Volume 41 Number 08

November 22 – November 28, 2006

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Nov. 28


Zodiac Death Valley

Concentrating on the lure of the Western desert – as well as the rovers who are drawn to such merciless terrain – the aptly named Zodiac Death Valley have achieved a gothic blues version of Gram Parsons’s Flying Burrito Brothers. Singer Niccolo Abodeely and his bandmates toss in a few moments of cactus flower romanticism among the rattlesnakes and cattle skulls, and the result is equal parts enticement and capture. (Todd Lavoie)

With the Moanin’ Dove, Matthew Hansen, and Jake Mattison
8:30 p.m.
Hotel Utah Saloon
500 Fourth St., SF
(415) 546-6300

Visual Art

“Capp Street Project: Michael Stevenson”
“How to Build a Universe That Doesn’t Fall Apart Two Days Later”
“Radical Software: Art, Technology, and the Bay Area Underground”

The latest chapter in CCA Wattis’s ongoing “Capp Street Project” comes from Michael Stevenson, who will allow his painstaking recreation of a MONIAC – a bygone hydraulic contraption known as the Monetary National Income Automatic Computer – to gradually fall into ruin. “How to Build a Universe That Doesn’t Fall Apart Two Days Later” has roots in ’70s-era Cali ideas about the future. The same might be said of another group show: “Radical Software” ventures into different passages of the seemingly limitless Stewart Brand-related Bay Area underground hacker mazes explored in Lutz Dammbeck’s doc The Net. (Johnny Ray Huston)

7:30-9 p.m. opening reception (through Feb. 24, 2007)
CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, Logan Galleries
1111 Eighth St., SF
(415) 551-9210



Nov. 27


Daniel Levitin

What happens within the human body to account for these differences? Daniel Levitin’s new book, This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of an Obsession, tackles some of the great mysteries of neuroscience and cognitive psychology. A record producer turned neuroscientist, Levitin draws from both backgrounds to explain the physiological processes that play a role in how we form our musical tastes. (Todd Lavoie)

7:30 p.m.
Black Oak Books
1491 Shattuck, Berk.
(510) 486-0698

Visual Art


Artists’ Television Access has been on the forefront of releasing experimental film and video since 1984. Today I bear witness to a new kind of video art: the vlog. On the screen of the TV in the ATA’s window is the filmmaker, staring into the viewer’s eyes and explaining the nuances of this new media. For “Initials,” Matthew Hughes Boyko has fused YouTube videos with original footage. The exhibit is part documentary, part instruction, and entirely in sync with the continuing fascination with new media. (K. Tighe)

Through Nov. 30
Artists’ Television Access
992 Valencia, SF
(415) 824-3890



Nov. 26


The Bells

Before he was stitched together by Dr. Frankenstein, Boris Karloff appeared in nearly 75 films, including the occasional sign of a stellar career in horror to come. James Young’s 1926 silent, The Bells tells the story of an innkeeper whose greed drives him to murder and whose guilt drives him to madness. Karloff pops up as a creepy mesmerist hired to spook the killer into confessing. The film’s loosely based on the Edgar Allan Poe poem as notable for its use of “tintinnabulation” as it is for wringing sheer terror out of the sound of bells, bells, bells. (Cheryl Eddy)

7 p.m.
Brainwash Cafe
1122 Folsom, SF
(415) 255-4866


The Velveteen Rabbit

The much beloved and dreaded holidays are about to descend upon us once again. For those who aren’t into Santa-style consumption or churchgoing and don’t really enjoy vaguely Christian-flavored entertainment, there’s The Velveteen Rabbit. ODC calls its annual winter holiday offering, a nationally toured theatrical event now in its 20th year, “a tale of love, loyalty, and hope.” Rabbit is a kids’ show, but like all good fairy tales, its appeal is not restricted to those four feet and under. (Rita Felciano)

Through Dec. 10
Thurs.-Fri., 11 a.m.; Sat., 1 and 4 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
700 Howard, SF
(415) 346-7805



Nov. 25


Diamano Coura West African Dance Company

In the Senegalese language Wolof, diamano coura means “those who bring the message.” For more than three decades that’s exactly what Oakland’s Diamano Coura West African Dance Company has been doing, through performances, lectures, and youth programs. Codirectors Zak and Naomi Diouf prize culture over entertainment – rather than present a vision of dance that is separate from other arts, they emphasize that singing and polyrhythmic movement can be vital presences within everyday life. This year’s annual repertory show manifests African dance’s past, present, and future. (Johnny Ray Huston)

8 p.m. (also Sun/26, 3 p.m.)
Malonga Casquelord Center for the Arts
1428 Alice, Oakl.
(510) 733-1077


West African Highlife Band

While a lot of African music is mainly rhythm driven, highlife is largely melodic, incorporating jazzy horns and intricate yet laid-back guitar lines. The West African Highlife Band is a veritable all-star group of musicians who have been a crucial part of the West African scene for decades, touring and recording with greats such as Fela Kuti, Hugh Masekela, and King Sunny Ade. Come at 9 p.m. for an African dance lesson with Comfort Mensah. (Aaron Sankin)

9:30 p.m.
1317 San Pablo, Berk.
$15 general, $12 student
(510) 525-5054



Nov. 24


Gabby La La

Rarely is something musically weird enough for Les Claypool, the eccentric force behind Primus and the Les Claypool Flying Frog Brigade, but upon meeting whimsical multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Gabby La La – master of piano, ukulele, guitar, and sitar (she studied under sitar legend Ali Akbar Khan) – the king of kooky finally met his match. The first artist in 12 years to be signed to Claypool’s Prawn Song Records, Miss La La meshes perfectly with the quirky aesthetic, singing songs about fleas, pirates, and breakfast food in a signature vocal style that’s part old-world gypsy and part enchanted forest pixie. (Hayley Elisabeth Kaufman)

With Pumps:Fire and Lemon Lime Lights
9 p.m.
12 Galaxies
2565 Mission, SF
(415) 970-9777


Black Nativity

There are Christmas carols, and then there is Faye Carol, whose singing set Lorraine Hansberry Theatre’s production of Black Nativity ablaze last year. In concert at Yoshi’s and elsewhere, Carol draws on the three big B’s as inspiration: Bessie (Smith), Billie (Holiday), and the ultimate sorceress of the Great American Music Hall, Betty (Carter – you haven’t lived until you’ve heard her sing “I Cry Alone”). For Black Nativity, Carol taps deep into the mountains of gospel. (Johnny Ray Huston)

8 p.m. (Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m., and Sun., 4 p.m.; through Dec. 24)
Lorraine Hansberry Theatre
620 Sutter, SF
(415) 474-8800



Nov. 23


Free turkey dinner

Got no money or place to go on Thanksgiving? The Glide Memorial Church is serving up a piping hot Thanksgiving meal with turkey and all the fixings for anyone who walks through its doors. (Deborah Giattina)

9 a.m.-2 p.m.
Glide Memorial United Methodist Church
330 Ellis, SF
(415) 674-6000, www.glide.org



Are there moors in Sweden? I’m pretty certain the answer is yes, based on the existence of Witchcraft, Sweden’s finest purveyors of ominous rumblings and phantasmal conjurings. Evoking the bottom-register sludge of vintage Black Sabbath as well as the demented maypole revelry of ’70s British pagan-folk artists Comus – both of whom were deeply indebted to the freaky mythology spawned by the sinister landscapes of the moors – these Scandinavian heavies seem to have done their share of stomping through the grimmest of demon-haunted wide-open spaces. (Todd Lavoie)

With Grey Daturas
9 p.m.
Bottom of the Hill
1233 17th St., SF
(415) 621-4455



Nov. 22


Maceo Parker

If you’ve ever listened to a James Brown record, you’ve heard Maceo Parker’s name before. When the Godfather of Soul yelled “Maceo!” it was the call for his favorite player to produce from his saxophone a sound that defines funk. It’s been a long time since the days when Parker played on tracks such as “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag.” Meanwhile, he has become a star in his own right, releasing albums on which his iconic alto sax sits front and center. (Aaron Sankin)

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


Bird bake

Stuff a bird at Glide Memorial Church’s Thanksgiving Dinner preparation. Amazingly, the organization cooks about 900 turkeys every year to feed 5,000 people, but it needs your help to do so. (Deborah Giattina)

5-9 p.m.
Glide Memorial United Methodist Church
330 Ellis, SF
(415) 674-6000, www.glide.org



Well, Tim Burton it isn’t. Since Matthew Bourne’s Edward Scissorhands is inspired by Burton’s delightful but dark 1990 film, a comparison seems fair enough. Right off the top, Bourne’s dance musical has neither the gentleness nor the creepy underbelly of the filmed adaptation of Caroline Thompson’s gothic story. It’s coarser, more cartoonish, and fits too smoothly into the conventions of the Broadway musical.
And yet there is a lot to be said for what Bourne has done. Most important, he has made the parable his own. He tells his version of the old story clearly and with a light touch. It’s the one about the outcast who is destroyed by the civilization into which he is thrust. But it’s also a story of growth from naïveté to wisdom, a tale with a twist in the happy ending. These threads are woven into an at-times entertaining, mostly well-paced, and always splendidly performed piece of musical theater.
Edward Scissorhands (Sam Archer) is a leather-clad creature created by an inventor (Adam Galbraith) who is literally scared to death by Halloween pranksters — leaving the unfinished boy an orphan. How Edward makes his way in the world, becoming more vulnerable as he becomes more human, takes up the bulk of the story. Archer brilliantly realizes the trajectory, from stumbling through life to learning about love and pain to ultimate self-acceptance.
Lez Brotherston’s fabulous sets and costumes create a Hope Springs in which perfect tract houses and perfect families are perfectly color coded. Bourne creates amusing portraits of these homes in which the men go to work and play sports while the more or less desperate housewives keep the family machinery humming. It’s a world of sibling rivalries, raging hormones, secret lives, and unrealized aspirations. Within the stock character tradition in which he chooses to work, Bourne creates reasonable facsimiles of the kindly Peg Boggs (Etta Murfitt), the poodle-walking Charity Upton (Mikah Smillie), and the ever-pregnant Gloria Grubb (Mami Tomotani). But the scene-stealer is the local vamp, the man-eating Joyce Monroe (a splendid Michaela Meazza), who regularly cuckolds her husband (Steve Kirkham), an adoring father.
Bourne specializes in a genuinely new form of musical theater. At his best — Swan Lake, Cinderella, and Play Without Words — he creates characters and situations that resonate with theatrical truth. That’s exactly where I felt many parts of Scissorhands came up short. The big production numbers, in particular “The Boggs’s Barbecue” and “Christmas in Hope Springs,” fell flat. One sensed that Bourne, who clearly loves the energy of social dancing, has watched a lot of movie musicals. But he doesn’t give a fresh perspective on the genre. During “Christmas” I couldn’t help but think of the sparkling invention seen in the holiday party scene in Mark Morris’s The Hard Nut.
Yet there are moments when the choreography works excellently. “The Suburban Ballet,” depicting the town’s awakening and daily activities, was smartly layered and fast paced, with many clever touches. It was great fun to watch. “A Portrait of Kim,” which takes place in the bedroom of the Boggses’ teenage daughter (Kerry Biggins as the ingenue), has an intriguing premise. Deposited into this pink boudoir, a bewildered Edward admires three life-size pictures of Kim. They come alive through his yearning glances. Unfortunately, what could have been an enchanting dream ballet was shortchanged by bland und undistinguished choreography.
“Topiary Garden” was Scissorhands’ more successful dream ballet. Bourne had Edward and Kim waltzing through and with whimsically trimmed, tutu-wearing bushes. Though using fairly standard steps and patterns — I saw echoes of both Fred Astaire and George Balanchine — he deftly combined them for a first act closer resplendent with wit, charm, and emotion.
The “Farewell” pas de deux, at the end of the piece, showed just how good Bourne can be. Here the two lovers unite for the first and last time. Back-to-back, in and out of each other’s arms, they swirled and swooned and held each other. When Kim finally came to rest inside Edward’s enfolding embrace, the scissors against her chest looked like silver flowers. (Rita Felciano)
Through Dec. 10
Orpheum Theater
1192 Market, SF

Plays of the year


› a&eletters@sfbg.com
You may not have noticed, but an unprecedented theatrical experiment was launched nationwide last week. Its San Francisco segment unfolded the night of Nov. 23 before an audience of 80 to 100 people in a modest wood-shingled community center atop Potrero Hill, with the playwright who started it all in attendance.
Suzan-Lori Parks’s 365 Days/365 Plays project — a national yearlong grassroots theatrical festival premiering a unique and audacious play-a-day cycle by one of the country’s foremost dramatic voices — took off at a benefit performance put on by the Z Space Studio as a group of 11 performers, directed by Lisa Steindler and director-actor Marc Bamuthi Joseph, unveiled the first seven playlets in the cycle.
The pieces (each no longer than 10 minutes) percolate with a mixture of mischievous invention, absurdist humor, pointed irony, and somber reflection on a variety of themes. In the first, for example, the aptly titled Start Here, an African American man gets vague encouragement and direction as he prepares, with some trepidation and confusion, to head out on a path as obscure, ambiguous, and mysterious as the history behind him. (The names of the characters, Arjuna and Krishna, invoke the tale of the Bhagavad Gita and overlay it on this seemingly American allegory.) In another piece, a young woman from a long line of “good-for-nothings” fails miserably to make nothing of herself — rejected by a crowd as inadequately worthless, she is forced to reinvent herself as something instead.
In Veuve Clicquot, which deftly reframes a comic situation into one of pathos and acute ambivalence, a seeming gourmand is in the process of ordering a sumptuous meal until his waiter balks at his pretension, and a chorus of women haunts him with the ethereal voice of his departed victim — whose own last meal, as it turned out, was nothing all that special.
Well acted and smartly blocked on and around a nearly bare stage (with some choice choreography added by six female dancers), the evening’s performances coincided with similar premieres around the country involving a wide range of local theater companies (more than 800 and counting) that have each signed on to produce a week’s worth of Parks’s yearlong cycle (which she composed daily for one full year, beginning in November 2002). Locally, the project is spearheaded by the Z Space Studio, Playwrights Foundation, and Cutting Ball Theater (the last of which recently staged a very fine production of Parks’s The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World). The Bay Area manifestation of the 365 Days/365 Plays festival (which runs daily to Nov. 12, 2007) will ultimately involve more than 40 companies and 300 theater artists. This week’s shows are by the all-female Shakespeare company Women’s Will.
Parks — the Pulitzer Prize–winning creator of Topdog/Underdog, In the Blood, and The America Play, among other works (including screenplays and a novel) — was in a jocular and expansive mood during the Q&A. She explained her commitment to the idea of writing a play a day for one year as the product of an inclination to entertain any idea that comes into her head — “through the window of opportunity,” she laughed, nodding to the suspended prop window stage left that had featured as the thematic and titular center of one of that evening’s seven playlets.
Plays in the cycle beyond these first seven run a varied and quirky gamut of inspirational matter, with themes of war, family, and spiritual life among the leitmotifs. There are pieces that revisit some of the playwright’s favorite themes (Abe Lincoln comes around again), some that pay homage to people who happened to have passed on during the course of the year (Johnny Cash, for instance), others that take off from real-life encounters (one piece incorporates Parks’s meeting with Brad Pitt, for whom she was developing a screenplay). At the same time, the festival aims to do much more than showcase Parks’s enviable talents. Each company is free to stage the plays as it sees fit, giving the festival a panoramic scope that takes in the diversity of the whole theatrical scene. This kind of coordinated national grassroots effort — something Parks described as an extension of a process of “radical inclusion” — has probably not been seen since the days of the Federal Theater Project in the 1930s.
According to Parks, many of her best ideas for the stage have come from entertaining spontaneous ideas others would prudently dismiss after a gratifying chuckle. (Two African American brothers named Lincoln and Booth? Why not?) In her telling, it was her husband, blues musician Paul Oscher, who first responded affirmatively from the couch to her spontaneous idea to write a play a day for a year. “Yeah?” she asked. “You really think it’s a good idea?” That, apparently, was enough. The rest is theater history. SFBG
365 PLAYS/365 DAYS
Through Nov. 12, 2007
This week: Fri/24–Sun/26
Oakland Public Conservatory of Music
1616 Franklin, Oakl.
Pay what you can, $15–$25 suggested
(510) 420-1813

Les, lady, les


› kimberly@sfbg.com
SONIC REDUCER Viva les wild children, woodsmen, and Francophones and the ’philes that love them — wherever they may quaff cheap Beaujolais, don camembert-scented berets, and talk terroir ’n’ Bataille. Zut alors! The clichés, the pretensions, the sauces — and the only thing red-blooded freedom fries–gobbling Americans have consistently felt way superior about has been le rock. Thank your “Rockin’ in the Free World” and shake that deep-fried turkey butt on over here.
Nouveau chanson cuties like Benjamin Biolay, sis Coralie Clement, and ex Keren Ann have done their part to make a mark, but apart from late éminence grise Serge Gainsbourg and more recently Air, has French rock ever caught much respect? Can heart-throbber Phoenix get a break — never mind the fact that vocalist Thomas Mars has knocked up Sofia Coppola? Is this even an issue, one wonders, cocking an ennui-stricken ear to the latest from Snoop Dogg, the Game, Yusef (a.k.a. Cat Stevens in so-soft-it’s-nearly-subliminal mode), and Tom Waits?
The recent steady stream of très quirky French and French-language releases makes a case for tripping over Frédéric Chopin’s and Jim Morrison’s headstones at Paris’s Père Lachaise cemetery in search of l’espirit de Gallicore, especially when stateside pop generally seems to be suffering from a bad-news hangover — with Britney’s breakup and Whitney’s move out. And they’re unabashedly wild enfants terribles all — in the not-so-mute mode of the 19th-century Wild Boy of Aveyron — beginning with Serge’s spawn Charlotte Gainsbourg, whom most recall entering the musical arena by way of a notorious duet with dad, his 1984 song “Lemon Incest” (the vid had the 12-year-old Charlotte passionately clutching pops’s pants legs). Now after becoming an indie cinema heroine of sorts in Michel Gondry’s The Science of Sleep, she has released a Nigel Godrich–produced debut, 5:55 (WEA International), which finds her warbling wistfully alongside Air (whose Jean-Benoit Dunckel has his own new solo CD under the name Darkel) and Jarvis Cocker. The deliriously weaving strings and haunting melody of her single, “Songs That We Sing,” directly probes the sensuous, nostalgic vibe of her père’s mind-scorching masterpiece Histoire de Melody Nelson (Fontana).
Still, 5:55 is aeons away in its shy, coltish sleekness from other recent oddities — including those of the Lille, France, threesome DAT Politics, who stopped in San Francisco earlier this month with a minialbum of electronic-pastiche pop punnily titled Are Oui Phony?? (Tigerbeat6). The joke plunges into the long-standing US-France tension between rockiste authenticity and cultural colonialism. DAT Politics’ bold, gawky, yet carefree rubbery squeaks, bleats, and breakbeats sidestep and then frenetically bob alongside the entire issue.
Another disarming and ungainly recent disc owns its vulnerability like a bared breast: Le Volume Courbe’s I Killed My Best Friend (Honest Jons) is a gently dissonant, whispery, and eclectic set of songs that seem to circle the emotional nakedness of folk with some of the honest, strange imprint of classic post-punk and experimental electronic musak. Backed by My Bloody Valentine’s Colm O’Ciosoig and Kevin Shields and Mazzy Star’s Hope Sandoval and David Roback, London–by–way–of–Pays de la Loire, France, songwriter Charlotte Marionneau blends intimate, homespun-sounding and occasionally instrumental originals with the odd cover, like Nina Simone’s “Ain’t Got No … I Got Life.” Her album financed by Alan McGee for his Poptones imprint when her first single for the Creation Records pooh-bah’s label sold out its 1,000-copy pressing in a week, Marionneau sounds like a bleary-eyed Feist hooked on Mum and Smog.
And speaking of that Canadian-French darling, it turns out there are other Francophone wonders up north. Montreal’s pop-punk and ye ye combo Les Breastfeeders underwire-support their fine, fine moniker with a forthcoming full-length, Les Matins de Grands Soirs (Blow the Fuse), due in February. And then there’s the city’s Les Georges Leningrad, who come to town this week with their third disc, Sangue Puro (Tomlab). Could these irreducibly primitive beats, burly synth drones, and menacing electronic textures really be the sound, the timbre of … too much timber?
Apparently Les Georges Leningrad have rustic roots that no one suspected, in complete contradiction to their press release, according to guitarist and ML-RCC synth tweaker Mingo L’Indien, speaking from Houston and hung over from partying with Quintron the previous night in New Orleans. “Me and Bobo [Boutin], the drummer — we were working in the woods. A timberjack kind of thing, working in the woods for a paper company, and we just notice this girl named Poney [P, vocalist and synth player] who was a secretary there, so one day we do a staff party for big company.”
“This is a very basic story,” he continues charmingly in wood-chipped English. “There’s not too much to say about it. It’s not like the other bands. We are very simple people, just cutting trees and bringing it to the company, and we start a band, and now we are in Houston tonight, and we still working there sometimes.”
Cutting down trees?
“No, we are just in Montreal working on our art, but we do a lot of art about woods and bats and raccoons and bears and mammals because we were in the woods for so long time that we can’t quit this feeling to be a savage, you know.”
“Eli Eli Lamma Sabbacthani” does ride on a kind of tribal chant, though more of Sangue Puro, such as the dark, threatening “Ennio Morricone,” sounds more like toxic aural terror or the “petrochemical rock” their PR touts. Nonetheless, Mingo insists Les Georges Leningrad are simple if art-damaged folk.
“I don’t know how to describe it — this is too new for us,” he demurs. “It is like we eat a big steak and we need to take a walk a little bit to digest it. If you ask me this question in two years, I will be able to answer you, but for us it is like a dream that is not finished.”<\!s>SFBG
Sat/25, 10 p.m.
Bottom of the Hill
1233 17th St., SF
(415) 621-4455

Time changes


› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com
CHEAP EATS In honor of my French sister’s birthday I ordered a chicken pesto crepe with fromage and how-you-say, toasted almonds, hold the mushrooms ($8.50). It was eight in the morning.
The waitressperson looked at her watch.
“Is it too early for crepes?” I asked. “Do I need to get an omelet?”
She looked at her watch again, shrugged, looked toward the kitchen. It was five in the afternoon in France, but luckily I didn’t need to argue this point, because she let me have my crepe, pesto and all.
Earl Butter wasn’t eating. I’d offered to buy him something, but he just wanted coffee. I don’t know why he wasn’t hungry, but I do know (because sometimes I sleep in his closet) that he wakes up at four in the morning, has breakfast, and then goes back to sleep. Anyway, he did have a cup of coffee and a lot to say while I was chewing things over.
“Colma has more dead people in it than live people,” he said.
“Is that why you always want to go there for breakfast?” I said.
“Not necessarily,” he said. “I just like being in cars.”
I offered him a taste of my crepe, which was fantastic, because you can’t go wrong with chicken and pesto and feta, I think it was.
“Good,” he said, and he said it again after I offered him a taste of the potatoes, which were fantastic. They were cooked in some kind of a ramekin and then plopped onto the plate, crispy outside and creamy underneath. Fantastic.
So good that 10 days later when I woke up in Earl Butter’s closet again, needing something to eat, I said, “What about that place?”
“In Colma?”
“No,” I said. “On Divis. With the upside-down potatoes. My new favorite restaurant.”
“With the crepes?”
Yes. It came to me: the Bean Bag Café. I remembered because when I sleep in Earl Butter’s closet, I’m sleeping on beanbags, and my body I think retains the information. This doesn’t sound comfortable, I know, but these are my favorite nights’ sleep. Closets are dark, and my chickens have me trained to spring out of bed at the first creak of daylight, no matter where in the world I am.
Except in Earl Butter’s closet, where daylight dares not tread, I get to sleep in, and as a result it was closer to lunchtime than breakfast by the time we were in the Bean Bag, placing our order. Baja omelet for him ($7.50), La Mancha omelet for me ($8.50).
Again: fantastic! Well, mine was, because it had grilled chicken, sun-dried tomatoes, green onions, and provolone, hold the mushrooms. Earl’s Baja, which I didn’t taste and didn’t want to, featured soy chorizo with avocado, black beans, salsa, and sour cream. I don’t think he saw the word soy before he ordered and was expecting the real thing.
So he was disappointed about that and disappointed because this time there were people there. It was late morning on a Sunday. We got the last open table, in the middle of the café. There’s also a kind of a closed-in patio and a couple tables out on the sidewalk.
“Turn around,” Earl Butter said, with a scowl, halfway through our meal.
I turned around, and there was a line winding out the door.
“You didn’t tell me you were bringing me where people were,” he said.
To make it up to him, I washed about a month’s worth of Earl’s dishes, swept his kitchen floor, took the garbage out, then drove him to West Oakland, and put him in a car with my brother, so now, while I’m writing this, he’s somewhere in Nevada or Utah or Wyoming, where people aren’t. He gets to spend Thanksgiving with my family, in Ohio. And I get to cook in his clean kitchen, sleep in his big bed if I want, and go to Guerneville and play cards with Choo-Choo and Ding-a-Ling-a-Ling and all their fabulous friends.
I’ll probably also go back to the Bean Bag at least once, because I do love their potatoes and people and because besides eggs and crepes they also have burgers, bagels, smoothies, salads, and sandwiches with names that make me feel at home: Sonoma, Petaluma, Bodega Bay …
What are you doing for Thanksgiving? SFBG
Mon.–Fri., 7 a.m.–9 p.m.;
Sat.–Sun., 8 a.m.–9 p.m.
601 Divisadero, SF
(415) 563-3634
Takeout available
No credit cards
Wheelchair accessible

Turkey in the sky


› paulr@sfbg.com
Airline food was a rich lode of material for jokery — until there was no more airline food. In the wake of Sept. 11 and apparently as part of the airline industry’s determination to make air travel as uncivilized and distressing an experience as possible, meal services were replaced by the peddling — cash only, please, and exact change preferred — of boxed junk: cookies, crackers, Velveeta spread, and all of the other industrial, hyperprocessed, sclerosis-inducing unfood that has made America the land of the fat.
I was stunned, then, on a recent Hawaiian Airlines flight to Honolulu, to be presented with not only an actual meal — free! — but a choice of meals. A turkey croissant sandwich, a bag of chips, an oatmeal cookie: it wasn’t much, but it wasn’t bad, either, and I was beyond thankful to have it. Although flying is an ordeal at best, it is slightly less so when one’s stomach isn’t growling for hours on end and one isn’t constantly rummaging through one’s carry-on bag for a blackened banana or a fistful of Trader Joe’s dried cherries or salty pistachio nuts while wondering if one has enough cash to buy one of those $9 airport wraps when one lands, and how many unbearable moments hence will that be?
If food is civilization, in some basic way, what does that make the deliberate withholding of food from or the hawking of barely edible dreck to a captive and immiserated population? Insulting is one word that springs to mind; abusive is another. In recent years all of corporate America, not to mention the Bush government, seems to have been on a savage quest to find out just how much mistreatment the subject population would accept and how much said population would pay to be mistreated. And the answer seemed to be, on both counts, a lot, at least until the Nov. 7 elections, when the word Enough! at last rang across the land. Even I heard it, and I was in Hawaii, not at all hypoglycemic despite the five-hour flight and the usual where-is-the-luggage circus. A big aloha (sayonara version) to George and the gang back in DC, and an even bigger mahalo to the voters of America, who finally resisted the temptation to hit the snooze bar yet one more time.

Where the buffalo roam


› paulr@sfbg.com
Many hamburger places are at some pains to keep you from seeing, or wondering, exactly what’s going into — as opposed to on top of — your burger. So I was rather surprised to find, at Bullshead Restaurant (a West Portal spot that recently opened a branch in the Castro), a glass display case near the entryway, laid out with various high-end-looking cuts of meat along with a selection of preshaped burger patties, as at a butcher’s shop.
“Is this stuff for sale?” I asked.
A staffer behind the counter nodded.
“Even the buffalo burgers?”
“Yes. They’re $10.95 a pound,” she said. She pointed out the buffalo burgers in the case, where they lurked in the back, behind their beef counterparts, and were distinguishable from same by a darker color, almost the purplish shade of a bruise, as were the strip and loin steaks. My first thought was that $10.95 per pound is a little steep for hamburger, even if beautifully formed into grill-ready patties, but on the other hand it’s roughly comparable to the tariff for Boca Burgers, the excellent poseurs made of soy.
Buffalo meat is also supposed to be better for you than beef: lower in calories and cholesterol, higher in protein. The restaurant’s documentation contends that eating it contributed to the well-being and longevity of the various tribes of Plains Indians, for whom the animal was an important source of food. Even if the health factor is a wash, we should still cast a kindly eye on buffalo meat: the buffalo is an American original, its return from near-extinction is a modest but real ecological triumph, and the burgers made from its flesh are, quite frankly, superior to beef burgers, at least at Bullshead.
They are also a little more expensive, on the order of a buck to a buck and a quarter per order, depending on the dosage of meat you want. (You choose between third- and half-pound allotments, and your options include, in addition to buffalo and beef, organic beef and turkey.) But they are dressed just like their more plebeian siblings, in garb that ranges from a simple slice of cheese (American, Swiss, cheddar, jack, or mozzarella) to more elaborate combinations involving mushrooms, bacon, blue cheese, and avocado. There is even a Hawaiian burger, topped with pineapple rings — shades, for some of us, of the dread Hawaiian pizza from undergraduate days.
But let us first consider the terrain as it might appear to a vegetarian or someone who just isn’t that hungry. Our party one evening included such a person, and her eye was first drawn to the ocean burger, where said eye remained until we were told the fish was deep-fried. So long, see you tomorrow. That left the garden burger ($8.95), which the menu card laconically described as a “grilled vegetarian patty” with slices of avocado and a sauté of mushrooms and onions. I was not feeling too optimistic in this matter, fearing that we would be served one of those disks of mashed legumes with bits of carrot and peas and a few sprouts shooting forth like strands of uncombable hair. But the vegetarian patty turned out to be quite nearly fantastic, of plausibly burgerish texture and well seasoned with cumin and just enough cayenne pepper to be interesting. The avocado and sauté were fine, and the side of coleslaw needed only some salt to pass muster.
The pepper jack buffalo burger ($9.75 for a one-third-pound edition) didn’t carry much of a pepper charge — a pity, since pepper jack cheese is a lively variant of a stolid old standby. But the meat was so luxurious it did not matter: it was intensely flavored without being greasy and had been cooked medium rare, as ordered, with a center rosy as a child’s cheeks on a bright winter morn. The organic-beef version (also $9.75 for one third of a pound) was creditable, but it did not have quite the intensity of flavor or the moistness.
We tried the latter — along with an excellent pastrami sandwich ($7.95) served with commendable fries — at the Castro location, which opened recently in one of those upstairs-downstairs buildings across the street from the Cala Market. Previously there had been several generations of Italian restaurants in the split-level space, and a canopy of inverted wine goblets still hangs like a flock of glass bats on a rack above the bar on the main floor. The aura is sunny and pleasant, with an unobstructed view of street traffic (which is ceaseless and stares right back at you), but it doesn’t feel like a place that serves buffalo wings and buffalo burgers, and it doesn’t look anything like its West Portal sibling.
“Don’t you feel like we’re at a restaurant someplace in the Midwest?” one of my companions said apropos the latter location. Yes: apart from the display cases up front, the senior Bullshead is a warren of old wood, yellowish floors, and yellowish light and could easily be named the Pine Cone and be seated beside one of those old two-lane US highways that crisscrossed the country in the long-ago days before the interstates. The setting is a little creaky, yes, a little dowdy, but it is also friendly, and familiar in a profound way. It’s a little bit like the diner in Diner, a spot for impromptu gatherings by the cheerful young, or that nameless café in the cartoon strip Blondie where Dagwood Bumstead is always stuffing his face at lunch. I don’t think that place serves buffalo burgers, at least not yet.SFBG
West Portal: Tues.–Sat., 11 a.m.–10 p.m.; Sun., 11 a.m.–9 p.m.; Mon., 11 a.m.–9:30 p.m.
840 Ulloa, SF
(415) 665-4350
Castro: Sun.–Thurs., 11 a.m.–10 p.m.; Fri.–Sat., 11 a.m.–11 p.m.
4230 18th St., SF
(415) 431-4201
Beer and wine
Pleasant noise level
Castro location not wheelchair accessible

Happiness science


› annalee@techsploitation.com
TECHSPLOITATION I took a five-question happiness quiz, and it turns out I’m very satisfied but not overly so. If I start feeling down, the quiz advised, I should look inside myself for answers.
No, I wasn’t reading Cosmopolitan or OKCupid.com. The quiz was part of a study by happiness researcher Ed Diener, a psychology professor at the University of Illinois.
Over the past couple of years, happiness has come into vogue as an object of study. Everybody from renowned British economist Richard Layard to philosophers and neuroscientists have been weighing in on what happiness is and how we can make more of it.
While neuroscience struggles to untangle the mystery of whether dopamine boosts our happiness and which parts of the brain are active when people report being happy, social science has an easy answer. Just ask.
Most studies of happiness are based on simple quizzes like Diener’s. Like many psychologists, Diener assumes that people will be honest when asked how happy they are and that they can gauge their own happiness levels. Because there’s no way to measure happiness objectively, most studies call self-reported happiness a form of “subjective well-being.”
It turns out that these subjective tests are quite revelatory.
Economist Layard published a book last year called Happiness in which he discusses one of the surprising results of these tests: money doesn’t make people happier. The only time people’s subjective well-being rises as a result of cash is when the money takes them out of poverty. Middle-class people who become upper-class, however, don’t report feeling any happier. In fact, happiness levels in the United States have remained steady since the 1950s, despite the fact that the nation itself has become much wealthier.
If money doesn’t make us happy, Layard argues, we should be rethinking our priorities. Most people value happiness above all else, but they live in nations where progress and social good are equated with money.
Why not value other things that might make us genuinely happy? After all, the Declaration of Independence promises that the government will safeguard its citizens’ “pursuit of happiness.” The problem is how to implement a pro-happiness policy.
You’d think there would be a lot of disagreement among scientists about what makes people happy, but in fact there are a few basic things everyone agrees lead to happiness. Strong, intimate relationships with others are integral to happiness, as is self-esteem in the face of setbacks. One of the big happiness killers turns out to be “keeping up with the Joneses,” or comparing yourself to other people who are somehow better off than you.
People with a strong sense of self are less likely to engage in this kind of comparing and are also more likely to be stable, which is another ingredient in happiness.
Philosopher Joel Kupperman points out in his recent book Six Myths about the Good Life that happiness isn’t always the nice thing it’s cracked up to be. There are clearly immoral kinds of happiness, such as enjoying murder. Then there’s the problem of mistaking pleasure for happiness. Pleasure is fleeting and based on objects outside us (like good food or a movie or winning the lottery). It doesn’t contribute to a sense of self-esteem. Taking pleasure in our hard-won accomplishments is more likely to lead to the good kind of happiness that builds self-reliance. One can even have too much happiness and never develop the emotional skills required to endure hardship or setbacks.
A healthy consciousness, Kupperman argues, isn’t entirely happy. Indeed, he says, good philosophy should make its readers unhappy because it forces them to confront their ethical and logical vulnerabilities.
I was relieved to read Kupperman’s criticism of happiness, because Layard and many of his cohorts seem to take it for granted that happiness is a good thing. And this leads them down the thorny path of inventing policies to maximize happiness, such as (in Layard’s case) preventing divorce, banning television, and handing out antidepressant drugs in even greater numbers than they are already.
It’s good to know that there’s a scientific basis to the truism that money can’t buy happiness. But trying to legislate how people make themselves happy is an ethical and scientific dead end. All we can do is grant everyone the freedom to find fulfillment and enough money to bring them the happiness created by a relief from poverty. The rest is just subjective. SFBG
Annalee Newitz is a surly media nerd whose happiness is bigger than yours.

Bumpy ride


› andrea@altsexcolumn.com
Dear Andrea:
I’m a 50-year-old male. I’ve been married for 23 years and have two grown kids. The problem is my wife. She has never needed or been interested in sex. I have tried everything — books, videos, even suggesting counseling. She says no, there’s no problem. Our wedding night was a disaster. Is there any hope for me? What can I do?
High and Dry
Dear Dry:
File for divorce or pray for a painless, early death. I just don’t see another way out for you, sorry.
That was flip and a little cruel, and I do apologize but only sort of. You knew that sex was not, let’s say, a priority for her way back when you were dating, what, 25 years ago? And you married her anyway and cemented your relationship by having children and further enforced the union’s permanence by staying with her after the children were grown. I’m going to assume that you did all this because you actually love your wife, not merely because you were willing to sacrifice yourself on the altar of nice-guyism. Either way, you don’t sound like you’re going anywhere, and I applaud that. But your wife is right: there is no problem, or rather, she does not have a problem, and the fact that you have one is not her problem either. Since she isn’t broken, you can’t fix her. She is the “doesn’t need sex” model, and there’s no kind of rigging her up with after-market parts that’s going to change that. If you love her and don’t want to leave her, I’m afraid you’re stuck with it.
I print your letter not so much because I think that hearing “Sorry, you’re stuck with it” is going to be of any earthly use to you but as a warning to the many much younger people who write in wondering if their otherwise “perfect” boyfriends, girlfriends, or — worse — fiancés can be induced to change their apparently deeply wired sexual preferences (or lack of same) before the wedding. I said no. I still say no. I am using you, somewhat without your consent, as an exhibit, Exhibit A, the purpose of which is to demonstrate how much I really meant “no” when I said it. No. People who are already interested in some kinds of sex can quite often be induced to try some other kinds. People who are reluctant to be sexual may be coaxed into letting go of fears or inhibitions. People who simply do not care about sex — the way I simply do not care about, say, sports — are probably not going to change. It isn’t like I’ve never seen or played any sports. I have done both. I’m just not excited about it, and no amount of nagging at me to get excited would ever have the desired effect. Quite the opposite.
Dear Andrea:
What does it mean when a woman does the “walk and bump,” meaning a guy is standing there minding his own business, and a woman walks by and bumps his crotch with the back of her hand when she clearly has room to clear without contact? I have asked females about this, but I can’t seem to break the code of silence. I perceive several different reasons why they do this. but I want to hear what you have to say.
Do the Bump
Dear Bump:
This doesn’t really happen, does it? Readers? Has this ever occurred anywhere, ever, outside my correspondent’s fevered imagination? And correspondent, I ask you: which is more likely — that there is a secret cabal of crotch-bumping women and their supporters, who may not bump crotches themselves but are sworn to uphold the secrecy of those who do, or that you are a little bit nuts?
The closest thing to the “walk and bump” that I’ve ever encountered, and that only in fiction, is “elbow titting,” a disgusting pastime of sniggering, pimply youths who could not make proper, consensual contact with said body parts if their miserable, sniggery lives depended on it. There are no citations for “walk and bump” except a few descriptions of the walking habits of poorly trained dogs, which is pretty much apropos but not what we’re looking for.
I’m hardly the “women are from Mars, men crawled out of the swamp and ought to crawl back there” type, but I’ve got to say that women do not, as a rule, grope strangers on the street. Some men, very low and ill-bred men but men all the same, do. In Japan, it is the women who require protection from grabby-handed men on the subway, never the other way around. I dare say, Mr. Bump, that conscious or not, you are “walk and bump”–ing your crotch into their hands, and one of these days one of them is going to “bump” you back, with rather more force than you’ll find comfortable, so you might want to consider not doing that.
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.

The next police chief


EDITORIAL Heather Fong is not a popular police chief these days. Nine of the 11 supervisors just rejected her proposal for staffing foot patrols and insisted on one of their own — with some of the supes openly saying they had no faith in her management of the department. And inside her own department, the knives are out — the Police Officers Association (POA), which has never liked having a chief who wasn’t part of the old guard, is practically gleeful at the idea that she may be ousted, and several senior commanders are said to be moving not-so-quietly behind the scenes to try to get her job.
Mayor Gavin Newsom has given no official indication that he’s preparing to fire her (although the rumors were swirling a week ago) and neither has the Police Commission, which by law has the final say. But Fong will have put in 30 years in the department this June, making her eligible for a very sweet retirement package. It’s safe to say that San Francisco will probably be looking for a new police chief within the next 12 months.
So it’s not too early for the mayor and the commissioners to make a few very clear statements about what they expect from the next person to lead the deeply troubled department. At the very least, there has to be a national search — and we’d argue that the next chief absolutely has to come from outside the department. The sooner that message gets out, the sooner all this ugly backstabbing and internal political maneuvering will end.
San Francisco has a tradition of bringing chiefs up from the ranks; it’s almost unheard of to do anything else. The late mayor George Moscone brought in an outsider, Charles Gain, who took a few steps to make the department more accountable and less intimidating and got a furious backlash from the troops. Frank Jordan, in the sort of bizarre backroom political move that characterized much of his mayoralty, handed the job to former sheriff and supervisor Dick Hongisto — who only lasted a few months.
Other than that, it’s been business as usual — one of the senior commanders gets picked by the mayor, and the commission goes along and rubber-stamps that decision.
But this department is desperately in need of fresh blood, of an outsider with a new perspective on the situation — and more important, no previous political baggage. Right now, the POA practically runs the department, effectively vetoing all sorts of reform efforts, and any chief who defies the powerful union is crippled. The disciplinary process is a mess — cops who would have been fired without a second’s thought in most jurisdictions walk away from serious offenses with modest suspensions and are back out on the streets. Department brass treat civilian oversight with open hostility — and do so with no fear of repercussions.
The crime rate, particularly the homicide rate, continues at unacceptable levels. And as we saw with the foot patrols, nobody at police headquarters is willing to step up and try anything creative or new.
Fong, for all her flaws, has tried somewhat to accept reforms in the department and is far better than anyone else on her senior command staff. In fact, the best argument for keeping her around is that nobody who’s likely to replace her is any better. But that’s not any way to run a big-city police department.
If Fong decides to leave or the commissioners decide that she can no longer handle the job, the city needs to immediately start looking for someone who has a proven track record of accepting civilian oversight, welcoming reform, and standing up to old-school police union tactics. That, almost by definition, means an outsider. SFBG

49ers aren’t worth public money


EDITORIAL The prospect of the San Francisco 49ers moving to Santa Clara — and taking with them any hope of a 2016 Olympic bid for San Francisco — caught the Newsom administration off guard and has much of City Hall scrambling to figure out a way to keep the fabled sports franchise in San Francisco. It’s not a futile effort by any means: the deal to build a new stadium in Santa Clara still has a long way to go, and there are some very real issues (including the phenomenal parking and traffic problems and the utter lack of accessible transit).
But city officials need to keep a sense of perspective here: the loss of the Olympics was almost certainly a good thing, and the loss of the 49ers wouldn’t be the end of the world. So there’s no reason to even start to talk about handing out promises of more public money, tax breaks, or favorable land deals to keep the Niners in town.
We’ve never been terribly hot on the idea of hosting the Olympics. The last time the issue came up, with a possible bid for the 2012 games, we noted that cities hosting the Olympics tend to wind up with huge public debt and that the costs (typically including gentrification and displacement) aren’t worth the gains. Our articles infuriated local sports leaders, but we’re not the only ones raising questions these days. San Francisco Chronicle columnist Gwen Knapp, in an insightful Nov. 16 piece, suggested that the city might want to thank 49ers owner John York: “He might have saved San Francisco from a vanity project that often leaves ugly blemishes on a community’s bottom line.”
San Francisco is one of the world’s great cities, an international tourist destination, a place that’s already on everyone’s map. We don’t need the Olympics.
We may not need the 49ers either. That’s what Glenn Dickey, Examiner sports columnist, argued Nov. 14. Football teams, with a limited number of home games, bring very little to a local economy — and this is hardly a city that needs the name recognition of a National Football League franchise. “Mayor Gavin Newsom should spend his time on more critical priorities,” Dickey noted.
Of course, if the 49ers leave, something has to be done with the park formerly known as Candlestick — a white elephant that cost the city tens of millions of dollars in bonds. But almost any sort of new development there would do more for the neighborhood than a stadium filled by people who drive in, bring their own food, drive away, and spend almost no money at local businesses.
The San Francisco Giants managed to build a new stadium almost entirely with private money, and it’s been a huge financial success. The city shouldn’t be tempted to throw big chunks of public money at keeping the 49ers from moving. SFBG



› tredmond@sfbg.com
It sucks to be in jail. Trust me on this.
I’ve never been in a state prison, but I’ve done my time — in small stretches — in county, mostly for political protests, and while it all seemed so noble ahead of time and may sound noble in retrospect, when I was there it wasn’t anything except really shitty.
I was a white guy locked up for nonviolent crimes that even the authorities didn’t take too seriously and never had to stay for more than 10 days. I was never in a high-security unit or stuck with really hardcore criminals. In fact, the time I was in Santa Rita, as a guest of Alameda County, I’d been arrested with Cecil Williams, who was almost a minor deity to many of the inmates, so nobody even thought of treating us white protesters with anything but respect.
Still: it sucked.
You get up every morning and look out the heavily fortified windows to see a world from which you are utterly separated. You have no control over your life — you eat, sleep, work when you’re told. You walk where the guards tell you to walk. There is no privacy. You’re being watched all the time. A lot of the rules are totally random and are often enforced the same way; you can’t get any answers to anything, including what you may have done wrong.
By about my fifth day at Santa Rita, I had lost all sense of the righteousness of my cause. I just wanted to get the hell out of there. My only source of comfort was that I knew when my time would end.
Josh Wolf doesn’t even have that. He’s stuck in a federal pen because he won’t turn over to the authorities videotapes of a demonstration. It’s not like a 10-day or six-month sentence either: he has to stay until either he turns over the material or the grand jury that subpoenaed it dissolves. The jury’s term ends in July, but the US attorney can simply empanel a new one, renew the subpoena — and put Wolf back in jail again.
It’s a terrifying situation for a 24-year-old who never set out to be anyone’s hero or standard-bearer. I can’t imagine what it must be like. The temptation to just give up and turn the stuff over must be overwhelming. I give the guy immense credit for sticking it out and standing up for an important journalistic principle.
Wolf clearly isn’t going to get any help right now from the judicial branch. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has just rejected his final motion and announced that it won’t accept any more filings in the case.
The Society of Professional Journalists did its part by naming Wolf one of its journalists of the year. Supervisors Ross Mirkarimi and Chris Daly pushed a resolution supporting him. There might be another angle for the supes, though: this entire case exists because the San Francisco Police Department brought in the feds to investigate an anarchist rally at which a cop was hit in the head. Could the board direct the SFPD to officially revoke its request and inform the US Attorney’s Office that it no longer wants the video? Can the city officially close its investigation and tell the feds to close theirs too? At the very least, the supes should look into it. SFBG

Guilty of independent journalism


OPINION The pogrom against independent journalists who refuse to conform to corporate media definitions of what a reporter should be continues full throttle. The murder of Indymedia correspondent Brad Will on Oct. 27 on the barricades in Oaxaca by gunmen in the employ of that southern Mexican state’s bloodthirsty governor segues into the denial of the courts to release 24-year-old Josh Wolf from prison during the life of a federal grand jury.
Wolf is charged with refusing to turn over video clips of an anarchist anticapitalist march on Mission Street during which San Francisco’s finest beat the living shit out of protesters (and at which one cop claims to have been maimed).
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is now insisting that it will entertain no further motions in the case, which insures Wolf will earn a place in the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest-serving imprisoned reporter in US history.
The callous and cynical response of corporate media (with some notable exceptions) to these outrages has been as grievous as the crackdown by the courts and the death squads on independent journalists. The New York Times and its accomplices — including the New Times version of the Village Voice — insinuate that Will was less than a journalist. Will, the corporados cluck, was a tree sitter and a squatter, a troublemaker rather than a young man who reported on trouble.
Similarly, Josh Wolf is often treated as a postadolescent blogger — as if blogging were not reportage — and an anarcho-symp unworthy of the concern of serious journalists who graduated from famous J-schools.
Compare how the plights of these two brave young journalists are being spun with that of the notorious Judith Miller. Miller, whose 11 mendacious front-page New York Times stories on Saddam Hussein’s fictitious weapons of mass destruction helped justify the Bush invasion that has now taken 650,000 Iraqi lives, was jailed for refusing to give up the name of a friendly neocon who outed a CIA operative the White House did not cotton to. I submit that Miller is as much an activist as Will and Wolf — she’s just on the wrong side of the barricades.
When I was a younger fool just getting started in the word trade, I was sent off to federal prison, much like Wolf. I was the first US citizen to be jailed for refusing induction in the Vietnam War military. I wrote my first articles while imprisoned at Terminal Island Federal Penitentiary in San Pedro and helped formulate a convicts committee against US intervention (everywhere), for which I was regularly tossed in the hole, the prison within a prison. Jail was fertile turf in which to learn how to write.
When, finally, I was kicked out of the joint, the parole officer who had made my life hell for a year walked me out to the big iron gate at TI and snarled, “Ross, you never learned how to be a prisoner.”
Brad Will never learned how to be a prisoner either, and neither will, I trust, Josh Wolf. All of us, both inside this business and out, owe these two valiant reporters a great debt for their sacrifices in defense of freedom of the press.
Live, act — and report back — like them! SFBG
John Ross
John Ross, whose latest volume, ZAPATISTAS! Making Another World Possible — Chronicles of Resistance 2000–2006, has just been published by Nation Books, teaches a seminar on rebel journalism at San Francisco’s New College.

Campus crush


› news@sfbg.com
It’s easy to forget about the Villas Parkmerced.
Nestled in the foggiest, most sedate corner of San Francisco, the 62-year-old planned community feels like a slice of suburbia for seniors and families.
“There’s grass. There’s trees. There’s traffic circles where the cars can’t speed too damn much and knock off the pedestrians,” says 82-year-old Robert Pender, a tenant since 1967. “It’s forgettable suburbia in urban San Francisco.”
But the peace has been shattered recently by word that San Francisco State University is laying plans to transform its campus into a smaller version of UC Berkeley — with little apparent concern for its neighbors just across the street.
The SFSU administration has been busy at work for the past year on a new campus master plan. University officials say the body of college-bound students in California is steadily increasing and a campus overhaul is needed to accommodate that growth by 2020.
The proposed expansion calls for a conversion of many of the two-story buildings on campus to four- or five-story structures, as well as the construction of new buildings for academic, housing, and cultural purposes. A new 250-room hotel at 19th Avenue and Buckingham, a new creative arts facility, and a new gym are also on the table.
The project’s chief architect, James Stickley, told the Guardian that the master plan is about making SFSU “efficient as an urban campus” and transforming its character from a commuter campus to a destination community. In 15 years, he said, university officials expect to have 25,000 full-time students at the university (an increase of 5,000 students), many of them living on campus and taking advantage of new amenities and commercial ventures within university borders.
It’s an ambitious vision that aims to attract more students and accomplished professors to the SFSU campus. Which is great news for just about everyone — except the tenants of the 3,400-unit Villas Parkmerced, who allege not only that they were forgotten during the university planning process but also that their neighborhood is now coming under attack.
“I would love to see SFSU come out as a premier university and to have a really strong image,” said Adriana Torres, a current Parkmerced tenant and former SFSU student. She was speaking at a meeting held Oct. 24 to assess the environmental impacts of the university’s proposed master plan. “But you are not taking into consideration us, the people who live next to the students,” Torres continued. “I think what this plan is doing is, in building your image, it’s eroding ours.”
The meeting was hosted by campus planner Richard Macias and was attended by more than 70 disgruntled Parkmerced residents.
One major area of contention is the university’s proposal for Holloway Avenue, which separates much of the Parkmerced community from SFSU. The university intends to transform Holloway into what Stickley called “a campus street,” with around-the-clock commercial stores at street level and student housing above, something akin to Berkeley’s Telegraph Avenue. The university already owns much of the residential property on the south side of Holloway.
But Parkmerced tenants still occupy about 70 percent of that housing, and in their minds, plans for the gradual conversion of that property “for University uses as current occupants vacate their units,” as a university notice put it, sounds a lot like a friendly eviction letter.
“I have lived in Parkmerced all my life,” Healeani Ting said at the Oct. 24 meeting. “My grandmother died here. My mother died here. I intend to die here. Would you have me living in a relocation camp for the homeless in Fresno?”
Parkmerced tenants also assert that SFSU has drastically underestimated the impact of 5,000 additional students on the neighborhood.
Parking — no surprise — is the biggest issue. The university notes in a preliminary environmental review document that “the bulk of the University’s parking needs is met through the multistory parking garage east of Maloney Field” and therefore it won’t be adding any additional parking spots to accommodate 5,000 more students. Parkmerced tenants maintain their parking situation is already a nightmare, thanks to students snatching up spots in their community.
“If you think that you’re going to confine the garbage, the noise, the disruption to all the residents by keeping everyone along Holloway, you’re wrong,” Michelle Miller, a resident of Parkmerced and the head of a local organization called Neighborhood Watch, said at the Oct. 24 meeting. “They filter out. They all want cars. If you keep your parking flat, that’s not going to work.”
University spokesperson Ellen Griffin told the Guardian that SFSU is interested in fostering a “collegial relationship” with Parkmerced tenants and the university will be taking their complaints seriously. University officials met with Parkmerced tenants Nov. 9 to discuss some of their objections. According to Parkmerced Residents’ Organization board member Arne Larson, the university said it would consider moving graduate students and professors to Holloway instead of pursuing the campus street idea.
Of course, SFSU doesn’t have to do any of that. As a state entity, the university has the authority to create and adopt its own plans without involving the San Francisco Planning Department.
The university is preparing an environmental impact report — but no matter what the document says, the project can move forward without city review or approval.
Sarah Dennis, a senior planner with the Planning Department, told us her agency is concerned with the project on two counts: first, the campus street proposal threatens to drain 945 units from the city’s already vulnerable rental housing stock; and second, the overarching plan endangers the basic historic and cultural resources of the city. The Villas Parkmerced is one of only four urban master plan communities in the country.
“We’re hoping that they’ll follow the good-neighbor policy and that we’ll have the opportunity to get involved,” Dennis said. “But again, that’s all up to them.”
District 7 supervisor Sean Elsbernd said that he too is concerned with the SFSU master plan.
“At this point [the university is] at least recognizing this is going to have a massive impact,” Elsbernd told the Guardian, referring to the SFSU environmental impact report that is under way. “But we can guess what’s going to be in that EIR when it’s finally published: ‘Oh look, they say there won’t be much of an impact.’ That’s when the real fight happens.” SFBG

If Fong goes


› news@sfbg.com If November has been a bad month for Mayor Gavin Newsom, it’s been worse for his police chief, Heather Fong. The entire battle over police foot patrols has made Fong look terrible. She started off saying that the department simply couldn’t afford to put more cops on the streets in high-crime areas because she didn’t have the troops to do it. She and the mayor fought hard to defeat the legislation. The bill passed anyway, effectively ordering her to do what she claimed she couldn’t do, and it was vetoed by Newsom. But as it seemed likely that the Board of Supervisors had the votes to override the veto, Fong came out with her own foot patrol plan, which wasn’t all that different from what the board had approved. Suddenly, she seemed to be saying that foot patrols really were possible. After the veto override she went in another direction, telling a TV interviewer that she wasn’t sure her captains were going to follow the law anyway. Police Commission member David Campos pushed her on those apparent flip-flops at the commission’s Nov. 15 meeting, and she bobbed and ducked like a wounded quail. In the meantime, at least one Newsom ally, Sup. Bevan Dufty, proclaimed that he had no faith in the chief, and numerous others on the board publicly decried her lack of leadership. Fong sat in the board chambers Nov. 14, looking visibly shaken, and listened to it all. And rumors started swirling that Newsom was ready to fire her. Not a good sign for the city’s first female top cop, who was already under fire for the skyrocketing murder rate and for failing to hold bad officers accountable for abuses of authority. But Fong has one thing going for her: some progressives think that the immediate alternatives are even worse. Campos, a proponent of foot patrols, told us he was critical of the chief’s reaction to the supervisors’ plan — a plan that the board only decided to implement after watching crime levels rise for three years straight and gaining unanimous backing from the Police Commission and significant support from a frustrated public. But he’s not so sure giving Fong the ax will help. “I understand the criticisms,” Campos told us, “but as a progressive, I’m worried what will happen to police reform if Fong is no longer there. Under her leadership we’ve seen a dramatic change in approach from that of her predecessors. There’s been less conflict, and her focus has been on how to get the job done without drama. She’s not a bomb thrower, and that’s been a real positive change.” The politics of the situation are complicated: sure, some progressives are furious at the chief — but a lot of the pressure to get rid of her is also coming from the police union and the old guard at the department. “Some of the people who are critical of her are those who also aren’t keen on reform and have tried to slow down the reform promises contained within Prop. H,” Campos explained. “To me, that raises my concern. I don’t want those people to succeed in their efforts. Their track record has not been good.” Sup. Tom Ammiano added, “You can change the chief, but that won’t address the real problems.” Commission member Theresa Sparks noted that “Chief Fong has brought a strong sense of integrity and a lot of administrative order to the department and made some changes of command staff. My only concern is the willingness of the rank and file to follow her leadership, given that she has such a different leadership style.” Sparks argued that whenever Fong leaves, the commission ought to go beyond the traditional practice of promoting from within. “There’s a number of qualified people within the department who certainly should apply,” she said, “but San Francisco might benefit from looking farther afield, much like Los Angeles did.” There will, no doubt, be tremendous pressure to hire from within the ranks. Dufty — who, to his credit, defied the mayor and voted to overturn the foot patrols veto — is a fan of Deputy Chief Greg Suhr. Yet Suhr was one of the so-called Fajitagate defendants charged with conspiracy, although the charges against him were dismissed in court. He was in command of 100 officers during an anarchist demonstration in the Mission District in July 2005 when patrol officer Peter Shields was overwhelmed by protesters and injured. (That was the demonstration that led to the jailing of journalist Josh Wolf — see Editor’s Notes, on the cover.) Suhr blamed a communications breakdown; Fong said that wasn’t possible. Suhr was exiled to a job with the SF Public Utilities Commission shortly afterward. Police reform activists don’t consider Suhr an ally, but Dufty called him “a very strong cop.” Even so, Dufty agreed that the department might benefit from outside leadership. “We’re at a stage where the balkanization of the department is at a level I’ve never seen,” he told us. “I’ve never thought that there should be a chief from the outside, but at this time I would consider it.” SFBG

The people’s party


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Sake 1 isn’t your typical DJ. Holding a graduate degree in social work from UC Berkeley, he volunteers for Caduceus Outreach Services, providing aid to mentally ill homeless adults. He is in the middle of a year initiating as a priest of Elegua in the Lucumi faith (more commonly known as Santeria) and, among other restrictions, must wear white from head to toe, refrain from sex, alcohol, and drugs, and avoid physical contact with others. His weekly party Pacific Standard Time regularly donates a portion of its proceeds to community organizations such as DiverCity Works and the Center for Young Women’s Development. And he has continued to be an in-demand hip-hop and soul DJ, playing parties like Little Ricky’s Rib Shack in NYC and mixing compilations for outfits like Fader magazine, while relentlessly maintaining an optimistic outlook — even though 2006 saw the deaths of his brother; his best friend, DJ Dusk; and his protégé, DJ Domino.
“It has been hard to lose my best friend, my brother, and a student-friend all in the span of four months,” Sake said from his home in the Mission the week before he was to play a memorial party in New York for his brother, house producer and DJ Adam Goldstone. “But it reminds me where I come from and why I do what I do as a DJ. And I have angels all around me …”
Sake 1 (the name is his tag from his graffiti days) grew up Stefan Goldstone in the Fillmore and the avenues and graduated from Washington High School before attending UC Santa Cruz and finally UC Berkeley. He learned to mix by using records like Public Enemy’s “Night of the Living Baseheads” and Ultramagnetic MC’s “Ego Tripping” on one turntable while listening to KPOO on Sunday afternoons. His older brother in New York expanded his world with Red Alert, Pete Rock, and Marley Marl tapes, and Sake 1 soon began visiting the North Beach Tower Records, which at the time had an extensive selection of 12-inch singles. House parties in Santa Cruz followed when he went to college, and to this day the mood of those early parties is something he treasures. “I always feel like that’s something I’m trying to recapture, that house party vibe where you know everybody, where you feel safe even though it’s kinda out of control.”
Following a long list of steadily higher profile events that included Church, Soulville, and Luscious, Sake’s latest attempt to have a club that feels like a house party is Pacific Standard Time, where he is the resident DJ. The PST started in the spring of 2005 at Bambuddha Lounge, eventually moving to Levende Lounge in search of a bigger dance floor. Reflecting Sake’s diverse selections, which range from hip-hop to disco to broken beat, guests have included Daz-I-Kue from Bugz in the Attic, house producer Osunlade, and local favorites such as Mind Motion.
“Pretty much from June of 2005 until [now], it’s been packed every week, so it’s been a blessing,” Sake said. “The struggle part has been trying to keep the music progressive, keep the ideas and the organizations that we support at the forefront, and not fall back on ‘Well, we’re successful, we’re making money, and people like it, so let’s wild out and just have this bacchanal thing.’ When things become successful, it’s almost like a gift and a curse, because then people expect it to be a certain way every week, and it makes it hard to keep it changing. When it’s not successful, you can change, and nobody’s really trippin’, because nobody’s coming!” he laughed.
Saying that the party’s crowd has evolved with its success, Sake acknowledged that at times he finds it hard to strike a balance between playing the more obscure tracks he may personally favor and keeping the party rocking. At the same time, he is well aware that being successful allows him not only to reach a broader audience but to make a bigger impact when he does use his party for benefits. And keeping that success rolling may mean tempering his philosophy of selecting tracks by artists from other countries, female artists, and those that represent genres not easily slotted into the Clear Channel and MTV pigeonholes.
“At PST we struggle with trying to be this sexy, cool, tastemaker thing and then doing these community organization parties,” he reflected. “And the community organizations come and bring their bases, and their bases don’t want to hear SA-RA Creative Partners necessarily. They want to hear commercial rap, because that’s what a lot of our folks listen to.”
Nevertheless, at 11:20 on a recent Thursday night, Levende was rapidly filling up, and the already packed dance floor had no problem getting down to SA-RA’s “Hollywood.” But half an hour later there was a markedly bigger response when Sake dropped “Keep Bouncing,” a track by Too $hort featuring Snoop Dog and will.i.am that the majority of DJs digging SA-RA joints wouldn’t let near their crates.
“DJs should break records, and nightclubs should be places for not just new music but new ideas,” Sake explained. “People should be open to new sounds … and people should be open to having a nightlife experience that isn’t [divorced] from thinking about what is going on in the world outside — that [doesn’t just accept] that you have to step over homeless people to get into the nightclub, you have to disrespect the bar staff to get your drink quicker, you have to touch a girl’s ass if she won’t dance with you.” Walking the line between educating and entertaining, Sake 1 is making San Francisco a better place with a party that might just have it both ways. SFBG
Thursdays, 10 p.m.
Levende Lounge
1710 Mission, SF
(415) 864-5585



One of the most extraordinary products of recent Fillmore history is Messy Marv, a rapper whose life reflects the neighborhood’s struggle with a half century of urban renewal and the ’80s-era introduction of crack into America’s ghettos. In 1996, when he was still in 10th grade, he released his first album, Messy Situations (Ammo). Though it sold around 15,000 units, Mess admits he didn’t take music seriously at first.
“I dropped out of high school due to family issues,” he says. “I had to grow up real fast and do the man thing, but I started doin’ the street thing.”
Nonetheless, Mess’s rap reputation grew, and in 1997 he hooked up with San Quinn to record Explosive Mode (Presidential, 1998), which has sold more than 50,000 copies. “There was a lot of hype around the hood about how he was better than me or I was better than him,” Mess says. “We decided to come together, and we made a classic.”
“At that time, I was really on the street, living outta cars, doing real bad things,” he recalls. “So Quinn and his mom took me in.”
Despite his success when few in the Bay were moving many units, Mess was unable to leave the dope game, partly due to his own addiction. “I inherited a cocaine habit,” the rapper says. “I been clean for a while, but I had a really bad habit. All I can say is ‘Say no to drugs.’” Though he won’t go into details, Mess confirms his triple life as rapper, dealer, and user came to a head one night at an out-of-state show in 2001, when he was forced to jump out a fourth-floor window. “I broke both of my legs, crushed my left foot, lost a lot of blood,” Mess says. “I was in a wheelchair for six months. The doctors said I’d never walk again.”
“It gave me a whole new respect for handicapped people. I was doing shows in my wheelchair, and I rocked the whole crowd. It was a hell of a feeling that they still accepted me,” he says. “That gave me the strength to get up and walk. I learned how to walk all over again, by myself, in four months. After that I decided it was time to go somewhere else with my life.”
As if to atone for time lost, Messy Marv has since pursued his talent with a vengeance, recording a slew of projects for his own label, Scalen LLC, and labels such as Frisco Street Show, which released a reunion with Quinn, Explosive Mode 2: “Back in Business” (2006), and just dropped Explosive Mode 3 with Husalah and Jacka. In 2004, Mess inked a distribution deal for Scalen through Universal/Fontana, helping him move more than 20,000 copies each of Disobayish (2004) and Bandannas, Tattoos and Tongue Rings (2005). While he spent much of 2005 in county jail on a weapons violation, he still managed to score one of the big radio hits of the hyphy movement, “Get on My Hype,” produced by Droop-E. Most recently, he’s been on MTV and other airwaves with the E-A-Ski- and CMT-produced “So Hood,” from The Infrastructure (SMC), his album with Hunters Point rapper Guce, released under the name Bullys Wit Fullys. A self-conscious bid to end hood rivalry between the ’Moe and HP, the Infrastructure project shows Mess’s awareness of the power of his position as a role model even as he continues to spit with the most defiant swagger of any rapper in the Bay.
While Mess admits he has major deals on the table and plans to release the first of a two-volume opus titled What You Know about Me? in December, he also intends to retire thereafter in a nonbinding Jay-Z sort of way in order to concentrate on the younger acts on his label. This intention seems characteristic of the true spirit of the Fillmore as well as an acknowledgment that despite his youth, Messy Marv has already written a chapter in the district’s history. (Garrett Caples)

Gimme back my Bone?


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When pressed to define obscenity, Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart famously opined, “I know it when I see it.” For me, a more honest answer would go something like “I know it when I masturbate to it.”
Rock music, like smut, offers an equally simple metric for discerning authenticity: if listening to a band inevitably leads to a stoned argument about the fighting prowess of Bruce Lee, then it is probably real rock. I’ve debated so many Bruce Lee combat hypotheticals while listening to Black Sabbath — Bruce Lee versus genius hammerhead shark, Bruce Lee versus Loma Prieta earthquake, one-armed Bruce Lee versus Willy Wonka — that I never question their place as the supreme suicide-inducing, vengeance-advocating rock band.
The biggest Bay Area radio station that claims to rock is 107.7 the Bone. The Bone consciously sells itself as “classic rock that rocks.” When I moved to San Francisco in 2001, it was the only station that reliably got the Led out. It played a ton of Judas Priest, Led Zeppelin, and Black Sabbath — all the bands that scared me as a small boy because I knew in my heart they possessed evil powers and could, with their music, summon from the soil of the Amazon rainforest an army of cloned Adolf Hitlers. The Bone always comforted me, because it — along with Madalyn Murray O’Hare, pony kegs, bringing M-80s to school, and backward masking — inhabited the same demon-haunted rock-metal world I lived in as a frightened but fascinated child.
So I’ll never forget where I was the first time I heard the Verve’s “Bittersweet Symphony” on the Bone. It was 2 a.m. earlier this year, and I was driving west on Fell Street at 60 mph, my 1986 convertible LeBaron catching the timed lights one second after they turned green (Fell’s timed lights work at 30, 60, even 120 mph). I wanted rock and prayed for the Bone to twist me up a threefer of Ronnie James Dio. Instead, I found myself thrust into a Lady Reebok ad: vaguely self-infatuated and optimistic about everything but nothing in particular. I defensively smashed my car into a parked Cooper Mini, did a hundred push-ups and sit-ups next to the twisted wreckage, and ran off into the night. As with all time-bifurcating events — 9/11, the Kennedy assassination, being told my seventh-grade “sweats” were actually parachute pants — it’s often hard to remember what life was like before.
Joe Rock, the Bone’s most metal-friendly DJ and assistant program director, told me recently that the station tweaked its format following a 2004 listener-driven “Classic Rock A–Z Weekend” that saw requests for bands like Pearl Jam and Temple of the Dog supplant classic-rock lifers like Derek and the Dominoes and Bad Company. The switch from “metal-oriented classic rock,” the station’s previous Arbitron-monitored format, to “heritage rock,” a mix of old metal, new guitar-based grunge and post-grunge, and both old-school and contemporary Reebok rock, elicited a mild-to-moderate shitstorm from old-school Boneheads.
Why change the formula? I think the economics of commercial radio came into play. Few listeners in the 18-to-34-year-old demographic really care about Deep Purple deep tracks anymore, so the Bone started dropping in Staind and Godsmack amid Jimi Hendrix and Ozzy Osbourne. If you’re an old-school Bonehead, the change means that now you only hear KISS once in a while, unless you count all the time you and Strutter, your albino python, lock yourselves in your room and listen to every single KISS song on tape, vinyl, CD, CD box set, digitally remastered CD, and digitally remastered CD box set. If, however, you believe Stone Temple Pilots and Buckcherry are where Ted Nugent would have ended up if he didn’t OD on elk jerky and NRA propaganda, then you feel much like John Hinckley probably did after his psychologist let him watch Taxi Driver on DVD: deeply appreciative but still wondering what all the fuss is about.
The mythology of classic rock holds that everything used to be one big fantasy sequence from The Song Remains the Same: coked-up druids, trashed Hilton suites, and roadies deep into black magic. The reality is that the vast majority of classic rock is nerdy or nonthreatening. You’re more likely to hear Supertramp, Fleetwood Mac, Yes, Journey, and Jethro Tull on an Aflac commercial than see them carved into the arm of a berserker teen. The Bone has always needed to appeal to men and women, hawks and doves, parolees and nonparolees. Until the change in format, ubiquitous classic rock loser ballads like the Who’s “Behind Blue Eyes” and Pink Floyd’s “Mother” represented the shadow self of the average Aleister Crowley–worshiping Bonehead. After the tweak the Bone forced its aging listeners to ask themselves a fundamental and humbling question: “Am I getting too old for this I-Roc?” Bone listeners older than 40 — who weren’t impressionable suckers when music, fashion, advertising, and public relations merged with movies, television, and politics in the late ’80s — had to swallow a bitter pill: it’s really all the same now, just younger.
The old Bone — despite its marketing and popularity with grown men who paint their faces silver and black and dress up as Norse war gods for their children’s Pop Warner football games — always played an embarrassing amount of lame music. For every “Dirty Deeds (Done Dirt Cheap)” or “Kashmir,” there were two pieces of shit like “Gimme Three Steps” and “China Grove.” The new Bone basically employs the same formula: Rainbow, Metallica, and Alice in Chains but now with acoustic Nickelback and blink-182 thrown in for the women and the younger sensitive guys.
This, objectively, is no wimpier than the old wimpy stuff, just more corporate and more easily marketable. The new Bone plays songs that strippers born after 1984 can lap dance to and still seem credible to their under-30 clientele. A lot of the new Bone stuff — by so-called active rock bands such as Audioslave and Velvet Revolver — easily out-rocks anything by Don Henley — and anything he ever touched.
Sometimes it’s better to just sound good than appear consistent. What rocks for me doesn’t necessarily rock for my next-door neighbor, unless Alice Cooper is now living in a pupuseria on 24th Street and Harrison. As for the ultimate judge, Bruce Lee’s legacy, I say the Bone still facilitates a Bay Area dialogue, even if it’s only seen Enter the Dragon and the first 10 minutes of Game of Death. SFBG