Friday, November 13, 2009

Frisco Veterans Parade Turnout Among US Cities Lowest...Again

Year after year after year, I've watched as people replace the three magic words with various saccharine substitutes: "Support the troops. Bring them home", "dissent is patriotic," - none of it feels like real affection to most of the roughly 50,000 who served and now live in San Francisco.

At Sunday's San Francisco Veterans Day Parade, just a few hundred casual onlookers showed up. That much is typical, has been ever since the Vietnam War. But what chilled me in reading SF Chronicle reporter Alejandro Martinez-Cabrera's event coverage was how only a 23-year-old ROTC volunteer Martinez interviewed expressed any regret at the low turnout.

According to parade chairman and Veterans Affairs Commission president Wallace Levin, one of the reasons behind the crowd-free parade is this city's cynicism about the military.

A decade ago, he says he hoped to confront a lack of "patriotism" in the city, maybe change some minds. But by coaching himself to see the bigger picture - that America is great because of dissenting cities like San Francisco - he's come to terms with the lack of affection in this city.

While shooting this video, however, I discovered that factors besides our "cynicism" might have been responsible for the low turnout, much of it related to the advance publicity of the event.

The Chronicle, in its advance brief on the event, reported the wrong time for the parade, which resulted in droves of people showing up at 1 p.m. for an 11 a.m. march, parade director Renie Champagne said.

Add to that that broadcast publicity was sparser this year, as at least one radio station dropped its sponsorship due to a lack of funding.

But the greatest publicity failure was online. Beyond a blog or two, there wasn't anything, presumably because Champagne was accustomed to mailing out press releases to the traditional media. "That's all that the public gets," he said.

The veterans sourced in the Chronicle's coverage of the parade, many of them older, either seemed wistfully trapped in the past - recalling vivid memories of triumph after WWII - or discounted the 2009 public's lack of appreciation. The parade marshal was even quoted as saying this year's parade was the best he could remember. Maybe he even meant it.

But beneath the code of silence, most vets in this city are secretly grieving over this. Purple Heart Navy legend Renie Champagne is one of them. He's directed the city's parade 59 years. After choosing his words carefully during an hour-long interview in his living room, the floodgates opened when we broached the concept of defending freedom. His eyes welled up. He went quiet. He looked me in the eyes, as if pleading, for the first time in the interview.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Operation Hey Mackey: Flashmob Protests Whole Foods' CEO in Oakland Branch

Feeling conservatives had "usurped" the limelight in the debate over healthcare reform through a series of high profile stunts and remarks, advocates of reform staged a goofy counter-attack, forming a flash mob Sept. 26 in an Oakland Whole Foods in response to the CEO's recent Op-Ed in the Wall Street Journal in which he argued healthcare is not an intrinsic right.

At 6:11 p.m., 35 protesters, who had been fake-shopping the aisles of the green foods giant, convened at the middle of the store, and launched into singing "Hey Mackey, you're a swine," some shouting it into a megaphone and others dancing a choreographed jig as a live orchestra blared from all directions.

One of the market's security guards, visibly overwhelmed, questioned the group and eventually police were called, but no complaints have been filed. Seeing the store had no plans to interfere, the performers completed two renditions, then leisurely filed out through an entrance to stage a continued demonstration on the sidewalk.

The market's manager declined comment. An employee at the customer service desk griped that the group was likely ill-informed about CEO John Mackey's stance on healthcare. He suggested the large turnout had more to do with the ease of arranging protests through social networking Web sites than anything pithy.

The presumably liberal audience was otherwise receptive. One or two shoppers joined the action. Even employees struggled to hide their amusement by the outburst.

There were some extreme reactions.

One patron who was shocked to discover Mackey's stance on healthcare reform left the store vowing to join the nationwide boycott of Whole Foods. Another shopper argued that despite his stance on healthcare reform, the Whole Foods founder should be commended for helping improve the country's diet by offering a health foods alternative that has contributed to keeping Americans out of the hospital.

Organizers dubbed the event a wild success, but admitted the true test -- whether wind of the event travels beyond the liberal Bay Area -- had yet to come.

Cameras: Matt Dibble, Regan Brashear, Adelaide Chen, Cassidy Friedman, Jamie Lejeune
Editors: Cassidy Friedman, Jamie Lejeune
(Media organizations wishing to obtain a clip of this video, contact video journalist Cassidy Friedman at or 415.717.1485)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

NEWS: SFJFF shows "Rachel"

Booing and hissing between spastic applause like children at a carnival, the Castro Theatre turned into a peanut gallery. The festival's executive director Peter Stein more than once asked the audience to listen to one another respectfully, to which the overwhelming majority of attendees hurled back a deafening bedlam of approval, drowning out the director's voice.

As Rachel's mother, Cindy Corrie, put it during the Q & A, the battle raging in the theater had less to do with herself, her daughter or the film than with pre-existing differences of opinion within the Jewish community. Forget whether the film was any good. This audience had already made up its mind some time between 1948 and when the curtains opened.

Friday, July 10, 2009

NEWS: Vote for Pablo campaign reveals what Giants fans are made of

The final spot on the 2009 All-Star National team was a no-go for Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval.

But in the final stages of the vote, more fans went on the internet to have their say than ever before. The San Francisco baseball team's fans surprised even themselves when some voted hundreds of times (there was no limit), and others caste thousands of votes.

The lead switched hands between Shane Victorino and Sandoval a half-dozen times during the course of this week's vote, driving some fans to drink, one to vote so much his wife threw a shoe at him, and still others to harass their friends to caste more votes. Even Mayor Gavin Newsom plugged for Sandoval.

This video captures the stress, glory and failure of how it all went down.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

NEWS: China Town residents fight off eviction

Seventeen Chinese American families who won a pitched battle in June with their landlord, San Francisco City College, to remain in their apartment building was one of the greatest tenant success stories in San Francisco history - a no-bullshit instance where David beats Goliath. And yet all the tenants had to say about their triumph was (translated from Cantonese) "this is really convenient."

After shooting a couple hours of video footage at the grand opening at Columbus Street Cooperative, I figured I had a disaster on my hands. I'd captured a zillion soundbytes from the city's top hand shakers, who had turned out in droves to effuse about the historical moment, condemning SFCC with clenched fists in the air and applauding the tenants for bucking the system that wanted them out of the city - with a helping hand from the San Francisco Community Land Trust, which bought the building and reshaped it into a permanently-affordable resident-owned cooperative.

But when the tenants spoke, any emotion they harbored seemed to get lost in translation. I shared a somber moment with my co-shooter, Jamie Lejeune: "The only good stuff I'm getting is coming from the mouth of politicians. Arghh!," I said.

"Same here," he said.

I probed the building up several flights of stairs and entered the apartment of a disabled elderly woman sagging in her wheelchair, able to watch the ceremony only by peering down through her dining room window. Using the building manager as an interpreter, I asked questions to elicit a gut reaction.

"You speak only Chinese. From the sounds of it, you rarely travel outside Chinatown - where all your family and friends live. You can't afford another place in the city," I said. "What would relocating to somewhere else mean for you?"

She mumbled a few words - maybe only half of a really long word -- which the translator turned into an epic: against all odds, I get to hold onto my living situation. The outside world freaks me out. We fought long and hard for this. And we won.

Yeah right. If I had been interviewing the twinkly-eyed interpreter I would have had a banging story.

Ultimately, I did record some color: "We were scared," Mrs. Ru M. Peng, who with her husband and children faced eviction after occupying the same building for 18 years.

LeJeune, himself a member of the cooperative who had lived several years in east Asia, broke it down for me after the shoot, explaining the San Francisco touch-feelyness I've grown accustomed to here doesn't resonate in Chinese culture.

Short of the building burning down halfway through the ceremony, I would never unearth the hidden emotions I knew lay just beneath the surface.

Maybe I'm editorializing a tad here, but I'll argue to the grave I'm not, when I say: Take all this to mean when Mrs. Peng says she's scared, the matron really means she's never been more terrified in her life.

(If the video is down, click on this link)

Thursday, July 2, 2009

News: Will San Francisco's Bison Herd Survive The Recession?

San Francisco's aging bison herd is threatened with extinction. Only five remain after one of the pack was euthanized in April due to disease and old age.

The bison recently returned to a new, $1.2 million dollar improved paddock in Golden Gate Park, but with a shortfall in the city budget that could mean cuts for public safety or programs that serve the poor, the money it would take to repopulate the shrinking herd is more than a little daunting.

Appeal videographer Cassidy Friedman went out to talk to those closest to the historic herd, got a look at the old ladies themselves, but ended up with more questions than answers. Maybe we shouldn't be asking "will they survive the recession?" but "should they?" -- Eve Batey(SF Appeal)

NEWS: Owe The City Money? Working It Off May Be Harder Than You Think

In some counties, citizens who can't pay off the debts they owe their city end up in county jail. San Francisco's Superior Court, however, has one of the country's most compassionate payment plan programs for debtors who can't immediately pay off their debts to the city. So there's a lot to be proud of.

But while the collections staff will work with you to form a payment plan, there's one form of payment that's come under some fire: the city's community service programs.

Impractically priced, with attached fees and pay rates of $6/hr, these city-funded programs that are supposed to enable the poorest among us to work off their debt by doing community service are doing little good for the people who really need them. In these hard economic times, the poor cannot afford to work double time for half the pay.

And few of the financially hardship-afflicted sign up, according to an administrator at San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, which gets free labor through the city-funded (though how much it costs is unclear: Project 20, which runs work programs for the city, did not respond to this correspondent's phone call) work program.

The work programs may, however, owe their continued existence to a different group of people, ticketed drivers and fined defendants who merely wish to give something back to the city.

I recently asked to meet a Project 20 volunteer and was introduced to Kevin Drew, who sounded ecstatic about the program. Drew, who lives in Marin County, says he can afford to pay off his parking tickets but prefers to spend his weekends making the city a better place to live. It doesn't bother him that he's getting paid $6/hr because he's too wrapped up in the good services he's providing with the good folks at the Bicycle Coalition.

"It's also good for folks who get too many tickets who don't have the money to give a little bit to the general kind of social well being of the city," Drew said. "I got a job. I could really afford it. I just choose not to."

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Sam Mendes, Maya Rudolph, and John Krasinski Share Some Laughs and Insight Into "Away We Go"

Directing Away We Go, Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Road to Perdition, Jarhead, Revolutionary Road) takes one of the biggest leaps of his career: to comedy. Can he pull it off?

After interviewing the director and co-stars John Krasinksi (that loveable geek in the Office) and Maya Rudolph (a UC Santa Cruz alum who plays Michelle Obama in SNL) Bonnie Steiger leaves no lingering doubt about it.

“I’m going to go see it again and whoever doesn’t see it is a damn fool,” Steiger, a San Francisco film critic, exclaims in the interview.

Check out this hysterical interview to see why Steiger’s sure this film will win you over.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

...and the full length interview with the co-stars

John Krasinski (The Office) and Maya Rudolph (plays Michelle Obama on SNL):

The full 4-minute interview with Sam Mendes

Because Bonnie Steiger's interview with Academy Award-winning director Sam Mendes (American Beauty) was combined into a single video package with an interview of John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph, other Web sites only offer a quick snapshot of this full interview.

As promised, here's the full-length version:

Monday, June 8, 2009

Maker Faire: More Than Meets The Playa-Jaded Eye

"WE'RE DOOMED" reads the user pic for Live Journaler mrneutrongodeon. And in an attitude befitting his avatar, he skewered this year's Maker Faire for having lost its DIY mission to Burning Man hijackers and their wacky, impractical machines.

If you follow this fallacy, the 621 makers who traveled from as far as East Virginia had nothing eye-opening to share. All 75,000-plus members of the audience could have skipped Maker Faire this year, dropped acid and ridden around the playa on an art car - and probably had a better time.

At first glance, "WE'RE DOOMED" seems dead on the money. The loudest, most colorful exhibits - the car shaped like a large cast iron snail, for example - were usually the least likely to play a beneficial role in the real world. They're certainly not the answers to Pres. Barack Obama's call to "Remake America"(which this year's Maker Faire set out to do).

Anyone who strolled about the plein air exhibits without ever dipping into the enclosed areas, where true innovators and idea people were busily at work discussing their latest projects would walk away with the same doomed impression.

Admittedly, I wasn't strongly compelled to approach the booth belonging to Dustin Zuckerman. His props? Not much more than a bucket wrapped in a tool belt, a hammer and a few flyers. And yet Zuckerman's simple idea, to create a tool lending library in Sonoma County, is a DIY project that's sure to spawn more DIY-ing.

I wish I'd known about it before I dumped my life savings at Home Depot.

The best inventions aren't as flashy as they once were, and there's good reason. Innovators do their tinkering online, or recycle old wasteful products into items that serve a social or ecological purpose. Or they rebuild the engine of the Prius, making it capable of running purely on electricity. But guess what? The post-op Prius is a dead ringer, on its shell, for a Prius before CalCars laid a hand on it.

And TechShop saves makers 80 to 90 percent of their development costs, but you've got to look inside their 3D printer (ZPrinter450) to see its tiny final result.

Sure, there was plenty of eye candy - the explosive devices, the cupcake on wheels. But let's not pretend as though the non-burners didn't kick some butt this year. Before you write off this event the way "WE'RE DOOMED" did, check out some of the best stuff in this video.

Hat tip to Brittney Gilbert's Eye on Blogs for bringing mrneutrongodeon's post to our attention.

To see some great photos of this year's Maker Faire, check out Nicole Andrijauskas' blog.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Robert Kenner, Director of Food Inc.: behind the scenes of his new film

Food Inc., the much anticipated documentary about the food industry is coming to San Francisco theaters June 12 and promises to change the minds of food consumers about how the industry actually works.

Kevin Robinson, of Medium Rare, interviews Director/Producer Robert Kenner about his controversial film (co-produced by Eric Schlosser, author Fast Food Nation) and what changes he hopes to see in the food industry.

Robinson also digs into why the voices of the opposition are conspicuously absent from the documentary, while the viewer gets plenty of Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser fighting the status quo.

WHERE? Food, Inc. - Embarcadero Center Cinema
WHEN? Starts Friday, June 12. Eric Schlosser, producer and author of Fast Food Nation In Person Sat, June 13 at 4:50 & 7:30pm!
WHAT DO THE CRITICS SAY? - "Filmmaker Robert Kenner lifts the veil on our nation's food industry, exposing the highly mechanized underbelly that's been hidden from the American consumer with the consent of our government's regulatory agencies, the USDA and FDA."

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Bronstein cites car sleeper video as example of journalism adapting

In his blog Bronstein at Large earlier this month, San Francisco Chronicle editor-at-large Phil Bronstein noted this video on the city's homeless as an example of how journalism is adapting. The blog, which Bronstein wrote in response to Sen. John Kerry saying newspapers are endangered, was then re-posted on Huffington Post.

"While it's a piece about homelessness, specifically what might be a growing trend of people living in their cars South of Market, what's most interesting to me is the media start-up circuitry that got it done," Bronstein wrote.

"The video shooter, Cassidy Friedman, is working through something called SanFranciscoIAM, part of a growing operation that's creating -- and even paying for, in some cases -- video journalism via their website assignment desk. You can pitch a story to them or try to snag one that's already on their boards. Skill and the popularity of your video both matter and determine how well you do."

Lindsay Schauer searches for "the perfect job"

Lindsay Schauer, an excellent Bay Area magazine journalist, recently decided to take a stab at what the San Francisco Chronicle called "the dream job." Applying for the gig, a wine blogging position with Murphy-Goode Winery in Sonoma County, Schauer knew she had a strong resume to rest on.

But the winery asked Schauer, along with her stiff competition, to condense their pitches into a one-minute sound byte.

So, here's the video we came up with...

For more information about the job, check out Winery creates buzz with dream job offer, by Julian Guthrie, Chronicle Staff Writer at"

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Changing Face of Bay Area Fire Art

Mark Pauline's Survival Research Labs fought for years with the San Francisco Fire Department to keep its place as a fringe artistic institution in the city.

Last fall, after producing 50 explosive shows over the course of nearly three decades, the Godfather of industrial fire art lost that fight and moved to Petaluma -- a city Pauline says won't crack down on him for doing his trade, which consists of building everything from jet-powered rockets to flame tornadoes and stabbing machines, then featuring them at shows across the globe.

Most local industrial fire artists draw the distinction between the relatively benign work they do and what SRL, the periodically law-crossing, original industrial fire art organization has done under the leadership of its swashbuckling director since 1978.

And while industrial fire art is exploding in San Francisco, there may no longer be a place here for SRL, which seems alienated from the city at nearly every level.

SRL's south Mission neighborhood has changed, with lofts replacing industrial spaces and Ferraris replacing work trucks on the street out front. The fire department was threatening a lawsuit against Pauline for driving his forklift with no permit, unless he left the city, he said (Although Pauline says he has documents proving this, the SFFD could not corroborate the claim). And since his rusty soot-covered work den in the Mission, a nook that used to go largely unnoticed by firefighters, is now considered hot real estate, the landlord doubled his rent ... twice.

All these recent developments were enough to bring Pauline to a fast boil.

San Francisco is "not a place for marginal characters anymore," Pauline said. "Basically, in the city of San Francisco, you can't do what I do anymore. The city has changed and the makeup of the city reflects that and the kind of things that can be allowed to happen in the city reflects that."

Although Pauline said the fire department has had it out for him since the mid-90s, the department claims it's played neutral all along. Few top-ranking veterans at the department even recognize his or his company's name.

"They don't care who you are, if you are coming in with some big production company, saying this is how they let us do it somewhere else, they don't care," spokeswoman Mindy Talmadge said. "You are going to do it by the books.

"In my personal opinion... his reaction to everything, it's kind of the artistic mentality: everybody's against me. Things change and we have to fight or change with it and he's fought it and he's kind of lost the battle," she added.

The Chronicle's Editor-At-Large Phil Bronstein described Pauline as "one of the most explosively creative people you'll ever meet." He called SRL leaving "a tragedy," and a clear sign that art is leaking out through the city's borders.

Pauline could have made do with less. He could have moved his lab into a less expensive space. He also could have applied for grants, which he refuses to do because he feels that being beholden to another institution could undermine his creative autonomy.

"I think it's quite possible that SRL could continue doing what it's been doing in San Francisco," said Ian Baker, a fire artist for Interpretive Arson in Oakland, who last year considered moving his outfit into the SF. "But you don't want to spend that money on rent. You want to spend the money on hydraulic actuators."

At the heart of Pauline's art is a renegade attitude. Decades ago, he defaced billboards with non-political artistic messages, Bronstein recalled. He's perhaps best known in the city for a Nov. 1995 show tabbed Crime Wave, which he held near the base of the Bay Bridge without seeking permits. The show represented Pauline's retaliation against the fire department for attempts by the department to unjustly restrict future shows in San Francisco, he claimed.

"We did every possible violation we could think of... to make the fire department mad," he said.

No one was injured but Pauline was charged and convicted with intent to injure the public with explosives and intent to injure the public with arson, but he was spared from jail time.

In contrast to Pauline, the new wave of fire artists go out of their way to follow the law and to cultivate positive rapports with the fire department. The Flaming Lotus Girls, for example, test explosive devices in the desert and always get a permit for public exhibitions in Oakland and the city, said a leading member, Caroline "Mills" Miller.

Two years ago, when Ian Baker, of Interpretive Arson, started burning propane as a performance tool at the annual street-level Burning Man Decompression party on Mariposa Street, the fire marshal told him to shut it off - even though Baker had obtained a permit, he said.

Baker put up no protest. Instead, he wants to teach a class to fire fighters on how to enforce fire code, and to explain how his machines work. And he sees his relationship with the fire department improving.

"I feel like the San Francisco fire marshal's office is really coming around in this regard," he said.

Miller, who operates at the Box Shop in Bayview/Hunter's Point, said she also hopes to build stronger ties to law enforcement and the fire department.

"To be honest, we don't really have that much communication with the city," she said. "It's probably to the detriment of both groups."

Times-News announces River of Stone award

River of Stone' series wins state tourism award

"The River of Stone," a Times-News multimedia exploration of the Snake River Canyon, has been honored as the Governor's Take Pride in Idaho media award winner for 2009.

The award, given annually by the Idaho Department of Commerce, recognizes "the Idaho newspaper, magazine, radio or television station that best promotes Idaho tourism, or ... best communicates Idaho's lifestyle, heritage, regional or statewide events and attractions."

The River of Stone chronicles the journey of Times-News staffers through the Snake River Canyon from Milner Dam to Upper Salmon Falls Dam, while exploring the canyon's history, recreation potential, environmental concerns, wildlife, public access and wild land preservation along the way. It appeared in the newspaper last October, with an enhanced multimedia version remaining available at the newspaper's Web site,

Times-News Editor James G. Wright and the series' principal author, Cassidy Friedman, accepted the award at the Idaho Conference on Recreation and Tourism held at the Sun Valley Inn Thursday.

(Continue reading the article at the Times-News)

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Newly Homeless Turn to Sleeping in Their Cars on Townsend

Word was that a Hooverville of people living in their cars had taken hold on Townsend Street. People, including members of the lower-middle class who’ve hit hard times, had begun filling in empty parking spots. Not to mention, throwing buckets of septic waste onto the tracks, and littering everywhere.

At 6:30 p.m. on a recent Thursday I had spent a full hour milling about on the block, but found only signs of people living in a half-dozen vehicles – deflated tires, windows boarded up with cardboard, and a few stacks of garbage. No signs of life.

After a knocking a few times on the passenger door of an old RV, a groggy face emerged from behind curtains on the upper-deck of the camper – ticked off as hell.

“It’s the middle of the night,” the guy mumbled, before rolling back under his covers. “Come back at a reasonable hour.”

After paying three follow-up visits at various times of day, I have yet to discover when that “reasonable hour” is – or, for that matter, get that man’s story directly from him (He’s only been described to me by his neighbors). The usual rules don’t play when you’ve lost your house, the life you once knew and yet you still manage to work five days a week, his neighbors explained.

(Continue reading the story below the video...)

Robin, a recovered speed addict who moved into her RV on Townsend before the economy slumped, said this year ranks of new homeless started following her lead. From her camper window, she watches a man – her newest neighbor -- wake up each morning in a reclined seat of his maroon sedan, don business attire and, presumably, head to work.

She tells a similar story of another man who now lives in his white van, parked several spots closer to the train terminal. No kids, just single men doing what they can to stay out of shelters.

Thea Chroman, who recently produced a radio story on homelessness in San Francisco for, said she could find no city data documenting how many more people this year are living in their vehicles than previous years. But not all homeless are showing up in shelters or simply living on the streets, and she’s heard many stories of people taking to their cars.

Calling herself the mayor of Townsend, Robin’s title somehow fits. She cleans up refuse along her patch of sidewalk, eschews any consumption of drugs, and forms coalitions of homeless to route out thieves (her camper was once robbed and she vows it won’t happen again).

She’s proud, too, for the first time since she came off the amphetamines. Seeing herself as luckier than the rest, she’s converted her kitchenette into a soup kitchen.

“It’s going to get a lot worse,” she told me. “And I guess it’s because of the economy.”

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Uncovering The Truth About The Mission's Golden Fire Hydrant

We've all heard the story of the golden fire hydrant in the Mission, the one credited with saving much of of the city from fires resulting from the 1906 earthquake.

A big component of the 1906 earthquake anniversary celebrations is a ceremonial repainting of the hydrant by survivors of that long-ago quake. I was on hand Saturday not just to capture the moment, but to separate the facts from the myth of the Little Giant.

Monday, April 20, 2009

River of Stone wins big in Idaho!

Great news!

River of Stone, a video/written series on my adventure down the Snake River, has apparently won the Take Pride in Idaho Media Award given by the Idaho Department of Commerce.

I'll be awarded at the commerce department's annual conference in Sun Valley May 5-7.

The Take Pride in Idaho Media Award was given to the director of Napoleon Dynamite in 2005 after he made his cult classic.

This news follows an announcement by the Idaho Press Club that River of Stone also won an IPC award. Which award will be announced soon.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Art vs. Crime: How the Mission's artists are helping neighbors feel safe after episodes of lethal violence

Discussions of the dichotomous nature of the Mission approach tedium, with shootings in front of valet stands, or the whole delicate flower thing creating enough dramatic tension to launch a thousand newspaper columns.

The organizers of the Mission Arts and Performance Project (MAPP) aren't content to just wring their hands: they're doing what they can to boost the Mission's thriving arts community while acknowledging its more challenging sides with their bi-monthly, multidisciplinary, intercultural event night.

Connecting visual artists, musicians, poets, dancers and poets, MAPP weaves together storefronts, warehouses, studios and homes to form an art walk that seems to turn into a huge multi-block party. Homeowners lay down stages in their living rooms, scraggly artists gussy up and serve hors d'oeuvres.The night of Saturday April 4, MAPP held its bi-monthly multidisciplinary, intercultural event night. Connecting visual artists, musicians, poets, dancers and poets,

Monday, April 13, 2009

Despite State Elimination of Funding, Cesar Chavez Devotees Rally Hard for His Legacy

Organizing Cesar Chavez Day festivities has never been harder than it was April 4, 2009.
After California established the labor and civil rights leader's March 31 birthday as a paid state holiday in 2000, the following year a parade 15,000-people strong marched along Market Street. Under Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the state has eliminated its entire multi-million dollar budget for supporting the holiday, including $50,000 to the city. The State of California has also decided it won't recommit funding to the Cesar Chavez Club, a statewide learn-through-service after school program in eight of the city's schools.
Organizer Eva Royale, with no cents to spend, relied this year on volunteers -- most of them stoic devotees -- to assemble a parade of only a couple thousand marchers. She's frustrated but, along with a groundswell of supporters who pushed Chavez's birthday to become a state holiday, she's determined to see the state holiday get nationalized under the supportive Obama administration.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Marin Breastfeeding Coalition lands international stage but at home fails to make a ripple

Breastfeeding organizers across the nation and beyond were jarred and excited by the Marin Breastfeeding Coalition's newest campaign, which involves setting up life-like cardboard cutouts of mothers breastfeeding in crowded public places.
The media descended on the campaign in February and March with equal excitement, and its coverage is leading to the coalition getting more money.
But, at the Marin Farmers Market -- one of the first staging areas -- the public adored the cutouts, as shown in my video at Passersby weren't in the least bit upset by them, nor were their assumptions challenged -- the point of the drill.
Still, because of the praise, the money and the possibility that the idea might travel to a county and state where it could increase awareness about breastfeeding, the campaign's organizers are calling the experiment in advertising a success.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

March Critical Mass: Bikers and Bankers

Here's the opening of a blog I wrote for to coincide with a movie I shot of Critical Mass last Friday...

At Critical Mass last Friday, no one got beat up, a relief to the hundreds of riders who rode from the Embarcadero to North Beach to the Mission, then dispersed.

Friday March 27, 2009 Critical Mass from Cassidy Friedman on Vimeo.

But at least one guy may have deserved to be. He grabbed a standing woman's butt through her pants, in plain view of a dozen bicyclists. In disgust, she yelled, "really?! really?!" but the assault went unpunished, the offender rode on past Polk Street disappearing into crowd of cyclists all indifferent or unaware of what just happened in their informal peloton.

Bicyclists who usually ride in fear of getting run over, on Friday, seemed to feel a strength in their ever-growing numbers, tearing down Market Street and splitting up rivers of honking vehicles that ceded them the passage. Respecting the wheeling mob scene as a political protest, the cops guard the rear but they don't interfere.

Read the rest of the blog.

Mount Tamalpais' One-Man Welcoming Party

Mt. Tam Waver was one of the first videos I shot after returning to the Bay a few months ago from Idaho. Three million vehicles have passed this grey-bearded man standing on the side of Panoramic Highway waving and saluting cars, according to county records. But few people know who this icon of Mill Valley is.
I tracked him down in December at his nearby home and got the treat of a lifetime.