Friday, April 29, 2016

Who the fuck is Emirates' target demo?

If you live anywhere or have a TV or exist in the world you've seen Emirates Airlines' ubiquitous advertising, which usually features deeply contented youngish people casually enjoying a glass of probably scotch and a plate of probably lobster while seated in a plush beige airplane seat.  The ads are plastered all over the Powell BART station even as we speak.

Photo courtesy: Me. For once, I didn't steal someone else's picture.
Many, if not most, of these ads feature some kind of unimaginable Ultimate Premium First Class.  Like check out that chick on the right.  She's just getting OUT OF THE FUCKING SHOWER on the airplane.  I can't even stand up straight in an airplane bathroom and this lady's at a fucking air spa.

That's not all you get in First Class!  You get to "savor gourmet meals whenever you please" and "join the conversation in our A380 Onboard Lounge," which looks like the douchiest bar this side of Eastside West.

"You ladies come here often? WANT TO?"
LOOKS GREAT.  Who doesn't want to savor some gourmet meals and then shower off the scent of Axe body spray you'll get from standing in the same room as Chas up there?  Let's go to, say, Singapore!

Yikes!  That's a lot of money.  Singapore's a long way away, though, and you can take lots of showers.

Point is, I've never seen another airline use as their primary marketing focus a class of service that 99% of its customers will ever see.  Isn't it just setting up all us Coach Cattle for disappointment?  "Wait, where's my shower?  Can I go to the Onboard Lounge?"  "SILENCE, DONKEY PERSON.  RETAKE YOUR SEAT AND EAT YOUR FOOD PELLET QUIETLY!!!"  Seems weird.

Anyway, we're off to the less exotic destination of San Diego via a United Flying Person Crate, so see ya later.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Bars That Time Forgot, an occasional series, vol. V: The Embers

I lived on Frederick Street in the early 90's, not far from the now-trendy Inner Sunset, which back then just Just a Neighborhood and not a thing real estate agents put on flyers.  It was just regular stuff.  Still a great neighborhood, just relatively undiscovered, I guess.

One place that didn't want to be discovered was The Embers, a depressing and frightening dive bar at 627 Irving, between 7th and 8th.  The Embers was a small dark room with the usual dive bar accoutrements, like old guys chainsmoking in front of Bud bottles and a surly (at least that's how I remember him) bartender.  You can still get all that stuff today if you know where to look.  But the Embers had one terrifying feature that other dive bars lacked: the walls were covered in pictures of CLOWNS. AAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!

It's surprisingly difficult to find pictures of this haunting decor online.  Of course I was young and stupid and it never occurred to me to take pictures.  Back then, taking pictures required carrying a camera around with you, so it wasn't as convenient.  Also, parking was easier.  Anyway.  Luckily, I found some pics on, and hopefully the owner of doesn't get mad at me for using them here.

You can get kind of a sense of what was going on from these pictures, but it doesn't really convey the full horror of walls covered in clown pictures.  It was really something.

Jack Boulware wrote a great piece on the bar for SF Weekly:
Neither clowns nor smokes have ruined business for the Embers, which Jack has operated since 1969 at its present Irving Street location, and run in other Geary Boulevard incarnations since 1955. The clown motif began with Jack's wife, who installed four clown pictures originally to fill up a blank wall of the joint. Customers latched onto the idea and kept bringing in more and more clown artifacts, many from all over the world, until today the bar is literally packed with clown images.
"Some girl brought me in one last week," says Jack, a spry 70-year-old in blue striped sport shirt and khakis.

The Embers sadly passed in 1996.  Now it's Pluto's, some kind of faux health food place I think?  I went there once and couldn't figure it out.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Is Mission Park Over?

It's a different Mission Park these days, and Olu knows it.

"Yeah, it's different," says the medium-term neighborhood resident. "These kids moving in.  With the skateboards.  And their apps."  His eyes narrow.  "And all the laundry services."

Mission Park is a vibrant, free-spirited neighborhood we created as a joke on Twitter.  It encompasses some of San Francisco's most sought-after territory, from the J-Church stop at Dolores and 20th to that bougie coffee place around the corner from Duc Loi.

"Fucking seven dollars for a fucking waffle," Olu notes.

He can remember when Mission Park was a different place.  "There was a different guy who sat at the corner at the 500, I think," he recalls.  "Don't know what happened to him.  Maybe he died."

Map courtesy of Burrito Justice, who whips these things out like you wouldn't believe

Like it has in the rest of this churning, pulsing city caught up in a new gold rush where the gold is Internet things and not gold, change has found Mission Park.  And not all residents think it's for the better.

"Look, I know that change is inevitable," said Stephen, a medium-term Mission Park local. "But I would appreciate it if the neighborhood would be more the way I like it and less the way other people like it."  He's got no time for dog-walking apps.  "I walk my dog eight times a day just fine on my own, and I don't need any app for that."

Others, like TK, who doesn't live in Mission Park but likes to visit there, take a more measured view.  "The fuck do I care?" he said on a recent sunny afternoon.  "I don't live there.  Not my fucking problem."

Still, there are parts of Mission Park that will never change, new faces or not.  "There are still a lot of human feces on this street," says Stephen.  The heart of Mission Park beats on.


Since this post was originally written, Mission Park has changed once again.  It's growing, and not everyone is happy about it.

"I'm not happy about it," said Olu.

The new new Mission Park. Coming to your block soon.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Why was the second season of Serial such a dud?

Remember how the first season of Serial took everyone by storm? (Well, by "everyone" I mean the kind of everyone who downloads podcasts and reads blogs like this and probably talks about going to New York a lot.)  Remember when all we could talk about was the Nisha call and Mail Kimp?  Heady days.  Even Adnan got in on the action and got himself a new hearing!  Man, if Season 1 was so good, imagine how good Season 2 was gonna be!

WRONG.  Season 2 flopped.  It was the story of Bowe Bergdahl, a US Army soldier who left his base in Afghanistan and was captured by the Taliban and then exchanged for some Guantanamo guys and that made everyone so mad.  Seems like an interesting story, right?  How come it was a big fail when Season 1 was such a hit?  I have some ideas.

1. No mystery

Season 1 was basically a true crime show, and everybody loves Dateline.  There's a murder, and then you think you have it figured out, and then there's a twist, and then there's a payphone at Best Buy or maybe there's not, and now maybe the wrong guy is in jail.  OR IS HE.

In Season 2, on the other hand, a guy walks off a base and gets captured by the Taliban and grievously abused for years and then freed.  It's a compelling story, but there's no mystery.  One of the Taliban doesn't whip off his mask at the end and OH MY GOD IT'S JEFF THAT GUY HE BULLIED IN HIGH SCHOOL!!!!  There are still questions about why Bowe did what he did but it's just fundamentally not as interesting.  We want to know if Colonel Mustard used the lead pipe in the conservatory, not whether Colonel Mustard was internally conflicted about killing Mr. Boddy .

2. Format too unpredictable

Season 1 was released one episode at a time, once a week.  It was nice and predictable, like TV shows or happy hour.  Season 2 started off the same - one episode, roughly the same time every week.  Then suddenly one week here's Sarah Koenig telling us "Oh, whoops, never mind, it's only going to be every other week."  Then one week, "Surprise!  Here's two episodes."  Then none the next week.  Or something.  It killed whatever momentum the show had.  Remember when "Lost" would disappear for a few weeks, then come back for one episode, then vanish for a month, then three more episodes?  Not a model you want to emulate.

3. Too far removed from general experience

Season 1 was relatable because basically everyone's been to high school and everyone's had a high school love and everyone knew some weirdos in high school who might could kill someone.  But in Todays' America, and ESPECIALLY amongst the target demo of Serial, almost no one has been in the Army or been to Afghanistan.  So it's much harder to put yourself in the main character's shoes.

Hopefully they bounce back and get their footing back next season because it can be pretty good when it's done right.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Here are 5 things you should be watching RIGHT NOW

Well, not RIGHT NOW RIGHT NOW, but RIGHT NOW when you are in front of or near a TV.

1. 11.22.63, on Hulu Plus

Hulu, best known as a repository for mediocre network TV shows, got into the original content game with this miniseries based on the Stephen King book of the same name about the classic time travel question: Would you go back in time to try and stop the JFK assassination?  James Franco would.  IT'S GREAT.  Totally intriguing premise, of course, and Franco does a great job, along with Daniel Webber as a creepy, totally believable Lee Harvey Oswald, along with pretty much everybody.

Instead of just dumping all 8 episodes, Netflix-style, Hulu is dribbling them out once a week and it's making the experience simultaneously more fun and more excruciating.  It's the show we look forward to most every week.  So much fun.  Next week is the finale.  Get Hulu Plus so you can watch this.

Hopefully next they make 4.20.1889 about someone going back in time to kill baby Hitler.  Wait, Hitler was born on 4/20!!!!  How does somebody not mention this EVERY FUCKING DAY?!?!!!!

2. Girls, on HBO

Now that it's in the 4th season and everybody's pretty much moved on and it doesn't have to represent Something Important to everyone, Girls has settled in as a fun little slice of life show about a few insane people in New York and Japan.  Don't get me wrong, many of the characters are repellent monsters you wouldn't want to be stuck next to in coach, but watching them interact with the humans is a good way to pass a half hour.  The Marnie-centric episode last Sunday was particularly good but I'm not sure why.

3. Happy Valley (season 2), on Netflix

OH MY GOD TELL ME YOU WATCHED SEASON 1 OF HAPPY VALLEY.  You didn't?  The fuck is wrong with you?  Go watch it right now.  OK good.  Now you can watch season 2.

Are you sick of brooding dude antiheroes?  Yes, we all are.  Then enjoy the hell out of Sarah Lancashire's performance as Sgt. Catherine Cawood, an ordinary-looking middle-aged police sergeant in an uncool part of England.  She is so, so good but everything about this show is good, from the uniformly excellent performances to the tautly conceived plot.  Total bingewatch.

Also, poor Mr. Moseley.  He just can't catch a fucking break.

4. The People v. O.J. Simpson, on FX

If you're as old as me and you actually remember this happening in real time, your reaction might have been the same as mine: "No fucking way do I want to relive that."  WELL WE WERE ALL FUCKING WRONG because this show is like 1000x more fun than it has any right to be.  NOT ONLY does John Travolta stage like his 5th or 6th comeback as a literally oily Robert Shapiro, BUT ALSO you've got David Schwimmer doing a perpetually nervous Robert Kardashian and Courtney B. Vance KILLING IT as Johnnie Cochran.  The only miscasting is Cuba Gooding Jr. as O.J. himself and that's just because he is physically too small to be O.J.  Plus, all the period details are just right.  Check out all those baggy as fuck suits!

5. Better Call Saul, on AMC

I know, I'm not really stirring up a hornet's nest of controversy by recommending a show that's gotten the critical acclaim of Citizen Kane crossed with the Beatles but it's still a damn good show.

BONUS CONTENT: Jonathan Banks - Mike Ehrmantraut on this show and Breaking Bad - was in "Airplane!".

Yep, he's the guy opening the microwave. Weird.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Here's what they don't tell you in parenting class

On the occasion of Beyonce's third birthday, here's what I've learned about having a kid, so far, in part.

1. They start out eating just one thing, then will pretty much eat anything, then go back down to one or two things.

They start off with milk (and formula too, which is totally fine despite what militant breastfeeding types will tell you).  Then she started eating pretty much everything we were eating.  Her first two words after "Mama" were "bus" and "tortilla," if that gives you any clue.  I think her first favorite food was pad thai, which she'll still eat on occasion.  I never even heard of pad thai until I was like 23.  Then as she got a little older she got pickier.  No more broccoli.  No more corn.  Mostly mac and cheese.  She loves mac and cheese like teenage girls love One Direction.  I'm exaggerating about only liking one or two things, but she definitely won't eat the rainbow any more. Luckily she still likes fruit.

2. "It goes by so fast" is bullshit.

The biggest lie the baby-industrial complex has ever foisted on the American public is that "time just flies, you'll wake up one day and she's off to college."  Total crap,  She just turned 3 and it seems like it's been about 6 years.  I don't even remember her not being here.  DON'T GET ME WRONG I love her to death and wouldn't have it any other way but she gets up by 6:45 am at the latest every day and basically never stops talking.  It's kinda exhausting.  Time does not fly under those conditions.

3. Kids are kind of hilarious

Yesterday morning she wanted me to sing "Happy Birthday" to her so I did.  Then she had her sunglasses sing "Happy Birthday" to me in a funny voice even though it wasn't my birthday and her sunglasses are not sentient creatures as far as I know.  Shit like that cracks me up.  She also got "actually" from another kid at preschool and now says "actually" all the time like she's #notallmen on Twitter.  "Actually I would rather have cereal."  OK then.

4. Kids have the emotional response of Britney Spears that day she shaved her head

Sometimes they just lose their fucking shit for no reason.  We have literally asked her "Why are you crying right now?" and she's said "I don't know why I'm crying! AHHHHHHHHH!!!!"  One second she'll be happy and totally chill and then she gets the bad news that we're not having cupcakes for breakfast and WHAM total fucking meltdown.  I know it's all a totally normal developmental stage blah blah blah fine but just get a Livejournal already and let it out there.

5. TV is your secret weapon. Use it but don't abuse it.

There are parents who say "We don't allow our kids to watch TV." They are lying.  Sometimes you really just need 30 minutes to put some laundry in or stare blankly into middle distance and there is nothing wrong with letting Dora co-parent for a spell.  We keep a lid on it and don't just park her in front of the screen for hours on end but I firmly believe there is nothing wrong with catching some shows.

6. Overall, it's great

Big picture?  So far it's pretty great.  We're probably on the lucky end because apart from a few tantrums here and there, our kid is pretty chill and goes to bed without any trouble pretty much every night and is usually down for whatever, but on the whole, yeah, it's great.

Happy Birthday, kid.

Monday, March 14, 2016

You should take the train

Like my fellow blogger (and fellow user!) M. Strickland of Civic Center, who has often sung the praises of travel by Amtrak, we decided to take the train this weekend to visit my sister in Tahoe, where she's spending the winter with her bf, a couple of dogs, and metric shitloads of snow.  Seriously there is so much fucking snow.

Anyway, I have some advice: take the fucking train.  It is so much better than driving that you will wonder why you ever drove.  We took the California Zephyr from Emeryville to Truckee.  It continues on to Chicago.  Yes, it takes a lot longer than flying, but if you're in no particular hurry it would probably be great.  From here to Tahoe took about 6 hours, so not much more than driving. (It takes about 3 days to get to Chicago - if you leave on Friday morning, you get there Sunday afternoon.)

The regular coach seats are roughly equivalent to first class seats on an airplane.  They're big and wide and there's maybe more legroom than first class.  There's also an observation car (containing, for a time, my daughter, pictured above) and a dining car.  The food is not very good but whatever.

For our trip back Sunday, regular coach was sold out so we pretty much had to buy a private room.  It was kind of expensive but also it was really nice to have our own surprisingly large space.

And it was the only way we could have gotten out of Tahoe on Sunday, where it started blizzarding on Saturday and pretty much never let up.  In fact, we had to stop up on the summit while they plowed the tracks.

In a remarkable bit of bad timing, another long-haul Amtrak train, the Southwest Chief from LA to Chicago, derailed last night in Kansas, about 8 hours after we got off the (completely different and uninvolved) train.  A lot of people got hurt.  Still, it's probably safer than driving.  I'm sure there's numbers out there to back that up but I don't feel like doing the research right now.

I will say this: the whole experience is somewhat bumpier, for lack of a better word, than I expected.  We took the train from Boston to NYC to DC a few years ago but I don't remember it being as bumpy.  It kind of feels like low-grade turbulence on a plane a lot of the time.  And sometimes when it takes turns fast, you can definitely feel the whole thing leaning to one side, which is mildly disconcerting if you're not used to it.

Still, I would enthusiastically recommend.  Unlike air travel, everyone on the train seems pretty chill and relaxed and I didn't have that feeling like I wanted to kill everyone in sight like I do when I fly.  Try taking the train.