Volume 40 Number 33

May 17 – May 23, 2006

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Next: Shut down Mirant


EDITORIAL It’s taken years, even decades of fighting, but the noxious, deadly Hunters Point power plant finally shut down this month. After a string of lies and broken promises, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. bowed to community pressure and pulled the switch May 15, stopping the flow of asthma-causing pollution from the ancient smokestacks and immediately offering cleaner air to a neighborhood that has been plagued by respiratory illness.

It was huge victory for groups like Greenaction, which has been pushing for a shutdown, and community leaders like Marie Harrison, who helped keep the plant on the political agenda. The deal they finally forced on PG&E: The company had to agree that as soon as state regulators agreed that San Francisco had adequate electricity sources without the plant, it would be closed.

And now it’s time to use the momentum to go after the other pollution-spewing power plant in the southeast Mirant Corp.’s Bayside behemoth. The Mirant plant not only spews pollution into the air, but it also causes extensive environmental damage to the bay. According to Communities for a Better Environment, the Mirant plant uses 226 million gallons of bay water every day for cooling. The water is sucked in, circulated to cool the turbines, and then discharged. The process stirs up sediments at the bottom of the bay that are laced with toxic mercury, dioxin, copper, and PCBs and then those sediments are drawn into the plant, whirled around, heated up, and sent back out into the bay, where they contaminate fish and generally wreak environmental havoc.

The old-fashioned cooling system doesn’t meet modern environmental standards, but Mirant wants to keep using it. There are alternatives including so-called dry cooling, which uses little water but the company doesn’t want to pay to retrofit the plant. Instead, Mirant has applied for an extension of its existing permit from the Regional Water Quality Control Board.

City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed an opposition brief, and a decision is pending. The water board should deny the permit and force Mirant to either abide by modern standards or close the place down.

In fact, that ought to be the endgame anyway: Mirant has never committed to shutting down the plant, even if it becomes unnecessary as a local power source. The Board of Supervisors should pass a resolution establishing as city policy the need to close the facility, and should demand that Mirant agree to a schedule to turn off its fossil-fuel power generation program as soon as the city can replace the energy with renewables.

This is exactly the sort of decision a public power agency could and would make and Mirant’s intransigence is another sound reason for San Francisco to proceed at full speed with plans to implement a full-scale public power system, in which elected officials, not private corporations, control the city’s energy mix. SFBG

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› tredmond@sfbg.com

I was sitting peacefully at home, watching the final episode of The West Wing, which my partner describes as "liberal porn," when Steve Westly drew first blood in the governor’s race.

We all knew there’d be some negative ads before this was over, and frankly, all the hand-wringing about the evil of negative campaigning has never really appealed to me: Politicians have been launching vicious, often slanderous attacks on their opponents since the dawn of democracy. But this one made me furious.

The simple story is that Westly borrowing a chapter from the Book of Rove is assailing Phil Angelides for wanting to tax the rich. And he’s doing it in the most misleading, unprincipled, and utterly disgraceful way.

The ad features what seems like a crushing list of new taxes that Angelides wants to impose $10 billion worth, Westly’s hit squad claims. Then it winds up with a smarmy tagline: "With high gas prices, housing and health care costs, can working families afford Phil Angelides’s tax plan?"

Of course, Westly had pledged some time ago not to be the first candidate to attack the other by name, but what the hell: The election’s coming up, the race seems to be narrowing, and this guy will do whatever’s necessary to win.

But more than that, with this ad Westly is promoting the exact mentality that has damaged public education, health care, environmental protection, infrastructure needs, and so much else of what used to be the California dream. Republicans love to hit Democrats on taxes, and we’ll see plenty of that in the fall, no matter who’s the nominee. And for Westly to start the "no new taxes" cry just leaves the Democrats politically crippled.

For the record, Angelides is right: The state needs more tax revenue. And under his proposal, most of it would come not from "working families" who are worried about their gas bills but from people like, well, Steve Westly and Phil Angelides millionaires. His proposed income tax increase only affects households with more than $500,000 in income. Sorry: You’re in that range, you can afford it.

So Mr. Westly: Stop with the antitax lies. This shit makes me sick.

On to the good news.

I get the feeling, from over here in San Francisco, that there’s a real change afoot in East Bay politics. For the past few years, a not-so-loose cadre made up of state senator Don Perata, Mayor Jerry Brown, and Councilmember Ignacio De La Fuente has been consolidating power in Oakland, calling the political shots and giving developers a blank check. Two of the three have real, ahem, ethical issues, and one’s itching to leave town for Sacramento, but so far, nobody’s been able to truly challenge them.

Until Ron Dellums.

Now, I know that Dellums has been out of Oakland for years, that he’s a DC lobbyist, and I’ve heard the rap that he’s long on rhetoric and short on urban policy ideas. But we met him last week, and I can tell you that, at 71, he’s still one of the most energetic and inspirational speakers around, and if he’s elected mayor, he will, by force of personality and national stature, instantly become a center of power that’s distinct from (and will often be in opposition to) the Perata<\d>De La Fuente bloc. SFBG

The Delegate Zero factor



MEXICO CITY — The Marcos Factor has unexpectedly become a wild card in Mexico’s closely fought July 2nd presidential election. 
While out of earshot plying the back roads of provincial Mexico with his "Other Campaign," an anti-electoral crusade designed to weld underclass struggle groups into a new left alliance, the ski-masked Zapatista rebel mouthpiece once known as Subcomandante Marcos, now doing business as Delegate Zero, stayed aloof from the electoral mainstream, although he attacked it relentlessly. But Marcos’s arrival in the capital at the end of April has propelled him back into the national spotlight with less than 50 days to go until Election Day.
Poll results are brazenly for sale in the run up to Mexican elections and all are equally untrustworthy.  For almost 30 months, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO), the former Mexico City mayor and candidate of the leftish Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) led the preferences, sometimes by as much as 18 points. 
But by April, under an unanswered barrage of attack commercials labeling him a danger to the nation in big block letters across the television screen, AMLO’s lead had frittered away into a virtual tie with rightwing National Action Party candidate Felipe Calderon. Polls paid for by the PAN even give Calderon a ten-point advantage.  On the other hand, Mitofsky Associates, contracted to produce monthly polls by the television giant Televisa, which tilts towards Calderon, gives the PANista just a one point edge with a two-point margin of error.  All pollsters have the once-ruling (71 years) Institutional Revolutionary Party’s Roberto Madrazo running a distant third with 23-28%of voter preferences.
AMLO’s diminished numbers were further complicated by Marcos’s arrival in the capitol.  Delegate Zero has blasted the PRD and its candidate unceasingly in stump speech after stump speech across much of Mexico for the past five months.  Although the Other Campaign focuses on the deficiencies of the electoral process and the political parties to meet the needs of the people, Marcos always reserves special invective for Lopez Obrador and the PRD — the Other Campaign is, after all, a battle for the hearts and minds of the Mexican left. 
But perhaps the cruelest blow that Delegate Zero has yet struck against his rival on the left came when he declared under the heat of national TV cameras that Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador would be the winner of the July 2nd election.  Marcos’s "endorsement" is seen in some quarters as being akin to Osama Bin Laden’s 2004 U.S. election eve TV appearance that frightened millions of voters into re-electing George Bush.
In truth, Marcos’s appearance in Mexico City at the end of April generated little press interest and numbers at marches and rallies were embarrassingly small.  But two days of bloody fighting between farmers affiliated with the Other Campaign and state and federal security forces at San Salvador Atenco just outside the capitol, which resulted in hundreds of arrests, rampant violations of human rights, the rape of women prisoners, and the most stomach-wrenching footage of police brutality ever shown on Mexican television, put Marcos back in the media spotlight. 
Leading marches in defense of the imprisoned farmers and vowing to encamp in Mexico City until they are released, Delegate Zero broke a five-year self-imposed ban on interviews with the commercial media (coverage of the Other Campaign has been limited to the alternative press.)  A three part exclusive interview in La Jornada — the paper is both favorable to the Zapatista struggle and Lopez Obrador — revealed the ex-Sub’s thinking as the EZLN transitions into the larger world beyond the indigenous mountains and jungle of their autonomous communities in southeastern Chiapas.  After the Jornada interviews began running, dozens of national and international reporters lined up for more.
Then on May 8th, Marcos startled Mexico’s political class by striding into a studio of Televisa, an enterprise he has scorned and lampooned for the past 12 years and which that very morning in La Jornada he denounced as being Mexico’s real government, and sat down for the first time ever with a star network anchor for a far-ranging chat on the state of the nation and the coming elections that effectively re-established the ex-Subcomandante’s credibility as a national political figure in this TV-obsessed videocracy. 
Among Delegate Zero’s more pertinent observations: all three candidates were "mediocrities" who would administrate Mexico for the benefit of the transnationals, but Lopez Obrador had a distinct style of dealing with the crisis down below, and would emerge the winner on July 2nd. 
Although observers differ about whether Marcos’s "endorsement" was the kiss of death for AMLO’s candidacy or just a peck on the cheek, Lopez Obrador’s reaction was of the deer-caught-in-the-headlights variety, emphasizing the prolonged animosity between the PRD and the EZLN to disassociate himself from the Zapatista leader. 
It was too late.  Calderon, one of whose key advisors is right-wing Washington insider Dick Morris (the PANista is Washington’s man), immediately lashed out at Marcos as "a PRD militant", clained AMLO was under Marcos’s ski-mask, and accused Lopez Obrador and Delegate Zero of being in cahoots to destabilize Mexico. The TV spots were running within 24 hours of Marcos’s Televisa interview.  In the background, the PRI’s Madrazo called for the "mano duro" (hard hand) to control such subversive elements, tagging the farmers of Atenco whose broad field knives are the symbol of their struggle, AMLO’s  "yellow machetes" (yellow is the PRD’s color).
Lopez Obrador’s only defense against this latest onslaught was to affirm that the mayor of Texcoco, who had been the first to send police to confront the farmers of Atenco, was a member of the PRD.  Party members who are usually quick to denounce human rights violations here have stayed away from the police rampage in Atenco for fear that speaking out will further taint Lopez Obrador.
There are some who question Delegate Zero’s assessment that AMLO will be Mexico’s next president as disingenuous.  After all, calling the election for Calderon after the Other Campaign has done its damndest to convince voters not to cast a ballot for AMLO could only arouse the ire of PRD bases along the route of the Other Campaign.    
Even as Calderon uses Marcos to raise the fear flag, Marcos argues that voter fear of instability does not alter electoral results. Nonetheless, in 1994, Ernesto Zedillo parleyed fears triggered by the Zapatista rebellion and the assassination of PRI heir-apparent Luis Donaldo Colosio into big numbers to walk off with the Mexican presidency.
Although Delegate Zero equates all three political parties, the conventional wisdom is that a return to power by the PRI would animate elements in the Mexican military who still want to stamp out the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, and incite the lust of the PRI-affiliated paramilitaries for Zapatista blood.  On the other hand, repeated violence against EZLN bases in Chiapas by PRD-affiliated farmers’ groups, are not a harbinger of better times for the rebels under AMLO’s rule.
Enfrented as the PRD and the EZLN remain, the only avenue of convergence could be in post-electoral protest.  As the close race goes down to the wire, one good bet is that the July 2nd margin between Calderon and Lopez Obrador will be less than 100,000 out of a potential 72,000.000 voters.  If Calderon is declared the victor by challengeable numbers, the PRD, invoking the stealing of the 1988 election from Cuauhtemoc Cardenas, is apt not to accept results issued by the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) which AMLO’s rank and file already considers partisan to the PAN, and the PRD will go into the streets — most noticeably in Mexico City, where it concentrates great numbers and where the IFE is located. 
How embarrassed Roberto Madrazo is by the PRI’s performance July 2nd could determine his party’s participation in mobilizations denouncing the results as well. Madrazo has thus far balked at signing a "pact of civility" being promoted by the IFE.
The EZLN has historically been more drawn to post-electoral protest than elections themselves.  In 1994, convinced that Cuauhtemoc Cardenas would not take protests into the streets if he were once again cheated out of victory, the Zapatistas sought to inspire such protest themselves (they were successful only in Chiapas.) 
The best bet is that given a generalized perception of a stolen election, the EZLN will put its animosity aside as it did last year when the PRI and the PAN tried to bar AMLO from the ballot, the "desafuero."  But the Zapatistas will join the post-electoral fray calcuutf8g that AMLO, a gifted leader of street protest, will seek to channel voters’ anger into political acceptable constraints.
The return of Marcos to the national spotlight is an unintended consequence of the Other Campaign.  Determined to use the electoral calendar to unmask the electoral process and the political class that runs it, Marcos’s posture as an anti-candidate has made him as much of a candidate as AMLO, Calderon, and Madrazo.  Indeed, Delegate Zero’s primetime Televisa appearance has inducted him, voluntarily or not, into the very political class that the Other Campaign detests.
John Ross is on his way to California to watch basketball.  His new opus "Making Another World Possible:  Zapatista Chronicles 2000-2006" is in New York being inspected by editors.  Ross will return to Mexico in early June to cover both the final spasms of the presidential race and the continued twitchings of the Other Campaign.  


Oh, behave!



Where’s my babymama! I want my babymama!
That’s what I planned to shriek at the Be Nice Party. I was gonna strut myself right up to the bar at Catalyst, the party’s venue, and politely order a babymama cocktail (strawberry vodka, banana liqueur, and pineapple juice, spiked with a flash of grenadine claw, strained and served on the rocks. Britney Spears in a short glass, darling). Then, without warning, I would flip a total schizo switch and attempt a full-on, foaming Whitney-Houston-out-of-butane meltdown, exclaiming the above, appalling every pleasantry-spewing goody-two-socks within earshot. I even intended to strew a few glass pipe shards and fling stray weaves about during my one-queen crackhead kabuki act (visuals). And maybe toss around a couple stained toddler jumpers or a threadbare bib with a faded Little Mermaid on it (poignancy). Britney, Whitney, and Disney that’ll teach ’em to try to “be nice” at me.

But intentionally getting 86’d from something called Be Nice was far too obvious a reaction, like snarking Madonna at Coachella or shooting Phish in an alley. Me? I’m all about subtlety. I try to keep my scars behind my ears, thank you. So I hit up Be Nice with an openish mind and, instead of babymamas, got soused on redheaded sluts (Jägermeister, peach schnapps, and an ample screech of cran, shaken and quickly poured out Kathy Griffin in a shot glass, darling). If there’s one thing I’ve learned on life’s Naugahyde stool, it’s that liquor’s the best revenge. And sluts are fun. And Tyra Banks is an alien pterodactyl.

Wow, I sound super gay this week.

So what’s Be Nice about? Once a month, a diverse group of randoms meet in a space “where you can make eye contact without it being ‘cruisy,’” with “music just loud enough to hear, but quiet enough to easily talk over,” to “say hello to someone new (or old)” but not to “impress people with how cool you may want them to think you are.” (“And … it’s early!”) Somewhat contradictorily, this “low-key public event” aims to bring the spirit of Burning Man’s Black Rock City to the heart of San Francisco. But the promoters mean in the sense of BRC’s ethic of PLUR and kindness (BRC PLURK?) not in the sense of “Oh god, it sounds like Burning Man on a stalled elevator why not just throw in Whoopi Goldberg and call it German expressionist mime kill me now?”

But yes, I expected a cult. What I found was about 40 hip-but-nonhuggy characters sprawled across Catalyst’s booths, nary a silver Nike among them. The first thing that hits you when you enter a club whose music is pitched to pin drop is the odd, nostalgic staccato of conversation. I’m usually surrounded by jibber-jabberers aplenty hello, mirror and music can make a great escape pod. Hell, half the time I’m not even sure what I’m saying myself at the club, but that could just be my thick Vicodinian accent. Seriously, though, when was the last time you walked into a roomful of people talking and could hear both sides? It was fuckin’ spooky, Scooby. Waves of mutual exchanges washed over me as I leapt in, latching on to a couple groovy goth chicks and a freelance programmer in golf pants. Soon I was gabbing away, natch. I must have had fun because here are my notes: “Internetz … herpes scarf … deep-fried diet pill.” Oh yes, and Ramsa Murtha Begwagewan is the Anointed One, all praise him.

That there can be a successful club whose hook is friendly conversation may say more about technology’s limits than it does about a possible resurgence of Moose Lodges or canasta parties although bingo is definitely in. Nightlife, this business we call tipsy, took a sucker punch from its former friend the Interweb, of course. (Why go out when you can get drunk online?) And we’re pretty much used to thinking of clubs at this point as either struggling to imitate the ethernet with hyper-adverbial interactive “concepts” or fetishizing things that computers cannot touch yet. Face-to-face give-and-take now joins classic cruising, live performance, art exhibits, sculptural environments, oxygen bars, professional mixology, vinyl archaeology, sweaty bodies, and chocolate syrup wrestling (www.chocolatesyrupwrestling.com) in clubland’s Museum of the Mostly Mouse-Free.

Clubs. Is there no index they can’t gloss?

One other nightlife experience that can never be truly virtualized: that predawn abandoned bus ride home, muffled sounds of the club still ringing in your ears. I like to think of Muni in those moments as my personal stretch Hummer; the driver is my handsome Israeli chauffeur/bodyguard/secret paramour who will someday betray me, and I’m a (kind of smelly) target of salivating paparazzi. Then I start to feel a tad snobbish and base and also possibly paranoid. But then I have a Snickers and I’m OK.   — Marke B. (superego@sfbg.com)

Be Nice Party

Second Wednesdays, 6–11 p.m.

Catalyst Cocktails

312 Harrison, SF


(415) 621-1722



Brilliant corners


› johnny@sfbg.com In the last year of the 20th century, Kodwo Eshun charted musical forms of Afrofuturism in the book More Brilliant than the Sun. Six years into the 21st century, I wonder what Eshun would think of Chelonis R. Jones.

"Camera! Lights! Action!" The words at the very beginning of Jones’s debut Dislocated Genius herald an ambivalent performance. "I didn’t want to burn it now, burn cork to dance and sing," he soon recites with lack of affect over a marching beat. The detached attitude and robotic melody outdo Pete Shelley’s "Homosapien." In the company of this lyric, and Jones’s cover painting for Dislocated Genius, the first utterance in the next song "Life is hardly ever fair," probably sung by New YorktoEurope voyager Jones, but treated to sound like a sample from an old record player arrives with vital irony.

The eight-minute track that follows, "Middle Finger Music," moves through menaced verses and curses over the type of automaton beat that Kraftwerk would factory stamp with approval before being overtaken by abstract daydreams and nightmares. Crying gulls and King Tubbylike dub motifs flicker through the song’s lonely, vast inner and outer space as Jones near-whispers the titular words to himself, his voice multitracked into a self-harassing chorus. Here, and on the gloomily humorous next song, "Vultures" (sample lines: "They circle-dive inside my dome … They never leave my ass alone"), paranoia pervades the atmosphere, which Jones renders like the imaginative painter he happens to be when he isn’t making music.

As a writer and singer, Jones possesses many voices, and if on "Middle Finger Music" he both listens to them and claims they’ll lead him to his doom, there and elsewhere on Dislocated Genius they yield extraordinary results. This recording’s avant-reaches have bewildered some club music writers who know of Jones strictly as the name behind a pair of sublime and relatively straightforward if poetic soulful house-inflected singles, "I Don’t Know" and "One and One." On those tracks (as well as another mathematics-of-love number, "49 Percent," recorded with Röyksopp), Jones’s voice trembles and swoons like that of Off the Wallera Michael Jackson that is, when he isn’t more freely vamping like a diva. Describing a movie-ready tearful good-bye by train tracks, "I Don’t Know”’s vocal outdoes some of the sensational male testifying of early Chicago house: Jones laughs bitterly to himself and seems to cradle his own pain while reaching deep into his chest for low notes as he feels a that word again "burn" in describing his crushed passion. He can also do butch swagger witness the quarrelsome and smart (rather than daft) punk of "L.A. Mattress."

Jones’s talent is exciting because it reaches from pop melody to stranger realms; time and time again, the unique perspective of his songs dissolves into embattled technological chatter. The chorus of "The Hair" is as memorable as the one to Wire’s "I Am the Fly," and even more layered in its critique of a certain greed, and yet it’s sung in a tone that’s a sly update on Smokey Robinson. In More Brilliant than the Sun, Eshun explored "Myth Science" through written or typed words; Jones’s "Mythologies (Myths I and II)" does so in sound, with skepticism his voice is processed in a way that brings the sweet but stinging theoretical distance of Scritti Politti’s honeybee R&B to mind. A motif from "Mythologies" returns in "Deer in the Headlights," further proving the formidable post-Baldwin, post-Basquiat methods within his fractured madness.

By the end of Dislocated Genius, as "Debaser" forms an abstract contemporary take on the stripped-down funk of very early Prince, Jones has made it clear that blackface is only the surface and the start of a defiant creative imagination just as comfortable being mauve, olive green, or "ho-ish pink." In the final minutes of this extraordinary album, he’s turned Rimbaud’s The Drunken Boat into a love song dedicated to someone who "defecate(s) words like Molly Bloom," and managed to make the vocal melody float like a spectral ship on an ocean at night.

He may be a "laughingstock since the age of 13," but this self-described "gaudy cross of Streisand and Curtis Mayfield" is still traveling. Where is he headed next? A place I’d like to hear. SFBG

Sleazy does it


› duncan@sfbg.com

Sometimes you want to be, as Thomas Gray so eloquently put it, "far from the madding crowd’s ignoble strife." This is exactly how I felt as, against my quasi-agoraphobic intuition, I walked into the Make-Out Room to see San Francisco’s Cotton Candy this spring. Feeling friendless, dateless, lifeless, and down after a huge blowout with an old friend of mine, and unable to procure a warm body to fill up my plus one, I walked into the dark club only to be reminded by the smattering of plastic beads and silly hats and feather boas that it was Mardi Gras.

Feeling the need for some kind of psychic security blanket, I stopped at the bar. I probably should’ve ordered a double bourbon, but I just wanted something in my hand, you know. Like, "Hey, look, I’ve got a beverage." I may not have beads, but I am enjoying myself like a motherfucker. I got a Coke and shuffle-stepped my crotchety, dejected ass over to the darkest, most uninhabited corner and sat down behind some sort of homemade percussion wingding a two-by-four with a bunch of metal crap nailed to it and did my best Greta Garbo "I vant to be alone" impression.

Almost immediately someone found me, dressed entirely in black in a dark club. Sometimes, you’re just lucky like that. I don’t have many people I don’t want to see. Usually if you’ve been in my life long enough for me to know your name, I’m always glad to invite you back. But this was someone I had a crush on, long ago in some other reality, and I think she kind of made me look like a buffoon. More likely, I made myself look like a buffoon, and she turned the screw a little, wound up the buffoon box, and let it go, careful to hold at least some of her laughter until I was out of the room. And now here she was, in the dark on Fat Tuesday, asking me about my personal life. There must have been something on my face that said, "I love to chitchat."

Phat blues day

My cover blown, I grabbed my chair and slid in a few rows back from the stage, under the disco ball, as Cotton Candy set up. I’d seen them before, at least once, and I knew that if any band was going to cheer me up, they might be the one. Actually, it’s a stretch to call them a band at all. I think once you include a marimba player, you are officially not a band. Maybe you’re an ensemble. At the very least they’re a quartet. In addition to Matt Cannon on the marimba, they have an upright bass player, Tom Edler, who uses a bow most of the time, the lovely Linda Robertson on accordion and violin, and Heidi Kooy, who can really only be described as a chanteuse. The ladies were bedecked in full-length Easter Parade dresses, though somewhat less flouncy, Kooy’s a gauzy pale yellow, topped with a putf8um Veronica Lake wig, and Robertson’s a bright blue. They looked like a Victorian engraving delicately splashed with watercolors. They calmly began playing an instrumental number, with the seated Kooy tinkling gracefully on a sort of laptop xylophone.

Me? I was striving to be enraptured. I leaned forward and tried to will myself out of a nightclub and into a setting where the music would’ve been more appropriate: perhaps a garden party with those small, crustless finger sandwiches. It’d be sunny and warm, and instead of plastic beads maybe there’d be a parasol or two. But despite the delicacy of the music, I remained in reality thanks to the steadfast shouting of a girl in rabbit ears standing next to me, her back to the band, totally unawares. I scanned the crowd, and it seemed much the same: pint glasses bonking in revelry. No one in the cheap seats meaning the people who were standing seemed to notice they’d even begun playing.

That is, until Kooy said, "Well. Hhhi. We are Cotton Candy. There’s so many of you this evening." As the Candies started playing "A Public Service Announcement about Clowns," a psychological sea change took place in the music and in me. With the addition of lyrics, the dainty hues of the presentation mixed with ribald reds, the color of a freshly spanked ass.

"Clowns," Kooy sang. "Clowns get urges too. In the backseat of the clown car we can do a trick or two."

For me, this is where it all happens with Cotton Candy: the collision between long, delicate fingers on a microphone, a stately soft-shoe across the stage in an ankle-length dress, and bawdy lyrics about horny clowns, psycho roommates, and on a song omitted from the set that evening but featured on their self-released 2005 debut, In the Pink a perverted landlord who’s fond of public enemas. (A second CD, Fairy Floss, is due this fall, and HarperCollins will publish Robertson’s autobiography, What Rhymes with Bastard?, in 2007.) Flash back to the garden party, and you’ll see that next to those repressed sandwiches are some cock-shaped cookies sitting serenely on a doily. And what’s that rustle in the bushes? Victorians have the rap of being antisex only because they were so sex-obsessed they had to put some strictures on it. Strictures that, I might add, must have added up to some frantic unlacing of lace bodices in pantries.

Fancy, albeit filthy, pants

The crowd bantering through the instrumental opener was one thing, but after they continued their coarse chatter through the licentious lyrics, the one thing that might have held them in thrall well, that was unforgivable. I officially aligned myself against them. And despite the fact that I probably would’ve enjoyed a quieter setting, I got a good deal of pleasure fancying myself to be a true cultural connoisseur, someone who clearly got it.

This stance on my part was a total farce, of course, but that’s part of the fun with Cotton Candy. You can feel fancy and somewhat dirty at the same time. I liken the group to Shakespeare: On one hand, Cotton Candy are highbrow, and not a lot of people even attempt to understand them. Yet, on the other hand, they’re really just about a bunch of dirty jokes. "I don’t just want to be friends with you," Kooy sang. "I want to rip your clothes off too." They cut through the prim and proper façade while appearing to observe all the social niceties.

So as Kooy gracefully pantomimed a frustrated lover waiting for her tardy beau in "Late" introduced as, "in essence, why Linda now has an ex-husband" my disgust for myself was leavened, even replaced, by my disgust for the "madding crowd," the common rabble, the groundlings who were just too engrossed and gross to understand the finer things. If they only knew that a tune like the closing number, "Pick You Up," is basically a song about midget tossing: "Let me take you in my arms / And see how far I can throw you … I like to pick up short men / And throw them as far as I can / It’s a strange hobby, maybe / But it makes me feel like a man."

Clearly, they hadn’t made it far enough up Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to be able to see "self-actualization" with a telescope. Give a starving man a flaky, buttery croissant, and he’s going to jam it into his gullet like a three-day-old dinner roll. SFBG


With accordionist Isobel Douglas

Sat/20, 9 p.m.

Red Poppy Art House

2698 Folsom, SF

$10 donation

(415) 826-2402

With accordionist Kielbasia

May 28, 7 p.m.


4 Valencia, SF


(415) 241-0205

“Dance/Screen: Innovative International Dance Films”


PREVIEW Dance on film looks flat, distorted, and without nuances, right? Yes and no. In general, dance does not take kindly to the screen. Good enough for documenting or teaching, films simply don’t convey the effervescent presence of a live performance. But in some cases the medium goes beyond simply recording and actually partners with the choreography in a way that can be every bit as exciting as a live performance. As a genre, dance films are fairly new and, often, still don’t get no respect. Charlotte Shoemaker, who curates San Francisco Performances’ "Dance/Screen" series, is doing her best to change that perception. Every May she packs a collection of what she can find internationally into a one-evening program. This year that includes the 60-minute CounterPhrases, by Flemish filmmaker and composer Thierry de Mey, Anna Teresa de Keersmaker’s longtime collaborator. De Keersmaker is one of Europe’s most influential, rigorous, and imaginative choreographers, and CounterPhrases is based on 10 of her dances, each set to a different piece of contemporary music. The program also includes Miranda Pennell’s British homage to Wild West fights, Fisticuff, and Arcus, a short directed by Alla Kogan and Jeff Silva and choreographed by Nicola Hawkins. (Rita Felciano)


Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Screening Room, 701 Mission, SF

$7. (415) 392-2545, www.ybca.org

Turfing the Web



ONLINE Recording and computer engineer Damon Todd is perhaps best known as the producer of "Sick Wid It," a song from B-Legit’s Block Movement (Sick Wid It, 2005). Since January, however, with the launch of the social networking site Townturf.com, the young entrepreneur has been hard at work becoming Oakland’s own Tom Anderson. Todd wears many hats in the fledging company, as the site’s cofounder, CFO, chief programmer, administrator, and all-around tech guy, supported by a single silent partner and a staff of four high school interns. Yet membership in the site has already grown to 1,300 on the strength of a two-pronged marketing campaign: a few locally programmed ads on cable stations like BET, E!, and Spike! and a vigorous effort by the interns to get their friends signed up for the free service, which offers the array of features (homepage, e-mail, music and photo uploads, blog) familiar to users of MySpace and other such sites.

"I thought the Bay Area needed its own social network for individuals who fall within the urban demographic," Todd says. "Its social network needs to be a reflection of the actual community for which it exists. The plan is to help people spread awareness about what they’ve got going on here in the Bay Area. With the hyphy movement, there’s a lot of people taking an interest in what’s going on. They can come to Townturf and see what’s happening."

This cultivation of a virtual community rooted in a specific locality may seem at variance with the original "worldwide" associations of the Web. But the Web is worldwide only if you can get on it, and the needs of inner-city users with less-than-optimal access and equipment are seldom considered by site developers. Evoking Oakland hip-hop’s familiar green-street-sign aesthetic in its name and look — the "Town" being synonymous with Oakland — Townturf eschews the latest round of dial-up-crashing flash animation ads in favor of a lo-fi, user-friendly format.

Moreover, in contrast to the April 3 Newsweek cover story on "Web 2.0," which gushed that MySpace and other user contentdriven sites represent "the great migration of everyday experience to the Internet," Townturf acknowledges the primacy of real-life motivations for online activity. Sometimes virtual friends aren’t enough: A collection of acquaintances from all over the world, no matter how many interests you share, doesn’t compare to the best bud who is still willing to go to the show with you because you’re best buds.

Similarly, for musicians using such sites to promote their work, there’s no substitute for a local fan base that’ll turn out to see them perform. In its emphasis on the local — and with plans to include event promotion, ticket sales, and a newsletter — Townturf seeks to combine the real-world practicality of Craigslist with the networking ease of MySpace. SFBG


Bitter wounds


› a&eletters@sfbg.com

Youthful innocence and stupidity can generally be relied on in making soldiers and war; those lacking such qualities may have to be beaten and intimidated into service. The process inspires some vivid imagery in French playwright Fabrice Melquiot’s The Devil on All Sides (Le Diable en Partage), a poetical mix of fantasy and harsh reality set amid the 199295 Bosnian war. Here the consummate soldier is, in one instance, literally the deconstructed man: reduced piece by piece, beginning with his eyes. But then, as the play unfolds, staying together as individuals, lovers, families, or neighbors becomes the supreme psychic and physical challenge in a state of war.

The central characters, Lorko (Rod Hipskind) and Elma (Nora el Samahy), are lovers separated by the conflict. Lorko a Serbian Christian who courts and marries Elma, a Bosnian Muslim, before the war finds himself viciously pressed into the militia when battle erupts. Despite his initial acquiescence in rabid nationalism and ethnic hatred, he soon abandons the front lines. Moving westward across Europe, he remains haunted by Elma and the family he’s left behind, who show up in his waking dreams. "No one is sleeping in this world," he notes echoing the poet for whom he was named (indeed, the play as a whole draws significantly on the imagery in Federico Garc??a Lorca’s "City That Does Not Sleep").

Meanwhile, Elma remains with her disintegrating in-laws in their disintegrating home, in a disintegrating country, her presence strongly associated with the garden she tends and the singing she loves. Being both family and Muslim, she acts as both buffer from and incitement to the rage and madness unleashed by the war around the dinner table: Lorko’s mother (Deb??rah Eliezer) knitting feverishly to plug the holes in the walls, sweet younger brother Jovan (Brian Livingston) succumbing to sadism, friend Alexander (Ryan O’Donnell) another enthusiastic soldier gradually whittled away, Lorko’s gentle, mentally unraveling father (Michael Sommers) occupied with writing down all the details of life "as it was."

The US premiere of Devil, a recent popular and critical sensation in France, is an impressive achievement for foolsFURY (in association with Alliance Française), beginning with artistic director Ben Yalom’s lively, eloquent translation and imaginative staging (the latter marred only by some action set too low at the front of the stage). The cast, led by strong performances from el Samahy and Hipskind, gracefully embodies the shifting tones in Melquiot’s darkly humorous, grim, fanciful, and melancholic poetry. Its tangled field of beauty and horror meanwhile is admirably reflected in scenic designer Dan Stratton’s battlefield home, Christopher Studley’s moon-bathed, spectral lighting, and the contrasts between sounds and silences in Patrick Kaliski’s excellent aural landscape of music and mayhem (original score by Dan Cantrell). Here, Lorko’s crumbling family home sits amid a concrete and steel graveyard where still a rebel flower may bloom.


"Strip away the phony tinsel of Hollywood and you will find the real tinsel underneath," Oscar Levant once famously quipped. He certainly had the personality and career to understand the truth in that line, or the real tinsel underneath it. But as John Fisher’s new play shows, Hollywood in the 1940s did have a surface to scratch witness the otherwise unlikely encounter between Levant and Arnold Schönberg, the latter a part of Los Angeles’s community of German Jewish émigré artists and intellectuals on the run from Hitler.

Fisher, who skillfully plays the title role as well as directs, sets this real-life encounter between the formidable modernist composer and the Broadway-Hollywood composer-actor-pianist and mordant wit (played with coolly neurotic panache by Matthew Martin) against a present-day story of rattled sexual identities. As the play gets under way, a frustrated history professor named John (Matt Weimer), in a state of midlife crisis, breaks off his long-term relationship with his lover, Chris (Michael Vega), to start an affair with his best friend, Ash (Stefanie Goldstein), breaking up her long-term relationship to Jane (Maryssa Wanlass) in the process.

The resulting "emancipation of dissonance" brings forward a number of themes, as these overlapping attempts at reordering spark, chafe, and fly apart again in a state of ghostly proximity to one another. The scenes between the hip but nervous, pill-popping Oscar (a dedicated hypochondriac and phobic) and the imposing but dryly humorous Schönberg are especially riveting, serving, among many other things, to measure the tension between the incessant commodification of culture and some notion of pure art. The John and Ash affair, while well acted, seems less developed. Even given a certain fuzziness, however, it’s a completely worthwhile evening, suggesting that the fault lines running beneath Los Angeles are many and varied. As Levant once wrote, in a line that could speak for his culture, "I am, as I’ve told everyone, deeply superficial." SFBG


Through May 27

Thurs.–<\d>Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.

Traveling Jewish Theatre

470 Florida, SF

$12–<\d>$30 (Thurs., pay what you can)

(866) 468-3879



Through May 20

Wed.–<\d>Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.

Theatre Rhinoceros

2926 16th St., SF


(415) 861-5079


Girls afraid


› cheryl@sfbg.com

As far as Lindsay Lohan goes these days, the title of a recent New York Times essay on her vida loca offers a succinct, if not entirely flattering, summation: "Lindsay Lohan: Portrait of the Party Girl as a Young Artist." The freckled former Disneyite has lately been on the verge though whether it’s the verge of a grown-up career breakout or a total Britney Spearsstyle image meltdown seems unclear.

Just My Luck, LiLo’s latest, doesn’t bode well for her aspirations to being a movie star in the Scarlett Johansson mode. Donald Petrie, director of Miss Congeniality and How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days, manages to meet both flicks halfway with Luck, which features a lead character as klutzy as Sandra Bullock’s FBI agent but as Big Apple fabulous as Kate Hudson’s scheming magazine writer. Lohan’s Ashley Albright is the luckiest girl in NYC, which is to say luckiest measured by Sex and the City standards: Cabs screech to the curb the instant they are hailed, elevators are stocked with cute single guys, and Sarah Jessica Parker’s totally chic cocktail dress is accidentally returned with the dry cleaning. Isn’t life frikkin’ delicious?

Naturally, Ashley’s luck and her outlook on her superficial-yet-cutely-shod lifestyle totally changes after she spontaneously kisses, yes, the unluckiest guy in NYC, a sweet schlub named Jake (Chris Pine) with rock ’n’ roll dreams. As you can see, the plot is as thin as one of Lohan’s upper arms; 13 Going on 30 is high art by comparison. By the end (and this is not a spoiler, because there’s no way you wouldn’t see it coming unless you recently arrived from a distant galaxy), the finally fortunate-again Ashley’s moment of truth hinges on whether or not she’ll pass the kiss of luck back to Jake, who needs it more than her, because he’s, like, nice to little kids and stuff.

Fortunately, there’s a movie like Somersault around to dig a little deeper into the confusion that arises when innocence takes a dive. Shot two years ago in Australia but just now being released here, Somersault raked in 13 Australian Film Institute awards (if the AFIs are down under’s Oscar equivalent, that would make Somersault more golden than Titanic). Pretty impressive for a film that seems so effortless; 24-year-old star Abbie Cornish (totally convincing as a 16-year-old, and just cast in Boys Don’t Cry director Kimberly Peirce’s next project) is four years older than Lohan, but her character, Heidi, exudes a far more fresh-scrubbed naïveté.

As angelically fair and danger-prone as Goldilocks, Heidi flees her home in Canberra after she’s discovered making an advance (eagerly reciprocated) on her mother’s mullet-bearing boyfriend. Attracting men isn’t Heidi’s problem; even in a crowded, raucous bar, she practically glows, a quality which no doubt aids her in her fumbling quest to put down new roots. A kindly hotel owner allows her a cheap room, a job as a cashier gets her free meals, and a popular local boy named Joe (Sam Worthington) takes an interest in her.

Rest assured, this ain’t Where the Heart Is. (Recap: Preggers teen Natalie Portman blows into a tiny Oklahoma town and is wholly embraced with homespun heartlandiness.) Heidi is childlike enough to playact in anticipation of her next meeting with Joe, but she’s also sexually precocious to a fault; her judgment is impaired not just by her drinking habits but also by her young age and her desperate need to be loved by anyone who’ll have her. Unfortunately for her, she’s not living in a universe that pinpoints her well-being as its focus (unlike, say, Just My Luck‘s Ashley). Somersault‘s portrayal of real life is harsh, especially for a too-immature-to-be-so-mature girl scraping by completely on her own. Writer-director Cate Shortland deftly conveys the precariousness of Heidi’s situation with restrained symbolism, as when the girl plucks a pair of discarded ski goggles from a junk heap and tries them on allowing her to glimpse an unyielding world, if only for an instant, through rose-colored glasses. SFBG

Just My Luck

Now playing at Bay Area theaters

For showtimes go to www.sfbg.com



Opens Fri/19

Lumiere Theatre

1572 California, SF

For showtimes go to www.sfbg.com


Anatomy lessons


Bogart never says "Play it again, Sam" in Casablanca, and most noirs don’t feature slinky jazz scores, but the misconceptions persist. In the case of the latter, it’s easy enough to see why: A wailing saxophone doesn’t seem far removed from the femmes fatales and smoky nightclubs that populate film noir. But, alas, many of these movies were made before Hollywood discovered jazz — a development that largely took place in the 1950s. Local noir expert and festival programmer Eddie Muller is well aware of this history but nonetheless indulges us with the Jazz/Noir Film Festival at the Balboa.

While not exactly the kind of rarity Muller’s Noir City Festival prizes, Anatomy of a Murder (playing Fri/19, 9:30 p.m.) is always worth another look, not only for Otto Preminger’s studied direction but also for Duke Ellington’s effective, swinging score. If that’s not enough for you, try this: The Duke actually has a cameo in the film wherein he shares a piano with star Jimmy Stewart — stranger collaborations have happened, but this one’s still a dandy.

Bizarre duets aside, Preminger’s 1959 film remains the ultimate courtroom drama. Stewart plays Paul Biegler, a witty, small-town lawyer charged with defending a stationed soldier (Ben Gazzara) who killed in cold blood after learning his flirty wife (Lee Remick) had been raped — or so he says. A temporary insanity plea is entered, a fuss is made over the word panties, and Biegler trades underhanded law tactics with a whip-smart city prosecutor. What so distinguishes Anatomy of a Murder is Preminger’s unusual knack for keeping the audience at bay; over the course of 160 minutes he never entangles us with a character’s perspective. As filmgoers we are almost always with a character, but Preminger’s objective style means we’re a jury, weighing incomplete information to form our own perspectives. Few filmmakers trust their audiences as much as Preminger; fewer still can pull it off as entertainment. (Max Goldberg)



Balboa Theater

3630 Balboa, SF

$10 ($45 festival pass)

(415) 221-8184

See Rep Clock for showtimes






Three guitars plus Yaphet Kotto vets equals a rock-out record release party. Fri/19, 9:30 p.m., Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF. $7. (415) 923-0923.


Charming pop straight from Sweden. Sat/20, 9 p.m., Great American Music Hall, 859 O’Farrell, SF. Call for time and price. (415) 885-0750.

Fucking Ocean and Fuckwolf

A good fucking time for all? Sat/20, 9 p.m., El Rio, 3158 Mission, SF. $8. (415) 282-3325.

Susana Baca

Luaka Bop’s Peruvian diva draws from memories of her father playing serranitas. Sun/21, 8 p.m., Independent, 628 Divisadero, SF. $25. (415) 771-1421.

Rogers Sisters

No wave meets new wave nostalgia? NYC art-rockers settle down with the best band name in Austin, Texas: I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness. Mon/22, 8 p.m., Independent, 628 Divisadero, SF. $12. (415) 771-1421.

Clue to Kalo

The Australian Mush indies team with their down-underish pals Architecture in Helsinki. Tues/23, 8 p.m., Great American Music Hall, 859 O’Farrell, SF. $14. (415) 885-0750.

Toubab Krewe

Hippie drum circle with faux-hawks and mad West African guitar and percussion skills. Tues/23, 9 p.m., Café du Nord, 2170 Market, SF. $8. (415) 861-5016.

Free kitten?



SONIC REDUCER Mother’s Day: the primo time to think about reasons why mom rules. So why did I spend it listening to Grandaddy’s new, possibly last album, Just Like the Fambly Cat (V2)? I also lost about four solid hours watching Amon Duul, MC5, and Scott Walker videos on YouTube and thinking back to my adolescent years, when my household chores fell by the wayside and dear ole mum would threaten to spirit away a sackful of our 20 or so semiferal "fambly" cats and kittens and abandon them by some desolate roadside pineapple cannery. Thanks, ma!

Really, Hallmark and the assorted commercial pressures that guilt you into shuffling to the post office with an annual tribute to motherhood bring out the absolute worst namely, inappropriate memories in me. Though that certain special someone never carried out those acts of probable feline-cide, it’s clear not all of us come psychologically, emotionally, and financially equipped to be parents just as many of us were not well kitted out to be pet owners. We try: Glance through the approximately 17,000 cat videos on YouTube John Lennon’s scant 415 refs are no match against the cuddly-wuddly, flea-bitten hordes. The majority are amateurish, dull, full of "aw-isn’t-she/he/it-cute quick get it on the cameraphone" tumescent adoration.

Still, between the anticlimactic "Puppy vs. Cat" snippets, music fans can kill an entire Mother’s Day watching Magma serenade Catholic padres in some strange French B-movie or study a drowsy Velvet Underground supposedly writing "Sunday Morning" ("They all look so fucked up. Heroin is bad for you," comments one viewer) or check out the most viewed music-related vid that day (perhaps related to the new service that started last week allowing users to upload footage directly from a phone or PDA): a blurry, too-loud, obviously cellie-derived clip of Guns n’ Roses blasting out "Welcome to the Jungle" at NYC’s Hammerstein Ballroom on May 12.

How perfect then that I stumble across a few Grandaddy videos on my YouTube travels, including a slightly oogy bit showcasing, as its maker puts it, "a slug on a cucumber listening to Grandaddy." A comment on the lysergic lethargy embedded in the Modesto band’s tunes? Animals, or rather people in animal suits, operate as stand-ins for nature in the group’s shared videos, representing a star-crossed love for the junky delights of an infinitely disposable, shareable information culture, as well as the earthly attractions of the Central Cali natural world. I can totally relate, dudes.

Sluggish Grandaddy fans who can’t break away from waxing their own cucumbers will be pleased to know that Just Like the Fambly Cat is a suitably great, elegiac outro for the disbanding band (so says songwriter Jason Lytle). A pop symphony to that final solution to dissolution and aimlessness: death. If Grandaddy always seem to teeter betwixt stoner listlessness and slacker lack of focus, the threat of imminent nonexistence and looming loss has brought a sense of purpose, opening with a child’s repeated, lisping, "What happened to the fambly cat?" and closing with Lytle’s grandiose finale, "I’ll never return!" The act of recording melts into biography, as Lytle angrily mourns his broken engagement with all the infectious pop trappings ("Jeez Louise") and then gets lost in dusty, hermetic yet elegant reveries reminiscent of such peers as Air ("Oxygen/Auxsend"). There are, as Lytle sings, about "fifty percent less words" here, breaking from pop formulae, but the writing is more than up to providing the mental visuals for Fambly Cat‘s aural invocation of the last, sad days of summer.

Nonetheless, YouTube comes through with some Fambly Cat imagery, as Lytle has come out from behind the animal costume on a lo-fi video for the "single" "Where I’m Anymore." He bicycles down orchard and suburban lanes, bridging Modesto’s agri and aggro environs, as a papier-mâché cat head jumps into the frame for the slow-jamz chorus of lost-pussy meows. This shy number may have emerged after Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s similar catcentric number, but Grandaddy’s easy, sensuous paw tracks promise to stick with you longer, even after Lytle supposedly says good-bye to Modesto, a place tied tightly to another dubbed Grandaddy. After all, Magnet magazine recently reported that Lytle has sold his Modesto house and is moving to Montana, with no plans to perform Fambly Cat songs live ("If we go on tour, somebody’s gonna fucking die"). But perhaps this media-lavished long good-bye isn’t what it seems and Grandaddy fans can dry their tears because it appears Lytle will play those tunes after all, at Amoeba Saturday. Like a cat that always comes back, all may not be lost. SFBG


Sat/20, 6 p.m.

Amoeba Music, 1855 Haight, SF


(415) 831-1200

No way of knowing


› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com

CHEAP EATS I was sick. I couldn’t get out of bed, and I couldn’t sleep either. If I tried to talk on the phone, I sounded like Don Corleone smoking helium. People didn’t know who I was, and after a while I didn’t know who I was either.

Weirdo the Cat remained Weirdo the Cat and tried her best to keep me oriented.

Weeks in the woods are not very conversational for me, anyway. I express myself, cry out to the universe, assert my existence, and endear myself to my neighbors by tapping on steel with an eight-pound sledge hammer. When that gets old, I clack plastic and make a little poem or Cheap Eats happen. Sometimes I talk to myself. Sometimes I laugh out loud, which weirds out Weirdo and makes me feel crazy which, in turn, helps me to know that I’m not.

Now I had no way to know. I couldn’t hammer, clack, or blabber, and nothing was funny. I’m not a sickness reviewer, but laryngitis I find to be every bit as discombobuutf8g, almost, as an inner ear infection. Pretty much, more or less.

Well, I’d asked for it. I hadn’t been sick, really, in two years. Which was long enough to notice, and so I noticed and then started to talk about it.

"I haven’t been sick in two years!" I said. Out loud. To people.

Bad medicine. This is not a matter of juju; it’s mental and physical and automatic: You start bragging, you let your guard down. Bam! No voice, no sleep, no energy, no soup, no NyQuil, no more Jane Austen novels to read, no one to go to the library for you, and nothing to watch on video except The Deer Hunter.

Ever watch The Deer Hunter? Bad medicine. Good movie, bad bad medicine. Now even if I could’ve slept I couldn’t have slept. Me!

But enough about me. Eventually you just get tired of being sick, and you realize that lying around in bed isn’t going to get you better, so you kiss Weirdo the Cat on the lips, drag yourself out to your pickup truck, drive down to Balboa Park, tie on your spikes, strike out twice, ground weakly to second, ground even weaklier to third, take a shower, and go look for a bowl of duck noodle soup.

There you have it. All better. New favorite Vietnamese restaurant: Pho Ha Tien, just down the road, toward the Sunset, on Ocean. Duck noodle soup ($4.95/$5.95). Jalapeños, hot sauce, that other kind of hot sauce, and . . . you can talk again, if you’re me.

"Blah blah blah, blah blah," I said. "Blah blah blah."

There was even someone there to hear me. Yay! My cousin the Choo-Choo Train and his boyfriend, Ding-a-Ling-a-Ling, meaning I can also tell you these things: goi cuon chay ($4.50). Bun bi thit nuong ($6.50). And com ca nuong sa ($6.75).

Got that? That’s cold vegetable spring rolls, which were good, shredded pork and barbecued pork over vermicelli, which was good, and a charbroiled sole filet, over rice, which was also good. Allegedly. I didn’t get any. Choo-Choo eats so fast his plate was clean by the time I’d finished applying all the proper hot sauces, cilantro leaves, bean sprouts, jalapeños, and other medicinal touches to my soup.

And letting Ding-a-Ling-a-Ling taste some before I infected it, which favor he kindly and gentlemanlikely returned by chopsticking some of his pork and pork onto a little plate for my particular pig-partaking pleasure.

"Thank you, sir," I said.

"Thank you, Chicken Farmer," said he.

Meanwhile, the loco locomotive is licking his plate, wondering what’s for dessert.

Anyway, the soup was good, but not as good as my old favorite duck soup because the noodles were overdone, one, and, two, it had too much slimy bamboo in it that could have been ducks. And the ducks that there was didn’t have skin, just bones. A lot of bones. You have to eat with your hands and leave a big pile somewhere on the table.

Other atmospheric touches: general quaintness, funny little 3-D paintings, TV, and my personal favorite: side-by-side, the requisite Buddha shrine and a gratuitous wooden plaque of Mickey and Minnie Mouse saying, Welcome.

You know what I say to that, Mickey, Minnie, now that I have my voice back? I say, "One shot." SFBG

Pho Ha Tien

Wed.–Mon., 10 a.m.–9:30 p.m.

1900 Ocean, SF

(415) 337-2168

Takeout available

Beer and wine



Wheelchair accessible

The fine print



"People will sleep better not knowing how their sausage and politics are made," Otto von Bismarck said and he might have added wine to the list, though one sees the Iron Chancellor as more of a beer man. The production of wine grapes in recent decades has become a festival of chemicals pesticides, fertilizers from which many of us instinctively avert our gaze; we like wine, we want good wine, and when we get good wine, we are not inclined to ask any questions.

Still, there is growing evidence that a paradigm shift is under way, to judge by the public relations emphasis that winemakers around the world are placing on organic and biodynamic grape production and on the broader if slightly hazier theme of sustainability. Whether people will pay a premium for wine that’s produced in environmentally sensitive fashion is still largely an open question, since at the moment eco-friendly wine represents a tiny fraction of the world’s overall wine production. But if people are willing to pay more for organic produce, as seems to be the case, it is likely they will be willing to pay more too for wines produced in an environmentally responsible way providing they can figure out which wines those are.

At the moment, the labeling practices of the wine industry are of little or no use in helping wine buyers figure this out. At a recent forum sponsored by the Sonoma Vintners Association, I found myself examining a bottle of zinfandel I knew for a fact to have been produced at a biodynamic winery but the label breathed not a word of that noble story. One longtime Sonoma winemaker admitted to me that labeling was an issue and that winemakers, even beyond issues of certification, need to do more visually to let buyers know what they’re up to.

Meantime, you label-scanning wine hounds might look for the following (usually in uncomfortably fine print) on bottlings you’re interested in: "CCOF," which indicates compliance of some sort (most likely organic grapes) with the California Organic Foods Act of 1990, and/or "Demeter," which is the certification agency for biodynamic agriculture. I found the latter recently on a bottle of 2003 Côtes du Rhône from Château de Bastet (for more info go to www.organicvintners.com), along with organic certification from Quality Assurance International and Ecocert, another pair of word patterns to look for, in lieu of logos, which for once are actually called for.

Get thee to a naanery


› paulr@sfbg.com

Polk is a many splendored strasse, with lower lows and higher highs, socioeconomically speaking, than practically any other road in town, with the possible exception of Market Street. Below California, there is still an agreeable crunch of urban grit under your feet, you still see the occasional boy hustler, and the restaurants tend toward the ethnic and cheap but this neighborhood is the western edge of the Tenderloin, after all.

Above Broadway we are in chi-chi-land, cheek to cheek with some of the town’s swellest swells (but what cheeks do I mean?) and gazing upon the menu cards of such redoubts of swankery as La Folie and Le Petit Robert. Is this, then, a bipolar story, a tale of haves and have-nots or -littles, grit and glamour, worlds apart? Have I forgotten the stretch of Polk north of California and south of Broadway, the transition zone? I have not.

It is on this very stretch of street, in fact, that we find Indian Aroma, a nicely middle-class South Asian restaurant in a middle-classy neighborhood in a city whose middle class seems to be disappearing in our drive for third worldstyle stratification of wealth and status: a handful of chubby-cheeked plutocrats and masses of the disenfranchised. The place is far from a dive, with handsomely set tables, a paint scheme of sponged ochres and umbers, a huge round mirror mounted in one wall like a giant’s monocle, a nonperfunctory wine list (including several selections by the glass), and professional table service. On the other hand, it’s not particularly pricey (most main dishes are within a tick or two of $10), it’s easy to glide into, and there is the all-you-can-eat lunch buffet at $8.99, not the cheapest buffet of its kind in town, but pretty reasonable all the same and with better-than-average food.

Indian Aroma is a reincarnation of sorts of Scenic India, which, until it closed three years ago owing to loss of lease, was one of the better Indian restaurants on the Valencia Street corridor and held a strategic location near the corner of 16th Street. The new location can’t match the old for hipster-central cachet, but it does have its charms, mainly of variety: The Civic Center and Tenderloin are within walking distance, as are the hillier, tonier precincts of Nob and Russian Hills and the human parade a block west, along Van Ness.

There is also the stabilizing presence of owner and head chef Tahir Khan, whose Bangladeshi-influenced cooking features spices ground and blended in-house hence the Indian aroma, which wafts onto the street and helps drifting pedestrians distinguish between the restaurant and the Christian Science Reading Room next door halal meats, and for those averse to meat (halal or otherwise), a wide variety of meatless choices.

Khan’s kitchen does a decent job with flesh there is a good lamb curry ($8.95), with cubes of boneless (and reasonably tender) meat in a tomato-based sauce, and a nice, slightly sweet version of shrimp bhuna ($12.95), large prawns sautéed in a stir-fried spice mixture with tomatoes, ginger, and garlic but really, if the only nonvegetarian items on offer were of chicken, you wouldn’t complain. Chicken is possibly the meat most compatible with, even in need of, strong spicing, and the tandoori chicken ($8.95 for a half bird) is marvelous, tangy-tender with an edge of char, while the chicken tikka masala ($10.95) met with the enthusiastic approval of the CTM aficionado, who spent several minutes wiping up the remnant gravy with shreds of cooling naan. Even the plain chicken tikka ($10.95) chunks of boneless, marinated meat cooked on skewers in the tandoor met the highest standards of moistness and tastiness despite an absence of sauce.

The vegetable dishes too are solid, if stolid, citizens. Spinach, the bane of many a childhood but a cherished source of antioxidants for adults, appears in two guises: cooked simply with tomatoes and a curry blend (saag bhaji, $5.95) and with chunks of white cheese instead of tomatoes (saag paneer, $6.95). Mutter paneer includes cubes of the same fresh white cheese but replaces the spinach with peas for a touch of sweetness that nicely smooths the edge of the curry sauce, while chana masala ($5.95) lets chickpeas be chickpeas, with gentle spicing that bolsters rather than competes with the beans’ naturally nutty flavor.

Many of these dishes turn up at the lunch buffet, along with a mild, though dramatically yellow, mulligatawny soup (a close relative of dal, the famous Indian lentil stew) the presence of turmeric was strongly suspected and fabulous pappadum, the wrinkly, crackery disks of flash-fried lentil flour still carrying a slight sheen of oil. Lunch also includes pakora, the fritters of shredded vegetables, though like forensic examiners studying the evidence of an especially baffling murder, we were unable to establish which.

The naan, of course, is splendidly pillowy and warm. At lunch it’s free and abundant so go then if you’re hooked but even at dinner, when you have to pay by the piece, you get a disk the size of a medium pizza for just $1.50. Adherents to a variety-is-the-spice-of-life philosophy might opt instead for the puri ($1.50), a naanlike round of dough that’s puffy, golden, and slightly crisp from a turn in the deep fryer rather than the oven; like its distant relation langos (the fried bread of Hungary), it resembles a pizza crust made of pastry. But enough pillow talk. SFBG

Indian Aroma

Dinner: Sun.–Thurs., 5–10 p.m.; Fri.–Sat., 5–11 p.m.

Lunch: Daily, 11 a.m.–2:30 p.m.

1653 Polk, SF

(415) 771-0426

Beer and wine


Comfortable noisewise

Wheelchair accessible

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MAY 17-23


March 21-April 19

You’ve got a make a certain peace with your reality, Aries. And you should really step on it ’cause your work doesn’t end there, friend. After you come to acceptance, your next task is watch how your fears and emotions do or do not interplay.


April 20-May 20

Taurus, we’re not going to tell you lazy-assed, slow-as-frickin’-molasses people to put the brakes on something after you’ve spent however many years motivating yourself to act. We will suggest that maybe you check your pace. Don’t break out of the gate just to get winded and give up.


May 21-June 21

Those things you see on your path, Gemini, are not welcome stations. They’re not street vendors offering you corn on a stick. They are impediments. Get a clear idea what they are, then take a look at your own boundaries. Progress will happen from being honest about what you can handle.


June 22-July 22

This is truly a great time for you to do what Cancers do best: nurture. But we want you to nurture yourself perhaps not your specialty. And, get this, we want you to nurture yourself not only through your feelings of helplessness but also through the exciting feelings of beginning that you’re feeling alongside helplessness.


July 23-Aug. 22

Leos, you people love to reinvent yourselves. Life gets so stagnant when you’re stuck in the same identity or phase of life for too long. Just look at Madonna, another Leo. Anyhoo, your current reinvention should focus on how to embody new ways of behaving that are more synched up with your lust for self-expression.


Aug. 23-Sept. 22

Your control-freakishness has placed you in an official astrological at-risk category, Virgo. If you don’t take responsibility for what you can realistically handle in a healthy way, then you’re going to be setting off on a path that is not sustainable. We know it makes you sad not to have superhuman abilities, but suck it up.


Sept. 23-Oct. 22

Libra, we’ll be real with you — we can’t make out half of what our notes say for you this week. Our typing sucks. One thing is clear, though: You’ve got to resist getting all wound up in the end result of your efforts. The end result is beyond your control, dude. Banish your fear and anxiety, and take control of your direction.


Oct. 23-Nov. 21

Scorpio, this is a good time to take a peek at how you take care of yourself. How you do or don’t take care of yourself, take yourself seriously, advocate for yourself. It’s the subtleties of self-care that we’re concerned with. Splurging on a trip to the spa is nice, but are you eating well and refraining from beating yourself up inside?


Nov. 22-Dec. 21

The time is now for looking around yourself and taking in some new perspectives, Sag. It’s getting pretty stale inside that one-track mind of yours; you need some new ways to view things. You also need to be willing to make some serious personal changes if you’re going to be able to salvage something good out of the crap you’re dealing with.


Dec. 22-Jan. 19

Astrological omens point to you having to rely on your feelings about things, Capricorn. And not surface ego-feelings but those deep hunches we call intuition. We know, you people hate intuition. You like things more tangible, more clear-cut. Too bad. Though we see some discomfort, if you get in the right mindset, you might even enjoy it.


Jan. 20-Feb. 18

Good thing you’re resilient, Aquarius. Any other sign would be knocked down by now. As for you people well, yeah, you’re sort of knocked down, but you’re getting back up so fast we barely noticed. During this wobbly week, please reach out to your pals for some much-needed perspective and even advice.


Feb. 19-March 20

Pisces, you’ve got to love yourself enough to stay with yourself as you stare down your fears. It’ll do no good to maniacally charge your fears with a machete; it will also do no good to put on a tool belt and try to fix them, or to build a moat around your castle to keep them at bay. You’ve got to look the suckers in the eye.

Award-winning writer Michelle Tea and intuitive counselor Jessica Lanyadoo have been fraternizing with fate for the past lucky seven years. Call Lanyadoo for an astrology or tarot reading at (415) 336-8354. Write to Double Team at lovedoubleteam@hotmail.com.

Porn 2.0


› pornomovies@techsploitation.com

TECHSPLOITATION In downtown San Francisco, if you wander off Fifth Street down a small, twisting alley nestled among the sky-high monuments to money, you’ll find a freshly installed steel door, the glowing numbers affixed to it bearing little relationship to the other addresses on the street. If you’re lucky enough to get past the security cameras and locks, you’ll find yourself at the edge of a huge warehouse space full of stages and sets.

Climb up the stairs that lead away from the "medieval castle" set, and you’re in a huge office space full of computers. People are on the phones, or swapping stories as they return from a trip to the Starbucks around the corner, or gathered in tight huddles around large, flat-screen monitors full of partial layouts. Only the bathrooms offer a hint about what’s really going on here. No ordinary office would stock its toilets with an enormous rack of baby wipes, paper towels, and every feminine hygiene product known to woman. This is Kink.com, home to half a dozen of the Web’s hottest porn sites.

Everyone always asks what porn has done for the Web, but they never ask what the Web has done for porn. A place like this, full of queer hipsters, geeks, and models, would never have existed before 1995. It certainly wouldn’t have looked quite so Ikea.

I’ve come here to visit the set of Fuckingmachines.com, a Web site devoted to images and movies of women having sex with machines. Usually the machine involves some sort of piston and at least one moving part to which a dildo can be attached. The sensibility is perfectly San Francisco: a cross between high-tech fetishism and sexual fetishism. Tomcat, the site’s understated Web master, wears a tie and jeans to the set. With a degree in film and digital media from a large public university, the self-consciously androgynous Tomcat is precisely the sort of hip young professional who is attracted to second-generation Web porn operations like Kink.

Tomcat makes sure the first machine (called "the chopper") is ready to go and picks out a pale blue dildo from a huge, tidy cart that contains laid out with surgical precision an array of silicone cocks in various sizes, a fanned display of condoms, towels, baby wipes, and several lube bottles. Next to it is a pine cabinet full of carefully labeled drawers containing "large dildos" and "small dildos." A tiny table holds some soft drinks packed in ice, as well as a handful of lemon Luna bars.

"Last week we did an alien abduction scene," Tomcat says. "It was great I got to be the alien." Today’s model, a tall brunet with a lascivious smile, named Sateen Phoenix, arrives in a little dress and fuck-me shoes. Like Tomcat, she’s the sort of person who has the education and resources to choose from many careers and has chosen this one because she likes it. "I’m moving to LA to get more work," she says, sipping water. "But I just got into this about six months ago I like having sex in public, so I thought, why not do it here?"

Settling onto the chopper, Sateen poses and reposes, replaying her naughty grin as many times as Tomcat asks. The scene behind the scenes here is all business. PAs discuss the merits of various lubes and dildos; everyone tries to figure out the ideal position for Sateen’s pussy so that everything fits together when the machine starts pumping. Tomcat manages to issue directions in the tone of a nice but task-masterish boss.

"I know it’s awkward with your knees and the handlebars, but go ahead and insert it so that it’s comfortable," the Web master says. "Now just wank a little until you get off."

"I don’t know if I can get off like this," Sateen suggests. "I’m too lubey."

"Get some baby wipes for her to take care of that lube," Tomcat directs the PA.

Eventually, using another machine called "the predator," Sateen starts screaming in a way that marks this whole scene, again, as something that could only happen in the world of Porn 2.0. She’s had a genuine orgasm, the kind of thing you’d almost never see a woman do in porn before the Web took over.

Ten minutes later, still shaking and sweaty, Sateen pulls on a robe and stumbles over to the snack table. She falls into a chair and lets out her breath in a whoosh.

"Hard work, eh?" she sighs, grinning at me. "Having orgasms all day?" SFBG

Annalee Newitz is a surly media nerd who’s never met a machine she didn’t like.

Measuring stick


› andrea@altsexcolumn.com

Dear Andrea:

It’s easy to find reliable stats on penis size, but is there anything out there on average vaginal width and depth? I know: The vagina isn’t a constant size, it expands with arousal, etc., but the same could be said of penises, and lab-coated experts have managed to measure them. I’ve tried to measure with a dildo, and been surprised to notice that even at my most aroused, I can only get it about five inches in. Is this unusually shallow?

Also, does it make a difference to most men? If a guy’s got a long dick and the woman is (anatomically) shallow, does that substantially decrease the fun? Or is it analogous to the vagina having almost all its nerves in the first third, so that many women don’t care all that much about length? Can you ask around, even if there are no concrete facts?


Shallow Girl

Dear Girl:

Running your letter here counts as "asking around," doesn’t it? Is anyone interested in marking off a seven- or eight-inch dildo (is there anything a Sharpie cannot do?) and sending me the results? (Do not send me the dildo itself, thanks.) Numbers will be crunched. Maybe I’ll make a chart.

It’s much harder to measure vaginal depth than penile length, and that (along with the fact that fewer women than men actually give a crap about this issue) is the probable explanation for the dearth of info. Not only does the vagina constantly shape-shift, as you noted, but there doesn’t seem to be much of a consensus on what we’d be measuring if we did bother to measure. Many of the sites I checked out, for instance, cite distance to cervix as the measurement of interest, and anyone who’s spent much time up anybody’s hoo-ha ought to know that there’s a little fractal fillip of space like the tail on whatever you’d call a single paisley (a paisle?) extending under and behind the cervix, even when the hoo-ha in question is at rest. At play, when the vagina widens and loosens, and especially as the uterus begins to lift up and out of the way, taking the cervix with it, this space may become capacious enough to stash any number of interesting objects. A fist, say, or one of those bananas an emergency room doctor told me he was always fishing out of college girls who’d hygienically, if ill-advisedly, peeled their fruit before deploying it. So what are we measuring? And how are we determining where, exactly, the vagina begins, let alone ends? Are we including the vulva, some of which are bony while others are plush? And what about position? Have you tried measuring while kneeling, as well as while supine or prone? Rear-entry as well as from the front?

Men generally do enjoy the feeling of being completely engulfed during intercourse, and inconveniently for us but happily for them, the base of the penis is not substantially less sensitive than the front half (although most men do have more feeling in the head, or glans). Most couples, however, can pretty easily achieve that "all the way in" feeling by adjusting positions, propping things on pillows, and so on. If that doesn’t work, a hand, yours or his, can be put to good use here, but you know, I don’t think there’s a thing wrong with you, and why solve a problem you don’t even have?



Dear Andrea:

I think your response to "I Wanna Be Great," the girl whose boyfriend kept (unfavorably) comparing her with his ex, was on point. What I find strange is that women always want to know "how good" they are in comparison to past partners. I always respond that I cannot compare sex partners because each partner means different things to me. I have no desire to know how I compare with past partners. Is there some gene in women that makes them want to know this? I do usually tell them that they are the best and that is why I’m with them (hey, a little white lie for the sake of the relationship can’t be that bad). Why do women want this information?



Dear Con:

I assume your only experience has been with women, so I suppose it’s natural to go looking for the "rate me!" trait on the X chromosome, but let me tell you, you won’t find it there. In my fairly vast experience (answering questions! I’m not talking about the other kind here), it is, if anyone, men who fret the most about performance and worry that a partner’s former partners will somehow outshine them. But I can’t prove it’s mostly guys who annoy in this very particular fashion, and it doesn’t really even matter. The truth is, everybody does it; you just haven’t done it with everybody.

And by the way, your little white lie sounds a bit cheesy and don’t think the girls haven’t noticed. Flatter, but don’t blow smoke. It isn’t nice.



Newsom’s road-closure veto


EDITORIAL Mayor Gavin Newsom showed a colossal lack of political courage May 15 when he bowed to pressure from a few rich socialites and vetoed a program that would expand one of the city’s most popular and successful recreation programs.

Newsom, apparently changing course at the last minute, rejected a Board of Supervisors plan to close a section of roadway in Golden Gate Park on Saturdays. The six-month trial program would expand on the existing Sunday closure, which brings thousands of walkers, bikers, and roller skaters and yes, fans of the De Young Museum to the park to enjoy a rare car-free urban experience.

As of last week, Newsom insiders were telling us the mayor had decided to sign the legislation. But Dede Wilsey, a wealthy patron of the museum, was pushing hard to block the proposal. On May 9, the San Francisco Chronicle weighed in on the side of the museum, running a misleading editorial accusing the supervisors of defying a vote of the people and giving Newsom more cover for a move that will undermine his national image as an environmentalist.

In his veto letter, Newsom argues that the issue needs further study though that’s exactly what this plan would be: a six-month study period. And, like the Chronicle, he insists that the voters have spoken on this issue as if a pair of confusing ballot measures that were all tied up with the museum and the garage six years ago should be the final word on this issue. He also calls it "divisive" meaning, presumably, that unless Dede Wilsey and the museum crowd like something, the mayor can’t be a leader and take a stand.

The whole thing shouldn’t be difficult. The De Young’s board has argued that closed roads mean smaller crowds, but the museum’s own figures show that’s untrue (see "Dede Wilsey’s Whoppers," 4/19/06). Museum attendance on Sunday, when the roads are closed, is higher than on Saturday, when cars clog the area. (With so many people flocking to that part of the park, it’s no surprise some of them decide to stop by the museum.) Besides, when the museum won permission to build an underground parking garage in the park, garage supporters, including financier Warren Hellman, promised that the added car access would make it possible to close the roads on Saturdays and today, to his credit, he’s arguing in favor of the plan.

In New York City, which is even more congested than San Francisco and has far worse parking problems, a Republican mayor, Michael Bloomberg, has managed to close roads in Central Park not only on Saturdays but also on weekdays.

It’s too late to change Newsom’s mind, but the supervisors can still override the veto. One of the four who voted against the plan will have to switch to get the eighth vote for an override, and the most likely candidate is Bevan Dufty, whose district includes plenty of road-closure enthusiasts and who is up for reelection this fall. Call him (415-554-6968) and don’t let him wriggle out of this one. SFBG

Hunters Point plan: Wait for an audit


EDITORIAL The redevelopment plan for Hunters Point was heading for almost certain approval at press time, in part for a pretty dumb reason: It exists.

If you ask supporters of the plan, like Redevelopment Agency director Marcia Rosen, about the harsh criticism in some parts of the African American community, she’ll confront you with a very good question: What’s the alternative?

The area is economically depressed, the city and state don’t have much money to pour into it, and redevelopment at least offers the option of federal money and tax-increment bonds that could generate thousands of jobs, create thousands of units of affordable housing, help new businesses get going (and help old ones prosper), and generally improve the lives of a lot of struggling people.

At least, Rosen says, her agency has a tangible proposal. Even if it’s not perfect and no economic development plan ever is it’s something.

And that’s true, but we still have this lingering problem: The San Francisco Redevelopment Agency has never been anything but a disaster for the African American community. Since the 1950s the agency has used its extensive authority to drive black residents out of town, destroy black-owned businesses, eliminate existing affordable housing, and destroy the hearts of black neighborhoods.

And redevelopment has its own expenses according to the Board of Supervisors’ budget analyst, $100 million of the money the agency raises in tax-increment financing will go to overhead and administrative expenses.

Redevelopment is a powerful tool, which is why some progressives still like it. Despite the abuses of the past, they say, it’s possible to use that tool properly. A redevelopment agency can issue bonds backed not by the city but by the projected increase in tax revenue that will come from the economic revitalization of an area. Those bonds don’t require voter approval, provide immediate cash for things like permanently affordable housing, and have no impact on the city’s credit rating.

In the past, almost nobody has paid much attention to where the bond money actually goes and how much of the tax-<\h>increment financing winds up improving the lives of the people in the project area. That’s a serious problem.

Sup. Ross Mirkarimi, who represents the Western Addition a neighborhood that still suffers from the ugly scars of redevelopment argues that before the city launches a new redevelopment project, there ought to be a complete audit of where San Francisco redevelopment money has gone in the past. How much of the tax-<\h>increment money has subsidized the profits of private developers? How much has gone to market-<\h>rate housing? How much has gone to high agency salaries and expenses?

Equally important, how many people of color have been forced from their homes by redevelopment and how many have ever been able to return? How many minority-<\h>owned businesses have been destroyed, and how many created? How many jobs in redevelopment project areas have actually gone to residents of those areas?

How did the failures of the past happen and how can we keep them from happening this time around?

Mirkarimi’s proposal makes sense. This has been a long-term process: The city has been discussing Hunters Point redevelopment for some 10 years now. As long as there’s significant opposition in the community and as long as those q

{Empty title}


› tredmond@sfbg.com

I was sitting peacefully at home, watching the final episode of The West Wing, which my partner describes as "liberal porn," when Steve Westly drew first blood in the governor’s race.

We all knew there’d be some negative ads before this was over, and frankly, all the hand-wringing about the evil of negative campaigning has never really appealed to me: Politicians have been launching vicious, often slanderous attacks on their opponents since the dawn of democracy. But this one made me furious.

The simple story is that Westly borrowing a chapter from the Book of Rove is assailing Phil Angelides for wanting to tax the rich. And he’s doing it in the most misleading, unprincipled, and utterly disgraceful way.

The ad features what seems like a crushing list of new taxes that Angelides wants to impose $10 billion worth, Westly’s hit squad claims. Then it winds up with a smarmy tagline: "With high gas prices, housing and health care costs, can working families afford Phil Angelides’s tax plan?"

Of course, Westly had pledged some time ago not to be the first candidate to attack the other by name, but what the hell: The election’s coming up, the race seems to be narrowing, and this guy will do whatever’s necessary to win.

But more than that, with this ad Westly is promoting the exact mentality that has damaged public education, health care, environmental protection, infrastructure needs, and so much else of what used to be the California dream. Republicans love to hit Democrats on taxes, and we’ll see plenty of that in the fall, no matter who’s the nominee. And for Westly to start the "no new taxes" cry just leaves the Democrats politically crippled.

For the record, Angelides is right: The state needs more tax revenue. And under his proposal, most of it would come not from "working families" who are worried about their gas bills but from people like, well, Steve Westly and Phil Angelides millionaires. His proposed income tax increase only affects households with more than $500,000 in income. Sorry: You’re in that range, you can afford it.

So Mr. Westly: Stop with the antitax lies. This shit makes me sick.

On to the good news.

I get the feeling, from over here in San Francisco, that there’s a real change afoot in East Bay politics. For the past few years, a not-so-loose cadre made up of state senator Don Perata, Mayor Jerry Brown, and Councilmember Ignacio De La Fuente has been consolidating power in Oakland, calling the political shots and giving developers a blank check. Two of the three have real, ahem, ethical issues, and one’s itching to leave town for Sacramento, but so far, nobody’s been able to truly challenge them.

Until Ron Dellums.

Now, I know that Dellums has been out of Oakland for years, that he’s a DC lobbyist, and I’ve heard the rap that he’s long on rhetoric and short on urban policy ideas. But we met him last week, and I can tell you that, at 71, he’s still one of the most energetic and inspirational speakers around, and if he’s elected mayor, he will, by force of personality and national stature, instantly become a center of power that’s distinct from (and will often be in opposition to) the PerataDe La Fuente bloc. SFBG

Cruel and unusual punishment


OPINION Homelessness was recently put on trial in California. It was found not guilty.

The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit declared April 14 that the city of Los Angeles can’t arrest those who have no choice but to sleep on its streets. It’s a victory for those of us who believe that homelessness is not a crime, but a symptom of an unjust economic system.

At issue in the LA case was a 37-year-old law prohibiting sitting, lying, and sleeping on the sidewalks. Six homeless folks brought the complaint in 2003 with the aid of the ACLU and the National Lawyers Guild.

In her ruling against the statute, Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw wrote: "Because there is substantial and undisputed evidence that the number of homeless persons in Los Angeles far exceeds the number of available shelter beds at all times," the city is guilty of criminalizing people who engage in "the unavoidable act of sitting, lying, or sleeping at night while being involuntarily homeless." She termed this criminalization "cruel and unusual" punishment, a violation of the Eighth Amendment to the US Constitution.

Her enlightened opinion should guide public policy everywhere, especially here in San Francisco. In our "progressive" city, we have gay weddings at City Hall and an annual S-M street fair, yet our views on the homeless are as 19th century as the rest of the country’s opinions on gay marriage and kinky sex. The majority of voting people here still favor the old-fashioned method of punishing the poor and the homeless. That’s how Care Not Cash and our current antipanhandling measure managed to become law.

According to Religious Witness with the Homeless, in the first 22 months of Mayor Gavin Newsom’s administration, San Francisco police issued 1,860 citations for panhandling and sleeping on the sidewalks, as well as 11,000 "quality of life" tickets. That’s more than were issued under former mayor Willie Brown in a similar time period. How many officers did it take to issue those citations? How much money did it cost the city? What better things could San Francisco have done with the money to actually help those who were cited? How many of the people cited are now in permanent affordable housing with access to services they need to put their lives back together?

Homelessness can’t be eradicated with punitive measures. Addressing homelessness in America doesn’t mean sweeping the poor out of sight of tourists or upscale neighbors. It doesn’t mean taking away the possessions of homeless folks or fining people for sleeping in their cars. It means addressing the basic social inequities that create homelessness, among them low-paying jobs, the immorally high cost of housing, and the prohibitive price of health care.

It means having drug and mental health treatment for those who need it when they need it.

That’s the real message behind Wardlaw’s ruling.<\!s><z5><h110>SFBG<h$><z$>

Tommi Avicolli Mecca

Tommi Avicolli Mecca is a radical, working-class, queer, southern Italian activist, performer, and writer.

Eviction battle continues


› sarah@sfbg.com

Back when the tsunami of condo conversions now rolling across San Francisco was but a ripple on the rental pool, local resident William Johnston didn’t know "the ins and outs of the Ellis Act."

"Now I have a Ph.D. in it," jokes Johnston, 70, about the legislation allowing landlords to get out of the rental market, which has been increasingly abused over the past decade by landlords wishing to sell their buildings in a scheme known as tenancy-in-common.

Under the TIC system, tenants share the same mortgage but live in their own unit, which they usually hope to convert to an individually owned condo. And it was a letter proposing a TIC in the 10-unit rent-controlled building where Johnston has lived for 33 years that finally got the feisty septuagenarian to start learning about the Ellis Act in detail.

"That letter scared the crap out of me," says Johnston, who was shocked when a real estate agent claimed that the one-bedroom unit, for which Johnston pays $512 a month, would fetch half a million dollars if it were converted into a condo … if only Johnston could pony up $90,000 for a down payment.

Johnston was relieved when none of his fellow tenants took his landlord’s TIC bait, but they’re all worried the landlord plans to put the building up for sale anyway. So he’s closely following the latest chapter in the Board of Supervisors’ effort to protect renters like him.

On May 9 the board gave an initial 73 approval to a measure that would prevent condo conversions in buildings where seniors, the disabled, the catastrophically ill, or multiple tenants have been evicted.

Three previous board efforts to help tenants have been vetoed by Mayor Gavin Newsom, so Sup. Aaron Peskin heeded input from the Mayor’s Office and amended the measure to move the cutoff date for considering evictions from Jan. 1, 1999, to May 1, 2005.

That change, and the fact that he’d been getting public pressure from renters, apparently won the support of Sup. Bevan Dufty, who had voted to uphold Newsom’s vetoes of the previous renter measures. But with Sup. Ross Mirkarimi forced to abstain because he owns a TIC, the board is still left one vote shy of being able to override a veto.

The date change could affect renters like Debra Hutzer, who is disabled by thyroid problems and whose eviction papers were filed January 2005, forcing her to move on May 13, 2006, from the rent-controlled apartment on Church Street where she’s lived for 19 years to a place where she’s already paying $250 more a month.

"It’s been very disconcerting," says Hutzer of the eviction, which one of her neighbors, Carole Fanning, may now fight. Fanning is also supposed to leave, but she’s now hired an attorney to fight for "a stay of execution" that would allow her to remain in her rent-controlled unit.

"It’s possible, since seniors, disabled, and the catastrophically ill have one year from the date their eviction notice was served, that some may yet be able to convince landlords not to proceed," Peskin board aide David Owen told us.

As for the watering down of Peskin’s original measure, Ted Gullicksen of the San Francisco Tenants Union says the alternative was to put a version backdated to November 2004 on the November ballot a strategy that would have involved taking risks on an initiative that, even if it had passed, wouldn’t have gone into law until January 2007.

"Instead we have a measure that’s acceptable and has passed its first reading, which means tenants should be protected in another week," Gullicksen says. Peskin’s other amendment allows buildings with multiple evictions but not those involving the elderly or disabled to be eligible for condo conversions after 10 years. "This means those buildings get taken off the speculative real estate market," Gullicksen adds. SFBG