Archive for December, 2004

More Bridge Business

mn_francebridge_mil10.jpg

Hey check out their bridge!

Good job France for building a really, really big, pretty bridge. I believe this suspension style would’ve graced the east span of our Bay Bridge, you know, until they nixed it for a plain line of concrete. (Maybe they could, like, tile it or something decorative at least?). Note the tolls, however, for the French bridge – they range from over $6 to over $8.

In local bridge news, the Board of Supes voted to endorse a plan to rename the Bay Bridge after Emperor Norton. Who’s he? Read the article. Note, especially, the Emperor’s 1872 resolution calling for the construction of a bridge connecting Oakland and San Francisco – and his ordered penalty for negligent city officials.

Dear Everyone with Opposable Thumbs,

It’s time to email the FCC. Tim Goodman, in a freaking excellent editorial in the Chron yesterday, points out that the ultra-conservative and truly bogus (in the Bill-and-Ted sense of the word) Parents Television Council (who certainly wouldn’t let their kids get away with omitting useful apostrophes…would they?) is behind 99.8 percent of all “indecency complaints” to the FCC.

Goodman tells us that “the FCC is supposed to be a sounding board for people who view a TV show, are upset about the content and seek a place to complain outside of the network that aired it. But the process is being hijacked by people who in all likelihood aren’t even watching the shows but are responding to a group that tells them the content is wicked.”

In a related Mediaweek article, the Great and Powerful Oz of Moral Values was revealed to be a handful of conservatives huddling behind a big curtain hung by the Parents Television Council. Apparently, an episode of “Married by America” set off the indecency alarms…in a whopping 34 living rooms:

Fox, in a filing last Friday, told the FCC that it should rescind the proposed fines, in part because the low number of complaints fell far short of indicating that community standards had been violated.

Santa attack at the Metreon

Saw this over on the Flickr Blog:

Seems there was a huge sweep of a hundred Santas at the Metreon into the Live 105 studios. Freaky. Apparently it was started by members of The Cacophony Society. I’ve never heard of them before, but apparently they’ve done stunts like these in San Francisco before.

More signs of Santarchy in San Francisco — apparently they were all over downtown, and not just the Metreon! This Santarchy thing seems to be an international thing as well.

The 14th Pedestrian Killed in SF this Year

Beverly Kees, was struck and killed by a truck as she was attempting to cross a street in San Francisco.

Kees, 63, was a longtime journalist and author. Most of her career was spent as a reporter and then editor in Minneapolis.

Ms. Kees co-authored “Nothing Sacred: Journalism, Politics and Public Trust in a Tell-All Age”

The driver of the truck has not been charged. There was no evidence that traffic laws were violated.

As I drive my taxi, in the South Bay and San Francisco, I am always astonished that pedestrians will step off the curb without looking. Please, it only takes a brief second.

Cheesy Mac

About the only hard rule here at our cozy metblog is that posts tie back to the city preceding that first dot.

Reading this article in today’s San Francisco Chronicle, more than just the city of publication seems to make it relevant. It’s subject: Macs and the fanatics who love them.

Seems a Wired News writer has written a book about the obsessive subculture that Mac devotees comprise.

I’m typing this post on a PC (a fact at which a few fellow metbloggers rolled their eyes in bemused pity during a recent meeting), so I’m tempted to read the book so I can “get it” too. (I’m fairly sure the last Mac I used with any regularity was a IIe and I recall distinct frustration at not getting the turtle to go where I wanted him to when I wanted him to. That an unfortunate week with a G4 – ? – in a congressional office on the Hill before we scrapped the mac system in favor of something that jived with the rest of the office. I still feel bad for the Apple lobbyists who visited the day was covered with bits of colorful lucite and sorry, abandonned, single-button mice.)

Nothing says Bay Area like tech, nor individuality. And Mac lovers are the progeny of such passions. Personally, I’ll probably never trade my ctrl+alt+del for anything with an open apple, nor function with a machine on which I cannot right click – but I do give major points for superior aesthetics, and I have come to love my iPod – surely the gateway Mac product.

The article’s brief descriptions of some of those profiled in the book are enough to make me want to run to Borders (or my nearest SF independent book seller, of course) soon. Check it out.

Window Shopping

As a native Angeleno, I’m far more comfortable with urban sprawl than with densely packed San Francisco real estate. But one undeniable benefit to living on top of one another is window shopping.

No, not in Union Square. Nothing passes a Muni ride or a walk better than appreciating others’ apartments – picking up color trends, decor details, and furniture fads. No, not in a voyeristic way, either. I don’t want to see people – that ruins the scene – but the evidence of their lives, the art work on the walls, the vases in the windows, the window boxes and wind chimes. Cats curled up in the sun and dogs’ noses pressed against a glass door. Conversation spaces, dining nooks, and cabinetry. Ebony wainscotting and ivory alcoves. Beveled, stained, and etched glass. Crown molding and chandeliers.

Of course, at this time of year, Christmas adornments add new levels of interest. Tonight, strolling the streets of Nob Hill after a holiday gathering, I took in the sights: Big trees and little trees. Windows festooned with multicolored twinkle lights or edged in static white ones. Evergreen-wrapped columns and holly-decked newel posts.

By the end of each block, I’ve designed my perfect flat or house – and I’m just one large Restoration gift card from turning my own fine, but needing-some-love victorian into its own set of shoppable windows.

To me, the whole exercise is analogous to appreciating Golden Gate foliage – each tree unique and lovely, even the ones with the peeling paint and broken stoops.

xmas party raider

I really like the holidays. And there’s no better embodiment of the holiday spirit than holiday parties. I like dressing up and looking good; seeing everyone else dress up, too. I like the drink and food — all for $free-ninety-nine. I like watching coworkers get inappropriate with each other. Sometimes, I even like the music. So, when I hear of other company parties, I can’t help but crash.

The Future Network Magazine Xmas party was last night, at the W downtown. I got my start writing there there as an intern at a great computer magazine years ago. It’s felt great to show up, say hello, and take off.

So if you hear of a party, don’t be afraid to crash it. Dress right. Show up late. And remember to say hello to a few people to blend in. Keep your head up high as you stride towards the open bar. Meet some new friends, and if anyone asks you what department you’re in, just tell them you’re there to have a good time. Cheers!

Also, there was this light-up cow attached to the bass drum.

arcadefire.jpgIt takes a certain special kind of band to drag me out on a weeknight. The Arcade Fire is just such a band.

Wednesday night I attended their packed show at Bottom of the Hill, and if I hadn’t had to move to the back due to my oldness and impending deafness, their performance would have been pretty revelatory. Mechanical reindeer? Check. Upright bass? Check. Violin and accordion? Check. Anthemic group vocals? Check. Two guys wearing crash helmets and beating on anything handy with drumsticks? Check indeedy.

All of this is why I want to make darn sure I get tickets for their newly added third show at Great American Music Hall next month, since the other two days are already sold out.

Trust me when I tell you to do the same.

I Thought We Were One Ugly Bridge Short

Thankfully, not for long.

Seems the signature single single tower suspension span that would’ve replaced the rickety eastern portion of the Bay Bridge is moving toward being scrapped in favor of a plain, concrete viaduct. One long road from Oakland to Yerba Buena Island.

I’ll save the politicking for my own site, but from an SF point of view – this bridge needs to last a long time. So, leaving aside the seismic considerations (last time I checked, suspension bridges are still sturdier than static concrete structures, but I’m sure technology has progressed, and many thing are possible with rebar), what about aestetics? What Caltrans project DOESN’T run hideously over budget? And if you thought it was going to take a long time to get a bridge before . . . .

Shoot, just spend more. This part of the world is all about bridges anyway. Build the fancypants bridge that Bay Area folk feel they deserve. And, frankly, considering the amount of time people spend on the bridge, it should be easy in the eyes – even as it will only get harder on the wallet.

I think the word I’m looking for on the new viaduct is fugly.

Santa Baby

No matter how you gauge it, we’re deep into the Holidays

now. The first night of Hanukkah began at sundown on Tuesday.

Winter Solstice visibly approaches as

the days get shorter and darker. And of course, Christmas has

become omni-present.

The streets are lined with twinkling lights, golden bells

and red trimmed ornaments perch atop street lamps. As someone

who works in retail, I saw holiday decorations going up just

after Halloween this year. It was as if, concerned with the

stumbling economy, retailers decided to remind consumers of

their Holiday obligations as early as humanly possible,

without interfering with Back to School sales.

And while it may do you good to stare out into a city

decorated with tiny lights that twinkle like stars, I’d be

willing to bet that you are not enjoying the crush of Holiday

shopping. As someone who works in retail, I will say this: If

people truly knew the spirit of frustration, irritation and

even anger that accompanied the purchase of many of the gifts

people buy during the holidays, I think they would not be so

well received.

The fact of the matter is that Holiday Spirit is supposed

to be about joy, good will and giving. It is difficult to do

this when you’re circling a mall parking lot for half an hour

looking for someplace to park, and waiting in long lines with

mounting bad temper.

So, I will say it again. I have seen countless Holiday

Seasons pass from the inside of retail, and I am forever

compiling tips for myself on how to avoid the frustration of

Holiday shopping in a way that will allow me to truly

experience the joy of Holiday giving, without making me want

to bludgeon anyone with an inflatable, glowing Santa.

I give to you my Holiday Survival List!

- Do not go to a mall on Saturday. Just don’t do it. I

know you think you’ll do it all in one fell swoop, and get it

over with, but that is what everyone is thinking. You

will only end up hating most of humanity, because you will see

them at their very worst. If you have no other options, go to

the mall as early as you can so that you can get out of there

before it gets really busy.

- Most malls have Holiday hours. The thing is, most people

don’t know about them, or have no desire to shop that late. If

a mall is usually open until 9, but they are staying open

until 10 0r 11, you are guaranteed to have better customer

service, short or non-existent lines, close parking spots and

a better overall shopping experience. In fact, most stores use

this time to do re-stocking as well, so you may be able to

find things that appeared sold out during the busiest rushes.

Check your mall website for holiday

hours. They also usually list what sales you can expect to

find.

- Consider not going to a mall. I know they are convenient,

because they have lots of stores in one area, but they are

incredibly loud, and even the ones with high ceilings begin to

feel cramped and can induce claustrophobia with their

incessantly recycled air and blaring Holiday music. As an

alternative, consider outdoor shopping areas.

Some of my favorites in the Easy Bay include the shopping

center in Emeryville. Get there early and get an

enormous $2 breakfast at Ikea, and then shop outdoors at

places like Pottery Barn, Old Navy, Barnes and Noble and the

Gap. Less than a mile away you’ll also find a Best Buy, Toys R

Us and Ross. Granted, it’s still a mall, but the fresh air is

a great way to perk yourself up after the crush of Holiday

shoppers, plus you can get some fantastic peppermint icecream

at Coldstone’s.

Another good one is Solano

Ave. near Berkeley. It’s right off the freeway, and

although parking is a little more difficult, it’s an excellent

place to shop. There’s everything you could want there, from a

small Oaxacan folk art shop, to a Tibetan store that sells

jewelry and clothes. Of course, my very very favorite is The Bone

Room, a store that sells real and cast skeletons, jewelry

cast to shape vertebrae and skulls, mounted butterflies and

bugs trapped in lucite. Nothing says Happy Holidays!!

like a voodoo inspired chicken foot! There’s also some amazing

restaurants on Solano, although the prices can be a little

high. Try Sophia Cafe for some fantastic kosher food and

the nicest servers you could ever hope to meet. Seriously,

they even ask you if you prefer your water with or without

ice.

While you’re over there, why not stop by Telegraph Ave,

too? You’ll find a lot of great gift ideas in both the shops

and the tables set up on the street, and you can stop by both

Rasputin and Amoeba to get some great alternatives to the

never-ending Holiday music, as well as truly one of a kind

gifts at the vintage and resale stores like Shark’s Vintage

and Buffalo exchange. If you’re getting cold and hungry, stop

by either Bongo Burger (try the lamb burger, I swear you won’t

regret it!) or Smart Alec’s, which has some of the best

homemade soup I’ve ever tasted! As a word of warning, they

love to give parking tickets in Berkeley, but the good news is

that most of the businesses on Telegraph will happily validate

you for the parking garage just off Telegraph on Durant. Also,

you’ll find some of the most amazing fresh flower merchants on

Telegraph, and I highly recommend the one outside the book

store on Haste. The arrangements they put together truly are

art, and are far less expensive than anything you could buy at

the grocery store.

- A couple miscellaneous tips: Don’t eat at the mall. Far

from being a relaxing way to avoid the Holiday crush, you’ll

wait in long lines, be surrounded by screaming children and

tired frustrated shoppers, and your options of fast food will

leave you feeling bloated and tired. Budget yourself an extra

$20 and treat yourself to dinner after you’re done shopping.

-Don’t bring anything unnecessary. Heavy coats, large bags

and your doggie satchel will only get in your way. However,

remember that most malls are still air conditioned, and

outdoor malls can’t protect you from rain.

-Remember that all of this is about the spirit of

giving. If you find yourself having a really lousy time,

consider just going home. Many people already have more than

enough stuff. Personally, I would rather have some home made

cookies as opposed to a mass produced gift that was bought

under duress and unhappiness.

That’s all I’ve got, but I’m sure other people have great

Holiday survival tips. What’s your favorite way to spread

Holiday cheer?

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