Volume 43 Number 36

If you’re nasty

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U.K. HORROR Once outrage settles over the current Parliamentary expense-account scandals, our former colonialist landlords will no doubt return to their concerns about "broken Britain," as the perceived general decline of moral rectitude in the United Kingdom is termed these days. Call ’em hoodies, chavs, yobs, or Neds, U.K. youth are seen as waaay out of control — albeit in ways that would seldom elicit more than a perfunctory shrug of disgust here — and their loutish, negligent, unemployed, or dole-collecting parents merit equal time in the sense-slappin’ machine.

Real or exaggerated, this trend of antisocial behaviors has inevitably crept into the entertainment realm, horror movies included. While the two Brit features (Blood River and 2008’s The Dead Outside) in this year’s Another Hole in the Head Festival only marginally deal with the phenomenon, three recent stateside DVD releases by first-time feature writer-directors find "Whatever happened to family values?!" terror placed front and center.

Not long ago especially gory or sadistic genre flicks were branded "video nasties," heavily cut or banned outright from distribution in Britain. That those days are gone, however, is made vividly clear by Steven Sheil’s Mum and Dad (2008). When Polish immigrant Lena (Olga Fedori) misses the last bus to central London, aggressively friendly fellow Heathrow cleaning staffer Birdie (Ainsley Howard) and her shy brother Elbie (Toby Alexander) invite her to spend the night at their nearby home.

Unfortunately Lena soon discovers she’s a permanent guest, kept on a very tight leash by "Mum" (Dido Miles) and "Dad" (Perry Benson). Covering familiar terrain, with particular debt to 1991’s The People Under the Stairs, Mum sports its own distinctive musk of grotesquerie, with an all-time-sickest Yuletide celebration providing craftsy homemakers with one hell of a Christmas wall-ornament idea.

Meanwhile, in rural Ireland, the least united part of the "kingdom," Plague Town (2008) again proves you really don’t want to miss that last transit run. Here, a dysfunctional American tourist family discovers one extra-large brood of horribly functional kiddies during an overnight stranding they’re unlikely to survive. Director David Gregory cut his teeth making DVD-extra tributes to Tobe Hooper, Jess Franco, Jim Van Bebber, and the "video nasty" era itself. His mentors would be proud.

More realistic, upsetting, and directly addressing "broken Britain" fears is James Watkins’ Eden Lake (2008). Another vacation-gone-horribly-wrong tale, it played one unnoticed week at the Lumiere last year. Yuppie couple Kelly Reilly and Michael Fassbender’s weekend Buckinghamshire idyll runs afoul of some ill-mannered local tweens, who unfortunately are led by a full-blown junior psychopath. After its routine setup this develops into a genuinely grueling spin on Deliverance (1972), Lord of the Flies (1954), and whatnot, with an ending that can be nitpicked for plausibility but that nonetheless leaves a real chill.

First things Faust

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a&eletters@sfbg.com

Bay Area writer-director Mark Jackson has been rightly hailed for his original scripts, especially since the rollicking ingenuity of 2003’s The Death of Meyerhold. But his dialogue with established or classic plays has been just as intriguing to follow. Here, strict fidelity to the text has not always proved a recipe for success. Indeed, it was by tossing out the text completely that Yes, Yes to Moscow — created with Tilla Kratochwil, Sommer Ulrickson, and Beth Wilmurt and one of the best things to happen on any Bay Area stage in 2008 — managed to capture the essence of Chekhov’s Three Sisters to a degree most big-budget, straight-ahead productions could only envy. Then again, without changing a word, Jackson brilliantly exploited the kinetic value of Sophie Treadwell’s expressionist drama, Machinal, for last year’s memorable production with alma mater San Francisco State University. But more recently, cleaving restlessly to August Strindberg’s text of Miss Julie in an otherwise skillful production for Berkeley’s Aurora Theatre, Jackson teetered near heavy-handedness, the injection of directorial personality often butting heads with Strindberg’s tightly wound material rather than entering a productive discourse with it.

That is happily not the case in Jackson’s current effort: a sure, compact, and invigorating free-adaptation of Johann Wolfgang Goethe’s Faust, Part I produced, like Meyerhold, by Berkeley’s Shotgun Players. The "freely adapted" part is no doubt key to the success here, but that implies no reduction of the original. Although the text has been trimmed and jiggered greatly, Jackson’s version — alive and lively in rhyming verse — strikes a confident, highly effective balance between his own visually striking exegesis and a deep-seated fidelity to the poetical and dramatic spirit of Goethe’s glorious closet play.

Essaying the title role himself with considerable wit and panache, Jackson leads a winning cast in the kind of dynamic, precisely choreographed neoexpressionist production he has made a hallmark of his work. "In the beginning was the act!" is Faust’s eureka cry. But the director starts the action in a tense but humorous fit of inaction at the lip of the stage. There Faust, the arch but frustrated rationalist bent on bending nature to his will, vacillates in calling forth the spirit world, standing before a wall of thin metal-framed windows blacked out except for one square patch of moonlight, and bare but for a single glass of magic potion.

Frenetic, verbose, arrogant, and (nearly) fearless, Jackson’s Faust dances a tightrope line between jaded hero and willing fool with conjured devil and enabler Mephistopheles (played with a slippery sobriety and quiet menace by the solid Peter Ruocco) standing erect and a full head shorter by his side, all courteousness amid flashes of animal teeth.

The play centers on Faust’s tragic wooing (and ruining) of the beautiful maiden Gretchen (an exceptionally deft, completely mesmerizing Blythe Foster), whom Faust meets in that fair field after downing his magic potion. But Gretchen’s mother (in a suitably jagged but subtle portrait by Zehra Berkman) guards her daughter’s chastity with hawk-like concentration despite being wheelchair-bound, her sharpness accentuated by repeated appearance in profile.

Goethe’s Faust — so applicable to our historical moment-of-truth that in lesser hands any treatment is doomed to cliché — has the unparalleled Renaissance man embodying rational, post-Enlightenment humanity in a sobering confrontation with questions of good and evil. A forceful aspect of Jackson’s shrewd staging lies in never losing sight of this "embodied" tale. Certainly Faust is enchanted by his own words. After all, it’s through language — here, in particular, the paradigm of a masculine rationality subduing a feminized nature — that we not only define but bring into being the world we inhabit (notwithstanding Faust’s claim for "the act" as instigator). But amid the heightened speech, Jackson maintains a delightfully chilling carnality in the details. It echoes more remotely in the play’s eerie final lines as well, when Mephistopheles, calling creation one big wash, must concede that for all its nothingness, "something seems to circle around." It’s messy, and it bothers him. "I should prefer eternal emptiness," he says.

FAUST, PART 1

Through June 28

Thurs.–Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m., $22–$30

Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby, Berk.

(510) 841-6500

www.shotgunplayers.org

Into the wild

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› kimberly@sfbg.com

SONIC REDUCER O, Commuter — wherefore art thou, Commuter? Grandaddy mastermind Jason Lytle is familiar enough with the concept of the long haul: he’s known plenty of people who’ve made the trek from his Modesto hometown to Silicon Valley and the Bay. But this time out, on Lytle’s first solo album, an exquisite clutch of songs titled Yours Truly, the Commuter (ANTI-), the typical definition of harried, driven, and road-raging working-stiff doesn’t quite apply. Or so he explains from his home on the edge of Montana backcountry, over a hot printer jetting out flight info concerning his imminent European tour.

"In this instance, I’m referring to the place I gotta go to make good art, get good results, be creative, and then making the trip back to reality, which is just taking care of business and taking care of my life and making sure that the car still works and, uh, there aren’t too many stains on the carpet," he rambles softly, as if speaking to himself, an old friend, or, as the Yours Truly song title goes, the "Ghost of My Old Dog." "It’s not always an easy transition, and I’ve found that the longer I do this, the harder it gets to push yourself to that level of making good art, and then having to come back and be responsible and sift through the wreckage."

Lytle turned 40 on March 26, while fulfilling his target of becoming the "healthiest" he’s ever been. ("Whew, it was a real chore!" he wisecracks wryly, recalling the performance and party gauntlet at South by Southwest a few days previous.) He has more goals where that one came from.

"There’s all this stuff I want to do before I get old," the ex-semi-pro skateboarder says, when I joke that the grandpa years are approaching despite the demise of his old band Grandaddy. "I want to start painting, and I wouldn’t mind playing golf, and I want to get a dog again. I still fucking skateboard on a regular basis! If your body allows you to do it, why quit?"

It’s just as hard to imagine Lytle turning his back on music, in spite of his seeming hiatus since the release of Grandaddy’s Just Like the Fambly Cat (V2, 2006) and his move to Montana three years ago. He busied himself setting up his studio, working on songs for M. Ward, Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse’s forthcoming project, and commercials, until a snowed-in winter spent at the grand piano and peering out the window triggered these tunes. Majestic space balladry ("I Am Lost [And the Moment Cannot Last]"), echo chamber rock ("It’s the Weekend"), Kraut meditations ("Fürget It"), bittersweet summons to the temple of Neil Young ("Here for Good"), and stately Brian Wilson-levitating-on-Air elegies ("Flying Thru Canyons") flowed forth. "I love the idea of putting together a little body of work," Lytle says, "whether it be a mix tape for my friends or just a collection of Christmas songs that I’ve recorded for relatives — or in this case, a group of songs that I thought were strong enough to call an album."

When Lytle comes through town with a group including ex-Grandaddy drummer Aaron Burtch and Rusty Miller of SF’s Jackpot, he’ll be fielding another question: When is the musical commuter coming home? "I would have loved to have stayed in California," drawls Lytle. "But the types of places that I want to live don’t really exist in California anymore. They’re too expensive — or they’re overrun with meth labs." *

JASON LYTLE

Mon/8, 9:30 p.m., $16

Café du Nord

2170 Market, SF

www.cafedunord.com

Also opening for Neko Case

Tues/9, 8 p.m., $30–<\d>$33

Warfield

982 Market, SF

www.goldenvoice.com

————

SNAP! OBSCURA NOT MISERABLE

Don’t you dare call Camera Obscura nostalgists. Vocalist Tracyanne Campbell, she of the heart-torching girlish brogue, fumes at the very thought, despite a "post-dinner slump" following her vegetarian Thai green curry. "No, I don’t think we’re a bunch of miserable, nostalgia-hungry losers," she protests from Glasgow. "We don’t long for the past. The past is very much a part of me, but I think it’s good to try and live in the moment. I think we’re misunderstood."

Still, the combo’s delicious new My Maudlin Career (4AD) is steeped in girl-group charm and Motown shimmy — though Camera Obscura had forged its sound eons before those genres’ current revival. There’s little contrivance to Camera Obscura’s lush music, Campbell explains, especially when it comes to recording: the group tends to track live with few overdubs. "I think a lot of times it’s the happy accident, to be honest," she says. "I don’t want to be too persnickety. I want to be brave enough to try and capture that moment on its own, without looking back with regret."

CAMERA OBSCURA

With Agent Ribbons

Mon/8, 9 p.m., $21.50

The Fillmore

1805 Geary, SF

(415) 346-6000

www.livenation.com

A distant memory

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a&eletters@sfbg.com

REVIEW I was cautious when I got the galley for Attica Locke’s first novel Black Water Rising (Harper, 448 pages, $25.99). I’d been intrigued before by beguiling plots of intrigue and suspense, only to find myself in the middle of a tepid affair with no way out except for closing the damn thing and chalking it up to yet another life lesson. All the warning signs were there.

The book’s protagonist, Jay Porter, is an attorney operating out of a Houston strip mall in 1981. His only client is a shady prostitute, who may or may not pay him. His wife, Bernie, is pregnant and he’s barely making ends meet to feed them, much less the baby who’s on the way. Though not happy with his mediocre existence, he’s content enough with his lot to be strong-willed and determined to make it.

Jay has a terrible secret, of course, that threatens to tear the world he has meticulously built asunder. And one fateful night, something happens that sets the unraveling in motion. He saves a mysterious woman’s life and places himself in the middle of a plot rife with sex, backroom deals, and dirty cash that will determine his fate and that of Houston, Texas, and eventually, the world!

"Easy, big fella. Easy," I told myself. "You’ve been hurt before." I saw the signs, as much as any reader would. I saw a Grisham story. I saw a Leonard tale. I knew I was being seduced, but I couldn’t put the book down. The first chapters hooked me like classic mid-list pulp — a phenomenon I miss like pay phones — and it took a minute to realize what Attica Locke was doing.

It wouldn’t be a spoiler to tell Jay Porter’s secret. He did time for running guns during the Black Power movement. This was during the days of J. Edgar Hoover’s COINTELPRO program, when black dissidents’ phones were tapped, dossiers were amassed, and organizations were infiltrated. Jay Porter the strip mall lawyer has a legitimate cause to be paranoid. This kind of justified paranoia plagues many of the resisters who managed to survive the bloodbaths of the 1960s and 1970s social movements. Lensed through Porter’s claustrophobia, grandiosity, and self-deprecation, demons lurk in every dark corner. As the plot unfolds, the first thing that disappears from view is a tangible reality, one free from dark fantasy and delusion. Jay Porter may be nuts. Then again, maybe not.

Locke, a veteran screenwriter, has an almost supernatural understanding of pacing. This aids her well in storytelling, but even more so in figuring out where to work her magic. Her early 1980s Houston is a city on the verge of Texas-sized change. Porter is asked by his preacher father-in-law to work with the dockworkers union that meets in his church. The black dockworkers are being paid less than the white workers who do the same job. A split in the union along race lines is imminent. A battle between the warring workers breaks out after a young man is beaten. A greater impetus is revealed: the arrival of containers. These containers, it is threatened, will be used on barge, train, and truck, nearly rendering dockworkers obsolete. Jay Porter is asked to speak to the mayor — a "friend" from his revolutionary past — on behalf of the workers. Simultaneously he tries to uncover the identity of the mysterious woman he saved.

This is the one drawback in an otherwise stellar debut. Jay Porter has too much going on. So much that suspension of belief is pulled to the breaking point. So much that many characters who are vital to the plot get unbelievably overlooked. When the Porters’ home is burglarized, for example, Jay leaves his pregnant wife in the house to pursue a lead on one of his cases. When a tough offers Porter money to not pursue another lead, he does it anyway — out of, what, morbid curiosity? The mayor of Houston and many of the other characters are so full, rich, and singular that it is baffling and frustrating when someone as essential as Bernie becomes a bit player in Jay’s solipsistic pursuit. Is Jay Porter crazy, or just an asshole?

Black Water Rising reads like a hard-boiled thriller, but the real trick resides in Locke’s ability to personalize an overlooked part of American history and show how far-reaching, how entrenched, it is in today’s social, political, and cultural fabric. From running the voodoo down on the Weather Underground to using 1980s Houston as a backdrop, he wraps a People’s History of America in a digestible, entertaining package. There are whiffs of Chinatown and White Butterfly, sure, but Locke’s attention to the details between the action makes the novel, and turns every reader into an oracle.

As Jay solves this book’s mysteries, we see pre-Dubya America getting dubbed. We see the sprawl that is yet to be. We see the unions breaking, the factories shutting down, the diners, bars, and cafes closing. We see the Black Water Rising. I may not want to see too much more of Jay Porter, but I better see more of Attica Locke.

Return of the creatures

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Zombies, werewolves, slashers, ghosts, and just plain fucked-up individuals: yep, the usual suspects are on hand for the Another Hole in the Head film festival, an offshoot of the San Francisco Independent Film Festival that’s back for a sixth unleashing of cinematic ghastliness.

David Gargani’s Monsters from the Id, named for the invisible menace in 1956’s Forbidden Planet, takes an earnest, somewhat unfocused look at how scientists were depicted in 1950s sci-fi films. Movie clips and talking heads delve into the ways in which the era’s "futuristic" flicks (Spaceships! Giant ants! Pod people!) were informed by both the era’s sense of wonder and paranoia. Monsters also notes how much less money is spent on space in these post-Cold War days; one scientist wistfully notes that the only way physicists would become heroes again would be in some kind of preventing-an-asteroid-from-hitting-the-earth type of scenario (but, duh, Doc: according to 1998’s Armageddon, oil drillers would actually save the day in that case).

Entries with local ties include James Isaac’s Pig Hunt (which screened a few weeks back as part of the Clay Theater’s midnight series). After kicking off their road trip with a meal at the Pork Store Café, a group of SF friends set out on an ill-advised hunting jaunt (their quarry: a 3,000-lb "Hogzilla," a creature that turns out to be just one of many backwoods adversaries). Even more bloody and bizarre is Oakland filmmaker Jonathan Lewis’s Black Devil Doll, an awesomely campy, proudly low-budget, X-rated cross between Child’s Play (1988) and Dolemite (1975) — the entire cast is basically comprised of strippers and a raunchy puppet that says things like "Holy shit! These white bitches is crazy!"

Also of interest for all you discerning sickos: HoleHead unleashes two films by prolific Japanese cult auteur Takashi Miike, including opening night film Crows: Episode Zero (a manga adaptation) and Detective Story, about a detective and his neighbor on the trail of an organ-stealing murderer.

ANOTHER HOLE IN THE HEAD

June 5–19, see film listings for schedule, $10

Roxie, 3117 16th St, S.F.

(415) 820-3907, www.sfindie.com

Shadowboxing

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a&eletters@sfbg.com

"Explosive action" may be the stuff of soppy pullquotes, but the term takes on fresh life watching the 1950s noirs of Phil Karlson. All action movies give us men and violence, but Karlson’s pictures, to a rare degree, are about men living with violence. Punches aren’t redemptive, they just hurt — the one throwing them too. Take the clenched former prizefighter in 99 River Street (1953), Ernie Driscoll (played by Karlson’s preferred actor, the aggressively nondescript John Payne). "I’m so burned up, I take it out on everyone I see," Driscoll mutters to his loyal friend after tossing him against a car in the white heat of rage. When he finally does have reasonable cause, his maelstrom of punches exceeds the pleasure principle of vengeance by a wide margin.

If this sounds like Scorsese territory, it’s probably worth mentioning that Driscoll isn’t just a broken heavyweight — he also drives a taxi. Karlson’s movies are tightly-coiled enough to make the decades slip just like that: 99 River Street has enough weird transferences and reversals to make me wonder if it’s not a worm-hole to David Lynch’s films as well. The fabulous streaks of paranoia running through the PFA selections are Cold War to the core, but the films hurdle us so quickly and illogically towards the edge of abnegation that the reactionary myth of the vigilante isn’t given time to flourish.

Karlson recouped the debt owed by Dirty Harry and The French Connection (both 1971) with his 1973 hit, Walking Tall, but the ’50s films are more eloquent by far. In them, brutality is simply a fact, like cigarettes or hats. The most severe scenes are sometimes the quietest, as is the case when Eddie Rico (Richard Conte) has to wait out his brother’s death after unwittingly acting as a crime syndicate’s bloodhound in The Brothers Rico (1957, based on a story by Georges Simenon).

Other set-ups — nearly the entire second half of the remarkable semi-documentary The Phenix City Story (1955), cowritten by Daniel Mainwaring (1956’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers), with the same basic premise as Walking Tall — hardly give us room to breathe. The film’s corrupt Alabama police look the other way as local "vice peddlers" terrorize citizens, rig an election, and — remember this is 1955 — murder the children of a black man with reformist sympathies in broad daylight. The smug veneer of cordiality does nothing to disguise the constant threat of violence. To the contrary, it serves as an extra taunt, a superfluous flexing of power as enraging here as it is in Barbara Kopple’s documentary, Harlan County USA (1976). A trinity of resistance fighters (one of them a lawyer freshly returned from Nuremberg, an encounter with evil that still leaves him unprepared for Phenix City) can and do fight back, but resist administering the final coup de grace. They do so in deference to due process, but we’re long past a constitutional triumph, à la Young Mr. Lincoln (1939). The dark truth lurking just under The Phenix City Story‘s roiling surface is that the noble ideal these republicans embody may not actually exist.

TIGHT SPOT: PHIL KARLSON IN THE FIFTIES

June 5–26, $5.50–$9.50

Pacific Film Archive, 2575 Bancroft, Berk

(510) 642-5249, www.bampfa.berkeley.edu

Disorderly

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le.chicken.farmer@gmail.com

CHEAP EATS A lime green flip-flop on the shower floor of a gym I don’t go to … Somebody stole my compost pile. The old woman I am not was rehearsing what to say to her doctor. "I have an eating disorder," she rehearsed, in the waiting room. Her husband was sitting, she was standing. Both were 80. "Anything else?" she said.

The husband mumbled something I couldn’t hear.

"I can’t wait to see him!" she said, and kept saying, to the receptionist, to me, to her husband. "After all this time! I can’t believe I’m going to see him." She actually said that. She was way too excited to sit down. There were pictures on the wall of all the doctors who shared this office, and she excused herself for climbing on my lap to get a better look.

But I don’t think he was up there. I know my doctor wasn’t.

Her doctor, I gathered from something else overheard, had retired and recently unretired. "I hope he notices that I lost some weight," she said.

I sneaked long looks at the husband, who was playing his part perfectly, part trooper, part crank. What could he say?

What can I say?

"There are restaurants around here," she said, apropos of very little. Her husband nodded.

I smiled and felt very healthy, and very confident in the health of the old woman I am not. To be honest, I might have under-overheard her, initially. She might have said "reading disorder." That was what it sounded like, but my brain must have substituted "eating disorder" because it didn’t know what to make of a reading disorder.

But really I should leave these matters to the medics.

For example, I was fully prepared to describe to my doctor not only the symptoms of my ailment but the diagnosis, the prognosis, and the cure.

It’s too easy.

The old woman’s time came and her husband, for better or worse, followed her in. I opened my book.

Me? My pulse, temperature, and blood pressure were, as always, pathologically normal. My cholesterol? Low.

For my birthday everyone made me bacon cupcakes, and pulled pork, and mac and cheese, oh, and a Rice Krispies cookie cake shaped like a roasted chicken. But even before any of the above indulgences indulged my palate, I had a stomachache.

Stomachache is not the right word. I had nausea, no appetite (or a lot less than usual), mild dyslexia, pins and needles in my legs, a slight spin to my head, sleeplessness, and the giggles. I was way too happy for my own good.

When my doctor walked in I broke it to her: "I have a writing disorder."

She lit up. Young, unjaded, unhurried, and beautiful, she seems to actually like it that I come see her once or twice a year for no good reason. "Tell me about it," she said.

"A lime green flip-flop," I said, "on the shower floor of a gym I don’t go to."

"Mmm-hmm. Mmm-hmm." She nodded, wide-eyed. Mind you, this is a general practitioner, not my therapist.

"That wasn’t a dream," I said. "This was: somebody stole my compost pile. I went outside and it was gone. Who would steal compost?"

"I wonder," she said, wondering with me. And the rest was academic, easy questions with obvious answers.

I’m a bad Italian. I can have too much garlic. It gives me anxiety attacks, whereas raw white onions calm me down. I had a cousin visiting from Ohio, and she and my nephew wanted to go to the stinking the Stinking Rose, so I went, to be sociable, but held back on the eats.

After Vesuvio, I hugged them goodbye and walked toward my car. They went the other way, toward more beer. Once they were out of sight, I ducked into a cute little downstairs-upstairs Thai restaurant I’d never noticed before, probably because it wasn’t there. Ton Yong. I’d much rather eat duck soup than over-garlicky overrated Italian food. As you know, it’s medicine to me, and Ton Yong had it, $8.25.

It was good, a little salty maybe, but a lot of ducky, and good noodles. Still, it was not exactly what the doctor ordered. I said this already, before I knew what it meant, but not even duck soup can save me now. I’m in love. Pass the Ativan.

TON YONG THAI CAFE

Daily 11 a.m.–11 p.m.

901 Kearny, SF

(415) 986-6218

No alcohol

MC/V

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

Objects in mirror

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› andrea@altsexcolumn.com

Dear Readers:
Since I can’t write this week, I thought I could at least rerun a letter germane to recent discussions.

Dear Andrea:

I met a guy through his very explicit and fun Craigslist ad describing the weird-ass kinky sex he wanted. So we e-mailed, met, and had a great time. He’s handsome, intelligent, artsy … totally my type. We end up in bed, he gives me some quality oral sex, and then he ejaculates within two minutes. He makes no move to get me off either, just makes some remark about that being "my random Craigslist hookup." I’m too flabbergasted to ask for more oral sex. And then he wants to spend the night and cuddle. I’m frustrated and confused, but let him, and don’t comment on his premature ejaculation for fear of damaging his ego. Later we have sex again, and again he ejaculates within minutes. What do I do when he calls? What should I have said at the time?

Love,

UnListed

Dear List:

I once sat on a panel with Craig from Craiglist and I’m imagining him being mortified by this entire story. He’s a shy boy. I would also dearly love to link to the offending ad, but it seems faintly unethical, although it’s often said that once you post something on the Web, it’s public, period, and ripe for linkage. He’s probably taken it down by now, anyway. I can attest that the ad was lengthy, floridly descriptive, occasionally inept ("Bring your noble breasts"), and kinky in a cutely sophomoric, let-me-mash-grapes-in-you kind of way. It certainly did not read it as an offer of a two-minute, one-night stand complete with sexual frustration and dismissive jokes.

What to do if he calls? Doesn’t that depend on whether you wish to see him again? If you do, you will have to say, "But I want to do the stuff you said in the ad! Not five minutes of sex and then goodnight. OK?" If you don’t want to see him again, you say "no thanks."

There are ways to ask for more without bruising a boy’s ego — some boys, anyway. The ones to whom one is not allowed to say anything but "Wow! That was the best sex ever!" are not worth playing with. Yours doesn’t sound at all like the brutally macho type, more like your typical under-experienced urban dweeb-boy, so you would be quite safe in expressing an opinion, especially if you’re upbeat about it: "That was hot! I’m still hot! C’mon, let’s do some more." Not: "Well, that sucked. In fact, you suck." I can’t see the point of accusing him of premature ejaculation specifically, nor was that his greatest offense. What was, then? False advertising, of course. He proposed lengthy, goofy, sexy fun to ward off the looming, glowering gloom of autumn. Did he deliver any of that? No, he did not, and you would have been within your rights to point this out. On closer reading of his ad, though, I notice that he included an escape clause: "Not looking for mind-blowing, end-of-the-world sex."

I fear we shall all end up bringing our lawyers with us on first dates. End-of-the-world sex, indeed.

Love,

Andrea

Dear Andrea:

I recently hooked up with an inexperienced 23-year-old man. Sex has not been great for him in the past. With his ex, he always initiated, she never seemed to enjoy anything he tried, she refused to offer suggestions, they both became resentful, and now he’s afraid of sex. He told me he’s nervous and insecure, and when we finally got to it, he lasted about 15 seconds.

I find this guy unbelievably hot. I wouldn’t have guessed he was so inexperienced, and I get turned on thinking about how some really great fucking could rock his world. So far I’ve tried to not judge him and to be patient. I’d like to show him how great sex makes life worth living. But I don’t want to coddle or condescend to him. I also have no experience dealing with quick ejaculators. (It only happened once, but I’d like to know some techniques for keeping it from happening again.)

Love,

Mama Teach

Dear Mama:

He is, for your purposes, a babe in the woods. Coddle all you want. I wouldn’t suggest actually condescending to him, if only because condescension, unlike, say, humiliation or scorn, lacks essential hotness. Assume that he is attracted to you at least in some part for your worldliness, and play it up. He is a tender, pink-eared schoolboy. You are Jeanne Moreau.

There is no instant technique applicable to premature ejaculation (and yes, 15 seconds is premature); it’s all longer-term stuff. If interested, he can apply himself to his studies and gradually train himself out of coming so quickly, especially since it is likely nothing but nerves. Far simpler, though, is the magical solution available mostly to very young men and their partners: do it again. And again. And again.

Love,

Andrea

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

Looking at ‘Looking In’

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More on SFBG.com:
>>Johnny Ray Huston’s take on the epic SFMOMA Robert Frank retrospective

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"All original art looks ugly at first," Clement Greenberg wrote in defense of modern art. Implicit in Greenberg’s statement is the sense that time would eventually vindicate what was seen as anathema to prevailing tastes. Such has been the fate of The Americans, Robert Frank’s once reviled, now iconic photographic poem that traces the warped, smudged, and tattered fabric of our nation. Now 50, Frank’s odd little book (initially published in France in 1958 and brought to these shores the following year by Grove Press) of old glories, hardened faces, ghostly jukeboxes, in-between moments, and public rituals that captured the social inequalities and strangeness entrenched in the everyday of postwar America still cuts to the quick.

Frank, in collaboration with curators at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., has given his magnum opus something of the CSI treatment in "Looking In: Robert Frank’s The Americans." As its title suggests, "Looking In" offers an expanded view of the original volume’s 83 photographs (displayed in their original order, with each of the book’s four sections in its own gallery), incorporating contact sheets and other behind-the-scenes artifacts from the Guggenheim Fellowship-funded cross-country road trips Frank made with his wife and two kids in 1956 and ’57, as well as selections of Frank’s earlier and later photographic projects. But so much context and annotation to what was, even in the strictest sense, a self-contained work, often results in more noise than signal.

Frank pared his final choices from 20,000 frames, ordering the images in such a way to form daisy chains that relay visual puns, common themes, shared details (a decorative star motif or the position of a hand), and stark contrasts among them. A personal favorite occurs in a series of photographs that touch on driving, in which the tarpaulin covering a ride in Long Beach deflates in the next photo into the cloth draped over a car accident victim in rural Arizona. As with all art, the power and pleasure of viewing The Americans comes in discovering these subtle affinities and motifs by oneself. At times the interpretative cues offered by the explanatory texts all but erect a neon sign directing you toward significance. Some interpretive breathing room would’ve been nice.

Conversely, Frank’s conflicted relationship to his most famous work in the decades following its subsequent reappraisal and canonization by the art world — when he started to turn his attention to filmmaking — is shoehorned into a tantalizing but all too brief section, "Destroying The Americans," at the exhibit’s close. (Sarah Greenough’s excellent catalog essay of the same title goes into further detail.) It is curious to end a retrospective that largely adds to the hagiography already surrounding Frank’s work on such a sour, doubt-filled note. But perhaps it can be read as a warning to those who would be quick to call The Americans merely a reflection of its time. Frank’s "sad poem," as Jack Kerouac dubbed it in his introductory text to the American edition, may no longer look as ugly as it once did. But we are still a nation riddled by racism and poverty, worshipful of false prophets and political theater; a nation of gullible consumers, fervent believers, and drifters forever tethered to the horizon. As Frank himself said in response to initial criticism of the book, "It is important to see what is invisible to others — perhaps the look of hope or the look of sadness."

Round one

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sarah@sfbg.com

The Board of Supervisors’ narrowly thwarted attempt to reject the Municipal Transportation Agency’s 2009-10 budget was the first in a wave of anticipated showdowns between Mayor Gavin Newsom and the progressives this summer as budget season gets underway.

The mayor appeared to win this particular showdown when the board voted 6-5 not to reject the MTA deal May 27, although the skirmish helped progressives voice their concerns over Newsom’s budget priorities. It also gave board President David Chiu the opportunity to conduct a masterful interrogation of MTA executive director Nat Ford that set the stage for Sup. John Avalos to try to place a charter amendment on the November ballot that would make MTA more accountable and accessible.

That said, the final MTA deal — which closes a $129 million deficit on the backs of Muni riders (through service cuts and fare hikes) rather than motorists (MTA governs all parking revenue) by a ratio of about 4-1 — seems to be inconsistent with San Francisco’s official "transit-first" policy.

Chiu was the first to suggest rejecting the deal when it became clear that the Mayor’s Office has been using the MTA as a backdoor ATM, authorizing $66 million in work orders for things like salaries for Newsom’s environmental aides and compensating the police department for vaguely defined security services.

The practice made a mockery of Prop. A., which voters approved in 2007 to increase funding to Muni by $26 million annually. But since then, work orders from unrelated city departments, including the police and Newsom’s 311 call center, had increased by $32 million.

"If people have to pay more for less, they will stop taking Muni," Chiu said at the May 6 Budget Committee hearing on the MTA budget.

Sup. David Campos also took issue with the work orders and service cuts. "Whatever money riders of Muni pay into the system should be used for public transportation," Campos said.

In the end, Chiu got the agency to trim $10 million from its budget, restore $8.6 million in proposed Muni service cuts, and delay the increases that seniors, youth, and the disabled will pay for fast passes. In exchange the board voted 6-5 May 12 to drop its MTA’s budget challenge, allowing fares to increase to $2 and for services to be reduced. Sups. Campos, Avalos, Ross Mirkarimi, Chris Daly, and Eric Mar dissented.

"We needed to work this out so we can move forward on the myriad issues before us," Chiu said.

But led by Avalos, who chairs the board’s powerful Budget and Finance Committee, the progressives revived the issue the next day. "Given our grave economic crisis, we owe it to seniors, youth, and other low-income Muni riders to come up with a better budget, one that ensures Muni accessibility and accountability," Avalos said.

Instead of increasing fares and cutting services, Avalos suggested that the MTA extend meter hours to evenings and Sundays. For a moment, it looked as if the progressives would be able to muster the seven votes needed to reject the deal. Ultimately Chiu, Sophie Maxwell, and the other MTA budget opponents stuck to the deal, which was reapproved May 27.

But the episode underscores why Avalos wants to reform the composition of the MTA board. Currently the mayor appoints all seven members. The only thing the supervisors can do is confirm or reject his nominations.

The mayor also appoints MTA’s executive director. Under Newsom, Ford was hired to the post for $316,000 annually, making him the city’s highest paid employee and someone who feels accountable to the mayor. "In all the cities, the mayor takes the heat for the transit system," Ford told the Guardian when challenged on his agency’s seeming lack of independence.

But under Avalos’ amendment, the mayor and the Board of Supervisors would each nominate three board commissioners while voters would elect the seventh. "The new MTA board composition will create greater checks and balances and also ensure that the MTA director is not solely accountable to one person, but to a board that is more representative of the city and county of San Francisco," Avalos said.

MTA now faces an additional $10 to $16 million deficit, thanks to union negotiations and fears that the state will raid city property tax and gas tax coffers. But as part of his budget deal with Chiu, Ford promised that the agency would study extending parking meter enforcement hours to close the gap.

Confirming that the agency dropped a $9 million a year proposal to extend meter hours citywide after receiving input from merchants, Ford said that "we’ll clearly have to revisit parking. We’ll be looking at how to administer extended meter hours, and how that impacts churches if we do it Sundays. But we are sitting here with a structural deficit that’s been going on for decades. We need to figure out the revenue streams we need to enhance the system."

Campos thought that a progressive Board of Supervisors should have gotten a better MTA budget. "As Sup. John Avalos and I pointed out, there’s almost nothing different between this budget and what was presented last week," Campos said. "I think it’s an illustration of how it is not enough to have power. You have to be willing to use it."

But Chiu defended his deal as a necessary way out of the board conflict with Newsom’s office. "Nat Ford has committed publicly and privately that he will propose meter hour change. And MTA Board President Tom Nolan has committed that he will ensure that car owners pick up more of the burden, and that if the budget gets worse, the additional problems won’t be balanced on the backs of Muni riders, which was not something we heard last week," Chiu said.

Avalos was less sanguine: "It was a clear moment for the Board of Supervisors to support transit-first and the city’s most vulnerable residents."

But he felt that concerns about the deal, and the realization that Newsom is an increasingly absent mayor, will help voters see the need for MTA reform.

"There wasn’t a single MTA commissioner or director accessible or accountable to the greater part of San Francisco. But they were responsive to Room 200, the Mayor’s Office," Avalos said. "Clearly, we need greater checks and balances."

Mirkarimi observed how, when faced with a crisis, people make practical decisions. "What gets lost when we are in crisis mode is our larger objective," he said. "We are a transit-first city that has strong climate change legislation, and Mayor Gavin Newsom is constantly campaigning on green issues. So it’s counterintuitive for us to broker an MTA budget on the backs of Muni riders and not understand that this deal could diminish that ridership."

But MTA spokesperson Judson True believes that what got lost in the discussion is that, as a result of Proposition A, the agency adopted a two-year budget that slapped drivers with increased rates and fees in 2008 while Muni riders and services were mostly spared.

Things changed, True said, when the economy tanked in 2008 and the MTA was left facing an unprecedented deficit. "At that point we reopened the budget and put everything on the table," True said.

Either way, Chiu has been urging supervisors to move on and focus on the next big thing: the mayor’s budget. "There’s a half-billion dollar hole in this budget," Chiu said last week. "It’ll make this debate look like child’s play."

Steven T. Jones contributed to this report.

The struggle continues

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>rebeccab@sfbg.com


Video of May 26’s anti-Prop 8 rally. Video by Rebecca Bowe. For more videos from that day, click here.

An estimated 10,000 people turned out in San Francisco May 26 for a day of rallies and marches staged in reaction to the California Supreme Court’s decision to uphold Proposition 8, the voter-approved measure passed in November 2008 that outlawed same-sex marriage in California. Expressing anger and frustration with the news, same-sex couples and advocates for marriage equality nonetheless vowed to push ahead with a new fight to overturn Prop. 8 at the ballot.

"Today’s court decision means we have to go back to the ballot," Abdi Soltani, executive director of the Northern California chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, told a crowd gathered outside San Francisco City Hall. "The issue is not whether we go back to the ballot. The key question for us to tackle now is what we have to do in order to win at the ballot. That’s the difficult work that is ahead for all of us."

It was an emotional day for same-sex couples. Protesters took to the streets in permitted and spontaneous marches, and 200 arrests were made after a sit-in was staged at Van Ness and Grove streets around midday.

"It’s a sad day to be a Californian, as far as I’m concerned. I’m embarrassed," Castro District resident Hank Doonan, standing arm in arm with his partner Michael Talty, told the Guardian. Talty displayed his engagement ring. "We’re still getting married, and it doesn’t matter," he asserted with a note of defiance. "But we’re really sad today."

Molly McKay, media director for nationwide same-sex marriage advocacy group Marriage Equality USA, appeared at the San Francisco rally in a wedding dress. "I’m sorry we have to keep fighting the same battle," she told the Guardian later. "But I’m proud of all the people who turned out."

Blocking the Port

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news@sfbg.com

GREEN CITY A lawsuit filed against the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports is impeding the Port of Oakland’s ability to regulate dirty trucks.

In April, a U.S. District Court sided with the American Trucking Association (ATA), placing a preliminary injunction on both ports’ clean truck programs and prompting ports across the nation to amend their clean truck programs to avoid similar lawsuits.

Meanwhile, the Oakland Port Commission was expected to vote on whether to approve a Comprehensive Truck Management Program for the Port of Oakland at its June 2 meeting, which would ban trucks that do not comply with new state air quality regulations and require trucking companies to register with the port.

The Coalition for Clean and Safe Ports (see "The polluting Port," 3/25/09), a mix of environmental, labor, interfaith, and community-based organizations, criticizes the Truck Management Program for falling short of a more comprehensive policy, but blames the shortcomings on the legal injunction secured by ATA. "The litigation has really tied their hands," says coalition director Doug Bloch, who helped organize a June 2 protest against what his group characterized as the trucking industry’s "obstructionist tactics."

Rather than targeting clean air regulations, ATA has focused its attack on a ban on low-salaried independent drivers from the port. Proponents of the ban argue that that an employee driver-based system would be more effective than the current system of independent drivers, because the cost burden of emissions upgrades would then fall onto trucking companies rather than independent contractors who often cannot afford emissions retrofits. "Truck drivers are scrambling" to afford retrofits required by stringent air quality regulations that become effective Jan. 1, Bloch notes. While the new rules will help alleviate West Oakland pollution, "they aren’t sustainable if the people responsible for meeting them can’t pay," he says.

The Port of Oakland commissioned an economic impact study by Beacon Economics, which favored an employee driver-based trucking system over independent drivers for similar reasons.

David Bensman, a labor studies and employment relations professor at Rutgers University in New Jersey, has studied port trucking extensively. "Deregulation created a hypercompetitive industry where truckers have no bargaining power," Bensman says. The result is a sort of race to the bottom. If the drivers refuse to accept a substandard rate, workers look at the long line of semis waiting, engines running, and see many others willing to work for that low rate. "The American Trucking Association is defending an industry model that is broken," Bensman asserts. "The system is not able to put trucks on the road that are clean and efficient."

ATA, however, believes that forcing truck companies to take on more employees will harm the entire industry’s competitive edge. Independent drivers have power and flexibility over their business practices, according to Clayton Boyce of ATA. "They are an independent business because they want to be an independent business. Anyone can give that up and become an employee if they wish," he says. "If they can’t run a business and buy the health insurance for themselves and maintain their trucks, then they shouldn’t be in that business."

At the Port of Oakland, however, 83 percent of truck drivers are independent, and only 17 percent work under truck companies. A report by the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy found that 62 percent of 1,500 truck drivers in the Port of Oakland do not have health insurance or the means to buy cleaner trucks. The proposed Comprehensive Truck Management Program does include a provision that would assist independent truckers with emissions retrofits, but the $5 million allotted doesn’t begin to cover the estimated $200 million price tag calculated by Beacon Economics, according to Bloch.

The Port of Oakland’s Maritime Committee passed a resolution supporting the findings of the Beacon Economics study and urging the adoption of an employee-driver system, but little can be done to move forward with it until after the Southern California injunction has been lifted. The Port Commission was also scheduled to vote on that resolution June 2.

The American Lung Association estimates that one in five children in West Oakland has asthma. According to a report by the Natural Resources Defense Council, diesel pollution is five times higher in West Oakland than in other parts of Alameda County.

Rebecca Bowe contributed to this report.

Bull feathers

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superego@sfbg.com

SUPEREGO I recently found myself in Navajo Nation, munching on frybread at Kate’s diner in Tuba City with Hunky Beau after rocking out to, I shit you not, tech-navajo on the local FM station in the rental. I looked fantastic. We’d just witnessed a fierce two-spirit working the sandwich counter at the Bashas’ supermarket down the street. She/he looked fantastic. Back here in the city, on the nightlife scene, things weren’t so fantastic — another big underground party got busted, Pink Saturday ran into permit snafus, and neighborhood complaints mooted even more regular shindigs. And has anyone else noticed the skyrocketing price of a drink in this town? I’m not saying you need a buzz to bust out (alcohol sales are banned on the rez, so I’m grateful for the option), but dropping a Hamilton for a weak well screwdriver certainly has me rethinking my hollow leg. Still, as immortal shamans ABBA sang, "I can fly like an eagle, I can learn to spread my wings". Spread ’em, children, toss your hair, and let’s keep flying high.

ROLLER DISCO!

The only party in the city where I’m never alone falling on my luscious ass returns — skate rental provided, balance and expertise optional. I can’t lie, I have a total blast at this gig, even if the tunes are fun-yet-familiar and there’s always that one amazingly cute girl whose backspins and pirouettes make me bite my knuckles and wish I were a lot gayer. Like, Brian Boitano gayer.

Thu/4, 9 p.m., $5. Mighty, 119 Utah, SF. www.mighty119.com

"25 YEARS OF HOUSE MUSIC"

Dates and times, dates and times — why quibble? Most approaches to the evolution of house are more organic than any "x" on a calendar. But if a quarter-century celebration, complete with art exhibition, of the underground global movement that foretold the Internet’s interconnectivity is a big enough excuse to get Chicago genius Jesse Saunders behind the decks at Club Six, I’m way down.

Fri/5, 9 p.m.–3 a.m., $15. Club Six, 60 Sixth St., SF. www.clubsix1.com

ZOMBIE BEACH PARTY

"Guaranteed to put the laughter in slaughter" is a tagline that’ll get me every time. And so will any appearance by the Living Dead Girlz, those jaw-dropping undead dancer with a taste for semi-clothed flesh. They’ll be waving, not drowning, from the stage at this tongueless-in-cheek beach blanket bingo bacchanal, along with Sparkly Devil, Honey Lawless, and a mass grave of others. Plus: an undead beachwear costume contest. Paging Annette Funicello …

Fri/5, 9 p.m.– late, $10 street clothes/$7 surfer zombies. DNA Lounge, 375 11th St., SF. www.dnalounge.com

BIG IDEA: RITUAL AND REDEMPTION

Oh, crap. Is it really Pride month again? Time to haul that sequined rainbow thong from out the mothballs and try to get married or whatever. Yerba Buena Center for the Arts is going homo-humongous for its latest, starlet-studded Big Idea party — rounding up the city’s fiercest alternaqueers with its golden lasso, including fab drag disasters Anna Conda and Monistat, DJ Dirty Knees, Pansy Division, Honey Soundsystem, Ex-Boyfriends, and the ever-present, never-sleeping Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. The Fellini-inspired spectacle also promises free tattoos, after-hours dancing, a taco truck, and "Project Nunway," heh. Best of all, the whole shebang is free — and not sponsored by Miller Lite, Altoids, 2Xist, Olivia Cruises, or Tylenol PM.

Sat/6, 9 p.m.–3 a.m., free. YBCA, 701 Mission, SF. www.ybca.org

WIGHNOMY BROTHERS

Monthly throwdown Kontrol at EndUp breeds absolutely bonkers dancefloor results that are far less fussy than its minimal techno focus, meticulous taste in talent, and somewhat daunting prevalence of miniscule eyewear would suggest. For the party’s fourth anniversary, it’s bringing in Germany’s superstar Wighnomy Brothers, two proudly unkempt vodka-swillers whose Seth Rogen-like public image belies a sizzling bromance with the more lovable, devil-may-care side of dance. The tipsy pair of teddy bears with a penchant for unpronounceable titles (recent release: Metawuffmischfelge) refused to visit the U.S. during that whole Bush thing. Laudable, but we could have used their balls-to-the-wall wig-outs to help us through such foulest ick. Good thing we’ve still got problems!

Sat/6, 10 p.m.–6 a.m., $20. EndUp, 401 Sixth St., SF. www.kontrolsf.com

Shrinking government

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steve@sfbg.com

Mayor Gavin Newsom released his proposed 2009-10 city budget June 1, proclaiming it far better than doomsayers predicted and emphasizing how he minimized cuts to health and human services that he once said could be as deep as 25 percent in order to bridge a $438 million budget deficit.

"It doesn’t come close to balancing on the backs of our health and human services agencies, as some had feared," Newsom told the department heads, elected supervisors, and journalists who were tightly packed into his office for the announcement event.

But there’s still plenty of pain in a city budget where the General Fund — the portion of the budget local officials can control — would be reduced by more than 11 percent, its only reduction in recent memory. And at a time when every reasonable Democrat in Sacramento has been nearly begging for tax hikes to prevent budget blood, San Francisco’s Democratic mayor proudly proclaimed that there are no new taxes in the budget.

"We didn’t raise taxes, and we didn’t borrow," he said. You can almost hear that line being repeated in the ads he’ll be running as he campaigns for governor.

Newsom proposes slashing the city’s public health budget by $128.4 million, or 8 percent (a total of 400 employees), while the human services budget would take a $15.9 million hit, or 2 percent. "That’s a lot, but by no means is it devastating," Newsom said, noting that he restored some of the deepest cuts that were the subject of alarming public hearings. "I listened to the public comments at the Board of Supervisors… Things got a lot better than the headlines and the hearings."

The proposed budget includes 1,603 full-time-equivalent layoffs, or a 5.8 reduction in the city’s workforce, trimming more than $75.5 million from the general fund budget. In addition, the Department of Health and Human Services is cutting back its workweek to 37.5 hours to further trim costs.

"The smoke hasn’t cleared yet and there’s a lot of devastation in this budget that isn’t being talked about," Sup. John Avalos, who chairs the Board of Supervisors Budget Committee, said at the event. Newsom’s budget will be analyzed and then face its first committee hearing June 17, with approval by the full board required by July 31.

"The mayor told us a lot about what’s in the budget, but not a lot about what’s not in the budget, so we’ll spend a few days figuring that out," board President David Chiu told the Guardian.

The budget was aided greatly by more than $80 million in federal stimulus funds and other one-time revenue sources (such as $10 million from the sale of city-owned energy turbines) that were used to plug this year’s gap and offset cuts by the state and depressed tax revenue.

Although Newsom doesn’t want to raise taxes, licenses and fees would go up 41 percent, increasing revenue by $64 million to $220 million. Some of those proposed fee hikes range from the cost of parking in city-owned garages to admission fees for city-owned facilities such as the Strybing Arboretum. Muni riders will also see fares hiked to $2.

There will also be deep cuts to some key city functions. The Department of Emergency Management would take a 24 percent cut under the mayor’s plan, while the Department of Building Inspection faces a 20 percent cut to expenditures and a 29 percent reduction in staff.

The Planning Department would also take a hit of about 7 percent, with most of that focused on the department’s long-range planning functions, which were slashed by 19 percent to $4.7 million.

But it’s not an entirely austere budget. The police and fire departments have status quo budgets with no layoffs. Travel expenses would increase 13.5 percent to $2.9 million and the cost of food purchased by the city would rise 127 percent to $7 million.

The Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development — which often uses public funds to subsidize private sector projects — would get a 32 percent increase, to $24.7 million.

It’s unclear how much the Mayor’s Office has shared the budget pain. During the presentation, Newsom said his office’s budget has been cut by 28 percent, but he later clarified that was spread over the five years he has been mayor. Yet even that is tough to account for given that some functions have been shuffled to other departments.

The document shows a proposed 60 percent increase in the Mayor’s Office budget, although the lion’s share of that comes from the Mayor’s Office of Housing’s one-time financial support for some long-awaited projects, including rebuilding the Hunters View housing and support services project for low-income people connected to the Central YMCA, and an apartment project on 29th Avenue for people with disabilities.

Avalos has said he will look to find money by cutting some of the highly paid policy czars and communications specialists added to the Mayor’s Office in recent years, as well as Newsom’s cherished 311 call center and the Community Justice Court he created. Supervisors are also expected to resist Newsom’s penchant for privatization. Newsom proposed to privatize seven city functions, from jail health services and security guards and city-owned facilities, and to consolidate another 14 functions between various city departments.

Newsom pledged to work with supervisors who want to change the budget, continuing the rhetoric of cooperation that he opened the budget season with in January, which supervisors say hasn’t been matched by his actions or the secretive nature of this budget. "This budget is by no means done," Newsom said. "It’s an ongoing process."

In fact, Newsom warned that the budget news could be even worse than his budget outlines. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is talking about new cuts that could total $175 million or more for San Francisco only, although Newsom only included $25 million of that in his budget because it went to the printer on May 22 and the total hit is still unclear. "So," Newsom said, "we’re by no means out of the woods."

That crazy feeling

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>johnny@sfbg.com

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Robert Frank, “San Francisco, 1956”

The world writes a story far beyond — or deeper and more twist-riddled than — any author’s imagination. How else to explain the fact that Robert Frank’s peerless photographic book The Americans turned 50 the same year that Barack H. Obama was elected president of the United States? Looking in — again, and again — at The Americans, thanks to a handsome new edition (Steidl, 180 pages, $39.95), or at "The Americans," thanks to a traveling exhibition connected to Frank’s landmark work, one finds a vision of this country that is anything but dated.

Jack Kerouac raved about the way Frank captured "that crazy feeling in America," and to be sure, even if his prosaic descriptions of Frank’s photos come off a bit redundant now, there’s still some insightful gold to be gleaned from his observation that Frank was always taking pictures of jukeboxes and coffins. There’s been no shortage of writing about The Americans since Kerouac’s at-times stifled response. Is there anything left to say about The Americans? If there’s anything left to say about America, the answer is yes.

There are infinite views. One is Frank’s very particular sense of place. For a San Franciscan, that means an untitled image of a couple on Alamo Square, perhaps the most iconic of at least three Bay Area pictures. Frank has cited this photo as his favorite in The Americans, because the facial expressions of the couple he’s caught unaware bring across loud and clear what an intrusive presence the photographer is by nature. But this shot also is a document of the Western Addition when it was a thriving African-American neighborhood. It’s existence confronts the face of San Francisco today.

In a Charleston, S.C., image from The Americans, a pampered, already entitled-looking snow white baby looks out from the cradling arms of a black maid whose face — seen in profile — is more fascinating and harder to read. The picture is a blunt image of race in the South, and of race in America on the eve of civil rights uprisings. It also raises an interesting side question: why did it take European exiles to photographically render that subject with candor? This keepsake of Charleston by the Swiss Frank is the black-and-white counterpart to the Technicolor ironies that German expatriate Douglas Sirk brought to the 1959 version of Imitation of Life. (Racism was flagrantly institutionalized during the making of The Americans, and Frank has long had an critical eye for U.S. institutions — a Frank film series at SFMOMA doesn’t just showcase the Beat work Pull My Daisy, it also includes Me and My Brother (1969) a look at this country’s concepts of mental illness that’s more personal than, and just as direct as, Frederick Wiseman’s Titicut Follies (1967).)

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Robert Frank, “US 90, En Route to Del Rio, Texas”

For any person who has lived with The Americans — spent time over the years looking through its pages, locking eyes on a particular picture and contemputf8g it — there’s a peculiar card-shuffle déjà vu-gone-slightly-askew-or-anew feeling to encountering the same photos in succession along the walls. This is the experience of looking at "Looking In: Robert Frank’s ‘The Americans,’" the Frank exhibition currently on view at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Alongside rather than on top of one another, an alphabet of American hats point in different directions, each one reflecting a viewpoint. An array of flags mask people’s faces, or point sorrowfully toward the ground.

One facet or extension of "Looking At" explores Frank’s influences, and in turn, his influences on, American photography. To be sure, Diane Arbus’s trannies and butches and Lee Friedlander’s broadcast TVs owe a debt to Frank’s visions of censored-or-taken-for-granted everyday 20th century life. The through line from the Depression-era photography of Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans to Frank’s look at a family crammed into a car in Butte, Mont., is obvious. Absent, though, are some definite predecessors and peers. Weegee’s hard-boiled naked city is nowhere to be seen — except in Frank (and frank) images such as one of people in Miami Beach. William Klein’s pictorial rephrasing of urban adspeak is absent save for a look at a department store in Nebraska, an arrow on the wall of a building in Los Angeles, or a newsstand in New York City or a sidewalk in New Orleans.

With one photo in The Americans, Robert Frank maDE gas pumps look like a series of tombstones, all gathered by a sign that declares SAVE. There are legions of artists today making images less contemporary or relevant. Take a look at The Americans, and you’ll find cowboys, starlets, funeral parties, boys in arcades, queens on stoops, leather rebels, bored or contemplative waitresses, street preachers, a parade of pedestrians, wheelers and dealers — and workers. Take another look at The Americans today, 50-plus years after it made its first impression, and you’ll probably find yourself.


LOOKING IN: ROBERT FRANK’S "THE AMERICANS"

Through Aug. 23, free–$15

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

151 Third St, SF

(415) 357-4000

www.sfmoma.org

ROBERT FRANK RETROSPECTIVE

Through June 27

Phyllis Wattis Theater

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

151 Third St., SF

(415) 357-4000

www.sfmoma.org

Do the ‘bot

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a&eletters@sfbg.com

It’s a flagship band on America’s taste-makingest dance music label, but the Juan Maclean’s second full-length of peerless pop disco, The Future Will Come (DFA) is a low-stakes affair. In contrast to the orbit of expectations around the Field’s recently released Yesterday and Today (ANTI-/Kompakt), there isn’t the sense that it should — or can — be read as a measure of the group’s artistic viability.

Which is not to say that Future hasn’t undergone intense scrutiny. Last year’s monster of a teaser single, the 12-minute "Happy House," weathered pages of heated message board discussion among sample spotters, who pointed out that the group lifted the track’s driving two-chord piano vamp from Dubtribe Sound System’s decade-old "Do It Now."

"It was pretty funny," John (a.k.a. Juan) MacLean says by phone, as he and his bandmates drive through Georgia. "Someone was accusing me of ripping someone off in a style of music that has been almost entirely sample-dependent."

Although it has taken on a massive life outside of Future, "Happy House" shows what TJM is capable of: namely, superb pop that uses dance music’s production techniques and structures. This elusive combination was hinted at on its debut, 2005’s Less Than Human (Astralwerks). Now vocals have a more prominent role. Songs such as "One Day" feature a back-and-forth between MacLean and LCD Soundsystem member Nancy Whang that recalls Dare-era Human League.

"We paid a lot more attention to how we were doing [vocals], stylistically," says MacLean, "On the first album it was more like we laid vocals on top of instrumental songs." With Future, the studio effects that masked MacLean’s voice are removed to reveal even colder circuitry. Like Brian Eno or Gary Numan, his tone is both affected and affectless. At times, it’s also goofy unto distraction. Then again, a line like "I’ll be here after midnight, wearing my beleaguered frown" isn’t angling for verisimilitude.

Future also pares down some of the trickier production flourishes that made Less Than Human feel a little insular, if satisfying in its complexity. MacLean describes the process as "nowhere near as difficult" as it was on Human. "This one has so much live playing on it that it’s been a pretty straightforward transition," he says.

The conciliatory quality at the base of Future‘s sound is cleanly framed and well-articulated in a manner that rebuts the tongue-in-cheek prohibition of TJM’s early single "You Can’t Have It Both Ways." The sequencing, for example, places the longer club tracks ("The Simple Life," "Tonight," and "Happy House") squarely at the beginning, middle, and end, spaced out by pop-length songs. MacLean has a history with structure and discipline as aesthetic strategies — from his earliest releases with Six Finger Satellite, he’s consistently taken cues from Kraftwerk over, say, Creedence.

The Juan MacLean makes music that’s uncomplicatedly likeable, even as the group emphasizes robot drama, traditionally not an easy sell with American audiences. "It’s easier to be crazy and out-there and experimental," MacLean says. "The pop music world is more difficult to navigate." Future puts that difficulty across to the listener with "Human Disaster," which sounds like a piano ballad with every other chord taken out. If I could get past just how bummed out MacLean sounds, I might hear it as a rebuke to listeners looking for recognizable emotion.

The album’s title track, on the other hand, plays as straight-up satire, and comes close to calling trust-funders out by name. It’s hard to tell brilliant and clumsy apart as Maclean pronounces "Your life in the city is a paid vacation /Your suicide note was a part of your thesis" over a hopped-up conga loop. "In New York, you find yourself surrounded by people who just talk a lot about doing things without ever getting them done — types that don’t have to live all that desperately," MacLean explains.

This is an assuringly human sentiment. On Future, class antagonism and Teutonic robots might be shunted aside by listeners in favor of values like emotional immediacy, personal agency, and dubiously coded ideals of authenticity and originality. Ultimately the Juan MacLean’s latest serves to emphasize that DFA is a label based on fandom committed to communicating the pleasure of listening. It gives us a glimpse of its maker’s canon, and a host of new thrills.

THE JUAN MACLEAN

With the Field

Sat/6, 9 p.m., $20

Mezzanine

444 Jessie, SF

(415) 625-8880

www.mezzaninesf.com

Let there be lunch

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paulr@sfbg.com

In the restaurant pageant, places that don’t serve dinner are at risk of being seen as a ragtag contingent. Dinner is glory, while breakfast and lunch, if not preceded by the adjective "power" — relic of a pre-bust past — are routine. There are time constraints and concerns about drink, not to mention daylight, which, while delightful, can be inhibiting. People are free to dance the night away, but not the noon hour.

One response to this predicament is to be very good-looking — like, say, Stable Café, which opened about a year ago in a building that, in the 1870s, actually housed the mayoral stables, back in the days when mayors had stables of horses instead of (or in addition to) floozies. The structure has a Wild West, stagecoach-stop look and has been painted black — shades of that sex club on Castro Street in the early 1990s. Inside, though, all is spare, sunlit grace, with ice water pourable from a pewter ewer and a lovely gated courtyard, set with tables and patio umbrellas, on the north side of the building. The quiet style and attention to detail aren’t surprising, considering that there’s an architecture firm, Malcom Davis Architecture, on the building’s second floor, and that Davis and his partner, Brian Lackey, own the property and are its redesigners.

Lackey runs the food operation, which serves both the café and a catering concern called Mission Creek Kitchen. The former’s menu naturally emphasizes soups, salads, sandwiches, and panini — the last being Italian-style sandwiches pressed in a waffle-iron-like device and served hot. This method is especially effective when cheese is involved, since cheese melts and melted cheese holds things together while adding a gooey voluptuousness that is its own reward. Turkey sandwiches, for instance, can be dry, but Stable’s turkey and cheddar panino ($6.75) was enlivened by plenty of melted white cheddar. A vegetarian edition ($6.75) of tomato, pesto, and mozzarella cheese, was like a reimagined slice of pizza margherita. The bread used for the panini is plain french bread, not fancy but pillow-fresh within a tender-crisp crust.

Panini come with a sizable heap of mésclun, tossed with some carrot ribbons and a cherry tomato or two and glossed with a simple vinaigrette. If that doesn’t offer enough counterpoint, then perhaps a small bowl ($3.50) of the day’s soup, which might be a coarse purée of tomato and roasted red bell pepper — a strange combination for late spring, but let’s let it go because, even in the presence of out-of-season soup, Stable is as attractive a place to look at and sit in, or next to, in this part of the Mission since the days of the original Citizen Cake a decade ago. If you’ve missed a haven of sunny serenity since that operation packed up and moved to the Civic Center, then Stable Café might well strike you as paradise regained.


Just off Union Square, in the Chancellor Hotel, we find another handsome, daytime-only spot called Luques. We find it after some searching, since the dining room is well-concealed behind the hotel lobby. Furtiveness does offer its joys, but a restaurant that people have trouble finding is in danger of becoming a restaurant that people stop looking for. Yet those who manage to suss out Luques will find themselves in a comfortably appointed, skylit dining room that, in its remove from the street bustle just a few steps away, can seem almost like a private or VIP facility.

Chef Darren Lacy offers a mainstream California menu with gentle Southern flourishes. You can get po’boy sliders, for instance, or a Creole-style croque monsieur ($10) — the classic ham-and-cheese sandwich, made here with tasso instead of ham. (Tasso is an cold-smoked relative of prosciutto, with pork shoulder used in place of leg.) For a bit of added luxury, the bread is brioche, although that cake-like quality is somewhat obscured by a downpour of béchamel sauce. On the side: a mixed green salad for the ascetic or, for the rest of us, delicately golden, crisp fries.

I particularly liked Lacy’s cream of mushroom soup ($3.50 for a cup), which was thick with strips of shiitake mushrooms and creamy, although not too creamy, thanks to an expert blending of cream and stock. No Creole influence here (unless the cream counts), or on the California chicken sandwich ($9.25), a friendly get-together of boneless grilled chicken breast, avocado, tomato slices, jack cheese, bacon, and aioli on sourdough. Still, it did what a good lunch is supposed to do: satisfy without encumbering, so that when you leave the secret chamber you’re still as fleet of foot and clear of mind as you rejoin the daily pageant.

STABLE CAFÉ

Mon.–Fri., 8 a.m.–3 p.m.; Sat., 9 a.m.–3 p.m.

2128 Folsom, SF

(415) 552-1199

www.stablecafe.com

No alcohol

AE/MC/V

Not noisy

Wheelchair accessible

LUQUES RESTAURANT & BAR

Daily, 7 a.m.–2:30 p.m.

433 Powell, SF

(415) 248-2475

www.luquesrestaurant.com

Full bar

AE/DS/MC/V

Not noisy

Wheelchair accessible

Musical, political, alchemical

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a&eletters@sfbg.com

Quick, name a magus of the female persuasion, a black sorceress who wields sound like a talisman. The first image we have of Erykah Badu is her calmly walking on stage during the summer of 1997, lighting a series of candles to begin the ceremony. She would summon ghosts: Billie Holliday, the Nation of the Gods and the Earths, scruffy B-boys on a street corner. Her band — on her debut Baduizm (Kedar/Universal Motown, 1997), it is often neo-soul locus the Roots — played balletic grooves at a languid pace. She was a strangely beautiful apparition, a high priestess of soul.

Ever since, Badu has embraced and chafed at her mystical reputation. In 1998 she appeared in the mediocre coming-of-age flick The Cider House Rules as — guess what? — a voodun priestess. Meanwhile her romances with Andre 3000, Common, and, lately, Texas rap prospect Jay Electronica (with whom she recently had a child) have occasionally made her a target of the hip-hop paparazzi. She’s bragged in interviews of her prowess as a mackstress; other times, she’s refused to comment on her private life.

On last year’s Universal/Motown release New Amerykah Part One (4th World War), Badu finally seems at peace with her eccentricities. Past albums exhausted her former glories for fresh inspiration: 2003’s Worldwide Underground (Motown) included "Danger," which opens with a refrain from Baduizm‘s second single, "Otherside of the Game." Its intro track "World Keeps Turnin’" returns to the "on and on" lullaby of "On & On," Baduizm‘s Five Percenter-quoting breakout single ("And on and on and on, my cipher keeps moving like a rolling stone"). New Amerykah doesn’t look backward. Its starkly illustrated theme — a woman standing strong amid a world roiling in war and chaos — uneasily imagines the future present.

"This year I turn 36," Badu sings on the elegiac "Me." "Damn it seems it came so quick, my ass and legs have gotten thick. It’s all me." Thankfully Badu hasn’t settled into an adult contemporary middle-age, singing baby-making ballads for grown-ups. Few of her 1990s peers kept pace: last year, Spin magazine noted that D’Angelo, Maxwell, Lauryn Hill, and others from the neo-soul generation have mostly disappeared from view. But while Maxwell is drawing SRO audiences as he tours the country in preparation for BLACKsummers’night‘s July 7 release, and D’Angelo plans a similar comeback in the fall, it’s doubtful either will match Badu’s fiercely creative restlessness.

For New Amerykah, she turns to her artistic sons and daughters, musicians who used her blazing example to reinvigorate underground soul. The L.A. music collective Sa-Ra Creative Partners helm several tracks and 9th Wonder produces "Honey," a luscious love song that closes New Amerykah on an optimistic note. Wiggy soul-jazz aesthete Georgia Anne Muldrow appears on "Master Teacher," a heartbreaking yearning for positive influences in the black community. "A beautiful world is hard to find," sings Muldrow. "What if there was no niggas, only master teachers? I’d stay woke."

"Master Teacher" has been viewed as a tribute to Dr. Malachi Z. York, an esoteric philosopher whose mix of Egyptology, Islam and other pan-African ideas influenced Badu and other hip hop and R&B artists in the 1990s. (He was arrested and convicted for child molestation in 2004, and is currently serving a life sentence.) But without blunting the song’s original intent — many of "Master Teacher" York’s supporters believe he’s the target of a government conspiracy — it seems clear that Badu is the master teacher. Throughout her career, Badu has demonstrated a knack for communicating hardcore black ideologies in universal terms, educating and subverting her mainstream audience. She has always worked in alchemical ways. But with the arrival of New Amerykah, she finally turned the focus away from herself.

"Humdililah, Allah, Jehovah, Yaweh, Dios, Maat, Jah, Ras Tafari, fire, dance sex music, hip hop," Badu sings on "The Healer." "It’s bigger than religion, hip hop. This one is for Dilla."

ERYKAH BADU

Sat/6 9 p.m., $60

Warfield Theatre

982 Market, SF

(800) 745-3000

www.ticketmaster.com

Volume 43 Number 36 Flip-through Edition

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Revanche

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REVIEW In the sex industry of Vienna, small-time criminal Alex (Johannes Krisch) has dreams of escape for himself and his Ukrainian prostitute girlfriend, Tamara (Irina Potapenko). With a ski mask and an unloaded pistol, the miscreant schlemiel allows Tamara to accompany him during the commission of a robbery, and disastrous consequences ultimately transpire. After Alex and Tamara cross paths with young policeman Robert (Andreas Lust), his seemingly idyllic small-town life is also upended by the confrontation. Robert’s wife, Susanne (Ursula Strauss) fails to hearten her inconsolable husband. Instead, she finds her only comfort visiting a neighbor, Hausner (Johannes Thanheiser). But this tale of city-to-country anomie transforms into a gripping revenge play when Alex (who is, we learn, also Hausner’s grandson) suddenly appears in the town, seeking bloody satisfaction. Transforming from an urban neo-noir to a village morality play and a bedroom character study, Götz Spielmann’s Revanche (in French, the act of revenge) confronts the fundamental existential conundrum — fate’s random selection of its prey, or, as the film’s tag-line asks, "Whose Fault Is It When Life Doesn’t Go Your Way?"

REVANCHE opens Fri/5 in Bay Area theaters.

MORE AT SFBG.COM


Pixel Vision blog: An extended version of this review.

Appetite: Absinthe gimlets, fancy ‘wiches, sparkling spirits, dinner in bed, and more

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Every week, Virginia Miller of personalized itinerary service and monthly food, drink, and travel newsletter, www.theperfectspotsf.com, shares foodie news, events, and deals. View the last installment here.

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NEW OPENINGS
Grand Tavern dining room. Photo by Virginia Miller

The Grand Tavern opens in Oakland
Take a turn-of-the-century house on Grand Ave (near Camino) and turn it into The Grand Tavern, making use of each room (dining room with fireplace, lounge areas with chairs from Mission vintage shops, a dark wood bar, and patio)… add a menu cooked by Kay Eskind, aka "Mom", put the entire operation in the capable hands of her son, Temoor Noor, who has, with care and saavy, thought out each detail, from craft beer selection to beautiful artisanal cocktails (I’m ready to go back for the Absinthe Gimlet!), and you’re starting to get an idea of what kind of appealing hang out this tavern is.

With a $5-18 menu featuring rib-eye steak, Cornish hen with ginger and onions, and roasted squash with chili, onions and garlic sour cream sauce, it’s comforting gastropub fare, paired with an Affligem Blonde on tap or Devil’s Whiskers cocktail. The Kold Draft machine means they’re serious about perfect temperature and quality in their drinks, and the welcoming ease of staff and owner mean you can sip or sup in any room or move between them as you wish. They’re in soft opening phase right now but don’t let that stop you (in the first week along, I had a pretty seamless experience). Mi casa su casa.
3601 Grand Avenue, Oakland
510-444-4644

www.grandtavern.net

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EVENTS

6/1 – Supperclub 4-course Dinner with Jamie Lauren and Jennie Lorenzo
Dinner in bed? You’ll want to splurge for this one-of-a-kind night at Netherlands-based Supperclub’s one US location. Waited on hand-and-foot while lounging in Roman-style beds as you’re surrounded by opera singers, contortionists dangling from colorful fabric above you, even flaming sword-carrying belly dancers… who knows what might appear? Don’t worry, it’s not merely style sans substance. Launched in February, Supperclub’s “Uber Dinner” series started with a one-night-only dinner cooked by three Michelin-rated chefs from Europe and our own Elizabeth Falkner. Not bad, eh? Tonight it’s another rare gig… come and be surprised by an undisclosed four-course meal, paired with cocktails and wine (all included in the price). Highlighting Great Chefs of San Francisco, “Uber Dinner II”‘s guest chefs are Jennie Lorenzo, Exec Chef of Michelin-rated Fifth Floor, and Jamie Lauren, Exec Chef at Absinthe, and recently of, well, you already know… Top Chef. A night of exotic and sensuous feasting, this is one those meals engaging all your senses.
$125
7-10pm
657 Harrison Street
415-348-0900
www.supperclub.com

AppCocktail0609a.jpg

Cocktail Party at Domaine Chandon in Napa Valley
I love any excuse for a dress-up cocktail party, one with fine spirits, company, and tunes. In wine-centric Napa Valley, Yountville’s sparking wine queen, Domaine Chandon, is throwing a unique party this Thursday night with three hours of sparkling wine cocktails (created by Nopa’s Neyah White – yes!), small bites from on-site Etoile restaurant (which gets a 25 food rating in Zagat), and DJ Dukes providing the dance soundtrack, all in Chandon’s lovely open-air lounge and terrace, where you can roam under the stars in your little black dress or vintage suit. Sounds worth a trek up North.
$30
1 California Drive, Yountville

888-242-6366
www.chandon.com

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NEWS

Calling all cooks… sandwich contest where you can win $25,000
With the gourmet sandwich craze reaching an apex these days (Sentinel, Kitchenette, Pal’s, and so on), I couldn’t help but notice that Napa Valley-based Mezzetta, producer of jarred olives, peppers and specialty foods, launched a Summer-long contest for America’s Best Sandwich Recipe on Memorial Day. The eye-catcher? Grand prize is a whopping $25,000 (plus a trip to Napa) and two runners-up win $1000 each. Given the inspiration we have all around us in amazing sandwiches, I figured it’d be a natural to have a Bay Area winner, right? They say, "let your culinary imagination run wild", so now’s your chance to create a recipe to rival the great ones we eat all the time. Submit as many recipes as you want in three categories (Cold, Hot or Vegetarian), using at least two of Mezzetta’s products, from their peppers, olives, gourmet foods line, Napa Valley Bistro pasta sauces and olives, or Kona Coast teriyaki and BBQ sauces. I’d say those parameters are worth $25k. In these times, to win that much for a recipe is nothing short of a golden opportunity.
www.makethatsandwich.com

in/divisible

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PREVIEW The fact that the state Supreme Court upheld Proposition 8 probably was no surprise to Dance Ceres choreographer-dancer Brittany Brown Ceres, since the aftershock of the proposition’s passage coincided with her residency at CounterPULSE. But it probably did strengthen her faith in dance’s ability to suggest and strengthen concepts of community, self, and instigating and supporting change. The upcoming in/divisible, presented as part of this year’s National Queer Arts Festival, may also serve as an affirmation for those engaged in the ongoing struggle for equality. Though there is nothing overtly political about Brown Ceres’ choreography, her dances are forceful and affirming of female identity. At their best, they draw you in because of the complexity of the impulses that generate and control them. Still, if you look closely, you can see how they undermine conventional mores and ingrained patterns of thought. But they mostly convince because they are so beautifully and emotionally logical in the way they communicate. For in/divisible, Brown Ceres is collaborating with two soul mates. Aerial artist Sonya Smith complements her own (physically) more gravity-bound choreography. Joining them from San Diego is Sadie Weinberg with American Torch Songs, a set of short dances that look back at one of the universal high school experiences: getting dumped.

IN/DIVISIBLE Thurs/4–Sat/6, 8 p.m., $15. CounterPULSE, 1310 Mission, SF. 1-800-838-3006. www.brownpapertickets.com

Garrett Pierce

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PREVIEW There’s a bald-faced beauty lurking at the dark heart of San Francisco singer-songwriter Garrett Pierce’s All Masks (Crossbill). The album, Pierce’s second, glimmers quietly, gorgeously from a luminous remove: the performer wrote many of its numbers after traveling for months in Italy and Greece, visiting the power centers and ritual spaces devoted to the gods that pull the strings in Pierce’s beloved myths. After passing through the hands of Pierce and his collaborators — Jake Mann, Jen Grady and Carey Lamprecht (Emily Jane White Band), and Tim Wright (Wilderness) — the tracks on All Masks ended up revolving around the what Pierce calls a "self-exploration" of his dark side. "Some are brutally honest about shortcomings," the 28-year-old explains by phone from Davis, where he’s visiting his girlfriend and partaking in kombucha and wine. "As a songwriter, I err on the therapeutic side. I love all kinds of music, and I’ve played music that has had nothing personal involved. But for me, songwriting kind of gets me through without having to pay for therapy. If there’s a thread between these songs, it’s the exploration of the more upsetting images in my head."

Of course, mythic creatures slither to the fore, as they do on "Adam" in the form of the Garden of Eden’s snake. "I had this idea that Adam and him were friends and kicking it for a while, then the snake got axed and had this spiritual awakening on his death bed," Pierce says. "Every song has its own little life that way — I give them happier endings or a spiritual conclusion of sorts." Why? "That’s what I’m hoping for in my own life and hoping for in my songs."

GARRETT PIERCE With Conspiracy of Venus and Devotionals. Wed/3, 8 p.m., $10. Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell, SF. (415) 861-2011, www.rickshawstop.com

Mayhem

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PREVIEW Since 1984, Oslo’s favorite sons Mayhem have had a reasonable claim to the title of most fucked-up band on the planet, the eagerly repeated stories of the lurid spectacle that is their live show representing only some of the milder aspects of their mythos. Colorful history aside, the men of Mayhem have established themselves as architects of the modern black metal sound, taking the nasty musicianship and overt occultism of Venom and early Bathory and using them as the foundation for a terrifying new kind of metal that mixes breakneck drums, guttural riffs, and croaking vocals with eerie, understated melody. Often imitated, the 25-year veterans’ unique style is seldom matched in terms of sheer, unhinged intensity.

Co-headliners Marduk, one of countless bands to follow in Mayhem’s footsteps, spent the better part of its career becoming even more gruesome and unpalatable to mainstream audiences with each successive album, until it was not inconceivable to mention the satanic Swedes in the same breath as their more established tour mates. By the late 1990s, Marduk began branching out instrumentally, refining its musicianship while remaining true to the genre it helped pioneer.

The two black metal greats are supported by a diverse collection of bands taken from all corners of the extreme metal scene. Progressive, black metal-inspired Withered makes a logical opener, and the presence of dizzying grindcore virtuosos Cephalic Carnage is strange but welcome. Rounding out the bill is the brutal Cattle Decapitation, a consistent favorite among fans of uncompromising, technical death metal. Fans of life-affirming music would do well to avoid this show.

MAYHEM Wed/3, 6 p.m., $25–$30, all ages. DNA Lounge 375 11th St., SF. (415) 626-1409. www.dnalounge.com