You’re Gonna Cry flyers, tickets, and more!

No, these aren’t real bands/concerts but they are elements of the set I designed for Paul Flores’ play You’re Gonna Cry opening this Friday! Buy tickets here:

The names are all bands I’ve wanted start at one point or another. I haven’t actually made music since my garage band days in high school but I’m always fantasizing about band concepts and names. So far Los Jizzers de Tepeyac has gotten the most responses on facebook.

To accentuate the set I decided to add some street art stickers into the mix. I got a sheet of postal labels and a few sharpies and decided to put down some placasos for my friends. Clockwise from the left are Elena White, Rosi Reyes, Elida Bautista, Katynka Martinez, Robynn Takayama, and Darren de Leon.

I also made a sheet of sticker featuring a pretty heavy anglophile influence. Clockwise from the lefthand corner: Death (from the DC/Vertigo comics), St. Trinian’s (the movie I was watching at the time I made them), the UFW Eagle (y’know with a boner), Morrissey, Bis (from Scotland), and last but not least Doctor Who (my current media obsession).

Hope to see you there!



You’re Gonna Cry

I’m really happy to announce that my creative relationship with writer/performer Paul Flores is continuing this February for his latest production. On top of designing his latest promotional materials I’m also designing the set for the show. I’m super excited!

February 11-12, 2011
Dance Mission Theater presents
the World Premiere of YOU’RE GONNA CRY

Written and Performed by PAUL S. FLORES
Directed by Brian Freeman
Digital Mural Design by Rio Yanez
February 11-12, 2011 @ 8 pm
Tickets $15 gen, $12 student w/id *

The real lives of Mission District residents at the height of gentrification

HBO Def Poet and Youth Speaks co-founder Paul S. Flores takes us back to the 1990’s to capture the abrupt changes seen throughout the Mission District brought on by the dot-com boom and bust, the real estate bubble, constant immigration and forced evictions. Portraying a kaleidoscope of offbeat, vibrant characters, Flores gives voice to the techies looking to remodel the place, to the Latino bohemians wandering the bars and cafes, to locals and immigrants with a stake in the heart of San Francisco’s oldest neighborhood. At the crux of You’re Gonna Cry is a heartbreaking story chronicling the human cost of gentrification. Flores brings a critical perspective combined with raw realism and even a gangster puppet show to illuminate a historic moment when the city’s facade and cultural landscape changed.

Artistic Design Team includes: Tanya Orellana (set) / Adrian Hernandez (video) / Kaibrina Skybuck (costumes) / Rashad Pridgen (choreography) / Alejandro Acosta (sound) / Marissa Marshall (lights)

Performance contains use of Spanish and graphic language
This project received support from The Center for Cultural Innovation Investing In Artists Grant, Theater Bay Area CA$H grant, and United States Artists Projects

More coming soon!



Hella 3D!

I feel a little off-kilter typing these words. I’m writing this post from my new PC laptop. This is the first time I’ve ever owned a PC, I’ve been on the Apple jock since I had my first Apple IIE computer back in the day. Navigating Windows makes everything feel backwards and upside down. Alas it’s a necessity to be able to process 3D images from the Fuji W3 camera.

The images in this post were shot with the W3 and downloaded to Fuji’s included software and then converted to 3D anaglyphs using Anamaker. I bypassed Photoshop in adjusting the images so what you’re seeing is pretty much straight from the camera. All of my previous 3D images have been created using Photoshop. As always you need red/cyan 3D glasses to view the images in 3D.



Ps. I’ve got a lot to learn with the camera’s different parallax settings but I think I’m off to a good start. More photos to come soon!

Behind the Scenes and Mischief in the Mission

This past Sunday I got together with the infamous Mayra Ramirez for another session of Homegirl Purikura. For this special session we were joined by guest artist and chola Evil Rose. Mayra and I met Evil Rose in Japantown and together we ventured into Pikapika to take some photos.

During our first session of Homegirl Purikura Mayra turned all sorts of heads in Japantown while she was decked out in her chola gear and persona. With Evil Rose in the mix we were a walking spectacle. Tourists who were in the area for the Nihonmachi Street Fair didn’t know what to make of us. Our presence was unavoidable.

Evil Rose was a natural Purikura artist, Mayra and I showed her the basics and she just took off with it.  Mayra also continued her unique and intense approach to her Purikura practice. I decorated a couple of images but for the most part I stood back as a facilitator for this session. It was a thrill to see this powerful pair of cholas team up and work as artists together.

Lastly, I finally got to try out The Cube, the newest Purikura booth at Pikapika. I can’t wait to share the images that came from it. It was definitely the most sophisticated and technically advanced Purikura booth I’ve ever been in.

Following our Purikura adventure we all decided to head to the Mission District for a shoot in Balmy Alley. Evil Rose is not only a model/performer but a professional photographer herself. We turned our cameras on Mayra who lived up to her reputation as the ultimate Chola muse. Below are some photos, to see the full gallery of images check out my flickr page.

I also managed to record a little behind the scenes video while we were shooting. Here’s two videos of Mayra playing around. When she focuses on her chola persona she disappears into it but when she breaks character she’s equally charismatic. Check it out!



La Mission Mysteries Solved!

In the past four days I’ve hung out twice with actor Jeremy Ray Valdez, better known as the actor who plays Benjamin Bratt’s son in La Mission. On Thursday I spent an evening trailing him as a hired photographer at a benefit screening of La Mission. In between photographing Jeremy with attendees and donors at the event we got to chatting about La Mission and some burning questions I’ve had about it. I also met up with Jeremy this past Sunday at the SF Pride festival at the La Mission booth. Here’s the scoop on some mysteries of La Mission.

Mystery #1: Bootleg Flattery?

A couple of weeks ago I made a short video with Mission Loc@l’s Amanda Martinez contemplating the appropriateness of bootleg copies of La Mission being sold on Mission Street itself. Is a Mission bootleg the ultimate tribute to La Mission or are we ripping off hard working Latino directors and actors?

To get the answer I asked Jeremy what he thought of bootleg copies of La Mission being sold on Mission Street. He told me a story of an autograph session he did in the Mission District during Carnaval and how a young girl brought him a bootleg copy of the movie for him to autograph. Jeremy was highly offended at the thought of signing a bootleg copy of La Mission and expressed his extreme displeasure that Mission locals are pirating his work as an actor. According to him, bootlegs have a more adverse affect on smaller productions like La Mission as opposed to large big-budget Hollywood films.

Answer: It looks like the official word on the bootleg question is that Mission Street bootlegs of La Mission = bad.

Mystery #2: Is Che a Sureño?

The one thing that haunted me after seeing La Mission for the first time was Benjamin Bratt’s wardrobe in the film. His character, Che Rivera, wore a lot of blue throughout the whole movie. It left me wondering if there was an implied subtext that Che (and by extension his son) were Sureños. There’s no acknowledgment of the Mission’s color-coded terrain in the film and how much it weighs heavily on the minds of Latino residents of the neighborhood. To me, it bordered on offensive to have no recognition a Sureño character being a Sureño in the Mission District.

I asked Jeremy if Che and/or his son were intended to be Sureños and he answered absolutely not. He told me that Peter Bratt and the production crew were very conscious not to portray Norteños and Sureños in the film and that no character in the film was intended to be a former or current gang member.

Answer: Ain’t no colors in La Mission, blue Pendletons be damned.

Many thanks to Jeremy for solving these mysteries and for being so friendly on both days our paths crossed.



Reporting from the Front Lines of the Mission District

I’m back with another report from the front lines of the Mission District. I’ve been keeping my ear to the streets and my camera pointed at the scene. Gather ‘round while I put it down for the hood once more!

Glory Stickers

As many times as I’ve walked pass this sticker machine on Mission street between 22nd and 23rd I’ve never taken time to appreciate the amazing art of the “Glory Stickers.” Who knows where the art can be traced to, Mexico? China? The United States? East LA? It’s the most stylish that I’ve ever seen. Kinda like a Lisa Frank/Trapper Keeper version of most religious sticker art.

Is it sacrilegious to let stickers of religious icons bake and fade in the hot sun? Hmmmmmmmm…

The art of these stickers are amazing. Guadalupe looks like a total tenderoni. Check out those doe eyes and her fly Jughead crown. Poor Jesus ain’t fairing as well. He looks like he’s passing something really uncomfortable on the can. Somebody get him some pepto!


I love the windows at Julio’s on 25th and Mission. Most of the stickers are from the 1980’s and have held up pretty well over time. Where else are you going to see the Virgin of Guadalupe and John Lennon given equal presence? Here’s a couple of favorites.

The window displays at Julio’s are ever changing and always densely packed with old school Mission flava. Julio and his store have been around since I was a kid and has always been the most reliable place for me to buy Mexican comics, Loteria cards, and various tourist objects. At this point Julio’s is also one of the last remaining music stores on Mission Street. If he ever goes under who will sell Jenni Rivera records and hand out Ricky Martin posters in the hood?

Tortilla Art on the Loose!

Spotted on Valencia Street. It looks like a member of the Great Tortilla Conspiracy has been out and about in the Mission. Hopefully more of these will be popping up around the hood soon.

Take your pick for the most airbrushed homegirl in the Mission!

Whenever I walk down 22nd street I always make sure to check out the latest and greatest ads for Only true Mission homegirls can appreciate airbrushing this thick. Check them out, all of their photo-portraits have an airbrush gloss that never escaped 1987! That makes not just someone’s portrait studio but a time machine as well.

That’s it for now! Until next time, be excellent to each other.



I’ve written plenty of times about US Video and its owner Mr. Kim. I even featured it on my Mission Mural at Galeria de la Raza. Even with all of that, my lifelong relationship to the rental video shop on Mission Street has best been summed up by this comic I did for Mission Loc@l.

That’s why I’m utterly devastated that US Video is in the process of liquidating its assets and closing down. Walking by it on Mission Street today I couldn’t help but reenact the last scene of Planet of the Apes. I guess Mr. Kim’s mighty empire of porn could not insulate him from the rise of adult content on the web. I shot this animated gif of Mr. Kim closing the store down for the night and shed a little tear. I’ll enjoy this sight while I still can.

The closing of US Video marks the final death of Video stores in the Mission that cater to working class Latino families in the neighborhood. All that’s left in the neighborhood is Lost Weekend. I never thought I’d live to see the day that it would be easier to rent a copy of some obscure Orson Welles film than a copy of Transformers (or some other commercial mainstream movie).

Mariela and I talk a lot of trash about new businesses that come into the neighborhood when old ones close down. There’s a glut of certain types of businesses in the Mission that continue to open up even when our streets are choked with ones identical to them.  If US Video’s storefront gets turned into a nail salon, hair salon, check cashing business, 99 cent store, or Cell Phone shop then someone’s ass is getting kicked. Believe that.

R.I.P. US Video,


Ghetto Pass Revoked: A Retrospective of Mission Movies

Alright folks, today I’m going to a screening of La Mission with the amazing Margarita Azucar. I’m down with the Bratt brothers, we’re all LHS alumni, but I haven’t seen a movie that Benjamin Bratt has been in since Catwoman. It takes a lot of fuckin’ guts to give a movie a monolithic title like La Mission so it better be good.

It’s been surreal to see this movie get national press attention and hear film critics discuss the dynamics of the Mission District. This might lead one to think that La Mission has been the only “Mission” movie-but not so. There have been many pretenders to the throne.

First up is a movie simply titled Mission. I remember the main draw of the film when it was initially released was that it starred a cast member of the Blair Witch Project. Here’s its official synopsis:

“A young aspiring writer, Marvin, from New York moves to California to write a novel. He ends up rooming with a chaotic, bohemian musician named Jay. Marvin finds himself inexorably drawn into the vibrant youth culture of San Francisco’s Mission District as both Jay and himself watch their worlds disintegrate. They discover that each has a lot to learn from the other. Mission is a coming of age story casting a spotlight on a place and time, moments before artistic aspiring types yielded the Mission to the dotcom entrepreneurs.”

As a movie, Mission is alright. The only thing saving it from mediocrity is that it captures a unique moment in time for the neighborhood. It shows the Mission while it was experiencing gentrification (as opposed to already being gentrified) during the upswing of the dotcom economy. It’s interesting to see creative and eccentric young White people in the Mission before the emergence of hipster culture. Funny enough, Mission Street is almost nowhere to be seen in the film. Of all the areas in the Mission, Guerrero Street gets the most play.

Next up is Mission Movie. I know a lot of people who are hesitant to give an honest assessment of this film because it was supposedly a sincere “community effort” but I’m here to tell you that it’s utter dog shit. To view Mission Movie‘s official trailer CLICK HERE. Here is a section of its long winded synopsis:

Mark, a white, traditionally trained artist, is forced to seek the help of Roger, a Latino artist born and raised in the Mission, to confront a group of kids who have been tagging his mural. Meanwhile, Mark and his troubled hipster roommates amble into activism as they face eviction from their apartment. Also being evicted from the building are Rosario and Rene, recent immigrants whose marriage is tested by their new environment. Antonia, a third-generation resident, finds the fruits of her success making her an “accidental” target. And George, a Palestinian shop-owner struggles as his love for his decidedly American children is challenged by conflicting values.

Mission Movie plays out like a Disney fairy tale version of the cultural and class conflicts that occur in the Mission every day. Taken straightforward as a piece of cinema, Mission Movie is bad. The acting is terrible, the camerawork is sloppy at best, and it’s just straight up corny. Each character is an ideal depiction of the different demographics that populate the Mission District and in the process of simplifying and sanitizing what they represent Writer/Director Lise Swenson has sucked the soul out of all of them. I’d take Mission‘s depiction of an angst-filled White writer over Mission Movie‘s all encompassing storyline that does a disservice to everyone involved. There’s no other way to say it, this shit is all kinds of fucked up.

Unlike Mission, I’ve only viewed Mission Movie once but I’m still haunted by one particular scene of the movie. In it, a young woman walks down Mission Street (pretty much the only scene actually shot on Mission Street) and is followed and harassed by a group of stereotypical cholos. The sad truth about Mission Movie is that with the exception of one central character, this is the only time you see young Latino males. For the most part Latino males are depicted as either cute lovable kids or wise and respectable men. Watching it was a like a punch to my Chicano gut; the pain of which I still haven’t forgotten.

If my assessment of movies filmed in the Mission is a little depressing, don’t despair. There is at least one masterpiece out there that’s been filmed in the Mission District. One such work of cinematic excellence is The Wesley’s Mysterious File (and no that’s not a typo the title really is “The Wesley’s Mysterious File”). It’s a Hong Kong production filmed in San Francisco and it makes better use of the city than any other film before or after it.

While some have speculated that The Wesley’s Mysterious File is one of the worst movies ever made; I contend that it’s one of the most fun movies ever made and perhaps the most hilarious movie filmed in San Francisco. Here is the completely nonsensical official synopsis:

Wesley, is responsible for handling all the incidents that relate to extraterrestrial life on Earth. One day, Wesley meets Fong when he is looking at a blue human bone in an antique shop. Fong is an alien from the Blue Blood Planet, she left her home 600 years ago to look for the Blue Blood Bible. Wesley tries to stop Fong going away, the Double X Unit lead by Wai and So is ordered to handle the case. At the same time, Kill and Rape arrive Earth from Blue Blood Planet. They come here to take Fong back to the Blue Blood Planet.

If that’s confusing check out this awesome trailer

Simply put, The Wesley’s Mysterious File is batshit crazy. Its genius is that it takes the Mission District to a place it’s never been before: science fiction. About ten minutes into the film there is a scene in which main character Wesley stumbles onto a residential motel that’s been taken over by zombie-like aliens. The Wesley’s Mysterious File earns its ghetto pass by setting the scene on 15th and Valencia, right across the street from the notorious Valencia Gardens housing project. It doesn’t get much more Mission than that. The scene includes a Mexican stand0ff followed by Wesley and a swat team storming the building and blowing holes in the occupying aliens. Eventually they are overpowered by a massive demonic-looking computer generated creature and the fight breaks out into the streets again. It has to be seen to be believed.

The Wesley’s Mysterious File can be purchased in Chinatown at almost any DVD shop or from Amazon. Mission can also be purchased from Amazon. Mission Movie, thankfully, can’t be found anywhere and that’s all I’m going to say about that.

Well, that’s it for now. I’m off to check out La Mission. I will report back with a review later this weekend.



Mission Report: Valentine’s Day Edition

This is Rio Yañez taking it to the streets in an effort to bring you the latest news, chisme, and trash talk from the Mission District. Strap on your chanclas ’cause here we go!

Maybe it doesn’t hold up much these days but back in the day you couldn’t claim any sort of ghetto glam status without having your photo in the window of Dore Studio. If there was ever a Mission District version of America’s Next Top Model it was the competition between homegirls and hoodrats to get face time in the window at 2442 Mission Street. No joke, my homegirl Michelle once had her photo up in the window and we all treated it like it was a glorious 15 minutes of fame.

You want proof of the rapid gentrification of the Mission District? Look no further than the steep decline of ghetto gold. HISTORY LESSON: These gaudy-ass gold pieces used to be everywhere in the Mission. You used to be able to buy gold 49er chains in the New Mission theater while movies played. Sharp dressed men would go up and down the aisles with suitcases full of ghetto gold. You also could walk down the street and dudes would open their coats and they would be draped with the most ghetto fabulous chains and watches. The ghetto gold hustler is an endangered species in the Mission; the last time I saw a ghetto gold deal was years ago. It was inside the McDonald’s on 24th street and this guy has a small briefcase full of chains, he strolled up to a woman sitting down with her cheeseburger and opened it up on her table. She paid cash for a thin necklace and her parting words to him were “If I find out this shit is fake, I’mma come back and getcho’ ass.” Nowadays, ghetto gold is limited to a handful of shops around the neighborhood but I can’t imagine them lasting long unless gold weed leaves become a popular ironic accessory for hipsters.

Apparently the Mission District version of Batman claims North Side. That explains the MS13 tattoo I saw on the Joker’s neck the other day. Somewhere out there the ghost of Bob Kane is spinning; keep ya head up Bob.

Mariela and I went to Sheikh on 23rd & Mission to cop some cheap & sexy shoes for our Valentine’s day rendezvous. Back in the day, Foxy Lady Boutique was the only place on Mission street to buy ghetto-ass hootchie shoes; thankfully a lot of less-expensive alternatives have sprung up over the years. Sheikh may be a corporate chain but it’s my favorite place to buy footwear in the Mission. We came across these amazing pair of Shiekh Mellina-17G‘s pictured above and it was love at first sight. My homie Roger tipped me off that they’re bootlegs of Chanel gun-heeled shoes. Alas they were just a bit too small and they didn’t have the next size up. Once I get paid again best believe that I’ll be ordering pairs in gold and black online.

That does it for today’s dispatch from the front lines of the Mission District! Stay tuned for more slangin’ and bangin’ soon!