Not Like Every Other City's Bikers

August 12, 2011   The New York Times/The Bay Citizen

On any given day in the Bay Area, you’re bound to see a wild array of two-wheeled motorized vehicles whizzing around the streets.

 While the image of a rebellious Marlon Brando in his dusty leather jacket in the 1953 biker classic “The Wild One” still resonates, the Bay Area’s historically important scene is outrageously diverse — and growing more so, as electric vehicles take their place alongside idiosyncratic homemade “dirtbag” creations.

For every kind of machinery, from Vespa scooters to Harley-Davidson hogs, there is a tribe. Vintage cafe racer collectors, urban commuters, weekend dirt bikers and high-performance racers share the streets.

“San Francisco motorcycle culture is totally unique,” said Gabe Ets-Hokin, editor and owner of the free monthly newspaper CityBike.  (more)

Photo courtesy of Rebecca Hinden.

Guidelines to Gay Manners for Today

June 25, 2011 The New York Times/The Bay Citizen

As gay people and issues have become more visible on the American landscape, social etiquette has been scrambling to catch up.

People may differ on the issue of gay marriage, but who wants to argue about a seating chart for a same-sex wedding? And those pesky pronouns? How should one address those whose gender preference has not been made explicit?

Enter the brave new world of gay and lesbian etiquette. This month saw the publication of “Steven Petrow’s Complete Gay & Lesbian Manners” (Workman Publishing), a 400-page tome covering a broad range of modern issues, like coming out as transgender to your date, etiquette on sperm donation day and surviving holidays with homophobic in-laws.

When Mr. Petrow wrote “The Essential Book of Gay Manners and Etiquette” for gay men 16 years ago, online dating, “The L Word” and same-sex civil unions or marriage were not around. “It was like 1,600 years ago in gay years,” he said. “It was a different world in terms of community, technology and our legal status.” (more)

The Night the Music Died. Really.

June 10, 2011 The New York Times/The Bay Citizen

Chamber music concerts rarely elicit reactions more raucous than polite applause, but last Sunday, an artistic melee more appropriate for a Metallica show broke out at The Royce Gallery in San Francisco after a heckler interrupted a viola performance. 

Video still of JHNO's viola in flight.  Courtesy, John Eichenseer.
Adding to the drama was the identity of the heckler, who turned out to be an 85-year-old highly regarded musician.

About midway through a night of contemporary works, John Eichenseer, who goes by the name JHNO, was performing his “Untitled,” a new piece for viola and electronics, when he heard hissing, then an outburst of clapping intended to disrupt his playing, then another.

“It became distracting to the point that I couldn’t continue,” JHNO said later.

He threw down his instrument and stormed off the stage. The sound of his viola cracking — the headstock had snapped off — echoed through the small theater.  (more)                          

Side By Side, A Bold Opening for Frey Norris

March 10, 2011 The New York Times/The Bay Citizen

Raman Frey and Wendi Norris, co-owners of the Frey Norris gallery — which just moved into a spectacular South of Market storefront space —are not fans of predictability.
Peek into one window of the gallery and you’ll see a large, sleek teardrop-shaped sculpture by the contemporary Egyptian artist Sherin Guirguis.
Look around the corner, however, and a 20th century Surrealist painting —Remedios Varo’s magical nightscape, “Portrait of Dr. Ignacio Chavez,” from 1957 — comes into view.

Hung in adjoining areas, the two side-by-side shows of contemporary and modern works are a bold announcement of Frey Norris’s much-anticipated arrival in the Yerba Buena Arts District.

On Stage and Afterward, Spotlight on Apple in China

February 26, 2011 The New York Times/The Bay Citizen

Mike Daisey’s “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs,” a provocative monologue that challenges Apple Computer over labor conditions in the factories in China where the iPhone and other devices are produced, ends a successful run at Berkeley Repertory Theater today.

But Mr. Daisey is only beginning a long conversation about what he called “a charged ethical dilemma that is literally in our pockets.”

From the lobby of the theater after the show to technology blogs to the Apple Computer shareholder meeting, the monologue has provoked intense debate. Leander Kahney, editor of the Cult of Mac blog, said posts about the show had received twice the normal volume of comments, most of them negative about the show. (more)

Steve Wozniak on ‘The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs’

February 28, 2011 The Bay Citizen

THE BAY CITIZEN: I am eager to get your impression of Mike Daisey’s show at Berkeley Rep. As you know, it’s kicked up a lot of debate in the Mac community.  On Cult of Mac, editor Leander Kahney urged Mac “fanboys” to see the show.  But he also said he felt guilty using his iPhone later after hearing about the working conditions in the Foxconn factory. As co-founder of Apple, what did you think?

STEVE WOZNIAK: I will never be the same after seeing that show. I cried during it and I'm crying right now. I have a seed of concern and sorrow in my head that may never go away. So many things that were so important to me seem much less important now. (more)

Relics of Film and Paper Retain Their Grip Even in a Digital Era

November 27, 2010 The New York Times/The Bay Citizen

I recently saw some of my family’s home movies from the 1940s and 1950s for the first time.

The scenes were captured on color film, but I fired up my laptop to watch the men felling Douglas fir trees and my teenage dad skiing the slopes of Mount Hood. I got this new look at my own history because my highly organized sister had transferred the old reels onto DVDs.

If I have my sister, San Francisco has Rick Prelinger, one of the country’s premier archivists and an outspoken advocate of open access to information.

Mr. Prelinger is the founder of the Prelinger Archives, a celebrated collection of “ephemeral film” -- industrial, educational, amateur and other film and video footage.... (more)

Onstage interview with Ingrid Betancourt

On January 4, 2011 I spoke with former Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt about her six-year ordeal as a political prisoner held by the FARC guerrilla in the jungle of Columbia.   The interview was organized by the International Museum of Women in San Francisco.   You can see the whole conversation here.

Ingrid Betancourt, left, in conversation with me.

Digital Maps Don’t Always Tell the Whole Story

October 16, 2010 The New York Times/The Bay Citizen

Thanks to Google Earth and MapQuest and GPS and all the other digital mapping products, an image of where we are, or where we are headed, is always just a click away. These geographical services are so omnipresent, in fact, it would be easy to assume that there’s nothing left to map.

 But the blanket of digital geographic information doesn’t contain the whole story about the physical world we live in, nor does it necessarily offer an objective, value-neutral view. Bay Area map aficionados are pushing the boundaries of mainstream mapping conventions, and their work is both beautiful to behold and fascinating in the questions they raise about how knowledge is defined.

Rebecca Solnit, author of a new atlas of San Francisco called “Infinite City,” sees Google Maps and services like it, with their emphasis on retail outlets and driving data, as painting “a middle-class, consumer version” of a place.... (more)

Bold Ideas Inspire New Life for Magazines

September 8, 2010 The New York Times/The Bay Citizen

Media innovation in the Bay Area is not hard to come by, with the likes of Google, Apple, Facebook and Twitter continually reinventing the way we produce and consume information.

Yet one of the venerable media forms that is threatened by the digital tsunami — the magazine — is experiencing something of a renaissance here, too. The New York-based glossy magazine business may be in upheaval, with bellwether Condé Nast shuttering five of its titles, but the art of editing, writing and visually crafting an editorially coherent, beautiful and engaging experience is not dead.

Some of the foment is made possible by MagCloud, a Web-based print-on-demand service from Hewlett-Packard that dramatically lowers the financial barriers to magazine publishing... (more)

Latest Advance in Robotics – Folding Towels!

July 19, 2010 The Bay Citizen

Humans can fold complex origami, but for a UC Berkeley robot, folding laundry is revolutionary 

In a massive breakthrough, a UC Berkeley scientist has built a robot that can … fold a dish towel.

Since Dr. Pieter Abbeel first posted a video of his team’s PR2 robot folding towels on YouTube in March, over a half million viewers have watched the industrious robot pick up, smooth out, fold and stack a messy pile of towels.

Although fascinating to watch, it’s hard not to be underwhelmed. Folding? A towel? Human origami experts can make a snake with 1,000 scales folded out of a single piece of paper! They can fold 3-D tessellations that would make M.C. Escher cross-eyed!

Hasn’t robotics advanced beyond the laundry room yet? ... (more)

Do Dogs and Pigeons Like Art?

June 20, 2010 The Bay Citizen

Animal brains are musical and visual, says Temple Grandin. Some human artists take note.

Pigeons can tell the difference between a Monet and a Picasso, according to Dr. Temple Grandin, the author and professor of animal sciences known for peering into the souls of cattle and other species.

Likewise, the hundreds of canines who brought their human companions to Laurie Anderson's "Music for Dogs" concert at the Sydney Opera House recently were genuinely moved to the point of howling and tail wagging.  Anderson, who composed the pieces in honor of her beloved rat terrier, Lollabelle, wanted the dogs to enjoy the music - composed primarily of sounds not discernable to the human ear.

"There is a connection between animals and music," says Grandin. It's not hooey."
... (more)

The Civility Algorithm

May 31, 2010 The Bay Citizen

Ken Goldberg and the Clinton State Department launch Opinion Space -- a game-changing online community tool

Ken Goldberg, the U.C. Berkeley professor of engineering, robotics expert and Internet artist, has disabled comments on his blog. Like many individuals and news organizations, he’s grown weary of the petty sniping and vitriolic attacks that too often overwhelm what are supposed to be useful and open Internet conversations.

"I just can't handle it," he says, somewhat sheepishly, referring to the uninformed postings on his blog at

Bad online behavior, what former Well moderator and online community pioneer John Coate calls "sport hassling," isn't new.  But it's more prolific, and moderation tools have evolved suprisingly little over the years....(more)

New Report: More Sex in the Pulpit

February 10, 2010 Religion Dispatches

From Tiger Woods’ marital infidelity to same-sex marriage to the ‘Octomom,’ when sexuality issues dominate the headlines, there never seems to be a shortage of religious commentary—most of it from the right.

While conservative pastors preach against homosexuality, pre-marital sex, and abortion, in the nation’s more progressive pulpits, church leaders offer little or no guidance regarding human sexuality, leaving their flock without spiritual guidance as they grapple with these often wrenching issues in their private lives.

A new report by the progressive Religious Institute on Sexual Justice, Morality and Healing raises the alarm about this “disconnect between sexuality and religion in America.”... (more)

Election of New Lesbian Bishop Reveals Tensions in Anglican World

December 11, 2009 Religion Dispatches

Rev. Mary D. Glasspool doesn’t see herself as a “one-issue person.” But history may not agree with her self-assessment. At least not yet.

On Saturday, as the world knows by now, Glasspool, 55, became only the second openly gay bishop in the Anglican world after New Hampshire’s V. Gene Robinson. Chosen as their suffragan (similar to assistant) bishop by the diocese of Los Angeles, Glasspool’s election must be consented to by the wider Episcopal Church leadership before she is consecrated on May 15, 2010.

While her long résumé as a beloved parish priest and skilled church administrator who has worked both north and south of the Mason-Dixon line is impressive, it’s Glasspool’s lesbianism that made her an international news item....(more)