Friday, April 29, 2016

Who the fuck is Emirates' target demo?

If you live anywhere or have a TV or exist in the world you've seen Emirates Airlines' ubiquitous advertising, which usually features deeply contented youngish people casually enjoying a glass of probably scotch and a plate of probably lobster while seated in a plush beige airplane seat.  The ads are plastered all over the Powell BART station even as we speak.

Photo courtesy: Me. For once, I didn't steal someone else's picture.
Many, if not most, of these ads feature some kind of unimaginable Ultimate Premium First Class.  Like check out that chick on the right.  She's just getting OUT OF THE FUCKING SHOWER on the airplane.  I can't even stand up straight in an airplane bathroom and this lady's at a fucking air spa.

That's not all you get in First Class!  You get to "savor gourmet meals whenever you please" and "join the conversation in our A380 Onboard Lounge," which looks like the douchiest bar this side of Eastside West.

"You ladies come here often? WANT TO?"
LOOKS GREAT.  Who doesn't want to savor some gourmet meals and then shower off the scent of Axe body spray you'll get from standing in the same room as Chas up there?  Let's go to, say, Singapore!

Yikes!  That's a lot of money.  Singapore's a long way away, though, and you can take lots of showers.

Point is, I've never seen another airline use as their primary marketing focus a class of service that 99% of its customers will ever see.  Isn't it just setting up all us Coach Cattle for disappointment?  "Wait, where's my shower?  Can I go to the Onboard Lounge?"  "SILENCE, DONKEY PERSON.  RETAKE YOUR SEAT AND EAT YOUR FOOD PELLET QUIETLY!!!"  Seems weird.

Anyway, we're off to the less exotic destination of San Diego via a United Flying Person Crate, so see ya later.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Bars That Time Forgot, an occasional series, vol. V: The Embers

I lived on Frederick Street in the early 90's, not far from the now-trendy Inner Sunset, which back then just Just a Neighborhood and not a thing real estate agents put on flyers.  It was just regular stuff.  Still a great neighborhood, just relatively undiscovered, I guess.

One place that didn't want to be discovered was The Embers, a depressing and frightening dive bar at 627 Irving, between 7th and 8th.  The Embers was a small dark room with the usual dive bar accoutrements, like old guys chainsmoking in front of Bud bottles and a surly (at least that's how I remember him) bartender.  You can still get all that stuff today if you know where to look.  But the Embers had one terrifying feature that other dive bars lacked: the walls were covered in pictures of CLOWNS. AAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!

It's surprisingly difficult to find pictures of this haunting decor online.  Of course I was young and stupid and it never occurred to me to take pictures.  Back then, taking pictures required carrying a camera around with you, so it wasn't as convenient.  Also, parking was easier.  Anyway.  Luckily, I found some pics on, and hopefully the owner of doesn't get mad at me for using them here.

You can get kind of a sense of what was going on from these pictures, but it doesn't really convey the full horror of walls covered in clown pictures.  It was really something.

Jack Boulware wrote a great piece on the bar for SF Weekly:
Neither clowns nor smokes have ruined business for the Embers, which Jack has operated since 1969 at its present Irving Street location, and run in other Geary Boulevard incarnations since 1955. The clown motif began with Jack's wife, who installed four clown pictures originally to fill up a blank wall of the joint. Customers latched onto the idea and kept bringing in more and more clown artifacts, many from all over the world, until today the bar is literally packed with clown images.
"Some girl brought me in one last week," says Jack, a spry 70-year-old in blue striped sport shirt and khakis.

The Embers sadly passed in 1996.  Now it's Pluto's, some kind of faux health food place I think?  I went there once and couldn't figure it out.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Is Mission Park Over?

It's a different Mission Park these days, and Olu knows it.

"Yeah, it's different," says the medium-term neighborhood resident. "These kids moving in.  With the skateboards.  And their apps."  His eyes narrow.  "And all the laundry services."

Mission Park is a vibrant, free-spirited neighborhood we created as a joke on Twitter.  It encompasses some of San Francisco's most sought-after territory, from the J-Church stop at Dolores and 20th to that bougie coffee place around the corner from Duc Loi.

"Fucking seven dollars for a fucking waffle," Olu notes.

He can remember when Mission Park was a different place.  "There was a different guy who sat at the corner at the 500, I think," he recalls.  "Don't know what happened to him.  Maybe he died."

Map courtesy of Burrito Justice, who whips these things out like you wouldn't believe

Like it has in the rest of this churning, pulsing city caught up in a new gold rush where the gold is Internet things and not gold, change has found Mission Park.  And not all residents think it's for the better.

"Look, I know that change is inevitable," said Stephen, a medium-term Mission Park local. "But I would appreciate it if the neighborhood would be more the way I like it and less the way other people like it."  He's got no time for dog-walking apps.  "I walk my dog eight times a day just fine on my own, and I don't need any app for that."

Others, like TK, who doesn't live in Mission Park but likes to visit there, take a more measured view.  "The fuck do I care?" he said on a recent sunny afternoon.  "I don't live there.  Not my fucking problem."

Still, there are parts of Mission Park that will never change, new faces or not.  "There are still a lot of human feces on this street," says Stephen.  The heart of Mission Park beats on.


Since this post was originally written, Mission Park has changed once again.  It's growing, and not everyone is happy about it.

"I'm not happy about it," said Olu.

The new new Mission Park. Coming to your block soon.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Why was the second season of Serial such a dud?

Remember how the first season of Serial took everyone by storm? (Well, by "everyone" I mean the kind of everyone who downloads podcasts and reads blogs like this and probably talks about going to New York a lot.)  Remember when all we could talk about was the Nisha call and Mail Kimp?  Heady days.  Even Adnan got in on the action and got himself a new hearing!  Man, if Season 1 was so good, imagine how good Season 2 was gonna be!

WRONG.  Season 2 flopped.  It was the story of Bowe Bergdahl, a US Army soldier who left his base in Afghanistan and was captured by the Taliban and then exchanged for some Guantanamo guys and that made everyone so mad.  Seems like an interesting story, right?  How come it was a big fail when Season 1 was such a hit?  I have some ideas.

1. No mystery

Season 1 was basically a true crime show, and everybody loves Dateline.  There's a murder, and then you think you have it figured out, and then there's a twist, and then there's a payphone at Best Buy or maybe there's not, and now maybe the wrong guy is in jail.  OR IS HE.

In Season 2, on the other hand, a guy walks off a base and gets captured by the Taliban and grievously abused for years and then freed.  It's a compelling story, but there's no mystery.  One of the Taliban doesn't whip off his mask at the end and OH MY GOD IT'S JEFF THAT GUY HE BULLIED IN HIGH SCHOOL!!!!  There are still questions about why Bowe did what he did but it's just fundamentally not as interesting.  We want to know if Colonel Mustard used the lead pipe in the conservatory, not whether Colonel Mustard was internally conflicted about killing Mr. Boddy .

2. Format too unpredictable

Season 1 was released one episode at a time, once a week.  It was nice and predictable, like TV shows or happy hour.  Season 2 started off the same - one episode, roughly the same time every week.  Then suddenly one week here's Sarah Koenig telling us "Oh, whoops, never mind, it's only going to be every other week."  Then one week, "Surprise!  Here's two episodes."  Then none the next week.  Or something.  It killed whatever momentum the show had.  Remember when "Lost" would disappear for a few weeks, then come back for one episode, then vanish for a month, then three more episodes?  Not a model you want to emulate.

3. Too far removed from general experience

Season 1 was relatable because basically everyone's been to high school and everyone's had a high school love and everyone knew some weirdos in high school who might could kill someone.  But in Todays' America, and ESPECIALLY amongst the target demo of Serial, almost no one has been in the Army or been to Afghanistan.  So it's much harder to put yourself in the main character's shoes.

Hopefully they bounce back and get their footing back next season because it can be pretty good when it's done right.