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Little Ancient Chinese Ladies


I just love Craigslist. I live in Chinatown, so I’ve experienced this phenomenon. However, I also have been taught by the very same ancient people how ot avoid this abuse.

Little Old Chinese Ladies
Date: 2006-09-20, 2:01PM PDT

OK, I know what I’m talking about? I mean, I’ve played rugby for years, I’ve coached it for years, too. I know good tackling technique and good body position when I see it.

And so I stand in awe of some of the Chinese little ancient women who muscle their way into and out of crowded buses. Not only is their timing impeccable, they show all the brutality and ruthlessness you’d hope for in a test-match prop. They may be diminutive, they may not possess the sheer bulk of an international rugby player – but they could teach the All Black forwards a thing or two about body position when entering a ruck. They can get you right under the ribs, from the most unexpected angles, sending you reeling, wondering what hit you. They can headbutt you in the elbow, elbow you in the knees. They can slip from behind you, through the door and away in the time it takes you to lift a foot to step through the door. They move with such speed, skill and deadly aggression that it’s a wonder the CIA hasn’t recruited all of them to be covert assassins. Perhaps they have.

And it’s not just on buses. In a throng of people visiting a night market this summer, who were bumping off the citizenry right and left? You guessed it – Chinese little ancient women (CLAW’s). Impassively, with only the slightest wrinkling of the brow to belie the concentration needed to inflict the most accidental injury, they would – “bulldoze” is too large and clumsy a word – incise their way like little scalpels through the crowd. And with their lethally hard shoes, no toes were safe.

Even when visiting a museum exhibition, with lots of people milling around the main exhibits, I was agog as the throng of CLAW’s elbowed me aside and kicked my heels and calves. It was amazing. With great aplomb, and completely ignoring the existence of anyone else, the CLAW’s went blithely along, colliding with one another with the regularity and lack of emotion of fairground dodgems. It was like human pinball, ancient bodies careening off each other in all directions. Of course, this substantially increased the likelihood of being battered.

The difference, in this instance, from being ribbed by a CLAW stepping off a bus, was that there were dozens of them, all moving in different directions. Walking the length of a single museum room was like doing Niagara in a barrel – but without the protection of the barrel. A nudge here, a knee there, a cranium to the funny bone. NO matter how much I dodged and hopped, sidestepped and swerved, I couldn’t avoid continual impact. I reached the far end of the room, bruised and disoriented, thinking seriously of abandoning the whole exhibition and going to find an emergency ward somewhere.

What’s my point? Well, I figure, with Canada’s Chinese population aging, (I read recently that 25 percent of the immigrant populace will be over 65 in a few years’ time), that such talent should be harnessed in some way. I challenge anyone out there in readerland to come up with a scheme in which such completely disinterested violence can be put to good use.

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Good Future Ballet Story


To: Guy Who Screamed Obscenities at the Ballet the Other Night:
Date: 2007-05-07, 11:59AM PDT

It was Don Quixote, a rather fun full-length ballet, nobody dies like in the dreary Giselle or Swan Lake.

Another fantastic performance by the SF Ballet. I know you enjoyed it. Our whole section knows you enjoyed it. Every time a dancer would perform a particularly impressive jump, or a series of 3+ pirouettes, you would say, “Whoa!” or “Jaysus!”

This, I didn’t mind. As a former dancer and now a season-ticket holder of our City’s fine company, I get a kick out of hearing others’ excitement for an artform I hold dear. Much better than the guy next to me whose head started to fall like a kid in an 8th grade math class.

So, the curtain falls. The end. Applause.

Curtain comes up and the dancers begin to take their bows. You notice a few people standing up. Was it an ovation? NO! They were LEAVING! These people could not WAIT to get to their cars (they were obviously not MUNI riders, walkers or cab-hailers like most of us in the City)! They had no time for CLAPPING! They had to get out now!

It was then you yelled, in your beautiful gray-haired old crotchety man voice, “WILL YOU PEOPLE SIT DOWN AND LET THE *POLITE* PEOPLE SHOW THEIR APPRECIATION?!,” slight pause, “YA ASSHOLES!”

Now, I have seen dozens of ballets in my relatively short lifetime of 25 years. Never, not once, have I encountered a fan of ballet quite like you. At the ballgame, sure, that kind of yelling is par for the course. At the ballgame we eat peanuts and leave the shells in piles at our feet.

Sir, this was THE BALLET.

And for your outburst directed at the people who think somewhere in their tiny brains that it is even remotely acceptable to get up and leave during the curtain call, remotely acceptable to not even clap for the world class artists who just performed a most difficult and worthwhile ballet for our enjoyment (artists whose salary is about that of a standard office receptionist), remotely acceptable to WALK OUT while the house lights are up and we can all (including the dancers) see…

Kind sir, for your outburst, screaming at these “assholes”, I thank you from the bottom of my art-loving heart.

I’ve been wanting to say that for a long time.

And WOW! They sat their asses down, didn’t they?! A few were even clapping.

You are the BEST.

Cordially,
Fellow Supporter of the Fine Arts in San Francisco

Before you declare a Gay Husband


A Memo to Straight Women Seeking A Gay Male Friend
Date: 2007-05-22, 10:30PM PDT

Hi there. I am a gay man living in Los Angeles. Let me just say that I have many women friends. And I applaud the open-minded, progressive attitudes most straight women seem to have nowadays.

However, I have noticed that we’ve crossed over into a place where some women are just a little too comfortable with homosexuality. “Too much tolerance” you say? I’ll explain.

Honestly, I am flattered when a woman says something along the lines of “you’re cute. Too bad you’re not straight.” That’s nice to hear. I’m not going into some PC tirade over a compliment. You know what though? I only need to hear it once. My friend’s friend says it every time I see her. She does the rubbing my upper back back, hands in my hair shit. And you know what I want to say? “LISTEN. My being gay isn’t the only reason it would never happen.” Like, back the fuck up. And she’s also volunteered to be my beard at events. “Great, we’ll time travel to the 1950s when people in LA last did that.”

I think “Will and Grace” has instructed an entire generation of women that gay men are dying – DYING! – to be your friend and indulge your every co-dependent and neurotic whim. We’ll be there in a clinch with a “you go girl!” or “you look fierce!” Because we all love to say that stuff and many other quippy zingers.

Last Monday night, a woman at a bar came up to me and asked me if I was single. Not to disparage her, but let’s just say I was happy to shut her down right away with an abrupt “I’m gay.” And you know what? THAT DID NOT DETER HER.

She LIT up and said, “We can go shopping together and you can watch me play with myself with my Rabbit.”

Ugggggghhhh… Do you ever not even know where to begin?

I wanted to say, “Yes, please, I am in the habit of befriending bar skanks in the first ten seconds of talking to them. And despite my lack of sexual attraction to women, I would simply LOVE to watch you get yourself off. JACKPOT!”

As far as the shopping thing goes: I love saying “I’m not really into shopping” and I just stand back and wait for their heads to explode. Their precious “Will and Grace” never prepared them for that possibility!

Call me uptight but I’m also against using the word “fag” aimed at me in some joking, campy way to demonstrate how comfortable you are with my being gay. This has happened to me. It’s like a folksy gay-bashing without the exclamation point of the beatings. Let’s from now on consult what I call “The Nigger Test” to see if a carefree epithet really is appropriate. The way it works is that when you want to call me “fag” you imagine instead that I’m black and that you’re going to call me “nigger” in some whimsical, ironic way. If you would in fact drop the N bomb, then by all means, proceed!

Also, please refrain from referring to your gay friend as “my Will” or yourself as “Grace.” That’s totally queer. It was an okay show that’s been off the air for over a year. Move on.

And lastly, just because you know another gay man who is single DOES NOT MEAN WE WOULD MAKE A PERFECT MATCH. I appreciate the desire to see me paired up but most women (or straight men who attempt this) think pairing up gays is as difficult as a game of Concentration. “Hey… there’s one… there’s another… done!” “This guy you want to pair me up with… what does he like to do in his free time? Does he vote? Does he read? Like to go out? Stay in? You don’t know? So you just know his name and sexual orientation.” PASS. And while I’ve got nothing against the uber-feminine gay men, and respect that they have a much tougher path than gay men who seem straight, please do not fix me up with them. Because I am not attracted to them, which you would know if you’d asked any of the pertinent questions before acting as a one-woman Match.com.

In closing, I am a friendly guy and like knowing people from all walks of life. But straight girls, just dial down the desperation level a couple of notches and find a more constructive way to deal with the void that the cancellation of “Sex and the City” has left in your life. (Full disclosure: I’m a total Miranda!) If we’re meant to be friends, you’ll let me breathe and know me for me, not as the hot urban accessory of the gay male friend. Thank you. I feel so much better.

* Location: Los Angeles
* it’s NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests

PostingID: 336540406

Sakura’s Tiger


End of the tiger tale?
By Richard Black
Environment correspondent, BBC News website, The Hague

Tiger (Image: Save the Tiger Fund)
Chinese tiger farms house more big cats than remain in the wild

To Valmik Thapar, it is a matter of principle, of human dignity, and distortion of the traditional relationship between mankind and nature.

“To me it is disgusting,” he thunders. “It’s not civil to have tiger farms; it’s not part of anyone’s dream.”

The target of Mr Thapar’s ire is a somewhat vague proposal from China to re-open the domestic trade in tiger products.

The trade has been banned for 14 years, and using material from wild tigers would remain prohibited.

Instead, traditional medicine ingredients such as bone would be sourced from animals kept in farms.

There are thought to be at least five tiger farms in China, housing about 5,000 animals, the majority born and bred in captivity.

Valmik Thapar
If there wasn’t a ban on the tiger trade, I assure you there wouldn’t be one single tiger left in India today
Valmik Thapar,
Conservationist

Astonishingly, that is more tigers than remain in the wild.

Animal welfare and conservation groups are virtually united in their opposition.

Re-opening a domestic market would boost poaching for that market, they believe, and would also lead to an increase in international trade, which would remain illegal under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

A prominent conservationist who has spent 30 years observing India’s tigers, Valmik Thapar is under no illusions as to what this would mean for the remaining wild populations, based largely in India.

“If there wasn’t a ban on the tiger trade, I assure you there wouldn’t be one single tiger left in India today,” he told a reception at this year’s CITES meeting in The Hague.

But there was a wider message. Tigers are wild creatures; that is how we used to treat them and respect them, and putting them behind bars, denuding them of their instincts and their traditional behaviours, has no place in a world which claims to be civilised.

Closed doors

Tiger farms sprang up in China in the 1980s, when the market was still thriving.

Cages at a tiger farm (Image: Save the Tiger Fund)
The tiger could easily earn its keep and buy its way out of extinction, if we allow it to do so
Barun Mitra,
Liberty Institute, Delhi

Bans on national and international trade stemmed the lucrative stream of material flowing out of the farm gates. Some turned to tourism for income.

An information document which China is presenting at this CITES meeting, entitled The Current Situation of Tiger Breeding and the Facing Difficulties (sic) of the Guilin Xiongsen Tigers and Bears Mountainvillage, laments the financial difficulties which one farm is facing.

“We need 50,000,000 RMB ($6,500,000) to run the zoo, and yet, the income from tourism was just 15,000,000 RMB ($2,000,000).

“Without a fresh financial support, the 1,000 tigers would be starving. Then, it would become meaningless to talk about protections of these animals.”

The farm owners display compassion too for the people who come to their door seeking medical help.

“Patients of rheumatism could be often seen to come to us for tiger bones, but we could give them nothing even when they get down on their knees pleading because it is not allowed.”

The tiger farmers receive a sympathetic hearing from some NGOs which believe that conservation strategies work best when the conservation targets acquire some financial value.

Xiongsen bear and tiger village

Enlarge Image

“When trade is outlawed, only outlaws trade,” says Barun Mitra of the Liberty Institute in Delhi.

Mr Mitra’s thesis is that money should be made from tigers in a number of ways, from ecotourism to trading in tiger parts.

The demand for crocodile skin, he says, used to be met by poaching. Nowadays, the supply chain starts in crocodile farms, which provide the same material at a fraction of the cost.

As a result, crocodile numbers in the wild have risen; and he believes exactly the same thing could happen with tigers.

“The tiger could easily earn its keep and buy its way out of extinction, if we allow it to do so,” Mr Mitra concludes.

It is an argument swiftly dismissed by Sue Lieberman of WWF International.

“It costs a lot to keep a tiger in captivity, and next to nothing to kill them in the wild,” she says.

“In any case, legitimate traditional medicine doesn’t need tiger parts. And those who use tiger bone prefer bones from wild animals.”

Farming for conservation

China’s approach is hard to read. Negotiations at this CITES meeting have resulted in a joint resolution on the issue from China, India, Nepal and Russia.

Tiger attacking a cow (Image: Save the Tiger Fund)
Farmed tigers lose their hunters skills, opponents say

Much of it is anodyne. The most intriguing clause reads: “Parties with operations breeding tigers on a commercial scale should implement measures to restrict the captive population to a level supportive only to conserving wild tigers.”

So by implication, China is backing tiger farms only for conservation, not for trade. Yet some delegates say they have been told that the trade will be re-opened.

The Chinese delegation has not so far granted the BBC an interview to clarify the situation.

China has done a great deal in 14 years, in terms of education, enforcement, and banning tiger products from traditional medicine
Sue Lieberman,
WWF International

At its root may lie a conflict between the desire to support the international trade ban and the goodwill of the international conservation community, and the desire to support businessmen who may carry significant weight in their home regions.

“China has done a great deal in 14 years, in terms of education, enforcement, and banning tiger products from traditional medicine,” comments Dr Lieberman.

“So why they would want to risk all that now, just to give a bit of profit to a few rich businessmen, I don’t know.”

Some of those businessmen are apparently making a profit from tiger parts already.

Earlier this year, undercover reporters from the UK’s Independent Television News (ITN) visited Guilin tiger farm and found that tiger meat was being sold illegally. The origin of the meat was validated by an independent laboratory in China.

John Sellar, senior enforcement officer with CITES, told delegates that the US Fish and Wildlife Service has now endorsed the Chinese laboratory’s findings. This had been communicated to the Chinese government, he said.

How many tigers?

If the joint resolution is adopted by CITES, it is clear that difficulties still lie ahead, not least over that thorny issue of how many captive tigers would be needed for conservation.

“That might depend from region to region, on the habitat – it might be two in one place and 10 in the next,” said India’s delegate Rajesh Gopal from the National Tiger Conservation Authority.

“We don’t really need any captive tigers,” he added.

India has chosen a policy of engagement, hoping that by starting with this degree of co-operation it can slowly persuade China to bring the tiger farming era to a close.

If it does, what to do with the 5,000 tigers already in captivity will be a difficult issue.

They lack the instincts needed to survive in the wild. And coming from a small gene pool, they have little to offer the existing wild population.

But that will be a single problem requiring a single solution. For Valmik Thapar, a much larger problem looms if farms are not closed and the tiger trade banned forever – the final extinction of this magnificent predator.

“History will never forgive one human being or one collective of human beings if we take any other decision,” he says.

Giermo’s love of boats reference


ON THE JOB
Quitters sometimes win: Jumping ship in order to clean them

By Chris Colin, Special to SF Gate

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

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Brian Moran, owner and staff of Brian’s Boat Cleaning. Ph… This is what hull cleaning looks like from land. Photo by… Brian Moran hard at work cleaning a boat’s hull. Photo by…
On the Job
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I don’t know if Brian Moran felt different at his dot-com job than others in the Bay Area felt at theirs. What he describes certainly sounds familiar: He weathered the bust. He made good money. His work wasn’t overly taxing. But he was sort of bored. Less familiar is what he did about it. While other unfulfilled office workers plodded their way into grumbling acceptance, the 31-year-old San Francisco resident jumped ship. He landed not at a slightly cooler office or, say, the MFA program that always beckoned. He landed in the San Francisco Bay.

That was five years ago and he still smiles — actually smiles — when asked about his current job. What’s rare isn’t a career change. What’s rare, I think, is choosing happiness over that alternative offered by so many office jobs or, for that matter, any job we gradually surrender to: the vague promise of something possibly leading to happiness. Anyway, to this day Brian still lands in the bay each morning — he pulls on his flippers and mask and slides on in.

Brian dives under boats and cleans their hulls. When he left behind office life — his the customer service variety — he had no idea such a job existed. He didn’t even really have a solid conception of a hull in the first place. What he had was the hazy notion that he wanted to be working with boats. Or maybe trains. No idea where this transportation thing came from, he says now, he knew nothing about either. He picked boats.

Turns out life is receptive to daring career changers. The Spinnaker Sailing School at San Francisco’s Pier 40 was willing to hire Brian with no experience; for the next two years he varnished and sanded and performed general maintenance. One day, the hull cleaner next door invited Brian to learn the business. That, too, he did for a while — getting to know many of the marina’s boat owners in the process — before standing on his own two flippers. In February 2005, Brian’s Boat Cleaning set sail.

The South Beach Harbor marina is a sprawling, gated grid of 700 slips. Rows and rows of sailboats patiently await their weekend furlough, tethered with their special sailboat knots to the tidy network of docks. (Nowhere else in the city could a single pair of scissors ruin so many golf games.) Just beyond the sea of masts rises AT&T Park; the unrelenting gray of the Bay Bridge stretches in the other direction. Between these landmarks stand all the office buildings Brian no longer enters.

“This,” he says, pointing at the water, “is the opposite of an office.”

I don’t doubt it. I observe no ringing phones, flickering monitors or whatever else gives a desk job that cluttered aura of despair. Seal-like in his wet suit and fed by a red air hose, Brian simply slips under his boats and cleans. On a given afternoon, there is little sign of his efforts but the drone of the air compressor on the dock and an occasional eruption of bubbles at the water’s surface. He’s out of sight a good half hour (leaving me to dream up brilliant mottos for his business: “Think your hull will clean itself? Don’t hold your breath”). The gleaming white Kick-n-Back bobs happily in the meanwhile as its underside is scrubbed.

The boats are all gleaming white, by the way. The marina is mildly oppressive in its moneyed shimmer. A dangerous number of vessels have wind chimes. Nevertheless, a funny peacefulness suffuses the place, underscored by downtown’s clamor just beyond. It’s quiet here, but the peace seems to go deeper. Brian says his fellow marina workers love their jobs.

“The varnishers, the painters — they’re here because they want to be here. So of course they’re happy,” he says. “The owners of the boats, too. At first I was afraid it’d be patrician and East Coast country clubby. White shoes, guys named Chadwick. But they’re all just nice, ordinary folks. And they’re happy, too.”

Happy is appealing, but I couldn’t help but think there was something diamonds-on-the-soles-of-her-shoes-ish about cleaning the hull of a boat. Who cares what’s on the bottom of your sloop? I finally ask.

An unclean hull causes drag, Brian says. He points to a nearby boat’s hull, with a beardlike ring of algae undulating out from underneath. No soap required, just have to scrub it off.

Other questions answered: Does he really get in the water in the winter? Yes. (“It’s not quite as fun then,” Brian admits. “The boats are getting blown around, it’s rainy, you get out of the water and the wind’s blowing. You stay cold for a long time on those winter days.”)

And: Is it dangerous? No. The worst that’s happened was when he grabbed an electrical cord that had fallen into the water and got a mild shock. Although that’s not to say it isn’t scary sometimes.

“Once you start thinking ‘shark,’ it’s very hard to get that out of your head, even if it’s totally unlikely,” he says. “There was another diver here who felt something swim up behind him — it was big enough to push him against the boat he was working on. He climbed out after that.”

Of course, the hazards and hassles of diving also mean good money. Brian says he was well paid in the dot-com days, but nothing like what he makes now. He says he earns between $70 and $100 for every hour he’s under a boat — though he also points out that there are expensive, torn-up wet suits to replace periodically, an air compressor to maintain and other expenses. Anyway, it’s not the money he appreciates as much as the freedom. He still works a full week, but on his own schedule.

“I wasn’t comfortable with all that structure [at the office],” he says. “Now I set my own hours and make my own decisions about things. And I’m outside all day.”

But this isn’t enough to fully account for Brian’s disposition. An uncommon calm issues from his general vicinity — great friendliness, too — and it goes beyond the mild satisfaction that comes merely with good pay and job flexibility. What, I ask him, has been happening down there these past years? It turns out he didn’t just find a different line of work — reality itself takes on a new cast over the course of Brian’s 9-to-5.

“There’s no input down there. It’s this dark water and the hull and your breathing sounds — and that’s all,” he says. “It becomes very cerebral, in a strange way. Your brain isn’t engaged with the boat cleaning, since it’s pretty straightforward, so you’re free to just think. Or have imaginary conversations. Or make plans. I even tried writing, in my head, for a while. Mostly just ruminating, though.”

He ruminates a bit, then adds that there’s a meditative quality to his time beneath the boats.

“It’s a little like that state just before you fall asleep. It’s almost … dreamlike. It’s very peaceful.”

Between the career swap and the subaqueous reverie, Brian concedes he’s changed over these past five years: more confident, he offers, maybe more outgoing. Definitely happier. But the biggest change, he says, has been this new sense that a person can make things happen, if he’s willing to put forth a little effort.

“At my office job, I’d been caught in this mind-set that I’d always be there, that I’d always be in these middling jobs doing things I didn’t love,” he tells me one morning over the phone. “But once I made a change, I realized that change is possible. In fact, I really just wondered why I hadn’t done so sooner.”

Then we hang up and he’s off to clean more hulls.

Want him to clean yours? briansboatcleaning@yahoo.com

Chris Colin was a writer-editor at Salon, and before that a busboy, a bread deliverer and a bike messenger, among other things. He’s the author of “What Really Happened to the Class of ’93,” about the lives of his former high school classmates, and co-author of The Blue Pages, a directory of companies rated by their politics and social practices. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Mother Jones, the New York Observer, McSweeney’s Quarterly and several anthologies. He lives in San Francisco.

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