san francisco

Beach Blanket Armageddon

VideoWest was a great “punk influenced” video production company/television show based in San Francisco in the late 70s and early 80s. A lot of the VideoWest people moved on to MTV. I briefly did some volunteer work for them when I was in high school (answering phones, mostly). I have been waiting to see this episode-length video for ages.

So, presented in full, Special Edition Director’s Cut, from 1980, Written & Produced by Erik Nelson, Directed by Joe Dea.


Woman of the Day – Alice Waters

The wonderful chef, restaurateur, and leader o...

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For the last day of October, I want to jump ahead to the holiday season with one great foodie:

 Alice Waters founded her modest little restaurant Chez Panisse right up the street from my middle school. Now she sponsors a program about growing and preparing food for the students of same middle school. She is quite awesome in what she has done for the culinary world, and for what she does for her community.

Oh yeah. She pretty much invented California cuisine.

Flashback Film – The People (1972) (TV)

The People

The following is reposted from my entry on IMDb from 2004:

Captures the Mood of the Time

Despite the fact it is often set in some remote setting, temporal or spatial, science fiction reflects the sensibilities of its own timeframe more than any other genre. This science fiction TV movie evokes a strong memory from my youth that is as much semi-personal cultural artifact as it is broadcast entertainment.

In the early 1970’s, there were a number of us, adults and children, who lived “apart” from the everyday society: rural, rustic, spiritual seekers, community-minded, experimental and questioning. We looked to the past to create the future. Many of us ended up in Marin County, in the northern section of the San Francisco Bay Area.

It is never really possible to perfectly signal the everyday mood of a cultural zeitgeist, though all movies attempt to, in varying degrees of success and intentionality. “The People,” while to some a modest and moderately successful literary adaptation, is, to me, a stunning capture of the “mood” of Bolinas, California, 1971. The social remove of the “people” acted as an allegory for our cultural dissatisfaction.

Step backwards. While a lot of people in this time/place avoided television (though not my family), the broadcast of this movie generated a great deal of excitement for at least three main reasons.

At the top of reasons were the crew involved. The director, John Korty, was local to the area (though I forget exactly from where…) Also, of great interest was in the scene in which the schoolchildrens’ story was told. Arthur Okamura was a Bolinas artist who did the illustrative paintings. (He also happened to be my father’s best friend at the time.) Of course, for Northern California grounding, there is the ubiquitous Coppola involvement.

Another reason for the interest were the filming locations in Northern California. This was before every other movie was made in an over-speculated and glamorized-to-death San Francisco.

The final reason is the message of the film, most importantly the final scene in which the group is able to act as a single healing force. This manages to fairly sum up the collective dream of our little alternative society.

Is it a good movie? I actually can’t say.

Then what can be said about this movie? Mostly is quite amazing that such a pristine cultural document exists in the form of a network movie of the week from its own era. Thousands of portrayals of “hippies” exist from the time, this is one of the few that is the real deal. It feels like an subversive art film that managed to get commercial sponsors.

That’s pretty, uh, cool…

Flashback Film – The Incredibly Strange Creatures… (1964)

The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped L...

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The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies!!? – @Wikipedia


This was featured heavily in the Psychotronic Film guide as well as being featured in and lending its title to the Re/Search Books publication, Incredibly Strange Films. I once saw Jello Biafra and Boyd Rice do a in-house performance to this at the Castro Theater in San Francisco.

Woman of the Day – Lynn Hershman Leeson

Lynn Hershman Leeson

This Life from Frieze Magazine, 2008

Art, Technology and Culture Colloquium UC Berkeley 1997, 2010

Woman of the Day – Cintra Wilson

Cintra Wilson.

Cintra Wilson from

Cintra Wilson from

Anyone who gets Rush Limbaugh mad, in my book, is doing something right.

Anyone who writes this article about raising kids with autism for O magazine is doing something right.

I remember her from late 80s San Francisco when she was a young playwright. One of her standout works was a play based on the life of Fatty Arbuckle. (Who was amazingly funny in case you have never seen his work. But I digress.)

I am aware that this pick will not put me in good standing with JC Penney, but I will have to take my chances.

Official Web site

Thought Bubble – The Most Influential Women in Technology | Fast Company

Women are trained to do precise and vital engi...

Image by The Library of Congress via Flickr

The Most Influential Women in Technology | Fast Company.

If anyone is going to build a time machine, it will be one of these women.

Memory Object – KGO News in the 70s

My parents always watched Channel 7 KGO News back in the 70s.

This one seems like the inspiration for the “showdown” scene in Anchorman.

Flashback Film – Zodiac (2007)

A sketch of the Zodiac killer based on witness...

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Zodiac – Made in 2007, based on events in 1969 and 1970 and on.

This is one that I think is worth watching. The details of this docu-drama based on the actual case are quite accurate, down to the ads on the radio. I was a little kid when this was going on. The Zodiac became the Bay Area‘s real life boogeyman. Kids told stories based on the information they did get (which was not always a lot). My parents sheltered me from some of the details.

My connections to the movie are moderate but made it hard to not watch it without self-awareness. Jim Dunbar, who takes the Zodiac Killer’s call on the morning show on KGO (ABC affiliate) television, was also a KGO radio host. I remember one Christmas (I think it was 1973) he was very depressed and asked callers to call him and cheer him up. I was almost ten, and decided to sing “Oh Christmas Tree” for him. It took about 20 minutes on hold before I got on. I was on the phone, my mom listened to the radio in the next room. So, I sang it, forgot a few of the words. My mom told me that “I really cheered him up”. She may just have been saying that because she was my mom. But that was my singing debut on radio. I sang on radio a couple more times, but it was in the context of comedy sketches on college radio.

Also, I once worked with Robert Graysmith‘s oldest son (at a video store, no less) about twenty years after the events of the film. He is portrayed as the kid who Graysmith takes off the bus and drives to school, as he knows the threats to school buses the Zodiac has made. I have never met Graysmith, but the casting of Gyllenhall seems perfect, as he has very similar piercing blue eyes to the real life son of the cartoonist.

Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote about that its accuracy makes the film fall a bit flat and that the cinematic qualities lose out to this adherence to detail. Point well taken, but I still think it is worth watching, especially if you want a film that perfectly captures an historic moment, that rings true for at least one person who remembers the time and place.

Favorite Structure, Deco: Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge from above

Golden Gate Bridge from above, from National Geographic, George Steinmetz/Corbis