Did you notice those giant structures in front of Foreign Cinema or Tartine Bakery? They are about 50 inches high, and have a big black concrete base stuck with a large, upside down drop.

Alice Waters’ life-size Google map pin. Her favorite place: Tartine Bakery.

They weigh in at 800 pounds.  Is it a new style of sandwich board? A piece of art?  “Something spiritual”  as one pedestrian wondered  examining the structure in front  of Range Restaurant on Valencia?

No, no and no. It’s Google gone real.  All of those virtual map pins have been weighted down and dropped to earth.  Help! or Yes?  and Why?

“It is as if the cyber world was entering the real world,” said James Morrill,  from Paxton Gate.

It’s Google’s  launch for a new ad campaign to promote the search engine’s  free tools. The company asked celebrities around the world to share their favorite places in their city and to create their own Google Maps.

For San Francisco, they asked 13  “trendsetters” including   Mayor Gavin Newsom, and Gary Danko,  the three-star Michelin chef, as well a  Nate Query, the bass player for The Decemberists.

Out of the 100 or so favorite places in San Francisco, 19 are in the Mission. But no big surprises. No hidden hole-in-the-walls to discover.   The Mission list included Foreign Cinema, Bi-Rite and Delfina, Paxton Gate, the Make Out Room, Beretta, Double Dutch, and Range.

Each trendsetter was also asked to design his or her own customized  pin to mark his or her  favorite places on their own Google Map. Then, out of all the selected places, Google chose to highlight 30 locations by creating the very real pins.

Six of the 19 Mission establishments had  the life-size, 800-pound Google gorilla  pins delivered to their stores this week.

Okay, gorillas only weigh 300 to 700 pounds, according to a Google search.  So, these would have to be obese Google gorilla pins.

“I am very honored to have been selected by Alice (Waters) but when Google told me about this pin, I didn’t expect THAT,” said Chad Robertson, the owner of Tartine Bakery.  Okay, he had a smile on his face when he said THAT. “I was expecting something more artistic.”

Afraid that it was blocking sidewalk traffic or  that someone would use it to push through his storefront window, he tried to move it Wednesday night. Three employees helped. Impossible. Too heavy.

Samuel Genthner, the owner of the design shop Monument, said he had the same experience.  He also tried to move his sponsored-by-style-director-Elizabeth-Varnell statue around. Nope.  It’s Stuck. Earth bound forever.  As for the design of it?

“ If Google would had given me the choice, I don’t think I would have selected THAT design”, he said grinning in THAT same-good-natured Chad Robertson kind-of-way.

Was the  Google gorilla going to help business?  “We are already very busy,” Robertson, from Tartine’s said.  “The pin won’t bring much to us.”

His next door neighbor, Samuel disagreed. “ For sure, this statue catches the eyes. I hope it brings in new customers.”

But not all those selected got their statue.

Gary Danko’s light-bulb Google map pin. His favorite restaurant? Range.

Delfina Restaurant,  selected by three different trend-setters,  had no life-style Google pin. Co-owner, Craig Stoll, didn’t even know about the whole project.

“Where is my statue?” he asked. He walked down to his neighbor Tartine Bakery to see what it looked like and stopped. “Interesting…” (Okay, we wanted him to say THAT’S interesting, but he didn’t.)

He paused, took out his iPhone and snapped a picture of the big gorilla radish pin.  “It is cool. I am a fan of Google and it’s interesting to bring art to local merchants. I feel left out now…”

Each statue has its own name plate. For instance, the Google gorilla in front of Foreign Cinema says: “Tiffany Shlain has chosen Foreign Cinema as one of her favorite places in San Francisco. Visit google.co/favoriteplaces to see more. Google Maps. Summer 2009.” A name plate or the prologue to a book?

But, perhaps advertising is necessary.   “Que es Google?” or “What is Google,” asked Jose Angel, 39 and unemployed.  “I don’t have Internet.”

Tiffany Shlain’s Google-map pin targets Foreign Cinema

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  1. I totally agree with Jose. One of the artists in Stephania’s piece on the 3 finalists for the Valencia project says that one of the great things about the Mission is that you don’t see alot of Mall America staring back at you. And now this? Tell Google what you think of their art. Where’s Campos? Get the city to sweep this garbage off the sidewalk. (p.s. who are those trend setters and what trends are they setting?)

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  2. Art? This is not art! it is just a corporate backed lame imitation of the “cow parade” for advertisement purposes. They are ugly and they block the sideway; in a city with horribly lack of trees and public spaces. Having some useless 800 pound block our sidewalks is the last thing we need. Hope the city come into reason soon and remove all of them! We complain about graffiti and taggers but from my point of view, this drops are way to more annoying.

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