I Have Returned From The Rapture to Bring You 'Sweet Pics' of Venezuelan Graffiti

Despite having one of the highest literacy rates in the region, this muralist apparently don't know how to spell “Iraq.” Spotted in Caracas' Capitolio district, pic lifted from here, as mine didn't come out.

When I heard that a walking gravestone out of Oakland had predicted The Rapture for May 21st, I figured it would be wise to get the hell outta San Francisco (which surely would burn) and make my way to the divine nation of Venezuela. Sure, there was a 99.99% chance The Rapture was going to be bullshit (I know nothing about statistics), but there was a very small chance that a whole mess of people I don't care much for would ascend to the Heavens and I would be forced to spend my final days doing formerly-controlled substances, taking the Lord's name in vain, financing abortions and all that good stuff heathens enjoy until we all burned one October morning, never knowing if the Giants could pull off a second championship.  I figured that time might as well be spent in South America.

Anyway, there's a lot I could say about Venezuela and its socialist oil dictatorship. Never once did I see someone beg for money, I only spotted a handful of homeless people throughout my travels, it costs $00.0625 USD to ride the subway (which runs more frequently and more reliably than San Francisco's offerings), there was very little visibility from Coca-Cola (but Pepsi was all over the place), their Four Loko ripoffs continue to be legal (and disgusting), and the relative lack of McDonald's and other American fast-food chains would make our City Hall enraged with jealously.  That said, there's no good vegan food down there (outrage!), Caracas is among the dirtiest places I've ever been, the corruption is apparent as soon as you walk off the plane, and once you're in the country, everyone who can get their hands on you will fleece you for cash when you try to leave.

Venezuelans think highly of your Google desk job.

Beautiful sunsets and having to hand over money to seven motherfuckers just to exit the country aside, perhaps one of the more interesting aspects of Venezuela's government and culture was its propaganda (which, regrettably, I did not photograph very much of). Advertisements toting the benefits of socialism line major transportation hubs, billboards announcing the repair of a bridge or repaving of a highway are dominated by Hugo's face and proclimations that these repairs are a byproduct of socialism, and government-sponsored murals celebrating socialism and deriding the United States decorate capital buildings and subway stations. The friendly, cultural murals of San Francisco these are not: Caracas murals depict the beheading of Hillary Clinton, glorify revolutionary figures, and give props to the government and symbols of Venezuelan nationalism.

Bellas Artes Metro station, Caracas.

On the flip, the city is also littered with pro- and anti-government tags. Seemingly every phone booth in the capital has some disparaging comment about Chavez in it. One block will be covered in tags celebrating Castro, Che, the Cuban Revolution, Venezuelan socialism, and the hammer and sickle, while the next block will have a building-long rant against Chavez.  Others take their messages to walls lined with security cameras and topped with electric fences that protect foreign embassies and the rich from the world around them:

Hugo holding up a can of revolutionary spray paint, with the words “Chavez is a pussy” (translated) above it.

And, if case you were wondering, not every mural is politics and a depiction of Obama at a nuclear SantaCon:

Red Vic a Bloody Mess, Could Shutter in July

The Red Vic Movie House on upper Haight, aka the awesome venue that does annual screenings/BYOB dance parties of Stop Making Sense, is financially in the shitter.  KQED reports that it could be slated to cease operations as soon as July 25th, unless a lucky docent happens to find a bag of money stashed underneath a theater seat.  KQED points out that the Roxie Theater has had several “near death experiences” and lived to tell the tale, but from the mouth of Red Vic employee Claudia Lehan, the situation sounds pretty desperate.

We're hoping for a miracle. But it's not looking good. […] We need George Lucas or Pixar or somebody really big to step in and we haven’t found them yet. Or they haven’t found us.

Hoping for Steve Jobs to come out of the wood work and save the theater is a nice fantasy and all, but my questions are, one, why are we just hearing about this now? And two, what can we do to help? From what I can tell I haven't seen any sort of community action to save the 30+ year old Red Vic with a sudden influx of donations via fundraiser or any other means.  

So who wants to get organized and save this landmark? For real, holler. Let's talk. Because where else are we going to be able screen The Room year round? 

(Hat tip: Haighteration)


San Francisco protests against Wikileaks

While silver-haired Wikileaks editor and James Bond villian standin Julian Assange remains a polarizing figure in both global and domestic politics, the era of the “Arab Spring” has cast Mr. Assange's beliefs in openness at all costs in a more generous light.  That isn't to say he's without detractors; one of which is this sign on 16th St., which calls for an end to Julian Assange.

Personally, I don't condone violenent rhetoric, and would like to call on The City and County of San Francisco to please remove this sign and replace it with a gentler message.

Hot Bay To Breakers Costume For 2011: Dressing Up As An Official Runner

With SFPD and race organizers getting aggro over people planning on having fun at the 100th Bay to Breakers this Sunday, spectators have found a way to avoid the illegal-yet-promised “sobering tents” and course closures: wearing your own race bib.  Citizens for the Preservation of Bay2Breakers has the scoop:

Word on the street is that this year’s #1 trending costume for the 100th Bay to Breakers is…wait for it…dressing up as a registered runner. Yes, you too can dress up as a “registered runner” printing your very own faux bib at home (or Kinko’s). Your timing chip won’t work, of course, but hey, who said you would be trying to make record time carrying that keg over the Hayes Street hill anyway?

Apparently AEG is so concerned with people printing out their own bibs for the sold out race (available as a PDF and Photoshop file), they actually pressured Facebook into censoring the spread of these bibs, suggesting they realize this trick might work.  So if you want to 'run' without worrying about SFPD killing the parade of drunk, go forth and print one of these badboys out.

Also, we recommend knowing your rights before heading out on Sunday.

[Photo of a real bib by Jonathan Chan]

Ponnytailed Child Bummed Out About Losing Park Space

Speaking of park closures, a few of Mission garage doors have been converted into “NO PARK” pieces over the last few days—one near Shotwell's and this one across from Mission Playground on Valencia.  Perhaps Chicken John is finding new ways to protest the privatization of Dolores Park without losing his questionable grasp of the English language?

La Cocina to Look Into Moving Out of Dolores Park

Like Blue Bottle before them, La Cocina's Caleb Zigas released this statement announcing that La Cocina intends to move their food trailer out of Dolores Park:

San Francisco is a city full of dialogue. It's one of the many reasons that people love this place, and a reputation that we've gained over the years. The last couple of weeks have seen an intense dialogue about Dolores Park, one that we've been very much a part of. It's clear that people and communities are passionate about Dolores Park. We are too - it's one of the reasons that we first leapt at the opportunity for our clients to have a presence there. it's a park that is, in so many ways, symbolic of this city. From the views, to the people to the history and, well, even to this.

La Cocina pursued this opportunity because it is a great way to bring great food, made by great people, to a great community in a great park. We still believe that all of these things are, well, great. But being part of a community means listening to the community, and we take that seriously. We will be launching our trailer tomorrow at Dolores Park, pursuant to our contract with the Recreation and Parks Department, and are thrilled at the opportunity to do. Through conversations with the Office of the Supervisor [Wiener] and other interested parties, however, we are committed to a compromise that works for everyone. To that end, we are enthusiastic about the prospect of moving our trailer from inside of the park to the curb cut-in space at the entrance of the park at Dolores and 19th. Working the Supervisor Wiener and the appropriate City Departments, we would still honor our contracts and payment agreement to Rec and Parks, ideally generating at least some positive economic impact for them while serving the neighbors and community of Dolores Park to the extent possible. We have understood that this process could take up to six months, and, if at that point we have not been able to move, we will be happy to find a space for our trailer and vendors where they are embraced by the community elsewhere.

At the end of the day, we very much believe that a happy ending is an agreement that everyone can be happy about. And we are excited at having found this potential ending after this long road.

According to Chicken John, the new location would be on the curb on Cumberland St., just off of Church between 19th and 20th, and the move/compromise is being actively worked on by Supervisor Wiener.  Crisis averted.

In other (now dated) news, Chicken John had an op-ed published in the SFBG this afternoon that makes for an interesting read.

[photo by Gary Stevens]

Puke-In Being Held at Dolores Park This Saturday

As you might have recalled from last fall, the Rec. & Park Department decided to lease parts of Dolores Park over to businesses without proposing the idea to neighbors and park users.  Some people supported the department, most people did not.  And then there was that small minority, primarily led by Chicken John, that talked about active resistance to the commercialization of the park.

Now I may not be a fan of Chicken, but credit to him for sticking to his guns.  This Saturday at 2pm, Chicken's organizing a “puke in” at the park in protest to the opening of a new foodie-centric taco truck:

We are having a puke in. Pukin'. We are going to collectively lose our lunch on a trailer this weekend. I've hired a photographer to document it. To show other potential stores in the park what happens when you sell the park out. When you try to be an agent of Control. When you steamroll people.

So why exactly Chicken and a few hundred other people puking in Dolores this Saturday at 2pm?

I'm gonna go puke on a trailer this weekend because no one knows that this weekend a commercial entity is going to open a store in Dolores Park and is doing it without anyone knowing. Just like last year, they are trying to sneak in like sneaky sneakers. After all the meetings, the 1,500 signatures we collected, the emails, the outrage and the vitriol we showed last year, it's the same slimy tactics all over again. The fact is that Dolores Park is surrounded on 3 sides by pavement which is designed to drive cars, trucks and trailers on. Why these people just don't put their store on the other side of the curb is beyond me. The Department of Parks and Recreation wants the revenue. Why? Because they just hired like 5 more $100,000 + a year staffers they have to pay… although that shouldn't be a problem, as they fired ALL the teachers and closed 80% of the clubhouses.

He goes on to talk about how Rec. and Park isn't listening to neighbors.  That they're commercializing the park was always done deal; that they never cared what the users of the park thought.  That DP is “a collaborative artwork, not a profit center.”  Good points, indeed.  So what happens next?

The permits that RPD issued are still valid. So very quietly, very stealthy… they went about forming alliances to put more stores in the park. They were trying to be very quiet about it, but it didn't work. Because EVERYONE they tried to form an alliance with, said they didn't want a store in the park. So we told them that we would protest. Picket. We would sue. We would pour gasoline over our heads to make us martyrs for the cause.

Whoa!  People are going to be burning themselves alive? Fucking. There.

Anyway, if you want to learn more about the protest, you can check out their Facebook page, look at the new petition being circulated around, and read all of Chicken's thoughts on the matter.

Coming Soon: 'Community Courts' to Deal With Graffiti, Drug Possession, Quality-of-Life Crimes

This morning we received an email from one of the Mission's 'concerned citizens' email lists sharing news of a new “Community Court” system, spearheaded by sit-lie champion George Gascón, coming to the Mission.  The reasons for the program seem reasonable — the city's court system is currently tied up with petty crimes, taking resources away from prosecuting serious crimes and leaving many misdemeanor offenses left unpunished.  Rather than letting these quality-of-life crimes slip through the cracks, District Attorney Gascón wants to move 20% the misdemeanor caseload to a panel of volunteer neighborhood residents that will sentence the accused to community service and/or restitution.

While optimizing and improving the justice system is a noble task, outsourcing the role judge and jury to the segment of the citizenry that campaigns for banning drinking in Dolores Park, restricting the quantity of public events held outdoors, putting more rules and regulations on people looking to enjoy themselves, advocates against cycling infrastructure in our city, and harasses nightclubs strikes us as a troubling solution to the problem.

The idea that these people, with their bias against marijuana, public intoxication, and street art, could impartially judge the accused dances in the realm of absurdity.  As the government gives these activists the same power the courts enjoy, we're one step away from institutionalized vigilante justice.

If you have any interest in telling our DA and Supervisors what you think of this program, or would like serve as a community court justice and bring a little balance to the bench, feel free to attend tonight's meeting:

You are cordially invited to attend a special community meeting on Wednesday, April 13 from 6 to 8 PM.

Come hear District Attorney George Gascón discuss the forthcoming Neighborhood Prosecutor and Community Courts program. DA Gascón is launching a new initiative to quickly resolve low level crimes through community leadership and restorative justice. Low level crimes will be immediately referred to the community court neighborhood panels for non-criminal resolutions that combine accountability with neighborhood improvement.

DA Gascón will be joined by Supervisor David Campos and Supervisor Scott Wiener, and representatives from SFPD.

At the meeting, you will learn about the new model, get a chance to dialogue with the DA, and learn how you can volunteer to serve as a community court adjudicator

The meeting will be held at:
Centro Latino Community Center
1656 15th Street

Protesting the Wars is Boring

That anti-war/free Palestine/free Bradley Manning/Stand with Unions/buy-these-Che-Guevara-shirts protest in Dolores Park and Valencia Street yesterday sure was a failure.  While I have to give the organizers props for being the first people I've ever witnessed burning the American Flag on Tallboy Terrace (horribly pictured above), they clearly don't know how to promote political activism to anyone under the age 50.  Personally, I hadn't heard there was going to be a protest in Dolores until I showed up for my typical Sunday ritual of drinking Tecate and complaining about the wind, which is the first sign that Bay Area political organizers don't have a clue.  But once I found out the protest, I had the displeasure of having to listen to the protest…

I've heard a lot of reasons over the years as to why anti-war rallies have been so poorly attended by 20-somethings since September 11th: “There's no draft to motivate the youth to protest against the war.” “There are not as many photos of dead soldiers or mass destruction as there were in Vietnam.” “No Americans romanticize Bin Laden as a revolutionary figure like radicals did of Communist figures in the 60s.”  Sure, those are all valid reasons, but the real reason nobody goes to anti-Iraq war protests is because they are boring.  There's nothing uncool about standing against continued wars in the Middle East or Obama turning his back on campaign pledges, but what kind of self-respecting kid wants to hang out with 60-year-olds who wear jackets covered in oversized buttons and recite poetry before screaming about justice?  From what I'm told, protesting Vietnam was fun.  Listening to protest songs.  Doing drugs with thousands of your friends and neighbors.  Socializing with other single people your age.  Come for the protest, stay for the party.  Yesterday's protest was anything but that.

I know everyone hates yuppies and shit, but if these anti-war organizations had any sense, they'd motivate a bunch of Mission kids who work in marketing, event promotion, and tech to start organizing protests that feel less like a senior singles mixer and more like a party.