Volume 42 Number 51

A house divided


› jesse@sfbg.com

Just as the US presidential election hits the home stretch, internal strife at one of the country’s largest labor unions appears to be diverting its focus from electing Barack Obama.

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and its 2 million members helped Obama defeat Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary. Its ground operation and bulging political war chest are crucial to Democratic Party hopes in November, both in the presidential election and congressional races. But a recent corruption scandal and an ongoing internal dispute that threatens to blow up in the coming weeks could undermine the union’s political influence at the worst possible time.

"If SEIU didn’t have to deal with this distraction, it would be able to do more to influence the election," Dan Clawson, a labor scholar and professor of sociology at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, told the Guardian. "California [where nearly all of SEIU’s recent turmoil has taken place] is not where they should be."

But according to several sources within SEIU, the union will be devoting resources to the Golden State this fall, even though the state is widely expected to remain a Democratic stronghold. The sources contend that the organization is preparing to deploy hundreds of its staffers to the region to take control of a local union affiliate and to deal with any potential fallout. At least some of those staffers, the sources say, would have been devoting their time and energy to the election campaign if not for SEIU’s internal troubles.

Last month the union’s international office was forced to "trustee," or take over, its largest California affiliate after the Los Angeles Times ran a series of articles exposing alleged corruption by its leader, Tyrone Freeman. Then, in late August, SEIU announced it was initiating a process to assume control of its second-largest California local, the Oakland-based United Healthcare Workers–West (UHW). For months, SEIU president Andy Stern has feuded with UHW head Sal Rosselli over Stern’s push to consolidate local union chapters into larger and more centralized units [see "A less perfect union," 4/9/08, and "The SEIU strikes back," 4/16/08].

Stern and the international have charged Rosselli and other UHW officials with misappropriating millions of dollars. In late July, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit brought by SEIU covering these same charges. Now SEIU has scheduled its own hearings on the matter to decide whether to clean out UHW’s leadership. The hearings are set for Sept. 26-27 at the San Mateo County Event Center. A separate lawsuit challenging UHW leadership brought by individual UHW members is also moving forward. Rosselli and his supporters strongly deny the allegations of financial misconduct. They claim the upcoming trusteeship hearings are simply Stern’s latest attempt to stifle dissent within the union.

"It’s a kangaroo court," Rosselli told us. "It’s a purely political move to silence our members. And it’s a huge distraction."

SEIU’s turmoil is not welcome news to progressives. Federal election records show that the union’s political arm has dropped more than $10 million into Obama’s candidacy, as well as millions more for other left-wing candidates and causes. Beyond monetary support, Democrats are counting on SEIU organizers to hit the ground across the country, especially in hotly contested states like Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio, Colorado, and Missouri. But because of the feud, a good number of those foot soldiers could be spending this autumn in safely blue California instead.

If the hearing officer hired by SEIU allows the union to take over UHW, another labor scholar, who spoke to the Guardian on condition of anonymity, said, "It’s hard to see how [SEIU] would do it without bringing in a significant number of people." He explained that in the event of a trusteeship, some or all of the staff may need to be replaced. The union also might have to contend with a large number of extremely disgruntled people in its 150,000-member affiliate.

Officials at UHW told us that members are planning "massive" demonstrations at the two-day hearings in late September. And the upheaval could easily drag on through the rest of the campaign season if the trusteeship moves forward. Rosselli predicts there will be "major resistance" from his rank and file. He would not elaborate on what that resistance would consist of, but a resolution passed at a recent UHW leadership conference struck a decidedly militant tone: "UHW will fight to keep our members united in one statewide healthcare workers union and will use all available means."

Rosselli told us that resisting SEIU’s trusteeship would "dramatically" curtail his local’s political activities. During the primary season, he added, UHW dispatched teams of organizers to Iowa, New Hampshire, and other critical states. But for the general election, they will be staying home. "We’re in a civil war," Rosselli said. "We need everyone here to defend against Stern’s dictatorship."

The Guardian has learned that Obama and other progressive candidates may not just be losing valuable campaigners from UHW. Several UHW sources said they expect SEIU to send large numbers of union organizers to the Bay Area in the wake of the hearings — and two management-level sources from the international’s staff confirmed those suspicions to us.

The first source, who asked not to be identified, told the Guardian that numerous colleagues at the organization have been approached by "senior international staff, attempting to recruit them and other organizers to come to California … to implement the [possible] trusteeship." The source added that people within the organization believe the union is planning to send "hundreds" of people.

A second management-level source at the international, who also requested anonymity, told us that they have personally assigned several organizers to campaign work only to see those staffers reassigned to the UHW matter by international higher-ups. The second source reiterated the first source’s contention that the union is looking to send "hundreds" of what the source termed "troops" to Northern California to replace any UHW staff who quit or are expelled, and to quell any uprising by disgruntled UHW members.

"This has been deemed an imperative at the top levels of the union," the second source continued. "People have been told [the] numbers of people they need to assign [to the UHW feud] and been told to look over their staff lists to see who they can assign."

Michelle Ringuette, a spokesperson for the international in Washington DC, told us that "no one is being pulled off of political work" to deal with the UHW situation. While she wouldn’t deny that some organizers who might otherwise be involved in lower-level political activities "like get out the vote operations" might be sent to California if needed, she denied that staffers who specialize in politics would be diverted or that hundreds of staffers would be involved. Get out the vote efforts such as phone banks and door-knocking are often performed by union workers on behalf of Democratic candidates — and they can be decisive in a close election.

"Of course this [the trusteeship hearing] is unfortunate timing," Ringuette said. "But … we don’t believe this is going to affect out advocacy for Barack Obama. That is our top national priority."

But a third employee of the international we spoke with rejected Ringuette’s description of a division of labor within the union’s organizers. The longtime employee, who also asked not to be identified for fear of retribution, told the Guardian that a small number of international staffers may specialize exclusively in political activism, but virtually all organizers would be working on the fall campaign in a normal election year.

"If they’re sending organizers to California [to deal with UHW], they’re definitely moving them away from battleground states. California is not considered a battleground state."

Our other two sources at the international echoed the third source’s characterizations.

In a strongly worded letter to Stern dated Sept. 9, UHW’s secretary treasurer Joan Emslie stated that the trusteeship hearings "can only distract" SEIU from political activism and "hinder our ability to put the greatest possible efforts into this critical national election." The letter ended by requesting that the trusteeship hearings be postponed until "a date no earlier than Nov. 10," one week after the presidential election. As of press time, the international has not rescheduled the hearings.

Obama campaign officials we contacted declined to comment on what one called "an internal union matter." But some labor observers were willing to voice their displeasure with the timing of the dispute. Professor Nelson Lichtenstein, director of the Center for the Study of Work, Labor, and Democracy at UC Santa Barbara called the trusteeship hearings "a huge mistake." With the upcoming election, Lichtenstein went on, "the consequences could be enormous. What’s the rush?"

Love and death


› andrea@altsexcolumn.com

Dear Andrea:

I’m in my mid-to-late 30s. Most of my life, my sex drive has been pretty low. Fairly quickly (within a year) after beginning a relationship, it tapers off to almost nothing. I believe this significantly negatively affects my LTRs (my last one ended due to not enough sex; we’re trying to work on it in my current one).

I suspect this is pretty common (I’ve heard of "lesbian bed death," and some of my straight friends also admit to having a very low sex drive). What are the typical causes of low libido in women? I don’t really believe in aphrodisiacs, but are there any proven treatments, meds, or herbs for this?


No Mojo

Dear Mo:

If any of those worked, they would be aphrodisiacs, and you’d be stuck not believing in them. Not at all helpful. Luckily, they don’t, so you don’t have to worry about it.

Actually that’s not precisely true. There are things that work for some women, just not all, or even most. And since female sexuality seems to delight in confounding even the most dedicated researchers, there’s no telling what might turn out to be efficacious — some combination of hormones, set and setting, history and expectation, and circulation. But in which combinations and what order, nobody knows.

I’d be interested to know what "trying to work on it" means, and whether it’s working. If you really want to delve in, you could see if you can get a referral to an endocrinologist who knows what she’s doing; maybe a little testosterone boost would give you a, uh, leg up. Second, or first if that isn’t happening, you could get yourself assessed for depression or anxiety disorders and maybe do some cognitive-behavioral therapy and/or try Wellbutrin. And last (or first), I’d take a look at the sex you are having and determine whether maybe it’s just not what you want, and try to add in or subtract the elements that would improve things or are killing your buzz, respectively.

The bummer part is that some people really do just have a low libido and that makes them normal for them. Unfortunately, a clear declaration on the order of "that’s just the way I roll" is not going to satisfy a frustrated partner, and many people suffering from low desire really are suffering — they want to have high desire. Some combination of the suggestions above may get you somewhere, and I sincerely hope they do. Otherwise, well, I just listened to a fascinating program on the placebo effect on a BBC podcast, but I’m afraid none of the researchers on there could reasonably claim that taking a pill that you know has no physioactive ingredients would work. Otherwise I’d be all, "Here, take this."



P.S. Oh — there’s an interesting entry on the neurochemistry of lesbian bed death at "Scientific Blogging," here: www.tinyurl.com/4vaxq9. She blames it on oxytocin and pheromones and — surprise! — too much cuddling.

Dear Andrea:

My husband has ED and likes sex in the morning after I give him oral sex, which seems to help. The problem is that he won’t give me oral back! He’s gotten oral millions of times — and me? Twice at the most. Years ago, he was giving oral and I came, which kinda flooded him, and he didn’t do it again for 20 years. Now I’m menopausal and kinda dry, so rubbing gets annoying and doesn’t do much for me. And now I don’t even want to give him oral because he won’t do it for me. He touches me and I pull away because I know he won’t return what he gets. This stinks for me, and I’m totally turned off!


Rubbed Wrong Way

Dear Way:

Oh, not good. You don’t want to go without forever, nor do you want to get into this sort of (I wish there were a better phrase for this) tit-for-tat system with your beloved. You’re going to have to tell him how you feel, then he’s going to have to, well, reciprocate. If the problem really is the once-upon-a time "flooding" incident, you can do what I urge men to do: warn your partner before flooding ensues, allowing her/him the chance to pull back if wanted. Then you have to tell him that you’re dry and don’t want to be rubbed so much, but here is some helpful, handy lube. Then you have to stop being so mad at him. It’s not that you don’t have cause — of course you do! — but the grouchy, aggrieved tone that comes across in your letter is not the sort that invites compromise and the "we must all hang together or most assuredly we shall all hang separately" approach which is, frankly, your only hope. You really should not have let 20 years go by without saying anything. He really should not have let 20 years go by, period. So, OK, what now?



Got a salacious subject you want Andrea to discuss? Ask her a question!

Also, Andrea is teaching! Contact her if you’re interested in (sex)life after baby classes. Her new blog is at www.gogetyourjacket.com, but don’t look there for the butt sex. There isn’t any.

Treasure Island Music Festival 2008


It’s a Treasure Island Music Festival free-for-all, and we’re ready to rock and/or dance overboard with the all-star line-up at the gonzo weekend-long sonic blast. In the name of rockers, Sonic Reducer faces off against the dance-floor repping Super Ego over French electro-pop juggernaut Justice, headlining Saturday. What has the stylish duo wrought? Plus: we also look at TV on the Radio, Goldfrapp, Hot Chip, Vampire Weekend, prep school rock, and other artists appearing Sat/20-Sun/21. For the complete fest schedule and details, go to www.treasureislandfestival.com and dig for gold.

>>Sonic Reducer: No peace, so Justice!
Stressing on semiotics and skipping to the bomb-blast beat
By Kimberly Chun

>>Super Ego: Jabbing at Justice?
“Help! I’m drowning in shutter shades,” yells club kid
By Marke B.

>>No castaways here
Treasure Island jewels to drool over
Our Picks

>>Channel surfers
Flip the switch and begin anew with TV on the Radio
By Mosi Reeves

>>“Seventh” heaven
Goldfrapp ascends to the astral, while throwing roots down in the real
By Kimberly Chun

>>Does Vampire Weekend suck?
A critical mass of critical stabs at the afro-pop punks
By Brandon Bussolini

>>Class revolting
Chester French fronts the new school of college-rockers
By Brandon Bussolini

>>Hot Chip, ahoy
Fancy dress, hearing loss, pop highs
By Kimberly Chun

The Spanish table


› paulr@sfbg.com

The waxing and waning of tapas fever reminds us, first, that it is in the nature of fevers to wax and wane. Today we love tapas — Spanish bar bites, basically — and tomorrow we will love American tapas, Cuban tapas, Peruvian and global tapas, tapas of every description, and soon enough we will be tired of all tapas. If this end-stage disillusionment hasn’t yet fully set in around here, the signs are building nonetheless.

An irony of the tapas craze is that tapas’ Spanish roots have been obscured by the boundless enthusiasm with which they’ve been elaborated. The word itself has slightly slipped off its foundations; in recent years we’ve spoken often of "small" or "shareable" plates as of tapas. Then there are the Mediterranean meze platters. Spain? What’s that? Did someone mention paella?

If Spain has a national dish, it would have to be paella, the rice-and-seafood stew (with chicken and, sometimes, sausage) that comes from the country’s southeastern Mediterranean coast and, ideally, is cooked over a wood fire in a special two-handled pan. (The word "paella" is thought to derive from the Latin, patella, meaning "shallow pan." In our time, patella is a medical term for the "shallow pan" of the kneecap.)
And the wood fire gives us a clue as to why Spanish cuisine, despite its many glories and nuances, has never been a runaway restaurant success in this country the way its near relation, Italian, has. Cooking any dish over a wood fire is tricky, and not many restaurants do it. A wood fire is a living entity, and managing it is an art not unlike that of snake charming. You can get bitten or burned, and the difference between a nice golden crust and a burned one at the bottom of your paella pan is the difference between a dish you can serve and eat or one you have to throw out.

It’s probably for this reason that most restaurant paellas seem rather cautiously prepared, on a better-safe-than-sorry principle. Restaurants don’t make money from burning expensive ingredients and putting them in the trash. In my experience, restaurant paellas never have a caramelized crust and always, for me, leave a slight pang of disappointment.

At Patio Español, perhaps the most authentic Spanish restaurant in a city that doesn’t have enough of them, the menu advised us that paella would be made to order and would take 25 minutes. These were encouraging signs. The paella then arrived in a proper paella pan — another encouraging sign — and was served tableside in the restaurant’s Old World, waistcoat style. But there was no crust of caramelized bomba rice at the bottom of our pan of paella valenciana ($21.50 per person, for two) — this version including slices of chorizo, the garlicky Spanish cured sausage, along with shrimp, clams, mussels, boneless chicken thighs, green peas, and red and green bell peppers — and our server rushed the pan away, as if clearing up an unfortunate spill.

I understood and forgave the hasty exit with the pan. We can’t blame restaurants for being careful about cooking a dish they really shouldn’t be cooking at all. Despite the lack of crust, Patio Español’s paella was tasty and convincing: plenty of seafood, nice color, the rice well-stained with saffron, the scale generous but not overwhelming.

It helped that just about everything else on the menu — along with several items not listed but brought to us anyway — was first-rate. The sourdough bread pulsed with gentle heat, and the tapas! Cold or warm, they were fine, beginning with a plate of chubby sardines in escabeche ($8.25). Escabeche is a preservation technique in which cooked fish (or other flesh) is marinated in a seasoned vinegar brine; the result is served cold and sometimes, as here, with an accompanying salad of slivered carrots, cucumber sticks, chunks of bell pepper, and microgreens. The word escabeche, incidentally, is thought to have a Perso-Arabic derivation, and that’s a reminder of the long Moorish presence in Iberia.

Pan a la catalana ($10) was marred, but only slightly, by the toughness of the tissue-thin slices of jamón serrano laid like bolts of carpet over a subfloor of toasted bread rounds. Better were the albondigas ($8.50), a clutch of buttery little meatballs in a garlicky tomato sauce. And then there was the roasted-garlic soup, which, despite its modest role as an opening act for the paella, was distinguished by a haunting richness similar to, but less sweet than, that of French onion soup. It was also lighter than its Gallic cousin, using a paprika-tinged vegetable stock instead of beef broth. As if to balance the twinkle-toed soup, the post-paella sweet, a chocolate torte ($8) plucked from the dessert cart, had an almost fudge-like denseness. To balance that: slices of kiwi and mango on the side.

The restaurant is part of the Union Español, a cultural center established in 1923 and resident at its present Excelsior District location since 1985. The building casts a strong spell; the main dining room has straw-colored walls, a cathedral ceiling supported by exposed beams, and a floor of earth-colored ceramic tiles. It’s handsome without straining to make a statement other than, This is a nice restaurant. Could there be a lesson here for us hyperactive and attention-seeking Americans?

The building was formally dedicated in 1987 by King Juan Carlos I, who bears the impressive surname de Borbón y Borbón. The Bourbons succeeded the Hapsburgs as rulers of Spain several centuries ago, though neither royal family can claim credit for kicking out the Moors. Note to the king and other prospective enjoyers of Patio Español’s roasted-garlic soup: chew a coffee bean.


Dinner: Wed.–Sun., 5–9:30 p.m.

Brunch: Sun., 11:30 a.m.–3 p.m.

2850 Alemany Blvd., SF

(415) 587-5117


Full bar


Moderately noisy

Wheelchair accessible

Victorian sensibilities


› news@sfbg.com

GREEN CITY It’s hard to argue with Craig Nikitas when he says, "The greenest building is the one that exists now."

As a senior planner with the San Francisco Planning Department, Nikitas knows that a ton of energy is wasted tearing down the old and erecting the new. Energy embedded in the original materials and construction — which often last a century or longer — is also destroyed. And it all ends up in the dump, replaced by new products that might, if you’re lucky, hold up for a fraction of the lifetime of the old components.

Michael Tornabene is a designer at Page and Turnbull, Inc., a Nob Hill District architecture firm specializing in preserving historic buildings, notably the asbestos-laden Old Mint and the Ferry Building. He said the Bay Area is distinguished by its thousands of gorgeous Victorian, Edwardian, and Craftsman homes, as well as its green sentiment. Restoring old buildings can be tricky because their features aren’t standardized. Even so, their age can also be their best virtue.

"What’s great about sustainable upgrades to an historic home is most of the historic homes we’re dealing with were constructed before a mechanically integrated system was developed," Tornabene said, noting most pre-1950s structures already had nice green features such as passive solar orientation, designed into them rather than being built around unsustainable elements — think air conditioning — that are harder to green.

Where to start? First, pick off what Tom Dufurrena, a principal at Page and Turnbull, calls "all the low-hanging fruit — the easy things that have the least cost and the most benefit." Weather-stripping the doors and those rattling old windows, insuutf8g the attic (40 percent of heat is lost through the roof, he said), and replacing old, inefficient appliances with Energy Star models are the three simplest and best historic home improvements. All are noninvasive and energy conscious, and they don’t require a permit from the city.

Such suggestions were just the beginning of measures photographer Peter Bruce took to make his family’s 117-year-old Upper Haight Victorian more efficient and comfortable. Over a five year period, they knocked their monthly electric bill from $250 to $160 by replacing their refrigerator, installing a dishwasher that recycles heated water, and putting in nearly 100 percent efficient hot water heaters.

But Bruce didn’t ignore the low-tech, remembering to string a clothesline and using curtains as more than mere decoration. "Dark, heavy curtains make a world of difference," he said, explaining that they hung these over north- and east-facing windows to keep the rooms toasty. He put sheer, light-colored curtains over west windows to allow in afternoon warmth.

Curtains or no, windows are the controversial linchpin in any discussion of building preservation and sustainability. "There’s almost the knee-jerk reaction from a sustainability point of view to replace your windows with double-paned windows," Dufurrena said. "On an historic building, if the windows are a historic feature — which they almost inevitably will be — then there’s an issue right there with compromising the integrity of the building."

Old window frames are made from higher-quality materials — in San Franciscan Victorians this often means rare first-growth redwood — than most modern energy-efficient alternatives. The National Trust for Historic Preservation cites studies showing it could take a century or longer for a replacement window, typically made of toxic vinyl, energy-intensive aluminum, or a wood composite, to pay for itself in energy savings.

"The worst thing you can do is take out old wood windows and throw them away and replace them with vinyl," Nikitas said.

He said that when Sup. Aaron Peskin was working on the Green Building Ordinance last year, the big question was how to create incentives encouraging people to reuse historic buildings. They devised a system awarding points toward their mandated green building requirement for retaining historic features, and keeping the windows represents a big chunk of the points.

"It’s about the truth of the building and the preservation ethos," said Cara Bertron, Page and Turnbull’s cultural resources specialist. "Those are really hard things to articulate to people who may see the energy savings as worth it."

For more information, including details on upcoming events on greening historic homes, visit www.aiasf.org and www.builditgreen.org.

Editor’s Notes


› tredmond@sfbg.com

The Democrats, who control both houses of the state Legislature, lost badly on the state budget. They caved in, they sold out — and the worst part is, they had very little choice.

The state can’t keep running forever without a budget. I think we could have gone a little longer, and the Democrats could have turned up the public pressure a bit more, but in the end, it probably wouldn’t have mattered a bit. A small number of anti-tax Republicans from very conservative districts now control the entire state budget process.

And the worst part of that is, I’m not sure we can change that. So I’m thinking we should try something else.

Just about everybody knows by now that California is one of only three states that requires a two-thirds Legislative majority to approve a budget. The state Constitution also requires a two-thirds vote to raise taxes. So unless the Democrats can take control of both houses by a 67 percent majority, the GOP can exert a veto over any attempt to close a budget deficit with anything but deep, draconian cuts.

And the Republicans who hold sway aren’t the moderate types who might want to negotiate. One reason the Democrats control both the Assembly and the Senate is that they’ve been experts at drawing legislative lines, shoving large majorities of Republicans into a small number of districts. That means more Democrats in Sacramento — but it also means that many of the Republicans represent areas where there’s little chance a Democrat can challenge them — and where the voters will rebel against any representative who raises taxes.

"The Republicans have no incentive ever to raise taxes," Assemblymember Mark Leno explained to me recently. "They all fear that if they vote for a tax increase, they will lose their seats. And history shows that they are right."

That’s why the polls show an overwhelming percentage of Californians want better schools — but the state budget will take billions away from education, putting the next generation of Californians at risk.

So the buzz in more progressive circles in Sacramento is starting to focus on a constitutional reform that would eliminate the supermajority for budget approval. But that would only be meaningful if we also scrapped the two-thirds rule for new taxes — and that’s going to be a tough sell. I can see the money flowing by the tens of millions into a campaign to keep legislators from raising taxes. And given the fact that the public in general doesn’t trust the Legislature, it’s possible that battle will be lost.

Over and over, starting with Proposition 13 in 1978, California voters have approved anti-tax measures. I hope we can turn that tide around, but I think we also need a backup plan.

See, it doesn’t take a supermajority to give cities and counties the right to raise taxes on their own.

Leno, for example, has a bill that would allow cities to impose their own car taxes. In San Francisco, we’re talking big money, $50 million or so — enough, perhaps, to blunt the impact of the state’s cuts to public schools and public health. It might be easier to push for the passage of that sort of measure than for statewide Constitutional reform.

Let cities pass their own income taxes. Let counties impose oil-severance taxes. Amend Prop. 13 to allow higher taxes on commercial property.

Then maybe San Francisco and Berkeley and Los Angeles will wind up with better schools and parks and streets and hospitals, and Orange Country and the other anti-tax havens will see their public services collapse as the state keeps cutting. Maybe after a while they’ll get the point.

Waving the black flag


PREVIEW First the bad news, straight from the wise-ass, too-literate, poetry-writing punk rocker who once muscled his way through Los Angeles hardcore byways and back: "I think McCain will win," Henry Rollins tells me over the phone in Los Angeles after humping a shipment of his new book, Fanatic! Vol. Three (21361), off the truck and into his offices.

"He’s just an awful person." Rollins pauses. "I’m one to talk, but I’m not as awful. I just think America will make the wrong choice again. After all, Democrats never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity — and Republicans cheat."

Ah, Rollins — a heady gust of hardcore wit ‘n’ wisdom, the punk progenitor driving the original, alternate-universe straight-talk express. On the eve of a so-called change election, leave it to the ex–Black Flag frontman and IFC regular to take a talking tour titled "Recountdown" to gauge the state of the nation. Rollins, no doubt, will hold forth on subjects ranging from Sarah Palin ("Who needs five kids? What are you, working in the fields? Are you selling them for meat?") to his recent documentary-making and travels in Thailand, South Africa, New Orleans, Pakistan, and Burma (of the latter he says, "it was five wacky white guys with expensive cameras trying to pass themselves off as tourists").

So in a world that seems to witness even the most obscure underground combo bellying up to the reunion trough, can we ever expect the still-influential Black Flag to reassemble? The good news: Rollins amiably notes that he wouldn’t have much say in the matter since "Black Flag basically belongs to Greg Ginn. But as a hypothetical, I’d pass."

HENRY ROLLINS Fri/19, 8 p.m., $25. Zellerbach Auditorium, UC Berkeley Campus, Bancroft and Telegraph, Berk. (415) 421-8497, www.livenation.com

Bart Davenport


PREVIEW "I’ve never been into rowdy shit, you know. I’ve always been a softie."

Secure is the man who will own up to his inner — and aural — gentleness. But Bart Davenport is like that: a lover not a fighter, even as he talks about Egbert Souse’s, the W.C. Fields–themed bar in Oakland that he lives above. That "semi-rowdy" nightspot poses no danger to the East Bay–born-and-bred singer-songwriter: he prefers the sweet stuff to the hardcore — or to sour grapes. Lend an ear to the refreshing-as-iced-tea, silky delights of his new, fourth solo CD, Palaces (Antenna Farm), Davenport’s bid to give his ravenous listeners what they want. "Now you have MySpace, and you have a way for people from all over the world to ask you, ‘Where’s the new record?’<0x2009>" says Davenport, who of late rarely played solo and mainly focused on singing with Honeycut. "I thought I better make another one for these people or they’ll go away!"

Palaces will provide fans of the ex-Kinetics and Loved Ones frontman with the pure hit of pristine pop pleasure they’ve been hankering for. In pursuit of the earnest, 1960s- and ’70s-era AM-radio soft-rock pleasures of "Jon Jon" and "A Young One," Davenport enlisted the help of friends like Honeycut’s Tony Sevener and Hervé Salters, Persephone’s Bees’ Angelina Moysov, and Kelley Stoltz and Kevin Ink. The latter two worked on Ink’s 24-track, 2-inch tape machine, which Herbie Hancock’s "Rockit" was said to have been recorded on, and brought in a glockenspiel, which Stoltz purchased for the project. "Stoltzisms crept their way onto the songs," Davenport says, "and it was a welcome thing." The resulting Palaces finds the self-described "acoustic guitar–slinging troubadour" sounding perfectly comfy in his own skin, so hurl as many softie or soft-rock accusations as you wish. "I’ve never had a personal agenda to bring back soft rock," Davenport muses. "If it’s vilified by people who don’t like it, that just makes it cooler for me and the people who do. Really, who wants to be hip?"

BART DAVENPORT With Sugar and Gold, Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson, and Oakland Soft Rock Choir. Fri/19, 9:30 p.m., $12. Café Du Nord, 2170 Market, SF. (415) 861-5016, www.cafedunord.com



PREVIEW Besides creating one of the most ungainly acronyms in the English language, NWOBHM, the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, galvanized a global infatuation with metal that lasted more than a decade. As the music pioneered by Motörhead, Iron Maiden, and Judas Priest touched off an international powder keg, it lost its UK focus, along with nods to Tennyson and the kind of goofy patriotism exemplified by bands like Saxon.

Left behind by the mid-1980s was a younger generation of English musicians, roiling in the Margaret Thatcher–stirred urban cauldrons that produced metal’s earliest heroes, and disaffected by the commoditization of Maiden and Priest. By exhibiting an inexhaustible appetite for extreme music’s nascent movements and a talent for combining and improving on them, Liverpool’s Carcass began a second, newer wave of equally influential British heavy metal.

Along with their co-conspirators in Napalm Death, Carcass drew on thrash, hardcore, early death and black metal, and the abrasive sound of NYC post-punk band Swans to create a genre called "grindcore." Pushing the compositional potential of metal to its absolute limit, the band inspired countless followers to attempt similar feats of complicated, abstruse, yet relentlessly heavy songwriting.

The daunting power of their musical imaginations was perversely mirrored in their lyrics. Weaving stomach-turning tales of autopsy and disembowelment, Carcass’ anatomical knowledge was so thorough it led some to believe that they were doctors, or at least medical school dropouts. Despite a 13-year hiatus, the band has returned to its practice, supported by death and black metal luminaries that would not exist without them.

CARCASS With Rotten Sound, Suffocation, 1349, and Aborted. Fri/19, 8 p.m., $32.50. Grand Ballroom, Regency Center, 1290 Sutter, SF. (415) 673-5716, www.regencycentersf.com

Black and white


REVIEW When Lisa (Kerry Washington) and Chris Mattson (Patrick Wilson) move into their "starter house" — since it has a three-car garage, sizable pool, sweeping hillside view, and god knows how many bedrooms, perhaps they ultimately plan to buy a castle — it seems a plus that their next-door neighbor is a policeman. Unfortunately, LAPD officer Abel Turner (Samuel L. Jackson) has a rather heavy-handed sense of justice both on and off-duty. A widower who keeps his two children on a tight disciplinary leash, he has very specific ideas about what’s right and wrong. Soon, it becomes clear that for Turner, interracial couples like the Mattsons fall into the latter camp. It doesn’t take long before his barbed civility and leading comments turn to outright hostility, with the couple helpless to prove he’s behind acts of vandalism and other escautf8g problems. Nor can his police buddies be expected to help. Directed (but not written) by Neil LaBute, this drama builds up a fair amount of discomfiting tension, with Jackson wisely underplaying a role that could have turned into a villainous caricature. The movie deserves credit for provoking discussion rather than simply inflaming racial paranoia à la Crash (2004), even if in the end it falters by reverting to the usual thriller clichés.

LAKEVIEW TERRACE opens Fri/19 in Bay Area theaters.

Perspectives on metal


REVIEW San Francisco photographer David Maisel is best known for vast, expansive images. Critic Vince Aletti deemed his aerial views of Los Angeles freeways "absolutely post-apocalyptic." With "Library of Dust," Maisel shifts from the macrocosmic to the nearly microscopic. But his trademark clarity and intensity turns the viewer’s mind into an infinite focus-puller regarding notions of existence and human relationships to the universe. The titular library is a room in the Oregon State Hospital — the site of Ken Kesey’s 1962 novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest — where copper canisters in various stages of corrosion contain the ashes (or in hospital parlance, "cremains") of forsaken mental patients.

The many-layered morbidity of Maisel’s subject matter is counterbalanced by the shocking beauty of the decaying canisters, which, in his words — and in his large-scale images, illuminated by filtered window light — spill forth "cadmium, cobalt, cerulean, azurite, oxblood, chrome yellow, ocher, sage, and emerald." Though one essay in the new Maisel monograph Library of Dust (Chronicle Books, $80) begins with Roland Barthes proclaiming that a photographic image "produces Death while trying to preserve life," these photos are an inverse of that popular theorem. (In fact, since Maisel took the photos in 2005, the canisters have been placed inside black plastic boxes and clear plastic bags, generating condensation he’s compared to "breath on a window.") "Library of Dust" intersects potently and poetically with historical studies of madness and death, not to mention a recent mini-wave of books and films on the subject of dust.

In a far corner of Haines Gallery, Zhan Wang’s "Gold Mountain" presents a different heavy perspective on metal, arranging stainless steel rocks next to "real" ones. While Zhan invokes the California Gold Rush, it’s hard not to think of this quiet, near-hidden installation’s relationship to the current onslaught of Chinese art in the Bay Area — or to think of the people and landscapes around Three Gorges Dam.

DAVID MAISEL: LIBRARY OF DUST and ZHAN WANG: GOLD MOUNTAIN Through Oct. 4. Tues.–Fri., 10:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m.; Sat., 10:30 a.m.–5 p.m. Haines Gallery, 49 Geary, suite 540, SF. (415) 397-8114. www.hainesgallery.com