Volume 41 Number 37

June 13 – June 19, 2007

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The Guardian Iraq War casualty report (6/18/07)


The Guardian Iraq War casualty report (6/18/07): At least 36 Iraqis were killed today.

Compiled by Paula Connelly

Casualties in Iraq

Iraqi civilians:

At least 36 Iraqis were killed today in a battle between Shiite militiamen and British forces, according to the Associated Press. Reports of the dead were unable to tell how many were militiamen and how many civilians.

: Killed since 3/03

Source: www.thelancet.com

65,411 – 71,665: 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:

3,773: 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


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 (6/18/07): So far, $435 billion for the U.S., $55 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



SCENE: Summer 2007



Google in my bedroom


› annalee@techsploitation.com

TECHSPLOITATION A couple of weeks ago Google announced its latest map widget with much fanfare. Called Street View, it’s an option on Google Maps that gives you (literally) a view from street level of the address you’re searching for. When you go to Google Maps, click "Street View" in the upper right corner (not all cities have it — try San Francisco or New York), and you’ll get a little icon shaped like a human that you can move around the city grid. Move the human into place, click it, and suddenly you find yourself looking at a picture of the houses on the street. You can navigate down the block with arrows, even turning your point of view left or right to get a full 360-degree view of the spot.

All the images on Street View were taken over the past few months by a camera mounted on a roving van. Later Google used special software to "knit" the discrete pictures together, creating the illusion that you’re seeing seamless images of streets. If this sounds futuristic to you, it’s not — a couple of years ago, Amazon made a similar service available via its search tool A9. But after Google hired Udi Manber, who ran A9 for Amazon, the service went downhill, and it’s now no longer available. Instead we have Google’s Street View.

When you first use Street View, it feels like Google has turned the real world into a video game. I recently took a "walk" all around a San Francisco neighborhood where I might like to live. By clicking the arrow, I moved down Guerrero Street, "looking" to my right and left at the houses and local businesses to figure out how many blocks my potential residence would be from crucial things like cafés and a grocery store. I felt like I was in the virtual world Second Life, except that I couldn’t fly and most of the people on the street weren’t giant centaurs with wings and magic powers.

Still, it was hard to take my eyes off the people on the street. Captured on film without their knowledge or permission, they’ll be online for all to see for at least a couple of years — possibly more. Some naughty bloggers over at Wired.com have already asked people to submit the best "street sightings" they’ve found on Street View. Several pictures of seminaked people sunbathing or undressing near open windows turned up right away, as did pictures of people pissing against buildings. Searchers also found a picture of somebody being arrested (Google took that one down), as well as a snapshot of two women on San Francisco’s Hyde Street who appear to be exchanging money for drugs. And there are thousands more like these.

What are the ethics involved here? Is this an invasion of people’s privacy? All the photographs were taken in public places, and therefore nobody in them has any reasonable expectation of privacy under the law. But then again, privacy laws weren’t written with Street View in mind. It’s lawful to eavesdrop on people on the street because they’re in public. But is it lawful to publish online in perpetuity a picture of someone that captures him or her making out with somebody at a bus stop? Soon, lawsuits may seek to answer that very question.

In the meantime, Google is hoping you won’t ask because you’re so impressed with the prettiness and usability of its shiny new thing. As I mentioned before, I’ve already found the service helpful in my search for a new place to live. It might also be good for figuring out the best places to park near your destination, or whether a hotel is as nice and well located as it claims to be. Mostly, though, I don’t know why anyone would consider Street View to be more of a useful tool than a slightly creepy toy. I suppose it could be a great way for stalkers and thieves to find houses that are isolated, shielded from the street by greenery, or accessible by bottom-floor windows without bars. One day, even burglars might find their targets by Googling.

For now, however, Google Street View only covers a few cities, and the interface is a little slow. But the van is still out there, taking pictures automatically, posting everything it sees online. And the interface will improve. Is the dubious convenience of this tool worth the privacy trade-off? Do you really want to walk down the street never knowing whether your furtive nose-picking or secret meeting with a colleague has been captured and broadcast to the Google-using public? *

Annalee Newitz is a surly media nerd who will not stop picking her nose furtively in public and reserves the right to be pissed if you publish a picture of her doing it.

All-consuming consumption


› a&eletters@sfbg.com

Copping to her fashion juju at curtain rise, amid a litany of designer labels rattled off at the audience, Fe, the heroine of the sordid story to follow, makes a pretense of having broken the solemn rules of drama by giving her big secret away at the outset. In fact, there’s plenty of mystery yet in this intriguingly mercurial, restless hedonist (played by a charismatic, unstoppable Margo Hall), who anyway reverses herself in the next line when she coyly concedes the covert nature of her splendid appearance. "Face? François Nars. You can never go wrong with the French. François’s motto? ‘Makeup is not a mask.’ A load of tired crap, but I forgive him."

We never get more than a glimpse behind Fe’s mask, but then, appearances are what count — for all and nothing — in Fe in the Desert, the latest world premiere collaboration between Philippine-born American playwright, novelist, poet, and performance artist Jessica Hagedorn and Campo Santo and Intersection for the Arts. After the outwardly fearless but inwardly insecure title character reveals her deceptive fabulousness, she seeks the psychological safety of her estranged husband’s brand-new Cadillac Escalade, with its aloof suspension and promise of indestructibility, as she drives to their desert home.

Narrowly avoiding a head-on with a meat truck, Fe nearly loses her life. This puts her in an existentially acute mood for the duration of her subsequent adventure-nightmare in a seemingly empty Mojave, where she and husband Bill (a coolly flamboyant, then persuasively unhinged Danny Wolohan) are interrupted in their shaky reconciliation by two armed intruders. But even that irony is no proof against the power of the all-American Caddy to ward off bad spirits. The juju of the mighty Escalade — and of the general wealth of Fe’s ultimately helpless epicurean husband, and of showbiz, whose allure also figures significantly, if somewhat obliquely, in the narrative — may falter, but never dies.

The prequel to 2005’s Tenderloin-set Stairway to Heaven, also launched with Campo Santo, Fe in the Desert cunningly puts the usual codes of identity in playful motion (with their hierarchy of class, gender, and ethnic markers) to explore the deeper social and cultural context of Fe’s existential crisis. Indeed, the play’s spacious and opulent setting (as well as its predominantly comic mode) offers a seemingly stark contrast to Stairway‘s grim inner-city tale but in fact provides no escape from the same world of contradictions, which dramatically swoop down on the reconciling couple in the form of ex-cons Tyrone (a sophisticated sociopath with a thing for good English, smoothly played by Robert Hampton) and his volatile ghetto-Pygmalion protégé, Mook (a credibly wild Jonsen Vitug). On their trail follows an unlikely rescue party made up of a producer (Michael Torres, in an amusingly sly turn) and his foreign-born secretary (a solid Sara Hernandez).

The American desert here is at once full and all-encompassing, being the desert of capitalism, consumerism, haute culture, pop culture, and the Hollywood dream factory. This soup of oneiric consumption tends to undermine any hard-and-fast identity, including those cast in multiethnic hyphenates and hoary stereotypes. Instead, various strands of the cultures still referred to as high and low flow into one another with abandon, sometimes comically, sometimes violently, but always ecstatically.

That slipperiness partly excuses the rather thin construction of some of the play’s characters, but only partly, in a production that provides little real punch despite high-octane performances and director Danny Scheie’s ever-inspired staging of a story that loops repeatedly back in time, confutf8g multiple perspectives on the same horrific and absurd encounter. Fe, on the other hand, memorably realized by the always formidable Hall, has a certain staying power. In the desert of American dreaming, she’s at least a consummate survivor, a Prada-clad pioneer who never stops moving. *


Through June 25

Thurs.–Sun., 8 p.m. (also June 25, 8 p.m.), $9–$20, sliding scale

Intersection for the Arts

446 Valencia, SF

(415) 626-3311


Eat on the beat


› kimberly@sfbg.com

SONIC REDUCER Once upon a strange, overly prepared, possibly paranoid post-9/11-related time not so long ago, I’d bring my lunch to shows at Shoreline Amphitheatre, then–Concord Pavilion, and all those other mammoth Sleep Train–sponsored yet intrinsically antisnooze behemoths. I’d pack a heaving Dagwood of cold cuts and assorted cheeses and energy bars into a backpack for random spates of balls-out rockin’ in burbs and office parks. What was I thinking? Guess I felt goofy partaking in those pricey, once-no-frills concession stands o’ paltry choices. Will it be a $7 Bud or $12 Corona, milady?

My only point in this pointless universe of sunburn, service fees, and loud, loud music is that it looks incredibly silly to come too correctly sometimes, especially when one takes in all-day musical twofers like the Harmony Festival and BFD in one fell weekend, hoping to study the cultural disconnect.

Still, the disjunction started way earlier, while at Harmony, cruising the many-splendored superwheatgrass concoctions, nut ices, and organic brown-rice-and-veggie-bowl stands (here somewhat more affordable than making a meal at a movie theater) and sticking out like a black-garbed Trenchcoat Mafiosa amid the dreadlocked sk8ter bois and Marin wealth gypsies with perfectly crimped hair. So too at BFD, playing arcade basketball backstage, studying Interpol and the Faint as they attempted to summon dark magic in broad daylight, and feeling peckish and jaded for noting the all-male standard-issue modern-rock lineups dominating the main stage.

I just didn’t go far enough in packing num-nums for all-day summer music lovin’ — after all, when in Rome and paying Rome’s hefty ticket prices, why not dress, smell, and quaff like those kooky Romans do? (And why not get a brain transplant while you’re at it?) As author Kara Zuaro might say, "I like food, food tastes good," but I also like saving nonexistent moolah and embedding myself seamlessly clad in average fan camouflage.

Hence a modest proposal for blending in at and sneaking grub into this summer’s shed performances:

THE SHOW: The Police, the Fratellis, and Fiction Plane. Wed/13, 6:30 p.m., $50–$225. McAfee Coliseum, Oakl. www.ticketmaster.com.

THE LOOK: Blond wig, placenta facial, an afternoon in the spray-tanning salon, tantric sex charm bracelet.

THE FLASK: Guinness-laced nut milk shake to please the food police.

THE SHOW: Gwen Stefani, Akon, and Lady Sovereign. Tues/19, 7:30 p.m., $25–$79.50. Shoreline Amphitheatre, Mountain View. (650) 967-3000.

THE LOOK: Blond wig, stunna shades, ab-baring lederhosen, and a pout.

THE LUNCH BOX: A single Ricola in sympathy with Stefani, who claims to have been dieting since she was 10.

THE SHOW: Vans Warped Tour, including Bad Religion, the Matches, Flogging Molly, Pennywise, and Tiger Army. July 1, noon, $29.99. Shoreline Amphitheatre, Mountain View. (650) 967-3000.

THE LOOK: Black T-shirt, faux-hawk, and black low-top Converse or checkerboard Vans — why not one on each foot?


THE SHOW: Ozzfest, including Ozzy Osbourne, Lamb of God, Static X, Lordi, Hatebreed, Behemoth, and Nick Oliveri and the Mondo Generator. July 19, noon, free. Shoreline Amphitheatre, Mountain View. www.ozzfest.com

THE LOOK: Black T-shirt, stunna shades, floppy shorts.

THE FANNYPACK: Seitan, cheddar cheese Combos, a quart of Gorilla Fart No. 666.

THE SHOW: Bone Bash VIII, with Lynyrd Skynyrd, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Pat Traves, and Laidlaw. July 20, 5:45 p.m., $10.77–$59.50. Shoreline Amphitheatre, Mountain View. (650) 967-3000.

THE LOOK: Uh, blond wig, floppy shorts, ab-bearing lederhosen.

THE TRUNK: Rice Chex and raisins, leftover tuna noodle casserole, Arkansas Buttermilk.

THE SHOW: Projekt Revolution Tour, including Linkin Park, My Chemical Romance, Taking Back Sunday, HIM, and Placebo. July 29, 12:45 p.m., $24.50–$70. Shoreline Amphitheatre, Mountain View. (650) 967-3000.

THE LOOK: Floppy shorts and tantric sex charm bracelet.

THE PLASTIC SACK: Fried ramen with faux duck, Kit-Kat, Sparks, and Tylenol.*


Pills and purists might accuse Sean Rawls of appropriating Aislers Set for his reggae-scented SF party supergroup Still Flyin’ — or simply appropriating Jah lovers’ rock sans the spirituality — but that doesn’t bum out the ex–mover and shaker of Athens, Ga.’s Masters of the Hemisphere on the June 5 release of an EP, Za Cloud (Antenna Farm): "Some people hear Still Flyin’ described to them and automatically think that it’s such a horrible idea for a band, which I can understand. But what we’re trying to do is just have a good time. Most bands aren’t into that."

When Rawls moved to SF in 2003, he simply asked everyone he knew — including AS’s Yoshi Nakamoto, Alicia Vanden Heuvel, and Wyatt Cusick — to join his new band. He didn’t think 15 unlikely suspects from groups like Maserati would accept.

After an East Coast tour this fall, Rawls aims to record an album of even dancier material, provided more instruments don’t get stolen by fans, as they have been in Sweden. "They also steal our beer. Either way it sucks," Rawls says. "We’re partying hard, and beer is a vital ingredient."

STILL FLYIN’ WITH ARCHITECTURE IN HELSINKI Sat/16, 9 p.m., $16. Bimbo’s 365 Club, 1025 Columbus, SF. (415) 474-0365



The Bay’s metal maidens meet the Totimoshi spinoff group, as the latter toast a new EP, The Swarm (No Options). Fri/15, 9 p.m., $7. Annie’s Social Club, 917 Folsom, SF. (415) 974-1585


Following the sad passing of drummer San Fadyl, the Brooklyn nostalgia rockers carry on, twanging sweetly on Can’t Wait Another Day (Merge). Fri/15, 10 p.m., $10. Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., SF. (415) 621-4455


The Docs are in with their third album, Origin and Tectonics. With Wooden Shjips, Fuckwolf, and Sic Alps. Fri/15, 10 p.m., $6. Elbo Room, 647 Valencia, SF. (415) 552-7788


The SF combo skipped pants at BFD. Fri/15, 9 p.m., $13. Independent, 628 Divisadero, SF. (415) 771-1422


The Chicago duo kick out the streamlined boom-bap. Tues/19, 8:30 p.m., $8–$10. Cafe du Nord, 2170 Market, SF. (415) 861-5016


No creeps — just poignant, eerie rock from the Thunderstick-wielding Brooklyn trio. Tues/19, 9 p.m., $7. Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF. www.hemlocktavern.com

Why a cherry?


Chili, most of us would probably agree, is beer food rather than wine food — if we are to make such odious distinctions — and that would make a winery an unlikely setting for a chili cook-off. Still, wineries can have their chili-friendly atmospherics on early-summer afternoons; the air is warm and fresh but not hot, and small planes drift through it on their way to and from the Petaluma airport, just a few flat miles away, across the vineyards. That, at any rate, is the view if one is standing on the grounds of Sutton Cellars, which did host such a cook-off recently and does bottle a Rhône-style red table wine sturdy enough to stand up to all the associated meat and spice.

Chili, it turns out, is surprisingly adaptable. None of the four restaurants from the city involved in the cook-off (Nopa, the Slow Club, the Alembic, and Maverick) used a recipe, nor, for that matter, do they offer chili on their regular menus. Yet each entry was strikingly different — one quite spicy, another perfumed with smoke and fruit from a combination of (pre)grilled skirt steak and lime juice, the third friendly in a rather ordinary way, and the fourth devoid of meat.

I liked this last one, from Nopa, the best. Ground calamari was used in place of meat, and with long braising, the cook told me, the flesh acquired the texture of cooked hamburger. More interesting was the deployment of rice beans, which indeed looked like fat grains of rice and are a close relation of azuki beans. Nopa’s chili struck me as being, in its overall effect, a close relation of gumbo, while the lone non–San Francisco restaurant’s effort (from L Wine Lounge in Sacramento) was so thick with pork, duck, and duck fat as to resemble a cowboy cassoulet. That chili was also served with a cumin-and-coriander cherry on top — pitted, of course — for a touch of tasty weirdness, or maybe a nod toward dessert?

There were no desserts, of course, unless you count a block of cheddar cheese that quickly disappeared, leaving behind plenty of forlorn sliced bread. A loaf of bread, a jug — or goblet — of wine, and thou, thou being chili in many guises, scarfed happily at picnic tables while little planes buzzed in the distance.

Paul Reidinger

› paulr@sfbg.com

Smells like DIY spirit


› a&eletters@sfbg.com

K Records founder and ex–Beat Happener Calvin Johnson once wrote in New York Rocker, "Rock ‘n’ roll is a teenage sport, meant to be played by teenagers of all ages — they could be 15, 25, or 35. It all boils down to whether they’ve got the love in their hearts, that beautiful teenage spirit."

That sentiment still holds for the Olympia, Wash., native, who will turn 45 this November. The deep-drawling baritone is probably best known for spreading Beat Happening’s jangle-pop gospel from the mid-’80s to the early ’90s. Yet he also formed the recently reunited Halo Benders with Built to Spill’s Doug Martsch, as well as Cool Rays, the Go Team, and Dub Narcotic Sound System. He’s collaborated with groups such as the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Mount Eerie, Mirah, and the Blow and has helped organize the International Pop Underground Festival, in addition to the forthcoming Helsing Junction Sleepover in Thurston County, Wash. And throughout his quarter-century pursuit of youthful verve — whether as bandmate, producer, label owner, or festival organizer — Johnson has kept the company of those who share his distinct brand of DIY devotion. Rather than being concerned with aesthetics or lack of talent, he and his peers know it’s more essential to be sincere, truthful, and confident with what feels natural when it comes to music making.

Some of those chums include K alums Jason Anderson (Wolf Colonel), Kyle Field (Little Wings), and Adam Forkner (White Rainbow), the three of whom Anderson deemed the Sons of the Soil and who tagged along with Johnson as his backing band on a 2003 West Coast tour. Johnson said over the phone from his K Records headquarters in Olympia that Anderson approached him in 2003 about sifting through Johnson’s solo work and other projects and revamping them with a rock outfit. Johnson, who usually simply plays acoustic sets during his live performances, didn’t need much persuasion.

"The arrangements on some of the songs vary greatly from the recordings that I had previously done," he explained. "Particularly ‘Lies Goodbye,’ which on my solo album was just me with an acoustic guitar. And here it’s more of an upbeat, rocking number. That all came out of the fact that when we first started playing together, the arrangements all came naturally."

At the tour’s conclusion, the foursome agreed to enter Johnson’s Dub Narcotic Studio and lay down songs from their excursion. "It was just a band we put together for a tour, but then we were, like, ‘Oh, we’re all practiced up — why don’t we document this?’" Johnson remembered. The result of the sessions, released almost four years after the fact, Calvin Johnson and the Sons of the Soil (K) is a buoyant, funk-charged listen, updated by the quartet in a manner Johnson himself may never have envisioned. At times romantically soul-driven ("Can We Kiss"), at other times bluesy ("What Was Me"), the album mainly consists of high-spirited, bass-heavy rockers ("Tummy Hop," "Sand").

"I’m really happy with the way the record turned out," Johnson said, "because it was fun to make and I like the way the songs are interpreted."

Two live interpretations of "Tummy Hop" and "What Was Me," drawn from the band’s tour, pop up on the CD, both containing interludes during which the group quietly plays in the background while Johnson rambles on like a lounge singer. At one point during the latter, he states, "So people say to me, ‘Calvin Johnson … who are you?’"

I think it’s safe to say that question’s already been answered. *


With Julie Doiron

Fri/15, 6 p.m., $10

Rickshaw Stop

155 Fell, SF

(415) 861-2011


Patisserie Philippe


› paulr@sfbg.com

Most of us have our favorite bistros, boîtes, bakeries, and pubs — but patisseries? That seems a little precious, and maybe hard to pronounce. And fattening, since patisseries are all about pastries, and pastries are all about — or largely about — butter and eggs and sugar, with some flour and yeast thrown in, not to mention chocolate, more often than not. Boulangerie is tricky to pronounce too for unschooled Anglophones, but boulangeries are about bread, and bread isn’t really fattening — unless it’s brioche, which is something you’d get at a patisserie, perhaps your favorite one.

Pâtisserie Philippe, which opened earlier this spring in a gigantic new building on the roundabout at the end of Eighth Street, is not a boulangerie, but it does have its boulangerie-esque elements. The handsome glass display cases are full of pastries, including tartes tatins and financiers, but they aren’t full of just pastries. There are panini too and baguette sandwiches and salads. If you said deli with a French accent, you would be striking near the heart of the matter. I don’t know how you say sports bar in French — le sports bar? — but there is one next door (not at all French), and it is loud. Pâtisserie Philippe, by contrast, is serene and civilized, and while you can’t get french fries with your panino, you won’t miss them, since you prefer a salad of mixed baby greens anyway.

The Philippe of Pâtisserie Philippe is Philippe Delarue, formerly of Bay Bread, the large and spreading consortium of bakeries and restaurants run by Pascal Rigo. Delarue’s place does resemble, a little, Rigolo, the Rigo restaurant in Laurel Village. The latter is bigger and has a more extensive menu (including wine), but while the food is good, it isn’t better than Pâtisserie Philippe’s. I was particularly taken by PP’s croque monsieur ($5.95), the classic grilled ham-and-cheese sandwich that here is caked with a béchamel sauce — a bit on the rich side, yes, but the sandwich is European in scale. It’s not huge, in other words; five or six bites and you’re done, and you’re well satisfied. If the sandwich were built out to American standards, it would be two or three times as big and perhaps worthy of the sports bar next door. But … inelegant. Anyway, there are plenty of other savories to sample, and the panini are quite large.

This has much to do with their being assembled on ciabatta bread. The name means slipper in Italian and refers to the loaves’ long, flat shape; sandwiches made from ciabatta are particularly well-suited to the panini press. Pâtisserie Philippe’s versions ($5.95) feature ham or chicken along with melted mozzarella and provolone cheeses. I liked them both but preferred the ham, which was a little more deep-voiced and assertive in the face of all that white goo. If neither appeals, there is a fine spinach quiche ($3.75 for a not inconsiderable slice) — a kind of open-face spanikopita, with a gorgeous flaky-tender, golden pastry crust.

Although the French aren’t known for their vegetarianism, Pâtisserie Philippe is surprisingly vegetarian-friendly. There is a vegetarian baguette sandwich, but even better is the wide array of salads and side dishes. You could make a nice little lunch out of these alone — perhaps a picnic lunch, if you can find a swatch of grass in the neighborhood other than the little lawn in the middle of the roundabout. (The host building, which seems to be at least a block square, or triangular, fills up what was once the parking lot for the handsome old Baker and Hamilton edifice and its warren of eclectic furniture stores.)

We particularly liked a pair of salads ($3.25 each for half-servings of about a cup) made from shreddings of roots that don’t often attain headliner status: carrot and celery root. We noted in each a texture like that of cappellini cooked al dente, and a firm but gentle embrace of well-mellowed vinaigrette. The potato salad (also $3.25) was good too, though heavily dotted with tabs of ham. And at the end of this road we find the drastically unvegetarian pork rillettes ($4.50), a mash of slow-cooked meat mixed with fat to become a ropy paste you spread on rounds of baguette and enjoy with cornichons, the little pickles. The rillettes were slightly undersalted, I thought, but did not lack for satisfying lipidity.

No consideration of a patisserie would be complete without a discussion of the sweets on hand. Plenty of familiar faces here, from a chocolate éclair ($2.50) — milk-chocolaty-ish — to an elaborately layered, single-serve apple tart ($3.50) — excellent pastry, mediocre apples — to a fine bread pudding ($3.75), laced with large blackberries and pregnant with custard. The one standout we found was a bouchée caramel ($2.50), a disk of brioche with a shortcake-like depression in the middle that was filled with caramel. It was a bit like a crème caramel with brioche instead of custard and no ramekin to have to clean up afterward. Here, it seems to me, was the no-muss-no-fuss wisdom of the sugar cone as applied to pastry: the serving vessel was itself edible, and delectable.

Pâtisserie Philippe’s greatest liability could be its location, in the middle of a dark-faced building a long block long with not much to distinguish the storefronts. I can’t say I mourn the erstwhile parking lot, but the design district, of all districts, seems like an odd place to raise such a boring building. *


Mon.–Fri., 8 a.m.–6 p.m.;
Sat., 8 a.m.–5 p.m.

655 Townsend, SF

(415) 558-8016


No alcohol


Not noisy

Wheelchair accessible

Moderne folk sans borders


Some years after she took the City of Lights by storm, the great African American chanteuse Josephine Baker famously sang, "J’ai deux amours / Mon pays et Paris": "I have two loves / My country and Paris." For the neofolkish, introspective French singer-songwriter Keren Ann, the journey has been the opposite of Baker’s.

After establishing herself with a pair of fine, well-received folk-pop albums in her native France, Keren Ann went bicontinental, establishing a base in New York City, and started recording songs in English. I’m Not Going Anywhere (2003) was her critically acclaimed first English-language effort, for Blue Note’s Metro Blue imprint. That was followed by the superb 2005 English-French hybrid Nolita (named after her New York neighborhood north of Little Italy) and now her latest, a self-titled, all-English CD. Not content with having just deux amours, however, she has truly become a singer without borders. Though mostly recorded at her home studios and in commercial facilities in New York and Paris, the new album includes songs that were cut in Reykjavik and tapped members of the Icelandic Culture House choir; other tracks were laid down in Avignon in Provence, Los Angeles, and Tel Aviv.

In fact, when Keren Ann calls me for an interview in mid-May, she is ensconced in a Tel Aviv recording studio, working on — get this — a Christmas song for a Starbucks compilation. Any perceived irony aside, this fits into her plan of recording wherever and whenever the inspiration strikes her, as was the case throughout the making of Keren Ann.

"I mostly adapted the recording to other things I was doing," she says cheerfully in a lightly accented English that has become even more Americanized in the two years since I last interviewed her. "I didn’t want to schedule recording periods for the album. I’ve done that in the past, and I’m sure I’ll do it in the future, but it was more interesting to be able record wherever I was, whether I was working with a choir on another project or touring or being somewhere on vacation. I always carry tapes and hard drives with me, so I could record and add things.

"On this album, sometimes I wanted to re-create different studio environments I found myself in — like high ceilings in one, wood in another — and twist it around so it sounds homogenic." (I think she means homogenous. Although Keren Ann speaks English well, she does come up with the occasional charming syntactical curiosity — but rarely in her songwriting.)

Raised mostly in Paris by a Russian Israeli father and a Javanese Dutch mother, Keren Ann Zeidel knew from an early age that she wanted to be a singer-songwriter. Influenced by French singers she heard on the radio and on albums, she also gravitated toward confessional writers from across the Atlantic such as Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen. While still a teenager, she started making tapes of her own songs on a four-track recorder. Indeed, she has always had a studio of some sort wherever she lives, and she knows enough about engineering to make elaborate demos at home or add overdubs to tracks recorded in conventional studios. Her two French albums were collaborations with the noted producer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Benjamin Biolay, and some of his innovative production ideas have clearly rubbed off on her.

Her albums are quietly powerful. Though her fragile voice rarely rises above a breathy whisper, her songs can still be quite intense, thanks to her often unusual arrangement ideas: effected guitars that bring to mind New York’s Bill Frisell and others, striking keyboard patches, atmospheric trumpets, elegant violin and cello, and stacks of ethereal backing vocals.

"I naturally have a melancholic side," she says, "and I like to mix that feeling with luminous melodies so there is a balance. It’s the same with the productions: I might want to have a quiet vocal with something more aggressive underneath it to balance it."

Asked about current influences in her music, she offers, "Not really much in the area of pop music. The person whose music has touched me the most, recently, is Phillip Glass. I love the way he gets so much emotion out of repetition and the way he builds his pieces."

She says she feels equally comfortable writing in English and French — "whichever one works best for the emotions I’m feeling at the time" — though she admits her choice is also affected by geography. "Any language is expressive," she adds. "Had I started writing in English, maybe for a challenge I would have needed to go to France at some point and write in French, because I like challenges and I like working with languages — I think they open up different aspects of your way of thinking and your character. I have that need to absorb and be absorbed by different surroundings and then take them into my work." (Blair Jackson)


With Jason Hart

Sat/16, 9 p.m., $15

Great American Music Hall

859 O’Farrell, SF

(415) 885-0750


Like breathing


› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com

CHEAP EATS Oh, I gave up on Internet dating a long time ago. Like: March? Then, on June 1, this:

My response to his personal ad left him breathless, he said, because blah blah blah. (I’m paraphrasing.) But he definitely said "breathless." I know because I peed my pants when I read it. To leave someone breathless … that’s big. That’s every girl’s dream, or, at the very least, every transgender chicken farmer’s dream.

Touched (and wet and uncomfortable and stinky), I scoured my "Sent" folder for the response in question. It was dated March 19.

To leave someone breathless is huge. To leave them breathless for 71 days … that’s downright life threatening. I resisted the urge to write back and say: Breathe!!!! Immediately!!!! Where do you live?! What do you need?! I’ll be right there! Please stay alive!! I love you! Sincerely, Chicken Farmer.

My new strategy is to play it cool. For example, instead of asking guys out, I look at them. Instead of telling them I love them, if they do ask me out, I go, "… OK …" With as many dots as possible, and without even one single exclamation mark.

But they don’t, of course, ask me out. Generally speaking. I swear, ever since I unleashed myself on the straight male world, the marriage rate has risen. The divorce rate has declined. Traditional family values thrive. Statistics show this.

Or at any rate, I have eyes. I mean, I walk down the street, exuding sexuality and chicken shit, and people fucking cling to their partners. Previously blasé dates compose and perform extemporaneous sonnets, hands on hearts, in the middle of the burrito line. Noncommittal rocker boys drop down on stage-dive-scarred knees and propose marriage. Even gays and lesbians want in on it. Polyamory, until very recently all the rage, is out the window.

These two, moments ago, were throwing things through windows, packing bags. Then, out of the corners of half-closed and tearful eyes, they see me down below on the sidewalk, looking blurry but available, and they fall into each other’s arms and make passionate love for the first time in seven years.

Sometimes they don’t even have to see me. They sense me out there somewhere, looking for dates, and reconsider the harsh words on the tips of their tongues, or the crass act.

This is great! Without lifting a finger or so much as my skirt, I have inspired reconsideration, forgiveness, conciliation, peace, love, and, you know, compassion and shit. You think I’m on drugs, or drunk, or crazy, but tally it up and you’ll see: I’ve done more to promote peace and quiet and interpersonal harmony than Jesus and Doctor Phil put together.

Of course, I suppose if you factor in the Crusades, modern-day old-fashioned Christian violence, rapist priests, and, well, Dr. Phil … then everyone else in the world, even Mike Tyson, deserves some sort of peace prize too. So once again I have come crashing and clanging to the bottom of the page without actually saying a goddamn thing.

Except I think what I was driving at, before the train wreck, was that I didn’t e-mail back and profess anything or in any way return this guy’s breathlessness. The institution of marriage and the notion of traditional family values need me right now. I wrote back and said, in effect, "OK."

P.S. Who are you?

Because I didn’t have a clue. And still don’t, since he still hasn’t re-responded. I can wait. I’m patient, realistic, and good at math. On August 9 I give up. In the meantime: slow, deep breaths, and business as usual.

Speaking of which, my new favorite restaurant? Hide-a-Way Cafe. On Telegraph. Nice patio. Real nice patio. Go on a pretty day. East Bay Matt, who is now of course East Coast Matt, damn him, took me there. And I say took, even though I drove, because he paid, bless him.

Matt’s a genuine, PhD’d perfesser now, and that means that, yes, I love to sit for hours in a place with him and talk about sociological … things, and music scenes and communication and pedagogy. But also it means, when he offers to treat, I let him. I not only let him, I order a steak with my eggs.

It was only $8.50, same as an omelet! And it wasn’t a huge slab of meat, but it was good and juicy and tasty. And the taters were great, home fried with peppers and onions and, yeah: new favorite restaurant. *


6430 Telegraph, Oakl.

Tues.–Fri., 7:30 a.m.–3 p.m.; Sat.–Sun., 7:15 a.m.–3 p.m.

Cash only

No alcohol

Wheelchair accessible

Welcome to my pop nightmare


› a&eletters@sfbg.com

Gazing disdainfully from the cover of their album Strange House (Loog), the Horrors greet listeners with the air of Edward Gorey characters on a smoke break. Together, they are a scarily beautiful organism: a slick plastic spider with 10 spindly legs and a penchant for manic, blood-soaked coffin rock. Their shows, in contrast, are short, riotous affairs that revolve around a schizoid brand of gothabilly and the shrieks and antics of lead vocalist Faris Badwan. The Horrors have graced the cover of NME, dumped garbage on industry bigwigs at South by Southwest, and amassed a throng of fans worldwide. They’ve also, of course, sent the pointy-shoe market skyrocketing.

The Horrors were born, appropriately enough, in the bowels of a rotting Victorian hotel, the home of the fashionable Junk Club in Southend-on-Sea in London’s neighboring Essex County, in the summer of 2005. Rhys "Spider" Webb, keyboardist for the Horrors, recalls that the transition from clubgoers to band was not a prolonged one. "We were actually sitting around a table, and it was, like, ‘Let’s go into the studio for rehearsal next week.’ Faris had a couple of cover versions he wanted to work on. We’ve been playing ever since, to be honest."

One of the covers that Badwan had chosen, Screaming Lord Sutch’s "Jack the Ripper," eventually became the Horrors’ debut single. It was paired with an original composition, "Sheena Is a Parasite," a bombastic microtune of a minute and 42 seconds, the tale of an enigmatically vile heroine set to a pulsating bass and a skittering, looped backbeat. The song attracted the attention of one Chris Cunningham, the creative force behind Aphex Twin’s infamous "Come to Daddy" and "Windowlicker" videos, who allegedly found it on MySpace. Cunningham had soured on videos and hadn’t made one in seven years when the Horrors caught his ear and sent him into a storyboarding frenzy. Webb remembers, "He contacted Polydor and said, ‘Who’s doing the video? I’d love to do it.’" The finished product shows Samantha Morton falling victim to her own exploding viscera amid a frenetic doomscape. Apparently not bothered by disemboweled women, MTV banned the video for its use of strobe lights, promptly creating more publicity for the piece — and the Horrors — than it would have otherwise garnered.

As heirs of death rock, the Horrors come across like the naughty grandchildren of the Birthday Party, with Badwan channeling bits of Nick Cave as he screams his ghoulish repertoire, his large frame weaving across the stage. (In fact, Bad Seed Jim Sclavunos appears in the credits for Strange House, having produced their single "Count in Fives.") But while blood pours out of their lyrics and violence peppers their shows, it is the Horrors’ love of music — all music — that grants them a sense of humor and keeps them from buying into their gloomy hype. A club DJ for many years, Webb explains that playfulness further, saying, "The music I like to buy could be Robert Johnson or the Sonics, the Contortions, or DNA." He recalls a group walking into the Horrors’ dressing room and getting a surprise: "I think they expected us to be listening to ’60s garage and punk and rhythm and blues, and they caught us all dancing to drum ‘n’ bass records."

In the song "Draw Japan," Badwan tackles manifest destiny as Bauhaus beats rush past and Webb’s organ hiccups away in counterpoint. "I will draw Japan with a ravenous pen / Hungry for oil and iron and tin," he barks. It’s almost more Christian death than the Cramps, a perfect example of the Horrors’ genre blend ‘n’ bend. The key to that meld is guitarist Joshua Third, a.k.a. Joshua Hayward, possessor of the Horrors’ hugest mane of hair and, coincidentally, a physics degree. Webb describes Third as "a bit of a mad scientist" who spends his free time "locked in his cupboard, building strange components." For a recent issue of the band’s fanzine, Horror Asparagus Stories, Third taught readers how to build their own effects pedal. Webb is already gearing up for the next edition, having created a compilation called "Top Tracks about the Unstable State of Human Minds."

For all their conceptual flourishes, the Horrors have encountered a backlash from people who take exception to their meticulously crafted aesthetic. Webb concedes, "If you see a band like us, it looks like this kind of package," but notes that their look is inspired by friends such as album artist Ciaran O’Shea, who worked with Webb before the Horrors existed. Detractors aside, the tacit test for the Horrors will be their upcoming US tour. Webb recounts being warned before their first transatlantic jaunt that crowds in the States would be anything but enthusiastic. Instead, he was happy that "we’ve never found that anywhere in the world. The music provokes the same kind of reaction wherever we are." *


Tues/19, 9 p.m., $13


330 Ritch, SF

(415) 541-9574


Take another letter


› andrea@altsexcolumn.com

Dear Andrea:

I just saw Secretary yesterday, and then read your column that mentions the same movie and similar sentiment ["Thwang," 5/30/07]. My situation is a bit different because I’ve known how I feel for a while but never seen or experienced it. Also, I’m a stripper and rarely have sex but am extremely sexual. I’ve got a serious lust affair with the eroscillator but think I’ve maybe given up on a love that will be feminist but dominating and aggressive, too. In the movie, Maggie is looking through classifieds for a partner, and that is way too dangerous for me. How do I quiet the arguments between feminism and being truly submissive? Also, having to be seriously up-front about wanting some serious kink might kill the whole deal for me. Do these relationships actually happen in real life? How?


Sub Grrrl

Dear Grrrl:

Right. There was a moment when every other conversation, magazine article, and academic conference was devoted to exploring the conflicts and connections between radical feminism and radical sexuality. It was called "the ’80s." You probably missed it owing to not being born yet, but that stuff is still in print, and whatever isn’t is gathering dust in the sorts of used bookstores heavily populated by overweight cats and should be easy to find. Most of the best-known pro-kink feminists of the time were very, very lesbian (see Gayle Rubin on the academic side and Pat Califia for "literotica"), but that doesn’t mean they didn’t have anything to say to straight women.

Obviously, of all the possible permutations, male dominant–female submissive is likely the most discomfiting to you. But, happily, the flip side of the "this weird sex thing goes against every political, ethical, or religious principle I consider right and true" coin is so often the Big Hot. Go to any upscale S-M party (yes, these really do exist) in San Francisco or Seattle, and at least half the women crawling around their master’s boots begging to be punished ’cause they’ve been very bad are in real life junior partners at onetime all-male law firms, or teach gender theory at small but prestigious liberal arts schools. In other words, they are quite fully "empowered," thanks, which doesn’t keep them from voluntarily surrendering said power come Saturday night, and may in fact add to the appeal. The classic, even clichéd, old-style S-M enthusiast, after all, is a member of Parliament who reports like clockwork to the bawdy house every Thursday afternoon for a brisk caning …

Um, yes. Where were we? I’m not sure where you, who perform naked for sexually aroused strangers for a living, got the idea that playing the personals is particularly dangerous. Perhaps from the same episodes of Law and Order in which a few pieces of S-M gear stashed under a suspect’s bed signal that a severed head in a shoe box cannot be far off? I would never suggest that you meet someone for coffee and immediately go home with him to check out his cool dungeon. Far from it. But the meeting-for-coffee part is perfectly safe. After that, you proceed as normal, which includes sharing your interests and aspirations … which is the next place we’re going to have some trouble, I see.

If being up-front about your weirditude is a potential deal-breaker for you, then I suspect you are a spontaneity freak. They are common, but many or most can have the need to proceed by whim or fancy beaten out of them by a stern application of reality. Spontaneity is fun and sexy, but it’s also responsible for most of your unwanted pregnancies, a vast number of STD transmissions, and who-all knows what other havoc. It’s also inconsistent with S-M at any level more technically advanced than the (admittedly often completely satisfactory) bend-over-and-spank variety. If you do go ahead with this, and you do find someone worthy of your submission, you are going to have to talk about it, whether you want to or not. Not only is it unsafe to do S-M with people you know nothing about, it isn’t even fun. What if you want to wear a neat little skirt and heels while bending prettily over nearby furniture, while he wants you to be a bad puppy and sleep in a kennel in the kitchen? What if your idea of submission is saying, "Yes, sir," a lot, while his idea of domination includes branding irons and cattle prods? Can you see how this could get ugly?

In romantic fantasy, the heroine meets the rough but passionate and shirtless master of the manor when she fetches up at his door as a penniless et cetera. In real life, I’m sorry to tell you, she meets him online or at an S-M "munch" or through kinky friends or at a party. And then they talk. I’m sure you’d rather toss your hair tempestuously while a dark and stormy stranger bends you over his knee and yanks down your pantaloons, but you’ll get over it.



Andrea is home with the kids and going stir-crazy. Write her a letter! Ask her a question! Send her your tedious e-mail forwards! On second thought, don’t do that. Just ask her a question.

Speed thrills


› a&eletters@sfbg.com

Whither beauty? Withered on the prickly postmodern vine. Sour grapes, you say? Just look around: A chemical haze obscures formerly fragrant, now fallow fields of flowers across which long-legged lovelies strolled arm in arm under pin-striped parasols; poisonous waste washes up on the shores of previously pristine beaches where carefree bathers whiled away their weekends; and corporate conglomerates co-opt every available surface of soccer field and skating rink, once the open-air arenas of athletes for whom sport was merely child’s play dressed up in soft cotton jerseys and sensible shoes. Autumn afternoons no longer linger for a sun-dappled eternity, elegance is a disease of conceit, and Fred Astaire is long gone. With a tip of the woefully unfashionable top hat to Simone Signoret, nostalgia isn’t what it used to be.

But what good is sitting alone in your room? Slink over to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and spend many a restorative hour among the unknown pleasures of "Martin Munkácsi: Think While You Shoot!," a joyous retrospective that traces the rise and fall of beauty as a panacea, placebo, moral absolute, and vicious myth. The myriad surprises here refute rumors of beauty’s untimely demise, or at least temporarily revive those long-lost days of languorous lounging when everyone was gorgeous and speed meant velocity. Munkácsi’s photographs depict a world — not quite ours, but layered with remnants and reminders of what was and what again could be, when everything’s gone green — ceaselessly in motion. Neither the artist nor his subjects ever slowed down, hence the simultaneity demanded by the exhibition title. (For a guide on how best to experience the show on the first of the many visits it merits, check out the trio of would-be crooks racing through the Louvre in Jean-Luc Godard’s Band of Outsiders.)

Born in Hungary in 1896 and restlessly embarking on peripatetic journeys around the world, camera in tow, until his 1963 passing, Munkácsi was a modernist master of photography whose remarkable yet often overlooked achievements encompassed the prewar innocence of Budapest and the privileged leisure of Weimar-era Berlin. He shot mining disasters in Alsdorf and the landing of the Graf Zeppelin in Brazil, the pastoral villages of the Lengua tribe and the fabulous glamour of old Hollywood. He was everywhere and always in good company, swimming with the in-too-deep denizens of Copacabana, hobnobbing with the Hearsts at San Simeon, and marching with military troops in Liberia.

Beauty — in form and function, as hallowed intention and blessed happenstance — suited Munkácsi’s joie de vivre. His exuberant images of motorcyclists careening through the countryside, operetta starlets kicking up their heels, naked boys running into the surf at Lake Tanganyika, and Louis Armstrong letting loose with an endless smile seem the very essence of life lived fully, without worry, and with a keen appreciation for surface perfection and the complex mélange of conviviality and yearning beneath. An unapologetic aesthete, Munkácsi — Jewish and in the wrong place at the wrong time — might even have been temporarily blinded by beauty to the ugly truths that eventually sent him packing for the States. How else to explain the eerily graceful compositions of army ranks lined up like statues at the opening of the Reichstag in Potsdam, the portraits of Adolf Hitler and Joseph Goebbels tainted with a veneer of Nazi chic, or the startling shots of Triumph of the Will director Leni Riefenstahl expertly traversing tricky ski slopes? These images work as reportage, of course, but crafted with Munkácsi’s customary élan, they are nearly too revealing — and pleasing — for comfort.

Munkácsi’s wanderlust, zest, and brilliant eye — his gift for homing in on kinetic narratives and telling details greatly influenced Henri Cartier-Bresson’s crucial notion of the "decisive moment" in photography — led him to document the oddly parallel ascendancy of fascism and fashion as era-defining movements that shaped the intertwined fates of Europe and America and motivated his own travels to far-flung locales. Whether studying the drape of a Halston headdress on a beachcombing model, observing Fritz Lang at work in his Berlin apartment, or conveying the gory excitement of a bullfight simply by training his camera on the spectators’ wildly expressive faces, Munkácsi applied his groundbreaking aesthetics to epochal scenes of 20th-century life. He shot while he thought, and beauty lies bleeding. *


Through Sept. 16

Mon.–Tues. and Fri.–Sun., 11 a.m.–5:45 p.m.; Thurs., 10 a.m.–8:45 p.m.; $7–$12.50 (free first Tues.)

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

151 Third St., SF

(415) 357-4000


Calling in the feds


› news@sfbg.com

An upscale Emeryville hotel embroiled in a nasty, yearlong labor dispute appears to have called on the owner’s conservative political connections to bring about an immigration audit of the hotel. Worker advocates say the move was an effort to intimidate immigrant workers involved in a campaign to enforce a living-wage law.

Kurt Bardella, a spokesperson for US Rep. Brian Bilbray (R–San Diego), told the Guardian that a representative of the Emeryville Woodfin Suites contacted Bilbray’s office for assistance Feb. 1.

The request came within weeks of Alameda County Superior Court and Emeryville City Council rulings requiring the Woodfin to rehire the 21 workers it fired just before Christmas, allegedly due to worker Social Security numbers not matching federal records. That injunction was in effect pending an investigation of workers’ claims that the hotel had retaliated against them for organizing to enforce Measure C, a living-wage law passed by Emeryville voters in 2005.

"We were contacted by one of the HR people at the Woodfin Suites," Bardella told us. "They told us about the situation" and explained that they "had no mechanism" to deal with it, he said.

Bilbray, who chairs the House Immigration Reform Caucus and is one of the most vocal opponents of the recent immigration bill, wrote directly to the head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in February to request that it investigate the immigration status of Emeryville Woodfin Suites employees in order to "to create a mechanism for the employer to address this issue."

Bilbray represents the suburban San Diego district in which Woodfin Suites president Samuel Hardage lives. "We treated this as a constituent issue," Bardella told us.

Hardage is not only a constituent; he has consistently contributed to Bilbray’s campaigns for at least the past 13 years, donating $4,200 in 2006. A George W. Bush Pioneer, having raised $100,000 for the 2004 election, Hardage is also a major player in California and San Diego Republican politics.

Workers say the ICE audit was an intimidation tactic that should not have been used against them while they were trying to assert their rights, and ICE’s internal policies raise questions about whether the agency should have gotten involved in this labor dispute.

For months the Woodfin Suites has tried to justify firing workers who organized for better labor conditions by alluding to fears of reprisal by ICE. In a May 8 San Francisco Chronicle op-ed, General Manager Hugh MacIntosh castigated the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (EBASE), a labor-affiliated think tank that supports the hotel’s workers, for "resorting to well-worn intimidation schemes to secure workers’ support for their organization drives."

The "fact that our hotel has been asked by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to provide employment records, coupled with the agency’s raids in the Bay Area, suggests that our actions are anything but voluntary," he wrote.

The Bilbray connection significantly undermines this claim and could be significant in a pending state lawsuit by the workers. It is against the law for an employer to fire workers for organizing for better working conditions, regardless of immigration status. Under current immigration laws, however, it is also common.

"Employers often contact immigration authorities … in order to avoid liability," Monica Guizar, an attorney with the National Immigration Law Center, told us. "It is a well-known and documented tactic that employers use to stymie union organizing campaigns [and] escape liability for vioutf8g workers’ rights."

In recognition of this abuse, memorandums from the Department of Labor and internal ICE regulations have been established to dissuade worksite interventions when a labor dispute is occurring. Advocates have successfully invoked these guidelines to terminate deportation proceedings and prevent raids in the past, but immigrant workers are still incredibly vulnerable.

ICE Special Agent’s Field Manual section 33.14(h) requires that agents use restraint where a labor dispute is in progress and the complaint about employees’ immigration status "is being provided to interfere with the rights of employees to … be paid minimum wages and overtime; to have safe work places … or to retaliate against employees for seeking to vindicate those rights."

Additionally, a 1998 memorandum of understanding between the Department of Labor and ICE (then known as the INS) directs immigration agents to "avoid inappropriate worksite interventions where it is known or reasonably suspected that a labor dispute is occurring and the intervention may, or may be sought so as to, interfere in the dispute."

Guizar confirmed that these regulations are still in place under ICE. Monica Virginia Kites, a spokesperson for ICE, declined to comment on these internal regulations.

At a noisy Saturday-morning picket in front of the Emeryville Woodfin Suites, Luz, a 42-year-old from Mexico City, told the Guardian that managers never questioned her immigration status during the three years she was a housekeeper at the hotel — until she started working with EBASE to enforce Measure C.

One day, Luz told us, her manager rushed her and other workers into the hotel’s attic, because "ICE was driving around outside and could come." According to Luz, the manager told them that "this could be a result of us supporting Measure C or working with EBASE."

The measure mandates a $9 per hour minimum wage for hotel workers and requires overtime pay for employees who clean more than 5,000 square feet of floor space during a shift. The Woodfin contributed $27,500 to an anti–Measure C campaign committee, filed two unsuccessful lawsuits that challenged its constitutionality, and then simply failed to comply with the law.

"They said we weren’t entitled to rights because we were immigrants," Luz recalled. "They started to say that our Social Security numbers didn’t match and that we would have to leave. This problem never came up until we asked for our rights."

In September 2006, Woodfin workers filed a class-action lawsuit seeking back pay. The Woodfin finally agreed to come into compliance with Measure C the following month, but it also told almost 30 workers that it had found problems with their Social Security numbers. On Dec. 15, the Woodfin suspended 21 workers and gave them two weeks’ notice that they were to be fired.

On the extensive Web site the Woodfin has devoted to the dispute, the hotel claims it was "forced to move to terminate their [workers’] employment" after receiving Social Security Administration "no-match" letters for them. "Today," it claims, "failure to act appropriately on a no-match letter may be considered evidence of an employer’s conscious disregard for the law."

This is false, according to Social Security Administration spokesperson Lowell Kepke. It is in fact "illegal for a company to fire an employee based solely on a no-match letter," he told us.

Because it has been so often abused, the letter itself states that employers "should not use this letter to take any adverse action against an employee…. Doing so could, in fact, violate State or Federal law and subject you to legal consequences."

An emergency ordinance returned workers to the Woodfin while the city investigated their retaliation claims, but on April 27 the hotel defied the ordinance by firing 12 immigrant workers, again citing problems with Social Security numbers.

The city issued a notice of violation; even probusiness city council member Dick Kassis, who opposed Measure C, called the Woodfin’s behavior "morally reprehensible" at a May 1 council meeting. On May 3 police arrested 38 people at a civil disobedience protest supporting the workers in front of the hotel, including Assemblyperson Loni Hancock and Berkeley city council member Kriss Worthington.

The almost maddeningly soft-spoken and reasoned Emeryville city council member John Fricke, who in February was the target of an unsuccessful restraining order filed by the hotel over his alleged "threatening" behavior, posed the following conundrum to us: why would a successful business continue to pursue litigation that is not cost-effective?

"I’m assuming their success is based on their business acumen," he said. Yet as a lawyer, he estimates that attorney fees are well above $100,000, on top of another $100,000 in fees borne by the city and at least that much in worker back pay. "You would think the wise business decision would be to cut one’s losses," he said.

One possible answer: EBASE organizer Brooke Anderson said this is actually an "ideological battle."

The Woodfin’s Hardage has spent more than $230,000 since 2000 to fund conservative politicians and ballot measures, including political committees that have taken antiunion and antitax positions on state and local ballot propositions, according to EBASE. He chaired the San Diego County Republican Party from 1995 to 1997 and has served as a fundraiser in several Republican campaigns.

Hardage cofounded the Project for California’s Future in 2001, which the Heritage Foundation describes as "a multi-year, multi-million dollar project" to prepare Republican candidates for California office and "represents a first-ever program to rebuild the conservative bench from the water board level on up."

The project’s cofounder is Ron Nehring, the passionately antilabor vice chairman of the California Republican Party and senior consultant to Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform. Nehring was also once director of government affairs for the Woodfin Suites.

A 2005 report by the Center on Policy Initiatives, a progressive think tank, names Nehring, Hardage, and Norquist among those who have helped the Republicans target San Diego as a model for their plan to radically cut government funding, permanently weaken labor unions, and privatize public services.

The ideological battle manifested itself at the Saturday-morning picket, which pitted roughly 15 College Republicans from Bay Area schools against 25 laid-off workers and supporters, each group with a bullhorn, separated by barricades and cops.

The Woodfin provided free rooms for the student counterdemonstrators, Ryan Clumpner, a UC Davis senior and chair of the California College Republicans, told us. Surrounded by signs such as "Quit ‘Stalin’: Get Back to Work," and "Respect the Law," Clumpner said he was "here supporting the Woodfin, which is being unfairly targeted by unions."

"I’ve actually done housecleaning," he said. Between semesters one summer, he said, he made $7 an hour cleaning rooms at UC Davis; immigrants supporting families in the Bay Area should also be content with this wage, he said. "If they want to make more, they can move up to supervisor positions," he said. "They’re here for a reason. This country is offering economic opportunities. The economic benefit is the reason they’re here, not the problem."

On the other side of the barricades, Luz said, "My idea is that you have to work hard and give a lot to the company so that they give something back to you in return. We gave them the best service, so they should give us reasonable salaries."

Retaliatory actions against immigrants organizing to improve their work situations have increased across the country in the past few years, just as high-profile raids have resulted in the detentions, arrests, and removals from the United States of thousands of immigrant workers.

The Woodfin is "an example of the need for just and fair immigration reform, coupling the legalization of undocumented workers in this country with strong labor- and employment-law enforcement," Guizar told us.

City Manager Pat O’Keefe told us that in the coming few weeks the city will be announcing a decision about its investigation into worker complaints and the Woodfin’s operating permit. *

Considering chloramine


› news@sfbg.com

For three years, dozens of Bay Area residents have alleged the water disinfectant used in San Francisco and other cities causes a variety of symptoms ranging from asthma to fainting to rashes. The San Francisco Department of Public Health has spent more than $100,000 to study the chemical, chloramine, but it has not done a full scientific study that might prove or disprove a connection between the chemical and the reported symptoms.

Responding to the lack of scientific studies on the dermatological and respiratory effects of the chloramine, Assemblymember Ira Ruskin (D–Redwood City) introduced legislation to further study the chemical, but the measure was held up in the Appropriations Committee as the June 8 deadline for advancing it passed, frustrating those who hoped to finally get some answers.

Chloramine replaced chlorine in San Francisco’s water system in February 2004 after the Environmental Protection Agency tightened regulations against trihalomethanes and haloacetic acids, chlorine by-products that may be carcinogenic. Chloramine, which doesn’t produce high levels of these by-products, is the only other distribution-system disinfectant with EPA approval. It has been in use since 1917, and 29 percent of water utilities in the United States now use it. The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission was the last major Bay Area water utility to adopt it, placing it in the water that also supplies nearby cities.

Soon after the switch, though, people began to report problems. Denise Johnson-Kula of Menlo Park said she fainted while taking a shower two days after the chemical was introduced.

"My sinuses filled up; my nose was running like a faucet… I coughed and wheezed until I could not breathe and slid down the shower," she told the Guardian. "I heard the doorbell like I was dreaming; I didn’t realize I was sitting on the bathroom floor."

After throwing out all her soap and shampoo and still having allergic reactions while bathing, she avoided the shower altogether. She still washed the dishes, though, and noticed she got rashes where the water touched her. Once she took herself completely off the water, Johnson-Kula’s symptoms went away.

She now avoids the city water altogether, spending $200 a month on bottled water and traveling more than an hour to take a shower on weekends. She started a group called Citizens Concerned About Chloramine, which claims more than 400 members and has led to the creation of similar groups in Vermont, New York, and Maine.

Other stories play out similarly. Jo Yang, 24, of Los Altos, for example, developed debilitating rashes across his body and face while drinking chloraminated water in San Diego in college. When he came home in 2005 to Los Altos, which was then using chloramine, his rashes didn’t clear up until he avoided the water. Marylin Raubitschek, 81, of San Mateo, says she is "very healthy," but days after chloramine was introduced, she got welts and scabs across her body. Once off the water, she said, her symptoms cleared up. Raubitschek is currently moving to a district that does not use chloraminated water.

In response to these allegations, the SFDPH spent six months from late 2004 to early 2005 studying the chemical. Although the SFDPH reviewed the available medical literature, the existence of complaints in other utility districts, and the chemistry of chloramine, it did not undertake a correlative study between the symptoms and the chemical. Such a study, it estimates, would require a sample of more than 142,000 people.

However, June Weintraub, a senior epidemiologist at the SFDPH, says the public health community would back a study if there were reason to believe the chemical might cause problems in some people. Part of the decision not to pursue further studies was based on an informal investigation into the dermatitis symptoms. Individuals were invited to call in to report symptoms and answer questions.

But Johnson-Kula says few knew about the investigation. Even as president of the CCAC, she did not know about it until there was a month left. She said that when people finally called in, "they were told the survey was over."

Seventeen people took the survey in the end. The results were published in a peer-reviewed journal and concluded that the symptoms were too heterogeneous to warrant further study. But Weintraub noted, "It is possible that people might experience different symptoms from the same irritant."

One SFPUC report adds that there was no change in the number of water-illness complaints between 2002 and 2006. The only change experienced was a decrease in dirty-water complaints.

"Given the evidence that we have available now, it absolutely points that there is not a public health concern," said Weintraub, who notes that 12 percent of people have dermatitis, which could explain the symptoms.

But how does that square with the city’s precautionary principle, which demands it err on the side of caution about the use of chemicals, even if that is not immediately cost-effective?

"There is less research on chloramine than on chlorine, [so] I don’t blame the SFPUC for moving over to chloramine," said Jennifer Clary, a water policy analyst at Clean Water Action. "[It’s] avoiding the devil you know for the one you don’t."

The precautionary principle may guide us to use chloramine, but it also demands we invest the resources to understand its potential effects. The recently defeated bill would have directed the UC Center for Water Resources to do a $140,000 study of the disinfectants used by the SFPUC and their by-products.

The director of the UC Center for Water Resources, Andrew Chang, told us, "If this study is not done, there is not much lost from a scientific point of view…. As far as we’re concerned, chloramine at the kind of level [one to two parts per million] is safe."

Marc Edwards disagrees. A professor at Virginia Tech, Edwards discovered that the switch to chloramine in Washington, DC, caused lead to be leached into drinking water.

"As a general rule … you ignore homeowner complaints at your own peril," he says. "More often than not, there is something to those complaints."

Edwards points to a recent case in Maui. Citizens were reporting rashes and breathing difficulties after chloramine was added to the water. He says authorities considered their stories "half-baked," but eventually the symptoms were linked to Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a bacterium whose presence was triggered by the addition of phosphates to the chloraminated water.

"Someone could and should be looking into this in a systematic and scientific way," Edwards said.*

A food bill for San Francisco


OPINION You may not have heard about it, but Congress is busy deciding the fate of America’s food supply: what’s grown, how it’s produced and by whom, and how that food will affect our health and the planet. The roughly $90 billion Farm Bill, covering everything from urban nutrition and food stamp programs to soil conservation and agribusiness subsidies, will dictate much about what we eat and at what price, both at the checkout line and in long-term societal costs.

Despite valiant progressive efforts that may bring some change, the big picture is not pretty: increasingly centralized power over food, abetted by lax antitrust policies and farm subsidies that provide the meat industry and food-processing corporations with cheap raw ingredients; huge subsidies for corn and soy, most of which ends up as auto fuel, livestock feed, and additives for junk food, fattening America’s waistlines; and, despite organic food’s popularity, a farming system still reliant on toxic pesticides (500,000 tons per year), which pollute our waterways and bloodstreams while gobbling up millions of gallons of fossil fuel.

Closer to home, residents in poor urban areas like Bayview–Hunters Point are utterly deprived of fresh, nutritious food. These so-called food deserts — whose only gastronomic oases are fast-food joints and liquor marts — feature entire zip codes devoid of fresh produce. Government studies show this de facto food segregation leads to serious nutritional deficits — such as soaring obesity and diabetes rates — among poor people.

What’s to be done? Congress needs to hear Americans — urban and rural alike — who are demanding serious change, and shift our tax dollars ($20 billion to $25 billion a year in farm subsidies) toward organic, locally oriented, nutritious food that sustains farming communities and consumer health.

Locally, with leadership from the supervisors, a progressive San Francisco food bill could be a model for making America’s food future truly healthful, socially just, and sustainable — and encourage other cities to buck the corporate food trend. Such a measure could include:

Organic and local-first food-purchasing policies requiring (or at least encouraging) all city agencies, local schools, and other public institutions, such as county jails and hospitals, to buy from local organic farms whenever possible.

Incentives — backed by education, expanding markets, and consumption of local organic foods — to encourage nonorganic Bay Area farmers to transition to sustainable agriculture, while subsidizing affordable prices for consumers.

Healthy-food-zone programs with targeted enterprise grants encouraging small businesses and farmers markets to expand access to healthy foods in poor neighborhoods identified as deserts.

A city-sponsored education campaign discouraging obesity-inducing fast food and promoting farmers markets and other healthful alternatives.

Zoning and other incentives for urban and suburban farming.

Ultimately, the city needs a food policy council — including farmers, public health experts, antihunger activists, environmentalists, and others — coordinating these efforts. The city needs a progressive food bill, merging the interests of urban consumers, Bay Area farmers, and environmental sustainability, for a policy-driven alternative to our destructive industrial food system. *

Christopher D. Cook

Christopher D. Cook is a former Guardian city editor and the author of Diet for a Dead Planet: Big Business and the Coming Food Crisis (www.dietforadeadplanet.com).

Red with blue


Hit it or quit it: short takes on films at Frameline 31

For Christ’s sake: LGBT folk vs. Christians

Club sprockets: nightlife hits the screen at Frameline

Night of 1,000 sexploits: a Q&A with lezsploitation maven Michelle Johnson

From the ashes: Lizzie Borden’s radical Born in Flames is reborn

One-on-one-on-one: add it up for the sensual appeal of Glue

› johnny@sfbg.com

In its characteristically brisk and rich opening passages, André Téchiné’s The Witnesses (Les Témoines) will have you seeing red. Lively, fiery, appetizing, yet ominous reds bleed or burn from the credits and from background spaces within the film’s alternately urban and waterside mise-en-scènes. Téchiné’s cunning and unsettling use of the color could be a subtle nod to the Eastmancolor era of his Cahiers du Cinema forefather Jean-Luc Godard. It’s certainly a foreboding hint of what’s to come in the film. Creatively speaking, it’s also a sign of a renewed creative vigor — marks of a master.

Choosing Téchiné’s intimate Paris-set look at love under siege at the beginning of the AIDS crisis as its opening-night film, the Frameline fest, now in its 31st year, acknowledges its maturity. While LGBT identity might be thriving in the marketplace, The Witnesses does the hard work of looking back. Did gay culture almost die in the ’80s? If so, that era’s talented survivors — such as Téchiné, a Roland Barthes acolyte casually mentioned by Barthes in diary entries leading up to the years in which Witnesses is set — are guides. As his job description attests, Téchiné is a director, using a lively eye to uncover a past era’s soul and intelligence so that it might be regained. *

THE WITNESSES (Andre Téchiné, France, 2007). Thurs/14, 7 p.m., Castro ($75–$90 with opening gala)

The 31st San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival, Frameline 31, runs June 14–24 at the Castro Theatre, 429 Castro, SF; Parkway Theater, 1834 Park Blvd., Oakl.; Roxie Film Center, 3117 16th St., SF; and Victoria Theatre, 2961 Capp, SF. Tickets (most films $8–$10) are available at www.frameline.org

Club sprockets


This year’s Frameline is bursting with documentaries about legendary nightlife personalities. Call it the Party Monster effect. Following the release of two films about the tragedy of Michael Alig’s breakneck rise and murderous fall, filmmakers have become more attuned to the significance of clubs in gay life — or else they’ve realized that featuring outrageous club kids in their movies is a shortcut to notoriety.

Only available via online clips, the blaxploitation homage Starrbooty features an over-the-top RuPaul as a supermodel-spy who must go undercover as a New York City street hooker to rescue her kidnapped niece from an evil arch-nemesis. Pavlovian scenester stimuli Lady Bunny, Lahoma van Zandt, and Candis Cayne are on hand to spice up the (admittedly, a tad tired) proceedings. A cameo by heavily accented porn god Michael Lucas is priceless for its awkwardness.

From the other side of the country, and the comedy spectrum, comes Alexis Arquette: She’s My Brother, which documents the transgender transformation of Los Angeles scene star (and actor!) Alexis Arquette. We follow Alexis exhaustively — as she shops, clubs, and dishes on her future vagina — until she throws a bitch fit at the end about the intrusiveness of the cinematic project (how postmodern). La-la Land drag luminaries Jackie Beat and Candy Ass (what, no Chi Chi Larue?) offer comments throughout.

The Godfather of Disco purports to tell the story of Mel Cheren, the storied gay West End Records founder who presided over such dance music innovations as the 12-inch single, the instrumental B-side, and the DJ dance mix and the release of groundbreaking disco nuggets like "Sesso Matto" and "Is It All Over My Face." Three decades’ worth of superstar DJs and club promoters enthuse over their favorite West End releases of yore, but director Gene Graham gives us only snatches of the songs and little information about the commentators. Still, those in the know will find it hard to resist glimpses of old Paradise Garage flyers and photos and quick chats with nightlife doyens like Johnny Dynell of Jackie 60, DJs Louie Vega and Nicky Sano, and producer John "Jellybean" Benitez. Plus, there’s a galloping stream of zingers delivered by the Village People’s cowboy, Randy Jones.

Dynell also pays tribute to one of NYC’s hottest clubs of the past decade in Motherfucker: A Movie, which follows six months in the lives of Motherfucker’s four touchingly self-important promoters. Director David Casey works hard to import something other than sublebrity worship into his pic, giving us some beautiful camerawork, lessons about the inner workings of club promotion and operation, and a wealth of cameos by partiers both weathered and nubile, from Sylvain Sylvain and Bob Gruen to Willie Ninja and Moby to the Juan Maclean and Peppermint Gummybear.

It’s all cool, but also a little pointless — a slew of tipsy polysexual hopefuls grinding to the latest slick club music, hardly an ounce of genuine artistic inspiration or dangerous cultural exploration in sight. (To his credit, Casey allows some of the older commentators to make this point explicitly.) "We’re all just doing our thing, waiting for the next revolution," one of the participants says. Hmm. (Marke B.)

ALEXIS ARQUETTE: SHE’S MY BROTHER (Matthew Barbato and Nikki Parrott, US, 2007). Fri/15, 7 p.m., Victoria

THE GODFATHER OF DISCO (Gene Graham, US, 2007). Sat/16, 3:30 p.m., Victoria; Tues/19, 4:30 p.m., Castro

MOTHERFUCKER: A MOVIE (David Casey, US, 2007). Tues/19, 7 p.m., Victoria

STARRBOOTY (Mike Ruiz, US, 2007). June 23, 8:30 p.m., Castro

Web Site of the Week



Just what the heck is Community Choice Aggregation? The short answer is: public power light. For a longer answer, check out this Web site to learn more about the city’s latest renewable energy policy proposal.

Night of 1,000 sexploits


› a&eletters@sfbg.com

Sexually repressed nuns, naughty prisoners, lustful wardens, and love-thirsty vampires are the celebrated heroines of Triple X Selects: The Best of Lezsploitation, Michelle Johnson’s effort to reappropriate 1960s and 1970s sexploitation flicks. Intrigued by these films’ soundtracks, the Los Angeles DJ, musician, and cult-film enthusiast hunted for the genre’s most precious gems and compiled them into a 47-minute metafilm. We exchanged e-mails about this unconventional history lesson, which Johnson will be presenting in person at the Victoria Theatre on June 16.

SFBG When were you introduced to sexploitation films, and what attracted you to them?

MICHELLE JOHNSON I think my first introduction to sexploitation films began when I was about 9 or 10 years old! I used to stay up late and watch cable television. My earliest memory of a sexploitation film that struck me was [1974’s] Emmanuelle, starring Sylvia Kristel. I remember it was very sexy, though I had no concept of what sexy was! I knew I shouldn’t be watching it and that it was for adults; it seemed forbidden but terribly exciting. I would also see adverts in the local paper for strange films showing downtown, which in my small Texas city meant the dirty, sleazy part of town. I so wanted to go to these films.

SFBG Why did you decide to make Triple X Selects, and how did you select your clips?

MJ I was approached by two friends who were curating Homo a Go Go [a queer music, art, film, and spoken word festival] in Olympia, Wash., last year. They knew I had a large amount of cult erotic films and many of them had crazy lesbian scenes. They asked if I would consider editing together a film montage from the genre — the crazier and the sexier, the better.

I tried to select film clips the average lesbian might have never seen. Something vastly more sexy than is in your average lesbian film. I really wanted people to laugh as well.

I heard a comment from someone who couldn’t understand how you can reclaim films that were made by men for men and present them as queer. To me, what is sexy and what is erotic is in the eye of the beholder. [These films] certainly functioned as fantasy for me way back when I first discovered Emmanuelle. As a kid growing up in a small town, I had no notion of what was queer or lesbian, but these films transported me to a really exciting fantasy world. Sure, it was a trashy, sleazy, over-the-top world populated by powerful, sexed-up women. But really, what’s wrong with that?


How is that gratitude?


› amanda@sfbg.com

GREEN CITY Doing the right thing often costs a little more. Organic food, solar panels, and compact fluorescent lightbulbs are all pricier than conventional options. But Café Gratitude is now adding legal fees to the cost of going green for terminating a linen service contract in order to use unbleached cotton napkins in its four restaurants.

It’s hard to imagine how a restaurant could be any more humane, sustainable, and environmentally conscious. Café Gratitude’s raison d’être is encouraging deeper human relationships with one another and the world while serving strictly raw, vegan food. Wheatgrass grows on its counters, and if it’s not organic, it’s not on the menu.

Terces and Matthew Engelhart opened the first restaurant in the Mission District in 2004 and have since spread to the Sunset, Berkeley, and San Rafael, with a Los Angeles location on the way. Each spot has compact fluorescent lightbulbs, toilets that flush with a low-flow gush, high-output hand dryers, and cornstarch to-go containers.

In order to eliminate plastic from their entire supply chain, the Engelharts have leaned on their bulk-food carriers to use fusti containers (large, stainless-steel casks provided by the café) instead of those ubiquitous, unrecyclable five-gallon buckets when shipping their raw goods. A recent raw food recipe book by Terces was printed on 100 percent recycled paper at her insistence. The cafés frequently host fundraisers for local nonprofits. Of course they compost, recycle, and buy local. The delivery van putters along on biodiesel.

Yet in the process of seeking to further green their business, the issue of bleached napkins came up. The Engelharts have always used cloth napkins rather than paper. Once washing napkins themselves became infeasible for their growing business, they contracted for clean cotton napkins from Mission Linen Supply. From the start, they asked the company for an unbleached alternative, but none was available.

Anyone with a bottle of Clorox can read the warning label cautioning against allowing its contents anywhere near your skin, mouth, or eyes. The use of chlorine bleach in laundry produces chloroform, a human carcinogen, and additional industrial uses create another 177 organochlorine byproducts, including dioxin, the stuff found in pesticides like DDT and Agent Orange. No level of exposure to dioxin is considered safe, but it has pervaded the environment so deeply that it typically turns up in breast milk and semen, drinking water, and the fatty tissue of the fish we eat. Dioxin can lead to hormone imbalances, reproductive disorders, kidney and liver diseases, and cancer of all kinds.

So the Engelharts decided to switch from Mission Linen to another nationally known company, Aramark, which offers unbleached cotton cloth rags, often used in the auto industry. The rags, which are a creamy beige color and look like they could have come off a shelf at Crate and Barrel, would have a first run at Café Gratitude, then be recycled for their next job, wiping oil dipsticks. "We thought this was a great green solution," Terces said.

But now Café Gratitude is being sued for $25,000 by Mission Linen for breach of contract.

Before terminating their contract with Mission Linen, the Engelharts continued to press the company for a green solution, but no dice. They decided to keep the bleached supply coming to the Harrison Street location, but as new cafés opened, they’d use Aramark’s unbleached alternative, which is the same price.

After repeatedly requesting a greener laundry service from Mission Linen, they reviewed their contract and determined it could be terminated if Mission Linen couldn’t provide a product or service of the quality found at a similar laundry in the area. Mission Linen did not return calls for comment, but according to the Engelharts’ lawyer, Fania Davis, the linen company interprets that language more narrowly and is suing for the estimated lost profit. The Engelharts offered a settlement, and the company turned them down, so the fight continues, but the Engelharts still think it’s unfair.

"We were more committed to green than to continuing to bleach in ever-increasing numbers," Terces said.

Matthew added that the point isn’t to cast Mission Linen in a bad light but to bring attention to an important need in the restaurant community for more environmentally friendly laundry options.

"We’re not doing this for us," Matthew said. "It’s for everyone, our children and grandchildren." *

Comments, ideas, and submissions for Green City, the Guardian‘s weekly environmental column, can be sent to news@sfbg.com.

For Christ’s sake


The cultural divide between a supposed gay agenda and faith-based biases is well represented in several features within Frameline’s expansive 2007 program. Its representations run a wide gamut — just as the terms gay and Christian have come to encompass wildly disparate US communities.

On Frameline’s nonfiction side, Markie Hancock’s Born Again deftly mixes home movies, archival news footage, and more to chart the director’s long, often agonized journey away from being the perfect overachieving and overbelieving product of her Pennsylvanian parents’ staunch evangelical faith. At a Christian college and then in wide-open Berlin, Hancock began to question the conservative beliefs that had — along with her family’s approval — constituted her formative-years identity.

The devout Hancock clan members are models of tolerance compared to the subject of K. Ryan Jones’s Fall from Grace. That individual is none other than Rev. Fred Phelps, the leader of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., a man long notorious for his congregation–cum–extended family’s outrageous displays of public homophobia. Most recently, Phelps and his followers found infamy by picketing the funerals of US soldiers killed in Iraq, a phenomenon they approve of — the notion being that these American military deaths are somehow God’s vengeance for the pipe bomb that student pranksters planted at Westboro Baptist a decade ago.

Yup, these people are cray-ay-ay-azy! Also scary. Two among Phelps’s several estranged children say he used the Bible to justify domestic violence. Unlike most hatemongers, Phelps’s small but fervent clan actually embrace the word hate. Their notion of Christianity is all hellfire and zero forgiveness or compassion. They are pseudo-Christian Antichrists.

A gentler treatment of Bible-based intolerance can be found in Rock Haven, the first directorial feature of San Francisco’s David Lewis. Its titular fictive Northern California burg (played by Bodega Bay) is where Bible college–bound Brady (Sean Hoagland) moves from Kansas with his widowed mother (Laura Jane Coles), who’s opening a Christian school. The moment Brady spies slightly older Clifford (Owen Alabado) striking Grecian postures on the beach, however, unclean thoughts — then nekkid actions — put him on a collision course with his mom’s values.

Deeper yet less serious in tone, writer-director-star Pete Jones’s delightful Outing Riley is a comedy in the Judd Apatow vein, often raucously funny without sacrificing warmth or character dimension. Jones plays Bobby, a 30-ish Chicagoan who loves his Cubs and his beer. And also his male lover — but that is a secret kept well hidden from his three Irish Catholic brothers (including one priest), with whom he’s still best buds. Their sister, Maggie (Julie Pearl), is one among several folks urging him to come the hell out, for Christ’s sake. But doing so doesn’t go down too well at first, not even with the designated bad-boy bro (the wonderful Nathan Fillion, of Waitress and Firefly). Ultimately, things turn around in an agreeable fashion that doesn’t cut corners for cheap uplift.

The result is one of those rare gay movies that should or could be shown to all the straight dudes in America who claim they "can’t really deal with that gay shit." Incredibly, Outing Riley doesn’t have a theatrical distributor yet. Catch it at Frameline, or may the Lord help ya. (Dennis Harvey)

BORN AGAIN (Markie Hancock, US, 2007). June 21, 7 p.m., Victoria

FALL FROM GRACE (K. Ryan Jones, US, 2007). Mon/18, 7 p.m., Roxie; June 20, noon, Castro

OUTING RILEY (Pete Jones, US, 2004). Fri/15, 9:30 p.m., Castro

ROCK HAVEN (David Lewis, US, 2007). June 21, 9:30 p.m., Castro



Violent Femmes and wrestling boys. The same boys watching TV, huffing glue, jerking off, playing soccer, dodging water balloons, sharing headphones, and dancing, singing, and drumming at punk rock shows. Listed in this manner, the basic ingredients of Alexis Dos Santos’s Glue don’t sound that different from those of a dozen other teen films. But the way Dos Santos views such material is something else entirely. Glue is that rare kind of filmmaking so attuned to pleasure and spontaneity that it tickles your palate, opening up new possibilities about how to live. The film’s chief subject matter — bisexuality that takes exhilarating form before the constraints of adulthood can arrive — is ideally realized through Dos Santos’s sensual and whim-driven approach.

"If my parents made love before I was conceived, would it be me being born or another boy?" skinny, wild-haired, and sleepy-eyed Lucas (Nahuel Pérez Biscayart) wonders to himself at the beginning of Glue, before his jock friend Nacho (Nahuel Viale) and their mutual crush, the gawky yet beautiful Andrea (Inés Efron), arrive on screen. When Andrea is eventually introduced, it’s via a poolside scene in which polite kisses through a steel fence provide one typically fleet example of Dos Santos’s ability to land on the right use of foreground, background, and happenstance scenic detail to convey a shot or scene’s emotional temperature.

This symbiosis between director and actors — and perhaps even more important, between actors — results in some extraordinary passages. Glue meanders near its end, when, in true teen spirit, it doesn’t want a good time to end. But in its best moments, Dos Santos’s debut feature is an important and exciting addition to Latin American cinema’s evolving views of masculinity. (Sergio de la Mora’s recent book Cinemachismo is an excellent source for historical background on the subject.) Glue‘s ménage à trois is more radical than the ones in both Alfonso Cuarón’s Y Tu Mamá También and Fernando Eimbcke’s chaste Duck Season, though one suspects those more commercial movies helped pave the way for the spaces that Dos Santos and his actors discover. Like Julián Hernández’s Broken Sky, in which a trio of young lovers meet and kiss repeatedly in public, Dos Santos’s insular and gutsy film charts territory where people don’t repress their desires.

Thus it’s a shame that, unlike all of the Mexican features mentioned in the previous paragraph, Glue doesn’t have a distributor. Dos Santos’s movie is yet another example of how new Argentine cinema (thanks to talents as varied as Lisandro Alonso, Lucrecia Martel, Verónica Chen, and Pablo Trapero) continues to stretch the time and space dimensions of the word new. Unfortunately, it’s far from the first film from Argentina in the past few years to be neglected by commercial forces. A French feature such as Pascal Arnold and Jean-Marc Barr’s One to Another treats the same elements found in Glue — teen life, bisexual trysts, rock music — in a manner that results in overheated garbage (yes, it stinks), yet it’s been given exactly the type of eminent, if small, US theatrical run that Dos Santos’s movie deserves. That means now is the time to see Glue. (Johnny Ray Huston) *

GLUE (Alexis Dos Santos, Argentina, 2006) June 20, 9:15 p.m., Parkway; June 22, 7 p.m., Victoria