Volume 41 Number 01

October 4 – October 10, 2006

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Online bonanza


Fixed gear fracas

Duncan Scott Davidson’s rant about fixed-gear bikes is causing a ruckus.

“Your article is based on ignorance, stereotypes, and one bad experience shared by your friend. You are not qualified to have written this article.”

–Jake Guy

“Dude! I couldn’t agree more! I’m glad to see someone else is finally taking up the cause against these damn hipsters! I myself have started a campaign against the entire Mission district, since most hipsters live there. I mean, respect to the old-school heads, but it’s just not all that impressive.”


“‘The fixed-gear is to 2006 what the Razor scooter was to 1996: a wheeled freak show for wannabes.’ — a lot of other morons probably said the same thing about skateboards. Yeah, that was just a fad, you don’t see anyone riding a board anymore.”

— McBomb

Firing off at fixed-gears: Read the article with comments

Lusty Lady lowdown

Sarah Phelan’s piece about the Lusty Lady’s union vs. co-op status caught some fire.

“This story is a one-sided piece of rubbish, suitable for lining of the bottom of bird cages and nothing else.”

— 7654321

“When I was in Seattle, I used to go to the Lusty Lady there and end up spending quite a bit, because the girls were hot and the shows were hot (both stage and Private Pleasures). At the SF Lusty Lady, I only rarely see a girl I find attractive, so I go there only rarely, really just to check on whether anything has changed or not.”

— anon_voyeur

“Maybe support staff needs to spend more time mopping and cleaning, i.e. doing their job, and less time cruising the internet.”


Lusty Lady loses its innocence: Read the article with comments

In the blogs

Pixel Vision
Johhny Ray Huston at the Vancouver Film Festival
Our virgin intern goes to Folsom Street Fair

Girl Talk talks
Junior Boys interview

Rob Black cash kerfuffle
Arnold torpedoes transparency

Escape pods


› superego@sfbg.com
SUPER EGO Ladies and gentlemen, we are floating in space. Moonlight kisses the city’s knockoff gold metallic Fendi slingbacks, the ones with the sparkly diamantine heels, and slides up the back of its dime-store disco-ball dress — a little slap here, a little tickle there — until it reaches the ragged sunburst of hair at the nape of its neck and launches into daylight, where the real party is these days. And here we all are in our hot-pink neon escape pods, canoodling with the oceanic music, zipping past the anguished twists and turns, the endless downs and downers of the real world, with all the trashy grace and alien style we can muster. Because really, what else can we do? The real world’s moving on without us, easing its oily fingers into annihilation’s tight black hole, ringing torture’s doorbell, its xanthochroous eyes frothing like a million zillion bubbles of electronic beer shampoo. Kure kure takora! Gimme, gimme octopus!
Whoa. What was in that magic truffle? Oh, that’s right. Drugs. Never trust a tranny dressed as Little Bo Creep bearing gifts at a street fair.
Thing is, I’m pretty sure I never ate it — too many empty calories. But in the past month I really wouldn’t have had to. With LoveFest, the Folsom Street Fair, the new Summer Music Conference, and umpteen outdoor parties, we’ve finally found a way to stretch the wondrous, hallucinatory panties of Burning Man across an entire month.
Suits me just fine. Hey, some of us ain’t rich enough to spend a whole week toodling around the high desert in a crotch-scented sarong. Better we get the Man delivered right to our back door. (Oh, and to all you fabulous burners: I’m still waiting for my thank-you gifts. While you were out spiritually saving the universe, I was covering for your sandy, goddess-loving cracks at work.)
So with all the amazing things going on — the herd of giraffes raving outside City Hall, the leather corsets winking in the sunshine like semaphore come-ons, the perverts and the children joining hands — it was easy to let one’s mind wander, to drift like a sea monkey up to the top of the tank and climb out for a better look.
Was there any meaning to it all? Thousands and thousands of shiny, happy lovers taking to the streets again and again, completely unencumbered, it seemed, by any overt political message. Totally stripped of any frustrated protest. After a while it got kinda weird. I admit, I’m a little old-school. When people used to tell me it was foolish to think parties could change the world in a practical way, I’d hand my two good earrings to the sister standing next to me and tear into their skinny, cynical asses like a wet gremlin. But the whole “change the world” pie in the sky no longer seems on the menu.
I raised a brow this year when one of the LoveFest organizers told me the party’s big ambition was to be a “shining star of love in the current night.” I howled with laughter at the folks who paid $90-plus to go to one of the giant Folsom-oriented leather parties. (Guess we’re not all in this together.) And hardly a single call to any real-world revolution did my Cuervo-crossed eyes see, not even an artistic one. (What a horrible drag all that political stuff is. Embarrassing.)
Was it too much to ask for even just one giant Bush puppet? There was a time not long ago when you couldn’t climb out of the Dumpster without the papier-mache fingers of one of those goddamn things getting caught in your brand-new used wig.
Of course things happened behind the scenes. Folsom donates thousands of dollars to organizations for people in need. Burning Man and LoveFest and all the rest “keep the creativity flowing.” And who would argue that no greater good can come from a monthlong blast of mind-blowing music or a tattooed musclebear from Paris trying to pick you up? (Too bad I’d seen his pornos. I just couldn’t deal with his “sex face.”)
But I had some classic grumpy-hippie flashbacks: Where was all the anger!? What the heck are we fighting for!? Fuck the man! Have we become so disillusioned with our own outspokenness after six long years of virtual political ineffectiveness that we now channel all our practical energy into the personal realm? Or did we just need, for once, to escape the endless fighting and get it on? Are parties now just cosmic battery rechargers? I wondered: what exactly is “the love”?
Then I threw on my banana yellow poncho and break-danced with a blue gorilla, sparkling like a Texan’s sequined chaps. Truffle, anyone? SFBG

Chain gang


PRESS PLAY I’ve reached the point in my sick, sad life where I get urgently flagged e-mails from friends that read like this: “Dude: E! True Hollywood Story: Texas Chainsaw Massacre airs this weekend!” And then I actually write this kind of information down on the nearest calendar. So you can imagine what a chore it was to take a look at Dark Sky Films’ brand-new, two-disc “ultimate edition” DVD treatment. Of course, Chainsaw is widely available already (and I’m talking original 1974 version — none of this remake bullshit), but this new edition compiles some preexisting features (trailers, commentary tracks) with a pretty nifty new doc, Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Shocking Truth, which covers the film’s production and unexpected success (though most involved in its making saw little of its profits) and even dips a flesh-stripped toe into the sequels (fun fact: Bill Moseley was cast in Chainsaw 2 after director Tobe Hooper spotted him in a spoof film, The Texas Chainsaw Manicure). Diehards will be familiar with many of the anecdotes shared, like the arduous conditions that festered during the dinner-table scene; however, I still can’t get over the fact that Leatherface’s house o’ horrors is now the quaint-looking Kingsland Old Town Grill. Two words: road trip! Who’s with me? (Cheryl Eddy)

Bad art, no donut


A lot of the promo CDs that cross the river Styx and wind up at the fiery gates of the Guardian don’t even have cover art. However, a good portion do have art, and a good portion of these have very bad art. Thus, we are blessed with the opportunity to snigger derisively at the poor choices made by everyone from major label mega-acts and their legions of artistic decision-makers down to the smallest DIY indie bands with ironic moustaches long before you lunge across the aisle at Amoeba, thrust a disc in front of your pal, and snort, “Would you look at this shit?” So it is with a sense of solemn duty — and the burn of coffee coming out of our noses from laughing too hard — that we open these storied annals with a double dose of new, bad, adolescent fairyland schlock: Hello Stranger’s self-titled disc (Aeronaut) and Captain Ahab’s After the Rain My Heart Still Dreams (Rave).
The Hello Stranger cover is overwhelming: spandex bodysuits, falconry, wolves, George Harrison holding a crystal ball, a lake of stars, a rain of diamonds, a sunset of blood, and the final nail in my temple — what appears to be Sammy Hagar jamming out in an Angel Flight polyester pantsuit in a crystal fire. To quote the girl in the bad acid trip sequence of Easy Rider: “I’m dead! I’m dead already! I’m dead — do you understand?”
If the original Captain Ahab ever wandered out of the pages of Moby Dick, his embittered, cetacean-obsessed ass wouldn’t have anything to do with After the Rain, which is described as a “conceptual exploration of the rejection of identity.” Ahab certainly wouldn’t be fucking around with faeries, especially ones that look like a bad tattoo on a stoner chick from Hayward — to say nothing of cities in the clouds and unicorns. There was a moment in, say, 1993 when you could pick up a framed Boris Vallejo fantasy art poster at a Clearlake garage sale, put it up in your bathroom, and have it be funny and kitsch. That moment is gone. Slayer would never put a unicorn on one of their CDs. (Duncan Scott Davidson)

Writing wrongs


› a&eletters@sfbg.com
If there’s one person you would expect to condemn the present state of America’s political affairs, it would be Billy Bragg, right? Surely Britain’s punk poet laureate should be grabbing every microphone within reaching distance to decry the evils of our current administration. But surprisingly, his reaction is quite the opposite. “I’m encouraged by the results of the last two elections, because I believe that America has not yet decided what kind of country it’s going to be in the 21st century,” he says on the phone from Winnepeg.
Bragg is currently on a bit of a multitasking tour to showcase his two latest works: Volume II (YepRoc), a box set, and The Progressive Patriot, a book. While Volume II is an expected retrospective that covers the second half of Bragg’s career from 1988 onward, The Progressive Patriot is uncharted territory for the singer-songwriter, a treatise that addresses Britain’s national identity, the emergence of organized racism, and the political road that weaves between the two.
Much as in Britain, Bragg sees battles of ideology as a key proving ground in the future of our country and agrees with the concept of “two Americas” as it pertains to the states’ political climate. “On one hand you’ve got the neoconservative Christian right, who are getting everybody to vote and still can’t get a majority,” he says, “and on the other side you’ve got the more compassionate idea of America as a multicultural society, which just can’t get everybody to vote.” Yet as bleak and insurmountable a problem as this may seem, Bragg takes the long view. “I’m in a fortunate position. I have the opportunity to travel around and meet people trying to manifest that ‘other’ America. Reading local newspapers in America, you see all sorts of things that are going completely against the neoconservative agenda in some states.” Volume II picks up at a crucial period of Bragg’s career, kicking off with his 1988 release, Workers Playtime (Go! Discs/Elektra). The album marked Bragg’s transition from punk iconoclast to, as he would later affectionately come to be known, the “Bard from Barking.” Instead of using just his guitar and a portable amp as on his earlier recordings, Bragg included bits of orchestration on Workers, plus a band to accompany his songs of law, love, and everything in between. “The album of lost love. It’s my great lost soul album!” he says with a wistful chuckle.
At the heart of that bittersweet collection is the amazing “Valentine’s Day Is Over,” a woman’s lament over her lover, rough economic times, and the beatings that result. “That economy and brutality are related / Now I understand,” the protagonist explains wearily. Bragg feels a particular satisfaction with that song and the topics it tackles. “I often cite that as the ideal Billy Bragg song because politics and ‘the love song’ overlap in that song. It’s a really hard thing to do, rather than being a ‘love song writer’ or a ‘political song writer.’ I hate it when people divide those two. Life isn’t divided like that.”
The ever-encircled worlds of life and politics also led Bragg to write the new book, with the ideas spurred by everything from recent elections in his hometown to raising his young son. “A far-right political party called the BNP earned a seat on the council in my hometown of Barking, East London,” the songwriter says. “That was a real shock to me because these were the people that I came into politics fighting. I realized that it needed something more than just writing a song.” Being a father further drives his desire for intelligent debate around the future of his country. His concerns about nationalism are expressed in the interest of cohesion, not the racist ideal of exclusion. He explains, “I’m interested to hear your background, but what is important to me is how my children and your children are going to get on with each other. Everything else is secondary to that.”
As you might expect, Bragg’s MySpace page also bears the mark of his beliefs and ideas. It also contains his songs: items that were conspicuously absent during his recent showdown with the networking Web site. Having successfully lobbied MySpace to retool their artist agreement so that the site doesn’t “own” any artist’s uploaded content, Bragg is now taking on MTV Flux, another networking site that features an upload ability similar to YouTube. A video featuring his challenge to Flux dots the page, along with archival footage of him at various events, such as a concert in Washington, DC, in 2002. That day he addressed the crowd and warned them of a greater looming evil — not of conservatives or imperialism but of cynicism.
He still stands behind that message. “I know from personal experience that cynicism eats away your soul,” Bragg says. “God knows Tony Blair’s been spreading cynicism around for the last few years. I’ve had to fight my own.” SFBG
Thurs/5, 8 and 10:30 p.m.
Great American Music Hall
859 O’Farrell, SF
(415) 885-0750
Sat/7, 4:40 p.m.
Speedway Meadow
Golden Gate Park, SF

Restoration Hardcore


Davis might not have those frog signs along the westbound side of Highway 80 anymore — “Live in Davis because it’s green, safe, and nuclear free…. It’s academic!” — but there’s certainly no shortage of wondrous music happening there.
Exhibit A: KDVS — the UC Davis radio station, a longtime champion of alternative music and the only entirely student-run station in the UC system — is about to put on the fourth edition of “Operation: Restore Maximum Freedom,” a twice-a-year one-day music festival, the likes of which have seldom been undertaken by Northern California college radio stations.
Unlike other music festivals hawking themselves as “alternative,” O:RMF is the real thing, presenting strictly music of the compellingly weird variety without sponsored stages and pricey merch tables — by sheer dint of student-volunteer willpower. “It’s a good time out in the sunshine,” said Erik Magnuson, who DJs at KDVS in addition to holding down the station’s assistant programming directorship. “We’re able to get great acts without having to worry about advertising to offset costs.”
The festival isn’t a station fundraiser — all profits go toward future incarnations of the event — but is instead an earnest offering of experimental sounds chosen democratically in committee by station volunteers. Those volunteers run O:RMF at Woodland watering hole Plainfield Station, which KDVS events coordinator and O:RMF organizer Brendan Boyle described as a “biker bar with a quasi-Libertarian vibe.” O:RMF itself fully “represents the radio station,” Boyle continued. “We’re free-form, which is a real anomaly, and it’s a reaction to our current political climate.” Hence the military-operation-inspired name.
The first, all-ages O:RMF in May 2005 was headlined by elastic noise psychos Sightings and Elephant 6 pop oddities a Hawk and a Hacksaw, and the subsequent fests have featured bands like the increasingly relevant, drift-ambience peddlers Growing and the splendidly hard-angled post-punkers Erase Errata. In each case, KDVS has looped in some of the most keenly unconventional artists around, and the upcoming festival looks the best yet.
This time it’s drawn 17 artists of various marginal modes, all of great repute in their respective scenes: longtime glitch-head Kid606 started the Tigerbeat6 label, and quirk-folk guitarist Michael Hurley was a luminary in Greenwich Village’s 1960s folk scene. Hop around to the dance punk of Numbers and the disorienting, psychedelic hip-hop of Third Sight. The garage-punk component is damned impressive by itself: the Lamps, one of Los Angeles’s finest and an In the Red mainstay, will crack their bass-heavy fuzz whip along with Th’ Losin Streaks, whose famously fun live show begets a cleaner, more Nuggets-like, ’60s garage vibe.
Suffice to say that few stations have the guts and the cavalier student base to put on an event like this, especially one that’s plainly not out to make money. As Boyle puts it, “it’s a very real event with no bullshit attached,” and with any luck, attendees will get as stoked on smashing music industry conventions as KDVS is. (Michael Harkin)
Sat/7, noon–midnight
Plainfield Station
23944 County Road 98, Woodland
$15, $10 advance; all ages
For tickets and the complete lineup, go to www.myspace.com/maximumfreedom

Rock till you drop


› a&eletters@sfbg.com
“They’re the ones that pushed E-40 into hyphy,” says Hamburger Eyes photographer Dave Potes, in reference to his friends the Mall, a San Francisco art punk trio, and the hype that surrounds them.
“Yeah, we’re part of the hyphy movement,” adds Mall guitarist-keyboardist Daniel Tierney, 27, and his bandmates erupt into cacophonous chuckling.
I’ve heard the “h” word dropped incessantly for weeks now and have pretended to be hip to the Bay Area hip-hop phenomenon. As the band continues chatting about the genre and its influence on the new DJ Shadow album, bewilderment washes over me, and I hang my head and admit to having no idea what anyone’s talking about.
“You’ve got to get on the bus then,” bassist-guitarist-vocalist Ellery Samson, 29, demands when someone mentions the “yellow bus.” In unison everyone chants a couple of “da, do, do, do”s as if the composition should strike a chord, like my sister’s favorite New Kids on the Block track. I grin and nod even though I’m still puzzled.
Whether or not the Mall seriously acknowledge an affiliation to the hip-hop movement is questionable. However, while chilling over beers on a bar patio in the Mission District, I get a sense of buoyancy and selflessness from the mild-mannered band members.
“Up until last month, we all lived within three blocks of this bar,” says drummer Adam Cimino, 28, adding that this particular area definitely inspired their recent songs.
Given the languid quiet of this cool, fogless night — punctuated by the occasional crack of a cue ball or the faint sounds from the bar jukebox — it’s hard to imagine this neighborhood spawning a band whose music brims with pissed-off aggression and agitated velocity. But then, the Mall aren’t exactly from this hood. The band’s beginnings trace back to Montgomery High in Santa Rosa, where Samson and Tierney met and became friends. The pair worked on another musical project, called Downers, but soon found themselves seeking an additional element: Cimino.
Samson gave him a call. “I want to do this screamy, art fag, punk rock thing,” jokes Cimino in a mock-Samson accent, re-creating the talk. “I was, like, ‘I get it. That sounds awesome.’”
The three obtained a practice space without ever playing a note of music together and began work on the first few songs that would end up on their EP, First, Before, and Never Again (Mt. St. Mtn., 2006). From there on, the band gelled into what has become an enterprising experience for all involved.
The group’s new debut, Emergency at the Everyday (Secretariat), is an exercise in emphatic pugnacity and loud-as-shit tumult. The 13 songs — clocking in at less than 20 minutes — are punishing in scope yet danceable. Casio-pop melodies ebb and flow along a thunderous foundation of crunching guitars, plodding bass lines, and dynamite-fueled drum pops.
“We get our sound from fucking up the amps, and we don’t use distortion pedals,” Cimino explains. “It’s just little Casio keyboards and an amp turned to 10. That’s what makes it so gritty-sounding.”
Samson’s vocals add to the mélange of fuzzed-out commotion. Imagine the throaty screech of a young Black Francis shattering through an aggro mixture of angular guitar bluster and punk avidity. During the recording of the album, Samson sang through an old rotary telephone hooked up to a PA to match the distortion of the other instruments and capture the intensity of live performance.
“The music was so blown-out it was too awkward to have clean vocals,” adds a smiling Cimino. “It’s a neat trick.”
But even without the aid from the telephone, you can’t deny the hostility of Samson’s vocals. It’s surprising considering his placid demeanor.
“Everybody’s really angry right now, and we’re just as angry as anybody else,” he says.
The band backs up Samson’s statement by discussing the unending Iraq war and their disapproval of the president, and though the Mall’s songs don’t exactly cover those topics, they certainly fuel the fire. “There’s a lot of violence and frustration and boredom going on,” Cimino adds.
“Fuck, I thought it was party music, man,” Tierney chimes in, and the band bursts into another fit of laughter.
After three years together and a national tour on the horizon, including dates opening for the Slits, the Mall’s sound continues to evolve. And who knows? Maybe their direction will cross the border into genuine hyphy. Already back in the studio recording songs for another EP, the Mall aren’t holding back anything: to them, it’s all about having fun and making great music for their friends.
“It’s totally replaced skateboarding for me,” Cimino says. “I’m off work. I don’t want to watch TV. I don’t want to eat dinner. I get to hang out and play music with these guys.” SFBG
With the Plot to Blow Up the Eiffel Tower and Boyskout
Thurs/5, 9:30 p.m.
Bottom of the Hill
1233 17th St., SF
(415) 621-4455

Pop lives


› johnny@sfbg.com
REVIEW There are different doors through which one can enter dunya dinlemiyor (the world won’t listen), a 2005 video installation by British artist Phil Collins. One can chart the many passages that lead from Collins’s work to the music of the Smiths, whose vocalist Morrissey chose an image from Andy Warhol’s Trash to adorn the cover of the group’s second attempt at creating a proper first album. In turn, those doors lead to Warhol’s earlier screen tests, which Collins deliberately invokes through dunya dinlemiyor’s song-length portraits of Smiths fans in Istanbul. These connections form more than one circuit — in fact, they do more than a figure eight. Even when out of fashion, pop art has a three-degrees-of-Warhol relationship to contemporary art. Is it really so extraordinary?
In this case the answer is yes. Whereas Warhol’s screen tests are powered by the egos of his superstars and other art movers and makers, Collins’s portraits shock through their anonymity and most of all, their unexpected emotional profundity. “15 minutes of shame,” reads the T-shirt of one of the two girls who sing “Panic” at the beginning of dunya dinlemiyor’s karaoke box versions of the songs that make up The World Won’t Listen, a 1987 Rough Trade compilation from the Smiths’ last year of creative life. The time-based phrase plays off both an oft-repeated — and garbled — Warhol quote and an early Morrissey lyric. But most of dunya dinlemiyor bypasses such referentiality to lay bare the perhaps singular universality of Smiths songs.
There are some other knowing nudges early on, as when a young man performs “Ask” in the manner of 1983–84 Morrissey, shirt unbuttoned and flowers sprouting from his ass pocket. Even in this pantomime or imitation, the gender liberation of Smiths songs — the way in which Morrissey-worship has allowed straight and gay men to enact or express unconventional forms of masculinity — is apparent. But this liberation takes an even more revelatory form with some of Collins’s female subjects. Their performances engage with and bloom from the lyrics in a manner quite different from the traditional courtship roles when female fans respond to words written by a man.
The most joyous, spine-tingling example has to be a pair of girls who hold hands while duetting on “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out.” Here, the substitution of someone else in the Morrissey role works wonders. Absent the frontperson’s overbearing persona, the music takes flight in unexpected directions. Using generic vacation-spot photos as a backdrop, Collins separates these Smiths fans from any stereotypes viewers might attach to Turkey. The closest thing to a culturally specific Old World reference is the twist of a woman’s muezzin prayer-wail approach to the finale of “Rubber Ring,” with its “Don’t forget the songs” litany.
The best door through which to enter dunya dinlemiyor is that provided by Collins, a simple passage surrounded by the flypapered advertisements that attracted his collaborators. This show is the absolute opposite of American Idol. Its most haunting and sublime interpretation has to be “Asleep,” sung by a young man with fresh scars on his forehead. His face is framed in extreme close-up in a manner that admires his beauty and aches to reach out to him, as if Carl Theodor Dreyer were lusting for Maria Falconetti. The Smiths have inspired no shortage of books, movies, and music, but this might be the best response to their songbook I’ve encountered.
In “Neopopular Demand,” Atlanta artist Fahamu Pecou takes a rather more acidic view of popular music and Warhol’s pop legacy, specifically the decadent Interview years. His large paintings depicting himself as a magazine cover star were partly inspired by the almost action-figure aspect of 50 Cent’s rise to rap fame. Which is to say, Pecou’s work is both a response to 50’s exaggeration of a hip-hop hypermasculine bravado (a front that toys with and embraces caricature) and a commentary on the enthusiasm with which American culture consumes thug routines. Don’t get it twisted: Pecou loves hip-hop. He just doesn’t worship it.
The presence of imitation Jean-Michel Basquiat chalk scribbles at the edges and sometimes centers of Pecou’s paintings brings recent art history into the equation — in a manner that taunts potentially clueless buyers. Pecou possesses a post-Basquiat dandified flair (as with another compelling artist, Kehinde Wiley, it manifests in self-portraiture) and a skepticism that can only come from viewing the fatal footsteps of such a talent. He is in the process of making a film about his own self-creation as an art and media star, an endeavor that isn’t as revealing about his bright future as the edges of his canvases. That is where handsome paint renderings of magazine photos and fonts give way to shades of white that more than hint there are many other areas that he wants to explore. After painting himself into commercial boxes, Pecou leaves a space open so that he might perform a Harry Houdini–like escape. SFBG
Through Jan. 21, 2007
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
151 Third St., SF
$7–$12 (free first Tuesdays; half price Thursdays after 6 p.m.)
(415) 357-4000
Through Nov. 20
Michael Martin Galleries
101 Townsend, suite 207, SF
(415) 543-1550
To read an interview with Fahamu Pecou, go to Pixel Vision at www.sfbg.com/blogs/pixel_vision.

Naughty is nice


› a&eletters@sfbg.com
Once upon a time, a fair number of people, heartened by the Sexual Revolution and the corresponding collapse of censorship in movies, thought porn was just the preliminary phase to the next obvious step: soon, they assumed, mainstream films would also have real, explicit sex.
The last time anybody thought that was probably 1975 — or if really stoned, 1977. But for a while there, that wild idea seemed not only possible but inevitable. Deep Throat pretty much closed the obscenity conviction book on consenting adults watching adult content in public venues. Hugely successful mainstream films such as Carnal Knowledge and Last Tango in Paris seemed to be tearing down the last “good taste” barriers protecting viewers from having frank discussions about sex and its explicit simulation.
The wide-open ’70s offered a variety of liberated lifestyle choices. Cities had singles bars and sex clubs; the suburbs had hot tubs. Top 40 radio was smirking “Mama’s Got a Squeeze Box” and “More, More, More.” Even network TV had gone raunchy with “jiggle” shows (Charlie’s Angels) and odd one-off leering atrocities like the 1979 Playboy Roller Disco Pajama Party. In the midst of all this sex, sex, sex, it seemed a logical end point would be the total de-shaming of America. Fuck movies would become “real” ones, and “real” movies would include fucking.
Who could imagine how far back the pendulum would swing? Porn would survive, but it and sex would retreat behind closed doors. These days the annual art house succes de scandale, like Brown Bunny and Baise-Moi, is invariably depressing and negative.
Ergo, it is worth all kinds of cheering that somebody has finally made that movie. The one that has talented actors having plot-relevant and unfaked sex, that is beautiful, touching, funny, and artistic enough to be one of the best films of the year. It’s John Cameron Mitchell’s Shortbus, which knows exactly how anomalous it is and where it fits into the current zeitgeist. (The most quotable line occurs when one character surveys an orgiastic scene: “It’s like the ’60s but with less hope.”) Mitchell is defiant enough to create hope, even his own zeitgeist if need be.
Cute New York City gay couple the “two Jamies” (Paul Dawson and PJ DeBoy) are considering spicing up their routine, so they consult sex therapist Sofia (Sook-Yin Lee). In a frazzled moment, she admits she’s never had an orgasm, something she’s never told her husband (Raphael Barker). These questing characters intersect with others at the sex party held regularly at chez Justin Bond (with the performer playing himself).
Shortbus finds narrative room for stalking, attempted suicide, three-ways, and every numeral on the Kinsey Scale. Yet the film never feels cluttered or sensational. In fact, its openhearted seriocomedy (the script is a collaboration between Hedwig and the Angry Inch writer-director Mitchell and the cast) integrates sex so fully into a plaintive, affirmative call for communality that shock value is only intermittent — and deliberately funny when it occurs.
Will Shortbus occasion new local obscenity challenges? Probably not. But 40 years ago, censorship battles were a constant source of news and box-office draw. Before the United States graduated from softcore to hardcore, with many court decisions en route, the hot spot for all things smutty was several thousand safe yet alluring miles away.
This passing rage for cinematic “sin” from parts North will be chronicled by SF-to-Denmark émigré Jack Stevenson at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts this week. He’ll present three programs (a clip show and features Venom and Without a Stitch) during “Swinging Scandinavia: How Nordic Sex Cinema Conquered the World.”
It really did. This “myth of total sexual freedom” — as put forth in Stevenson’s book Totally Uncensored!, due in 2007 — was particularly seductive to uptight Americans. By and large, Sweden and Denmark enjoyed remarkably progressive social attitudes at the time. After preliminary taboo-nudging efforts, one dam broke with I, a Woman, a notorious tell-all turned into a show-all (by 1966 standards) portrait of the sexually restless “new woman.” It grossed an astonishing $4 million in the United States alone. But that was nothing compared to I Am Curious (Yellow), a Godardian “kaleidoscope” of hard-to-separate documentary, improv, and staged elements encompassing all the era’s sexual, political, and intellectual questionings. Finally allowed to screen in America (over 18 months after its late-1967 Stockholm premiere), it was probably the most-seen and most-loathed crossover hit prior to The Blair Witch Project — similarly drawing audiences who expected familiar genre exploitation but got something much rawer and more challenging.
A whole series of Danish porn comedies and angsty Swedish sex dramas continued to be churned out until the mid-’70s. The Scandis had brought down many original barricades: Torgny Wickman’s 1969 Language of Love (which Robert de Niro takes Cybill Shepherd to see in Taxi Driver) might be the first commercial feature to show unobscured intercourse. But they soon found themselves intellectually bored and pushed aside marketwise by the expanded allowance for soft- and hardcore production elsewhere. The yahoos (us folks) had won by simultaneously commercializing and marginalizing the Sex Rev. SFBG
Opens Fri/6 in Bay Area theaters
See Movie Clock at www.sfbg.com for showtimes
Thurs/5, 7:30 p.m.; Sat/7, 7 and 9 p.m.
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
701 Mission, SF
(415) 978-ARTS

Roughin’ Justin


› kimberly@sfbg.com
SONIC REDUCER Don’t be tripping, sit your sexy back down slowly, and I’ll try to break the news to you gently: Justin Timberlake and I have a history.
OK, it’s not like we sat around in Pampers and OshKosh B’Gosh, playing gastroenterologist with Barbie and GI Joe and gurgling along to “White Lines.” Though I am getting a dose of feverish white-line nostalgia listening to coke-daddy ode “Losing My Way” off dusty Justy’s new Jive album, Speakerboxxx … whoops, I mean FutureSex/LoveSounds. And it’s not as if we met on The Mickey Mouse Club, brawling over mouse ears and bawling about diaper rash and paltry camera time. We don’t go that way back.
But Kimberly discovered Timberly long before a certain sheepish someone made contact with that Jackson scion’s nipple ornament. I first saw el Cueball, as I so lovingly dubbed my mousy darling’s shaved pate, fronting *NSYNC at the Santa Clara County Fair around ’98. You know, back when the strings were still apparent. I was there with a few other geezer peers, measuring the hype on the opening local Filipino American vocal group, when the budding boy banders entered prancing and the 14-year-old girls went positively cuckoo, clutching photos and near weeping with longing as Timberlake and company worked the whistled theme to Welcome Back, Kotter into the encore.
Then I met up with Timby again at the Oakland Arena when the “Justified and Stripped” tour broke away from the rest of the bubblegum boys and strapped on Christina Aguilera. Whatever you think of Aguilera’s dirty-girl front, she certainly displayed pipes and pride live, strutting around like Femlin in a black corset and short pants and belting out “Beautiful.” But that was forgotten when Timberhunk emerged — thin voice or no, the little girls were still going utterly nutzoid. They screamed, freaked, and gaped like ravenous baby birds beneath the catwalk he beatboxed upon. That’s the power of cute, man.
But Just-oh doesn’t want to be just cute anymore, as the cover of FutureSex attests: suited up in a skinny black suit like a baby Reservoir Dog, little buckeroo looks outright pissed, crushing a disco ball beneath his heel. If Justified hasn’t made it perfectly clear, Timberlake wants to be considered a force — artistic, tough-guy, whatev — to be reckoned with. Pity the poor pop-pets — Madonna, Britney, Justy — they all have such an ambivalent relationship with le fickle dance floor. FutureSex reeks of such ambition — as the swinging singles prince offers up a kind of archaic devotion to the album format and a familiar if downbeat trajectory tracing a loverboy’s woozy weave from lust to lovesickness. Witness the first half of the full-length: “FutureSex/LoveSound,” “Sexyback,” “Sexy Ladies.” Either someone’s out of synonyms for doing the doity or someone’s ob-sexed.
Musically kitted out by Timbaland in the Neptunes’ absence, FutureSex is clearly intended to be a kind of Prince-ly, sensual opus, and for having the good taste to imitate the most original funk rock stylists of the ’80s, Timba-lake should be commended. But all the CD images of Timbo smashing disco balls seem out of character, overwrought. To wax crassly, Justin tries to show us he has the balls to both musically embrace Grandmaster Flash, Queen, Lil Jon, and yes, the alpha and omega, libertine and spendthrift couple of ’80s soul, Prince and Michael Jackson, and strike out on his own. Just ignore the slimness of Timberlake’s vanilla soul. It’s barely flavored, not quite iced, with techno, barebacked beats, and retro soul, and despite the disc’s initially fluid, almost mirror-ball-like reflective programming, it opens into a dull middle section that’s broken up only by the frisky groove of “Damn Girl.” It makes you wish Timberlake had the courage of his initial fantasy-fueled single’s conviction. If only this disco baller had left it at FutureSex and Timberlake stuck to his, er, cheesy pistols and the Prince of schwing’s original program.

CALIFONE DREAMING Califone’s Tim Rutili can probably understand the urge to try out new personae. While talking about his new, gorgeous album, Roots and Crowns (Thrill Jockey), the frontperson and soundtrack composer fessed up to believing in past lives — and indeed relying on that knowledge when it came to penning tunes about kittens that see ghosts, lost eyes, and black metal fornication. “The writing process is all about that — just letting things bubble up,” he says from Chicago, where the band is rehearsing. And what does he imagine the members of Califone were in a past life? “Circus clowns.”
The ex–Red Red Meat member doesn’t seem to spook easily. Case in point: the last time Califone played San Francisco, their van was broken into. Treasured gear such as Rutili’s grandfather’s 1917 violin and a custom-made acoustic guitar, which he says was “nicer than my house,” were stolen. “They were nice enough to leave stuff that looked shitty,” he waxes positively. “It was heartbreaking, but in the end it forced us to learn a lot of new tricks, open up our ideas, and gather new things. It really did inform the recording to not have to lean on any of the old stuff.”
The scattered Califone seems to be working out the kinks in its evolution, with Rutili in Los Angeles writing music for film and the rest of the band in Chicago and Valparaiso, Ind. “I see us getting older and becoming more creative,” Rutili muses. And most people just get older and watch more TV. “That doesn’t seem to be happening with us, but it makes it more difficult too. TV is easy — keeping your eyes open and your ear to the ground and trying to remain connected and in touch with creativity is difficult.” SFBG
With Oakley Hall and D.W. Holiday
Tues/10, 9 p.m.
Bottom of the Hill
1233 17th St., SF
(415) 621-4455

Carried away


› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com
CHEAP EATS Over the years I have said goodbye to a lot of cool people in this paper. Haywire went to Maine. Moonpie went to Pittsburgh. Rube Roy went home. E.B. Matt became S.D. Matt. Johnny “Jack” Poetry I packed up and delivered to Idaho with my own two hands and old van and creaking heart. Birdbrain Brad went to Denmark. Satchel Paige the Pitcher, Thailand. Noah, J.C., Jason.
Now this …
Oof, me and Carrie moved here together 16, 17 years ago, after the earthquake. Drove across the country in my ’71 LTD with all our stuff in the backseat and trunk. We were at that time lovers, best friends, and bandmates. Some of that would change, because things do, but whatever the words were, we only got closer and closer and closer.
Tonight I’m cooking for her and Marc, another old relocated pal of mine, who’s here to help move her with him to New York. This will be the first time in our 20-plus years of kindred-spirit-ship that we won’t be living in the same place.
For dinner: one of my chickens!
I was, what, 22 when I met Carrie. Graduate writing program, UNH. In addition to falling immediately in love with her, I became a 10-times better writer on the spot. She’s still my go-to editorial opinion. Got me started playing music, showed me where to put my fingers on a ukulele, crafted the sort of songs that make you have to write them too, started a band with me — my first. So whether it’s songs or sentences, her influence has shone through everything I’ve done ever since.
And now she’s inspiring me in love. I’m serious, you should see her and Marc together. You can’t be jaded or cynical. You just can’t.
So I’m meeting a lot of new people, making new friends, going to parties where I don’t know anyone, smiling and talking a lot, because what can I say? Life is pretty cool.
At a party where I knew almost everyone, we said good-bye to her longtime pad, Belle Manor. Crashed in Joe’s room, woke up too early, crossed paths with Carrie on her way back to bed from the bathroom, hugged her, said I’ll see you tomorrow night, and booked it over to Berkeley to make new friends. This guy Quinn had asked me to have lunch with him and his Cheap Eats fan girlfriend, by way of surprising her for her birthday.
I said what I say now: “Sure!”
They were colorful folks with cool things to say. Beautiful! And the food was all right. I was surprised, actually, because it had been a long time since I’d eaten at Vik’s Chaat Corner. I remembered it being better than this. Which isn’t to say it isn’t my new favorite restaurant, just that I was probably a little overhungover, underslept, and yeah, kind of crunched up inside.
We talked about: dancing, Dickens, the universe, Indiana, growing up weirdos in normal-ass places. We ate: Bhatura cholle, which is a huge puffy mushroom cloud of crispy doughy stuff you break apart with your hands and dip into a delicious garbanzo bean curry. A bunch of other things from the chaat menu, because these folks are vegetarian. And I ordered lamb baida roti to be contrary, but it backfired because it wasn’t very good. It was OK, but all the vegetarian stuff was better, especially bhel puri, which is pretty much rice crispies with onions and cilantro instead of milk and strawberries.
The place got supercrowded while we were sitting there, chatting and chaating. Fortunately, it’s a lot bigger than it used to be. Didn’t the eating area used to be in the same place as the store, tucked away in a corner or something? Well, Vik’s has changed (because things do). People still like it though, and Quinn and Cynthia love it.
She got a little boxful of desserty pastries because it was her birthday. Happy birthday, girl!
Chaat means “to lick,” it says on the menu.
Now I have to hit the kitchen again and see if I can’t make a miracle. I want this tough, too-old hen to be the best thing I ever cooked. I wanted this article to be the best one I ever wrote, but I don’t think that happened either. Edit me, Cares. SFBG
Tues.–Sun., 11 a.m.–6 p.m.
724 Allston Way, Berk.
(510) 644-4432
Takeout available
No alcohol
Wheelchair accessible

Small change


› paulr@sfbg.com
Recently a colleague reminded me — in the course of a brief correspondence heavy on mutual commiseration (for what are writers if not commiserators?) — that while change is often deplorable, it also must be accepted. “Hate change, embrace change” was her pithy, I might even say her writerly, formulation. In silent riposte, I thought of Uncle Theodore, the lovable rapscallion from Evelyn Waugh’s novel Scoop, who relieves “his infrequent bouts of depression” by singing “change and decay in all around I see” (a line from the hymn “Abide with Me”) out the morning-room window of the family’s country manse, Boot Magna, when not whoring about in London.
I like to think that while there may be change in much if not all around I see, there is not necessarily decay. But I do not like the bunches of basil I have been finding at Tower Market, now more than a year and a half under the ownership of the Mollie Stone’s chain. The basil is labeled as “local,” and indeed Mollie Stone’s touts its commitment to local, organic, and sustainable agriculture, but bunch after bunch of this stuff seems to consist of bruised, pitted, and withered leaves that would never have been set out under the old regime. I bought a nice-looking butternut squash for soup, but when I cut it open a few days later it reeked of sulfur and had to be rushed to the compost bin like a code blue patient.
Prices, meantime, have risen sharply, and although I doubt this is entirely the result of chain ownership, I don’t think chain ownership — with centralized procurement and, I suspect, heightened attention to that basic business ethic of buying low and selling high — helps matters. The store no longer sells the nifty little boxes of Spanish saffron at the checkout stands either. Instead there is, for twice as much money, some other kind, elaborately packaged to make it look like there’s more there than there is. I passed.
Wonderful restaurants reinvent themselves for Generation Text-message: first Bizou and soon Hawthorne Lane. Change, decay? I dislike change for its own sake, but fatigue is a fact, and people’s wants and expectations do shift. Yet while casualness is fine, and I have a closetful of blue jeans and T-shirts, there is something to be said for special and elevated moments. Take it away, Uncle Theodore.

Mild to wild


› paulr@sfbg.com
“Mandarin” is a word that suggests a certain grandeur or even haughtiness. Mandarin English is the language of such pompmeisters as William F. Buckley Jr., George F. Will, and all those other East Coast bow-tied toffs with Roman numerals after their names. As for mandarin food: if you are enjoying this style of Chinese cooking, you must sit up straight, keep your napkin in your lap, and not eat with your fingers. Can you see Buckley or Will eating pot stickers with their fingers?
Perhaps that is a needlessly nightmarish image. Mandarin need not mean “chokingly formal.” Even the Mandarin in Ghirardelli Square, despite much plushness and high style, retains an agreeably casual air — and the Mandarin is not the exclusive home of mandarin cooking in the city. Although mandarin cuisine is sometimes known as “the food of the emperors” and is strongly associated with Beijing — China’s imperial city — it can be found in creditable form here in such neighborhood restaurants as Ah Lin, which opened last year on Cathedral Hill in a space left behind when the peripatetic the Window returned to its original home on Valencia.
If you’re looking for cathedrals, Cathedral Hill isn’t a bad place to start your search: at one end of Ah Lin’s Bush Street block stands Trinity Episcopal, an imposing gothic edifice that looks as if it were transplanted from some village in the north of England. If that doesn’t suit, there are plenty of alternative choices just a brief journey down Gough. And at the other end of Ah Lin’s little urban world (to complete our sacred-and-profane cycle) is Wheel Works, a temple of the automotive, whose large, white, mostly windowless garage takes up most of the view through the restaurant’s windows.
Fortunately, it is not necessary to look outside, because the interior of the restaurant is appealing in its modest way: walls done up in a paint scheme of rich blue, with peach accents and some framed art pieces, along with a good-sized light box whose ground-level plantings give it the look of a big (and slightly tippy) terrarium. Linoleum? Didn’t notice any, but then, I wasn’t looking, and one of the reasons I wasn’t looking — apart from the childish hope that if I didn’t notice it, it couldn’t be there — was because I was too engrossed in the food.
As a devotee of spicy food, my Chinese preferences over the years have tended toward Szechuan and Hunan cooking, each of which makes liberal use of chiles — and chilis — to kindle that characteristic blaze on the lips. Mandarin dishes, on the other hand, tend to be milder, but mild does not mean bland, and as the kitchen at Ah Lin proves over and over, even even-tempered dishes can have their own sort of savory intensity.
The restaurant’s chow fun ($6.95), for instance, sounded very Clark Kent–ish to us — wide noodles with a restful choice of chicken, beef, shrimp, or vegetable — but while the array of these last was routine (snow peas, broccoli florets, sliced mushrooms), the noodles themselves tasted as if they had been cooked in some kind of broth. (Chicken, perhaps? Vegetarian sticklers will want to inquire.) This is a very easy and effective way to enliven starches, but just to make sure, the kitchen also added shreds of basil for some freshening perfume.
Another subtly addictive, peppery broth was the basis of the ocean party soup ($5.50 for a small bowl that was more than enough for two people), a mélange of shrimp, bay scallops, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, mushrooms, and snow peas. Having sampled this soup and the chow fun, we did feel we probably could have passed a pop quiz on what the restaurant’s vegetable bin held.
The menu is full of classic preparations. I fell into a Proustian reverie — memories of long ago and far away on Halsted Street — while engulfing the excellent mu shu pork ($7.50), notable here for its tender pancakes. Even more impressive was a roasted half duck ($8.25). The bird carried a faint and unsurprising whiff of five-spice powder, but its real power lay in the combination of wonderfully crisp, cognac-colored skin and confitlike meat, juicy and tender. At the price, it’s one of the best bargains going.
There is some spice to be had, mainly at lunch. Orange-peel beef ($5.75) is one of those cardiac-arrest dishes you know you shouldn’t have but can’t resist, and there’s a good reason you can’t resist: the knobbly shreds of meat are perfectly crisp and the dark-brown sauce intense with citrus and basil; this is just the kind of thing we might find Homer Simpson gorging on from a big paper bucket, if only it were a little dryer. Hunan fish ($5.75), meanwhile, featured a tangy-sweet sauce with a discreet hint of heat, but what was more striking was the fish itself — fish cakes, really, with a certain sponginess of texture the price of uniformity in size (for more reliable cooking) and the chance to mix seasonings with the flesh. The cakes aren’t unmanageably rubbery, but they can’t match the more usual cod or flounder filets for velvetiness. Lunches come with a cup of soup, a quite lively sweet-and-sour maybe, and rice — brown rice, if you prefer.
Although the restaurant is quite small, service can be stressed. The noontime crowd is sizable, and in the evening take-out orders pile up on the cashier’s podium at the rear of the dining room. So: serenity now, and your order will be along soon enough. SFBG
Continuous service: Mon.–Fri., 11 a.m.–10 p.m.; Sat., noon–9:30 p.m.; Sun., 4:30–9:30 p.m.
1634 Bush, SF
(415) 922-5279
Beer and wine
Moderately noisy
Wheelchair accessible

Small pieces unjoined


› annalee@techsploitation.com
TECHSPLOITATION I think ubiquitous digital surveillance and searchability have given me a weird new sense of entitlement. I feel like I should be able to find anybody on the Web, and if I can’t — well, why not hire somebody to search the databases I can’t access? I caught myself having this exact bizarro train of thought the other day, when I was trying to locate an old friend of mine from high school.
I did all the usual things that generally yield results and have helped me find out all kinds of useless things about lost childhood friends. (That hardcore rocker boy is now a real estate agent! No way!) First I searched on his name in Google, but all I discovered was that somebody with his exact (and fairly common name) died in the Twin Towers. There was a catch though — my old friend went by his Korean name in high school but adopted an American name in college. So I started searching on his Korean name, feeling very clever. Unfortunately his Korean name is actually more common than his American one. Then I narrowed my searches, looking for his names in connection with our hometown, his college, and the city where he lived the last time I saw him. I searched news groups, MySpace, LiveJournal, and Technorati.
At last I couldn’t think of anywhere else to search. That’s when I had the aberrant thought: why not just hire a private detective? Everybody’s doing it — even HP! And I’d get one that wasn’t too expensive. Admittedly my subconscious was spiked with reruns of Veronica Mars and memories of This Film Is Not Yet Rated, a documentary in which a guy hires private detectives to figure out who the members of the Motion Picture Association of America ratings board are.
But I think I hit upon this rather extreme idea — hiring a detective to find my old friend — because I’ve become conditioned to think that all information should be accessible. Despite my belief in online privacy and anonymity, my unexamined, knee-jerk response to the situation was that somebody should be able to get this guy’s contact information for me. I mean, all I wanted was an e-mail. I wasn’t trying to get his home address or voting records.
Needless to say, I did not get a private detective, nor have I found my old friend yet. I’ve avoided becoming creepy but I’m left unsatisfied. The old promises of the Web, which David Weinberger famously characterized as “small pieces loosely joined,” have turned out to be quite different from what we all imagined. Many of us are connected, sometimes to a degree bordering on incestuousness, but many of us are not. The threads do not attach to each other. Names are lost in a sea of names. People fill blogs with entry after entry that never get read, never get linked, never receive comments. Certainly there are spirited local debates that bring us together online and amateur writing that’s as findable as a New York Times headline, but these things are rare and getting rarer. The Web is beginning to feel just like a city street: you can see all the houses, but you have no idea what’s in them. Unless you’re a thief.
I feel cheated by the walls that have gone up on the Web — not the walls that protect my personal information, but the ones that prevent me from finding friends (real friends — not friendsters). They aren’t the same walls, by the way. Walls that protect personal information should prevent people from getting access to whatever crap ChoicePoint and Visa have on you. The walls that stand between me and my old friend are the cacophony of filtered data that the Web has become. I’m sure his e-mail is out there somewhere floating around, but because he hasn’t been writing a popular blog or posting obsessively on the Linux kernel list, it’s got no juice on the search engines. Because he’s not socially findable, he’s not technically findable either. And no, it’s not because he has no e-mail. The guy is an engineer. So much for the Web breaking down barriers.
I’m going to try one last time to find him — but this time, I’ll go at it from the other direction. I’ll call his name and see if he hears me. Let’s see if there are any holes in those walls. If you know a guy who goes by Lawrence Kim or Chong Kim and who once lived in Orange County, let me know. Especially if you are him.
Let’s see if my experiment works. SFBG
Annalee Newitz is a surly media nerd who can find rare, out-of-print books online but can’t find Chong.

Opposites attract, kinda


› andrea@altsexcolumn.com
Dear Andrea:
I have a very close gay male friend who often behaves like he’s interested in me romantically. He has even told me that he gets crushes on girls, that 1 percent of him likes women, and that he’s gotten semihard from girls three different times. He often gazes at me while we’re talking as if he’s thinking of kissing me. Even my friends notice. He also tells me that I brought happiness back to him and that he feels alive when he’s with me. We spend every other night together talking and flirting till 5 a.m.
I don’t need a boyfriend. Even just a kiss or sex with him would be fine with me. I find him attractive, and nothing we would do would ever dissolve our friendship. I once told him in a lighthearted manner that if he ever wanted to do something, I was up for it. He gave a vague response.
How do I approach this without offending him? I’m kinda shy about these things. Also, he is over 30, so he is not in a phase. He is very open about his homosexuality.
Friend of Friend of Dorothy
Dear Dottie:
Semihard three times in 30 years! Well, that is persuasive.
I have a gay forever-friend who always said that someday he’d marry me, and damned if he didn’t — he became a rabbi and officiated at my wedding. You’ve got to admit that’s something of an exceptional circumstance though.
I’m glad that you say there’s no romantic interest here, since I’d hate to have to shake my head sadly at you. I’m going to pretend to believe you instead, although I think you are interested in him (“My friends say he likes me!”) and I think he’s gay. Really, really gay. The kind of gay that’s so gay it doesn’t matter if he “gets crushes” on girls or even if he has sex with one. He’s still gonna like boys, and he’s still not going to “like” you like that. None of which means he doesn’t love you and consider you his soul mate and think you’re pretty. I’ve no doubt he does. But if you went so far as to proposition him directly and got a “vague response,” well, he already said no. He just didn’t want to hurt your feelings when he did it, because he loves you. And is so, so gay.
Dear Andrea:
Do you think there’s a real chance of a long-term relationship between someone who identifies himself as “maybe poly” and someone who is pretty sure she’s monogamous to the core? It’s a great relationship even with this business, but I feel like I need some kind of resolution. He’s already passed up one opportunity for sex with a long-standing (very poly) friend of his, which made me feel better on the one hand and guilty on the other.
I’m reading about polyamory and looking at it like the trained, rational scientist I am. I can accept it without wanting to embrace the lifestyle myself, but there are times when the whole thing just seems designed to aggravate my insecurities and turn me into a grasping, clingy girlfriend.
I don’t have a problem with the “other close relationships” thing. I just seem to have a problem with the sex. Is this cultural indoctrination, as the books would have it, or a real concern?
Cling Peach
Dear Peach:
What makes you think they’re mutually exclusive? Wanting your lover all to yourself is certainly culturally supported, if not precisely a matter of indoctrination, and it’s also perfectly natural. It’s a bit like hetero- or homosexuality in that you can cross over and act “as if,” but if you have a natural inclination toward monogamy, it’s going to be a poor fit: too tight, and itchy to boot. One ignores such discomfort at one’s peril.
It’s nice that you have what you term a great relationship with Poly Dude, but you do realize that at this point it’s functioning as something of a three-way — you, your boyfriend, and the elephant in the room? You’re going to have to talk about this eventually: Is being poly part of his core identity? (It rather sounds not, which is good.) If he does feel the need to experiment, can your relationship withstand the stresses, and can you withstand the temptation to throw things at him? Even more important, can you forswear wallowing in guilt for something you did not do and were in fact powerless to affect in any way? If so, great — go forth and pursue whatever it is you hope to pursue with Semipoly Dude. If you answered “no” to any but the first of my too many questions, then your relationship, lovely as it is, is fated to be brief and end either badly later or amicably now. So I hope you didn’t.

Editors notes


› tredmond@sfbg.com
There’s something scary happening in Bayview–Hunters Point, and it’s not the redevelopment bulldozers.
For some reason that I find hard to understand, community leaders like Willie Ratcliff and Marie Harrison, who are opposed to the Redevelopment Agency’s plan for that neighborhood, have signed on with a frightening gang of radical right-wing property rights advocates. The result: Harrison was standing at an antiredevelopment rally last week urging voters to support Proposition 90, almost certainly the worst piece of legislation to face California voters since Proposition 13 devastated local government in 1978.
Prop. 90 would indeed limit the ability of government agencies to seize private land for other private projects. That’s why the redevelopment foes like it. But it goes much, much further. Under Prop. 90, no local government could do anything — anything — that might reduce the value of private land without paying the owner compensation. That means no new tenant protection laws (which could cost a landlord money). No more zoning laws that reduce the maximum development potential of a lot (of course, that means no zoning controls against luxury condos that would displace local business and residents in Bayview). No new environmental or workplace safety laws.
It also places a swift and powerful kick to the midsection of any effort to seize Pacific Gas and Electric Co.’s local grid and create a real public power system; under Prop. 90’s rules, that would be prohibitively expensive.
I talked to Harrison about this, and she told me she “didn’t read the law that way.” But this isn’t just a matter of opinion; it’s clear fact, and everyone with any sense realizes it.
It gets worse: I was at a New College event Sept. 29 when Renee Saucedo, the immigrant rights lawyer, asked everyone to vote yes on 90. She told me she trusted Ratcliff and Harrison.
Prop. 90 is almost unimaginably bad. If its supporters can make inroads in San Francisco, I’m very afraid. SFBG

Divorcing Columbus


OPINION This year may go down in history as the one new immigrants reignited a civil rights mobilization in the United States. Their efforts, like those of the black liberation movement of the ’60s, will certainly become a catalyst for progressive action from many communities. As southern Italian Americans, this Columbus Day we have to ask our community the age-old question — which side are we on? Unfortunately, many of us have chosen exactly which side we are on: supporting racist immigrant bashers, whether they are legislators in the halls of Congress or vigilante Minutemen. As progressive Italian Americans, we support new immigrants because of the simple fact that our folks were once in the same situation that newcomers find themselves in: overworked, exploited, and demonized for quick political gain. It’s time for the Italian American community to finally reclaim our social justice tradition, divorcing the dazed and confused explorer who discovered a country that was already inhabited. Instead of Columbus, we honor the Italians, Cubans, and Spaniards of Ybor City, Fla., who worked in the cigar industry and were able to create a Latin culture based on values such as working-class solidarity and internationalism (see “Lost and Found: The Italian American Radical Experience,” Monthly Review, vol. 57, no. 8). We also remember the Italian American radicals who were a part of labor actions in the early 1900s, including the Lawrence textile, Paterson silk, Mesabi Iron Range, and New York City Harbor strikes. This year, instead of conquest, we acknowledge those who stood up for justice. Everyone knows about Al Capone, but what about Mario Savio, a founder of the free speech movement in Berkeley in the ’60s? Most people can recite the names of Italian American singers such as Madonna and Frank Sinatra, but they don’t know Cammella Teoli, the 13-year-old southern Italian girl who appeared before Congress in 1912 to testify in her broken English about the horrible working conditions in America’s sweatshops. It’s not surprising that Italian Americans forgot those things. We faced a lot of discrimination when we arrived: two unionists, Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, were falsely accused of murder and executed. Italian Americans in the south were lynched by white supremacists. During World War II, thousands were relocated or jailed on suspicion of being enemy aliens. After the war, the anticommunist witch hunts began with the arrest and deportation of Italian American radical Carl Marzani. Today, Italian Americans don’t have to face these threats, yet those who immigrate from Central and South America, Asia, and the Middle East do. It is unlikely that Congress will pass any form of legislation reform this year, and many cities have instituted local statutes designed to run immigrants out of town. Minutemen and similar groups are harassing day laborers in the Bay Area and beyond. As Italian Americans, we call upon our paesani and paesane to remember our roots. Emboldened racists can be stopped — when those of us they claim to represent support the work of grassroots organizations of color bravely confronting these throwbacks. By divorcing Columbus, we start to break down the logic of conquest, which invariably leads to wars abroad and repression at home. SFBG Tommi Avicolli Mecca and James Tracy Tommi Avicolli Mecca and James Tracy are Italian American radicals who organize the annual “Dumping Columbus” reading. This year it’s Oct. 9, 7 p.m., City Lights, 261 Columbus, SF, featuring the legendary Diane DiPrima.

Why does the OES fear KGO-TV?


KGO-TV news reporter Dan Noyes and producer Beth Rimbey have been trying for the last 15 months to acquire copies of San Francisco’s disaster plans from the Office of Emergency Services. Despite firm deadlines set by the city’s Sunshine Ordinance and public promises made by Mayor Gavin Newsom and OES chief Annemarie Conroy, not all of the requested documents have been released.
In fact, OES officials won’t even talk to KGO anymore.
“We’re only allowed to speak to the Mayor’s Office,” Rimbey said at a Sept. 26 Sunshine Ordinance Task Force hearing on the issue. “We’re not allowed to speak to OES. They won’t take our phone calls. They won’t do interviews.”
KGO’s complaints were heard by the task force members but not by OES officials: they failed to send a representative to the meeting because they say they feel threatened by Noyes, according to Jennifer Petrucione of the Mayor’s Office of Communications, who was in attendance.
“Frankly, I think that’s a very specious argument for not coming to address the complaint,” said task force member Rick Knee, citing the open forum of the meeting, public setting, and security of City Hall. “I don’t see that as a valid excuse for not attending.”
“With all due respect, I disagree,” Petrucione responded. According to her, staffers from the OES — the agency charged with responding to terrorist attacks and natural disasters — feel threatened and have filed complaints with the Department of Human Resources, citing a work environment made hostile by Noyes.
“The only thing that could be viewed as hostile was asking them questions they weren’t comfortable answering,” Kevin Keeshan, vice president of KGO, told the Guardian. He said all the incidents of concern were documented on videotape, which he reviewed and invited the complaining parties to watch. He saw no violations and has heard nothing further from the city on the issue.
He, Noyes, and Rimbey haven’t heard anything about the city’s plan in the event of an earthquake or a terrorist attack either. Rimbey said she thinks there is no plan and the city has been stalling until there is one. “It’s frightening. There are people who are deeply disturbed about emergencies in the city,” she said.
Officials have said plans are under internal review and being updated and will be turned over to the media as soon as possible. Over the past few months, KGO has received some copies of disaster plans, but they either appear to be 10 to 15 years old and adorned with new covers or are so heavily redacted that they’re just black pages, according to Noyes.
A prior task force hearing ruled that information had been unnecessarily redacted from several plans. The task force asked the Mayor’s Office to review the documents with a mind toward more openness. Petrucione said it followed new guidelines recommended by the City Attorney’s Office during a long and laborious process spanning several weeks. Those six documents were released Sept. 22 with many redactions still in place.
“I have a lot of problems with the redactions that were made,” said task force member Erica Craven.
Another member, David Pilpel, cited his personal favorite: the name of former governor Pete Wilson, which Pilpel was able to deduce from a subsequent page where it hadn’t been redacted.
“Why redact at all?” asked Noyes at the meeting. “Look at San Jose’s plan. It’s online for everyone to see,” he said. The city of San Jose makes the case that the first responders to an emergency are the citizens, who must be informed. Therefore, its entire emergency plan is posted on the Web.
The task force ruled that the OES was in violation and member Marjorie Ann Williams took a moment to say her concern went beyond the office’s withholding of documents. “This is a very, very serious issue,” she said about the city not having a plan. “We need to get on this and take it to heart.”
The Mayor’s Office and the OES were given five days to release all the documents, although the SOTR has little ability to enforce its rulings. As of Oct. 2, KGO had received nothing. In June, the Guardian made a similar request for documents and has also received nothing. The OES did not return repeated phone calls for comment on this story. (Amanda Witherell)

Shades of green


› news@sfbg.com
An assembly of the nation’s premier green architects, engineers, academics, and policy makers was gathered Sept. 28 in the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, patiently awaiting a keynote address from Mayor Gavin Newsom. The speech was supposed to inaugurate this year’s West Coast Green, the largest residential green building conference in the country.
But the anticipation of the crowd quickly turned to ill humor when it was announced that the mayor had decided to attend another event instead — the grand opening of the biggest Bloomingdale’s west of the Continental Divide.
“I knew it!” one woman at West Coast Green lamented. “I knew he wouldn’t come.”
“He’s at Bloomingdale’s,” another chided.
Newsom spokesperson Peter Ragone said the mayor believed he was scheduled to speak at the conference Sept. 30, and he did. But that was a day for the general public to come and learn about the frontiers of green building. By then, many of the disgruntled architects and planners had already left.
“I have to say that we are all full of contradictions, and we would not be here today unless we were,” said Jim Chace, the director of Pacific Gas and Electric’s Pacific Energy Center, who spoke in the mayor’s slot Sept. 28.
“I promised I wouldn’t take any shots [at Newsom], but this should not be so easy,” Chace continued cheerily. “The fact is that there’s a contradiction here, and contradictions are just a sign in our lives that it is time to look at change.”
Newsom has regularly touted San Francisco as a leader in the emerging field of green building. But the conference and the mayor’s speech snafu raise the question of where the city really stands when it comes to building — not just talking about — green structures.
Green architecture starts with common sense. It’s about properly orienting buildings to the sun and the wind, making sure that insulation actually insulates, and using recycled material instead of finite or environmentally harmful ones.
But in the eyes of industry and government professionals, a building isn’t officially considered green until it passes a national rating system known as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED. Buildings that earn enough credits get one of four LEED ratings: certified, silver, gold, or best of all, putf8um.
When it comes to LEED certified buildings, San Francisco can claim just seven, three of which belong to green architecture firms. That puts the city in fifth place, behind Pittsburgh, Pa. (8); Atlanta (10); Portland, Ore. (11); and Seattle (14).
“There really isn’t much,” Fred Stitt, founder and director of the San Francisco Institute of Architecture, told the Guardian. “About three years ago, I wanted to organize a tour of green buildings in San Francisco, and I couldn’t find any.”
That was before the work had begun on the LEED gold Federal Building and the LEED putf8um Academy of Sciences, which Stitt called “a masterpiece.” Nonetheless, he said San Francisco’s reputation as a driver of the green building movement was undeserved.
“Everyone thinks that Berkeley is a liberal bastion,” Stitt said. “But if you live here, it’s just a Midwestern town with a bunch of homeless people…. San Francisco’s reputation is manufactured the same way.”
Certainly some other cities are doing as much, if not more than San Francisco. This city’s most important green building ordinance requires all new municipal buildings larger than 5,000 square feet to meet LEED silver standards. Yet there are no requirements or incentives for the private sector to build green in San Francisco.
Santa Monica also requires government buildings to be green, but it offers grants up to $35,000 for LEED certified buildings, including those in the private sector. In addition, Santa Monica requires most developers to incorporate four kinds of recycled material into their buildings and to recycle at least 60 percent of their construction and demolition waste.
Likewise, Portland, Ore., was just voted America’s most sustainable city in the 2006 SustainLane Rankings, largely because of its attitude toward green building. Beyond its 11 LEED certified buildings, Portland is brimming with small natural structures like benches and kiosks made from clay, sand, and straw. The city also boasts an entire community of sustainable homes for the homeless, known as Dignity Village.
“Their natural building has totally transformed the spirit of their community, and it feels different than if you walk through Oakland or San Francisco,” Marisha Farnsworth, an architect with the Natural Builders in Oakland, told the Guardian. “I got together with some architects, builders, and designers, and all of us said, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to have city planners come down from Portland and explain to our officials what’s going on up there?’”
That isn’t to say officials in San Francisco have completely missed the memo. The San Francisco Department of the Environment just finished negotiations with the Department of Building Inspection for a new priority permitting program set to be rolled out in the coming weeks. It would allow developers who pledge to build green to get fast-tracked through the bureaucratic morass of the city’s permitting process.
Department of the Environment officials have also worked to reduce the amount of time and money it takes to get a rooftop solar permit. And with the opening of the Orchard Garden Hotel at Union Square on Oct. 12, San Francisco will soon become the first city in the country with a LEED certified hotel.
The point of West Coast Green was to ask how this city and the rest of the country can do more. Should we offer rebates for efficiency consultants to assess how energy is being wasted in our homes and businesses? Can the city offer larger incentives to the private sector or require more rigorous standards for developers? Should PG&E be pressured into pledging more of its public benefit money toward green building?
“Green architecture is still very much emerging,” Eric Corey Freed, one of San Francisco’s top green architects and a host at West Coast Green, told the Guardian. “And although San Francisco is the capital, even here it hasn’t reached the point of ubiquity that we expect it to. We’re still very much in our adolescence. We’re like teenagers with pimples and crackly voices.”
In 100 years, Freed added, history will likely look back on our time as the era of the green revolution. If he is right, perhaps San Francisco will have done enough to be deemed a nucleus of the movement — and important conferences like West Coast Green will take priority over the opening of new shopping malls. SFBG



Oct. 10



From its beginnings as a modest two-day event in 2002, Litquake has rapidly expanded this year to nine days and will feature over 300 participating readers in a variety of venues. Though pricey, “The Politics of Food” panel at the Commonwealth Club is our pick for Oct. 10. (Nicole Gluckstern)

Through Oct 14.
See www.litquake.org for locations, times, and prices


Sufjan Stevens

Singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Sufjan Stevens creates whimsical musical landscapes with cohesive themes that give even his most abstract endeavors a strange concreteness. Whether fashioning an ambient album dedicated to the animals of the Chinese zodiac or a set of songs about his home state of Michigan, he cleverly binds eccentric whimsy with solid concepts. You can see him perform at Zellerbach Hall in Berkeley and pick up his Christmas album, Songs For Christmas (Asthmatic Kitty, 2006), which will give you a few idiosyncratic yuletide tunes to piss off your family with this holiday season. (Hayley Elisabeth Kaufman)

With My Brightest Diamond
8 p.m.
Zellerbach Auditorium
UC Berkeley, lower Sproul (near Bancroft and Telegraph), Berk.
(510) 642-9988



Oct. 9


The Knitters

There’s an epiphany that strikes almost every aging rocker that country music is the perfect medium for tempering youthful, knee-jerk angst into a superficially more contained yet white-hot righteousness that sizzles to the core. Perhaps it’s because affecting a nasal twang is much less taxing on matured vocal chords than outright shrieking, and given the right arrangement, the effect is surprisingly intoxicating. Enter the Knitters, combining members of seminal LA punk band X with members of rockabilly revivalists the Blasters, creating what their old label Bloodshot Records refers to as an “insurgent country” sound and what I like to call a hoedown for the low-down. (Nicole Gluckstern)

With Jesse Sykes and the Sweet Hereafter
8 p.m.
628 Divisadero
(415) 771-1421


The Bluetones

Citing Buffalo Springfield, Love, and the Stone Roses as influences, London indie favorites the Bluetones have, over the course of their 12-year career, produced a catalog rich in spiky sing-along Britpop with a reverential nod in the direction of ’60s songwriters. The band has grown artistically through an enthusiasm for incorporating new elements into their vision, while many of their contemporaries from the mid-’90s Britpop scene have either dissolved or stagnated. After exploring Southwestern themes, country twang, gentle folk, and even a bit of velour-smooth ’70s disco-soul, these popsters are adventurers of the first order. (Todd Lavoie)

9:30 p.m.
Cafe du Nord
2170 Market, SF
(415) 861-5016



Oct. 8


Residual Echoes

Besides having one of the sweetest, smokiest names around, Residual Echoes summon a potent mix of sounds: kraut rock, drone, and SST noise, all hammered into relentless grooves. Coming from Santa Cruz like fellow journeyers Comets on Fire, Residual Echoes can do spacey and heavy with equal aplomb, though it’s the louder stuff – Adam Payne’s squalling guitar swimming upstream against the band’s tight Sabbath groove – that will win converts. (Max Goldberg)

With LSD-March and New Rock Syndicate
9 p.m.
Bottom of the Hill
1233 17th St., SF
(415) 621-4455


Italian Heritage Festival

In a city as filled with pride as San Francisco, it should come as no surprise to discover that we are host to the nation’s oldest Italian Heritage Festival (formerly the Columbus Day Parade), which celebrates its 138th year today. Belly up to one of the sidewalk cafes lining Columbus Avenue and catch an eyeful of parading I-talians, presided over by this year’s grand marshal, Michael Chiarello of Chiarello Family Vineyards, and graced by the presence of “Queen Isabella” (Daniela Maria Romani) and her royal court. The parade begins from Jefferson at Powell and will end at Washington Square Park. (Nicole Gluckstern)

12:30 p.m.
Columbus Parade: Jefferson at Powell to Columbus at Vallejo, SF
(415) 703-9888



Oct. 7

Visual Art

ArtSpan Open Studios

Art, it’s often argued, is in the eye of the beholder. During ArtSpan’s 31st Open Studios, you’ll have the opportunity to behold a lot of it as more than 700 working artists open their studios to the public over the course of four weekends. Art aficionados like the Open Studios event as a time to spot emerging trends; artists like it for the chance to display and sell their backlog; plebs such as myself enjoy the accompanying Havarti cubes and two-buck chuck. There will also be a number of events held at SomArts, including a free opening reception on Fri/6 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., plus an exhibition of over 400 pieces. (Nicole Gluckstern)

Through Oct. 29
Times and locations vary
(415) 861-9838


Smuin Ballet

You can pick any of three reasons to see Smuin Ballet this month. Reason one: the dancers. Each of the 15 is a strong, well-trained, uniquely talented individual – including the three new ones. Reason two: the rep. It’s a pungent mix of the new and the old. Top billing has to go to the world premiere of Amy Seiwert’s Revealing the Bridge, based on Claude Monet’s painting The Japanese Bridge. Michael Smuin’s new Obrigado, Brazil, set to João Gilberto’s music, probably will rouse the bossa to the point where you wish you could join the dancers. Smuin is also bringing back Shinju, which will be performed to Paul Chihara’s magical score. This piece just might be the most erotic you’ll ever see in ballet form. Reason three: the Palace of Fine Arts. With good sight lines and a relaxed setting, it’s the perfect theater for a company of this size. (Rita Felciano)

Through Oct 15. Opens Sat/7, 8 p.m. Runs Tues.-Sat., 8 p.m. (also Sat., 2 p.m., except Sat/7); Oct 15, 2 p.m.
Palace of Fine Arts
Bay and Lyon, SF
(415) 978-2787



Oct. 6

Event/Visual Art/Music/Film

“The Illuminated Corridor”

Let’s face it – live loud music and large projected images don’t take over cities nearly as often as they should. Why in the hell should a street fair be required for it to happen? The visionaries behind “The Illuminated Corridor” have been righting this problem. Their latest collision of sight and sound includes movie-esque stuff by Cinepimps, featuring Canyon Cinema filmmaker Alfonso Alvarez. Music will be made by folks such as Nicholas Chase, Admiral Ted Brinkley, the DC-to-Bay Area multi-instrumentalist Sharon Cheslow, and a trio that includes Guardian contributor George Chen. The fact that Veronica de Jesus is also involved in this shindig is exciting, because while the Bay Area is full of great drawings these days, hers might be the best around. (Johnny Ray Huston)

7-11 p.m.
25th St. between Broadway and Telegraph, Oakl.


“Midnites for Maniacs”: They Live

Ours is a culture of obligatory consumerism. The streets and airwaves have become a canvas for messages from corporate entities, and we cannot help but obey. It sometimes seems as though the world is run by an invisible group of aliens who exploit our inferiority complexes to ensure widespread complacency. If only we had some bionic sunglasses that would enable us to distinguish the aliens from the humans. We could lend them to a washed-up professional wrestler and relax as he busied himself chewing bubble gum and kicking ass. So goes the story line of John Carpenter’s seminal sci-fi horror classic, They Live. At once a comment on greed, subliminal messaging, conspicuous consumption, and horrible acting, They Live is widely regarded as the best movie of all time. (Justin Juul)

With The Return of the Living Dead and Sid and Nancy
7:30 p.m.
Castro Theatre
429 Castro, SF
(415) 621-6120