Volume 47 Number 48
FALL ARTS If advance schedules and press releases are any indication, this fall we’ll see a resurgence of nuanced, informed abstract painting in galleries around the Bay Area. Thoughtful formalist and abstract painting is always percolating somewhere beneath the flashier strata of the art world, and I’m heartened to see the number of galleries prepping shows that allow it some spotlight.
Another welcome development is the migration of four solid programs from downtown locations to within a block of each other in Potrero. Epicenter shift? Maybe not. But the Brian Gross, Catharine Clark, Jack Fischer, and George Lawson galleries — along with Hosfelt gallery — definitely give you a reason to add Potrero to your gallery route.
Christopher Burch, Aggregate Space
Christopher Burch offers darkly skewed takes on Song of the South allegories. His installation puts familiar and invented characters into terse psychological situations, recasting and heightening blues music lyrics in ways familiar to fans of Kara Walker. Through Sept. 21. 801 West Grand, Oakl; www.aggregatespace.com.
Alice Cattaneo, Romer Young
The Milanese sculptor starts with fairly modest materials — cardboard, felt, wire — to make precise, fragile assemblages in precise, contradictory ways that recall both Richard Tuttle and Fred Sandback. She’ll be in residency at Romer Young during September creating site-specific work for the Potrero space. Sept. 5—30, 1240 22nd St, SF; www.romeryounggallery.com.
Sandy Kim, Ever Gold
Sandy Kim’s hot, post-Vice photographs mine the now-familiar tropes of confessional, in-your-face documentary much better than most. Her flashy work communicates an immediacy and offhand confidence along with great attention to color and texture. Sept. 5—Oct. 5, 441 O’Farrell, SF; www.evergoldgallery.com.
Linda Geary, Steven Wolf Fine Arts
Linda Geary’s intuitive formalist paintings strike an assured balance of rigor and looseness, clarity and experimentation. Accompanying her paintings will be the group show “Hotbox Forever,” which she curated to include abstract painters Wendy White, Lecia Del-Rios, Jeffrey Gibson, and Maria Weatherford. Sept. 7—Oct. 19, 2747 19th St, Ste A, SF; www.stevenwolffinearts.com.
Erin Lawlor, George Lawson (Potrero gallery)
Parisian Erin Lawlor’s lush, nuanced abstract oil paintings evoke both Baroque dynamism and a cool, contemporary repose, all within a focused manner of execution and fairly subdued color palette. This show inaugurates George Lawson’s expansion into a second SF gallery in Potrero, a very welcome development for fans of abstract painting, as Lawson has a honed eye and a pretty deep stable. Sept. 7—Oct. 5, 315 Potrero, SF; www.georgelawsongallery.com.
Ward Schumaker, Jack Fischer
Ward Schumaker makes loose, gestural, mixed-media paintings, sculpture, and collage that tend to mix formal and narrative concerns by way of text, brushwork, and color field painting. His moody, ruminative compositions display a sure hand and questioning but unfussy approach. Sept. 7—Oct. 12, 311 Potrero, SF; www.jackfischergallery.com.
2012 SECA Art Award: Zarouhie Abdalian, Josh Faught, Jonn Herschend, David Wilson
With its building under construction, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is setting up four different site-specific projects to highlight its 2012 SECA Art Award winners, bestowed biennially on the Bay Area’s breakout artists. Zarouhie Abdalian will install programmed bells to ring in front of City Hall in Oakland; Josh Faught will create new woven sculptures for the Neptune Society Columbarium; David Wilson will create multidimensional experiences along walking routes at six outdoor locations; and Jonn Herschend will premiere a short film on the museum’s rooftop taking the building’s closure as a point of departure. Sept. 14—Nov. 17, various locations; www.sfmoma.org.
Edward Burtynsky, Rena Bransten
Burtynsky is famous for his arresting landscape photography which, like Richard Misrach, interrogates the way humans have irrevocably interrupted natural processes. His Rena Bransten show will feature aerials and large format shots related to water consumption and control in nine countries. Oct. 24—Dec. 14, 77 Geary, SF; www.renabranstengallery.com.
“David Hockney: A Bigger Exhibition,” de Young Museum
Hockney is one of those artists that on paper ought to be talked about more: prolific, likable, a pioneer in his day, author of a mildly controversial art history book, and all that. His large-scale landscapes from the last decade get the retrospective treatment here, hopefully reminding us why at one point he was one of the world’s most famous living artists. Oct. 26—Jan. 20, 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Dr., SF; deyoung.famsf.org.
Chris Fraser, Highlight
Chris Fraser uses splintered and filtered beams of light in installations that recast space in terms of mathematical rigor, reworked scale, and pregnant narrative. Nov. 28—Jan. 18, 17 Kearny, SF; www.highlightgallery.com.
Let’s all take a moment and give thanks for the return of the Maxfield Parrish “Pied Piper of Hamelin” painting to the Palace Hotel (2 New Montgomery, www.sfpalace.com). Nothing like a good public outcry to stop a hotel group from doing something stupid like selling one of our city’s icons. Ahem. The painting has returned from its restoration/spa retreat and is back up behind the storied hotel bar — it’s reportedly even more vibrant and stunning than ever (no beer goggles needed). The hotel will be offering a few specials to commemorate the unveiling, too, like a dedicated cocktail and dinner menu. Cheers, Pied Piper!
A few newbies for your radar at the Ferry Building Marketplace: there’s the nuevo Rancho Gordo shop, where you can score Steve Sando’s amazing beans, plus tortillas made from heirloom corn (have you tried these yet?), chiles, and more. And if you’re a fan of Sightglass Coffee, check out its new cart at the Saturday Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. You can get beans, espresso, and pour-over coffee to help you fuel up before contending with all those shoppers. Look for Sightglass in the back plaza, next to Cowgirl Creamery.
And now it’s time for a peek at all the Oakland openings, since the city is en fuego with new restaurants, and it’s all just a BART ride away. 510 pals are already digging the Cali cuisine at the 48-seat Homestead (4029 Piedmont, Oakland. www.homesteadoakland.com), with seasonal dishes like baked ricotta, stone fruit — get it while you can! — coppa, and grilled bread, or chile-rubbed, slow-roasted pork with creamed corn and cherry tomatoes. Look for lots of housemade touches, a strong beer list, and architecture fans will be happy to know the restaurant is in a 1920s Julia Morgan building. Sweet.
Chef Donato Scotti (of Donato Enoteca in Redwood City) has opened Desco (499 9th St., Oakland. www.descooakland.com) in the former Borgo. It’s a great space, with brick walls. The menu is full of handmade pastas (he knows what he’s doing), and Neapolitan pizze and schiacciate, a traditional bread, cooked in a wood-fired oven. Plus there’s a full liquor license, and outdoor seating — and both lunch and dinner are now being served. Buon appetito.
Craving some Filipino home cookin’? Visit Charleen Caabay’s brand-new, brick-and-mortar restaurant, Kainbigan (2101 14th Ave., Oakland. www.kainbigan.com), for comfort dishes like chicken adobo, pancit, lumpia (of course), and Filipino breakfast — served all day!
BALLIN’ ON A BUDGET
New York is going all cray-cray on Cronuts and ramen burgers, but there’s actually a local spot that was rockin’ the ramen burger first: Nombe (2491 Mission, SF. www.nombesf.com). There are two kinds: either miso-shiitake-blue cheese or soy-cheddar-bacon. The patty is sandwiched inside a ramen noodle bun, that’s right a bun made of noodles. It’s a meal at $10, and here’s the bonus: Wednesdays are Red Red Wine Wednesdays, when all bottles are 50 percent off. Hit it with a thirsty friend.
Love oysters? Not going to Burning Man? Then you don’t want to miss OysterFest at Waterbar (399 The Embarcadero, SF. www.waterbarsf.com) on Sun/1, with a variety of oysters on the half shell, small bites from EPIC Roasthouse, Farallon, and Waiheke Island Yacht Club, plus offerings from New Zealand, including beer and wine. The party runs from 12pm–3pm. Tickets are $60, nab ’em on the Waterbar website.
YOU GOTTA EAT THIS
Fatigué of your usual sandwich or boring salad for lunch? Pretend you’re Oprah with your own private chef and order a healthy three-course lunch from Petit Pot. This catering company — run by the charmingly accented Max Pouvreau — offers fresh, seasonal lunches in reusable Weck jars that are easy to transport and reheat. You can order them through Good Eggs (http://www.goodeggs.com/petitpot). Bring your little jars to work, filled with toasted farro tabbouleh with cherry tomatoes and feta, lamb shoulder, and spring onion tagine with prunes and roasted almonds. For dessert? Don’t pass up the lemon curd with almond streusel and candied lemon peel. Délicieux!
FALL ARTS As summer slips away for another year, our consolation prize is that we are about to witness one of the most jam-packed seasons gaming has ever seen. Not only are we welcoming two spiffy new game consoles for the first time in six years, but here are six games that prove those suddenly less-shiny systems you already have are not going quietly.
GETTING IN EARLY
Before bidding summer a true farewell, we can enjoy a few releases that sneaked in at the tail end of August.
Saints Row IV (Volition, Inc.; out now) is the best Saints game so far, marrying the gritty crime-sandbox foundation of its past with the incongruity of superpowers. As president of the United States, you’re tasked with entering the computer simulation of a small city to fight aliens with super-speed and telekinesis, as well as with novel alien weapons like the Inflato-ray, the Abduct-O-Matic, and the Dubstep Gun, which shoots actual rays of concentrated dubstep. It’s all very silly, but the series has found the sweet spot between funny and stupid and manages to remain there for the length of the game.
Similarly, The Bureau: XCOM Declassified (2K Marin; out now) seeks to join the strategy tactics of its past with the in-vogue third-person shooter — albeit with less successful results. Set in America of the 1960s, The Bureau is meant to divulge the humble beginnings of an alien-busting government organization known as the XCOM (Extraterrestrial Combat) unit. Unfortunately, the game’s publicly turbulent development is reflected in its rough-edged, bland shooter mechanics. Still, for franchise devotees there’s fun and horror in seeing the XCOM franchise try on a new hat.
Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead was undoubtedly last year’s breakout success. A zombie game more interested in the bits that didn’t involve mowing down hordes of the undead, the series of five short “episodes” forced players to make quick life-or-death decisions with no single correct answer. Season one made a good case for video games as a viable storytelling medium and, with The Walking Dead Season Two slated for this fall (release date TBD), we’re about to find out if Telltale can make a nation of gamers cry twice.
You probably already knew there was a new Grand Theft Auto coming: it’s kind of a big deal. This year’s Grand Theft Auto V (Rockstar North; Sept. 17) brings the series back to Los Santos, the faux-Los Angeles setting last seen in 2004’s Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, and boasts a healthy three simultaneously playable protagonists (compared to most games’ paltry one). GTA V will no doubt give us beaucoup gunfights and explosions — but it’s the little diversions like deep-sea diving, tennis, yoga, shopping, and bike riding that make this one look special. Finally, a version of The Sims that involves committing felonies!
If one word could describe this generation of blockbuster gaming, it would likely be sequels. So it’s encouraging to see a pair of promising new titles offering diversions that haven’t been iterated upon a billion times before.
Beyond: Two Souls (Quantic Dream; Oct. 8) is from the studio that brought you Heavy Rain, the ultra-cinematic choose-your-own adventure detective game about a serial killer who drowns his victims in rainwater. Beyond, too, seems intent on imitating film, sporting a convincing, motion-captured performance by Ellen Page as a young girl who has spent her life linked to a ghost. Willem Dafoe also stars? Sold!
Finally, much-buzzed-about WATCH_DOGS (Ubisoft Montreal; Nov. 19) draws on our fear of surveillance and technology’s overwhelming dominance of our everyday lives, and takes that fear to the extreme. As an uber-hacker capable of manipulating the technology around him — from street lights to ATMs to your social media profile — using his cellphone, WATCH_DOGS might be the rare sci-fi game with brains.
FALL ARTS In the Bay Area film scene, the volume is pretty much turned all the way up, all year ’round. But fall is particularly jam-packed: we’ve got more festivals and art-house events than we know what to do with — and coupled with the buzzy Hollywood stuff, film fans best prep for a solid diet of popcorn until New Year’s Eve. Or you could pick and choose the events and openings that excite you the most, using my multi-point plan as a jumping-off point.
12 Years a Slave (Oct. 18) The latest from provocative filmmaker Steve McQueen (2011’s Shame) adapts the 1853 autobiography of black freeman Solomon Northrup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), who was kidnapped and forced to work on Southern plantations. The intriguing cast includes Brad Pitt and McQueen stalwart Michael Fassbender — who’ll also co-star in Ridley Scott’s upcoming The Counselor — and Quvenzhané Wallis, in her first role since 2012’s Beasts of the Southern Wild.
The Wolf of Wall Street (Nov. 15) Martin Scorsese directs muse Leonardo DiCaprio (alongside Jonah Hill, Jean Dujardin, and Matthew McConaughey) in this tawdry account of a Wall Street tycoon’s rise (drugs! Luxury yachts!) and spectacular fall. If the zippy trailer is any indication, Wolf just might atone for the last Scorsese-DiCaprio collab, 2010 stinker Shutter Island.
Nebraska (Nov. 22) Two years after The Descendants, Alexander Payne returns with another sad-dad tale, but seriously, nobody does it better. Here, the troubled patriarch — a man rambling from Montana to Nebraska with his son (Will Forte) in search of sweepstakes winnings — is played by Bruce Dern, who won Best Actor at Cannes and is a likely Oscar nominee.
Inside Llewyn Davis (Dec. 20) The Coen Brothers’ latest follows an up-and-coming folk singer in 1961 Greenwich Village. Appropriately, up-and-coming actor Oscar Isaac stars, alongside a cast of Coen regulars (John Goodman) and noobs (Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake).
The Monuments Men (Dec. 18) He’s got his Best Picture Oscar (for producing 2012’s Argo); now George Clooney returns to the director’s chair to guide a gold-star ensemble (Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett) through this thriller about art curators rushing to preserve Nazi-nabbed artworks. (And yep, someone on IMDb.com’s message board has already dubbed it “Inglourious Basterds meets Ocean’s 11.”)
Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (Dec. 20) Appropriately enough, in a season stuffed with dude-heavy stories, the ultimate manly man returns. What have Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) and his San Diego news posse (Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, etc.) been up to for the past nine years? The ubiquitous Kristen Wiig joins a cast that also lists several huge names (Harrison Ford?) who probably fill cameo roles. (Confidential to Ferrell: will we ever see Step Brothers 2? Asking for a friend.)
American Hustle (Dec. 25) Just a year after the success of Silver Linings Playbook, David O. Russell returns with this crime drama about a con artist who becomes unlikely partners with a federal agent; it’s a fictionalized take on the FBI’s real-life Abscam operation (circa late-1970s and early-1980s Long Island and New Jersey, hence the outrageous costumes). Stars include Playbook‘s Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, and Robert De Niro, plus Christian Bale, Amy Adams, and Jeremy Renner.
New Parkway (www.thenewparkway.com) In addition to its second-run programming (Man of Steel goes down easier with tasty pizza), Oakland’s speakeasy continues its theme nights, including the “Thrillville Theater” cult showcase, and the free “First Friday Shorts. Sept. 6’s event features short films by and about transmen of color.
Vortex Room (Facebook: The Vortex Room) Step into the Vortex lair for September’s “Margheritiville,” four weeks of Thursday night double features dedicated to trashy Italian genre master Antonio Margheriti — including 1980’s immortal Cannibal Apocalpyse.
The Castro (www.castrotheatre.com), the Roxie (www.roxie.com), and Berkeley’s Pacific Film Archive (bampfa.berkeley.edu) share hosting duties on a Pier Paolo Pasolini retrospective that includes 1975’s oft-banned Salò, Or the 120 Days of Sodom. Also at the Castro, look for tributes to the late Karen Black (Sept. 18) as well as a restored print of 1973’s The Wicker Man (Oct. 4-5). Anticipated fall-calendar bookings at the Roxie include acclaimed DC sniper drama Blue Caprice (Sept. 20), and shot-on-the-sly-at-Disneyland saga Escape From Tomorrow (Oct. 11).
At the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (www.ybca.org), September brings “Local Boy Makes Good: New Bay Area Film” as well as “Back In the Day: New Films on Hip-Hop and Urban Subculture.” Later in the season, look for “Age Limit May Vary in Certain Areas: A History of X-Rated Film” (Nov.-Dec.), and a Rainer Werner Fassbinder series (Oct.-Dec.) that’ll also play at the Roxie and the PFA.
Speaking of the PFA, catnip for film fans awaits with “Dark Matters: The Films of William Friedkin” (Sept. 12-21), who proved he hasn’t lost his touch with 2011’s Killer Joe. Head-spinning bonus: the man behind 1971’s The French Connection and 1973’s The Exorcist makes an in-person visit Sept. 21, between screenings of Joe and 1980’s Cruising.
Experimental junkies will want to check the San Francisco Cinematheque (www.sfcinematheque.org) and Other Cinema (www.othercinema.com) pages for seasonal updates, while midnight-movie fiends can rely on Midnites for Maniacs (www.midnitesformaniacs.com; next show is a “Back to Skool” theme, Sept. 20 at the Castro) and Midnight Movies at the Clay (www.landmarktheatres.com), which dares to dunk 1996’s Space Jam (Sept. 20-21) onto its calendar.
Pencil in Oct. 2-3 for the Exploratorium (www.exploratorium.edu) premiere of Sam Green’s new cinematic event, Fog City, with live music composed for the film by New York band the Quavers.
Fall’s largest local film festival is the Mill Valley Film Festival (www.mvff.com); the 36th incarnation runs Oct. 3-13 and includes a tribute to 80-year-old Z (1969) filmmaker Costa-Gavras. But don’t overlook the smaller fests: Cine+Mas, the San Francisco Latino Film Festival (Sept. 12-27; www.sflatinofilmfestival.com); the Atheist Film Festival (“a film festival you can believe in”), Sept. 14 at the Roxie (www.sfatheistfilmfestival.org); the San Francisco Irish Film Festival (Sept. 19-21; www.sfirishfilm.com); the San Francisco Transgender Film Festival (Nov. 8-10; www.sftff.org); the Oakland Underground Film Festival (Sept. 25-29; www.oakuff.org); the Arab Film Festival (Oct. 11-13; www.arabfilmfestival.org); the American Indian Film Festival (Nov. 1-10; www.aifisf.com); and the 3rd I San Francisco International South Asian Film Festival (Nov. 7-10; www.thirdi.org). And probably 10-12 more that I haven’t heard about yet.
If none of those festivals tick your boxes, head to the San Francisco Film Society‘s calendar (www.sffs.org) to parse its meaty schedule, kicking off with programs devoted to Egyptian filmmaker-in-residence Mohamed Diab (Oct. 1-15). Then, throughout the fall, SFFS presents films from Hong Kong, Zurich, Taiwan, France, Italy, and right here in the Bay Area. *
THEATER For fans of experimental performance, there’s nothing quite like the San Francisco Fringe Festival. Now a venerable 22 years old, the Fringe still retains its freewheeling nature, where anything goes and expecting the unexpected is the best approach. It’s also served as a vital incubator for many now-established theater companies — including Cutting Ball, Crowded Fire, Mugwumpin, and Thrillpeddlers — and no other festival prepares theater artists for the business realities of self-producing quite like the Fringe. The fest makes them responsible for every detail of their show’s success, including play creation, technical design, transportation, and audience outreach.
Hosted at the EXIT Theatre, which holds down the edge of the downtown theater district, the SF Fringe is the final stop on the annual Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals circuit (which stretches east to west across the North American continent). Over the years, it has welcomed artists from as nearby as the Mission District and as far away as Mauritius, drawing their names (literally) out of a hat during a public lottery to ensure that all applicants get an equal shot at participating.
This commitment to non-curation is what sets the Fringe apart from other theater festivals, as even the organizers don’t know what to expect from a given show until the curtain goes up. With that caveat in mind, here’s a sampling of shows that look promising for one reason or another — though your best bet, as always, is to see as many shows as possible and discover what stands out for you.
Solo shows are a Fringe staple, since technical considerations are skewed in favor of minimalist productions. With Held offers a glimpse inside the mind and method of a local artist, John Held Jr.; playwright-performer Jeremy Greco (of The Thrilling Adventures of Elvis in Space infamy) spent over a year interviewing Held about his life, and another year creating a show out of the material. Rebecca M. Fisher (2007’s The Magnificence of the Disaster) takes her audiences down south with Memphis on My Mind, while local comedian and circus school alumna Jill Vice brings them to the bar to pour everyone a (metaphorical) round in The Tipped & the Tipsy. Triple threat musician, actor, and improv artist Jeff England promises to combine all of his talents in his solo offering Tale Me Another, while another triple threat (singer-dancer-actor) Movin’ Melvin Brown brings his well-traveled performance piece A Man, A Magic, A Music to SF for the first time.
Shows which topically involve sex are another time-honored Fringe tradition, and this year’s selection seems especially wide-ranging. There’s 52 Letters, by Regina Y. Evans, which delves into the tricky territory of sex-trafficking with a performance poetry format; and The Women of Tu-Na House, a solo show by Nancy Eng, who portrays eight women working the “massage parlor” circuit.
One sexy show that breaks into the territory of the fantastical is Fish-girl, co-created and performed by Siouxsie Q, creator of the popular sex worker podcast and blog the WhoreCast. A mermaid grapples with “the feeling of being half in one world and half in another,” a common sentiment among sex workers, many of whom also “identify strongly with the mermaid myth,” according to Q.
For lovers of the purely experimental there are always a few Fringe shows that are best categorized as impossible-to-categorize, and it’s often these shows that best encapsulate the spirit of what’s possible, theatrically, in and out of the Festival. This year these include the welcome return of Popcorn Anti-Theater’s traveling bus with a whole new lineup of performers (including clowns, comediennes, and shadow puppeteers) and new secret locations on their mysterious itinerary.
Fringe stalwarts Dark Porch Theatre return with what sounds like one of their most ambitious projects to date, StormStressLenz, a fractured remix of the works of J. M. R. Lenz, an 18th century German playwright of the little-referenced sturm und drang movement. Remounted in 30 small vignettes connected to one of six themes — love, tricks, conflict, sorrow, resolution, and reunion — the piece is said to be structured like a concert of chamber music, with director-translator Martin Schwartz as conductor. Davis Shakespeare Ensemble’s Nightingale is a work of devised theater combining medieval and modern text, movement, shadow puppetry, and beat boxing; while performance artist Cara Rose DeFabio brings a follow-up to her 2012 multimedia piece She Was a Computer with After the Tone, a reflection on death, immortality, and technology with an audience participation component (hint: keep your cellphone on).
“This is my first Fringe, and I couldn’t be more excited,” DeFabio confides enthusiastically. “While at times it feels overwhelming, that abundance of choice and excitement is exactly what buoys the whole festival.” *
SAN FRANCISCO FRINGE FESTIVAL
Sept. 6-21, $12.99 or less (passes, $40-75)
156 Eddy, SF
FALL ARTS Kings and queens, Brits and brats, music and mayhem, puppets and oppressors—the stage brims with them this fall. Talk about holding a mirror up to nature.
The King of Hearts is Off Again Here’s a rare chance to experience the thrilling precision and stagecraft of a Polish ensemble theater working in the tradition of legendary master Jerzy Grotowski. San Francisco International Arts Festival and Los Angeles–based KulturePlus Productions present the Bay Area debut of Warsaw’s Studium Theatralne and its stage adaptation of Hanna Krall’s internationally acclaimed novel about a young Jewish woman (the real-life Izolda Regenberg) who escaped the Warsaw Ghetto and the Holocaust by passing as an Aryan. Oct. 2–4, Joe Goode Annex, SF; Oct. 5, University Theater, CSU East Bay, Hayward; www.sfiaf.org.
Sidewinders Rising American playwright and Louisville, Ky. native Basil Kreimendahl queers the Western while exploring Western queerness in Cutting Ball and director M. Graham Smith’s world premiere. Oct. 18–Nov. 17, Cutting Ball Theater at Exit on Taylor, SF; www.cuttingball.com.
Forest Fringe SF On the heels of a galvanizing summer intensive with local and UK artists, the love affair between the south of England’s adventurous University of Chichester theater department and the Bay Area continues this fall with an international mini-festival of devised performance co-sponsored by CounterPULSE and featuring the likes of Action Hero and other UK artists, as well as more UK–Bay Area collaborations. Oct. 24–27, CounterPULSE, SF; www.counterpulse.org.
Dogugaeshi Master puppeteer Basil Twist delves into the titular ancient Japanese theatrical technique in this play whose central staging conceit is an ever-shifting array of screens. Taking the audience on a journey through inner and outer landscapes, with Japanese composer-musician Yumiko Tanaka accompanying live on the three-stringed samisen, the hourlong Bessie Award–winning 2004 production becomes a meditation on the flux and fragility of tradition, life — the world — told with grace, subtlety, and humor. Nov. 6–10, Zellerbach Playhouse, Berk; calperfs.berkeley.edu.
Be Bop Baby: A Musical Memoir The inimitable Margo Hall (prized Bay Area actor and co-founder of Campo Santo) teams up with formidable Bay Area musician-composer Marcus Shelby and his orchestra for this original, eclectic, song-filled autobiographical account of Hall’s upbringing in the Detroit household of her beloved stepfather, leading jazz musician and Motown composer-arranger Teddy Harris Jr. Nov. 19–23, Z Space, SF; www.zspace.org.
San Francisco Fringe Festival With 36 companies and 158 performances over 16 days — and a per-show ticket price of about 10 bucks or less — the SF Fringe is as cheap and plump and addictive as a ballpark frank, and far easier on your colon. Sept. 6–21, EXIT Theatreplex, SF; www.sffringe.org.
Caught The group show “Fuck Off 2,” under way at Groninger Museum in the Netherlands, updates and celebrates a notorious (and officially quashed) 2000 exhibition in Beijing, which heralded the arrival of an uncompromising generation of Chinese contemporary artists, including Ai Weiwei (a contributing artist to the 2000 show and a co-curator of part two). Against the urgent and fascinating backdrop of art and political dissent in contemporary China comes 2by4 Theatre’s world premiere of Caught, a play on the art of subterfuge, or the subterfuge of art, by rising local playwright Christopher Chen (The Hundred Flowers Project) that centers on a major retrospective of work by “legendary” Chinese artist and dissident Lin Bo. Nov. 26–Dec. 21, ACT Costume Shop, SF; www.2by4theatre.com.
Mephistopheles Meph-heads: Your Faustian fix awaits in one of the biggest spectacles to “grace” the stage at the San Francisco Opera this season or any: Arrigo Boito’s 19th century adaptation of Goethe’s Faust, with bass-baritone Ildar Abdrazakov in the delightfully malign title role and SF Opera’s Nicola Luisotti on the podium. Sept. 6–Oct. 2, War Memorial Opera House, SF; www.sfopera.com.
The Episodes Brontez Purnell Dance Company delivers the next iteration of the intriguing and intelligent work that debuted last March at the Garage, which draws its physical and thematic inspiration from the ritual-like repetitions of the quotidian. Nov. 22–24, CounterPULSE, SF; www.counterpulse.org.
Keith Hennessy, Hana Lee Erdman, Jassem Hindi Among the many things one could say about the tantalizing lineup behind this three-act liquidizer of music, noise, improvisation, and performance, is that the evening reunites three impressive performer-agents from Hennessy’s monumental Turbulence (a dance about the economy). Dec. 6–7, CounterPULSE, SF; www.counterpulse.org. *
FALL ARTS Fall may no long bring with it the nervous anticipation of entering a new classroom, clutching a shiny lunch box to your chest. But for those of us hooked on live performance, September brings its own thrills, as theaters, studios, and lofts reopen their doors. If dance happens to be your particular bag, you can’t do much better than the here and now. Few other places in the country can beat the Bay Area for the sheer variety with which nude, slippered, and high-heeled feet take the stage.
SAN FRANCISCO SPECIAL: DANCE THEATER
EmSpace Dance‘s Erin Mei-Ling Stuart ranges far and wide for her new Monkey Gone to Heaven, exploring the role of prayer, meditation, and belief systems in primates of both the higher and the lower order. Sept. 12-15 and 19-22, CounterPULSE, SF; www.counterpulse.org.
For their new, multi-disciplinary MU — based on a Japanese legend about a young man who meets a mermaid and visits a lost continent at the bottom of the sea — First Voice art and life partners Brenda Wong Aoki and Mark Izu team up with ODC choreographer Kimi Okada. Young Kai Kane Aoki Izu portrays the traveler. Sept. 27-29, Jewish Community Center of San Francisco, SF; www.jccsf.org.
13th Floor Dance Theater‘s Jenny McAllister must have a thing for writers. She follows last year’s witty take on the Bloomsbury crowd with Being Raymond Chandler, in which she channels the quintessential mystery icon as he’s haunted by his fictional characters. Oct. 26-27 and Nov. 1-2, ODC Theater, SF; www.13thfloordance.org.
In the Netherlands the baton has been passed. It remains to be seen whether the long-time choreographic team — a rarity in itself — of Sol León and Paul Lightfoot can keep up the standards of the always superb Nederlands Dans Theater. Oct. 23-24, Zellerbach Hall, Berk; www.calperfs.berkeley.edu.
Good news: the West Wave Dance Festival is stayin’ alive. Its new artistic director, Joe Landini, commissioned choreographers Anne-René Patraca, Anandha Ray, Holly Shawn, and Casey Lee Thorne for one program. He turned over the other three evenings to guest curators Dance Mission Theater, Jesse Hewit, and Amy Seiwert, who imprint their own view on the fest. Sept. 16-Oct 28, various venues, SF; www.westwavedancefestival.org.
Joe Goode is poet, a soothsayer, and a clown who addresses a loneliness that goes to the core of who we are. His particular perspective comes from being a gay man, but his reach is broad and generous. Perhaps most important is his ability to continue finding intriguing new frameworks for his musings. The new Hush is based on six real-life stories. Sept. 26-Oct. 5, Z Space, SF; www.joegoode.org.
A rarity in contemporary dance, Los Angeles’ BodyTraffic is not a single-choreographer company, but focuses its efforts on creating a rep from the most exciting new voices it can find. For SF it will be Kyle Abraham, Barak Marshall, and Richard Siegal — hip-hop, dance theater, and jazz. Sept. 26-29, ODC Theater, SF; odcdance.org/bodytraffic.
At 20, Smuin Ballet has begun to make major inroads into drawing audiences with a repertoire that pushes the boundaries of ballet without disowning late founder Michael Smuin’s heritage. Czech choreographer Jirí Kylián’s Return to a Strange Land is a case in point. Oct. 4-12, Palace of Fine Arts, SF; www.smuinballet.org.
To honor Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company‘s three decades of rethinking dance, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts has scheduled exhibits, conversations, master classes, video screenings, a site-specific piece at CounterPULSE (Oct. 10), and a rethinking of a classic. In A Rite Jones works with theater pioneer Anne Bogart for a fresh take on Stravinsky’s masterwork The Rite of Spring. Oct. 7-13, YBCA and CounterPULSE, SF; www.ybca.org.
For its 40th anniversary, Oakland-based Dimensions Dance Theater makes a rare appearance in SF. At this year’s SF Ethnic Dance Festival, the company just about tore the roof off YBCA with its explosively joyous take on a New Orleans funeral. The anniversary program offers glimpses into past — going back to 1973 — and the world premiere of Rhythms of Life Down the Congo Line. Oct. 5, YBCA, SF; www.dimensionsdance.org.
Flamenco’s La Tania and ODC/Dance (with Waving Not Drowning: A Guide to Elegance, featuring paper dresses) are among the participants in Cal Performances’ annual hit show, Fall Free for All, an all-day open house of live performances on the UC Berkeley campus. Sept. 29, UC Berkeley, Berk; calperfs.berkeley.edu.
Janice Garrett and Charles Moulton of Garrett + Moulton Productions seem to inspire each other in pursuing the unknown with a common language. A Show of Hands is their latest endeavor — daytime performances exploring gestures with the help of Dan Becker’s commissioned score, performed live by the Friction Quartet. Oct. 17-26, Jewish Community Center of San Francisco, SF; www.garrettmoulton.org.
Offered at noon every first Friday, the Rotunda Dance Series, presented by Dancers’ Group and World Arts West, makes City Hall sing in a dance-by-the-people, for-the-people sort of way. Kicking off the new season is Peruvian dance company Asociación Cultural Kanchis. Starts Sept. 6, City Hall, SF; www.dancersgroup.org. *
FALL ARTS: NIGHTLIFE Heads up, clubbers of the near future, on two new party spots. Audio Discotech (316 11th St, SF. www.audiosf.com) looks retro-fab, with a Funktion-One system — but the crowd retains a spritz of former-occupant Mist’s at-bro-sphere, and the headliners so far have leaned too pop-EDM for my taste. Beaux (2344 Market, SF. www.beauxsf.com), opening mid-September in the Castro, risks this on the gay side — it takes over the Trigger space — but with hip-explosion promoter Joshua J at the helm, a sleek-yet-comfy redesign, and a “soundscape “-oriented approach to its three floors, it might be quite cute.
But for right now: fall, parties, let’s get into them. (And for Labor Day Weekend party picks, hit up www.sfbg.com/noise.)
SENSATION: THE OCEAN OF WHITE
This critic-proof arena spectacle — wear all white! — seems too over-the-top to not devolve into just another writhing mass of fistpumpers waiting for the next drop. However! The surprise is that music coordinators actually have some good taste, and it’s more multimedia art project than quick cash-in — even though it costs a bundle.
Sept. 14, 7pm, $150–$250. Oracle Arena, 7000 Coliseum Way, Oakl. http://www.sensation.com
Prepare to be beamed aboard the dub-genius starship of Alex Paterson and fellow UK rave pioneer friends at this 25th anniversary live performance. Little Fluffy Clouds for all.
Sept. 18, doors 7pm, show 8pm, $25. Regency Ballroom, 1300 Van Ness, SF. www.theregencyballroom.com
Yes, yoga, good vibes, crunchy granola, and astral projection are still on the macrobiotic menu at this mountain music and meditation festival, themed “Year of the Water Snake.” Check out this insane lineup, though: Mount Kimbie, Lunice, Hudson Mohawke, Iamwhoami’s US debut, Thugfucker, Matias Aguayo, Max Cooper, Lee Foss, STS9….
Sept. 19-23, $40–$275. Woodward Reservoir, Oakdale, CA. www.symbiosisgathering.com
INDIAN SUMMER BLOCK PARTY
A treasured daytime blackout tradition, with superstar undergrounders Speedy J, Tiger and Woods, Henrik Schwartz, Woolfy. And a block full of happy freaks. No headdresses please.
Sept. 28, 2pm-night, $20–$30. Public Works, 161 Erie, SF. www.publicsf.com
Earth’s reigning feel-good French electro prestidigitator returns to an adoring Bay Area — on Halloween. It’s going to be craziness.
Oct. 31, 9pm, $25. Mezzanine, 444 Jessie, SF. www.mezzaninesf.com
The As You Like It party crew brings in wicked young Brit househead Maya Jane Coles and cosmic German techno fave Cosmin TRG (as well as almost a dozen others) for some big fun.
Nov. 1, 9pm-4am, $20. Public Works, 161 Erie, SF. www.ayli-sf.com
Hey, are you fat, hairy, and gay? Can I snag your digits? Also: You’ll be dancing all Veterans Day weekend long at this inaugural week of woofy pride with tons of special guests. (Do people still say, “Woof?” Or is that a ’90s thing?)
Nov. 7-11, various locations, times, and prices. www.sfbearpride.com
A strong showing by small businesses and activists concerned about chain stores and gentrification in the Mission won over a 3-2 majority on the Board of Appeals on Aug. 21, but their appeal of a city ruling that Jack Spade isn’t a formula retail business was denied anyway because it needed four votes.
The Valencia Corridor Merchants’ Association challenged the Planning Department’s June decision to issue a building permit to Jack Spade, a men’s clothing chain moving into the old Adobe Bookstore location on 16th Street. Officials ruled that chain has fewer than 11 locations, so it wasn’t required to go through the conditional use hearing required of “formula retail” businesses.
Though it indeed has only 10 locations, Jack Spade “has a complete imbalance of power and resources, which is exactly what the formula retail legislation aimed to remedy in the first place,” Mission activist Kyle Smeallie told the Guardian. Jack Spade is owned by Fifth & Pacific (aka Liz Claiborne), which also owns the Kate Spade women’s clothing chain. “We’re going to make the case that, since it’s named Spade, it has benefitted from the association with Kate Spade,” Smeallie explained. “Legally, we have a case to say a Spade is Spade and they should be considered one and same.”
Local business owners fear that an influx of chain stores will drive up commercial rents in the Mission and force them out of business. “I’m strongly opposed because of its potential to destroy the culture of this area,” Michael Katz, owner of Katz Bagels across 16th Street from the site, told the Guardian. “If they start allowing chains to come, it will be one chain store after another.”
Activists say they’re considering their options and not yet ready to give up.
A class action lawsuit filed against Uber, a tech-based service that connects riders to drivers and has filled San Francisco streets with sleek black town cars, alleges that the company is cheating its drivers out of tips.
The suit also charges that drivers have been misclassified as independent contractors under California law.
Uber’s website tells customers there is “no need to tip,” and drivers are prohibited from accepting any extra cash. The complaint alleges that “drivers do not receive the tips that are customary in the car service industry and that they would otherwise receive were it not for Uber’s communication to customers that they do not need to tip.”
The lawsuit was filed in San Francisco’s Northern District on Aug. 16. Attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan told us that by withholding tips, “Uber is artificially trying to make the total price look lower — and in doing so, they’re hurting the drivers.”
Douglas O’Connor, named as a plaintiff in the lawsuit, said that when he started working as an Uber driver in San Francisco about 10 months ago, he was told not to accept tips because they were included in the service fees automatically charged to customers’ credit cards. But there’s nothing in his paycheck to indicate whether he has received a gratuity or for what amount, O’Connor said.
“For some of the drivers there has been a line item, but that line item that’s called the gratuity has not gone to the drivers,” Liss-Riordan explained. In those cases, it appears Uber takes half, she said. And in cases like O’Connor’s, “There is no separate gratuity that’s going to the drivers,” Liss-Riordan said, so the representation that any tip was included in the first place is “a lie.”
Uber spokesperson Andrew Noyes told the Guardian, “While we have not yet been served with this complaint, the allegations made against our company are entirely without merit and we will defend ourselves vigorously… Frivolous lawsuits like this cost valuable time, money, and resources that are better spent making cities more accessible.”
A memorial and informational event on Aug. 21 at the Sixth and Folsom corner where a bicyclist was fatally run over by a delivery truck a week earlier was marred by a tense and unsettling confrontation with an SFPD sergeant who showed up to block the bike lane with his cruiser, lecture the cyclists, and blame the victim.
The event was organized by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition to raise awareness of the incident and that dangerous intersection and to call for the city to make improvements. It included friends and co-workers of 24-year-old Amelie Le Moullac, who was riding in the Folsom Street bike lane on the morning of Aug. 14 when an unidentified truck driver turned right onto Sixth Street, across her path, and ran her over.
SFPD Sgt. Dennis Toomer tells the Guardian that the department has completed the traffic incident report, information from which can only be shared with the parties involved, but that the investigation of the fatality is still ongoing and will be forwarded to the District Attorney’s Office for review once it’s done.
But SFBC Executive Director Leah Shahum said that SFPD Sgt. Richard Ernst, who showed up at the event a little before 9am, had already drawn his own conclusions about the crash and showed up to make his apparent disdain for “you people,” bicyclists, disturbingly clear.
Shahum said that she tried to be diplomatic with Ernst and asked him to please move his patrol car out of the bike lane and into an available parking space that was right next to it, saying that it presented an unnecessary hazard to bicyclists riding past.
But she said Ernst refused to do so for almost 10 minutes, telling the group that he has “a right” to leave his car there and that he was “making the point that bicyclists need to move around” cars parked in bike lanes, according to Shahum’s written account, which she prepared to file about the incident with the Office of Citizens Complaints.
“He then told me explicitly that he ‘would not leave until’ I ‘understood’ that ‘it was the bicyclist’s fault.’ This was shocking to hear, as I was told just a day ago by Commander [Mikail] Ali that the case was still under investigation and no cause had yet been determined,” Shahum wrote.
And apparently Ernst didn’t stop at denouncing Le Moullac for causing her own death, in front of people who are still mourning that death. Shahum said Ernst also blamed the other two bicyclist deaths in SF this year on the cyclists, and on “you people” in the SFBC for not teaching cyclists how to avoid cars.
“I told him the SF Bicycle Coalition does a significant amount of safety work educating people biking and driving about sharing the road, and that I’d be happy to share more information with him. I again urged him to move his car out of the bike lane. He again refused, saying it was his right and he wasn’t moving until I ‘understood,'” Shahum wrote.
Shahum said there were multiple witnesses to the incident, including three television reporters who were there to cover the event.
“In addition to the Sgt’s inappropriate and dangerous behavior of parking his car in the bike lane and blocking safe passage for people bicycling by, it was deeply upsetting to see him unnecessarily disrupt and add tension to what was already an emotional and difficult time for many people who lamented this sad loss of life,” Shahum wrote.
Asked about the actions and attitudes expressed by Ernst, who we could not reach for comment, Toomer told us he “cannot talk about personnel issues.”
Compounding Ernst’s insensitive and judgmental approach, it also appears the SFPD may have failed to properly investigate this incident, which Shahum and the SFBC have been tracking closely, and she said the SFPD told her that there were no video surveillance tapes of the collision.
After the event, SFBC’s Marc Caswell decided to check in at businesses on the block to see if they had any video cameras aimed at the intersection, and he found an auto body business at the intersection whose workers said they did indeed have revealing footage of the crash that the SFPD hasn’t requested, but which SFBC delivered to investigators.
“He had the time to come harass us at a memorial, but he didn’t have the time to see if anyone had footage of this incident,” Shahum told us. “It’s very unsettling.”
OPINION Today, Aug. 28, we mark the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech at the March on Washington. But we are sobered by the fact that 46 million citizens are living in poverty and that we have become two Americas — one for the rich and one for the rest of us.
Dr. King had a solution to poverty and to the bleak economic conditions faced by many Americans today. “I am now convinced that the simplest solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a new widely discussed measure: the guaranteed income,” he wrote in his 1967 book, Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? “A host of psychological changes inevitably will result from widespread economic security.”
In 1969, a presidential commission recommended, 22-0, that the United States adopt a guaranteed annual income, with no mandatory work requirements, for all citizens in need. The report was buried and forgotten, even though the National Council of Churches, by a vote of 107-1, agreed. So did the Kerner Commission, the California Democratic Council, the Republican Ripon Society, and the 1972 Democratic Party platform.
Fast forward 50 years and the concept of a guaranteed income — or Basic Income Guarantee — is not discussed much anymore. But it remains, as even the late economist Milton Friedman always maintained, the most practical and sensible way to end poverty in America and provide economic security to all Americans.
Today we have more than 14 million Americans unemployed with no evidence to back up the claim that we can create jobs for everyone who wants one. Machines are doing work people used to do. Jobs are not coming back and many families teeter on the brink of poverty.
Relying on jobs and economic growth does not work. Job creation is a completely wrong approach because the world doesn’t need everyone to have a job in order to produce what is needed. We need to rethink the concept of having a job. When we say we need more jobs, what we really mean is we need more money to live on.
Today there are more than 300 income-tested federal social programs costing more than $400 billion a year. Much of that money goes for administrative expenses, not to the needy.
Charles Murray, a conservative author whose 1984 book Losing Ground claimed that welfare was doing more harm than good, now agrees with the Rev. King’s approach. Murray calls for giving an annual cash grant of $10,000 — with no work requirement — to every adult over age 21.
“We still have millions of people without comfortable retirements, without adequate health care, and living in poverty. Only a government can spend so much money so ineffectively. The solution is to give the money to the people,” Murray writes in his book: In Our Hands.
Indeed, the state of Alaska has given an annual cash grant to its people for the past 30 years of between $800 and $2,000, with no work requirements, reducing poverty and the inequality of income in Alaska.
The U.S. is a wealthy nation. Our net worth is $58 trillion. That’s an average of $185,000 for each man, woman, and child in the country. A basic income guarantee would establish economic security as a universal right. It will give all of us the assurance that, no matter what happens, we won’t go hungry.
This year, as we celebrate the March on Washington, the adoption of a basic income guarantee would help to fulfill the Rev. King’s dream of economic security as a universal right of all Americans.
Allan Sheahen is the author the new book: Basic Income Guarantee: Your Right to Economic Security. He is a board member of the U.S. Basic Income Guarantee (USBIG) Networks (www.basicincomneguarantee.com).
When we caught up with Prince$$, who has spent more than a decade at the Lusty Lady — not just as a dancer but in roles ranging from marketing guru to shop steward for the peep show’s unionized dancers — she wasn’t in her favorite over-the-knee platform boots or a classic burlesque getup.
Instead, her dyed-purple hair was tied back, and she was taking a moment to catch her breath between organizing a hasty archiving project, pulling together the Lusty’s final farewell bash, and absorbing the earth shattering news that the famed North Beach strip club would be closing its doors for good on Sept. 2 after a storied 37-year run in San Francisco.
What’s the difference between the Lusty Lady and any other strip club in the city? For one, it’s earned a political rep with its co-op ethos, feminist vibe, and array of dancers showcasing all shapes, sizes, colors, aesthetics, tattoos, and body piercings. It was even the subject of a 2000 documentary, Live Nude Girls Unite!, which chronicled the mid-1990s unionization effort.
“Without the Lusty, there’s no alternative, non-homogenized club,” says Prince$$, who never leaves home without fliers promoting the peep show and even carries around a Lusty Lady pen in her purse. “It would be like if every restaurant in San Francisco was shut down and all you got was TGI Friday’s. It’s like comparing Zeitgeist to Ruby Skye.”
With a dingier interior than its flashy counterparts, the Lusty is a place that might stage such events as a (sexy) May the Fourth Star Wars themed bash, a (sexy) Fleet Week celebration with pirates and singing mermaids, or a (sexy) Kiss-themed holiday blowout. This isn’t your black-tie, $50-cover, arrive-in-a-limo sort of establishment, observes Prince$$, who has also worked in other clubs and said she chose her name because “that was the silliest stripper name I could think of.”
A little over a year ago, she found herself shouldering the Lusty’s legacy after nearly everyone else split, because it looked like the peep show might be toast. “I was literally left holding a handful of keys. I was left just holding this thing. No one would take it, and I said, I will. It was my life for most of last year. You make a promise, and you keep it,” she added.
But the Lusty’s ship was already listing dangerously then, and now it has finally capsized. And of course it all comes down to money, honey. In an odd twist, the Lusty’s landlord, Roger Forbes, also happens to own every other strip club in San Francisco through his parent company, Déjà Vu Entertainment. That includes The Hustler Club, a strip joint sandwiched up against the iconic Lusty in the city’s red light district on Kearny and Broadway streets.
“For about 10 years now, the Lusty Lady has been paying twice market value for our property here,” explained Scott Farrell, who stepped in as a management consultant earlier this year in a last-ditch effort to help save the club, which he’d initially had an eye toward buying. “When I came into the picture, the rent was $16,500” per month for the 3,423 square foot nightclub, he explained. Yet he’d seen similar properties rent nearby for $8,400.
A porn actor and member of the BDSM community himself, Farrell said he’d engaged in negotiations with Forbes to reduce the rent, which he says would have allowed the club to launch a webcam project to bring in extra revenue, spruce up the interior, and get back on track financially. But unpaid back rent and a lengthy back-and-forth eventually resulted in Forbes cutting off the dialogue.
“I called him and said, ‘can we sit down and talk?'” Farrell recalled. “His words were: ‘I don’t care anymore. I just want you guys out.” Forbes could not be reached for comment.
You might call the loss of the Lusty another nail in the coffin for San Francisco’s famously freakish wild side, an element that feels thinner with each passing day.
“People have this vision, where they’re trying to turn San Francisco into a cross between Los Angeles and New York, and trying to make the clubs ‘pure,'” Prince$$ reflected. “We weren’t trying to be that. We were trying to be different.” Now faced with the end of an era, Prince$$ said she felt as if she’d just stepped off a rollercoaster. But she had one more task: preparation for the world’s only unionized worker-owned peep show co-op’s last lascivious hurrah on Sept. 1, the Lusty’s last night. From there, it will be a matter of sorting out the fate of the famed neon pink sign and other historic components after it’s all been dismantled. “Everyone is going to want to buy a piece,” she said, “and all the dancers are going to want to keep a piece.”
EDITORIAL The streets of San Francisco can be dangerous enough for their most vulnerable users — pedestrians and bicyclists — without the aggressive, insensitive, and judgmental attitudes that have recently been expressed toward those who choose to get around this city by bike.
The Guardian’s Politics blog exploded with caustic comments last week after a pair of reports related to the death of bicyclist Amelie Le Moullac. Among the worst of these blame-the-victim attitudes was expressed by SFPD Sgt. Richard Ernst, who showed up Aug. 21 at an event at the site where Le Moullac died to lecture those mourning her death and make a series of unfounded, irrelevant, and thoughtless accusations (for details, see “Shit Happened”).
These attitudes have no place in a civilized debate over how we share the roadways of this city, and they are particularly reprehensible coming from someone in a position of public trust and authority, validating the dangerous view that violence is an acceptable response to bicyclists who don’t obey traffic laws to the letter.
Compounding the anti-cyclist bias of the SFPD and other police agencies — which routinely fail to cite motorists even when their inattention or negligence results in the loss of life — is the revelation that SFPD misrepresented its efforts to seek video surveillance of the collision, which activists easily found from a neighboring business.
We call on the SFPD to fully investigate Le Moullac’s death, two similar cyclist fatalities earlier this year, and the actions of Ernst, who clearly abused his authority and misrepresented the results of an open investigation in order to make political points against a class of road users that he doesn’t like or understand, needlessly creating a safety hazard in the process. Perhaps temporary reassignment to bike patrol would give Ernst a clearer perspective on the entire community that he’s supposed to be protecting and serving.
The city should also do a public outreach campaign to improve the awareness and safety of all road users, particularly targeting commercial truck drivers, who have now fatally run over three bicyclists this year. The weight and poor driver visibility of these vehicles make them particularly dangerous, and they must drive them in a cautious and predictable manner. The city should also have clearer road markings to encourage safe merging at problematic intersections like Folsom and Sixth streets.
We all need to learn to safely share this city’s roadways, which starts with simply slowing down and paying attention. To focus exclusively on the behavior of cyclists is like blaming a rape victim for wearing a short skirt. Those with the most power to kill or maim need to be held accountable when they blow through red lights or drive unpredictably, and that should be a higher priority for the SFPD than to piously lecture those mourning a tragic death.
Three distinct players with three distinct strategies for saving City College of San Francisco showed their hands last week, all centered around the Accrediting Commission of Community and Junior Colleges, which plans to revoke City College’s accreditation in less than a year.
City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed a lawsuit against the ACCJC, state lawmakers are revving up to investigate it, and City College Super Trustee Bob Agrella is doing his best to quietly meet the accreditor’s standards.
Whether any of the approaches will save the school is anyone’s guess, but one thing’s for sure: In the process of saving City College, its accreditation agency has gone from an unknown bureaucracy to a polarizing political punching bag.
HERRERA FILES SUIT
Herrera threw a right hook at the ACCJC on Aug. 22, announcing his lawsuit to stop them from closing City College. It offers a scathing critique of the accreditation agency and those whose agenda it is pushing.
The ACCJC said City College failed to meet certain standards by its deadline last July, leading the agency to order its closure in exactly one year. Since then, enrollment at the college of 85,000 students plummeted and the school is fighting for its very existence. Now Herrera is saying that closure action was improper, unwarranted, and out of line with the agency’s prior actions.
Herrera’s suit alleges the ACCJC unlawfully allowed its advocacy and political bias to prejudice its evaluation of college accreditation standards. “It is a matter of public record that the ACCJC has been an advocate to reshape the mission of California community colleges,” Herrera said at a press conference.
The agenda he said it was advocating for is the completion agenda, which was the focus of our July 9 cover story, “Who Killed City College?” Essentially, it’s the move to force community colleges to focus on only two-year transfer students at the expense of so-called “non-credit” classes, which can be lifelong learning skills or English as Second Language classes.
“There’s a reason judges aren’t advocates and advocates aren’t judges,” Herrera said. “We should have a problem when an entity charged with evaluation engages in political advocacy.”
City College avoided those reform efforts from the state for years, and Herrera alleges that the ACCJC tried to sanction City College because of that resistance.
ACCJC President Barbara Beno was not available for comment. In a statement, the agency said it was surprised to learn Herrera filed a suit against the ACCJC, and that the suit appears to be “without merit” and an attempt to “politicize and interfere with the ongoing accreditation review process.”
Herrera may be playing cowboy, guns aimed right at the ACCJC, but he also said he doesn’t want the agency to close, just to clean up its act and be accountable. But on the other side of the OK Corral, an investigation by the California Legislature is under way — and it may be sizing up a coffin for the ACCJC.
JLAC VS. ACCJC
Just a day before Herrera announced his lawsuit, the California Joint Legislative Audit Committee voted to investigate the accrediting commission. The audit committee is a legislative fact-finding body usually staffed by former investigative journalists, and the senators who asked for the hearing were out for the ACCJC’s blood.
“The stakes are high and the commission’s power is absolute,” Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, told the audit committee. He then outlined the danger of losing community colleges that faced closure at the hand of the ACCJC.
Sen. Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, was much more direct. “Sen. Beall and I met with (ACCJC) President Barbara Beno in my office,” he said. “In all my career, in my thousands of meetings with agency individuals, representatives, secretaries, etcetera, I have never met with such an arrogant, condescending individual in her response to Sen. Beall and I. That attitude reflected in such a senior person raised huge red flags for me.”
In public comment, Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, D-SF, noted that recently the U.S. Department of Education upheld the California Federation of Teachers’ complaints that the ACCJC process “is guilty of no transparency, little accountability, and conflict of interest.”
Then it was the ACCJC’s turn to defend itself. Beno was unable to attend, but ACCJC Vice President Krista Johns and Commissioner Frank Gornick were there instead.
Gornick defended the accrediting commission, saying it was “rigorously” evaluated every six years. Ultimately, the committee voted 10-1 to investigate a number of mysteries regarding the ACCJC: how it stacks up to the five other accrediting bodies nationwide, determining the ACCJC’s compliance with open meeting laws (it denied public access to a recent “public meeting,” also barring a San Francisco Chronicle reporter), and an evaluation of the fairness in how the agency issues sanctions.
MEET THE NEW BOSS
Amid the state and city level battles over City College, one key player prefers to work quietly. Super Trustee Bob Agrella, tasked by the state to take over the power of City College’s Board of Trustees and save the college, feels his hands are tied.
“My job is to play within the rules and regulations of the ACCJC,” Agrella told the Guardian. Sitting in his office at City College’s Ocean Campus, he pointed out that the accreditation agency actually has a rule that says colleges have to be on amicable terms with the ACCJC — or else.
“One of the eligibility requirements is the college maintains good relationship with the commission,” Agrella said. Notably, if City College fails to meet its requirements, it won’t be able to keep its accreditation in its evaluation next July.
So while Herrera and JLAC can blast the ACCJC, Agrella feels like he needs to remain neutral or he could blow City College’s chances at staying open.
If he were to try battling the commission on its rules, Agrella told us, he would do it within the framework of the ACCJC’s own policies. But it’s exactly those policies that Herrera said the ACCJC is violating.
The lawsuit from Herrera’s office alleges, among other things, that the evaluating team that ACCJC sent to review City College was stacked with the school’s political enemies from a body called the California Community College Student Success Task Force, which City College loudly and publicly opposed (full disclosure: as a former City College student, I spoke against the Task Force at a hearing in January 2012, and that public testimony is cited in Herrera’s lawsuit).
The ACCJC’s president, Beno, wrote multiple letters to state agencies in support of the Task Force’s recommendations, the suit alleges. This action contradicts the ACCJC’s conflict of interest policy, according to the suit, which defines a conflict as including “any personal or professional connections that would create either a conflict or the appearance of conflict of interest.”
So if the ACCJC won’t play by the rules, shouldn’t Agrella support the actions of Herrera and JLAC to resist the ACCJC’s decree?
“In fairness to the people taking these actions, they feel time is of the essence,” Agrella said. “I just happen to, respectfully, disagree with it, because my job is not to push the (ACCJC). My job is to try to retain accreditation.”
But it’s becoming increasingly clear that the ACCJC may not be the only body that will decide the fate of City College.