Volume 43 Number 08

Meatballs

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› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com

CHEAP EATS Earl Butter made the sauce and I put meatballs in it. You could smell this on the stairs. Between the first and second floors it was something, and between the second and third it was something else. The meatballs had beef and pork and cheese, garlic, parsley, an egg, some old bread crumbs … basically, whatever I could find in Earl Butter’s kitchen. I browned them in bacon fat; then, while they were bobbing in the saucy gurgle, I washed the soccer off of me in Earl Butter’s shower.

Five zip we’d lost. I tossed a salad, boiled spaghetti, Wayway brought the bread, and it was Sunday afternoon all over again. My hair air dries. I do not use hair dryers.

I use a towel.

The occasion: a visit from our own private Idahoan, Johnny "Jack" Blogger, né Johnny "Jack" Journalism, né Johnny "Jack" Poetry, the master of doing what he does, and being what he does, and words and I guess horses.

There were eight people total gathered around a couple of makeshift tables, spinning mismatched forks and raising glasses and bottles and eyebrows to bad jokes, good food, and questionable politics. We laughed until it hurt, ate until it hurt, and then one of us had to go give a massage, another was late for load-in and sound check, a couple needed a nap, and dirty dishes beckoned.

Somehow Johnny "Jack," our guest of honor, wound up doing most of them. I helped. When I go to Idaho, Johnny "Jack" and his wife, Mrs. "Jack," always have a big pot of something or other waiting for me. Mac and cheese. Red beans and rice. It’s a long drive.

When he showed up here, a couple nights before spaghetti, I had jambalaya, which is my new favorite thing to make. And eat. I am eating the leftovers as we speak, and I gotta say: yum. Every time I make jambalaya I have to call Crawdad de la Cooter five times to ask about this or that or rice, and I suppose that’s partly what I love about jambalaya. That tech support comes with it.

You can toast the rice first, or not, or sauté it a little with the "holy trinity" of onions, celery, peppers, and garlic, and, oh, you can imagine how a chicken farmer loves four-thing trinities!

But this time Crawdad called me. "What are you cooking?" she asked.

"Jambalaya," I said. "Here. Talk to John." And I handed him the phone. My two favorite laughs, his and hers, but I could only hear one of them and wished I had a speaker phone.

At the show that night three of our spaghetti friends were playing in two different bands. Everyone was there and I talked to a lot of people I hadn’t seen in some time and lost my voice. That’s just one reason why this column isn’t exactly saying anything.

On the way back to the woods we stopped at a late-night Chinese joint for something to eat. Up high near the ceiling in a corner was a medium-size fish tank with medium-size fishes swimming back and forth, winding around like letters, trying real hard to spell P-O-R-K and B-E-E-F and even C-H-I-C-K-E-N, and really only looking like fish in a fish tank. And tasty ones at that. Which reminded me of this article even before I started to write it.

Johnny "Jack" Blogger has been blogging and talking a lot about nostalgia. This ain’t that. My own happy happy sizzly sadness is set some time in the future. I don’t want to be fried, or cooked in a clay pot either, but there is something delicious in my medium-size heart, flop and roll and apropos of none of the above. I twist, I turn, I sink and spin, and can’t even begin to spell it.

My new favorite restaurant is Lee Hou, which claims to be "the very first Chinese restaurant on Clement." So … OK, so they’ve had a long time to perfect their salt and pepper chicken wings. We also got lamb sticks, because that seemed like good road food, but the wings were 10 times better and soared us, and we got crumbs and bones all over Johnny "Jack"<0x2009>‘s car, not mine. Damn it! Some things we didn’t eat: snails, duck tongue, and goose intestines. Oh, and fish. *

LEE HOU

Sun.–Thurs., 8 a.m.–1 a.m.; Fri.–Sat., 8 a.m.–2 a.m.

332 Clement, SF

(415) 668-8070

Beer and wine

MC/V

Fighting Newsom’s mid-year cuts

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EDITORIAL If Mayor Gavin Newsom moves forward aggressively with mid-year cuts to the city budget, a lame duck Board of Supervisors with four veterans — including the board president and chair of the Budget Committee — on their way out the door could be voting on harsh reductions in city spending on health care, parks, and other services. That’s not the best way to make policy; we’d rather the cuts go to the new board, which will be dealing with next year’s budget anyway. But if the mayor is pushing reductions now, the current board needs to act aggressively and quickly to be sure that the mayor’s wrongheaded priorities don’t carry the day.

We recognize that the city has money problems. Like every other taxpayer-financed entity in America, San Francisco is getting hit hard by the recession. When retail sales drop, so do local sales taxes. When real estate values plummet, so do property taxes receipts. And while some prominent economists are urging President-elect Barack Obama to pour federal money into cities this spring, nobody can count on that happening.

City Controller Ben Rosenfield is projecting that the city will be around $100 million short of cash by the end of the fiscal year. And since California cities (unlike the federal government) can’t run a deficit, that money has to come from somewhere. (Fortunately, the red ink won’t be as bad as it might have been — with little help from the mayor, Sup. Aaron Peskin got two new revenue measures passed in November that will bring some $50 million more into city coffers).

Newsom’s chief target at this point is the Department of Public Health, which is facing more than $256 million in cuts. That’s on top of all the cuts the department has had to absorb over the past two years — and it will cut deeply into the city’s ability to maintain its landmark Healthy San Francisco program. The Recreation and Park Department, libraries, and Muni will face cutbacks too, and there’s almost certainly a Muni fare hike (essentially a tax on the poor) on the horizon.

But there’s no talk of reducing or eliminating any of the mayor’s pet programs — like the 311 call center, which is a fine service but perhaps not as important as medical staff at SF General — or cutting significantly into his own office spending.

And, as always, the mayor has failed to look at any additional sources of revenue (with the possible exception of new parking meters in Golden Gate Park and at Marina Green). It’s particularly frustrating that Newsom and his hired gun, Eric Jaye, pushed so hard to help Pacific Gas and Electric Co. defeat the Clean Energy Act when public power would be the source of hundreds of millions in annual revenue. (PG&E killed 10 other ballot measures that would have brought cheap Hetch Hetchy public power to San Francisco, the largest source of potential new revenue for the city, and the private monopoly yanks more than $650 million a year out of the city in high rates, according to a Guardian study.)

The supervisors don’t have to wait for the mayor to propose cuts and then react. They can begin to move now. They can begin to identify their own set of cuts and revenue enhancements — and can begin establishing an alternative set of priorities. Is it better to cut 311 and the mayor’s special global warming deputy than to cut nurses at General? Is it better to close some redundant fire stations than cut hours at libraries? Should parking meters and garage fees go up downtown before city parks get meters? Back in 1973, in his first run for supervisor, Harvey Milk proposed eliminating the police vice squad (see "I remember Harvey"). That’s an idea whose time may have come again.

The point is that the mayor, who is weak and more focused on running for governor than on running the city, shouldn’t be driving the fiscal agenda alone. The supervisors need to either agree that they won’t act on cuts until the new board takes office or offer some alternative plans today.

I remember Harvey

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Toward the end of the supervisorial campaign in 1973, I got an intercom call from Nancy Destefanis, our advertising representative handling political ads. Hey, she said, I got a guy here by the name of Harvey Milk who is running for supervisor and I think you ought to talk to him.

Milk? I replied. How can anybody run for supervisor with the name of Milk?

Nancy laughed and said that wasn’t his big problem, it was that he was running as an openly gay candidate, but he had strong progressive positions and potential. Nancy, a former organizer for Cesar Chavez’ farm workers, was tough and savvy, and I always took her advice seriously. "Send him in," I said.

And so Harvey Milk came into my office, at the start of his political career, looking like a well-meaning amateur. He had a ponytail and mustache, wore Levi’s and a T-shirt, and talked breathlessly about his issues without a word about how he intended to win. His arguments were impressive, but he clearly was not ready for prime time. We gave him our "romantic" endorsement. He got 17,000 votes.

I also advised him, as diplomatically as I could, that if he wanted to be a serious candidate, he needed to clean up his act.

Two years later, Milk strode into the Guardian in a suit and tie as a serious candidate ready to win and lead. As our strong endorsement put it, "Now he’s playing politics for real: he’s shaved his mustache, is running hard in the voting areas of the Sunset, and has picked up a flock of seemingly disparate endorsements from SF Tomorrow, the Building and Trades Council, Teamsters (for his work on the Coors beer boycott) and the National Women’s Caucus." On policy, we said he "would put his business acumen to work dissecting the budget" and "would fight for higher parking taxes, no new downtown garages, a graduated real estate transfer tax, an end to tax exemptions for banks and insurance companies, dropping the vice squad from the police budget, and improved mental health care facilities." He couldn’t get enough votes citywide to win, but he came closer.

In 1976, Milk decided to run for a state Assembly seat against Art Agnos. We decided to go with Agnos, largely because he was familiar with Sacramento as an aide to former assemblyman Leo McCarthy and also because our political reporter covering the race, Jerry Roberts, said that Agnos was much better on Sacramento issues during the campaign. We decided that Agnos was right for Sacramento and that we needed Milk in San Francisco. I have often wondered if we had endorsed Milk, and he had won, if he would still be alive.

The next year, when the city shifted to district supervisorial elections, Milk won and became the first openly gay elected official in the country. He would always say, "I am not a gay supervisor, I am a supervisor who happens to be gay."

On the afternoon of Friday, Nov. 24, 1978, Milk dropped by to see me at the Guardian. He was a bit dejected. Things were getting tougher for him on the board. He was getting hassled by his friends and allies who were telling him, as he put it, "if you don’t vote for me on this one, I’m going to stop supporting you." He said he was going to press on, but from then on he was going to work more closely with the Guardian on legislation and on giving us information.

Then he smiled the famous Harvey Milk smile and said as he left my room, "I want to be your Deep Throat at City Hall."

Those were the last words I ever heard from Harvey Milk. He was assassinated three days later.

Holiday Guide 2008

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Think global, shop local

Funny how quickly this holiday season has snuck up on us, isn’t it? That election sure was distracting. Here’s hoping our ultimate holiday gift guide can help you navigate these next few months while you’re busy celebrating President Obama and protesting Prop. 8. Speaking of politics, the Guardian has joined a national effort to support local businesses this year as a way to boost our economy. Read Tim Redmond’s explanation. May this be a holiday season of change!

Molly Freedenberg

Holiday Guide editor

All illustrations by Justin Renteria

>>Think global, shop local
Saving SF’s economy one gift at a time
By Tim Redmond

>>Guilt-free gifts
A guide to supporting good causes
By Katie Baker

>>Head Bangin’
Too much metal for one gift
Photo by Arlene Romana, styling by Ben Hopfer

>>Graphic gifts
Epic comics for your twisted loved ones
By Justin Hall

>>The game room
Fantastic new releases for computers and consoles
By Daniel N. Alvarez

>>Burner bourgeois
Leather and feathers trump fun fur and faux fabrics
Photo by Arlene Romana, styling by Ben Hopfer

>>Seasonal sounds
Sifting through the year’s albums and shows for melodic gifting
By Brandon Bussolini

>>Bike-ster
Retro, velo-inspired ideas for hipster gifts
Photo by Arlene Romana, styling by Ben Hopfer

>>Giving on a shoestring
Cheap and DIY ideas for the financially-challenged
By Molly Freedenberg

>>Not your pilgrim’s pie
Modern pumpkin desserts for the historically-minded
By Meghan McCloskey

>>So fresh, so clean
Hip-hop duds for your homies
Photo by Arlene Romana, styling by Ben Hopfer

>>A holiday from the holidays
Spa ideas for the weary shopper or lucky gift-getter
By Chloe Schildhause

A long look

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› paulr@sfbg.com

If you’re old enough to remember Loongbar — and I’m too polite to ask — you might experience a moment of confusion about Long Bar. You might wonder if there’s a familial connection, and why did the name of the restaurant split in two (some kind of verbal mitosis?), and what happened to the other O? But … no worries, as the Aussies say. Long Bar (whose principals are Alan Walsh and Bill Garlock) has nothing to do with Loongbar, the Mark Miller venture of the late 1990s that lived its brief life in a spectacular Ghirardelli Square setting before ending up in the hands of the actor Don Johnson under the name Ana Mandara.

Long Bar was, until spring 2007, the Fillmore Grill, a stalwart of that stylish street and a pubish sort of place. If your idea of a smart pub includes a long bar, then you won’t be too disappointed by the morph. Long Bar is aptly named; its bar (of Honduran mahogany) might not be quite the match of the big daddy that helped make Stars famous, but it is sizable, with seating for at least a dozen atop posh-looking stools, each with an unimpeded view to the large flat-screen television mounted on the wall, a window on the world of sports.

As impressive as the bar is, it takes up only a quarter or so of the dining room, with the rest given over to the usual suspect (tables and chairs in various configurations), a color scheme heavy on a cayenne or burnt-sienna hue — rich and warm, if under inflected — and, most appealing, a small selection of U-shaped, low-rise booths in a far corner. Long Bar isn’t what you’d call beatifically quiet (another sense in which the name is spot-on; will anyone ever open Quiet Bar?), but the noise level in the booths is far from unbearable, even as the restaurant fills up with Pacific Heightsers, some fresh from a movie at the Clay Theater across the street.

They’re hungry, of course, the P.H. crowd: they want good food but not fancy food, and they want it at a reasonable price, since, like everybody else, they must be feeling the wind a bit these days. What is a reasonable price? That, as Hamlet might say (in a yet-to-be-imagined turn as restaurant planner), is the question, and it’s a tricky one to try to answer in the midst of our present economic maelstrom. I will note that Long Bar’s main-course prices range mostly from the high teens to the mid-20s, which isn’t exactly bargain-basement country, but could be worse. A strong theory of relativity obtains in restaurant pricing, and any calculus must consider where the restaurant is located and who’s likely to go there.

So while it seems quite possible that the bulk of the clientele — vigorous, middle-aged-looking people who don’t appear to be poor — would consider Long Bar moderately priced, I would have to cogitate a bit before agreeing. Then I would agree. A grilled salmon filet perched on a bed of quinoa salad dotted with cauliflower florets, for $22? That’s not bad for casually sophisticated cooking.

Of course, no bar would be complete without a full complement of bar food, and bar food is so often deep-fried and greasy, maybe on the theory that the grease helps soak up excess alcohol, as if it’s some kind of blotter. (A friend recently told me a similar story about the therapeutic powers of tripe, which, prepared in a stew called menudo, is commonly served in Mexico on Sundays, when some people might need help clearing away the haze left by the previous night’s revels.)

Fried onion rings are often a spectacular example of this kind of cooking. Hence their migration to fast-food-land. But executive chef Ryan McDonald’s version ($6) was notable for its restraint. The rings were cut from red onions, for one thing, then given a tempura batter, which fried up strong and dry, without sogginess or a sheen of grease on the plate. We dipped the rings in the companion ramekin of plain ketchup, which was fine, though not quite as fine as the rings themselves.

Monterey calamari ($12) was a more typical item, with the rings and tentacles swaddled in a heavy golden coat of bread crumbs. Despite the slightly lurid look, the seafood itself was tender and gently sweet-briny, with a colorful salad of frisée and slivered carrot and lime aioli on the side for balance.

Comparably golden, though not as heavy, were crab cakes ($16), a matched pair of plump pucks made with a generous amount of actual crab meat (filler is a perennial problem for crab cake aficionados) and plated with a fabulously tart little salad of apple threads and tendrils of watercress. Lemon-caper aioli provided a final zest kicker.

Yes, the Long Bar kitchen has a flair for salads, of all things. Even the caesar ($9) was excellent, despite a lack of anchovies. The croutons were crunchy and plentiful, the Parmesan shavings were piled up like drifts in a blizzard, the dressing was notably lemony, and the romaine spears were immaculate and crisp. I did wonder why, given the considerable scale of the caesar, why no grilled-chicken upgrade is offered. With a little protein, this salad could easily pass as a light main course.

Desserts, we were told, are due for an upgrade, from a pastry chef whose arrival is imminent. In the meantime, the choices are a bit TGI Friday’s but perfectly serviceable: mud pie ($8), a fluffy chocolate mousse under a glossy cap of dark chocolate; and mango cheesecake ($8), also fluffy, in a graham-cracker crust that’s worth its weight in … well, graham crackers, at least.

LONG BAR

Dinner: Sun., Tues.–Thurs, 5–10 p.m.;

Fri.–Sat., 5–10:30 p.m.

2298 Fillmore, SF

(415) 440-1700

www.longbarsf.com

Full bar

AE/MC/V

Noisy

Wheelchair accessible

The Milk Issue

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It took Hollywood 30 years to make a feature film about the life of Harvey Milk, and when Gus Van Sant finally got the gig, and Sean Penn agreed to play the title role, it came out too late to have an impact on the California election. Would Milk, the movie, have helped defeat Prop. 8? Nobody knows. But the movie is inspirational, and with any luck will carry the message of Milk’s life to the masses. Milk always said that the more straight Americans got to know gay and lesbian people, the more they would be open to equal rights.

The Guardian covered Milk’s career as it was happening, devoted a special issue to him when he was assassinated, covered the trial of Dan White and the infamous Twinkie Defense and the riots afterward. And with the movie hitting theaters this month, we’re taking a look not just as the movie but the political legacy of Harvey Milk.

>>Political theater
Gus Van Sant gives Harvey Milk his close-up
By Kimberly Chun

>>Politics behind the picture
Would Harvey Milk be happy with San Francisco today?
By Steven T. Jones and Tim Redmond

>>I remember Harvey
Guardian memories of the long-haired young hopeful
By Bruce B. Brugmann

>>The apathy and the ecstacy
St. Harvey inflames, but does he inspire?
By Marke B.

>>Hot flash gallery
Now and then in the photography of Daniel Nicoletta
By Johnny Ray Huston

>>Behind the “Twinkie Defense”
The reporter who coined the infamous phrase looks back at the White trial
By Paul Krassner


>>Past, present, future
The time is now for The Times of Harvey Milk
By Johnny Ray Huston

BONUS
>>Where’s Harry?
Harvey Milk’s political torchbearer gets written out of film history
By Tim Redmond

From the archives (PDF)
How the District Attorney Joe Freitas’s office blew the Dan White murder case, May 23, 1979
By Robert Levering and David Johnston

Holiday Guide 2008: Gifts for metalheads

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Have a friend who’s too much metal for one man (or woman)? Get one of these gifts, sure to inspire devil horns and a big, snarling smile.

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1. Black Cobra T-shirt ($12), www.blackcobraa.net; 2. Hammers Of Misfortune T-shirt ($13), www.hammersofmisfortune.com; 3. Leather Studded Belt ($19.98), Cal Surplus, 1541 Haight, SF. (415) 861-0404; 4. Leather Cuffs ($75 each), Daljeet’s, 1773 Haight, SF. (415) 668-8500, www.daljeets.com; 5. Metalacolypse Season II: Black Fire Upon Us DVD ($29.98), www.adultswim.com; 6. Cannibal Corpse women’s underwear ($15), Shaxul Records, 1816 Haight, SF. www.shaxulrecords.com; 7. iPod Touch 8GB ($229), Apple, 1 Stockton, SF. (415) 392-0202, www.apple.com; 8. Cannibal Corpse giant patch ($10), Shaxul Records, 1816 Haight, SF. www.shaxulrecords.com; 9. Reverend Daredevil 290 guitar ($499), SF Guitarworks, 331 Potrero, SF.(415) 865-5424, www.sfguitarworks.com; 10. Testament T-shirt ($20), www.testamentlegions.com

More Holiday Guide 2008.

Holiday Guide 2008: Gifts for burners

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Forget faux fur coats and moon boots this year. The modern burner’s wish list is all about deconstructed leather, tribal jewelry, and Mad Max-meets-newsboy style.

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1. Leather Gaitors ($12.98). Cal Surplus, 1541

Haight, SF. (415) 861-0404; 2. Rock N Socks ($15). Trunk, 544 Haight, SF. (415) 861-5310, www.trunksf.com; 3. Goggles ($15). Cal Surplus,1541 Haight, SF. (415) 861-0404; 4. Leather Utility Belt ($230). Arara, 665 San Jose, SF. (415) 756-5826, www.ararasf.com; 5. Miranda Caroligne pants ($63). Trunk, 544 Haight, SF. (415) 861-5310, www.trunksf.com; 6. Miranda Caroligne men¹s ruff shirt ($56).Trunk, 544 Haight, SF. (415) 861-5310, www.trunksf.com; 7. English Laundry fedora ($52).Therapy, 541 Valencia, SF. (415) 621-5902; 8. Bone Cascade of Curls earrings ($27). Monkey Meditates, monkeymeditates.etsy.com; 9. Sand G Clothing vest ($125). Arara, 665 San Jose, SF. (415) 756-5826, www.ararasf.com; 10. Leather holster bag ($230). Arara, 665 San Jose, SF. (415) 756-5826, www.ararasf.com; 11. Black Wood hoop earrings ($24), Big Teardrop light wood earrings ($22), Sensuous Swinging Horn earrings ($27). Monkey Meditates, monkeymeditates.etsy.com

More Holiday Guide 2008.

Holiday Guide 2008: Hip-hop gifts

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For those whose music and style leans more Lil’ Wayne than Wayne Coyne, try some of the goodies on our homeboy (or girl) hotlist.

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1. Shadow plaid jacket ($325). HUF, 812 Sutter, SF. (415) 674-3744, www.hufsf.com; 2. SF Hat ($38). True Men’s, 1415 Haight (415) 626-2882, www.trueclothing.net; 3. 5-panel cap ($34). HUF, 812 Sutter, SF. (415) 674-3744, www.hufsf.com; 4. Jeepney Akira jacket ($96). True Women’s,1427 Haight, SF. (415) 626-2331, www.trueclothing.net; 5. Hellzbellz shirt ($38). True Women’s,1427 Haight, SF. (415) 626-2331, www.trueclothing.net; 6. Hellzbellz jeans ($98). True Women’s,1427 Haight, SF. (415) 626-2331, www.trueclothing.net; 7. Onitsuka Ultimate 81 ($72). Shoe Biz 2,1553 Haight, SF. (415) 861-3933, www.shoebizsf.com; 8. Buddah Apparel ($32). True Men’s, 1415 Haight (415) 626-2882, www.trueclothing.net; 9. Revolver necklace ($28); Starry Eyed brass knuckles ($22). Hello Drama jewelry, www.hellodrama.net; 10. Supra Skytop ($130). Shoe Biz II, 1553 Haight, SF. (415) 861-3933, www.shoebizsf.com; 11. LRG Jeans ($74). True Men’s, 1415 Haight (415) 626-2882, www.trueclothing.net; 12. Gold Coin "king coin" T-shirt ($37). D-Structure, 520 Haight, SF. (415) 252.8601, www.d-structure.com; 13. FTC Skatedeck ($36.95). FTC, 1632 Haight, SF. (415) 626-0663, www.ftcsf.com

More Holiday Guide 2008.

Holiday Guide 2008: Gifts for bikesters

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What do you get the fixie-riding hipster who has everything? Try these retro- and velo-inspired ideas, sure to go with their skinny jeans.

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1. Velocity Deep V wheelset ($349.99). Valencia Cyclery, 1077 Valencia, SF. (415) 550-6600, www.valenciacyclery.com; 2. D-Structure artist series Josh Mays "I DS SF" ($32). D-Structure, 520 Haight, SF. (415) 252-8601, www.d-structure.com; 3. Oakley Frogskin sunglasses ($110). Aqua Surf Shop, 1742 Haight, SF. (415) 876-2782, www.aquasurfshop.com; 4. Penfield jacket ($92). True Mens¹s, 1415 Haight (415) 626-2882, www.trueclothing.net; 5. Vigor helmet ($39.99). Valencia Cyclery, 1077 Valencia, SF. (415) 550-6600, www.valenciacyclery.com; 6. Nicaelly shirt ($110). True Women¹s,1427 Haight, SF. (415) 626-2331, www.trueclothing.net; 7. Solitary earring ($35). Arara, 665 San Jose, SF. (415) 756-5826, www.ararasf.com; 8. Nixon Tribella watch ($60). Aqua Surf Shop, 1742 Haight, SF. (415) 876-2782, www.aquasurfshop.com; 9. Able "Azteca" print ($28). D-Structure, 520 Haight, SF. (415) 252-8601, www.d-structure.com; 10. Luxirie pants ($46). True Women’s,1427 Haight, SF. (415) 626-2331, ww.trueclothing.net; 11. Reebok Pump Omni ($110). Shoe Biz II, 1553 Haight, SF. (415) 861-3933, www.shoebizsf.com; 12. HellaTight "Whities Away" hat ($45). www.hellatight.com; 13. Messenger bag ($130). Timbuk2, 506 Hayes, SF. (415) 252-9860, www.timbuk2.com; 14. Sugino Track crankset ($299.99). Valencia Cyclery, 1077 Valencia, SF. (415) 550-6600, www.valenciacyclery.com; 15. iPod Nano orange 8GB ($149). Apple, 1 Stockton, SF. (415) 392-0202, www.apple.com; 16. Mixed Gauge beanie ($32). HUF, 812 Sutter, SF. (415) 674-3744, www.hufsf.com

More Holiday Guide 2008.

What do you remember?

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PREVIEW "You can surely remember episodes from your childhood. Do you consider some of them or several so precious that you wouldn’t want to do without them?" "Is there an experience or experiences among your memories that you would describe as mystic, spiritual, or religious?" "What is your earliest memory?" "Which episode(s) of a sexual nature do you remember particularly fondly?"

These are but a few of the 50 questions that have been floating around the Internet and on printed questionnaires this fall. If you answered any of them, there is a good chance that your observations may show up in one of the season’s more unusual theatrical experiments, The Execution of Precious Memories, a collaboration by Nanos Operetta, Kunst-Stoff, and Blixa Bargeld, who created the first Execution in 1994 in Berlin. The idea is to develop a piece of dance/music/theater piece from the memories of people who live in specific places. So far Executions have taken place in London, Stockholm, Tokyo, and Kraków, among other cities. This is the first American version. Bargeld became famous in the 1980s as a cofounder of Einstuerzende Neubauten, one of the first and most influential industrial bands. But the Berlin native and current San Francisco resident is also an artist steeped in dadaism, an architectural critic, and one of the more radical and fascinating thinkers on contemporary culture, particularly as it plays itself out in Germany. Nanos Operetta founder Ali Tabatabai claims Bargeld as an important influence on all their work.

THE EXECUTION OF PRECIOUS MEMORIES Wed/19-Sat/22, 8 p.m.; Sun/23, 7 p.m.; $20. Project Artaud Theater, 450 Florida, SF. (415) 863-9834, www.brownpapertickets.com, www.kunst-stoff.org

Icy Demons

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PREVIEW There’s liberatory potential in choosing a pseudonym, but the members of Chicago-area septet Icy Demons — Blue Hawaii, Pow Pow, Il-Cativo, Smart Cousin, Yo! Hannan, Monsieur Jeri, and the Diminisher — are probably just goofballs. Icy Demons are the sort of band whose surface weirdness is accompanied by both pop smarts and something fundamentally warped. What makes this trickier: their three albums, culminating in last year’s Miami Ice (Obey Your Brain), have inched toward accessibility while also housing some of the group’s most fully realized songs. While it’s tempting to say that Icy Demons are basically a pop combo that have clawed their way out of the slightly hazy, motorik groove of 2006’s Tears of a Clone (Eastern Developments) and 2003’s Fight Back! (Cloud Recordings), why not say that the inverse is true, that they’re a basically experimental ensemble using pop structure to vehiculate some of their best ideas?

However you choose to read them, Icy Demons are part of an emerging scene with unexpected roots and strange allegiances, centered on the Obey Your Brain label: core member Pow Pow plays drums for hokey Philly alt-bros Man Man, and the Diminisher and Blue Hawaii were involved in Bablicon, the Elephant 6–affiliated improv trio. But Icy Demons have less to do with those bands’ well-established aesthetics than with a natively skewed sense of tunefulness and music that seems to disappear between reference points. Miami Ice‘s "Spywatchers" hovers in the interzone between spy movie music and spacey post-rock, and the title track sounds like Brian Eno took the Paper Rad crew to Florida for a vacation of self-discovery. As for the rest of the transcript of what Icy Demons are up to, intuition suggests they will only reveal it a peek at a time.

ICY DEMONS With Yeasayer. Sat/22, 9 p.m., $15. Bimbo’s 365 Club, 1025 Columbus, SF. (415) 474-0365, www.bimbos365club.com

Immortal Technique

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PREVIEW Peruvian-born, Harlem-raised rapper Immortal Technique, né Felipe Coronel, long ago broke with the TRL mold of spitting about bitches and ho’s, instead looking to the roots of hip-hop with his politically minded tracks.

On his third full-length, The 3rd World (Viper), he covers such topics as the gentrification of his Harlem hood and corruption in the music industry. The opener establishes him as a renegade in the rap world where it’s common to have an intro — be it the sound of bullets blasting or a slutty skit. Instead, the "Death March" is a forceful, beat-driven anthem that introduces its characters (Immortal Technique and DJ Green Lantern), dedicates the album (to the people of Latin American nations that have been tampered with by this country), and sets the stage for what is to come next (urban/guerrilla warfare and an album about it).

"Open Your Eyes" looks at the life of immigrants who are promised a better life in the states but come to realize that "privatization and electricity" do not equate to happiness, and explores the abuse of natural resources and indigenous peoples overseas. "Lick Shots," while not the strongest track on 3rd World with its annoying repeated refrain, goes for laughs with couplets like, "Marry a Muslim girl and fuck her five times a day / Every time right before we shower and pray." "Crimes of the Heart" gets slightly personal with an honest love story of a lonely two-timer "breaking hearts on the way to enlightenment," which Immortal Technique uses as a simile for an isolated republic. A little less narrative-bound but still hard-hitting and with a more polished production than Immortal Technique’s previous recordings, 3rd World offers hope for listeners who yearn for a return to music with a message. As the old adage goes, actions speak louder than words, and Immortal Technique remains true to his tunes with this concert for Afghanistan’s Children of War in partnership with Omeid International.

IMMORTAL TECHNIQUE with Hasan Salaam, Da Circle, Ras Ceylon, and DJ GiJoe. Thurs/20, 9:30 p.m., $19–$22. DNA Lounge, 375 11th St., SF. (415) 626-1409, www.dnalounge.com

Modern slavery

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REVIEW Just when his once-great muckraking documentaries seem to be running on fumes (1998’s Kurt and Courtney, 2002’s Biggie and Tupac, etc.), Nick Broomfield has reinvented himself as a narrative director — a role he previously tried and bombed at in 1989’s pretentious murder mystery Dark Obsession. Made before his terrific 2007 Iraq War docudrama, Battle for Haditha (which briefly played at the Roxie this year), but only released here now, Ghosts (2006) isn’t quite that film’s equal. But it’s still powerful and realistic. It oughtta be, since lead actor Ai Qin Lin reenacts her own real-life ordeal of traveling to England as an illegal Chinese immigrant worker. Lured by promised fat wages and unable to properly support her infant son at home in Fujian Province, she lands in the U.K. after travails that include being sealed in a packing crate. While not forced into the sex trade, she nonetheless becomes part of a modern slavery network said to encompass at least 20 million people worldwide. Her rough odyssey is just one, early titles tells us, among those of three million migrant workers who currently make up the drastically underpaid "bedrock" of Britain’s construction, service, and food industries. Despite some awkward moments, this is an entirely absorbing drama that draws on not only Ai Qin Lin’s story but also a horrifying, unrelated 2004 incident in which two dozen Chinese workers died in English coastal waters.

GHOSTS opens Fri/21 at the Roxie. See Rep Clock.

“Bill Jenkins”

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REVIEW The fewer direct descriptions of Bill Jenkins’ show at Jancar Jones Gallery the better. I went into the secret small space having liked Jenkins’ contribution to last year’s University of California MFA exhibition at Berkeley Art Museum. Jenkins’ meditative approach to objects seemed to journey through a door of perception that was opened by Alicia McCarthy in the same show — a door that called lazy voyeurism into question. Yet even with that experience in mind, Jenkins’ first solo show in SF pulled the floor out from under me. After entering the gallery, I spent my first moments realizing the limits of my expectations, in particular that mind-controlled urge to immediately be visually wowed by goodies. It isn’t that the objects Jenkins finds and recreates aren’t attractive, but that the depth of their presence isn’t obvious. The longer you look, the more you’re rewarded. The minimalism and austerity of Jenkins’ practice is uncharacteristically warm. He has somewhat of a kinship with McCarthy and the Bay Area painter Todd Bura in his understatement and his creative explorations of absence, of the relationships between things, and of how time creates objects as it erodes or destroys them. One Jenkins work that isn’t part of this show is a mirror covered in spray paint. Move from that spot of obscured reflection to areas of gray and off-white and you’re almost there, at the door of the room where these works reside.

BILL JENKINS Through Dec. 13. Thurs.–Sat., noon–6 p.m. Jancar Jones Gallery, 965 Mission, SF. (415) 281-3770, www.jancarjones.com

Holiday Guide 2008: Seasonal sounds

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Thanks to the continued explosion of musically-oriented Web sites and blogs, you’ll probably be even more inundated than usual this year with "best of 2008" lists come January 2009 — far too late for your tuneful shopping needs. So we’re cranking one out early, organized by affinity groups — some slightly imaginary, some more concrete — in an attempt to cut through the loud hype and scattered bombast while amping up your gift-giving options. At the end is a suggested list of delectable upcoming live shows, if you’re more ticket-oriented.

FOR THE RETRO-FUTURIST DISCO HEAD


Electronic music is a good example of how griping about the state of a scene can sometimes release unexpected creativity. Syclops, nominally a Finnish fusion trio, is the latest we’ve heard from Maurice Fulton since his quasi-breakthrough electro-spazz project Mu. I’ve Got My Eye on You is the longest in a line of pretty epic wins for the label DFA and for electronic music generally: radiating out from "Where’s Jason’s K," the 10 tracks that make up the album tear ass from pharma’d-out Detroit techno to dreamy, lush deep space jazz.

Also: Shed‘s Shedding the Past (Ostgut Tonträger) if your giftee’s the type who longs for the halcyon days of high minimal glitch; Nôze, Songs on the Rocks (Get Physical) if his or her affection for tech house precision is matched only by a love of closing-time sing-alongs and Waitsian growls.

FOR LONG-LIMBED INDIE SCRAPPERS


It would be hard to write enough about "Black Rice," the best song on Canadian indie quartet Women‘s self-titled debut on Jagjaguwar. Starting from an absurdly unambitious guitar line, the song blossoms into something wildly and fiercely beautiful. It could be the impossible falsetto of the chorus, or the way the rhythm section comes unglued from the vocals and guitar, but the song condenses what makes the rest of the album — noisy, lo-fi interludes and all — so engaging. Everything seems held together provisionally on a song like the heartrending "Shaking Hand," but the chorus snaps into place with rubber-banded eagerness.

Also: Abe Vigoda‘s Skeleton (PPM) for its irrepressible youthful longing and controlled thrash; Benoît Pioulard‘s Temper (Kranky) for twining the threads of noise and surprisingly pretty, almost adult-contemporary songwriting into a neither/nor album that’s perfect for gray days.

WEIRDOS ONLY


Although more structured than anything they’ve done before, Saint Dymphna (Social Registry), the newest long player from New York’s mystical vibe crew Gang Gang Dance, still arrives packed with the otherworldliness that characterized its excellent predecessor, God’s Money (Social Registry, 2005). Three years in the making, the album itself is nothing if not well paced: the transitions between songs and the gradual build of rhythmic energy make it less kin to trad rock albums than to DJ mixes. When the swells crest, as on "First Communion" and "House Jam," electronic gurgles and processed sounds that might otherwise sound like trying too hard are transformed into pure pith: they’re as inviting and faceted as a just-split pomegranate.

Also: Paavoharju‘s Laulu Laakson Kukista (Fonal), since these Finnish folksters cover the dance floor with silt on "Kevätrumpu," bust some desperate torch techno on "Uskallan," and spend a number of other tracks sounding stuck between pagan classical radio and deteriorating field recordings; Rings is a trio of new primitives formerly known as First Nation — on Black Habit (Paw Tracks), the outfit sounds like it’s gotten into the Slits’ basements and started making music dictated from beyond.

POST-HIP-HOP BASS SEMANTICS


A DJ mix that stands alone as an album is a rare thing, but leave it to Jace Clayton, a.k.a. DJ/rupture, to make one, as he has with Uproot (Agriculture). Deeply, er, rooted in the bass plate tectonics of dubstep and cut with the finest in eclectic samples, ranging from experimentalist Ekkehard Ehlers to lazer bass don Ghislain Poirier, Uproot rolls deep with dubbed-out ambience, but DJ/rupture is just as happy to turn things upside down, as when he plunks down Ehlers’ gorgeous string loop, "Plays John Cassavetes, Pt. 2," around the mix’s halfway point. And if bangers of the future don’t sound like "Gave You All My Love (Matt Shadetek’s I Gave You All My Dub Remix)," which subs out dub’s organic space for Fisher-Price primary-color contrasts that split the brain evenly in two, I’m not sure it’s a future worth living in.

Also: for the more historically minded, Ragga Twins have released Step Out! (Soul Jazz), a retrospective that collects the work of a duo widely considered to be the inventors of that dubstep ancestor, jungle; Tank Thong Mixtape (Weaponshouse) by Megasoid happens to be free, so spend some money on a nice CD-R, decorate it with glitter, and watch exasperation turn to glee when your loved one blows out his or her speakers with this beast.

HEAVY STUFF


One of the year’s most life-affirming releases comes from a band called Fucked Up; its Chemistry of Common Life (Matador) is grounded in hardcore, and has hardness to spare, but makes its biggest impact when it lets a flute solo emerge from the tempest. With his basso profundo growl, singer Pink Eyes can sound like he’s gargling hot dogs, and harnessed to a song like "Black Albino Bones," with its cooing melody — the closest thing to pop the seven-year-old band has attempted — it makes for an unexpectedly moving juxtaposition. But the group’s real skill comes from mining the void left after the tribal affiliations of high school fall away; "Twice Born"<0x2009>‘s refrain, "Hands up if you think you’re the only one," could be the year’s Miranda July–esque rallying cry.

Also: if you’re wondering what Mick Barr’s been up to post-Ocrilim, the short answer, witnessed on Krallice‘s Krallice (Profound Lore) is black metal; Peasant (Level Plane), an all-encompassing slab of darkness by Baton Rouge–based Thou, is closer to trad sludge than to the transcendent drone of Sunn 0))), but no less impressively bleak.

SHOWS


The holiday season is not always a great time for shows (other than several Nutcracker incarnations), but for folks who want to gift live music this year there are plenty of sonic distractions. On the heels of Everybody (Thrill Jockey), its latest bout of sophisticated jazz rock, the eternally springlike Sea and Cake will make an appearance at Great American Music Hall just in time to counteract your seasonal affective disorder (Dec. 2, 8 p.m., $20). Sebastien Tellier rolls with the Daft Punk posse, so it’s no surprise that his music marries spot-on genre mimicry and a native sense of melody; check out the video for "Divine," in which the Beach Boys–meet–Lio jam turns into a global karaoke marathon of Tellier doppelgängers (Mezzanine, Dec. 4, 9 p.m., $15). There’s no rest for local workhorses Tussle and Jonas Reinhardt — they’ll be bringing their peculiar hot-cold takes on krauty electronics to the Hemlock Tavern (Dec. 6, 9:30 p.m., $7). And even if her music is not your cup of tea, Aimee Mann’s 3rd Annual Christmas Show should be a nice shot of seasonality in a city that tends to avoid big displays of Christmas spirit; consider it a good sign that Patton Oswalt, the stand-up comedian most deserving of your attention, will take part (Bimbo’s, Dec. 7, 8 p.m., $40). His looks call to mind a peripheral character from The Catcher in the Rye, and his preternaturally gentle music is specially designed not to hurt babies’ ears, but the earnest beauty of Jonathan Richman‘s songs might pierce your heart (Great American Music Hall, Dec. 7, 8 p.m., $15). Bearing a post-hardcore pedigree like whoa, San Francisco’s own Crime in Choir moves gracefully beyond its members’ backgrounds — At the Drive-In, the Fucking Champs — into (surprise!) instrumental prog territory (Hemlock Tavern, Dec. 13, 9:30 p.m., $6). *

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Holiday Guide 2008: Graphic gifts

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Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re aware that the last few years have seen an impressive flowering of graphic novels and comic book art. These days, every self-respecting, well-read person should have a graphic novel or two on the shelf — and that makes this the perfect moment to give your fave loved one a comic as a holiday gift. If a picture is worth a thousand words, how about a present with both?

FOR THE SMARTY-PANTS IN UNDEROOS


Watchmen changed the world of comic books when it debuted in 1986, ushering in an era of more serious and ambitious storytelling. Written by the revered Alan Moore, Watchmen uses the trope of superheroes to examine American culture. It won the Hugo Award that year (the first time a comic book had ever won a major literary award in America), was later named one of Time Magazine‘s "Best 100 Books of All Time" (the only comic book on the list), and is now being made into an movie. Watchmen dissects the superhero, revealing the elements of fascism, nihilism, and sexual obsession inherent in the genre, while always maintaining a sense of empathy for its characters’ humanity. It is beautiful, incredibly dense and intricate, and profoundly moving.

Watchmen: The Absolute Edition (DC Comics, 2008, 436 pages, $39.99) is a magnificent large-format reissue that beautifully shows off illustrator Dave Gibbon’s meticulous art, is completely re-colored, and has plenty of additional material. This is something that any geek would be proud to own.

FOR THE TWEEN WHO STILL BELIEVES IN MAGIC


Forget Harry Potter, Bone (Cartoon Books, 2004, 1300 pages, $39.95) is the bomb! Jeff Smith’s magnum opus is something truly rare in comics — a fully realized, all-ages fantasy story that balances thrilling adventure, humor, and lovable characters that develop and grow.

Three cousins stumble into a new land complete with dragons, a super-strong grandma, a princess with a destiny, a terrifying lord of locusts, and stupid rat creatures. As in the Harry Potter series, Bone becomes darker and more serious as the story progresses, but it never loses a delightful playfulness, both in the moments of comic relief and in Smith’s light, masterful brushwork. Bone can be found either as a single volume in its original black-and-white form, or as a set of color books from Scholastic Press.

FOR SCI-FI FANS WITH POST-APOCALYPTIC DAYDREAMS


Perhaps the best science fiction comic book ever produced starts off the way the best sci-fi stories do, with a simple premise that creates a ripple-effect of expanding consequences. In Y: The Last Man, all the males on the planet except for two die off from a sudden, horrifying plague, leaving poor Yorick and his pet monkey Ampersand the last creatures alive with Y chromosomes.

Writer Brian K. Vaughn, one of the best of a new generation of comics writers and one of the principle writers for TV’s Lost, cut his teeth creating the Y saga, which has been seeping out in one-volume installments since 2003. He imagines a world without men in fascinating ways, but never lets the setting get in the way of a gripping, fast-paced story. Pia Guerra’s art is competent and engaging, and propels the story along at the same clip as the writing. The entire breathtaking story comes in 10 soft-cover volumes from publisher Vertigo for around $13–<\d>$15 each. A just-published comprehensive deluxe edition (Vertigo, 2008, 256 pages, $29.99) comprises the first five volumes, with the second installation scheduled to come out in May 2009.

FOR TORTURED, BEAUTIFUL SOULS


There is a long, venerable history to comics biographies and autobiographies, from Art Spiegleman’s Maus to Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis and Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home (fabulous gifts all). I want, however, to point out an often-overlooked book that deserves its place in the canon, Phoebe Gloeckner’s Diary of a Teenage Girl (Frog Books, 2002, 312 pages, $22.95), which is one of the most compelling accounts of a troubled childhood that I’ve ever read.

Diary is not just a comic book. It weaves together graphic chapters with diary-form prose and illustrations to tell the story of Minnie Goetze, a 15-year-old girl who has an affair with her mother’s boyfriend before spiraling downward into drugs and abusive relationships.

It all takes place in 1970s San Francisco, and the city is an integral part of the story, from Minnie’s home in a Victorian flat in Laurel Heights to the world of gay hustlers and runaways on Polk Street.

FOR ROCKET-POWERED LOVERS


Have someone on your gift list who loves the magical realism, multigenerational storylines, and fantastic characters of Gabriel García Márquez? How about someone who can’t get enough of cool-ass, punk-rock dykes? Well, I have the perfect graphic novels for you: Gilbert Hernandez’s Palomar: The Heartbreak Soup Stories (Fantagraphics, 2003, 512 pages, $39.95), which chronicles the adventures of the denizens of a fictional Central American village, and Locas: The Maggie and Hopey Stories (Fantagraphics, 2004, 712 pages, $49.95) by Jaime Hernandez, which centers around two punk girls in the Mexican barrios of Los Angeles.

Both collect stories originally serialized in what is arguably the greatest American comic ever produced, Love and Rockets (and yes, that’s where the band got its name), which has been published somewhat consistently since 1981.

FOR EPIC MEDICAL DRAMA QUEENS


Ode to Kirihito (Vertical, 2006, 832 pages, $24.95) will blow your mind. Created in 1969 by the stellar Osama Tezuka, godfather of manga and anime (Japanese comics and cartoons), it was markedly more sophisticated and accomplished than anything coming out of the United States at the time. In fact, American popular culture is only now catching up to Tezuka — we’re just now getting translations of his works. Luckily, the new American versions are well designed and nimbly translated.

Kirihito tells the story of a plague that turns people into doglike creatures, and reads like a combination of a medical drama (Tezuka was trained as a physician), a panoramic 19th-century novel, and an existentialist treatise à la Albert Camus. Maybe your loved ones think that manga is all melodramatic kids with big eyes, spiky hair, and cute pets that shoot lightning? Ode to Kirihito will expand their view.

FOR YOUR FAVORITE PERVERT


Best Erotic Comics 2008 (Last Gasp, 2008, 200 pages, $19.95) is trying to fill an important, ahem, hole in the world of alternative comics. As the current comics renaissance gains steam, it is becoming curiously less and less sexual. Compared to the wild antics of the underground cartoonists of the 1960s, today’s indie comics tend to be flaccid fare.

BEC 2008 aims to change all that, as the first of an annual series of anthologies devoted to showcasing the best of comics erotica and restoring sexuality as a centerpiece of the indie comics sensibility. Last Gasp, a venerable San Francisco–based comics and alt-media publisher and distributor, is putting out the series.

Impressively diverse on all levels, BEC 2008 features a young dyke’s first encounter with a vibrator, a dominatrix who hires a gay masseur to fuck her boyfriend, King Kong and Godzilla getting it on … there’s a little something here for every proud pervert to treasure. That’s the magic of the holiday season! 2

WHERE TO GET YOUR GIFTS

Isotope Comics 326 Fell, SF. (415) 621-6543, www.isotopecomics.com

Al’s Comics 1803 Market, SF. (415) 861-1220, www.alscomicssf.com

Whatever 548 Castro, SF. (415) 861-9428, www.whateverstoreonline.com

Comix Experience 305 Divisadero, SF. (415) 863-9258, www.comixexperience.com

Comic Relief 2026 Shattuck, Berk. (510) 843-5002, www.comicrelief.net

Justin Hall is a San Francisco–based comics artist and owner of All Thumbs Press (www.allthumbspress.com).

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Holiday Guide 2008: Pumpkin and pie

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For most of us, pumpkin pie is as much an integral part of Thanksgiving as turkey and stuffing. It’s been that way since the beginning, when pilgrims included pumpkin-based delights in their harvest meal.

But early versions of the dessert were much harder to come by than our canned-puree (or Marie Callender’s) variety. The original New Englanders used pumpkins from the American Indians’ harvest, of which they received a large share after arriving in Plymouth, Mass., in 1620. They filled pumpkin shells with a mixture of pumpkin, milk, honey, and spices, and baked them in hot ashes to get that puddinglike, orange deliciousness that so many of us crave by mid-November.

Back then, every part of the pumpkin was used. Pumpkin seeds were medicine. Mats were made from flattened, dried strips of shell. It even came in handy if you didn’t like your freckles or wanted to get rid of a nasty snakebite, or so the pilgrims believed. The early Americans were so infatuated with the fruit (then known as pompion) that they even wrote songs about it: "We have pumpkin at morning and pumpkin at noon / If it were not for pumpkins, we would be undone."

These days, it’s hard to find anyone who uses a pumpkin for anything more than a table decoration or a Jack-o’-lantern. But it’s just as hard to find someone who’d say that the orange-colored custard tart doesn’t belong on the Thanksgiving table. So why argue with tradition? At the very least, you’ll be serving up some good, old-fashioned nutrition to your guests, in the form of vitamin A, potassium, and fiber.

Here are some ideas for pumpkin treats, whether they’re traditional pies or modern alternatives, store bought or homemade.

MISSION PIE


From the outside, this Mission Street den doesn’t look like a place where you’d want to buy a pet mouse, let alone a dessert to feed your loved ones. But stepping inside the café is like opening the door to Oz: bright colors and friendliness offset the tattered exterior. The staff suggests preordering from the rotating menu of five popular holiday pies ($18) if you want a whole one in time for Turkey Day. And believe me, you will. Try a slice ($3.85, or $3.50 to go) with a dollop of chilled whipped cream and a cup of one of three house-blend coffees. You’ll find the pie’s as traditional as anything Grandma’s ever made for you.

2901 Mission, SF. (415) 282-1500, www.missionpie.com

MIETTE PATISSERIE AND CONFISERIE


It’s nutty. It’s succulent. And according to my findings, one person can devour the whole thing in a day. Beautifully wrapped in plastic and a pink bow, Miette’s pumpkin walnut cake ($14) is a staple dessert for anyone headed to Mom and Dad’s for Thanksgiving — but only if you can make it there with some still left on the platter. Not dressed to impress? Oh please, this cake is class-y. It will make up for a tattered sweater or a stained pant leg.

Ferry Building Marketplace, Embarcadero and Market, SF. (415) 837-0300, www.miettecakes.com

CRAVE BAKERY


This avant-garde brand makes completely organic pies from rice milk, free-range eggs, and palm fruit oil — which all taste better than they sound. Plus, everything is wheat free, gluten free, and casein free, so dessert lovers who are allergic to wheat and dairy can pig out without losing sleep. Pick up an eight-inch pumpkin tart at Whole Foods, Rincon Market, RJ’s Market, Rainbow Grocery, Mollie Stones, Le Beau Nob Hill Market, or Andronico’s.

(415) 826-7187, www.cravebakery.org

ZANZE’S CHEESECAKE


It’s always fun to mix things up. It’s even more fun when there’s pumpkin cheesecake involved. In my opinion, the cheesecake is a close second to its time-honored counterpart, the pie. And unlike most cheesecakes, Zanze’s (6-inch pie, $14; 8-inch, $22; 10-inch, $28) won’t weigh you down like a pile of bricks — you’ll have a turkey to do that. It’s light and carefully whipped, so there will be no need to embarrass yourself by unfastening your pant button and unleashing your belly bulge. It’ll all fit this year.

2405 Ocean, SF. (415) 334-2264

PEASANT PIES


With its top layer of apricot jelly and delicate homemade crust, Peasant’s pumpkin pecan pie ($15.75, one-day advance notice necessary for ordering) will have you wishing Thanksgiving were a weeklong celebration. Peasant Pies’ menu was inspired by the savory tarts found in Sète, France, and was designed with health-savvy pie eaters (is there such a thing?) in mind. Bon appétit!

1039 Irving, SF. (415) 731-1978, www.peasantpies.com

FAT APPLES


With its oh-so-desirable pumpkin pies available only through New Year’s, the bakery recommends placing an advance order to get your paws on one. It also offers pecan pie and harvest pie (with apples, cranberries, and caramel strudel) during the holiday season (pumpkin and pecan, $17; harvest, $20). Now we really have something to be thankful for.

1346 Martin Luther King Jr., Berk. (510) 526-2260

BEARD PAPA’S SWEETS CAFE


Maybe you’re the unpatriotic Scrooge who doesn’t serve pie on Thanksgiving. Fair enough. But this year, dish up a few pumpkin-flavored cream puffs ($2.25 for one, $11 for six) to give off that I’m-a-reformer-who-still-has-a-little-spirit vibe. They’re flaky on the outside, creamy on the inside, and lightly sprinkled with powdered sugar that will undoubtedly end up all over the place. It could be a fun new tradition.

845 Market, SF. (415) 978-9975, www.beardpapasf.com

YOUR KITCHEN


If you’re really brave and have some time on your hands, be bold and bake a pie from real pumpkin, not the canned-puree stuff. To make the filling, follow this recipe from www.vitalitymagazine.com:

Cut the pumpkin in half with a French knife or cleaver.

Scoop out the seeds. (Set them aside for roasting or use them in another recipe.)

Brush the cut sides with 2 tablespoons of olive oil.

Place the pumpkin halves on a baking sheet, cut side down. Bake them in a 375-degree oven for about one hour, or until a knife pierces the skin and flesh easily.

Remove them from the oven and let them cool.

Scrape the flesh from the skin and puree it in a blender or a food processor. Use it immediately or freeze it in one-cup portions.

A three-pound pumpkin yields three cups of puree.

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Holiday Guide 2008: Guilt-free gifts

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It’s that time of year again: stores are hanging up wreaths of holly, people are stringing Christmas lights and taking their menorahs out of storage, and you’re scrambling around the city, without enough money or time, trying to find the perfect gift for everyone on your list and cursing mindless consumption. Before you renounce all things holiday themed and decide to hide under the covers until January, though, check out our ideas below, which include small local businesses, nonprofits, charities, and other organizations that give back to society. As corny as it sounds, by shopping at any of the places listed below, you’re not just giving to your friends and family; you’re giving to the community as a whole — while reducing your own consumerist guilt. And after all, isn’t feeling good about giving what the holidays are really all about? (Well, that and copious amounts of eggnog.)

FROG HOLLOW FARM


If you love supporting local farmers but hate jostling your way through the crowds at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, why not order a package of Black Forest ham and Gruyère turnovers ($24 for six) or a seasonal fruit sampler ($38 for six pounds of hand-selected fruit) straight from Frog Hollow Farm’s Web site? An organic farm just an hour outside San Francisco, Frog Hollow will ship baskets of fresh fruit, olive oil, chutneys, and pastries to whoever your lucky recipient may be — a friend, a family member, or even just you (now that I know I can get cherry galettes and pear, Gorgonzola, and walnut tartlets delivered straight to my house, I’m not sure I’ll have enough money to send any packages out this year). Plus, this way you won’t feel guilty for forgetting to bring your reusable canvas bag to the market, again.

www.froghollow.com

SAN FRANCISCO ZOO


Don’t lie: your childhood dream of having an elephant or a monkey for a pet never completely went away. Unfortunately, it’s illegal in the state of California to own such exotic animals, but that doesn’t mean you can’t adopt! The San Francisco Zoo offers Adopt-an-Animal gift certificates, which include a personalized certificate, a framed photo, information about your adoptee, and an invitation for two to the zoo’s annual Zoo Parent Day. The recipient gets to select his or her own animal, with options ranging from the traditional (polar bear, alligator, penguin) to the unique (laughing kookaburra, Nigerian dwarf goat, Mexican red-kneed tarantula) to the endangered (snow leopard, Magellanic penguin, Siberian tiger). All animal adoptions cost $50, which helps support all zoo residents of that species for a year.

(415) 753-7117, www.sfzoo.org

CREATIVITY EXPLORED’S ANNUAL HOLIDAY ART SALE


If you’re gifting an art lover but lack the cash to buy a piece from an expensive gallery, visit the Annual Holiday Art Sale at Creativity Explored, San Francisco’s premier gallery showing work by artists with developmental disabilities. These virtuosos, whose work has been called some of the most imaginative, original, and sophisticated art in San Francisco, include not only painters and sculptors but also T-shirt designers and pillow makers. And even if you have less than 10 bucks to spend, you’ll walk away with something special. Check out the selection of blank note cards, which come in sets of six or eight, cost between $7 and $12, and have names like "San Francisco Icons," "The Sky Is Falling," and "Bottlecap Ferris Wheel." Half of the proceeds go directly to the artist, so no need to feel guilty when you tell your significant other that his or her new piece of artwork is "priceless" — it may have been cheap, but it was for a great cause.

Dec. 5–30. Opening-weekend hours: Dec. 5, 6–9 p.m.; Dec. 6–7, 1–6 p.m. Regular gallery hours: Mon.–Fri., 10 a.m.–3 p.m.; Sat., 11 a.m.–6 p.m. Creativity Explored, 3245 16th St., SF. (415) 863-2108, www.creativityexplored.org

KITTINHAWK


Everyone has that one annoyingly hip fashionista friend who’s impossible to shop for. Surprise yours this holiday season with a piece of jewelry from Kittinhawk, a one-of-a-kind clothing and jewelry line handmade from vintage and recycled materials. Designer Allysun Dutra describes her wares as perfect for "people who love to be extravagant and fancy while still being conscious of the environment." Whether you decide on a pair of dangly feathered earrings, a choker adorned with pearls and vintage keys, or a whimsical charm bracelet, there’s no doubt it will be your friend’s favorite new statement piece.

Bell Jar, 187 16th St., S.F. (415) 626-1749, www.kittinhawk.com

ECO HOLIDAY SF


As painful as shopping malls are during the holidays, there’s something to be said for the convenience of doing all your gift buying under one roof. Still, who wants to deal with pushy fellow shoppers, corny decorations, and gross food court cuisine? This year, check out the first annual Eco Holiday SF, presented by the Urban Alliance for Sustainability, a nonprofit co-op in San Francisco. This localism extravaganza (all products will be from within 100 miles of the city) will offer items like earth-friendly RocknSocks slippers, handmade jewelry, and organic fair-trade chocolate truffles. The celebration will also feature the Bio-Shuttle, a bus service to and from BART; valet bike parking; "healing spaces"; healthy food; and cocktails. Hopefully some Macy’s representatives can drop by and take a tip or two.

Dec. 14, 11:11 a.m.–8:08 p.m., the Galleria, San Francisco Design Center, 101 Henry Adams, S.F. (415) 255-8411, www.ecoholidaysf.com

MARRIAGE EQUALITY USA; HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGN


Show your opposition to the passing of Proposition 8 by giving your loved ones marriage-equality–themed presents this holiday season. Oakland-based Marriage Equality USA will be selling holiday CDs ($20) featuring slightly altered versions of your seasonal favorites. Expect lyrics like "Wedding bells ring / Are you listening / No more second class citizens, / We’re happy tonight / Our goal is in sight / 1100 federal marriage rights." Order the CD on the Web site or stop by Union Square, where MEUSA employees will be caroling throughout the holiday season. You can also pick up locally made equality- and Castro-themed T-shirts, as well as Christopher Radko–designed holiday ornaments, at the Human Rights Campaign’s San Francisco store. Regardless of what gift you choose, your money will be going to a great and important cause.

Marriage Equality USA, www.marriageequalityusa.org. HRC Action Center and Store, 600 Castro, SF. (415) 431-2200, hrccornerstore.myimagefirst.com/store *

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Holiday Guide 2008: The game room

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The holidays have always been a time for toys. Back in the day, it was board games, baby dolls, and Rubik’s cubes. Then came Nintendo, Dance Dance Revolution, and The Sims. And now? The world of gaming is exploding, with something for everyone — from sci-fi-loving kids to sports-fanatic adults. Here are a few of our favorite new releases, which are sure to please everyone on your list (except maybe Grandpa):

Spore

Maxis (EA Sports); PC/Mac

"Playing God" just took on a whole new meaning. From Maxis, the people who brought you The Sims, comes the genre-defying Spore, a game designed for people who are tired of creating boring ol’ humans. In its captivating metaverse, gamers create a unicellular organism which must evolve into a social, cognizant creature. Explore the game’s expansive, interstellar landscape while developing a whole new species that can live and thrive in a brave new world. If that isn’t enough, it features ambient soundscapes by avant-garde composer and producer Brian Eno.

Pro Evolution Soccer 2009

Konami; PS3, Xbox 360, PSP, PS2, Wii, PC

The Pro Evolution Soccer series, also known as Winning Eleven, has long been the "Beautiful Games" best-kept gaming secret. While enjoying rampant global popularity, stateside it has long been the Don Swayze to Electronic Arts’ FIFA series’ Patrick Swayze. Its underwhelming sales in the United States are due to EA’s publicity machine and its name recognition. But PES 2009‘s staggering fluidity, graphics, and realism leaves FIFA‘s in the dust. While it features the international and club matches we expect, this year’s version exclusively features UEFA Champion’s League mode, which allows you to navigate through soccer’s preeminent club competition that decides the best team in Europe. A majestic sport demands a majestic game, and Pro Evolution Soccer ’09 best captures the nuances and gravity of the world’s most beloved sport.

World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King

Blizzard Entertainment; PC/ Mac OS X

If you can control an insatiable appetite for the destruction of your social life during the 42 days between its release and St. Nick’s World Tour, No. 1 on your shopping list should be the latest installment of the soul-sucking, hypnotic genius of Blizzard Entertainment’s World of Warcraft. While its global fans’ limitless dedication risks the ire of parents, teachers, and psychologists (read: party poopers), who confuse persistence and attention to detail with addictive behaviors, Blizzard has simply achieved every video game maker’s wet dream. It’s crafted a game intriguing and enjoyable enough that both hardcore and weekend warriors want to get in on the action.

Shaun White Snowboarding

Ubisoft; PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, Nintendo DS, PSP, PS2, PC

Not since Tony Hawk has an athlete been able to seamlessly transition from extreme sports star to bona fide sports hero and A-list celebrity like Shaun "the Flying Tomato" White has. He’s appeared on countless magazines and talk shows, and is now pulling his own "Tony Hawk" by fronting a big-budget, mainstream video game franchise. While time will tell if Shaun White Snowboarding will be as successful as the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series, but early returns have been overwhelmingly positive. The game features four mountain settings — Alaska, the Alps, Japan, and Park City, Utah — with seemingly endless runs and backcountry trails to get lost on. The game flows well, and there are countless opportunities to do hair-raising tricks and twists. White wanted the game to capture the freedom that made him fall in love with snowboarding, and Ubisoft has captured that perfectly, constantly pushing the user to discover the road less traveled without the possibility of death by hypothermia.

Rock Band 2

Harmonix/ Pi Studios; PS3, Xbox 360 (PS2/Wii releasing December 2008)

I’ll be honest with you. There is nothing, but nothing, that can kill a night out quite like Rock Band. Speaking from experience, it usually strikes around 11 p.m., when you and your friends are, theoretically, having your last drinks and preparing to brave the San Francisco nightlife. You may have high hopes for the evening. Maybe you’ll find a cool new bar, meet some new people, or even engage in a hazy dalliance that hopefully leaves you disease- and child-free in the morning. Then, disaster strikes. Someone asks, "Hey, who wants to play a little Rock Band before we go out?" Three hours later, you are wasted, singing "Wanted Dead or Alive" at the top of your lungs, and surrounded by the same four mates you started the night with. Good-bye cool bar, new friends, and Ms. or Mr. Right (Now). The latest version promises even more lost evenings and new opportunities to show off that falsetto, with almost 100 songs from nearly every genre, including classic rock standards (Fleetwood Mac, the Who), a double helping of ’90s grunge (Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains), and ’80s metal jams (Ratt, Bon Jovi).

Mirror’s Edge

Electronic Arts; PS3, Xbox 360

First-person adventure games are the Auto-Tune (T-Pain Effect) of video games, with seemingly every major video game manufacturer using this über-realistic, up-close perspective. That said, Mirror’s Edge looks likely to revolutionize first-person shooters with its unparalleled gameplay. Players control Faith, the game’s tragic hero, on her quest to save her sister from a web of deceit woven by a corrupt communist government. The game’s gorgeous, illuminated metropolitan setting demonstrates its elite graphics, but the real attraction lies in Faith’s ambitious journey. While fighting is involved, the user must navigate the expansive urban labyrinth and find ways to infiltrate the totalitarian regime. Though it boasts more action (read: combat) than most RPG’s, Mirror’s Edge is not a game for the unreceptive, lazy gamer who simply wants to blow shit up. But if you like using your brain as well as your bullets, you will rejoice in its complex storyline, nuance, and overall gameplay.

NBA Live ’09

Electronic Arts; Xbox 360, Wii, PS3, PS2, PSP

Without the mighty Baron Davis, how are the hapless Warriors going to make the playoffs? Easy. Pick up a copy of EA’s new installment of the NBA Live juggernaut, make a few shrewd trades such as swapping Al Harrington and C.J. Watson for Carlos Boozer and Deron Williams (that’s fair, right?), start up your season, and voilà! The Warriors go 73-9, break the Bulls all-time record, cruise into the playoffs, and crush the overmatched Boston Celtics to bring the Bay Area their first title since 1975. Meanwhile, the villainous Utah Jazz are sent tumbling to an abysmal 5-77 mark (guess who’s still bitter about the ’07 playoffs?). Along the way, enjoy graphics clear enough to make out Kenyon Martin’s impressive array of neck tats, high-flying dunks more exciting than a moped ride with Monta Ellis, and gameplay so realistic that while playing as the Knicks, you’ll be too lazy to get back on defense. *

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Holiday Guide 2008: Creative giving

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Barack Obama may have won the election and things may be looking up, but now, in post–Election Day reality, certain things are still true: we’re stuck with George W. Bush until January. Proposition 8 passed in California. And the economy still sucks. Not to rain on anyone’s parade — or water down your big steaming cup of holiday cheer — but things aren’t all better yet. Which means that on an economic level, at least, the prospect of gift giving this season remains daunting — if not impossible — for most of us.

But there’s no need to fear. Obama may be our hope for changing the country, but we’re hoping this guide to affordable gifts (most $10 and under!) might give you a little hope for Christmas morning or the Hanukkah gift exchange — one that doesn’t involve guilt trips (your friends’ and families’) or credit card debt (yours).

THINKING OF YOU


All great gifts involve a certain ratio of money, time, and thoughtfulness. The more thoughtful the gift, the less money you need to spend on it. A great example? My cash-strapped friend once got his girlfriend a concert poster for Christmas. Expensive? Hardly. But the poster was from the first concert the two ever attended together. Similarly, spending a lot of time or effort on a gift can mean as much — if not more — than spending a lot of scrill. I doubt the secondhand corset my sister got me last year cost much up front, but I know that personalizing it with leopard-print fabric, feathers, and red lace took a bunch of work and thought. If you adjust your ratio according to your budget, you just might be able to ride the Obama high through New Year’s.

For those who are crafty, now’s the time to use the skills you’ve got. Photoshop wizards might consider making a personalized magazine or concert-style poster for loved ones. Those who sew can get bags, clothes, and even shoes from thrift stores and jazz them up with fabric, beads, and iron-on images. If you’re more paint- than needle-friendly, find a funky box, vase, or even lampshade and re-imagine it for your giftee’s tastes. In addition to secondhand stores like Thrift Town (2101 Mission, SF. 415-861-1132, www.thrifttown.com) and Out of the Closet (1600 University, Berk.; 100 Church, SF; 1295 Folsom, SF; 1498 Polk, SF. www.outofthecloset.org), consider stopping by SCRAP (801 Toland, SF. 415-647-1746, www.scrap-sf.org) for ideas and supplies.

STEP-BY-STEP


Determined to make something, but don’t know how? For Jews and Judeophiles, try making an incredible edible dreidel. All you need are Hershey’s chocolate kisses, marshmallows, thin pretzel sticks, and peanut butter.

Step 1: Spread a generous amount of peanut butter on the end of a marshmallow. This peanut butter will act as a glue for the next step.

Step 2: Unwrap a kiss and attach it to the peanut butter–glazed side of the marshmallow. This will create the bottom of the dreidel — the part that allows it to spin.

Step 3: On the side of the marshmallow that has thus far remained untouched, take a pretzel stick and press it into the center of the top of the marshmallow. This will create the top handle of the dreidel.

It may not spin very well, but it’ll sure be cute!

Another idea is a real cork board. Just collect about 30 corks from wine bottles and hot-glue them to any wooden frame. Voilà! Instant wino-chic. Or turn a cheap wooden frame into an earring holder. Simply adorn the frame with paint, beads, stickers, glitter or feathers; staple netting to the back of the frame (an old window screen works great!); and attach a picture-hanger to the back for easy wall application. All your giftee need do is attach earrings — both dangly and post styles — to the net, and they’re on display for all to see.

SHOP SMART


If you like a crafty feel but don’t have the creative touch yourself, there are plenty of local artisans ready to sell you their wares — for much lower prices and with much more flair than you might find at big corporate stores. Some of the best gifts are available over at Etsy (www.etsy.com), where you can search for nearby vendors. Our favorites include SquishySushi pendants made from recycled Scrabble pieces, TalkingHands jewelry in the shape of sign language letters, rings from contraptions that are made to look like they’ve been scarred in battle, and bottlecap necklaces by recaps.

If you’re shopping for a crafter, a great idea is a gift certificate to Noe Knit Flicks at NoeKnit (3957 24th St., SF.), which treats him or her to a night of movie-watching and needle-clicking. Other affordable local stops? Stylish marshmallows from Coco-luxe (1673 Haight, SF. 415-367-4012, www.coco-luxe.com), Little Mismatched socks from Sock Heaven (2801 Leavenworth, SF. 415-563-7327, www.sockheavensf.com), or funky zines from Needle and Pens (3253 16th St., SF. 415-255-1534, www.needles-pens.com).

We also love the papers, pens, and tchotchkes at Kinokuniya Bookstore (1581 Webster, SF. 415-567-7625, www.kinokuniya.com). You can find all kinds of vintage clothes, jewelry, and other delights at Alemany Flea Market (100 Alemany, SF. 415-647-2043), Sundays from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. And you can get all kinds of kitchenware goodies — at wholesale prices! — at Economy Restaurant Fixtures (1200 Seventh St., SF. 415-626-5611, www.bigtray.com).

Of course, there are tons more places to get cheap gifts in town. This is just a starting point. Neighborhood boutiques, crafts fairs, and art shows are great places to find one-of-a-kind objects that’ll not only delight those on your list, but also support our local economy. Used books and CDs are always good for media types. A collection of magazines — perhaps foreign ones from Fog City that might be hard to find otherwise — can be beautiful and cost-effective.

The most important thing to remember is that when trying to give a gift with minimal cash, you should think about the message you want to send. Showing someone they’re important to you, important enough to pay attention to, can mean just as much as getting them the Guitar Hero for MacBook game they know you’ve been wanting (hint hint, Mom). And who knows? Maybe next year, Obama will give us a better economy for Christmas. *

More Holiday Guide 2008.