Volume 40 Number 46

August 16- August 22, 2006

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Best of the Bay 2006 Pixs


A friend feeds a banana to Anthony Riley of Gooferman, winner of Best Band Name
Guardian photo by Matthew Hughes Boyko and Amy Rose Sampson

Amber Kvietys of the Primitive Screwheads, Best Goofy Gore
Guardian photo by Matthew Hughes Boyko and Amy Rose Sampson

Howard Dillon of Wild Irish Productions, the Best Bloomin’ Thespians
Guardian photo by Matthew Hughes Boyko and Amy Rose Sampson

Maurice Lee of Wasteland, Best Vintage Clothing Store
Guardian photo by Matthew Hughes Boyko and Amy Rose Sampson

Members of the Neighborhood Emergency Response Team (NERT), winner of Best Six-Week Superhero Lessons
Guardian photo by Matthew Hughes Boyko and Amy Rose Sampson

Indira, Luis, Adrian, and Tyson of Mission Art and Performance Project, winner of Best Art All Over the Hood
Guardian photo by Matthew Hughes Boyko and Amy Rose Sampson

Shawn and Skyler from the Transfer, Best Bar to Hop Aboard the Party Train
Guardian photo by Matthew Hughes Boyko and Amy Rose Sampson

Blakely Bass of Residents Apparel Gallery, winner of Best Clothing Store for Women and Men
Guardian photo by Matthew Hughes Boyko and Amy Rose Sampson

Jenny and Jason of Acro Yoga, the Best Way to Down Your Date’s Dog
Guardian photo by Matthew Hughes Boyko and Amy Rose Sampson

Trixxie Carr of Smash Up Derby, winner of Best Tori Amos Meets Slayer
Guardian photo by Matthew Hughes Boyko and Amy Rose Sampson

Monte, Cindy, and Vittoria of Pan Theater, winner of Best Prep for Your State of the Union Speech
Guardian photo by Matthew Hughes Boyko and Amy Rose Sampson

Michael and Shannon of the Vau de Vire Society, the Best Falmin’ Hot Circus Freaks
Guardian photo by Matthew Hughes Boyko and Amy Rose Sampson

Aaron Sweeney and his Transjanimals, the Best Fuzzy Substitutes for a Lover
Guardian photo by Matthew Hughes Boyko and Amy Rose Sampson

Demetri and Andy of Folsom Street Fair, winner of Best Street Fair
Guardian photo by Matthew Hughes Boyko and Amy Rose Sampson

John Segura and friends from the Knockout, winner of Best Beer-Soaked Bingo
Guardian photo by Matthew Hughes Boyko and Amy Rose Sampson

Chris of the Fruit Guys (with friends), the Best Banana in Your Inbox
Guardian photo by Matthew Hughes Boyko and Amy Rose Sampson

Best of Bay Guests and Winners
Guardian photo by Neil Motteram

Living Dead Girls, the Best Proof That the Dead Can Dance
Guardian photo by Matthew Hughes Boyko and Amy Rose Sampson

Erase Errata
Guardian photo by Neil Motteram

Extra Action Marching Band
Guardian photo by Neil Motteram

Extra Action Marching Band
Guardian photo by Matthew Hughes Boyko and Amy Rose Sampson

Kid Beyond Best Oral in the Bay
Guardian photo by Matthew Hughes Boyko and Amy Rose Sampson

Guardian Editor and Publisher Bruce B. Brugmann with Kielbasia, the Best Drag Queen with an Accordion
Photo courtesy of Kielbasia

Scissors for Lefty
Guardian photo by Neil Motteram

Scissors for Lefty
Guardian photo by Neil Motteram



Aug. 22


Drag the River

What do you get when you give a seasoned punk rocker shitloads of whiskey, a broken heart, and a guitar? You get Drag the River. Back in the mid-’90s, All frontman Chad Price and Armchair Martian Jon Snodgrass gathered a bunch of other punk veterans at the infamous Fort Collins, Colo., studio the Blasting Room with one simple rule: if you could keep up, you could play. The Hobo’s Demos was recorded and mercilessly bootlegged and eventually gave birth to a working band. (K. Tighe)

With Fabulous Disaster and Sik Luv
9 p.m.
Bottom of the Hill
1233 17th St., SF
(415) 621-4455

Visual Art

“Grito de la Mision: Rise Up, Levantate!”

The poster for “Grito de la Mision: Rise Up. Levantate!” – which sets banners against a lovely shade of red – suits a project that gives a deeper meaning to the bandied-about phrase Mission school. This first program in a yearlong off-site series started by Southern Exposure brings photojournalist Emilio Banuelos, Girlosophy founder Mira Michelle, and printmaker Marcela Florez Rodriguez together with young artists from local organizations to create a group art show. (Johnny Ray Huston)

Thurs/17, 6-9 p.m. reception; through Aug. 26
2050 Bryant, SF
(415) 863-2141



Aug. 21


Animal vs. vegetable
Say yay or nay to off-leash areas and protecting native plants in one minute or less at the Recreation and Park Commission’s continued hearing from last week on its Natural Areas Plan. (Deborah Giattina)

8:30 a.m.
City Hall
1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, room 416, SF



Actor-bodybuilder-heavy metal warrior Thor gets his share of kitschy, ironic press coverage, and that’s to be expected when you go around wearing codpieces, bending steel rods with your teeth, and belting out songs called “Thunder on the Tundra” and “We Are Body Rock.” Yes, Thor’s act – which also tends to involve exploding hot water bottles, broken cinder blocks, and multiple costume changes – is over the top, but it’s also one of the more oddly uplifting experiences in rock these days. Now 30-plus years into his career, Thor has a new, improved band, as well as a new album, Devastation of Musculation (Smog Veil). (Will York)

With Zolar X
9 p.m.
12 Galaxies
2565 Mission, SF
(415) 970-9777



Aug. 20



The last day of Stern Grove’s free outdoor music series features LA’s hip-hop flavored Afro-Latin political rabble-rousers Ozomatli. Critical success came via a Grammy Award in 2005 for Best Latin Rock/Alternative Album, but this 10-piece orchestra has been turning heads since their 1998 debut, Ozomatli (Almo). Support is provided by Oakland hip-hop squad the Crown City Rockers, who perform their high-energy approach to Latin-rock-meets-hip-hop and give the finger to the Bush administration. (Joseph DeFranceschi)

2 p.m.
Sigmund Stern Grove
19th Ave. and Sloat, SF
(415) 252-6252


ChoreoFest 2006

As is the case every year, the festival brings together well-known and yet-to-be known dancers, choreographers, and troupes. Last year curator Brechin Flournoy decided to try a little experiment: she organized the performers so that they could create a context for each other. The experiment worked so well that this year Flournoy has put together a lineup that builds bridges between genres, some more clear-cut than others. Bring sunscreen and sweaters. (Rita Felciano)

Today and Aug. 26, 1 p.m.; Aug. 21-25, 12:30 p.m.
Yerba Buena Center Gardens,
Fourth St. at Howard, SF
(415) 543-1718



Aug. 19


“Bay Area Rhythm Exchange”
Local dance critics can be counted on to disagree, but one subject last year brought them together: praise for performances by Bay Area Rhythm Exchange landed it on top-10 lists and even reached across the Atlantic to a UK-based ballet publication. This year’s program includes Robert L. Reed – whose résumé includes work with everyone from Redd Foxx to Cher – and younger dancers with connections to Savion Glover, such as John Kloss and Ayodele Casel, the only female member of Glover’s N.Y.O.T.s (Not Your Ordinary Tappers). (Johnny Ray Huston)

8 p.m.
Herbst Theatre
401 Van Ness, SF
(415) 392-4400


Gary Numan

Gary Numan, that eyeliner-wearing purveyor of pleasure principles, provided the soundtrack to many a lost virginity – OK, maybe only mine – and encouraged scores of people on both sides of the Atlantic to worship the synth and awkwardly adore their automobiles. It seems those collaborations with Fear Factory and Trent Reznor rubbed off on this pioneer of electropop on his latest record, Jagged (Mortal Records), which brings Numan’s trademark clinical aloofness to nu metal-<\d>industrial heights. (K. Tighe)

9 p.m.
1805 Geary, SF
(415) 346-6000



Aug. 18



The Animal House knockoff, also known as the college movie, is now among the most established and rigid traditions in American filmmaking, as fastidiously ritualistic as a Japanese tea ceremony. Accepted looks you straight in the eye and declares with pride, “I am that movie!” It should be proud. It isn’t half bad. Stay away, though, if the punk from the new Mac commercials (Justin Long) throws you into a violent rage. He’s the hero. (Jason Shamai)

Opens Fri/18 in Bay Area theaters


Dave Alvin

First displaying his formidable chops as a songsmith and guitarist as a member of Southern California’s roots-rock pioneers the Blasters, Dave Alvin has mixed the sounds of country, rockabilly, jump blues, and a wide swath of other influences with his own modern and contemporary edge for more than a quarter century. His newest solo release, West of West: Songs from California Songwriters (Yep Roc), finds Alvin reworking a collection of songs by artists from his home state who have inspired him throughout his career, including Merle Haggard, John Fogerty, and Tom Waits. (Sean McCourt)

With James McMurtry
9 p.m.
Great American Music Hall
859 O’Farrell, SF
(415) 885-0750



Aug. 17



Between birth and death certificates, our multiple data bodies circulate in a made-up universe called the datasphere, where they are both rigorously and haphazardly constructed, mined, and manipulated beyond the full awareness, let alone control, of the old physical bodies left behind. Not science fiction, of course, just the mundane information age. This weekend its ominous dimensions find sensory expression on a grand scale in SUPER VISION, a multimedia performance by New York experimental theater group the Builders Association in collaboration with high-tech design firm dbox. SUPER VISION is a tale (three actually) of the bit-based shackles made from proliferating consumer “choices” and technological possibilities. (Robert Avila)

Through Sat/19
8 p.m.
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
700 Howard, SF
(415) 978-ARTS


True West

Sibling rivalry is a bitch. Being the oldest of five brothers and sisters, I grew up in a semidaft household where the walls buckled with teenage angst and bratty pretensions. I can certainly sympathize with the vendetta the two brothers of Sam Shepard’s True West have against each other. Directed by Gabrielle Gomez, True West depicts the story of Austin – a conservative man with a peaceful life, caring for his mother’s house in Arizona – and his squandering brother, Lee, who unexpectedly visits him. True West marks the debut of the passionate and young Panhandler’s Theater company and features a performance by alt-country musician Jeffery Luck Lucas. (Chris Sabbath)

Through Aug. 26
8 p.m.
Artaud Gallery Theater
450 Florida, SF
(415) 626-1021



AUG. 16


Lovely Public

Who doesn’t like kisses? Chocolate ones, French ones, innocent ones – they’re all delicious. Especially tempting is “Delicious Surprise Kisses,” an infectiously hypnotic song by San Francisco’s the Lovely Public. The track displays the group’s impressive songwriting skills, which combine a finely tuned ear for interesting melodies with a knack for angular phrasing that makes sense and yet remains unpredictable. Come support one of the best up-and-coming local rock bands as they release their latest CD, Burning Tape at the Mystery Dinner (Wall of Sound), at the Make-Out Room. (Eliana Fiore)

With Dark Side of the Cop and Social Studies
9 p.m.
Make-Out Room
3225 22nd St., SF
(415) 647-2888

Urban permaculture intro

Find out about urban permaculture design and the certification program in the ecological division of Merritt College’s Landscape Horticulture Department from instructors such as Christopher Shein, who helped students create a large food forest and garden. (Deborah Giattina)

7 p.m.
Ecology Center
2530 San Pablo, Berk.
(510) 548-2220, ext. 233

It’s criminal what Congress has done to the working poor


OPINION Congress’s Republican leaders belong in prison. They have openly violated one of our most basic laws, the 68-year-old Fair Labor Standards Act. It requires Congress to set the minimum wage high enough to guarantee a standard of living necessary for health, efficiency, and general well-being.
The current rate of $5.15 an hour comes nowhere near to doing that. Even those who manage to work full-time make only $10,700 a year – $206 a week or about $900 a month, minus taxes and other deductions. They and the 15 million other Americans who are paid at or near the minimum – more than one-third of them provide the main or sole support for their families – are by any reckoning poverty-stricken and barely surviving.
The law allows states and local governments to adopt minimum-wage rates higher than the federal rate. Although California and 20 other states, San Francisco and 139 other cities and counties, and the District of Columbia have done so, the higher minimums cover only about half of the country’s workers.
Democrats have argued long and hard in the current session of Congress for a higher federal minimum, as they have in every other session since the $5.15 rate was set in 1997. But the Republicans who’ve been running Congress have higher priorities – raising their own pay and cutting the taxes that are such a burden to their wealthy supporters.
Oh yes, the GOP leaders did introduce a bill that would have raised the minimum. But the measure made that contingent on cutting the estate taxes of the very wealthy – a linkage, opposed by even some Republicans, that guaranteed the bill’s defeat.
They’ve raised congressional pay in every session since 1997, while doing nothing for the working poor. That’s added more than $31,000 to the minimum wage of congressional members, currently $165,200, with a $3,300 raise scheduled for Jan. 1. Unlike minimum-wage workers, who rarely have fringe benefits, members of Congress also get free health care, pensions, and other expensive extras.
The minimum wage for ordinary people would have risen to $7.25 an hour over the next two years under the latest Democratic proposal blocked by the GOP’s congressional leaders. Its main proponent, Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, promised that the fight to raise the wage “will continue all across America.”
It is certain, in any case, that Democratic candidates will make it an issue in this fall’s election campaigns. They are well aware, certainly, of polls showing that an overwhelming majority of Americans favor a minimum-wage increase.
So why in the world are Republican leaders so adamantly against it?
Because their big-money backers in the restaurant business, who employ about 60 percent of all minimum-wage workers, are against it, as are many other business and corporate interests. The opponents have even formed a group, Coalition for Job Opportunities, to spread the fiction, much favored by the GOP, that a higher minimum would force employers to eliminate jobs.
Actually, the number of jobs has grown after each of the 19 times the minimum has been raised since it was initially set at 25 cents an hour in 1938.
The job growth has been spurred primarily by the increased spending of those whose pay has increased. Like all low-wage workers, they must spend virtually every cent they earn, thus raising the overall demand for goods and services and creating the need for new employees.
Think of the general benefits to society if the minimum-wage workers who now must depend on government assistance could earn enough to make it on their own.
Think of the benefits to employers. As several studies have shown, raising workers’ pay raises workers’ morale and, with it, their productivity, while decreasing absenteeism and recruiting and training costs.
Think of the benefits to small retailers. Opponents of a raise say they’d be hurt the most by a higher minimum wage, but it’s far more likely that they’d be among the greatest beneficiaries. For minimum-wage workers have no choice but to spend most of their meager earnings in neighborhood stores for food and other necessities. SFBG
Dick Meister
Dick Meister is a San Francisco-based writer who has covered labor and political issues for four decades as a reporter, editor, and commentator. Contact him through his Web site, www.dickmeister.com.

Joan of archaeology


HAIRY SITUATION “Trog has a beautiful Victorian,” Matthew Martin says after giving me the address of the house where he and his castmates are rehearsing their upcoming stage production. A day later I arrive at said residence and am ushered through the front door, where cast members from Trog! — including Martin and Trog himself, Mike Finn — greet me after descending a staircase in a dramatic manner.
Joan Crawford might approve.
Not that Crawford’s approval is a viable method of judging the success of Trog!, which parodies her truly absurd final big-screen effort, a 1970 supposed horror movie that Martin brilliantly describes as “an attempt to meld Planet of the Apes and The Miracle Worker.” I first saw Trog while eating a potent batch of hash-tinged popcorn, and that psychedelic effect seems to have carried over to this theatrical version, which incorporates video projections, Finn’s circus skills, Martin’s library of movie scores, and aspects of Crawford’s life into the story of anthropologist Dr. Brockton (Crawford in the movie, Martin-as-Crawford-playing-the-scientist in the play) and the sweet troglodyte she loves and protects from a hostile, misunderstanding public.
After passing a banquet room stocked with candy bars and carbonated beverages, Martin, producer Steve Murray, and I gather around a table on the back porch to discuss Trog! “I was going to go for more of an authentic, orange-haired, Joan-in-Trog look,” says Martin. “But I thought, I’m going to seem more like Susan Hayward or the Joker than people’s iconic image of Joan.”
Martin has played Ann Miller, Katharine Hepburn, Judy Garland, and personal fave Bette Davis as both Baby Jane (in the early-’90s hit Whatever Happened to BB Jane?) and Charlotte Hollis (in last year’s Hush Up, Sweet Charlotte), but this is his first time taking on a Crawford role. You might say now he knows how Joan of Hollywood felt. “It’s another one for the gun belt,” he says with a laugh, lighting up a cigarette and observing that Crawford’s good manners were so extreme that she would “write a thank-you note to someone’s thank-you note.”
A native San Franciscan who once embodied both Addison DeWitt and Eve Harrington in the same high school speech class performance, Martin counts Charles Pierce among his early influences. “I was mesmerized by how [Pierce] could control an audience,” he says. But he also takes pains to distinguish his acting approach and experience from drag cliché — for one thing, one of his best stage roles to date was Oscar Levant in Theatre Rhinoceros’s recent production of Schönberg; for another, he concentrates on overall character rather than gender when playing a part.
Trog! allows Martin to celebrate “unadulterated ham-ola,” which his producer Murray feels is absent from most gay theater, which is obsessed with being serious or fixated on naked boys. Though Trog!’s sense of parody extends beyond the source material, it doesn’t miss the movie’s most ludicrous moments, from Crawford’s repeated requests for a “hypo gun” down to her character’s strange (perhaps drunken) reference to the “savage breast” and off-kilter pronunciation of the g in the name Trog. “I’ve rehearsed Neil Simon plays to an empty theater and worried, ‘Is this funny at all?’” says Martin. “But if nobody laughs at this, at least we’ve been entertained by our own high jinks. A lot of this show is wah-wah burlesque, very vaudeville, with physical comedy. Mike [Finn] is a trained circus performer — how many Trogs do you know that can juggle and ride a unicycle?”
Martin knows one, it soon becomes apparent, when he, Finn, and the rest of Trog!’s cast (minus a busy Heklina) run through a performance, complete with copious examples of the “fourth-wall breakage” that Martin adores. Anytime the script refers to the press or a reporter, Martin directs his gaze at me, and in one scene, I’m dragged onstage to play the role of a doctor who incites Trog’s wrath by stroking his chest under the guise of looking for a heartbeat.
If the rehearsal is anything to go by, besides Michael Sousa’s pinched-nose performance as a snotty villain, many of Trog!’s funniest moments come from the considerable chemistry between Martin and Finn — or rather, between Crawford and beast. At the end of the interview, I ask Finn what it’s like to play the role of Trog. “It’s familiar,” he says. Then he gets straight to the point. “I’m a hairy man.” (Johnny Ray Huston)
Through Sept. 23
Wed.–Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.
Theatre Rhinoceros
2926 16th St., SF
(415) 861-5079

Northern composure


› a&eletters@sfbg.com
Four years ago, a high school junior named Britney Gallivan managed to fold a piece of paper in half 12 times, surpassing the eight-fold limit with a 4,000-foot-long piece of special toilet paper. For this girl, origami became more than paper frogs, cootie catchers, and hope-giving cranes. But those cranes are still essential. The four sprightly members of Shapes and Sizes do a lot of musical origami and showy unfolding on their self-titled debut. They make cranes with at least two heads, constantly pulling in multiple directions: toward fairy tales and woodsy rock, unexpected bursts and clap-along accents.
Shapes and Sizes fit on the energetic Asthmatic Kitty roster, but I wouldn’t have expected it. Neither did the band. “We sent out around 50 demos, and three or four labels responded. Asthmatic Kitty got back to us quickly and were excited,” said vocalist-guitarist Rory Seydel and vocalist-keyboardist Caila Thompson-Hannant, speaking at the same time on a conference call from Victoria, British Columbia.
“It took a while, though, to get to where we are now with them,” Seydel added. “We met up with the heads of the label while we were on tour, and they agreed to produce the album.”
“The whole process took a year,” Thompson-Hannant chimed in.
The full-length is the demo, unchanged. Some of the songs had been living in their heads for years. Old high school friends, Thompson-Hannant and Seydel wrote the first Shapes and Sizes ditties when they were only 18. “It’s a long departure. I think we’ve grown up a little,” laughed Seydel, who just turned 22.
When they headed into Victoria’s Lucky Mouse Studios — also home to Frog Eyes — Shapes and Sizes planned on recording a seven-song EP. But, said Thompson-Hannant, they decided to “really go to town,” laying down some tunes that they’d never even practiced and adding a cavalcade of other instruments, from saxophones to vibraphones, trumpets to violas. With the help of Frog Eyes engineer Tolan McNeil, they achieved a panoramic sound.
They will not be touring with a horn section, said Seydel, but that’s fine, since they can just turn up their guitars “really loud.”
He’s only half kidding. Their show tunes–influenced melodies are designed to expand in the live environment, a giddy indie-rock cabaret. The youthful duo cuts, collages, and boldly displays myriad shapes of stories and sizes of sounds, as drummer Jon Crellin and bassist Nathan Gage add rhythmic color to this melodic union. Because they play almost exclusively originals (save for a cover of the Magnetic Fields’ “Come Back from San Francisco” last Valentine’s Day), their songs continue to morph in front of their eyes and they are constantly working on new material.
“It seems like the songs are always changing,” said Thompson-Hannant with the same sense of awe that lifts her singing. “I’ve come undone … another wire linked up to my heart,” she croons on “Northern Lights.” Seydel joins this dramatic unraveling on the Pavement-influenced “Rory’s Bleeding,” singing a cappella at the start: “Why is Rory bleeding?/ Placed between black and white/ Phew, I was dreaming/ I couldn’t see his eyes.”
Shapes and Sizes inhabit a delightfully brisk and very bright way-Northern version of Architecture in Helsinki’s Australia. A deeply collective energy is present on both bands’ debuts, but it’s only in hearing Architecture’s greatest achievement, In Case We Die (Bar/None, 2005), that their earlier efforts appear as the treasure maps that they are, diagrams on origami paper about to become 3-D unicorns. It’s a sure bet that Shapes and Sizes too will continue to expand. Inside their paper cranes are the scribbled notes of castaways happily ignoring borders and ready to hitch a ride. SFBG
With Oh No! Oh My!
Tues/22, 8 p.m.
628 Divisadero, SF
(415) 771-1422

This tune’s for you


› a&eletters@sfbg.com
We’ve all been there. You’re entranced by some wonderful song that you can’t live without, only to buy the album, hunker down to listen, and find it full of duds. Your purchase … sucks. What a weird and wondrous experience, then, to cram What Made Milwaukee Famous into the stereo and be greeted with a crayon box full of pop, each song shaded a little differently than the last and highlighted with quite arguably some of the best pop vocals around.
Named for a line in a Jerry Lee Lewis song, Austin’s WMMF formed when vocalist-guitarist Michael Kingcaid put out ads in the Austin Chronicle. Kingcaid, having survived the demise of previous bands, eschewed live performances for a year, opting for an extended period of introduction. He explains, “I had the blueprints, at least in pencil, for a long time. None of us knew each other initially. We didn’t want to jump out and play any shows when we weren’t ready to sound our best.”
After WMMF played local clubs, 2005 heralded the band’s arrival in the form of high-profile opening gigs for the Arcade Fire and a slot performing on PBS’s Austin City Limits with Franz Ferdinand. Their status has recently been upgraded from underground to upwardly indie after signing with Seattle’s Barsuk Records. The new album, Trying to Never Catch Up, offers 12 doses of ingeniously potent pop rock. Trying to Never Catch Up is aptly named, never dallying in one genre long enough to get comfortable. The first song, “Idecide,” kicks off with a death rattle, spitting synths out of “Warm Leatherette,” and spazzy, arpegiatted keyboards that signal homage to Grandaddy before there’s even time to figure out what’s playing. Somewhere in the midst of all that music, WMMF braid in two of their secret weapons: dense, astutely written lyrics and Kingcaid’s big, brilliantly colored tenor. Time signatures shift nervously while the world’s lovers fall prey to “enough sting to be stung/ enough poison to choke/ enough rope to be hung.” Asked to explain, Kingcaid offers, “I think of that one as having three or four different narrators,” and points to a theme of “being beholden to someone or something.” In other hands, “Idecide” could fall flat, a cheesy new wave brood about failed relationships. In Kingcaid’s, it’s a slick, foreboding cautionary tale.
There is much about WMMF that harkens back to a time, say, the ’80s, when gimmick wasn’t enough. The age of Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe, and Squeeze, when good melodies and witty lyrics were par for the course. While the band recalls the breezier moments in that decade as well — “Selling Yourself Short” recalls Modern English’s “Melt with You” in three notes or less — there is an obsession with craftsmanship that sets their full-length above other recent releases. “Hellodrama,” a sweet, smart-alecky tribute to a girl who won’t quite go away, mixes “Candy-O” claps with exasperated entreaties — “You’re still lingering around the set/ trying to set me off” — managing to turn dating angst into a potential dance hit.
On the quietly strummed “Hopelist” we hear “I didn’t ever want/ I never thought I’d be/ in a situation that defies contingency.” Though writing about relationships can be heady stuff, Kingcaid maintains that he isn’t looking to glorify anyone’s emotional downward spiral. “I’m sure that I’m going to write things that are going to end tragically, but I don’t ever want to leave anybody in a pit, ’cause I’ve been there.” It’s that balance of light and dark that informs the entire What Made Milwaukee Famous experience: just enough lyrical darkness to lure you in — just enough melodic color to make you stay. SFBG
With French Kicks and Matt and Kim
Fri/18–Sat/19, 9 p.m.
Café du Nord
2170 Market, SF
(415) 861-5016

Confessions of a Gofessional


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Things move fast in rap. By the time their second album, World Premiere (Moedoe/Koch), dropped in April, the Team already had a new single, the “Hyphy Juice” remix, which now rivals “It’s Getting Hot” as their biggest radio hit. Since then, Moedoe label head K.O.A.B. has inked a deal for Hyphy Juice, the energy drink he co-owns with the group, to be sold at 7-11 stores nationwide, while Team member Clyde Carson just signed as a solo act to Capitol Records. Carson’s ambitious project, Theater Music — consisting of one multisong, album-length track à la Prince’s Lovesexy (Warner, 1988) — will appear next year, cobranded by Moedoe as well as the Game’s Black Wall Street.
Yet my appearance at the Team’s condo concerns none of these matters. Instead, I’ve been summoned by Kaz Kyzah to discuss The Gofessional, his new mixtape with KMEL managing director DJ Big Von Johnson. Consisting of 19 tracks of mostly original material, The Gofessional is part of a growing trend in the Bay Area mix scene — like Husalah and Jacka’s Animal Planet and Beeda Weeda’s Homework — of blurring the distinction between the carefully crafted album and the “anything goes” approach of mixtapes. What makes The Gofessional unique, however, is its method of distribution: it’s available for free at bigvon.com.
In the first week alone, the mixtape was downloaded 7,000 times on the strength of two singles currently spinning on KMEL: “Cocaine,” a soulful love-as-addiction metaphor over a 9th Wonder beat, and the LT-produced original “Love” (featuring Jimmie Reign), an R&B-infused investigation of more serious subjects often neglected by the Bay’s current “go dumb” ethos.
Before beginning, however, Kaz clears up the lingering mystery around World Premiere’s release, not, as anticipated, through major label Universal but rather through independent powerhouse Koch.
“We were on a label of a Mexican artist, Lil Rob, and it wasn’t the place for us,” Kaz says, referring to the Universal-distributed Upstairs imprint, which caters primarily to Latino rap. “When we got over there, it wasn’t what we wanted. But it worked out where we could use it to get the album done and move on. We didn’t have to pay any bread. We actually came out winning.”
“At the same time, I was going through legal trouble,” he continues, describing continuing fallout from a robbery charge he caught at age 18. “I was worried about going to jail and house arrest. I did end up spending a couple of months in jail, so it was a real hectic time.”
While the delays of label jumping and legal woes may have muted World Premiere’s impact, the period of house arrest last year proved productive for Kaz, who with West Oakland rapper J-Stalin and East Oakland producers Tha Mekanix formed a side group called the Go Boyz and recorded an album at the condo. These late-night sessions featuring an ankle-braceleted Kaz were the genesis of the current Go Movement, which already constitutes a third front in the Bay’s hyphy and thizz campaigns.
“What I want people to understand about the Go Movement,” the Hyphy Juice shareholder stresses, “is it’s not not about getting hyphy, going dumb. But it encompasses a whole lot more and that’s what makes it so powerful. Like when I talk to Dotrix [of Tha Mekanix], we’ll use go 1,500 times and have an in-depth conversation.
“It was Dot who said, ‘You the Gofessional, man.’ And that was one of my favorite movies, The Professional, so I used it for my mixtape. I didn’t want to come out with the Go Boyz, and nobody know what Go is all about. I was talking to some people from Marin, they never even heard of the Go Movement. To us it’s old, but a lot of people are still catching on.”
The free download format of The Gofessional is proving to be an effective means of spreading the word. (Another 5,000 hard copies have already been distributed for the benefit of those not online, and more are on the way.) For Johnson, who apart from Kaz is the author of this largess, the free mixtape is designed to boost record sales as well as keep the Bay’s current buzz alive.
“I got 7,000 downloads in a week, when I know artists who put out records that took seven months to reach that in sales,” Johnson says later that day at KMEL. “There are a lot of big artists, a lot of songs on the radio, but sales aren’t adding up. So I feel like, give some away. Instead of trying to break a song, I’m trying to break an artist in the streets. I definitely think this will stimulate album sales.”
It’s refreshing to hear such a statement these days, when the “free download” has been blamed for bringing the recording industry to its knees. To me, Johnson’s logic is irrefutable; I’m more likely to check out something for free than for $15, and I’m way more likely to buy a $15 album from someone whose previous work I have and like. As The Gofessional is easily better than dozens of albums I’ve actually purchased, the odds of me buying an eventual Kaz Kyzah solo album are extremely high. Given the current excitement in Bay rap and Carson’s deal with Capitol, the interest in Kaz’s mixtape hasn’t failed to attract the attention of majors as well.
“I got a lot of labels looking at me,” Kaz confesses. “I ain’t put out an album. They’re checking for me off of mixtapes, which is weird, but it’s a beautiful thing. People be, like, this is hotter than people’s albums. But I’m a perfectionist, so doing a solo album is going to take a minute, really sitting down and figuring out what I want to do with it. And not being too quick to jump on the wrong deal.” SFBG

Big bang


› a&eletters@sfbg.com
REVIEW Near the end of “Song of Myself,” Walt Whitman’s woozy celebration of the universe contained within, he asks, “Do I contradict myself?” then responds to his own query, “Very well, then, I contradict myself.” This is followed by the oft-cited parenthetical thought, “I am large — I contain multitudes,” a sentiment that has been variously expressed in art since Whitman did so at the turn of the 20th century. “Cosmic Wonder,” a group exhibition featuring more than 20 emerging and established artists and an artists collective, offers a new take on Whitman’s lines as well as on one of the other overarching themes of the poem: the complexity of the American identity.
The heart of “Cosmic Wonder” revolves around the soul — more specifically, around a 21st-century reading of spirituality and our current relationship with the natural world. Threaded throughout are propositions toward articuutf8g the self within the context of an increasingly chaotic society that’s split between the built environment (manufactured slabs of concrete and acres of glass, metal, and plastic) and the myriad holes (some might call them black) within cyberspace. In the exhibition introduction, guest curator Betty Nguyen writes that among other things, “Cosmic Wonder” is about the “relationship of the individual to the multitude.” The contemporary “I” contains multitudinous parts; the song of the self is a dissonant dirge in multiple echo chambers; the largess of self is refracted across numerous surfaces. How to find oneself in this fractured landscape?
The black-and-white DVD projection Untitled (Silver) by Takeshi Murata (whose Monster Movie was part of “The Zine Unbound” at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts last year) is more of a kinetic painting than a video — the aesthetic is that of a painterly pixilation made of swooping gestures, as if an invisible brush is drawing the action. A woman moves through an indiscernible landscape, her figure dissolving between the abstract and wholly recognizable. Set to a squishy electronic soundtrack composed by Robert Beatty and Ellen Mollé, it suggests the ways identity morphs as we move through real and virtual time, shape-shifting in order to adapt to whichever environment we’re in. A stream of pixels trails the woman’s figure, as if she’s leaving programming code and bits of herself behind as she wends her way through a so-called meatland (as cybergeeks refer to life off-line) and cyberspace.
Shrines abound in various forms: Yukinori Maeda’s Eclipse/Eclipse Weeping Rock floor installation; Paper Rad’s wall-mounted installation consisting of hundreds of paintings and drawings and four DVDs; Mark Borthwick’s photographs, drawings, and performance environment Is My Nature My Only Way; and a giant mandalalike site-specific wall painting by Hisham Bharoocha. Spend a little time in the main gallery and it becomes difficult to determine what could be considered a shrine and what’s straight-up installation, especially in the context of the remainder of the show. Although taking cues from religious configurations, these shrines embody a more current vision of how to access the divine. What is offered can be seen as a sort of shrine reclamation project that eschews any particular religious doctrine in favor of celebrating those things that strike a more universal chord (inasmuch as anything can be considered universal in this age of political and religious partisanship). At the end of one of the videos serving as the centerpiece of the work by Paper Rad (a collective hailing from Pittsburgh, Penn., and Northampton, Mass.), the voice-over narration asks for a “nonexclusive real prayer” to put to rest a robot battle involving the U2 iPod, Adam Sandler, and … I forget what else. The point is it would be nice to think a “nonexclusive real prayer” could be said to help resolve some of the conflicts currently raging around the world.
Nature’s beauty is championed through chosen material (Jose Alvarez’s sculptural paintings made of mineral crystals and seashells), content (Doug Aitken’s geometrically reconfigured landscape horizon lines), and intent (Mike Paré’s illustrations of blissed-out festivalgoers and ritual-inventing skateboarders). Arik Moonhawk Roper’s animation Lazarian Forest is a darker and perhaps more accurate depiction of our current relationship with nature. Set to a squawking, increasingly agitated soundtrack, a strange flower blooms in stop-motion stages. Leaves unfurl skyward, a bulb sprouts from its stem, and the music reaches a crescendo as the bulb slowly cracks open to reveal a green human skull — the simultaneous celebration and destruction of nature encapsulated. Very well, then, we contradict ourselves. SFBG
Through Nov. 5
Tues.–Wed. and Fri.–Sun., noon–5 p.m.; Thurs., noon–8 p.m.
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
701 Mission, SF
(415) 978-ARTS



“It just ain’t a kegger without Church Mouse.” So says someone at a rager in Joel DeMott and Jeff Kreines’s controversial Seventeen, and almost 25 years since the movie was first suppressed, my favorite line of movie dialogue in 2006 has arrived. Seventeen isn’t Not Your Average Teen Movie, nor is it your average teen movie. It might be the best movie about teenage life I’ve seen — one that walks high school hallways more convincingly than Frederick Wiseman (let alone Gus Van Sant), and one that makes some of Larry Clark’s underage adventures (certainly his explorations of race) seem trifling.
Complete with a freckled Bobby Brady look-alike chugalugging beer, DeMott and Kreines’s direct-cinema study of students in Muncie, Ind., incited the wrath of Xerox, a corporate sponsor that canceled the film from PBS broadcast and then went on to target it (helped by dronelike journalists) with an effective smear campaign. Basically, Seventeen’s sin was to cut too far into life as it really was (still is?) in the Midwest.
Viewed today, period details in this documentary are 200 proof. In comparison, Hollywood nostalgia is tame and bogus. The filmmakers’ portrait of what they call “high girlishness and boyishness” (emphasis on the high) comes loaded with feathered hair, ’fros, Dorothy Hamill cuts, thin gold necklaces, and jerseys with iron-on letters. The soundtrack is split, with the black kids listening to Smokey Robinson (the magnificent “Being with You”) and Ronald Isley and the white kids largely rocking out to the dreams and nightmares of AOR (where rock ’n’ roll never forgets and you don’t have to live like a refugee if you hold on to me against the wind).
The tension between these sounds matches the human interaction in DeMott and Kreines’s movie, which among other story threads follows a white girl, Lynn Massie, as her romance with a black boy inspires bigots to put a burning cross on her front yard. Critic Armond White once observed that Massie’s life is “the best Debra Winger role that Debra Winger never played,” and if there can be a Searching for Debra Winger, then Massie’s fate also deserves some speculation, because it’s impossible to walk out of Seventeen without wondering what happened to all these teens — and their babies. (Johnny Ray Huston)
Tues/22, 7:30 p.m.
Pacific Film Archive
2575 Bancroft, Berk.
(510) 642-0808

The slither king


› cheryl@sfbg.com
Meet the individual who just may be the coolest cat in America right now — snake handler Jules Sylvester, the guy responsible for charming winning performances out of Samuel L. Jackson’s fork-tongue costars in Snakes on a Plane. Sylvester, a Hollywood veteran who’s wrangled critters on everything from Men in Black (thousands of cockroaches) to Out of Africa (lions, dogs, and owls) to Arachnophobia (duh), is bar none the jolliest person I’ve ever talked to at 8:30 in the morning on the subject of killer snakes.
SFBG: What was your first reaction when you heard there was gonna be a movie called Snakes on a Plane? Most people are, like, “Say what?”
JULES SYLVESTER: That was my reaction too. I actually laughed my head off, like, there’s no way they’re gonna keep that title. I was quite impressed that Samuel L. Jackson liked the title so much that’s one of the reasons he took the movie.
SFBG: How do you direct snakes? Are they pretty smart?
JS: No, they’re thick as a brick! But each snake has his own slightly different character. It’s snake management more than anything. They’re not trained at all. People are very vain. We like to say our reptiles love us. They really don’t give a rat’s butt.
SFBG: So for particular scenes, they would say, “OK, we need a snake to fall here,” and you’d figure out which type to use?
JS: That’s correct. I had about 450 snakes I took up to [the set in] Canada.
SFBG: [Interrupting] Did you take them on a plane?
JS: I thought it was pretty tacky to put them on a plane to do a movie called Snakes on a Plane. So I drove them! When we actually filmed, I only used like 60 or 70 at any one time. I used them for maybe two hours on the set. The temperature by that time is pretty hot, and they’re getting a little tired. You take that team out and you bring in the second team, so you never exhaust your snakes.
SFBG: What’s the fiercest snake in the movie?
JS: Definitely the albino cobra. When I put him on the airplane seat and touched his tail, he turned around and he just laid into the cushion. He just chowed on that cushion. He kinda hoped it was me. [Laughs delightedly.] That’s just his job — his job is to be very pissed off.
SFBG: If you actually encountered a snake on a plane in real life, what should you do?
JS: Cover [the snake] with a blanket. It’s an awkward one, in that I know what I would do, but Joe Blow wouldn’t know what the hell to do. It’s like, screaming bloody murder and pointing at it is the worst thing you can do — that will panic everybody. SFBG
Opens Fri/18
See Movie Clock at www.sfbg.com
for theaters and showtimes
For the complete Jules Sylvester interview, visit www.sfbg.com/blogs/pixel_vision.

Blow up


› kimberly@sfbg.com
SONIC REDUCER I’ve lived in the Bay Area for more years than I ever imagined I would back in my nomadic grad student days and devoured my share of quintessentially San Francisco experiences, like parking on the faux median on Valencia and falling drunkenly off an It’s Tops fountain stool round about 3 a.m. after tucking into a few too many down the street at Zeitgeist. But the one must-see post-punk happening I’ve always missed — never at the wrong place at the right time — was Survival Research Laboratories in full-effect performance mode. No wonder — weary of being shut down by the local fuzz and fire officials, founder Mark Pauline told me three years ago that SRL had decided to lavish their monstrous, robotic attentions on tolerant, fire-retardant overseas audiences in Europe and Japan instead — that is, until Aug. 11, when the longtime Potrero Hill area crew unfurled a new three-ring destructo-circus titled Ghostly Scenes of Infernal Desecration at the Zero One festival in San Jose.
I hightailed it down to downtown San Jose to catch the seldom-sighted SRL flash their permits, then proceed to burn it all down. Late for the last media seating, I was told it was all good because SRL were moving very slowly (as slowly and deadly as their ’bots, I presumed) and to please have a survival kit in a brown paper sack: peanut butter crackers, Chips Ahoy!, a moist towelette, a bottle of water, and a pair of earplugs. In the back of the hall, the jumpsuited and helmeted SRL crew strolled merrily around, throwing bottles of water playfully at each other, testing flamethrowers, as we studied the grounds for signs of action. It felt like fishing or bird-watching — only the critters were big hunks of metal and the gods were knowing wiseacres who wear lots of black.
With an ominous turbine wail or two later it began — as a giant inverted foiled cross spun in place like a sacrilegious music box, a giant gold figure with a massive red phallus dropped Styrofoam balls, and a doghouse sheltering Cerebus shuddered. Purple lighting shot out of a towering Tesla coil and a woman beside me started screaming, “Omigod, that’s so cool!” Sorry, we all weren’t that dweebish — although almost everyone in earshot tended to laugh nervously in both fear and amazement as fire poured out of several flamethrowers in our corner and blew toasty gusts against our faces.
If you, er, burn at Black Rock, I guess you could consider this a preview of sorts. At one point, about five machines, including a short, squat teapotlike ’bot, were firing on all cylinders, blaze-wise, and that’s not even counting the V-1, a fire-farting flamethrower-shockwave canon that resembles the butt of a jet fighter. And of course fire without smoke loses a bit of the drama, so roving smoke machines were placed behind large rectangular photo screens depicting a gas station on fire, gap-mouthed kids, etc. And of course the flames started to spread, eating up the gold idols and turning the Lord of Balls into an impressive column of heat. Sparks flew into the sky, robots like the crabby, clutching Inchworm tussled in the center of it all, and the ungodly din of popping, whirring, and grinding sounded for all the world like a construction crew armed with Boeing engines run amok and set to detonate. What other mob would pride itself on creating “the loudest flamethrower in history”?
Me, I had to duck when the loudest machine of all, the shockwave canon, started lobbing rings of air left and right of our heads, taking the leaves off the surrounding trees. In the process of putting together a robot army, SRL created their own scary symphony, their own atonal, noise-drenched Ride of the Valkyries to go along with their future-war enactments. And by the end, even the hausfrauen in the bleachers raved about how they couldn’t tear their eyes away from the smoke- and noise-belching spectacle. In the aftermath, viewers gathered around the barriers like groupies, bickering over which ’bot was their favorite and picking the brains of the SRL-ers. Thank Vulcan, some things were sacred — there were no T-shirts on sale. Those are on the fire-retardant Web site (srl.org).
TACO LIBRE I suspect it takes either careful SRL-style planning — or its carefree antithesis — to achieve a much-coveted sense of freedom in performance — the latter approach is doubtless embraced by Inca Ore, a.k.a. Eva Saelens, once of Portland, Ore.’s Jackie-O Motherfucker and the Alarmist and of the Bay’s Gang Wizard and Axolotl. She was happily howling at the full moon in Oakland last week with her paramour and collaborator, Lemon Bear, in celebration of their noise–improv–sex magik album, The Birds in the Bushes (5RC, 2006), recorded in a cabin outside Tillamook, Ore. I spoke to the sweet, uncensored Saelens at about midnight, after some enchanted evening spent slow dancing in a parking lot to Mexican radio, finding inspiration in a fish taco, and playing music under the stars.
Saelens, 26, may not completely adore her current O-town abode — “It’s criminal how not affordable it is” — but at least she’s not on tour, as she has been for long periods with Jackie-O, Yellow Swans, and Axolotl. “When I was in Europe, we drove through Provence from Italy to Spain, and we couldn’t even get out to smell the lavender — we were so late,” she said sadly. “Touring is so frustrating — you really have to juice yourself. Even sometimes doing improv, it isn’t easy to bring it, but when you break through it’s like being in another world. Sometimes I’ll try to push an explosion or try to lose my mind, and if you do that on a nightly basis, it’s unreliable and it’s also abusive. You’re pushing your emotions in an athletic way, almost, and sometimes your body refuses to compete.”
For Saelens, it’s now a race to reach a meditative spot with a violin or clarinet — a change from the spooked state of her album. “We played the stove a lot, banged on bottles,” she said. This after Lemon Bear hacked his toe while chopping wood barefoot one morning. “We got sloppy — we were so happy.” SFBG
Tues/22, 8 p.m.
Thee Parkside
1600 17th St., SF
Call for price
(415) 503-0393
Also with Tom Carter (and Ghosting, Bonus, and Axolotl)
Hemlock Tavern
1131 Polk St.
(415) 923-0923

Loops and dashes


› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com
CHEAP EATS A long-lost beloved cousin asks if I can still “write my name in the snow,” and it takes me two days to figure out what this means. I wasn’t sitting on my ass, either. I started out with slide rules, compass, protractor … 26 ounces of iodized salt poured into a Pyrex baking dish, by way of a working model (necessary nutrients supplied). I was able to write my name, kind of, with the eraser end of a pencil. But the grooves tended to fill in, and anyway, salt ain’t snow, as the saying goes.
It has in fact snowed and stuck up here twice since I moved to Sonoma County the first time, four years ago. I scoured my journals, diaries, and notebooks for any mention of having written my name in it.
Nothing. On the morning of the second day, not having slept at all, I brought in a team of grad students to help me brainstorm all the possible ways of writing one’s name in the snow — with a snowblower, a shovel, a motorcycle, boots, small rocks, bottles of ketchup, propane torch …
The Eureka Moment came, finally, a couple hours after lunch, when one of my assistants, in a fit of creative depletion, slammed shut his laptop and said, “Ah, piss on it.”
You will imagine the silence, please … the creak of my chair, turning to face him, the sound of spilt coffee dripping onto painted hardwood. The long pause as we all stared at each other …
Then, while they were popping champagne and dancing their various end-zone dances, I dashed off a quick e-mail to my cousin, saying, “Yes!”
For future reference, Cuz, and everyone else in the world, while I can certainly understand and respect that some questions strike some people as inappropriate, rude, or otherwise out of line, my own personal preference is to be asked and asked and asked. And I think I am unoffendable, so there’s no need to hem or haw or speak in code.
“How do I make people understand,” I asked my old friend Ask Isadora, “that whether there is choice or not, if I had a choice, I would choose this?”
Being an expert on the subject, Ask answered me intelligently, articulately, and with eloquence, in English, and I listened and heard and understood. Then the waitressperson arrived with my waffle and it was so loaded with fresh, sliced strawberries that my memory was erased. You know, like when the UFO returns you to the cornfield and your entire consciousness shifts from that point of ultimate enlightenment to the mundane matter of where the hell the corn came from.
And in many cases, how to get out of it.
But corn is beautiful and so are strawberries and sausage patties and Ask Isadora. When I looked up from the Meaning of Life, or my plate, the matriarch of sex talk had a tear on her face and she opened her mouth and said, “Do you want my butter?”
I did! You know all about me and butter (and waffles and sausage). But a tear on a face is personal information, so I’m going to have to ask Ask for permission to continue — hopefully without finding out what the tear was for, so I can speculate.
My first thought whenever I see a tear on a face, of course, is too much hot sauce. And I think that’s what I thought in that split second before looking away and carrying on with my delicious waffle and our delightful conversation.
But as I write this, surprising myself with the memory, I have to wonder, because I don’t remember her using hot sauce. Now as you might imagine, through the years my attitude toward my food has reduced a lot of people to tears for a lot of different reasons, not always because it’s moving to see someone so mesmerized, intent, and on fire — what Catholics call “inspired by the Holy Spirit” and I call breakfast.
Ask Isadora had a very close friend who was transgender and died at 45 of something I don’t know how to spell but which I do know is commonly associated with taking estrogen. I’m 43. I’m going to go out on a seemingly sturdy limb and say that seeing me for the first time in years triggered a memory of that tragic loss. In which case, since I am in one sense Veronica or Victoria and others, it’s kind of like shedding a tear for my own death, how and whenever, and puts me in the weird and welcome position of being able to say, “Thanks, Ask!” SFBG
Daily: 6 a.m.–8:30 p.m.
1507 Park, Alameda
(510) 522-8108
Takeout available
No alcohol
Credit cards not accepted
Wheelchair accessible

The revolution will be drunk


› paulr@sfbg.com
We must now ask Rick Bayless, long the prince of high-end Mexican cooking in this country, to make some room at the pinnacle. Bayless is the chef and owner of a pair of Chicago restaurants, Frontera Grill and Topolobampo, that were among the first to give a gloss of elegance to Mexican cuisine; he is also the author of a series of cookbooks that do much the same thing. But now competition has arrived, in the form of Doña Tomás: Discovering Authentic Mexican Cooking (Ten Speed, $29.95), by Thomas Schnetz and Dona Savitsky, the pair behind Oakland’s highly regarded Doña Tomás restaurant. (Mike Wille, a chef and writer in Los Gatos, gets an authorship “with.”)
Schnetz and Savitsky actually have a leg, or pinkie toe, up on the more established Bayless, for their book opens with a foreword worth reading. The author, noted essayist Richard Rodriguez, has a number of piquant things to say about cultures Catholic and Protestant, Texan, Californian, and Mexican, and the tension, muddle, and melding among them. Rodriguez seems a little conflicted about fat, on the one hand deploring the “greasy bathos” of so much Cal-Mex cooking and on the other taking a gentle poke at “whole-grain Puritan Berkeley” for its war against obesity. But then, he is an American, and Americans are conflicted on many subjects, fat among them.
Leafing through page after page of recipes can induce stupor, but I had the opposite reaction to Doña Tomás: I could feel my enthusiasm mounting, and by the time I reached the recipe for petrale sole with tequila and capers, I thought, I am going to make this ASAP. Then I turned the page, to a recipe for sea scallops with butternut squash, chiles, and onions, and thought, I am going to make this too, just slightly less ASAP. (Needed: colder weather.)
Usually I find cookbooks’ wine-pairing suggestions to be fussy and overbearing, but I would have welcomed some guidance here. Mexican cooking is strongly associated with beer, in part because the cuisine has generally been presented as peasant food in this country and in part because Mexico produces many excellent beers but very little wine. Yet the dishes in Doña Tomás are of a sophistication that calls out for wine — and that’s a revolution, of a quiet sort.

The reflecting pool


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

Fun with AOL data


› annalee@techsploitation.com
TECHSPLOITATION Last week AOL did another stupid thing, but at least it was in the name of science. The giant Web portal released a data chunk containing three months’ worth of queries to its search engine taken from roughly half a million users. Gathered during the months of March, April, and May, the data shows queries, their date and time, and which Web sites the user ultimately visited. The idea was that this information might be of some use to researchers.
To protect user privacy, AOL replaced the log-in names of searchers with numbers. So you could still see everything that searcher #4356 looked for, but you wouldn’t know who #4356 was, except for one problem: it’s incredibly easy to figure out who people are based on their searches, because they tend to look for themselves, family members, and things in their immediate geographical vicinity. The New York Times did a great story in which reporters examined searches done by user #4417749 and within hours managed to locate their author, a nice old lady in Georgia who now plans to cancel her AOL subscription.
Bloggers and privacy advocates have pointed out that the information AOL released contains more than just the online search patterns of innocent Georgia ladies. It’s unclear what law enforcement might do with the thousands of searches for illegal drugs and pornography. It’s equally unclear what the feds will make of the handful of searches for “Muslim death rituals,” “Muslim brotherhood,” and “Islamic militant web forums.” In a nation where the government is seriously contemputf8g blanket warrants for online surveillance, it’s hard to imagine there aren’t law enforcement types combing this treasure trove of prepackaged personal data. Imagine getting enough dirt on somebody to haul him or her in for questioning just by downloading 400 megabytes of stuff from AOL! That’s like free candy.
After public outcry reached a crescendo, AOL apologized and took the data down. Of course, privacy advocates like the Electronic Privacy Information Center’s Marc Rotenberg and the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Kurt Opsahl remain pissed off. Why? Because this is the Interweb, folks. Data never dies here. In fact, you can search the records yourself via Dontdelete.com.
Once I visited Don’t Delete, I couldn’t leave. There’s a button you can click to get the search terms from a random user, and every time I hit it, I got another gem. My favorite was user #4206444, obviously a college student trying to cheat quickly on his or her exams in order to get around to the more important things in life. Search phrases like “does social darwinism persist in social welfare policies and in the attitudes of the general public about social welfare” were followed by “free essays on adolescent depression and suicide risks” and “free essays on Charles Dickens Hard Times.” In between these queries were hundreds for “sailor moon pictures,” “pokemon pictures,” “sonic x,” and “selena pictures.”
As blogger Thomas Claburn (www.lot49.com) points out, there’s a kind of poetry to some of the queries. He excerpts a dozen lines from the 8,200 queries made by user #23187425, all of which seem to be a sort of conversation this person was having with the search engine — he or she never actually clicked on any links but just kept querying with plaintive phrases like “i have had trouble,” “i want to change,” and “i know who i am.”
I’m torn. I love having access to this data, both for its touching human qualities and for the kinds of anthropological information it could yield. But as someone who believes strongly in digital privacy, I simply can’t sanction what AOL did. It would be different if I had faith that discovering all those porn searches would somehow inspire people to accept that sexual curiosity is normal. And it would be different if I thought that law enforcement would consider that the people searching for “Islamic militant web forums” might simply be trying to understand the world. But I don’t. This data will be used to “prove” that the Internet is crawling with child pornographers and terrorists.
Someday AOL’s information should be put into the public domain for anthropologists and cultural researchers of the future. That future, however, is probably decades if not a century away. The data is too close to us now — too easily weaponized. Nevertheless, I hold out hope that one day our search queries will illuminate us and provide for another generation a digital outline of our daily desires. SFBG



› andrea@altsexcolumn.com
Dear Andrea:
Do you think lactation is sexy? My sister just had a baby, and her husband finds the breast-feeding all very erotic, and I told her there was something wrong with him. I said she should tell him to see a shrink, but she told me it didn’t really bother her. I’m worried he is brainwashing her. Do you know of any books I can give her? What should I say to keep her safe? Should I call child services if she doesn’t snap out of it?
Fretting Sis
Dear Sis:
Yikes! Are you serious? If anyone’s going to do any snapping out of anything, it had better be you. I did mention recently that I don’t find lactation or its accompanying equipment at all sexy, but my opinion here matters barely more than yours does; if it isn’t a problem for your sister, it isn’t a problem, period. I see that you want some drama and to get to be the hero and all, but too bad. Go find a stray kitten to rescue and leave your sister’s family alone.
It’s no surprise to me that the husband, incidental beneficiary of nature’s bounty, should appreciate his good fortune. Men like boobs! News at 11. Nor does it shock me that the occasional woman quite innocently experiences some sexual sensation while breast-feeding. We only have so many body parts and so many physiological responses: breast-feeding, orgasm, and emotional bonding, for instance, all release or respond to the same hormone, oxytocin, which also induces labor. For most people the pleasurable (orgasm) and the nearly unbearable (labor) could not be further apart, but individuals are not “most people.” Susie Bright, for instance, wrote about using a vibrator during labor and (I think) claimed to have had an orgasm while delivering her daughter. Pretty unusual, granted, but hell, it’s got to be better for you than an epidural.
We’ll never know how many women have felt a harmless little buzz while breast-feeding, and considering the attitudes out there (yours, for instance) we never will. It’s not just disapproval, either. Every once in a while there’s a story about a woman who’s admitted feeling something vaguely sexual while breast-feeding actually losing her kids. (OK, in the most famous of these the kid was three, which does change things, but still.)
It may be difficult to establish the requisite distance when there’s a baby involved, but it would behoove you to learn the difference between “I think that’s weird” and “I think that’s wrong and dangerous and I have the responsibility to do something about it.” Or try it this way: if you hear that your brother-in-law is turned on by the baby, then by all means freak out and panic and leap into action. If, on the other hand, you hear that he’s turned on by his own wife’s breasts, well, shut up and go home.
Dear Andrea:
I told my husband that I got hit on at the grocery store. I told the guy I was married and I walked away. Well, my husband apparently felt the need to prove to me he’s desirable too. So he tells me how he was “joking” with this cashier, asking, “Do you want to go for a ride?” “In your truck?” she asked. He replied, “I didn’t say anything about my truck.” She wanted to take him up on it, but she wasn’t getting off work for a few hours. He shrugged and said that he had to go, never once telling her that he was married.
We don’t wear rings; I know I’m married and I make sure any guy who tries to hit on me knows too. I’m kinda upset with my husband now. He doesn’t understand why. What do you think?
Check Me Out
Dear Check:
I think he’s kind of a tool or was at any rate behaving in a tool-like manner. It isn’t merely that he was playing a nasty little game with you, although I’d think that would be bad enough, but what about the cashier, whom he was using as a cheap prop or pawn? He behaved caddishly toward her as well. One can only hope that she was playing him right back, planning to amuse her girlfriends later with the story of that horn-dog married guy at the store today, what a tool.
It’s not his childish insistence on getting you back that bothers me most, though. He was obnoxious to the cashier and toolish to you, but not understanding why you’d mind these things makes him an idiot, and that is pretty close to unforgivable.
You will forgive him, of course, after explaining one more time exactly what he did wrong. You pretty much have to, since you don’t, I assume, want to have to get a new husband. It’s hard enough to get a new grocery store, and I don’t see either of you going back to the old one, do you?

Vote to impeach


EDITORIAL Mainstream media reporters and pundits, as well as our cynical colleagues at the SF Weekly and the rest of their corporate alt-weekly chain, love to bash the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and the city councils of other Bay Area cities for passing resolutions on big questions like war, human rights, or impeachment.
We don’t share that view. Resolutions take almost no time or effort to pass, yet they are important barometers of popular political sentiment, tools that are particularly important given how both major political parties have shown more willingness to listen to their corporate backers than their lowly constituents. People need avenues to make their voices heard without the filters imposed by the leadership of the Democratic and Republican parties.
That’s why we’re happy that citizens in both San Francisco and Berkeley will get a chance to vote this November on the question of whether Congress should initiate impeachment proceedings against President George Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney for their many high crimes: fraudulently leading the United States into war, illegally spying on Americans, torturing enemies, claiming unconstitutional executive power, vioutf8g binding treaties, and engaging in war crimes and profiteering, among others.
Berkeley and San Francisco will be the first major American cities to allow a popular vote on this question. The Guardian in January was one of the first publications in the country to lay out in detail the impeachable crimes of the Bush administration (“The Case for Impeachment,” 1/25/06), joining a chorus of activists, scholars, and legal experts who say this is the only way to slow the country’s slide into empire and penetrate the Bush administration’s veil of secrecy.
Our congressional representatives have been terrible on this issue, showing more concern with seeking partisan advantage than upholding the Constitution. Rep. Nancy Pelosi has said the Democrats won’t pursue impeachment even if the party retakes Congress this fall. But maybe they’ll listen to the people directly telling them that we want Congress to finally launch a serious investigation into the many crimes perpetrated by the Bush administration.
This is a vote that the world wants to see us take. We commend the Berkeley City Council and SF supervisors Chris Daly, Ross Mirkarimi, Tom Ammiano, and Jake McGoldrick for giving the people this opportunity to be heard on the most important issue of our time. SFBG

Can Werbach reform Wal-Mart?


EDITORIAL Those with power rarely use it to help the powerless: workers, foreigners, or the planet. That’s why we’re fascinated by the green noises that we’re starting to hear from übercorporation Wal-Mart and with its decision to hire our hometown environmental heavy hitter Adam Werbach, a move that reporter Amanda Witherell explores in this week’s cover story (see “An Unbelievable Truth,” page 15).
We’re skeptical of Wal-Mart’s motives and commitment to putting the planet before profits, so we truly hope that Werbach hasn’t been co-opted into a greenwashing effort. But because of the positive potential in this arrangement, we’re willing to trust Werbach’s judgment. In turn, we urge him to remember his roots and expect him to document his experience inside Wal-Mart and blow the whistle if Wal-Mart isn’t honoring its promises.
Let’s take a minute to look at the timing and potential of this. Wal-Mart is on the ropes even though it’s the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. The activists and communities that oppose it are banding together like never before. And they’re getting bolder in that opposition, such as when the city of Hercules earlier this year used eminent domain to seize land from Wal-Mart rather than allow a store in its community.
Wal-Mart has also lost some political clout. First it lost its most supportive Democrat when fellow Arkansan Bill Clinton left the White House. The Republican Party it sponsors is also likely to lose ground in the midterm elections, just as the country’s trade deficit hits record levels.
People are also waking up to the fact that Wal-Mart’s poverty-level wages and lack of good health insurance end up being subsidized by taxpayers. And there very well could bubble up a backlash against the kinds of obscene wealth-hording being pushed by Wal-Mart’s Walton family and others, as reporter George Schulz also details in this issue (see “Shackling the Tax Man,” page 11).
Finally, consider two high-profile media moments from this summer that put more pressure on Wal-Mart. The Al Gore film An Inconvenient Truth has succeeded in placing global warming near the top of people’s concerns. This pressing environmental problem is made much worse by Wal-Mart’s practice of importing and distributing goods all over the planet.
The other was a widely circulated essay in the July issue of Harper’s Magazine, “Breaking the Chain,” which made a strong case for the federal government bringing an antitrust action against Wal-Mart and smashing the chain to pieces. The article focused not on the widely discussed environmental and labor arguments, but on how Wal-Mart’s market power and the way it wields it hurts the economy and other businesses because it can dictate terms to all of its suppliers, a concept known as monopsony power.
So we all have good reason to believe that Wal-Mart executives and their newfound concerns for the people and the planet aren’t just motivated by altruism. And this corporation has a long way to go before anyone should believe its executives intend to transform it into a force for good. We simply don’t trust Wal-Mart and don’t think anyone else should either.
Ah, but what if? That’s the question that will cause us to hold our fire for now and watch to see whether Wal-Mart’s actions follow its rhetoric. Given Wal-Mart’s monopsony power over suppliers and near monopoly power over consumers, this corporation has the power to force substantial changes in the wasteful and overly consumptive habits of the average American. The potential here is phenomenal.
Is Werbach the guy to help them realize that potential? Maybe. He’s been an inspiring and effective crusader for economic and social justice for most of his life, which is why we were thrilled when Sup. Chris Daly snuck him onto the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.
But in that role, he hasn’t been the bold visionary that we’d hoped for. Community Choice Aggregation, that baby step toward public power, moved way too slowly and didn’t go far enough, largely because Werbach failed to lead. And the movement for real public power has long been stalled, even on a commission that should be focused on kicking Pacific Gas and Electric out of San Francisco, although we’re pleased by the latest sign of life: the SFPUC is trying to offer public power from renewable sources on the former Hunters Point Naval Shipyard property (see “Public Power Play,” page 10).
Werbach needs to be a forceful and uncompromising advocate for Wal-Mart to radically change its business model, and if he hits serious roadblocks, he must be willing to quit and talk about his experience with the Guardian or another publication, no matter what the personal cost. SFBG