Local News

Throwback on Wheels

There’s just something about riding in a vintage Volkswagen van that makes taking a tour of San Francisco so appealing.

SF Weekly

feature-vwbusA vintage Volkswagen van covered in psychedelic, S.F.-centric paintings idles on the corner of Jefferson and Hyde streets, its doors wide open with Redbone’s 1974 hit single “Come and Get Your Love” blaring through its speakers. With cobalt-blue seats, orange shag rug flooring, and plastic beaded curtains, the van looks like a perfectly preserved time capsule from the Summer of Love, replete with a license plate that reads “P4PEACE” and a pair of blue-lensed “John Lennon” sunglasses hanging from the rearview mirror. It’s part of a fleet of four vans — each with their own names, like “American Pie” and “Liquid Dreams”  — owned by San Francisco Love Tours, a sightseeing company that adds a hippie twist to the regular tourist experience.

Started in January 2015, San Francisco Love Tours is the brainchild of Allan and Roberto Graves, two brothers with a passion for VW buses who learned their trade from their father, a longtime tour guide in Costa Rica. Though their buses visit many of the hotspots you’d expect for a tourist-geared business — think Lombard Street, North Beach, the Castro — the retro vans add a fun-loving flair to the experience, as well as a certain level of intimacy, since they can only sit six people at a time.

“We always wanted to create the feeling that we’re driving around our relatives and close friends that are visiting from out of town,” Allan says.

It’s 2 p.m. on a Friday when I arrive at the meeting spot near Fisherman’s Wharf, and I get assigned to a van named Sunshine, along with a family of four from Maryland who are all sipping iced drinks from Starbucks. (Click here to read more)

Cash Rules Every Song Around Me

The American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers recently sued nine venues around the country for playing members’ music without paying. The Grand Nightclub in San Francisco is one of them.

SF Weekly

music1-1We’re living in a golden age for live music.

Seemingly every week, new festivals are sprouting up around the world, in far-flung places such as limestone quarries in Sweden or the middle of the desert in Arizona. Bands are also touring more, often looping around the country multiple times a year in the hopes of playing as many shows as possible. Even older acts like TLC, the Monkees, and Bush have reformed and started playing shows again.

As for why more musicians than ever before are performing live, the answer is simple: money. Ever since streaming sites like SoundCloud and Spotify entered the picture — in 2008 and 2011, respectively — the record industry has been in a state of flux. Sales are declining as listeners opt to stream rather than purchase their music, and in 2016, streaming reigned as the No. 1 way that people consume music, according to Nielsen Media Research.

A large number of artists, especially older acts and bands that have broken up, rely on royalties they earn from licensing their music to streaming services. The pay is paltry — streaming one song can pay anywhere between $0.0003 to $0.007, depending on the platform — but it’s better than nothing, especially for songwriters and producers who don’t have the option of touring or playing festivals. (Click here to read more)

Hiv/Aids Prevention Project Targets Young Men Of Color In The East Bay

Oakland Tribune

Young men of color who have sex with other men are most at risk for HIV and AIDS and account for more new sexually transmitted infections than any other gay and bisexual subgroup in the East Bay, according to Alta Bates Summit’s East Bay AIDS Center.

Within Alameda County, HIV infection rates are consistently highest for people living in Oakland, Berkeley, San Leandro and Hayward.

“This is a really big deal,” said Dr. Jeffrey Burack, co-medical director of East Bay AIDS Center. “It’s particularly worrisome because rates have gone up sharply amongst young people, which really bodes poorly for the future.”

According to the Alameda County Comprehensive HIV Prevention Plan, nearly 70 percent of people with HIV in Alameda County were persons of color as of 2013. From 2010 to 2012, almost two-thirds of new HIV diagnoses were among young people ages 13-29, 87 percent of whom were persons of color. Within that age group, men who have sex with men made up 81 percent of the diagnoses.

To combat the problem, EBAC founded the CRUSH Project — Connecting Resources for Urban Sexual Health — to provide sexual health services for high-risk, young East Bay residents who do not have HIV. Funded by a $6 million grant from the California HIV/AIDS Research Program, the project has been operating for more than a year and has roughly 120 participants enrolled. It is tailored to young men of color age 18-29 who have sex with men. This population is not only the greatest at-risk for HIV infection within Alameda County, but it is the most under-reached.
Since the late 1990s, an EBAC program called the Downtown Youth Project has provided sexual health services and counseling for HIV-positive youths, but before CRUSH, none had existed for uninfected young people. As a result, the program is focused not only on providing treatment and services but on studying how best to reach this population and link them to available resources.

The Rise of the Cooler

The East Bay Express

I’m sitting on the concrete floor of a garage, my back against a pole. To my right, a girl braids auburn weave into another girl’s hair. Three teenagers sit on a couch to my left and a lone teddy bear, clutching a red velvet heart inscribed with “I Love You,” occupies a couch in the corner. The smell of weed permeates the air and a Drake song plays in the distance. Everyone in the room has a drink. Even me.

mg_news2_3708Deirdre, the woman in charge, is puffing on a blunt when her cellphone rings. It’s her fourth call in less than twelve minutes. “Hello?” she says, passing the blunt to her eldest daughter. Deirdre’s hair is styled in an asymmetrical bob with a solitary blue streak down one side. Her matching sweatsuit set — gray cotton with white detailing — is from the Victoria’s Secret Pink collection and has a rhinestoned labrador retriever emblazoned on the breast.

She gives the caller directions to her location. “The garage is open, honey,” she says. “When you’re here, just come to the garage and I’ll get them ready for you.”

She hangs up as two petite women — one carrying a baby, the other a toddler — enter the garage. Deirdre (whom the Express has agreed to not fully identify) showers them with a barrage of questions. How many do you guys want? You want regular or virgin? What flavors do you want? Y’all been here before? Or is it your first time? The women order two pink lemonades and one virgin blueberry drink. “Got it,” Deirdre says, heading into the house to retrieve the drinks. A few minutes later, she returns with three slushy-like cocktails. (Click here to read more)

City Council Meets To Discuss Occupy Oakland Camp

–Published on OaklandNorth.net on November 4, 2011–

 

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The first thing the crowd noticed at the Thursday night Occupy Oakland City Council meeting was the table piled with signs, shields, and protective gear that police had taken from demonstrators during Wednesday’s Occupy Oakland-led strike. “They’re bringing in signs and stuff. Really? Oh my God,” said Ishua Bnjoube, an unemployed Occupy Oakland demonstrator who was leaning against the back wall of the Council Chamber. “This is going to be really interesting.”

The meeting, which began a little after 5:30 pm and continued until 11 pm, was held to discuss recent events pertaining to Occupy Oakland, notably the vandalism and property damage that occurred late Wednesday night, when protesters clashed in the street with police officers. Almost 150 people signed up to speak before the council.

All eight city council members were present at the meeting, although Councilwoman Patricia Kernighan (District 2) and Mayor Jean Quan arrived roughly an hour late. By the time the meeting began, a couple hundred people had packed into the council chambers. The extra screening rooms on the first floor of City Hall were also used to accommodate the crowd.

During the first speaker session of the council meeting, a majority of speakers decried the mayor’s, city council’s, and police department’s treatment of the Occupy Oakland camp and its supporters since the group’s initial eviction from Frank Ogawa Plaza in late October. (Click here to read more)

Setting Boundaries

–Published in The Honolulu Weekly on March 30, 2011–

 

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In the midst of the sprawling metropolis that is Honolulu, it is hard to imagine a time when the entire island was divided into clearly marked ahupuaa. Now we can rely on districts, neighborhood divisions and city boundaries to tell us our location. Prior to the existence of our oh-so-helpful retroreflective 7-foot tall traffic signs, people relied on simple heaps of stones (ahu) topped with offerings such as kukui wood carvings to mark boundaries.

In an effort to raise awareness of ahupuaa and promote environmental stewardship, a grassroots effort has developed on the Windward coast to install ahupuaa boundary signs throughout the community. They are akin to the present-day concept of watershed areas and moku (a political district of two or more adjacent ahupua’a).

The idea for the project, known as the “Koolaupoko Ahupuaa Boundary Marker Project,” originated in the Koolaupoko Hawaiian Civic Club, which then persuaded a number of other Windward civic clubs–Kailua, Waimanalo and Manuanalua–to join in.

“It’s a cultural awareness program,” says Mahealani Cypher, project coordinator for the club. “Itʻs really to teach everyone–not just native Hawaiians–that these traditional land units were a good way for people to take care of their own backyards,” she says.

On Jan. 28, the first of 16 ahupuaa boundary markers was unveiled, marking the division between the Kailua ahupuaa and the Kaneohe ahupuaa. Although there are only 11 ahupuaa on that side of the island, duplicate signs are in the works to mark the boundaries at both mauka and makai points.

The signs, featuring a symbol of the traditional ahupuaa ahu, have been adopted by the State Department of Transportation (DOT) as the new state standard for marking ahupuaa, Cypher says.

Influenced by their efforts, a similar civic-club-sponsored project has sprouted up on the Leeward coast, which intends to work with the DOT to install ahupuaa boundary marking signs in the area. The project was funded by grants from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and the Harold KL Castle Foundation.

Should California’s state rock be stripped of its title because it contains asbestos?

Imagine yourself in an Old West film, standing in the middle of a deserted street flanked with saloons, hotels and brothels, the soundtrack from “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” wailing strong. At first you think you are alone with the tumbleweeds — but then you see two figures facing down.

On the left is Sen. Gloria Romero (D-East Los Angeles), suited up in leather chaps and a cowboy hat — and on the right, the state rock of California — serpentine.

Until recently, most people probably didn’t know that there was a state rock — far less that Romero wants to get rid of it.

Senate Bill 624, which has been passed by the Assembly Committee on Natural Resources but still has a long way to go in the Legislature, would strip serpentine of its state-rock title, held since 1965. Why? Because the rock “contains the deadly mineral chrysotile asbestos, a known carcinogen, exposure to which increases the risk of the cancer mesothelioma” and because “California should not designate a rock known to be toxic to the health of its residents as the state’s official rock.”

(Click here to read more)

Hooray for Hip Helmets: Seven Sleek Options If the City Council Makes Bike Helmets Mandatory

May 31, 2012

In leu of the fact that all bicyclists, regardless of age, might have to start strapping on helmets, the Observer thought we’d get a head start (pun intended) on searching for the most stylish helmets available. As for what to do about the “helmet hair” that we’re sure to get after wearing one, we’re still working on that.

For the WWI history buff: Limar’s X-Urban Matt Green helmet

 Hooray for Hip Helmets: Seven Sleek Options If the City Council Makes Bike Helmets Mandatory

(Click here to read more)

Actual Cafe’s owner raising funds to open Victory Burger, a burger stand next door

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IT’S LUNCHTIME AND YOU’RE HUNGRY. “Hamburger,” your stomach growls at you.

OK, you’ll get a hamburger—a simple, inexpensive, easy to eat sandwich. You want something substantial; a hamburger made from quality ingredients and grilled to perfection, not like the ones served at North Oakland’s fast food joints. But where can you get one like that?

If you’re anything like Sal Bednarz, the owner of Actual Café, you’ve been in this situation before. “I love burgers, but most of the burgers around here are just not that interesting,” Bednarz said on a recent Wednesday morning. “The good burgers, of which there a few, are almost all fine dining white tablecloth $15 burgers.”

This, he said, has to change. Good burgers at a reasonable price should not be so difficult to find. Not only are they  an American staple food, but their mere existence stems from the fact that they are inexpensive. Hamburgers are a product of the industrial revolution, invented to feed the growing masses of people who had little time to both cook and consume their food. And people today, Bednarz reasoned, are not that much different. “We, as a society here in Oakland today, like our food,” he said. “But we don’t always want to take a half a day and fifty bucks to go eat it.”

His solution? Victory Burger. Slated to open next fall, Victory Burger, Bednarz’s latest culinary endeavor, will be, as he said, “a casual experience where you can still get a really good burger.” It will be located around the corner from—or, depending on how you look at it, behind—Bednarz’s other business on San Pablo Avenue, Actual Café, and will be “more like a food truck without wheels,” he said, albeit one with plenty of outdoor seating.

The plans for Victory Burger started last fall, but Bednarz, who has lived in Oakland for the last 22 years, said that the idea has always been in the back of his mind. “This neighborhood is just lacking in food options,” he said. “I live four blocks away and just so many nights when I don’t feel like cooking, there’s no place to go.”

(Click here to read more)

Man Completes Marathon in Snail Costume, Takes 26 Days

–Published on ThoughtCatalog.com on May 18, 2011–

 

Setting what is perhaps the world’s record for slowest marathon competitor ever, a 49 year-old British man from Essex finished the London Marathon in 26 days. Of course, this was probably due to fact that the man, former professional footballer, Lloyd Scott, completed the race facedown on a metal sled while dressed in a giant snail costume.

Averaging a mile a day on the 26.2-mile course, Scott claims he suffered from constant nosebleeds, pains, vomiting, and cramps. At one point he was even rushed to the hospital to have the blood vessels in his nose cauterized and often got sick inside of the costume because he had difficulty digesting food properly.

During the day he would “crawl” for eight hours—the equivalent of one mile— through the streets, coming face-to-face, literally, with debris such broken glass, nails, rotting food, and dog doo.

When he finally crossed the finish line nearly a month after the race began, he claimed, “That’s not an experience I want to repeat.”

(Click here to read more)

Learning About Lawmaking

Networking is the name of the game

–Published in The Honolulu Weekly on February 9, 2011–

 

It’s 7:30am on a Saturday morning and Juanita Kawamoto is frying dough at the YMCA in Kailua. Using locally bought ingredients, she molds dozens of malasadas for the World Wetland Day fundraiser that will be held later that day.

Since more than 800 people visit the party, signing petitions, donating money and munching on malasadas, Kawamoto and her volunteers are busy discussing another topic: the mass e-mail they will be sending urging people to support Senate Bill 1156.

For the past 10 years, she has been working as a caterer and vendor for farmers markets throughout the island. But as time went by, Kawamoto noted the state’s increasing reliance on imported foods and decided that it was time to do something about the situation. Last August, she joined the Environmental Caucus (EC) of the Hawaii Democratic Party.

“I’m 50 years old and I know how to talk story so I’m going to make sure I talk about this with everyone I know,” she says. The only problem, admits Kawamoto, who describes herself as “a one-man show,” is that she lacks political experience and does not know the best way to promote her bill.

She’s learning to do this is by sending out e-mails to all of the members of the Environmental Legislative Network (ELN) to support Senate Bill 1156, which promotes the expansion of local farms and the use of their products by larger retailers.

(Click here to read more)

Hoary Bat Fans Rejoice

–Published in The Honolulu Weekly on February 16, 2011–

 

diary-hoary-bat-fans

The Senate Hawaiian Affairs Committee wants YOU to embrace the Hawaiian hoary bat as your official state land mammal. Granted, it’s not as cute and cuddly as the monk seal, our current state animal, but here in Hawaii the pickings are slim. So slim, in fact, that the Hawaiian hoary bat is the only candidate for this empty position because it is the state’s only endemic land animal.

“This is not a new idea,” explains Republican State Sen., Sam Slom, creator of Senate Bill 878 on Hawaiian hoary bats. “We’ve been trying to get this [the designation of a state animal] changed for three years, but the monk seal has better publicity. It’s hard to compete with those cute little fins and big, brown eyes.”

However, Slom and hoary bat fans (think Batman fanatics and vampire enthusiasts) are in luck because last week SB 878 received a unanimous thumbs up in a committee vote.

Both the Hawaiian hoary bat and the monk seal are endemic to Hawaii–in fact, they are the only two native mammals on the island–but only one of them can truly be considered a land mammal, says Sen. Slom. Although a monk seal is a mammal, it’s a special type of mammal called a pinniped, which means that it’s fin-footed and semi-aquatic.

(Click here to read more)

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