Archive for August, 2004

On Urban Design and Urban Identity

Interesting article in today’s SF Chron on the architectural face of San Francisco. Of particular note:

Schwarzer doesn’t go so far as to draw such conclusions, but he does connect our current state of architecture to a culture of affluence and individuality. “In San Francisco, the movement toward realization has reached such heights of self-indulgence that it is leveling the creation of inspiring urban design,” Schwarzer writes. “Here, on the western shores of the North American continent, the American dream has taken a turn into activism bred on affluence and adversity …. These not-so-laid-back Californians, who stymie architectural innovation in this once innovative city, defend a medley of values premised on history, esthetics, cultural politics and, most of all, impossible-to-generalize self-interests.”
In other words, there is a thin line between idealistic people who want to build the perfect world and the those who want to simply preserve an ideal lifestyle. Or, as Schwarzer summed it up at a recent lecture at a meeting of the San Francisco Urban Planning and Research Association (SPUR), “People come here intentionally, and they want to fight to preserve it. They shift their sights from fighting Vietnam or a highway to the building that is shading their lemon tree.”

San Francisco does have a special kind of NIMBYism, doesn’t it? An exclusivity that’s open to anyone – so long as you join us in our effort to eschew progress in the name of “preservation.” What is it about this city that breeds such high-brow navel-gazing? That sacrifices the needs of the many for the needs of the lone tree? Many criticize Los Angeles for its simulacra-based landscape – but is SF any different? What old charm our we protecting, what lost sense of place is saved by badly wired, drafty, energy inefficient, seismically unsound wood structures lacking closets, basic amenities or any really hope for actual salvation from eventual disintegration?
There are those buildings sacred to us, worthy of protection – a cathedral, an iconic pyramid, a bridge. But there are others, while lovely, that risk holding us hostage to an inhospitable past on a spit of land that otherwise prides itself on birthing the next cutting-edge policy or product.
I love my hidden, old victorian-lite house, with its yellow front, faded teal sides, and complete lack of insulation. But if we stymie architectural advances, we won’t have a chance to get past the ugly ideas that are sure to mark periods of transition. I want to see what comes next and I want to see it built next door.

An Invitation For Democratic SF Gals*

Feeling the need to get your political on? Are you a woman in SF looking forward to seeing your name on a ballot? Check out this event:
Emerge – Women Leaders for a Democratic Future
Join Us for an Open House to Learn More About the 2004/2005 Program
Meet Members of the 2002/2003 and 2003/2004 Class And Emerge Board Members!
Date: Tuesday, August 31
Time: 6:00 – 7:30 p.m.
Location: Fenton Communications
182 Second Street, Suite 400
San Francisco, CA 94105
RSVP: gretchen@emergeca.org by Monday, August 30
Emerge is a political leadership training program for Democratic women in the San Francisco Bay Area. Our mission is to identify, educate and inspire Democratic women who want to pursue elective office at the local and state level in California. Emerge makes a long-term investment in these future leaders by honing their political skills; expanding their knowledge of local issues; and connecting them with mentors.
To learn more, or for an application, please visit www.emergeca.org. Applications are due September 10.
*As noted elsewhere on this blog – I’m a Democrat, but this blog is non-denominational. If any reader feels slighted by my advertising Democratic events, feel free to email me Reep or Green events, or post them in comments.

Tipping Points

What does one tip in this city for the following:
Massage?
Facial?
Apartment manager?
Apartment handyman employed by apartment manager?
Haircut/style/general hairdo-ing?
Each city has their percentage, what’s San Francisco’s?

‘Alien’ in Golden Gate Park

The most random thing today . . . .
Trying to catch the last bit of fantastic weather before the fog rolled in this afternoon, I headed for the arboretum to read and bake.
There, I found a friend engaged in the same, threw down a blanket, flicked on the tunes, and relaxed. My friend kept putting down his book at staring at the blanket. After the third or so time doing this, he pulled back the blanket and said “what the fuck?”
There, underneath where he’d been, the ground swelled and fell, over and over. The bulge moved a few inches to the right or left, and two earthworms slithered out. Really gross.
I’m assuming it was a gopher – though it never made it out. My friend thunked the ground a few times to encourage the little guy to find a better route. He returned frequently however – making that section of meadow look like that dude’s stomach in alien.
Just something for you to keep in mind if it’s sunny again tomorrow. Meanwhile, if anyone can recommend a safer patch of grass . . . . .

Through Little Saigon to the Phoenix Hotel

A few days ago, I was invited to a little shindig at the Bambuddha Lounge in the infamous Phoenix Hotel. For those not in the know, the Phoenix Hotel has long been known as a “rock and roll” hotel, popular with rock musicians and Hollywood stars. I’ve also heard tell that it’s where Marilyn Manson likes to stay when he’s in town. So, it was with curiosity and a desire to meet up with old friends that I made my way through the Tenderloin in order to get there.
Along the way, I came across a series of streets with signs welcoming me to “Little Saigon.” I had no idea we even had such a place. I mean, I knew we have a pretty big Vietnamese community, I just didn’t know there was a formal name for the neighborhood (It turns out this was a relatively recent thing; it was only this past February that they gave it the official name). According to this SF Chron article, Little Saigon consists of “the two-block corridor of Larkin Street between Eddy and O’Farrell streets.” As expected, there was an abundance of Vietnamese restaurants, most of them serving one of my favorite dishes, pho bo (Vietnamese beef noodle soup). I was tempted to try one out, but it was getting late, and I had to go to the party. I’ll probably go back there some day to try out the food.
I soon arrived at the hotel. I have to say that it really doesn’t look like a Hollywood sort of place, as it looked kinda run-down and non-descript from the outside. I’m guessing that it’s probably a place where these celebrities go to hide away from people. I entered the Bambuddha Lounge, met up with some folks and milled around for a bit. The place definitely had that mellow club vibe, with low lighting and lots of leather cushion seats. There were even these entire leather beds in the lounge area, complete with leather pillows (When they say “lounge” they really mean lounge). I didn’t spend that much time indoors though, as I soon found my way outside to the pool area. I noticed the rooms are arranged in a motor lodge sort of way, with all the rooms accessible from a balcony and overlooking the pool. I could just imagine some drunken rocker having way too much fun and jumping over the balcony into the pool ala Almost Famous. Even the pool area had these “beds” in huts, where guests could lounge around on while sipping a cocktail. There were also fire torches along a patio, where there were more seating. It was definitely a cool place to have a party.
I’ll save you the details of the party in question, as it was one of those closed-to-the-press things. Suffice to say I probably had more fun meeting up with old friends than anything else. The Bambuddha Lounge also serves food, most of which has a decidedly Asian flair (with words like Malaysian and Singaporean scattering the menu — which made me happy to no end). I didn’t eat much though, as I was more into the mingling and milling about. Although their martinis were quite delish.
Overall, I don’t know if I would stay at the hotel personally, as it is located in a rather dodgy area of the city. But it’s a cool place to check out, just to see what it looks like. You may even spot a celeb or two. Me, I’d rather be slurping up noodles at a Little Saigon restaurant down the road.

An Alarming Misuse of Electronic Gadgetry

Looking for something fun to do on Saturday? How about some free music in the park?

Yeah, that’s right, I did say free.

This Saturday the 28th there’s an all day event at Potrero del Sol park, featuring 9 electronic/noise bands. For those of you unsure if this is something you might enjoy, I asked one of the musicians to describe the sound. M, of the duo nullspace says:

“We are an electronic duo producing sounds ranging from dark ambient to wall of noise. Lots of synths, drum machines, etc. The other bands usually follow the same type of pattern. Sound wise most are pretty noisey, some are more synth oriented, others are more live sound-processing oriented.”

The park is located at the end of Potrero, near 101 and 26th. Since it’s an all day event you might want to bring your own blankets to sit on. Included bands are Deletist, FiLTHMiLK, nullspace, Uber Kunst, Heartworm, Tom Dimuzio, Drug of Choice, Rubber O Cement and Magnetic Stripper.The show starts at noon, and runs until sundown. You can find more info here.

An Open Letter to MUNI Riders

Dear Fellow MUNI Patrons,
I have a very small request of you, dear friends-in-commuting. I try to be nice when seats open up on my beloved N Judah. I scoot in and sit by the window. There’s no rule saying you should do that. No requirement. But I know that to some, a sole rider on the outside seat makes the inner seat seem unwelcoming. And since I’m always commuting at peak hours, well, I try to be nice.
Here’s my problem, however. You seem appreciative that I’ve left that seat open. You sit in it. Great, that was the idea. But when we get to my stop, do you move so I can exit before the doors shut and that lousy squeal starts when I push my way out of them? Noooo. You don’t do much beside try to collapse yourself into the seat. Sometimes you turn to the side.
Unless you are over 65, sick, arthritic, or otherwise incapacitated, please Stand The Hell Up and let me pass. There’s hardly any leg room for one – so two sets of legs don’t fit. And if you swing your legs into the aisle – where, incidentally, they will just trip others not lucky enough to have a seat- I’ll have little choice but to whack you in the head with my bag, backpack, or laptop – all of which are in plain view and clearly cumbersome as I do my best Courtney Kupets around the train bars to swing clear of your comfortably seated body.
So please, just stand for a moment and let us window-seat-sitters pass. You don’t even have to scoot over to the now vacant seat. Just let us out. And the world will be a better place. I promise.
Thanks,
Bruised Shins in the Sunset

Super7 Store


A couple of weeks ago, I went to the Flight art show reception (Great comic anthology by the way; get it if you can!) to support friend/hero Derek Kirk Kim at the Super7 store in Japantown, and I must say I’m glad I did. It’s sort of a one-stop destination for fringe-y pop culture mini-comics, t-shirts, toys, magazines, videos, and the like, most of which have a decidedly Asian slant. The fiance and I are pretty big on local indie comics, which is probably why we took an immediate shining to the place — there is no shortage of them there. Super7 also sponsors fabu events like concerts featuring Asian artists, and the upcoming Godzilla fest at the Castro Theatre.
If you’re at all interested in the local indie arts scene, indie comics, kitschy items, or Japanese pop culture, you owe it to yourself to visit the store (They even have their own blog — it’s accessible through their website).

The Sounds of San Francisco, Vol. 37

Tonight I’m riding the 43, sitting toward the front of a rather empty bus.
Aside from the gears and noisy breaks, the only sound is the shuffle of plastic on the head signs as they shift between the line number and the destination.
It sounds like a rain stick in the Nature Company – you remember, that old store with the polished rocks and cheap-yet-portable, multicolored binoculars. Rain sticks with the spokes and handfuls of sediment rushing past, like rain on foliage. A simulacra of a stereotypical sound.
So it’s me and a bus and the sounds of simulated rain on a bus heading for the Haight on Saturday night full of promise, little realized. Maybe all city buses across the country make this sound – but this is the first place I’ve heard it: soothing, natural, and soft.

Open Letter to “The Committee”

Hey dude,
How you doing?
In case you haven’t noticed, the internet is an awful big place.
And by big, I mean *REALLY REALLY REALLY* big. Actually, string another 50000 *REALLY*’s and you may get a small idea of how big it really really is. Really.
It is big enough so that everyone can find something fun and cheerful, interesting, provocative, and engaging to read. Something so big that everyone who has a will to deliver their thoughts and opinions on line should be able to do so. Something for which if you don’t like what you see, you can quite easily *go* *somewhere* *else*.
Now, while I and perhaps some of the other SF Metbloggers find your intense and frequent criticism and feedback borderline creepy, but flattering for the passion and attention with which you deliver such feedback, it’s … getting towards that last nerve.
This does not mean that we don’t appreciate or like the attention that our readers provide us with. On the contrary. Many of us quite enjoy it as it provides an opportunity for dialogue and discussion, and an opportunity to be challenged and to learn as well. This is why we’re writers and bloggers. We like writing. We like being read. We like people. We love our city of SF and are doing our damndest to give you a peep into why we love it.
There are plenty of other great sites that give this kind of perspective as well beyond just our metblogs.
Try out SFist or Friscosity for other perspectives. Or maybe you’ll just find a few favorites among the SF Bay Area Bloggers linkpool. You’re a smart kid, you can figure it out yourself, I’m sure. Maybe those writers will be more to your liking.
One thing of point:
It’s not my job to be your personal tour guide into SF. I don’t *owe* you anything. Re: Annie Lin’s, Goh Nakamura, and Kris Racer’s performance this weekend, links are provided so you can read up on those artists, reviews, and mp3’s YOURSELF. That’s kinda… that whole fun thing about links and stuff from that Really Really Really big internet thing.
Ahhh, and also …frankly, based on your inflamatory and inconsiderate/inconsistant behavior in posting and directing commentary online here, it makes me want to almost *avoid* promoting some of my favorite venues and spots in case *you* decide to crash it and ruin it for me. Now ain’t that a stinker.
Cheers,
MJ

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