USF Media Mob: Bloomsday Rising

Posted in digital journalism, music, university of san francisco, usf, web 2.0 on April 2, 2008 by lenzbreakr

THE EVENT

BloomsdayRising, a San Francisco based alternative rock band, recently played a gig at Mojito in North Beach. The band features former and current USF students, and they have played several shows at USF in the past year.

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The gig was part of an SF Weekly sponsored event called “Artopia“. Under Artopia, a competition called “Masterminds” was created, which was designed to showcase work from local artists that don’t recieve much attention or recognition, despite their unique and definite talent. A blurb from SFWeekly.com about the concept reads,

“Any artists demonstrating commitment and a pioneering spirit to their craft are potential masterminds”.

MEET THE BAND

Phil Lang (USF MFA ’06) moved to San Francisco in 2004 to attend the University of San Francisco’s MFA in Writing program. Armed only with an acoustic guitar and a desire to tell stories, Phil composed volumes of songs during his first months in San Francisco. In early 2005, he and bassist Chris Hansen (USF MFA ’06 / USF MBA ’07) set out to create a band that could live up to the potential of these melodic narratives. After the first (and only) performance of the “Unofficial MBA Band” Phil and Chris united with Fernando (USF MBA ’06) and they immediately found a bond. But they did not yet have a band. It was only when they brought the drummer Kiernan (USF undergrad, ’10) into the mix that Bloomsday Rising was born.For an extended bio, visit: www.garageband.com/artist/bloomsdayrising

THE GIG

Bloomsday Rising played a lively and energetic set that at the same time was mellow and melodic. This equates to good songwriting-the material was eclectic, and the close-knit vibe of the band showed in the music. It seemed that the band has played many shows and has their live act down pat.

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Check out a live video we took of one of their song “Boy Who Rhymes”…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ivmmBcj1I1A

REACTION

The event was interesting because it brought together artists of many different styles and genres to an atmosphere that felt more like a friendly community rather than a competition. After Bloomsday Rising performed, the stage was opened up to announce the winners of the Masterminds competition. As the winners were announced, you couldn’t help but smile at the jubilant reactions of the artists. While this event was relaxed and stress-free, it was obvious that there was a significant amount of time and hard work invested in the various projects. It was nice to see people so happy.

Below is a slideshow of the gig.

To view more photos from the gig on Flickr, Click here

SF Oddities: The Dutch Windmill

Posted in digital journalism, golden gate park, san francisco dutch windmill, san francisco landmarks, SF Oddities, Uncategorized, web 2.0, why san francisco is awesome, windmills with tags , , , , , on March 31, 2008 by lenzbreakr

Since I moved to San Francisco over three years ago, I’ve always had a deep and genuine love for Golden Gate Park. From the first few weeks at USF as a freshman in 2004, I have always made it a point to enjoy the pleasantries the park has to offer-sun tanning and frisbee on the conservatory lawn, long-board cruises to Ocean Beach, the drum circle at hippie hill, a walk along Stow Lake-the list goes on and on.

I often made my way through the park, usually on skateboard, and would eventually wind up at Ocean Beach. I have always wondered about the huge windmill that sits about 100 yards from the beach, but never bothered to follow my curiosity until now.

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I once heard a story that the windmill was a gift from the Dutch and was either shipped or assembled here around the early 1900’s. I heard another story that the windmill is now the site of some kind of anonymous male homosexual activity.

Many others seem to have heard rumors as well. I went to the library and first spoke with Elyse, a student staff member who recently moved to San Francisco from Seattle. Since arriving here, she has not seen nor heard anything about the dutch windmill.

Another staff member (not a student, but she wanted to remain anonymous) has been living in SF for 9 years, and first visited the windmill soon after arriving in the city. She remembered hearing a rumor having something to do with Queen Elizabeth, and thought that there was some connection to the tulip garden that is located just southeast of the windmill.

After doing a bit of research, I found that there is an amazing history behind the windmill. What I found is quite different than the rumors that are circulating around town.

First of all, the windmill has nothing to do whatsoever with the Dutch except that its design is resemblant of a Dutch windmill. The structure was not a gift from the Dutch; rather, it was erected in 1902 as a solution to the lack of fresh water irrigation in the just-forming Golden Gate Park. At the time, the park and surrounding areas were nothing more than an endless series of sand dunes, hardly making the area ideal for vegetation.

However John McLaren, the superintendent of the park at the time, decided that the land needed to be developed and pushed forward with the project by ordering the drilling of wells near the coast to tap the fresh water source believed to be nearby. After much initial skepticism regarding the extent of the fresh water source and the amount of power the windmill would provide for irrigation, the windmill was finally completed around June 1902 at the cost of $20,000. Below is an original blueprint I found online.

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The original irrigation plan was this: strong ocean winds powered the sails, which were connected to a pump. The pump ran into the seaside wells and pressure within them forced water out at thousands of gallons per hour. The water then traveled into a main which ran through the park. The water main emptied into reservoirs at Strawberry Hill and Spreckles Lake, and these were the main arteries that were used to irrigate the entire park. Below is a link to a map showing the location of the Dutch and Murphy (see Murphy windmill info later) windmills, and the reservoirs they emptied into in relation to the entire park.

Here is a link to the map.

At the time, this method of irrigation was highly effective. The first windmill was so effective that a second windmill was built just south of the Dutch windmill, the Murphy windmill, named after Sam Murphy, a banker who invested $20,000 in the project. This second windmill was even larger than the first, making it at the time the largest windmill of its kind in the world.
By 1905, the two windmills were providing enough water to irrigate over 2 million trees that had been introduced to the park.

There was one man, one magical man that I would love to find, that lived in a cottage adjacent to the windmill and was available for ’round the clock repairs. During storms, he would manually have to apply emergency brakes to the windmills’ sails to keep them from spinning out of control and eventually ripping off. Could you even imagine….

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Then, it all came to a screeching halt, in one simple, yet bright word…

…Electricity…it has a certain buzz doesn’t it?

In 1913, electric pumps replaced the windmill-driven pumps in the wells in order to circulate water at a much faster rate. The windmills, only 10-12 years old, became immediately obsolete. They were abandoned, and soon succumbed to vandalism. In the early 1930’s, a huge storm destroyed much of the windmill’s interior. During World War 2, many of the windmill’s parts were gutted fr use in the war effort. And to put the icing on the cake, one of the sails was ripped off during a 1949 storm; the other two were soon removed by the city because they presented a safety hazard.

50 years went by and nothing happened. The windmills were neglected and abused. All of the sails and the observation deck on Murphy’s windmill eventually fell off, and today only the base remains. Below is Murphy’s windmill in original form, and then how it looks today.

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These amazing structures would prevail however, mostly due to the efforts of individual citizens such as Eleanor Rossi Crabtree, daughter of former SF mayor Angelo Rossi (1931-1943). Her efforts, along with the help of the John McLaren society and the Centennial Windmill Restoration Society, helped secure a $10,000 federal grant for the restoration of the windmills. Red tape kept the process from beginning until 1976, but it was successfully completed by a U.S. Navy unit stationed out of Treasure Island in 1981.

Currently the windmill’s seem to be fairly unnoticed, despite the fact that they seem quite odd compared to the architecture of the rest of San Francisco. One possibile reason for this is that the canopy of the park conceals the view of the windmill, even from just around the bend.

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Even from the Safeway parking lot across the street.

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Even standing about 50 feet directly in front of the windmill, the heavy shrubbery and thick tree canopy overshadow the much taller windmill.

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If you are anywhere near USF, the windmill is not visible at all. I have a pretty decent view near my apartment, which sits on top of a huge hill around where Anza st. hits a cliff directly above Ocean Beach.

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I couldn’t find any information online (which doesn’t surprise me much), but I’ve heard several rumors about the area around the windmill being some sort of hub for male homosexual activity. While spending time at the windmill I didn’t see anything that looked out of the ordinary, nor have I met anyone that has actually seen any activity of the sort, so I can’t confirm or deny the rumors.

If you haven’t seen the dutch windmill in person, I highly recommend packing a lunch and taking a trip through the park, working your way down the paths along JFK Dr. until you hit the windmill, which is situated at the very edge of the park nearest the ocean, between Fulton and JFK.

On a clear day, it doesn’t matter what time of day you make the trip. As you have seen, the views are amazing during peak hours of the day. The sunset is amazing as well. Even if you miss it, the minutes after dusk offer great views as well. If you walk along JFK Dr. to the corner where the park ends, you can look left and view the sunset, then look right and view the windmill in the dwindling light.

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Just a little further to the east (towards the middle of the park) you will find the Queen Wilhelmina tulip garden.

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The garden was given its’ name in 1962 after the death of the Netherlands’ ruler of 58 years. It fitting overlooks the dutch windmill, and offers some stunning views, along with benches that offer a nice place to sit, relax, and enjoy that lunch you packed.

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There is currently an effort to continue the restoration of the windmills, and to turn the area into a community recreation space. For more information and to learn how you can help, visit the Campaign to Save the Golden Gate Windmills.

Click here for the extended Flickr set with many more pictures AND…

…Below is a slideshow of some pictures I took from various angles near and around the windmill.

The Wyclef Experience

Posted in about me, university of san francisco, usf, wyclef jean concert on March 25, 2008 by lenzbreakr

When I first heard that USFtv would be shooting Wyclef’s new music video for “If I Were President“, my first response was simply, “cool!”. I wasn’t starstruck or nervous initially-I honestly couldn’t believed (based on some of my cynical views of USF) that we were even going to be given this amazing opportunity.

When the idea sank in and it came time for the shoot, my “cool” attitude began to subside a bit, and I began to realize what a tremendous task this would actually be. Fortunately, I wasn’t responsible for many of the stressful tasks involved in the process, such as dealing with University policies or Wyclef’s management. USF students James Kilton and Alex Platt spent many hours tying together loose ends and making sure that the shoot was even able to get off the ground.

The day of the shoot, like most shoots, didn’t exactly go as planned. It was interesting to observe the conflict management that went on between the student run crew. I believe the entire crew did an excellent job handling the crowd that showed up to participate in the shoot, handling Wyclef’s requests and his not too great time management skills, and making sure to maintain a standard of professionalism that would make for an MTV-quality video while complying with University standards and concerns about displaying a positive image of USF.

As the video shoot commenced and the night rolled along to the concert, the time seemed to fly by. I suppose I was having a bit of fun, and my adrenaline was pumping as well. It was awesome to be behind the lens of a camera shooting an accomplished artist performing amongst many of my screaming and jumping peers. I had to take a step back and soak it all in to fully realize and appreciate the opportunity I was given. It was surely an experience to remember.

Below is a link to the final version of the USFtv produced video for Wyclef Jean’s “If I Were President”.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=tVbTRHwhhEQ

Tahoe ’08: One Last Time

Posted in about me, snowboarding, university of san francisco, usf, USFtv Board with tags , , , on March 25, 2008 by lenzbreakr

4 a.m. wake up calls. McDonald’s for breakfast. Five, six, even seven hours cramped on a bus. Extreme, total body exertion for five to six hours. Back on the bus. Five more hours on the road. Maybe a bathroom break. Maybe a hamburger. Back to San Francisco by 10 p.m. Wake up Sunday morning and try to do homework, if you’re not too sore to get out of bed. School on Monday.

This is the life of USF snowboarders. For the last 4 years, this is how I’ve spent nearly every Saturday each and every winter with some of my best friends and fellow boarders here at USF. It’s not glamorous, it’s not pretty. We are smelly and crude and at times hung over. We are loud and obnoxious. However, we all come together, every Saturday at 5 a.m., to do something that we love, something that sets us free.

To some, snowboarding is just a fad that will soon die out. It is just an annoyance that after years skiers all over the world (unlike as recently as 5 years ago) are being forced to accept. To some, snowboarders are just punk kids that ride too fast, crowd the mountain and ultimately represent what many middle aged people hate-young cocky kids with no regard for anything around them except the ipod blasting some screaming gibberish into their ears.

To others, like myself, snowboarding goes way beyond that. It is not a trend or a fad that we follow to be cool. It represents more of a cathartic experience in which whatever negativity or unrest that may lie on one’s subconscious is washed away. In its place you are left with amazing visuals (360 degree views of snow capped mountains from the summit of Lake Tahoe), the sounds of nature, fresh and clean air, brilliant blue skies, friends, and clean, white, beautiful snow.

There is something about being 7,000 feet in the air and looking around at the mountains and trees surrounding you. It is a humbling feeling that you don’t often experience because you get lost in the hustle and bustle of a city like San Francisco. You look around and realize that nothing matters. You could die out here and nobody would even know it. It’s human vs. nature, and at times braving the elements can be dangerous and scary. Lucky for us, the weather was great for our trip; we had sunny skies throughout.

When I went on my first USF snowboarding trip, it was like Christmas when you’re five years old; the fun just doesn’t end no matter how early you wake up in the morning. I was tired and unsure of what was to come as we navigated the winding two-lane roads through the treacherous storm, but I quickly realized that the experience was something that I would soon embrace like a scared child clinging to their mothers’ bosom.

The draw of going on a USF snowboarding trip is that 1) the cost of the whole trip is only $45, which includes your ride to the mountain and your lift ticket (compared to at least $60 alone for a lift ticket and $100 on gas if you make the trip on your own), 2) you get to share the experience with fellow classmates and 3) it is a day trip, making it possible to fit the trip into your often hectic weekly schedule. Over the years at USF I have made many friends and have had great memories that I will never forget. Riding down a mountain at 30 m.p.h next to your friends on a clear sunny day is something that cannot be adequately described in words. It is feeling that you must experience to understand, a feeling that hits you as you look left and right and see your hall-mates from freshman year cruising by you, spraying fresh powder through the air. There is something very unique about that feeling-I’ve only experienced it in other forms once or twice in my entire life. The feeling brings us together, and the camaraderie that we developed over the years will never be forgotten.

Two weeks ago many of us took the last USF snowboarding trip of our lives, as we will soon be graduating. We will continue to ride after graduation, but in a sense it marks a sad point in our lives, as we will we never experience those same things with the same people under the same circumstances again. Thankfully we have amazing technology to capture it all, so the memories will live on forever.

Thanks to Eva Erickson, Christoph “Tito” Huber, Raja Iliya, Michael Marshall, and Hunter Patterson for all the good times, and for making all the pics and video possible.

Check out the slideshow and episode of USFtv Board from Northstar-at-Tahoe below, and click here to view the extended flickr set.

Thanks to Raja Iliya for helping out with photography.

USF Garden Update

Posted in organic garden, university of san francisco, urban garden, usf, usf organic garden on March 18, 2008 by lenzbreakr

In my previous post, I omitted a very point piece of information. I forgot to mention that a staff member in the Architecture department, Seth Watchel, is also contributing a great deal of time and knowledge to the project. He is actually working side by side with Melinda Stone as the faculty adviser to the garden project. Thanks to Valeria for pointing this out.

Going Green at USF

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on March 12, 2008 by lenzbreakr

On Tuesday March 11th, the campaign to “go green” continued at the University of San Francisco. Because the city is so unique and there are so many attractions so close to the centrally located campus, the University lacks a great deal of on-campus awareness and involvement. Therefore, it is difficult to get students to pay attention to important issues which may be going on right here in our backyard.

To promote “going green” and the push to recycle in general, the facilities department today displayed multiple bins of trash and signs with statistics about USF’s trash consumption. These facts were certainly eye opening, and I’m sure most people would be surprised to learn the information, such as the fact that USF produces 25 dumpsters of trash each day. Each dumpster winds up at the local landfill.

In my opinion, this type of advertisement to raise awareness on campus is exactly what we need. There is a lot of complacency and apathy in our age group, and we are used to flashing messages and stimuli being right up in our face. Hopefully efforts like these will convince more students to join the fun and go green!

check out the flickr set here, or a slideshow below.

USF Organic Garden Project

Posted in homestead, Kevin Koonz, organic garden, university of san francisco, urban garden, usf organic garden on March 11, 2008 by lenzbreakr

At the University of San Francisco, a communal effort is underway to “go green”. For starters, the University has begun a new recycling effort dubbed “recyclemania“, aimed at reducing waste and converting anything possible into compost.

In addition to going green, there is also an amazing effort underway to go organic. This year, 11 freshmen students-all women-connected through a living-learning community at USF, are growing a number of organic fruits and vegetables on a small plot of land next to the University’s Education Building. Check out their blog here.

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The land is available for gardening due to it’s odd shape, which would make it difficult to build on, and the strict building codes in the city that would make building extremely expensive, if a proposed plan was ever even approved by city regulations and neighborhood committees.

The young women that work in the garden live together on the same floor in Gillson Hall, and on Fridays they meet with media studies professor and organic farmer Melinda Stone. Together they spend half the day learning about organic farming and half the day putting that learning to practice out in the garden. The students completely operate the miniature farm, from planting to watering to turning over soil to weeding, with professor Stone guiding the way.

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The students all have a great attitude and eagerness to be outside under the sun and to be participating in this community effort to grow organic food in an urban setting. They were so friendly, upbeat and weren’t at all afraid to get their hands dirty.

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The variety of food that is being grown is incredible. There is broccoli, arugula, swiss chard, almonds, grapes, avocado, raspberries, blueberries, peaches, pears-you name it, they’re growing it. At the moment, it has yet to be decided where all the food will go once it is fully grown. Melinda Stone says that she offers it to those not involved in the project that come to visit the garden such as media studies professor David Silver, and she also eats some herself. Eventually a joint decision will be made as to what will consistently happen to the harvest.

Working alongside the freshmen women are students within the architecture department, who by the end of the semester will have built a greenhouse, toolshed, benches and an outdoor kitchen for the garden.

Students involved in the Environmental Science program at USF are also involved in the garden. They have a small plot of the garden set aside for an experiment that is being run to see whether plant’s that are native to the bay area can grow here at USF, which was once a huge series of sand dunes.

Here are some more pics and a link to the complete flickr set.

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While the organic garden on campus is relatively hidden, it is quickly drawing a great deal of attention. Kevin Kunze and Chet Bentley (below) are both freshman at USF and are making a documentary about the organic garden project for a Canadian HDTV show.

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They’ve been out in the garden with the girls on several occasions to gather interviews and film them at work. The film team is also working with professor Melinda Stone on a series called “How To Homestead”, which is worth checking out.

While hanging out with the documentary team, I ran into Curtis (see above), the mystical and elusive “secret gardener”. Once I actually met him, the legend and lore began to wear off and I began to see that Curtis is just a normal guy who likes organic gardening. He explained that he is affiliated with the dance department at USF, but he is not officially employed by the University. He comes to the garden 3-4 times a week and cares for a large portion of the garden all by himself. Curtis was soft spoken but had some very interesting thoughts about the earth, human relationships such as his relationship with the student gardners he shares his land with, and the future of the garden, which he envisions as a community project that anyone can participate in and benefit from. Check out a short interview with Curtis below.