Hunter S. Thompson Would No Longer Recognize San Francisco

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By DAVID STREITFELD

I have on my wall a poster that Hunter S. Thompson, an early mentor, gave me when I moved to the Bay Area. Called “Open Letter: San Francisco, Oct. 25, 1960,” it is Hunter’s stream-of-consciousness portrait of a city soaked in booze and romanticism, a place of rebels and deadbeats and those who had run out of luck:

City of hills and fog and water, bankers and boobs — Republicans all. City of no jobs … City of no money except what you find at the General Delivery window; and somehow it’s always enough … San Francisco, edge of the western world, where you can drink all night and jump off the bridge to beat a hangover, where you can sell encyclopedias because no other job is available, where you refuse to sell encyclopedias because you have better things to do.

San Francisco is no longer that city.

Thanks in large part to the rise of Silicon Valley, San Francisco is now about money more than alienation and self-discovery and creating art. Technology has moved the city from the edge of the world to the center.

But this boom does not benefit all residents, and those left out — the majority, it seems — have begun to vocally question what is going on. The topics roiling San Francisco are the same ones driving the presidential campaigns: inequality and a shiny future that does not seem available to all.

If you live here, you can feel the Bay Area becoming the capital of Technopolis. My house is way out on the BART line, just about as far from Silicon Valley as it is possible to get via public transportation, and yet the advertisements in my station speak only to the geeks: “Is your CRM a plus or a minus?” The University of San Francisco, aspiring to be Stanford, hangs posters from streetlights touting itself as the “University of ‘Look, Mom, I just got funded.’ ” The area still has its natural beauty, but attempts to enjoy it must be plotted like military campaigns: The 32-mile trip back from the beach on Presidents’ Day took me two hours.

Silicon Valley’s unofficial motto is that it is here to improve our lives, and while in many respects this is true — who among us would willingly surrender their Gmail or iPhone camera? — San Franciscans are beginning to realize what they are asked to give up in return: San Francisco.

My story last week documenting some aspects of this transition prompted over 1,200 comments. Some of them suggested I didn’t go far enough when I said people here were waiting for some shrinkage in the tech bubble.

“Count me as one native who will now dance upon the employment graves of every tech bro as he falls to ruin,” wrote Anna, saying she had watched a friend’s “sick, elderly mother tossed out of her home by a wealthy techie.”

Others literally want the earth to move: “Many of us secretly wish for another shaker — no one gets hurt but the ones that aren’t used to it pack up and get the hell out,” said SMedeiros.

More nuanced were those who saw both sides of the issue. The city Hunter Thompson lived in more than a half-century ago, as tech boosters will surely point out, might have been cheap but it did not supply many good jobs.

“The tech boom has brought undeniable benefits to the city, including low unemployment, rising real estate prices, which benefit homeowners like us, and improved health care with state of the art hospitals,” wrote Christopher Rillo. “Yet the city has lost part of its soul, been diminished by this new gold rush.”

Another commenter summed up the situation in 10 words: “Wealth is just as capable of ravaging cities as poverty.”

One unexplored consequence of all this wealth is that Silicon Valley’s well-chronicled problem with diversity is now beginning to reshape the surrounding community. “SF has become one of the most racially segregated cities in the U.S.,” wrote G. Harris. “This rarely gets mentioned. At most public events I attend in SF I am the only Black person. The same is true when I eat in restaurants.”

Evictions are moving up the income chain. It used to be that you got evicted if you didn’t have a job. Now it can happen if the value of your rental rapidly increases to more than you afford to can pay.

“ALL of the renters I know are facing the prospect of eviction, and most of us are lucky enough to make a decent salary,” wrote Jenny. “It’s crazy.”

Yet another group expressed regret that Silicon Valley, which is so fond of attempting impossible things it calls them “moonshots,” is trying so little in this respect.

“It is appalling that the very bright people making this wealth can’t seem to figure out a way to assist their less fortunate sisters and brothers,” wrote rbjd.

That seems to be the crucial issue. The future that Silicon Valley is building could improve the lives of everyone, or it might only be a playground for Silicon Valley.

The tech community insists it is working for all, but the situation increasingly brings to mind “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” the iconic 1956 horror movie — set in a San Francisco suburb; the 1978 remake takes place in the city itself — of people being replaced by new and improved body duplicates.

One of the “Invasion” characters, freshly converted, advises a few holdouts: “Give up! You can’t get away from us! We’re not gonna hurt you!” Silicon Valley’s advice is similar. Put your life in our hands, the tech people say, and everything will be fine. Build more housing. Much more. Traffic might be so bad you can never leave your house, but don’t worry — we’ll be delivering everything you could possibly want via drone or Uber.

For the moment, at least, fewer people in the Bay Area seem to be buying those promises.

BEING EDWARD HOPPER ~ NYT

It’s no longer enough to like our favorite artists’ works. By putting on Hopper’s fedora, Picasso’s striped shirt, Warhol’s wig or Kahlo’s colorful couture, we want to become their avatars.

A young woman who admires works by Warhol finally goes to a gift store and buys his “fright” wig.
Credit…Millie von Platen

By Blake Gopnik

Jan. 30, 2023

The Musée Picasso in Paris, home to a vast trove of its namesake’s masterworks, is offering a striped Breton shirt that makes it easy to adopt the great Cubist’s signature look for a mere $70 or so.

On a web page for the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum, in Washington, you can buy high-top sneakers covered in the “infinity net” pattern that is an artistic trademark of Yayoi Kusama, the 93-year-old Japanese art star. They cost $360, and the Hirshhorn shop has sold 44 pairs.

The gift shop at the Whitney Museum of American Art displays a $118 Hopper hat, a felt fedora that’s an almost perfect match for the one in Edward Hopper’s most famous self-portrait, which the museum owns.

If visitors are willing to spend that kind of money to dress up like a favorite artist, that’s because today’s art-loving public finds as much inspiration in creators’ personas as in the works they create.

Jennifer Heslin, director of retail operations at the Whitney, said that over her quarter-century in museum marketing, she’s seen visitors become ever more interested in goods, like the museum’s Hopper hat, that give them “a connection to that creative impulse” in the great artists who act as role models.

Self-portrait of the artist Edward Hopper in a fedora, blue shirt, green tie, black jacket, against a light green wall.
Edward Hopper’s “Self-Portrait,” 1925–30.Credit…Heirs of Josephine N. Hopper/Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
A felt fedora has a classic pinch front crown with a 2-1/2 inch brim, much like the fedora in Edward Hopper’s “Self-Portrait” (1925-30).
A felt fedora, chosen to imitate the one in Edward Hopper’s iconic “Self-Portrait,” is at the Whitney Museum store.Credit…via Jens Mortensen

One of the world’s many immersive “experiences” dedicated to Vincent van Gogh sets itself apart from all others with a virtual-reality component that gives the chance to be “fully immersed in the mind” of van Gogh. An immersive built around Frida Kahlo can proudly proclaim that it is “presented without reproductions of the artist’s paintings” so that it can dwell instead on “the incredible story behind the legendary artist.” It’s been popular enough to get programmed in 15 cities worldwide.

Six decades ago, Andy Warhol helped set us on this course, for good or ill, when he first made his persona count for as much as his paintings or films. The creation that truly changed the whole future of art was the living sculpture called Andy Warhol, forever updated to suit the times it was in.

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HOW FOREST GUARDS IN LIBERIA PROTECT THE SACRED RAINFORESTS ~ NPR

January 29, 2023

RICCI SHRYOCK

LISTEN· 3:03

In Liberia forest guardians are making their small, but vital contribution to the protection of the rainforests – sacred in many parts of this corner of West Africa.

Alta snow

Season snowfall total to 445 inches (11.3 metres) — officially the deepest start to the season (October through January) in the 43-year history of the original study plot just east of the Upper Guard Station. 

crédito total Dr. McKenzie Skiles] 

Jerry, the photo is not of the Collins Study Plot, which is located midway up the mtn in the background near top of Collins lift.
The photo is of the original study plot just east of the Upper Guard Station. Once a season we would dig and do a complete pit and plot it on a large graph. The year record, That is what is going on in the photo.
P.Lev

AS THE COLORADO RIVER SHRINKS, WASHINGTON PREPARES TO SPREAD THE PAIN ~ NYT

.The seven states that rely on the river for water are not expected to reach a deal on cuts. It appears the Biden administration will have to impose reductions.

A wide photo of a dry, rocky landscape on the edge of a lake. A lone houseboat floats near the shore.
The shore of Lake Powell in Page, Ariz. Along with Lake Mead, it provides water and electricity for Arizona, Nevada and Southern California.Credit…Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

By Christopher Flavelle

Graphics by Mira Rojanasakul

Jan. 27, 2023

WASHINGTON — The seven states that rely on water from the shrinking Colorado River are unlikely to agree to voluntarily make deep reductions in their water use, negotiators say, which would force the federal government to impose cuts for the first time in the water supply for 40 million Americans.

The Interior Department had asked the states to voluntarily come up with a plan by Jan. 31 to collectively cut the amount of water they draw from the Colorado. The demand for those cuts, on a scale without parallel in American history, was prompted by precipitous declines in Lake Mead and Lake Powell, which provide water and electricity for Arizona, Nevada and Southern California. Drought, climate change and population growth have caused water levels in the lakes to plummet.

“Think of the Colorado River Basin as a slow-motion disaster,” said Kevin Moran, who directs state and federal water policy advocacy at the Environmental Defense Fund. “We’re really at a moment of reckoning.”

Negotiators say the odds of a voluntary agreement appear slim. It would be the second time in six months that the Colorado River states, which also include Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming, have missed a deadline for consensus on cuts sought by the Biden administration to avoid a catastrophic failure of the river system.

Without a deal, the Interior Department, which manages flows on the river, must impose the cuts. That would break from the century-long tradition of states determining how to share the river’s water. And it would all but ensure that the administration’s increasingly urgent efforts to save the Colorado get caught up in lengthy legal challenges.

The crisis over the Colorado River is the latest example of how climate change is overwhelming the foundations of American life — not only physical infrastructure, like dams and reservoirs, but also the legal underpinnings that have made those systems work.

A century’s worth of laws, which assign different priorities to Colorado River users based on how long they’ve used the water, is facing off against a competing philosophy that says, as the climate changes, water cuts should be apportioned based on what’s practical.

The outcome of that dispute will shape the future of the southwestern United States.

“We’re using more water than nature is going to provide,” said Eric Kuhn, who worked on previous water agreements as general manager for the Colorado River Water Conservation District. “Someone is going to have to cut back very significantly.”

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