Volume 41 Number 39

June 27 – July 3, 2007

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Ask Dr. Rock


ASK DR. ROCK Say you’ve done a lot more practicing than primping. Your bandmates are starting to bore themselves with their uniform of New Balance kicks and give-away T-shirts with busted-dot-com logos. So how are you supposed to come up with a look or even, jeez, a show?

Dr. Rock feels your fashion-free pain and took up the issue with the party starters of Gravy Train!!!! Not for nothing did the Bay Area raunch peddlers title a tune off their new album, All the Sweet Stuff (Cochon), "The Hair Stare."

1. "Making the audience uncomfortable is a good place to start," vocalist Chunx says. "All the bands that were most memorable to me growing up were either awkward or androgynous or exuded something that made me so uncomfortable that it led me to become intrigued. Rock stars should always seem superhuman. Or alien. If you can imagine them eating breakfast, you’re probably not doing it right."

2. "I would start with fashion," says keyboardist Hunx, who also styles hair at Down at Lulu’s in Oakland. "You need to get a look down or matching outfits or at least have a theme." Absorb the high-camp retro swank of artists like the Bay City Rollers and Slade on DVD and study old dance shows to cop ideas and moves. "We don’t get inspiration from new bands," he adds. "People just dress like their neighbors. But even matching T-shirts is a start."

3. "I always like props," Chunx raves. "I think Alice Cooper beheading people on stage was genius!"

4. "This probably comes as no surprise, but I’d always advocate any overt sexuality," Chunx says. "It’s the cheapest way to go, but people like to see people get naked and overtly, crazily sexual onstage. No one’s going to want to look away — even if it’s the car-accident syndrome!"

GRAVY TRAIN!!!! July 7, 10 p.m., $10. Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., SF. (415) 621-4455, www.bottomofthehill.com

We got the answers to your burning music biz questions. E-mail Ask Dr. Rock at askdrrock@sfbg.com.

Panisses, chez toi


› paulr@sfbg.com

Oh irony: summer — meaning August, fog, cold wind — has arrived weeks ahead of schedule, and the bluster has slammed shut the grilling window. We huddle around the stove instead, warming our hands over bubbling soups and stews. Additional irony: tomatoes are starting to turn up at the farmers market. Luckily, the Provençal seafood-stew recipe I’ve been using for years calls for tomatoes. Irony overload averted.

What to serve the stew with or over has long been an issue. Rice is an obvious choice, while mashed potatoes are nice and wintry. White beans and polenta have seen service. Toasted bread would work. But … how about panisses? These are the french fry–like chickpea sticks of Provence that for some reason have never found much of an audience here despite their many attractions.

Panisses are quite easy to produce. They are, essentially, chilled polenta cut into thin bars that are then fried up until golden crispy. The twists are that you use chickpea flour instead of cornmeal, you must allow an hour or two for the batter to chill and stiffen in the refrigerator, and you need some parchment paper and, ideally, a large nonstick skillet.

Make the faux polenta by putting one cup of chickpea flour in a heavy saucepan with a pinch of salt and a splash of olive oil. Slowly whisk in one cup of water until you have a smooth batter. Add two more cups of water, turn on the heat to high, bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer, stirring, until the mixture is quite thickened. Pour it into a rectangular pan lined with parchment paper (I use a meat loaf pan), let it cool, then chill in the refrigerator. When you are ready to make the panisses, remove the slab from the pan and slice into narrow bars. Heat about an inch of vegetable oil in your skillet and put in the panisses. (They will be geutf8ous but should hold together if handled gently.) Turn after five minutes or so to crisp them all over. Remove from the skillet and drain briefly on paper towels.

As for the stew: you’re on your own, but if you can’t be bothered, the panisses are magnificent on their own.

Rock ‘n’ read


› kimberly@sfbg.com

SONIC REDUCER Anyone who’s thumbed through the oodles of zany organ, squealing chipmunk, and queasy-listening albums from the ’50s onwards knows this to be true: every generation has its version of Muzak, whether its members like it not — thanks to clueless parental units. And the class of 2025 will undoubtedly have vibe ‘n’ synth instrumental renditions of "About a Girl," "D’yer Mak’er," and "Cherub Rock" dancing in their heads — no thanks to the Rockabye Baby! series on Baby Rock Records that appears to be multiplying like bunnies monthly. What next — sleepy-time Mentors? But what would baby lend an ear to once he or she started dabbling in books, student-body politics, and witchcraft? In other words, WWHPLT — what would Harry Potter listen to?

Boston’s Harry and the Potters have been working off that premise for the past three years, touring the country’s finest libraries. After outgrowing San Francisco’s main library and drawing several hundred to their show at the Civic Center last year, they’ve decided to get booked, adult-style, at Slim’s, alongside Jurassic Park IV: The Musical, which dares to pick up where the last dino blockbuster left off.

So, I tease, you’re doing a real tour this time? "Why is playing libraries not a tour?" the older, seventh-year Harry, Paul DeGeorge, 28, retorts by phone as he hauls T-shirts into the cellar of the Tucson Public Library, the site of that night’s show. "It’s actually a lot more work, because we set up our sound system every day."

He may be playing in a basement, but DeGeorge and his brother Joe, who appears as fourth-year Harry, aren’t playing to our baser instincts. "I thought this would be a great way to play rock to a whole new audience that doesn’t experience that," he explains. "If Harry Potter had the cool effect of getting kids to read more, maybe we can get kids to rock more too!"

The proof is in his now-20-year-old sibling. DeGeorge started feeding his younger brother Pixies, Nirvana, They Might Be Giants, and Atom and His Package CDs when the latter was nine, and apparently the scientific experiment paid off. "I could see the effect immediately. By the time Joe was 12, DeGeorge says, "he was writing songs about sea monkeys that referenced the Pixies" — and popping up in the Guardian in a story about early MP3.com stars.

And what about the silly kid stuff on Baby Rock Records? "I’d rather hear the original songs," DeGeorge opines. "Instead of Nine Inch Nails for babies, I’d just make a good mixtape for my baby. You can do ‘Hurt’ and just lop off the ending. It’s supereasy — anyone can do it!" Read it and weep, Trent.

SERPENT SPIT "So the proctology jokes remain." Thus came the news from filmmaker Danny Plotnick that Nest of Vipers, his freewheeling podcast highlighting the wit and storytelling chops of such SF undergroundlings as Hank VI’s Tony Bedard, the Husbands’ Sadie Shaw, singer-songwriter Chuck Prophet, and Porchlight’s Beth Lisick, was now officially off the KQED site and fully independent (and available through iTunes). "I had a contract for six episodes to be distributed by KQED," Plotnick e-mailed. "Ultimately they released eight episodes. They didn’t renew the contract because the show was too edgy for them."

Unfortunately, that also means the customer-service episode that triggered those treasured proctology-convention yuks, which was supposed to go up on the public station’s Web site on June 15, has been delayed till July 1 as Plotnick figures out new hosting.

But at least the assembled vipers will continue to writhe unchecked. Inspired by Plotnick’s favorite sports talk shows, Nest of Vipers aims to issue a weekly breath of venomous, randomized air in an ever-constricting radio landscape. "So often on radio there’s a bunch of experts pontificating about whatever," he told me earlier. "This is more about real people talking about real experiences," or like hanging with the gritty raconteurs at your favorite dive bar. The next episode, for instance, sounds like a doozy: Bucky Sinister talks about working the phones at PlayStation on Christmas morning, and Bedard has a yarn about biting into a Ghirardelli chocolate bar and finding a maggot — thinking it’s his big payday, he returns it to the company. You have been served! *


With Jurassic Park IV: The Musical

Fri/29, 8 p.m., $12

Slim’s, 333 11th St., SF

(415) 522-0333







Seattle Matador starlets break out the rustic initial Invitation Songs. Wed/27, 9 p.m., $8–$10. Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., SF. (415) 621-4455, www.bottomofthehill.com


Jamin and J-Dubber combine protest gangsta with ye olde funk and minihyph on Grind Pays (Organized Grind). Thurs/28, 10 p.m., call for price. Fourth Street Tavern, 711 Fourth St., San Raphael. (415) 454-4044


Partake in the Hot Jet’s imagescape of "visual music." Fri/29–Sun/1, 8 p.m.–2 a.m., $20–$25. Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission, SF. (415) 978-2787, www.ybca.org


Incoming Korg attack! James LaValle’s gorg dream orchestrations cavort with Lee and Nancy–esque vocals. With Under Byen. Sat/30, Slim’s, 333 11th St., SF. (415) 522-0333, www.slims-sf.com


The Oakland combo parties over its new CD — after vocalist Ryan Karazija spent a very unlucky Friday the 13th in April being brutally mugged and left in a pool of blood with a fractured skull after a Minipop show at Mezzanine. Sat/30, 10 p.m., $10. Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., SF. (415) 621-4455, www.bottomofthehill.com


On Behold Secret Kingdom (Release the Bats), the night critters generate a fine squall of free jazz, noise, drone, and jungle psychedelia. Knocking over trash cans never sounded so intentional. Tues/3, 9:30 p.m., $6. Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF. (415) 923-0923, www.hemlocktavern.com

The future of paper


› annalee@techsploitation.com

TECHSPLOITATION Twenty years from now, paper will no longer be a tool for mass communication. Instead it will be a substance akin to plastic, a mere fabricated building material with industrial and consumer applications. At least, those were the thoughts that ran through my mind when I received a strange news release last week from a Finnish company called VTT, which trumpeted a business model that included developing new products based on what it called "printing technology" and "paper products." VTT has developed a prototype for bioactive paper that responds to enzymes and biomolecules by changing color. One idea is to use it in food packaging or air filters to get an early warning about toxins.

Weird innovations are great, but the most interesting part of this news release was about markets: "The goal is … to create new business for the paper industry … to introduce new innovations and market initiatives between the traditional ICT [information communication technology] and paper industries by combining IT, electronics and printing technologies."

Let us parse the high-flown language of commerce. VTT is saying the paper industry needs new markets, and high-tech, bioactive paper will help create them. But why? Obviously, paper has its uses — there are newspapers, magazines, notepads, and books to be printed! Why worry about making the stuff bioactive when you can just sell it to Random House or Conde Nast? You already know the answer. Print communication is dying out, and with it goes the paper industry. Over the past few months, I’ve witnessed the two biggest daily papers in my area, the San Francisco Chronicle and the San Jose Mercury News, announce budget cuts that will slash their staffs by one-quarter. What does that mean for the paper industry? Fewer orders for newsprint.

When Karl Marx wrote that every great historical event occurs twice — "first time as tragedy, second time as farce" — I doubt he had print media in mind. And yet the upset of the paper industry feels to me like the joke that comes after the tragedy of print media’s fast decline. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not one of those people who think that barbarians are storming the gates because anyone can publish their ramblings on MySpace instead of having to get David Remnick’s permission to publish their ramblings in the New Yorker. Still, I cannot help but feel wrenchingly bad when I think about what it will be like in the Mercury newsroom after a quarter of the editorial staff has left the building.

I won’t miss the paper, but I will miss the journalists.

What’s tragic is that print journalism has not tried to diversify its market as methodically as the paper industry has. Right now, VTT is just one of many companies trying to figure out cool new ways to use paper. But who is trying to figure out cool new ways to employ smart, highly trained print journalists? Maybe Dan Gillmor and a few other people running small nonprofits. But mostly, print journalists are having to figure the future out on their own.

Some will do what I’ve done, gradually moving from print media to online. I’ve gone from a print zine to an online zine to a weekly newspaper to print magazines to running a blog. This column you’re reading is syndicated to both print newspapers and Web sites. Nobody gave me guidance. No slick marketing dude from Finland came in and said, "Hey, maybe you should diversify and start creating bioactive journalism." Instead, I fumbled along on my own, trying to find the most stable place where I could settle down and write for a living. Other journalists won’t be as lucky or as willing to change. They may stop writing; they may become shills for the companies they once investigated; they may feel bitter or liberated or panicked. None of them deserve it. Somebody should have helped them get ready for this transition five years ago.

I live in a world where corporations care more about the future of paper than the futures of people who have made their living turning paper into a massive network of vital, important communications. This is not how technological change should work. You cannot discard a person the way you discard a market niche. That’s because people revolt. Especially journalists. *

Annalee Newitz is a surly media nerd looking for a few good geek journalists to help her run a blog. Serious nerd experience needed. Inquire within!

When cute animals attack


(Nintendo; Nintendo DS)

GAMER Continuing my current tendency to gravitate toward games involving cute animals, I recently became addicted to the latest Pokémon installment, Pokémon Diamond. Pokémon Pearl is the same game with some different Pokémon.

My first Pokémon experience came during a long road trip in 2000, when I got hooked on Pokémon Gold. I made myself popular with every grade school kid on the block because I was an adult who knew that Pikachu evolves into Raichu.

In the Pokémon games, you grind to level-up your small army of cute creatures in turn-based battles against random Pokémon who hang out in grassy areas. You also capture new Pokémon. Pokémon are stored in small spheres and are released to fight, after which they get sucked back into their Pokéballs. And you thought non-free-range chickens have it bad.

There’s a plot, something about stopping a team of gangsters called Team Galactic from using the powers of Pokémon for evil, and you shame them into submission by using your small, cute animals to rough up their small, cute animals. You use the same technique to earn badges at the gyms scattered throughout the game’s world.

These titles are all about the exploring and the collection. You collect Pokémon, Pokémon battle techniques, and gym badges. So if you like to play collection games, Pokémon will take over your life.

What’s different between these installments and the one I played when I first got hooked on Pokémon in 2000? About 100 colors. I’m just eyeballing it. Also, a new online mode allows you to trade Pokémon with other users. To be honest, I haven’t gotten the chance to use this, but I’ve heard from one of my coworkers that it is "full of dumb kids who want to trade their level 100 Geodudes for my ultrarare Mewtwo!"

These two are the first non-spin-off Pokémon games on the Nintendo DS, and the series is well served by the platform. Being able to choose moves for my Pokémon by touching the screen is natural. That said, the game could have done a lot more with the hardware. I would like to see the Pokémon world or the battles in 3-D, like in Animal Crossing: Wild World, as opposed to the top-down view. The battles have surprisingly minimal effects and animation. This was OK on the Game Boy Color but seems a bit cheap on the DS. The series hasn’t changed much at all, and that’s good, because the game play is as fun and addicting as ever. But it’s bad in the sense that the latest installments in the series have almost nothing new to offer.



By Paul Reidinger

› paulr@sfbg.com

The name "Anne Gingrass" carries a certain magic in San Francisco culinary circles, but it’s a name that will no longer do. Gingrass was the Spago-trained chef who, with her then-husband, David Gingrass, opened Postrio in 1989, as a prelude of sorts to launching their own place, Hawthorne Lane, six years later. Somewhere along the way, the marriage broke up — not an unfamiliar story among restaurant couples — and earlier this year Gingrass remarried. (She is now known as Anne Paik, according to the Web site of her Desiree café, www.desireecafe.com). Perhaps the hullabaloo associated with this large personal event contributed to the delay in opening her latest venture, Essencia. The new restaurant (in the onetime Pendragon Bakery space in Hayes Valley) was supposed to welcome its first guests on or about Valentine’s Day, but in fact the doors didn’t swing open until May.

One obvious question to ask is: was the wait worth it? The pretty easy answer there is yes. Less easy to answer is the question why Paik, long one of the great apostles of California cuisine, would open a Peruvian restaurant — although, in fairness, it must be said that Essencia’s menu, indeed its gestalt, nods to California as much as to Peru. The place certainly has the modern, metro-California look; it’s surprisingly small, with only a dozen or so tables, and the interior design consists largely of wood floors, mocha paint, and a profusion of large plate-glass windows that look out onto the always bustling intersection of Hayes and Gough streets.

The appeal of Peruvian cooking to a California sensibility isn’t so mysterious, really. We are, either way, in the New World, on the shores of the Pacific, with mountains nearby and a mélange of human heritage — Indian, European, and Asian — on hand to stretch any parochial understandings of food. There are differences between the two Pacific states, of course: while California, when not mountainous, tends toward desert, Peru is junglier and more tropical and the home of — besides potatoes — various fruits (lucana, guanavana) that tend toward dessert. More anon.

But the similarities between the cousins are unmistakable too, and they are the foundation for much of Essencia’s menu. A fava bean salad ($11.50), for example, is a ritual of spring in these parts, and Essencia’s version, with its naps of frisée and its halved cherry tomatoes, could have come right from the kitchen at Hawthorne Lane — except for a scattering of those big, ivory white Peruvian corn kernels that look like teeth. A filet of baked halibut ($23.50), embedded in a pad of chickpea purée, with a handful of whole fried chickpeas tossed over the top like buckshot, also seemed to have a distinct northern edge. (The accompanying sauce, of shrimp and clams, seemed almost classically French.) And a triple chicken sandwich ($11.75) — "a kind of club," we were told by our informative and occasionally overinformative server — had no discernable Peruvian angle at all. Its white bread, trimmed of crust, was like something from an English high tea, while its fillings (of white chicken meat, walnut paste, and avocado slices) could only be described as very tasty regardless of provenance.

Still, aficionados of Peruvian standards will not be disappointed. Of course there is ceviche, although at least one version, of kampachi ($12) — a white-fleshed fish from the Hawaiian islands — was presented to us carpaccio-style, the tissues of flesh laid out on the plate like skins on the floor of a cave dweller’s abode. More striking was the aji pepper sauce slathered over the top; it was the yellow color of French’s mustard and offered a sharp belt of pepper and acid up the nostrils. I liked it, but my companion thought it overwhelmed the delicate fish, and I saw her point.

Potatoes are less commonplace than on other Peruvian menus around town but are used to good effect. The potato and crab salad ($13.75) turned out to be a cross between a napoleon and a sandwich, with the crab meat forming a seam between two oval pads of yellow (and cold) mashed potatoes, which had been fearlessly spiked with cayenne and lime juice. We might have expected some kind of potato preparation with the pork medallions ($19.50), but instead the crusted roulades of meat were plated with tacu-tacu, a tasty legume and rice croquette made here with mashed golden lentils and finished with a sash of bacon. The plate also included a side garden of julienned red and yellow bell pepper.

For me the one irresistible Peruvian dessert is alfajores ($4.50), the butter cookies filled Oreo-style with dulce de leche (sugar caramelized in milk). Essencia’s cookies, to judge from their tender snap, are not only house made (with real butter) but baked daily, and there is a coconut variant to the dulce de leche — a bit darker in color, with definite coconut perfume.

The sweets on the whole strike a light note. Peruvian tropical fruits figure in various mousses and flans, while the workaday but lovable orange turns up — in thin rounds dusted with cinnamon and overlaid like a poker hand — on a plate of madeleines ($7). There is a globe of vanilla ice cream too, just to keep everybody happy. And for a quasi–<\d>petits fours fix, how about a selection of candies ($7), including burnt caramels, nougat, and flavored almonds, from the Miette shop just down the block?

Essencia’s high pedigree suggests that it will grow, somewhere, somehow, but for the moment a big part of the restaurant’s charm is its smallness. And the choicest seats in the house could be at the trapezoidal table for two behind the entryway. It’s the restaurant’s equivalent of the newlyweds’ suite.*


Lunch, Mon.–Sat., 11:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m. Dinner: Mon.–Sat., 5–10 p.m.

401 Gough, SF

(415) 552-8485


Beer and wine



Wheelchair accessible

“Heart” attack


FILM Angelina Jolie in blackface and a decent film? Both seem remarkable when one considers the cinematic caca generated by the Tomb Raider franchise star since her Oscar win for Girl, Interrupted (1999).

Decidedly weightier and more ambitious than the screwball Mr. and Mrs. Smith (2005), A Mighty Heart finds Jolie coated with a deep tan and kitted out in a faux pregnant belly as Marianne Pearl in an adaptation of the journalist’s 2003 best-selling account of the kidnapping and demise of her husband, Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.

The part-French Jolie may be a more suitable choice than the last Marianne rumored to be slated for the project, coproducer Brad Pitt’s previous main squeeze, Jennifer Aniston, but surely there was a more apropos physical fit for the pixieish, caramel-skinned Pearl than the opulently Sophia Loren–like Jolie?

"I think that’s rubbish. It’s so superficial," A Mighty Heart director Michael Winterbottom says, talking a mile a minute in a blurry, nasal Lancashire accent and alternately basking in and ducking the uncharacteristically bright San Francisco summer sun in the Ritz-Carlton courtyard. "The first time I met Angelina was with Marianne, and in fact they knew each other already and they trusted each other already. They’re kind of similar in lots of ways and talked about the story in similar ways. And that’s what’s important, really — to have someone actually know the person they’re playing, especially with a story that’s as sensitive as this."

In many ways Winterbottom was perfectly cast as the director for A Mighty Heart. He’s an ex-documentarian noted for striking a balance between intimate love stories (2004’s 9 Songs, 2003’s Code 46); tales like his Manchester music scene snapshot, 24 Hour Party People (2002), that revolve around the pleasure principle; politicized narratives firmly embedded in a labyrinthine geopolitical landscape (2006’s The Road to Guantánamo, 2002’s In This World, 1997’s Welcome to Sarajevo); and literary adaptations (2006’s Tristam Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story, 1996’s Jude).

"They’re also films about individuals as well," Winterbottom counters. And at times A Mighty Heart boils down uneasily as a Möbius strip of a meta–murder mystery — about the media, as documented by the media, intercut with shots of entangled Karachi phone and cable lines even as Brangelina paparazzi attempted to capture the couple’s every move and at least one scandal spun off the 2006 shoot (Mumbai residents charged the couple’s bodyguards with racism during filming at a school).

A Mighty Heart also reads somewhat like the flip side of Winterbottom’s previous release, The Road to Guantánamo, which blended dramatizations and documentarylike interviews with three British Muslims, a.k.a. the Tipton Three, who were held at Guantánamo Bay for two years before they were released without having been charged.

"In a way I think both stories are about people who are kind of victims of the extreme violence on both sides," the filmmaker says, describing both as post–Sept. 11 stories. "I think there are groups on both sides who want the violence to escalate."

Which gives Winterbottom impetus to carry on with his political-as-personal narratives, turning to the next in a series of Steve Coogan films, an adaptation of former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray’s memoir Murder in Samarkand. "We’re trying to do a comedy about the British ambassador in Uzbekistan being sacked because he didn’t agree about the use of information gained under torture."


Opens Fri/22 in Bay Area theaters

See Movie Clock at www.sfbg.com