Category Archives: Uncategorized

Our old neighbor the pizza ace, and the “sharing economy”

A long time ago, in an apartment building far, far away, we had a neighbor who was a former pizza delivery ace.

She got pretty good at it. The pizza company had regional contests for fast delivery. The winners got big bonuses — brass rings worth jumping pretty high for. So she took crazy risks getting the pizza out to the customers fast fast fast. If I remember the story right, she did win one of those bonuses. Something like $500 back when a hundred dollars was worth something, in a town where some people worked for $6.50 an hour.

One day, driving fast on her way with a pizza, she spun out. Empty road, no other drivers, no pedestrians, just herself, unhurt. Herself coming to a stop at a funny angle in the middle of the road. Sitting still in the car in the middle of that road suddenly thinking hard about what is worth how much in this life. Continue reading

In which I write up the NEMA for Failed Architecture

I have a guest post on Failed Architecture about the uproariously tin-eared marketing campaign for San Francisco’s NEMA apartment complex.

Here it is. Editors Mark Minkjan and RenĂ© Boer did a lovely job. Especially RenĂ©’s choice of the opening image. Very Sirens of Titan.

In case you’re wondering, the people crossing the street outside in Santa and Christmas-tree costumes were part of last week’s Santacon pub crawl.

Actually, neither one of these things is a mountain lion.

Because I have a thing for wrongfooted warning signs (see also yesterday’s item):

ImageImageAt left is a sign near the gate at the Asilomar conference center and resort in Pacific Grove, CA. (PIcture taken a while ago but the sign is still there.)

Below is a sign in Fremont Peak State Park on the other side of Salinas from there.

Each one of these signs marks a huge patch of poison oak, which can release dangerous oils from the stems even when not in leaf. By comparison with which, who’s afraid of a little old mountain lion?

Will San Francisco accept “upscale” residential hotels?

The smart commenters on Socketsite, a local San Francisco real estate blog, are having a two-day conversation that may document a key moment in U.S. housing history. I’ve put up a Storify about it here, including counterpoint from an anti-gentrification conversation that some of us had about it on Twitter.

All this started early yesterday afternoon with the news that a developer proposed to build a new “upscale” residential hotel. For some time now, San Francisco developers have been putting up small units for frugal single professionals. But until now it has been under the heading of “micro-apartments“.

The first few Socketsite commenters responded with confusion and distaste, thinking of hotels as places where poor people live. But they’re not dumb. As of last night, and continuing today, the conversation has turned toward seeing middle-class hotel life as a business opportunity.

Continue reading

Mission District Transition: every-flavor beans, one by one?

Erie Alley looked good from under the freeway yesterday. Seems like a lot of the paintings are visible. The storage yard in front might have been more cleared out than usual.


Same day, this is how the front wall looked in the Mission Dispatch food truck court on Bryant St:
IMG_0146scaledThe Mission Dispatch self-description says:

“It’s about the people, it’s about community. It’s a place where artists, designers, and others converge in a nice, sheltered, outdoor space under the sun, to meet new people, try new food, share ideas, and collaborate.”IMG_0146detail

There’s an homage on the site to the former city sign shop where the food trucks stand now. Plenty of respect expressed there for continuity from the past. Plenty of respect for street-made aesthetics too — it’s a food truck garage, after all. Plenty of respect, certainly, for creativity within the frame that the host space provides.

But on the wall outside is one of the more firmly phrased anti-graffiti signs out there. And that wall remains painted one color, unbroken.

It is of course a property owner’s right not to give in to graffiti.

Except, every property owner who diligently paints over tags doesn’t put up a sign like that. A point is being made about staking out a private property’s public face. Why?

So, OK, I don’t know if there is some particular graffiti conflict going on involving that block. If so, my own outsider’s ignorance is showing.

But I’m going to guess something else is going on there. I think it’s an aspect of the prevailing newer aesthetic to see one thing at a time: one food truck at a time, one news story, one blog post, one tweet. Pick one thing at a time out of the jumble, set it off in a frame, guard its integrity against encroachment, appreciate it with undivided if possibly brief attention.

On or off the Web, no matter how big or small a thing is, each thing gets its own capsule. Whether it’s Twitter or a food-truck court or a magazine or a clothing shop or a restaurant menu, a mix of things is a selection of discrete items offered to a consumer in a framing context that’s like a bowl of every-flavor jellybeans, each with its own separately encapsulated flavor — not like a “melting pot”, nor a stew, nor a patchwork, nor a garden.

Maybe because attention to one single thing is terribly valuable amid the firehose spray of data? Because, online, the effects of jumble can feel more like nuisance than serendipity?

How much does it matter that money is involved in setting things off one by one, away from jumble?

Are unplanned, unchosen kinds of synthesis important for creativity? In what proportion to the whole?

A timely Grapes of Wrath 75th anniversary road trip

The Steinbeck Center is sponsoring an anniversary road trip by three artists in honor of The Grapes of Wrath. All the way from Oklahoma to Bakersfield.

Wonder if the slot machines are still rigged?

(Talk about timely: just after I posted this, another tour came across my Twitter feed. It’s part of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers campaign for one cent more per pound from the Publix grocery chain.)