Monumental Bay Lights Project Goes Live in Grand Lighting Ceremony

The Bay Lights Grand Lighting Ceremony video via Xconomy

History will show that on March 5th, 2013 San Francisco’s reliably temperamental weather patterns greeted the debut of The Bay Lights public art project with a brief rainstorm. Which is wholly appropriate. San Francisco is not a fair weather city, so any art planning to last years on the the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge better be designed to handle the elements.

Opening night video by Khuong Truong

The rain lasted a few hours, just long enough to frame the official ceremony featuring San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and (former mayor) California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom. Undeterred, at 9pm Pacific time they flipped the switch (err, pushed the laptop key) to boot up the 25,000 LED lights that comprise Leo Villareal‘s monumental public art piece. San Franciscans gathered along the piers north of the bridge and in numerous suggested viewing spots to see the first burst of LED white and the steadily evolving patterns that followed. It will turn on at dusk daily for 2 years.

Bay Lights is installed on the north side of the western span of the bridge (attached with 60,000 zip ties) between San Francisco and Yerba Buena Island. The project has been privately funded, and is still raising the final quarter of their $8 Million goal. It is estimated the lights will use only $30 of electricity a day or $11,000 over 2 years.

Photo by by Michael Dillon

Photo by Michael Dillon

Artist Leo Villareal drew on his background in sculpture and computer programming for both the installation design and the algorithmically-generated dynamic light patterns. He cited the monumental works of Christo and Jeanne-Claude and the generative art works of Brian Eno amongst his influences as well as his time attending the Burning Man festival in the 1990’s where he also programmed his first light sculpture.

Bay Lights photo by Matt Mullenweg

Photo by Matt Mullenweg

At a press conference earlier in the day Mayor Lee said he could see the current two-year permit being extended for some time. San Francisco has a habit of extending public art beyond its initial sunset date–the Defenestration building was expected to be up less than a year and after a recent renovation has been there 15 years.

We first covered The Bay Lights in 2011 and last featured it about a month ago. Here’s a timelapse video featuring the changing patterns of Bay Lights in action, seen over San Francisco’s Market Street from a test around that time:

At one point within the first hour the lights were on, Bay Lights’ evolving constellation of white LEDs was augmented by a cluster of moving red and blue lights. No, it wasn’t a patriotic American display, just a pair of SFPD cars that had some urgent business on the bridge. It just goes to show that unpredictable elements will always turn up in public art.

You can tune into a live feed of the Bay Lights at any time. Hint: nothing really happens until it’s dark.

Live streaming video from acmelive

SF MusicTech Summit XII In San Francisco


The SF MusicTech Summit XII takes place on February 19, 2013 at Hotel Kabuki in San Francisco. For many years the SF MusicTech Summit series has tracked the overlapping industries of music and technology from every possible angle.

These events are attended twice a year by bands, music labels, coders, CEOs, streaming music services, app developers, marketers, instrument makers, journalists and everyone in between. This year’s list of speakers and panelists includes representatives of companies like BitTorrent, Rdio, and Austin City Limits Live; writers from Techcrunch and; and artists DJ Young Guru and Zoë Keating amongst many others.

Below Michael Franti of Spearhead performs at the most recent SF MusicTech Summit.

SFMusicTech 2012-10-09

Photo by Michael O’Donnell

Roller Derby’s Roots in Depression-Era Dance Marathons

This trailer for the 2008 roller derby documentary Hell On Wheels covers the sport’s unlikely 21st Century revival. But there’s an even more surprising story of how this modern all-female, full-contact sport has its roots in dance marathons of the 1920s which were endurance competitions for couples that sometimes lasted a thousand hours.

Those live events were also a predecessor of contemporary reality TV as they mixed celebrities with regular people and drew huge interest by offering thousands in cash prizes during the Great Depression. They also profited their organizers, grossing millions each year. Here’s more details on this fad of the 1920’s and 30’s:

Contestants and spectators alike bought into the staged excitement and competition. Spectators could cheer, make wagers and root for their favorite team, even interacting with the dancers, chatting with them and throwing money. Contestants were enticed by the potential for fame and fortune, from prizes of several thousand dollars to performing contracts, and were fueled by the audiences’ support and applause. Like professional wrestling, the contests were fixed, but both sides bought into the simulated reality of it and participated heartily, provoking each other and egging each other on. The newest episodic entertainment, spectators would return day after day to follow their heroes and see more drama unfold.

In 1935, former film promoter and cinema owner Leo Seltzer was the first to put the coupled competitors on wheels, and so dance marathons evolved into (the term Seltzer trademarked) “Roller Derbies“. The debut event drew a crowd of 20,000 in Chicago. Roller derby historian Jim Fitzpatrick gives more details about those co-ed derby marathons in this interview:

For a roller derby research marathon: visit “roller derby” on How Stuff Works and see lots more roller derby videos here. And watch this documentary for fantastic details on early dance marathons and roller derbies, if you don’t mind it’s own slow-pace…

Animated Primer on Mexican Drug Cartel Violence

The Violence of Mexican Drug Cartels” is beautifully diabolical, an impeccably designed animation telling the troubling tale of the current Mexican drug cartel war and how the United States is tied to the violence.

“Tens of thousands are being murdered, and over a million are being forced to flee their homes. U.S. laws and policy play a major role in the conflict’s violence. This video is about understanding the complexities of the war and why it is happening.”

Designed by ishothim and published by

via Boing Boing

Syd Barrett and Pink Floyd TV Interview and Performance (1967)

Syd Barrett, the original lead singer for rock band Pink Floyd was born 66 years ago this week. This clip from May 1967 shows the band on the BBC television show “Look of The Week”, where Austrian interviewer Hans Keller, who had “grown up in the string quartet” says he finds the Floyd sound too loud after hearing them play “Astronomy Domine” live. Here’s how the exchange is described on Wikipedia:

Keller was generally puzzled by, or even contemptuous of, the group and its music, repeatedly returning to the criticism that they were too loud for his taste. He ended his interview segment with the band by saying the words “My verdict is that it is a little bit of a regression to childhood – but, after all, why not?”

Keller’s commentary throughout is laughably un-hip and blind to the emerging culture of the 1960s, but there is some truth in that last line. Syd was destined to end up in a rather child-like state due to his prodigious experimentation with psychedelics and other drugs. Less than a year after this appearance Syd was out of the band, effectively replaced by David Gilmour, due to his increasingly unpredictable behavior and reduced creative output.

Barrett released a few solo albums after leaving Pink Floyd, but none of it rivals the heights of The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, Floyd’s first album, on which Syd wrote most of the songs. He lived largely as a recluse until he passed away in 2006. But his legacy is immense, not only from the band he co-founded. Amongst those who have acknowledged his influence are Paul McCartney, Marc Bolan, Brian Eno, The Damned, XTC, Tangerine Dream, and Robyn Hitchcock.

Syd Barrett in 1969

photo by Mick Rock via Wikipedia

CLOUDS Interactive Documentary on Digital Art

The CLOUDS project is a documentary by James George and Jonathan Minard about current hacker-art practices. It features interviews with thirty artists, curators, designers, & critics and was created with an open-source software library called RGBDToolkit in the RGBD 3D cinema format. CLOUDS software gives viewers the ability to chart different paths through a database of footage via keywords or search queries rather than having a single static version of the film.

CLOUDS Data capsule with laser etched 3D pointcloud

The interview subjects in CLOUDS include Bruce Sterling, Casey Reas, Daniel Shiffman, Diederick Huijbers, Elliot Woods, Golan Levin, Greg Borenstein, Jer Thorp, Jesse Louis-Rosenberg, Jessica Rosenkrantz, Joel Gethin Lewis, Josh Nimoy, Julia Kaganskiy, Julian Oliver, Karolina Sobecka, Karsten “Toxi” Schmidt, Kyle Chayka, Kyle McDonald, Lindsay Howard, Marcus Wendt, Marius Watz, Nick Fox-Gieg, Paola Antonelli, Philip Whitfield, Rachel Binx, Regine Debatty, Satoru Higa, Shantell Martin, Sofy Yuditskaya, Theodore Watson, Vera Glahn, and Zachary Lieberman.

The CLOUDS Kickstarter is fully funded and will end on Jan 8, 2013.

Rodney Dangerfield 1978 Standup Routine With a 16-piece Band

This 1978 footage shows the great no-respect-getting comedian Rodney Dangerfield (aka Jack Roy aka Jacob Cohen) doing his signature schtick in front of a 16-piece band who play after his punchlines, like a drummer doing rimshots.

Via Wikipedia, here’s some great trivia about the origin of the “Rodney Dangerfield” name and character:

He took the name Rodney Dangerfield, which had been used as the comical name of a faux cowboy star by Jack Benny on his radio program at least as early as the December 21, 1941, broadcast and later as a pseudonym by Ricky Nelson on the TV program The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. The Benny character, who also received little or no respect from the outside world, served as a great inspiration to Dangerfield while he was developing his own comedy character.

Winning a New Ice Cream Truck on Price Is Right in 1962

You were wondering what The Price Is Right game show was like 50 years ago, right? Now you know: this clip from New Years Day 1962 shows a very different game where players guess the cost of expensive jewelry instead of a box of Rice-a-Roni. This first version of the show debuted in 1956 and was hosted by Bill Cullen with announcer Don Pardo (later famous as the voice of Saturday Night Live).

The final round has a Jolly Roger Ice Cream truck up for grabs instead of “a new car” which became the pinnacle of prizes on the Bob Barker-hosted “New Price Is Right” starting in 1972. The clip also includes ads for show sponsors Newport cigarettes (“the soothing coolness of menthol”) and Anacin (“Fast fast incredibly fast relief”).

jolly roger ice cream truck, 1960