Volume 40 Number 45

August 9- August 15, 2006

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Facing the right way


It has been roughly two decades since the arrival of 3-D graphics changed video games forever. Visual fidelity and realism have increased geometrically. But though the ability of designers to render convincing buildings and 800-ton interstellar battlecruisers is at a zenith, one aspect of their games falls consistently behind: the people.

Sure, glistening muscles have long been perfected, and the hair looks better every year. Stare into the lifeless, glassy eyes of a cartoonishly-breasted video game sexpot, however, and there’s no mistaking where you are: the uncanny valley, a metaphorical location coined to describe the sudden onset of revulsion we experience when exposed to simulated humans that approach but do not attain realism (think Tom Hanks in 2004’s The Polar Express).

L.A. Noire, at long last, has built a giant suspension bridge over the gap. Team Bondi, the game’s Australian developers, relied on a new technology called MotionScan, which entails filming actors in a special room using 32 synchronized high-definition cameras that shoot from every angle, but focus on the head. The data from the cameras is then combined to create a stunningly accurate 3-D model of an actor’s face, right down to the laugh lines and the slicked-back, 1940s hairstyle. The model is then grafted onto a body rendered using conventional motion capture, resulting in the most believable human beings ever seen in a video game.

This technological innovation was crucial to L.A. Noire‘s design. As a police procedural, the game makes interrogating suspects the player’s most important challenge. Team Bondi turned to MotionScan in order to create a game that allows sharp-eyed, controller-clutching gumshoes to scrutinize the faces of potential perps, hoping to spot the telltale hard swallows, sidelong glances, and spastic blinking of a liar.

The success of MotionScan reaches far beyond the interrogation sequences, however, or even the game itself. There are important scientific findings suggesting that the interpretation of facial expressions is crucial to the way we experience empathy and understand emotions. The introduction of believable human faces into video games will have a seismic effect on the medium, revolutionizing the creation and efficacy of story and character.

L.A. Noire, like any good detective, provides elegant proof. It may be a game about arresting criminals and identifying their lies, but it is also a game whose strength lies in its tragedy. Lives are ruined, children are orphaned, and a generation of soldiers struggles to cope with the horrors it experienced on the killing fields of World War II. Though they all refuse to talk about it, you can see it in their faces. 




Aug. 15

Visual Art

“Another Best Friend Somehow”

As American icon or American spirit, Bob Dylan is constantly revived by the cultural defibrillator in large and very small ways. The group show “Another Best Friend Somehow” pairs the very-much-alive musical bard with a late poet whom critical elites and the makers of trends haven’t smiled upon as much of late: Dylan Thomas. Robert Allen Zimmerman’s namesake denials be damned – there are plentiful reasons to explore shared and distinct aspects of these two men’s lives and creations. Curators Jamie Atherton and Jeremy Lin have assembled an array of artists – including San Francisco-to-London’s Simon Evans, San Francisco’s Rebecca Miller, and New York’s Andre Razo – to do just that. (Johnny Ray Huston)

Through Oct. 7
Daily, noon-10 p.m.
Attic at Four Star Video, 1521 18th St., SF
(415) 826-2900


Dream Date

If you’re wondering what happened to twee, you’re not the only one – really, though, where did it go? Apparently to Oakland, as the girls of Dreamdate have made clear on their self-titled seven-inch. It’s fun of the most fluffy, benevolent kind, inspired by the cavemanlike Beat Happening and more obviously by Thee Headcoatees, and a sound not tapped into as much as it should be. It’s like the leaner, vegetarian picnic alternative to the beer-pounding barbeque every other East Bay garage band is hanging out at. (Michael Harkin)

With the Skyflakes, the Concubines, and Matcli
9 p.m.
Hotel Utah Saloon
500 Fourth St., SF
(415) 546-6300



Aug. 14


Join the resistance

Come to the new member orientation at Critical Resistance, which supports prisoner rights and works to remove prison as a solution to social problems, and get involved with the organization’s current projects. (Deborah Giattina)

6:30 p.m.
Critical Resistance
1904 Franklin, suite 504, Oakl.
(510) 444-0484


Zeitgeist International Film Festival

Tucked in the Mission District amid a lack of parking and littered doorsteps is a beer garden, with fresh air, booze, crusty picnic tables, and Port-a-Potties. Overcooked Cinema fires up the grill and brings out the popcorn cart and candy trays one last time this summer, while independent movies are blasted on the backyard wall of ’Geist. Enjoy a hot dog with your beer goggles or opt for healthier fare, as an international crew of filmmakers ranging from die-hard professionals to Blair Witch fanatics show off their latest creations. (Kellie Ell)

8-10 p.m.
199 Valencia, SF
(415) 255-7505



Aug. 13


David Grisman Bluegrass Experience

David “Dawg” Grisman’s long and storied career as a proponent of nonelectric music and grand master of the mandolin has brought him in contact with the best of bluegrass, jazz, and rock. Although Dawg is best known for his work with Jerry Garcia in their mid-’70s acoustic band, Old and in the Way, Grisman’s influence is much farther reaching. Including Darol Anger and Mike Marshall, the Dave Grisman Quintet founded the style known as Newgrass or New Acoustic, which melds bluegrass, classical, jazz, and other world styles and is rooted in superb instrumental skill and genre-bending songwriting. (Joseph DeFranceschi)

8 p.m.
Roda Theater
2015 Addison, Berk.
(510) 548-1761


Rough Cut Film Festival

Since its inception in 2003 the festival has provided film folk with an incredible opportunity for market research and audiences with the chance to get involved, laugh aloud, and appease their inner film critics in a constructive, social way. After the festival, grab something to eat and return for the Dark Room’s now infamous Bad Movie Night and Cool as Ice – the biopic about Robert Van Winkle’s rise to fame as Vanilla Ice. (K. Tighe)

Rough Cut Film Festival
5 p.m.

Bad Movie Night
8 p.m.
$5 (free popcorn)
Dark Room
2263 Mission, SF
(415) 401-7987



Aug. 12


San Francisco Home Movie Day

This is the fifth annual national celebration of Home Movie Day, and Stephen Parr of the San Francisco Media Archive has been there from the 2002 beginning. A trip to the Media Archive is fascinating in itself, but there is no better day to visit than today, when local moviemakers bring in personal and family movies for Parr to clean and screen. The result isn’t merely campy, even if John Waters has heralded Home Movie Day as “an orgy of self-discovery.” (Johnny Ray Huston)

Media Archive
275 Capp, SF
Free (call for Home Movie Clinic reservations)
(415) 558-8117



A Journey tribute band playing a free concert in the sunshine at a nudist park? Evolution, the only Journey tribute band to be endorsed by Journey the actual band, will be rocking the socks off – um, OK – just rocking the nude audience at the Sequoians Clothes-Free Club. The Sequoians have a notoriously healthy view on tan line-free relaxation – maintaining always that “nudity is a state of fact; lewdity is a state of mind.” Be sure make reservations and bring your ID – anyone can be nude, but you have to be 18 to be nude here. (K. Tighe)

2 p.m.
Sequoians Family Nudist Park
10200 Cull Canyon Rd., Castro Valley
(510) 585-0194



Aug. 11



The fog shrouding San Francisco for much of the year is clearly conducive to pop music, as Oranger have had what the Fine Young Cannibals would call a “good thing” going for more than a few years now. It’s music to hop on the trampoline to: they take the softie approach occasionally, but it’s the swirl of their latter-period-Beatles-styled guitar pop that’s truly incredible. Last year’s New Comes and Goes (Eenie Meenie) had some of the crunchiest, most clever hooks and choruses ever committed to CD. (Michael Harkin)

With Unwed Sailor and Moonlight Towers
9 p.m.
Hotel Utah Saloon
500 Fourth St., SF
(415) 546-6300



Aug. 10


Ryoji Ikeda

Earlier this year Ryoji Ikeda released Dataplex (Raster-Norton), a CD composed of computer malfunction sounds that includes a final track designed to mess up CD players and stereos without causing permanent damage. The surprising thing about Dataplex is how beautiful its seemingly random melody formations can sound. That’s just one reason why Ikeda’s SF unveiling of “datamatics [ver.1.0b]” – a surround sound concert in which ultrasonics are paired with multidimensional images – promises to be a hard-driving adventure into unseen and unheard-of vistas. (Johnny Ray Huston)

7 and 10:30 p.m.
Recombinant Media Labs
Call for location
(650) 255-8467


Release the Kraken

Fans of over-the-top, no-quarter-granted, no-pun-left-unspoken Thunderbird Theatre Company also know that these parody-loving jokesmiths organize but one full-length show a year. Happily, it’s that time of year again! After sending up noir fiction with The Collected Works of Frank Cullen; The Magnificent Seven with a battle between evil Quakers and masked Mexican wrestlers; and our undeniable obsession with pirates in Lusty Booty, Thunderbird proudly presents Release the Kraken, a retelling of the Perseus myth … set in a strip mall. (Nicole Gluckstern)

Through August 26
8 p.m.
New Langton Arts
1246 Folsom, SF
(415) 289-6766



AUG. 9


Bring ’em home

Head to the state capitol for a protest organized by Code Pink and call upon state legislators to pass a resolution that would bring members of the California National Guard home from Iraq. (Deborah Giattina)

9 a.m.
State Capitol Building
980 Ninth St., Sacramento
(510) 524-2776, www.bayareacodepink.org



This skilled and inherently groovy funk-jazz trio has an explosive sound, upbeat tunes, and so much musical talent that it’s a shame it isn’t atop the charts. But with years of experience, a loyal fan base, and high respect in musical circles, the band shows that even the best in instrumental funk-jazz can’t rise above opening acts and club gigs. Nonetheless, the virtuosity of guitarist Eric Krasno and B-3 organist Neal Evans is versatile enough to appeal to a traditional jazz fan while exposing their rough hip-hop and modern influences at the same time. With their most recent album, Breakout (Concord, 2005), catchy vocal tracks and a full-fledged horn section make their sound more accessible to the jazz impaired; perhaps it’s an attempt to stretch their appeal even further, to a full-fledged jazz-pop top 40 attack. (Joseph DeFranceschi)

10 p.m.
Boom Boom Room
1601 Fillmore, SF
(415) 673-8000

Topping the hoop


› culture@sfbg.com
“Wowza, how’d you get that gnarly bruise?” wide-eyed oglers at the office, in line at the taquería, or on my MySpace blog would ask with awe after peeping the five-inch-long trophy wound on my hip.
“Oh, this old thing,” I’d sniff. “No big deal. Just picked it up in hula hoop dance class.”
“Hula hoop dance class?” my friends back home would reply incredulously, their tiny brains atrophied by played-out calorie burners like hiking and cycling. “You got that from hula hooping? [Guffaw, guffaw, insert joke about pitiful lack of physical endurance here.]”
“Yes, friend, you see, I’m doing an article about this new fitness trend, hoop dance, and …”
“HULA HOOP DANCE CLASS!?!? Only in California, dude, only in California.”
Well, yeah, bitches. That’s right: California. Utopian birthplace of an endless array of revolutionary fitness regimens. Jazzercise. Tae Bo. Heck, according to Wikipedia, Jack LaLanne invented the jumping jack right here in California.
It’s true, though, that when it comes to wacky-sounding physical fitness, it’s been a while since the Golden State unleashed any new trends upon the world. Opportunities for women to get their saucy swivel on have been dwindling — spinning’s hardly saucy, girlfriend — with nary a Curves-free shimmy in sight in some parts of the country.
So yes, indeed, I say thank heavens for the hula hoop, God’s sexiest training wheel. Not only is the hoop helping to polish the state’s tarnished gym-class cred, it’s also spawned hoop dance, a swayin’ and slithery new workout aimed at squeezing the inner juiciness out of average dames like you and me (or possibly your girlfriend or even your mom).
The practice has already gained a healthy following in San Francisco, thanks to inspirational instructor Christabel Zamor, a.k.a. HoopGirl (winner of the 2006 Guardian Best of the Bay Award for Best Personal Trainer). But what about my hoop-deprived friends back East? When and how will they ever get their jaded swivel on?
Good news for all: having wisely determined that despite her effervescent charm and spiritual buoyancy she simply can’t be everywhere at once, HoopGirl’s now passing her hard-earned knowledge along to a bevy of women from all over the country who seek opportunity in this brand-new industry. After all, what better way to sneak erotic exercise into the red states than via the seemingly innocuous hula hoop, Trojan horse of the fitness world?
The 10 women who attended Zamor’s first weekend-long teacher certification workshop in June formed a broad career spectrum: a nurse, a raw food chef, an elementary school teacher, a massage therapist, an architectural assistant, and, of course, a handful of professional fitness instructors. All possessed the requisite hoop skills, and a few even had teaching experience.
What they came to learn, however, was the nitty-gritty of the hoop dance biz, something that Zamor did not have the benefit of knowing at the beginning of her own career. In fact, Zamor’s first exposure to hoop dance came while she was pursuing a career as an anthropology professor at UC Santa Barbara.
“When I was studying anthropology, I loved teaching, but I was really interested in ethnic dance and music traditions,” she says. “The academic environment only contextualized these things in terms of their own preestablished academic jargon. I had been very naive going into graduate school. I really thought it was about exposing myself to the beauty of dance.”
She found herself entranced by hoop dancers at a rave outside of Los Angeles. Disillusioned with the academic environment, she committed herself to learning hoop dance. She returned to Santa Barbara with a hula hoop and started practicing in the park.
“It was a new field, based on no other cultural dance form,” she explains. “And all of a sudden people were beating down my door for hoop dance.”
After struggling in an environment in which she was constantly forced to defend the legitimacy of studying African dance traditions, Zamor found herself at the epicenter of a dance revolution. Within three months of her first hoop dance experience, she found herself teaching group classes.
Today, the hoop dance teacher certification course is the latest addition to Zamor’s hula-shake empire, which includes group classes, private lessons, instructional DVDs, and performances. It’s also a crash course in running your own business.
Over three days, students learn everything they need to effectively teach a hoop dance fitness course, including how to clearly explain and demonstrate the key principles of hoop dance (squat and shimmy, very important); how to make use of imagery and metaphors (“Reach into the honey pot!”); the physiological and psychological benefits of hooping (“Did you know that the most beautiful sound in the world is the sound of a hoop hitting the floor? That’s the sound of learning and growing.”); class structures (hoop jam!); and how to deal with the top five difficult situations (a cranky, clumsy reporter in your midst, perhaps). The course also leaves students with a sense of marketing savvy and all the esoterica involved in operating a small business, such as insurance, liability waivers, pricing, and property rental.
“I really respect Christabel as an artist and a business woman,” says Candice Schutter, a movement facilitator and life coach from Portland. “She’s given us a workable structure that can be used right away to create a thriving business.”
But Zamor said she hopes the women take away much more than technical know-how. “The most important thing that I want the teachers to exude, so that other people can absorb it, is confidence,” she says. “It’s the key to learning hoop dance. It’s a feeling. It’s not something people can memorize. You just have to believe it.” SFBG
The next HoopGirl teacher-training course will be in San Francisco, Oct. 6–8. To register or for more information, go to www.hoopgirl.com.

Get your herb on


› culture@sfbg.com
“There are few things in the world as pleasurable as taking a nap on a chamomile patch,” says herbalist Joshua Muscat. “It’s an herb that doesn’t get a lot of respect. It smells good. It looks good. The flower is cute.”
It’s a hot Sunday morning in west Berkeley, and Muscat is leading a workshop called Local Medicinal Herbs and Your Health. This session is one of the classes offered by the EcoHouse, a unique residence designed to demonstrate sustainable building and gardening techniques. Wearing a white T-shirt, maroon pantaloons, and Crocs, Muscat has a down-to-earth demeanor and a boundless gusto for herbs. He’s been a student and practitioner of Western herbal medicine for the past 11 years, and his five-hour class covers everything from harvesting herbs to practicing holistic health care to preparing medicinal tinctures.
Twelve students gather on stumps, benches, and stones in the EcoHouse’s invitingly rambunctious garden. We’re here for a variety of reasons. Several people express dissatisfaction with mainstream medicine, while others want to enhance their home gardens by adding beneficent native herbs. One man is preparing for a stint at a Buddhist monastery by planting an organic garden. Another says he’s here simply because “the EcoHouse is always inspiring to me. I just like to come here and get a little bit of that.”
Babeck Tondre, a permaculture activist and resident of the EcoHouse since its inception, acquaints us with some of the special features of the site. Native plants and edible species grow in garden beds and containers in the ample yard. Bamboo shoots and ginger plants stretch into the air, towering leafily over the flowering parsnip and varietal poppies. A bathtub fountain burbles peacefully beside a straw bale toolshed designed by a local landscape architect.
There’s a rustle in the yard and a wiry man with glasses and an outdoorsy look rushes up to Muscat, trailing a freshly plucked specimen of the herb of the hour. As we pass the chamomile around, Paul Johnsen dives back into the foliage to search for another plant. Johnsen knows the garden well. A horticulturist, he became a part of the three-person EcoHouse-hold last year and works with Tondre to continually upgrade the site. Almost everything in the garden has a teaching function, including hand-built structures and animal life, which are part of the garden’s ecosystem. The toolshed roof will be renovated during an upcoming workshop on planting a living roof garden. Even the ducks will have their day.
Frances and Nate are brother drakes who waddle about the yard quacking amicably at passers-by on the long stretch of sidewalk that borders the garden’s west-side fence. Parents and children greet the two birds by name. In addition to winning the Mr. and Mr. congeniality award, the ducks keep the slug and snail population to a minimum. This month Frances and Nate will star in a workshop about raising ducks and chickens in your yard. Omelet aficionados have doubtless already sniffed out another potential benefit of raising female fowl: harvesting eggs. The EcoHouse did, at one point, foster a female duck, who purportedly laid large and delicious eggs throughout the yard. She died, though, so there won’t be eggs in the garden until the mail-order chicks arrive.
But other organic edibles abound, and during the lunch break Tondre encourages us to “forage in the yard.” There are low-water apple trees that yield a tart, green fruit and quince trees and raspberry bushes. Someone passes a basket of freshly picked gooseberries around the class. Their papery sheathes enclose a berry the size of a cherry tomato, and the intensity of the sharp, sweet flavor is akin to having a pellet of freshly cut grass applied directly to the taste buds.
Refreshed by garden goodies, we’re ready for more learning. Muscat talks about the importance of harvesting herbs responsibly. As medicinal plants such as echinacea and goldenseal gain widespread recognition and use, wild sources can suffer from overharvesting. Muscat recommends patronizing small businesses such as Lhasa Kharnak in Berkeley (www.herb-inc.com) or Scarlet Sage in San Francisco (www.scarletsageherb.com), which utilize sustainably grown or harvested plants. A group called United Plant Savers (www.unitedplantsavers.org), dedicated to preserving native medicinal herbs in North America, provides a list of endangered herbs, as well as one of responsible plant purveyors.
The best way to ensure a good source is to grow herbs in your own garden. Since space is a limiting factor for many of us, Muscat encourages urban gardeners to think collectively when deciding what to plant. As in, I’ll grow yarrow in my container garden if you grow lemon balm in your window box.
Devising tactics and sharing resources like this is a primary goal of the EcoHouse, according to Tondre. “Karl would want me to say how this project fits into the larger community,” Tondre says. The Karl he’s referring to is the late Karl Linn, a community activist and landscape architect who spearheaded the EcoHouse project in 1999. Though Linn passed away last year, his vision and presence remain vividly felt here.
Classes at EcoHouse are $15 and no one’s turned away for lack of funds. Expanding its community reach and resources, the EcoHouse recently joined forces with the Ecology Center, a well-known Berkeley nonprofit that offers a wealth of green resources to compliment the action-packed EcoHouse workshops. The center acts as an umbrella organization that hooks green-minded volunteers up to relevant activist organizations and also operates an information desk that answers such practical questions as “Where can I get worms for my worm bin?” The center also houses the Bay Area Seed Interchange Library (BASIL), which offers seeds for free; the price tag is a promise to bring seeds back to the library the following year. Beck Cowles, program director at the Ecology Center, speaks enthusiastically about the partnership with EcoHouse. “One of the neat things is that because it’s a demonstration site, people are able to come and get hands-on experience in learning to live more sustainably in the city.”
Back to the herbal-medicinal course at hand: just spending time in the garden will help fix what ails you, Muscat says. He opposes the quick-fix, pill-happy culture of mainstream medicine. Muscat advocates for Western herbal medicine as an alternative or compliment to mainstream medical practices. “It just doesn’t work within a capitalist framework,” he says. While herbal applications can remedy certain short-term problems (lemon balm: great for soothing herpes sores!), Muscat says that his holistic approach is more effective in treating long-term ailments, such as chronic fatigue and sinus allergies. Putting his mugwort where his mouth is, Muscat runs the San Francisco Botanical Medicine Clinic (www.sfbmc.org), an organization that provides low-cost treatment using herbal remedies and a holistic approach to health care.
After several sun-beaten hours among the plants, our fog-accustomed bodies are responding with proto–heat stroke. So Muscat pitches a canopy and retires to the dappled shade of a prune tree to gleefully demonstrate the mad-scientist-meets-celebrity-chef aspect of herbal medicine: preparing tinctures. His working surface is made up of a warped wooden table, upon which rest a heavy-duty blender, two quart-size bottles of Everclear, and an “I [Heart] My Guru” mug.
As Muscat blends, sifts, measures, and shakes, I inadvertently engage in the ancient practice of urtication, otherwise known as flogging with nettles, as I brush against a prolific member of the genus Urtica growing next to my stump seat. For a moment I ponder seizing the bull by the horns or, um, the nettle by the hair?, and continuing the flagellation. Relieving rheumatism, after all, is one possible application of the plant’s medicinal properties, according to herbalists.
And those who find pleasure in pain (including certain members of the kink community and perhaps of Opus Dei) are well acquainted with the nettle’s saucy sting. It’s just one more example of symbiosis between people and plants. It turns out that plants too can thrive on a bit of rough play. As Shakespeare penned in Henry VI, “The Camomile; the more it is trodden on, the faster it grows.” SFBG
1305 Hopkins, Berkeley
(510) 594-4308
2530 San Pablo, Berkeley
(510) 548-2220

Spiff your licks


› culture@sfbg.com
Painting, welding, playing the xylophone … these all seemed like mildly entertaining pursuits to me, but they didn’t quite inspire the level of intense passion needed to get me off my ass and into a classroom. If I was going to invest my valuable time in any course of instruction, it had to involve something I truly wanted to learn. Drinking, smoking, shoplifting … I was way too good at that stuff already. No, what I needed by way of education was something I could really get a hard-on about. That was it — I could definitely stand to learn more about the activity that gives me the biggest hard-on of all: going down on my girlfriend. Couldn’t we all? Join me, then, as I gently ease back the hood of our city’s sexual instruction resources in search of my very own cunnilingus guru.
Embarking on this quest had me feeling a little like Frodo: small, hairy footed, and bristling with trepidation at the thought of meeting a true cunnilingus master. Don’t get me wrong (I say in typical straight-guy fashion), I’m OK at what I do. But how would I ever convince the woman or man who was to teach me that I’d be a worthy pupil? Yet I knew I had to continue. Perhaps my libido was in charge. Perhaps somewhere in my heart, I knew my girlfriend deserved better than what I had been giving her. Whatever the case, I was determined to fix my licks for better kicks.
Finding my ideal tongue tutor wasn’t as easy as I thought. Most sex educators don’t advertise in the Yellow Pages, nor are they easily googled. And I’m a little leery of gaining sexual insights from the Learning Annex — I might walk away with my entire life savings invested in yoga retreats and Trump towers. To find someone to teach me how to orally astound, the first thing I needed to do was head to a respectable sex shop. In San Francisco that means go to Good Vibrations on Valencia Street.
There at the service counter, on an events calendar dotted with workshops on spanking, sex after 60, toe sucking, lap dancing, and whatever other sex acts you can imagine, I found the course that shot a twinge of excitement through my loins: Tracy Bartlett’s “Oral Majority” workshop. Alas, I’d missed it by a month — but didn’t despair: Tracy was due to come around again soon, I was assured by the counterperson. In the meantime, it was recommended that I read Bartlett’s bible, The Ultimate Guide to Cunnilingus (Cleis Press, www.tinynibbles.com) by Violet Blue.
If The Ultimate Guide works for a professional like Bartlett, I knew it would help me, so I purchased a copy and headed home. There in the cozy corner of my bedroom, I sat for the next three hours reading erotic fiction, techniques for mind-blowing orgasms, and helpful advice on proper pussy-eating etiquette. From the proper utilization of butt plugs to the pleasures of doggy-style licking, Blue’s book offers the sound advice of one who has braved the bush many times. Not only did it hone my cunnilingus skills, but it also provided me with a possible reason why my search for a teacher was proving difficult. “Most sex instructors,” Blue reveals, “are heterosexual females. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course — unless you want to know what it’s really like to lick a pussy. Heterosexual women don’t know, so they tend to gloss over or skip cunnilingus in their classes.”
A bell went off in my head. I knew exactly whom I needed to find: a woman who teaches cunnilingus classes and actually licks pussies.
After reading Blue’s book, I could find the clitoris in two seconds flat. I could also judge the correct moment to introduce a well-lubed finger into a hesitant anus and could expertly perform a down-tempo version of “the ice-cream lick.” I was ready to meet my swami. But where was I to find her? After some more, perhaps embarrassingly persistent queries at Good Vibes, I struck gold. Bartlett had passed the local licks-pertise torch down to her top pupil, Koko West of www.sexysexed.com.
For the past two years, Koko has been making home visits and hosting parties for up to 40 people at a time. She’s queer identified and female, and teaches both fellatio and cunnilingus classes (one and a half hours for $250) and sex classes for couples (two hours for $300). Perfect! I set up a demonstration meeting with her and held my breath (while compulsively brushing my teeth). The next morning I headed to a local park where my pussy guru was patiently waiting on a checkered picnic blanket.
There on the knoll she sat, barefoot and draped in a polka-dot dress, her glistening tray of cucumbers and a silky pillow by her side. Without saying a word, I walked up, dropped to my knees, and prepared to imbibe the lessons of a true master. With tears streaming down my face, I begged her to teach me all she could. Her hands came down from the heavens to push the hair from my sweaty brow. “Shhh,” she said, “Koko’s gonna make it all better. Tell me what you want to know.”
My first question was obvious and the answer surprising; “What is the best way to perform cunnilingus?” I blurted. “First of all,” she said, “I find the word cunnilingus a bit unsexy. I like to say ‘going down’ or ‘licking pussy.’ And honestly, there’s no tried-and-true way to go down on a woman. She may love something one day and yearn for something completely different the next. The key is talking.”
“What do you mean,” I asked naively, “like, talk into her vagina or something?” Koko looked at me disapprovingly, took a breath, and said, “Uh … no. Communication between lovers is the key. Usually when people get over the initial discomfort of talking about sex, they find conversation extremely beneficial and hot.”
Yes, I thought. That’s what my girlfriend needs. A man who can talk and perform “the crooked tongue whip” at the same time. Shit, I had some serious work to do.
We sat for hours talking about the best way to ease a lover, how to use toys, and so on, but it wasn’t until evening approached that we got to the good stuff: cold hard sex tips. Koko flipped over the odd-shaped pillow she had been leaning on. On the other side were lips, a clitoris shrouded in a satin hood, and many, many folds. “This,” she said, “is the ‘Wondrous Vulva Puppet,’ from the House o’ Chicks [www.houseochicks.com], and you’re going to lick it with your hand.”
My arm became a mock tongue as Koko guided me through her repertoire of swirly techniques, flicking motions, penetration, and more. I could have played with Koko’s pussy puppet for days, but she eventually grew weary of my puppyish enthusiasm, packed up, and left. Still, she was only an e-mail away, and I knew that although I may not have earned my master’s in munching, I was no longer just whistling in the dark. SFBG
603 Valencia, SF
(415) 552-5460

Fixin’ to ride


› culture@sfbg.com
Lately, I’ve been feeling like a gearhead dilettante. The realization that there is indeed a gap between acquired knowledge and wild conjecture has been nagging me — particularly in regards to my beloved bicycle. Said beloved bicycle, once such a pleasure to ride, has recently taken to dragging its vulcanized heels every time we start up Potrero Hill, gasping, “I think I can’t, I think I can’t.” Does the problem lie with my bearings, my rims, my gears, my chain? Should I have been filling my tires more than once every six months? Do I need to invest in a Shimano 105 RD-5501 Triple Rear Derailleur? (Full disclosure, I don’t actually know what that is.) I’m embarrassed to turn up at a bike shop and admit that although I once traversed the pays Tamberma of northern Togo on a single-speed clunker, I can’t even fix my own flat. And frankly, judging from the way I’ve seen some of you court death with your squealing brakes and your red blinkies in the front, I don’t think I’m the only bike enthusiast in San Francisco lacking the fundamentals.
Question is: where can we go to gain some mad cycle skills of our own?
I naturally begin my search with the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. Andy Thornley, the boundlessly encouraging SFBC program director, provides me with a list of fix-it-yourself resources that astounds me with its paucity. I’d rather expected that a city with as flamboyantly visible a bike culture as San Francisco would have a greater emphasis on the DIY. But a little list is still a list worth checking out, especially if it promises to save me some coins and squeals.
Thornley also clues me in that although SFBC doesn’t offer anything in the way of bike maintenance, it does give a free 10-hour, 2-day course on road safety for urban cyclists of all levels. The course, certified by the League of American Bicyclists, includes instruction on “riding in traffic, necessary equipment, crash avoidance, and legal rights and responsibilities.” He recommends registering for the class online, where it’s also possible to sign up for weekly e-mail updates on events, bike-related news, and volunteer opportunities.
On to my FYI FIY list. First stop: the Freewheel, a Western Addition fixture since 1978. The current course instructor, Wayne Brock, ushers me into what was once a health food and hardware co-op, and points out some of the amenities of the community workshop: four bike stands in the center of the room (plus two others for classes against the wall), a big blue solvent tank, a wheel-trueing stand, and a wall of shop-quality tools. A row of new hybrid cycles lines the far wall, but the emphasis here, unlike at the Freewheel branch on Valencia Street, is less on retail than on repair and custom building. Brock, 31, is a science teacher by day and actually acquired his own basic skills at Freewheel eight years ago.
“The curriculum has been ironed out over a long period of time,” he says. “Really boiled down to the essentials that will get you going.” These essentials, taught over two four-hour sessions, begin with flat repair, then continue with wheel-trueing, brake adjustments, hub overhaul, crank removal, drive train cleaning, chain maintenance, and derailleur adjustments. Already I’m a little overwhelmed. Which part is the crank? Fortunately for class participants, a take-home cheat sheet covering all of the above is provided and the $100 course fee includes a six-month Freewheel membership, with unlimited access to the community work space and tools during regular business hours.
One former student I talked to praises the Freewheel technique for “demystifying” the bicycle for her, though she admits to not availing herself of the membership benefits. She does, however, keep her bike much cleaner and better-lubed than before and feels more able to perform minor repairs on her own. Classes, generally held on Mondays, are limited to six students, and an absolutely nonrefundable $50 deposit guards against no-shows. To get on the waiting list, it’s best to go directly to the shop, deposit in hand. Your bike should already be in good repair, since the object of the course is familiarization, not parts replacement. Still, with complete in-store tune-ups going for $120, the value of a class that gets you even partway there seems like a good deal.
Over at San Francisco Cyclery in the Upper Haight, shop owner Heather Bixler, herself a former Freewheel instructor, is pioneering a schedule of classes with an emphasis on specialization. After a free class in basic maintenance, participants have the option to take one or all of a series of successive one-hour, $15 classes focusing on one component at a time: brakes, shifters, bearings, and wheels. Sometimes an additional class in roadside repair is offered, and graduates of all of the above may take a final class in complete tune-ups. Not coincidentally, the Cyclery’s female-facilitated workshops attract many women, though the classes are open to everyone. The emphasis is “to really get your hands dirty,” Bixler says, though, as with Freewheel, your cycle should be in working order prior to the course. Classes range in size from five to six people and are normally held on Wednesdays or Thursdays. A $15 deposit is required to hold your space (except for the free class), and booking is best done over the phone.
While Pedal Revolution in the Mission District has a community membership workbench plus occasional free seminars on a variety of repair topics, the nearby Bike Kitchen offers sliding-scale courses with a bit more regularity. I drop in on a wheel-building class ($30–$60 plus parts purchase) and watch as five newly threaded wheels are tried and trued. Instructor Brian Cavagnolo circulates while his students, including a former bike messenger and an editorial intern from a local luxury magazine, squint intently at their trueing stands, spinning their wheels. I’ve been frustrated by the Bike Kitchen in the past when trying to get on the repair class waiting list, but Cavagnolo seems optimistic that this will be less of an issue after its big move from the Mission Village Market to Mission at Ninth Street. (The grand opening is Aug. 19.)
“It’s a smaller space,” explains Cavagnolo. “So we’re going to have to be more organized.” Due to be streamlined is the build-a-bike program, which allows one to earn bike parts through volunteer labor and use Bike Kitchen tools to construct a working two-wheeler. In 2005, the volunteer-run Bike Kitchen was awarded a San Francisco Bicycle Coalition Golden Wheel award for its contributions to bicycle culture in the city, and the newbie wheel builders seem pleased with the experience they’re gaining.
“I took a wheel-building class [in Berkeley],” the magazine intern says, “and it was totally useless. I watched a guy build a wheel.” He rotates his self-made wheel with satisfaction. It hisses against the fork of the wheel-tuning stand as he reaches over to tighten another spoke. Cavagnolo recommends keeping abreast of class schedules via the SFBC newsletter or by visiting the Bike Kitchen Web site and e-mailing info@bikekitchen.org to get on the waiting list.
My survey at an end, I ride my still-recalcitrant yet soon-to-be-purring steed home, my head spinning like a newly tuned wheel. I stop by Needles and Pens and pick up “A Rough Guide to Bicycle Maintenance,” a slim but informative bike zine compiled in Portland. With clearly labeled diagrams of various bike parts, some simple repair methods, and the tools I’ll need to get started, I already feel one step closer to bicycle demystification. Now all I have to do is sign up for my first repair class … and you folks with those screeching brakes and front-mounted red blinkies should probably consider doing the same. SFBG
995 Market, suite 1550, SF
(415) 431-BIKE (2453)
1920 Hayes, SF
(415) 752-9195
672 Stanyan, SF
(415) 379-3870
3085 21st St., SF
(415) 641-1264
1256 Mission, SF
3253 16th St., SF
(415) 255-1534

Learning from leaks


› deborah@sfbg.com
Brace yourself. What you are about to read might go against what you think is the general wisdom of conservationists: if it’s pee, don’t let it be. Now, I’m not advocating that you should flush. What I’m about to suggest emerges from the world of permaculture, and you’re about to find out all about it.
Permaculture is an approach to sustainable living that entails close, spiritual observation of nature and its inherent patterns and rhythms. Through contemplation of the land — a backyard, an entire city, Yosemite’s wilderness — humans can learn how to interact with the environment in a balanced and harmonious way. According to its adherents, permaculture design can integrate the vast spectrum of biological diversity into a functional system that naturally replenishes what it depletes. It seems fundamental that imitating the cycles of nature would produce a less wasteful way of living, but permaculturists insist that we’ve strayed so far from that course (for example, by farming miles and miles of wheat and using limited sources of energy) that it’s time for a full-on return to basics.
But permaculture is more than just a lesson on the how-tos of composting. And it’s more than simply a call to turn back the clock of industrialization. As Guillermo Vásquez, a Mayan from Central America who has been running the Indigenous Permaculture design course around the Bay Area since 2002, puts it, “It’s about how local communities can use their resources in the city in a sustainable way.”
Though geared to the urban environment, Vásquez’s classes use farming techniques drawn from native rural communities in El Salvador, South Dakota, and Guatemala. As a demonstration of how some of these techniques can be applied to everyday situations for the typical city dweller, he talked to me about the patch of bereft soil that is my backyard. Local permaculture courses such as the one Vásquez teaches introduce students to a holistic way of gardening that goes beyond throwing down some dirt, plugging a tomato seedling into the ground, and then turning on the hose. I mentioned that I should probably wait until winter to plant, in order to take advantage of the spring rains, so that I don’t have to wastefully water the yard so much, to which he responded, “you’re right, but first you have to find out what’s in your soil.” His classes give practical lessons in such things as testing the soil for lead and rotating crops and adding trees that retain water and recycle nutrients.
Vásquez’s class is taught on a shoestring budget. He organizes the course with elders from native communities in Central America and the United States. The staff includes specialists in water, soil, and green business. Employees of local nonprofits and people from underserved communities are invited to take the course for free, so long as they make a solemn commitment to do permaculture work in their communities for at least a year after the training. “We have a really teeny budget. Sometimes we work with nothing. We do this because we believe in hard work. We don’t get a salary. We organize the students to work with no money. We prove to them and show them that we can do positive things in our community with no money.”
Permaculture courses were developed in Australia in the mid-’70s when it first became obvious to environmentalists that the planet was in serious trouble due to monoculture farming. These environmentalists believed that we should value the earth’s bounty and endeavor to not hog all of its resources. Then they looked for ways to draw upon the interconnection between earth, water, and sky. One should meditate upon a site for as long as a year before farming, permaculturists advise, making note of all the connections observed. You might notice the sun’s path through the area or how water is leaking away from the site instead of being absorbed into it.
Besides ecological sustainability and environmental relationships, most permaculturists focus on creating social sustainability, recognizing cultural and bioregional identity, and building creative activist networks to implement “placemaking” and “paradigm reconstruction practices.” Not surprisingly for such an interactive philosophy, permaculture has found a huge following on the Web — sites such as permaearth.org and permacultureactivist.net host lively online forums.
Permaculturists also believe that humans should not interfere with the wilderness and that our only interaction with it should be to observe and learn from its ecological systems. The permacultural interactivity of humans and the environment is usually organized and described graphically as a system of concentric zones, like a mandala, beginning with “home” and extending toward “community,” so that the patterns of our social worlds can be put into balance.
Permaculture instructor Kat Steele of the Urban Permaculture Guild got into this kind of holistic approach because she wanted to combine her graphic design background with what she learned about sustainable living while traveling. She took a permaculture design course and started a landscaping business, then moved on to teaching certification courses. (In most cases, permaculture certification allows graduates to teach and participate in larger projects). The Urban Permaculture Guild uses “nonheirarchical decision-making” as one of its principles, and its members, in between contributing to the guild’s operations, have been involved in such large-scale projects as working with Jordanians to green their heavily salted deserts and transforming water recycling policies in Australia.
Steele discussed the guild’s training course with me while on a break from a six-week course conducted at the education facility of Golden Gate Park’s botanical garden. (It’s the first time the park has offered the course; the educational director hopes to develop the program further with Steele.) As in Vásquez’s class, students learn about the principles and concepts of permaculture and put them into practice in gardens. They learn from guest lecturers about soil enrichment and gray water (any water except toilet water that’s been used in the home). Both Vásquez’s and Steele’s classes follow the guidelines of the Permaculture Institute of Northern California and offer certification to students who successfully complete the course. They can be beneficial to yard gardeners like me, architects who wants to consider the best way to orient a building in order to make use of the sun and shade, and civil engineers looking for different approaches to water use and recycling.
During my conversation with Steele, she indicated how the concepts of permaculture could translate to social systems. “In our social landscape, we want to look at where energy is leaking. Typically in most businesses there is an organizational structure that is sort of top-down, and we can create feedback loops from energy or information that might be stored in areas that aren’t being used, so that it all can come back to decision makers. So creating flows that mimic cycles in nature in our business structures can help that.”
So learning from leaks is a key practice of permaculture design. Before we finished our interview, Steele got me thinking about how much I leak at home and that flushing isn’t just a gross misuse of water, it’s a waste to send all that pee down the drain. Turns out pee, when diluted in, say, a backyard pond fed by rain runoff from your roof, is excellent for your garden. SFBG
Aug. 26–Sept. 13
20 hours a week, dates subject to change after first class session
Free with one-year commitment to community work
Ecology Center
2530 San Pablo, Berkeley
Check Web site for upcoming sessions in the Bay Area

Clubber’s index


› superego@sfbg.com
SUPER EGO To paraphrase an even bigger Gaye than me: what the fuck’s going on? Bloodshed and glitter, testosterone and falsies, international hatred and asymmetrical haircuts, Katyusha missiles and fuchsia Converse. It’s the middle of summer: Clubland’s on fire and the world’s going to hell. Everything’s a water-based-mascara blur, a streak of tears and soju. Can’t we keep the wars on the dance floor, where they belong? Help us, Willie Ninja! Save us, Amanda Lepore! Rescue us, what’s-her-name from the Gossip!
It’s really all gone, Pete Tong.
Well, fine with me: I’ve got my apocalyptic outfit all picked out, with two different pairs of tangerine pumps to match the flames. The problem, of course, is which hair — Meyer lemon yellow for the toxic blast or Bing cherry red for the fallout? The earth’s gonna ’splode and I’m going down like an atomic Carmen Miranda, child. But first I’ll be glowing under the black-light sleaze. Our politics of dancing may have lamed out (no mosh pits, break wars, or vogue balls), but there’s still no escaping the thrill of the electric boogaloo, especially when the brink wiggles ever closer, its plutonium-lashed antimatter Betty Boop eyes blasting through you. Party time!
Unfortunately or fortunately, that means I’m writing to you from a denial-induced metafabulous blackout. The last two weeks are coming back to me in strobe-lit flashes, a wet jockstrap here, a fogged-up Prius there, and everywhere the stink of cheap whiskey on my breath. Oh, but I’m dutiful. Below is a Harper’s-like rundown of my recently recalled Clubland affairs, a fortnight of forthright escapist fandango.
Soundtracks: DJ B’ugo, a.k.a. Ugo N’gan’ga Gitau of Montreal (www.bugo.dj). All three discs of the new Defected Records Eivissa 2006 Balearic house mix. Old Slits. CNN in the liquor store
Shoes: brown suede Emericas. Grape Kool-Aid shell toe Adidas. Fuzzy gorilla slippers. No Crocs
Outerwear: Home Depot and ImagiKnit
Underwear: conceptual
Drag queen out of drag most encountered: Peaches Christ
Drag queen out of clothing most encountered: Rentteca
Burning Man camp fundraisers successfully avoided: 157
Number unsuccessfully avoided: 36
Cute Israeli refugees I managed to drag home: 2
Cute Lebanese refugees who thanked me politely but said they “weren’t having it”: 12
Number I continued hitting on anyway: 12
Roller-skating-oriented nightlife events attended: 5
Bruised inner thighs: several
Trampled wigs: half
Efforts to really go check out that new club Shine (shinesf.com) being derailed by more focused pick-up efforts of eager, scruffy bicyclists on South Van Ness on the way there: many
Formal reprimands received at the Dore Alley gay leather fetish fair for doing something that “wasn’t allowed”: 1
Times I got away with it: roughly 3
Thwarted attempts to register for the upcoming San Francisco Drag King contest just so I could hang out in the dressing room: 2
Trips to the bathroom during the Guardian Best of the Bay party to puke up free petite sirah: still counting
Amount of self-respect somehow retained throughout all of the above: pricey SFBG
Call for time and price
DNA Lounge
375 11th St., SF
(415) 626-1409

{Empty title}


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

Keeping it hyperreal


› a&eletters@sfbg.com
It’s our bright and hazy fortune to be living in an age in which each day presents some new means of communicating with one another. So why does life itself come to feel ever more atomized, more suffocating, more confusing and lonely? Can it really be true that no man is poor who has Friendster?
Remote, the latest multimedia performance piece from partners Sara Kraft and Ed Purver, explores this distance, this ambivalence inside our desire to connect with one another amid proliferating technologies of communication and control. With performers Ernie Lafky and Rowena Richie, Kraft and Purver use a keen assemblage of live video feed, video-based art (all of it mixed live by Purver), Internet hookups, exuberant performance, and music to present a dispersed series of “lab studies.” These run the gamut from everyday text messaging between a bicoastal couple (Kraft and Purver) to the deeply ominous if also comical attempts by the US government in the 1970s to harness paranormal psychic phenomena for use by its military and intelligence apparatus.
This latter dimension of Remote’s evocative archaeology takes the mediation of everyday life in its most overtly sinister direction. Based on extensive research, including use of declassified CIA documents and interviews with key participants, Remote pursues its themes through the belly of the beast — in real-life programs and experiments (reproduced in various cunning and wry ways here) that had bruised military careerists attempting to walk through walls, would-be “psi warriors” trying to implode goats with bursts of psychic energy, and intel gatherers vigorously massaging their temples in an effort to peep into far-flung corners of the globe without leaving the office. (These strategies have since been made unnecessary by new technologies of remote surveillance and destruction — a point underscored in Remote by ghostly infrared images associated with the military’s remote human targeting.)
Moreover, as in the path they cut with 2002’s Woods for the Trees, Kraft and Purver pursue Remote’s themes through the prism of their own relationship — which came eerily to resemble the project they had already begun when Purver relocated to New York. Presenting their lives through the very media sustaining their real relationship gives supple and transparent significance to the projected image of a couple literally interfacing with one another across the ether of the Internet.
Throughout Remote’s nonnarrative sequence of scenes, the social and psychological reification that treats human beings as physical objects (and even goats as “targets”) blends and contrasts with the primacy of human subjectivity, casting its own “projections” onto the physical world, whether in the name of emotional affinity or under the guise of scientific, clinical, or technological detachment. The theme gives rise to a number of inspired, gorgeous scenic compositions integrating Kraft and Purver’s video work, Frieda Kipar’s enveloping lighting design, Sheldon B. Smith’s haunting soundscapes, and Kraft’s melodic refrains (“The farther you are, the closer I feel to you. Stay away. Please stay away…”). The mise-en-scène shrewdly unites media and theme to make at once obvious and strange the Möbius strip carrying technological and mental projections of ourselves to the world and back again.
At the same time, there’s much laughter in Remote’s investigation of these fundamentally absurd situations. Even a little too much. (The recurring attempt by the psi warrior–in–training to explode the heart of the inert goat, for instance, comes perilously close to beating a dead horse.) But then, pinpointing the humor in the otherwise bleak and chilling territory of the postmodern is an integral and mostly successful part of Kraft and Purver’s revelatory mode. Remote lacks some of the consistency of their earlier work. Still, they have a proven knack for conveying the authentic human voice singing in those darkened woods and between those flickering screens. SFBG
Thurs/10–Sat/12, 8 p.m.
1310 Mission, SF
(415) 435-7552

Rage and resistance


› a&eletters@sfbg.com
“It’s a whole different feeling on the East Coast.” Raymond “Boots” Riley, Oakland’s most famously outspoken rapper, is talking. The Coup, the group he’s led for more than a decade, has just returned from a series of spring New York dates. Their latest album, Pick a Bigger Weapon (Epitaph), has just dropped. It’s a good time to clock the distance between the coasts. “They’ve got a whole different code of language and lifestyle — and the same with the political energy that’s there. It doesn’t even translate,” he says. “We were in New York for four days, and like the old saying goes, ‘It’s a nice place to visit.’”
He pauses, perhaps for breath, perhaps to check himself, before continuing, “There are a million things to plug into back there. You don’t even have time to make a mistake. With all the stuff you hear about Oakland, the truth is that people walk down the street and say ‘what’s up’ to each other even when they’re strangers.”
For Riley, that sense of community is crucial. It keeps him going. Because exposing the dark hand behind the daily injustices heaped on the populace — and empowering people to stand against it — is what Riley is all about. Beginning with the Coup’s 1992 debut, Kill My Landlord (Wild Pitch), through his latest, the group’s fifth full-length, he has created a deeply personal, heartfelt, often funny body of work that captures the East Bay’s radical legacy, as well as its funky, booty-shaking musical sensibility.
For those whose eyes were focused on other things — understandable under the circumstances — the original drop date for the Coup’s fourth album, Steal This Album: Party Music (75 Ark), was 9/11. If current events weren’t enough, the original cover featured Riley and Coup DJ Pam the Funkstress in front of a crumbling World Trade Center. It got the group a fair bit of publicity — not all of it favorable, including scrutiny from the political police. The result was that in some quarters, Party Music was seen as too hot to handle.
It contributed to a potentially lethal — career-wise — four-year-plus interlude between albums. Riley is frank about the delay.
“A couple of years were about us touring to make sure that people found out about that album,” he explains. “For a long time when we toured, we’d get into town and find out that the album wasn’t in the stores. I don’t apologize for anything about that album, and I wanted to make sure that it didn’t just disappear.”
But a nearly five-year wait?
“Well,” Riley says, “there was the business of what did I want the next album to be. And in the past, the first 12 songs I liked, there was the album. But this time, I had 100 songs I liked, I kept obsessing about the music, and a lot of that was me running away from making the album.” Party Music may not have gone putf8um, but it boosted the Coup’s visibility and reputation among more than just funk lovers. The past few years have seen an upsurge in political activism, and the group managed to find fans among those who like rebellion with their music. High expectations came with the territory.
“I got sidetracked when I started this album for a little bit,” says Riley. “I set out thinking I was going to have to address everything in the world. I was taking on too much.”
It’s instructive to understand what “too much” means to Riley.
“At first I’d think about writing a song that would break down the Palestinians’ fight for land,” he says. It led to what he calls overthinking the problem. “Some people look out at the world and see things simply. I see things in their complications. It’s how I understand the world, but it also can lead to problems. That comes out in my music sometimes, because I can always do something over by just erasing a line.”
What this led to in the case of Bigger Weapon was a classic hurry-up-and-wait situation. There was a time, for instance, when Riley would go into the studio and just follow his instincts. Now many listeners were knocking at the door. The president of Epitaph, Andy Caulkins, was one of them.
“He’d call me,” Riley remembers, “and say, ‘We’re really excited about this album. It’s really the time for it.’ ‘Laugh, Love, Fuck,’ a kind of personal manifesto, was the first song I turned in. After a few of my conversations, I’d be wondering if this was what they expected. But I realized that what motivates me to think about things on a world scale, it has to do with what is happening in my town, how it’s similar and dissimilar to what’s going on in the world. Otherwise it’s like I’m sitting in class, and it’s just a bunch of facts. When I first got into organizing I was 15, and I was really excited about learning things, and I think I read every book that was shoved at me. What stuck with me is the parts of the books that my actual real life made clear.
“How I write best is just me being myself — when I have what I call moments of clarity — just feeling things, reacting to things as I live my life. That’s when it works.”
The material is so personal that at moments Riley had difficulty handling the idea of a public hearing. “I have songs on here,” he says, “that I couldn’t look at people when I first played them … ‘I Just Want to Lay Around in Bed with You’ and ‘Tiffany Hall.’ The last one is about a friend of mine and what her death signifies to me. Those songs were hard for me in that very personal way.”
These tracks were foreshadowed by cuts like “Wear Clean Drawers” and the wrenching “Heaven Tonight” from Party Music. The former is a kind of heartfelt message to his young daughter warning her about the difficulties that life has in store for her; the latter is built around the story of a young woman with hunger pangs that are the unjust punishment of poverty.
At the time that he wrote “Drawers,” Riley remembers thinking, “Maybe this isn’t why I got into rapping, that I needed to break the whole system down.”
In fact, his songs do indict the system, like the tracks on the latest album — not by imparting lofty lessons, but by focusing on the human particulars. Ultimately, the album shows a confident Riley at home with an unambiguous approach to songwriting.
To say that the rapper is unapologetic doesn’t begin to describe his resolve. The truth is that he never budged from the original World Trade Center a flambé cover of Party Music, and there’s no give in Pick a Bigger Weapon. The title itself works two ways: as advice to the dispossessed and as a challenge to the powers that be.
“In my life,” he says casually, “I’m still probably the only person I kick it with who considers himself a revolutionary. I mean, I’m not in an organization, but I think that in this world the people can take power.
There are no doubt folks who feel that Riley lives in a different universe. When asked about the skeptical among us, he tells a story he heard from guitarist Tom Morello of the late rock-rappers Rage Against the Machine. Morello has become a Riley friend and fellow traveler who can be found on occasion playing behind the Coup, as well as working with Riley as a guitar-rap duo. According to the guitarist, Rage some years ago was working on a video with outspoken director Michael Moore. The idea was for Rage to arrive on Wall Street on a busy workday, where they’d set up and play, loud. The financial district population would, they thought, be pushed up against the wall by the Rage challenge.
What happened was unexpected, and for Riley serves as a case in point. “They showed up on Wall Street,” he explains, “and expected all kinds of chaos with people scared, threatened by their music, and the police coming and everything. But what happened was, out of the financial district came about 100 people in suits chanting, ‘Suits for Rage! Suits for Rage!’ The point is that there are a lot of people who don’t want to be part of the system and don’t see themselves as part of it.”
“We all hear about the problems, like you can’t say anything or the FBI’s gonna put you in jail,” continues Riley. “But the thing is that people need to feel empowered. I try to make music first that makes me feel good about life, that makes me feel empowered. Some beats make you feel like, ‘Damn, I’m gonna beat somebody’s ass,’ and sometimes might do that, but I try to make music that draws on a lot of different feelings.”
As Riley says, the album has many flavors. But when all is said and done, the essential message can be found on the first full track, “We Are the Ones.” Over a booming, bouncy bass line, he sounds almost laid-back as he raps, “We, we are the ones/ We’ll see your fate/ Tear down your state/ Go get your guns.”
It’s frank, on the ferocious side, and exactly what audiences have come to expect from the Coup. It took Riley nearly five years to release it, but Pick a Bigger Weapon is in your hands. Use it wisely. SFBG
With T-Kash and Ise Lyfe
Sat/12, 9 p.m.
628 Divisadero, SF
(415) 771-1421



In its almost 27 minutes, Samantha Reynolds’s Back to Life doesn’t break down the history of taxidermy, but it does prod, stumble, and finesse its way into some memorably off-kilter portraiture, not to mention insight about mortality. Her decision to be on camera initially might seem amateurish (especially after the movie’s opening animation), but as a surrogate viewer, she achieves an uncomfortable intimacy with her subjects. And her subjects are something else. They include one taxidermist who is simply continuing the family business and another whose creative memento mori urges are directly connected to family horror: a father who shot himself and an uncle who committed matricide, for starters. “I put it in her hands before I pushed the button,” the latter taxidermist says, referring to the book I’m OK, You’re OK and another relative, both now in powder form in a glass bottle on her mantle.
There are no Norman Bates types in this doc, just bereaved pet owners, artists dealing with their lot in life, and businesspeople doing their job — a job that just happens to involve sawing off the legs and heads of dead pets to make molds, a task that Reynolds herself joins in on with a grimace. Back to Life is just one of the many byways available in the varied programming of “SF Shorts” — the first San Francisco International Festival of Short Films. Even better is Kim Romano’s Muriel, a profile of a 67-year-old woman in Key West who tosses off one-liners that Woody Allen would covet; Romano has a gift for funny and even poignant framing, and there are more vivid characters in her 19-minute movie than you’d find in a full day of Sundance drama features. Overseen by a jury that includes filmmaker Jay Rosenblatt, the seven programs include sections devoted to documentary and comedy. Festival directors James Kenney and Michael Coyne took in over 900 entries before choosing 56. That last number includes a movie by Melissa Joan Hart, a.k.a. the director formerly known as Sabrina the teenage witch. (Johnny Ray Huston)
See Film listings for venues
and showtimes
(877) 714-7668

Fifteen, minute


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

Found in translation


› a&eletters@sfbg.com
In early ’80s Hollywood, director John Byrum set about making a film set in ’20s Paris. Coming down from the nouveau bohemian high of filming 1980’s Heart Beat, a film based on Carolyn Cassidy’s accounts of Jack Kerouac, Byrum was fully prepared to tickle the underbelly of the poetic avant-garde. He aimed to do so through a film version of W. Somerset Maugham’s The Razor’s Edge.
The Razor’s Edge tells the story of Larry Darrell, a young American who has just returned from war and decided to loaf around Paris to find the meaning of his life. From there, Maugham unravels some of the most misunderstood fibers of the human condition: jealousy, love, antipathy, lust, greed, and spirituality. Steeped in sex, drugs, murder, and philosophy, the novel had been the basis for a 1946 film starring Tyrone Power and Anne Baxter. Byrum brought a copy of the book to his friend Margaret “Mickey” Kelley, who was holed up in the hospital after giving birth.
“The very next night around four in the morning, the phone rings and it was Mickey’s husband, Bill [Murray],” Byrum remembers, via phone from his home in Connecticut. “All he said was, ‘This is Larry, Larry Darrell.’”
That sealed the deal. With a marquee name in tow, Byrum was set to remake The Razor’s Edge, starring Bill Murray — in his first-ever dramatic role. Throwing conventional script-writing out the passenger side window, the pair soon drove across America to write the screenplay. Murray and Byrum returned with a script that bore no resemblance to the 1946 film version. They even wove a farewell speech to Murray’s late friend John Belushi into the text.
There was just one problem: they had to find someone to let them make the thing. “I’ll tell you who got this movie made,” Byrum says. “It was Dan Aykroyd. Dan pointed out that we could give Ghostbusters to Columbia in exchange for a green light on The Razor’s Edge — Bill was convinced. Forty-five minutes later we had a caterer.” This devil’s bargain is par for the course. Hollywood legend has it that Tyrone Power committed to do one more Zorro movie for the privilege of playing Larry Darrell.
The film that took a drive around the country to write would soon take a trip around the world to film — the boys found the rest of their cast and set out. With Theresa Russell, Catherine Hicks, and Denholm Elliott in tow, the next year and a half would see the crew touch down in France, Switzerland, and India. The moment the last shot wrapped, Murray was on a plane to the set of Ghostbusters.
The Razor’s Edge — starring Bill Murray and shot entirely on location with a $12 million budget and a ridiculously talented cast — bombed. In a big way. Ghostbusters, the film Murray agreed to do only to get this one made, was released just weeks before, and it more than eclipsed Byrum and Murray’s labor of love, which ultimately ended up grossing only $6.5 million.
“I knew we weren’t going to get Oscars and fame from it,” says Byrum. “But when the film tanked so badly, Bill went to Paris to study at the Sorbonne because he was sick of the movie business.”
Twenty years later, Bill Murray has established himself as a master of dramatic roles, and the irony isn’t lost on Byrum, who at least gets to enjoy The Razor’s Edge’s ascendant cult movie status. “I wish I hadn’t gotten there first,” he says. “But when you get to do all these things making a movie, who cares if it’s a hit? I mean, it helps — but who cares?”
Tues/15, 7 and 9:30 p.m. (part of the Castro’s “70mm Series,” Aug. 11–19)
Castro Theatre
429 Castro, SF
(415) 621-6120

To hell with the world


One question that has swirled around Oliver Stone’s World Trade Center is whether it is too soon to make a film about the WTC attacks. Survivors have compared their experiences to Bruce Willis movies, The Planet of the Apes, and The Towering Inferno, and the rest of us only ever experienced the event as representation anyway — is it too soon to turn a disaster film into a disaster film? Or is it too soon to turn the deaths of more than 2,700 people into entertainment?
Perhaps fearing such criticism, Stone doesn’t entertain; instead, he’s created one of the most plodding disaster flicks ever made. By focusing on two Port Authority police officers trapped beneath the rubble, Will Jimeno (Michael Peña) and John McLoughlin (Nicolas Cage), Stone tries to form a heavily underlined allegory about passing through hell to make it to the light.
There is an oft-repeated urban legend about an actress — Pia Zadora, usually — who is so awful in a theatrical production of The Diary of Anne Frank that during the second act, as the Nazis are searching the house, somebody in the audience calls out, “They’re in the attic!” Cage approaches that level of performance here. He usually conveys “befuddled” and “dopey” with a kind of genius, but Stone highlights his regular-guy qualities and removes humor and irony to create a caricature of virtuous and inarticulate American masculinity. Cage’s failed attempt to act against type combined with Stone’s blaring sentimentality might easily lead audiences to hope against hope that the next crumbling building will drop a girder just so and end this tortured performance for good.
The sappy music and fuzzy domestic scenes that Stone relies on to convince us we should care about his characters only suggest instead that Americans, in our relationship to technology, have stopped being human. Stone, at least, seems to believe that we wouldn’t know what to feel about death and salvation without an orchestra drowning out our ability to feel anything but contrived replicas of grief and hope. Cute and heartwarming moments usually serve to negate the reality of death. More profound cinematic journeys into hell, such as Hideo Nakata’s Dark Water, with its creepy Hello Kitty bags, and Tamala 2010: A Punk Cat in Space, with its badass fuzzy heroine, face death, complexify reality, and transform cute into its opposite; Hotel Rwanda never uses the “heartwarming” survival of its heroes to look away from the deaths of thousands. Turning historical events into heartwarming allegories is a problem generally, because it creates meaning at the expense of complexity; it’s also a problem specifically, because America didn’t actually pass through hell on Sept. 11 but settled in and began vigorously exporting hell.
If you expected Stone to give voice to the conspiracy theories that serve as a dreamworld underbelly to the official story, you’ll be disappointed. You want to feel the deep cosmic sadness that such mass death and terror deserve? Sorry. As a historian, Stone has made a career out of distorting our collective mythologies. He waited almost 20 years to make the Doors pompous and boring (The Doors, 1991), about 30 to take the fun out of “Who shot JFK?” conspiracy theories (JFK, 1991), and millennia to make Greek imperialism trite and campy (Alexander, 2004). Instead of the Native Americans who often pop up in Stone’s films to deliver wise and mystical sentences, there is an apocalyptic Christian ex-Marine, Dave Karnes, (Michael Shannon) saying things like, “God put this curtain of smoke here to hide something we aren’t yet ready to see.”
Or at least something horrible and complicated that Stone isn’t ready to show us. Jimeno has his own visions of Christ with a water bottle, and Karnes goes off at film’s end to Iraq to avenge the attack. Stone might like to hide his reactionary focus on vengeance and family values behind the screen of a true story, but his waving flags, footage of President Bush, Christian imagery, and use of the word evil are choices that convey obvious political messages. Although many were too distracted by Colin Farrell’s silly blond wig to notice, Stone already revealed his secret affection for imperial military adventures in Alexander. Even worse, World Trade Center doesn’t have any silly blond wigs to distract us and keep us from pondering the political message of making an apocalyptic catastrophe as boring as hell. (Stephen Beachy)

Stone’s throw


› cheryl@sfbg.com
Still several entries short of being its own disaster-movie subgenre, the miniwave of Sept. 11 cinema continues with Oliver Stone’s World Trade Center. Scrubbed of any JFK-style theorizing, Stone’s respectful take on the tragedy focuses on a pair of Port Authority Police Department officers who were pulled alive from the Twin Towers rubble 12 hours after the buildings collapsed.
The film’s tagline promises “a true story of courage and survival,” and indeed World Trade Center goes for the uplift-amid-tragedy jugular. The 9/11 movies may be here, but it’s clearly still too early to dramatize the events without offering catharsis. Even United 93, Paul Greengrass’s take on the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania, spun its obviously devastating final moments into a tribute to its hijacker-defeating passengers. World Trade Center stacks the sentimental deck even higher by plopping movie stars (Nicolas Cage, Maria Bello, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Crash’s Michael Peña) into the disaster. While United 93 had a nearly documentary feel, with nonactors in key roles and gritty handheld camerawork, World Trade Center is classically cinematic, foregoing a sprawling retelling of the 9/11 story in favor of a tightly compacted exploration of human determination.
The day starts like any other, as PAPD cops John McLoughlin (Cage) and Will Jimeno (Peña) settle into their routine, tracking runaways and giving directions to tourists. Suddenly there’s a shadow overhead, a terrible sound, and the men are hustling several blocks to aid the evacuation of the first World Trade Center tower to be hit — accidentally, they think — by an airplane. Stone never shows the planes’ impact; within the film’s world, context (and explicit mention of terrorists) feeds in via televisions blaring in the background of nearly every scene that takes place beyond ground zero. Even when the towers collapse, trapping McLoughlin and Jimeno deep within a perilous pile of stone and metal, neither realizes what Stone assumes every viewer will already know about Sept. 11 chronology.
At a certain point, World Trade Center splinters. McLoughlin and Jimeno cling to life, chatting back and forth about pop culture (since the film is drawn from the men’s own recollections, it’s entirely likely the Starsky and Hutch conversation really took place), their intense pain, and their families. Meanwhile, Donna McLoughlin (Bello) and Allison Jimeno (Gyllenhaal) anxiously await news of their missing husbands, with golden-hued flashbacks reminding all partners of happy domestic moments they’ve been taking for granted. There’s a brief the-whole-world-is-watching montage that illustrates grief on an international level. And, of course, there’s President Bush on the news spewing rhetoric, inspiring ex-Marine Dave Karnes (Michael Shannon) to don his military gear and head to New York City to help out.
The problem here isn’t in the way Stone and first-time scripter Andrea Berloff characterize these real-life people as almost supernaturally brave under extraordinary circumstances (Jimeno’s personal encounter with Jesus is World Trade Center’s “ride the snake” moment, but it kinda works amid the ongoing theme of faith as a survival tool). And it’s not that the film disregards the people who died that day. The tone here is very, very reverent. But it’s telling that World Trade Center focuses on a success story; unlike the characters in United 93, which built off a few cell phone calls to reconstruct the flight’s last frantic moments, World Trade Center’s heroes lived to share their memories, sickly sweet what-should-we-name-the-baby arguments included.
By focusing so intently on just the McLoughlins and the Jimenos (and to a lesser extent Karnes, a rather one-note concession to Stone’s military fixation) the film leaves the door open for countless Sept. 11–related movies to come. It’s just a question of whether future filmmakers will hew to Greengrass’s example and go raw or create movies like Stone’s World Trade Center: a bit overcooked. SFBG
Opens Wed/9
See Movie Clock at www.sfbg.com for theaters and showtimes

The Death of me


› kimberly@sfbg.com
SONIC REDUCER Wanna know the surest way to mortify me or send me skulking into the shadows? Bludgeon me with praise. Single me out with love. It just makes the misanthrope in me squirm like a worm at the end of hook. That was the sweet but unintentionally sinister sensation at the “Girls Just Wanna Have Chun” show at the Stork Club on Aug. 5 with Pillows, Liz Albee, and other all-girl bands, inspired by, I’m told, my recent cover story [“Where Did All the Girl Bands Go,” 7/19/06]. I feared some sort of roasting and de-ribbing until one of the organizers, Suki O’Kane, reassured me her intentions were honorable. “I hear you cluckin’, big chicken,” she helpfully e-mailed. Yup, fightin’ words got me to the club on time, but that didn’t stop an acute sense of self-consciousness from washing over my sorry PBR-swilling self.
You realize then that on some off-days you were just never psychologically prepared to leave home. Even indie rock pros like Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie and Postal Service know what I’m blathering on about. I spoke to the DCC guitarist-vocalist while he lounged in a bus outside the big ole barn he was scheduled to play at Penn State that night, and he fessed up to the struggle to deliver when he wasn’t feeling it. “I’ll be perfectly honest — there have been times when I can be a little bitch on stage,” he said. “I’m trying to always harness my inner Wayne Coyne. Y’know, WWWCD — what would Wayne Coyne do?”
The spunky Death Cabbies I first caught at the Bottom of Hill have truly made the leap from “shows” to “concerts,” as Gibbard put it, something he jokes about with his bandmates. “We started touring in ’98, playing to nobody and eating mustard sandwiches,” he explained. “You go out a year later, and there’s maybe 50 people there, and then the next time there’s 150 people there…. It’s been such a gradual kind of build that it doesn’t feel outlandish to me. I can’t imagine what a band like the Arctic Monkeys must feel like, and I’m glad this is happening to us five records in rather than one or two records in. I think we were one of the last generation of bands to develop pre-Pitchfork, pre–blog culture, and that’s fortunate.”
Chatty, thoughtful, and up for analyzing this crazy little thing called the music biz, Gibbard has obviously given quality thought time to blogatistas’ impact on his musical genre. “It’ll be interesting to see what happens, because I have this horrible premonition that blog culture will turn the United States into the UK,” he added. “You know how the NME is this awful, horrific publication that before a band even has a single out lauds them as the greatest thing since sliced bread and then as soon as their full-length comes out says they’re past their prime?
“I’m just so kind of over fashion rock and all its different forms. Coming out of the last three or four years of dance punk and bands that want to be Wire, it’s kind of exciting to see a band that’s just really rocking out in earnest ways.”
But what about Postal Service (which Gibbard said he plans to revisit sometime next year, before DCC begin work on their next album) — aren’t they dance punk? “I don’t think if I’m involved in it in any way that it can be in any way … punk, at all,” he said with a laugh.
FASHION LASHIN’ CSS (of Sao Paulo, Brazil), a.k.a. Cansei de Ser Sexy or Tired of Being Sexy, would know a wee bit about fashion, blog jams, ad nauseated. Gibbard’s Postal Service labelmates on Sub Pop have managed something nigh impossible to our Electroclash-crashed consciousnesses: they manage to reference Paris Hilton on their new self-titled album and not sound like shopping-damaged sluts whom you want to slap.
It helps that the mostly femme ensemble kicks off its new album with the self-explanatory chant “CSS Suxxx” and goes on to charm with überdanceable joints like “Artbitch” (“Lick lick lick my art-tit … suck suck suck my art-hole”). Vocalist Lovefoxxx is one earthy, superenthused, helpful mama to boot. CSS met through common friends and photo logs. “We had daily jobs, so we’d spend all day in front of the computer,” the 22-year-old ex–graphic designer rasped from Houston. She’s since moved on. “Silly teenagers started to join it.”
The lady has an endearingly visual way of describing the band: “It’s like if you have a dog and you get your golden retriever to go with a Labrador and then you get weird puppy sex.” So help me with this picture: what is an “art tit”? “Art tit was like artist, and art hole sounds like asshole,” she explained patiently. “It doesn’t get deeper than that, Kimberly.” SFBG
With Spoon and Mates of State
Fri/11, 7 p.m.
Greek Theatre
Gayley Road, UC Berkeley, Berk.
With Diplo and Bonde do Role
Thurs/10, 11 p.m.
444 Jessie, SF
(415) 625-8880
The Valley is alive with the sound of … art. In conjunction with the ZeroOne San Jose/ISEA gathering, the Bleeding Edge Fest presents Yo La Tengo, Black Dice, Brightblack Morning Light, the Avett Brothers, Skoltz Kogen, Sunroof!, the Chemistry Set, and others in tony Saratoga. Matmos and Zeena Parkins collaborate on an original work, as do Isis and Tim Hecker. Sun/13, noon–10 p.m., Montalvo Arts Center, 15400 Montalvo Rd., Saratoga. $50. (408) 961-5858, www.bleedingedgefestival.org.
Arcade Fire player Owen Pallett puts his love of D&D to song as Final Fantasy, while ex-Deerhoofer Chris Cohen collaborates with Nedelle Torrisi in Curtains. Fri/11, 10 p.m., Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., SF. $8–$10. (415) 621-4455.
Brightblack Morning Light dream up an un-air-conditioned dreamscape starring Lavender Diamond, Daniel Higgs, and a special Ramblin’ surprise. Fri/11, 4:20 p.m.–12:45 a.m., Henry Miller Library, Hwy 1, Big Sur. $25. www.henrymiller.org.
Open-mic regs toast Playing Full Out! 2006 Hotel Utah Compilation Album. Thurs/10, 8 p.m., $3–$5. Amnesia, 853 Valencia, SF. (415) 970-0012.

Squeaky wheels


By L.E. Leone
› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com
CHEAP EATS Hey now, don’t forget about the Cotati Accordion Festival this summer. Every summer I tell you about it, and every summer you forget to go. I know because I live in Sonoma County and I’ve never been there either.
But of all our great country’s famous yearly thematic bashes that I haven’t ever once attended, the Cotati Accordion Festival is by far my favorite. It’s ridiculously fun, you can just tell. Mark your calendar: Aug. 26–27, downtown Cotati in the park with the statue of the accordion player, off 101 North less than an hour from the Golden Gate Bridge. You can’t miss it.
Me, I’m missing it. I’ll be in Idaho, like I am every August on that weekend, except this time instead of playing at the Council Mountain Music Festival, I’m going to be a professional cook for the first time ever. Boy am I nervous — and excited. Cause while my friends are recording the score for a movie, I’m in charge of feeding them and cleaning up and stuff, which will be like a dream come true for me, provided that one of the onions turns into Burl Ives and lectures me on dental hygiene while pointing ominously at a banjo.
One thing about driving a pickup truck is that every now and then you can have a bicycle in back, instead of bales of straw and sacks of feed and scrap wood. Get this: my pickup truck kerplunks on me early morning one morning in Rohnert Park on my way to Kaiser to get blood tested, and what do I have in back but … my bike!
So I biked to my bloodletting. I was fasting and needed coffee bad. And Pop-Tarts. Then, after all that, I biked down to Cotati, to the park with the statue of the accordion player in it, and I called my closest geographical girlfriend, Orange Pop Jr., in San Rafael and convinced her to come rescue-slash-have-lunch with me.
My hero!
I want to tell you a secret, San Francisco. Sonoma County has bigger burritos than you do. Example: Rafa’s in downtown Cotati, just south of the park with the statue of the accordion player, where OP2 and the chicken farmer sat outside under an umbrella on a beautiful day, talking about boys and of course chickens and, um, farming.
It’s a full-on Mexican restaurant, great atmosphere inside and out. Our waitressperson “she’d” me. Then she mal-recognized her “mistake” and apologized profusely and I had to comfort and reassure her that in fact she had made my day, as she all the while played with my hair. This was pretty cool.
Like my new pal OP2, the burritos are LA–style, which means that you have to ask for rice, if you want it. Which we did, but even without, Rafa’s burritos are about as big as … well, they’re two-mealers, and they run from $4.75 to $7.50, with chips.
Afterward, OP2 drove me to San Rafael and put me on a bus for the city, and I BARTed to West Oakland and borrowed my sister-in-love’s pickup truck just in time to drive back home and close my chickens in before foxes ate them. So that was a pretty transportational day for me.
But I have another brother who you haven’t met yet. His name is Santa Claus and he’s only 12 years old. Defiantly, he has two kids, a decent job, and a neatly trimmed beard and mustache. I picked him up at the airport a couple days later still with Deevee’s truck, and his luggage consisted of parts for mine from our family’s own private backyard junk yard in Ohio. Bless my brothers, I’ll be back on my wheels in no time.
Anyway, Nick’s his real name. It was his first time in San Francisco, so I took him to Oakland — to Penny’s Caribbean Café, which is in Berkeley, technically. But I refuse to believe it.
Then I took him to Oregon, where people dance. My new favorite truck stop is Mollie’s in Klamath Falls, not because they used to make a 12-egg omelet, but because they still do make chicken fried steak omelets. It has Swiss cheese inside, and gravy and gravy and gravy all over the top of it, and comes with hash browns and biscuits. You eat this thing and you can’t help thinking that the universe just hums with love, humor, and harmonicas.
And then you need a nap. SFBG
Sun.–Wed., 9 a.m.–9 p.m.;
Thurs.–Sat., 9 a.m.–11 p.m.
8230 Old Redwood Hwy., Cotati
(707) 795-7068
Takeout available
Moderately noisy
Wheelchair accessible