'mnstrm media'

Bonfire of the Insecurities

OMG You Guys, New York is Totes Jellies!

Not since we partied like it was 1999 or enjoyed 1967’s Summer of Love has the international media horde descended on San Francisco to try to explain to the rest of the world about how exciting it can be here! New York Magazine, maybe questioning their faith in the widespead belief among New Yorkers that they live at the center of the universe, has turned the volume up to 11 articles about San Francisco in their latest issue. The lead photo for the series is of nudists Gypsy Taub and Jaymz Smith, identified by the Chronicle’s Ellen Huet, followed by the above illustration which shows a good deal of artistic license taken with local geography. (Seriously, it’s like there was no attempt whatsoever to actually connect the legend with the map, but then New Yorkers have always struggled with perspective.)

Honestly, after reading Kevin Roose’s lead story, “Is San Francisco New York,” we didn’t have any fucks left to give about the rest of the articles, so we’ll leave it up to SFist’s Jay Barmann to explain why, to New York Magazine’s apparent dismay, our new money douchebros are slightly less overtly awful than their new money douchebros:

But it’s true, we are less inclined to embrace asshole behavior, unapologetic displays, and the giddy capitalist fervor that has made Manhattan a bohemia-free retail Disneyland where no one ever thought twice about bulldozing a building to build something newer and bigger.

What do you think, are you proud of all the attention and feel it validates your decision to stay or do you wish everyone would just go away and let us fight over real estate development amongst ourselves in peace?

[h/t Melissa Gira]

ML Joins UA in the No Money Club

UC Berkeley Cuts Off Support for Mission Local

Since Mission Local launched five years ago, it’s been chiefly funded by UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism and served as platform for students to hone their reporting chops.  But that’s no more.

In a memo sent out by Edward Wasserman, Dean of the Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism, (and published on Mission Local), he announced that the department would be pulling funding, faculty support and student participation from the site.  Excerpted below:

The Mission Local hyperlocal site has been a vibrant and valuable part of the School of Journalism since it was created five years ago. It has developed well beyond its initial scope as an incubator for J200 students, and under [Prof. and Mission Local Editor Lydia Chavez]’s imaginative, impeccably professional and tireless leadership has become the premier place for the community it serves to learn about itself and talk about its future.

It’s now time for Mission Local to take the next step and re-launch itself as an independent, stand-alone media operation. That means ending its role in the J-School’s curriculum. While Prof Chavez would have liked to see the school keep the site, she is ready to assume responsibility for the site, and we expect that it will continue under her ownership.

To paraphrase: “She wanted us to keep the site, and we were like, nah.”  Ouch.

My reasons for spinning off ML are several.

First, it’s an expensive undertaking, which obliges us to operate a remote site on a year-round basis, even when the curricular value to our students is limited or even, at times, non-existent (as when we pay non-students to keep the site from going dark.)

This alone will provide a challenge for the site.  While it’s unknown how much UC Berkeley was spending on the site, Mission Local has disclosed in fundraising pitches that site extras, including “money for rent, a translator [for the Spanish edition], extra reporters over the summer and holiday breaks, and the print edition,” cost the site between $50,000 and $75,000 annually.  Removing the steady stream of low-wage student contributions while school is in session will prove costly (unless Mission Local decides to go down the shady unpaid intern route), and likely means the site will have to cut back features and coverage.

Third, the natural evolution of the site itself is toward being an integrated media operation, and that requires sustained attention to marketing, audience-building, ad sales, miscellaneous revenue-generation, community outreach, special events, partnerships, and 1,001 other publishing activities that are essential to any site’s commercial success.

That’s not really what we do. Those are specialized areas, and the J-School doesn’t have the instructional capacity to teach them to a Berkeley standard of excellence. What’s more, our students wouldn’t have the curricular bandwidth to learn them—not unless we pared back other areas, and redefined our core mission as something other than journalism education.

It’s worth noting that UC Berkeley is continuing their support of Oakland North and Richmond Confidential, the school’s other two ‘news lab’ websites.  All this suggests that Mission Local has grown too big for its own good, with stunts like a misguided Tech Shuttle bedazzling contest and paying to win a Webby Award throughout the years.  It departed from its original mission of providing a platform for meandering, over-reported stories on neighborhood minutae, and now its parents are kicking them out of the house.

Lipstick; Meet Pig

Behold, The New Uptown Almanac

Uptown Almanac has been pretty quiet recently—and we do apologize for that—but it was for a fine reason.  Just look around; the blog is (should be?) a whole lot less painful to read and look at.  Finally.

It’s not just a redesign, but we’ve revamped the whole site, including:

  • An Improved Commenting System: We’ve overhauled our commenting platform and introduced the ability for San Francisco’s Best Commenters to upload photos and embed videos.  We’re looking forward to this feature being abused to exhaustion until we ultimately remove it.
  • You Can Now Read the Site on Your Phone: As much as you loved squinting to read the site while hiding from your boss in the bathroom, UA is now compatible with small screens.
  • High-Definition Photos: Our indescribably terrible cell pics will now look great better on devices with high-resolution displays.
  • New Blood: Okay, this isn’t site thing per-say, but we’re beefing up our roster of writers (with Jackson West of SFist/Valleywag/NBC/Gigaom fame joining us this week!).

But looking beyond all the internet doodads, the biggest change is we’re moving away from our old blog format.  Over all the years of running this site, we’ve felt that there have been a lot of pieces of news that was important to the conversation, but we didn’t have more to add to what was already reported. So borrowing from blogs and sites like The Awl, Eater, and Tumblr, we’ll be rolling out a series of new post formats that’ll enable us to point you to stories happening elsewhere without wasting time regurgitating other people’s reporting.

Now, it’s worth pointing out there’s still a lot of problems and things left out of this refresh—we still don’t have a footer, author bios are busted, and we’ve wanted to retire our dated slogan for ages.  But these problems aren’t for a lack of proofreading, but rather, we wanted to get what we have up and get back to blogging.  So please consider this our first draft, and please let us know if you have any ideas for how to make UA even better.

Clarion Alley Artists Claim "Vengeful" Copyright Infringement in Tech Shuttle Art Contest

Mission Local's $500 shuttle bus bedazzling contest with Genentech, which we once called an “egregious conflict of interest,” is now receiving a new round of criticism—this time from neighborhood artists who feel their work is being used against their wills in an effort to give “'cool camo' for corporations.”

Via an anonymous tipster:

The winning entry for decorating the tech shuttles is a Google Street View of Clarion Alley and Community Thrift.

But the artists responsible for the murals/decorative painting in the photo condemn their art being used for this purpose, and did not support the competition from the beginning. They were even in contact with Lydia Chávez—yet, their art has been co-opted nonetheless.

The status update of the Clarion Alley Mural Project reads as follows: “Mission Loc@l SUCKS!!! & [Editor-in-Chief] Lydia Chávez sucks!!! This comes after a long email exchange with Lydia that included Megan Wilson, Jet Martinez (who painted Community Thrift), Rigo 23, and John Jota Leaños - and we all said that WE DID NOT SUPPORT THIS COMPETITION - Megan, Rigo, and Jet as Clarion Alley Mural Project. … Time to by [sic] an arsenal of paint guns!”

Megan Wilson is a lead organizer for CAMP, Jet Martinez painted Community Thrift (also “Sons of Satya”—“the elephant one”), Rigo 23 was an original founder of CAMP.

Emails between Chávez and Clarion artists, published on Megan Wilson's blog, show an intense rift between the arts community and the shuttles—and a community that wanted nothing to do with the project and rejected the co-opting of their work.

Chávez initially reached out to CAMP in early December, asking the muralists to participate in the contest.  However, the invitation was rejected outright.

“Fuck this!,” John Jota Leaños responded. “I had many subversive thoughts and brainstorms over breakfast, but none would fly … subversive, political, social art does not pass corporate scrutiny.”  He added:

I question Mission Local’s move to promote this and work with FB and others …to exploit artists to beautify their cush-rides while indirectly displacing these same artists… Fijate!

“I don’t know.  Why not give it a try?,” Chávez suggested.

She later admitted, “I would love to see some subversive ideas [in the contest].”

Before the artists requested the contest be retracted, Rigo 23 fired back:


Mission Local and Genentech chose to push forward with the contest, ultimately selecting a design which incorporated the protesting artists' work.

Megan Wilson writes, “the selection is not only disrespectful, but also seems vengeful and tacky.”

Mission Local's Egregious New Conflict of Interest: Pimping Tech Shuttles

“Genentech Joins Mission Local to Turn Buses Into Art!,” read Mission Local's giddy headline yesterday morning.  While protesters were blocking a Google bus for illegally using a Muni stop and the rest of the city was dumping napalm on the burning debate over technology's impact on San Francisco, UC Berkeley's neighborhood “news lab” was shilling for silicon shuttles.

“Mission Local is still giving a $500 reward for the best entry into our unofficial contest to turn the tech buses into art, [but] what’s better is that it is no longer completely unofficial.  Apart from our prize money, Genentech wants to bedazzle its buses and will select one winner whose art will adorn the side of one of its buses in 2014!”

Okay, fine.  There's nothing fundamentally wrong with dressing-up a bland bus, even if it seems like a completely off-mission initiative for a non-profit “quality journalism” outlet.  However, it's Mission Local's tactical legitimization of the controversial shuttles that grows our suspicions:

Genentech’s interests are similar to ours: community mindfulness. And sustainability themes might also play well.


Doesn't partnering with tech companies create a conflict of interest for the site, especially given those companies' increasing impact on the neighborhood?  We put the question to Lydia Chavez, Mission Local's co-editor and site founder, who emailed back a one-line non sequitur:

I would welcome all of the tech companies to join the contest and hire artists.

Okay, well, does this contest align with the non-profit's original mission of “covering a neighborhood fairly and thoroughly”?

Probably not. But I see the buses every day and I could not stop thinking about how they could be filled.

We're still scratching our heads. Chavez's comment to SFist seems to be her most articulate statement on the matter:

I returned from a year away from the Mission and was surprised to see how many buses were going through the neighborhood, but going through in an oddly anonymous way. But of course they are not anonymous at all. I see the benefits — fewer people in cars and the buses are often getting workers to places where public transportation fails to reach. But they’re so void of beauty and they’re such great canvases.

Those are your two choices? Really?

This is lame.  Mission Local is now giving cover to the very companies they should be holding responsible.  The reason seems unclear—beauty?  The contest was, obviously, poorly thought out; and Chavez herself acknowledges it “probably” doesn't align with the site's mission.

The whole thing stinks of a cynical play to squeeze out some donation dollars from companies worth 47.3 billion dollars 99.9 billion dollars, all on the backs on local artists fighting over a pathetic $500 prize.

Community mindfulness, indeed.

NY Times Blames Public Transportation for Gentrification Crisis

As many San Francisco residents have noted, the New York Times recently 'pivoted' away from lamenting The Death of Paris to join San Francisco's opinion page funeral precession.  And while their usual spiel explores known conclusions such as high rents pricing out the poor, yesterday, the Times' Timothy Egan pointed fingers at our terrible transit system.

Egan gets off on the right foot…

San Francisco still has its Hitchcock moments — the Mediterranean light, the Golden Gate Bridge poking out of the fog, the allure of possibility, all there in a film like “Vertigo.” But of late, the city named for a 13th century pauper from Assisi serves more as an allegory of how the rich have changed America for the worse. […]

The texture of inequality can be felt, and seen, in the rise in private transportation — the fleet of buses giving tech workers a bubbled commute between the city and the social media campuses to the south. At the high end, Google’s top executives are building an $84 million private corporate jet center at San Jose International Airport.

… but then he snaps his brittle ankle and falls to the floor:

While New York’s subway system boasted of moving 5,985,311 people on a single day in October (an all-time record), the Bay Area’s trains, buses and light rail cars limp through technical failures and labor strife. They’re old, dirty, slow and prone to “system-wide breakdowns,” as the euphemism goes.

In New York, at least, rich and poor are more likely to rub elbows, and even make eye contact while getting around. The commute is a daily reminder to the very wealthy that not everybody can afford those new condos overlooking Central Park, just listed at $53 million.

Here, transportation segregation is on the rise because you can’t rely on the public system. And when you put the working poor and middle class out of sight, you put them out of mind. The sleek fleet of Google-bound buses and black über-taxis is a market response to a costly, unreliable, unpleasant transit system.

Outta sight, outta mind.  The Peril of the Bay isn't the obscene concentration of wealth, the indifference to the poor and starving, the unsympathetic beliefs that the poor are that way because they're too lazy to program, companies extorting tax breaks from their paid-for mayor… No, it's that the cyber nobility aren't forced to smell the riffraff on the bus, so they forget that not everyone can afford to live in mansions atop Pac Heights.

If only we could be more like ungentrified New York…

This isn't to say that Muni is a beacon of perfection, or BART doesn't occasionally try to poison its passengers with toxic dust.  But blaming the one transportation network that doesn't discriminate is pure bullshit.

Luxury shuttles aren't a response to Muni's slowness—Muni doesn't go anywhere near Mountain View.  It's not BART's fault that Apple is building its new headquarters 30 miles from the nearest station. And let's not pretend that Uber passengers are disgruntled ex-bus riders, especially given that the company justifies its existence because of a “broken” taxi system.

Transportation segregation is all about the money.  Companies seeking cheap land and low taxes, proximity to transit or population centers be damned.

[NY Times | Photo by Cisco Kid]

Tech Billionaire Looks to Reinvent Old Vegas in the Image of the Mission

Downtown Las Vegas, if you have never been, is about a 20 minute cab ride from the Strip, and is a cheaper version of the glitz, glam, and tourist packed casino mecca. The slots are looser, the people not as scandalously dressed, and you can actually get an okay meal for under $10 per person. While some might find this place as an oasis from the over-the-top and in-your-face shit show that is the strip, one man has a vision. That man is Zappos founder Tony Hsieh, and his vision is that of Dolores Park:

Mr. Hsieh, a soft-spoken 39-year-old Internet billionaire who runs Zappos, the online clothing store, plans to do something as transformative. It’s a classic American dream: a Western-scale roll of the dice in a city that suddenly conjured up Belle Époque Paris and ancient Rome out of the desert. The idea this time is to build a version of the Mission district in San Francisco or the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn in downtown Vegas.


Mr. Hsieh has been buying up property all around the downtown strip to house what he feels are the best parts of the Mission: Mom & Pop restaurants and bars, boutique stores, offices that house tech incubators and can host TED talks, and a bike share program. And something about Teslas. While this sounds like a unique thing to do in Las Vegas (as none of those places have anything to do with boobies or yard sticks full of sugar booze), it also sounds absolutely nothing like the Mission. In fact, it sounds a lot like Austin, which is already in a desert in a state that no one particularly wants to go to. It seems like Mr. Hsieh is trying to to bring new life to a floundering section of Las Vegas, which is a good thing, especially for new start-ups that find rental prices in the Mission a wee bit pricey, and need a place to develop and grow. Plus who doesn't love doggy day care? You can't gamble AND watch your dog on vacation, right?

Let's say, for a minute, Mr. Hsieh actually wanted to bring the Mission to Las Vegas. Besides building a two-story version of Four Barrel and a park that's largely unregulated by the DEA or the Nevada Gaming Commission, what else would be necessary for the complete Missionification of downtown Vegas? Would Dr. Teeth move to Vegas and stay exactly the same? Would Cold Beer Cold Water be allowed to sell PBR again without fear? Instead of waking up to a USA Today outside your hotel room, would you wake up to poop and a used needle? What would you want to see in Vegas Mission, if you ever actually did want to see a Vegas version of the Mission to begin with?

EPIC FAIL: BuzzFeed and Ben & Jerry's Peddle Winless Pandericle on Dolores Park That Makes Us :-(

Meme blog-cum-advertising agency BuzzFeed recently teamed up with .~zAnY~. ice cream maker Ben & Jerry's to promote their brands on the backs of Dolores Park.  While they get some things right (there are slip-n-slides! and bubbles! and OMG alcohol!), this didn't meet the standard of journalistic excellence we've come to expect from BuzzFeed.  They suspiciously forgot to mentioned the park's proximity to Bi-Rite Creamery, improperly identified the truffle guy as distributing “chocolatey goodness,” their fact-checkers missed that the reference is “17 Reasons Why” and not “18 Reasons,” and the “best dog” was not, in fact, the park's best dog.

Shameful stuff, really.

Of course, the real hit comes in at lucky number 13, where we see local celebrity Frank Chu in a place that looks absolutely nothing like a fucking park:

Anyway, I'm not going to even link to “18 Reasons Why Whatever Corporate Suck-Ass Wrote This Should Throw Themselves In Front of a Speeding Google Bus” out of respect for poor Dolores, but I cannot help but be reminded of one man's sage advise to newfound Mission residents: “Don't be a fucking douchebag.”

Trusted Source in Journalism Misidentifies Best Grilled Mac and Cheese Sandwich

A losing sandwich.

It's hard to get worked up over Best Of lists, the yearly prize dished out by alt-weeklies to whomever advertises the heaviest in the paper.  Really, they're just corrupt BuzzFeed listicles for a bygone era.  However, sometimes they are so unjustly—so tastelessly—awarded that it blows away my already low expectations.

Take SF Weekly's pick for the “Best Gut-Busting Lunch” of 2013:

American Grilled Cheese's Mac N Cheese Grilled Cheese

There's comfort food, and then there's a vortex of comfort food inside more comfort food. A grilled cheese sandwich made with macaroni-and-cheese might be the very manifestation of a San Francisco foodie's id. Gooey, crunchy, and guaranteed to ruin your appetite for the remainder of the day, the sandwich has a simplicity that proves that all that umami nonsense is just a distraction from living out your inner 6-year-old's dream — and all for only $8. How has no one thought of this before? Should you chow down at the Mission location once occupied by Café Gratitude, you get to say, “I am decadent” as you stuff your face.

Dearest SF Weekly: I know the institutional memory is pretty short at a publication that lays off a sizable chunk of its staff every few years, but someone has thought of grilled mac 'n' cheese sandwiches before.  In fact, you awarded top prize in a nearly identical category to them last year.  Their name is Bender's and they do, in fact, make the best grilled mac 'n' cheese gut-buster:

But for those who want to take a real starch + dairy challenge, there's the Grilled Mac 'n' Cheese Sandwich, a creamy behemoth that will take you all night to eat. Two hunks of bread separated by several inches of cheese and elbow pasta — as savory and comforting a combination of food elements as has yet been devised by mankind. It goes without saying that a sandwich like that can absorb its fair share of beer. Also: Tots! A photo booth! Bands!

That isn't to say American Grilled Cheese is a worthless restaurant—it isn't.  They make a perfectly fine sandwich.  But fine isn't the best, is it?

[Photo by Heather Hunsinger]

The Bold Italic Takes a Quick Break From Stereotyping Everyone to Ask Others to Stop Stereotyping Techies

The Bold Italic has built an empire lost their parent company Gannett Company, Inc. millions of dollars by pushing borderline racist listicles and backstories exploring our city's most tired stereotypes.  Now, their completely oblivious editor “producer” Jennifer Maerz has had it up to here with commonfolk stereotyping poor techies, goshdarnit!

According to Maerz, techies The Bold Italic's primary customers aren't making assault weapons (true!, kinda) and not every techie is a yuppie satan-spawn that would have been a Manhattanite financier if born a generation ago (true!, obviously), so let's cut them some slack and save our stereotypin' energy for Chinese people and everyone else in the city, okay?

She explains why you should get with the brogram:

I don't blame an entire industry (and every single person who works within it) for a city growing expensive, and I'm getting tired of hearing complaints from friends and strangers who make mass generalizations about people they likely have never met or worked with. I know we've done our own stereotyping on TBI of tech folks too, but our writers have approached the topic as parodies. It's hard watching the very serious hatred for people who have tech jobs grow stronger in posts and forums. It's not like these folks are making assault weapons for a living. Most of my friends who work in startups are helping build information systems that benefit universities, organize and label your iTunes music collections, and help get the bands you want to see to your city. You can't lump all tech work, or people using the medium to push out new ideas, as evil.

We completely agree.  Wholesale dismissal of people based on what employee badge they carry is a real poor idea.  And we know plenty of people who ride the shuttles and are perfectly bearable humans.  But the idea that the industry's occasional nobleness and lack of complete sameness makes it somehow off-limits to criticize its rampant racism, gender inequality and sexism, insularity and cronyism—never mind the widening inequality and and Republican tax policies it promotes—is completely baffling.

(Besides, should we not criticize bankers despite the fact their industry is by and large corrupt?)

Anyway, if the brogrammer apologists at The Bold Italic really want to stop techie stereotyping, maybe they should start with themselves?