SMITHEREENS: Reflections on Bits & Pieces

Gar Smith
Friday March 08, 2019 - 10:38:00 AM

Boy, Did Datebook Blow It!

What was the San Francisco Chronicle thinking when it put the new female face of Capt. Marvel (Brie Larson) on the cover of the Datebook section with a headline that read: "Girl Power Surge"?

I'm pretty sure that if Datebook ever featured a cover story on Batman, Superman, Ironman, or the Avengers, the headline wouldn't read: "Boy Power Surge."

But the Chron's Headlines Still Top the News

Just to let the headline writers at the Chronicle know their work is not going unappreciated, here's a sampler of groan-worthy puns tucked into some of the paper's recent headlines.

Why US whiskey is on the rocks

Tree crisis at root of furor over ficus

How to get high-speed rail back on track

How state plan for bullet train went off track

Hospital mergers haven't been so healthy

Swim palace finally reopens with splash

Martha Stewart is high on CBD

Meltdowns keep Warriors from cooking

The new data hogs: China firms use tech to combat deadly swine disease

Bow hunter, once a target, strives to lure public to sport

Bard gives homeless stage for expression

And my favorites (both for Datebook theater reviews):

"Moby" proves it's not a fluke

Delivery tarnishes "Mother Courage"

Outta Sight 

Anyone missing the Chronicle's 12-page Sunday opinion supplement? If you're looking for the usual array of commentaries and cartoons, you're out of luck. The Insight section is no longer in sight. The remains are now consolidated on three pages inside Section A. Instead of seven commentaries, there is now only room for three. Robert Reich's and Jonah Goldber's Sunday columns are now only available online. The good news: we may have lost the Gallery's collection of political cartoons but the downsized Insight still features Tom Meyer's elegant editorial art. 

A Scrappy New Art Form 

His name is Shaun but he says you can call him "Patches." 

Patches is a talented street artist who has developed a unique art form—making wearable "tats" from tatters. 

Standing in front of the Shattuck Dollar Store—his art work covering a large blanket stretched over the sidewalk—he explains his trademark tool. 

"Denim," he begins. That's his canvas—cast-off scraps of cloth that he paints with small tattoo-like illustrations of daggers, shields, faces and animals ranging from birds to tigers to wolverines. 

Once the painting's done, each bit of art is cut from the larger piece of cloth and added to the gallery of Patches' patches. 

Looking for a way to add some panache to your pants, shirt, cap or hoodie? Check out these unique cloth tattoos. You can find Patches doing business at his sidewalk store. Walk-ins welcomed. 

Astronaut-politician Shoots Down Trump's Space Force 

Along with his wife, gun-victim-survivor Gabby Giffords, Capt. Mark Kelly has earned a solid reputation as a gun control advocate. But now the former NASA astronaut has his eyes on a Senate seat (no corporate PAC money accepted) and he's expanding his universe of concerns by mounting stinging attacks on Donald Trump and Trump's proposed "Space Force." 

"Donald Trump, who has no military or scientific experience, called for the creation of a sixth branch of the US military: a Space Force," Kelly's campaign recently announced. Kelly, a former US Navy fighter pilot with numerous combat missions under his belt, had a word for Trump's latest mega-macho fantasy—"Dumb!" 

"This is a dumb idea," Kelly says. "The Air Force does this already. The USAF already has the Air Force Space Command. That is their job. What's next? We move submarines to the 7th branch and call it the 'Under-the-Sea Force'?" 

Furthermore, Kelly added, creating a new entity to do what the USAF already does would cost billions of dollars. (And you know how the Pentagon handles dollars.) As Kelly notes, it "doesn't make sense to build a whole other level of bureaucracy in an incredibly bureaucratic DOD." Even Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson is reportedly sour on Trump's latest Grand Dumb Idea. 

Women With Guns: Cooptation or Liberation? 

Although I'm appalled by the argument that women "deserve the right" to join the US Army and shoulder rifles, I have to admit there's a distinctly different vibe when the battle is a grassroots struggle against an army of occupation. 

First there was Arundhati Roy's Walking with the Comrades and now there's Las Sandanistas!, a prize-winning documentary about Nicaragua's female guerrillas. (Another documentary in the works will include interviews with female members of Colombia's FARC militias.) 

So I offer this as a perspective-building challenge. Certainly, if we had more women in positions of political and diplomatic power there would be no need for women to be camping in forests and ambushing soldados

Among the questions raised by Las Sandanistas!:  

Has our cultural training to "root for the underdog" been usurped in an attempt to justify war? 

Does a desire to see women "succeed in a man's world" mislead us into sympathizing with strong, committed women who risk their lives in a "just cause"? 

The film will be broadcast on KQED on Sunday, March 10th at 7pm and 11pm, and Monday, March 11th at 7am and 1pm. Here's a link to a trailer: 


According to PBS, "Las Sandinistas! uncovers the disappearing stories of women who shattered barriers to lead combat and social reform during Nicaragua's 1979 Sandinista Revolution, as these same women continue to lead the struggle for justice today against their current government's suppression of women's rights and democracy.  

"The film is centered around the personal stories of Dora Maria Tellez, the young medical student who became a major Sandinista General, and four of her revolutionary allies.  

"Las Sandinistas! exposes a watershed moment in history when thousands of women transformed society's definition of womanhood and leadership before facing renewed marginalization by their male peers after the wars ended. Now, 35 years later, amidst staggering levels of gender violence in Nicaragua, these same women brave the streets once again to lead the popular movements for equality and democracy." 

(Footnote from Bob Baldock: "Hope big credit was given to Fidel's all-women group of fighters, Las Marianas.") 

Organize to Plug the Pipe 

TransCanada wants to start building its dirty, destructive, polluting Keystone XL oil pipeline as early as this June. Environmental and activist organizations like are already working with Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities to challenge the Oil Barons of the Carbon Economy by demanding the fastest-possible transition to 100% clean, renewable energy. But, in the meantime, we have to block the pipelines. 

A "Promise to Protect Training Tour" is coming to the Bay Area on April 13-14 as part of a nine-city caravan to prepare thousands of activists to mobilize for a mass-action to stop construction of the Keystone Pipeline. You can find information on the local events here

According to Kendall Mackey of "This training is meant to be fun, but also not to be taken lightly. There are a limited number of spots available, therefore you should only register if you are 100% committed to attending. Only confirmed participants will receive the location information for the training leading up to the event." 


Censored by Facebook  

Metta Spencer is a Canadian sociologist, writer, peace researcher, and activist. She also is president of Science for Peace. And Facebook is getting in her face. 

On March 5, 2019, Metta sent out the following dispatch (abridged): 

It has happened again, only it is worse this time. I was told a month ago that I could not boost two of my videos to a "worldwide" audience because they were about nuclear weapons and I live in Canada. Only people living in the US are allowed to advertise anything related to such matters in the US . . . . 

Now I have a new video about planting trees with drones and they have rejected my application to boost it worldwide . . . . They want to verify my identify. I am a dual citizen of Canada and the US, living in Canada. Apparently I am now allowed to boost this video inside Canada but not to any other country. So apparently Facebook is of the opinion that there should be no international affairs—no discussion of such matters as climate change and nuclear warfare, which transcend national borders. 

Because Facebook is a private company, they have the final say. The notion of "free speech" or a "free press" is irrelevant now. 

If you want to break through the info-barricades, you can link directly to videos of the disputed talk shows by clicking here and clicking here

The Super-Eco-Hero We've Been Waiting For 

Forget Hollywood's endless army of summertime superheroes. Don't be satisfied with hoked-up confrontations with roaring supervillians. The time for willful escapism has passed. As the fiery heroine of a popular new Icelandic movie (opening this week) puts it: "We are the last generation that can stop the war against our Earth." 

"Woman at War" is a fictional story about a grim reality that is told with remarkable wit and irreverence. This time, our superhero is Halla, a middle-aged schoolteacher with a secret. Armed with a small bow and a lot of grit, she spends her down time in a messianic one-women crusade to save her native wildlands—and the planet itself—from pollution and overconsumption. Halla's mission: to bring down the country's electric powergrid . . . one transmission tower at a time. In short, she's PG&E's worst nightmare. 

At the heart of this film is a terrific performance by Halldora Geirhardsdottir who shows both amazing emotional range and awesome physical stamina as she races across rocks and rivers, evading pursuing drones and corporate copters. 

As Variety wrote: "Is there anything rarer than an intelligent, feel-good film that knows how to tackle urgent global issues with humor? Look no further." 

Well, actually, please do look further. Here's the trailer: