Volume 43 Number 29



› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com

CHEAP EATS Not even duck soup can save me now. The children I put to sleep … they want stories.

“I had a black eye,” I began, “a swollen, purple nose, and tears streaming down my face.” I was lying on my back on the floor in the dark, next to their bunk beds.

“No no no,” the voice on top said. “Make one up this time.”

“When I was a little girl,” I began, as I always do when I’m making one up.

The voice of the bottom bunk interrupted. “In this one make the fox eat the chicken.”

“No no no,” said the voice on top. “Make one up where the chicken eats the fox.” He laughed his angelically evil laugh.

“Yeah!” she said, laughing hers. “Yeah, where — ”

“This story doesn’t have any chickens in it,” I said.

The silence was spectacular, my audience mine. I promised the usual: that if neither one said another single word, from that moment on, I would stay right there in the room with them when the story was over, until everyone was asleep. I said that in any case I would see them in the morning, and if anyone had any questions or comments we would discuss them over pancakes. “But if you want me to stay in the room right now,” I said, “you have to put your heads on your pillows, close your eyes, and just listen.”

This they did, the sweeties, but Top Bunk, being a little too eager to please, overshot the pillow and bounced his head off the headboard, necessitating an ice pack. When I came back from the kitchen, Bottom Bunk was cold and wanted me to snuggle with her.

The story I told, finally, from the floor, once everyone was properly iced and snuggled and re-sworn to silence, started with “When I was a little girl, between your age and yours,” and ended last night at the International Terminal of the San Francisco Airport.

In between there was plenty of time for two little children to fall asleep, wake up, go to school, grow into adults, and surrender to the cold, stark reality of make-believe, or — who knows — maybe even experience, just once, the upending shock of true, fiery, electric, and impossible love, the kind where whole worlds, not just bodies, collide.

Kids aren’t angels. They’re kids. They kept their heads on their pillows, their eyes presumably closed, and bravely just breathed. Then afterward I could hear their wheels spinning, the little coughs and sniffs, restless repositioning of arms and legs.

Their questions went without saying, but I knew what they would be, and had marked them all, along the way, for later, for morning, for pancakes …

What does pneumonia feel like? What’s an exchange student? Oxygen tent? How can duck soup taste so dark and good and still be medicine? And why couldn’t you finish it? Can you go to jail for stealing a roll of toilet paper from a ladies room? What does Fung Lum mean? Can people really fly higher than airplanes? If you liked the same stuff and never wanted to stop playing together, why did you stop? How come we wish on stars but not the moon?

Adults aren’t angels. The dishes needed done, the counters wiped, and the kitchen floor swept. It was garbage night. I hadn’t slept since Sunday, bathed since Monday, or changed my clothes since Tuesday. I’d cancelled meetings, missed deadlines, left work early, and concocted a really very unforgivable dinner that no one, not even parents, could quite fathom. That was Wednesday. On Thursday they ordered pizza.

And I lay on the kids’ room floor long after they’d both spun down into differently delicious dreams, forgetting every single thing except and until pancakes. Awake as always, as low, loved, and lonely as the kid-beaten, bent-tailed, poopy-butt cat curled up next to me, I lay with my black eye and almost-broken nose, tears brining my crows feet and basting my ears, thinking soft fingers on faces and wondering how in the world I would answer the one about the moon.

Fung Lum Restaurant

SFO International Terminal, SF

(650) 821-8282

Beer & wine


L.E. Leone’s new book is Big Bend (Sparkle Street Books), a collection of short fiction.

Tending the brood


› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com

CHEAP EATS The young couple next door to me in Rockridge is building a chicken coop, and I love them for this. They aren’t married and don’t have kids, which makes me just want to squeeze them and look at them, and invite them over for every single thing I eat, even oatmeal.

But that would be creepy, so instead I offer to bring them some straw. Do they need a feeder? A waterer? I still have my place in the woods. I have rat traps, chicken wire, and rusting 55-gallon drums that would look real nice against the falling-down barnlike outbuilding on the edge of their lot.

Together, I think, we can shake up this neighborhood. In just a couple months here I have made more friends (or at any rate met more people I want to be friends with) than I did in five years living in Occidental. In five years in Occidental, I made four friends. Two couples. One I actually met in San Francisco, and the other through a mutual friend in Oakland.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the woods, or I wouldn’t still keep my shack, which I go to when I can for writing and/or romance, and sort of sublet to my artsy bohemian city peeps for same.

The family I work for in East Oakland, Boink’s family, they have a chicken. Used to have three, but two died, and the one that’s left has gone bad. Her name is Cakey. She’s brooding, which means she’s set her mind, and ass, on hatching eggs that no amount of setting will ever induce to hatch. Save maybe a visit from Gabriel.

This is actually a dangerous condition for a roosterless hen to be in, because she might get over it, and she might not. I have girlfriends like this.

It falls on me, while Boink’s family is away in Florida for the week, to traumatize their chicken. I’m surprised Boink hasn’t already achieved this, by accident, but the best way to get a broody hen to snap out of it is to harass the hell out of her.

So I’m going to East Oakland in a moment, I’m stuffing Cakey into a cardboard box with holes poked into it, for air, and I’m driving her out to the country. To the woods. To my shack. Where I can annoy her for three days with sticks, Pere Ubu records, and buckets of cold water — and no one will hear all the squawking. I tried this once with one of my girlfriends and got arrested.

I love Pere Ubu, by the way. But chickens … and perhaps all poultry, for all I know — their capacity to withstand ’70s-era punk rock starts and ends with the Ramones. So you know.

But speaking of traumatized girlfriends, my friend Alice Shaw, after whom I named my great car, Alice Shaw, was mugged at gunpoint in the Mission District. As if I weren’t already mad enough at muggers for stabbing a friend of a friend in Seattle!

And do you know what Alice Shaw said to us, over deep-fried hamburgers after a soccer game? She said, Well, in a way it was nice to be noticed, for a change. I’m paraphrasing.

It is comments like this that make me love human beings even more than chickens. I mean, to be fair, we have no exact translation for the could-be clucks-of-wisdom that chickens call to each other from the jaws of foxes, but it’s a safe bet they are not so laced with humor and sadness as, for example, Alice Shaw’s odd comment.

I wanted to squeeze her and feed her oatmeal, but we were already eating fried hamburgers. Outside, and over rice, with fried eggs on top, and smothered in gravy. What could be better, after a soccer game? It’s a Hawaiian thing, called loco moco, and in fact it was invented 60 years ago, according to the menu, in honor of a barefoot Hawaiian football team called the Wreckers.

Whose players apparently liked to eat, because I, at my hungriest, couldn’t clean half my plate, or even imagine ever being hungry again, so I brought the rest to Earl Butter. We all agreed: Really really dong-dong-dicky-do great, in a school lunchy kind of way.

You want to know where, don’t you?


Mon., Wed.–Thu., 11 a.m.–2 p.m. and 5–10 p.m.

Fri.-Sat., 11 a.m.–11 p.m.; Sun., 11 a.m.–10 p.m.

5 Masonic, SF

(415) 921-6242

Full bar


L.E. Leone’s new book is Big Bend (Sparkle Street Books), a collection of short fiction.

Metal militia


Guitar Hero: Metallica

(Neversoft, Xbox 360, PS3; Budcat Creations, Wii, PS2)

GAMER Metallica were recently inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which they surely had in mind while writing their 1983 debut album Kill ‘Em All (Megaforce). Back in the spotlight and riding high on the release of 2008’s Death Magnetic (Warner Bros), which many have optimistically heralded as a return to form, the Bay Area’s most famous thrash band returned to store shelves this spring with Guitar Hero: Metallica. The latest in a burgeoning string of rock ‘n’ roll rhythm titles, the game is the second to focus on an individual artist, following on the heels of Guitar Hero: Aerosmith but predating the upcoming Beatles collaboration with Guitar Hero competitors Rock Band.

The game’s catalog spans 49 songs, incorporating 28 Metallica master recordings from all phases of their career, in addition to 21 hand-picked songs by band-approved rockers like King Diamond and Kyuss. Its now-familiar format enables four people to get together on drums, bass, guitar, and vocals, following candy-colored prompts onscreen to crank out high-voltage facsimiles of classics like "Hit the Lights" and "Master of Puppets."

The band appears in the game as motion-captured metal titans, and Neversoft’s animators render them right down to the mole on Kirk Hammett’s face. Songs are performed in the venues of Metallica lore, including their legendary 1991 concert at Moscow’s Tushino Airfield, where a free show drew a million-odd frenzied Muscovite headbangers. A profusion of pyro onscreen does make you worry a little bit for the health of pixelated James Hetfield.

The intricate, speedy compositions are not for the faint of heart. And while beginners are afforded introductory difficulties to hone their skills, Guitar Hero vets will be surprised by the challenges they face, including double kick pedal support for the drumset. Stumbling blocks aside, Metallica’s music is rife with satisfying riffs, and recreating Lars Ulrich’s heavy-handed drum fills or the bands rapid-fire thrash is laden with lots of ineffable plastic-instrument delight.

If you like metal, and Guitar Hero, the game is a must buy. If you’re into the former, but not the latter, you might be surprised at the way the deceptively simple transcription enables a deeper enjoyment of the music. Conversely, if your fingers are already toughened by those five magical buttons but you don’t care for Metallica, you might just change your tune once you’ve nailed the guitar solo in "Orion." If you don’t like either, why didn’t you just skip to the next page?

Fit to print?



Not long ago, before newspapers themselves were an endangered species, survival among journalists at the country’s leading papers was already a Darwinian proposition, especially for people of color. As playwright Tracey Scott Wilson limns the terrain in The Story, you need only add class, gender, and race to the equation to make things get very dicey—and very complicated—very fast.

Enter Yvonne Robinson (a sharp and charming Ryan Nicole Peters), an ambitious rookie reporter just hired to the local African American community section of a big Washington paper, a section hard-won by editor Pat (Holily Knox) and reporter Neil (Dwight Huntsman) as a corrective to the flagrantly racist coverage of the Metro section. But bright, highly educated Yvonne sees the position as stepping-stone to bigger things, beginning with the Metro section — plans she discusses with her secret lover, the white editor of the Metro department (Craig Marker), himself nervously aware of the minefield of racial politics around them. Frustrated by Pat’s dull assignments, Yvonne finally hits on a career-making feature when she discovers and interviews the culprit in an infamous ongoing case involving a murdered white schoolteacher in the black ghetto. Yvonne’s confessor: a bright, highly educated young girl gang member (Kathryn Tell). Yvonne’s refusal to betray her sources, however, and other details surfacing in the wake of her sensational story, soon throw her credibility in doubt, enraging colleagues and dividing the newsroom as the walls close in.

If the plot sounds far-fetched, it’s actually not far from real events. The Story draws on the Janet Cooke scandal of the early 1980s — Cooke, a young African American reporter at The Washington Post, won a Pulitzer Prize for a heart-rending 1980 feature on a heroin-addicted inner city child whom she later admitted was made up. Wilson makes recent history speak with dramatic and intellectual depth to a set of issues surrounding the everyday, real-world contexts of career, ambition, and racial perceptions and self-perceptions in American society.

Director Margo Hall’s smart and swift West Coast premiere, a coproduction between SF Playhouse and the Lorraine Hansberry Theatre, channels well the play’s fleet dialogue and triple-latte energy — perhaps as much an homage to the representation of newspapers in popular culture as an accurate setting of the action at a big-city newspaper. Framed by Lisa Clark’s abstract set, a repeating series of banner headlines across the back of the stage, Hall’s cast proves sharp and engaging. At the same time, Wilson’s penchant for inter-cutting the rapid-fire dialogue between different but simultaneous scenes can seem strained at times, inadvertently pointing up the artificial nature of the set-up at least as much as the resonant ambiguity in the words and situations themselves. Nonetheless, that ambiguity and complexity make The Story well worth following through its various twists and turns — not only in terms of plot, but in the unfolding reactions and re-reactions of the audience, as our sympathies and judgments zigzag.


Through April 25

Tues, 7 p.m.; Wed-Sat, 8 p.m. (also Sat, 3 p.m.), $30-$40

SF Playhouse, 533 Sutter, SF

(415) 677-9596

Wendy Williams





Last year choreographers Janice Garrett and Charles Moulton added a professional component to their 14-year personal relationship. They co-created StringWreck, a whimsical yet highly sophisticated collaboration between Janice Garrett and Dancers and the Del Sol String Quartet. Even though these two artists seem to come from different planets, the process clearly worked for them.

In the 1980s Moulton, a former Merce Cunningham dancer, became known for his beautifully pristine Precision Ball Passing dances that have been described as "a living Rubik’s cube." Over the years he has performed them with a few as three and as many as 120 dancers; he has also broadened his choreographic reach into the theater and the movies. As for Garrett, her musically astute and luscious, energy-driven choreography has been part of the Bay Area since 2001, when she returned from England where she spent a major part of her career.

During a recent phone conversation, the couple agreed that their creative differences has increased their respect for each other and has led, as Moulton said, "to many deep and fruitful conversations" so that their collaboration became part of an organic process. StringWreck was such an enriching experience that it whetted their appetite for more, particularly since they found willing collaborators.

The Illustrated Book of Invisible Stories was created for five of Garrett’s own dancers and a "movement choir" of 18. Integral to the Illustrated Book — which Moulton describes as drawing on visceral responses to the archetypal images we carry in our bodies — will be the music of vocalist Odessa Chen and composer-musician Jonathan Russell. (Rita Felciano)


Thurs/16-Sat/18, 8 p.m.; Sun/19, 7 p.m., $25-$32

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission, SF

(415) 978-ARTS, www.janicegarrettanddancers.org

Locals only



SONIC REDUCER April showers, worried world powers, CD towers — it’s tough to keep the kite-high ebullience, party vibes, and gotta-jet wings in flight during tough times. Bands come and go, move to Brooklyn (otherwise known as Break-Up-Land), and wither away in day jobs. So dole out a few propers to locals who brave the unofficial buy-nothing year of 2009 with new shiny plastic discs as they bid to become, erm, the next "secret show"-happy Green Day, revving up for Berkeley Rep, or Guitar Hero-hooked Metallica, currently gathering massive TV exposure via that goofy prime-time commercial.

Even the least likely to hunker down and deliver — namely the hard-smokin’ party hearties of Still Flyin’ — are casting aside the bakin’ dog lethargy and finally issuing a first album, Never Gonna Touch the Ground (Ernest Jenning). Love ’em or hate ’em, the brazenly silly 15-plus supergroup has finally found its footing amid the current wave of indie rock fun-seekers, a phenom (the Polyphonic Spree, Of Montreal, Tilly and the Wall, Broken Social Scene) characterized by collective-minded sprawl, theatricality, audience-friendliness, and dance jams (Still Flyin’ likes to call theirs HAMMJAMMS, but never mind that). Is "happy gang-bang Muzak" too raw a phrase to lay on it?

Headed by Athens, Ga., refugee Sean Rawls and boasting such members as ex-Aisler Set-ees Yoshi Nakamoto and Alicia Vanden Heuvel and former Architecture in Helsinki-ite Isobel Knowles, Still Flyin’ flies in the face of perceived indie elitism with a sound that fuses group-vocal pale-faced two-tone and lilting, ’80s-era Haircut 100 and Tom Tom Club lite tropi-pop. It’s present on the band’s title theme, on the anthemic ska workout "Forever Dudes," and on the bubbly vaca-rock of "Following the Itinerary." Yes, Still Flyin’ has an antidote to the economic woes that ail ya — the oughta-be-a-pop-hit "Good Thing It’s a Ghost Town Around Here" embraces the darkness that the Specials once dreaded. Ignore throwaways like the self-mocking "Act of Jamming," and you start to believe that the infectious Never Gonna just might achieve liftoff, especially if the group continues to get live crowds onto its party bus.

Never Gonna was partly recorded on weekends by Jason Quever at his Excelsior District home studio, Pan American, and it shows: the disc sounds just as toasty warm as the new You Can Have What You Want (Gnomonsong) by Quever’s Papercuts. Thanks to its Clientele-like mid-’60s folk pop, 2007’s Can’t Go Back promised to be Quever’s breakout recording, landing on Devendra Banhart and Andy Cabic’s Gnomonsong imprint with a hushed splash. You Can Have is a new mode of dreaming — one prone to bouts of levitation. Helped by Beach House’s Alex Scally, Lazarus’ Trevor Montgomery, Skygreen Leopards’ Glenn Donaldson, artist-filmmaker David Enos, and Helene Renaut, Quever conjures haunted carousels and the drift of spooked spaceships on tracks like "Once We Walked in the Sunlight," "A Peculiar Hallelujah," and "Jet Plane." Obsessively analog-centric and bewitched by dream pop, yé-yé, Floyd, and an earthbound breed of Krautrock, he makes it impossible to resist the surprisingly light-hearted charms of "A Dictator’s Lament" and You Can Have‘s overall stately high. Papercuts, we are floating in space …

The rock ‘n’ roll rave-ups and in-the-red rawness of the Sir Lord Raven’s new Please Throw Me Back in the Ocean (Happy Parts) tap into a whole ‘nother brand: screw-it-all naughty snotty. "Maybe I’ll jump in the river /Maybe I’ll cut out my liver … I’m tryin’ /I keep on tryin’," sneers frontman Eric Von Ravenson, once of the Time Flys, on — yeah, you got it — "I Keep on Tryin’." Recorded by indispensable organ and guitar pinch-hitter Greg Ashley, with producer Jay Bronzini on drums, Please Throw Me slices the cheesiness thickly, with a sense of cut-and-run fun. It’s throwback — hence a cover version of Fats Domino’s "I’m Ready" — but not necessarily throwaway. I like a band unafraid to pay tribute to its true, unlovely loves, but I prefer originals like "Take It or Leave It," "Spit on Your Grave," and "PC Action," the latter two of which intentionally subvert the garage rock, allowing glitter to seep in. How many times can these zombie riffs rouse themselves and return to life? A little spit, piss, and vinegar should do ya.


April 24, 9:30 p.m., $10

Cafe du Nord

2170 Market, SF



May 9, 10 p.m., $10

Cafe du Nord



Iron oar: check the rosy-cheeked, country-cabaret charm on Tippy Canoe and the Paddlemen’s Parasols and Pekingese (self-released, 2008). With Blue Rabbit and Chelsea Wolfe. Wed/15, 9 p.m., $6. Hemlock Tavern,1131 Polk, SF. www.hemlocktavern.com


Italians do it better — meaning, play their way to Coachella. With Bloody Beetroots and Congorock. Wed/15, 9 p.m., $18 advance. Mezzanine, 444 Jessie, SF. www.mezzaninesf.com


The vitality of the SF psych-rockers’ "cactus flower romanticism" (as Todd Lavoie once put it) is evident on their self-released, self-titled EP. With Golden Animals and Broads. Thurs/16, 9 p.m., $6. Thee Parkside, 1600 17th St., SF. www.theeparkside.com


Indie slow jams that include a dose of Morodor-esque synth seduction, anyone? With Sebastien Tellier. Fri/17, 9 p.m., $15. Independent, 628 Divisadero, SF. www.theindependentsf.com


Expect mega intensity when the Xiu Xiu mastermind ventures out for his first solo tour in five years, drawing from 80-plus tunes including rarely-heard older numbers and new songs from 2010’s Dear God, I Hate Myself. And get ready to pose for Stewart and artist David Horvitz as they photograph every person at every show for their blog-book project. With Dark Holler and Lady Genius. Fri/17, 9:30 p.m., $12. Cafe du Nord.

Her direction



On the collection of platters Liz Harris has put out over the last four years as Grouper, the Portland, Ore., resident sounds like she’s exorcising many ghosts. A new self-released, 7-inch split single with City Center echoes with the sort of psych-drone incantations you’d expect to hear while lurking about a dark forest after midnight. On "False Horizon," accompanied by the murky strum of a guitar, Harris’ vocal loops seep through the cracks of a lost canyon, ricocheting from wall to wall of bedrock.

Big pictures. Yet over the course of her last couple of releases — particularly 2008’s acclaimed Dragging A Dead Deer Up A Hill (Type) — Harris has stripped away sonic elements. Gone are the amp currents, haunting drones, and tape hiss of earlier explorations like her full-length debut Way Their Crept (Free Porcupine Society, 2005) and 2007’s Cover The Windows and the Walls (Root Strata). In their place are more lulling compositions that have drawn comparisons to late-1980s and early-1990s recordings on the 4AD label. Chatting over the phone, Harris reveals that she doesn’t like to think of herself as "a drone artist," but can see why people categorize her songwriting in that light. She admits she was worried about Dead Deer at the time of its release because she thought it was "too poppy" and thus likely to be "fully rejected."

"I think what I’ve done hasn’t changed so much as the medium or packaging," she explains. "The stuff before was [also] very song-based, it’s just thicker at times and [the song structures] are underneath a lot. Initially I was trying to figure out how to use pedals and playing with sounds, and that’s just what came out."

Raised in the Marin County community of Bolinas, Harris describes a childhood spent "growing up in my own world," running around the woods, contemputf8g the idea of ghosts, and drawing or reading. Although she did take piano lessons for a short time in junior high, the 28-year-old didn’t think of putting her songs down on tape until she was in the late stages of college. "My piano teacher wasn’t really teaching me piano — he was just helping me learn how to write songs," she says. "That was the first time I can remember trying to write my own music. Outside of that, I’ve always been like everyone else, just had songs in my head and had to sing them and work them out."

Aside from a short U.S. tour with Animal Collective in May, Harris is spending the bulk of the coming months re-releasing old material on her own yet-unnamed label and focusing on songwriting. Fans can expect to see a re-pressing of Cover the Windows and a silkscreen edition of Dead Deer. A 3-inch CD-R originally put out by the Collective Jyrk imprint in 2006 titled He Knows, He Knows, He Knows is getting the re-release treatment, too. "I want to do [the releases] so there isn’t some kind of [outside] pressure going on," she says. "I’m still figuring out the logistics, but that is the direction I’m heading."


With Sic Alps, Jefre Cantu-Ledesma, and Paul Clipson

Sat/25, 9:30 p.m., $7

Hemlock Tavern

1131 Polk, SF

(415) 923-0923


Fiends, eyepatches, and femmes fatales


The cause of showing neglected old films on 35 mm — that vanishing format — is one recently taken up by a number of local presenters, including the Film on Film Foundation and Midnites for Maniacs. We’re not alone in that pursuit, with one notable purveyor of vintage esoteria on celluloid being Austin, Texas’ Alamo Drafthouse. Its Cinemapocalypse programmers are currently on an "Invasion U.S.A." tour bringing disreputable shlock to big screens along the West Coast.

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts’ double bill on Saturday spans the Atlantic with gratuitous violence and toplessness. Fernando Di Leo’s 1976 Mister Scarface is a lively example of the crime thrillers Italy churned out back then for the international grindhouse circuit. Italian-looking German and Fassbinder regular Harry Baer and German-looking Egyptian Fulci/Franco regular Al Cliver play cocky play dudes out to shake down Jack Palance’s titular mob boss. As their flamboyant older sidekick Vittorio Caprioli opines, "That’s a-Scarface. He’s-a bad news, I tell ya. Just-a looking at him and my asshole a-twitches."

Its marginally less obscure co-feature is Paul Nicholas’ incredibly tawdry 1983 Chained Heat, considered by many the greatest of all W.I.P. (Women in Prison) flicks. The cast alone clinches it: Linda Blair, Sybil Danning, Tamara (1973’s Cleopatra Jones) Dobson, Stella Stevens, Edy Williams — you get the idea.

Midnites for Maniacs gets into the Texas action with a "Fighting Back in the ’80s" quartet at the Castro Theatre on Sunday. Escape from New York (1981) you’ve seen, and 1983’s Vigilante, a.k.a. Street Gang (Fred Williamson and Robert Forster go Death Wish on the usual cackling punk-scum "animals"), is no rarity. But curious minds really want to know about 1982’s kitchen-sink exploitation blowout (cannibal monks! T&A! Kung fu! Cameron Mitchell!) Raw Force. And you haven’t lived till you’ve seen Lady Terminator, a 1988 Indonesian whatsit about an ancient nymphomaniac water goddess who towels off to wreak havoc on the police force and civilian penises of modern Jakarta. It’s vagina dentaterrific. (Dennis Harvey)



Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

701 Mission, SF




Castro Theatre

429 Castro, SF


Parts is parts



Parts is parts

Dear Readers:

These are perennial body parts questions, and I feel I would be somewhat remiss if I didn’t re-answer them every few years. Here are some that have been hanging around waiting for me.



Dear Andrea:

I once tried for half an hour putting my index finger about two inches inside my girlfriend’s vagina, pressing with a "come hither motion" and simultaneously pressing the mound from outside. Unfortunately my partner did not experience any extra pleasure. Maybe I have to try again and again?


Dear Will:

Yes, yes, very funny. I’m not entirely sure what she was experiencing, but from your phrasing, which could have been cut and pasted from any one of a thousand how-to Web sites, I think you may have been proceeding a bit by rote there. Rather than printing out some stranger’s directions, how about following hers?

There are plenty of women who don’t have much of the spongy erectile tissue surrounding the urethra and the front of the vagina that we’ve come, for convenience’s sake, to call the G-spot. These women can lie there all day receiving simultaneous come-hither motions and external pressure and only manage to get kind of annoyed with you. If your girlfriend is one of them, I would not suggest "trying again and again" unless you want her to lean forward and swat the top of your head with the TV remote.

You can probably determine whether she is G-spot enabled by letting her guide you. Since the G-spot is, inconveniently, not actually a "hot button," but a collection of tissues sensitive to the touch under certain but not all circumstances, I cannot tell you exactly how to operate it. I’d start once she’s already well turned-on, though, and without impatience or, indeed, goal-orientation. Just kind of slip in there when things are already going well and keep your eyes on her face while you try a little deeper or a little closer in, a little harder and a little softer, a little … oh, you get the picture.



Dear Andrea:

My penis is curved a little. Is that normal, and if not what can I do to straighten it?



Dear Up:

Nothing! Do not do anything! Some curvatures are caused by a previous injury that heals but puts a hitch in the sheath of sausage-casing-like material that encases the spongy, sausage-like corpora cavernosa, the working parts of your penis. I don’t think that’s what happened to you, but if you want to find out how a devastating penis fracture heals, try unbending it.

Yours probably was just made that way. If we were all made in God’s image, some of God’s avatars would have a dick just like yours. Worry not, and if you have a chance check out some G-spot toys, if the curve looks familiar, boy are you in luck.



Dear Andrea:

I am just a big chicken! How come I am afraid of sticking my finger inside of me? It just terrifies me for some reason, and I refuse to stick anything inside of me ’cause I am just so afraid!!



Dear Chick:

I’m going to assume you are a teenager, in which case it’s pretty normal. Not only do we hear a ton about how it might hurt and bleed (and, indeed, it might), this is the inside of your body. That is, emotionally speaking, some heavy stuff. We spend our very early childhood learning the limits of our bodies — where we stop and other people begin, what goes in and what comes out. It is no small trick to relearn boundaries later and start letting new things in new places.

Take it easy, take it slow, and maybe try with something smaller, like a Q-Tip and see how that goes. Also, take a mirror and see where it’s going. Either you will learn that there is more room than you thought, or you won’t. If there’s a hymen there it will be more complicated, but it’s still meant to let things in. Just let them in on your own terms, at your own pace.



Dear Andrea:

My wife’s ex was a "big" guy, and she only mentioned this to me while trying to reassure me that she likes having sex with me more. I don’t believe her, though. Now all I can think about is how he was bigger than me and whether she misses that.

Average Joe

Dear Joe:

Just imagine telling her all the time how you can’t stop comparing yourself to her ex, who is out of the picture, and anyway she loves you and would rather have sex with you. How does that sound? See? Now cut it out. She was telling you the truth, as you perfectly well know.



Don’t forget to read Andrea at Carnal Nation.com.

Green living resource guide


Living green is not just about buying organic vegetables and riding a bike. It’s about making conscious choices about where you shop, what you buy, and how you interact with your environment. Here are some resources that can help you align your lifestyle with your values.

Down at Home: Greening your domestic life starts with revising your habits, but the next step is revising your actual surroundings. A consultation from the folks at Sustainable Spaces (1167 Mission, SF. 415-294-5380, www.sustainablespaces.com) will identify the areas where you can make the most substantial difference. You can pick up green building supplies, like bamboo flooring or zero-VOC paint, from the savvy staff at Berkeley’s Eco Home Improvement (2169 San Pablo, Berk. 510-644-3500, www.ecohomeimprovement.com). Also consider leasing a solar panel from Solar City (2245 Quesada, SF. 800-765-2489, www.solarcity.com), a company that will come out and install a solar panel on your house. (You don’t have to put any money down and the lease may be less then your monthly utility bill.)

In the Bag: Shopping is a fact of life. We all need to clothe and feed ourselves. Opt organic where you can. For green threads, from jeans and tees to sexy slipdresses, shop crisp Russian hill boutique EcoCitizen (1488 Vallejo, SF. 415-614-0100, www.ecocitizenonline.com). Fill the fridge with locally sourced and organic food from eco-thoughtful co-op Rainbow Grocery (1745 Folsom, SF. 415-863-0620, www.rainbowgrocery.org) or natural market Real Foods (2140 Polk, SF. 415-673-7420; 360 Fillmore, SF. 415-567-6900, www.realfoodco.com).

On the Street: We live in a bike-friendly city, and the folks at Valencia Cyclery (1077 Valencia, SF. 415-550-6600) are stoked to put you on spokes. If you still drive, drive green. Take your car to the friendly mechanics at clean, inviting Luscious Garage (429 Clementina, SF. 415-875-9030, www.lusciousgarage.com), where broken auto parts are recycled and all invoices are digitized to save paper. Fill the tank with locally produced biofuel at Dogpatch Biofuels (765 Pennsylvania, SF. 415-643-3435, www.dogpatchbiofuels.com).

Skin and Soul: Stock up on health and wellness info, vitamin supplements, and chemical-free skincare products at Clary Sage Organics (2241 Fillmore, SF. 415-673-7300, www.clarysageorganics.com). If facials are your beauty indulgence of choice, go for an organic option at Epi Center MedSpa (450 Sutter, Ste 800, SF. 415-362-4754, www.skinrejuv.com), which is housed in a lovely, LEED certified space. Find focus and balance—and at mat made of recycled materials—at The Yoga Loft (321 Divisadero, SF. 415-626-5638, www.theloftsf.com).

Out and About: You don’t have to eat at Café Gratitude to dine green. Check out Thimmakka (www.thimmakka.org), an organization which helps restaurants and bars — most of them small, independently owned, and ethnic — become more eco-friendly. Thimmakka maintains a list of places they’ve certified, including San Miguel’s (3263 Mission, SF. 415-641-5866) delicious Guatamalan cuisine and Elixir’s (3200 16th St., SF. 415-522-1633, www.elixirsf.com) organic cocktails. Then shake your booty on the dance floor at Temple (540 Howard, SF. www.templesf.com), where the owner is so committed to being environmentally friendly that he’s working on a way to harness dancers’ energy to power the place. Catch a flick at Red Vic Movie House (1727 Haight, SF. 415-668-3914, www.redvicmoviehouse.com) a co-op that offers organic snacks.

Giving back: Support small businesses who are trying to be greener by using a Viv sticker (sign up at www.doyouviv.com). Every time you show it to a participating local shop or eatery, you’ll push the business to shift to greener cleaning products or energy efficient lights.

Shades of green



When President Barack Obama signed the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act in mid-February, folks across the country were hopeful that the $787 billion stimulus package would help preserve and create decent jobs in their communities.

And in mid-March, when the Obama administration announced that Bay Area social justice activist Van Jones was joining the White House Council on Environmental Quality, advocates for green jobs took it as a sign that Obama shares Jones’ belief that we can fix our nation’s two biggest problems — excessive greenhouse gas production and not enough good jobs for the working class — by creating a green-collar economy.

Jones cofounded Oakland’s Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, which opposes police abuse and promotes alternatives to incarceration, and founded Oakland’s Green for All, which aims to create green-collar jobs in low-income communities. He defines a green-collar job as "a family-supporting, career-track job that directly contributes to preserving or enhancing environmental quality."

"Think of them as the 2.0 version of old-fashioned blue-collar jobs, upgraded to respect the Earth and meet the environmental challenges of today," Jones wrote in his New York Times bestseller The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems (HarperOne, 2008).

But is Jones’ definition codified into Obama’s Recovery Act? And in San Francisco, where Mayor Gavin Newsom speaks incessantly about green jobs and regularly praises Jones, will the jobs we create be for the people who need them most? And how will that play out in a city where blacks, Latinos and Asians experience higher unemployment, poverty, and incarceration rates than whites, and building construction has stalled, pitting skilled union workers against training program graduates?

Last month, an alliance of community and worker organizations from San Francisco’s working class neighborhoods sent a letter to Newsom outlining concerns about the Recovery Act’s equity, job quality, and transparency requirements.

Antonio Diaz of PODER (People Organizing to Demand Environmental and Economic Rights), Alex Tom of the Chinese Progressive Association, Steve Williams of POWER (People Organized to Win Employment Rights), and Terry Valen of the Filipino Community Center asked Newsom to ensure that ARRA funds would be used to create "green jobs and opportunities primarily for low-income people and people of color" and "high quality jobs with family-supporting wages and benefits, safe and healthy working conditions, and career ladders."

"We ask for your commitment to greater transparency and community input in shaping and monitoring the infusion of ARRA funds for San Francisco’s developing green collar economy," they wrote.

Two weeks later Newsom announced the launching of www.recoverysf.org, a Web site that seeks to track stimpack funds coming to San Francisco. Although the Web site shows that $150 million of the first quarter-billion of formula funding is headed toward infrastructure projects, it does not include estimates of the numbers of green jobs created.

Wade Crowfoot of the Mayor’s Office told the Guardian that the city is focused on ensuring that green jobs are created with these funds and that the City Attorney’s Office is figuring out what is "allowable" under Recovery Act’s guidelines.

On April 3, the U.S. Office of Management and Budget issued a 172-page memo outlining the Recovery Act’s policy goals. The goals included ensuring compliance with equal opportunity laws and principles, promoting local hiring, providing maximum practicable opportunities for small business and equal opportunities for disadvantaged business, encouraging sound labor practices, and engaging with community-based organizations.

"But will all cities include achievable, measurable requirements?" Crowfoot said. "I don’t think so, without federal guidelines."

This lack of specifics, Crowfoot says, has the City Attorney figuring out if San Francisco can include "first source" hiring requirements, in which hiring halls agree to interview graduates from local training programs first. If so, Crowfoot says, the city will seek to leverage existing funding for energy efficiency programs and conduct hire-locally campaigns in low-income communities.

But as Crowfoot notes, although we know that $1.5 million in ARRA funding is coming to San Francisco for weatherizing homes — helping to decrease the energy costs of low-income residents, reduce the city’s energy demands, and increase the number of people hired from the local community to do energy audits and retrofits — we still don’t know how many jobs will be created per project, which is the basic goal of economic stimulation.

"If we spend the dollars, say, on boiler replacement, that’s more equipment and less labor," Crowfoot said. "But the more you hire locally, the more those folks get experience, the more they’ll be well positioned to get jobs in the non-subsidized sector once the stimulus funds are gone."

Acknowledging the tension between laid-off union workers and graduates of apprentice training programs, Crowfoot said, "We are trying to figure out a balance, whereby the community is not shut out, but the unions’ needs are addressed. We want to be careful about how many jobs we say are going to be created. We don’t want to build hope in populations who already have a lot of mistrust in the government."

Michael Theriault, secretary and treasurer of the San Francisco Building and Construction Trades Council, told us that 25 percent of the region’s 16,000 building trades workers are out of work, compared to nearly full employment last year.

In the past, the Northern California Carpenters Regional Council provided CityBuild with instructors and took the lion’s share of the program graduates, Theriault explains. But under present conditions, the Council isn’t keen on another CityBuild cycle.

"I think they should work to sponsor another cycle, but the ball is also in the city’s court," Theriault said, noting that the ARRA-funded weatherization program could soon be offering prevailing union wages ($20 an hour for roofers, $40 to $50 for plumbers and electricians) that could help ease the tension. And then there’s the inconvenient truth that some union members view non-unionized solar panel installers as "scabs," creating another barrier to using green jobs to lift the underemployed.

Mayor Newsom has until June to secure and implement stimpack funding as part of upcoming local budget proposals, a timetable that has Green for All issuing a call for action to ensure that Recovery Act implementation creates green-collar jobs, ensures transparency and accountability, and supports pathways out of poverty.

"This may be the most important opportunity you’ll ever have to bring green-collar jobs to your community," Green For All wrote in a public statement. "But the planning process will be over in the blink of an eye, and your community could miss out. That’s why we’re calling on you to take action now."

Green for All field organizer Julian Mocine-McQueen is scheduled to sit down with Crowfoot this week in an effort to get Newsom to sign his group’s pledge. He said there’s been an expansion of the city’s lighting and refrigeration cooling retrofitting program, starting with small business owners who speak English as a second language. "It’s good," McQueen said. "But it’s not enough."

He believes green job success will depend, in part, on including hiring parameters. "A job in the city’s southeast sector may not pay $70,000 a year, but it would be a huge step toward creating a family-sustaining job," McQueen said, noting that the Obama administration has "to a certain extent" adopted Jones’ definition of green-collar jobs. "I’m not sure that they have codified it," McQueen said. "They have recommendations."

Asked to define green jobs during a recent media roundtable on projected budget deficits, Newsom talked about weatherization and sustainability and plans to expand the city’s training academies before handing the floor to the Office of Economic and Workforce Development’s Kyri McClellan, whom he described as his "green czarina."

McClellan, who describes herself as "the lead cat-herder" of Recovery Act funds, told reporters that San Francisco is expected to receive a quarter of a billion dollars in formula funds in the coming fiscal year, 95 percent of which have been allocated to "shovel-ready" projects that were already queued up under the city’s 10-year capital plan.

During a subsequent board committee hearing, McClellan shared job estimates — 30 jobs from the $11 million Department of Public Works street paving allocation and 250 jobs from the $18 million Housing Authority retrofitting allocation — that raised eyebrows.

McClellan said that OEWD is "moving as quickly as possible to take the dollars we’ve been allocated, get approval from the Board of Supervisors, and get programs up and running."

Observing that the city also has parallel funding for training programs such as CityBuild and a Green Academy, McClellan added that "no one is working harder than Rhonda Simmons." Reached by phone, OEWD’s Simmons said she has been working with San Francisco State University professor Raquel Pinderhughes to identify five job sectors that have "the capacity to grow the greatest number of green jobs."

These include solar installation, energy efficiency, landscaping/public greening, recycling, and green building. "In an economy like this, you have to be competitive," Simmons said. "And almost all the programs that come out of my shop are geared toward low-income to moderate-income folks."

Observing that OEWD is using a $238,000 federal earmark to seed a Green Academy and that will expand the GoSolarSF workforce incentive, compete for a $500,000 EPA brownfield cleanup training grant, and coordinate with the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission to develop "workforce incentive language" for biodiesel reuse program and energy efficiency projects, Simmons notes that it was the unions that helped create CityBuild in the first place, and the city is working to ease current concerns.

"It is our intent as OEWD designs the academy that any training programs must demonstrate that they train individuals for occupations with opportunity for upward mobility," Simmons said, after emerging from a meeting cochaired by Crowfoot and Pinderhughes to help community-based organizations understand green jobs and figure out how to link with the Green Jobs Corps that Pinderhughes set up in Oakland.

Eric Smith runs the Bayview-based Green Depot, a nonprofit that promotes biodiesel use in neighborhoods facing environmental justice issues and ran a $9,000-per intern pilot program with Global Exchange. He worries that administrative costs will chew up much of the stimulus money, citing SFPUC figures that the cost ratio for trainers to interns is about 3:1.

"There is a lot of concern in the Bayview that the money will end up going to consultants and administrators when we have people who are hungry and desperate to work," Smith said.

After two green jobs hearings, Sup. Eric Mar says that he and Sups. Sophie Maxwell and David Chiu have concluded "that unless the board takes action and gives clear guidelines and expectations, green collar job creation will be miniscule."
Noting that Oakland’s Green Job Corps and Richmond’s solar program seem years ahead of San Francisco’s efforts, Mar said his next step will be to talk with labor, environmental groups, businesses, and nonprofits to get a sense of an appropriate structure to prioritize the low-income communities as the main beneficiaries of green-collar job creation. "It’s pretty clear that the [Newsom] administration’s commitment to the numbers of jobs created is pretty small," Mar said. "The community is going to have to push for more."

Energy deficiency


More in this issue:

>>Fed money for green jobs?

>>Green living resource guide


As the window of opportunity for averting the worst-case global warming scenarios narrows, wise use of energy seems increasingly urgent. So millions of dollars in state and federal funding and significant contributions from utility customers are devoted each year to improving energy efficiency in California.

It’s a crucial program designed to reduce consumption and planet-damaging emissions and eliminate the need for new fossil-fuel burning power plants. Yet the state’s energy-efficiency programs are often run by investor-owned utility companies, such as Pacific Gas & Electric, that have been missing efficiency targets yet demanding ever more public money anyway.

Critics say the programs would yield more energy savings on the dollar if local governments or nonprofits were in charge. The utilities have not only fought to maintain control of these programs, they’re now seeking even more taxpayer money by trying to claim federal economic stimulus funds.

Meanwhile, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission is engaged in a long, slow process of rolling out an ambitious community choice aggregation (CCA) program, Clean Power SF, which would utilize 50 percent renewable energy and promote green technologies in the city.

While state law guarantees that energy-efficiency funding generated by San Franciscans could be funneled into Clean Power SF, it isn’t likely to happen without a fight from the state’s most powerful utility.


Although PG&E and other utilities are entrusted with millions in ratepayers’ money to promote energy efficiency, independent analysis demonstrates that they’ve had limited success. But last December, they garnered rich rewards anyway, at ratepayers’ expense.

In 2007, the California Public Utilities Commission adopted a system to encourage utilities to strive for high energy efficiency standards. Utilities could receive hearty payouts for achieving a certain threshold of energy savings, the commission decided. Conversely, if the companies failed miserably, they’d be slapped with penalty fees. Rather than take the utilities’ word for it, the CPUC directed its Energy Division to inspect the companies’ energy efficiency program performance and report on it each year.

About a third of the funding for these programs is amassed with a mandatory fee on every ratepayer’s monthly energy bill, called the Public Goods Charge. This is combined with a second pot of ratepayer money and collected by utilities to fund initiatives such as rebates, light-bulb discounts, energy retrofits, and consumer-education drives. The program budget for all the utilities from 2006 through 2008 was around $2 billion. For the 2009 to 2011 program, the utilities are collectively seeking closer to $4 billion.

Last December, based on the utilities’ own claims that they’d hit the targets for the 2006 — 2007 program, the CPUC handed over nearly $82 million in incentive payments — with some $41 million going to PG&E. The commission accepted the utilities’ claims because the Energy Division’s verification report was behind schedule, and the utilities argued that this delay would postpone their payments and thus undermine the whole incentive.

At the same time, the commission noted, "We have profound concerns that accepting the [utilities’] proposal … would subject ratepayers to significant risk of overpayment." In an attempt to strike a balance, the CPUC voted to award $82 million rather than the $152.7 million that the utilities claimed they were owed.

But the independent report, which was finally released two months later, concluded that PG&E and two other utilities shouldn’t have been entitled to any incentive payments at all. Based on this analysis, they’d missed the targets.

The move drew criticism from groups like The Utilities Reform Network (TURN), Women’s Energy Matters, and the California Public Utilities Commission’s Division of Ratepayer Advocates, which charged that investor-owned utilities are more concerned about the payouts they receive for running these programs than maximizing energy savings.

"They didn’t seem troubled by the fact that they hadn’t met the goals. They were only troubled by the fact that they weren’t going to get the financial reward," said Mindy Spatt, communications director for the Utility Reform Network (TURN). "I suppose there’s a message in there about just how seriously they take energy efficiency."

Loretta Lynch, a former CPUC commissioner, told the Guardian that she’d been watching the proceedings closely. "They had already promised Wall Street they were going to get this money, and so they had to meet Wall Street’s expectations regardless of whether or not they met the technical requirements of the program," Lynch said.

The CPUC’s Division of Ratepayer Advocates opposed the decision to award the incentive money. "[The utilities] are being rewarded for something they say they’ve done, but that independent analysis shows they just didn’t do," DRA Regulatory Analyst Thomas Roberts told the Guardian. "It’s like rewarding a student for getting a D."

Part of the problem is that PG&E’s program relied heavily on giving away compact-fluorescent light bulbs, and then the utility inflated estimates for how much energy savings they would provide and how long they would last. In other words, CFLs are a good first step to energy conservation, but not enough to make the greatest strides in reducing demand.

Roberts also said PG&E often delivered the bulbs to what he called "free riders," or people who would’ve made the switch on their own. TURN once discovered a box of light bulbs posted on eBay by some crafty entrepreneurs who had purchased them at a discount, courtesy of PG&E. At that point, the bulbs could have wound up anywhere in the country, Spatt points out, instead of reducing electricity demand in California.

"There is no clear connection that we are not building new power plants due to energy efficiency programs," said Cheryl Cox, senior policy analyst and project manager for energy efficiency at the CPUC’s Division of Ratepayer Advocates. "And we do not appear to be on track to achieve long-term, persistent energy savings. Given the dependence of energy efficiency portfolios on short-term savings like lighting, it appears that the utilities would have to spend additional dollars to play catch-up — yet they persist on proposing the same old, non-progressive, CFL programs."


For some, the incentive payouts provided new fuel for a longstanding argument that utilities shouldn’t be in charge of administering state-mandated energy efficiency programs in the first place. Barbara George, executive director of Women’s Energy Matters, points out that states with financially disinterested third parties managing energy efficiency measures tend to be more careful with the money they’re granted, resulting in more energy savings per dollar.

She points to a report completed by analyst Richard Estevez, which ranked 37 statewide energy efficiency programs by cost-effectiveness. "Non-utility implemented programs make up 18 out of the top 20 rankings; utility-implemented programs make up 15 out of the 17 poorest rankings," that report concludes.

Under the current system, "PG&E makes a profit on every dollar," says Lynch. "In addition, all of PG&E’s costs are covered. Then, of course, all the subcontractors’ costs are covered too, so it gets down to only 50 or 60 cents of every dollar that is actually going into programs. The rest of the money is going into PG&E’s profit, PG&E’s overhead, and the subcontractors’ overhead. Not surprisingly, if you’re a nonprofit or a government, you’re doing that service directly at no profit and lower administrative costs."

Paul Fenn, a consultant to Clean Power SF, sounds a similar note. In his view, PG&E "doesn’t want to reduce energy consumption. Why? Because every year, they go to their shareholders and they predict next year’s load growth. That’s their business. They burn gas, and they sell power. They’re a gas and electric company. The idea that a gas and electric company could be adequately incented to reduce their sales is naïve."

Fenn is the founder of Local Power, Inc. and the author of Assembly Bill 117 — a state bill passed in 2002 under the sponsorship of then-Assembly Member Carole Migden that allows municipalities to set up community choice aggregation programs. Local Power has been a key player in San Francisco’s own embryonic CCA.

AB 117 also gave cities the option to gain control of Public Goods Charge funds generated by their own ratepayers. In SF, that would mean funneling roughly $18 million annually into Clean Power SF’s energy efficiency budget.

Sup. Ross Mirkarimi, who chairs a committee overseeing the CCA implementation, told the Guardian he supports the idea. But he warned that the city probably wouldn’t be able to wrest the funding away from PG&E without a fight. "It’s completely appropriate for city government to be in charge of those funds," he says. "PG&E shouldn’t be in the driver’s seat with all that money anyway."

San Francisco is already hailed as a green city, but Clean Power SF, which has renewable energy as its centerpiece, would set a new standard for what cities can do to address climate change. The plan calls for 50 percent renewable energy, compared with PG&E’s energy mix of 11 to 12 percent renewable power. The SFPUC is slated to present CCA program plans to the state next year.

SFPUC’s Michael Campbell, the CCA program director, rejects the idea of going after Public Goods Charge funds just yet. "It’s premature to do that now," Campbell says. "About one-third of the energy efficiency dollars that PG&E collects … come from Public Goods Charge, and the other two-thirds are charges associated with procurement portions of customers’ bills. If a CCA were formed … to have an equal amount of dollars, we would need to have additional charges to CCA customers that would be associated with the energy portion of their bill."

Yet Fenn said applying to administer those funds is long overdue. Not knowing whether that $18 million is in place every year could derail the CCA bidding process, Fenn argues, since it would be difficult for prospective power suppliers to draft a plan if they lack clarity on the program budget.

The other problem, Fenn said, is that without the energy-efficiency funds, it would be harder for the city’s CCA to get its rates down low enough to compete with PG&E. Given the CCA is required to beat PG&E rates, it could make or break the success of the project.

"Energy efficiency is the cheapest resource," Fenn said. "It helps the economic feasibility of the portfolio by creating surplus revenue. If you’re just doing green supply, and not green load reduction, it’s going to be really hard not to pay more than PG&E."


While Clean Power SF lags, energy efficiency programs are percoutf8g throughout the city — usually touted by Mayor Gavin Newsom and funded through public-private partnerships with PG&E.

In a recent post on TriplePundit.com, Newsom announced the creation of an Existing Buildings Efficiency Task Force — composed of landlords, developers, PG&E, and other downtown interests — tasked with greening buildings and creating green jobs.

"The Task Force builds upon a great deal of work we’re doing already — taking full advantage of the $7 [million] to $11 million provided in energy efficiency block grants by the federal stimulus, leveraging our ongoing … partnership with PG&E, and working with private partners to create a San Francisco Clean Energy Fund," Newsom wrote.

A recent initiative to install energy efficient streetlights in the Tenderloin is the result of another PG&E partnership. While there’s no doubt that these programs will have positive results, they also serve to further entrench PG&E into citywide green initiatives, which render it more difficult for Clean Power SF to gain footing further down the road.

With federal stimulus money flowing into state coffers, the utilities are back at the table, recommending to the CPUC that some of the federal funding go into their existing energy-efficiency programs. "We believe that the Recovery Act or ARRA funds should work in conjunction with [investor-owned utility] programs to minimize potential customer confusion and leverage the success we have had with the programs," Marc Gaines, a representative for the state’s four investor-owned utilities, said during a recent All-Party CPUC meeting to discuss the stimulus funds. "Rather than competing with the programs, we would like to use ARRA funding to supplement existing energy efficiency [and other] programs."

Not so fast, countered George, who stood up to speak during the meeting. "We have to worry about if these funds are commingled with current programs, are the utilities going to rake off profits?" she wondered. "These funds need to be used for authorized purposes, and not for fraud, waste, error, and abuse. The energy efficiency programs have been used to fight public power and community choice efforts. The competition is brutal when it comes to the utilities."

Carolina blues



Ramin Bahrani is a young filmmaker who’s beloved by critics and whatever arthouse-type audiences have been lucky enough to catch his work, thus far 2005’s Man Push Cart and 2007’s Chop Shop. Born in America to Iranian parents, Bahrani was educated at Columbia University and set both of those films — minimalist marvels that racked up kudos galore at global fests — in New York City. His latest, Goodbye Solo, shifts from gritty NY to depressed Winston-Salem, N.C., where Bahrani was raised. Winston-Salem is home to Wake Forest University, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, and RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company; it’s also where Bahrani met the real-life characters who inspired Solo‘s tale of an elderly Southerner, William (Red West) who reluctantly befriends the Senegalese cab driver, Solo (Souléymane Sy Savané), who regularly shuttles him around town.

In the film’s first scene — which really begins mid-scene, as if the camera just happened to be turned on at an unspecified moment — Solo has laughingly just agreed to take William to the mountain hamlet of Blowing Rock in two weeks’ time. As becomes increasingly clear, it’s a two-hour trip from which William does not plan to return. Solo, who dreams of being a flight attendant despite the disapproval of his hugely pregnant wife (mother to his feisty nine-year-old stepdaughter), reaches out to the lonely William for reasons he doesn’t quite understand. For his part, William would prefer to be left alone as he quietly ties up his affairs, though he does begrudgingly allow Solo to bunk down in his motel room when Solo’s career aspirations cause a marital rift.

West, a high school pal of Elvis Presley and a member of Presley’s Memphis Mafia (until Elvis: What Happened?, a 1977 tell-all co-written with other posse members), was a stunt player during the King’s Hollywood years. (As a big-screen presence, West is perhaps most recognizable as one of Patrick Swayze’s small-town allies in 1989’s immortal Road House.) His William is gruffly taciturn, with a mournful aura that suggests a past full of transgressions and a present choked with regrets.

By contrast, Solo is an ebullient force, working hard and hustling harder to get ahead. He takes to William immediately, dubbing the older man "Big Dog" and convincing him to ride around with him and even kick back with a beer at the local pool joint. It’s only when he interferes with William’s Blowing Rock plans that he understand the difficult choice he’ll have to make, should he want to become the friend William truly needs.

Hollywood films about aging are generally sappy, preachy, and stuffed with cringe-inducing scenes of distinguished actors skydiving (see: 2007’s The Bucket List). Not only does Goodbye Solo approach the subject with dignity, it balances out the grimmer William plot with Solo’s optimistic embrace of everything in his life. Realism, with naturalistic acting and locations, is Bahrani’s technical gift. Along with co-scriptwriter Baharez Azimi, he’s also able to hew giant, honest emotions from tiny moments and seemingly ordinary situations.

GOODBYE SOLO opens Fri/17 in Bay Area theaters.




SUPER EGO “Many people confuse us with Spain,” MC Kalaf of worldwide dance sensations Buraka Som Sistema says — a back-end hint of fado-like melancholy mixing into his unfailingly chipper voice — when we talk over the phone about how the fab foursome has finally put their homeland, Portugal, on the club-must map. Buraka, two of whose members hail originally from Angola and two from that sunny strip along the Atlantic, represents a double bubbling up of the repressed: the crew has exploded onto the nightlife radar by melding the underground sounds of Luanda’s bumping kuduro dance movement with Lisbon’s buzzy, overlooked electronic music scene.

Last year Buraka’s sophomore release Black Diamond (Enchufada/Sony BMG) quickly shot up the hit lists of beats connoisseurs by jumping the current trend of streaming developing-world rhythms through the latest sonic technology. “We took the sound of the Lisbon suburbs where many Angolan immigrants live — our suburbs are not like your ‘Desperate Housewife’ suburbs — and used our years of dance music on it, and the crowds loved it,” says Kalaf.

Kuduro is often translated as “stiff bottom,” heh, or “hard ass,” referencing the form of lowdown, hips-wiggling motion that sometimes accompanies the deliciously uptempo sound, a hybrid of sensuous zouk, raucous soca, and free-flow hip-hop that shares an affinity for analog atmospherics with early dub. (Or rather, that dance is mostly reserved for women — men tend to go pop and lock crazy, as you can see in the video below.) Along with Kalaf, Buraka members Li’l John, DJ Riot, and Conductor apply their extensive hip-hop, house, and breakbeat production experience to blow the lid off kuduro’s possibilities. 

The superkinetic results reference everything from Ed Banger hardcore and hyperdub freakouts to Orb-esque kaleidoscopics and the late ’80s Sheffield bleep scene. Scoring MIA to guest on “Sound of Kuduro” helped kick that track up the club charts, and basing the excellent “Kalemba (Wegue-Wegue)” on a misheard lyric from the classic Afro Acid house remix of More Kante’s “Yeke Yeke” gave fanboys a theoretical boner. Live, Buraka’s a tornado, with toasting MCs, fierce singers, and, as Kalaf points out, “anything that makes you scream.” Last time the crew was here, a topless female fan stormed the stage. Kalaf half-joked that an upcoming tour of Japan is brief because “if they throw us out of the country, at least we won’t lose a lot of money.”

Some things get lost in the laptop filtration, however. Kuduro isn’t just a groove; like rap, it’s built on extended narratives of hood life. Buraka jettisons those for catchy calls to the dance floor and global unity “I’m from Angola,” Kalaf admitted, “and even I can’t follow most of what they say.” And, for all the talk on its records of the primacy of Africa, the group has yet to tour the continent. “We’re going in 2010,” Kalaf said, “and to be honest, I’m a little afraid. It may be mental.” But Buraka has helped bring the Angolan guests on its tracks an international audience, while waking up the Western world to yet another vital cultural expression on its edges. Let’s get suburban, y’all.


Tue/21, 8 p.m., $14. Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell, SF. www.rickshawstop.com For more on Buraka’s kuduro connections, click here.

Grand Pu Bah


You might think, with today’s endless parade of television cooking shows, that the dining public’s appetite for a theatrical restaurant experience might be whetted. But mostly this does not seem to be the case. Oh, we have plenty of display kitchens, and soufflés finished tableside, and occasionally you might happen upon on a cheese cart, or a foie gras or champagne cart. Yet the typical restaurant experience is notably slim on any actual culinary drama, unless something goes dreadfully wrong: a steak burned, a chicken paillard undercooked, a tray of dirty dishes dropped.

Then there might be a scene, with some lively dialogue. But this doesn’t happen often. The usual course of events is that food is ordered and, later, brought, ready to eat. If your restaurant has a display kitchen, you might have caught a glimpse of line cooks doing something or other, but the likelihood is that you wouldn’t be able to figure out what they were up to, and almost certainly you would have no way of knowing whose plate they were working on.

Imagine my delight, then, when the chicken volcano ($19) at Grand Pu Bah, an 18-month-old Thai restaurant near the Concourse Exhibition Center at Eighth and Brannan streets, turned out to be almost as exciting as a high school science experiment. The roasted bird arrived, still mounted on its upright roaster. The server, after muttering a few cautionary words (or perhaps a prayer), emptied a small tumbler of some kind of liquor over the chicken (actually a game hen) — I thought I heard “151” and “tequila” — lit a match, and set my dinner gloriously ablaze. He did not say Opa!, as the Greeks do when lighting saganaki cheese on fire, but the omission did not matter, because the hen burned a beautiful, steady, Bunsen-burner blue for seconds that might have stretched into a minute.

When the flame finally died out, the bird had a crisp-crinkly golden skin as impressive as that of any roast chicken in town. Even if the dish had been bad, I would have said nothing, having enjoyed the show (and discreetly warmed my hands). But the meat was tender and moist, the accompanying roasted cauliflower florets and potato quarters tasty (despite not being torched), and the ramekins of mysterious dipping sauces (one red, the other neatly divided between red and green by a bisecting diagonal, like a flag) welcome. Even good chicken benefits from a bit of extra help. My only complaint: the hen was awkward to eat. The server, having kindled his blue blaze and departed, did not return to lift the finished item from its perch. Since I couldn’t see a graceful way to do it, I just hacked away as discreetly as possible while thinking there must be a more elegant way.

Elegance, interestingly, otherwise pervades Grand Pu Bah. Despite the silly name, the restaurant is surely among the most stylish Thai places in the city and is, really, stylish by any standard. The space, which spreads away from the entrance like a baseball diamond folding out from home plate, includes a handsomely backlit bar, walls textured with what appear to be wood cuttings and offset bricks, and paper lamps that hang from the ceiling like giant porcini stems being air-cured for some kind of mushroom prosciutto. The overall flavor of the design suggests a contemporary California restaurant, and indeed executive chef Teerapong Khantawisut’s menu emphasizes “local and seasonal ingredients.” At some point will this be required by law?

The menu offers “Thai beach cuisine” in the “family style” — sharing is encouraged — and includes a raw bar (with oysters and sashimi), a conventional array of appetizers, soups, salads, and main courses, and a large collection of shareable plates grouped under the rubric “street food.” Why the chicken volcano should have been slotted in here isn’t obvious; it’s hardly street food and not all that shareable.

Some of the other offerings here spread themselves around the table much more easily: sizzling spicy beef pad cha ($18), for instance, strips of flank steak tossed with slivers of bell pepper and fresh chile and cubes of Thai eggplant and electrified by kaffir lime leaf and wild ginger. For a slightly sweeter tack, there’s roasted duck in a broad-shouldered but well-behaved coconut-red curry sauce fructified by pineapple chunks, lychee nuts, grapes, and tomato quarters. (Tomato is a fruit, don’t forget!)

And, of course, appetizers and salads are shareable, even if they’re not marked that way. Sizzling spicy prawns ($10) were indeed sizzling — they arrived, like fajitas, on a hot cast-iron platter — and were souped up with chiles, cilantro, lemongrass, and lime. I liked the chunked taro root added as ballast to fresh rolls ($8), otherwise filled with a traditional jumble of tofu, basil, cilantro, and cucumber; the root meat was both creamy and weighty. A similarly moderating influence would have benefited the seafood salad ($14), which was a kind of southeast Asian caesar salad — romaine hearts tossed with prawns, scallops, and calamari — but finished with a spicy lime vinaigrette that was the spiciest vinaigrette I’ve ever had, including my own, and George likes spicy chicken. It isn’t every day you come across a salad that’s almost too hot to eat. This one had me panting like a dog on a blazing August afternoon.

We laughed, we shared, we panted, we thought the dessert menu was a little perfunctory and was the one dimension in which Grand Pu Bah is more Thai than California. Fried bananas ($8) come with beer ice cream — weird, slightly sharp but acceptable. And yet: never again. The beer is Singha, which is always good and is at its best when icy cold, not as actual ice.

Mon.-Fri., 11 a.m.-10 p.m.,
Sat.-Sun., 5-10 p.m
88 Division, SF
(415) 255-8188/9
Full bar
Wheelchair accessible

Astral peaks



If not for High on Fire, Mastodon might never have existed. The flame-bonging Oakland trio swung through Atlanta in 1999, playing what was presumably an eardrum-destroying gig in the basement of local musician Brent Hinds. At the show, Hinds and his friend, bassist Troy Sanders, met drummer Brann Dailor and guitarist Bill Kelliher, who had both recently arrived from Rochester, N.Y. The four were knit together by a love of the Melvins and Bay Area metal experimentalists Neurosis, and a decade later, they are a metal band of towering stature.

Mastodon’s Crack the Skye (Warner Bros./Reprise, 2009) is an appropriately mammoth undertaking, the final chapter in a four-album arc that ties each disc to an Aristotelian element. With fire (Remission, Relapse, 2002), water (Leviathan, Relapse, 2004), and earth (Blood Mountain, Warner Bros./Reprise, 2006) accounted for, Crack the Skye centers around ether, which (in the band’s typical fashion) serves as a jumping-off point for the story of a quadriplegic astral traveler who zooms through space and time only to arrive in tsarist Russia in time to warn Rasputin of his impending assassination.

Spanning only seven tracks but clocking in at roughly 50 minutes, the album is Mastodon’s most cohesive to date, its songs flowing into each other like the movements of a heavily distorted prog-rock symphony. With this in mind, the band will play the album in its entirety during its April 19 date at the Great American Music Hall, augmenting the performance with visual spectacle courtesy of an LED screen and Neurosis member Josh Graham.

Mastodon, “Iron Tusk”

Crack the Skye‘s title has a deeper meaning for drummer Dailor, whose contributions to the record are a tribute to his sister, Skye, who committed suicide at age 14. This multivalent phrase is an illuminating example of the band’s densely layered art, which combines the diverse songwriting of its members with a wealth of thematic and musical allusion.

It was Dailor who showed up in London after an exhausting plane trip clutching a copy of Moby Dick. Though the group had toyed with high- and pop-cultural references in the past, the drummer’s suggestion that their next album be centered around Herman Melville’s 1851 classic took a while to sink in. When I interviewed Kelliher recently by phone, he explained how it caught on: "We kind of saw ourselves in the same boat, literally, leaving our families and friends behind and jumping into this quest … going out in the world trying to make it, searching for our own white whale."

The album that resulted, Leviathan, was Mastodon’s defining work, mixing easy-to-grasp themes of harpooning and high-seas adventure with oceans of metaphorical extrapolation. The band has mined other allusive veins, modeling riffs from Blood Mountain’s "Crystal Skull" off tribal drum patterns in Peter Jackson’s 2005 take on King Kong and shooting a video for the Crack the Skye single "Divinations" that’s an uproarious tribute to John Carpenter’s 1982 version of The Thing.

Between the nods to other works, the narrative lyrical themes, and the complex, progressive songwriting, Mastodon’s music can be overwhelming. Kelliher cops to some early writing conflicts with guitarist Hinds that involved a refrain of "No, man, it doesn’t go like that, it goes like this" in response to his opposite number’s deconstructive playing style. Soon, though, they learned to fuse their disparate riffs.

After four albums, it is possible to point to this relentlessly inclusive artistic tendency as the key to the band’s success. Mastodon has a rare kind of talent that suggests a pseudo-aphorism: more is more. Saddling their listeners with the full weight of their wide-ranging inspiration, the band’s albums are cohesive against the odds, rewarding careful, long-form listening sessions and a lot of revisiting. Beneath each layer of discovery lies another, and this feeling of excitement and expectation is crucial to the enjoyment of their music. Who knows what abstruse surprises they will conjure up in the future? We can only wait and hear. *


April 19

With Kylesa, Intronaut

7:30pm, $25 (sold out)

Great American Music Hall

859 O’Farrell, SF

(415) 885-0750


Appetite: Free pancakes, Lower Haight French, Little Skillet, twice the Woodhouse, and more


Farmerbrown’s leaps from the frying pan into Little Skillet

As long-time San Francisco resident and writer, I’m passionate about this city and obsessed with exploring its best food-and-drink spots, events and news, in every neighborhood and cuisine type. I have my own personalized itinerary service and monthly food/drink/travel newsletter, The Perfect Spot, and am thrilled to share up-to-the minute news with you from the endless goings-on in our fair city.



Little Skillet: Chicken & Waffles from a walk-up alley window in SoMa
is about to open Little Skillet in a SoMa alley at 330 Ritch. It’s a walk-up window offering morning pleasures like biscuit sandwiches loaded with cheese, egg, housemade sausage or bacon, plus Oyster Po’Boys, and one of my favorites in comfort food: Chicken and waffles (from Petaluma Poultry chickens) for breakfast and lunch. Lucky, those who work nearby! Cento, neighboring alley Blue Bottle coffee-source, also sells box lunches of Little Skillet’s food. Initial hours are supposed to be Monday–Friday, 8am–3pm, open later as baseball season progresses. No strikes here!
330 Ritch


Woodhouse Fish Co… Part Deux
When I want a Crab Salad (aka mountain of fresh crabmeat) with fresh lemons, Anchor Steam-battered Fish & Chips or a buttery Lobster Roll without waiting in line at the great Swan Oyster or paying Waterbar prices, Woodhouse Fish Co. fits the bill perfectly. Old seafaring movies on the wall, like 1935’s “Mutiny on the Bounty”, pair nicely with hanging squids and tackle. Up till now, it’s been the Castro locale but with a brand new, larger space on Fillmore, there’s more than one way to assuage New England seafood hankerings.
1914 Fillmore Street


Bistro Saint Germain delivers French flair to Lower Haight
Le P’tit Laurent owner, Laurent Legendre, with chef Eliseo Soto Dimos, debuted Parisian bistro fare to Lower Haight this weekend with Bistro Saint Germain. If you want a change of pace from Lower Haight’s curry houses and sandwich shops, here you can dine on French classics like bistro-style mussels, salads, escargots and boeuf bourguignon. Legendre makes quick friends in the ‘hood by offering Le P’tit’s popular steal of a prix-fixe: 3-courses for $19.95, Sunday through Thursday.
518 Haight Street



Napa’s new green winery from Plumpjack: Cade Winery
Think what you will of our Mayor and his Plumpjack enterprise, it doesn’t hurt that Plumpjack, Gavin and Gordon Getty (helps to have friends with connections), opened an out-of-the-way winery for your next day trip to Napa. Impress friends with an intriguing drive up Howell Mountain to new Cade Winery, a solar powered, green winery with cave tours and lush, hillside views. After a tour, sip a glass of wine by roaring fireplaces (if it’s chilly) or rushing waterfalls overlooking the Valley on brilliant Wine Country days. It’s appointment-only for a tour or tasting (prices vary) which means you have to plan ahead, but it’ll keep out the tour bus riff-raff.
360 Howell Mountain Road South
Angwin CA, 94508

Neely welcomes you to Napa

Bollywood and Indian flavors come to Napa
Neela Paniz, cookbook author and Indian chef, spices up downtown Napa with something it doesn’t have: an Indian restaurant. From Chota Haazari (starters) to Haazari (mains) and Mitha (desserts), Neela’s certainly has a California fresh, local touch (who doesn’t these days?) to home-style recipes like mini dosas with mango chutney, curries, tandoor Cornish hen and Lasoon Jhinga (shrimp with garlic, green chiles and mustard seeds). The plan is to have Bollywood music videos liven up the bar as you down a Kingfisher beer or glass of wine (it is, after all, Napa).
975 Clinton Avenue
Napa, CA 94559




A week full of deals at Cassis Restaurant
Cassis Restaurant
, a couple blocks off Fillmore Street, does right by French bistro classics like Pissaladiere (Nicoise Carmelized Onion Tart), with service that’s charming, attentive, and oh, so French. Their weekly deals are many… and hard to resist. First, the bar’s happy hour (5:30–6:30pm) has two-for-one beers plus discounted wines and cocktails. Bring-A-Friend-Tuesdays means 15% off your total food and drink bill with a table of four or more (assuming those are friends you brought, right?) Wine Wednesdays offers no corkage (a two bottle max) or if you decide to buy a bottle off the menu, it’s 25% off. Sweet Thursdays is for the sweet-tooth: order two entrees, get two-for-one desserts. Only caveat? You can’t combine with the $25 Early Dinner Special (Sun-Thu, 5:30-7pm, 3-course prix-fixe).
2101 Sutter Street

Free pancake Saturdays once a month at El Rio
El Rio
is one generous bar to serve free pancakes from the griddle every third Saturday of the month. Further cool points won by calling it “Rock Softly and Carry a Big Spatula“. Curing all that ails after Friday night, breakfast is kindly served at 1pm, so after you’ve rolled out of bed and wandered over, ease into wakefulness with soft rock and hot flapjacks. Wear the “funkiest kitchen couture” and you could win their Golden Apron honors. With a free meal, it’s easy to feed the tradition with generous tips.

3rd Saturdays, 1-3pm

3158 Mission Street


“Julie Blackmon: Domestic Vacations”


REVIEW One of my most uninteresting college professors used to insist that negatives only exist in language, but couldn’t explain what this meant. That’s funny, I thought, because I can physically feel a complete lack of interest in your class. In fact, I think you can feel it too; it’s contagious. Nonetheless, I was never bored as a child, and I’m still never bored. The boring and the uninteresting are different concepts. Julie Blackmon’s lucid, staged photographs of childhood fantasy worlds in the twilight of America are stunning for a ton of reasons, but first and foremost they get their signature bite and sting by recognizing that everyone in each scene is interested in different things. There is no sincere panorama. From the modern intrusions into Blackmon’s protoclassical, Dutch-inspired scenes — a miniature FedEx truck, Netflix mail — to trippy little things such as the almost lurid dog eyes and discarded gloves in Snow Day (2008), every person, place, and thing appears distracted by an otherworldly mission.

Adding to this sense of confused biography, Blackmon, the oldest of nine kids and now a mother of three, uses people and things from her life in her work like a novelist trussing out character relations pictorially. She reminds me of some essays by Orhan Pamuk about his daughter, Rüya. It’s not the stories themselves that are so thrilling, but the palpable feeling of love in their narrative arcs, plus the vectors they send out into Pamuk’s novels, where characters seem to have little aspects or shimmers of Rüya (even if she wasn’t born when the story was written): her young mind, her toys and delusions, the way she gazes out the window and finds it startlingly new every day.

JULIE BLACKMON: DOMESTIC VACATIONS Through May 23. Tues.-Sat., noon-5 p.m. SF Camerawork, 657 Mission, second floor, SF. (415) 512-2020. www.sfcamerawork.org

Liz Lerman Dance Exchange: “Small Dances About Big Ideas”


PREVIEW Liz Lerman is one gutsy woman. Early in her career she decided that there is more to dance than working with highly trained performers for an audience that wants to be entertained. "There was a time when people danced and the crops grew," she told a conference of arts presenters 15 years ago. "They danced, and that’s how they healed their children." For Lerman, the primary function of dance is to heal and create communities. Not only has she taken her Dance Exchange company to parks, schools, and nursing homes, she has included so-called non-dancers in her performances. Today such efforts have become fairly commonplace, except they are usually considered ancillary outreach activities. For Lerman, making "dance of, by, and for the people" — as it has been called — is the foundation of her work. She often weaves spontaneous audience suggestions into her pieces. Older dancers (i.e., over 60) and dancers with disabilities are part of her company. And she doesn’t shrink away from big topics. In 2006 she brought Ferocious Beauty: Genome to Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. A hugely ambitious collaboration between artists, scholars, and scientists, this multimedia work explored the forces that had been unleashed with the mapping of the human genome. This weekend she is returning with an equally far-reaching project. Small Dances About Big Ideas was commissioned by Harvard Law School for the 60th anniversary of the Nuremberg trials. It looks at atrocities, the law’s ability to address genocide, and our capacity to be either "bystanders" or "up-standers."

LIZ LERMAN DANCE EXCHANGE Sat/18-Sun/19, 8 p.m., $28-$36. Jewish Community Center of San Francisco, 3200 California, SF. (415) 292-1233, www.jccsf.org/arts

In a Dream


REVIEW Jeremiah Zagar’s feature has a subject that’s not just close to home, it’s in his home: father Isaiah is an eccentric artist who’s created extraordinary mosaics covering myriad walls, rooms, and several entire buildings in Philadelphia. Julia, his wife of 43 years, views herself as the necessary "reality base" to his "crazy, self-absorbed but amiable … rare flower." Isaiah is a bit of an exhibitionist, his art a "journal of my life" that might easily embarrass family members less accustomed to his idiosyncracies. His past encompasses childhood molestation and institutionalization, while the present is imperiled by "delusions of grandeur." During the several years Jeremiah shot this documentary — at first intended as a simple tribute to a very creative parent — Isaiah upset the family’s long-term yet still very delicate balance by springing a major crisis. On top of that, the filmmaker’s brother moves back in, his marriage collapsed and substance-abuse problems evident to all. The Zagars aren’t anybody’s idea of a standard-issue nuclear unit, but this quietly engaging portrait transcends train-wreck fascination because for all their quirks, they are functional — close, loving, and supportive. Also, because Isaiah’s epic mosaics of tile, paint, and embedded detritus are so remarkable, you’ll want to book the next flight to Philly to see them first-hand.

IN A DREAM opens Fri/17 at the Roxie. See Rep Clock.

Late of the Pier


PREVIEW Late of the Pier is catchy while still retaining an essential core of flighty, fidgety weirdness. With its askew harmonics, squelchy synths, and wildly off-key vocals, Fantasy Black Channel (Parlophone, 2008) marks the big label debut of a band bent on peddling an oddball sound to the masses, to say nothing of a kitschy aesthetic. The album’s cover presents a haphazard assortment of drums, kits, cords, and keyboards scattered atop outcroppings of granite — an apt visual for the band’s chaotic approach. Some tracks suggest a recorder switched to on-mode at the site of a train wreck, while others rescue some order from the mayhem. Discerning musical adherents will peg the group as contemporaries of outfits like Metronomy, Hot Chip, and Klaxons. This quartet is inventive and almost extreme in how far they’re willing to take their sprawling multipart sagas, instrumental transitions and elaborate glam guitar breakdowns. Plain-jane indie rock outfits have nothing on them.

Late of the Pier hail from Castle Donington, London, where they formed in 2004. Frequent nightclub fixtures and the toast of a large teenage fanbase, the group was picked up by a few small record labels before landing a slot on one of French dance it-label Kitsune Maison’s annual compilations. Fantasy Black Channel is produced by electro DJ Erol Alkan, who brings his pedigree as a remixer (Mylo, Chemical Brothers, and Digitalism) to the recording’s sound. Now that its spunky electro-rock numbers have been rapturously received by the oft-smitten British music press, the band is setting its sights on the U.S. We should like what we hear: Late of the Pier’s fingerpainted audio tableaus add some slapdash vitality to the musical orthodoxies of today.

LATE OF THE PIER at Popscene. Thurs/16, 9 p.m.-2 a.m, $13 (advance). 330 Ritch, 330 Ritch, SF. (415) 541-9574, www.popscene-sf.com

Dan Deacon


PREVIEW I first saw Dan Deacon perform at Oberlin College’s venue the ‘Sco, a den of nascent creativity that eventually brought me to a city sometimes referred to by the same three-letter abbreviation. Deacon was there, balding and bearded, his glasses taped to his head, his muffin-top iced by a bright pink T. He set up his mad scientist’s table of electronics in the audience’s usual domain. Different colored cords sprang out in every direction and there were multiple mics for his one-man show. Lit by a neon green skull, Deacon began stretching, then implored the audience to stretch. They did.

Not only did we all stretch with Deacon, we danced with Deacon. For a generation that has been taught that to move is to be judged — or whatever excuse keeps scenesters so static — such an act is similar to the miracle of the Virgin Mary getting pregos. Deacon’s inhibition-less philosophy was infectious: not only were the undergrads dancing, they were willing to participate in a high-five conga line and compete in a dance-off.

Although the complexities of Deacon’s music become clearer when heard on an iPod, the experience verges on seizure-inducing. Live, the same music becomes hypnotic. Like his earlier work, Deacon’s newest album Bromst (Carpark) is as much a singular composition as a collection of tracks, which should make it exhilarating to encounter. In concert, he has arranged for it to be played by a 15-piece ensemble. Now that he’s decidedly bigger — in band, popularity, and girth — it’s hard to predict how the intimacy and audience participation aspects of his performance will be affected. But it is sure to be a blast. And a bromst. (Deacon said he made up the word for his album title because it doesn’t have a meaning and he likes the way it sounds.)

DAN DEACON With Future Islands and Teeth Mountain. Thurs/23, 9 p.m., $13. Great American Music Hall. 859 O’Farrell, SF. (415) 885-0750, www.gamh.com

Editor’s Notes



In 1984, journalists Milton Moskowitz and Robert Levering published a landmark book called The 100 Best Places to Work for in America. I didn’t want to work for any of them. The list is updated every year through the San Francisco-based Great Places to Work Institute, and it runs in Fortune.

The institute looks at things like pay, benefits, and perks, as well as at trust and culture: Does management accept input freely? Are workers in involved in key decisions? Do people feel part of a team? All of these are important factors in a workplace.

But the selection process doesn’t look at what the company actually does.

For example, Texas Instruments is on the list. It’s also a defense contractor that makes precision-guided weapons systems. You know, bombs. Starbucks — the voracious chain that drives out small local coffee shops — is on the list. So is Whole Foods and Microsoft and Goldman Sachs.

I’m not saying that Levering, who runs the institute, isn’t doing good work. But when you talk about great places to work these days, I think you also should be talking about places that have a positive impact on the environment.

The world is facing two cataclysmic crises these days. The planet is melting down. So is the economy. The only way we’re going to fix both is to look at economic development that is also environmental development. And a lot of it is going to happen in cities.

Real sustainable development includes green jobs (Bay Area activist Van Jones is bringing that agenda to the White House) — and a commitment to preserving locally-owned, independent businesses and a diverse community.

Those aren’t conflicting goals, they’re complimentary. But looking only at one piece of the puzzle — how many jobs we create, or how nice they are — isn’t going to get us where we need to go. *