Use Your Smartphone to Swim Underwater With Bernal Author James Nestor

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Through the miracle of modern media technology, you can go scuba diving with Ellert Street neighbor and celebrity journalist James Nestor as he dances with dolphins deep below the ocean surface. Right now.

Neighbor James is the author of Deep: Freediving, Renegade Science, and What the Ocean Tells Us About Ourselves, an acclaimed book about people who dive deep in the oceans without using external oxygen tanks. More recently, he wrote a beautiful article for the New York Times about what scientists are learning about how dolphins and whales communicate with one another. Now, as an added bonus, the Times has produced a stunning virtual-reality version of that story that lets you use you use your smartphone to experience what it’s like to explore a sunken ship and swim underwater with whales.

Neighbor James tells Bernalwood:

Since Deep came out, people keep asking me what it was like to have your body vibrated by the click vocalizations of sperm whales, the world’s largest predators. I’d usually offer up a few clumsy adjectives, then shake my head and say, “Oh, you just needed to be there.”

In November, the NYTimes approached me and director Sandy Smolan with the idea of developing a virtual-reality (VR) piece based on Deep, specifically focused around cetacean freediving research. “The Click Effect” is the result. We just premiered it at Tribeca Film Festival.

I’d never seen VR before working on this film. I suspect most VR will be used for video games and porn, but it’s also a cool way to bring people into a world they’ll never see to get face-to-face animals they may not have known existed.

VR really is the closest thing to freediving deep and communing with these majestic, watery beasts that I’ve seen. And the best part about it? You don’t even have to hold your breath.

Tongue-in-cheek comments aside, The Click effect really is an amazing thing to experience. It’s optimized for VR rigs like Google Cardboard, but it also works as a simple 360-degree video that you can watch and explore simply by moving your phone to look around. (Headphones strongly recommended!)  As an added bonus, Neighbor James makes a cameo in a wetsuit. Raaawr!

The Click Effect is available for iPhone or Android, and you can experience it by following the download links at the top or bottom of his article. Try it!

PHOTO: Screengrab of Neighbor James Nestor in The Click Effect. Raaawr!

Bernal Hill Is Backdrop for NY Times Article on New Housing Politics

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In case you missed it over the weekend, Sunday’s New York Times described the shifting dynamics of housing politics in San Francisco, as a new generation of activists seeks to fight displacement and sky-rocketing rents by building more housing for everyone in San Francisco, more quickly.

The article is an interesting read for anyone who cares about affordability in San Francisco, but the online version of the story opens with a drop-dead gorgeous view of Twin Peaks and Noe Valley as seen from Bernal Hill during a perfect golden sunset.

From our hill, the City’s multitudes are revealed.

When you’re done bathing in the fullscreen warmth of that image, the article goes on to frame the housing debate as a struggle between old-guard San Francisco ideologues and a younger generation of activists who are priced out of the housing market:

Across the country, a reversal in urban flight has ignited debates over gentrification, wealth, generational change and the definition of the modern city. It’s a familiar battle in suburbs, where not-in-my-backyard homeowners are an American archetype.

In San Francisco, though, things get weird. Here the tech boom is clashing with tough development laws and resentment from established residents who want to choke off growth to prevent further change.

[Sonja Trauss from the Bay Area Renters Federation]] is the result: a new generation of activist whose pro-market bent is the opposite of the San Francisco stereotypes — the lefties, the aging hippies and tolerance all around.

Ms. Trauss’s cause, more or less, is to make life easier for real estate developers by rolling back zoning regulations and environmental rules. Her opponents are a generally older group of progressives who worry that an influx of corporate techies is turning a city that nurtured the Beat Generation into a gilded resort for the rich.

Those groups oppose almost every new development except those reserved for subsidized affordable housing. But for many young professionals who are too rich to qualify for affordable housing, but not rich enough to afford $5,000-a-month rents, this is the problem.

Adding to the strangeness is that the typical San Francisco progressive and the typical mid-20s-to-early-30s member of Ms. Trauss’s group are likely to have identical positions on every liberal touchstone, like same-sex marriage and climate change, and yet they have become bitter enemies on one very big issue: housing.

The Times article also includes some nifty multimedia audio and a cameo from our D9 Supervisor David Campos, so check out the whole thing.

Check Out the Phonographic Memories Podcast, Recorded in Bernal Heights

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We’ve said it before, and we know we’ll say it many more times to come:  Phonographic Memories is pretty special. Produced by Neighbor Corey Bloom and held monthly at the Bernal Heights Library on Cortland, Phonographic Memories is a live event for first-person storytelling about the relationships people have with the vinyl records they love.

You should check it out at the library, but now you can also enjoy Phonographic Memories from the safety and comfort of your favorite podcast streaming device. Cory  Bloom tells Bernalwood about the new Phonographic Memory podcast :

We here at Phonographic Memory used 2014 and 2015 to lay the foundation for our program, and really establish our live events at the Bernal Library and beyond. In 2016 we’re building up and expanding!

The podcast is our first step in that direction. We will be curating the episodes, selecting our favorite story and song combinations, and packaging them in easy to digest 10-15 minute episodes. We will release episodes every other week, so be sure to subscribe via iTunes. People can always stay up on our current happenings at PhonographicMemory.org, or on Facebook.

If you’re interested in presenting, please shoot us an email at Register@PhonographicMemory.org. Our next event is February 24th at the Bernal Library, starting at 7:00 PM.

As always, thanks for the support.

Your Bernalwood editor listened to Episode 1, and it’s really really good. Want a preview of what to expect? Here’s the teaser for the series:

Bernal Filmmakers Producing “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” Headed to Sundance Screenwriters Lab

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Bernal Heights filmmakers Joe Talbot and Jimmie Fails just got some more good news about The Last Black Man in San Francisco, the feature-length film they’re now producing after completing a successful crowdfunding campaign last year.

They’re going to Sundance!

Specifically, they’re going to the Sundance Screenwriters Lab, which is a huge deal in a pre-production sort of way.  Team LBMSF writes:

Our script was just accepted into the Sundance Screenwriters Lab!!!! This is HUGE. Over 5 days, we will workshop the script with industry mentors that Sundance has selected for us at the Sundance Resort in Utah. Past attendees include Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream), Wes Anderson (Bottle Rocket), Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station), Ben Zeitlen (Beasts of the Southern Wild) and many, many more. From there, we will go to the Sundance Film Festival and Joe will be joined by producers, Khaliah Neal, Carlton Evans, Michael Kontomanolis, and Natalie Teter to meet with other industry players as well as potential crew. (Between us, there are a couple DP’s we have our eyes on.) Beyond all those wonderful things, being selected for the Labs is one of the most coveted seals of approvals in the industry.

Big red carpet congrats!

To track the progress of The Last Black Man in San Francisco as it makes its way to the big screen, like the Facebook Page or sign up for their glamorous mailing list.

Neighbor Jeanne Carstensen Reports on the Refugee Crisis on Lesbos

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Journalist Jeanne Carstensen just returned home to Mullen Ave. in Bernal Heights, but not long ago she was on the Greek island of Lesbos, reporting on the Middle Eastern refugee crisis. A sample of the experiences she had there:

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Asas doesn’t have enough money to pay the smugglers and worries how he will be able to work in Turkey, where Syrians have no legal status. Nour checks his cell phone frequently looking for a message from his contact. He shows me the life jacket under the table. He had expected to take a bus to the boat the night before but the hook up was called off due to iffy weather. Now he doesn’t know for sure when he will leave.

Yet they both insist on inviting me to tea. This detail — of hospitality offered in a moment of extremis — sticks with me. I had gone to the Basmane neighborhood with some trepidation. After all, it’s the center of human trafficking, as it’s called, the business of moving people illegally across borders. Looking around me I wondered who was who, who was a trafficker, or a middleman, or a refugee. But when I sat down to interview Asas and Nour and others with my microphone held close to their faces I quickly felt at ease.

I offered to pay for the tea but they would not accept. And when beggars came by our table, the refugees reached into their pockets for coins. No one was turned down.

In this video filmed on Lesbos, Neighbor Jeanne explains how the refugee situation there has unfolded:

Hat Tip: Neighbor Mark

PHOTO:  Scene at the Sindad Cafe in Lesbos, by Jeanne Carstensen

Vicky Walker Stars in New Podcast About Bernal Heights History

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The fabulous Vicky Walker is no stranger to Bernalwood readers; she’s a co-founder of the Bernal Heights History Project and an intrepid seeker of artifacts about the people and places that made our neighborhood what it is today.

As befits her status as Bernal’s Minister of History, Neighbor Vicky was recently invited to be a celebrity guest on the Outside Lands Podcast, an audio show created by Woody LaBounty and (former Bernal neighbor) David Gallagher of the Western Neighborhoods Project, to talk about the history of Bernal Heights.

Listen and learn, right here!

PHOTO: Bernal Hill, circa 1925

Superstar Bernal Journalist Is Co-Host of New KQED Podcast

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Bernal Neighbor Amy Standen lives on Gates, but she also happens to be an audio-famous public radio reporter for KQED. (That’s Neighbor Amy on the right in the photo.)

Her radio work is always lively and whip-smart, and now she’s co-hosting a brand-new KQED podcast called The Leap. Here’s how she describes it:

I’m spreading the word about a new podcast. My new podcast! I’m making it with my friend Judy Campbell, who in regular life produces KQED’s Forum.

The podcast is called The Leap  and it’s about people trying to transform themselves somehow. Each episode — one every other week — introduces you to a person in the midst of such a leap, and then kind of spirals out to the people around them and their own weird transformations.

We launched this week with two stories: Episode 0 explains what we’re all about and previews a few upcoming stories.

Episode 1 is an actual story, our first. It chronicles the invention of a really bad smell (this smell) and traces its journey from a high school kid’s bedroom through the decline of the American manufacturing industry to a fake Iraqi battlefield.

Next story comes out on October 20, and it’s a tear-jerker.

Your Bernalwood editor listened to Episode 1 yesterday, and it was… engrossing! Wonderfully so. The first installment of The Leap tells you everything you ever wanted to know about the bizarre history of Liquid Ass — which perhaps may not seem like something you ever wanted to know anything about, but which is actually rather fascinating once you hear the tale. Of course, that’s the hallmark of a really good podcast.

Congrats to Neighbor Amy and her co-conspirator Judy Campbell, and tune in.

PHOTO: Courtesy of KQED