.

"Maybe people won't get my specific message," deadpanned the 34-year-old Art Institute graduate, who wouldn't divulge her real name. "But if someone walks away thinking something as simple as, 'This is not a strip club promotion, it looks like she belongs here,' then it gets people thinking: 'Why is she doing the action she's doing?'"

Uh huh. At any rate, Dog Bites arrived that afternoon to find Olympia slithering around a street sign under the Schwab marquee. She wore a tan Dress Barn-style blazer, black pleated skirt, and, for reasons of friction reduction, a pair of jaunty black and white driving gloves. Besides Dog Bites and her photographer, Olympia's act had attracted James Sullivan, a pop culture critic for the Chronicle, and his photographer. Nearby stood a few office workers who seemed relieved to have something pretty to look at during their smoke break. Unfortunately for Olympia, nobody else appeared much interested in what she was doing.

"What?" asked a woman who passed the pole dancer. "Oh, I didn't even notice."

Several people who did a double take seemed surprised that Dog Bites did not immediately recognize that Olympia must be -- duh -- a model.

"It's for an advertisement," a man explained patiently. "They take pictures, and then they farm it out and see how they can use it. What else could it be?"

Olympia's efforts to challenge the very soul of capitalism seemed to be a big failure. But she had undoubtedly succeeded in challenging the news media. Sullivan's article appeared on the cover of Saturday's Datebook section, and offered little more in summation than, "Despite the oddity of the act, hundreds of people didn't notice, or pretended not to." Hmm, thanks, Sullivan. So much for pop cultural criticism. Nor did Dog Bites escape the challenge. In sitting down to write this piece, we entered a painful period -- beginning about 45 minutes prior to our deadline -- of soul-searching and intense self-criticism. But what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, and Dog Bites learned an important life lesson.

Contrary to what we had so blithely assumed, a woman in a business suit pole dancing in the Financial District is not particularly thought-provoking. And the prettiest press releases are the ones that break your heart in the end. -- Lessley Anderson

How Saddam Stole Christmas

The Whos down in Whoville liked the U.S. a lot.

But ol' Saddam Hussein certainly did not.

Saddam hated the U.S., please don't ask why,

It had something to do with the oil supply.

"I'll get those infidels," he said with a smirk,

Then he had an idea -- an idea that might work!

He kidnapped the president, and Cheney, and Daschle,

Rumsfeld and Ashcroft, and that John McCain rascal.

He took Lynne, he took Laura, and then he took more,

Clinton, then Lieberman, he even took Gore.

From their fair Capitol, Saddam stole them all,

From the Hill and the Senate and the Washington Mall.

"They'll wake to disaster!" he sourly hissed,

Stroking his mustache and pounding his fist.

Saddam cocked his ear as they woke from their sleeping,

All set to enjoy all America weeping.

"Your leaders are gone!" he proclaimed on Al Jazeera.

"They've left for Tahiti, they're no longer here!"

Then he heard a wee sound rising up from below.

It started in low, then it started to grow ...

But the sound he heard wasn't screaming or crying,

Not sniffling or snuffling or melancholic sighing.

'Twas the sound of buying!

Yes, Saddam had learned a great lesson that day,

America isn't about pols and parades.

It's about shopping and spending, and things money can buy us!

It's IKEA and Costco and hamburger franchises!

It's Kmart and Wal-Mart and marts of all sizes!!

This feeling deep down, a kind of buzz; what was it?

The Gap, Nordstrom Rack, and Banana Republic!

The retail was wonderful, the prices were crazy.

So this was America's other "Old Navy"!

He learned to speak the language, and spoke it aplenty,

At Starbucks he'd shout, "Frappuccino a la venti!"

He consumed and zoomed in his Lincoln SUV,

With a sunroof, a sauna, and seating for 33.

They got him a Visa, MasterCard, and Discover,

Plus a free toaster if he'd sign up his mother.

Yes, a new Saddam was born, most folks would say,

When his line of credit grew three sizes that day!

He gave up his terror, he hadn't the time,

With all this buying and selling -- and waiting in line!

No longer a symbol of death and destruction,

Saddam became a weapon of great mass consumption.

His hookah is Brookstone, his sword is Gillette,

His Palm Pilot's synced to his television set.

Yes, all this consumpting did open his eyes,

And thanks to McDonald's, he's become super-sized.

Now each year at Christmas, if you look really quick,

He's down at the mall dressed up as Olde Saint Nick.

Barking into his cell while collecting his loot,

Our pudgy Iraqi in a Santa Claus suit. -- Dan Siegler


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