Archive for March, 2011

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The Jejune Institute closes for good in April

March 14th, 2011

According to a spoiler-filled article in The Awl, the Jejune Institute closes in early April.

Now, however, an end date has been assigned, and after a nearly three-year run it will be no longer after April 10, when the epilogue is completed.

Since the days are numbered, I’m going to key you in a little secret: you have to go. You just fucking HAVE TO. And here’s another little secret: although the Jejune Institute appears to be some wacky new-age cult, it’s actually a game brought to you by Nonchalance that’s merely disguised as a cult.

In fact, it’s actually only the beginning of a series of games, and the cult is part of the storyline. No word on whether the remaining games will continue post-April 10th or not.

It’s sad news for me, because the Jejune Institute was one of the most fun and innovative activities I’ve ever found in San Francisco: even more fun than getting high and watching bad movies at the Red Vic, or getting sunburned at Dolores Park while downing cheap beer.

The Jejune Institute is still open Tuesday through Saturday, noon-five, so get out there and enjoy it while you still can. Note that you’ll need approx one hour, about $1.25 and a cell phone. Wear comfortable shoes and if it looks like rain, bring an umbrella.

The Jejune Institute The Time Camera Memory to Media Center Aquatic Thought Foundation

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Growing Green Babies

March 14th, 2011

I was in the customer service line at Safeway when I spotted this unusually-titled DVD.

Growing Green Babies

Not sure what this movie is about, but I imagine there’s a lab where mad scientists grow babies — of what species I’m not entirely sure, but perhaps human judging from the box art — and their growing process contains some kind of DNA modification to ensure they come out green.

The box doesn’t say who directed it, but if I had to guess I’d go with David Cronenberg.

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Trip to Mexico: part 3 (Toluca)

March 12th, 2011

This is part of a series about my trip to Mexico City and the surrounding area. Also see part 1, part 2, and part 4.

We spent four days in Toluca, and unfortunately I was ill the entire time. Since it was kind of a blur for me I’m cramming the entire four days into a single entry.

Toluca is largely an industrial town, with production outposts for Nestle, Coca-Cola, Chrysler, and Cuauhtémoc Moctezuma (the brewery that makes Tecate, Sol, Indio, and Dos Equis.) Due to the manufacturing, there’s also a lot of hotels, restaurants, strip clubs, etc.

Day 1

We hitched a ride on a taxi, then took a bus, where we met up with Alexia’s cousin in Toluca. We spent the evening checking out Metepec, an old town nearby which houses several old churches and a district of local artists.

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Later in the night we joined up with the rest of the crew and went to the KISS Lounge. It’s a basement bar that doubles as a shrine to the band KISS. The decorations are all merchandise and albums from the band. Most of the bar’s walls were stuffed with KISS memorabilia behind glass; perhaps most shockingly, their collection included two separate matryoshka sets painted to look like members of KISS. As if one set was not more than enough?

Late into the night, a live band showed up to play various hard rock covers. By “late” I mean really late; the bar closes at 5am.

KISS Lounge KISS matroshka dolls The crew KISS 8-track KISS memorabilia KISS makeup set

Day 2

The second day was pretty mellow, we hit up a “VIP” movie theater to see Black Swan. If you weren’t aware, a VIP movie theater has reclining Lazy-Boy style seats, tables, and waiters who will bring alcoholic drinks to your seat. This begs the question: why don’t we have this in San Francisco? I’d be there every week.

Anyway, the mall with the VIP theater had some unusual stores; a Hewlett Packard store, an “iShop” Apple Store knockoff, and they had an Imaginarium! This was the toy store I grew up with, and just like I remember, they had regular doorway next to a child-sized doorway. Granted, it wasn’t nearly as large or fancy as the one we used to have at the Stanford Shopping Center, but it was still a shock to me personally. I had no idea Imaginarium still existed.

HP Experience store iShop Imaginarium

Later that night we had one of Pizza Hut’s bizarre pizzas delivered to the hotel, and watched some Mexican TV. You know you’re watching Mexican TV when a guy in a clown suit is being interviewed by a woman sitting on a banana-shaped sofa which is in front of a wall that has bananas hanging from it.

Some kind of pizza from Pizza Hut delivered to our hotel Mexican television

Day 3
We headed back to Metepec to check out the local shops, then hitched a bus back to downtown Toluca. On the way, a band jumped on the bus to play some heavily-accented Doors covers.

Back in Toluca, we went to the MUMCI, a museum dedicated to beer brewing sponsored by Modelo. For homebrewers it’s quite interesting, and fortunately it’s in both English and Spanish. They cover everything from growing crops to brewing to bottling and packaging. They even have information on building your own industrial-grade brewery, which seems a bit odd as they’re explaining how you can compete with them. It even includes a Star Tours-esque ride about the bottling process.

Barley Falling mist Fermentation Pasteurization Bottling machine Old Corona bottles

Day 4

In downtown Toluca, I found that this vacation had something in common with my trip to Greece: the Acropolis. But unlike the Greek version, Toluca’s doesn’t cost 12 Euros, and it’s a mall.

We headed to the Cosmovitral, a plant conservatory in a green house that’s covered in an absurd amount of stained glass. In fact, it was worth the entry fee alone just to look at the stained glass, let alone the plants.

At the end of the day we retired to our hotel room with a box of mixed Modelo cervezas and a Skyy Blue cocktail (made with real Skyy vodka, unlike its American counterpart) from the local convenience store.

"Plaza Acropolis" sign IMG_4484 IMG_4512 IMG_4531 IMG_4514 IMG_4515 IMG_4538 Cerveza

Day 5

The final day before my departure, we met Alexia’s family’s sheep. Their job is to mow the grass at the family’s parking lot.

Sheep! Eric and the sheep

We drove around to see some of Toluca’s factories, then to the official Cervefrio (or “beer store”) of Cuauhtémoc Moctezuma where I bought a official Sol beer mug.

Nestle plant in Toluca Graffiti Indio Beer at Cuauhtémoc Moctezuma company store Cuauhtémoc Moctezuma company store

Just before my flight, I got a horrible stomach ache because of my cold. Alexia’s aunt gave me a glass of some kind of incredibly foul tasting home remedy which worked surprisingly well. Whatever it was, it made me well enough to get on the airplane. Well, almost… as it turns out when your sinuses are completely clogged you should not under any circumstance get on a airplane. That’s something I learned the hard way.

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Martin’s 16th St Emporium is closing

March 12th, 2011

You know that weird store on 16th next to Body Manipulations that only sold skull-related items? It’s called Martin’s 16th St. Emporium, and they’re going out of business (after 45 years, according to the owner’s Facebook page) and putting the commercial condo up for sale.

This probably isn’t much of a surprise; the place was rarely open as of late, due to the owner suffering from a stroke, according to the sign on the door. Plus they only had two Yelp reviews which doesn’t suggest a strong customer base.

Martin's 16th St Emporium

Martin's 16th St Emporium

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class="post-987 post type-post status-publish format-standard hentry category-personal tag-mexico tag-photos tag-travel">

Trip to Mexico: part 2 (Mexico City)

March 10th, 2011

This is part of a series about my trip to Mexico City and the surrounding area. Also see part 1, part 3, and part 4.

Day 3

We met up with more of Alexia’s family and we headed down to a massive bus terminal to for a ride to the pyramids of Teotihuacan! On the way I was introduced to the concept of legal graffiti. Bands often pay to have legal graffiti billboards of sorts painted on public walls to advertise their shows.

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The Teotihuacan pyramids were overrun by “gypsy” style merchants of sorts selling whistles, hats, jewelry, etc. We headed down to the first and smallest pyramid, then quickly realized we needed a guide. We found a guy who spoke a bit of English (this was for my benefit only.) Before showing us the pyramids, he pointed out a group of four traditional Voladores de Papantla, or acrobats who were swinging in a circle off ropes on a 16 meter tall poll on ropes tied to their ankles. He claimed that traditionally, the poles were 40 meters high. Not for those of us with a fear of heights.

The tour guide (guy in the black baseball cap in the photo) showed us some traditional dyes made from insect eggs, paper, thread and needles made from cactus, and most surprisingly, the way the old city of Teotihuacan had been built.

According to our guide, every 52 years the citizens created a new city on top of the old city. So far archaeologists have only dared to go one level deep, where they found an earlier foundation for the buildings in exactly the same place, but with different decorations. There’s only one visible spot where it’s been dug up, and it’s pretty incredible. So far nobody knows if there’s another level deeper. Mysterious!

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After an hour or so, our tour guide left and wished us well, and we decided to go up the Pyramid of the Sun, which is the largest pyramid at the site. Here, I have to admit that I didn’t make it even halfway up, perhaps because of the already high elevation, or perhaps because I was coming down with a really bad cold that would haunt the rest of the trip. I hate to admit that I was defeated by this pyramid — especially because it was one of the main reasons I came to Mexico in the first place. The one saving grace was that the view from partway up was incredible. You could see the entire ruins of Teotihuacan from there.

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While everyone else finished scaling the pyramid, Alexia and I headed across the way to a small strip with some restaurants. Upon entering the street, we were assaulted by six young men carrying menus, each insisting we eat at the restaurant they represented. All of the restaurants essentially had the tourist-esque “please everyone” massive menus, so we decided on the restaurant we’d been recommended earlier. Eventually we were joined by our companions.

We ordered micheladas. If you’re not familiar with a michelada, it’s a Mexican beer (in this case, Indio) mixed with lime juice, Worcestershire sauce, and Clamato in a glass lined with salt and chile pequin. It’s one of my favorite cocktails, basically a Mexican version of a bloody mary. If you haven’t tried it you’re missing out.

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Day 4

On the fourth day we took the Metro to Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the world’s most visited Catholic shrine. It’s a lot like Disneyland except there’s no rides and you have to pay to use the bathroom.

The main cathedral on the site was built in the mid 1970’s. It contains an incredibly large church, a place to put flowers, a series of conveyor belts you can stand on while looking at a painting of the Virgin Mary, and (of course) a gift shop. From the outside, the building looks suspiciously like Space Mountain, but the closest thing to a roller coaster is the Virgin Mary’s conveyor belt.

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The grounds of the basilica contain several smaller chapels, Pope John Paul’s Popemobile(TM) and the old basilica, which is now fenced off due to problems with its structural integrity. The gardens have a bit of a mini-golf vibe, with a number of uncharacteristically painted statues here and there, and a few fountains. In the back there’s a cafeteria area with tortas, soda, etc. And (of course) more gift shops.

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The area around the church seemed a bit sketchy… definitely not the kind of place you’d want to be at night. And perhaps even dangerous during the day, as Alexia almost stepped on a snake.

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Like the SF Giants? Like graffiti? Like vans?

March 8th, 2011

Well today’s your lucky day! Oh boy, have we got the car for you!

Giants car

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Inhumane animal treatment at Market St. Safeway

March 8th, 2011

It’s come to my attention that the Safeway at Market and Church is treating their adorable “Phat Lamb” sheep in an inhumane manner. Sheep are stuffed into tiny space on shelves with no place to move, or worse, dangled from plastic chains.

Please adopt one of these sheep and care for it properly. In the meantime, I’m going to be calling PETA to raise awareness of Safeway’s practices.

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Alexia and I adopted a sheep from Safeway last year, and it changed our lives. Specifically, we seem to get to sleep more easily. Zzzzzzz…

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Trip to Mexico: part 1 (Mexico City)

March 8th, 2011

Hey everyone, gather ’round the living room and take a nap while I subject you to my vacation slides from February 2011, when Alexia Anthem and I went to visit Mexico.

The trip to Mexico series will be divided into four parts on my blog:

  1. Mexico City part 1 (this post)
  2. Mexico City part 2
  3. Toluca
  4. Rants about Mexico

This is part 1.

Day One
In spite of taking a redeye flight and essentially not sleeping at all, Alexia and I somehow found the energy to not flop down on the comfortable hotel bed and sleep.

Instead, we walked from our hotel to the park and the Palacio de Bellas Artes. Unfortunately the Bellas Artes was closed, so we headed to the nearby LatinoAmericana tower to check out the view and generally be good tourists.

After coming down from the tower, we headed down the street to the Zócalo, a plaza with a bunch of government buildings, a cathedral, and a surprisingly large flag.

Palacio de Bellas Artes IMG_3755 IMG_3811 IMG_3838 IMG_3842

Somehow we stumbled our way to a Metro stop. The Mexico City Metro is a rubber-tire train system that’s dirt cheap (tickets are 30 cents USD) and trains come every two minutes. It’s very impressive compared to what we have in San Francisco. Plus they have food stands in the stations, including Domino’s. How cool is that?

A few hundred staircases later we ended up walking down an alley filled with little shops and restaurants and on the way to Paseo de la Reforma, the main drag in Mexico City. Along La Reforma, there’s dozens of bike racks used as part of a bike-sharing program.

Soon we found our way to El Ángel, the iconic golden angel statue seen on Mexico City memorabilia everywhere. The statue is in the middle of a traffic circle. If you weren’t aware of this, jaywalking is somewhat of a national pastime in Mexico. So they didn’t bother with crosswalks to get to the angel, despite it being a national monument. You pretty much have to close your eyes, cross your fingers, and run through traffic to get to it. There’s a bunch of statues at the base of the angel, and a little door with some tombs inside. Protip: if you plan your vacation better than we did, there are days than you can go up inside pillar that holds the angel to an observation deck above.

IMG_1813 IMG_3864 Angel At the angel

Day Two
We were joined by Alexia Anthem’s cousin, and finally got to go inside Bellas Artes. The place is free, unless you have a camera, in which case they charge a camera fee. Yeah, I know. Lame. Anyway the place is filled with fantastic murals, including some of Diego Rivera’s best. A strange thing about Bellas Artes is that the outside has a typical Roman look, but the inside is art deco. The contrast between old and new is sort of like a grandfather who snowboards and plays video games.

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We took a walk down to the tequila museum, which unfortunately wasn’t open! I suspect it was because they had an infestation of mariachi on the patio outside and were waiting for an exterminator. On the way there, I spotted a fake cable car, which begs the question: is there a way to take it all the way from Mexico City to Fisherman’s Wharf?

Fake cable car IMG_1852

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Shooting on Mission Street

March 3rd, 2011

This morning there was another shooting on Mission St. See?

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Yes, I’m glad it wasn’t the other kind of shooting myself. Question is, why was Univision shooting video of the Bart station? No reporters were with him. I’d watch and find out, but I don’t hablo the Español.