Review: The Get Rich and Become God Method

July 17, 2020

If you’ve ever spent time in the self-help section of a bookstore, you’ve probably noticed they’re two types of books in the category: specific subjects and general subjects. Specific self-help books might be something about playing the stock market or an introduction to chardonnay tasting. Those are fine, though the audience is going to be fairly limited. On the other hand the general self-help books cover a broad topic anyone might find appealing, the most well known of which is “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” The downside to these general self-help books is they’re so generic you’ve almost certainly heard all of the advice in the book long before you read it. 

The new self-help e-book from internet persona Dril takes the general subject self-help book in a different direction. In The Get Rich and Become God Method you’ll learn… well, nothing really. Or to put it another way, it’s a satire — but also just as effective as the genre it’s mocking.

Before getting into the book I think it’s worth addressing the character writing it. Dril writes with the voice of someone who’s talking down to you, yet has no clue what’s going on. His main concern in life seems to involve getting trolled online, which fills him with an impotent rage. He’s both a grizzled old man and obsessed with video games. 

The book’s title is an acronym; each letter stands for a step to follow as part of the process. For example, the first “E” in the word “Become” stands for “E-mails.” The book is divided into sections based on these steps, though the content is often entirely unrelated to the section’s theme.

Obviously the book, which is allegedly sponsored by the frozen pretzel brand SuperPretzel, doesn’t teach you how to get rich or become “the supreme ruler of heaven and Earth.” Or anything else, really. Some of the advice seems to be rather specifically aimed at Dril himself.

Dril’s online lore is present throughout the book. His frenemy Digitmon Otis gets some words in about the future, as well as the obscure Bandai WonderSwan handheld game console. We also learn Dril still has a beef with user beavis_sinatra, who “terrorizes” him with photos of cups too close to the edge of tables.

The graphic design and illustration look like something a ten year old would have made on GeoCities in the mid 90’s, and the text has typos to match the aesthetic. Many sections are challenging to read due to the formatting. 

I don’t want to spoil too much of this book, but some of the advice includes:

  • Demanding the toilet be removed from your home so you can wear diapers.
  • The key to getting rich turns out to be quite simple: money. Several tips for making money are included, such as betting on dog racing.
  • Playing video games to train for real life. Not owning every gaming console is compared to missing vital organs in your body.

Some of the more random sections of the book include:

  • A review of a game called “Racism Simulator 2007.”
  • Newspaper clippings that include, among other things, a review of a garbage dump.
  • A defense of wearing blackface… on your penis.
  • A tragic tale about how Dril was bullied by a car dealer into purchasing a horrible car filled with boiling grease.

My recommendation: If you find this sort of odd anecdotal humor as funny as I do, you’ll get a kick out of The Get Rich and Become God Method. It’s available as a PDF and can be purchased here.

Recent movie review round-up (first half of 2020)

July 4, 2020

It certainly hasn’t been a great year for movies with the global pandemic so a handful of these are from last year. What can I say, it’s been a good year for streaming and catching up on good movies we missed in theaters.

The order here is disjointed just like last time. Whatever, roll with it.

 

Spaceship Earth

This documentary looks back at Biosphere 2. For those unfamiliar, Biosphere 2 was an experiment where a group of eight people lived in a large greenhouse with an airtight seal for two years starting in 1991. Ostensibly the goal was to attempt to live as though they were on the moon or another planet. (Biosphere 1 being the planet Earth.) The project was largely met with skepticism from scientists and created a media sensation.

The movie starts when everyone involved met in the 1960’s in San Francisco and formed a theater company that sailed around the world. After returning to the US, the group moved to Arizona and got started on their new project: Biosphere 2. It doesn’t go into the personality clashes or the tourism aspects very much — but it does contain a lot of footage from inside Biosphere 2 and interviews with the various participants you won’t see anywhere else. 

Oh, and it does cover the part where a certain Wall Street guy named Steve Bannon got involved, tossed out all the data, and tried to use it to “disprove” climate change.

Like a lot of documentaries, Spaceship Earth covers an interesting topic broadly, though barely scratches the surface of any of the questions it answers. It’s also remarkably non-critical of the inherent problems with Biosphere 2. I think it would have been better as a miniseries where each episode takes a deep dive into each of the questions it’s asking about the project and the group (or cult?) that was behind it.

Best moment: Let’s just say it’s an oddly fitting movie to watch during a pandemic when we’re all sealed off from the outside world.

Rating: 5/10

 

The Last Black Man in San Francisco

Somehow I missed this one when it was in theaters — a big mistake on my part. The story centers on a young Black man named Jimmie living with his friend Mont in San Francisco’s Bayview neighborhood. A bit of an outcast, Jimmie’s obsessed with the Victorian home he grew up in in the Fillmore neighborhood. When the current owners get kicked out of the home, Jimmie and Mont squat the place.

This is one of those rare low-budget indie films where everything from the writing to the performances are completely perfect. But this movie has another trick up its sleeve; it depicts San Francisco as a real place with real people instead of some postcard idealist fantasy.

From its heartfelt message to its philosophical moments, this is the kind of movie that would win an Oscar in an alternate universe. 

Best moment: The skateboarding scenes, especially the long one near the beginning. These add a sense of scale and space to the movie that I suspect would simply come across as padding in the hands of a lesser filmmaker.

Rating: 10/10

 

The Vast of Night

Framed as an episode of a Twilight Zone style TV show, this indie sci-fi film tells the story of a small town in the southwestern United States in the 1950’s where a teenage switchboard operator and her friend at a nearby radio station investigate a mysterious electronic signal.

Despite an unoriginal concept the storytelling is more gripping than one would expect. The nearly unknown cast pull off excellent performances.

I think this film would have benefited from a theatrical release at art house theaters. Due to COVID-19 it’s streaming exclusively on Amazon instead and their clumsy marketing department didn’t do this one any favors.

Best moment: For a low budget flick I was really wowed by the cinematography, particularly the moment where the camera goes through a basketball game at a gym, exits out the back window, and then continues down the street.

Rating: 7/10

 

The Lighthouse

In the late 19th century a young man named Winslow (Robert Pattinson) accepts a job at a decrepit lighthouse and has to put up with poor working conditions — especially the longtime lighthouse keeper (Willem Dafoe), a demanding and potentially insane man who speaks like a Moby Dick character. 

Winslow quickly begins going mad himself while trapped in the remote location, a process that accelerates when the two start drinking together and a massive storm arrives. In a twist of fate this makes the movie perfectly suited for sheltering in place.

I don’t want to give away much else as this psychological thriller is best watched fresh. 

My only issue with this movie is there’s a lengthy stretch before the end where it becomes repetitive. I do realize it’s an intentional choice to serve the story’s mood, though it’s edited in such a way that makes it feel more dull than I think was intended. There’s a nearly perfect ~90 minute movie in here somewhere.

Best moment: Willem Dafoe’s unhinged monologues are all absolutely golden.

Rating: 6/10

 

Cat Video Fest 2020

People have been filming their pets for as long as home video has been around. The yearly Cat Video Fest is devoted to new and classic cat videos. As expected there’s a lot of things being knocked off shelves, harassment of dogs, and generally odd feline thinking.

This “film festival” raises money for cat rescue organizations, including Give Me Shelter in San Francisco. 

Rating: I’m not sure how to rate this one as it’s not a typical film at all. I’ll just say if you like watching cat videos on YouTube or TikTok, it’s for you. That said, humorous content is best watched with an audience — and this was the last movie I was able to see in theaters so far this year.

 

Color Out of Space

In an adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s short story of the same name, Nathan Gardener (Nic Cage) moved his family to an old house in the middle of a forest to run a small alpaca farm. A wise but eccentric old hippie (Tommy Chong) squats in a nearby shack.

A meteorite crashes just outside the house, and after it gets repeatedly hit by lightning everything goes bonkers.  The town’s hydrologist warns them not to drink the water from their well though it’s far too late — unusual plants grow, insects and animals mutate, everyone slowly goes crazy, and even reality itself collapses into psychedelic madness.

The film comes across as more uneven than unsettling, careening between 1980’s throwback sci-fi horror to outlandish comedy. Which isn’t to say a film has to be one thing, it just tends to work better if it has a central foundation other than “weird.” What does work very well in the film’s favor is the vibrant cinematography, especially for a story that seems unfilmable. “It’s just a color, but it burns.”

Best moment: There are many “Nic Cage dialed up to 11” moments in this film it’s a challenge to pick just one, but I’ll have to go with Nathan (Cage) shouting at his older son to “get the alpacas back in the barn by ten” as he’s preparing to take his wife to the hospital.

Rating: 8/10

Signs of the COVID-19 times part 3

June 30, 2020

Since last month’s entry in this ongoing series, a number of local, national, and world events have occurred. It’s been a strange, though hopeful time for the most part. Here’ some more changes I’ve seen around San Francisco.

 

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In the most literal sense of the title of this post, the city’s Department of Public Health has been busy printing and distributing signs with the ever-changing set of rules we’re all supposed to be following.

Many of these signs are related to the reopening plans. As it turns out our entire economy is built on people eating at restaurants and shopping for clothes. It took a pandemic to make anyone realize this was a horrible idea, but here we are.

 

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The official signs apparently are not enough as some people have been making their own signs. In this case it seems someone was frustrated by people not wearing masks near Valencia and 18th Street.

While it’s true not everyone is wearing masks on the sidewalk, as far as I know nobody around here has thrown a tantrum over mask requirements in stores… yet.

 

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I’m not entirely certain what the intended message is here, but someone’s been placing stickers of infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci around the neighborhood.

 

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Indoor dining is strictly not allowed (you can’t eat and wear a mask, obviously) but some restaurants are opting for the outdoor and sidewalk seating approach.

To position tables less than six feet apart, some restaurants — like the 16th Street outpost of Pakwan pictured above — are placing barriers between tables. Does this actually work? Should we be dining out at all? I’m guessing probably not on both counts.

I’m not sure people are really interested in sitting outside in 60/65 F weather anyway. Maybe that will change when San Francisco’s summer begins in mid to late August.

 

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Although many stores and restaurants have reopened in some limited capacity, many dragged (or are continuing to drag) their feet on removing the boards on their storefronts. And of course many will not reopen, so there’s plenty of space for street art.

 

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At the beginning of the month there was a large Black Lives Matter protest that began at Mission High School at 18th and Dolores. This led to many store owners running essential businesses to board up their windows. Turns out that was an overreaction as there wasn’t really much in the way of property damage anyway.

But it also sparked a change in the art appearing on boarded up storefronts. Rather than being largely decorative a new theme emerged: Black Lives Matter. Many of these took the “Say Their Names” approach, listing names of Black people who were murdered by police.

And on that note…

 

COVID-19 changes

Eric Andre: Legalize Everything review

June 28, 2020
Trailer for Legalize Everything

If you’re familiar with Eric Andre, you probably recognize him from The Eric Andre Show. If not let me explain: his eponymous show is like an inverted talk show; instead of going for an hour or two, each episode is 15 minutes. Instead of trying to make the guests feel comfortable, he does the exact opposite. It’s a mix of fast-paced cringe humor and straight up surrealism — in one episode he murders his co-host Hannibal Buress which somehow leads into a Twin Peaks homage — and I’d be lying if I said that was the weirdest part of the episode. So as you can imagine it’s not your typical talk show.

I’d never seen Andre’s standup before so I didn’t know quite what to expect from his first comedy special, Eric Andre: Legalize Everything on Netflix. Was this going to be a live version of The Eric Andre Show, or more conventional standup material? The answer: a little from column A, a little from column B.

Filmed in New Orleans shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic and before the murders of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and far too many more Black Americans by police, Legalize Everything is a standup special that by some strange coincidence was released at the moment it was needed most.

First, we haven’t had live comedy shows to see in months and probably won’t again in the near future, so new comedy specials are a welcome rarity right now. Second, the half Black half Jewish (or in his words, “bluish”) comedian Eric Andre has a unique perspective fit for the current era. One of the most biting jokes in the entire special is in the trailer above in which Andre makes fun of how the TV show COPS glorifies police brutality against anyone who’s not white and/or wealthy, all to the tune of the most incongruous theme music possible.

 

Mild spoilers for Legalize Everything below.

 

The show opens with a sketch, as many standup specials do these days. This sketch seems straight out of The Eric Andre Show, with Andre impersonating a cop who’s drunk and offering people hits from a giant bong.

Once he hits the stage Andre tackles a wide variety of subjects with his signature frantic intensity: bad drug drips, being mistaken for two men at the same time, bizarre sexual experiences, the horrors of Calvinism in American history, etc.

Throughout Legalize Everything Andre calls out members of the audience for random and uncomfortable reasons, though never devolves into insult humor. In one case he even takes the phone from a volunteer to send text messages. This type of material subverts the expectations of standup comedy — nobody can heckle a comedian who’s preemptively heckling the audience.

 

End spoilers.

 

Though a couple of the jokes don’t quite land as hard as they might have, everything works here. There’s no question Eric Andre had refined his set by the time this special was filmed and he’s giving it his all in his performance.

Standup comedy is inherently character driven; the comedian is playing a caricature (often but not always of themselves) who tells jokes that speak to the truth of the character in some humorous way. In Andre’s case his caricature is that of an outsider with the energy of a coked-up lunatic who’s armed to the teeth with nuclear truth bombs.

Comedy is also about timing. It’s hard to imagine this special landing at a better time, as Andre squeezes humor out of timely subjects such as America’s racism, poverty, and historical context. Would you be surprised if I told you this special was filmed back in November of 2019? Of course little has changed since then, we’re just more outraged about it now.

I think the audience for Legalize Everything will probably be fairly self-selecting, but even those who aren’t familiar with Andre will likely find solid material to laugh at here — more than can be said for your average Netflix comedy special. If nothing else it’s certainly an hour long spectacle to gawk at.

Personally, Legalize Everything was easily captivating enough to hold my attention, funny enough to make me laugh hard many times, and perhaps most astonishingly, deep enough to make me think — the latter of which are words I can’t believe I’m saying about Eric Andre of all people. There’s no way I give this any less than a perfect score, this is the comedy special we needed right when we needed it.

Rating: 10/10

My favorite MST3k episodes featuring incoherent movies

June 22, 2020

Now that life is inching back towards some sense of normalcy with the first restrictions lifted in many places, it’s time to revisit my earlier blog post about MST3k episodes with coherent movies. This time we’re going for maximum insanity: episodes with movies that are incoherent.

After spending over two months indoors we’re all losing our minds anyway. As we shift into phase two of the reopening, we’d might as well jump into the depth of absolute madness.

The movies in these episodes go from having an outlandish plot to barely having one at all. Either way, trying to follow the story beats will leave you feeling like someone’s rubbing sandpaper on your brain.

Obviously with the types of movies MST3k tended to feature this could be a super long list so I’m focusing on the worst of the worst — but I’m not ruling out a part 2 to this list. And of course I’m limiting it to episodes you can stream online as of today. To be nice, I’m also going to try to come up with redeeming qualities for these films… just don’t expect much in that department.

Manos: The Hands of Fate (1966) 

Available on Amazon Video

Okay: this one can’t be a surprise to anyone familiar with MST3k.

Manos means “hands” in Spanish so even the title is kind of… off. The story begins with a family on a road trip — with plenty of footage of driving around — while looking for a place to stay. They wind up stuck in a mysterious lodge despite the warnings of a man with huge knees named Torgo. At night the master of the lodge conducts some sort of ritual with a group of (enslaved?) wives to determine what to do with these newcomers. 

This infamous film was, according to legend, the product of a fertilizer salesman in El Paso who made a bet that he could make a “horror” film. Seems about right.

The movie is such an obscure dud that it’s become almost synonymous with MST3k as few had ever seen it before. Thanks to MST3k a collector found a better print of Manos: The Hands of Fate and managed to restore it and re-release it on Blu-Ray.

Even though there’s some great riffs in this one, there’s too much time to fill due to its severe pacing issues. Best riff: “Every frame of this movie looks like someone’s last known photograph.”

Redeeming qualities: MST3k made Torgo a recurring character on the show (as played by Mike.)

This episode features the 1940 short Hired: Part II which deals with training the sales staff at a Chevrolet dealer.

The Day Time Ended (1979)

Available on Netflix

A family meets at LAX and drives to the middle of nowhere, where they move into a weirdly shaped new home powered by solar panels. Unfortunately for them a cosmic event has caused time and space to do… something?

Nearly as soon as they arrive there’s a sense that something’s amiss. A mirror repairs itself. A glowing pyramid steals a pony, then shrinks to the size of an inch. Some tiny aliens appear. A menacing floating camcorder shows up. Late at night a bunch of different types of aliens start fighting outside. Does that sound like a story? No?

The family seems remarkably unphased by everything that’s going on, most likely due to the actors not having the slightest clue to what would be inserted in post production. Clearly more care went into how the alien monsters look than anything else.

While the riffs in this one are on point, what makes this episode memorable is a host segment where Tom Servo chastises Jonah and Crow for attempting to write a coherent sci-fi script. Tom quickly breaks into song (a Music Man parody) about cramming your script with concepts in place of an actual plot. 

Redeeming qualities: The stop motion effects, which honestly belong in a much better movie.

The Creeping Terror (1964)

Available on Amazon Video

Films have narrators for one of two reasons: a stylistic choice, or because there would otherwise be no other way to tell what was going on. This monster movie is distinctly in the latter category. Making matters worse the narrator — who sounds like one of those disembodied voices from a 1950’s educational film — doesn’t seem to know what this movie is about either.

Unfortunately the “monster” in this movie is a walking carpet. The terror comes from the carpet eating people, or more accurately screaming as they slowly crawl under it. There’s a lot of scenes and different characters, though little resembling a story arch.

The non-existent plot, production values, and lengthy narration provide ample material for Mike & the bots to riff on in this one — especially when they add their own narration. Best riff: “Something sort of happened… kind of.”

Redeeming qualities: It’s only 74 minutes long.

The Beast Of Yucca Flats (1961)

Available on Amazon Video

Film nerds love to debate which movie is the worst ever made, but there’s little question who’s the worst director of all time: Coleman Francis, a man so terrible at directing he makes Ed Wood look like Stanley Kubrick.  Although all three of his films appeared on MST3k I decided I had to pick just one for this list and it’s a doozy.

The Beast of Yucca Flats is ostensibly some sort of thriller or horror movie involving an atomic bomb explosion that turns a man into a monster… I think? Almost the entire film could be generously described as filler.

Of the numerous aspects of this movie that can only be described as entirely incompetent, the one that stands out the most is the lack of dialog. We see characters speak but never hear them. People get strangled but don’t shout or scream. All the dialog is from characters we can’t actually see, or are too far away to see their mouths move. The narrator only adds to the confusion with non sequiturs such as “Flag on the moon… how’d it get there?” or  “Touch a button… things happen.”

Mike and the bots focus their riffs on the strange narration, the ugliness of the cinematography, and trying to figure out what the hell is going on. 

Redeeming qualities: More effective than Ambien at treating insomnia.

This episode also includes two shorts, both infinitely more coherent than the main film: Money Talks! in which the ghost of Ben Franklin offers financial advice to an annoying teenage boy; and Progress Island, U.S.A., an advertisement for doing business in Puerto Rico. The riffs are particularly sharp in the latter.

The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies (1964)

Available on Amazon Video

A monster musical comedy that’s not scary, not funny, and filled with boring dance numbers that have no connection to the plot. The plot? To the extent there is one, it’s about a fortune teller at an amusement park who hypnotizes people into becoming murderers and deforming their faces with some chemical. These “zombies” eventually escape and kill people in the park.

But you know what the worst part is? According to Wikipedia, this film was originally shown with The Beast Of Yucca Flats as a double feature. Yikes.

The riffs focus on the poor audio, the beehive hairstyles, and the main character’s resemblance to Nicholas Cage. Best riff: (on the quality of the cinematography) “Outtakes from the Manson Family Christmas.”

Redeeming qualities: Well… there’s some perfectly good establishing shots of LA in the 60’s.

The Pumaman (1980)

Available on Amazon Video

When researchers wearing flashy black leather outfits discover a gold Aztec mask with alien mind control technology, their leader Dr. Kobras uses it against an assistant to prevent her from revealing their findings to the world — before declaring they must kill “the Pumaman.”

That’s the first scene in the movie, and it doesn’t get much less odd from there. The aforementioned Pumaman turns out to be a random white guy who can fly when wearing a special belt given to him by an Aztec man. 

There’s so much to make fun of in this movie the riffs barely scratch the surface, though not for a lack of trying. Best riff: (regarding the way Pumaman flies) “He flies like a moron.”

Redeeming qualities: The hilariously poor special effects.

The Starfighters (1964)

Two decades before Top Gun came out, The Starfighters brought an Air Force movie to the screen. But instead of interesting characters and exciting drama, The Starfighters eschews all of that and more. This movie features very little in terms of story, conflict, or characters; but plenty of scenes of Air Force personnel talking about military stuff, people talking on phones, etc. Around half of the running time appears to be Air Force stock footage — especially footage of midair refueling. Overall it’s about as interesting as watching paint dry.

The riffs center around the movie’s musical incongruities, wasteful military spending, and most of all the vaguely sexual nature of the way the aircraft are treated. There’s also some memorable host segments featuring Crow trying to set up a home PC and get on “the information superhighway.” Best riff: “The cutting room floor was remarkably clean.”

Redeeming qualities: Confirms my theory that many filmmakers in the 1950’s and 60’s had somehow foreseen MST3k and were intentionally making movies for it.

The Wild World of Batwoman (1966)

I should start by pointing out this movie has nothing to do with the DC Comics character, who wouldn’t exist until a couple decades later. Instead it’s about an all young female group of secret agents who communicate via wrist radios with their boss, the mysterious masked Batwoman. One of them gets kidnapped by an evil masked man named Rat Fink who’s after her wrist radio, which is somehow related to an “atomic hearing aid.” Also there’s a mad scientist who mostly seems to specialize in drugs that induce dancing.

That’s about as close as I can get to understanding, let alone explaining this movie. I don’t get the feeling the actors knew what this one was supposed to be about either. There’s never any sense of stakes or danger. At one point some cave monsters are brought up and we see footage of them (from another film, no less) and then they’re almost immediately forgotten about.

At a certain point the riffs stop being riffs, becoming pleas for the sweet release of death. During the overly long ending scene Tom Servo desperately screams “END! END!” at the screen.

Redeeming qualities: Nope.

The episode features a short film called Cheating about a kid in high school who was kicked out of the student council for — you guess it — cheating. This provides ample fodder for the host segments with Crow remaining on the pro-cheating side.

 

This post is already going long — I have a few other completely incoherent MST3k movies I could add in here but I think I’ll leave them for another time.

Thoughts on extending the T line

June 16, 2020

With all the recent news of the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter protests, even avid readers of local news might have missed that two new BART stations opened over the weekend in the South Bay.

Here in San Francisco, Muni Metro’s T line extension is still under construction with the Central Subway from SOMA to Chinatown. That hasn’t stopped people from pondering how the subway could be extended further north — the tunnel already goes well into North Beach, and with further digging could connect Fisherman’s Wharf and perhaps the Marina.

I think it’s also worth considering ways to extend the T line in the south end of the city to connect both neighborhoods without much transit access and to existing Muni Metro rail lines. This also has the advantage of connecting to San Francisco’s BART and CalTrain stations.

To some extent at least one of these routes seems inevitable, if for no other reason the SOMA to Chinatown subway would benefit from more connections to the south half of the city. All of these options could be built partially or entirely at street level to reduce cost.

Credit for the Muni Metro map goes to the German version of Wikipedia. I’ve annotated it in pink with my proposals. You can tell which segments would require new construction as they’re not next to an existing Muni Metro line.

16th Street to West Portal

Although this corridor is already well served by transit, hear me out. This would provide light rail to the new Chase Center, UCSF Mission Bay, 16th and Mission BART, and potentially something far more exciting — access to the Twin Peaks tunnel.

An above ground route on this alignment would already have rails connecting Market Street to the K, L, and M lines via the (unused) above ground rail connection near Castro and Market to the existing subway heading towards Forest Hill and West Portal. This connection to the subway hasn’t been used since the early 1980’s but could be brought back into service.

This route could either overlap or replace Muni’s 22 bus line alignment on the east/west half of the existing 22 line.

Cesar Chavez to Noe Valley

Connecting the T to the J line in an alignment on the south end of the Mission on Cesar Chavez would complement 24th and Mission BART and provide a connection to the Bernal Heights area as well as Noe Valley. 

This could provide a much needed connection to BART while also taking advantage of the little used J line tracks to better serve this section of the city.

Hunter’s Point to the Zoo

While an exact alignment is tricky to pin down, the goal would be to take passengers from Hunter’s Point to the Alemany Farmers’ Market to Glen Park BART, share the M-line tracks to the L-line tracks to Stern Grove and finally to the SF Zoo.

Both this new line and the existing L line would share a terminal stop at the same location.

Although it may not seem like the most interesting route today, with new housing slated for Hunter’s Point it has a lot of promise for the future. And personally I’d love a rail connection to the city’s largest farmer’s market.

Geneva Avenue to Park Merced

This corridor on the southern edge of the city could provide access to the Cow Palace before connecting with the existing M line toward Park Merced and SF State’s main campus.

Park Merced already has a long standing desire to improve transit access for its residents.  This could also connect with BART at Balboa Park depending on the alignment.

Just go to SFO already

There’s probably zero chance of this happening, but it would be great for both locals and tourists alike if the T line somehow went so far south it connected Brisbane, South San Francisco, San Bruno, and connected to SFO (perhaps via the AirTrain?)

Unfortunately all of these new stops would be in San Mateo County, outside of Muni’s operating area of San Francisco. Would San Mateo County be willing to chip in for this? One can dream. 

Signs of the COVID-19 times part 2

May 22, 2020

Since last month’s entry the pandemic-related changes around the Mission and Castro area have only accelerated. As retail slowly reopens some of these changes may be short lived, so let’s take a look at where things stand now.

 

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The city’s Department of Public Health has plastered almost every block with signs about social distancing, wearing masks, getting tested, etc. Many of the signs are in multiple languages. Anecdotally it seems most are following the spirit of these new guidelines, though the part about wearing masks hasn’t quite gotten to everyone yet.

At the same time, the signs that went up a month or so ago about sheltering in place have disappeared. Presumably this coincides with phase two of the reopening plans.

 

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The flat grassy section of Dolores Park that’s often used for soccer and volleyball now has circles painted on the grass to encourage staying apart while picnicking.

Other sections of the park with more hilly terrain didn’t get the circle paint treatment. I’d assume this is simply due to it being more challenging to measure or paint.

 

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After numerous storefronts were covered in plywood, they’ve slowly been transformed by street artists. Many of the murals were commissioned by Paint the Void, which is raising money to fund this type of art during the pandemic.

At least for me even with the murals it’s a little more jarring to see fashion retailers boarded up than a neighborhood bar. For example before they were boarded up, Everlane looked like an Apple Store that accidentally started selling clothes.

 

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Not all the plywood-covered storefronts are decorated with murals… some have whimsical wheatpastes instead.

All of these photos of wheatpastes were taken on Market between Church and Castro. That stretch has had a lot of retail vacancies recently so I’m not sure these are all necessarily related to COVID-19 or just the collapse of retail there in general.

 

COVID-19 changes

 

Some of the street art is very topical, such as this wheatpaste depicting a coyote walking down a deserted sidewalk.

The graphic is patterned after a real photo which I believe originated in this tweet.

 

COVID-19 changes

 

Finally, fnnch’s honey bears now have an N95 mask version. Here we have a honey bear with pizza, a David Bowie honey bear, and a honey bear with an ice cream cone. Of course, eating and singing aren’t really activities that lend themselves to wearing a protective mask.

My entry in Quarantine Dreams issue 7

May 15, 2020

The highly esteemed [citation needed] online publication Quarantine Dreams chronicles unusual dreams submitted by those of us under shelter in place orders.

One of my submissions is included in their recently published their seventh issue. They aptly titled it “Sore Loser.”

The text reads:

I was participating in some sort of foot race at a park. The challenge? The racers were being shot by archers with live arrows. As I raced toward the archers I was mostly concerned about being shot in the face and eyes. In the end I was shot in the chest near my heart, but the arrow “only” went through my lung. After pulling the arrow out of my back I also had to pull the front of the arrow out of my chest, as the arrow had broken. I felt a pain in my chest and when I started to yell in agony a Russian woman (who’d also been shot) told me to stop complaining as there were only enough EMTs to hospitalize the people who “need it.”

Now I’m not one to read too much into dreams, but like many of the dreams published in Quarantine Dreams there’s a recognizable anxiety mixed with crazy dream logic.

Do you want to remember your dreams? Try keeping a dream journal. Just write them down somewhere when you remember them, whether it be a physical notepad, your phone, laptop, etc.. The more you go through the exercise of writing them down, the more you tend to recall them later.

If you’re interested in submitting your own Quarantine Dream to this publication, follow the instructions on their Twitter profile.

There’s no such thing as a free lunch delivery

May 13, 2020

With the COVID-19 pandemic restaurants everywhere have pivoted to take out and delivery. While I personally prefer dining out, delivery’s fine with me in a pinch. Unfortunately those delivery fees start to add up after a while.

So I was a little surprised when the salad wizards at Sweetgreen announced they’d be doing free deliveries. With all this sitting around at home I could really go for something healthy — especially if I don’t have to pay for delivery.

So I went ahead and placed an order.

There you go, free delivery! But wait — what’s this “service fee” included in the price? That sounds an awful lot like a delivery fee, doesn’t it?

Fortunately you can tap on the service fee for an explanation:

As the image says above “This is a fee that allows us to provide our delivery service.” So the service fee is a delivery fee… they just don’t call it that.

In other news I AM GIVING AWAY FREE $100 BILLS! (However, you will owe me a $200 service fee for each $100 bill.)

Looking back at Dispatches From Elsewhere, season 1

May 6, 2020

Now that the first season is over I thought I’d give a non-spoilery take on Dispatches From Elsewhere. There will be some mentions of the events in the first episode, so if you want to go in completely fresh go watch it first.

This won’t be your typical review, as I was a participant of the real life events this series was based on.

My ears perked up when this series was announced. The name comes from a pirate radio broadcast participants would listen to in Dolores Park which introduced the second chapter of Games of Nonchalance — which I’m just going to call The Jejune Institute here since that’s what most of us called it anyway.

I’ll admit upfront I’m not particularly familiar with Jason Segel (aside from that one Muppet movie) so I wasn’t too certain what to expect from a show he produced, wrote, and co-stars in. Personally I very much enjoyed the show’s first season, with its many twists and entirely unexpected ending.

Just like it’s “real” counterpart, in Dispatches From Elsewhere its version of The Jejune Institute presents itself as a mystery, becomes an act of escapism, and when it’s all over nothing’s really changed. Except of course for the things you decide to change yourself. And maybe the friends you make along the way.

 

Episode 1

So let’s go into the setup in the first episode before I get into how real life events were switched around into a television show.

The series opens with The Jejune Institute’s leader, Octavio Coleman, breaking the fourth wall and acknowledging you’re watching a TV show. He introduces Peter (Jason Segel), a bored employee at a music streaming company in Philadelphia.

Coming across a series of inexplicable flyers attached to utility poles with a phone number attached, Peter eventually pulls off a tab, calls the number, and finds he has an appointment at The Jejune Institute.

After an intense initiation — which drives Peter to tears — he disobeys Octavio and follows the directions on the initiation card. This leads him on a short journey where he meets another participant, Simone (Eve Lindley), a transgender woman who seems ready to attack him at first. Their meeting appears to have been intentional somehow, and they wind up becoming friends, solving some unmentioned piece of the game together.

Later on The Jejune Institute holds an event where, after dancing with a breakdancer and a sasquatch in the rain, participants are assigned into groups of four; Simone and Peter are put into a group of four along with Janice (Sally Field), an energetic older woman, and Fredwynn (Andre “3000” Benjamin), a strange man who alternates between a Sherlock Holmes-style detective and a nutty conspiracy theorist.

What makes the show compelling is how it follows this group of four participants as they go through an experience where they’re never certain exactly what’s part of the game and what’s not, let alone what the rules are — or if there are any.

 

The source material

So let’s talk about similarities and differences between the show and what I recall based on my experiences. Obviously the show is set in Philadelphia, but real life The Jejune Institute took place in San Francisco (though one chapter was in Oakland.)  The flyers Peter finds look nearly identical to the ones I encountered in San Francisco’s SOMA neighborhood. The real Jejune Institute didn’t have appointments as far as I’m aware — it was a walk-in affair.

Many aspects from the show were taken from the real Jejune Institute including certain characters’ names, notably the names of Octavio Coleman and his enemy Commander 14. The mysterious promise “To those dark horses with the spirit to look up and see, a recondite family awaits,” also originated at the real Jejune Institute’s induction session.

Obviously some of the events in the show are dramatized quite a bit, though many have clear nods to the source material. The Jejune Institute didn’t have rules exactly, though there was a sort of winking aspect to it that let you know you were safe and on the right track.

More information about The Jejune Institute can be found at the official summary web page. Or in numerous blog entries right here on this very site.

 

The other source material

Segel’s inspiration for Dispatches From Elsewhere wasn’t actually The Jejune Institute itself, but rather the 2013 documentary The Institute. In the documentary participants and creators give talking head style monologues about The Jejune Institute, and we see footage (much of which was recorded by participants) about each of the four chapters and the silly after party.

Although I went to see The Institute at its premier I don’t think I’d seen it a second time — until Monday, when it was streamed on Twitch. The documentary’s director, Spencer McCall, and the creator of The Jejune Institute, Jeff Hull, were in the chat to answer questions and provide context.

I have to point out that one of the talking heads in the film, a very enthusiastic participant named Kiyomi Tanouye, was tragically a victim of the Ghost Ship fire in 2016. The first season of Dispatches From Elsewhere is dedicated to her memory.

The Institute is a much better documentary than I remember. It’s easy to see how Segel was influenced not only by the wild stories and events, but also people’s reactions. Oh and the part with dancing with a sasquatch and a breakdancer in the rain? Yup, that really happened — only to a select few, however. See the clip below for proof:

I’ll also admit the few glimpses of me in the movie make me question what was going on with my hair at the time. Too much mousse or something, it looked terrible. What was I thinking? 

If you’d like to see The Institute yourself, it’s available for streaming on iTunes and Amazon Video.