Heart of the City Archives


Summer in the city of sun and wind
by Hank Donat

The only thing I'll miss about media coverage of the Michael Jackson trial is the amusing manner in which our telegenic Assistant District Attorney-turned-talking head Jim Hammer refers to Michael Jackson as Michael Jackson on every reference. If you don't know what I'm talking about, I just demonstrated this in the previous sentence. But enough about Michael Jackson.

Most San Franciscans first became aware of Hammer when he prosecuted dog mauling defendants Robert Noel and Marjorie Knoller in 2002. The City and one Sunset District family in particular were revisited by this horror last week. Among the tragedies of the fatal mauling of 12 year-old Nicholas Faibish by his family's pet pit bulls is that it seems so likely to happen again.

Animal behaviorists have been quick to remind us that most pet owners are not trained to recognize the warning signs when a pit bull starts to become territorial in the home. Maybe those owners should be required to recognize those signs. You need a license to drive your car and are expected to understand how it works because it's very dangerous not to.

Annie Jupiter Jones of the Mission District talked me out of being phobic about pit bulls a couple of years ago. She introduced me to a pit bull friendly organization, Bad Rap (Bay Area Doglovers Responsible About Pitbulls). According to the group's web site, pit bulls do not just "snap" and turn on people. The organization supports euthanasia for pit bulls that display aggression toward people or a "defective temperament." Again, it's up to the pet owner to recognize warning signs of aggression. Visit www.badrap.org/rescue for more information.

Notes on happier subjects: Hank Machtay is a teacher at Galileo Academy who reports that wonderful things are happening there. The state's Department of Education recently named Galileo one of California's Distinguished Schools for 2005. The high school was also named Exemplary Career & Technical Education School. Last week, students from Galileo's Academy of Information Technology showed off their web sites, videos, and animation projects to visitors and mentors from IBM.

Machtay tells me that these highly skilled, dedicated young people still need summer internships. Says Machtay, "Most businesses don't know that if they take a high school intern through the San Francisco Unified School District the district assumes the cost of insurance and payroll taxes." Visit Galileoweb.org for more information.

Justine Wolitzer is a local who works for San Francisco School Volunteers, a nonprofit organization with a mission to help public school students build connections to the community through classroom volunteers. Here is SFSV by the numbers, courtesy of Wolitzer, "Each year we recruit and train approximately 2,500 individuals who volunteer in virtually all 117 San Francisco public schools and serve over 30,000 students - more than half the entire student population. Since we began in 1963, we have trained over 82,000 volunteers and we have reached over 830,000 students." That's impressive! Visit sfsv.org for more information.

For my money, the Randall Museum is still among the best kept secrets for young people in the City. I plan to take my nephew there when he visits in August. Smaller and less manic than the Exploratorium, the Randall Museum is located out of traffic congestion in Corona Heights. Kids can visit with animals, study dinosaur bones, or conduct a science experiment. Grown ups and other San Franciscophiles can enjoy great views and the Benny Bufano sculpture garden.

Finally, the best thing anyone can do for kids this summer is to turn off the television. I found a great device in a gift shop on 17th near Castro Street. TV-B-Gone has already made my house a happier home. With a simple point and click, the key chain-sized device zaps almost any television instantly. I contacted the inventor with an assist from Gina Zagotta, a former advertising industry co-worker.

"The dangers of watching too much TV are very real," says TV-B-Gone inventor Mitch Altman. "Studies show that TV undermines family time, harms academic performance, encourages violence and promotes sedentary lifestyles." The Neilsen company, which monitors viewing habits, reports that the average child watches approximately 18,000 television murders before high school graduation.

Altman says the idea for TV-B-Gone came when he was out with friends one night and they all found themselves watching the restaurant's television instead of enjoying each other's company. I don't recommend using this device at any of the City's great sports bars, however it is the perfect way to pull the plug on your mate's Law & Order obsession. Trust me on that one.

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Copyright 2005 Hank Donat
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