Posts Tagged ‘videos’

Remembering the “clap-along” at Century Theaters

November 26th, 2018


Century Theaters clap-along video

 
If you watch movies in the Bay Area (or anywhere in the western part of the US, really) there’s a good chance you’ve been to Century Theaters. Formerly known as Syufy Theaters, Century typically operated multi-screen cineplexes in out of the way locations. Around the year 2000 or so the chain began pivoting away from this model, closing their old freestanding theaters and opening new cineplexes in malls and shopping centers. Today Century Theaters is part of Cinemark but still operates as an independent brand.

Those who lived in the Bay Area in the 80′s and 90′s probably remember a peculiar crowd phenomenon at Century just before the movie started — the clap-along song.

Truthfully it wasn’t even a song, so much as a cheesy rhythmic backing track playing during a pre-film bumper explaining all the ways you could spend your money at the theater, in case you forgot to buy popcorn or drop quarters in the video games at the “Starcade.”

The song’s rhythm contains a repeating bass and brass section that goes something like this:

Doo doo doo… DO-DO-DO, DO-DO-DO

At many showings the audience would spontaneously clap along to those last six beats: clap clap clap, clap clap clap!

Sort of like “the wave” at sporting events, it’s difficult to pinpoint who started this in general, let alone who started it at any individual film screening. For my part as an individual I never felt singled out for not participating in the clap-along, yet it was somehow embarrassing if I was the only one doing it.

The only time anyone outright laughed at other participants is if they clapped at the wrong time. Due to the timing of the song the clapping part isn’t completely consistent throughout the song, you had to know when it’s coming in order to get the timing right.

From what I recall the clapping phenomenon was more prevalent at certain Century Theaters, and tended to happen more at late night screenings and almost never during matinees.

But the oddest aspect is where the audience tended to clap along to the song. It seems almost unknown outside of the Bay Area, and yet Century Theaters can be found throughout California and many other states.

According to one former Century Theaters projectionist:

It was always a fun bit of unprompted audience participation that made moviegoing feel like something that overlapped the feeling of kindergarten with the feeling of being in a fun-loving cult.*

*Funnily enough, a friend who grew-up in Ventura County said that she encountered the Century Theaters clap-along ritual when visiting relatives in Northern California as a kid and it freaked her out.

I can’t say this “ritual” ever felt cult-like to me, just a whimsical piece of Bay Area lore that never meant anything. It was a funny way to pass the time while waiting for the movie to start — sometimes more fun than the movie itself if my memory of sitting through Waterworld is anything to go by.

Ultimately the clap-along video was replaced by a new video with a less memorable song that nobody claps along with.

If the 90′s era video at the top of this post doesn’t seem familiar, check out this older version that’s a little before my time:

Windmill spins at Golden Gate Park

November 12th, 2018


 

Yesterday I went on the SF City Guides Golden Gate Park: West End tour. Among other points of interest the tour stops at the park’s two windmills — the Dutch Windmill to at the northwestern corner of the park, and the Murphy Windmill a block or two south.

Most of the time the windmills are completely still — not due to a lack of wind, but the potential for too much of it. If they were allowed to spin freely they could break apart and become a safety hazard, so they’re typically latched in place.

For whatever reason the Murphy Windmill was spinning yesterday morning, as you can see in the video above. I’d never seen either windmill spinning in person before; the motion makes the windmill look even larger and more majestic than when it’s sitting stationary.

Why does Golden Gate Park have windmills? They were built in the late 19th and early 20th century as the park’s irrigation system, pumping water out of wells up into lakes in the park. Unfortunately for the windmills, electric pumps became available shortly after they were built. No longer needed, the windmills began to decay and the metal in the internal mechanisms was salvaged for scrap.

But San Francisco’s love for antiques meant there was interest in preserving the windmills, similar to how the cable cars avoided destruction. The Dutch Windmill was restored in 1981 and the Murphy Windmill much more recently in 2012. For more details on the history of the windmills and the preservation efforts, read this 2007 paper from University of Vermont student Sarah LeVaun Graulty, which also includes historic photos and illustrations.

My favorite bit of trivia I learned from the City Guides tour is also mentioned in the paper. Golden Gate Park’s windmills are Dutch-style, but are far larger than those in the Netherlands. So what do Dutch windmill enthusiasts call this pair of unique windmills? What else could they be called — the “San Francisco Giants.”

How I got mentioned in an art history dissertation

November 2nd, 2018

It’s been brought to my attention that yours truly is mentioned in a master’s dissertation — and even cited as a source.

On the surface this seems surprising since I hold a master’s in computer science. I’ve never written a serious academic paper on art, let alone history. But as you’ll soon see it’s not that kind of citation.

Last year an art history major named Kat Lukes-Caribeaux at York University wrote a dissertation titled The Epistemology of Elsewhere: Space and Play as Laboratories of Multivalent Participatory Knowledges in The Games of Nonchalance. In it she describes the events of Games of Nonchalance (aka The Jejune Institute) in great detail while examining its interaction with its own surrounding public space and how that fits with the concept of play.

The final act was at the Hyatt Recency San Francisco in 2011. In Lukes-Caribeaux’s description of the event:

On the afternoon of March 11, 2011, the Games of Nonchalance-dedicated Unfiction forum hosted a spark of new activity. The Jejune Institute had just announced a Socio-Reengineering Seminar for April 10th at San Francisco‚Äôs Hyatt Regency [...] In the two days preceding, 300 registered persons were emailed with a room number at the Hyatt and an appointed time for a “pre-screening” examination conducted by representatives from the Jejune Institute. Tasked by the Elsewhere Public Works Agency to infiltrate the Jejune Institute one last time, participants were instructed to retrieve a small round object called a Bio4ce Globe from the pre-screening room without detection by the examiner. Regardless of what happened, the instructions warned participants to under no circumstance place the Globe in water. After their operatives retrieved the globes, the EPWA hoped to kidnap Octavio Coleman Esquire.66

 
On April 10th, ticket holders were greeted by Antoine Logan, the seminar’s featured speaker (fig. 12). After four hours of various team-building activities that included breathing exercises, parachute games, watching a video of a “dolphin telling jokes,” and yelling “yes!” at a stranger while the stranger shot back varying intonations of “no!,” Antoine faced the crowd with a knowing look. “Some of you brought something with you…”67 This produced a documented anxious response amongst participants who had successfully retrieved a Bio4ce Globe from the pre-screening, an anxiety that only heightened when Antoine asked they reveal it, and then drop it into a supplied glass of hot water. In a video posted by MrEricSir on YouTube of the incident, an audience member is heard shouting defiantly “why?,” protecting their Globe. “Because,” Antoine calmly replies, “that is how we make tea.”68

You’ll have to read the paper (linked above) to see all the relevant citations, but you can see my video of the tea ceremony below. The moment described above occurs at about one minute in:
 


 

For the record, I’d only pulled out my phone to shoot this video a couple minutes after Antoine first asked us to put the ball in the water. Silence and hesitation filled the room for quite some time — like everyone else, I had no idea what would happen if I chose to make the tea or resisted. It was easily the hardest “should I make tea or not?” decision I’ve ever faced.

Either way I’m glad I shot the video, if for no other reason to do my little part for Lukes-Caribeaux’s interesting dissertation.

Carnaval Parade: Stoic Cop

May 29th, 2018


 

Yesterday at San Francisco’s 2018 Carnaval Parade a number of dancers for whatever reason decided to target a particular SFPD officer with their dance moves, crowding him and grinding against him. He barely reacted — a truly stoic cop if there ever was one.

As you can see in the video I was hardly the only one in the crowd to notice this happening, let alone take photos or videos. I overheard one man in the crowd suggest the cop would make a good Buckingham Palace guard.

This police officer is the same one who can be seen in the thumbnail image in the video I posted yesterday, something I planned meticulously of a weird coincidence since I filmed from various points along the parade route.

Carnaval San Francisco 2018 parade

May 28th, 2018

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For a bunch more photos check out my Carnaval 2018 album here.
 

Today was the grand parade of Carnaval San Francisco, the Mission District’s biggest parade and cultural event. It was billed as the 40th Anniversary, which isn’t exactly true… but forget it. Sometimes you just have to put down your calculator, pick up a Modelo tallboy in a paper bag, and enjoy Carnaval.

Unlike the 2016 parade I didn’t see Elvis this time, but overall the parade seemed longer? Around three hours. All the staples you’d expect like BART, Shriners, low riders, Recology and many different dance groups. Muni seems to have taken upon themselves to hand out bead necklaces, including throwing them at people watching from apartment windows and fire escapes.

Check out the video below for some highlights.

Mini Strandbeest

August 4th, 2016

Mini Strandbeest
 

I received an unexpected gift at work today; a Mini Strandbeest kit. Like a wildly complex Ikea furniture set, there’s dozens of parts to stick together, but it doesn’t take terribly long if you follow the directions.

If you’ve been stuck under a rock for the past few decades and are unfamiliar with Strandbeests, check out the Wikipedia page on the artist who created them.

This particular tiny Strandbeest is powered by wind, with a small windmill and two reduction gears. Like its peers you can also just push it along with your hands, but it’s far more entertaining to blow on the windmill and watch it spring into action.

Want to see it walk? I placed it on the floor and pointed a fan at it. Here’s a short video of the result, complete with silly music to complete the effect:

 

Breaking down San Francisco landmarks in the Watch Dogs 2 trailer

June 10th, 2016

This week Ubisoft launched a trailer for their upcoming game, Watch Dogs 2. While I wasn’t particularly impressed by the first entry in the series, a 3rd person action/hacking game, the sequel immediately interested me due to the setting: San Francisco and the Bay Area at large.

You can watch the trailer below or here. For those unfamiliar with the world of video games, this is a “cinematic” trailer, which means it’s CGI concept art intended to advertise the game — in other words, this isn’t gameplay footage, but rather what producers intend the game to look like when it’s finished.

How many local landmarks did you discover in the video? Here’s what I spotted — click any image for full size.

Golden Gate Bridge, Karl the Fog, and the Transamerica Pyramid:

The Ferry Building and the Embarcadero Center:

Alcatraz:

A cable car working its way up a hill:

Not technically a landmark, but a guy wearing Google Cardboard on Muni is good enough IMO:

Again, technically a homeless guy with a shopping card isn’t a “landmark” but it had might as well be:

Lombard Street, which someone’s taking a photo of on their phone for the sake of accuracy:

Sea Lions at Pier 39, complete with tourists utilizing a selfie stick:

3D printing a gun — okay so again this isn’t a landmark at all, but I imagine there’s more 3D printers than guns in San Francisco so I’ll let it slide:

Chinatown chase scene:

AT&T Park, or whichever phone company it’s named after right now:

“Nudle” is clearly a stand in for Google’s Mountain View campus:

The Bay Bridge serves as a backdrop for a chase scene:

Hangar One at Moffett Field in Mountain View:

Well there you have it. I’m sure there’s a few I missed, feel free to e-mail me an angry rant if that’s the case. Regardless I may have to buy the game when it comes out in November to see how it portrays the Bay Area.

Carnaval San Francisco 2016 parade

May 30th, 2016

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Click any photo for a larger view
 

This year’s Carnaval parade had all the elements we’ve come to expect: dance groups wearing peacock-style outfits, DJs on trucks spinning music, salsa dancers, stilt walkers, marching bands, and floats from various local organizations and city services. I thought Recology’s dancing garbage collectors were surprisingly on point, running around with recycling and compost bins in the sweltering sunlight.

Here’s some of the more unusual highlights. First, a visit from the masked man himself… Zorro!

 
Carnaval SF 2016
 

A photographer really wanted a photo of this dog, but the dog just wasn’t interested in fame.

 
Carnaval SF 2016
 

Elvis showed up with his pink Cadillac. When the parade stopped for a couple of minutes, he ran backwards through the parade to bust some moves with a burlesque troupe.

 
Carnaval SF 2016

Carnaval SF 2016
 

To complete this post here’s Batala’s drum troupe at the tail end of the parade:

Remembering the Red Vic Movie House

July 30th, 2011


 

In spite of their uncomfortable seats and strange popcorn toppings, many of us have fond memories of Haight Street’s Red Vic Movie House, which closed forever on Monday after more than 30 years.

Their silent “Dishes” video (above) was of course shown prior to every film. It served as a reminder to not make a mess and to return your popcorn bowl after the film. Otherwise, of course, you might find yourself pulled under the seat in front of you down into the depths of hell. An important lesson for us all.

But what really made the Red Vic memorable wasn’t just their funny film bumper or their selection of cult classic films — it was the guests who showed up. For example, when I first saw mumblecore classic “Funny Ha Ha,” director Andrew Bujalski stuck around to answer questions and just hang out with us in the audience. That sort of interaction between filmmaker and audience was the rule, not the exception at the Red Vic. You rarely find that at any other theater.

And that’s why the Red Vic will be missed.

The Two Commandments

May 23rd, 2011

With all this “rapture” nonsense over the weekend, I thought it was a good time to re-visit a classic George Carlin bit in which he narrows the 10 commandments down to a much more reasonable number, simply by cutting out the crap.