DNA Lounge: Wherein we are now taking donations!

I added a tip jar to our store! Now when you check out, down at the bottom, it says:

Your donation helps ensure that we can continue bringing you the kind of awesome, eclectic and weird events that you've come to expect from us! Your donation keeps us independent, and lets us continue to take chances on the kind of local live entertainment that makes San Francisco great. Won't you pitch in?

I hope it works. I coded it up very late last night.

You can also point people at https://www.dnalounge.com/donate/ for the same thing.

And hey, big spender, I'm not saying $2,000 is the maximum we will accept. You can go right ahead and change that after you add it to your cart!

This is just phase one; I did this first because it was relatively easy. We're still planning on setting up some kind of membership program, probably using Patreon, but before doing that we have to figure out what the reward levels should be.

The only live music venue I've come across that has a membership program is First Avenue. Do you know of others? Most opera houses have membership programs, but their pricing is so different than ours that they don't really compare very well. (Those tend to include things like, "and for $300k/year, you get to have dinner with the Executive Director!" Tell you what, I'l have dinner with you for way less than that.) I've seen a few dance clubs with membership programs, but those seem to mainly be about super-high-end table service, so that doesn't really apply either. Anyway, the First Avenue program is roughly:

  • $45 / year: early access to ticket sales; 10% off food and drink at their attached bar;
  • $80 / year: 2 tickets to a main room show; 2 tickets to a small room show;
  • $500 / year: free admission to all small room shows; 4 tickets to main room shows; 2 tickets to Halloween and NYE; skip the line.

And they sell only a limited number of them per year, but I don't know how many.

So, I dunno. Maybe something like that!

Anyway, we're still pouring over all of the suggestions and offers for help that are pouring in. I really can't believe the number of responses we got. Again, thank you all so much!

We've had a number of people who have experience with grants offer to help, so we've been trying to wrap our brains around how something like that would work. Spoiler alert: it is hellaciously complicated.

And check this out, we have half of a new sidewalk. It is luxuriously broad. By dumb luck, they happened to pour it on a day when we didn't have an event. ("Did they tell you they were doing this today?" "Of course they did! Eight months ago they told us it was going to happen someday!") I think we might have gotten the other half by now if it hadn't rained on Friday.

And, a few galleries of recent events:

Hubba Hubba: BROvember
Odd Salon
Dorkbot
Hubba Hubba: Toys
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Pagan Allowed to Wear Horns in License Photo

It's a Christmas Miracle:

Phelan Moonsong says he always wears his goat horns unless he's sleeping or bathing, and so it makes sense that he'd want to wear them in his driver's license photo. How else is an officer, TSA employee, or other license checker supposed to recognize him? Plus, the horns serve as his "spiritual antennae" and help him educate others about paganism, according to Moonsong.

He needed to educate the authorities in Maine a little bit before they'd approve the license photo, but they finally did. He got his new license last week. [...]

The clerk also had some questions, like whether the horns were implanted (they aren't), and whether they were a religious symbol (they are). The clerk took the photo, but then said he'd have to get it approved by the Maine Secretary of State's office, and would need to send some documentation of the fact that these are officially required religious symbols.

Previously, previously.

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DNA Lounge: Wherein we thank you!

This is just a short update to give you all our heartfelt thanks for the outpouring of support that has come in after Monday's bad news. It's really heartening to hear that so many of you love this place as much as we do. Rest assured, we're doing everything in our power to keep it going.

Many of you have expressed interest in some kind of membership program, so we will definitely be doing that. Whether it's Patreon or Gofundme or an in-house thing remains to be determined, but figuring all that out is on the short list.

If you have reached out to us in some way and we haven't gotten back to you yet, my apologies -- we're working on it! We have a lot of messages to sort through right now. (This is a very good problem to have.)

In the meantime, keep spreading the word, and keep coming to our events. And keep the suggestions coming.

Thank you all!

PS: As long as I've got your attention, how about you follow us on the social media? Telling your friends about our events is one of the most effective ways you can help!

@dnalounge   Facebook Twitter   Instagram
@dnapizza   Facebook   Twitter   Instagram
@codewordsf   Facebook   Twitter   Instagram
@rot13sf   Facebook   Twitter   Instagram
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Poop emoji meets hydraulic press

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Horrors of the deep




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PHP-based login systems

Lazyweb,

Two years ago I lamented how shitty the options were for finding a drop-in login system that I could use in the DNA Lounge store, so that we could remember your shipping address and whatnot.

Has the world gotten any better since then, or is everything still terrible?

What is the simplest way to bolt a login system onto my existing pile of ancient, framework-less PHP code?

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Are you looking for some terrifying harpy music for the holidays?

Then you should totally go buy the BLOOD RED VINYL re-pressing of my friend Meredith's record. It's really good and the packaging is awesome.

The Parlour Trick: A Blessed Unrest

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DNA Lounge: Wherein DNA Lounge will be closed soon, without your help.

I worked in the software industry. In the mid-90s, during the "first bubble", I made a whole lot of money. Not entirely coincidentally, that tech bubble had a dramatically negative impact on the culture of San Francisco. I loved it here (and still do). I didn't like the changes I was seeing (and still don't). So I decided to push back, and put my money where my mouth was.

DNA Lounge has always been a political project: an attempt to move the needle of culture in this city. To provide a forum for a wide variety of art that makes this city a better place. DNA Lounge is putatively a business, but it is also activism.

As it turns out, that's not cheap.

I don't have an opulent lifestyle or particularly expensive tastes. With my winnings in the Startup Lottery, I bought myself a condo, I bought my mom a condo, and I bought a nightclub.

In the 17 years since I signed the lease on DNA Lounge, I've spent about five million dollars on it.

That is a truly gargantuan amount of money, inconceivable to most people, including many of my friends. Including me. Maybe if you'd had that magic briefcase dropped into your lap, you'd have done something more noble with it. Or more venal. Well, this is what I did: I spent most of my adult life running a nightclub, in a near-constant state of panic.

There have been stretches of our history where DNA Lounge was "in the black" (in the sense of: on a day-to-day basis, covering its operating costs, if you completely ignore all past investments), and I could breathe a bit easier. However, DNA has never turned a profit. Though this has been my full time job for almost two decades, I've never collected a salary. The opposite, in fact: through most of our history, the way we make payroll is, I write personal checks to cover it.

Well, here's the thing: I've run out of money.

I'm not about to be out on the street or anything. I would never compare what I'm struggling with to what less financially stable people are going through. So many of my creative peers are barely keeping their heads above water. That includes most of the people I employ for far less than they deserve. My nightclub, like my city, is full of people who put up with a lot more pain and suffering than they should ever have to just to hold onto a sense of community. But it is all connected. We're all together, standing around, watching countless strongholds of alternative culture in the Bay Area, and independently owned and curated creative meeting grounds in cities all across America, fade away. Some of them are literally crashing and burning. It's heartbreaking and horrifying.

I have known for quite some time that I couldn't afford to subsidize this particular stronghold much longer. It's painful to admit, but I'm at the point where I would have to pick between propping up DNA Lounge for another few years at best -- and supporting my mom.

For several years, from basically 2009 through 2014, we were doing reasonably well, financially: we were able to make some improvements. We were able to convert from a 21+ venue to an all ages venue, and we weathered the storm of our retaliatory license suspension that called us a "Disorderly House Injurious to the Public Welfare and Morals". We were able to use DNA Lounge income to cover the creation of DNA Pizza and the expansion of the club into Above DNA. In the end, DNA paid for those projects without me having to increase my investment. Things were looking up. In fact, we were turning business away: we had more people wanting to throw parties than we had nights available, and we were having trouble keeping up with our pizza orders on weekend nights.

So we decided to expand again, and opened a second location of DNA Pizza and an attached all ages dance club, Codeword, trying to replicate what seemed like a winning formula.

We started construction on Codeword in 2014. It took about a year and a half to build everything out. We opened at the end of 2015.

Meanwhile, between 2014 and 2015, DNA Lounge's attendance dropped off by about 9%. By the end of 2016, it had dropped by another 15%. Couple this with the fact that Codeword has no business to speak of, and we're screwed.

To break even, we need to increase our overall attendance by about 800 people a week. (That could be across both venues, or multiple nights: four 200 person events or any other permutation is just as good. It all goes into the same pot.)

Another way of saying that is that we are running at a loss of somewhere in the neighborhood of $380,000 per year. And I don't have it.

And no matter how much I try to wrap my brain around this, I don't know what the hell to do about it. That's the reason for this post. I need help, or we will be out of business soon. I can afford to continue to prop things up for a short amount of time, but not very long without both completely screwing my future, and also not actually solving the problem.

"Sell Codeword" is the obvious thing, and yeah, if I could snap my fingers and make that happen, I'd do it in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, to sell something, you have to have a buyer. I've got a long lease on that space, and even if I just locked the doors and sold the liquor license, I'd still owe the landlord every month until I could find a new tenant. We've talked to a few local nightlife people we thought might be interested in taking over the place, but with no bites so far. We're still looking.

Besides, Codeword is only about 1/2 to 2/3rds of our problem. DNA Lounge is losing a ton of money all on its own. So getting rid of Codeword would help, but not enough.

I really don't want to have to close DNA Lounge. We have done some great things here. Not me, we. The umbrella of DNA is host to countless vibrant communities and thousands of regulars. We've had fifteen years of the most diverse, weird, interesting calendar of any venue I've ever seen. A typical month here doesn't include just bands and DJs, but comedy, lecture series, circuses, robotic exhibitions, dance performances, hair shows... We provide a home for a whole lot of truly amazing art. I'm so proud of everyone. I'm immensely grateful to our staff for making it happen. They all clearly have a lot of love for this place too, because there's no other reason someone would put up with the low pay and appalling working conditions!

I started writing a bit calling out some of our incredibly devoted staff by name, but it's impossible to do so without the crippling horror that I'd insult someone by leaving them out, and if I didn't, this would we so long it would start looking like a memorial wall. So I'll just say that this place could not exist without the blood, sweat and tears of hundreds of people who have devoted their lives to it (and that's not just because the dark machines in the basement are literally powered by tears).

Some nights, even on nights where I'm not personally a fan of the music, I will look out over the balcony and see a room full of people moving as one, and I think, "This is what we do. This is why we did it." I try to take a mental snapshot of those moments.

I've heard from so many people over the years, customers and employees alike, that DNA Lounge has been a huge part of their lives: that they have a sense of community here, and that they feel safe here in a way that they don't anywhere else.

It's always funny, talking to different people firmly embedded in their own particular subcultures, who all see this place completely differently. To some people, DNA is "the goth club", because that's all they listen to and this is the only place they see those bands play. To others, DNA does nothing but the most brutal metal shows. To some, it is candy raves. We used to be that place that only did Deep House dance parties. I have heard actual people say with their actual mouth-holes, "I'm at Bootie, where DNA Lounge used to be".

They're all right, it's all of those things.

And in this city, historically notorious for its hostility to small businesses in general and to nightlife in particular, I think places like this need to exist. Places like this matter. The value of a thing is not its monetary cost.

But how do we make enough money to keep us alive?

One time-honored method is to find an "investor". But can you call it an "investment" with a straight face when there is literally no chance of getting your money back? Yeah, no. By "investor", I really mean "philanthropist".

Some form of crowdfunding is a possibility, I suppose. Most people want something in return for their Kickstarters and whatnot: it tends to be viewed as commerce more than charity. So at the low end, this would probably look a lot like: buying a spot on the guest list for a year, or a stack of "get in free" cards, or something. It would be easy to mis-design those rewards in such a way as to not actually make any money from them. But maybe at the high end, there would be enough people willing to kick down substantial contributions: people who feel it's worth more to them than $12 per show to keep DNA Lounge in existence.

Another possibility is looking for grants. Grants for the arts are out there. A few years back, Yoshi's somehow convinced the City to just give them $7.2 million. And then they went out of business anyway. So.... we know that's possible, I guess? But writing grant proposals is a specialized skill. I don't possess it and I don't know anyone who does. Do you? By all means, send 'em by.

There are also a number of businesses that DNA Lounge could or should be in, but is not; or rather, variants of our core business. E.g., we almost never book corporate parties, conferences, film shoots, that sort of thing. Why? Well, we're bad at it. Ok, that's not a real answer. I guess the answer is that it's a slightly different skill set than booking bands and DJs and we don't have anyone who works here who has the right contacts.

"So hire that person!" you say. Sure! But hiring is hard. Really, really hard. And that person is probably quite expensive, if they actually know what they're doing.

The problem with many of the business development ideas we've had over the years is that they take the form of: invest a bunch of money and then wait a year or longer before it is possible to even have a guess as to whether it is working, or even whether we hired the right person in the first place. That is, unfortunately, often how things work. That is often the reality. The world does not always provide you with quick fixes. But we need a quick fix, because I am out of money. I can't make long term investments because I don't know how I'm keeping the lights on in the short term.

(Ugh, while I was writing this, I had my Mac read it out loud to me, and it sounded like HAL 9000 begging for its life.)

So maybe you were hoping this would end with some big call to action, or some kind of hopeful note. I wish it did. I need ideas. I need suggestions. And I need your patience, too. Please, bear with me.

I know that with this level of transparency and vulnerability I'm setting myself up for a bunch of wisecracks from people who are all too eager to tell me what I did wrong and how they totally would have done it differently, having created nothing of lasting value themselves. How this situation or that was "obvious". Haters gonna hate, I know how it goes.

But if you have suggestions, please have them be about things I can do in 2016 and 2017, not things I should have done in 2004.

If you don't have suggestions, there are always the obvious things you can do:

  • Attend our events.
  • Buy tickets.
  • Buy drinks.
  • Buy pizza.
  • Bring your friends.
  • Get them to bring their friends.

If you don't support DNA Lounge, in a tangible way, it won't be here any more.

Hitting "Like" isn't enough.


If you're too broke, too crippled by existential despair, or too geographically incompatible to show up in person, how about at least posting a fond memory of your time at DNA in the comments below? It won't keep the lights on, but it will be nice to hear.




Update, Christmas Day:

Hey, if you've made it this far, you should know that I've made a few followup posts on this blog and will continue to do so. Short version: among all of the other leads for increasing our business that we are following up on, we're in the process of designing some kind of subscription membership program, probably using Patreon. But in the meantime, I've added the ability to accept donations to the DNA Lounge store, so if you are feeling generous, you can help us out right now!

Support DNA Lounge!
Your donation helps ensure that we can continue bringing you the kind of awesome, eclectic and weird events that you've come to expect from us! Your donation keeps us independent, and lets us continue to take chances on the kind of local live entertainment that makes San Francisco great. Won't you pitch in?

$5 $10 $20 $50 $100 $1,000 $2,000

Thank you again for the outpouring of sympathy and support, and stay tuned!


Update 2: We also have a DNA Lounge Patreon now, so you can contribute on a monthly basis.

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11,000 Penguins vs. Santa Claus Army

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Uber is now literally trying to murder me.

Uber self-driving car running red light in SF

Uber launched a fleet of its much anticipated self-driving cars in San Francisco on Wednesday, and by late morning the effort already hit a bad-driver milestone: running a red light. [...]

Annie Gaus, a freelance writer and producer in San Francisco, tweeted Wednesday morning that she "Just passed a 'self-driving' Uber that lurched into the intersection on Van Ness [Avenue], on a red, nearly hitting my Lyft." [...] "It was close enough that both myself and the driver reacted and were like, 'Shit,'" she said. "It stopped suddenly and stayed like that, as you see in the photo."

SFPD traffic division unaware of self-driving Uber fleet on city streets

With Uber's self-driving cars now on the streets of San Francisco, the enforcement of traffic violations is in the hands of The City's Police Traffic Company, which was unaware Wednesday morning that the vehicles began roaming city streets that day. [...]

"I was unaware the cars have been released in the wild," said San Francisco Police Traffic Company Sgt. Will Murray. "Isn't that like the headless horsemen?"

"They are required to have someone seated in the front driver's portion of the vehicle," said Murray, who added that, "If they were committing flagrant violations, if they were not obeying the laws" then traffic officers will pull them over and ticket them.

He did not say if that had yet occurred or how one goes about ticketing a car driven by a computer.

Uber ordered to halt self-driving cars on SF streets

Uber's action is illegal, California DMV Deputy Director Brian G. Soublet wrote in a letter to Uber late Wednesday, which was also sent to press. Soublet added that the ride-hail behemoth was required to obtain an autonomous vehicle testing permit before operating self-driving vehicles on city streets.

"If Uber does not confirm immediately that it will stop its launch and seek a testing permit, DMV will initiate legal action," the DMV wrote, "including, but not limited to, seeking injunctive relief."

Uber Blames Its Drivers As More Reports Of Self-Driving Cars Running Red Lights Surface

Suggesting that this was more than first day jitters, KRON 4 got its hands on a set of photos that the channel says show an autonomous Uber driving through a red light on Harrison at 4th Street. The pictures were taken on Sunday morning, which means that the car was likely being used for testing or mapping purposes and did not carry a paying passenger. Still, it would suggest that the software piloting the autonomous vehicles had problems as recently as three days before the much publicized launch of the autonomous ride-hail service. That is, unless these incidents are all the result of human error -- a.k.a. Uber drivers.

"These incidents were due to human error," an Uber spokesperson told the Guardian about the both the Van Ness incident and the 3rd Street incident. "This is why we believe so much in making the roads safer by building self-driving Ubers. The drivers involved have been suspended while we continue to investigate."

Isn't that neat? It's the humans, not the un-permitted software, that is at fault according to Uber. Unfortunately, that argument likely won't sway the DMV.

So let's see...

The self-driving software is bad enough that they run red lights and make dangerous turns... but they have humans in the drivers' seat! Who are also so terrible at their jobs that they can't prevent the car from running red lights and must be fired.

I guess none of us are as incompetent as all of us? The software is so bad that it makes human drivers even worse?

The usual argument for self-driving cars is that they will be safer for everyone than human-piloted cars. If that hypothesis turns out to be true, then I'm all for them! One can even imagine a shiny Starfleet future where self-driving cars lead to the end of personal car ownership and dramatic emissions reduction. Enter the shimmering arc!

Uber, of course, does not give the slightest fractional shits about whether self-driving cars are safer or cleaner: they are interested in them because they are cheaper. Allow me to remind you of this bit from Fight Club:

I'm a recall coordinator. My job is to apply the formula. It's a story problem.

A new car built by my company leaves somewhere traveling at 60 miles per hour. The rear differential locks up. The car crashes and burns with everyone trapped inside. Now: do we initiate a recall?

Take the number of vehicles in the field, (A), and multiply it by the probable rate of failure, (B), then multiply the result by the average out-of-court settlement, (C). A times B times C equals X... If X is less than the cost of a recall, we don't do one.

And now we get to the part where the Uber software, operating as designed, is now literally trying to murder me:

SF Bicycle Coalition: A Warning to People Who Bike: Self-Driving Ubers and Right Hook Turns

Before the surprise launch of Uber's autonomous vehicles on San Francisco streets this week, I rode in one. I can tell you firsthand: Those vehicles are not yet ready for our streets.

I was at one of the demonstrations covered in the SF Examiner, along with others who Uber hoped to impress with their new technology. None of us were told that just two days later, Uber would be releasing this technology on our streets on a large scale. I did tell Uber some things about the shortcomings of that technology, however.

In the ride I took through the streets of SoMa on Monday, the autonomous vehicle in "self-driving" mode as well as the one in front of it took an unsafe right-hook-style turn through a bike lane. Twice. This kind of turn is one featured in a 2013 blog post that is known to be one of the primary causes of collisions between cars and people who bike resulting in serious injury or fatality. It's also an unsafe practice that we address in all of the safety curriculum we offer to professional drivers, including the videos we consulted on for Uber as recently as this fall.

I told staff from Uber's policy and engineering teams about the safety hazards of their autonomous vehicle technology. They told me they would work on it. Then, two days later, they unleashed that technology on San Francisco's streets. Your streets.

Since yesterday, we have been told that "safety drivers" in these vehicles have been instructed to disengage from self-driving mode when approaching right turns on a street with a bike lane and that engineers are continuing to work on the problem. In the meantime, Uber is continuing to operate autonomous vehicles for passenger service in San Francisco.

There's no other way to put it: Launching autonomous vehicle technology before it's regulated and safe for our streets is unacceptable. If you support safe streets, please sign the petition to tell Uber to address this dangerous and illegal turning behavior immediately.

The people who wrote this software do not understand the traffic laws and programmed it with a set of rules that they figured was close enough. And then released them into the public.

"Disrupt transportation! Move fast, release early, and crush innocent people under two tons of fast-moving steel!"

I really can't express how unsettling it was today, riding my bicycle in traffic in the rain -- a time when San Francisco drivers are notoriously even less competent and more erratic than under normal conditions -- and wondering what fresh new hell of unpredictability I might encounter from poorly-behaving software in an alpha-test that I most assuredly did not click "Agree" on.

Fuck Uber.

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