Thursday, February 28, 2008


"Wheat beer and women one hits on the bottom."
~What I heard a man in Germany say as a toast

Here I have considered a number of wheat beers that I drank during a year in Germany and Austria. Before reading, you ought to know these things: a.) Wheat beer is my favorite kind of beer, b.) I do not know more about beer than you, reader, know about beer, c.) I face-dove into a log in the forest when I was little and so can only respire out of one nostril, and I suspect that this inhibits my sense of smell and taste.

Erdinger (5.3% alcohol, Erding, Germany): The taste of alcohol in this one kicks like a surly donkey. Gather your taste buds off the floor of the barn and forge ahead—the flavor chills out a little bit and becomes bitter and spritzy, though never forsaking the pervasive and devilish smack of old-fashioned fire-water. Not the greatest.

Drink if you like: being kicked in the crotch by the Devil.

Franziskaner (5.0% alcohol, Munich, Germany): Relatively sweet. Banana-y and chocolaty at its center, like a delicious beer star whose nuclear core churns with bananogen and chocolelium. Mellow and complex, this is a beer which whispers its flavors to you while keeping its true personality hidden behind a veil of irresistible coquettery. Different tastes emerge variously during consumption, and always as sexy suggestions. Very good, great, shake its hand, slap its ass.

Drink if you like: unconsummated, ardent relationships with many delicious secrets.

Paulaner (5.3% alcohol, Munich, Germany): It is twilight. Doorbell rings. A man named Ted, standing nervously on a veranda framed by riotous ivy, mumbles a greeting and offers you a bouquet of cloves. With its scent come deeply felt memories of spices from the far East and that time you ate rust as a child. There's no complexity here, friend: eating rust was a straight-up shitty idea. Drinking this beer, however, could be a great idea. Go to the cinema with this simple stranger.

Drink if you like: Christian meekness.

König Ludwig Hell (5.5% alcohol, Fürstenfeldbruck, Germany): King Ludwig the Pale stands in the middle of a circle. "My name is Ludwig, and I am a beer," he stutters like a bitch-faced pansy. "Is that all you have to say to us, Ludwig?" asks the counselor. There is no give in her voice, no compassion in her gaze. A circle of eyes is fixed on the King. "No," he gasps after a pause. And this time with tremulous conviction: "My name is Ludwig, and I am a spicy beer." Now, why does this beer hide its attractive taste from us? Too coy to be great.

Drink if you like: Bitch-faced Pansies (the flower, Viola tricolor putensis -- similar aroma).

Franziskaner Dunkel (5.0% alcohol, Munich, Germany): The banana-y banana-iness of this beer bananas its way into your banana, bananalessly, until you can banana no banana in which bananas are not bananas. Banana told, there are better bananas out there.

Drink if you like: pineapples.

Weihenstephaner (5.4% alcohol, Freising, Germany): Its flavors must be sought after with the utmost care and delicacy, like truffles in the forest. A pleasant, mildly sweet bouquet dissipates moments after asserting itself, leaving in the mouth neither a good nor bad impression, but rather the absence of impression: a memory. Please drink this beer.

Drink if you like: being jilted at the altar by the love of your life, but having a sweet run of it up till then.

Maisel’s Weiße (5.4% alcohol, Bayreuth, Germany): Possessed of a lively, rooty, apricot-y, wonderfully bitter character that cockslaps your taste buds, hard, on its way down your gullet. Your taste buds touch the mushroom-shaped welt on their cheeks lightly with their fingers, their mouths slightly agape. “Holy shit,” they think, “I kinda liked that.” Indeed.

Drink if you like: the company of men.

Schöfferhofer (5.0% alcohol, Frankfurt am Main, Germany): Not unlike Franziskaner, except that this brew is up front about its aims and intentions. Sugary (but not overly so) and unabashedly wheaty, this beer drags you into a relationship marked by utter transparency, with all the dangers and sweet, sweet delights such transparency brings. So good.

Drink if you like: women/men who, forgoing pickup lines, just squeeze your junk and wink

Monday, February 18, 2008

The Slides of San Francisco: Children's Playground

Golden Gate park is home to many unique treasures, such as Bocce ball courts, a frolf course, and some beautiful but dilapidated Dutch Windmills.

Another treasure is the concrete slides of Children’s Playground. These slides are always teeming with diminutive thrill-seekers, so be prepared to wait in line, especially during the summer months. This can be a drag, but it also brings unexpected benefits.

The first is that there are always plenty of abandoned cardboard sleds strewn about!

The second is the opportunity to stand upon the shoulders of (tiny) giants to see farther and know more. Unlike the Seward Slides, these gray pythons don’t exactly ride themselves, and going to school off the failures and successes of small children in line before you will be essential to a smooth ride. Shallow chutes and low rails coupled with an unusual curvature force the uninitiated rider onto the shoulder or over the median. What’s more, the slide’s coarse terrain produces a lot of friction that can slow you down.

(treacherous terrain: rough and rugged, rugged and raw)

TYHIVN's advice: Cast a handful of sand onto the track before embarking to improve your velocity. Keep your sneakers tucked onto the corrugated board, shift your weight when you hit the turn, and resist the temptation to brake!

(on the shoulders of tiny giants, surveying the wreckage below)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Slides of San Francisco: A Photographic Essay in Four Parts

I never learned to propel a playground swing on my own. I couldn’t master the weight transfer of the leg kick. Even today I still need someone to push me. As a result I got the majority of my jollies on the slide. I was lucky to grow up where I did. The concrete slides I became accustomed to as a child are a lovely and unique feature of the city by the bay. Bring a cardboard toboggan and ride the slippery slopes of the first installment of TYHIVN's very first service feature!

Seward Street slides - Seward and Douglass Street

The Seward Street slides are the big island of the SF Slide archipelago. These twin chutes are seriously steep in and of themselves, but the view of the downtown skyline and the East Bay reminds you that you are riding a slide on top of a mountain.

As if the vertiginous height wasn’t enough to make your knees knock, ole Johnny Law ups the fear factor! What I do is just make friends with whatever children and accompanying parents you meet there and strike a deal that they will say you’re with them if the cops show up.

While both runs are painted a patchwork of grey from snuffed out graffiti, TYHIVN has learned from a source close to us who frequented these slides during elementary school circa 1994 that they were originally painted yellow and red, and affectionately referred to as ‘mustard’ and ‘ketchup.’ Longtime neighborhood resident Matthew Pantell clarifies: "More like blood and bile." And indeed he is right. These slides are serious business.

Surprisingly, the Seward Slides were designed by a kid (ForUsByUS) in 1973. From the Noe Valley Voice:
The curved double slide, which is a favorite destination of many a Noe and Eureka Valley child, was designed by a 14-year-old girl, Kim Clark, who won a "Design the Park" competition. Clark grew up on Seward Street and attended nearby Alvarado School, where she participated in a special arts program pioneered by Noe Valley sculptor Ruth Asawa.

"Ruth Asawa and her kids were very involved in the Slide Park project," recalls Kim's mother, Annette Clark. "To have children participate in the design was part of the philosophy of the time, which emphasized learning through the arts. We were very conscious of giving children opportunities to do design work."

Clark adds that her daughter's winning slide design was inspired by a slide that many of the city's children loved at the old Playland amusement park at Ocean Beach, torn down in 1972.

Kim Clark, your vision has provided thrills aplenty and also a place for teenagers to drink forties at night. Thank you.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Recovered Crafts of Childhood: Let’s Call it a Draw

“We have suggested that within the apparent unity of the theological code, the fundamental difference of antagonistic class positions can be made to emerge. In that case, the inverse move is also possible, and such concrete semantic differences can on the contrary be focused in such a way that what emerges is rather that all-embracing unity of a single code which they must share and which thus characterizes the larger unity of the social system. This new object – code, sign system, or system of the production of signs and codes – thus becomes an index of an entity of study which greatly transcends those earlier ones of the narrowly political (the symbolic act), and the social (class discourse and the ideologeme), and which we have proposed to term the historical in the larger sense of this word. Here the organizing unity will be what the Marxian tradition designates as a mode of production.”
- Frederick Jameson, The Political Unconscious

“By the beginning of the ‘50s, the very nature of the sport was changing – and not for the better. Boxing had planted the seeds of its own destruction by televising boxing matches…fans were content to stay at home and watch the bouts for free – which is something like eating a ham sandwich with the waxed paper on as far as I’m concerned.”
- Angelo Dundee with Bert Randolph Sugar, My View from the Corner: A Life in Boxing

This circular drawing could have become a serviceable vehicle for the preparation and consumption of such a ham sandwich. Originally destined to be immortalized in plastic as a functional dinner plate, this round of paper was either forgotten or deemed unworthy by my parents. It was never forwarded on to the fabrication stage. Like Angelo Dundee’s ham sandwich, its use value is solely hypothetical.

To this day my family only eats off of a collection of about thirty plates that I made. The early works are largely studies of color – erratic rainbow scribbles that occasionally make it difficult to see what food, if any, is left on your plate. The later works are mostly paeans to my favorite shows, action figures, and athletes such as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Inspector Gadget, and Will Clark. This boxing promotion was the last plate drawing I ever did.

My love for boxing was reared in the tradition of the Rocky movies: Crisp, clean blows traded swiftly, landed directly, articulated in a soundtrack of automobile accidents. This piece is therefore a tribute to the rigid organizational scaffolding that houses what is actually a messy and indeterminate sport. This drawing is basically a series of shout-outs to the delightful assortment of empirical outcomes (KO, TKO, Unanimous Decision, Split Decision, Draw) and rigid weight classifications (Heavy weight, Cruiser weight) of a brutal sport dependent on fallible human judgment and entirely inaccessible to statistical assignment or analysis.

In keeping with most of my childhood art objects, and what has become my favored interpretive stance on these relics, an orderly presentation belies a swirling set of contradictions lurking beneath. I am particularly curious about my decision to include that most unsexy of boxing outcomes, “Draw.” Unworthy of an exclamation point; bearing promise of nothing but a distant rematch. A humble declaration: “Draw.” Give me my money back.

As an imperative, this “draw” casts a new and revealing light on the social dynamics behind the production of this potential plate. I was literally being instructed to draw, to create, and it’s no surprise I buckled under this constant pressure to transfer my youthful creativity to the round page. Further evidence: the sloppy corrective lengthening pen strokes on the right side of the ring of emphasis lines emanating from “BOXING!”

The mode of production at work behind this drawing manifests itself in other striking ways that are less obvious. At first glance, the red mitten appears to be a poor rendering of a boxing glove. The oddly opposable thumb, however, leads me to believe it may be an unconscious rendering of an oven mitt. This oven mitt stands as an open acknowledgment of the purely functional value of the piece as dishware. Knowing that my work was destined to be a plate, this knowledge came to dominate what was now a self-aware artistic process. I was getting too old for this, and my mounting frustration with the limitations of the medium seeped into and corrupted my work. It’s no surprise that this round of paper was never shipped off to the processing plant.

I am proud, however, that this boxing promotion bares an uncanny and entirely coincidental resemblance to Kevin C’s glorious “Timeless Raps” graphic, which was created in MS Paint.