Sunday, March 29, 2015

Sacramento Does Important Service to Art World

Most of the country does not know that Sacramento's City Council voted to pay money for a Jeff Koons piece, Coloring Book 4, which will permanently reside in front of the new basketball arena, which also received a bunch of public money.  Now I have to say that I have the same reaction to Jeff Koons that I do to David Salle and Julian Schnabel, that they came into being with Ronald Reagan and reflect that time--really big art, really expensive art, not requiring much thought on the part of those who buy it.  Like many other cultural phenomena of that period--belief in welfare queens, cutting social services, getting involved in stupid wars--Koons has hung around long past his "sell by" date.

Sacramento may be helping this along.  Trends come here to live on--many of them long beyond the time they've died out in more interesting places.  So getting a Koons may be bad for us, but the best thing for art in a very long time.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Race Together

Why do middle class people think they have the right to invade the privacy of the working class?  Why do they ask questions that they'd never ask of other middle class people?  And why do corporate executives think it's okay to encourage their underpaid employees to engage in conversations that are likely to be uncomfortable at best?  And they're worthless.  I mean, what can your local barista do about the systemic racism in our society?  Not much.

And middle class people always think they have a great deal to contribute to the conversation.  They don't.  Really.  Is the African American barista actually going to tell the honky office worker that she is full of it?  Don't think so.

You do not invade the privacy of others by discussing topics other than the weather, the crowdedness of the cafe/restaurant/store and so on.  You may, if Starbuck workers go on strike for higher wages and better working conditions, and win the strike, mention how wonderful it is to have the striking baristas back.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

LAO on Housing

Dan Walters, who has been writing right-wing political analysis since I was a small child, sent me to the LAO report on housing in California and, while Walters puts his own spin on it, it does point up the real problem with housing here--it's way, way too expensive.  I haven't read the whole thing (I will, promise), but a couple of things stand out.  The first is that the LAO doesn't trash rent control, which is a good thing, since it's not a good idea to rattle on about the lack of supply and then suggest that we get rid of 170,000 rent-controlled units in San Francisco.  If you can't produce 10,000 affordable units a year, instantly coming up with nearly 200,000 units is going to be difficult.  The second is that, while recognizing the wimpy-ness of the Legislature's response to the problem, it doesn't point out ways to improve the situation.

I think that, first of all, we should eliminate the mortgage interest deduction.  It costs the state nearly $5 billion a year, most of which goes to already rich people.  Second tenants who are overpaying for rent should get a refundable tax credit of their excess rent payments.  It could be indexed, so that extremely low-income people received all of their rent back, very low-income people almost all of their rent payments, and so on up the economic scale.  The State Legislature does nothing to address the problem because it doesn't cost them anything not to do so. Third communities that are not providing affordable housing should face serious fines.  After all, they are forcing workers in their communities to drive long distance to work, which costs a bunch in time and pollution.  If a local government faces the loss of much of its state funding, it will very quickly address the problem.  

One of the fun things happening lately is that discussion of rent control is popping up all over the place, and in some of the oddest places, like Burlingame and Mountain View and Redwood City.  One silly local councilperson, faced with the need to allocate space and spend money to create affordable housing, as well as enact rent controls, suggested that people should come up with more "creative" solutions.  I thought immediately of 12 Grimmauld Place, where the house and its residents only exist in the magical interstices, and do not impinge on the lives of the rest.  Unfortunately that only works in children's fiction.

One other note: the report notes that the housing is needed in the coastal regions and doesn't advocate having people transport themselves to jobs from far-flung housing. That's a good thing, as it makes no sense in a time of climate change to increase transportation pollution.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Happy International Women's Day

Someday maybe we'll get equal pay for equal work, quality and affordable daycare, proper family leave, and men will listen to us without interrupting.

Spring has sprung in Sacramento.  My East Coast readers may be suffering under several feet of snow, but here the temperatures are in the low- to mid-70s.  Of course, we haven't had nearly enough rain and snow to make it through the year, but that's another story.

The plants are blooming, the trees are putting out new leaves, and J has voluntarily taken me to to the plant nursery.  Two weeks hence we'll be traveling south to the suburb of Elk Grove, where a new plant nursery is opening.  I shall have my list at the ready, on the off chance that a local nursery will have what I want and I won't have to obtain plants by mail order from the Bay Area.  This is dreaming, but Spring is the season of hope.

Cats have been enjoying the weather, particularly on the days when we leave the doors open so that they can come and go as they please. That's Dash, getting sun on his tummy.

My little redbud,  which produced three flowers last year, is doing much better this year. Several branches have flowers.

The coral bark Japanese maple, which wasn't really very coral this year, as it wasn't cold enough, is leafing out and has tiny red flowers.