Volume 43 Number 41

Art Listings

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Art listings are compiled by Johnny Ray Huston. See Picks for information on how to submit items to the listings. For more art listings go to sfbg.com.

MUSEUMS

Asian Art Museum 200 Larkin; 581-3500, www.asianart.org. Tues-Wed, Fri-Sun, 10am-5pm; Thurs, 10am-9pm. $10 ($5 Thurs after 5pm), $7 seniors, $6 for ages 12 to 17, free for 11 and under. "In a New Light: The Asian Art Museum Collection." Ongoing.

California Palace of the Legion of Honor Lincoln Park (near 34th Ave and Clement); 750-3600. Tues-Sun, 9:30am-5pm. $8, $6 seniors, $5 for ages 12 to 17, free for 10 and under (free Tues). "Surrealism: Selections from the Reva and David Logan Collection of Illustrated Books." Work by surrealist poets and artists. Ongoing.

Cartoon Art Museum 655 Mission; CAR-TOON. Tues-Sun, 11am-5pm. $6, $4 students and seniors, $2 for ages 6 to 12, free for five and under and members. "Watchmen." Illustrations, sketches, and comic book pages by Dave Gibbons. Through July 19. "The Brinkley Girls." Retrospective devoted to early 20th century illustrator Nell Brinkley. Through August 23.

Contemporary Jewish Museum 736 Mission; www.thecjm.org. Mon-Tues, Fri-Sun, 11am-5:30pm; Thurs, 1-8pm. $10, $8 seniors and students, free for 12 and under and members. "Chagall and the Artists of the Russian Jewish Theater." An exhibition of 200 works of art and ephemera. Through Sept 7. "Being Jewish: A Bay Area Portrait." Ongoing.

De Young Museum Golden Gate Park, 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive (near Fulton and 10th Ave); 750-3600. Tues-Sun, 9:30am-5:15pm (Fri, 9:30am-8:45pm). $10, $7 seniors, $6 for ages 13 to 17 and college students with ID (free first Tues). "The Fauna and Flora of the Pacific." Mural by Miguel Covarrubias. Ongoing.

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art 151 Third St; 357-4000. Mon-Tues, Fri-Sun, 11am-5:45pm; Thurs, 10am-8:45pm. $12.50, $8 seniors, $7 students, free for members and 12 and under (free first Tues; half price Thurs, 6-8:45pm). "Looking In: Robert Frank’s ‘The Americans’." Exhibition devoted to the photographic classic. Through August 23. "Georgia O’Keefe and Ansel Adams: Natural Affinities." Show dedicated to the two popular American artists. Through Sept 7. "Art in the Atrium: Kerry James Marshall." Monumental murals. Ongoing.

San Francisco Museum of Performance and Design War Memorial Veterans Bldg, 401 Van Ness, fourth floor; 255-4800, www.sfpalm.org. Tues-Fri, 11am-5pm; Sat, 1-5pm. Free. "Star Quality: The World of Noel Coward." Exhibition dedicated to the icon. Through August 29. "Maestro: Photographic Portraits of Tom Zimberoff." Portraits of national and international conductors. Ongoing. "150 Years of Dance in California." Ongoing. "San Francisco in Song." Ongoing. "San Francisco 1900: On Stage." Ongoing.


BAY AREA

Cantor Arts Center Lomita and Museum, Stanford University, Stanford; (650) 723-4177. Wed, Fri-Sun, 11am-5pm; Thurs, 11am-8pm. "Appellations to Antiquity." 19th and 20th century works from the museum collection. Through July 26. "Pop to Present." Survey from the 1960s to the present. Through August 16. "Contemporary Glass." Modern glass works. Ongoing. "Rodin! The Complete Stanford Collection." Ongoing.

Judah L. Magnes Museum 2911 Russell, Berk; (510) 549-6950. Mon-Wed, Sun, 11am-4pm. $4, $3 students and seniors. "Memory Lab." Interactive installation allowing visitors to make family albums from their documents, photographs, and memories. Ongoing. "Projections." Multimedia works from the museums archival, documentary, and experimental films. Ongoing.

Oakland Museum of California 1000 Oak, Oakl; (510) 238-2200. Wed-Sat, 10am-5pm (first Fri, 10am-9pm); Sun, noon-5pm. $8, $5 seniors and students (free second Sun). "Future of Sequoias: Sustaining Parklands in the 21st Century." Panoramic photos with commentary. Through August 23. "Squeak Carnwath: Painting is No Ordinary Object." A solo exhibition dedicated to the Oakland artist. Through August 23. "The Art and History of Early California." The story of California from the first inhabitants through the Gold Rush. Ongoing.

Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology UC Berkeley, 103 Kroeber Hall, room 3712, Bancroft and Bowditch, Berk; (510) 643-1193. Wed-Sat, 10am-4:30pm; Sun, noon-4pm. $4, $3 seniors, $1 students, free for 12 and under. "From the Maker’s Hand: Selections from the Permanent Collection." An exploration of human ingenuity found in living and historic cultures around the world. Ongoing.

UC Berkeley Art Museum 2626 Bancroft Way, Berk; (510) 642-0808. Wed-Sun, 11am-5pm. $8 adults, $5 seniors and young adults, free for members and 12 and under. "Galaxy: A Hundred or So Stars Visible to the Naked Eye." Museum survey curated by Lawrence Rinder. Through August 30. "Human Nature: Artists Respond to a Changing Planet." Collaborative exhibition. Through Sept. 27.

Who ya gonna call?

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Ghostbusters: The Video Game

(Atari/Sony Computer Entertainment/Terminal Reality)

XBOX360, PS3, PC, Wii, PS2, Nintendo DS

GAMER Before survival horror, pwnage, and musclebound men cursing at each other in 1080p, video games were pretty funny. The mid-’90s saw a slew of comedic adventure classics, released when low computing power made witty writing more valuable than dynamically plasma-rifled gobbets of viscera. Now, it seems, the jokes are slinking back. Aging titles like LucasArts’ Monkey Island series and Sam and Max Hit the Road have been resurrected by Telltale Games. Tim Schafer, creator of the tragicomic noir masterpiece Grim Fandango, has Brütal Legend, starring Jack Black, slated for release this fall.

Ghostbusters: The Video Game is a worthy example of this humorous trend. With a script by original Ghostbusters (1984) writers Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis, the game demonstrates the immense value of providing characters with amusing, engaging, human dialogue. While most developers will probably stick to the monkeys-with-typewriters approach (yes, you, Gears of War 2), Aykroyd and Ramis flesh out an enjoyable new Ghostbusters tale, nailing the atmosphere, repartee, and goofy sarcasm that made the movies such big hits.

All four lead actors are back in the fold for voice work (plus Annie Potts as the secretary), and familiar ghosts and locations will give fans of the films much to revel in. Though the plot is not spectacular, casting the player as the anonymous, mute "rookie" member of the team, the action ramps up quickly. And having Bill Murray’s laconic Peter Venkman on your six is probably more than enough for some people anyway.

Terminal Reality did yeoman work on the level design, replicating recognizable movie environments and surrounding the team with destructible, physics-based junk just dying to be zapped with a proton pack. Cutscenes bring the four actors (and their ’80s hairlines) to life, although the lip syncing and motion-capture animation is decidedly substandard.

When the gameplay sticks to a classic "bust-’em, trap-’em" formula, playing is a breeze, and a variety of "experimental" weapons add some spice. Ill-considered design decisions abound, however, and the game can quickly become frustrating. The AI Ghostbusters are good for an impressive number of hilarious quips, but can’t bust ghosts or stay alive worth a damn. The difficulty spikes and ebbs, skewed by the fact that most enemies can take you out in one or two hits, and the environmental puzzles are lame when they aren’t sort of obtuse. Boss battles tend towards the tedious. I’m glad people still remember how to build a game around great writing, but someone should hook them up with creators of fun, invigorating gameplay. It could get ugly, though. I hear the monkeys have a union.

Dead ends

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Clean Hands Go Foul (Hydra Head/Dymare), the posthumous release from doom metal supergroup Khanate, has been sitting with me for a while. But its potency only increases over time. With each successive listen, I feel increasingly like one of H.P. Lovecraft’s doomed protagonists — characters who unwittingly gamble away their sanity as they attempt to piece together the horrifying totality of a universe controlled by beings not of their time or space. I’m not sure what I am losing when I listen to Khanate, but I feel lost nonetheless.

There are few moorings on Khanate’s slate sea of negativity — none of metal’s usual signifiers, no lyrical invitations to trample on sacred institutions, no head-banging riffs. The four tracks on Clean Hands are emotional dead ends where vocalist Alan Dubin’s howled protests of rage, disgust, and futility are left to fester in the gutters built by guitarist Steven O’Malley, bassist James Plotkin, and drummer Tim Wyskida.

Composed of material improvised during the recording sessions of 2005’s Capture & Release (with Plotkin editing in Dubin’s vocals later on), Clean Hands plays more like a belated précis for the group’s deconstructed yet unrelentingly crushing interpretation of metal than a coherent album. Like Keiji Haino’s renowned power trio Fushitsusha, Khanate understood that metal’s heaviness could be chopped and screwed into different shapes without diminishing its brutality.

Some of Clean Hands‘ tracks are more successful at conveying the band’s protean dynamic than others. "In That Corner" — a staggering, Haino-worthy dirge — starts out at full blast before quieting down into a series of mournful echoes of itself. But it is album closer "Every God Damn Thing" that best displays the group’s propensity for grueling duration. Taking up close to half the album’s running time, it pairs 30 plodding minutes of input jack/cord buzz, bass rumbles, scraped guitar strings, the occasional feedback howl, and random bits of percussion with Dubin’s long-form, bile-filled disquisition on the title phrase. (Some sample lyrics: "Everything poison. Even flowers disgust"; "Out there, someone is dying. Hopefully, it should be all of them.")

Dubin is Khanate’s secret weapon. Other than Die Kreuzen’s Dan Kubinski or Swans-era Michael Gira, I cannot think of a vocalist whose rasp is severe enough to make you feel skinned alive and whose lyrics convey the vicissitudes of antisocial sentiment with such uncomfortable immediacy and — at times — surprising poetic force.

"It’s all bad, again!" Dubin screams at the close of "Every God Damn Thing." Such a statement of futility is fitting for a track that seethes in anticipation of a climax yet falls short of delivering the goods in its final paroxysms. An uneven postmortem, Clean Hands proves Khanate was never interested in giving listeners the satisfaction of a climax. The forces that compelled it toward such uncompromising, bleak musical extremes were also, unsurprisingly, what led to its breakup. Hell is indeed other people — including your bandmates. "Man’s greatness resides in knowing himself to be wretched," Pascal once said. With this final nail in the coffin, Khanate has proven itself to be so great.

Poetry in (stop-) motion

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a&eletters@sfbg.com

The bizarre news that the Academy Awards, which previously gave us such Best Picture nominees as Hello, Dolly! (1969) and The Towering Inferno (1974), will be boosting that category’s nominations back to a pre-1944 quota of 10 has induced much skepticism. For starters, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is now an actual contender. Boosters claim this will make room for more indies, foreign titles, and documentaries, usually slighted because they don’t have major studios’ voting blocs and campaign funds behind them. In the case of animation, however, it’s more that older voters still don’t view the medium as suitably "serious." No matter that Pixar routinely turns out all-ages entertainments more rewarding than 97 percent of Hollywood’s live action features, or that animators mostly outside the U.S. have been creating more and more "cartoons" that are very grown-up serious indeed.

Nina Paley’s Sita Sings the Blues, grown-up if seldom serious, is already a personal ’09 Best Picture pick, though that’s likely to remain a lunatic-minority opinion. Recent films such as Waltz with Bashir (2008) and Persepolis (2007) were certainly as artistically accomplished and weighty as anything that attracted Oscar’s climactic consideration in their respective years.

Further proof that animation can hit any dramatic or thematic note is provided by director Tatia Rosenthal’s third collaboration (following two shorts) with author Etgar Keret. Both are Israeli, though due to the mysteries of financing or whatever, $9.99 is an Australian coproduction voice-cast in Ozzie English with familiar local actors that include Geoffrey Rush, Ben Mendelsohn, and Anthony LaPaglia. Yet even if the feature looks and sounds more Adelaide than Tel Aviv, its particular world-weary gallows humor reveals that as mere shellac.

$9.99 is a stop-motion version of something that’s become ubiquitous in serious-minded movies: the ensemble piece in which numerous depressed urbanites’ fates crisscross during a short run of mostly bad luck that nonetheless ends on a vague yes-we-can-all-get-along chord of lyrical transcendence. Mercifully, however, it’s no Crash (2004). Keret’s characters dwell in the same apartment building, all lonely yet hapless at interacting with one another. Seeking the meaning of life, one figure buys a book called The Meaning of Life. Guess what: it really does live up to its title. But everyone around him is so accustomed to their unhappiness they won’t even let him share that over-the-counter wisdom. Workaday miserabilism meets magic realism to piquant effect here, Rosenthal’s Nick Park-like animation as affably unpretentious as Keret’s gestures toward profundity are half-apologetically abashed.

$9.99 opens Fri/10 in Bay Area theaters.

The deep end

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Lucrecia Martel’s three mischievous films scramble normal narrative hierarchies, privileging sensation to exposition, desire to explanation, and intuition to realism. Thunder-clapped fairy tales of unknowing, they have an adolescent’s sensitivity to the strangeness of the adult world. Outside of Tsai Ming-liang, it’s difficult to think of another working director with such a productive obsession with water. Martel is attracted to locations where her characters can sink, like pools and beds, and she arranges her multiplanar compositions so that these figures appear as floating heads and torsos.

The apprehensive tilt of Martel’s stories is left undefined, just on the cusp of horror, but the director’s formal coordination of sound and image is anything but imprecise. Her humid aesthetic popped out fully formed in the opening minutes of 2001’s La Ciénaga ("The Swamp"), in which the sloshing reds of blood and wine, a padded sound design, and viscous handheld camera movements conduct an atrophying bourgeois scene with the heavy-lidded amplitude of a Caravaggio. The Holy Girl (2004) further demonstrated Martel’s skill at playing for senses other than reason. Her new work, The Headless Woman, is her most expressly psychological yet, and thus entails a newly concentrated application of her unusual narration style — a kind of intimate, hooded third person in which neurosis and desire register as phenomenology.

The woman of the title (which doesn’t translate literally) is another of Martel’s dislodged bourgeoisie women. Driving home from a gabby gathering, she runs over something while absentmindedly reaching for her cell phone; after this, her mind absents her. Perhaps amnesiac, but at the least traumatized, Veronica (Maria Onetto) reenters her everyday life in a fog. Her weak smiles and mute replies will irritate some viewers, especially those who reflexively despise the withholding ambiguity of Antonioni films like 1964’s Red Desert (Martel’s characters, like Antonioni’s, often put on sunglasses at odd moments, as if to shield their wanting souls). What’s remarkable about The Headless Woman in comparison to so many art house pretenders, however, is that Martel is able to maintain this high level of uncertainty without letting the story go slack. As much as Veronica seems to drift, the film’s carefully calibrated ruptures make it so she cannot keep the world at bay.

HOLY GIRLS AND HEADLESS WOMEN: THE FILMS OF LUCRECIA MARTEL

July 14–15 and 23, 7:30 p.m. (Martel in person July 14–15), $8

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission, SF

(415) 978-2787, www.ybca.org

Cold, cold hearts

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cheryl@sfbg.com

Metalheads: before you gang up on Until the Light Takes Us — a new documentary by Aaron Aites and Audrey Ewell, who dare to admit they weren’t really into metal before starting their film — consider the sinister fact that there’s now an imdb entry for the 2010 release of Lords of Chaos. This narrative take on Michael Moynihan and Didrik Sonderlind’s 1998 book (subtitled The Bloody Rise of the Satanic Metal Underground) casts Twilight vamp Jackson Rathbone as scene boogeyman Varg Vikernes.

Remember, also, the cursory attention afforded Scandinavian black metal in the sprawling doc Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey (2005). You may not recall that same year’s Metal Storm: The Scandinavian Black Metal Wars — an interesting if technically rough look at the subject — because it screened locally just once, as part of a Yerba Buena Center for the Arts series on heavy metal cinema. Metal Storm featured interviews with a young (circa 2000) Vikernes. The erstwhile Count Grishnackh, late of Burzum, returns in Until the Light Takes Us, which hits YBCA for a three-night stand.

Locked up in 1993 for murdering Mayhem’s Øystein "Euronymous" Aarseth, Vikernes was very recently paroled. But he was still incarcerated in Until the Light Takes Us, and he doesn’t seem terribly put out, likening his time behind bars to "a stay in a monastery." He’s articulate, intelligent, and unrepentant, reflecting on his various deeds. He claims he provided the shotgun ammo used by another Mayhem member, Per Yngve Ohlin (a.k.a. "Dead"), to committ suicide. (Of course, after Euronymous discovered Dead’s body, he took a photo that was later used as Mayhem cover art. Seriously, these were spooky dudes.)

Vikernes may be a fascinating fellow — a worst-case scenario for anyone eager to believe that heavy metal is a recruitment tool for Satan worshippers — but Until the Light Takes Us isn’t centered on him. This is not a true-crime tale (though it does offer some striking footage of Norwegian churches set ablaze during black metal’s criminal zenith). Nor is it trying to teach Metal 101 (though it does touch on black metal’s eerie, atmospheric sound, pagan themes, and deliberately lo-fi production). Instead, Until the Light Takes Us attempts to show what happens when a very specific, proudly isolationist art movement becomes commercialized — to the chagrin of founding members like Gylve "Fenriz" Nagell, memorable for his demon-like appearance in full corpsepaint on the cover of his band Darkthrone’s 1994 release, Transilvanian Hunger (Peaceville Records).

"I don’t want to be blamed for black metal becoming a trend," Fenriz says, some 16 years after an article in the U.K. magazine Kerrang! introduced black metal to the mainstream. Though the film interviews other players like Mayhem drummer Jan Axel "Hellhammer" Blomberg and former Emperor drummer Bård "Faust" Eithun (himself a convicted murderer who appears as a voice-altered silhouette), Fenriz is Aites and Ewell’s focus, drifting around icy Oslo, working on current music projects, and ruefully reminiscing about the movement he helped create: "I guess the sale of black lipstick went through the roof."

Rather than focusing on copycat bands, Until the Light Takes Us explores black metal’s influence on artists like Bjarne Melgaard, whose "Sons of Odin" installation earns smirks from Fenriz, and Harmony Korine, who earns smirks from the filmmakers. Not mentioned in the film: the Vice-produced 2007 internet videos series and Peter Beste’s subsequent book of photographs, True Norwegian Black Metal. Of course, Until the Light Takes Us — full of artful shots of Norway’s stark, gorgeous countryside and cityscapes, which go a long way toward illustrating what inspired the black metal guys in the first place — is also opening up the scene for curious outsiders.

"It’s out of our hands now," Fenriz shrugs. He’s bitter, but he’s got a point. Murders and mayhem and Mayhem aside, once pop culture snatches up your subculture — see: Guitar Hero‘s black-metal character, Lars Ümlaüt, or the aforementioned Lords of Chaos flick — there’s no stealing it back.

UNTIL THE LIGHT TAKES US

Thurs–Sat, 7:30 p.m.

(also Fri–Sat, 9:30 p.m.), $8

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission, SF

(415) 978-2787, www.ybca.org

Bare life

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a&eletters@sfbg.com

In one of the many oblique exchanges between potential suicide Nancy Stockwell (Maria Bello) and her killer-cum-suitor Louis Farley (Jason Patric), the sadist asks his victim how she imagines death. Staring at a nearby aquarium teeming with wandering fish, Stockwell gleefully responds that death is a release — like one of them, you can breathe underwater. Swedish music video director Johan Renck’s first feature, Downloading Nancy is largely a meditation on such metaphysical atmospheres — the suffocating air of tract homes, the cold showers of sexual dysfunction, the liquid plasma of the sickly blue computer screen — and one woman’s compulsion for escape.

After a childhood of cruel sexual abuse and 15 years of pitiless marriage to game developer Albert (Rufus Sewell), Nancy retreats from her life of desperation and sets upon a pernicious odyssey. Determined to slough off her physical body and all of its mundane accoutrements, she enlists Internet pal Louis, an S&M fetishist and videographer, to pleasure and then kill her in a cyber-sacrifice. As the unnerving danse macabre gets underway, Nancy and Louis tease death with self-mutilation and torture, using razor blades, mousetraps, and lit cigarettes to chilling, depraved effect. Nancy’s bare arms and legs contain an archive of scars and burn marks, as do other hidden cavities she will puncture before reaching orgasm. Louis, stoic and increasingly conflicted about their atrocious pact, often trades away the pleasure of his own sexual fantasy in order to question Nancy’s real motivations or persuade her back toward life. Trading roles of executioner and executed, these lost souls teeter on a threshold where the sovereignty of sacrifice fades imperceptibly into the debasement of living death. Does Nancy’s ultimatum to her new beau constitute the ultimate instance of a woman’s seduction — or the complete penetration of the digital world into a simulacrum of unsacrificable flesh?

Equally as unnerving are the scenes of Nancy’s former life with Albert, a vampirous clone of the business world. When Nancy vanishes — her depraved goal unbeknownst to Albert — he wanders through the sickly mauve interior of the house, putter in hand, desperately trying to understand where their life went astray, all the while sneaking glances at the computer that had consumed Nancy’s life.

Despite some scenes of lugubrious pretension (particularly the "therapy" sessions between Bello and Amy Brenneman as her savior-psychologist), Downloading Nancy achieves a dubious distinction: it presents a model of posthuman mortality that oscillates between the bare life of the mutilated body and the de-corporeal skin of the digital screen. Renck employed cinematographer extraordinaire Christopher Doyle to enhance the feeling of mise en abyme by coloring everything in etiolated blues and grays. The result is a dystopic recreation of the present (here there are obvious comparisons to Cronenberg’s 1996 Crash) where boredom has supplanted the titillation of apocalypse. When Louis finally agrees to participate in the penultimate encounter, what ensues is a numbing anticlimax beyond (or beneath) the meaningfulness of sacrifice.

DOWNLOADING NANCY opens July 10 in Bay Area theaters.

Miss u?

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superego@sfbg.com

SUPER EGO Killer apps available soon for your iClub phone, besides the one where you can fake-snort Adderall, that epilepsy-inducing portable strobe, the virtual cigarette, and — Goddess help us all — the Paul Van Dyk BPM counter and 3-D glow stick:

Breath Blocker.

Douche Douche.

Cops Are Here (for bathroom line clearance).

Midi Jammer (to fuck with laptop DJs).

Instant Breakfast. Better Breakdown. Red Bull Unburp. Take Back What You Told Her. What’s Your Name Again? Third Ear Corrector (for trainwreck mixes). Stiletto GPS (to avoid injury). Bachelorette Banishment. Collar De-Pop. Hands In The Air (for lazies). Center Of Gravity (for twirlers). Personal Space. Interested Face. Sleep It Off. Leave The House. Get Me Home. Cocktail Scan. Dealer Dialer. Bag Locator. Eyes Uncrosser. Name-On-List. Instant Blackout. Armpit Undo. Wardrobe Wand. Singalong Stop. Conversation Erase. Invisible Walk of Shame.

Embedding Disabled By Request.

No More ’80s? Electro Silence? Trance-A-Way? Techno Buffer? Affliction Tee Annihilate? Child, you could make a million. Call me when your cell’s a mirror, and I can look myself up in it.

CLUB 1992

It was the best of times, it was the blurst of times — I think. I was too busy raving with Big Bird. In 1992, "Baby Got Back," "I’m Too Sexy," and "Jump Around" fought it out on hypothetical dance floors somewhere in Mainstreamland, probably, but the most important thing you need to know about that annus horribilis (Queen Elizabeth II’s phrase, not mine) was that something called Super Typhoon Gay threatened Guam. I do the research so you don’t have to. In any case, if irony’s taught us anything, it’s that taste is now a featherless bird that will peck out your brain. And — welcome friends! Awesome hair! — for the hot new gen flooding the clubs at the moment, these songs were its older sister’s jams. I can’t say mine were any more artistically momentous, because a) I’m basically a cultural relativist and b) she blinded me with science. In an undoubtedly canny move, the kids from electro-styley bonanzas Blow-Up and L.O.W. SF are getting all JTT on the TRL, coloring 111 Minna badd with a mess of DJs. Along with the neon pop dollops, "’90s hip-hop" is promised — which I’m guessing means more "getting jiggy" than experimental Quannum mechanics. Question: when will someone do an 1892 party? Now that would be epic.

Sat/11, 10 p.m., $10. 111 Minna, SF. www.club1992.com

PRINCE VS. MICHAEL JACKSON

Alas, I think we have a winner already for the 62nd installment of this seven-year-old monthly party at Madrone. But, despite it’s unabashed gimmickry and slightly worn template — and the fact that you’ve been dancing to MJ everywhere — this DJ battle pitting Purplesaurus Rex against Sparkle Fingers is a poppy blast, if now overshadowed by tragedy. In terms of dance music influence, Prince currently holds the ruling orb (just ask precocious ’80s pinchers La Roux). Michael hasn’t really been in the game since Frankie Knuckles’ masterpiece remix of the R. Kelly-penned "You Are Not Alone" in 1995, despite Rihanna and Justin’s bland efforts and Ne-Yo’s excellent ones. But all that has now been reset, with postmortem reevaluation and exposure forced on us. This party, with its hits, rarities, and remixes, is a good start for hearing things afresh.

Sat/18, 8 p.m., $5. Madrone Art Bar, 500 Divisadero, SF. www.madronelounge.com

Leftovers

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le.chicken.farmer@gmail.com

CHEAP EATS To a lover, love is bigger than anything, including reality, including practicality, reason, distance, sense, and in many cases, cornbread. So when a lover speaks to a lover of "the reality of," you know, "the situation" … you might understand or even agree, but afterward you will need to put a sweater on.

Reality checks, like hip checks, send you. What can you do but regain your skates and glide along?

What I meant to say about Brick Pig’s barbecue is: yum. Well, like a lotta barbecue, it’s inconsistent. Both times the brisket was great. But the pork ribs wavered from bone to bone. One would be tough and dry, another just fine, and anothernother fantastic.

Same with the beans: first time, great. Second time overly mustarded and therefore not so great.

What was consistent was the sauce. Get hot, you’ll be fine, and it’s excellent. And the brisket. And the place, which is small and perfectly atmospheric, with faux brick wallpaper and a couple of small tables for eater-inners.

How I found it was, well, I already knew about it for a while, because I would always see it after I’d just stopped at Flint’s for barbecue on my way to band practice. And I would always make a mental note, driving by, to check out Brick Pig next time. But I’m not known for my mentality, where barbecue is concerned. It’s more like an animal thing, so, so long as Flint’s entered my field of vision first …

Well, I don’t live in the North Bay anymore. I live in Oakland, meaning I have to drive up Shattuck to get to Flint’s, meaning I now see Brick Pig first. Still, when my new neighbor Lennie asked me where to get barbecue, I said, out of habit, "Flint’s." And then I went to work, which in this case was cooking dinner for the kids downstairs.

Lennie peaked her head in a little later and said, "We’re going to Brick Pig’s. Want us to bring you anything?"

I wasn’t hurt they weren’t taking my advice. I was hurt because I was on duty and would not be able to join them. "No thanks," I said, stirring whatever was cooking. "But if you have any leftovers … "

You don’t have to know me long to know me. She finished my thought, or rather, perfected it. "We’ll save you some," she said.

And she called while the kids were in the bathtub. They’d saved me some. I would only have to run across the street and back, but if anybody drowned or anything on my watch, I knew I would never be able to enjoy barbecue ever again. I decided to play it safe. I said I’d come by once the kids were sleeping.

So story time was hard. I kept losing the thread, and mixing metaphors. My point-of-view character accidentally died, very near the beginning, and then, because I’d stopped talking, perplexed, the kids took over. Once they start telling the stories, forget it. You may as well put on a pot of coffee and light them each a cigarette. They’re that talented.

Meaning my first taste of Brick Pig barbecue was cold and crusty by the time I got to it, but still: I licked the plastic clean. For my second taste, I took the childerns with me, and Lennie took hers, and that equals four childerns. Ma and Pa Brick House were happy to see everyone, at first, and broke out games and puzzles for the little ‘uns while they put our to-go order together.

Kids aren’t known for tranquility. They’re cute, as a rule, but peace is not their strong suit.

By the time we left, of course, Ma Brick House was singing a different tune. The lyrics were, "You know, you can call your order in, next time."

That was the time of the over-mustarded beans and pork-related inconsistency problems. As testament to the resilience and/or forgetfulness of adults, the next time I went, which was just a couple weeks later, first stop back from Berlin, Ma House remembered me and asked where my kids were. She said I shoulda brought them in with me.

I said, "I don’t have kids."

BRICK PIG’S HOUSE

Tue.–Sat.: noon–8 p.m.

5973 Shattuck, Oakl.

(510) 923-1789

No alcohol

MC,V,D,AE

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

Paving the way for privatization

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news@sfbg.com

City officials are considering shutting down the municipal asphalt plant — the source of material for repaving roads and fixing potholes — in order to facilitate construction of a private plant on the waterfront that the city would agree to help finance and support over the long term.

While the privatization plan is being billed by project proponents as a way to save money during tough financial times, it raises questions about whether relying on the private sector for this essential material could hurt the city’s ability to make emergency repairs and ultimately end up costing taxpayers even more.

For the cash-strapped Port of San Francisco, which will make millions of dollars leasing land for the new facility, this is unquestionably a good deal. But for the rest of the city, which is losing a potentially valuable public resource it has operated since 1909 when the first municipal plant opened, the answer is a bit less clear.

Douglas Legg, manager of finance and budget at the Department of Public Works (DPW), argues that the municipal plant is not cost-effective and that the city would pay less if it contracts with an outside vendor. In a 2006 study, Legg found that the city’s cost to produce a ton of asphalt was $75 while private plants offered it for $67.

"It’s true that E.B.I. Aggregates and Graniterock are a little cheaper because they have a market advantage: they own their own gravel quarries," admits Ben Santana, who has managed the municipal plant in the Bayview for the last 21 years. But he still thinks his facility plays an important role. "Otherwise they would have gotten rid of us long ago. We can mobilize in a few hours and city trucks don’t have to wait in line with other clients."

In the aftermath of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, the municipal plant proved to be a valuable asset. "The plant wasn’t damaged. We sent our crews to take care of cracks and voids that had suddenly opened up," Santana recalls. "So the city didn’t have to go south to get material, or pay to get the private plants to open."

Indeed, in 2006, DPW held off the proposed shutdown in order to maintain its access to asphalt in emergencies. Officials worried about being dependant on plants outside city limits, especially since E.B.I. in Brisbane was slated to cease operations in the upcoming years, which would have left Graniterock potentially enjoying a monopoly that could result in price increases.

Although the agency recognizes that it has to have an asphalt plant inside city limits to function well, it is losing the political will to maintain its own. So when port officials approached DPW with their plan to attract a private asphalt operator, the threat to close down the municipal plant resurfaced.

The port has issued a request for proposal (RFP) for an asphalt-batching plant to be built on Pier 94. The selected bidder would be bound to negotiate a long-term contract with the city guaranteeing it would supply asphalt at a price tied to the Northern California asphalt price index.

The port and DPW assume the potential market for asphalt in the city will be large enough to draw private operators. But that belief seems to contradict the rationale behind the decision to close the municipal plant in the first place, which was that it couldn’t produce volumes large enough to bring the price per ton down.

"The demand from the street resurfacing program was nowhere near as high as we thought it would be," Legg says. In 2004, DPW installed two silos on the site to store hot asphalt and increase production. DPW was hoping to generate additional revenue for the department by selling asphalt to private contractors and other agencies. But two years later, Legg concluded in his report that the plant not only failed to turn a profit, it was facing a $100,000 shortfall to repay its investment.

Demand might be picking up, though: city officials expressed their intention to make up for years of neglect in the upkeep of San Francisco streets by introducing a $368 million safe street and road repair bond measure for the November ballot. The plan would boost the number of blocks to be resurfaced from 100 to 400 for the next 10 years, something that might make the city-owned plant more cost-effective. But Legg skeptically points out that the plant still requires replacement of some key components.

"Last year we had a $60 million capital budget for all capital improvement needs in the city from the general fund sources. This year, we’ve got $22 million," Legg says. "They’re scarce dollars. I can’t speak for what the Board [of Supervisors] will chose to do, but it’s challenging to get capital money."

Legg also noted the city plant’s "frequent breakdowns" and limited capacity to store raw materials, criticism countered by Santana. "The plant was modernized in 1993. Sure, some equipment does date to 1953, and I’ve been pushing to replace them for years. But it’s nothing the city can’t afford. Yes, it does sometimes go down. That’s part of operating a plant. But we’ve never run out of material because I always make sure to have some on ground or en route."

Brad Benson, project manager at the Port of San Francisco, discounts the recent limited asphalt consumption in the city, noting major development proposals in the city’s future. "Think about shipyard development, Treasure Island development, Caltrain, parking lots," Benson says. "If there’s not the demand, there won’t be bids. No one is going to invest $3 [million] to $10 million, whatever it costs to build an asphalt plant, if they don’t perceive a market."

But what might also hook prospective bidders is the provision, stated in the RFP, that the "risk capital to construct the facility (may be offset by city financing)." Benson explains that "this concept was introduced here in the midst of the financial crisis when people were having trouble finding sources of capital. The city may have access to some lower cost sources of debt."

Benson said he doesn’t know if city financing would be needed. "Obviously, the port prefers bidders that come in with their own sources of financing. That has been the model to build the neighboring concrete plants. The only reason to consider it is if the city combines lower-cost financing and could get lower cost asphalt in return. Then it might be worth doing."

It’s an interesting paradox: the city wouldn’t have funds to upgrade its plant, but would be ready to chip in to outsource?

But there are other issues driving the proposal. Karen Pierce, a Bayview- Hunters Point community activist who sits on the port’s Southern Waterfront Advisory Committee, told us she would "like to see the municipal plant move away from where people live. There needs to be a buffer area. A newer plant on port property would be further away, and we would have the opportunity to make sure it uses technologies that reduce the amount of pollution."

The municipal asphalt plant, which has never received complaints for pollution, currently incorporates 15 percent of recycled asphalt in its production. The RFP requests its potential tenant raise this amount up to 45 percent.

The proposed lot is also three times bigger than the existing one on Jerrold Avenue and has the advantage of being located near a maritime terminal where sand and gravel, the aggregates mixed with tar to produce asphalt, are imported. Also, there are two concrete batching plants and a construction material recycling center in the vicinity.

"Co-locating businesses that share each other’s products and reducing long-haul truck trips are the kernels of a broader idea for an ecoindustrial park that the port is developing in this area of the waterfront," Benson says.

If the asphalt plant project falls through, the port does have a backup plan: it is considering leasing the site to yet another concrete plant. Bids on both proposals are due in September, after which the Board of Supervisors will consider whether to close the city’s plant.

Nip it in the bud

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rebeccab@sfbg.com

GREEN CITY Imagine if San Franciscans had the choice of sending the check for their monthly electricity fees to one of two places. Option A is a massive private utility company, serving up fossil fuel-fired and nuclear-powered energy, presided over by a CEO who got paid nearly $9 million last year. Option B is a publicly-owned program run by local government that offers a substantial percentage of green electricity from sources such as wind, solar, and tidal power. In San Francisco, which one would people be more likely to pick?

The intent behind community choice aggregation (CCA) programs, which in San Francisco is known as Clean Power SF, is to make Option B a reality. If successful, the program would signify not just a major advance on the green front, but a dent in Pacific Gas & Electric Co.’s longstanding monopoly in the Bay Area.

The program development is inching along under the direction of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission and the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCo). Sup. Ross Mirkarimi, who chairs LAFCo, has poured a tremendous amount of time and energy into the city’s fledgling CCA program.

So when a proposed state ballot initiative surfaced that threatens to thwart statewide CCA programs before they launch, Mirkarimi came out swinging hard.

Titled the "Taxpayers Right to Vote Act," the proposed initiative would require that any effort to create or fund a CCA program be ratified by two-thirds of the voters. The measure would erect an almost impossibly high barrier to CCA development around the state, effectively snuffing out PG&E’s would-be competition and sullying local governments’ plans to embrace publicly-owned, cleaner energy alternatives.

Mirkarimi wasted no time in drafting a resolution against the measure and submitting it to the Board of Supervisors, telling his colleagues that the utility’s proposal undermines years of effort "to allow municipalities to go ahead and chart their own energy destiny so they don’t have to be on the syringe of fossil fuel-driven corporations like PG&E."

He also took issue with the name of the proposal, calling it deceptive and misleading. "The point is that we should not be manipulated by measures such as this, where voters would be required to have a two-thirds vote on something the state Legislature has already allowed us to pursue," Mirkarimi said. "It’s our own right, and corporate special interests shouldn’t dictate otherwise." The state law that grants local governments the right to pursue community choice aggregation, which was sponsored by then-Sen. Carole Migden, specifically prohibits actions that impede the progress of a CCA.

PG&E’s name does not appear anywhere on the ballot-initiative proposal, but a spokesperson for the initiative confirmed that the utility had paid the submission fee. The law firm listed as a contact for the proposal, meanwhile, has been enlisted by PG&E before. And Robert Lee Pence, who is named as the proponent of the initiative, has teamed up with PG&E ally Townsend, Raimundo, Besler and Usher on campaign measures in the past. That Sacramento-based political consulting firm describes its strategic consulting services online with this brazen slogan: "Moving opinions is what we do best."

PG&E did not return calls for comment.

At the June 30 Board of Supervisors meeting, supervisors approved Mirkarimi’s resolution on a 10 to 1 vote, with Sup. Michela Alioto-Pier voting no. And while a resolution does little more than create a formal record of the board’s position on a matter, Mirkarimi seemed to suggest that it was only the start of a battle mounting against this proposal. "Don’t be surprised [if] a number of municipalities align themselves in potential litigation against this," he said.

Sup. David Campos, an attorney who also sits on LAFCo, hinted that the city could enter into litigation on the issue. "I hope the city is carefully looking at legal issues that might be raised by the actions of PG&E," he noted at the June 30 Board meeting. "I think that there are legal protections we need to avail ourselves of, and I hope the City Attorney’s Office, working with the Board of Supervisors, can make sure that the city takes all steps that it needs to take to protect its legal rights."

Campos later told the Guardian that he had not yet spoken with the City Attorney’s Office about it.

When asked about pursuing legal action, the City Attorney’s Office would only say that "we’re aware of it, and we’re evaluating what we will be doing," according to spokesperson Jack Song.

Barbara Hale, general manager for power at the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, told the Guardian, "We have certainly been talking with other cities about the initiative." But Hale added that the agency hadn’t taken a formal position yet because it is so early in the process. "It hasn’t actually been placed on any ballots yet."

Since the initiative was submitted, public power activists across the state have taken notice. Jeff Shields, general manager of the South San Joaquin Irrigation District, has gone toe-to-toe with PG&E on public power issues before. One of the most memorable battles occurred when a political consulting firm hired by PG&E hacked into SSJID’s computers in the midst of a tug-of-war over control of the area’s electricity infrastructure — only to get caught by the FBI and publicly denounced by PG&E. "Obfuscation is PG&E’s middle name," Shields says. "I know there are lots of people looking at this initiative, but I don’t know that there’s a specific organizational effort against it at this time."

Jerry Jordan, executive director of the Sacramento-based California Municipal Utilities Association — a statewide organization representing 70 public utilities — told the Guardian that CMUA would oppose the initiative. However, "we may wait until it qualifies," Jordan said. The initiative is still in its earliest stages, and the attorney general has yet to certify it as legal to the secretary of state.

Meanwhile, efforts to move forward with the CCA model in other regions are floundering in these tough fiscal times. The San Joaquin Valley Power Authority voted June 25 to temporarily suspend its CCA, an effort in the works for years that had a goal of offering electricity to customers at lower and more stable rates.

Spokeswoman Cristel Tufenkjian said the greatest obstacle was a contract with CitiGroup’s energy branch that was marred by tight credit markets. "When things started to go south with the markets, CitiGroup said it could not execute that contract," Tufenkjian explained. She also added, "We are opposed to the initiative."

The SJVPA bid to create a CCA was also hindered by opposition from PG&E. "For the last few years, PG&E has continually placed roadblocks in front of our program in an attempt to stop us from implementing community choice and ultimately not providing residents and businesses the opportunity to have a choice about who will provide them electrical energy," said Ron Manfredi, city manager of Kerman and chair of the San Joaquin Valley Power Authority.

The Board of Supervisors’ resolution against the ballot initiative condemns such roadblocks and vows to push through this one. "PG&E has a history of acting to maintain its monopoly in its service region, including opposing public power initiatives at the ballot and lobbying officials of California cities [and] counties against community choice aggregation in apparent violation of the provisions [of state law]," the text of the resolution reads.

As this ballot initiative moves through the approval process, it’s clear that a battle is going to heat up very quickly. "I think we have to fight this as hard as we can," Campos told us. "PG&E has been unsuccessful in killing [CCA] here in San Francisco, but they have certainly delayed it. Now they’re trying to make sure it doesn’t happen anywhere else."

Beyonce bounce

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a&eletters@sfbg.com

SONIC REDUCER Fierce. Bad. Doth Beyonce Knowles and Michael Jackson protest too much? More than two decades separated them, along with crucial biographical details, gender, and a kind of comfort in one’s skin. Yet both drink deeply from the same well of R&B pop perfection, after emerging, solo, from the safety and suffocation of the family-like combo. Both faintly evoke Jackson’s go-to mom for Prince, Paris, and Prince II (a.k.a. Blanket), Diana Ross. Both walk that tightrope of personal vulnerability and arena-friendly theater, the real and the fantastic, artful display and emotional artifice. Both have been philanthropists, ready with a vision to heal the world, and armed with a staunch commitment to spectacle and an iron will (to entertain) encased in a sparkly or titanium robot glove.

But entertain a morbid thought: if Knowles were to crash and burn her Thierry Mugler motorcycle breastplate during her current "I Am … Tour" — said to out-razzle-dazzle all predecessors with its aerial flips and 70-some costumes — would she be revered like Jackson? She’s made her share of great, timely, and timeless singles: "Crazy in Love," "Baby Boy," "Irreplaceable." And you can easily hear Mikey within the tender whisper-to-a-scream "If I Were a Boy." But Knowles’ bifurcated self unsettles on I Am … Sasha Fierce (Sony/Music World, 2008), an album tidily separating in two, its ballads and bangers distributed between two discs, as if simuutf8g vinyl.

Sasha Fierce is a clear bid for album-like complexity, depth, and, gak, maturity. It leads with the earmarked-as-important slow dances and power ballads and disrupts the single-centered paradigm, making us wait for the champagne-bubbly, bustling "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)." Surprisingly old-school in its marriage-minded sentiments for a woman who makes a point of touring with an all-female band, the track hints at the cognitive dissonance that makes Michael Jackson studies so rich. Given time, Jackson might even have wanted to tweak his beauty to mimic Knowles’ healthy naturalism, rivaled only by Rihanna’s as current pop’s beauty standard.

Sasha Fierce succeeds as a long listen, settling in likeably and ingratiatingly despite irritants like "Ave Maria" and "Video Phone," which recall the ways in which B’Day (Columbia/Music World, 2006) blustered and annoyed. Its crafty, minimalist sections hint at moments spent listening to electro remixes and MIA. As with MJ, it’s tough to separate the dancer from the dance: I can’t help but hear Beyonce singing to Jay-Z in her protests against being treated as less than one of the boys. Now declaring the "Death of Auto-Tune," he’s the talented shadow hanging over the production, another male counterpart to her executive producer and father, Matthew Knowles. Is it audacious to imagine her breaking from those intimate ties and finding her own Quincy Jones? To wonder if hipsters will be dancing to B’s songs — with nostalgia or irony or blissfully encumbered by neither — two decades from now as they do to Michael? I’m looking forward to the moment when Beyonce resolves her two B sides and merges the woman in the mirror with the woman making the music.

BEYONCE

Fri/10, 7:30 p.m., $19.75–$129.25

Oracle Arena

7000 Coliseum, Oakl.

www.livenation.com

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DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE DUSTS OFF ITS EXTRAS

I suspected Death Cab for Cutie had finally arrived while browsing the juniors’ department of Macy’s and being stopped in my tracks by the video playing on the TV monitors: it was "I Will Possess Your Heart," off Narrow Stairs (Barsuk/Atlantic, 2008), the combo’s first No. 1 album on the Billboard 200. Judging from the attention the music was getting from random tourists and untethered men, the group had found listeners beyond the indie rock mob. Now new — and old — fans can get another dose of the Narrow Stairs sessions with the release of The Open Door EP (Barsuk/Atlantic). The disc’s five songs "were kind of poking out, in a way, so we just cut them from the album," bassist Nick Harmer says by phone. "But it was part of the experience of where we’re at as a band. So we were always hoping we’d find a cool home for them." Death Cab expects to start working on its next full-length later this year — all a far cry from the moment Harmer, Ben Gibbard, Chris Walla, and the now-gone Nathan Good first practiced together. "You just know when that spark happens," Harmer recalls. "I remember we had a big debate about making a CD — it was a big deal for us to make 1,000 copies: ‘We’ll be sitting on these things for years….’"

DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE

With Andrew Bird, Ra Ra Riot

Sat/July 11, 6:30 p.m., $42.50

Greek Theatre

UC Berkeley campus, Berk

www.apeconcerts.com

Nude Beach Guide 2009

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@@http://www.sfbg.com/nudebeaches@@

We walk with a zombie

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PHENOM In our heads, in our heads: zombies, zombies, zombies.

Don’t blame me for taking a bite out of your brain and inserting an annoying tune in its place — once again, not long after the last onslaught of undead trends, our culture is totally zombie mad.

The phrase "zombie bank" is multiplying at a disturbing rate within economic circles. In music, the group Zombi — hailing from the zombie capitol Pittsburgh — is reviving the analogue electronics of George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead while the British act Zomby brings dubstep to postapocalyptic dance floors. A comedy of manners possessed by ultraviolent urges, Seth Grahame-Smith’s "unmentionable" Jane Austen update Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (Quirk Books, 320 pages, $12.95) has set up camp on the trade paperback New York Times best sellers list, with S.G. Browne’s Breathers: A Zombie’s Lament — currently being movie-ized by Diablo Cody — on its trail. On a smaller scale, Yusaka Hanakuma’s manga Tokyo Zombie (Last Gasp, 164 pages, $9.95) has caught a zombie plane over to the United States.

Most of all, posthumous Michael Jackson mania is bringing the corpse choreography of the 1983 video for "Thriller" to life, as the media and masses fluctuate between the worst facets of grave-robbing and best facets of revival and death celebration. A Friday, July 3 party in Seattle that aimed to top the 3,370-participant world record for largest "zombie walk" included a mass dance performance to the song.

When journalist Lev Grossman first noted the shift in bloodlust from vampirism to zombiedom in a Time trend piece this April, he ticked off some of these activities but steered clear of visual art. Zombies are around in galleries and museums, too. In Los Angeles last month, Peres Projects presented Bruce LaBruce’s "Untitled Hardcore Zombie Project" in which stills from a forthcoming movie by the director of last year’s Otto; or, Up with Dead People were blown up, framed, and hung on the space’s blood-spattered white cube walls. Here in San Francisco, Michael Rosenthal Gallery is hosting a variety of zombified works by another Canadian artist, Jillian Mcdonald.

Active revisions of cinema are central to Mcdonald, whose past projects find her staring down, mimicking and making out with male screen icons such as Billy Bob Thornton. "Monstrosities" makes room for vampires, but hunger for flesh is dominant over thirst for blood. The five-minute video Zombie Apocalypse brings the zombie back to the beach, its eerily effective primary haunting ground in Jacques Tourneur’s classic 1943 Val Lewton production I Walked with a Zombie — which, incidentally, is being remade, with Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre now explicitly cited as its source material. In 2006’s Horror Make-up, Mcdonald plays with the image of a woman putting on makeup in public by using her compact to turn herself into a zombie while raiding the New York subway. "Monstrosities" also includes zombie wall portraits that aren’t exactly static. Through lenticular photography, Mcdonald taps into the zombie within an acquaintance, a creature that often appears more animated than its "living" counterpart.

"Monstrosities" and much of Mcdonald’s current work mines horror as a source of catharsis. The tactic is most overt in 2007’s The Scream, where her screams scare off a variety of slasher killers and monstrous adversaries. Art world attempts at tapping into filmic horror can be dreadful in the sterile and blah sense (see Cindy Sherman’s 1997’s Office Killer — or better, don’t see it). But when Mcdonald bites zombies, she gives them love bites, borne out of and energized by genuine appreciation. (Johnny Ray Huston)

JILLIAN MCDONALD: MONSTROSITIES

Through July 22

Michael Rosenthal Gallery

365 Valencia, SF

(415) 552-1010

www.jillianmcdonald.net

www.rostenthalgallery.com

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Brain appetit: Fine reading and viewing for the discriminating zombie lover

Twilight (haven’t read it) and True Blood (haven’t seen it) are grabbing all the headlines, including a fawning New York Times story entitled "A Trend with Teeth." But fuck this newfangled passion for vampires. (Apologies to Let the Right One In: you are awesome, despite the massive English subtitle fail on your DVD.) Go back to the graveyard, sexy supernatural critters. There’s a far more terrifying and fiendishly disgusting army of coffin-rockers afoot these days. And though they’ll happily drink your blood, they’ll also help themselves to the rest of your delicious mortal flesh.

Granted, zombie movies are almost as old as cinema itself. Glenn Kay’s recent Zombie Movies: The Ultimate Guide (Chicago Review Press, 352 pages, $25.95), which features a forward by Stuart Gordon, director of 1985’s Re-Animator, is a pretty good jumping-off point for the uninitiated — and a steal for anyone who’s shy about paying $280 on eBay for Beyond Terror: The Films of Lucio Fulci (FAB Press). Generously illustrated chapters — with a full-color photo section in the book’s center — cover the genre’s history, starting with 1932’s White Zombie (fun fact: star Bela Lugosi earned $500-ish dollars for playing the sinister plantation owner improbably named "Murder.") There are spotlights on the turbulent 1960s (the era that spawned 1968’s immortal Night of the Living Dead), the insane 1970s (with an index of "the weirdest/funniest/most disturbing things" seen in zombie films, including my own personal fave: the underwater shark vs. zombie battle in 1979’s Zombie), Italy’s reign of terror in the 1980s (the decade that also brought us, lest we forget, "Thriller"), and the rise of video game zombies in the 1990s. Sprinkled throughout are interviews with horror luminaries like makeup master Tom Savini.

Zombie Movies‘ biggest chapter is devoted to the new millennium, with shout-outs to Asian entries like Versus (2000), cult hits like 2004’s Shaun of the Dead, and mainstream moneymakers — 2004’s Dawn of the Dead remake brought in $59 million. Less successful (in my book, if not apparent George Romero fanatic Kay’s) was 2007’s Diary of the Dead, the least-enjoyable entry in Romero’s esteemed zombie series. Blame it on an annoying cast, and an even more annoying reliance on the hot-for-five-minutes "self-filming" technique. Aside from producing a Crazies remake (nooo!), Romero’s next project is titled simply … of the Dead, release date unknown, zombie subject matter an absolute certainty.

Still, ammo enough for walking-dead fans sick of all this fang-banging comes in two forms: the hilarious trailer for Zombieland (due in October), featuring Woody Harrelson and Jesse Eisenberg as slayers of the undead, and the eagerly-anticipated arrival of Dead Snow. Currently available as an On-Demand selection for Comcast customers (in crappy dubbed form), this Norwegian import — a comedy with plenty of satisfying gore — opens July 17 at the Roxie (in presumably superior, subtitled form). Nazi zombies, y’all. Get some! (Cheryl Eddy)

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Zombie playlist: Music to eat flesh by

For whatever reason, America is possessed by a another wave of fascination with the living dead. Is increased anxiety about a devastated economy manifesting as comic book fantasy? Or do we just think zombies are kinda neat? Either way, like so many (or few) survivors barricaded inside an abandoned country home, we’re captivated by the brainless hordes. In the mood for some mood music? Here’s a brief celebration of zombiedom in the world of rock. It ain’t authoritative — no self-respecting zombie respects authority.

MISFITS

"Braineaters"

(from Walk Among Us, Slash, 1982)

Yes, Walk Among Us also features "Night of the Living Dead" and "Astro Zombies," but neither of those tracks captures the profound ennui of existence as a walking corpse. Democratically sung from a zombie’s perspective, "Braineaters" laments a repetitive diet of brains. (Why can’t a zombie have some tasty guts instead?) The Misfits actually made a primitive music video for "Braineaters" that shows the band engaged in what has to be the most disgusting food fight ever filmed. If you’ve ever wanted to see a young Glenn Danzig covered in what appear to be cow brains, have I got a YouTube link for you!

ANNIHILATION TIME

"Fast Forward to the Gore"

(from II, Six Weeks, 2005)

One of the standout tracks from II, "Fast Forward to the Gore" makes excellent use of singer Jimmy Rose’s frantic vocal delivery. Rose’s raw lyrics, belted out over the hardcore guitar assault of Graham Clise and Jamie Sanitate, celebrate the subtle artistry at play when zombie meets chainsaw. In the event of an actual zombie apocalypse, this song should serve as nostalgic reminder of simpler times, when zombies were merely a source of entertainment that didn’t leave the TV screen.

THE ZOMBIES

Entire discography

Self-explanatory.

DEATH

"Zombie Ritual"

(from Scream Bloody Gore, Combat, 1987)

The second track on the seminal Scream Bloody Gore, "Zombie Ritual" helped establish the nascent death metal scene’s predictable love affair with the titular braindead hellspawn. Chuck Schuldiner’s lyrics — as awesomely repulsive as anything the genre has to offer — deal with some sort of zombie creation ceremony, though the only discernable part is the Dylanesque chorus ("Zombie ritual!" screamed four times in succession). While Death’s later albums saw Schuldiner grow by leaps and bounds as a songwriter, "Zombie Ritual" remained a live staple up until the band’s final days. (Tony Papanikolas)

Volume 43 Number 41 Flip-through Edition

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Out of the blue

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a&eletters@sfbg.com

ESSAY This is the briar patch, the place from which all funky thangs flow. On the anniversary of the death of my Afro-Algonquin Southern (re)belle mother, my bare feet are planted in the dirt. Since it’s also the last days of Black Music Month, I am out of my head, thoughts swirling across the amber waves pondering the intersections of family, flesh, and funk, questing after new sounds and cultural concepts even as I journey into my sonic past. The last time it seems I was so enmeshed and empowered by cultural renaissance was just over 21 years ago, when Neil Young first heralded his now released Archives project, and I embraced the notion that Neil Young’s work is black music.

My late mother was a restless adventurer born in Virginia — and I perceive Neil Young as the same via osmosis from his maternal grandfather, Bill Ragland, a Virginian émigré to the Great North and scion of the Southern planter class from Petersburg. The Neil Young I love most is the direct heir of aspects of Daddy Ragland’s personal lore: he had the first radio and gramophone in Winnipeg, Canada; he fiercely retained his American citizenship while big pimpin’ in Manitoba (foreshadowing his grandson’s famous Canadian retentions despite residing in California).

Daddy Ragland boasted that his grandfather had freed the enslaved Africans on the family plantation. But he was also descended from the original British invaders who established Virginia Colony, destroying my people’s lifeways and ecology in process, setting precedents for America’s current crises around violence, resources, and the environment. The glories and tensions in Young’s family fables would appear to be the benefactor of much of his catalog’s leading lights: "Southern Man," "Cortez the Killer," "After the Gold Rush," "Country Girl," "Pocahontas," "Here We Are In the Years," "Alabama," "Broken Arrow," "Powderfinger," and "Down By the River."

Young’s internal narrative of ur-Americana (literally carried on the blood) is enacted again and again and refashioned throughout Reprise’s 10-disc Neil Young Archives — Vol. 1 (1963-1972), a collection that traces his odyssey from Ventures acolyte and early earnest folkie to embryonic trickster of eco-metal. The epic nature of Young’s work, akin to a late modern, machine age substitute for Greek myth — at least for the hippie, Coastopian jet-set — was once lost on me. The voice beaming over the radio waves in "Helpless" and "Sugar Mountain" was repellent to these ears, raised in the 1970s when Mother Nature was on the run and the last universally-recognized golden era of black music abounded with diverse male songbirds (Ronnie Dyson, Carl Anderson) and badass lovemen (Teddy Pendergrass, Eddie Levert). But one day, after yet another wearisome visit to a coffeehouse festooned with Harry Chapin songs and some showoff girl’s fey rendition of "Helpless," I encountered three Neil Young masterpieces that forever altered my hearing: "Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing," "Broken Arrow," and "Cinnamon Girl." I became a Buffalo Springfield devotee for life.

What also went down? Somehow, pre-Web and locked away in the wilds with limited resources, I discovered my favorite bit of rock trivia: Neil Young was in a band with Rick James signed to Motown for a seven-year deal, the Mynah Birds. Young’s engagements with psych, punk, and grunge are well-documented — even if most shirk the challenge of unpacking his electro output — but the lurking presence of the funk in his aesthetic is often ignored. Now, I ain’t saying ole Neil could come down to my former hood and swing with a Chocolate City go-go outfit (maybe he could trouble the funk?), but on "Go Ahead and Cry," the ringing of his unleashed 1970s guitar sound is already evident. The sublime meeting of Young’s thang with "The Sound of Young America" makes one lament how differently (black) rock history might have looked had the Mynah Birds triumphed at Hitsville.

My view is that Young couldn’t have written some of his best songs, like "Cinnamon Girl" and "Mr. Soul," plus freakery I dig such as "Sea of Madness," without that brief spell at Motown. (It’s interesting to imagine former auto-line worker Berry Gordy and car enthusiast Young rapping by chance). In a weird way, the shades of Young that appeared on the pop stage and relentlessly morphed between "Clancy" and "When You Dance I Can Really Love" seem to coexist with turn-of-the-’70s Motown mavericks who also flirted with polemics, space rock, and soul yodeling: Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Eddie Kendricks.

The Mynah Birds are sadly absent from volume one of Archives, despite a fleeting citation in its chronological timeline. But a few months before the box set dropped I acquired my grail of Mynah Birds tracks, and the picture of Young as a potential R&B artist who brought some of the Motown sensibility to bear upon the aesthetics of his next band, the Buffalo Springfield, emerged tantalizingly. Alongside it was the turbulent back story of the striving front man Ricky James Matthews (a Mick Jagger acolyte who later renamed himself), who failed to gain support for his hybrid vision of black rock even as his old bandmate soared from the ashes of Woodstock Nation.

Aside from the future Super Freak, Young’s key ace boons on the funk express were Bruce Palmer (1946-2004) and Danny Whitten (1943-72) — besides Stephen Stills, the stars of this first set. Palmer, a native of Toronto who shared a deep spiritual bond with Young, had been in an all-black Canadian band led by Billy Clarkson even prior to his membership in the Mynah Birds. He subsequently brought his low-end theories to the Springfield; Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (before being replaced by young Motown bassist Greg Reeves); and Young’s thwarted revolutionary electronic project Trans (Geffen, 1982). Palmer also reunited with Rick James after the Springfield’s implosion, producing the beautiful psych-jazz classic The Cycle Is Complete (Verve, 1971), a rival to Skip Spence’s Oar (Columbia, 1969).

Columbus, Ga.,-bred Whitten might still be Young’s most fabled collaborator. His premature death by heroin overdose inspired "The Needle and the Damage Done" (included amongst other Harvest tracks on disc eight of Vol. 1) and the dark and stark standout of the "Ditch Trilogy," Tonight’s the Night (Reprise, 1975), which will feature in the next Archives installment. Even before starting the Laurel Canyon-based Rockets (which became Crazy Horse), Whitten had been a live R&B dancer and seems to have restored some genuine Southern rock ‘n’ soul flava to the mix of his boy twice-removed from Dixie. Every time I hear the vainglorious funk bomb that is "Cinnamon Girl," I recognize that element is there and regret Whitten’s passing even more.

I first and foremost swear fealty to Buffalo Springfield. But for all his seemingly mercurial guises, the plaid-and-denim-clad Young who conjured Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere (Reprise, 1969) and the songs from the Ditch in company with Crazy Horse and other canyon pickers appears to be the most enduring direct influence on later generations. To try to make sense of Young’s legend, I consulted an amen corner: Harry Weinger, VP of A&R at Universal Motown; famed Harvest producer Elliot Mazer; and young J. Tillman.

I also saw my Alabama-bred friend Patterson Hood at the Bowery Ballroom, bringing an element of Stills and Young’s guitar duels and Young’s volume to the stage, backed by the Screwtopians. Brother Hood’s chief band, Drive-By Truckers, came to most folks’ attention with 2001’s Sept. 12 Soul Dump release Southern Rock Opera, a sprawling masterwork in two acts that dealt with — among other Southern myths — the complex relationship between Young and Lynyrd Skynyrd icon Ronnie Van Zant (see "Ronnie and Neil"). When we discussed the Archives before the gig, Patterson professed to be waiting on tenterhooks for the next volume, due to the Ditch releases: TTN, Time Fades Away (Reprise, 1973), and my favorite, On the Beach (Reprise, 1974).

Tillman — Pacific Northwest-dwelling solo artist and multi-instrumentalist member of Fleet Foxes — was illuminating on the subject of Young as artistic forebear. This year, the Foxes were summoned by Young to tour with him and perform at his annual Bridge School benefit, even as Tillman promoted Vacilando Territory Blues (Bella Union) and began to develop his next solo recording Year In the Kingdom. Kindly, he paused amid all this flurry to speak on Young’s influence when we crossed paths earlier this year:

"Neil is a figure to follow and not follow. Following him is kind of antithetical to the spirit of his music, but it’s hard to resist the mythology …

"Neil’s understanding of the technical side of the recording process, and his obsession with gear and tone, stands in total contrast to his completely intuitive approach to making records." he continued. "Each of his records has an environment that is as big a part of the record as the songs. Recording in a barn, an SIR storage space, doing honey-slides with Rusty Kershaw — he always positions himself for moments of magic."

Despite Young’s great capacity for harnessing magic, what Archives demonstrates beyond the master’s curatorial intent is the vast gulf between the violent-but-halcyon time that begat his earliest works and now, when ever more plastic reigns in our common culture. When I cited surprise at a sudden small surge in younger folk and country-rockin’ artists who profess overt adoration of and respect for Buffalo Springfield and Stills’ Manassas, Tillman voiced skepticism:

"Our generation has been told that we can buy authenticity. Advertising is so enmeshed in our thought life we’ve developed Stockholm syndrome. People buy the idea of the ’60s and ’70s like a product, like it’s something you can own by buying things, or conversely, by becoming a product fashioned in the style of the ’70s. There are plenty of people dying to make a buck off that. It’s sad how commodified music has become, how people just do it to be it, instead of doing it because they are it. Neil refused to be bought or sold or owned in his own time, like any of the greats."

As for Young followers on the blackhand side, they may not be legion but today — more than four decades after he was meant to produce Love’s masterpiece Forever Changes (Elektra, 1967) and long after his road dawgin’ with former Malibu neighbor Booker T. Jones — there are more than you might think. Richie Havens still cut what might rate as the best-ever Young cover: his desperate, electric, heavy metal "The Loner" on Mixed Bag II (Stormy Forest, 1974). The other week I attended a taping of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, and after the show, when Roots’ guitarist Kirk Douglas spotted the behemoth Archives box I was toting, he ripped a few blazing riffs from "Cinnamon Girl."

Outlaws don’t always go out in a blaze of glory. Some, like Young, abide, too ornery for entropy to overtake them. I expect him to continue restlessly exploring where he and Sudanese bluenote sound intersect in the eye of the volt. As for the native rights supporter who came off like the inscrutable brave in Buffalo Springfield’s dynamic cowboy movie — but who totes a cigar store Indian onstage? The rebel in me that thrills to Young’s peculiarly suhthuhn quixotic qualities and access to American African’s obsession with freedom wants him to account for these lyrics about my ancestral sovereign Wahunsunacock’s martyred daughter, Matoaka:

I wish I was a trapper

I would give a thousand pelts

To sleep with Pocahontas

And find out how she felt

In the mornin’ on the fields of green

In the homeland we’ve never seen.

Hey now hey … my my my. Aren’t we both, the contested bodies, still looking for America?

Aicha

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paulr@sfbg.com

The tagine is something of a unicorn in the kingdom of food. Many people will recognize the word as referring to a stew of Moroccan or other north African provenance, but it also refers to the pot in which the stew is cooked. And, though you may be an inveterate Moroccan-restaurant-goer, chances are you’ve never seen the tagine pot in its full glory. What typically reaches the table is just the lower half of the tagine — a kind of serving platter, probably of glazed ceramic, possibly hand-painted.

But the spectacular part of the tagine is the conical top, which looks like a space capsule or a hat from Beach Blanket Babylon. The top is aesthetically striking, but it also is a mechanism for moisture retention; like a still, it captures condensation and routes it back to the dish whence it came. The top has a knob at its peak that resists heat and so enables the cook to lift it up and see what’s going on in there.

I wish the removal of tagine tops would become a standard tableside flourish at Moroccan restaurants, the way lighting saganaki on fire is at Greek places. Tagine de-topping isn’t standard practice at Aicha, at least not yet, but I did thrill to the spectacle, deep in the open kitchen, of a bare-handed chef pulling off the top of a hand-painted ceramic tagine to inspect its contents. The tagine top looked very much like the one I have at home, and perhaps the tagine dish itself was the one that would soon be brought to me. More on this important matter anon.

Aicha opened late in the spring in a storefront space on Polk Street, in that transitional zone between the Civic Center and Russian Hill. The restaurant will definitely be seen as an upgrade to this emulsification-resistant neighborhood. Although it’s small, it’s handsomely appointed — a crisp, clean spareness with striking copper accents, and, of course, beautifully authentic tagines.

Authenticity is a central theme at Aicha. The restaurant will do its best "to preserve the authenticity of the cuisine," according to a statement on the Web site. This is never an easy undertaking in California, land of bravura salad-tossing, but so far the place is off to an impressive start. The food is modestly priced and not elaborate or precious, but it does offer an intensity of flavor many kitchens charging two or three times as much might envy.

There is great delight to be found not only among the appetizers, which cost between $3 and $6, but even in the more modest side dishes ($3 each) like the simple-sounding white beans. These are of the smaller, navy-bean size; are expertly cooked al dente (i.e. neither hard nor mushy); and are presented in a creamy, well-seasoned sauce whose glints of redness hint at the presence of paprika or some other extroverted but not bitingly hot red pepper. We do not eat enough beans and legumes in this country, perhaps because we associate them with poverty and the old country (whatever that country that might be), but maybe we would eat more if they were this good.

For just a dollar or three more, you can find yourself feasting on comparably gratifying appetizers. Blanched carrots ($4), are peeled, quartered, and tossed with chermoula, the distinctive north African spice paste that usually includes garlic, preserved lemon, and cumin, along with other herbs and spices. Like beans, carrots (one of the notably health-protecting orange foods) are neglected in our culinary culture and are often relegated to lowly duty in mirepoix or soup stock. But if you served these at a party, you would run out in five minutes.

Possibly even tastier, though not quite as finger-friendly, is taktouka ($4), a plateful of grilled red bell pepper squiggles tossed with some tomato, olive oil, and what the menu cryptically calls "spices." Cumin was in there, certainly, but grilled peppers have such a distinctive and alluring flavor that they don’t really need much else.

Somewhat less impressive — yet at the top of the appetizer price scale — was an artichoke salad ($6) consisting of pickled artichoke hearts, peppery green olives, crumblings of feta, and lots of immaculate romaine leaves. Lots. The romaine was too much with us and diluted the potency of other players.

It was thought that the b’stilla ($6), a pizzetta-sized round of phyllo stuffed with pistachio chicken and dusted with powdered sugar and cinnamon, was a little too cinnamony. (Frasier‘s Dr. Niles Crane, complaining about a Café Nervosa cappuccino: "Can you believe the incompetence of that man? I very clearly asked for a whisper of cinnamon, and he’s given me a full-throated shout!") But a lamb tagine ($9) — tender shanks on the bone, surrounded by little green hills of peas and artichoke hearts — was all a heart could desire, even if the plate arrived topless.

AICHA

Daily, 11:30 a.m.–11:30 p.m.

1303 Polk, SF

(415) 345-9947

www.aichasf.com

Credit cards pending; call ahead and bring cash

Hard surfaces mean noise

Wheelchair accessible

Appetite: Punch for pirates, watermelon soup, orzo mac ‘n cheese, 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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Delish cocktails at Rickhouse. Photo by Virginia Miller.

NEW OPENINGS Around the Bay

Bourbon & Branch and Cask debut a second bar: Rickhouse
Opening night, July 1st, at Bourbon and Branch’s highly-anticipated second bar, Rickhouse in FiDi, named after a storehouse for aging bourbon. The space, including front and back bars, is gorgeous, with wood planks above and below, and a little balcony area with gentle skylight glow. The Old World feel transports – you can almost imagine you’re aboard a pirate vessel or in an old English tavern. The word was way out on opening night, making for a bit of chaos, but a kindly doorman (replete in cap and vest) regulated so we weren’t body-to-body, while staff and bartenders are cheerful and welcoming. And, oh, that menu! Pages and pages of classic cocktails, punches (punch bowl for four, please!), flips, fizzes, and some wines and draught beers for good measure. This is a cocktail lover’s dream bar and I, for one, am already plotting my next visit.
246 Kearny, SF.
415-398-2827
www.rickhousebar.com

FIVE, Scott Howard’s latest, opens this week in Berkeley
We’ve been missing Scott Howard since his namesake restaurant closed, but he’s debuting Five this week in beautifully remodeled Hotel Shattuck, an elegant, modern space with oval, limestone bar, white pillars and dramatic glass chandelier. The menu (ranging from $5-21 at lunch, $5-28 at dinner), lists playful dishes like Deviled ‘Surf & Turf’ Eggs with Dungeness crab and ham, or Orzo Mac ‘n Cheese with Morel mushrooms and tomato jam. There’s classic cocktails and plenty of onion rings with ginger ketchup. Scott is back!
2086 Allston Way, Berk.
510-845-7300

www.five-berkeley.com

Commis: Hints of molecular gastronomy on Piedmont Ave
JoJo, Oakland long-time classic, closed some months ago, and chef/owner, James Syhabout, moved in with Commis, unexpectedly soft-opening last week. There’s one option: a $49 three-course meal (from a handful of choices in each course), laden with hints of molecular gastronomy since Syhabout’s resume lists the likes of none other than Manresa, WD-50 and Coi. I hear tell of menu items like crisp pork jowl on a poached egg, chicken cooked in malted ale with golden rice, and strawberry watermelon soup for dessert. Sounds like it’s time to make a reservation.
3859 Piedmont Avenue, Oakl.
510-653-3902
www.commisrestaurant.com

San Francisco Silent Film Festival

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PREVIEW According to (disputed) legend, the 1944 death of 36-year-old Lupe Velez was far from glamorous, yet had classic Hollywood form: face-down in the toilet, choked on the pills she was regurgitating in a suicide attempt that succeeded, albeit not as planned. That sad end — she was despondent over a married lover and their unborn child — provided high contrast with her live-wire persona on and off-screen. The latter included high-drama involvements with legendary hunks Gary Cooper and Johnny "Tarzan" Weissmuller. In movies, she both defined and transcended a "Mexican Spitfire" stereotype (the actual name of her popular B-flick comedy series) with manic comic energy reminiscent of a Latina Clara Bow on one hand and a blueprint for Charo on the other.

Two features in this year’s Silent Film Festival find her minus speaking voice, but hardly muzzled. She was just 18 (and a convent school dropout) when picked to star opposite superstar Douglas Fairbanks in 1927’s The Gaucho. As his highly temperamental, jealous sweetheart, she gave as good as she got, frequently engaging his rakish hero in knock-down fights — a rehearsal for notorious later public spats with short-term husband Weissmuller, perhaps? Two years later she’d assumed a title role herself in Lady of the Pavements, a very late silent (its added "part-talkie" sequences have been lost) and one of D.W. Griffith’s last films. She plays a 19th-century Parisian cafe dancer who gets the Pygmalion treatment by a duplicitous countess seeking to humiliate her ex-fiancée. Material better suited to Lubitsch or Von Stroheim, this sophisticated seriocomic fluff wasn’t ideal for stuffy Griffith; and he couldn’t (or didn’t want to) tap Velez’s natural rambunctiousness as Fairbanks had. But this rare antique is still worth a look.

Other festival program highlights include Josef von Sternberg’s Oscar-winning gangster tale Underworld (1927), Victor Sjostrom’s poetic melodrama The Wind (1928), Gustav Machaty’s scandalous Czech Erotikon (1929), early W.C. Fields vehicle So’s Your Old Man (1926), and delirious Russian sci-fi exercise Aelita, Queen of Mars (1924). Live music will accompany each program.

SAN FRANCISCO SILENT FILM FESTIVAL July 10–12, free–$20. Castro Theatre, 429 Castro, SF.

(415) 621-6120, www.silentfilm.org

Tiki Crawl 9

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EVENT Since Victor Bergeron opened the first Trader Vic’s in Oakland in 1937, the Bay Area has had a relationship with that bastion of tropical tackiness: the tiki bar. Only the second of its kind (the first was Don the Beachcomber in Hollywood), Bergeron’s Polynesian-themed watering hole is said to be the inspiration for the odd architecture of the Stanford Terrace Inn (formerly the Tiki Inn Motel) and the birthplace of the Mai Tai (which, contrary to popular belief, is not required to be sickeningly sweet, adorned with plastic toys, or served to newly-legal drinkers in aquarium-sized bowls).

So it makes sense that the world’s biggest tiki bar crawl happens here. Starting Thursday at Trad’r Sam in San Francisco, Tiki Bar Crawl 9 wends its way through 10 bars in six cities over four days, all carefully chosen by the hosts at Tiki Central (an online forum for all things hula kitsch).

Highlights are sure to be Thursday’s kickoff in San Francisco, including a stop at the Disney-worthy Tonga Room, and Saturday’s tour of the East Bay, which concludes at the Trader Vic’s that started it all. Check the Web site for schedules, bus tickets ($35 for Friday’s South Bay tour, $40 for Saturday’s East Bay extravaganza) and rideshares, and more information about ugly mugs and thatched rooftops than you ever wanted to know.

TIKI CRAWL 9 Thurs/9–Sun/12, times and locations vary. Free admission. www.tikiroom.com/misc

Doug Biggert: “Hitchhikers and Other Work”

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PREVIEW So. I find out about this show "Doug Biggert: Hitchhikers and Other Work," and it sounds and looks amazing. It’s all generated from a discovery that two friends of Biggert’s made in 2002: namely, that he’d taken a photograph of nearly every hitchhiker he’d ever given a ride to. The acquaintances, Xavier Carcelle and Chloe Colpe, organized the almost 400 images into an exhibition that began its own travels in Paris, as well as a monograph.

It turns out that a California show devoted to Biggert, like this one, is a special homecoming for a lifelong artist who was never a careerist. In the early 1970s, Biggert had a solo exhibition at the Newport Harbor Art Museum (now the Orange County Museum of Art) showcasing photos he’d taken at a sandal shop in Balboa Park. Liv Moe and the folks at Verge Gallery in Sacramento aren’t just presenting Biggert’s hitchhiker photos in their gallery space — they’ve also put together a "Sandalshop Wall" recreation of that 1,700-image early ’70s show, complete with rented furniture that matches the furniture of the original.

Another twist of the Biggert story is that the longtime Sacramento resident made a crucial contribution to the growth of the zine movement. He was responsible for getting "zine racks" into Tower Records shops throughout the world.

So. I want to see this show. And as I read about it, I found out that Verge Gallery just had an exhibition of work by Daniel Johnston. Damn. That one would have been worth hitching a ride to, too.

DOUG BIGGERT: HITCHHIKERS AND OTHER WORK Opens Thurs/9, 6–10 p.m., continues through Aug. 23. Wed.–Fri., 11 a.m.–6 p.m.; Sat., noon–5 p.m. Verge Gallery and Studio Project, 1900 V Street, Sacramento. (916) 448-2985. www.vergegallery.com

WestWave Dance Festival

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PREVIEW The WestWave Dance Festival has been limping along for the last few years, but for most of its past, it has been a much-welcome venue for new and little-heard voices of Bay Area dance. For many artists, the opportunity to show that one new piece for which they have managed to scratch the money together, and to do so in a professional environment, has proved essential to keep going. WestWave now seems to be in a holding pattern, engaged in the process of rethinking itself — no mean endeavor considering the evaporation of funding sources. So the 2009 WestWave is about as small as it can get: a one-night stand. However, it boasts a good, fresh lineup that showcases quality artists who represent the richness that is Bay Area dance. Including world premieres by experienced artists is always a good programming decision, and these are judiciously chosen. The four new works will be by hula master Patrick Makuakane, ballet choreographer Amy Seiwert, modern dance collaborator Manuelito Biag (with Kara Davis and Alex Ketley), and dance theater artist Kim Epifano in a song cycle about her recent travels. The evening also includes film and live work by the excellent Benjamin Levy and Katie Faulkner. One-nighters can be a lot of fun and leave sweet memories. This one looks promising.

WESTWAVE DANCE FESTIVAL Sun/12, 8 p.m., $18–$25. Cowell Theater, Fort Mason Center, SF.

(415) 345-7575, www.westwavedancefestival.org

Kode 9, Spaceape

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PREVIEW "The mainstream of dubstep is becoming such an abortion," Kode 9 complained to electronic music advocate (and former Bay Area writer) Philip Sherburne in an eMusic.com interview. It’s a curious statement from someone who is being marketed (along with Burial, Skream, Benga, and a handful of others) as leaders of the dubstep incursion, a hybridization of 2-step garage, jungle breaks at half-speed and good ol’ ragga. (It’s the amalgamation of "dub" and "step.") Only two years after Burial’s Untrue (Hyperdub) brought pop’s cool-hunters to this bastard genre, it seems, dubstep is already eating itself.

U.K. electronic music (and its Anglophile offshoot) is herded by theorists, and Steve "Kode 9" Goodman is one of them. He has a doctorate in philosophy, and recently received a commission from the New Museum of Contemporary Art’s Rhizome technology initiative for a forthcoming documentary, Unsound Systems, that explores the use of sound as psychological weapon. His record label, Hyperdub, started out as a Web site spotlighting futurists like Kodwo Eshun and was responsible for the aforementioned Untrue as well as Zomby’s recent spin on ’90s ‘ardkore dynamics, Where Were You in ’92? (Werk).

Kode 9’s first collection, 2006’s Memories of the Future, pairs bleak echoing tones with pummeling bass thuds. One popular track, "Sine," finds vocalist Spaceape reinterpreting Prince’s "Sign O’ The Times" as dread intonation: "Sign o’ the times mess with your mind, hurry before it’s too late."

Declaring that a scene is "over" just as the great unwashed embraces it — recent dubstep parties in San Francisco have packed dance floors — seems particularly snotty and perverse. But by disappearing into thicker brush, Kode 9 stays ahead of pop mediocrity. His new singles, particularly "Black Sun / 2 Far Gone," add melancholic melodies and popping bass, retracing a path back to 2-step. Accordingly, U.K. critics have made it an example of a silly new subgenre called "funky." (George Clinton would laugh at that one.)

All this ideological shoegazing shouldn’t distract you from enjoying Kode 9’s tunes. But it should tell you that U.K. electronic music has traveled very far up its own arse. "I think U.K. electronic music is a bit of a mess right now and very microsegmented, to be honest," said Kode 9 in the eMusic interview. "But there are some lines of intersection that are promising."

THE FUTURE: KODE 9, SPACEAPE, THE FLYING SKULLS Fri/10, 10 p.m., $10 (advance). 103 Harriet, 103 Harriet, SF. (415) 431-8609. www.1015.com/103harriet/events