Category Archives: Video

The Often-Missed Beauty of Graffiti Tags

Even folks who think of themselves as open-minded urbanoids who can appreciate a good “mural” – unlike these wankers – will often mutter about tags as being mere marking of territory – simple, unimaginative, unskilled fuck-you-ism.

The above visualization of the motion of tagging, however, seems to challenge this notion. Anyone who’s ever paid attention to the kids on Muni as they swipe their markers and fill the bus with dizzying fumes has had a chance to see this, on some level. And yet most cannot get past the criminality (or the smell).

Now they can. (There is, of course, an iPhone app.)

1983 Snowy Winter Scene from a Tokyo Neighborhood

I spent Christmas this year with my fiance’s family in Southampton, PA. Her dad pulled out a DVD of some footage he took on one of the earliest VHS vidcams (a Hitachi) that chronicled a trip around Japan in 1983 when they lived there. This clip is from the small neighborhood in Tokyo – Hatsudai – where they were living.

The 27-year-old footage of snowman-building kids, lanterns, tight quarters, and a thick collection of snow, really evoke the feeling of Winter and Christmas for me. I also love the ambient sound.

Below is the same street today with images grabbed off Google Streetview:

(Thanks, Bob!)

Blackie the Wonder Horse Swims the San Francisco Bay


Why on God’s green earth did anyone dream up this 1938 stunt? To quote the narrator, “Your guess is as good as mine.”

This poor horse chased a handful of sugar and towed a fat, useless human named “Shorty Roberts,” as it swam the Golden Gate just to settle a bet about whether horses can swim:

The swim took 23 minutes and 15 seconds—an hour less than it had taken an Olympic swimmer. When Blackie and Shorty arrived in SF, the SPCA was waiting, but admitted that Shorty looked much worse than the horse and didn’t cite him. Shorty always insisted that the horse loved swimming in the bay.

Sure he did, and why not?

(Spotted@)

Recommended book: Historic Photos of San Francisco

Film of Japanese Americans in San Francisco, circa 1920

The black and white footage at the beginning of this video, grabbed from the Square America blog, shows some dapper Japanese-American immigrants in the 1920s in San Francisco. Especially dignified given the open historical discrimination against them, even before the internment atrocities of WWII.

Be sure to check out this poignant 1942 timeline from the SF Chronicle of the history of the Japanese American community in SF, which ends with the last of 5,280 people being “evacuated” out of the city.

Last night Japanese town was empty. Its stores were vacant, its windows plastered with “To Lease” signs. There were no guests in its hotels, no diners nibbling on sukiyaki or tempura. And last night, too, there were no Japanese with their ever present cameras and sketch books, no Japanese with their newly acquired furtive, frightened looks…

They left San Francisco by the hundreds all through last January and February, seeking new homes and new jobs in the East and Midwest. In March, the Army and the Wartime Civil Control Administration took over with a new humane policy of evacuation to assembly and relocation centers where both the country and the Japanese could be given protection. The first evacuation under the WCCA came during the first week in April, when hundreds of Japanese were taken to the assembly center at Santa Anita. On April 25 and 26, and on May 6 and 7, additional thousands were taken to the Tanforan Center. These three evacuations had cleared half of San Francisco. The rest were cleared yesterday.

I wonder what became of the hopeful, posing folks in the above film clip during this era. (I presume the second, color portion of the clip means they managed to stay together, even if they had to move to Chicago.)

Great Video Profile of a Cable Car Operator, Carpenter, and Mechanic

The fantastic footage (with ambient-only sound) and trivia, combined with an infusion of pride for San Francisco’s past and present, make this segment, called simply, “Cable Cars,” a great way to spend 5 minutes of computer time. Along the way, you’ll meet: Ken Lunardi, operator; Norm Feyling, mechanic; and Bob Harris, carpenter.

Produced by Greg Burk for SFGTV‘s award-wining magazine series “City In Focus.”

Related book: Historic Photos of San Francisco
From Amazon
From Powell’s

Aerial Video Footage of San Francisco Taken from an RC Helicopter

Aerial video – San Francisco from Jason Lam on Vimeo.

With the ability to fly super close to the ground and surrounding objects, this really does provide a unique feel, like a free-floating crane or steady-cam. Pretty hot.

Jason Lam makes these videos for a company called SkyShutter, using “a camera equipped with ‘gyro-stabilized remote-controlled gimbals,’ along with a live streaming video connection.”

I just wish they’d put a camera on this guy’s helicopter!

Film of Steam Locomotives on the Embarcadero, San Francisco, circa 1920s-30s

Came across this file randomly while browsing the Prelinger Archive, which I haven’t done in a while. The footage of longshoremen jockeying cargo on and off ships is a swift check on romanticism and a concrete reminder that, even long ago, industry on a mass scale was what drove almost all of our activity.

I logged a few of the bits that really stood out to me:

  • 3:00 – Steam locomotives navigating Market Street, and cruising along the Embarcardero.
  • 5:00 – Cool aerial footage; Ferry Building with street cars on a circular track in front and a heavy rail locomotive waiting (loading?) on the left; Golden Gate Ferries.
  • 6:50 – I believe this is a quick shot of Dolores Street.
  • 7:40 – Funky, animated relief maps of the area and trade routes, points of interest.
  • 8:55 – Aerial footage of downtown, City Hall and Golden Gate Park.
  • 10:45 – Aerial of the western side of the city; Golden Gate Park, including the bandshell area.

Related book: Historic Photos of San Francisco
From Amazon
From Powell’s

Fantastic 1958 Film Footage of San Francisco

San Francisco 1958 from Jeff Altman on Vimeo.

A film colorist at a local Chicago production house inherited a bunch of 16mm Kodachrome film shot in the late ’50s by his grandparents.

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Cars driving down Lombard Street. The silhouette of the guy smoking the cigar in the window is classic. I also like the moody accompanying music.

UPDATE: A commenter at Boing Boing informs that the song is “Alone in Kyoto” by Air.

Related book: Historic Photos of San Francisco
From Amazon
From Powell’s