Tonight: Bernal Dads Star as Crash Test Dummies on BBC’s “Mud, Sweat and Gears”

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If you’re a fan of the astonishingly popular BBC car show Top Gear, you probably know that Jeremy Clarkson, one of the presenters of the show, was suspended last week for getting into a scuffle with one of the Top Gear producers. And while Jeremy Clarkson is suspended, Top Gear is off the air.

This has created a unique celebrity opportunity for two Bernal Heights residents affiliated with the Bernal Dads Racing team. Many months ago, BBC America came looking for two crash-test dummies volunteers to participate in the filming of a pilot episode for a new TV show. The Bernal Dads – Neighbor Mason Kirby from Mullen and Neighbor Robert Freedman of Elsie – foolishly offered to participate.

Even more foolishly, the BBC signed them up to be in the show, which is called (… wait for it…) Mud, Sweat, and Gears.

Here’s how Variety describes it:

BBC America has given the green light to the new vehicle transformation series “Mud, Sweat and Gears,” hosted by UK car journos Tom ‘Wookie’ Ford and Jonny Smith. The hour-long spot will be produced by BBC Worldwide Productions for BBC America and BBC Worldwide’s new Brit channel.

In each of the eight unscripted episodes, daredevils Ford and Smith both captain a team of two fellow car enthusiasts and are given 24 hours to mutate, supersize or reconstruct ordinary vehicles to compete in stunt challenges.

Anyway, for the last few weeks,  Mud, Sweat, and Gears has aired immediately after Top Gear on BBC America. And tonight, the episode that stars Neighbor Mason and Neighbor Rob is finally set to air.

But with Jeremy Clarkson still in the dock and Top Gear on hiatus, this might be just the opportunity these two dashing Bernal Dads need to fill the void that now exists in our Top Gear-starved planet:

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The show airs tonight, March 16 on BBC America at 10 pm.

Here’s a preview. Neighbor Mason and Neighbor Rob ended up driving a mutant gold Pontiac Aztec, and apparently, they’re not very good at opening the doors:

 

Bernal Heights Journalists R00Led the New York Times Magazine. Again.

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It isn‘t the first time this has happened, but if you happened to peruse last Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, you might have noticed that the feature well was once again dominated by a pair of Bernal Heights writers. This edition featured two of Bernal’s most glamorous literary-journalism superstars: Neighbor Liz Weil and Neighbor Jon Mooallem, both of Ellsworth.

Neighbor Liz’s article is a profile of teenage running prodigy Mary Cain:

The 800 [meter] is a crushing race. Runners go out hard, then try to hang on to the pace in a showcase of will. Through the first six and a half laps of that eight-lap relay, the announcer called the event gamely, like a horse race — “Bishop Guertin! Bronxville! Achilles!” — playing up the tension, implying that anybody could win. But shortly after Cain took the baton, the race became disorienting. Everybody was running one speed and Cain — eyes down, body tilted forward — was running at another. Like watching a turntable with one record spinning at 33⅓ r.p.m. and another at 45 r.p.m., it scrambled the brain. Cain completed her first lap in 58 seconds, only half a second slower than Roger Bannister ran his first lap at Oxford on May 6, 1954, when he became the first man to break the four-minute mile. The announcer, flabbergasted, began shouting: “Bronxville! Mary Cain! Bronxville! Mary Cain!” at irregular intervals. She ran her 800 meters in 2:03.74.

Immediately following that… as part of his excellent, ongoing investigation into oddball ways that humans relate to wild animals, Neighbor Jon tells the sordid tale of Arlan Galbraith,  a man who turned pigeon breeding into a multimillion dollar Ponzi scheme:

Pigeon King International sold breeding pairs of pigeons to farmers with a guarantee to buy back their offspring at fixed prices for 10 years. Initially, Galbraith told farmers that the birds were high-end racing pigeons and that he planned to sell the offspring to the lucrative markets that support the sport overseas. Later, Galbraith changed his story, telling farmers that the birds were part of his trailblazing plan to elevate pigeon meat, known as squab, from a fringe delicacy in North America into the next ubiquitous chicken. But in the end, “they were neither,” the prosecutor said; Galbraith never sold a single pigeon for sport or meat. He seemed to have merely taken the young birds he bought from Pigeon King International farmers and resold them, as breeding pairs, to other Pigeon King International farmers, shuttling pigeons from one barn to another. And this meant continually recruiting new investors so he would have the cash to buy the pigeons his existing investors produced every month. When Galbraith’s scheme finally fell apart, Pigeon King International had almost a thousand breeders under contract in five Canadian provinces and 20 U.S. states. He’d taken nearly $42 million from farmers and walked away from obligations to buy back $356 million worth of their baby birds, ruining many of those investors.

PHOTO: New York Times magazine table of contents, March 8, 2015 by Telstar Logistics

Bernal Hill Is Sexy Setting for Sexy Bun-Shot on Cover of San Francisco Magazine

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We’ve known for a long time that Bernal Is for Lovers, so it feels perfectly natural that San Francisco magazine used Bernal Hill as the setting for the au naturel cover shot of their February 2015 Love & Sex issue.  That’s quite a view!

Peek between the covers and you’ll also find a mini-profile of Bernal Heights neighbor and exosexual revolutionary Annie Sprinkle:

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IMAGES: San Francisco magazine

Bernal Author Jon Mooallem Stars in “Mooallempalooza” Double-Feature Podcast

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Regular readers of Bernalwood will recognize Neighbor Jon Mooallem — he’s a Bernal Heights literary superstar, Pop Up Magazine celebrity, and high-five scholar. To that impressive list of glamorous accomplishments, we can now add another: Neighbor Jon is also the namesake and star of Mooallempalooza!

Mooallempalooza is a special double-feature podcast created by the awesome 99% Invisible team, and it’s a lovely way to experience Neighbor Jon’s myriad talents:

As you probably know, 99% Invisible is a show about the built world, about things manufactured by humans. We don’t tend to do stories about animals or nature. But our friend Jon Mooallem writes brilliant stories about the weird interactions between animals and humans, interactions that are becoming ever weirder and more designed. Mooallem is a writer with the New York Times Magazine and for Pop -Up Magazine, the live magazine in San Francisco, which is where we first heard these two stories. You might remember them as episodes #40 and #91 respectively, but now we present them together in a radio special we’re calling Mooallempalooza.

Your Bernalwood editor listened to Mooallempalooza in the car during a lazy drive back to Bernal Heights over the winter break, and it left me smiling all day. Tune in to Mooallempalooza to hear Neighbor Jon explain the true history of the Teddy Bear, along with a live performance of selections from his book, Wild Ones, with musical accompaniment from the band Black Prairie. It’s so wonderful.

Enjoy Mooallempalooza right here, or on your favorite podcasting app (just search for 99% Invisible).

It will fill you with earthly amazement, creative inspiration, and neighborly pride.

PHOTO: Jon Mooallem

Bernal Filmmakers Creating Documentary About Emperor Norton

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In the late nineteenth century, back when he was alive and well and enjoying worldwide fame as the self-proclaimed sovereign of all the United States, his Imperial Majesty Emperor Norton I did not (as far as I know) live in Bernal Heights. Nevertheless, Bernal has today become the nexus for a devoted cadre of Emperor Norton aficionados.

First and foremost, of course, is one of America’s premier Nortonologists, Bernal Neighbor Joseph Amster, who channels the spirit and dress of Emperor Norton as he leads tourists and history geeks on guided tours of San Francisco:

And who could forget that in 2013, La Lengua rebel propagandist Burrito Justice helped orchestrate a spirited (if unsuccessful) effort to name the Bay Bridge in honor of Emperor Norton.

Now, to complete Bernal’s trifecta of Nortonphilia, Neighbors Jesse Chandler and Kat Shreve have just launched an effort to create a proper, feature-length documentary about Emperor Norton.

Neighbor Kat tells us:

Jesse and I are proud Bernal residents! We reside at Cortland and Prospect (in Cortlandia). We’re writing you today to announce the launch of our Kickstarter campaign to fund a feature-length documentary about Emperor Norton.

The Kickstarter funding will pay for editing, research, illustration, animation, audio mixing, and a musical score to help re-create the world of 1860s San Francisco. We’ve gathered the talent to create an amazing film about the Emperor but now we need your help to tell the story properly.

Thank you for taking the time to check out the project!

Of course, all this Bernal-based Nortonmania doesn’t really require much explanation. From the vantage point of 2014, it would seem that the original Emperor Norton was a very Bernal sort of oddball — whether or not he ever spent much time here. And besides, a proper documentary on Emperor Norton is long overdue, so we raise our imperial champagne flutes to Neighbors Jessie and Kat for making it happen.

Here’s their promo video, in which you will notice that Bernal neighbor and Emperor Norton impersonator Joseph Amster features rather prominently:

So far so good —  Neighbors Jessie and Kat are off to a great start. Don’t forget; you can donate to the Kickstarter here.

Bernal Neighbor’s Prints Appear in Primetime TV Cameo

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Neighbor Alex is an artist who lives on Highland in Bernal Heights. He also operates a business called Past Postage with turns vintage stamps and matchbook designs into hangable wall art.

Last week, in true Bernal celebrity style, one of Neighbor Alex’s pieces just scored a network TV cameo. Alex explains:

I just had my artwork show up on NBC’s Parenthood program this past week. In an episode called ‘A Potpourri of Freaks’, one of my ‘Yuri Gagarin and Vostok 1′ prints is front and center over Max’s bed during a father/son conversation. Max is the lead teenage character in the series, and he’s showing some good taste for the Space Race. The artwork is of a Russian postage stamp from 1961 enlarged and put on canvas.

You can also see some of Neighbor Alex’s handiwork in 2M Architecture’s office on Cortland Avenue.

In related  news, Neighbor Alex is also taking part in ArtSpan’s Open Studios this coming weekend, with his studio doors open from 11am – 5pm on Saturday 11/1 and Sunday 11/2. The studio is in the Mission at 32 Shotwell Street. Check out the Artspan website for more information, and you can find more of Alex’s work on the Etsy.

IMAGE: Parenthood screengrab via Neighbor Alex

On Lundys Landing, Bernal Neighbors Share an Al Fresco World Series

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Last night’s 7-1 victory over the Royals in Game One of the World Series was a great moment for all Giants fans, but the scene was particularly sweet on Lundys Landing, where some of your neighbors projected the game onto the side of an adjacent house.

Neighbor Valjoy says the al fresco viewing party will happen again for Game Two tonight, and you’re invited:

PHOTOS: Top, @travis_schlafke. Below, @Valjoy9