Monthly Archives: August 2015

The Minimally Artistic Art of Instant Minimalist Art: Grey Series, 26 August 2015.

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Good Evening:

More explorations of the most underrated color of the spectrum.

Redwood Alley, San Francisco, CA

Redwood Alley, San Francisco, CA

Interior Pillar, 525 Golden Gate Avenue, San Francisco, CA

Interior Pillar, 525 Golden Gate Avenue, San Francisco, CA

Fillmore Street, San Francisco, CA

Fillmore Street, San Francisco, CA

Symphony Hall, San Francisco, CA

Symphony Hall, San Francisco, CA

Interior Pillar, 525 Golden Gate Avenue, San Francisco, CA

Interior Pillar, 525 Golden Gate Avenue, San Francisco, CA

Vonn Scott Bair

Recipe: Watermelon “Popsicles,” World’s Easiest Frozen Dessert.

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Good Evening:

Someone must have already thought of this. It’s too simple.

Start with a few slices of watermelon, about 3/4 – 1 inch thick. Your only ingredient.

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Cut each slice into quarters, like this:

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Stick the plate, uncovered, into the freezer for several hours and let the chunks freeze solid.

That’s it. You’re done. The texture is amazingly similar to frozen fruit popsicles, and you get a strong hit of watermelon flavor. In addition to dessert, you may use these to cleanse the palate between courses of a multi-course dinner. I’ve experimented with other melons, and Canary Melons are almost as good, but watermelon remains the best.

Vonn Scott Bair

Recipe: Three Basil-Mint Pestos, One Vegan, Two Vegetarian.

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Good Evening:

In my previous post, I described how I dealt with an overabundance of mint. But before I had the overabundance of mint, I had an overabundance of mint–plus an overabundance of basil.

Presenting how I got rid of that in a manner most pleasing to the stomach: Pesto.

Pesto does not require basil and only basil, plus pine nuts and only pine nuts. It does not even require Parmesan cheese. Whilst the famous Pesto Genovese includes all three, multiple variations exist. For example, the Provencal “pistou” is a Genovese with no cheese or nuts. You should feel free to invent your own.

Basil-Mint Cheese-less Pesto

I began with these ingredients:

  1. 2 cups of Basil leaves
  2. 1 cup of Mint leaves
  3. 3 cloves of Garlic
  4. 1/4 cup of shelled Pistachios (yes, Pistachios)
  5. 1/4 cup of slivered Almonds (a more traditional substitute)
  6. 3/4 cup of Olive Oil

Put the first five ingredients into a food processor, and pulse until everything is finely chopped. You will need to pause and scrape down the sides of the bowl a few times. Now leave the process on and slowly add the olive oil until all is incorporated and thoroughly blended.

Remove one-third of the Pesto, put in an airtight jar, and refrigerate. That is your first pesto recipe.

Basil-Mint Asiago Pesto

New ingredient:

  1. 3/4 cup freshly grated Asiago (you don’t even need the “right” cheese!)

Add the cheese to the pesto remaining in the bowl and pulse until thoroughly blended and incorporated.

Remove one-third of the Pesto, put in an airtight jar, and refrigerate. That is your second pesto recipe.

Basil-Mint and Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto

New ingredient:

  1. Six ounces of jarred sun-dried tomatoes in oil, with the oil. Seriously.

Add the tomatoes to the remaining pesto in the bowl and pulse until the sun-dried tomatoes are thoroughly chopped, blended and incorporated.

Remove the remaining pesto, put in an airtight jar, and refrigerate.

Now all you have to do consists of combing the online websites for cool new recipes calling for any kind of pesto! Sorry, I can’t help you with that, but it is a fun activity.

Vonn Scott Bair

Recipe: Lemon-Mint Chimmichurri.

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Good Evening:

The thing is, the vendors at farmers markets must sell you much bigger bunches of fresh herbs than you actually need. They don’t have a choice; either that, or their produce spoils on the farm.

So yes, I knew what I got myself into when I purchased an innocent “little” bundle of mint leaves at the Civic Center Farmers Market. Even after using too much for the recipe in question, I still had vast quantities leftover and needed something different from making 50 gallons each of iced tea and lemonade (the traditional solution in New England).

Therefore I committed blasphemy. Chimmichurri is a magnificent Argentinian condiment made with fresh parsley, sometimes with either fresh cilantro or oregano added, plus garlic, olive oil, and white vinegar. I still had over a half cup of mint leaves leftover, and desperate to use all of a very fine quality batch, I developed this recipe instead.

Lemon-Mint Chimmichurri

Ingredients

  1. Two cups of parsley leaves (save the stems for soup stock)
  2. 3/4 cup of mint leaves
  3. 1 garlic clove
  4. Finely chopped zest of one small Lemon
  5. 3/4 cup of olive oil (you can splurge with the high-quality stuff)
  6. Salt and Pepper to taste
  7. Juice of one small Lemon

Process

Place the first 6 ingredients in a food processor. Pulse to chop, frequently pausing to scrape down the sides, until everything is finely chopped and blended. Add one-half of the lemon juice and pulse again a few times. If sufficient, save the other half for another use. If not enough, add the other half and pulse again a few times until everything is blended.

What foods go well with this?

Hundreds of them. It’s astounding how well this worked out. Chicken, pork chops, grilled vegetables, a dip for fresh vegetables, a dip for grilled shrimp, a marinade, a salad dressing, a sauce for egg noodles, a sauce for diced summer squash and halved cherry tomatoes (uncooked)–Lemon-Mint Chimmichurri works on almost every entree. Someone else must have discovered this before I did, because it’s just too dang good not to already exist.

It will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week. Let it reach room temperature before using.

Vonn Scott Bair

You Must Be Joking, But I Know You Are Not: the San Francisco Rental Market.

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Good Evening:

This building at 435 Duboce has attracted quite a buzz in the San Francisco media; have you heard about this one?

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The upper level is a one-bedroom apartment (the real estate agency prefers the euphemism “town home”) of approximately 940 square foot “penthouse” (They call that a penthouse?! On the 3rd floor??) with parking available for a nominal extra charge of $250/month.

The rent? $6,500 per month.

Not a misprint.

Except that actually it was a misprint, one that did not get corrected until after the vandalism. You can see where they painted over the graffiti in the next photo if you look carefully. Look for the slightly whiter paint.

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You can see the (non-profane) graffiti at this link. The real estate agency claimed that the listing and the stories about the listing all contained a misprint: the correct rent was “only” $4,980 per month. Plus $250 per month for parking.

The graffiti protestors took their to a construction site on the next block of Duboce Avenue.

"There's Something Fishy Going On Around Here"

“There’s Something Fishy Going On Around Here”

"What Happens When Rich People Move In"

“What Happens When Rich People Move In”

"Evict (Mayor) Ed Lee"

“Evict (Mayor) Ed Lee”

I don’t know where to begin.

First, we have the typical overreaction to a flawed Internet story gone more viral than it deserves. Second, we have a typical error that occurs in online journalism (yours truly makes errors, too, but I don’t pretend to be a journalist) that doesn’t get corrected until too late.

Most important–“only” $4,980 per month??

I live less than a half-mile from this building, and there exists nothing, absolutely nothing that justifies this price tag. Come on, “penthouse?” They call that top floor a “penthouse??” My one-bedroom, less than one-fifth the rent and only a little bit smaller, is not a penthouse, and yet it sits on a top floor several feet higher than the top floor of that building. The preferred name for my place: The Artist’s Garret. I’m not a journalist, but I am pretentious.

Even in a city where the average one-bedroom costs about $3,500 per month, 435 Duboce Avenue is a bit much.

So I grabbed a few snapshots then wandered off to The Lower Haight’s beloved English style pub The Mad Dog in the Fog for a pint of Blackthorn Cider and a bit of the England v. France Rugby Union match. About halfway through the pint (England led France 19-9 at that point), a young gentleman who would have won Honorable Mention in a Michael Cera look-alike contest awkwardly plopped into the bar stool next to me spilling much of his pint onto the bar. I thought, “He is way too young to be way this drunk way this early on a Saturday afternoon.” My friends who have gone clean and sober might object (perhaps no hour was “way this early” during their bad days), but that’s what I thought.

He turned to me and slurred, “Do you hate me?”

“I don’t-”

“Why do people hate me?”

“I don’t. Who hates you?”

“People boo me when I wait for the bus.”

“Boo you?! Why do they boo you?”

“You know, people here are real uptight and conservative and mean.”

“How so?”

“It is so hard to make friends here, people are so closed up.”

“What do you mean?”

“Because I moved here. I moved here for a job and they hate me. I was living in the state of [deleted-Ed.] and needed a new job and got one here so h*** yeah I moved here and now everyone hates me because I moved here for a job.”

“If it’s any consolation, I don’t hate you.” And I didn’t. No reason for that. He was not belligerent, not breathing on me, and he didn’t spill anything on me. Plus, he sounded like he needed some help, even if I had nothing to lend except one or both of my ears.

I said again, “I don’t hate you.”

“But I work in tech.”

“So you work in tech, and you might make three times what I make-”

“-no way, man-”

“-OK, twice as much-”

He did not disagree.

“-but I will not hate you for your money, because I make more than enough for myself. I don’t care what other people make. You think about what other people make, that makes you envious and what makes you envious makes you hurt and what makes you hurt makes you suffer.”

“See, man, I knew you were cool-”

I have never been cool, not once in my entire life. And that was no where near my best Yoda impersonation.

“-that’s why I sat here.”

He went on to tell me his story. He had a job in his old state but wanted to make more money, no, needed to make more money because he had huge college debts, plus he wanted to pursue a career in his college major (I have left out many details to maintain his privacy), and he found a perfect job here in the city, but because he was young, white, male, looked vaguely like Michael Cera, and worked in tech, the San Franciscans who already lived here hated him.

“Am I a bad guy?” He asked in conclusion, still slurring his speech.

I thought for a moment. People have been displaced by the ridiculous rental market here in San Francisco. Sometimes, corporations have certain laws, and/or exploited loopholes in certain others, to evict or buy out the current tenants, and then jack up the rent to “market” levels–which might be $4,980 per month, because that listing on Craig’s List came down very, very quickly.

“No. You are not a bad guy. You are a scapegoat.”

“Scapegoat?!” He had not thought of this possibility.

“You are not the problem. The problem is that rental companies, some of them out-of-towners, some of them out-of-staters, some of them out of nation-ers”–I make up words sometimes–“see a chance to make huge bucks in this market, so they buy up properties, evict the people who live there and then rent out the places at crazy rents to new people who can afford it. It’s just how the systems works now in this city. Not your fault. Not your fault at all.”

“So you don’t hate me.”

“No. I get it. You’re OK. The situation sucks.”

At this point England scored a try plus the conversion and I had run out of cider and hadn’t the cash for another drink, so I wished him good night, good luck, and a belated welcome to San Francisco. Walked home wondering how life in San Francisco could have gone so wrong for so many. If it had gone wrong. Could be nothing more than just another boom in this boom-and-bust city.

Vonn Scott Bair

PS–I recognize, acknowledge and proclaim that I’ve grossly oversimplified the rental situation here–it’s much more complicated than what I’ve written. But I chose to oversimplify for the benefit my pub-mate and related the story as best as I can remember.

Music for a Friday Afternoon: The Anouar Brahem Trio & Bruce Cockburn.

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Good Morning:

I like keeping a collection of music for my Friday afternoon work break. Something to unwind my mind and get in tune for the weekend. Somehow, someway, I recently blundered across a pair of instrumentals by Bruce Cockburn, a gifted songwriter and lyricist from Canada who has graced the airwaves of North America for almost half a century.

Unwinding Time on the Fire Escape. The beverage consists of seltzer water with homemade strawberry liqueur garnished with lemon. *Very* relaxing.

Unwinding Time on the Fire Escape, Watching the Darkening Sky. The beverage consists of seltzer water with homemade strawberry liqueur garnished with lemon. *Very* relaxing.

Cockburn is such a good lyricist that I never expected him to create instrumentals, but he has at least two on the magnificently titled 1999 CD Breakfast in New Orleans Dinner in Timbuktu, “Down to the Delta” and “Deep Lake.” Another item for The Eternal To-Do List: scour every Cockburn collection for more instrumentals.

Another recent discovery: a 2001 CD from the Anouar Brahem Trio entitled Astrakan Cafe. When you need something to both intrigue your brain and at the same time calm it down after a busy week in the office, I can recommend virtually the entire collection. At this point in his career, Anouar Brahem is in serious danger of forcing me to create a list of Top Ten favorite musicians of all time and including him.

Which is not a bad thing.

Vonn Scott Bair

The View from Above at Work. (Weekly Photo Challenge: Beneath Your Feet)

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Good Evening:

Technically, all of these events took place beneath my feet–at least, in terms of altitude.

The headquarters of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission does not sit on the most exciting real estate in the city, yet every once in a while something interesting presents itself. Some of these shots have a bluish tinge because I took the shots through tinted windows, yielding something resembling one of the filters in the iPhone 6 Plus.

This protest, for example, took place on Golden Gate itself.

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I have no idea what these two dancers in red tee shirts were advertising, but they got paid to dance and were probably the happiest people in the Civic Center that afternoon.

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The plaza in front of the Federal Building frequently lends itself to tableaux such as these that remind me of the work of Edward Hopper.

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Assembling a recent carnival in front of City Hall. Hey, this town is kinda fun.

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Finally a nearby roof swarming with all sorts of neat vents ‘n stuff.

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Vonn Scott Bair

Hieroglyphs of Haight Street. (Weekly Photo Challenge: Beneath Your Feet)

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Good Evening:

A boom-and-bust town currently flush with tax revenue, the City & County of San Francisco recently launched a major infrastructure improvement/replacement program in the Lower Haight. Probably more replacement than improvement; some of our pipes and sewers are close to a century old. So we get to see toys like this:

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Come on, admit it: you wish you had a toy like that when you were young.

Here we have a rare photograph of that extraordinary spectacle known as the mating ritual of the Bobcat(tm):

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And since this is San Francisco, these scoops prefer a threesome:

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But take care to look beneath your feet.

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Such Hieroglyphs have covered Haight Street and its sidewalks for weeks. Among other things, they warn construction workers to take care whilst drilling or digging. These squiggles won’t last more than a few months; even so, it seems to me that some of the people going Lascaux on our street have a bit of artistic flair in which they indulge, because some of the squiggles look pretty good. Here are some examples (I feel quite certain that the different colors mean something):

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Yes, ’tis the shadow of moi in the second to last shot.

Vonn Scott Bair

The Surreal Is That Which Lies At Your Feet. (Weekly Photo Challenge: Beneath Your Feet)

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Good Evening:

Someone not me once wrote something similar to, “The Surreal is that which lies at your feet.” I still haven’t found out who, and the search has gotten tougher because when I google that or similar phrases, my name keeps coming up.

But in San Francisco, the Surreal often is that which lies at your feet.

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And our old friend Eclair Bandersnatch continues her/his/their good work.

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Note that Eclair printed the Snowden stencil backwards. According to the Facebook page, Eclair is a woman artist working solo, but nowadays who can tell? She could be a mastermind, a sort of benevolent Gru of artists with an army of minions to do her bidding. Technically, not surreal, but some people might call it that.

Vonn Scott Bair

Wildflowers Et Alia at Land’s End, San Francisco. (Weekly Photo Challenge: Beneath Your Feet)

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Good Evening:

Photograph objects beneath our feet? Rather an interesting Challenge if you live in San Francisco. Took these near dusk on a cloudy day at Land’s End. The light presented both opportunity and challenges: wonderfully even with little shadow; but a tad dark. Still, a few turned out well without editing. All take with my iPhone 6 Plus.

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The orange flowers are probably California Poppies, the others are native plants recently restored to the park that I can’t identify. The green stuff actually are water plants that had taken over a pool of stagnant water at the ruins of the Sutro Baths. And what the heck, here are two shots of man-made items that also fit the bill.

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Vonn Scott Bair

A Sample of San Francisco’s Newest Murals. (Weekly Photo Challenge: Inspiration)

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Good Evening:

Many of my posts have drawn inspiration from San Francisco’s ever-growing collection of murals. Presenting a sampler of the recent additions to the city’s collection.

Most murals are abstract in nature, or feature psychedelic fonts, so realistic art tends to stand out.

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I don’t know much about this artist or collective, but the output ranks among San Francisco’s most distinctive, most unmistakable–and most disturbing.

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An ironic reinterpretation of the classic peace sign, here found at Masonic near Haight.

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And two new murals on “Mural Alley” across from the Rainbow Grocery.

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Vonn Scott Bair

A Serendip of San Franciscans: Upper Haight, 2 August 2015. (Weekly Photo Challenge: Inspiration)

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Good Evening:

Ever since I adopted The 30 Shot as a street photography technique, my fellow San Franciscans have become an endless source of Inspiration. The 30 Shot is simple: just let the camera dangle at my side, about 30 inches above the ground and snap randomly, sometimes not even looking at my subject. Do I discard as many as 90% of my shots? Oh, heck yeah, but it’s worth it.

These shots come from a walk I took on late Sunday afternoon through Haight Street from Masonic through Cole. That late afternoon light plays havoc with my poor long suffering point-and-shoot, but sometimes the effects are pretty cool.

Haight & Masonic, San Francisco, CA, 2 August 2015

Haight & Masonic, San Francisco, CA, 2 August 2015

Jammin in the Haight, 2 August 2015

Jammin in the Haight, 2 August 2015

Sports Bar, Haight Street, 2 August 2015

Sports Bar, Haight Street, 2 August 2015

Bare Feet, Haight Street, 2 August 2015

Bare Feet, Haight Street, 2 August 2015

Two Skateboards, Haight Street, 2 August 2015

Two Skateboards, Haight Street, 2 August 2015

Dogs & People, Haight Street, 2 August 2015

Dogs & People, Haight Street, 2 August 2015

Outside the Grocery Store, Haight Street, 2 August 2015

Outside the Grocery Store, Haight Street, 2 August 2015

FRESH, Haight Street, 2 August 2015

FRESH, Haight Street, 2 August 2015

This next one stood out as quite unusual.

Haight & Cole, Haight Street, 2 August 2015

Haight & Cole, Haight Street, 2 August 2015

The vivid contrast of light and shadow suggested a B&W treatment. First I tried the “Noir” setting in iPhoto.

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Then some good old-fashioned custom tweaking.

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Seems like this one might prove worthy of further investigation. Have a fun week, all!

Vonn Scott Bair

Garden Gnomes Gone Wild!

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Good Evening:

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission enjoys an obscure reputation among government agencies in general for our mildly racy advertisements and public service announcements (PSAs); at least, mildly racy by the standards of government agencies in general.

The SFPUC also likes to save money whenever possible, so they recently asked me–an employee there–to star in a YouTube PSA because I have the 16 or 17 credits in the Internet Movie Database and mostly because they wouldn’t have to pay extra for an actor. You can see the commercial here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gXrhOZ3X5GU

Now if you want to see the proper way to confine and maintain your plastic garden gnomes, please refer to the photograph below (Castro near 24th Street in San Francisco):

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If you look closely, you will see that all 3 gnomes are Giants fans. And yes, that is an American flag with a Giants logo in orange, white and black.

Vonn Scott Bair