Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Myrtle Street Review is Molting

Dear Readers, the Myrtle Street Review Headquarters has moved. We are no longer on Myrtle Street, and presently the Review is inside our thinking hat. We are working out what shape and form the Review should take next. Thank you for reading, and we'll see you in the New Year!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Celebrating Nordic Family Values: The Woolen Penis Movie

It's been a while since we celebrated my Nordic heritage here on Myrtle Street Review. It's time to watch some Swedish art, I feel, since I am practically part Swedish, being a descendant of Vikings who settled in Western Finland. Wait, does that make me part Norwegian? Never mind. Almost any reason would be reason enough to pay homage to the Flying Woolen Penises of Sweden. The rest of the baffling, fabulous output of Amauta Labs can be found here.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Top Five Reasons Why West Oakland's image is More Dangerous than the Reality

5. Teenagers who are actually not gang members get to act like big, dangerous thugs for being from there. Or even from near there. Or even from El Cerrito.

4. There are several Whitey Castles, ie. loft compounds with locking gates whose inhabitants never leave the confines of their castles on foot, believe their San Francisco friends about the terrifying things that happen "out in the ghetto" (direct quote from inside castle walls), and then repeat it as if it's the whole truth and nothing but the truth. And thank God for those gates. Except OH MY GOD THE GHETTO PEOPLE CAN CLIMB OVER THE WALLS! As we speak, the building of a moat and the installation of vats for boiling oil is being discussed on at least one Whitey Castle email list.

3. It's vital to the self-identity of the Burner Art Geek Man-Boys that they live in an Extremely Dangerous Urban Mad Max Wasteland, and the Self-Identity Protection Shield they have built from steampunk recycled metal parts prevents them from seeing the working class and middle class families and schools and churches.

2. It's vital to the self-identity of the Other Burner Art Geek Man-Boys who don't live in Oakland that their monthly trip to the Crucible is a Big, Dangerous Deal.

1. It's vital to the petit bourgeois sensibility of people who spend 75% of their income on crappy real estate in San Francisco that all of Oakland, but especially West Oakland where their much cooler Burner Art Geek Man-Boy software company colleagues live for about 25% of the cost, is a dangerous, ugly, scary hellhole where only idiots and criminals can possibly live. It's NOT cool! No way! It can't be cool because they are paying SO MUCH MORE to live in The Mission.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Portal Development

Here are the pothole portals and temporary graffiti on day 3 since they appeared. Sands of time, shells of souls.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Calling all Blowjob Fans

Our block is a popular blowjob destination, possibly an unfortunate side effect of our lovely, shade-providing trees. I'm no prude, and I can appreciate that a professionally administered blowjob can be a wonderful stress reliever and provide many other benefits that science will shortly discover.
But can y'all go somewhere else to do it? I'm tired of seeing it! Once you've seen six or seven blowjobs taking place in a different vehicles, you pretty much don't need more variation than that. It's not that special.
Almost every house on this block has kids, too. And a lot of our windows are high enough up that your lunch hour blowjobs are very VERY much visible to our kids, should they happen to glance out the window. I don't think it necessarily causes irreversible damage to them, but I'd still rather not have commercial sex be something they are actually watching happen at, like, age eight. You know what I mean?
If you think this kind of thing is fine for kids to see, do it in front of your own kids. And if you don't think it's annoying to have it happen in front of your house, do it in front of your own house!
And since that is probably not a realistic option, would you please just pick a block in West Oakland that's industrial, as opposed to residential? It's not like it's hard to find, you know. It's not any harder than finding a prostitute.
All blowjob aficionados that we see on our block are photographed, and from now on the photographs will be published here and license plate numbers will be provided upon request.
Thank you.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Portals in the Night

Myrtle Street pothole portals glowing in the night.

Temporary Graffiti

Another message from the netherworld?

The Pothole as Portal

Some potholes near the Myrtle Street Review Headquarters have turned into magical portals, with messages from the Netherworld.

Extreme caution is advised around the portals, as the vortex may still be functioning and may suck unsuspecting bystanders into magical realms. Or push otherworldly entities into ours.

The Myrtle Street Review strongly advises that everyone just do as we are told by the netherworld people.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Shoes in the Revolution

Melissa and Bobo had left behind these shoes for Brandon. They will be extremely useful in the Revolution, being Adidas and therefore of good quality.

The Revolution will start on Wood Street, near 26th.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Block Party Strawberry Dessert Recipe

Several people asked for the recipe for the strawberry dessert I made for the block party, so here goes. It's based on a lavender honey recipe I learned from my dad, and on an Italian-style dessert my mom makes every summer.

dried or fresh lavender flowers
2-3 pints strawberries
1 pint heavy whipping cream
2-3 tbsp sugar
1 drop vanilla essence
5 oz meringues (Size and shape is irrelevant, as these will be crumbled. I used a package of Spaan's vanilla meringue cookies from Whole Foods this time, but I prefer to use the amazing meringues geantes made by Siew-Chinn Chin for the Pop Up General Store - they are magnificent.)
Start in the morning or the day before by infusing your honey with lavender. I usually buy a squeeze bottle of good, runny honey and add 2-3 tbsp dried lavender flowers to it and just let it sit. I don't strain the flowers out, they add a fun bitter note if some end up in the dessert. I infuse a whole bottle at a time, because lavender honey is good to have around for various applications, like making salad dressings and putting on ice cream. But you could just do a smaller amount.
When it's time to make the dessert, cut your strawberries into halves or quarters, depending on size, and discard the greenery. Leave 5-6 strawberries whole, for decoration. Beat the cream in a mixer or by hand into a nice, fluffy, reasonably solid whipped cream, adding the sugar and vanilla essence to it towards the end.
Put about 1/4 of your total strawberries in the bottom of a large serving bowl. Drizzle with 2-3 tbsp lavender honey. Crumble about 1/4 of your total meringue on top of this. Then ladle in about 1/4 of your total whipped cream. Keep layering like this until you finish with whipped cream. Garnish with whole strawberries and drizzle a little bit more honey on top.
The lavender honey may feel like a cumbersome extra step, but it really adds something special to the dish. An unexpected and refined kind of note.
Serve with good, strong coffee.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Winners of this year's People's Award

Winners of this year's People's Award, given for general awesomeness by John and Sussu, People, are here: Alex and Christopher.
They are our neighbors and this is why we love them:
They planted trees and other plants up and down our block, making our urban environment healthier and more beautiful. They water and care for the trees and plants, making sure they get a great start.
They make sure our block is cleaner and more secure.
They have beautiful smiles and they are generous with them.
They have made two houses beautiful on our block.
They offer friendship, support and advise to all who ask and need it.
They build relationships with the Oakland Police Officers who come to our block and make them feel welcome.
They brought us new lovely neighbors.
They have great style.
They are the kind of neighbors anyone would be extremely lucky to have and WE GET TO HAVE THEM.
Thank you Alex and Christopher for everything beautiful you do, and for the neighborly friendship, energy, creativity and positivity you so generously share.

National Night Out

This year's National Night Out Block Party on our block was insanely cool. It was rather like the unbelievable ending of a cheesy Hollywood movie where all the neighbors show up and start singing and dancing, and somehow they are all ridiculously talented and put on a world class show and you're watching the movie and you think, yeah. Like that would ever happen in reality.

Except last night IT DID. All I had to do was step outside my door and there was a stage, and sound system, and pretty soon really unbelievable things were happening on that stage! Singing by massively talented ladies. MC:ing by massively talented gentlemen. Spoken word poetry that was real and powerful and moving. Prayers that were heartfelt and uplifting. Praise dancing that was moving and beautiful. Jessi and Eddie showed up again to do their fabulous fire hooping and fire spinning. It was electrifying all around.
There was lots of great food, too, and the requisite bouncy house and cotton candy and popcorn, and lots of smiling friendly people spreading positive vibrations.
I've lived in lots of places, but this is the first time in my life that I feel that I have real neighbors.
Thank you Tony, Alex, Christopher, John, and David, for doing the heavy lifting this year and producing an event that was even cooler than last year's! I think we are on a roll. I think we are changing the world: one corner of it at a time.

Love is in the air.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Specimen is Missing

The specimen from this biohazard bag I found in front of my door has escaped. If you find a lost specimen wandering around, contact the Myrtle Street Review and we will put it back in the bag.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Parking Lot Art

This intricate map on the Myrtle Street Review Headquarters parking lot depicts the location of the underworld lion.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Call for Artists: Come to Sugar Mama!

Artist, Writers, Musicians, Performers: Need a way to bankroll your great idea?

Come to Sugar Mama!

We provide wholesome, hearty, home-baked, all-natural microfinancing for artists, and we put the fun back in funding.

What it is

Sugar Mama is a fun-hearted, unpretentious microfinancing event for visual and performing artists.

How it works

We host a cool party at the Myrtle Street Review Headquarters in West Oakland. We sell the tickets. You − and 5 other finalists − give a 10-minute proposal to show the audience your project. The party guests eat soup, drink beer, and vote on which project to fund. The winner takes the proceeds to fund a project. (Tickets sell for $25-35, and we expect to sell 40-50 tickets.)

What you get (if you’re a finalist)

If you win the vote, you’ll receive the evening’s proceeds to fund your project.

If you don't win, you'll still get to meet 40-50 really cool people who want to support artists, may be artists themselves, and are interested in getting to know you and your work.

How to enter

Send a brief proposal to sugarmamaparty at gmail dot com. Please cover all these bases:

  1. Your name
  2. Your contact info
  3. Tell us what you’ll do with your Sugar Mama grant (Include a general description of the project you’d like to fund and a list of items/supplies/services you’ll spend the money on and their estimated costs.)
  4. Give us a little background information about what you’ve been working on that led you to this project and how your idea unfolded.
  5. Include images, audio, video or a url that will give us a good sense of your general style and/or a project you’ve completed in the recent past.
  6. Paste or attach your artist’s resume/bio. (Your resume will not weigh heavily in the selection process. We’ll use it mainly to cull a few highlights so we can better introduce you to our guests.)

Entry deadline: June 3

Act now! The first 10 submissions will enjoy slightly higher priority.

What we’ll ask for later

We’ll ask the grand-prize winner to keep us posted with news and photos/video/web site of your project in progress and upon completion.

What’s the deal?

We’re not a public agency. We’re not a non-profit organization. We’re two well-connected individuals, Sussu Laaksonen and Kris Vagner, combining our resources. We heard about Sloup on NPR and promptly decided to copy the excellent concept.

Sugar Mama's mission is to make being an arts patron fun, easy and accessible to everyone and to fund cool projects quickly, easily, directly and democratically.

Sussu Laaksonen is a script writer with hundreds of hours of Finnish television programming and two screenplays to her credit. Currently she’s working on a Finnish feature film called “Like There's No Tomorrow” (Kuin viimeistä päivää) for Helsinki-Filmi, a TV series concept, and a feature project that's still a secret. Sussu’s IMDB credits are listed under Susanna Laaksonen, her legal name. You can reach her at sussubot at gmail dot com.

Kris Vagner is the former Co-owner and Programs Director of Fireplace Gallery in Reno. She specializes in connecting artists with new audiences and illuminating the inner-workings of artists, exhibits and arts institutions for a general readership. She covers San Francisco art and culture for the SF Examiner and has written for Oats Park Art Center, Johansson Projects Gallery, East Bay Express, The Oakbook, Reno News & Review, Neon, Ceramics Monthly and other publications. For links to recent articles, please visit You can reach her at kris at vagner dot net.

Why do we do it?

Brooklyn has FEAST. Portland has Stock. St. Louis has Sloup. We heard about Sloup on NPR’s Marketplace, drank some wine on Sussu’s roof and cooked up our own version of the party-as-arts-funding plan. Now Oakland has Sugar Mama.

We've been in the position of needing just a little funding to do something we believe in. We've also been patrons of the arts when we can afford it. We believe in supporting other artists and creating enthusiastic community. Sugar Mama is a way of bringing together the things we love to do, and some of the cool people we like to do them with.


We’d love to hear from you. Contact us at sugarmamaparty at gmail dot com.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Guerrilla Garden Fruit

Well what do you know, now the tree in the middle of the Myrtle Street Review Guerrilla Garden is bearing fruit of poetry. Here's the current poem (which originated from Stephanie Stolorow's yoga class at Square One). If you'd like to pick the fruit, find this tree and just take it. I bet a new one will pop up!

One day the sun admitted:
I am just a shadow.
I wish I could show you
the infinite incandescence
that has cast my brilliant image.
I wish I could show you,
when you are lonely or in darkness,
the astonishing light
of your own being.

- Hafiz, a 14th century Persian poet

Friday, April 9, 2010

Inventor of Trampoline Dead

George Nissen, builder of the world's first trampoline, died today at age 96. He lived to such a high age, no doubt, due to the exhilarating and fitness-enhancing powers of the trampoline. It's a good thing we have a trampoline on our roof to jump on.

George Nissen was trampolining (or tumbling, as the official sport is called) almost to the end of his life.

In 2008, he said "I feel that I should have never left the sport. I should have remained as a coach or something involved in the sport as a profession. I love this sport, and it is the single most exciting thing that I have ever done in my life. When I was active in the sport I woke up every day with a smile on my face, a goal in my head, and a positive attitude on how the day was going to go."

He thought that giving up on the most fun thing in his life, and following others' advise to have a sensible professional career, was his biggest mistake. That's something to think about.

Very Mobile Homes

This guy called Paul made a bike trailer house for Burning Man. It has wind turbine power, a solar cooker and solar water heating. You can read about it and see pictures here.

Since a lot of people liked it, he had a design challenge on his blog for people to create a mobile home for homeless people, that you could use as a pushcart for recycling collection by day, and as a shelter for sleeping and living for night. It has a toilet, cooler, cooker, and everything. Incredible. I'd still prefer that homeless people have homes, but I guess this could be like a band-aid until then.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

West Oakland Historic Bike Ride

The awesome local bike shop, Bikes4Life, organized this bike ride on March 27. Did you know that the DeFremery Park is Oakland's first park? You'll learn that and many other interesting facts on the video. Hopefully there will be more rides soon! Check the Bikes4Life website for future dates, and stop by to check out their bikes or work on your own bike in their work space.

I miss those scraper bike guys, too, I wish they'd ride around the neighborhood again!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Birthday post

It's my birthday and Good Friday, and here's another note from the Analog Myrtle Street Review notebook.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Community, evolution, and business

I don't usually blog about businesses - there are lots of great Oakland blogs featuring our local small businesses and their offerings, and I love to read those and try to always support local when I can. Since that area is covered by so many talented, enthusiastic bloggers I don't feel like there is a need for me to be in that niche.

The reason I'm going to make an exception and write a little bit about Square One Yoga Collective (in Emeryville, a mere 2 miles from my house) is that for me, they are such a great representation of a trend I believe in and see as the way of the future. Square One looks to me like a business that is a strong, authentic expression of a person's beliefs and mission. The business is oddly stripped of "appearances" and that vaguely annoying and fake feeling that comes when yoga studios and other businesses are trying to be something that they think they should be to get my attention. You know that feeling you get when a yoga teacher is giving you "spiritual" teaching despite clearly being an ego-driven mess themselves? Or when a restaurant is so enthusiastic about its superiority you know that they don't actually buy their own hype? That awful saccharine taste of Marketing? It's so last decade. Last century, even.

I have been reading the blog by Square One's owner, Katy, and reveling in the naked realness of it. This is near-complete transparency. I have never before been a customer of anyone who so frankly shared the annoyances, triumphs, insecurities, and daily grind of being a business owner. She's not trying to make it pretty for fear that her customers can't handle real.

It's powerful. It's not why I've chosen this yoga studio - I like the studio and the teachers and think that they offer excellent value for my money - but it's incredibly liberating for me as a customer and student. It builds trust, because I feel like I am not paying for a fake image, I am just paying for a service that I appreciate. The lack of frills and the startling honesty may be why I commit to this yoga studio.

In a world full of people trying too hard, it's truly refreshing to engage with people who are just honestly trying.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Reaction to Balls

A brief message stating "Suck ma balls" elicited this fantastic response from a random poet in the Myrtle Street Review Live Notebook:

Long day running
that sharp cactus
over there
so calm and
patient compared
to me
But exitable
is good too.
My balls
Gotta go!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Myrtle Street Harvest

For the next few days, I will be posting some of the delightful harvest from the Live Myrtle Street Review Notebook. The first one is from our friend Gene at the great Our Oakland. Hi, Gene!

New Garden

A few pics from the Official Myrtle Street Review Guerrilla Garden.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Spring in the Parking Lot

The earth beneath our parking lot is particularly fertile. Aloe, small trees, and other plant life are constantly forcing their way to the surface and asserting their photosynthetical needs.

This is due to weather and other conditions in the netherworld - as I wrote earlier, everything there is upside down to us, so their water pressure and stomping herds of dead livestock push things out on our side of reality.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Give feedback to Oakland Police!

The OPD is working on their Strategic Plan Framework, and asking for feedback from the community. Go answer this brief survey, and be a part of making a difference.

My feedback includes suggesting they just call it a Strategic Plan. The word "framework" is totally unnecessary.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Pothole Gardens

Pothole gardening is the way of the future. I've guerrilla gardened the square of dirt around the tree in the sidewalk in front of our door, and this is where I'll take my efforts next. Join me in a silent, and really pretty, demonstration!

Gardens spotted on Apartment Therapy.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Arctic Psychedelia

Oh what the heck. Call it Finnish Psychedelia Week on Myrtle Street Review. Hertta Lussu Ässä can be found on MySpace and Last FM. The trio consists of the artists Lau Nau, Kuupuu and Islaja.

Pretty Music from Finland

It's still snowing in Finland. Here is a pretty music video that sounds like February light.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Easter Island Project - The Seeds

In April last year, the beautiful and talented Tiffany Lee Brown held a participatory art event here at the Myrtle Street Review headquarters. She shared a video of all the seeds created at her various events, some created here on Myrtle Street:

seeds of easter island feb 2010 from tiffany lee brown on Vimeo.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

We hope to welcome People's Grocery!

This week's Grub Box newsletter had very exciting news!

"...we are working on (...) the corner of Filbert St. and 30th St. in West Oakland. It is a 1/3 acre property that has tremendous potential to become an urban farm and training center. People’s Grocery is working with the owner of the property, the Northern California Community Loan Fund (NCCLF), to develop site plans, secure a conditional use permit and establish a lease with NCCLF. We are grateful to NCCLF for presenting this opportunity to People’s Grocery and providing us with funding in support of the planning and development of the site."

I can't imagine more exciting news to kick off 2010! Our own, very cool, excellent, neighborhood urban farm, just one block over! Back when I asked Myrtle Street Review readers to wish us well on our hopes for a community garden – this is even better. If you wished us well, thank you very much.

I look forward to supporting the People's Grocery in any way we can, and can't wait to see them at our next block party!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Specimens of Bafflement

Objects to bury around West Oakland to confuse future archaeologists: (all these can be found at our house)

- Kikkerland head massager
- Toy rooster with real feathers
- Plastic skull, real size, economy model from The Bone Room
- 15-foot chain of rubber bands
- plastic jar with vertebrae, probably from a fox
- Yoga Toes toe stretchers

Archaeological Responsibilities

I have been reading the absolutely fascinating report from the Cypress Archaeology Project, and marveling about the rich history of West Oakland. In case you didn't know, when Caltrans reconstructed the part of Freeway 880 that collapsed in the 1989 earthquake, they contracted the Anthropological Studies Center at Sonoma State University to examine the area, in compliance with section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act.

So between 1994 and 1996, the archaeologists dug up artifacts all the way back to the Victorian era: tea sets, cutlery, dolls, tools, bottles, witch balls, decorative objects, religious objects. They wrote really interesting reports that reveal a vibrant, diverse, cosmopolitan community. They examined gender politics, race relations, and social class distinctions. From what they wrote, it looks like West Oakland used to be an urban planner's dream: a socially and racially diverse, "walkable" community with easy access to shopping and services.

When we toss stuff in West Oakland now, we are leaving a picture of our lives for future archaeologists. I am thinking about burying some weird stuff just to provide a bit of a head-scratcher.

Monday, January 4, 2010

How the U.S. will break up this year

Igor Panarin from the FSB (formerly known as the KGB) has been predicting the “moral and economic collapse” of the US for ten years. According to Igor, it will all fall apart in 2010.

The break-up predicted by Panarin would be the result of mass immigration, economic decline and moral degradation, all of which would trigger a second American civil war, and the collapse of the dollar. This would then lead to the break-up of the United States, by mid-2010, into half a dozen regional sub-entities. These would be dominated or absorbed outright by foreign powers.

  • Alaska would revert to Russia, and Hawaii would become Chinese or Japanese.
  • The West Coast (the three Pacific states, joined with Idaho, Nevada, Utah and Arizona in a Californian Republic), would fall to China or at least be under Chinese influence.
  • A Texas Republic, which would also include New Mexico, Oklahoma and all the other traditionally southern states (except the Carolinas, the Virginias, Kentucky and Tennessee), would similarly be either directly or indirectly under the sway of Mexico.
  • The aforementioned southern exceptions would join the northeastern states in forming a bloc that might join the European Union.
  • The rest – all midwestern and western states – would be at Canada’s mercy.
I wonder what "moral degradation" looks like from a KGB perspective?

Item spotted on Strange Maps.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

How to get rid of neo-nazis and other right wing loonies

The Auschwitz Arbeit Mach Frei sign theft was organized by Swedish Neo-nazis, on commission from a wealthy British collector. The Neo-nazis were going to fund terrorism attacks in Sweden with the proceeds.

Which gives me some ideas. Since right wing loonies are hungry for terrorism cash and largely not in the top intellectual percentile, let's all start pretending to be wealthy evil masterminds and sending them on wild goose chases after crazy shit that will get them caught!

Go steal the Hope Diamond! Donald Trump's hairpiece! Dick Cheney's rifle! Go smuggle Barbies into North Korea! I'll pay you ten million as soon as you're done, I promise.

Speaking of Cheney, for being completely irrelevant these people sure manage to get press.

Photo from Mean Streets.
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