Thursday, 27 May 2021


Among many other anniversaries of the great and good, on this day, as our faithful chronicler informs, in 1937, the Golden Gate Bridge linking the San Francisco Bay with the Pacific Ocean, was opened to pedestrian traffic—the longest and tallest suspension bridge in the world at the time.

First conceived in 1916, ambitious engineer and pontifex Joseph Baermann Strauss (1870 – 1938) answered the call having proposed a similar railroad bridge to cross the Bering Strait and connect Alaska with Russia and oversaw the construction of some four hundred draw bridges in a major infrastructure overhaul, and in collaboration (which ended unfortunately acrimoniously) with Charles Alton Ellis, completed it in four years (see also). During the week-long opening ceremony, more than two hundred thousand visitors crossed the mile-long span or foot or on roller skates. The particular shade of vermilion is called international orange, chosen to compliment the bridge’s natural surroundings and improve its visibility in fog, and is a unique hue differing from aerospace or safety orange.

Tuesday, 18 May 2021

golden gate bridge bolt

With a touch of The Music Man / Marge vs the Monorail energy behind his pitch that rightly nonetheless recognised that the newly built suspension bridge was perfectly designed to host a thrill ride—which also piqued the interest of a few city planners, ahead of the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition engineer Joseph Bazzeghin proposed impressing visiting crowds with a roller coaster traveling up and down the bundled cables as a centrepiece of the fair. Despite some enthusiasm, the ride was never built—mainly due to safety concerns and distracting drivers and the likely impossibility to construct such a roller coaster but I am sure it could be done on a dare. The artificial Treasure Island was instead built in the bay as a showcase venue and originally planned to be a municipal airport afterwards but was turned into a naval station and marina. More to explore from Weird Universe at the link above.

Friday, 30 April 2021


Via Super Punch, we are directed to a joyful and pure interview a San Francisco Chronicler reporter conducted with a gentleman who bought a tiny, retired Japanese fire truck (see also) during the pandemic at auction and had it shipped to the city—where it has become a welcome sight on the streets, like an exchange student. Bringing the fully-functional vehicle called Kiri overseas seems like it would have presented several expensive logistical hurdles, but the adoptive owner assures that the intimidating factors dissolve once one actually embarks on such an acquisition and would encourage others to do the same.

Monday, 19 April 2021

shake shack

In the aftermath of the April 1906 earthquake and subsequent fires that ravaged San Francisco over five thousand refugee shelters were constructed to replace the tent cities that emerged in Golden Gate Park and other areas to prevent a follow-on public health crisis. Most of the sturdier habitations—cottages (it reminds us of this image) for which tenants paid a $2 per month rent—have been demolished over the ensuing century but at least a few dozen remain, conserved by a following of dedicated residents. More from JWZ and the San Francisco Chronicle at the link above.

Monday, 22 February 2021


vanishing london: the Topographical Society laments and documents changes to the city—1900 to 1939 

a murder of crows: a captivating thread about accidentally creating a fiercely loyal avian regimen 

kaitenzushi: a 1948 proposal to move diners from course to course  

genius loci: an investigation into the character Tom Bombadil from the Middle Earth legendarium 

forwarding address: moving a Victorian mansion in San Francisco

Saturday, 21 November 2020


physiological colours both mixt and simple: a taxonomical table of hues and saturation that to facilitate unambiguous descriptions of the colours of natural bodies—see also

the next tuesday after the first monday in the month of november: though at least a term ahead, we could relate and appreciate this thoughtful election day essay and reflection by Kottke guest host Tim Carmody  

telethot: a 1918 proposal for a hand-mirror like accessory that would allow telephone interlocutors to see one another—via Messy Nessy Chic  

relithiation: targeted healing can potential rejuvenate batteries that would otherwise be scrapped

dna sequencing: the storied, celebrated San Francisco lounge and concert venue turns thirty-five  

the max headroom signal interruption: a deep dive into the unsolved pirated television incident—see previously  

sorkin, strunk and white: how good screenplays reflect the best elements of style—see previously  

cyanometer: a colour wheel from 1789 to gauge the blueness of the sky

Monday, 26 October 2020


Considered lost for decades only for a copy to re-emerge in 1996 in a film archive in Paris, the horror movie by Leslie Stevens with cinematography by Conrad Hall (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Cool Hand Luke, American Beauty), starring William Shatner and Milos Milos (*1941 – †1966, the titular incubus and in life the lover of the estranged wife of Mickey Rooney and died in a murder-suicide pact), had its debut on this day in 1966.

Months before Shatner would begin his work on a television series filled with other constructed languages including Klingon which has also become a fully-formed and informed language in its own right, this cinematic experiment was only the second wherein all dialogue was in Esperanto. Though dubbed versions were prohibited, the creator’s use of the auxiliary language was not to make a single cut for all international markets but rather to convey an atmosphere of other-worldliness—Esperanto speakers disappointed with representation of the language by the actors’ poor pronunciation and the script’s grammatical failings. The setting is a pilgrimage destination, a village called Nomen Tuum (“your name”) with an enchanted well that can heal and enhance one’s looks—attracting a rather vain and corrupt patronage that crowds out those legitimately ill. In turn demons are drawn to pander to those who would treat this miraculous place as a beauty parlour and recruit them for the side of darkness. First shown at the San Francisco Film Festival and screened to a group including those above Esperanto enthusiasts and the scandal of Milos prior to release, the only willing distributor was in France, which premiered the film in November. Watch the whole film here or see a clip below.

Saturday, 26 September 2020

america is hard to see, kids

Via one of our favourite newsletters, Kottke, we come to discover the extensive and ethnographic photorealistic art of Robert Bechtle (*1932 – †2020) in memoriam with the reports of his recent passing.

Indistinguishable from a candid, house-proud family photograph from a distance, this representative triptych ’61 Pontiac (1968-1969) captures his style and message, life at the pace of point-and-click documentation but fastidiously rendered by brushstrokes. The painterly quality to this deadpan portrayal is unsettling, rattling the viewer until one can appreciate the beauty underlying the freeze-frame of the moment. Almost the entire portfolio of this San Francisco Bay Area painter features cars though human subjects are the exception. Much more to explore at the link above.

Friday, 11 September 2020

september 2020

Via Laughing Squid, here is more drone footage of the fiery orange skies—which many automated lenses and filters try to correct for to the frustration of those trying to urgently document and communicate the apocalypse—over San Francsico in a short clip set to the musical accompaniment of Hans Zimmer’s soundscape of Blade Runner: 2049. I wonder for how many more iterations that that dystopian sequel will be advanced—2099… Many more frightening images at the link up top, juxtaposed with this Los Angeles montage from earlier this summer.

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.

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.