Monday, April 14, 2014

Gentrifork: Pitchfork reviews of SF gentrification articles

(Per a suggestion from Burrito Justice.  I promise I won't write all my future posts based on suggestions from Twitter.)

A Tale of Two Cities

Laurie Penny
New Statesman; 2014


In "The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman," Laurence Sterne wrote, "Human nature is the same in all professions." That has nothing to do with this review but it sounds both academic and pretentious, so it's perfect.

Laurie Penny’s article “A tale of two cities: how San Francisco’s tech boom is widening the gap between rich and poor” is like a Transformers movie performed onstage by the Royal Shakespeare players: the material is well-traveled, but the approach only pretends to seem fresh.

Penny kicks off with a fresh take on an old classic, “Homeless People in Front of Twitter Headquarters on Market.” It’s a comforting welcome that beckons like an old easy chair, made even more reassuring by the follow-up, “Artisanal Coffee That Costs $20.” Why bother with fact-checking when the beat is this good? In fact, fuck it, let’s use “artisanal” twice on the same page!

Penny has a knack for knowing what her audience wants, and what we want is “A Visit to the Tech Incubator.” What could come across as derivative and tired in fact comes across as derivative and tired. By now, we’ve heard this song so many time that mentioning vegans with multicolored hair just lends an air of ennui to the proceedings. By the time we get to Google buses, the article is crawling through the emergency room with a disconnected IV and a crazed look of desperation.

We're offered no respite, thought, and as we arrive at “inventor and founder of the Noisebridge hackerspace in the Mission,” we’re as thirsty for a beat as the  desiccated desert crawler in the classic New Yorker cartoons. Sadly, though, all Penny can offer is yet more multicolored hair and kids frantically typing on sticker-covered laptops. If you’re looking for a pot of gold at the end of the brown rainbow, you’ll find no succor here; rather, we’re informed, America itself is the problem. Physician, heal thyself.

Friday, April 11, 2014

A somewhat tepid defense of Muni

I know it's E-Z 'n fun to rag on Muni.  We all do it all the time. I do it all the time.  It's like shooting fish in a barrel, if the fish were Somewhere You Needed to Be on Time and the barrel was a Ghost Bus or a Slow Down & Pull Away or a Sorry This Bus Is Being Taken Out of Service Please Get Off the Bus There Will Be Another Bus Coming Soon.

And still.  I have to begrudgingly admit that the bus I take to work gets me from a corner near my house to a corner near my work in 18 minutes and does it almost without fail 5 times a week.  Same thing on the way home, except it's faster now that the 5L express line exists.  That's pretty great!  Plus I can ride the 33 from my neighborhood and be in the Mission in around a half hour AND on the way get treated to some pretty killer views going over Twin Peaks.

In fact, in my personal experience, Muni works pretty well maybe 80% of the time.  The other 20% is where we all live, of course.  No one wants to hear "I had a pleasant and quiet bus ride and arrived at my destination safely and without incident."  You aren't going to get on Porchlight with that story.  Drunk lunatic raving about the End Times and drinking out of a paper bag, now that's a Muni story.

I like the old trains on the F Market line.

Photo via SFGate
I like the "Information Gladly Given But Safety Requires Avoiding Unnecessary Conversation" signs.

I used to like the paper FastPasses; R.I.P. paper FastPasses.

I like the democratizing effect.  There's a cross-section of SF on Muni.

That's about it, I guess.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Gentrification Penance: an exploration

Recently had an exchange on the Twitter in which an understandably concerned Conscious Person wondered aloud about what she should do to repent after booking an Airbnb in Oakland. Airbnb, you see, has been linked to such ills as people getting evicted so owners could Airbnb the place or usable rental units being used as de facto hotel rooms instead of regular housing stock the city so desperately needs.

Of course, she was asking tongue in cheek (or so I assume) but it got me thinking, couldn't we avoid a lot of hair-pulling and mouth-wailing if we could just set up an easy Gentrification Penance system?  Like they used to do (or still do, I guess, I don't know, I'm not #blessed) in the Catholic Church?  The way I understood it is, you pushed over a cyclist out of Sidewalk Rage but then on Sunday you'd confess and if you said 33 Hail Marys or Jesus Is Just Alright With Mes than all is forgiven, right?  Here are some ideas.

Buying something at artisanal tchotchke shop that used to be shoe repair store Buy 3 ice creams from jingle bell ice cream cart man; give to local urchins
Saying "Sorry they got evicted, but they should learn how to code" Fingers bitten off and eaten by pit bull with tetanus
Subletting your $1100 studio to a web designer from Illinois for $2300 You are revealed as former moderator of Backstreet Boys fan forum; also, lose apartment
Double parking your $100,000 car on Valencia in bike lane Metal recyclers get 20 minutes alone with car; entire carafe of Blue Bottle dumped onto calfskin interior
Using a bot to score highly coveted restaurant reservation All meals for rest of year from Jack in the Box at Geary & 10th
Loudly talk about your startup in the middle of a bar Alcohol-free 4 Loko
Buy building; Ellis Act all tenants; resell as TIC All assets seized; building returned to former tenants; your home given to first homeless people who wander by; new job as sign spinner outside doomed housing development in Phoenix during summer
Shopping at Local Mission Market Everyone laughs at you

Friday, April 4, 2014

They are doing horrible things to vodka. Unspeakable things.

Vodka used to come in one flavor: vodka.  Vodka was vodka flavored.  That was fine.  If you wanted a drink of vodka, you got a drink of vodka.  Maybe it was Sunday and you put tomato juice and spices in it and it was a Bloody Mary, but it was still vodka in there.

Then people started dropping produce in vodka and letting it sit for a while and making infused vodkas.  This was somewhat OK, I guess.  I had a cucumber vodka once that was interesting.  There was a whole bar on 2nd near the Giants' stadium (which was then Pac Bell Park, I think) called INFUSION that specialized in infused vodka.  OK, whatever.

Apparently convinced that the palate of the drinking public now more closely resembles that of a 6-year-old child than a Soviet truck driver, vodka manufacturers have now departed reality and begun producing a whole slew of Children's Birthday Party Vodkas.

These are ACTUAL FLAVORS of vodka made by Pinnacle, a cheapish vodka owned by Jim Beam which, according to its website, "starts with the finest wheat grain from the Brie region of France" but ends up at Safeway for $9.99:

Cookie Dough Vodka
County Fair Cotton Vodka
Cake Vodka

I don't even know what "County Fair Cotton" vodka might possibly taste like.  Organic Textile Vodka?  Dress Short Vodka?  800 Thread Count Vodka.  But none of these are as nauseating as Pinnacle's newest innovation:

That's right, the two things that make airports bearable, Cinnabon and booze, together at last!  How the fuck you make a vodka taste like the pure fat/sadness of a Cinnabon is beyond me, but the Morbidly Obese Alcoholic in your family finally has a product custom tailored to his or her needs.  As long as we're doing airports, Pinnacle, I eagerly await Panda Express Vodka and Pizza Hut Express Vodka.

I shouldn't say that, because I imagine pizza vodka is not far off.

Not that Pinnacle is alone in this Alchemy of the Damned.  Smirnoff now makes Iced Cake Vodka, Fluffed Marshmallow Vodka, and Cinna-Sugar Twist Vodka, so when it's your turn to be Drinks Mom at soccer practice, you know where to start.

As a humorous sidenote, Smirnoff also makes a line of malted beverages/teenage alcohol gateway products called Smirnoff Ice, including such flavors as Smirnoff Ice Pineapple which I bet smells just as bad puked up behind Taylor's house at 12:30 a.m. as it did when you opened it after shoplifting it from Lunardi's.

Stick with whiskey.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Giants win in most Giantsy way possible. Also, other TV.

BASEBALL IS BACK.  Now, of course I'm not going to blog about or even watch every Giants game this season, but I watched most of last night's Opening Night game and I am going to write about it now.

I may also complain about Walking Dead again, so hold on.

THE SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS.  Here's what happens.  Madison Bumgarner pitches pretty good but during the long layoff everybody else forgot how to play baseball.  They all fuck up in various ways and it's 7-3.  FUCK THIS we say and start watching last week's episode of The Real World.

BRIEF AND EMBARRASSING DIVERSION: Yes, we are hate-watching The Real World this season, ONLY because it's ostensibly set in San Francisco but it's not any San Francisco I know.  It's a San Francisco where the only restaurant is Subway and the only bar is something called Infusion Lounge which I hope hope hope is not a real place but is instead something constructed just for this series because it looks like hell on Earth.  Also, these people are all idiots, no surprise there.  At least they're not running a startup that builds apps to coordinate when to get into a Bro Fight or how to get to Infusion Lounge.

We're about 15 minutes into another episode of Basically Just Eating Subway Sandwiches and Having a Bro Fight when I look at my phone and now it's 7-6!  How Giants of you!  Back to the game in time to see some hapless Arizonan WALK IN THE TYING RUN.  At that point, you know the Giants are going to win.  I have no way of checking this but I bet the Giants have won every single game in which the other team walked in the tying run.

So yes, they won.  Buster Posey hit a big home run and Sergio Romo tried to go all Brian Wilson and put some runners on and give up a run before finally nailing it down.  Giants win, 9-8.  Not all Giants fans were winners, though.

2 theories about the Gaints sign holder: (1) Hopefully they're Arizonans, or (2) They did it on purpose in a desperate bid for attention.  SUCCESS!

Now, Walking Dead. Remember the joke on Seinfeld about how it was a show about nothing?  Walking Dead takes that to a new level because it's a show where NOTHING EVER HAPPENS.  Well, not exactly.  I mean, things happen to the characters SOMETIMES (and sometimes there are episodes like that one with Darryl and Beth this season where literally nothing at all happened) but the problem with the show is that there is no overarching plot arc.  I mean, we've had 4 seasons of characters stumbling around and stabbing zombies in the head, to what end?  Nothing.  Is anything ever going to happen?  Is there a cure for zombie or do we just watch them go through their lives in zombie world forever?  Why am I watching this show?  I have no idea.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Leland Yee: The Lego Version

Sorry about the "instroduced" typo but I don't have the time to go back and fix it now.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Happy Birthday, kid

Today is baby Beyonce's first birthday.  She has no idea because she's one year old and doesn't understand time or aging. This is probably the last birthday when we can get away with totally phoning it in and not having donkey rides or a party at Chuck E Cheese or whatever unholy Godforsaken kidz thing we'll have to do.

Beyonce, v. 1.0:

Now, you'll note, she's somewhat larger. Perhaps disturbingly, she has discovered that she has the ability to scream:

I know I violated the Sacred Rule of iPhone Videography and didn't hold the phone sideways. Sorry.

Despite the screaming, which can be nerve-rattling, she's what I imagine to be a pretty easy-going kid.  She doesn't get rattled easily and overall she's pretty chill.  I would say we got lucky, because I don't think of myself as "doesn't get rattled easily" or "pretty chill."  So I guess she got the Wife's unflappable gene and my tendency to scream for no reason once in a while.

People always say "Didn't the first year just fly by?"  NO.  That is some bullshit perpetrated by the baby/grandparent industry.  The first year absolutely does NOT fly by.  It seems like about three years.  Well, up until a few months ago, then it started speeding up.  But the first six months at least are about the longest six months of your life.

Anyway, Happy Birthday, kid! This is going to be up on the Internet forever, so if you're watching this stoned with your college roommate or animatronic robot servant or whatever they have in 2031, get off the computer and do your homework!  Or plug the homework module into your brain socket or whatever's going on in the distant future.  Best to President Chelsea Clinton.