Volume 43 Number 42

The one true way

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andrea@mail.altsexcolumn.com

Dear Readers:

WebMD sent out this slightly goofy "10 Amazing Health Benefits of Sex." Among the benefits of "healthy loving in a relationship," according to the article (summaries mine) are:

1. Less stress: Volunteers kept sex diaries and were then subjected to stressful situations. "Those who had intercourse had better responses to stress than those who engaged in other sexual behaviors or abstained."

Neat.

2. Immunity: "People who have sex once or twice a week produce more immunoglobulin A (IgA). Subjects who reported having less or a whole lot more sex have lower IgA."

Huh. Moderation in all things, right? I guess we shouldn’t be surprised to find it applies to sex. But does it, or were there other factors here?

3. Calories: "Thirty minutes of sex burns 85 calories or more," claims WebMD. "It may not sound like much, but it adds up: 42 half-hour sessions will burn 3,570 calories, more than enough to lose a pound. Doubling up, you could drop that pound in 21 hour-long sessions."

Forty-two half-hour sessions will take most couples months to achieve. You’d be better off on a treadmill.

4. Cardiovascular: Researchers found that neither having nor not-having sex was correlated with strokes. More impressive, they "also found that having sex twice or more a week reduced the risk of fatal heart attack by half for the men, compared with those who had sex less than once a month."

Both loneliness and the death of a spouse are highly correlated with dropping dead.

5. Self-esteem: "Boosting self-esteem was one of 237 reasons people have sex." Hahaha! 237 is a mighty big number. You could fit anything in there. Reason No. 235: free rent.

6. Intimacy: "Sex and orgasms raise levels of oxytocin, the famous bonding, trust, and generosity hormone." The article goes on to cite a study showing that women’s levels of oxytocin rise after "warm contact" and hugs with their husbands, but you don’t need sex to get that.

7. Pain: "In a study published in the Bulletin of Experimental Biology and Medicine, 48 volunteers who inhaled oxytocin vapor and then had their fingers pricked lowered their pain threshold by more than half."

Coolness.

8. Prostate cancer: "Men who had five or more ejaculations weekly while in their 20s reduced their risk of getting prostate cancer later by a third."

There are a lot of similar studies supporting this.

9. Sleep: Oxytocin and exercise promote sleep, and lack of same is correlated with every bad thing from divorce to weight gain.That’s … nine. I lost one somewhere.

Of course, few of us need a specific reason to have sex, nor are we likely to be sufficiently motivated by any of the above to go get some, if not already inclined.

Love,

Andrea

Next-door horror

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CULT DVD As the first, and likely most underrated, film in Roman Polanski’s so-called apartment trilogy, Repulsion (1965) has often been judged by critics as a nascent work of distaff psychodrama that would achieve greater heights in the satanic majesty of Rosemary’s Baby (1968). But with this month’s deluxe DVD re-release of Repulsion by Criterion, another, more modern, evaluation might elevate Polanski’s gothic "prequel" into the archetype of an unrecognized genre — cellular guignol.

Released after Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960) and Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom (1960) — two other lynchpins of 1960s Anglo horror — Polanski’s document of Belgian agoraphobe Carol (Catherine Deneuve) and the emotional decay of swinging London signified a certain migration in the horror setting from the bucolic to the urban. Utilizing the confinement of the apartment — a setting indicative of the encroachment of the urban into the haunted estates and vast laboratories of earlier Grand Guignol — Polanski’s new type of horror responded to the rapid industrialization and segmentation of the postwar metropolis. Conceivably about a young woman’s breakdown amid the overwhelming urban expansion of London, Repulsion could certainly have mirrored Polanski’s own prickly feelings toward Western Europe after having grown up in the vast graveyards of Nazi-controlled Krakow.

In a recent Harvard lecture on his three volume work Sphären [Spheres], German critic Peter Sloterdijk explains the modern regime of apartment living this way: "Modern apartment construction rests on a celibate-based ontology … Everything is drawn into the inner sphere of the apartment. World and household blend. If a one-person existence can succeed at all, it is only because there is architectural support that turns the apartment itself into an entire world prosthetic." From Sloterdijk’s perspective, Carol’s mental deterioration in Repulsion was not so much the psychoanalytic signs of transference and sexual frigidity (as has been offered by most critics) but a physiological response to a new ecology — namely, the loss of a universal house for what Sloterdijk calls "the stacking of cells [into] an architectural foam, a multichambered system made of relatively stabilized personal worlds."

Such an interpretation would also reverse the contention that Carol’s deterioration stemmed from an apparent agoraphobia. Rather, her paranoia is an affective condition, precipitated by an "apartmental" way of living that locked the urbanite into a personalized cell (in both senses of the word — both biologically constitutive and punitive) not unlike the prisoner or medieval monk. So whatever critiques have immured Repulsion in traditional psychodrama fail to read the film as the paradigm of a new urban imperative.

www.criterion.com/films/404

Park it on the free way

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a&eletters@sfbg.com

FREE ISSUE/SONIC REDUCER Free. To be you and me. From sea to shining sea. As the wind, as the air, as information, as that music you downloaded through Lime Wire. Careful with the mellow, but the last time we checked our sparsely filled-out wallets, we all realized we can use a little free these days.

And considering the grand triad of free open-air shows in San Francisco — one encompassing the underground gatherings at Toxic Beach/Warm Water Cove and Potrero del Sol Park and the well-funded and organized massives like Hardly Strictly Bluegrass and Stern Grove (Altamont doesn’t count, grandpaw, ’cause the Speedway is outside city limits), Mission Creek Music and Arts Festival’s first free, all-ages, outdoor concert at Jerry Garcia Amphitheater in John McLaren Park is, honestly, looking pretty awesome.

Full disclosure: I’ve been sitting in at MCMF meetings of late and helping out where I can. But even if I was looking in from the outside, I’d be swayed by the event’s Bay-dominated lineup: Kelley Stoltz, Persephone’s Bees, Bart Davenport, the Moore Brothers, and Leopold and His Fiction, as well as the newly added Birds and Batteries and the Aerosols. Los Angeles’ Dead Meadow will rock the green grasses of the park in the headlining slot, Canada-via-SF combo the Rubies hold down the middle, and Spain’s Xoel Lopez, who some have dubbed the Beck of Spain, teams with chumster Bart Davenport for an intimate turn in the spotlight, but otherwise this local-centric show with an emphasis on psychedelia-tinged indie rock (judging from his freewheeling ways, Garcia might approve) could be considered the leafy spot where the underground meets the overground.

"You can go with a bunch of your friends and hang out and drink wine and enjoy the show," as MCMF producer Kymberli Jensen puts it. She organized the show along with Neil Martinson of SMiLE! "Personally that’s something that’s really appealing for me, and it’s accessible — especially in these hard economic times. People need something to lift the spirit."

And it’s remarkable that it gets done at all, during this nu-depression. Back to those MCMF meetings — rambling affairs consisting of a multitude of eager voices, much wine and snackings, and a slew of passionate opinions. Sponsorship of the fest has been hit particularly hard as a result of the economic meltdown, and few Mission District merchants have coin to spare. As a result, Jensen says MCMF has made a "conscious decision to do fund-raising throughout the year. The economic times have hit everybody — and have hit us very hard. We made a commitment to do this park concert, and many times we were asked to scrap it. But we worked six months on this, so we’re going to do the best we can."

As a result, Jensen and Martinson have put up their own cash to make this free show happen — hoping to recoup some of the costs with a raffle and donations. The dream: that one day of free music extends to two or three next year, with an emphasis on emerging performers and accessibility for music- lovers of all ages and income brackets. Because no one, especially Marlo Thomas, wants great music to become the exclusive reserve of elite patrons able to shell out for cardholder or VIP privileges. After all, MCMF isn’t about the money, as Jensen reminds me. "None of us get paid," the second-year producer explains. "We break even, if that. But we see it as an investment in Mission Creek, and also music in San Francisco."

MISSION CREEK MUSIC AND ARTS FESTIVAL FREE CONCERT

Sat/18, 11:30 a.m.–8 p.m., free

Jerry Garcia Amphitheater

John McLaren Park, Mansell and John F Shelley, SF

www.mcmf.org

—————

FROM FREE TO TWEE

PINK MOUNTAIN

The NorCal/NW avant-indie supergroup of sorts — including John Shiurba, Quasi’s Sam Coomes, Gino Robair, Scott Rosenberg, and Kyle Bruckmann — settles in for a good skronk in honor of its self-titled double-LP/CD on Sickroom. Wed/15, 6 p.m., free. Amoeba Music, 1855 Haight, SF. www.amoeba.com. Also Thurs/16, 9 p.m., $6. Hemlock Tavern, 131 Polk, SF. www.hemlocktavern.com

CAGE

Buttoned-down Cage is still finding his rage on Depart from Me (Definitive Jux). Fri/17, 9 p.m., $16. Great American Music Hall, 859 O’Farrell, SF. www.gamh.com

UNAGI

The SF MC-producer grilled Reinventing the Eel (442) completely on computer. With Melina Jones, Orukusaki, Gigio, Linkletterz, Substitute Teachers, and DJ Animal. Sat/18, 10 p.m., $10. Cafe du Nord, 2170 Market, SF. www.cafedunord.com

THE PAINS OF BEING PURE AT HEART

The new-twee revolution begins with best name to come down the pike since Bobby Joe Ebola and the Children MacNuggits. Tues/21, 7:30 p.m., $12. Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell, SF. www.rickshawstop.com

Citric acid rock

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a&eletters@sfbg.com

MISSION CREEK There he was, all cherubic, eating a "beej" — the nickname I’ve affectionately given the burgers at BJ, a.k.a. Burger Joint. Moments before show time, I spotted Ty Segall in the greasy eatery’s Mission District location. He was about to take to the stage at Amnesia, on the eve of an ambitious second solo tour that ventures through the East Coast and the South, even invading Canadian territory for a night in Toronto.

After my own greasy foray into a Popeye’s a few blocks away, I was ready to see the wunderkind, who is freshly graduated from the University of San Francisco. Once upon a time, Segall was a one man band, but he’s expanded his outfit to a three-piece. Clearly the night’s headliner at Amnesia, he packed the joint. After sets by openers Snakeflower 2 and the Rantouls, he mostly played familiar songs from his 2008 self-titled release on CastleFace Records. However, he also delivered a few examples of his self-described "sludgier" work on the brand new Lemons (Goner Records).

Sludge or no sludge, Segall’s solid work ethic is evident. He’s constantly playing gigs at bars like the Knockout, the Hemlock, and the Eagle Tavern — basically anywhere flannel is the prevailing fashion, alongside those straw fedora hats favored by the fixed-gear crowd. Despite his omnipresence on SF’s dive bar scene, he’s pretty modest about his dedication to his music. "There are a lot of ways that I am a slacker," he explains over the phone a month after the fateful Amnesia show as he and his band drive to New Orleans. "But if I’m not doing music, I feel like I’m wasting my time."

Segall’s music is part of a current collective lo-fi/neo-psych/garage rock movement. (I hate to label, but if you’re gonna do it, you might as well go all-or-nothing). At times it’s hard to decipher which bands from this rubric are legit and which are simply riding the wave of a trend. Segall’s contemporaries include his current tour mates Charlie and the Moonhearts, Strange Boys, Gris Gris, Thee Oh Sees, and Memphis’ Magic Kids. Some of these groups lean more toward pop, while others favor punk. But they all seem to draw on the past (particularly sun-dazed stretches of the 1960s) for inspiration and direction.

One highlight of Lemons is the wisely-handpicked Captain Beefheart cover "Dropout Boogie," a countercultural should-have-been anthem from the group’s 1967 release, Safe As Milk (Buddah). Recorded in a mere 20 minutes, Segall’s version of the freakout favorite — and especially its pounding bass line — has a rallying call effect, taking its cue from Timothy Leary’s infamous phrase, "Turn on, tune in, drop out." When I ask Segall why he chose to cover this particular song, especially since he just earned a degree in media studies, his answer is simple: "Beefheart rules." He can’t give the psych-blues band enough praise, citing them along with the Pretty Things and Piper at the Gates of Dawn-era Pink Floyd as major influences on his current reverb-rich sound.

Compared to Segall’s debut album, Lemons has a looser, more experimental sound. Less reliant on melody and catchy hooks, it delves deeper into psych and garage, slowing down Segall’s riff-happy original style. The distortion is still there, but you can tell how different effects and levels were employed on a track-to-track basis. One new song, "Like You," is brilliantly melancholy in tone and lumbering in pace. Basically, it’s a beautiful downer. The varying volume levels can probably be attributed to the use of vintage reel-to-reel equipment and Tascam quarter-inch tapes. "It gives it that blown-out sound," Segall explains. "But in a clean way."

As if to incite hip-hop beef, Spin‘s enthusiastic review of Lemons warns Jay Reatard to look out, calling Segall’s garage rock "scuzzier." Just for kicks, I jump on the beef-wagon and ask Segall who would win if he and Reatard had a fist fight. "I’m a total wuss. I’d probably just sit there and let him punch me," he says, adding, "I actually met him at a party. He was pretty cool." So much for placing your bets. It appears Segall’s a peaceful soul, and that a single encounter at a keg quelled any potential garage rocker-on-garage rocker crime.

TY SEGALL

with Thee Oh Sees, Meth Teeth, Buzzer, Fresh and Onlys

Thurs/16, 9 p.m., $7

The Eagle Tavern

398 12th St., SF

MISSION CREEK MUSIC FESTIVAL

www.mcmf.org

Superior sounds

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In the dead of last winter, the enigmatic and bombastically-titled "The Very Best" Mixtape (Ghettopop) cracked the frozen-over music blogosphere, thanks to its barrage of blasts straight from the center of an African sun. Self-baptized as The Very Best, European production/DJ duo Radioclit (another unfortunate name) teamed up with the Malawian born, London-based singer Esau Mwamwaya. The resulting left-field effort virtually burned through rigid or frigid genre horizons, blending multilingual African vocals, synth-heavy indie pop, thunderous polyrhythms, and an outer-national pastiche of celebratory dance thumpers.

Riding high on an internet buzz that is still multiplying, The Very Best has been hard at work on its upcoming official debut, The Warm Heart of Africa (Green Owl), scheduled for release this fall. If Internet leaks can predict anything, the recording expands on Radioclit’s worldly sensibility. Brace yourself for hazardous dance floor anthems well-fed on the homegrown African sounds of high-life and marabi, as well as bass-laden pop grooves from, well, all over the globe. Mwamwaya’s pipes wander and work wonders over Radioclit’s multitextured, voracious production. Versatile melodies and subtly intricate lyricism uplift the percussive hymns to create a remarkable sonic balance between earthly thrust and airy lightness. In addition to The Very Best’s core dynamism, the debut also promises guest collaborations with MIA (on the enchanting "Rain Dance") and Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig (the hypnotically incandescent "Warm Heart of Africa"). Ah, the revival of spasmodic, sun-drenched Afro-pean music. My year looks brighter already.

BLASTHAUS PRESENTS THE VERY BEST

With Bersa Discos

Fri/17, 9 p.m., $15.

Mighty, 119 Utah, SF

(415) 762-0151

www.mighty119.com

Magic man

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a&eletters@sfbg.com

A young musician’s sojourn after a successful debut album is often a grueling lesson about the fickleness of fans. But U.K. producer, DJ, and multiinstrumentalist Bonobo — also called by his more earthly moniker Simon Green — has transcended expectations and narrow definitions since his first full-length LP Animal Magic (Tru Thoughts, 2001). Once lauded by critics and listeners as the sanguine monkey king of downtempo "chill," Green has refined and filled out his inspired sonic vision long after the dissolution of that nebulous genre.

"There’s definitely a jazz sensibility [to Bonobo’s music]," Green tells me on the phone from Montreal, at the dawn of a North American tour. "Jazz is the main ingredient and then it swings off into different genres." But Green quickly qualifies his statement, pointing out that his music feeds hungrily on electronic narratives and a hip-hop aesthetic for mixing samples and loops. Dial ‘M’ For Monkey (Ninja Tunes, 2003) highlights just this talent for arranging sample cuts and live instrumentation into textured narratives. Composed of languid keyboard loops, horn blares, spacey flute riffs, and programmed atmospherics, the sensually percussive sound travels like moonlit waves. Green forged stronger and more intricate compositions in his most recent release, Days To Come (Ninja Tunes, 2006). This record sees Green’s younger somnambulant drive mature into the insightful introspection and passion conveyed by human rhythms and voices. A collaboration with the incredible vocalist Bajka emboldens Bonobo’s paradoxical balance between ephemeral and earthly wavelengths.

Today, Green is still following the elusive muses into realms of experimentation. He just finished producing an acoustic folk project for songstress Andreya Triana (of Fly Lo’s alluring "Tea Leaf Dancers"). "I think you can get bogged down with one way of working," Green says. "I like the idea of trying something else away from making my own music, because it expands [my] boundaries." For Triana’s upcoming debut Lost Where I Belong (Ninja Tunes), Green abandoned sampling for tabula rasa song production. The lo-fi, sparse arrangements emphasize the fullness of Triana’s effusive voice.

Green came out of the bottom-up recording experience rejuvenated and ready to write stories into tracks. He says his next effort will strive for cinematic orchestration. "I want to make sure it’s a progression from the last one," he says. "One tune has three different tempos and hugely different arrangements as it progresses." But adventurous strands of jazz continue to shift within Bonobo’s music. He’s still writing tales of love and isolation. We listen, navigating infinite horizons, and yes, more days to come.

BONOBO

With Andreya Triana

Sat/18, 9 p.m., $25

Mighty

119 Utah St, SF

(415) 626-7001

www.mighty119.com

A new ambient

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johnny@sfbg.com

INTERVIEW Maybe it’s in the air? Whatever the case, the subtle morphing of ambient music is bringing some extreme albums. Extremity isn’t a quality one usually associates with ambient, a genre that — Brian Eno or not — is too often thought of as meditative Muzak without melody, or comfort music for snoozers. Yet some of the most unsettling and intense recordings of the past twelve months seep out from the ambient realm. On Labyrinthitis (Touch Tone, 2008), Jacob Kirkegaard generates sound from the act of hearing itself by recording hairs within the cochlea — the result is a slow mad spiral in sound form. On Radioland (Die Schachtel, 2008), Stephan Mathieu uses shortwave radio signals to create a near-symphonic elegy to…radio. Now, with White Clouds Go On and On (Echospace), San Francisco’s Brock Van Wey is adding a direct melodic touch to the extremity of the new ambient.

Listen up: by no means does quiet mean soothing. The intensity and extremity of White Clouds Go On and On stems from Van Wey’s fierce compositional dedication to emotion as a subject and as a source of inspiration. The collection’s six songs (reinterpreted by Echospace’s Steven Hinchell on a companion album) clock in at just under 80 minutes in length. A native of the Bay Area, where he’s made low-key but important contributions to electronic scenes for well over a decade, Van Wey — a.k.a. bvdub — resides in Twin Peaks. That location makes a certain midnight-in-a-perfect-world kind of sense: his latest songs possess a vastness and isolation that suits that part of town. But, as the interview below makes clear, they also deeply reflect his sense of being.

SFBG Can you tell me a bit about the titles of the songs on White Clouds Drift On and On? With instrumental music, a title can color the music, and the ones here have a potent melancholy that gradually shifts into optimism.

BROCK VAN WEY The titles of the songs are the emotion I sit down to try to express. Basically an emotion begins to occupy my thoughts all the time or in some cases pretty much overwhelm me, and then I sit down to try to get it out — sometimes in an attempt to become closer to it, but just as often to try to resolve it or distance myself from it. Whenever I make a track, the title comes first, because that’s what I’m trying to say — then I set about trying to say it.

Since most of my life and thoughts are enveloped in melancholy, it’s no surprise that the majority of my titles reflect that. However, you are very right, in this album, there is indeed a shift from melancholy to hope from the beginning to the end. Most of my personal melancholy comes from hopes unfulfilled or dreams dashed, and if I never had hope in the first place, the sadness wouldn’t be there either, so they are pretty inseparable.

SFBG While vocals aren’t dominant in White Clouds, they are present on tracks such as "Too Little To Late." But they have a diffuse, almost vaporous quality — which makes their sources or original contexts difficult to pin down.

BVW Vocals I use or create for my tracks are always ones that help put that final punctuation on what I’m trying to say. Working with vocals is tricky, because they can easily just seem slapped in or heavy-handed, with no real point. Sometimes it takes me days or weeks to find just one miniscule part of a vocal (sometimes literally one second) that, to me, fits that exact part of the song like it was meant to be there all along. It’s no surprise that their original sources or contexts are difficult to pin down, as the majority of the time, I go through a million different processes to get them how I want them, and they are usually a million miles from the original. That’s a lot of millions.

SFBG What I’m struck by on a track such as "Forever a Stranger" is the amount of teeming chaos within the seeming calm of your sound.

BVW "Forever a Stranger" definitely has more of a feeling of chaos (while still remaining somewhat calm) in comparison to the others on the album. It was only natural, as it’s all about that feeling of always being on the outside, and being a stranger no matter where you are — a stranger in your own life. The knowledge that no matter who you’re with or where you are, you are in fact alone in the world. For me anyway, it’s not only a thought that I struggle with on a daily basis, but it brings up a tempest of different emotions — hence the teeming chaos, I guess. It seems like so many people around me feel so natural in being a person among others, and part of this world of ours that requires us to all interact with other people and be social animals, while in my own head, it’s a great struggle. Some days I could care less and am happy being how I am, but some days I’d be lying if I said I didn’t just wish I could be like everyone else — or at least, how they appear to be.

SFBG "A Gentle Hand to Hold" might be my favorite track on White Clouds — it’s certainly the most hypnotic or even in some ways hallucinatory track. Do you aim for those qualities — meditative and transportive ones — in a compositions’ combo of repetition and slow transformation? Can you tell me a bit about the genesis of that song?

BVW Those qualities you mentioned are my trademark, at least in the ambient I make (which nowadays is pretty much all I make). While many of my tracks may seem like they’re not doing all that much on the surface, if you listen closely, you will find layers of slowly but constantly transforming elements that ebb and flow, which is what gives it that hypnotic or even hallucinatory effect.

SFBG What dictates or influences the length of a track, here and in your other recordings?

BVW There isn’t anything that dictates the length of a track per se, but in my case, they are almost always very long. For me, while a track is one part of the whole story, it is its own whole part in its own right, and needs to be treated as such. It has its own story to tell and its own journey, and to me, that story should be told, and that journey taken, to its completion.

Frankly, it drives me nuts when I’m really starting to get into the story of a track, and where it’s taking me, only to have it fade to silence after 3 minutes. If I love what something has to say or how something sounds, I want to get lost in it, not have it flit away in a matter of moments. I can’t say it’s wrong, because everyone has their own way of doing things, and whichever way the artist wants to do it is right, really. But for me, that’s just not the way I work, nor could I ever. Even back when I DJed, people used to complain that I always played the whole song before mixing out just at the end. Why wouldn’t I? The song was made that length for a reason. And I want to hear all of what it has to say.

Mumblecorenography

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a&eletters@sfbg.com

Nervous or slightly guilty laughter is a typical soundtrack to any fear that dare not say its name. It’s not reading too deep to call the recent bromantic comedy explosion one conspicuous way in which Straight Male America is covertly coming to squirmy terms with a brave new gay = OK world.

I Love You Man, Superbad (2007), I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry (2007), and so on provide sugar-coated therapy, allowing a youngish straight male audience to titter at the faux-mosexuality of Peter Pans with growing pains. Best-friendliness that resembles something else is milked for both "ewwww!" yuks and a certain redemptive sweetness. Offscreen, your girlfriend might laugh at skittish you for reacting with that retro "I am so not gay!" recoil to anything that looks or feels gay; so would the gay friends it’s now kinda cool for you to have. But onscreen, it’s fine to both laugh and identify with doofuses doing just that. Is this progress? Eh, more or less.

Lynn Shelton’s Humpday takes the logical next one-step-forward, half-step-back for anxious brethren. Unlike her Slamdance award-winning debut feature We Go Way Back (2006), whose arty, autobiographical memory drama recalled formative feminist cinema, Humpday operates within a contemporary dude idiom: mumblecore, complete with improvised dialogue and genre staple Mark Duplass (2005’s The Puffy Chair) in a principal role. It’s better crafted than most mumblecore movies. But what isn’t?

Seattleites Ben (Duplass) and Anna (Alycia Delmore) are drifting toward conventional adulthood while remaining vaguely "alternative," liberal arts types. Enter Ben’s old bud Andrew (Joshua Leonard, finger donor in 1999’s The Blair Witch Project), pit-stopped between backpacker adventures. To Ben, this hairy hippie is the thrilling, chilling reminder of freedoms left behind. Of course he’s great at parties and an inspiration to worried college seniors everywhere. But do you really want that on your couch for more than a weekend?

Anna might have doubts about that. (Humpday‘s secret strength is its deft probing the boundary-testing not between men, but within a credible marriage.) Ben, however, grows giddy under the influence of wine, reefer, cello rock, and Andrew at a communal house party the latter’s gotten them invited to. Excited to be the center of attention for people two-thirds their age, the two dudes have a brainstorm, vowing they’ll make their own "two straight dudes, straight ballin’" video as an "art project" for an amateur sex film festival. Having double-dared, even next-day sobriety won’t let them back down.

It’s impossible to address Humpday‘s failure of nerve — it is, ultimately, another "raunchy" movie for the faint-hearted — without spoiling the tepid punchline of a hitherto amiable, pleasingly performed albeit one-joke, movie. Suffice it to say, though, it reflects the zeitgeist precisely in recoiling where it does. Millennia of territory-marking manhood still instinctively bridles, however quietly, at actual dude-on-dude snuggling. That a target audience is willing to go this far at present is cheering. That the characters and filmmakers inevitably wind up paralyzed by nervous giggles is proof just how not-over-the-hump yet we remain when it comes to real comfort with guys doing, er … stuff.

HUMPDAY opens Fri/17 in San Francisco.

Unhappily ever after

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There’s a warning at the tender, bruised heart of (500) Days of Summer, kind of like an alarm on a clock-radio set to MOPEROCK-FM, going off somewhere in another room. Probably a room with the blinds closed, the nightstand littered with empties and Hostess wrappers, and a tender, bruised-hearted young man curled up in bed with three days of depression stubble growing on his face.

The alarm has been set for our protagonist, the above-described ill-shaven swain, but also, no doubt, for a goodly number of delusional souls in the darkened movie theater, sitting in blissful proximity to their imaginary soulmate the next seat over. Setting a terrible example for them is Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a student of architecture turned architect of sappy greeting card messages, who opts to press snooze and remain in the dream world of "I’m the guy who can make this lovely girl believe in love."

The agnostic in question is a luminous, whimsical creature named Summer (Zooey Deschanel), who’s sharp enough to flirtatiously refer to Tom as "Young Werther" but soft enough, especially around a pair of oceanic blue eyes, to seem capable of reshaping into a true believer. Her semi-mysterious actions throughout (500) Days raise the following question, though: is a mutual affinity for Morrissey and Magritte sufficient predetermining evidence of what is and is not meant to be? Over the course of an impressionistic film that flips back and forth and back again through the title’s 500 days, mimicking the darting, perilous maneuvers of ungovernable memory, first-time feature director Marc Webb and screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber answer this and related questions in a circuitous fashion, while gently querying our tendency to edit and manufacture perceptions.

File under romantic comedy, for lack of a category for charming interventions on behalf of dreamy-eyed victims of willful self-delusion and pop culture. There’s certainly plenty to laugh at here, such as a postcoital scene involving a choreographed jazz-dance routine through downtown L.A., set to Hall and Oates’ "You Make My Dreams Come True." But other, swoonier songs and scenes produce a more poignant effect, and Gordon-Levitt’s dead-on depiction of his character’s romantic travails perfectly evokes the sensation of an enduring, unwise crush, the longing like a weight on one’s heart, and the intractable, bittersweet memories that, no doubt, have kept many a viewer awake at night.

(500) DAYS OF SUMMER opens Fri/17 in San Francisco.

Squeeze me

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superego@sfbg.com

SUPEREGO Obama’s been in office for a whole 200,000 blog centuries, but times are still so tight I have to make my own mascara out of Marlboro butts and melted-down pantyhose. Why won’t he magically fix everything immediately! Flasks are making a flashy comeback on the club scene, spontaneous street parties are all the rage, and 2 p.m. at Dolores Park is the latest rave time for the hip, half-naked underemployed. (The free San Francisco Symphony performance then and there on Sun/19 will be an awesome culture clash.) It’s a freakonomical conundrum that just as delicious-sounding specialty cocktails are taking off and a new crop of fascinating DJs are touring, no one really has the ducats to taste or hear them.

But the worst thing you can do is stay home. Fortunately, some of the best parties in the city are free — and many more, don’t forget, are gratis if you arrive early enough (bring a crossword or something) or pimp inventive drink specials to help you fight the squeeze. Look Out Weekend (Fridays, 4–9 p.m., free. Vessel, 85 Campton Place, SF. www.lowsf.com) is a bumpin’ electroish happy hour that boasts two-for-one well drinks and an überstylish crowd. The weekly hip-hop-laced glass of adventure that is Red Wine Social (Wednesdays, 8 p.m., free. Dalva, 3121 16th St., SF. www.myspace.com/dalva_cocktails) has been getting scruffsters loopy for the better part of a decade, while hip-hop upstart West Addy (Wednesday, UndergroundSF, 424 Haight, SF. www.myspace.com/westaddy) gooses the neon youth. The eclectic Drunken Monkey (Tuesdays, 9 p.m., free. Annie’s Social Club, 917 Folsom, SF. www.anniessocialclub.com) brings together goth and hip-hop — goth hop? Gnip gnop? — while the occasional, usually free Alcoholocaust parties (various dates, Argus Lounge, 3187 Mission, SF. www.arguslounge.com) get your rock rocks off.

The gays love it the free: Honey Sundays (Sundays, 9 p.m., free. Paradise Lounge, 1501 Folsom, SF. www.honeysoundsystem.com) brings the best underground queer sounds in town to a lovely cross-section of post-weekend freaks — and is celebrating its second anniversary Sun/19 — while Charlie Horse (Fridays, 9 p.m., free. The Cinch, 1723 Polk, SF. www.myspace.com/charliehorsecinch) is an actual delicious freakshow, with Anna Conda and her merry band of blackouts dishing out punk rock drag for a packed house. Tiara Sensation (Mondays, 9 p.m., free. The Stud, 399 Ninth St., SF. www.myspace.com/tiarasensation) is a mad mix of outré drag themes — Bea Arthur never died here — and DIY outfits, many of them constructed onscene. Freesational!

WATCHA-CLAN


Breakbeat revival in full effect? Maybe, but how about "world ‘n bass." French-Algerian phenom Watcha-Clan puts a refreshing, live global spin on the fractured obsession of yesteryear, in keeping with our borderless times. The Afrolicious boys crack it all open.

Wed/15, 8 p.m., $10. Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell, SF. www.rickshawstop.com

JUST ANOTHR PARTY


My fave ‘Loin-hearted electro band, the Tenderlions, will be rocking it with super-naff Ferrari Party kids Jason D. and Primo and glam-slam DJs Sarah Delush, Mario Muse, Pony P. and other razor-sharp untouchables.

Fri/17, 10 p.m.– 3 a.m., $5. 103 Harriet, SF. www.1015.com

SMACK


Could I go at least a week without writing about Detroit? Sheesh, y’all go back home! But not before Smack, a D-lovely affair, that pairs scene queen Juanita More with the Motor City’s Sass and Family crews, with quite-right techno-reppin’ DJ Chuck Hampton, aka Gay Marvine, on the decks.

Fri/17, 10 p.m., $5. UndergroundSF, 424 Haight, SF.

PHEEKO DUBFUNK


More North African dancefloor diaspora, as the man from Oran-El-Bahia rips out some seriously silky smooth house and, well, dubfunk at Temple. Although he became well-known for his sets in South Beach, Miami, Pheeko’s no mere sparkly sunglass-wearing slickster, keeping the tunes deep and intelligently constructed.

Sat/18, 10 p.m., $5 before 11 p.m., $20 after. Temple, 540 Howard, SF. www.templesf.com

The loneliest number

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le.chicken.farmer@gmail.com

It does strike me as odd that New York’s best deli is in San Rafael. But I am willing to believe anything, at least for a minute and a half. To date, this capacity has served me pretty well.

I don’t know about New York by the Bay. Their logo is a white on black drawing of the Statue of Liberty holding a tray of bagels in her other arm, in front of the Golden Gate Bridge. A sign on the window says "New York’s Best Deli." That’s where I got the idea.

But when I asked for matzo ball soup, which was also advertised on the window, the guy behind the counter looked confused and pointed at something on the specials board with mozzarella in it.

"Um," I said.

They have a cooler advertising New York Egg Creams, but it’s hard to tell from looking inside it what New York Egg Creams are. Unless they are Snapple, or Coke, or Pepsi. Or Dr. Brown’s cream soda. Which they are not and not and not. And not.

I did wind up with a bowl of matzo ball soup, and without having to go in the kitchen and cook it, which was nice. One big matzo ball in the middle of it. You know the old song, "One Meatball"? I’m sure I’ve sung it before in this column. Anyway, the reason I love that song so much is because I am 100 percent certain it will not be the song that is playing on the radio, or in my mind, at my moment of death. So I figure, as long as I am hearing, or humming "One Meatball," then I am very much alive. And not going anywhere.

If you want in on this, just look it up and learn it off of YouTube. I’m sure it’s there. And it’s a pretty simple one to learn.

The little man walked up and down /He found an eating place in town /He read the menu through and through /to see what 15 cents could do … One meatball /one meatball /he could afford but one meatball.

That should be enough to guarantee any non-tone-deaf person immortality, but for the curious, and because it fits the Cheap Eats theme, and because one can easily substitute matzo balls for meatballs, and while we’re at it, waitresspersons for waiters:

He told the waitressperson near at hand /the simple dinner he had planned /The guests were startled one and all to hear that waitressperson loudly call … One matzo ball /one matzo ball /This here gent wants one matzo ball.

The little man felt ill at ease /He said, "a bagel, if you please" /The waitressperson hollered, down the hall: You gets no bagel with one matzo ball. Repeat chorus, and so on.

Did I mention I was in love?

Well, yeah, and I am learning to distinguish between anxiety attacks and heart attacks, but still when I get this way I prefer to eat in hospital cafeterias, just in case.

So I was getting this way. I was in my car, driving from Occidental to Berkeley, and even though I knew for sure I wasn’t having a heart attack, I didn’t know about strokes. I’ve had a headache now for three or four weeks, and I’d started to feel weak and shaky. I held my hand out and it was making like an old lady. So it was lunchtime, so I decided to look for a hospital cafeteria to have lunch at.

I got off the freeway.

And that was when I saw the matzo ball sign at New York’s best deli, next to a gas station across the road from Kaiser in San Rafael. Immediately I felt better.

Even though the soup was pretty lame. And it only came with one matzo ball. And it didn’t come with any bread, or bagels. And, well, anyway it just generally wasn’t to die for.

The little restaurant reviewer felt very bad /One matzo ball was all she had /and in her dreams she hears that call: You gets neither bread nor bagel, nor butter, with one … matzo … ball.

NEW YORK BY THE BAY

Mon.–Fri.: 7 a.m.–5:30 p.m.;

Sat.–Sun.: 8 a.m.–3 p.m.

1005 Northgate Dr., San Rafael

(415) 472-6674

No alcohol

MC,V

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

Corporations co-opt “local”

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news@sfbg.com

HSBC, one of the biggest banks on the planet, has taken to calling itself "the world’s local bank." Winn-Dixie, a 500-outlet supermarket chain, recently launched a new ad campaign under the tagline "Local flavor since 1956." The International Council of Shopping Centers, a global consortium of mall owners and developers, is pouring millions of dollars into television ads urging people to "Shop Local" — at their nearest mall. Even Wal-Mart is getting in on the act, hanging bright green banners over its produce aisles that simply say "Local."

Hoping to capitalize on growing public enthusiasm for all things local, some of the world’s biggest corporations are brashly laying claim to the evocative word.

This new variation on corporate greenwashing — local-washing — is, like the buy-local movement itself, most advanced in the context of food. Hellmann’s, the mayonnaise brand owned by the processed-food giant Unilever, is test-driving a new "Eat Real, Eat Local" initiative in Canada. The ad campaign seems aimed partly at enhancing the brand by simply associating Hellmann’s with local food. But it also makes the claim that Hellmann’s is local, because most of its ingredients come from North America.

It’s not the only industrial food company muscling in on local. Frito-Lay’s new television commercials use farmers to pitch the company’s potato chips as local food, while Foster Farms, one of the largest producers of poultry products in the country, is labeling packages of chicken and turkey "locally grown."

Corporate local-washing is now spreading well beyond food. Barnes & Noble, the world’s top seller of books, has launched a video blog under the banner "All bookselling is local." The site, which features "local book news" and recommendations from employees of stores in such evocative-sounding locales as Surprise, Ariz., and Wauwatosa, Wis., seems designed to disguise what Barnes & Noble is — a highly centralized corporation in which decisions about what books to stock and feature are made by a handful of buyers — and to present the chain instead as a collection of independent-minded booksellers.

Across the country, scores of shopping malls, chambers of commerce, and economic development agencies are also appropriating the phrase "buy local" to urge consumers to patronize nearby malls and big-box stores. In March, leaders of a buy-local campaign in Fresno assembled in front of the Fashion Fair Mall for a kickoff press conference. Flanked by storefronts bearing brand names such as Anthropologie and the Cheesecake Factory, officials from the Economic Development Corporation of Fresno County explained that choosing to buy local helps the region’s economy. For anyone confused by this display, the campaign and its media partners, including Comcast and the McClatchy-owned Fresno Bee, followed the press conference with more than $250,000 worth of radio, TV, and print ads that spelled it out: "Just so you know, buying local means any store in your community: mom-and-pop stores, national chains, big-box stores — you name it."


THE REAL BUY-LOCAL MOVEMENT


In one way, all of this corporate local-washing is good news for local economy advocates: it represents the best empirical evidence yet that the grassroots movement for locally produced goods and independently owned businesses now sweeping the country is having a measurable impact on the choices people make.

"Think of the millions of dollars these big companies spend on research and focus groups. They wouldn’t be doing this on a hunch," observed Dan Cullen of the American Booksellers Association, a trade group which represents about 1,700 independent bookstores and last year launched IndieBound, an initiative that helps locally owned businesses communicate their independence and community roots.

Signs that consumer preferences are trending local abound. Locally grown food has soared in popularity. The United States is now home to 4,385 active farmers markets, a third of which were started since 2000. Food co-ops and neighborhood greengrocers are on the rise. Driving is down, while data from several metropolitan regions show that houses located within walking distance of small neighborhood stores have held value better than those isolated in the suburbs where the nearest gallon of milk is a five-mile drive to Target.

In city after city, independent businesses are organizing and creating the beginnings of what could become a powerful counterweight to the big business lobbies that have long dominated public policy. Local business alliances — such as San Francisco Locally Owned Merchants Alliance, Stay Local! New Orleans, and Phoenix’s Local First Arizona — have now formed in more than 130 cities and collectively count about 30,000 businesses as members.

In San Francisco, the buy-local movement is strong. Voters and elected officials have erected bureaucratic barriers to new chain stores, and citizens have used those tools to fend off even respectable chains such as American Apparel, which earlier this year tried unsuccessfully to open a store on über-local Valencia Street. The San Francisco Small Business Commission runs a buy-local campaign that was created in December by such unlikely partners as the Guardian, Mayor Gavin Newsom, and the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce (see "Shop local, City Hall," 5/6/09).

Through grassroots buy-local and local-first campaigns, these alliances are calling on people to choose independent businesses and local products more often. They also are making the case that doing so is critical to rebuilding middle-class prosperity, averting environmental collapse, keeping more money in the local economy, and ensuring that our daily lives are not smothered by corporate uniformity.

Surveys and anecdotal reports from business owners suggest that these initiatives are changing spending patterns. While the federal Department of Commerce reported that overall retail sales plunged almost 10 percent over the holidays, a survey in January by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (where I work) found that independent retailers in cities with buy-local campaigns saw sales drop an average of just 3 percent from the previous year. Many respondents attributed this relative good fortune to the fact that more people are deliberately seeking out locally owned businesses.

CORPORATIONS TAKE NOTE


None of this has slipped the notice of corporate executives and the consumer research firms that advise them. Several of these firms have begun to track the localization trend. In its annual consumer survey, the New York–based branding firm BBMG found that the number of people reporting that it was "very important" to them whether a product was grown or produced locally jumped from 26 to 32 percent in the last year alone. "It’s not just a small cadre of consumers anymore," said founding partner Mitch Baranowski.

Corporate-oriented buy-local campaigns that define "local" as the nearest Lowe’s or Gap store are now being rolled out in cities nationwide. Some represent desperate bids by shopping malls to survive the recession and fend off online competition. Others are the work of chambers of commerce trying to remain relevant. Still others are the half-baked plans of municipal officials casting about for some way to stop the steep drop in sales tax revenue.

Many of these Astroturf campaigns are modeled directly on grassroots initiatives. "They copy our language and tactics," said Michelle Long, board president of the San Francisco–based Business Alliance for Local Living Economies and executive director of Sustainable Connections, a seven-year-old coalition of 600 independent businesses in northwest Washington state that runs a very visible and — according to market research — very successful local-first program. "I get calls from chambers and other groups who say, ‘We want to do what you are doing.’ It took me a while to realize that what they had in mind was not what we do. Once I realized, I started asking them, ‘What do you mean by local?’ "

Examples abound. In Northern California, the Arcata Chamber of Commerce is producing "Shop Local" ads that look similar to the Humboldt County Independent Business Alliance’s "Go Local" ads, except they feature both independents and chains. Spokane’s "Buy Local" program, started by the chamber, is open to any business in town, including big-box stores. Log on to the "Buy Local" Web site created by the chamber in Chapel Hill, N.C., and you will find Wal-Mart among the listings.

But there’s a huge difference — even on strictly economic grounds — between shopping at a local chain store and a locally owned store. Studies have shown that $45 of every $100 spent at locally owned stores stays in the community, helping other local businesses and supporting government services, whereas only about $13 of every $100 spent in chain stores remains local.

When the city of Santa Fe, N.M., decided to launch a campaign to encourage people to shop locally, the Santa Fe Alliance, a coalition of more than 500 locally owned businesses that has been running a buy-local initiative for several years, signed on. At the kickoff in March, the alliance’s director, Vicki Pozzebon, emphasized the economic impact of shopping at a locally owned business versus a chain.

"After that, the city asked me not to push the $45 versus $13, but just say ‘local.’ " Pozzebon said.

The city’s message, according to Kate Noble, a city staffer who runs the program, is that shopping at Wal-Mart is fine, as long as it’s not Walmart.com. But Pozzebon said, "It has only diluted our message and confused people."

These sales tax–driven campaigns may well be doing more harm to local economies than good, according to Jeff Milchen, co-founder of the American Independent Business Alliance. "If you encourage people to shop at a big-box store that takes sales away from an independent business, you’re just funneling more dollars out of town."

The irony of trying to solve declining city revenue by trying to get people to shop at the local mall is that the mall itself may be the problem. While many California cities are facing budget cuts and even bankruptcy, Berkeley has managed to post a small increase in revenue. Part of the reason, according to city officials, is that Berkeley has more or less said no to chains and is instead a city of locally owned businesses that primarily serve local residents. That creates a much more stable revenue base. Berkeley hasn’t benefited from the temporary boom that a new regional mall might create, but neither has it gone bust.
Stacy Mitchell is a senior researcher with the New Rules Project (www.newrules.org) and author of Big-Box Swindle: The True Cost of Mega-Retailers and the Fight for America’s Independent Businesses (Beacon, 2006). This story was commissioned by the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies (AAN), of which the Guardian is a member, and is also running in other AAN papers this month.

Making great streets

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steve@sfbg.com

GREEN CITY There’s a growing movement to transform San Francisco’s streets into safe, vibrant public spaces, part of an international trend that has drawn together disparate partners around the belief that roadways shouldn’t simply be conduits for moving automobiles.

Recent advances include the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s approval of a package of 45 bicycle projects and the success of the Sunday Streets program, a series of temporary road closures to cars (the next one is this Sunday, July 12, in the Mission District).

And there are new players on the scene, from Streetsblog SF (see "Street fighters," 1/14/09) to the San Francisco Great Streets Project (www.sfgreatstreets.wordpress.com), a newly formed organization sponsored by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR), the Livable Streets Initiative, and the Project for Public Spaces.

The Great Streets Project focuses on facilitating temporary conversions of streets into plazas (such as the new 17th Street Plaza at Castro and Market streets), parties, and other carfree spaces and with creating a civic conversation about the role of roads by bringing in renowned urban thinkers such as Enrique Peñalosa, the former mayor of Bogotá, Colombia, who spoke at the main library July 6 and sat down for an interview with the Guardian the next day.

"The heart and soul of a city is its public pedestrian space," said Peñalosa, who banned parking on sidewalks and expanded Bogotá’s protected bikeways, ciclovias (temporary road closures that were the model for Sunday Streets), and bus rapid transit system, creating an urban renaissance that he has since promoted in cities around the world.

"It became clear that the way we build cities could make people so much happier," Peñalosa said, noting how such urban design concepts dovetailed with his advocacy for the poor. "In a poor city, the inequality is felt most during leisure time … My main concerns are equity and happiness and the way cities can contribute to those things."

Peñalosa noted that "the 20th century was a terrible century for human habitat. Cars took over for people. Later we realized that was a big mistake." Such growth patterns, Peñalosa said, are simply unsustainable in the 21st century, particularly as Asia and Africa modernize.

Many European cities have taken aggressive steps to correct that mistake, but in the U.S. — whose dominant economic position during those years created the most car-dependent infrastructure on the planet — change has come slowly.

"Change is difficult, but change is already happening," he said, noting the strong carfree movements in San Francisco, New York City, and other U.S. cities.

Peñalosa transformed Bogotá at a time when the country was besieged by a violent civil war, timing he said was more propitious than unlikely. As with the current global warming imperatives and the traffic congestion that is choking many big cities, times of crisis can be moments of opportunity.

"When the crisis is so big, people are willing to risk different things and make experiments," Peñalosa said.

While most San Franciscans have yet to truly embrace the transition from car culture, Great Streets Project proponents are using temporary projects to push the envelope and gradually introduce new ideas into the public realm.

"It’s important for everyone to come into this with a spirit of experiment," said SFBC program director Andy Thornley. "Presenting these things as trials helps people get comfortable with the ideas."

SPUR director Gabriel Metcalf said temporary projects often bypass the need for cumbersome and expensive environmental studies and outreach efforts, placing innovative urban design concepts on public display as ongoing experiments.

"They allow you to make adjustments. It’s an option that exists with public spaces that you don’t have with buildings," Metcalf said. "It de-escalates the fear people have over change."

Plus, as the project’s director Kit Hodge notes, temporary placements let transportation planners and advocates try out new ideas instead of just endlessly studying them. As she put it, "San Francisco has a tradition of creating great plans that don’t get implemented."

The prime example is Market Street, an inefficient street for automobiles and a dangerous one for bicycles and pedestrians, and one that has been subject to countless studies about how to make it more livable. Yet little changes. "You need to achieve as much consensus as possible," Peñalosa said, "but in the end, you have to take risks."

Or as Metcalf put it, "It’s time to start enjoying some of the fruits of urbanity that we’ve been denying ourselves."

Something for nothing

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>>CLICK HERE TO VIEW THIS GUIDE ON ONE PAGE

You can’t get much cheaper than free. And at a time when many of us are counting every penny, the Bay Area is full of free stuff. Some of it’s right in front of your face, but most of it takes a little digging to find. This guide should send you in the right direction.

Oh, and by the way: some economists and political thinkers are suggesting that, as the over-financed, money-driven economy of the last century goes into, well, free-fall, the idea of giving things away could be the model for a more sustainable future.

————

FREE FOOD

You can eat like a gourmet for the price of a drink

By Virginia Miller

Eating free doesn’t have to begin and end with soup kitchens. Here are some spots where, for the price of a drink — or sometimes for nothing — you can get good food, and sometimes excellent food, for everybody’s favorite magic number of zero.

ADESSO HAPPY HOUR

Adesso is much more than wine bar with an Italian-centric list of wines by the glass. The drinks are (relatively) inexpensive and creative concoctions. But the best part (besides a Foosball table) is food that comes out continuously from the kitchen during weekday happy hours. We’re not talking about your average free bar food here — this is stuff from the regular menu, like excellent house-made charcuterie, cheeses, hefty arancini (fried Italian rice balls), pates, sardine crostini, and all kinds of goodness. Happy hour, indeed.

Mon.–Fri., 5-7pm. 4395 Piedmont, Oakl. 510-601-0305

ALISHA’S HOME COOKIN’ FRIDAYS AT THE RIPTIDE

It’s happy hour and it’s Friday … what could be better? Especially at dive bar extraordinaire the Riptide, all the way out by the ocean in the Sunset District. From 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. (or until the food’s gone), Alisha cooks up down-home goodness that pairs well with the ‘Tide’s PBRs and fireplace (in case — shall we bet on it? — the fog rolls in after a sunny summer day). You get chili con carne, chicken pot pie, and something called "blushin’ bunnies."

4–7 p.m. 3639 Taraval, SF.415-681-8433. www.riptidesf.com

MAYA HAPPY HOUR WITH BOTANAS

The $5 drink specials all night on margaritas, mojitos, and sangria are already a good deal. Add in free all-you-can-eat Mexican snacks and it’s a party. Free stuff includes Mexican bites like guac, quesadillas, taquitos, jicama with ceviche, tamales, and black bean dip. Arriba!

Weekdays, 4–7pm www.mayasf.com

EL RIO’S MONTHLY PANCAKE SATURDAYS

El Rio is one generous bar — the place serves free pancakes from the griddle the third Saturday of the month. Further cool points won by calling it "Rock Softly and Carry a Big Spatula." Breakfast is kindly served at 1 p.m., so after you’ve rolled out of bed and wandered over, ease into wakefulness with soft rock and hot flapjacks. Wear the "funkiest kitchen couture" and you could win their Golden Apron honors. After a meal that costs nothing, it’s easy to feed the tradition with generous tips. There’s also free barbecue at Friday night happy hours until 9 p.m. and on Sunday afternoons during the summer.

3rd Saturdays, 1–3 p.m. 3158 Mission, 415-282-3325. www.elriosf.com

PALIO D’ASTI’S PIZZA

Any two drinks (of the alcoholic kind, $6–$9) and you’re given a generous-sized pizza for two (or one massive eater). Devour the sauceless pizza d’Asti (shaved asparagus, fontina val d’aosta, thyme), a classic Margherita, or a Siciliana (fabulous Berkshire pork fennel sausage, fire roasted peppers, and smoked mozzarella). It’s no trouble drinking cocktails when they’re as playful as rosemary "sweet tea" (bourbon, muddled rosemary, lemon, and a splash of Moscato d’Asti), or a rhubarb margarita with lime and a salt rim.

Mon-Fri, 4–7pm. 640 Sacramento, SF.415-395-9800. www.paliodasti.com

————-

FREE DRINKS

Sometimes, even the booze is on the house

By Amy Monroe

If you’re curious and thirsty on a Friday, head to Spuntino’s free wine tasting from 4 to 6 p.m. Let the friendly staff pour and explain a flight of wines organized around a different theme each week. Drink free and get educated — imagine that.

1957 Union, 931-0122, www.spuntinosf.com

Cash-strapped social butterflies need only round up a group of friends and bring them to Tropisueno any night of the week to earn free drinks, and lots of them. The host imbibes gratis all evening provided she brings five friends with her to the bar.

75 Yerba Buena Ln., 243-0299, www.tropisueno.com

If you happen to be walking by one of the city’s many Kimpton hotels between 5 and 6 p.m. on a weekday, you might want to wander in and mingle with the guests in the lobby. If you look the part (and nobody asks you to show your room key), you can partake in the hotel chain’s free wine hour. Bonus: many locations pour free Anchor, too.

Nine locations in San Francisco, www.kimptonhotels.com

Like beer, music, and crowds? Then head to tiny Laszlo on the first Friday of the month for GroundSound Happy Hour. Hosts Upper Playground and SonicLiving buy you beer — and good beer at that, Trumer Pils and Shiner Commemorator — from 6 to 7 p.m. while DJs spin for your listening pleasure.

2526 Mission, 401-0810, www.laszlobar.com

upperplayground.com/wordpress/?tag=groundsound-happy-hour

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JOHNNY FUNCHEAP’S FAVORITE WAYS TO ENJOY THE CITY, FREE

By Johnny Funcheap

When you’re broke in San Francisco, sometimes even "cheap" can seem like a four-letter word. So thank God for free. Here are a few ways you can still enjoy the fun of living in San Francisco without cracking open your wallet even once.

GET LECTURED ABOUT YOUR DRINKING

The Mission District bar Elixir hosts a free Thursday night "Cocktail Club" with tastings (whiskeys, vodkas, tequilas … even absinthe) and a guest expert to help guide you through the process of finding new ways to appreciate staying off the wagon. For beer and wine drinkers, most BevMo! locations in the Bay Area have regular free tasting parties with themes like summertime ales and Mexican beers.

Elixir, 3200 16th St. http://www.elixirsf.com

ART GALLERY RECEPTIONS AND WALKS

To help lure in and lubricate casual art fans into being art-buyers, most galleries have regular receptions with free-flowing wine and a tasty platter of things to nibble on while you research art you can’t yet afford. If one reception a night isn’t enough, try sauntering from gallery to gallery during one of several monthly art walks — the most reliable of which clusters around Union Square with regular collective receptions the first Thursday evening of each month.

www.firstthursdayart.com

VOLUNTEERING MADE EASY: ONE BRICK

Unemployed? Got time on your hands? Do something useful with it — and meet new friends in the process. One Brick is a local nonprofit that hosts upwards of 20 different flexible volunteering opportunities each week, ranging from working a short shift beautifying a local park to serving food to the homeless. It’s not just about doing good — One Brick aims to help you make new friends by organizing meet-ups after each event so volunteers can get to know one another in a relaxed setting over a meal or a drink.

www.onebrick.org

GET YOUR GEEK ON: STAR PARTIES

If you’ve ever looked up to the heavens and wondered what the hell was up there, the San Francisco Amateur Astronomers might be able to give you some answers. The group gives free lectures the third Wednesday of each month at the Randall Museum. When skies are clear, it hosts free monthly Star Parties at Point Lobos at Lands End with a lecture and a public telescope viewing.

RandallMuseum, 199 Museum Way; Point Lobos, El Camino Del Mar in Lands End;

www.sfaa-astronomy.org

AURAL PLEASURES: MARKET STREET MUSIC FESTIVAL

If the live music at the Stern Grove and Yerba Buena Gardens Festivals make you sad that most weekdays are quiet, the annual People in Plazas festival should help fill in any remaining gaps in your work-week concert schedule. This free July-to-October Market Street music festival puts on more than 145 free lunchtime concerts of all types in 16 different public plazas from the Embarcadero through the Castro.

www.peopleinplazas.org

FRIDAY NIGHT SKATE

Rather than plunking down a big portion of your salary (or unemployment check) on a gym membership (or signing up for a free introductory pass at a different gym each week: a.k.a. "gym slutting"), get sweaty by donning your blades or old-school roller skates and join the Midnight Rollers’ weekly Friday Night Skate. A large group of skaters embark from the Ferry Plaza on a 10-mile dance party/skate tour of the city, which includes plenty of stops for ice cream, Frisbee-throwing, and a chance for slowpokes to catch up.

www.cora.org/friday

TASTE-MAKING

Macy’s Union Square puts on free monthly cooking demonstrations in the Cellar, where top local chefs reveal their secrets for dishing up creative yet healthy meals. Not only do you get to learn skills like how to barbecue like a grill master, expertly pair chocolate and wine, or make a brunch worth waking up early for, you also get to sample the yummy delights the experts have cooked up. It’s like watching your favorite cooking show on the Food Network, but getting to magically reach inside the TV to grab a taste.

www1.macys.com

Johnny Funcheap runs FunCheapSF.com, a free San Francisco-based service that uncovers and shares a hand-picked recommendation list of upwards of 50 cheap, fun, unique Bay Area events each week.

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FIVE FREE THINGS TO DISCOVER IN SF

Urban adventures don’t have to cost money

By Broke-Ass Stuart

Although wasting a day in Dolores Park or purposefully misdirecting tourists might be great way to have some free fun, anything can get redundant after a while. That’s why I put together this list of amazing free things to discover in San Francisco. Whether you’ve been here your whole life or just landed today, you’re bound to find something entertaining on this list.

The Wave Organ at the end of the jetty extending past the Golden Gate Yacht club in the Marina. It’s not bellowing quite like it used to, but the Wave Organ is a perfect particle of San Francisco’s quirkiness. Built by the Exploratorium, the Wave Organ consists of 25 PVC pipes of various lengths jutting through concrete into the bay below. The sounds it makes depend on the height of the tide.

The Seward Street Slides at Seward and Douglass streets in the Castro District. Cardboard: free. Concrete slides: free. Getting bloody scrapes from combo of cardboard and concrete slides: priceless. The two concrete chutes are constructed so that when you get to the top and sit on a piece of cardboard, you slide down. Bring wax paper for even greater velocity.

The Xanadu Gallery at 140 Maiden Lane. If you’re excited about free stuff, chances are you can’t afford anything in this gallery. But looking around is free — and awesome! Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright at the same time that he was doodling the Guggenheim, Xanadu Gallery (built as the VC Morris Gift Shop), has a remarkably similar interior to its New York City cousin — seemingly devoid of right angles and full of curving ramps. I’d pay so much money to see Tony Hawk go to town in here.

The Tiled Steps and Grand View Park, 16th Avenue at Moraga. Bring your sweetie and climb the lovely 163 tiled steps. Stop at the top and breathe a bunch. Then climb the next set of stairs to the right, and the ones after that. Now you’re in Grand View Park. Breathe a bunch more while checking out the staggering view. Smooching at the top is optional (but excellent).

The Jejune Institute, 580 California, Suite 1607,. Imagine if Lost took place in San Francisco. But instead of wandering the jungle dodging weird smoke monsters and "the others," you could explore the city in ways you never imagined. The JeJune Institute is kinda like that, only better. I don’t want to ruin anything for you, so all I’m gonna say is go there with a couple free hours, a cell phone, and $1.10 (not technically free but seriously the best $1.10 you’ll ever spend). The Jejune Institute blew my mind so hard that the top of my skull still flaps in the wind.

If you like cheap stuff, check out BrokeAssStuart.com.

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FREE HAIRCUTS

Let the students practice on your head

By Mayka Mei

Has anyone ever said you have a great face for hair modeling? Volunteering as a hair model gives salon trainees a chance to fulfill all their requirements for becoming full-time stylists. True, salons have become more guarded about their freebies, sometimes nixing the programs altogether. But a few freebies are still out there.

A few caveats: you’ll need an open, available schedule. Some salons have casting calls or will screen you for certain characteristics online or over the phone. Decide if you want a cut or color, and exactly what type of styling you have in mind. With specific days devoted to specific lessons, they may not need another graduate specializing in bobs the week you need a cut. Here are two places that still cut hair, absolutely free.

Festoon Salon

Haircuts Mondays at 9 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.

Coloring second and fifth Mondays at 11 a.m., 1 p.m., and 3 p.m.

1401 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Berk.

(888) 35-SALON or (510) 528-5855, www.festoonsalon.com

Visual Image

Hair modeling vacancies available one or two times a month, or once a quarter

5200 Mowry, Suite C, Fremont

(510) 792-5922, www.visualimagesalon.com

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FREE PHONES, MOVIES, AND WI-FI

Why are you still paying for Internet access?

By Annalee Newitz

Information may want to be free, but Internet service providers want to charge you too see it. That doesn’t have to crimp your style; there’s plenty of free Wi-Fi — and ways to get free movies and phone service.

Let’s start with a little disclaimer: When you’re talking about getting things like free Wi-Fi, or free phone service, even "free" comes with a price. You’re going to have to invest in some equipment to get free stuff later. You might also need some training — but that’s available free.

For free classes where you can learn more about how to build some of the technologies I’ll be talking about below, check out the Noisebridge hacker space near 16th and Mission streets (www.noisebridge.net/wiki/Noisebridge).

Now, here’s the dirt on how you can stop paying for phone service, cable, Internet, and online media.

FREE INTERNET SERVICE

Novice level: If you have a laptop with a Wi-Fi card, you should never have to pay for an Internet connection while you live in the San Francisco Bay Area. There are countless cafes that provide free Wi-Fi to their customers. Yelp offers a good, up-to-date list of free Wi-Fi cafes in San Francisco at www.yelp.com/list/free-wireless-cafes-in-sf-san-francisco.

In San Francisco, check for free Wi-Fi provided by commercial vendor Meraki using this map: sf.meraki.com/map. Every branch library in San Francisco, Berkeley, and Oakland offers free Wi-Fi.

Techie level: If you’d like to get free Internet service at home and not have to visit your local cafe all the time, you can build a cheap antenna so that you can see countless networks all around your house. Find out how to build such an antenna using this free online guide at www.en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Wifi/Building_an_antenna.

If you are going to be borrowing your neighbors’ Wi-Fi service, please observe this cardinal rule: You are a guest, so use their service sparingly. Checking e-mail is fine, surfing the Web is fine, but downloading giant movie files is extremely uncool.

FREE MOBILE PHONE SERVICE

Novice level: Make all of your phone calls over the Internet using an IP phone. You can either invest in an IP phone and make phone calls using free Wi-Fi cafes and free city networks, or you can get the headset and microphone to plug into your laptop so that you can use Skype or another free Internet voice service.

Techie level: Turn your home phone into an IP phone.

Here are other ideas that some people have tried (and we, of course, don’t recommend that anyone does anything against the law). One of the open secrets about cordless phones is that it is extremely easy to steal phone service using them. Many cordless phones use the DECT chipset, and special laptop cards are available that that allow the users to trick cordless phones system into thinking that the laptop user is one of the cordless phones associated with it. www.dedected.org/trac

FREE CABLE

Novice level: Miro is an online service that allows you to turn your computer into a Tivo-like device that will download the shows you want to watch as soon as they are available via file-sharing programs. Find out more here: www.getmiro.com

Techie level: Turn your computer into a television tuner using Myth TV. www.mythtv.org

FREE MEDIA

Novice level: There are plenty of services online that offer free media, from Hulu.com, which offers a lot of free television and movies, to Archive.org, which has a vast collection of public domain films. Neither Hulu nor Archive.org requires you to download any special software. Or if you’d like something classier, you can download free, public domain classical music at MusOpen! www.musopen.com

Techie level: Use a BitTorrent client to download public domain music and movies that you can save on your computer. CreativeCommons.org lists many artists who offer their music for free. Public Domain Movies offers torrents of movies available to you for free. www.publicdomaintorrents.com

Other options people have tried: Some use a BitTorrent client to download any movie, television, music, software, or books that they like, using a popular Torrent search engine like Isohunt. There are a lot of what you might call grey area legal media at the Pirate Bay. That oufit is located in Sweden, a country that recenty elected representatives of the Pirate Party to serve in the European Parliament.

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FREE POT

You may be broke, but you can still smoke

By Rachel Buhner

It’s not well advertised, but if you’re short on money and need your organic herbal medicine, many of the city’s pot clubs will give it to you, free. Some places ask for proof of income or require membership while some are more loose about it. You won’t get big bags, either — typically the freebie is a gram. But while the American Medical Association and the insurance companies argue in Washington, D.C., about how to keep their fingers on the cash, local medical marijuana dispensaries are actually trying to serve needy patients.

The Green Door offers free marijuana every Thursday from 12 noon to 2 p.m. for those who can’t afford it. No proof is required.

843 Howard Street. (415) 541-9590. www.greendoorsf.com

The Market Street Cooperative offers free marijuana every Sunday for those who can’t afford it. No proof is required.

1884 Market. (415) 864-6686 www.marketstreetcooperative.com

The Hemp Center offers compassionate donations to all members when available; no proof of income is required. There’s also free Internet access, free bottled water, and free rolling papers.

4811 Geary (415) 386-4367www.thehempcenter.com

Sanctuary offers free medical marijuana, but there’s currently a waiting list and priority if given to terminally ill patients. Proof of income required; open to San Francisco residents only.

669 O’Farrell (415) 885-4420

Harborside Health Centers offers a care package program to low-income patients. Paperwork showing a fixed low income is required; patients can receive a free gram and a half each week. Additionally, members from any income bracket can volunteer at the center performing general activist work (calling local representatives, writing letters, etc.). After one hour of work, patients receive a free gram.

And there’s more: every Sunday from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., the center offers members free how-to-grow classes taught by David Gold, author of The Complete Cannabis. Members also get a free lending library for cannabis-related materials as well as free holistic health services such as hypnotherapy, chiropractic, naturopathy, yoga, reiki, traditional Chinese medicine, Western herbalist consultations, and Alexander Technique classes.

1840 Embarcadero, Oakl. (510) 533-0146, www.harborsidehealthcenter.com

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FREE PAINT

Not many colors, but the price is right

Every wonder what happens to all that old paint that good, responsible San Franciscans drop off at the city dump? It gets recycled, in the best possible way. The dump workers sort it by color, pour it into big buckets, and give it away.

You don’t get a wide color selection (off-white is the big choice) but the price is right and it keeps the stuff out of the landfill. Schools and community groups get priority, but San Francisco residents can stop by and pick some up whenever there’s extra.

501 Tunnel Avenue. 330-1400. www.sfrecycling.com/sfdump

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FREE SEX

Clubs, classes, and clinics dedicated to low-cost lovin’

By Molly Freedenberg

As anyone with a broken bed frame or a broken heart knows, even sex you don’t exchange money for is rarely free. But we’ve compiled a list of sex-related events, resources, health centers, and club nights that are easier on the pocketbook than most.

GOOD VIBRATIONS

Good Vibrations is always hosting free events, classes, and book signings at its Bay Area stores. This month, check out Paul Krassner reading from his book In Praise of Indecency on July 15 and Kevin Simmonds presenting his new project "Feti(sh)ame," based on interviews with gay men about sexual fetishes, on July 16, both at the Polk Street location, and a reading/signing of Hos, Hookers, Call Girls, and Rent Boys: Prostitues Writing on Life, Love, Work, Sex, and Money (featuring stories by Annie Sprinkle and Tracy Quan, among others) July 30 in Berkeley. www.goodvibes.com

CHAPS

With no cover and nightly drink specials, this SoMa gay bar is the place to ogle hot men on a budget. Ongoing events include Shirts Off Mondays, Trumer Tuesdays (featuring $2 Trumer drafts and specials on Jäger and fernet); the sports-gear and jock-strap-themed Locker Room Wednesdays (with specials on Speakeasy ales, Wild Turkey, and shooters with names like Cock Sucker and Golden Showers); Thursday’s Busted (with whiskey specials and indie, electro, and ’80s remixes); Men in Gear on Saturdays, Cheap Ass Happy Hour every Monday through Saturday from 6 to 9 p.m.; and Rubber (hosted by the Rubbermen of SF Bay) every second Friday.

1225 Folsom, SF. (415) 255-2427, www.chapsbarsanfrancisco.com

CENTER FOR SEX AND CULTURE

This nonprofit organization provides education and resources across the gender spectrum. Though there’s a fee to attend many of the events hosted here, visiting the extensive library/media archive is free. So is checking out "Erotic Embrace of the Corset," an exhibit featuring 50 years of photography of bodies tied up tight, on display through Sept. 10. Call before you visit (the center is run by volunteers and has irregular hours), or try stop by between 1 and 5 p.m. weekdays.

1519 Mission, SF. (415) 255-1155, www.sexandculture.org

FIRST FRIDAY FOLLIES

Burlesque, by its very nature, is meant to be accessible to the masses — which means it should be not only lowbrow, but low cost. This monthly burlesque, music, and comedy revue takes "low" even lower by cutting out the cover charge entirely.

9:30pm. Stork Club, 2330 Telegraph, Oakl. www.myspace.com/firstfridayfollies

FEMINA POTENS

Part art gallery, part performance space, part community center, this nonprofit dedicated to greater visibility for women and transgendered artists has become a favorite of luminaries like Annie Sprinkle, Michelle Tea, and Carol Queen. Many events are low or no cost, and it’s always free to check out the art, including this month’s "Show Me Your Fantasy," featuring Malia Schlaefer’s photographs addressing contemporary female sexuality.

Thurs–Sun, 12–6pm. 2199 Market, SF. (415) 864-1558, www.feminapotens.org

SF JACKS

When you’re poor and bored, nothing perks you up quite like a good session of self-love. But if you’re tired of the solo mission, join other like-minded men for group "therapy" every second and fourth Monday. Though a $7 donation is suggested (insert "donation" pun here), no one will be turned away for lack of funds. Just remember the rules: mandatory nudity, jack-off play only.

7:30–8:30pm. Center for Sex and Culture, 1519 Mission, SF. (415) 267-6999, www.sfjacks.com

ST. JAMES INFIRMARY

Run by and for sex workers, this 10-year-old nonprofit provides free STI counseling and testing, rapid HIV testing, transgender healthcare and hormone therapy, self-defense classes, legal advice, and much MUCH more to sex workers and their families.

1372 Mission, SF. (415) 554-8494, stjamesinfirmary.org

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FREE TIPS GRAB BAG

More free stuff we love

You can watch Giants games free through the outfield fence; three-inning limit when there’s a crowd … Thrift stores all say "no dumping," but people leave stuff out in front late at night anyway … Ask someone leaving Muni for their transfer (and always take a transfer, even if you don’t need it, to share) … There’s almost always great free music at street fairs …. You can actually ski free at a lot of resorts if you do the old-fashioned thing and hike up the slopes instead of buying a lift ticket; on busy days nobody notices (obviously, this works best for short-run beginner hills) … There’s some great stuff at freecyle.org, but it’s a Yahoo newsgroup and floods your inbox so you have to keep up with it … The free stuff listings on Craigslist are also good … Casual carpools are a great way to get a free ride across the Bay … The Lyrics Born, Toto La Momposina, Kailash Kher’s Kailasa and the San Francisco Ballet all perform free this summer at Stern Grove, Sundays at 2 p.m., see www.sterngrove.org/2009season … Catch Wicked, Beach Blanket Babylon, Killing My Lobster, and more at the SF Theater Festival free shows; see www.sftheaterfestival.com and Yerba Buena Gardens Festival (till Oct. www.ybgf.org) … You can get free movie passes many weeks from the Guardian … Buy a Muni pass before the end of the month, and you can share your old one; it’s good for three days of free rides at the beginning of the month … Almost every used bookstore has a free box; mostly crap, but sometimes some gems …. The Cal Sailing Club in Berkeley offers free introductory sailing sessions on summer Sundays; for the schedule and details check out www.cal-sailing.org. San Francisco Brew Craft offers free beer-brewing classes every Monday night at 6 p.m. 1555 Clement, 751-9338 … You can catch free outdoor movies at Jack London Square in Oakland every other Thurs. night through August (www.jacklondonsquare.com/newscenter/upcomingevents) … Free Shakespeare in the Park performs The Comedy of Errors Sat. and Sun. afternoons in August and September at the Presidio Parade Grounds (schedule at www.sfshakes.org/park/index)

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FREE TRADE

Go ahead, give it away — that’s the way the next economy may work

By Cecile Lepage

The 2003 documentary film The Corporation established that corporations were psychopathic entities, prone to irresponsibility, manipulation, and remorselessness. Now writer Douglas Rushkoff contends that we — the human beings — have started to act like corporations. His new thought-provoking book — Life Inc.: How the World Became a Corporation and How to Take it Back (Random House) — retraces how society has internalized the corporate values that disconnect us from one another. The current economic meltdown, he argues, is our chance to overthrow this dysfunctional model. We talked to him about a very different economy — one based on things that are free.

SFBG Your outlook is bleak, but you are still optimistic enough to see a way out. What’s your plan?

Douglas Rushkoff This crisis is an opportunity to start doing things for each other. First we have to be daring enough to enter gift economies, where we exchange favors freely and openly without even keeping track, just assuming that it’s all going to work out. So if someone needs tutoring or help mowing his lawn, you should do it. Eventually we’ll realize how much less money we need to earn to get what we need.

SFBG You acknowledge that accepting favors in exchange for other ones feels messy and confusing to us. Why is that?

DR We’re afraid of being indebted to somebody else. In order to accept something from another person, you also accept your indebtedness and acknowledge your gratitude. Money feels cleaner to us. People prefer hiring a person to babysit for their child rather than accepting a favor from the old lady down the street — because if you accept, what social obligation have you incurred? What if she wants to join you at your next barbecue? What if she now wants to be your friend? So now we all have to work more to get money to buy things that we used to just exchange freely with each other.

SFBG You blame the corporations for convincing us that we are self-interested beings. How did they achieve that?

DR They thought that the mathematician John Nash’s bad game theory applied to real life. A number of experiments tried to show that human beings made decisions like poker players for personal short-term gain and assuming the worst about other people. None of the experiments actually worked: the secretaries they did the experiment on behaved collaboratively and compassionately.

The better scientists, like Dr. Glynn Isaac, an Africanist from Harvard, demonstrated beyond the shadow of a doubt that food-sharing and collaboration are what allowed homo sapiens to survive. Nevertheless, we intentionally built an economy and a scarcity-based currency to promote the self-interest.

People look at the economy we’re living in as a fact of nature. They don’t see it as a set of rules that was put in place by a particular people at a particular time. They look at money the way a doctor looks at the bloodstream. They don’t understand that it’s a social construction and that we can rewrite it.

Flour + Water

0

paulr@sfbg.com

In an era when the naming of restaurants resembles the naming of Japanese cars — the ideal being a single, elegant, mysterious word like "Incanto" or "Lexus" — it seems rather daring to give a new place such a defiantly plain, yet weirdly complex, name as Flour + Water. One suspects that the idea is to suggest simplicity and forthrightness, but a certain austerity is also implied — not to mention the ubiquitous ness of flour in this country. We eat way too much flour, too much of it white and refined. It silts up our insides. I do like the "+" for its distinctiveness.

As it happens, pizza crust consists largely of flour and water, and one of the bigger deals at Flour + Water (which opened by a pair of Davids, White and Steele, late in the spring on the ground floor of a big Victorian building in the innermost heart of the Mission District) is pizza. The pies are made in the Neapolitan style, which means a thin crust and a very hot oven. This style of pizza has become very, very popular in San Francisco in the past few years — a winsome development for those of us who suffered through a long Dark Age of foam-rubber crusts. Are Flour + Water’s crusts up to the high standard set by Pizzeria Delfina, Gialina, Pizzetta 211, and Piccino? That, Horatio, is the question.

The duet of flour and water also figures in pasta, but the routine here can be more complex, since if you replace the water with egg, you end up with noodles. Flour + Water’s — excellent — pastas are hand-rolled, just from semolina flour (the slightly yellowish stuff produced from durum wheat) and water, I would guess. The name we give to this combination, macaroni, faintly suggests that it came from a box on a supermarket shelf, but in fact Flour + Water’s pastas are not only brilliantly sauced but produced in unusual shapes with evocative names — "maltagliati," for instance, or "rags," a type of pasta made from leftover scraps. One evening I saw a plate of this arriving at the festive table next to ours, and it did look like a tiny pile of old clothes waiting to be stuffed into a Goodwill bag.

My own plate of pasta, already dispatched, had consisted of agnolotti ($16), a swarm of little ravioli-like pockets filled with seasoned minced pork and bathed in a sauce of butter, Parmesan cheese, and parsley. (Our well-schooled server said that the name meant "clouds," but I might have misunderstood her; "agnolotti" is also said to refer to the shape of priests’ hats.) The pasta itself had the slight, not-unpleasant toughness I associate with fresh macaroni; fresh noodle pasta is a bit more pliant and luxurious. It’s like the difference between wool and cashmere.

Given the apparent pedigree of the pizza operation (chef Thomas McNaughton’s kitchen has its own pizzaiolo, Jon Darsky), I was struck by the condition of the crust under a margherita pie ($12 for a decent-sized one). I am all for blistering, and the restaurant’s Web site boasts of an ultra-hot oven, but there is a difference between blistering and charring. Blistering good, charring bad. Charring makes an un-pretty spectacle and leaves an off taste — we are talking about burnt flour, after all — while research suggests that it’s bad for you. By the time we were done with the pie, the serving tray was littered with twisted little lumps of charcoal, like burned-out tanks on a miniature battlefield. The toppings were fine and included fior di latte (a mozzarella cheese made from cow’s rather than water-buffalo milk). The half-wilted basil leaves clearly had spent some time in the oven.

In a small irony, some of the restaurant’s best dishes have nothing to do with pizza, pasta, or flour. A trio of plump marinated sardines ($9) wore bikinis of roasted-pepper slivers — they looked like a chorus line in some musical about a beach — while a simple side dish of chickpeas ($5) turned out to feature fresh chickpeas. These have a wonderful spring-green color and a bit more juiciness than the reconstituted, beige kind. F+W’s lot was also enlivened by a fine dice of pancetta, carrot, and onion (a meaty twist on mirepoix) and broth, which we daintily sipped after the chickpeas were gone.

Best of all, Flour + Water’s brief dessert list includes an authentic star: a block of olive-oil-scented cornmeal cake ($8) topped with a globe of olive-oil ice cream — a dense, smooth reminder that olives are fruit — and flanked by split strawberries tossed with shreds of candied fennel. Fennel is a root, not a fruit, and candied or not, its looks are unprepossessing (like a frosted-glass lightbulb that’s shattered), but its licorice flavor takes well to sweetening and to a union with sweet-tart, ripe strawberries. Enchanting!

FLOUR + WATER

Dinner: 5:30 p.m.–midnight

2401 Harrison, SF

(415) 826-7000

www.flourandwater.com

Beer and wine

Pleasant noise

AE/MC/V

Wheelchair accessible

The Bush era

0

a&eletters@sfbg.com

SAT IN YOUR LAP: THE LATEST DAUGHTERS OF KATE BUSH FLESH OUT THIS WOMAN’S WORK

By Marke B.

Kate Bush was gifted with a fierce female originality at a time when the rock world was starved of it: her golden run of eccentric achievement in the late 1970s and early 1980s placed her next to Joni Mitchell in terms of adventurous — if not always intellectual — influence in the minds of aspiring young women singer-songwriters. (And there’s some extremely perverse pleasure to be taken in the little factoid that her stunning 1985 EMI comeback album Hounds of Love snatched the top U.K. album slot from Madonna’s Like A Virgin.)

But that gift was also a curse: Bush was so original in so many ways that it’s easy to forget the myriad musical pathways she forged. This “artist in a female body” — as she famously protested when her panicked record company started pimping her rack on sleeves to shift units — has mostly been boiled down to spiritual oracle, swooping-voiced Sybil, and, ever since concept albums by women were banished to exile in Guyville, keeper of the idiosyncratic prog-rock flame. In other words, Stevie Nicks with a Fairlight synthesizer and a degree in Celtic mythology. Or else just plain weird.

Fortunately, musical weirdness is so much with us today that other Bush qualities are starting to be glimpsed through the babushka, including her production abilities, precocity, sincerity, humor, and unabashed gender-fucking. For the past three decades, it’s never been rare for artists to be compared to Bush — mostly for childlike vocalizations or way with a silver space suit and Circe metaphor. But in our post-neo-neo-soul moment (sorry Wino), a new crop of female British singers has arisen that takes its cues, mostly acknowledged, from Bush’s kaleidoscopic talent.

FLORENCE AND THE MACHINE

Without Kate Bush, flouncy freak-folker Florence Welch and her ever-changing backup band could be heard as a product of the unholy union of Devendra Banhart and Tori Amos — except those two probably wouldn’t exist without Bush either. Florence grounds her lyrics in the sexually frantic Bush. “I must be the lion-hearted girl,” she sings in the vid for “Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)” just before her wedding banquet table folds up into her coffin.

www.myspace.com/florenceandthemachinemusic

MARINA AND THE DIAMONDS

Marina and the Diamonds, a.k.a. the singular singer Marina Diamandis has been gaining huge traction with her excellent “I Am Not A Robot” track, calling up the more vulnerably affirmative, “Don’t Give Up” Bush. But it’s her screwy, cuckooing “Mowgli’s Road” that effectively conjures up woozy Kate at a post-rave bonfire.

www.myspace.com/marinaandthediamonds

BAT FOR LASHES

Half-Pakistani lovely Natasha Khan works the gleaming edge of Bush’s dark underworld glamour, and grounds her post-goth balladry and soft electro sparks in the sensual world. Her single “Daniel” de-Eltons the title character and places him among Bush’s slightly menacing, jig-footed cosmic effigies.

www.myspace.com/batforlashes

MICACHU AND THE SHAPES

Mika Levi calls herself Micachu and spits out shiv-sharp blasts of dissonant micro-punk — seemingly the opposite of Bush’s epic dramas. But Levi echoes Bush both in the sheer Englishness of her lyrics, the knockout oddity of her instrumentation and starry-eyed gender-bending. Micachu’s rambunctious, exhilarating new album Jewelry (Rough Trade) could easily have been shaken out of Bush’s backing track outtake archives.

www.myspace.com/micayomusic

MICACHU AND THE SHAPES

With tune-yards, Tempo No Tempo

July 22, 8 pm., $10

Rickshaw Stop

155 Fell, SF

(415) 861-2011

www.rickshawstop.com ————

MOTHER STANDS FOR COMFORT: KATE BUSH IN THE SOUNDS OF NOW

By Irwin Swirnoff

It’s always exciting when you sense universal consciousness in motion. Like so many around me lately, I can’t stop listening to Kate Bush. I play Hounds Of Love (EMI, 1985) from start to finish again and again, allowing a different song from the album to become my theme or guiding light for weeks at a time. I play The Dreaming (EMI, 1982) and let it spin in and out of my head. These songs are as dramatic as they are sincere. They conjure magic while maintaining an emotional core. Bush’s undeniable integrity travels through her songs like a force of nature, from soft-lit soap opera to primal realms.

Many great records by other artists in the last few years have been stamped with undeniable Kate Bush moments. A new generation of musicians is learning that avant and pop sensibilities can coexist in exciting ways and that it is possible to blend the organic and the mechanical to create songs that soar with a mission. Here are some of today’s cloudbusters.

GANG GANG DANCE

“House Jams” (from Saint Dymphna)

(from Saint Dymphna, Social Registry, 2008)

On its latest album, Gang Gang Dance not only embraces its love of the dance floor — it invites the spirit of Kate Bush to a psychedelic midnight rave.

M83

“Skin Of The Night”

(from Saturdays =Youth, Mute, 2008)

No strangers to teenage mellow drama and melodrama, M83 makes music with a cinematic quality, much in the same way that Kate Bush’s records sound like movies unto themselves.

PAAVOHARJU

“Kevatrumpu”

(from Laulu Laakson Kukista, Fonal, 2008)

This Finnish group roams through a landscape that varies from dusty fairytale to psychedelic future. This track is by far the most dancepop — and Bush-like — moment on a record that also channels Kurt Weill, Edith Piaf, and Robert Wyatt.

JOANNA NEWSOM

Ys

(Drag City, 2006)

Many eccentric female artists are compared to either Kate Bush or Björk by lazy critics, but few actually reach that kind of ecstatic individuality. Joanna Newsom is one. Her complete belief in her vision is apparent in these commanding, flawlessly executed songs.

TELEPATHE

“Drugged”

(from Dance Mother, IAMSOUND)

Much like their New York City neighbors Gang Gang Dance, Telepathe calls Bush to mind when it branches out from its experimental roots into a slow burning state that’s ready for the dancefloor.

CHROMATICS

“Running Up That Hill”

(from Night Drive, Italians Do it Better, 2007))

It takes major guts to cover this Bush composition, a contender for one of the most poignant songs of the last quarter century. The air of magic and mystery here is very Kate.

FEVER RAY

Fever Ray

(Mute)

The debut solo record from Karin Dreijer Andersson of the Knife is more internal and intense than the dance floor stylings of her well-known group. Andersson plays with different voices and personas while creating sounds that are creepy and comforting. The result feels like a perfect contemporary response to Bush’s explorations of 20 years ago.

Volume 43 Number 42 Flip-through Edition

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They will not be silent

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a&eletters@sfbg.com

July 4 is Mime Troupe day in San Francisco, by tradition. Dolores Park, the place. There the venerable San Francisco company launches its annual free summer show — this year, the excellently timed and executed Too Big to Fail — surrounded by a varied throng of activists fanning out with ironing boards and literature among an audience of many hundreds basking in July rays, subversive laughter, and their own cheerful numbers.

Call it a day of independence from the usual bullshit, the jingo-jingle of national unity played for the masses from on high. This year Mime Troupe day got a city government imprimatur (making it actually "Mime Troupe Day" on official parchment somewhere) in a nod to the rabble-rousing satirical political theater troupe’s 50th year raising hell and inciting revolution. Generally speaking, when the government pats you on the back for that kind of thing, you want to check it didn’t leave behind a sticky with a bull’s eye. But the gesture seemed genuine enough. After all, the San Francisco Mime Troupe has in no small way contributed to the cultural clout the city enjoys as one-time font of the now revered (or at least hotly marketable) ’60s counterculture.

Founded in 1959 by RG Davis as a definitely not silent but highly physical instrument of radical aesthetic and political convictions, the Mime Troupe didn’t just mirror the counterculture; it was a driving force for it. And the free plays in the park — which began in 1962 and took the form of irreverent, politically charged reworkings of 16th-century commedia dell’arte scenarios and characters — were central to its aggressively popular, anti-bourgeois orientation.

From those early, gleefully spectacular free speech fights in Golden Gate Park — days when it was actually pitted in "obscenity" battles against the city government, in the form of the Parks Commission and the police — to clashes with cops and courts in Colorado and Canada over its still-provocative takes on American racism and civil rights in the guise of an old-fashioned minstrel show; to its midwifery of radical activist theaters like Teatro Campesino or anarchist rebels like the Diggers and their everything-free movement, it’s fair to say the Mime Troupe was more than a twinkling reflection of the zeitgeist.

Through the following four decades, the Mime Troupe, which became a collective in 1970, evolved and notably diversified with the times and their audiences, riding the vicissitudes of avid but also chaotic years, much of them spent touring extensively. Over what you might call three general and overlapping waves of collective leadership, it has endured. But has its mission?

"Absolutely," affirms Ed Holmes, a couple of days before the July 4 premiere. With the currently 10-member collective since 1986, Holmes is one of four members who came on in the mid- to late 1980s, and a powerful comedic performer revered for, among much else, his exquisite imitation of Dick Cheney. He fires off a definition: "To take a political analysis — radical, progressive, leftist, political analysis — make it entertaining, and take it out to the people in the parks, and give it away for free."

"The story’s the message," adds Pat Moran, a member since 2005 and the principal composer-lyricist of the Troupe since longtime member Bruce Barthol retired a few years ago. "But also the message is the going and setting up the show. The people working together, the people doing it, the fact that it’s produced every year on a slim budget with little time. That commitment is just as much a part of the show as the written piece."

Michael Gene Sullivan adds: "The audience should always leave any play, not just a Mime Troupe show, different people than they were when they entered. If they leave the same and are just entertained, the show is an abysmal failure." And how should they leave a Mime Troupe show exactly? "I want them to rush right out and overthrow capitalism," says Sullivan, the collective’s head writer since 2000, when he took the baton from longtime head writer Joan Holden. "That would be a good day."

At the same time, the challenges facing the company in 2009 are very real, most of them economic. Sullivan, with other members, points to the recent drastic yet financially necessary scaling-back of tours as a serious frustration. Bay Area living costs have also impinged on the day-to-day business of the organization, according to Ellen Callas. "People have had to take more and more outside work to fill in the gaps. It’s harder and harder to have a critical mass, even at meetings where important decisions are made," explains Callas, a member of the collective since 1986, "[But] none of us are willing to give up the dream of the Mime Troupe."

With their own building in the Mission District (purchased in the 1970s), unusual dedication, and commitments that include a teaching program for at-risk teens and workshop internships, the Mime Troupe does seem happily determined to press forward. Arthur Holden, veteran Trouper from the early 1960s until the 1990s, suggests it’s the collective structure of the Troupe itself that is key to its longevity — and no doubt part of its larger appeal too. "It’s what distinguishes the Mime Troupe from most other theaters: a sense of the collective members that they are really controlling their existence. That’s very important and it isn’t too easily found, in the theater or generally in the world."
TOO BIG TO FAIL

Various Bay Area venues through Sept. 24

(415) 285-1717, www.sfmt.org

Flyaway Productions

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PREVIEW Imagine what it would be like to be working on the new span of the Bay Bridge — perilously dangling in the wind, high above freezing waters, would be just another day on the job. Inspired by the female ironworkers, laborers, crane operators, and other brave souls who’ve helped create and tend to local bridges since the 1970s, Jo Kreiter’s Flyaway Productions presents The Ballad of Polly Ann (named for the badass wife name-checked in "The Legend of John Henry’s Hammer"). Like all of Kreiter’s creations, Polly Ann is an "apparatus-based" performance; appropriately, the dancers will move about a bridge replica inspired by the suspension system used for the Alfred Zampa Memorial Bridge, which spans the Carquinez Strait. The Flyaway crew is used to being graceful in unlikely places (fire escapes, rooftops) and have no fear of heights (past pieces have hoisted dancers up to 100 feet over audiences) — so they’re the ideal company to mount this unique tribute. Polly Ann was created with help from labor historian Harvey Schwartz and musician Pamela Z, who weaves real-life bridgeworker tales into her accompanying soundscape.

Flyaway Productions Through July 25 Tues–Sat, 8 p.m., $25. Somarts Cultural Center, 934 Brannan, SF.

1-800-838-3006, www.flyawayproductions.com

Vieux Farka Toure

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PREVIEW A torrent of questions arose amid the global mourning over Michael Jackson’s sudden passing. Was he addicted to prescription pain meds? How much was he actually worth? Did his father’s abuse scar the star beyond repair? Speaking of paternal influence, will 12-year-old Prince Michael Jackson follow his famous father’s musical calling? If he displays even an ounce of MJ’s talent, the pressure will be enormous.

A similar scenario played out in the African music world following the 2006 passing of Malian blues guitarist Ali Farka Touré from bone cancer. Farka Touré’s son Vieux expressed an early interest in music, but his father objected, hoping to shelter him from a professional musician’s grueling tour circuit. It didn’t work. Vieux picked up the guitar, releasing a self-titled debut on Modiba/World Village in late 2006, followed by the creative, youth-embracing Remixed: UFOs Over Bamako (Modiba) in 2007. With guidance from legendary Malian kora player Toumani Diabat, the younger Touré’s first two releases express a reverence for his father’s emotive, blues-soaked guitar style while exploring rock and electronic music interests.

These traditional and modern threads entwine so thoroughly that they fuse on the new Fondo (Six Degrees). Vieux gives voice to swirling Saharan dust storms on the energetic "Sarama," explores Mali’s quiet spirituality on "Paradise" (featuring Diabate’s kora solos) and ponders West African struggles in the 21st century on the reggae-tinged "Diaraby Magni." Like his father, Vieux’s music has taken him from Bamako, Mali to Bonnaroo, the massive Tennessee music festival where his American summer tour begins. As U.S. indie bands like Vampire Weekend and Fools Gold incorporate African rhythms into their repertoires, it’s worth hearing a talented African guitar hero whose taste for rock isn’t just skin deep, it’s in his DNA.

VIEUX FARKA TOURÉ With Luke Top, DJ Jeremiah. Sat/18, 8 p.m., $20. The Independent, 628 Divisadero, SF. (415) 771-1420. www.theindependentsf.com

Collision Fest, Convergence Fest, and “Faux Real”

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PREVIEW Children, go where I send you. Seek out the wild women of the Mission Creek Music Festival Collision Fest.

Sure there are some sweet boys — any pleasure-seeker with eyes and ears should enjoy Mike Mantle of the Mantles (headlining July 22 at Hotel Utah), or Myles Cooper’s solo journey outside the Passionistas (opening a June 24 El Rio bill). But this year’s MCMF says here’s to the ladies who launch — the women who make new musical rules in order to break them.

Ryder Cooley reps recent Bay Area ingenuity on Thursday at the LAB. But the double bill bonanza crazier than any acid trip involving Tony Danza goes down same place, same time the next night, when Dynasty Handbag and Ann Magnuson take the stage. Dynasty girl Jibz Cameron is a treasure as classy as your mom’s favorite perfume — not even Lypsinka sinks her teeth into the art of lipsyncing with such ferocity. Try not pee yourself as she puts the p in performance and prepares you for the musical dramatics of Ms. Magnuson. What can be said about the queen of Bongwater, besides that on the cover of Power Of Pussy (Shimmy Disc, 1990), she was both outdoing and lampooning Burning Man before it even became a phenomenon?

Since Magnuson rubbed extremely pointy shoulders with Klaus Nomi back at the Mudd Club, it’s safe to assume she would be intrigued by the Nomi-esque stage theatrics of Fauxnique, a.k.a. Monique Jenkinson, who is bringing her recent show Faux Real back for a weekend stint outside of the Mission Creek rubric. Word has it that the show is brilliant — for real.

While Magnuson and Dynasty Handbag exemplify the Collision Fest’s cross-disciplinary antics, the Convergence Fest is a trip into filmdom. And in the case of Ira Cohen’s 1968 cinematic mirror-warp The Invasion of Thunderbolt Pagoda (Sun/19 at Artists’ Television Access), I do mean trip. Along with a documentary about Krautrock godheads Faust (Sat/18 at ATA), Cohen’s movie is one of MCMF’s screen gems.

FAUX REAL Thurs/16–Sat/18, 8 p.m. $20. Climate Theater, 285 Ninth St., SF.(415)704-3260, www.climatetheater.com

COLLISION FEST AND CONVERGENCE FEST www.mcmf.org

Graphic Sexual Horror

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REVIEW The prurient pleasure piece Graphic Sexual Horror cannot be accused of failing to live up to its title. In fact, it’s safe to say that discussion or protestations (and anyone who’s not catatonic is bound to have something to say) that follow this solid porn-ocumentary will be related to the rather contentious content. This fair-minded glimpse into the pain-glorious performances and behind-the-scenes procedures of the now defunct hardest of the hardcore bondage Web sites is simultaneously titilutf8g and reflective, admiring and critical.

Insex.com founder Brent Scott, in explaining the academic ostracism at Carnegie Mellon that led to his new career as a high priest of porn, says this: "If they don’t let me teach their kids, I’ll corrupt them," which seems an apt encapsulation of his renegade artistic arrogance. This account is assuredly enriched by his candidness and self-criticism. He praises, sometimes adores, his female models and expresses sincere regret when his neglect leads to a malfunctioning water tank that could have inflicted injury. At the same time, however, he is chauvinistically demanding and insensitive to his model’s vulnerabilities. Essentially, he represents the ambivalence of extreme bondage — the murky convergence of liberated consensual sex and exploitation.

Clips of artistically presented live feed performances featuring such intrigues as blue-purple strangulated breasts and hot pepper being applied to genitalia, are intercut with interviews to give a sense of the models’ experiences. For bondage enthusiasts and the morbidly curious, there are visuals to gawk or gasp at throughout, but the tone becomes more conflicted as the film addresses the dilemmas of Insex models, as illustrated by the young woman who whimpers incredulously as her face is slapped. Face-slapping was her one hard limit (defined as activity forbidden by a model), but she struggles to play along because of the shame and lost fortunes a refusal begets.

GRAPHIC SEXUAL HORROR Thurs/16–Fri/17, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

Partial Suspension for Complete Sadists and the Marquis Fetish Ball

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PREVIEW As we working stiffs watch more and more of our peers enjoying their government-funded, sun-filled funemployment, it’s hard not to feel tied down by the weight of the work week. But remember: not all bondage is bad. Case in point: Mike West’s Partial Suspension for Complete Sadists and the Marquis Fetish Ball, both happening this week to remind us that being told what to do can be a treat. On Thursday, the Japanese rope bondage expert will host a course featuring theories on challenging ties, installation of overhead points at home or on the go, testing a suspension ring, and the advantages of partial suspension. (Couples and singles welcome, but all must participate.) Two days later, sex educator, author, and bondage model Midori will make an appearance at MarquisAmerica.com’s celebration of all things leather, latex, and laced-up. Still not convinced the leash that chains you to your job is sexy? Consider a career change and enter Marquis’ live model casting.

PARTIAL SUSPENSION FOR COMPLETE SADISTS Thurs/16, 7:30pm. $25–$30. Stormy Leather, 1158 Howard, SF. (415) 626-1672, www.stormyleather.com

MARQUIS FETISH BALL Sat/18, 9pm. $35–$65. Supperclub, 657 Harrison, SF. www.marquisamerica.com

Editor’s Notes

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tredmond@sfbg.com

An angry reader called me years ago to complain about one of my columns, and before she hung up she informed me that "all you radical hippies want is free drugs, free love, and free lunch."

I couldn’t possibly have put it better. Especially the free lunch.

But it’s funny: As a society, Americans these days are almost afraid of things that are free. If it doesn’t cost money, it must be a scam. Or crappy. Or illegal. Nobody just gives anything away any more.

In fact, Douglas Rushkoff has written an entire book about the problem, called Life Inc.: How the World Became a Corporation and How We Can Take it Back (2009, Random House). In an interview with Cecile Lepage in this special issue (which provides dozens of great tips on things you can do and get for free), Rushkoff describes the problem:

"People prefer hiring a person to babysit for their child rather than accepting a favor from the old lady down the street — because if you accept, what social obligation have you incurred? What if she wants to join you at your next barbecue? What if she now wants to be your friend? So now we all have to work more to get money to buy things that we used to just exchange freely with each other."

Of course, if we all gave more away free, we wouldn’t need anywhere near as much money, which would change the whole way our consumer-driven society functions. People could work less and have more free time (say, to volunteer, or help babysit the neighbor’s kid). The financial institutions that so dominate our society (and that so seriously fucked up the world economy) would have less of a role in how people live their lives.

I know, I know: Ain’t no free lunch. Not in America, not in 2009. But it’s a thought.

So everyone in town was talking last week about the City College indictments. As one local wag put it to me, only partly in jest: "These folks must be guilty as sin if Kamala Harris actually indicted them." We don’t know much about their guilt or innocence before trial, but we do know that (a) our district attorney is mighty careful about filing charges in political corruption cases, so this isn’t just a set of allegations that will quickly disappear, and (b) there has been an awful lot of corruption in the local community college for a long time, and this is probably just the tip of the iceberg.

I wouldn’t be surprised, when all is said and done, if the reign of former chancellor Phil Day starts to look like that of former school superintendent Bill Rojas — a cesspool of sleaze that could take years to clean up.

And yet, college trustee Lawrence Wong was quoted in the Chronicle praising Day and calling him "probably the best chancellor we’ve had." Amazing, but not surprising. In fact, Wong and two of his colleagues — Trustee Natalie Berg and former trustee Rodel Rodis — backed up Day over and over again when he played funny with money, pissed off community groups, and acted disdainful of any criticism.

Rodis lost his re-election bid last fall, although Berg somehow survived. Wong is up in 2010. The reformers are slowly gaining control of the board, and the indictments show just how badly that was needed. *