Volume 43 Number 01

Vintage anniversary covers


16th Anniversary issue
Oct. 6-13, 1982

Oct 6- 13, 1982
16th anniversary issue

Oct 12- 19, 1983
17th anniversary issue

Oct 10- 17, 1984
18th anniversary issue

Oct 23- 30, 1985
19th anniversary issue

Oct 22- 29, 1986
A Bay Guardian study showing that as highrises have gone up, downtown SF has lost jobs.

Oct 7- 13, 1998
33rd anniversary issue

Oct 10- 16, 2001
35th anniversary issue

Oct 16- 22, 2002
36th anniversary issue

Oct 22- 28, 2003
37th anniversary issue

High Places


New York — you never cease to surprise me. For all these years, I’ve been completely convinced that Brooklyn was a continuous swath of pavement, brownstones, and ironic T-shirts. Apparently there’s an altogether different, little-known ecosystem hiding in Hipster’s Paradise. Tucked in the darkest pocket of the borough sits a teeming rainforest, a sea of green in which rainbow-bedazzled birds shake their hot pink plumage while chattering monkeys swing through the lush canopy.

Or so Brooklyn electro-primitives High Places would have us believe. The duo — vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Mary Pearson and percussionist Rob Barber — embrace the notion of geography as a driving force in music, but it’s not their New York surroundings that inspire. Rather, they get their spark from environments far removed from the urban landscape — namely, jungles, of both the terrestrial and the mental variety. As the name would suggest, the pair concern themselves with elevated states — not only do they wish to take us climbing to the top of the tallest trees, but the journey also involves clearing one’s head with a luxuriant tangle of interwoven rhythms.

Vocals are drenched in reverb, guitars buzz as reconfigured insectoid samples, and keyboard melodies whir in unexpected patterns — yet it all feels wondrously organic. High Places have their antecedents — look to Brian Eno’s ambient "fourth world" explorations and the rainforest-dub of The Slits’ Return of the Giant Slits (CBS/Sony International, 1981) for touchstones — but ultimately, they arrive sounding like emissaries from a world yet to be surveyed.

High Places’ just-released self-titled Thrill Jockey debut — not counting the label’s summer-issued singles compilation 03/07–09/07feels tailor-made for swooping among the tippy-tops of the Amazon jungle, having meshed Pearson’s carefree, birdlike melodies with curious rhythmic tics, tribal polyrhythms, and the cicada-buzz of treated electronics. Many of the disc’s primeval shuffles, bumps, and thumps come from a full shelf of wood blocks, mixing bowls, and rattles. "The Tree with the Lights in It," for example, fashions an alluring rhythmic undercurrent from what sounds like sandpaper scratches and water sloshing in a bowl.

Elsewhere, the ricocheting electro pings and the clip-clop twitch of "A Field Guide" offers a sun-soaked tropical counterpart to Burial’s haunted dubstep, while "The Storm" tosses disembodied banjo into a slithery gamelan groove punctuated by echo-steeped synth chirps. Far away from her Brooklyn home, Pearson’s winsome flutter beckons from the tallest trees, where she makes the sweetest of observations: "Now my clothes are stained with pitch … it was worth it." Who could say no to such great heights?


Oct. 8, 9 p.m.

Bottom of the Hill

1233 17th St., SF


Razor-blade snickers


Earlier this month at the Toronto International Film Festival, I ran into Dead Channels Film Festival director Bruce Fletcher more than once — not surprising, considering we were both haunting the same Midnight Madness screenings. This is, after all, the local programmer who brought 1975’s Welcome Home Brother Charles — with director Jamaa Fanaka in tow — to the 2007 Dead Channels fest. He’s also the mastermind behind White Hot ‘N’ Warped Wednesdays, a weekly summer series hosting such should-be cult classics as Pakistan’s first (and only?) gore film, Hell’s Ground (2007).

Fletcher’s 2008 main event unspools Oct. 2, with more than a week of films not suitable for the faint-hearted. Making its US theatrical premiere is Puffball, the latest from Nicolas Roeg, known for 1973’s Don’t Look Now and 1971’s Walkabout. Fay Weldon’s son, Dan Weldon, adapted the script from Mom’s 1980 novel — appropriately enough, since the story deals with motherhood in its more terrifying forms. A young architect (Kelly Reilly, prissy enough to have played Caroline Bingley in 2005’s Pride and Prejudice) decides to renovate an Irish country cottage, not knowing the neighbors are baby-obsessed and black magically–inclined. High production values and the participation of Miranda Richardson and Don’t Look Now star Donald Sutherland (in a glorified cameo) lend Puffball a gloss that Dead Channels’ lower-budget selections don’t have. But the story — which treads semi-close to a mix of The Wicker Man and Rosemary’s Baby — never quite came together for me, in a way that was unsatisfying rather than acceptably ambiguous.

Still planning that Irish vacation? The horrors of the Emerald Isle are further explored in David Gregory’s Plague Town, yet another film that exists to remind city folk to NEVER GET OFF THE MAIN ROAD. Seriously. Because you know if you do, you’ll wind up stranded within evil-cackle earshot of the locals, most of whom happen to be hostile mutants.

Better cancel that road trip and hang out at the Roxie instead — Dead Channel’s opening-night flick, Tomas Alfredson’s Let the Right One In, is highbrow enough to be playing the current Mill Valley Film Festival. It involves vampires (totes hip) and picked up a big award at the TriBeCa Film Festival this year; see it now and brag to your friends that you caught the Swedish original when the just-announced remake by Cloverfield director Matt Reeves is eventually released.

Other Dead Channels trick-or-treats include Frank "Basket Case" Henenlotter’s freaky-deaky latest, Bad Biology, which opens with the line, "I was born with seven clits — seven that I know of," and gets more satire-tastic from there. When a seven-clitted girl meets a boy with a "drug-addicted dick with a mind of its own," what do you get? Maybe the first horror film to ever feature a vagina’s-eye-view shot, for one. Also on tap at the fest: Justin Paul Ritter’s A Gothic Tale, whose distinction of being narrated by Rowdy Roddy Piper is enough to intrigue me; San Francisco–spawned nugget o’ zombie weirdness Retardead; and a late-night program of woman-made shorts hosted by Viscera Film Festival director Shannon Lark, herself a filmmaker and Fangoria magazine’s first-ever "spooksmodel." Dead Channel’s other shorts program is comprised of international thrills and chills, including Oliver Beguin’s Swiss import Dead Bones. The setting is the old West; the cast boasts Ken Foree and Ruggero Deodato (that squealing sound you hear is the horror geek next to you, who no doubt worships both). The gory tale — bad taste? Or tastes like chicken? You decide.


Oct. 2–10, $5–$10

See film listings for venues and schedule


Free for all — and freewheelin’


Hardly Strictly Bluegrass has never been about full-tilt traditionalism and musical purity, though real-deal legends like Ralph Stanley and Earl Scruggs, plus true believers such as the Del McCoury Band and the Roan Mountain Hilltoppers, have always graced its stages. Here are a few new, yet somehow familiar, and irreverent faces to the Golden Gate Park bash. (Kimberly Chun)


Don’t get Will Oldham started on these whippersnapper actors today. When the subject of promising thespians came up during our recent interview, I suggested Shia LaBeouf. "I heard going into [Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull] that he was good, but it was awful and he was awful," said the Matewan child star, who saw it in Corte Madera during his recent Headlands Center for the Arts residency. "It was awful in the same way the first new Star Wars was awful — it seemed like it was designed to create the video games that were accompanying it."

Sun/5, 1 p.m., Rooster Stage


The Chicano band’s moniker may translate as the Mockingbirds, but there’s no mocking these activists’ grasp of Mexican roots sounds, including Tejano and Son Jarocho. Traditional folk instruments like the uke-like jarana will mingle with Jimenez’s Tex-Mex squeezebox stylings.

Sat/4, 11 a.m., Arrow Stage


Tube amps burst, echo machines eke out, and rockabilly kittens swoon when groovy-hate-fuck cats Jon Spencer and Matt Verta-Ray bend those badass notes.

Sun/5, 5:45 p.m., Star Stage


Three prizes at last year’s International Bluegrass Music Association Awards went to the combo.

Sun/5, 2:10 p.m., Arrow Stage


A long-tressed Sam Beam and his Wine-ers broke onto Letterman with The Shepherd’s Dog (Sub Pop, 2007). So what’s next?

Sun/5, 3:25 p.m., Rooster Stage.


Two forces in the criminally unrecognized Jayhawks reunite — long after vocalist Mark Olson moved to the Joshua Tree area to be with now-ex Victoria Williams. Coming on the heels of Louris’ Vagabonds (Rykodisc) is their new Chris Robinson–produced collabo, Ready for the Flood (Hacktone).

Sat/4, 1:30 p.m., Rooster Stage


The warmth and intimacy of this simpatico musical coupling was enough to ward off the chill at this summer’s foggy show at the Greek Theatre as the lion-maned duo tamed the Zep-happy mob with hushed versions of "Black Dog" and "The Battle of Evermore."

Fri/3, 5:15 p.m., Banjo Stage


OK, these yobs are far from unknown: Jon Langford and Steve Goulding can be sighted among the many Mekons, and Alan Doughty survived Jesus Jones. Good-timers like "Drinkin’ Cheatin’ Death" show why this band drives its hometown Chicago crowds nutty.

Sat/4, 12:05 p.m., Star Stage


Neil Young spotters will hope he’ll sit in, but give the woman who masterminded the Bridge Benefit her due. Pegi’s self-titled debut (Warner Bros., 2007) found her stirring from the support role, wrapping sugar-dusted, languorous tones around slow-dances à la "When the Wildlife Betrays Me."

Sun/5, 4:30 p.m., Arrow Stage

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 8 runs from Fri/3-Sun/5, in Speedway Meadow, Golden Gate Park, SF. Free. www.strictlybluegrass.com.

Please, Hammer, don’t hurt my bluegrass


› a&eletters@sfbg.com

It’s a combination that raised more than a few eyebrows: MC Hammer performing at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 8. We have it in our hearts to get country, but is this show for real? As it turns out, the connection is a fairly straightforward one. "I thought it was a very good idea since I’ve always been a very positive artist and always embraced the kids," Hammer, born Stanley Burrell, explained when I spoke to him by phone recently.

Hammer became involved with Hardly Strictly when a mutual acquaintance introduced him to festival benefactor Warren Hellman. He performs Oct. 3 during an educational program for children that is part of Daniel Pearl World Music Days. Founded in 2002 by the Daniel Pearl Foundation, Hammer is enthusiastic about his involvement in celebrating the memory of Pearl, the Wall Street Journal reporter killed in 2002 in Pakistan. "It is an honor to participate in anything that uplifts [Pearl’s] sacrifice and his commitment," he said. Add Hammer’s interest in community programs for children — he has sponsored Little League teams for more than a decade — and his appearance at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass becomes too legit for him to quit.

Just in case you think this is the extent of Hammer’s forays into the entertainment industry, think again. While the rest of us were building pages on Geocities.com, the artist formerly seen with resplendently large trousers was amassing an arsenal of tech knowledge. "Very quietly I got involved with tech all the way back in 1994," he said. "I was trying to figure out how to get my videos on the Internet." He visited firms like Silicon Graphics and Apple Computer, keeping an eye on QuickTime and similar applications, and now feels that video is finally ready to take center stage, describing it as "the main component of Web 2.0."

Thus the man who tried to teach Arsenio Hall to do the Chinese Typewriter is no longer simply a hip-hop artist: he has fashioned himself into an entrepreneur in high demand. Hammer has delivered a keynote speech at an Intel CEO summit, appeared on one expert panel at the TechCrunch20 Conference and yet another at the AlwaysOn and STVP conference at Stanford University — this one in the company of Chamillionaire and Mistah FAB. His connection to TechCrunch is notable, since its founder, Michael Arrington, has invested in Hammer’s company, DanceJam, an online community based around all types of dance. Users can upload videos of themselves to participate in battles, learn new dances using tutorials, or browse performances uploaded by users. "The ideas that I’ve had the chance to crystallize, and come up with content for and build communities around, those are the things that people are looking to do today," Hammer opined.

Considering Hammer’s deep immersion in the possibilities of contemporary pop culture and modern music, you might think the hip-hop artist’s appearance at a bluegrass festival would faze him. He laughed. "That’s why it’s Hardly Strictly Bluegrass," he said. "I’ve got a song called ‘Help the Children.’ This is not new territory for me."

MC Hammer performs Fri/3, 11:30 a.m., for local students and the public on the Star Stage.

Magical madness


He’s bald, his house beats bounce like no others, and he’s blue — at least in the cartoons. British underground producer Mike Monday is taking aim at something more than niche success with his recent signing to San Francisco label Om, but his new album, Songs Without Words, is hardly mainstream house fare. From titles that reference Spongebob Squarepants to track styles that veer from dubstep to 2-step to banging house and back again, Monday keeps listeners off-balance in the best way.

Monday — born Michael Mukhopadhyay — did time at Oxford studying music before heading into the nightlife wilds, as well as playing sax in 1990s live electronic outfit Beat Foundation (his partner Andy Cato went on to form Groove Armada). But Monday is best known for his work on 12-inch singles and songs like "Bhaloboshi," which M.A.N.D.Y. included on its Fabric mix, and "I Dream of Ducks," from his first album, Smorgasboard, released two years ago on the producer’s Playtime imprint. His thick slabs of synths, sparkling production, and springy beats have found homes in both minimal and electro camps with DJs like Claude Von Stroke and Tiefschwarz championing his tunes.

Songs Without Words, however, is not about tools for Technics, even if Monday admits his DJ background influenced not only the song order but the songs themselves. Over the phone from his London home studio — built in a garage in his garden — Monday confides that he tweaked tracks so they worked together, even changing the key to achieve the proper fit. "You can call it an album and have all different sorts of music," he says. "What matters is the pacing and the flow and how it listens from beginning to end. I almost spent as much time wrestling with the [song] order as I did with the music itself."

Despite initial doubts about signing his album to a more commercial label — and a Yankee one at that — Monday overcame his hesitations due to his affection for the people behind Om and his respect for their attempts to release electronic music in more than one genre, an openness that seemed to mirror Songs Without Words‘ breadth. And having more resources behind him has allowed for amusing excursions — such as animated cartoons showcasing flying key-tars, pink cats, and a blue Mike Monday. Produced by Drunk Park, the cartoons are as weird and wacky as Monday’s music. "I really like the idea of not using dour, cool artwork for electronic music," he explains. "Because to be honest, that’s not the type of person I am." (Peter Nicholson)


Sat/4, 10 p.m., $15


444 Jessie, SF

(415) 625-8880


Raging hormones


REVIEW Romeo and Juliet — the ballet, not the play — is not exactly known for its wit. Prokofiev’s heavy-handed use of thematic material at times makes Wagner sound frivolous. But leave it to Mark Morris to turn ballet’s most beloved 20th-century tragedy into a fairy tale whose comedic overtones are difficult to miss. Does the piece — which was given its West Coast premiere by Cal Performances at Zellerbach Hall Sept. 25 — work? Up to a point it does, because Morris set clearly defined parameters and shaped his take accordingly. At the end, however, the choreographer falls flat on his face.

Morris’ Romeo and Juliet, on Motifs of Shakespeare is the result of musicologist Simon Morrison’s discovery of the composer’s original manuscript in Russia. It doesn’t include a balcony scene, nor do the lovers die. The most welcome revelation is that the music was not designed to hit you over the head. The orchestration is thinner, shading its colors instead of splashing them on.

When tackling the largely unchanged libretto, Morris decided to keep the story at arm’s length. His characters are not quite flesh-and-blood people. The dancers inhabit their roles against the backdrop of a story we already know well. And they do it superbly. In many ways, Morris is playing a game with us. It’s witty, fun, and distanced.

The minute the work opens and we see the good citizens with their wooden swords, you know that this is make-believe. There is no conflict between these families: everybody, including the parents, is immature. Hormones rage. Stuff happens. The whole society is kept together by Escalus (a fabulously effective Joe Bowie) who prowls the town like a playground supervisor.

Morris’ handling of the crowd scenes works. He treats them like accidental encounters, akin to neighborhood gossip that swells then recedes. It’s one way of dealing with Prokofiev’s propensity for repetition. The ballroom scene’s formality resembles early Martha Graham with Romeo posturing like a pouting teenager. In a nod to the famous pillow dance, Morris includes a parlor game involving a cushion.

He explores a similar thematic development in the market scenes. A hop and turn motive spools the citizens on stage as if they were coming off a conveyor belt. As for the love story, Morris makes it into a puppy love that unexpectedly grows into something the kids can no longer handle. Noah Vinson’s Romeo is splendid, tender and ready to jump out of his skin from sheer happiness. Maile Okamura’s Juliet evolves nicely into take-charge maturity.

In the end, Morris’ Romeo falls apart. The divertissements in the bedroom look like caricatures, as do Romeo’s and the Friar’s ex machina appearances. Morris’ imagination fails him badly as he transports the lovers into a literally star-crossed universe. The choreographer prides himself on using every note of a composer’s music, but perhaps that’s not always such a hot idea.

Do look back


› a&eletters@sfbg.com

REVIEW By now, the Italian American mean streets of New York — that colorful bustle of energies shadowed so enticingly by the wickedly romantic lives of entrepreneurial mafiosi — are an immovable fixture on the post-Scorsese, post-Sopranos landscape of cultural memory. So much so that, in its more run-of-the-mill versions, this world strikes the outsider as virtual at best: no more than a manufactured dreamscape. But authenticity is hard to fake. And with Chazz Palminteri, you can’t help feeling one degree from the real thing.

This sensation is all the more impressive given that the actor-playwright’s semi-autobiographical coming-of-age story has a highly cinematic flavor and arc that on reflection seems maybe a bit too picaresque and neat, pitching his boyhood self between two competing father figures and two intimately entwined but distinct paths. Not to mention that it comes projected from a big Broadway-style stage, amid a set that looks like its serviceable sections. The head-on slice of a two-story apartment building and the street lamp announcing the intersection of 187th Street and Belmont Avenue might all have been borrowed from a backlot in Burbank, suggesting something like Sesame Street for wise guys.

But if these sound like reservations, they’re not. The revival tour of Palminteri’s A Bronx Tale, courtesy of Best of Broadway, is a vital and greatly entertaining piece of work, driven by a tour-de-force solo performance that must be every bit as deft as it was nearly 20 years ago off-Broadway, before it was transposed to the screen, with Palminteri starring opposite Robert De Niro. In fine trim, the now-50-something Palminteri holds Golden Gate Theatre’s ample stage effortlessly for the 90 riveting minutes of director Jerry Zaks’ razor-sharp production. Moreover, Palminteri’s playful, inextinguishable exuberance throughout suggests this is no mere attempt to cash in on an old hit, but rather a deep-seated desire to consider afresh a treasured patch of hallowed ground.

That patch — 187th and Belmont in the Bronx of the 1960s — comes initially bounded by the actor-memoirist’s nine-year-old stoop-bound world of baseball, pasta sauce, and corner doo-wop crooning. Until one day, that is, when little Cologio Palminteri’s refusal to rat out the perpetrator of a murder that unfolds a few steps from his house brings him under the paternal wing of the neighborhood’s rising mob boss, Sonny — setting up a conflict internal and external between Sonny and the boy’s upright bus driver father, Lorenzo. After leaping ahead to his 17th year, the focus shifts somewhat to a budding interracial romance between Cologio and a neighborhood girl, as well as a test of trust between the young man and his adopted gangster father figure. But the pace never flags.

In Palminteri’s expert quick-change characterizations, the story brims with an assortment of suitably outsize personalities carefully, lovingly etched by human idiosyncrasies, foibles, doubts, and contradictions. No doubt one sees here the hand of devilishly charming storytelling, but beneath the theatrical/cinematic veneer is an authenticity of place and passion that reaches to the bone.


Through Oct 19

Tues.–Sat., 8 p.m. (also Wed. and Sat., 2 p.m.); Sun., 2 p.m., $40–$85

Golden Gate Theatre

1 Taylor, SF




› kimberly@sfbg.com

SONIC REDUCER Sweet home Europa — be it central, eastern, or so southerly that you’re smack in the Amazon, shooting the rapids like Aguirre and grabbing inspiration from the jaguar guts of the jungle. Call the recent Balkan music invasion on virginal indie hearts and minds the stealth revenge of new, weird Old World sounds on arrogant Amerindie rockism — just listen to the brainy, brassy blast of Beirut or the fiddle-borne shakedowns of A Hawk and a Hacksaw or the gypsy, or Romany, mess-arounds of Brass Menazeri — I dare you not to jig. Yet the rip-roaring, marrow-slurping, living end of all fiddlin’-round roma punks are the longtime "Think Locally, Fuck Globally" champeens Gogol Bordello.

Larger-than-life Gogol vocalist Eugene Hütz adores the fact that Romany sounds are finding new audiences — "It clicked for me one day," he says from New Orleans, "that gypsy music is going through exactly the revolution that reggae went through, from being a regional phenomenon to being a much larger music section in the store — much bigger visibility because if you’re not visible, you’re fucked." But trust the man to set me straight on sloppy assumptions regarding that same music, especially regarding Gogol Bordello’s next album, which was influenced by Hütz’s move this year to Rio de Janeiro. Will the recording — about which, Hütz promises, "people are going to shit in their pants when they hear it, because we’re already shitting in our pants" — give off a heady, flowery whiff of tropicália, and sound like the Pogues and Os Mutantes in steel-cage match?

"Forget that!" he retorts. "It’s like being in Spain and saying there’s only flamenco, or there’s nothing in Eastern Europe except polka. It’s what every tourist knows." Hütz was initially lured to Brazil by a lady, but he says, "the next thing I knew there was a huge gypsy community to discover. Next thing I knew I was traveling through Brazil with Manu Chao and seeing the other side of it, and the next thing I knew I was calling my mom to send all my shit over.

"I love New York City and I always will," Hütz continues. "It gave me everything, gave me understanding and initial recognition. But I feel like the road is still calling me. It ain’t no time to settle."

The allure of unexplored vistas could go a little way in explaining the appeal of Gogol and its brethren to New Worlders like ourselves. What fan girl or boy isn’t tempted to have their blasé, boring butt kicked by the very unironic, passionate Gogol Bordello — not for nothing is the band’s 2002 album titled Multi Kontra Culti vs. Irony (Rubric) — which takes nothing for granted, and while it’s at it, takes no prisoners.

PLASTIC FANTASTIC Czech Republic underground OGs Plastic People of the Universe, who perform with promising Budapest band Little Cow this week in San Francisco at Slim’s, are all too familiar with incarceration. The group will also make a Q&A stop at the American Conservatory Theatre production of Tom Stoppard’s Rock ‘n’ Roll, a semi-bon mot to the band who were forbidden to perform, whose fans were beaten, and members were eventually imprisoned by the Czech government in the ’70s for their dark, "antisocial," Velvet Underground- and Frank Zappa–inspired art-rock psychedelia.

Guitarist Joe Karafiát tells me by cellie, as the many in the seven-piece snoozed their way to Burlington, Vt., that Plastic People of the Universe didn’t set out to be activists or the initial inspiration for the human rights petition Charter 77 (which landed Václav Havel in jail) — much like they didn’t set out to be such diehard Zappa or Velvets heads. "If we didn’t understand what [those bands] were saying," Karafiát says, "we kind of felt what those guys were talking about."

PPU’s untamed shenanigans led to, for example, the jailing of freejazz sax player Vratislav Brabenec for a year. As he states via translator by e-mail, "Most of our adventures were crazy, as you can imagine. After the arrests in 1977, most of our concerts were suicidal. We didn’t know if the secret police would come and kill us or put us back in jail. But we had a lot of support from [future President] Havel and the underground culture. Trying to record albums in Havel’s barn under our situation — no real power source, police lurking around — it was all an adventure." Eventually, Brabenec was forced to flee to Canada.

It’s remarkable to think that PPU and their compelling skronk still persists, years after the Czechoslovakian government tried to grind them down and despite their continued underground status in their homeland. "We are on the edge," says the guitarist with a chortle. "Most Czechs are consumers. They consume TV, McDonald’s, and there’s just small group of people looking for something different." Those unusual suspects could find it at the slew of PPU sets before and after Rock ‘n’ Roll performances in the Czech Republic.

But perhaps that’s another reason we’re feeling that Old World sound: maybe we’re looking for the type of resilience integral to powerful, affecting art forged during tough times. With those survival skills, slipping onto the bill of bluegrass and country at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 8 is a cinch. "Speed metal bills, jazz bills, traditional Egyptian music bills," Hütz says. "We’re entirely inappropriate everywhere!"


Hardly Strictly Bluegrass

Sun/5, 4:15 p.m., free

Star Stage, Speedway Meadow

Golden Gate Park, SF


Also benefit for Muttville

Sun/5, 9 p.m., $30


333 11th St., SF



Reception and CD signing Oct. 9, 7 p.m., free admission for Slim’s ticket holders and past and future holders of Rock ‘n’ Roll tickets

American Conservatory Theater

405 Geary, SF


Performance Oct. 9, 9 p.m., $15–$20, Slim’s

Manifestos and sodas


› a&eletters@sfbg.com

INTERVIEW Joshua Clover is probably just as well known as alter ego jane dark. It’s the pseudonym under which s/he writes sugarhigh! (janedark.com), which makes equal space for dialectical thinking, pop and country music, and film. I’ve spent time talking with friends about his criticism and his two books of poetry, 2006’s The Totality for Kids (UC Press, 76 pages, $16.95) and 1997’s Madonna anno domini (Louisiana State University Press). On the page and in person, he radiates the kind of information-density that encompasses everything from Gossip Girl to Karl Marx, Taylor Swift to John Ashbery.

Clover grew up in Berkeley, went to school there and graduated, then went to Iowa and graduated, then spent a period as an "indigent, unskilled worker" before the first, extremely limited-run issue of sugarhigh! landed him a job writing for Village Voice and, soon after, Spin. Which he did for a couple of years, until he didn’t like it anymore and began teaching at UC Davis. When I approached him about this Q&A, he — perhaps slightly jokingly — agreed on the condition that we talk about the economy.

SFBG You’ve written about the value-density of art — as the economy has gotten less stable, works from a Damien Hirst or Francis Bacon go for record prices. This makes me think of the value-density of poetry relative to visual art, and what Wittgenstein wrote about poetry not being involved in the "language-game of giving information" that’s connected to the functioning of capitalism. Is poetry’s struggle for a popular audience connected with the fact that it explicitly undermines the structure of capitalism?

JOSHUA CLOVER That’s a very noble way to frame poetry that’s politically righteous — like it can’t be swallowed by the maw of capitalism and spat out. But one of the best-selling books of poetry in the 20th century, Howl by Allen Ginsberg, is an explicitly brutal critique of different kinds of domination, including economic domination.

The sad fact about poetry in the US [today] is not that political poetry cannot be swallowed, but that it can be swallowed quite easily. There are always a couple pages in Poetry magazine set aside for left liberal carping. Poetry is having an event for the 100th anniversary of Filippo Marinetti’s Futurist Manifesto, asking various writers to write manifestos to be read at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. The obvious irony is that any manifesto worth its salt would be a manifesto against Poetry, the kind of poetry they publish there, their $150 million [donated by Ruth Lilly], and their alliance with MOMA. It’s a lovely museum, but it lives because manifestos died.

We haven’t had many famous manifestos since the great ironic manifesto that is Frank O’Hara’s "Personism" [1959]. The period of famous, powerful, persuasive, well-known manifestos — from 1905 to 1925 or 1930 — was an age of desperate terror and unhappiness at the historical victory of the bourgeoisie. That victory is complete now.

Political poetry is popular in other countries not because America is apathetic or has forgotten how to read poetry, but because those are countries where political closure hasn’t happened, where social relations can change. From the right and the left, there are poets who’ve filled coliseums in Poland in the ’80s or in South America now. If people want politically powerful poetry that’s popular, they have to produce situations of political openness — then poetry that was true all along will have its opportunity to be true on a mass scale.

SFBG Here’s one question I’ve long wanted to ask you: is there any chance of convincing you to write a 33 1/3 book on Cupid & Psyche ’85 (Warner Bros., 1985)?

JC I would think about it. Scritti Politti is truly great and I had the opportunity to spend some time on the phone with Green Gartside. We talked about what you’d expect — Derrida and Hegel. Although the one time I met Keanu Reeves we talked about Schopenhauer, so you’d be surprised who’s smart. If I were to do one of those books, it wouldn’t be about Scritti Politti —

SFBG — [Neneh Cherry’s] Raw Like Sushi (Virgin, 1989)?

JC Wow, that’d be great. Since [Prince’s] Sign o’ the Times (Warner Bros., 1987) has already been done by Michelangelo Matos, I’d try to do Girly Sound, the non-record of demos that Liz Phair made while she was at Oberlin. It circulated as a tape in several different versions. It has some of the songs that later appeared on her first record, Exile in Guyville (Matador, 1993), and other songs that didn’t. It can be reassembled. I’m interested in albums that don’t quite exist, so another possibility would be … is the Guns N’ Roses album called Chinese Arithmetic?

SFBG It’s Chinese Democracy.

JC Chinese Democracy. "Chinese Arithmetic" is an Eric B. and Rakim song. The Guns N’ Roses CD which has been in the offing for 15 years — I think that would be a fun one to write a book about as well.


with Joshua Clover, Jessica Fisher, Troy Jollimore, and Melinda Mellis

Sat/11, 8:30–9:30 p.m.

Latin American Club

3286 22nd St., SF


Bend Sinister


› a&eletters@sfbg.com

With Litquake fast approaching and his new book hitting the shelves, the time is right to check in with San Francisco writer, comedian, and reluctant self-help guru, Bucky Sinister. Yes, you heard that right: self-help guru. Move over Dr. Phil and Dr. Drew and every other faux-folksy TV platitude-puss. Mr. Sinister has the kind of wisdom — and writing skills — that can only come from experience. Below, he talks about creativity, redemption, and Get Up: A 12-Step Guide for Misfits, Freaks, and Weirdos (Conari Press, 176 pages, $14.95).

SFBG How did you come to write a 12-step book?

BUCKY SINISTER I’ve been sober for six years, and I was doing shows about my experiences. One of the editors at Conari Press saw me and asked if I wanted to write a book.

SFBG How is Get Up different from other 12-step books?

BS When I was an addict, there were two things that kept me out of programs. One, I thought, "If I get sober, I won’t be able to write anymore." And two, I thought, "If I join, they’re going to try and make me believe in God." But I found out those things weren’t true. That’s what this book is about. You don’t have to believe in God and you don’t have to stop being creative to get sober.

SFBG As an atheist, how do you get around the higher power question?

BS My main thing is something I call the Ideal Image. A lot of the things we admire in people we don’t have in ourselves. But then you tell yourself these qualities are within your power. You’re going to have to work on it. But if you keep that Ideal Image number one in your mind, it’ll guide you. The same way that religious people have God.

SFBG Not to put you on the spot, but what are some Bay Area writers you think people should go out and read?

BS David Lerner, Eli Coppola, and Jack Micheline — he’s Matt Gonzalez’s favorite poet, by the way. You should probably also include Vampyre Mike Kassel — that guy was something.

Also, there’s Michelle Tea, Beth Lisick, Daphne Gottlieb, and Alvin Orloff.

SFBG Why do you like them?

BS They’re all different, but if you put them all in an anthology, you get a pretty good idea of what it’s like to live in SF.

SFBG Some of your short stories are compressed like poetry. Where did you learn to write prose that way?

BS I learned to write from Jon Longhi, a Bay Area writer. When I was younger, I wanted to do a pop transgressive thing, like Dennis Cooper’s [short story] "Hitting Bedrock." There’s no redemption in the kind of stuff I was reading when I was learning to write fiction.

SFBG How would that tie in with what you’re doing in Get Up?

BS Being in my 20s, I was looking to shock people. Now I’ve come to be at peace with myself more and I don’t just want to freak someone out. The goal of Get Up is to help people. Fuck, I never had that goal before.


Sat/11, 8:30 p.m.

Dog Eared Books

900 Valencia, SF

(415) 282-1901


Smoke signals


› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com

CHEAP EATS For those of you who are getting a vicarious thrill out of my nightmares d’amour … don’t! Nothing ever happens! It’s like if James Thurber wrote Harlequins, or Jim Jarmusch made porn. Either one might be entertaining, sure, but comic relief is neither to the players themselves.

Short story long: dude contacts me, likes my looks, my writing, and barbecue in general. (This is my online dating profile he’s responding to, not Cheap Eats.) Anyway, his wife and him are poly, she’s bi, and, well …

One thing leads to another, including her writing me too, calling me "doll," and being generally sweet. He sends me the requisite pictures of his penis. Only in this case, maybe because of all the talk of barbecue, it works! It looks absolutely, spectacularly delicious. I want it.

So, OK, so we make our date. It’s a barbecue date, but the implication is hot three-way sex. I take a long bath, do my nails and makeup, spend way too much time picking out my sexiest skirt and the shirt least likely to be ruined by barbecue sauce.

And I’m off. They live just up the road in a shack in the woods, on the river, which is redneck country. I’m thinking: Yay! My people! What I’m not thinking is that their seven-year-old daughter will be home. Or that while dad is busy with the grill and mom with her bong, it will be the daughter who shows me around the place, engages me in conversation, takes me through the trees to the playhouse she’s building, and asks me interesting questions.

I like the parents too, only I love this kid. While she flits about, chasing cats and climbing walls, me and mom and dad sit under the redwoods around an unlit fire pit, enjoying four kinds of potato chips and three kinds of dip, sipping our drinks, and waiting for the ribs.

I ask questions and they answer them, the wife leafing through a magazine. He’s not a huge practitioner of eye contact, either. Oddly, I’m enjoying myself. The woods, the smell of smoke … I feel right at home. And they’re attractive enough, I just kind of wish I could ditch them and run with their daughter. Who, during dinner, puts headphones on and plays violent computer games.

Instead of the deck or the dining room, we adults eat at the TV, plates on laps, and — get this — what’s showing is Sweeney Todd. Perfect! I’ve got the couch to myself, barbecue sauce all over my face and fingers, pork in my teeththere’s blood squirting all over Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter at the meat grinder, and I am, as you might imagine, in chicken farmer heaven — at each slit of each throat squirming all over the couch and feeling finally sexy.

There’s a mattress on the floor under our feet. After the movie, when I come out of the bathroom, both parents are gone and the kid is jumping on the mattress, telling me about the next movie, how I’m going to love it and have to watch the whole thing with her. It’s a kids’ movie.

"Where are your mom and dad?" I ask, thinking maybe they’ve gone into their bedroom. I hope.

"Outside smoking," she says.

I find them at the potato chip buffet and they’re, like, "Hey."

It’s the woods, it’s dusk, sweet. I linger, trying to read the situation, but nobody asks me to sit or offers a drink, or gives me a sign, so I thank them for the meat and movie and get my purse. Wife gives me a hug. Husband walks me to my car and kisses me on the lips. And he’s tall, so I have to stand on my tiptoes, which I love. The next day I thank them again, in writing.

He writes back, says they had a nice time too, only he would’ve liked it better if I’d spent the night because, and I quote, he "really wanted to shove [his] cock down my throat, lol."

So. Tell me. How am I supposed to take this?


My new favorite restaurant is Little Joe’s Pizza. They serve Italian and Mexican food. Which is especially poignant because it’s at the corner of Mission and Italy, in the Excelsior. We had a pizza party there for Deevee’s birthday. She’s 41. Salads, garlic bread, pizzas, and pitchers and pitchers of beer. We stayed for hours. Total damage: $20 per person, tip included! Great atmosphere. Black vinyl booths, red walls, very friendly.


Sun.–Thu., 11:30 a.m.–midnight; Fri.–Sat., 11:30–1 a.m.

5006 Mission, SF

(415) 333-3684/5/6

Beer & wine


No satisfaction


› andrea@altsexcolumn.com

Dear Readers:

In a recent column, I mock-lamented the lack of a better expression than "tit for tat" to describe the writer’s situation and received not one but two gently chiding notes assuring me that there was indeed another phrase commonly used to express the concept of rote reciprocity. This one was kind of cute:

Dear Andrea:

If not a better, then at least a non-punning expression for "tit for tat" is "quid pro quo." I eagerly await a male reader’s letter complaining of erectile dysfunction and marred by a dangling participle.


Funny Reader

And now back to our previously scheduled tedious marital concern.



Dear Andrea:

I recently broke it off with my boyfriend of three years. The thing is, I was married the whole time. I never meant to fall in love with my boyfriend. I met him in a forum I found to talk about my marital problems. He was doing the same, though he got divorced more than a year ago. Before I met him, I was somewhat dissatisfied with the lack of sex and affection in my marriage, but accepted it as my lot in life. I figured my husband was a good man every other way, so I could put up with those problems. With the BF, though, I experienced intense passion, love, and attention. Now that we’ve broken up, it feels like I went from the hot tub into a cold pool.

I want affection. I want my husband to hug me, hold me … to care. I’ve asked him numerous times, but the only way he listens is if I threaten to leave. I guess what I’m asking is, how can I make my husband listen?


No Satisfaction

Dear No:

Yes. Um. It all depends on what you want him to hear. I’m willing to bet that if you murmured, "Oh, by the way, honey, I’ve been cheating on you for three years every chance I get, and I’m really sad now because I broke up with my cheating-partner, who was much better than you in bed and out, so won’t you please hold me?," he’d listen. Seriously. I’m almost positive.

Look, it may be that your husband was stingy with the demonstration of affection. That can be hurtful, even harmful. It is well within one’s rights to request more demo (more affection is probably another story), but it doesn’t work to treat another person as a sort of affection vending machine: you put in, I don’t know, time, dinners, and blow jobs, and they crank out the sweet words and spontaneous hugs and kisses?

I think more to the point here, though, is that it’s entirely possible that ship has sailed. He may have been insufficiently demonstrative (or actually insufficiently affectionate, who can tell?) due to his own innate temperament or some sort of damage. Your marriage may originally have been short on sex due to low libido (his, apparently) or bad habits or lack of spark. I can’t help guessing, though, that in the intervening three years (at least), you were emotionally (and sometimes physically) absent yourself, and this cannot have escaped his attention. There is a reason why divorce suits on the grounds of infidelity used to cite "alienation of affection." I have to assume your recent behavior has turned a bad situation worse and very likely made the marriage unsalvageable. Sorry!

No, really, I am. How committed, though, could you really have been to salvaging it? I am a big fan of Internet forums, and I don’t make the mistake that others, less familiar with the concept of chat, might make of thinking that you went there expressly to attract someone new, someone who might really "understand you." If you’d been looking for a date, you could have skipped the chitchat and gone straight to Match.com. You certainly did nothing to avoid attracting and then cleaving unto another dude, though, did you? Don’t you think, as a married woman who was concerned about the state of her marriage (or really, just a married woman, period), that was … unwise?

Gallivanting off with Boyfriend and then complaining, once it’s over, that your husband is just as apparently uninterested in you as before and wondering how do you fix him is not cricket. It isn’t fair to your husband to use him as a somewhat unsatisfactory second-stringer, and worse (at least for you), I don’t think it’s going to work. I think the next time you get mad at him for his inherent or reactive cold-fishiness, you are going to slip up and, instead of merely threatening to leave him, crow that you did, in fact, leave him for three years and he never noticed. And that will be that. I think, since you have nothing good to say for him beyond "he’s a good man and I figured I just had to put up with him," you ought to let him go. Surely being unsatisfied and miserable is not your lot in life, any more than being treated as a combination encumbrance and convenience ought to be his, poor guy.



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

Spread it


› superego@sfbg.com

Who’s ready to get tingly with 85,000 freakazoids of affection? Multi-tentacled outdoor rave-a-thon LoveFest quickly approaches, a candy-colored octopus of sonic yummers. Oh, yes, there will be floats — as the parade twirls up Market Street and lands in the throbbing bass vortex of Civic Center Plaza. And in this, its fourth year, the LoveFest takes on a crucial mission: "We do not dance in the streets to escape the reality of our times. We dance to face them as a community, pointing the direction to a better way, set to beats and the full color of our expression," organizers say.

Can’t beat that with a bat. True to its kaleidoscopic intent, there’ll be scads of pre- and after-parties accompanying the 300 DJ–driven event. Below are a few keepers — you can find a ton more at the LoveFest Web site.

QOÖL LOVEFEST KICKOFF The longest-running weekly dance joint in San Francisco, Qoöl, starts the whole shebang with a strong evening dose of the classic San Francisco techno sound — deep but not too deep, clean but humorous, just right for "doing your thing." With DJs Alain Octavo, Syd Gris, Messiah, and Spesh. Wed/1, 5 p.m., $5. 111 Minna, SF. (415) 974-1719, www.qoolsf.com

PENDANA One of the "social action" parts of LoveFest — and a damn good-looking party to boot — benefiting NextAid.org, which helps African kids in need. With DJs Jeno, Lance DeSardi, Alland Byallo, the Staple Crew, and more. Thurs/2, 9:30 p.m., $10 with RSVP to events@nextaid.org. Supperclub, 657 Harrison, SF. (415) 348-0900, www.supperclub.com

DIRTYBIRD LOVEFEST PRE-PARTY Let your freak feathers fly early with SF’s current reigning dance label kings, minimal-goofy Dirty Bird Records, including Claude Von Stroke, Justin Martin, Worthy, and the aptly named Hookerz and Blow. Fri/3, 10 p.m., $20. Mezzanine, 444 Jessie, SF. (415) 625-8880, www.mezzaninesf.com

GET WEIRD The title says it all for this annual LoveFest event, as DJs Lee Burridge, Tim McCormack, and Mike Khoury get wiggy on the tables for a plethora of costumed weirdos — proud and loud, baby. Fri/3, 10 p.m., $20 advance. Mighty, 119 Utah, SF. (415) 626-7001, www.getweirder.com, www.groovetickets.com

INFUSE — LOVE RULES! Underground burner beats behemoth Opel presents an uplifting after-LoveFest must for bouncy tech-funk and breakbeat heads, plus folks who like their bass floor-shattering. Prediction: fire twirlers and stilts, or at least what’s left of them at the end of the day. The UK’s elusive Elite Force make a special appearance. Sat/4, 10 p.m., $15 advance. Temple, 540 Howard, SF. www.templesf.com, www.groovetickets.com

THE MORNING AFTER THE LOVE Hangover, wha? No time for that — chill out on your fancy feet at the EndUp for a whole day of beats and no-end-in-sight freaks, with expansivist techno DJs Nikola Baytalo (one of our best right now), Three, Nikita, and about 50 others. Rave on! Sun/5, 6 a.m., $20 advance, EndUp, 401 Sixth St., SF. (415) 896-1095, www.theendup.com, www.groovetickets.com

Fourth Annual LoveFest begins Sat/4, noon, at Civic Center Plaza, SF. Donation requested. www.sflovefest.org

Get rhythm


› a&eletters@sfbg.com

Perhaps because Marin County is the pasture to which many a semi-retired rock star got put out, the Mill Valley Film Festival has long emphasized music-related film and live performance. Now that the festival is officially over 30 (and hence untrustworthy according to ancient wisdom), MVFF ’08 will wave its vintage freak flag even harder than usual.

We have seen the future of retro-rockumentary here, and it is groovy, man. Nothing dials the lysergic clock to quarter-past-wow faster than a dose of tribal-love rock. Pola Rapaport’s Hair: Let the Sun Shine In (2007) memorializes the musical that brought counterculture sounds, politics, genitalia, and follicles to 1968 Broadway. Which it duly freaked out — becoming a worldwide cultural phenomenon and launching careers for performers including Melba Moore, Keith Carradine, Tim Curry, Ben Vereen, Diane Keaton, and Donna Summer. Those first four are interviewed alongside composer Galt MacDermot, director Tom O’Horgan, co-book author and lyricist James Rado (mercurial co-creator Gerome Ragni being a famous casualty), and collaborators on the 40th-anniversary Public Theatre production now headed to Broadway.

There’s no end of amusing, exciting, and tragic backstories around Hair — far more than this brisk documentary can encompass. But it still rewards, not least for original-cast performances on TV’s Smothers Brothers and Tonight Show that offer near-pure glimpses of O’Horgan’s joyous avant-garde staging.

Rock purists grew huffy about Hair (musical theatre = corny!) and commercial rock’s perceived inorganic nature, as flavored primarily by tasty processed studio additives rather than "pure" singer-songwriters whose bands (unlike original-sinners the Monkees) actually played on platter and tour. Denny Tedesco’s The Wrecking Crew (2007) pays homage to those older, jazz-trained virtuosos who really played on practically every 1960s pop record. They brought incalculable invention, but were almost never credited on hits by the Beach Boys and umpteen others. Now geezers, they (including solo-star breakout Glen Campbell) are a hoot; ditto the onetime beneficiaries of their craft who also appear in interviews, like Cher, Brian Wilson, and Herb Alpert.

At the time regarded as pure of saints and free of such creative taint, the Beatles remain so holy that no messing with the original script(ure) is allowed. MVFF documentary All Together Now — about the creation of Cirque du Soleil’s Vegas spectacular Love — fascinates mainly because it reveals what a ginormous ass-pain dealing with today’s legal guardians of Beatledom can be. As we see, the combined weight of fan fanaticism, $180 million in production costs, and "protective" input from widows Lennon and Harrison (George Harrison’s friendship with Cirque founder Guy Laliberte having inseminated Love) nearly crushes this project’s tortuous incubation. By contrast, a jovial Paul McCartney and dead-cool Ringo Starr blithely approve all messing with a catalog they deem solid and nostalgic, but hardly sacred.

Speaking of legends, Bill Graham is back and funny as hell in Last Days of the Fillmore, a once-ubiquitous (at weed-choked midnight and campus shows), long-inaccessible 1972 documentary newly restored for imminent DVD release. When this concert flick about the Fillmore West’s (temporary) closing came out, audiences lined up for the groovers, not the backstage shmoozers. Yet Graham’s fed-up phone rants now seem more engaging than the bloated blooze-rawk of Cold Blood, Hot Tuna, Elvin Bishop, and even Santana or the Grateful Dead.

Other movies likely to make you thrust your Bic high in triumph include Mika Kaurismaki’s Sonic Mirror (2007), a film about world-beat percussionist Billy Cobham. Annual vintage-clip presenter John Goddard’s "Hi De Ho Show" promises rockin’ archival moments from Tom Jones, Janis Joplin, and Bette Davis.

Having near-nuffin’ to do with rock is Guy Ritchie’s RocknRolla, his best movie since … ever? (‘Cuz the others were crap.) This one mercifully doesn’t involve his overbearing wife, hazy "philosophy," or the genre recyclage that made 1998’s Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and 2000’s Snatch smartie ADD quasi-classics. And Rene Villarreal’s Mexican Cumbia Connection is a sexy class-crossing triangle that almost entirely eschews dialogue, driven instead by the sinuous beats of cumbia music.


Oct 2–12, various Marin County venues

See film listings for ticket information and schedule



All American Rejects


In a world populated entirely by curfewless teenagers, where seemingly nobody is checking IDs at the door, the amount of high-pitched drama that can go down on a Friday night between dusk and dawn is virtually limitless. At least an entire teen-movie subgenre has been constructed upon this premise, and Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist is the latest entry to put its sturdiness to the test.

Somewhat reprising his role in Juno (2007), Michael Cera plays Nick, a soft-hearted indie boy who’s the bassist in a queercore band with his two best friends (Aaron Yoo and Rafi Gavron). Nick (straight) is in mourning over his six-month relationship with a vapid über-bitch named Tris (Alexis Dziena), who happens to be school frenemies with Norah (Kat Dennings), who happens to have made a habit of rescuing Nick’s lovelorn mix CDs from the succession of trashcans into which Tris has callously tossed them.

We know that Tris is all wrong for this emo boy — her hair salon highlights alone scream, "I would never have gone out with this guy in the first place, so why did you cast me in this role?" Regardless, the film further underscores her unsuitability by painting her as an outsider to the world of true indie rock fandom, a poseur who doesn’t appreciate a good breakup mix and, worse, fumbles the name of the coolest underground band in town.

Said band, Where’s Fluffy, famed for its secret shows, is the engine that drives our awkward hero and heroine and their cohorts out into the night, and the film is basically a tour of young indie rock New York City, with pit stops all over lower Manhattan and Brooklyn and a cameo by freak folker Devendra Banhart. But all the madcap piling in and out of cars and motoring around in search of Fluffy begins to look like work, and so, at times, does Nick and Norah’s inch-by-inch romantic progression. A soundtrack packed with signifiers like Vampire Weekend and Band of Horses might not be enough to keep us in the mood, leaving us wishing they would find Fluffy already and let us go home. (Lynn Rapoport)


Opens Fri/3 in Bay Area theaters.

Back to Oakland?


› jesse@sfbg.com

Big money is flowing into an Oakland City Council campaign, fueling rumors that state Senate President Don Perata might be preparing for a Willie Brown–style move from Sacramento kingpin to Bay Area mayor.

Perata’s former chief of staff Kerry Hamill is vying for the city’s at-large council seat, running against AC Transit board member Rebecca Kaplan. Two independent expenditure committees with possible links to Perata are laying out tens of thousands of dollars on Hamill’s behalf. Sources say Perata has been fundraising for his ex-staffer, as has Oakland City Council President Ignacio De La Fuente, a longtime Perata loyalist. And it appears one of De La Fuente’s efforts to raise cash may have skirted the boundaries of state law.

The stakes for De La Fuente are definitely high. Hamill’s election would help him retain his role as president of the closely divided council. But the scuttlebutt around Oakland is that a successful Hamill candidacy could have bigger implications. It might just pave the way for something many local observers see as inevitable: a Perata run for mayor.

Current Mayor Ron Dellums is reeling from a spike in violent crime, huge budget deficits, and a detached leadership style, all of which is fueling a nascent recall movement. Perata will be termed out of state office this year and has made no secret of his interest in Oakland’s top job, despite allegedly being the target of an ongoing political corruption investigation by the FBI. Having a powerful colleague like Hamill on the council, while keeping De La Fuente in control of the body, could make a run for mayor attractive to Perata (who didn’t return our calls for comment).

"He’s going to run. Everybody knows he’s going to run," Oakland City Attorney John Russo told the Guardian, adding that the flurry of campaigning for Hamill is "absolutely a signal" of Perata’s mayoral ambitions. "That group of people [Perata and his allies] clearly see their interests lying with Kerry."

Reached for comment, Hamill said, "Don’s supporting me because I’m the best candidate…. Whether it is for selfish reasons like making sure the right people for him are on the council or not, I believe he is supporting me because he likes my work."


If you live in Oakland or have spent any time there recently, chances are you’ve seen the pro-Hamill campaign signs promising "Safe Neighborhoods Now" affixed to fences and lampposts all over town. Oakland mailboxes have been stuffed with flyers backing Hamill’s candidacy. The signs and some of the other materials position Hamill in opposition to Dellums more than Kaplan, with one mail piece hammering the current mayor for his handling of the city’s recent crime wave.

Hamill’s campaign did not produce the signs or much of the literature championing her. Instead, two newly formed independent expenditure committees doled out more than $87,000 on her behalf in the first half of this year alone. The groups are not required to disclose their recent spending until Oct. 6, but given the volume of material being generated, there is little doubt their combined outlays will top $100,000 for the year. Hamill told us that outside groups are also aiding her opponent Kaplan, though she did not name them. Our examination of campaign records found that the California Nurses Association paid $24,535 for a pro-Kaplan mailer in May.

"That’s definitely a lot of money," Alameda County supervisor Keith Carson told us, referring to the spending in support of Hamill. "It certainly raises your antenna. In any campaign when you have two separate entrants putting resources in, you pause and ask, ‘What’s behind it?’<0x2009>"

On the surface the two groups backing Hamill appear unconnected. But recent media reports and a Guardian examination of campaign finance records reveal several ties between both organizations and Hamill’s old boss, Perata.

The first group, which calls itself Californians for Good Jobs, Clean Streets, and Outstanding Schools, displays clear Perata associations. The group’s treasurer is Mark Capitolo, who used to be Perata’s director of communications. Many of its donors consistently give to Perata’s numerous political action committees. And its campaign documents list a Sacramento phone number that, as the East Bay Express reported in May, belongs to Perata’s chief political strategist, Sandra Polka.

Polka and employees of her consulting business appear to be deeply involved in the senator’s affairs. When we called Perata’s Sacramento office seeking comment for this story, we were told to contact Paul Hefner, who works for Polka’s firm. Polka, Hefner, De La Fuente, Capitolo, and Californians for Good Jobs president, Hilda Martinez, did not return our calls for comment.

Perata’s links to the second group, known as Oakland Jobs PAC, are not as immediately apparent, and one person involved with the group denied that the legislator is aiding their cause. But an inspection of disclosure forms did yield evidence of the legislator’s potential influence. In mid-May, Oakland Jobs received its first $10,000 from another political action committee known as Vote Matters. As the Contra Costa Times reported, Vote Matters spent more than $175,000 earlier this year trying to pass Proposition 93, which would have allowed Perata and other termed-out state politicians to remain in office. Perata strongly supported the measure, which did not pass.

Robert Apodaca, who called himself a "personal friend" of Perata’s, informed the Guardian that he recommended that Vote Matters provide the money to Oakland Jobs. Apodaca is director of marketing for the architecture and planning firm MVE and Associates, which designed the huge Oak to Ninth Project along the Oakland waterfront. Perata passed key legislation that allowed the project to move forward, though it has yet to be built. Oakland Jobs donor Signature Properties is one of the project’s lead developers and, according to the East Bay Express, Oakland Jobs’ treasurer Sean Welch has worked for Signature Properties in the past. Signature Properties has also been a donor to Perata’s political committees, as have several other Oakland Jobs contributors.

In addition to his work for MVE and what he deemed his "unpaid advisor" relationship with Vote Matters, Apodaca is listed as a paid campaign consultant for a now-defunct committee called the "California Latino Leadership Fund" (CLLF). CLLF employed Polka as well as Apodaca in 2006 and 2007. Polka is now working on behalf of the other committee backing Hamill this year, Californians for Good Jobs, Safe Streets, and Outstanding Jobs.


Apodaca told us he could not remember why he pushed for Vote Matters, which normally supports state candidates and initiatives, to give money to a local committee like Oakland Jobs. But he was certain that Perata played no part in it. "He’s not involved in [the committee’s decisions]. He’s not even in the room."

But a well-placed East Bay source told us Perata was in the room with Oakland Jobs–affiliated figures while money was being sought to support Hamill. The source, who asked not to be identified, said Perata was part of a breakfast meeting several months ago at the downtown offices of the Oakland law firm of Wendel, Rosen, Black and Dean, at which De La Fuente asked a group of prominent developers to give large sums of money to an independent expenditure committee that would back Hamill.

The source could not recall if the committee was named by De La Fuente or anyone else at the meeting. But according to the source, pro-development activist Greg McConnell was there. McConnell told us he is involved in running Oakland Jobs. His business, the McConnell Group, has received funding from the group. The source also said representatives from Signature Properties and developer Forest Hill, another Oakland Jobs donor, were in attendance and that De La Fuente expressed an interest in raising "over a hundred grand" for the race.

A second source confirmed that Perata was at the meeting in question but did not recall De La Fuente asking for the funds, though the second source did say De La Fuente has subsequently called seeking money for Hamill’s campaign.

Reached for comment, McConnell asserted that Perata is not involved with Oakland Jobs. He said a morning meeting did take place at the Wendel, Rosen firm "a couple of weeks ago," during which Perata asked the developers in attendance to contribute directly to Hamill’s campaign. But according to McConnell, Perata left the room before De La Fuente made a pitch to fund independent expenditures. Direct contributions to candidates are limited to $600 per donor in Oakland. Independent groups like Oakland Jobs are not subject to those restrictions.


In addition to learning of De La Fuente’s alleged fundraising pitch at a recent developers’ meeting, the Guardian has obtained a letter from De La Fuente to potential Hamill donors asking them to attend a $600-a-head event Oct. 2. Nothing in the letter itself, dated Sept. 16, appears to violate any campaign finance rules. But it is printed on what appears to be official City of Oakland letterhead, complete with the official seal. That could mean trouble for De La Fuente.

"That’s not kosher," Mark Morodomi, the supervising deputy in the Oakland city attorney’s office, told us. State law prohibits the use of government resources for political campaigning. Before coming to Oakland, Morodomi spent 10 years at the California Fair Political Practices Commission, the state’s campaign-finance watchdog.

A line in small type on the bottom of the letter reads, "Not printed or mailed at public expense." Morodomi said the phrase "comes close" to making the use of city letterhead permissible, but he added, "It doesn’t inoculate him. Magic language doesn’t automatically make it okay … those words have to be true."

According to Morodomi, if any part of generating and disseminating the missive involved taxpayer-funded resources — from printing costs to paper, envelopes, or stamps — De La Fuente would be in violation of the law. Using Oakland’s official seal could also be problematic.

Hamill dismissed concerns that the invitation tested the limits of the law: "I’ve been around for 20 years, and I’ve seen council members use that kind of stationary for fundraisers all the time."

But City Attorney Russo, Morodomi’s boss, that even if the letter turns out to be technically legal because no public resources were used, he is uncomfortable with De La Fuente’s decision to mix fundraising with official city documentation: "It’s not great form. You have to be really mindful as to how it would appear."

Guardian interns Katie Baker and Anna Rendall contributed to this report.

The Chronicle manufactures a crisis


OPINION “Illegal Alien.” “Drug-dealing illegal immigrant youth.” “Criminal youth.”

How many times have these dehumanizing words appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle in the last few months? Through unbalanced and sensationalist coverage of this handful of youth, the Chronicle is manufacturing a crisis in San Francisco. Writers like right-wing Chronicle columnist Cinnamon Stillwell and others are creating a mob mentality that is driving city policy and aims to distort and gut the intent of the Sanctuary City laws, which exist to preserve public safety in face of the challenging consequences of globalization.

Globalization has shown us that our world is a web of dynamic relationships. The consequences of the economic decisions made by governing bodies around the world include both the facilitation of movement for goods and services across national borders and the increased policing when that movement involves people; access to inexpensive products due to exploitative labor practices; and the exacerbation of global poverty, a form of systemic violence.

As we locally tackle the challenges imposed on us, we need to speak out against fearmongering journalism. Demonizing youth will not bring justice to families who have experienced loss from the actions of documented (or undocumented) individuals. That pain is real and cries out for redress. Individuals are accountable for their actions. While the Juvenile Courts are not perfect, they are where minors accused of committing crimes are held accountable.

The city needs to return authority over these children to the appropriate courts, which are legally mandated to consider the circumstances of each minor on a case-by-case basis to make a ruling, which may include placement in foster care, in a group home, release to a local family, or return to a family out of the country — and if the young person is found guilty of a felony, a transfer to federal immigration officials.

The unhappy reality is that there are undocumented, unaccompanied children in our community who resort to drug sales or other unsafe, illegal activities to survive and help support their families. The way in which queer youth seek sanctuary here from homophobic families parallels the struggles for survival of undocumented youth. The LGBTQ community recognizes our shared everyday struggle with immigrants, our right to exist in healthy, loving families, and as individuals with a healthy sense of self and dignity, even when those rights come under assault through the acts of individual, societal, and governmental bigotry, discrimination, and intervention.

The LGBTQ community recognizes that true justice requires that we transform social conditions. We call on all San Franciscans to stick to the ideals that underlie the democracy we so cherish, and call on our city officials to reassert our commitment to Sanctuary City and human rights.

Implementing the municipal ID program is a positive step. Any delays in its implementation undermine the public safety goals our city is attempting to achieve. As we seek to establish order in this mess — brought about through the criminalization of people’s movements — let’s stick to our principles, with the fullest regard for equal rights and due process for all of our youth.

Robert Haaland is a labor organizer with Pride at Work. Sofia Lee Morales works with the Queer Youth Organizing Project.


Editor’s Notes


› tredmond@sfbg.com

I was walking down Ocean Avenue the other day, and I stopped for a second to chat with two volunteers who were handing out literature for John Avalos, the leading progressive candidate for supervisor in District 11. Since everyone wants to know about the Guardian endorsements, which don’t come out until next week, we got to talking about District 9, where three good candidates are contending to succeed Sup. Tom Ammiano, who is heading to Sacramento and the state Legislature.

One of the Avalos workers was supporting Eric Quezada. The other was supporting Mark Sanchez. "But we’re still friends," the Sanchez backer said.

The supervisorial races would be very different without ranked-choice voting.

There are people who like the relatively new system, which allows voters to choose three candidates in ranked order. There are people who think it’s too confusing, or leads to the wrong outcome. But I think I can say, as someone who lives in District 9 and is in the epicenter of that very heated campaign, that a race that offers voters a choice between Sanchez, Quezada, and David Campos — any of whom would make an excellent supervisor, and all of whom have different strengths to offer — wouldn’t be possible under a traditional electoral system.

Three progressive candidates in an old-fashioned election might very well split the left vote, and leave the door open for someone like Eva Royale — a much less appealing candidate who’s backed by the mayor. There would have been a huge power struggle early on, and some of the candidates would have been under immense pressure not to run, and their backers would be running around trying to cut the other folks off at the knees.

In this case, though, one of the three good guys is going to win — and it will probably be the one who gets the most second-place votes. So it’s in everyone’s interest not to go negative. If Sanchez, say, started to attack Quezada, the Quezada backers would get mad and leave Sanchez off their ballots — and that would hurt Sanchez when the second-place votes are counted.

So everyone has been pretty well behaved in D9; I’ve heard a few whispers here and there, and a few people have tossed off a few nasty comments, but overall the candidates and their supporters recognize that it’s better to stay positive.

So let me shift for a second to District 3.

There’s a real threat in Chinatown–North Beach, and his name is Joe Alioto. As the brother of Sup. Michela Alioto-Pier, the nephew of former Sup. Angela Alioto, and the grandson of the late mayor Joe, Alioto has a legendary political name. He also has big downtown backing. And his politics are, if anything, to the right of his sister, who is one of the worst members of the current board.

Based on polls I’ve heard about, there are two candidates who have a chance to beat him — David Chiu and Denise McCarthy. Chiu, a member of the Small Business Commission, will almost certainly get hammered by downtown. McCarthy, who has run the Telegraph Hill Neighborhood Center for many years, may get hit, too. And this one, like D9, will come down to the second-place votes.

The last thing McCarthy and Chiu can afford is to attack each other. There’s been some of that going on, and it has to stop. If the progressives want to win District 3, Chiu and McCarthy have to realize that, like it or not, they are a team.

The big landlords’ blackmail


EDITORIAL The landlords who are threatening the San Francisco General Hospital bond are thugs, and the supervisors and the mayor need to hold firm and refuse to pay their blackmail.

It’s almost too amazing to believe — an organization financed and controlled by the biggest residential property owners in town is trying to hold Proposition A — without which the city’s entire public health system will collapse — hostage to an unrelated policy dispute.

The landlords, represented by the Coalition for Better Housing, want the city to let them pass increased sewer charges through to their tenants. The sewer charges, a 9 percent hike, will pay for the massive rebuild of the city’s aging water and sewer infrastructure.

The supervisors have been reluctant to allow the pass-through, and for good reason. Even in this slack housing market, landlords in San Francisco have a great deal. Rents are strong, even rising, as would-be homebuyers find it hard to get financing. Property values in this city seem immune to the market forces that are devastating housing markets elsewhere. And the big property owners who run the coalition can hardly claim they are having problems making ends meet — most own hundreds of units and are very wealthy. They’ve all done quite well, thank you, under the George W. Bush tax cuts. And they prosper under Proposition 13, which keeps their property taxes artificially low.

We have no sympathy at all for big landlords who complain about paying a few bucks extra for public services. And it’s staggering to think that some of the richest people in San Francisco would be whining about what amounts to about $6 a month increase per apartment.

But we’ve seen these same folks take greed to mind-bending levels in the past, and we’re seeing it again now. The landlord group has filed papers to oppose Prop. A — and while virtually every elected official and community group in the city agrees that rebuilding San Francisco General is a top priority, a bond act needs 66 percent of the vote. And while polls show support for Prop. A at more than 75 percent right now, a well-funded and deceptive landlord campaign could trim that margin by enough to sink the measure.

So the Mayor’s Office is pushing the supervisors hard to come up with a compromise that would let the landlords pass half the new sewage costs along to their tenants. That’s a bad idea, and the board should stay firm.

Property owners benefit when the city’s infrastructure is improved. They have immensely favorable tax laws as it is. And as the economy tanks, tenants are hurting much more than landlords.

There’s no good argument for allowing the pass-through — and there’s a very good argument for blocking it. If these thugs can threaten a popular and essential public works program just to make themselves a tiny bit richer, then the mayor and the supervisors will forever be vulnerable to this sort of threat.

The board needs to call the landlords’ bluff. If the Coalition for Better Housing really wants to undermine the central public health facility in San Francisco and take the only trauma center in the city off the map, then the mayor needs to stand up and expose these folks for who they are.

We’re with Sup. Aaron Peskin, who says he’s "not interested in negotiating with terrorists." The supervisors should reject the pass-through with extreme prejudice.

Connecting the drops


› sarah@sfbg.com

GREEN CITY A controversial proposal to take more water from the Sierra for urban and agricultural uses — and away from environmental and wildlife habitat needs — could be delayed for at least a decade under a proposal now under consideration in San Francisco.

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission has toyed with these questions in recent years, confronting the reality that its aging water supply system is at risk seismically and predictions that the region faces a shortfall of 30 million gallons per day by 2030.

To address these concerns, SFPUC produced a Water System Improvement Plan in 2002. WSIP included plans to retrofit and rebuild key dams and pipelines. But the $4.4 billion proposal ran into opposition when environmental advocates learned it also contained an option to increase diversions from the Tuolumne River by 25 million gallons per day.

Jennifer Clary, executive director of Clean Water Action, pointed out that 60 percent of the water flow in the Tuolumne River — which is blocked by two dams — has already been diverted for urban and agricultural uses and its historic salmon run has been destroyed.

Peter Drekmeier, Bay Area program director of Tuolumne River Trust, told the Guardian there’s been a 99 percent decline in the river’s salmon population. "We counted 18,000 salmon in 2000, but only 211 in 2007," he told us.

This environmental opposition appears to have led to a change in plan, at least for now.

The San Francisco Planning Department is preparing to publish its final Program Environmental Impact Report on the SFPUC’s plan and SFPUC General Manager Ed Harrington announced a Sept. 30 press conference to discuss a regional water supply alternative.

The conference took place after Guardian press time, but SFPUC officials say the supply question won’t get answered until 2018, although seismic projects are getting the green light. As SFPUC director of communications Tony Winnicker explained, seismic proposals can’t start until the EIR is certified, first by the Planning Commission and then by the SFPUC.

"So it made sense to pursue an alternative that allowed those projects to move forward, while giving the agency another decade to answer the supply question," Winnicker said.

"Rather than holding up the ticking time bomb of seismic upgrades, this allows us to certify the EIR and adopt an alternative that takes no more water until 2018."

He said water demand in San Francisco is predicted to decrease, but will be offset by projected growth in the South and East Bay during that time. Winnicker said he hopes the SFPUC can meet that projected demand through increased groundwater conservation, recycling, and desalination.

"But we can’t point to projects on the ground yet," he said. "So what we’re saying is, ‘OK, we’re not going to take anything out of river now and we’ll wait a decade to figure it out — by which time we’ll have better technology, information, and analysis, plus a better understanding of climate change.’<0x2009>"

Drekmeier says the SFPUC’s recommendation is not his first choice. "We believe more water needs to be released to restore the chinook salmon, as well as the steelhead trout, and we’re going to be lobbying [the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission] for less diversions," Drekmeier said. "But in the spirit of compromise, this gives us more time to do a more detailed estimate of demand projections and the potential for water recycling and allows for the completion of biological studies of the needs of the Tuolumne."

Meanwhile, Clary said the SFPUC recommendation represents progress. "Nobody really knows how much water we need to put into the Tuolumne River," Clary said. "I think ultimately more water will have to go to the environment. But we should strive to get the information we need to be good stewards. This gives us time to prove that the SFPUC doesn’t need more water, and to work with the water agencies and retail customers."

The Planning Commission is scheduled to hold a hearing on the EIR certification Oct. 30 — the same day the SFPUC chooses a WSIP option. As Drekmeier puts it, "Oct. 30 will be the moment of truth."

Project Censored


› amanda@sfbg.com

The daily dispatches and nightly newscasts of the mainstream media regularly cover terrorism, but rarely discuss how the fear of attacks is used to manipulate the public and set policy. That’s the common thread of many unreported stories last year, according to an analysis by Project Censored.

Since 1976, Sonoma State University has released an annual survey of the top 25 stories the mainstream media failed to report or reported poorly. Culled from worldwide alternative news sources, vetted by students and faculty, and ranked by judges, the stories were not necessarily overtly censored. But their controversial subjects, challenges to the status quo, or general under-the-radar subject matter might have kept them from the front pages. Project Censored recounts them, accompanied by media analysis, in a book of the same name published annually by Seven Stories Press.

"This year, war and civil liberties stood out," Peter Phillips, project director since 1996, said of the top stories. "They’re closely related and part of the War on Terror that has been the dominant theme of Project Censored for seven years, since 9/11."

Whether it’s preventing what one piece of legislation calls "homegrown terrorism" by federally funding the study of radicalism, using vague concerns about security to quietly expand NAFTA, or refusing to count the number of Iraqi civilians killed in the war, the threat of terrorism is being used to silence people and expand power.

"The war on terror is a sort of mind terror," said Nancy Snow, one of the project’s 24 judges and an associate professor of public diplomacy at the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. Snow — who has taught classes on war, media, and propaganda — elaborated: "You can’t declare war on terror. It’s a tactic used by groups to gain publicity and it will remain with us. But it’s unlikely that [the number of terrorist acts] will spike. It spikes in the minds of people."

She pointed out that the number of terrorist attacks has dropped worldwide since 2003. Some use the absence of fresh attacks as evidence that the so-called war on terror is working. But a RAND Corporation study for the Department of Defense released in August said the war on terror hasn’t effectively undermined Al Qaeda. It suggested the phrase be replaced with the less loaded term "counterterrorism."

Both Phillips and Snow agree that comprehensive, contextual reporting is missing from most of the coverage. "That’s one of my criticisms of the media," Snow said. "They spotlight issues and don’t look at the entire landscape."

This year the landscape of Project Censored itself is expanding. After talking with educators who bemoan the ongoing decline of news quality and want to help, Phillips launched the Truth Emergency Project, in which Sonoma State partners with 23 other universities. All will host classes for students to search out untold stories, vet them for accuracy, and submit them for consideration to Project Censored.

"There’s a renaissance of independent media," Phillips said. He thinks bloggers and citizen journalists are filling crucial roles left vacant by staff cutbacks throughout the mainstream media. And, he said, it’s time for universities, educators, and media experts to step in and help. "It’s not just reforming the media, but supporting them in as many ways as they need, like validating stories by fact-checking."

The Truth Emergency Project will also host a news service that aggregates the top 12 independent media sources and posts them on one page. "So you can get an RSS feed from all the major independent news sources we trust," he said. Discerning newshounds can find reporting from the BBC, Democracy Now!, and Inter Press Service (IPS) in one spot. "The whole criteria," he said, "is no corporate media."

Carl Jensen, who started Project Censored in 1976, said the expansion is a new and necessary phase. "It answers the question I was always challenged with: how do you know this is the truth? Having 24 campuses reviewing all the stories and raising questions really provides a good answer. These stories will be vetted more than Sarah Palin."

Phillips said he hopes to expand to 100 schools within the year, and would like the project to bring more attention to the dire need for public support for high quality news reporting. "I think it’s going to require government subsidies and nonprofit organizations doing community media projects," he said. "It’s more than just reforming at the FCC level. It’s building independent media from the ground up."

Phillips likens it to the boom in microbrewed beer and the spread of independently-owned pubs: "If we can have a renaissance in beer-making, following established purity standards, then we can do it with our media, too." But for now, we have Project Censored, whose top 10 underreported stories for 2008 are:


Nobody knows exactly how many lives the Iraq War has claimed. But even more astounding is that so few journalists have mentioned the issue or cited the top estimate: 1.2 million.

During August and September 2007, Opinion Research Business, a British polling group, surveyed 2,414 adults in 15 of 18 Iraqi provinces and found that more than 20 percent had experienced at least one war-related death since March 2003. Using common statistical study methods, it determined that as many as 1.2 million people had been killed since the war began.

The US military, claiming it keeps no count, still employs civilian death data as a marker of progress. For example, in a Sept. 10, 2007, report to Congress, Gen. David Petraeus said, "Civilian deaths of all categories, less natural causes, have also declined considerably, by over 45 percent Iraq-wide since the height of the sectarian violence in December."

But whose number was he using? Estimates range wildly and are based on a variety of sources, including hospital, morgue, and media reports, as well as in-person surveys.

In October 2006, the British medical journal Lancet published a Johns Hopkins University study vetted by four independent sources that counted 655,000 dead, based on interviews with 1,849 households. It updated a similar study from 2004 that counted 100,000 dead. The Associated Press called it "controversial."

The AP began its own count in 2005 and by 2006 said that at least 37,547 Iraqis had lost their lives due to war-related violence, but called it a minimum estimate at best and didn’t include insurgent deaths.

Iraq Body Count, a group of US and UK citizens who aggregate numbers from media reports on civilian deaths, puts the figure between 87,000 and 95,000. In January 2008, the World Health Organization and the Iraqi government did door-to-door surveys of nearly 10,000 households and put the number of dead at 151,000.

The 1.2 million figure is out there, too, which is higher than the Rwandan genocide death toll and closing in on the 1.7 million who perished in Cambodia’s killing fields. It raises questions about the real number of deaths from US aerial bombings and house raids, and challenges the common assumption that this is a war in which Iraqis are killing Iraqis.

Justifying the higher number, Michael Schwartz, writing on the blog AfterDowningStreet.org, pointed to a fact reported by the Brookings Institute that US troops have, over the past four years, conducted about 100 house raids a day — a number that has recently increased with assistance from Iraqi soldiers.

Brutality during these house searches has been documented by returning soldiers, Iraqi civilians, and independent journalists (See #9 below). Schwartz suggests the aggressive "element of surprise" tactics employed by soldiers is likely resulting in several thousands of deaths a day that either go unreported or are categorized as insurgent casualties.

The spin is having its intended effect: a February 2007 AP poll showed Americans gave a median estimate of 9,890 Iraqi deaths as a result of the war, a number far below that cited in any credible study.

Sources: "Is the United States killing 10,000 Iraqis every month? Or is it more?" Michael Schwartz, After Downing Street.org, July 6, 2007; "Iraq death toll rivals Rwanda Genocide, Cambodian killing fields," Joshua Holland, AlterNet, Sept. 17, 2007; "Iraq conflict has killed a million: survey," Luke Baker, Reuters, Jan. 30, 2008; "Iraq: Not our country to return to," Maki al-Nazzal and Dahr Jamail, Inter Press Service, March 3, 2008.


Coupling the perennial issue of security with Wall Street’s measures of prosperity, the leaders of the three North American nations convened the Security and Prosperity Partnership. The White House–led initiative — launched at a March 23, 2005, meeting of President Bush, Mexico’s then-president Vicente Fox, and Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin — joins beefed-up commerce with coordinated military operations to promote what it calls "borderless unity."

Critics call it "NAFTA on steroids." However, unlike NAFTA, the SPP was formed in secret, without public input.

"The SPP is not a law, or a treaty, or even a signed agreement," Laura Carlsen wrote in a report for the Center for International Policy. "All these would require public debate and participation of Congress, both of which the SPP has scrupulously avoided."

Instead the SPP has a special workgroup: the North American Competitiveness Council. It’s a coalition of private companies that are, according to the SPP Web site, "adding high-level business input [that] will assist governments in enhancing North America’s competitive position and engage the private sector as partners in finding solutions."

The NACC includes the Chevron Corporation, Ford Motor Company, General Electric, Lockheed Martin Corporation, Merck & Co. Inc., New York Life Insurance Co., Procter & Gamble Co., and Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

"Where are the environmental council, the labor council, and the citizen’s council in this process?" Carlsen asked.

A look at NAFTA’s unpopularity among citizens in all three nations is evidence of why its expansion would need to be disguised. "It’s a scheme to create a borderless North American Union under US control without barriers to trade and capital flows for corporate giants, mainly US ones," wrote Steven Lendman in Global Research. "It’s also to insure America gets free and unlimited access to Canadian and Mexican resources, mainly oil, and in the case of Canada, water as well."

Sources: "Deep Integration," Laura Carlsen, Center for International Policy, May 30, 2007; "The Militarization and Annexation of North America," Stephen Lendman, Global Research, July 19, 2007; "The North American Union," Constance Fogal, Global Research, Aug. 2, 2007.


The FBI and Department of Homeland Security have effectively deputized 23,000 members of the business community, asking them to tip off the feds in exchange for preferential treatment in the event of a crisis. "The members of this rapidly growing group, called InfraGard, receive secret warnings of terrorist threats before the public does — and, at least on one occasion, before elected officials," Matthew Rothschild wrote in the March 2008 issue of The Progressive.

InfraGard was created in 1996 in Cleveland as part of an FBI probe into cyberthreats. Yet after 9/11, membership jumped from 1,700 to more than 23,000, and now includes 350 of the nation’s Fortune 500 companies. Members typically have a stake in one of several crucial infrastructure industries, including agriculture, banking, defense, energy, food, telecommunications, law enforcement, and transportation. The group’s 86 chapters coordinate with 56 FBI field offices nationwide.

While FBI Director Robert Mueller has said he considers this segment of the private sector "the first line of defense," the American Civil Liberties Union issued a grave warning about the potential for abuse. "There is evidence that InfraGard may be closer to a corporate TIPS program, turning private-sector corporations — some of which may be in a position to observe the activities of millions of individual customers — into surrogate eyes and ears for the FBI," it cautioned in an August 2004 report.

"The FBI should not be creating a privileged class of Americans who get special treatment," Jay Stanley, public education director of the ACLU’s technology and liberty program, told Rothschild.

And they are privileged: a DHS spokesperson told Rothschild that InfraGard members receive special training and readiness exercises. They’re also privy to protected information that is usually shielded from disclosure under the trade secrets provision of the Freedom of Information Act.

The information they have may be of critical importance to the general public, but first it goes to the privileged membership — sometimes before it’s released to elected officials. As Rothschild related in his story, on Nov. 1, 2001, the FBI sent an alert to InfraGard members about a potential threat to bridges in California. Barry Davis, who worked for Morgan Stanley, received the information and relayed it to his brother Gray, then governor of California, who released it to the public.

Steve Maviglio, Davis’s press secretary at the time, told Rothschild, "The governor got a lot of grief for releasing the information. In his defense, he said, ‘I was on the phone with my brother, who is an investment banker. And if he knows, why shouldn’t the public know?’<0x2009>"

Source: "The FBI deputizes business," Matthew Rothschild, The Progressive, Feb. 7, 2008.


The School of the Americas earned an unsavory reputation in Latin America after many graduates of the Fort Benning, Ga., facility turned into counterinsurgency death squad leaders. So the International Law Enforcement Academy recently installed by the Unites States in El Salvador — which looks, acts, and smells like the SOA — is also drawing scorn.

The school, which opened in June 2005 before the Salvadoran National Assembly approved it, has a satellite operation in Peru and is funded with $3.6 million from the US Treasury and staffed with instructors from the DEA, ICE, and FBI. It’s tasked with training 1,500 police officers, judges, prosecutors, and other law enforcement agents in counterterrorism techniques per year. It’s stated purpose is to make Latin America "safe for foreign investment" by "providing regional security and economic stability and combating crime."

ILEAs aren’t new, but past schools located in Hungary, Thailand, Botswana, and Roswell, N.M., haven’t been terribly controversial. Yet Salvadoran human rights organizers take issue with the fact that, in true SOA fashion, the ILEA releases neither information about its curriculum nor a list of students and graduates. Additionally, the way the school slipped into existence without public oversight has raised ire.

As Wes Enzinna noted in a North American Congress on Latin America report, when the US decided it wanted a training ground in Latin America, El Salvador was not the first choice. In 2002 US officials selected Costa Rica as host — a country that doesn’t even have an army. The local government signed on and the plan made headlines. But when citizens learned about it, they revolted and demanded the government change the agreement. The US bailed for a more discreet second attempt in El Salvador.

"Members of the US Congress were not briefed about the academy, nor was the main opposition party in El Salvador, the Farabundo Martí-National Liberation Front (FMLN)," Enzinna wrote. "But once the news media reported that the two countries had signed an official agreement in September, activists in El Salvador demanded to see the text of the document." Though they tried to garner enough opposition to kill the agreement, the National Assembly narrowly ratified it.

Now, after more than three years in operation, critics point out that Salvadoran police, who account for 25 percent of the graduates, have become more violent. A May 2007 report by Tutela Legal implicated Salvadoran National Police (PNC) officers in eight death squad–style assassinations in 2006.

El Salvador’s ILEA recently received another $2 million in US funding through the congressionally approved Mérida Initiative — but still refuses to adopt a more transparent curriculum and administration, despite partnering with a well-known human rights leader. Enzinna’s FOIA requests for course materials were rejected by the government, so no one knows exactly what the school is teaching, or to whom.

Sources: "Exporting US ‘Criminal Justice’ to Latin America," "Community in Solidarity with the people of El Salvador," Upside Down World, June 14, 2007; "Another SOA?" Wes Enzinna, NACLA Report on the Americas, March/April 2008; "ILEA funding approved by Salvadoran right wing legislators," CISPES, March 15, 2007; "Is George Bush restarting Latin America’s ‘dirty wars?’<0x2009>" Benjamin Dangl, AlterNet, Aug. 31, 2007.


Protesting war could get you into big trouble, according to a critical read of two executive orders recently signed by President Bush. The first, issued July 17, 2007, and titled, "Blocking property of certain persons who threaten stabilization efforts in Iraq," allows the feds to seize assets from anyone who "directly or indirectly" poses a risk to the US war in Iraq. And, citing the modern technological ease of transferring funds and assets, the order states that no prior notice is necessary before the raid.

On Aug. 1, Bush signed another order, similar but directed toward anyone undermining the "sovereignty of Lebanon or its democratic processes and institutions." In this case, the Secretary of the Treasury can seize the assets of anyone perceived as posing a risk of violence, as well as the assets of their spouses and dependents, and bans them from receiving any humanitarian aid.

Critics say the orders bypass the right to due process and the vague language makes manipulation and abuse possible. Protesting the war could be perceived as undermining or threatening US efforts in Iraq. "This is so sweeping, it’s staggering," said Bruce Fein, a former Reagan administration official in the Justice Department who editorialized against it in the Washington Times. "It expands beyond terrorism, beyond seeking to use violence or the threat of violence to cower or intimidate a population."

Sources: "Bush executive order: Criminalizing the antiwar movement," Michel Chossudovsky, Global Research, July 2007; "Bush’s executive order even worse than the one on Iraq," Matthew Rothschild, The Progressive, Aug. 2007.


On Oct. 23, 2007, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed — by a vote of 404-6 — the "Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act," designed to root out the causes of radicalization in Americans.

With an estimated four-year cost of $22 million, the act establishes a 10-member National Commission on the Prevention of Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism, as well as a university-based Center of Excellence "to examine the social, criminal, political, psychological, and economic roots of domestic terrorism," according to a press release from the bill’s author, Rep. Jane Harman (D-Los Angeles).

During debate on the bill, Harman said, "Free speech, espousing even very radical beliefs, is protected by our Constitution. But violent behavior is not."

Jessica Lee, writing in the Indypendent, a newspaper put out by the New York Independent Media Center, pointed out that in a later press release Harman stated: "the National Commission [will] propose to both Congress and [Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael] Chertoff initiatives to intercede before radicalized individuals turn violent."

Which could be when they’re speaking, writing, and organizing in ways that are protected by the First Amendment. This redefines civil disobedience as terrorism, say civil rights experts, and the wording is too vague. For example, the definition of "violent radicalization" is "the process of adopting or promoting an extremist belief system for the purpose of facilitating ideologically based violence to advance political, religious, or social change."

"What is an extremist belief system? Who defines this? These are broad definitions that encompass so much…. It is criminalizing thought and ideology," said Alejandro Queral, executive director of the Northwest Constitutional Rights Center in Portland, Ore.

Though the ACLU recommended some changes that were adopted, it continued to criticize the bill. Harman, in a response letter, said free speech is still free and stood by the need to curb ideologically-based violence.

The story didn’t make it onto the CNN ticker, but enough independent sources reported on it that the equivalent Senate Bill 1959 has since stalled. After introducing the bill, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Me.), later joined forces with Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) on a report criticizing the Internet as a tool for violent Islamic extremism.

Despite an outcry from civil liberties groups, days after the report was released Lieberman demanded that YouTube remove a number of Islamist propaganda videos. YouTube canned some that broke their rules regarding violence and hate speech, but resisted censoring others. The ensuing battle caught the attention of the New York Times, and on May 25 it editorialized against Lieberman and S 1959.

Sources: "Bringing the war on terrorism home," Jessica Lee, Indypendent, Nov. 16, 2007; "Examining the Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act," Lindsay Beyerstein, In These Times, Nov. 2007; "The Violent Radicalization Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007," Matt Renner, Truthout, Nov. 20, 2007


Every year, about 121,000 people legally enter the United States to work with H-2 visas, a program legislators are touting as part of future immigration reform. But Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) called this guest worker program "the closest thing I’ve ever seen to slavery."

The Southern Poverty Law Center likened it to "modern day indentured servitude." They interviewed thousands of guest workers and reviewed legal cases for a report released in March 2007, in which authors Mary Bauer and Sarah Reynolds wrote, "Unlike US citizens, guest workers do not enjoy the most fundamental protection of a competitive labor market — the ability to change jobs if they are mistreated. Instead, they are bound to the employers who ‘import’ them. If guest workers complain about abuses, they face deportation, blacklisting, or other retaliation."

When visas expire, workers must leave the country, hardly making this the path to permanent citizenship legislators are looking for. The H-2 program mimics the controversial bracero program, established through a joint agreement between Mexico and the United States in 1942 that brought 4.5 million workers over the border during the 22 years it was in effect.

Many legal protections were written into the program, but in most cases they existed only on paper in a language unreadable to employees. In 1964 the program was shuttered amid scores of human rights abuses and complaints that it undermined petitions for higher wages from US workers. Soon after, United Farm Workers organized, which César Chávez said would have been impossible if the bracero program still existed.

Years later, it essentially still does. The H-2A program, which accounted for 32,000 agricultural workers in 2005, has many of the same protections — and many of the same abuses. Even worse is the H-2B program, used by 89,000 non-agricultural workers annually. Created by the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, none of the safeguards of the H-2A visa are legally required for H-2B workers.

Still, Mexicans are literally lining up for H-2B status, the stark details of which were reported by Felicia Mello in The Nation. Furthermore, thousands of illegal immigrants are employed throughout the country, providing cheap, unprotected labor and further undermining the scant provisions of the laws. Labor contractors who connect immigrants with employers are stuffing their pockets with cash, while the workers return home with very little money.

The Southern Poverty Law Center outlined a list of comprehensive changes needed in the program, concluding, "For too long, our country has benefited from the labor provided by guest workers but has failed to provide a fair system that respects their human rights and upholds the most basic values of our democracy. The time has come for Congress to overhaul our shamefully abusive guest worker system."

Sources: "Close to Slavery," Mary Bauer and Sarah Reynolds, Southern Poverty Law Center, March 2007; "Coming to America," Felicia Mello, The Nation, June 25, 2007; "Trafficking racket," Chidanand Rajghatta, Times of India, March 10, 2008.


The Bush administration’s Office of Legal Counsel in the Department of Justice has been issuing classified legal opinions about surveillance for years. As a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) had access to the DOJ opinions on presidential power and had three declassified to show how the judicial branch has, in a bizarre and chilling way, assisted President Bush in circumventing its own power.

According to the three memos:

"There is no constitutional requirement for a President to issue a new executive order whenever he wishes to depart from the terms of a previous executive order. Rather than violate an executive order, the President has instead modified or waived it";

"The President, exercising his constitutional authority under Article II, can determine whether an action is a lawful exercise of the President’s authority under Article II," and

"The Department of Justice is bound by the President’s legal determinations."

Or, as Whitehouse rephrased in a Dec. 7, 2007, Senate speech: "I don’t have to follow my own rules, and I don’t have to tell you when I’m breaking them. I get to determine what my own powers are. The Department of Justice doesn’t tell me what the law is. I tell the Department of Justice what the law is."

The issue arose within the context of the Protect America Act, which expands government surveillance powers and gives telecom companies legal immunity for helping. Whitehouse called it "a second-rate piece of legislation passed in a stampede in August at the behest of the Bush administration."

He pointed out that the act does not prohibit spying on Americans overseas — with the exception of an executive order that permits surveillance only of Americans whom the Attorney General determines to be "agents of a foreign power."

"In other words, the only thing standing between Americans traveling overseas and government wiretap is an executive order," Whitehouse said in an April 12 speech. "An order this president, under the first legal theory I cited, claims he has no legal obligation to obey."

Whitehouse, a former US Attorney, legal counsel to Rhode Island’s governor, and Rhode Island Attorney General who took office in 2006, went on to point out that Marbury vs. Madison, written by Chief Justice John Marshall in 1803, established that it is "emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is."

Sources: "In FISA Speech, Whitehouse sharply criticizes Bush Administration’s assertion of executive power," Sheldon Whitehouse, Dec. 7, 2007; "Down the Rabbit Hole," Marcy Wheeler, The Guardian (UK), Dec. 26, 2007.


Hearing soldiers recount their war experiences is the closest many people come to understanding the real horror, pain, and confusion of combat. One would think that might make compelling copy or powerful footage for a news outlet. But in March, when more than 300 veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan convened for four days of public testimony on the war, they were largely ignored by the media.

Winter Soldier was designed to give soldiers a public forum to air some of the atrocities they witnessed. Originally convened by Vietnam Vets Against the War in January 1971, more than 100 Vietnam veterans and 16 civilians described their war experiences, including rapes, torture, brutalities, and killing of non-combatants. The testimony was entered into the Congressional Record, filmed, and shown at the Cannes Film Festival.

Iraq Veterans Against the War hosted the 2008 reprise of the 1971 hearings. Aaron Glantz, writing in One World, recalled testimony from former Marine Cpl. Jason Washburn, who said, "his commanders encouraged lawless behavior. ‘We were encouraged to bring ‘drop weapons,’ or shovels. In case we accidentally shot a civilian, we could drop the weapon on the body and pretend they were an insurgent.’<0x2009>"

An investigation by Chris Hedges and Laila Al-Arian in The Nation that included interviews with 50 Iraq war veterans also revealed an overwhelming lack of training and resources, and a general disregard for the traditional rules of war.

Though most major news outlets sent staff to cover New York’s Fashion Week, few made it to Silver Spring, Md. for the Winter Soldier hearings. Fortunately, KPFA and Pacifica Radio broadcast the testimonies live and, in an update to the story, said they were "deluged with phone calls, e-mails, and blog posts from service members, veterans, and military families thanking us for breaking a cultural norm of silence about the reality of war." Testimonies can still be heard at www.ivaw.org.

Sources: "Winter Soldier: Iraq & Afghanistan eyewitness accounts of the occupation," Iraq Veterans Against the War, March 13-16, 2008; "War comes home," Aaron Glantz, Aimee Allison, and Esther Manilla, Pacifica Radio, March 14-16, 2008; "US Soldiers testify about war crimes," Aaron Glantz, One World, March 19, 2008; "The Other War," Chris Hedges and Laila Al-Arian, The Nation, July 30, 2007.


Psychologists have been assisting the CIA and US military with interrogation and torture of Guantánamo detainees — which the American Psychological Association has said is fine, despite objections from many of its 148,000 members.

A 10-member APA task force convened on the divisive issue in July 2005 and found that assistance from psychologists was making the interrogations safe and the group deferred to US standards on torture over international human-rights organizations’ definitions.

The task force was criticized by APA members for deliberating in secret, and later it was revealed that six of the 10 participants had ties to the armed services. Not only that, but as Katherine Eban reported in Vanity Fair, "Psychologists, working in secrecy, had actually designed the tactics and trained interrogators in them while on contract to the CIA."

In particular, psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, neither of whom are APA members, honed a classified military training program known as SERE [Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape] that teaches soldiers how to tough out torture if captured by enemies. "Mitchell and Jessen reverse-engineered the tactics inflicted on SERE trainees for use on detainees in the global war on terror," Eban wrote.

And, as Mark Benjamin noted in a Salon article, employing SERE training — which is designed to replicate torture tactics that don’t abide by Geneva Convention standards — refutes past administration assertions that current CIA torture techniques are safe and legal. "Soldiers undergoing SERE training are subject to forced nudity, stress positions, lengthy isolation, sleep deprivation, sexual humiliation, exhaustion from exercise, and the use of water to create a sensation of suffocation," Benjamin wrote.

Eban’s story outlined how SERE tactics were spun as "science" despite a lack of data and the critique that building rapport works better than blows to the head. Specifically, he said, it’s been misreported that CIA torture techniques got Al Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah to talk, when it was actually FBI rapport-building. In spite of this, SERE techniques became standards in interrogation manuals that eventually made their way to US officers guarding Abu Ghraib.

Ongoing uproar within the APA resulted in a petition to make an official policy limiting psychologists’ involvement in interrogations. On Sept. 17, a majority of 15,000 voting members approved a resolution stating that psychologists may not work in settings where "persons are held outside of, or in violation of, either International Law (e.g., the UN Convention Against Torture and the Geneva Conventions) or the US Constitution (where appropriate), unless they are working directly for the persons being detained or for an independent third party working to protect human rights."

Sources: "The CIA’s torture teachers," Mark Benjamin, Salon, June 21, 2007; "Rorschach and awe," Katherine Eban, Vanity Fair, July 17, 2007.


11. El Salvador’s Water Privatization and the Global War on Terror

12. Bush Profiteers Collect Billions from No Child Left Behind

13. Tracking Billions of Dollars Lost in Iraq

14. Mainstreaming Nuclear Waste

15. Worldwide Slavery

16. Annual Survey on Trade Union Rights

17. UN’s Empty Declaration of Indigenous Rights

18. Cruelty and Death in Juvenile Detention Centers

19. Indigenous Herders and Small Farmers Fight Livestock Extinction

20. Marijuana Arrests Set New Record

21. NATO Considers "First Strike" Nuclear Option

22. CARE Rejects US Food Aid

23. FDA Complicit in Pushing Pharmaceutical Drugs

24. Japan Questions 9/11 and the Global War on Terror

25. Bush’s Real Problem with Eliot Spitzer

Read them all at projectcensored.org



Good stories are going untold everywhere, but Project Censored can’t cover it all. The project focuses on national an international news, but in a place politically, environmentally, and socially charged as the Bay Area, there’s plenty going on that major media sources ignore, underplay, black out, or misreport.

We called local activists, politicians, freelance journalists, and media experts to come up with a list of a few Bay Area censored stories. Post a comment and add your own!

>> The truth about Prop. H: Pacific Gas and Electric Company has been spending millions to tell lies about the Clean Energy Act, Proposition H. But the mainstream press has done nothing to counter that misinformation.

>> The dirty secret of the secrecy law: Vioutf8g San Francisco’s local public records law, the Sunshine Ordinance, carries no penalty, so city agencies do it at will. The failure of the district attorney and Ethics Commission to enforce the law has undermined open-government efforts.

>> The military red herring: The real politics of the JROTC ballot measure have little to do with this particular program. Downtown and the Republican party are using the measure as a wedge issue against progressives

>> The mayor’s war on affordable housing: Mayor Gavin Newsom, who touts his record on homelessness, has actually opposed every major affordable-housing measure proposed by the Board of Supervisors in the last five years. And since Newsom became mayor the city homeless population has increased — but shelter closings have cost the city 400 beds.

>> The hidden cost of attacking immigrants: The San Francisco Chronicle and Mayor Gavin Newsom have been demanding a crackdown on undocumented immigrants in the name of law enforcement – but the move has made immigrants less likely to cooperate with the police and thus is hindering criminal-justice



› paulr@sfbg.com

For lovers of sushi bars (like me!), a sushi restaurant with a dining room consisting entirely of counter space would indeed be a glimpse of heaven. Sushi could be the ultimate counter food: you sit, you order a few things and watch them be made by chefs whose skills can seem quite magical, and once you’ve eaten them, you order some more. It’s an incremental way of having dinner that amounts to a pleasant loosening of the usual Western pattern, in which everything (except possibly dessert) is ordered at once and then starts arriving in a bell-curve parade, beginning with modest nibbles and starters before proceeding to the great wallop of the main dish. There are no second acts in this ritual, and sushi is particularly ill-suited to it; I have long found it uncomfortable to sit stiffly at a distant table, waiting for a sushi dinner to be brought over an attenuated supply line from an unseen kitchen. One feels far away and awkward, like a step-diner.

Given the appeal, not to mention fundamental logic, of the multistage, sushi-bar dinner, a haunting question is why someone didn’t think to open a place like Domo years ago. Domo, the sushi restaurant that thinks it’s a sushi bar, opened in the spring under the auspices of Luke and Kitty Sung, of Isa in Cow Hollow. The new restaurant sits on a cozy stretch of Laguna Street in Hayes Valley, with Momi Toby’s Revolution Café across the street and the clamorous Il Borgo at the corner. Inside it’s even cozier: much of the tight space is lined with counter, and I noticed only one table. Domo is almost like a sushi kiosk (maybe at an airport or baseball park in some foofy city) that was given growth hormone. It’s a masterful idea with some eccentricities.

Part of the trouble is ergonomic. The stools are rather high, and there is an unsettling sense of being perched above things. Also, since all the restaurant’s patrons are facing outward, whether to window glass or walls — or, in the case of a small group of the elect, the chefs themselves — the plates of food must continually be presented over this or that hyperelevated shoulder. The serving staff simply doesn’t have easy access to the counters if the restaurant is full, which, because it’s so small, it often seems to be.

The food, fortunately, is quite good, in that urban-hipster-sushi way. You have your edamame ($3.50), your seaweed salad ($3.95) with its nicely balancing vinaigrette, your rolls with clever names, some familiar and some not. Spider roll ($8.95) seldom disappoints, and it didn’t here, with its star of soft-shell crab in tempura, along with shiso, cucumber, tobiko, avocado, and daikon sprouts. All the rolls were satisfying, whether they were old standards or young whippersnappers. One of the youngsters didn’t even look like a roll: Fire Cracker Balls ($9.95), which consisted of rounds of spicy tuna rolled in panko (the coarse Japanese-style bread crumbs). They were advertised as spicy-hot and were indeed — also a little dry, despite spicy mayo and unagi sauce.

Even hotter was a jalapeño-hamachi roll ($5.50), a simple and direct beam of chili power. But Spicy Hulk ($9.95), despite a formidable name, was cooled by wrappings of cucumber strips instead of the usual nori; inside lay spicy tuna, avocado, and tobiko, with a sauce like Bloody Mary mix drizzled over the top. One of our party liked this potion so much he poured the remainder into an empty wine glass and drank it as a constitutional.

For sheer heft, look to the Domo roll ($11.50), a California roll (of crab meat and avocado) baked under a roof of salmon slices and scallops, sauced with barbecue unagi glaze and spicy mayo, and festooned with tobiko and scallions. Overkill? Maybe a little, but every menu needs at least one item with true filling power. Still, our favorite among the rolls was negi-hama ($4.75), an elegant preparation of diced hamachi and scallions in which each ingredient spoke clearly and in harmony with the other.

In a multicultural vein, Domo offers a small selection of crudos ($5.95 for two). Tastes rather than full courses, they’re presented in porcelain soup ladles and might include spicy tuna with sriracha, sesame oil, cilantro, and avocado chunks; and uni, or sea urchin, which is slightly oozy and presented with avocado chunks, wasabi, soy sauce, and sea salt.

In the Hall of Disappointments I place, not for the first time, toro ($10.95) — fatty tuna, from the fish’s belly — and not only because of its pale, lard-like color. Fatty tuna is considered a great delicacy and is priced accordingly. But in my experience the more ordinary, ruby red flesh is prettier, tastier, and more tender. And we were not wowed by a Kobe beef tataki ($11.95); the flaps of beef were flavorful and voluptuously soft, but why was it thought wise to wrap them around half-raw asparagus spears? Beef tataki is one thing, asparagus tataki quite another.

Despite the peculiarities of Domo’s layout, the service staff is attentive and friendly: plates are cleared quickly while fresh dishes emerge from the kitchen at regular intervals. I did notice that water glasses could go some time without being refilled — not the biggest of deals, but not completely irrelevant in a restaurant serving fire cracker balls and spicy hulks. I almost typed "hunks," which wouldn’t have been a typo, actually, since Domo is part of the new Hayes Valley, and welcome to it.


Dinner: Sun.–Thurs., 5:30–10 p.m.; Fri.–Sat., 5:30–11 p.m.

Lunch: Mon.–Fri., noon–2:30 p.m.

511 Laguna, SF

(415) 861-8887


Beer, wine, sake



Wheelchair accessible

No Seth Rogen


REVIEW Two young family-hungry couples, one unassuming victim of the staff Christmas party, and a lonely alky wife and mom-bonking boy-next-door all find themselves variously knocked up, around, and for a loop by the reproductive process in Imaginative Productions’ stage adaptation of its 2006 independent film, "conceived" and directed by Tonya Foster. And reproduction really is a process containing as much social baggage as genetic code in these predicaments which, while ranging from the urban banal to the tragically suburban, are all pretty much as thematically familiar as familial.

Unfortunately, the relatively slim potential in this otherwise pregnant theme is rarely pursued with much vigor or insight, as the multicharacter storyline meanders away from its subjects in seeming perplexity as to what to do with them. Further muting things is a muffled soundscape that sounds like unintended lobby noise. The more workable areas of drama and comedy, meanwhile, suffer from uneven performances and static direction — although, ironically, a visit by single preggy waitress Anna (a relatively strong and sympathetic Quinne Brown) to an actors workshop-cum-support group — led by a deeply histrionic drama instructor (a vibrant Erin Coker) — arrives as one of the more unexpected and apt scenes.

KNOCKED UP Through Oct. 18. Thurs.–Sat., 8 p.m., $23–$25. Studio 300 Theatre, 442 Post, SF. 1-888-410-8355, www.imaginativeproductions.com