First cut is the deepest: Published in 1987, Point Richmond pediatrician Edgar Schoen's "Ode to the Circumcised Male" includes the lines: It's a great work of art like the statue of Venus/if you're wearing a hat on the head of your penis./When you gaze through a looking glass, don't think of Alice; /don't rue that you suffered a rape of your phallus.
Schoen's new book On Circumcision (RDR, $16.95) is prose, but just as insistent: Shearing newborns' foreskins reduces the rates of urinary-tract infection, genital cancers, and AIDS, Oakland Kaiser's former chief of pediatrics claims. He concedes that the surgery is "contentious" -- as evinced by barbs from groups such as the National Organization to Halt the Abuse and Routine Mutilation of Males (NOHARMM) and Berkeley's Attorneys for the Rights of the Child, whose executive director J. Steven Svoboda has urged the California medical board to take "appropriate disciplinary action" against Schoen, whom he charges with making false claims while promoting "an anachronistic medical practice."
Dead chicks smell like this: High-res scanners and visualization software at Stanford Med Center and Mountain View's Silicon Graphics yielded 3-D images, card-thin layer by card-thin layer, of a 2,000-year-old mummy from San Jose's Rosicrucian Museum. The corpse was that of a curly-haired four- or five-year-old who probably died suddenly, probably of dysentery, and was doused with a fragrant essence that Berkeley perfumer and Scents & Sensibilities (Gibbs Smith, $12.95) author Mandy Aftel was asked to identify and recreate: "They were able to take resins off the face and ear and they did this thing called liquid/gas chromatography analysis," she says. This helped her identify its components as frankincense, myrrh, and moringa oil. Egyptian embalmers replaced corpses' excised organs with aromatics, Aftel explains, though "I've never done perfumes for mummies before." She has formulated essences for celebrity clients, including JT Leroy, Alice Waters, Leonard Cohen, Liv Tyler, and Kate Hudson. At Madonna's request, Aftel, who also studies alchemy and will be at Cody's San Francisco store on October 20, designed a fragrance featuring pink lotus and sandalwood.
Home on the range: On that fall 1879 day when the legendary racehorse Saint Julien smashed the one-mile trotting record at Emeryville's own racetrack -- the Oakland Trotting Park north of Park Avenue and west of San Pablo -- President Ulysses S. Grant happened to be sitting in the stands. At a dog track on Park between Holden and Horton streets, greyhounds chased a mechanical rabbit. In the city's stockyard district, nicknamed "Butchertown," cattle awaited slaughter and the Corder Wool Pulling works processed hundreds of thousands of pounds of soft white stuff every year. In the 1930s, speakeasies and pai gow games flourished; the Town House was a bootlegging joint. Black-and-white vintage photographs spin the saga in Images of America: Emeryville (Arcadia, $19.99), compiled by the Emeryville Historical Society. Also in the series is Images of America: El Cerrito, which depicts farmhouses, horse-drawn wagons, cowboys complete with chaps, an orphanage for abandoned Chinese boys, and acre upon acre of wide open fields.
What fur: Snowy-tressed Oaklander Bruce Tripp squired his matching Maltese terrier, Dixie, to a reception launching the Oakland International Film Festival, hosted by screenwriter, doll designer, songwriter, and author Gini Graham Scott, who has appeared on Oprah and whose book Do You Look Like Your Dog? (Broadway, $9.95) features the amiable insurance salesman and his canine. Other books by the versatile Dr. Scott, also an Oaklander, include The New Satanists, Mind Power, Shamanism for Everyone, Success in Multi-Level Marketing, The Truth About Lying, and Erotic Power: An Exploration of Dominance and Submission.
It's so big: It just got a whole lot easier to buy secondhand romances, revolutionary manuals, and every volume in between in downtown Berkeley, where Half-Price Books has just opened a vast new store in the historic Kress Building after closing its Solano Avenue location. More than twenty thousand buyables line the shelves, organized into hundreds of sections including Teddy Bears and Terrorism. Meanwhile, the new Cody's store at Stockton and Market streets in downtown San Francisco opens on Thursday, launching a week of festivities including in-store giveaways.
Tell me what you want: Controversial British Member of Parliament and Mr. Galloway Goes to Washington (The New Press, $13.95) author George Galloway addressed a San Francisco crowd September 21, thanks in part to Berkeley's KPFA-FM. "Rise up and sweep these criminals out of power," Galloway said of the Bush administration. "Salaam aleikum."
Keep runnin', runnin': He pads around the house at night dripping warm oil into his six children's ears while they sleep. It's a preventive measure that lubricates their mucous membranes, says ayurvedic-medicine practitioner John Douillard, whose Perfect Health for Kids ($18.95) is new from Berkeley's North Atlantic Books. Dry autumn and cold winter days as well as electric heaters overdry the membranes, Douillard says, which react by producing bodacious mucus. All this extra snot "provides the perfect breeding ground for a viral or bacterial infection." And it matters, he reminds us, because "kids do make mucus for a living." Yes, ayurveda is the ancient Indian system in which drinking your own urine is urged as an immunity-booster and skin toner.
Just can't wait to stimulate: In his account of an encounter supplied by the Hot-N-Tot escort service, which specializes in African-American ladies, Michael A. Gonzales goes metaphorgasmic: "I stuck two fingers in her honeyed moistness, to find her woolly pubic hair soft as cashmere." Plummeting blissward, "I felt a hallucinatory dualism of heated fervor and cold detachment." Ooooh, baby, dualism! But of all the world's sex writing, this must be among the best, because it's included in Best Sex Writing 2005 (Cleis, $14.95). Also featured are Harlyn Aizley's tale about a childhood spent making helpless Barbie, Ken, and GI Joe dolls portray "homosexuality, heterosexuality, reversible transsexualism. ... I wanted my male dolls to bulge;" and Patrick Califia's grim look at the murder of Newark trans-teen Gwen Araujo, who "got the death penalty for wanting to party."
Coarse catalogue: "Salty dog snot" and "sand in my vagina" were among the phrases Magic Markered on a list that residents of a UC Berkeley residential co-op were required to use in a word game during a meeting in which they voted on whether retired Time magazine White House correspondent Barrett Seaman would be allowed to live there while researching a book. They voted yes, so he entered a world of Jack Daniel's and nude hot-tubbing, where gals wore T-shirts saying "I Wave My Private Parts at Your Aunties" and a mixed-gender gropefest centered on a guy in a pink tutu, on acid. Two years spent living at twelve prestigious colleges showed Seaman that undergrads now drink, date-rape, get depressed, and kill themselves more prodigiously than his classmates did in the '60s. When he first heard that his publisher had chosen Binge (Wiley, $25.95) as its title, Seaman was irked. "I thought it was reductive," but then soaring sales figures proved the power of a provocative word, he said at a private party thrown for him by pal Michael Moritz, a former fellow Time reporter who has since become a billionaire venture capitalist. Having invested early in Google and Yahoo, Cardiff-born financial genius Moritz was identified by the London Times this year as the world's richest Welshman. The Berkeley co-op isn't named in the book, but a little bird who knows someone who lived there has told Press Here that it was Cloyne.
What the Fork - December 1, 1:56 PM
What the Fork - November 28, 1:33 PM
What the Fork - November 15, 1:37 PM
What the Fork - November 11, 11:00 AM
Culture Spy - November 8, 2:53 PM