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Sunday, March 01, 2009

Natural history and cocktails (night at the aquarium)

  outside of dark rainforest dome at California Academy of Science during NightlifeEver since the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park was rebuilt, it's been a madhouse on weekends. Just biking or walking past, you can usually see the lines snaking out toward the Sunset District, and sometimes even hear the staff making announcements through bullhorns on how they have already sold out of tickets for the day.

Not being into waiting in line or mob scenes, I avoided the place.

At least, I avoided it until my Cousin took me to NightLife: California Academy of Sciences, the nightclub version of the museum. For a mere $10 for non-members, you can go into the museum for a few hours at night, spend money on strong drinks made at any of the dozen plus bars scattered throughout the building, and see those same exhibits you wanted to see during the day. NightLife is an 21 and over event ONLY, so not only will unfamiliar children NOT mistake you for their mommy and cry when you try to point out their error, but... it feels like a nightclub scene, complete with people all dolled up, pretending to look at piranhas while checking you out. hall at California Academy of Science during Nightlife

It's a younger, less dressy crowd than the members only parties at SFMoMA, and men are better represented. I theorize that this is because it's easier not to embarrass yourself at a natural history museum - it's much easier to tell animals apart than modern painters - and there is a much broader time span available to discuss through interpretive signs - say, the big bang to now, versus the late 1800s to now.

I had been a big fan of the old Academy (though the organization's apparent joint position with the museum across the way - that more of the park should be privatized and turned into parking lots for the convenience of its patrons - was loathsome, and has resulted in some very unfortunate side effects), and find that the new building... is a completely different place. The African Hall, full of its stuffed samples of flora and fauna from that large and still-exotic continent, was rebuilt to match the feel of the original, while the rest of the museum feels not just like a new place, but like a new concept of what the museum is for.

rainforest exhibit at California Academy of Science during NightlifeThe old building felt like a Victorian collection of artifacts that had been collected during some imperial expansionist period, with hidden halls and closets that seemed to go on forever, chock full of every possible aspect of conquered lands, and was fun to explore in the way you would expect. The new building, which is admirable in many, many ways, but will take some getting used to, feels like a modern place, engaged with current environmental issues and primarily focused upon non-human life on earth. I imagine that the mission of the Academy has been tidied up, or the new building wouldn't FEEL quite so different.

I'm not saying I don't miss the room full of natural crystals - I do! - but the point of being there is much more clear. I mean this as a compliment.

A few notes: yes, the albino alligator is still in the animal hospital.

Yes, the rain forest will be closed this week. If you're making a special trip for that, wait a week or two. When it is open, be sure to hit it early - they do close that earlier than some other sections.

Yes, the drinks are respectably strong.

Yes, you can actually go just to enjoy the exhibits, and do so without feeling like you are missing the point. That's part of the beauty of it, really. And, unlike me, some stranger probably won't approach you with a camera containing his amateur lion porn to start up a conversation. Unless you are also a freak magnet, in which case, this won't be any different from anywhere else you go.

Yes, I took a few phone photos (other than those posted here), which may be viewed at my phone photo blog or in my Academy By Night album on Facebook (no login required for either, of course.)

entrance to California Academy of Science during NightlifeI enthusiastically recommend Nightlife as a way to see the museum without being hit by strollers; with friends; with a cocktail in one hand; to see the museum brightly lit; to hear a DJ while staring at sea bass; with a date of uncertain conversational skills (if they can't find something to engage you in conversation about here, you likely should not be dating them); or on any Thursday night between now and the end of October when they stop doing this.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:29 PM

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Brains? Braiiiiinnns? Brraaaaaaaains!!

  I failed to post the link to Steven's photo/video montage of the zombie mob event. It is here: We Want Brains (

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posted by Arlene (Beth)9:09 PM

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


Insomnia and Returning from the Dead.

eatbrains08, SF Zombie mob, photo by Steven P.I have looked exhausted lately, largely from an unusually severe, multi-day bout of insomnia.

Only some of this insomnia is induced by Peet's products. I swear. Peet's soy chai induces the tastiest insomnia anywhere!

But I don't look as bad as I do in this photo. (And I hope not to for about 60 more years.) This was an outtake from photos Steven took of me participating in the San Francisco Zombie Mob (, which is how I spent my Saturday afternoon. Yes, I was a zombie, a member of the undead, and I wandered through downtown SF with about 350 of my closest undead friends, crying out for fresh brains.

It is terribly... liberating. We are told to look "nice," to dress tidily and modestly, not to stand out, not to make noise, not to be weird (as if I have ever listened to that), and suddenly we get to set all of those silly rules aside and roam, dripping blood, to maul our happy (and clearly marked) victims whose silly drama in their futile resistance matches our own silly drama in mauling them.

It is delightful, in so many happy ways.

Special highlights: an early victim, looking so innocent with his (empty) paper coffee cup, milling about, waiting to be mauled... The victim with an armful of balloon animals, and the fabulous faux-horror facial expressions he made as we converted him to one of our kind... The group in Chinatown that attempted to fight the zombies off with toy swords... And the best part, the absolute best part, was the meeting of the two zombie groups on Grant Avenue in Chinatown. Oh, the sound!! The happy, happy, happy sound! We took up the entire block. It was truly beautiful.

Tourists loved it. Tour bus operators loved it. Passersby faked screams and ran away, smiling. Non-participants feigned attempting to defend their storefronts from us. The people who couldn't deal with it were also a riot: there is something so inherently ridiculous in pretending not to see hundreds of passing zombies and making tight-lipped little frowny faces of disapproval and scurrying off. The people who demanded rational explanations were just as funny. Must everything have a rational explanation? I've seen television: I know people are willing to suspend rational thought for vast periods of time.

Flickr is filled with pictures tagged "eatbrains08," many of which contain gloriously ghastly images of me. My favorite video of the zombie march so far is Zombie March, August 16, 2008, by ( I'll post a link to Steven's photo/video montage when he has it posted.

I posted a small set of images to, yes, of all places, Facebook: Oh, the horror! Zombies roam the Streets of San Francisco!: photos by Steven, cropped and posted by me. (You can view these without a Facebook login.)

The event was delightful, and I believe I've recruited many people to participate next time, when it will be even more gory and grand.

Zombie Beauty Tips:
-a clay and avocado mask turns you a truly alarming shade of gray-green, and leaves your skin soft and pleasantly scented. Be sure to put some on your lips: zombies have dead-looking lips.
-that dark eye makeup that you regret buying, the nearly black one with red glitter in it, is PERFECT for making your eyes look sunken-in. If you have an eye-shadow primer, use that to ensure that it doesn't wipe off unintentionally.
-cheap, nasty lip gloss makes good blood-substitutes, despite the nasty bubblegum scent. Smear some down the side of your face, and onto your shirt.
-clothes that don't fit well, which can be hacked at with dull scissors without any regret, looks best on zombies. I'm sure you have some around.
-rely on other, organized zombies for high quality, washable blood.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:41 PM

Sunday, May 13, 2007

  Ecocity World Summit 2008 comes to San Francisco.
Throughout Earth Day Week, April 22-26, 2008 in San Francisco, California, the Ecocity World Summit (7th International Ecocity Conference) will be convening an international community of inspired change-makers; courageous individuals who are addressing problems of the world's environment with thoughtful long-range solutions that are truly sustainable, ecologically healthy and socially just.

The International Ecocity Conference Series brings together the key innovators, decision makers, technologists, businesses and organizations shaping the conversation around ecological and sustainable city, town and village design, planning and development. We intend to put these issues on the economic and environmental agenda for 2008 and beyond.
I could use a dose of this!

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posted by Arlene (Beth)9:54 AM

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