Is this the only Super Mario Bros. street art in San Francisco?

April 11, 2016

Mario street art

On the side of The Willows, a bar at the corner of Folsom and 12th Street, there’s a mural featuring Nintendo’s Super Mario Bros. Which is nice and all, but it raises an obvious question: is this the only Super Mario Bros. street art in all of San Francisco?

This development seems especially surprising given that Europe’s version of San Francisco has an obsession with Super Mario Bros. that’s reflected in both their street art and names of businesses.

If we want our street art scene to be competitive with Lisbon’s, we have a lot of catching up to do. If we work together and we work hard, we can address this important citywide issue.

UPDATE: We have an answer!

Enormous white rabbits at City Hall

April 9, 2016

Go ask Alice... Go ask Alice... Go ask Alice... Go ask Alice...

And if you go chasing rabbits
And you know you’re going to fall
Tell ‘em a hookah-smoking caterpillar
Has given you the call
Call Alice
When she was just small

Why Muni charging more for riders paying cash is NOT an outrage

April 7, 2016

Need I say more?

 
SF Muni tokens

It’s everywhere you want to be

March 6, 2016

Spotted in a storefront on 20th Street.

fnnch takes to the seas

Fnnch street art

Fnnch street art Fnnch street art

Local street artist fnnch has plunged the former T-Mobile store at 20th and Mission under the sea. The 20th Street side of the building is now covered in a series of orange squid, with the Mission side getting a spattering of yellow starfish. If the starfish look familiar, you’ve probably been by Ritual recently, where two similar starfish can bee seen on the sidewalk by the nautically-themed parklet.

Of course all of these homages to the sea are a little out of place in the Mission, since the actual sea is only a couple neighborhoods away in almost any direction.

Murals of Osage Alley

February 15, 2016

One of the few places to find actual underground murals in the Mission these days — in other words the kind explicitly not approved by some shady collective — is Osage Alley. Instead of stale and increasingly contrived attempts at political statements, at Osage Alley you’ll mostly find the funky old school and copyright-agnostic murals that the Mission was once known for.

The murals on this two and a half block long alley change frequently. For some of the previous art, check out the images on Google Street View.

Osage Alley murals Osage Alley murals Osage Alley murals Osage Alley murals

What was “The Latitude”? Part Two

January 13, 2016

In the previous entry I discussed The Latitude’s Book One experience. We’ve already met Professor Kinley, been scolded by Quas, and joined The Latitude Society. This post concerns the second and final experience in The Latitude before it closed.

Unlike the first part where your ascendant paid your way in, you had to buy Book Two on your own. When I went the cost was $35.

 

Book Two

When scheduling Book 2 you were told to ask a question, though it was noted that no answer would be provided. Mine was “How do I know this isn’t all a dream?” Once again you made an appointment at an address in the Mission District with a five minute window. You head to the address and once there, you text a certain phone number with the ID code on the back of your white invite card. Suddenly the door buzzes open and you enter.

From the entrance hall you head upstairs to find the suite number you’ve been provided via text message. Again, you find a door with a card key entry system. You swipe your card and push the door open.

Inside is a small room. On the floor there’s a big pedestal in the middle with a bust of Quas on top. A hidden projector above you is projecting a video of a mouth on the bust.

On the ground there’s two black orbs suspended on stilts in front of you, and on both sides there’s v-shaped boards on the floor holding back a thick layer of sand on either side.

Quas immediately starts talking to you. He mumbles a lot and you’re not quite sure what he’s saying except that he seems grumpy. He tells you to put your hands on the orbs so he can learn more about you.

As soon as you do that, the lighting gets brighter. Quas becomes very animated and tells you that he has some kind of adventure for you to complete. He stops talking and the lights fade out in the room. A sound effect plays as a small opening in the pedestal lights up. You walk up to it and see a small magic wand lying in black sand.

Instinctively you pick up the magic wand. It’s a plastic cylinder with an area carved out on one end with some symbols carved into it. The symbols seem to correspond with the logos for The Latitude’s “books.” One end is rounded and the other end is flat.

You leave the building and get another text message.

 

BART Ride

The text message indicates that in about 45 minutes you have an appointment downtown at something called the “Alluvium Chamber.” The instructions say to take BART and link you to a podcast called a “Mantis Track” which you should listen to on the way there.

The podcast is similar in format to an All Things Considered interview, and the subject of the episode is a woman who claims to perform some type of magic. She says she uses a device that sounds strangely familiar to your new magic wand. She refers to it as an “Abraxis Stone.”

She goes on to describe BART as a “third space” where it’s neither work nor home but something in between, a place anything can happen. Like a public park.

As the interview continues she describes what she calls the “shoe game.” The game works like this: as you’re in the train station and on the train, look at the shoes that other people are wearing. Those wearing formal, uncomfortable shoes are likely on the way to work and thus in a state she calls “Prime.”

After getting off BART and mulling around for a bit, you enter the building. It’s a historic downtown high rise with a small but beautiful lobby and rickety old elevators. As the text message suggests, you simply tell the doorman you have an appointment at a certain suite number.

 

Alluvium Chamber

The floor you end up on has a very film noir feel to it. You find the door, which is clearly labeled “The Latitude Society.” There’s a hexagon on the frosted glass door. You hold the curved end of your Abraxis Stone up to it, and the door clicks open.

Inside you step on to a small series of planks just inside the door, which are rested on a thick layer of sand which covers the floor of the entire room.

 

I want to step back for a minute here: this is the fourth commercial space that Nonchalance has rented for this incredible project. This one’s got to be expensive because it’s in such a nice location downtown, and they’ve covered the entire floor of an office in sand.

Bold? Crazy? Insane? It’s a difficult call.

 

Standing on the planks, on your left is a framed photo of a naked footprint in sand. On your right there’s a canvas sail functioning as a curtain, and a wood box with shoe prints painted inside.

So you abide the suggestion and take your shoes off and put them in the box.

You walk into the sand and take a look around. In the middle of the room is a hexagonal table with a sandbox built in to the top. Near the entrance is another set of doors that’s locked. On all other sides of the room there’s various toys and knick-knacks on various shelves. The lighting is very playful with different colors fading in and out.

But in the corner facing the entry is another book. You head to the book and open it.

First, the book tells you to take the hourglass in front of you and flip it over. You do that.

Then, the book tells you that you have the next 30 minutes or so to find items in the room and arrange them in the sandbox however you see fit. The book instructs you to come back and turn the page once you hear a foghorn.

You walk around the room, find some objects that you like, and arrange them in the sandbox. You may move the sand around here and there, and add and remove objects. Perhaps the plastic dinosaurs would look better than the LEGO bricks? Try whatever you like.

Finally the foghorn blows, and you head back to the book and turn the page.

Now it’s time to make some decisions, the book says, and you have a couple more minutes to arrange things how you like.

So you go back and move some things around. Maybe the crystal ball would make a good centerpiece? Or should you try to squeeze the plastic flowers in somehow? It’s up to you.

After another 10 minutes the foghorn goes off again and you check back in with the book, turning the page again.

Now the book tells you it’s time to put everything back where you found it like a responsible adult, and take the brush and make the sandbox nice and level again. So you heed the book, destroying your creation and setting everything up for the next person. On the way out you turn the book back to the first page, put your shoes back on, and leave the building.

 

When you get back to your “glowing boxes” you open The Latitude website. Now Professor Kinley had some updates for you on his sea voyage. He explains to you in an exposition-heavy monologue about the concepts of Flux, Flow, and Prime. According to him, Prime is the every day state we’re in for our job, taking care of our families, etc. Flow is the psychological concept of the same name, also known as being “in the zone.” Finally, Flux is the state that bridges the two. Presumably the “Flux chamber” back in Book One was intended to jar you into the state of Flux, although this is never explicitly stated.

 

Additionally, there’s a new symbol under your profile indicating that you’ve completed Book Two. Clicking it leads to a second recap page (link goes to the new public version) which mentions your question but doesn’t answer it.

Unbeknownst to you there were several hidden cameras in the Alluvium Chamber’s sandbox snapping random photos along the way. These images appeared on your private Book 2 recap page, which is no longer online. If you hadn’t saved these photos you’re out of luck.

I accidentally blocked the view of most of the cameras, but it managed to pick up two images of me playing in the sand. Click for larger versions of the images:

Next time: some thoughts on The Latitude, Nonchalance, and some inevitable comparisons to The Jejune Institute. I’ll also detail the “society” aspect of The Latitude Society and various other trivia that didn’t fit into the first two posts.

What was “The Latitude”? Part One

January 6, 2016

Much has been written on the web about the closure of San Francisco’s The Latitude. But what was it, exactly?

Now that it’s over I’ll be posting a series on this blog that will include major spoilers for those who missed out. While I was sworn to secrecy at the time, I want to stress that these secrets had an expiration date. Yes, the website still claims that The Latitude is “temporarily closed,” but given the fact that they’ve posted an epilogue and started selling various pieces on eBay, the closure is clearly permanent.

Additionally, I recently confirmed with the creator of The Latitude via email that posting a walkthrough online would fine.

That said I’ve been informed that a third party now has a lease on some of the space(s?) and may be running The Latitude under another name and format. So if you want to avoid potential spoilers for this new endeavor, stop reading now.

For my part I was invited to The Latitude by a local artist — my “ascendant” in Latitude lingo — and I only experienced the final two and a half months of what was a multi-year endeavor. There were parts that I won’t cover because I never directly experienced them; some of this is documented in the official epilogue.

So, what exactly was The Latitude? Let’s start at the beginning of the experience.

 

The Invitation

A friend asks if you can keep a secret. You answer in the affirmative. They hand you a small black envelope with the words “Absolute Discretion” embossed in it. Inside is an all white credit card, the numbers printed on the front all zeros. On the back is a secret password just for you, along with instructions to visit thelatitude.com and enter your secret code.

Upon entering the website, you’re asked to schedule a visit to a certain Mission District address. You’re told that you only have a five minute window to enter after your scheduled time, and that your goal is to retrieve “the signal.”

 

Your Appointment

Eventually it’s time for your appointment. At that address is a door next to a small card swipe entry system. The card reader has The Latitude’s hexagonal logo printed on it so you know you’ve come to the right place. You swipe your card and push the door open.

Behind the door is a black curtain. After pulling back the black curtain, you’re greeted by this:

There’s a pleasant smell in the air. The two red lights on the walls are fading in and out, timed to a sound effect making a somewhat ominous “VOOM… VOOM…” sound effect.

Most curious is what’s inside the mantle in front of you. Where you might expect to find a fireplace is the entrance to wooden slide. It curves in the middle so you can’t see where it’s heading.

This is the entry to the “Flux Chamber.” Seeing no sense in turning back now, you decide to take the plunge and go down the slide.

 

Reality?

Let me stop for a moment and interject. Yes, everything I’m telling you really happened. In real life. It was part of a now-defunct project by a situational design studio called Nonchalance. If that name rings a bell it’s because it’s the same studio that was behind The Jejune Institute, which was also known as “Games of Nonchalance.”

At the end of The Institute, a pseudo-documentary film about The Jejune Institute, The Latitude’s URL and logo appear briefly on the screen.

I was one of the 250 or so attendees at the Socio-Rengineering Seminar in 2011, an event that officially marked the end of The Jejune Institute. After the seminar someone asked Nonchalance’s Jeff Hull the obvious question: what’s next? I don’t remember his exact words, but he sort of hesitated before answering that he was working on an “automated house.”

Back to that slide.

 

Down The Rabbit Hole

The slide curves down and around slowly taking you to a small basement room. On the right is a ticket window with frosted glass with a mannequin behind it. On the left there’s three doors, each with a small tablet computer next to it. And directly in front of you is another tablet, making a pinging sound and flashing a red oval.

Next to the tablet is a ticket sticking out of a slot. You take the claim ticket, which tells you to open the cabinet next to you. Inside the cabinet is a set of instructions: take your purse, backpack, and everything in your pockets and place them in the box inside the cabinet. A strange request (what is this, the TSA?) but as you’ll see next it’s for your own safety.

Now one of the tablets next to the three doors starts pinging and flashing. Sure enough, the door is unlocked. You open it and walk in, only to find (what else?) another curtain. So you close the door, walk behind the curtain and discover infinite blackness.

It’s completely dark.

 

You start patting the walls, feeling your way around. Everything is covered in a thick layer of carpet. As you move around through the darkness, the passageway gets smaller and smaller. You hear faint music playing. The tunnel becomes so small that you’re crawling around on your hands and knees, having flashbacks to your elementary school trip to the Tactile Dome at the Exploratorium.

Eventually you see a light at the end of the tunnel, obscured by another black curtain. Upon crawling inside this new space is a library of sorts, a small room where the walls are lined with books.

You sit down on the single cushion in the middle of the room and face a small podium. On the podium is a large book. You open it, flip through a couple of pages, and suddenly the book starts “reading itself” to you.

A hidden projector above displays an animation on the book and a woman’s voice reads you a story called “The Fable”. The story concerns a city that decided to fence itself off from the outside world, and a group of twelve citizens who made a tunnel through the wall for themselves.

After the fable you crawl out another opening opposite from where you came in. Now you’re in a lounge area with black leather sofas. Across from the sofas is a bar with several glasses along with a pitcher of water. You might chose to help yourself to a sip of water. But before doing so, you look at your ticket which instructs you to make a phone call.

The lounge — you’ll later come to find it’s known as the Rathskeller Lounge — has what looks like a typical 1980′s office phone but it only has one button where the keypad should be. You pick up the handset and push the button. A voice tells you what to do next. So you walk over to the cubbies next to the bar and open the one corresponding to the number on your claim ticket. Inside your belongings are there as promised. You take them and walk upstairs and exit the building.

There’s a small metal plaque embedded in the sidewalk just outside the front gate. It has four numbers on it. They’re the last four digits of a phone number written on the back of the claim ticket. You call the number and get instructions on where to go next, which is a couple blocks away. Once you’re there you find another hexagonal plaque in the sidewalk. You call the number from earlier with a new code and another recording tells you where to go once again.

Depending on the time of day you’ll either be sent to one of two bars, The Sycamore or Gestalt. Either way you give your claim ticket to the bartender who then hands you a special coin. You’ll later come to find that this coin is pronounced “kwan.” A text message tells you to head to another address in The Mission.

After walking a couple blocks you find the address, enter the door code (provided by another text message) and walk up a flight of stairs to find a second key card entry sporting The Latitude’s logo.

 

Den Arcadia

You swipe your card and walk into a small room with trippy lighting and beautiful murals on the walls. In the middle of the room there’s four old school arcade games. This room is known as “Den Arcadia.” One of the arcade machines — Atari’s Tempest — has an unusual looking coin slot which accepts your special coin.

You put in the coin and start playing the game. The game of Tempest plays normally at first, but after a moment the game glitches out and a mysterious blue face appears.

This figure is named Quas (also spelled Kwas or many other variations) a human mouth with rabbit-like ears, who speaks in a gruff robotic voice. He offers some vaguely scolding words before telling you the signal, then warns you to leave and go home to your “glowing boxes” to enter the code.

 

Glowing Boxes

Once you’re home at your computer you visit the website, enter the code (and have to wait 90 minutes for some reason) before you’re presented with a video from Professor Walter Kinley. In the video Kinley welcomes you as a “compeer” into The Latitude Society. Then in a montage he leaves his room at the Hyatt Regency, gets on a boat, and sails away.

From there you’re asked to come up with a moniker (or username) for yourself before entering a social network of sorts. The website had a dizzying array of options, including an online forum, a store where you could purchase merchandise, a calendar with meetings you could attend, and various small activities called “Jaunts.”

More photos and the video mentioned above can bee seen on the now publicly available Book One recap page.
 

Stay tuned for next time, where I’ll discuss “Book Two” of The Latitude.

There, I fixed it

January 4, 2016

Fixed it!
 

“Delores”? No, a red underline should appear when you type that out. It’s spelled “Dolores” with only one “e.”

This is why we need spell check in real life, so I’ve taken care of fixing that for you.

You’re welcome.

Amos Goldbaum’s Clinton St. murals

January 2, 2016

Amos Goldbaum's Clinton Park murals

Amos Goldbaum's Clinton Park murals

You know that guy who sells t-shirts with line drawings on the street in the Mission? That’s local artist Amos Goldbaum, who recently did the murals seen above (click for larger) on Clinton Street.

The murals are similar in style and color to his shirts, though the larger of the two also contains bright swirls of color in what appears to be depicting a process of creating artistic homemade goods. The larger mural appears to be a tribute to a family member who recently passed away.

If you want to see these in person you’ll find them at Clinton and Valencia, between Burma Love and the Greek church.