Dilettante 13-17: Normal, healthy spectacles of yore

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Summer, 2018: I know that fascism is here because everything is less fun now.

These vacation-time “Dilettante” columns from twenty years ago this month might as well be from light years away, back during a more innocent era when politics wasn’t pure astroturfed spite on one side and a worm-filled capitalist husk on the other.

People in society were relatively more chill, not lunging for each other’s throats in online thunderdomes and generally feeling like monkeys in some billionaires’ electrified-cage fantasy.

An outing to the gun range, or the county fair, or the opera, or a drag show, or dancing with girlfriends wasn’t somehow also loaded with social triggers or fraught with the possibility of running into one or more persons spoiling for a fight.

“Things were different then” seems like not a strong enough statement for how much social media and propaganda from oligarchs has driven us all insane.

Imagine a context for the “Ladies’ night at the gun range” article two decades past: Mass shootings were still rare; media wasn’t really also mixed with *as much* loony propaganda aimed at keeping us all in a state of murderous chaos. An entire wing of the American government had not yet fallen prey to spillionaires both foreign and domestic; the NRA wasn’t bought out by Russia. Learning to shoot with a bunch of girlfriends was fun; it’d be weird now.

Imagine a context for the “Carmen at the SF Opera” article: Yes, the moral of the 200-year-old story is still “bitch if I can’t have you nobody can,” but before this #MeToo era, the conventional-misogyny plot line felt slightly less heavy. Somehow, now as humanity’s working out some problems in that arena, Carmen’s classic story of psychotic-possession-as-love stings even more.

And for the “Alameda county fair” article: In 1998, we were smack dab in between the Reagan era when certain Christian-ish folks warned us about the dangers of backward masking and punk rock and hip hop (but meanwhile there’s roving packs of skinheads) … and the Tunt era when Christian folks warn us about the dangers of college thought and wearing our pants too low (but meanwhile there’s roving packs of tiki torch revenge-nerds). Nowadays, we’re so divided, even the county fair is political.

About the “Andrews Sisters’ Hollywood Canteen” drag show: At the turn of the century, female impersonators were only “common” in San Francisco and other big cities’ underground clubs. Twenty years on, drag shows are a normal form of entertainment, live and on TV — a celebrated culture with iterations all over the world. Gay marriage, a “bomb” thrown by Mayor Gavin Newsom in San Francisco six years after this article was written in ‘98, is legal over almost half the globe. Hey wait, 2018 isn’t all bad!

And then there’s the “Miami bass at the Sound Factory” article: Of course Miami bass still bumps, and people grind on each other in the club. Usually it’s fun if it’s not a gigantic yuppie meat market. No further comment really except my own attitude about objectification in music has morphed over the years to include a careful brushing-aside of the phrases which offend me as I bounce it, because hey, even though misogyny runs through our culture like a knife through warm intestines, we all need to relax and shake some tailfeathers.

taoists agree: don’t get your genitals stuck; grinding is good for you

Anyways, happy summertime yall; register to vote in time for the midterms, or if you think you’re registered, check to make sure they haven’t kicked you off the rolls. Stay free –


Click through to read: Ladies’ night at the gun range” , “Carmen at the SF Opera”, “Alameda county fair”,  “Andrews Sisters’ Hollywood Canteen”, and “Miami bass at the Sound Factory”originally published in the SF Bay Guardian in June-July 1998.

This is the 13-17th entry in my “twenty years ago this week” project from when I was a nightlife columnist at the Bay Guardian, once the country’s largest family-owned weekly newspaper. These “Dilettante” clips, compiled on my portfolio page, create a serial portrait of San Francisco culture at the turn of the century (1997-2001).

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