Spots Unknown

Gonzo Road Trip Rally

Inspired by my 51-day trip last summer across Central Asia by car, I've committed to an automobile adventure this year to the center of the US.

It's marked by a plaque on a pedestal, built by the National Geodetic Survey. It is near a town called Lebanon. In Kansas. The plaque reads:

LAT. 39°50' LONG. 98°35'
NE 1/4 - SE 1/4 - S32 - T2S - R11W
Located by L.T. Hagadorn of Paulette & Wilson - Engineers and L.A. Beardslee - County Engineer. From data furnished by U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey.
Sponsored by Lebanon Hub Club. Lebanon, Kansas. April 25, 1940.

Several other teams, each starting in different parts of the country, will meet up with me and my wife on July 6th in Kansas to drink whiskies and swap stories, after visiting a list of required waypoints plus making a few discoveries of our own.

Follow us in real time, and join the trip by seeing it through our eyes in video and photos, which we'll upload as we make.

As with any great adventure, the destination is just one more point, the last one. But the points that come before, and how you get to them, make up the fertile lands of serendipity and breakdowns, thirst and charity, unreachable horizons and a thousand tiny triumphs.

So we'll not stick to the highways, but zig and zag as much as possible, searching for the treasures that usually whiz past in a blur on the way to the next gas station. And on July 4th, we'll be in some random town near the middle of America. And why not?

Wish us luck!

The Road to Mongolia

Here are a few shots I've kept from the trip so far.

We have a Spot GPS strictly for tracking our progress and gathering data about our trip, but we navigating the old fashioned way - with bad maps and lots of u-turns.

You can follow us at the blog, or on Facebook.

For access to all of my photos and videos, friend me. (I'm posting primarily to FB for now to save on redundant uploading.)

Things will only get weirder from here.

San Francisco to Mongolia – a Road Trip

So, this is happening, folks. I leave on Monday.

As if the site wasn't quiet enough recently, I'm leaving Monday for a road trip from London across Central Asia without GPS navigation.

You can follow our progress (or lack thereof) as we bring irony to such countries as Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and yes, Mongolia, here:

Rally Team America

Also, the Facebook page.

This is a 10,000-mile trip for charity, so if you'd like to donate to the cause, you'll find prominent links in both places, especially the blog.

Believe it or not, there are about 5 other teams from the Bay Area participating in the Mongol Rally this year, so we hope to meet up with them along the way.

If anyone out there has ever been to this part of the world and would like to drop some knowledge on someone who's never been to Asia, please do so. And watch for media of the adventure shortly after my return in early to mid-September.

Here's a silly little video we put together to psych ourselves up:

This Woman Dares You to Give Her an Orgasm

The woman who runs a live-in sexual meditation commune, One Taste Urban Retreat Center, here in San Francisco, gave a talk at TEDxSF. The best part of the video are the reaction shots of the women in the audience is where she tells the origin story of her program. She meets a dude at a party, he invites her to take her pants off, she does, then he shines a light between her legs and describes her vagina's various textures and colors. This causes her to cry and changes her forever. In itself, not shocking by SF standards. You get the impression that the weird parts of the story are left tucked between the lines.

The New York Times did a long profile a while back, part of which tells of her father, who shortly before her "awakening," had died of cancer while serving a prison sentence for molesting a couple of young girls.

Yelp reviews for One Taste are mostly glowing, but the bad ones really stick out:

Having spoken in depth about their business plan with their CEO (which gives me an insight few others have), I can tell you for certain the aim is to encourage lonely horny men to part with considerable sums of money, whilst cloaking it all in a New Age aura of raising self-awareness through intimate (read: sexual) contact.

The final sentence in her TEDx talk is meant to paraphrase the Dalai Lama: "It will be turned-on women and those who dare to stroke us who will change the world."

Time Lapse of Colossus Assembly at Maker Faire Bay Area

Photo by Matt Richardson

I'm proud to have been on one of three teams shooting over 100 of the best projects at this year's Maker Faire. The centerpiece was Colossus. This assembly time lapse gives a good feel for its size and presence, but it's not the same as seeing it on-site. Although, standing next to it means you don't get time lapse!

Shot by Nat Wilson-Heckathorn

Free Event: When San Francisco was a Port City

California Historical Society is hosting a panel discussion of pure history porn. (Just look at that not-so-subliminal cover image.) The topic: "how the San Francisco port shaped the city and how the city shaped the port."

Michael Corbett, Tim Kelley, Chris VerPlanck and Jim Delgado (author of “Gold Rush Port” and Chief Marine Archaeologist for NOAA) ... will discuss the port’s role in shaping urban form as well as influencing its social and labor history. Through landfill, wharfs, seawalls and pier buildings, the port changed San Francisco’s physical form while serving as a conduit for the movement of goods and people into and out of the city since the 1850’s. Businesses located their offices near the port to house management while workers labored at the wharf loading and unloading goods from ships, driving the city’s economy and underpinning its civic life.

I'll be there. Come out and say hi, and bring all the Freudian references you can gather.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Port City Book Launch, Panel Discussion and Reception
California Historical Society

Space is limited. Please RSVP to 415.357.1848, ext. 233 or

Walking Tour of North Beach – Including Pizza

Gianni Mola has been hard at work extending his outreach beyond the online cooking show I've helped him produce. He's done some live demos, and now, he's doing walking tours of North Beach.

For 90 minutes, he guides folks around the heart of North Beach, telling the culinary story of his "village." He points out his favorite restaurants, and those with historical influence. He caps it off with a pizza tasting. I might be biased, but trust me, he's a fantastic guide.

He's offering a 25% discount off the normal $12.95 rate, so for under 10 bucks you get a tour and food. The next one is this Saturday, but there are only 15 walkers at a time.

If you're looking for something fun to do this weekend in the nice weather, consider this.

Ongoing tour calendar is here.

Food, Sex, War

Food & Sex, San Francisco

Gianni of Gianni's North Beach reports that local food radio icon, Gene Burns, is pushing the idea of a food war with NYC to settle the issue of culinary superiority once and for all:

He even claimed he once tried to organize a battle, but that NYC declined because they knew they’d lose, for the following reasons:

  • We have great local produce, fish, meats, cheeses, artisan food products and wines.
  • Culinary talent, ethnic diversity, and fabulous food opportunities abound.
  • We’re passionate and serious foodies.

Well, duh.

The panel discussion Burns appeared in was part of the opening of a new food exhibit at the public library.

In the Skylight Room is a collection of ephemera devoted to food and sex. What's more sexy AND appetizing than a mermaid riding a lobster?

Mermaid Riding Lobster, San Francisco

A Jarvis Halloween

San Franciscans love little more than dressing up and acting out. And Daniel Jarvis is there to capture it all on his magic Canon.

Jarvis Halloween, San Francisco

Do Androids Dream of Wall Mounted Art?

Do Androids Dream of Wall Mounted Art? San Francisco

Having questions about whether becoming "transhuman" will feel great or kind of, like, weird? Whether the promise of living forever and morphing into a god is something new when it's presented by science as opposed to superstition?

If so, this new art show probably won't be of any help to you. It assumes that ushering in a post-human intelligence (The Singularity) will absolutely be super awesome for everyone.

Singularity Schwag - Transform & Transcend; San Francisco

You can understand how an immortality cult of rich, powerful nerds has a need to equate science and art in order to make the idea of evolving into a machine feel less apocalyptic. But I fear they're gonna have to do better than this.

For example, I give Google credit for their Droid commercials, especially the one of the miners who discover a floating chunk of ore that converts humans into machines - it's bold and dark and, aside from the presumption that we'll be given a choice about the conversion, doesn't sugar coat the horror that would no doubt accompany the process. You've probably seen it:

I recommend repeated viewings. Pay attention to the storyline here: Open on what looks like earth, at a futuristic strip mine. A group of folks who cannot breathe the atmosphere enter a sci-fi gate, plunge deep into the earth, pass an empty helmet (it isn't like theirs - it looks like that of a current-day military pilot), and finally enter the chamber where the levitating mystery ore somehow leads one brave guy to take off his space suit's sleeve and insert his bare arm into the thing. His arm immediately turns into a machine (with a Verizon-powered Droid phone on the end, naturally).

The best thing about the spot is that it's fucking cool. The tangible sense of menace in the story raises more questions than it answers.

An earlier spot is simpler, and doesn't include choice - in the reflection of a closeup of an eyeball, we see someone is simply browsing online and in the process is converted into a machine:

In contrast, here is the propaganda of the Singularitarian cult in its rawest form:

There are no questions here, just answers. It reeks of desperation and fear - fear that no one else on the planet believes their immortalist vision and, therefore, their own day of Transformation will never come.

Relax, guys. Assuming the Machine Intelligence will take cognizance of us at all when it emerges, I'm sure it can resurrect us from the dead along with all of our relatives who have ever passed on. Take a lesson from your religious cousins - have a little faith. If nothing else, it's more becoming.

Ironically, Google's approach will probably sweeten people up to the notion of surrendering to the Singularity more than the pure propaganda approach will. It seems that the Google hive mind understands irony better than the wanna-be transhumans. Which is truly, epically, cosmically fucking ironic.

I Got Your Civil Sidewalk Right Here

I Got Your Civil Sidewalk Right Here; photo by Holy Mountain Photography
Photo by Flickr user Holy Mountain Photography

Seriously, though. No on L.

Day of the Dead from Last Year

Our boy, Daniel Jarvis, is covering Halloween this year, but this piece he did a year ago should tickle you nonetheless. Stay tuned for his latest...

Huge Ships, Tiny Ships, Polar Bears

San Francisco Maritime National Park

On Thursday, I attended the San Francisco Maritime National Park Association's 60th birthday bash. I'm a new member, and so I'm just beginning to learn about this little gem, and the maritime history of SF.

The park includes that bad-ass ship you see at Hyde Street Pier (in the photo at the bottom of this post), a submarine you can go into, and a museum in the art deco building at Aquatic Park with jaw-dropping ship models and other miniaturizations.

San Francisco Maritime National Park
The inside and outside of the Aquatic Park Bathhouse Building are covered with awesome WPA-era murals and mosaics.

Learn all about the association and the park here.

San Francisco Maritime National Park
Beware: Polar Bears often swim in adjacent Aquatic Park, so if you're sensitive to seeing half-naked old guys who like to maximize "shrinkage," look away - ooh, what a pretty ship!

“Playland at the Beach” Documentary Premier

Playland at the Beach

This now-extinct amusement park at Ocean Beach was established in the 1880s and dismantled in 1972. It has a rich, weird history. Rick Prelinger unveiled some great amateur footage in his latest Lost Landscapes screening in December.

On March 16th, the Balboa Theater will premier a full-length documentary about the park by Tom Wyrsch.

Gone now for more than 3 decades, it remains one of the city’s lost treasures. Go back in time to see Laffing Sal, the Fun House, the Carousel, the Big Dipper, the Diving Bell, Dark Mystery, Limbo, Fun-tier Town, and much, much more, all through the eyes of the people that were there. The first and only documentary ever made about Playland.

Playland Documentary, San Francisco

(Spotted @SF_Explorers)

No Excuses, Kevin Smith

Kevin Smith at Macworld; Photos: Jon Snyder/

The director of Cop Out made a speech or something at Macworld here in San Francisco. I'm no fashionist, but by what natural law is Smith permitted to appear on stage making Heshy Fried look like Johnny Weir?

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SFDPH Warns About Pillow-Fight Eye Injuries

2008 San Francisco Pillow Fight from the Flickr stream of 37 °C

Pillow Fight Eye Injury

We loves us a good pillow fight as much as the next guy, but this press release just sent out by the Department of Public Health suggests they aren't as "soft and fluffy" as they seem. It includes the above nasty photo and cliams:

Hospital records show that 17 individuals with a range of injuries were admitted to the emergency room after last year’s pillow fight in Justin Herman Plaza.

“Folks should be aware of the danger of corneal abrasion, penetrating injuries, and even orbital fractures,” according to [Director of Health Mitchell H. Katz, MD].

While feathers are soft and pillows as a whole don’t tend to injure, a quick scrape of the edge of some fabric can cause serious harm, said Katz. Not to mention the occasional wild swing that results in the collision of a person’s clenched fist with a sensitive region like the eye. We recommend refraining from such public displays of violence, even if they are out of an innocent desire to have fun.

Be safe out there, kids.

UPDATE 2/14/2010: This post is a joke.

James “Da Pimp” O’Keefe Coming to San Francisco?

James "Da Pimp" O'Keefe Coming to San Francisco?

Everyone knows White Pimp is the new Black, and it's ALL GOOD, y'all. Word up.

But seriously, this jive turkey is scheduled to speak at the Commonwealth Club and teach badass mofo media poseurs how to stick it to the man.

However. Since the brotha's out on bail and might be, shall we say, indisposed at the time of the talk, there might be someone else speaking that night.

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Ticket Giveaway Winning Images

Tea Eggs in Chinatown, San Francisco, photo by Erik Wilson, known as Generik11 on Flickr
Erik Wilson, known as Generik11 on Flickr

Footbridge over Stevenson Street, San Francisco, photo by Igor Uriarte, known as 20R3Mun on Flickr
Igor Uriarte, known as 20R3Mun on Flickr

They each get a ticket to Rick Prelinger's Lost Landscapes of San Francisco.

Thanks to everyone who submitted images and helped to get our Flickr pool started with a bang.

If you haven't bought your ticket to the screening yet, hurry up, because they're going fast.

Tokyo Pop Culture Exhibit Coming to Japantown

Tokyo Anime Exhibit Coming to Japantown, San Francisco

New People's Superfrog gallery in Japantown will host an exhibit, "Tokyo Creators Market," that includes cut out artist Mikito Ozeki. Check him out using his Exacto, free-hand, to make pieces out of vinyl records:

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