Saturday, April 24, 2010

Triple Blech

One of the things I'm most looking forward to about this France move-- on a very base level--is the access I'll have to one of my favorite foods, Tartex. They used to sell this wonderful, weirdly meaty vegan spread at Rainbow, but they haven't carried it for about five years now. Every now and again, Claudia will surprise me with a can procured at some random health-food store on one of her travels, and I've recently discovered they sell cans of the herb flavor at Golden Era, of all places. but before that, I could only get my fix in Europe.

About this time last year, I made a trip to Vietnam, and on my last day in Ho Chi Minh City, I made my standard grocery-store excursion to load up on small edible trinkets for friends. Browsing the canned food aisle, I discoverd these tins of vegan pate. How bad could it be? I bought three at about $.30 each, and figured I'd give them away to my vegan-pate-loving compadres. First, though, I'd have to taste the stuff to A. make sure it wasn't horrible, and B. To determine whether it was good enough to hoard all to myself.

The first can I opened was a grave disappointment. It stunk, literally and figuratively, and not in a "faux meat" sort of way; just in a "something's wrong here" sort of way. Still, I had to taste it. Bad move. The flavor was sort of bitter, backed with a metallic bite and a hint of, perhaps, botulism. It was also kind of gritty/grainy, while simultaneously too fluffy. Jettisoned into the garbage, toute de suite.

Second can? Same deal.

A year later, I decided to give the third can the opportunity for redemption. It failed. If this is even possible, it looked, smelled, and tasted worse than the other two cans combined.

Moral of this story: Um ... don't buy vegan pate in Vietnam.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Banksy Goes Native (American)

The SF Chronicle is reporting that a new mural in the Mission is the work of everyone's favorite super-famous/underground street artist, Banksy. Both this one, another in Chinatown, and especially the third one spotted in the Mission have all the Banksy hallmarks (irony and solid artistic technique, in particular), but the one above Amnesia is a bit sloppy, what with all that mucky red paint all around. Could it be the work of Banksy copycats, or are they the real deal? Keep your eyes peeled for this man!

Monday, April 19, 2010

No Elephants Were Harmed in the Making of this Movie?

Jeff and I took in a matinee today at my tied-for-second-favorite theater in San Francisco, the Embarcadero Cinema. They always run the newest foreign films, plus they offer nutritional yeast for the popcorn and sell veggie dogs at the concession stand. (My first favorite theater is The Clay, for the nutritional yeast, the single screen, intimate Art Deco lobby, and great location. The other tied-for-second theater is The Balboa, because they let you in free on your birthday AND have veggie dogs.)

The flick* we went to see was called "Exit Through The Gift Shop," which I just figured out as I type this must be a reference to a scene wherein the film's primary subject, a guy named Thierry Guetta, gets busted at Disneyland for being at the scene of an art crime (Banksy did a little Guantanamo-themed thing at Thunder Mountain and Thierry documented it). He ends up getting ruthlessly interrogated by Disney cops, then getting released after he stealthily deletes the evidence. I'm guessing they must have told him to, um, Exit Through The Gift Shop. That makes sense, doesn't it?!

OK: so this film was advertised as a "Banksy documentary," but it was really more about this other guy Thierry, a frenchie who lives in LA and got himself all mixed up in the renegade street-art scene by way of his cousin, the Paris-based arteest known as Space Invader. Anyone who's been to Paris in the last decade has seen his work (it's glued onto buildings, monuments, and streets throughout Paris), and from this film I learned a lot more about this crafty feller and some of his creative cohorts around the globe.

I recommend this movie, but I have to give a disclaimer, which is that for animal people (and just plain smart, sensitive people in general), there's a disturbing scene in which an elephant is delivered in the back of a crappy U-Haul-type truck to Banksy's 2006 LA art opening. That was bad enough, but then they painted the poor beast fuchsia ("with children's finger paint") and stenciled her with fleur de lys before turning her into a living art installation. It was very disturbing.

After seeing some of Banksy's work, I really thought he might've been hip (and sensitive) to issues relating to animal exploitation within the broader framework of contemporary social issues, but apparently not. Why is it that seemingly smart, talented people in tune with complex human-oriented concerns can miss (or dismiss) those connections that are so obvious?

P.S. At film's end, as the credits rolled, a message telling us that "No Elephants Were Harmed in the Making of this Film" appeared. I didn't feel any better about it.

P.P.S. I didn't take the Space Invaders photo pictured here, but the person who did deserves credit, which you'll find here)

* In France, slang for "cop" is "flic." If you're in Paris doing some guerrilla street art and hear someone shout, "les flics!" you better make a run for it!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The 'hood

Last weekend, in spite of the terrible weather, we stuck with our plan to meet up with Adam and Cheryl on Angel Island for an overnight bike/camp excursion.

Well, we kind of stuck to the plan; we decided to go for the day and not the night. It started spitting rain as soon as we pedaled off down the street, and was in full pissing mode by the time we reached the Pier 41 ferry terminal, where we bought our tickets and got in line behind seven zillion Italian tourists who were all gorgeous and, unlike the two of us, dressed in chic weather-appropriate clothing.

Settling into our seats for the short ride to Tiburon, I watched Jeff's visage morph from flesh-colored to an alien green. "How you feelin'?" I asked. "Not well," he replied, before heading out onto the deck to stare at the wet horizon for a while.

When we arrived at Tiburon, the ferry to Angel Island was nowhere to be found; we sought cover from the elements beneath a too-narrow awning, hoping with crossed fingers that a boat would show. Just then two cyclists rolled up, and one looked awfully familiar. Turns out it was our friend Adam's twin brother David, and his girlfriend Dominique, who'd come down from Santa Rosa and were also headed to the island for the day.

Finally, a couple of adults and two kids popped out of nowhere and said they were expecting us. "There's your ferry!" they said, pointing to a tiny little speck of a boat. Five minutes later we were docked at the Angel Island ferry landing, and not long after that, the six of us shared a lovely picnic of fruit, bread, Tartex, beer, and--because it was Easter--some chocolate eggs.

A week later, it's as wet as ever. (The drought has got to be officially over.) Instead of the usual morning stroll to the dog park, we made a beeline toward Mojo for coffee and a quick stop at the local farmer's market. We didn't get far--the corner of McAllister and Divisadero, to be exact--before we were sidelined.

A local character, a thirty-something blind fellow who always knows you're coming and is fearless when it comes to asking strangers for favors--turned toward us as we waited for the light to change and asked if we were going to the corner store. We said no, but asked if he needed something. He replied yes; could we get him one jar of mayonnaise and another of relish? Sure. Why not? The fellow reached in his pocket and waved a bill at us, saying, "This is a five, right?" and Jeff reached for his arm, steering him toward the store's door, suggesting he might like to avoid the rain by standing inside. He seemed reluctant to get too close to the door, though.

After collecting the condiments, we stood at the counter and told Rami that we actually wanted a bag this time (we normally bring our own). He looked baffled, and we told him it was because we were shopping for the blind guy, who didn't have his own a bag. "Yeah," said Rami, "that guy's not allowed in here." Really? Why not? We wanted to know. "Because he's an asshole."

Blind guys can be assholes, too? I hadn't really stopped to consider that.

God, I'm going to miss this neighborhood.