kottke.org posts about San Francisco

Nana nana nana nana, Batkid!Nov 15 2013

Batkid

It's Friday. Let's start with something awesome. The city of San Francisco has been transformed into Gotham City for a kid named Miles who has been battling leukemia since being diagnosed at the age of one. Miles' wish was to be Batkid. Enter the Make-a-Wish foundation (with the help of thousands of people in San Francisco). Today, Miles is performing a series of superhero feats. The day started with a special front page of the San Francisco Chronicle. You can follow the adventures of Batkid at Buzzfeed and by following Make-a-Wish exec director Patricia Wilson on Twitter. And speaking of superhero feats, Miles' leukemia is reportedly in remission.

The world according to @darthAug 30 2013

"Darth" is a pseudonymous Twitter user with a terrific sense of humor, a loyal and highly interactive following, and a special gift for fast, funny, topical, reference-heavy, and often bespoke Photoshop work.

Here are five of @darth's photos just from the last week.

Reactions to John Lewis at the fiftieth anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom:

When the hashtag "#NSAromcom" started floating around, @darth made many many posters to match Twitter users' proposed titles:

This poster, featuring a relatively rare appearance by @darth him/her/itself, was just a response to Reuters' Margarita Noriega tweeting that summer was ending:

I don't even know what happened here, but it's beautiful and funny for reasons I can't explain or understand:

But this one is pretty easy for just about anyone to get:

Update: I challenged @darth to make a poster for the movie "The World According to @Darth," using The World According to Garp as a reference. In less than thirty minutes, the poster was born, complete with tiny, perfect textual details that you have to see at full size to fully appreciate.

A crack in the trackOct 19 2010

Nice time lapse of a construction crew replacing some train tracks in San Francisco.

Uncovered 1906 San Francisco earthquake footageOct 05 2010

The video is 17 minutes long; the first 6 minutes is a long drive during which you don't see a whole lot of intact buildings...and many stretches with no buildings at all. See also a 1905 streetcar trip down Market Street. (via devour)

San Francisco artists' soapbox derby, 1975May 14 2010

In 1975, a bunch of artists competed in a soapbox derby in San Francisco. It is "far out, man".

The banana is the fastest fruit I could think of.

Final editionJan 07 2010

Twilight of the American newspaper tells the story of San Francisco and its newspapers. And in that tale, a glimpse that we might be losing our sense of place along with the newspaper.

We will end up with one and a half cities in America -- Washington, D.C., and American Idol. We will all live in Washington, D.C., where the conversation is a droning, never advancing, debate between "conservatives" and "liberals." We will not read about newlyweds. We will not read about the death of salesmen. We will not read about prize Holsteins or new novels. We are a nation dismantling the structures of intellectual property and all critical apparatus. We are without professional book reviewers and art critics and essays about what it might mean that our local newspaper has died. We are a nation of Amazon reader responses (Moby Dick is "not a really good piece of fiction" -- Feb. 14, 2009, by Donald J. Bingle, Saint Charles, Ill. -- two stars out of five). We are without obituaries, but the famous will achieve immortality by a Wikipedia entry.

Market Street, 1905Nov 09 2009

Man, lots of good stuff today. This is a film of a trip down Market Street in San Francisco taken in 1905 from the front of a streetcar. The array of driving styles and vehicles on display here is dazzling. (via justin blanton)

Update: The film is actually from 1906, filmed four days before the deadly earthquake. Here's the whole thing on YouTube:

A section of this film from later in 1906 offers a post-earthquake view of the same trip down Market Street (from 2:23 to 5:55).

Are you moving to San Francisco?Jul 07 2009

If so, Mat Honan has some expectation-adjusting advice for incoming residents.

If you're moving 3,000 (or even 300) miles to live in San Francisco; live in San Francisco. And by I don't simply mean that you should not live in the East Bay or the Peninsula or Marin. I mean live in a part of the city that your great-grandparents would recognize as being San Francisco. Somewhere that was entirely residential, and all of the homes in your neighborhood existed, prior to 1915. If you've only lived in SoMa, you haven't lived in San Francisco.

I'm not a fan of SF, but Mat does a nice job in highlighting the aspects of the city that are difficult to beat.

Update: Alex Payne has some advice for those moving to SF.

For a first world city, San Francisco is dirty. No, filthy. No, disgusting. Whenever I travel outside of San Francisco, I'm amazed at what a disastrous anomaly it is. Sidewalks are routinely covered in broken glass, trash, old food, and human excrement. The smell of urine is not uncommon, nor is the sight of homeless persons in varying states of dishevelment. I frequented tough neighborhoods in DC and Baltimore -- then the murder capital of the nation -- and only in San Francisco have I been actively threatened on the street.

Nailed it. Payne's points are exactly why I didn't like SF at all.

The pretty colors of salt evaporation pondsAug 19 2008

COLOURlovers draws out some color palettes from salt evaporation ponds from around the world. If you've ever flown into San Francisco, you may have seen the salt ponds at the south end of the bay.

Sourdough sucksJun 27 2008

The tyranny of sourdough, AKA San Francisco's bread problem.

It's sour because in the US, particularly in San Francisco, it's hard to buy good bread. About 75% of the decent bread in my grocery store, both fresh baked and industrial, is sourdough. Consumers think sourdough is shorthand for quality. It's not. In fact, sourdough is seldom the appropriate bread for a meal. It makes lousy sandwiches, lousy breakfast, it clashes with cheese. It's good with creamy soups, and it's good plain with butter. But the premium bakeries all push sourdough, and so sourdough becomes synonymous with "good", when it's not.

This is probably more than 50% of the reason why I left San Francisco.

Regarding Eve Mosher's project to draw aJun 21 2007

Regarding Eve Mosher's project to draw a flood line around Brooklyn and lower Manhattan, here are a couple of related projects. Ledia Carroll's Restore Mission Lake Project outlined the shore of an historical lake which used to sit in the midst of San Francisco's Mission neighborhood. Under The Level explores the possibility and consequences of Katrina-level flooding in NYC. (thx, kayte and dens)

Crazy story about a woman who bumpsJun 18 2007

Crazy story about a woman who bumps into the woman who stole her identity in a Starbucks. A chase ensues. "She had bad teeth and looked like she hadn't bathed. I thought, 'You're buying Prada on my dime. Go get your teeth fixed.'"

Beyond Chron: "In San Francisco, neighborhoods thatMay 14 2007

Beyond Chron: "In San Francisco, neighborhoods that have defeated gentrification have been treated as 'containment zones,' meaning that unreasonable levels of crime, violence and drugs are tolerated so that such activities do not spread to upscale areas. The Tenderloin has long been one of the city's leading containment zones, but those days are over." Sounds a bit like Hamsterdam from season three of The Wire.

A tour of The Boring Store, theMar 01 2007

A tour of The Boring Store, the Chicago outpost of Dave Eggers' 826 non-profit writing/tutoring conglomerate and "Chicago's only undercover secret agent supply store". The store joins NYC's superhero supply store and San Francisco's pirate supply store.

Update: The Seattle chapter of 826 runs the Greenwood Space Travel Supply Store. (thx, brooks & paul)

Oddly surreal photo of the Queen Mary 2Feb 14 2007

Oddly surreal photo of the Queen Mary 2 going under the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

Pairing San Francisco neighborhoods with New YorkFeb 02 2007

Pairing San Francisco neighborhoods with New York neighborhoods. For instance, North Beach --> Little Italy, Hayes Valley --> Chelsea, and Mission --> Wiliamsburg.

The rate of suicides off of theJan 19 2007

The rate of suicides off of the Golden Gate Bridge increased sharply in 2006, in part because of the local screening of The Bridge, a documentary about Golden Gate Bridge suicides. "The Bridge premiered locally in April. In May, four people jumped to their deaths and another 11 tried to commit suicide. Normally, no more than two people succeed per month, and an average of four others attempt to jump."

Great SF Chronicle series on sex trafficking:Oct 18 2006

Great SF Chronicle series on sex trafficking: Diary of a Sex Slave. The story centers around a young Korean woman who accrues massive credit card debt and then is sold into prostitution to pay it off.

Manhattan ElsewhereJun 01 2006

A few months ago, I found a map online (which I cannot for the life of me relocate and I'm keen to find it again...any ideas? it's from Bill Rankin's The Errant Isle of Manhattan...see update below) of Manhattan pasted next to Chicago, as if the island had taken up permanent residence in Lake Michigan. Recently I decided to explore the unique aspect of Manhattan's scale with a series of similar maps of places I've been to or lived in: Boston, Chicago, Minneapolis, San Francisco, and Barron, WI (my hometown). Manhattan Elsewhere is the result.

Depending on your vantage point, Manhattan seems either very big or very small. On complete map of the New York City area, Manhattan is dwarfed in size by the other four boroughs and surrounding megopolis. But for someone on the ground in Manhattan, the population density, the height of the buildings, the endless number of things to do, and the fact that many people don't often leave their neighborhoods, much less the island, for weeks/months on end makes it seem a very large place indeed. This divergence sense of scales can cause quite a bit of cognitive dissonance for residents and visitors alike.

Chicago + Manhattan

Chicago + Manhattan, 3-D

For the top image, I used the Google Maps representations of Manhattan and Chicago to create a composite map. In the bottom image, I used Google Earth's 3-D views to create a approximate view of Manhattan from Chicago. In all cases, Manhattan is to scale with the other cities. Click through for larger images and other cities.

Update: The map on which Manhattan Elsewhere is based was done by Bill Rankin, who runs the excellent Radical Cartography site, and is part of The Errant Isle of Manhattan project. He also did maps for Boston, SF, Door County, WI, Philly, and Los Angeles (look at how gigantic LA is!), which I completely forgot about. He also made more of an effort than I did to connect the roads. (thx, zach)

Satellite photo of a piece of SanMay 18 2006

Satellite photo of a piece of San Francisco "healing around now-gone railroad tracks".

rating: 4.0 stars

The BridgeMay 02 2006

Having lived in San Francisco, I've walked across the Golden Gate Bridge and driven across it countless times. The bridge is a nearly perfect metaphor for what some people go there to do. The view on a clear day into the city, the red painted cables glowing in the sun, the sudden way the fog comes in off the ocean to envelop the bridge, the path from the cold city to the warmth of Marin County. Death too is beautiful, dramatic, mysterious, abrupt, and an escape to another place.

In The Bridge, a film about the Golden Gate and suicide, director Eric Steel makes effective use of the bridge's imagery and its relation to death; you can see why so many people choose to end their lives there. The footage he and his crew got is astounding at times...families discuss the death of a loved one while that same person is shown pacing back and forth on the bridge, thinking, waiting. You see a group of police officers, looking almost bored (which was probably hyper-aware nonchalance), talking a man back over the railing.

And yet, I can't tell if that footage actually added anything to the discussion of the issues of mental illness, depression, and coping which were at the heart of many of the jumpers' problems. Does watching death make it any more understandable to family members. To audience members? The footage doesn't say why, it just shows us how, and those aren't quite the same things.

Here's an earlier post on The Bridge, a graph of suicides by location on the Bridge, and the New Yorker article by Tad Friend that inspired the film.

Controversy over The BridgeMay 01 2006

One of the films premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival is The Bridge, a documentary by Eric Steel about suicide and the Golden Gate Bridge. The trailer is available on the festival site but be warned that it contains actual footage of people climbing over the railing of the bridge to commit suicide.

The Bridge was inspired by a 2003 New Yorker story by Tad Friend called Jumpers, a piece about suicide and the bridge. The subject of suicide is often not discussed in the media. Self-inflicted deaths aren't usually reported in the newspapers or on TV. Suicide prevention activists caution against suicide contagion due to media exposure of individual suicides leading to copycat deaths.

But that's just the start of the controversy surrounding the film. In order to secure a permit to shoot the Golden Gate (which he did for the entirety of 2004, amassing almost 10,000 hours of footage), Steel said he was shooting footage to capture "the powerful, spectacular intersection of monument and nature that takes place every day at the Golden Gate Bridge". He says he lied to discourage people to seek out his cameras to immortalize their deaths on film, but it's also true that Golden Gate National Recreation Area officials certainly wouldn't have given him a permit to film suicides.

Steel interviewed family members of the jumpers without disclosing that he'd filmed the death of their loved ones (again to avoid publicity for the filming and the death immortalization problem). Some family members felt manipulated by the omission when they learned of it.

Then there's the matter of the filming itself. The film crew's basic job description was to wait for people to die...they needed people to die for their film. If there's no good footage of people jumping, there's no film. Without too much trouble, you can imagine Steel instructing his crew to shoot the next one at a wider angle, the crew refining their techniques for catching the jumpers on film, and the mixture of excitement, dread, and the satisfaction of a job well done when they catch a jumper on film. But the crew was also trained in suicide prevention and intervened in several attempts. And listening to Steel talk about the film, it obviously wasn't meant to be Faces of Death Part XII.

Here are a few more articles on The Bridge:

- Film documenting Golden Gate Bridge suicides premieres, San Jose Mercury News
- Golden Gate star of dark documentary, San Francisco Chronicle
- Man Survives Suicide Jump From Golden Gate Bridge, ABC News

Typographica reports on a food + typography eventApr 27 2006

Typographica reports on a food + typography event going on in San Francisco today on cookbook design. Someone do a similar event in NYC, please.

With Web 2.0 afoot, SF dot com ghostApr 16 2006

With Web 2.0 afoot, SF dot com ghost town South Park is on its way back to boom time. Peter Merholz, a current corporate resident of South Park, recalls the good old days in the area.

The story of downtown San Francisco's failedFeb 28 2006

The story of downtown San Francisco's failed Metreon. A mall by any other name is still a mall.

PARK(ing) is a temporary urban park (Dec 19 2005

PARK(ing) is a temporary urban park (complete with tree and park bench) that was situated in a San Francisco metered parking spot for 2 hours.

Traffic flowNov 21 2005

One of my favorite things to do in new cities is to observe how the traffic works. Traffic in each place has a different feel to it that depends on the culture, physical space, population density, legal situation, and modes of transportation available (and unavailable).

Everyone drives in LA and Minneapolis, even if you're only going a few blocks. In San francisco, pedestrians rule the streets...if a pedestrian steps out into the crosswalk, traffic immediately stops and will stay stopped as long as people are crossing, even if that means the cars are going nowhere, which is great if you're walking and maddening if you're driving. In many cities, both in the US and Europe, people will not cross in a crosswalk against the light and will never jaywalk. In many European cities, city streets are narrow and filled with pedestrians, slowing car traffic[1]. US cities are starting to build bike lanes on their streets, following the example of some European cities.

In NYC, cars and pedestrians take turns, depending on who has the right-of-way and the opportunity, with the latter often trumping the former. Cabs comprise much of the traffic and lanes are often a suggestion rather than a rule, more than in other US cities. With few designated bike lanes, cycling can be dangerous in the fast, heavy traffic of Manhattan. So too can cyclers be dangerous; bike messengers will speed right through busy crosswalks with nothing but a whistle to warn you.

In Bangkok, traffic is aggressive, hostile even. If a driver needs a space, he just moves over, no matter if another car is there or not. Being a pedestrian is a dangerous proposition here; traffic will often not stop if you step out into a crosswalk and it's impossible to cross in some places without the aid of a stoplight or overpass (both of which are rare). More than any other place I've been, I didn't like how the traffic worked in Bangkok, either on foot or in a car.

Traffic in Saigon reminds me a bit of that in Beijing when I visited there in 1996. Lots of communication goes on in traffic here and it makes it flow fairly well. Cars honk to let people know they're coming over, to warn people they shouldn't pull in, motorbikes honk when they need to cross traffic, and cars & motorbikes honk at pedestrians when it's unsafe for them to cross. Traffic moves slow to accommodate cars, the legions of motorbikes (the primary mode of transportation here), and pedestrians all at the same time.[2] Crossing the street involves stepping out, walking slowly, and letting the traffic flow around you. Drivers merging into traffic often don't even look before pulling out; they know the traffic will flow around them. The system requires a lot of trust, but the slow speed and amount of communication make it manageable.[3]

[1] This is the principle behind traffic calming.

[2] That traffic calming business again.

[3] Not that it's not scary as hell too. American pedestrians are taught to fear cars (don't play in the street, look both ways before crossing the street, watch out for drunk drivers) and trusting them to avoid you while you're basically the frog in Frogger...well, it takes a little getting used to.

Graph of suicides by location off theNov 03 2005

Graph of suicides by location off the Golden Gate Bridge. This is a fascinating graph. More overall deaths on the SF half than the Marin half and way more on the bay side. A lot of people walked pretty far before jumping. And lightpost 69...it looks to be about halfway between the towers...lots of symbolism there for the jumpers.

The URL of SandwichOct 25 2005

Although the sandwich was named so after an 18th century British Earl, its invention dates back to a rabbi who lived in the first century B.C.. In my short history, I've eaten more than my fair share of sandwiches and while I can't consider myself a true connoisseur, the humble sandwich is one of my favorite things to eat and the ultimate in comfort foods.

The keys to a good sandwich are the three Bs: bread, balance, and...ok, there's only two Bs, but they're important. Aside from the main ingredient (turkey, tuna, chicken salad, etc.), the bread has the power to make or break a sandwich. The first thing you taste when you take a bite is the bread, so it had better be good and it had better be fresh.

Balance, or how the various parts come together to make a whole sandwich experience, is even more critical than the bread. Too much meat and the sandwich tastes only of meat. (The "famous" delis in NYC are big offenders here...the amount of meat in their sandwiches is way too much. These are sandwiches for showing off, not consumption.) Too much mustard and you overwhelm that beautiful pastrami. The mighty sandwich should not be a lowly conduit for your mustard addiction; why not just eat it straight from the jar? If you've got a dry bread, add a slice of tomato, a little extra mayo, or save it for tuna or egg salad. If you've got a lot of bread (a Kaiser or sub roll, for example), you'll probably need more of everything else to balance it out. Make sure the ingredients are distributed evenly throughout the sandwich. You should get a bit of everything in each bite...it's a BLT, not just an L on toast. If the sandwich maker is doing his job right, you should be able to taste most of the ingredients separately and together at the same time.

Here are a few sandwiches I've enjoyed over the years. I haven't included any of the ones that I regularly make for myself because they're pretty boring, although IMO, they're right up there with any of these.

In college, when my friends and I got sick of eating on campus (and had the money to do so), we'd venture across the street to Zio Johno's, a little Italian place with good, cheap food. At first I just got the spaghetti or lasagna, but one time I tried the Italian sub they offered and I was hooked. The key was the super-sweet sub roll; my measely $3 was enough for both a savory dinner and sweet dessert at the same time. I've never found anywhere else that uses bread that sweet.

I've lived in NYC for three years now, but I haven't run across a steak sandwich that rivals the one I used to get on my lunch break at The Brothers' Deli in Minneapolis. Fried steak, fried onions, and cheddar cheese on a Kaiser roll with a side order of the best potato salad I've ever had[1].

Surdyk's (say "Sir Dicks") is an institution in Northeast Minneapolis (say "Nordeast"), the finest liquor store and cheese shop around. They also had good croissants (say "Qua Sawn" or "Cross Aunts") on which they put fresh ham, Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise. Mmm.

There's nothing I like more than a good BLT, and Specialty's in San Francisco has one of the best I've had. Secret ingredient: pickles. Also, they didn't toast the bread, which I usually frown upon, but it worked well anyway.

As for New York, I don't live close to any good delis, but when I worked in Midtown, I used to zip over to the food court below Grand Central and hit Mendy's. Their chicken salad is top-notch; the chicken is good quality and it isn't overwhelmed by the mayonnaise. I'm usually not such a fan of rye bread, but their rye (it's a light rye) is fantastic and goes very well with the chicken salad. The salami is good too. I usually have half a sandwich with a cup of their chicken noodle.

Do you have a favorite sandwich? Know of any good NYC sandwich spots I should check out?

[1] Although Meg has been making this warm garlic potato salad lately that is a serious contender for the top spot.

Great post about Florent, a restaurant inOct 21 2005

Great post about Florent, a restaurant in the Meatpacking District, on the occasion of its 20th anniversary. I love the NYC/SF map mash-up and the photo of James Earl Jones enjoying a cup of coffee and a newspaper at the restaurant. (via eater)

Tim Gasparak captured JJ Thomas catching sameOct 03 2005

Tim Gasparak captured JJ Thomas catching same air over the streets of San Francisco on a snowboard. SF recently played host to extreme skiers and snowboarders flying down Fillmore Street on several tons of trucked-in snow. Tim's got more photos of the event on Flickr.

Lance Arthur examines living in San FranciscoAug 31 2005

Lance Arthur examines living in San Francisco versus living in NYC and concludes in a highly dubious and hilarious outcome, that San Francisco is by far the better choice.

One of San Francisco's steepest streets willAug 22 2005

One of San Francisco's steepest streets will be closed later this month...for ski jumping. They're hauling in 200 tons of snow and a bunch of skiers. I'm sure this will be a much Flickred event.

Great interview with Chip Conley, founder ofAug 19 2005

Great interview with Chip Conley, founder of Joie de Vivre Hospitality, a boutique hotel group based in SF. "All of our employees get to stay in our hotels for free. Anyone who is a salaried employee gets one month paid sabbatical every three years. And we didn't walk away from it during the downturn." (via peterme)

Ephermeral cities (SF, Paris, Berlin, NYC) provideJul 12 2005

Ephermeral cities (SF, Paris, Berlin, NYC) provide alternative lifestyles to "nonfamilies and the nomadic rich". "To retain an important role in the future, a city needs upwardly mobile people whose families and businesses identify them with a place. A great city is more about clean and workable neighborhoods, thriving business districts, and functioning schools than massive cultural buildings or hipster lofts."

Profile of Alice Waters, best known forJun 13 2005

Profile of Alice Waters, best known for her Bay Area restaurant, Chez Panisse.

Matt Webb on who the web isJun 08 2005

Matt Webb on who the web is and isn't for (this is a great little essay). "The huge influx of cash at the turn of the millennium led to the whole Web being built in the image of the Bay area. The website patterns that started there and - just by coincidence - happened to scale to other environments, those were the ones that survived."

And here is that New Yorker articleMay 31 2005

And here is that New Yorker article about the Golden Gate Bridge suicides.

One of the songs on Sleater-Kinney's newMay 31 2005

One of the songs on Sleater-Kinney's new album was inspired by a New Yorker article about Golden Gate Bridge suicides.

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