Spots Unknown

Zoom Around a Leveled San Francisco

Leveled San Francisco, 1906

I just spent way too much time immersed in this post-earthquake-and-fire aerial photo of SF. You will too.

Photographed by George R. Lawrence with a kite a few weeks after the disaster:

It is a 160-degree panorama from a kite taken 2000 feet (600 m) in the air above the San Francisco Bay that showed the entire city on a single 17-by-48-inch contact print made from a single piece of film. Each print sold for $125 and Lawrence made at least $15,000 in sales from this one photograph. The camera used in this photograph weighed 49 pounds (22 kg) and used a celluloid-film plate.

This is #cappstreet on Instagram

Capp Street, San Francisco, on Instagram

Coming to Instagram as late as I have, I was shocked to find that there was zero Capp Street coverage. No longer!

There are reasons for healthy fear of Capp, but there is also beauty if you bother to look. So come on, have a look. And post pics. I'll repost nice ones @SpotsUnknown.

Horatio’s Legacy

Horatio Jackson invented the Great American Road Trip in San Francisco in 1903.

1903 was a big year. The Wright Brothers invented the first powered airplane. The first transatlantic telegraph cable was laid. The first wireless radio signals were transmitted across the Atlantic.

These were all advances that allowed humans to defeat distance. But as if these weren't sufficient, 1903 was also the year that a man in San Francisco took a bet, and invented the Great American Road Trip.

The "horseless carriage" had yet to convince anyone that it was anything more than a passing fad. And the $50 wager that Horatio Jackson couldn't drive one from SF to New York was sound, since there were no gas stations, no 7-Elevens, and no paved roads.

But he made it. Ken Burns did a documentary about it in 2003.

I discovered HJ's awesome ride while researching a new project that I plan to begin this summer. Stay tuned for more details.

Urban Tree to Bicycle

Bill Holloway and Mauro Hernandez, of Masterworks Woodworking, salvage condemned city trees, then build beautiful bicycles out of them. The story of these bikes goes from the felling of a family's guardian tree, through the woodworking process, and finally, the completion of art you can ride.

They're self-taught, and the custom bikes are an offshoot of their larger woodworking and detailing business. Bill is a native San Franciscan, and his family has deep roots here. The dynamic between him and Mauro is a compelling, friendly rivalry.

I fist encountered Bill while shooting him at Bay Area Maker Faire. This time around, it was great getting to know him and his work better, and setting him and Mauro loose to ride their creations in some stunning San Francisco locations. (Watch for the daredevil downhill stuff - these bikes are decidedly NOT made for that kind of terrain!)

Thanks to David Molina for the gripping original soundtrack, and to Chris Marino for his dope cinematography skills.

Someone You Know is a Sex Worker

Adweek is amused that this campaign got over its rejection by CBS (their explanation: "sex worker" is "not a family-friendly term"), and will now be running on MUNI buses instead.

I expect the real amusement will come in the form of cleverly-framed pics with non-industry bystanders.

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:

‘The Best Thing Ever Written About San Francisco’


Image from City by the Blog

Is it the best ever, as claimed by Oscar Lewis in the Forward? Debatable. This essay repeatedly commits the sin of calling it "Frisco." At least it does so self-consciously:

Before the crash and flame, Frisco was beginning to protest at being called anything but San Francisco. Yet Frisco clung, it held some winking, sly hint of frisky. Even the great black headlines over the evil news used the diminutive abbreviation like a touch of light in the cloud, a sort of fresh, smiling rose on the pall, speaking of resurrection.

Additionally, it was apparently penned by someone who'd never been to SF. It's still an amazing piece of writing. So there. Read it all after the jump...

Happy Quake Day – Shaken and Stirred

Exactly 105 years ago, the earth shook. Yeah, kind of like that. (Well, not really like that.)

But thanks, San Andreas Fault, for pitching in to help us all celebrate the Big One! We feel you really care.

Happy Quake Day: The Mint

Is that guy in the bowler hat checking his iPhone?

Image courtesy US Library of Congress.

Anchor Steam, Michael Jackson, and Weed

Anchor Steam, Michael Jackson, and Weed

I finally took the Anchor Brewery tour. Pretty sweet.

We were told that due to our small group, we were being given special access. True? I've no idea. But they did allow us to get right up to the big tanks where they make the yeast. Here's some video of the inside...

And here is some random suds coming out of random steampunk valves on the wall...

As for the Michael Jackson thing, the cagey little tour guide assured us it was not THAT Michael Jackson.

But then, she also said it was against Anchor policy to admit that hops are related to weed. I didn't ask because I wanted to smoke some, or even graft hops and cannabis together; I was just curious after hearing it mentioned on Food Network.

In any case, it looks like the recent sale of the brewery isn't affecting its size or business model, and so it remains an impressive feat that they crank out all of their product from that single location.

Original Video

Spots Unknown videos provide an interpretive, off-angle perspective on their subjects. Delivered in web-sized bits, stylized but accessible, sometimes informative, always fun.

I'm constantly looking for characters and places to profile in video. If you know of something cool, please contact me. I also do video production for hire.

About

Booms have gone bust, and busts have faded, leaving behind San Francisco's most whipped lovers who cannot quit her. It feels almost obvious after 15 years of living here to talk about how SF has so many "secrets." Ways to transgress boundaries, make discoveries, be naughty, get inspired. But the truth is, it's all true. And I've finally come to accept that no matter how much I flirt with the danger of a cliched San Francisco - "varied" "beautiful" "surprising" "ever-changing" - she simply turns a wind-burned cheek, retreats a touch into the mist, and tells me another story. And I keep falling for her little game.

My name's Jeff. I tell stories in video and words. I once produced a podcast called The RU Sirius Show, and published a little blog called 10 Zen Monkeys. Way back in the day I edited one of the web's very first magazines, GettingIt.com.

Got a tip? Want to hire me? Give me a holler!

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