This teaser for an announced forthcoming documentary tags the TL one of the “sketchiest” in the world city, which kind of irks me the way calling it “colorful” or “crackhead-y” does. Yes, there is a lot of down-and-out going on there, and it’s not the “safest” place in San Francisco.
As the teaser also shows, though, there are bold characters living there. Characters doing shit. Crazy shit? Yes, most of the time. But it’s action-packed, as the folks stuck there try to squeeze some amount of pleasure from their daily circumstances.
UPDATE: Film is screening March 8, 2011, 7 p.m. – Bay Area Women in Film & Media (BAWIFM) Annual Shorts Showcase in celebration of International Women’s Day. Hobart Building, 582 Market St., San Francisco, CA. Get tickets.
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.
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:
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.
1939 was a big year for San Francisco, during which it attempted to convince the world that it had fully recovered from the catastrophes of 1906 and was once again a city to be reckoned with. Completion of the Bay Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge was punctuated with the International Exhibition on Treasure Island.
For one photographer/photojournalist, that year left a lasting impression.
The photographer’s name is Seymour Snaer, and the images were published in 1980 in a book titled, San Francisco 1939: An Intimate Photographic Portrait. Snaer had over 100 rolls of film from that one year, so publisher Bill Owens reprinted select shots from negatives, rescuing them from the bad cropping done by newspapers like the Examiner, who Snaer had worked for.
I’ve Googled around and not found much mention of the man, nor have I seen any of his images. The (used) book is listed on some sites, but none even have the cover image (above).
I’m including just some of the photos (in low-res format taken with my camera), and the captions that go with them. Additionally, I’ve excerpted some text from the body of the book. The writing has a raw feel to it; you can tell it was written by someone who doesn’t write, but really has something to say.
Some of the highlights: Real fishermen using nets in the Bay; Belt and Southern Pacific trains; view from Twin Peaks; Sally Rand’s Nude Ranch (NSFW); ski jumping on Treasure Island; auto polo.
Tip of the hat to Jonathan at Viracocha for gifting the book to me (that was a very kind way to get me to stop bugging you about your fantastic shop).
The above image is from the cover, portraying still and movie photographers capturing President Franklin Roosevelt’s motorcade who came to see the Expo before it opened, in ’38. Snaer writes:
Two of the guys in the bunch were very famous newsreel cameramen in the ’30s, Joe Rucker and Frank Vail. They used hand-crank cameras … I had big bulbs and all of a sudden – a bulb exploded! Secret Servicemen ran all over the place. It really embarrassed me. [p. 24]
The following images and text are all directly from the book. (Keep in mind that when he says “today,” Snaer means 1980.)
Note: I’m pretty sure the copyright, originally reserved by Snaer himself, isn’t being actively enforced, but in case it is, I’m only posting low-res images, and will gladly remove them if a rights-holder contacts me. Check out the photos/text after the jump… Continue reading Photos of San Francisco in 1939→
George Washington the Second beside a bust of his namesake. (I think he looks more like Ben Franklin.) Image courtesy San Francisco Public Library.
His Imperial Majesty, Emperor Norton I, in addition to being the prototype of Frank Chu, is credited with visions of a suspension bridge across the Golden Gate (some suspect this to have been made up by others later) and a tunnel toward Oakland before those ideas were considered sane.
There were other eccentrics who paraded San Francisco’s streets in the 1850s and 60s, but for some reason the only one we still celebrate is Norton. It is a monopoly that he, above all, would have cherished; but just like his attempt to corner the rice market in 1852 which eventually sent him over the rainbow, this monopoly may not last.
UPDATE 3: Confirmed! Another Flickr user has seen the art in Chinatown and uploaded a pic:
UPDATE 4: Commenter Chartno3, who seems to be the owner of the original second Flickr image, gives the location, Grant and Commercial Streets, and here we confirm that it is where claimed (who says I don’t do investigative journalism?):
UPDATE 5: I should be clear. The only thing we’ve “confirmed” is that two pieces have gone up that look like signature Banksy pieces – one in Chinatown and one in the Mission. They could be copycats. One internet commenter suggests Banksy usually signs his pieces. (True or not, it would be just as easy to fake that, so I’m not sure where this leads us.)
While we’re at it, one other question that deserves asking is, were these pieces done (and with or without permission) by some marketing firm as publicity for the film?
An effective title sequence can give a film a lot of good will in the mind of the viewer while the filmmaker tries to establish what’s necessary to draw folks in. If there was an Oscar category for Best Title Sequence (it has been suggested, and was rejected in 1999), “Up in the Air” would have gotten a vote from me, were I a voting member.
The artist Wayne Thiebaud is known for his paintings of “cakes, pastries…and toilets,” but this 1977 interpretation of a mythical intersection at 24th Street and Mariposa, submitted by friend o’ the blog Jacki, is our favorite – for obvious reasons.
“I was playing around with the abstract notions of edge – I was fascinated, living in San Francisco, by the way different streets just came in and then just vanished. So I sat out on a street corner and began to paint them.” It was the “sense of edges appearing, things swooping around their own edges that I loved,” he recounted (Wayne Thiebaud: A Paintings Retrospective, exh. cat., Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, 2000, p. 58).
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).