Volume 41 Number 36

June 6 – June 12, 2007

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Bars of mystery


Sometimes you just want to get into trouble: drink too much, dance too crazy, see the sun rise on a workday, do some ill-advised flirting, steal a kiss (or more) in a bar bathroom, follow a shot of Patrón with a cocaine back. It isn’t too hard to get into trouble in this city, where the only rule seems to be that there are no rules (except that last call’s at two, sigh). But sometimes you need a little push — and a little unpredictability — to explore the outer reaches of your comfort zone. A few weeks here and you already know a hundred places to get your drink on: swanky places, divey places, places with good music or music so bad it feels good. It’s hard to remain anonymous, however, when you’re sipping Fat Tire and smoking spliffs on the same outdoor patio you visit every Friday, or ordering Maker’s on the rocks from the bartender who’s best friends with your last lover. And when it comes to enjoying a bit of mischief, anonymity is key. You need the unknown. A puzzle unsolved. A night stretching out before you whose story has yet to be written — the most important element being that its setting has yet to be, well, set. Which is where I come in.

Just call me Nancy Drink, Cocktail Detective. My mission? To scour the city for bars of mystery: those places you’ve passed but never entered, places whose very names are enigmas, and places so random, so hidden, so far away or just plain weird that you’ve never heard of them at all. The places where no one would think to look for you.


This story starts with the enigma that is the Western Addition … oh sorry, NoPa. Which is it? The "scary" neighborhood of yore? Or the latest example of gentrification? Judging by Club Waziema, a charming Ethiopian restaurant and bar that’s a favorite of locals and virtually unknown to everyone else, the answer is both. There’s something decidedly laid-back, eclectic, and a little low-key — that is, a little Western Addition — about the place, with its red and white velvet wallpaper, low lighting in front, and a back room with a pool table that feels more like a hostel rec room than a hipster bar. But the family-run business is keeping up with the neighborhood’s growth, and hints of NoPa are creeping in: for example, the menu of microbrews listed alongside Ethiopian imports (skip the malty stout if you’re not a fan of Old English 40-ouncers; try the harrar instead). Still, this place isn’t exactly on the scenester radar yet — and it’s better for it. You’re really here for the fantastic eat-with-your-hands food and the spot’s off-the-beaten-path, what-happens-at-Club-Waziema-stays-at-Club-Waziema feel.

543 Divisadero, SF. (415) 346-6641, www.clubwaziema.com


With a name like Forbidden Island, I figured this must be just the joint to get into delightful, delicious trouble. I wasn’t wrong. Sprouting from an otherwise quiet street was a beacon of bamboo and booze, with a thatched ceiling and a menu of fruity rum drinks organized by strength. Enough Banana Mamacows or Macadamia Nut Chi Chis and there’s no telling what one might do — maybe even something as daring as smoking on the back patio past 9 p.m., when a neighborhood noise ordinance necessitates its closure. Nahhh … this place is still a bit too tame, a bit too Disney-does-Hawaii, for such bold moves. But a young’un celebrating a 21st birthday with a drink in a bowl could certainly do some damage.

1304 Lincoln, Alameda. (510) 749-0332, www.forbiddenislandalameda.com


What a strange, strange place. Where Forbidden Island’s kitsch is calculated, Bow Bow’s is completely organic. The tiny Chinatown joint has the size, shape, and ambience of a lunch counter — white walls, neon, and all. It also has karaoke, which you wouldn’t even know until you heard some drunk fucks at the end of the bar singing "Bohemian Rhapsody" … oh wait, those drunk fucks were my friends and I. There’s no stage. The screen showing lyrics is suspended between the bathroom doors. And the only person there who can sing worth a damn is the man in charge of the karaoke book (with English and Chinese selections, by the way), with a voice like Harry Nilsson’s. Everyone else seems to stumble in already drunk and high, ready to do in public what they’d normally only do alone in their car.

1155 Grant, SF. (415) 421-6730


Could this be the Bow Bow’s older, more sophisticated, yet seedier cousin? Perhaps. It’s just up Grant, casting its crimson glow onto the street. Inside, an homage to Buddha punctuates the L-shaped bar. Extra booths and a back room hide from the foyer. The usual alcohol selection shares shelves with unfamiliar liquors in small bottles with wooden tops, the ingredients written in Cantonese. The house drink is the mai tai, which is the color of roses and tastes like sweet tequila. And on the night that I visited, there on a cracked red bar stool, watching Asian television on the flat-screen TV, was the karaoke man from the Bow Bow. Coincidence? Was he following me? Or is there really some kind of connection between the bars?

916 Grant, SF. (415) 982-0072


Some of the best mysteries are those hidden in plain sight. Like Radio Habana, the hush-hush restaurant-bar nestled sneakily into a corner at 22nd Street and Valencia. Radio Habana has no sign — and it’s particularly obscured by some new construction on Valencia. But if you keep an eye out for the intentionally skewed windowpane and the metal cockroach pinned to the door, you’ll find exactly the kind of place where time stands still, where novels are written, and where stories worthy of novels are perhaps played out. The highlights? Dioramas featuring Barbie dolls, cockeyed pictures, framed homages to John Lennon and Kafka’s Metamorphosis, homemade sangria, and delicious Latin-inspired food (from a quaintly small menu) served on gorgeous, long, rectangular plates.

1109 Valencia, SF. (415) 824-7659


There’s nothing about the name of this bar that sounds appealing. I don’t want to enter a dog’s anything, much less drink in it. The consonants alone, rolling around in your mouth, taste bitter. So the mystery is, why give a place such a name? And why go here at all? Turns out this Irish bar’s moniker is a version of the across-the-pond phrase dog’s bollocks, which means, roughly, "the best ever" (though it does also translate as canine testicles). And though it’s rumored to be overrun by Marina-type college kids and sometimes smell like urine, I found it delightful late on a weeknight: dark wood, frothy Guinness, a pool table, a large, long bar where you can chat with the friendly, attractive (though Scottish!) bartender, and small nooks for more intimate conservations.

408 Clement, SF. (415) 752-1452


It was a dark and stormy night … no, wait, that was the Dark and Stormy cocktail I had at Le Colonial across the street after trying — and failing — to visit the Hidden Vine, a place so very hidden that it wasn’t even open. Apparently there was "no hot water." A likely story. Surely something unseemly was going on behind those closed doors. Nothing like a wine bar in the dark to inspire criminal activity. But that would have to wait for another investigation. I was on a very particular mission and couldn’t be distracted by just any old cries from the city’s dark underbelly, even if it was an underbelly filled with pinot noir.

1/2 Cosmo Place (at Taylor), SF. (415) 674-3567, www.thehiddenvine.com


Barley ‘n Hops is the kind of place you’d never stumble on. You’d have to know it was there, tucked away on the second floor of the 55 Parc Hotel. It has bright lights and carpet and an airport-lounge feel. Also a sports theme, with Angels autographs on the walls, a Giants helmet on a pedestal, and televisions blaring news and sports. But I’m not fooled by such sterile-seeming ambience. I know this is a place to make secret deals, to order a hit, to plot the overthrow of an evil dictator. Or to down a few shots of Patrón and get out before I’m tempted to thwart a coup.

55 Parc Hotel, 55 Cyril Magnin, SF. (415) 392-8000


The first time I drove by this bar, I was on one of those strange adventures involving interpersonal dynamics and unreal drama that can’t be written about in a nonfiction format. The kind of day when my answer was, "No, dear bar, I wouldn’t believe." So of course, I had to return to this Richmond enigma as part of my search for tippling treasure. What is it, I wondered, that the bar didn’t think I’d believe? Turns out it’s that the place is so … well … normal. A bit divey, a bit upscale. Ridiculously attractive bartenders juxtaposed with middle-aged clientele rolling dice on the bar and locals playing pool in the sunken foyer. Perhaps I also wouldn’t believe that I’d find myself there on a Wednesday, swing dancing to the Rolling Stones and sipping a fantastic mojito and an impressive Godfather (whiskey and something …) before seeing dawn on yet another workday. But now, I believe. I believe.

4642 Geary, SF. (415) 752-7444


Those in the know call it "the Philly." I knew it only as the lone beacon of light in the otherwise dark and quiet West Portal neighborhood near the tunnel. From its name, you’d expect an interior wreathed by curls of smoke rising from cigarettes held by fedora-wearing men discussing Nietzsche and Kant. But the place is much more like a neighborhood pub. Unpretentious. Friendly. Comfortable. The light hanging over the pool table resembled a ’50s surfer station wagon. "Why is it called the Philosopher’s Club?" I asked the bartender, who’s also the owner. His answer, appropriately Socratic: "Why not?"

824 Ulloa, SF. (415) 753-0599

BAR 821

"If you found us, do not tell others." That’s the Bar 821 golden rule, a rule just begging to be broken if you’re a spirits sleuth like Nancy Drink. The forced speakeasy theme seems painfully pretentious — until you actually visit the tiny NoPa (yes, folks, where Club Waziema is headed, Bar 821 has already arrived) haunt. The spot offers affordable champagne cocktails, plenty of Belgian beers, and a small, swank, but surprisingly unsnooty interior perfect for intimate conversations. Get there early, though. The place stops letting people in at 11 p.m. Whether the bartenders kick you out then, though, is a nightly mystery …

821 Divisadero, SF. www.bar821.com

Summer splashdown


Ra and I have never gotten along. As the sun god of the Egyptians, he says people should walk sideways with one hand up and the other down. I say people should walk forward, with hands by their sides. He says Jews should be slaves. I say Jews should be rich and powerful. He says door should be spelled soldier-falcon-cat … Things between us really came to a head over the whole Library of Alexandria fire mess, though. Words were exchanged, perhaps regrettably. Since then he hasn’t exactly been overly generous with his golden rays — to me or any other San Franciscan. It’s not that he’s completely shut us off. He teases us with just enough warmth, only to freeze us out once we thankfully shed our jackets. It’s his way of forcing us to be grateful to him. Jerk.

Now it’s June. Children are shrieking, lovers are lying, teenagers are doing drugs, and everyone and everything looks like a potential mate. It’s the time of year when I get the most fed up with Ra’s bait-and-switch shit. My psychologist suggests that the best way to deal with a bully is just to ignore him. I’m paying her to be right, and even if her tactic doesn’t get us more summer light, it may keep us from getting so flustered. Another thing that might help: a few drinks, ones that offer a little more than great flavor and good liquor. Even if we can’t have an actual summer, we can always down a few cocktails like those below, to which any eager marketing exec would attach the phrase "fun in the sun."


Polk-Nob bar Rye is well known for its Honey Delight, a cocktail that mixes gin and bitters with honey and tangerine and orange juices and that reportedly tastes like Sunny Delight. Putting so much effort into something that tastes like Sunny D makes little sense to me, so I opt for the similarly juicy, rum-laden Santiago Sun. This drink has the same gritty sweetness that makes mojitos and caipirinhas so popular. But some of us get a little embarrassed ordering post-trendy mos and caips aloud these days; this cocktail will help you save face. It’s crisp and strong, with a fair share of citrus to keep the rum humble. The pummeled kumquats nestled at the bottom of the drink are perfect for nibbling on while you sit in Rye’s ultra-urban lounge pretending you’re Ernest Hemingway during one of those tempestuous Cuban summers.

Rye, 688 Geary, SF. (415) 474-4448


Hit Potrero Hill’s Lingba Lounge on the right night, and you’re in for a dance treat. Hit it on the wrong one, and you’ll be stuck in an empty, sleeked-out bar with uncomfortable furniture. On either occasion, though, there’s no reason to get stumped by Lingba’s menu of neo-island cocktails. Simply dive into the Pat Pong Punch, a mixture of bourbon and fresh tamarind and pineapple juices. This cocktail is great for its simplicity: the bourbon gets soaked in the sweetness but isn’t taken under. When the juices have washed away, the oaky bourbon is left resting easily on the tongue. On nights when you require something a little tackier — a little tikier — order the Shipwreck, a drink that comes in a coconut, or the Bowl of Monkeys, a drink that’s served ablaze. The price of a Bowl of Monkeys includes a Polaroid of the experience, so you should probably wait until your friends from Burlingame arrive before ordering it.

Lingba Lounge, 1469 18th St., SF. (415) 355-0001, www.lingba.com


Remember the part in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas where Hunter S. Thompson says he was "drinking Singapore Slings with mescal on the side"? You might think such a cool line would have led to a proliferation of this lovely traditional drink. Yet slings in this city are rare. When I ordered one at the Hotel Utah recently, the bartender said he couldn’t make one because he didn’t have simple syrup. This is not even a typical ingredient. I got a nice approximation there anyway, with gin, bitters, brandy, and Cointreau. Some may point out that this is not really the recipe for a Singapore Sling, but in my experience that doesn’t matter much. The drink has a history that goes back to the first part of the 20th century, and the original recipe is long lost. Subsequent attempts to reconstruct it have created a wide variety of Singapore Slings. The excitement of ordering one and seeing what kind of fruity gin cocktail arrives may be more pleasurable than the drink itself.

Hotel Utah, 500 Fourth St., SF. (415) 546-6300, www.thehotelutahsaloon.com


The flavor of this Lush Lounge concoction resembles cantaloupe as much as the drink resembles a martini: not much at all. The most straightforward way to achieve a cantaloupe-flavored martini would have been to infuse vodka with the fruit. The Lush, for whatever reason, has come up with an intriguingly complex work-around, mixing watermelon liqueur, orange juice, citrus vodka, and lime. Surprise — it’s good. I’m glad no one informed these lushes that cantaloupe is far less citrusy than most of the ingredients used here, because the drink ends up as a pleasantly tart ode to a Tropical Watermelon Starburst (the purple flavor in the green pack).

Lush Lounge, 1092 Post, SF. (415) 771-2022, www.thelushlounge.com


It’s possible to imagine that this little number, served at the Metro in the Castro, was born as a Cantaloupe Martini (see above), then evaporated down to its Starburst essence and reconstituted with liquor. It uses many of the same ingredients, but doesn’t taste like any particular kind of Starburst. It just has that sticky imitation-fruit feel going on that underlies all things Starburst. One of my favorite drinks in San Francisco is the cucumber gimlet at Bourbon and Branch, because it perfectly captures that soft but biting base flavor of cucumber. I find it equally remarkable that the Pink Pussy can so unerringly replicate an archetypal candy flavor (although it’s not too heavy and has enough alcohol to keep pace with its sweetness). But what’s in the drink may not be as important as what the drink’s in: a towering highball glass, a somewhat ironic play on the straitlaced aesthetic of early 20th-century modernism, considering the cocktail’s moniker.

Metro, 3600 16th St., SF. (415) 703-9750


Cocktails that taste like candy are fun, but after a couple sugar-rush headaches you start wanting something cleaner. The bourbon and ginger at Little Baobab isn’t your typical Jim Beam and ginger ale mixture — for one, it uses real ginger juice, which makes a world of difference. The juice’s lush tang stands up harder to the alcohol than any generous splash of Canada Dry could. The lack of carbonation is also surprisingly refreshing — the cocktail doesn’t taste watered down with air. It’s full and thick, with an insistent spiciness.

Little Baobab, 3388 19th St., SF. (415) 643-3558, www.bissapbaobab.com


Along with tasty if pricey sushi and a beautiful — if perhaps similarly pricey — waitstaff, the eternally hip Blowfish Sushi to Die For also offers this wonderful drink, which has the taste and smoothness of a lychee-ice-cream shake. Unfortunately, it’s not very alcoholic; you’ll need two to get a buzz. However, it’s soft and easy enough to lead you gently into the Japanese version of Tipsyville. Soda water provides a touch of sparkle, and lemongrass syrup spices it up, keeping repeated sips from slipping into monochromaticism.

Blowfish Sushi to Die For, 2170 Bryant, SF. (415) 285-3848, www.blowfishsushi.com


If I can get this by the maniacal Guardian censors, I’ll recommend the Starbucks Orange Crème Frappuccino — although somewhat altered from what its makers intended. It’s a regular Frappuccino with the addition of the citrus flavor you might find in those Dutch orange chocolates, but Disneyed up. Get a large to share with your companions on the way to your first bar and throw in some Irish whiskey and a few caffeine pills. You’ll probably have spent the first part of your day drinking beers at your cousin’s graduation party or your step-aunt’s trailer or the garden party for your niece’s communion. This is a nice way to commit yourself to the evening, should there be any doubt.

Starbucks, every-freakin’-where. www.starbucks.com

Second nightlife


It may sound cliché, but there’s no other way to put it: my nightlife sucks. With two shitty day jobs and a barely blossoming career as a freelance journalist, it’s nearly impossible for me to find enough time or money to enjoy this city after dark. It hasn’t always been this way: I used to spend my evenings gleefully cross-eyed, rubbing knees with random hedonists, pushers, and hell-raisers. I used to go skateboarding in night goggles and camp nude in the Tenderloin. Goddamn it, I used to have it all!

I’ve thus far managed to maintain sanity by telling myself that hard work produces success, but my self-imposed exile to the sunlit hours is rapidly taking its toll. Gray hair, bedroom alcoholism, and soul-crushing anxiety shouldn’t affect me for another 10 years or so. Yet here I barely stand at the ripe age of 28, a boring fucking wreck. In order to salvage some of my formerly wild personality — and rather than shoot myself or seek expensive therapy — I decided recently to take the plunge into the comprehensive virtual world of Second Life. Might as well throw down with some wart-nosed trolls and weirdo Wizards of Nardo, right? Pass the magick toad grog, Tinker Bell. Yep, I’m just that desperate.


With all the hype surrounding Second Life and its maker, Linden Labs, you’d think the game would be a fairly simple thing to pick up. Not so, my friend. The first obstacle I ran into was of the technical variety. After installing SL and choosing a sly code name (Justyn Jewell, natch), I thought I was good to go, but my poor old Dell crashed whenever I tried to wiggle my virtual buttocks. My friend Tony, a notorious group gamer at Stanford, hates it when I call him with computer questions but was surprisingly enthused about the opportunity to share his SL wisdom. He even agreed to come over that very night and lend me his vacationing roommate’s brand-new MacBook Pro until she got back. Score.

First lesson: customizing an avatar. Perversely, I chose the Boy Next Door body template and then altered its features to match my own. After some meticulous tweaking, Justyn Jewell was no longer your average joe. He was a tragically good-looking skinny white dude with slick brown hair and sleek black shoes. I also gave him a handlebar mustache, because I’m up-to-the-minute like that.

Tony spent the next few hours teaching me the basics. When he left that night, I was able to walk, fly, teleport, take a piss, and hold brief conversations. I was still having trouble picking things up, touching people, and not walking into corners, but it was too early to worry about socially acceptable advanced maneuvers. For a man who hadn’t touched a video game since Mario Bros. III, simply stumbling through SL’s intricate landscape felt like enough. Getting beyond that was going to be a bumpy road, but Tony promised to come back and teach me some more when the time was right.


My first few weeks with Second Life were just what I needed. Whenever my brain grew weary from writing another puff piece about the latest hair-removal technique ("Experience the smooth, toning pleasures of La Cage Aux Follicles"), I would log on and select one of the thousands of clubs from the Popular Place menu. Immediately, I’d shoot to an island dedicated to house, techno, hard rock, hip-hop, or what have you. Each venue was full of kitted-out avatars who acted as though they were at a real party. "Woo-hoo!" they would say. And "This party is sooo amazing!" I knew it was all fake, but I was getting a visceral thrill watching my doppelgänger mingle with squirrel people, virtual heshers, cocky shot-callers, and impossibly elfin ravers.

The possibilities kept me endlessly occupied. I started out mainly going to standard Ibiza-like situations but soon wound up frequenting a hip-hop club called Insatiable, where people ground to slightly less-than-cutting-edge tunes by Ludacris and Fat Joe. I tried to spice things up by talking to people wherever I went, but my standard greeting, "Whacha gonna do with all that ass, all that ass inside them virtual jeans?," was often met with a cold shoulder or yawn — even at Club Insatiable! The reason was obvious. While nearly everyone else had wild hairdos, tattoos, designer outfits, and sparkling electro-bling, I was still in stock attire, a boring newbie who didn’t know shit. It was time to get some gear.

Perusing boutiques in SL made me realize just how Vegas-like this virtual world can be. Everything is for sale. Shirts, pants, drinks, cars, body parts … Most items struck me as rather excessively priced or ephemeral, but a few choice pieces had me reaching for my Linden dollars, the coin of the realm.

One of my first stops was a store called Dicks and Pussies, where I somehow managed to score a free T — skintight, red and white, with the name of the store emblazoned across the chest. It was fine for walking around in an adult boutique, but I couldn’t figure out how to get the damn thing off. What would they say at Club Insatiable? In the hopes of finding a better free shirt, I teleported to a few other stores, but no luck. I was stuck looking like a freebie-grubbing douche bag until Tony could help me. Luckily, we had made a date for that night.


By 10 p.m., Tony and I were in an alcohol-fueled Second Life frenzy. After scoring some more Linden dollars, we flew around to goofy places like Hedonistic Isle, where you can gamble, listen to streaming audio, and lounge in lawn chairs. There were volleyball courts, bonfires, and beach toys all over the place, but I had other plans. Talking, dancing, and roasting electronic marshmallows were great and all, but what kind of nightlife would be complete without one-night stands?

I felt I had to act. "Hey Tony," I said. "How do you have sex in this place?" Tony stopped tapping at his keyboard and looked me dead in the eye. "I’m not exactly sure," he said. "Why don’t we find out?" I took a sip of my third real Jack and Coke and said, "Follow me."

Besides complimentary dorkwear, Dicks and Pussies has everything your perverted avatar could ever want. For less than a thousand Lindens (about $3) you can get a gigantic schlong with veins or a vagina with hyperrealistic stretch action. There were electric toys, erotic hairstyles, and even peekaboo lingerie. "All right, dude, I’ll buy you a vagina and myself a dick, but you have to show me how to put them on and work them," I said. "Fuck it, why not?" Tony said after a slight pause. That’s all I needed.

Within seconds Tony was wetting things with his brand-new vagina, and I was setting the flesh tones on my penis. "All right, man," I said. "How do you work these things?" I thought we would have to purchase some animation codes or something, but Tony knew a shortcut. Next to the showroom floor was a bedchamber with little balls hovering all over the place. Tony walked up to one and said, "Come on, dude, I’ll click on the pink ball. All you gotta do is click on the blue one, and we’ll be off."

Within seconds Justyn Jewell was balls deep in Tony’s avatar. Hilarious. Tony and I spent the rest of the night drinking and taking screen shots as our avatars explored each other’s software.

I passed out sometime around 2 a.m. and awoke the next morning to a pissed-off girlfriend. "What’s wrong, baby?" I asked. She refused to speak to me for an hour or so and then finally said, "I heard you last night. That was sort of weird that you fucked Tony."

I was immediately assaulted by a flurry of flashbacks: the sound of ice clinking in glasses, the sight of my avatar in the throes of passion, the giggles, the grunts … "Don’t say it like that," I said. "I didn’t fuck Tony. He was just, like, showing me how to have sex so I could buy some later." She stared at her coffee for a full minute and then said, "Well, I don’t know why you have to have sex at all. Is something wrong?"

The more I tried to explain that Second Life was just an entertaining outlet for when I was too busy to take her out, the worse it sounded. Why was I obsessed with that particular aspect of the game, anyway? And why, of all people, did I pick my friend Tony to experiment with? I waited until my girlfriend was in the shower before looking at the screen shots from the night before. Jesus Christ, what a pervert. Thanks a lot, Linden Labs! Now I have two shitty lives to deal with.


Welcome to Summer Scene 2007


Click here to go to Summer SCENE 2007: Our Guide to Nightlife and Glamour

It’s almost summer, and I feel shamelessly trendy. Not Bobby or big sunglasses trendy — or even Lindsay gray hoodie or Paris orange jumpsuit trendy (well, maybe a little). No, I wanna know. What’s going on in the wide and wicked world of fashionable nightlife? Make me care, dammit.

In New York, the wild, proudly heterosexual rich kids who run the überpopular Box are talking about opening an after-hours bathhouse. We can’t do that in San Francisco (it’s still illegal), but I love that the little downtown brats are hauling wet-het sleaze from their gilded water closets. In Syria, according to the New York Times, gentlemen’s clubs — and there really isn’t any other kind of club in Syria — have started Iraqi refugee–themed stripper nights. No, thank you. And in Europe, there are so many seven-foot-tall Danish, Turkish, and Ukrainian drag queens ruling the dance charts right now, it’s like some flamboyant aural Amazon gypsy carnival exploded. Stevie Nicks was right!

But what about here in the Bay? It seems like dance music is still going through what hip-hop went through 15 years ago — digging up the past, mixing it up with the future, dropping golden nuggets on the playlist. Pairing that turquoise off-the-shoulder cable knit with a fuzzy pink mini, tucking our leopard-print stockings into our pixie boots. Only now, at last, we’re edging our way slowly into the ’90s, with brassy neu rave air horns, sly acid bass lines, and e-fueled hyphy goofiness sidling up to the frosty early ’80s and offering to buy her a double Manhattan. My edge-of-’90s deep-dish DJ wish list for summer 2007: Leila K, "Got to Get"; Mory Kante, "Yeke Yeke"; Nicolette, "O Si Nene." And anyone who can find a way to slip on Guru Josh’s "Infinity (1990s: Time for the Guru)" with a straight face wins my vote for Queen of the Rave-iverse.

Yet things aren’t totally bass-ackward in clubland, although I fondly hope that the recent giant Vivienne Westwood fashion retrospective at the de Young fills the dance floors with gorgeous beaded corsets, golden safety pins, padded asses, ostrich feathers, crazy harlequin prints, and deconstructed plaids for years to come. (Did anyone else shed a tear when they came upon the famous sparkly platforms that made Naomi Campbell tumble to the runway? Tragic. I nearly threw my cell phone in sympathy. But that would be expensive.)

Techno’s making a huge and forward-looking comeback, ripping an electronic page from the mashup scene’s playbook and going live, helped by mind-boggling new software. It’s complicated, but it’s lovely. Indie rock DJs, like techno DJs before them, are discovering contemporary classical ("new music") and throwing rough street sounds and angular, alien textures into their sets. The dub scene is also booming, mixing high-tech breaks and ragga beats with Southeast Asian instrumentation and more than a little African flavor. And the queer kids? We’ve ceased embracing our inner Beyoncé so much and are turning to live bands and smoky cabaret to get our kicks. Rawk.

All of which just means anything goes. And lover, it’s going well. So make this summer work for you — however, whyever, whenever. It’s almost like democracy!

Poach the crowd,

Marke B.


The Guardian Iraq War casualty report (6/11/07)


The Guardian Iraq War casualty report (6/11/07): Three U.S. soldiers killed. Twelve Iraqi soldiers killed.

Compiled by Paula Connelly

Casualties in Iraq

U.S. military:

Three U.S. soldiers killed today in bridge bombing in Baghdad, according to BBC news.

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

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

111 : Died of self-inflicted wounds, according to 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: www.cnn.com

Iraq Military:

At least 12 Iraqi soldiers were killed today by a suicide bomber in Baghdad, according to the Associated Press.

: Killed since 2003

Source: http://www.infoshout.com

Iraqi civilians:

98,000: Killed since 3/03

Source: www.thelancet.com

65,116 – 71,328: Killed since 1/03

Source: http://www.iraqbodycount.net

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.

A Week in Iraq: Week ending 3 June 2007:

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


Journalists abducted in Baghdad found dead, according to Reporters without borders.
177 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.

164: 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 (6/11/07): So far, $433 billion for the U.S., $54 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



The Guardian Iraq War casualty report (6/05/07)


The Guardian Iraq War casualty report (6/05/07): 90 Iraqi civilians killed today.

Compiled by Paula Connelly

Casualties in Iraq

Iraqi civilians:

At least 90 Iraqi civilians were killed or found dead today, including 61 bullet-riddled bodies believed to be the result of a sectarian death squad, according to the Associated Press.

98,000: Killed since 3/03

Source: www.thelancet.com

64,776 – 70,934: Killed since 1/03

Source: http://www.iraqbodycount.net

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.

A Week in Iraq: Week ending 3 June 2007:

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

U.S. military:

3,740: Killed since the U.S. invasion of Iraq 3/20/03

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

111 : Died of self-inflicted wounds, according to 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: www.cnn.com

Iraq Military:

30,000: Killed since 2003

Source: http://www.infoshout.com


Journalist abducted in Baghdad found dead, according to Reporters without borders.
177 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.

164: 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 (6/05/07): So far, $431 billion for the U.S., $54 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.”

The man whose head exploded


FILM Recently, my eyeballs were among the first to be skewered by the finished print of Hostel 2. As torture and black humor unspooled on the big screen, director Eli Roth — last seen working on Grindhouse, both as an actor and behind the camera for the Thanksgiving trailer — prowled about, gauging audience reactions to his third feature film. The next day I met Roth to discuss all things horror. He talks fast. Here are some excerpts.

On the Metreon audience’s response to Hostel 2: When you’re making a film, you’re literally going on instinct. I know my gore stuff is gonna work, but it’s the other stuff, those moments where you’re, like, "No, don’t, don’t, don’t!" — in editing, you’re just hoping the audience will feel that way. And I thought that every moment hit the way I wanted it to. Even in a fan-based audience, sometimes they’re, like, "All right, impress me, Roth. Let’s see what you got." I wanted people to be cheering and screaming and going wild the way they were at the end of the first one, and I really felt we got that.

On emuutf8g the grand old Italian B-movie tradition of killing kids: I wanted to take risks in the movie. I wanted things where people would go, "Oh, you can’t do that." Not just to offend, but I wanted to live in that danger zone. After I made it, I saw this film directed by [Narciso Ibáñez] Serrador called Who Can Kill a Child?, which I think is genuinely one of the single greatest horror films. I love those early 1970s Italian movies like Torso, Night Train Murders, and To Be Twenty, by Fernando di Leo. Have you seen To Be Twenty? At the end of this movie, my jaw was on the ground. It was so horrific that they pulled every single print from the theaters. But in all three of those films, it’s a group of college-age girls that are all going on a trip somewhere. The girls all make intelligent decisions; there’s nothing that they do that’s like a dumb movie moment. And there’s a real, palpable sense of dread in those movies. I really wanted to build that sense of dread for everybody [in Hostel 2].

On getting Ruggero Deodato, director of 1980’s Cannibal Holocaust, to cameo: I went to Italy to do press for Hostel, and this journalist was producing behind-the-scenes interviews for No Shame DVDs. We drove an hour outside of Rome to the set of a TV show that Deodato was shooting. I brought my Cannibal Holocaust poster for him to sign. And he was so funny and so cool, and I was, like, "I got a cameo for you that I think the American fans would love." And Deodato is just a huge slice of ham. This guy loves being on camera. He’s so funny. And when he showed up on set, I got to ask him questions like, how do you direct people that live in trees, like in Last Cannibal World? It was great to hear his answers.

On his rivalry with the Saw filmmakers: I’m friends with all those guys, and we always call each other when we get a kill scene done. It’s almost like this bleeding contest we have. The Splat Pack — we all love each other’s movies. But there’s always that side of you that wants to have the rep of having the nastiest kill. We joke all the time: "We’re running out of body parts!"

On his inspiration for torture scenes: All you have to do is go to the Museum of Torture in Prague. The stuff you see is so shocking you couldn’t even film it. [In my films] it’s a combination of looking at history and what’s actually already been done and sort of walking around Home Depot and looking at tools. Ultimately, though, it doesn’t matter what I think of — what makes the scene horrifying is whoever’s in the chair. It’s the actor. That’s what makes it really scary.

His response to people who think his films glorify violence: I say, don’t see them. I’m not making movies to appeal to everybody. I’m making movies for fans of this type of movie, and I want to stay true to that.


Opens Fri/8 in Bay Area theaters

See Movie Clock at www.sfbg.com

Wikipedia activism


› annalee@techsploitation.com

TECHSPLOITATION When I edit Wikipedia, I am fighting for the future. There are certain things and people whose memories I want preserved for generations to come so that curious searchers a century from now will know the full story. Via Wikipedia, they will get more than stories of great politicians and giant corporations from glossy histories. I want this user-edited, online encyclopedia to tell tales of the brave and the marginal as well as the notorious and the powerful. That’s why I’ve become a Wikipedia activist.

For years I was a passive reader of Wikipedia, particularly entries on obscure technology and pop culture. I think of Wikipedia as the first place to go when I’m researching something off the beaten track, like early episodes of Doctor Who or technical specs for the outputs on DVR players.

Last week, however, I finally shed my Wikipedia passivity and started editing entries myself. I hit a personal tipping point.

I was writing a profile about a novelist for an online magazine and discovered that this author’s Wikipedia biography page had been summarily deleted the week before on the grounds that it wasn’t notable enough. I had previously visited his entry early in my research because it contained a fairly complete list of everything he’d written. To make matters worse, when I read the history of the deletion, it turned out to have been done by a guy who knew absolutely nothing about this novelist’s areas of expertise. The deleter was a big contributor to Wikipedia, it’s true — but only on the topic of religion, particularly Lutheranism. How could that background possibly grant him the authority to determine whether a postmodern novelist and video game designer was notable or not?

So I signed up for a Wikipedia account and re-created this novelist’s entry from the Google cache and sources I’d gathered while writing the profile. I also wrote an explanation to the deleter, requesting that he not do it again.

And then, while I was at it, I re-created another entry recently deleted for not being notable enough — that of Sonia Greene, a pulp fiction writer and publisher of the 1920s who was briefly married to H.P. Lovecraft. Of all the insulting things to have happen, her entry had been erased, and people searching for her were redirected to an entry on Lovecraft. How’s that for you, future scholars? Looking for information about a minor pulp fiction writer? Too bad she’s not notable — but we can redirect you to an entry on a guy she was married to for two years. (A guy, I might add, who pissed her off so much that she burned all his letters when they divorced.) Yuck.

My experiences have made me strongly question the idea of "notableness" on Wikipedia. I am genuinely offended by the notion that obscure authors, technologies, ideas, and events should be deleted from what’s supposed to be a vast compendium of knowledge. It’s not as if Wikipedia is running out of disk space and needs to delete stuff to keep going. And it’s not as if an entry on an obscure writer will somehow undermine somebody’s ability to search for less obscure ones.

Besides, who is to say what is notable or not? Lutheran ministers? Bisexual Marxists? Hopefully both. For me, the utopianism of Wikipedia comes from its status as a truly democratic people’s encyclopedia — nothing is too minor to be in it. Everything should be noteworthy, as long as it is true and primary sources are listed. If we take this position, we avoid the mistakes of 19th-century chroniclers, who kept little information about women and people of color in archives because of course those groups were hardly notable. Yet now historians and curious people bang their heads against walls because so much history was lost to those deletions.

If the goal is to preserve knowledge, we shouldn’t be wasting our time determining what’s notable enough to stay in Wikipedia. Instead, we should be preserving in a searchable form everything we can that’s truthful, so the culture and history of the minor and the obscure can be remembered just as easily as those of the famous and the mighty. *

Annalee Newitz is a surly media nerd who is going to re-create Danah Boyd’s entry if you delete it, you bastards.

Tongues and tales


› a&eletters@sfbg.com

The unconscious, the underworld, the undead — what is it that under-the-mattress anxiety points to, exactly? And what might it have to do with a pack of powdered French fops in Louis Seize costumes? Given the blissful nonchalance with which Dark Porch Theater’s Under the Bed tackles that thing called plot, it’s probably best not to mull it over too much. Suffice it to say that all of the above and a live band serve as lower bunkmates to Leonard Pinklestein (Chris Carlone), a World War II soldier crashed out on a fluffy brass bed, the limbo life raft for a lost soul that slipped its earthly mooring on the beaches of Normandy.

It’s a testament to the grace in some brands of lunacy that this swift, enjoyably madcap dance musical — a self-styled fairy tale set in purgatory, created and directed by Margery Fairchild and copresented with SafeHouse at a new Howard Street venue known pretty aptly as the Garage — can seem so endlessly expansive on an otherwise cramped (if nicely atmospheric) stage. Under the Bed not only draws a dozen or more bodies from beneath its title furniture; it also sets them exuberantly in motion.

But back to that willful plot: run aground on a patch of purgatory under the management of a sort of manic night nurse named Harriette D. (a comically adept Fairchild), Leonard finds himself the pawn in a battle royal between his gleaming but slightly sinister hostess and the Greek goddess and maiden huntress Artemis (a vigorous Alexis Blade Perry). The latter storms Hades, or whatever, with the intention of reuniting Leonard and his lost love, the cheerful would-be revolutionary Rosemary Short (Hilde Susan Jaegtnes), who arrives soon after him as another Lethe-headed amnesiac, though with raised fist ever at the ready.

Harriette, who for assistance is wont to call on a member of the band, the somewhat reluctant Mr. M. (a laid-back Patrick Simms), also conjures the French courtiers previously mentioned. When not mincing, they act as willing executioners and wield the same device that left such prominent scar lines on their own effete necks.

A fairy tale naturally allows for all manner of incongruities, and Under the Bed‘s just sweeten the pot. No doubt the unusually collaborative nature of the production has something to do with them, as do a winsome score (composed of more than a dozen droll and dreamy songs), eclectic choreography (by Fairchild and Perry), and some nicely offbeat dialogue. Add to that the production’s generally sharp and always game performances, beginning with a fine, versatile turn by Carlone as the slumbering soldier, and the unlikely spell cast by Under the Bed is complete.


Art in Artemisia is a dynamic, multifaceted force, skillfully and thoughtfully realized in just about every aspect of the Dell’Arte Company’s thought-provoking dramatic study exploring the life and work of the 17th-century Italian painter Artemisia Gentileschi (Barbara Geary). In director Giulio Cesare Perrone’s well-acted and visually striking production, which closed its run at the Magic Theatre last weekend, the rape of the artist by Agostino Tassi and the sensational trial that followed in 1612 — as well as the biblical story of Judith, whose beheading of Holofernes served as a heroic subject for Gentileschi at a time when female painters were rare and deemed unable to handle such material — become the ever-present, intervening background to a physically choreographed dialogue set in 1635 between Artemisia and her model Giulia (Keight Gleason).

If the script (cowritten by Perrone and Geary) veers at points into an awkward mesh of heightened speech and contemporary frankness, the production design carries the theme of art’s transformative power in several directions. From the cleverly abstract yet functional use of painting materials and everyday objects in Perrone’s scenic design to Greta Welsh’s dynamic chiaroscuro lighting, composer Youn Joo Sim’s transporting score, and choreographer Yong Zoo Lee’s incorporation of the histrionic postures of the painter’s canvases, Artemisia‘s mise-en-scène elaborates a vision of symbolic and psychic redress that echoes down the centuries. *


Thurs/7–Sat/9, 8 p.m.; Sun/10, 7 p.m., $12–$20

The Garage

975 Howard, SF

(415) 793-8030


Only human


Great art has a moral force that ennobles anyone it touches. Not that Joe Goode’s new Humansville, at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, is that great. But the work nudges at so many raw spots in a lovingly healing way that you end up believing there may yet be hope for human nature, at least until you leave the theater. Still, Goode’s latest essay on acceptance and the embracing of frailty left me with conflicting emotions.

To longtime Goode watchers — and the night I attended, the YBCA’s Forum seemed packed with them — Humansville‘s inhabitants may have looked vaguely familiar: the wistful, lonely guy (Melecio Estrella) stretched out poolside; the poodle-skirted, Doris Day–ish country inhabitant (Jessica Swanson); the preternaturally mismatched couple (Marit Brook-Kothlow and Felipe Barrueto-Cabello); and the two tough-luck buddies (Estrella and Alexander Zendzian). We know them; we have met them before. But Goode never seems to tire of making us look at them again. Yet because he does it with such clear-sighted wit and compassion, we will probably continue to cherish them and recognize ourselves in these hapless strugglers for sanity.

Humansville is divided into two parts. At first the audience walks around dioramas devised by designer Erik Flatmo and video artist Austin Forbord. One rains words, another is all furry softness, a third is composed of chintz and flowers. In each, dancers present episodes of disconnectedness. As you return to them, the sections begin to blend. You shudder as you hear Patricia West bitching about a missed dinner reservation while Zendzian and Estrella crash their bodies against their cell walls. Swanson’s relationship hysterics bleed into Brook-Kothlow’s and Barrueto-Cabello’s stony silences. This roundabout of foolishness, pain, and absurdity works well despite being a vaguely voyeuristic experience. Swanson’s TV news–inspired echo of a mourning mother on the video screen below her is particularly chilling.

The more conventionally choreographed second half elaborates on what went before. Estrella laments the death of his fellow prisoner; Brook-Kothlow endlessly nuzzles up to a tormented Barrueto-Cabello; Swanson wails about a nest being a launching pad. But the choreography falls short — it is bland and stiff. The lifts, reaches, and stretches of shifting connections look too unmotivated to suggest the fragile community proposed by Brook-Kothlow’s hymn about an empathy that enables you to step out of yourself. Not even Joan Jeanrenaud’s delicate cello, weaving in and out of the hour-long show, made me buy it.


Thurs/7–Sat/9, 7:30 and 9:30 p.m., $19–$25

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Forum

701 Mission, SF

(415) 978-2787


Gunning for Boots


› kimberly@sfbg.com

SONIC REDUCER Where have all the outlaws gone? Now that Paris Hilton seems like the highest-profile sorta-one-hit wonder to run afoul of the law, it’s easy to believe that pop’s rep for rebellion is seriously in question. (And with Warner Bros. jettisoning the overexposed jet-setter, who knows if she should even make the tally?) Yet just how disturbing or subversive is it to glom on to corporate punks like Good Charlotte or hitch your fortunes to soaking-in-it onetime gangstas like Snoop "Soul Gravy Train" Dogg? How revolutionary is it to play music your parents might approve of, à la white-bread soul poppers Maroon 5?

But those petty pop-crit worries wane on hearing about the Coup mastermind Boots (né Raymond) Riley’s Memorial Day misfortune. In the early-morning hours, long before most locals were firing up the grill and chugging microbrews, Riley was looking down the wrong end of a San Francisco Police Department gun barrel while innocently attending a get-together at a friend’s warehouse in SF’s Dogpatch-Waterfront zone. Why? Likely for nothing more than driving while black.

Riley had just parked his car near the warehouse when he was blinded by flashlights, and he realized that he was surrounded by cops. "They were saying, ‘Don’t fucking move, don’t fucking move,’ and came straight at me," Riley told me from his Oakland home, where he had just fed his kids their Sunday breakfast. "They put my hands above my head, searched me, and searched my car, even though they were looking for someone who was stealing tires. You know, if they had a description of a light-skinned black man with a big Afro and sideburns, maybe they should have taken me in. But they were yelling, ‘Are you on probation? Do you have a warrant?’ And every time I said no, they said, ‘Don’t lie to us. Don’t fucking lie to us.’"

Neighbor Hoss Ward had been walking his dog by the warehouse when he spied officers with flashlights lurking between parked cars amid the trash on the street. "I thought that was weird. They didn’t question me, but I’m a white man," he said later, verifying that Boots parked, got thrown against his car, and had guns pulled on him. "It’s not unusual for someone to pull up in a beater car," Ward said. Yet this incident smelled like racial profiling: "That’s what the vibe felt like."

"I walked over there and said, ‘What the hell is going on?’" recounted Riley’s friend Marci Bravo, who lives at the warehouse. Eventually Riley was released, but, Bravo continued, "It was really messed up. We fire off fireworks, burn things in the street, and there’s been no problems with cops. They’ve actually come and hung out before.

"It’s just a nasty case of police profiling."

In the end, Riley said, the officers didn’t even check his ID. At press time, police representatives had not responded to inquiries about the incident, and Riley was planning on filing a grievance with the city watchdog agency the Office of Citizens Complaints, a process that the longtime activist is, unfortunately, familiar with. After a 1995 Riverside performance with Method Man, Riley and kindred local hip-hoppers Raz Caz, E-Roc, and Saafir were pulled over and pepper-sprayed in their car seats following a yelling argument at a club. Then there was the incident during the Coup’s 2006 tour around, ironically, their Epitaph album Pick a Bigger Weapon. Shortly after the tour manager urinated next to a semi at a Vermont rest stop, the tour vehicles were stopped by plainclothes officers who claimed to be surveilling a cocaine deal in the truck. "Half the band woke up with guns in their faces," the Coup leader recalled.

Riley’s experiences in and out of our enlightened — for some — city bring home the ugly, everyday reality behind the entertaining anecdote with which the Arcade Fire’s Win Butler regaled the Greek Theatre crowd June 2: he was almost arrested for the first time that day when Berkeley police dragged him out of a rec facility for arguing over the use of a public basketball court. "They called for backup and everything," Butler marveled onstage.

"There are stories all the time," Riley offered matter-of-factly. "Everyone knows you used to get fucked with in San Francisco and Berkeley."

"Usually it’s not anything with me specifically being a rapper," he continued. "I might have even more protection because of that. Like at this get-together, somebody came up and said, ‘Don’t you know who this is? This is Boots Riley.’ They might not have known who I am, but they realize this isn’t the regular case where they can do whatever they want." *


Talk to underground trance DJs, and they’ll point to the Harmony Festival as the hot spot forest ravers will be orbiting. Indeed, one of the main organizers, Howard "Bo" Sapper — who, along with Sean Ahearn, Scott McKeown, and Jeff Kaus, is putting on the 29th music and camping fest — agrees that a healthy, fire-breathing portion of the expected 40,000 at the three-day event will be die-hard burners drawn to the seven-year-old techno tribal night. Sapper also points proudly to the diversity of the musical lineup, including Brian Wilson, Erykah Badu, Rickie Lee Jones, the Roots, Common, moe., and Umphrey’s McGee. "I’m not sure if we’re going mainstream or the mainstream is coming to us," Sapper said, listing the green exhibits and this year’s theme, Promoting Global Cooling. "It’s part of the paradigm shift going on in America."



Air mattress

Plenty of water



Fri/8–Sun/10, $20–$500

Sonoma County Fairgrounds

1350 Bennett Valley Road, Santa Rosa


A stitch in time


› paulr@sfbg.com

Today’s lesson — do as I say, not as I do — pertains to knives. What I say is what all sensible people say: keep your knives sharp; keep the tips of your fingers bent under the knuckles when chopping, mincing, dicing, and so forth; and, most important, do not rush. I rushed, and I paid, by slashing my ring finger with the 10-inch chef’s knife I had perhaps neglected ever so slightly. The result was a scene of carnage and gore the likes of which I hadn’t seen since the long-ago TV footage of Rockingham and Bundy, plus four stitches. All this, as Sir Thomas More might sadly have said to me — if A Man for All Seasons had concerned cutlery and Indian food — for vindaloo. And the vindaloo was too vinegary, I was advised from across the table. Must tweak the recipe.

It is one of life’s glum facts that collateral damage occurs in kitchens. Virtually every everyday cook I know has a scarred finger or two or (in one case) is even missing a fingertip. Then there are the lesser insults: the spattered shoes and shirts, the spattered cookbooks. I have a large wardrobe of aprons, and I always try to keep open cookbooks away from spatter zones — not to mention open flame — but cooking, like war, is organized chaos, and one’s best intentions can easily go awry when the pot comes to a boil or the minced garlic gently sizzling in the pan starts to smell acrid and you must act in haste.

The injured finger was the bird-flipping one, and while this procedure wasn’t compromised by either wound or stitches (not that I had any public occasion to try, and not, of course, that I would have if I’d had), I did feel curiously diminished. I had trouble signing my name and putting in my contact lenses — even sleeping, that first night, since the installation of the stitches was followed by an extravagant wrapping with gauze and a metal pinch cap that made me feel as if I had been given the finger equivalent of a club foot, an unwieldy mass I could find no comfortable place for and that only stopped throbbing once I’d popped a Tylenol or two. Tylenol doesn’t cure vinegar breath, alas.

I just wanna testify


› a&eletters@sfbg.com

In high school I was a band geek. OK, not quite: I was never cool enough to make it into the inner circle of the Blackbirds Marching Band, and so — odd duck that I was — I’d be left flapping around on the outer margins of the football stadium bleachers while all the hilarity and revelry that a pack of gangly teenagers in polyester and feathery headgear can muster would carry on without notice of me and my forlorn little trumpet. I ain’t saying you need to shed a tear or anything, but I did drop band hot potato–style mid–sophomore year and switched to a cappella choir, became a theater fag, and found my badge to wear in the relentlessly status-conscious gauntlet that is the American high school. I never picked up that trumpet again.

Which I suppose means I might still be working through those high school slights every time I throw myself full force into the ecstatic horn frenzy of the Gomorran Social Aid and Pleasure Club, but what the hell. Add these East Bay bacchanalians to the serious brass lovefest being led by the likes of DeVotchKa, Beirut, and a Hawk and a Hacksaw, and I think I’ve hit just the therapy I need. Look around: suddenly trumpets, trombones, and tubas are the new guitar. Welcome back to band camp, I tell myself, only this time it’s cool.

Let the healing begin!

And what better way to introduce our six romping, stomping Gomorrans than with a call for rejuvenation? The band name itself is a gospel to them, a platform from which to preach their party-as-catharsis convictions while shaking out some of the most deliriously crooked New Orleans ragtime you’ve ever heard. It’s more than just a name — it’s a way of life.

"The funny thing is, the name existed for probably six months before we were technically even a band," chief songwriter and banjo-playing vocalist Beebe says, chuckling, at a Mission coffeehouse. (At the risk of provoking flashbacks of high school football coaches, members prefer to be called by their last names.) "My brother Adam created the concept, artwork, Web site, everything … even had us all listed in the lineup before we’d even played a note!"

"Yeah, we each ended up finding out when we’d bump into a friend who’d say, ‘Oh, I heard you’re in a new band,’" tuba player Kirley says. "Eventually, we all discovered we were in a band together, so we figured, let’s do it!"

In addition to Beebe and Kirley, four others learned of their band membership: Davis (trumpet, vocals), Lehnartz (clarinet, vocals), Knippelmeir (trombone, vocals), and Westbrook (trash drums). But before we leap to any Maurice Starr–mastermind comparisons, a few facts: all six were already good friends who lived together, as they still do, in a house in Oakland. All were musicians who shared a passion for old-time sounds, particularly those blaring out of New Orleans. All of them have called the Crescent City home at some point. Putting together a band was a natural next step … unless, of course, you’re of a more spiritual bent and wish to call it destiny.

A kind of spirituality does figure prominently in the Gomorran ethic, albeit one that preaches the virtue of whiskey and encourages audiences to bear witness as well. Once a tent-revival level of rapture has been reached, Beebe invites members of the congregation onstage for faith healings, which feed the cycle of sin and salvation. "If I take in some sin, it’s gonna get disbursed," he jokes, bandmates nodding to show they’re willing to share the burden.

Judging from their recent self-released eponymous debut, bearing such a heavy load is not a problem. Recorded in an abandoned hotel and featuring a drum kit culled from junkyard roamings — "I’d much rather put it together myself than have some fancy kit," Westbrook says — the album wobbles with rickety charms while exuding the moxie of a midnight bender in the making. From the clattering pot-and-pan rhythms of "The Westbrook Two-Step," inspired by the train tracks outside the drummer’s workplace, to the humidity dripping from each frantic note of the klezmer-Dixieland fusion workout "Klanzmeirtong" to the boozy testimonial "Whiskey Paycheck," the Gomorrans celebrate wild abandon with, well, wild abandon. They might be playing ragtime, but they’re by no means a ragtime band: "We’re definitely rock ‘n’ rollers playing jazz, not the other way round," Lehnartz explains.

And with this comes the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, I assume? Beebe gives some illuminating confirmation when I ask what inspires their songwriting: "Sleep deprivation, definitely."

Hmm, all that sin disbursing will do that, won’t it? *


With the Gomorran Social Aid and Pleasure Club, Top Ramen, James Call and the Missing Teens, and Brian Kenny Fresno

Fri/8, 8 p.m., $8 or free with erupting papier-mâché volcano, robot, or perpetual motion machine

12 Galaxies

2565 Mission, SF

(510) 595-7188


Living in the moment


Anat Cohen, an Israeli-born New Yorker often found working in Latin bands, seems intent on leaving no jazz style unexplored. Whether on tenor saxophone — essaying the opening melody of Cuban drummer Francisco Mela’s straight-ahead "John Ramsay" from his 2006 album Melao (Ayva) — or soloing on clarinet with the Brazilian Choro Ensemble, Cohen seems to intuitively absorb the musical language she’s engaged in. With a burgeoning reputation preceding her and two new albums in tow, she comes to Yoshi’s this week, performing alongside guitarist Vic Juris and drummer Daniel Freedman. Special guest pianist Jason Lindner, Cohen’s longtime colleague and mentor, will sit in on June 6.

Earlier this year Cohen released Poetica, a sensuous, clarinet-based album augmented with a string quartet, simultaneously with Noir, a film score–ready big-band full-length on which she played mostly saxophone. She produced both records and released them on her up-and-coming independent label, Anzic.

Cohen spoke by phone from Tel Aviv, where she was preparing for a concert with her two brothers, saxophonist Yuval and trumpet player Avishai. The latter sat in with the SFJAZZ Collective this spring when Dave Douglas was unavailable.

She laughed about releasing two albums at once, saying it has raised eyebrows even though that wasn’t her intent. "They’re very different, but it just makes sense to put them out together because they show different musical adventures for me," she said. "Different musical personalities on the instruments and different approaches to the music."

She began Noir almost a year before Poetica, but the big-band recording was more complex to put together. Cohen and coproducer Oded Lev-Ari, who wrote the arrangements, had gathered some musicians to try the music out. The results sounded good, and they wanted to record it, but they needed more music to complete the album.

"It’s a longer process, obviously, because it’s a 15-piece band, and it just takes longer to write everything," Cohen said. The tunes are a travelogue of cultures reflecting Cohen’s journeys that opens with Cuban composer Ernesto Lecuona’s "La Comparsa," touches on Sun Ra and Hobart Dotson’s "You Never Told Me That You Care," and closes with music by a couple of Brazilian icons: Hermeto Pascual’s "Bebe!" and Pixinguinha’s "Ingênuo." There are also American pop songs such as "Cry Me a River" and "No Moon at All."

During the making of Noir, Cohen decided she’d like to make a clarinet album and enlisted friend and bassist Omer Avitale to write string arrangements. Poetica includes the old Israeli songs "Hofim" and "Eyn Gedi," the Jacques Brel song "La Chanson des Vieux Amants," and a lush arrangement of John Coltrane’s "Lonnie’s Lament."

Cohen called Coltrane her "constant inspiration." "I’ve tried along my musical path to really be open," she explained. "I have, of course, a passion for the traditionals of the American songbook and the American art form called jazz. But I also fell in love along the way with a lot of world music."

She’s the only non-Brazilian member of the Choro Ensemble but has toured the country several times, taking the opportunity to learn its language, culture, and music.

She’s also immersed herself in the rich musical heritages of Venezuela and Colombia. "I got stuck in Colombia during 9/11, and I couldn’t come back to New York," Cohen recalled. "I stayed there for three weeks, and I learned so much about Colombian music. It was a great adventure, really living the moment."


Wed/6–Thurs/7, 8 and 10 p.m., $10


510 Embarcadero West

Jack London Square, Oakl.

(510) 238-9200


Nerves of Chrome


› a&eletters@sfbg.com

Whatever happened to all the cyberpunks? Once upon a Blade Runner, it looked like neo-noirists and novelists from the early 1980s were finally getting turned on to George Orwell’s vision, predicting a dystopian, nightmarish future in which humans were subject to conditioning and control. Even musicians were getting it: perhaps inspired by Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music (Buddah, 1975), such artists as Suicide, Throbbing Gristle, and Pere Ubu were dabbling in a postapocalyptic music world by the close of the ’70s. But if there was one band that dared to define the genre back then, Chrome was it.

Lauded by critics and fans as one of the pioneers of industrial rock, the San Francisco outfit coupled psych-punk and electrodub with lyrical themes of alienation, paranoia, and ’50s sci-fi cinema, though its sound mirrored bands like the Sonics and Wipers when drummer Damon Edge and bassist Gary Spain came together in 1976. Following the release of its debut, The Visitation (Siren), later that year, the group folded once its members realized the album was a sales flop. Everything changed, however, once Spain and Edge hooked up with Helios Creed, a guitarist whom Spain had jammed with during the early ’70s. As Creed explained over the phone, "Chrome was the only band that was doing something I was interested in … space rock, punk rock, and the sci-fi kind of thing."

"It was really psychedelic, and it wasn’t in to be psychedelic back then. It was just punk and Budweiser," he continued. "Psychedelia would remind punks of the hippies, so they wouldn’t want anything to do with that. And I said, ‘Well, that’s great, ’cause acid punk doesn’t exist.’"

Creed also revealed that a falling-out during the recording sessions for Chrome’s sophomore effort, Alien Soundtracks (Siren, 1978), resulted in Spain’s exit in 1977 and subsequently ushered in a radical shift away from the band’s protopunk beginnings.

"Damon started playing some tapes that they had made a year or two before that were outtakes from The Visitation, and I said, ‘God! This stuff is fucking great!’" Creed said, laughing. "I liked it better than The Visitation, and I suggested that we make stuff like that and integrate it into our punk set."

Alien Soundtracks‘ 1979 follow-up, Half Machine Lip Moves (Siren), adhered to this formula as well. Joining scratchy, three-chord guitars and trash can–like drums with Creed’s growled vocals and an excess of waterlogged-sounding effects, the result mirrored some otherworldly murky realm. By the time Creed and Edge’s final collaboration, 3rd from the Sun (Siren), was released in 1982, the combo was heading in a more gothic direction, similar to that of contemporaries Killing Joke and Swans.

Chrome remained a duo until its ’83 demise, though the bandmates adopted a taped drum machine nicknamed Johnny L. Cyborg as their third member and briefly enlisted John and Hilary Stench from Pearl Harbour and the Explosions. During this period the group was primarily a recording project and only played live twice, to sold-out crowds in San Francisco and at a Bologna, Italy, festival. Edge moved to Europe to start another version of Chrome, while Creed remained stateside to work on his solo career, angry that he was left behind.

After Edge died in 1995, Creed carried on with the band because he felt he was just as entitled as his ex-bandmate to put out Chrome records. Since 1996, Creed has recorded a handful of full-lengths under the Chrome moniker but tends to focus more on his solo material. His current West Coast tour will include Chrome and Helios Creed songs, and he revealed he hasn’t ruled out a future full-on Chrome tour. Creed also wanted to set the record straight about his strained partnership with Edge.

"Don’t get me wrong. I don’t hate Damon. We just went through some shit," he clarified. "I forgive and love everybody." *


With Battleship

Sat/9, 9:30 p.m., $12

Hemlock Tavern

1131 Polk, SF

(415) 923-0923


There’s no business …


› a&eletters@sfbg.com

One of the most entertaining books ever written about the commercial theater is Ken Mandlebaum’s Not Since Carrie: 40 Years of Broadway Musical Flops (St. Martin’s, 1992). There’s something inherently fascinating about the backstories and eventual fates of big stage musicals. The egos involved and the radical revisions that take place during tryouts and previews (a process far more public than movie retweaking) make for high drama, even before you add the Russian roulette economic factor.

While Mandlebaum wrote from a dedicated fan’s orchestra-seat perspective, the absorbing new documentary ShowBusiness: The Road to Broadway goes way backstage — director Dori Berinstein is a Tony-winning stage producer (her latest hit is Legally Blonde) and has privileged access. Her team reportedly shot more than 250 hours of footage, encompassing virtually every Broadway show of the 2003 to 2004 season, then narrowed the focus to the development and destinies of four high-profile musicals.

The quartet spotlighted here spans artistic ranges and commercial fates. The $14 million spectacular Wicked, a schlock-sentimental version of Gregory Maguire’s revisionist Oz fantasy, got no critical love during its closely observed San Francisco tryout — erstwhile Godspell composer Stephen Schwartz admits to making significant changes between that run and the Broadway opening. But while Wicked proved neither a reviewers’ nor a Tony favorite, it’s a rare case in which those factors don’t matter. It’s a massive million-dollar-a-week hit whose geek-empowerment message particularly resonates with younger girls. Those whose parents can afford Broadway prices, that is.

On a whole other plane, the Tony Kushner–Jeanine Tesori project Caroline, or Change was an emotionally complex, stirring, major high-culture event. Its producers, as New Yorker critic John Lahr puts it, "agreed to lose a little money so this very good thing which doesn’t fit the commercial formula [could] be seen." If only for a few months: with its more bitter than sweet emphasis on racial inequity and family dysfunction, no amount of acclaim could turn it into a tourist attraction.

While practically a Broadway bargain at merely $3.5 million in production costs, Avenue Q was considered the season’s longest shot — a Sesame Street parody whose relatively youthful target audience isn’t big on theatergoing. Wags anticipated an off-Broadway show that belonged off Broadway. Its triumphant critical reception and eventual clutch of Tony Awards turned such expectations upside down. Cocreators Jeff Marx and Robert Lopez are the giddiest protagonists here, their can’t-believe-our-luck exuberance offering a contrast to the sober insights delivered by such experienced hands as Schwartz and Caroline‘s director, George C. Wolfe.

Finally, there’s Taboo, a $10 million total loss for producer Rosie O’Donnell, who shepherded it to Broadway after loving a smaller-scale London staging of the gender-bending, Boy George–scored musical. Was it just too gay for Broadway? (No, that’s not an oxymoron.) Was it simply not very good? (A devoted cadre of mostly punk-goth fans would vehemently disagree.) Did negative press attention to O’Donnell and an apparently turbulent production process unfairly brand it a flop before the opening? We may never know — Taboo sure ain’t coming to a theater near you anytime soon. One of ShowBusiness‘s most poignant threads focuses on young unknown Euan Morton, who wins raves in a star part in the huge show. After its closure, his US work visa is revoked; he’ll have to restart his career back in England from square one.

ShowBusiness covers everything from playwriting to rehearsals to street buzz to critics, but one wishes it had more depth. Berinstein’s insiderdom gets her access but perhaps also limits her willingness to bare all. Clocking in at 102 minutes, her documentary is almost a dirt-free zone. It’s refreshing when Marx and book writer Jeff Whitty admit they could barely stand each other while collaborating on Avenue Q — though success certainly improves their rapport. And ultimately, their multiple Tony Award wins provide a dramatic highlight. At the ceremony, Carol Channing and LL Cool J copresent an award. It’s a showy moment whose mix of the sublime and the surreal encapsulates how unpredictable the business Berinstein examines can be. *


Opens Fri/8 in Bay Area theaters

See Movie Clock at www.sfbg.com


Call the docs


Now in its ninth year, the San Francisco Black Film Festival continues to expand its scope, with two long weekends of narrative films and documentaries plus several shorts programs. If you didn’t catch The Last Days of Left Eye during one of its recent VH-1 airings, it’s well worth a look on the big screen. After struggling through years of alcoholism and an abusive relationship (you know, the one where she burned the dude’s house down), hip-hop icon Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes found herself, kinda, through rehab and multiple trips to a faith healer in Honduras — the site of her fatal 2002 car accident. Composed mostly of footage shot for a documentary that was in progress when Lopes died, Last Days — directed by Lauren Lazin, an Oscar nominee for 2003’s Tupac: Resurrection — offers an unguarded look at the fragile megastar.

Another doc worth checking out is The Clinton 12, a PBS-esque look at the events leading up to the 1958 bombing of the first court-ordered integrated high school in the South. After segregation was outlawed, low-key Clinton, Tenn., saw an uptick in hate (cue the Ku Klux Klan) and played host to a media frenzy as the first day of school approached; a "home guard" was formed by veterans and other concerned Clinton citizens to help keep peace in the city, though the National Guard soon stepped in as well. Even if you don’t factor in James Earl Jones’s narration (and a dramatic score), Keith Henry McDaniel’s film has plenty of gravitas.

Octavio Warnock-Graham’s Silences also looks at racial tensions, but on a much smaller scale: within one family, all white except for the filmmaker, the mixed-race product of his mother’s short-lived relationship with an African American dancer. In his 25-minute film, Warnock-Graham travels from Ohio to the Bay Area in search of his long-lost father and draws his mother’s family into a discussion of what’s clearly been an elephant in the room since his birth.


Thurs/7–Sun/10 and June 14–17, most films $10

See film listings for showtimes and venue info


Candid camera


› a&eletters@sfbg.com

Shohei Imamura’s 1961 film Pigs and Battleships opens with the impressive sight of gleaming modern buildings lining the landscape of an industrialized port town. This would-be idyllic image of newfound cooperation between the Japanese and the Americans is swiftly subverted with the upward yank of a crane shot, which ends with a bird’s-eye view of the neighboring area. Our new vantage point reveals the run-down, bustling alleys of the outlying red-light district, conspicuously teeming with carousing American sailors on shore leave and equally garrulous touts who aggressively steer the former at every turn to mob-run brothels, like farmers corralling swine.

Often considered the first real Imamura film, Pigs and Battleships is a wry satire of postoccupation Japan, where MacArthurization had laid the foundations for both a thriving black market and a fledgling democracy. Imamura would continually return to that distant perch arrived at in the film’s opening minutes, to better observe a Japan that lay just outside the established frame. The Brueghelian panorama of black-market profiteers, shopworn bar hostesses, American soldiers behaving badly, and amateur pornographers he captured from the 1960s onward is on full display in the 12 remaining features of the Pacific Film Archive’s current embarrassment of riches "Shohei Imamura’s Japan."

Imamura’s perspective is more akin to that of a child who, having picked up a rock, becomes fascinated with the squirming, dark world that’s thriving underneath than it is to that of a detached anthropologist, which his extended shots and lack of flashy editing sometimes lead critics to take him for. Social critique, while certainly present in Imamura’s films, is always paired with a certain delectation in watching the tawdry and the grotesque.

In early Imamura films like Pigs and Battleships and the black caper comedy Endless Desire (1958), in which five Osaka lowlifes celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the Allied victory by plotting to steal a hidden cache of Army-issued morphine, we see a Japan flush with the newfound freedom unleashed and bequeathed by the occupation and emboldened by the collapse of imperial authority.

The long hangover that carried into the late-’60s economic boom, exacerbated by the demands of the revitalized radical left for the government to come clean about the World War II skeletons still in its closet, also was not lost on Imamura’s camera. He was, after all, a member of the nuberu bagu (taken from the French nouvelle vague) rat pack, the iconoclastic children of Jean-Luc Godard and Coca-Cola who emerged in the 1950s and 1960s, chomping at the bit of a weakening studio system. His documentaries from the ’70s might be more soft-spoken than Oshima Nagisa’s fiery cinematic indictments against the government (Oshima’s 1968 Death by Hanging is necessary viewing), but they are no less damning.

A History of Postwar Japan as Told by a Bar Hostess (1970) is, as its title indicates, a prostitute’s narration of a chronicle from which she and those in her profession were largely occluded. The gradually widening distance between Akaza Etsuko’s tale and the official version Imamura contrasts it with via historical footage makes the truism that history is written by the winners feel depressingly deeper than a platitude, despite the director’s clearly felt empathy for the bruised woman speaking before him.

In Karayuki-san, the Making of a Prostitute, made three years later, Imamura interviews Zendo Kikuyo, a former karayuki-san, or "comfort woman," living in Malaysia who was forced to sexually service Japanese soldiers on the East Asian front. Much as Akaza’s recounting in History of her experiences with American soldiers parallels Japan’s submission to the United States, so Imamura here makes it clear that Zendo’s prostituted body became a tool of Japan’s colonial and imperial ambitions. However, the shaming silence that greets her as she attempts to reunite with relatives in Hiroshima later in the film seems far more painful than many of the wartime indignities she recounts with such unnerving calm.

That a Japanese filmmaker would so candidly take on an issue that many feel the Japanese government, even to this day, has not sufficiently redressed — as evidenced by last month’s US-Japan diplomatic tête-à-tête on the matter — let alone more than 30 years ago, is remarkable. In Akaza and Zendo, Imamura found real-life equivalents of Tome, the country girl turned prostitute and antihero of his 1963 classic The Insect Woman. These women who had no choice but to use and be used by the system in order to survive. Imamura may have viewed postwar Japan as something of a carnival, but in his long view we catch sight of his subjects’ humanity, shining through like the glint from an old coin, and sometimes we can even catch glimpses of grace. *


Through June 30; $4–$8

Pacific Film Archive

2575 Bancroft Way, Berk.

(510) 642-1124


Oh Mickey, you’re so lame


In 1938, 13 years before a cinematic Alice visited Wonderland, Porky Pig flew to Wackyland, a Salvador Dalí painting come to life. Determined to find the last dodo bird on earth, he wandered through this surrealist landscape to the rhythm of the marijuana ditty "Feeling High and Happy." In 1931’s One More Time, Mickey Mouse’s ears grew bigger and his tail bushier as he transformed into Foxy, a police officer who then chased the Prohibition-era villains who had kidnapped his girlfriend. In 1943’s A Corny Concerto, Elmer Fudd tried his luck as an orchestra conductor, only to be defeated by his tuxedo, which left him practically naked while he tried to introduce two Johann Strauss Jr. waltzes.

If all this sounds good to you and you’re tired of Walt Disney’s plethora of unimaginative, didactic, and patronizing cartoons, then you’re in for a treat. For more than 25 years, Portland, Ore., film archivist, historian, professor, and writer Dennis Nyback has been searching for rare films in the catalog The Big Reel as well as in thrift stores and flea markets. "F@ck Mickey Mouse" is the title of a 16mm film program Nyback has assembled to showcase, as he puts it, "rare cartoon precursors that beat Disney to the punch, imitators that ripped him off, and parodies that made vicious fun of some of Disney’s greatest animation shorts."

Nyback’s program reveals a world that is funny, bold, and completely out of control. A world that isn’t afraid to turn Little Red Riding Hood into Red, a hot dancer, or Snow White into Coal Black, a maid in 1940s Harlem. It also includes perhaps the most daunting example of Disney’s God-bless-America approach, Der Fuehrer’s Face (1942), in which Donald Duck dreams that he is a Nazi. I don’t want to give away the cartoon’s disturbing ending, so I will just quote Nyback: "It does suggest mindless jingoism."


Sat/9, 8 p.m., $10 (limited seating; RSVPs preferred)

Oddball Film and Video

275 Capp, SF

(415) 558-8117




› paulr@sfbg.com

Our town, for all its glories, does have its little shortages here and there. We are, in particular, not as rich as some of the bigger cities in the "littles" and "towns" that give those great metropolises their distinctive scents of ethnic potpourri. Oh, we do have a Chinatown and a Japantown, and our Little Italy can be found living under a pseudonym in North Beach. There’s even a remnant of a French quartier on lower Nob Hill, along a run of Bush Street that includes the Alliance Française, the French consulate, and the Église Notre Dame des Victoires. But for all San Francisco’s affinity for the Mediterranean, many of the Mediterranean cultures are virtually invisible here. I was reminded, after visiting Chicago recently, that we have not only no Greektown but hardly any Greek restaurants, hardly any place where your cheese can be set on fire before your eyes with a cry of "Opa!"

Flaming cheese (not to be confused with the Flaming Homer) is known by the Greeks as saganaki, and it is on the menu at Myconos, a Polk Street stalwart that has survived since the 1970s and preserves an authentic sense of Greek rusticity, as such latecomers as Kokkari and Mezes do not. Greece, we should remember, is one of the poorest countries in Europe; it is quite near both Africa and the Middle East and was ruled rather harshly for several centuries by the Ottoman Turks. (One enduring monument to the struggle against the Turkish occupation is the semiruined Parthenon in Athens, which had been built in the golden age of Pericles in the fifth century BCE and stood intact for two millennia, until, in the 17th century, the occupiers turned it into a munitions dump, which then exploded.) If we ever start wondering why the argument between Christianity and Islam is so bitter, we can get much of our answer simply by considering the Greek case.

Fortunately, everybody likes saganaki, with the possible exception of the American Heart Association. ("I wish they’d never invented fried cheese!" Marge Simpson says in a fantasy graveside scene in which Homer has died of obesity and is being buried in a piano crate lowered by a crane. These are her last words, for the crane then gives way and the crate crushes everyone.) Myconos’s version ($9.95) isn’t detonated tableside, but it does reach the table still spitting blue flames, and it does develop a wonderful golden crust that contrasts nicely with the cheese’s natural citrusy (and not too salty) tang.

Saganaki is probably about as good for you as dessert, so after your sinful beginning, you will be relieved to find that the rest of the menu is dotted with salads, legume dishes, and vegetarian choices. We found the hummus ($4.95) to be non–Middle Eastern despite the accompanying warm pita bread; the chickpea puree was coarse rather than peanut-butter smooth and seemed not to have been mixed with tahini, the sesame seed paste. The dominant flavors, instead, were those of lemon and garlic.

The restaurant’s version of a Greek salad — mixed greens tossed with roma tomato coins, crumblings of feta cheese, and onion slivers — turns up beside many of the main courses. Among these is a rather splendid pastitsio ($11.95), a kind of Greek lasagna that combines layers of tubular pasta, seasoned ground beef, and béchamel cheese sauce into a shape that resembles a large square hamburger (with the béchamel cheese sauce looking like the top half of the bun). The wind blows from the east across the pastitsio, bringing the scent of nutmeg, perfume of the Middle East and even points beyond. This is not surprising; as Elson M. Haas, MD, instructs us in Staying Healthy with Nutrition (Celestial Arts/Ten Speed, $39.95), "the Middle Eastern nations consume a variant of the Indian diet," and Greece is on the fringes of the Middle East.

Novices, neophytes, and the inattentive might be forgiven, in fact, if they mistook the Greek condiment tzatziki — a sauce of yogurt, shredded cucumber, garlic, and onion — for the Indian condiment raita, a sauce of yogurt and cucumber. Tzatziki is the salsa of Greek cooking and has a way of turning up everywhere, but we found it only as an accompaniment to garides souvlaki ($15.95), two brochettes of grilled shrimp plated with roasted potatoes and salad.

I was not impressed with the falafel ($5.95 at lunch), despite the massiveness of the plate: five Titleist-size balls arrayed on a carpet of pita and topped with a blob of hummus that looked like lumpy gravy. The falafel balls were unwarm and undersalted; worse, they recurred on the vegetarian platter, which offered (in addition to the falafel and in place of the cottage potatoes) a dolma — a torpedo of seasoned rice swaddled in grape leaves — and a round of spanikopita, the phyllo pie stuffed with spinach and cheese. These teaser items were tasty enough to distinguish themselves from the falafel but not substantial enough to make up for it.

The wine list is brief but does include a variety of Greek bottlings both red and white, and these tend to be quite good value. Although the Greeks have been making wine since time out of mind, the country’s modern wine industry had fallen into disrepair until recently and was known mostly for retsina, whose turpentine quality can be overwhelming. There is also a selection of Greek beers, including a lovely golden lager from Hillas. After a few of these, even Homer might nod. *


Mon.–Thurs., noon–10 p.m.; Fri., noon–11 p.m.; Sat. 1–11 p.m.; Sun., 1–10 p.m.

1431 Polk, SF

(415) 775-7949



Beer and wine

Can get loud

Wheelchair accessible

Bras and barbecue


› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com

CHEAP EATS Mountain Sam has many last names; I don’t think I’ve ever seen the same one twice. My personal favorite, because it’s the only one I can remember right now, is Two Bears.

I met Mountain Sam and his wife, Mountain Veronica, at an open mic in the Castro called Retool and Grind. I sang about Sonoma County and being a chicken farmer. I sang the one that gives directions to my shack, and they came up to me after and said, "We’re neighbors!"

First I thought they meant they lived close to each other. "Good. That’s great," I said, packing up my drum. Then it hit me.

"Windsor," Veronica said.

I’m not used to having neighbors. Mountain Sam offered to help me carry my drum to the truck, and by the time we got there we were all best friends. It’s a half hour drive to Windsor from Occidental, but the roads are winding and wonderful. You see deer, foxes, wild turkey…. Sometimes they’re even alive.

One of the first things me and Mountain Sam talked about was eating roadkill. He comes from Oklahoma and is part Indian. He reminds me of my uncles, who live in Ohio and aren’t any Indian at all, but do hunt deer, of course. I love venison. For a while I started taking the curves a little faster at night, but then I realized that, given the size of my pickup truck, it was just as likely the deer would have me for dinner. Which would be a really ridiculous way to go, deer being vegetarians.

Veronica is from Arizona. She’s beautiful, calls me honey, thinks she can eat more than me, and can. Her favorite food is KFC.

I can’t tell you how happy I am to have friends in my own county. Their doctor is in Occidental. We meet at the Union Hotel for a beer. I need a chicken-sitter. Sam accidentally defrosts too much sausage. They have a hot tub. Cable TV. Netflix. Bags and bags of frozen hot wings in the freezer.

In the city: I introduce them to carne asada burritos at Cancun and cool free music at the Rite Spot. We sit on the grass in Dolores Park.

While I was away, Sam built me a catapult. Veronica wants to go shopping with me.

This is what I mean by question marks in thought balloons: you wake up on Memorial Day morning, and it’s a beautiful, warm day outside. Everyone in the world, not just the chicken farmer, is thinking: barbecue.

Even the chickens are excited. They come running now as soon as they smell smoke, because they know what it means: the other white meat, pork. Their favorite food in the world. Mine too. We sit there on the log together and smell it happening.

You know me. I barbecue in the snow and the rain, early morning, late night, any day of the week. The last thing in the world I would expect to be doing on a sunny Memorial Day is not barbecuing.

However, Veronica had the day off from work, and Sam was in Virginia, and that was how I, the chicken farmer, wound up spending the meat of a barbecue holiday at the Windsor Wal-Mart.

The good news is I scored two cheap bras and some brake fluid!

Veronica got a dress, some pants and a shirt, a pair of shoes…. "Honey, is there anything else you need?" she said, while we were wandering (I hoped) toward the checkout.

I looked at the things in my hands. Bras, brake fluid … "Nope. I’m all set," I said.

"Come on, honey, I want to buy you something," she said.

"Charcoal?" I suggested.

"No, honey," she said. "An outfit." She led me back into the clothes section. Which is like leading a horse to a parking garage or "a skeleton walks into a bar."

"Do you guys have a grill?" I asked, wildly and desperately scanning the racks of Nobo and White Stag for something, anything, that I would be caught dead in.

"Honey, we’re going to Subway!" Veronica said.

Mountain Sam says something like I do about waking up wondering who he is any given day. It was five in the afternoon.

"Subway?" I asked.

"I’m hungry, honey!" Veronica said. "I already took a chicken out this morning," she said, "but we’re sure going to need something to tide us over while it’s on the spit, ain’t we?"

It was like waking up in your own bed. My eyes stopped darting. I let her pick me out an outfit, and some day soon I will wear it proudly. *



The suggestions


› andrea@altsexcolumn.com

Dear Andrea:

I am writing to quibble with your response to Imagine ["You May Find Yourself …," 11/8/06], the fellow in college who complained that after "a couple of rounds a day for a few months," he had difficulty reaching orgasm without either fantasizing about another woman or taking matters into his own hands. You suggested that he might just be someone who needs a certain amount of novelty or fantasy to get up and over, and you left it at that.

The reason I felt driven to write is that he described exactly how I feel when I try to have sex too often. Even back in college, I was never voracious sexually — once a day is just dandy. If I try to have sex twice a day for several days in a row, I can still get erections but have difficulty achieving orgasm. The only way to get up and over is to introduce something novel or to switch to masturbation (because, like most men, I am the world’s foremost expert at getting myself off).

So, I would counsel Imagine to try going cold turkey for a day or two. If a sexual hiatus miraculously (but temporarily) cures the problem, then it’ll prove he may just be trying to have sex more often than his body really wants to.


Just Me

Dear Just:

Yeah, OK.

A few weeks ago I ran a column I called "The Corrections" [5/2/07], mostly because I’d finally got around to reading that book that everyone else in the universe read like five years ago. But I get as many suggestions as I do corrections, so what the heck? Here’s yours.

I agree with you actually. Dude was probably not only a little bored (yes, even college boys can get bored during sex!) but physiologically fatigued. I’m going to assume this is no longer a problem for that particular college boy, though, since it was a few months back and sadly (or happily, depending), "Help, we’re having too much sex!" tends to be one of those self-limiting relationship problems.



Dear Andrea:

I have some advice for the guy who was too tall to do it doggy-style with his short partner [5/23/07]. Doggy-style is my favorite position also. I’m a tall guy, and one thing that works great is standing by the side of your bed while your woman presents to you near the edge. While it takes more energy since you’re vertical, you can bend your knees and her waist to make it a pleasurable experience for you both.



Dear Tall:

OK, then! Indeed, for lots of size-discordant couples a "he stands, she crouches" position will work handily. Not dignified, mind you, but any activity that allows your dangliest dangly bits to not only hang low but to wobble to and fro has little claim to dignity in the first place.



Dear Readers:

The last thing I wanted to cover is not so much a suggestion as a follow-up, except insofar as I suggest that interested parties check it out ASAP: the Food and Drug Administration approved the "never have to have a period again" pill. The Red Tent is no more. We can have a female president now.

Well, let’s not get carried away.

While a large majority of women in a large number of recent studies (there’s a good run-down of recent research at the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals site, arhp.org) would like their menstrual cycles to be different, this includes women who’d merely like them to be less painful or more regular, and really, big duh. Still, it appears that most women asked have some interest in at least occasional menstrual suppression. Women surveyed at six sites across the United States seemed overwhelmingly, even shockingly eager to abandon the old moon goddess entirely. According to that poll, 59 percent said they "would be interested in not menstruating on a monthly basis," and one-third said they "would choose never to have a period." I don’t recall seeing them say that they’d choose never to have a baby, but presumably that exception was addressed somehow or other.

Unsurprisingly, women in the military seem most eager to jump. I was likewise unflabbergasted to see that Dutch and German women seemed a little less eager to embrace a novel, high-tech body-mod that’s radical and (perhaps excessively) clean-freakish — aren’t these the same women who were famously late (if ever) adopters of leg and pit shaving? — but even they were pretty intrigued by the possibility. And finally, just to prove menstruation’s ickiness and expendability is almost entirely a matter of cultural perspective, Nigerian women who were asked about menstrual suppression wanted nothing to do with it.

How about you?



Andrea Nemerson is home with the kids and going stir-crazy. Write her a letter! Ask her a question!

Mission: school


› johnny@sfbg.com

REVIEW When I walked into the Berkeley Art Museum for a first look at Alicia McCarthy’s contribution to "Fer-ma-ta," the 37th annual UC Berkeley MFA graduate exhibition, I was given a small stash of pencils — the kind you use to mark scores in bowling or putt-putt golf. Note-taking is allowed in museum spaces, but pens are a definite no-no. The self-consciousness brought about by such a rule and the gift of the pencils only served to enhance the direct address of McCarthy’s work. The artist has a flair for such modest tools — in fact, her prismatic use of colored pencils counts as one of the most imitated and influential Bay Area art practices of the past decade. Also, she isn’t one to kowtow to the conventions of art-market packaging and presentation.

That trait again became clear the minute I approached McCarthy’s section of the group show. She has 11 works fixed — sometimes nailed directly — to the museum walls, but in addition she’s placed an old wooden chair before them in a manner that presents viewers with the option of sitting on one piece of art to view others. The chair is, like most of McCarthy’s material, a found object, and it isn’t going to be brought to Antiques Roadshow anytime soon. Perhaps it’s a piece of classroom furniture from a bygone era — though, curiously, it’s on rickety, small wheels — and its surface is marked with rings. A collector or consumer would view those marks as water damage, but in McCarthy’s art, such wear and tear only adds texture. Here, as in other shows, her drawings are on already used surfaces: construction or packaging paper and slabs of wood. The use of found material, while welcome in an ecological sense, has become a cliché in Bay Area circles and beyond in the indie pop Found magazine culture. But McCarthy still does it better than others who’ve come in her wake. Even more than the forebears who practiced assemblage in the ’60s, she taps into the expressiveness of an object’s wrinkled history, so the splatter pattern of a coffee stain can function like a splash of watercolor.

What happens when an artist associated with the core of the Mission School — and perhaps the most undersung — goes back to school? Some of McCarthy’s livelier contributions at BAM bounce free from that question’s limitations to play with the very idea of education. Amusingly, I found myself using the little pencils given to me by the museum to take notes on — and even re-create to a degree — a trio of McCarthy pencil and ink drawings that could be categorized as classroom notes and doodles. In McCarthy’s hands, the idea of turning one’s study notes into art isn’t smart-ass or lazy but critical, humorous, and kinetically lively, producing words and scrawls that dance across the page. Andy Warhol’s churchgoing habits, characteristics of fascism and Marxism, and ideas about theories and practice orbit around various forms of the show’s chief motif: a series of snaky lines that almost but don’t quite form a ball shape similar to that of tangled yarn or metal coils, most featuring a depth of field that it’s easy to become lost within.

As Artforum welcomes the return of op art with a pair of cover essays about large survey shows in Columbus, Ohio, and Frankfurt, Germany, it’s worth contemputf8g the op art undertow that’s long been present within some of McCarthy’s (as always) untitled work. While it isn’t as noticeable or dominant as in the drawings and other pieces made by her friend Xylor Jane, it is there, particularly in a black-and-white doors-of-perception piece at the BAM show that might be rendered in Magic Marker. For McCarthy, fine execution isn’t the point so much as dedication to vision. She achieves a lo-fi and distinctly low-key — some might say junior high Trapper Keeper — version of the hallucinatory effect achieved when one gazes too long, and thus long enough, at the waves of lines in Bridget Riley’s famous 1964 polymer–on–composition board piece Current.

The upfront or subliminal presence of Riley-like op art — and color theory — elements within work by some of the main female artists associated with the Mission School is worth noting in light of the enjoyable pair of May Artforum essays that single Riley out for praise while suggesting that op art has been absent, aside from pure kitsch manifestations, since its ’60s heyday. In fact, a case could be made that artists such as McCarthy and Jane have knowingly or unknowingly taken up some of Riley’s practice in modest ways, adapting it as one aspect within their own work. Kitsch has nothing to do with it, but feminism and a shared creative sensibility might.

Among the work by developing artists at the UC Berkeley MFA show (Jenifer K. Wofford’s impressive graphic novel–like wall of paintings; Ali Dadgar’s screen prints on stones), McCarthy’s section doesn’t call out for attention so much as reward those who are present enough to pay it, and in that sense, her closest kin within the exhibition is probably Bill Jenkins, whose contributions confront the blindness of an average seven-seconds-a-piece stroll through a museum. Like McCarthy’s chair, they suggest that the world needs heightened perception more than it needs another dazzling, hi-fi, expensive work of art. *


Through Sun/10

Wed. and Fri.–Sun., 11 a.m.–5 p.m.; Thurs., 11 a.m.–7 p.m.; $4–$8 (free first Thurs.)

Berkeley Art Museum

2626 Bancroft Way, Berk.

(510) 642-0808