This charming Animal Charmer


No I’m not taking about the late Crocodile Hunter, I’m talking about Jim Fetterley of the duo Animal Charm. Along with Rich Bott (and occasionally some other friends), Fetterley has been making confounding, perplexing, vexing, hexing, and comically scathing short videos for almost a decade. On the eve of the SF release party for the Animal Charm DVD Golden Digest — and in conjunction with this week’s cover story — I recently talked with Mr. Fetterley about what happens when animals and boardrooms attack. Check out Golden Digest. You’ll never see family basketball games or Meatballs the same way again.


Guardian: What other people working with video material do you find inspiring?
Jim Fetterley: There’s so much — recently the saturation level is at a point where the connections between receivers to producers to producers to receivers form one big loop. There’s a general tendency right now to get excited about things that are unknown or anonymous.
Everyone is looking for something that will up the ante, whether it’s left field or straight from the entertainment cultural industry.
I’d have to cite friends. Most closely, TV Sheriff, our friend Davy Force. A year ago in April we finally got to meet in person a collective of people from Paper Rad, and Cory Arcangel – people who are trading and exchanging ideas.
Most recently, I don’t even know the names of some of the things being presented online. I don’t know if you’ve seen the Blazin Hazin tapes — a friend introduced us to them at an Iowa conference in 2002 or 2003. We contacted him and he sent us nine more videos. Notoriety or making more money isn’t as interesting [to me] as exploring some of the other possibilities that can come from this type of practice.

Trash hits Toronto: part two


FEST REPORT Because I’m psychotic, I jammed 22 movies into six and a half days at the Toronto International Film Festival — and was actually pissed at myself for not seeing more. Out of curiosity, I sprinkled in a few prestige pictures: Ken Loach’s The Wind That Shakes the Barley, about the early days of the Irish Republican Army; and Pedro Almodóvar’s Volver, starring a Penélope Cruz so va-va-voomy that it’s almost a relief when another character asks her if her chest was always that enormous.
I knew it’d be tough to top my two early favorites, both detailed in last week’s Guardian: from Korea, monster movie The Host; and from Hong Kong, Johnnie To’s stellar, Sergio Leone–infused gangster story Exiled. Several came mighty close though, including Andrea Arnold’s Red Road — about a woman whose numb existence spent watching surveillance camera footage is rocked when a man with ties to her tragic past happens to stroll into her line of vision. Not only is Red Road exquisitely directed, it features the best acting (particularly from lead Kate Dickie) of any film I saw at TIFF. That’s not a slight against the always-excellent Christian Bale, star of Werner Herzog’s Rescue Dawn, whose Fear Factor–influenced portrayal of a jungle-bound prisoner of war erases all memories of Batman (but not, perhaps, freaky foodie Patrick Bateman).
Fellow Bollywood fans know a Shah Rukh Khan performance is not to be missed under any circumstances, though committing to the 192-minute Never Say Goodbye meant missing out on a few other screenings in the process. (It was worth it.) The fangirl mentality also drew me to Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain, a polarizing work I heard variously described as “Aronofsky’s 2001” and “Aronofsky does Soderbergh doing Solaris.” Yep, it’s a bit baffling — but in a weirdly spellbinding way. Hugh Jackman, you are almost forgiven for Van Helsing.
TIFF’s documentaries were an overall strong bunch. Prickly American History X director Tony Kaye takes on America’s pro-choice–pro-life debate in the nearly three-hour Lake of Fire. Though the film’s most graphic images are (barely) muted by Kaye’s decision to shoot in black and white, the content — especially the interviews with right-wing extremists — is just as shocking. Other top docs: Macky Alston’s The Killer Within, about a nice, normal family grappling with the knowledge that 50 years prior, its patriarch shot and killed a college classmate for the murkiest of reasons; AJ Schnack’s Kurt Cobain about a Son, which takes the experimental approach of layering audio interviews with the late musician under newly shot footage of Cobain’s Northwest stomping grounds; and the more conventional punk celebration American Hardcore.
The fest’s lightning-rod film was Death of a President, a made-for-British-TV faux doc that imagines what would happen if George W. Bush were assassinated. (Before you start cheering, feel the terror of these words: President Dick Cheney.) JFK remains my favorite dead-prez whodunnit, but Death of a President manages to maneuver its scandalous concept into a perceptive take on post-9/11 civil liberties.
One last thing: do I have to give back my film critic’s wings if I say Borat Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhs was my favorite TIFF movie? Because if loving Borat is wrong, I don’t wanna be right. (Cheryl Eddy)
FEST REPORT Navigating TIFF’s public screenings often leads to a heavy bout of queue fatigue. You line up to purchase tickets, to pick up tickets, to get into the theater, and invariably to get into the exclusive confines of the ladies’ room. And then there’s the peculiar indignity of the absurdly named “rush” line: the film is already sold out, so if you want in, you have to take the chance that there’ll be a no-show ticket holder you can replace. And that requires waiting forever.
But being the first to discover little gems makes it all seem worth it: Agustín Díaz Yanes’s Alatriste (starring an español-speaking Viggo Mortensen) plays like Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean if Uncle Walt had done a tour of duty in Gallipoli; the Canadian National Film Board doc Manufactured Landscapes follows photographer Edward Burtynsky on a fascinatingly meditative trip through the industrial wastelands of China; and Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Syndromes and a Century, the perfect companion piece, offers a brilliant, surreal slow boil on urban alienation in an increasingly modernized Thailand.
Of course, there were disappointments too, like Catch a Fire, Phillip Noyce’s well-acted yet underwhelming biopic of South African freedom fighter Patrick Chamusso. And let’s not forget the schlock, like the silly slasher film from Montreal’s Maurice Devereaux. I squinted when the director credit came onscreen, pretending for a moment that I had made it to the TIFF big time but winced at the sight of the movie’s irony-soaked title: End of the Line. (Michelle Devereaux)

Top 5 TIFF moments


(1) Sarah Polley makes her public debut as a director in the glitzy embrace of a Roy Thompson Hall gala for Away from Her, with the seats packed to the rafters, and gives the audience a manifesto on the importance of government funding and support for Canadian cinema. Yeah! Sarah Polley for cultural ambassador. Now that Lions Gate has picked up the film for distribution, there’s even a happy ending.
(2) Waiting in the green room backstage, I meet Anna Paquin, the little girl from The Piano, all grown up and articulate and serving as a member of the jury making the award decisions on Canadian cinema. We discuss the crowds of fans this year and the odd relationship between acting and celebrity. “Most actors are very shy and timid, you know,” she told me. “Those other people aren’t really actors. They’re celebrities who appear in movies.”
(3) In Away from Her, Julie Christie plays a wise, smart, ironic woman who begins to disappear into an Alzheimer’s fog. During one scene, in which her character, Fiona, seems barely aware of her surroundings, she suddenly snaps to attention as the TV news shows footage of the Iraq war. “Have they forgotten Vietnam?” she asks — more cogently than any administration official these days.
(4) At the “Dialogues: Talking with Pictures” event with Albert Maysles, who was accompanied onstage by documentarian Barbara Kopple, there was a screening of his new film composed of outtakes, The Beales of Grey Gardens. Edith “Little Edie” Bouvier Beale explains in one scene why she’s agreed to do this film with the Maysles brothers. It’s because someone had approached her to do a fiction film based on her life and the notion horrified her. “Imagine, they wanted Julie Christie to play me! I couldn’t have that.”
(5) OK, so not all my top moments are upbeat. On the morning of Sept. 11, I woke up in my room at the Delta Chelsea Hotel to the phone ringing. When I answered, a voice said, “Oh, thank god it wasn’t you.” Huh? It was my friend Susan, who had just heard the news of a triple murder-suicide in a room five floors below mine. I was here on this same date five years ago too. (B. Ruby Rich)
For five more of Rich’s top TIFF moments and additional coverage of the festival, visit

Turf’s up


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First nicknamed the Rolling 20s in the ’70s, then the Twomps in the ’80s, the group of East Oakland avenues below MacArthur and between 19th and Fruitvale avenues received its present designation, the Murder Dubs, in the early ’90s, when a neighborhood hustler named P-Dub began a lethal reign of terror in an effort to control the local drug trade. Naturally, this didn’t endear him to the community, which locked its collective doors to him the night his number came up, leaving him to be gunned down in the street by pursuers circa 1994.
Yet despite this violent legacy, the vibe in the Dubs seems remarkably friendly, at least in the company of its most famous son, 23-year-old MC and producer Beeda Weeda. Head of the sprawling Pushin’ the Beat (PTB) camp — whose roster includes a half-dozen talented producers, as well as rappers like Lil Al the Gamer and veteran crew Under Survalance — Beeda is on familiar terms with most of the neighborhood, though this doesn’t prevent a nearby group of kids from treating him like a star.
“Are you really Beeda Weeda?” one boy asks. “My name’s Beeda Weeda too!” A girl asks for his autograph. “Go get some paper,” the rapper answers, and the kids race home for supplies, allowing us to finish our photo shoot before Beeda poses with his fans and surrenders his signature.
Far from letting it go to his head, Beeda Weeda seems merely amused at his newfound celebrity.
“People see you on TV and they think you rich and famous,” he says with a laugh, referring to his video for “Turf’s Up,” which has been in heavy rotation on VJ-TV (Oakland cable channel 78) for several months, in addition to receiving more than 70,000 plays on YouTube. There’s a vast gulf separating local access from MTV. Still, Beeda has already made inroads into MTV terrain, not the least of which is his contribution to E-40 and Keak Da Sneak’s “Tell Me When to Go” video.
Beeda explains, “40 heard about me and knew I was still in the mix in the town. He didn’t even know I did music when we first hooked up. They wanted to get the elements of the street, the whole sideshow thing, so I helped him do the casting in terms of the cars, the locations, things like that.”
Drawing on their extensive neighborhood network, Beeda Weeda and PTB’s in-house video guru, J-Mo, would end up exerting a considerable influence on the image of hyphy in the national consciousness, due to the video’s success on MTV. The experience also netted PTB some of the unused footage, not to mention high-profile cameos by E-40 and Lil Jon, for its “Turf’s Up” video. More recently, Beeda and West Oakland partner J-Stalin were filmed together in the studio working on their upcoming album, for a segment of an as-yet-untitled MTV reality show following cub reporters for Rolling Stone. (MTV exec Ryan Cunningham confirmed nothing save that the segment was likely to air. Presumably, some sort of Rolling Stone article will run.) At the time of our photo shoot, Beeda’s solo debut, Turfology 101, was about a week away from its Aug. 29 street date and had already been reviewed in the latest issue of Scratch. Released on Souls of Mischief–Hieroglyphics member Tajai’s Clear Label Records and distributed through Hiero/Fontana/Universal, Turfology has just enough major-label clout behind it to get itself noticed even on a NY magazine’s New York–centric radar.
He may not quite be famous yet, but as Beeda Weeda is forced to acknowledge, “My name’s starting to ring bells.”
Some rap names are chosen; others, given. In this case, Beeda Weeda is the rapper’s childhood nickname, derived from his association with Peeda Weeda. “He was like my OG when I was a little kid,” Beeda says. In 1992, at age 15, Peeda was shot by the Oakland Police Department and left paraplegic, one of many victims of the neighborhood’s most violent period.
As the ’90s wore on and Beeda entered his teens, he began making tracks, inspired by neighborhood musicians who would eventually form the core of the PTB production squad. “Most of them are older than me,” he says. “They were into music before me, so I was looking up to them. We got Big Vito, GB, LG, Tre, Miggz, and G-Lite.”
“My partner from the neighborhood, J-Boog, was rapping, and I started making beats,” Beeda continues. “But I didn’t start getting serious until I did a track called ‘Hard Hitters’ for a little group I put together called Dying 2 Live. It came out on an actual CD.”
While “Hard Hitters” didn’t cause much of a ripple in Bay Area hip-hop’s late-’90s commercial doldrums, it was sufficient to establish Beeda Weeda as a neighborhood beatmaker, attracting the attention of up-and-coming rapper Lil Al.
“We hooked up, and I started slanging beats to him,” Beeda says. “He was, like, ‘Man, let’s be a group,’ so that’s when I started really writing. We put out a whole album, all original music, and pushed it in the streets. We pressed it up ourselves. Did all the artwork. I damn near engineered, produced, and mixed the whole thang. It was called Just an Introduction by Lil Al and Beeda Weeda.” Released on their own Young Black Entrepreneurs label in 2002, Just an Introduction would quickly sell out its 500-copy run and make the pair’s reputation in the streets as young rappers.
“At the same time,” Beeda confesses, “we wasn’t really eating off the music, so we had to do other things to make money. Bro got caught up in some bullshit, had to do a little time.” With Lil Al in prison, plans to press a more professionally packaged Introduction were abruptly shelved as Beeda was forced to evolve into a solo act.
“I did a few songs, and I was just pushing it through the Dubs,” Beeda continues. “My music has a lot to do with my environment, certain situations that happen to me or my people. I was basically just making music for me and my niggas.”
Such a local focus, crucial to the Turfology concept, is what gives the album its distinctive flavor. Granted, it mightn’t be to everyone’s taste: Scratch’s generally positive review faults PTB’s use of “the synthesizer,” which makes me wonder how the writer imagines hip-hop is made in the hood. If there’s sense to this remark, it’s in the fact that Beeda and company don’t hide the instrument’s “synthness.” They push big chords composed of the most unearthly sounds right in your face.
As for the suggestion that Turfology at times “sounds like one overlong track,” I can only guess the reviewer is accustomed to the 16-tracks-that-have-nothing-to-do-with-each-other formula of most rap discs. Turfology has a sonic coherence sorely lacking in contemporary hip-hop, the stuff that makes for classic albums. The PTB producers are clearly riffing off each other rather than chasing the hyphy train, yet they don’t sound like they’re in a vacuum. The in-house tracks on Turfology blend seamlessly with beats by young North Oakland producer Jamon Dru of Ticket Face, Charlie O of the Hard Labor camp, and East Oakland’s Mekanix.
“Their music is real current and authentic,” says Clear Label Records head Tajai during a session for the upcoming Souls of Mischief album.
Tajai heard some of Beeda’s demos by chance in a friend’s car and immediately got in touch with PTB. Having dropped several of his own solo albums and collaborations, Tajai was looking to expand his roster with other artists. Along with Baby Jaymes and R&B singer Chris Marisol — both of whom are scheduled to release albums next year — Beeda Weeda and PTB made Clear Label suddenly one of the hottest imprints in the Bay. Tajai dismisses the notion that a hood rapper like Beeda is incongruous with Hiero’s “backpacker image.” “Hiero is from East Oakland. Beeda’s a real serious artist and student of rap in general, and I want Clear Label to be a forum for that kind of artist.”
In the months since signing with Clear Label and preparing for Turfology to drop, Beeda has busily maintained his buzz on the mixtape circuit. “Tajai gives us the avenues, but as far as promoting, we do that on our own. Since I’m a new artist, we did The Orientation, had DJ Backside mixing it. That had about 12 songs on there and two originals. The game out here is so saturated. I was, like, ‘Let’s give them away.’ So we started passing ’em out in different cities; next thing you know, my name started ringing.”
At the end of May, Beeda dropped a second mixtape, Homework, mixed by the Demolition Men and consisting of PTB originals. A classic in its own right, Homework, with its organ-driven title track by Jamon Dru, is still banging all over Oakland, unlikely to be silenced even by Turfology’s release.
As we wrap our discussion, the PTB house in the Dubs is virtually empty, prior to being sold. The organization is getting too big to stay in the hood, and the camp is shopping for an industrial space.
“I love this place,” Beeda says. “When our studio was outside the hood for a while, I used to find myself driving out for no reason. I just missed it.” Clearly, the MC is connected to his community, and even if PTB has to relocate, it’s clear that he and his crew have no intention of leaving it behind. SFBG

The business of censoring labor


Most people, of course, work for a living. They spend at least half their lives working and, in fact, define themselves by their jobs. They obviously would be interested in ­ and obviously need ­ expert information on a regular basis about that most important aspect of their lives.

But the news media in effect censor that vital information. Their primary attention is not focused on those who do society¹s work. With the rare exception of such issues as the attempts to raise the minimum wage, or on special occasions like Labor Day, the media generally are not concerned with workers’ daily efforts to make a living. The media concentrate instead on the corporate interests and other employers like themselves who finance, direct and profit from the work.

Workers’ attempts to get a greater share of the profits and better working conditions by using the only effective tool available to them – collective action –­ are given only slight and frequently biased media attention. Strikes are an exception, but that coverage is usually concerned mainly with the strikes’ adverse effect on the general public.

Given their complexity and importance, collective bargaining and union activity generally should be among the most thoroughly and fairly covered of all subjects. Once, most newspapers had labor reporters to provide extensive if not always fair coverage. But almost no papers have such specialists today. With a very few exceptions, radio and television stations have never had them.

At most papers, in the Bay Area and elsewhere, labor coverage has been turned over to the business section. Since the material there is meant for readers who have a particular interest in business and a generally negative view of unions, the stories naturally are slanted that way by business reporters, who have little apparent understanding of labor.

The business pages typically downgrade, distort or simply ignore union views. They show little concern for general readers, including those who support unions or might want to if they had the opportunity to read thorough, balanced and expert accounts of their activities.

How about describing the country¹s major labor federation, the AFL-CIO, as a “trade association?” Or referring to democratically elected union leaders as “bosses?” The San Francisco Chronicle business page has made those petty but illustrative gaffes and, like the rest of the Bay Area¹s mainstream media, far more serious gaffes.

The list of important labor issues that have been ignored ­ censored ­ is seemingly endless. To cite just a few examples, the media:

— Frequently note that union membership is declining while failing to report that a principal cause is failure of the federal government to adequately enforce the laws that supposedly guarantee workers the right to unionize without employer interference.

— Fail to report numerous other anti-union actions of the Bush
administration, including its virtual non-enforcement of most other laws designed to protect workers.

— Rarely take notice of the on-the-job hazards that cause 6,000 deaths and more than 2 million serious injuries a year, and the need to strengthen and adequately enforce the job safety laws.

— Ignore labor¹s role as an advocate for the working people, union and non-union alike, who make up the vast bulk of the population, by characterizing labor as a “special interest.”

— Almost never report the views of union members and leaders on the major issues of the day. The views often are voiced at meetings of local labor councils and other union bodies that reporters ignore, while routinely seeking out the views of corporate and business executives.

— Pay little, if any, attention to many major union campaigns. Most recently, that’s notably included a nationwide drive to get McDonald’s to guarantee decent pay and working conditions to the impoverished tomato pickers whose work is essential to the hugely profitable fast-food industry.

So, despite the great importance of labor, despite most people¹s vested interest in it, despite the need to inform them fully about it, the media provide little that’s of real value to them in their working lives, and much that¹s prejudicial to their collective action.

Copyright © 2006 Dick Meister, former labor editor of the Chronicle and of KQED-TV’s Newsroom. Contact him through his website,

Late-night luau


CHEAP EATS I mean, they were already practically married, but my friends Little Him and Little Her officially said they did in the Presidio last weekend, and there was a decidedly islandish theme to the event.
Hawaii, I mean — so technically I should have been playing the uke instead of steel pan. But I’m not a very technical person.
And this isn’t the society pages.
It’s the food section. You want to know about my week in Idaho, right, being a semiprofessional cook for the first and probably last time ever? Among other whimsical dishes, I invented angeled eggs. Instead of mayonnaise, you use, predictably, barbecued chicken. And instead of paprika, fresh salsa.
There was a barbecued squash stuffed with refried beans, sausage, and olives, and another sausage poked suggestively through cored zucchini slices. A pork feast marinated in unripe green grape juice (thanks, Chrissy), rubbed with fresh herbs and basted in pear barbecue sauce — everything but the pig courtesy of Mr. and Mrs. “Jack” Poetry’s garden.
I love using what nature and hecklers throw at you. Barbecued green tomatoes (because deer kept knocking them off the vines). Barbecued overripe cucumbers …
What else rolled off the grill was, of course, my signature dish, barbecued eggs. Which, so you know, have come a long way since I last wrote about them, last winter, I think. I think I was cooking them then in meat grease and barbecue sauce in a bread pan in the wood stove. Now I pour the beat-up eggs into cored bell peppers with chunks of sausage and/or whatever … toothpick a strip of bacon around the rim of the pepper, skewer the toothpick with a cherry tomato, olive, onion, and/or also whatever. And stand them up on the grill. It’s not quite perfected yet, because they fall and spill and take forever to set; but it’s getting there, and it not only tastes better but looks 10 times prettier than huevos Dancheros did.
I have a term for what I do, cooking-wise: nouveau trash.
There are other words as well. But the important thing is that, like Little League baseball, I had a lot of fun doing it. And I had, in Johnny “Jack,” Eberle “Jack,” and Georgie “Jack” Bundle, an appreciative and enthusiastic audience. They were working hard recording music all day, every day, and if not for the chicken farmer would have eaten nothing but toast and Cheerios for a week.
At the end of which week, I dropped Mr. Bundle off at the Boise airport so he could make it to his grandpa’s 90th birthday party and delivered his car full of gear to Oakland. The “Hawaiian Wedding Song” was already stuck in my head, and this was a week before the wedding.
In case you don’t know it, you can easily imagine: it’s a wedding song! The lyrics are unadulterated cheese, but the melody is spectacularly all-over-the-place. I was going to have to learn it, and I didn’t have anything better to do with my ears between Boise and Oakland, so I looped the recording and sang and whistled and hummed and yodeled and just generally drove myself crazy.
Next day needing something to eat in the Sunset, I thought of Island Café, that new Hawaiian joint where JT’s all-night diner used to be. Taraval and 19th Ave. Thematically, geographically, it just seemed like the thing to do. And I was all alonesome still, and they have a counter. A great one. An even greater one than it used to be, because there’s a big TV now, and women’s golf was on.
Women’s golf goes good with Hawaiian food. Who knew?
Instead of Spam and eggs or barbecued chicken soup, which I didn’t see until too late, I got Loco Moco ($8.65). That’s three hamburger patties, three scoops of rice because I didn’t want the macaroni (because of mayonnaise), some cabbage, and of course gravy. But not enough gravy. I distinctly remember reading the word “smothered” on the menu in reference to gravy, and neither the burgers nor the rice scoops were what I would call smothered. They were dolloped.
But besides that I have nothing bad to say about my new favorite Hawaiian restaurant. The service was good and friendly. Women’s golf. Uke. Surfboard. Good music. Good vibe. Nothing’s more than 10 bucks. A lot of things are a lot less.
And — and this is a big and — they’re open till 2 a.m., and all night Thursday through Saturday. SFBG
Sun.–Wed., 8–2 a.m.; Thurs.–Sat., 24 hours
901 Taraval, SF
(415) 661-3303
Takeout available
Beer and wine
Wheelchair accessible

Veto the cable giveaway


Editor’s note: This editorial has been corrected. An earlier version mischaracterized the effect of the cable bill on municipal finances.

EDITORIAL A terrible bill masquerading as a proconsumer law cleared both houses of the state legislature last week and is now on the governor’s desk. It could cost cities and counties millions of dollars, potentially wipe out local control over cable TV franchises, and give a big boost to AT&T, which is best known these days for cooperating with the Bush administration on illegal wiretaps.
The bill, AB 2987, was introduced by Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez (D–Los Angeles), but its real sponsor is AT&T. The bill would allow big telecommunications companies to apply to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) for a statewide franchise to deliver cable and video services to California residents. The idea is to make it easier for these companies to offer telephone, Internet, and cable TV service all in one bundle. AT&T and the bill’s other backers say it will increase competition and lower rates. Lenny Goldberg, who runs the California Tax Reform Association and is one of the smartest analysts of economic policy in the state, says the bill will actually lead to increased rates.
But beyond that, there’s a huge problem with the measure. It would effectively take away from cities and counties the ability to regulate local cable TV providers. It would give AT&T or Verizon (or whoever might come along in the future) the ability to ignore local government, get a permit from the state, and deliver service to cities and counties — without having to negotiate a local franchise fee or accept local terms and conditions. Comcast, for example, pays San Francisco millions of dollars a year for the right to sell cable service under the city streets — and under the franchise agreement is required to provide public-access and government channels. A cable provider with a state franchise would never have to go beyond what an existing franchise pays.
Sen. Carole Migden (D–San Francisco), one of only four senators to oppose the bill, argued passionately against giving any favors to AT&T, which has a proven record of turning information on its customers over to the federal government. That’s another excellent reason to oppose the bill, and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger should veto it.
Meanwhile, Assemblymember Mark Leno’s industrial hemp bill, AB 1147, is on the governor’s desk and should be signed into law. So should AB 2573, which Leno had to fight the Pacific Gas and Electric Co. for and will help San Francisco expand its solar power production. There’s also Leno’s public records reform bill — and perhaps most important, his bill that would allow San Francisco to impose its own motor-vehicle fee, bringing the city $70 million a year. SFBG

The silent scandal


Editor’s note: This story has been altered to correct an error. The original version stated that an Examiner editor had admitted in court testimony to providing positive coverage to politicians in exchange for help with a business deal. The person who testified to that was not an editor, but Publisher Tim White, and he was talking about editorial, not news, coverage.

After William Randolph Hearst flunked out of Harvard in the 1880s, he pursued a new career path, asking his wealthy father for only one thing: the San Francisco Examiner.
Young William didn’t stop with the Examiner — over his lifetime, he accumulated dozens of newspapers nationwide. Eventually, one in five Americans regularly read a Hearst paper.
That seems like a lot of power and influence, and it was. But it’s nothing compared to what the heirs to Hearst’s media mogul mantle are doing today.
In fact, the Hearst Corp. is working with another acquisitive newspaper magnate, William Dean Singleton, to lock up the entire Bay Area daily newspaper market. If the project succeeds, one of the most sophisticated, politically active regions in the nation may have exactly one daily news voice.
That worries Clint Reilly.
The political consultant turned real estate investor has sued the Hearst Corp., owner of the San Francisco Chronicle, for the second time in a decade to stop a partnership he fears will eliminate the variety of voices among newspapers in the Bay Area.
It’s an amazing story, full of politics, big money, secretive arrangements, and juicy executive bonuses. What’s at stake? Control over one of the most lucrative businesses in Northern California.
But for the most part, you aren’t reading about it in the daily papers — which means you aren’t seeing it on TV or hearing about it on the radio.
In fact, the blackout of the inside details of the Singleton deal and Reilly’s effort to stop it is one of the greatest local censored stories of the year — and the way the press has failed to cover it demonstrates exactly what’s wrong with monopoly ownership of the major news media.
The story began in the spring when one of the nation’s more respected newspaper chains, Knight Ridder, was forced to put itself up for sale after Bruce Sherman, a prominent shareholder, decided that the company’s relatively healthy profit margins (and dozens of Pulitzers) were simply not enough.
It’s the nature of publicly traded companies to be vulnerable to shareholder insurrections, unless they have multiple classes of stock. Knight Ridder didn’t, and although its former chief executive, P. Anthony Ridder, later said he regretted the sale, Knight Ridder went on the block.
The Sacramento-based McClatchy chain bought the much bigger Knight Ridder but needed to sell some of the papers to make the deal work.
In the Bay Area, Knight Ridder’s two prime properties, the San Jose Mercury News and the Contra Costa Times, were bought by MediaNews Group, the Denver-based conglomerate run by Singleton. That was a problem from the start: Singleton already owned the Oakland Tribune, the Marin Independent Journal, the San Mateo County Times, and a series of smaller local papers on both sides of the bay. The two former Knight Ridder papers would give him a near-monopoly on daily newspaper ownership in the region; in fact, there was only one daily in the area that would be in a position to compete with Singleton. That was the San Francisco Chronicle.
But in one of the strangest deals in newspaper history, Hearst — the erstwhile competitor — joined in the action, buying two of the McClatchy papers (the Monterey Herald and the St. Paul Pioneer Dispatch) and then immediately turning them over to Singleton, in exchange for some stock in MediaNews operations outside of California.
When news of the transactions first broke, MediaNews publications and the Hearst’s Chron covered it extensively, more than once putting the billion-dollar partnership on the front pages. (The transactions also involve a company formed by MediaNews and two of its other competitors, the Stephens Group and Gannett Co., called the California Newspapers Partnership.)
Since then, however, coverage has been overshadowed by JonBenet Ramsey and local crime news. The real story of what happened between Hearst and Singleton and how it would devastate local media competition never made the papers.
If this had been a deal involving any other local big business that had a huge impact on the local economy and details as fishy as this, a competitive paper would have been all over it. And yet, even the Chron was largely silent.
In fact, when Attorney General Bill Lockyer decided not to take any action to block the deal, the Chron relegated the news to a five-paragraph Reuters wire story out of New York, buried in the briefs in the business section. The original Reuters story was cut; the news of Reilly’s suit and his allegations didn’t make it into the Chron version.
At times, the new Singleton papers have treated the story with upbeat glee: in early August, the Merc proclaimed in a headline that the area’s “New media king is having fun.”
The story noted: “MediaNews is privately held, a step removed from the Wall Street pressure that forced the Mercury News’ previous owner, Knight Ridder, to put itself up for sale…. Singleton is its leader, and by all accounts, a man who lives, breathes and loves newspapers.”
Longtime media critic and former UC Berkeley journalism school dean Ben Bagdikian, author of The Media Monopoly, told the Guardian that most of the coverage so far has focused on the business side of the transactions.
“The coverage I’ve seen has simply described the devices they used to divide the McClatchy chain and did not describe how cleverly it was designed to avoid an antitrust action,” Bagdikian said.
Here’s some of what the daily papers have ignored:
The Hearst deal was certainly good for MediaNews, because on the same day the agreement was signed, top executives at the company were awarded $1.88 million in bonuses. MediaNews president Joseph Lodovic earned the chief bonus of $1 million, while the president of MediaNews Group Interactive, Eric Grilly, received over $100,000 in bonuses on top of a $1.25 million severance package for retirement. The figures were disclosed in the company’s most recent Securities and Exchange Commission filing.
Hearst has insisted repeatedly that its investment in MediaNews involves only tracking stock, meaning its up-and-down value rests solely on the performance of MediaNews businesses outside of California. Such a structure may help the two companies comply with antitrust rules — for now.
But in a little-noticed footnote included in a July memo filed by Hearst in response to Reilly’s lawsuit, the company revealed that its tracking stock could still be converted to MediaNews common stock in the future — meaning it would then have a stake in the entire company, including its Bay Area holdings. “The tracking stock will be convertible into ordinary MNG common stock, but that will require a separate, future transaction and its own Hart-Scott-Rodino review,” the July 25 document states.
In other words, public records — information freely available to the 17-odd business reporters at the Chronicle — show that Hearst’s fundamental presentation of the deal is inaccurate. Hearst is not just a peripheral player in this deal; the company is a direct partner with Singleton and thus has no economic incentive whatsoever to compete with the Denver billionaire.
And that means there will be no real news competition either.Reilly has been in politics most of his adult life, and he knows what happens when one entity controls the news media: perspectives and candidates that aren’t in favor with the daily papers don’t get fair coverage.
Newspapers, he told us recently, are charged with checking the tyranny of government; without competition they will fail to check the tyranny of themselves.
“The combination intended to be formed by these defendants constitutes nothing less than the formation of a newspaper trust covering the Greater San Francisco Bay Area,” Reilly’s suit states, “implemented through anticompetitive acquisitions of competing newspapers, horizontal divisions of markets and customers, and agreements not to compete, whether expressed or implied.”
A federal judge recently tossed Reilly’s request for a temporary restraining order against the Hearst transaction. But Reilly’s overall lawsuit, designed to stop Hearst’s $300 million investment in MediaNews, will still wind its way through the courts, and Judge Susan Illston signaled in her last order that she would “seriously consider” forcing MediaNews to give up some of its assets if the court finds the company’s transactions to be anticompetitive.
There are clear grounds to do that. In fact, as Reilly’s attorney, Joe Alioto, points out in his legal filings, the monopolists have made the argument themselves. When Reilly sued to block the Examiner-Chronicle deal in 2000, Hearst, which wanted to buy the Chron and shutter the Examiner, argued that closing the Examiner would have no competitive impact — since all the other competing Bay Area papers provided the reader and advertiser with a choice. Now the lawyers are arguing just the opposite — that the Chron and the outlying papers never competed in the first place.
Hearst will more than likely argue in court that since its newspapers face unprecedented competition from online content, there’s technically no such thing as a one-newspaper town. The world is globally connected now, this thinking goes, and the Chron and MediaNews both face competition from popular blogs such as Daily Kos and Valleywag on the West Coast and Gawker and Wonkette on the East Coast.
But that ignores a media reality: for all the power and influence of bloggers and online outlets, daily newspapers still have the ability to set the news agenda for a region. Among other things, local TV news and radio stations regularly take their cues from the daily papers — meaning that a story the dailies ignore or mangle never gets a real chance.
MediaNews argues in its most recent memo to Judge Illston that “any potential anticompetitive effect of the transactions against which the Complaint is directed is greatly offset and outweighed by the efficiencies that will result from those transactions.”
“Efficiencies” isn’t actually defined, but if the past is any indication, jobs could be the first place MediaNews looks to “efficiently” save money for its investors — at the cost of performing the traditional role of a newspaper to monitor government.
Reporting — real reporting — is expensive. It requires experienced journalists, and a good paper should give them the time and resources not only to watch day-to-day events but also to dig deep, below the headlines.
That’s not the monopoly media style.
Speaking in general terms, Jon Marshall, who runs the blog Newsgems and teaches at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, wrote us in an e-mail that newspapers have to be willing to invest in innovation now, while there’s still time.
“If newspapers really want to win back readers, they’ll need to start offering more outstanding feature stories that really dig deep and have a big impact on their communities,” Marshall wrote. “Readers need a reason to turn to newspapers rather than all the other content that’s now available through the Web. Newspapers will have a hard time creating these outstanding stories on a consistent basis if they keep paying their current skimpy entry-level salaries.”
The pattern Singleton is known to follow isn’t unique. A recent survey conducted by journalism students at Arizona State University revealed that the nation’s largest newspapers are giving reduced resources to investigative and enterprise reporting as media companies trim budgets to maintain or increase profits. More than 60 percent of the papers surveyed, the report stated, don’t have investigative or projects teams.
Brant Houston, executive director of Investigative Reporters and Editors, told us that while teams of reporters dedicated exclusively to investigations may be disappearing, many papers are willing to pull staffers away from their regularly assigned beats to make sure that big stories are thoroughly covered. But, he said, Wall Street’s haste to make money could backfire if readers head elsewhere in search of more exclusive content.
“I think everything is in flux right now,” Houston said. “Everyone’s trying to figure out what the next newsroom looks like.”
Luther Jackson, an executive officer of the San Jose Newspaper Guild, which represents staffers at the Merc, said it’s too early to determine the impact of MediaNews on the paper. The union just recently began new contract negotiations with the company, while the previous agreement, which expired in June, remains in place. Jackson said he didn’t believe the Merc’s Silicon Valley readers would tolerate any dramatic dip in quality coverage.
“We have a problem with the idea that you can cut your way to excellence,” Jackson said.
Just six years ago, after Reilly sued Hearst the first time to stop its purchase of the Chronicle and subsequent attempt to shut down the Examiner, trial testimony revealed that the Examiner had, in fact, abused its editorial power to advance its business interests. Examiner Publisher Tim White admitted in open court that he had traded favorable editorial coverage to then-mayor Willie Brown in exchange for his support of the Chronicle purchase.
Reilly lost that one — but for now this case is moving forward. The suit could be the last legal stand for people who still think it’s wrong for one person to dominate the news that an entire region of the country depends on — and at the very least will force the story of what really happened out into the open. SFBG
PS At press time, Judge Illston ordered the trial be put on the fast track and set a trial date for Feb. 26, 2007. See the Bruce blog at for more info.

The flaws in the Josh Wolf case


Last week the California State Assembly and Senate unanimously asked Congress to pass a federal shield law to protect journalists from being forced to disclose unpublished material and the identity of a source.
Part of the motivation for the new push for federal legislation is the recent spate of federal attempts to imprison journalists who won’t give up their confidential sources. The latest victim of that crackdown, Josh Wolf, is in federal confinement after refusing to give prosecutors outtakes from a video he shot of a demonstration at which a San Francisco police officer was injured and a taillight was broken on a cop car (see “The SFPD’s Punt,” 8/23/06).
And while Congress is reviewing the case for protecting journalists, the Guardian has taken a hard look at the case against Josh Wolf — and it’s looking more dubious every day.
For starters, the local cops and the federal prosecutors are trying to claim that Wolf isn’t really a reporter.
That’s what sources in the San Francisco Police Department and the US Attorney’s Office tell us, and it’s borne out by the way the feds are pressing their case in court. In legal briefs, the government never refers to Wolf as a journalist, only as a witness. One federal official, who spoke on the condition he not be identified, likened Wolf to a convenience store owner who has a security camera that catches criminal activity on tape.
There are all sorts of problems with this argument — the first being that the courts have never formally contested Wolf’s journalistic credentials. In fact, the local prosecutors admit in legal briefs that they contacted Washington to seek permission to subpoena Wolf — a process that’s required whenever journalists face this sort of legal action.
As Peter Scheer of the California First Amendment Coalition points out, “The Justice Department claims it complied with regulations that say you can’t subpoena a journalist for outtakes without getting a special order from the attorney general.”
Scheer also notes that under California law, even bloggers enjoy the reporter’s privilege, as recently established when Apple Computer unsuccessfully tried to obtain the identities of sources who allegedly leaked business secrets to bloggers.
Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Virginia-based Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, says that a case for Wolf qualifying as a journalist could be made under both the House and Senate versions of the Free Flow of Information Act, simply because Wolf was paid for broadcasting his video of the protest.
“In the Senate version, you have to be involved in journalism for money, make some part of your livelihood from it, while the House version is even broader,” said Dalglish.
Watching the part of Wolf’s video that he’s made public, which is posted online at and was aired without his consent by at least three major TV networks before he was eventually compensated, it’s easy to speculate that the SFPD would not have delighted in the picture it paints of local law enforcement.
The footage of the July 8, 2005, protest begins peacefully with protesters, many of them wearing black ski masks, carrying banners saying “Anarchist Action,” “War is the Symptom, Capitalism is the Disease,” and “Destroy the War Machine.” As night comes on, the mood sparkles, then darkens. Someone lights a firecracker, smoke rises, helmeted police arrive, newspaper boxes are turned over, a Pacific Gas and Electric Co. office is sprayed with paint, and suddenly a police officer is captured holding a protester in what appears to be a choking position, while someone shouts, “Police brutality! Your career is over, fajita boy!” and an officer warns, “Leave or you’re going to get blasted. I’m a fed, motherfucker.”
At the same demonstration, Officer Peter Shields was hit in the head while charging into a crowd of protesters — and nobody knows exactly who hit him. That’s not on the public part of Wolf’s video, and Wolf and his lawyers insist there is no footage of the attack. Wolf fears that the government may be looking for something else — perhaps some video of other protesters — and will ask him to identify them. He refused to turn over the outtakes.
Carlos Villarreal, executive director of the National Lawyers Guild, says District Court Judge William Alsup, who ordered Wolf to jail, “made a big deal that Josh did not have agreement with a confidential source, but his argument turns Josh’s video equipment into a de facto government surveillance camera.”
Noting that there is a lot of trust between Wolf and protesters at demonstrations — “People aren’t afraid to go up to the camera and say, ‘Did you check out the pig that’s kicking a guy down the street?’” — Villarreal claims that “independent journalists are harder to see and spot than their corporate counterparts.”
The second, perhaps equally troubling problem is that the Wolf case should never have gone to the federal level in the first place.
Alan Schlosser, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, told us there are a lot of red flags in the Wolf case, “beginning with the question, ‘Is there a legitimate federal law enforcement issue here?’”
The federal agents from the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) and the FBI didn’t choose to investigate the case — the San Francisco cops requested assistance. That in itself was odd: why is an assault on an officer a federal affair?
Schlosser asks, “Were the feds called in because they aren’t bound by the state’s reporter’s shield law?”
In theory, the local cops say it’s a federal issue because a cop car was damaged — and the city gets money from the federal government for law enforcement. Schlosser said it’s disturbing that “the SFPD doesn’t have to show the federal funds went towards paying for the allegedly damaged car…. So that statute could be applied to any number of situations. It’s very troubling. It federalizes law enforcement around demonstrations.”
A highly placed source in the SFPD offered a somewhat alarming explanation: the feds were brought in, the source said, not because of shield law issues but because the cops figured the JTTF and the US Attorney’s Office would move faster and more aggressively than San Francisco district attorney Kamala Harris, who has not been on the best terms with the local police.
In other words, if this source is correct, the SFPD is choosing who will prosecute crimes — based on politics, not the law.
As of press time, all Harris’s office was saying was that “the DA strongly believes in the First Amendment and the rights of the press. She also believes in justice for members of the SFPD. An officer was gravely injured that evening, and those responsible need to be held accountable.”
Asked why the federal government was involved in the investigation, Luke Macaulay, a spokesperson for the US Attorney’s Office, said, “This is not an attempt to profile anarchists and dissidents. It’s an attempt to get to the bottom of a crime.”
Macaulay also referred us to federal filings with the US District Court, which conclude that “the issue could not be more straightforward…. The incident is under investigation so that the grand jury can determine what, if any, crimes were committed.”
As far as we can tell, there’s nothing in writing that lays out when a San Francisco cop is allowed to ask for federal intervention in a case. All the SFPD General Orders say is that department members requesting assistance from an outside agency have to obtain the permission of a deputy chief.
According to records from the Investigations Bureau General Work Detail, Inspector Lea Militello filed a request for assistance from the FBI and JTTF to investigate a “serious assault against an SF police officer.” It was approved by Captain Kevin Cashman and Timothy Hettrich, deputy chief of investigations.
As of press time, the SFPD had not returned our calls inquiring why the FBI and JTTF were involved in an assault case, which is usually the domain of the DA’s Office.
David Campos, a member of the San Francisco Police Commission, said he thinks the commission needs to look at the issue “to make sure investigations are federalized when it’s appropriate and not as a way of getting around California’s shield laws.”
Reached Aug. 23 by phone in the Dublin Federal Correctional Institute, where he’s been held since Aug. 1, Wolf suggested that the feds are after more than pictures. “The Un-American Affairs Committee [in the 1950s] called in one person and forced them to make a list of all the people they knew. It was like Communist MySpace. So, I anticipate that they want all my contacts within the civil dissent movement.”
Wolf said he offered to let the judge view his video, which he insists does not capture the arson or assault. “There should not be a federal investigation. I published my video. They can use that to do their investigation.” SFBG
With all briefs filed, a decision on the Josh Wolf case is expected by Sept. 4.

Big Idi, little Idi


Most of 2006’s blockbusters (wannabe and otherwise) have already blown by in a sugary cloud of Sour Patch Kids dust. Poseidon’s already on DVD; The Da Vinci Code was totally boring; X-Men: The Last Stand killed off Professor X (or did it?); Superman Returns was stomped on by Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest; and Snakes on a Plane did only so-so business despite widespread prerelease hyperventilation. Frankly, my teeth hurt and I’m ready for some meatier cinematic fare — especially the 10 picks that follow. As always, release dates are subject to change.
The Black Dahlia Serial homage artist Brian DePalma has been in a rut lately. His recent efforts include the underwhelming Femme Fatale, Mission to Mars, and Snake Eyes. But lest we forget, he’s also the guy who brought us Scarface and The Untouchables — and Phantom of the Paradise, though that may be my own personal bias speaking. His latest noir draws from a James Ellroy novel, itself based on Hollywood’s most famously unsolved murder case (pre-O.J., that is). The Black Dahlia stars Josh Hartnett, Hilary Swank, and Elizabeth Short look-alike Mia Kirshner as the starry-eyed dame headed for sliced-in-half doom. (Sept. 15)
Mutual Appreciation Just because a movie isn’t opening at the Metreon doesn’t mean you can’t count down the minutes until it arrives. Writer-director Andrew Bujalski’s Funny Ha Ha was the most honest film about postcollege malaise in aeons; his latest, Mutual Appreciation, about a musician adrift in New York City, has earned excellent festival reviews and looks to extend this talented young filmmaker’s winning streak. (Sept. 29, Red Vic)
The Last King of Scotland In a stroke of genius casting, Forest Whitaker stars as the bloodthirsty yet oddly charming Ugandan dictator Idi Amin. James McAvoy (Mr. Tumnus from The Chronicles of Narnia) plays his personal physician. This based-on-true-events drama can’t possibly surpass Barbet Schroeder’s creepy 1974 doc Idi Amin Dada — but it’ll probably best 1977’s made-for-TV Raid on Entebbe (with Yaphet Kotto as Amin). In any case, a new Amin movie is reason enough to fire up the Revolutionary Suicide Mechanized Regiment Band. (Sept. 27)
Jesus Camp Yep, it’s all about a summer camp for right-wing, conservative, evolution-hating, antiabortion, born-again Christian kids. I doubt there will be many Meatballs moments. However, this doc from Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady (The Boys of Baraka) has earned praise for its unbiased filmmaking — this kind of subject matter speaks for itself, as demonstrated by 2001’s Hell House. (Oct. 6)
The Departed Martin Scorsese shifts Infernal Affairs’ cops ’n’ crooks action from Hong Kong to Boston, with Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio as deep-cover operatives working opposite sides of the law. It’s a killer premise based on a proven hit, with a stellar team behind it — plus, Jack Nicholson plays gangster number one. How can The Departed miss? (Oct. 6)
American Hardcore Black Flag, Minor Threat, and other 1980s hardcore punkers have their say in this doc by Paul Rachman (a onetime music video director), based on Steven Blush’s exceedingly detailed 2001 book American Hardcore: A Tribal History. Rachman and Blush conducted 100-plus interviews over five years and strove to keep the filmmaking process as appropriately DIY as they could. Also, the trailer fucking rocks. (Oct. 13)
Marie Antoinette Speaking of rocking trailers, by now we’ve all patted our dainty, Marc Jacobs–clad feet to New Order every time the clip for Sofia Coppola’s latest unspools during the coming attractions. If not, perhaps you’ve hefted the 25-pound Vogue featuring Kirsten Dunst and her period-appropriate Bride of Frankenstein ’do on the cover. No? OK, well, it’s the director’s follow-up to her Oscar-winning Lost in Translation, and even if the French pooh-poohed Marie Antoinette at Cannes, a new Coppola movie is an indisputable must-see for fans and haters alike. (Oct. 20)
Fast Food Nation You can’t accuse Richard Linklater of being in a filmmaking rut. His last three releases? The wildly diverse Before Sunset, Bad News Bears, and A Scanner Darkly. Following Scanner, his second film of 2006 offers a narrative take on Eric Schlosser’s nonfiction best-seller about the dark side of the fast food industry. Helping you never look at Happy Meals the same way again (if Super Size Me didn’t already do the trick) is an ensemble cast that includes Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Greg Kinnear, Catalina Sandino Moreno, and Bruce Willis. (Nov. 17)
For Your Consideration A new Christopher Guest mock doc (this one’s about Hollywood awards shows and features all the usual suspects) is one more reason to give thanks to the movie gods — especially since it’s getting a Thanksgiving week release. Tofurky leftovers fit so nicely in a Remains of the Day lunch box. (Nov. 22)
The Fountain Six years is too long to wait for a new Darren Aronofsky film (after his 1998 breakthrough, Pi, and 2000’s unforgettable Requiem for a Dream). But wait we have, and The Fountain — starring Hugh Jackman and Aronofsky ladylove Rachel Weisz as trippy, time-spanning sweethearts — has finally arrived. His upcoming slate includes an adaptation of Lone Wolf and Cub due in 2008. Promise? (Nov. 22) SFBG

Discs, man


› a& SEPT. 5 Criss Angel, Criss Angel: Mindfreak (Koch) Tell us this recording by TV’s erect-nippled goth heat-throb and full-tilt-boogie cheesenheimer is only an illusion. Audioslave, Revelations (Epic) Their politics check out, though an unboring album will be a revelation. Beyoncé, B’Day (Music World Music/Sony Urban Music/Columbia) The result of a two-week break for artistic freedom, but a Clive Davis overseer might have helped — she sounds like a stressed-out laser on the leadoff single. Grizzly Bear, Yellow House (Warp) Inspired sounds with bite by Brooklyn DIYer Edward Droste, whose queerific perspective brings a burly new hue to his moniker. Iron Maiden, A Matter of Life and Death (Columbia) Count on the barbed Bruce Dickinson to come with confrontation on this wartime studio outing. The Rapture, Pieces of the People We Love (Strummer/Universal UK) Danger Mouse coproduces the new piece from dance punk ex–San Franciskies. Tony Joe White, Uncovered (Swamp/Sanctuary) The original blue-eyed soulster gives it another poke, accompanied by Eric Clapton and Michael “Yah Mo B There” McDonald. SEPT. 12 Basement Jaxx, Crazy Itch Radio (XL) Still all they’re jacked up to be? Black Keys, Magic Potion (Nonesuch) The rock duo ain’t dead. Merle Haggard, Hag: The Best of Merle Haggard (Capitol/EMI) Go back to the origins of the Bakersfield sound and travel through “Okie from Muskogee” all the way up to the anti–Iraq War present. Junior Boys, So This Is Goodbye (Domino) Whether you compare them to old New Order or current Booka Shade, their follow-up to 2004’s Last Exit is already garnering raves. Jordan Knight, Love Songs (Trans Continental/Element 1/EMI) Love Handles might be a better title, though at least Brigitte Nielsen isn’t a guest vocalist. Deborah Gibson does have a cameo. Mars Volta, Amputechture (Universal) Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez may bring it live, but can they pull off another concept album? Pigeon John, Pigeon John and the Summertime Pool Party (Quannum Projects) He claims to be dating your sister. Justin Timberlake, FutureSex/LoveSounds (Jive) He and Timbaland use Beastie Boys– or Mark E. Smith–like crackly megaphone vocal effects on the first single; the album title seems both very ’90s and very OutKast wannabe. TV on the Radio, Return to Cookie Mountain (Interscope) David Bowie and Blonde Redhead’s Kazu Makino bake it up for the increasingly dance-pop Brooklynites. Xiu Xiu, The Air Force (5RC) An army of three hones a pop attack, with backup from producer Greg Saunier of Deerhoof. Yo La Tengo, I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass (Matador) Fighting words and lengthy psych jams from the indie softniks. SEPT. 19 Clay Aiken, A Thousand Different Ways (RCA) The long wait for the Claymates is over. Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony (Koch) They were twisting tongues long before Twista. Who’s your favorite: Layzie or Bizzy or Wish or Flesh or Krayzie? Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Then the Letting Go (Drag City) Does this title refer to shaving — or inhibitions? Chingy, Hoodstar (Slot-A-Lot/Capitol) I once saw a bunch of people at 16th and Mission dancing around a boom box blaring “Holiday Inn.” DJ Shadow, The Outsider (Universal) The North Bay’s Josh Davis comes out of the shadows, hepped to the hyph of guests Keak Da Sneak and Turf Talk. But ditch that Urb stylist. Fergie, The Dutchess (Will.I.Am/A&M/Interscope) And you thought pop music couldn’t be more heinous than the Black Eyed Peas? The microwaved hollabacks of the atrocious “London Bridge” are here to prove you wrong. Hidden Cameras, Awoo (Arts & Crafts) Peekaboo, I see you. Kasabian, Empire (RCA) The band named after Linda Kasabian testify on their own behalf with a new album. Jesse McCartney, Right Where You Want Me (Hollywood) Past his TRL sell-by date? We shall see. Mos Def, Tru3 Magic (Geffen) Somewhere between his first solo album and his second, Mos Def started to act like he knew he was cute. Here’s hoping he thinks of music as his true love rather than a step on the road to Hollywood. Pere Ubu, Why I Hate Women (Smog Veil) But at least a few women still love Ubu. Misogyny evidently rules for the post-punk belligerents. Bobby Valentino, Special Occasion (Disturbing Tha Peace/Def Jam) Ludacris’s R&B man speeds up enough to record a sophomore album. Zutons, Tired of Hanging Around (Deltasonic) The Liverpool antsy-rockin’ roots trendoids try their luck on this side of the puddle. SEPT. 22 Thermals, The Body, the Blood, the Machine (Sub Pop) PPP (post-pop-punk) protesting a purely protestant panorama. SEPT. 26 Emily Haines, Knives Don’t Have Your Back (Last Gang) Unsheathe ’em? A Metric cutie ventures out alone. Janet Jackson, 20 Y.O. (Virgin) And acting it. Sean Lennon, Friendly Fire (Capitol) Son of John returns with help from Cibo Matto’s Yuka Honda. Ludacris, Release Therapy (Disturbing Tha Peace) If the first single, “Money Maker,” is anything to go by, Luda better watch out, because he’s skating dangerously close to Hammer-like lame flossin’. Scissor Sisters, Ta-Dah (Universal) Good news: guest appearance by Bryan Ferry. Bad news: cameo by Elton John. Either way, there’s no justice when they are more popular than the Ark. Sparklehorse, Dreamt for Light Years in the Belly of a Mountain (Astralwerks) Get a stomachful of Tom Waits alongside sound-alike Mark Linkous. Mario Vazquez, Mario Vazquez (Arista) Question: What is better than a beauty-school dropout? Answer: An American Idol dropout — especially one who has been spotted at la Escuelita. He gets bonus points for having the cutest messed-up teeth. Wolf Eyes, Human Animal (Sub Pop) Bagging some inhuman noise. OCT. 3 Beck, The Information (Interscope) Nigel Godrich does the knob twist and fader jive on this new dispatch from “Loser” man. Tim Buckley, The Best of Tim Buckley (Rhino/Elektra) Further proof that “Song to the Siren” is eternal. Decemberists, The Crane Wife (Capitol) Colin Meloy is still finding inspiration in the most unexpected crannies: here, in a Japanese folk tale. The Hold Steady, Boys and Girls in America (Vagrant) Someone can’t help waving a flag. Jet, Shine On (Atlantic) Substitute “Music” for “Money” in the title of the first single, “Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is.” The Killers, Sam’s Town (Island) Bet they don’t bargain-shop at Sam’s Club. Gladys Knight, Before Me (Verve) Still sounding great while some of her contemporaries rasp and squawk, she covers legends like Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, and Nina Simone. Lady Sovereign, Public Warning (Def Jam) After “9 to 5” (not a Dolly Parton cover), she drops her debut. Will she hit it big or wind up MIA? Monica, The Makings of Me (J) Add a little bit of Twista, some T.I. for extra heat, a touch of Missy, and Dem Franchize Boys, and you’ve got the makings of a Monica album. Robin Thicke, The Evolution of Robin Thicke (Star Trak/Interscope) Move over, Jon B, and make way for the son of Alan Thicke. OCT. 10 Blood Brothers, Young Machetes (V2) Fugazi player Guy Picciotto and Sleater-Kinney producer John Goodmanson get Bloody. Melvins, A Senile Animal (Ipecac) We didn’t use the s-word first. Robert Pollard, Normal Happiness (Merge) Is there happiness after a decade-plus beer haze? Young Jeezy, The Inspiration: Thug Motivation 102 (Def Jam) The Snowman has recorded 62 tracks for this opus. OCT. 17 Badly Drawn Boy, Born in the UK (XL/Astralwerks) Could BDB have a Broooce fixation? Diddy, Press Play (Bad Boy/Warner) If Danity Kane are anything to go by, it’s officially past time to press eject when it comes to Mr. Combs. Jeremy Enigk, World Waits (Lewis Hollow/Reincarnate/Sony BMG) One wonders how God figures in the latest by the Sunny Day Real Estate and Fire Theft chief. Fantasia, TBA (J) Following in the footsteps of greats such as Patty Duke and Joan Rivers, she recently starred in a TV movie about her own life. Fat Joe, Me Myself and I (Terror Squad) He’s big enough to refer to himself at least three different ways. Frankie J, Priceless (Columbia) Having even survived a cover of Extreme’s “More than Words,” the li’l guy returns to sing more sweet-verging-on-extremely-saccharine nothings. JoJo, The High Road (Blackground/Universal) The li’l pop dynamo and Xtina-to-be with Lindsay Lohan–like looks has sung for our current president, which seems more like visiting an inferno than taking the titular route. Nina Simone, Remixed and Reimagined (RCA/Legacy) More modern folks start fussing with Dr. Nina. Snoop Dogg, Blue Carpet Treatment (Doggystyle/Geffen) Stevie Wonder, the Game, and R. Kelly hop a soul plane. Squarepusher, Hello Everything (Warp) More spastic jazz-dappled emanations from Tom Jenkinson. OCT. 24 Brooke Hogan, Undiscovered (SoBe Entertainment/SMC) The daughter of Hulk Hogan puts all those dark-haired and dark-skinned girls in their place in her first video — after all, no one is more soulful than a putf8um blond. A surefire sign of the apocalypse or just another day in Bush-era pop culture? The Jam, Direction Reaction Creation (Polydor UK) Paul Weller and pals get the big box-set treatment they deserve. John Legend, Once Again (C) Ever heard “My Cherie Amour”? Apparently the billion people who bought the clumsy and far-more-prosaic “Ordinary People” haven’t. The Who, Endless Wire (Polydor) And then there were two. The first studio album since 1982 includes Greg Lake, partially filling in for the deceased John Entwistle, and Ringo spawn Zak Starkey, cospotting the late Keith Moon. OCT. 31 The Clipse, Hell Hath No Fury (J) Famlay and friends return, but what will it be like now that the producer who hit it big with them — a certain Pharrell — is so over-overexposed? Barry Manilow, The Greatest Songs of the Sixties (Arista) Will he cover “Gimme Shelter”? The mind boggles. Meat Loaf, Bat Out of Hell III: The Monster Is Loose (Virgin) Breathe easy — the legal tussle between the Loaf and Jim Steinman over the title phrase is through. Paul Wall, Get Money, Stay True (Atlantic) The Houston metal mouth gabs again. NOV. 7 The Game, The Doctor’s Advocate (Geffen) Not that Dre needs one, even if everyone and their moms wonder what the hell happened to the long-awaited and eventually cancelled Rehab. Lucinda Williams, The Knowing (Lost Highway) Bill Frisell and Dylan sidekick Tony Garnier guest on the latest disc by the proud princess of rasp. NOV. 14 Marques Houston, Veteran (T.U.G./Universal) No longer “Naked,” he returns for 106th and Park duty wearing his stripes. Maroon 5, TBA (Octone/J) You have been warned. Joanne Newsom, Ys (Drag City) The sprite of the harp, produced by pigfucker Steve Albini. DEC. 19 Akon, Konvicted (SRC/Universal) Will we want to shoot up or shoot ourselves when Eminem appears on Senegalese ex-“kon” Aliaune Thiam’s “Smack That”? SFBG

Fall TV death match


If you think about it, there’s a certain poetry to the dramatic arc of the fall premiere season. As we all know, after fall comes winter, and by December many of these TV shows will be dead, with just a few dried-up blog entries left behind to mark their passing. This painful thought might provoke a zealous couch fan to get carried away — watching every last debut to hit the networks while staying faithful to old favorites from seasons past. And granted, certain shows, like the well-cast Six Degrees, with Campbell Scott, Hope Davis, and Jay Hernandez (premiering Sept. 21 on ABC), or Showtime’s Dexter, starring Michael C. Hall (Six Feet Under) as a serial killer with the best of intentions (premiering in October), deserve at least a shot at some viewers.
But even the Guinness record (69 hours and 48 minutes) proves there are limits to how much TV one human being can watch — though apparently there are no limits to how many dramas based on the premise of 24 can be developed in one season. Choices must be made — between, say, the NBC comedy about a late-night sketch comedy show starring SNL’s Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin and the NBC drama about a late-night sketch comedy show starring Matthew Perry, Amanda Peet, and Bradley Whitford and created and written by Aaron Sorkin (Sports Night, The West Wing). What follows are notes from a highly subjective decision-making process. Show info is subject to change.
Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip vs. 30 Rock Aaron Sorkin’s writing is pretty much why I started watching television again, and I’m still not over Sports Night’s 2000 cancellation. Thus, in the face-off between shows about sketch-comedy shows, his creation, Studio 60, will no doubt reign supreme. Bradley Whitford from The West Wing stars alongside Amanda Peet and Matthew Perry — and while the latter actor certainly wasn’t the least annoying of Friends’ friends, a guest spot on The West Wing proved his Chandler mannerisms haven’t completely devoured him. (Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip: Mon., 10 p.m., NBC; premieres Sept. 18. 30 Rock: Wed., 8:30 p.m., NBC; premieres Oct. 11)
Vanished vs. Veronica Mars Having spent five years watching Gale Harold plug every available male extra in greater Toronto as Queer as Folk’s surly stud Brian Kinney, I’m tempted to get invested in his character’s FBI investigation of a disappeared senator’s daughter. The thing is, even if he does get to play another unapologetic asshole, he will likely have clothes on. So will Kristen Bell in Veronica Mars, but the latter show, about a smart-ass teen private investigator engaged in all kinds of class warfare, was easily the best high school drama since My So-Called Life, while in a vastly different vein. The sleuth is university bound now, and higher education is clearly a death knell for teen dramas, but I’m betting Veronica won’t let her studies get in the way. (Vanished: Mon., 9 p.m., Fox; premiered Aug. 21. Veronica Mars: Tues., 9 p.m., CW; premieres Oct. 3)
The O.C. vs. Dante’s Cove They may seem like an odd couple, but both The O.C. and Dante’s Cove feature melodramatic sexual entanglements, power tripping, drug addiction, and expensive real estate. The O.C. may have a slight advantage in terms of plotlines and thespian talent, but c’mon: Dante’s Cove, part of Here!’s all-queer programming, has real live gay people, a private sex club — and black magic! Also, I get how satisfying it must have been to finally off the waif with suicidal tendencies, but with Marissa in the grave, The O.C. is likely to become so bearable it’s boring. (The O.C.: Thurs., 9 p.m., Fox; premieres Nov. 2. Dante’s Cove: Fri., check for times, Here!; premieres Sept. 1)
One Tree Hill vs. Friday Night Lights The infant love child of UPN and the WB fashioned a glaringly lowest-common-denominator ad campaign whose thought-provoking tagline for One Tree Hill was “Free to be cool.” And yet, I breathed a deep sigh of relief on learning that the show, basically about a small town that loves its basketball and the dramas that ensue, had survived the merger and gained entrance to the freedom-loving land of the CW. Friday Night Lights, based on the movie that’s based on the book, is about a small town that loves its football and the dramas that ensue. A toughie, but I hate football, so for me One Tree has the home court advantage — plus the laser-beam-eyed power-acting of Chad Michael Murray. (One Tree Hill: Wed., 9 p.m., CW; premieres Sept. 27. Friday Night Lights: Tues., 8 p.m., NBC; premieres Oct. 3)
Prison Break vs. Runaway Maybe it all goes back to my deep, abiding love for The Legend of Billie Jean, but dramas about desperate people on the run from the law have a near-endless ability to captivate me. Prison Break has the hot brothers. CW debut Runaway looks to have more of a Running on Empty family dynamic — with New Kids on the Block’s Donnie Wahlberg in the Judd Hirsch role. Both hint vaguely at possible political undertones. Mostly for River Phoenix’s sake, I’m going to go with the latter. (Prison Break: Mon., 8 p.m., Fox; premiered Aug. 21. Runaway: Mon., 9 p.m., CW; premieres Sept. 25)
Jericho vs. Three Moons over Milford Jericho has Skeet Ulrich and a nuclear holocaust on the horizon. Three Moons has, well, three moons — or parts of what used to be one moon — and one or more of them might be heading this way. The end (of the season, that is) will be in sight for the latter sooner, which is good, because how many times a week can a person watch the world teeter on the brink of collapse? (Jericho: Wed., 8 p.m., CBS; premieres Sept. 20. Three Moons over Milford: Sun., 8 p.m., ABC Family; premiered Aug. 6)
Project Runway (reruns) vs. Fashion House The community-minded thing to do, no doubt, would be to support KRON TV’s efforts to add dramatic content to its programming. After all, Fashion House, a six-nights-a-week telenovela-style program about the fashion industry starring Morgan Fairchild and Bo Derek, should just about do the trick. And yet, even after Project Runway’s latest season ends later this fall, I’m probably going to find other uses for those six hours — including renting back episodes of the show that makes it work. (Project Runway: Bravo; your local video store. Fashion House: Mon.–Sat., 10 p.m., KRON; premieres Sept. 5) SFBG

No Pasaran!


MEXICO CITY, Aug. 24th — The Congress of the country is ringed by two-meter tall grilled metal barriers soldered together, apparently to thwart a suicide car-bomb attack. Behind this metal wall, 3000 vizored, kevlar-wearing robocops — the Federal Preventative Police (PFP, a police force drawn from the army) — and members of the elite Estado Mayor or presidential military command, form a second line of defense. Armed with tear gas launchers, water cannons, and reportedly light tanks, this Praetorian Guard has been assigned to protect law and order and the institutions of the republic against left-wing mobs that threaten to storm the Legislative Palace – or so the president informs his fellow citizens in repeated messages transmitted on national television.
No, the president’s name is not Pinochet and this military tableau is not being mounted in the usual banana republic or some African satrap. This is Mexico, a paragon of democracy (dixit George Bush), Washington’s third trading partner, and the eighth leading petroleum producer on the planet, seven weeks after the fraud-marred July 2nd presidential election of which, at this writing, no winner has been officially declared. One of the elite military units assigned to seal off congress is indeed titled the July 2nd brigade.

“MEXICO ON A KNIFEBLADE” headlines the British Guardian. The typically short-term-memory-loss U.S. print media seems to have forgotten about the imbroglio just south of its borders. Nonetheless, the phone rings and it’s New York telling me they just got a call from their man on the border and Homeland Security is beefing up its forces around Laredo in anticipation of upheaval further south. The phone rings again and it’s California telling me they just heard on Air America that U.S. Navy patrols were being dispatched to safeguard Mexican oil platforms in the Gulf. The left-wing daily La Jornada runs a citizen-snapped photo of army convoys arriving carrying soldiers disguised as farmers and young toughs. Rumors race through the seven mile-long encampment installed by supporters of leftist presidential challenger Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) three weeks ago, who have tied up big city traffic and enraged the motorist class here, that PFP robocops will attack before dawn. The campers stay up all night huddled around bum fires prepared to defend their tent cities.

The moment reminds many Mexicans of the tense weeks in September and October 1968 when, 12 days before the Olympic Games were to be inaugurated here, President Gustavo Diaz Ordaz ordered the military to massacre striking students in a downtown plaza not far from where AMLO’s people are now camped out. Some 300 were killed in the Plaza of Three Cultures, their bodies incinerated at Military Camp #1 in western Mexico City. The Tlatelolco massacre was a watershed in social conflict here and the similarities are sinister– in fact, Lopez Obrador has taken to comparing outgoing President Vicente Fox with Diaz Ordaz.

Fox will go to congress September 1st to deliver his final State of the Union address; the new legislature will be convened the same day. The country may or may not have a new president by that day. In anticipation of this show-down, on August 14th, newly-elected senators and deputies from the three parties that comprise AMLO’s Coalition for the Good of All attempted to encamp on the sidewalk in front of the legislative palace only to be rousted and clobbered bloody by the President’s robocops.

With 160 representatives, the Coalition forms just a quarter of the 628 members of the new congress, but its members will be a loud minority during Fox’s “Informe.” Since the 1988 presidenciales were stolen from Cuauhtemoc Cardenas, founder of AMLO’s Party of the Democratic Revolution, PRD legislators have routinely interrupted the president during this authoritarian ritual in orchestrated outbursts that have sometimes degenerated into partisan fisticuffs.

The first to challenge the Imperial Presidency was Porfirio Munoz Ledo, a hoary political warhorse, who in 1988 thrust a finger at President Miguel De la Madrid, accusing him of overseeing the theft of the election from Cardenas. Munoz Ledo’s J’Acuse stunned the political class; he was slugged and pummeled by members of De la Madrid’s long-ruling PRI when he tried to escape the chamber. Munoz Ledo now stands at AMLO’s side.

But perhaps the most comical moment in the annals of acting out during the Informe came in 1996 when a brash PRI deputy donned a Babe the Valiant Pig mask and positioned himself directly under the podium from which President Ernesto Zedillo was addressing the state of the nation and wiggled insouciant signs with slogans that said things like ‘EAT THE RICH!” Like Munoz Ledo, Marco Rascon was physically attacked, his mask ripped off like he was a losing wrestler by a corrupt railroad union official — who in turn was hammer locked by a pseudo-leftist senator, Irma “La Tigresa” Serrano, a one-time ranchero singers and, in fact, the former mistress of Gustavo Diaz Ordaz.

This September 1st, if martial law is not declared and the new Congress dissolved before it is even installed, the PRD delegation — which will no doubt be strip-searched by the Estado Mayor for incriminating banners — is sworn to create a monumental ruckus, shredding the tarnished decorum of this once-solemn event forever to protest Fox’s endorsement of electoral larceny. Some solons say they may go naked.

But no matter what kind of uproar develops, one can be secure that it will not be shown on national television, as the cameras of Mexico’s two-headed television monstrosity Televisa and TV Azteca will stay trained on the President as he tries to mouth the stereotypical cliches that is always the stuff and fluff of this otherwise stultifying seance. The images of the chaos on the floor of congress will not be passed along to the Great Unwashed.


There is a reptilian feel to Mexico seven weeks after a discredited Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) cemented Lopez Obrador into a second place coffin by awarding the presidency to right-winger Felipe Calderon by a mere 243,000 votes out of a total 42,000,000 cast. Both Calderon and IFE czar Luis Carlos Ugalde (Calderon was best man at Ugalde’s wedding) make these little beady reptile eyes as they slither across national screens.

Those screens have been the scenes of some of the slimiest and most sordid political intrigue of late. One of the lizard kings who is fleetingly featured on Televisa primetime is an imprisoned Argentinean construction tycoon, Carlos Ahumada, who in 2004 conspired with Fox, Calderon’s PAN, and Televisa to frame AMLO on corruption charges and take him out of the presidential election. El Peje” (for a gar-like fish from the swamps of Lopez Obrador’s native Tabasco) was then leading the pack by 18 points.

Charged by Lopez Obrador, then the mayor of this megalopolis, with defrauding Mexico City out of millions, Ahumada had taken his revenge by filming PRD honchos when they came to his office to pick up boodles of political cash for his lover, Rosario Robles, who aspired to be queen of the PRD. Although the filthy lucre was perfectly legal under Mexico’s milquetoast campaign financing laws, the pick-ups looked awful on national television — AMLO’s former personal secretary was caught stuffing wads of low denomination bills into his suit coat pockets as if he were on Saturday Night Live.

Ahumada subsequently turned the tapes over to the leprous, cigar-chomping leader of Fox’s PAN party in the Senate, Diego Fernandez de Cevallos (“El Jefe Diego”) who in turn had them delivered to a green-haired clown, Brozo, who was then reading the morning news on Televisa. Then the Argentine fled to Cuba in a private plane. Televisa would air the incriminating videos day and night for months.

Apprehended in Veradero after his lover Robles was shadowed to the socialist beachfront, Ahumada spilled the beans to Cuban authorities: Interior Secretary Santiago Creel, who was then AMLO’s lead rival for the presidency, had cooked up the plot with the connivance of reviled former president Carlos Salinas, Lopez Obrador’s most venomous foe, the then attorney general, and Fox himself, to remove AMLO from the race.

The Mexican government did not ask for extradition and Ahumada’s deportation from Cuba was not seen as a friendly gesture. Within a month, diplomatic relations between Mexico and that red paradise were broken off and ambassadors summoned home. The construction tycoon has been imprisoned in Mexico City ever since he was booted out of Cuba, and was last heard from when he had his rogue cop chauffer shoot up the family SUV, a charade both Fox and Televisa tried to pin on AMLO — Ahumada had suggested he was about to release two more incriminating videos. These dubious events took place on June 6th, the day of a crucial presidential debate between AMLO and Calderon.

Then last week, Ahumada abruptly resurfaced — or at least his videotaped confession to Cuban authorities did. Filmed through prison bars, he lays out the plot step by step. Yes, he affirms, the deal was fixed up to cut AMLO’s legs out from under him and advance the fortunes of the right-wing candidate who turned out to be Felipe Calderon and not the bumbling Creel. The conspiracy backfired badly as his supporters rallied around him and Lopez Obrador’s ratings soared.

The origins of the confession tape, leaked to top-rung reporter Carmen Aristegui, was obscure. Had Fidel dispatched it from his sick bed to bolster Lopez Obrador’s claims of victory as the PAN and the snake-eyed Televisa evening anchor Joaquin Lopez Dorriga hissed? The air grew serpentine with theories. There was even one school that speculated Calderon himself had been the source in a scheme to distance himself from Fox (there had always been “mala leche” between them) and Creel, now the leader of the PAN faction in congress.

AMLO advanced a variant of this explanation — the specter of Ahumada had been resuscitated to divert attention from the evidence of generalized fraud the Coalition had submitted to the TRIFE and the panel’s impending verdict that Calderon had won the election.

Perhaps the most nagging question in this snakepit of uncertainty is what happened during the partial recount of less than 10% of the 130,000 ballot boxes ordered by the TRIFE to test the legitimacy of the IFE’s results. Although the recount concluded on August 13th, the judges have released no numbers and are not obligated to do so — their only responsibility is to certify the validity of the election.

Although AMLO’s reps in the counting rooms came up with gobs of evidence — violated ballot boxes, stolen or stuffed ballots, altered tally sheets and other bizarre anomalies — only the left-wing daily La Jornada saw fit to mention them. The silence of the Mexican media and their accomplices in the international press in respect to the Great Fraud is deafening — although they manage to fill their rags with ample attacks on Lopez Obrador for tying up Mexico City traffic.

According to AMLO’s people, 119,000 ballots in the sample recount cannot be substantiated — in about 3500 casillas, 58,000 more votes were cast than the number of voters on the voting list. In nearly 4,000 other casillas, 61,000 ballots allocated to election officials cannot be accounted for. The annulment of the casillas in which these alterations occurred would put Lopez Obrador in striking distance of Calderon and in a better world, would obligate the TRIFE to order a total recount.

But given the cheesy state of the Mexican judiciary this is not apt to happen; one of the judges who will decide the fate of democracy in Mexico is a former client of El Jefe Diego for whom the PANista senator won millions from the Mexico City government in a crooked land deal.

Meanwhile, thousands continue to camp out in a hard rain for a third week on the streets of Mexico City awaiting the court’s decision. They have taken to erecting shrines and altars and are praying for divine intervention. Hundreds pilgrimage out to the shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe, some crawling on their knees, to ask the Brown Madonna to work her mojo. “God doesn’t belong to the PAN!” they chant as they trudge up the great avenue that leads to the Basilica. “AMLO deserves a miracle” Esther Ortiz, a 70 year-old great grandmother comments to a reporter as she kneels to pray before the gilded altar.

At the Metropolitan Cathedral on one flank of the Zocalo, a young worshipper interrupts Cardinal Norberto Rivera with loas to AMLO and is quickly hustled off the premises by the Prelate’s bouncers. The following Sunday, the Cathedral’s great doors are under heavy surveillance, and churchgoers screened for telltale signs of devotion to Lopez Obrador. Hundreds of AMLO’s supporters mill about in front of the ancient temple shouting “voto por voto” and alleging that Cardinal Rivera is a pederast.

AMLO as demi-god is one motif of this religious pageant being played out at what was once the heart of the Aztec theocracy, the island of Tenochtitlan. The ruins of the twin temples of the fierce Aztec war god Huitzilopochtli and Tlahuac, the god of the rain, is adjacent to the National Palace against which AMLO’s stage is set. Lopez Obrador sleeps each night in a tent close by.

Many hearts were ripped out smoking on these old stones and fed to such hungry gods before the Crusaders showed up bearing the body and blood of Jesus Christ.

AMLO is accused by right-wing “intellectuals” (Enrique Krauze and the gringo apologist George Grayson) of entertaining a Messiah complex. Indeed, he is up there every day on the big screen, his craggy features, salt and pepper hair, raspy voice and defiantly jutted jaw bearing more of a passable resemblance to a younger George C. Scott rather The Crucified One. AMLO’s devotees come every evening at seven, shoehorned between the big tents that fill the Zocalo, rain or shine. Last Monday, I stood with a few thousand diehards in a biblical downpour, thunder and lightening shattering the heavens above. “Llueve y llueve y el pueblo no se mueve” they chanted joyously, “it rains and rains and the people do not move.”

The evolution of these incantations is fascinating. At first, the standard slogan of “Voto Por Voto, Casilla por Casilla!” was automatically invoked whenever Lopez Obrador stepped to the microphone. “You are not alone!” and “Presidente!” had their moment. “Fraude!” is still popular but in these last days, “No Pasaran!” — they shall not pass, the cry of the defenders of Madrid as Franco’s fascist hordes banged on the doors of Madrid, 1936 — has flourished.

In this context, “No Pasaran!” means “we will not let Felipe Calderon pass to the presidency.” AMLO, who holds out little hope that the TRIFE will decide in his favor, devotes more time now to organizing the resistance to the imposition of Calderon upon the Aztec nation. Article 39 of the Mexican constitution, he reminds partisans, grants the people the right to change their government if that government does not represent them. To this end, he is summoning a million delegates up to the Zocalo for a National Democratic Convention on Mexican Independence Day September 16th, a date usually reserved for a major military parade.

Aside from the logistical impossibility of putting a million citizens in this Tiananmen-sized plaza, how this gargantuan political extravaganza is going to be financed is cloudy. Right now, it seems like small children donating their piggy banks is the main mode of fund-raising. Because AMLO’s people distrust the banks, all of which financed Calderon’s vicious TV ad campaign, a giant piggy bank has been raised in the Zocalo to receive the contributions of the faithful.

Dreaming is also a fundraiser. Some 10,000 raised their voices in song this past Sunday as part of a huge chorus assembled under the dome of the Monument to the Revolution to perform a cantata based on the words of Martin Luther King and Mohandas Gandhi. This too is a form of civil resistance, Lopez Obrador commended his followers.

The first National Democratic Convention took place behind rebel lines in the state of Aguascalientes in 1914 at the apogee of the Mexican Revolution when the forces of Francisco Villa and his Army of the North first joined forces with Zapata’s Liberating Army of the Southern Revolution. The second National Democratic Revolution took place 80 years later in 1994, in a clearing in the Lacandon Jungle of Chiapas when the Zapatista Army of National Liberation wedded itself to the civil society in an uprising that rocked Mexico all throughout the ’90s; eclipsed by events, the EZLN and its quixotic spokesperson Subcomandante Marcos have disappeared from the political map in the wake of the fraudulent election.

What this third National Democratic Convention is all about is now being debated in PRD ruling circles and down at the grassroots. Minimally, a plan of organized resistance that will dog Felipe Calderon for the next six years, severely hampering his ability to rule will evolve from this mammoth conclave. The declaration of a government in resistance headed by Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is one consideration. The National Democratic Convention could also result in the creation of a new party to replace a worn-out PRD now thoroughly infiltrated by cast-offs from the PRI.

The Party of the Democratic Revolution has always functioned best as an opposition party. With notable exceptions (AMLO was one), when the PRD becomes government, it collapses into corruption, internecine bickering, and behaves just as arrogantly as the PAN and the PRI. No Pasaran?

Seven weeks after the July 2nd electoral debacle, Mexico finds itself at a dangerously combustible conjunction (“coyuntura”) in which the tiny white elite here is about to impose its will upon a largely brown and impoverished populous to whom the political parties and process grow more irrelevant each day. “No Pasaran!” the people cry out but to whom and what they are alluding to remains to be defined.

John Ross’s ZAPATISTAS! Making Another World Possible – Chronicles of Resistance 2000-2006 will be published by Nation Books this October. Ross will travel the Left Coast this fall with both ZAPATISTAS! and a new chapbook of poetry BOMBA! and is still looking for possible venues; send suggestions to



Aug. 25


Johnette Napolitano

In Johnette Napolitano’s world, bullets are always aimed at the innocent, ghosts make perfectly acceptable bedfellows, and Russian angels are good inspirations for tattoos. If she were a rose, she’d be tucked behind the ear of legendary river banshee la Llorona. Napolitano is the driving force behind urban gothic rockers Concrete Blonde and coconspirator on projects such as Vowel Movement with Holly Vincent and Pretty and Twisted with Marc Moreland. Join this enduring lady of darkness for an intimate solo performance before she heads off to the inaugural Summer Strummer festival in Santa Monica. (Nicole Gluckstern)

9 p.m.
Cafe du Nord
2170 Market, SF
(415) 861-5016


Patton Oswalt

Patton Oswalt is funnier than you are. He’s been booed off a Pittsburgh stage for his critiques of President Bush, but in San Francisco that just gives him street cred. His content is so raunchy, smart, and devastatingly on point that he makes me want to punch things. With an impressive television history – from writing for MadTV to costarring in sitcom King of Queens – Oswalt’s stand-up is of a particular brand of lewd that would have most TV execs turning red. (K. Tighe)

With Brent Weinbach
Through Sat/26
8 and 10 p.m.
Cobb’s Comedy Club
915 Columbus, SF
(415) 928-4320

Snakes in vain


TECHSPLOITATION I’m the only geek in San Francisco who didn’t go to the drunken flash mob event at 1000 Van Ness where Snakes on a Plane played in dangerous proximity to cartloads of extremely stiff, free drinks. My sources tell me that outrageous costumes were worn; somebody brought a real live snake; and there were many inebriated screams that included the epithet “motherfuckin’ snakes on a motherfuckin’ plane!” Was it glorious dork anarchy? Or was it something more sinister — the kind of media-engineered, snake-eating-its-own-long-tail event that Bill Wasik claims he invented the “flash mob” to parody?
Believe me, I would have been there toasting the motherfucking snakes if I could have been. But Birthing of Millions was playing at Edinburgh Castle, and no amount of serpents and spirits could drag me away from Brian Naas on guitar. So now that we’ve established my complicity in the Snakes meme thing, despite my absence on opening night, we can proceed.
Snakes on a Plane became an Internet geek phenomenon, rather than a pleasure reserved solely for dorks who like bad movies, for the same reasons that the Star Wars kid or the Hamster Dance became Internet phenomena. In short, it was weird and stupid and fun. One day neuropsychologists may discover an area in the brain that lights up when we watch home movies of teenagers fighting with light sabers — or campy action heroes battling snakes. But for now, Snakes’ online popularity can only be explained via cultural analysis.
Bloggers began leaking information about this movie with a deliciously literal-minded title more than a year ago, hailing it as a masterpiece of cheese. It had all the ingredients required for hip ironic consumption: Samuel L. Jackson, an airplane disaster, and a bunch of retro, analog-era monsters (snakes — without CGI!). Soon news about the flick was all over the Net. Some of its popularity was probably inspired by everybody’s frustration with Transportation Security Administration regulations and long lines in airports. Who hasn’t wanted to yell something about motherfucking snakes on motherfucking planes after being made to take off jackets, shoes, belts, earrings, and hats during the holiday rush in an airport, when the floor is covered in muddy, melted snow? (As if to underscore this association, a parody TSA announcement about banning snakes from planes was circuutf8g in blogland last week.)
Internet fascination with the film reached critical mass last year when New Line Cinema threatened to rename it Pacific Air Flight 121 and Jackson convinced them to keep the original. At that point, references to the movie were so commonplace on the Internet that the studio decided to promote it more, beef it up with extra footage, and add a line to the script that had actually been invented by Web fans imagining what Jackson’s legendary Pulp Fiction character Jules would say: “That’s it! I have had it with these motherfucking snakes on this motherfucking plane!” In response, the fans went utterly nuts. The people in movieland were listening to the people in blogland! When this movie comes out, let’s get totally motherfucking drunk and buy a million tickets!
As Quinn Norton pointed out on her blog, it’s important to remember that nobody actually expected to like this movie. To the extent that we do like Snakes, we’re getting pleasure out of it as a joke — a joke on itself for being so flagrantly silly, but also the butt of jokes we’ve made for the past year online. Of course, there’s the less-acknowledged joke Snakes plays on us when we buy tickets to see a movie that can never be as cool or creative as the videos, songs, posters, and satires people have already published about it for free on the Internet.
Trying to imitate the strategy that led to Snakes’ prerelease buzz, the SciFi Channel recently invited its fans to name an upcoming made-for-TV movie “about a giant squid.” Haven’t heard of Kraken: Tentacles of the Deep? Maybe it’s because the name the SciFi folks picked was exactly the sort of dopey thing they’d normally slap on a story about sea monsters. Apparently they passed over some ideas that might actually have gotten them the hipster cachet that Snakes garnered for New Line. Among the discarded titles were Killamari and Tentacles 8, Humans 2.
I vaguely thought that I should go see Snakes, or at least set the DVR to catch Kraken. But the fact is, I’d rather watch all the YouTube parodies tonight.SFBG
Annalee Newitz is a surly media nerd who would be happy to buy tickets to see Sharks on a Roller Coaster.

The reflecting pool


A chicken-and-egg — or maybe fish-and-roe — problem: do neighborhood restaurants tend to reflect the character of a neighborhood or does a neighborhood take its cues from its restaurants? The answer is probably both, since that is usually the answer to such trick questions, but in general there is more of the former than the latter, I would say. The truly revolutionary restaurant, the place that makes a startling announcement of intention on a street of sameness, birds of a feather flocking together, is fairly rare. Or, to exhaust this vein of sorrily mixed metaphor, a rare bird. Or fish.
You can hardly miss Pisces California Cuisine, a small seafood house that opened in March on a drab stretch of Judah in the outermost Outer Sunset, one of those descending western neighborhoods whose colorless, low buildings seem to melt into the gray sea. The whole area cries out for a massive repainting, perhaps from the air by one of the California Department of Forestry’s firefighting tanker aircraft, refitted to spray some actual color. Shades of red, orange, yellow, and pink would be nice.
Pisces’s facade is black: a bit stark but handsome nonetheless, and drastically unlike any of the nearby storefronts. Though the restaurant occupies a midblock space, it is easy to find, since black facades aren’t commonplace even in your most happening habitats. Inside, Pisces has the SoMa loft look: it’s an airy box, clean and spare, with exposed ductwork and sleek Euro-modern furniture. Behind the bar hangs a plasma TV tuned to ESPN for a slight sports bar effect: a sop to neighborhood sensibility?
The food, on the other hand, is full of casual metropolitan style and is available at both dinnertime and lunchtime in prix fixe guise. In the evening, $22.50 buys you three courses (chosen from a brief list), while at noon you pay $11.50 for two courses (from another brief list) plus tea or coffee. As a rule I am mesmerized by the siren call of the prix fixe; it is generally a good deal, reduces the job of sifting through choices (and later, parsing the bill), and tends to emphasize both the chef’s interests and seasonal treats.
At the moment there is no sweeter a seasonal treat than king salmon, now in its second summer of regulation-induced scarcity. So finding it on Pisces’s prix fixe list was like a sign from above: You must have this. And I did; but first I had a bowl of kabocha squash soup, electrified with some generous flicks of cayenne pepper and shavings of fresh ginger and poured over crisped strips of taro root to give textural interest. For color, a miniature bouquet of microgreens.
The salmon, a large filet, arrived on a berm of mashed potatoes ringed by a honey-soy emulsion, which resembled caramel sauce. Between the fish and the spuds lay a duvet of braised spinach leaves and slivers of shiitake mushroom. The fish, grilled to medium-rare, was excellent in its simple way, but even meaty fish like salmon doesn’t stand up particularly well to mashed potatoes. They could have been done away with entirely or reduced to an ornamental role or replaced by taro root in some form.
Across the table meanwhile, a bowl of excellent, thick chowder ($4) heavy with clam meat slowly disappeared, to be followed by a plate of batter-fried calamari ($9). The calamari pieces were on the flaccid side (oil not hot enough?) but were redeemed by a habit-forming sweet-sour barbecue sauce for dipping.
Despite the king salmon and “California cuisine” nomenclature, Pisces’s food is far from purely seasonal. Kabocha squash, for instance, speaks of winter. So does crab, which turned up in a good crab salad sandwich ($9.50) in the company of good fries. The salad carried a few flecks of shell, but I chose to interpret this as a sign that the kitchen is cracking and cleaning its own crabs even in the off-season. And let us not forget such beyond-seasonal dishes as seafood linguine, offered as part of a lunchtime prix fixe and featuring bay scallops, shrimp, and mussels — all farmable — in an herbed cream sauce. The beauty of a preparation like this is that it’s almost infinitely variable: you toss in a little of this, a little of that, whatever’s good today or (yes) in season — even king salmon — and it will still make people happy, especially if they’ve opened with a good Caesar salad, showered with croutons and squiggles of shaved parmesan cheese.
Desserts here are good if mainstreamish, and they make up in price what they lack in imaginative verve. The fudgey chocolate brownie cake ($5.75), for instance, topped by a little helmet of cherry ice cream, would probably cost at least $3 or $4 more at any comparable restaurant east of Twin Peaks while being not quite as big; Pisces’s version survived a two-front assault for several minutes. A crème brûlée (part of the prix fixe) wasn’t quite as shareable but did reflect stern and basic virtues: it consisted of a straightforward vanilla custard of just the right fluffy-firm consistency under a thick, brittle cap of caramelized sugar, and it was served in a plain, white, round ramekin of the sort you see stacked in cooking-school kitchens. While my austere, puritan self approved of the lack of ornamentation or embellishment, my other self — or one of them — couldn’t help wondering if a little garnish would have been entirely out of place. A sprig of mint is never hard to come by, and it is the season of berries after all — stone fruit too. Maybe cherries … black cherries? SFBG
Lunch: daily, 11 a.m.–3 p.m.
Dinner: daily, 5–10 p.m.
3414–3416 Judah, SF
(415) 564-2233
Beer and wine
Pleasant noise level
Wheelchair accessible

{Empty title}


Playing with his balls
MLB 06: The Show
(Sony; Sony PSP)
GAMER This was supposed to be a review of the FIFA World Cup game, but I hate soccer. So instead I am covering this totally awesome baseball game. The Show is something like the 10th generation of these games from Sony. So if you’ve been keeping up, there are few changes in the playing of the game itself. Instead there are some cool new features.
First of all, when custom-creating a player, you can load in personal photos and put your own face or someone else’s on the player’s head. Or maybe you would like your player to have a giant beaver instead of a face. The possibilities are endless.
There is also a rivalry mode in which you can track the jillions of stats from games you play against a chosen friend. I have no friends, so I have not tried this particular feature. But if I had the Show back in 2002 when my friend and I were locked in a mortal, daily war with Dreamcast World Series Baseball 2K1 (Pedro Martinez on the cover — also the best baseball video game ever made), this function would have come in handy. I don’t know that I’ve ever been as angry at a person as when my “friend” — Guardian hack and self-defense nut Jason Boronski — incessantly ran up the score with something he called “chaos on the base paths,” a.k.a. cheating. One time during a very tense seventh inning when the wheels just came off and the Cheater made an impressive nine-run comeback, a deadly silence fell on the room. Staring straight at the TV, playing the game out in smoldering, angry silence, I waited for the last straw so I could throw my controller as hard as I could — at the wall, at the screen, at Boronski’s face. I honestly didn’t know where it was going. I just knew I was approaching total madness. Boronski’s response: “I’m actually afraid of you right now.” Good times, good times.
The makers of the Show have added a really amazing number of cuts to the play — including batter walk ups and pitcher reactions. I used to click right through these, but the other day my shortstop, Alex Gonzalez, hit a three-run homer and the cut showed him walking into the dugout where he was totally ignored by his teammates who customarily would be congratuutf8g him. These irreal video beings were messing with his mind! Incredible. Now I watch all the cutaways to see how much more exciting my life can be. Thank you, game makers.
You do have to be a baseball fan to enjoy this game fully. Just a warning. (Mike McGuirk)

Fifteen, minute


› a&
The sweet 16 has nothing on your average quinceañera, a celebration of reaching womanhood at age 15 that has roots in ancient Aztec civilization and is a tradition still very much alive throughout the Americas. Not unlike the bank-breaking theatrics of debutante balls, weddings, and bar mitzvahs in other communities, there’s often a keeping-up-with-the-Joneses extravagance to them that celebrates prosperity and community as much as youth and the coming-of-age.
Two such blowouts bookend Quinceañera, which won both the Grand Jury and Audience awards for Best Dramatic Feature at Sundance this year. Dazzled by her cousin Eileen’s bash — complete with DJ, live band, and Hummer limo with lighted stripper pole in the back — 14-year-old Magdalena (Emily Rios) begins stoking her own delusions of imminent coming-out grandeur. This dismays her less-than-prosperous priest-by-day, security-guard-by-night dad (Jesus Castaños), who likes to think of his little girl as pure, simple, and devout. That image takes a worse beating when he finds out Magdalena is in, you know, “trouble” — something that freakishly came about despite her not having gone all the way with on-off boyfriend Herman (Ramiro Iniguez).
When the physical evidence can no longer be hidden, the domestic consequences are predictably dire, and Magdalena ends up another black sheep taken in by Tío Tomas (Chalo Gonzalez), the great-uncle who “loves everyone and judges no one.” Already in residence is Magdalena’s cousin and Eileen’s tattooed, muscle-bound, cholo sibling Carlos (Jesse Garcia), thrown out by his parents for being a “liar and a thief and a pothead and a gay.” He sure acts the part of bad news, though like Magdalena may well be more sinned against than sinner.
Both ashamed of past deeds and uncertain what their futures hold, the cousins cohabit uneasily, the household barely kept afloat by Tomas’s earnings as the neighborhood champurrado vendor and Carlos’s at the local car wash. At least the latter is getting some action — when a yuppie gay couple (David W. Ross and Jason L. Wood) buys the Echo Park property encompassing the front house and Tomas’s longtime rear garden rental, Carlos becomes the nightly “peanut butter in their sandwich,” as Magdalena snorts. But this too turns problematic, raising issues of gentrification, fidelity, and economic power, which the movie is careful not to hammer too heavily.
A gay couple who themselves live in Echo Park — the idea for this movie arose when they were asked to photograph the quinceañera of their neighbors’ daughter — cowriters-codirectors Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland risk overstacking the deck with a heavy-handed screenplay. But Quinceañera takes the mantle from 2006’s Junebug as the hugely satisfying little late-summer movie amid so many bigger ones worth skipping. Its pet project genuineness is especially heartening given that Glatzer and Westmoreland (who previously codirected 2000’s idiosyncratic The Fluffer) are longtime toilers in the Hollywood trenches where not much art is made, let alone for art’s sake: one has done a whole lotta reality TV (including conceiving America’s Next Top Model), while the other’s résumé includes such one-handed wonders as Dr. Jackoff and Mr. Hard. SFBG
Opens Fri/11
See Movie Clock at for theaters and showtimes

Voto por voto!


Act One: The Middle Class

MEXICO CITY (August 4th) — Jacinto Guzman, an 80 year-old retired oilworker from Veracruz state, plants himself in front of the headquarters of the Halliburton Corporation on the skyscraper-lined Paseo de Reforma here and recalls the great strikes of the 1930s that culminated in the expropriation and nationalization of Mexico’s petroleum reserves.

Dressed in a wrinkled suit and a hard hat, the old worker laments the creeping privatization of PEMEX, the national oil corporation, by non-Mexican subcontractors like Halliburton, which is installing natural gas infrastructure in Chiapas. But he is less agitated about the penetration of the transnationals in the Mexican oil industry, or even Halliburton’s craven role in the obscene Bush-Cheney Iraq war, than he is about the fraud-marred July 2nd presidential election here.

The sign he holds reads “No A Pinche Fraude” (No to Fucking Fraud!), referring to Halliburton’s membership in a business confederation that financed a vicious TV ad campaign against leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO), who insists that he won the July 2nd election from right-winger Felipe Calderon, to whom the nation’s tarnished electoral authority, the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) awarded a razor-thin and much questioned “victory.”

Mr. Guzman’s appearance at Halliburton on a Friday at the end of last month was one of myriad acts of civil resistance invoked by Lopez Obrador at a July 16th Mexico City assembly that drew more than a million participants. The campaign is designed to pressure a seven-judge panel (the “TRIFE”), which must determine a winner by the first week in September, into opening up the ballot boxes and counting out the votes contained therein — “voto por voto.”

Zeroing in on U.S. transnationals that purportedly backed Calderon, AMLO’s people have invaded Wal-Mart, picketed Pepsico (its Sabritas snack brand was a big contributor to the right-winger’s campaign), rented rooms in big chain hotels (Fiesta Americana) and dropped banners from the windows decrying the “pinche fraude,” and blocking all eleven doors at the palatial headquarters of Banamex, once Mexico’s oldest bank and now a wholly owned subsidiary of Citygroup.

“Voto por Voto!” demonstrators chanted as the bankers smoked and fumed and threatened to call the police.

Demonstrators also blocked the doors at the Mexican stock exchange and surrounded the studios of Televisa, the major head of the nation’s two-headed television monopoly, both heads of which shamelessly tilted to Calderon before, during, and after the ballots were cast.

“!Voto por Voto! Casilla por Casilla!” (Vote by Vote, Precinct by Precinct.)

Seated on a tiny folding chair outside of Banamex, Elena Poniatowska, one of Mexico’s most luminous writers and the recent winner of Spain’s coveted Cervantes Prize, reflected on the civil resistance: “We have always seen the workers demonstrate here in the Zocalo, but this is all very new for our middle class. The middle class protests too, but in the privacy of their own homes. Now we are out of the closet.”

Ironically, the concept of peaceful civil resistance by the middle class was pioneered by Felipe Calderon’s own party, the PAN, after it had been cheated out of elections in the 1980s by the then-ruling PRI. The PANistas uncharacteristically blocked highways and went on hunger strikes, and even imported Philippine trainers, veterans of Corazon Aquino’s civil resistance campaign against Ferdinand Marcos, to teach their supporters new tricks.

Recently AMLO’s party, the Party of the Democratic Revolution or PRD, stole a page from the PANista bible by holding a rally at a Mexico City statue of the right-wingers’ father figure, Manuel Clouthier. During the stolen 1988 presidential election, Clouthier demanded a ballot-by-ballot recount and coined the now ubiquitous phrase “voto por voto.” The PRD gathering around the statue of “Saint Maquio” left Calderon and the PAN speechless for once.

The PRD crusade could be labeled “civil resistance lite.” Led by Poniatowska, opera singer Regina Orozco, and comic actress Jesusa Rodriguez, public demonstrations have been more showbiz than eruptions of mass outrage. Nonetheless, Televisa and TV Azteca, Calderon and the PAN relentlessly rag Lopez Obrador for “fomenting violence,” purposefully ignoring the real daily violence that grips Mexico’s cities as brutal narco gangs behead rivals and massacre their enemies in plain public view.

Act Two: Bad Gas

Hundreds of steaming AMLO supporters pack the cavernous Club de Periodistas in the old quarter of the capital, where computer gurus will diagnosis the complexities of the cybernetic fraud Lopez Obrador is positive was perpetrated by IFE technicians this past July 2nd and 5th during both the preliminary count (PREP) and the actual tally of 130,000 precincts in the nation’s 300 electoral districts.

The experts are as convinced as the audience that the vote was stolen on the IFE terminals, but have many theories as to how. They speak of arcane algorithms and corrupted software. Juan Gurria, a computer programmer who has dropped in on his lunch hour to audit the experts, recalls the 1988 election which was stolen from leftist Cuauhtemoc Cardenas by the long-ruling (71 years) PRI in the nation’s first cybernetic computer fraud. “In 1988, they had to shut down the computers and say the system had crashed to fix the vote – but in 2006, the IFE kept the system running and we watched them steal it right before our eyes” Gurria contends, “the difference is they have better computers now.”

18 years ago, with computer fraud still in its infancy, the PRI had to resort to hit men to carry out its larceny. Three nights before the election, Cardenas’s closest aide, Francisco Xavier Ovando, and his assistant, Ramon Gil, were executed blocks away from the Congress of the country after reportedly obtaining the password to the PRI computer system, upon which the results were being cooked in favor of its candidates, the now universally reviled Carlos Salinas de Gortari. So far, Computer Fraud 2006 has been less messy.

Although the subject is dry and technical – at one point excerpts of an abstruse Guardian of London analysis by University of Texas economist James Galbreath (son of John Kenneth) was read into the record in English – AMLO’s supporters mutter and grumble and nod their heads vigorously. “Asi es!” – that’s just the way it happened! “Voto por Voto” they rumble, “Casilla por Casilla!” after each expert scores a point. Whether or not the fix is in, they are convinced that they have been had.

The PRD is trying to keep a lid on the bad gas seeping from down below. A few days after July 2nd, Felipe Calderon, who AMLO’s people have derisively dubbed “Fe-Cal,” came to this same Club de Periodistas to receive the adulation of a gaggle of union bosses. When he tried to leave the club, he was assailed by street venders howling “Voto por Voto!”

Calderon was quickly hustled into a bullet-proof SUV by his military escort, but the angry crowd kept pounding on the tinted windows. One young man obscenely thrust his middle finger at the would-be president, The scene is replayed over and over again on Televisa and Azteca, sometimes five times in a single news broadcast, graphic footage of the kind of violence AMLO is supposed to be inciting.

Act Three: In Defense of the Voto

Lopez Obrador fervently believes he has won the presidency of the United States of Mexico. He says it often on television just to needle Calderon. The proof, he is convinced, is inside 130,000 ballot boxes that he wants recounted, voto por voto.

The ballot boxes are now stored in the Federal Electoral Institute’s 300 district offices under the protection of the Mexican army. Nonetheless, in Veracruz, Tabasco, and Jalisco among other states, IFE operators have broken into the ballot boxes under the pretext of recovering lost electoral documentation. AMLO is suspicious that the officials are monkeying with the ballots, adding and subtracting the number of votos to make them conform to the IFE’s incredible computer count. Hundreds of ballot boxes contain more votes than voters on the registration lists, and more ballots have been judged null and void than the 243,000 margin of Calderon’s as-yet unconfirmed victory.

To this end, Lopez Obrador has strengthened encampments of his supporters outside the 300 electoral districts. In Monterrey, a PANista stronghold, thugs attack the encampment, beating on AMLO’s people and tearing down their tent city. Rocks are thrown at his supporters in Sinaloa; drivers speed by hurling curses and spitting on them.

Outside the Mexico City headquarters of the TRIFE, the seven-judge panel that will have the ultimate word as to whether or not the votos are going to be counted out one by one, a hunger strike has been ongoing since the PRD submitted documentation of anomalies in 53,000 out of the nation’s 130,000 polling places. Each night a different show business personality joins the fasters, eschews dinner and camps out in the guest pup tent overnight.

From Carlos Fuentes and Elena Poniatowska to painters like Jose Luis Cuevas and master designer Vicente Rojo, the arts and entertainment world has lined up behind Lopez Obrador. An exhibition by Cuevas and 50 other top line graphic artists and writers has been installed on the Alameda green strip adjacent to the Palace of Fine Arts here. After midnight, Calderon supporters slash and savage the art work, leaving a broken jumble behind.

The next day brigades of AMLO’s people from the surrounding neighborhoods rescue what they can of the exhibit, reassemble the broken shards, sew the torn art back together, and prop up the display panels. This is what democracy looks like in Mexico in the summer of 2006.

Act Four: Se Busca Por Fraude Electoral

The integrity of the Federal Electoral Commission is in the eye of Hurricane AMLO. Lopez Obrador accuses the IFE of fixing the election for Felipe Calderon and then defending his false victory. The PRD has filed criminal charges against the nine members of the IFE’s ruling council, most prominently its chairman, the gray-faced bureaucrat Luis Carlos Ugalde, for grievous acts of bias against Lopez Obrador, including refusing to halt Calderon’s hate spots in the run-up to July 2nd.

The IFE is mortally offended by the allegations that it has committed fraud and is using its enormously extravagant budget (larger than all of the government’s anti-poverty programs combined) to run spots protesting the slurs on its integrity that are every bit as virulent and ubiquitous as Calderon’s toxic hit pieces. Actors have been hired to impersonate irate citizens who allegedly were chosen at random as polling place workers July 2nd. “The votes have already been counted” they scoff. “We did not commit fraud” they insist. The idea is preposterous, an insult to their patriotism and to one of the pillars of Mexican “democracy,” the IFE.

Luis Carlos Ugalde, the president of the IFE council, has not been seen in public for several weeks except in large Wanted posters pasted to the walls of the inner city – SE BUSCA POR FRAUDE ELECTORAL! Ugalde and two other IFE counselors are protégés of powerful teachers union czar Elba Esther Gordillo, who joined forces with the PAN to take revenge on failed PRI presidential candidate Roberto Madrazo, a mortal enemy. The nine-member council is composed entirely of PRI and PAN nominees – the PRD is, of course, excluded.

Despite rumors that he had fled the country, Ugalde shows up July 27th at the first IFE meeting since the district tallies three weeks previous where he is confronted by the PRD delegate to the Institute (each party has one delegate.) During an acrimonious seven-hour meeting, Horacio Duarte keeps waving 30 partially burnt ballots, most of them marked for AMLO, that he has just been handed by an anonymous source. Duarte wants to know where Ugalde lives so he can nail one of the ballots to his front door to expose the “shame” of the fraud-marred election. The gray-faced bureaucrat grows even grayer and threatens to suspend the session. OK, OK, Duarte concedes, I’ll just hang it on your office door.

Just then a score of protestors push their way past the IFE guards at the auditorium’s portals – the meeting is a public one. They are chanting “Voto por Voto” and carrying bouquets of yellow flowers, AMLO’s colors. A PRD deputy tries to hand one to Luis Carlos Ugalde who turns away in horror. A bodyguard snatches up the blossoms as if they were a terrorist bomb, and disposes of them post-haste.

Act Five: We Shall Not Be Moved

The clock is ticking. The TRIFE must declare a new president by September 5th. The seven judges, all in the final year of their ten-year terms (three will move up to the Supreme Court in the next administration) have just begun to dig their way into the slagheap of legal challenges that impugn the results in about half of the 130,000 polling places in the land, the ham-handed bias of the IFE prior to the election, and the strange behavior of the Federal Electoral Institute’s computers on election day and thereafter.

The TRIFE, which has sometimes struck down corrupted state and local elections and ordered recounts in a handful of electoral districts, can either determine that the legal challenges would not affect enough votes to overturn the IFE’s determination that Calderon won the election, annul the entire election if it adjudges that it was illegitimately conducted, or order a recount. If the judges determine that annulment is the only way to fix the inequities, a new election would be scheduled 18 months down the pike.

In the meantime, the Mexican Congress would name an interim president, an unprecedented resolution in modern political history here – just the fact it is being discussed is, in itself, unprecedented.

Among those mentioned for the post are National Autonomous University rector Juan Ramon de la Fuente, former IFE director Jose Woldenberg, and three-time presidential loser Cuauhtemoc Cardenas, son of beloved depression-era president Lazaro Cardenas. For Cuauhtemoc, who was defrauded out of the presidency in 1988 by the same kind of flimflam with which the PAN and the IFE seek to despoil Lopez Obrador of victory in 2006, an interim presidency would be a perfect solution. Fixated on fulfilling the destiny of following in his father’s footsteps, moving back into his boyhood home Los Pinos – the Mexican White House – would be sweet revenge against his former protégé and now bitter rival on the left, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

But AMLO does not want the election annulled and an interim appointed. He is obsessed with proving his triumph at the polls and is not going to sit on his hands waiting for the TRIFE to reach its learned conclusions. A gifted leader of street protest, he has summoned his people to the capitol’s Tiananmens-sized Zocalo square three times since July 2nd, each time doubling the numbers of the masses who march through the city: 500,000 on July 8th, 1.1 million on July 16th, and 2.4 million this past Sunday, July 30th (police estimates) – Sunday’s gathering was the largest political demonstration in the nation’s history.

The “informative assemblies” as AMLO tags them, have been festive occasions but underneath there is palpable anger. Lopez Obrador’s people come in family, arm babies and grandpas, often in wheelchairs are on canes. Some come costumed as clowns and pirates. dangling grotesque marionettes, lopsided home-made heads of Fe-Cal, or pushing a replica of the Trojan Horse (“El Cabellito Trojanito.”) They look like they are having fun but their frustrations can well up to the surface in a flash, say when the hated Televisa and TV Azteca appear on the scene. “QUE SE MUERE TELEVISA!” (THAT TELEVISA SHOULD DIE!), the people the color of the earth snarl and scream, pounding fiercely on the television conglomerate’s vehicles.

At the July 30th “informative assembly,” Lopez Obrador ups the ante considerably in his high stakes poker game to pry open the ballot boxes. Now instead of calling for yet another monster gathering in the Zocalo (4.8 million?), he asks all those who had come from the provinces and the lost cities that line this megalopolis to stay where they sre in permanent assembly until the TRIFE renders a decision. 47 encampments will be convened extending from the great plaza, through the old quarter, all the way to the ring road that circles the capital, snarling Mexico City’s already impenetrable traffic, raising the level of greenhouse gases and urban tempers to the point of combustion.

When Lopez Obrador calls for a vote on his proposal, 2,000,000 or so “SI’s” soared from the throats of the gargantuan throng, followed by the now obligatory roars of “No Estas Solo” (“you are not alone”) and “Voto by Voto, Casilla by Casilla.” As if on cue, AMLO’s people began assembling the encampments state by state and Mexico City neighborhood by neighborhood.

For a correspondent who once wrote a novel fictionalizing the stealing of the 1988 election (“Tonatiuh’s People,” Cinco Puntos Press, El Paso, 1999), in which the people the color of the earth march on Mexico City and vote to stay in permanent assembly in the Zocalo, fantasy has turned into the actualities of daily reporting. I am not surprised by this startling turn of events.

When I first arrived here in the old quarter days after the 8.2 earthquake that devastated this capital, the “damnificados” (refugees) were encamped in the streets, demanding relief and replacement housing and liberation from the ruling PRI and their movement from the bottom reinvigorated a civil society that today infuses AMLO’s struggle for electoral democracy. This morning, the damnificados of the PAN and the IFE, Calderon and the fat cats, are again living on these same streets.

On the first evening of the taking of Mexico City, AMLO spoke to thousands crowded into the Zocalo in a driving downpour and invoked Gandhi: “first they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they beat you, and then you win.” And then Gabino Palomares, a troublemaking troubadour who has been up there on the stage at every watershed event in recent Mexican history from the slaughter of striking students at Tlatelolco (1968) to the Zapatistas’ March of the Those the Color of the Earth (2001) took the mic to lead the mob in that old labor anthem, “We Shall Not Be Moved” and AMLO’s people thundered back in a roar that drowned out the weeping sky, “NO NOS MOVERAN!”

To be continued.

John Ross’s “ZAPATISTAS! Making Another World Possible – Chronicles 2000-2006” will be published by Nation Books this October and Ross is hunting possible venues for presentations. All suggestions will be cheerfully accepted at

Proud Mary


ACTRESS AND AUTHOR If you love to watch cult movies and pay tribute to the stars that make them great (and in San Francisco, who doesn’t?), Peaches Christ’s Midnight Mass screening of Death Race 2000, featuring a live appearance by Mary Woronov, is something special. Woronov isn’t your average actor — she’s a painter, great writer, and performer whose roots in the Playhouse of the Ridiculous are often unjustly obscured by her Warhol-era exploits, both of which predate her Roger Corman–produced bouts with Hollywood. And Death Race 2000? We’re now six years past the date targeted by Paul Bartel’s 1975 movie, yet its nightmare vision of fascist TV remains hideously funny — right on time, if not ahead of it.
“It is,” Woronov agrees by phone from Los Angeles. “As a country, we’re out of our minds! We’re the greatest polluter, we have the most corrupt government, and we have the biggest weapons of mass destruction. We’ve conducted the most wars since World War II. And I’ve been living here under the illusion that we’re democratic.”
“The media has completely lulled us into nothingness,” she continues. “People can be told that their pensions will be taken away but the head of the corporation will increase his own pension two million dollars — and they don’t do anything! They don’t riot! They just go, [assumes a zombie voice] ‘OK.’ What happened to us?”
A big question, but Woronov’s next novel, What Really Happened, might answer some of it — even if she makes a point of saying the book isn’t political. What it is, though, is the latest outgrowth of a creative birth that took place when Woronov, facing the idea of death (“I got an illness that was merely an infection, but they told me it was cancer”), kicked drugs at the age of 50. “My brain started working and I didn’t know what to do with it, so I started writing,” she says.
The results have included one memoir (1995’s Swimming Underground), one short-story collection (2004’s Blind Love), and two novels (2000’s Snake and 2002’s Niagara, which sports this great first sentence: “I started drinking in the day, and by the time I got to the supermarket I was so loaded I need a cart to stand up”). Publisher Amy Scholder discovered Woronov, and Gary Indiana has raved about her work, but even if she’s now able to call herself a “great writer,” she can also be hilariously blunt. “I wrote Swimming Underground because I thought it would make me famous,” she says. “To my disappointment, I got a review in the New York Times that said I was too busy crawling around the bathroom floor to say anything real about Warhol.”
As if the New York Times qualifies as an authority. In fact, Woronov’s take on the Factory uptown era, praised by Lou Reed as the best of what is surely now a library bookcase worth of efforts, is as distinct and dominant as her appearance in films such as 1966’s Chelsea Girls. Were the other Superstars intimidated by her and by the whip wit of her friend, the infamous Ondine? “People were very intimidated by Ondine,” she says. “People were mystified by me. For one thing, I didn’t have sex. For another, I acted like a guy, merely as a counterbalance to the transvestites and the female energy there. I did theater and I was a really good actress, so I didn’t have the desperation of the other girls who thought Warhol was somehow going to make them a star.”
The theater that Woronov “did” wasn’t exactly forgettable Broadway nonsense. Along with Ondine (who once played the role of Scrooge there), she took part in the Café Cino scene memorably described in Jimmy McDonough’s Andy Milligan biography The Ghastly One. She also worked with Playhouse of the Ridiculous’s great Ronald Tavel and John Vaccaro. “Their sensibility was extremely feminine, extremely bizarre,” she says. “They were camp at its highest level, where you accept the most strange things and are entertained by them.”
This sensibility inspired some of Woronov’s most memorable film performances, such as Miss Togar from 1979’s Rock ’n’ Roll High School. “I dressed like an aberration of Joan Crawford,” Woronov says. “Everyone else is in modern dress and I look like I’m from the 1930s. The thing about [Miss Togar] is that, you know, she’s a fucking pervert. What makes it wonderful is that I don’t play a pervert. I play someone commenting on perversion — just like a transvestite plays someone commenting on female-ism.”
Woronov’s own female charms suit Death Race’s Calamity Jane, and another classic collaboration with Bartel, 1982’s Eating Raoul, truly allows her Amazonian sexiness to bloom. “I knew I was sexy, but there was still a dichotomy of gender slippage,” she says, discussing prude-turned-dominatrix Mary Bland. “I was still denying [sexiness] and yet showing it — like an underslip.”
At the forefront of ’90s new queer cinema with roles in movies by Gregg Araki and Richard Glatzer, Woronov continues to add to one of the world’s most colorful filmographies. Recently, she appeared in The Devil’s Rejects, and she praises the film’s director, Rob Zombie, as an honest man and class act in an industry full of phonies.
Today, Mary Woronov remains in LA. “For writing, you can’t beat it, it’s such a peculiar place — it’s like a swamp,” she says with a laugh. “Everybody I know is moving to Europe or talking about moving but not moving. I have decided I’m not going to move. I really want to stay here and wait for the revolution. I do believe there will be one.” (Johnny Ray Huston)
Sat/5, 11:59 p.m.
Bridge Theatre
3010 Geary, SF
(415) 267-4893
For a complete Q&A with Mary Woronov — and to find out why she hates Warhol — go to the Guardian’s Pixel Vision blog, at

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Welcome to our dining listings, a detailed guide by neighborhood of some great places to grab a bite, hang out with friends, or impress the ones you love with thorough knowledge of this delectable city. Restaurants are reviewed by Paul Reidinger (PR) or staff. All area codes are 415, and all restaurants are wheelchair accessible, except where noted.
B Breakfast
BR Saturday and/or Sunday brunch
L Lunch
D Dinner
AE American Express
DC Diners Club
DISC Discover
MC MasterCard
V Visa
¢ less than $7 per entrée
$ $7–$12
$$ $13–$20
$$$ more than $20
Acme Chophouse brings Traci des Jardins’s high-end meat-and-potatoes menu right into the confines of Pac Bell Park. Good enough to be a destination, though stranguutf8g traffic is an issue on game days. (Staff) 24 Willie Mays Plaza, SF. 644-0240. American, L/D, $$, AE/DC/MC/V.
Ana Mandara looks and feels like a soundstage, but the menu offers what is probably the best high-end Vietnamese-style food in town. (Staff) 891 Beach, SF. 771-6800. Vietnamese, L/D, $$$, AE/MC/V.
Anjou is the other restaurant on Campton Place — a lovely little warren of brick and brass serving an unpretentious, and sometimes inventive, French bistro menu. (Staff) 44 Campton Place, SF. 392-5373. French, L/D, $$, AE/DC/DISC/MC/V.
B44 brings Daniel Olivella’s Catalan cooking to al fresco-friendly Belden Place. The salt cod-studded menu is stronger in first than main dishes. Frenchy desserts. (Staff) 44 Belden Place, SF. 986-6287. Catalan, L/D, $$, AE/MC/V.
Bix radiates an unmistakable aura of American power and luxury, Jazz Age style. The food is simply splendid. (Staff) 56 Gold, SF. 433-6300. American, L/D, $$$, AE/DC/DISC/MC/V.
Bocadillos serves bocadillos — little Spanish-style sandwiches on little round buns — but the menu ranges more widely, through a variety of Spanish and Basque delights. Decor is handsome, though a little too stark-modern to be quite cozy. (PR, 8/04) 710 Montgomery, SF. Spanish/Basque, L/D, $, MC/V.
Boulevard runs with ethereal smoothness — you are cosseted as if at a chic private party — but despite much fame the place retains its brasserie trappings and joyous energy. (Staff) 1 Mission, SF. 543-6084. American, L/D, $$$, AE/DC/DISC/MC/V.
Brindisi Cucina di Mare cooks seafood the south Italian way, and that means many, many ways, with many, many sorts of seafood. (PR, 4/04) 88 Belden Place, SF. 593-8000. Italian/seafood, L/D, $$, AE/MC/V.
Chaya Brasserie brings a taste of LA’s preen-and-be-seen culture to the waterfront. The Japanese-influenced food is mostly French, and very expensive. (Staff) 132 Embarcadero, SF. 777-8688. Fusion, D, $$$, AE/DC/MC/V.
Cortez has a Scandinavian Designs-on-acid look — lots of heavy, weird multicolored mobiles — but Pascal Rigo’s Mediterranean-influenced small plates will quickly make you forget you’re eating in a hotel. (Staff) 550 Geary (in the Hotel Adagio), SF. 292-6360. Mediterranean, B/D, $$, AE/DC/DISC/MC/V.
Cosmopolitan Cafe seems like a huge Pullman car. The New American menu emphasizes heartiness. (Staff) 121 Spear, SF. 543-4001. American, L/D, $$, AE/DC/MC/V.
Fleur de Lys gives its haute French cuisine a certain California whimsy in a setting that could be the world’s most luxurious tent. There is a vegetarian tasting menu and an extensive, remarkably pricey wine list. (PR, 2/05) 777 Sutter, SF. 673-7779. French, D, $$$, AE/DC/DISC/MC/V.
Fog City Diner still doesn’t take American Express but does still serve a tasty polyglot menu in a romantically dining car-like setting. (Staff) 1300 Battery, SF. 982-2000. Eclectic/American, B/L/D, $$, DISC/MC/V.
Il Fornaio offers a spectacular setting (complete with terrace and tinkling fountain), simple and elegant Italian cooking, first-rate breads, and spotty service. (Staff) 1265 Battery, SF. 986-0100. Italian, L/D, $$, AE/DC/DISC/MC/V.
*Gary Danko is an exercise in symmetries, with food, ambience, and service in a fine balance. Danko’s California cooking is distinctive, but the real closer is the cheese cart, laden with the exquisite and the rare. (Staff) 800 North Point, SF. 749-2060. California, D, $$$, AE/DC/DISC/MC/V.
Jeanty at Jack’s introduces Philippe Jeanty’s earthy French cooking into the vertiginous old Jack’s space, and the result is leisurely fabulousness, at least at dinnertime. At lunch, the pace is more harried, the prices too high. (Staff) 615 Sacramento, SF. 693-0941. French, L/D, $$$, AE/MC/V.
Kyo-Ya may not be the best Japanese restaurant in the city, but it’s certainly one of them. Elegantly padded surroundings, sublime sushi, and a wide selection of cooked dishes attract an international mercantile class. (Staff) 2 New Montgomery, SF. 512-1111. Japanese, L/D, $$$, AE/MC/V.
MacArthur Park still occupies a gorgeous brick cavern in the Barbary Coast, but the restaurant these days is more a neighborhood spot than a destination, and the emphasis seems to be on takeout. (Staff) 607 Front, SF. 398-5700. Barbecue, L/D, $$, AE/MC/V.
Mandarin, though a Gen Xer by birth and a longtime resident of touristy Ghirardelli Square, still offers a matchlessly elegant experience in Chinese fine dining: a surprising number of genuinely spicy dishes, superior service, and wine emphasized over beer. (PR, 9/04) 900 North Point (in Ghirardelli Square), SF. Chinese, L/D, $$, AE/DC/DISC/MC/V.
*Mijita shows that Traci des Jardins can go down-market with the best of them. The Mexican street food is convincingly lusty, but in keeping with the Ferry Building setting, it’s also made mostly with organic, high-quality ingredients. (PR, 4/05) 1 Ferry Bldg, Suite 44, SF. 399-0814. Mexican, B/L/D, ¢, AE/MC/V.
MoMo’s San Francisco Grill The New American food at MoMo’s is surprisingly excellent, and the interior decoration is opulent, with prairie-style furniture, wood trim, dark green carpeting, and dimpled leather upholstery on the banquettes. (PR, 11/98) 760 Second St, SF. 227-8660. American, BR/L/D, $$, AE/MC/V.
Paragon has left behind its fratty Marina incarnation to become, near the Giants’ new ballpark, a stylish haven of gastronomic Americana. Something for everyone in a strikingly vertical space. (Staff) 701 Second St, SF. 537-9020. American, L/D, $$, MC/V.
Plouf Mussels 10 ways — need we say more? Plouf knows its turf, and that’s surf. All the seafood sparkles at this chic spot tucked away on pedestrians-only Belden Place, though mussels are a house specialty, impeccably fresh and served in brimming bowlfuls. Lots of outdoor seating reinforces the French-café feel. (Staff) 40 Belden Place, SF. 986-6491. French, L/D, $$, AE/MC/V.
Ponzu opened early in 2000 but is likely to be remembered as one of that year’s best new restaurants. The decor manages to be warm, bright, and modern without going over the top. (Staff) 401 Taylor, SF. 775-7979. Asian, B/D, $$, MC/V.
*Postrio might be the last place on earth where you can still get a taste of the elegantly lusty cooking that made Wolfgang Puck and his first Spago famous. (Staff) 545 Post, SF. 776-7825. California, B/BR/L/D, $$$, AE/DC/MC/V.
Puccini and Pinetti practically shouts festivity: bright, primary-colors decor (with an emphasis on yellow and blue), plenty of noise, and solidly rendered Italian-American comfort food. (Staff) 129 Ellis, SF. 392-5500. Italian, L/D, $, AE/MC/V.
Shanghai 1930 resembles a cross between a speakeasy and one of Saddam Hussein’s famous bunkers. The high-end Chinese menu is a marvel of freshness and priciness. (Staff) 133 Steuart, SF. 896-5600. Chinese, L/D, $$, AE/DC/MC/V.
Tadich Grill is the city’s oldest restaurant (150 years and counting), and it still packs ’em in, specializing in seafood and most anything grilled. (Staff) 240 California, SF. 391-1849. Grill, L/D, $$, AE/MC/V.
Tlaloc rises like a multistory loft on its Financial District lane, the better to accommodate the hordes of suits crowding in for a noontime burrito-and-salsa fix. They serve a mean pipián burrito and decent fish tacos. (Staff) 525 Commercial, SF. 981-7800. Mexican, L/D, ¢, AE/MC/V.
Tommy Toy’s Haute Cuisine Chinois is a cross between a steak house and The Last Emperor. The food is rich and fatty and only occasionally good. (Staff) 655 Montgomery, SF. 397-4888. Chinese, L/D, $$$, AE/DC/DISC/MC/V.
Town’s End Restaurant and Bakery enjoys a reputation for a fabulous weekend brunch (getting in can be a trick), but the restaurant serves a polished California menu at dinner too. (Staff) 2 Townsend, SF. 512-0749. California, B/BR/L/D, $$, AE/DC/MC/V.
Tu Lan has few luxuries except the food, which is a luxury to the wealthiest palate. Raw foods converge in salads and stir-fries that’ll leave you wondering why your own cooking doesn’t look as easy and taste as good. (Staff) 8 Sixth St, SF. 626-0927. Vietnamese, L/D, ¢.
Da Flora advertises Venetian specialties, but notes from Central Europe (veal in paprika cream sauce) and points east (whiffs of nutmeg) creep into other fine dishes. (Staff) 701 Columbus, SF. 981-4664. Italian, D, $$, MC/V.
Dalla Torre is one of the most inaccessible restaurants in the city. The multilevel dining room — a cross between an Italian country inn and a Frank Lloyd Wright house — offers memorable bay views, but the pricey food is erratic. (Staff) 1349 Montgomery, SF. 296-1111. Italian, D, $$$, AE/DC/DISC/MC/V.
Enrico’s Sidewalk Cafe remains a classic see-and-be-seen part of the North Beach scene. The full bar and extensive menu of tapas, pizzas, pastas, and grills make dropping in at any hour a real treat. (Staff) 504 Broadway, SF. 982-6223. Mediterranean, L/D, $$, AE/MC/V.
Gondola captures the varied flavors of Venice and the Veneto in charmingly low-key style. The main theme is the classic one of simplicity, while service strikes just the right balance between efficiency and warmth. (Staff) 15 Columbus, SF. 956-5528. Italian, L/D, $, MC/V.
House of Nanking never fails to garner raves from restaurant reviewers and Guardian readers alike. Chinatown ambience, great food, good prices. (Best Ofs, 1994) 919 Kearny, SF. 421-1429. Chinese, L/D, ¢.
Maykadeh Persian Cuisine is a great date restaurant, classy but not too pricey, and there are lots of veggie options both for appetizers and entrées. Khoresht bademjan was a delectable, deep red stew of tomato and eggplant with a rich, sweet, almost chocolatey undertone. (Staff) 470 Green, SF. 362-8286. Persian, L/D, $, MC/V.
Michelangelo Cafe There’s always a line outside this quintessential North Beach restaurant, but it’s well worth the sidewalk time for Michelangelo’s excellent Italian, served in a bustling, family-style atmosphere. The seafood dishes are recommended; approach the postprandial Gummi Bears at your own risk. (Staff) 597 Columbus, SF. 986-4058. Italian, D, $$.
Moose’s is famous for the Mooseburger, but the rest of the menu is comfortably sophisticated. The crowd is moneyed but not showy and definitely not nouveau. (Staff) 1652 Stockton, SF. 989-7800. American, BR/L/D, $$, AE/DC/MC/V.
Pena Pacha Mama offers organic Bolivian cuisine as well as weekly performances of Andean song and dance. Dine on crusted lamb and yucca frita while watching a genuine flamenco performance in this intimate setting. (Staff) 1630 Powell, SF. 646-0018. Bolivian, BR/D, $$, AE/MC/V.
Rico’s touts its salsas, and they are good, but so is almost everything else on the mainstream Mexican menu. (Staff) 943 Columbus, SF. 928-5404. Mexican, L/D, ¢, AE/MC/V.
Rose Pistola cooks it up in the style of Liguria, and that means lots of seafood, olive oil, and lemons — along with a wealth of first-rate flat breads (pizzas, focaccias, farinatas) baked in the wood-burning oven. (PR, 7/05) 532 Columbus, SF. 399-0499. Italian, L/D, $$, AE/DC/MC/V.
Washington Square Bar and Grill offers stylish Cal-Ital food at reasonable prices in a storied setting. (Staff) 1707 Powell, SF. 982-8123. Italian, $$, L/D, MC/V.
AsiaSF Priscilla, Queen of the Desert meets Asian-influenced tapas at this amusingly surreal lounge. The drag queen burlesque spectacle draws a varied audience that’s a show in itself. (Staff) 201 Ninth St, SF. 255-2742. Fusion, D, $, AE/DC/DISC/MC/V.
Bacar means “wine goblet,” and its wine menu is extensive — and affordable. Chef Arnold Wong’s eclectic American-global food plays along nicely. (Staff) 448 Brannan, SF. 904-4100. American, D, $$, AE/MC/V.
Basil A serene, upscale oasis amid the industrial supply warehouses, Basil offers California-influenced Thai cuisine that’s lively and creative. (Staff) 1175 Folsom, SF. 552-8999. Thai, L/D, $, AE/MC/V.
Big Nate’s Barbecue is pretty stark inside — mostly linoleum arranged around a pair of massive brick ovens. But the hot sauce will make you sneeze. (Staff) 1665 Folsom, SF. 861-4242. Barbecue, L/D, $, MC/V.
Butler and the Chef brings a taste of Parisian café society — complete with pâtés, cornichons, and croques monsieurs — to sunny South Park. (PR, 5/04) 155A South Park, SF. French, B/L/D, $, AE/DC/DISC/MC/V.
Le Charm is the perfect spot to settle into a padded banquette and order wine and lamb chops and lovely little crèmes caramels. (Staff) 315 Fifth St, SF. 546-6128. French, L/D, $$, MC/V.
Chez Spencer brings Laurent Katgely’s precise French cooking into the rustic-industrial urban cathedral that once housed Citizen Cake. Get something from the wood-burning oven. (Staff) 82 14th St, SF. 864-2191. French, BR/L/D, $$, MC/V.
Fly Trap Restaurant captures a bit of that old-time San Francisco feel, from the intricate plaster ceiling to the straightforward menu: celery Victor, grilled salmon filet with beurre blanc. A good lunchtime spot. (Staff) 606 Folsom, SF. 243-0580. American, L/D, $$, AE/DC/MC/V.
*Fringale still satisfies the urge to eat in true French bistro style, with Basque flourishes. The paella roll is a small masterpiece of food narrative; the frites are superior. (PR, 7/04) 570 Fourth St, SF. 543-0573. French/Basque, L/D, $$, AE/MC/V.
Hawthorne Lane comes about as close to restaurant perfection as is possible in this world. The California cooking shows marked Asian influences; the mutedly elegant decor is welcoming, not stuffy. Sublime service. (Staff) 22 Hawthorne Lane (between Second St and Third St at Howard), SF. 777-9779. California, L/D, $$$, MC/V.
India Garden indeed has a lovely garden and an excellent lunch buffet that does credit to South Asian standards. (Staff) 1261 Folsom, SF. 626-2798. Indian, L/D, $, AE/DC/DISC/MC/V.
Jack Falstaff pays homage to the slow-food movement: there are emphases on the organic, the housemade, the local, and the healthful — and at the same time it’s all tasty and served in voluptuous, supper-club-style surroundings. (PR, 4/05) 598 Second St, SF. 836-9239. American, L/D, $$$, AE/MC/V.
Julie’s Kitchen offers a lunchtime buffet with, literally, a bit of everything, from roast turkey to sushi, with plenty of interesting items in between. (Staff) 680 Eighth St, SF. 431-1255. Eclectic, B/L, $, DC/MC/V.
Left Coast Cafe brings a breath of California freshness to the otherwise slightly antiseptic atrium of the Dolby Building. Healthy sandwiches (tuna, hummus), a decent Caesar, good mom-style cookies and brownies. (Staff) 999 Brannan, SF. 522-0232. California, B/L, ¢, cash only.
LJ’s Martini Bar and Grill sits on the second floor of the urban mall we know as Metreon, but its menu of American favorites and international alternatives is stylishly executed and reasonably priced in a sophisticated environment. For lunch, sit on the sunny terrace. (PR, 9/04) 101 Fourth St, SF. 369-6114. American, L/D, $$, AE/DISC/MC/V.
LuLu defines the modern California restaurant. Many dishes acquire a heart-swelling smokiness from the oven — a plate of portobello mushrooms, say, with soft polenta and mascarpone butter. (Staff) 816 Folsom, SF. 495-5775. Mediterranean, L/D, $$$, AE/MC/V.
Maya is like a good French restaurant serving elegant food that tastes Mexican. There are unforgettable flavors here: corn kernels steeped in vanilla, lovely grilled pork tenderloin served with a pipian sauce of pumpkin seed and tamarind. And for those weekday take-out lunches, there’s Maya (Next Door), a taquería that operates to the left of the host’s podium. (PR, 8/04) 303 Second St, SF. 543-6709. Mexican, L/D, $$$, AE/DC/DISC/MC/V.
*Mochica serves quite possibly the best Peruvian food in the city, at extremely reasonable prices. The location is iffy, mostly because of speeding traffic. Jaywalk with care. (PR, 6/04) 937 Harrison, SF. 278-0480. Peruvian, L/D, $$, AE/MC/V.
Moshi Moshi serves a full palette of Japanese standards, from sushi to tempura to immense bowls of udon and near-udon. An ideal spot for neighborhood watching. (Staff) 2092 Third St, SF. Japanese, L/D, $, AE/MC/V.
Nova still serves infused vodkas (remember Infusion?), but its orientation is less toward South Park than toward Pac Bell Park: sports on the TV above the bar, solid New American food, sleek pubbish looks. (Staff) 555 Second St, SF. 543-2282. American, L/D, $$, AE/DISC/MC/V.
Oola gives Ola Fendert his own platform at last, and the result is a modern, golden SoMa restaurant with a menu that mixes playful opulence with local standards. (PR, 10/04) 860 Folsom, SF. 995-2061. California, D, $$, AE/MC/V.
Public brings a Tuscan-tinged, Delfina-ish menu to a splendid multilevel space in a grand old brick building. Youthful but well-informed staff, incomparable chocolate bread pudding. (Staff) 1489 Folsom, SF. 552-3065. California/Mediterranean, D, $$, AE/MC/V.
[TK]Sneaky Tiki redoes the old Hamburger Mary’s space with a Polynesian flair, though you can still get a decent burger. Many dishes for two, including a huge, multitiered pupu platter. The human tone is sleek, with some echoes of the disco past. (PR, 10/05) 1582 Folsom, SF. 701-TIKI. Polynesian, L/D, $$, AE/DISC/MC/V.
Sushi Groove South continues the westward march of hipsterdom through SoMa. The food — traditional sushi augmented by quietly stylish fusion dishes — is spectacular. The setting — a candlelit grotto abrim with black-clad young — is charged with high romance. (Staff) 1516 Folsom, SF. 503-1950. Japanese/sushi, L/D, $, AE/DC/MC/V.
Tamal offers inventive Mexican-influenced small plates, including a selection of namesake tamales, in a lonely corner of southwest SoMa. The food can be inconsistent, but the best dishes are wonderful. (PR, 4/05) 1599 Howard, SF. 864-2446. Nuevo Latino/tapas, D, $$, AE/DISC/MC/V.
Town Hall offers the lusty American cooking of the Rosenthal brothers in an elegantly spare New England-ish setting. There is a large communal table for seat-of-the-pants types and those who like their conviviality to have a faintly medieval air. (Staff) 342 Howard, SF. 908-3900. American, L/D, $$, AE/MC/V.
Vino e Cucina offers a pleasantly oasislike setting and solid Italian food — with the occasional pleasant surprise — on a gritty stretch of Third Street. (Staff) 489 Third St, SF. 543-6962. Italian, L/D, $$, AE/MC/V.
XYZ joins the pantheon of fabulous restaurants in the city’s hotels. Lusty California cooking glows like a campfire in a cool (if slightly deracinated) urban setting. (Staff) 181 Third St, SF. 817-7836. California, B/BR/L/D, $$$, AE/DC/DISC/MC/V.
Acquerello reminds us that the Italians, like the French, have a high cuisine — sophisticated and earthy and offered in a onetime chapel with exposed rafters and sumptuous fabrics on the banquettes. Service is as knowledgeable and civilized as at any restaurant in the city. (PR, 3/05) 1722 Sacramento, SF. 567-5432. Italian, $$$, D, AE/DISC/MC/V.
Alborz looks more like a hotel restaurant than a den of Persian cuisine, but there are flavors here — of barberry and dried lime, among others — you won’t easily find elsewhere. (Staff) 1245 Van Ness, SF. 440-4321. Persian, L/D, $, MC/V.
Bacio offers homey, traditional Italian dishes in a charmingly cozy rustic space. Service can be slow. (PR, 1/05) 835 Hyde, SF. 292-7999. Italian, L/D, $$, AE/MC/V.
Cordon Bleu has huge portions, tiny prices, and a hoppin’ location right next to the Lumiere Theatre. (Staff) 1574 California, SF. 673-5637. Vietnamese, L/D, ¢.
Crustacean is famous for its roast Dungeness crab; the rest of the “Euro/Asian” menu is refreshingly Asian in emphasis. (Staff) 1475 Polk, SF. 776-2722. Fusion, L/D, $$, AE/MC/V.
East Coast West Delicatessen doesn’t look like a New York deli (too much space, air, light), but the huge, fattily satisfying Reubens, platters of meat loaf, black-and-white cookies, and all the other standards compare commendably to their East Coast cousins. (Staff) 1725 Polk, SF. 563-3542. Deli, BR/L/D, $, MC/V.
[TK]La Folie could be a neighborhood spot or a destination or both, but either way or both ways it is sensational: an exercise in haute cuisine leavened with a West Coast sense of informality and playfulness. There is a full vegetarian menu and an ample selection of wines by the half bottle. (PR, 2/06) 2316 Polk, SF. 776-5577. French, D, $$$, AE/DC/DISC/MC/V.
Grubstake might look like your typical Polk Gulch diner — sandwiches and burgers, open very late — but the kitchen also turns out some good mom-style Portuguese dishes, replete with olives, salt cod, and linguica. If you crave caldo verde at 3 a.m., this is the place. (Staff) 1525 Pine, SF. 673-8268. Portuguese/American, B/L/D, ¢, cash only.
*Matterhorn Restaurant offers dishes that aren’t fondue, but fondue (especially with beef) is the big deal and the answer to big appetites. For dessert: chocolate fondue! (Staff) 2323 Van Ness, SF. 885-6116. Swiss, $$, D, AE/DC/DISC/MC/V.
O’Reilly’s Holy Grail, a redo of the old Maye’s Oyster House that strikes harmonious notes of chapel and lounge, serves a sophisticated and contemporary Cal-Irish menu. (PR, 10/05) 1233 Polk, SF. 928-1233. California/Irish, BR/L/D, $$, AE/DISC/MC/V.
Persimmon offers a tasty, fairly priced Middle Eastern menu to tourists, theatergoers, and neighbors alike. Excellent hummus. (PR, 9/05) 582 Sutter, SF. 433-5525. Middle Eastern, B/L/D, $, AE/DC/DISC/MC/V.
Le Petit Robert offers classy French cooking as a wealth of small plates, along with a few larger ones, in a setting that’s at once spacious and warm. Not cheap, but good value. (Staff) 2300 Polk, SF. 922-8100. French, L/D, $$, MC/V.
Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse brings on the lipids in a big, big way — even the salads are well marbled — but if you’re not worried about fat, you’ll find the food to be quite tasty, the mood soothingly refined. (Staff) 1601 Van Ness, SF. 673-0557. Steak, D, $$$, AE/DC/DISC/MC/V.
Wasabi and Ginger looks to become a popular neighborhood spot. The sushi is first rate, but the great stuff on the menu is cooked: buttery-tender beef short ribs and a seafood-miso soup served in a teapot. (Staff) 2299 Van Ness, SF. 345-1368. Japanese, L/D, $, MC/V.
Yabbies Coastal Kitchen There’s lots to shuck and swallow at the raw bar, but don’t miss tropical seafood cocktails (like the crab with mango and lemongrass) piled glamorously into martini glasses. (Staff) 2237 Polk, SF. 474-4088. California, D, $$, MC/V.
Zarzuela’s rich selection of truly delicious tapas and full meals makes it a neighborhood favorite. (Staff) 2000 Hyde, SF. 346-0800. Tapas, D, $$, DISC/MC/V.
A la Turca is a surprisingly stylish spot on a not particularly stylish block. Excellent pides and Turkish beer. (PR, 3/04) 869 Geary, SF. 345-1011. Turkish, L/D, $, AE/MC/V.
Ananda Fuara serves a distinctly Indian-influenced vegetarian menu in the sort of calm surroundings that are increasingly the exception to the rule. (Staff) 1298 Market, SF. 621-1994. Vegetarian, L/D, ¢, cash only.
[TK]*Bodega Bistro has a certain colonial formality — much of the menu is given in French — and it does attract a tony expat crowd. The food is elegant but not fancy (lobster, rack of lamb, both simply presented); if even those are too much, look to the “Hanoi Street Cuisine” items. (PR, 11/05) 607 Larkin, SF. 921-1218. Vietnamese, L/D, $$, DC/DISC/MC/V.
Canto do Brasil The draw here is lusty yeoman cooking, Brazilian style, at beguilingly low prices. The tropically cerulean interior design enhances the illusion of sitting at a beach café. (Staff) 41 Franklin, SF. 626-8727. Brazilian, L/D, $, MC/V.
Chutney combines elements of college-town haunt and California bistro. The Pakistani-Indian food is fresh, bright, spicy, and cheap. (Staff) 511 Jones, SF. 931-5541. Indian/Pakistani, L/D, ¢.
Gyro Kebab adds to the Turkish presence in the Tenderloin. The signature dish, swordfish kebab, is estimable, but almost everything else on the menu is crisply prepared too. (PR, 4/05) 637 Larkin, SF. 775-5526. Turkish, L/D, $, AE/MC/V.
Gyro King has that Istanbul feeling: lots of kebabs and gyros, hummus, dolma, eggplant salad, and of course baklava fistikli for dessert. It’s all cheap, and it makes for a good, quick Civic Center lunch. (Staff) 25 Grove, SF. 621-8313. Turkish/Mediterranean, B/L/D, ¢, MC/V.
Indigo serves up good California cuisine in a pleasantly stylish setting. A great presymphony choice. (Staff) 687 McAllister, SF. 673-9353. California, D, $$, AE/MC/V.
Jardinière combines an aggressively elegant Pat Kuleto design with the calm confidence of Traci Des Jardins’s cooking. The best dishes are unforgettable. (Staff) 300 Grove, SF. 861-5555. California, D, $$$, AE/DC/DISC/MC/V.
[TK]Mangosteen radiates lime green good cheer from its corner perch in the Tenderloin. Inexpensive Vietnamese standards are rendered with thoughtful little touches and an emphasis on the freshest ingredients. (PR, 11/05) 601 Larkin, SF. 776-3999. Vietnamese, L/D, $, cash only.
Max’s Opera Cafe Huge food is the theme here, from softball-size matzo balls to towering desserts. Your basic Jewish deli. (Staff) 601 Van Ness, SF. 771-7300. American, L/D, $, AE/DC/DISC/MC/V.
[TK]Mekong Restaurant serves the foods of the Mekong River basin. There is a distinct Thai presence but also dishes with Laotian, Cambodian, Vietnamese, and even Chinese accents. (PR, 1/06) 791 O’Farrell, SF. 928-2772. Pan-Asian, L/D, $, MC/V.
Olive might look like a tapas bar, but what you want are the thin-crust pizzas, the simpler the toppings the better. The small plates offer eclectic pleasures, especially the Tuscan pâté and beef satay with peanut sauce. (Staff) 743 Larkin, SF. 776-9814. Pizza/eclectic, D, $, AE/DISC/MC/V.
Pagolac For $10.95 a person you and two or more of your favorite beef eaters can dive into Pagolac’s specialty: seven-flavor beef. Less carnivorous types can try the cold spring rolls, shrimp on sugarcane, or lemongrass tofu. (Staff) 655 Larkin, SF. 776-3234. Vietnamese, L/D, ¢.
*Saha serves “Arabic fusion cuisine” — a blend of the Middle East and California — in a cool, spare setting behind the concierge’s desk at the Hotel Carlton. One senses the imminence of young rock stars, drawn perhaps by the lovely chocolate fondue. (PR, 9/04) 1075 Sutter, SF. 345-9547. Arabic/fusion, B/BR/D, $$, AE/DISC/MC/V.
Absinthe restyles the rustic foods of southern France into sleek urban classics. No absinthe; have a pastis instead. (Staff) 398 Hayes, SF. 551-1590. Southern French, B/BR/L/D, $$, AE/DC/MC/V.
Arlequin offers light Provençal and Mediterranean food for takeout, but the best place to take your stuff is to the sunny, tranquil garden in the rear. (Staff) 384B Hayes, SF. 863-0926. Mediterranean, B/L/D, ¢, MC/V.
Destino reweaves traditional Peruvian flavors into a tapestry of extraordinary vividness and style, and the storefront interior has been given a golden glow that would have satisfied the most restless conquistador. (Staff) 1815 Market, SF. 552-4451. Peruvian, D, $$, MC/V.
Espetus means “skewer” in Portuguese, and since the place is a Brazilian grill, the (huge) skewers are laden with a variety of meat, poultry, and seafood. The giant buffet at the rear assures that you will not — you cannot — leave hungry. (PR, 3/04) 1686 Market, SF. 552-8792. Brazilian, L/D, $$$, MC/V.
Frjtz serves first-rate Belgian fries, beer, crepes, and sandwiches in an art-house atmosphere. If the noise overwhelms, take refuge in the lovely rear garden. (Staff) 579 Hayes, SF. 864-7654; also at Ghirardelli Square, SF. 928-3886. Belgian, B/L/D, $, AE/DC/DISC/MC/V.
Hayes Street Grill still offers a workable formula: the best fish, prepared with conservative expertise and offered with a choice of sauce and excellent pommes frites. An old, reliable friend. (Staff) 320 Hayes, SF. 863-5545. Seafood, L/D, $$, AE/DC/DISC/MC/V.
Sauce enjoys the services of chef Ben Paula, whose uninhibited California cooking is as easy to like as a good pop song. (PR, 5/05) 131 Gough, SF. 252-1369. California, D, $$, AE/DISC/MC/V.
Suppenküche has a Busvan for Bargains, butcher-block look that gives context to its German cuisine. If you like schnitzel, brats, roasted potatoes, eggs, cheese, cucumber salad, cold cuts, and cold beer, you’ll love it here. (Staff) 601 Hayes, SF. 252-9289. German, BR/D, $, AE/MC/V.
*Zuni Cafe is one of the most celebrated — and durable — restaurants in town, perhaps because its kitchen has honored the rustic country cooking of France and Italy for the better part of two decades. (PR, 2/05) 1658 Market, SF. 552-2522. California, B/L/D, $$$, AE/MC/V.
Alice’s sits on an obscure corner of outer Noe Valley, but the Chinese food is reliably fresh, tasty, and cheap. The decor is surprisingly elegant too: Wedgwood place settings and displays of blown glass. (Staff) 1599 Sanchez, SF. 282-8999. Chinese, L/D, $, MC/V.
Amberjack Sushi is like a miniature version of Blowfish or Tokyo Go Go. The more complex dishes, such as a tuna-sashimi tartare with lemon olive oil, are better than the simple, traditional stuff, which can be overchilled. (Staff) 1497 Church, SF. 920-1797. Japanese, L/D, $, AE/MC/V.
Bacco breathes north Italian authenticity, from the terra-cotta-colored walls to the traditional but vivid veal preparations. One of the best neighborhood Italian restaurants in town. (Staff) 737 Diamond, SF. 282-4969. Italian, D, $$, MC/V.
Blue dishes up home cooking as good as any mom’s, in a downtown New York environment — of mirrors, gray-blue walls, and spotlights — that would blow most moms away. (Staff) 2337 Market, SF. 863-2583. American, BR/L/D, $, MC/V.
Burgermeister uses top-grade Niman Ranch beef for its burgers, but nonetheless they’re splendid, with soft buns and crisp, well-salted fries. Foofy California wrinkles are available if you want them, but why would you? (PR, 5/04) 138 Church, SF. 437-2874. Burgers, L/D, $.
Catch offers some excellent seafood pastas and a fabulous dish of mussels in Pernod over frites, while the atmosphere is full of Castro festivity. (Staff) 2362 Market, SF. 431-5000. Seafood, L/D, $, AE/MC/V.
Chenery Park is the restaurant Glen Park has been waiting for all these years: a calm, understated setting and an eclectic American menu with plenty of sly twists. (Staff) 683 Chenery, SF. 337-8537. American, D, $$, MC/V.
Chow serves up an easy Californian blend of American and Italian favorites, with a few Asian elements thrown into the mix. (Staff) 215 Church, SF. 552-2469. California, L/D, ¢, MC/V.
Côté Sud brings a stylish breath of Provence to the Castro. The cooking reflects an unfussy elegance; service is as crisp as a neatly folded linen napkin. Nota bene: you must climb a set of steps to reach the place. (Staff) 4238 18th St, SF. 255-6565. French, D, $$, MC/V.
Eric’s Dig into the likes of mango shrimp, hoisin green beans, and spicy eggplant with chicken in this bright, airy space. (Staff) 1500 Church, SF. 282-0919. Chinese, L/D, $, MC/V.
*Firefly remains an exemplar of the neighborhood restaurant in San Francisco: it is homey and classy, hip and friendly, serving an American menu — deftly inflected with ethnic and vegetarian touches — that’s the match of any in the city. (PR, 9/04) 4288 24th St, SF. 821-7652. American, D, $$, AE/MC/V.
Firewood Cafe serves up delicious thin chewy-crusted pizzas, four kinds of tortellini, rotisserie-roasted chicken, and big bowls of salad. (Staff) 4248 18th St, SF. 252-0999. Italian, L/D, ¢, MC/V.
Los Flamingos mingles Cuban and Mexican specialties in a relaxed, leafy, walk-oriented neighborhood setting. Lots of pink on the walls; even more starch on the plates. (PR, 11/04) 151 Noe, SF. 252-7450. Cuban/Mexican, BR/D, $, AE/DC/DISC/MC/V.
Fresca raises the already high bar a little higher for Peruvian restaurants in town. Many of the dishes are complex assemblies of unusual and distinctive ingredients, but some of the best are among the simplest. The skylighted barrel-ceiling setting is quietly spectacular. (PR, 7/05) 3945 24th St, SF. 695-0549. Peruvian, L/D, $$, AE/DISC/MC/V.
Hamano Sushi packs them in despite a slightly dowdy setting and food of variable appeal. The best stuff is as good as it gets, though, and prices aren’t bad. (Staff) 1332 Castro, SF. 826-0825. Japanese, L/D, $$, AE/MC/V.
Home sounds homey, and it is, at least foodwise: first-rate pot roast, macaroni and cheese, broccoli with white cheddar cheese sauce; the occasional dressier dish. The crowd has a strong clubland look. (Staff) 2100 Market, SF. 503-0333. New American, D, $, AE/MC/V.
Incanto sets the bar a bit higher for neighborhood Italian restaurants. Gorgeous stonework, a chapel-like wine room, and skillful cooking that ranges confidently from pastas to braised lamb shanks. (Staff) 1550 Church, SF. 641-4500. Italian, D, $$, MC/V.
Long Island Restaurant dishes up reliable Chinese standards in a space that’s been considerably brightened since the passing of the previous occupant. (PR, 3/04) 1689 Church, SF. 695-7678/79. Chinese, L/D, $, MC/V.
Lucky Time drifts happily between the foods of Vietnam and China. Low prices, fast service, reasonably nice decor, location vastly convenient to public transport. (PR, 3/05) 708 14th St, SF. 861-2682. Vietnamese/Chinese, L/D, $, MC/V.
Lupa, in the old Noi-Little Italy space, serves a strong pan-Italian menu with Roman accents. Service is knowledgeable and familial, the food competitive in a competitive neighborhood. (Staff) 4109 24th St, SF. 282-5872. Italian, D, $$, MC/V.
[TK]Malacca serves the foods of the Strait of Malacca region, and the sophisticated mix is unmistakably Singaporean, from Portuguese noodles (with basil, tomato, garlic, and ginger) to beef rendang. Wine is emphasized over beer, and the decor of unduutf8g bamboo is quietly striking. (PR, 11/05) 4039 18th St, SF. 863-0679. Pan-Asian, D, $$, MC/V.
Nirvana offers a peaceful respite from busy Castro streets. Although noodles make up the bulk of the menu, there’s also a list of entrées that range from stir-fried jicama to grilled lemongrass chicken. (Staff) 544 Castro, SF. 861-2226. Pan-Asian, L/D, $, MC/V.
La Provence bestows a welcome dash of south-of-France sunshine to an often befogged city. Many fine Provençal standards, including a memorable tarte tropézienne. (PR, 9/05) 1001 Guerrero, SF. 643-4333. French, D, $$, MC/V.
Samovar Tea Lounge has tea — of course, and of many, many kinds — but also food to go with your tea and a gorgeous setting of fluttering fabrics to enjoy it all in. A world of tea culture. (Staff) 498 Sanchez, SF. 626-4700. Eclectic, B/L/D, ¢, AE/MC/V.
Savor has transformed the old Courtyard Cafe into a fantasy of a Mediterranean country inn. Pesto, sun-dried tomatoes, et al, occur in various permutations throughout the menu’s crepes, omelets, frittatas, sandwiches, and salads. (Staff) 3913 24th St, SF. 282-0344. Mediterranean, B/L/D, $, MC/V.
Tangerine occupies one of the lovelier and more tree-lined corners in the Castro, and the “fusion” cooking is really more of a potpourri, ably ranging from gumbo to deep-fried calamari to sea bass edamame. (Staff) 3499 16th St, SF. 626-1700. Fusion, L/D, $, MC/V.
Tao Cafe exudes rich atmosphere — a beautiful two-tone green paint scheme, ceiling fans, bronze fittings — and the attractively brief menu has some smart French touches, including a Vietnamese-style beef bourguignon. Quite cheap considering the high style. (Staff) 1000 Guerrero, SF. 641-9955. Vietnamese, D, $, AE/MC/V.
*Tapeo at Metro City Bar has a leg up on most of the city’s tapas places, since it is part of an actual bar (and a gay bar!) in the true tapas tradition. It has a second leg up because the food is both innovative and authentically Iberian. An excellent locale for street surveillance. (PR, 8/04) 3600 16th St, SF. 703-9750. Spanish/tapas, D, $, MC/V.
Thai Chef joins the ranks of top-tier Thai restaurants in the city. Virtually every dish with meat, fish, or poultry is available in meatless guise. (PR, 3/05) 4133 18th St, SF. 551-CHEF. Thai, L/D, $, MC/V.
Tita’s Hale Aina Traditional dishes include a tasty lomi lomi scramble chock-full of scallions, tomatoes, and salmon, and refreshing cold green tea soba noodles. (Staff) 3870 17th St, SF. 626-2477. Hawaiian, B/L/D, ¢.
2223 could easily be a happening queer bar, what with all that male energy. But the American menu joins familiarity with high style, and the ambience is that of a great party where you’re bound to meet somebody hot. (Staff) 2223 Market, SF. 431-0692. American, BR/D, $$, AE/DC/MC/V.
Yianni’s brings a bit of Greek sunshine to outer Church Street. All the standards — saganaki and pastitsio, among others — are here, as well as “Greek” pizzas and fries. (Staff) 1708 Church, SF. 647-3200. Greek, BR/D, $$, MC/V.
Le Zinc brings a French bistro presence to 24th Street. The setting is lovely, the food and service uneven and not cheap. But the possibility for something spectacularly good persists. (Staff) 4063 24th St, SF. 647-9400. French, B/BR/L/D, $$$, AE/MC/V.
Alamo Square is an archetype for the “good little place around the corner.” Five different kinds of fish are offered next to three cooking techniques and five sauces. (Staff) 803 Fillmore, SF. 440-2828. Seafood, D, $, MC/V.
Ali Baba’s Cave Veggie shish kebabs are grilled fresh to order; the hummus and baba ghanoush are subtly seasoned and delicious. (Staff) 531 Haight (at Fillmore), SF. 255-7820; 799 Valencia, SF. 863-3054. Middle Eastern, L/D, ¢, MC/V.
All You Knead emphasizes the wonderful world of yeast — sandwiches, pizzas, etc. — in a space reminiscent of beer halls near Big 10 campuses. (Staff) 1466 Haight, SF. 552-4550. American, B/L/D, ¢, MC/V.
Asqew Grill reinvents the world of fine fast food on a budget with skewers, served in under 10 minutes for under 10 bucks. (Staff) 1607 Haight, SF. 701-9301. California, L/D, ¢, MC/V.
Bia’s Restaurant and Wine Bar proves hippies know what’s what in matters of food and wine. An excellent menu of homey items with Middle Eastern and Persian accents; a tight, widely varied wine list. (PR, 11/04) 1640 Haight, SF. 861-8868. California/Middle Eastern, L/D, $, AE/DC/MC/V.
Blue Jay Cafe has the Mayberry, RFD, look and giant platters of Southernish food, including a good catfish po’boy and crispy fried chicken. Everything is under $10. (PR, 4/04) 919 Divisadero, SF. 447-6066. American/soul, BR/L/D, $, MC/V.
Brother-in-Laws Bar-B-Cue always wins the “Best Barbecue” prize in our annual Best of the Bay edition: the ribs, chickens, links, and brisket are smoky and succulent; the aroma sucks you in like a tractor beam. (Staff) 705 Divisadero, SF. 931-7427. Barbecue, L/D, $.
Burgermeister uses top-grade Niman Ranch beef for its burgers, but nonetheless they’re splendid, with soft buns and crisp, well-salted fries. Foofy California wrinkles are available if you want them, but why would you? (PR, 5/04) 86 Carl, SF. 566-1274. Burgers, L/D, $.
Eos serves one of the best fusion menus in town, but be prepared for scads of yuppies and lots of noise. (Staff) 901 Cole, SF. 566-3063. Fusion, D, $$, AE/MC/V.
Fly could easily host séances, but if your only interest is food and drink, you’ll be happy too. Good pizzas and small plates; plenty for omnivores and vegetarians alike. Tons of sake drinks to wash it all down. (Staff) 762 Divisadero, SF. 931-4359. Mediterranean, L/D, $, AE/DC/DISC/MC/V.
*Frankie’s Bohemian Cafe has Pilsener Urquell, a Bohemian beer, on tap for a touch of Czech authenticity, but the crowd is young, exuberant, Pacific Heights, het. Follow the crowd and stick with the burgers. (PR, 2/05) 1682 Divisadero, SF. 921-4725. Czech/American, L/D, $, AE/MC/V.
Grandeho’s Kamekyo Sushi Bar Always packed, Grandeho serves up excellent sushi along with a full Japanese menu. (Staff) 943 Cole, SF. 759-5693. Japanese, L/D, $$, AE/MC/V.
Hukilau brings a dash of Big Island conviviality — and Big Island (i.e., big) portions — to a wind- and traffic-swept corner of the big city. Spam too, if you want it. (Staff) 5 Masonic, SF. 921-6242. Hawaiian/American, BR/L/D, $, MC/V.
Kate’s Kitchen dishes up the best scallion-cheese biscuits out west. The lines on the weekends can be long. (Staff) 471 Haight, SF. 626-3984. American, B/L, ¢.
Magnolia Pub and Brewery A mellow atmosphere and beers that taste distinctly hand crafted make great accompaniments to burgers, chicken wings, ale-steamed mussels, and pizzas, along with some unexpected Cali fusion like grilled soy-sesame eggplant. (Staff) 1398 Haight, SF. 864-PINT. Brew pub, BR/L/D, $, AE/MC/V.
Metro Cafe brings the earthy chic of Paris’s 11th arrondissement to the Lower Haight, prix fixe and all. (Staff) 311 Divisadero, SF. 552-0903. French, B/BR/L/D, $, MC/V.
New Ganges Restaurant is short on style — it is as if the upmarket revolution in vegetarian restaurants never happened — but there is a homemade freshness to the food you won’t find at many other places. (Staff) 775 Frederick, SF. 681-4355. Vegetarian/Indian, L/D, $, MC/V.
Raja Cuisine of India serves up decent renditions of Indian standards in an unassuming, even spare, setting. Low prices. (Staff) 500 Haight, SF. 255-6000. Indian, L/D, $, MC/V.
Rotee isn’t the fanciest south Asian restaurant in the neighborhood, but it is certainly one of the most fragrant, and its bright oranges and yellows (food, walls) do bring good cheer. Excellent tandoori fish. (PR, 12/04) 400 Haight, SF. 552-8309. Indian/Pakistani, L/D, $, MC/V.
Tsunami Sushi and Sake Bar brings hip Japanese-style seafood to the already hip Café Abir complex. Skull-capped sushi chefs, hefty and innovative rolls. (Staff) 1306 Fulton, SF. 567-7664. Japanese/sushi, D, $$, AE/DC/DISC/MC/V.
Winterland borrows the nostalgic name of the onetime ice-skating rink cum music venue that once stood on the spot, but the food is pure — and foamy — Euro avant-garde, served to a glam crowd dressed in shades of SoMa black. For a less vertiginous experience, enjoy the bar menu. (PR, 6/05) 2101 Sutter, SF. 563-5025. International, D, $$$, AE/MC/V.
[TK]Zoya takes some finding — it is in the little turret of the Days Inn Motor Lodge at Grove and Gough — but the view over the street’s treetops is bucolic, and the cooking is simple, seasonal, direct, and ingredient driven. (PR, 12/05) 465 Grove, SF. 626-9692. California, L/D, $$, AE/DC/DISC/MC/V.
Al’s Cafe Good Food Al’s is the best dang diner in town. Everything here is great, from the home fries and eggs to the chili and burgers, and even the toast in between. (Staff) 3286 Mission, SF. 641-8445. American, B/L, ¢.
Amira melds virtuosic belly dancing shows with veggie kebabs; smoky, delicate walnut dip with pita chips; and the star choice, Turkish eggplant, a handsome portion of unbelievably tender sautéed aubergine in a marinara sauce. (Staff) 590 Valencia, SF. 621-6213. Middle Eastern, D, $, MC/V.
Angkor Borei Nicely presented smallish portions of really good food, friendly service, and excellent atmosphere way down on Mission Street. (Staff) 3471 Mission, SF. 550-8417. Cambodian, L/D, $, AE/DISC/MC/V.
[TK]*Baku de Thai unites the elegant cuisines of Thailand and France with memorable — and affordable — results. The dinnertime prix fixe, available earlyish, is an especially appealing deal. (PR, 11/05) 400 Valencia, SF. 437-4788. Thai/fusion, L/D, $, AE/DC/DISC/MC/V.
Baobab Bar and Grill serves great-tasting West African specialties like couscous, fried plantains, and savory rice dishes for a reasonable price. (Staff) 3388 19th St, SF. 643-3558. African, BR/D, ¢.
Baraka takes the French-Spanish tapas concept, gives it a beguiling Moroccan accent — harissa, preserved lemons, merguez sausage — and the result is astonishingly good food. (Staff) 288 Connecticut, SF. 255-0370. Moroccan/Mediterranean, L/D, $$, AE/MC/V.
Bistro Annex occupies a narrow space like a glorified broom closet and serves a French-inflected, west-Med menu at very low prices. (PR, 5/05) 1136 Valencia, SF. 648-9020. French, D, $, MC/V.
Blowfish glows red and inviting on an otherwise industrial and residential stretch of Bryant Street. Sushi — in pristine fingers of nigiri or in a half dozen inventive hand rolls — is a marvel. (Staff) 2170 Bryant, SF. 285-3848. Sushi, L/D, $, AE/DC/DISC/MC/V.
Blue Plate has a diner aura — bustle, clatter — but the Mediterranean food is stylishly flavorful. A great value. (Staff) 3218 Mission, SF. 282-6777. Mediterranean, D, $$, AE/MC/V.
Bombay Ice Cream and Chaat Stop in for some Indian chaat — cheap, delicious fast food such as samosas and curries. (Staff) 552 Valencia, SF. 431-1103. Indian takeout, L/D, ¢.
Burger Joint makes hamburgers like you remember from your childhood, with lettuce, onion, tomato, and mayonnaise. (Staff) 807 Valencia, SF. 824-3494. American, L/D, ¢.
Cafe Bella Vista brings a stylish touch of Catalonia to the Inner Mission. Excellent gazpacho and tortilla española. The interior decor is sleek and modern, though the space itself seems slightly squashed by the apartment building overhead. (PR, 6/04) 2598 Harrison, SF. 641-6195. Spanish, B/BR/L/D, $, AE/MC/V.
Cafe Ethiopia It’s basically a coffeehouse, serving all the same coffees and teas and Toranis as anyone else. It’s just that they also have great, cheap Ethiopian food. (Staff) 878 Valencia, SF. 285-2728. Ethiopian, B/L/D, ¢.
Cafe Gratitude specializes in surprisingly delicious, painstakingly prepared raw and vegan cuisine with a hippie attitude. For less than $10, you will be full and healthy from buckwheat and Brazil nut cheese pizza, mock tuna salad and other herbaceous nut-based spreads, and sumptuous date-based smoothies. (Staff) 2400 Harrison, SF. 824-4652. Vegan, B/BR/L/D, ¢, MC/V.
Cafe Phoenix looks like a junior-high cafeteria, but the California-deli food is fresh, tasty, and honest, and the people making it are part of a program to help the emotionally troubled return to employability. (Staff) 1234 Indiana, SF. 282-9675, ext. 239. California, B/L, ¢, MC/V.
Caffe Cozzolino Get it to go: everything’s about two to four bucks more if you eat it there. (Staff) 300 Precita, SF. 285-6005. Italian, L/D, $, AE/MC/V.
Caffe d’Melanio is the place to go if you want your pound of coffee beans roasted while you enjoy an Argentine-Italian dinner of pasta, milanesa, and chimichurri sauce. During the day the café offers a more typically Cal-American menu of better-than-average quality. First-rate coffee beans. (PR, 10/04) 1314 Ocean, SF. 333-3665. Italian/Argentine, B/L/D, $, MC/V.
Il Cantuccio strikingly evokes that little trattoria you found near the Ponte Vecchio on your last trip to Florence. (Staff) 3228 16th St, SF. 861-3899. Italian, D, $, MC/V.
Chez Papa Bistrot sits like a beret atop Potrero Hill. The food is good, the staff’s French accents authentic, the crowd a lively cross section, but the place needs a few more scuffs and quirks before it can start feeling real. (Staff) 1401 18th St, SF. 824-8210. French, BR/L/D, $$, AE/MC/V.
Circolo Restaurant and Lounge brings Peruvian- and Asian-influenced cooking into a stylishly barnlike urban space where dot-commers gathered of old. Some of the dishes are overwrought, but the food is splendid on the whole. (PR, 6/04) 500 Florida, SF. 553-8560. Nuevo Latino/Asian, D, $$$, AE/DC/DISC/MC/V.
[TK]Couleur Café reminds us that French food need be neither fancy nor insular. The kitchen playfully deploys a world of influences — the duck-confit quesadilla is fabulous — and service is precise and attentive despite the modest setting at the foot of Potrero Hill. (PR, 2/06) 300 De Haro, SF. 255-1021. French, BR/L/D, $, AE/DC/MC/V.
*Delfina has grown from a neighborhood restaurant to an event, but an expanded dining room has brought the noise under control, and as always, the food — intense variations on a theme of Tuscany — could not be better. (PR, 2/04) 3621 18th St, SF. 552-4055. California, D, $$, MC/V.
[TK]Dosa serves dosas, the south Indian crepes, along with a wealth of other, and generally quite spicy, dishes from the south of the subcontinent. The cooking tends toward a natural meatlessness; the crowds are intense, like hordes of passengers inquiring about a delayed international flight. (PR, 1/06) 995 Valencia, SF. 642-3672. South Indian, BR/D, $, AE/MC/V.
Double Play sits across the street from what once was Seals Stadium, but while the field and team are gone, the restaurant persists as an authentic sports bar with a solidly masculine aura — mitts on the walls, lots of dark wood, et cetera. The all-American food (soups, sandwiches, pastas, meat dishes, lots of fries) is outstanding. (Staff) 2401 16th St, SF. 621-9859. American, L/D, $, AE/MC/V.
Emmy’s Spaghetti Shack offers a tasty, inexpensive, late-night alternative to Pasta Pomodoro. The touch of human hands is everywhere evident. (Staff) 18 Virginia, SF. 206-2086. Italian, D, $, cash only.
Foreign Cinema serves some fine New American food in a spare setting of concrete and glass that warms up romantically once the sun goes down. (Staff) 2534 Mission, SF. 648-7600. California, D, $$, AE/MC/V.
Geranium occupies an old butcher shop and serves vegetarian comfort food that, in its meatless meatiness, manages to honor both past and present in a way that should make everyone happy. (PR, 8/04) 615 Cortland, SF. 647-0118. Vegetarian, BR/D, $$, MC/V.
Herbivore is adorned in the immaculate-architect style: angular blond-wood surfaces and precise cubbyholes abound. (Staff) 983 Valencia, SF. 826-5657; 531 Divisadero (at Fell), SF. 885-7133. Vegetarian, L/D, $, MC/V.
Jasmine Tea House feels vaguely Italian, with its pastel pink walls and peals of opera floating from the kitchen, but the classic Chinese cooking is bright and crisp. Avoid the deep-fried stuff. (Staff) 3253 Mission, SF. 826-6288. Chinese, L/D, $, MC/V.
Joe’s Cable Car is the place where “Joe grinds his own fresh meat daily,” and it shows. Fill up with a thick milkshake on the side, but skip the disappointing fries. (Staff) 4320 Mission, SF. 334-6699. American, L/D, $, MC/V.
[TK]Kiji announces itself with red lanterns, one above the door, the rest inside. The food is hipster sushi, immaculate and imaginative, with some interesting cooked dishes thrown in. (PR, 1/06) 1009 Guerrero, SF. 282-0400. Japanese, D, $$, AE/MC/V.
Last Supper Club is really a trattoria, and an impressive one, from its half-lit reddish-gold interior to its always tasty and sometimes astounding food. Don’t miss the Sicilian-style ahi tartare on house-made potato chips. (Staff) 1199 Valencia, SF. 695-1199. Italian, BR/D, $$, AE/MC/V.
Liberties reinvents the Irish pub for digital times. The food has an unmistakably masculine cast. (Staff) 998 Guerrero, SF. Irish, BR/L/D, $, AE/DC/DISC/MC/V.
Liberty Cafe specializes in simple, perfect food: a Caesar salad that outshines all others, the best chicken potpie in the city, and down-home desserts even a bake sale in Iowa couldn’t beat. (Staff) 410 Cortland, SF. 695-8777. American, BR/L/D, $-$$, AE/MC/V.
Little Baobab reminds us that creole cooking isn’t just from New Orleans; the excellent (and inexpensive) food takes its influences from French island culture in the Caribbean Sea and Indian Ocean. (Staff) 3388 19th St, SF. 643-3558. Creole, D, $, MC/V.
*Little Nepal assembles a wealth of sensory cues (sauna-style blond wood, brass table services) and an Indian-influenced Himalayan cuisine into a singular experience that appeals to all of Bernal Heights and beyond, including tots in their strollers. (Staff) 925 Cortland, SF. 643-3881. Nepalese, L/D, $$, AE/DC/DISC/MC/V.
La Luna gives its fine nuevo Latino cuisine a distinctly Argentine spin. The parrillada (for two) is more than enough to sate even incorrigible carnivores, and the Mediterranean-blue color scheme is agreeably muted. (Staff) 3126 24th St, SF. 282-7110. Nuevo Latino, D, $$, MC/V.
Luna Park bubbles over with the new Mission’s nouveau riche, but even so, the food is exceptionally satisfying and not too expensive. (Staff) 694 Valencia, SF. 553-8584. Californian, L/D, $, MC/V.
Maharaja offers romantically half-lit pastels and great spicy food, including a fine chicken tikka masala and a dish of lamb chunks in dal. Lunch forswears the usual steam-table buffet in favor of set specials, as in a Chinese place. (Staff) 525 Valencia, SF. 552-7901. Indian, L/D, $, MC/V.
Mariachi’s serves up its fare in a cheery pastel-painted space, and its chalkboard menu features ingredients like sautéed mushrooms, pineapple, and pesto. (Staff) 508 Valencia, SF. 621-4358. Mexican, L/D, ¢.
Maverick holds several winning cards, including a menu of first-rate New American food, a clutch of interesting wines by the glass and half glass, and a handsome, spare Mission District setting discreetly cushioned for sound control. (PR, 9/05) 3316 17th St, SF. 863-3061. American, L/D, $$, AE/DISC/MC/V.
Medjool doesn’t offer much by way of its namesake date, food of the ancient pharaohs, but the pan-Mediterranean menu (which emphasizes small plates) is mostly tasty, and the setting is appealingly layered, from a sidewalk terrace to a moody dining room behind a set of big carved-wood doors. (PR, 11/04) 2522 Mission, SF. 550-9055. Mediterranean, B/L/D, $$, AE/DISC/MC/V.
Mi Lindo Perú dishes up mom-style cooking, Peruvian style, in illimitable portions. The shrimp chowder is astounding. Lots of tapas too. (Staff) 3226 Mission, SF. 642-4897. Peruvian, L/D, $, MC/V.
Mi Lindo Yucatán looks a bit tatty inside, but the regional Mexican cooking is cheap and full of pleasant surprises. (PR, 3/04) 401 Valencia, SF. 861-4935. Mexican, L/D, ¢, cash only.
Moki’s Sushi and Pacific Grill serves imaginative specialty makis along with items from a pan-Asian grill in a small, bustling neighborhood spot. (Staff) 830 Cortland, SF. 970-9336. Japanese, D, $$, AE/DC/MC/V.
Napper Tandy serves good Irish pub-grub standards of immeasurable scale. Little-known Irish beers on tap make a good match with the food. (PR, 5/04) 3200 24th St, SF. 550-7510. Irish, L/D, $, MC/V.
New Central Restaurant serves Mexican comfort food, while ambience flows from the jukebox near the door. (Staff) 399 S Van Ness, SF. 255-8247, 621-9608. Mexican, B/L, ¢, cash only.
Pakwan has a little secret: a secluded garden out back. It’s the perfect place to enjoy the fiery foods of India and Pakistan. (Staff) 3180 16th St, SF. 255-2440. Indian/Pakistani, L/D, ¢, cash only.
Panchita’s No. 3 plays a much-needed role, as a kind of Salvadoran-Mexican bistro or taverna. The food is straightforward and strong and presented with just a bit of flair; the setting shows small touches of elegance. (Staff) 3115 22nd St, SF. 821-6660. Salvadoran/Mexican, L/D, $, MC/V.
Pancho Villa The best word for this 16th Street taquería is big, from the large space to the jumbo-size burritos to the grand dinner plates of grilled shrimp. The only small thing is the price. (Staff) 3071 16th St, SF. 864-8840. Mexican, BR/L/D, ¢.
Papalote Mexican Grill relieves our Mexican favorites of much of their fat and calories without sacrificing flavor. Surprisingly excellent soyrizo and aguas frescas; sexily varied crowd. (Staff) 3409 24th St, SF. 970-8815. Mexican, L/D, $, AE/MC/V.
Parkside serves a decent affordable California menu — under the stars, if you like, in a spacious walled garden at the rear. (Staff) 1600 17th St, SF. 503-0393. California, BR/L/D, $$, AE/DC/DISC/MC/V.
Phoenix is a little of this, a little of that — bar, nightclub, restaurant — but the accent of the place is unmistakably Celtic. Order anything with Irish bacon. Gut-swelling pasta dishes, the occasional weirdly successful soup. (Staff) 811 Valencia, SF. 695-1811. Irish, BR/D, $, AE/DC/DISC/MC/V.
Platanos joins the Mission’s Roller Derby of freshened Latino cooking with a potpourri menu of dishes from throughout the Spanish-speaking Americas. Good seviche, an excellent chile relleno, and of course plantains every which way. (Staff) 598 Guerrero, SF. 252-9281. Pan-Latino, D, $, AE/MC/V.
Ramblas resists the globalized-tapa trend by serving up Spanish classics. And they are good, from grilled black sausage to calamares a la plancha to crisp potato cubes bathed in a vivid red-pepper sauce. (Staff) 557 Valencia, SF. 565-0207. Spanish/tapas, D, $$, AE/MC/V.
Range recaptures the dot-com spirit of 1999 with its generically edgy postmodern look, but the food at its best is honest and spirited. The coffee-rubbed pork shoulder, a variation on mole, is a one-in-a-million dish. (PR, 9/05) 842 Valencia, SF. 282-8283. California, D, $$, MC/V.
Rasoi The food here is milder than the fiery south Indian curries, and it’s very vegetarian friendly. Slowly revolving ceiling fans give a pleasant illusion of heat even when it’s freezing outside. (Staff) 1037 Valencia, SF. 695-0599. Indian, D, $, AE/MC/V.
Restaurant YoYo joins the food maelstrom at Valencia and 16th Street bearing a powerful tool: sushi, good and cheap. The Mel’s-diner interior, on the other hand, is pure Americana. (Staff) 3092 16th St, SF. 255-9181. Japanese/sushi, L/D, $, MC/V.
Sally’s serves mainly lunch — lots of people work around the northern foot of Potrero Hill — but there’s breakfast too, and even early dinner, if you can live with sandwiches, salads, burritos, and chili. There’s also a bakery. (Staff) 300 De Haro, SF. 626-6006. Deli, B/L/D, ¢, MC/V.
*Slow Club still has a speakeasy charm, and the California cooking that emerges from the tiny, clamorous kitchen is still the class of the northeast Mission. (PR, 1/05) 2501 Mariposa, SF. 241-9390. California, BR/L/D, $$, MC/V.
Sunflower strikes all the right notes of today’s Mission: good inexpensive Vietnamese food in a modish California ambience, with friendly, casual service. (Staff) 506 Valencia, SF. 626-5023. Vietnamese, L/D, $, AE/MC/V.
Taquería Can-Cun serves up one of the best veggie burritos in town — delicious, juicy, and huge. (Staff) 2288 Mission (at 19th St), SF. 252-9560; 1003 Market, SF. 864-6773; 3211 Mission (at Valencia), SF. 550-1414. Mexican, L/D, ¢.
Ti Couz’s menu of entrées consists exclusively of crepes — from light snacks to full meals, from sweet to savory — served up in a bright, boisterous café environment. (Staff) 3108 16th St, SF. 252-7373. Crepes, BR/L/D, $, MC/V.
Tokyo Go Go’s simplest dishes are the best. Given the location and the thick crowds of people dressed in black, the noise level is surprisingly moderate. (Staff) 3174 16th St, SF. 864-2288. Japanese, D, $$, MC/V.
[TK]Universal Café does California cooking the way it’s meant to be done. The mingled influences of Italy, France, and the Pacific Coast result in such unforgettable dishes as split-pea soup freshened with mint and a grilled flatbread with melted leeks and salume. (PR, 1/06) 2814 19th St, SF. 821-4608. California, BR/L/D, $$, AE/DC/MC/V.
[TK]Velvet Cantina has the feel of a Nogales brothel and carefree food to match, though the kitchen has some pedigree and upscale aspirations. The mood is one of raucous conviviality, moving to the heartbeat thump of techno music. (PR, 2/06) 3349 23rd St, SF. 648-4142. Mexican, D, $$, MC/V.
Vogalonga Trattoria continues a tradition of excellent rustic cooking in a setting of cozy warmth. Despite the gondolier etched on the front window, the menu includes standards from all regions of Italy. (Staff) 3234 22nd St, SF. 642-0298. Italian, D, $, MC/V.
Walzwerk bills itself as an “East German” restaurant, but don’t be frightened: the food is fresh, clever, tasty, and surprisingly light. The decor has a definite Cabaret edge. (Staff) 381 S Van Ness, SF. 551-7181. German, D, $, MC/V.
Watercress succeeds Watergate — the space is still handsome and the food is still French-Indo-Chinese fusion, but the prices are lower and the prix fixe option is so generous as to be irresistible. One of the best values in town. (Staff) 1152 Valencia, SF. 648-6000. Fusion, D, $, AE/DC/MC/V.
[tk: closed?]Wilde Oscar’s slings decent Irish pub food — burgers, curries, plenty of fries — in a comfortably homo-inflected environment. Wilde witticisms adorn the walls. (Staff) 1900 Folsom, SF. 621-7145. Irish/pub, L/D, $, MC/V.
*Woodward’s Garden defies its under-the-freeway setting with a seasonal, reasonably priced California-cuisine menu that explains how a restaurant has managed to thrive for more than a decade in a seemingly unpromising location. Dim lighting can make reading the menu a chore. (PR, 3/05) 1700 Mission, SF. 621-7122. California, D, $$, MC/V.
Zante Pizza and Indian Cuisine is that famous Indian pizza place. Meaning it’s got Indian food, it’s got pizza, and it’s got Indian pizza. (Staff) 3489 Mission, SF. 821-3949. Indian, L/D, $, AE/DISC/MC/V.
L’Amour dans le Four gives a nice local boho twist to classic French bistro style. Many dishes from the oven. Tiny, noisy, intimate. (Staff) 1602 Lombard, SF. 775-2134. French, D, $, AE/MC/V.
Annie’s Bistro is a small jewel that offers stylish downtown cooking at neighborhood prices, with an extensive California wine list available by the glass and half glass. (Staff) 2819 California, SF. 922-9669. California, D, $$, MC/V.
*A16 refers to an Italian highway near Naples, and the food (in the old Zinzino space) is stylishly Neapolitan — lots of interesting pizzas, along with other treats from the wood-burning oven. (PR, 3/04) 2355 Chestnut, SF. Italian, L/BR/D, $$, AE/MC/V.
Betelnut Peiju Wu is a pan-Asian version of a tapas bar, drawing a sleek postcollegiate crowd with its wide assortment of dumplings, noodles, soups, and snacks. (Staff) 2030 Union, SF. 929-8855. Asian, L/D, $$, MC/V.
Bistro Yoffi offers a homey California menu in a paradise of potted plants. Splendid al fresco dining (under heat lamps) in the rear. (Staff) 2231 Chestnut, SF. 885-5133. California, L/D, $$, MC/V.
Cafe Maritime captures something of the feel of a New England seafood restaurant. Despite the touristy location, the food is honest and good. (PR, 7/04) 2417 Lombard, SF. 885-2530. Seafood, D, $$, AE/DC/DISC/MC/V.
Chez Nous fills the French slot in our town’s tapas derby, and it does so with imagination, panache, and surprising economy. The menu features touches from around the Mediterranean, but much of the best stuff is unmistakably Gallic. (Staff) 1911 Fillmore, SF. 441-8044. French, L/D, $, MC/V.
Chouquet’s gives stylish little spins to all sorts of French bistro standards and some nonstandards. The general look and tone is sleek and Parisian. (PR, 6/05) 2500 Washington, SF. 359-0075. French, BR/L/D, $$, AE/DC/DISC/MC/V.
Curbside Too, younger sibling to the Curbside Cafe, looks like a roadside greasy spoon. But come dinnertime the Mexican brunch influences melt into a sublime French saucefest. (Staff) 2769 Lombard, SF. 921-4442. French, D, $$, AE/MC/V.
Dragon Well looks like an annex of the cavernous Pottery Barn down the street, but its traditional Chinese menu is radiant with fresh ingredients and careful preparation. Prices are modest, the service swift and professional. (Staff) 2142 Chestnut, SF. 474-6888. Chinese, L/D, ¢, MC/V.
Eastside West fits right into the Cow Hollow scene. It’s comfortably upscale, with first-rate service and stylishly relaxed Cal-American food. (Staff) 3154 Fillmore, SF. 885-4000. California/American, BR/D, $$, AE/MC/V.
Elite Cafe A welcoming place. The menu has plenty of familiar Creole and Cajun favorites along with more typical California fare. (Staff) 2049 Fillmore, SF. 346-8668. Cajun, BR/D, $$, MC/V.
Ella’s serves breakfast, lunch, and supper, but brunch is the real destination at this friendly corner eatery. (Staff) 500 Presidio, SF. 441-5669. American, B/BR/L/D, $, AE/MC/V.
Eunice’s Cafe is the place to go when you’d rather have a conversation than make a big entrance. Good soups, sandwiches, pizzas, and quiches, with a world of influences. (Staff) 3336 Sacramento, SF. 440-3330. Brazilian/eclectic, B/L, ¢, MC/V.
Greens All the elements that made it famous are still intact: pristine produce, an emphasis on luxury rather than health, that gorgeous view. (Staff) Fort Mason Center, Bldg A, Marina at Laguna, SF. 771-6222. Vegetarian, L/D, $$, DISC/MC/V.
*Harris’ Restaurant is a timeless temple to beef, which appears most memorably as slices of rib roast, but in other ways too. Uncheap. (PR, 5/04) 2100 Van Ness, SF. 673-1888. Steakhouse/American, D, $$$, AE/DC/DISC/MC/V.
Kiss is tiny, industrial, not particularly Anglophonic — and serves some of the best sushi in the city. Warning: the very best stuff (from the specials menu) can be very pricey. (Staff) 1700 Laguna, SF. 474-2866. Japanese, D, $$$, MC/V.
Letitia’s has claimed the old Alta Plaza space and dispensed with the huge cruise mirror. The Mexican standards are pretty good and still pricey, though they don’t seem quite as dear in Pacific Heights as they did in the Castro. (PR, 6/04) 2301 Fillmore, SF. 922-1722. Mexican, L/D, $$, AE/MC/V.
Mezes glows with sunny Greek hospitality, and the plates coming off the grill are terrific, though not huge. Bulk up with a fine Greek salad. (Staff) 2373 Chestnut, SF. 409-7111. Greek, D, $, MC/V.
Plump Jack Café If you had to take your parents to dinner in the Marina, this would be the place. A small but authentic jewel. (Staff) 3127 Fillmore, SF. 563-4755. California, L/D, $$, AE/MC/V.
*Quince doesn’t much resemble its precursor, the Meetinghouse: the setting is more overtly luxurious, the food a pristine Franco-Cal-Ital variant rather than hearty New American. Still, it’s an appealing place to meet. (PR, 7/04) 1701 Octavia, SF. 775-8500. California, D, $$$, AE/MC/V.
Rigolo combines the best of Pascal Rigo’s boulangeries — including the spectacular breads — with some of the simpler elements (such as roast chicken) of his higher-end places. The result is excellent value in a bustling setting. (PR, 1/05) 3465 California, SF. 876-7777. California/Mediterranean, B/L/D, $, MC/V.
Rose’s Cafe has a flexible, all-day menu that starts with breakfast sandwiches; moves into bruschettas, salads, and pizzas; and finishes with grilled dinner specials such as salmon, chicken, and flat-iron steak. (Staff) 2298 Union, SF. 775-2200. California, B/L/D, $, AE/DC/DISC/MC/V.
Rosti Getting half a chicken along with roasted potatoes and an assortment of vegetables for $7.95 in the Marina is cause for celebration in itself. (Staff) 2060 Chestnut, SF. 929-9300. Italian, L/D, $, AE/DISC/V.
Saji Japanese Cuisine Sit at the sushi bar and ask the resident sushi makers what’s particularly good that day. As for the hot dishes, seafood yosenabe, served in a clay pot, is a virtual Discovery Channel of finned and scaly beasts, all tasty and fresh. (Staff) 3232 Scott, SF. 931-0563. Japanese, D, $, AE/DC/MC/V.
Sociale serves first-rate Cal-Ital food in bewitching surroundings — a heated courtyard, a beautifully upholstered interior — that will remind you of some hidden square in some city of Mediterranean Europe. (Staff) 3665 Sacramento, SF. 921-3200. Mediterranean, L/D, $$, AE/DC/DISC/MC/V.
Sushi Groove is easily as cool as its name. Behind wasabi green velvet curtains, salads can be inconsistent, but the sushi is impeccable, especially the silky salmon and special white tuna nigiri. (Staff) 1916 Hyde, SF. 440-1905. Japanese, D, $, AE/DC/DISC/MC/V.
Takara The menu offers plenty of sushi and sashimi, as well as udon, broiled items, and the occasional curiosity, such as grated yam. (Staff) 22 Peace Plaza, Suite 202 (Japan Center), SF. 921-2000. Japanese, L/D, $, MC/V.
Taste of the Himalayas is primarily Nepalese, but the Indian influences on the food are many, and there are a few Tibetan items. Spicing is vivid, value excellent. (PR, 10/04) 2420 Lombard, SF. 674-9898. Nepalese/Tibetan, L/D, $, AE/DC/DISC/MC/V.
*YaYa deals in Mesopotamian cuisine, and that means unusual and haunting combinations of sweet, sour, and salty. The halogen-lit setting of blue and gold includes a trompe l’oeil mural of an ancient Babylonian city. (PR, 6/05) 2424 Van Ness, SF. 440-0455. Mesopotamian, D, $$, MC/V.
ZAO Noodle Bar manages the seemingly impossible: the food’s good, cheap, and fresh; the service is friendly; and there’s an inexpensive parking lot half a block away. (Staff) 2406 California, SF. 345-8088. Asian, L/D, ¢, MC/V.
Bursa Kebabs brings a taste of Turkey to West Portal. The elegant pistachio-colored decor suggests a California bistro, but the carefully prepared food is traditional. (PR, 3/04) 60 West Portal (at Vicente), SF. 564-4006. Turkish, L/D, $, MC/V.
Cafe for All Seasons reflects the friendly vibrancy of its West Portal neighborhood. The California comfort food doesn’t set off fireworks, but it’s reliably good and fresh. (Staff) 150 West Portal, SF. 665-0900. California, L/D, $$, AE/MC/V.
Chouchou Patisserie Artisanale and French Bistro is the place to go for pastry, whether you like it as an edible cap on your potpies or as a crust beneath your fruit or chocolate tarts. French standards — charcuterie, onion soup — are executed with verve. (Staff) 400 Dewey, SF. 242-0960. French, L/D, $$, MC/V.
*Dragonfly serves the best contemporary Vietnamese food in town, in a calmer environment and at a fraction of the cost of better-known places. (PR, 8/05) 420 Judah, SF. 661-7755. Vietnamese, L/D, $$, AE/MC/V.
Eldos is a cross between a brew pub and a taquería, with a few standard American items thrown in. Fabulous chicken posole. (Staff) 1326 Ninth Ave, SF. 564-0425. Mexican/brew pub, L/D, $, AE/DC/MC/V.
Fresca has gone upscale, and its Peruvian menu has been expanded beyond burritos. Still excellent roast chicken, seviche, enchiladas. (Staff) 24 West Portal, SF. 759-8087. Peruvian, L/D, $, AE/MC/V.
[TK]Gold Mirror tells a tale of old San Francisco west of Twin Peaks, where the servers are in black tie and the menu is rich in veal, from saltimbocca to piccata and beyond. Baroque decor; large weekend dinner crowds. (PR, 11/05) 800 Taraval, SF. 564-0401. Italian, L/D, $$$, AE/DC/MC/V.
Hotei is a marvel of great Japanese fare combined with efficient, accommodating service. Four types of noodles are the foundation around which swirl lively broths. (Staff) 1290 Ninth Ave, SF. 753-6045. Japanese, L/D, ¢, AE/DC/MC/V.
Ichi-ban Kan Cafe serves sushi, sandwiches, burgers, teriyaki, an all-you-can-eat buffet — are you getting the picture? The winning neighborhood tone is reminiscent of Mayberry, RFD. (Staff) 1500 Irving, SF. 566-1696. Japanese/American, L/D, $, AE/DC/DISC/MC/V.
Jimisan brings a stylish and value-conscious sushi option to the Ninth Avenue restaurant row. Good cooked stuff too. (PR, 8/05) 1380 Ninth Ave, SF. 564-8989. Japanese/sushi, L/D, $, AE/DISC/MC/V.
Jitra Thai Cuisine serves up creditable Thai standards in a pink dollhouse setting. (Staff) 2545 Ocean, SF. 585-7251. Thai, L/D, $, MC/V.
Ladda’s Seaview Thai Cuisine gazes upon the mists and surfers of Ocean Beach. The kitchen divides its attentions between Thai and American standards. Free parking in the always near-empty lot. (PR, 5/05) 1225 La Playa, SF. 665-0185. Thai/American, B/L/D, ¢, AE/MC/V.
Marnee Thai A friendly, low-key neighborhood restaurant — now in two neighborhoods — that just happens to serve some of the best Thai food in town. (PR, 1/04) 2225 Irving, SF. 665-9500; 1243 Ninth Ave (at Lincoln), SF. 731-9999. Thai, L/D, $, AE/MC/V.
Masala means “spice mixture,” and spices aplenty you will find in the South Asian menu. Be sure to order plenty of naan to sop up the sauce with. (Staff) 1220 Ninth Ave, SF. 566-6976. Indian/Pakistani, L/D, $, AE/DC/DISC/MC/V.
Nan King Road Bistro laces its mostly Chinese menu with little touches from around Asia (sake sauces, Korean noodles), and the result is a spectacular saucefest. Spare, cool environment. (Staff) 1360 Ninth Ave, SF. 753-2900. Pan-Asian, L/D, $, AE/MC/V.
Park Chow could probably thrive on its basic dishes, such as the burger royale with cheese ($6.95), but if you’re willing to spend an extra five bucks or so, the kitchen can really flash you some thigh. (Staff) 1240 Ninth Ave, SF. 665-9912. California, BR/L/D, $, MC/V.
P.J.’s Oyster Bed Of all the US regional cultures, southern Louisiana’s may be the most beloved, and at P.J.’s you can taste why. (Staff) 737 Irving, SF. 566-7775. Seafood, L/D, $$, AE/MC/V.
Pomelo Big portions of Asian- and Italian-inspired noodle dishes. If you need something quick, cheap, and fresh, pop in here. (Staff) 92 Judah, SF. 731-6175. Noodles, L/D, $, cash only.
Sabella’s carries a famous seafood name into the heart of West Portal. Good nonseafood stuff too. (Staff) 53 West Portal, SF. 753-3130. Italian/seafood, $, L/D, MC/V.
Sea Breeze Cafe looks like a dive, but the California cooking is elevated, literally and figuratively. Lots of witty salads, a rum-rich crème brûlée. (Staff) 3940 Judah, SF. 242-6022. California, BR/L/D, $$, MC/V.
Tasty Curry still shows traces of an earlier life as a Korean hibachi restaurant (i.e., venting hoods above most of the tables), but the South Asian food is cheap, fresh, and packs a strong kick. (PR, 1/04) 1375 Ninth Ave, SF. 753-5122. Indian/Pakistani, L/D, ¢, MC/V.
Tennessee Grill could as easily be called the Topeka Grill, since its atmosphere is redolent of Middle America. Belly up to the salad bar for huge helpings of the basics to accompany your meat loaf or calf’s liver. (Staff) 1128 Taraval, SF. 664-7834. American, B/L/D, $, MC/V.
Thai Cottage isn’t really a cottage, but it is small in the homey way, and its Thai menu is sharp and vivid in the home-cooking way. Cheap, and the N train stops practically at the front door. (PR, 8/04) 4041 Judah, SF. 566-5311. Thai, L/D, $, MC/V.
*Xiao Loong elevates the neighborhood Chinese restaurant experience to one of fine dining, with immaculate ingredients and skillful preparation in a calm architectural setting. (PR, 8/05) 250 West Portal, SF. 753-5678. Chinese, L/D, $, AE/MC/V.
Yum Yum Fish is basically a fish store: three or four little tables with fish-print tablecloths under glass, fish-chart art along the wall, and fish-price signs all over the place. (Staff) 2181 Irving, SF. 566-6433. Sushi, L/D, ¢.
Angkor Wat still serves tasty Cambodian food for not much money in a setting of Zenlike calm. (Staff) 4217 Geary, SF. 221-7887. Cambodian, L/D, $, AE/MC/V.
Assab dishes up unforgettably spicy Eritrean food, family style, in a comfortable space near the University of San Francisco. Honey wine, for those so inclined. (PR, 9/05) 2845 Geary, SF. 441-7083. Eritrean, L/D, $, AE/DISC/MC/V.
*Aziza shimmers with Moroccan grace, from the pewter ewer and basin that circulate for the washing of hands to the profusion of preserved Meyer lemons in the splendid cooking. (Staff) 5800 Geary, SF. 752-2222. Moroccan, D, $$, AE/MC/V.
Bamboo Village serves excellent Indonesian food in a comfortably modest setting for not much money. Take-out orders can slow the kitchen down considerably. (Staff) 3015 Geary, SF. 751-8006. Indonesian, L/D, ¢, MC/V.
Bella might make you feel as if you’ve ended up inside a piece of tiramisu, but the classic Italian cooking will definitely make you happy. (Staff) 3854 Geary, SF. 221-0305. Italian, L/D, $$, MC/V.
Blue Fin Sushi does indeed have a blue-finned sport fish mounted over the bar and, more interesting, an attached sports bar, Prime Time, where you can enjoy nigiri and cheeseburgers. Lots of imaginative Japanese-style cooked dishes. (PR, 3/05) 1814 Clement, SF. 387-2441. Sushi/American, D, $$, MC/V.
*Chapeau! serves some of the best food in the city — at shockingly reasonable prices. The French cooking reflects as much style and imagination as any California menu. (Staff) 1408 Clement, SF. 750-9787. French, D, $$, AE/DC/MC/V.
Clement Street Bar and Grill The high-backed booths spell romance at this always crowded spot. Grilled fish dishes snap with flavor, and there are always a couple of delicious-sounding vegetarian options. (Staff) 708 Clement, SF. 386-2200. American, L/D, $-$$, AE/DC/DISC/MC/V.
Clémentine offers comfortable sophistication at a fair price. Free valet parking. (Staff) 126 Clement, SF. 387-0408. French, BR/D, $$, MC/V.
Katia’s, a Russian Tea Room evokes the bourgeois romance of old Russia, and the classic Slavic food is carefully prepared and presented. Silken Crimean port is served in a tiny glass shaped like a Cossack boot. (PR, 12/04) 600 Fifth Ave, SF. 668-9292. Russian, L/D, $$, AE/DC/DISC/MC/V.
Kitaro This Japanese restaurant, unlike many others, has a lot of options for vegetarians. (Staff) 5850 Geary, SF. 386-2777. Japanese, L/D, ¢, MC/V.
Lucky Fortune serves up a wide variety of Chinese-style seafood in a cheerfully blah setting. Prices are astoundingly low, portions large. (Staff) 5715 Geary, SF. 751-2888. Chinese, L/D, ¢, MC/V.
Mai’s Restaurant On the basis of the hot-and-sour shrimp soup with pineapple alone, Mai’s deserves a line out the door. (Staff) 316 Clement, SF. 221-3046. Vietnamese, L/D, ¢, AE/DC/MC/V.
Mandalay Restaurant still packs them in after 21 years with moderate prices, a handsomely understated decor, and confidently seasoned food of considerable Burmese and Mandarin variety. (PR, 5/05) 4348 California, SF. 386-3896. Burmese, L/D, $, MC/V.
Al-Masri suggests, in food and ambience, the many influences that have swept across the Nile delta: feta cheese and olives from Greece or a quasi-Indian stew of peas and tomatoes, served with basmati rice. (Staff) 4031 Balboa, SF. 876-2300. Egyptian, D, $, AE/DISC/MC/V.
Melisa’s deals in spicy Chinese food, and if that’s what you’re after, you won’t mind the brutally bleak decor. Dishes bearing Melisa’s name are especially tasty. (Staff) 450 Balboa, SF. 387-1680. Chinese, L/D, $, AE/MC/V.
Pachi’s brings sophisticated Peruvian cooking to outer Clement. The menu includes a few Spanish dishes, such as paella, but the food in the main emphasizes those longtime Peruvian staples seafood and the potato, each in a variety of guises and subtly spiced. The setting is handsome, though on the spare side of spare. (PR, 2/05) 1801 Clement, SF. 422-0502. Peruvian, BR/D, $$, AE/DC/DISC/MC/V.
Pacific Cafe serves simple, reliable seafood in an atmosphere redolent of 1974, when it opened. Lots of dark wood and faintly psychedelic glass in the windows. (Staff) 7000 Geary, SF. 387-7091. Seafood, D, $$, AE/DC/DISC/MC/V.
Pera combines elements of Istanbul café and college-town hangout. The Turkish food is vividly flavored, cheap, and served in big portions. Excellent street-gazing possibilities. (PR, 6/05) 349 Clement, SF. 666-3839. Turkish, B/L/D, $, DISC/MC/V.
*Pizzetta 211 practices the art of the pizza in a glowing little storefront space. Thin crusts, unusual combinations, a few side dishes of the highest quality. (PR, 2/04) 211 23rd Ave, SF. 379-9880. Pizza/Italian, L/D, $.
Q rocks, both American-diner-food-wise and noisy-music-wise. Servings of such gratifyingly tasty dishes as barbecued ribs, fish tacos, and rosemary croquettes are huge. (Staff) 225 Clement, SF. 752-2298. American, BR/L/D, $, MC/V.
RoHan Lounge serves a variety of soju cocktails to help wash down all those Asian tapas. Beware the kimchee. Lovely curvaceous banquettes. (Staff) 3809 Geary, SF. 221-5095. Asian, D, $, AE/MC/V.
Singapore Malaysian Restaurant eschews decor for cheap, tasty plates, where you’ll find flavors ranging from Indian to Dutch colonial to Thai. Seafood predominates in curries, soups, grills, and plenty of rice and noodle dishes. (Staff) 836 Clement, SF. 750-9518. Malaysian, L/D, ¢, MC/V.
Spices! has an exclamation point for a reason: its Chinese food, mainly Szechuan and Taiwanese, with an oasis of Shanghai-style dishes, is fabulously hot. Big young crowds, pulsing house music, a shocking orange and yellow paint scheme. Go prepared, leave happy. (Staff) 294 Eighth Ave, SF. 752-8884. Szechuan/Chinese, L/D, $, MC/V.
*Straits Cafe has a slightly campy faux-tropical decor, but its Singaporean menu is a kaleidoscope of mingled satisfactions; masterful deployment of unusual ingredients all the way to a dessert of rice pudding in palm sugar syrup. (Staff) 3300 Geary, SF. 668-1783. Singaporean, L/D, $, AE/DC/MC/V.
Tawan’s Thai Food It’s tiny, it’s cute, the prices are reasonable, and the food is tasty. (Staff) 4403 Geary, SF. 751-5175. Thai, L/D, $, AE/DC/MC/V.
Thai Time proves that good things come in little packages. The food is tremendous. (Staff) 315 Eighth Ave, SF. 831-3663. Thai, L/D, $, AE/MC/V.
Tia Margarita is an old-style Mexican restaurant with big servings and big flavor. Go hungry. (Staff) 300 19th Ave, SF. 752-9274. Mexican, D, $, MC/V.
Traktir serves as a kind of town hall for the local Russian community, but the food has a distinct international flavor: dolma, feta-cheese salad, Georgian wine, curry-spiked pieces of cold chicken. (Staff) 4036 Balboa, SF. 386-9800. Russian, D, $, MC/V.
Twilight Cafe and Deli is a bit of an oldster, having opened in 1980, but the Middle Eastern menu is full of delights, from falafel and hummus to foul muddamas, a cumin-scented fava bean stew. A fabulous mural on one wall relieves the standard deli dreariness. (Staff) 2600 McAllister, SF. 386-6115. Middle Eastern, B/L/D, ¢, MC/V.
Cable Car Coffee Shop Atmospherically speaking, you’re looking at your basic downtown South San Francisco old-style joint, one that serves a great Pacific Scramble for $4.95 and the most perfectest hash browns to be tasted. (Staff) 423 Grand, South SF. (650) 952-9533. American, B/BR/L, ¢.
Cliff’s Bar-B-Q and Seafood Some things Cliff’s got going for him: excellent mustard greens, just drenched in flavorfulness, and barbecued you name it. Brisket. Rib tips. Hot links. Pork ribs. Beef ribs. Baby backs. And then there are fried chickens and, by way of health food, fried fishes. (Staff) 2177 Bayshore, SF. 330-0736. Barbecue, L/D, ¢, AE/DC/MC/V.
JoAnn’s Cafe and Pantry has gotten some word-of-mouth recommendations as a dive, but it serves upscale breakfasts with decidedly nondive sides such as low-fat chicken basil sausage, bagels, and homemade muffins and scones. (Staff) 1131 El Camino Real, South SF. (650) 872-2810. American, B/L, $.
Old Clam House really is old — it’s been in the same location since the Civil War — but the seafood preparations are fresh, in an old-fashioned way. Matchless cioppino. Sports types cluster at the bar, under the shadow of a halved, mounted Jaguar E-type. (Staff) 299 Bayshore, SF. 826-4880. Seafood, L/D, $$, MC/V.
Peking Wok is a great Chinese dive in Bayview, right smack on the way to Candlestick. Not counting the 18 special combos for $3.25-$4.50, there are 109 items on the menu. At least 101 of them are under five bucks. (Staff) 4920 Third St, SF. 822-1818. Chinese, L/D, ¢.
Soo Fong features good inexpensive Chinese food. For the heat-seeking diner, its fiery Szechuan specialties will hit the spot. Nice chow fun and other noodle dishes too. (Staff) Bayview Plaza, 3801 Third St, SF. 285-2828. Chinese, L/D, ¢.
Taqueria el Potrillo serves one of the best chicken burritos in town, if not the best. You can get your bird grilled or barbecued or have steak instead or tacos. Excellent salsas and aguas frescas, and warmer weather than practically anywhere else in town. (Staff) 300A Bayshore Blvd, SF. 642-1612. Mexican, B/L/D, ¢, cash only.
Young’s Cafe A restaurant full of cheap, big, decent Chinese food, Young’s serves up 15 rice dishes, most of them for $2.95, and 64 other standard Chinese things. Only four of those are more than five bucks. (Staff) 732 22nd St, SF. 285-6046. Chinese, L/D, ¢.
Ajanta offers a variety of deftly seasoned regional dishes from the Asian subcontinent. (Staff) 1888 Solano, Berk. (510) 526-4373. Indian, L/D, $, AE/DC/DISC/MC/V.
La Bayou serves up an astounding array of authentic New Orleans staples, including jambalaya, (greaseless!) fried catfish, and homemade pralines. (Staff) 3278 Adeline, Berk. (510) 594-9302. Cajun/Creole, L/D, ¢-$, MC/V.
Breads of India and Gourmet Curries The menu changes every day, so nothing is refrigerated overnight, and the curries benefit from obvious loving care. (Staff) 2448 Sacramento, Berk. (510) 848-7684. Indian, L/D, ¢, MC/V.
Café de la Paz Specialties include African-Brazilian “xim xim” curries, Venezuelan corn pancakes, and heavenly blackened seacakes served with orange-onion yogurt. (Staff) 1600 Shattuck, Berk. (510) 843-0662. Latin American, BR/L/D, $, AE/MC/V.
Cafe Rouge All the red meat here comes from highly regarded Niman Ranch, and all charcuterie are made in-house. (Staff) 1782 Fourth St, Berk. (510) 525-1440. American, L/D, $$, AE/MC/V.
César You’ll be tempted to nibble for hours from Chez Panisse-related César’s Spanish-inspired tapas — unless you can’t get past the addictive sage-and-rosemary-flecked fried potatoes. (Staff) 1515 Shattuck, Berk. (510) 883-0222. Spanish, D, $, DISC/MC/V.
Cha-Ya Everything chef-proprietor Atsushi Katsumata makes, from the pot stickers and nigiri sushi to the steaming bowls of udon, hews to strict vegan standards. (Staff) 1686 Shattuck, Berk. (510) 981-1213. Japanese/Vegetarian, D, $, MC/V.
Chez Panisse may be an old-timer, but a devotion to the best seasonal ingredients (often organic), grilled on its wood-fired open hearth, means the restaurant’s distinctive Franco-Cal-Ital signature remains unmistakable and unmatched. (Staff) 1517 Shattuck, Berk. Café, (510) 548-5049, L/D, $$; restaurant, (510) 548-5525, D, $$$. California, AE/DC/DISC/MC/V.
Christopher’s Nothing Fancy Café Chicken, beef, veggie, and prawn fajitas are the sizzling specialties. (Staff) 1019 San Pablo, Albany. (510) 526-1185. Mexican, L/D, $, AE/MC/V.
Clay Pot Seafood House specialties include steaming clay pots full of fascinating broths and such ingredients as meatballs, Chinese sausage, and whole fish. (Staff) 809 San Pablo, Albany. (510) 559-8976. Chinese, L/D, $, DISC/MC/V.
Holy Land transforms falafel, hummus, tahini, tabbouleh, and other Middle Eastern standards into gourmet-quality yet home-style delights. (Staff) 2965 College, Berk. (510) 665-1672. Middle Eastern/Kosher, L/D, $, AE/DC/MC/V.
Lalime’s is a long-standing institution in East Bay haute cuisine culture, but there’s nothing institutional about the attentive service or the creative and gorgeous dishes. (Staff) 1329 Gilman, Berk. (510) 527-9838. French/Mediterranean, D, $$, AE/DC/MC/V.
Locanda Olmo Fine versions of risotto, gnocchi, and soft polenta pie, terrific thin-crust pizzas, and good traditional desserts have made Locanda Olmo a reliable anchor in the burgeoning Elmwood neighborhood. (Staff) 2985 College, Berk. (510) 848-5544. Italian, D, $, MC/V.
La Note Unique egg dishes and pancakes, big luncheon salads, fancy baguette sandwiches, and hearty weekend dinners. (Staff) 2337 Shattuck, Berk. (510) 843-1535. Country French, B/BR/L/D, $$, AE/MC/V. Restroom not wheelchair accessible.
Rick and Ann’s serves some of the best shoestring fries on earth, along with excellent (if nouvelle) renditions of such Americana as meat loaf and chicken potpie baked under a cheddar cheese biscuit. (Staff) 2922 Domingo, Berk. (510) 649-8538. American, BR/L/D, $, AE/MC/V.
Rivoli is a near-perfect balance of the neighborhood eatery and the eclectic California cuisine destination restaurant. (Staff) 1539 Solano, Berk. (510) 526-2542. California, D, $, AE/DISC/MC/V.
Sam’s Log Cabin Daily special egg scrambles, great griddle cakes and corn cakes, and exceptional scones and muffins top the morning fare, which also includes gourmet sausage and bacon, hot and cold cereals, and organic coffee. (Staff) 945 San Pablo Ave, Berk. (510) 558-0494. American, B/L, ¢, cash only.
Vik’s Chaat Corner For less than the price of a scone and a latte, you can try lentil dumplings, curries, or a variety of flat or puffed crisp puris with various vegetarian fillings. (Staff) 726 Allston Way, Berk. (510) 644-4412. Indian, L/D, ¢, AE/DC/DISC/MC/V.
Your Place Venture away from typical Thai menu items toward neau yang num, laab gai, blackboard specials, and at lunch, the “boat noodles” soups. (Staff) 1267-71 University, Berk. (510) 548-9781. Thai, L/D, $, AE/DC/DISC/MC/V.
Zachary’s Chicago Pizza The stuffed pizza is simply out of this world. The fact that both Zachary’s outlets are always busy speaks for itself. (Staff) 1853 Solano, Berk. (510) 525-5950; 5801 College (at Oak Grove), Berk. (510) 655-6385. Pizza, L/D, $, AE/MC/V.
Arizmendi is a worker-owned bakery where bread rolls out in seemingly infinite varieties — potato, Asiago, sesame-sunflower. (Staff) 3265 Lakeshore, Oakl. (510) 268-8849. Bakery, B/L/D, ¢. Not wheelchair accessible.
Asena Restaurant Good dishes at Asena, a charming Med-Cal cuisine spot, include individual pizzas and grilled marinated lamb sirloin in a burgundy-rosemary demi-glace. (Staff) 2508 Santa Clara, Alameda. (510) 521-4100. California/Mediterranean, L/D, $$, AE/MC/V.
Le Cheval Shrimp rolls and peanut sauce, the fried Dungeness crab, the marinated “orange flavor” beef, the buttery lemongrass prawns — it’s all fabulous. (Staff) 1007 Clay, Oakl. (510) 763-8495. Vietnamese, L/D, ¢, MC/V.
Connie’s Cantina fashions unique variations on standard Mexican fare — enchiladas, tamales, fajitas, rellenos. (Staff) 3340 Grand, Oakl. (510) 839-4986. Mexican, L/D, ¢, MC/V.
Garibaldi’s on College focuses on Mediterranean-style seafood. (Staff) 5356 College, Oakl. (510) 595-4000. Mediterranean, L/D, $$, AE/MC/V.
Gerardo’s Mexican Restaurant offers all the expected taquería fare. But a main reason to visit is to pick up a dozen of Maria’s wonderfully down-home chicken or pork tamales. (Staff) 3811 MacArthur, Oakl. (510) 531-5255. Mexican, B/L/D, ¢-$.
Mama’s Royal Cafe Breakfast is the draw here — even just-coffee-for-me types might succumb when confronted with waffles, French toast, pancakes, tofu scrambles, huevos rancheros, and 20 different omelets. (Staff) 4012 Broadway, Oakl. (510) 547-7600. American, B/L, ¢.
La Mexicana has a 40-year tradition of stuffing its customers with delicious, simply prepared staples (enchiladas, tacos, tamales, chile rellenos, menudo) and specials (carnitas, chicken mole), all served in generous portions at moderate prices. (Staff) 3930 E 14th St, Oakl. (510) 533-8818. Mexican, L/D, ¢, MC/V.
Nan Yang offers too many great dishes — ginger salad, spicy fried potato cakes, coconut chicken noodle soup, garlic noodles, succulent lamb curry that melts in your mouth — to experience in one visit. (Staff) 6048 College, Oakl. (510) 655-3298. Burmese, L/D, $, MC/V.
Ninna You’ll find steaks, duck breast, and pork loin on the same menu as chicken in yellow curry, as well as such intriguing and successful fusions as penne pasta “pad Thai” style and veal “Ithaila.” (Staff) 4066 Piedmont, Oakl. (510) 601-6441. Thai fusion, L/D, $-$$, MC/V.
Il Porcellino When faced with a menu like Il Porcellino’s, any concern for health benefits should take a backseat to hedonism. (Staff) 6111 LaSalle, Oakl. (510) 339-2149. Italian, L/D, $, AE/DC/DISC/MC/V.
Restaurante Doña Tomás offers upscale versions of enchiladas and carnitas, as well as tantalizing chicken-lime-cilantro soup and bountiful pozole. (Staff) 5004 Telegraph, Oakl. (510) 450-0522. Mexican, BR/D, $, AE/MC/V.
Rockridge Café offers bountiful breakfasts, a savory meat-loaf special, and hearty cassoulet. But the burgers, wide-cut fries, and straw-clogging milkshakes remain the cornerstones of the menu. (Staff) 5492 College, Oakl. (510) 653-1567. American, B/L/D, $, MC/V.
Taquería Ramiro and Sons typically has customers lined up to the door for (mostly take-out) burritos and tacos and quesadillas. The menu nods to contemporary tastes with black beans and spinach or tomato tortilla options. (Staff) 2321 Alameda, Alameda. (510) 523-5071. Mexican, L/D, ¢, cash only.
Tijuana serves big round bowls and plates teeming with shrimp, crab, octopus, and fish in cocktails, salads, and soups. The place is usually packed and loud. (Staff) 1308 International Blvd, Oakl. (510) 532-5575. Mexican, L/D, $, MC/V. Not wheelchair accessible.
Tropix Dig into a heap of spicy grilled jerk chicken or wallow in the wonders of the shrimp pawpaw: curried vegetables and fat shrimp piled up over meltingly ripe papaya. (Staff) 3814 Piedmont, Oakl. (510) 653-2444. Caribbean, L/D, $, AE/DC/MC/V. Patio not wheelchair accessible. SFBG

Close encounters


› a&
Love is more than metaphor in Orbit (notes from the edge of forever). Love is like the intractable need connected to the exploration of space — especially when the search is bent toward the hope of some ultimate encounter: that contact with somebody, out there, who knows who you are. It’s as if an inner wilderness were turned inside out and projected to infinity.
And so Orbit starts with the mutual seduction of two lovers onstage, and with flickering TV screens (the sets dangling from long vertical skewers loaded with books and the occasional table lamp) tapping classic sci-fi movies like Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and Alien, with their mix of rapture and terror. Here promise and betrayal collide with gravitational conviction, at the point where the yearning for communion meets the blind panic of a self dissolving; a body waylaid, violated, no longer your own (if it ever was). “That transmission? Mother’s deciphered it,” says Sigourney Weaver. “It doesn’t look like an SOS…. It looks like a warning.”
But Orbit itself is never warned off. Rather, as the title implies, it’s continually reapproaching. A new dance theater work from the Erika Shuch Performance Project — the brainchild of San Francisco–based choreographer, director, and performer Erika Chong Shuch, and the resident company at Intersection for the Arts — Orbit spirals around our obsession with UFOs, extraterrestrial life, alien abduction, and other moon-age daydreams. The piece pulls a variety of texts, media, and simulacra into its elliptical trajectory (including recorded interviews, pop music, original songs, and some wonderfully transporting interactive video segments designed by Ishan Vernalis and lll), and is a playfully eclectic, moody, and deeply romantic whirl, danced and acted by Shuch and cocreators Melanie Elms and Danny Wolohan. Joining them is an ensemble, dressed in street clothes and postal uniforms, composed of Kieran Chavez, Joseph Estlack, Daveen DiGiacomo (also responsible for the live music and sound design), Courtney Moreno, and Erin Mei-Ling Stuart.
Elms comes on as the extradimensional counterpart to Shuch’s and Wolohan’s young lovers — whom we’ve seen alternately drifting over the sensual ridges of the lunar surface projected behind them (luxuriating in the exploration of personal space), helping one another (with a touch of comic strain) to moonwalk off the walls, or defending favorite metaphors for their place in the cosmos and their search for ETs. Behind them Elms’s retro space alien glides around as if invisibly in mischievous blue gloves, the show’s intergalactic pixie, puppet mistress of hapless earthlings.
At times, moving about the stage in an idiosyncratic way coolly reminiscent of some ray gun–toting go-go dancer, Elms seems no more than a figment of the collective imagination. (In one eerily comic scene, the strange hands rooting around in a panicky Wolohan’s sweatshirt turn out not to be blue-gloved, but the hands of his lover.) From other angles, however, she becomes an active force of violently erratic potential, like a galactic succubus. The chorus, meanwhile, in alternately trancelike and frenetic motion, do everything from dance, sing, and play instruments to operate the ropes and pulleys that rearrange those TV-and-book kebabs around the stage. With Elms they circle the lovers as forces of nature both internal and external, mercurial ones too, capable of imparting a gentle caress one minute, a savage abuse the next.
One or two segments veering toward the madcap — like Wolohan’s admittedly hilarious puppet-show narration of his rescue by a friendly lighthouse (Shuch) — can be funny at the cost of some subtlety, and in truth the parts don’t contribute equally to the whole. But the surprises in store are several, and there’s a cumulative force to the loose but inspired patterning of movement, theme, and image. If part of that pattern is the idea of lives in eternal orbit around some elusive whole, always approaching and never landing, Shuch and company manage a not insignificant union all the same, joining the passion of the true believer with the wry alert eye of the perennial searcher. SFBG
Through Aug. 5
Thurs.–Sat., 8 p.m.
Intersection for the Arts
446 Valencia, SF
$9–$20 (Thurs., pay what you can)
(415) 626-3311

Swordplay time


The tug in the 2003 girl samurai flick Azumi between that J-cult of kawaii, cute — as embodied by the button-nosed, bee-stung-lipped assassin Aya Ueto, who resembles a pert Japanese version of Jessica Alba — and the particularly cutthroat scenario fueling the manga-based, CGI-ridden film make it the perfect pop vehicle for director Ryuhei Kitamura. His mission: drag the Japanese swordplay genre into the 21st century if it kills him — and leaves him choking on his own blood in the most mangled yet decorative way possible. Kitamura, who mixed swordplay with yakuza and zombies in his 2000 debut, Versus, ransacks as many flashy devices from cinema, TV, and games as he can.
To enact what might be considered the perfect post-9/11 scenario, Azumi and her otherwise all-boy crew of adorable youngsters have been trained from birth as killing machines in order to “neutralize” the warlords vying to destroy the tenuous peace in Tokugawa-era, 19th-century Japan. They’re forced to ignore the down-home atrocities committed in random villages under the orders of their stern samurai teacher, Gessai (Yoshio Harada). But when the kids are put to their final test and forced to kill or be killed by their favorite fellow student, Azumi begins to question her training-slash-brainwashing.
From her school uniform–like tunic to her eager-to-excel mien, Azumi is as much a child of Charles Darwin — a fresh-faced schoolkid of Kinji Fukasaku’s soon-to-be-remade Battle Royale (Dakota Fanning swinging an ax versus Emma Roberts toting an AK-47?) — as she is the daughter of Japanese cinematic swordswomen like Lady Snowblood. Comparing Azumi to other female-centered revenge fantasies such as the Snowblood series, Lady Vengeance, and Ms. 45 will ultimately disappoint: Her gender seems almost incidental; her empathy, yet another self-preserving tool. Flirting with pacifist — and sadistic — subversion but ultimately succumbing to blood and conditioning, Azumi proposes that a kind of unjust justice is its own justification. If that ain’t kitsch — and if Azumi isn’t a signpost in a decadent period of samurai filmmaking — what is? (Kimberly Chun)
Opens Fri/28
See Movie Clock at for theaters and showtimes

$349 health care and $10 beers


My love for baseball dates all the way back to childhood, when my dad used to let me stay up past the seventh to watch the Sox on TV. Once a year we made a pilgramage to Boston, where my family dominated a whole row of seating in the nosebleed section, and I got to drink a soda and eat a hot dog and watch my hero, Roger Clemens, pitch from his own mound. Yesterday, for the first time in my life, I went to see my native team outside of Fenway Park, and was shocked by the greeting I got at the gate.