Flickr credit: DBaron 

They Should Paint The Bay Bridge Gold

The bridges of San Francisco have a complicated relationship with one another. Almost a classic sibling tale, the Bay Bridge should have every reason to be jealous and spiteful of the Golden Gate, but it's not. Despite all the photographs and gushing over its more picturesque sibling, the Bay Bridge holds its tongue and does its duty.

The Bay Bridge is older, by a full six months, and it's charged with more responsibility — supporting over double the amount of traffic of the Golden Gate (280,000 vehicles compared to 110,000) — and it is a thoroughly more complex structure. No one marvels at the engineering feat it took to build two entirely different dual-leveled spans — each one longer than the entire Golden Gate — and connect them through an island in the middle of the bay. Yes, the Bay Bridge has had its troubles with earthquakes, but it's still standing, and that should count for something.

I also have to point out that the Bay Bridge has somewhat of an identity crisis with its name. It was unofficially christened the James “Sunny Jim" Rolph Bridge, after the former California governor and San Francisco mayor, who died just before the bridge opened. But that name didn't stick. For the new eastern span, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors has decided to call it the Emperor Norton Bridge, after a British-born citizen of the city who declared himself "Emperor of these United States." That's a great name, but it's only for HALF of a bridge. The whole thing is officially called the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, a hyphenated catastrophe of a name that was clearly settled upon by two liberal parents too strong-headed to make a decision.

The locals shortened this to “The Bay Bridge,” but the nickname adoption makes the bridge feel like one of those kids on the corner that you see in every 1920's gangster film: Sammy, Joey, Nicky, or what-have-you, who sells newspapers and lives in a group home. Those kids are usually killed or kidnapped, to give the good guy of the story a narrative direction. It's a pretty sad state of existence for something as useful and important as a bridge.

But let's be honest, the Bay Bridge is the black sheep of the San Francisco bridge family. It has broken down and been beaten up, and had to have more retrofitting and reconstruction than its younger sibling. The fact that the whole eastern span has had to be redone is emblematic of how people feel about the Bay Bridge. It's ugly, gray, and never the center of attention. Compare the 75th anniversaries of each bridge to learn everything you need to know about the dynamic between them. For the Golden Gate's 75th — an orgy of fireworks, music, and more fireworks that would have made Prometheus glow with pride. For the Bay Bridge — a display featuring the timeline and history of the bridge hidden away on Treasure Island, in a warehouse nobody could find.

The Golden Gate is the younger sibling that comes along and steals all the attention, because it's newer, cuter, and more innocent. But in many ways, the fawning over the Golden Gate makes sense. It was built as an attraction. Complete with walkways, viewpoints, and bike lanes, the Golden Gate connects San Francisco's former-military Presidio district to the beautiful Marin headlands. Those are the hills where mountain biking was invented for god's sake. Compare that to the Bay Bridge, which leads from San Francisco to Oakland, a city that one out of every fifth white person is still afraid to visit.

And don't get me started on how everyone goes gaga over the Golden Gate's suspension cables, the color it popularized (international orange), and how frickin eery and beautiful it looks when fog obscures the tops of the towers. The Bay Bridge never stood a chance, really.

You might have reason to believe this will change. News reports across the country are talking about the Bay Lights, which are San Francisco's belated birthday present to the bridge. Billed as the largest LED sculpture in the world, these lights combine to make the western span of the bridge the trippiest visual stimulus the world has seen since the iTunes visualizer. They'll draw tons of tourists and visitors, and give the Bay Bridge the kind of spotlight it has never had before.

While these lights are truly spectacular, they're only supposed to be around for two years. Imagine the day they take the lights down and how sad it's going to be. It's like your kid going off to an Ivy League school, becoming student body president, and then flunking out a year later. An admirable accomplishment, but in the end a disappointment you've arguably wasted money on.

So it seems as though the Bay Bridge is condemned to a lifetime of playing second fiddle. Unless...

Unless we paint the Bay Bridge gold. At least the western span.

Now, hear me out. I know this sounds like a dumb idea, but I promise it'll pay off. Think about it — everyone loves a good prank, right? So how funny would it be if tourists on the Embarcadero started walking towards the gold-painted Bay Bridge, only to discover that the bridge they're looking for is back three miles in the other direction? And there are other reasons, beyond trolling, to go ahead with this plan:

  • Think of the pedi-cabs, and how much this would earn them in revenue. Shuttling tourists from one bridge to the other is their equivalent of a taxi's airport run, so this would help spur the local economy a bit.
  • It's good branding. The 49ers' colors are red and gold, and international-orange and gold is pretty close to that. Maybe changing the color of the bridge will help the team think of moving back from Santa Clara. OK, it probably won't, but it'll continue to tie the team to the city even if they don't play here anymore.
  • It'll help the Bay Bridge's confidence. A new eastern span and a new coat of paint after two years of lights will do wonders for its self-esteem. I guarantee that after the first paint job you'll see the bridge begin to socialize again, and talk proudly of everything it accomplishes each week. Maybe it'll even take up jogging.
Next Story — Tweet: The Most Lucrative Branding Accident of All Time
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Tweet: The Most Lucrative Branding Accident of All Time

Say “tweet.”

I know it’s embarrassing, but really, go ahead and say it right now. Actually, forget that and just read this next sentence out loud:

“Did you see Obama’s Tweet about the situation in Syria?”

How did that feel? Kind of embarrassing? Kind of like you can’t really believe you said it out loud, right? And it wasn’t the fact that you know nothing about international politics, couldn’t find Syria on a Google map search, or had a hard time not calling him President Barack Hussein Obamacare.

It was the word tweet.

I was driving across the Golden Gate Bridge when I heard NPR’s uber-intellectual radio host, Michael Krasny, use the word for the first time in his career. I could hear the agony in his voice when he said: “Or tweet us at @NPRForum.” It sounded like he was trying to pass a verbal kidney stone.

The word tweet never fails to catch my ear. It also never fails to sound consistently ridiculous. And I hear it more and more, and more, and more. Whether watching TV or listening to the radio, in overheard conversations or the ones I’m having, the word is being used with increasing frequency.

We’ve all heard the cliche that “it’s better to be lucky than good,” and when it comes to Twitter’s billion dollar brand, that’s partially true. There’s no doubt that Twitter is indeed an “incredibly powerful real-time information sharing network which has transformed communication.” I wonder if the company would be as ubiquitous, though, had it not stumbled upon the word tweet? As we all know, “tweet” was inducted as both a noun and a verb into the canonical Oxford English Dictionary in 2013. Even the almighty “google” has failed to reach that milestone.

And the best part is that the word wasn’t created by some swanky South of Market ad agency. It wasn’t part of a marketing plan “project” developed by some sucker Stanford grad students doing free labor under the guise of “real world experience.”


According to Silicon Valley lore, it first morphed from “Twitter update” to “twit” because a third-party developer (let us call him The Accidental Tweetist) thought the existing language was “too wordy” and “boring,” but was probably due to an excessive intake of Red Bull butting up against an overworked keyboard. It further evolved after a Twitter engineer came to the existential realization that it was better to be a “tweet” than a “twit.”

This happy accident turned out to be the best branding non-decision the company could have made, or not made, because in spite of the sheer alliteration of the word, it is also undeniably audible in just about every situation. It marries an incredibly simple and utilitarian product with the light and fluffy imagery that Twitter has gone on to embrace.

Upon flapping blue wings, the word tweet has alighted around the globe, the second most significantly feathered event of the last decade, close behind the spread of the Avian Flu.

Next Story — you’re not listening to music properly.
Currently Reading - you’re not listening to music properly.

you’re not listening to music properly.

didn’t know there were options.

As of lately, music has become this expected experience. I’ve always had this strange sense that I know how I’m feeling; don’t take my word on it, I’ve been wrong before.

I don’t mind opinions. I don’t mind music that isn’t specifically arousing to my ears. Just don’t tell me that I’m listening to music wrong. Sure, say that I’m sitting on a toilet wrong and that maybe we were all meant to turn around and face the tank instead of what we once knew as forward. I’ll give it a try and tell you how I feel about it. My passion and curiousity for music won’t allow me to not listen to anything that is placed in front of me. I’ll give it a listen and if I like it, well you’ll catch me culture club bouncing along to your tunes. If I don’t like it, I’ll give you a shrug and continue in my pursuit for musical tranquility and all that literal jazz. But no I won’t fucking vibe to your music. Sorry that your music doesn’t fascinate me. My deepest condolences to your feeling of potential and musical superiority. Instead of changing the music for the desired results, people are hellbent on manipulating the opinion. Consider that it’s not people that don’t understand but that you are putting a fingerpainting in a room full of Van Gogh’s screaming and pointing “this is art!”. We hear you and we’ll get to you once everything else loses it’s appeal.

Since improvement isn’t an option, the idea of complete spiritual bullshit arises; where there are lethargic twits, there is some spiritual bullshit not to far. Using “vibe”, “third eye” and other divine language isn’t going to change the actual quality of the music. Telling me that my energy isn’t clear enough to hear what you made, won’t make it any less some shit. I can hear the music but I can’t hear what you’re listening to.

I am not living through the music, huh? Not saying that music isn’t a spiritual experience. Music is more than just an experience, it’s the empathy human kind was promised. I just won’t fake the sensation for the sake of the atmosphere. If you want people to dance, make them dance. Complaining that people don’t dance to music anymore isn’t the picture you should be looking toward. Turn around and realize that if your music doesn’t entice movement, we’ll all be standing still; which we are.

Say what you want about different genres. But no genre is a crappy genre. No matter what genre you throw on the table, I’ll toss at least five decent artists that are universally appealing in that genre. Change up the sound if you want to but all sounds stem from another which is the definition of a sub-genre. The sound may be rare but that shouldn’t affect the audience. The audience doesn’t go out listening for specific sounds but instead hears something entracing and is trapped. Music is a trap; songs get stuck in your head and sounds get released through your movements. Instead of manipulating the people by being pretentious, allow the music be the compelling dictator.

Model your music after Hitler.

In the end, it may be hated and bedeviled but it will be remembered and influential enough to remain eternally unmatched.

Next Story — Welcome to Squatuary
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Welcome to Squatuary

Squat your way to splatter-free domestic bliss

If you live in a household with men, boys, or anyone else who pees standing up, I recommend easing them into the idea of sitting down to pee by having them agree to try it for the rest of the month of February.

You might find that the clean-up time saved and the happiness that is brought to your household encourages you to carry this idea well into Squarch and hopefully all the way through Squatober.

If you found value in this article, it would really, really, really mean a totally lot to me if you hit the recommend button!

h/t to Refe Tuma and Dinovember!

Next Story — My eyes are up here
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My eyes are up here

Why you should put down your phone before it’s too late.

I’m in the middle of a sentence when your phone dings and you are immediately engrossed in a picture of your cousin’s sandwich.

I ask you: can you take a bite of the sandwich? Is she able to tear off a corner and pass it through the screen? I’m sure Google has a lab dedicated to the problem. It’s probably a decent sandwich—maybe even a BLT—but, is it worth appearing completely inconsiderate during a face-to-face conversation? Or, rather, face-to-face-to-phone.

When my seventeen year old brother-in-law checks his texts while I’m trying to relate to him, I can find forgiveness. He’s a teenager. He’s only just begun to develop the kind of interpersonal skills expected of an adult. The texts are probably from girls—I can’t compete with that.

You, on the other hand, are a grown man. You have a job, a wife, children. You learned to interact socially before computers fit in our pockets, before our most mundane thoughts could be broadcast to the world, before our downturned faces were lit by the faint glow of progress.

Yet, here you are, staring at your phone. I stop talking to see how long before you notice the silence. You chuckle to yourself, unaware. Kitten photo? I should record this and make you watch. I have a phone in my pocket too, you know.

I wonder if your unhealthy preoccupation with your phone continues to grow unchecked, if your social awareness ‘IRL’ will atrophy. If you’ll notice your circle of legitimate friends dwindling as your online social networks expand and your tweets are retweeted by individuals with higher and higher Klout scores. I imagine your children starting an arms-race for your attention, acting out in greater and more spectacular ways while you counter with sharper outbursts and more pronounced irritation (they are interrupting your Important Online Activities), your sex life eroding, the ever-shifting mirage of potential future opportunities in your online networks overshadowing your current position, leading to a deprioritization of your work and dissatisfaction from your managers.

That’s probably when you’ll call me up, looking for sympathy. Regaling me with tales of woe. I’ll listen, because I’m a nice guy, but in my head I’ll be thinking I’ve heard this all before.

After all, I already follow you on Twitter.

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