Monthly Archives: September 2008

Tie Dazzle in a Grendel & Co. T-shirt

We’ve been on the lookout for a tie dye master to saunter into our lives for as long as we can remember, and especially since opening the shop. Lo and behold, last weekend, Mr. Travis Meinolf and Ms. Iris Benson not just sauntered, but casually wove their way to us at the Treasure Island Music Festival.

We were all working the art tent as part of Team Triple Base, and while we invited concert goers to make their own bling out of cardboard, crayons, yarn, and a bit of gold spray paint, Travis and Iris were making sweet industrial music on their rigged-for-sound loom and then putting together a patchwork blanket of great beauty. An alliance was hatched.

Current Craft cover boy, Travis Meinolf.

Current Craft cover boy, Travis Meinolf.

Turns out that in addition to weaving up—often in Dolores Park—gorgeous wool blankets and crazy-awesome ponchos, vamping it up on the cover of our favorite magazine, and being sweet as can be, tie dye happens with these two under the moniker Grendel & Co. In the shop, behold their unique tied, dyed, and printed shirts featuring Abraham Lincoln, mystical monsters, the Golden Gate, feathers, and flamencos. Also, look out for a thrilling tie dye workshop party to come very soon.

And here’s Travis with some instructions for how to use his loom insert in the current issue of Craft.



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That Sonia Rykiel Situation

Sorry to let all you pining ladies down, but that unreasonably fierce vintage Sonia Rykiel sweater tube top with matching arm bands and gold sequin fish scales all over has found it’s exit from the shop. Still and all, I think everyone will agree that its new custodian is looking super so good.

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Fired Up! Ready to Go! Who Wants Ice Cream? Come Get It

With now only 40 days left before the election, having so often suggested that it’s your dedication of time—not necessarily your money—that’s needed, and with friends shipping out to the swing states, and my mom signing up voters in Virginia, and my auntie Carol Jean manning the phonebanks, and me reading all these Grace Paley short stories, while the polls, against all decency, remain neck and neck, I finally got myself down to the San Francisco Barack Obama headquarters last night for a volunteer orientation.

Here’s the lowdown. The critical task that remains for San Franciscans at this late hour is to help out in Nevada, a solidly purple swing state. Volunteers are needed to travel there in person or to make calls from the phonebanks here in order to get tabs on where Nevada voters stand on the candidates, to encourage them to vote, and to facilitate their ability to get to the polls. There are over 70,000 phone calls that still need to be made from the SF office, and an amazing assortment of enthusiastic folks down there from 10 am to 8 pm getting the job done. Join them!

To find out more about getting involved here in SF, check out Better yet, just get yourself down to 939 Market Street and get on the phone. They can train you in just a few short minutes and then you are welcome to drop in whenever you can—even on your lunch break, even if you’ve never done something like this before, even if you feel like you don’t know too much about the policies. It’s an all hands on deck situation.

Here is the video they played for us last night. It’s the full story behind the whole Fired Up! Ready to Go! chant and a hugely appealing glimpse of Obama, worth watching through to the very end.

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All Hail Emperor Norton I

This Wednesday, we honor the majesty of the self-proclaimed Emperor Norton I, “Emperor of these United States,” “Protector of Mexico,” patron saint of Discordianism and overall celebrated citizen of San Francisco.

Born Joshua Abraham Norton around 1819, His Highness spent most of his early life in South Africa before emigrating to San Francisco in 1849. Upon arriving at our foggy shores with a hefty inheritance in his pocket, he promptly invested in real estate and established himself in the upper echelons of Gold Rush society.

But then, just when he thought plebeian glory was his, plebeian tragedy struck. In 1858, a bum investment in Peruvian rice cost him his fortune, forcing Josh to declare bankruptcy and to leave the city penniless.

Rather deterred, I would say, His Majesty returned to San Francisco the next year and declared his sovereignty by publishing a proclamation in the local papers:

At the peremptory request and desire of a large majority of the citizens of these United States, I, Joshua Norton, formerly of Algoa Bay, Cape of Good Hope, and now for the last 9 years and 10 months past of S. F., Cal., declare and proclaim myself Emperor of these U. S.; and in virtue of the authority thereby in me vested, do hereby order and direct the representatives of the different States of the Union to assemble in Musical Hall, of this city, on the 1st day of Feb. next, then and there to make such alterations in the existing laws of the Union as may ameliorate the evils under which the country is laboring, and thereby cause confidence to exist, both at home and abroad, in our stability and integrity.

His Grace later added “Protector of Mexico” to his official job description—a title he held throughout his unprecedented 21 year reign over America.

During this time on the throne, His Eminence issued many strongly-worded edicts aimed at reforming both his wayward bayside subjects as well as his national constituency. A visionary leader, unafraid of extracting harsh punishments in his effort to see his wishes through, Norton I brooked no disrespect when it came to the slangification of his adopted hometown:

Whoever after due and proper warning shall be heard to utter the abominable word “Frisco,” which had no linguistic or other warrant, shall be deemed guilty of a High Misdemeanor, and shall pay into the Imperial Treasury as penalty the sum of twenty-five dollars.

Presumably, he accepted payment in regular U.S. tender, which he must have then converted to his own currency, consisting of notes in a range of 50¢ to $5 denominations. This Norton I currency was humbly accepted at tall the finest restaurants and most fashionable theater houses in town, despite having no federal backing whatsoever.

Not that money was of much use to Norton I, such was the love of his subjects for His Majesty. For example, when the golden epaulets, beaver hat and peacock feather that comprised his official regalia began to look shabby, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors took it upon themselves to offer up a suitably regal replacement uniform. In return, Emperor Norton I sent them a real sweet thank you note and issued a “patent nobility in perpetuity” for each supervisor.

These noble servants must have learned their lesson well, for it was not always the want of His Highness to deal so kindly with public officials—as was the proclaimed turn of events on October 12, 1859, when he formally dissolved the U.S. Congress, seeing as how

fraud and corruption prevent a fair and proper expression of the public voice; that open violation of the laws are constantly occurring, caused by mobs, parties, factions and undue influence of the political sects; that the citizen has not that protection of person and property which his is entitled.

Sound like perpetually familiar times? An inspiration, His Excellence went on to summon the army to depose the Congressional dissidents who boldly remained in office. And when they still didn’t get the message, he went ahead and abolished both the Democratic and Republican parties. No armchair politician-hater, he.

Given, Emperor Norton I may not have received the recognition he proclaimed and so obviously deserved nationwide, he was well-loved in our haven of do your own thing, king if you want to be, city by the bay. His edicts were regularly published in the local papers and restaurants prided themselves on their little “By Appointment to his Imperial Majesty, Emperor Norton I of the United States” brass plaques installed by their doors.

So it was totally standard when 30,000 people turned out to mourn the news of his death in 1880. He had died swiftly and forever at the intersection of California and Dupont Street, on his way to a lecture at the California Academy of Sciences. Mark Twain and Robert Louis Stevenson immortalized him. And in 2004, some folks even tried to name the Bay Bridge after him (they could not).

For our part, we Lady Shopkeepers of Gravel & Gold call upon the ghost of Emperor Norton I and invite him to come on by the shop sometime to pick up his free Profile of Awesome stripey shirt. We salute you, O king. May your invented name, and the boldness of your unwarranted proclamations, reign forever in our hearts.

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Scientifically Singing, You See

As an addendum to the post below, I further encourage all readers to take a listen and learn a little something from the Singing Science Records. Just when you thought the realm of song had already bestowed all the education it had to give with the Schoolhouse Rock! box set, here Song goes again, gifting you all the wonders of Space, Energy & Motion, Experimentation, Weather, Nature, and More Nature.

The Singing Science albums were produced in the late 50s and early 60s by Hy Zaret and Lou Singer, and a few were performed by Tom Glazer, a semi-famous 1940s folk musician of “On Top of Spaghetti” fame. I can particularly get behind the “Why Do Stars Twinkle” tune off the Space Songs LP. Also, I do get behind Tom Lehrer singing the “Elements” song while A Useless Bay Production provides a bit of animation:

Many thanks to the lovely Andrea Dunlap for turning me on to this trove of learning and for doing her part to spread the good Obama word.

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She Blinded Me With Science

After bike-lurking by month after month, year after three years, watching the wildflowers grow on the rolling roof hills and imagining what lies within, the wait for the California Academy of Sciences museum to open is finally, Finally! (close to) over. This weekend, behold the world’s only aquarium/planetarium/natural history museum under one very gorgeous living roof.

The building itself, designed by Renzo Piano, is a masterwork of green architecture, with glass walls looking out onto the park, trapping all the passive heat their little panes can allow and lighting up 90% of the interior office space. Then it’s got 60,000 photovoltaic cells producing 10% of its electricity, walls insulated with shredded blue jeans, and special sensors to adjust the lights and ventilating skylights according to the time of day and weather. Visually, it manages to seamlessly combine the existing OG temple-like facade with all the glass and steel we’ve come to expect and love from a proper modern museum.

Inside, word has reached us fervent snoopers that we’ll find a 65-foot tall rain forest fed by actual misting rain, a 300-seat planetarium, 20 live penguins hobbling about the African Hall, an living coral reef, and an indoor swamp complete with snapping turtles and an albino alligator named Claude. Also, there is a whole team of resident *human* naturalists ready to play show-and-tell and willing to identify all the backyard specimens you can throw their way.

The somewhat understandable bummer is that all this comes with a whopping $24.95 price tag for adult entry. So I suggest you take advantage of the free admission offer going on this opening weekend. I’m sure it’ll be packed, but then there will also be kid-friendly pop from the Sippy Cups, outdoor climbing walls, and performances by the SF Opera and ODC.

Down the line, the museum will be instituting a really good idea which is that they will offer neighborhood free days when locals can visit free of cost on a rotating schedule according to your zip code. For Mission dwellers, that means that October 23, 24 and 25 and May 1, 2, and 3 are our days to descend, awkward pegged jeans, neon, ironic 80’s T-shirts worn with strictest seriousness, and all.

For a sneak peak of the wonders within, get the low down on sea horses, the incredible, man-mothering creatures of the deep, from Academy researcher Healy Hamilton.

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Enjoy Drew Christie!

Lisa and her collaborator Susannah clued me in to this delightful short film, “For the Warewolf Have Sympathy,” which they recently came upon in the course of their deep diving into the depths of the life and times of Michael Hurley, seeing as how it’s set to one of his tunes and all.

The film’s creator, one Drew Christie, who despite being thus named, has managed to occupy his attention away from the Thespian pond of awesome that is his right by virtue of having been named for both lady author-heroes of the Mystery genre—Nancy Drew and Agatha Christie. Instead he has put his good talent to work producing sweetly supernatural animations and drawings for us all to enjoy.

After you’ve enjoyed “Warewolf,” many times, I suggest you enjoy “How to Bring Democracy to the Fish,” which won The Seattle Times’s 2007 Three-Minute Masterpiece Grand Prize. 

Finally, you may enjoy these drawings, as I do.

Do I whiff a waft of Kliban-ish irony in this here rendering?


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