Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Phillip Thurtle

Phillip Thurtle, Assistant Professor of Comparative History of Ideas at the University of Washington, told the Davies Forum last Thursday, "Superheroes exist. Don't ever let anyone tell you that superheroes don't exist." The easy-going prof is somewhat of a superhero himself, expanding the seemingly simple world of comics to include issues of industrialization and humanity. Comic books "deal with the failure of industrialization," he said, referring to classics like Superman and Swamp Thing

Explaining the Language of Comics

Thurtle came to us just in time for Free Comic Book Day 2008

This Saturday, May 3rd, many comic book stores will give free comic books to anyone who walks into the store. Head to any of the following local retailers to take advantage of this unusual opportunity:

(415) 863-9258

(415) 563-2970

(415) 668-3544

FAN STAND 415-456-6161
(415) 661-1344

(415) 681-4344

(415) 753-3037

(303) 619-0096

(415) 861-9428

I'll leave you with this gem from my comic alter ego:

Rubber Cement: Culture That Sticks to Me

Rubber Cement will be a section for snippets of local culture that stick to me in my day-to-day life. Moments like these flavor a city and contribute to its character as much as any event calendar, landmark or map. It's like a digital scrapbook of San Francisco.

Friday, April 25, 2008



This weekend Presentation Theater will host "Move", a dance concert featuring new choreographic work from members of USF's dance department (Cecelia Bowman, Naby Bangoura, Katie Faulkner, Sharonjean Leeds, Eli Nelson, and Alison de Oliveira). As if seeing work from some of SF's finest choreographers isn't compelling enough reason to come, you will also get to see me perform dressed like a secretary at a morgue!

portrait of the artist and friend

This is some seriously good stuff and should not be missed. Tickets are $5 at the door. Get more info here.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Culture Jamming with TradeMark G and the ECC

Think Greg Gillis was the father of mash up? Think again!

TradeMark G (pictured above, twice) and the Evolution Control Committee have been creating mash ups or "culture jamming", as he calls it, since 1987. The experimental group "recycles" both ambient sound and sounds from other people's music, hardware and things from every day life (TradeMark plays a "Thimbletron"), packaging and ideas. "I haven't had an original idea in years," the DJ stated proudly in a recent visit to my Pop Music & Communication class.

So what exactly is a mash up? It's the combination of often disparate songs to create a new one (and frequently the new creation is better than the originals). TradeMark and the ECC are probably best known for their clever mash-up "Rocked By Rape", a combo of Dan Rather's familiar voice delivering a seemingly endless supply of somber news over ACDC's "Back in Black":

Lucky for us, the first club to highlight this danceable emulsion of pop culture is located right here in San Francisco. Bootie, founded in 2003, is a party focused entirely on mash-ups and bootlegs that happens every 2nd and 4th Saturday at DNA Lounge (375 11th and Harrison). The next one is this weekend! Go get your mash on.

National Library Week Wrap-Up

Here is the audio slideshow that Lis Bartlett and I made for National Library Week:

Also, check out the Davies Forum National Library Week display in Gleeson Library.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Digitally Literate Go Back to the Land

Balls of marble-sized hail started to pelt the cars and tables outside the small "strip mall" -- if you could call the antique store, country grocery and coffee shop that -- where we paused to gas up for the final leg of the trip home from Humboldt County. "Now I get to laugh at all my friends who just finished planting their gardens. I told them to wait until May 1st!" a shop keeper chuckled as she rushed passed me to bring chairs inside her antique store. "That's country living for you!" she threw in.

I know plenty about country living myself. Growing up, I had few neighbors -- none of them under the age of 30 -- and miles of country around me to explore. I know about scraping knees on the rough bark of Crabapple trees and poking sticks into strange holes in big fields. I know about ice skating on hidden ponds and walking barefoot in the late spring grass. I know about baby ducks and biting things -- mosquitoes, horse flies, greenheads, spiders, ticks, and noseeums. I know about gardens that change with the seasons. I know the patience of letting the land set the rhythm of one's existence. This was the way I grew up. Why was it so challenging to return to this mindset for one weekend?

I moved from rural Ipswich, Massachusetts to San Diego, California the summer before 7th grade, and traded the time I spent exploring outdoors for time newly spent exploring the Internet (note me doing the robot in my new school uniform on the left). 

Since then, the rhythm of my life has been less about seasons and more about e-mail. When I work, I'm online. When I relax, usually I'm online. Whenever I see myself, it's online. Even when my neck hurts, I can't turn away from this technology. Am I addicted or is this the way it has to be?

When we, the Davies students, arrived (finally) at StoneLake Farm for our "logged off" retreat last weekend, I still couldn't turn away from technology completely. My life has become so interconnected with others through it that after only a six-hour drive with my cell phone tucked into my suitcase in the back of the car, I had to answer to texts and voice messages asking me where are you? or why aren't you answering me? 

Initially, I carried my cell phone around in my coat pocket, turning it over and feeling it occasionally like a hand to hold. It reassured me that I was never far from anyone in my contact list. I also had to beg Francis Lake, one of the two homesteaders running the farm, to use his "Internet Cafe" so that I could conduct important Foghorn business from afar. Making a clean break was difficult for me. 

ideal picnic
I think I finally "logged off" when we sat together on the hillside outside the octagon (where we stayed) eating a lunch I had prepared from scratch. The meal was a rather deconstructed Spanish tortilla with seasonal vegetables and a side salad. We drank white wine, ate the tortilla and salad, and enjoyed a leisurely afternoon because we had no where else to be.

nice mosssteven looking demonicwatch the hands
Once I realized that there was no rush, the anxiety I felt fell away and I sank into the retreat. I thought about the food I was preparing and consequently enjoyed it more when I ate it. I looked at the chickens for extended periods of time and played with the dogs. I gathered and sawed wood and stared into the fire we started (Francis started), appreciating its warmth against the growing chill. I dug big holes in the garden and listened to the stream. I went on walks and admired the moss on the trees, the buttercups peaking out of the grass and, eventually, the falling snow. 

On the last day of our retreat, I was the first one up. I took a glimpse at the white snow falling (and sticking!) out the window above my bed. Some familiar rush made me throw my snow clothes on and head outside to enjoy what, fifteen years ago, surely would have been a snow day. I waited for the first person (Lis) to return from the frost-covered outhouse and then lobbed a big snowball at her from the other side of the octagon. Instead of editing Foghorn submissions that morning, I had nothing else to do but throw snowballs at unwitting victims. It was great!

Our trip to Stonelake Farm was a return to a simpler way of life that I didn't know I needed. It felt wholesome. As we packed the cars to leave, I secretly wished we would get stuck in the snow.

Oh yeah, check out my tick bite.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Music Criticism

Just when I'm beginning to think I understand music criticism...

Have a listen to this story about musician Simon Fluegel. This NPR story blows my mind -- not necessarily in a good way. Did this man really use the word "flatulence" in his review?

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Behind the Scenes with Kevin Epps

Play Movie
Originally uploaded by luluisforlovers
Media maker Kevin Epps comes from a community that "doesn't really have a voice," he said during a lecture for the Davies Forum this week. The socially active San Franciscan helped give it one when he made his 2005 movie, "Straight Outta Hunter's Point".

Since then, Epps has continued his work in the area activism in urban communities using a variety of media ranging from digital film to podcasting. "I like new media because it gives me a voice, too," he said. "Things pop up on YouTube and shift the conversation."

One of his primary concerns is bridging the digital divide for members of his community, but not having access to the latest technology and education make this difficult. "Everything is based on speed," Epps said. "There's not many brothers who can hang out with Google, so it's up to me to connect the dots," he laughed.

Epps is currently working on a number of projects, he says. One of these is film about inmates at Alcatraz that he hopes to show there next February as part of Black History Month. Another project will involve its subjects in a "hood exchange": kids from Brooklyn and Hunter's Point will trade places to experience life from another perspective.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Sweet moves! Sweet shoes!

Check out this body-moving video for French popstar Yelle's song "ACDG". She'll be bringing her diggable beats to the Independent on April 24th -- see you there!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

What I dislike about Gleeson Library at USF

What I dislike about Gleeson: 

Swiping to get into the library. Sometimes I have my hands full of books or other study items when I approach the library and trying to open the doors is enough of a challenge - fishing around for an ID doesn't make this situation any easier.

I realize that the card swipes might help secure the building, but requiring cards for access is also discouraging to those who want to use the library. I was waiting at the circulation desk, near the entrance, attempting to pay some late fees (another thing I dislike about the library, though admittedly my fault!) earlier today. While I was standing there, a number of individuals who were not part of the USF community but were on campus for a conference approached the gates to be let in. 

A woman came in through the doors and waited for a little while at the gates, confused, before retreating back out the doors. Later, a man approached the desk, looked imploringly into the circulation desk area, as one must do if she forgets her card, before being interrogated by a deskworker for entrance into the library. The deskworker asked him if he was a teacher, which he was not, and then asked what he was here for, to which he responded "just visiting", so she let him in. I'm not sure, but I doubt that someone asking for admittance into the library would admit that they were there to "steal some books" or "graffiti the third floor bathroom". 

That's not to say that I don't think monitoring the library is worthwhile. Certainly, we have a lot of awesome books to protect! I think that the video monitors set up throughout the building are probably good prevention against nefarious activity (like graffiti or promiscuity in the stacks) and the metal detectors (book detectors?) at the exit are a perfectly reasonable defense as well.

One thing I do like about the gates is their sound, strangely enough. I used to try and block it out when I was reading on the 2nd floor balcony, but now I embrace the sound like many San Franciscans embrace the bellowing foghorns late at night. The unique gentle swooshing of the gates is somewhat comforting against the trickling waterfall nearby. It reminds me, while I work, that I'm in a special place surrounded by books and knowledgeable people and, for the most part, peace and quiet. The loudest my library experience gets is when someone forgets their card, setting off the gate alarm, and must then carry out a loud cross-room conversation with the circulation attendant as to who they are and why they don't have a card. 

I wonder, could we keep the swishing sound and lose the card swipe?

What I like About Gleeson Library at USF

What I like about Gleeson:

Doing some copying
Originally uploaded by

Woman in the Moon
Originally uploaded by