Volume 41 Number 30

April 25 – May 1, 2007

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On point


> sarah@sfbg.com

April has been an exceptionally busy month for the artists at the Hunters Point Shipyard. In addition to dusting off work spaces in preparation for the upcoming Spring Open Studio, the 300-member colony is scrambling to track the implications of Mayor Gavin Newsom’s ever-shifting effort to keep the 49ers in town, particularly as it affects the artists who have rented space at the base for 30 years.

Newsom’s latest proposal involves building a football stadium in the shipyard rather than at Candlestick Point. That’s likely to displace a group that claims to be the largest colony of artists in the nation – unless the mayor can find a place for them in his hasty plans.

"Hellzapoppin’" is how shipyard artist Marc Ellen Hamel described the recent flurry of redevelopment-related meetings. Newsom says he needs to fast-track the transfer of the shipyard from the Navy to the city if he is to meet the 49ers’ deadline for being in a new stadium by 2012.

The blitz was triggered by the 49ers’ announcement in December 2006 that they were considering a move to Santa Clara – which team officials in part blamed on Newsom’s inattention – leading some Bayview-Hunters Point residents to complain that they’re paying the price for the administration’s fumble. Newsom has proposed folding Candlestick Point and the shipyard into a giant 2,000-acre redevelopment project – to be managed by the Lennar Corp., whose profits are nose-diving and which is being sued for alleged whistle-blower retaliation in connection with its failure to control toxic asbestos dust at the site.

"Newsom’s latest plan confirms his critics’ worst fears that this is a bait and switch," said builder Brian O’Flynn, who was part of last year’s referendum drive to put the city’s previous Bayview-Hunters Point redevelopment plan on the ballot and this year’s lawsuit to force a vote. "This latest plan is about political coverage for the mayor in an election year."

His group, Defend BVHP Committee, was already concerned about Newsom’s role in thwarting a vote on the old plan and has even more concerns about the new plan. "If the 49ers leave and the stadium plan is off the table, then Newsom’s latest proposal will make way for more condos for Lennar," O’Flynn told the Guardian.

Matt Dorsey of the City Attorney’s Office said that regardless of whether the city was right to strike down the referendum – as he maintains state case law required – the new plan will get more scrutiny. The Board of Supervisors voted in February to support Newsom’s approach to the shipyard but stipulated that the terms of any such transfer "require approval by the Recreation and Park Commission, the Board of Supervisors, and such other possible approvals, including voter approval."

The artists’ colony is waiting to learn the specifics of Lennar’s redevelopment proposal, which talks of creating "permanent space for the artists at Hunters Point Shipyard," along with new waterfront parks, 8,500 units of housing, and job-generating development. So far, Michael Cohen of the Mayor’s Office and Lennar’s Kofi Bonner are only shopping around what they call a "conceptual framework," which vaguely describes the parameters for merging the yard and Candlestick Point.

The city has promised to replace all existing low-income housing at the Alice Griffith projects and to phase in new units carefully so as not to displace current residents. The artists have not received such promises. They don’t know if they’ll end up paying double the price for half the space they currently occupy, which amounts to 248,400 square feet, according to building 101 artist David Trachtenberg.

But with Lennar announcing a two-year planning goal and talking about an arts-themed development, the colony is formuutf8g its own ideas about how such a plan could work.

"The shipyard is almost like an artists’ retreat," Estelle Akamine told us, as five colleagues spoke passionately about the light, desolation, and poppies that attract artists to the base.

"But it didn’t always feel like a retreat," recalled Akamine, who has rented at the shipyard for 18 years. "There was a lot of trauma in the 1980s when we thought that the USS Missouri was going to be home-ported here. So we’re very skeptical of plans. We were born out of politics."

The Mayor’s Office claims the city is working to expedite the cleanup and transfer of the shipyard not only to adhere to the 49ers’ timeline but also to "allow us to move forward with community benefits like parks, affordable housing, and jobs for the Bayview." Trachtenberg believes the mayor has a strong interest in keeping artists at the yard too.

Newsom promotes his proposal as a way to create jobs and revitalize the BVHP economy. Akamine said, "Artists are the tip of the iceberg. We’re the visible part of a huge, largely hidden industry." Recalling how artists in SoMa fell victim to the dot-com boom at the end of the ’90s, Akamine hopes such displaced organizations will be able to relocate to the shipyard.

"Why can’t we have galleries and suppliers down here too?" she asked.

April Hankins, who rents a studio in building 117, wants to see "performance space for productions, community theater and music, and touring groups. We are discussing space for classes. Ideally, it could make San Francisco a destination for the arts."

Dimitri Kourouniotis, who rents in building 116, is stoic about the inconvenience he’s already endured, thanks to the Navy’s radiological remediation on Parcel B, where his studio is situated.

"We have already had to leave temporarily," said Kourouniotis, explaining how a three-week project to remove radiological contamination from sewers and pipes ended up taking five months and left six buildings without running water or plumbing.

Hamel, who’s rented a studio in building 101 for 15 years, wants people to know that there’s "nothing wrong" with the artists at the shipyard. "We’re not contaminated, and none of the artists have had problems with illness from possible toxic elements," she says, while Hankins compares artists to the athletes that Newsom is apparently scrambling so hard to keep.

"Both need an arena in which to exhibit increasing skill," Hankins says. "An artist’s work and an athlete’s performance is their gift to their audience. In showing patronage, ball games with high ticket prices are attended; art is collected. In communities and teams, both nourish the culture of the city for which they perform. It would be a great loss to the Bay Area to have the shipyard artist community become a redevelopment casualty." *

Spring Open Studio runs April 28-29, 11 a.m.-6 p.m., at the Hunters Point Shipyard. For more information, go to www.springopenstudio.com.

Sunshine for Berkeley


EDITORIAL At long last the city of Berkeley is talking seriously about adopting a sunshine ordinance. That’s the good news, and it’s overdue: Councilmember Kris Worthington asked city attorney Manuela Albuquerque to start working on this six years ago.

The bad news is that Albuquerque has drafted a law that’s full of holes.

The biggest problem with the proposed ordinance is its lack of effective enforcement. Although the law sets (some) standards for open records and open meetings, any complaints about secrecy would go to the city manager. That won’t work: if we’ve learned one thing in covering politics for more than 40 years, it’s that city officials can’t police themselves on sunshine issues. What happens if the city manager is the biggest offender? What happens if the city manager doesn’t want to take on the mayor or the council members? What if the city manager winds up protecting city employees (who may be vioutf8g the ordinance with impunity)?

The ordinance needs a few other things – for example, mandatory time for public comment at City Council meetings ought to be written into the law instead of being left as a council rule that can change any time. There ought to be clear language stating that all requests for information are to be treated as public records requests, even if they aren’t in writing and didn’t come through the City Manager’s Office.

But if this ordinance is going to make any difference, it needs real enforcement – and that means having an outside, independent panel or commission that can handle complaints. In San Francisco, the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force does that job – and the city still lacks decent enforcement. If Berkeley wants to adopt a real landmark ordinance, it should follow what Connecticut has done and create an open records commission with the authority to order city departments, agencies, and officials to release documents and open up meetings.

Worthington is a strong supporter of an independent enforcement body and has been struggling to get Mayor Tom Bates and Albuquerque to go along.

At this point, Worthington and the sunshine advocates would be better off letting Terry Franke of Californians Aware and Mark Schlosberg of the American Civil Liberties Union – both of whom have offered their time and expertise – simply write another draft. It should include a new sunshine commission, with teeth. Worthington says that might require a charter amendment and thus a vote of the people, and he’s prepared to push the entire package onto the ballot if necessary.

That threat alone ought to get Bates and Albuquerque in line – and if it doesn’t, the voters of Berkeley should have the final say. *

The Guardian Iraq War casualty report (4/24/07)


The Guardian Iraq War casualty report (4/24/07): 9 U.S. soldiers killed. 25 Iraqi civilians killed.

Compiled by Paula Connelly

Today the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform heard testimony from U.S. military personnel and their family members as part of the Democratically-controlled Congress’s effort to hold the Bush Administration accountable for its conduct of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the New York Times. The hearings were intended to determine the “sources and motivations” for the erroneous accounts of the events that lead to the injury and death of specific U.S. soldiers.

Casualties in Iraq

U.S. military:

9 U.S. soldiers were killed in a car bomb attack that an insurgent group that includes al-Qaida claims responsibility for, according to the Associated Press.

: Killed since the U.S. invasion of Iraq 3/20/03

Source: http://www.icasualties.org/

For the Department of Defense statistics go to: http://www.defenselink.mil/

For a more detailed list of U.S. Military killed in the War in Iraq go to:

Iraqi civilians:

25 Iraqi civilians were killed today when a suicide bomber attacked a makeshift football field and market in the Albufarraj area east of Ramadi, according to the Brisbane Times.

: Killed since 3/03

Source: www.thelancet.com

62,281 – 68,289
: Killed since 1/03

For a week by week assessment of significant incidents and trends in Iraqi civilian casualties, go to A Week in Iraq by Lily Hamourtziadou. She is a member of the Iraq Body Count project, which maintains and updates the world’s only independent and comprehensive public database of media-reported civilian deaths in Iraq.

Source: http://www.iraqbodycount.net

A Week in Iraq: Week ending 15 April 2007:

For first hand accounts of the grave situation in Iraq, visit some of these blogs:

Iraq Military:

30,000: Killed since 2003



153 journalists have been killed in Iraq since the start of the war four years ago, making Iraq the world’s most dangerous country for the press, according to Reporters without borders.

156: Killed since 3/03

Source: http://www.infoshout.com/


The Bush administration plans to increase quota of Iraqi refugees allowed into the U.S. from 500 to 7,000 next year in response to the growing refugee crisis, according to the Guardian Unlimited.

Border policies are tightening because one million Iraqi refugees have already fled to Jordan and another one million to Syria. Iraqi refugees who manage to make it out of Iraq still can’t work, have difficulty attending school and are not eligible for health care. Many still need to return to Iraq to escape poverty, according to BBC news.

1.6 million: Iraqis displaced internally

1.8 million: Iraqis displaced to neighboring states

Many refugees were displaced prior to 2003, but an increasing number are fleeing now, according to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ estimates.

U.S. Military Wounded:

50,502: Wounded since 3/19/03 to 1/6/07

Source: http://www.icasualties.org/

The Guardian cost of Iraq war report (4/24/07): So far, $419 billion for the U.S., $53 billion for California and $1 billion for San Francisco.

Compiled by Paula Connelly

Here is a running total of the cost of the Iraq War to the U.S. taxpayer, provided by the National Priorities Project located in Northampton, Massachusetts. The number is based on Congressional appropriations. Niko Matsakis of Boston, MA and Elias Vlanton of Takoma Park, MD originally created the count in 2003 on costofwar.com. After maintaining it on their own for the first year, they gave it to the National Priorities Project to contribute to their ongoing educational efforts.

To bring the cost of the war home, please note that California has already lost $46 billion and San Francisco has lost $1 billion to the Bush war and his mistakes. In San Francisco alone, the funds used for the war in Iraq could have hired 21,264 additional public school teachers for one year, we could have built 11,048 additional housing units or we could have provided 59,482 students four-year scholarships at public universities. For a further breakdown of the cost of the war to your community, see the NPP website aptly titled “turning data into action.”

Editor’s Notes


> tredmond@sfbg.com

I knew a lot of sick puppies in high school and college – loners, misfits, and social nightmares who wrote short stories and poems about death and destruction and suicide and drew grisly cartoons of people with brains spattered and organs hanging out and strangely mangled genitalia. These days, I fear, a lot of them would have been sent to the campus counseling service. Back then it was all just art.

None of these people (to my knowledge) have ever done any physical harm to anyone. I’m almost certain that none of them have turned into mass murderers. Most are now successful and respected members of society.

And I think anyone who is attracted to the weirder elements and attended a liberal arts college probably has similar acquaintances.

So I’m not going to get all agitated about the fact that Seung-Hui Cho, the Virginia Tech killer, was never properly tracked and identified as a sociopath. That’s a tough nut – and if college campuses became places where everyone who bought and sold books about horror movies and wrote alarmingly dark stories in English class was forcibly psychoanalyzed, higher education would be a very different experience.

On the other hand, it’s hard to accept just how easy it was for this guy to get a pair of handguns – weapons of mass destruction that allowed him to kill more than 30 people. The thing is, he apparently did it all legally.

The fact that he was once sent for psychiatric observation didn’t make it into the Virginia database that tracks people unfit to buy weapons. But overall he was just another guy looking for a weapon that has no real purpose except to kill another human being – or in this case, large numbers of other human beings – and in his state, as in much of this country, that wasn’t a problem at all.

The thing that struck me the hardest, and most immediately, after the incident was the statement from President George W. Bush, who (of course) bemoaned the carnage and offered his prayers – but in the same few sentences made a point of saying that he supports the right to bear arms. It was kind of sick: Bush didn’t even have the tact to wait a single day before sucking up to the National Rifle Association.

Let’s be real: if Cho hadn’t been able to buy those guns, the odds are very good that 33 people in Virginia would still be alive today, teaching, studying, and thinking about their future. It’s about time we start dealing with that.

I have good friends who are hunters and own rifles. I’ve happily gorged on the roast pig that came from one hunter’s forays, and I’m not complaining. But hunting rifles aren’t terribly effective for the sort of killing we saw at Virginia Tech; for one thing, it’s pretty obvious when you carry one into class. No, the big problems are handguns and assault rifles – weapons that were not on anyone’s mind when the people who wrote the Constitution talked about a "well-regulated militia."

Don’t talk to me about self-defense, either. I’ve been studying and occasionally teaching self-defense for 15 years, and I can tell you that guns are, by and large, a rotten self-defense strategy, much more likely to be used against you or to be useless than to function properly at a time when you need them.

And yet there are handguns everywhere. God bless America. *

Another close one


Noise luminary Tom Smith’s nearly three-decade jaunt through the experimental rock abyss has been part of a sustained continuum of all his undertakings. Throughout the late ’70s and much of the ’80s, the main brain and entrepreneur of To Live and Shave in LA occupied his time in bands such as Of Boat, Pussy Galore, and Peach of Immortality, before TLASILA took its first few breaths in July 1990. After migrating to South Florida in 1991, the Georgia native quickly stumbled on bassist and engineer Frank "Rat Bastard" Falestra and oscillator operator Ben Wolcott. Alongside contemporaries such as Harry Pussy and Tamato duPlenty, the threesome submerged themselves in Miami’s flourishing noise rock scene of the early ’90s, carving a sonic palette void of any real structure but fraught with their influences: Throbbing Gristle, UK glam, kraut rock, and the avant-garde.

"We had no overt goal in mind, but we knew what we loved and shared a particular excitement for the things we deplored," Smith wrote in an e-mail. "It’s all problem-solving, really – a race toward unknowing. I gravitate towards reproduction and demolition."

Wolcott agreed via e-mail, attesting to the Miami scene’s love-hate relationship with the band. "We were respected for our perseverance but hated by the public. We were just reaching out to like-minded people, looking to commune with fellow extremists in the arts," he explained. "There is a slight obsessive bent to spreading the Shave gospel. We logged a lot of hours touring, and it’s hard to believe we would drive so many hours to blast our pedagogy that would only last for 15 minutes in an empty bar."

Originally devised by Smith as a solo project, TLASILA’s history is about as labor-intensive as it is legendary. Diligent – and sometimes violent – performances, a steady flow of albums and tours, and a rotating cast of players and slayers from a miscellany of eclectic musical realms have included everyone from Thurston Moore to Andrew W.K. to the Bay Area’s own Weasel Walter.

"Tom is a very peculiar, singular talent," Walter noted in yet another e-mail. "He is an outsider artist essentially. He is an obsessive organizer, and his inspiration comes from a wide swath of cultural vantages, from the highest to lowest. He puts Xenakis and the Dark Brothers on an even keel, and that’s why his art is simultaneously so visceral and intellectual. His lyrics are almost James Joyce-like in their pure semantical deconstruction…. What he does is absorb, cut up, and regurgitate everything in culture and spit it back out."

Following a festival performance in 2000, Smith broke ranks with the group and formed OHNE with Swiss performance artist Dave Phillips. With Wolcott already out of the picture, Falestra soldiered on with TLASILA, from which numerous spin-offs and clones surfaced, including TLASILA 2 and I Love LA. Falestra and Smith reconvened in 2003 and shaped the band into its strongest lineup yet: an 11-member ensemble residing throughout the country, in Atlanta; Las Vegas; Northampton, Mass.; LA; Charleston, SC; and Adel, Ga. Guitarist-producer Don Fleming, Sighting’s Mark Morgan, stripper Misty Martinez, Chris Grier, and Andrew "Gaybomb" Barranca are some of the noiseniks, along with Moore, Wolcott, and W.K., rounding out TLASILA’s current incarnation. A touring version, of Wolcott, Graham Moore, Martinez, and Falestra, will undertake the group’s West Coast dates – its first since 1996 – and will support TLASILA’s great 2006 full-length, Noon and Eternity (Menlo Park), and the forthcoming Les Tricoteuses (Savage Land). But the ceaseless TLASILA work ethic won’t allow the ensemble to stop there: Smith promises that even more albums can be expected to materialize during the ensuing tour. Live, shave, live again.


With Rose for Bohdan, Tourette, and the Weasel Walter Quartet

May 3, 8:30 p.m., $6-$10

21 Grand

416 25th St., Oakl.

(510) 444-7263

Also with Kreamy ‘Lectric Santa and Rose for Bohdan

May 4, 9:30 p.m., $8

Hemlock Tavern

1131 Polk, SF

(415) 923-0923

Soft machines


> a&eletters@sfbg.com

Electrifying a thumb piano sounds about as unlikely as, say, strapping a jet engine onto a surfboard. That very action, however, explains the central mystery behind Congo’s Konono No. 1. But don’t expect an esoteric creation myth from founder and likembe virtuoso Mawangu Mingiedi, who explains that his feedback-rich music exists simply "because it’s a very soft-sounding instrument and Kinshasa is a very noisy town."

The likembe has a gentle, waterlogged twang, like a mouth harp encased in Jell-O. It is as native to the Congolese sound as the ancestral hum of the Bazombo trance music brought to Kinshasa by Mingiedi when he left his hometown on the Angolan border after the death of his father. Answering questions with producer Vincent Kenis via e-mail, Mingiedi describes Bazombo as "the cradle of our music. There’s a little bit of it in whatever we play."

Konono No. 1 aspired to bring those ancient polyrhythms to urban gatherings, but how to rock the party with one of the quietest instruments going? As the likembe was hardly a match for the squall of city life in Congo’s capital, amplification of Mingiedi’s chosen instrument became the order of the day. This was to be no small feat, considering the resource-poor and occasionally violent setting he found himself in. "Bad things can happen in Kinshasa," Mingiedi explains. "Even when there’s peace in the streets, it’s certainly difficult to lead a peaceful life in a place where the most basic commodities are absent or intermittent at best."

While matter-of-fact about the hardships of life in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mingiedi is far more forthcoming when describing the trial-and-error process that ultimately led to the creation of Konono No. 1’s wall of plucks and feedback: "I started with cassette recorder microphones, but the feedback was difficult to control. Only later did I try electric guitar pickups, then reverse engineered them, then started to design my own models."

Mingiedi’s likembe hack is now the stuff of DIY legend, and it extends to more than just his particular instrument. Konono No. 1 is an ensemble of recycling genius – of wood microphones crowned with salvaged magnets, of percussion rendered from pots and pans, of car battery-powered amplifiers. Onstage the band is also flanked by massive lance voix, or voice throwers, megaphones originally used by Belgian colonizers. Yet even accompanied by dancers and armed with piercing whistles, Konono No. 1 has its heart in the three likembes that bob across the waves of rhythm like fragile tin boats. Mingiedi says these too have been modified: "First it was hollow, like the traditionally built likembe – then to suppress feedback I used a solid block of mahogany."

As years went by, word of Konono No. 1 trickled out, eventually reaching the ears of Crammed Records cofounder Kenis in the form of a culture broadcast in 1979. He remained enraptured by Konono No. 1, actually traveling to Congo to find them. As he writes in a letter to the music blog the Suburbs Are Killing Us, he was able to interact with other "tradi-modern" bands yet was told that Konono No. 1 had ceased to exist. Finally, in 2000 he received word that they had reunited – using the same equipment they had played years before.

Fast-forward to 2007, and Konono No. 1 have traveled the world, performing at the Kennedy Center, opening for Dutch legends the Ex, and most recently contributing to the first single off Bjork’s latest record, Volta (One Little Indian/Atlantic), titled "Earth Intruders." When I ask if Konono No. 1 will perform with Bjork, Mingiedi answers with hints of Sun Ra, "I hope it will happen. If it does, watch out for our special Earth intruder stage outfits." *


Sat/28, 9 p.m., $20

Great American Music Hall

859 O’Farrell, SF

(415) 885-0750

Give it a hand


> andrea@altsexcolumn.com

Dear readers:

Every few months some harried freelancer charged with coming up with a novel spin on something sexual or other contacts me for a pithy quote. And since I am all about the pith, I will oblige if at all possible. Most recently, the writer was a staffer at Details, which I used to read when it was sort of sceney and kinda gay back in the ’80s but which sunk beneath my radar when it morphed into some sort of younger, more metro GQ. What did I think, the writer wanted to know, about the demise of the hand job? Had the rise of more exotic pursuits among American teenagers sealed its fate, or was good old manual release doomed to fade into obscurity by dint of its own lack of pizzazz? What was the hand job’s appeal, if any? And by the way, did I know any really good horror stories, Indian burns, that sort of thing?

It got me thinking, first about horror stories. As a collector of (other people’s) horrible sex accident stories, I know that hand jobs hardly figure. Skin-to-skin virus transmission is possible, sure, but nobody ever seems to accidentally yank anybody’s equipment clean off or anything. Not even close. Even CBT, cock and ball torture, is rarely as grizzly as it sounds. I did once demonstrate my most successful technique, a two-fisted opposite swivel, for a friendgirl who’d had only girlfriends but was considering branching out. Damned if my little pantomime didn’t look very much like I was administering an Indian (sorry, Native American is it?) burn, something I’d never noticed when doing it for real. Of course, hand jobs are best administered with a generous shot of lube or, at the very least, a palmful of spit. It’s really hard to hurt somebody with a palmful of spit.

So, hand jobs are safe, I concluded, but are they sexy? Is nobody doing them anymore because there’s so much hotter stuff to do, or is it simply that they’re not worth doing? These I couldn’t answer because I’m not sure I buy the premise. There’s no question that there has been a steady trickle (ew) of articles and TV scare pieces about the oral sex "epidemic" among young people, going back at least 10 years. But not only do these fail to convince me that more young people (well, women – these articles are never about a cunnilingus epidemic) are going down, they never say a thing about them eschewing hand jobs in favor of blow jobs. If you compare The National Survey of Family Growth, the best recent research on Americans’ sex habits, published in 2005, with Sex in America, the last decent survey, done in the early ’90s, there isn’t much increase in the incidence of oral sex. Period. There is, intriguingly, an increase in the incidence of anal sex, potentially a much greater health risk. But it doesn’t say a thing about hand jobs, which are, presumably, relegated to the catchall category "any" sex. So no matter how many articles are published insisting that life for the typical American teen these days is one big blow job party (the parts that aren’t taken up with pornographically violent video games and being obese, anyway), I haven’t seen anything supporting it. And before people start freaking out about all those teenagers having anal sex, the increase there was among people in their 20s.

My own take is that hand jobs aren’t dead, they’re just boring. Or at least, boringish. Boringish to receive, depending upon the recipient’s level of desperation and the donor’s skill, of course; boringish to perform (at least compared to the raunchier, more dramatic blow job), and above all boringish to write TV magazine scare pieces about. Nobody dies from them, so nobody cares. Also, while the hand job may figure prominently in some gay male scenes, most straight people kind of forget about them as they leave their teenage groping days behind. This leaves me, an inveterate champion of the underdog, in the position of having to defend the poor, disrespected hand job. Besides the obvious safety issue, they’re, um, easy. They don’t make you gag, not unless something nearly unimaginable disgusting is going on. They’re a good way to learn about penises. This last is true, actually, since for some reason most girls start out believing that a penis ought to be patted gently on the head, like an elderly lap dog, while in truth they can, and ought, to be wrangled, roped, and thrown like a rodeo doggie. Only hands-on learning will do.

So this is what I told the writer from Details: "After its high school glory days, the hand job may go underground, but it’s rarely completely missing from a couple’s repertoire. It’s just that it becomes a tool, or a tool of a tool, rather than an act in its own right. Foreplay without any hand play, for instance, would become sort of a special trick, like writing a paragraph without using any e‘s."



Andrea Nemerson teaches sex and communication skills with San Francisco Sex Information. She has been a theater artist, a women’s health educator, and a composting instructor, but not at the same time. She is considering offering a workshop on how to have and rear twins without going crazy, since she’s currently doing that too.

Web Site of the Week


Every day in San Francisco there are group bicycle rides or other events that peddle a healthy lifestyle, as this calendar shows. This week’s highlights: TV Turnoff Week is April 23-29, and there’s a much anticipated Critical Mass ride April 27. And stay tuned for www.bikesummer.org.

David Butcher rides a pedal-powered generator through Golden Gate Park on Earth Day, showing how human energy can be used to create usable electricity, as part of the Sustainable Living Roadshow during the Green Apple Festival on April 22.

Death of fun, the sequel


> news@sfbg.com

Fun – in the form of fairs, festivals, bars, art in the parks, and the freedom to occasionally drink alcohol in public places – is under attack in San Francisco.

The multipronged assault is coming primarily from two sources: city agencies with budget shortfalls and NIMBYs who don’t like to hear people partying. The crackdown has only intensified since the Guardian sounded the alarm last year (see “The Death of Fun,” 5/24/06), but the fun seekers are now organizing, finding some allies, and starting to push back.

Mayor Gavin Newsom and other city hall leaders have been meeting with the Outdoor Events Coalition, which formed last year in response to the threat, about valuing the city’s beloved social gatherings and staving off steep fee hikes that have been sought by the Recreation and Park, Fire, Public Works, and Police departments.

Those conversations have already yielded at least a temporary reprieve from a substantial increase in use fees for all the city’s parks. It’s also led to a rollback of the How Weird Street Faire’s particularly outrageous police fees (its $7,700 sum last year jumped to $23,833 this year – despite the event being forced by the city to end two hours earlier – before pressure from the Guardian and city hall forced it back down to $4,734).

The San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee will also wade into the issue April 25 when it considers a resolution warning that “San Francisco has become noticeably less tolerant of nightlife and outdoor events.” It is sponsored by Scott Wiener, Robert Haaland, Michael Goldstein, and David Campos.

The measure expresses this premier political organization’s “strong disagreement with the City agencies and commissions that have undermined San Francisco’s nightlife and tradition of street festivals and encourages efforts to remove obstacles to the permitting of such venues and events up to and including structural reform of government permitting processes to accomplish that goal.”

The resolution specifically cites the restrictions and fee increases that have hit the How Weird Street Faire, the Haight Ashbury Street Fair (where alcohol is banned this year for the first time), and the North Beach Jazz Festival, but it also notes that a wide variety of events “provide major fundraising opportunities for community-serving nonprofits such as HIV/AIDS, breast cancer, and violence-prevention organizations that are dependent upon the revenue generated at these events.”

Yet the wet blanket crowd still seems ascendant. Sup. Michela Alioto-Pier now wants to ban alcohol in all city parks that contain playgrounds, which is most of them. Hole in the Wall has hit unexpected opposition to its relocation (see “Bar Wars,” 4/18/07), while Club Six is being threatened by its neighbors and the Entertainment Commission about noise issues. And one group is trying to kill a band shell made of recycled car hoods that is proposed for temporary summer placement on the Panhandle.

That project, as well as the proposal for drastically increased fees for using public spaces, is expected to be considered May 3 by the Rec and Park Commission, which is likely to be a prime battleground in the ongoing fight over fun.



Rec and Park, like many other city departments, is facing a big budget shortfall and neglected facilities overdue for attention. A budget analyst audit last year also recommended that the department create a more coherent system for its 400 different permits and increase fees by 2 percent.

Yet the department responded by proposing to roughly double its special event fees, even though they make up just $560,000 of the $4.5 million that the department collects from all fees. Making things even worse was the proposal to charge events based on a park’s maximum capacity rather than the actual number of attendees.

The proposal caused an uproar when it was introduced last year, as promoters say it would kill many beloved events, so it was tabled. Then an almost identical proposal was quietly introduced this year, drawing the same concerns.

“These are just preliminary numbers, and they may change,” department spokesperson Rose Dennis told us, although she wouldn’t elaborate on why the same unpopular proposal was revived.

Event organizers, who were told last year that they would be consulted on the new fee schedule, were dumbfounded. They say the new policy forces them to come up with a lot of cash if attendance lags or the weather is bad.

Mitigating such a risk means charging admission, corralling corporate sponsorship, or pushing more commerce on attendees. This may not be a hindrance for some of the well-known and sponsored events such as Bay to Breakers and SF Pride, but consider how the low-budget Movie Night in Dolores Park might come up with $6,000 instead of $250, or how additional permit fees could strangle the potential of nascent groups such as Movement for Unconditional Amnesty.

The group is sponsoring a march in honor of the Great American Boycott of 2006. On May 1 it will walk from Dolores Park to the Civic Center in recognition of immigrants’ rights. The group wanted to offer concessions, because food vendors donate a percentage of their sales to the organization, but the permit fee for propane use from the Fire Department was too high.

“They couldn’t guarantee they’d make more than $1,200 in food to cover the costs of permits,” said Forrest Schmidt, of the ANSWER Coalition, who is assisting the organizers. “So they lost an opportunity to raise funds to support their work. It’s more than $1,000 taken off the top of the movement.”

ANSWER faced a similar problem after the antiwar rally in March, when the rule regarding propane permits was reinterpreted so that a base charge, once applied to an entire event, was now charged of each concessionaire – quadrupling the overall cost. ANSWER pleaded its case against this new reading of the law and was granted a one-time reprieve. But Schmidt says none of the SFFD’s paperwork backs up a need to charge so much money.

“They kept on saying over and over again, ‘You guys are making money on this,’ ” Schmidt said. “But it’s an administrative fee to make sure we’re not setting anything on fire. It’s essentially a tax. It’s a deceitful form of politics and part of what’s changing the demographic of the city.”

The Outdoor Events Coalition, which represents more than 25 events in the city, agrees and has been meeting with city officials to hash out another interim solution for this year, as well as a long-term plan for financial sustainability for all parties.

“We’re cautiously optimistic,” said Robbie Kowal, a coalition leader and organizer of the North Beach Jazz Festival. But he’s still concerned about what he and the coalition see as a continuing trend.

“The city is changing in some way. It’s becoming a culture of complaint. There’s this whole idea you can elect yourself into a neighborhood organization, you can invent your own constituency, and the bureaucracy has to take you seriously. Neighborhood power can be so effective in fighting against a Starbucks, but when it’s turned around and used to kill an indigenous part of that neighborhood, like its local street fair, that’s an abuse of that neighborhood power.”



Black Rock Arts Foundation, the San Francisco public art nonprofit that grew out of Burning Man, has enjoyed a successful and symbiotic partnership with the Newsom administration, placing well-received temporary artwork in Hayes Green, Civic Center Plaza, and the Embarcadero.

So when BRAF, the Neighborhood Parks Council, the city’s Department of the Environment, and several community groups decided several months ago to collaborate on a trio of new temporary art pieces, most people involved thought they were headed for another kumbaya moment. Then one of the projects hit a small but vocal pocket of resistance.

A group of artists from the Finch Mob and Rebar collectives are now at work on the Panhandle band shell, a performance space for nonamplified acoustic music and other performances that is made from the hoods of 75 midsize sedans. The idea is to promote the recycling and reuse of materials while creating a community gathering spot for arts appreciation.

Most neighborhood groups in the area like the project, and 147 individuals have written letters of support, versus the 17 letters that have taken issue with the project’s potential to draw crowds and create noise, litter, graffiti, congestion, and a hangout for homeless people.

But the opposition has been amplified by members of the Panhandle Residents Organization Stanyan Fulton (PROSF), which runs one of the most active listservs in the city, championing causes ranging from government sunshine to neighborhood concerns. The group, with support from Sup. Ross Mirkarimi’s staff, has delayed the project’s approval and thus placed its future in jeopardy (installation was scheduled to begin next month).

“My main concern would be that this is a very narrow strip of land that is bordered by homes on both sides,” said neighbor Maureen Murphy, who has complained about the project to the city and online through the PROSF. “My fear is that there is going to be amplification and more people and litter.”

The debate was scheduled to be heard by the Rec and Park Commission on April 19 but was postponed to May 3 because of the controversy. Nonetheless, Newsom showed up at the last hearing to offer his support.

“Rare do I come in front of committee, but I wanted to underscore … the partnership we’ve had with Black Rock Arts Foundation. It’s been a very successful one and one I want to encourage this commission to reinforce,” Newsom told the commission. “I think the opportunity exists for us … to take advantage of these partnerships and really bring to the forefront in people’s minds more temporary public art.”

Rachel Weidinger, who is handling the project for BRAF, said the organizers have been very sensitive to public input, neighborhood concerns, environmental issues, and the impacts of the project, at one point changing sites to one with better drainage. And she’s been actively telling opponents that the project won’t allow amplified music or large gatherings (those of 25 or more will require a special permit). But she said that there’s little they can do about those who simply don’t want people to gather in the park.

“We are trying to activate park space with temporary artwork,” she said. “Guilty as charged.”

Yet any activated public space – whether a street closed for a fair or a march, a park turned into a concert space, or a vacant storefront turned into a nightclub – is bound to generate a few critics. The question for San Francisco now is how to balance NIMBY desires and bureaucratic needs with a broader concern for facilitating fun in the big city.

“Some people have the idea that events and nightlife are an evil to be restricted,” Wiener said. But his resolution is intended as “a cultural statement about what kind of city we want to live in.” *


Up against the police secrecy lobby


EDITORIAL On April 17 the full weight of the state’s secrecy lobby and police unions descended on Sacramento to prevent the public from having any access to the records of peace officers who have faced disciplinary charges. The tactics were brutal: Everett Bobbitt, a police lawyer, testified to the Assembly Public Safety Committee that allowing any sunshine whatsoever would instantly threaten the lives of hardworking cops and their families.

His argument was bizarre, reminiscent of some of the tortured claims that the Bush administration made in seeking support for the war in Iraq and the civil liberties fiasco called the USA PATRIOT Act. He suggested that criminal gangs might find out something that would allow them to threaten police officers (despite the fact that until a recent court decision these records had been open for more than 20 years in San Francisco and 30 in Berkeley, and not a single cop had been in any way physically harmed by the information). He claimed that peace officers have an extraordinary right to privacy (despite the fact that as public employees who are given guns and badges and extraordinary powers, they need at least some degree of public accountability).

And the committee, despite being dominated by Democrats, was utterly cowed. It was a disgrace, and public officials and law enforcement leaders in San Francisco and the East Bay need to make a point of joining the fight to ensure that police secrecy doesn’t continue to carry the day.

At issue was a bill by Assemblymember Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) that would overturn an odious 2006 court decision known as Copley. In that ruling, the California Supreme Court concluded that all files and hearings reutf8g to police discipline must be kept entirely secret. The ruling "has effectively shut down virtually every forum in which the public previously had access to the police discipline process," Tom Newton, general counsel to the California Newspaper Publishers Association, wrote in a letter supporting Leno’s bill, AB 1648.

Newton added, "Copley represents nothing less than complete and total victory for the secrecy lobby in this state. In the ultimate perversion of legislative intent, the most powerful forces in government and their exceptionally creative and effective lobbyists have achieved a perfect storm of official secrecy – making it illegal to inform the public about official corruption…. These aren’t just any public employees that have achieved the holy grail of KGB-like official secrecy – they are the only public officials given the right by the public to affect the personal liberty of citizens and even take life, if necessary to protect the public peace."

Leno’s bill – which would simply restore the law to what it was for decades – had the support of the American Civil Liberties Union and a long list of grassroots organizations, including the Asian Law Caucus, Chinese for Affirmative Action, La Raza Centro Legal, the NAACP, and the National Black Police Association.

And yet Leno didn’t have the votes in the committee to even move the bill to the floor. Not one of his four Democratic colleagues (Jose Solorio of Anaheim, Hector de la Torre of South Gate, Anthony J. Portantino of Pasadena, and San Francisco’s Fiona Ma) was willing to move the bill forward. Ma, apparently, was among those who bought the police line: she told the Guardian she was "not prepared to vote for Leno’s bill as it was" but would be willing to accept a compromise that "also protects the rights of family members." Remember, nothing in Leno’s bill in any way endangers or provides any information on any member of a police officer’s family.

The only good news is that a similar, slightly weaker bill, SB 1019, by state senator Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles), has cleared the Senate’s Public Safety Committee and will go to the Senate floor – and if it passes, it will come before the Assembly. So there’s still a chance to pass some version of a police accountability and sunshine bill this year.

It’s crucial that public officials and particularly law enforcement leaders speak out in favor of this legislation. The city of Berkeley has formally endorsed the bill, but Mayor Gavin Newsom and Oakland mayor Ron Dellums have been silent and need to speak up. So should San Francisco sheriff Mike Hennessey (who told us he supports the idea in principle but thinks Leno’s proposal goes too far) and District Attorney Kamala Harris.

And Fiona Ma needs to hear, loudly, from her constituents: police accountability is a priority, and she can’t get away with ducking it. *

Small Business Awards 2007: A salute to small business


The Brugmann family has been continuously in small business for 105 years. My grandfather, the eighth child of German immigrants who homesteaded in the Midwest’s high prairie grass, came to Rock Rapids, Iowa, in 1902 to start a drugstore.

He and my father after him spent their entire working lives in that store, known throughout the territory as "Brugmann’s Drugs, where drugs and gold are fairly sold, since 1902." I started at 12 selling stamps and peanuts and worked my way up to trimming wallpaper and waiting on trade. I also moonlighted as a writer for the Lyon County Reporter, an excellent hometown weekly under third-generation publisher Paul Smith.

My father would call on every new merchant and pass along his philosophy of how to make it in business in a small town such as Rock Rapids (population: 2,800). His message: play golf, go to church, do all your trading in Rock Rapids, and above all support the town and its community activities.

This philosophy always worked well for the Brugmanns, and ours was the only store on Main Street to make it through the depression.

When Jean Dibble and I founded the Guardian in 1966, we tried to operate with the hometown values of the Brugmanns in Rock Rapids, adding some San Francisco flair and later some Potrero Hill flair. We were delighted to find that San Francisco was a city with lively neighborhoods rich in small, locally owned businesses backed by merchant and residential associations and feisty neighborhood newspapers. From the start, the Guardian was a stand-alone independent newspaper that was of, by, and for small business. We still are.

And so when the Guardian moved to its new offices at the bottom of Potrero Hill, we were happy to join the Potrero Hill Merchants Association, meeting every month at Phil de Andrade’s Goat Hill Pizza. We pitched in on projects, from supporting the Neighborhood House and Potrero Hill History Night to instituting a real planning process to save the neighborhood. We also joined the endless battles to protect the hill and the southeastern neighborhoods from the Pacific and Gas Electric Co. and Mirant power plants and the encroaching Mission Bay complex and invasion of high-priced commercial and residential condos.

We like to say that the big downtown and chain businesses look upon San Francisco as a place from which to extract as much money as quickly as possible, much the way the strip miners saw the Sierra, whereas small, locally owned businesses see the city as a place to invest in human capital to build real community.

Jean and I and our staff are happy to salute the quiet heroes of small business with our third annual Small Business Awards. We congratulate the winners and all the small-business people in San Francisco who struggle daily against high taxes and daunting odds to keep their businesses going, their neighborhoods vibrant, and San Francisco an incomparably great city. *

The 2007 Small Business Awards

Die-Hard Independent Award
Clif Bar Co.

Golden Survivor Award
Hoogasian Flowers

Community Institution Award
Modern Times Bookstore

Solar-Powered Business Award

Community Activist Award
Pet Camp

Chain Store Alternative Award
Waldeck’s Office Supplies

Cooperative Award
Woodshanti Cooperative

Previous winners

Take 50




*Golden Door (Emanuele Crialese, Italy/France, 2006). Epic in scope, playful in its stylistic shifts and tonal splices, and sumptuous in its painterly framing and use of light, Golden Door looks on an age-old American saga – an immigrant family’s crossing from the Old World to the new – with startlingly fresh, impassioned eyes. Director Emanuele Crialese (Respiro) turns his sometimes wry, sometimes tender focus on a band of illiterate Sicilian peasants drawn from their dirt-poor village by pre-Photoshop pictures of giant chickens and trees laden with enormous gold coins. Led by an intrepid yet ignorant patriarch (Respiro‘s Vincenzo Amato) and a comical spiritual fixer of a grandmother (Aurora Quattrocchi), the group is joined in steerage by a cryptic gentlewoman (Charlotte Gainsbourg). Ellis Island and its proto-eugenic experiments await – along with dream sequences that fluidly transmit the otherworldly magic of the villagers’ forthcoming American mystery tour. (Kimberly Chun)

7 p.m., Castro. Opening night film and party at City Hall, $85-$125


Black Sheep (Jonathan King, New Zealand, 2006). Something is going baaaaaad in Lord of the Rings country. The usual science experiment-gone-wrong results in the usual creature rampage, as sheep go George Romero on humans at a rural New Zealand ranch. This jolly, diverting, ultimately too-silly horror comedy from neophyte writer-director Jonathan King is duly funny. Still, it overstays its one-joke welcome by a bleat or three. (Dennis Harvey)

10:45 p.m., Kabuki

*A Few Days Later … (Niki Karimi, Iran, 2006). Already a star from her appearances in Tahmineh Milani’s overwrought – but much beloved – melodramas, Iranian actress Niki Karimi looked to the grand master, Abbas Kiarostami, for directing inspiration. In this, her second feature, she beautifully captures a specific brand of avoidance and understatement. She plays Shahrzad, a mousy graphic designer who becomes distracted at work. At home her answering machine constantly squawks about her family’s health and well-being, and her annoying neighbor (Behzad Dorani, from Kiarostami’s The Wind Will Carry Us) keeps parking his giant SUV in her space. To her credit, Karimi never shows the expected hospital scenes, tearful good-byes, or tense confrontations that seem to be looming. Instead, she retreats inside the character’s head and brings the film to a stunningly private conclusion. (Jeffrey M. Anderson)

7:15 p.m., PFA. Also Sun/29, 12:15 p.m., Kabuki; Mon/30, 6:45 p.m., Kabuki

Murch (David and Edie Ichioka, England/US, 2006). Codirector Edie Ichioka is a disciple of legendary film and sound editor Walter Murch (Apocalypse Now, The English Patient), so you know this doc will be nothing less than a glowing portrait. But instead of a simple glorification, it is more an embellished interview (complete with jump cuts during the talking head portions), with Murch using an astounding array of metaphors – besides the obvious "editing is like putting together a puzzle," he also works in painters, sock puppets, kidney transplants, and dream therapy, among others – to explain his approach to his craft. As Murch proves, a talented editor can make a good film great and a great film a masterpiece; it all comes down to an intangible combination of technical skill, sense of rhythm, and artistic instinct. (Cheryl Eddy)

9 p.m., SFMOMA. Also Sun/29, 4:15 p.m., Castro; Tues/1, 1 p.m., Kabuki; May 5, 3:30 p.m., PFA

*Slumming (Michael Glawogger, Austria/Switzerland, 2006). Two arrogant yuppie pranksters (August Diehl and Michael Ostrowski) cruise around verbally pigeonholing others, making playthings of them. Meanwhile, a drunken, derelict poet (Paulus Manker) wanders the streets alternately cajoling and ranting at people. When the pranksters find the poet passed out on a bus station bench, they decide to transport him to a similar spot across the border, without a passport. Director Michael Glawogger (Workingman’s Death) and cowriter Barbara Albert achieve a pleasurable quirky quality with their black comedy, carefully guiding it between the precious and the preachy; they sometimes amusingly present a joke’s payoff before the setup. The film passes easily between immaculate cafes and slush-covered highways, but at its center is Manker’s wonderfully cantankerous performance. (Anderson)

9:30 p.m., Kabuki. Also Sat/28, 1:30 p.m., Kabuki; May 5, 8:30 p.m., SFMOMA; May 7, 6:30 p.m., Aquarius


*All in This Tea (Les Blank and Gina Leibrecht, US, 2006). Tea still has an effete connotation in this country, but David Lee Hoffman is an adventurer of the old order. An unabashed partisan of the fair drink, he regularly travels to China to ferret out farmers and distributors, sampling and savoring the Old World leaves. His dedication is total; we’re hardly surprised when Werner Herzog drops by Hoffman’s Marin home for a spot of tea, because the director is a connoisseur of aficionados, explorers, and cranks. Hoffman is capably eccentric but also unassuming, making All in This Tea a friendly primer. Codirectors Les Blank and Gina Leibrecht bring their usual ethnographic grace to this 10-years-in-the-making project. (Goldberg)

1:30 p.m., PFA. Also Sun/29, 4:45 p.m., Kabuki; May 2, 4 p.m., Kabuki

*At the Edge: New Experimental Cinema (various). Experimental showcases are always an Achilles heel for film festivals big on narrative. They’re often shoehorned with tepid concessions to so-called innovation, although sometimes they yield moments of genuine surprise. This showcase has a bit of both. Paul Clipson’s Super 8 trip of blurred urban lightscapes looks through Stan Brakhage’s kaleidoscope but can’t see beyond it. On the other hand, the sleep of reason produces monsters (slavery, social Darwinism) and some beautiful animation in Atlantis Unbound, in which Lori Hiris morphs her black-and-white charcoal sketches – evoking the mystical art of William Blake or Austin Osman Spare – of 19th-century scientists into slaves, merfolk, and other beings from beyond the pale of the Enlightenment. The banality of evil is also evoked in Xavier Lukomski’s static shots of the serene Drina River Bridge, where, as the voice-over informs us, Bosnians dredged up the victims of genocide. When viewed through a long shot, the horrors of history become more pronounced, given their calm surroundings. (Matt Sussman)

8:30 p.m., PFA. Also Tues/1, 6:15 p.m., Kabuki

*Carved Out of Pavement: The Work of Rob Nilsson On the brink of 70, longtime SF filmmaker Rob Nilsson is astonishingly prolific. No less than four work-in-progress features will be excerpted in this tribute program, including some from the nearly completed "9@Night" series of interwoven fictions made with the Tenderloin Action Group. For all his invention and industry in production, Nilsson hasn’t exactly worked overtime getting his movies seen – except at the Mill Valley Film Festival, where you can count on one or two premiering each fall. The MVFF is copresenting this special show, which will have the filmmaker reviewing a career that stretches back to the mid-’70s SF CineAction collective and 1979’s Cannes Camera d’Or-winning Northern Lights, as well as discussing latter-day digital projects with numerous current collaborators, also present. Excerpts from "9@Night" will also be projected on the SFIFF’s Justin Herman Plaza outdoor screen May 1 to 3. (Harvey)

7 p.m., Kabuki

Fabricating Tom Ze (Decio Matos Jr., Brazil, 2006). Though typically grouped with the explosive Brazilian Tropicalismo movement, Tom Ze has always been too much of an eccentric to fall properly into line. It’s a point made abundantly clear in Fabricating Tom Ze (I still haven’t figured out the title), a generally awestruck doc that makes up for its thin content with plenty of Ze’s indefatigable, abundant speech. Between the interruptions, self-mythologizing, and creative suggestions for the film’s director (all of which Decio Matos Jr. takes), Ze spills over with quixotic, brilliant epigrams on creativity and authenticity. "I have to make a small invention every time I have an idea worthy of becoming music," he reports – as if there were any doubting his inventiveness. (Goldberg)

1 p.m., SFMOMA. Also Tues/1, 8;30 p.m., El Rio; May 6, 3:30 p.m., Kabuki; May 9, 6:30 p.m., Aquarius

*Hana (Hirokazu Kore-eda, Japan, 2006). Hirokazu Kore-eda’s gentle deconstruction of that venerable institution of Japanese film the samurai movie isn’t too much of a departure from his previous features. Hana also focuses on the small, unexpected sense of community that arises out of idiosyncratic responses to tragedy or, in this case, the public’s hunger for it. It’s 1702, and like other underemployed samurai during peacetime, Sozaemon Aoki (Okada Junichi) is restless, as is the general population, which gorges itself on violent revenge plays and romanticized notions of honor. The pensive Sozaemon is bent on carrying out his duty to avenge his father’s death, even if he seems more at home tutoring the kids in the hardscrabble but lively tenement where he lives. His neighbors, who initially tease him about his lack of guts, eventually rally round his failures – and their own lowly status – and celebrate the humble resolve. To paraphrase resident dimwit Mago (Kimura Yuichi), when life gives you shit, make rice cakes. (Sussman)

4:30 p.m., Kabuki. Also May 2, 6:45 p.m.; and May 5, 5:45 p.m., PFA

*The Island (Pavel Lounguine, Russia, 2006). Not to be confused with Michael Bay’s jiggly, blow-’em-up, organ-harvesting gesture toward Logan’s Run. If Andrei Tarkovsky’s movies were lit by God, then The Island sets God to work creating an austere black-and-white landscape of unforgiving snow, rocky shores, hills of coal, and blighted driftwood. By all appearances a mad monk but in this reality a truth-talking, faith-healing saint of sorts, Father Anatoly is doing penance on the island for a wartime act that most reasonable deities would excuse. No such luck for this Russian Orthodox overseer – wearisome monastery politics and the teary negotiations of the sick and injured occupy the sooty savant in this elegantly wrought parable, which puts cheesy stateside Biblesploitation big-budgeters such as The Reckoning to shame. (Chun)

4:15 p.m., Kabuki. Also May 2, 6:45 p.m., Kabuki; May 3, 3:30 p.m., Kabuki

Once (John Carney, Ireland, 2006). A genuine sleeper at Sundance, this small Irish indie charmer will be spoiled only if you swallow all advance hype about its purported brilliance. Sometimes nice is quite enough. Real-life singer-songwriters Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova play struggling Dublin musicians, one a native busker still living above Da’s vacuum repair shop, the other a Czech emigre supporting her family by selling flowers on the street. Their slow-burning romance is more musical than carnal, climaxing in a studio recording session. Writer-director John Carney’s film manages to play like a full-blown musical without anyone ever bursting into song. Instead, the appealing original folk rock tunes played and sound-tracked here come off as vivid commentary on a platonic (yet frissony) central relationship. (Harvey)

7:15 p.m., Kabuki. Also May 6, 9:30 p.m., Clay

Protagonist (Jessica Yu, US, 2006). Jessica Yu, the Oscar-winning director of the 1996 short documentary Breathing Lessons (she also made 2004’s In the Realms of the Unreal, a haunting look at outsider artist Henry Darger), returns with Protagonist, an initially confusing but ultimately fascinating doc about four men who couldn’t be more dissimilar on the surface. How can the themes of classical Greek tragedy link a Mexican bank robber, a German terrorist, a reluctantly gay Christian, and an aggro martial artist? Yu uses puppet interludes, revealing interviews, and a keen eye for detail as she traces their shared stages of provocation, rage, doubt, catharsis, and so on – proving the journey of an antihero has little to do with setting, be it ancient or modern. (Eddy)

6:15 p.m., SFMOMA. Also Mon/30, 4:15 p.m., Kabuki; Tues/1, 9:15 p.m., Kabuki

*Strange Culture (Lynn Hershman Leeson, US, 2006). The duly strange, as yet unresolved case of SUNY Buffalo art professor Steve Kurtz has spurred local filmmaker Lynn Hershman Leeson’s best feature to date, a documentary-dramatization hybrid. With the man himself still legally restrained from discussing his circumstances, Thomas Jay Ryan plays Kurtz, who as a founding member of the multimedia Critical Art Ensemble had long made work focusing on social justice issues and the intersection between science and government. To create an exhibition on biotechnology, he acquired for carefully safety-measured display some bacteria samples readily available online. When wife of 27 years Hope (played by Tilda Swinton) unexpectedly died of heart failure in her sleep, emergency medical personnel grew suspicious of these unusual art supplies. Soon FBI personnel evicted the distraught widower from his home, quarantined the entire block, and accused him of possessing bioterrorist weapons of mass destruction during an incredibly cloddish investigation. Kurtz’s real-life colleagues and friends were interviewed in a free-ranging yet pointed feature whose actors also step out of character to articulate their concern about the government’s post-9/11 crackdown on dissent, even the rarefied gallery kind. (Harvey)

6 p.m., Castro. Also May 4, 8: 45 p.m., SFMOMA; May 8, 7 p.m., PFA


The End and the Beginning (Eduardo Coutinho, Brazil, 2006). Picking a small town at random and making a film about its residents can be brave filmmaking. It can also be plain lazy, as is the case with Brazilian filmmaker Eduardo Coutinho’s directionless profile of rural Aracas, in the state of Paraiba. Unsurprisingly, people being people, he finds great interview subjects, but he doesn’t bother to connect them to one another or to the town. Only their highly region-specific Catholicism provides any unifying thread. And though Coutinho’s not exactly condescending (beyond some slight Kids Say the Darndest Things baiting of his loonier interviewees), there’s an unspoken mandate to keep things simple: his response to one woman’s enticing hint at her failed law practice is to ask about her sewing. (Jason Shamai)

7:15 p.m., Kabuki. Also Tues/1, 3:30 p.m., Kabuki; May 3, 4 p.m., Kabuki

*Singapore Dreaming (Yen Yen Woo and Colin Goh, Singapore, 2006). With their second feature, Yen Yen Woo and Colin Goh have their hearts in the right place while their eyes are on the prize of capturing a postcolonial city-state clutching at the global economy. The gently humorous, humanist realism of Edward Yang comes to mind while watching this husband-and-wife directorial team’s warm, witty depiction of the everyday lives of a working-class Singapore family who live, dream, bicker in pidgin English and Mandarin, and inhale vast quantities of herbal tea in their high-rise project. Pops buys lottery tickets, hoping to move into a slick new condo. Back from his studies in the States, the pampered son is discovering that in go-go Singapore his degree isn’t quite as covetable as it once was, and the beleaguered daughter is in her final trimester, coping with a demanding yuppie boss and a slacker hubby who yearns to be in a carefree rock band and pees in his father-in-law’s elevator. When disaster strikes, no one is thinking about the matriarch, whose only seeming desire is to properly feed and water her brood, but she ends up providing some unexpected feminist substance, rather than sustenance, under the movie’s wise gaze. (Chun)

8:30 p.m., Kabuki. Also May 4, 1 p.m., Kabuki; May 5, 3 p.m., Kabuki

12 Labors (Ricardo Elias, Brazil, 2006). Part Black Orpheus, part 400 Blows, 12 Labors is a Brazilian feature that revisits the myth of Hercules through the story of a motorcycle messenger’s rehabilitation. A kid from a rough part of Sao Paulo, Heracles gets out of juvie and tries to start a new life. To land a job as a motorcycle messenger, he has a trial day with (you guessed it) a dozen jobs to complete. An artist who never knew his father, he also writes origin stories in comic book form, which mystify his coworkers. Though Heracles’s experiences seem tinted with divinity, he inspires worry on the part of the viewer. Since all good myths have moral purpose, this one finally addresses the very current social issue of juvenile delinquency and rehabilitation in urban Brazil. (Sara Schieron)

9:30 p.m., Kabuki. Also Mon/30, 7 p.m., Kabuki; May 5, 4:30 p.m., Kabuki; May 7, 9:15 p.m., Aquarius


*Broken English (Zoe Cassavetes, USA, 2006). "I don’t think Hollywood knows what to do with me," Parker Posey recently opined, despite having a prominent role in Superman Returns. Fortunately for us, Amerindie cinema does still know what to do with her. The SFIFF is hosting a double bill of the pushing-40 actor’s latest, reprising the title figure in Hal Hartley’s Henry Fool sequel Fay Grim and starring in Zoe Cassavetes’s feature debut. Posey is perfect as director-scenarist Cassavetes’s superficially cheery but highly insecure NYC hotelier. Some may think this low-key seriocomedy paces pat single-gal-searching paths – from Helen Gurley Brown’s Sex and the Single Girl to Sex and the City – but in its thoughtful nature and serious treatment of a clinical-depression interlude it roams well outside stock terrain. Even if the fade-out waxes a tad improbably happily-ever-after, Posey’s nuanced performance will make you root for it. (Harvey)

6:30 p.m., Kabuki. Also May 2, 2 p.m., Kabuki

Fay Grim (Hal Hartley, USA/Germany, 2006). A decade ago Hal Hartley made his best movie, the practically epic – by this miniaturist’s standards – Henry Fool. By most estimates it’s been downhill ever since. They love him in France – but perhaps he should never have left Long Island. So it was heartening news to hear he was returning to the world of Henry Fool, better still to know the sequel would revolve around the title character’s scrappy, vulnerable abandoned wife, Fay, who provided one of Parker Posey’s finest hours. She’s still good here, natch, but Fay Grim is all over the map – literally. The convoluted story line journeys from a mild farcical take on espionage thrillers to a murkily serious commentary on world politics. It’s watchable, but once again one gets the sense that with Hartley, the wider his focus, the blurrier it gets. (Harvey)

9:15 p.m., Kabuki. Also May 3, 9:10 p.m., PFA


Congorama (Philippe Falardeau, Canada/Belgium/France, 2006). Quebec writer-director Philippe Falardeau’s story of a revolutionary electric car and a sticky-fingered inventor is part of that ever-widening army of films that plant fairly obvious and poorly integrated details into the first act so that later, when the story is retold from another perspective, they reappear with more context to click Aha!-ingly into place. Though some of the big, unwieldy reveals are a lot of fun in a Lost sort of way, they distract from the more prosaic but more satisfying concerns of the film’s smartly drawn characters. The inventor, for instance, is a not particularly likable person who still has a believably loving, humor-filled relationship with his family. Now talk about a novel concept! (Shamai)

6 p.m., Kabuki. Also May 2, 9:15 p.m., PFA; May 6, 6:30 p.m., Aquarius

Private Fears in Public Places (Alain Resnais, France/Italy, 2006). Alain Resnais’s 17th feature is dreamy and sometimes enchanting, though it doesn’t warrant comparison to the knife-sharp moral plays made during his prime, such as Hiroshima Mon Amour and Last Year at Marienbad. Adapted from a play by Alain Ayckbourn (the two previously collaborated on Smoking and No Smoking), Private Fears in Public Places weaves the love(less) stories of a half dozen Parisians; plotlines intersect, but in light brushes rather than the solemn collisions of Babel and Crash). The artifice Resnais imposes on his film is poetic in miniature – the camera, for example, periodically floats above the set, filming actors as if they were in a dollhouse – but the sum total is stultifying, unhinging an already-adrift narration and making Private Fears in Public Places seem needlessly opaque. (Goldberg)

7 p.m., PFA. Also May 3, 6:15 p.m., Kabuki; May 7, 4 p.m., Kabuki

*Rocket Science (Jeffrey Blitz, USA, 2006). Promising to be the next best coming-of-age cultie with its sure-handed, sharp performances and Freaks and Geeks-like sobriety, Rocket Science finds new agony and indie rock-laced ecstasy in one miserable adolescent’s progress. Or to be specific, one stuttering, 98-pound weakling’s marked, often laugh-out-loud funny lack of progress. The high school years for Hal Hefner (compulsively watchable frail cutie-pie Reece Thompson) seem to be going from bad to sexy once he gets recruited for the school debate team by scarily driven, Tracy Flick-esque champ Ginny (Anna Kendrick). But his travails never quite end even as he attempts to extract nerd revenge and literally find his voice, accompanied by vintage Violent Femmes and hand-clapping quirk pop by Eef Barzelay of Clem Snide. Tapping memories connected to a speech impediment, Spellbound codirector Jeffrey Blitz turns tongue-tied prince Hal’s articulation struggles into the perfect metaphor for every awkward teen’s gropes toward individuation. (Chun)

4 p.m., Kabuki. Also May 4, 6:15 p.m., Clay