Month: June 2010

See That Building: Broadway musicals, Studs Terkel and location-based storytelling

Ah the serendipity of radio.  Last night I was station-surfing, driving home across the Golden Gate, when I caught a broadcast of the song “Something to Point to (See That Building),” from that improbable and fabulous Broadway musical, “Working,” inspired by Studs Terkel’s book of the same name.  Lyrics below, or you can watch this endearing video

of some high school kids performing it.

I’m hereby designating “See that Building” as the official theme-song for this blog.

It’s about one building, and every line in the song involves (more…)

Block of Time: O’Farrell Street

My latest adventure in  what I’ve come to call “location-based storytelling” was featured earlier this month in a San Francisco festival of “locative media & urban community” called City Centered, sponsored by the Gray Area Foundation for the Arts, and KQED.   My installation, “Block of Time,” was a site-specific radio documentary/cell phone tour/super-hyper-local-journalism experiment, on the 900 block of O’Farrell Street between Polk and Van Ness .

old man waller
A passer-by stops to hear a story about this street corner, where "Old man Waller" had a dairy barn 120 years ago. Call 415-448-6948 and you can hear it too. Now the same spot is home to an appliance store. (415-997-8924). Even though the corner has changed a lot, the odd farm animal still shows up around here now and then. (415-690-7964)

It was a wonderful afternoon, with all sorts of people lingering in the street,  peering into the nooks and crannies of the block (marked by red balloons) and listening to the stories hidden inside.

So what happened?

Imagine one of those audio tours you’d take in an art museum, or through a historic neighborhood, where there are little numbers next to notable paintings or buildings, and you can dial them up to hear more about them.  Block of Time is like that, with one difference: the place you are touring has no obvious historic or artistic value.  And that’s the point.  The 900 block of O’Farrell Street is totally non-descript.  But every place has a story, you just need to know where to look.

If  you’d like to hear the stories yourself, check out the map below…  (more…)