Follow-up on Grizzly Bear

elf712357fcra1Krafty recently pointed out to me that the lead singer of Grizzly Bear, Ed Droste, is actually the son of our grade school music teacher,  Diana “Ms.” Droste. This revelation immediately legitimizes in my mind the occupation of ‘grade school music teacher’, which I have to admit I’d held a skeptical attitude towards before.

I have few clear memories of Ms. Droste (as I was, like, 6 when she stopped teaching us), but they’re mainly pleasant. It’s when I think about the rogues gallery that followed her that I wonder how Will Ferrell hasn’t yet starred in an Anchorman-type role where he plays a music teacher in charge of leading small children in jocular rounds of ‘ta-ti-ti, ti-ti-ti-TAH-ti-ti-TAH-TAH!’

Fortnightly check-in

This blog is two weeks old today, which suggests the following info-graphic:


Blog: 14

Son: 10

For better or for worse, this blog seems to be lacking two types of content that are staples of the blogosphere:

1. Embedded youtube videos

2. Sex

Maybe the lack of such gives this blog a refreshing, distinctive personality. Or maybe it gives it a stick-in-the-mud, stuck-at-home-on-the-Sabbath feeling, as I suppose neither multimedia nor promiscuity has any role in a properly-observed Sabbath either. We’re beginning to stray into the territory of Pennsylvania!: my imagined comedic musical about a community of Amish manning a power plant outside of Philadelphia.

Lastly, since the blog is 14 days old, I can link to this Grizzly Bear performance of ‘Two Weeks’ on Letterman in good conscience without feeling like it’s a complete non sequitur.


Topless Taco Clubs to hit the Mission

Casa_sanchez In 1970, a SF activist newspaper published a story anticipating the dystopian impact that the soon-to-be-build BART system would have on the Mission District. In classic trying-predicting-the-future fashion, some of the predictions are spot-on and others are a bit… not so spot-on:

Is Senor Taco the type of urban renewal we want? BART will bring tourists from downtown to 16th and Mission in three minutes. Our homes will become hotel rooms and restaurants and serape stores, and Topless Taco Clubs that do not serve Mexicans.

Lurid! Then again, the article continues…

The increased sales will not only come from the tourists but also from the higher income single people and childless couples that will find the Mission more desirable to live in because BART will take them to work quickly and because Blacks, Indians, Chinese, Samoans and La Raza will have been removed by an economic squeeze-out.

… so I guess they’re weren’t off-base on the key issues.

Selective focus

Last week, I had a talented fellow named Ryan Cole do a guest lecture for my Ideas Generation class at Prague College. He talked about the difference between vertical thinking (hierarchical, problem-solving, precludes creative thinking) versus horizontal thinking (associative, lateral, creative but unable to accomplish anything on its own). This is basically something that designers like to talk about a lot, just phrased in nice concise terms.

Two days earlier, I was reading a New Yorker article about the neuro-enhancer revolution- i.e. the fact that lots of people take drugs like Ritalin simply to make themselves function at a higher cognitive level, not because they need it for any corrective reason. One of the concerns about this ‘revolution’  in the medical community (in addition to more obvious worries about health and so on) is the question about what part of people exactly is being made smarter by neuro-enhancers. Is there only one kind of intelligence, or are there some that are made smarter at the expense of others? Studies have shown that concentration (which is enhanced by drugs like Ritalin) actually works to the detriment of creative thinking. One researcher expressed the idea that we might be raising a generation of super-skilled accountants through over-prescription of neuro-enhancers.

Armed with these ideas, it occurred to me that perhaps the primary skill that graphic designers seek to cultivate cant best be described as selective focus: learning to expand and contract the locus of attention, rather than aiming for any kind of ‘genius thinking’ per se. I think this term can also be used to explain the intent of the writing on this blog and its peculiar idiom.

Dept of Lost Urban Features: Inside (and Above) the Mission Armory

Anyone who has lived in SF’s Mission District knows the big, round brick armory building on 14th St. A few years ago, I had the chance to go inside thanks to a friend of mine who got access through volunteering for a movie shoot that was going on inside. We also found our way to the roof, but apparently weren’t supposed to do that and got yelled at. Here’s what I found out:

1. There are dozens (or maybe hundreds) of manger-sized subdivisions inside that presumably used to house horses. You could probably allocate studio space to half the serious artists in San Francisco here if you wanted to. But, apparently, it’s not seismically sound.

2. The Mission Creek still runs through the basement of the armory. Not in a roaring, uncontrolled torrent, but in a sort of highly-custodialized trickle. The Mission Creek is a water source that used to supply a now-extinct lake  by Dolores and 14th, to my undying fascination.

3. At the time I gained access, the entire building was being maintained by one guy who lived with this young daughter in van parked inside the building and- one can only presume- maintained a kind of creepy Shining-like relationship withe the place. (See first photo).

I’m told that the building was later sold to some sort of porn mogul, who now has parties there. Why it’s seismically fit for porn but not for artists is a mystery to me.



The expression ‘kudos’ has always made my hair stand on end. But, nothing else conveys the same idea of ‘I tip my cap to you’ with such grammatical efficiency.  So, much like the can’t-live-with-it/can’t-live-without-it emoticon smiley-face, I guess we’re stuck with it.

Anyway, kudos to Krafty for implicitly introducing a sorely-needed category to this blog, “Lost Urban Features”, via his first post.



I ran into the same friend two days in a row on the street. It’s interesting how you have a physiological reaction to seeing someone familiar – the ‘flashbulb of recognition’- a split-second before you even realize what you’re reacting to. It’s a bit like the way birds seem to move in an absolutely instantaneous way without any time for forethought or conscious processing.

What’s amazing is how good the brain is at remembering faces. Someone whom we haven’t seen for years is instantly recognized (before we even realize we’ve recognized them) on account of millimeter distinctions in facial structure. Imagine if it were not this way and we had to fumble around in order to recognize somebody we hadn’t seen for an hour or so. I suppose it would be socially acceptable to peer confusedly at, or even grope with our fingers, the facial features of people we know well, depending on the situation.