Volume 41 Number 44

August 1 – August 7, 2007

  • No categories

Who killed Brad Will?



Oaxaca, Mexico — Those of us who report from the front lines of the social-justice movement in Latin America share an understanding that there’s always a bullet out there with our name on it. Brad Will traveled 2,500 miles, from New York to this violence-torn Mexican town, to find his.

Throughout the summer and fall of 2006, the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca was on fire. Death squads, the pistoleros of a despised governor, rolled through the cobblestoned streets of this colonial capital, peppering with automatic weapon fire the flimsy barricades erected by masked rebels. Hundreds were killed, wounded, or imprisoned.

Will, a New York Indymedia videojournalist, felt he had to be there. Xenophobia was palpable on the ground when Will touched down. Foreign journalists were attacked as terrorists by the governor’s sycophants in the media: "Si ves un gringo con cámara, matanlo!" the radio chattered — if you see a gringo with a camera, kill him!

For much of the afternoon of Oct. 27, Will had been filming armed confrontations on the barricades just outside the city. He was trapped in the middle of a narrow street while gunshots boomed all around him, but he kept filming, looking for the money shot.

And he found it: on his final bits of tape, two clearly identifiable killers are perfectly framed, their guns firing. You hear the fatal shot and experience Brad’s shudder of dismay as the camera finally tumbles from his hands and bounces along the sidewalk.

By all visible evidence, Brad Will filmed his own murder. But this is Mexico, where justice is spelled impunity — and Will’s apparent killers continue to ride the streets of Oaxaca, free and, it seems, untouchable.

Curiously, this egregious murder of a US reporter in Mexico has drawn minimal response from US Ambassador Tony Garza, an old crony of President George W. Bush. Why this lack of interest? Can it be that Washington has another agenda that conflicts with justice for Will — the impending privatization of Mexican oil?


Will was once a fire-breathing urban legend on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Whether perched atop the Fifth Street squat where he had lived for years and waving his long arms like Big Bird as the wrecking ball swung in, or being dragged out of City Hall dressed as a sunflower while trying to rescue the neighborhood’s community gardens, this child of privilege from Chicago’s wealthy North Shore was a legitimate street hero in the years before the World Trade Center towers collapsed and the social-change movement in New York City went into deep freeze.

Will hosted an incendiary weekly show on the New York pirate station Steal This Radio and was an early part of Indymedia, the Web publishing experiment born during the "Battle of Seattle," the World Trade Organization protests that rocked that city in 1999.

With his long hair neatly tied back and parted down the middle, with his granny glasses and fringe beard, and with his fierce commitment to building community, Will seemed to have emerged whole from a more utopian time in America.

He was an independent journalist, one of the growing number of people, such as Josh Wolf in San Francisco, who use the Internet and their video cameras to track and report on social moments and injustice. He wore no credential from any major news organization. But using outlets like Indymedia, he — like Wolf, who spent seven months in prison to avoid giving the police a copy of his video outtakes — represented part of the future of journalism.

Will’s journey to the land where he would die began right after Sept. 11, 2001. Dyan Neary, then a neophyte journalist, met Will in a South Street skyscraper elevator coming down from the WBAI studios from which Amy Goodman broadcast soon after the terrorist attacks.

"We walked down the piles. They were still smoking," Neary remembered in a phone call from Humboldt County. "We were both really scared. We thought this was not going to be resolved soon. Maybe never. So we thought we should go to Latin America, where people were still fighting."

Will and Neary spent most of 2002 and 2003 roaming the bubbling social landscape of Latin America. In Fortaleza, Brazil, they confronted the director of the Inter-American Development Bank during riotous street protests. They journeyed to Bolivia too and interviewed Evo Morales, not yet the president. They traveled in the Chapare rainforest province with members of the coca growers’ federation. They hung out in Cochabamba with Oscar Olivera, the hero of the battle to keep Bechtel Corp. from taking over that city’s water system. Everywhere they went, they sought out pirate radio projects and offered their support.

In February 2005, Will was in Brazil, in the thick of social upheaval, filming the resistance of 12,000 squatters at a camp near the city of Goiânia in Pernambuco state, when the military police swept in, killing two and jailing hundreds. On his videos, you can hear the shots zinging all around him as he captured the carnage. Will was savagely beaten and held by the police. Only his US passport saved him.

Undaunted by his close call, Will picked up his camera and soldiered back through Peru and Bolivia, and when the money ran out, he flew back to New York to figure out how to raise enough for the next trip south. He was hooked. In early 2006, drawn like a moth to flame, he was back, tracking Subcomandante Marcos and the Zapatistas’ Other Campaign through the Mayan villages on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula.

In the spring of 2006, Will was back in New York as he tracked the Other Campaign and the incipient rebellion in Oaxaca on the Internet from his room in Williamsburg. (The rent gougers had forced him out of the Lower East Side.) He was poised to jump south again, friends say, but was worried that he would just be one more white guy getting in the way.

In the end, the lure of the action in Oaxaca pulled him in. He bought a 30-day ticket, caught the airport shuttle from Brooklyn to John F. Kennedy International Airport, and flew south Sept. 29. His return was set for Oct. 28. He never made that flight.


A mountainous southern Mexican state traversed by seven serious sierras, Oaxaca is at the top of most of the nation’s poverty indicators — infant mortality, malnutrition, unemployment, and illiteracy. Human rights violations are rife. It’s also Mexico’s most indigenous state, with 17 distinct Indian cultures, each with a rich tradition of resistance to the dominant white and mestizo overclass. Oaxaca vibrates with class and race tensions that cyclically erupt into uprising and repression.

The Party of the Institutional Revolution, or PRI, ruled Mexico from 1928 to 2000, the longest-running political dynasty in the world. The corrupt organization was dethroned by the right-wing National Action Party (PAN) and its picaresque presidential candidate, Vicente Fox, former president of Coca Cola México.

But in Oaxaca, the PRI never lost power. While voters were throwing off the PRI yoke all over the rest of the country, in Oaxaca one PRI governor had followed another for 75 years. The latest, Ulises Ruiz Ortiz, a protégé of party strongman and future presidential candidate Roberto Madrazo, won a fraud-marred election over a right-left coalition in 2004.

In the first 16 months of his regime, Ruiz proved spectacularly unresponsive to the demands of the popular movements for social justice. When, on May 15, 2006, National Teachers Day, a maverick, militant local of the National Education Workers Union known as Section 22 presented its contract demands, Ruiz turned a deaf ear. Then, on May 22, tens of thousands of teachers took the plaza and 52 surrounding blocks and set up a ragtag tent city. Each morning the maestros would march out of their camp and block highways and government buildings, which were soon smeared with anti-Ruiz slogans.

Ruiz retaliated before dawn June 14, sending 1,000 heavily armed police officers into the plaza to evict the teachers. Low-flying helicopters sprayed pepper gas on the throng below. Ruiz’s police took up positions in the colonial hotels that surround the plaza and tossed down concussion grenades from the balconies. Radio Plantón, the maestros’ pirate radio station, was demolished and the tent city set afire. A pall of black smoke hung over the city.

Four hours later a spontaneous outburst by Oaxaca’s very active community, combined with the force of the striking teachers and armed with clubs and Molotov cocktails, overran the plaza and sent Ruiz’s cops packing. No uniformed officers would be seen on the streets of Oaxaca for many months. And on June 16, two days after the monumental battle, 200,000 Oaxacans marched through the city to repudiate the governor’s "hard hand." The megamarch was said to extend 10 kilometers.

John Gibler, who closely covered the Oaxaca uprising as a human-rights fellow for Global Exchange, wrote that the surge of the rebels June 14 soon transformed itself into a popular assembly. The Oaxaca Peoples Popular Assembly, or APPO, was formally constituted June 21. The APPO had no leaders but many spokespeople, and all decisions had to be made in assemblies.


For the next weeks, the actions of the APPO and Section 22 paralyzed Oaxaca — but the rest of Mexico took little notice. Instead, the nation was hypnotized by the fraud-marred July 2 presidential election in which a right-wing PAN-ista, Felipe Calderón, had been awarded a narrow victory over leftist Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the candidate of a coalition headed by the Party of the Democratic Revolution. López Obrador was quick to cry fraud, pulling millions into the streets in the most massive political demonstrations in Mexican history. Oaxaca still seemed like small potatoes.

But Oaxaca is an international tourist destination, and the APPO and Section 22 protests had closed down the tourist infrastructure, blocking the airport and forcing five-star hotels to shutter their doors. On July 17, Ruiz was forced to announce the cancellation of the Guelaguetza, an indigenous dance festival that has become Oaxaca’s premiere tourist attraction, after roaming bands of rebels destroyed the scenery and blockaded access to the city.

Ruiz began to fight back. By the first weeks of August, the governor launched what came to be known as the Caravan of Death — a train of 30 or 40 private and government vehicles rolling nightly, firing on the protesters. Ruiz’s gunmen were drawn from the ranks of the city police and the state ministerial police.

To keep the Caravan of Death from moving freely through Oaxaca, the APPO and the union threw up barricades; 1,000 were built in the working-class colonies throughout the city and its suburbs. The rebels piled up dead trees, old tires, and burned-out cars and buses to create the barricades, which soon took on a life of their own; murals were painted using the ashes of the bonfires that burned all night on the barriers. Indeed, the barricades gave the Oaxaca struggle the romantic aura of the Paris Commune uprising of 1871 and attracted droves of dreadlocked anarchists to the city.

An uneasy lull in the action gripped Oaxaca on Oct. 1, when Will arrived at the bus terminal, then found himself a cheap room for the night. The break wouldn’t last long.


Like most non-Mexicans who style themselves as independent reporters, Will had no Mexican media credential and therefore was in the country illegally, working on a tourist visa and susceptible to deportation. To have some credential other than his Indymedia press card to hang around his neck, he got himself accredited with Section 22 and wore the rebel ID assiduously.

On Oct. 14, APPO militant Alejandro García Hernández was cut down at a barricade near Símbolos Patrios, a downtown plaza. Will joined an angry procession to the Red Cross hospital where the dead man had been taken.

In the last dispatch he filed from Oaxaca, on Oct. 16, Will caught this very Mexican whiff of death: "Now [García Hernández lies] waiting for November when he can sit with his loved ones on the day of the dead and share food and drink and a song … one more death — one more martyr in a dirty war — one more time to cry and hurt — one more time to know power and its ugly head — one more bullet cracks the night."

The dynamic in Oaxaca had gotten "sketchy," Will wrote to Neary. Section 22 leader Enrique Rueda Pacheco had cut a deal with the outgoing Fox government and forced a back-to-work vote Oct. 21 that narrowly carried amid charges of sellout and payoffs. If the teachers went back to work, the APPO would be alone on the barricades and even more vulnerable to Ruiz’s gunmen. But backing down was not in the assembly’s dictionary, and the APPO voted to ratchet up the lucha (struggle) and make Oaxaca really ungovernable.

Mobile brigades were formed — young toughs armed with lead pipes and nail-studded boards who hijacked buses still running in the city, forced the passengers off, and rode around looking for action. Later the buses would be set afire. Charred hulks blossomed on the streets of the old colonial city. The barricades were reinforced to shut down the capital beginning Oct. 27.

The escalation proved to be a terrible miscalculation. In Mexico City the postelectoral turmoil had finally subsided, and PAN was ready to deal with the PRI; bailing out the governor of Oaxaca was the PRI’s price of admission.

It wasn’t a good time for inexperienced foreigners. Ruiz’s people were checking the guest lists at the hostels for "inconvenient" internationals. Immigration authorities threatened extranjeros with deportation if they joined the protests. The local US consul, Mark Leyes, warned Americans that he would not be able to help them if they got caught up in the maelstrom.

Adding to this malevolent ambiance, a new pirate station popped up Oct. 26. Radio Ciudadana (Citizens’ radio) announced it was broadcasting "to bring peace to Oaxaca" and to celebrate the honor of "our macho, very macho governor." The announcers seemed to have Mexico City accents. Wherever they had been sent from, they let loose with a torrent of vitriolic shit — stuff like "We have to kill the mugrosos [dirty ones] on the barricades." The extranjeros, the radio said, were stirring up all the trouble: "They pretend to be journalists, but they have come to teach terrorism classes."

More frightening was this admonition: "Si ves un gringo con cámara, matanlo!" — "If you see a gringo with a camera, kill him!"

This poison spewed out of local radios all day Oct. 26 and 27, but whether Will heard the warnings — and if he did, whether knew what they meant — is unclear. He didn’t speak much Spanish.


On Oct. 27, Will went out to do interviews on the barricade at Santa María Coyotepec, about 20 kilometers from the city. The three barricades at Coyotepec, Cal y Canto, and La Experimental were crucial to closing down Oaxaca the next day. The broad Railroad Avenue where the barricade was stacked was empty. Nothing was moving. Will walked on to the next barricade at La Experimental to check out the action.

Soon after the Indymedia reporter left, all hell broke loose at Cal y Canto. A mob of about 150 Ruiz supporters stormed down Railroad Avenue, led by what witnesses thought was a Chevy Blazer. The vehicle was moving very fast. "We thought it would try and crash through the barricade," Miguel Cruz, an activist and witness, recalled. But the SUV stopped short, and several men jumped out with guns blazing. The APPO people hunkered down behind the makeshift barrier and moved the women and kids who were with them into a nearby house. Then they went on the counterattack with Molotov cocktails, homemade bazookas that fired bottle rockets, and slingshots. Most of the mob had melted away, and with the gunmen retreating, the rebels torched their vehicle.

Will heard about the gunfire and hurried back to Cal y Canto with a handful of other reporters. They arrived a little after 3 p.m.

Will climbed under a parked trailer to film the shooters. He focused on a man in a white shirt. When an APPO activist (who is not seen on the videotape) came running by, Will indicated the shooter — "Camisa blanca." While all this was going on, the camera captured a bicyclist peddling dreamily through the intersection. Soon after, a large dump truck appeared on the scene, and the group on the barricade used it as a mobile shield as they chased the gunmen down the avenue.

Suddenly, the pistoleros veered down a narrow side street, Benito Juárez, and took refuge in a windowless, one-story building on the second block. The only access to the building was through a large metal garage door, and the reporters followed the APPO militants, many of whom were masked, as they tried to force their way in. Will stood to one side of the door for a minute, poised for the money shot. Then the compas tried unsuccessfully to bust down the big door by ramming the dump truck into it.

In the midst of this frenzy, five men in civilian dress — two in red shirts (the governor’s color) and the others in white — appeared at the head of Benito Juárez, about 30 meters away, and began shooting at the rebels.

Two of the gunmen were later identified by Mexican news media as Pedro Carmona, a cop and local PRI political fixer, and police commander Orlando Manuel Aguilar Coello. One of those in the white shirts, crouched behind Carmona, was Abel Santiago Zárate, a.k.a. El Chino. Santiago Zárate and Aguilar Coello were reported to be the personal bodyguards of municipal president Manuel Martínez Feria of the PRI. The other two would later be fingered as Juan Carlos Soriano, a.k.a. El Chapulín (the grasshopper), and Juan Sumano, both Santa Lucía del Camino police officers. All five are eminently identifiable in the film Will shot just moments before the bullets hit him.

When the shooting erupted, Will took cover on the opposite side of the narrow street from the rest of the media. He was crouched against a lime green wall when the first bullet came. On the video soundtrack, you can hear both the shot and Will’s cries of dismay as it tore through his Indymedia T-shirt and smashed into his heart. A second shot caught him in the right side and destroyed his innards. There was little blood spilled, the first slug having stopped his heart.

In footage that witness Gustavo Vilchis and others filmed, the entrance wound of the first shot looks like a deep bruise. The second shot was not recorded on the soundtrack and may have been fired simultaneously with the first.

Others were shot in the pandemonium. Oswaldo Ramírez, filming for the daily Milenio, was grazed. Lucio David Cruz, described as a bystander, was hit in the neck and died four months later.

As Will slid down the wall into a sitting position, Vilchis and activist Leonardo Ortiz ran to him. Will’s Section 22 credential had flown off, and no one there knew his name. With bullets whizzing by, the compas picked Will up and dragged him out of the line of fire and around the corner to Árboles Street, about 35 paces away. Along the way, his pants fell off.

"Ambulance! We need an ambulance! They’ve shot a journalist!" Vilchis, a tall young man with a face like an Italian comic actor’s, shouted desperately. Gualberto Francisco, another activist, had parked his vochito (Volkswagen Bug) on Árboles and pulled up alongside Will, who was laid out on the pavement in his black bikini underwear.

Ortiz and Vilchis loaded the dying Will into the back seat. They thought he was still breathing, and Vilchis applied mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. "You’re going to make it … you’re all right," they kept telling him. But Will’s eyes had already turned up — he was perdido (lost), as they say in Mexico.

The vochito ran out of gas, and while the frantic young men ferrying Will were stuck in the middle of the Cinco Señores crossroad, it began to rain hard. They tried to stop a taxi to take them to the Red Cross, but the driver supported the government and wanted to argue. Finally, they flagged down a pickup truck and laid Will out in the bed. He was dead when he arrived at the hospital, according to the report by the coroner, Dr. Luis Mendoza.


Oct. 27 was the bloodiest day of the Oaxaca uprising. Four people were killed besides Will: Emilio Alonso Fabián, Esteban Ruiz, Esteban López Zurita, and Audacia Olivera Díaz.

Unlike their murders, Will’s death triggered international outrage. Because he was so connected — and because much of the episode was recorded on film —the shot of the mortally wounded Indymedia reporter lying in the middle of a Oaxaca street went worldwide on the Web in a matter of minutes.

There were instant vigils on both coasts of the United States. On Oct. 30, 11 of Will’s friends were busted trying to lock down at the Mexican consulate off Manhattan’s Park Avenue, where graffiti still read "Avenge Brad!" in December. Anarchists splattered the San Francisco consulate with red paint. Subcomandante Marcos sent his condolences and called for international protests. Goodman did an hour-long memorial.

On March 16, 2007, at its midyear meeting in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, the Inter-American Press Association, an organization devoted to freedom of speech and the press in the Americas, passed a resolution calling for action on the Will case.

"The investigation into the killing has been plagued by irregularities and inconsistencies, and no arrests have been made," the group said in a statement. IAPA called for the federal attorney general to take over the investigation, "in view of the lack of confidence in state authorities and the lack of progress in the case, so that it may apprehend the culprits, who, according to one theory of the investigation, may be indirectly linked to state authorities."

The official reaction to Will’s death was more cautious. "It is unfortunate when peaceful demonstrations get out of hand and result in violence," a US spokesperson told the media, seeming to blame the APPO for Will’s killing. After once again warning Americans that they traveled to Oaxaca "at their own risk," Ambassador Garza commented on the "senseless death of Brad Will" and how it "underscores the need for a return to the rule of law and order."

"For months," he said, "violence and disorder in Oaxaca have worsened. Teachers, students, and other groups have been involved in increasingly violent demonstrations."

Garza’s statement sent Fox the signal he had been waiting for. Now that a gringo had been killed, it was time to act. The next morning, Oct. 28, 4,500 officers from the Federal Preventative Police, an elite force drawn from the military, were sent into Oaxaca — not to return the state to a place where human rights, dignity, and a free media are respected but to break the back of the people’s rebellion and keep Ruiz in power.

On Oct. 29 the troops pushed their way into the plaza despite massive but passive resistance by activists, tore down the barricades, and drove the commune of Oaxaca back into the shadows.

In Mexico the dead are buried quickly. After the obligatory autopsy, Brad’s body was crated up for shipment to his parents, who now live south of Milwaukee. After a private viewing, the family had him cremated.


Killing a gringo reporter in plain view of the cameras (one of which was his own) requires a little sham accountability. On Oct. 29 the state prosecutor, Lizbeth Caña Cadeza, announced that arrest warrants were being sworn out for Santiago Zárate and Aguilar Coello, two of the five cops caught on film gunning Will down, and they were subsequently taken into custody.

The scam lost currency two weeks later when, on Nov. 15, Caña Cadeza dropped a bombshell at an evening news conference: the cops hadn’t killed Will, she said; he was shot by the rebels.

Will’s death, she insisted, had been "a deceitful confabulation to internationalize the conflict" and was, in fact, "the product of a concerted premeditated action." The mortal shot had been fired from less than two and a half meters away, Caña Cadeza said — although there is nothing in the coroner’s report to indicate this. The real killers, she said, were "the same group [Will] was accompanying."

In the state prosecutor’s scenario, the order of the shots was reversed: first Will had been shot in the side on the street, then rematado (finished off) with a slug to the heart on the way to the hospital in Francisco’s vochito.

The prosecutor’s plot was immediately challenged by the APPO. "The killers are those who are shown in the film," Florentino López, the assembly’s main spokesperson, asserted at a meeting that night.

And in fact our detailed investigation shows that there is very little evidence to support Caña Cadeza’s theory. Photos from the scene, some published in the Mexican media, show Will’s body with a bloody hole in his chest on the street near where he fell — indicating that his fatal heart wound occurred well before he was dragged into the car where he was supposedly shot.

There’s another problem with the prosecutor’s suggestion: nobody on the scene saw any APPO members, or anyone except the authorities, carrying guns. This reporter has talked to numerous eyewitnesses, and all told the same tale: the rebels at the barricade that day had no firearms with which they could have shot Will.

Miguel Cruz, who spent much of Oct. 27 with Will, first at the Council of Indigenous People of Oaxaca, of which he is a member, and then on the barricade at Cal y Canto and on Juárez Street, is a soft-spoken young Zapotec Indian, but he pounded vehemently on the kitchen table when he addressed Caña Cadeza’s allegations.

"The compañeros had no guns. What gun is she talking about? They had slingshots and Molotovs but no guns. The PRI-istas and the cops had their .38s, and they were shooting at us," he said. "We were trying to save Brad Will’s life, not to kill him."

And if Caña Cadeza had any proof of her allegations, she likely would have filed charges. But none of the protesters or Will’s companions has been formally charged with the killing. Prosecutors have never publicly presented the alleged murder weapon.

But by the time Caña Cadeza told her story, of course, the only way to determine for sure the order of the bullets and the distance from which they had been fired would have been to exhume Will’s body. And there was no body; he had been cremated the week before.

On Nov. 28, Santiago Zárate and Aguilar Coello were released from custody by Judge Victoriano Barroso because of "insufficient evidence," with the stipulation that they could not be rearrested without the presentation of new evidence.

Caña Cadeza, who is now running as a PRI candidate for the state legislature, collaborated closely on the case with Oaxaca secretary of citizen protection Lino Celaya. Both reported to Ruiz’s secretary of government, Heliodoro Díaz, who in turn reported directly to the governor. There seems little doubt that the prosecutor’s accusations of murder against Will’s comrades — and the determination of innocence for the apparent killers — came straight from the top.


Dr. Mendoza was occupied when I stopped by the Oaxaca city morgue to ask for a copy of the autopsy report on which the state has based its allegations.

"Will died eight months ago," Mendoza complained testily. "Do you know how many others have died since? How many autopsies I’ve performed?" He gestured to a morgue room where cadavers were piled up.

The coroner was scrunched over his desk, filling out the paperwork for one of the dead. He didn’t have any time to look for the autopsy report. I was not the first reporter to ask him about the document. "What paper are you from anyway?" he asked suspiciously, and when I showed him my media card, he told me that it didn’t sound like a real newspaper to him. "I know what I’m doing. I worked as a coroner in your country," he snapped defensively and waved me out of the office.

But Mendoza might not be quite as cocksure as he sounded. A senior agent for the US government in Oaxaca, who asked not to be named in this article, told me later that Mendoza confided to him that he was no ballistics expert, nor could he determine from how far away the bullets were fired.

I walked into the police commissary under the first-floor stairs of the Santa Lucía del Camino Municipal Palace. The small room was crowded with cops and cigarette smoke. Three of the officers were in full battle gear, and the rest were plainclothes. I had been warned not to ask for Carmona, the most prominent red shirt on Will’s film. Carmona is described as a prepotente — i.e., a thug with an attitude who is always packing.

Instead, I asked the desk clerk if I could get a few minutes with Santiago Zárate and Aguilar Coello. For all I knew, the two were sitting in the room behind me. The desk clerk studied my card. "Qué lástima!" he exclaimed — what a shame. Santiago Zárate had just left and wouldn’t be back until after six. Aguilar Coello was off that day. When I called back after six, Santiago Zárate was still not available. Nor were he and Aguilar Coello ever available the dozen or so times I called back.

This sort of stonewalling is not terribly unusual for Mexico, where killer cops often sell their services to local caciques (political bosses) and go back to work as if nothing had happened. Those who direct this sort of mayhem from their desks in the statehouses and municipal palaces — the "intellectual assassins," as they are called — are never held accountable for their crimes.


In March, Brad’s parents, Kathy and Howard Will, and his older brother and sister paid a sad, inconclusive visit to Oaxaca. They had hired Miguel Ángel de los Santos Cruz, a crackerjack human rights lawyer who has often defended Zapatista communities in Chiapas. Gibler, the Global Exchange human-rights fellow, was the translator.

The Wills, upper-middle-class Americans, had little experience with the kind of evil that lurks inside the Mexican justice system; the trip was a traumatic, eye-opening experience.

The federal Attorney General’s Office had taken over the case from the state in December, but rather than investigating police complicity and culpability, it was pursuing Caña Cadeza’s dubious allegation blaming Will’s companions for his killing.

Gustavo Vilchis, Gualberto Francisco, Leonardo Ortiz, and Miguel Cruz were summoned to give testimony, with the Wills in attendance. Testifying was a risky venture, as the witnesses could have been charged with the murder at any moment, but out of respect for the family, the compas agreed to tell their story to the federal investigators. During the hearing they were repeatedly questioned about and asked to identify not the cops who appear on Will’s film but their own compañeros, some masked, who appeared on tape shot by Televisa, the Mexican TV giant. They refused.

When Los Santos accompanied the Wills to a meeting with Caña Cadeza, she touted her investigation and promised them a copy of its results. But she refused to allow the family to view Will’s Indymedia T-shirt and the two bullets taken from his body. They were, she explained, under the control of Barroso — the judge who had cut loose the cops.


There are larger geopolitics at work here.

The US Department of State has a certain conflict of interest in trying to push first-year Mexican president Calderón to collar Will’s killers. The crackdown in Oaxaca was all about a political deal between Calderón’s PAN and Ruiz’s PRI: if PAN saved the governor’s ass, the PRI would support the president’s legislative package.

Indeed, the PRI’s 100 votes in the lower house of the Mexican Congress guarantee Calderón the two-thirds majority he needs to alter the constitution and effect the change that’s at the top of his legislative agenda — opening up Petróleos Mexicanos, or PEMEX, the nationalized petroleum corporation and a symbol of Mexico’s national revolution, to private investment, a gambit that requires a constitutional amendment.

Since then-president Lázaro Cárdenas expropriated Mexico’s petroleum industry from Anglo and American owners and nationalized it in 1938, the United States has been trying to take it back. "Transnational pressure to reprivatize PEMEX has been brutal," observed John Saxe Fernandez, a professor of strategic resource studies at Mexico’s autonomous university, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.

During the run-up to the hotly contested 2006 presidential elections, candidates Calderón and López Obrador debated the privatization of Mexico’s national oil corporation before the American Chamber of Commerce in Mexico City; former US ambassador Jeffrey Davidow moderated the debate. When the leftist López Obrador insisted that he would never privatize what belonged to all Mexicans, the business leaders stared in stony silence. The conservative Calderón’s pledge to open PEMEX to private investment drew wild applause. Calderón was, of course, Washington’s horse in the fraud-marred election.

In order to accommodate Washington, Calderón needs a two-thirds majority in the congress — and the PRI’s votes in the lower house are crucial to guaranteeing passage of a constitutional amendment. "Without the PRI’s votes, PEMEX will not be privatized. That is why Calderón has granted Ruiz impunity," Saxe Fernandez concluded.

Washington is eager to see PEMEX privatized, which would create an opportunity for Exxon Mobil Corp. and Halliburton (now PEMEX’s largest subcontractor) to walk off with a big chunk of the world’s eighth-largest oil company. Pushing Calderón too hard to do justice for Will could disaffect the PRI and put a kibosh on the deal.

It is not easy to imagine Brad Will as a pawn in anyone’s power game, but as the months tick by and his killing and killers sink into the morass of memory, that is exactly what he is becoming. 2

John Ross is the Guardian‘s Mexico City correspondent. This story was comissioned by the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies and is running in about 20 alternative papers this week.

Press misses out on Cal/OSHA probes


A near-fatal tragedy in Nob Hill last March briefly grabbed headlines when emergency personnel had to help free two workers from compressed debris after the wall of a garage collapsed around them.

Two other laborers escaped serious injury, but brothers 23-year-old Roberto Galiano and 41-year-old Maximiliano Galiano were buried up to their waist and knees respectively (one had to be extricated by the fire department). All four were taken to San Francisco General Hospital.

The vacant three-story apartment building on California Street where they were working had been awaiting renovation since a 2006 fire, and the four workers were doing foundation work with a jackhammer in a confined corner of the garage.

The accident made for great spot news, of course, and the Chronicle, the Examiner, KTVU and KPIX all posted brief stories on it immediately. They were each sure to note that California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (known better as Cal/OSHA) was probing the incident.

None of them followed up, however – which is not uncommon when occupational safety violations are handed out to employers long after cameras have departed from the scene. And the story points to one of the great failures of news media coverage of workplace safety issues.

Two months after the Nob Hill accident, Cal/OSHA fined Pacifica-based Doré Construction $13,000 for among other things allegedly failing to provide an adequate protective system to prevent the cave-in, i.e. not shoring up the garage’s walls properly, according to public records we obtained. The company was also fined for not having an expert on-site to regularly inspect the garage and ensure it wasn’t susceptible to collapse as they worked. Building inspection records show that the excavation work was being performed without a shoring permit.

Doré had been hired by the building’s owner in August of 2006 to do more than half-a-million dollars in rehab work to the structure.

The contractor immediately appealed the fines from Cal/OSHA, and since such cases are backlogged across the state, it could be years before the public actually sees the results. (Anthony Doré, owner of the construction company, told us he needed to contact his lawyer before answering questions, but we never heard back from him.)

Limited reporting on workplace safety incidents produces a fractured view of the regulatory system surrounding occupational hazards. While headlines that do get around to revealing Cal/OSHA fines after an investigation is complete lend a sense of finality to an accident, employers routinely appeal the fines, and with no follow-ups from reporters, the public is often blithely unaware of what employers actually end up paying.

Last year we reported on the fatality of an ironworker named Miguel Rodriquez at the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, which at that time was undergoing a $760 million retrofit (see “Lessons from the bridge,” 11/14/2006).

Again the initial accident was reported by several local outlets, along with the subsequent announcement of an investigation by Cal/OSHA, but the larger picture of what took place that day and what the contractor ultimately paid for the fines turned out to be far more interesting.

Rodriguez was killed in 2004 after another worker lowered an 1,800-pound steel frame from a height of 80 feet using a pneumatic winch that had gone out of production in the 1940s, according to an account in public records. The winch’s brake slipped, sending the frame crashing into a wood platform on which Rodriquez was standing. He was bounced into the air and sent through the hole created by the load, first hitting his head before dropping to the waves below.

While capturing the full story would have required a little digging, its breadth appeared later in publicly available civil-court depositions that lucidly described the accident.

Cal/OSHA eventually fined the prime contractor on the bridge, Tutor-Saliba/Koch/Tidewater, $18,000, alleging that the worker operating the winch wasn’t properly trained and was only using its brake to control the winch when it should have also been in gear. But public records today show that the joint venture appealed the decision and was later required by an administrative judge to pay just $300 of the fine.

The judge, Bref French, ruled in May of this year that indeed the winch’s operator had not been given proper instruction on the machinery as required by law, according to court records. But, French countered that Cal/OSHA had not proved Tutor-Saliba was aware that the training failure would almost undoubtedly result in serious physical harm or death, a key legal threshold that changed the nature of the penalties dramatically.

“The evidence must, at a minimum, show the types of injuries that would more likely than not result from the violative conditions,” French wrote.

This week, we reported on a carpenter named Kevin Noah who accidentally fell to his death from the Golden Gate Bridge while working on a multimillion-dollar retrofit project there in 2002. Brief news reports in the Chron announced the tragedy including a follow up that explained how Shimmick-Obayashi was fined $26,000 by Cal/OSHA.

Shimmick-Obayashi, however, never actually had to pay a thing, because as we reported, four years after the accident, a judge ruled on appeal that Cal/OSHA had not printed the contractor’s full legal name on the original citations. The judge, Barbara Steinhardt-Carter, dismissed the penalties without ever considering the merits of the case.

Courting the absurd


Click here to read about how the mainstream press fumbled on the Cal/OSHA probes

› gwschulz@sfbg.com

It didn’t matter how soon paramedics arrived. Kevin Noah, a 42-year-old carpenter with three sons, had no chance. The accidental 50-foot plunge from his perch on the Golden Gate Bridge killed him immediately.

Noah’s dizzyingly high station was a mere cross section of rebar — the slender iron braids that are often seen protruding from construction sites and provide a structure with skeletal support — inside an anchorage house located on a landbound portion of the bridge’s southern end.

Moments before on that August 2002 morning, Noah had been performing his normal duties, receiving planks of wood from another worker for use in forming a temporary frame to contain a wall of fresh concrete. The bridge was a year into phase two of its multimillion-dollar retrofit, which today is nearly complete.

Suddenly, the clip on Noah’s brace slid off the edge of an open-ended piece of rebar, and a nearby worker looked up just in time to see Noah’s body collide with the extended boom of an industrial cherry picker before falling the rest of the way to the ground, according to an account in public workplace-safety records.

In February 2003, Cal/OSHA, of California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health, concluded its investigation and penalized the retrofit’s prime contractor, joint venture Shimmick-Obayashi, for, among other things, allegedly failing to properly rig Noah’s fall protection and not providing workers with scaffolding to stand on in construction areas where the footing was less than 20 inches wide. Fines for the violations — three of them designated by the agency as serious — totaled more than $26,000.

But Shimmick-Obayashi wouldn’t pay a dime.

The outfit immediately turned to the Cal/OSHA Appeals Board, and since such cases are backlogged statewide, the matter didn’t reach an administrative judge until this year, when attorneys for Shimmick-Obayashi presented a peculiar defense. Cal/OSHA, they argued, sent the company citations through the mail that failed to list the full legal name of the company: the mailings were addressed to Shimmick-Obayashi instead of Shimmick Construction Company, Inc./Obayashi Corporation, Joint Venture.

The misstatement was akin to a cop failing to note "Esq." or "Jr." on a parking ticket. Cal/OSHA pleaded with the judge, Barbara Steinhardt-Carter, that "it is against civil law, board precedent, and public policy to dismiss this matter based on a minor technical fault that misled no one and caused no prejudice."

Steinhardt-Carter, however, bought the company’s claim and ruled earlier this year that Shimmick-Obayashi was liable for none of the fines, even though Cal/OSHA got the name it used from the company’s business cards.

Throughout a three-year period during which the parties exchanged memos, motions, and discovery material, the contractor’s lawyers never mentioned a problem with the original citations, Cal/OSHA spokesperson Dean Fryer told the Guardian, and variations of the name Shimmick-Obayashi appear on several court documents. The move was a last-minute Hail Mary by a cunning industry lawyer who represents several major players in the business. And it worked.

"The outcome of this case is really surprising and disappointing to our staff," Fryer said. "They went through a long and thorough investigative process, and their work is now basically disposed of."

That Shimmick-Obayashi attorney, Robert D. Peterson, knows more about workplace-safety laws than most. He literally wrote the Cal/OSHA handbook commonly used by employers today and served as chief counsel to the appeals board until 1978. That’s when he established his own law firm and began representing large-scale employers in occupational-safety and workers’ compensation proceedings.

"The bottom line is, if the division has a responsibility to identify correctly the employer that it’s alleging created a violation of a safety order [and] it doesn’t do that, then the citation won’t stand the light of day," Peterson told the Guardian. "Apparently, they didn’t do that. It’s a pretty simple thing to do."

Mammoth civil engineering concerns commonly form temporary partnerships, as several have done to bid on the half-dozen Bay Area bridge retrofit projects initiated by the state at a cost of billions of dollars since the Loma Prieta earthquake rattled the coastline in 1989.

Shimmick-Obayashi won its $122 million phase two contract in 2001 to replace the Golden Gate Bridge’s steel support towers and reinforce its pylons. That came after phase one more than doubled in cost to $71 million by the time it was completed that year under another contractor. All told, Shimmick-Obayashi will earn more than $150 million following a series of change orders, a spokesperson for the bridge agency told us.

The joint venture’s initial bid beat out those of four other firms, including the politically well-connected Tutor-Saliba Corp., which later earned $760 million in a partnership with two other companies to reinforce the Richmond–<\d>San Rafael Bridge. We’ve previously reported on the dozens of injuries and the three deaths that have occurred during that project (see "Lessons from the Bridge," 11/14/06).

Obayashi on its own has had a string of run-ins with Cal/OSHA in recent years. Last March regulators hit its local housing construction subsidiary with $27,000 in fines for allegedly failing to maintain proper railings at a site in downtown Oakland, according to a federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration database analysis. The company is currently fighting those penalties. In February it was fined $6,400 for an alleged lack of railings at a project in the Bayview. Overall, the company has $60,475 in statewide open Cal/OSHA penalty cases dating to 2005.

Shimmick’s cases are few since 2000, but in the middle of last year, Cal/OSHA issued the firm two serious citations totaling $36,000 in fines after an aerial lift carrying an ironworker reportedly fell off a 34-inch light-rail platform during construction of the Muni’s T Third line, "ejecting the employee into the fast lane of traffic." The 52-year-old man was taken to San Francisco General Hospital with a serious skull fracture. A safety director for Shimmick, Ike Riser, argued that despite the accident, Shimmick has one of the best safety programs in the state.

The incentive to keep even small settlements from blemishing a safety record is huge for contractors because they can lead to the escalation of insurance rates and make bidders less competitive. Cal/OSHA’s Fryer said that while Shimmick and Obayashi have faced serious recent incidents, together they have had relatively few problems on the Golden Gate Bridge.

"It doesn’t appear with the joint venture that there is really a pattern of concern," he said. "It’s just that this specific incident resulted in the fatality of a worker, when it could have been prevented."

Noah’s mother, Sandra, told us that her son began doing carpentry at age 16 and always preferred working on big jobs. She was unaware of the ruling until we reached her, long after Cal/OSHA first cited the contractor, but she believes Shimmick-Obayashi deserved the penalties.

"To leave three sons behind," she said, "that’s the real tragedy."<\!s>*

Fixing Muni — and traffic


EDITORIAL There is much to like and some things not to like in Sup. Aaron Peskin’s Muni reform measure, but the most important thing the measure does is demonstrate that Muni won’t get better unless the city also works on controlling car traffic in congested areas. It’s a critical policy issue that’s going to be the subject of a heated fall ballot campaign — and so far Mayor Gavin Newsom is planted squarely on the wrong side.

Nobody can dispute the motivation behind Peskin’s charter amendment: Muni is a train wreck right now, with service far below acceptable levels. Something has to change, and the way he’s proposed it, the system would get an additional $26 million in guaranteed city money, and Muni management would have some expanded ability to set performance standards and require the staff to meet them.

We would, of course, prefer that the dedicated Muni money come from some new revenue stream, not from the existing General Fund. And we’ve always believed that the supervisors and the mayor should have to sign off specifically on any Muni fare hike. But overall, a lot of what Peskin is proposing makes sense — and now that he has worked out the problems that labor initially had with the measure, it has a good chance of winning this fall.

The mayor thought so too and had endorsed the proposal — until Peskin took the critical step of adding in restrictions on downtown parking. That would undermine the plans of big developers and their allies, who want the right to add a lot more parking spaces and curb openings for their luxury condo projects downtown.

The developers, with the help of Gap founder and power broker Don Fisher, are trying to get their own ballot measure passed, one that would greatly expand downtown parking. That’s exactly the wrong direction in which San Francisco should move.

In fact, what the city needs is a policy directive aimed at reducing the number of cars downtown and keeping the total number in the city from rising. Current planning documents and projections are all based on the assumption that more cars will pour into the city over the next 10 years, and that may become a self-fulfilling prophecy. But it doesn’t need to be.

San Francisco is one of the most environmentally aware cities in the world. And as more residential development comes in downtown, there’s absolutely no reason why this city can’t stick to its transit-first policy and set a goal of reducing congestion in the urban core.

Others cities are doing it. London has had tremendous success with restrictions on driving in its central City (and a stiff price tag for doing it). New York is looking seriously at congestion pricing, and San Francisco ought to be pursuing Sup. Jake McGoldrick’s idea of bringing the concept here.

And the cold, hard fact is that fewer parking spaces means fewer cars. If the value of downtown high-rise condos is that they will encourage people to walk or take transit to work, why fill the basements with parking garages?

If San Franciscans want Muni buses to be able to negotiate rapidly and efficiently through the downtown area, why shouldn’t the city do everything possible to clear some of the car traffic out of the way?

Newsom was willing to support the Muni measure — and knew in advance, Peskin tells us, that parking limits were going to be part of it — but the minute his downtown backers started to yelp, he backed away. Now the mayor is in the position of opposing Muni reform — in the name of helping developers build more parking in a city that already has too many cars. That’s a terrible place to be for a mayor who tries to portray himself as an environmentalist. *

Editor’s Notes


› tredmond@sfbg.com

There’s a new move afoot, this time through a lawsuit, to change the way taxicab permits work in San Francisco. Rachel Stern lays out the story on page 14, but allow me to offer a bit of political background:

The San Francisco cab industry works as a medieval class system. There are members of the landed gentry — people who have medallions, or operating permits — and there are serfs, people who drive cabs but don’t have permits. The serfs fork over a significant portion of their income every day to the gentry in the form of lease fees, the same way the peasants used to fork over much of their income for the right to live near a castle or hunt or farm on the gentry’s land. See, you can’t drive a cab without a permit, and if you don’t have one, you have to lease one from someone who does.

Drivers are all independent contractors, so they get no health insurance or disability and retirement benefits.

In this particular economic world, even the permit holders aren’t getting rich. The only ones who really make out are the top royalty, the cab companies themselves. But the gentry do a lot better than the serfs.

What’s interesting, though, and wonderful in its way, is that thanks to a 1978 law backed by that well-known Marxist former supervisor Quentin Kopp, you can’t inherit your way into the landed gentry. You can’t buy your way in, borrow your way in, or marry your way in. The only way to become a medallion holder is to put your name on a list and wait, along with all the other serfs, until, after 15 years or so, a permit opens up.

And the way a permits opens up is that someone who has one quits driving.

That’s the deal Kopp put together: only active, working drivers are supposed to get the benefits of the medallions. No corporations, no partnerships, no trusts, no relatives…. You personally drive a cab 800 hours a year, and you’re eligible to lease your permit out during those shifts when you’re not using it.

Of course, once a driver becomes a member of the landed gentry, he or she never wants to give up that permit. It’s free income, maybe worth $2,000 a month. The Medallion Holders Association desperately wants its members to be able to keep their permits when they retire, or be able to give them to their kids, or somehow cement them as property that a person can own, just like the forests and fields of the landed gentry of yore.

The latest issue is disability. Suppose you wait patiently for 15 years, suffering in serfdom, and your number finally comes up, and you get that golden ticket — and then you get in an accident and lose the ability to drive a car. I get the point; maybe there ought to be some transition program or something. But every time a nondriver gets to keep a permit, a serf waits even longer in line, forking over hundreds of dollars to a member of the gentry who doesn’t want to play by the rules anymore.

The bottom line is, cab permits belong to the city, and they aren’t supposed to be someone’s retirement fund. I don’t like any sort of rigid class system, but if you’re going to have one, the serfs deserve fairness too.<\!s>*

Say goodbye to Earthlink


EDITORIAL EarthLink, the big technology firm that has been negotiating with San Francisco to build a free wireless network for the city and its residents, just announced a change in corporate strategy. On July 26, CEO Rolla P. Huff told stock analysts that the company would no longer pursue the sort of deal that San Francisco wants; instead, Huff said, EarthLink wants each municipality to "step up" and become an "anchor tenant."

That would mean San Francisco forking over millions of dollars a year to guarantee EarthLink some baseline revenue. It’s highly unlikely that the Board of Supervisors would agree to that sort of deal.

There’s no immediate indication of what this means for San Francisco. Some analysts think that the side deal between EarthLink and Google will provide enough revenue (with Google as the anchor tenant) to satisfy Huff’s demands. That’s impossible to say, however: the deal between the two tech companies remains secret (as does too much of this contract).

But there’s a chance EarthLink will pull the plug on San Francisco — and if it doesn’t, the company has made clear that it doesn’t want this sort of contract and won’t put much in the way of resources into making it work.

The way the deal was supposed to go down, EarthLink would provide free, if slow, wireless service all over town — although it wouldn’t work above the second floor of most buildings and might be difficult to use inside a lot of houses. A faster version would be available for a fee. And Google would sell ads based on users’ search terms.

We never liked the plan anyway. It seems foolish for San Francisco to turn such an essential part of its future infrastructure over to a private company. And now that EarthLink may be walking away, the supervisors ought to immediately pursue plans for a municipal broadband network.

Wi-fi is, and ought to be, only a small part of that plan. Wi-fi has limited use and range and is hardly a perfect solution to the digital divide. Sups. Tom Ammiano and Chris Daly have proposed that the city put fiber-optic cables under the streets anytime anyone is tearing up the pavement for other utility work. There are already public cables linking some city offices, and while creating a total network of underground fiber that could reach the door of every home and business would be a big undertaking, it would more than pay for itself in the long term.

While Mayor Gavin Newsom will be looking to blame the board for demanding more concessions from EarthLink, the company has created its own problems. And the Mayor’s Office, by agreeing to terms that let EarthLink and Google keep far too much information confidential and by defying the requests of community activists for more information about the deal, just made things worse.

At this point, with the economic model that Newsom and EarthLink identified losing credibility, the supervisors should make it clear: No more private contractors. No more outsourcing infrastructure. San Francisco needs municipal broadband — with wi-fi and fiber-optic cables — and the time to get started is now. *

Carbon-neutral madness


› news@sfbg.com

GREEN CITY Are you carbon neutral yet? Al Gore says he is. The concert tours for the Rolling Stones, Dave Matthews, and other big acts say they are too. Indeed, going neutral is hot these days as, almost overnight, the fledgling market in carbon offsets has burgeoned into a multimillion-dollar industry.

The method is simple, at least in theory. For a fee, companies will balance, or offset, the greenhouse gases emitted by your car or home by spending money on climate-healing initiatives such as renewable energy, forestation projects, and capturing deleterious gases like methane from farms and landfills.

But the sheer number of offset firms out there is staggering, with hundreds of companies vying for your dollars. And as the industry has exploded in popularity, questions have arisen about its reliability and whether the millions of dollars being spent are really making it to worthwhile projects.

"It’s the Wild, Wild West out there with carbon offsetting," the Sierra Club’s Aaron Israel told the Guardian. "Until it becomes a truly functional market, it’s going to continue to be confusing to the consumer who really wants to do the right thing."

A San Francisco firm is looking to bring some accountability to the freewheeling new sector. Since California’s energy deregulation disaster, the nonprofit Center for Resource Solutions has run the Green-e program, which oversees and authenticates energy companies that claim to produce renewable power. Starting this fall, the CRS’s Sarah Krasley told us, Green-e will police the carbon offset market as well and put its seal on worthy companies.

Green-e has already been certifying one method for slowing climate change for years: the sale of renewable energy certificates, or RECs. A local firm called 3 Degrees (formerly 3 Phases Energy) specializes in RECs, mainly for small and large businesses. With each one-megawatt-hour certificate its customers buy, the company helps wind, solar, and other renewable-energy producers compete with cheaper, fossil fuel–based sources of energy. As 3 Degrees’ Steve MacDougal explained, "Utilities purchase energy at a commodity price, the same price for coal as for renewables. RECs allow [green-power companies] to have a premium, which makes them more profitable."

While 3 Degrees deals primarily in RECs for business clients, two other local firms, TerraPass and LiveNeutral, peddle offsets for individuals. Since it opened shop just two years ago, the for-profit TerraPass has sold tens of thousands of "passes" on its Web site for car emissions, air travel, home electricity use, and even weddings. The average buyer spends "about $50," company founder Tom Arnold told us, with the money going to initiatives like wind farms in the Midwest and the capturing of greenhouse gas emissions from farms and landfills. About one-third of 3 Degrees’ outlays go to RECs.

LiveNeutral takes a different approach from TerraPass or any other company. Rather than spending money on individual projects or methods, the Presidio nonprofit buys and then permanently retires carbon offset credits from the Chicago Climate Exchange. "By purchasing these credits and then never reselling them," LiveNeutral executive director Jason Smith explained, "we drive up the price of the credits and encourage [big greenhouse gas emitters] to reduce." LiveNeutral sells a one-ton emissions reduction credit for $7.50, Smith said. Most customers use the company’s DriveNeutral program and purchase five credits to offset one year of driving. The firm also offers a FlyNeutral option for air travel.

But many critics have likened the offset business to medieval papal indulgences, with environmental sins like owning an inefficient vehicle or cranking up the thermostat absolved for the right price. Israel said the Sierra Club does not openly oppose the practice, but he is worried that offsets could become "a distraction for people…. It’s really the last thing you should do, not the first. First you should conserve and become more efficient, then you can see about offsetting what’s left."

For Arnold, TerraPass’s phenomenal success is not about exploiting guilt or bad behavior. Instead, he reasoned, it simply shows that people want to do all they can to make a difference. "Most of our users are already green," he said. "But we want to reach the people who are just now waking up to enormity of the problem too…. What our customers are saying is very American: ‘Let’s not wait for someone else to do it, let’s get something done ourselves.’ " *

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

Dust devils


› sarah@sfbg.com

A year has passed since Lennar Corp. officials admitted that subcontractor CH2M Hill failed to install batteries in dust-monitoring equipment at Parcel A, a construction site in Hunters Point Shipyard where an asbestos-laden hilltop was graded to build 1,600 condominiums (see "The Corporation That Ate San Francisco," 3/14/07).

The admission sparked a steadily growing political firestorm in Bayview–Hunters Point, further fueled by evidence that Gordon Ball, another Lennar subcontractor, for six months failed to adequately water the site to control dust and by a racially charged lawsuit in which three African American employees of Lennar allege they were subjected to discrimination and retaliation after they refused to remain silent about the dust issue. The lawsuit, set for a case management hearing Aug. 17, also claims that Ball committed fraud involving the Redevelopment Agency’s minority-hiring requirements.

Bayview–Hunters Point residents angry about the situation have found an ally in Sup. Chris Daly, who has called for a halt to construction at the site until an independent health assessment is conducted to the satisfaction of the community, including the Muhammad University of Islam School, which is adjacent to the Parcel A site and has been exposed to dust. The Board of Supervisors was scheduled to consider Daly’s resolution Jul. 31, after the Guardian‘s press time.

"This issue is of such a high level of importance," Daly told us. "There’s now a mandate for progressives in San Francisco to talk about environmental justice and to take action."

Sup. Sophie Maxwell, whose district includes the shipyard, told us that she understands the concerns of Daly and the community. "But when you get down it … the dust is inconvenient, but it is not harmful in the long term," she said.

Maxwell believes the city’s Department of Public Health should have done more outreach and updates, "but it has brought the situation under control." That sentiment was echoed by the city’s environmental health director, Dr. Rajiv Bhatia, who told us, "This is the first time we have implemented dust control, and this is an industry that had never been regulated. And in the end, things got better. We did our job in pushing a regulated community that grudgingly complied with our regulations."

In June, after residents complained that the dust was causing nosebleeds, headaches, and asthma, the DPH released a fact sheet that stated, "You may have heard there are reasons to worry about your health because of the construction dust generated by the redevelopment of Parcel A of the Hunters Point Shipyard. That is not true."

A July 5 informational DPH memo claims that when workers tried to do dust training and outreach at the end of June, their efforts "were significantly hindered by representatives of the Muhammad University of Islam," who allegedly disrupted training sessions, followed DPH workers, and told residents not to listen to the DPH workers.

On July 9, DPH director Mitch Katz testified at a hearing of the supervisors’ Land Use Committee that the city had imposed the highest standards possible to control dust. Katz also claimed that exposure to the dust was not toxic and that there is no proof that health problems were caused by the dust.

But at the same hearing, Nation of Islam minister Christopher Muhammad demanded testing "by people the community can trust," and he accused the city of "environmental racism." Noting that asbestos-related diseases often don’t manifest themselves for at least 20 years, Muhammad claimed, "The problem that we’re seeing in Bayview–Hunters Point is dust related."

After the DPH abandoned plans to do door-to-door outreach in favor of a series of health fairs, a coalition of activists calling itself POWER (People Organized to Win Employment Rights), some wearing masks and hazmat suits, closed down a July 17 homeownership seminar at Lennar’s shipyard trailer.

"Some folks did a picket outside, while inside, folks who own homes or live in public housing in the area were asking a lot of questions," POWER’s Alicia Schwartz told us. "We are for development that prioritizes the needs of low-income communities of color who have long been absent from the decision-making process, not development that puts the health and safety of families and the elderly at risk."

Two days later Marcia Rosen resigned as executive director of the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency. SFRA board member London Breed told us that the resignation was "a long time coming" and said she wished Rosen had taken a stronger stand on Lennar and Ball in the winter of 2006.

Breed says the agency "will always be a bad word to African Americans because of what happened in the Western Addition…. But we have a great opportunity in Bayview–Hunters Point to make it into something wonderful for the community."

Maxwell, whose grandson attended the Muhammad school’s Third Street campus, wonders why the minister refuses to move his students back to Third Street. "Lennar understands that this has become a PR nightmare and they are going to have to get contractors who are supportive of and understand the rules and regulations," said Maxwell, who is about to introduce legislation that she hopes will better control construction dust citywide.

Meanwhile, Dr. Arelious Walker of the True Hope Church of God in Christ told us that he and a group of like-minded pastors have formed the African American Revitalization Consortium, "a highly vocal and visible group in strong opposition to the shutting down of the shipyard without scientific proof."

"We support 100 percent the notion that the dust from Parcel A does not cause any long-term health risks. The project must continue because of its economic impacts. One little group does not speak for us all," said Walker, who met with Mayor Gavin Newsom, Maxwell, and Katz on July 23.

Acknowledging that the outcry over Parcel A has raised awareness of the dust issue, Walker said, "For years in the urban community, the environment was not the issue, but now we’ve woken up." Walker and his fellow ministers rallied about 200 people at City Hall on July 24 to express support for Lennar’s development and confidence in city officials.

Yet Daly said that faith may be misplaced: "It’s going to be a struggle to deal with the construction-related impacts of Lennar’s development at the shipyard, but the issue is much bigger, and it points to the need for an alliance between progressives, the African American community, and the southeast neighborhoods." *

Web Site of the Week



Opposition is starting to build against downtown’s sneaky and self-serving fall ballot measure to create more parking spaces, which in the process would scrap three decades’ worth of neighborhood-based planning policies. Check out this Web site to learn more.

You can’t trust the voting machines


OPINION California’s secretary of state, Debra Bowen, has released a landmark report showing what all honest brokers admitted long ago: electronic voting systems are completely vulnerable to hackers. "The independent teams of analysts [hired by the state] were able to bypass both physical and software security measures in every system tested," her report states.

A report on accessibility for disabled voters found that none of the direct recording electronic (usually touch screen) voting systems met federal disability standards.

And yet US House Democrats and People for the America Way are busy hammering out a deal in Congress to institutionalize in federal law the continued use of such disastrous voting systems.

Out of touch much? Which part of a transparent, counted, paper ballot (not a "trail" or a "record") for every vote cast in America do these guys not understand?

Late Friday, as Bowen’s report was being released, US House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.) finally came to terms, reportedly, on a deal for a revision of Holt’s House Resolution 811, dubbed the Federal Election Reform Bill, which allows for the use of DREs — as preferred, almost exclusively, by People for the American Way, elections officials, and voting-machine companies. Saturday’s New York Times confirmed that it was "Ralph G. Neas, president of People for the American Way, [who] helped broker the deal" between Holt and the House leadership.

And though Christopher Drew’s reporting at the New York Times is getting slightly better with each new story, it would be nice if the "paper of record" could learn enough about our voting systems to accurately report and help Americans understand what’s really at stake here and how the technology actually works.

Drew reported — misleadingly — that "the House bill would require every state to use paper records that would let voters verify that their ballots had been correctly cast and that would be available for recounts."

That’s just plain wrong. The fact is that adding "cash-register-style printers to … touch-screen machines," as Drew describes it, does not allow a voter to verify that his or her "ballots had been correctly cast." It allows voters only to verify that the paper record of their invisibly cast electronic ballot accurately matches their intentions, if they bother to check it (studies show most don’t) and if they’re able to notice errors on the printout (studies also show that most do not). The fact is, there is no way to verify that a person’s vote is correctly cast on a DRE touch-screen voting machine. Period.

Unless, of course, it’s me who is out of touch in presuming that if a ballot is cast, it means it will actually be counted by someone or something. Paper trails added to DRE systems are not counted; instead, only the internal, invisible, unverifiable ballots are. A "cash-register-style" printout prior to the ballot being cast and counted internally does nothing to change that. *

Brad Friedman

Brad Friedman writes on elections and political integrity for the Brad Blog at www.bradblog.com. A version of this piece first appeared as a post there.

Who’s behind the wheel?


› news@sfbg.com

In 1997, Dirk, a taxi driver of 20 years, was stabbed in the neck by a hitchhiker he picked up after his last shift. Ten years later, blind and brain damaged because of the loss of blood, he still receives income of roughly $1,800 a month from his taxi medallion.

Under city law, he’s supposed to be driving.

Medallions are among the most prized — and disputed — permits in town. The city owns all 1,381 of the medallions, which allow the holders to operate taxis. But under a 1978 law known as Proposition K, only active drivers — later defined as people who put in an annual minimum of 800 hours behind the wheel — are eligible to hold the permits.

The medallion holders have a lucrative deal: when they aren’t driving, they can lease out the permits to other drivers. And since a lot of cabs are on the road 24 hours a day 365 days a year, those lease fees can add up.

Not surprisingly, there’s been some abuse over the years. You get a permit by putting your name on a list and waiting as long as 15 years. Some people who haven’t driven in years — people who don’t even live in the area — have risen to the top of the list, seized medallions, and pocketed the cash, hoping nobody would notice.

Recently, though, the city’s Taxicab Commission has been cracking down — and that has put people like Dirk in limbo and raised a series of political and legal questions that go to the heart of the city’s cab-permit system:

Does a disabled driver have a right to keep his or her medallion? Is it cruel to simply yank the permit — and the income — from somebody who may have been injured in the line of work? Or is allowing nondrivers to keep their medallions unfair to the thousands of working cabbies who are paying $91.50 a shift to lease a permitted cab and waiting in line for a permit to open up?

What right should someone who gets a valuable city permit, at no cost, have to keep using that permit to earn income when he or she no longer meets the permit requirements?

Taxicab Commission executive director Heidi Machen says the answers are straightforward. "Permit holders who are not meeting their requirements are abusing a public permit," she told the Guardian. "Proposition K was never set up as a retirement plan."

Joe Breall and Elliot Myles disagree — and they’re taking the issue to court in a case that could have lasting implications for the city’s taxicab industry, medallion holders, and other drivers.

The two Bay Area lawyers filed a class action lawsuit against the Taxicab Commission on June 25 on behalf of an estimated 150 disabled drivers who hold taxi medallions in the city. They argue that the driving requirement violates the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act.

"These are long-term drivers who have a disability that simply does not allow them to drive now," said Breall, who represents National Cab Co.

One of the case’s two named plaintiffs, William Slone, is a medallion holder with a lung disease that requires him to be hooked up to an oxygen tank 24 hours a day. The other, Michael Merrithew, has a physical disability so severe that he cannot operate his taxi.

Machen has hired two investigators to crack down on medallion holders who are not fulfilling their requirements — whether a scofflaw is a healthy 30-year-old woman living in Hawaii but reaping her medallion’s profits or an elderly man who must use a wheelchair but is still using the medallion as his source of income.

"The ADA does not require a public agency to waive an essential eligibility requirement for a government program or benefit," Machen wrote in a memo dated Feb. 16, 2006.

The Taxicab Commission isn’t just yanking permits from anyone who gets hurt. Under its current policy, temporarily disabled medallion holders can apply to take one year off every five years and receive a 120-day driving exemption in each of the three years following that disability leave.

But the lawsuit argues that this policy "effectively sanctions all taxicab permit/medallion holders with disabilities other than temporary illness that prevent or substantially limit their ability to drive taxi cabs personally."

The lawsuit argues that disabled permit holders, under the ADA, should be relieved of the full-time driving requirement until their disabilities are medically resolved. In the case of some drivers, that could effectively give them use of city-owned medallions free, for life.


Prop. K was written by recently retired San Mateo Superior Court judge Quentin Kopp, who was then a city supervisor. Kopp told us that permits were being bought and sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars and working drivers couldn’t afford them. The system, which is fairly unusual, was designed to ensure that cabbies — not investors, corporations, or speculators — got the benefits of the city-owned permits.

So Prop. K required that a permit be returned to city and passed on to the next person on the long waiting list if the holder stops driving. Other large cities, such as New York, still maintain a system in which permits may be auctioned off instead of being publicly owned.

The 941 post–<\d>Prop. K medallion holders, Machen said, can receive $1,800 to $3,000 a month for leasing their permits. There are roughly 6,000 taxi drivers in the city; a full-time cab driver makes about $24,000 a year, but those full-timers with permits can add another $20,000 or more to their income by leasing.

"It’s a city permit. If someone stops using it, it reverts to the city," Kopp told us. "There’s no provision for a grace period or something of that sort. Seven times voters rejected efforts to appeal or change it."

In fact, in 2003 voters overwhelmingly rejected a measure that would have allowed disabled drivers to keep their permits.

Elliott Myles of Oakland’s Myles Law Firm, which handles disability cases, told us that Prop. K is "irrelevant."

"The obligation to modify or waive comes from the ADA, a federal law binding on the commission," he wrote in an e-mail.

Although Kopp says Prop. K was intended to ensure that only active drivers get permits, the 800-hours-a-year rule isn’t in the law. Specific driving rules were added to the city’s Police Code in 1988.

And enforcement of the law has changed in the past few years. When the Taxicab Commission revoked the medallion of disabled driver Querida Mia Rivera in 2003, the decision was overturned by the Board of Appeals on the grounds that it violated the rights of Rivera — who had driven for 35 years before needing a wheelchair and becoming legally blind — under the ADA.

In response to the reversal, then-director Naomi Little implemented a policy to accommodate both temporarily and permanently disabled medallion holders, which paralleled the city’s catastrophic-injury program. This meant the modification or waiver of the 800 hours was overseen by the Department of Public Health.

"A disabled permit holder may apply for a waiver or reduction of the driving requirement, and the waiver or reduction, in appropriate cases, may be renewed on a yearly basis," Little wrote in a memorandum to Sup. Jake McGoldrick on July 30, 2003.

But in February 2006 the Taxicab Commission adopted Resolution 2006-28, which returned the city to the policy of strictly following the letter of Prop. K (although the panel allows temporary reprieves for people who are injured but could return to driving).

Michael Kwok, a former commission staffer who oversaw disability requests, said such a policy allows the permit waiting line to move faster.

Allowing a permanently disabled person to retain his or her permit is "not fair to the public," said Kwok, who uses a wheelchair. "It’s case by case."

The result is an enforcement process that can be tricky, to say the least.

On Aug. 17, 2004, for example, a physician wrote to the commission arguing that a disabled driver who was "suffering from failing eyesight and dizziness" and occasional arthritis in his hands should be taken off the road. "Please release him from taxi driving effective immediately for public safety," the doctor wrote. "He is advised not to drive a taxi as soon as possible."

Commission staffer Tristan Bettencourt, who was overseeing ADA compliance at the time, responded by reducing the driver’s yearly driving requirement to 400 hours, or 78 four-hour shifts, over the next year.

That could have left an unsafe driver on the road, Myles said.

"I find this reprehensible," he told us. "In most medical-injury suits, evidence of medical condition can only be given by qualified health care professionals."

Bettencourt, who left his job last year, said the Taxicab Commission shouldn’t be deciding whether someone is fit to drive or not. "We didn’t give out driver’s licenses," he told us. "If you hold a driver’s license, someone from the Department of Motor Vehicles has certified you."

According to Jan Mendoza, a public information officer at the DMV, a license needs to be renewed every five years — a process that can take place online if a person has a clean record. People over the age of 70, however, have to visit the office in person to take both a vision and a driving test.

Taxi drivers should not have any guarantee of lifetime entitlement, Bettencourt said. He added that the lack of a safety net for people who lose their means of employment is not something a San Francisco taxi regulator can solve; it’s a national problem.


Thomas George-Williams, who chairs the United Taxicab Workers, looks at the issue from the perspective of drivers who don’t have permits — the ones he considers second-class citizens in a two-tier system.

All San Francisco cab drivers are effectively independent contractors who are responsible for their own disability and retirement funds. And the drivers who don’t have permits get no benefits from the system at all.

Medallion holders "use the income of their medallions for disability insurance," George-Williams told us. "We need an exit strategy for all drivers, including medallion holders, and we don’t have that."

Charles Rathbone, a driver for 30 years and a medallion holder for 10, points to the harsh truth: there’s a key difference between the two cabbie classifications. "For drivers without medallions, there’s nothing to revoke," he told us.

Rathbone, a member of the Medallion Holders Association, spoke at the Taxicab Commission meeting July 13 to lay out two steps he felt the city should take before revoking a permit. He asked for two weeks’ advance warning and an appeals process.

"When I become disabled, I don’t want my only exit strategy to be a kick in the ass from the taxi commission," Rathbone later told us.

His speech was spurred by the June suicide of Lindsey Welcome, a 61-year-old medallion holder of 10 years who had not driven for seven of those years due to severe muscular dystrophy. Welcome’s medallion, which she leased out through Luxor Cabs, was scheduled to be revoked at the Taxicab Commission’s June 26 meeting.

"Her medallion was her only means of support," Kathleen Young, Welcome’s friend of 30 years, told us.

Rathbone feels many disabled medallion holders hide their disabilities for fear of the consequences, endangering themselves and the public.

One of the more severe recent taxi incidents happened March 26, 2003, when a 68-year-old permit holder crashed into a Market Street ATM, badly injuring a pedestrian and immobilizing two others.

"Too many people are driving when they shouldn’t be," said Bettina Cohen, Rathbone’s wife and editor of the MHA newsletter, which publicized the pending disability lawsuit on its front page last month.

Allowing disabled drivers to keep their permits may have its own downside: Carl Macmurdo, president of the MHA, acknowledged that the long waiting line for medallions means people will acquire them later in life and so will often be able to fully enjoy them for only a short time.

"[The city’s] giving permits to 70-year-olds and then taking them back," Macmurdo, who waited 13 years to get his permit, said.

Myles shared similar sentiments. "Every permit holder, just like every person, runs the risk of disability," he told us. "This question [of the disabled holding on to their permits] affects not only every current permit holder but every driver who is waiting in line to get a permit in the future."<\!s>*

Pain and fun


› annalee@techsploitation.com

TECHSPLOITATION A couple of economic researchers have proven via scientific experimentation something that artists have known for millennia: people can feel pain and have fun at the same time. At last, we have a scientific theory that explains why the torture-tastic movie Saw is so popular. Not to mention the writings of Franz Kafka.

Eduardo Andrade and Joel Cohen, both business professors interested in consumer behavior, wanted to know why people are willing to plunk down money for what they called "negative feelings," the sensations of disgust and nastiness that arise during hideous but financially successful flicks like Hostel, the Jason and Freddy franchises, and The Silence of the Lambs. It’s a good question, especially if you’re one of those business types who want to peddle gore to the fake blood–loving masses. As a huge consumer of gore myself, I was immediately intrigued by the scholarly article Andrade and Cohen produced, which sums up four experiments they did with hapless undergraduates paid to watch bad horror movies and describe how this exercise made them feel. The researchers had two basic questions: Do audiences experience fear and pleasure at the same time while watching somebody get dismembered? If yes, how?

First, a word about the researchers’ methods. Let it be known that they did not display discerning taste in horror movies. As a connoisseur of the genre, I’d have made those students watch Hostel, with its shocking scenes of eyeball gouging. Or perhaps 28 Days Later, with its white-knuckle zombie chase scenes. But Andrade and Cohen picked the 1973 seen-it-so-many-times-it’s-no-longer-frightening flick The Exorcist and the craptastic, unscary 2004 version of ‘Salem’s Lot. Hey guys, call me before you do the next round of experiments, OK?

Aesthetic choices aside, the results of these movie-watching experiments were intriguing. Students were shown "scary" clips from both films and asked to rate how they felt during and after watching. Previous scholars had suggested that people who enjoy horror movies have a reduced capacity to feel fear or have fun only when the yuck is over and they leave the theater. What Andrade and Cohen found, however, was that students who loved horror movies reported nearly the same levels of fear as students who avoided these movies. Plus the horror lovers reported having fun during the movies, not just afterward. So, as I said earlier, science uncovered what literary critics have known forever: ambivalent feelings are the shit.

Horror movies appeal because humans like to feel grossed out and entertained pleasurably at the same time. There’s a payoff in coexperiencing two conflicting emotions.

But Andrade and Cohen are careful to explain that the fun of ambivalence doesn’t work for everyone and may not translate into real-world horrors. They suggest that people who enjoy the yuck-yay feeling of horror movies are masters at psychological framing and distancing. Horror viewers who have the most fun are also the ones who are most convinced that what they’re watching isn’t real. People who sympathize too much with tortured characters feel only horror. That also means horror fans who see real-life violence won’t get a kick out of it.

The researchers proved this point by showing people horror films alongside biographies of the actors playing the main characters, constantly reminding viewers that these were just movies and the "victims" were playing roles. Even viewers who normally avoid horror movies reported that they were a lot more comfortable and had some fun when they were reminded that the action was staged.

I would argue that Andrade and Cohen’s research into distancing is the key to understanding horror fans. Our pleasure in horror is not depraved — it is purely a function of our understanding that what we’re seeing isn’t real. This knowledge frees us to revel in the frisson of ambivalent feelings, which are the cornerstone of art both great and small. *

Annalee Newitz is a surly media nerd whose book about horror movies only involved experiments on herself.

Curious and curiouser


› andrea@altsexcolumn.com

Dear Andrea:

My straight (?) man who loves women and their curves and smiles and butts and legs, who loves me and my mom and his mom and all the pretty girls who pass us on the sidewalk, also really, really likes looking at transsexual porn. He likes really feminine-looking guys who have long pretty hair and soft girly curves. He tells me he has no interest in following through with what has been for him a very, very long-term turn-on. This fetish doesn’t really play itself out in the bedroom, where we are basically old-fashioned. Since he looks at this porn often enough for it to be more than curiosity, could you give me some information on it?


So Curious

Dear So:

What can I tell you? There is a huge market for porn featuring shemales, young, pretty pre-op or nonop transsexuals, a.k.a. "chicks with dicks." The answer to what I assume is your underlying question, meanwhile, does not exist, and I can prove it. I was feeling kind of bored with my own standard answer to similar questions and, in a fit of ennui, entered "he looks at shemale porn" into a search box. I got eleventy million porn sites and this, from the archives of the late and, I guess, occasionally lamented Google Answers:

Q: Why would a man in a committed, loving, sexual relationship use shemale and transgender porn?

A: There is no answer at this time.

So there you have it.

More seriously, there really can’t be an explanation for what all those straight guys are getting out of all that shemale porn — if you asked them, you’d get various answers, including "I dunno, I just like it." A lot of "I dunno, I just like it." The most obvious and, to the wives and girlfriends looking on anxiously from the sidelines, most troubling answer is, of course, "They’re gay, gay, gay," but honestly, it isn’t likely. Gay men tend to be attracted to men — sometimes little, slim, smooth-bodied men, sometimes big, hairy, muscle-bulgy men, but men just the same. There are, of course, exceptions — there are always exceptions — but most of the audience for this stuff (and the vast majority of customers for the vast selection of shemale-type sex workers out there) are as straight as you are. Some are obviously penis curious but, not being gay, would not be turned on by porn featuring big muscley guys named Rod or Steel or Steel Rod. Some just like stuff that feels forbidden or dirty. Some, I suppose, may be fantasizing that they are the shemale (a term, by the way, best reserved for sex workers and porn models, while just-regular-folks male-to-female transsexuals generally think of themselves as trans women of various op or nonop sorts).

Actually, I know an even better way to piss off a well-educated, politically aware trans person than to call her a shemale: use the word autogynephilia. Then duck. No, don’t call her a duck — I mean duck and cover, since she will want to punch your throat out.

Autogynephila is part of an alternative (in this case, alternative to the correct one, if you ask me) model of transsexuality in which male-to-female transsexuals are not women of any sort but merely gender dysphoric males or, if postop, men without penises, and in which those trans women who aren’t attracted to men (lots, in my experience) are not lesbians, bisexuals, or asexuals but autogynephiles, men who are turned on by the image of themselves as women. In other words, they spent masses of money, went through surgeries, changed their entire lives, and often lost family members, spouses, and jobs, all for a sexual thrill. This model seems too stupid to have gained any currency at all outside the crabbed little hearts of its three or four well-known proponents, but apparently you can still find it in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-IV-TR, the most up-to-date version of the standard reference your psychiatrist or therapist uses to figure out what the hell is wrong with you.

So what does this have to do with your question? Oh, nothing much, I just thought it was an interesting — if slightly nongermane — footnote, and if you don’t like interesting if slightly nongermane footnotes, you probably don’t read this column.

I think your man who loves women and moms and fluffy lavender bunnies (I’m sorry, but you inadvertently made him sound a bit like, oh, remember that unaccountably heterosexual Peter Pan guy, the one with the Web site and the large collection of jerkins who’s forever looking for his Tinkerbell? That guy) has a fetish, plain and simple. The Web exists to give such people an outlet, and I may be naive, but I truly believe that a guy who loves you and is happy with you can easily satisfy his yen for exotica in the privacy of his home office and need never stray. You’ve already asked him about that. He’s already answered. I’d be inclined to shrug and believe him.



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.

The horse’s mouth


› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com

CHEAP EATS My favorite novel is Don Quixote. I’ve been reading it since I was three. Or so. Over and over and over and over. But I’d never seen Man of La Mancha, even though it was Crawdad de la Cooter’s favorite musical. On road trips, we would listen to her old tape over and over, singing along, dreaming the impossible dream, and so on.

Then I saw Man of La Mancha. The Sixth Street Playhouse in Santa Rosa was putting it on, and my woodsy neighbor Slim Jimmy Jack James, meat eater, landed the role of Don Quixote’s horse. He told me and Mountain Sam about it around the smoker, and we patted him on the back and hooted and tipped our beers and wine bottles and clinked pork ribs.

"That’s my favorite musical," I said. "I’ve always kind of thought I should see it some day."

"June and July," Slim J.J.J. said, and while he and Sam were playing with the catapult, shooting rocks into buckets and putting each other’s eyes out, etc., I went inside and found a calendar. It had pictures of food on it, recipes, and nothing at all marked for June or July. I circled both months with a big black marker and went back outside to administer to the wounded.

That was a couple months ago. Cut to a couple months later, and I don’t think I ever in my life looked at that calendar again. I don’t even know where it came from. Maybe it wasn’t mine, but I was sitting somewhere in Noe Valley, with my head in my hands, reminiscing about the pond where me and Mrs. Jimmy Jack would be sitting right now with our feet in the water, watching turtles, if I hadn’t closed up shop at the shack and sallied back to the city, dopey me.

Hey, the play! I found a phone, called up Mrs. Jimmy Jack, and said just that: "Hey!" I said. "The play!"

It was still July. Yeah, there was one more weekend, she said. So then I called up the Mountains, and then I called the box office, and we threw a combined $60 to the wind, in advance, demonstrating an almost uncanny commitment to the arts. (So long as we are personally acquainted with Don Quixote’s horse.)

My point is this: go figure. For three years I shack in Sonoma County and conduct all of my cultural and most of my social life in the city. Then, in the 10 days I’m stationed in San Francisco, between life as I know it and my next cross-country adventure, I keep finding reasons to go out up there. Willie Bird’s Restaurant. Fourth of July. The Hellhounds are playing at the pub.

In this case, of course, I mean, you know, the cat who’s playing Don Quixote’s horse … it’s a no-brainer. And, granted, I’m no theater reviewer, but Slim Jimmy Jack James, meat eater, is long and tall and entirely skinnier than a lot of vegetarians. Plus hairy, so he got to be Jesus in a play within the play within the play, and then he really stole the show.

Seriously, I don’t know how to tell you how great Man of La Mancha was, so let me see what I can do about Willie Bird’s Restaurant.

The thing about me and Mountain Veronica is that, like twins or sisters or something, we get hungry at the exact same time, always. On a day that I’m thinking of, we coincidentally had doctors’ appointments at the same time, right around the corner from each other, and Mountain Sam was along for the air-conditioning, kicking back in V.’s doctor’s waiting room, then mine, then hers, and then finally we were all checked up and MRI’d and together in one place, and me and Mountain V. said, almost in unison, "I’m starving."

"Willie Bird’s," Sam said. I’ve been wanting to check this place out ever since the first time I lived in Sonoma County. It’s Santa Rosa’s famous family restaurant. Big food, drinks. Homegrown turkeys, turkey this, and turkey that, stroganoff … I got whatever sounded closest to smoked, because that’s my favorite way to eat turkeys. And everything was delicious. And everything was more than we could eat, even me and V.

It comes with soups and salads, and before that they load you up with bread and butter and antipasto stuff like salami, olives, and artichoke hearts.

Big food in Santa Rosa. And I don’t know where in the world I’ll be next week, but the time to sally is nigh. So … *


Daily, 7 a.m.–9 p.m.

1150 Santa Rosa, Santa Rosa

(707) 542-0861

Full bar


Wheelchair accessible

Farina Focaccia and Cucina Italiana


› paulr@sfbg.com

Imagine a restaurant situated inside a bottle of sparkling water, and you will have a working sense of Farina Focaccia and Cucina Italiana, the latest entry along 18th Street’s burgeoning food row in the Mistro. The Italians, in their inimitable way, refer to sparkling water as con gas, and Farina is an Italian restaurant — a Ligurian-influenced restaurant, to be precise, which means it’s not quite a head-on rival to Delfina, a few steps away. Delfina’s food tends toward the Tuscan, and the heart of Tuscany is Florence, a storied city well away from the sea. Tuscan cuisine makes ample use of grilled beef and also maiale (wild boar) and porcini mushrooms — the latter a pair of delicacies taken from nearby forests in the Apennines.

Liguria, by contrast, is a maritime region, a slender boomerang of littoral country whose center is the ancient port city of Genoa and whose long shoreline on the Tyrrhenian Sea runs from the French Riviera in the west nearly to Livorno in the east. We would expect then that Ligurian cuisine would emphasize seafood (other staples include lemons, olive oil, and pesto), and that is indeed what we find at Farina. (Farina, incidentally, means "wheat meal" in Italian; it was also the name of a creamy hot cereal I preferred as a child to oatmeal, which tended to be lumpy. And … it sounds vaguely like Delfina — coincidence?)

The sparkling-water effect has largely to do with a half wall of wine goblets that separate the bar from the main dining room. There are also expansive plate-glass windows along both 18th and Dearborn streets, and these blur the boundary between outdoors and indoors. Passersby are constantly peering into the restaurant, while the people inside peer right back, at least when not peering at one other. Although Farina is just a few months old, the see-and-be-seen, watch-zone factor has already reached Los Angeles–<\d>like levels. All this represents a radical change from the space’s previous life as the home of Anna’s Danish Cookies. Noise, interestingly, is under control, despite plenty of hard surfaces, including a slate gray concrete floor and a passage of gleaming white tiles high above the food bar near the back of the dining room. The high ceilings, with joists painted hospital white, must help.

The early word on Farina was that it was overpriced, and while the serving-size-to-price ratio is indeed rather stringent, the food itself is superior. Excellence at a high price is the Wolfgang Puck formula for success. The first promising hints are given by the house-baked breads: squares of plain and cheesy focaccia, along with slices of whole wheat and white country breads and a walnut bread, some of them still warm from the oven. The goodness of the breads prefigures that of the pizzata di Recco ($16), a large rectangle of pizza-like crust topped with garlicky tomato sauce, oregano, capers, anchovies, and gooey white melted cheese. The pie’s name refers to the Ligurian town of Recco, renowned for its cheese focaccias.

Another classic Ligurian-style dish is house-made tortellini ($17), stuffed with sea bass and served in an earthenware crock. The crock holds a shallow pond of white-wine-and-parsley sauce dotted with heirloom tomato quarters, mussels, clams, and rose-colored bits of calamari. The sauce was underseasoned — the only such example we came across. Salted up a bit, it made a nice match with a Ligurian white wine from the Cinque Terre ($9 for a glass), a seaside district famous for its five villages perched on cliffs. The wine had a grassiness I associate with American sauvignon blanc and tasted a little odd on is own, but it merged comfortably with the mollusk-heavy sauce.

The Catalana salad ($13) captured the magic of so much Italian cooking, regardless of region. It was so simple — tuna confit on a bed of onion and fennel slivers, with a light showering of pitted black olives, minced anchovies, and heirloom tomato chunks — as to sound boring, but it turned out to be a beautiful concertina of sweet, salty, sour, and rich effects.

We did feel, over a noontime visit, that portions were almost too small and starkly plated. The insalata di giorno ($9) turned out to be quite similar to the Catalana, and while it cost less, it was worryingly slight, although cannellini beans provided some ballast. We ended up ordering a panino ($9) of prosciutto and fontina cheese, and this soon arrived as an appealing golden square of pressed bread, tastily filled though presented with nothing more than a heaplet of mixed greens. Only the torta verdure ($9), a slice of spinach pie made with flaky pastry, seemed to carry real weight.

As for the dessert menu: the roving eye of the sweet tooth quite quickly found the panna cotta ($8). If Farina means to unseat Delfina as the king of Italian cooking on 18th Street, then panna cotta will be central to the strategy. Delfina’s buttermilk version has been on the menu from the beginning and is now legendary. Farina’s pastry chef has wisely chosen not to copy it. Instead of a geutf8ous cylinder, Farina’s panna cotta takes the form of a martini-glass parfait, a layering of cooked cream — softer than Delfina’s — atop a blackberry compote itself topped with a dollop of blackberry whipped cream.

But perhaps an unseating is neither necessary nor possible. Perhaps Farina and Delfina will turn out to be complements to each other, not watchful rivals. It’s not every two-block segment of street in town, after all, that can offer us a pair of Italian restaurants like these, alike and dissimilar but both sparkling.<\!s>*


Lunch: Mon.–<\d>Fri., 11 a.m.–<\d>2:30 p.m. Dinner: nightly, 6–<\d>10 p.m.

3560 18th St., SF

(415) 565-0360


Beer and wine


Well-managed noisiness

Wheelchair accessible

Holiest of holies


If you’ve seen the late, great MTV sketch comedy show The State (look for the long-awaited DVD in October) or 2001’s summer-camp-movie parody Wet Hot American Summer, you can imagine what the Bible’s gonna look like in the hands of director David Wain. Or maybe not — in The Ten, Wain and cowriter Ken Marino interpret the 10 Commandments with typically off-the-wall (and thus completely unpredictable) humor. I recently spoke with Wain, who doesn’t fancy himself the next Cecil B. DeMille ("I never saw [The Ten Commandments], but I’m gonna check it out") but does have a firm grip on the funny.

On how The Ten fits into the slew of films about spirituality: "I certainly don’t think of it as a biblical film. It’s really just using the 10 Commandments as thematic launching-off points for 10 entertaining stories. We’re not out to make any particular point about religion. [Our takes on the commandments] are fast and loose — we’re like the Roger and Me of biblical movies."

On the script: "With each [commandment], we tried to attack it from a different angle and come up with something that was in a slightly different style and genre and yet sort of have a cohesive sensibility. We just said, ‘What is covet thy neighbor’s wife? Probably prison rape.’ And so on."

On the cast, which features members of The State and also several big-name actors: "We were huge fans of Winona Ryder and begged her to do it, and she said yes. We were very lucky, because I think actors saw that it was something different and not a big time commitment, so we were able to get a level of cast that we really never would have dreamed of."

And, of course, one you’ll have to see the movie to appreciate, on Oliver Platt’s Terminator impression: "Not only did he not have it [before the movie], he never got it. I mean, the average guy on the street does a better Arnold Schwarzenegger than Oliver Platt does. And I think that’s what’s funny about it." (Cheryl Eddy)

THE TEN Opens Fri/3 in Bay Area theaters. See Movie Clock at www.sfbg.com

Black and white and color


One of the most exciting aspects of being a newspaper editor is recognizing a wave of activity that isn’t connected to government mind control or onslaughts of corporate-sponsored and mass-marketed art. This kind of spontaneous mass energy is happening via photography in San Francisco right now. August is known as a slow month, but the city’s galleries are alive with contemporary photos. Bill Daniel’s latest look at the US landscape is opening at RayKo Photo Center, the Daniel-influenced vagabond spirit Polaroid Kidd has his first Bay Area show at Needles and Pens, Greg Halpern’s moody views of Buffalo and Kelli Connell’s double-minted prints are up at SF Camerawork, and at City Hall — through the San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery — the work of 32 local photographers is on view.

Baptized in arguments regarding its viability as an art form, photography remains as contentious as it is expansive. Witness a veteran such as Duane Michals sharpening his claws on the megapopular likes of Cindy Sherman in last year’s rant-monograph Foto Follies: How Photography Lost Its Virginity on the Way to the Bank (Thames and Hudson). We live in an era when the ready availability of portraiture seems to have made its definition even more reductive; via MySpace and more explicit sites, people use cameras to readily package themselves as products. Yet when black-and-white and color and digital and film collide with unpredictable results, photo portraiture can be as varied and lively as the work you’ll find on these pages.

Thanks to fellow Guardian arts editor Kimberly Chun for suggesting, late in the selection process, a focus on portraiture. This decision necessarily narrowed the Bay Area photographers to choose from; there’s a wave of garden- and eco-driven work being done by Bill Basquin and others, while Dusty Lombardo, R.A. McBride, and Jackson Patterson are discovering tremendous depth in interiors. Thanks also to Basquin, Daniel, Glen Helfand, Chuck Mobley, Katie Kurtz, and Dave and Ray Potes for their suggestions.

Twelve years ago I interviewed therapist and author Walt Odets because he was bringing much-needed humanity to discussions of the AIDS crisis; to find out that he’s also a superb photographer whose subjects have included Jean Renoir and his wife, Dido, is a revelation. In distinctive ways, Vic Blue, Robert Gumpert, and Amanda Herman reveal what journalism usually ignores or renders shallow. The intimacy of Vala Cliffton’s photos makes one ponder her presence within the scenes she depicts. Matthias Geiger shows a city you might not have noticed even when it’s been in front of your face. Stan Banos has an eye for the many shades of gray within the multihued and the cuckoo. Job Piston is that rare Bay Area photographer whose work brandishes a sexual edge that isn’t obvious or predictable. Jim Goldberg’s urban work has been canonically influential since the publication of Rich and Poor (Random House, 1985) and Raised by Wolves (Scalo, 1995). Photography is just one aspect of Désirée Arlette Holman’s hand-fashioned fantasy world, a place that looks like a wicked satire of our own.

If you’d like to see more about some of these artists, go to www.sfbg.com/blogs/pixel_vision. (Johnny Ray Huston)

Stan Banos

NAME Stan Banos

TITLE The Marine

THE STORY "This photo was taken in San Francisco during Fleet Week in ’04."

INSPIRATION "I’ve always had a vague obsession with time and place, and the camera is the best-suited instrument to record such transient moments (particularly when you can’t draw). I generally try to incorporate whatever signs of irony life can offer within a rectangle."

FAVORITE PHOTOGRAPHERS "I have more favorite photographers as an adult than I had favorite ballplayers as a kid: Bruce Davidson, Josef Koudelka, Diane Arbus, Garry Winogrand, William Eggleston, Stephen Shore, Carl de Keyzer, James Nachtwey, Cheryl Richards, Henry Wessel, Elliott Erwitt, Martin Parr, Lee Friedlander … the list is endless."

SHOW "Our World," at SF Arts Commission Gallery’s City Hall space, through Sept. 21.

WEB SITE www.reciprocity-failure.com

Victor J. Blue

NAME Victor J. Blue

TITLE Honduran immigrants, Detention Center Tapachula Mexico

THE STORY "I went to the Guatemala-Mexico border to photograph immigration there. These guys had been caught trying to ride the freight train to the United States. We only had a few minutes to take pictures inside. They were on a bus back to Tegucigalpa within a day, probably just to try again."

FAVORITE MONOGRAPHS The Mennonites by Larry Towell (Phaidon, 2000), Exploding into Life by Eugene Richards and Dorothy Lynch (Aperture, 1986), Kosovo 1999–2000: Flight of Reason by Paolo Pellegrin and Tim Judah (Trolley, 2002), Under a Grudging Sun: Photographs from Haiti Libere 1986–1988 by Alex Webb (Thames and Hudson, 1989).

WHAT ARE YOU SHOOTING NOW? "The cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for the people of San Joaquin County."

WEB SITES www.victorjblue.com, online.recordnet.com/projects/iraq/Jose/index.html

Vala Cliffton

NAME Vala Cliffton

TITLE Unicorn

THE STORY "Unicorn is a portrait of my niece and my brother after their trip to Hawaii. My niece is in love with Hawaii and could not seem to detach herself from her scuba gear that afternoon. My brother was trying to catch a nap before dinner. The combination of elements in this unposed portrait captures an essential and intriguing aspect of their father-daughter relationship."

INSPIRATIONS "The Family of Man [Harry N. Abrams] was the first photography book I can remember picking up and being interested in. Photography was always a part of our family life. One of my projects while at the San Francisco Art Institute was to print the black-and-white snapshots taken of the family over the years."

WHAT ARE YOU SHOOTING NOW? "I have spent the past couple or years working as a filmmaker and producing music videos, some of which I have put up on YouTube at youtube.com/alavala11."

SHOW "Our World," at SF Arts Commision Gallery’s City Hall space, through Sept. 21.

WEB SITE alavala.com

Matthias Geiger

NAME Matthias Geiger


THE STORY Train is taken from Geiger’s "Tide" series, which he describes as "an examination of human presence" in "places of transit and momentary rest…. The technique of layering still images allows past, present, and future moments to appear simultaneously, reflecting the notion that each moment in time is a construct of our memories, our presence, and our projections."

INSPIRATIONS "Direct physical experience such as being outdoors, dance, and meditation, as well as readings on metaphysics."

WHAT ARE YOU SHOOTING NOW? A series on utopian subcultures.

SHOW "Matthias Geiger: Tide." Sept. 6–Oct. 20. SF Camerawork, 657 Mission, second floor, SF. (415) 512-2020, www.sfcamerawork.org

WEB SITE www.matthiasgeiger.com

Robert Gumpert

NAME Robert Gumpert

TITLE Untitled

THE STORY "For the past 13 years I’ve been doing an off-and-on documentary project called ‘Lost Promise: The Criminal Justice System.’ This image was done in August 2006 while I was documenting the closing of San Francisco County Jail No. 3. Built in 1934 and beset by a number of serious issues and several lawsuits ordering its closure, the jail was finally closed in August 2006, when inmates were moved to County Jail No. 5, built on land adjacent to the old jail."

FAVORITE PHOTOGRAPHERS Don McCullin, Lewis Hine, August Sander, Leonard Freed, Gilles Peres, and Philip Jones Griffith.

WEB SITE www.robertgumpert.com

Amanda Herman

NAME Amanda Herman

TITLE Untitled

THE STORY The image is taken from Herman’s most recent work, the short film Lost Island, which looks at the impact of Hurricane Katrina on one large family two years after the storm forced them from their home in Chalmette, La. Herman met the Morris family in Oakland while doing free family portraits for survivors at a relief day in October 2005, one month after Katrina drove them from their homes, and, she writes, "over time, I became interested in exploring the intricacies of one family’s experience with the disaster." Donations and income from the sale of the Lost Island DVD will go into a family fund to assist the Morrises as they rebuild their lives in Oakland.

FAVORITE PHOTOGRAPHERS Seydou Keita, Allen Sekula, Susan Meiselas, Jeff Wall, Wing Young Huie, Wendy Ewald, Jessica Ingram, Eric Gottesman, and others.

SHOW "Inchoate," through Aug. 11. Patricia Sweetow Gallery, 77 Geary, mezzanine, SF. (415) 788-5126, www.patriciasweetowgallery.com

WEB SITE www.amandaherman.com

Désirée Arlette Holman

NAME Désirée Arlette Holman

TITLE Something Ain’t Right

THE STORY "This image is from a larger series of video and photo work depicting actors wearing crude, handmade (by me) chimp costumes. Something Ain’t Right was inspired by smoking chimps in zoos in South Africa and China. One zookeeper claimed that the chimps were smoking because they are frustrated. Could captivity make a chimp neurotic and lead it to smoke? Others claimed that the chimps were imitating tourists, recalling the cliché ‘Monkey see, monkey do.’ "

INSPIRATION "I am inspired by psychology, popular culture, figurative sculptures (including toys), art, and various types of fantasy and fiction making. I capitalize on the potential to create fantasy from realistic imagery through the use of the camera."

FAVORITE PHOTOGRAPHERS Currently include Tracey Moffatt, Liza May Post, and Suzy Poling.

SHOWS "CCA: 100 Years in the Making," at the Oakland Museum of Art, and a solo show at San Francisco’s Silverman Gallery. Both open in October.

WEB SITE www.desireeholman.com

Job Piston

NAME Job Piston

TITLE A Year Later

THE STORY "I was making portraits of young Hollywood and became interested in deconstructing glamour. This is a good friend of mine who was sent away to a facility for a long while. I took this picture the first time I visited him. Today popular figures openly go to rehab; it too has become glamorous."

INSPIRATION "Complicated personalities, intimacy in public spaces, secrets, the figure, and the fountain of youth."

SHOW "Our World," at SF Arts Commission Gallery’s City Hall space, through Sept. 21; "Evidence of Things Unseen," Peninsula Museum of Art in Belmont, through Oct. 21; solo show at Silverman Gallery in San Francisco in October.

WEB SITES www.jobpiston.com, book-of-job.blogspot.com

Walt Odets

NAME Walt Odets

TITLE Greg Hoffspiegel, Palo Alto, California, 2007

THE STORY "Because it is so instantaneous, there is much chance in photography. This photograph seems to me about the gaze and emotion of the three figures, some combination of attention, reflection, loss, and pathos, as well as the visual organization."

INSPIRATION "I have taken pictures since I was 16. If I can use the camera in a way that forces deconstruction of what we normally see but do not observe, then I feel I have accomplished something."

FAVORITE PHOTOGRAPHERS "Henri Cartier-Bresson, of course, and Ed Ruscha and Lee Friedlander, for their elegance and form, intellect, and relentless literal rendering, respectively."

SHOW An October 2007 three-person show at SF Camerawork, devoted to winners of the James D. Phelan Award for photography.

WEB SITE www.waltodets.com/photo

Jim Goldberg

NAME Jim Goldberg

TITLE Untitled


THE STORY The image is drawn from "The New Europeans," a project Goldberg started around the time of the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens. The series focuses on the journeys of refugees and immigrants from war-torn or economically devastated homelands in Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Palestine, Afghanistan, the Philippines, and elsewhere to settle in Europe, specifically Greece and Ukraine. In June, Foundation Henri Cartier-Bresson in Paris presented Goldberg with the HCB Award so he could travel to his subjects’ countries of origin and tell the complete stories of their migration.

SHOW "Jim Goldberg: New Work." Oct. 3–Nov. 10. Reception Oct. 4, 5:30–7:30 p.m. Stephen Wirtz Gallery, 49 Geary, third floor, SF. (415) 433-6879, wirtzgallery.com

The closer you get


› a&eletters@sfbg.com

How does one begin to write about Abbas Kiarostami’s Close-Up (1990), a film as layered as an onion? I remember that when I first watched it, I felt touched by what I then perceived to be its affectionate ending. Later viewings not only changed my feelings toward the movie’s conclusion but also left me utterly perplexed.

About 17 years ago, when Hossein Sabzian misled a Tehran family into believing that he was acclaimed Iranian director Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Kiarostami was intrigued by the story and set out to make a film about it — or, to be more precise, he set out not to make a film about it.

Part of Close-Up‘s complexity arises from the way Kiarostami blends his material. Casting all the parties involved in the fraud as themselves, the filmmaker mixes commentary and footage of Sabzian’s trial with reenactments of Sabzian meeting the Ahankhah family and persuading them that he is Makhmalbaf. We see Sabzian explaining himself to the judge and performing in the reenactments. To complicate matters further, Kiarostami, while filming the trial, sets up a camera that is constantly focused on the accused and instructs Sabzian to address it anytime he feels like it. Through these devices, Sabzian gradually unfolds his acting talent, making it harder and harder for us to understand when he is performing and when he isn’t.

But Close-Up‘s motivation — beyond questioning Sabzian’s credibility — is more complicated than a desire to convince us of his guilt. In fact, the only thing we’re sure of is that the boundaries between reality and fiction are blurred, if not rendered indistinguishable — a theme particularly dear to Kiarostami.

Things get even more convoluted in two films the director made after Close-Up; along with Where Is the Friend’s Home? (1987), they form a trilogy. In And Life Goes On (1992), Kiarostami returns to Koker, a village in northern Iran, after a big earthquake practically destroyed it, in order to search for the protagonist of Friend’s Home. Using as his main character a director with the same mission, Kiarostami films his surroundings in a cinéma vérité manner, making us think that what we’re watching is a documentation of the earthquake’s aftermaths.

After And Life Goes On, Kiarostami’s Through the Olive Trees (1994), a film set in the same earthquake-devastated town, feels akin to a slap in the face. In it, he directs a filmmaker whose attempt to make a movie falls apart when two of his actors refuse to get along. Surprisingly, Through the Olive Trees concentrates on a scene that should feel familiar to anyone who has seen And Life Goes On. The suggestion is that perhaps the film the Through the Olive Trees director is making is none other than And Life Goes On. At least parts, if not everything, of what we’ve watched in the latter are revealed to be fiction. In Through the Olive Trees, Kiarostami has made a film about a director who is filming a movie about a filmmaker who returns to the village he once made a film in.

One might justifiably wonder, why all these self-referential layers? The answer comes in Taste of Cherry (1997), for which Kiarostami won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. Throughout the film we follow a Mr. Badii in his desperate search to find someone willing to help him execute his suicide plan. At Taste of Cherry‘s most crucial moment, just as we are about to discover whether Badii actually committed suicide or not, Kiarostami cuts into footage taken from the making of the film. This footage presents him and the rest of the crew in an idyllic atmosphere while a tune that sounds very much like "Saint James Infirmary" plays in the background.

It is as if Kiarostami were constantly trying to remind us that what we are watching is only a film, that unlike Sabzian we should be able to separate fiction from reality, that unlike the Ahankhahs we should not allow ourselves to be deceived by some skillful manipulation of the boundaries between truth and imagination.<\!s>*


Through Aug. 30, $4–<\d>$8

Pacific Film Archive

2575 Bancroft Way, Berk.

(510) 642-5249


Still freestyling at 30


› a&eletters@sfbg.com

The workroom of KUSF, 90.3 FM, has always looked just this side of combustible. It’s a second home to the radio station’s new-music volunteers, a tightly packed DIY office space papered with band posters from top to bottom. Ancient desks are pinned against each wall, one holding a beat-down stereo. Two huge metal-hinged lockers loom in the corner, monoliths stickered beyond recognition with archeological layers of rock ‘n’ roll’s past. I stare at them and try to remember the exact location of a Barkmarket sticker I myself put up more than 15 years ago. No dice.

Down the hallway — KUSF is crammed into a lone walkway in the basement of Phelan Hall on the University of San Francisco campus — Program Director Trista Bernasconi is helping a cultural producer get his next show sorted out. Putf8um records hang on the walls behind her, a reminder of the respect the noncommercial station has commanded from the musical community since its inception in 1977.

But high-caliber programming was almost no match for the university’s management, which sought to sell its license in 2006.

"Last year the university tried to sell us, and their main thing was that we were not connected to the students," says Bernasconi, a 10-year station veteran and former USF student. "It’s hard because San Francisco is expensive and [students] have to work so many jobs, but there’s been a major push to get more involved."

Coming back from the edge of the FM grave is an excellent reason to party and one that happens to coincide with the station’s 30th anniversary. After four months of celebration, the most impressive event occurs when Yo La Tengo perform a benefit for the beleaguered institution. "We wanted to celebrate in a big way and started thinking about a band that represents what KUSF is about," co–<\d>music director Irwin Swirnoff explains. "Yo La Tengo came into our mind because they’re a band that always progresses." Bernasconi echoes Swirnoff’s enthusiasm, seeing the benefit as a big step in on-campus visibility. "We have an exclusive," she adds, smiling. "There are even a couple of professors who like Yo La Tengo and are really into KUSF now."

But indie popularity and the fact that Swirnoff praises the group’s last three albums as its "three best" played only a part in making Yo La Tengo the top choice. Since 1996 the band has participated in Jersey City, N.J., noncommercial station WFMU’s annual pledge drive to support local, poorly funded radio.

Running a radio station with extremely limited funding is possible only because of the thousands of hours of volunteer work by people from the different departments of KUSF. While the university contributes half of KUSF’s operating budget, there are capital expenses, such as replacing the busted transmitter suffered six years ago, that the station and its volunteers must absorb. Swirnoff feels it’s a crucial distinction to make: "Every day that music is getting played and tickets are being given away it’s amazing, because besides a couple of paid positions, we’re all volunteers and somehow we figure out a way to get it done."

Swirnoff splits his duties with three other music directors — Miguel Serra, DJ Schmeejay, and Lenode — in an effort to combat the sheer volume of music that the station is expected to absorb. Another KUSF veteran, fundraising coordinator Jet, who along with Bernasconi holds one of the station’s few paid positions, explains that volunteering means never really being off the clock. "I have taken a pay cut to take the job," she says with a laugh. "So it’s a labor of love. I put in my volunteer hours as well, so I’m not only an employee, I’m also a volunteer, and I’m not only a volunteer, I’m still also a listener."

But what about the listeners? According to Arbitron, KUSF’s 3,000-watt basement transmitter is able to reach an audience of about 50,000, and luckily the station has managed to allocate part of its shoestring budget to broadcasting via the Internet radio network Live365.com, enabling listeners worldwide to tune in even if they’re beyond the reach of the transmitter. Still, the consumer landscape has changed radically since the station debuted. From the erosion of the major-label hierarchy to the digital explosion of the past decade, people are now drowning in musical options ranging from iTunes to DIY podcasts to satellite radio.

What lures the KUSF faithful through this technological glut is the content and, ultimately, the DJs who provide it. The cultural programming alone is enough to intrigue: where else in the country does the Hamazkayin Armenian Hour run back-to-back with I Heart Organics? New-music programming is no less varied, as DJs are required to pull half of their shows from the "currents" section of the library. While listening to Jacob Felix Heule’s show, which runs Wednesdays from midnight to 3 a.m., I hear dub combo African Head Charge, ’60s pop chanteuse Lesley Gore, and local band Rubber O Cement within 30 minutes. It’s the kind of schizophrenic genre jumping that has created the reputation KUSF enjoys today.

The station’s history lives on in the current new-music staffers. Every volunteer with an air shift has a story about a predecessor who introduced them to band X or taught them how to perform board function Y. Swirnoff, for example, first learned of the station after Sonic Youth cut a record in memory of then-music director Jason Knuth, and he remembers thinking, "I gotta get on KUSF." Jet says her station hero is legendary Rampage Radio‘s Ron Quintana — the guy who named Metallica.

As a former DJ and ex–<\d>promotions director, I recall an on-air mentor who would gesture toward Slayer’s Decade of Aggression, admonishing me to "always end with something apocalyptic." I’d follow her advice right here, but with volunteers who give so selflessly to keep the station alive, there’s a good chance that — at least for now — KUSF will keep the end times at bay.<\!s>*


With Yo La Tengo, Citay, and KUSF DJ Irwin

Fri/3, 9 p.m., $25 (available through www.KUSF.org)

Bimbo’s 365 Club

1025 Columbus, SF

(415) 474-0365


Liege and grief


› a&eletters@sfbg.com

FULL CIRCLE America is Rufus Wainwright’s scorned lover–<\d>cum–<\d>doomed horse-opera hero on his new opus, Release the Stars (Geffen), making Wainwright’s fifth album something of a postscript to the bipartite Want recordings (Dreamworks, 2003; Geffen, 2004). Departure comes as Wainwright turns his wry gaze beyond the cloister of his boudoir-proscenium to harness a polemical bent to his grandiose, lush, high-lonesome sound. This critic’s much-cherished Canadian singer-songwriter plays spook versus spy on Stars, bringing his hallmarks of sweeping arrangements and droll lyrics to an acute examination of America, the turbulent country that has fallen from grace — and lost the right to stroke up under his verdant lederhosen.

Herein, the Lower 48 equally fuels the male songbird’s romances and nightmares. MC Wainwright, the Queen of Hip-Popera, hits out this time with Neil Tennant as a suitably symbiotic and sympathetic producer for his Berlin record — not to mention the usual rogue’s gallery, including Teddy Thompson, Jenni Muldaur, and Joan Wasser, as well as Richard Thompson and actress Siân Phillips. Tennant somewhat tempers the proceedings’ opulence with rock and beat flourishes. Sure, Wainwright can be extravagant — and may well require an editor in years to come — but is this such a bad thang when his pimp hand is mighty mighty? The assured aesthetic with which Wainwright stepped into the arena in 1998, fully assembled, remains much in evidence, keeping real his cool pose as original glam gangsta and most legitimate pied piper of freak folk. Really, who’s more fantastical and anachronistic than he?

If the album art’s preoccupation with both the minutiae and monumental grandeur of German culture doesn’t make disaffection plain enough, then song titles such as "Rules and Regulations" and the lovelorn "Leaving for Paris No. 2" aptly sketch alienation from the new west. Nowhere among his extant oeuvre has Wainwright displayed such naked political sentiment as in "Going to a Town"’s lyrics: "I’m so tired of America<\!s>/ … I may just never see you again or might as well<\!s>/ You took advantage of a world that loved you well<\!s>/ I’m going to a town that has already been burned down<\!s>/ I’m so tired of you, America."

Not that our Rufus forgets the "I" in America. Check the gorgeous "Sanssouci," on which he claims, "I’m tired of writing elegies in general<\!s>/ I just want to be at Sanssouci tonight." Stars‘s highlights lie in the tension between the tattered utopian retreat of the titular Sanssouci and relatively universal songs like "Do I Disappoint You."

Wainwright is five for five with Stars, although only "Between My Legs" and the title track truly rival the Wants in their dizzying rigor. Ultimately, though Stars works from a jaded remove in not-so-fair Europa, Wainwright morphs into one of his strongest selves as a singing cowboy. He is the trickster western antihero lamenting the ruthless downward spiral of his formerly beloved range, spanning between 14th Street and Melrose.

Nobody’s off the hook, as the song title and lyric go, on this flickering silver screen composed of sounds — not Texan tyrants, not hotel room trysters nor Wainwright himself. And if it’s all a velvet bloodbath, rendered as one of the intensely homoerotic sequels to Sergio Corbucci’s Django, so be it. For don’t we all need a great big release in this land? This often explosive theme for an imaginary western definitely scores against that of Uncle Sam’s band.<\!s>*


With Sean Lennon and A Fine Frenzy

Fri/3, 7:30 p.m., $32.50–<\d>$42.50

Nob Hill Masonic Auditorium

1111 California, SF


Basil rides again


Now is the season of our wondering what to do with all the basil. Basil has been particularly abundant this summer and of notably higher quality than the last few years, so we can’t say the droughty winter was a complete bust. All the summertime crops, in fact — from stone fruit to melons to tomatoes and beyond — have seemed especially sweet and full lately.

If we are facing a surfeit of basil, this almost certainly means we are facing an associated surfeit of tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, and eggplant. There is a well-established procedure for dealing with that quartet: make ratatouille. Basil in ratatouille wouldn’t be a disaster, but the usual method of being thrifty about summer’s basil riches is to make pesto, which freezes well. Pesto issues include the mess involved in making it (even if in a food processor) and its extroverted personality. Pesto is a funny, loud, charming drunk at a party; you can’t help but feel a certain fondness, yet you long to get away.

I have been chopping up a few basil leaves and throwing them in salads for brightness. Basil, sliced into chiffonade, also makes an appealing addition to dishes with tomato-based sauces, such as my beloved Provençal seafood stew. I feared it would clash with the dash of pastis added at the end, but it turns out those flavors get along famously.

But excess basil finds one of its best homes with some chopped tomatoes in a simple pasta sauce. Start with a flavor base of diced red onion, softened in a splash of olive oil with a fleck of red chili flakes, a bit of minced parsley and garlic, and a pinch of salt. After seven or eight minutes, add some seafood, if you like (scallops, cubed fish, peeled shrimp), or diced chicken meat — or nothing — along with a healthy splash of dry white wine and some stock. (I use shrimp stock, but bottled clam juice will do.) Simmer until the sauce looks slightly thickened; throw in your chopped basil and tomatoes, turn off the heat, cover, and let stand for several minutes while your pasta cooks in a separate pot. Season with salt and black pepper to taste, thin the sauce as needed with pasta cooking water, and toss with the cooked pasta — linguine is good, as is some grated cheese on the side.

Paul Reidinger

› paulr@sfbg.com

MIA way


› kimberly@sfbg.com

SONIC REDUCER "This sucks."

Nope, we weren’t talking about Kelly Clarkson’s pandering public apology to Clive Davis — there’s an American idol to kowtow to. Or the minisnippet of the new Britney Spears single, "Get Back," all over YouTube, its title alluding oddly to a song by Paul "Latte Rock" McCartney’s old beat combo. Or Spears’s hoochie-widow getup for the tune’s video or her now widely reported dissolving personal boundaries, as she allegedly went pee-diddy with the bathroom door open, allegedly used designer fashion as an impromptu pooper scooper, and then allegedly absconded with enough borrowed photo-shoot finery to inspire the feel-good tab OK! to declare the pop star’s comeback moves totally "NOT OK!" in print. Get back? Why not get weirder and make like Cock ESP or Iggy Pop and start rolling around in glitter, broken glass, and mayo onstage?

Nay, sucking was the vibe as one MIA head nodded to the other, crunched in the aisles at Berkeley’s Amoeba Music, trading grime, and losing the buzz that had been building since fans started milling around the store the afternoon of July 28. MIA was in the house, but only a portion of the approximately 400 tanned, big-earringed, curly-headed baby Maya Arulpragasams, newsboy-capped dudes, arms-folded indie kids, and bobbing clubby-kins could see the Tamil Tiger spawn’s lavender cap bob in the distance — or even hear Arulpragasam’s politely low-volume raps skating over samples of the Clash’s "Straight to Hell" in Amoeba’s jazz room.

I’m straining to make out words, which are drowned out by the girl behind me, who’s complaining about the sound to a friend on her cell, and before you know it, four or five tunes and 15 minutes later, it’s all over, sent softly into the simmering Saturday sun with a toned-down little sing-along "Yah, yah, hey!" — a glance back to her first single, "Galang." Time for one of the most ethnically diverse audiences you can imagine in this, one of the most ethnically diverse places in the world, to queue up to have MIA sign their 12-inch or CD single of "Boyz," her new frenetic diss-ode to boy soldiers, stylish swashbucklers, and wannabe warlords.

About 15 minutes later, the beauteous Arulpragasam slips quietly behind a table. Her unruly pageboy is streaked blond — a far cry from the bright blue wig sported in the promo pics for her forthcoming album, Kala (Interscope), the playful new wave counterpart to Gwen Stefani’s Scarface coke-ho look of late — and her enormous eyes are open way wide, ready to take in her people, though she still needs periodic "Let’s give it up for M-I-A!"s to keep her signing hand strong as the line snakes through the aisles.

How relevant is MIA two years after her acclaimed Arular (XL/Interscope) emerged with its highly combustible, overtly politicized fusion of hip-hop, baile funk, grime, electro, and dancehall, seemingly unstopped by visa issues and MTV’s censorship of her "Sunshowers" video thanks to its PLO reference?

While Spears and Clarkson threaten to transform pop into one of the most embarrassing exercises in public self-flagellation imaginable, artists like MIA issue genuinely imaginative responses to the daily news, beyond dropping trou and racing into the surf. We actually need her voice — as slammed as it gets for clunky flow — more than ever now. And we need it for the masses who showed up at Amoeba rather than reserved for the few who managed to jump on the Rickshaw Stop tickets early on. Props to the store and MIA for making this brief appearance possible and free, but isn’t Arulpragasam breaking beyond club-size confines?

Because MIA’s appearances have been so scaled down, you have to wonder about Kala, as I did when I learned that previews have been kept for the few who can hear it at the Interscope offices in New York City or Los Angeles: does it suck too? A quick cruise online yields a clattering and polyrhythmic, wittily clucky "Bird Flu," a driving "XR2," and her infectious collabo with Timbaland, "Come Around," as well as the not-bad "Hit That," now trimmed from the disc. So why the secrecy? I thought the point of this revolution was to make it available to the people. And they continue to get it out there, regardless of the gatekeepers. *


True West founding guitarist Russ Tolman ain’t bitter about the route his old Paisley Underground band took back in the day: breaking up and then re-forming without him, which is never a nice trick. He’s just happy the ’80s UC Davis combo can fire up its duel-guitar glory once again, fueled by the release of Hollywood Holiday Revisited (Atavistic). "I think some of the stuff is a little timeless," demurs Tolman, now the director of content programming at BitTorrent in San Francisco. "I’ve heard some people say, ‘Oh, is this a contemporary band?’ "

The reissue and the reunion took root last year when, Tolman says, "on a whim" they decided to play some shows. "The other guitarist, Richard [McGrath] — I thought he’d be the last guy who’d want to play with me again. He’s a great player, and I’m an OK player. But I think my role was to be the bee in his bonnet…. [Later] he said, ‘When Russ was out of the band, I was so glad that terrible guitarist was out, but then we sucked. All the chaos was gone.’ "


Sat/4, 9 p.m., $29.50


1805 Geary, SF

(415) 346-6000



Suicide Squeeze sweethearts make tender indie pop on their new Page France and the Family Telephone. With Bishop Allen and Audio Out Send. Wed/1, 8 p.m., $12–$14. Independent, 628 Divisadero, SF. www.theindependentsf.com


Ushered in by bird chirps, these critters protest extinction with a flurry of noise on a recent self-titled Brah LP. With TITS, Big Nurse, and Ettrick. Thurs/2, 8:30 p.m., call for price. 21 Grand, 416 25th St., Oakl. www.21grand.org


Radness happens with the Brooklyn experimental twosome, backed by the fiery Lucky Dragons, Black Dice alum Hisham Bharoocha’s Soft Circle, and the Bay’s Breezy Days Band. Sat/4, 9 p.m., call for price. 21 Grand, 416 25th St., Oakl. www.21grand.org


All-girl punk fury barely contained by a cute moniker. Sun/5, 8 p.m., $8. Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., SF. www.bottomofthehill.com


Once King Cobra, now a two-piece progressive metal combo with the Need’s Rachel Carnes on vocals and drums, Twin come to Frisky for a once-a-year visit. Erase Errata vocalist Jenny Hoyston also unleashes her latest feminist band of exes, Lesbians. Tues/7, 8 p.m., $5. El Rio, 3158 Mission, SF. www.elriosf.com

Two for the road


› a&eletters@sfbg.com

"This is the first day of my life<\!s>/ I’m glad I didn’t die before I met you." Yes, it almost feels like that in the afterglow of Kiki and Herb’s Alive from Broadway tour, which wound up a too-brief engagement at the American Conservatory Theater’s Geary Theater on July 29. As a longtime duo pulled from retirement after their 2004 Carnegie Hall farewell (and for purported septuagenarians), Kiki (Justin Bond) and Herb (Kenny Mellman) are in incredible shape. And their chosen form, the lounge act writ large, smells equally fresh these days, even as it did its brazen best to stink up the enormous stage at the Geary.

To begin with, Bond’s Depression-schooled Kiki: at first glance, her look, like the 1970s incarnation of a louche and dangerously idle Malibu mom, was enough to draw unconscious childhood traumas swiftly to the surface. Outfitted (by costume designer Marc Happel) in a chiffon explosion that brings to mind a giant multicolor drip candle balanced on two liquor bottles, Kiki stormed onstage evoking a perfect pastiche of iconic torch singers, celebrity chanteuses, and other glamour goddesses, belting out fearsome interpretations of (in her hands) immediate pop schmaltz from all quarters of the music charts. Not only the Bright Eyes number "First Day of My Life" but also other (eventually) recognizable ditties by the Wu-Tang Clan, the Mountain Goats, and Bob Merrill came tumbling out in renditions that have to be heard to be believed. Suffice it to say that, in its diabolical way, it all worked, much like the popular songs in a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms siege operation.

Kiki’s renowned stage banter — which included a recounting of the duo’s personal and professional history and a sodden, delusional tale about a stuffed animal and the manger where Jesus was born — came punctuated with tantalizing hanging pauses, of a duration no longer than that needed to fill a very large glass of whiskey. As the evening’s single act waxed on, Kiki treaded from tipsy to sloppy with the incomparable poise of a true showbiz lush. Her remarks ("I always say, if you weren’t molested as a child, you must have been an ugly kid") ranged from off-color to off the hook to, at least once, right off the stage (as a now decidedly tight Kiki found herself literally up an artificial tree).

Mellman’s blowzy Herb, meanwhile, piped in from behind the piano on a near-continual tidal wave of notes like a hideous mashup of Liberace and McCoy Tyner. Herb doesn’t just tickle the ivories; he fellates them with the gusto of a rising porn star. He turns the grand piano into the instrument of a grand mal. Over this outrageous cacophony and sustain-pedal abuse, Herb (a laconic underdog whom pal Kiki publicly pities as not only gay and Jewish but a technical "retard" to boot) barks out harmonies like a tuxedoed Tourette’s victim.

Music and mayhem this precisely, hilariously awful may require something approaching genius. No wonder Bond and Mellman, the real-life performing team who created Kiki and Herb after meeting in San Francisco 20 years ago, have been doing this sort of thing for a while. If a cabaret drag act in San Francisco is not what you’d call new terrain, Kiki and Herb remind one of the enduring strength of the form when in the right hands and shoes.

First of all, cabaret’s devil-may-care insouciance masks the premium it places on skill, and Bond and Mellman, extremely clever and agile talents, have skill to kill. Bond’s performance in particular dazzles. You could watch it nightly and still revel in every detail of its perfect execution, the arch beauty of its take on the atrocious. And his voice, notably powerful and supple in its coarse histrionics, never falters in delivering full-throated commitment to the task.

But cabaret since the Weimar Republic is also the theatrical medium most closely associated with eye-of-storm moments in ages of cultural decadence and political peril. Kiki’s brash social commentary, giving vent to, among other things, her bottomless contempt for George<\!s>W. Bush (whom her lawyer has advised her she must not wish mortal harm to from the stage) and all the rest of them, is frank, funny, and unforgiving — and it strikes just the right notes somehow, as her politics boil down to a slurred Rodney King–<\d>like sound bite that’s as sensible as it is unabashedly innocent: "Just be nice, for Chrissake."<\!s>*


Man vs. room service?


On the Discovery Channel show Man vs. Wild, Bear Grylls parachutes into remote wildernesses, from the swampy Everglades to the freezing Scottish Highlands, and finds his way out, seemingly on his own. However, in an article posted on the BBC News Web site July 24, survival consultant Mark Weinert alleged that Grylls spent some nights in a hotel during the Hawaii episode, among other solo-survival no-no’s. Whatever the case, Man vs. Wild is, in my opinion, the greatest nature-survival show since Marty Stouffer’s Wild America. The following is an abridged version of an e-mail interview with Grylls, which took place prior to the controversy:

SFBG How helpful do you think being a regular viewer of your show would be in a survival situation?

BEAR GRYLLS Well, hopefully it is pretty helpful! Really, the best survival advice is always to sit tight and wait for rescue. But having said that, the whole series is full of survival advice, with most of it quite out-of-the-box stuff, like using shoelaces to climb tress or drinking the fluids from elephant dung for water. I do get quite a few letters from people saying that they used something they saw me do on a show and it saved their lives. Whether they are making it up or telling the truth, I never know, but it is encouraging to read. When we first started filming, I used to think, "Will anyone ever watch this?" So it’s nice that they do!

SFBG What’s the one thing you’d recommend as indispensable training for anyone in terms of being able to survive in the wild?

BG Understand that survival is all about strength of mind, not body — hence in so many survival epics it has often been the ladies in high heels with no skills who have been victims of airplane crashes, etc., who beat the odds, whereas their fellow male survivors with all the gear and gung ho have crumbled. Why? Because their reason for staying alive was bigger — it drove them further, it made them think laterally, made them keep making decisions, never giving up and doing whatever it took to stay alive long enough to be found or get lucky. Those who stick it out are those who win.

SFBG What would you say was the single most challenging survival situation you’ve ever been in?

BG Losing my father when I was still young.

SFBG In this season of the show, what was the most difficult environment to survive in?

BG Scotland, ironically, was tough — classified as an Arctic landscape. I was there in winter in minus-40 degrees in a storm, with very little clothing. I would have been in real trouble if I had not found a deer carcass that I could gut and sleep inside. I have just returned from the Sahara for season two, where it was 140 degrees. I definitely was on the outer limit of my endurance, I felt.

SFBG Have you ever been close to throwing in the towel and asking for assistance?

BG Well, when it has been raining for 24 hours torrentially, I am lost, with limited food and water, no tent or mosquito net, in the Amazon, and I miss my family and two boys, it is okay to have the odd moment of "What the hell I am doing here?" I am not a robot. Being away from my wife and kids is the hardest part of all this for me.

SFBG Obviously, people are fascinated by the foul things you ingest in order to stay alive. Do you have a list of the most disgusting?

BG The top list is: goat testicles, raw (just wait for the new season!), sheep eyeballs (exploding goo of gristle and blood), grubs as big as fists (yellow ooze), and raw zebra neck. But that’s all for my work life. When I am home, I just love home cooking! (Duncan Scott Davidson)

To read the complete interview, go to dsc.discovery.com/fansites/manvswild/manvswild.html

12Page 1 of 2