Italy: Open for Renovations

Last time I was in Italy, in 2001, it seemed like the entire country was under renovation. From the Medici Chapel in Florence to the Doge's Palace in Venice, many of the sites I visited were shrouded in scaffolding. The same was true in my June travels through Italy.

But unlike such projects in the States, I was again struck by the fact that their scaffoldings (like the one here seen on the Grand Canal in Venice) were typically covered with colorful representations of what the restored building will look like (or what it looked like prior to the restoration), with a shout out to the corporate or civic entities that sponsored the project.

It came as a huge disappointment though when I walked into my favorite piece of civic architecture -- the Pantheon in Rome -- shifted my gaze up to the oculus, and saw...scaffolding. Boring utilitarian scaffolding obscuring about 1/8 of the interior, from wall to oculus. And associated roped off walls. All the visitors were basically coralled into the center of the building, unable to get up close to the gorgeous marble walls.

Turns out they spent a little over a year giving the interior dome a good scrubbing. Gone are the dark tobacco-colored splotches. The dome is now more of a glistening honey-sand color, with very few blemishes. It's gorgeous, if unexpected.


Like any good travel magazine addict, I knew that Ventana was one of Big Sur's most posh retreats. What I found out through my online sleuthing in preparation for a Big Sur camping trip is it's also home to one of the area's prettiest campgrounds.

The $30 a night price tag seemed pretty steep until I saw that many of the other Big Sur campgrounds amount to little more than large parking lots with small dirt patches and scrubby little bushes at little more than a $10 savings. Also, since this was one of the few campgrounds to promote that they had fire rings -- and I wanted to raost some marshmallows -- it was an easy choice to make.

Our camp site was at the midpoint of the campground (though due to rains the week before, it was pretty much at the far end of the available spaces). The site was large enough to hold our car at the far end, a picnic table and fire ring in the middle, and to leave a huge open space around our tent. Running water for washing dishes was at the edge of our space which was great except for when the neighbors spent a half hour after dark obsessively rinsing something. As a plus, the bathhouse was always empty, and was cleaner than most San Francisco public restrooms.

The campground was an excellent jumping off point for hiking at the local parks, wherein we ogled even more redwood trees, and a gorgeous waterfall.

Noise Pop 2005: Oranger and Man with a Movie Camera

One of my favorite events at each year's Noise Pop music fesitval is the screening of a silent film at the Castro Theater with a live rock band performing the score. This year, they asked local indie rock favorites Oranger to reprise the score for Man with a Movie Camera, apparently originally created by Oranger for the L.A. Independent Film Festival. The movie was a collage of images from daily life in a Russian city, abstract but beautiful, and a great pairing for Oranger's rockin out. AND there was even ample usage of theramin.


Thanks to my friend Sharon, I have now confirmed that SF has a house that would do my suburban Christmas Tree Lane residents proud.

Located on 21st, a few crests of the hill past Noe as you drive towards the Mission, there is a house that replicates the North Pole, complete with oversized stuffed animals in the guises of Hello Kitty and Sponge Bob, a towering Christmas Tree, and even a real live Santa Claus. Suspiciously, my photo of Santa came out pitch black despite the holiday lights...

Merry Chrismukkah!

PHOTOS: Scary XMAS continues

Perhaps one of the scariest elements of holiday decorating is gaining insight into the strange sense of humor lurking beneath the jolly surface of some Christmas Tree Lane residents.

What, exactly, inspired the above homeowners to use masking tape to attach a lone red bulb to a scary white and black reindeer's nose? And at first glance, the holiday lights wrapped around the bridle looks like barbed wire in the daylight.

If I recall, the people with the melted snowman were also host  to this gaudy plastic Precious Moments nativity scene.

It appears this household has decided Santa is best encased in a crippled helicopter, sans reindeer.

Look carefully at the above tree lot snowman. Pay special attention to the yellow snow next to the smirking house pet.

Is Santa, lost in the desert, following the North Star under the watchful eye of the Precious Moments angels?

PHOTOS: Hive-a-licious

60% of the Hives turned out for a live interview on Live 105 during their Metreon broadcast on Saturday, December 11. Howlin Pelle was charming and exceptionally accommodating to fan requests to sign tickets, promo flats, t-shirts etc., and to pose for -- and tae -- dozens of photos. I had my white vinyl copy of Veni, Vidi, Visious signed byt he Hives in attendance, which leaves me wondering what I'll need to do to obtain the other 2 signatures... Is a trip to Sweden in my future?

More Hives Live 105 on-air appearance photos from their Metreon meet and greet.

PHOTOS: Scary Xmas Snowmen

Snowmen seemed to be the non-denominational Christmas decor of choice this year. Dozens of houses had this same wire snowman:

Of course, not all of the snowman looked alike, despite their shared point of creation; some snowmen seemed a little more disheveled than others.

I personally liked this Cubist snowman, who appeared to be comprised of wire closet storage boxes covered with some sort of fake plastic snow:

But this next guy, is he a polar bear or a snowman? And why is he wearing a pink jacket and mittens with black combat boots?

And finally, isn't it a bit scary for the small children to have melted snowmen like this all over your front lawn? Why exactly did these folks move to Christmas Tree Lane anyhow?

PHOTOS: Scary XMAS Intro

No matter how pretty it may seem to drive past Christmas Tree Lane on a cold winter's night, those holiday lawn displays are pretty darn scary in the daylight. Some of them look like the aftermath of a wild party even, with the previously merry hosts slumped over a pile of presents.

Take this Santa for example. Face down in the front yard at 2 in the afternoon. Was it a result of too much egg nog, or something more sinister? The "Beware of Dog" sign makes it seem all too possible that it's the latter.

More photos to follow.

PHOTOS: show going

I get actively bummed out when I go to a show at a venue that doesn't allow taking photos (like the Interpol show at the Warfield a few weeks back). After many a night spent at Great American Music Hall, and the cool Live 105 Studio Sessions at the Metreon, I've gotten used to taking photos while listening to loud live music.

I've made a few photo albums of my favorite recent show photos. have a look:

I hope for there to be more such photos here soon...

PHOTOS: Artwork SF Fundraiser

In August, I was a photographer for the Artwork SF cafe show closing night fundraiser. I used a Canon Digital Rebel to snap photos of the performers (including several Speakeasily Burlesque dancers) and of the attendees checking out the artwork. You may see these photos on the Artwork SF website, or in their promotional materials for next year's show.

Here are a few highlights.

PHOTOS: Fort Point

When The Golden Gate Bridge isn't undergoing seismic retrofitting, you can catch all sorts of great glimpses of the Golden Gate Bridge from the windows and crevices that let in light throughout the Fort, which makes for a fun photo taking excursion. Although this is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and has recreations of how miliary living quarters would have looked in the 1800s, there is a good amount of decay and rot here, which makes me very happy.

PHOTOS: Golden Gate Bridge

The Golden Gate Bridge is still undergoing all sorts of unsightly construction in the name of seismic retrofitting... Apparently, the bridge won't be back into it's natural state of tourist gawking beauty for a good year or so. But I recently took some photos of the bridge anyway. After all, those shiny metal pieces on the bridge's underbelly are pretty cool.

Continue reading "PHOTOS: Golden Gate Bridge" »