When the ancient Polynesians invented surfing, they often used a paddle to help them navigate. Fast-forward a few millennia, and Stand-Up Paddleboarding, or SUP, finds itself trendy again. Part of its increasing popularity is that standing upright allows surfers to spot waves more easily and thus catch more of them, multiplying the fun factor. Paddling back to the wave becomes less of a strain as well. The ability to cruise along on flat inland water, surveying the sights, is another advantage. Finally, its a good core workout. If youre sold on the idea, schedule an intro SUP lesson, free with board and paddle rental, and you may find yourself riding the waves like a Polynesian king.More
In the past 30 years, light artists have reimagined an art form that has always had the ability to turn the night sky, or a simple window, into luminescence. Last fall, the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts turned its southern glass wall into a parade of sound-sensing lights, Lightswarm, that changes with the movements of nearby people and things. Future Cities Lab, the San Francisco design company behind Lightswarm, has originated another notable light sculpture. Located by the YBCA's steps at 701 Mission, Murmur Wall will light up in arresting ways as it incorporates local trending search engine results and social media postings. Onlookers can offer their own contributions, which will feed into the Murmur Wall's data stream and light up the sculpture. What's trending in San Francisco? If you're walking by the YBCA, you can see firsthand — at least through light patterns that reflect the city's volatile internet habits.
Murmur Wall debuts Thursday at 6 p.m. and continues through May 31, 2017, at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission St., S.F. Free; 415-978-2700 or ybca.org. More
In 2013, when Catharine Clark moved her eponymous gallery from 49 Geary to the Potrero Hill area, she gave herself more room to work with, including a dedicated media space that has shown indelible work by such artists as Shalo P ("The Bedroom Suite"), Nina Katchadourian ("In a Room Full of Strangers"), and Andy Diaz Hope and Jon Bernson ("Beautification Machines").
One projects a cartoonish bird into a rickety castle in order to destroy villainous green pigs. Somehow, that synopsis survived a pitch meeting -- and any subsequent analysis -- to become Angry Birds. And if you haven't heard of Angry Birds -- well, don't admit that to your adolescent children. Or your Ph.D-possessing wife. Or anyone glued to their damn cell phone, firing away bird after bird at those damn pigs, investing serious amounts of time -- and, perhaps, a little money, too. Angry Birds is just about the most successful videogame there is.
It's a good question. We asked a psychology professor and videogame designer in hopes of finding out.
"The things that are happening are all very innocuous and happy and friendly," notes Seppo Helava, the co-founder of Self Aware Games. "For a game called Angry Birds, the birds aren't all that angry."
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Unlike, say, Farmville, Angry Birds, created by the Finnish firm Rovio, is not at all a bad game. Helava is impressed by the physics of the collapsing castles induced by the projected birds -- and notes that it's very easy to redo an errant shot. "You do something, you see what happens, and with no delay, you can try again. That keeps people playing. That lends to its addictiveness."
Probing deeper, however, the videogame designer notes that the repetitive motion of shooting the birds followed by the collapse of the piggies' castles is akin to pulling on the handle of a slot machine -- another notoriously addictive activity. "Whereas with the slot machines there's no pattern, in Angry Birds there is -- but it's very hard to figure out," says Helava. In order to solve that pattern, we are compelled to "pull the trigger over and over again." And, as he noted before, Angry Birds makes it exceedingly easy to do just that.
The addictiveness of Angry Birds' repetitions made sense to Mel Joseph Ciena. The University of San Francisco psychology professor is a developmental specialist. And he stresses that "repetitive actions are very important in anything we do.
"It's what makes a song a No. 1 hit. We always gravitate to the the familiar. And repetitive actions are something we start out with earlier in life. Anything that's repetitive is attractive to us almost from the time we're born. Certainly by six months."
Ciena does not count himself as an Angry Birds devotee, however. In fact, he claims to have never played a videogame -- and he's not much enamored with those who spend vast amounts of time doing so.
"It gives you the false impression you're competitive and achieving something, but, really, you're achieving at things that are relatively safe and anonymous," he says. "It becomes addictive because you get the false impression you are improving as a person. But you are improving at the wrong thing -- you're just becoming an expert at a frickin' game."
The professor notes that "people can convince each other something is fun and then they're part of the in-group when they play it." It's not likely the videogame-shunning prof and the videogame designer see totally eye-to-eye on this matter, but Helava does believe one of the big reasons Angry Birds is a big deal ... is because it's a big deal.
"A lot of its momentum is due to the fact it has momentum. It became self-sustaining," he says. "Once you know everyone is playing it, what's the investment for me to play it? Ninety-nine cents? Or you can play the free version and get quite a feel for it."
In any event, it certainly beats slot machines. Or Farmville.
Full disclosure: Seppo Helava is a longtime friend of the author.
Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left.
"Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015.
He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.
Sub Pop recording artists 'clipping.' brought their brand of noise-driven experimental hip hop to the closing night of 2016's San Francisco Electronic Music Fest this past Sunday. The packed Brava Theater hosted an initially seated crowd that ended the night jumping and dancing against the front of the stage. The trio performed a set focused on their recently released Sci-Fi Horror concept album, 'Splendor & Misery', then delved into their dancier and more aggressive back catalogue, and recent single 'Wriggle'.
Opening performances included local experimental electronic duo 'Tujurikkuja' and computer music artist 'Madalyn Merkey.'"