Volume 40 Number 32

May 10 – May 16, 2006

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‘International Press Institute (IPI)’ and ‘International Freedom of Expression eXchange (IFEX)’


PRESS RELEASE  http://www.freemedia.at

Vienna, 11 May 2006

IPI Calls on the European Union to raise the issue of press freedom in Latin America and the Caribbean during the EU-LAC Summit in Vienna, Austria

On the occasion of the European Union Latin America and Caribbean (EU-LAC) Summit in Vienna, Austria, the International Press Institute (IPI), the global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists, calls on the European Union (EU) to raise the issue of press freedom and freedom of expression.

In the Americas, at least 11 journalists were killed because of their work in 2005. Three journalists were murdered in Haiti, and two each in Brazil, Colombia and Mexico. Journalists were also killed in Ecuador and Nicaragua.

Throughout the year, investigative journalists in Latin America continued to receive death threats, or were physically attacked by corrupt officials, drug traffickers and other criminals intent on preventing the media from exposing their activities. Several journalists were forced to flee into exile. In addition, journalists had to contend with a barrage of litigation, including criminal defamation lawsuits and excessive punitive damage awards in civil suits.

Media outlets criticised government restrictions on access to public information, often the result of anti-terrorism legislation introduced in response to the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001. The use of official advertising to punish or reward publications and broadcasters was also condemned as a threat to press freedom. In some countries, the excessive use of force against journalists by the police and army was a cause for concern.

With 23 journalists imprisoned at the end of 2005, Fidel Castro’s Cuba was the world’s second biggest jailer of journalists after China. Those independent journalists not already arrested in the March 2003 government crackdown on political dissidents were systematically monitored, harassed or detained by the state security forces.

Mexico saw an increase in the number of violent attacks against reporters, especially those investigating drug trafficking and official corruption in the northern states bordering the U.S.

The administration of President Hugo Ch?�vez tightened its grip on the press in Venezuela, as the Social Responsibility Law for Radio and Television and amendments to the penal code, expanding the categories of government officials protected by insult provisions, came into effect in 2005.

In the Caribbean, the introduction of restrictive new media legislation, the continued use of civil and criminal defamation laws, and instances of government interference in state-owned media, all encouraged the tendency to self-censor.

Speaking on the press freedom situation in the region, Michael Kudlak, IPI’s press freedom advisor for the Americas and the Caribbean, said, “Increasingly, authorities are attempting to use defamation laws, broadcasting regulations, and other legal measures to stifle critical coverage, posing a serious threat to freedom of opinion and expression in the Caribbean.”

IPI Director Johann Fritz added, “IPI calls on the Austrian Presidency of the European Union and heads of EU member states to address freedom of expression and media freedom in Latin America and the Caribbean during the EU-LAC summit. At a time when journalists suffer harassment and must resort to self-censorship, there is a real need for the EU’s dialogue with many Latin American countries to be informed by greater discussion about press freedom and freedom of expression.”

“IPI urges the governments of the region to uphold everyone’s right to freedom of opinion and expression, including the right ‘to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers,’ as outlined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” Fritz said.

IPI, the global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists, is dedicated to the furtherance and safeguarding of press freedom, the protection of freedom of opinion and expression, the promotion of the free flow of news and information, and the improvement of the practices of journalism.


International Freedom of Expression eXchange (IFEX)


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Nightmare city

PREVIEW Trench coat alert: The World Horror Convention is oozing all over Van Ness Avenue, unleashing four days of panel discussions (on everything from horror art to horror-themed television shows), readings (outstanding local true-stories zine Morbid Curiosity hosts an open mic), and special guests, including Ring author Koji Suzuki and cult-movie actor Bill Moseley, best known as sadistic Otis Driftwood in The Devil’s Rejects and — yee haw! — Iron Butterfly–loving grandma’s boy Chop Top in Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2.

The event also features a dusk-till-dawn film festival curated by Shannon Lark, host of the Chainsaw Mafia movie nights at the Parkway Theater. (Side note: As part of that series, on May 25 she presents Lucio Fulci’s The Beyond, starring all the eyeball-crunching tarantulas your nightmares care to entertain.) For the convention Lark gathers more than two dozen shorts (Confederate Zombie Massacre sounds like a winner) and nine features, including the gloriously titled Frankenstein vs. the Creature from Blood Cove.

My weakness for anything starring P.J. Soles (Carrie, Halloween, Rock ’n’ Roll High School) drew me to Death by Engagement, writer-director Philip Creager’s slick slasher flick. A woman dumps her fiancé at the altar after realizing she’s about to marry the world’s biggest rageaholic (he’s addicted to rageahol!). He promptly tracks her down and beats her to a pulp — but is soon brought to the edge of death himself by a pair of trigger-happy cops, one of whom discreetly slides the honkin’ diamond ring off the bride’s bloody hand. The cursed bauble then snakes its way though the lives of several young and fabulous LA types, leaving a trail of corpses in its wake.

More of a raunchy comedy than a straight-up horror film (i.e., you’re more likely to be surprised by the sudden appearance of boobs than by any of the plot twists), Death by Engagement is notable for a few reasons: the appearance of the pawn shop from Pulp Fiction (but, alas, not the Gimp); the snarky dialogue, as when a cop refers to two brain-dead victims thusly: "So, we have a whole salad bar here, eh?"; and Soles, who is predictably great in a classic creepy-mom role. (Cheryl Eddy)



Holiday Inn Golden Gateway

1500 Van Ness, SF




Double digits


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Bernard is a chip off the old block. "You’re just what I wanted," his father, Salter, assures him. Made to order, in fact. Now a grown man, Bernard (Josh Charles) confronts his father (Bill Smitrovich) with an unsettling discovery: He’s the clone of a previously undisclosed original, a replacement for the beautiful child Salter once had but, apparently, lost. At first it’s hard to say how Salter’s story keeps changing. But if each detail Bernard pulls from his reluctant, taciturn father is like another child ripped from the test tube, Salter acknowledges the essential truth of the matter, only insisting that he too was deceived, since he had ordered just a single replacement. The men in the lab coats have been pursuing an agenda of their own. According to the one who spoke to Bernard, there are in fact "a number" of clones like him out there, somewhere. A profoundly disturbed Bernard wonders if they share the same dreams. His father, trying to marshal their defenses, wonders if they can sue. How much is each slice of a person’s uniqueness worth anyway?

So begins renowned British playwright Caryl Churchill’s A Number, her shrewd, tightly drawn 2004 drama now making its West Coast debut at American Conservatory Theater (ACT). In the course of its lean hour-long single act, it takes several turns, as Salter and son confront one another as if for the first time, in halting, half-finished lines and overlapping thoughts. More dramatically still, each begins separately to confront his self-image anew. Indeed, even as two more sons arrive (each played by Charles), the theme of cloning that opens the play so forcefully begins subtly to dissolve in more general lines of inquiry, ultimately more unsettling than the narrow science fiction spinning out an indefinite series of genetic Xeroxes who may or may not share the same penchants and innermost thoughts. One of these lines of investigation has to do with patriarchal authority, you might say, or the tyranny of parental power and the prerogatives and rights of children. The fraught relationship between Salter and his son(s) touches on ground whose ethical and even philosophical contours are rocky at best, as we come to glimpse the darker recesses of Salter’s past and his straightforward desire to start over, to set things right, to bring his life (including, inevitably, his offspring) under control.

Another even more basic theme set in motion here, however, has to do with what makes us happy: how self-knowledge relates to self-image, to our definition of life, and to our definition of the human. It’s as if the traditional fear and fascination associated with the doppelgänger meet their modern equivalent in the laboratory clone, both of them cultural figments with the power to open up the presumably solid ground that underlies notions of our uniqueness as individuals and as a species. But whereas the premodern doppelgänger could suggest a spirit world beyond the material, in a demystified world the clone reduces everything all the more insistently to the material genetic material, to be exact: an interchangeable array of molecular puzzle pieces without spirits or ostensible meaning. The modern bureaucratic nightmare of being reduced to merely "a number" finally roosts in each chromosome. If this is understandably disturbing, however, it’s far from the end of the story. For, as the third son, Michael, suggests, why shouldn’t the revelation Bernard confronts with all its implications about our relation to other living things be a source of comfort or delight?

Churchill’s subtle, interesting, and creepy play has its full complexity partly trammeled, unfortunately, by ACT’s mostly bland production. While things get better over the course of the hour, the opening moments set what feels like the wrong tone. Director Anna D. Shapiro, of Chicago’s legendary Steppenwolf Theatre, takes things at a brisk pace, with her otherwise highly capable actors playing the dialogue too much as if it were David Mamet’s stylized vernacular (which here tends to encourage playing the lines for laughs) instead of a clinical grafting of language more in tune with the play’s fraught tensions, tugging at one another as if in the throes of meiosis. SFBG


Through May 28

Tues.–Sat., 8 p.m.; Wed., Sat., Sun., 2 p.m. (except Sun/14)

Geary Theater

415 Geary, SF


(415) 749-2228




For a complete schedule of the 10th annual Mission Creek Music and Arts Festival shows and events (May 14–22), go to www.mcmf.org. Check Noise, the Guardian‘s music blog, at www.sfbg.com/blogs/music, for more Mission Creek festival coverage.

Ane Brun

This Scandinavian neofolkie — it’s probably safe to say — is the only musician at Mission Creek who’s also had the pleasure of performing alongside Annie Lennox. Fittingly, sweet dreams are indeed made of the beautifully understated hymns on her putf8um-selling (overseas, at least) second album, A Temporary Dive (DetErMine/V2). The recording radiates so much warmth that even its bleakest lyrics — e.g., "I’m crawling on your floor, vomiting and defeated" — can’t help but sound strangely comforting. With Volunteer Pioneer, Tingsek, Ben and Barbara, and Fiji Mermaid. Sun/14, 8 p.m., Argus Lounge, 3187 Mission, SF. Call for price. (415) 824-1447 (Jimmy Draper)

Cloud Cult

Cult leader Craig Minowa suffered the loss of his two-year-old son in 2002 and has since used the tragedy to become an obsessively prolific writer and eco-activist. Hailing from Minneapolis, Cloud Cult offers a tie-dyed indie with the slightest hint of trip-hop and includes multimedia, such as live painters, as part of its stage show. With Hijack the Disco, Ebb and Flow, and Radius. Tues/16, 8 p.m. Make-Out Room, 3225 22nd St., SF. $8–$10. (415) 647-2888 (Izquierdo)

Edmund Welles Bass Clarinet Quartet

The bass clarinet is the granddaddy of all woodwinds, with a deep, warm tone and a punch, if used the right way. No one does it better than "the world’s only composing group of four bass clarinets." This foursome tackles Radiohead’s "Creep," original compositions with a metal sensibility, and even the Knight Rider theme with skill, humor, and a taste for the experimental. Tues/16, 9 p.m. 12 Galaxies, 2565 Mission, SF. $6. (415) 970-9777 (Eliana Fiore)


With 6/6/06 so rapidly approaching, it’s comforting to know that we’ve got hell’s house band right here in our own city. Enter Ettrick, a sax and drums duo that offers up a bludgeoning amalgam of black metal and skronk sure to summon the apocalypse. Jacob Felix Huele and Jay Korber rotate instruments to create an excruciating free jazz that feels like being trapped in a metal shed during a thunderstorm. Noise fans have no business missing this show. With Moe! Staiano, Tussle, Jackie O-Motherfucker, and Weasel Walter Quartet. May 20, 8 p.m., The Lab, 2948 16th St., SF. Call for price. (415) 864-8855 (Kate Izquierdo)

Hello Fever

The LA gothic garage-rock trio shows us how good an unholy alliance between Blonde Redhead and Joy Division can sound. Comb your hair over your eyes, stare at your shoes, and think very angry thoughts — this is the soundtrack to your angst. With Hey Willpower, Anna Oxygen, and Flaming Fire. May 17, 9 p.m. 12 Galaxies, 2565 Mission, SF. $8–$10. (415) 970-9777 (Izquierdo)


Technical without being contrived, and lush without being wimps, this Seattle post-math trio takes unduutf8g guitars and peppers them with beats of varying persuasions. Check out Joules’s MySpace page for "Hole Ole," a flamenco send-up with hand claps that morphs into a crashing sonic expedition. With Crime in Choir, Modular Se, and Madelia. Tues/16, 8 p.m. Knockout, 3223 Mission, SF. Call for price. (415) 550-6994 (Izquierdo)

Sunburned Hand of the Man

The band jams folk-drone psychedelia without all the hippie baggage — awesome! For almost a decade this Boston collective of improvisers has cut its teeth in the experimental-noise circle on distortion-charged blowouts, backbiting electronics, and tribal-chanting powwows. With the Alps, the Cheapest and Best, and Effi Briest. Tues/16, 9:30 p.m. Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF. $8. (415) 923-0923 (Sabbath)

Vincent Gallo

Actor, musician, and painter extraordinaire Vincent Gallo is no stranger to controversy. After the online sperm auctions and the fire-eater scene with a certain deep-throater, it should come as to no surprise that the Republican-happy, onetime break-dancing b-boy and ex–Calvin Klein model is the talk of the town. Though the Buffalo, NY, native’s narcissistic reputation might not earn him any brownie points, his musical contributions are something of another world — he has a sharp know-how for fabricating song structures seeded somewhere between the modestly stark, incredibly warm, and overtly depressive. He’s the sole producer and performer on his recordings in the same way that he’s the singular auteur behind Buffalo 66 and Brown Bunny, and like those absorbing films, his short, penetrating songs leave you salivating for more. You can only hope Gallo’s debut musical performance in the Bay Area will leave you with the same afterglow his movies do. With Sean Lennon and Carla Azar. May 19, 9 p.m., Bimbo’s 365 Club, 1025 Columbus, SF. $20. (415) 474-0365 (Chris Sabbath)

Real huff


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There was a period in the early to mid-’80s when Dieselhed absolutely ruled the San Francisco music scene. Like the previous generation’s Thinking Fellers Union Local 282 or Primus, or maybe today’s Joanna Newsom or Deerhoof, fans enthusiastically lined up to catch the popular quintet every time the group played. To see Dieselhed once was to love them forever. You’ve got that chance, as they’re re-forming for one night at this year’s Mission Creek Music Festival.

What made them so fucking great? For starters, the music: crashing cow-punk guitars alternating with twangy tearjerkers and, over it all, Virgil Shaw’s and Zac Holtzman’s sweet, incandescent harmonies. Dieselhed was a band with a fully formed aesthetic whose keenly observed stories (and all their songs told stories) wheeled out quintessentially quotidian Northern Californian lives: dreaming of a world beyond Humboldt County, summers spent working on fishing boats in Alaska, weddings on the Hornblower, buying titty mags at the 7-Eleven, touring Sonoma Valley small towns and playing breweries, the guy who makes the hash browns at the local greasy spoon.

It was easy to imagine they were singing about you, and sometimes they were: Dieselhed’s number one fan was always the taxi dispatcher and perpetually tipsy Corinne, and, heck, they wrote a song about her: "Corrine Corrine/ Look at you spin / You’ve got me in a half nelson." The shit was funny because it was so real to everyone, including the characters they sang about in their songs: the girl who whispers into her poodle’s ear, the waitress at the truck stop, the guy studying for the forklift operator’s exam.

The band was wonderfully inclusive: Sing-alongs quickly came to include audience-participatory gestures, like the big O-shaped upstretched arms we all flew to represent the diamond ring in "The Wedding Song." Shaw’s then-adolescent sisters, who were budding songwriters in their own right, made guest appearances.

In another example of Dieselhed’s absolute command of who they were and what they meant, there were the improv numbers that charted their growing popularity and the changes in their lives. In "Someday We Won’t Be a Band," each member took to the mic to weave an always different story of what someone else in the group would be doing years hence. What will that tune sound like this time around? It’s guaranteed to have us laughing and crying.

The main thing is this: Dieselhed will always be relevant, and they never fucking lost it. Shaw’s now an acclaimed solo act. Holtzman formed the Cambodian pop group Dengue Fever and is licensed in Chinese medicine. Drummer Danny Heifetz up and moved to Australia. And I can’t wait to hear what bassist Atom Ellis and guitarist Shon McAllin are up to. "Someday we won’t be a band," Dieselhed sang, "but for now, we totally exist!" SFBG


With Fantasy, Sonny Smith, and Marc Capelle

May 21, 8 p.m.

12 Galaxies

2565 Mission, SF

$10 advance, $12 door

(415) 970-9777

When the lights go up


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"I wanted to make something that was really grand and epic, that was really composed, and maybe kind of mythic, in the way that a lot of those protometal bands were trying to do," Ezra Feinberg of Citay says, his postpsychedelic, postmetal outfit. Feinberg is inspired by hard rockmetal bands of the late 1960s and 1970s, such as Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, and Deep Purple, whose used power chords as the basis for their grand, jazz-inspired, narrative song structures. Favoring melodies interwoven with narratives over power chords, Feinberg has turned Citay into a kinder, gentler incarnation of the archetypal headbanging unit. "I wasn’t writing the songs with a drummer, you know, where it’s about power chords and physical energy," he explains. "Instead, it was more melody-driven composition and harmony."

Anyone who has listened to Citay’s carefully crafted, self-titled debut will tell you that composition is clearly Feinberg’s modus operandi. Each song is knit tightly around melodies that aren’t so much meandering as on a journey with a distinct destination. Though Feinberg is admittedly obsessed with Led Zeppelin, and Citay’s emphasis on instrumentation wears its classic rockmetal influences on its sleeve, it is the disciplined melodies and more nuanced harmonies, à la the Beach Boys and the Byrds, combined with a scampering mandolin and lackadaisical tambourine, that make Citay’s music accessible and original. Citay’s forthcoming Mission Creek performance and upcoming summer tour with Vetiver might make a comparison to the psych-folk movement an apt one, even though Feinberg is quick to distance Citay from any such categories.

The 29-year-old Boston native wrote and composed the album using a cache of instruments and a multitrack computer program in his Excelsior apartment, the results of which he brought to Louder Studios to collaborate with Tim Green (the Fucking Champs, Nation of Ulysses), with whom Feinberg had worked previously in Brooklyn when Green produced the album by Feinberg’s "sludge metal" band, Feast.

Feinberg credits Green with much of the Citay sound and with adding another dimension to his music. "If the record is any good, a lot of it is because of Tim," he says. "I had the songs, which were written the parts and the melodies were already there but he added so much." Tim Soete, of the Fucking Champs, also contributed backing vocals and guitar.

Not only is Green’s Louder Studios the home of Citay the band, but it was also the home of Feinberg for about a month after he moved from Brooklyn to San Francisco in 2004. Having spent four years in Brooklyn working with Feast and a few other musical endeavors, Feinberg felt as though he was "done" with the Brooklyn music scene and considered moving to be an opportunity to focus on writing music for himself, outside of a collaborative band environment. "I felt that I needed to musically be alone for a little while, which sounds really juvey and dramatic, but I had just been doing the band thing for so long. I knew that I wanted to keep writing music, but I knew that I wanted to do it in another way."

Now that the Citay album has been released, on Important Records, to largely glowing reviews, the challenge for Feinberg has been transutf8g that sound in performance, a process that has always evolved the other way around for the songwriter. He’s still solidifying Citay’s live lineup, which currently includes eight friends drawn from Crime in Choir, the Dry Spells, Ascended Master, By Land and Sea, Skygreen Leopards, and Tussle. "It’s the first time that I’ve ever gone from the studio to the stage," he says. SFBG


With Silver Sunshine, Persephone’s Bees, the Winter Flowers, and Willow Willow

May 20

7 p.m.

Rickshaw Stop

155 Fell, SF

$10 advance, $12 door

(415) 861-2011


Moore than words


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Love ballads, boyish harmonies, and a single acoustic guitar four albums along, with numerous side projects such as Sandycoates bringing up the rear, the Moore Brothers obviously have a sweet streak that’s miles wide and filled with melodies as creamy as custard pie and as dreamy as those steamy, leisurely days of teenage summer.

But even dark thoughts dog nice guys, diligent students, and upstanding Joes like Greg and Thom Moore, holding court on a sunny day at a corner table, next to a picture of Jack London, in Mama Buzz’s concrete backyard. Behold the smiling, prone girl lying in the snow on the cover of their beautiful new album, Murdered by the Moore Brothers (Plain). Cock an ear toward the dulcet numbers within, eerie narratives populated with drowned pals ("Old Friend of Mine"), spiteful lovers ("Fresh Thoughts of You"), cemetery lovers ("Bury Me under the Kissing Teens"), and "good deaths" ("Pham"). Even idle bird-watching has a soft veneer of creepy claustrophobia ("The Auditorium Birds"), counterpointing the Moores’ delectable vocals.

What did we do to deserve this? "Lyrically, it is probably the darkest Moore Brothers record," Thom, 32, confesses. "But it also seemed like a nice idea coming out after Now Is the Time for Love, a more holding-hands record. This could be too, but it’s a little more sinister."

"Like holding a severed hand," Greg, 35, chuckles.

Additionally, Thom says, "We’ve got gothic roots." He goes on to describe his first concert as a 12-year-old, accompanying Greg to the Cure’s 1986 Standing on the Beach stop at the LA Forum. The young brothers watched, horrified, as a man in a cowboy hat, standing on a chair, committed suicide by stabbing himself with a huge dagger as an enormous crowd encircled him. "It really scarred me for life!" Thom says. "I thought, I’m never gong to see another concert again unless it’s the Dream Academy!"

So when Thom found himself thumbing through a book of folk songs, looking for numbers for his next side project, Chicken on a Raft, and he came across one titled "Murdered by a Brother," he knew it would be perfect for the Moore Brothers’ next release. "It’s so mean! It’s awful," he says, smiling. They decided to go with it, although their mother and Girl George, their "punk rock mother," in charge of the Starry Plough open mic hated it. The former "is afraid someone will murder us," Thom explains. "She said, ‘What if someone sees the album and wants to murder you or wants to implicate you in a murder?!’"

What if? Family bands and particularly brother bands like the Moore Brothers’ faves the Beach Boys, the Bee Gees, and the Everly Brothers have always hit a powerful, resonant chord in our pop imaginations, touching off daydreams of thick-as-thieves musical togetherness and nightmares of creepy, smothering … togetherness. After all, the pair does at times finish each other’s sentences, and as Thom offers, their mother can’t tell the two apart on the phone. No wonder rumor in local music circles has it that not only do the Moore Brothers share a house (where, in fact, until recently, songwriting legend Biff Rose couch-surfed), but also a room, an idea that strikes them as natural and practical, although the siblings really haven’t shared a bedroom since they were kids. Back then, though, that closeness played as important a role in their musical development as the obligatory piano lessons. Greg says: "I’d hear all his records, and he’d hear all my records."

"Even back then, we were forced to take turns," Thom continues. "So nowadays we take turns with the set list and album song order pretty much everything." That sense of fair play extends to their track on the largely acoustic new Kill Rock Stars comp, The Sound the Hare Heard, which was decided with a flip of a coin.

Still, the close living arrangements eases the Moore Brothers’ existence in more ways than one: Songwriters since youth (Thom started writing songs at 10 with Jon B, who later collaborated with Babyface), the pair never needs to rehearse, and they dispense with chitchat during long drives on tour, instead sharing a friendly silence as a CD plays.

And, of course, they’ll always be there for each other. "Things come and go in cycles," Thom says. "The good thing about us is that we’re planning to do it forever.

"We still have hopes for being hip in our 50s." SFBG>

Moore Brothers

With Rose Melberg, the Harbours, and the Lonelyhearts

Tues/16, 9 p.m.

Rickshaw Stop

155 Fell, SF


(415) 861-2011

Those lovable peckerheads


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An aggro dance-punk explosion of smart-ass energy and drunk-kid shit, Clipd Beaks can be summed up in an endless bout of name-game banter: They’re tweaked shoegazer for the top 40 soul. Nauseated psychedelia. The guitar-driven grittiness of Prince’s "Darling Nikki" meets the smooth-as-glass PM Dawn faux-original "Set Adrift on Memory Bliss." Man, fuck Prince. He doesn’t have shit on PM Dawn. What did he give us after Sign of the Times?

Needless to say, the tugboat of inspiration doesn’t drop anchor there. Since migrating from the Purple One’s old stomping grounds of Minneapolis to Oakland, the quartet hasn’t shied away from any particular aspect of the music world they’ll pump your ears full of all types of loud, freaked-out noise.

The band wallows in a hearty hybrid of electrofunk and kraut rock ambience, cavorting amid tropical storms of sonic upsurges and acid-laced melodies. Colorful aural washes seem to crawl up your nostrils like billows of tonic mist and pulsate down your brain stem. If this flavorsome visual doesn’t have your toes tingling for the nearest club floor just yet, maybe you’ll think otherwise when the band’s latest EP, Preyers (Tigerbeat6), latches itself onto your hindquarters. CB fabricate a cluster of feel-good turbulence with proggy synth bursts, octopuslike drumbeats, and the hollow resonance of vocal distortion. Add jumbled samplers and grimy bass squawks thick enough to saw through your ankles and you have what Beaked vocalist Nic Barbeln refers to as a "total meltdown."

CB’s kick-out-the-dance-jams ethos grew out of the merging of two bands that shared a practice space back in Minneapolis in early 2003. Searching for something more invigorating than the mellower waters each group’s sound was treading on, Barbeln, synth player Greg Pritchard, bassist Scott Ecklein, and drummer Ray Benjamin chose to align.

After building up a fan base in Minneapolis and self-releasing a couple of homemade CD-R EPs, Pritchard departed for the Bay Area just after the recording of Preyers while the other Beaked players continued working at home. "I knew that they were still recording and doing Clipd Beaks," Pritchard says. "But when I heard the music, I said, ‘This cannot exist without me being involved with it.’<\!q>”

The rest of the group soon packed their bags and joined Pritchard on the West Coast, and before long fate came knocking. Pritchard had been mailing the band’s music to the Bay Area’s Tigerbeat6 through another friendly community: MySpace. Pritchard laughs: "I happened to ask them to be our friend on MySpace, and they wrote back and were like, ‘You guys are awesome.’<\!q>”

"They asked us to send more shit than what we had, and then a half an hour later, they were like, ‘Do you want to put out a record?’<\!q>” Barbeln continues.

Grateful for the massive amount of support they’ve received from the label and their fans in such a short amount of time, CB will spend the summer recording their full-length debut. Seeking to expand beyond the layered walls of sonics that hatched two years ago during the recording of Preyers, the band has expended a great deal of time perfecting the gem that’ll capture the intensity of their live performances and have the Bay Area party people passing out on the dance floor.

"We’re trying not to have jobs," Barbeln says.<\!s><z5><h110>SFBG<h$><z$>

Clipd Beaks

With Kid 606 and Friends, Dwayne Sodahberk, Eats Tapes, and Gregg Kowalsky

May 19, 9 p.m.

Elbo Room

647 Valencia, SF

Call for price.

(415) 552-7788


Can’t, she said


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It would be hard to imagine a more painfully ironic moniker than Can’t. It’s a name of self-negation, self-defense, and self-defiance. A name that instantly speaks of limitation and deprivation, it revels in its view of the personal-as-political prisoner. The social constraints of gender, sex, love, genre, freedom, and artistic and financial success all hang off of that name like handcuffs on a policeman’s belt. Yet instead of binding Can’t, otherwise known as Jessica Rylan, in self-defeat, she takes the bite out of her critics and detractors, as though she is reclaiming years of doubt and dismissal.

Can’t make noise because she’s a girl

When you peer into the sweaty, black-shirted boy zone of America’s noise underground, you do find women, both as participants and voyeurs, but you won’t find them given much mind. Hypermasculinity is so common among the legions of teen hellions and the ranks of the old guard (both of whom are sex-obsessed and at times sexist) that you could almost mistake it for homoerotic homogeneity. What makes Can’t an anomaly isn’t that she’s a woman but that she is so fearlessly feminine, in the traditional sense. The sounds breathed from her homemade modular synths don’t come off as ladylike they’re as monstrous and violent at the appropriate volumes as the harshest noise. It’s her gentle intimacy with her instrument, the lightness of her voice as it passes through her bent circuits, and the passivity of her gestures as she moves the chaotic parameters of the machine in front of her that imbue her performance with femininity.

Can’t sing about sex and love with sincerity

In the context of her adopted music community, sex is a tool that channels or expresses anger, frustration, and occasionally ecstatic peace. Yet when Can’t sings about it, moving her body like a six-year-old girl and dancing in a faux-Broadway sway, she is vocalizing honest heartbreak. She’s singing about ordinary love, and it’s so disarming, if not necessarily naïve, that you’re left a little embarrassed and a little bit more endeared.

Can’t be a noise musician if her set consists of nursery-rhyme melodies

If, in fact, she is, then you find yourself debating with others about what the hell "noise" is, anyway. Isn’t noise anything that is unclassifiable as music? Isn’t "noise music" about transgression and ambiguity? Doesn’t "noise" reject containment and clarification? What, if anything, shows more of an anarchic disregard for the rules than a noisician who sings folk songs and calls it "noise"?

Can’t be that free

On some level, there is a contradiction here. A cake-and-eat-it-too sort of feeling. She’s been to Bard, she’s traveled the world with some of the most respected noise artists around (Joe Colley, John Wiese, Emil Beaulieau), and she’s released albums titled Can’t Prepares to Fail Again and Can’t vs. the World. Which means she knows exactly what she’s doing and exactly what buttons she’s pushing. She’s on to us. Which means she’ll have the perfect response if you try to dismiss her.

Can’t be a success, yet she is

She is a charismatic and beguiling performer. Her music is mysterious and engaging. The importance and popularity of Can’t in this new age of music will only grow with time. All the harshies and PE enthusiasts in black shirts and camo pants love her, so why don’t the rest of you? SFBG


With Skullcaster, Evil Wikkid Warrior, Gang Wizard, Joel Murach, Joe Rut, and the Great Auk

May 19

The Lab

2948 16th St., SF

Call for time and price.

(415) 864-8855

Brass in pocket


› kimberly@sfbg.com

Considering its bodacious flag team and its players’ general inclination to treat every day like birthday-suit day, Extra Action Marching Band has boasted its share of fleshy, fantastic, and extra-weird gigs, though none quite so intimate as the time they were hired by a would-be groom to crash his marriage proposal. Let into their client’s abode by a friend, about 20 members of the drum corps, horn section, and flag team stomped into the couple’s bedroom just after the "act." "His girlfriend was naked, jumping up and down on the bed, going, ‘Yaaarrr!’" modified-bullhorn manipulator Mateo remembers. "She was totally psyched."

Sit down with whichever members of the 30-odd, proudly odd members of the Bay Area troupe you can rustle up, and you’ll get an earful of many similar stories. There was the time they transformed a school bus into a 60-foot-long, 50-foot-tall Spanish galleon, a.k.a. La Contessa, to drive around Burning Man. "But they started to get really strict and created a five-mile-an-hour speed limit," trombone player Chad Castillo explains after a recent practice in seven-year vet Mateo’s cavernous Oakland warehouse space, the Meltdown. "We were always going faster because we always had been going faster and never had problems. So they finally banned us from Burning Man."

As with most tales, the exact events are in question, and Castillo and Mateo argue good-naturedly about whether their school-bus-run-amok was actually, er, expelled, before the trombonist continues: "The point is, they banned us, and we brought it back, and we took it on a maiden voyage and crashed it," putting a four-foot-high hole in La Contessa’s side.

Hunter Thompson’s wake and East Bay Rats soirees aside, performance highlights include opening for David Byrne on his 2005 SoCal tour, stopping at the Hollywood Bowl and later careening through a pelvic thrustheavy version of Beyoncé’s "Crazy in Love." And then there was a Mardi Gras tour that re-created Black Sabbath’s heavy metal debut classic, with plain ole heavy eXtreme Elvis on vocals, and special, sexy rifle and fan-dance routines, flag team dancer and original member Kelek Stevenson relates.

The band upped themselves two years ago, when they played the Balkan Brass Bands Festival in Guca, Serbia, deep in the heart of gypsy horn country, one of the inspirations for Extra Action’s cosmopolitan mosh pit of Sousa, Latin, and New Orleans second-line sounds. A recent DVD by Emmy-winning nature documentarian and Extra Action flag girl Anna Fitch supports the stories and catches the combo in action as villagers cheer, fall to their knees, and hug the ensemble as they blow through the streets. One grandmotherly onlooker even gets some extra, extra action, copping a feel of a manly member’s bare chest.

But with the anarchic joys come the passionate battles, such as the recent knockdown blowout over the possibility of doing a Coke commercial, one of many battles regularly undergone in the collective, which has only one CD to its name, last year’s self-released Live on Stubnitz. "There was this huge firestorm between those who wanted to take the gig and use the money to further social change in the world and show that we don’t support Coke and its policies," Mateo explains.

"And a bunch of people threatened to quit the band," Castillo adds. "This band is so big you’ve got homeowners and you’ve got people who are basically living in their campers and when it came to doing the Coke commercial, there were a lot of people who just don’t like the big multinational corporations."

It’s remarkable that such an unruly, perpetually shifting, shiftless bunch has managed to hold it together for all of seven or eight years with few agreed-upon "leaders" (although Castillo asserts, "the original members always walk around like aristocracy"). The wireless, untethered energy they bring to the trad rock lineup is impressive. When they marched onto the stage at Shoreline Amphitheatre to join Arcade Fire (after crashing the women’s room) at last year’s Download Festival ragtag horn and drum corps ripping through a few numbers as the flag girls and boy bumped and grinded in blond wigs and glittery G-strings you realized what was really missing from indie at this performance, at so many performances: sex appeal. Theater. A drunken mastery of performance and the dark arts of showmanship, along with the sense of team spirit linked to so much marching band imagery bandied about in today’s pop.

As Castillo quips, "Record companies are interested in having us play with their bands because their bands are so boring onstage. People pay big money to go to these concerts because the music is all great and produced, and then they go to these shows, and these guys are sitting there bent over their Game Boys. Oh, that’s really exciting. Where’s the show?"

This show emerged from the ashes of Crash Worship, the legendary SoCal "cult, paganistic drum corps," as Castillo describes it, "where people would just strip naked and writhe in orgiastic piles." Extra Action was the processional that would cut through the heaps, eventually marching north to a Fruitvale warehouse, at the behest of ex-Crash Worshipper Simon Cheffins.

"I’ve been pretty much kicked out of every band I’ve been in," Castillo says, who has played with the group for five years. Members many of the sculptor, performance artist, or "computer geek" persuasion come and go, sometimes after a few practices, spinning off into combos like the As Is Brass Band. But it’s a family of sorts a band-geek gang cognizant of the Bay Area’s countercultural/subcultural performance traditions and the unchartable wildness extending from the Diggers to the Cacophony Society. And only "one thing seems to be a requirement," Castrillo continues. "People have to have some problem that needs to be expressed. Everybody’s an exhibitionist. We like to take off our clothes." Those are family values we can get behind. SFBG

Extra Action Marching Band

With Death of a Party, Sugar and Gold, and Hank IV

May 18, 8 p.m. door

Eagle Tavern

398 12th St., SF

Call for price.

(415) 626-0880

Arctic vessels


› johnny@sfbg.com

The significance of a different numeral is noted near the finale, but the number in the title of Matthew Barney’s Drawing Restraint 9 makes it clear that the film is but one chapter within a gargantuan project that Barney has been working on for close to two decades, the first seven entries an array of vitrines and video installations predating and possibly even anticipating his Cremaster cycle. Barney has stated that this ninth chapter signals a shift away from the libidinal restraints and hypertrophy (a persistent muscular motif) of earlier installments, into a condition of atrophy. Got that?

A skeptic could view all of the above as a deflective shield used to ward off any criticism that is rooted in basic cinematic practice. How can Drawing Restraint 9‘s ponderously juxtaposed ceremonies and abundant array of symbols from the many variations of the artist’s signature bisected ovular "field emblem" to the multiple manifestations of whales and other sea creatures be analyzed if they are mere parts of a broader cosmology that the filmgoer isn’t taking into consideration? The worlds of Barney tend to be epically expansive in scope, making even Wagnerian opera seem smallish in terms of narrative configuration (though not in terms of emotional currency). Yet for all their majestic dives into goopy baths and slippery slides through lubricated passages, they remain clinically hermetic.

Perhaps the most expensive wedding video ever made, Drawing Restraint 9 isn’t short on spectacle. Origami-wrapped fossils, an "Ambergris March" street parade, women in white cooing as they dive for pearls, citrus-scented baths, and an enormous petroleum Jell-O mold are just a handful of the first half’s ingredients. Most of these somehow relate to the "Occidental Guests" (Barney and real-life mate Björk), who are bathed and shaved and, in Björk’s case, given hair extensions that incorporate objects from the ocean and forest floors before being adorned in furry variants of Shinto marriage garments. Ultimately, the couple meet, mute, at the end of one chilly hall in the Japanese whaling vessel Nisshin Maru before joining a tea master in a ceremony that gives way to an aquatic mating dance. Then out come the flensing knives.

Barney and Björk might be exploring a kinship between Japan’s and Iceland’s cultures. Is the result expensive indulgence? Yes. While the discourse around Barney’s museum exhibitions tends toward solemnity, his ventures into film have met with some irreverence that, however knee-jerk, might also be deserved. In a 2005 interview conducted by Glen Helfand for the local film publication Release Print, J. Hoberman clearly elucidated a film-focused critique of Barney, labeling his "big-budget avant-garde" movies "deeply uninteresting" in relation to the "crazy, quasi-narrative" (though usually more concise) works made in the ’60s and ’70s by underground filmmakers such as Jack Smith, Ken Jacobs, and Bruce Conner. Certainly, any spellbinding aspects of Barney’s visuals seem schematic in relation to Kenneth Anger’s or Maya Deren’s alchemy.

One could perhaps unfairly make a case that Drawing Restraint 9 is an act of class war against similar, barely funded efforts on film or video today, but more tellingly, it also comes up wanting in relation to similarly expensive efforts, whether they be "experimental" short works the stunning aerial photography in Olivo Barbieri’s San Francisco International Film Festival Golden Gate Award New Visions winner site specific_LAS VEGAS 05 makes Barney’s seem clumsy and unimaginative or the type of contemporary "art" film that lives primarily on the festival circuit. Both Tsai Ming-liang and Barney have created interlinked cinematic works that spotlight masculinity, but Tsai’s delve into the psyche more acutely than Barney’s phallic drag routines. Tsai’s work is also superior in cinematic terms: Both the editing and the mise-en-scène in his films deliver comic punch lines and emotional sucker punches. At the moment, at least, those are two things that Barney just can’t buy. SFBG


Opens Fri/12

Bridge Theatre

3010 Geary, SF

(415) 267-4893



Behind the public machine


The sales pitch is "democracy," suggesting national autonomy and individual choice. But the reality here and abroad is free-market corptocracy, which delivers pretty much the opposite. Yet for all their control on government policy and civilian life, corporations largely remain invisible to those not directly involved with them.

So, corporate culture — and the face-lifted culture it exports for public consumption — may be this century’s Esperanto, a language everyone ought to speak but few have bothered to learn. Hoping to bridge that gap is CounterCorp, a new nonprofit that "seeks to document, reduce, and ultimately prevent the corrosive political, economic, and social effects that large corporations have in the United States and around the world."

Other Cinema is hosting a CounterCorp benefit. Programmed by Craig Baldwin, the "Public Image Ltd." program will dig deep into the variably kitschy, ominous, flag-waving, and wallet-depleting propaganda companies of prior eras visited on both consumers and their own employees.

Among the dusty nuggets you’ll glimpse are Avon’s 1960s "The Joy of Living with Fragrance," a groovy 1971 ride down Oscar Mayer’s "hot dog highway," and General Motors’ delirious 1956 "Design for Dreaming," in which a fantasizing housewife-ballerina pirouettes through a Technicolor orgy of luxury wheels, designer gowns, and kitchen superappliances. Then there’s the late-’70s "Caring Is Our Way," a Hilton Hotels recruitment reel wherein African American doormen and chauffeurs (including one "Bo" Jones, perhaps cousin to Mr. Bo Jangles) exalt the joy of bowing and scraping for those "beautiful people" who attend, say, plumbers’ conventions.

Providing a rare in-house flip side to that smiley-face message, Delco Products’ circa 1980 "What’s It All About?" is a guilt-tripping recession extravaganza set to nervous bongo music. Its depressed narrator chides "Somehow … we didn’t put it all together," laying heavy "J’accuse!"s on supposedly lazy-ass American workers for losing jobs and plants to them wily Japanese. That corporate strategy hasn’t changed: When shit hits the fan, a smart CEO still finds ways to blame those damn ingrates further down the ladder.


Sat/13, 8:30 p.m.

Artists’ Television Access

992 Valencia, SF

$5–$20 suggested donation



That’s amore


› cheryl@sfbg.com

There are some serious-minded films on the program of this year’s San Francisco Documentary Film Festival, like Cracked Not Broken, about a stockbroker turned crack addict, and The Chances of the World Changing, about one man’s crusade to save endangered turtles. But when there’s an option in life to sample something called Pizza! The Movie, there’s really no way around it. You have to go for the pie.

Director Michael Dorian is good-natured enough to include a clip from "the other" Pizza: The Movie a low-budget 2004 comedy about a lovelorn delivery dude in his doc; he’s also clever enough to wrap his film around the theme that pizza is, by nature, a competitive sport. Rivalries lurk in all aspects of the business. The simple question of whose pizza tastes the best is paramount; dozens of parlors, from New York to Los Angeles to an Ohio spot famed for its meat-laden "butcher shop" special, are visited, and many friendly opinions are shared. But other points of contention run deeper than Chicago-style crust, including which trade magazine can claim superiority (bad blood runs twixt upstart PMQ and old-school Pizza Today); mass-market (i.e., Pizza Hut) versus artisan-style pies; and who invented which new twist when, exemplified by a chef who claims he created all of California Pizza Kitchen’s original recipes.

So, clearly, the pizza industry attracts strong personalities. But the absolute highlight of Pizza! The Movie is the Bay Area’s own Tony Gemignani, a champion acrobatic pizza tosser whose skill with dough is as awe-inspiring as his deadly serious approach to his craft. Frankly, I can’t believe Ben Stiller or Will Ferrell hasn’t starred in a feature film based on this guy; the entire 90 minutes of Pizza! The Movie are worth watching just to see Tony’s take on The Matrix, complete with bullet-time dough-throwing. Good thing DocFest goes down in the Mission, where pizza is plentiful after the movie, there’s no way you won’t be in the mood for a slice.

Another DocFest film with a tempting title is Muskrat Lovely, Amy Nicholson’s affectionate study of a small-town Maryland beauty pageant. The specter of Corky St. Clair looms over the proceedings, which transpire during a festival with twin highlights: the crowning of Miss Outdoors, of course, and a muskrat-skinning contest. (In a tidy display of synergy, one of the pageant girls skins a muskrat as her talent.) The importance of glamour even when one is a teenager living in an isolated Chesapeake Bay community is addressed, as is the importance of removing the muskrat’s musk gland before you cook it.

A less triumphant tale unfolds in The Future of Pinball, local filmmaker Greg Maletic’s ironically titled work-in-progress doc about pinball’s painful decline. He focuses on a 1999 invention optimistically dubbed Pinball 2000, a wondrous machine dreamed up by the industry’s most talented (and increasingly desperate) pinball designers, a dedicated group whose job titles were made nearly extinct by the video game boom. Despite a groovy lounge music soundtrack, Pinball weaves a sad tale of creativity being stamped out by big business; also, as it turns out, the eventual fate of the Pinball 2000 happens to be one more thing we can blame on Jar Jar Binks.

The hour-long Pinball plays with Natasha Schull’s 30-minute ode to gluttony, Buffet: All You Can Eat Las Vegas. Drawn in by such gimmicks as the $2.99 shrimp cocktail, self-proclaimed buffet connoisseurs arrange incredible and unlikely food combinations on enormous plates; casino employees, used to dealing with gob-smacking amounts of consumption, ponder how a horseshoe-shaped restaurant really allows for "more flow." Meanwhile, Sin City pigs grunt on a farm outside town, eagerly awaiting the leftovers. After all, as the farmer’s wife points out, humans and pigs have nearly identical digestive tracts. SFBG


Fri/12–May 21

Roxie Film Center

3117 16th St., SF



Also Women’s Building

3543 18th St., SF



› kimberly@sfbg.com

SONIC REDUCER I used to think of myself as the ultimate freak magnet, fending off moist-haired gents with a fetish for girl bands. Damp palms. Foam bubbling at the corners of the mouth. Barely discernable vertigo spirals in their bloodshot eyes. Cute, huh?

But the Court and Spark have me beat. We were sitting around the high-ceilinged kitchen of their Alabama Street Station studio/flat and talking about making their new album, Hearts (Absolutely Kosher), when vocalist-guitarist MC Taylor and guitarist Scott Hirsch suddenly leapt to their feet and started pawing through a drawer by the stove. Drummer James Kim bolted down the hallway. Was it something I said or … ate?

No, they all simply hit on their most memorable piece of fan mail, which Kim pulled from his shadow files. "This is classic," Taylor said, forking the letter over. "This explains to you what the Court and Spark journey is all about."

The script on the wide-rule binder paper was large, loopy, and ever so shaky, and its author told of hearing a song from the band’s last EP, Dead Diamond River, then embarking on his own river of no return: "My life is rough. In May my mom died after having colon cancer surgery. I lost my dad months earlier to lymphoma. For 41 years I’ve been struggling since a child living with severe type 1 diabetes. Not having any health insurance is difficult. My yearly medical expenses are now over $5,000, not including doctor and lab costs. I do without. I hope you will seriously consider sending me a promo copy of your new amazing CD to brighten my life at this difficult time." The missive closed with a San Jose address and came with a checklist of meds.

Of course, the soft hearts of C and S sent the letter-writer the disc and never heard from their diabetic sad case in the South Bay again.

Score one crazy diamond for C and S, but what’s the attraction? Are the crazies seeking the healing qualities in the band’s shimmering Cali rock ’n’ soul? Are they looking to levitate alongside the group’s increasingly psychedelic yet still hard-to-quantify sound. Am I asking the wrong people? Not for nothing did Taylor first consider titling the new album I Want to Be a Gallant Rider Like My Father Was before Me, after a line in Werner Herzog’s The Enigma of Kasper Hauser. Like Herzog, C and S seem to draw, or be drawn to, those blurry border towns between Insanity, Texas, and Epiphany, Mexico.

Despite Hirsch’s disbelief that their audience actually comes to see them perform rather than the other bands on their bills, C and S are 50 times more comfortable in their collective skin than the first time I spoke to them, around 2002, shortly after the release of their lovely 2001 second album, Bless You.

"We’ve always been the lone wolves out there," Taylor ponders. "But we’ve also played on every kind of possible bill you can possibly imagine, and on good nights, actually, we’ve been able to make it work. We’ve played with everyone from Devendra to Bob Weir."

It’s at home, however, that the onetime UC Santa Barbara students found a sense of freedom last year, tinkering with Hearts to their hearts’ content, experimenting with instruments like harp and hammered dulcimer, and falling in love with Farfisa organ and throwing it, along with a wah pedal, over everything all while also working on Michael Talbott and the Wolfkings’ new album and the beginnings of Willow Willow’s record. They’d rent, say, a really good, $10,000 mic and then cram everyone into their space to share costs. "We’d wake up earlier than anybody else, since we lived here, and we’d set up and drink coffee and do it," says Hirsch, who also teaches recording at Bay Area Video Coalition.

It may sound too pat for these courtly Mission dwellers, but it looks like they got out of their musical comfort zone by digging deeper into their literal one. "It’s like that Steely Dan quote, ‘We used to spend five months just trying to figure out what chair we were going to sit in in the studio,’" Hirsch says with a laugh. "That’s the kind of freedom that we like and that we found for ourselves and that maybe they had too, because they would also record a million things and pick just one thing from that. That’s why their records sound so good, I guess." SFBG

Court and Spark

With Jason Molina, Black Fiction, and the Finches

Fri/12, 9 p.m.

Great American Music Hall

859 O’Farrell, SF


(415) 885-0750

Into the ether


› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com

CHEAP EATS My first two girlfriends were boys. My next three were girls. My wife was a crustacean, and it’s hard to tell with crustaceans. Crawdad and I have been divorced now for closer to two years than one, and I’m starting to get to be about ready to squeeze someone, maybe. Question is: procedure. I’m in a funny position, and I talk about it, and my friends say, "Online dating. Online dating."

In the world, there are not a lot of people lining up to date chicken farmers of ambiguous gender and weirdo ways. There are some people, but not a lot of people. There are five people. And probably in general they are not hanging out at my new favorite restaurant, or haunting Bay Area scrap yards and baseball fields. No, they’re at home in front of their computers, online, looking for love. Cool. Because while the world is beautiful, exciting, fun, unpredictable, unimaginably immense, and inspiringly odd, the Internet allows you to type in exactly what you’re looking for.


Of course, the big huge question on everyone’s mind right now, online and off, is: Well? But which kind is the Chicken Farmer going to go for? M. Male, I think, probably, this time. But it’s been a while, and I’m scared. So a man with a small penis. And a sense of humor. And, since I may as well shoot myself in the other foot too while I’m at it, a 1990 Ford F-150 pickup truck, lime green. Oh, and an open mind.

I see the wisdom in online dating. I do. You can’t pack all this information into the creases on your forehead, or what color shirt you wear, or the world’s best pickup line. Even if you manage a long conversation, there are some things you’re not going to be able to say unless you drink a real lot, and then you run the risk of not being understood or, worse, wetting your pants.

In print you can be very clear. You can be sober. You can know exactly who you are and exactly what you want, and, in exact American English, you can spell it out: "B W MTF TG CF seeks M w/SP (or F w/SSOD) for F, F, and maybe F. No V!" … where V = vegetarians.

This column will appear on the World Wide Web along with a valid e-mail address that I will no doubt have to change soon due to a deluge of four or five offers. There. I am officially online dating. But I still don’t have a cell phone. Does this make me eccentric?

(Oh, btw, F = fried.)

How about if I start hanging out all the time at Café International, my new favorite coffeehouse in my new favorite neighborhood, the Lower Haight? I went there on Saturday afternoon to see my new favorite band, the Mercury Dimes. Earl Butter (of my new favorite band, the Buckets), was with me, and we ran into Mike and Tom from my new favorite band, the Shut-Ins. What a place!

Earl ordered a Turkish coffee, and the Chicken Farmer ordered a chicken turnover with salad. The Mercury Dimes were taking a break. Then they started to play again, and they were my new favorite band. Old-time music. Two fiddles, banjo, guitar, bass, no mics. And when they sing, they just all belt it out together.

I’m not a music reviewer, but the chicken turnover was great. It was perfectly turned over, and the salad had grapes on top of it, and olives with the pits still in them, and all kinds of other stuff. Nice, big salad. I forget what it costed. Probably exactly what you’d expect it to cost. Otherwise: sandwiches, bagels, soup, Middle Eastern things, a Cuban thing, um, international things. Eclectic, good, friendly, artsy. Reminds me of the Mission District’s beloved Atlas Café (only friendlier) and not necessarily because that’s where I’ve usually seen the Mercury Dimes. The layout’s very similar, counter to your left, music all the way back. Then beyond that there’s an outdoor patio.

And lots of very beautiful, cool-looking, real live people hang out there, just like at the Atlas, having coffee, reading newspapers, and thinking about sex or sports, probably for all I know wondering where their next eggs are going to come from. But what’s a chicken farmer supposed to do? Talk to them?

No lie. This is the truth: I have laryngitis right now, but I’ll be back. Meanwhile, imagine me on a gorgeous day like today, in front of my computer, eating lemons and drinking tea. SFBG

Café International.

Sat.–Thurs., 8 a.m.–9 p.m.; Fri., 8 a.m.–midnight

508 Haight, SF

(415) 552-7390.

Takeout and delivery available

Beer and wine

Credit cards not accepted


Wheelchair accessible

The gadget diarist



As a confirmed gadgeteer, I naturally feel a pang of genuine sorrow and sometimes real inconvenience when a kitchen gadget expires. Most such instruments die lingering rather than sudden deaths, of course; they become inefficient or unwieldy or caked with gunk. Or, as in the case of the fancy, French-made digital scale I acquired midway through the Clinton years, a naughty deus enters the machina, causing it to give jittery and therefore useless data. This is the mechanical equivalent of dementia, uncorrectable by a fresh battery, and so the device now sits on a remote stretch of counter, daring me to throw it away.

My little spice mill, on the other hand, died unexpectedly earlier in this winter of cold rain and mortality. It was born as a Braun coffee mill, one of those upright cylinders whose top you press down to make the blade whir, and it served without complaint through two decades of grinding fennel seeds, whole dried Anaheim chiles, and countless teaspoons of cumin and coriander. Later it was joined by a Bosch cylinder I reserved for the grinding of nuts. And then, one day, around Valentine’s Day, I cleaned the Braun, pushed the top and nothing happened. I couldn’t even turn the blade manually. So now it too sits there like a dead tooth, daring me to take action.

There is no ready substitute I am aware of for a kitchen scale gone haywire, but when an electric spice grinder fails, there are "work-arounds," if I may briefly borrow a Rummyism. There is the mortar and pestle, of which I was astounded to discover we had two examples: a small one, acquired a few years ago to pulverize the dog’s pills, and a larger edition, brought back last year from Vietnam by the neighbors as a gift. I’d set the latter on the counter as a display item, only to discover, in a pinch, that it is not just handsome but does a good job, is good exercise, uses no electricity, and short of some unimaginable catastrophe cannot break. This is basically the catalog of virtues of the ideal cook’s tool. Also, the mortar and pestle, while not silent, makes no noise to compare with the nerve-<\h>shattering whine of the Braun an important consideration for the gadgeteer who prefers that gadgets be seen, and used, but not heard.

City on a hill


› paulr@sfbg.com

It is noteworthy, though seldom noted, that Rome’s claim to be the capital of Christianity is, you know, a little … odd. All the Passover and Easter drama the donkey and the palm fronds, the Last Supper, the betrayal by a kiss in moonlit Gethsemane, the crucifixion, the rock mysteriously rolled away from the mouth of the tomb was supposed to have taken place in, or near, Jerusalem, after all. Why, then, do we not find the pope there, waving to the crowds from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre? One obvious part of the answer is, of course, that Rome, not Jerusalem, was the seat of the Caesars, whose honorific title, pontifex maximus, was appropriated by their successors in imperial interest, the popes (hence pontiff). Another might be that Jerusalem is a contested city, the symbolic heart of a triad of related monotheisms whose fierce and often violent competitions carry some of the sharp flavor of sibling rivalry.

When you take a seat at little Old Jerusalem Restaurant, which opened earlier this winter on an as yet unyuppified stretch of Mission, your eye is ineluctably drawn to the mural of the Old City that fills most of the restaurant’s long north wall. Yes, you think, the city on a hill, bundled within its 16th-century Ottoman walls, really is that color, a pale gold with just a slight suggestion of rose. And: Yes, there is the gilded Dome of the Rock, conspicuous in its looming centrality, at least in the mural. Jerusalem is many Jerusalems: It is the place from which Mohammed is said to have ascended to the heavens as well as the home of the Western Wall and of the pit where St. Helena claimed to have found pieces of the True Cross.

Fortunately, everyone likes falafel, the hamburger of the Middle East and the lingua franca of Palestine, a torn land desperately in need of shared joys and pleasures. You can buy falafel from street (or lane) carts all through the Old City, but if you happen to be here instead, you’ll find that Old Jerusalem’s version is pretty good, consisting of golf ballsize spheres of ground, seasoned chickpeas that are a deep, crusty bronze outside and pasty green within and just 39¢ each if you can stand your falafel naked. (A sandwich edition, with pita bread and condiments, is $4.99.) Naked falafel balls are actually a little harsh for my taste, a little dry in the mouth, but luckily the menu, while fairly brief, is rich in saucy and spreadable things that can be discreetly spooned around, whether the tahini-lemon dressing of a Jerusalem salad ($3.49) of quartered tomatoes and cucumber chunks, or the fabulous hummus that turns up as an accompaniment to many of the larger plates.

These are of variable appeal, with dryness being an intermittent issue. The best are quite fine and memorable, and in this category I would certainly put the chicken shawerma ($9.99), chunks of tender, boneless meat slow-roasted on one of those vertical spits to help retain moisture. Not far off the pace is shish taouk ($9.99), more boneless chicken chunks, grilled this time on skewers and not quite as tender or moist, though still tasty and with an appealing hint of char. For purposes of skewer grilling, the red meats hold up better, and Old Jerusalem offers both beef and lamb versions of shish kebab. The peripatetic appetite may well be most interested in the combination plate ($11.99), which offers an ensemble of skewer-grilled chicken, lamb, and beef, along with a length of grilled kifta, a kind of cilantro sausage very tasty, but parched, we found, and in need of a sauce. (The restaurant filled with smoke shortly before this platter was presented to us. We could have been witnessing a magic act at the circus.)

So meat is hit-or-miss, but it is probably for the best that the rest of the world isn’t quite as meat-involved as we are. When we move into the field of legumes which are cheaper and healthier than meat and, in the view of many of us, tastier and more interesting too Old Jerusalem reliably shines. There is the fine hummus. There is also a chickpea stew called fata ($4.99), a mix of whole and puréed chickpeas mixed with tahini sauce and spooned over torn chunks of pita bread. And there is qodsiah ($4.99), an addictive mix of hummus and foul, a similarly seasoned, rust-colored paste made from (presumably dried) fava beans. All are eminently scoopable with pita bread (baskets of which, still warm from the oven, are continually refreshed) and highly compatible with the plate of dill pickles and olives that is presented shortly after the menus.

The restaurant’s signature dish takes the improbable form of a dessert. It is kunafa "shredded wheat in goat cheese baked in syrup," says the menu card. Sounds dreadful as described, but it turns out to be a svelte square, jellyish red-orange on top, with a base layer of cheese. We took a pair of skeptical first bites but were soon won over by the mix of sour, fruit-sweet, and creamy, with a faint echo of crunch. You can get a single square for $4, and that’s plenty for two people (it’s rich), but the kunafa is also issued in larger denominations: A full sheet is $60, and there are half- and quarter-sheets available too: a triad, or trinity, of choices. SFBG

Old Jerusalem Restaurant

Daily, 11 a.m.–10 p.m.

2976 Mission, SF

(415) 642-5958

No alcohol


Moderately noisy

Wheelchair accessible

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May 10–16


March 21-April 19

Aries, you’re either foolishly impulsive or nobly courageous we can’t see beyond the wild blur of energy that is you. We beg of you to quit being such a spaz; this manic high won’t last forever. Put it to good use, and don’t leave yourself a mess to clean up after you crash.


April 20-May 20

It’s hard for a person who finds inspiration all over town to stay rooted in a single project, Taurus. We get it. But you’ve got to narrow your scope, lest you risk earning the "jack of all trades, master of none" mantle. Which goals are most important? Prioritize them.


May 21-June 21

Gemini, if your week were a psychological affliction, it would be a large-scale panic or anxiety attack. Not to trigger one or anything. Your time is best spent keeping your head above water and differentiating between actual reality and your anxious, fear-based phony reality.


June 22-July 22

Even though things are working out quite nicely in the real world, Cancer. You’re tuned into some inner world that broadcasts a 24-7 marathon of fears about not having enough and reasons why you’ll always have to struggle. It’s pretty grim, friend. Investigate the demons that pop up when your life is going well.


July 23-Aug. 22

Situations may arise that make you feel so frustrated you want to tear that famous Leo mane from your head. You may feel so thwarted by circumstances, or other people, or other people’s circumstances, that you’ll want to put yourself in permanent exile from humanity. Instead, extend yourself as a diplomat! Seriously.


Aug. 23-Sept. 22

Virgo, you can trust that you’ve got a very good handle on what’s going on in your life, from a cerebral point of view. You could draw up the graphs and the charts and the topographical maps, and they’d all be spot-on. Now what you need to do is cultivate a more emotional presence in your own world.


Sept. 23-Oct. 22

Libra, you’re overwhelmed. We’re sorry life has been so hard on you gentle flowers. Things just aren’t moving in the direction you want them to be moving in, and all the pressure is inhibiting your precious creativity. But believe it or not, you’re okay. You’re even capable of staying emotionally present. Just try it.


Oct. 23-Nov. 21

Maybe you’re involved in a relationship that’s stunting your personal will, Scorpio, and you’re acting out. Or maybe nobody is oppressing you at all shit just isn’t going the way you want it to go, and you’re acting out. Either way, you’re acting out. Quit being such a baby.


Nov. 22-Dec. 21

Sag, you’ve got to carve a little downtime out of your chronically busy life and engage in some good old-fashioned soul-searching. You know, some reflection and introspection. A nonjudgmental self-evaluation is called for. You need a breather so you can take a look around and see where you’re at.


Dec. 22-Jan. 19

Capricorn, you’re going to be really happy to hear that your job this week is to assert some fucking boundaries. You love boundaries! No one loves ’em more than you. And it is oh so obvious where the boundaries need to go, so it’ll be easy as pie for you to start flinging them up.


Jan. 20-Feb. 18

Once we saw Jude Law in person, Aquarius. And he was glowing with the otherworldly glow that comes from a celebrity (and having access to really incredible skin care products). You are like the Jude Law of the zodiac this week, only not an infidel. The universe is poised to give you whatever you want.


Feb. 19-March 20

Well, Pisces, your week is full of destruction and mayhem, but, believe it or not, it is positive destruction and mayhem. Like, all this tired old shit that was plaguing you is being destroyed, and a lot of fools won’t know what to do about it. You’re moving into uncharted territory, and we are proud of your bravery. SFBG

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Let’s get neutral

› openist@techsploitation.com

TECHSPLOITATION There’s been a lot of hysteria on the Internet lately over something called "network neutrality," and you can blame it partly on AT&T chair Edward E. Whitacre Jr. Whitacre, whose company’s recent merger with SBC Communications makes it one of the biggest owners of telecommunications cables in the country, got all huffy late last year about sharing AT&T’s precious wires with any old Internet service provider who felt like sending packets. "For a Google or a Yahoo or a Vonage or anybody to expect to use these pipes for free is nuts!” he told a Business Week reporter in one of those classic "will somebody please tell our chair to shut up" moments.

However crudely put, Whitacre gave voice to a sentiment that’s becoming common among execs of companies like AT&T, Comcast, BellSouth, and others that provide the actual physical wires (often called "pipes") that bring us the shiny Web. Because companies like Google take up a lot of space on AT&T’s wires, AT&T wants to get paid extra to handle that. Think how much more cash it could be making if Google paid for the privilege of offering faster searches over AT&T. That’s exactly the way Whitacre and his ilk see it.

The problem with this moneymaking idea is that the architects of the Internet and industry regulators at the FCC are enamored of something they call the network neutrality principle. Although never written into US law, this principle holds that nobody’s Internet traffic should be privileged over anybody else’s to do so would be like letting an electricity company cut a deal with GE so that only GE appliances got good current. As it turns out, the neutral network provides an excellent platform for business models that cluster at the ends of the wires: Everything from Google and eBay to ISPs and music-downloading companies are based on the idea that money is made by shooting good stuff over the wires, not by making some wires better at getting good stuff.

Underlying network neutrality is the idea that people should be allowed to attach whatever they like to the ends of the Internet’s wires and they should be able to do it without significant hindrances, like paying steep access fees to AT&T to get their businesses online. Neutrality is why we routinely get cool new "end" innovations like virtual reality world Second Life or smart phones that connect to the Internet. As both Internet protocol inventor Vint Cerf and former FCC chair Michael Powell have argued, these kinds of new worlds and widgets are only possible because the wires are neutral and their ends are open.

What would a world without network neutrality be like? The worst possibility is that companies like AT&T would create "prejudiced pipes" that push paying customers’ traffic along more quickly than nonpaying customers’. If indie bookstore Powell’s wasn’t able to pay AT&T’s fees, its online store might load far more slowly than Amazon’s if it even loaded at all. Some companies might force music and movie companies to pay extra to make their downloads work, thus preventing anyone but the major labels and studios from making their wares available online. Ultimately, consumers would have less choice online, and small "end" start-ups would be at a great disadvantage when they put their stuff online. If established players like the New York Times can pay the prejudiced-pipe owners for quicker load times, who will bother to read slow-moving blogs?

Many fear that this scenario may come to pass rather soon, because Congress is in the yearlong process of trying to replace the Telecommunications Act of 1996 with an updated legislation package. Several potential drafts have included language that would enshrine the principles of network neutrality in law. Proponents of this move, whom superwonk law professor Timothy Wu has dubbed "openists," say that mandating network neutrality will lead to greater innovation and consumer choice. Meanwhile, deregulationists like the AT&Ts of the world are pushing Congress to keep neutrality out of the law so they can build prejudiced pipes and start charging Google to use ’em.

If the deregulationists succeed, power over the Internet will be centralized among the companies that own the wires, and everyone but the big corporations will lose. We may be about to witness the end of the ends. SFBG

Annalee Newitz is a surly media nerd who prefers to stay neutral.

Pusher girl


› andrea@altsexcolumn.com

Dear Andrea:

I’m a girl. I take Zoloft. It lowers my sex drive, and when I do get horny it takes forever to come. I want to experiment with Viagra. My friend is afraid it might be dangerous. I say, "If Andrea N. and Violet Blue have tried it, I can too!" Who’s right?

Not Scared!

Dear Not:
I did take it, and would happily take it again. My friend Violet Blue did take it and promised me she’d write a response for you, but has she? She has not! We’ll just have to go ahead without her, won’t we?

Viagra has been extensively tested only on men, and the small studies using women have not been encouraging, so we have little to go on here except anecdata and some common sense. If boy parts and girl parts are that similar, and both types require blood flow and lots of it in order to do their thing, why shouldn’t Viagra and similar drugs work for women too? Anecdotal answer: They do, at least if you’re moderately sexually functional to begin with. Neither my now husband nor I was looking to the drug to bring us back from the dead, as it were, and for neither of us did it serve to speed anything up, just so you know. It did increase arousal, both in the purely physical sense that there was more blood and more ech, this word is never going to sound sexy to me engorgement, and also, probably, in that it’s just kind of titilutf8g to procure and take a drug to have hot sex. The latter phenomenon is not to be discounted.

Any drug might be dangerous, some more than others. Sildenafil citrate and its cousins seem remarkably safe, although the initially tiny number of deaths associated with the drugs has, inevitably, crept up over the years they’ve been in common use. The first wave of deaths was made up almost entirely of sick but optimistic old men overdoing it and either dropping dead on the spot or being given nitroglycerin when they showed up in the ER clutching their hearts. The next deaths to make a splash were among much younger men of the party-animal persuasion, who consumed mass amounts of some unholy cocktail of Viagra, nitrous, poppers, and/or crank. Don’t do that. There have also been some deaths, recognized more recently, among apparently healthier, less reckless men, who simply dropped dead. This turned out to be due to the drug’s unexpected effect on blood platelet clumping and is not likely to affect men without atherosclerosis or similar heart disease. Notice I say "men" because we have, as far as I know, no data on Viagra deaths among women at all.

So should you take it? Not for me to say. Should you fear it? As long as you have no heart disease or any of the other conditions for which it is contraindicated, I’d say no. It’s not 100 percent safe but it’s safer than almost any drug you will ever choose or be ordered to take, and it might allow you to come while still on your antidepressants. What do you think?


Dear Andrea:
I’ve been divorced nearly 15 years. It was a very happy marriage except for my sudden inability to "perform," back in the pre-Viagra days. We were too embarrassed to seek any help. These days, there are chemical remedies for my marriage-killer. I’ve avoided dating since, probably because of fears of again disappointing a partner. I did get a trial prescription for Viagra and was able to achieve a measure of firmness. I have yet to attempt any intimacies for fear that my psychological problems might override any benefit provided by modern chemistry.

Scared Scripless

Dear Scrip:
Oh dear. I can’t help but cheer the arrival of the Sex Drug Era and wish you’d run into your problem a decade or two later than you did. Of course you did yourselves no favors refusing to seek help even then, since there were remedies available, just trickier and less palatable ones, like sticking yourself in the dick with a needleful of Papaverine. Not nice, but it did work. Still does.

You don’t sound so terribly damaged to me, but the association you’ve learned to make (loss of erection equals loss of love) could be a hard one for anyone to shake. I’d think some short-term cognitive behavioral therapy plus a nice fat scrip for Viagra would fix you right up, but you’ll have to believe in it. Neither one works if you insist on seeing yourself as too broken to be worth fixing.

There are legions of single women your age out there, most of them bemoaning the lack of decent men worth dating. Get shined up a little and prove them wrong.


Andrea Nemerson has spent the last 14 years as a sex educator and an instructor of sex educators. In her former life, she was a prop designer. Visit www.altsexcolumn.com to view her previous columns.

SFPUC: Get on the stick


EDITORIAL The goal of San Francisco’s energy policy ought to be to remove all private interests from the generation, distribution, and sale of electric power, and the fastest way to get there is to condemn, buy out, and municipalize Pacific Gas and Electric Co.’s local grid. But community-choice aggregation a system under which the city acts as the equivalent of a buyer’s cooperative and purchases power in bulk to resell at a discount to consumers is a good first step.

Even Mayor Gavin Newsom seems to realize that. Under pressure from CCA advocates, including Sup. Tom Ammiano, Newsom has earmarked $5 million in his next budget to begin implementing an aggregation system that the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO), under chair Ross Mirkarimi, has been putting together.

Now it seems the last roadblock is the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, whose members suddenly and unexpectedly had issues with the budget allocation when it came up a couple of weeks ago. They wanted more information. They wanted to hold hearings. We understand their concerns CCA is complex and important, and it has to be done right.

But the SFPUC should have been the lead agency pushing for public power years ago. The commissioners should have been holding hearings long ago on the high costs of PG&E power, on the city’s legal mandate to run a public-power system, and on the value of CCA. They should have been pushing the mayor to allocate a few million dollars for a full public power feasibility study and pushed for this CCA allocation as part of their regular budget discussions.

Instead, it’s been up to the supervisors to analyze, promote, and advocate for the program, and it’s been Ammiano, Mirkarimi, and the LAFCO people who have done most of the work.

It’s really annoying that the mayor is willing to put up $5 million for CCA when advocates have had to fight tooth and nail for a few hundred thousand dollars for a municipalization study. But it’s the first time in decades that any mayor has done anything but stand in the way of anything that looked even a tiny bit like public power, so it’s a historic moment (of sorts). The SFPUC needs to actively support this project and begin talking about the next step how to get rid of PG&E for good. SFBG

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I was in upstate New York last weekend, flying low over farmlands and old industrial cities in one of those bumpy little "commuter" planes, then driving through small towns in areas that, I’ll say politely, have seen better economic days. And yet, everywhere I went, a landmark stood out: From the air and from the ground, the public schools seemed universally spacious and well maintained. They had nice baseball and football fields, all-weather tracks, and new playground equipment. I didn’t go inside, but I can tell you nonetheless that the schools in most of New York are way better than the schools in most of California.

And there’s a good reason for that.

My brother owns a house in Putnam Valley, a small town about two hours north of New York City. He bought it 15 years ago, for about $105,000, and while it has increased in value, it’s still assessed at way less than half of what I paid for my house in San Francisco. And yet he pays more property taxes than I do.

He’s a contractor, a small-business person, subject to the volatile whims of the home-building industry, and he’s trying to support two kids and save money for their college fund. He pays $5,000 a year in school taxes alone, and it’s a real burden.

But for that money, he gets to send his kids to public schools that are better than most $25,000-a-year private schools. He considers it a bargain.

In New York they spend about twice as much per student as we do in California. That money has to come from somewhere, and a lot of it comes from property taxes. This isn’t rocket science even people educated in California should be able to figure it out: You want good schools, you have to pay for them.

Then I came back and met with Steve Westly, the state controller and the front-runner for the Democratic nomination for governor. Westly loves to talk about education but he’s not even willing to commit to seeking changes in Proposition 13 that would allow for higher property taxes on commercial buildings to pay for the schools.

It’s this air of unreality we have in California. For 28 years, since the "tax revolt" movement was born in this state, politicians have pandered to the selfish among the voters (and that’s most of them, it seems) by saying they can have it all for free. We’ve been promised a beautiful state with lots of parkland, top-rate public schools and colleges, massive spending on cops and prisons, stable union jobs for public employees, abundant water for thriving agriculture, extensive resources to meet urban problems … and low taxes for all.

Let’s party.

Westly’s Democratic opponent, Phil Angelides, is at least honest: He promises the same sorts of things Westly does, but he admits that somebody will have to pay for them. He’s focusing on the wealthy, which is the right idea this is a rich state, and the millionaires have done quite well the past few years. But the rest of us will get hit a bit too, and I hate to say it, but we should.

Because the teachers don’t have to be underpaid, the roads don’t have to be crumbling, the parks don’t have to be overcrowded, the hospitals don’t need to be teetering on the edge of collapse. We can have high-speed rail to LA.

Taxes are a small sacrifice for the public good. My parents’ generation seemed to get that. California’s baby boomers apparently don’t. SFBG

A few questions for the publishers


OPINION The MediaNews Group, which proposes to buy the San Jose Mercury News, the Contra Costa Times, the Monterey Herald, and 30 Bay Area weekly newspapers, is paying a 20 percent premium over the price McClatchy paid Knight-Ridder for those same publications less than two months ago. Antitrust regulators in the US Justice Department, who must decide whether to go to court to try to block the transaction, will want to know why.

There are two possible explanations. One is that MediaNews, which already owns or controls eight daily and three weekly newspapers in the Bay Area, thinks the deal will yield economies of scale, allowing it to operate its newly acquired properties more efficiently than Knight-Ridder was able to. Another explanation is that MediaNews’s dominance of a restructured market will enable it to raise advertising rates.

From the standpoint of antitrust, the first reason is completely benign. Antitrust regulators will be very concerned, however, if they suspect the second explanation: that MediaNews paid a premium because its competitive position in the Bay Area newspaper market where its circulation will rise from approximately 290,000 predeal to more than 800,000 postdeal will permit it to raise rates.

MediaNews’s share of the Bay Area daily newspaper market will be somewhere north of 65 percent if the McClatchy sale goes through as planned. While that is a high degree of market concentration and almost certainly would have drawn a challenge from the Justice Department 20 years ago it is likely to be seen today as inconclusive.

Why? Because these newspapers compete not only with each other but also with Craigslist, eBay, Yahoo!, Google, and numerous other Internet-based businesses (not to mention television and radio) offering help-wanted ads and real estate and auto listings, as well as display advertising.

But another aspect of the McClatchy-MediaNews deal is not so easily dismissed. I’m referring to the role of Hearst, owner of the San Francisco Chronicle, which will be MediaNews’s primary competitor in the Bay Area.

As part of the deal, Hearst will also become a MediaNews investor and partner. The questions the regulators will ask are these: Why Hearst of all possible investors? If Hearst’s only function is to be a source of investment capital for a deal between McClatchy and MediaNews, why not use other investors whose participation would raise no competitive issues at all? Why use the one company that has the resources and incentive to object to the deal and whose participation creates at least the risk of a lessening of competition?

Whatever the answer, the public is entitled to have the Justice Department or Federal Trade Commission hear it and make its own judgment. Although filings with Justice in such "pre-merger reviews" are generally confidential, let’s hope that McClatchy, MediaNews, and Hearst, which are all in the business of making information public, will elect to tell their readers what they’re telling government regulators. SFBG

Peter Scheer

Peter Scheer, a lawyer and journalist, is executive director of the California First Amendment Coalition.