Volume 41 Number 11

December 13 – December 19, 2006

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Powell, Baker, Hamilton — Thanks for Nothing


When Colin Powell endorsed the Iraq Study Group report during his Dec. 17 appearance on “Face the Nation,” it was another curtain call for a tragic farce.

Four years ago, “moderates” like Powell were making the invasion of Iraq possible. Now, in the guise of speaking truth to power, Powell and ISG co-chairs James Baker and Lee Hamilton are refueling the U.S. war effort by depicting it as a problem of strategy and management.

But the U.S. war effort is a problem of lies and slaughter.

The Baker-Hamilton report stakes out a position for managerial changes that dodge the fundamental immorality of the war effort. And President Bush shows every sign of rejecting the report’s call for scaling down that effort.

Meanwhile, most people in the United States favor military disengagement. According to a new Wall Street Journal / NBC News poll, “Seven in 10 say they want the new Congress to pressure the White House to begin bringing troops home within six months.”

The nationwide survey came after the Baker-Hamilton report arrived with great — and delusional — expectations. In big bold red letters, the cover of Time predicted that the report would take the White House by storm: “The Iraq Study Group says it’s time for an exit strategy. Why Bush will listen.”

While often depicted as a rebuff to the president’s Iraq policies, the report was hardly a prescription for abandoning the U.S. military project in Iraq — as Baker was at pains to repeatedly point out during a whirlwind round of network interviews.

Hours after the report’s release on Dec. 6, Baker told PBS “NewsHour” host Jim Lehrer that the blue-ribbon commission was calling for a long-term U.S. military presence: “So our commitment — when we say not open-ended, that doesn’t mean it’s not going to be substantial. And our report makes clear that we’re going to have substantial, very robust, residual troop levels in Iraq for a long, long time.”

Baker used very similar phrasing the next morning in an interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America” — saying that the report “makes clear we’re going to have a really robust American troop presence in Iraq and in the region for a long, long time.”

That was 24 hours into the report’s release, when media spin by Baker and Hamilton and their allies was boosting a document that asserted a continual American prerogative to devote massive resources to war in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East. And, in a little-noted precept of the report, it said: “The United States should assist Iraqi leaders to reorganize the national oil industry as a commercial enterprise.”

In short, the Baker-Hamilton report was a fallback position for U.S. military intervention — and for using Pentagon firepower on behalf of U.S.-based oil companies. But the report’s call for tactical adjustments provoked fury among the most militaristic politicians and pundits. Their sustained media counterattack took hold in short order.

President Bush wriggled away from the panel’s key recommendations — gradual withdrawal of many U.S. troops from Iraq and willingness to hold diplomatic talks with Syria and Iran. War enthusiasts like Sen. John McCain denounced the report as a recipe for retreat and defeat. The New York Post dubbed Baker and Hamilton “surrender monkeys.” Rush Limbaugh called their report “stupid.”

By the time its one-week anniversary came around, the Baker-Hamilton report looked about ready for an ashcan of history. Bush had already postponed his announcement of a “new strategy for Iraq” until after the start of the new year — a delay aimed at cushioning the president from pressure to adopt the report’s central recommendations. Even the limited punch of the report has been largely stymied by the most rabidly pro-war forces of American media and politics.

But those forces don’t really need to worry about the likes of Colin Powell, James Baker and Lee Hamilton — as long as the argument is over how the U.S. government should try to get its way in Iraq.

“We are losing — we haven’t lost — and this is the time, now, to start to put in place the kinds of strategies that will turn this situation around,” Powell told CBS viewers on Dec. 17. That sort of talk stimulates endless rationales for continuing U.S. warfare and facilitates the ongoing escalation of the murderous U.S. air war in Iraq.

Powell’s mendacious performance at the U.N. Security Council, several weeks before the invasion of Iraq, is notorious. But an obscure media appearance by Powell, when he was interviewed by the French network TV2 in mid-September 2003, sheds more light on underlying attitudes that unite the venture-capitalist worldviews of “moderates” like Colin Powell and “hardliners” like Dick Cheney.

Trying to justify Washington’s refusal to end the occupation, Powell
explained: “Since the United States and its coalition partners have invested a great deal of political capital, as well as financial resources, as well as the lives of our young men and women — and we have a large force there now — we can’t be expected to suddenly just step aside.”


Norman Solomon’s book “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death” is out in paperback. For more information, go to: www.normansolomon.com

Is the USA the Center of the World?


Some things don’t seem to change. Five years after I wrote this column in the form of a news dispatch, it seems more relevant than ever:

WASHINGTON — There were unconfirmed reports yesterday that the United States is not the center of the world.

The White House had no immediate comment on the reports, which set off a firestorm of controversy in the nation’s capital.

Speaking on background, a high-ranking official at the State Department discounted the possibility that the reports would turn out to be true. “If that were the case,” he said, “don’t you think we would have known about it a long time ago?”

On Capitol Hill, leaders of both parties were quick to rebut the assertion. “That certain news organizations would run with such a poorly sourced and obviously slanted story tells us that the liberal media are still up to their old tricks, despite the current crisis,” a GOP lawmaker fumed. A prominent Democrat, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said that classified briefings to congressional intelligence panels had disproved such claims long ago.

Scholars at leading think tanks were more restrained, and some said there was a certain amount of literal truth to the essence of the reports. But they pointed out that while it included factual accuracy in a narrow sense, the assertion was out of context and had the potential to damage national unity at a time when the United States could ill afford such a disruption.

The claim evidently originated with a piece by a Lebanese journalist that appeared several days ago in a Beirut magazine. It was then picked up by a pair of left-leaning daily newspapers in London. From there, the story quickly made its way across the Atlantic via the Internet.

“It just goes to show how much we need seasoned, professional gatekeepers to separate the journalistic wheat from the chaff before it gains wide attention,” remarked the managing editor of one news program at a major U.S. television network. “This is the kind of stuff you see on ideologically driven websites, but that hardly means it belongs on the evening news.” A newsmagazine editor agreed, calling the reports “the worst kind of geographical correctness.”

None of the major cable networks devoted much air time to reporting the story. At one outlet, a news executive’s memo told staffers that any reference to the controversy should include mention of the fact that the United States continues to lead the globe in scientific discoveries. At a more conservative network, anchors and correspondents reminded viewers that English is widely acknowledged to be the international language — and more people speak English in the U.S. than in any other nation.

While government officials voiced acute skepticism about the notion that the United States is not the center of the world, they declined to speak for attribution. “If lightning strikes and it turns out this report has real substance to it,” explained one policymaker at the State Department, “we could look very bad, at least in the short run. Until it can be clearly refuted, no one wants to take the chance of leading with their chin and ending up with a hefty serving of Egg McMuffin on their face.”

An informal survey of intellectuals with ties to influential magazines of political opinion, running the gamut from The Weekly Standard to The New Republic, indicated that the report was likely to gain little currency in Washington’s elite media forums.

“The problem with this kind of shoddy impersonation of reporting is that it’s hard to knock down because there are grains of truth,” one editor commented. “Sure, who doesn’t know that our country includes only small percentages of the planet’s land mass and population? But to draw an inference from those isolated facts that somehow the United States of America is not central to the world and its future — well, that carries postmodernism to a nonsensical extreme.”

Another well-known American journalist speculated that the controversy will soon pass: “Moral relativism remains a pernicious force in our society, but overall it holds less appeal than ever, even on American campuses. It’s not just that we’re the only superpower — we happen to also be the light onto the nations and the key to the world’s fate. People who can’t accept that reality are not going to have much credibility.”


Norman Solomon’s book “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death” is out in paperback. For information, go to www.WarMadeEasy.com



Dec 19

I, Mascot

Michael Capozzola really knows how it feels to hit the streets as a mascot. For four months he traveled back and forth across the country in costume for a dot-com company before the boom went kersplat. More than you or me, he has a sense of what it might be like to be a giant chicken tackled by an irate sports fan or a Disney mouse sued for sexual harassment. In his one-man show, I, Mascot, Capozzola – an excellent cartoonist who says he lives on a decommissioned tugboat off the SF coast – is ready to bring the pain. (Johnny Ray Huston)
7 p.m.
Cartoon Art Museum
655 Mission, SF
$10 ($5 for members)
(415) 227-8666

Full On Flyhead

Full On Flyhead plays metal — the type of metal made by people who understand that sometimes the best way to rock a crowd is with a double kick drum and a well-placed scream, people who understand that metal doesn’t have to be overtly ironic or painfully serious if the music is good – and, hot damn, the music is two clicks north of awesome. (Aaron Sankin)
With Hippie Grenade and Gold Star Morning
9 p.m.
Hotel Utah
500 Fourth St., SF
(415) 546-6300



Dec. 18


What could possibly get you more worked up than the ultra-dirty-hot combo of towel boy-artist? Admire these searing talents up close at the all-employee “Artworkers” show at Eros, a safe sex club for dudes. Staffers leave the terry cloth behind and invite everyone, including us with the boobs, to gander at rainbow-saturated skyscapes brushed by Jack X Taylor, portraits of ruggedly Mad Maxy hunks painted by Lance Victor Moore, and photos of drag performers snapped by the always utilikilt-clad Michel St. Germain (a.k.a. Rev. Michel). (Deborah Giattina)
6:30-6:30 p.m. reception (show continues through Feb. 28, 2007)
Eros – the Center for Safe Sex
2051 Market, SF
(415) 255-4921



Dec 17

Blind Boys of Alabama
The Blind Boys of Alabama have been around since the 1930s, when they joined together at the Talladega Institute for the Deaf and Blind in Alabama in 1937. They’ve been making top-notch gospel music ever since. In recent years they’ve risen to greater prominence through their collaborations with Peter Gabriel, Ben Harper, and Moby. This is their Christmas show, and it should be a great time for everyone. (Aaron Sankin)
2 p.m.
Davies Symphony Hall
201 Van Ness, SF
(415) 864-6000

Family Album

A hundred and fifty years ago, California’s Nevada City was the bustling heart of the Gold Rush. These days it’s known more for Joanna Newsom than mining. The harpist has described her hometown as “swarming with artists and hippies and old prospectors,” and on the Family Album compilation, Marc Snegg’s Grass Roots Record Co. takes a snapshot of some of the most talented among the first two camps. The release party will feature several of the contributors playing in revue format. (Max Goldberg)
4 p.m.
Bottom of the Hill
1233 17th St., SF
(415) 621-4455



Dec 16

Industrial Culture Film Festival 1.0
If you’re a fan of transgender Genesis, as in P-Orridge, and you don’t have the time or funds to fly out to London on a whim, then your chance has finally arrived to witness Throbbing Gristle’s first concert in 23 years. The concert movie RE~TG – at the Astoria Theater, London, 2004 receives its West Coast premiere as part of the Industrial Culture Film Festival’s first installment, an event that also includes a sure-to-be-prickly film of skin piercer and flesh stretcher extraordinaire Fakir Musafar and a panel discussion including V. Vale. (Johnny Ray Huston)
6 p.m.
Recombinant Media Labs
763 Brannan, SF
(650) 255-8947



Dec 15


After I got sick of the glitzy world of ankle modeling, I decided that I needed to shake myself up a bit. Call it kismet, but just as I’d finished my last photo shoot, a circus parade rolled by. DeVotchKa showed me everything: how to make grown men weep over a Ukrainian melody, how to send the crankiest babushka back to the breathless twirls of her childhood, how to uncross the arms of jaded hipsters with a CBGB’s-worthy squeeze of the accordion. Honestly, they did. Unless, of course, I made this story up, ankles and all. I mean, that’s what extraordinary music does, right? It makes all our stories possible. (Todd Lavoie)
With Eric Bachmann
9 p.m.
1805 Geary, SF
(415) 346-6000

Sweet ‘Stache 2006 contest

Help raise money for the Homeless Children’s Network at the “Sweet ’Stache 2006” competition, at which the city’s most accomplished mustachios compete for the title of Sweetest ’Stache. (Deborah Giattina)

7 p.m.
Rickshaw Stop
155 Fell, SF
$5 suggested donation
(415) 845-1041, www.hcnkids.org, www.m4ksf.org



Dec. 14

And a Few to Break

While local quintet And a Few to Break might be a far cry from vintage R&B and funk, the connection’s not without merit: at the base of the band’s ambitious, melodic songs – which hit upon aggressive metal and hardcore, spacey post-rock, and everything in between – lie drums with a strut and sway that would make any so-called dancepunk group blush. This show celebrates the release of their Tiny Telephone-recorded full-length debut, Procession (Relatively Conscious), which does justice to the band’s live-show MO of carefully rendered chaos. (Jonathan L. Knapp)
With Sholi, We Be the Echo, and A Pack of Wolves
9 p.m.
Bottom of the Hill
1233 17th St., SF
(415) 621-4455

Lusty Lady Holiday Party

XXXmas might come but once a year, but you don’t have to follow suit. Indulge in a little holiday cheer with the strippers of San Francisco’s favorite unionized, worker-owned co-op – and their feisty friends – at the annual Lusty Lady Holiday Party. Your Hanukwanzaamas stocking just won’t feel properly stuffed until you’ve spent an evening in the convivial company of the Lusties – whose promised performances range from lube wrestling to lap dancing and of course some good ol’-fashioned burlesque. Live bands, dauntless DJs, Fudgie Frottage, and others will raise your seasonal spirit to a fever pitch. (Nicole Gluckstern)
With the Grannies, Thee Merry Widows, and Die by Light
9 p.m.
12 Galaxies
2565 Mission, SF
(415) 970-9777



Dec 13

Public Enemy

“Once again back is the incredible rhyme animal – D! Public Enemy number one!” Yeah, that’s right: PE, perhaps the most creative, powerful, and downright shit-disturbing act in hip-hop are back, bringing the noise circa ’86-stylee, boyeeee. That includes Chuck D, Flava Flav, Professor Griff, and the S1Ws. When you feel Chuck’s voice booming through the Mezzanine’s system after all these years, you’ll know this shit is for real. (Duncan Scott Davidson)
With X-Clan and the Banned
9 p.m.
444 Jessie, SF
(415) 625-8880

“Twenty-Three Years of Hernia Milk and Ergot Dreams: A Retrospective of Caroliner and Its Homage to a 19th-Century Singing Bull”

Mysterious, mythic, perhaps even blessedly myopic in focus – that’s the highly influential band Caroliner and its leader, er, Bonnie Banks, who goes by as many names as your average deity. Banks and buds create a sure-to-be-mind-melting exhibition space embellished with props, costumes, instruments, records, books, and ephemera plucked from storage, thanks to CCA’s Echo de Pensees Sound Series organizers, Museum of Viral Memory collectivists, and show curators Marcella Faustini and Pierre Rodriguez. Caroliner give their first performance in a year and a half at this academic coming-out party of sorts. (Kimberly Chun)
Through Jan. 19
Jan. 13, 6-8 p.m. reception followed by a Caroliner performance at the CCA Graduate Center, 188 Hopper, SF
California College of the Arts
1111 Eighth St., SF
(415) 551-9213

Holiday Listings


Holiday listings are compiled by Todd Lavoie. Listings for Wed/13-Tues/19 are below; check back each week for updated events. See Picks for information on how to submit items to the listings.
“Great Dickens Christmas Fair and Victorian Holiday Party” Cow Palace, 2600 Geneva; 897-4555, www.dickensfair.com. Sat-Sun, 11am-7pm. Through Dec. 23. $8-20. Step into a day in the life of Victorian London at this annual fair featuring costumed characters from literature and history, street vendors, games, and adult-only “after dark” festivities.
Ice Sculpting Union between Gough and Steiner; 1-800-310-6563. Sat/16, noon-4pm. Jaws will drop in wonder as nationally acclaimed ice sculptors work their magic for public display.
“Reindeer Romp” San Francisco Zoo, 1 Zoo Rd, Sloat at 47th Ave; 753-7080, www.sfzoo.org. Daily, 10am-5pm. Through Jan 1, 2007. Free with paid zoo admission ($4.50-11). Here’s a chance to show the little tykes what reindeer actually look like. Take a trip to Reindeer Romp Village and admire the beautiful creatures.
San Francisco SPCA Holiday Windows Express Macy’s, Stockton at O’Farrell; 522-3500, www.sfspca.org. During store hours. Through Dec 26. Free. The SF Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals presents an adorable display of cats and dogs; all featured pets are available for adoption.
“Holidays at Dunsmuir” Dunsmuir Historic Estate, 2960 Peralta Oaks Court, Oakl; (925) 275-9490, www.dunsmuir.org. Sat-Sun, 11am-5pm. $7-11. Through Sun/17. The mansion presents self-guided tours of its historic grounds, holiday teas, horse-drawn carriage rides, and more.
Knight Ridder’s Downtown Ice Circle of Palms, S Market across from Plaza de Cesar Chavez, San Jose; (408) 279-1775, ext 45, www.sjdowntown.com. Through Sat/16, Jan 2-14: Mon-Thurs, 5-10pm; Fri, 5pm-midnight; Sat, noon-midnight; Sun, noon-10pm. Dec 17-24, 26-30: noon-midnight. Dec 25: 2pm-midnight. Dec 31-Jan 1: noon-10pm. $12-14. A glide around this outdoor rink is a perfect way to ring in the holidays; price includes skate rentals.
“Holiday Sweater Good Vibe Drive” Ashkenaz, 1317 San Pablo, Berk; www.falcorandfriends.com. Sun/17, 9pm, $15. Throw on your most Cosby-licious sweater and head down to Ashkenaz for an evening of socially conscious entertainment by the Everyone Orchestra and Magicgravy. Falcor and Friends, in conjunction with Conscious Alliance, encourage attendees to not only sport their cheesiest in knitwear finery but also to bring a new, unwrapped toy or gift to help those in need in the Bay Area.
“Ask a Scientist Holiday Trivia Contest Party” Bazaar Café, 5927 California; 831-5620. Tues/19, 7pm, free. Looking to flex your trivia muscles a bit? The Exploratorium’s Robin Marks hosts an evening of holiday-themed noggin-scratching and chest-puffing with a science quiz show. Bring your own team or form one with other people who show up; winners receive drinks, prizes, and Nobel Prizes. OK, I made the last part up …
“Bill Graham Menorah Day” Union Square; 753-0910. Sun/17, 2-5pm, free. Honor the Bay Area legend and celebrate the Festival of Lights with music by hip-hop artists Chutzpah and rocker Rebbe Soul. A ceremony follows the performances, culminating in the lighting of the third candle of the Bill Graham public menorah at 5pm.
“DJ Abel’s Black XXXMas” Factory, 525 Harrison; www.industrysf.com. Sat/16, 10pm-6am, $30. Industry and Gus Presents join forces to deliver one of the biggest holiday bashes in the city. Alegria superstar DJ Abel pumps bootylicious beats for revelers wishing to work off all of those Christmas candy calories.
“Good Vibrations Goodie Shoppe Ball” Club NV, 525 Howard; www.goodvibes.com. Thurs/14, 8pm-2am. $20-25. Good Vibrations will satisfy your more carnal Christmas wishes with an evening of sensual revelry hosted by Dr. Carol Queen and blues temptress Candye Kane, who will also perform. Jack Davis brings his inspired designs to the runway with his Lick your Lips line, and Miss Kitty Carolina raises temperatures with a festively feisty burlesque show. Candy-themed attire is encouraged.
“Old English Christmas Feast and Revels” Mark Hopkins International Hotel, One Nob Hill; 431-1137. Sun/17, 4pm, $80-130. Reservations required. A five-course dinner fit for royalty and a performance by the Golden Gate Boys Choir are certain to make for a memorable holiday celebration.
“Telegraph Avenue Holiday Street Fair” Telegraph between Bancroft and Dwight, Berk. Sat/16-Sun/17, 11am-6pm. Also Dec 23-24. Free. The Telegraph business district transforms into a street party with an impressive array of live music, fine food, and unique handicrafts from area artisans.
“A Cathedral Christmas” Grace Cathedral, 1100 California; 1-866-468-3399. Fri, 7pm; Sat-Sun, 3pm. $15-50. Through Dec 22. The Grace Cathedral Choir of Men and Boys, with orchestra, sings a program of holiday favorites.
“A Chanticleer Christmas” St. Ignatius Church, 650 Parker; 392-4400. Sat/16, 8pm, $25-44. Grammy Award winners Chanticleer, a 12-man a cappella choir, sings a program of sacred and traditional holiday music. Along with holiday carols, the group performs medieval and Renaissance sacred works and African American spirituals.
“Alien For Christmas Party” Hotel Utah Saloon, 500 Fourth St; 546-6300. Sun/17, 9pm, $6. Be sure to dress up in your favorite alien attire for an evening of wacky fun. Groovy Judy and special guests Third Date and Mobius Donut will bring the funk-rock your holiday season so desperately needs.
“Ariela Morgenstern’s Classical Cabaret” Old First Church, 1751 Sacramento; 474-1608, www.oldfirstconcerts.org. Fri/15, 8pm, $12-15. Need some Kurt Weill and Marlene Dietrich to get you in a jolly mood? Ariela Morgenstern, accompanied by two other vocalists, a pianist, and an accordion player, performs cabaret and musical theater favorites from the Weimar Republic right up to today’s showstoppers.
“Candlelight Christmas” Most Holy Redeemer Church, 100 Diamond; 863-6259. Fri/15-Sat/16, 8pm, $10-15. San Francisco State’s four choral ensembles from the School of Music and Dance present an eclectic program in a candlelit setting. Works performed range from Renaissance motets to gospel favorites.
“Festival of Carols” Old First Church, 1751 Sacramento; 1-888-RAG-AZZI. Sun/17, 4pm, $10-25. The Ragazzi Boys Chorus performs a medley of carols arranged by Allen and Julie Simon, with accompaniment by a chamber orchestra and guest organist Susan Jane Matthews.
“Frankye Kelly and Her Quartet” Wells Fargo History Museum, 420 Montgomery; 396-4165. Mon/18, noon-1pm, free. Treat yourself to a relaxing lunch hour with a Christmas-themed performance by Bay Area jazz-blues vocalist Frankye Kelly.
“Golden Gate Men’s Chorus Winter Concert” St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church, 3281 16th St; www.ggmc.org. Thurs/14, 8pm; Sun/17, 2 and 7:30pm. Also Dec 20, 8pm. $20. Musical director Joseph Jennings guides the Golden Gate Men’s Chorus through a repertoire of holiday favorites and audience sing-alongs.
“Handel’s Messiah” Grace Cathedral, 1100 California; 749-6350. Mon/18-Tues/19, 7:30pm, $20-55. The American Bach Soloists’ version of this classic work is sure to impress, especially when performed in such gorgeous surroundings.
“Hardcore Hanukkah Tour” Balazo Gallery, 2183 Mission; www.hanukkahtour.com. Fri/15, 8pm. $7. Mosh your way into the Festival of Lights with performances by Australian punks Yidcore, New Orleans klezmer-zydeco upstarts the Zydepunks, East Bay rockers Jewdriver, and many others. Clips from the Israeli punk documentary Jericho’s Echo: Punk Rock in The Holy Land will also be shown.
“House of Voodoo Deathmas Ball” Club Hide, 280 Seventh St; www.houseofvoodoo.com. Fri/15, 9pm, $5. If you’ve had your fill of jolly elves, creep into your darkest, deathliest goth-industrial clubwear and brood away to the sounds of DJs Hellbrithers, Geiger, and Caligari. Get your nibbles with Mizzuz Voodoo’s famously ill-willed cookies and be sure to bring something suitably gothic (and wrapped with black ribbon, perhaps) for the gift exchange.
“Martuni’s Holiday Extravaganza” Martuni’s, Four Valencia; www.kielbasia.com. Sun/17, 6pm, free. Camp it up this holiday season with an evening of martini-fuelled debauchery. Scheduled performers include Bijou, Cookie after Dark, Katya, and Kielbasia — “San Francisco’s Favorite Accordion-Playing Lunch Lady.”
“Renaissance Christmas” St. Dominic’s Catholic Church, 2390 Bush; 567-7824. Tues/19, 7:30pm, $10-20. The St. Dominic’s Solemn Mass Choir and Festival Orchestra, directed by Simon Berry, raise spirits with an inspiring program of music, including work by Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina. Sing-along carols will round out the evening.
San Francisco City Chorus Wells Fargo History Museum, 420 Montgomery; 396-4165. Tues/19, noon-1pm, free. A venerable musical institution in the city since 1979, the San Francisco City Chorus performs a program of holiday favorites.
“Season of Sound Performances” Exploratorium, 3601 Lyon; www.exploratorium.edu. Sat/16-Sun/17, noon-3pm. Free with admission. The Exploratorium hosts two afternoons of eclectic holiday entertainment, with programs including the Golden Gate Boys Choir, opera singers Kathleen Moss and Will Hart, hand bell group Ringmasters of the San Francisco Bay Area, and Eastern European folksingers Born to Drone.
“Snowfall: An Evening of Holiday Carols” Mission Dolores Basilica, 3321 16th St; 840-0675. Sat/16, 8pm. $15-20. The San Francisco Concert Chorale, accompanied by harpist Dan Levitan, evoke snow-covered landscapes with relaxing English Christmas carols.
“This Shining Night” St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church, 3281 16th St; 863-6371. Tues/19, 8pm, $15. Local men’s a cappella ensemble Musaic, led by artistic director Justin Montigne, bring tidings of comfort and joy with a program of Christmas carols and holiday songs.
“’Tis the Season Holiday Concert” St. Gregory of Nyssa, 500 De Haro; www.cantabile.org. Wed/13, 8pm, $20-25. Join the Cantibale Chorale, artistic director Sanford Dole, and pianist T. Paul Rosas in a unique holiday celebration. Poems by Robert Graves and e.e. cummings are transformed into Christmas songs, and the Chorale reinterprets Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite as a song cycle.
“What I Want for Christmas” Jazz at Pearl’s, 256 Columbus; 1-800-838-3006. Thurs/14, 8 and 10pm, $15. Jazz vocalist Russ Lorenson celebrates the release of his new holiday CD, What I Want for Christmas, with a romantic candlelit performance accompanied by the Kelly Park Jazz Quintet. Among the holiday chestnuts will be swinging Irving Berlin and Johnny Mercer numbers.
“Wintersongs” Noe Valley Ministry, 1021 Sanchez; (510) 444-0323. Fri/15, 8:15pm. $25. KITKA Women’s Vocal Ensemble explores Eastern European ethnic and spiritual traditions with a concert of carols, pre-Christian incantations, and Hebrew folk songs.
“Amahl and the Night Visitors” St. Hilary Catholic Church, 761 Hilary Drive, Tiburon; (415) 485-9460. Sat/16, 4pm. Donations accepted. Paul Smith directs Contemporary Opera Marin in its adaptation of the Menotti classic.
“Bella Sorella Holiday Show” Little Fox Theater, 2219 Broadway, Redwood City; (650) FOX-4119. Sun/17, 7pm. $16. Renowned soprano ensemble Bella Sorella will enchant audiences with songs from its new album, Popera, as well as a series of holiday favorites.
“Celtic Christmas” Sanchez Concert Hall, 1220 Linda Mar Blvd, Pacifica; (650) 355-1882. Sun/17, 3pm. $12-20. Old World holiday cheer will be had by all as Golden Bough perform Celtic carols and winter favorites, as well as its own original compositions.
“Christmas Revels” Scottish Rite Theater, 1547 Lakeside Dr, Oakl; (510) 452-3800. Fri/15, 7:30pm; Sat/16-Sun/17, 1 and 5pm. $15-42. Get a taste of Christmas in Quebec as the musical dance troupe California Revels pay tribute to French Canadian traditions.
“Harmonies of the Season” St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 114 Montecito, Oakl; (510) 652-4722. Sat/16, 7pm. $15-20. The Pacific Boychoir Academy sings a program featuring Rutter’s Gloria with brass ensemble as well as an a cappella performance of Francis Poulenc’s Four Motets for Christmas.
“Hardcore Hanukkah Tour” 924 Gilman, Berk; www.hanukkahtour.com. Sat/16, 8pm, $7. Mosh your way into the Festival of Lights with performances by Australian punks Yidcore, New Orleans klezmer-zydeco upstarts the Zydepunks, East Bay rockers Jewdriver, and many others. Clips from the Israeli punk documentary Jericho’s Echo: Punk Rock in The Holy Land will also be shown.
Klezmatics 142 Throckmorton Theatre, 142 Throckmorton Ave, Mill Valley; (415) 383-9600. Sat/16, 8pm. $35-45. What better way to celebrate Hanukkah than tapping your feet to the joyful sounds of klezmer? The legendary Klezmatics pay tribute to the Jewish songs of Woody Guthrie with a program of wildly imaginative adaptations of his lyrics.
“Seaside Singers and Friends” Sanchez Concert Hall, 1220 Linda Mar Blvd, Pacifica; (650) 355-1882. Sat/16, 7:30pm. $5-8. Ellis French directs the Seaside Singers in a performance of the Britten favorite Ceremony of Carols. The program also includes the Ocean Shore School Chorus and the Friday Mornings Ensemble.
“’Tis the Season Holiday Concert” St. John’s Presybterian Church, 2727 College, Berk; www.cantibale.org. Sun/17, 7:30pm. $20-25. Join the Cantibale Chorale, artistic director Sanford Dole, and pianist T. Paul Rosas in a unique holiday celebration. Poems by Robert Graves and e.e. cummings are transformed into Christmas songs, and the Chorale reinterprets Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite as a song cycle.
“Wintersongs” First Unitarian Church, 685 14th St, Oakl; (510) 444-0323. Sun/17, 7pm. $20-25. KITKA Women’s Vocal Ensemble explores Eastern European ethnic and spiritual traditions with a concert of carols, pre-Christian incantations, and Hebrew folk songs.
“Berkeley Ballet Theatre Presents: The Nutcracker” Julia Morgan Center For the Arts, 2640 College, Berk; www.juliamorgan.org. Fri/15, 7pm; Sat/16, 2 and 7pm; Sun/17, 2pm. The Berkeley Ballet Theatre performs the holiday classic, with choreography by Sally Streets and Robert Nichols.
“Beach Blanket Babylon’s Seasonal Extravaganza” Club Fugazi, 678 Beach Blanket Babylon Blvd (Green St); 421-4222. Wed/13, 5 and 8pm; Thurs/14, 8pm; Fri/15-Sat/16, 7 and 10pm; Sun/17, 2 and 5pm. Through Dec 31. $25-77. Sure, the label gets used a lot, but Steve Silver’s musical comedy is really and truly an extravaganza, with topical humor, dancing Christmas trees, outrageous costumes, and the biggest Christmas hat you’ve ever seen in your life.
“Big All-Sunday Player Holiday Musical” Bayfront Theater, Fort Mason Center, Buchanan at Marina; 474-6776. Sun/17, 7pm. $8. The fast-on-their-feet folks at BATS Improv end their year with a completely improvised comedy musical.
“Christmas Ballet” Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Theater Building, 700 Howard; 978-2787. Opens Fri/15. Fri/15-Sat/16, Tues/19, 8pm; Sat/16-Sun/17, 2pm; Sun/17, 7pm. $45-55. The Smuin Ballet offers a mix of ballet, tap, swing, and many other dance styles in a holiday performance set to music by everyone from Placido Domingo to Eartha Kitt.
“A Christmas Carol” American Conservatory Theater, 415 Geary; 749-2228, www.act-sf.org. Wed/13, 2pm; Thurs/14, 2 and 7pm; Fri/15, 7pm; Sat/16, 2 and 7pm; Tues/19, 7pm. Also Dec 20-23, 7pm; Dec 20, 22-23, 2pm; Dec 24, noon. Through Dec 24. $13.50-81.50. The American Conservatory Theater presents Carey Perloff and Paul Walsh’s adaptation of the Dickens holiday story, featuring sets by Tony Award–winning designer John Arnone, original songs by Karl Lundeberg, costumes by Beaver Bauer, and choreography by Val Caniparolo.
“Classical Christmas Special” Florence Gould Theater, Legion of Honor, Lincoln Park; 392-4400. Sat/16-Sun/17, 2pm. $35-40. For holiday family fun with a classical music theme, this variety show is sure to be a hit. Enjoy performances by San Francisco Opera singers Kristin Clayton and Bojan Knezevic and 10-year-old cellist Clark Pang; watch a ballet set to the music of Robert Schumann; and listen to a telling of O. Henry’s “The Gift of the Magi” accompanied by the music of Scott Joplin.
“Holiday Cabaret” Project Artaud Theater, 450 Florida; 252-9000. Fri/15-Sat/16, 7pm dance lessons, 8pm showtime. $25-30. Director Heather Morch leads a cast of more than 50 student and professional dancers in this showcase from the Metronome Dance Center. The program includes everything from tango to Lindy Hop and salsa; arrive early for dance lessons.
“I’m Dreaming of a Wet Christmas” Off-Market Theatre, 965 Mission; (510) 684-8813. Fri-Sat, 10pm. Through Sat/16. $15. Submergency! presents an evening of holiday-themed improv comedy with its multimedia squirtgun-toting laugh fest.
“It Could Have Been a Wonderful Life” Phoenix Theater, 414 Mason; 820-1400. Fri-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 3pm. Through Dec 24. $20-25. Fred Raker’s laugh-filled retelling of the Christmas classic delivers a distinctly Jewish spin on the Frank Capra story.
“It’s a Wonderful Life” Actors Theatre of San Francisco, 855 Bush; 345-1287. Thurs/14, 8pm; Sat/16-Sun/17, 2pm. Through Dec 23. $10-30. Joe Landry’s adaptation of Frank Capra’s classic holiday film, directed by Kenneth Vandenberg, is performed in the style of live radio broadcasts from the ’40s.
“A Queer Carol” New Conservatory Theatre, Decker Theatre, 25 Van Ness; 861-8972, www.nctsf.org. Wed/13-Sat/16, 8pm; Sun/17, 2pm. Through Dec 31. $22-40. The New Conservatory Theatre Center presents Joe Godfrey’s comedy A Queer Carol, a retelling of Charles Dickens’s classic tale, but with gay themes and characters.
“Santaland Diaries” Off-Market Theatre, 965 Mission; 1-866-811-4111, www.theatermania.com. Thurs-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 7pm. Through Dec 31. $20-30. Steinbeck Presents and Combined Art Form Entertainment bring shrieks of glee with their adaptation of David Sedaris’s hilarious play, featuring the comic genius of actors John Michael Beck and David Sinaiko.
“Trimming the Holidays: The Second Annual Shorts Project” Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter; 503-0437, www.lveproductions.com. Runs Fri-Sun, 8pm; Mon/18, 8pm. Through Dec 23. $17-20. La Vache Enragee Productions presents a holiday-themed evening of short plays and silent films accompanied by music composed by Christine McClintock.
“A Very Brechty Christmas” Custom Stage at Off-Market, 965 Mission; 1-800-838-3006. Thurs-Sat, 8pm. Through Dec 23. $15-35. The Custom Made Theatre Company, under the direction of Lewis Campbell and Brian Katz, brings two short, socially conscious plays to the stage for a bit of holiday season perspective: Bertolt Brecht’s The Exception and the Rule and Daniel Gerould’s Candaules, Commissioner.
“Bad Santa: The Director’s Cut” Smith Rafael Film Center, 1118 Fourth St, San Rafael; www.cafilm.org. Sat/16, 7:30pm. $9.50. Bay Area filmmaker Terry Zwigoff introduces the original director’s cut of his wonderfully snarky holiday feature and answers questions posed by San Francisco film programmer Anita Monga.
“A Christmas Carol” Sonoma County Repertory Theater, 104 North Main St, Sebastopol; (707) 823-0177. Thurs/14-Sat/16, 8pm; Sun/17, 2pm. Through Dec 23. $15-20; Thurs, pay what you can. Artistic director Scott Phillips leads the Sonoma Country Repertory in an inventive rendition of the Charles Dickens tale.
“Christmas Dreamland” Heritage Theatre, 1 West Campbell Ave, Campbell; 1-888-455-7469. Wed/13, 7pm; Thurs/14, 2 and 7pm; Fri/15, 8pm; Sat/16, 2 and 8pm; Sun/17, 1 and 6:30pm; Tues/19, 7pm. Through Dec 24. $48-73. Artistic director Tim Bair leads the American Musical Theatre of San Jose in the world premiere of its multimedia holiday showcase.
“Circus Finelli’s Holiday Extravaganza” Julia Morgan Center for the Arts, 2640 College, Berk; www.juliamorgan.org. Through Dec 24, 1 and 3pm; Dec 21, 9pm. $8-15. The Clown Conservatory of the SF Circus Center brings holiday cheer with a comedy stage show filled with acrobatics, juggling, dance, live music, and yes, clown high jinks.
“Keep the Yuletide Gay” Dragon Theater, 535 Alma, Palo Alto; (415) 439-2456, www.theatrereq.org. Thurs/14-Sat/16, 8pm; Sun/17, 2pm. Through Dec 30. $10-25. Theatre Q presents this world premiere of its irreverent comedy about a Christmas Eve dinner party that devolves into chaos when one of the guests hires a mystic to try to make their gay friend straight for the hostess.
“Navidad Flamenca” La Peña Cultural Center, 3105 Shattuck, Berk; (510) 849-2568, ext 20. Sat/16, 8pm. $20. Bring some fiery holiday passion into your holiday season with an evening of flamenco magic. Performers include special guest vocalist Vicente Griego and dancers Carola Zertuche, Cristina Hall, Fanny Ara, and Flamenco Kalore.
Bill Graham Menorah Union Square; 753-0910. First candlelighting: Fri/15, 3pm. Second candle: Sat/16, 7pm. Succeeding candles: Sun/17-Tues/19, 5pm. Also Dec 20-21, 5pm. Final candle lighting Dec 22, 3pm. Observe the Festival of Lights by visiting the impressively large public menorah in Union Square.
“Boudin at the Wharf’s Old-Fashioned North Pole” Boudin at the Wharf, 160 Jefferson; 928-1849. Sat, 10am-5pm; Sun, noon-4pm. Through Dec 23. Carolers, refreshments, and special visits from Santa mean family fun as Pier 43 is transformed into a wintry wonderland.
“Breakfast With Santa” Aquarium of the Bay, Pier 39, Embarcadero at Beach; 623-5300. Sat/16-Sun/17, 9-11am. $20-35. Bring the kids down to the aquarium to watch Santa arrive by boat. Afterward, they can enjoy breakfast, games, craft-making, and a chance to meet Santa.
“Children’s Tea” Intercontinental Mark Hopkins Hotel, One Nob Hill; 616-6916. Sat-Sun, noon-3pm. Through Dec 30. $39. The legendary Top of the Mark sky lounge hosts a holiday-themed afternoon tea for families. In addition to some fine views of the city, guests will be treated to a magic show.
“Fairyland Tree Lighting Ceremony” Children’s Fairyland, 699 Bellevue, Oakl; (510) 452-2259. Fri/15, 6:45pm. Free with admission. Enjoy holiday nibbles and cocoa as the lights go aglow in Fairy Winterland.
“Menorah Lighting Ceremony” Bay Street Plaza, Powell at Shellmound, Emeryville; www.baystreetemeryville.com. Sun/17, 4:30pm. Chabad of the East Bay hosts the lighting of a 10-foot-tall menorah, officiated by Rabbi Yehuda Ferris. Families will be treated to traditional sufganiyot (jelly-filled donuts),a Hanukkah sing-along, and performances by Buki the Clown.
“Miracles at the Chimes” Chapel of the Chimes, 4499 Piedmont, Oakl; (510) 654-0123. Sat/16-Sun/17, 10am-5pm. Free. Admire the 15-and-a-half-foot noble fir tree, drink hot cocoa, and enjoy fine musical performances. Santa will visit occasionally; check ahead for dates.
“Night of Remembrance” Chapel of the Chimes, 4499 Piedmont, Oakl; (510) 654-0123. Wed/13, 7pm. Free. Honor loved ones who have passed and celebrate their lives. Participants can create a memory ornament to hang on the Chapel’s Remembrance Tree. Music by the Bay Bell Ensemble, Catherine J. Brozena, and the Sacred and Profane Chamber Chorus. One day only.
“Feria Urbana” Canvas Café and Gallery, 1200 Ninth Ave; 505-0060. Thurs/14, 6-11pm; Sat/16-Sun/17, noon-5pm. Free. Here’s an opportunity to support the local arts community and take care of your shopping needs at the same time. Local artisans and designers show off their clothing, home accessories, and many other gift ideas; all three days feature different vendors. If you like groovy beats to accompany your shopping experience, attend Thursday’s event, which will be DJed by the swell folks at OM Records.
“Great Dickens Christmas Fair” Cow Palace, 2600 Geneva; 1-800-510-1558. Sat-Sun, 11am-7pm. Through Dec 23. $8-20. For a slower-paced shopping experience, this winter wonderland offers a range of theater and entertainment, costumed Victorian-era characters, sumptuous feasts, and gift ideas aplenty.
“Hands-on Mexican Holiday Cooking Class” Encantada Gallery of Fine Arts, 908 Valencia; 642-3939. Sat/16-Sun/17, 11am-2:30pm, $70. Advance registration required. Laurie Mackenzie, chef and scholar of Latin American cuisine, leads an instructional course on making tamales. While you’re there, check out the Encantada’s Bazaar Navideno for Mexican folk art and ceramics, as well as locally made fine art.
“Mexican Museum Holiday Family Day” Mission Library, 300 Bartlett; 202-9700, ext 721. Sat/16, noon-2pm, free. Multimedia artist Favianna Rodriguez of the Mexican Museum presents a slide show and hands-on workshop about nichos, a Latin American craft designed to protect special treasures and pictures of loved ones. The museum will supply materials for these decorative boxes; participants are encouraged to bring photos and mementos to personalize their nichos.
“Peace, Love, Joy, ART” ARTworkSF, main gallery, 49 Geary; 673-3080. Tues-Sat, noon-5:30pm. Through Dec 30. Browse locally made handiworks for holiday gift ideas.
“Physics of Toys: Museum Melody” Exploratorium, 3601 Lyon; www.exploratorium.edu. Sat/16, 11am-3pm. Free with admission. Learn how to make noisemakers for delightful Christmas gifts and for ringing in the New Year just around the corner.
“Public Glass Artist Showcase” Crocker Galleria, 50 Post; 671-4916. Through Sun/17: daily, 10am-6pm. Dec 18-22: daily, 10am-7pm. Free. More than 15 local glass artists will exhibit their work, offering many one-of-a-kind gifts. Public Glass is the city’s only nonprofit center for glassworking, and this will be its sole downtown event of the year.
“Berkeley Potters Guild Gallery Show and Holiday Sale” 731 Jones, Berk; (510) 524-7031. Sat-Sun and Dec 19-22, 10am-5pm. Through Dec 24. Free. Browse through the wares of the oldest and largest clay collaborative group on the West Coast.
“Bilingual Piñata-Making Party for All Ages” Oakland Public Library, Martin Luther King Jr. Branch, 6833 International Blvd, Oakl; (510) 238-3615. Sat/16, 2pm. Free. Learn how to make and decorate your own holiday piñata, with instruction given in both Spanish and English.
“Crucible’s Gifty Holiday Art Sale and Open House” Crucible, 1260 Seventh St, Oakl; (510) 444-0919. Sat/16-Sun/17, 10am-4pm. Free. The Crucible, a nonprofit sculpture studio and arts center, opens its doors to the public for a holiday sale meant for the whole family. In addition to providing one-of-a-kind gift options such as ceramics, glassware, and sculptures, the studio will offer glass blowing and blacksmithing demonstrations, hands-on activities for kids, and the memorable experience of seeing Santa arrive by flaming sleigh!
“EclectiXmas Art Show and Sale” Eclectix Store and Gallery, 7523 Fairmount, El Cerrito; (510) 364-7261. Tues, 10am-2pm; Wed, noon-6pm; Thurs, 11am-7pm; Fri, 10am-7pm; Sat, 10am-6pm; Sun, 10am-2pm. Through Dec 24. Free. Nothing says “I love you” like giving the gift of sculpture or painting or photography. Browse the gallery’s group show for imaginative gifts.
“Expressions Holiday Bazaar and Trunk Show” Expressions Gallery, 2035 Ashby, Berk; (510) 644-4930. Sun/17, noon-5pm. Free. For interesting handcrafted gifts, the Expressions Gallery’s show offers jewelry, scarves, mittens, among other things.
“Holiday Land Gift Sale” Blankspace, 6608 San Pablo, Oakl; (510) 547-6608. Sat/16, 1-7pm; Sun/17, noon-5pm. Free. Bay Area artists sell their cards, artwork, accessories, and unique gifts; proceeds from ornament sales support the Destiny Arts Center in Oakland. A performance by Kittinfish Mountain will get you in the shopping mood, and prizes will be given away as well.
“Pro Arts Holiday Sale” 550 Second St, Oakl; (510) 763-4361. Tues-Sat, noon-6pm; Sun, noon-5pm. Through Dec 21. Free. This nonprofit organization supporting Bay Area artists offers jewelry, glassware, ceramics, and other potential gifts. SFBG



Do you know where you’re going to — have you ever seen Mahogany? What am I showing you? Well, for a start, that the facsimile of the Motown story presented by Dreamgirls is phony with a capital P. By the time Berry Gordy and Diana Ross reached their particular shared impasse on the road from Motown to Hollywood fantasyland, she was almost fatally eager to fold a twiglike body into the two-dimensional shallowness of fashion. In contrast, in Dreamgirls the ridiculously sweet and naive Ross type played by Beyoncé Knowles is still wholly unaware that she’s shoving others out of the spotlight and yet also healthy, poised, and ready to share supposedly deep insights about her life. As for Jamie Foxx’s Gordy clone, the story soft-sells the producer and label head’s bad reputation — and misunderstands his genius. Most songs here may be Broadway ready, but in terms of melodicism and rhythm, they wouldn’t pass muster as Supremes B-sides.
Thank god, then, for Jennifer Hudson. The surprise of Dreamgirls isn’t that her Candi Staton–rich and deep singing steals the movie; everyone knows going in that she’s going to tell them — yell at them! — that she’s not going. But she does more than that, making good on the “you’re gonna love me” part of her show-stopping lyric with an overall performance that has more nuance and naturalism than those of the experienced actors around her. (Johnny Ray Huston)
Opens Fri/15
See Movie Clock at www.sfbg.com

The kitchen sink


› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com
CHEAP EATS There’s this thing in sports and therefore maybe life where you’re supposed to “act like you’ve been there before.” But how are you supposed to act like you’ve been there before if you’ve never been there? What if every single thing is news to you?
You strike out the big hitter, score a touchdown. Or let’s say you’re not into sports, so you, I don’t know, close the deal, or achieve the … thing. What do people do in life? Or what do you do if you’re me and the whole world is suddenly one big end zone? How am I supposed to not jump around and make a fool of myself, for example, while buying my first bra? At the tender age of 43.
Act like you’ve been here before, said the voice in my head. I’d never been to San Mateo, let alone Lula Lu Petite Lingerie shop.
“Do you know what size you are?” asked a voice outside my head. The only other customer had left and my tiny friend Sockywonk, the famous Godzilla artist, was already in the other fitting room, trying stuff on, so finally our friendly salesgirlperson could turn her attention to me.
I peed my pants.
Unfazed, Ms. Lula Lu whipped out her cloth tape measure. “Hold your arms out like this,” she said, making like an airplane.
I asked if I could do Superman instead because airplanes wig me out.
“Like this,” she said. The airplane. I closed my eyes and tried to think of it as doing Jesus, and that was a little better. Jesus being fitted for a bra … eerie look on His face, like He knows what’s being foreshadowed, oh shit.
Forty inches, that’s the circumference of My chest. The cup size, well, I don’t think there are enough As in the alphabet to describe my cup size. But I do have boobs, I swear.
And so does Sockywonk, and they’re beautiful, I’ve seen them. She can’t keep her hands off them, not even in restaurants. I don’t blame her.
Chemo starts tomorrow, and then, down the road, she loses one. She told me over noodles at Pho Little Saigon 3, across the street, that she’s not going to go for no chest reconstruction surgery. So this bra she’s deciding on in the next fitting room might be the last nonmastectomy one she ever buys.
The food was great! For some crazy reason it was Sockywonk’s first time eating Vietnamese. Barbecued chicken over rice vermicelli ($5.95) and a seafood combo soup with egg noodles ($5.95). We shared and slurped and swirled and it was my way of returning the favor, firstswise. Lula Lu being her idea.
Pho Little Saigon 3. You can’t miss it. It’s the only place in San Mateo that isn’t a sushi place.
When Sockywonk first found out about the cancer was around when I found out I was a witch, so naturally I promised to use all my spells and powers on her behalf, which means basically that I will write like I write and try to make her laugh and want to eat food. Those are my powers, and I think she might need them because chemo ain’t funny, or appetizing.
I love all my friends, and they’re just going to have to get used to that. But I feel like I have extra chambers in my heart right now for Sockywonk, and not just because she wanted to take me bra shopping after coming down with breast cancer. And not just because she’s a freaky and freakin’ amazing painter of monsterish beauty. And not just because she showed me her boobs, either, although of course that helped. It’s all of the above, plus she invited me last summer to that rooftop paella party I wrote about, which kind of kick-started me socially at a time when I needed a kick.
I met some of my other new friends, like Orange Pop 2, on that same roof, and these are Sockywonk’s people and they’re lively, weird, rockingly good-cooking folks. And she knows but I want her cancer to know too that it ain’t just chemo: we’re all coming after it with everything we’ve got. And I don’t mean good vibes and health food, either.
I mean, yeah, good vibes and health food — but I also mean beers and guitar solos and horn sections. Fresh eggs. Funky restaurant reviews. Funny dances, dessert, impossible hats, pretty bras, everything. Good books. Scary dogs. Strong coffee. Combat boots. Bicycle kicks. Everything, and the kitchen sink. The dirty dishes. Big slow curve balls and fast, freaky serves. SFBG
Daily, 10 a.m.– SFBG9 p.m.
147 E. Third Ave., San Mateo
(650) 685-6151
Takeout available
Wheelchair accessible

One word: plastics


› paulr@sfbg.com
These days it is hard to be sure if the American way is war or plastic. Probably both, and since plastic is a petroleum product, and petroleum is a perennial occasion for war, we are probably not talking about a meaningful difference. Kevin Phillips describes the United States as the petroleum hegemon in his recent book American Theocracy (Viking, 2006), and the proof that he’s right is all around us. To the extent that we make anything at all anymore, we make it out of plastic: dashboards, lawn furniture, coffee mugs, picnic knives, even clothes. Why bother draping yourself in velvet or cotton when you can swaddle yourself in Lycra spandex or Gore-tex or some other synthetic fiber spun from oil and bearing a name that ends in x?
Although I make every effort to avoid wearing petroleum-based products, I concede that plastic has its uses. In particular, I favor the plastic wine cork, which (unlike the natural kind) poses no risk of tainting the wine with fungus, or even of just crumbling to dust, while preserving (as screw tops do not) the forms and rituals of uncorking. And I am pleased to report that plastic-cork technology seems to have improved sharply in just the past year or two.
Recently I popped open a couple of bottles — of Husch chenin blanc and Gundlach Bundschu merlot — and found I could not easily tell whether the corks were natural or plastic, at least not in the midst of holiday hubbub and bad lighting. I set the corks aside for further scrutiny in the morning sunshine. I actually ended up having to cut them open with my trusty Wüsthof trimming knife to make a final determination: a kind of wine-cork autopsy.
Both corks had the springiness of natural cork. Both had natural cork’s coloration, beige with darker specklings. The principal hint that the Husch cork was manufactured had to do with its near-perfection of shape. I was almost certain the Gundlach cork, too, was plastic, until I slashed it open and found the unmistakable flakiness of real bark inside. Another clue, unnoticed until some time later, was that the bottom of the Gundlach cork was stained red from the wine; the Husch cork, by contrast, was immaculate on both ends, though it did come from a bottle of white wine — so, not quite a fair fight, maybe.

East meets West Hollywood


› paulr@sfbg.com
As you step into Roy’s Restaurant, you will notice the names of many cities stenciled in gold on the glass door — places where other Roy’s Restaurants can be found. You might feel as if you are sidling into one of the branches of a Parisian house of couture or the district office of some international brokerage firm. My eyes darted briefly to the end of the two-columned list, half expecting to see the reassuring words “FDIC insured.” I didn’t see them. But then, insurance, whether from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation or some other gracious entity, isn’t really necessary at Roy’s. The place has found its feet here, and they are feet that move with a definite San Francisco style.
When our Roy’s opened six years ago, I walked through the doors into a fabulous inaugural dinner party and was disappointed. It was a lovely restaurant, yes, with innovative and well-prepared food conceived by Roy Yamaguchi, the founding chef and eponym — but it wasn’t in Hawaii, and the island magic seemed lost on the streets of San Francisco. The handful of Roy’s Restaurants in Hawaii are among the original ones, and they reflect the islands’ paradisial temper; life moves a little more slowly there, and people are less tense with the metropolitan urgencies. The Roy’s on the Big Island even has, for alfresco types, a kind of docklike deck extending over the water, and if you take a table there, you can practically hear the just-caught fish flopping around on the weathered timbers. The cooking reflects the immediacy and locality of the ingredients — seafood just minutes from the sea, beef from cattle raised on the Big Island — as well as the distinctive blend of influences, from Japan, Polynesia, and Europe, that give the Hawaiian Islands much of their gastronomic and cultural flavor.
Transport all this to a gritty and often chilly stretch of Mission Street and you have the restaurant equivalent of a heart transplant. There is no dock whose pilings are lapped by soft, warm waves, no purple sunset or palm fronds waving in a gentle breeze; there is just damp concrete and Muni buses. Even the interior decor is mostly in the urban vein: a huge exhibition kitchen and a honeycomb of wine bottles similar to the one at Bacar. If, like me, you remember Roy’s as part of the Hawaiian enchantment, you might well find the difference shocking and even disappointing. But this is unfair to our Roy’s, which in truth has become an excellent restaurant very much in the metro-California manner. If the long list of cities on Roy’s front door reveals that Yamaguchi has built an empire, it also tells us that, like the Roman Empire and its ecclesiastical successor, he has done so by adapting a core formula to local conditions, tastes, and expectations.
Roy’s core mostly has to do with the food, and its center of gravity (the menu’s term of art is “classic”) lies within the confines of the prix fixe, a $35, three-course dinner. The street signage describes the restaurant’s cooking as “Hawaiian fusion,” and for me the fusion isn’t so much East-meets-West as East–meets–West Hollywood. Yamaguchi cooked in Los Angeles in the 1980s, and he has a Wolfgang Puckish flair for boldness — grilled shrimp (part of the prix fixe first course) served with wasabi cocktail sauce, for instance, or a large, spherical crab cake ($15) mounted like a trophy on a pedestal of tinglingly spicy kimchi — sweet, hot, sour, and rich, all in the same bite.
The fixed-price dinners all open with the same appetizer trio, of which the shrimp is a constituent. Its companions include a single, but heavily meaty, baby back rib — tender as the night, Szechuan spiced and wood grilled — and a chef’s-choice item that might be a nicely crisped pot sticker. On the question of main dishes, choices open out. Here we find four possibilities, reflecting a world of influences. Large prawns in a tangle of pad thai — threads of carrot and daikon radish tossed with rice noodles — seem quite comfortably Southeast Asian, while charbroiled short ribs (of beef) are as tender and engagingly stringy as Grandma’s pot roast on a chilly Iowa night.
I was pleased that the hibachi-grilled salmon was wild king salmon presented on a molded pad of jasmine rice, though it seemed a bit late in the season for the fish to be local. The dish I found most representative of Roy’s local sensibility was a mahimahi filet, crusted with macadamia nut crumbs (a very Hawaiian touch), then sautéed and served with lobster-butter sauce (a rather French touch, I thought) and thick slices of new potatoes. The overall effect was less one of fusion than of California cooking. One minor note of discontent: the potatoes were undercooked.
Our friends, who are Roy’s devotees, urged upon us the melting hot chocolate soufflé, an innocuously cakey-looking object that was indeed filled with melted chocolate. At the touch of a fork, it oozed out like lava onto the plate. Less dramatic, but also texturally memorable, was a macadamia nut almond tart — a disk of one’s own, tasting a lot like pecan pie and topped with crumbles of macadamia nuts and a shift knob of vanilla bean ice cream. The tart was almost too sweet for me.
The devotees made a point of saying they prefer Roy’s to Boulevard. I am not sure I agree with them, but I understood their point, and perhaps the real news is that Roy’s and Boulevard can be mentioned in the same sentence these days — can be compared. The two, while neighbors, are very different sorts of restaurants, but each is a San Francisco restaurant, sprinkled with a bit of the local pixie dust. For Roy’s, member of a chain whose roots are halfway across the Pacific, that’s certainly some dust it’s glad to have. SFBG
Lunch: Mon.–Fri., 11:30 a.m.–2 p.m.
Dinner: Mon.–Thurs., 5:30–10:30 p.m.; Fri.–Sun., 5–11 p.m.
575 Mission, SF
(415) 777-0277
Full bar
Moderately noisy
Wheelchair accessible

The meaning of spam


› annalee@techsploitation.com
TECHSPLOITATION I spend an inordinate amount of time wondering why my spam looks the way it does. Until quite recently, I received about 20,000 spam e-mails every day. The poor little Bayesean filter in my Thunderbird e-mail program couldn’t keep up and would routinely barf when confronted with such huge piles of crap from “Nuclear R. Accomplishment” with the subject line “$subject” and a message body full of random quotes from Beowulf.
Before I finally fixed my spam problem — oh blissfully small inbox! — I developed a few vaguely paranoid theories. Briefly, I imagined spammers were spying on my inbox and culling sender names from it that matched those of my friends. In my saner moments, I would wonder why exactly spam evolved to look the way it does. Why do spammers keep sending me pictures of pink, bouncy letters that spell “mortgage,” followed by text from a random Web site? And why, oh why, do they send me e-mails containing nothing but the cryptic line, “he said from the doorway, where she”? How can that be good business sense?
So I called expert Daniel Quinlan, who is an antispam architect at Ironport Systems as well as a contributor to open-source antispam system Spam Assassin. He patiently listened to me rant about my e-mail problems — I think antispam experts are sort of like geek therapists — then explained why I receive spam from random dictionary words strung together into a name like Elephant Q. Thermodynamic. It’s done to fool any spam filter that refuses to receive e-mail from somebody who has already sent you spam in the past. “They want to create a name that your spam filter has never seen before,” Quinlan said. It turns out every weirdness in my spam is “probably there for a good reason,” he said. In the arms race between spammers and antispammers, spammers try every trick they can to circumvent filtering software.
Often, the spam you get is the result of months or years of this arms race. For example, spammers of yesteryear started sending images instead of text, so that spam filters looking for text like “viagra” would be fooled. Instead, the image would contain the word “viagra,” but filters would see only an image and let it through. In response, antispam software began tossing e-mails that contained only an image, since spam containing an image typically has some text with it like “check out my pictures from Hawaii” or whatever. Rarely does a real person send just an image.
Quinlan said spammers figured out their pictures were being chucked, so they started adding a few random words to their mail and got through the filters again. Then antispammers started chucking e-mails with images that also contained random words that didn’t make sentences. And that’s why, today, you get images with chunks of text taken from random books and Web sites. As long as the text fits into sentences and isn’t random words strung together, spam filters have a harder time figuring out if the mail is spam or ham. Spammers also send slightly different images every time, so that spam filters can’t identify the image itself as spam. And they fill the images with bouncy, pink letters advertising their crap because character recognition software can’t read bouncy letters. So any spam filter that uses character recognition software to look at text in images to find spam will be fooled.
OK, so there is a reason behind the madness. But how could Quinlan explain the spam I get that contains no advertisement for anything, no links nor images, and instead merely quotes some random passage from Dostoyevsky? Quinlan said there’s no way to know for sure, but the reigning theory among antispam experts is that it’s part of what’s called a “directory harvest attack” in which the spammer tries to figure out if there’s a real person behind a randomly chosen e-mail address. The spammer sends out millions of innocuous e-mails and may get a slightly different response from the mail server if the mail has reached an actual person. Once the spammer has established that certain addresses are valid, he can send his real spam and be sure that he’s reaching an inbox.
All of this sounds perfectly reasonable. Spammers are doing bizarro things to get their messages out. But why do I sometimes get a spam with the subject line “$subject”? Why would I ever be fooled into thinking that was a piece of legitimate e-mail? “That’s just some spammer who doesn’t know how to use his spamware,” Quinlan said. “Sometimes spammers do things that are — for lack of a better word — dumb.” SFBG
Annalee Newitz is a surly media nerd who is in recovery from receiving spam.

Santa’s secret


› andrea@altsexcolumn.com
Dear Andrea:
I’m a guy with a single, straight, platonic female friend in her mid-20s who could really use a first sex toy, but doesn’t seem comfortable enough with her sexuality to buy one on her own. The holidays seem like the perfect excuse to give a gift that keeps on giving. I was going to get her a gift certificate or gift from a woman-friendly online store, since she may be uncomfortable going into an adult store, and a vibrating gift under the Christmas tree might make Christmas morning a little embarrassing.
She’s the first girl I’ve ever met who doesn’t have at least one toy. I don’t think it’s occurred to her female friends to get her a toy or gift certificate, and I imagine she might be uncomfortable with me telling them she could really use a sex toy. But it’s been years since the girl’s had sex. I can see how giving a toy as a gift can be awkward because it can become associated with the visual image of the gifter. But among friends without a great deal of cash, it could also be uncomfortable for her to receive a gift certificate for $50 or $100. Is there a way around this that results in a more sexually fulfilled and less tense friend?
Secret Santa
Dear Santa:
She might be uncomfortable with you telling her friends she needs a good buzz-off? Do you think? Please, please, put down the gift certificate and back away slowly. There is no way for this to go well, and too many possible bad endings to count.
I mean, let’s say you’re right and she really has been utterly abstemious all these years, as opposed to uninterested in detailing the contents of her bedside drawer for you, her straight male friend. Even so, what could be more mortifying than a gift that says she’s hard up and in danger of drying out — and all her friends know it?
I suppose for maximum mortification you could save the gift presentation for whatever party she and all your mutual friends will be attending and let her do the stammering and blushing in public, but I’m confident that the moment would suck for her whether in public or alone with you, the friend who suddenly seems to know too much and be thinking too deeply about what does or doesn’t go on between her sheets. You’re very well meaning, and it’s nice that you care and all, but just don’t.
I see one way you could ensure that she has access to what you’ve determined she needs, but it’s both expensive and rather ridiculous: on the Romper Roomish principle that you shouldn’t bring any if you don’t have enough for everyone, pass out the gift certificates to your whole circle, whomever you’d normally be buying presents for, boys and girls alike. Then you’ll just be thought of as generous, if slightly pervy, instead of creepily overinvolved in the sex life of someone with whom you are not and will not be having sex. Unless you actually do want to have sex with her, in which case I still wouldn’t recommend buying her a vibrator.
Oy. This is very complicated. It makes me glad I’m Jewish and don’t have to buy Christmas presents for anyone, let alone receive any. It’s a minefield! Who knew?
Dear Andrea:
We are trying to have a baby. After we have sex, the semen doesn’t stay in but trickles out of the vagina. Why does it happen, and what should we do to keep it in, so I can conceive?
Dear Drip:
The only connection between your letter and the one preceding it is the way they produced an involuntary and audible “Don’t do that!” from me as I read them. Don’t have a baby!
Oh, relax. You can have a baby, but you should already know the answer to this, and I can’t help wondering what else you don’t know. The semen trickles out because it’s already done its job. Only a very small part of the ejaculate is made up of sperm; the rest is what would be called “inactive ingredients” if your partner were ejacuutf8g, say, toothpaste instead of semen. The carrier fluid coagulates briefly, just so it won’t run down your leg before the sperm have made their escape. Once the sperm that are going anywhere have gone, the leftover gunk liquefies and runs down your aforementioned leg to form the “wet spot” of lore. If it didn’t, you’d be carrying the leftover goo from a lifetime of sexual encounters around with you until you scrubbed it out with a bottle brush, and that’s not a pretty picture.
You’re fine. However, if your question really does reflect your general state of knowledge about these things, please get a book. Get several. Get a library card. This baby-having business is not simple, and while there is such a thing as too much information, too little information is worse.
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.

A key test for Pelosi


EDITORIAL Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s signature legislation came out of a Republican Congress. It was shortly after Newt Gingrich and his gang took control of the House that Pelosi began moving to privatize the Presidio; she argued that the GOP majority would never fund a real national park in San Francisco and the only way to prevent Congress from trying to sell off the land the military no longer wanted was to find a mechanism that wouldn’t cost any money and would be palatable to the archconservatives who were calling the shots.
When she’s criticized for the bill — and that’s been happening a lot lately — she replies, in effect: we had no choice. If we wanted to save this remarkable 1,400-acre parcel of land, we had to play the Republicans’ game. And indeed, her approach was everything that the Gingriches of the world liked: instead of using tax dollars to fund a national park (something that had been done since the birth of the National Park System), she created the semiprivate Presidio Trust, which was charged with raising enough cash through development and rents to pay the park’s own way by 2013.
Now we have George Lucas operating a commercial office building in the middle of the park and housing renting out at top market rates to wealthy tenants and a plan to turn a former hospital near Lake Street into a dense luxury condo complex — and, in general, the future of the park being driven by commercial interests.
But things are different now: Pelosi, not Gingrich, is calling the shots. The Democrats control both houses of Congress, the president is a lame duck bogged down in a war that is making him more unpopular by the day — and for the first time since the Sixth Army moved out and the privatizers moved in, there is no political reason why Pelosi can’t amend her bill and change the way the Presidio is run.
It’s clear that the current system isn’t working. The federal government keeps pouring big money into subsidizing the private ventures in the park. The Sierra Club, which initially supported Pelosi’s bill, is now demanding reform.
This is a test of how Pelosi will use her new power — and whether she was telling the truth when she blamed the privatization of the park on Republicans. She needs to introduce and push a bill to eliminate the Presidio Trust, turn the land over to the National Park Service, and manage it in the interest of the public, not private profit. SFBG

Impeachment is now the only option


EDITORIAL We can all stop hoping and pretending now: the facts are in. No matter what anyone right, left, or center says, no matter what the truth is on the ground, no matter how clear and powerful public opinion has become, President George W. Bush isn’t going to change anything about the war in Iraq.
That’s what we saw from the president’s press conference with British prime minister Tony Blair on Dec. 7 and from his statements since. He’s not going to start withdrawing troops, and he’s not going to negotiate with other regional powers.
The Iraq Study Group report has its flaws. It talks about diplomatic discussions with Iran and Syria, but it stops short of describing the real reason the United States is bogged down in the Middle East (the lack of a coherent energy policy that doesn’t rely on foreign oil). It suggests that the United States should leave the job of rebuilding Iraq to Iraqis but fails to state that the country responsible for all the problems should play a role in paying for its solutions. And it would leave thousands of US soldiers in Iraq as advisers for the long term, putting them in serious jeopardy.
Still, it’s at least a dose of badly needed reality. The report acknowledges that the Bush administration’s current policies have made an awful mess of Iraq, that the situation is deteriorating, and that continuing the current path isn’t an acceptable option. And it recommends that all combat forces leave Iraq by 2008.
That such a broad-based, bipartisan panel would reach that conclusion unanimously isn’t really that much of a surprise. Everyone with any sense in Washington and around the world these days agrees that the United States needs to set a timetable for withdrawal. Thomas Friedman, the New York Times columnist who initially supported the war and has long argued that some good could still come out of it, wrote Dec. 8 that the group’s recommendations “will only have a chance of being effective if we go one notch further and set a fixed date — now — for Americans to leave Iraq.” Even conservative syndicated columnist George Will noted the same day that “the deterioration is beyond much remediation.”
As long as the United States retains combat troops in Iraq, they will be the target of sectarian violence and the focus of that war. When they leave, the Iraqis will have no obvious villain, and there might be an actual hope for a long-term resolution.
The notion of an all-out Kurd versus Shiite versus Sunni civil war isn’t going to make anyone in Damascus or Tehran happy, since those two governments will be caught in the middle. And a clear statement from the United States that American troops will be leaving on a specific date not too far in the future is, the majority of experts agree, the only way to bring all the parties to the table for a serious and meaningful discussion.
And yet Bush and Dick Cheney remain alone, aloof, refusing to acknowledge that military victory in Iraq is utterly impossible and that the old mission of establishing a US client state in the Middle East will never be accomplished.
The death toll for US troops is approaching 3,000. The cost is running at $250 million a day. This simply can’t be allowed to continue. If Bush and Cheney refuse to begin a withdrawal program, then Congress needs to act decisively on two fronts.
The first is to inform the president that under the Constitution, Congress has the sole power to declare war and this Congress will no longer pay for Bush’s military adventure in Iraq.
But there’s a larger problem here. Bush and Cheney have lied to the American people, taken us into war on the basis of fraudulent information, and violated their oaths of office. Back in January we called on Congress to begin debating articles of impeachment; the GOP-controlled House wasn’t about to do that. But things are different now. The voters have made it very clear that they don’t like the president’s war, and the Democrats have a clear mandate for change.
Impeachment is serious business, but Bush has left us no alternative. We can’t simply allow the war to continue as it has been, year after bloody year, until Bush’s term expires.
The only thing holding up impeachment hearings is the word of the incoming speaker, Nancy Pelosi, who said during the campaign that option was “not on the table.” Well, it ought to be on the table now. Pelosi should publicly inform Democratic leaders in the House who support impeachment that she won’t block an impeachment effort. And her constituents in San Francisco need to keep the pressure on her to allow Congress to move forward on its most important responsibility in decades.
This isn’t going to be easy. Even the San Francisco Chronicle now acknowledges that Pelosi is governing like a moderate. It will take a reenergized peace movement and a huge new national mobilization to put pressure on her and every member of Congress. But the stakes are too high to wait. It’s time to start, today. SFBG



› tredmond@sfbg.com
Gavin Newsom loves to talk about the will of the voters. He put his Care Not Cash plan on the ballot when he was running for mayor — not, he insisted, as a campaign ploy but to get the voters to speak on a plan his colleagues on the Board of Supervisors rejected. Even when it was clear the plan wasn’t working, he stuck to it — because, after all, that was the will of the voters. When advocates for Saturday road closures in Golden Gate Park pushed for a six-month trial program, Newsom vetoed it, saying that while he loves the park and loves bicycles and loves the idea of road closures, the voters had already rejected a closure plan. Never mind that the plan the voters turned down was confusing and big money was spent on one side and not the other … the mayor insisted he had to abide by the will of the voters.
Fine: it’s the will of the voters, expressed in November by a 56.3 percent margin, that Newsom show up once a month at a Board of Supervisors meeting and answer questions.
That’s not such a horrible burden. In fact, it’s an excellent idea: “question time,” as Sup. Chris Daly called Proposition I, would force the mayor out of the cocoon in which he operates — where every appearance is scripted, every event carefully tailored — and give the public a chance to see Newsom and his critics actually discuss policy issues. It would be the end of a lot of Mayor’s Office secrecy: if the supervisors can demand information and documents while everyone is watching, it will be harder for the mayor to keep things under wraps.
This city has a long history of imperial mayors, who hide from critics, make backroom deals, and act as if they’re accountable to nobody. Question time could be a pretty significant check on that. And if Newsom is as confident of his agenda and programs as he claims to be, he has nothing to worry about.
But this time Newsom is openly defying the will of the voters. He announced last week that he won’t appear at the board meetings and instead will hold “town hall meetings” in various neighborhoods over the next few months.
Of course he will: he’s running for reelection. And those meetings will be tightly controlled by the mayor’s PR machine. A few members of the public will get a few questions in, but Newsom will be able to duck, dodge, and avoid the problems very easily. The meetings he’s preparing are going to be campaign events — and he would have held them anyway, whether Prop. I had passed or not.
The problem here is larger than the mayor’s noncompliance with a policy statement that he can argue has no legal mandate. Newsom needs to be more accountable and respond to some legitimate, tough questions about his programs, policies, and administration. Right now there’s no clear challenger to force those issues, and if, as many expect, he’s easily reelected in 2007, he’ll be even more isolated.
The ducking has to stop. If Newsom won’t appear for question time, I think Daly ought to come back and put it on the next ballot — this time as a charter amendment, enforceable with charges of misconduct and removal from office. SFBG

Be nice to pigeons!


OPINION Until two years ago I didn’t give a rat’s ass about pigeons. But then I began researching my book, and I was stunned by what I didn’t know. I quickly grew to admire the birds — and this coming from a guy who still prefers playing fetch with a dog to running about with a pair of binoculars chasing pretty tail.
San Francisco, it seems, is of two minds about pigeons. The city was ahead of the curve (as usual) when it banned avicides, which are used to target pigeons but indiscriminately punish all birds. That’s a great thing. Not only are the avicides cruel and difficult to control — they don’t work. Sure, you’ll see a lot of dead pigeons around. You might even see them fall out of the sky and convulse on the ground. But as they say, nature abhors a vacuum, and even more pigeons will fill the void.
San Francisco has also banned the feeding of pigeons (although songbirds still get a free lunch). The ban feels a touch cruel, but the city is on to something: too much food leads to too much breeding, which leads to too many pigeons, which leads to collections of unsightly droppings. It’s not the pigeons that are the problem, it’s that there are simply too many of them, which is why their droppings appear to pile up. Overfeeding exacerbates the problem.
But rather than banning feeding altogether, the city should consider reguutf8g the feeding. People like feeding pigeons, and there’s no law short of capital punishment that will stop them from this enjoyable pastime.
Many European cities have had success with a humane pigeon control policy that drops a pigeon population by half in a handful of years. It works like this: the city places modern-day dovecotes around town and encourages citizens to feed the pigeons there and only there. Pigeons like dovecotes and choose to lay their eggs there. At the end of each week, a park’s employee can cull the eggs.
Wildlife can be inconvenient. But does that mean we need to brutalize it? The pigeon has athletic abilities and an unparalleled history nothing short of astounding. Pigeons are the world’s oldest domesticated bird — Noah’s dove was a pigeon. They have been utilized by every major historical superpower from ancient Egypt to the United States. It was a pigeon that delivered the results of the first Olympics in 776 BCE and a pigeon that first brought news of Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo some 2,500 years later. Nearly a million pigeons served in both world wars and are credited with saving thousands of soldiers’ lives. They have served us loyally for aeons — and look upon us as their guardians.
Pigeons don’t carry any more diseases than we do, and they are only as filthy as our own cities. The queen of England doesn’t consider the birds dirty. Rather, she owns racing pigeons. Many of us forget that pigeons are really just doves (rock doves), which we view as a sign of purity. Picasso’s doves? He was painting pigeons. In fact, he named his daughter Paloma, Spanish for pigeon.
It’d be great if America’s most progressive city were to develop a humane pigeon control program that the rest of the nation could then copy. Not only would it be great publicity for a great city, it’s the right thing to do. SFBG
Andrew D. Blechman
Andrew D. Blechman is the author of Pigeons: The Fascinating Saga of the World’s Most Revered and Reviled Bird (Grove Press).



› a&eletters@sfbg.com
Never mind whether or not this is the year of Dreamgirls. I mean, forget the musical if you can — it’s not possible here in Los Angeles, where it’s taken over the town — although dreams never go out of style. What I want to know is what category does it fit in? New music? Reissued with a twist? Covers? And, for old folks who remember 1982, was the original sort of a reissue? (It is the story of Motown, after all.) Or just a memory — fond or otherwise? (See the movie if you don’t know what I’m talking about.)
In any case, my year-end begins and ends with “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” — Jennifer Holliday’s 1982 original kicks off my Top 10 chart, and Jennifer Hudson’s take on the tune, from the just-released movie, closes it. It’s a great song: Holliday’s version is simply out of this world, but that’s only a small part of why I love it so much. The real reason is the killer, utterly surreal ending, when both women are pouring it out, singing, “And you, you, you, you’re gonna love me, yeah!”
Ask yourself, what’s wrong here? For instance, in Dreamgirls, do you think she succeeds in making her man love her? Of course she doesn’t. Do the Iraqi people love the US Armed Forces just because George Bush wants them to? Life doesn’t work that way.
So while my wife apparently loves me, for reasons I do not understand, what I spent the entire year doing was trying to get my daily parade of hits to do the same — to find new music that reached out and grabbed me, knocked me on my ass, obsessed me to the point where I drove down Sunset Boulevard with my iPod blowing out my eardrums, feeling like I was 16 again. It didn’t happen. I gave Snow Patrol more than the time of day. I fell in (and out) of love with Gnarls Barkley. I dove headlong into Jay-Z. I downloaded more singles from iTunes than you can possibly imagine, and I’ll say this for all of them: not bad.
Still, the most important aspect of a year in music is finding the center of gravity — one’s personal ground zero — and proceeding from there. And in years past that’s meant locating a scene, a band, or an album that somehow says it all. Not this year, not for me. As far as I’m concerned, music 2006 was anchored by a parade of fabulous reissues and by one live performance — in Bangkok, Thailand, no less. It was so stunning that I need only think of it to feel good all over.
On Aug. 1, many thousands of miles from home, former Guardian music critic, boho baseball commissar, and one-time coolest guy in San Francisco Mike McGuirk cut loose with a karaoke version of Procol Harem’s “A Whiter Shade of Pale.” Not only did he stun the house, he finished by pouring a pitcher of beer over a noisy limey sitting at the bar. And he lived to tell the tale.
I know that to be true, because a week later I had a two-hour visit with McGuirk, whom I picked up at LAX and drove to a strip mall in nearby Ladera Heights. We traded stories until I ran out and he had the floor all to himself. He spoke of life in Southeast Asia, about being mistaken for Superman — black frames being what they are in a land where all white guys look alike — and about the pain and glory of leaving it all behind. McGuirk, when all was said and done, radiated a glow that I could only dream about. If that ain’t rock ’n’ roll, I don’t know what is.
See you next year — and hang on to your hat; things look like they could get rough. SFBG
(1) Jennifer Holiday, “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going,” Dreamgirls (1982 Original Broadcast Cast) (Decca US)
(2) Byrds, There Is a Season (Legacy)
(3) Various artists, What It Is! Funky Soul and Rare Grooves (1967–<\d>1977) (Rhino)
(4) Clash, The Singles (Legacy)
(5) Various artists, American Music: The Hightone Records Story (Hightone)
(6) Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers, This Is a Journey … into Time (Liaison/Raw Venture)
(7) Pretenders, Pirate Radio (Rhino)
(8) Waylon Jennings, Nashville Rebel (RCA)
(9) Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, Legends of Country Music: Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys (Legacy)
(10) Jennifer Hudson, “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going,” Dreamgirls (Music from the Motion Picture) (Sony)

Rock in a hard place


› a&eletters@sfbg.com
Who cares what I have to say? I just review video games and write lies about music for pay. You don’t want to read about what kind of “meaning” I gleaned from my experience with music that “really mattered” in 2006, do you?
It’s 4 a.m. I ran out of money one week ago. I ran out of cigarettes at exactly 2:10 this morning, and until I get paid again — in approximately eight days if I’m lucky — I will be eating only things you can prepare by adding hot water. I don’t care about music. I hate music. I hate everything.
Well, I guess I don’t hate AC/DC, especially “Down Payment Blues,” which I think I listen to every day. I used to care about music — a lot, I suppose. I don’t anymore. The only new stuff I listened to this year with any real loyalty — and enjoyment — was a pair of singles from a band I have always hated: “Photograph” and “Rockstar” by Nickelback.
First of all, “Photograph” struck me because I thought it would make an excellent song for a new country dude to cover and have a huge hit with. I elect Tim McGraw to do it, as it sounds enough like “Where the Green Grass Grows,” which is probably what gave me the idea in the first place. This kind of unknown guy Dwayne Wade could do it too. Wade is cool — he’s like the return of John Stewart, who sang “Wild and Blue.” Wait, did I write Dwayne Wade and John Stewart? Ugh. I mean Dallas Wayne and John Anderson. Dwayne Wade is a basketball player. He’s on the Jets. Stewart — I have no idea where that name came from. Sorry, this is what happens when I don’t have cigarettes. I am actually crying right now.
Anyway, I also like the sentimental quality of the lyrics in “Photograph.” I guess I am supposed to quote something here, but I don’t feel like it. Just go listen to the song. You’ll see what I mean. You will also undoubtedly disagree with me. I liked “Rockstar” because it’s funny and also has a big chorus you can sing along with after listening for approximately one second.
One thing that hit me this past week about music in general is that indie rock won’t fucking go away. I don’t understand this. How can people still care about Cat Power or Jacket or Envelope or whatever those lame-ass bands are called? I don’t think there is anything more irrelevant, except maybe college football.
And after hearing this Chromatics EP, Nite, tonight, I also realized the neo–no wave thing is alive and well and suckier than ever. Man, that shit needs to die. What are they putting in the water in Seattle anyway? Anus? I read something about Nite in which the guy said the band was playing a sort of Italo-Euro pop. Is this the new thing, ripping off Italian pop or esoteric European styles that no one likes or cares about? Jesus Christ. I hate America.
With my limited knowledge, I think the only truly interesting and innovative things happening in music are in metal, but writing that is pointless because no one really actually cares about metal — besides those 50 metal fans. So 90 percent of the people who read this will just go back to listening to Arctic Monkeys. Even if they checked out Lamb of God, they wouldn’t like it. I don’t like Lamb of God that much myself — it’s just that they are a mainstream death metal band on a major label and they don’t wholly suck. Also they are not Christian, like seemingly every other “death” metal band right now, which is another disturbing trend today. This is happening because the Christians actually want us all dead. They are trying to bring about the end of the world. The government is helping them. Holy Jesus Lord, I want a cigarette. SFBG
(10) “You Shook Me All Night Long”
(9) “Whole Lotta Rosie”
(8) “Let Me Put My Love into You”
(7) “Back in Black”
(6) “Money Talks”
(5) “Stiff Upper Lip”
(4) “Fire Your Guns”
(3) “Safe in New York City”
(2) “Thunderstruck”
(1) “Hells Bells”

The best show I never saw


› duncan@sfbg.com
My daughter, Dolores — otherwise known as Dolly, though only to family, as she’s getting a little too sophisticated for nicknames — is a born rocker. The first music she heard, pipin’ hot out of the womb, was London Calling by the Clash. Now that she’s five, she wants more of the same when her father, mellowing in his old age, tries to catch the news on NPR on the way to kindergarten: “Dad, what is this? I don’t want talk…. I want rock.” When I inevitably cave to the pressure of the younger and cooler, the air guitar and air drums start right up.
Beyond rocking out in the car, Dolly fronts a semi-imaginary band called the Rock Girls, featuring a rotating lineup of her cousins Chloe and Abby on bass and drums, respectively, and Katie Rockgirl, Lisa McCartney, or Veronica Lee Mills (Dolly’s stage names) on — what else? — vocals and lead guitar. Now, I realize every parent in the world thinks their kid is somehow more gifted and magnificent than the common rabble of paste-eating snot noses, but I’m serious here: she’s got some intense, Tenacious D–style talent at coming up with extemporaneous rock lyrics, from her early punk hit “Step on a Pigeon, Yeah!,” made up on an evening stroll through the streets of Prague a few years ago, to her current repertoire, which is leaning lyrically toward the inspirational power ballad (“I can do anything in the world, yeah!”), and exhibits an intuitive grasp of song structure and phrasing. Beyond this, the kid’s got serious moves. She takes ballet and tap classes, both of which influence her Rock Girls routines, but lately she’s been working in flamenco-type flourishes and bounce-off-furniture, Martha Graham–meets–the Solid Gold Dancers modern dance maneuvers.
And while she’s seen the Sippy Cups during a matinee at Cafe du Nord and her namesake, Dolly Parton, at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, she hasn’t really seen any show-shows. You know, shows that happen after dark, with mosh pits and people in leather jackets drinking bourbon and acting cooler than they actually are. So I decided to take her to see Radio Birdman at the Great American Music Hall on Aug. 31. Why not? It was an all-ages show, I had an extra set of headphone-style ear protection left over from my days of shooting guns, and besides — she was born to rock.
As we walked down O’Farrell on the way to the show, we came to one of those sparkly sidewalks. Dolly has a rule: when there’s a sparkly sidewalk, you’ve got to dance. Doesn’t matter where you’re going or what you’re doing, sparkles equal boogie. This stretch of sparkle motion lasted half a city block and included a new move, the likes of which Britney Spears can only dream about.
“Did you see that, Dad? Did you see the DJ thing?”
She showed me again, cocking her head to the side as though holding headphones in the crook of her neck and doing an exaggerated Jam Master Jay–style zip-zip-whir scratch. I don’t know where she got it, but she’s got it.
We arrived at the hall around 9, and openers the Sermon had already played. I ran into my friend Brett from back in the day — he’d ridden his motorcycle from Denver to see Radio Birdman. It was a good night for Dolly’s first real show. Radio Birdman, who’d formed in 1974 in Sydney, Australia, broke up in 1979 and, despite occasional reformations, had never toured in the United States until now. They were in their 50s; Dolly was midway through five. The torch was about to be passed, rock ’n’ roll–style. The Black Furies came on with, “Fuckin’ fuck yeah! We’re the fuckin’ Black fuckin’ Furies from San Fran-fuckin’-cisco, motherfuckers!” I’m not sure how much Dolly caught from the balcony next to the lighting booth, where former Guardian intern K. Tighe hooked us up with the primo seats and free Cokes. Dolly’s had a few more cherries than mine, but I’m not one to hold a grudge.
Dolly had been talkin’ about rockin’ all day, from when I dropped her off at kindergarten at 10 to 8, to when her mom picked her up. We made sure she caught a nap after dinner, but it was a little shorter than planned, as she was superexcited to see the show. Halfway through the Black Furies, however, her eyelids started drooping, and she leaned into Pops, sleeping right through the Furies’ continuing flurry of fucks. I asked her if she wanted to go home, but she didn’t want to leave without accomplishing the mission.
She had a slight rally between sets. We did a little call-and-response in the bathroom:
“Are you ready?” I asked.
“Yeah!” she shouted.
“Ready to what?”
“Ready to rock!”
The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. We walked around the floor for a bit, which kind of freaked her out because it was dark and there were a bunch of punker types dressed in black. Plus, when you’re five, your eyes are level with most people’s butts, which has to be a drag. Then we went outside, where we spotted another kid with shotgun earmuffs. Went back upstairs to the lighting loft. My friend Heather stopped by and tried to chat with Dolly, who looked at me and said, “I want to go home now.”
I’m not going to lie to you: I was disappointed. But not all that much, strangely enough. I mean, if it’d been a date and my date was, like, “I’m not feeling this,” I’d have said, “Here’s a 20. Catch a cab.” But I’ve seen a lot of rock bands, and none of them are as cool as my kid. I’m sure Radio Birdman will come around again in the next 30 years. We’ll see them then — and I’ll be the one to fall asleep.
It’s not about me anymore, and I find that comforting. During the first six months of Dolly’s life, I found it terrifying, depressing, and just plain weird. I no longer played the lead role in my own life. I went through Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s five stages of death over that fact: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. And that’s where I am now: acceptance. Not a grudging but a welcoming acceptance. Hertz may have you believe that “when you’re number two, you try harder,” but the fact of the matter is, when you’re number two, you can finally relax. SFBG
• Radio Birdman (sort of) with Dolly, Great American Music Hall, Aug. 31
• The Melvins and Big Business, Great American Music Hall, Nov. 29. The Melvins killed rock. Rock is now dead, and all the other bands can unplug, go home, and stop pretending.
• Slim Cessna’s Auto Club and Rykarda Parasol, 12 Galaxies, Oct. 20
• Hot Mute, Hot Mute (Hot Mute)
• Easy Action, Triclops!, and Red Fang, Parkside, Nov. 10
• Viva Voce, Get Yr Blood Sucked Out (Barsuk)
• Bronx, Priestess, and Riverboat Gamblers, Independent, Jun. 24
• Bronx, The Bronx (Island)
• Silver Jews, Tanglewood Numbers (Drag City)
• Rykarda Parasol, Our Hearts First Meet (Three Ring)
• Rocky Votolato, Makers (Barsuk)
• Neko Case, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood (Anti-)
• Islands, Return to the Sea (Equator)
• Favourite Sons, Down Beside Your Beauty (Vice)
• Heartless Bastards, All This Time (Fat Possum)

Sing out


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The stage floods red, and the guitars churn. This rock is southern grit — a real heartland affair. Onstage, a man with straggly black hair steadies his guitar and returns to the microphone stand: “They’ve never known want, they’ll never know need/ Their shit don’t stink, and their kids won’t bleed/ Their kids won’t bleed in their damn little war/ And we can’t make it here anymore.” The crowd goes off, the band keeps up, and then James McMurtry puts down his guitar.
This is pretty much what preaching to the converted looks like. I should know — I’m up here every night, and I see it all the time. By day I’m a writer, but nights still find me on my balcony perch behind the lighting board at the Great American Music Hall. My voyeur point offers nightly opportunities to study the mechanics of crowds. From here, I’ve learned that hippies twirl, hipsters stand with arms folded, punk rockers still mosh — well, they try — and any alt-country audience worth its salt drains all the Maker’s Mark early in the night.
Still, there are two things that happen during every show. The first, somewhat annoying thing is that at some point someone in the band will say something like “Hey, this place used to be a brothel, you know.” This false statement is typically followed by a joke, statement, or inflammatory song about the Bush administration. The San Francisco crowd — regardless of what kind of night it is — will always go crazy.
McMurtry is at that point in the evening — only he’s played here enough times to forgo the cathouse comment, and he skips right to the hard stuff. “We Can’t Make It Here Anymore” is nothing short of an anthem, a wartime confession that things these days are pretty fucked up. This marks the third time I’ve witnessed a crowd encountering this song. From above, I can see the now-familiar shudders — I see the guitar chords grabbing at the guts, the lyrics pulling at the guilt, and the eyes glazing over with the most dutifully civic of queries: how the hell did we get to this point?
Music has long been a vehicle for dissent. In fact, the protest genre’s history is so strong that some of its most revolutionary battle cries (“The times they are a-changin’,” “God save the queen,” and “Fuck the police”) have become pop culture clichés. Sticks and stones and all of that, but it turns out the right words can pack one hell of a punch.
A few months ago during the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival in Golden Gate Park, a known dissenter rewrote an old song, Leadbelly’s “Bourgeois Blues,” in front of more than 50,000 listeners. It was Fleet Week in the city, and fighter jets roared overhead as Billy Bragg led his crowd through the chorus of “Bush War Blues,” a sea of middle fingers fiercely stabbing at the air.
It seems that we are all tangled up in the newest wave of protest music — and it’s quite a stretch from the “Kumbaya,” peacenik days of yore. Today’s troubadours are mobile. Bragg, McMurtry, and countless other hard-touring artists are playing festivals, midlevel clubs, and bars from coast to coast — resulting in a revolution being waged on stages throughout the land, a series of battles fought one song at a time.
I can’t help but think, as I watch the crowd down below, that at this very moment somewhere in this country, a 13-year-old kid is being shoved into a dark and sweaty all-ages venue. The band onstage is yelling about blood and oil, telling him he’s going to die for his government. The vocalist gives a “fuck you” to our commander-in-chief before launching into another indecipherable, out-of-tune 45-second song. The room goes wild. And the kid, for perhaps the first time, realizes that there is a movement afoot. SFBG
(1) Steve Earle and Billy Bragg on the same stage Oct. 7 at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, flipping off passing aircraft alongside their enormous crowds.
(2) Radio Birdman at the Great American Music Hall on Aug. 31. One of the greatest — and certainly most unexpected — shows of the year.
(3) Black Heart Procession with Calexico at the Fillmore on June 16.
(4) Leaving the Lucero and William Elliot Whitmore show at Slim’s on Oct. 12 with a broken heart, a gut full of whiskey, and a rekindled love for all things banjo.
(5) Seeing so many talented local bands do well this year was definitely a highlight. The barbarasteele and Black Fiction show at Cafe du Nord on Feb. 12 was proof positive that we are sitting on a gold mine.
(6) Nurse with Wound at the Great American, June 16–<\d>17, making naked ladies swim around the stage.
(7) Syd Barrett and Arthur Lee — you bastards. Rest in peace.
(8) Sleater-Kinney’s final SF shows at the Great American on May 2–<\d>3 reminded me why I loved them in the first place — just in time for them to break up, goddamn it.
(9) Dinosaur Jr. and the irreparable hearing damage they caused at the Great American on April 19–<\d>20 made me understand that always wearing earplugs, hiding in doorways, and not standing in front of three Marshall stacks might be good for my overall health.
(10) Someone having the good sense to pull the plug on Lauryn Hill, Great American on July 29.