Bay Guardian Archives

Monkey business

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 STEPHEN LISBERGER IS a scientific star. His decades-long research into how the brain registers and responds to visual stimuli is considered groundbreaking. His colleagues are effusive in their praise. William Newsome, a Stanford University neuroscientist who investigates similar terrain, told the Bay Guardian that "it could take decades, or even centuries" to assemble a complete, working map of the brain’s essential functions. "And Steve is one of the few people in the world who’s making progress on this."

The federal government thinks he’s worth a fair chunk of taxpayer change: The National Institutes for Health gave Lisberger $1.6 million in grants this year, and since 1992, an NIH database shows, he’s received 31 grants worth a total of more than $12 million.

But Lisberger’s work involves fairly invasive experiments on live subjects, and since you can’t exactly stick electronic probes into the brains of human beings, Lisberger uses rhesus monkeys, those red-faced staples of biomedical research. His experiments have made him the bane of many critics of animal experimentation – and over the past decade he’s become the poster boy for opponents of animal experimentation at UCSF.

Lisberger declined to be interviewed for this story, so we gleaned the outlines of his work from federal documents and UCSF records.

It’s not a pretty picture.

According to the scientific protocol for his experiments, filed with UCSF, Lisberger’s monkeys undergo several different surgeries, under anesthesia, to prepare them for the research. First, each monkey has a restraint device attached to its head with a combination of metal plates, bolts, and screws. That will later allow the monkey’s head to be locked in place for experiments. One or two holes are drilled in the skull, and then cylindrical recording chambers are secured over those holes so that microelectrodes that will allow precise neural activity to be measured can be inserted into the brain with ease. (The electrodes themselves don’t cause discomfort because the brain lacks pain receptors.)

Sometimes, small wire coils are sutured to the monkeys’ eyeballs. Other times the monkeys have spectacles attached to their faces that either magnify or miniaturize everything they see.

The monkeys in Lisberger’s lab are put on a fluid-restriction program, so that each day they are scheduled to "work" they will obey commands for "rewards" of water or Tang. Each monkey is taught to move from its cage to a "primate chair," and once in the chair, its head is locked into the restraining device. Then the animal is prompted to move its eyes in certain ways to receive a reward. Monkeys typically work for two to four hours a day on alternating weeks, often for three years or more.

Lisberger’s protocol states that his work could eventually lead to "the cure for many diseases of learning and memory such as Alzheimer’s Disease."

Suzanne Roy, from In Defense of Animals, says she started looking into Lisberger’s experiments in the late 1990s, after IDA got anonymous complaints from people who said they worked for UCSF. "What struck me was the highly invasive nature of them and the duration of them … " she said. "He’s making the monkeys so thirsty they’ll move their eyes in a certain way for a juice reward. How could anyone do this to an intelligent monkey?"

In 2002 Roy asked Lawrence A. Hansen, a neuropathologist at UC San Diego who is unusual in his willingness to question animal research, to evaluate Lisberger’s protocol. "I have never previously encountered experiments that would deliver quite so much suffering to higher primates for so comparatively little scientific gain…." Hansen wrote afterward. "While I do not doubt that these experimental manipulations will generate valid scientific data, such information is purchased at too high a moral and ethical cost. Even the primary investigator seems to feel it necessary to disguise his actual motivations, which are those of a fundamental research scientist, by invoking a link to a cure for Alzheimer’s disease. This is one of the more ludicrous stretches from basic science to human application that I have ever encountered in my 20 years of research into Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases affecting human beings."

When we spoke to Hansen recently, he criticized Lisberger’s grant applications and said, "He’s picked a part of the brain that’s not even involved in Alzheimer’s."

Lisberger’s studies are "basic science," meaning that they aim to answer larger scientific questions about how something works – in this case, the brain – rather than to invent or test a treatment. Although it might be somewhat easier to stomach an experiment that might cure Alzheimer’s than one that seeks to understand how the brain functions, it is hard to dispute that this is valid science: How can medical researchers cure problems they fundamentally don’t understand?

But even if you agree that the goals of Lisberger’s research justify his use of animals, you might be troubled by Lisberger’s record. Documents show that some animals enrolled in his research have a difficult time coping with the physical stress involved – and that Lisberger has resisted efforts to make his experiments more animal-friendly.

Clinical notes gathered by IDA and other groups show that Lisberger’s monkeys routinely undergo six or eight surgeries just to deal with their various implants and the infections they sometimes cause, or to remove scar tissue that has built up on the monkeys’ dura, the protective layer between skull and brain, because of repeated electrode insertions. Several monkeys in Lisberger’s lab have shown a significant decrease in body weight, and others have displayed a habit of self-mutilation, biting at their limbs and tearing out their hair.

Several years ago, when the internal committee that oversees animal research at UCSF raised concerns about whether monkeys in Lisberger’s experiments would receive sufficient water, particularly if they were "worked" on consecutive weeks, Lisberger responded in writing. "I am not willing to tie my laboratory’s flexibility down by setting guidelines or limits, or by agreeing to a negotiation with the veterinary staff when we do this," he wrote in a June 1998 letter. "I believe that the experimental schedule in my laboratory is an issue of academic freedom and that the Committee on Animal research lacks that [sic] standing to regulate this schedule."

In fact, the Animal Welfare Act was amended in 1985 to give the committee the primary responsibility for watchdogging researchers and ensuring that measures are taken to minimize the suffering of lab animals.

Less than two years after that bitter exchange, UCSF was cited by federal inspectors for AWA violations linked to Lisberger’s experiments. In one report the inspector wrote, "In my professional opinion, the nutritional requirements for these animals were not met for either food or water." He also noted that a monkey identified as #17652 – who, according to other documents, was enrolled in a Lisberger experiment – had remained assigned to the protocol and was even placed on "long-term water restriction," despite the fact that he had chronic diarrhea.

UCSF temporarily suspended Lisberger’s study and paid a $2,000 fine to settle the matter. And, despite his gaffes, UCSF defends Lisberger.

Vice Chancellor Ara Tahmassian described Lisberger’s lab as a "model program" and said Lisberger is one of the only UCSF researchers who has hired veterinary technicians to work exclusively in his lab and "make sure that everything that happens is done in accordance with proper standards of care." He added, "It’s critical for him, because of the nature of his research, that his animals are properly taken care of." Tahmassian also said that, in an academic setting, "there are times that individuals do believe that an oversight committee such as IACUC is getting into areas of science which the faculty members don’t believe is in their jurisdiction…. It doesn’t mean that the IACUC is going to just back off."

IACUC members also told us that, these days, Lisberger is cooperative. "I think the committee has a very good working relationship with Dr. Lisberger," IACUC chair Linda Noble said.

Even if Lisberger has cleaned up his act, it’s hard to see why UCSF would put him in charge of training the scientists of tomorrow how to work with animals. Yet, according to online course information, Lisberger sometimes lectures UCSF students on "Philosophical/ethical issues in animal experimentation," relevant regulations, and "pain minimization."

Animal instincts

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Animal instincts

As the struggle between animal rights activists and scientists rages on, what’s really happening inside UCSF’s animal labs?
By Tali Woodward

ON JULY 14, while doctors and medical students in surgical scrubs scurried about, a motley band of 30 or so people marched back and forth outside a medical building on Parnassus Avenue, waving blown-up photos of lab animals and passing out flyers saying that monkeys in experiments run by the University of California San Francisco were going “insane.”

“How does it feel to kill those that trust you?” they chanted.

As a mother led her young son along the sidewalk, doing her best to dodge the protesters, the boy looked up in horror at a photo of a monkey with Frankensteinian screws protruding from its skull. Someone took the opportunity to offer the woman a pamphlet, and when she hustled her child away, the protester, perplexed, said to her fellow animal activists, “How sad: He’s seeing these upsetting images, and she doesn’t even want to learn more.”

Moments later, a man in a lab coat strode by. Before entering the building, he glanced over his shoulder to shout, “Die of cancer, then!”

It was another day, another demonstration at California’s premier public health-sciences facility. The animal rights groups show up every few months to march and hand out sensational flyers describing secret horror shows deep in hidden labs. And university officials do their best to not even engage them.

The struggle over animal research is polarized and emotional. It’s not uncommon for animal rights activists to characterize researchers as barbarians who cut up innocent animals out of joy or greed

Poster child

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Biz News

Poster child

Artist Favianna Rodriguez makes history with her politically conscious graphics company.
By Momo Chang

IF YOU WENT to college in the Bay Area during the mid-to-late-’90s, chances are you’ve seen Favianna Rodriguez’s work. She’s the woman behind many of the ubiquitous peace and protest posters displayed on college campuses and in storefront windows, championing such issues as “No on Prop. 209” (the anti-affirmative action initiative) and demanding ethnic studies education.

She projects her radical messages onto high-contrast, boldly outlined figures, but she’s not just someone who rants and raves in a fist-in-the-air kind of way. The 27-year-old is clearheaded and visionary about her art. Though she follows in the traditions of Chicano poster-makers of the ’60s and ’70s, like Malaqu??as Montoya of Sacramento and the artists at Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts’ Mission Grafica (2868 Mission, SF. 415-821-1155), she came of age in the digital era, when hundreds of posters can be designed and printed overnight.

Digital designing allows her company, Tumi’s Designs (3028 International, Oakl. 510-532-8267, www.tumis.com), to have a fast turnaround, which is important in these politically turbulent times. Rodriguez

Paige two

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I WAS TURNED  on to my new favorite restaurant, Jodie’s, by Satchel Paige the Pitcher’s dad, Mr. Paige the Pitcher. Indirectly. Mr. Paige the Pitcher ate there with a friend, and then raved about it to Satchel Paige the Pitcher, who told me. "It’s a tiny place. Six seats. A counter. The guy working it’s supposed to be a character."

 "What kind of food?" I said.

 "He said they have everything."

 "Like what?"

 Satchel Paige the Pitcher called Mr. Paige the Pitcher on the phone (this was months and months ago, when Satch was visiting from Thailand), and asked him what kind of food.

 "They have all kinds of stuff, Satchmo," his dad said. "You wouldn’t believe it."

 "What kind of stuff?" asked Satchel Paige the Pitcher.

 "Everything."

 Satchel pressed. "Like what?" he said. "For example."

 And here’s what Mr. Paige the Pitcher said. He said, "Hamburgers."

 We got a big kick out of that. We’re easily amused. And I made a mental note: "Jodie’s – everything, even hamburgers." And I underlined hamburgers three times, mentally, and filed it between my memory of raisin pie in the backseat of Grandpa Rubino’s Buick and how I know how long to cook the spaghetti. I need a better filing system.

 Months passed.

 Then my brother Phenomenon told me he’d been to a great place in Albany – Jodie’s.

 "Oh, yeah? Cool. Did you try the raisin pie?" I said.

 He said, "Huh?" And he told me how to get there, but the first time I tried, I couldn’t find it, to give you some idea how small of a hole-in-the-wall this is. It’s on Masonic Street just south of Solano, across from the BART tracks. The second time I tried, first thing in the morning after we got back from Idaho, there it was and there I was, wrapping myself around a barbecue omelet with hash browns and an English muffin. Guy down the counter, only other person there, was taking care of my coffee needs, and his.

 The overall feel of the place is reminiscent of Ann’s Café, RIP. Check your attitude at the door. Everyone’s friends. And Jodie is putting on a show. He showed me the menu, but he was quick to point out that that wasn’t everything. "What’s not on there," he said, pointing to the menu, "is on there," and he gestured over his shoulder to a wall full of oddball specials printed out on little paper signs. "And if it’s not on the menu and it’s not on the wall, then I keep it up here," he said, pointing to his head.

 I hope he has a better filing system than I do.

 What I really wanted was fried chicken, but Jodie only makes fried chickens on weekends, so that left me with only a couple hundred things to choose from. Really the decision was easy. As I might of mentioned last week, I’d been eating barbecued chicken, beef, and pork all weekend in Idaho, so, by way of a change of pace, I went with the barbecue omelet. Off the wall.

 You can have it with beef, pork, or "American" sausage, whatever that means. I got pork. The sauce on top of the omelet, a homemade tomato- and vegetable-based concoction, was delicious. The hash browns were delicious. Everything was great.

 But it wasn’t fried chicken, so I had to go back on Sunday morning, bright and early, because Jodie told me it goes fast.

 Hey, happy 40th birthday to Grandma Googy-Googy, who lives up the hill from Jodie’s, runs past it every morning, and was supposed to meet me for breakfast all sweaty and shit, but showed up showered and s weet-smelling instead, ruining everything.

 She did let me taste her sausage, and it was delicious and all, but God damn I love fried chicken for breakfast. Only they don’t have waffles to go with it. You can get it with pancakes, eggs, or French toast. Nine bucks. Your call: white meat, or dark. And here’s where Jodie blows the chicken farmer’s mind. In a good way: White meat is the breast, and dark, against everyone else in the world’s worser judgment, is a leg, a thigh, and a wing. For this, if it was up to me, I’d award Jodie the Nobel Prize in Physics, or Peace, or both.

 But it’s not up to me, so I’m going to give him a carton of eggs the next time I see him. And a waffle iron for Christmas because pancakes are good, but they’re not waffles. As I’ve pointed out time and time again.

 Jodie’s. 902 Masonic Ave. (at Solano), Albany. (510) 526-1109. Tuesday-Sunday: 8:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.; closed Monday. Takeout available. Credit cards not accepted. No alcohol. Wheelchair accessible.  

 Dan Leone is the author of Eat This, San Francisco (Sasquatch Books), a collection of Cheap Eats restaurant reviews, and The Meaning of Lunch (Mammoth Books).

Hidden at home

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It took a landscape architecture professor from Columbus, Ohio, an historian from Dallas, Texas, and a filmmaker from Modesto, Calif., to tell the story of the biggest scandal in San Francisco history.

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In the past few months, two academic researchers

Film: Critic’s Choice: ‘San Francisco’s Broken Promise’

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Thurs/29, Delancey Street Screening Room

WHEN A GROUP  of Modesto Junior College students began looking into what Bay Guardian editor and publisher Bruce B. Brugmann calls "the biggest scandal in American history involving a city," most of them knew nothing about Hetch Hetchy Valley, and none of them had ever heard of the Raker Act. But spurred by a series of Bay Guardian stories and led by their instructor, Carol Lancaster Mingus, a veteran public television producer, they spent 17 weeks researching the story, doing interviews, and putting together archival footage. The result, San Francisco’s Broken Promise, is a remarkably clear, cogent account of how Pacific Gas and Electric Co. kept public power out of San Francisco. In just half an hour, the documentary summarizes one of the great stories in the city’s history, hitting all the major points. It describes how the fight over the damming of Hetch Hetchy Valley was the first major nationwide environmental battle, how the Sierra Club and John Muir fought to save the spectacular twin of Yosemite Valley twin, and how Congress agreed to let San Francisco build the dam, but only with a very specific condition: The dam had to generate electricity, and that cheap, public power had to be used to keep PG&E’s monopoly out of town. Obviously, the Bay Guardian (and its editor-publisher) play a key role in the doc. But the real star is Joe Neilands, the retired UC Berkeley biochemistry professor who first got onto the story in 1969. Neilands describes in his calm, soft-spoken way how the entire premise behind the Raker Act has been actively violated for more than 80 years. In the end, the film is a bit soft on the "restore Hetch Hetchy" movement, which wants to tear down the dam (a move that would be a deadly blow to public power in the city). And I would have loved to see some Michael Moore-style confrontations of PG&E executives and key public officials (like US senator, and former SF mayor, Dianne Feinstein, who figures prominently in the story but gets away with simply "declining comment." But Mingus and the student crew do a fine job of telling a complex tale without the use of a narrator, just splicing together a series of interviews. The film provides a wonderful public service: It gives a solid primer on the immensely complicated story of a scandal involving hundreds of millions of dollars – and does it in a way that’s entertaining, understandable, and wrapped up in a 30-minute package. Screening this week as part of the San Francisco World Film Festival, San Francisco’s Broken Promise ought to be aired on KQED, on local cable, and in classrooms and meeting rooms all over the city, and it ought be considered a mandatory part of any local activist’s basic political education. Thurs/29, 5 p.m., 600 Embarcadero, SF. $10. Festival runs Thurs/29-Sun/2; call (415) 725-0009 or go to www.sfworldfilmfestival.com/festival.html for a complete schedule. (Tim Redmond)

Army of glum

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ANY GIVEN FIVE minutes of Battlefield 2 (Electronic Arts) play can resemble the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan. You’re riding in an amphibious tank with your squad across enemy waters. Rumbles from explosions start getting louder and closer. Stray bullets hit the tank’s armor and the water outside. Suddenly you’re on land, the tank stops, and your squad leader yells, "Move!" over your headset. You jump out into utter chaos, bullets flying everywhere, your teammates falling around you. You run for cover as a stray grenade explosion blurs your vision and rings in your ears. With a giant whoosh, a support bomber passes overhead and takes out some enemy tanks. You blitz the checkpoint, trying to pick off remaining defenders and hoping you didn’t miss anyone in the huts that you’re sprinting past.

One of the most realistic war-themed action games ever made, rivaled only by its predecessors, Battlefield 1942 (EA) and Battlefield Vietnam (EA), BF2 is rightfully one of the most popular action games in the country today. It seamlessly integrates land, sea, and air vehicles into lush, photo-realistic maps where trees shake from the force of chopper propellers and snipers hide in swaying blades of grass. And the game play is just as slick as the graphics, allowing you to coordinate complicated team strategies through a simple command system and speak with your squad mates if you have a mic with your computer. The most dynamic part of the game stresses teamwork. Because of its massive strategic depth, if you want to accomplish anything other than annoying people online, you’ll have to work with your team to capture checkpoints and win matches – a feat never quite achieved on this level by other games.

This is the game I dreamed of when I was a kid playing Rogue Spear and Counter-Strike, diet versions of this action-packed feast. But that was before the current ridiculous war and all the oh-my-god footage coming back on television and in films like Fahrenheit 9/11 and Gunner Palace. As the previous games in the series did with WWII and Vietnam, BF2 trivializes the trauma of our current war in Iraq – and a possible future war with China – by making it into entertainment.

The game claims to sidestep politics by presenting a fictional conflict between a hypothetical Middle East Coalition (MEC), China, and the US Marines. The MEC and China switch off battling an invasive United States for strategic checkpoints that your team must camp at for a certain amount of time to gain control of. From the opening cutscene that plays like an action movie with all its destruction-glorifying grandeur, it’s clear that only a nation-player with the will to achieve total military dominance over other countries – and a complete ignorance of the ramifications for the people in those conquered countries – could take pleasure in acting out these scenarios. I’m glad most gamers playing BF2 probably don’t have firsthand experience with military oppression, but games such as this present a disconnect between reality and fantasy that contributes to the acceptance of US military actions.

After 9/11 and the subsequent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, it’s safe to say that we’ve ceased to live in a bubble. Yet, although BF2 is just a game, its release at a time when 30 percent of soldiers returning from Iraq are reporting mental health issues stemming from the horrors they’ve witnessed, is a sign that our entertainment-industrial complex has shirked its responsibility by uncritically celebrating a very complicated issue, however inadvertently.

The problem is that the premise for war games acts as its own excuse. Nina Huntemann, director of the 2000 film Game Over: Gender, Race and Violence in Video Games, describes how some military games rely on the narrative of neutralizing a terrorist threat without questioning what makes someone a "terrorist" or why we should "neutralize" them. Though BF2 includes little narrative, the idea that there could possibly be a military conflict between the Middle East, China, and the United States is so obvious and predetermined that none of these types of questions even come to mind.

I don’t fault Digital Illusions, BF2’s developer: It’s difficult to sell sensitivity, but it’s easy to sell explosions. I blame a general immersion in entertainment that is predicated on the lie that fantasy is divorced from reality. The fantasy that we are removed from the war in Iraq is one of the things that allows the reality of it to continue.

Video games haven’t just become more like war – war has become like video games. I’ll never forget the moment in Fahrenheit 9/11 when a kid talks about how he listens to the Bloodhound Gang while he sits in his tank and shoots at people. That sounds a lot like what you do in BF2. The war in Iraq is at least partly being fought by kids whose first ideas of war were shaped by video game simulations before they experienced the reality. Like the tactics of dehumanizing the enemy to ease the ethical hang-ups involved in killing them, this extra layer of detachment enables kids to reconcile participating in potentially traumatic events.

Even the US Army actively tries to sell war as a video game. Recently I’ve caught Army recruitment commercials of guys working at computers and coordinating attacks from the comfort of a tent, perpetuating the idea that war can be fought on a flat screen without real-world messiness. Naturally, BF2’s commander screen, on which you can zoom in on different parts of the map and order squad movements or artillery strikes, looks a lot like the graphics flying around an Army commercial.

The Army also invested more than $6 million in a g ame called America’s Army, which it released for free over the Internet in August 2002, less than a year after 9/11 and seven months before war was declared on Iraq. Possibly one of the most sinister forms of propaganda to fly under the media’s radar, America’s Army essentially indoctrinates players into military life through a graphically advanced action game. Openly billed as a recrui tment tool, the game has players make their way through virtual boot camp and then move on to military operations.

Of course, games have always revolved around war and violence, from dodgeball to capture the flag. War is about strategy, problem-solving, and competition, just like most video games. Its popularity as a theme for video games is no surprise, just as it’s no surprise the Army wants to tap into that recruiting pool. These games aren’t desensitizing kids to real violence or instilling them with a lust for it. But the games’ latent values feed an unquestioning acceptance of the United States’ current militarism and normalize it for future generations. I don’t know if we – or the world – can afford another detached generation. Until we find a way to give kids, and, for that matter, adults, a real context for the fantasies provided by the entertainment industry, the enabling disconnect will continue.

Cruisin’ for a bruisin’

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EVER SINCE THAT fateful day on the family farm when our stud calf Beauregard threw me from his back and rammed me several times against a large oak, giving me one heck of a concussion, I knew I was destined to become a leather queen. I was only 11 at the time, and the options were few for actual experience, but dammit — if I couldn’t have the sex, then at least I’d have the outfits. “And what are you?” my innocent neighbors would ask when they opened their doors at Halloween. “I’m Freddie Mercury!” I’d reply with a wiggle of my little homemade chaps (Hefty bags and duct tape) for emphasis. And then they’d give me candy.

Nowadays everyone’s got to have at least one kinky fetish on their sexual resume — thanks, Madonna — yet often the men, women, and “other” of that twisted tribe known as the Leather Community still get a bad rap, especially among young gay club patrons. Part of this is fear, of course: Doesn’t all that pain hurt a little? And part of it is shame: The leather generation that came of age in the ’70s and ’80s has had to shoulder not just the burdens of age and rejection, but also a ridiculous cross between jealousy for living through the hedonistic homo heyday and blame for AIDS. And then, of course, there’s the primal terror of turning into one of those old men with cottage-cheese buttocks and a basketball belly who strut around the Eagle wearing nothing but rainbow flip-flops and a leash.

Oh sure, we’ll let them take us home and spank us on weeknights, but when we see them at the disco, we just shudder and throw shade.

In response, it seems, the leather queens closed ranks. No longer feeling welcome, they became a kind of secret society in the ’90s. Once-omnipresent social institutions like the Imperial Court of San Francisco and the Rainbow Motorcycle Club went underground ��� and, sadly, saw their profiles dwindle. Tight-knit contingents like Mama’s Family and the Men of Discipline sprang up, with their unique rituals and dress codes, shunning the clubs in favor of charity Golden Gate potlucks, cabaret fundraisers, and converted-garage play parties promoting safe-sex awareness. (Leatherfolk are all about the benefits, these days.) The sash circuit moved to the suburbs. Half the community morphed into bears. Even the dawn of the Internet connection only increased the generation gap.

But as the first Arab American leather hip-hop disco clubkid muppet queer San Francisco Drummer Boy 2001 (runner-up), I feel it’s my deep responsibility and honorable duty to reprazent my peeps in the hide. If there’s one thing my leather dad (love you, Ray) taught me, it’s respect, and if there’s another, it’s how to keep from passing out after hanging upside-down for 40 minutes. It’s time for all this nonsense to stop. This year may have seen three more local leather haunts — Loading Dock, My Place, and Club Rendez-Vous — close to become upscale, straight-type martini lounges; the baths are still outlawed; and creepy tweekers have invaded the sex clubs; but the leather lifestyle is still brilliant and vital, bouncing back up through the queer underground and swelling its ranks with curious alternaqueers and radical faeries, who fetishize being open-minded.

Today, the only places the whole queer community can come together regularly are our precious few leather bars. Daddy’s, Aunt Charlie’s, Marlena’s, and The Eagle have all undergone recent renaissances, fueled by a combo of renegade young promoters, indulgent owners, and a healthy new lust for the underground. Where else can beef and chicken meet? Not to mention old punks, baby dykes, hustlers, drag queens, bull daggers, grandpas, gymbots, ex-clones, Aberzombies, club kids, A-gays, bikers, circuit boiz, transgendered hotties, Log Cabin Republicans, and the odd closeted TV anchorman. It seems the more the mainstream media bleaches out our filthy abominations, the more we return to our fruitful past, when lust was the glue that held us together, and abomination was a kind of gang handshake. We may be more diverse than ever, but leather’s still our common ground.

Daddy’s. Daily, 9 a.m.-2 a.m., 440 Castro, SF. (415) 621-8732, www.daddysbar.com.

Marlena’s. Mon.-Fri., 3 p.m.-2 a.m.; Sat.-Sun., noon-2 a.m., 488 Hayes, SF. (415) 864-6672.

Aunt Charlie’s. Mon.-Fri., noon-2 a.m.; Sat.-Sun., 10 a.m.-2 a.m., 133 Turk, SF. (415) 441-2922, www.auntcharlieslounge.com.

The Eagle Tavern. Daily, noon-2 a.m., 398 12th St., SF. (415) 626-0880, www.sfeagle.com.

E-mail Marke B. at superego@sfbg.com.

Techsploitation

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APPARENTLY IT’S BIG news that the human brain is still evolving. A couple of US researchers announced recently that they’d isolated two genes connected with brain size that appeared to have evolved only over the past two dozen millennia. In other words, our brains changed in the past hundred generations. Why this would be surprising to anyone even glancingly familiar with evolutionary theory is beyond me. As long as we keep engaging in sexual reproduction, we’re going to be evolving. The process ain’t teleological, people.

Greg Wray, a Duke University evolutionary genomics professor involved with the study, told the Associated Press, “There’s a sense that we as humans have kind of peaked.” But, he added, “it’s almost impossible for evolution not to happen.”

Nevertheless, people both in and out of the scientific community were bemused by the study. I’m tempted to say that’s because the intelligent design dorks are making so many headlines that any new information about evolution