Volume 41 Number 04

October 25 – October 31, 2006

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Oct. 31


Gomorran Social Aid
and Pleasure Club

Baptism by moonshine must be a wonderful thing, if the music of the Gomorran Social Aid and Pleasure Club is any indication. Dunk me in the river, with one hand on my head and the other on the Good Book, I say, because this, friends, is glorious release. Preaching a sweaty, red-faced gospel of saturnalian abandon, cleansing the soul through Mardi Gras immoderation, these N’Awlins-infatuated ragtime pranksters deliver sinfully divine horn-and-banjo celebrations of the good life, circa 1920. With songs such as “Whiskey Paycheck” in their repertoire, the Gomorran Social Aid and Pleasure Club will leave you with no choice but to bear witness to their holy spirit. (Todd Lavoie)

With Rupa and the April Fishes
9 p.m.
Make-Out Room
3225 22nd St., SF
(415) 647-2888



For the best fiendishly out-of-control hell of a good time, the Cramps’ annual Halloween show is a spectacle to be revered and feared in equal measure. For sure, concert attendees will include Creatures from the Black Leather Lagoon, Bikini Girls with Machine Guns, and Teenage Goo Goo Mucks, all being incited to near-riot conditions by the nigh invulnerable Lux Interior and the divinely diabolical Poison Ivy Rorschach. Like fellow monster mashers Screaming Lord Sutch and screaming Glenn Danzig, the Cramps have a love of B-movie horror themes and adolescent fantasy, and their best songs conjure up the creepy-crawly midnight movies at the backcountry drive-in: light on the subtext, heavy on the petting. (Nicole Gluckstern)

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



Oct. 30


Dead Rock Star

Join in the fun as a room full of Elvises, Jim Morrisons, and Kurt Cobains step to the mic and deliver heartrending versions of their favorite songs. (Todd Lavoie)

8 p.m.-2 a.m.
685 Sutter, SF
(415) 441-5678


The Creature

Black Box Theatre Company gives a single performance before a studio audience of their new podcast adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankensten. This version tells the story from the monster’s point of view. (Todd Lavoie)

8 p.m.
Magic Theatre
building D, Fort Mason Center, SF
Free; reservations required
(415) 731-4922



Oct. 29

Dance Party

Fresh/Halloween T-Dance

Sassy, slinky, and sexy costumes abound at this Halloween dance party. DJ Manny Lehman spins. (Todd Lavoie)

6 p.m.-midnight
Ruby Skye
420 Mason, SF


Dia De Los Muertos Fruitvale Festival

With the theme “love, family, memories,” the Unity Council in Oakland has put together a full day of family celebration. Five stages showcase music and dance performances by local and world-renowned artists. More than 150 exhibitors and nonprofits highlight wares and services. Art and altars are on view, and the Children’s Pavilion promises to be a rewarding educational experience for kids of all ages. (Todd Lavoie)

10 a.m.-5 p.m.
International Blvd., between Fruitvale Ave and 41st Ave, Oakl
(510) 535-6940



Oct. 28


“Murder Ballads Bash”

On the way to the gallows, after committing some heinous butchery or other, you may be prompted to sing a heart-wrenching dirge, not for the dead but for the crime. The tradition of recounting tales of murderous minutiae in musical narrative form, each devastating hack till the fatal blow, is continued at the Starry Plough’s fifth annual “Murder Ballads Bash.” The misery-filled evening offers a variety of musicians, including Joni Davis, Harlan Hollander, Loretta Lynch, and folk metalists the Pinks, who have all written original homicidal tunes strictly for the vicious and bloodthirsty audience. (Hayley Elisabeth Kaufman)

9 p.m.
Starry Plough
3101 Shattuck, Berk
(510) 841-0188

Visual Art

“Graphic Witness: Jesus Barraza and Juan R. Fuentes”

Jesus Barraza is young, but the potent combinations of colors and images in his prints reflect years of political and artistic experience: works such as Angela Davis and Evolution of a Revolutionary (which is devoted to Amiri Baraka) create distinct images of artists who are already icons for good reason, while other event-based posters galvanize communities for Xicana and Palestinian causes. Barraza currently works as part of Taller Tupac Amaru, a printing studio he cofounded in 2003 after studying under Juan R. Fuentes at the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts. Their new show, “Graphic Witness,” unites mentor and apprentice, pairing Fuentes’s linoleum block prints with Barazza’s graphic designs. (Johnny Ray Huston)

7:30 p.m. (show continues through Nov. 25)
Galería de la Raza
2857 24th St., SF
(415) 826-8009



Oct. 27


Bernal Heights
Outdoor Cinema

Icy nights be damned: San Franciscans are incapable of overdosing on outdoor cinema. Xanadu in Dolores Park may attract a certain roller-skating niche audience, but the past few months have proven that there’s something for everyone at Bernal Heights Outdoor Cinema. A special “Best of Bernal” night closes out the series, with works by local favorites Jay Rosenblatt, Jeff Fino, Jenni Olson, and more filling the program. Don’t miss Bolerium, Keary and Nathan Kensinger’s affectionate portrait of the Mission District indie bookstore. (Cheryl Eddy)

7:30 p.m.
Metro High School
Folsom between Precita
and Stoneman, SF
(415) 641-8417


Tristan und Isolde

O divine madness, the oblivion of desire, a “bliss inspired by deception” – that’s Richard Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde. The debt-ridden composer’s quickie respite during his marathon work on the Ring cycle became so much more than an earthshaking moneymaker – instead it’s a musically radical and vocalist-taxing ode to “soul states” and transcendent love that champions, as it curses, night, death, and desire over daylight, life, and duty. Even pop culture and cinema’s greedy appropriation of SF Opera music director Donald Runnicles’s favorite opera (I couldn’t stop recalling Un Chien Andalou at the first strains of the prelude or feeling the urge to blurt a Looney Tunes-appropriate “Kill the wabbit!” at key moments) won’t stem your appreciation of Wagner’s chromatic romanticism, David Hockney’s deep-focus Salvador Dali-meets-Alfred Hitchcock sets, and the utter vocal chops of Thomas Moser as Tristan in the third act and Christine Brewer as Isolde during the “Liebestod” (Love death) in this LA Opera production presented by SF Opera. (Kimberly Chun)

7 p.m.
Opera House
301 Van Ness, SF
(415) 864-3330



0ct. 26


Amateur Erotic Film Competition

Seriously, who hasn’t dreamed of being a porn star? Good Vibrations asked Bay Area filmmakers to take those dirty movie dreams, ball-gags, and nipple clamps off the shelf and transport their ultimate sexual fantasies to film for the first Amateur Erotic Film Competition at the Castro Theatre. The Oct. 26 screening will consist of the best 12 blue movie submissions, all under 10 minutes. A panel of celebrity judges will choose the winner. (Hayley Elisabeth Kaufman)

8 p.m.
Castro Theatre
429 Castro, SF
(415) 621-6120


Batsheva Dance Company

Ohad Naharin is a big name in international dance circles. For years we have seen his work pop up here and there in the repertoire of visiting companies. But it has always been a bit here, a morsel there. So when his Batsheva Dance Company, founded in 1964 by Baroness Batsheva de Rothschild for Martha Graham, debuted in San Francisco two years ago, audiences were hankering to see a full program. The company impressed with gorgeously aggressive dancers, a smart and effective theatricality, and eclectic but intriguing use of music from baroque to Estonian composer Arvo Pärt to Israeli folk rock. This second engagement, a single three-movement piece from 2005, is a welcome opportunity to get a better look at Naharin’s work. Three, created for his return to the company after a two-year absence, is divided into parts: “Bellus” (beauty); “Humus” (earth), and “Secus” (otherwise). (Rita Felciano)

Through Sat/28, 8 p.m.; Sun/29, 2 p.m.
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
700 Howard, SF
(415) 392-2545

The dirt in D6


› amanda@sfbg.com › sarah@sfbg.com If you live in San Francisco’s District 6, it’s pretty difficult to avoid what some residents are calling a new filth polluting Tenderloin corners and SoMa streets. It’s not overflowing trash bins or urine-stained door frames — it’s the relentless election billeting that uses those images to support Rob Black and oppose Chris Daly for the district’s seat on the Board of Supervisors. “We’re tired of talk. Of loud, whining, condescending, offensive, abusive, lying, showcasing, arrogant talk,” reads a recent poster on a telephone pole. “District 6 is dirty and dangerous. District 6 is still poor. Chris Daly is why. Dump Daly. Back Rob Black.” “I was totally offended by this,” Debra Walker, a progressive activist and resident of the district for 25 years, told the Guardian. “This kind of message intentionally suppresses the vote. People I’ve talked to in the district who aren’t very political are totally turned off by the mailings from Rob Black or made in his benefit.” Some of the mailings, posters, and literature can be directly attributed to independent expenditure (IE) committees recognized by the Ethics Commission and acting legally. Some, however, have more dubious ancestry but apparent links to a campaign attorney with a long history of using millions to control the outcome of elections in San Francisco: Jim Sutton (see “The Political Puppeteer,” 2/4/04). Sutton did not return calls for comment. Most of the anonymous literature directs people to the Web site www.DumpDaly.org. SFSOS’s Wade Randlett told us his group paid for the site and a volunteer set it up. SFSOS and Sutton formed Citizens for Reform Leadership 1–6 — IE committees listed on many of the signs and much of the literature, including the poster quoted above. The committees haven’t filed any IE reports with the Ethics Commission. Walker, along with Maria Guillen, vice president of SEIU Local 790, and another District 6 resident, Jim Meko, submitted a complaint with the Ethics Commission on Sept. 29 with nine pieces of physical evidence supporting their concern that the roof had been blown off the $83,000 spending cap on the campaign, in place because all candidates agreed to public financing. The evidence submitted with the complaint varied and included three different mailers from “Concerned Residents of District 6,” a committee that has yet to exist on paper in the Ethics Commission filing cabinets. The mailers from the “Concerned Residents” are glossy triptychs critical of Daly but not explicitly advocating for another candidate. They do not state the amount the committee paid for them, which is required of any electioneering communication. On Oct. 6 the Ethics Commission released a statement saying the spending cap for District 6 was no longer in effect. John St. Croix, executive director of the commission, has identified at least $90,000 in IEs, including three unreported mailers. “At some point we will attempt to determine who distributed the mailers,” St. Croix said. “But it’s not likely before the election.” The tactic of breaking the law before the election and taking the heat after the ballots are in has been used in the past, and this new example flouts recently passed legislation. These mailings should have been filed with the Ethics Commission, according to an ordinance passed in 2005 in response to similar anonymous hit pieces that came out in the elections of 2003 and 2004 against Supervisors Gerardo Sandoval and Jake McGoldrick. (Sutton defended SFSOS’s main funder, Donald Fisher, in his successful Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation against Sandoval over the issue.) “It’s a strategy taken straight from Karl Rove’s playbook,” Meko, a 30-year SoMa resident, told us. Joe Lynn, former Ethics Commission member and staffer, told us “all the committees in San Francisco should turn their backs on contributions from people who are involved in this scheme — at least until they explain their involvement. These are the most sophisticated folks in San Francisco politics. I think a full investigation including possible criminal activity ought to be assigned to a master.” He said District Attorney Kamala Harris used Sutton in her race and therefore may have a conflict of interest. The Rob Black for Supervisor committee claims no connection to the literature that hangs on doorknobs and clogs mailboxes, the push polls calling people, or the postings in the streets and tucked under windshields. “I don’t support the anonymous pieces. If people are doing it on my behalf, I don’t want it,” Black told us. But Daly told us “the IEs appear to be coordinated…. The Black committee is not running a campaign that would be independently competitive. He’s only sent one piece of mail, but he’s had eight sent on his behalf.” Residents suggest it’s even more than that: Walker received three more anti-Daly mailers Oct. 20. Black confirmed that he had only sent one mailing to the district, and he’s “not surprised” that so many IEs have sent out mailings in his support. With the exception of a filing from the Police Officers Association, the only legal IEs reported with the Ethics Commission so far are from the Building Owners and Management Association (BOMA) and Golden Gate Restaurant Association (GGRA). They also trace back to Sutton, Black’s former boss at Nielsen Merksamer, a law firm that represented PG&E in the 2002 campaign against public power, for which the firm was fined $100,000 for failing to report until after the election $800,000 from PG&E, the biggest fine ever levied by Ethics. Sutton left the firm shortly after. Black stayed on until 2004, when he took a position as legislative aide with Michela Alioto-Pier. The most recent poll released by Evans McDonough purports to show Black ahead by six points (with a five-point margin of error). It was commissioned by Barnes, Mosher, Whitehurst, Lauter, and Partners, which has also been employed by Sutton through BOMA and the GGRA for the IEs in the District 6 election. The financial shenanigans have been a rallying point for the Daly campaign. More than 70 volunteers signed in at an Oct. 21 rally and hit the streets: shaking hands, distributing literature, and making phone calls raising support for Daly. Sup. Ross Mirkarimi criticized the soft money’s “ugly, nasty, mean-spirited tactics” to oust Daly. “If they have to resort to these tactics, is that the kind of government we want in San Francisco?” he asked the crowd. “This is the nastiest, most personal and hateful thing I’ve ever been involved with,” Daly said. “It’s very painful.” But, he said, “our people power is better than their money power.” Outside a volunteer shouted into a bullhorn, “Don’t let downtown interests buy your democracy!” SFBG



Oct. 25


Hamlet and Hamlet:
Blood in the Brain

’Tis the season for dueling Hamlets – dueling unconventional Hamlets, in fact. Stuart Bousel and his No Nude Men Productions stick with the title of Shakespeare’s original but interpret the play as myth rather than canon fodder, casting the movie-length result so that male parts are played by women and female parts are played by men. Developed in partnership with California Shakespeare Theater and Campo Santo, Naomi Iizuka’s Hamlet: Blood in the Brain places the drama amid the drug-related violence of ’80s-era Oakland. Opening night forces you to overcome Hamlet-like indecision to choose one of these two versions, but at least you have a month or so to see both. (Johnny Ray Huston)

8 p.m. (continues Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; through Nov. 18)
Climate Theater
285 Ninth St., SF
(415) 621-1503

Hamlet: Blood in the Brain
8 p.m. (Thurs.-Sun., 8 p.m.; through Nov. 20; special benefit performance Sat/28, 7 p.m.)
Intersection for the Arts
446 Valencia, SF
$9-$20 ($25-$40 for Sat/28 benefit)
(415) 626-3311


United Nations Association Film Festival

Tonje Hessen Schei’s documentary Independent Intervention is the single most staggering doc yet made about the unholy matrimony of the military-industrial complex and the media. Using corporate newsreels, interviews with journalists, and footage from unembedded correspondents, the film relentlessly stabs its audience with egregious facts about the war in Iraq that have been avoided by mainstream reports. Both painful and empowering, this is a film everyone needs to see. Another highlight among the 31 docs playing at the United Nations Association Film Festival is Ben Lewis’s Blowing Up Paradise, which plots the history of France’s nuclear bomb testing on the French Polynesian island of Moruroa. (Sara Schieron)

Through Thurs/26
Stanford University
See Web site for program information

Tricks and treats with Down at Lulus


HALLOWEEN BEAUTY The Oakland salon and boutique Down at Lulus is copowered by members of Gravy Train!!! and the Bobbyteens. Seth Bogart of the former and Tina Lucchesi of the latter got together with me recently to first discuss the greatness of Davines hair care products from Italy (“If you have dry hair, they will blow your mind,” Lucchesi says), then get down to ghost boobs, hot sweet and sticky treats, and other things Halloween-y.
SFBG What are your best or worst Halloween experiences?
TINA LUCCHESI None are very memorable because I’m always pretty wasted. A funny one was seeing the Phantom Surfers open for the Cramps at the Warfield after Bill Graham died. One of my friends dressed as Dead Bill Graham and got us kicked out. Everyone was so pissed off about him stepping out of a coffin and slagging off Bill Graham and Ticketmaster. But I did get to hang out with Lux Interior and Ivy Rorschach.
SETH BOGART It’s funny to go trick-or-treating when you’re old. One time my friend was dressed up like Michael Jackson, and this lady answered the door with a baby and was disgusted that we were still trick-or-treating. He made comments about her baby, and she slammed the door in our face.
SFBG What to you is a sexy Halloween costume or look?
TL I hate all the typical ones like French maid, naughty nurse, or Catholic schoolgirl. Why can’t there be a look like sexy crack whore?
SB I think the only appropriate sexy costume is when a guy is wearing it. When a girl does, it’s so played out. A hot straight guy you never get to see naked, wearing a bikini — that’s my fave.
SFBG What’s your idea of a fun Halloween night?
TL Probably playing tricks on little kids and scaring them. I’ve always wanted to set up a crazy graveyard in front of my house.
SB No one comes to my house because it’s kind of dangerous, and I think I’m over trick-or-treating, finally. My ideal Halloween would be to experience something haunted, like a séance.
SFBG Do you have a favorite scary movie?
TL So many. I love The Wizard of Gore. I love Herschell Gordon Lewis movies and Mario Bava movies like Black Sunday and Castle of Blood. Texas Chainsaw Massacre — classic. The Last House on the Left — classic.
SB I love horror movies, but I also love haunted houses. Every year I go to, like, five. The best one is in Hollister in a cornfield — it’s so scary. When the chainsaw man comes, we all run, and a lot of people get hurt just from falling.
SFBG What are you going to dress up as this year?
TL Either Dolly Parton with extreme boobs and hair, Cyndi Lauper, or a vampire bloody majorette.
SB I think I’m going to be Teen Wolf. But I’m not sure yet. One year I was Nancy Reagan, but the mask was hotter than hell and it was making me sick. I had to take it off. (Johnny Ray Huston)
6603 Telegraph, Oakl.
Call for appointments
(510) 601-0964

Track stars


› a&eletters@sfbg.com
“Trolley Dances,” as a friend pointed out, really is a misnomer, at least when applied here: San Francisco’s rail-bound transportation is either on streetcar lines or the underground BART tracks. But “Trolley Dances,” which returned this year for the third time and presented four dance companies in four different venues, gets its name from San Diego, where trolley cars do exist. In Northern California the free event is produced by Kim Epifano’s Epiphany Productions. These relaxed performances are a hit for tourists as well as locals, and they both turned out in respectable numbers — between 60 and 100 at any one station — on the morning of Oct. 20. It was quite a splendid way to spend two balmy mid-October hours in the sun.
If I may nitpick for a moment: those who expected to ride from one performance to the next were happy only if they had walking shoes on. Two of the four locations were reached on foot (at a pretty clipped pace for some of the elderly audience members), and the rest were accessible by Muni, which — surprise, surprise — kept everyone waiting a good 20 minutes. No wonder some lost patience and hoofed it elsewhere. I am not a fan of walking behind a leader hoisting a placard ahead of me, but if I hadn’t done just that, I might never have found my way into the impressively spacious Spear Tower Atrium of One Market Street, site of Yannis Adoniou’s In the Crowd.
With his own Kunst-Stoff dancers Kara Davis and Julian DeLeon in red jumpsuits and 22 dancers from the Lines Repertory Ensemble in black leotards and tops, Adoniou and his crew looked quite at home amid these elegant environs. He took his inspiration from the central aluminum-rod sculpture, arranging his dancers stelalike around it. It was good to see him work with a large ensemble, giving the dancers relatively simple but nicely varied patterns that billowed and contracted to good effect. The excellently paired Davis and DeLeon were the wanderers in this crowd: alone and together, supportive of and indifferent to each other. Carey Lambrecht set the mood — at times quite melancholic — with her solo violin.
Next stop was Janice Garrett and Charles Moulton’s Tzigane, in front of 50 California Street. Tanya Bello, Jennifer Bishop-Orsulak, Nol Simonse, and the multitalented Heidi Schweiker romped through precision dances suggested by the loony music of the Fanfare Ciocarlia, which sounded like a military band that had plopped into a circus. Set tightly to the score, the piece — with performers all in black, including berets — had a bouncy, folk dance quality. Dancers took the lead in setting patterns, splitting courting couples, playing around with hand signals, and bouncing off each other and the surrounding flower boxes. At Tzigane’s core as a reluctantly shy ballerina, Schweiker was coaxed into taking the stage, accompanied by some grandmotherly wailing on the soundtrack.
Next, Seawall: Beneath the Surface, by Facing East Dance and Music, was performed against a glorious view of the bay and anchored boats on Pier 38. With the excellent Vijay Anderson on traps, a sextet of women engaged in fairly conventional partnering and ensemble moves. Seawall’s most intriguing parts came from the juxtaposition of the quintet’s sometimes feverish activity with Rae Chung’s stillness and her ability to place martial arts–like moves with exceptionally directed focus.
Finally, the singer-dancers in Epifano’s Love in Transfer, at the Fourth Street Caltrain Station, may have looked like down-and-out travelers, but their folk music–inspired celebration of community and love “for as long as it lasts” suggested a robustly joyous celebration of community. SFBG

Feeling spooky, yeah yeah


› johnny@sfbg.com
This Halloween’s colors aren’t orange and black — they’re emerald, sapphire, and gold, because ESG is coming to town for the first time. One night after what people in the English village of Hinton St. George call Punkie Night, San Francisco will celebrate Funky Night, as sisters Renee, Marie, and Valerie Scroggins (and Renee’s daughter, Nicole Nicholas, and Valerie’s daughter, Christelle Polite) get everyone feeling moody, amped to tell off no-good lovers, and ready to keep it moving.
Rip it up and start again? That old Orange Juice lyric and new Simon Reynolds book title would have to be twisted to apply to ESG. It’s more like start again after being ripped off in the case of the Scroggins sisters. Sample credits don’t pay their bills, but they’re doing quite fine, thank you, due in part to Soul Jazz, the awesome crate-digging UK label. While Soul Jazz is best known for its archival work, in ESG’s case it’s proven to be just as interested in the group’s current music as in their influential early recordings, such as the oft-sampled instrumental “UFO.” On the eve of ESG’s local visit, I got on the digital horn with Renee, who lives in Georgia these days but still carries her Bronx accent and pride with her wherever she goes.
SFBG: This is our Halloween issue, so I have to ask you about ESG’s cameo appearance in the movie Vampire’s Kiss. What was that whole experience like?
RENEE SCROGGINS: Oh my god, it was fun. I was always a big fan of Nicolas Cage. He had lunch with me. He treated us so well.
SFBG: Is your family into Halloween?
RS: My daughter enjoys going out to costume parties. The best thing about Halloween is putting on a crazy costume and letting loose some inhibitions.
SFBG: Speaking of crazy costumes: ESG played the Paradise Garage. What was that like?
RS: We played there several times, but people always note that we played the closing party. That was a very sad time in ESG’s life, because the Paradise Garage was always very supportive.
SFBG: Did you have many interactions with [Paradise Garage DJ and legend] Larry Levan?
RS: He loved our music, and we loved the fact that he loved our music! When we brought in something new, he would check it out, and if he liked it, he’d give it a spin.
SFBG: Back then, there may have been women in bands, but there weren’t a lot of all-female groups. I’m wondering if it felt like you were confronting barriers or whether it just felt natural because you’re a family band.
RS: We never really thought of ourselves as a female band — we just thought of ourselves as a group of sisters. If I had younger brothers, it would have been a band with them. My mom always taught us, y’know, that we could do anything we want to do. When we wanted instruments, my mom didn’t say, “No, that’s not for girls.” She said, “You want a drum set? Here you go.”
SFBG: Did you ever encounter Klymaxx and Bernadette Cooper or like their records? It seems like they were trying to do a similar thing to ESG in a way, but on the West Coast.
RS: You mean “The Men All Pause”? Two days ago my daughter and I were playing on the radio and we talked about them. I always thought they were trying to say some important things, especially about women and dating.
SFBG: When did you first start to play music?
RS: Oh boy — at eight or nine years old. That was many moons ago [laughs].
SFBG: Do you remember what music you most loved as a kid?
RS: Sure, James Brown! The principle style that ESG writes in is the James Brown school of funk. James Brown would take it to the bridge. When he took it to the bridge, you’d lose your mind — you just wanted to dance, and you never wanted it to end.
I was a big Queen fan, still am, and so are my kids. The B-52’s, Etta James …
SFBG: She’s got family playing with her too — her sons are in her band.
RS: I know. That’s so cool. It’s good to bring the family into something you love so much. I know my daughters and nieces enjoy it.
SFBG: It makes sense that you mention James Brown as an all-time fave, because ESG is sampled almost as much as James Brown in hip-hop.
RS: I read that in a book; it said the most sampled artists were James Brown, George Clinton, and ESG. I was laughing. It wasn’t funny — for real — but it was interesting.
SFBG: Yeah, we have to discuss sampling. A track like Junior Mafia’s “Realms of Junior Mafia” on their Conspiracy album practically samples all of “UFO.” Did Puffy and Biggie pay you for that?
RS: We were paid. Junior Mafia did come to us correct. If you come correct and we’re able to negotiate, I’m happy. But if you take [ESG’s music] and I have to chase you down, and then you argue, I have issues with you.
I’m having this problem less and less, because we have a company and we went after all the people who weren’t paying us.
SFBG: Ultimately, though, you’re not really into sampling as a practice.
RS: I’m not into it all. We write original music — what comes from my heart, what comes from the inside. That’s a good feeling at the end of the day. One of the reasons why I’d stopped writing is that if people weren’t sampling one song by ESG, they were sampling another. I was scared to even put out an instrumental — I’d think, “I don’t want to leave too much loop space because they could snatch it.”
SFBG: I have to ask about “Moody,” because it’s one of my all-time favorite dance tracks. What was it like recording with [producer] Martin Hannett?
RS: I had a lot respect for him. He may have added a little reverb, but he really kept our natural sound. When we go and perform the song, we sound like the record. He didn’t molest or twist the songs or make them sound crazy.
SFBG: Having had so much experience playing live over the years, did you want to go back to that direct approach when recording [2004’s] Step Off and [this year’s] Keep on Moving?
RS: Absolutely. Every time we’re recording we want to be able present the same thing live.
SFBG: You’ve been writing songs at a fast pace these last few years.
RS: I have a lot going on in my life. When my sister Valerie [Scroggins] and I write, we write about things going around us, and I see so much since I’ve moved down to Atlanta. Atlanta reminds me of living in New York. That big-city thing has got me busy again.
I guess I like busyness, being a native New Yorker. Places like Pennsylvania and Virginia were just too quiet for me.
SFBG: What are you liking musically these days?
RS: Right now I’m working on production with some new artists. I listen to hip-hop. I listen to Mary J. Blige — Mary’s another woman who is always getting down and talking about real issues. About five minutes ago I was listening to Ice Cube. I listen to the Killers and Fall Out Boy. My heart is always going to be with whatever’s funky. SFBG
With CSS/Cansei de Ser Sexy and Future Pigeon
Fri/27, 9 p.m.
444 Jessie, SF
(415) 625-8880

The sound of evil


› duncan@sfbg.com
Metal people scare me.
Not in an “ooh, I’m scared” kind of way, but in an “oh, that’s sad,” arrested development kind of way.
This is especially true of the black metal cabal. Black metal is supposedly the be-all and end-all of evil, and it’s just so camp that it’s silly. Everyone’s got a fake metal name (Necronomicon or Umlaut), panda bear Kiss tribute makeup (I mean, corpsepaint), and homemade nail-spike armbands. Don’t forget the unreadable band logo that looks like cleverly arranged twigs. Clearly, these are people who spend as much time rehearsing their look in front of a mirror as they do rehearsing their music in the studio, if not more.
Which is why Ludicra is one of the few bands generally classified as black metal that I’ll bother with. For one thing, the group includes vocalist Laurie Sue Shanaman and guitarist–backing vocalist Christy Cather — they’re not in the same old heavy metal boys club.
More importantly, when I want to hear heavy music, I want it to intersect with my life. I haven’t been burning churches or worshipping Thor lately. If I want to hear some fairy-tale shit, I’ll cut out the middleman and listen to Ride of the Valkyries. Alienation, loneliness, the death of relationships, and the sense of anonymity in being yet another face in a big city — this is stuff I can relate to. “Something big and bright/ Looms outside my window/ Choked with promise/ Smothered in hope/ Days plod on like machines of ceaseless ruin/ Lost in a forest of haunted buildings.” These are the opening lines of “Dead City” from Ludicra’s new album, Fex Urbis Lex Orbis (Alternative Tentacles), which quotes Saint Jerome, via Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables, meaning “dregs of the city, law of the earth.” Jerome was referring to Christ’s apostles and how they were the lowliest scumbags teaching the highest truth. This is echoed in the album’s verminous cover art: restrained line drawings of roaches, ants, rats, flies, and a club-footed pigeon. The meek shall inherit the earth — or at least the urban parts — but they probably won’t be walking on two legs.
Although it’s not necessarily meant to be a concept album, Fex Urbis feels like one to me: five epic tracks, the longest almost a dozen minutes, about the entropy of modern city living. From that hopeful light outside the window, just out of reach, to “the sign that modern times is finally crashing down” in the final track, “Collapse,” the full-length reminds me of the Red Sparowes’ At the Soundless Dawn (Neurot, 2005), which, in turn, reminds me of Godfrey Reggio’s 1982 film Koyaanisqatsi. For all its double-bass drum bombast, dark screams, and perfectly timed twin-guitar riffing, Fex Urbis Lex Orbis has more in common with Philip Glass’s score to that film than with anything released by Mayhem.
Putting in the CD for the first time, I was kind of spooked out by Shanaman’s voice. It’s an otherworldly death rattle. But when juxtaposed with both the lyrics and the relatively clean backing vocals, also sung by Shanaman, the result isn’t evil — a tone that has held so much sway over the metal community for so many years after the first, eponymous Black Sabbath album — but heavy. The music is epic without being cheesy fantasy, which makes it resonate.
I think it’d be fair to say at this point that I don’t believe in evil. I believe ignorance and delusion exist at the base of willful choices. Evil is supernatural. Ignorance is human and therefore that much scarier. Even on Halloween, nothing is going to reach out from the land beyond and get you.
Sure, Shanaman’s voice sounds evil, but when I talked to her in person, the first word that came to mind was sweet. She laughs easily, sometimes because she thinks something is funny but mostly out of nervousness, it seems. She’s a self-admitted “total choir geek.”
Drummer Aesop Hantman knew he wanted to be in a band with her since the mid-’90s, when he was in Hickey and she was in the local noise-grind act Tallow. “Here was this totally demure, nice girl that would fucking explode,” he says in a phone interview. “It was really unnerving.”
Ludicra, which includes guitarist John Cobbett and bassist Ross Sewage, are likewise unnerving. They remind you that just because there’s no bogeyman under your bed and Satan is real only to country bumpkins like the Louvin Brothers and unrepentant metal geeks, it doesn’t mean you won’t be swallowed up by forces greater than yourself: “Gone are the days of reckless vanity,” Shanaman howls as the album winds down. “Gone are the old songs from the shore…. Here’s the end of what we have dreamt of. Here’s the face of the collapse.” SFBG
Tues/31, 9 p.m.
Elbo Room
647 Valencia, SF
(415) 552-7788

Dan West’s top five horror films


1. Shriek of the Mutilated (1974) Not only the greatest title in cinema history but also its single greatest achievement. Never before (or since) have bad acting, cannibalism, alcoholism, and the Abominable Snowman scaled such heights. The greatest film ever made.
2. The Wizard of Gore (1970) Director Herschell Gordon Lewis (Blood Feast) does it again, becoming the first filmmaker in history to slaughter someone on camera with a live chain saw. A mad magician runs amok with ghastly results. If the crude and relentless gore effects don’t turn your stomach, the “acting” certainly will.
3. Straight Jacket (1963) High camp is the order of the day as convicted ax murderer Joan Crawford returns home after a lengthy stay in the loony bin, only to seemingly resume her old habits. Hilarity ensues in this William Castle–directed classic. Crawford really sells it. This is the stuff of which drag queens are made!
4. King Kong Lives (1986) Quite possibly one of the most misguided, unintentionally hilarious, idiotically optimistic sequels ever made, this follow-up to the Dino de Laurentiis–produced remake of King Kong boasts a plethora of delights for the bad movie enthusiast. Kong, after falling to his supposed death from the heights of the World Trade Center, is retrofitted with a giant artificial heart during a Monty Python–like opening sequence. It is a film that has to be seen to be believed. Several bong hits might help.
5. The Car (1977) Never has vehicular manslaughter been so much fun! The screenplay boasts “technical advice” from Church of Satan founder Anton LaVey. SFBG
San Francisco filmmaker Dan West codirected Monsturd and the forthcoming RetarDEAD.

Assassin fascination


› cheryl@sfbg.com
Four presidents have been killed in office: the two you hear about (Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy) and the two you kind of don’t (James A. Garfield and William McKinley). But any time a political figure meets a violent death, post-traumatic stress can echo through generations — particularly because Hollywood is so fond of assassination cinema. Oliver Stone’s JFK is the most exhaustive example but certainly not the first; John Wilkes Booth pops up in 1915’s Birth of a Nation.
You don’t even have to be president to get your own assassination narrative (see: this fall’s Bobby) or be a successful target, for that matter. The Assassination of Richard Nixon spun would-be Tricky Dick killer Samuel Byck into a Travis Bickle–by–way–of–Sept. 11 man with a twisted take on the American dream. Fictitious films like Nashville and The Manchurian Candidate also pick up the assassination thread; Taxi Driver went one further by actually inspiring John Hinckley Jr. to take aim at Ronald Reagan.
Images of Reagan’s shooting outside the Washington, DC, Hilton clearly influenced Gabriel Range’s made-for-British-television mock doc Death of a President, by my count the first to imagine the death of a sitting president. The murder takes place Oct. 19, 2007, outside a Chicago hotel surrounded by angry antiwar protesters. Actors playing secret service agents, speechwriters, and sundry witnesses recall their experiences; the events themselves unfold via staged and real footage, some massaged with special effects to make the holy shit! moment as authentic as possible.
But the holy shit! is what you expect — and once Death of a President segues into the President Dick Cheney era, it assumes the far less salacious task of exposing post-9/11 America’s darker corners. A Muslim man is nabbed for the crime; his home country of Syria is taken to task as the FBI scrambles to make a motive out of terrorism. PATRIOT Act Three is passed. Civil liberties become even more restricted. But is the suspect really the killer? Is he a patsy? Or is he guilty only of wrong time, wrong place, wrong race?
In many ways, Death of a President resembles The Confederate States of America — a fake TV doc beamed from a reality where the South won the Civil War — rather than its assassination-obsessed cinematic predecessors. This, despite all the controversy surrounding the film’s sensational suggestion that someone might think the world a better place with Bush in the grave. Ultimately, Range is more interested in using Bush’s untimely death as a way to address issues that already exist in 2006, notably the lose-lose repercussions of a hopeless, never-ending Iraq war. Alas, there’s nothing shocking about that. SFBG
Opens Fri/27
Lumiere Theatre
1572 California, SF
Shattuck Cinemas
2230 Shattuck, Berk.
(510) 464-5980

Steel Will


Inspired by Tad Friend’s 2003 New Yorker article “Jumpers,” filmmaker Eric Steel spent 2004 shooting the Golden Gate Bridge — intentionally capturing the plunges launched from the world’s most popular suicide spot. The resulting doc, The Bridge, studies mental illness by filling in the life stories of the deceased through interviews with friends and family members. After playing to packed houses at this year’s San Francisco International Film Festival, The Bridge opens for a theatrical run in the city that’s perhaps most sensitive to its controversial subject matter. I spoke with Steel during the New Yorker’s early October visit to San Francisco.
SFBG: When you contacted the families, did they know that you had footage of their loved ones committing suicide?
ERIC STEEL: The families didn’t know, for the same reason that the Golden Gate Bridge authority didn’t know. My biggest fear was that word would get out about what we were doing and someone that wasn’t thinking clearly would see it as an opportunity to immortalize themselves on film. My original plan was — when we finished shooting at the bridge, and when I’d completed all the interviews — that I was then gonna tell the families that I had the footage and review it with them if they wanted to see it. But in January of 2005, I went to the bridge authority and said, “I have all this footage, and I have these interviews with the families. I want to interview you, the highway patrolmen, and the people who came into contact with these people before they died.” They went to the San Francisco Chronicle and suddenly it was all over the front page. I spoke to most of the families that I’d already interviewed and explained, “You have to believe that I’m a sensitive person. We’re all doing this in order to save lives and not to exploit people.” Almost all of them felt that way, but [some] didn’t. Also, there were families that I had not yet contacted. Some said, “We don’t want to have anything to do with you,” but others said, “We think you’re doing this for the right reasons.”
SFBG: There aren’t any officials interviewed in the film. Why did they refuse to participate?
ES: I think it would be very hard for them to respond to some of the issues that we raise. We could easily have used interviews in the film that we didn’t, that were much more damning, of what the highway patrolmen and the bridge people did and didn’t do. There’s one man, the crystal meth addict — we called the bridge as soon as we saw him climb over. It took them four and a half minutes to [reach him]. From where my crew was sitting, I could have run to that spot faster than they got there.
SFBG: How many calls like that did you make?
ES: We probably called 20 times during the year. We didn’t call so much that they thought we were crying wolf. But for us, it was simple: as soon as someone made a move to climb up onto the rail, we made a phone call.
SFBG: Was there ever a point when you thought, “I’m filming people jump. Should I be doing this?”
ES: Because we had already determined that if we could intervene, we would, and that would be the priority, it didn’t feel like we were waiting to film them dying. We were out there because we knew it was coming. With 24 [suicides in an average year], it was like every 15 days you would expect someone to die. If 10 days had gone by and there hadn’t been an incident on the bridge, I know the [camera crew] who was working the next day got increasingly anxious. But not a day went by when you didn’t think you were watching somebody who might be preparing to die.
SFBG: Did you ever consider acknowledging your role within the context of the film, maybe via narration?
ES: I really wanted to be invisible, in a way. For me, there was something strange about explaining too much. I thought it would let the audience off the hook a little bit too easily.
SFBG: Have you been drawn into the debate over the suicide barrier?
ES: I believe that it’s ridiculous that they don’t have a barrier. At the same time, I recognize that the barrier’s really the final moment where you can make a difference. The lives stretch back in time, and there are all sorts of moments where people could have intervened. If we had a better health care system, better mental health services, we wouldn’t be in the same position. The burden is on the bridge to put up a barrier, but it’s also on all of us to take more responsibility for the people who need our help. (Cheryl Eddy)
Opens Fri/27 in Bay Area theaters
See Movie Clock at www.sfbg.com

Solomon’s, mine


› kimberly@sfbg.com
SONIC REDUCER Boo! And hiss, while you’re at it. Isn’t it scary how the music retail biz has changed? As a onetime music store flunky, I was hard-pressed to decide whether it was a trick or treat when I heard a few weeks back about the liquidation of Tower Records — this after filing for bankruptcy twice in the last two years. After all, I wasted a good, penniless year and a half of the late ’80s behind a register in the “tape” room and then behind a clipboard at one of the Sacto chain’s flagship stores at Columbus and Bay in San Francisco.
Those were the days — the horror, the horror of trying to subsist on megamuffins and minimum wage. The fun of stacking and alphabetizing cassettes under the benevolent leadership of the azure-Mohawked experimental musician Pamela Z. The joy of talking psychedelia and envisioning earth-shattering cultural epiphanies (one fave: imagining Sonic Youth teamed with Public Enemy years before “Kool Thing”) with Winter Flowers’ Christof Certik. The insanity of controlling the red-eyed, camped-out crowd from behind the Bass ticket booth when the final Who tour went on sale — and getting a Tower sweatshirt when my $50,000-in-two-sellout-hours register totaled to the penny.
The shock of realizing, as a budding world music buyer, that my assistant was thieving bags of Van Morrison and Chieftains CDs from my section. The starstruck bedazzlement of glimpsing the musicians and celebs pour through the glass doors on a regular basis (following a testy Todd Rundgren around with a drooling coworker, catching a lady-killing grin from Chris Isaak, and listening to Neil Tennant of the Pet Shop Boys praise the version of Gabriel Fauré’s Requiem pouring out of the speakers). The weirdness of instructing shut-in customers on what to do when the cassette ends (you press “rewind” or you find Scotch tape and record over it in disgust). The surprise of ordering vinyl and CD versions of the same release and finding certain humongous labels unwilling or unable to ship records, making available only the higher-priced so-called alternative. The pleasures of the lurching, lumbering 1 a.m. Muni ride home after completing the midnight closing shift, back to my digs in the Lower Haight. The switch-flipping surrealness of realizing I was the only one actually bothering to work during most of my shifts — while everyone else was down the street on three-hour lunches or fielding drinks with label reps.
Sure, the party was great while it lasted, and in pop cultural backwaters like Honolulu, Tower became the only, life-changing game in town — jetting in imports, hard-to-find discs, zines, and books at below list prices — and likewise you could get your hand-stapled xeroxed zine into Towers from Tokyo to Paris. And while the sprawling stores flourished, they drove out of business the local mom-and-pop music stores that didn’t recalibrate and start to sell used music and books, collector’s cards, comics, and games.
So now it’s being boiled down to end racks and wire fixtures — after a 30-hour bankruptcy auction ended in favor of the Great American Group’s $134.3 million bid rather than that of Trans World Entertainment, which said it would have kept most of the stores open. And frankly, I feel only somewhat sentimental — despite the initial quality of in-house magazine Pulse and the quasi-democratic, carry-everything supermarket atmosphere — because Russ Solomon’s retail model was far from carefree. The reason the prices were so low was that the workers there were barely scraping together a living (therefore often resorting to unrepentant graft — one staffer funded his trip to Italy on returned, unmarked promo music). At the time it felt like the glamorous equivalent of a record store sweatshop, with its overeducated, obsessive employees bitterly muttering to themselves about the amount of money that would pass through their hands — and straight into Solomon’s coffers.
Why stay? Pre–Amoeba Music, Tower was the biggest and best music store in San Francisco. And did such rampant thieving make a dent in profits, leading to the chain’s demise? Maybe it only started to show when downloads began their rule and the market shattered into a grillion niches, when even a megalith like Tower didn’t seem able to keep up.
As Tower crumbles, I may not be able to find the music I passionately want or need at 11:55 p.m., but I might shed a tear for my last shred of connection with the store — those times I’d trot up Market, between sets at Cafe du Nord, when most shops are darkened and early birds are tucked in bed, and duck into the Castro Tower to browse the magazine racks, those fluorescent lights beating down and the words dancing beneath my ringed eyes.
NO PAIN, NO DOCTORS If you think this election season is painful, tell it to the Bay Area–by–way–of–Chicago art-rock transplants No Doctors. Their whistle-stop tour of sorts stops this week at Club Six in San Francisco and ends at Eli’s Mile High Club in Oakland — and takes the formidable loudness of the foursome to some scenic points such as Joshua Tree and Lompoc. A working vacation with a message?
The tour has been dubbed “US out of CA,” guitarist Elvis DeMorrow told me. “I think everyone can get behind secession at this point.” After spending most of the past year working on their new LP, Origins and Tectonics, due spring 2007 on Yik Yak, the band “somehow arrived on an all-California thing, playing all the places no one even tries to play,” he continued.
Luckily for the No Doctors, DeMorrow is keeping his administrative job at the Stanford medical school’s pain research division. “To me, it’s totally relevant to playing music with a band and the effects it might have in your life,” he declares. Playing music as pain control? Don’t tell that to the bright bulbs at the CIA who came up with the Red Hot Chili Peppers as an instrument of torture. SFBG
Tues/31, 8 p.m.
Club Six
60 Sixth St., SF
(415) 863-1221

Quantum breakdown


› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com
CHEAP EATS Christ, I love quantum theory, how something can be something, and at the same time something else, and so on, right?
Nobody rides in my pickup truck with me except Earl Butter, because nobody else can handle the mess. When it got to the point where even he was starting to grumble, I decided to say that I had cleaned my truck, without actually doing a thing, same way he says he has hair on his head so now he does.
I cleaned my truck! It’s spotless! It’s clean! Smells nice too … And not only that, but the engine is running just perfectly!
I write to you from under a tree, at the side of a lonely country road, Pepper Road, just north of Petaluma. Beautiful morning, late morning, getting later. One of my favorite things about driving this 20-year-old Chevy Sprint pickup truck, besides the fact that it gets better gas mileage than most hybrids and all other car cars, is that you never know what’s going to happen next.
Sometimes the horn works, sometimes not. Brights, yes. Low beams, no. It generally gets you where you’re going, just a question of when. And anyway, if you’d come visit me more often, you’d know there’s about a 50-50 chance that if your car breaks down, it will leave you somewhere pretty, like here. Although, I don’t say my truck “breaks down”; I say it “surprises me.”
The cows are not interested. The cars and trucks tackling the Cotati Grade, 101, are just far enough away to sound a little bit like a river. And a big white crane just hopped the fence and is standing, I swear, 15 yards away on the road, looking at me.
“Hey, you know anything about cars?”
It shakes its head.
I have some ideas: wires, rotor, gas cap, other parts I might buy to, um, encourage my motor to operate more predictably. Question is: should I?
Yesterday it left me at Bush and Fillmore. I coasted to a stop, I swear, in a legal parking space behind a car that had just surprised its owner too! She had a cell phone and let me use it and was very kind to me and sweet. In fact, if we didn’t fall in love and live happily ever after, it was only because her tow truck showed up before the thought did.
Me, I can’t afford no tow trucks. I’d called my lawyer, told him I’d be a little late for lunch, then hopped a 22 and headed for the Mission. My lawyer Will, Esquire, works for some food safety group, tackling Monsanto and other evil empires from his office, Mission and 22nd, overlooking the whole city and both bridges.
He eats at Tao Yin, that Chinese and Japanese joint on 20th, my new favorite restaurant. Lunch specials are $4 to $5 with soup and rice, between 11am and 4pm. Fish with black bean sauce, yum, vegetarian delight for him. And because I’m not currently being sued by anyone or under arrest, we had nothing to talk about but life’s little pleasantries, like the impending end of the world on account of global warming and whatnot.
By the time I got back to my car, it started! I’d missed my gig, my reason for being in the city in the first place, but I had plenty of time to get over to the East Bay, so long as I was here, and have dinner with Ask Isadora at my new favorite restaurant, Amarin, in Alameda.
Thai food. Chicken curry, eggplant and pumpkin special, pad thai, yum yum yum … and because I have no sex life or relationship issues, we had nothing to talk about but life’s little pleasantries, like zoophilia and, you know, whatnot.
Afterwards: bluegrass jam at McGrath’s! Where (Ask says) two straight guys hit on me but I didn’t see it. So they did, and they didn’t. (Christ, I love quantum theory!)
Tell you what: the food was pretty good both places yesterday but not as good as the sum of the leftovers today, under this tree, all jumbled up and warmed on the engine block wrapped in a ball of old burrito foil found under the seat, because, see, I haven’t really cleaned. SFBG
Mon.–Thurs., 11 a.m.–10 p.m.; Fri.–Sun., 11 a.m.–10:30 p.m.
3515 20th St., SF
(415) 285-3238
Takeout and delivery available
Beer and wine
Wheelchair accessible

Our town


› paulr@sfbg.com
A onetime San Franciscan now living in Manhattan recommended that we visit August, in the Village.
“It’s our Delfina,” he said. Delfina is of course a magic word, but the more interesting term in his little pronouncement was “our,” which carried a faintly downcast sheen, the sense of a not-quite-comparable attempt. For he and I had long ago agreed that the food is better in San Francisco than in New York; the former is a food city, the latter a restaurant city, and the difference slight but meaningful.
August was quite nice, if more Mediterranean than Tuscan. Its most winning feature is the walled rear garden with its canopy of glass. One would love to be there, at a candlelit table, on a snowy evening. A superior restaurant, not far away near Union Square, is the Union Square Café, jewel in the crown of the Danny Meyer empire and, according to another Manhattan friend with Bay Area roots, possibly the best restaurant in the city. It was certainly the best restaurant I’d ever been to in that city, and the high quality of its cooking doubtless has much to do with the presence of the vast Union Square greenmarket just down the block, where the kitchen does much of its provisioning. The market, on a beatifically mild October Saturday, was crowded but calm, and if you knew nothing else about New York you might be forgiven for supposing that you had found the beating heart of a city of cooks, snapping up heirloom tomatoes and dozens of exotic types of peppers.
But New York doesn’t appear to have the same home-cooking infrastructure we do. Apartments, even of the well-to-do, are smaller; kitchen space is tight. In the evenings, places like Zabar’s and Delmonico offer a wide variety of prepared food for people too busy or space squeezed to cook. Of course you see these food bars here too, but their pervasiveness in Manhattan is striking. They are like Laundromats, another set of commercial establishments that provide an essential domestic service to people living in tight domiciles. Doubtless there are efficiencies to these sorts of centralized arrangements, but I wonder if something isn’t lost too — a daily awareness that food isn’t just a commodity to be bought and consumed but is of the land and the sky. Just like us.

Love child


› paulr@sfbg.com
At the Front Porch, you will find a front porch. It’s not the kind of porch you’d see at Grandma’s house, with the bug screens and the swinging lounger; it’s more a big-city version, a covered sidewalk garden casually set with small tables and Adirondack chairs — an alfresco waiting room for those waiting to score a table inside. This is a nice idea, since the Front Porch is one of those restaurants that seems to have been packed from the moment it opened its doors, toward the end of the summer.
If you imagine the love child of Range and Emmy’s Spaghetti Shack, you will have a decent picture of the Front Porch. The crowd is hipsterish, though less visibly monied than Range’s; there are fewer black cashmere mock turtlenecks and Italian shoes, more thrift-store ensembles and scruffy beards. The Emmy’s connection isn’t trivial, either, and not just because Emmy’s is but a few blocks away. The chef, Sarah Kirnon, is an Emmy’s expat, as is one of the co-owners, Josephine White. (The other owner is Bix-seasoned Kevin Cline.) Kirnon’s menu is, as it was at Emmy’s, value conscious, though many of the dishes break the $10 ceiling (if not by much), and the food nods in a Caribbean direction (Kirnon grew up in Barbados) while keeping its feet pretty firmly on all-American soil.
Once you are summoned to your table, you will find, inside, a cheerfully honky-tonk look: sage green walls, a floor covered in red and cream linoleum, a long bar of burnished wood backed by an antique cash register, an old-style ceiling of tin squares impressed with artful curves, and a good deal of din. The wait, incidentally, need not be interminable; we waltzed in one evening and immediately bagged the last table for two, and on another resorted to Plan B — immediate seating at the bar — which for me carried happy associations of dinner at Stars’ mammoth installation. The restaurant accepts reservations for larger parties only, which raises the crapshoot factor for twosomes.
The Caribbean notes most resoundingly struck by Kirnon’s kitchen had to do, so far as I could tell, with okra. This semiexotic vegetable, the key ingredient of gumbo, turned up one evening as a deep-fried starter and again in the same evening’s edition of Sarah’s vegan surprise ($9.50). In the latter dish, halved lengths of it, looking like split jalapeño peppers, swam in a spicy tomato sauce along with cubes of butternut squash, while looming in the middle of the broad bowl was a craggy jumble: a stubby cylinder of corn on the cob and a clutch of plantains, battered and deep-fried and looking like giant McNuggets. The overall effect was one of sweet fire, though I think the plantains would have been just as nice and not as rich if they’d been sliced and oven-roasted into chips. And a word of reassurance to those who dislike okra for its horror flick sliminess: in Kirnon’s hands it seems to remain firm and ungross of texture.
Well-crisped plantain chips (for scooping) appeared with the tuna tartare ($8.63), the diced, deep-purple fish quite spicy and topped with scatters of minced scallion and flying-fish roe. Also surprisingly spicy was a stack of heirloom tomato slices ($7), mainly because of the slathering of creole mayonnaise; an acidic counterpoint was provided by a jaunty cap of pickled carrot and red-beet slices.
The main courses glide effortlessly between prole and petit bourgeois. On the nether end we have the Porch burger ($11), a big — but not too big — pat of broiled beef topped with melted cheddar cheese and two slices of crisp bacon. The bun, fresh and tender but … too big. The burger in the bun looked lost, like a little boy trying on one of his father’s dress shirts. At the far end of town we find the tony Dungeness crab porridge ($11.50), a Range-worthy dish whose porridge consists of white polenta (“grits” is the local-color term) bewitchingly scented with lemon. In the middle of the pond of porridge rests an islet of crab meat flecked with habanero peppers and scallion. Habaneros can be scorching, but here they behave.
The porridge’s well-dressed siblings from the starter menu might include a pistou look-alike: a broth of lime juice, rock salt, and puréed mint ($6.50) set with avocado quarters, green beans, and svelte coins of radish and cucumber — tasty and discreetly austere. Indiscreetly unaustere are the deep-fried chicken livers ($6) on a slice of brioche toast with a drizzling of caramelized onion sauce. We agreed that this dish tasted like a cheeseburger, but perhaps that was just the fat talking.
Desserts (all $6) pack a homey punch. We found a subtle sophistication in a slice of pumpkin Bundt cake laced with chocolate chunks and plated with a sensuous puff of what the restaurant calls “sweet cream” and what most of us know as whipped cream. The same cream turns up like a wisp of tulle fog beside a slice of yellow cake with double chocolate frosting — as good as anything Mom used to make. For that frisson of decadence, $2 extra buys you a scoop of vanilla on the side, and as we were especially decadent, we ended up — by accident or design? — with both the cream and the ice cream. The plate looked as if a blizzard had just roared through.
No blizzards in these parts, of course, just — sometimes — unnaturally early rain. We waited on the front porch until it had mostly abated, then made a dash for it. SFBG
Dinner: Mon.–Sat., 5:30–10:30 p.m. Continuous service: Sun., noon–9 p.m.
65A 29th St., SF
(415) 695-7800
Beer and wine
Wheelchair accessible

Welcome to the CSA


› annalee@techsploitation.com
TECHSPLOITATION I love a good alternate history yarn for the same reason I love science fiction. Both genres analyze present-day trends by projecting them into another reality. That other reality might be the future or simply a transformed version of the present.
In the United States, there are two incredibly popular alternate history scenarios: 1. What if the South had won the Civil War? and 2. What if Germany had won World War II? C.S.A: The Confederate States of America, a fake British documentary made by Kansas filmmaker Kevin Willmott, answers both questions.
After its limited release in the theaters two years ago, the movie achieved cult status in DVD form, which is really its natural medium. It’s fascinating to watch CSA on a television set because the movie is meant to resemble a snippet from a TV station, complete with freaky commercials and news breaks, that is airing a “controversial” British documentary about the history of the CSA.
Blending dark humor with painstakingly researched historical revisionism, Willmott begins the movie with a fake commercial for insurance. The clip looks exactly like something you might see on ABC, including the fact that everyone in it is white. Then the announcer says, “Our insurance protects you and your property,” and the camera pans over to a smiling black boy who is clipping a hedge. This is a present day in which slavery still exists.
The British documentary reveals how this came to pass. After the South wins the Civil War with the help of France and England, the president heals the rift between North and South by offering Northerners slaves to help reconstruct the bombed-out cities of New York and Boston. Deposed president Lincoln flees to Canada, followed by 20,000 abolitionists including Fredrick Douglass and Henry David Thoreau.
Shortly thereafter, Chinese laborers in California are also declared slaves. The CSA annexes South America and becomes entrenched in a Cold War with what politicians call Red Canada. Several African nations collude with the CSA to maintain the slave trade, and we see historical footage of an African leader reassuring his people that only the “inferior tribes” are sold as slaves.
Hitler retains control over Germany when the CSA refuses to intervene in World War II, although the president does say it’s too bad the Germans are killing Jews instead of enslaving them.
What’s sheer genius about this alternate history is how much of it is drawn from actual US history. We hear about Native Americans being rounded up and put into orphanages, which actually happened; and the fake commercials advertising things like “Darkie Toothpaste,” “Niggerhair Cigarettes,” and “Coon Chicken” are all based on real products sold long after the abolition of slavery.
More chilling are ads for anti-depressants aimed at controlling slaves, and for a TV show based on Cops called Runaway. The message may be heavy-handed, but it nevertheless rings true enough to be thought-provoking: US popular culture is only one degree removed from being that of a slave-owning nation.
The same goes for US political culture. Historical figures and events in CSA also remain virtually unchanged. Kennedy is elected president and calls for abolition right before being assassinated, and the Watts Riots are portrayed as a “slave uprising.” Reagan’s presidency heralds a new spike in the slave trade. Experts explain how the Internet has helped rejuvenate interest in the science of slave control, and we see clips from the Slave Shopping Network, where bidders can choose to break up a family or “buy the complete set.”
Willmott has said in several interviews that CSA is not about what could be, but what is. He points out that African Americans and other people of color may not view the film as an alternate history so much as a reflection of a true history that many whites still can’t quite see. Maybe that accounts for why the film, which received an enthusiastic reception at Sundance in 2004 and critical raves, didn’t make it onto DVD until quite recently. Freed from the confines of traditional movie theater distribution, I think this flick will at last find the audience it deserves in online communities, where people can simultaneously watch, discuss, and recommend it.
In fact, I can’t think of a better movie to share in small pieces on
YouTube or MySpace, enticing people to rent or buy it and get the whole story. Its message should be out there, spreading like the world’s most virulent antiracist media virus, infecting the nation one computer screen at a time. SFBG
Annalee Newitz is a surly media nerd whose other favorite alternate history is about what would have happened if Martin Scorsese had directed ET.

Still dizzy


› andrea@altsexcolumn.com
Dear Andrea:
About what you said about infatuation — isn’t it possible to be head over heels in love with someone and also have caring and mutual support? What would preclude it? I am not talking about commitment — there are lots of “committed” couples out there who don’t care at all and take each other for granted, as well as couples in the starry-eyed stage (I hope) who care for each other deeply. Caring should happen soon, otherwise it’s a crappy relationship, in my humble opinion.
Starry but Supportive
Dear Support:
There’s such a thing as spaghetti sauce, right? It’s made of tomatoes, onions, garlic, olive oil, and probably some oregano or something, but regardless — the existence of spaghetti sauce does not negate the existence of tomatoes, onions, garlic, and so on. Each still has its individual reality; all can be combined in any permutation and will still probably be OK on pasta, even if these mixes can’t reasonably be referred to as “spaghetti sauce” specifically.
Right? Oh, what am I talking about? Love, intimacy, sex, romance, caring, trust, and commitment are components — any given relationship may contain any or all of them. Your relationship with your best friend? It has love, intimacy, caring, trust, and commitment. Your relationship with your husband? You probably hope to have all of them, with some in ascendance at certain times while others slack off, eventually to return. Not that a satisfying relationship must feature all seven above plus the ones I forgot. A pickup in the park doesn’t promise any more than sex alone, but if that’s what the participants were looking for, it’s hunky-dory. Even the classic “men are from Mars”–type hetero marriage is often big on trust and commitment (and some have plenty of sex and romance, even many years in) without being nearly as intimate as many people’s close friendships or even work partnerships. We tend in this culture to hold up an idea of perfect partnership. At San Francisco Sex Information we use a Venn diagram with love, sex, and intimacy as intersecting circles, with the middle representing the holy grail. But satisfactory relationships can be forged using whichever components suit the participants’ needs. There is no duty to conform to the current local ideal if you don’t feel like it. Nor is it a sin to settle, if you ask me. One does what works.
I make a distinction between loving a whole lot and limerence (which differs from infatuation both in duration and intensity). Limerence — or longing for reciprocity — is not so much a feeling as it is a form of madness, and like other forms of madness is turning out to have a biochemical basis. “When I think of you my serotonin plummets, my darling! O, how my dopamine soars!” Not that faithful, mutually concerned, monogamous pair-bonding is entirely without its biochemical aspects — look up “prairie vole” on the Web sometime. Drugs and varmints aside, though, of course you can love and care for and be supportive of the same person you’re deeply in love with but perhaps not madly in love with. You do have to know the person to have that sort of relationship, while to crush out wildly on someone, you needn’t even have met. Since true limerence is a form of madness, it doesn’t tend to concern itself with planning for the future either, beyond the obvious (and unprovable) “I will always love you.”
Now, while we’re on the subject of love and limerence, a reader tipped me off that I was mistaken: Dorothy Tennov did not pull the word “limerence” out of her scholarly butt back in the ’70s and the word does share a root with other English words, which I’d list here if I hadn’t promptly lost her e-mail. I was horrified, since who wants to be wrong? Happily, not only does the Wikipedia entry on limerence back me up on Tennov’s pure invention of the term (“The word was pronounceable and seemed to her and two of her students to have a “fitting” sound…. The coinages are arbitrary; there is no specific etymology”), but here’s Tennov herself, back in 1977: “I first used the term ‘amorance,’ then changed it back to ‘limerence’…. It has no roots whatsoever. It looks nice. It works well in French. Take it from me, it has no etymology whatsoever.”
So there we have it. As long as it works well in French! Unless Dorothy Tennov writes in telling me that she didn’t, after all, pull “limerence” out of her scholarly ass, I’m standing by my story.
Andrea Nemerson has spent the last 14 years as a sex educator and an instructor of sex educators. In her previous life she was a prop designer. And she just gave birth to twins, so she’s one bad mother of a sex adviser. Visit www.altsexcolumn.com to view her previous columns.

PG&E’s candidates


EDITORIAL We’ve seen plenty of allies of Pacific Gas and Electric Co. on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. We’ve seen a few PG&E bagmen, PG&E shills, and PG&E fronts. But there’s never been anyone elected to the board in our 40 years who was actually a paid attorney for PG&E.
This year there’s at least one and possibly two candidates who have worked as PG&E lawyers — and that alone should disqualify them ever from holding public office in San Francisco. The most obvious and direct conflict involves Doug Chan, the former police commissioner who is seeking a seat from District 4. Documents on file with the California Public Utilities Commission show that Chan’s law firm, Chan, Doi, and Leal, has received more than $200,000 in fees from PG&E in just the past two years.
Chan won’t come to the phone to discuss what he did for the utility, won’t respond to questions posed through his campaign manager and press secretary, won’t return calls to his law firm, and thus won’t give the public any idea what sorts of conflicts of interest he’d have if he took office.
This is nothing new for Chan: back in 2002 he put his name on PG&E campaign material opposing public power and earned a spot in the Guardian’s Hall of Shame.
Then there’s Rob Black, who worked as an attorney for Nielsen Merksamer, the law firm that handled all of the dirty dealings for the anti-public-power campaign in 2002. Black worked with Jim Sutton, his former law professor and PG&E’s main legal operative, during that period but insists he did no work on anything related to PG&E or the campaign. That’s tough to believe.
All of this comes at a time when PG&E is going out of its way, at the cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars, to buff up its image — and to fight the city’s modest but significant plans for public power.
As Steven T. Jones reports on page 16, the notorious utility is well aware that its future in San Francisco is shaky. The city is bidding to provide public electric power to the Hunters Point shipyard redevelopment project and preparing to provide public power to Treasure Island. There is a study in the works to look at developing tidal power. The supervisors are moving forward on Community Choice Aggregation, which will put the city directly in the business of selling retail electricity to customers (albeit through PG&E’s grid). And there’s talk brewing of a public power ballot initiative for next November.
PG&E president Thomas King met with Mayor Gavin Newsom this summer and sent him a nice, friendly letter afterward discussing all the ways the city and PG&E could work together.
But in fact, the utility is already opposing even the baby steps coming out of City Hall: PG&E has bid against San Francisco for rights to sell power to the shipyard, and that’s forced the city to cut prices and reduce the revenue it could have gained from Lennar Corp., the master developer. PG&E is trying to stop the city from selling power on Treasure Island and has financial ties to a private company that has rights to Golden Gate tidal power development until 2008. Meanwhile, the utility just hired the former secretary to the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission — a woman who sat in on every closed-session strategy meeting the panel held, including sessions dealing with litigation against PG&E.
In other words, PG&E is gearing up for all-out political warfare — and the mayor and supervisors need to start preparing too. From now on, people should see whatever PG&E does as hostile — and on every front the city needs to adopt an aggressive strategy to move forward toward eliminating the company’s private power monopoly.
For starters, it’s ridiculous that the city should have to fight PG&E for the right to sell power at the Hunters Point shipyard. The Redevelopment Agency should have made public power a part of the program from the start, and the supervisors should examine that plan immediately to see if it can be amended to require Lennar to buy power from San Francisco. Newsom needs to take to the bully pulpit and say that if PG&E gets this contract, nobody on the Redevelopment Agency Commission will ever be reappointed.
Meanwhile, when Chan and Black appear anywhere in public this election season, they need to be asked to fully disclose their ties with PG&E and outline their positions on public power.
And it’s time for the public power coalition to start meeting again, with the aim of crafting a ballot measure that will create a full-scale municipal system, perhaps as soon as November 2007. SFBG
PS PG&E already has one staunch ally on the board, Sean Elsbernd, a Newsom appointee who also worked in the late 1990s for the Nielsen firm. That’s three too many.
PPS If Newsom is really for public power, as he claims, then why is he pushing so hard for two PG&E call-up votes for the board? And why is he not publicly denouncing PG&E’s attempt to scuttle public power and lending his political capital to a new municipalization effort?
PPPS The SF Weekly’s Matt Smith last week all but endorsed Doug Chan — but made no mention of Chan’s PG&E ties. Did that somehow slip through Smith’s investigative reporting net?

Save Daly — and the city


EDITORIAL The sleaze in District 6 is utterly out of control. So far, five different organizations, all claiming to be independent of any candidate, have sent out expensive mailers blasting away at incumbent Chris Daly (and urging voters, either directly or indirectly, to support his main opponent, Rob Black).
The law says that these groups can spend all the money they want, without abiding by campaign contribution limits, as long as they aren’t coordinating with Black’s staff, but let’s not be naive here: this is a carefully planned and orchestrated campaign by a handful of wealthy, powerful interests that will spend whatever it takes to get rid of one of the board’s most reliable progressive leaders.
Daly’s a hard worker, has a solid record, and is popular in his district — but after a while, this much negative campaigning starts to take a toll. And for the sake of the progressive movement in San Francisco, Black and the downtown forces simply can’t be allowed to defeat Daly.
Daly is more than a good supervisor (although he certainly meets that qualification). He’s part of the class of 2000, one of a crew of activists who swept into power in the first district elections as a rebellion against the developer-driven politics of then-mayor Willie Brown. He has become one of the city’s most promising young leaders, someone who, with a bit more seasoning (and diplomacy), could and should have a bright future in local politics.
He’s also very much a district supervisor and a symbol of how district elections allowed the neighborhoods to take back the city. The attack on him is an attack on the entire progressive movement and all that’s been accomplished in this city in the past six years.
Daly needs help. He needs volunteers to walk precincts, distribute literature, and get out the vote. This has to be a top priority for independent neighborhood and progressive activists in San Francisco. There’s a campaign rally Oct. 28 at 10 a.m. at the northeast corner of 16th Street and Mission. Daly’s campaign headquarters are at 2973 16th St. The phone is (415) 431-3259. Show up, volunteer, give money … this one really, really matters. SFBG

Editor’s Notes


› tredmond@sfbg.com
The San Francisco Examiner reported last week that enrollment in the local public schools is down by another 1,000 students this year, which means, some school board members say, that more sites will have to be closed.
I understand the economic issues — the state pays for education based on average daily attendance, and if fewer kids show up, the school district gets fewer dollars. And I’ll admit I have a dog in this fight: my son goes to McKinley Elementary, a wonderful school that represents everything that’s right about public education in San Francisco — and McKinley was on the hit list last year. It’s a small school; that makes it vulnerable.
I also understand that there are some things the school board can’t control. Families are leaving San Francisco in droves. That’s largely because of the high cost of housing, which is an issue for the mayor and the supervisors (and one that’s going to take a lot more work and resolve to address). So we’re going to lose some students that way.
But we’re also losing a lot of kids to private schools; I know that because I have good friends who’ve chosen that route, mostly because they don’t think the public schools can offer what they want for their kids. This is a perception problem, and it’s something the school board doesn’t have to sit back and accept.
That, I guess, is what really frustrates me — so many people simply saying that as a matter of strategic planning, we need to assume 1,000 fewer students a year will go to the public schools. The district spent around a quarter of a million dollars last year on a public relations office, and almost all the office seemed to do was hide information from the press and promote the career of then-superintendent Arlene Ackerman. Now Ackerman’s gone, and so is her officious flak, Lorna Ho. It’s time to take district PR seriously.
How hard would it be to have one PR staffer dedicated to creating a major citywide ad campaign promoting the public schools? I suspect it would be relatively easy to find a top-flight local ad firm that would work pro bono and not at all impossible to raise money for media (billboards, bus sides, direct mail, print ads, TV, whatever). Lots of prominent people would do testimonials. Set a goal: no enrollment drop-off next year. Before we close any more schools, it’s worth a try.
Now this: Clear Channel, which owns 10 radio stations in San Francisco and does almost no local public affairs programming at all, recently dropped its only decent San Francisco show, Keepin’ It Real with Will and Willie on KQKE, and replaced it with a syndicated feed out of Los Angeles. To listen to most of Clear Channel radio, you’d never actually know that you’re in San Francisco; the giant Texas chain doesn’t care anything about this community.
If you’re sick of this kind of behavior by an increasingly consolidated monopoly broadcast industry (using, by the way, the public airwaves), you’re not alone: Media Alliance, the Youth Media Council, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People will host a hearing on media consolidation in Oakland on Oct. 27, and two Federal Communications Commission members, Jonathan Adelstein and Michael Copps, will be there to take public comments.
The hearing’s at the Oakland Marriott Civic Center, 1001 Broadway. For more information, go to www.media-alliance.org. SFBG