by Sam Levin
Jean Quan's rise in the underground hip hop scene. An Alameda petition to move the island closer to San Francisco. Johannes Mehserle's new role as Oakland police compliance director. These stories and much, much more are all available in the first-ever print edition of Oakland Unseen, the East Bay's version of The Onion, which will have a formal launch at Oakland Art Murmur this Friday.
Matt Werner, the (previously anonymous) brains behind the hilarious online news satire, gave the Express a sneak peek of Oakland Unseen's print debut — and we've included some highlights below to wet your appetite. Trust us when we say the whole thing, an impressive 16-page publication, is worth a read.
"It's the unseen, unheard stories of Oakland," said Werner, author of Oakland in Popular Memory and editor with Thought Publishing. "The big irony is that Oakland has such extremes that you are often confronted with the absurd in your daily life. Life is kind of absurd in Oakland."
Some of his absurd pieces — much like The Onion — have in fact confused readers who at first glance think the news may actually be true, he said. The selections in the print product, however, seem to pretty clearly cross the line. Here are some of our favorite headlines and excerpts (full articles available in print!):
The first edition is filled with a lot more fun, including Oakland Unseen's take on the mayor's race, Art Murmur, and Occupy Oakland.
It also features "Jack White Flight: Hipsters Fleeing Oakland in Record Numbers," a version of which first appeared on his Tumblr and soon after went viral. The feedback he got from that article inspired him to go all out in print, he said.
The idea is to poke fun at the news of the East Bay and the typical media coverage, he said, adding that he takes great lengths not to be mean-spirited in his humor.
"What I've seen is there's so much negative press written about Oakland," he said. "A lot of it is frankly very depressing. It is accurate, there's a crazy amount of crime. But at the same time, that's not the only thing happening. There's a lot more happening here."
His articles — Werner is the primary writer, though he has some other contributors as well — are generally inspired by real trends and news stories.
"I've created this sort of fictional world," said Werner, a 29-year-old Oakland native and alumnus of McSweeney's Publishing. "It is rooted in reality."
Copies of the issue will be available at the 25th Street Collective on Friday night and will be available in local book stores after that.