Volume 41 Number 31

May2 – May 8, 2007

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The Guardian Iraq War casualty report (5/7/07)


The Guardian Iraq War casualty report (5/7/07): 8 U.S. soldiers killed yesterday. 42 Iraqi civilians killed yesterday.

Compiled by Paula Connelly

Casualties in Iraq

U.S. military:

8 U.S. soldiers were killed in a roadside bomb attack in Iraq yesterday, according to the Washington Post.

3,618: 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:

At least 42 Iraqi civilians were killed yesterday when a car bomb exploded in a busy market in Bayaa, according to the Washington Post.

: Killed since 3/03

Source: www.thelancet.com

62,841 – 68,868: 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 6 May 2007:

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

Iraq Military:

30,000: Killed since 2003

Source: http://www.infoshout.com


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 (5/7/07): So far, $423 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.”

Politics Blog



Music Blog



Wild Tigers, Painted Bird


COSTUME One gray Garfield sweatshirt; a blue wool sleeveless sweater with little birds and a white sheep stitched on it; clean Chuck Taylor high-tops; an orange Kawasaki motorcycle T-shirt; a little red hoodie; a beige suede vest with tassels. These are some of the clothes sported by Logan (Malcolm Stumpf), the gender-jumping cusp-of-teens boy at the center of Cam Archer’s debut feature, Wild Tigers I Have Known.

"At that age you aren’t concerned with what other people think. You choose what [clothing] appeals to you – you’re just going for it," says Stephanie Volkmar, the film’s costume designer, as cars whiz by on Guerrero Street. "Logan’s outfits are sometimes outrageous, or some might say a little risque. Cam has an obsession with short-shorts and tank tops. He’ll be mad if that makes it into print, but it does help express the character’s vulnerability. We wanted Logan to wear things that would make him seem awkward and different."

One reason I’m asking Volkmar about her no-budget costume work for Wild Tigers is that she works at the store we’re sitting next to, Painted Bird. Over the past two years, I’ve assembled a Painted Bird wardrobe about as expansive as Logan’s, though riddled with the occasional label (Dior, Gucci, Adidas – all cheap), thus proving Volkmar’s point that in comparison to adults, kids just don’t care.

It turns out that Painted Bird’s connection to Archer’s movie – which, after debuting last year at the Sundance Film Festival, plays as part of the Mission Creek festivities – is also familial. The director’s brother, Nate, who did the movie’s layered, impressionistic sound design, is (along with Sonny Walker) one of the shop’s co-owners. "Nate is good at finding [music] that blows me away," Volkmar says. He certainly succeeds in Wild Tigers, braiding everything from the hand claps and "oo-oowoh" ‘s of the Michael Zager Band’s disco classic "Let’s All Chant" to the drowsy, faraway loneliness of Laura Nyro’s "Desiree" and the Langley Schools Music Project around Logan’s daydreams.

According to Volkmar, both Wild Tigers and Painted Bird emerged from family or familylike bonds formed in Santa Clara, where she met Cam Archer and worked on about 10 other short projects with him. Judging by the many five-star reviews for Painted Bird on sites such as Yelp, I’m not the only one who wants to rave about Walker and Nate Archer’s shop while also being protective of it. Why? It avoids the kitsch pitfalls and the overdressed look favored by SF vintage and secondhand places, and most important, its low prices correspond with a friendly atmosphere. Keeping an eye out for quality moderate vintage labels as much as typical high-end names, the Painted Bird folks are in the clothing biz because they like clothes, and they have a definite, yet easygoing, sensibility.

In Wild Tigers, Logan has a unique sensibility too, but his run through lust is a mostly solitary one. Though its conflation of the titular animals with desire might be a nod to Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Tropical Malady (as well as drawn from Santa Clara’s untamed suburban terrain), Archer’s movie emerges from the still too-small genre of US queer kids’ films that includes Todd Haynes’s Dottie Gets Spanked, Jonathan Caouette’s Tarnation, Gregg Araki’s Mysterious Skin, and SF director Justin Kelly’s new Cannes-bound short, Front. (Also, one of Wild Tigers‘ executive producers, Darren Stein, was behind the pre-Tarnation queer childhood doc Keep the Camera on Me.) Without a doubt, Volkmar’s costumes have a role in some of the movie’s best scenes, such as when Logan’s friend Joey (Max Paradise) – complete with a golden bowl cut and a striped shirt buttoned all the way up to its collar – tries to get him to contribute to a "ways to be cool" list.

A cynic might point out that there isn’t a huge gap between the outfits sported by the children of Wild Tigers and the clothes favored by San Francisco’s eternal youth of today. (I stand semiconvicted.) In fact, Volkmar drew extensively from the shop where she works while dressing the movie’s primarily preteen and teen characters. But the spirit of Painted Bird’s staff is a lot like Logan from Wild Tigers: not too cool for school, just – as Volkmar says – going for it. (Johnny Ray Huston)


Wed/16, call or see Web site for time, $4-$8

Roxie Film Center

3117 and 3125 16th St., SF

(415) 863-1087



Eyes on the prize


The recent news that a food writer from Los Angeles won a Pulitzer Prize for criticism puts us on notice that food writing at its best is an art form – also that LA is a serious food town, loath though we may be to admit it. The southland has access to all sorts of local agricultural bounty, a nearby wine country (in Santa Barbara County), and a polyglot population that represents much of the world. It also has something we don’t have – an international border just miles away, with a genuinely different culture on the other side. This must be massively stimuutf8g.

Criticism is a minor art, secondary and derivative – there must be some larger, primary subject at hand to examine and consider – but its subordinate position doesn’t make it less worthy. Authentic food criticism tends to overcome this limitation anyway, since, handled in a certain way, it becomes a species of social or cultural criticism, a meditation on how people live their lives. As anyone who’s traveled abroad will know, one’s first and indelible experiences of other cultures often have to do with food: what it is, how it is grown or gathered, how it is prepared and presented. If it is true that one feels most American when outside of America, then perhaps it is also true that our industrial-food folly becomes most apparent to us when we are sitting in some cafe in a faraway land, awash in local food habits and practices that are hundreds or thousands of years old, and no one has heard of Velveeta.

The difference between criticism and reviewing is a segment of the border between art and craft, with the former more keenly attentive to wider and deeper meanings. Many of our food-involved locals abide by a credo of living to eat, but because this is true to some extent of every animal on the planet, its meaning seems a little watery to me and appears to involve mainly the hunt for the "best" version of this or that. I have no particular complaint with this, just as I have no quarrel with gearheads or fanciers of pedigreed dogs. But, as with other forms of monomania, it does have a flattening effect, reducing the world to a single dimension. LA is flat, but it isn’t just flat.

Paul Reidinger

> paulr@sfbg.com

Stalk tips


> cheryl@sfbg.com

Nothing is what it seems in Red Road, a wonderfully restrained thriller that marks the feature debut of British writer-director Andrea Arnold. Jackie (a fierce Kate Dickie) works as a surveillance camera operator, studying closed-circuit feeds streaming from Glasgow’s streets. Her life is mysterious without being spectacular; for one thing, she lives alone but wears a wedding ring. Clearly, she’s had a tragic past, and her present is haunted by the specter of unfinished business – but what, exactly? And who is the mysterious man (Tony Curran) she pursues after spotting him on one of her monitors?

"The feedback I’m getting is that a lot of people don’t work it out exactly until the end," Arnold told me over the phone from Canada, where we missed meeting at the 2006 Toronto International Film Festival. "I do sometimes think, ‘Oh god, was I too subtle?’ "

Being too subtle is a problem more directors should have. Arnold’s gift for capturing complicated characters and gritty urban settings was first displayed in Wasp, her 2003 Oscar-winning short film. In it impoverished young mother Zoe (Red Road costar Nathalie Press) parks her unsettlingly large brood in the parking lot of a pub after she determines it’s high time for a child-free date night. Near-tragedy ensues, but through it all Zoe remains sympathetic, not pathetic, despite the questionable decisions she makes along the way. This quality is shared by Red Road‘s Jackie.

"I knew I was taking things far by her behaving in a way that you didn’t completely understand. That was a risk of people running out of patience [with her]," Arnold said of Jackie, whose aloof demeanor makes her actions, including hooking up with a man she apparently hates, all the more surprising. "I think it takes a while to get to know her. But I like characters that are not so easy or straightforward."

Arnold’s interest in complex characters brings depth to her stories, which on the surface seem to simply follow the daily lives of rather ordinary people. "I think all human beings are very complicated in their circumstances and their environments – sometimes people don’t always behave in the best way. It doesn’t mean to say that they’re bad," she said. "I like seeing people that may not be easily likable to start. But then when you get to understand them more, when you see them in a more three-dimensional way, then you at least understand them, or you have empathy for them rather than immediately making a judgment about them."

Though she fielded suggestions to turn Wasp into her first feature, she was set on Red Road – even after she won the Oscar. It’s the first product of Advance Party, a concept project in which three directors will make films featuring the same group of characters, but each with distinct stories.

"Zentropa [cofounded by Danish director Lars von Trier] and [Scotland’s] Sigma Films had the idea of making films with rules, a bit like the Dogme films. Zentropa were very much involved in the Dogme thing. They were looking for filmmakers who hadn’t made a feature film before, and they saw Wasp when it premiered at the Edinburgh Film Festival," Arnold recalled. "They rang me up, and it went from there."

Danish filmmakers Anders Thomas Jensen and Lone Scherfig sketched out the characters, who are required to appear in all the films and be played by the same actors. Arnold and the other two Advance Party participants – Dane Mikkel Norgaard and Scot Morag McKinnon – cast together and discussed story lines that each would pursue, but the films are stand-alone narratives in which "the other directors are free to create their entire universe."

Red Road‘s universe is bleak enough even before Jackie explores its seedier pockets, first through TV screens and then by physically visiting the places she’s seen on video. The surveillance theme is a nod to classic cinema (think Rear Window, The Conversation) and the information age.

"I’ve read we’ve got 20 percent of the world’s cameras in the UK," Arnold said. "There’s a lot of CCTV – it’s kind of a fact of life in this day and age. But my character uses it in a way that people are not supposed to use it. It’s supposed to be a crime-prevention tool; you’re not supposed to be following people. But who wouldn’t be tempted? I find just watching people fascinating, people going about their lives and doing ordinary things. I find it riveting." *


Opens Fri/4

See Movie Clock at www.sfbg.com



Cerebral vortex


> a&eletters@sfbg.com

Guy Maddin, that demented dealer in antiquities responsible for such cinematic curiosities as The Saddest Music in the World and the much-loved short The Heart of the World, has a new film showing at the Castro Theatre as part of the San Francisco International Film Festival. The semiautobiographical Brand upon the Brain! – a silent quasi-horror film about an orphanage that harvests life-giving brain juice from its wards – will be accompanied by a live orchestra, Foley artists, a castrato, and narration by local star Joan Chen. Maddin, winner of the Persistence of Vision Award at last year’s festival, spoke with the Guardian about his new film and a whole lot of other stuff.

SFBG How involved were you in orchestrating the live performance of Brand upon the Brain!?

GUY MADDIN Well, I was pretty involved in insisting on it. I really, really, really wanted it. In its first incarnation at the Toronto Film Festival, the directors of the festival were good about it. They were gracious, and they made it possible, and then it sort of set the standard for subsequent shows…. I never worried before. You know, when you’re a filmmaker, there’s something in the word film that almost seems to imply the creator is making it more for him or herself. But when you’re putting on a live event, you just automatically …

SFBG You think more about the audience?

GM Yeah, I’ve become more of a showman…. I sort of staged it as an event as a form of boredom insurance, because I do know that you only buy so much audience goodwill with live performances. But then that wasn’t enough for me – I had to add Foley and an interlocutor, and I’m lucky enough to know a bona fide castrato.

SFBG Wait, this is a bona fide castrato?

GM He is, but, well, you know, he wasn’t castrated by the pope [laughs] or anything like that…. He’s an old friend of mine, and I met him many years ago in a steam bath in Winnipeg. I just heard from out of the thick steam a very unearthly voice and for a few nanoseconds thought I was in the wrong steam bath. He sings in a boys’ choir still to this day even though he’s 45 years old. I think his voice just never changed.

SFBG What are you working on right now?

GM I’m pleased to tell you I’m finishing up a documentary on my hometown of Winnipeg. And I’m collaborating with a poet, John Ashbery, on a feature-length Internet interactive movie labyrinth, so that’s kind of exciting for me. And I’m also collaborating on a script in its early stages with Kazuo Ishiguro.

SFBG I heard on some commentary track that you put together features in 20 days or something nuts like that.

GM Yeah, I really like to work quickly. But though most people would never suspect this of me, I really care about scripts being in good shape. And I’m especially proud of the script for Brand upon the Brain!. I feel it’s accessible without at all compromising anything I’ve ever wanted to do. One thing I’ve learned how to do is to become more honest about myself, about how horrible a person I’ve been over the years, and somehow the more honest I am, the more literarily solid my scripts feel.

SFBG Yeah, that’s the dirty secret of film and literature: the nastier you are about yourself –

GM Yeah, the more self-loathing you are, the more self-loving you come off. In this case the protagonist in the movie is actually named Guy Maddin, so it enabled me to be supermasochistic. I just don’t have the imagination to think up the kind of things that are in this movie. There are things that I’ve just outed my family on.

SFBG Really?

GM It’s all there. I just don’t have the time or the genius to –

SFBG To think of nasty things that aren’t true?

GM Yeah, I just had to transplant them pell-mell and wholesale into the body of this thing, and then it was just a simple matter of putting them in order. *


Mon/7, 8 p.m., $20

Castro Theatre

429 Castro, SF


For a longer version of this interview and for short reviews of other films from the second week of the San Francisco International Film Festival, go to www.sfbg.com/blogs/pixel_vision.

Full of Zizek


Despite Sigmund Freud’s strong distrust of cinema ("I do not consider it possible to represent our abstractions graphically in any respectable manner," he firmly wrote in a letter to an inquiring film producer), Freudian psychoanalytic theory – primarily as reread by the French analyst Jacques Lacan – has come to form the bedrock of much academic film criticism and theory since the 1960s. Anyone who has had a brush with a film class in college has probably gotten an earful of 50-cent concepts such as scopohilia, suture, fantasy, and everyone’s favorite chew toy of power, the phallus.

If you didn’t take notes the first time around, you might want to while watching Sophie Fiennes’s The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema, a veritable crash course on what film can tell us about psychoanalysis and what psychoanalysis can (and sometimes can’t) tell us about film. Fiennes may be listed as the director and producer, but this monster of a clip reel is really the baby of its host and our tour guide, the Slovenian philosopher and psychoanalyst Slavoj Zizek.

Ursine in stature and always slightly disheveled, Zizek is no stranger to the camera. In Astra Taylor’s somewhat worshipful documentary, Zizek! (2005), he delivered his mile-a-minute thought trains, encompassing everything from ethnic jokes to Hegel, with a brusqueness befitting a football coach and the on-the-fly reflexes of a standup comic. Zizek is in similar form in Pervert’s Guide, which isn’t so much a guide as a meandering recapitulation of some of his major talking points, first laid down in books such as Looking Awry and Enjoy Your Sinthome!

Zizek’s central thesis is that film is our most perverted art form, since it doesn’t really tell us what to desire but rather how to desire. Using an array of snippets from The Exorcist to Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris, Charlie Chaplin films to vintage Disney cartoons – Zizek illustrates how cinema is the ultimate fantasy machine (which sometimes produces films about fantasy machines. See: Tarkovsky). We project our desires onto the events and characters we watch, Zizek explains, inasmuch as those desires are already psychically inscribed long before they are played out onscreen. Film often literalizes these psychic structures or, at the very least, sets them into relief.

As in his books, here Zizek will often take a basic question or proposition (such as "Why is the only good woman a dead woman?" – when discussing Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo), and turn it inside out, revealing the hidden issue that was actually being addressed or occluded all along ("Because men contain the threat of desire by mortifying their objects of desire: women").

Hitchcock and Lacan make many appearances, being that they are two of Zizek’s favorite bedfellows – the man wrote a book about both. (Zizek has a go at David Lynch now and then, but his readings of Lynch’s "primal scenes" and "terrorizing, clownish father figures" are a little pat.) It is not surprising, then, that some of his most brilliant insights and close readings are delivered on his many return trips to Bodega Bay, the decrepit Bates’s manse, and Judy Barton’s neon-illuminated room at the York Hotel in Vertigo.

Fiennes’s one trick (and granted, it’s an effective one) is to do this literally, casually placing Zizek within mock-ups of the scenes that he has discussed. We see Zizek in Melanie Daniels’s skiff puttering across Bodega Bay; next he’s alongside Regan’s bed from The Exorcist; later he’s speaking from the fruit cellar of Norman Bates’s house, or Dorothy Vallens’s apartment in Blue Velvet, or the dimensionless white field where Neo instantaneously summons weapons in The Matrix. This playful technique helps cut through some of the density of Zizek’s more arcane points, and occasionally, we catch the man off guard, cracking cheesy Freudian one-liners about the inherent obscenity of tulips (while watering a garden a la the opening scene of Blue Velvet).

It is not just that Zizek is as well-versed in Lacan as he is in Hitchcock – or that he casts his critical eye toward topics both high and low – that has made him such a popular figure, even with nonacademics. (Zizek is, as far as I know, the only intellectual to be interviewed for Abercrombie and Fitch’s now-defunct Quarterly). This intellectually challenging, often entertaining, and at times draining lecture-posing-as-a-documentary proves at least one thing: Zizek’s combination of disarming charisma and utter seriousness makes him as entrancing as his arguments are compelling.


Thurs/3-Fri/4, 7 p.m.; Sat/5, 2 and 7 p.m.; Sun/6, 2 p.m.; $6-$8

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Screening Room

701 Mission, SF

(415) 978-2787

Piccino Cafe


> paulr@sfbg.com

Although restaurants can be, and often are described as being, sexy, they aren’t really sexy in that way, the people way. So far as we know, and for reasons that I need not get into, they don’t actually indulge. Which means that Piccino Cafe, a petite jewel of a restaurant that opened a few months ago on a quiet Dogpatch side street between the furies of I-280 and Third Street, cannot be the love child of, say, Universal Cafe and A16. Although such a union is flatly impossible – Universal and A16 have never met, never been alone together – one can’t stop wondering. Piccino’s serious yet warm industrial look (stainless steel, blond wood, glass), the almost tissue-thin pizza crusts coming out of the kitchen, and the ingredients obtained from impeccable sources all seem profoundly familiar if not familial.http://www.youtube.com/
YouTube – Broadcast Yourself.

If Piccino were a child, we might have our answer by waiting for it to grow up a bit. But, as the name suggests, the restaurant is tiny, with just a half dozen or so tables (not counting sidewalk seats) in a space largely given over to the kitchen. It’s almost like a catering kitchen or the original Citizen Cake; the setup seems tilted more toward making food than serving it to people, and we did notice quite a few takeout pizza boxes being whisked away by people who clearly live in the changing neighborhood. But despite the tight space, service is sharp; each table is swiftly brought a Straus Organic Creamery milk bottle filled with water (chilled but not filtered) and a plate of crispy flatbreads, and even at the outdoor tables, one’s needs are continually seen to.

It is a fact that sometimes restaurants, like children and even love children, do grow up: Delfina began in quarters no roomier than Piccino’s and is now an order of magnitude bigger, plus an adjoining pizzeria. Part of Piccino’s charm is its snugness, but the food is so good that demand is bound to raise the issue of expansion sooner or later, probably sooner. While that question simmers, wedge yourself in at one of the knee-to-knee tables, pour yourself a tumbler of water from your personal stash, have a bite of flatbread, and scan the brief menu.

What do you see? A selection of pizzas, of course, including such staples as margherita and napoletana ($9.25) – the latter swabbed with blood-red tomato sauce and dotted with halved black olives and bits of anchovy – along with special pies that vary according to season and inspiration. The people at the next table could be overheard urgently discussing a pizza topped with, among other things, speck.

"Maybe it’s fish," one of them said doubtfully. Her companion furrowed his brow. Only moments before, we too had furrowed our brows in bafflement about speck before asking our server. His answer: smoked prosciutto. The speck pie ($10.75), a bianco, was also topped with fresh arugula and mild white cheese. Since we like arugula, we’d started with a simple arugula salad ($7) decorated with Parmesan shavings and drizzled with balsamic vinegar – a simple and perfect combination, like an unforgettable piece of chamber music.

A weightier opener is the antipasti platter ($8.50), a blending of some usual suspects – country pate with Dijon mustard, thin coins of salume, black and green olives (mind the pits!) – along with a few special guests, including a chickpea spread that wasn’t hummus (coarser of texture, no tahini) and a bouquet of pickled baby carrots and radishes. There was flatbread on the side, of course, for clean-up duty.

The evening menu differs from its midday confrere mainly in the addition of a few nonbready main dishes. We did not try the evening’s risotto, though a plate that arrived at the next table (opposite the speck-flummoxed folk) looked fabulously creamy. We did try the duck confit ($14), a gently crisped leg and thigh half-recumbent on a bed of dandelion greens given some sweetness and crunch by sections of pixie tangerines and rubbly little bits of crushed hazelnuts. Duck confit is one of those ideal dishes for restaurants – it’s elegant and slightly exotic, highly skill- and time-intensive, with most of the work being done days beforehand and not much to do at the finish besides crisping the skin and warming the meat through – and Piccino’s version does honor to the kitchen. I wouldn’t have minded some lentils on the side, though maybe they’re considered cliche now, or maybe Americans just don’t have much use for legumes other than the peanut. And even with peanuts, we prefer the artifice of grinding them into paste.

There was at lunch an interesting minestrone ($5.50) that consisted largely of a mocha-colored cranberry-bean puree in which orecchiette floated like inner tubes on a muddy summer river. Perhaps legumes are more acceptable to the American palate if pulverized so as to be unrecognizable? And where there is soup, there is likely to be sandwich: of salume cotto ($8.75), slices of warm cured meat on grilled country bread. With arugula! And a nice heap of vinegar-modulated lentil salad on the side, with the legumes daringly left intact.

The advent of Piccino tells us which way the wind is blowing in the Dogpatch. In the evening the neighborhood’s streets are quiet (all the traffic is on the freeway a few blocks west and Third Street a few blocks east), and the houses show a friendly dowdiness, like a grandmother’s dresses. But the restaurant’s crowds are young and knowing, and if they’re not sure what speck is, they expect to find out. *


Mon.-Wed., 7 a.m.-3 p.m.; Thurs.-Fri., 7 a.m.-8:30 p.m.; Sat., 8 a.m.-8:30 p.m.; Sun. (coffee bar only), 8 a.m.-3 p.m.

801 22nd St., SF

(415) 824-4224


Beer and wine

Cash only (credit cards pending)


Wheelchair accessible



CHEAP EATS There’s only one thing in my refrigerator, and nothing at all in the nest. It’s come to this, then: two chickens left, and one of them has developed a taste for eggs.

Two weeks ago today when I flapped my wings (venison lasagna + Ativan = liftoff, plus or minus an airplane ticket), I never felt more like I needed a vacation from my life. And yesterday evening, upon touching down again at SFO, I burst into tears, grateful to be not only alive on Earth, but alive in my exact life. And dying to see Sockywonk and Weirdo the Cat and my newest and littlest love, Z.Z. de la Cooter.

Z.Z. being 15 years and 11 months away from a driver’s license, and Weirdo the Cat being a cat, Sockywonk was the one who I called, from a pay phone, as soon as I stepped off the plane.

"I’ll be right there," she said.

I got my luggage and went outside into California and waited, blinking, my mascara smeared and swirly. My neighbor from the plane walked past – an older-man businessmanperson who had stared at spreadsheets on his laptop next to me as intently as I’d been staring at pictures of little Z.Z. on mine, trying to beat back the panic with incessant cuteness.

We hadn’t exchanged more than four words on the plane – "excuse me" and "thank you" – but now he gave me a warm, almost intimate smile. I smiled back. For all I know, he has a fear of flying too.

The Wonk was in a bit of a postsurgical state still, it turned out, and I was more on drugs than she was. Plus starving. So she could hardly even talk, she was so busy being such a good driver, and it was all I could do to sit up straight, with my hand in her head of half-inch hair growth, and sort of slobber.

What I’m getting at is that last night, at any rate, the two dogs in the backseat would have been more qualified than either of us to choose a restaurant.

Me and Sockywonk, it so happens, are two of the last four people on the planet without cell phones, or else we might have maybe thought to call someone for help. It’s easy enough to think that now, fed, slept, and caffeinated. But yesterday . . .

And anyway my brother Phenomenon, my own go-to one-phone-call bastion of all-around competency, was unreachably out of the country.

Innit funny, though, how notorious goofs like me and Socky tend to have siblings whose specialty it is to take care of bidness? Just fucking get the job done? For lack of any better ideas, the Wonk drove us to her house and parked. When we went inside, I kid you not, at 8, 8:30 in the evening, her visiting sis from Florida, Sisterwonk, was under the sink in the kitchen, hammering. On her visit so far she’d already tiled the kitchen floor, which had looked more like a garage than an apartment, as I recall, rigged a new light over the dining room table, and painted the walls a cheerful yellow.

I knew immediately that, dinnerwise, we were in good hands. Sure enough: "Why don’t you get a burrito?" she suggested, without even scratching her head.

You’d have thought that we’d have thought of that, being the San Franciscans.

"Mexicana’s good," Sisterwonk said, anticipating my next question.

I looked at Socky, who had already found parking, and she nodded. "It’s right around the corner," she said. Less than two blocks. As easy a walk as two junkied goofs have ever had to walk. And just like that I had a new favorite taqueria.

Mexicana! Who knew? They steam their tortillas, but the chips are good, and the salsa’s good, and I can vouch for the spicy chipotle chicken burrito, about a third of which is the one thing in my refrigerator right now.

Probably I could have knocked it off last night. But I think instinctively I knew, deep down below the Ativan, how sad it would be to come home to an empty refrigerator.

For lunch I’m going to make me one big pan-spun homemade flour tortilla, and I’m going to chop up and reheat last night’s burrito, wrapper and all. As far as I know, it will be the world’s first ever burrito butt burrito. And I can’t tell you how happy I am about that. *


Daily: 11 a.m.-10 p.m.

3917 24th St., SF

(415) 648-0477

Takeout available



Wheelchair accessible

The corrections


> andrea@altsexcolumn.com

Dear Andrea:

Love your column. That said, at the risk of sounding like a p.c. crap-spewing psycho, I am going to take an issue with your sentence, "Kind of the way that the single mothers at the playground cannot stop themselves from crawling all over married men who show up there with a baby" ["Quid Pro Shmo," 1/10/07]. I see your point, and obviously there are such women, and they are perhaps plentiful enough to make their own category. I’m a single mom, though, and I’d never, ever, ever do such a thing, and I’m sure there are many others like me. I think I would have appreciated the word "some" prior to "single mothers" in your response. I know it might seem like semantics. But really, my life as a single mom – including the socializing on the playgrounds with married women – is hard enough without my favorite columnist perpetuating myths of all single moms wanting other women’s men just because they oh so easily fall for nurture-exhibiting dads.


Sad Fan

Dear Fan:

You don’t sound psycho at all! I sounded sloppy. I have to admit that after first reading your letter I just assumed you had to be wrong – no way could I have written that line and failed to modify "single mothers" with "some" or "You know the ones I mean." I meant to imply the "some," but apparently I didn’t ply it well enough.

I was actually writing not about single mothers but about women who are attracted to nurturing men, which is not at all a bad thing, especially when you consider the sort of men some other women are attracted to. Just to be clear, the playground thing really does happen. The men I know who’ve reported getting hit on while out with their babies were all wearing wedding rings too, and all were bemused to find that anyone would take them for anything like available in any way. If there are also married guys who take off their rings to take the baby to the park or single guys who borrow a baby and hit the playground circuit and aren’t fictional characters probably played by Hugh Grant, they don’t want to meet me. I stopped carrying pepper spray a while back, but I could start.



Dear Andrea:

Regarding your answer to your reader who has trouble maintaining an erection while wearing a condom, you made a number of useful suggestions but omitted what I think is an important one: try a bigger condom. For years I struggled to get a condom on and maintain an erection, fumbling, stretching, squeezing, and fretting when I just wanted to be fucking. It wasn’t until my late 20s that a girlfriend suggested I try the bigger variety. I was skeptical, as the only other erections I’d seen were massive porno cocks, and I knew at a little over six inches I was nothing special in the length department. They don’t tell you in sex ed that it’s really girth that matters, at least when considering condom candidates. I’ve since tried every large-wide condom that they carry, and I highly recommend Lifestyles Large (they happen to fit me perfectly, but it’s obviously going to depend on details of size and shape). I wish somebody had told me this a long time ago, as it literally changed my life. Not only can I get the condom on easily and stay hard until the job is done, the increased blood flow means I have way more sensation too. Hope this helps.


Wide Load

Dear Wide:

It’s true! They don’t tell you it’s the width that matters, and I wish they would. I don’t know where my brain was when I was listing all the options and forgetting the condom-width issue, since "it’s the width that counts" is kind of a pet fact of mine. Length may get more press, and it does have its uses, but they are somewhat rarefied. It’s width that does most of the heavy lifting, and it’s width that’s most likely to be missed if absent.

Sex educators, myself included, love to surprise people by emphasizing just how numb to touch the supposedly supersensitive vagina is once you get past the vestibule and, um, front parlor. Even up front, we have more receptors for stretching than for stroking. Then there are all the goodies collectively thought of as the G-spot – paraurethral sponge, Skene’s glands, "crurae" of the clitoris, and so on – which often languish in obscurity or just lie there thinking of England until something curved or just plain thick enough to arouse a response out of them arrives. Width roolz! (Length, by contrast, necessarily droolz.) I hope you realize, now that your equipment problem has been solved, what you’ve got there is, as they say, not a bug but a feature.



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.

Tow-away zones that lie


> news@sfbg.com

Parking a car is notoriously difficult in San Francisco, where you can be towed for blocking a driveway, occupying a bus zone, failing to move your vehicle at certain times of the day, or being in a posted construction zone.

But many of those construction zone tow-away signs may be fake, a problem that the city does little to enforce and the public has a hard time discerning.

Contractors sometimes simply purchase a sign for $2 and post it without the legal right to do so. Often it’s an innocent error by out-of-town contractors who don’t know to apply for a street space parking permit. Other times it can be an interim step by contractors waiting for the right to reserve a spot outside their job site or by contractors who never met with a Department of Public Works inspector to determine the hours and scope of their parking needs.

Theoretically, parkers are free to ignore these fake signs. But it’s hard for the public to tell a fake sign from a real one unless they contact the city. And who does that while hunting for a parking space?

The streets are considered part of the public’s right-of-way. In addition to a construction permit, a street space permit is necessary if contractors will block the right-of-way, although underground services such as utility companies remain exempt.

The DPW issued 9,020 street space permits in 2006, according to spokesperson Christine Falvey. That year 93 citations were issued to property owners whose contractors did not have valid street space permits; all of those citations were prompted by citizen complaints.

"Street space violations are not proactive, they are reactive," said Dan McKenna, deputy manager of the DPW’s Bureau of Street Use and Mapping, which handles these permits and violations.

In other words, a construction zone tow-away sign will never be challenged if the public does not ask the DPW or the Department of Building Inspection, which has its own street space permit desk, to go out and validate it.

That’s what happened at the corner of Haight and Shrader streets last October when Service Concrete of Daly City got a valid permit for street space and sidewalk repair but failed to meet with a DPW inspector. Contractors often want to claim more spaces, for more hours, than what the inspectors may ultimately be willing to approve.

Service Concrete never scheduled a meeting with the department, nor did it register the times of enforcement. Therefore, it never had a legal right to tow anyone or reserve those parking spots, according to DPW deputy manager John Kwong.

"They never contacted the department to schedule a meeting for the street space occupancy," Kwong said. "Therefore, the street space permit is not considered valid. They’re not supposed to occupy." But they did, and the job was completed with at least four parking meters marked for tow-away.

A call to the phone number on the permit resulted in the contractor telling the Guardian, "I don’t remember. Even if you tell me, I won’t remember. I can’t comment on anything on this."

In April, the NEQE construction company received a building permit for a seismic retrofit at 240 Golden Gate Ave. It requested a street space permit May 11 and immediately posted no-parking signs. However, it did not have a site inspection, and the actual street space permit wasn’t issued until May 26, according to Nick Elsner, senior plan checker with the Bureau of Street Use and Mapping.

The initial tow-away signs were for seven days a week, 24 hours a day until November, although the permit on file said the contractor needed the space from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., Mondays through Saturdays. The contractor eventually received 60 linear feet for three parking spaces for the limited time frame.

"They didn’t put it in the computer," a representative of NEQE told us. "What happened on the job site, we put up the sign for the parking permit. And then they give us notice. And I had to go back to the city because the parking department is different from the city. We showed all the documents, and it was fine."

Neither Service Concrete nor NEQE were cited for improper postings of their tow-away signs. Most violators are never cited. Elsner told us it is obvious that contractors often ignore the law, which, if violated, carries a penalty of up to $1,000 per day.

"When we learn about a tow zone without a permit, we go out and enforce the law," he said. "But we only have four inspectors."

At the height of summer last year, when construction was in full swing, there was a three-week backlog for the verification process, according to Elsner.

Getting street space used to be automatic, until the Board of Supervisors amended Section 724 of the Public Works Code in 2002. Before, the price of a building permit determined the length of time contractors could usurp parking spaces.

"In the past the street space durations, the amount of time you were given for a building space, was directly related to the cost of your project," Elsner said. "If you had a $40 million project, you got four years’ parking. So if you finished in three years, you had a year of free parking. The Board of Supervisors looked at this and decided there was something wrong. Now permits are issued on a monthly basis, six-month maximum. You pay per 20 linear feet, basically one parking space, $82.08."

Elsner said the public cannot tell simply by reading a sign whether it has been legally posted. "They may have filled the sign out correctly, but that doesn’t mean they have a permit," he said. The revised ordinance requires temporary tow-away signs to have the permit number on them in addition to the contractor’s name and phone number. But some contractors don’t bother to apply.

"Our biggest problem we have is with roofers," Elsner observed. "They get a permit to do a roof and say they don’t need a street space. What do you mean you don’t need a street space permit? Either the building has a huge setback or they intend to fly in by helicopter."

Elsner said the street space ordinance has no set hours or days a contractor may use a street space. "That is worked out with the inspector," he said. "If they are not working, their parking should be for public use."

He said he warns contractors that they are responsible for affixing the signs so they aren’t torn down. If there is no sign, the Department of Parking and Traffic is not obliged to tow.

Every day a new list of valid permits is sent to the DPT tow desk. However, some contractors have learned it is cheaper and easier to buy a few paper signs, fill them out, and tape them up rather than get a valid street permit. A sign costs $1.99 at White Cap Industries, a construction supply company.

Cheryl Duperrault is one of the street improvement inspectors at the Bureau of Street Use and Mapping who respond to public complaints. Of the 93 citations issued in 2006, she wrote 32, nearly a third. Duperrault said she cited contractors who simply posted a fake tow-away sign and never sought a permit.

"That has happened," she said. "I’m surprised it doesn’t happen more than it does. It’s easy to tell whether or not the street space permit is valid because they should have a big white placard visible from the street. It gives the information of the permit." *

The DPW offers a free brochure that describes the process of applying for street and sidewalk permits. The brochure is available at its offices on Stevenson Street or by fax or mail. A permit is required when anyone intends to block the public right-of-way "to construct, improve, excavate, occupy, and/or perform work." There is a hotline (415-554-5810) to see if there is a permit on file. The Bureau of Street Use and Mapping will respond if the public questions a temporary tow-away sign.

Stop getting things done


> annalee@techsploitation.com

TECHSPLOITATION Among business-oriented tech nerds, there is an acronym that is a cult: GTD. It stands for "getting things done," and it comes from the title of a popular time-management book by productivity coach David Allen. Not only has Allen turned GTD into a multimillion-dollar consulting and advice business, but he’s also infected the hearts and minds of an entire generation trying to work as fast as the processors in their computers do. At its heart, the GTD philosophy is simple: list your tasks ahead of time, and complete them as systematically as possible. In the end, you’ll work more quickly, zooming through your life the way you zoom through your e-mail in-box.

But for those of us who confront bulging e-mail boxes and multiple, multistage projects every morning, GTD can become a freaky addiction. We’re never fast enough. That’s why some GTD solutions go beyond the friendly kind you’ll see on productivity blogs such as Lifehacker and 43 Folders, which are devoted to finding ingenious, technical solutions to get around work-blocking procrastination.

Possibly the weirdest example of extreme GTD can be found in a recent book, The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape the 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich, by a guy named Tim Ferriss. The book combines two biz-geek obsessions, saving time and getting rich, which is probably why his Web site lists endorsements from tons of people, including "Lazer Tag consultant" Stephen Key and Firefox cofounder Blake Ross.

I met Ferriss, an affable if slightly overenthusiastic fellow, at the South by Southwest Interactive conference. His book hadn’t come out yet, but he was already trying to convert the masses to his "lifestyle design" solution. Unlike a typical GTD plan, his book is also about glamor: he preaches the art of taking "mini-retirements," trips to different countries where you can have fun while still working occasionally (this is after you’ve somehow convinced your bosses to let you work remotely).

At various points while reading Ferriss’s book I was reminded of Steve Martin’s old routine "How to Make a Million Dollars and Not Pay Taxes." His solution? First make a million dollars. And then when the tax people come around, just tell them you forgot to pay. It sounds good, but the problem is implementation. In a chapter called "Outsourcing Your Life," Ferriss tips you off to his best time-saving solution: hire cheap labor in the developing world to save yourself time and money. In fact, this is eerily like all of his solutions, such as living in Thailand while working for a US company to give yourself a mini-retirement and grow richer.

Ferriss’s GTD plan is so extreme that it winds up revealing the dark side of productivity mania. Many of his time-saving techniques depend on making other people work more. For example, Ferriss interviews a guy for his book who saves time by hiring staffers at a company in Bangalore who do all his research for him, answer his e-mails, and even send his wife an apology when the two of them have a fight. Suddenly, this guy has a lot more time and feels more productive. I’m not sure that when GTD guru Allen writes about delegating tasks he means that you assign your work to other people. Ferriss’s GTD fiends may be getting four-hour workweeks, but it’s only because three women in Bangalore are working 70 hours a week.

My fantasy, on considering the extreme end of GTD culture, is that more and more people will begin following Ferriss’s advice. Get things done by outsourcing all your work to the developing world, so that soon women in Bangalore and China have access to all your personal correspondence, financial data, and work-related activities. This could possibly create the conditions for the first-ever bloodless but violent revolution. One day, people in the United States and Europe will discover that all their data is in the hands of angry workers who want to do the GTD thing their own way. They want their own four-hour workweeks, and they’re going to use all your data to get them.

It would be the perfect demise for a data-obsessed, time-obsessed culture. Deprived of our data, we’ll have all the time in the world. But of course, if we want to live, we’ll have to start working again. And this time we’ll have to work the old-fashioned way: by doing it ourselves. *

Annalee Newitz is a surly media nerd who saves time by talking and sticking her feet in her mouth at the same time.

Support for high-speed rail


High-speed rail got a timely and significant vote of support from the California Democratic Party on April 29 when delegates at the state convention approved a resolution pushing the project. The measure was the top vote getter, tied at 24 with a resolution urging accountability for the errors and deception that led to the Iraq War.

Yet a last-minute move weakening part of the measure raises questions about whether the Democrats are truly willing to fight Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has called for an indefinite delay in next year’s high-speed rail bond measure and proposed a budget that guts the California High-Speed Rail Authority (see "The Silver Bullet Train," 4/18/07).

The resolution praises the project as "a significant weapon against air pollution and global warming as it uses much less energy per passenger than cars and airplanes – and HSR will be even more essential if, as expected, petroleum supplies diminish in the future."

But state party leaders deleted language from the version that was submitted by San Francisco delegate Jane Morrison asking "that all California elected officials support the requested $103 million for HSR in the current state budget – and retain and support the $10 billion bond issue now scheduled for High Speed Rail in the 2008 election." Assemblymember Fiona Ma has emerged as the main legislative champion for the embattled project and helped push the resolution to the top of the legislative priority list. But she faces a big test in trying to get the money the project now needs.

Morrison told us, "We have to work to convince the legislature that we can afford it. That’s the hard part, so we’re not done yet."

A recent report from the Legislative Analyst’s Office criticized Schwarzenegger’s holding pattern as wasteful and concluded that the legislature should fully fund the project or vote to kill it. The report was titled "Time to Bite the Bullet for the Bullet Train."

There’s more on high-speed rail – including a telling exchange between the Guardian and the Governor’s Office – on our Politics blog, at www.sfbg.com/blogs/politics.

Ellis Act crisis


OPINION Between 2004 and 2005, Chetcuti and Associates, a Walnut Creek real estate development company, bought eight Mission District apartment buildings. Within the first few weeks of ownership, the company served all the tenants in four buildings with Ellis Act eviction notices. In the next two months, three of the other buildings were Ellised. The company held on to the eighth building for a year before it gave those tenants Ellis notices.

The same is true throughout the city: John Hickey Brokerage, another out-of-town real estate company, gave Lola McKay (who died in 2000 while fighting her Ellis eviction) a notice within weeks after buying the building and then did the same to tenants in a North Beach apartment building – evicting those tenants just five days after a purchase deal closed.

In fact, more than half of all Ellis Act evictions in San Francisco are done by real estate speculators who have owned their buildings for less than six months. Almost one quarter are done by speculators who have owned the building for less than a month (and many of those are done in the first hours or days of ownership).

The buildings are then often sold as tenancies in common – essentially, as condos for people much wealthier than the ones who were evicted.

Rampant real estate speculation is bad enough on its own. What makes it worse is that this pattern is also an abuse of everything the Ellis Act was intended to be: a way for long-term landlords to be able to get out of the rental business and retire. When the Ellis Act was passed in 1985, its proponents said its purpose was to allow a landlord "to go out of business when he or she is convinced that they are no longer willing to devote the time, accept the frustration, expose themselves to the liability and other factors of continuing to be a landlord."

Apparently, companies such as Chetcuti and Associates and John Hickey Brokerage decided within days and weeks that they just couldn’t devote the time to or accept the frustration of being a landlord anymore and were compelled to evict the tenants. And that’s the case for hundreds of other real estate investors, many of whom are getting tired of being landlords within days of buying rental property.

Senate Bill 464 – which the State Senate will vote on any day now – would rectify this abuse and return the Ellis Act to its original intent. This bill simply says that a landlord must own property for at least five years before using the Ellis Act to evict tenants. It’s simple and fair, and it hurts only real estate speculators.

The vote is expected to be close – and unbelievably, the bill may not pass because a senator from San Francisco, Leland Yee, has indicated he may oppose it. No other city in California has been hit harder by the Ellis Act than San Francisco – yet our very own senator may kill this bill.

Thousands of residents here have been evicted under the Ellis Act, most of them senior or disabled. Ellis evictions are a crisis in San Francisco and are destroying lives and neighborhoods and communities.

Please call (415-557-7857) or fax (415-557-7864) Sen. Yee to ask him to support SB 464. *

Ted Gullicksen

Ted Gullicksen is executive director of the San Francisco Tenants Union.

Web Site of the Week



May Day has come and gone, but few Americans took note of the widely observed International Day of the Worker, despite its Chicago roots. Check out this archive to learn more.

Beyond the Reilly settlement


> gwschulz@sfbg.com

Click here to read the Guardian editorial on the Reilly victory

Shortly before Clint Reilly began a press conference April 25 announcing that he’d settled his federal antitrust suit against the Bay Area’s two largest newspaper companies, Cheryl Hurd of NBC affiliate KNTV, channel 11, loudly complained to the pack of reporters that she just didn’t quite get the story.

"Why does anybody care about this?" she asked, sounding annoyed as she waved the press release listing the terms of the settlement in the air. "I don’t even understand any of this. What’s this mean?"

She wasn’t the only confused reporter. In the week since the settlement was announced, the local media have downplayed or mangled what is actually a huge story: Reilly, acting on his own, with no support from federal or state regulators, managed to scuttle a deal that would have ended all newspaper competition in the Bay Area.

"Would I have liked to see it go further? Yeah," said Bruce Cain, director of UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies, who penned a declaration supporting Reilly’s case. "But at least he was able to stop more collaboration between those two companies, and he was able to establish the legal point that this has more than just economic consequences. It has consequences for the vitality of political news coverage in the Bay Area."

The settlement involved a lot of peripheral terms, but the essence was this: the Hearst Corp., which owns the San Francisco Chronicle, can no longer consider combining printing, distribution, and ad sales with MediaNews Group, which owns almost every other major local daily in the Bay Area.

Reilly announced that the deal prevents the supposed competitors from unfairly or illegally negotiating any major joint operating arrangement in the near future. The trial was scheduled to begin just days after the agreement was reached.

"Newspapers are the intellectual bridge between citizens and their government," Reilly told reporters. "To me, one Bay Area newspaper company owning every paid circulation daily newspaper would be a very bad thing for Bay Area newspaper readers and for public discourse."

The deal nixes a plan outlined in a letter unearthed during an early phase of the trial. The letter showed that Hearst and MediaNews wanted to consolidate distribution and advertising operations among their local papers to create additional revenue and save on expenses.

Hearst enabled MediaNews to complete the purchase of several major local dailies last year by investing $300 million in the company’s stock. To survive antitrust scrutiny, the deal was crafted to make the stock’s value hinge entirely on non-Bay Area assets. But documents revealed during the suit clearly show that Hearst had planned to convert the stock so that it included MediaNews papers here as well. The settlement also prevents that from happening.

According to the terms, Reilly will recommend private citizens for appointment to the editorial boards of every California Newspapers Partnership publication in the region, including the San Jose Mercury News, the Contra Costa Times, and the Oakland Tribune.

He will also get access to advertising space in the pages of the papers for a regular column.

Reilly had originally sought to force MediaNews to divest itself of the San Jose Mercury News and other papers, but that was a long shot at best. What’s remarkable is that he accomplished as much as he did when no government agency was willing to help.

"I see in a lot of places what’s happening is owners are trying to make as much money as possible," Cain told us. "I see this in local TV, I see this in print media. I’m sure there’s an element of survival sometimes, but I think a lot of it is just trying to get profit margins up."

The US Justice Department never made a serious effort to stop the deal. The Guardian recently confirmed that the state Attorney General’s Office under the newly elected Jerry Brown has dropped its probe into the transactions. Spokesperson David Kravets refused to explain why.

The state’s treasurer and former AG, Bill Lockyer, began the investigation, and when we asked for a comment on Brown’s decision, he declined, saying he had "moved on."

Gina Talamona, spokesperson for the federal Justice Department, said its examination of Hearst’s substantial investment in MediaNews continues. But MediaNews CEO Dean Singleton told us that he expects it will not only close soon but will also clear the companies to move ahead.

Singleton said his meetings with Reilly, a Bay Area native and former mayoral candidate, were civil and there were no terms of the settlement he was displeased with. But he still doesn’t believe Reilly had grounds to bring the suit.

"A lot of wild statements have been thrown out that are simply not true," Singleton said. "There’s no evidence whatsoever that we had any discussions with Hearst about doing anything with the Chronicle that would have been improper. In fact, we’ve had few discussions about anything with the Chronicle."

Perhaps there was nothing "improper" as far as justice officials were concerned. But a March 2006 letter from Hearst vice president James Asher to MediaNews president Joseph Lodovic that surfaced during the case shows Hearst required an agreement on consolidated distribution networks with MediaNews before the company would proceed with its side of the transaction.

So let’s go back to Hurd’s question: why should anyone care about newspaper mergers in an era when there are so many other sources of information?

John McManus is a part-time journalism professor at San Jose State University and director of GradeTheNews.org, a consumer Web site on Bay Area news quality. He was hired as a consultant by Clint Reilly’s legal team to provide analysis of how consolidated or noncompetitive media outlets might fail to provide the best, most valuable news stories possible to local consumers.

His answer is simple. "Everyone is affected by the quality of newspapers because they form the bottom of the food chain for news," McManus told us. "Probably about 85 percent of the original news reporting in the Bay Area comes from newspapers, because they have much larger staffs than television stations or radio stations or Web-only operations."

McManus did his Stanford PhD dissertation in 1987 on four television news stations scattered around California, spending a month at each of them. At one of the stations, he said, what appeared in the local newspaper was so important, a station producer would clip stories directly from it and attach them to the assignments reporters were expected to have prepared by that evening’s newscast.

"The situation has gotten worse since then," McManus told us, "because local TV news staffs have shrunk."

The settlement also did not include an agreement on what would happen to the mountain of records produced in the case leading up to the trial.

Hundreds of pages previously sealed by the newspaper companies were opened to the public after the Guardian and the East Bay nonprofit Media Alliance intervened in the case. Reilly’s lawyer, Joe Alioto, recently insisted that he would petition the judge to unveil more documents, such as full depositions of company executives and additional memos and e-mails.

The settlement comes with some caveats for critics of consolidation. McManus believes that Reilly ultimately "got a quarter of the loaf." Reilly, he said, may have protected the independence of the Chronicle, but MediaNews isn’t being forced to unload any of its Bay Area properties to balance the field.

"Without [Reilly] having liberated the Mercury News and the Contra Costa Times and the smaller papers from the grip of MediaNews," McManus said, "the Chronicle‘s fate may be sealed." *

Editors note: The daily papers in the Bay Area treated the news of the settlement as a one-day story, and not a terribly big one. The San Francisco Chronicle ran it below the fold in the business section with a one-column head. But over the next few days, there were a lot of development and arguments over the deal; the trade journal Editor and Publisher was all over it. But none of that made it into the supposedly competitive local daily press.

A lot of the back and forth appeared on chainlinks.org, a Web site run by the Newspaper Guild. A selection:

Hearst-MediaNews deal scuttled: Former Chronicle City Editor Alan Mutter on the Reilly settlement

Editor and Publisher on the disagreement over the settlement

Jerry Ceppos, former executive editor of the San Jose Mercury News, whines about the deal

Romanseko links to some of the first-day stories

Editor’s Notes


> tredmond@sfbg.com

The delegates to the annual California Democratic Party convention began trickling into the San Diego Convention Center on April 27, and one of the first people they saw was Barbara Cummings. She had stationed herself about a block away from the entrance and was holding a big "Impeach Bush and Cheney" sign.

"It’s wonderful," the San Diego activist told me. "The delegates all want their pictures taken with us. The tourists want pictures too."

Inside the convention hall, the grassroots sentiment was pretty similar. The black "impeach" lapel stickers were everywhere, hundreds of delegates wore black "impeach" T-shirts, and impeachment banners and signs flew everywhere.

Within official party circles, though, the mood was slightly different. Art Torres, the chair of the state party, told the press early on that he expected the war and impeachment to dominate the convention, but when I asked him if there was any disconnect between the party faithful calling for impeachment and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi saying that wasn’t an option, he simply said, "No. That’s the Democratic Party." He added, "We see a distance between the grass roots and the leadership. That’s not uncommon."

In many ways, that was the theme of this convention. The California Democratic Party is changing, in part driven by a new wave of young, Internet-savvy activists and bloggers who are practically screaming for respect. And the old guard is having a very hard time giving up control.

At the Resolutions Committee meeting April 27, Torres, a smooth operator with more than 30 years’ experience in party politics, gave a textbook demonstration of how the powers that be keep the grass roots in line.

On one level, the resolutions that get passed at these conventions don’t matter that much; they don’t have any binding authority. But they do express the official position of the state party, can put pressure on Democratic elected officials – and sometimes highlight the schisms in the famously fractious organization.

In this case, activists had put forward a half-dozen reform proposals that all had the same issue at heart: control of state party money.

Howard Dean took on the old guard nationally when he decided to put money into party-building efforts and candidates in all 50 states; his fans in California want to see the state party follow that model in all 58 counties. They also want more transparency in how the money is handled.

The state party chair, of course, keeps a lot of his power and authority by controlling that cash, and the legislative leaders keep their powerful posts and ensure the loyalty of their troops in part by determining which Democrats get the resources in election years.

The resolutions called for an outside audit of party money and a formal 58-county strategy. Before a single supporter of those measures had a chance to speak, the chair of the Resolutions Committee turned the floor over to Torres – who suggested the whole thing be referred to a new task force, which he would appoint, for consideration at some time in the future. The committee chair quickly called for a motion and a vote, and the panel – also all appointed by Torres – swept every party-reform resolution right off the table.

The same pattern played out with impeachment; a strong grassroots effort became a weak final resolution. As one committee member told me, "Speaker Pelosi is against impeachment, so we can’t really vote for it."

With the early California primary, the state convention was a big-time event. Seven presidential candidates showed up, more than had ever come to a state party event in history. There was a palpable feeling of energy at the convention, a sense that this time around, the Democrats might actually be ready to win the White House.

On the convention floor the mood was festive as Hillary Clinton strode through a side entrance and walked past a mob of supporters to the stage. Her speech was about what I expected – standard stump lines, but well delivered and full of energy. She had the crowd with her for about 10 minutes, until she mentioned Iraq – at which point the boos and catcalls began, the people in the seats got restive, and the mood was shattered. "She still won’t apologize," one young delegate told me, shaking her head.

Barack Obama looked like the rock star he is, jogging through the entrance with a huge smile. In person he looks like he’s barely out of his 20s – and his army, while smaller then Clinton’s, was more diverse and a lot younger. He’s a dynamic speaker and got a huge ovation when he announced that "I stood up in 2002, when it wasn’t popular to stand up, and said [the war] was a bad idea."

Obama split without talking to the press. Clinton arrived 20 minutes late to a packed press conference and said very little of note.

John Edwards, who spoke Sunday morning, April 29, got his own star treatment and demonstrated a key difference with Clinton when he announced that "I voted for this war, and I was wrong to vote for this war." He was also the only candidate who actually talked about poverty in America. He showed up on time for his press availability; I managed to get the first question.

"Senator," I said, "the 25 top hedge fund managers in this country made enough money between them last year to pay the salaries of all 88,000 New York City public school teachers for three years. I know you want to repeal the Bush tax cuts, but beyond that, shouldn’t we actually raise taxes on the very rich so we can pay the teachers a little better?"

"It’s a good question," he said, "and it’s worthy of consideration." But for now, Edwards won’t go beyond restoring the tax code to its Bill Clinton-era levels, which are still far, far too rewarding to the tiny segment of the country that earns and controls the vast majority of the income and wealth.

I got to ask Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut the same question; he kindly agreed to a private interview and gave me 10 minutes or so. He, like Edwards, was kinda sorta maybe willing to consider raising taxes on people who make upward of $250 million a year.

I suppose this is progress.

All the liberal bloggers came to the April 27 evening fundraiser for Jerry McNerney, who defeated Ricahrd Pombo, and Charlie Brown, a Democrat who wants to unseat John Doolittle in congressional District 4 (north of Sacramento). Brown is a favorite of the blogosphere; he’s also a candidate who was barely on the official party radar when he ran in 2006.

All that has changed dramatically – with Doolittle circling the drain and Brown showing surprising strength. Even Pelosi plugged him from the convention stage.

But the only elected official I saw at the fundraiser was Assemblymember Mark Leno.

The people in the room represented a very different approach to state politics. It’s not even an entirely ideological division; it’s more about a form of activism. The bloggers (who aren’t just writing about the party but trying to change it) are still the party outsiders now – but they’ve already raised more money for Brown than any other single source, mostly in small contributions. And I suspect that if he gets elected, he’ll remember the people who were there for him first.

The outsiders still don’t understand how all the hardball politics work at conventions, but they’re learning. They’re also emerging as a tremendous force in American politics, and in California they’re knocking, loudly, on the state party doors. And Art Torres is a fool if he thinks he’s not going to have to let them in. *

For much, much more on the state convention, go to the Guardian politics blog at www.sfbg.com/blogs/politics.

Reilly’s victory


EDITORIAL In the days following the historic settlement of Clint Reilly’s lawsuit against the Bay Area’s newspaper barons, the local dailies, the media blogs, and the trade publications such as Editor and Publisher were buzzing with debate and speculation over a few of the agreement’s terms.

Would Reilly actually get space in the local papers to make his political points every month? Where would that space go? Would it be paid ad space, or would he get it free? Would he be able to appoint a citizen member to the editorial boards of Dean Singleton’s dailies (including the San Jose Mercury News and the Contra Costa Times)? Or could the papers’ managers reject his nominations?

Back and forth, back and forth. And all of it entirely missed the point.

This was the fine print of the deal, the stuff that, a few months from now, nobody will remember or care about. You could get the real news from the headline in a blog post by former Chronicle city editor Alan Mutter: "Hearst-MediaNews deal scuttled."

That’s what happened here: Reilly, acting with his own money, with no support from the federal or state regulators, broke up a deal that would have put the owners of the Chronicle directly in business with Singleton’s MediaNews Group, the owner of almost every other major daily in the region. It would have been the end of daily newspaper competition in the Bay Area.

The Hearst Corp., documents that came out during the suit showed, wanted to combine some printing, distribution, and sales efforts with MediaNews Group. And Hearst wanted to convert an investment in MediaNews into direct stock in the company’s local papers. That would have, in effect, made one of the last non-MediaNews papers in the area part of the same business group.

As G.W. Schulz reports in "Beyond the Reilly Settlement," on page 11, if Reilly hadn’t intervened, nobody would have known about it until it was over and too late to stop. That’s the point here, and that’s what journalists, political scientists, and critics ought to be talking about.

Instead, we’ve heard outrage from some editors over the fact that Reilly might get some space in the papers. It’s really a nonissue; he could have bought ad space for his opinions anyway, and all that the settlement did was give him that space free. And a lot of papers ask citizens to serve on advisory boards; Reilly’s nominees are very unlikely to change anyone’s editorial policies.

Meanwhile, where is the outrage over the original Hearst-MediaNews deal, which would have ended editorial competition the same way the 1965 joint operating agreement between the Chronicle and San Francisco Examiner did? Where is the outrage, for that matter, over the fact that the Chronicle is now putting ads not from Clint Reilly but from Pacific Gas and Electric Co. – greenwashing ads that are demonstrable lies – on the front page of the paper, without even a tagline that says "paid advertisement"? Where is the outrage over the fact that Democrats Bill Lockyer (the former attorney general) and Jerry Brown (who now holds the job) were ready to stand back and let all this happen?

And where is the concern among all these civic-minded types about the fact that despite Reilly’s best efforts, it’s entirely possible Hearst will wind up trying to sell the Chron to Singleton anyway – and none of the federal or state authorities seem to care?

Remember, if Reilly hadn’t sued, one of the most dangerous, rotten tricks in newspaper history might have gone unchallenged.

As it is, the full information only came to light because the Guardian and Media Alliance went into court to force it open – and now Reilly and his attorney, Joe Alioto, have the right under the settlement to seek federal Judge Susan Illston’s permission to make the remainder of the key records – including the settlement agreement – public. They should do so, immediately, and Illston should grant their request. The public interest in the newspaper barons’ schemes couldn’t possibly be greater. *

The meltdown opportunity


EDITORIAL A few hours after the explosion that melted part of the East Bay approach to the Bay Bridge, Mayor Gavin Newsom was meeting with reporters at the state Democratic convention in San Diego. Yes, he told them, there would be an economic impact from the freeway meltdown. Yes, it would be a hardship for thousands of commuters. "Yes, it’s a mess," he told us. "But it’s also an opportunity."

Newsom is right – and if he and other regional and state officials are willing to take advantage of that opportunity, it could be a rare chance to shift commute patterns in the Bay Area away from the automobile.

The evidence on the first post-meltdown travel day was encouraging: Extra BART trains were running. Extra ferries were in service. The Muni lines that connect to the ferry terminal (even the star-crossed T line) were more or less on time. And huge numbers of people who normally would have driven their cars to work took mass transit.

Part of that, of course, was due to the decision by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to offer free rides on trains, buses, and ferries. But part of it was because there simply wasn’t any other choice: the only option for a lot of East Bay residents who wanted to get into San Francisco without facing a real traffic nightmare was to leave their cars at home.

The new commute won’t be a perfect convenience for everyone – but if the state and the counties keep their end of the deal, it won’t have to be that bad. In fact, in 1989, when the Loma Prieta quake brought down the Bay Bridge, San Francisco survived just fine. For those few weeks without transbay driving, downtown was remarkably pleasant – the streets weren’t clogged with cars, the noise level was down, the air was cleaner, and pedestrians and bicyclists didn’t have to fear for their lives.

Meanwhile, the business of the city went on; people adapted; and when the bridge reopened, they got right back in their cars.

That’s what has to change this time around.

For starters, Newsom and Oakland mayor Ron Dellums ought to convene a summit on reducing car traffic and set a firm goal of, say, a permanent 25 percent reduction in auto traffic on the Bay Bridge. That would involve major, lasting improvements in regional transit: The number of ferries, now at double the normal capacity, would have to remain high, and fares would have to be kept low enough to be competitive with driving. BART would also have to increase capacity, and Muni would have to run more busses to take people quickly from BART terminals to other parts of town.

That’s going to cost some money, in part because the East Bay-to-San Francisco ferries are privately owned and won’t carry passengers free or at reduced fares unless the state is going to keep ponying up money – which is a good reason for the legislature to look at creating public ferries for the long term.

But compared to the costs of continued congestion and the impact on global climate change that come from all these cars, it’s too good a deal to pass up.

San Francisco city planners tend to look at ways to accommodate more cars as the city grows. Newsom and Dellums, along with other Bay Area officials, need to derail that assumption and use this opportunity to make permanent reductions in car use. *

Cleaning the sour lake



Pablo Fajardo, Humberto Piaguaje, and Guillermo Grefa – three natives of Ecuador – recently made a visit to the Bay Area, but not as mere tourists.

"I’ve come here to inform you, San Francisco, so that you here might know what Chevron does outside the borders of the United States," Fajardo said at a press conference outside City Hall. "They are contributing to the destruction of humanity on a global level."

Fajardo is one of the lead litigators in a 14-year-old civil action lawsuit against Texaco (which was purchased by the Chevron Corp. in 2001) accusing the multinational oil company of business practices that soured the lakes, streams, soil, air, and lives of the residents of Lago Agrio ("sour lake" in Spanish). Texaco was based in this rainforest region for 28 years and operated 343 wells and processing plants that pumped 1.5 billion barrels of oil through a 300-mile exposed pipeline over the Andes. The plaintiffs allege that substandard storage and handling of the oil and its toxic byproducts during those productive years have poisoned an area three times the size of Manhattan.

Chevron contends that it has adequately cleaned up 45 sites and anything beyond that is the responsibility of PetroEcuador, a government-owned company with which Texaco had a partnership for use, ownership, and maintenance of the wells.

Chevron is the sixth largest oil company in the world and the richest corporation in the Bay Area. The San Francisco Chronicle recently dubbed Chevron its "corporation of the year" after the oil company posted $17 billion in profits in 2006.

But by the end of this year, Chevron may have a new distinction: loser of the largest environmental remediation case ever litigated. Even though legal scholars say it’s quite possible the Ecuador court will rule against Chevron, company executives still haven’t set aside any money or fully informed shareholders of this potential liability.

A resident of Lago Agrio since he was 14, Fajardo received his law degree through correspondence school coursework just three years ago, and this is the first case he’s argued. But he’s not alone. His legal team includes New York-based Steve Donziger and a bankroll from Philadelphia’s Kohn, Swift and Graf. The recent trip was also supported by the San Francisco organizations Amazon Watch and Rainforest Action Network.

"This was to put a message to the Bay Area. This is your homegrown oil company," Amazon Watch’s executive director, Atossa Soltani, said. "This is an opportunity to hold them accountable. We need to demand they uphold the values of this community."

While in town, Fajardo invited Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to tour one of the 600 unlined oil pits that are seeping sludge into the drinking water of 30,000 Lago Agrians.

"I know that you have close ties to this company," Fajardo wrote in a letter to Schwarzenegger. "I have read that Chevron has donated over $600,000 to your campaigns and inaugurations. I have also read that your former chief of staff was a lobbyist for Chevron. However, I have faith because I know you are a man of the environment. You are making California a leader in the United States on almost every environmental issue. You are what they call a ‘green’ governor."

The governor is still reviewing the letter, his spokesperson Aaron McLear said, and has not yet decided on taking a field trip to the country. According to an Associated Press article, at an April 24 press conference Schwarzenegger was asked why he turned down an offer to meet the Ecuadorans. He responded, "Everyone has their own ideas of what it is to be an environmentalist and to protect the environment."

To convey their idea of what it means to be a good corporate citizen, Piaguaje and Grefa busted into the April 25 annual shareholders meeting at Chevron’s headquarters in San Ramon, as guests of Soltani and RAN executive director Michael Brune – who both happen to own a little stock in the company.

As three dozen protesters stood outside the meeting holding a banner that read, "Tell shareholders the toxic truth," the usual crowd of well-heeled investors dressed in prim suits and trim neckties mingled inside.

Two individuals looked a little different. Grefa wore a pale green shirt and a thick rope of multicolored beads around his neck. Beside him sat Piaguaje, in a long red tunic with a traditional headdress covering his black hair. During the question period of the meeting, they addressed Chevron board president David O’Reilly.

"Our fight is not for money," Piaguaje, the Secoya tribe leader, said through a translator. "We want you to give back our lives. We want to live in peace, harmoniously with nature. Above all, we want justice. We will continue to fight until we get justice or we will die in our struggle."

"The problems you have there," O’Reilly responded, "you need to take up with the government. There’s no credible evidence that Texaco did anything wrong."

The plaintiffs argue that Chevron’s $40 million remediation job during the ’90s is an implicit admission of some level of guilt.

Chevron says it’s being attacked for the size of its purse. At the shareholders meeting, company executives proudly reported the company made $17.1 billion last year, will be investing about $15 billion in oil exploration, and is kicking off 30 new capital projects at the cost of $1 billion apiece.

Should the Ecuadoran plaintiffs prevail, the cost of a real cleanup has been estimated at $6 billion – enough to hinder just half a dozen of Chevron’s new oil wells. Chevron contends the figure is grossly inflated. "This $6 billion assessment was made by a consultant hired by the attorneys [on the plaintiffs’ side] who only spent three days there," one of Chevron’s lawyers, Ricardo Veija, told the Guardian.

"He was there for a few weeks, actually," said the environmental scientist at his side, Sara McMillen, who’s consulting for Chevron on the case. She added that the consultants asked other experts to consider the figure. "They actually bust out laughing when they hear that number," she said. "It’s more than the cost of Exxon Valdez."

But Fajardo contends the spills in Lago Agrio are larger than the Valdez tanker spill – 30 times larger, in fact (18.5 billion gallons versus 11 million). He said Ecuadorans are more interested in drinking clean water and being treated like humans than squeezing money from Chevron.

Because of the trial, Fajardo was not allowed to attend the shareholders meeting, but we asked what he would say to O’Reilly if they were face-to-face.

"If I could speak with him," Fajardo said in clear, direct words, as if talking to a child who doesn’t want to listen, "I would tell him that I think human beings are the same. We have the same rights no matter what part of the world we live in. This company has caused great harm. Instead of spending millions of dollars in defense, they could be investing money in cleanup. It’s a question of justice."

Fajardo, his stern brow softening as he considered his words, added, "I’d also tell him I have nothing against him personally. I respect him like I respect every other person." *

Dine Listings


Welcome to our dining listings, a detailed guide by neighborhood of some great places to grab a bite, hang out with friends, or impress the ones you love with thorough knowledge of this delectable city. Restaurants are reviewed by Paul Reidinger (PR) or staff. All area codes are 415, and all restaurants are wheelchair accessible, except where noted.

B Breakfast

BR Saturday and/or Sunday brunch

L Lunch

D Dinner

AE American Express

DC Diners Club

DISC Discover

MC MasterCard

V Visa

¢ less than $7 per entrée

$ $7–$12

$$ $13–$20

$$$ more than $20


Boulevard runs with ethereal smoothness — you are cosseted as if at a chic private party — but despite much fame the place retains its brasserie trappings and joyous energy. (Staff) 1 Mission, SF. 543-6084. American, L/D, $$$, AE/DC/DISC/MC/V.

Brindisi Cucina di Mare cooks seafood the south Italian way, and that means many, many ways, with many, many sorts of seafood. (PR, 4/04) 88 Belden Place, SF. 593-8000. Italian/seafood, L/D, $$, AE/MC/V.

Bushi-tei melds East and West, old and new, with sublime elegance. Chef Seiji Wakabayashi is fluent in many of the culinary dialects of East Asia as well as the lofty idiom of France, and the result is cooking that develops its own integrity. The setting — of glass, candles, and ancient lumber — shimmers with enchantment. (PR, 3/06) 1638 Post, SF. 440-4959. Fusion, D, $$$, AE/MC/V.

Café Claude is a hidden treasure of the city center. There is an excellent menu of traditional, discreetly citified French dishes, a youthful energy, and a romantic setting on a narrow, car-free lane reminiscent of the Marais. (PR, 10/06) 7 Claude Lane, SF. 392-3515. French, L/D, $$, AE/DC/DISC/MC/V.

Chaya Brasserie brings a taste of LA’s preen-and-be-seen culture to the waterfront. The Japanese-influenced food is mostly French, and very expensive. (Staff) 132 Embarcadero, SF. 777-8688. Fusion, D, $$$, AE/DC/MC/V.

Cortez has a Scandinavian Designs-on-acid look — lots of heavy, weird multicolored mobiles — but Pascal Rigo’s Mediterranean-influenced small plates will quickly make you forget you’re eating in a hotel. (Staff) 550 Geary (in the Hotel Adagio), SF. 292-6360. Mediterranean, B/D, $$, AE/DC/DISC/MC/V.

Cosmopolitan Cafe seems like a huge Pullman car. The New American menu emphasizes heartiness. (Staff) 121 Spear, SF. 543-4001. American, L/D, $$, AE/DC/MC/V.


Maykadeh Persian Cuisine is a great date restaurant, classy but not too pricey, and there are lots of veggie options both for appetizers and entrées. Khoresht bademjan was a delectable, deep red stew of tomato and eggplant with a rich, sweet, almost chocolatey undertone. (Staff) 470 Green, SF. 362-8286. Persian, L/D, $, MC/V.

Michelangelo Cafe There’s always a line outside this quintessential North Beach restaurant, but it’s well worth the sidewalk time for Michelangelo’s excellent Italian, served in a bustling, family-style atmosphere. The seafood dishes are recommended; approach the postprandial Gummi Bears at your own risk. (Staff) 597 Columbus, SF. 986-4058. Italian, D, $$.

Moose’s is famous for the Mooseburger, but the rest of the menu is comfortably sophisticated. The crowd is moneyed but not showy and definitely not nouveau. (Staff) 1652 Stockton, SF. 989-7800. American, BR/L/D, $$, AE/DC/MC/V.

Pena Pacha Mama offers organic Bolivian cuisine as well as weekly performances of Andean song and dance. Dine on crusted lamb and yucca frita while watching a genuine flamenco performance in this intimate setting. (Staff) 1630 Powell, SF. 646-0018. Bolivian, BR/D, $$, AE/MC/V.

Rico’s touts its salsas, and they are good, but so is almost everything else on the mainstream Mexican menu. (Staff) 943 Columbus, SF. 928-5404. Mexican, L/D, ¢, AE/MC/V.


AsiaSF Priscilla, Queen of the Desert meets Asian-influenced tapas at this amusingly surreal lounge. The drag queen burlesque spectacle draws a varied audience that’s a show in itself. (Staff) 201 Ninth St, SF. 255-2742. Fusion, D, $, AE/DC/DISC/MC/V.

Bacar means "wine goblet," and its wine menu is extensive — and affordable. Chef Arnold Wong’s eclectic American-global food plays along nicely. (Staff) 448 Brannan, SF. 904-4100. American, D, $$, AE/MC/V.

Basil A serene, upscale oasis amid the industrial supply warehouses, Basil offers California-influenced Thai cuisine that’s lively and creative. (Staff) 1175 Folsom, SF. 552-8999. Thai, L/D, $, AE/MC/V.

Big Nate’s Barbecue is pretty stark inside — mostly linoleum arranged around a pair of massive brick ovens. But the hot sauce will make you sneeze. (Staff) 1665 Folsom, SF. 861-4242. Barbecue, L/D, $, MC/V.

Butler and the Chef brings a taste of Parisian café society — complete with pâtés, cornichons, and croques monsieurs — to sunny South Park. (PR, 5/04) 155A South Park, SF. French, B/L/D, $, AE/DC/DISC/MC/V.


Crustacean is famous for its roast Dungeness crab; the rest of the "Euro/Asian" menu is refreshingly Asian in emphasis. (Staff) 1475 Polk, SF. 776-2722. Fusion, L/D, $$, AE/MC/V.

East Coast West Delicatessen doesn’t look like a New York deli (too much space, air, light), but the huge, fattily satisfying Reubens, platters of meat loaf, black-and-white cookies, and all the other standards compare commendably to their East Coast cousins. (Staff) 1725 Polk, SF. 563-3542. Deli, BR/L/D, $, MC/V.

La Folie could be a neighborhood spot or a destination or both, but either way or both ways it is sensational: an exercise in haute cuisine leavened with a West Coast sense of informality and playfulness. There is a full vegetarian menu and an ample selection of wines by the half bottle. (PR, 2/06) 2316 Polk, SF. 776-5577. French, D, $$$, AE/DC/DISC/MC/V.

Grubstake might look like your typical Polk Gulch diner — sandwiches and burgers, open very late — but the kitchen also turns out some good mom-style Portuguese dishes, replete with olives, salt cod, and linguica. If you crave caldo verde at 3 a.m., this is the place. (Staff) 1525 Pine, SF. 673-8268. Portuguese/American, B/L/D, ¢, cash only.

*Matterhorn Restaurant offers dishes that aren’t fondue, but fondue (especially with beef) is the big deal and the answer to big appetites. For dessert: chocolate fondue! (Staff) 2323 Van Ness, SF. 885-6116. Swiss, $$, D, AE/DC/DISC/MC/V.


Mekong Restaurant serves the foods of the Mekong River basin. There is a distinct Thai presence but also dishes with Laotian, Cambodian, Vietnamese, and even Chinese accents. (PR, 1/06) 791 O’Farrell, SF. 928-2772. Pan-Asian, L/D, $, MC/V.

Olive might look like a tapas bar, but what you want are the thin-crust pizzas, the simpler the toppings the better. The small plates offer eclectic pleasures, especially the Tuscan pâté and beef satay with peanut sauce. (Staff) 743 Larkin, SF. 776-9814. Pizza/eclectic, D, $, AE/DISC/MC/V.

Pagolac For $10.95 a person you and two or more of your favorite beef eaters can dive into Pagolac’s specialty: seven-flavor beef. Less carnivorous types can try the cold spring rolls, shrimp on sugarcane, or lemongrass tofu. (Staff) 655 Larkin, SF. 776-3234. Vietnamese, L/D, ¢.

*Saha serves "Arabic fusion cuisine" — a blend of the Middle East and California — in a cool, spare setting behind the concierge’s desk at the Hotel Carlton. One senses the imminence of young rock stars, drawn perhaps by the lovely chocolate fondue. (PR, 9/04) 1075 Sutter, SF. 345-9547. Arabic/fusion, B/BR/D, $$, AE/DISC/MC/V.


Frjtz serves first-rate Belgian fries, beer, crepes, and sandwiches in an art-house atmosphere. If the noise overwhelms, take refuge in the lovely rear garden. (Staff) 579 Hayes, SF. 864-7654; also at Ghirardelli Square, SF. 928-3886. Belgian, B/L/D, $, AE/DC/DISC/MC/V.

Hayes Street Grill started more than a quarter century ago as an emulation of the city’s old seafood houses, and now it’s an institution itself. The original formula — immaculate seafood simply prepared, with choice of sauce and French fries — still beats vibrantly at the heart of the menu. Service is impeccable, the setting one of relaxed grace. (PR, 7/06) 816 Folsom, SF. 863-5545. Seafood, L/D, $$$, AE/DISC/MC/V.

Sauce enjoys the services of chef Ben Paula, whose uninhibited California cooking is as easy to like as a good pop song. (PR, 5/05) 131 Gough, SF. 252-1369. California, D, $$, AE/DISC/MC/V.

Suppenküche has a Busvan for Bargains, butcher-block look that gives context to its German cuisine. If you like schnitzel, brats, roasted potatoes, eggs, cheese, cucumber salad, cold cuts, and cold beer, you’ll love it here. (Staff) 601 Hayes, SF. 252-9289. German, BR/D, $, AE/MC/V.

*Zuni Cafe is one of the most celebrated — and durable — restaurants in town, perhaps because its kitchen has honored the rustic country cooking of France and Italy for the better part of two decades. (PR, 2/05) 1658 Market, SF. 552-2522. California, B/L/D, $$$, AE/MC/V.


La Ciccia offers the distinct cuisine of Sardinia — Italian yet not quite — in an appealingly subdued storefront setting in outer Noe Valley. Pizzas are excellent, and the food is notably meaty, though with some lovely maritime twists. A unique and riveting wine list. (PR, 6/06) 291 30th St., SF. 550-8114. Sardinian/Italian, D, $$, MC/V.

Côté Sud brings a stylish breath of Provence to the Castro. The cooking reflects an unfussy elegance; service is as crisp as a neatly folded linen napkin. Nota bene: you must climb a set of steps to reach the place. (Staff) 4238 18th St, SF. 255-6565. French, D, $$, MC/V.

Eric’s Dig into the likes of mango shrimp, hoisin green beans, and spicy eggplant with chicken in this bright, airy space. (Staff) 1500 Church, SF. 282-0919. Chinese, L/D, $, MC/V.

Eureka Restaurant and Lounge combines, in the old Neon Chicken space, a classic Castro sensibility (mirrors everywhere, fancy sparkling water) with a stylish all-American menu that reflects Boulevard and Chenery Park bloodlines. Prices are high. (PR, 12/06) 4063 18th St. SF. 431-6000. American, D, $$$, AE/MC/V.

*Firefly remains an exemplar of the neighborhood restaurant in San Francisco: it is homey and classy, hip and friendly, serving an American menu — deftly inflected with ethnic and vegetarian touches — that’s the match of any in the city. (PR, 9/04) 4288 24th St, SF. 821-7652. American, D, $$, AE/MC/V.


Metro Cafe brings the earthy chic of Paris’s 11th arrondissement to the Lower Haight, prix fixe and all. (Staff) 311 Divisadero, SF. 552-0903. French, B/BR/L/D, $, MC/V.

New Ganges Restaurant is short on style — it is as if the upmarket revolution in vegetarian restaurants never happened — but there is a homemade freshness to the food you won’t find at many other places. (Staff) 775 Frederick, SF. 681-4355. Vegetarian/Indian, L/D, $, MC/V.

Raja Cuisine of India serves up decent renditions of Indian standards in an unassuming, even spare, setting. Low prices. (Staff) 500 Haight, SF. 255-6000. Indian, L/D, $, MC/V.

Rotee isn’t the fanciest south Asian restaurant in the neighborhood, but it is certainly one of the most fragrant, and its bright oranges and yellows (food, walls) do bring good cheer. Excellent tandoori fish. (PR, 12/04) 400 Haight, SF. 552-8309. Indian/Pakistani, L/D, $, MC/V.

Tsunami Sushi and Sake Bar brings hip Japanese-style seafood to the already hip Café Abir complex. Skull-capped sushi chefs, hefty and innovative rolls. (Staff) 1306 Fulton, SF. 567-7664. Japanese/sushi, D, $$, AE/DC/DISC/MC/V.

Zazie is one of the best, possibly the very best, of the city’s neighborhood French bistros. The excellent food is fairly priced and the service well-honed; even diners in the open-air garden at the rear of the restaurant will feel coddled. (PR, 1/07) 941 Cole, SF. 564-5332. French, B/BR/L/D, $, MC/V.

Ziryab brings a touch of eastern Med class to a slightly sketchy block of Divisadero in the Western Addition. The menu graciously innovates Middle Eastern standards while adding a California twist or two for fun. Faux stonework lends a Vegas air to the setting. (PR, 3/07) 528 Divisadero, SF. 269-5430. Middle Eastern, L/D, $, AE/DC/DISC/MC/V.

Zoya takes some finding — it is in the little turret of the Days Inn Motor Lodge at Grove and Gough — but the view over the street’s treetops is bucolic, and the cooking is simple, seasonal, direct, and ingredient driven. (PR, 12/05) 465 Grove, SF. 626-9692. California, L/D, $$, AE/DC/DISC/MC/V.


Cafe Phoenix looks like a junior-high cafeteria, but the California-deli food is fresh, tasty, and honest, and the people making it are part of a program to help the emotionally troubled return to employability. (Staff) 1234 Indiana, SF. 282-9675, ext. 239. California, B/L, ¢, MC/V.

Caffe Cozzolino Get it to go: everything’s about two to four bucks more if you eat it there. (Staff) 300 Precita, SF. 285-6005. Italian, L/D, $, AE/MC/V.

Caffe d’Melanio is the place to go if you want your pound of coffee beans roasted while you enjoy an Argentine-Italian dinner of pasta, milanesa, and chimichurri sauce. During the day the café offers a more typically Cal-American menu of better-than-average quality. First-rate coffee beans. (PR, 10/04) 1314 Ocean, SF. 333-3665. Italian/Argentine, B/L/D, $, MC/V.

Il Cantuccio strikingly evokes that little trattoria you found near the Ponte Vecchio on your last trip to Florence. (Staff) 3228 16th St, SF. 861-3899. Italian, D, $, MC/V.

Chez Papa Bistrot sits like a beret atop Potrero Hill. The food is good, the staff’s French accents authentic, the crowd a lively cross section, but the place needs a few more scuffs and quirks before it can start feeling real. (Staff) 1401 18th St, SF. 824-8210. French, BR/L/D, $$, AE/MC/V.

Circolo Restaurant and Lounge brings Peruvian- and Asian-influenced cooking into a stylishly barnlike urban space where dot-commers gathered of old. Some of the dishes are overwrought, but the food is splendid on the whole. (PR, 6/04) 500 Florida, SF. 553-8560. Nuevo Latino/Asian, D, $$$, AE/DC/DISC/MC/V.

Couleur Café reminds us that French food need be neither fancy nor insular. The kitchen playfully deploys a world of influences — the duck-confit quesadilla is fabulous — and service is precise and attentive despite the modest setting at the foot of Potrero Hill. (PR, 2/06) 300 De Haro, SF. 255-1021. French, BR/L/D, $, AE/DC/MC/V.

*Delfina has grown from a neighborhood restaurant to an event, but an expanded dining room has brought the noise under control, and as always, the food — intense variations on a theme of Tuscany — could not be better. (PR, 2/04) 3621 18th St, SF. 552-4055. California, D, $$, MC/V.

Dosa serves dosas, the south Indian crepes, along with a wealth of other, and generally quite spicy, dishes from the south of the subcontinent. The cooking tends toward a natural meatlessness; the crowds are intense, like hordes of passengers inquiring about a delayed international flight. (PR, 1/06) 995 Valencia, SF. 642-3672. South Indian, BR/D, $, AE/MC/V.

Double Play sits across the street from what once was Seals Stadium, but while the field and team are gone, the restaurant persists as an authentic sports bar with a solidly masculine aura — mitts on the walls, lots of dark wood, et cetera. The all-American food (soups, sandwiches, pastas, meat dishes, lots of fries) is outstanding. (Staff) 2401 16th St, SF. 621-9859. American, L/D, $, AE/MC/V.

Emmy’s Spaghetti Shack offers a tasty, inexpensive, late-night alternative to Pasta Pomodoro. The touch of human hands is everywhere evident. (Staff) 18 Virginia, SF. 206-2086. Italian, D, $, cash only.

Foreign Cinema serves some fine New American food in a spare setting of concrete and glass that warms up romantically once the sun goes down. (Staff) 2534 Mission, SF. 648-7600. California, D, $$, AE/MC/V.

Front Porch mixes a cheerfully homey setting (with a front porch of sorts), a hipster crowd, and a Caribbean-inflected comfort menu into a distinctive urban cocktail. The best dishes, such as a white polenta porridge with crab, are Range-worthy, and nothing on the menu is much more than $10. (PR, 10/06) 65A 29th St, SF. 695-7800. American/Caribbean, BR/D, $, MC/V.

Herbivore is adorned in the immaculate-architect style: angular blond-wood surfaces and precise cubbyholes abound. (Staff) 983 Valencia, SF. 826-5657; 531 Divisadero (at Fell), SF. 885-7133. Vegetarian, L/D, $, MC/V.


*Quince doesn’t much resemble its precursor, the Meetinghouse: the setting is more overtly luxurious, the food a pristine Franco-Cal-Ital variant rather than hearty New American. Still, it’s an appealing place to meet. (PR, 7/04) 1701 Octavia, SF. 775-8500. California, D, $$$, AE/MC/V.

Rigolo combines the best of Pascal Rigo’s boulangeries — including the spectacular breads — with some of the simpler elements (such as roast chicken) of his higher-end places. The result is excellent value in a bustling setting. (PR, 1/05) 3465 California, SF. 876-7777. California/Mediterranean, B/L/D, $, MC/V.

Rose’s Cafe has a flexible, all-day menu that starts with breakfast sandwiches; moves into bruschettas, salads, and pizzas; and finishes with grilled dinner specials such as salmon, chicken, and flat-iron steak. (Staff) 2298 Union, SF. 775-2200. California, B/L/D, $, AE/DC/DISC/MC/V.

Rosti Getting half a chicken along with roasted potatoes and an assortment of vegetables for $7.95 in the Marina is cause for celebration in itself. (Staff) 2060 Chestnut, SF. 929-9300. Italian, L/D, $, AE/DISC/V.

Saji Japanese Cuisine Sit at the sushi bar and ask the resident sushi makers what’s particularly good that day. As for the hot dishes, seafood yosenabe, served in a clay pot, is a virtual Discovery Channel of finned and scaly beasts, all tasty and fresh. (Staff) 3232 Scott, SF. 931-0563. Japanese, D, $, AE/DC/MC/V.

Sociale serves first-rate Cal-Ital food in bewitching surroundings — a heated courtyard, a beautifully upholstered interior — that will remind you of some hidden square in some city of Mediterranean Europe. (Staff) 3665 Sacramento, SF. 921-3200. Mediterranean, L/D, $$, AE/DC/DISC/MC/V.

Sushi Groove is easily as cool as its name. Behind wasabi green velvet curtains, salads can be inconsistent, but the sushi is impeccable, especially the silky salmon and special white tuna nigiri. (Staff) 1916 Hyde, SF. 440-1905. Japanese, D, $, AE/DC/DISC/MC/V.


Sea Breeze Cafe looks like a dive, but the California cooking is elevated, literally and figuratively. Lots of witty salads, a rum-rich crème brûlée. (Staff) 3940 Judah, SF. 242-6022. California, BR/L/D, $$, MC/V.

So Restaurant brings the heat, in the form of huge soup and noodle — and soupy noodle — dishes, many of them liberally laced with hot peppers and chiles. The pot stickers are homemade and exceptional, the crowd young and noisy. Cheap. (PR, 10/06) 2240 Irving, SF. 731-3143. Chinese/noodles, L/D, ¢, MC/V.

Tasty Curry still shows traces of an earlier life as a Korean hibachi restaurant (i.e., venting hoods above most of the tables), but the South Asian food is cheap, fresh, and packs a strong kick. (PR, 1/04) 1375 Ninth Ave, SF. 753-5122. Indian/Pakistani, L/D, ¢, MC/V.

Tennessee Grill could as easily be called the Topeka Grill, since its atmosphere is redolent of Middle America. Belly up to the salad bar for huge helpings of the basics to accompany your meat loaf or calf’s liver. (Staff) 1128 Taraval, SF. 664-7834. American, B/L/D, $, MC/V.

Thai Cottage isn’t really a cottage, but it is small in the homey way, and its Thai menu is sharp and vivid in the home-cooking way. Cheap, and the N train stops practically at the front door. (PR, 8/04) 4041 Judah, SF. 566-5311. Thai, L/D, $, MC/V.

*Xiao Loong elevates the neighborhood Chinese restaurant experience to one of fine dining, with immaculate ingredients and skillful preparation in a calm architectural setting. (PR, 8/05) 250 West Portal, SF. 753-5678. Chinese, L/D, $, AE/MC/V.

Yum Yum Fish is basically a fish store: three or four little tables with fish-print tablecloths under glass, fish-chart art along the wall, and fish-price signs all over the place. (Staff) 2181 Irving, SF. 566-6433. Sushi, L/D, ¢.


*Pizzetta 211 practices the art of the pizza in a glowing little storefront space. Thin crusts, unusual combinations, a few side dishes of the highest quality. (PR, 2/04) 211 23rd Ave, SF. 379-9880. Pizza/Italian, L/D, $.

Q rocks, both American-diner-food-wise and noisy-music-wise. Servings of such gratifyingly tasty dishes as barbecued ribs, fish tacos, and rosemary croquettes are huge. (Staff) 225 Clement, SF. 752-2298. American, BR/L/D, $, MC/V.

RoHan Lounge serves a variety of soju cocktails to help wash down all those Asian tapas. Beware the kimchee. Lovely curvaceous banquettes. (Staff) 3809 Geary, SF. 221-5095. Asian, D, $, AE/MC/V.

Singapore Malaysian Restaurant eschews decor for cheap, tasty plates, where you’ll find flavors ranging from Indian to Dutch colonial to Thai. Seafood predominates in curries, soups, grills, and plenty of rice and noodle dishes. (Staff) 836 Clement, SF. 750-9518. Malaysian, L/D, ¢, MC/V.

Spices! has an exclamation point for a reason: its Chinese food, mainly Szechuan and Taiwanese, with an oasis of Shanghai-style dishes, is fabulously hot. Big young crowds, pulsing house music, a shocking orange and yellow paint scheme. Go prepared, leave happy. (Staff) 294 Eighth Ave, SF. 752-8884. Szechuan/Chinese, L/D, $, MC/V.


Bella Vista Continental Restaurant commands a gorgeous view of the Peninsula and South Bay from its sylvan perch on Skyline Boulevard, and the continental food, though a little stately, is quite good. The look is rustic-stylish (exposed wood beams, servers in dinner jackets), and the tone one of informal horse-country wealth. (PR, 3/07) 13451 Skyline Blvd., Woodside. (650) 851-1229. Continental, D, $$$, AE/DC/DISC/MC/V.

Cable Car Coffee Shop Atmospherically speaking, you’re looking at your basic downtown South San Francisco old-style joint, one that serves a great Pacific Scramble for $4.95 and the most perfectest hash browns to be tasted. (Staff) 423 Grand, South SF. (650) 952-9533. American, B/BR/L, ¢.

Cliff’s Bar-B-Q and Seafood Some things Cliff’s got going for him: excellent mustard greens, just drenched in flavorfulness, and barbecued you name it. Brisket. Rib tips. Hot links. Pork ribs. Beef ribs. Baby backs. And then there are fried chickens and, by way of health food, fried fishes. (Staff) 2177 Bayshore, SF. 330-0736. Barbecue, L/D, ¢, AE/DC/MC/V.


Café de la Paz Specialties include African-Brazilian "xim xim" curries, Venezuelan corn pancakes, and heavenly blackened seacakes served with orange-onion yogurt. (Staff) 1600 Shattuck, Berk. (510) 843-0662. Latin American, BR/L/D, $, AE/MC/V.

Cafe Rouge All the red meat here comes from highly regarded Niman Ranch, and all charcuterie are made in-house. (Staff) 1782 Fourth St, Berk. (510) 525-1440. American, L/D, $$, AE/MC/V.

César You’ll be tempted to nibble for hours from Chez Panisse-related César’s Spanish-inspired tapas — unless you can’t get past the addictive sage-and-rosemary-flecked fried potatoes. (Staff) 1515 Shattuck, Berk. (510) 883-0222. Spanish, D, $, DISC/MC/V.


Mama’s Royal Cafe Breakfast is the draw here — even just-coffee-for-me types might succumb when confronted with waffles, French toast, pancakes, tofu scrambles, huevos rancheros, and 20 different omelets. (Staff) 4012 Broadway, Oakl. (510) 547-7600. American, B/L, ¢.

La Mexicana has a 40-year tradition of stuffing its customers with delicious, simply prepared staples (enchiladas, tacos, tamales, chile rellenos, menudo) and specials (carnitas, chicken mole), all served in generous portions at moderate prices. (Staff) 3930 E 14th St, Oakl. (510) 533-8818. Mexican, L/D, ¢, MC/V.

Nan Yang offers too many great dishes — ginger salad, spicy fried potato cakes, coconut chicken noodle soup, garlic noodles, succulent lamb curry that melts in your mouth — to experience in one visit. (Staff) 6048 College, Oakl. (510) 655-3298. Burmese, L/D, $, MC/V. *