Volume 41 Number 07
November 15 – November 21, 2006
What: Free Josh Wolf!
When: Thursday, December 7th 2006, 7:30pm
Where: Balazo, 2183 Mission Street @18th, 415-255-7227
On December 7th, journalists, activists, and local leaders will come
together to call upon the United States Government to free independent
videographer and freelance journalist Josh Wolf. He is currently in
“coercive custody” at the Federal Detention Facility in Dublin, California.
He is not charged with any crime. Please join us for a night of music,
inspiring speakers, and action in support of Josh Wolf and to demand that
Congress pass a Federal Shield Law protecting journalists and freedom of the
press. $10 Suggested Donation. No one turned away for lack of funds. For
more information about Josh Wolf go to www.joshwolf.net. Contact:
To read Josh’s prison blog, click here
Free Josh Wolf Support Update
In this email:
1) Legal Update
2) Josh Wins Society of Professional Journalists’ Journalist of the Year
3) Josh Wins 2 Vloggy Awards
4) New Flyers!
5) Josh Can Receive More Books
6) How Can I Support Josh?
2) Josh Wins Society of Professional Journalists’ Journalist of the Year
“On Thursday, November 9th, Northern California Chapter of the Society
of Professional Journalists held their annual banquet. Of the many
honors that were bestowed on people, arguably the most prestigious,
Journalist of the Year, went to imprisoned video documentarian, Josh
Wolf, along with other grand jury subpoena resisters, San Francisco
Chronicle sports writers, Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada.
Wolf’s mother, teacher Liz Wolf-Spada, accepted the award on behalf of
her son. Wolf, who had been imprisoned, released and then
re-imprisoned, has served a total of 82 days in a federal penitentiary
for refusing to turn over his unedited video footage of a July 2005
San Francisco protest. From: Indybay.org
Read Josh’s Acceptance Speech: http://www.joshwolf.net/blog/?p=277
3) Josh Wins 2 Vloggy Awards
Josh’s video, All Empires Must Fall, received the Judge’s Choice Award
for Most Controversial Video and the People’s Choice Award for Best
Read Josh’s Acceptance Speech: http://www.joshwolf.net/blog/?p=273
4) New Flyers!
Thanks to Njeri for making these awesome flyers!
You can download them here:
And view them here: http://freejosh.pbwiki.com/Flyers%20and%20Graphics
5) Josh Can Receive More Books
Josh is ready for more books! THANKS!
Please consider sending a book to Josh while he is being held in
prison. It’s a great way to show your support for him!
Josh’s Book Wish List:
Days of War, Nights of Love – The Crimething Ex-Workers Collective Logic
and Contemporary Rhetoric – Howard Kahane
5) How Can I Support Josh?
10 WAYS TO SUPPORT JOSH http://freejosh.pbwiki.com/Help%20Support%20Josh
There are lots of things we can all be doing to help Josh.
Here are the top 10 ways
1) SEND LETTERS and maintain correspondence with Josh while he is
incarcerated. We need to let Josh know that we are thinking of him and
supporting his courageous and important stand. Visit:
http://freejosh.pbwiki.com/Write%20Josh%20Letters for info on how to
send a letter to Josh. Please remember that all of Josh?s letters are
read by the prison authorities and it may take a while for your letter
to reach him.
2) SEND A BOOK to Josh. Find Josh’s book wish list and info on how to
get him a book visit: http://freejosh.pbwiki.com/Send%20Josh%20Books
3) READ HIS BLOG from prison. Josh’s blog is still being updated by
his family and friends. Letters from Josh will be posted as they are
4) DISTRIBUTE FLYERS about his case:
5) DONATE to Josh’s support fund via Paypal:
6) PLAN BENEFIT CONCERTS AND EVENTS to raise money. There have been
several concerts and fundraisers thrown recently to support Josh. If
you are interested in hosting a concert or other type of fundraiser
please contact Josh’s support team at: freejosh(at)joshwolf.net so we
can assist you with publicizing your event.
7) JOIN AND PARTICIPATE in the Support Josh Wolf Email List:
8) PROMOTE JOSH’S CASE. Write letters and articles of support for Josh
to your local media. Blog about his case. Link to his blog and wiki.
Post “support Josh” banners on your blogs and webpages:
9) SEND LETTERS to the other inmates who are being incarcerated along
with Josh at FCI Dublin. You can get their contact information at:
10) BECOME INVOLVED WITH THE SUPPORT TEAM. Email:
freejosh(at)joshwolf.net or the Email List if you are interested in
getting more involved. We still need people willing to help with tech
support, organizing, fundraising, graphic design, publicity, media and
legal support. Send an email to the support team indicating how you
would like to help and we will plug you in!
The American media establishment has launched a major offensive against the option of withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq.
In the latest media assault, right-wing outfits like Fox News and The Wall Street Journal editorial page are secondary. The heaviest firepower is now coming from the most valuable square inches of media real estate in the USA — the front page of The New York Times.
The present situation is grimly instructive for anyone who might wonder how the Vietnam War could continue for years while opinion polls showed that most Americans were against it. Now, in the wake of midterm elections widely seen as a rebuke to the Iraq war, powerful media institutions are feverishly spinning against a pullout of U.S. troops.
Under the headline “Get Out of Iraq Now? Not So Fast, Experts Say,” the Nov. 15 front page of the Times prominently featured a “Military Analysis” by Michael Gordon. The piece reported that — while some congressional Democrats are saying withdrawal of U.S. troops “should begin within four to six months” — “this argument is being challenged by a number of military officers, experts and former generals, including some who have been among the most vehement critics of the Bush administration’s Iraq policies.”
Reporter Gordon appeared hours later on Anderson Cooper’s CNN show, fully morphing into an unabashed pundit as he declared that withdrawal is “simply not realistic.” Sounding much like a Pentagon spokesman, Gordon went on to state in no uncertain terms that he opposes a pullout.
If a New York Times military-affairs reporter went on television to advocate for withdrawal of U.S. troops as unequivocally as Gordon advocated against any such withdrawal during his Nov. 15 appearance on
CNN, he or she would be quickly reprimanded — and probably would be taken off the beat — by the Times hierarchy. But the paper’s news department eagerly fosters reporting that internalizes and promotes the basic worldviews of the country’s national security state.
That’s how and why the Times front page was so hospitable to the work of Judith Miller during the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq. That’s how and why the Times is now so hospitable to the work of Michael Gordon.
At this point, categories like “vehement critics of the Bush administration’s Iraq policies” are virtually meaningless. The bulk of the media’s favorite “vehement critics” are opposed to reduction of U.S. involvement in the Iraq carnage, and some of them are now openly urging an increase in U.S. troop levels for the occupation.
These days, media coverage of U.S. policy in Iraq often seems to be little more than a remake of how mainstream news outlets portrayed Washington’s options during the war in Vietnam. Routine deference to inside-the-Beltway conventional wisdom has turned many prominent journalists into co-producers of a “Groundhog Day” sequel that insists the U.S. war effort must go on.
During the years since the fall of Saddam, countless news stories and commentaries have compared the ongoing disaster in Iraq to the
Vietnam War. But those comparisons have rarely illuminated the most troubling parallels between the U.S. media coverage of both wars.
Whether in 1968 or 2006, most of the Washington press corps has been at pains to portray withdrawal of U.S. troops as impractical and unrealistic.
Contrary to myths about media coverage of the Vietnam War, the
American press lagged way behind grassroots antiwar sentiment in seriously contemputf8g a U.S. pullout from Vietnam. The lag time amounted to several years — and meant the additional deaths of tens of thousands of Americans and perhaps 1 million more Vietnamese people.
A survey by the Boston Globe, conducted in February 1968, found that out of 39 major daily newspapers in the United States, not one had editorialized for withdrawing American troops from Vietnam. Today — despite the antiwar tilt of national opinion polls and the recent election — advocacy of a U.S. pullout from Iraq seems almost as scarce among modern-day media elites.
The standard media evasions amount to kicking the bloody can down the road. Careful statements about benchmarks and getting tough with the Baghdad government (as with the Saigon government) are markers for a national media discourse that dodges instead of enlivens debate.
Many journalists are retreading the notion that the pullout option is not a real option at all. And the Democrats who’ll soon be running
Congress, we’re told, wouldn’t — and shouldn’t — dare to go that far if they know what’s good for them.
Implicit in such media coverage is the idea that the real legitimacy for U.S. war policymaking rests with the president, not the Congress. When I ponder that assumption, I think about 42-year-old footage of the CBS program “Face the Nation.”
The show’s host on that 1964 telecast was the widely esteemed
journalist Peter Lisagor, who told his guest: “Senator, the Constitution gives to the president of the United States the sole
responsibility for the conduct of foreign policy.”
“Couldn’t be more wrong,” Sen. Wayne Morse broke in with his sandpapery voice. “You couldn’t make a more unsound legal statement than the one you have just made. This is the promulgation of an old fallacy that foreign policy belongs to the president of the United States. That’s nonsense.”
Lisagor was almost taunting as he asked, “To whom does it belong then, Senator?”
Morse did not miss a beat. “It belongs to the American people,” he shot back — and “I am pleading that the American people be given the facts about foreign policy.”
The journalist persisted: “You know, Senator, that the American people cannot formulate and execute foreign policy.”
Morse’s response was indignant: “Why do you say that? … I have complete faith in the ability of the American people to follow the facts if you’ll give them. And my charge against my government is, we’re not giving the American people the facts.”
Morse, the senior senator from Oregon, was passionate about the U.S. Constitution as well as international law. And, while rejecting the widely held notion that foreign policy belongs to the president, he spoke in unflinching terms about the Vietnam War. At a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on Feb. 27, 1968, Morse said that he did not “intend to put the blood of this war on my hands.”
And, prophetically, Morse added: “We’re going to become guilty, in my judgment, of being the greatest threat to the peace of the world.
It’s an ugly reality, and we Americans don’t like to face up to it.”
Norman Solomon’s latest book, “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death,” is out in paperback. For information, go to:www.warmadeeasy.com
Recently I was watching Iron Chef, and one of the contestants whipped up some luscious delight of lightly fried honeycomb with cream and fruit; it looked like the best dessert ever. That night I dreamed about it. Oh, how I slept like a baby! The next day I bought the latest by the Pernice Brothers, Live a Little (Ashmont), and over the course of its 12 songs I realized I was listening to the aural equivalent of that same heavenly concoction. The yearning Americana of their early releases can still be tasted, but Joe Pernice and his crew of lovelorn stargazers have added bursting power pop to the recipe. (Todd Lavoie)
With Elvis Perkins
Cafe du Nord
2170 Market, SF
Haiti’s Solidarity Conference
Learn about Haiti from SF Labor Council member David Welsh, who visited the Solidarity Conference in Port-au-Prince last August and witnessed UN troops firing into houses, at the Gray Panther November general meeting. (Deborah Giattina)
Unitarian Universalist Church
1187 Franklin at Geary, SF
Transgender Day of Remembrance
Remember and honor victims of antitransgender hate crimes as Alameda County joins more than 200 locations around the world to hold the first Transgender Day of Remembrance. Elected officials and community members will speak at the event, which marks the anniversary of the murder of Rita Hester, a Massachusetts transgender woman. (Deborah Giattina)
MLK and 13th St., Oakl.
Show your support for eight Bay Area residents and one organization recognized for improving lives in the African American community. The 18th annual Unsung Heroes awards ceremony features entertainment from the Praise and Sign Dancers and Stepping Knights. Local comedian Veronica Dangerfield MCs. (Deborah Giattina)
San Francisco Public Library, Koret Auditorium
100 Larkin, SF
Nobody has more sex than Nina Hartley. So it’s no surprise that the prolific adult-film performer and sex educator decided to write a how-to on everything you ever wanted to know about the dirty deed. Nina Hartley’s Guide to Total Sex is a humorous and candid book that outlines methods to intensify your sexual experience with or without a partner. Hartley, who is also a registered nurse, applies her years of omnisexual experience to this comprehensive manual filled with user-friendly facts and techniques and punctuated by her witty and spicy candor. At this reading Hartley will talk dirty and share some of the tricks of her trade. (Hayley Elisabeth Kaufman)
1644 Haight, SF
Pit er Pat
The Chicago trio display less raw aggression on their new album, Pyramids (Thrill Jockey), than their last, 2005’s Shakey, but that doesn’t mean they’ve lost their bite. Now propelled by minor chords, naïf but malevolent keys, and Fay Davis-Jeffers’s gawky vocals, Pit er Pat plunge into their fears, going where aces accustomed to trad post-rock musicianship ordinarily dread stumbling. Recorded with Tortoise’s John McEntire, Pyramids hits its own original apex at around the instrumental “Swans,” throbbing and sailing away on Davis-Jeffers, bassist Rob Doran, and drummer Butchy Fuego’s transparent, ragged rhythms. (Chun)
With Ebb and Flow
1800 Campbell, Oakl.
$5-$10, sliding scale
With Ebb and Flow
2565 Mission, SF
“The Good Old Naughty Days”
Back in the early 1900s people really knew how to film other people having sex. “The Good Old Naughty Days” is a collection of 12 silent black-and-white hardcore porno movies that have been painstakingly restored by the National Cinematheque in France. Don’t let the high art credentials fool you: these are real porn movies; they were originally played in French brothels while customers waited their turns. (Aaron Sankin)
7:15 and 9:15 p.m. through Mon/20 (also Sat/18-Sun/19, 2 and 4 p.m.)
Red Vic Movie House
1727 Haight, SF
You would be hard-pressed to find a band funkier than the Meters. They even changed their name to the Funky Meters for a while – that’s how funky they are. The Meters took the chaotic, urban funk of James Brown and Sly and the Family Stone and filtered it through the down-home earthy goodness of their hometown, New Orleans. The result is laid-back, groovy music that’s fun without being urgent. These guys have been around for more than 30 years and in that time have left an indelible imprint on everyone from hip-hoppers to jam-banders. (Aaron Sankin)
9 p.m. (also Sat/18)
1805 Geary, SF
The Outsider Chronicles
Creative is the title of one of Sean Dorsey’s funniest and most heartrending dance theater pieces, a solo in which the keening voice of a guidance counselor yanks on Dorsey’s strings, trying to maneuver his masculine enthusiasm into expressions of gender that aren’t “inappropriate.” Creative is also a good word to describe Dorsey’s impulses – he’s making vital work that charts its own territories without following trad dictates of gender and genre. Dorsey’s skill as a choreographer and his observant quality as a writer are both grounded in naturalism – he makes tough creative work look easy, even as it faces tough subject matter. This weekend brings the return of his acclaimed The Outsider Chronicles. (Johnny Ray Huston)
8 p.m. (through Sat/18)
Dance Mission Theater
3316 24th St., SF
Who’s afraid of the big bad terror suspect – or the prez, for that matter? Not Partyline, that’s for sure. Bratmobile vocalist Allison Wolfe’s new all-femme band lashes together nyah-nyah vocals, punktastic guitar action, and a conscience. “We gotta keep from crying at our monkey terror president!” she yelps on the combo’s Retard Disco debut, Zombie Terrorist, the follow-up to last year’s Girls with Glasses EP. Imagine the Ramones in skirts and with a singular activist attitude, and you’ll get an idea of Partyline’s garagy gumption. (Kimberly Chun)
With French Toast and Golden Bears
1131 Polk, SF
The Rules Committee of the Board of Supervisors is considering whether or not the city should allow its departments to release electronic documents that include metadata. Although the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force has already hashed over the minutiae of this issue and ruled that metadata can and should be released, the mystery enshrouding what it is, and the lack of any specific policy or known precedent in other cities or states with public records laws has pushed the discussion upstream to where a formal legislation has become a possibility.
Freedom of information purists are saying all the parts and pieces of a document are part of the public domain, while the City Attorney’s Office is claiming another layer of protection may be required.
Metadata entered the realm of public discussion in San Francisco after citizens started making requests of electronic documents with a specific plea for metadata. Activists Allen Grossman and Kimo Crossman wanted copies of, ironically enough, the city’s Sunshine Ordinance, in its original Microsoft Word format. Grossman and Crossman wanted to use the advantages of technology to follow the evolving amendments the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force members were considering for the city’s public records law. These “tracked changes” are a common function in Word, and are, technically, metadata.
When Clerk of the Board Gloria Young received these specific requests for Word documents, not knowing what this “metadata” was or what to do about it, she turned to the office of City Attorney Dennis Herrera for advice.
Deputy City Attorney Paul Zarefsky initially gave oral advice to Young, and when pressed by the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force, issued a five-page memo in response, arguing that release of documents with metadata could pave a path for hackers into the city’s computer system, render documents dangerously vulnerable to cut-and-paste manipulation, and invite another unwelcome burden of reviewing and redacting for city officials. Young followed his advice and proffered the requested documents as PDFs.
A PDF, or “portable document format,” is essentially a photograph of the real thing, and contains none of the metadata that exists a couple clicks of the mouse away in a Word document. Evolving changes can’t be tracked, and PDFs don’t have the same searchability that Word docs have. So PDFs of the Sunshine Ordinance that Young provided didn’t have the functions that Crossman and Grossman were looking for, and were utterly useless for their purposes.
“It’s 92 pages,” Grossman said of the PDF Sunshine Ordinance. “I can’t search it electronically if I want to find something. This document I received is of no use to me.”
Before delving too deep into the intricacies of current city politics, let’s pause for a moment to note that you don’t need to be a Luddite to have no idea what metadata is. It sounds like some diminutive or ethereal version of the real thing. In a sense, it is.
Simply put, metadata is data about data, and grows with weed-like tenacity in the electronic flora of the twenty-first century. Common examples include the track an email took from an outbox to an inbox, details about the owner of a computer program, or the laptop on which a Word document has been typed.
Metadata becomes cause for concern when there is something to hide. Not readily visible, metadata requires a little sleuthing to reveal, but in the past it’s been used to uncover deeper truths about a situation. For example, attorney Jim Calloway relates on his Law Practice Tips blog a divorce case where custody of the child was called into question because of the content of emails sent from the mother to the father. The mother denied she’d sent the emails, though the father vehemently insisted she had. A court forensics investigation found metadata showing that, in reality, the father had written the emails and sent them to himself.
“Metadata speaks the truth,” Calloway writes. “My position has always been that a tool is a tool. Whether a tool is used for good or evil is the responsibility of the one who uses the tool.”
Lawyers have historically advised that metadata be fiercely protected. Jembaa Cole, in the Shidler Journal for Law, Commerce and Technology wrote, “There have been several instances in which seemingly innocuous metadata has wreaked professional and political havoc.”
Cole goes on to cite a gaffe from Tony Blair’s administration – a document about weapons of mass destruction was available on the government’s web site, which claimed the information was original and current. Metadata showed that, not only had the information been plagiarized from a student thesis, it was more than ten years old.
Cole urges lawyers to take an aggressive tack against revealing metadata, by educating offices about its existence, making a practice of “scrubbing” it from documents, and providing “clean” documents in PDF or paper form.
The city attorney’s office has taken a similar stance. Spokesperson Matt Dorsey told us metadata has been a part of the continuing education of the city attorney’s office. However, all past case law of which they are aware focuses on metadata in the context of discovery and “the conclusion of most state bars is that they have the obligation, under attorney-client privilege, to review metadata prior to discovery,” he said. “The issue of metadata is a relatively new one in legal circuits. It isn’t a brand new issue to us, but it is in the context of Sunshine,” said Dorsey, who maintains that metadata could still fall within the standard redaction policies of the public records act.
Terry Franke, who runs the open-government group Californian Aware, argues that “the city attorney needs to complete this sentence: ‘Allowing the public to see metadata in Word documents would be a detriment because…’ What?”
“From the beginning of this discussion the city attorney has never provided a plausible, practical, understandable explanation of what is the kind and degree of harm in allowing metadata to be examined that justifies stripping it out,” Francke said.
To the task force
When Grossman and Crossman were denied the documents as they’d requested them, they filed complaints with the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force. In their cases, first heard on Sep. 26, they argued there should be no concern that the text of Word documents could be manipulated – anybody with a gluestick and a pair of scissors could do that to any piece of paper. That had been a consideration when the Sunshine Ordinance was drafted, and why the city always retains the undisputable original.
Thomas Newton, of the California Newspapers and Publishers Alliance, who was involved in drafting the state’s public records law, agreed with them. “If you follow his logic, you can’t release a copy of any public record because, oh my God, someone might change it,” Newton told us.
Crossman and Grossman also pointed out that to convert documents from Word to PDF invites even more work to a task that should be as burden-free as possible. It’s a regular practice for the clerk of the board to maintain documents as PDFs because that preserves signatures and seals of ratified legislation, but to make it a policy of all departments could invite a landslide of work, printing out documents and converting them to PDFs – not to mention undermining the notion of conserving paper.
Also, translation software and the “screen reader” feature that a blind person might employ to “read” an electronic document, don’t work with PDFs.
First amendment lawyers also offered written opinions on the issue. “Some of the city’s arguments have no support in the law whatsoever,” wrote Francke. “The fundamental problem for the city is that it has no authority to legislate a new general exception of exemption from the CPRA (California Public Records Act), and that’s what’s being advanced here.”
“The city’s scofflaw position represents the status quo ante, the old law that used to allow an agency to provide a copy of computer data ‘in a form determined by the agency.’ The city’s position has been directly and completely repudiated by the legislature. If the city disagrees with the law, it should come to Sacramento and get a bill,” wrote Thomas Newton, general counsel for the California Newspaper Publishers Association (CNPA).
As for the hacker scare, Zac Multrux, an independent technology consultant was invited to the Sep. 26 hearing by task force member Bruce Wolfe to speak about the dangers of metadata. He suggested a number of technological tools that are available for purchase or are free online, that will “scrub” metadata from documents. He said that while it’s true that someone with ill intent could mess with metadata, “I think someone would need a whole lot more than the name of a computer” to hack into the city’s system. “Personally, I don’t see it as a significant security risk,” he said.
It was also pointed out at the hearing that a variety of city, state, and federal departments already make Word and Excel documents available. Wolfe did a quick online search and found more than 96,000 Word documents on the State of California web site. “They’re not afraid to make Word documents public online,” he said.
Over the course of two hearings the task force found no basis for Zarefsky’s claims in either the city’s law or the California Public Records Act – both of which explicitly state a document should be released in whatever format is requested, as long as the document is regularly stored in that format or does not require any additional work to provide.
The task force found Young in violation of the ordinance and she was told to make the documents available in Word format. No restrictions or rulings were made for future requests, but task force member Sue Cauthen said, “I think this whole case is a test case for how the city provides documents electronically.”
As requested, Young had the Sunshine Ordinance, in Word format, pulled from the city’s files and posted on a separate server outside of the city’s system to be viewed. Crossman, noting the added labor and resources for that provision, wondered if that would happen to all public records requested in Word format, so he cooked up another request to test his theory.
He asked for all the pending and accepted legislation for the month of September from the Board of Supervisors, in Word format.
While the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force had found that withholding documents because of metadata was against the law, redaction of privileged information is still legally necessary, and Young continued to follow the city attorney’s advice that a PDF with no metadata was still the safest, easiest way to comply. She told us, “I don’t take their advice lightly.”
Zarefsky’s opinion said departments “may” provide PDFs instead of Word documents and that “metadata may include a wide variety of information that the City has a right — and, in some cases a legal duty — to redact. Young’s office does have pending legislation in Word format, she says it does not fall within the expertise of her staff to review and redact the metadata in those documents because they didn’t author them. “Since we don’t create the documents, how could we ever know whether the metadata should be released? We don’t know what it is,” she told us. “We couldn’t even hire expertise that would know.”
“I can’t imagine there’s so much toxic stuff in Board of Supervisors records they can’t let out,” Grossman told us. “This is a whole mystery to me.”
“It’s just data,” says Crossman. “City employees created it on our dime. Unless it falls under redaction discretion, entire documents should be provided.”
Young took the issue to the legislators who do draft the legislation, asking the November 2 meeting of the Rules Committee for further policy consideration. Miriam Morley spoke on behalf of the city attorney’s office, and said there was a sound legal basis for providing documents as PDFs, but that this was an evolving area of the law that the city attorney’s office wasn’t aware of until about 9 months ago. They could find no other cities currently grappling with the issue, but she said, “Our conclusion is that a court would likely hold a right to withhold a document in Word.”
The committee decided to research the issue further before making a ruling. Committee chair Ross Mirkarimi said he had been integral to the drafting of the Sunshine ordinance, and to rush a decision could be detrimental.
“It seems to me in the spirit of the Sunshine law this is something we should really look at,” Tom Ammiano said. It’s currently at the call of the Chair of Rules and no date has been set for the Rules Committee to hear it again.
A policy in San Francisco could set a real precedent for public records law, but according to many first amendment lawyers, for the Board to do so would be a violation of state law. “I know of no other city, county, or subdivision of state government or state agency that’s disregarding the clear intention of the law as some elements of San Francisco city and county government are planning to do,” Newton told us.
“It’s a debate that can’t really occur outside of a proposal to change the state law,” he said. “The Board of Supervisors can’t pick and choose which law to comply with,” and he said the state’s constitution and public records act trumps the city, which is reading the law too narrowly. “They’re required to give a broad interpretation of this access law. If they don’t like it they should come to Sacramento and get a bill,” he said.
“I think a lot of city departments, and policy and advisory bodies can save themselves a lot of headaches by declaring as policy that they will provide documents in their original formats,” task force member Richard Knee said. “With metadata.”
“The Wicked Stage: Horror Theatre in Jazz Age London”
Join copresenters Thrillpeddlers (voted Best Live Onstage Bloodbath in our Best of the Bay 2006 issue) and the San Francisco Performing Arts Library and Museum for “The Wicked Stage.” Featuring professor Michael Wilson, coauthor of the forthcoming This Troublesome Theatre: London’s Grand Guignol and the Performance of Horror, this multimedia presentation will delve into the history of London’s take on this Parisian theatrical import. As fans of Thrillpeddlers’ annual Shocktoberfest are aware, Grand Guignol combines belly laughs with bloody splats, creating a roller coaster of emotional extremes. For a fitting climax to the evening’s entertainment, Thrillpeddlers will perform a scene from The Old Women, the English version of the Grand Guignol classic A Crime in the Madhouse. (Nicole Gluckstern)
San Francisco Performing Arts Library and Museum
War Memorial Veterans Bldg., fourth floor
401 Van Ness, SF
The San Francisco Symphony continues to tickle our tympana with programs of rare intelligence and far-out aural adventurousness. From Nov. 15 to 18, Montreal’s hugest pianist, Marc-André Hamelin, dazzles in the debut of überhip South African composer Kevin Volans’s oceanic mini-epic, Atlantic Crossing – 14,000 notes in 23 minutes! That’s a lot of plink-plonk for your moola. Also on tap: Russian legend Dmitry Shostakovich’s famous, ecstatic, gloves-off slap to Joseph Stalin’s face, the Symphony No. 5 in D Minor. Soviet smackdown never sounded so good. (Marke B.)
Wed/15 and Fri/17-Sat/18, 8 p.m.
Thu/16, 2 p.m.
Davies Symphony Hall
201 Van Ness, SF
SUPER EGO The best thing about childhood obesity is I can fit in all the clothes now. Dora the Explorerwear, Juicy Couture for Kids, even Mary-Kate and Ashley Teen Look. No door, no path, no avenue is closed to my cheap and whimsical fashion tastes. No “Barfin’ BILF” tube top for toddlers can squeeze me out of my juvenile fancies. Thank you, overweight preteens of America! Viva los junk foods!
And so goes the mind. I was rifling through a rack of knockoff baby Baby Phat the other day when the fluorescents at Thrift Town grew one shade of puke green lighter, and I fell into a consumerist reverie — my thoughts rippling and stretching like the toxic, Korean-stitched Spandelux beneath my gas station press-on fingertips. Tell me, has Clubland become a tangle of infinite niches? Do the tight, glowing pockets of each individual scene form a Great Barrier Reef: part of a vibrant, neon nightlife tapestry, yet each a total entity unto itself? Do the hefty-boobed metal-chick wonders at Crash form a silicone wall, the sideways-haired Casanova scruffsters a moat of cold shoulders, the overexcitable twinks at Bar on Castro an army of flamboyant spastics, their tweezed brows raised like little red flags, two high-pitched shrieks of warning?
And while we’re at it, what’s up with Nancy Pelosi’s eyes? Girl looks spun as a dinner plate at a Chinese circus. Nancy, meet Tramadol. Tramadol, Nancy.
There, like, used to be this thing that happened. The “cool” kids would start a music and nightlife scene. They’d get a couple months to revel in cooler-than-thou, bonding with freaks of like mind. Eventually, the scene would get too big for its britches and start being overrun by “normals.” Everybody wanted in, diluting the scene’s insular charms and making the original fans bitter, smugly smoking their pastel Nat Shermans and sharpening their claws on the newcomers. But that hasn’t happened since house and techno were bastardized into horrid music for aerobics classes. It’s not the kind of music that matters anymore, it’s the attitude that defines. My dreamboat rock critic, Kalefa Sanneh, calls this phenomenon “mini-monoculture.” I call it kind of boring (although I’m lovin’ the lack of scene cattiness). Without overpopularity to push you on to the next scene, it’s all too easy to get stuck. That may be why we’re all still falling backward into the ’80s. Aa-aaahhh …
But sometimes something refreshing comes totally out of left field, something no one can claim to own or hole up in. I’m talking about clubs like the monthly NonStop Bhangra, one of my favorite places to watch people of all stripes let their J/A/S/O/N/-gelled hair down and get a little silly, which does an end run around the whole American underground malaise by packing a woven hemp record bag and flying us off to the world of Bollywood and Bangalore, fronting a cosmopolitan style that totally disarms.
Punjabi by way of London, bhangra music is the tabla-driven electroclash of now, mixing 15th-century Indian folk music with bass-heavy hip-hop (henna-tinted hyphy?) — without an inkling of disco drama. Other great joints such as Dhamaal at Club Six and Bollywood Nights in Santa Clara have pumped the bang-bang-bhangra for years, but NonStop, started a couple years ago by Vicki Virk and Suman Raj-Grewal of dholrhythms dance troupe and DJ Jimmy Love, delivers the whole Punjabi enchilada to the heart of mini-mono scensterdom, Rickshaw Stop. Professional dance performances, lessons for beginners, live painting and drumming, superduper psychedelic visuals, and the fabulous, mini-multicultural sight of people shaking their bangles in glee — what’s better? The upcoming NonStop, Nov. 18 with guest DJ Sep, is the last one of the year, and it’ll be a doozy of a Delhi, a much-needed tonic for anyone feeling trapped in their scene.
Whoa. Amazing the thoughts that pop into your head while you’re stuffing fat kids’ clothes into your Wonderbra, no?
THIS JUST IN: What do club goddesses Heklina, Lady Bunny, Lady Kier from Deee-Lite, and practically every cheap-ass, to’-up drag queen in this whole gloriously damned burg have in common? That’s right, tax problems. Oh, and they’ll also be at the fantasmic, sure-to-be-scandal-ridden Miss Trannyshack Pageant on Nov. 18. I’m not pumping this long-running institution just because Trannyshack head honchette Heklina has a nail gun to my ear hole. Really. I’m pumping it because it’s wild fun! SFBG
Every third Saturday, 8 p.m.–2 a.m. (no event in December)
155 Fell, SF
$10 advance, $15 door
MISS TRANNYSHACK PAGEANT
Sat/18, 9 p.m.–4 a.m.
1300 Van Ness, SF
$25 advance, $35 door
ONLINE TV Contrary to what you might mistake as your better judgment, the soft-rock world of the late 1970s and early ’80s produced some top-notch sounds. Admittedly, nary a twentysomething peer confesses to joining me in enjoying the music of Michael McDonald, but even societal relegation to guilty pleasure status can’t stop the soothe sounds — a sentiment thankfully shared by JD Ryznar and Hunter Stair, creators of the online television series Yacht Rock.
Released by Channel 101, a group based in Los Angeles, Yacht Rock presents humorous, five-minute vignettes (starring Ryznar and Stair kitted out in soft-rock drag) explaining the origins of some “remarkably smooth” hits from such champs as McDonald, Steely Dan, and Toto. “We’re not just sailing the seas of smile on a gentle bed of rock,” says “music industry mogul” character Koko Goldstein, the show’s key promoter of smooth music in the industry. “My artists fuel their vessels with their blood … and their broken dreams!”
It’s some serious business — the songs of that era are given rather dramatic, hilarious backstories that, while stretching the truth, are based in hard facts: for instance, there are indeed Toto members playing on Michael Jackson’s return to smooth production, “Human Nature.”
“Hollywood” Steve Huey, a critic from the All Music Guide, hosts the show, guiding viewers through the hits of 1976 to 1984 in the yacht rock genre, a label referring to smooth pop that would seemingly please the affluent ears of champagne-sipping, island-cruising millionaires. Aside from being completely hysterical, the series presents many facts of interest to yacht rock aficionados: did you know that Ted Templeman, producer of the McDonald-period Doobie Brothers material, also produced the first Van Halen record?
Sellouts come in the form of Hall and Oates, the ever-present bullies who took the funkier, somewhat grittier route away from the Holy Church of Smooth. Kenny Loggins, while presented in a notably heroic light throughout, also comes off as something of a jerk, betting that McDonald’s “I Keep Forgettin’” would never make it past number four on the charts (and although Loggins is initially correct, the salt ’n’ pepper smooth OG comes out on top as the tune is later sampled in Warren G’s hit “Regulate,” ultimately reaching number two).
The myriad brilliant one-liners include such fortunate turns of phrase as “You guys just checked into Hotel Cali-ass-kick!” and McDonald’s ice-cold response to Toto’s threat of a musical climate change in the ’80s, “Me? An irrelevant joke? Please.”
That anybody would want to reexamine the music of this period is certainly unusual, especially considering the reverence Yacht Rock has toward the music. Never before have I seen Loggins placed in anything resembling a heroic light. Not since Footloose anyway. Sadly, Yacht Rock has now ceased production of new episodes, but it’s never too late to tune in to old installments — you’ll soon be sailing away again with Christopher Cross and company. SFBG
One of the hottest hip-hop albums of the year comes from the unlikely combination of a six-foot-seven Canadian producer and a New Orleans mother of two. Voice’s Gumbo (Groove Attack) is a testament to the modern modes of production, with the protagonists only recording in the same room twice but nonetheless able to marry beats and rhymes into a vehicle for a rapper who is not only talking loud but saying something.
Toronto’s too-tall Kevin “Moonstarr” Moon has long been known to heads who like their hip-hop with a side of jazz and a chaser of broken beats through his productions for his own Public Transit Recordings as well as remixes for the likes of Recloose and Jazzanova. In spring 2001 he was introduced to Erin “Voice” Tourey through mutual friend Rosina Kazi of LAL (also on Public Transit), with whom Tourey was staying. “I met with her on a Friday, and we just connected. She came by the studio, and I gave her a beat CD. The next day we got together, Saturday afternoon, and she had already written two complete songs to my beats,” Moon remembered with awe over the phone from Toronto. One of those songs ended up on the Scattered Snares compilation released on Twisted Funk, a label run by Marc Mac of 4 Hero, and the other went on Moonstarr’s own Dupont (Public Transit). The pair have been collaborating ever since.
“She’s so versatile — she’ll flip from a rhyme to poetry and back to a rhyme again, so it’s total freedom with her in terms of what you can get away with,” Moon enthused when pressed to explain why he enjoys producing Tourey. “It’s really cool to work with her because you’re not constricted by, like, a straight-up hip-hop snare on every second [beat].” Witness “Guerilla Hustlin’,” in which Moon swings from three kick-drum beats that lurch into the fourth over to snare drums that threaten and stutter with Brazilian flare beneath a trilling flute as Tourey spits, “Wanna know my name, wanna know why I’m on the streets selling beats instead of chasing fame/ Well I’ve always done my own thing, figure people’ll come around on their own term, used to try and push it but I had to live and learn, now I pick and chose when I be concerned.”
“Guerilla Hustlin’” is a rock-solid tune — and it inadvertently captures one of the few ways in which Tourey and Moon view the world differently, as the rhymes tell of struggling to get paid while the production hints at an affection for Baden Powell and isn’t exactly Clear Channel–friendly. When I spoke with Tourey, who patiently answered my questions from her home in New Orleans while her three-year-old and five-month-old played not so patiently in the background, I mentioned that Moon had described his status as an underground producer as “comfortable.” “Obviously, we’re in a situation where we have to sell records, but we’re independent,” Moon said. “We can get away with a hell of a lot more than an artist that’s stuck in a position where their art has to generate revenue for them. We’re in this really comfortable position where we can get away with whatever.”
So does Tourey treasure the same silver lining to not selling too many records that Moon does? “Mmm, no,” Tourey said succinctly. “I love Kevin, but, well, he doesn’t have kids yet. When he starts reproducing, he might feel the burn a little more, like I do. Underground is great in terms of creative control and street credibility and loyal fan bases, but at some point I gotta pay bills. I’m trying to find a middle ground.”
ALL SYSTEMS FLOW
That’s not to say that Tourey has any interest in focusing on cash flow at the expense of mic flow. As a survivor of the cattle calls and series pilots that litter the past of child actors (her father renewed her agent’s contract every year from when she was 5 to 16 — when she shaved her head bald and started winning poetry slams), Tourey shows a marked animosity toward any kind of Hollywood success in her Gumbo rhymes. The rapper — whose recent listening runs from Bilal to Björk — may want to feed her kids, but her rhymes reflect a keen awareness that one day they’ll want more than just the next meal. To quote Tourey in “Total Eclipse,” the most recently written song on the album, “They said I should dumb it down, appeal to my audience, apparently we like our rap with no substance, but then I’m looking out into the crowd, and I’m seeing me, a sea full of honeys quietly thanking me, ’cause we support, and I’m just tryin’ to find a healthy balance, intellect toes the line, introduces a new challenge.”
Despite the distance between their locales, Moon and Tourey come together on Gumbo to serve up an album full of adventurous production and rhymes for the mind, no matter how far that consciousness has to travel. Moon said, “At the end of the day, good food tastes good — wherever you go in the world.” SFBG
VOICE AND MOONSTARR AT SICK AND LOADED
Sat/18, 8 p.m.
1141 Polk, SF
REVIEW There’s a new multistory condo complex rising on a sliver of SoMa between the freeway and the Caltrain tracks. It’s on one of those heretofore undesirable plots that stood vacant for decades, holding their own as a weedy buffer zone between transportation and industry. I wonder if the contractors are using a new high-tech glass that, in the space of a faux bay window, will neutralize the din of traffic. Who’d want to live there?
San Francisco is an urban area, don’t you know. But the way space here is quickly filling in with homes is reflective of a broader condition of (until recently) a healthy real estate market and the resulting sprawl. It’s something I experience when visiting family in unapologetically suburban Southern California. Just outside my old neighborhood, with streets named to invoke the American Revolution — Freedom Drive, Liberty Bell Road — were oak-shaded dry creek beds where I headed for adolescent escapes. Those once-wooded areas have been shaped into fields of roomy new houses in an unspecific Mediterranean stucco style. The arteries there are named after trees — Spruce Drive, Cedar Lane — that I don’t recall being indigenous. Is it progress or loss?
California denizens cannot avoid the quandaries of safe, “affordable” homes and the problematic environmental effects of building auto-centric communities far from any sort of civic center. The state then makes a fitting geographical framing device for a small but notable exhibition at the San Jose Museum of Art. “Suburban Escape: The Art of California Sprawl” brings together a couple dozen artists who picture a half century of development in photographs, painting, video, and sculpture, revealing the allure and shortcomings of suburbia.
While compact and high density rather than sprawling and homogenous, “Suburban Escape” manages to address numerous social and cultural concerns, the first of which is the literal, almost sculptural creation of suburbs. At the start curator Ann Wolfe shows us distant views of cookie-cutter homes. The first piece is William Garnett’s grid of six black-and-white aerial photographs documenting the 1950 construction of the Lakewood, a Southern California community that from above looks like fields of housing starts that sprouted into a grid of cubelike buildings. They’re a perfect complement to Robert Isaacs’s 1968 photograph Ticky Tacky Houses in Daly City, an equally geometric composition that inspires waves of comfort and revulsion. The uniformity looks appealingly orderly from a distance, but the idea of living in houses so similar and close together is another concern altogether, something fraught with unsustainable foundations, not to mention nosy neighbors.
Suburbia is rife with ambivalent vibes, and they are noted throughout the show. Bill Owens’s photo of a Fourth of July block party expresses a cul-de-sac comfort zone and clean, new neighborliness. And yet, the picture also conveys the psychic isolation of spacious lots. Just one photo from Owens’s 1970s-era Suburbia series isn’t enough to convey his vision, although this picture speaks volumes.
Mimicking the physical structure of housing tracts, a number of the artists work in series. Freshly Painted Houses, a grid of small 1991 color photos by Jeff Brouws, shows the Daly City neighborhood where the artist grew up during the 1960s. The cheerful exterior schemes reflect the influx of Asian American immigrants who, the artist states in the exhibition catalog (which includes an expanded, more convincing range of works than the museum presentation), painted their houses in more vibrant colors than did most of “middle class mainstream America.” The piece adds a welcome layer of social context to architecturally insignificant structures.
John Divola’s provocative series Los Angeles International Airport Noise Abatement Zone, House Removal Grid, Present (1975, 2005) is one of those frighteningly irresistible before-and-after projects. It shows a collection of doomed dwellings that were in the sonic path of LAX and the empty lots after the buildings were razed. Shot in a relatively short time span in the 1970s and printed only recently, the pairings suggest the aftermath of a smart bomb that vaporizes only stucco-faced structures. All that remains are a flat landscape, stoic palm and cypress trees, and the occasional pathway to a nonexistent front door. Next to these, Free House (2003), an acrylic work by Deborah Oropallo, addresses the surprising disposability of suburban buildings with images of boarded-up toy houses — literal model homes — inspired by Berkeley structures that were worth less than the land they were erected on.
That same cheap, serial construction of houses is noted in Mark Campbell’s sculpture Maximum Density (2000), a low platform covered with hundreds of tiny honey-hued rubber homes. At once seemingly organically formed and a highly constructed board game, Campbell’s project is difficult not to touch yet equally difficult to reconcile. Similarly, Destroyed Houses (1999–2004), a series of 30 collage paintings by Jeff Gillette, is a gleeful deconstruction of real estate advertisements set against bucolic landscapes. Like a willful child pulling wings off flies, the artist here has devious fun destroying unaffordable homes — and the pervasive dream of owning one.SFBG
SUBURBAN ESCAPE: THE ART OF CALIFORNIA SPRAWL
Through March 4, 2007
San Jose Museum of Art
110 S. Market, San Jose
Tues.–Sun., 11 a.m.–5 p.m.
Book lovers always lament movie adaptations: they rarely deliver. But Fast Food Nation, like a swift injection of growth hormone, adds flesh and character to the very real problems of where America’s food comes from and the different ways it’s absolutely mishandled. The feature film is based on the 2001 nonfiction book by journalist Eric Schlosser, who helped director Richard Linklater finesse the screenplay into something of a morality tale tracing the true origins of a Mickey’s hamburger.
Following the tangled strands of food production and consumption, the film jumps between the perspectives of exploited immigrant workers clad in Hazmat suits in a meat processing plant and Greg Kinnear playing the hapless corporate hack trying to figure out just how in the heck his company’s Big Ones are coming up contaminated on the buns. There’s a predictable arc to the narrative, most noticeable in teenage character Amber (Ashley Johnson), a bright-eyed Mickey’s employee who gets a see-the-light lesson from her ex-activist uncle (Linklater favorite Ethan Hawke). Paul Dano (Little Miss Sunshine) as the apathetic burger flipper is the perfect antidote to Amber’s painful optimism, serving up some old food service clichés. But his spit in the burger isn’t the biggest “eww-gross” moment.
Linklater, a vegetarian, wasn’t able to get permission to shoot in an American meat processing plant, so the movie uses real footage from a Mexican one that agreed to be filmed because Schlosser’s tale casts a true light on America’s despotic immigration policies. The scenes of women trading sex for jobs at the border-town plant become very believable when juxtaposed with images of real-time slaughter. Schlosser said workers at a Greeley, Colo., plant whom he interviewed for the book criticized the movie after a screening in Denver — the Mexican plant looked too sterile and unrealistic compared to where they work.
It’s been 100 years since Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle inspired laws to reform meat packing plants. By turning journalism into fiction and transutf8g that from print to real, stomach-turning imagery, Fast Food Nation once again questions America’s massive appetite. I still haven’t eaten meat since I saw the scene in which a cow’s skin is stripped off its body with a chain and a winch, a process more befitting an offshore oil rig than a slaughterhouse. (Amanda Witherell)
FAST FOOD NATION
Opens Fri/15 in Bay Area theaters
See Move Clock at www.sfbg.com
People like Christopher Guest’s improv-based comedies — This Is Spinal Tap, Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show, A Mighty Wind — in a peculiarly self-satisfied way, confident that enjoying them means they’re in on a sophisticated joke that the ordinary Adam Sandler–liking rabble don’t get. Yet for all their small joys, Guest’s films make me wish they had big ones — bigger laughs, sharper satire, more narrative drive. The actors automatically raise a smile because we’ve loved them so many times before. But are they the best judges of their material? I had secret doubts — and A Mighty Wind made it OK to say them out loud.
Still, For Your Consideration seemed a sure thing. But the result is an in-joke without a punch line — one that seems even more impotent due to the proximity of Borat, a satire that actually has something to say and is freakin’ hilarious besides. The idea here is that a small feature with a cast of minor names is being shot with no great expectations when suddenly Oscar rumors start floating around, putting all concerned into an anticipatory tizzy — most notably has-been actress Catherine O’Hara, hungry newcomer Parker Posey, Guest’s own temperamental director, and Eugene Levy’s conniving agent.
So far, so OK. Guest and his most loyal creative partners here (Levy, O’Hara, Fred Willard) have on average logged over three decades on film and TV. They must have experienced more than a few troubled shoots and monumental egos. Yet the major characters here are blandly nice, none more than mildly eccentric. And the Oscar-buzzed movie they’re shooting, Home for Purim, parodies the kind of stagy, earnest, wannabe Arthur Miller prestige project that has been DOA since the ’70s. And back then it would have been a PBS or Hallmark Hall of Fame special.
The only scenes attuned to today’s showbiz — not coincidentally, the funniest here — lampoon empty-hype Entertainment Tonight–type shows, with Willard and Jane Lynch as breathlessly excitable hosts. Elsewhere, For Your Consideration seems to have been made by fogies — it’s stiff jointed and embarrassingly proud of limp drollery that seldom pays off in real laughs. Like Home for Purim, this movie thinks it’s Oscar material. But it’s not even the stuff Golden Globes are made of. (Dennis Harvey)
FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION
Opens Fri/15 in Bay Area theaters
See Movie Clock at www.sfbg.com
When Japanese documentary filmmaker Kazuo Hara was approached by Okuzaki Kenzo — the subject of his 1987 The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On — and asked to film him committing murder, Hara strongly considered it before turning him down, more than anything because he “had become really sick of Okuzaki.” Or so he told an interviewer. This sounds like bullshit, and it may be, but the filming approaches and content of Hara’s body of work make you think that maybe he could have done it. (Okuzaki, incidentally, is currently serving time for the unfilmed murder attempt.) Hara has captured on film, in a doc that is essentially the sanctioned stalking of his ex-wife, the full frontal birth of her child. This was in 1974, understand, way before the Learning Channel or even The Cosby Show. He has followed a head case who once slung pachinko balls at Emperor Hirohito as the leader traveled around Japan accusing ex-soldiers, not without reason, of cannibalism. He has filmed the assaults of old men being accused, not without reason, of cannibalism. This is a filmmaker who might very well show up to a murder if he could still stand his subject.
Two of Hara’s docs will be showing this week at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. Goodbye CP (1972) was his first film and caused quite a fuss in Japan for its uncensored look at the lives of people with cerebral palsy. It’s been called sadistic, and it almost broke up the marriage of its main protagonist, but it’s applauded by civil rights groups and is still shown to social service workers as a not-too-gentle reminder that those with CP aren’t anatomically smoothed-over dolls.
A Dedicated Life (1995), about the life and death from cancer of Japanese author Mitsuharu Inoue, isn’t as gonzo as most of Hara’s other films, but it’s one of his fullest and most mature. The transgression of the biography (beyond a fairly fruitless preoccupation with Inoue’s playboy persona) is Hara’s gruesome admission that he was basically waiting for the man to die so that he could get more candid interviews from those who knew him. This information, taken from an interview with professor Kenneth Ruoff, adds menace to the scenes in the doctor’s office and muddies the poignance of conversations Inoue had with his wife about his illness. But the poignance is always there, in this and Hara’s other films. It just usually has to share the spotlight with the creepy methods of the man behind the camera. SFBG
NO BOUNDARIES: THE TRANSGRESSIVE DOCUMENTARIES OF KAZUO HARA
A Dedicated Life, Thurs/16, 7:30 p.m.
Goodbye CP, Sun/19, 2 p.m.
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, screening room
701 Mission, SF
Staunch characters — S-T-A-U-N-C-H. That description applies to Grey Gardens devotees, who’ve found their unwavering dedication and commitment rewarded with a new Albert Maysles movie about the Edith Bouvier Beales. Still, another look at the original 1975 Grey Gardens will probably always be the best way to honor and commune with Big Edie and Little Edie — if ever a classic rewarded repeat viewings, it’s this one. All the Maysles brothers (Albert and the now-deceased David) had to do was bring the film. What they saw was amazing: Little Edie racing toward the camera — that final, perfect gentleman caller — in her best costume for the day; food and animals gathering around Big Edie’s throne room; a deep “sea of green” (Little Edie’s words) on the estate threatening to block out an ocean of blue. At one point Little Edie says she is “pulverized” by new things, but she doesn’t have to say that she’s buried alive by old ones. A single shot late in the movie turns a banister into her prison bars so effectively that Douglas Sirk would be jealous.
In recent years, Capturing the Friedmans and especially Tarnation have ventured into the same family-gone-wild domesticity as Grey Gardens, but neither comes close to matching its direct bravery or complex humanistic profundity. Today, as Drew Barrymore and others come a-calling with rip-off projects, the lesson that film and Broadway actors and producers should’ve learned from the Edies is right there in the lyrics of one of Big Edie’s favorite songs. Don’t throw bouquets at them, let them throw bouquets at you. That’s exactly what Little Edie — dressed in a Jackie O red ensemble (worn backward, of course) — literally did to the audience at the film’s premiere, and it’s what she and her mother metaphorically do to everyone who watches any minute of the movie, which immortalizes their one-of-a-kind offhand wit and poetry. When Little Edie heard that someone wanted to make a movie about her starring Julie Christie, she plunged deep into playing the role of her life — with acute, revelatory self-consciousness — for the Maysles brothers. When will Hollywood learn? (Johnny Ray Huston)
CHEAP EATS A picture begins to develop: dating, for the chicken farmer, is turning out to be a sort of exercise in quantum romantics. Things are happening and not happening at the same time.
I’ll start out being totally, over-boilingly in love with a complete stranger, and this gets gradually perfected to a sweet, simmering, and in a couple cases, cuddly friendship — miraculously without me ever getting my tits licked, which is all I really want, really. That and maybe a little something to eat.
Over pomegranate chicken and eggs at Aram’s in Petaluma my date says, “You know, I’m not a nonviolent person.”
It takes everything I have, but I manage not to climb across the table and bite her, toppling everything. Deep breaths help, plus I derive farmerly strength from the suspicion that suddenly cullinizing one’s date, no matter how heartfelt or sexy, would be disrespectful to the chicken, which was amazing.
Over spicy Thai cold-medicine soup at that place on Haight, she wonders with the humble self-awareness of a death-bedded grandmother (and a stuffy nose) whether she might not yet know her own heart.
This week she turns 29.
Coffee and French toast at the Squat and Gobble, and I can still be a witch if I want, no matter that I don’t believe in magic or spells or sorcery or goddesses or witchcraft or even eating children — although I’m not entirely a noncannibalistic person, consent withstanding.
If I understand her correctly, even in prepagan times, even before there was the word witch, there were strong, wise, weird women who lived in shacks in the woods with black cats and wrote restaurant reviews for their local weeklies.
In my shack in my woods we are eating her-made beet gnocchi with me-made fresh bread and salad, drinking wine and talking about lasagna, when she sets down her fork and says, “I’m so happy I could cry.” And she does, and I get to hug and hold her and totally empathize because lasagna makes me emotional too.
But it turns out that wasn’t it for her. It was the first few bars of the Paolo Conti album I’d just put on.
Oh oh oh oh oh, there are so many wonderful new favorite restaurants in the Bay Area, many of which I would love to tell you about, but this is for those who have written or asked or simply wondered what ever happened to that Queer Girl Nancy Drew, my Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart and Inspirer of Piles and Piles of Poetry who Tartined me over a month or so ago.
Well, the reason I haven’t written about her is because I can’t decide what her name is, not because we haven’t been hanging out. We eat a lot and talk a lot and even smooch and snuggle some, but no, no sex. Not that I would tell you if there was. (But you know I would, because I tell you everything, right?)
Anyway, this isn’t like that, as the saying goes. It’s not about sex, and you’re not going to believe this, but it’s not about food either with her. With her, between me and you, all I really want is to get her on the other side of a Ping-Pong table — since another thing I learned when she first opened her heart to me (curry goat, Penny’s, Berkeley) is that her grandfather is Ping-Pong champion of the Baltic states and that she trained as a kid.
She knows how I feel. I know how she feels. We talk about everything in the world but this. Is her reticence regarding playing Ping-Pong with me based on fear of winning or losing or something else?
In bed she says she’s starstruck and falls asleep with a smile on her lips and my hand in her hair. The moon between the redwood branches outside my window is what I’m looking at, until eventually I get out of bed, tiptoe to my file cabinet, and so so so so slowly open the third drawer, the one labeled THE MEANING OF LIFE. I’m starstruck. I take out my two nice Butterfly Ping-Pong paddles, hold one in each hand, and just hold them, so happy I could cry.
Of their own accord (or maybe it’s a trick of the tears), the two paddles almost seem to be fluttering toward each other, their motion barely perceptible. If I stay to see it happen, I might be up all night, and in any case their eventual connection would be at this rate noiseless, not likely to wake anyone or put anyone to sleep.
Lost in thought and moonlight, thinking witchy not-witchy things like waves and particles, I stare between the butterflies at my file cabinet, one in the morning.
PHILOSOPHY, THEOLOGY, AND ETHICS, says the first drawer. Inside: empty egg cartons.
CEREAL, says the second. Inside: cereal. SFBG
Doctrines of infallibility are for popes and neocons, and need I say more? The rest of us lowly humans must make do with the doctrine of fallibility, a splendid coat of many colors. If you screw up in the kitchen, you add some mustard or vinegar — pancake makeup for defaced or deformed dishes — and hope for the best. Or phone out for emergency pizza. If you screw up in print … well, there it is, as the tin-eared Emperor Joseph was wont to say in Amadeus. Errata have a way of accumuutf8g, like spatters on a chef’s apron, until finally a laundering is in order. Herewith a selection of my own recent spatters. [Editor’s note: Also missed by Paul’s hysterical-anorexic editor, Marke B.]
In my recent piece about Alamo Square Seafood Grill (“Sea Rations,” 11/1/06), I wrongly dismissed trout as a responsible choice of fish. True, it is a farmed carnivore, but according to the endlessly useful Seafood Watch program of the Monterey Bay Aquarium (www.mbayaq.org/cr/seafoodwatch.asp), trout is rated in the “best” category. It efficiently converts feed into protein and is farmed in an enviro-friendly way.
In my piece about the Michelin guide’s recent Northern California edition (Without Reservations, 10/11/06), I implied that the Michelin guide uses half stars. I do not know where I got this idea; perhaps there was confusion with other star-giving entities that do deal in half rations. Michelin gives full stars only — or not, as the case may be. Also, while there was considerable distress here as to the NorCal guide’s emphases and omissions, it is worth reminding ourselves that we are probably not Michelin’s principal audience; the green guides are largely for visiting French and other Europeans, so a skewing toward French restaurants with a certain formality of service shouldn’t surprise us.
Most puzzling is my persistent delusion that Belden Place is either “Lane” or “Alley.” In my recent piece on Café Claude (“Charm Latitudes,” 10/11/06 — again!), I stumbled into “Lane.” I also said that it is paved with bricks, because my memory insists that it is, but on a recent flyby I noticed only asphalt, though it is possible there are brick facades or perhaps bricks hugging the earth as foundations. I am relieved not to have described it as “cobblestoned,” which I might have done in the past, though I hope not. Cobblestones would be nice.