Posts Tagged ‘videos’

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class="post-8856 post type-post status-publish format-standard hentry category-local tag-nonchalance tag-television tag-the-jejune-institute tag-videos">

The Jejune Institute is coming to the small screen

November 26th, 2019
Teaser trailer for Dispatches From Elsewhere

 

“Welcome to The Jejune Institute,” a disembodied female voice declares as someone enters a small room.

When I first saw a list of TV shows AMC was working on, Dispatches From Elsewhere immediately jumped out at me. Both the name of the show and one of the characters — Octavio — were lifted straight from Games of Nonchalance, an alternate reality game of sorts which ran in San Francisco from 2008 through April 2011.

In the first chapter, players would visit an office tower downtown at The Jejune Institute, where they’d be sent to a small room to watch a video recording about the “institute” and its founder, Octavio Coleman, Esquire.

For the show they’ve changed the setting to Philadelphia, but a lot of it looks similar — an unusual induction center for a mysterious institute, flash mob protests, cryptic messages from payphones, confusion about what’s going on… who knows what else could be in store?

According to IMDb the show will star Andre 3000, Sally Field, and series creator Jason Segel among others. It will debut sometime next year.

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class="post-8792 post type-post status-publish format-standard hentry category-misc tag-los-angeles tag-photos tag-public-transportation tag-travel tag-videos">

Angels Flight

October 30th, 2019

 

For my last day in Los Angeles I was determined to cross a few items off my bucket list, and in order to get there I thought I’d cross off another: riding Angels Flight, the “world’s shortest railway.” It’s really a diagonal elevator with two cars that act as counterbalances.

On my previous visit to LA I went on a walking tour that included Angels Flight, but I didn’t read the fine print correctly. Although they promised a 50% discount off the $1 fare if you had a TAP card, they were not capable of charging the fare to a TAP card and required cash payment — which I didn’t have on me.

This time around I had plenty of quarters left over after going to a fancy new arcade and doing laundry, so I figured I’d give it another go. In the video above I’ve documented this quirky, jerky short railway in all its original 1901 glory.

Well… sort of. The history of Angels Flight isn’t quite what you might think. It was originally located at a different location, closed in 1969, and reopened in 1996 at the new space, only to close repeatedly over the years after a fatal accident. You can read all the details over at Wikipedia.

Armed with a pocket full of quarters I took the trip up the hill — only to find they now have a TAP card reader at the ticket booth at the top. Better late than never.

I also took a few photos of Angels Flight:

 

Angel's Flight Angel's Flight Angel's Flight
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class="post-8740 post type-post status-publish format-standard hentry category-misc tag-los-angeles tag-photos tag-the-last-bookstore tag-travel tag-videos">

The Last Bookstore’s upstairs labyrinth

October 25th, 2019

The Last Bookstore: Upstairs

 

On my last trip to LA I just sort of stumbled across The Last Bookstore, a large bookstore selling new, used, antique, and rare books and comic books as well as vinyl records.

Both times I wandered in I was a little distracted by well-attended events they were holding in the store with authors and poets. Not a bad problem to have for The Last Bookstore by any means, but it meant I couldn’t explore the space as freely as I would have liked.

As it turns out I’d missed two key aspects to the store. One I knew about: the upstairs. The other took me by surprise: the bank vaults. Yes, the building was once a bank, and the open bank vault doors now reveal small rooms lined with books.

So what’s upstairs? Balconies on each of the four sides of the building are roughly half devoted to art gallery spaces, and half to a quirky “labyrinth” of oddball book decor and oddly arranged shelving.

On those shelves you’ll find a strange blend of genres from science fiction to identity politics. A few bookshelves are devoted to single topics — Sherlock Holmes, for example.

Here’s a short video I put together of the crazy upstairs labyrinth at The Last Bookstore. I had to remove the ambient audio due to copyrights.

 

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class="post-8641 post type-post status-publish format-standard hentry category-local tag-historic-streetcars tag-muni tag-photos tag-san-francisco tag-videos">

A ride on San Francisco’s boat tram

August 23rd, 2019


 

On Wednesday I mistakenly clicked on bookmark to streetcar.live, an online map displaying the current locations of each of San Francisco’s historic streetcars that are currently running. Before I had a chance to close the tab, I noticed something unusual: one of the Blackpool “boat trams” was running! I decided to take a long lunch and go for a ride.

There are two of these unusual boat trams in the fleet. They’re roofless, windowless streetcars (or “trams” for non-Americans) with a certain whimsical appeal. They’re not very practical since they can only operate on warm days when there’s no chance of rain. Though I’m not sure who came up with the “boat tram” name, I think they missed the opportunity to call these vehicles “railboats.”

Unbeknownst to me Muni has been running these all summer on Tuesdays and Wednesdays between the Ferry Building and Pier 39. Normally the boat trams are only trotted out during special events, or for chartered rides.

In the video above I filmed the entire ride to Pier 39, sitting in the very front seat. Maybe not the best spot in terms of cinematography, though you can see a number of local sights along the way and an encounter with a Muni supervisor.

I also took a few photos before and after the ride:
 

Boat Tram Boat Tram Boat Tram Boat Tram

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class="post-8466 post type-post status-publish format-standard hentry category-local tag-parks tag-public-transportation tag-salesforce tag-san-francisco tag-soma tag-videos">

Gondola ride to Salesforce Park

July 3rd, 2019


 

The term “gondola” can mean many different things. The first that comes to my mind are the boats in Venice, but here I’m talking about a different form of transportation: a gondola lift.

This gondola in particular takes visitors up from ground level to Salesforce Park on the top of the freshly re-opened Salesforce Transit Center. See it in action for yourself in my video above.

So far I’ve tried the gondola twice now to get up to the park since it re-opened on Monday. I was particularly interested in riding it since it wasn’t operational the first time Salesforce Transit Center opened.

While it’s interesting to try it out, it’s pretty silly. Here’s why:

  • You can only go up in the gondola: passengers are not allowed to ride back down in it. I assume this is due to space concerns at the top and bottom.
  • Unlike the elevators and escalators inside the building you can take to the park, the gondola takes at least three people to operate: one person at the bottom for crowd control, an on board operator, and a security guard at the top.
  • It reminded me of the time I took an inclinator (a diagonal elevator) when I was visiting Stockholm, which is to say it’s not that different from an elevator.

Both times I went on it there was a short line. I imagine it’ll be busier on the weekends, and should draw more of a crowd once buses are heading to Salesforce Transit Center again. It doesn’t seem like it would be worth waiting in a long line for since it’s hardly the only way up to the park.

On the other hand it’s a free attraction to a free park. Can’t complain about the price of admission.

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class="post-8364 post type-post status-publish format-standard hentry category-local tag-doctor-who tag-san-francisco tag-star-wars tag-videos">

South Beach security droid

June 5th, 2019


 

Recently housing/retail complex The Beacon, located by the 4th and King Caltrain terminal and the Giant’s ballpark, added a roaming security droid on the sidewalk surrounding the building. These are increasingly common in shopping malls, but on public sidewalks? Is that even allowed?

The first time I saw this particular droid was outside the Taco Bell Cantina at the corner of Third and Townsend. My mind immediately jumped to Star Wars, I couldn’t help but to hear the Cantina Band song in my head as it lumbered around, immediately reminding me of R2-D2.

I went so far as to ask around to see if anyone I knew owned a C-3PO costume so I could go hang around the droid in character as his companion. Unfortunately even the geekiest Star Wars fans I know don’t have one; a shame because that would have been a great Halloween costume pairing.

When I presented all of this to my boss, he insisted that no — this wasn’t R2-D2, it was a Dalek from Doctor Who.

That’s a much scarier proposition. R2-D2 is a harmless little droid whereas the Daleks are hell-bent on exterminating “inferior” races. All things considered I wouldn’t want a Dalek hanging out near my office.

Finally today the argument was settled as far as I’m concerned. While talking a walk by the Beacon with my boss, we both filmed the droid as it made its rounds. As you can see in the above video a random guy came up to it and said “R2-D2, I love you!”

I’m still not sure how I feel about private droids patrolling public space, but if you want to see R2-D2 in person it’s significantly cheaper than heading to Disneyland’s new Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.

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class="post-7628 post type-post status-publish format-standard hentry category-local tag-mosconecenter tag-videos">

Moscone Center skyway lights

February 23rd, 2019


 

With the Moscone Center rebuild (mostly) complete, one element particularly stands out after dark. Every time I walk by at night I see people snapping photos of the light display in the glass-walled skyway between Moscone North and South.

I was pretty surprised when the contractors began construction on the skyway — why would a convention center that’s mostly underground need an above ground walkway? It’s particularly odd considering the new above ground space is only in Moscone South, though to be fair I haven’t been inside since the recent renovation.

But now that it’s there the skyway’s colorful LED light display fits with SOMA’s other light displays including the Metromile building, the Bay Lights on the Bay Bridge, and the video screen hat on Salesforce Tower.

While it lacks the playfulness of the Bay Lights or the detail of Salesforce Tower’s videos, the Moscone Center’s skyway lights makes up for these shortcomings in sheer intensity. Like a house covered in far too many Christmas lights you really can’t miss it. I suspect that’s why it’s becoming a spot for photos.

Here’s to hoping this relatively simple LED light show works better than the failed video art screen at Moscone West.

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class="post-6841 post type-post status-publish format-standard hentry category-local tag-audience-participation tag-century-theaters tag-music tag-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:

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class="post-6822 post type-post status-publish format-standard hentry category-local tag-city-guides tag-golden-gate-park tag-san-francisco tag-videos tag-windmill">

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.”

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class="post-6800 post type-post status-publish format-standard hentry category-local tag-art-history tag-nonchalance tag-the-jejune-institute tag-videos">

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.