It takes brains to make robots perform as art

By Charles Desmarais : sfgate – excerpt (includes video)

Kal Spelletich photo by Zrants

If robots kiss, is it a mechanical feat or a sentimental moment? What if their behavior is controlled by the brainwaves of two human beings?

San Francisco artist Kal Spelletich has built a career by hijacking ideas from engineering and science, then giving them the feel of flesh and blood. His show at Catharine Clark Gallery in 2015 was heavy with the pathos of the wired contemporary life, with jerky robotic figures acting the parts of personal friends at the push of a button.

For three performances this weekend at the experimental art space the Lab, identical 16-foot robots will move and interact, controlled by electrical impulses from the brains of two attendees. From the look of a preview video, the robots are more like giant disembodied arms with lethal claws than humanoids. Members of the audience will be fitted with electroencephalography, or EEG, monitoring helmets.

Most of the audience will not participate directly — only a few participants can be accommodated with the helmets. “We don’t know how many,” Spelletich said in a phone interview. “This is all new for us. Eight or 10?”

While Spelletich made the robots, the project is a collaboration with two others, Mitch Altman, a co-founder of Noisebridge hacker space, and Masahiro Kahata, who is described as a “psychotronics” specialist. An announcement calls the project “an experiment in improving people’s lives by exemplifying the poetry of the mind.”…

Kal Spelletich: Split Brain Robotics: 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, April 7-8; 1 p.m. Sunday, April 9. $8. The Lab, 2948 16th St., S.F. (415) 864-8855. www.thelab.org(more)

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Activists Fighting Restaurants on Mission Street

By Laura Wenus : missionlocal – excerpt

Activists who have long tried to fight gentrification by opposing market-rate development and upscale businesses are now targeting new restaurants on Mission Street.

The latest focus is a tea restaurant planned for the site of the former Sapphire Photo store at 2761 Mission St. between 23rd and 24th streets.

A frequent opponent of new developments in the Mission has filed a request with the city to delay its conversion – one of nine similar applications for conversion to restaurant use along the Mission Street corridor.

“All parties should be aware at this point that the Mission community does not wish to see any more restaurant conversions on Mission Street,” wrote Rick Hall, an activist, in the discretionary review application he filed January 5…

It’s not that he believes that all restaurants contribute to gentrification – though the organizers do worry about over-saturation of restaurants on business corridors.

Hall said in an interview that he and other activists from a group of organizations called “United to Save the Mission” have dropped their opposition to some restaurants after meeting with the owner and determining that they will not be forces of gentrification. Usually, that determination depends on how expensive the menu will be, he said… (more)

As you can see by earlier posts, the restaurant business is fraught with problems regardless of the price level. Avoiding over-saturation of eating establishments could be an important component in maintaining a healthy environment for established places, while keeping the competition from wasting time and money on a losing proposition. Maintaining a balance could be the best way to protect all concerned.

What’s behind the spate of recent Bay Area restaurant closures?

By : eastbaytimes – excerpt (includes video)

While new restaurants have further solidified the Bay Area as a foodie destination in recent years, many others have succumbed to a perfect storm of economic challenges that shows no sign of abating.

 Upward of 60 restaurants around the Bay Area have closed since the start of September alone, with many citing difficulties like the cost of finding and keeping good employees, rising rents, new requirements for providing health care and sick leave, and doing it all while competing with the slew of new dining options.
 The restaurant industry has always been among the most competitive and challenging to navigate, and failures are nothing new, but the current struggles have left some wondering if the traditional dining model might be headed for an overhaul.

“We’re at this precipice where the model of the full-service restaurant is being pushed to the brink,” said Gwyneth Borden, executive director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association… (more)

This article pretty well sums it up. The new economic model does not support a robust food culture in America or many other artistic or creative endeavors. The constant disruptions of construction and noise are sucking up all the air and money anyway. Watch for the return of speakeasies and other underground forms of entertainment. If you can’t cook it is almost cheaper to have a personal chef come to you and cook your mean than eating out these days.

Can Prop X and Calle 24 save the arts and culture in San Francisco? The voters clearly want to preserve the culture, but the money behind the destruction is overwhelming efforts. There is a major shift in artistic expression as logos and product hype is popping up everywhere.

If the “entertainment” at the Warriors ground-breaking ceremony are any indication of where public taste is headed we don’t need to defund arts and education grants programs to change the aesthetics of our society. We have already done that. Whether or not Melania really plans to sell her jewelry out of the White House, art in America has lost its heart.

https://youtu.be/cZWTDOtZfpY

 

Lori’s diner to close original Union Square location in January

By Justin Phillips : sfchronicle – excerpt

Lori’s Diner, the popular San Francisco spot known for cheap food and vintage decor, is closing its original location at 336 Mason St., where it opened three decades ago. Its ’60s-era aesthetics of vintage cars, pinball machines and bright red booths, along with American diner fare, made the place a San Francisco staple. Its last day will be Monday…

The closure is due to “leasing issues,” according to a post on the diner’s Facebook page…(more)

I think this is where we used to go for pancakes and waffles and rubbing elbows with the twins. If you have been here long enough you will remember the famous twins.

Add this to the list of clubs and other historic closings threatened by the twentieth century land rush that will usher in a new era of social division and decline of American culture, from sea to shining sea

For the full impact of too much too soon, see the anti-eviction mapping project: http://www.antievictionmap.com

 

I Left Tech When It Sold Its Soul

By Nicole Karlis : thebolditalic – excerpt

Five years ago, when I was working in publishing in New York City, I became captivated by an article about the women who were shaping the San Francisco start-up scene. Their job titles were as diverse and exciting as the companies they worked for. Some spent their weeks traveling for work, while others spent days solving interesting problems that no one had ever solved before. The women in these start-ups were coming together to execute the unlikeliest of ideas and truly exhibiting the definition of innovation. Start-ups and apps were popping up all over, most of them — at the time — changing industries for the greater good…

Everyone wants to work for the next start-up that gets acquired by a big tech company. I’d be lying if I said that that wasn’t a big part of it why I was attracted to it. But it was also the feeling I got from creating something new — the opportunity to be myself and let my creativity shine in a professional work environment. It doesn’t seem like that’s an option anymore. Besides that, more companies are creating products without a thoughtful sense of purpose.

We are trying to solve problems with the touch of a screen, which only isolates us further from each other. What we should be doing is thinking of ways to bring each other together.

How about instead of spending millions of dollars to start another food-delivery app, we put that money toward finding a more efficient way to feed the hungry? Instead of creating another type of software that curates content for people who “don’t have time to read,” why not find ways to help impoverished children learn how to read? Innovation is slowly dying in tech because everyone is copying each other and focused on “being in tech,” but the industry is still full of incredibly intelligent and talented people.

Imagine what would happen if we redirected that intelligence and talent? If you make a lot of money in the long run, great — if not, at least you tried to make a positive impact on the world, rather than destroy it with useless distractions. Because that’s exactly what more of these apps and products of start-ups and tech are becoming: distractions. We are trying to solve problems with the touch of a screen, which only isolates us further from each other. What we should be doing is thinking of ways to bring each other together…

What used to be an industry that prided itself on being unique and different has just become another commercialized scene filled with people who are there for the wrong reasons. And that’s why I left. In the long-run, tech didn’t end up being much different from the industries they vowed not to become…(more)

Gentrification heartbreak in San Francisco

By : sfexaminer – excerpt

Every time I walk up to the Lower Haight, my heart hurts a little. Tucked away on Haight and Fillmore used to be my home — the only place in San Francisco I felt safe. It was the Empire Records-like atmosphere of D-Structure Clothing Company (DSF).

As of May of this year, they had to abandon their store and move everything online. No more art shows, no more PBR shotguns, no more community. I never truly felt the gentrification of this city affected my heart until my favorite place in the world shut down.

I first became acquainted with DSF from an open position on Craigslist. The post read, “Tell me why you want work here, why you are weird and what blogs you read.” I thought to myself, “I am definitely weird,” so I wrote a fabulous cover letter and got an interview.

I had just moved here from Tel Aviv and had no friends in town. I had a job in tech, but I didn’t have a huge team and they were all dudes. So I thought, maybe I would get a retail job somewhere and meet other people. This place that ended up accepting me into their work family.

The Lower Haight was full of eclectic people. It felt like everything was in balance…

It is clear why I am so heartbroken. But even more is how these types of hubs foster creativity and serve as a jumping off point for employees’ careers. Ex-employees now work as professional photographers, musicians, artists at Pixar, teachers at Workshop SF, DJs, tattoo artists and of course, writers. I have not yet found that level of support in any women’s group, meetup or job…

It seems like this story has been told all over the country. It’s just that here, we are actually losing our identity. I know a lot of people who moved here for the eccentricities of San Francisco. The weird fog, the learned people and the awesome food. People moved here for the culture. But with the rise of gentrification in the most artistic places, there is no longer as much room for creative excellence…

All of this begs the question: What came first, businesses closing or creative people leaving San Francisco? It seems like people are leaving for the same reason why the small venues are closing — the rent and cost of living is astronomical. As more and more creatives leave, it may cause these places to close. It is really all about money.

Unfortunately, economics is such a powerful force that these awesome places may not be able to survive. Superior service, great products, atmosphere, as well as a compelling value proposition has to win out. In that way, these very cool places that are no longer around, are really not much different than a tech start-up. The customer ultimately chooses what lives and what dies… (more)

Artists appreciate a writer who understands the role a creative community and environment plays in the work and lives of artists. We thrive in the company of other artists much as tech workers do, though our goals are generally more expressive than financially motivated. Society relies on us to provide the spice, and, what the corporate world describes as content they sell. Kill us off and you have nothing but re-runs.
The turn of the century dot-com boom cleared out the musicians and clubs around SOMA. Hundreds of people lost their rehearsal studios and many left for Southern California, Nashville and the Southwest, where they still welcome artists and some actually earn a living.
The community of artists struggling to stay have done the unthinkable and organized with affordable housing people and small businesses and non-profits to put a ballot initiative ordinance on the November ballot to protect more of our work space from the greed that is trying to eliminate us.
If you want to protect the arts in SF, support Yes on X. Details here: https://discoveryink.wordpress/..

Dogpatch Business Association Debuts

by potreroview – excerpt

In May, Mark Dwight, founder and chief executive officer of Rickshaw Bagworks, a messenger and laptop bag, sack and sleeve manufacturer on 22nd Street, launched the Dogpatch Business Association (DBA), a nonprofit collection of enterprises located in Dogpatch and Pier 70. DBA will serve as a networking platform for companies, promote neighborhood businesses, and represent the collective interests of the commercial sector in interactions with City government, the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, and other neighborhood business and merchant associations.

Dwight is recruiting businesses within the boundaries of Mariposa Street to the north, Cesar Chavez Street to the south, Pennsylvania Street to the west, and Pier 70 to the east. Dogpatch companies have historically been able to join the Potrero Dogpatch Merchants Association (PDMA), an alliance of establishments located in Dogpatch and Potrero Hill.

According to Dwight, Dogpatch has gained enough businesses with unique concerns to merit a separate organization.  “Dogpatch has been sort of underrepresented in PDMA. I saw an opportunity that we had achieved critical mass. I really feel the time is right to have our own business association down in the flats,” he said.

Keith Goldstein, PDMA president, said he thought the split was a natural progression for Dogpatch.  “There’s so many businesses opening up there. For years, PDMA was just the Potrero Hill Merchants Association. About eight or nine years ago, we changed our name to include Dogpatch. Now they have their own designation and rightfully so,” said Goldstein.

Dwight serves on the San Francisco Chamber’s board of directors.  He’s president of the San Francisco Small Business Commission, which consists of seven people, four appointed by the Mayor and three by the Board of Supervisors, which oversees the City’s Office of Small Business (OSB), an information and referral source for companies. Dwight said Dogpatch isn’t a standard neighborhood to represent, lacking a main retail corridor or substantial street parking to accommodate customers.

DBA membership is open to all businesses, not only retailers, including firms that don’t have a storefront, such as biotech companies. “Traditionally, small businesses are locally-owned and independent,” said Dwight. “They are deeply rooted in the community in which they exist. Companies like biotech firms are often less deeply rooted and need to be flexible and nimble. We have totally different modes of operation and very different interests. To the extent that a venture-backed company wants to be part of the community for as long as they’re here, that’s great. We want to make membership easy.”… (more)

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