Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Twenty years on - Bill Hicks

Twenty years ago today the world lost one of its best and most fearless stand-up comedians, Bill Hicks. 

Unlike most members of his profession, Hicks didn't rely on dick jokes, impressions, surface-level observational humor, or bizarre affectations. 

Instead, he challenged audiences' preconceptions with substantive sociopolitical content. Hicks' penchant for pushing the envelope offended delicate sensibilities, but revealed absurdly funny truths along the way.

Fans of Hicks can find a treasure trove of performance videos on YouTube. This segment about marketing vampires has earned the most views. 

The Reagan and (Papa) Bush administrations of the '80s and early '90s provided Hicks with ample material. Here is an alternative point of view of the War on Drugs. 

Hicks, an amateur musician partial to Jimi Hendrix and other party hardy artists of merit takes this concept further in a discussion of Rock against Drugs

Hicks grew up in Houston, Texas, four hours' drive from Dallas, where John F. Kennedy was murdered in a likely conspiracy. Here Hicks dissects the mainstream media talking point that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone.

Toward the end of his life, as he struggled with cancer, Hicks made his final appearance on the David Letterman show, in October of 1993. 

Sadly, Letterman excised this routine from the tape-delayed version of the show because Hicks had cut too close to the vein. In 2009, Letterman apologized and showed the performance on air in the presence of Hicks' mother Mary, who birthed and raised one of the handful of comedians who really mattered. In the twenty years since Hicks' death, very few stand-ups have matched his skills as a professional bullshit detector.  

Sunday, February 16, 2014

It starts with your heart and radiates out

The city beckoned me through a crack in the window. 

The blinds came up to reveal 
another sunny morning in the Mission District
and a room with a view. 

Welcome to San Francisco.

After ablutions, breakfast, and the morning cup o' Joe 
I went out back for my bike and once again saw the resident spider, 
a resilient arachnid who'd spun multiple webs in the backyard 
in between bouts of wind and rain which destroyed his home 
and forced him to begin anew.

My day trip began in Ames Alley
between 22nd and 23rd (and Guerrero and Fair Oaks), 
where I found "Only in San Francisco" by Ursula X. Young

Here's a glance from the sidewalk,

directly across,

up close, 

and the long view, looking north. 

At the other end of Ames Alley is a little display of San Francisco values. 
Highlights include a comment on creeping corporatism, 

one of my favorite quotes, and

sometimes you have to laugh to keep from crying.

Pulling back we have the whole display, in color.

Just around the block I saw Saint James Church,

a corner building which got a new coat of paint 
and detail work on its east face
(and its east face only)
a few years back,

and bougainvillea. 

Along 22nd, there was 
some California winter color while 

a couple football fields downhill was 
this cheerful mural from Jet Martinez
along the side of the Revolution Cafe.

Close-up one, 

close-up two.

At 21st and Valencia I saw a march protesting 
the displacement of long-term Mission District residents, 
victims of the latest flood of tech money into the city. 

Between 17th and 18th (and Valencia and Mission) is Clarion Alley
a long block of street art. Here are "Demoncracy" by Crystal Hermann

a populist prescription from Megan Wilson

and a public service cartoon from the DOPE Project
which does heroin overdose prevention.

Moving east down the alley, 
I found this work from Chris Granillo and Creature
I loved the contrast between the simple black and white style 
of the face and the swirls of color which surround it. 

Here is a view from up close, 

a few steps back,

further back and to the right,

and the big picture, back and to the left.

Clarion Alley also has tributes 
to tattoo artist Dean Dennis and

San Francisco painter Pico Sanchez.

Kitty-corner from the Eastern end of Clarion Alley is the Mission Market;

a few dozen strides away was 
a sidewalk vendor with pirated DVD's,   
a common sight on Mission Street.

As I walked northeast toward downtown, 
I noticed that Marshall elementary was teaching their children well.

Light blue and red followed me on a diagonal line to this nearby establishment on Natoma
a quiet little side street between the main thoroughfares of Mission and Van Ness. 

Most of the color was gone from my environs when I reached the South of Market neighborhood. The sun had slipped behind the clouds; the gray sky and the drab industrial architecture were one with this building at 1234 Folsom, headquarters of Crave
producer of deluxe sex toys.

What color I did encounter popped out on my visual plane, including
 this building (and matching front panel) at 1596 Howard, 

this Ironlak mural of Gene Simmons, psychobilly Elvis, 
and the Pillsbury Dough Boy 

birds both across the street at Dore Alley 
(by Chor Boogie) and

further down on Folsom (Johanna Poethig),  

this fish painting (Deborah Yoon)

and doorway 
on Langton (off Bryant),

a dreamy mural from El Mac which

graces the front wall of Camputee Press,

custom Mercedes, 

and the suspended furniture installation at 6th and Howard 
entitled "Defenestration," 

I continued east, through downtown. On Market Street 
I passed the regal entryway to the Hearst Building
once home to the San Francisco Examiner
built after the 1906 earthquake.

A half-block down is a skyward view of the San Francisco Bar Center

which is across the road from the imposing 38-story McKesson building, 
built in 1970 as part of the controversial "Manhattanization" of San Francisco,
here seen from front and


But what really caught my attention was the Hobart Building
a landmark from the early 20th Century which is 

a refreshing sight amid all the faceless glass and steel, and

a reminder of the aesthetics and sense of wonder which make San Francisco unique, 
even as greed and homogenization threaten its core identity.  

Other "Truth and Beauty" photo essays:

"Gone but not Forgotten" is a tribute to a friend who left this world all too soon 

"A Sunny* Monday in San Francisco" is a day tour of the city, 
from Mission Street to the Pacific Ocean

"On a clear day you can see forever" explores Noe Valley, Ashbury Heights, 
the Inner Sunset district, microclimates, and street art on a pristine September day 

"Random San Francisco" has 46 photos which range from 
ornate architecture to street scenes to vistas to murals

"California in November" captures deep fall natural splendor

  "Vintage Cars" is an evening tour of old automobiles in the Mission District