I’ve watched a lot of TV. Let’s talk about it.

May 17th, 2019

Again, as I have mentioned before, I don’t actually watch seven hours of television a day. I am crafting during that time and I glance up from time to time to check what’s going on. Really good programs to watch but not watch are cartoons and true crime. It would be extremely concerning if the police are like, “What kind of programming is Jessica into?” Then they look through my recent cable choices and immediately decide that I’m the killer. Even if they’re investigating a neighborhood fiasco involving lawn maintenance. I’m still the killer. But there are a few special shows where I hunker down with a glass of water, get all comfy in my bed and pay full attention. We’re gonna discuss two of them. There might be some spoilers. Or not. Either way I’m covering my rump with this delightful animated gif.

1. Happy. Holeeeeee crap. I don’t know if I’ve talked about this show before. I don’t care. If I have, we’re going to talk about it again. It’s based on a graphic novel and it’s on the SyFy network and it’s on its second season. Brief synopsis: A former cop named Nick Sax who is basically indestructible befriends his daughter’s imaginary friend Happy who is a plump blue unicorn / pegasus hybrid with big ole buck teeth. I do not know what the standards are for cable TV but I think they’re all gone. The show drops f-bombs here there and everywhere and the violence is bananas. Really intense and dark and messy. In the pilot episode we meet Nick who is a disgraced cop who earns his living as a murder-for-hire hitman. The mob gets involved and then there’s that imaginary friend and demon password and Christmas! This show straight-up ruins Christmas. Every week I begin the episode with a quiet “Hoo boy” to myself. I really don’t want to give away too much because shock value is a huge part of the show but occasionally they’ll put in an Easter egg for the viewers. This season Nick (who is played by the glorious and dirrrrrrrty Christopher Meloni) goes to the OTB with Happy (who is voiced by my favorite comedian Patton Oswalt) where they have the horses’ names on the wall. I paused it to read the names. In honor of Patton who also voiced the lead in Ratatouille there was a horse named “Remy the Rat.” The best one was the one they made for Chris Meloni. You may remember his fine work on Law and Order: SVU so his horse was named “Especially Heinous,” it was a very thoughtful touch. Two points you should be aware of: There are many plot points made in Season 1 that are not even remotely answered by the end. Don’t worry, they’re almost all answered in Season 2. I recommend you watch Season 1 (you’ll be a bit confused), watch Season 2 (resolutions), then watch Season 1 again. I understand soooo much more. The second thing are the actors. They are all excellent but the actor who plays Sonny Shine is outstanding. He really comes into his own in Season 2. Every scene he’s in, I can’t take my eyes off of him. I hope he gets a million more roles so I can see him in stuff forever.

 

2. Game of Thrones. C’mon, you knew this was coming. It’s the last season, we have to get into it. It’s fine if you’ve never seen it, I’ll do my best to explain. The first item that needs to be discussed is how epically crappy this season is. It is boring. Really. The damn show has dragons and I’m bored. I found an image that explains how I feel.

One of the aspects of the show that is chapping the diehard fans is the destruction of character development, specifically Daenerys Targaryen, the pretty blonde lady with the eighty-twelve braids in her hair. People are absurdly enraged.

Okay, here’s the deal for you non-watchers: For seven seasons, DT (I’m not typing out her whole name) has been all about freeing the slaves and bringing peace and harmony. Don’t get me wrong, if someone crossed her DT would have them killed in some horrific manner, but if you followed her and swore loyalty to her you were all good. Now, in the last two episodes DT has gone completely crazy and everyone is very very angry about it. Here’s my point: Last season she had three dragons that she called her children (we found out in Season 1 that DT couldn’t have children with her womby-parts so she’s called the Mother of Dragons). She had a huuuuuuge army made up of Dothraki, The Unsullied and some other peeps that I can’t remember now. She was the last Targaryen alive so the throne was hers. In, like, a month-long period two of her dragons were killed AND her bestie was beheaded in front of her AND a big chunk of her army was killed by frosty zombies AND she learned the man she’s been banging is both her nephew AND higher up on the monarchy food chain and therefore would prevent her from getting the throne AND mental illness runs in her family. Absolutely nothing is going her way. With all this it is precisely no surprise at all they she loses her damn mind. It makes complete sense to me. I’m annoyed that the series is ending on a “meh” note (remember, boring) but I don’t think the plot and character structure is destroyed. Here’s an example of dullness – Cercei is one of the biggest baddies on the show, a truly garbage person. She has done the most atrocious acts and everyone was sooo excited for how she would die. It was going to be epic. Did you know how she died? The roof caved in and she was crushed. That’s it. We didn’t even see it. A giant didn’t eat her, the frosty zombies didn’t cut her up and make some festive art with her limbs, she wasn’t hung from a window so villagers could throw moldy apples and dragon poop at her, nothing.  Zzzzzzzzzz.

Bonus show: The Good Place. I am so surprised by this show. It’s a network show so I assumed it would be pleasant and non-threatening and it was in the beginning. But shortly after it began it turns into a philosophical experiment where Emmanuel Kant and Soren Kierkegaard are regularly discussed. It’s totally worth it. I think it’s streaming on Netflix.

Addendum 5/21/19: Gosh, it feels good for professional writers to validate your comments.

San Francisco Part 8 and done.

May 10th, 2019

Birds! So, so many birds. But first, something else.

I’ve spoken about how much I love Jeremy Fish’s style. I own one of his pieces in my apartment, a signed print of a skull with wings and a bunny head riding on two dachshunds while a hand holds a carrot to motivate them. (Jeremy Fish is very surreal – it’s best not to ask questions.) I know Jeremy Fish is based in San Francisco so imagine my delight when I saw this pasted to some wooden siding.

And here’s a another bit associated with the game park. On the side of the road there was a ankole cow, the kind with the gigantor horns. It makes the difference between antlers and horns very clear. Horns are temporary, they’re used for mating rituals and then they fall off. Horns are forever and in the ankole’s case (and many other beastie’s cases) it cools the blood before it goes to the brain. That’s why it looks like a sponge.

Okay, birds. The game park not only had herbivores and the occasional carnivore, it also had birds. A lotta birds. And few of my dream birds that I never thought I’d see so I got super-excited.

These are storks of some kind. Fancy storks. The males and the females are almost exactly the same and the only way to tell them apart is one sex has yellow eyes and one sex has red eyes.

Flamingos. I don’t feel like I have to do much explaining here. They’re a bird we all are familiar with.

In a very large net-covered area was a plethora of birds. A lot of ibises (I like to call them ibii, I assume that’s wrong but I don’t care). Some different storks. A lovely medley of ducks. Something called a hammerkop. It’s related to the pelican.

The tour guide said we could go inside the enclosure as long as we stayed with him and didn’t interfere with whatever the birds were doing. That’s how I got so close to these fancy fancies.

And then… I saw them. I’ve mentioned the vulturine guineafowl before. I’m well-acquainted with helmeted guineafowl, they’re common in South Africa. They was free-range there, wandering around being stupid (which is what they do).

But there’s the bestest guineafowl in the world and that’s the vulturine kind. And there they were, two feet from where I was standing. I tried to be cool about it. I was not cool about it. I was plotting on how to steal one.

So if anyone is going to the San Francisco area and feel like picking me up a present, this would be an excellent choice. Get me the skull-faced balding blue-faced chicken asap.

There were a couple other creatures in other areas.

Cheetahs!

Servals sunning themselves!

And one of the few monkeys I like (I find monkeys and apes a bit terrifying) the De. Brazza’s Monkey.

And that’s it for the trip to San Fran. I hope you found insightful and informative.

Many changes.

April 16th, 2019

As the title implies, there have been many changes. Mainly I quit my job with Publicis after 11 years. I had had enough. I only left a little over a week ago and now I’m making my way in this brave new world. It’s scary but it’s also awesome. I gotta hustle now and make lunch appointments and update my LinkedIn profile, it’s all very exciting. Now, concerning blog entries. I was going to wrap up my San Francisco trip but since there was the tragedy of Notre Dame yesterday I figured I would talk about other churches and cathedrals I have visited that are nowhere near as famous but are similarly old and maybe even more beautiful. It gives one hope that there’s still beauty out there in this time of sorrow for all us art history and architecture enthusiasts.

It also helps that this was a kind of inevitability. not a fluke. From The New York Times:

Vincent Dunn, a fire consultant and former New York City fire chief, said that fire hose streams could not reach the top of such a cathedral, and that reaching the top on foot was often an arduous climb over winding steps.

“These cathedrals and houses of worship are built to burn,” he said. “If they weren’t houses of worship, they’d be condemned.”

Okay. On to other Christian churches / cathedrals that will make you feel better, maybe.

  1. St. Vitus’ Cathedral in Prague: http://design-newyork.com/blog/2010/04/02/budapest-and-prague-part-4/
  2. In case you’re missing the catacombs, outside Prague is The Ossuary of Sedlec. And St. Barbara’s Church (should be a cathedral, lost out to St. Vitus): http://design-newyork.com/blog/2010/04/03/budapest-and-prague-part-5/
  3.  Cathedral in Antwerp, Belgium that still has the polychrome intact on the walls (which had chipped off in Notre Dame): http://design-newyork.com/blog/2012/12/03/belgium-for-thanksgiving-2012-part-3/
  4. St. Vitus’ Cathedral again (because awesome): http://design-newyork.com/blog/2015/02/03/germany-part-6-technically-prague/
  5. AND The Ossuary of Sedlec / St. Barbara’s Church again (because awesome): http://design-newyork.com/blog/2015/02/15/germany-part-done-technically-prague/
  6. The Church of the Jesuits in Quito, Ecuador (which is not Europe but holy crap this church was amazing): http://design-newyork.com/blog/2015/10/26/south-america-2015-part-8/
  7. Peterskirche in Vienna (super Baroque with festive dead bodies on display!): http://design-newyork.com/blog/2018/03/20/vienna-and-krakow-part-2/
  8. St. Mary’s Church in Krakow: http://design-newyork.com/blog/2018/04/15/vienna-and-krakow-part-8/
  9. Wawel Cathedral in Krakow (dragon dragon dragon whale bones dragon dragon): http://design-newyork.com/blog/2018/04/03/vienna-and-krakow-part-7/

And because I went here before I started blogging, the Cathedral of Monreale in Sicily. I straight-up lost my mind when I walked in. The mosaics are unreal. Here’s some info:

The Cathedral of Monreale (Italian: Duomo di Monreale) is a church in Monreale, City of Palermo, Sicily. One of the greatest existent examples of Norman architecture, it was begun in 1174 by William II of Sicily. Since 2015 it is part of the Arab-Norman Palermo and the Cathedral Churches of Cefalù and Monreale UNESCO Heritage site.

The main internal feature is the large extent (6,500 m2) glass mosaics, executed in Byzantine style between the late 12th and the mid-13th centuries by both local and Venetians masters. With the exception of a high dado, made of marble slabs with bands of mosaic between them, the whole interior surface of the walls, including soffits and jambs of all the arches, is covered with minute mosaic-pictures in bright colors on a gold ground. The mosaic pictures, depicting stories from both the Old and New Testament, are arranged in tiers, divided by horizontal and vertical bands. In parts of the choir there are five of these tiers of subjects or single figures one above another.

I hope this helps ease the pain of losing Notre Dame. Remember, these are only churches and cathedrals I have visited. There are tons more.

A break.

February 7th, 2019

Hey, I’m going to need to take a break from blogging for a while. I have a great job opportunity on the horizon but that means I need to make a 200-page document explaining what I do so whoever follows in my position doesn’t come in blind. I will return as soon as everything is in place.

https://cdn-images-1.medium.com/max/1600/1*U1a0Zy6yBM_KSs7wOpBOFg.gif

San Francisco, Part 7.

January 30th, 2019

Cricket and I went to a game reserve near San Francisco and we’re going to delve deep into that but first! Art! Really good art!

We went to the Museum of Design one of the days we were in San Fran. Important information: The Museum of Design is TINY. It’s one and a half rooms. That’s it. We walked there twice – the first day we walked three miles and got lost and the second day we walked three miles and made it to the museum. Which, due to them changing out the exhibitions, was only one room. One room. Cricket started laughing so hard I had to walk away from him so I could silently fume in a corner. However, all was not lost. The one exhibition was a clay artist I had never heard of, Gustavo Perez. His work was amazing, very fluid but also mathematical. It reminded me a little of the design style of the atomic age. Perez had a display on a shelf.

And one that covered the entire floor.

I did research into his work and I have a new favorite clay artist. Perez manipulates the clay in a way that makes it abundantly clear that he is in complete control of his medium. If there’s an exhibition of Perez’s work near you I recommend you checking it out.

Okay, game park. The climate in the hills outside of San Fran is very similar to the savannah in South Africa. So there’s a game park with no major predators, some cheetahs but nothing bigger. Lots of antelope (which I love, a vastly underappreciated ungulate group). I took a bazillion pictures. Get ready because here we go.

Did you know there were different types of giraffe? Most people do not. This place had two types. The dark one was a Maasai giraffe, very big, and another was a Rothschild’s giraffe, he was fourteen months old and he had a massive crush on the Maasai giraffe who was almost twice his size. He kept coming over and gently hitting his head into Mrs. Maasai’s neck and eventually she would get irritated and saunter off.

There were three rhinos. In one pen was a male and a female rhino but they were just friends, not mating like the game park would like them to. So off to the side in a smaller pen was a male they had brought in in the hopes that the lady rhino would find him sexy. The female had a straight horn which is something I’ve never seen before (but to be honest I don’t look at many rhino horns). It has to do with the way she rubbed her horn on various surfaces. Since it’s compressed hair it wears pretty easily.

And here’s the new male. Look at his sweet little hairy flower ears.

There was a herd of ankole cows. You’ve seen them before. They have crazy huge horns. They live with the Watusi tribe and were bred to look like this. There’s no real purpose. Let’s quickly go through the different between antlers and horns. Antlers are solid and fall off every year. Horns are permanent, filled with spongy bone and are used mostly to cool down the blood before it reaches the brain. It’s also useful for scratching your rump.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BpY7S1N3Kg8

Neat fact: Santa’s sleigh is pulled by reindeer, right? And all the reindeer who pull the sleigh are assumed to be male, right? Nope. Males shed their antlers in the fall and females shed theirs much later in winter therefore the reindeer pulling the sleigh are all female.

Okay, back to ankole. When they get up and walk around they make a great bonking noise as their horns tap one another.

Near the ankole was a solitary black angus cow (which looked super-small next to these massive-horned bovines) with a solitary black angus calf. Hanging out like they were part of the herd.

The story I got on that was that one day this black angus female showed up from a ranch nearby. The game park keepers called the ranch-owner and he said he would come pick his cow soon. But he never did. And when she wandered over she was pregnant and now she’s part of the ankole herd. So that’s that.

Way over on the other side was more ambling herbivores. There were eland which is the heaviest antelope in Africa. A full-grown male can be 2100 pounds. Big boy. The male looks weird with hanging skin and lumpy humps. The females are pretty and sweet-looking. They lived in an enclosure with zebra and a few waterbuck. We arrived at one of their feeding times so everyone sauntered over to the feed bowls.

 

This is a picture of a mother waterbuck with her baby. This picture is exciting because this is the first time the baby had been seen.

All the above-mentioned herbivores were herbivoring when someone massive and imposing started approaching the food bowls. All of a sudden everyone had something important to do somewhere else.

It was a male cape buffalo. Cape buffaloes are a notoriously skittish and aggressive. Rhinos, when you approach them, will run away and rhinos are tanks. Cape buffalo will start crap for no reason. That explains why when the single solitary buffalo walked up to a bunch of animals that weighed forty times what he weighed they all left. Look at the zebra’s body language. “Nope.”

There was a herd of cape buffalo. The guide clearly said, “If you drop anything like a phone or glasses don’t get out of the vehicle. I will get them for you. Except if you drop it in the cape buffalo area. If you drop it in the cape buffalo area it is their possession now.”

We saw other land critters as well. There were wildebeest:

And a gemsbok:

And some red river hogs (and a tortoise). Team Red River Hogs forever. Big fan.

Next entry: Birds and the end of San Francisco.

San Francisco, Part 6.

January 13th, 2019

More California Academy of Science! You thought we were done? Not even close.

In addition to Claude the albino alligator the academy has Methuselah. She is, uh, beautiful on the inside I’m sure. Here is a video of Methuselah.

https://www.calacademy.org/explore-science/meet-methuselah-celebrating-a-longtime-academy-icon

One of the best aquariums I’ve ever seen was the Philippine Coral Reef. Cricket has gone on a ton of scuba dives and he said it was spot-on. I spent a real long time sitting downstairs staring at the fish, probably too long. I do not regret creeping people out.

There were great smaller tanks behind the giant tank and I saw an animal I thought I would never get the opportunity to see. Appropriately, I freaked out.

It was a flamboyant cuttlefish.

Here is a video of the flamboyant cuttlefish.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=51jB8YljliM

Do you appreciate how amazing this is? Do you see that with the stripey-stripeys? It helps to know he is very wee, like the length of my thumb pad. I made a short gif based on a video I took of my wee sweetie.

Since this is a natural history museum they do have a small area of taxidermied animals. It’s pretty small but it has all sub-Saharan animals which is my jam. They had a lot of antelope and a bushbaby and a steinbok. One of the most surprising things was how close you could get to the stuffed giraffes. Every time I’ve seen a giraffe it has been far away. I got to get right up next to one and I never realized that I can walk right under it and the top of my head would not come close to grazing the bottom of the giraffe’s belly. I’m five foot six so that’s pretty high. And that’s just the bottom of the stomach. There’s a ton more midsection above that and only after that the neck starts. The giraffe is massive. At the end of the short dead animal area was a penguin exhibit, live penguins. But because the California Academy of Science is smart as hell the penguins are behind a thick plate of glass because penguins STINK. They stink so hard because, you know, they eat fish all day and then they poop and there you have it. Vibrant, nuanced. But the CAS has installed plate glass which is glorious.

Now here comes the coolest part of the Behind the Scenes tour. We got to go to the specimen rooms. Specimen rooms, in case you don’t know are rooms filled with jars and drawers of nearly organized dead things, a.k.a. my dream place. Here’s an article with all the examples.

https://www.businessinsider.com/museum-of-natural-history-behind-the-scenes-2016-3#and-inside-the-museums-paleobiology-collections-are-approximately-40-million-fossil-specimens-that-span-25-billion-years-of-life-on-earth-including-more-than-1500-different-dinosaurs-11

I only saw the wet specimens and dry specimens. The wet specimens are natural elements in jars filled with ethanol. That prevents the specimens from decomposing. I mean, none of them look good, but they’re still vaguely shaped how they’re supposed to be shaped. The ethanol strips them of all their color so all the animals are gray or brown or black. You can see a picture of wet specimens in the article above, it’s the room filled with amber-colored jars. I didn’t take too many pictures in there but I did take three of significance. One, a big jar full of vampire bats. Suuuuuper dead bats.

A fact I found amusing was when the academy started the jars weren’t big enough so some of the specimens are clearly in former mayonnaise jars.

Here’s the most important pic of the day. In one of the jars was an anglerfish. I had resigned myself to never seeing an anglerfish due to the fact that they live at the bottom of the ocean and when they get to the surface they die because their bladders cannot handle the lack of pressure. Now I was being presented by one, in its entirety, directly in front of me. Aaaaaand for a change of pace, I freaked out. Cricket took a photo of me. The reason my hands are all curled up is because I am making every effort to not grab the jar of anglerfish and run away forever.

I know it’s really dark in the jar so I put that photo in the upper left for reference. You can kind of see her lower jaw in there. I know it’s a lady fish because anglerfish have a very unique way of procreating. Because it’s very hard for one anglerfish to find another, when a male finds a female he latches on to her underbelly (he’s very small compared to the female). Eventually his mouth parts fuse to her body and her blood flow goes through him, but whenever she needs sperm there he is, a parasitic testicle. You could see her fishing lure on her forehead. I loved her. Some of her transparent scales had fallen off so when the jar was moved it was like she was in a snow globe with glitter. I asked the tour guide why it was like that and he said, “She’s fabulous.”

One last photo from the Academy: some scary baby birds.

Here’s another pic that really captures the weirdness.

Coming up next: Ceramics and live beasties. Two things I am very fond of.

San Francisco, Part 5.

January 7th, 2019

The best thing ever! But first, other things.

An orchid I saw at the Conservatory of Flowers. I’ve never seen an orchid that looks like a hand.

At first I was pissed at the Conservatory of Flowers because it was clearly a “crystal palace” which is like the big ole greenhouse. Here’s the one in NY and London.

See? Clear. Clear glass. Now, at the San Fran building they painted it white. I was confused and displeased.

Uhhh, what the hell is that? So the first thing I did upon entering is ask the ticket dude what possessed them to paint a magical glass facility. Ticket Guy explained that this conservatory’s collection is made up of forest floor plants so if they left the building clear the plants would die. He said once the paint had to be scraped off and repainted and during the time that the panes were bare some of the plants got burn marks on their leaves.

Huh. Well then. I apologize for my ignorant and unwarranted grumples. The plants can have all the shade they want.

The plants were lovely but the facility is small so don’t plan to spend more than 45 minutes total in there until you’re really into pitcher plants. Lotta carnivorous plants. I asked the docent if they need to bring in crickets for the little meat eaters and the docent said no, the plants find enough buggies to feed themselves.

Okay, get ready. We’re going to see the greatest thing I saw on this trip. I was walking to the San Francisco Museum of Art and Design (more on that later) and as Cricket and I turned a corner there it was on the sidewalk chillin’ like nothing.

That’s an owl. An owl. Oooowwlllll. Holy crap, owl. That’s my favorite animal in the whole world. I handled it pretty well, considering.

Closer photo of one of the best things that happened in San Francisco.

I was concerned that Mr. Owl was out during the day so I very slowly walked up to him so I could collect him and we could hang out and go on adventures forever but he flew away. I promptly contacted Snorth and she told me it was a Burrowing Owl. I don’t know all the owls, there are a lot of owls. I know like 25.

Which is correct because Burrowing Owl are diurnal as opposed to nocturnal so it was completely normal for Mr. Precious Angel to be hanging out during the day.

Okay, onto the California Academy of Science. Guys. Guys. If there’s one place you go while you’re in San Francisco, go to this. Most Museums of Natural History have a ton of dead things. This museum have a ton of live things. And take the Behind-the-Scenes tour. Phenomenal. Totally worth it, every penny. You want an aquarium? They got an aquarium. You want a botanical garden? They got some of that. Allow me to take you through some of the exhibits they have there.

1) Let’s talk about the building itself. Apparently the old place fell down during an earthquake and was rebuilt to be crazy environmental. There’s no heating or cooling system, the BTUs of the visitors’ heat and the windows and skylights maintain a controlled, comfortable temperature. Cricket and I were taken up the living roof. The roof is covered with the indigenous plants of the area and it’s someone’s job to go up there and pull out the plants that don’t belong. There are rock paths that provide drainage. And there are big humps with windows on them which help control temperature as well.

In addition to the beautiful flowers there were also whale bones. Why, you ask? It’s because when whale bones arrive at the museum they are greasy and the scientists don’t want to work with them. So they leave them on the roof to bleach in the sun and when they’re done bleaching their not greasy anymore.

The other cool thing is the building is built on four concrete blocks that have springs underneath them so if there’s another earthquake each block will move individually.

2) The rainforest. It’s a 4-story space inside a big dome. There are butterflies flapping around. There are poison dart frogs. There are lizards. There are birds. There are fun facts on plaques. It’s built like the Guggenheim Museum in New York where you walk up a circular ramp that leads you to the top and you take a elevator down. From the top level you can see most of the rest of the museum.

3) The swamp. Claude lives in the swamp. Claude is an albino alligator. He can’t live in the wild because the prey would see him immediately and he’s blind. He was born in 1995. He has been at the museum since 2008. Claude had a girlfriend but they had to be separated because she bit his toe off due to him constantly bonking into her (he blind). There are also large snapping turtles in his enclosure but they don’t bite him much.

That’s it for now. Coming up: More California Academy of Sciences and a bunch of art.

San Francisco, Part 4.

January 2nd, 2019

We’re going to delve into Muir Woods! But first, not Muir Woods.

I got my first coffee with a fancy pattern! And it was at a profoundly hipster coffee shop! I was delighted.

Continuing with the consumption theme I went out for dim sum in San Fran Chinatown. It was awesome. Look at this sampler platter.

I rotated the sampler so you could see the bunnies.

The plants in San Francisco are better. They have a far more temperate climate so they can have bougainvillea, and palm trees, and hibiscus. Their Roses of Sharon look more hibiscus-y than ours.

Okay, Muir Woods. I’ve spoken about it before (you have to scroll down quite a bit, it’s there) but I have new information this time. Let me share this new information with you.

I was in California during the horrible fires in Paradise. It was horrendous to see on the news and people in San Francisco who probably have friends and family in the affected area were distraught, justifiably. The air was filled with smoke. People were wearing bandannas and painter’s masks in an attempt to curb the smoke inhalation but none of them took the major gaps of either approach into their judgment. While a good thought they were useless. The reason I’m mentioning this is my pictures at Muir Woods are particularly beautiful due to the particulate in the air but it’s a bittersweet beauty because you know how much suffering is associated with it.

The trees be old.

I admired their aggressive will to survive. For example, this tree was struck by lightning or burned or something, it’s black and dead. Look in the middle, you can kind of see it. So it made children with its roots and sent them up all around it. I think it’s called a Family Tree.

I also was impressed by the trees that fell over with their roots out of the ground and were like, well, I’ll just grow vertical trees out of my horizontal branch. Send roots down through it. Problem solved.

Look at the size of these clovers! They match the trees in beefiness.

In case you don’t have a sense of the size of the trees, this hole at the bottom could accommodate four or five full-grown adults sitting. Big. Very big. And large. And also tall.

And now the beautiful / sad photos. No photoshop of any kind.

It was nice to see that Muir Woods has signs about conservation and the environment and when you get to their gift shop and cafe they actually walk the walk.

Next post: Art and the bestest thing that happened to me on this trip.

San Francisco, Part 3.

December 25th, 2018

Alcatraz! But first, other stuff.

On our first day in San Fran Ness-Ness took us to the Castro district for lunch. That is the historically gay neighborhood. I believe it’s referred to in the movie Milk (phenomenal movie, go see it). There were your standard gay area shops but there was also two naked guys wandering around. Older naked guys. Wandering around the streets being naked. To be honest they weren’t completely naked, they were wearing tiny sparkly cape over their parts. Not the eggs, only the stalk. And one guy’s cape was too short so his stalk was peekin’ from the bottom which somehow made it worse. Once the gentlemen had passed we went to a cafe for lunch. Please note the name. Keeping faithful to the area and its motif.

At first I was like those prices are kinda high and then they brought the food out and I was like never mind. The portions were big, the food was excellent, you should go there. The fruit crepe was dope as hell. A+ fruit crepe.

Another thing I saw whilst strolling the streets: a sign shop that does hand painting. Anyone who knows me knows how I feel about anything with calligraphy or hand-painted letters (big big fan). Imagine my delight at seeing this. So many styles! So crisp, so even! Strong, purposeful brush strokes! I swoon.

Now, Alcatraz. Crickets loooooooves behind-the-scenes tours. Loves ’em. I do too but he did all the booking so we saw all kinds of secret magical things. One of those things was a tour of Alcatraz conducted by a person (the basic tour has you carry around a little tape recorder that instructs you where to go). I am now awash in knowledge. Allow me to share it with you.

As I said before I only took three photos at Alcatraz because I was trying to live in the moment but I will rely on the gazillion other people that have been there to provide me with pictures. Okay, so Alcatraz was a tortoise-back-shaped island until around the mid-1800s when it was made into a military fort. I think it’s been part of the U.S. Government (as opposed to San Francisco property) since then. I know it’s now considered a national park so when we went on our tour a federal park person accompanied us. She pointed out that since we were on federal property, even though we were only a mile from San Francisco, no one could use marijuana or marijuana-based materials at any time. (I do not personally partake in the healing weed but that point of it being illegal intrigued me.) Now, one might think it’s only a mile to San Francisco, why didn’t any of those escapees make it, and it’s because of the temperature of the water – very cold – and the current. There is a race to swim to San Fran every year but it was pointed out that these people had trained and, more importantly, were wearing cold water wet suits which insulated them. One of the first things the soldiers did when they got to the island was hack a chunk of the side of the tortoise back so there was a sharp cliff. That way invaders didn’t have a way to get up to the fortress. They also grew agave plants all over the side of the cliff because you cannot navigate through them, they’ll slice you right up. Here’s an oldey-timey picture where you can see the man-made cliff.

When the fortress was done fortressing it was used for holding POWs and the prison was built right on top of it. So when you’re standing at the base of the main building you can see massive stone chunks which then turn into cement and that’s where the prison layers begin and even those are visibly different, from the POW prison to the criminal prison. There are several other buildings on the island because the guards and their families lived in the same place as the prisoners. The guards had nice apartments and there were twelve ferries every day back and forth from San Fran so the wives could go and pick up necessities and the families could go see a movie or whatever, but they lived right next to the cells. Imagine being a little kid and growing up like that. Anyway, because of the guards being residents there was a social house and a school house and a power station, etc. Alcatraz was only the prison we know it as from 1930-something to 1960-something, not that long.

If I had to sum up my experience at Alcatraz it would be astonishment at how similar it was to Shawshank Redemption. I’ve probably mentioned numerous times how that is my favorite movie but I figured it was hyped up to make it a more interesting story. I was wrong. Apparently the new inmates came off the ferry chained together at the feet, were hosed down and given anti-lice powder and then were walked to their cells naked while the more experienced prisoners yelled “New fish!” at them. The cells at Alcatraz look just like they do in Shawshank (except that the walls are painted pretty shades of salmon and mint, which is weird). They had The Hole which I got to visit. The showers were all open with rows of overhead pipes and sprinklers. They showed movies twice a month. Heck, even look at this picture of the yard. It’s got the layout and same stepped area that is in the first scene where Red takes bets on who will cry first. The similarities are nearly endless.

More on The Hole: It is solitary confinement in the dark. It’s supposed to really break you down. In Alcatraz it was originally a leftover portion of the fortress underground.

There was a toilet off to the side for the guard to use and let me tell you that was the scariest thing I saw on the whole tour. If anything is haunted there it’s that toilet. I don’t know how to describe it but it was run down and the smooth white seat was cracked down the middle and I think it didn’t help that it was on the edge of a looooooong corridor that was dark (remember, we’re in the fortress here so many creepy corridors to be had) so if you were sitting on this toilet (no stall, out in the open) on your left were prisoners trapped in darkness and on your right was a tunnel leading to who-knows-what. POW corpses probably. Nightmare fuel, I tell ya. Eventually they moved the solitary confinement upstairs where it was sound-proof and in complete darkness. Here’s an article about it. Don’t read it, maybe. Because once something is known, it cannot be unknown.

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/thinking-man/11245414/My-19-days-in-solitary-confinement-on-Alcatraz.html

The SC cells looked like this:

I have to say the coolest part of the tour was showing how the cell doors opened and closed. I’ll try to explain it. At the end of the rows of cells is a large box. In that box is three levers. Over the all the cell doors in a massive bicycle chain with metal pins in it. The guard chooses to open cells 2, 5 and 13. The guard pulls the first lever to 3 (there’s a strip with numbers on the side of the lever so he knows where to line it up to). He pulls the second lever to drop the pin into the door of cell 3. He pulls the first lever to 5. Pulls second lever to drop pin in cell door 5. Pulls first lever to 13. Pulls second lever to drop pin in cell door 13. Finally, he pulls the massive third lever, those door with pins in them move with the bicycle chain and open. The rest of the doors don’t have dropped pins in them so they don’t open. I found a video showing you how it works. Start at 3:39.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kbVMbdaz8ZI

The reason I know how all this works is because they have a section of the chain housing covered with plexiglass so you can see it in operation. It’s pretty awesome. There’s no electronics so it works in a blackout. Totally worth checking out.

Next entry: Muir Woods and other stuff.

Addendum: Cricket took a picture of the upsetting basement toilet. Horrifying. Enjoy.

San Francisco, Part 2.

December 17th, 2018

I don’t know if I mentioned it, but I was in San Francisco for a wedding. Cricket and I decided to stay in the Queen Anne Hotel. It is supposedly haunted. Here is the haunting information:

The Queen Anne Hotel is a hotel in San Francisco, on Sutter Street. The hotel is an historic 1890 Victorian mansion, in the namesake Queen Anne architectural style, and decorated in the painted lady style. It was originally a girl’s boarding school. It narrowly survived the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.The hotel is a popular site for ghost hunting. The headmistress of the former finishing school, Mary Lake, is said to haunt her former office in Room 410. The hotel’s paranormal history was explored in an episode of the television show Haunted Hotels.

We did not stay in room 410 so I didn’t experience the haunting. I have to recommend this hotel, the room was great, the bed was hella-comfortable, the breakfast had make-your-own waffles, there’s an enormous living room / salon with fireplaces and comfy chairs AND every morning if you sign up for it you can take a black car anywhere you want in the city for free. We didn’t go to the afternoon tea and sherry but I imagine that was lovely as well. I had a strong attraction to this piece of furniture.

And this heater.

And the floor inlay.

The only problem I had with the hotel was the decor. Victorian is a really tough design period, there’s a lot of clutter and bric-a-brac, it’s all dark wood, kind of ornate, it can go downhill real fast.

And in some places in this hotel it did. For example, why did you paint the lady’s heads in the dining room? Now I’m eating breakfast surrounded by dead eyes. It’s hard to eat your yogurt with that.

Nope, that’s a hard nope from me.

I don’t know what they were going for with the dead flowers. I’ll tell you what, it really complemented the dismembered lady heads everywhere.

Now, this is cool and then it is not. A bunch of stained glass windows survived the earthquake in 1906 and they are above your head as you climb the stairs. Lovely. However some jackass put fluorescent tube lights behind them so they have all the warmth and charm of a second-grade classroom. Why? Why do you do this to me? Anguish.

This isn’t really a complaint, more of a flumoxing really. This was our bathroom wall viewed from the toilet. What… what is going on here?

I understand some of the elements like the light switch and the plug things but the everything else, I have no idea what’s going on there. Many questions left unanswered.

We were right next to Japantown which consists of two very large buildings built in a Japanese-esque style and a tall tower.

We went early in the morning which I do not recommend because almost nothing in the two Japantown malls is open until around noon. It was a perfectly fine mall, lots of shops and food stalls. I have to admit I am jaded. There was a Japantown on the way to my previous office and therefore I was regularly exposed to a chunk of Japanese culture. I imagine this would blow someone’s mind if they were from a Japanese-starved area but I was okay with it, not mind blown. But I do recommend checking it out, there might be something there that isn’t in your area. Here’s a list of the stores.

http://sfjapantown.org/directory/

The one thing they had that gave me warm fuzzies was the beverage vending machine. I fell madly in love with the beverage vending machines in Japan so I got a little teary-eyed to see my old friend again.

That’s it for today. Next entry: Art and Alcatraz.