Wednesday, 12 August 2020

model 5150

Sharing the anniversary of its release along with many other events of great pith and substance including the sage 1869 proclamation of Emperor Norton I of the United States and Protector of Mรฉxico that dissolved and abolished political parties under penalty of imprisonment, as our faithful chronicler records, the first IBM Personal Computer (PC) was presented to the public on this day in 1981—its open source architecture (see also) and off-the-shelf elements attracted third-parties to create software and peripherals that were otherwise PC-compatible, thus creating a market and speeding adoption of office and home computing.

Thursday, 30 April 2020

speak of the devil

Founded on the principle of religious scepticism and gravitating towards the devil in the sense of adversary and ideological foil to theism, the Church of Satan was constituted in the Black House of California Street, San Francisco on this day, Walpurgisnacht, by musician, actor and occultist Anton Szandor LaVey (*1930 – †1997) in 1966.
Explicitly not espousing a belief in the Christian characterisation of the Great Dissembler or in fact any other deity for that matter, the orientation’s high priest saw the value in and reduplicated the organisation and the hierarchy, though as a counterpoint to the control and validation that the Abrahamic faiths demanded and by extension the share of evangelical prosperity that they tout. The Church also recognised the intrinsic value and co-opted some symbolism and ritualistic elements as cathartic and therapeutic—so called lesser magic with the possibility of greater, supernatural magic that was outside the limits of human comprehension yet only ahead of scientific understanding. Learn more about the Church’s history and tenants at the link to their website above.

Wednesday, 29 January 2020

mantra-rock dance

Organised by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness as a fund-raising event for a local temple and as a promotional event for the movement’s founder and chief evangelist, Bhaktivedฤnta Swฤmi, the titular concert and service was hosted on this day in 1967 in San Francisco's Avalon Ballroom (a familiar venue). The evening included performances by Moby Grape, Big Brother and theHolding Company with Janis Joplin, and the Grateful Dead with speakers Owsley "Bear" Stanley, Timothy Leary and Allen Ginsburg, leading the audience in the Maha Mantra chant.

Wednesday, 20 November 2019

indians of all tribes

Under the terms of surrender in the 1868 Treat of Fort Laramie negotiated between the United States and the Arapaho Nation and the Lakota peoples all federal holdings declared surplus were to revert to Native Americans (see also) and the prison island of Alcatraz in San Francisco Bay closed since 1963 should have qualified for repatriation.
And while there was significant advocacy and agitation in the interim, issues of social justice and representation came to a crescendo when on this day in 1969, a group of eighty-nine protestors embarked for what would become a nineteen-month, peaceful occupation of the island—spurred to action in part due to the loss of a community centre to a fire a month earlier. Activists hoped to establish a residential institute of Native American studies, a museum, an ecology centre and a spiritual retreat. Despite the tenacity of leaders like Mark Martinez, Garfield Spotted Elk, Adam Fortunate Eagle and Kay Many Horse and celebrity support from Jane Fonda, Marlon Brando and Credence Clearwater Revival, the occupiers were ultimately removed, power-cuts and the blockade by the coast guard ultimately making their situation untenable. Bureau of Indian Affairs employee and amateur film-maker Doris Purdy captured some of the scenes early during the event. The island and its historical buildings subsequently were designated as part of the Golden Gate Recreational Area and managed by the National Park Service, though groups of protesters return annually to commemorate Indigenous Peoples’ Day and Unthanksgiving.

Wednesday, 21 August 2019

fall into the gap

Originally operating as an outlet Levi-Strauss blue jeans, pioneering the wall of denim concept since no retailer had heretofore been able to successful stock popular pants sizes and styles (carrying them all), selling those exclusively along with a selection of record albums and cassette tapes, the first store of the clothing chain The Gap was opened by Donald George and Doris Feigenbaum Fisher on Ocean Avenue in San Francisco on this day in 1969. Due to the limited selection it was originally going to be called Pants and Discs, but the savvy business woman, philanthropist and art collector Fisher suggested that they would reach across the generation gap, appealing to the younger and older demographic.

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

rainbow connection

On this day in 1978, the Rainbow Flag, created by artist and seamster Gilbert Baker (*1951 – †2017) was unfurled for the first time at San Francisco’s Gay Freedom Day Parade, an event that originated around 1972 as an informal “gay-in” and is now a celebration of pride echoed around the world.
Gilbert met Harvey Milk in 1974, who asked him to create a new symbol for the community—wanting to jettison the shorthand of the day, the Pink Triangle, reclaiming a badge of shame that the Nazis used for imprisoned men identified as homosexuals as a means of self-identification but dark and derivative nonetheless—prompting Gilbert to design his flag (previously). The colourful motif was possibly inspired by the PACE flags that first appeared during an Italian peace march in 1961 or the Judy Garland ballad, Over the Rainbow. While the banner certainly represents the diversity of the community and the struggle for recognition and civil rights, the original eight stripes had specific meanings: hot pink stood for sex, red for life, orange was healing, yellow was sunshine, green was Nature, turquoise stood for magic and art, indigo for serenity and violet represented spirit. Hot pink was subsequently dropped due to the lack of fabric and dye, and the six banded version was adopted in 1979, blending indigo and turquoise as royal blue—though often throughout the 1990s, a black stripe was added to represent those whom had died due to complications from AIDS.

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

white night riots

On what would have been the eve of assassinated City Supervisor Harvey Milk’s forty-ninth birthday—among the first openly gay politicians to serve in any capacity, tens of thousands rallied in San Francisco on this evening in 1979 in response to the lenient sentence handed down to the murderer, formerly fellow district supervisor Dan White, who crept into City Hall (avoiding the metal detectors) and shot Milk and mayor George Moscone the previous November.
White’s infamous Twinkie defence notwithstanding (his dietary shift to sugary, unhealthy foods symptomatic of his underlying depression, his attorneys argued), it was perceived that the court doled out the lightest verdict possible—voluntary manslaughter—because of White’s status as a former police officer and firefighter and the justice system was seen as biased and protecting one of its own. Although the march started out as peaceful, clashes between police and protesters turned violent and the police carried out retaliatory raids on gay establishments. Refusal on the part of the gay community to apologise for the protest resulted in greater political capital, leading to the election of Dianne Feinstein as mayor, who appointed a more inclusive commissioner to run the department who recruited more gay members to the force.

Thursday, 4 April 2019

clang, clang, clang went the trolley

Via the always engrossing Things Magazine, we are treated to a very nicely curated interactive gallery of the charts and strip maps of artist Jake Berman (previously) that allows one to compare historic public transportation systems (see also) with their modern equivalents for several US cities.
Reaching back more than a century in some cases, Berman plots old train and street car routes—or ambitious proposals pared back versus their contemporary circuits and study in detail how coverage has expanded or contracted.

Saturday, 27 January 2018


hi-res: an interesting exploration into the world of pixels and dots per inch (DPI)

tiki room: Messy Nessy Chic treats us on a tour of one of San Francisco’s last bastions of kitsch and abandon, the Tonga Room and Hurricane Bar

lipograms: further examples of challenging, experimental works of fiction that seek to avoid one or more of the conventions of writing and usage

potemkin village: a global tour of the fronts and faรงades (previously) of artificial urban environments

°c: ageing but iconic capsule hotel in Tokyo is retrofitted and revitalised

composite-artist: Microsoft neural network draws realistic, imaginary birds based on vocal commands, via Fast Company 

Tuesday, 12 December 2017


German-born optometrist George Mayerle developed a rather comprehensive and inclusive eye chart whilst practising in San Francisco that reflected the diversity of his adopted home.
The radiant dials above test for astigmatism and the bars at the bottom can be used to reveal colour-blindness. Different scripts are represented as well as pictorial characters and geometric symbols for the pre-literate and is nearly contemporaneous with the Snellen table that we’re probably best acquainted with. Learn more about this striking diagnostic tool at Public Domain Review at the link above and find out how to purchase a copy of your own.

Saturday, 3 June 2017

adventurรฆ maris, wreccum maris

After gold was discovered in the hills of California, there was incredible rush to deliver prospectors and cargo to the territory by way of the shallow wharves of Yerba Buena Cove of San Francisco, which as Super Punch informs, resulted in the impressment of any spare sailing vessel into this lucrative venture.
Once moored in the cove, however, captains found little incentive to make a return journey and many ships of all description were more or less abandoned. As the settlement grew and grew, these wrecks were absorbed as landfill and make up a strange and hidden landscape of buried treasure and is now being charted out with extensive detail by the city’s historical maritime counsel. Some ships were salvaged and repurposed as building materials but others due to the way the laws of subrogation were interpreted at the time were intentionally scuttled because the land under the sunken boat (the cove was very shallow and could be turned into dry land with a few wheelbarrows of sand and a day’s labour) became the property of the wreck’s owner. Read more about this project in National Geographic at the link up top.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

be sure to wear flowers in your hair

This summer, as the always interesting Collectors’ Weekly informs, will be fiftieth anniversary of the Summer of Love, orchestrated by an ad-hoc council of advocates and artistic entrepreneurs, in San Francisco. In order to appreciate how much that event transformed the city, they reach back a decade more to view the various districts and neighbourhoods through the insiders’ travel guide by columnist Herb Caen, who pierced through the general mid-century squareness to find the emergent and incubating haunts of counter-culture.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

long-haul or get your kicks

The first trans-continental road-trip across North America—from San Francisco to New York City, was undertaken by pioneer and doctor Horatio Nelson Jackson on a bet and as a publicity stunt to demonstrate that the automobile was not just a passing-craze. In 1903, when he and his driving partner got off to a start, there was only about three hundred kilometers of paved roadways between the end points, virtually no maps and naturally no filling- or service-stations along the way. Once, a ranch hand misdirected the travelers on a lengthy, dangerous detour so her family, it was later revealed, could see a real live car. After some harrowing adventures and many break-downs, the company—which now included a mascot—arrived on the East Coast to fanfare. Jackson’s feat was certainly an impressive one and parallels the trail-blazing journey of Bertha Benz, whose hundred kilometer trip in the summer of 1888 from Mannheim to Pforzheim marked the first time in history anyone had driven a significant distance in an automobile.
Jackson’s wife, who was also called Bertha but no relation, was a wealthy heiress who helped him finance his hobbies—as was the business partner and later wife of inventor Karl Benz, but Bertha Benz is credited as an accomplished mechanic and expert promoter, feeling her husband was inadequately marketing his prototypes. With the excuse of going to pop off to visit her mother, Benz gathered her children and off they went, without telling her husband. They made quite an impression, and although they fewer hardships that Jackson’s team, did run out of petrol—for which Benz had the wherewithal to get a suitable catalyst from a pharmacy. The success was a great boon for the name and the industry. Incidentally, the make of the car Jackson drove was a Winton—a name not around anymore, though insanely popular after Jackson’s road-trip, was vindictively driven out of business by an upstart named Henry Ford, who the proprietor of the motor carriage company would not hire. Both accomplishments transformed the landscape of the world, how we work and live and paved the paths in between.