Archive for August, 2011

Puerto Confuso

August 26th, 2011


This ad for Puerto Alegre in the SF Weekly has me very, very confused.

Here’s why:

  • What does the “and” mean? Can they sell me just a pitcher, or just a margarita without anything to pour it into? Or is the pitcher collectable and included in the price?
  • Why “by the glass”? What is that referring to? How can it be both in a pitcher and by the glass at the same time?
  • Besides, isn’t $20 the normal, non Happy Hour price?

Ironic iron

August 19th, 2011


What’s this? An element sticker? The cool kids are all into chemistry now, I guess. Bill Nye would be proud.

But the “irony” of this (if you’ll pardon the pun) is that the metal the sticker is applied to is most definitely not iron. Now that’s a major “fe pas.”

Spotted at 18th and Dolores.

Berlin street art

August 18th, 2011

The only people who know how cool I am are the secret police!

Evil monster Guy with gun Pringles? IMG_2917 Street art Hung & shot animal Pink girl The $heepe$t Street Urban Street Art Shoes Pointer Woman Poor Hannah Darth Vader Sleep is commercial The finger Painter

All the photos of street art above come from Mitte, the central borough of Berlin. It’s the “capital” of Berlin, if you will. Around the backstreets of Mitte you find abandoned buildings filled covered in illegal art.

There’s some real creativity there, it’s refreshing compared to what we see here in San Francisco. Lots of paste, text, airbrushing, even mixed media. There’s a tinge of geekery to many pieces that you rarely see in the local scene.

But what impressed me the most was how well the artists integrated their pieces into the surroundings. For example, I didn’t even notice the mouse pointer until the forth or fifth time I walked past it. Or the “secret police” in the first image above, which was in and of itself quite secret as it was only visible from one spot.

The best art is the art that belongs where it is in some intangible, indescribable way. Which is to say my photos don’t just suck because I’m a shitty photographer — they suck because it’s not as good as seeing the art in person. And that’s the excuse I’m sticking with.

Sachsenhausen concentration camp

August 17th, 2011

"Work will set you free"

Relief map of the original complex

While in Berlin, I took a tour of the Schsenhausen concentration camp through Insider Tours, a tour company that offers fantastic (and cheap) walking tours in a variety of languages.

Schsenhausen was the first facility built as a concentration camp. Just outside Berlin, it replaced a lot of temporary facilities in existing buildings with a large facility custom designed for its purpose. The main feature was triangular layout (above) which allowed an SS guard just above the gate to see the entire prison yard and aim a giant machine gun anywhere he liked.

Schsenhausen was a work camp. Prisoners were used for free labor and as test subjects for horrible inhumane experiments. It began as a camp for political prisoners, but it also grew to include Jews, gays, the handicapped, and social outcasts. All of these people were mixed in with murderers, rapists, etc. sent from other prisons in Germany. Eventually POWs were included as well.

Prisoner's bathroom Prisoner living quarters Paint peeling

300 or so prisoners — all male — were crammed into fairly small buildings. I say fairly small because they don’t look too small from the outside, but inside there were probably 50 or so tourists and it was difficult to move around. It’s hard to imagine how cramped it would have been with 6 times as many people.

One of the remaining buildings was torched a few years ago by a neo-Nazi. It’s since been rebuilt and turned into a museum, but many burned parts including the peeling paint above remain as a memory.

Kitchen murals Kitchen murals

A large building contained the kitchen in a basement. There’s a number of happy murals here which seem in stark contrast to the concentration camp. It’s not known exactly when or why these were painted. They’re now preserved behind glass.

Soviet memorial

After the Soviets took over half of Germany, they built this hideous thing on the site to memorialize the prisoners — but only the political prisoners. Red triangles were worn on the uniforms of political prisoners. Other prisoners wore different colors. The statue represents a working-class man communist rescued by a Soviet soldier and a politician.

Station Z Station Z

Station Z was called “Z” because it’s the last letter in the alphabet, and it corresponded to the end of life for prisoners who were sick or had grown weak or injured. Originally prisoners were simply mowed down by machine guns in a ditch, but this was determined to be “inhumane.” Not to the prisoners of course, but to the guards who felt bad about just shooting defenseless people.

So they built a new Station Z, which was disguised as a medical office. Prisoners entered and were examined by a fake doctor. They were sent into another room with thick walls, where their skulls were measured. A second fake doctor would enter and look at the prisoner facing away from him (so he didn’t have to make eye contact) and shoot the prisoner exactly in the base of his skull with a small pistol. This minimized the mess. Later, they started experimenting with gassing prisoners using fake “showers” in the same building.

The dead bodies were then sent to be cremated in the next room. To make money, the Nazis sold the remains to their families with a fake death certificate. The workload was too high to clean the cremation furnaces after every use, so the remains were likely a mix of several people.

Autopsy bed

The Nazis claimed they did an autopsy on every prisoner, but in reality they only did autopsy on prisoners with unusual bodies or those who they had performed surgical experiments on. Above is one of the two autopsy beds in the camp.

End of the camp

When the Soviets began to win the war, the Nazis moved prisoners out of far away concentration camps to Schsenhausen. The camp became overcrowded despite the SS’s best efforts at killing as quickly as possible. But it was too late; they were surrendering. The remaining SS soldiers marched the prisoners out into the forest, then told everyone to go to sleep. The soldiers ran away in the middle of the night.

Once the Soviets had taken over, they used the prison camp for a while as their own to hold Nazis and other political prisoners. Thousands of Soviet prisoners were buried in a mass grave near the site. Eventually they shut down the camp, and most of what remained was lost in the next few years before the GDR government turned it into a memorial site.

Read more about this horrible place at Wikipedia.

Einstein’s desk drawings

August 17th, 2011

Desk drawings

Okay, I doubt Einstein really drew this. But the desks at his old university are very old, and many of them had fun drawings like the one above.

And in all fairness, the school has seen many other famous folks as well including Karl Marx, Max Planck, and the Brothers Grimm. Perhaps Karl Marx drew this as a critique of the failed capitalist state? We may never know.

Spotted at Humboldt University in Berlin.

Bad Fucking

August 17th, 2011

Bad Fucking

Bad Fucking

Spotted this on display yesterday at a bookstore in the Tegel airport in Berlin. I tried really hard not to laugh (but wasn’t very successful.)

Who Killed Bambi?

August 13th, 2011

Who Killed Bambi?

“Who Killed Bambi?” is unfortunately not a mystery novel, it’s an unusually named women’s clothing store in Mitte, Berlin.

Dolores California Gourmet Burritos in Berlin

August 10th, 2011


IMG_0067 IMG_0065

On a small side street near the touristy hellhole of Alexanderplatz is a San Francisco themed burrito place. If you’re a burrito lover in or around San Francisco, you may have heard of this by now: they have a San Francisco Muni map covering on the wall and Anchor Steam (imported via Amsterdam) by the bottle.

The burritos are made traditionally, but they didn’t use an “assembly line” format like you find in so many SF taquerias. Rather, you order at the counter and they call your number.

To me, the burrito I had tasted more like something from Rubio’s than a traditional SF burrito. It was more sweet than spicy, very light on the rice, and wasn’t tightly rolled. Which isn’t to say that it wasn’t good! It’s just different. Unsurprisingly, the place seems to attract American expats in Berlin longing for home. And I can’t say I blame them — after a few days of heavy carb-and-fat laden German food, a burrito really hit the spot for me.

What happened to Zeitgeist?!

August 10th, 2011


Oh man, first that whole debacle with Anthony Bourdain, now a new storefront with a big pink heart? Oh well, as long as the beer and bloodys keep flowing we shouldn’t complain too much.

Spotted in Berlin near Alexanderplatz.