Volume 42 Number 22

February 27 – March 4, 2008

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Prince Harry and the Bush twins


The breaking news about 23-year-old Prince Harry secretly being deployed in Afghanistan as a battlefield air controller created a public sensation in Britain. It also resulted in the quick return home of the prince – third in line to the British throne – for security reasons.

The episode pointed to the British tradition of expecting the sons of British kings and queens to enter military service when their country is at war.

The same was true in the United States during World War II, when four of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s sons entered the armed forces, as did General Dwight Eisenhower’s son, John Eisenhower.

Since the expansion of the number of women in the military, what about George W. Bush’s daughters – Barbara and Jenna? Their father repeatedly describes the war in Iraq as crucially important to protect the United States and to spread democracy in the Middle East.

President Bush also repeatedly asserted that the losses of life and the costs of the Iraq war are “worth the sacrifice.” Whose sacrifice?

Certainly not that of the family in the White House. There have been no indications in this town of 24/7 gossip of either the parents urging or the daughters considering joining the armed forces.

Recently, a Midwestern mother, who lost her son in Iraq, declared, half weeping, “Why am I planning for a funeral when George W. Bush is planning for a wedding?”

Is this mother being unfair? Or is she reflecting a feeling that there is a double standard operating here?

There is a certain moral authority to governing — setting an example, sharing in the sacrifice initiated by the White House — that escapes both George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. Both were early draft dodgers who were gung-ho for the Vietnam war so long as someone else in their age group was doing the fighting. They both have children who have declined to serve during the Iraq war-occupation.

It would be a different question if the Bush and Cheney offspring had come out publicly against the war or were conscientious objectors. No signs of these positions thus far.

There is a simple safeguard regarding the decision to make war while leaving the younger adult sons and daughters of Congress and the White House enjoying civilian life as the casualties and illnesses of the “other Americans” keep mounting. Ask your member of Congress to introduce a one page bill that says the following: Whenever Congress and the White House take our country to war, all able-bodied military-age children of every member of Congress, the President and the Vice-President will be conscripted automatically into the armed forces.

When politicians’ children are required to go off to war, it tends to concentrate their minds toward waging peace.

Gruesome twosomes


Grindhouse Psychos!

(Shriek Show)

CULT DVDS Nepotism is hardly absent from mainstream Hollywood. But off-grid exploitation and sexploitation flicks have oft been a family affair by low-budget necessity. Russ and Eve Meyer, Ray Dennis Steckler and Carolyn Brandt, and Ron and June Ormond are only the most stellar names amongst many who purveyed legendary cinematic trash from the sanctimony of holy matrimony.

By coincidence, two of three features in Shriek Show’s not-too-shabby new discount box set Grindhouse Psychos! illuminate comparatively obscure marital exploitation couples. Cop Killers is a 1972 hippie drug-deal meller featuring actors who’d later go on to produce and star in the classic softcore spoof Flesh Gordon (1974). It’s not bad, though nowhere as good as the packaging ("In front of them, cops. Behind them, dead cops!"). Making a punchier impression are early-’80s titles that kept it all in the family.

Actually, Roberta Findlay’s 1985 Tenement, a.k.a. Game of Survival, a.k.a. Slaughter in the South Bronx, was released several years after husband Michael died in a bizarre helicopter-decapitation accident. Together they’d done it all: a kidnapping-rape film with pre-fame Yoko Ono (1965’s Satan’s Bed); an infamous trilogy of ultrasleazy late-’60s "roughies" (1968’s The Curse of Her Flesh, etc.); the 1974 cannibalism-meets-Bigfoot schlock masterpiece Shriek of the Mutilated; porn films both gay (Michael, Angelo, and David) and straight (Funk in 3-D). They engineered 1976’s Snuff, which capitalized on urban legend by intercutting crude new fake-documentary "murder" footage into a 1971 Findlay film shot in Argentina called The Slaughter. That con made millions.

Widowed Roberta soldiered on variably as director, cinematographer, producer, and scenarist for another decade, often under masculine aliases. Her activities ran a short gamut from porn (Lifestyles of the Blonde and Dirty) to horror (1987’s Blood Sisters). Tenement was an exception — an urban thriller à la Death Wish 3 (1985), Class of 1984 (1982), or any other ’80s movie where the evil gang was mixed race, punk, and dedicated to exterminating decent society. Here, one such crew gets arrested for shooting up in a Bronx apartment building’s empty basement. Freed five seconds later, they exact revenge by trapping and killing residents one floor at a time. Natch, the tenants fight back.

Considered so violent in 1985 that it was given an X rating, Tenement survives as the kind of vigorously crass grade-Z exercise that gives vintage exploitation a good name. Findlay is bemused and delightful in her DVD-extra interview, recalling the shoot amongst real junkies and gangs like a retired teacher might remember naughty third graders.

Much less prolific than the Findlays were Joseph Ellison and Ellen Hammill-Ellison, creators of just two New Joisey B flicks. Their incongruous 1986 doo-wop musical, Joey, bombed. But six years earlier, Don’t Go in the House made the full drive-in and grindhouse rounds, achieving disreputable immortality as an oft-cited example of extreme horror misogyny. Emotionally scarred by a late mother who’d used the gas stovetop as a disciplinary tool, Norman Bates–like nebbish Donny (Dan Grimaldi, The Sopranos‘s Patsy Parisi) lures women to his creepy hilltop home, where he gets back at mommy by burning them to death.

The reason this movie became notorious is the first such death. It left a lingering icky stain on my brain — among many others — and is mighty disturbing still. Gentleman Donny offers a ride to a stranded flower-shop proprietress (Johanna Brushay), who’s given enough screen time to seem like a real person rather than slasher-flick cannon fodder. Knocked unconscious after an unsettling buildup, she wakes to find herself naked, suspended from ceiling to floor in a metal-walled room he’s assembled for his new pastime. Entering in a flame-retardant suit, he douses her with gasoline, then applies a blowtorch at length — the grisly result patently faked by FX superimposition but horrible nonetheless.

Nothing else in this flaming Psycho imitation is so vividly appalling. But that sequence alone places House firmly in the special category of overenthusiastically female-abusive films one can’t quite believe a woman actually helped produce, let alone cowrote.

Love and war


› a&eletters@sfbg.com

Planet Mamet is normally a very manly-man’s world, where alpha males growl, snap, and try to steal one another’s bones. Women either similarly play rough or become obstacles to the overweening guy-versus-guy competition. Ergo, Boston Marriage is an anomaly: seldom staged since its 1999 premiere, this is a most atypical David Mamet play in that the characters are all female, the language florid, and the tone giddy — even, well, campy.

It probably seems more so than hitherto in John Fisher’s Theatre Rhinoceros staging. Mamet has certainly written other comedies: American Conservatory Theater’s recent revivals of Sexual Perversities in Chicago (1974), Glengarry Glen Ross (1984), and Speed-the-Plow (1988) highlighted their hilarity. But it is inherently cruel humor, the kind you know precedes some character’s genuine evisceration.

Boston Marriage is different — not kind, exactly (or at all), but larky and farcical rather than predatory. Even though it ends on the author’s frequent knife-twisting note of revealing just who’s conned who, this arch period fancy doesn’t have his usual hunt-or-be-hunted severity. It’s not out for blood — it’s just bitchy.

The 19th-century term Boston marriage referred to spinsters of means who chose to cohabit. For platonic companionship, society once politely presumed; because they’re muff-diving from the shores of Lesbos, we assume now. Alas, no Kinsey poll exists to reveal just how much either public myth translated into private practice. "Woman of fashion" Anna (a sublimely self-absorbed Trish Tillman) is thrilled to greet "you, my et cetera!" Claire (Alexandra Creighton), just back from an unexplained "prolonged absence." The latter is nonplussed to discover her housemate has redecorated their drawing room in flower-patterned rose chintz — Jon Wai-keung Lowe’s set design is vivid — but strangely neutral when Anna announces the home makeover was paid for by a wealthy male "protector" now keeping her as mistress.

Viewing this as a sacrifice she’s made to secure Claire’s and her material comfort, Anna is anything but neutral when her "dearest one" announces she too has news: she is in love, with a "young person" of the female persuasion. Sugar turns to spite in a blink, as Anna snipes, "I expect thanks — I get nothing but the tale of your new rutting!" — with worse soon to come from both sides. Compounding the offense, Claire has a favor to ask: the use of their house for a rendezvous with her chickadee this very afternoon. At first it seems Anna will allow that "vile assignation" over her dead body. But she’s not above negotiation, or trickery, or even voyeuristic curiosity. When the guest arrives, however, things take an unexpected turn that leaves both ladies frantic at the possibility of ruin.

Authorial inspiration flags a bit in the second half as the characters go off on too many conversational digressions and scheme their salvation in I Love Lucy terms. But Fisher’s honed staging and excellent cast (nicely clad in period frocks by Jeremy Cole) work agreeably throughout. Mamet pours on the antiquated phraseology ("You Visigoth!," "O land of Goshen!") but also indulges in some surprisingly crass (and funny) double entendres. There’s no end of hilarity in Anna’s abuse of maid Catherine (Pamela Davis, doing a neat parody of a classic stage type), at whom she spews endless anti-Irish condescension — never mind that the poor woman is Scottish.

Boston Marriage‘s characters may be far from three-dimensional, but they’re not supposed to be; they inhabit a universe as artificially stylized as that of the "lesbians" in Jean Genet’s plays (or Holly Hughes’s). Nor are they exercises in authorial misogyny: even operating in a more absurdist mode than usual, Mamet grants them the same steely wills, obstinate prejudices, emotional pressure points, and surprising resources as his most sharklike male combatants. Still, Anna and Claire need each other — the goal here isn’t power but love, however much power must be wielded to get it.


Extended through March 9

Wed.–Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; $15–$35

Theatre Rhinoceros

2926 16th St., SF

(415) 552-4100, ext. 104




New York playwright Theresa Rebeck has made a name for herself railing against the shallow, self-absorbed depravity of people. In her savagely written The Scene, four Manhattanites working in television (like Rebeck, who has written for Law and Order) demonstrate just how low they’ll stoop as they try to choose the lesser of evils.

Instead of sucking up to a cheesy TV producer, Charlie (Aaron Davidman), a long-out-of-work actor, sponges off his wife, Stella (played by Daphne Zuniga from Melrose Place), who makes a decent living booking guests on a vapid talk show that cons its audience into believing their salvation can be found in low-carb pasta.

The show opens with Charlie and his best friend, Lewis (Howard Swain), shmoozing at a party. Along comes Clea (Heather Gordon, in real life Miss Marin) — young, new to town, and the living embodiment of all that Charlie detests. She buzzes on incoherently about how New York City is so, like, surreal and is instantly drawn to Charlie as he flies into one of many eloquent tirades on banality. It’s their ill-conceived match that becomes the center of the play, which director Amy Glazer orchestrates with just the right flow. Meanwhile affable Lewis and virtuous Stella get caught in the scrimmage. All four deliver pitch-perfect performances. But guess which one steals the whole Scene?


Through March 8

Wed–Sat, 8 p.m. (also Sat, 3 p.m.), $20–$65

San Francisco Playhouse

533 Sutter, SF

(415) 677-9596

Don’t phunk with my hope


› kimberly@sfbg.com

SONIC REDUCER You probably can’t tell, but I’m totally high. I gotta be because I can’t stop watching this Kennedy family endorsement and that Texas debate clip, this crushed-out cult of personality vid and that hip-hop remix ode. I’ve admitted I’m powerless over my addiction — that my life has become unmanageable. And I’ve come to believe that a power greater than myself can restore me to sanity. That power is will.i.am — I mean, Barack Obama. Look, I know I got a problem: I can’t stop watching Black-Eyed Pea will.i.am’s celeb-studded "Yes We Can" video in praise of the Illinois senator. Frankly, I lo.a.the the Peas — "Let’s Get Retarded," yo, I didn’t think up that title — and I can’t stop wanting to repunctuate will.i.am’s gooberish stage handle, and even "Yes We Can" is a bit embarrassing.

But the tune is queued up there along with the Oprah clips, the 60 Minutes sound bites, and the "john.he.is" parody. You know Obama’s got something going on when his speechifying inspires such spontaneous music-making — and oh yeah, I’m tripping on the fact that we went to the same Honolulu prep school, and I’m drunk on the possibility of electing the first African American president, and I’m getting dizzy looking back through the media’s looking-glass lens at him, myself, and a shared past through yearbook photos of a now strikingly diverse-looking Punahou school. Sure, he complained about the school in his memoir, much like me and my friends have — at the time it seemed like a lily-white beacon of privilege on a brown island. I feel like I’m tumbling down a historically revisionist rabbit hole, seeing it as both exotic — and for presidential candidates of a certain age, class, and region, it is — and familiar. Now it looks like the culturally diverse rainbow gathering of kids that civil rights activists were fighting for. Maybe I’ll have to write a song about it.

Get on the Bus, Part Two Hope is in the air, and I’m feeling it, listening to Evil Wikkid Warrior’s John Benson talk about his recent troubles with the Bus, the 40-foot AC Transit behemoth he converted into a vegetable oil–swilling clean machine and mobile-as-a-dinosaur, all-ages, all-fun free underground music venue. Noise and party starters from here and away like Warhammer, Fucking Ocean, and Rubber O Cement have been playing down-low shows in the vehicle while it was parked on quiet, oft-industrial San Francisco and East Bay streets, but that all seemed to screech to a dead halt when, on Dec. 22, 2007, after a West Oakland show put on by a Benson cohort, the Bus was vandalized.

Bored neighborhood youth, Benson theorized, smashed all its glass windows, busted its solar panels, and threw bricks on top of it. "It was probably just a bunch of bored kids in the middle of the night. They saw this big thing, and it was like, ‘Duh, throw rock at big thing,’<0x2009>" offered Benson, who at the time was on a trip to Detroit. When he returned a few days later, the former A Minor Forest and Hale Zukas member faced compounding problems: the winter rain had flooded the exposed interior, damaging the electricity, warping the wooden floorboards, and causing the oriental rugs to molder.

Benson had planned to take the bus to Mexico to shoot a film, but that was out of the question. "The police told me that I wasn’t allowed to keep any vehicle on the street with a broken windshield and windows and they’d have to tow it," he recalled. "But then I also wasn’t allowed to drive a vehicle with a broken windshield. It was a catch-22, and with no place to keep it, the cops visited me on a daily basis." He also couldn’t find glass that would fit in the windshield, since most of the AC Transit fleet from back in the Bus’s day had been sold to Mexico, according to Benson, and it appeared that the only glass available would have to come from there — at more than $1,000 a piece.

Fortunately Benson’s friends and the noise community-of-sorts came together to support him. Guardian contributor George Chen threw a benefit that raised about $300, and word got out on the message board Spockmorgue that Benson needed money to repair the bus and a PayPal account was started on his behalf. Benson told me, "I did spend a lot of money on new solar panels and new skylights," but what kept him going were the many people "e-mailing me privately, saying ‘Keep it up, John. Don’t give up. Don’t give up.’ I just got a huge amount of support from people I don’t even know." One Boston member of the message board donated $100 simply because he said he had heard about the Bus through his friends who had performed on it and wanted to help.

An artist friend welded new metal frames to fit the vintage 1962 windshield glass that Benson discovered were the closest fit for the Bus, and after a few months of work the Bus was finally completed at the beginning of February. "It was miserable," he remembered. "We were literally working in rain under tarps, broken glass everywhere, bleeding fingers, miserable. There was a 24-hour paint job with a lot of volunteers. Someone said it was like Fitzcarraldo — there were so many times we were burned and bloody and freezing cold in rain, trying to the get floor replaced and carpet. Definitely insane."

Fortunately, work was completed in time for Benson to drive the mammoth vehicle down to Miami for the International Noise Festival, picking up pals and playing shows along the way. Later this spring he’ll head back to Florida to do more work on the Bus — it’s resting in Orlando in a friend’s backyard — and then drive it north for an East Coast tour. "In terms of love the bus is doing better than ever," Bensons said happily, while eating chicken with his 12-year-old daughter, who’s also his Evil Wikkid Warrior bandmate. "Mechanically it’s just a little wrinkled." *



Pretty! The Concretes’ Victoria Bergsman (who contributes vox on Peter Bjorn and John’s "Young Folks") takes to dreamy chamber indie, written around her love of arboreal life, with Open Field (Rough Trade, 2007). With White Hinterland. Sat/1, 9 p.m., $13–<\d>$15. Great American Music Hall, 859 O’Farrell, SF. www.gamh.com


The Oakland rock ‘n’ roller cuddles up to classic ’60s and ’70s pop values at his CD-release show while playing drums and guitar simultaneously, somewhat like "that sad guy in the straw hat at Six Flags whose eye contact you and your punk friends made sure to avoid," according to Robinson. With the Dilettantes and the Pandas. Sun/2, 9 p.m., $10. Cafe du Nord, 2170 Market, SF. www.cafedunord.com


Detroit’s Animal Disguise artisto embraces a darker breed of death-beat mesmerism, alongside Manslaughter, a "stupor group" including Sixes and Noel von Harmonson. With Chinese Stars and Pod Blotz. Sun/2, 8 p.m., $8. Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF. www.hemlocktavern.com


The Philly native gives a few hard hugs to a freewheeling brand of full-band electric folk on his soon-to-be-acclaimed Langhorne Slim (Kemado). With Nicole Atkins and the Sea, and the Parlor Mob. Mon/3, 8 p.m., $12–<\d>$14. Independent, 628 Divisadero, SF. www.theindependentsf.com

From Umbria, with brio


As a member of the lentil-involved community, I was honored and elated to be presented with a small sack of organic Umbrian lentils at a recent Slow Food shindig for organic Umbrian farmers. (Organic Umbrian Agriculture: World Tour ’08.) The lentils, from a producer called Terra Colombaia ("pigeon coop"), were uncooked, of course; cooking not included. I would have to handle that part myself, and I welcomed the chance, which would come later, once I’d gotten home. Meantime, I practiced saying lenticchie — the Italian word for lentils, and a jollier word than ours it is — with the jolly Umbrian farmers seated all around me at Acme Chophouse. I asked them if they liked America, and they smiled and nodded knowingly without quite saying yes. I know this drill; it’s the universal language for "We hate Bush!" But hope, somehow, abides. In that spirit, the subject of Hillary was steered clear of.

The lentils, liberated from their plastic sack, proved to be a motley if lovable crew, smaller than the Umbrian lentils I’ve long been accustomed to seeing at the market, and far more varied in color. The dominant shade in both iterations is a mocha brown, but in the commercial version I usually buy (from Emilio Bartolini, an Umbrian concern known mainly for olive oils), that shade is deep and consistent. The organic lentils, by contrast, have reds, browns, grays, and greens lurking in the mix; it’s like a legume version of M&Ms. Also, the organic lentils are smaller, about the size of their hard green Puy cousins from France to the north. Size matters in American cosmology, and small is a sin in more ways than I can decently mention, but in lentilology, small is an advantage, since small Umbrian lentils cook more quickly than the bigger ones — a boon for the harried cook. Slow food … fast! And even quick-cooking Umbrian lentils are resistant to turning mushy; this is a boon for everyone, except people trying to make dal, and they should be using those reddish orange Indian lentils anyway.

Several of the Umbrian farmers spoke surprisingly good English, and when that didn’t suffice, there were enough Spanish, German, and French words at the table to fill the gaps. Still, we all thrilled to lenticchie — not quite a rousing chorus, but close.

Paul Reidinger

› paulr@sfbg.com

Bellydance Superstars


PREVIEW The Bellydance Superstars are back. The troupe came to prominence during the 2003 Lollapalooza tour and are an intriguing mix of Hollywood glitz and highly accomplished dancing — patrons of the DNA Lounge and Herbst Theatre may remember the ensemble’s shows in 2004 and 2005. While you may not see much of the covered-up tribal dancing that lies at the core of so much traditional belly dancing, these women are fabulous exponents of an art that embraces female sensuality perhaps like no other dance form. The new show — with a fresh crop of dancers, including "Colleen" from Marin — is called Babelesque because each of the 12 members of the multinational ensemble brings something of her own perspective on the ancient form. Expect elements of hip-hop, Latin, and jazz dance to slink their way into individual performances along with the traditional sword and peacock dances. The joyous abandon that these women bring to their art is infectious, reminiscent of the time when belly dancing was performed by women and for women. Producer Miles Copeland, who formerly ran I.R.S. Records and managed Sting for many years, comes with a show business background, so be prepared for an entertaining and gorgeously costumed evening of dance that has nothing to do with the hoochie koochie.

Bellydance Superstars Sat/1, 8 p.m. $20–$45. Marin Veterans’ Memorial Auditorium, 10 Avenue of the Flags, San Rafael. (415) 499-6800, www.marincenter.org

Borts Minorts


PREVIEW Leap year is here! Looking for a suitably unusual event to celebrate this once-every-four-years occurrence? I strongly suggest scampering over to the Hemlock Tavern for a Club Chuckles lineup that’s poised to scramble the brain of any comedy connoisseur. Headliners Borts Minorts defy simple description. See, there’s this guy in a hooded white unitard and a headset mic who sings and flails and contorts — he might be an alien or an android, but it’s doubtful anything but an actual human would be able to bring such pure and bizarre joy to the stage. Equally enthusiastic are the Borts backup dancers, who flaunt leotards and fishnets (and the occasional pair of lederhosen), and whose energetic choreography demonstrates limber limbs and an admirable appreciation of jazz hands. Borts’s music is similarly befuddling, in the best possible way — a combination of samples, keyboards, horns, drums, theremin, slide whistles, a single-stringed bass made out of a snow ski, and god knows what else, but I guarantee you’ll not see anything as sense-assaultingly entertaining this leap year, or any other year. Local duo Ramshackle Romeos render classics like "Feelings" with nearly as many instruments as a full orchestra (including a mean musical saw), and comedians Drennon Davis and Alex Koll rock the mic between musical numbers.

BORTS MINORTS With Drennon Davis, Alex Koll, and Ramshackle Romeos. Fri/29, 9:30 p.m., $8. Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF. (415) 923-0923, www.hemlocktavern.com

Holly Cole


PREVIEW If voice has a color, Holly Cole’s gleams like rich, burnished copper. A jazzy postmodern chanteuse with a sensual, sultry bent, the Canadian performer stops into Yoshi’s San Francisco during her first United States tour in six years. Her current trio includes longtime pianist Aaron Davis, bassist Marc Rogers, and saxophonist John Johnson.

Cole has a stylish new self-titled album (Koch) in tow, recorded in New York with a nonet headed by bassist and coproducer Greg Cohen. Cohen plays music across the board, having toured with both Ornette Coleman’s free-jazz ensembles and Woody Allen’s New Orleans–style group, and he’s also worked with more eccentric pop songwriters like Tom Waits and Elvis Costello, both of whom Cole has favored on past releases like her 1995 Tom Waits tribute album, Temptation (Metro Blue/Blue Note). Gil Goldstein arranged 6 of the new recording’s 11 tunes, an eclectic bag of standards ranging from Johnny Mercer and Henry Mancini’s "Charade" to Cole Porter’s "It’s All Right with Me." At times buoyant and swinging, the record also shows Cole at her most hauntingly intimate.

Although Cole has been making outstanding records for several years, Holly Cole is the first to be domestically distributed since 1997’s pop-slanted Dark Dear Heart (Metro Blue), which included two originals, the title tune by reclusive singer-songwriter Mary Margaret O’Hara, and songs by Joni Mitchell and Sheryl Crow, among others. Cole first made her mark with savvy versions of torchy jazz standards like "Don’t Smoke in Bed," but like all great vocalists, she inhabits everything she sings: from Brian Wilson’s "God Only Knows" (off Shade [Alert, 2003]) to Stephen Sondheim’s "Loving You" (from Romantically Helpless [EMI, 2000]). Her lush, purring tones, subtle phrasing, and soulful empathy always take the songs beyond simple interpretation. Much like a great actor, Cole never lets you see the craft but reveals the shadowy dimensions of character and the essential details of the story.

HOLLY COLE Tues/4, 8 and 10 p.m., $16–$20. Yoshi’s San Francisco, 1330 Fillmore, SF. (415) 655-5600, sf.yoshis.com

“Cinema Piemonte”


PREVIEW The northwestern Italian region of Piemonte is noted for production of wine, wheat, and Fiats. Its principal city, Turin, a.k.a. Torino, was briefly the nation’s capital after unification — and soon afterward became the focus of its early film industry as well. While both crowns were eventually stolen by Rome, the area maintained a role in Italian cinema through the decades. That history is sampled in this weekend of features set in Piemonte, presented by the Associazione Piemontesi of Northern California in collaboration with the Italian Cultural Institute and Regione Piemonte. The four programs run a wide gamut, not least because they span 90 years between them. The closer on Sunday should be a major occasion: a restored print of Giovanni Pastrone’s 1914 Cabiria, the apex of the lavish costume epics that dominated Turin’s industry and proved a huge influence on the likes of D.W. Griffith and Cecil B. DeMille. This three-hour tale of ancient Rome will be accompanied live by pianist Stefano Maccagno, playing his original score. Another big international hit was 1949’s Bitter Rise, a heady brew of neorealism and noir melodrama that made Silvana Mangano — at the time a very well-developed 19 years old — into the first postwar Euro bombshell. Packed into tight clothes as a scheming peasant rice harvester, she seemed the very embodiment of wanton s-e-x years before Bardot, Monroe, and Loren came along. Mario Monicelli’s 1963 I Compagni, a.k.a. The Organizer, is a somewhat more serious labor drama, with Marcello Mastroianni, superb as usual, portraying a professor agitating for improved textile worker conditions at the dawn of the 20th century. Opening the weekend, and serving as its lightest note, is Davide Ferrario’s Dopo Mezzanote (After Midnight, 2004), a whimsical romantic comedy set in Turin’s Mole Antonelliana — a beautiful 19th-century structure that happens to house Italy’s National Museum of Film.

CINEMA PIEMONTE Fri/29, 7 p.m.; Sat/1, 4 and 7:30 p.m.; Sun/2, 4 p.m., free

Cowell Theater, Fort Mason Center, Marina at Laguna, SF

www.piemontesinoca.com, www.fortmason.org

Dining in the off-hours


LATE LUNCHES One of the things that makes Don’t-call-it-Frisco such a fine place is the disproportionate ratio of successful slackers to office drones who live here. You know the type: they sleep in until 10, read the whole newspaper over a bagel and coffee, get some sort of exercise, and then spend the rest of the day creatively earning money. I’m one of them — hell, you’re probably one of them. Waiters, bartenders, freelance mortgage brokers, writers, graphic designers … there are all sorts of creative types doodling around the city during off hours, working after the sun goes down and eating their meals whenever they please. The only problem? When you finish breakfast at 11 a.m., you want lunch around 3 or 4 p.m. — and many power-lunch spots serving the corporate world close between 2 and 5 p.m., when the earliest cocktailer trickles in. So where do late lunchers eat? For those of you who think outside the cubicle, here are a few restaurants that’ll serve you no matter what time the lunch urge strikes.

Everything about Bar Bambino (2931 16th St.; 701-8466, www.barbambino.com) is carefully rustic. In the restaurant’s front window, a rough-hewn community table seats 10 and a soft white Italian marble bar reaches all the way back to an open section of the kitchen, displaying cheeses and charcuterie. A few scattered indoor tables give way to a quiet, heated outdoor patio. The menu shows owner Christopher Losa’s love for northern Italy, where he lived for several years: the food is simple, traditional Italian, like the polpetti, pork-and-veal meatballs in a rich tomato sauce with dark chard. There’s nothing superfluous on the plates (order some sides for that), and the dishes are affordable. "I’m all about gastronomic progression, but how many times a week can you eat peppered sardines in cilantro foam?" laughs Losa. "Sometimes you just want a plate of really good pasta." The highly polished Italian wine list offsets Bar Bambino’s simple food.

If you want to know where the really good meals are, follow the chefs. When San Francisco’s culinary heroes have slept off last night’s shift (and postshift drinks) and finished their coffee, they head to Sunflower (506 Valencia and 3111 16th St.; 626-5022) for cheap and authentic Vietnamese eats. Sunflower has two locations: a tiny (like, four tables tiny) space on Valencia and a larger dining room around the corner on 16th Street. Both locations share the same kitchen, which speedily produces hangover-curing dishes like sticky wontons (stuffed with pork, rolled in rice, and deep-fried) and all kinds of pho, with the requisite Mission vegan options available. The industrial-strength Thai iced tea or coffee is sweetened by plenty of condensed milk and will keep you buzzing long into the evening. The produce is fresh and the meat is nondubious, something of a rarity for a pho restaurant.

Absinthe (398 Hayes; 551-1590, www.absinthe.com) hasn’t gotten a lot of press in the past couple of years, but that’s not because the restaurant has slipped any. The Yelpers and the new-restaurant junkies may have gone to feed on fresh prey, but good ol’ Absinthe remains a staple of opera diners and cocktail connoisseurs. The bar’s lounge area stays open through Absinthe’s lunch rush, dinner rush, and the post-opera blitz. Sure, you’ll drop some coin on a meal at Absinthe (a decadent lunch for two plus cocktails runs about $100), but you’ll eat, and be treated, like royalty. Forget about the tired waitstaff dying to drop the checks so they can go home — the service here is as good as the Chartreuse cocktails and the fresh crab.

Restaurant Lulu (816 Folsom; 495-5775, www.restaurantlulu.com) is a total find in the restaurant wasteland that makes up this part of the SoMa corridor. It has the best salty, lemony mussels around, hands down. The industrial-chic decor is at odds with the impeccable and friendly service (read: no pretense, no attitude). Lulu’s is perfect for a hefty lunch circa 3 p.m., after a midday spin at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art or the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

The kitchen at Perbacco (230 California; 955-0663, www.perbaccosf.com) will only do a bar menu between lunch and dinner, but it’s worth a trip to the heart of the Financial District for some ultra-authentic Italian snacks and drinks. The house specialty is the charcuterie plate (the sassy little meat-chef slices everything on a vintage machine right behind the bar), but everything’s good. Try their signature cocktail as a brightly acidic complement to the heavy, comforting meatiness offered on the rest of the menu.

OK, so you never want to hear the words "Asian fusion" again. I know: I don’t either. But buck up and check out Ozumo (161 Steuart; 882-1333, www.ozumo.com) on the backside of Steuart. If you just can’t bear to order anything with the word "fusion" in its name (your loss), you can still try the sushi. Ozumo is where the other servers in the area head for their post-lunch-shift drink — in case you wonder who the raucous group in the front lounge are. If you sit up there too, you can even pick up a wireless signal from next door. Hey, it’s like you really are in an office … but with cocktails. Viva la SF-slacker lifestyle! (Ella Lawrence)

“From San Francisco to Silicon Valley”


REVIEW The camera loves San Francisco. Weather, light, hills, and landmarks all make it primary fodder for photographers, too many of whom hew to the postcard views. Known for his architectural documentation of the industrial outer rings of Europe’s cities, Italian photographer Gabriele Basilico came to the Bay Area to capture its transitional developments: Silicon Valley and the San Francisco of strange buildings and telephone wires. No Victorians or trolley cars here, which means that many viewers may recognize the city as they know it: construction, do-not-enter road signs, and a distant skyline; sunbathers in Dolores Park rather than the Golden Gate’s majesty; Verizon Wireless billboards; and the 76 gas station globe. A conventional picture of the Marin Headlands drifting in fog is interrupted by the foregrounding of high-rise apartments. A stunning landscape photo taken from Twin Peaks revels in the incongruities of our still-beautiful city, with grassy California hills overlaying the low-slung Sunset and Castro, and Market Street forming a V with a long afternoon shadow.

"From San Francisco to Silicon Valley" also includes a plethora of freeway shots, which makes sense, given the show’s title. Basilico shoots both the silent underpasses and the blurred velocity of downtown-bound cars. As we transition to the valley, the highways provide the visual link. Instead of giving way to a rising crowd of buildings, the roads beget alien corporate campuses and manicured exurbia. Basilico the architect gleefully frames the garish structures and sprawling sameness that define much of the Silicon Valley landscape, though his best portraits include counterpoint evocations of California nature. On the same floor of the museum, in "Picturing Modernity," Carleton E. Watkins’s photograph The Golden Gate from Telegraph Hill (circa 1868) presents San Francisco as a hungry upstart. More than 100 years later, Basilico’s shot of roughshod development in the hills outside San Jose tells a similar story.

FROM SAN FRANCISCO TO SILICON VALLEY Through June 15. Mon.–Tues. and Fri.–Sun., 11 a.m.–5:45 p.m.; Thurs., 10 a.m.–8:45 p.m.; $7–$12.50 (free first Tues.). San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 151 Third St., SF. (415) 357-4000, www.sfmoma.org

Feels like the first time


› a&eletters@sfbg.com

At first listen, I thought Oakland’s Long Thaw approached their straight-up hard rock with ironic jokiness. After all, this clever bunch sport names like Chile Valentine (né Benjamin Prewitt), Diego Snake (a.k.a. Dan Brubaker), and Mr. Forever (born André Zivkovich). Their humor meter defaults to squirm-inducing sexual innuendos, and as Snake puts it, they believe there are "enough hair farmers out there that like to just sit down with a beer and listen to some dude rock."

Well, the joke’s on me, and I thought wrong: file Long Thaw’s heavy sound somewhere between the Melvins and Triclops! and never doubt the band would treat music with sardonic carelessness.

Back in December, when I first saw the combo play, I didn’t expect much, except that I might get bored, and if so, I could kill time in the Stork Club back room by pouring $10 into a pinball machine. My low expectations paid off: not only was I not bored; I was fully entertained by Long Thaw’s classic twin-guitar attack and speedy riff trading, heavy bottom-end drum fills, and soaring, operatic vocals. As much as its members have absorbed the ideas of proto- and post-punk, the band’s economy and aggression compositionally refer more directly to 1980s hardcore and ’90s alternative rock.

Long Thaw formed at the intersection of two Bay Area bands: Boyjazz and Stay Gold Pony Boy. Eager to try his hand at writing and playing his own songs, guitarist Forever got his chance when, he says, "literally within a month I got dumped and I bailed out of Boyjazz." Snake brought some riffs to Forever’s attention, and they clicked enough for the two to start a new project, joined by friends and colleagues DeSoto Vice (Szymon Sipowski) on bass and Savannah Black (Jenya Chernoff) on drums. After a year of auditioning vocalists, Long Thaw found Chile Valentine and came out of its ice age.

Being a classically trained vocalist, Valentine can pitch it high and sustain the notes: he’s turned out to be the icing on the group’s hard-rock cake. In just one year, during which his voice flipped between sounding too over the top and too reined in, Valentine went from singing at karaoke bars to warbling on local stages. "Overall," Forever says, sitting down with the rest of the band at Soundwave Studios, "if [Valentine] weren’t singing, we wouldn’t get the Iron Maiden and Dio comparisons." Sure, Valentine’s amusingly metalesque voice hooks you, but the band’s rhythmic clip and dueling riffs, as well as catchy choruses and bridges, keep you around.

Judge for yourself on the new self-released EP Feels Natural, and notice how well the band fits into the current pop cycle, in which hard rock is undergoing its seeming once-a-decade revival in the form of Queens of the Stone Age and spin-off Eagles of Death Metal. Here in the Bay, Long Thaw’s music seems surprisingly fresh, especially as a muscular counterpoint to the foppish twee-ness of a certain segment of the indie underground. If you came of age during the late ’80s and early ’90s, and the sounds burned in your brain are those of Dinosaur Jr., Soundgarden, Mudhoney, and Jesus Lizard, you’ll enjoy Long Thaw’s old-school rock ‘n’ roll, played anew.


March 2, 4 p.m., call for price

Stork Club

2330 Telegraph, Oakl.

(510) 444-6174


Elastic band


After struggling to settle into a listening routine with Dig That Treasure (Asthmatic Kitty), the sprightly debut from Bay Area trio Cryptacize, I decided to take the recording for a walk. Buoyed by the sudden spring weather, I floated down Harrison to the candy-striped fuzz of "Heaven Is Human," and before long, found certain street noises complementarily weaving their way into the track. "Bells are ringing / Gates are singing," Nedelle Torrisi coos on "Cosmic Sing-A-Long," before bandmate Chris Cohen joins to harmonize on the gentle rallying cry, "Every note is an unfinished song."

Cryptacize’s numbers are arranged as twisty medleys, their frequent stops and starts redolent of the impressionistic fragrance of melody. Torrisi and Cohen previously explored similarly horizontal song structures together in the Curtains, but the addition of percussionist Michael Carreira — who plays drums as if he were painting — and proper duets lend Cryptacize a markedly easygoing, domestic air. Sharp melodic inversions and time changes are softened by Torrisi’s and Cohen’s disarmingly sweet voices and a general balancing of tunefulness with cacophony.

As with Cohen’s earlier band Deerhoof, Cryptacize strives for the development of a private musical language rather than the typical filtering of influences. "We never really jam," Cohen e-mails from his Oakland home, "but some songs are sections designated as free tempo so we [just have to] follow each other’s movements out of the corners of our eyes. There are also parts where we improvise on a specific theme or riff, but these moments are built into a song." This kind of programmed free association is especially evident on more mosaic pieces like "Heaven Is Human," but instead of resulting in free-jazz confusion or Deerhoof density, Cryptacize’s wide-eyed stitch often seems like the score to an imaginary musical.

Part of this stems from the album’s isoutf8g production, in which the multiplicity of the compositional elements plays against a sparing sound. The overdubs are few and far between, and the silences many. "Hearing parts separately was important to us for this album. We wanted the listener to have lots of empty space," writes Cohen. Even on thicker-sounding productions like "We’ll Never Dream Again," the two guitar tracks are panned to either side, emphasizing the song’s moving parts on headphones.

One can be forgiven for picturing a stage while listening to these wide expanses. It’s there in the plaintive opening of "The Shape Above," the pitched mood swings on "How Did the Actor Laugh?," contemplative confessionals like "Water Witching Wishes," and the outstretched verses of "Stop Watch." When I ask Cohen about it, he fills me in on his and Torrisi’s youthful exposure to musical theater and sings the praises of Leonard Bernstein. "Mike actually isn’t a big fan of show tunes, although we did turn him on to our favorite, West Side Story, when we were on tour in October," Cohen e-mails, before explaining the theatrical roots of the disc’s inviting title: his father, an aspiring collegiate composer, cowrote a musical review of the same name. He lent the title to Cryptacize "cautiously," Cohen continues, "warning us that his cowriters might sue us!"

Legal proceedings notwithstanding, Cryptacize has all the qualifications to reinvent the rock opera. In the meantime, the band is readying Dig That Treasure‘s prismatic pop for the road, angling for bewitchment. "Since we don’t exactly bombard the audience with volume," writes Cohen, "Nedelle has developed a set of hand movements to hypnotize them."


With Why? and Dose One

March 6, 9 p.m., $13

Great American Music Hall

859 O’Farrell, SF


On like him


› a&eletters@sfbg.com

I’m typing this with one hand, because I’m patting myself on the back with the other. According to Eddi Projex himself, I’m the first writer to ever interview him, back in 2003 when he was a member of Hittaz on tha Payroll, who’d just released their retail debut, Ghetto Storm (Hitta). It was the tail end of the Bay’s turn-of-the-century commercial drought, yet the group — including Polo, Curcinado, and Fletchberg Slim — sold almost 4,000 copies. On April 6, 2005, I wrote a Guardian piece on Projex when he had a BET video hit with "Drank-A-Lot," featuring his former mentor Numskull and Money B.

Now here we are again, and while I claim no credit for Projex’s success, I can’t help feeling gratified. I knew he just needed a shot and he got one: his Bedrock-produced single, "On like Me," was one of the hottest Bay records of 2007, despite the increasing difficulty of getting local music on the radio. Showcasing the skillful hook-writing evident on Ghetto and "Drank," "On like Me" confirms Projex’s status as one of the top three post–Mistah FAB Oakland rappers, along with Beeda Weeda and J-Stalin.

"I’ve always jumped on the hook," says Projex. "That’s the most important part of the song. You could be the rawest verse-writing nigga ever, but if you ain’t got the catchy hook, the raps don’t mean shit."

At that time, hyphy was heavy, he recalls: "I almost bit. I took the beat to the studio, got to talking about shakin’ dreds, and D-Kash [who signed Eddi to Hi-Speed Records] says, ‘Eddi, that ain’t you.’ So I went to my car, put the CD in, and blasted it. And I just started rappin’: ‘Candy on the paint / Chrome on the feet / Is anybody out there on like me?’ I took that bit for the hook, put everything together. Called that nigga the next morning — check this out! He was, like, ‘Yeah!

"FAB was, like, let me hear that," Projex continues. "Then he called me, like, ‘Eddi, this the one!’ He played it that Friday on Yellow Bus Radio."

"The response was crazy," Mistah FAB confirms. "Rick Lee from KMEL gave it a chance, then Mind Motion. It just took off."

Unfortunately, Projex wasn’t prepared to consolidate his success. "Album was nowhere near done," he concedes. "I just had a song on the radio. It jumped off, and I wasn’t ready for it." It wasn’t until the end of the year that Projex dropped his album, Now or Never (Hi-Speed/Payroll), which includes the "On like Me" remix with FAB and Too $hort as well as new singles, "Wiggleman," produced by Bedrock, and "Breezy," produced by the Mekanix and highlighting Keak da Sneak.

While Now brims over with grimy street raps, it also shows Projex’s deeper side, reflected in such tracks as the love song "I’m Feeling You," the politically minded "That’s Right," and the homage to family life, "Grown Man."

"My grandma love that song," Projex says of "Grown Man." "I’m not afraid to say I got a wife and kids. I’m still a player though. But I try to make music that everybody listens to. I’m a well-rounded dude." Though the tracks are way more gangsta, those numbers make Now arguably the most lyrically substantial street record since FAB’s Baydestrian (Faeva Afta/SMC, 2007).

What makes Projex’s positive songs so powerful, moreover, is his undeniable street cred. The 26-year-old rapper, born Eddie Scott, hails from East Oakland’s Stonehurst district, a.k.a. Stone City.

"That’s the last turf in East Oakland besides Sobrante, on the border of San Leandro," he explains. "Basically the 100s. That’s the first place I seen rocks selling, sold a rock, whatever. When Stone City was created, there wasn’t no rolling 100s. Then everybody came together to rep the 100s."

Wanting to set him on the right path, Projex’s mother sent him to Berkeley High School to pursue a promising football career, which was cut short by a shattered ankle. In his sophomore year, he dropped out to sell crack in Stone City and hooked up with Hittaz on tha Payroll, who became Numskull’s crew when the Luniz broke up.

By the time he was 18, Projex was traveling across the country with Numskull, from Los Angeles to New York City, rubbing shoulders with elite rappers like Xzibit, Jayo Felony, and Wu-Tang Clan. Though he and Numskull have since parted ways, Projex remains grateful for the experience, which separates him from the majority of his peers, many of whom have yet to venture East.

"I’ve seen the light, so I want that back," Projex says. "But this time I’m going to be in that light. I still got my Hitta roots, but I’m trying to make music for the masses. I’m trying to go putf8um and make millions."

Ghost writer


› a&eletters@sfbg.com

REVIEW In the English-speaking press, Roberto Bolaño is widely touted as the hottest novelist to come out of Latin America since Gabriel García Márquez. There are no levitating virgins in the work of Bolaño; he depicts instead a more recognizable if still defamiliarized Western Hemisphere, full of intellectuals, tragic activists, poets, queers, prostitutes, and drug dealers. And Nazis.

Although Bolaño died in 2003, his death hasn’t slowed the rise of his reputation; he is posthumously leading the revolt of a generation of writers and readers who were crushed under the weight of Latin America’s major literary exports, the Boom writers. Bolaño’s idiosyncratic style isn’t magical realist or sentimental about folk traditions, but he isn’t exactly a realist either. Nazi Literature in the Americas (New Directions, 280 pages, $23.95), newly translated into English by Chris Andrews, follows the path of Jorge Luis Borges. It presents brief bios and bibliographies for 30 imaginary right-wing writers from North and South America.

Although Nazi Literature was first published in 1996, it follows its catalog of writers past that date and into the future: Willy Schürholz, for example, born into a mysterious, walled-off community of Germans within Chile, is a solitary poet who sets out "countless variations on the theme of a barbed-wire fence crossing an almost empty space," and eventually publishes a book of children’s stories that idealize "a childhood that was suspiciously aphasic, amnesic, obedient and silent." Its nameless boy protagonist "displaced Papelucho as the emblematic protagonist of children’s and teen fiction in Chile," while Schürholz himself ends up in Africa working as a photographer and guide until his death — in 2029.

Bolaño’s writers interact with recognizable historic and literary worlds; they are wandering Colombians who fight for the fascists in Spain; they are aristocratic Argentines handled by Hitler as infants; they are Beat-influenced North American poets who, after being hit on by Allen Ginsberg, flee to panicked careers filled with homophobic and anti-Semitic invective, becoming enormously successful in the process. They write stories, poems, and novels with titles like Cosmogony of the New Order, I Was Happy with Hitler ("misunderstood by the Right and the Left alike"), and The Children of Jim O’Brady in the American Dawn. In Bolaño’s hands, these biographies are hilarious. At the same time, they are often surprisingly moving and sometimes terrifying.

Throughout Bolaño’s translated work, from By Night in Chile (New Directions, 144 pages, 2003), the monologue of a dying priest, to The Savage Detectives (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 592 pages, 2007), which follows a group of avant-garde poets in Mexico in the ’70s along their downward-spiraling paths, he is concerned with the sometimes surprising intermingling of radical and conservative literary and political realities. If Bolaño’s monsters are occasionally ridiculous and moronic, it is to his credit that they are also always complicated, and sometimes brilliant and romantic. His Nazi writers are not so different from his non-Nazi writers; they are ambitious or derivative or avant-garde in equal measure. They fall tragically in love and develop drinking problems alongside their leftist peers. Bolaño’s clear-sighted examinations of social context underline the insight that literature isn’t innocent — an invigorating insight in our own cultural moment, when the very act of reading or writing is usually considered harmless but inherently ennobling.

Perhaps Bolaño’s most seductive, fascinating, and terrifying monster is the Chilean poet Carlos Ramírez Hoffman. Bolaño readers will recognize his story as that of Alberto Ruiz-Tagle, elaborated in more detail in Bolaño’s second novel to be translated into English, Distant Star (New Directions, 149 pages, 2004). His tale is worth revisiting for those readers, as it functions differently as the conclusion to Nazi Literature. The book suddenly becomes more intimate, more frightening, and more ambiguous, as Bolaño appears for the first time as a character and becomes personally linked to the fate of Ramírez Hoffman. "Bolaño," like the author of the same name, is arrested and briefly imprisoned by the Pinochet dictatorship after the coup in 1973. While Ramírez Hoffman transforms himself into a torturer, a murderer of women, and a skywriter, Bolaño watches the ephemeral poems appear in the sky from the prison yard. The story of the narrator’s obsession with the traces of this enigmatic antihero’s literary career becomes a discomfiting mirror in which some of our dearest romantic myths about literary outlaws are laid bare with startling implications.

In less thoughtful hands, Nazi Literature could be a terrain inhabited largely by "repressed" homosexuals, following the 20th century’s tidy equation of fascism and sublimated male homoeroticism. Whatever sexual desires are repressed or unrepressed by this horde of monsters, they are as varied and bizarre as those of the rest of the human race. Bolaño was the queerest of straight male writers and his sensibility the queerest I know of, period, in all of Latin American literature — notwithstanding José Lezama Lima, José Donoso, Manuel Puig, Reinaldo Arenas, and the many closeted contributors to the fussy literature of the Boom.

Bolaño’s descriptions of the experimental and speculative works of his dark doubles allows his own baroque imagination free rein. He dreams up plays in which "the action unfolds in a world inhabited exclusively by Siamese twins, where sadism and masochism are children’s games," and poems in which a 90-year-old Leni Riefenstahl makes love with 100-year-old Ernst Jünger, their jaws creaking, their eyes lighting up, hinting at the lesson that "it is time to put an end to democracy."

The literary references in Nazi Literature are dense and possibly unfamiliar to a North American audience; we may not always know which pompous literary critics actually lived, or which dueling Cuban queens are real and which are imaginary. Bolaño has the most fun with his speculative and science fiction writers, and with those who assume fake identities in order to promote their derivative work. This book is full of rumor, unverifiable reports, and false claims: it fundamentally entwines the false with the true to create a kind of vaporous zone that we immediately recognize as the world we inhabit. At the same time, Bolaño’s writing cracks that world open and charges it with startling electricity. It’s a reminder that writing is life — organic, complicated, sick, heartbreaking, and hilarious.

Grrrl power chords


› cheryl@sfbg.com

Bay Area filmmakers Shane King and Arne Johnson totally know what you’re about to ask them, because it’s the question everyone springs right off the bat: What are a couple of dudes doing behind the camera of Girls Rock!, a film about an all-girls rock ‘n’ roll camp?

The answer is so meaningful that the pair don’t seem to mind sharing it (again). Once King and Johnson (friends since fifth grade) heard about Portland, Ore.’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp for Girls, they were irretrievably inspired. In the process of scouting out documentary subjects, Johnson caught a talk by Sleater-Kinney guitarist Carrie Brownstein. Someone asked her if she thought rock was dead, and in response she discussed her experiences teaching at the camp. "The idea that somebody of Carrie Brownstein’s stature would be stumbling around with a bunch of eight-year-olds, teaching them windmills, was just — well, I called Shane up [immediately]," he says.

Having grown up in Portland, where they recall "enthusiastically slam-dancing at L7 shows," King and Johnson felt particularly connected to the topic and eagerly moved forward — though wooing the camp proved difficult at first.

"The camp was, understandably, very skeptical [of us] and protective of the girls," King remembers. The duo shot footage of the camp’s after-school program, Girl’s Rock Institute, and interviewed teachers and young participants; the resulting short proved promising.

The bulk of Girls Rock! takes place in the summer of 2005, focusing on four campers as they practice instruments, form bands, write songs, and build confidence and social skills: teens Misty (a former meth addict) and Laura (a headbanger who worries about her appearance), and eight-year-olds Palace (a girly-girl with anger issues) and Amelia (a budding noise-rocker who has trouble sharing the spotlight). King and Johnson took care in choosing which girls to follow, though they knew they wanted first-time campers.

"We realized that [the camp] really had a huge impact on girls the first time they went," Johnson says. "One father described his daughter as ‘going supernova’ after the camp. So we knew that was going to be the most dramatic thing to show." King and Johnson traveled around the country, meeting 25 girls who were planning on attending camp for the first time.

"From talking to the camp staff, we knew that it was important to girls in ways that weren’t just about music," Johnson says. "Laura was the first person we interviewed, in Oklahoma. She was like, ‘I really love death metal, and I can’t find any boys who will let me be in a band.’ Suddenly we realized there was another metaphor happening, about the tension between our culture and these girls."

The themes of Girls Rock! are further illuminated by fellow Bay Area filmmaker Liz Canning’s animated collages. The sequences spell out what young girls are up against, with colorful graphics backdropping an array of sobering statistics, like "The number-one wish of teenage girls is to lose weight."

"People have told us, having seen the film, that it was upsetting to see those pieces, and that they wish we hadn’t included them — like, ‘Why not just celebrate the girls and leave all that stuff behind?’<0x2009>" Johnson says. "Our response is that we’re two liberal, feminist guys, and we didn’t know these things. How can we assume that everybody else is going to be able to see these girls’ struggles, and contextualize them?"

The filmmakers hope Girls Rock! will lead to camps springing up all over the country — as well as nudge grown-ups toward a new embrace of feminism. Most important, "The [campers] are cool, and loud, and angry, and funny, and sloppy — and yet nobody is saying they’re stupid or ugly," Johnson says. "[If there is] a girl in Indiana or somewhere who’s trying to form a rock band or do something that she thinks she can’t do, if she sees this film, she might think, ‘Wait a minute — why am I afraid of this?’ Then I’ll feel like we’ve done what we came to do."


Opens March 7 in Bay Area theaters


Life during wartime


Engaging, even experiential, Chicago 10 eschews a traditional documentary approach to capture the playful exuberance of the yippie generation. Through animation and rare video footage, producer-director Brett Morgen brings Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, and their experiences of the infamous Chicago 7 trial to life, in turn allowing them to bring a message of resistance that transcends decades. I recently spoke with Morgen.

SFBG What inspired you to make this film?

BRETT MORGEN There was political inspiration and then there was filmic inspiration.

We conceived of the film around 2002, when the US had just invaded Afghanistan and they were talking about going into Iraq. It didn’t seem like there were that many people out protesting. Greg Carter, the producer, came to me and asked what I thought about making a film on the Chicago 7 because those guys were like rock stars, they totally inspired him when he was young.

I told him I grew up in the ’80s, with the weight of the ’60s on my shoulders. My generation was constantly being told that we’d never be as passionate or as vibrant or as impactful. So I said, "I don’t want to make a film with that holier-than-thou attitude. If we’re going to make a film about this period, ultimately to reintroduce it to generations of Americans who haven’t been exposed to this story, let’s do it in the language of the youth movement today."

The world doesn’t need another movie about ’68 scored by Buffalo Springfield and music that’s really the soundtrack to our parents’ lives. This [film] isn’t a history lesson; this isn’t a movie that’s even about ’68. It’s really a fable for all times: there’s a war, there’s opposition to a war, and there’s a government that’s trying to silence the opposition.


Opens Fri/29 at Shattuck Cinemas



› paulr@sfbg.com

Since the symphony strike of the mid-1990s, the west side of the Civic Center has seen more than its share of high-profile destination restaurants open their doors. From Jardinière (born 1997) to Essencia (2007), the tone of the restaurants in the neighborhood (whose epicenter is the corner of Gough and Hayes) has become considerably … tonier.

Much of the upscale-ishness doubtless has to do with the demolition of the Central Freeway viaduct and the reemergence of Hayes Valley as a nice place to live. A fresh bloom of boutique shops tends to confirm this. But east of Gough, the song remains largely the same: opera, symphony, ballet, with the occasional "in conversation with" at Herbst Auditorium thrown in. Yes, we are talking performances of one kind or another, and performance audiences often want something to eat in a civilized setting beforehand and aren’t always eager to cash out their 401(k)s or Google stock options to pay for it. Does the west Civic Center, with its new wealth of destination spots, have anything to offer these people? Ivy’s was the archetype of this sort of value restaurant, but it closed more than a decade ago.

On a recent weekend evening, mild and clear after weeks of stultifying rain, we slipped into Breezy’s at about 7:30 and found both large dining rooms full. A half hour later, as the clock struck eight, the restaurant was nearly empty; we were like the two forlorn members of a school of tasty fish who didn’t get the memo about the approaching great white shark. As curtains grandly rose in grand buildings on the other side of Gough, we made do with a chocolate tart.

Bawer Tekin and Dawn Wiggins opened Breezy’s last fall in a space long occupied by the Blue Muse, whose fanatical devotees will be relieved to know their restaurant has reappeared a block away, in a space that adjoins the performing-arts parking garage. The old space, meanwhile, looks little-changed and is still rather cavernous, with the front room still dominated by the big bar and the rear dining room faintly secret, like a cell in a medieval cloister. A creamy color scheme brings some warmth to this brutal roominess, and the iridescent tiles on the support pillars exert a certain hypnotic appeal, as Rubik’s Cube did a generation ago.

But forget about Breezy’s pleasantly unobtrusive décor and its friendly, efficient service, which holds up well even at the heart of the pre-performance rush. You’re there to eat, and the food is good. Quite good! Interesting without calling undue attention to itself, and reasonably priced in a fat-cat city where the word affordable often seems as if it’s been read right out of the language.

Chef Rodney Baca’s menu offers, according to the restaurant’s Web site, "the fresh tastes of the Mediterranean, with a swirl of Asian flair." Nicely put. The food, in other words, is that by-now familiar amalgam of California–New American cuisine, with touches of local and sustainable, along with a few blatant violations of these tenets. I love stuffed tomatoes, and Baca’s version ($9) is excellent — a baseball-size, reasonably ripe (for February) fruit, opened at the top like a Halloween pumpkin for a lively filling of prosciutto, cheese, and basil — but … a tomato in February? With basil? Everything is for the best in this, the best of all possible worlds, Voltaire wrote in Candide, except (and I choose to believe this is implicit in the Voltairean text) winter tomatoes.

An arugula and watercress salad ($6) is a little more like it. The greens reached the table still practically glistening with rain, and instead of walnuts (those usual suspects), Baca used spicy peanuts to add crunch while making, possibly, a sly Super Bowl reference. Aged bleu cheese is a standard player in these salads and did appear in this one, but the vinaigrette acquired a refreshing sheen from pomegranate juice.

The kitchen also handles pasta beautifully, and this is an important consideration for performance-bound people, who will be more comfortable sitting there for an hour or three if they’ve eaten something a little lighter than a 20-ounce steak. You can get some steak with your pasta if you like; linguine alla carbonara ($14), with a classic sauce of pancetta cream and green peas, also includes meatballs of rib eye and Asiago cheese — just enough meat to register. And macaroni and cheese ($6, for a serving big enough to be a small main dish), is infused with truffle oil, scattered with crisped bits of chorizo, and plated with mixed micro greens, for a full-spectrum effect.

The chocolate tart ($7) we were so contentedly eating when the room cleared, as if in response to an air-raid siren, did suffer from a tough crust. Our server had mentioned this to us beforehand. But it was flavorful tough crust, we had good knives, and the ganache inside was intense and at the very precipice of not being sweet. Embedded on the surface of the ganache like bits of buckshot were blueberries, while napped around the edge was a wild berry marmalade and a dusting of pulverized pistachio.

At weekday lunchtime (the other busy period for restaurants in this area) Breezy’s is nicely accessible. Its large carrying capacity must help. Choices tend toward the conventional — Cobb salad ($9), say, or seared ahi tuna ($11) on a focaccia bun — and as at dinner, toward lightness too. Lightness, freshness, the pleasant startlement of a fresh breeze in the face: the name Breezy’s made not much sense to me before I went there and ate the food, but then I did and now it does. *


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

Dinner: Mon.–Thurs. and Sun., 5–10 p.m.; Fri.–Sat., 5–11 p.m.

409 Gough, SF

(415) 552-3400


Full bar

Moderately noisy


Wheelchair accessible

Change of heart


› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com

CHEAP EATS You don’t know me. You think you do, but not even my closest friends in the world know what a foolish, silly, misguided, and clumsy chicken farmer I can be. Key word: can be. Key words.

Luckily, we do have a choice, or at least a say. I have decided to be flattered by what happened on the night when I made a beautiful chicken pie out of one of my own, then accidentally dumped it in the sink. This point of view was not easy to come by.

At first I felt about as awful as it is possible to feel without dying. People who were in the kitchen had to leave the kitchen because they couldn’t bear to see me like that. I said what any English-speaking chicken farmer would have said right then. I said, putting it mildly, "Fuck!" My posture, I am sure, said the rest. I was bent or buckled over the counter next to the sink, my head in my hands, feeling entirely broken.

There was a time, earlier that day, when I had looked in the mirror and thought, I look pretty. Yeah, and there was a time, however brief, when my pie had looked delicious. Now it was a pile of steaming ruins in the bottom of the sink. Is this life? I keep trying to find out what life is, and the results keep coming back from the lab: an image of something ugly over porcelain.

Fortunately, I laugh easily and play hard, so I don’t stay down for long. During my already overdocumented recent depression (thanks for the concerned e-mails, BTW) I spent a long, blubbery time on the phone with my beloved Sockywonk, and she kept saying, "Your chickens! Your chickens!" And this is why I feel so sorry for people who struggle with longer-term depression. Because when you’re like that, not even the things you love can quite cut it. Not even chickens. Not to mention that, truth be told, I don’t even love my chickens. Not these ones. Not yet.

There’s no delicate way to say this. My chickens are pussies. Remember? I had to coax them out of their house and into the world with ham sandwiches. They had been outdoorsy, technically free-range chickens for months without ever really ranging freely. With half an acre of brush and stumps and logs and trees to explore, they mostly stay in the bushes right outside their door and just quiver.

Houdini they are not — Houdini being my famous and beloved escape-artist chicken whom I loved and then killed, when, even in death, she leaped out of the pot and bit me. In fact, hey, wait a minute! Come to think of it, ohmigod, this was Houdini, the end of her, the last little bit of freezer-burned meat, the last couple cups of broth, that went into this pie! I swear.

Holy shit! So she had one last escape attempt in her!

Not that it succeeded. The sink being pretty clean, Choo-choo and me spatula’d it all back into the pan, a broken mess, a chicken-pie casserole — but those who were brave enough to try it liked it.

Wow. Which would also explain why, while I was walking to my car after a sleepless night in Earl Butter’s closet, even the leftovers tried to get away. The pan, I swear, flew out of my hands and, without spilling, clattered across the sidewalk. I attributed this, at the time, to precaffeination, but now I’m thinking: Houdini!

That right there, that is spirit, soul, zest, zing, and that’s what my current chickens lacked. I had yet to look out my kitchen window and see my favorite sight in the world: chickens running around being chickens. So when Sockywonk said, Your chickens, your chickens, I was, like, whatever. Like I didn’t even hear her.

But they did, I guess, because four hours after we got off the phone, when I finally had the strength to get up from the table and turned to the sink to fill the teakettle, there they were. In the waning daylight. In the big yard. First time ever. Loving life and running around like chickens with their heads still on. Their world had just gotten bigger.

Mine too. I smiled for probably the first time in weeks.

My new favorite restaurant is Calafia Taqueria ’cause it’s where Mookie gets his burritos. This is the nice thing about dating an Alamedite. One of the nice things. Now I get to know where to go in Alameda, and then you get to know too! Anyway, the carne asada is great, they grill the tortillas, and there’s a big bar of fresh salsas. Didn’t get to try them all, but I’ll be back. *


1445 Webster, Alameda

(510) 522-2996

Mon.–Sat., 11 a.m.–10 p.m.; Sun., 11 a.m.–8 p.m.



What a pain


› andrea@altsexcolumn.com

Dear Readers:

In the process of starting to crawl out of my "I just had two babies! Leave me alone!" cocoon, I’ve been teaching some new workshops, one on what it’s really like to have twins, and one that I’m calling "Is There Sex after Motherhood?" — hoping the idea comes across even though motherhood is, technically, a lifelong venture ending in death, after which, one assumes, not so much sex. I debuted the sex one recently at the original "clean, well-lighted place for buying things to stick up your hoo-ha," Good Vibrations. There was a decent crowd, and everybody seemed to have a good time; and when we got to the Q&A, I was gratified by the number of questions. (That’s how you can tell if people were interested in your presentation, right? Not so interested = polite thanks and drifting away; interested = hang around asking questions until the management kicks you out.) There’s some serious sadness haunting the new and newish mothers though, so while it’s all good and fun to talk about how a simple blow job between child care tasks can save your marriage (ask me how!), some of the questions stayed with me after we’d cleared away the cookies and juice (yes, mothers are served toddler snacks, don’t ask me why) and gone home.

It’s surely true that during the first few years after having kids, your sex life tends to be … well, "lackluster" is a nice word, but I think "laughable" might be more accurate in a lot of cases. Some of the women at these events are really beating themselves up over it though, which I guess is expected and is why I’m talking about this stuff in the first place, but one of them really saddened me when she said, quite matter-of-factly, that intercourse was still quite uncomfortable for her several years later and she hadn’t mentioned this to her husband. "I think you need to communicate with your husband," the other speaker, a therapist, offered. "I think you should find out what hurts and make it stop hurting," I countered.

How many women, mothers or not, are having painful sex and just not mentioning it? The most common cause of uncomfortable insertive sex is nothing more complicated than a case of "not ready–itis" or lack of lubrication, but a Harvard study cited by the National Vulvodynia Association (see www.nva.org/media_corner/fact_sheet.html) estimates that 16 percent of women in the United States suffer from the chronic vulvar pain called vulvodynia or its subtype, vulvar vestibulitis, affecting just the opening to the vagina. That’s a lot of women! Most are young when it starts, and most can locate no particular event or infection that set it off, but the pain can be paralyzing (many describe it as feeling like acid was poured onto sensitive tissues, or "like knives"). So we have a mysterious etiology; a location in the parts that many women simply don’t mention in public, even if that public comprises their doctor, themselves, and nobody else; and an exclusively female population of sufferers; and what do we get? Predictably, silence, confusion, and shame. And while I have never been a big fan of men-versus-women jokes and somehow doubt that if men got pregnant, ma- or paternity leave really would be two years long with full pay (come on!), if men often had agonizing, unexplained pain in their manly man parts, surely they wouldn’t have been subjected to generations of doctors pronouncing it "all in your head."

The good news — there has to be some — is that vulvodynia is finally getting the research money and attention it deserves. Recent research (see www.nytimes.com/2008/01/29/health/29brod.html?_r=1&ref=science) has turned up solid, quantifiable, and most important, curable causes of the pain: some women, the researchers found, had serious inflammation two cell layers deep that had not responded to steroids, a typical treatment. What’s even more interesting is that many of the women have a genetic abnormality — as I’m sure they could’ve guessed, considering the kind of hypersensitivity they’ve been putting up with — in which there are too many nerve fibers in the area, which produces a pain response to what in other women would just be normal sensation, like the pressure from your jeans against your crotch while seated. The linked article contains some success stories; the treatments (surgical or medical) are not perfect, but they have the potential to make life worth living again for some women who’ve been silently suffering, too embarrassed or too debilitated to say anything about it. That does count as good news, no?

I don’t really see a National Crotch Pain Month hitting the calendar anytime soon, but I do see this as the beginning of the end of one more way for women to suffer in silence and shame, so a cautious hooray for that.



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.

Madonna, Wilde, and bears — oh my!


› a&eletters@sfbg.com

REVIEW The International Bear Rendezvous has come and gone, but a few stragglers searching for a good time can still be found in "Bear Hunting," James Gobel’s series of lush and faintly melancholy portraits. Attired in flannels, suspenders, and trendy band T-shirts, Gobel’s burly and bearded imagined subjects might appear uncannily familiar to regulars of the Eagle or the Lone Star, or to certain segments of BUTT magazine’s readership.

But while their clothing scans along contemporary gay subcultural lines — which these days seems to overlap with the dress sense of male hipsters — Gobel poses them in the mannered body language of the 19th-century aesthete. Eyes slyly cocked, paused by some combination of antique architectural details — a velvet curtain, a divan, a newel post, flocked wallpaper — each bear holds aloft a flickering candle, as if he’s studied Cindy Sherman’s anonymous, imperiled heroines alongside Oscar Wilde’s famously photographed languid contrapposto.

Not that the supersaturated royal purples, peacock blues, and John Deere greens or the acrylic, yarn, and wool felt textures of Gobel’s marquetry need more illumination. His canvases almost pop off the wall. But the bears appear to remain oblivious to their rainbow-colored surroundings. Like Ingrid Bergman in Gas Light (1944) or Joan Fontaine in Rebecca (1940), they seem trapped in a haunted house in which something isn’t quite right and the past lingers on like a killer hangover. In Holding Tenderly to What Remains, the subject reveals a "Madonna Live at Coachella" T-shirt beneath his Pendleton. The title, in combination with the shirt, immediately underscores the nostalgia industry driven by and marketed to the pink dollar, in which subcultures — yes, even bears — become marketing demographics.

The question that Gobel’s portraits stop short of answering is, what happens when the flame goes out? *


Through March 29

Tues.–Fri., 10:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m.; Sat., 11 a.m.–5 p.m., free

Marx Zavattero Gallery

77 Geary, SF

(415) 627-9111


The Bewitching Mary Blair Project


REVIEW Beginning in 1940 and continuing through the ’60s, Mary Blair was a key contributor to the Disney aesthetic. As one of Walt Disney’s right hands, she was responsible for the design of both the It’s a Small World and Alice in Wonderland rides at Disneyland, as well as numerous large-scale tile murals that adorned the exteriors of Tomorrowland and still grace the lobby of the Walt Disney World Contemporary Resort in Florida. Not only is her work part of the Disney canon but she also created illustrations for the classic children’s Little Golden Books. Illustrative artifacts of Blair’s life and concept art for her now-legendary amusement park architecture are all part of "The Art and Flair of Mary Blair."

The Cartoon Art Museum exhibit includes a representative sample of Blair’s illustrative range. From the announcement of the birth of her son to a cigarette advertisement, her distinct sense of color and design inevitably indicate the era in which they were produced. And in its innocent nostalgia — most clearly displayed in the stylized gouache sketches made during her South American travels — Blair’s work simultaneously projects an idealistic view of the future.

In her plan for the exterior of It’s a Small World, she combines squares, triangles, and diamonds with overlapping fields of color to shape a complex geometric composition. The patchwork quality of the surface closely resembles the fabric designs of one of Blair’s modernist contemporaries, Ray Eames, who also recognized the intricacies and the simplicity of both natural and built environments. Composed of the world’s most recognized landmarks, Blair’s condensed multi-cityscape is less representative than it is abstract: its Eiffel Tower resembles a geodesic slice.


Through March 18

Tues.–Sun., 11 a.m.–5 p.m.

Cartoon Art Museum

655 Mission, SF


(415) 227-8666, www.cartoonart.org