Wednesday, November 16, 2011
What used to look like this
Now looks like this:
However, at a National Park Service open house in Pacifica this week, representatives talked excitedly about the changes. They explained that most of the trees - cypress and pine - were diseased, and that the NPS has decided to restore this cliffside landscape, known as "serpentine bluffs", by removing the big trees that were choking out hundreds of other species that naturally grow there. So no, this is not Isengard's wheels of industry taking down the habitat, this is an attempt to restore a habitat.
Wait a minute, THIS sparse, rocky, coastal landscape has HUNDREDS of species? Why yes. The Council of Elrond was a little surprised to find a few native plants still growing there - albeit stunted. They will be planting native trees in some places, and in others, they're just going to let the seed beds do their natural thing. Kind of like a secret Santa. With elves.
When I asked the NPS folks if they had taken down the trees to create a better view for their new Coastal Trail, they said no. Tree removal was merely part of the Vegetation Management Plan to remove invasive species and restore the natives in certain areas. I can't help feeling, though, that it is mightily convenient that their new overlook trail will now actually have a stunning view that was previously blocked by trees.
My friend Carol used to call this stretch of road Hitchcock Alley. Its winding, cliff-hanging turns were scary with the trees, but now that they're gone, it's vertiginous. (What's funny is that we actually found a Hitchcock Street at the top of the hill there. Some old army planner had a sense of humor?)
If you're interested in volunteering to help restore this area, click here. It's a pretty challenging place to work. (In fact, one NPS rep called it "Getting Buff at the Bluffs".)
Friday, November 4, 2011
Yellow Rock, a gritty Western set in 1880s California about a group of six cowboys who struggle with the elements, their greed and the curse of the "Black Paw Territory."
On the Ice, which featured at Sundance and won awards in Berlin. After a terrible accident, two boys struggle to keep a dark secret that tests the limits of their friendship in this suspenseful thriller.
Holy Man: the USA vs. Douglas White. This 88-year-old Sioux medicine man spent 17 years in prison for a crime some say that he didn't commit. The documentary uncovers new evidence that brings the case back to Federal Court.
I love going to the shows because they often have multiple short films before a feature, and some of the shorter one are the real stars of the week. Shows are at the Landmark Embarcadero Center and the Palace of Fine Arts, and tickets are very reasonably priced. Hope to see some of you there!
This week he went back to Denmark. He called me this morning to report that “half the population of Denmark” has this strange bronchitis, so now it seems probable that he brought it with him. There’s a certain satisfaction in figuring out where something comes from, even as it’s killing you. I can’t say I’ve ever blamed anyone for spreading germs when they have no idea that they’re doing it, but sheesh, man, why is it always Europeans wiping out the New World?
Which reminds me of the book. In an earlier post, which I now find embarrassing, and pure knee-jerk reactionism on my part, I reported that 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus looked like it was going to be more revisionist history in the SFUSD/politically-correct style, but it turns out I was totally wrong. The book is an incredibly thoughtful look at what the New World was like before Europeans arrived, and how a lot of our best and worst ideas about our own history are surprisingly wrong.
I don’t mean “all you self-righteous PC people are going to get screwed” or “all you bigots are going to get your come-uppance.” Mann doesn’t have a political agenda, which is part of what’s so refreshing about it.
Mann points out that today, we tend to think of Indians as having “inherent simplicity and innocence” and that we think this largely because of their supposed “lack of impact on the environment.” In other words, because they were nature-loving blue giants whose world was threatened by greedy corporate interests. But in fact, he shows how the Indians massively changed their environments all up and down the Americas. Their world was “a stunningly diverse place” filled with millions of people and thousands of different languages and cultures, plenty of whom were engaged in projects to engineer their environments on scales we don’t imagine today. Most of those civilizations vanished after Columbus. The European perception that the land was “empty of mankind and its works” was the largely the result of successive waves of disease wiping out whole communities -- as well as subjugation.
If Avatar were being historically accurate, then 90 percent of the Na’vi would die off within the first generation of RDA Corp’s arrival. They’d find massive cities on Pandora bigger than those on Earth. And Sully would contract a bad case of syphilis for sleeping with Neytiri.
Anyway, drawing on all kinds of new scholarship and science, 1491 gives a surprising look at the Western Hemisphere before Columbus arrived, which is pretty much “the biggest blank in history.” And Mann does this with such humor and intelligence and panache that it’s the least painful non-fiction I’ve ever read. I absolutely couldn’t put it down. I am now embarking on his next book, yes, 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created. And so far it’s EVEN BETTER. Wooooo!
Speaking of Avatar. Even though it’s a “retelling” of American history that seems to be criticizing the amorality of the white man’s behavior, there’s something sneakily superior in it. I mean, the blue giants are getting the shaft just like the Indians did. Even in the future. Even on another PLANET. Sorry, white people are just evil until the end of time, and yes, natives, you’re always going to be magical beings with a mysterious connection to the environment. Anyway, James Cameron, take a look at Charles Mann.
NB: Everyone knows that illness always comes from “somewhere else.” According to Breverton’s Nautical Curiosities, another fascinating book, small pox “was called the ‘French disease’ in England, and the ‘Italian disease’ in France. The Dutch called it the ‘Spanish disease’ and the Russians called it the ‘Polish disease.’ The Turks called it the ‘Christian disease’…. [this is] indicative of the fact that the disease was often spread by foreign sailors.” Or indicative of large-scale xenophobia...
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Friday, July 22, 2011
This morning, down by the Gulf of the Farallones Marine Sanctuary a whole team of workers was happily washing away at a government van. I didn't get a photo of the massive soap bath they were making because I left my phone in the car and, yes, I ran back for it, dork that I am. I just had to get a picture because we mere residents do not belong to the elite category of Those-Who-May-Wash-Their-Vehicles-on-the-Presidio. But apparently we are allowed to watch those who do.
If the National Marine Sanctuary (whose stated mission is to protect wildlife and habitats?) is allowed to soap their sidewalks, then I do think the whole "polluting the bay with your soapy cleanser" line that the residents get fed is pretty much bunkum.
Thursday, July 14, 2011
That was taken circa 1988, when they were filming "The Presidio". That's a younger Sean Connery dressed up like an army general. Dapper! I think it was taken on Funston Ave. facing Mesa Street, but I'm not really sure. It's funny, there's an old car always parked in that same spot today.
Definitely a much NICER old car, but anyway....
I also found this. It's from the old Presidio Theater, circa 1988.
Haha! Bono, Bono, you were so earnest. But the army had its way with your art.
Tuesday, July 5, 2011
Just thought I'd share some Eddie Izzard who speaks the truth about our crazy fog.
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
The cons argue that building such a structure will ruin the historic integrity of the main post. Except that when I talk to the people who are planning the thing, they describe it as a barrack-like structure that will include a series of interconnected walkways - kind of like what's already there. I have the feeling that the cons envision this:
And I think *some* of the cons happen to own hotels in nearby neighborhoods.
But to be fair, here are some of the arguments against.
The pros have told me a few times that it's not a HOTEL but a LODGE, like the kind you find in every national park. But I can tell you what the word "lodge" does to me.
As long as there are no stuffed elk over the fireplace, we're good. But actually, I LOVE the idea of putting a hotel-lodge on the main post. If we're sticking to historical integrity, then there should be hundreds more people on the main post every day. The place should be teeming. When the army was here, it was dynamic and lively with battalions of soldiers, families, civilian workers, parades, trumpets and hell, even cannon fire, but since the army left, the main post has gone to sleep. And I think she needs some serious action.
I vote for the hotel!
But the phrase is now floating about in a more interesting way. The Trust wants to improve the visitor experience - as well as the RESIDENT and WORKER experience. Hoo-ah! And the most exciting of their projects is the Visitor Center. There are a lot of great ideas on the table.
Imagine a big, warm room with a fireplace, some cozy chairs. A cafe. A bookstore. A mini-market where you can buy a gallon of milk or some picnic foods. A place you could hang out. Take a class, or a tour. Meet your neighbors. Learn more about the Presidio. I would probably go there every day. It could look something like this:
So over the next few weeks they're taking suggestions and trying to get resident input about what this Center should be. They're having five more workshops so if you have something to say, carpe diem people!
I'm forever talking about how this place would benefit from more foot traffic, but that whole sentiment has a dark twin - the part of me that likes it that people get lost here, that the army constructed this place to confuse the uninitiated, that this isn't just checkerboard San Francisco but a fractal pattern of roads and forests and trails with history layered all over it. I love all the unexplained parts of this place as much as the sleek pathways and helpful signage. And I am sure that some of our visitors will like the mysterious parts of it, too.
Need to vent your spleen about the proposed off-leash dog laws? Comment period ends on May 30th. (Oh go on, do it again!)
Need to dump your old stash of cocaine? Just kidding. I know you only have Vicodin from that ooooooold surgery. The SFPD will be taking disposals of controlled substances (yeah, I'm sure they will!) on April 30th from 10-2. Any station.
Need to visit the second oldest golf course west of the Mississippi? Go on then!
Feel like partying or meeting your neighbors? Of course you do. Bring your Vicodin!
Thursday, February 24, 2011
Friday, February 4, 2011
Saturday, January 29, 2011
Monday, January 24, 2011
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c|
|San Francisco's Happy Meal Ban|
Sunday, January 23, 2011
One that should be decided by the people.
Has that ever been figured out? Has anyone actually asked the citizens of San Francisco how they feel about their natural spaces and how they envision those spaces being used? Do tell.
Saturday, January 22, 2011
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
The shit storm has erupted, put on your Wellies!! This week the Golden Gate National Recreation Area issued a proposal to ban dogs from Muir Beach, Ocean Beach, Fort Funston and parts of Crissy Field, and to force them onto leashes in other areas where they're currently running free. This is just the latest volley in the GGNRA's decades-long effort to eliminate dogs from all GGNRA land, including parts of the Presidio.
Backing up a little: Congress created the GGNRA specifically to preserve "the natural and cultural resources, and scenic and recreational values" of the parks in the Bay Area. Didn't think it would be so tricky, did ya?
In a GGNRA study (presented in a nice Power Point way) conducted in 2002, the organization came up with reasons they thought off-leash dogs were a problem: they harm wildlife, they have a negative environmental impact, they are dangerous, they make parks unsafe for visitors, and finally "dog owners are selfish." As you can see, there are two big arguments here: one is environmental, which I'll deal with later, and the second is that dogs and people don't always get along. In fact, GGNRA superintendent, Frank Dean, tried to justify this week's proposal by saying: "some people are just not comfortable with dogs."
Last I checked, "some" was not a majority.
This is quickly becoming a discussion of dog haters vs. dog lovers. Kinda dumb. But a valid point has been raised: there are people complaining that big dogs rush up to them when they’re trying to take a walk in the park, and it’s scary, and sometimes dangerous, and the dog owners act like it’s perfectly fine to have absolutely no voice control over their dogs. In fact, half the time the owners are not anywhere in sight. My dog was recently…well, raped at Crissy Field by a dog who apparently had no owner. The owner took ten minutes to notice what was going on, and when he finally came over – not running, mind you, but walking at a leisurely stroll – he actually laughed and said “hey, boy, good boy!” Meanwhile, I spent a desperate ten minutes trying to remove a fifty-pound boxer from my dog’s back, and the thing tore up the bottom of my pants so badly I had to get rid of them. When he wasn’t screwing my dog, he was chomping at my leg. I was terrified. The dog was in the throes of a violent natural impulse and his mouth could have fit around my head.
But that still does not make it right to ban off-leash dogs. It does make it right to punish individual, selfish people for their cluelessness. It would be great to see the NPS stepping in once in a while to issue a fine. However, I hate to see everyone suffer because of the idiocy of the few. And frankly, the areas where dogs are allowed is already less than 1 percent of the land that it's ridiculous to narrow it down even more just because a minority complains that they can't go to the beach because they don't like dogs. That would be the tyranny of the temper tantrum.
You know, GGNRA, there's an alternative to banning dogs, it's called education. My good friend Mike Wombacher is utterly tireless in his years-long work teaching owners to control their dogs. His site is Dog Gone Good and here's an excellent news clip of Mike doing what he does every day, dealing with this very issue: