Some people shot us weird looks when we announced “bugs” as the theme for the final issue of LiP. A few others reacted with exuberance, as if all this time we’d been talking about the political, what they’d been really wanting to read about was the entomological.
This issue was an attempt to slip a certain noose of predictable political formulations. One of several operational definitions given for “politics” is “the total complex of relations between people living in society,” yet the obvious interdependence of human beings and the natural and animal world makes it reasonable to expand the definition of politics to include, well, just about everything; even—especially, as it turns out—bugs.
“Approximately 3.5 million people in the U.S. are homeless, many of them veterans. It is worth noting that, at the same time, there are 18.5 million vacant homes in the country.” – Tanuka Loha, Amnesty International, December 2011
by Erin Wiegand
IT’S A COLD, WINDY NIGHT IN SAN FRANCISCO, and three men are about to take shelter in a vacant apartment building. One of them digs a crowbar and bolt cutters out of his backpack; another keeps a careful eye out for police or passersby. In a matter of seconds they’ve snipped off the lock and opened the door. They survey the house, looking for any signs of occupancy or renovation—newspapers or mail, paint buckets or ladders. Satisfied that the house has been empty for some time, they relax and settle down for the night. Tomorrow, they’ll put a new padlock on the door, and set about fixing up their new home.
Thousands of miles away in Amsterdam, 50 young people have set up a barricade outside the front of a large building. The police, in full riot gear, file out of their vans and form a line opposite them. Inside the house, the doors have been reinforced with sheets of scrap plywood. The last remaining people in the building pour bottles of vegetable oil down the stairs in order to slow the cops down. Outside, the police raise their batons and charge the house.
With one book written on cadavers (Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers) and another on ghosts (Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife), you might expect Mary Roach to be a pretty disturbed individual. She’s not. While her subject matter tends towards the macabre, Roach is simply one of those writers who’s fascinated by the unusual, the unlikely, and the more-than-a-little-disturbing.
Whether she’s writing about post-death opportunities for employment or the origins of ectoplasm, she has the uncanny ability to satisfy the morbid curiosity you never knew you had…
As legends go, San Francisco is the place for sexual debauchery, gender transgression and political deviance (not to mention sexual deviance, gender debauchery and political transgression). The reality is that while San Francisco still shelters outsider queer cultures unimaginable in most other cities, these cultures of resistance have been ravaged by AIDS, drug addiction and gentrification. Direct on-the-street violence by rampaging straights remains rare in comparison to other queer destination cities like New York, Chicago or New Orleans, but a newer threat has emerged. San Francisco, more than any other US city, is the place where a privileged gay (and lesbian) elite has actually succeeded at its goal of becoming part of the power structure. Unfortunately (but not surprisingly), members of the gaysbian elite use their newfound influence to oppress less privileged queers in order to secure their status within the status quo. This pattern occurs nationwide, but San Francisco is the place where the violence of this assimilation is most palpable.