Volume 44 Number 10

Appetite: Smuggler’s Cove Shanghais the Tiki vibe


Virginia Miller is from www.theperfectspotsf.com. View her last installment of Appetite here.

Mixing it up behind the bar at Smuggler’s Cove

Smuggler’s Cove… so much more than Tiki
I’m crazy about all things Tiki and its accompanying kitsch… which is why I’ve long been a fan of Alameda’s Forbidden Island Tiki Lounge. Martin Cate helped make that bar great with his cocktails, going beyond the usual too-sweet, one-note swill often paired with such a setting. Though he departed Forbidden Island awhile back, we’ve been holding our breath for his first bar right here in Hayes Valley in the former, tri-level Jade Bar space.

I had the privilege of attending a media preview last Thursday of Smugglers’ Cove, which officially opens tomorrow (Tue/8). As I entered the tinted storefront, it was as I hoped: a full-on themed bar, transporting me to another world… but with a heavy degree of taste, even refinement. There is (thankfully!) the occasional puffer fish lamp, or bamboo and thatched awnings in the inviting upstairs perch overlooking the main floor bar, keeping the Tiki torch burning. There’s also a strong maritime, pirate-like presence with a ship wheel, barrels, skulls and weaponry. Dark wood walls give the small space warmth, while under a vaulted ceiling lies knick knacks and treasures rife with stories: Tiki legends have their own little shrines tucked into the walls, with a couple lamps from the original Trader Vic’s emitting a soft glow. In the basement, dubbed the Boathouse, there’s another bar, across from a cascading waterfall. Much care has gone into the decor, with touches like unique punch bowls, making this a playful, campy space; part Tiki bar dream, part sophisticated, nautical rum bar.

Custom-made Tiki punch bowls (for volcanoes, of course!)

With more than 200 premium rums and a gorgeous 80+ cocktail menu that actually made me a little giddy to read through, drink is the real star here and Cate does not disappoint with his expertly-chosen selection. I’m eager to try many of these cocktails, my preview night favorites being a WWII classic, "Three Dots and a Dash", a spiced refresher of aged Martinique rhum, private reserve rum, lime, orange, honey, falernum, allspice, bitters; and… "The Chadburn", a complex mix of private reserve rum, tawny port, pear liqueur and a dash of chocolate mole bitters.

The menu is intriguingly grouped in sections like "Classic Libations of Prohibition Era Havana", "Exotic Rum Cocktails from Legendary Tiki Bars", even "Exotic Cocktails without (Gasp!) Rum". There’s going to be a "Rumbustion Society", a rum school, if you will, where working your way through a 20-chapter study on the many styles and complexities of rum (punch card included), initiates you as a "disciple" with access to rare tastings from their vault. You can attempt to try all 80 cocktails on the menu to become a "Voyager" (tempting!), with its own privileges. Bountiful possibilities for interaction and tasting adventures.

Thankfully, music is also an ideal fit (something I always pay attention to). It’s certainly the kind of soundtrack where I might hear Exotica favorites like Yma Sumac or Martin Denny. As I took a restroom break, "Bali Ha’i" serenaded me and I knew I’d gladly escape to the Cove over and over again.

650 Gough Street

Events Listings


Events listings are compiled by Paula Connelly. Submit items for the listings at listings@sfbg.com. For further information on how to submit items for the listings, see Picks.


Celebrating Greenaction Greenaction, Suite 712, 1095 Market, SF; (415) 248-5010. 5:30pm, donations appreciated. Celebrate 12 years of fighting for environmental justice with Greenaction at this party to honor community leaders and environmentally progressive San Francisco Supervisors.


Glass of Water Modern Times Bookstore, 888 Valencia, SF; (415) 282-9246. 7pm, free. Hear Chicano poet, writer, and activist discuss his first novel, A Glass of Water.

Good Vibes Personal Shoppers Good Vibrations, 1620 Polk, SF; (415) 345-0400, and 603 Valencia, SF; (415) 522-5460. Thurs.-Sat. 6-9pm, free. Heat up the holidays and let the Good Vibrations on-hand experts help you pick out the perfect gift for everyone on your list, with complimentary wine and chocolates to get you in the mood.

Historic Libations California Historical Society Museum, 678 Mission, SF; (415) 357-1848. 6pm, $50. Try some historic cocktails, like the Boothby, Martinez, Gibson, or Pisco Sour, while learning about the history of mixed drinks and sampling hors d’oeurves. Guests receive a complimentary copy of Anchor Distilling Co. new edition of Cocktail Boothby’s American Bartender.

SF Wine Showcase Crushpad, 2573 3rd St., SF; www.sfwineassociation.com. 5:30pm, $25. Enjoy tastings from 20 boutique wineries that are part of the San Francisco Wine Association and find out what it means to be a high-end urban winery.


Roots of Resistance Intertribal Friendship House, 523 International, Oak.; (510) 836-1955. 7pm, donations welcome. Attend this cultural holiday market and showcase of local artisans and enjoy art, performances, dance, drum, food, and solidarity.


Bazaar Bizarre San Francisco County Fair Building, Golden Gate Park, SF; (415) 519-8527. Sat.-Sun. Noon-6pm, $2. Attend this indie craft show featuring artists and designers from across the country showcasing their DIY, hand-made goods. Half the proceeds from the door go to benefit San Francisco Arts Education programs.

Holiday Leather Brunch Edge Bar, 4149 18th St., SF; (415) 867-5004. 11am, $20. Enjoy bottomless mimosas, bloody marys, food, entertainment, and an auction at this 13th annual leather brunch to benefit the Positive Resource Center.


Gay Elephants Humanist Hall, 390 27th St., Oak.; (510) 681- 9740. 6pm, $10. Check out this Ganesha Gala and learn to wear a Sari from a drag queen, take a Bollywood dance lesson, discuss ways to travel in India gayly, see Indian movies and more. Proceeds go to Jhilik, a school for tribal kids in India affiliated with Swanirvar.

Latkes and Beer Saul’s Restaurant and Deli, 1475 Shattuck, Berk.; (510) 848-DELI. Sat.-Sun. 11am, free. Take home latkes by the dozen or just nosh on some of these authentic potato pancakes while enjoying local microbrews.

Palestinian Crafts Sale St. John’s Church, 2727 College, Berk.; www.mecaforpeace.org. Noon, free. Help support the Middle East Children’s Alliance while enjoying Middle Eastern food and music and shopping for Palestinian embroidery, hand-blown glassware, ceramics, olive oil, textiles, and more.

Telegraph Holiday Fair Telegraph between Bancroft and Dwight, Berk; www.telegraphfair.com. Sat.- Sun. 11am-6pm, free. Join in the community cheer at this holiday street fair featuring fine art and gift items made by Northern California artists, music, and food vendors. Fair will continue Dec. 19-20, and Dec. 23-24.


Perez Hilton Borders, 400 Post, SF; (415) 399-1633. 2pm, free. Get your brand new autographed copy of Perez Hilton’s new book Perez Hilton’s True Bloggywood Stories, which includes the best gossip of 2009, celebrity interviews, and "Perezzie" awards. Paparazzi encouraged.

Kimochi’s Silver Bells St. Mary’s Cathedral, 1111 Gough, SF; (415) 931-2294. 10am, free. Help support Kimochi’s programs and services for seniors at this unique, budget-friendly Asian and Pacific Island inspired arts and crafts fair featuring jewelry, stationary, ornaments, artwork, candles, and more.


Doctors Without Borders Century 9 San Francisco Centre, 5th floor, 845 Market, SF; (415) 538-8422. 8pm, $15. Get a first hand look at the field operations of Doctors Without Borders, a Nobel Peace Prize winning organization, in this documentary that follows frontline aid workers to the war-torn Congo and post-conflict Liberia. This one night only screening will be accompanied by a satellite broadcasted live panel discussion with workers and journalists, moderated by Elizabeth Vargas.


Eating to Save the Earth San Francisco Public Library, 100 Larkin, SF; (415) 557-4400. 6pm, free. Join Linda Riebel, author of Eating to Save the Earth: Food Choices for a Healthy Planet¸ in a lively discussion on the ways omnivores, vegetarians, singles, and families can make environmentally responsible food choices.

Ask, don’t tell


POP STAR ON FIRE Let’s get one thing straight — despite what his album (For Your Entertainment, RCA) and single proclaim, Adam Lambert is not here for your entertainment. Well, sure, he’s a performer, and as such he has certain obligations to his fans. But that doesn’t mean he exists solely for our benefit. If he did, we’d be able to mold him to our liking, creating either a sexuality-defying glam rock god or, to use a Rufus Wainwright term, the gay messiah.

Lambert is neither of those things, simply because people aren’t that easy to define. And yet, this affected tug-of-war has garnered plenty of media attention. The problem is that it doesn’t account for Lambert as a person — or as a musician.

It would be naïve to suggest Lambert didn’t ask for media attention, but he certainly never asked to be pinned down. Now, through no doing of his own, he’s been thrust into a lose-lose situation. If he appears with scantily clad women (as he does in his recent Details spread and in the "For Your Entertainment" music video), he’s too straight. If he, er, commits to gay by getting down with his bassist, he’s offensive to the mainstream.

In an open letter to Adam Lambert, Out Magazine editor-in-chief Aaron Hicklin laments that Lambert’s record label requested that his interview not be "too gay." Problematic? Most definitely. It’s shameful and upsetting that anyone would try to curb Lambert’s enthusiasm for manparts. But I found Hicklin’s letter equally bothersome. "You’re a pioneer," he writes. "An out gay pop idol at the start of his career. Someone has to be first, and we’re all counting on you not to mess this up."

Excuse me? Did you just tell Adam Lambert that he has a responsibility to please every gay person in the country? (No jokes, please.) That’s a pretty big weight to put on one guy’s shoulders. Not to mention that it severely inhibits his freedom of expression. Give Lambert some space to figure out his own shit. That goes for both an overprotective label and an overidentifying gay fanbase. I understand the urge to hold him up as a gay role model, but maybe that’s not what he had in mind.

Moreover, this controversy neglects the spectrum of sexuality that we queer people are supposed to promote. That’s why we use the word "queer": many LGBT men and women feel that the labels society has created for us just aren’t sufficient. Look at Lady Gaga, an artist for whom Lambert has frequently expressed admiration. Gaga came out as bi, then recanted — not because she has any problem with being bisexual, but because she doesn’t want to be defined. She’s queer (I doubt she’d argue that), and she’s awesome, but no one’s asking her to be the poster child for bisexual women. She’s a free bitch, baby.

So let’s step back. Adam Lambert just released his first album, and it’s pretty damn great. He’s openly gay and that hasn’t hurt his record sales. There’s a lot for the queer community to be happy about here, whether or not he chooses to be our spokesperson. If he does decide to be the gay messiah, I’m sure we can all get behind that. (Again, no jokes.) And if he decides to keep it fluid, I think that’s worth celebrating, too.

Hey, as long as the music’s still good.




THEATER It’s hardly news, but holiday shows can be fairly dreary treats. Given such periods of seasonal affective disorder as the theater may present, it’s a genuine surprise and pleasure to discover the wit and wile strutting the boards at SF Playhouse — tucked into a far corner of Union Square somewhere just north-by-northwest of that big Christmas tree — where the season offering is a sparkling production of David Greenspan’s She Stoops to Comedy.

Mercifully, the plot has nothing to do with yuletide or smiling through a bad case of rickets. Instead, it concerns a lesbian stage actress named Alexandra Page (male actor Liam Vincent) who decides to disguise herself as a man and try out for Orlando in a summer stock production of Shakespeare’s As You Like It, in order to play opposite her estranged lover, Alison (Sally Clawson), in the part of Rosalind — another cross-dresser twice over since Shakespeare’s character is a woman disguised as a man in a part played, historically, by a boy. Playing opposite, in short, is just what Alexandra does, convincing everyone she is a man — including a besotted middle-aged gay actor named Simon Lanquish (Scott Capurro) — while spying on and ultimately seducing, in seemingly old heterosexual fashion, her charmed lover and costar.

Meanwhile, other romances abound in ways at least as complicated: Alexandra’s ambitious young director Hal (Cole Alexander Smith) and creatively frustrated assistant-and-girlfriend Eve Addaman (Carly Cioffi) balance careers and romance in precarious turn. And a highly affected actress named Jayne Summerhouse (Amy Resnick) seeks to rekindle an old flame with her seeming-opposite of the same sex: the literally down-to-earth archeologist Kay Fein (Amy Resnick) — an encounter that promises sparks, not least because it features only one actor.

But gender, identity, and blocking aren’t the only challenges put forth by Greenspan’s play. In She Stoops to Comedy, even the script is up for grabs, rewriting itself as it goes along through the caprice of characters who are liable to speak to, as much as from, their respective roles. (Kay, for instance, changes decades and job titles with relative ease.) Cunningly employing Shakespeare and other literary touchstones — in particular a 1910 play by Ferenc Molnár called The GuardsmanShe Stoops traipses over aesthetic and even philosophical ground after its carefree but astute fashion. It’s a self-consciously theatrical enterprise that gleefully eschews expectations, squirming pleasantly under the usual theatrical artifice as if looking to satisfy a really good itch.

A dazzling bit of low-key stagecraft, She Stoops is a tall order for any company. In director Mark Rucker’s staging, the action comes off as a pitch-perfect balance of wit and wonder, a loving riff on acting, connecting, and the role of the imagination in art and life. Heady and hilarious at once, it’s metatheater with a pulse, sporting plenty of fine opportunities for an exceptional cast — beginning with Liam Vincent, whose poise and subtlety in the lead are perfection — and including a couple of memorable scenes of actorly pyrotechnics exquisitely realized by Capurro and Resnick, respectively.


Through Jan. 9

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

SF Playhouse

533 Sutter, SF

(415) 677-9596


1, 2, 3 — do you copy?



MUSIC "Is it nature or nurture?" asks David West, pondering whether garage rock is the most natural sound of San Francisco. Playing in "rough ‘n’ ready" fashion makes sense today, he thinks, given the city’s pricey rents and dense environment, whereas the psych bands of the 1960s, and ’70s art-punk bands like Chrome, Flipper, and Tuxedomoon, could better afford to have "a conceptual mind and lots of practice." An interesting hypothesis.

Rank/Xerox, a trio featuring West on guitar and vocals; Kevin McCarthy on bass, vocals, and keyboard; and drummer Jon Shade, are no "garage" band, but their music is some of the most exhilarating in San Francisco. I met with McCarthy and West at McCarthy’s house, where the pair took turns putting LPs by Thin Lizzy and the Ramones on the turntable as they discussed their group, which came together earlier this year.

Shade and McCarthy run a Web-based videozine, Mondo Vision. They had been playing music together for about a year, never finding a third player they were happy with until they met West — who recently moved to SF from Perth, Australia — in February. Their first shows came in April, and they released a split cassette with Grass Widow on Wizard Mountain Tapes shortly thereafter. Brynn Michelle, who’s played saxophone at a few Rank/Xerox gigs, overdubbed some improvised, inspired parts on these urgent, punchy cassette recordings.

"It’s still pretty up in the air as to what we’re going for — we take it song for song," McCarthy says. "We kind of have a law that we can’t say what we want." This desire to avoiding any hard-and-fast description or formula is understandable; even as Rank/Xerox’s music (thus far) resonates with the very best of the grim, mesmeric post-punk seeping out of England in the early ’80s, their bracing sound feels wholly unforced. Born of this troubled moment, it hits an anxious nerve. West reluctantly hints that the group is drawn to "more difficult punk music," and that Rank/Xerox lyrics address "power relationships, gender equality, sexual dynamics, socioeconomic issues, and love," before concluding with a laugh that "the songs are mostly about feelings."

New it may be, but Rank/Xerox already has serious connections to the Old World, sharing its name with an Italian comic book superhero created in 1978 and a song off of German punk band Hans-A-Plast’s 1979 debut, a vinyl copy of which McCarthy readily furnishes. Additionally, its only "tour" so far was through Eastern Europe in early October — a fluke occurrence stemming from the fact that all three group members happened to be there at the same time.

Rank/Xeroz’s terrific split cassette is sold out, sadly, but a new single is now available directly from the band, featuring "In a Hole," "Basement Furniture," and "Masking/Confessions." It’s the inaugural release on Shade’s own label, Mondo Bongo Top Ten Hits, and a thoroughly DIY affair: West recorded it; McCarthy made the artwork; and Shade is releasing it.

I once spotted a local Rank/Xerox fan sporting a homemade T-shirt that stated, in permanent marker, "Listen to Rank/Xerox." Earnest, homespun advice worth heeding before they’re on some future Messthetics comp devoted to SF in the good ol’ aughts. *

www.mondovision.tv/mongobongo; www.myspace.com/rankxeroxx


part of "ATA 25"

Sun/13, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. (10 p.m. performance), $10

Artists’ Television Access

992 Valencia, SF

(415) 824-3890


Life out of balance



FILM At the start of The Private Lives of Pippa Lee, its titular character is toasted as a perfect enigma-cum-hostess, "the very icon of an artist’s wife." She accepts this with public graciousness and private dismay. Because now, with two kids grown (but still whiny) and a famous publisher spouse retired yet self-absorbed as ever, the praise only underlines a sense that she’s always served others’ needs while never quite figuring out her own.

Ergo Rebecca Miller’s latest is that seldom-produced thing, the female midlife crisis movie. Miller is daughter to playwright Arthur Miller, a titan of Big Theme manly guilts. Writing and directing for another medium — one differently scaled from dad’s own twilight-of-the-gods project The Misfits (1961) — Rebecca unsurprisingly falls some yards from the tree. Her projects are indie-scaled, about troubled domestic minutae, with whimsical twists of fate that methodical realist Arthur would never have countenanced.

They’re all flawed. But Rebecca Miller has been consistently interesting since 1995’s striking Angela — first among many narratives from the viewpoint of a child struggling in the shadow of an overwhelming and/or unstable parent. In 2002, triptych Personal Velocity‘s best segment had Parker Posey cowed by her celebrity father. In 2005’s The Ballad of Jack and Rose, Miller’s husband Daniel Day-Lewis was a dying hippie so close to his teenage daughter she lacks social skills for anyone else.

In Private Lives, Pippa (Robin Wright Penn) has her own monstrous parental past, revealed in 1970s flashbacks with Maria Bello as a minister’s wife wired to explode on Dexedrine. Like many people hailing from chaos, Pippa has turned self-conscious model citizen. In drifting early adulthood, she glommed onto the first man who respected her mind — or did he just recognize a rudderless, much younger woman susceptible to flattery? Ever since she’s been ideal consort to Herb (Alan Arkin), as well as doting mother to their variably grateful children.

Three heart attacks have forced Herb to retire — more or less — and move to a Connecticut retirement-community condo located near friends Sam (Mike Binder) and Sandra (Winona Ryder). Actually, they’re Herb’s friends; it’s Pippa’s job to smilingly endure Sam’s overtures and provide Sandra a shoulder to cry on. Barely 40 in an old folks’ village, Pippa is starting to think her life a tad ridiculous. Such nagging but inchoate doubt is underlined by the return of a widow neighbor’s shaggy, somewhat surly son (Keanu Reeves) to Chez Mom after his latest failure at adulthood. Opposites attract, though it’s more complicated than that.

Miller’s cluttered canvas also makes room for teensy-to-major characters played by Shirley Knight, Blake Lively, Robin Weigert, Julianne Moore, and Monica Bellucci. As is her wont, she piles on both invigorating insights and a few too many whiplash narrative left turns.

But The Private Lives of Pippa Lee has charm and idiosyncrasy to spare. Wright Penn is a deft actress who’s spent too much time as cinema’s Agony Aunt — pall-bearer for so much worry, dismay, tears, and suffering from Forrest Gump (1994) to Hounddog (2007). Here, she’s immaculately poised yet leavened by the comingling of desire and comedy. She’s larky, witty, even goofy at times. It looks good on her.

THE PRIVATE LIVES OF PIPPA LEE opens Fri/11 in Bay Area theaters.

Citizen Welles


FILM It’s 1937, and New York City, like the rest of the nation, presumably remains in the grip of the Great Depression. That trifling historical detail, however, is upstaged in Richard Linklater’s Me and Orson Welles (adapted from the novel by Robert Kaplow) by the doings at the newly founded Mercury Theatre. There, in the equally tight grip of actor, director, and company cofounder Orson Welles — who makes more pointed use of the historical present, of Italian fascism — a groundbreaking production of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar hovers on the brink of premiere and possible disaster.

To a layperson, that might not seem like the best time to sub in a player, but luckily for swaggering young aspirant Richard (High School Musical series star Zac Efron), Welles (Christian McKay), already infamously tyrannical at 22, is not a man to shrink from firing an actor a week before opening night and replacing him with a 17-year-old kid from New Jersey. Particularly one who (says he) can play the ukulele. Finding himself working in perilous proximity to the master, his unharnessed ego, and his winsome, dishearteningly pragmatic assistant, Sonja (Claire Danes), our callow hero is destined, predictably, to be handed some valuable life experience.

McKay makes a credible, enjoyable Welles, presented as the kind of engaging sociopath who handles people like props and hails ambulances like taxicabs. Efron projects a shallow interior life, an instinct for survival, and the charm of someone who has had charming lines written for him. While Richard’s seemingly limitless bravura is amusing, the resultant adventures and mishaps don’t seem to elicit much reaction within; what we witness is mild and momentary and bland. Still, he and Welles and the rest are all in service to the play, and so is the film, which offers an absorbing account of the company’s final days of rehearsal, including the hair-pulling frustrations that the cast, the crew, and Mercury cofounder John Houseman (Eddie Marsan, from 2008’s Happy-Go-Lucky) undergo for the sake of working in close quarters with genius.

Absent are the naturalistic talking jags with which Linklater made his name; here it’s largely banter and smooth talk and gossipy stage whispers. But just as the teenagers of Dazed and Confused cruised through a sludgy stoner soup of ’70s rock, the players of Me and Orson Welles flirt and prank and strut the streets of Manhattan with the atmospheric backing of Gershwin crooners and snappy big band numbers. The one jarring moment, both sonically and in the film at large, is the sound of Efron singing mid-production, earnest and plaintive and incapable of banishing that poppy HSM tremble from his delivery.

Me and Orson Welles opens Fri/11 in Bay Area theaters.

Nice apse



SUPER EGO Ever since Jack handed down the Key to the Wiggly Worm in 1987, dance music has flaunted its spiritual side. Sure, disco was about transcending the physical bonds of quotidian slavery, Parliamentary funk probed the cosmogenic recesses of inner space, and early electro froze out any organic interference with its ethereal pings and pongs. But house was “a feeling,” a “spiritual thing,” a “soul thing.” And techno explicitly mobilized the restless ghosts in Detroit’s rapidly antiquating machines. Merely read the titles of techno originator Derrick May’s late 1980s output — “Beyond the Dance,” “The Beginning,” “Strings of Life” — for the gist of that genre’s ectochromosomal blueprint.

Upping the metaphysical has led to some notable clubby excesses — think sage-smoked rave prayer circles, jungle and tribal house’s witch doctor shenanigans, the gamma states of trance, or whatever the hell Burning Man thinks it’s doing. For the better part of this decade, “ultra lounges” had to feature a giant golden Buddha somewhere on the property or risk excommunication from the Eternal Congregation of Bachelorettes. And how many times did some of us (me) find ourselves, after a crazed and filthy weekend, on the EndUp dance floor on a Sunday afternoon in the 1990s, twitching to a gospel house choir shrieking about the power of salvation through The Lord. (Answer: 42.)

Still, everyone calls their favorite club “church” because that’s where they go on the regular to feel a part of something bigger than themselves. So you’d think a club night in an actual church — let alone one in Grace Cathedral called EpiscoDisco — would be the ultimate theological expression of this nightlife strain. Not so, says Bertie Pearson, the young Episcopal priest, longtime club fixture, and on-point DJ who launched the electro-centric monthly last February. “We’re not out to convert anyone, or try to ‘bring youth into the fold,’ or anything like that,” he tells me. “The Episcopal church isn’t really about proselytizing, anyway — all paths to God are equally effective, and we’re more concerned with keeping our community fed and sheltered. We just wanted to open up this amazing space on a night when there wasn’t much happening here and have a great party.”

EpiscoDisco, with its heady mix of spiffed-up nightlife glitterati, up-to-the minute live acts and DJs, and edgy art installations curated by Paradise Now, offers a perfectly relevant and reverent early evening club experience — even without the cavernous gothic grandeur of Grace echoing every furtive stiletto-clack of the otherwise irreligious. (Pearson says he always wanted to be an Episcopal priest because the faith “appealed to all sides of me: social, spiritual, philosophical, artistic, intellectual … and now the nightlife side, apparently.”) Yet you are, indeed, in a spectacular candle-lit cathedral, navigating the vaulted apse with your plastic-cupped Chablis, gazing at luminous gold-flecked icons of MLK Jr. and John Donne, tracing the gorgeous meditative labyrinth etched in the nave’s marble flooring.

And despite the party-priest’s protestations about keeping his intentions earthbound, you can’t help but get lifted in a club-spiritual way. Upon entering Grace’s AIDS Interfaith Chapel, EpiscoDiscopalians are greeted by ultimate club kid Keith Haring’s wondrous “Life of Christ” triptych altarpiece. A panel of the AIDS Quilt memorializes Grace preachers who passed away from the disease and the “Book of Names” lists Bay Area victims. Given that some of the most exciting recent nightlife trends have been about exhuming the music and fashion buried by AIDS, the chapel offers a celebratory connection to the other side.

But there’s a connection to the living at EpiscoDisco, too. “San Francisco nightlife can be a bit clique-y,” says Pearson, a master of tart understatement. “Sometimes if you walk up to a group of people and just start talking to them, they look at you like you’re insane. That doesn’t happen here. Isn’t that great?”

EPISCODISCO with DJ John Friend and Pale Hoarse live. Saturday, Dec. 19 and every third Saturday of the month, 7 p.m.-10 p.m., free. Grace Cathedral, 1100 California, SF. www.episcodisco.com

DERRICK MAY Yes, the Godfather is coming, throwing down one of his gleaming Hi-Tek-Soul soul sets to call the spirits down. Thu/10, 10 p.m., $10 advance. Vessel, 84 Campton Place, SF. www.vesselsf.com

AC SLATER Electro — saved by the bell? The latest banger boy wonder takes to the tables at Reverend Pearson’s other club playground, Blow Up. Fri/11, 10 p.m., $10/$15, 18+. Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell, SF. www.blowupsf.com

LE PERLE DEGLI SQUALLOR DJ Bus Station John’s latest bathhouse disco and vinyl rarities monthly breaks cruise-y new queer ground at the Hotspot. Sat/12, 10 p.m., $5. Hotspot, 1414 Market, SF.

The unbearable lightness of being



CHEAP EATS It’s weird for me, of all people, to be having an existential crisis. Yet …

You know, there have been times in the past few weeks when I almost completely didn’t know if I existed or not. It ain’t fun. Not no picnic, no … nonexistence. I’m here to tell you.

And it’s weird because in the past I have taken particular pride in my capacity for existing. That’s why my calypso name was always Lord Exister or Sister Exister or just Exister. And my songs celebrated mostly existential themes, such as butter.

Now I can only write about tofu and spelt flour, and when that happens it’s time to hang up your steel drum. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m taking mine to Germany because it’s quite possible the Germans won’t understand a word of it, no matter which language I choose to use to express my out-of-key self in.

I’m just saying. Or, as the late great Townes Van Zandt put it, "Maybe she just has to sing for the sake of the song."

One of my favorite people to talk to is Mod the Pod, or Mod Pod, as we call her for short. We were driving in her pickup truck on the most beautiful country road in Sonoma County, on one of the most beautiful December evenings in California history. The sun was setting. The moon was rising. And I was sweating the big stuff. You know: death.

Mod Pod is by trade a therapist. "Mmm-hmm," she said. "Mmm-hmm."

I should also mention that we were eating donuts, so it was not completely off-the-wall of me to change the subject from my depressing preoccupation with the abyss to donuts. It might have been a little abrupt, though, come to think of it. Like this:

"I don’t think it’s my self self that I am overly attached to so much as my point of view, or myself as a point-of-view character. That’s what I can’t quite fathom letting go of. My point of view."

"Mmm-hmm. Mmm-hmm."

"You know what I mean?"

"Mmm-hmm." She was driving, looking straight ahead out the windshield. The road was hilly and winding, and Mod Pod is a pretty good driver.

"Pod," I said, "have you ever had a donut that wasn’t good?"

She glanced at me and then looked straight ahead again. The empty bag was on the seat between us. "Let me think about that," she said. "That’s a really good question."

And she thought about it, and — having nothing but time — so did I.

We decided, in the end, that neither of us, and not even the Attack (who joined our conversation in Oakland and would later pay for dinner) had ever had an exactly bad donut. The closest we could come to "bad" was stale. I think it was the Pod — although it could have been anyone — had once bitten into a too-many-days-old donut. Not good. I think it was jelly, with powdered sugar.

The important thing is that life goes on, with or without you or your point of view. And then there it is, like a bright light and classical music: the hugest plate of food ever, with melted cheese in two different colors oozing into brown beans and white rice, chile rellenos and a fried fish taco, table full of delicious salsas, only some of which came out of Mod Pod’s purse … beer, sangria … and … you have zero appetite.

What the fuck?

Maybe it was the donuts. I tasted everything, and everything was great, but I couldn’t quite exactly dig into it, much less put it away. Well, and Mexican food was my idea. Juan’s was theirs. Excellent family-style atmosphere; in fact, they were putting up the Christmas tree while we were eating. I get the sense that this is a go-to East Bay place, although … nobody was there. And I’d never been.

Oooh, I hate saying sentences like that, even when it’s by accident.


Mon.–Fri., 11 a.m.–10 p.m.;

Sat.–Sun., 2–10 p.m.

941 Carleton, Berk.

(510) 845-6904

Beer & wine


Holiday snowjob



Shortly before Thanksgiving, San Francisco city officials announced that the draft environmental impact report for Lennar Corp.’s massive Hunters Point Shipyard-Candlestick Point redevelopment proposal was finally available, and that the public has 45 days — until Dec. 28 — to read and comment on the 4,400-page document.

Envisioned to include more than 10,000 homes (most of them market-rate condos) spread over 708 acres in southeast San Francisco, the project — whose vague outlines city voters affirmed by approving Prop. G in June 2008 — is the centerpiece of the city’s housing strategy for the next 25 years.

At a Nov. 5 presentation, Michael Cohen, Mayor Gavin Newsom’s top economic advisor, told the city’s Planning Commission that the DEIR was a "milestone." But critics warn that this milestone could become a millstone around the city’s neck if it fails to extend the DEIR review period, as a coalition of environmental groups and a state agency are requesting. Cohen did not return repeated calls for this story.

These groups are concerned that the city of San Francisco, Lennar’s partner in this billion-dollar deal, is trying to rush through a controversial project before anyone can review its details. Forty-five days is the minimum required under California Environmental Quality Act guidelines for a project that also needs to be reviewed by state agencies and the groups want the deadline extended to mid-February.

The southeast sector has historically been home to low-income communities of color, and fears are running high that this project will continue the destructive, gentrifying legacy of the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency, which shares lead agency responsibilities for this project with the Planning Department.

After Redevelopment Agency projects in Western Addition and Yerba Buena displaced much of San Francisco’s African American population, there is concern that if this project isn’t carefully considered, it could finish the job in the remaining parts of town with significant black populations: Bayview and Hunters Point, which are both in the plan area.

"People would have to read 130-plus pages per day since the DEIR’s release to complete it by the first public hearing," said Kristine Enea, who sits on the board of the India Basin Neighborhood Association and is a candidate in the 2010 race to replace termed-out District 10 Sup. Sophie Maxwell.

Downloadable at the Planning Department’s Web site, the Shipyard-Candlestick DEIR envisions an influx of 24,465 new residents and the possible building of a new 49ers stadium on a site that is radiologically contaminated, seismically vulnerable, and will undoubtedly be adversely affected by climate change-induced sea level rise.

As such, it requires significant chunks of time to digest and comment on — something folks are urged to do at two public hearings in mid-December or in writing by Dec. 28.

"The timeline is incredibly short," Arc Ecology’s executive director Saul Bloom told us. So a coalition that includes Bloom, Enea, Arc Ecology, the Urban Strategies Council, the Sierra Club, the California Native Plant Society, and the Potrero Hill Democratic Club is urging Mayor Gavin Newsom to extend the DEIR public review period to 90 days.

"We believe that a public review period totaling 90 days ending on Feb. 12, 2010 is necessary and of appropriate length for the public and our organizations to review, discuss, and comment on this complicated tome," the coalition wrote in a Dec. 7 letter.

Also seeking a time extension is the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC), a state agency charged with reviewing large projects that may impact the bay, although the agency did sign onto the coalition’s letter. BCDC studies project that much of the project area could be inundated with rising water levels caused by global warming.

Technically, the lead agencies have the authority to extend EIR comment periods, but because they are controlled by mayoral appointees, the coalition is appealing to Newsom. The coalition letter notes that the project will nearly double the population of Bayview-Hunters Point, and that the newly released DEIR was nearly two years in the making.

"The city’s project staff reasonably took the time to provide what in their opinion is an adequate review of the project," the coalition wrote. "The public similarly deserves 12 weeks to examine and comment on your work."

City officials have been patient with Lennar, recently granting the company a six-month delay in construction of housing at Phase 1 of the development, which sits at Parcel A of the shipyard. As a result, construction for Phase 2 is not expected to start until 2015 and continue until about 2035.

So coalition members say at 45-day delay isn’t asking much. The letter makes clear that the coalition isn’t opposed to the project or Newsom’s administration, but that its members expect "public engagement and transparency in government."

"It is our view that a 45-day public review period for a document as complex and lengthy as the DEIR is simply inadequate under any circumstances," the coalition wrote, adding that the document’s release over the Thanksgiving, Christmas, Kwanza, and Hanukkah holidays is "particularly troubling." By contrast, Santa Clara Countyoffered an extended comment period for its DEIR on its proposed new 49ers stadium.

"By releasing a six volume, 4,400 page document a week and a half before Thanksgiving, you have demanded that the public and community based organizations choose between civic duty, prearranged vacation time, and obligations to family and faith," the coalition wrote, noting that the city effectively shortened even this prep time to 25 days by holding public hearings one month after the DEIR’s release.

Unlike Prop. G or previous discussion about Phase 1 of the project, the coalition reminded Newsom that an EIR is an administrative decision document, and the DEIR is the part of the approval process where ideas become concrete plans to be approved in a lawful process. "Transparency in government is not just a matter of letting the public see information," the coalition observe in the letter. "The capacity to act on what one sees is critical to transparency and the length of the look has a direct effect on the quality of observation."

Or as Bloom warned the Guardian, the current 45-day review period will likely result in a polarized dialogue. "It will lead to the squeezing out of any of the middle-of-the road perspective from folks who are not opposed to development but think the proposed project could be better," Bloom warned. "And if that happens, no modifications will be possible."

The DEIR will be the subject of two public hearings: Dec. 15 at 4 p.m. in City Hall Room 416 by the Redevelopment Agency and Dec. 17 at 1:30 p.m. in City Hall Room 400 by the Planning Commission.

Winter wonderland



Dear Andrea:

Every year I dread this season, not because I particularly hate the holidays, but because the short, dark days depress me. I talked to a therapist friend and she doesn’t think I have SAD, and says lots of people feel a little gloomy when the days get short. I also notice that I have almost no libido this time of year. I’m single and I usually date, but when it gets dark so early, I find that I just can’t be bothered. I don’t want to meet anyone because I don’t feel like having sex or any sort of intimacy, really. I just want to sit on my couch in my pajamas. Do I have "seasonal libido disorder"? Is this kind of seasonal swing a common thing? I also find I get the stereotypical "spring fever" and can’t wait to go out and meet guys (I’m a girl) when the days get longer. Any ideas?


Poorly Seasoned

Dear Poorly:

You’re not the only one! Even people who need look no further than the other end of the couch often experience a libido-slump in the winter. For the single, who may have to actually leave the house to find a prospective mate, the hurdles are higher. There are all sorts of possible factors, including less exercise and its possibly associated weight gain and/or lack of energy, as well as the bigger push it takes to get up and bundle yourself into cold-weather gear and slog through sleet or slush, as opposed to merely flitting out the door in a darling little sundress whenever you feel like it. There is holiday stress and all those happy couple and happy family images forced down your throat all season, set to the anti-erotic soundtrack of "Winter Wonderland." Feh.

It may turn out that there is something far more elemental going on, though. It appears that you don’t have to be human or trying to avoid Perry Como songs in order to experience a very precipitous drop in libido during the winter. Siberian hamsters, for instance, never have to listen to Perry Como (actually, I looked it up and was entranced by this list of people [besides Como] who famously recorded that nasty thing: Bob Dylan, Tom Astor, George Strait, Tony Bennett, Karen Carpenter, Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, Eurythmics, Elvis, Goldfrapp, Cyndi Lauper, Darlene Love, Johnny Mathis, Ozzy Osbourne, Dolly Parton, Frank Sinatra, Stryper, the Cocteau Twins, and Enrico Ruggeri) and their libidos completely shut off in the winter.

It turns out that a neuropeptide called, adorably but only coincidentally, "kisspeptin" regulates the release of the reproductive hormones — gonadatropin-releasing hormone and luteinizing hormone — and allows animals (that includes us) to reach puberty, ovulate, and (at least in the hamsters) experience the urge to go out and meet other hamsters. I doubt it will turn out to be this simple in humans, but for the hamsters, kisspeptin is libido. And it turns right off in the winter. They just stop making it. It’s cheering to hear, though, and not just for the hamsters, that hamsters given kisspeptin during the winter still respond to it. It appears that it’s the kisspeptin that keeps the hamsters from reproducing during the Siberian winters, which is very good news for the baby hamsters. And it suggests the possibility for all sorts of future kisspeptin-based treatments, not just for libido and maybe late (or too-early) puberty but for infertility. Yay! But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here. None of this works yet, unless you’re a Siberian hamster.

I know I’m weird this way but I always enjoy a sudden sharp reminder that we are, despite our opposable-thumb-wielding, Wikipedia-consulting ways, really just very large hamsters. We are living in real bodies that exist on a real planet (with seasons) and that have barely changed since our tree-swinging days. Our bodies know this, even if our monkey minds often get too distracted by the bright shininess of modern technological existence to pay attention. Of course the seasons affect us.

So what can you do? Your therapist friend may be right, maybe you don’t have the sort of seriously sad SAD that requires serious intervention, but maybe you have subsyndromal seasonal affective disorder, the milder kind (I’m willing to bet that I do, and we have plenty of company). Maybe you have low kisspeptin. Maybe you just don’t like the dark. You could do the light-box therapy anyway, no matter what your friend says, and just see if it works. You could take a lovely "get your groove back" beach vacation. You could make sure you get out of the office every day at lunch. Or you could just figure that having a low libido for three months a year is not the most horrible thing that could possibly happen, and hibernate until it’s over. You wouldn’t be the first mammal to just pull the covers over her head and wait for the solstice. Your next mate can wait.



See Andrea’s other column at carnalnation.com.

Glitchy kisses



VISUAL ART "I’m interested in the destruction of everything. I was the kid who screwed up all his toys," Toban Nichols (www.tobannichols.com) says over the phone from his studio in Los Angeles. The longtime San Francisco resident and multimedia artist is still unpacking from his recent move to the capital of schmooze, but he’s been frantically yo-yoing up to the Bay to attend three concurrent gallery openings, a "trilogy of terror," of his work here. "It’s been very weird, to put it mildly. I moved to L.A. partly out of frustration with my lack of traction in the San Francisco art world, and then as soon as I get down here I’m offered three shows at once. Maybe I should have moved sooner."

Maybe he should have, although the gay club scene sure misses his smiling presence and that of his DJ husband, Jonathan. Slyly undermining notions of camp and kitsch with painterly electronic fuck-ups, Nichols’ work is as varied as it is entrancing. And the exciting threesome of shows introduces a trio of delectably unique lines of aesthetic inquiry that will tickle any deconstructivist’s — queer or otherwise — mental bone. Shall we count them off?

JIGSAWMENTALLAMA This sundry group show at David Cunningham Projects contains works from Nichols glitchy-smeary "Lockup" series, summoning contemporary architectural forms and based on machine error. If Gerhard Richter appropriated Amon Tobin CD covers, you’d probably get something like Nichols’s Giclée prints "Appaloosa" and "Unicorn," both from 2008. Other entries in the "Lockup" series keep the sharp and sensuous rainbow smudges but introduce fields of gray or black hatch marks that bring to mind both industrial metal ramping and early post-punk 12-inch single artwork. Nichols trained as a painter, but moved on when he felt painting "wasn’t speaking" to him. "I now start with a photographic image —and through a computer process I discovered completely by accident, overtax the output until it’s corrupted in a way I like," he says. In a wonderful related series, appropriately titled "Overtax," which you can see at his Web site, Nichols eerily haywires a Windows force-quit error box into an apocalyptic sleigh ride.

Through Dec. 19, free. David Cunningham Projects, 1928 Folsom, SF. www.davidcunninghamprojects.com

"THE TRAGEDY COLLECTION" Bewitched, bothered, bewildered — the "Tragedy Collection," five pieces of which are on display on the fourth floor of the LGBT Center, hilariously filters televised camp iconography through Nichols’ handheld: "I wanted to create something accessible to show I could do it, so I took pictures of the TV with my crappy cell phone and printed them." Dynasty‘s Joan Collins gnawing on a chicken bone, Tyra Banks’ legendary Top Model freakout, Bewitched‘s Agnes Moorehead hissing like a cat on a rack … the prints somehow update queer histrionics while burying traditional camp sensibilities deeper than Susan Sontag.

Through Jan. 10, 2010, free. San Francisco Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Community Center, 1800 Market, SF. www.sfcenter.org

"OPPROBRIUM" Nichols’ show at Adobe Books, opening Dec. 11, is a meditative compression of Vogue’s Book of Etiquette and Good Manners (Conde Nast, 1969). "That book is so funny. It’s completely outdated, full of advice that’s so alien to contemporary readers. When you read it today there’s all kinds of complex humor from a feminist and class perspective. But that humor was on too many levels for me, I wanted to shrink it into a single joke. So I thought, ‘Why not hire an engineer to write an algorithm that replaces every third word with PUSSY?’ So I did." Two copies of the book will be on display as well as a deliberately loopy video of Nichols’ artist statement — "Who wants to stand around and read something long on a wall?" — featuring a voiceover by comedian Deven Green of Brenda Dixon parody and "Betty Bowers Explains Traditional Marriage to Everyone Else" YouTube fame, "plus some random images, whatever".

Opening reception Thursday, Dec. 11, 7 p.m.-9 p.m, free. Through Jan. 10, 2010. Adobe Books Backroom Gallery, 3166 16th St., SF. adobebooksbackroomgallery.blogspot.com

Empty threats



A controversial change to San Francisco’s sanctuary city policy — requiring due process to play out before city officials turn arrested undocumented immigrant minors over to federal authorities — officially becomes city law this week. But its implementation is still in limbo.

Last month, the Board of Supervisors voted 8-3 to override a veto of the legislation by Mayor Gavin Newsom, who says he won’t implement it anyway because he thinks it violates federal law. Authored by Sup. David Campos, the legislation goes into effect Dec. 10, and the city’s Juvenile Probation Department has 60 days to implement it, meaning the new policy kicks in Feb. 8.

City Attorney Dennis Herrera sought assurances from Joe Russoniello, the US Attorney for Northern California, that he wouldn’t prosecute local officials who follow the amended sanctuary city policy, as Russoniello had intimated to reporters. Russoniello refused to do so.

"I have no authority, discretionary or otherwise, to grant amnesty from federal prosecution to anyone who follows the protocol set out in the referenced ordinance," Russoniello wrote in a Dec. 3 letter.

But as UC Davis law professor Bill Ong Hing said Russoniello hasn’t cited any case law to support his position that following the ordinance could amount to harboring a fugitive from justice.

"It’s no more than hot air," Hing wrote Dec. 4 in a San Francisco Immigrant Rights Defense Coalition Dec. 4 press release. "While Russoniello has been vocally opposed to San Francisco’s pro-immigrant policies for two decades now, nothing will come of his empty threats…There has never been a federal prosecution anywhere in the country against city officials for following sanctuary ordinances."

In fact, it’s possible that Russoniello — a holdover appointee by President George W. Bush — won’t even get the opportunity."

The legal newspaper The Recorder reported Dec. 4 that the Obama administration is close to announcing Melinda Haag, a former federal prosecutor, as Russoniello’s replacement.

"Recently the Justice Department informed Russoniello that he could not hire any more personnel for the office, multiple sources said, which could suggest a choice for his successor is coming soon," the article stated, although it also noted that FBI background checks have yet to be completed. "So even if a successor is chosen soon, it would be several weeks before a name is submitted to the U.S. Senate, much less confirmed."

Despite Newsom’s public statements that he won’t enforce the new law, City Attorney’s Office spokesperson Matt Dorsey recently assured a group of civil rights advocates that Newsom’s comments have "no legal effect," and that Herrera intends to vigorously defend the new sanctuary law.

Representatives of 70 community groups last week showed up at the office to urge Herrera to enforce the law. "Hundreds of community members and community organizations poured our hearts into the democratic process for over a year," Cynthia Muñoz-Ramos of the St. Peter’s Housing Committee told Dorsey. " We worked hard to pass a policy to restore due process rights to undocumented youth. Our city officials must be open and accountable to us. City Attorney Herrera should advise the mayor that he cannot refuse to implement the due process policy. It’s past time to restore due process rights for all of our city’s youth. Justice delayed is justice denied."

After the meeting, Muñoz and more than a dozen community advocates told us they were frustrated by Newsom’s stance and that innocent kids were already being ripped from their families, creating deep-seated fear within the immigrant community that cooperating with local police could result in racial profiling and referral to the feds.

Angela Chan, staff attorney at the Asian Law Caucus, told us, "We agree with City Attorney Herrera’s stated intention to vigorously defend the duly-enacted, legally sound policy. It is paramount for Herrera to take immediate steps to uphold the law, including advising the mayor that he cannot refuse to implement this law."

Missed buses



Buses seemed more crowded than usual the weekend of Dec. 5-6 as the San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency implemented what it called "the most significant change in more than 30 years," which altered more than half of Muni routes and upset some frequent riders.

The changes were made to save money, although some routes were beefed up in the process. For example, the 26 Valencia was eliminated because of low ridership, but the 14 lines along nearby Mission Street were expanded with longer operating hours and more stops to compensate for discontinued routes. The 9X, 9AX, and 9BX Bayshore Express lines that go through Chinatown have been reorganized and renumbered 8X, 8AX, and 8BX.

"We have a lot of duplicate service either one or two blocks away from another service," SFMTA Executive Director Nathaniel P. Ford said about the reductions and reorganization at a Dec. 2 press conference.

The new route changes are part of a comprehensive plan to deal with dwindling resources and close a $129 million budget deficit. But it will take time for the changes to yield cost savings. "The actual service we are putting on the street — bus-by-bus, dollar-by-dollar — it’s almost a net zero gain in terms of savings," Ford said.

He said the real savings come from the changes made in the bus operator schedule. The projected annual savings from the operator schedule is calculated to be $3.2 million annually. The key element of the route changes is efficiency. "In this particular case, we have been able to enhance the system and maximize our resources overall," Ford said.

But many riders aren’t happy with the changes, and the transit agency still faces an additional $45 million deficit for this fiscal year, partly because it has yet to move forward with plans to extend parking meter hours (see "We want free parking!" Oct. 28) or pursue other revenue generators.

Upset riders

SFMTA says it deployed about 150 agency employees throughout the city as ambassadors to help riders make sense the route changes. No ambassadors were seen over the weekend when the Guardian went out to check out the changes in Chinatown and the Mission District, although notification signs in English, Spanish, and Chinese were posted.

"We do not want customers waiting for buses, for example, that are not coming," said Julie Kirschbaum, project manager of the Transit Effectiveness Project (TEP), the study on which the route changes were based. "And so we are working very hard to interact with customers."

Not hard enough for those in the Chinese-American community, according to a Nov. 19 Streetsblog San Francisco article. Community advocates report the agency didn’t thoroughly inform Chinatown and Visitacion Valley residents about renumbering the Bayshore Express.

When the Guardian asked Ford about this lack of communication, he said that his agency has tried to work closely with the Chinese-American community and other non-English speaking communities. "I think there’s an opportunity for us to continue the dialogue in terms of our communication and outreach," Ford said. He also expects to receive some "positive and not-so positive" comments in the coming weeks.

Some working-class riders are naturally upset over the discontinued routes, particularly the 26 Valencia. Apartment maintenance worker Norm Cunningham said he "wished they hadn’t" discontinued the 26, because it was less crowded than the 14 Mission, which will bear the brunt of diverted passengers. "Now I have no choice but to take the 14," Cunningham told us.

Fast-food worker Damon Johnson said he has already noticed a change in what he called "one of the more reliable" transit systems, including unnecessary delays. "It’s starting to become unreliable," Johnson said. "Now it’s just like the rest of them." Rider Christina Lowery said Muni is still reliable, but she is bummed out by the fare increases, which this year climbed to $2 a ride. Cunningham fears that eventually the price will go up even more. In fact, monthly passes have spiked to $55, and an additional $5 increase is expected next month.

Ford is aware of the financial burden on passengers and said no further increases are currently being considered to solve the budget crisis. Mayor Gavin Newsom also addressed the issue Dec. 3, telling the Guardian: "I don’t want to see an increase in Muni fares."

Ongoing problem

At the moment, Ford said, SFMTA is "100 percent focused" on the route changes, although the budget crisis is always lurking in the background. "We are working with the MTA board as it relates to potential solutions to that $129 million dollar deficit."

As to the stalled proposal to extend parking meter hours that could bring in more revenue, the discussion is ongoing, Ford said. "We have committed to do some meetings with the business communities, and we will bring all of that back to the MTA board at some juncture in terms of making some decisions to close that budget gap."

But future service cuts and additional route changes are possible as a way of dealing with the "physics of our finances," as Ford put it. "Our budget continues to be a challenge but I think this is a great first step in increasing our ridership for the system by providing better service on those corridors that seem to need more capacity, more frequency."

The silver lining for Ford is that this rollout has forced his agency to take a hard look at streamlining Muni. SFMTA officials expect to make further changes and tweaks to Muni over the next six months. For now, you can visit www.sfmta.com or call 311 to see how your commute is affected.

Pedaling forward



GREEN CITY San Francisco’s top elected and appointed officials made the city a little greener — literally — Dec. 3. And they say the recent removal of restrictions on bicycle-related improvements will make San Francisco a lot greener over the long term.

A festive mood was in the air when officials and activists gathered at the intersection of Oak and Scott streets to paint the city’s first green bike box (marking a safe spot for cyclists to wait in front of cars at intersections) and celebrate the first bike lanes to be created in more than three years.

In the week since Superior Court Judge Peter Busch partially lifted an injunction that had banned all projects mentioned in the city’s Bicycle Plan — the court ruled that they needed to be studied with a full-blown environmental impact report, which the city completed earlier this year, although it has been challenged by another lawsuit set for trial in June 2010 — city crews worked at a blistering pace on bike improvements.

They created three new bike lanes (of the 10 Busch is allowing to move forward before the trial, holding up another 50 for now) and installed barriers between the bike and car lanes on Market Street near 10th Street. "So now we have the first separated bike lane in San Francisco," San Francisco Bicycle Coalition director Leah Shahum told the Guardian, happy over a safety improvement that encourages children and seniors to ride.

The crews also have been installing about five new bike racks and 20 shared traffic lane markings (known as "sharrows") each day. Mayor Gavin Newsom praised the rapid implementation and told the crowd, "You’re going to see more than you’ve seen in years be done in the next few months. The goal is to get from 6 percent of commutes in San Francisco up to 10 percent of all commutes by bicycle — and I think that is imminently achievable in the next few years."

Also on hand were Sups. Ross Mirkarimi, Bevan Dufty, and Sophie Maxwell, Department of Public Works head Ed Reiskin, San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) board chair Tom Nolan, and SFMTA director Nat Ford, who declared the goal of making "San Francisco the preeminent city for bicycling in North America."

Mirkarimi, the only elected official to ride a bicycle to the event, told the crowd: "This is a delightful day…. We are all unified in the mission statement of making San Francisco bike-friendly."

Dufty, who chairs the Transportation Authority and pushed for the rapid implementation plan, said, "There’s a really great community here. First, my hat’s off to the Bicycle Coalition and all of their thousands of members who really keep the city honest and keep us moving forward."

Nolan also praised bike activists who pushing his agency to prioritize bike projects and prepare for the end of the injunction: "It was a very effective campaign. You did such a great job at making your case."

While anti-bike activist Rob Anderson, who sued the city along with attorney Mary Miles, regularly derides the "bike nuts" as a vocal minority pushing an unrealistic transportation option, the event showed almost universal support for bicycling at City Hall.

"I can say this is the best relationship we’ve had for years with the advocacy community, with the Bicycle Coalition," Newsom said. "We’ve begun to strike a nice balance where this is not about cars versus bikes. This is about cars and bikes and pedestrians cohabitating in a different mindset."

Bicycling in San Francisco has increased by 53 percent in the last three years, so Shahum said the plan’s projects and the growing legion of bicyclists will help the city in myriad ways in coming years.

"We know we can do this," she said. "We know the climate change goals this city has laid out, the public health goals, the livability goals that the city has laid out, will not be met without shifting more trips to bicycling, walking, and transit. And that’s why this day is so important."

Or as Maxwell said, "This is a great opportunity for San Francisco to finally take its place among world cities that recognize that cars are not the only mode of transportation."

Losing hope



In the back room of Tommy’s Joynt, more than a dozen members of the antiwar group Code Pink gathered Dec. 1 to watch television coverage of President Barack Obama’s speech announcing that 30,000 more U.S. troops would be sent to fight in Afghanistan, his second major escalation of that war this year.

“This is not the hope you voted for!” read a flyer distributed at the event.

Yet even among Code Pink’s militant members, reactions ranged from feeling disappointed and betrayed to feeling validated in never believing Obama was the agent of change that he pretended to be.

Jennifer Teguia seemed an example of former, while Cecile Pineda embodied the latter. “Right down the line, it’s been the corporate line,” Pineda told us, citing as examples Obama’s support for Wall Street bailouts and insiders and his abandonment of single-payer health reform in favor of an insurance-based system. “For serious politicos, hope is a fantasy.”

Throughout the speech, Pineda let out audible groans at Obama lines such as “We did not ask for this fight” and “A place that had known decades of fear now has reason to hope.” When the president promised a quick exit date, Pineda labeled it “the old in and out.” And when Obama made one too many references to 9/11, she blurted out, “Ha! 9/11!” and “He sounds just like Bush!”

But Teguia just looked saddened by the speech, and maybe a little weary that after nearly eight years of fruitlessly fighting Bush’s wars, the movement will now need to reignite to resist Obama’s escalation, which will put more U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan than Bush ever deployed.

“People are feeling tired and overwhelmed. We’ve been doing this year after year, and it’s endless. People are feeling dispirited,” Teguia told me just before the speech began.

She and other Obama supporters were willing to be patient and hopeful that Obama would eventually make good on his progressive campaign rhetoric. “But people are starting to feel like this window is closing,” Teguia said. “Now it’s at the tipping point.”

Obama has always tried to walk a fine line between his progressive ideals and his more pragmatic, centrist governing style. But in a conservative and often jingoistic country, Obama’s “center” isn’t where the antiwar movement thinks it ought to be.

“Obama is trying to unite the establishment instead of uniting the people against the establishment,” Teguia said.

That grim perspective was voiced by everyone in the room.

“Not only is he not clearing up the mess in Iraq, he’s escautf8g in Afghanistan,” said Rae Abileah, a Code Pink staff member who coordinates local campaigns. “I think people are outraged and frustrated and they’ve had enough.”

Perhaps, but the antiwar movement just isn’t what it was in 2003, when it shut down San Francisco on the first full day of war in Iraq. And the fact that Obama is a Democrat who opposed the Iraq War presents a real challenge for those who don’t support his Afghanistan policy and fear that it will be a disaster.

Democratic dilemma

Obama’s announcement — more then anything Bush ever said or did — is dividing the Democratic Party establishment, and the epicenter of that division is in San Francisco.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi is the Speaker of the House, second in command of the Democratic Party, essentially the person most responsible for the success or failure of a Democratic president’s agenda in Congress. She also represents a city where antiwar sentiment is among the strongest in the nation — and many of her Bay Area Democratic colleagues have already spoken out strongly against the Afghanistan troop surge.

Lynn Woolsey, the Marin Democrat who chairs the Progressive Caucus, issued a statement immediately following Obama’s speech in which she minced no words: “I remain opposed to sending more combat troops because I just don’t see that there is a military solution to the situation in Afghanistan,” she said, adding that “This is no surprise to me at all. I knew [Obama] was a moderate politician. I’ve known it all along.”

Woolsey told the Contra Costa Times that she thinks a majority of Democrats will oppose funding the troop increase — and that it will pass the House only because Republicans will vote for it.

Barbara Lee, (D-Oakland), the only member of Congress to vote against sending troops to Afghanistan eight years ago, has already introduced a bill, HR 3699, that would cut off funding for any expanded military presence there.

George Miller, (D-Martinez), has been harsh in his criticism. “We need an honest national government in Afghanistan,” Miller said in a statement. “We don’t have one. We need substantial help from our allies in the region, like Russia, China, India, and Iran. We are not getting it. We need Pakistan to be a credible ally in our efforts. It is not. We need a substantial commitment of resources and troops from NATO and our allies. While NATO is expected to add a small number of new troops, other troops have announced they are leaving. We need a large Afghan police force and army that is trained and ready to defend their country. We don’t have it.”

So where’s Pelosi? Hard to tell. At this point, she’s refused to say whether she supports the president’s plan. We called her office and were referred to her only formal statement on the issue, which says: “Tonight, the president articulated a way out of this war with the mission of defeating Al Qaeda and preventing terrorists from using Afghanistan and Pakistan as safe havens to again launch attacks against the United States and our allies. The president has offered President Karzai a chance to prove that he is a reliable partner. The American people and the Congress will now have an opportunity to fully examine this strategy.”

That sounds a lot like the position of someone who is prepared to support Obama. And that might not play well in her hometown.

The San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee has been vocal about criticizing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and on July 22, 2009, the committee passed a resolution demanding an Afghanistan exit strategy. There’s a good chance someone on the committee will submit a resolution urging Pelosi to join Woolsey, Lee, and Miller in opposition to the Obama surge. “I’ve been thinking about it,” committee member Michael Goldstein, who authored the July resolution, told us.

That sort of thing tends to infuriate Pelosi, who doesn’t like getting pushed from the left. And since there are already the beginnings of an organized effort by centrist Democrats and downtown forces to run a slate that would challenge progressive control of the local Democratic Party, offending Pelosi (and encouraging her to put money into the downtown slate) would be risky.

Still, Goldstein said, “she’ll probably do that anyway.”

And it would leave the more moderate Democrats on the Central Committee — who typically support Pelosi — in a bind. Will they vote against a measure calling for a withdrawal from Afghanistan? Could that be an issue in the DCCC campaign in June 2010 — and potentially, in the supervisors’ races in the fall?

In at least one key supervisorial district — eight — the role of the DCCC and the record of its members will be relevant, since three of the leading candidates in that district — Rafael Mandleman, Scott Wiener, and Laura Spanjian — are all committee members.

Tom Gallagher, president of the Bernal Heights Democratic Club and author of past antiwar resolutions at the DCCC, acknowledged what an uphill battle antiwar Democrats face.

“The antiwar movement today is a bunch of beleaguered people, half of whom have very bad judgment,” he said. “I’m afraid a lot of people have just given up.”

On the streets

The day after Obama’s speech, Code Pink, the ANSWER Coalition, and four other antiwar groups sponsored a San Francisco rally opposing the Afghanistan decision — the first indication of whether Bay Area residents were motivated to march against Obama.

ANSWER’s regional director Richard Becker told us the day before, “I think we’re going to get a big turnout. The tension has really been building. We may see a revival.”

But on the streets, there wasn’t much sign of an antiwar revival, at least not yet. Only about 100 people were gathered at the intersection of Market and Powell streets when the rally begun, and that built up to maybe a few hundred by the time they marched.

“I’m wondering about the despair people are feeling,” Barry Hermanson, who has run for Congress and other offices as a member of the Green Party, told us at the event. He considered Obama’s decision “a betrayal,” adding that “it’s not going to stop me from working for peace. There is no other alternative.”

As Becker led the crowd in a half-hearted chant, “Occupation is a crime, Afghanistan to Palestine,” Frank Scafani carried a sign that read, “Democrats and Republicans. Same shit, different assholes.”

He called Obama a “smooth-talking flim-flam man” not worthy of progressive hopes, but acknowledged that it will be difficult to get people back into the streets, even though polls show most Americans oppose the Afghanistan escalation.

“I just think people are burned out after nine years of this. Nobody in Washington listens,” Scafani said. “Why walk around in circles on a Saturday or Sunday? It doesn’t do anything.”

Yet he and others were still out there.

“I think people are a little apathetic now. Their focus in on the economy,” said Frank Briones, an unemployed former property manager. He voted for Obama and still supports him in many areas, “but this war is a bad idea,” he said.

Yet he said people are demoralized after opposing the preventable war in Iraq and having their bleak predictions about its prospects proven true. “Our frustration was that government ignored us,” he said. “And they’ll probably do the same thing now.”

But antiwar activists say they just need to keep fighting and hope the movement comes alive again.

“We don’t really know what it is ahead of time that motivates large numbers of people to change their lives and become politically active,” Becker told us after the march, citing as examples the massive mobilizations against the Iraq War in 2003, in favor of immigrants rights in 2006, and against Prop. 8 in 2008. “So we’re not discouraged. We don’t have control over all the factors here, and neither do those in power.”

Antiwar groups will be holding an organizing meeting Dec. 9 at 7 p.m. at Centro del Pueblo, 474 Valencia, SF. Among the topics is planning a large rally for March 20, the anniversary of the Iraq War. All are welcome.

Crosses and losses



VISUAL ART "Amish Abstractions," the de Young Museum’s exhibition of 48 quilts made primarily by anonymous Amish girls and women, gains its conceptual interest from the unusual pairing of the words Amish and abstraction.

The collectors of these quilts were initially drawn to them by their similarity to works by 20th century abstract artists. While the attendant monograph asserts this juxtaposition several times, within the show itself you only get a disclaimer by curator Robert Shaw. "Many have compared the abstract geometry of Amish quilts to the works of acclaimed modernist painters such as Paul Klee, Piet Mondrian, Josef Albers, Ellsworth Kelly, Clyfford Still, Mark Rothko, and Victor Vasarely," he writes. "Any such comparisons are problematic, however, because they are built on visual coincidence, not on any documented historical connection or known influence in either direction."

The collectors behind "Amish Abstraction," Faith and Stephen Brown, add Frank Stella and Sol LeWitt to such a list. Still, with the exception of Albers, and to a lesser degree Stella and Vasarely, the visual coincidence feels forced. As Shaw points out, it’s a big leap from the ideals of Abstract Expressionism to the ideals of Amish culture: submission to a masculine God, submission to husband and father, humility, community. We are told by the exhibition notes that the quilts are "individual and expressive" and "contradict our preconceptions of Amish society," but there is little exploration of how, why, or where this might be the case within in a culture that restricts both self-expression and self-representation.

Having actually slept under frumpier and more polyester Amish quilts — ones my Amish grandmother and cousins made — I came to this show with low expectations. The quilts, however, are stunning. The concentration of geometric patterns, optical illusions, and bright colors create an energy in the room that feels anything but Amish. The quilts suggest extravagance, hedonism, and the revolt of the body against whatever abstract principle might be crushing it.

It certainly seems that these Amish women might have intuited aspects of Albers’ color theory. Their optical illusions are considerably more restrained than Vasarely’s, and the palette considerably more subdued than Stella’s. Few rainbows here; the Amish women favored black backgrounds and less busy juxtapositions that allow a sense of calm to pervade the constant movement suggsted by the patterns. Yet even the names of some of the patterns are hallucinogenic: Crazy Quilt, Jacob’s Ladder, Crosses and Losses, Old Maid’s Puzzle, Stairway to Heaven, Broken Star, Crazy Star, Sunshine and Shadow.

The radiance and abstraction of the quilts in "Amish Abstractions" suggest transcendence, deep spiritual harmonies, and the pleasures to be found in egolessness. In our own culture, with its pathological celebration of self and merging of personality and advertising, the idea of dispensing with the ego altogether might seem healthy. As Shaw says, "[The quilters] proceed from the place modern artists sought to find, and they reflect the stoic quietude of the Amish — their rich interior world of spiritual calm, shared values, and mutually beneficial self-denial."

The curators do an excellent job of elucidating, in very specific ways, the relationships between Amish and non-Amish communities, and the relationships between quilting patterns and specific local Amish traditions. They discuss the evolution of these specific traditions, but by restricting the quilts on display to the period from 1880 to 1940, they have trapped the Amish in the past, before the widespread use of synthetic fabrics or the "discovery" of Amish quilts by the art market.

Suggesting that historical specificity doesn’t apply to the timeless Amish, the large blow-up photographs throughout the exhibit of Amish children playing and Amish men building barns freeze the Amish in a different past. The photographs date from the 1980s, before the disappearance of affordable farmland sent young Amish men into factories, and before the Amish brand was tainted by meth-fueled megaparties of Amish kids on rumspringa and reality TV shows about corrupting "the innocent."

Since the 1930s, the major function of the Amish, for Americans in general, has been to represent an innocence the rest of us have supposedly lost. America, like the Amish, is imagined to have once been peaceful, rural, white, and untroubled by introspection. But surrounded by the bold colors and intricate stitching of "Amish Abstractions," it is easy to imagine that the Amish women who created them were secret sensualists or feminist mystics. If I didn’t know better, I’d guess they were created by revolutionary cells, possibly lesbians, who drank mushroom tea and let their hair out of their bonnets while their men were out working the fields.

But I do know better. My Amish grandmother was a young woman in Ohio during the 1930s, and so it is possible, although not likely, that she had a hand in one or two of the quilts on display. She left behind a written record of her life, condensed from diaries, a litany marked by births, weddings, and deaths, barns struck by lightning ("There was nothing to do but let it burn …"), accidents and near-accidents, bedbugs and prayer, dead children and epidemics of diptheria, influenza, whooping cough, measles, and delirium. This record is more than 100 pages long, and at times incredibly detailed about trips taken, people visited, and beets canned. Yet three years pass in a single paragraph which begins, "In the summer of 1945 I had a nervous breakdown." My father remembered little about his mother’s "nervous breakdown," but he thought she had probably been given some tranquilizers.

For the Amish, what a person might feel or want is never removed from what the community demands, from the work to be done, and from theological doctrine. Whether this constitutes spiritual calm and mutually beneficial self-denial or deeply oppressive self-abnegation is another question.


Through June 6, 2010

de Young Museum

50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive

Golden Gate Park, SF

(415) 750-3600


Sprinting toward Babylon


VISUAL ART I remember the first time I heard about Conrad Ruiz. I was standing by the fire on the patio of the Eagle, a spot that for me is a site of great tidings. A pair of talented San Francisco artists told me with enthusiasm about this young painter whose large-scale works depicted things like a man riding the nose of a killer whale as it burst forth from a pool, or a coach getting a golden shower of Gatorade from his triumphant team. According to their accounts, Ruiz magnified and entwined the absurdity and ecstasy of his subject matter. I had some cathartic laughs just imagining his paintings.

Detail from Overload. Challenger explosion not pictured.

When I first “saw” Ruiz’s art, online, it exceeded my expectations. In particular, I was blown away by Overload [2009], which among other things deserves consideration as the best piece of “Barack Obama art” to date. Panoramic and vibrant even when shrunk 25 times in size, Ruiz’s watercolor works on paper and canvas once again incited a convulsive reaction. I laughed my ass off upon seeing works such as New Fall Lineup [2009] for the first time. But the longer I looked, the more caught up in wonder I became about their myriad tiny details and teeming — at times disturbing subtextual currents.

What goes on in Ruiz’s imagination? On the eve of his first solo show, at San Francisco’s Silverman Gallery, I caught up with him as he navigated the social conflagration of Art Basel Miami, the megafair where at least one magazine tipped him as the leader of a “new generation of art stars.” Whatever one makes of that claim, Ruiz — who is also plotting some collective artistic efforts with friends — is the splashiest crest of an exciting new wave of young California painters.

SFBG How are you doing?
Conrad Ruiz I’m alright. I’m just sitting on South Beach. I wanted to find a place to gather my thoughts, and I’m watching this guy tan himself. I can’t believe he’s doing that. He’s got these great stomach muscles. [Curator and Berkeley Art Museum director] Larry Rinder and I were talking about doing sit-ups before we came here, but we both just got busy — we never did it.

Miami’s fun. I kind of wish I could take my shirt off everywhere, but I feel a little bit squishy.

SFBG It seems like your art would look good in Miami.
CR The colors are finding a home here. There are a lot of bright red and yellow bikinis around. This couple nearby are either arguing or also tanning themselves. They just sit and look at the sun, kinda like lizards.

SFBG What do you think of the Tiger Woods news frenzy right now? I wondered about your take on him. In a way, I thought he might not fit along with some of the athletic figures you depict, because golf isn’t so much about dynamism.
CR But you always hear comedians say, “Just leave it to a black American to dominate another sport.” Chris Rock essentially says, “Wait till we get on ice skates, man, we’re going to take over hockey.”

Tiger Woods has been developed into this brand, aligned with Nike. It’s a very intelligent campaign. It’s not Obama, but he’s been this person who can do no wrong. That’s the personality that has developed through whoever is handling his marketing. It’s more than his being an excellent golfer, he’s also been displayed as this great human. We don’t know that much about him, and then something like [the car accident and ensuing scandal] happens. It’s all we get, and it’s kind of sketchy, and it happened to fall on this awesome Thanksgiving weekend. I thought, “All must be right in the world if the only thing we have to talk about is Tiger Woods getting hit with a golf club by his wife.” If that’s what actually happened.

SFBG People are already Photoshopping and digitally animating visions of that.
CR That’s my job — to look up all that stuff.


SFBG Does 1970s cinema have any place in your mind’s eye? The Jaws [1975] shark in your painting Rough Riders [2008] and the disaster film or Towering Inferno-like [1974] quality of works like New Fall Lineup made me wonder. I could see that I might be wrong about the latter, since a flaming, exploding skyscraper has other obvious connotations.
CR My work really started with that time period and in painting advertising from that era. The colors were a lot more primary. When I was painting those advertisements, the work was more sarcastic. That beginning body of work was about developing this snarky character that evolved into what I’m making now.

It is about going back and catching some of the ridiculousness of what was so popular at one time. When you watch a disaster film now, you know the history of those celebrities. It’s hard for me to relate to that period of time, but it’s easy for me to relate to early 1990s movies like the Naked Gun franchise — O.J. Simpson was in those — and the Terminator flicks. Those are ridiculous and fun. I like them, and of course [lowers voice], that’s my Governor.

Everyone says “I hate that guy,” but even though I think [Schwarzenegger]’s doing a terrible job, I don’t want my politicians to be these people I don’t know — I’d rather have them be these celebrities I hate. If I’m going to hate who’s in office, I’d rather have it be Sylvester Stallone or somebody.

SFBG When you make work that has a contemporary element, there’s always a danger of it becoming instantly dated. But I think some of your work is both timely and ahead of its time. Overload, for example, just becomes more and more evocative.

The NASA element of the piece, with the Challenger exploding, is taking on new facets as Obama is increasingly identified with the military and space program. I saw a show at Altman Siegel Gallery by Matt Keegan earlier this year that utilized a New York Times front page photo of Obama boarding Air Force One for the first time. That’s a more direct example of what I’m talking about. Six months ago, that image had a different connotation.
CR I was really hoping Obama would get elected, because I started Overload before the election.

SFBG I have to ask about the Challenger’s presence in Overload. I was talking with the artist Colter Jacobsen recently about the fact that I’d like to put together a show of Challenger-related art. Within the art world, there are at least a dozen or so people who have incorporated the Challenger one way or another into work. That’s not even counting how it has manifested as band and album names and jokes in popular culture.
CR For me, it would be great to ask the artist about the original idea behind making a Challenger painting. Everyone has a different a point of view about what’s going on. I always feel like I’m casting with my paintings. There are these scenarios that have never happened, and since I get to decide what’s happening, I also decide who is the star —whether it’s someone from a B movie, an unsung celebrity, a friend who I’m giving a big break, or someone from a blockbuster, like Eddie Murphy and David Alan Grier.


Overload is a blockbuster sort of painting. I cast that [Challenger] explosion because I thought it was a very unique, amazing explosion. Once I began painting it, people began talking about its relevance, because it says something different when Obama is flying towards it, possibly causing it or stopping it.

To be very honest, I didn’t initially know it was the Challenger exploding. My Mom told me. She’s a teacher, so to her it was a terrible thing, and she asked me to really consider what I was doing. I told her, “That’s perfect.” Because to me the painting is about Obama coming to the rescue and shitting these energy projections — either he’s going to stop the war, or he causing some trouble of his own.

A few paintings later [in New Fall Lineup] I painted the Twin Towers exploding for a similar reason. I was casting this unique explosion and trying to create a different scenario with it.

SFBG I don’t often self-identify in generational terms, but when I was talking about the Challenger explosion with Colter [Jacobsen], he was saying that he had referred to it while teaching a class, and that it wasn’t even a memory for many students. Whereas for he and I, there was the teacher element, and also the fact that everyone was watching the Challenger at school that day. So as a disastrous event, it was similar to 9/11 in that the day just stopped.
CR The Challenger explosion has a lot to do with failed promise, doesn’t it? There was tremendous hope about what was about to happen, and it all fell apart in one second.

There’s an element of comedy that I’ve kind of borrowed from Richard Pryor. As I watch his stuff, it’s more like performance art. What he talked about wasn’t funny at all, it was actually horrible. He was an interesting character in that he talked about things that were definitely not right, but did so in a way that everyone would be laughing. Comedy is a way of passing serious information without being worried about the consequences. That makes it kind of a new territory. Dave Chappelle was able to say some unique and terrible things in this fun format.

SFBG It’s interesting that you bring up Chappelle, because after he hit his sort of Challenger moment on the pop culture stage and went away, Block Party [a.k.a. Dave Chappelle’s Block Party, 2006] came out.
CR That’s a beautiful movie.

SFBG It was released during the final stretch of all the jockeying for Academy Awards in Hollywood. All these talking heads were going on about which movies were important, and I remember thinking that Block Party was more important or vital and connected to the world than any of them.
CR/strong> His stuff is always about pointing out differences, and bringing together ideas of social class hierarchy. In a roundabout way, that’s what he did [in em>Block Party]. He brought together a lot of high-end artists and gave a free show. It was about giving to the people or the neighborhood. The idea of a barbecue, a barbecue block party, also has an ethnic connotation to it.

SFBG There is a lot of athletic imagery in your art, and I don’t want to reduce it to masculinity or sexuality, but I do want to ask about being drawn to those kinds of visuals, or wanting to render them.

Veronica De Jesus does some sports-oriented work that’s quite different from yours, but also has a terrific sense of humor. Sports are quite iconic — moments like an Olympic runner tumbling or Zidane’s headbutt become part of the collective consciousness. But beyond that, there’s an ecstatic, colorful, lively quality to your sports imagery.
CR Sports have always been a part of my life. My mom and dad were very athletic at one time, and they encouraged my brother and me to take part in sports. The alternative was for us to be on our own, and they knew we had a lot of Latino friends, so of course I was just going to get into trouble. So I was enrolled in soccer and taekwando. I was a sprinter in high school, and I was on the football team.

[The paintings] are a culmination of all the things you’re talking about. The outfits these athletes wear are designed to be eye-catching, with these primary colors. The Denver Broncos have that awesome dark blue with orange …

SFBG I love that combo. I just put together a sports cinema program with a film curator at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, and when I’d introduce a movie from the 1970s, I’d always mention the athletic fashions.
CR Everything is designed to be the most freaking amazing thing possible, because these people are performing acts that no one else can do — they’re leaping through the air catching a ball thrown from very far away while wearing purple and yellow. The performance and exertion is incredible, and at the same time, what can make it even greater is being in a stadium where everyone is screaming their lungs out at the same time. Whether it’s an epic win or colossal failure, it’s still that climax. The climax doesn’t mean that it’s good — it’s a peak of performance.

When I’d meet with advisors at CCA [California College of the Arts], we’d really break it down, and they could easily talk me out of making my work. When you get down to it, what I’m doing is a little ineffective, and what would be more effective, to really get my idea across, would be to just play soccer with a group. I’d be performing, I’d be creating these intimate male relationships. I could actually be slapping some guy’s butt instead of painting around it. Joining a soccer team would be more efficient.

SFBG Maybe you and Luke [Butler, a fellow Silverman Gallery artist whose work engages with masculinity] should join a soccer team.
CR [Laughs] Yeah.

SFBG There is some commonality between your work, and also some major differences.
CR I think it’s because I’m the boy and Luke is the dashing man. I’m looking to be a man and trying to figure out what a man is, while Luke is a dashing man looking sideways.

Fri/11 through Jan. 30, 2010
Silverman Gallery
804 Sutter, SF
(415) 255-9508

Monster mash note



SONIC REDUCER "I’m from the underground. And I’m making pop music and I’m not a bit ashamed about it."

So sayeth Lady Gaga on the cellie last year on the way to a radio show at a Raging Waters in San Demos where she was dying to get wet. Alas, she forgot her Jellies at home and didn’t want to get her towering D Square pumps splashed ("I’ll find a private part of the park and just go in my birthday suit"). Yet I’m sure Christian Siriano could relate to this pop fashionista dilemma — regardless of whether he’d sniff at her taste-defying getups or not. After all Lady Gaga is the pantless, prep-school-bred amalgam of Carole King and Madonna reimagined as a hot tranny mess, a Gossip Girl turned Fame Monster.

OK, Gaga is no tranny, strictly speaking, though at the time she told me she was thrilled about appearing at SF’s Pride Fest ("I grew up in the dance and theater community — I’ve been surrounded by gay men and women and transgendered my whole life!"). Still, this bio queen’s obviously snatched more than a scrap of inspiration from clubland’s OTT drama kids, and she’s rough enough around the edges to make any sex bomb efforts an exercise in wise-ass deconstruction. From the gag of her "Radio Ga Ga" handle to her go-there way with the attraction-repulsion factor, Gaga is enough of a fabulous freak to embrace a gag-able frisson — I’ll be looking for that vomiting video vixen on the megascreen at her upcoming show at the newly reopened Bill Graham Dec. 14.

There’s more than a smudge of Her Dancefloor Madge-sty in the diva’s diamond-hard pop persona, wardrobe switch-ups, and workaholic drive. Lady Gaga impressed me at the time with a disarming sincerity and brusque sweetness: she was eager to be understood by serious music fans who might dismiss her as a throwaway popster. "The level of commitment and dedication it takes to put on a perfect pop show is very difficult," she exclaimed. "And I think some of the underground snobbery is fear and not understanding that discipline.

"Listen, I come from a party background and I used to party like crazy! That was a lot of my source of creativity," she continued. "But my life has changed a lot now, and I can’t do that shit. I got to go to bed, and I gotta wake up, I gotta work out, I gotta go to rehearsal. I got to pound, pound, pound, work, work, work hard so that every time I hit the stage it’s flawless. And if it isn’t flawless, I gotta work myself up to where it is — otherwise I’m just another pop chick with blonde hair."

But unlike Madonna, Gaga, like King, initially came from the flip side of the pop factory: as a songwriter, ghosting, she said, for Britney Spears and Pussycat Dolls. "I started to write pop songs mostly because I’m a classically trained pianist," she explained. "Beethoven and Bach and the structure of those classical pieces are really just rudimentary pop chord progressions. So it was something I understood." A vocal coach pointed out to her how easy it was to play a Mariah Carey tune by ear — "’It’s because you’ve been playing Bach inventions since you’ve been four, and it’s the same kind of idea’<0x2009>" — and she says, "That’s how I found out I had a knack for it, and I’ve been writing, writing, writing, since I was 13 years old."

Those skills came in handy when she started playing piano to beats in her undies at clubs in New York City’s Lower East Side, and had to come back to, for instance, a heckler who yelled, "Why don’t you play something serious?" Her response should be familiar to fans of "Beautiful, Dirty Rich"’s and "Poker Face"’s provocation: "I put my leg up onto the piano with my crotch pretty wide open to the audience, and then I did a very old school George Gershwin ragtime improv on the piano — pretty complicated. The whole idea was ‘Fuck you, I’m going to be sexy, sing about sex in my underwear, and then I’m going to do this really, really difficult piano virtuoso moment and show you it really doesn’t matter.’ People associate glamour and being female and being nude and being provocative with stupidity — there’s a great deal of intelligence and conceptualizing behind my work."


Sun/13–Mon/14, 7:30 p.m., $48

Bill Graham Civic Auditorium

99 Grove, SF





Coda is just the sort of stylish urban vault where you’d expect to find votive candles flickering on every table, but you don’t. It’s the visual equivalent of a promising dish that’s lacking a final dash of some seasoning. The space has the look of a sound stage — exposed-brick walls, concrete floors, a large dining area uncluttered by pillars — and while there is something exciting about the vastness, vast spaces also fill up easily with darkness. And while darkness can be exciting and even beautiful, it’s more beautiful when punctuated and shaped by light.

The Coda space was home most recently to Levende Lounge — which looked pretty much the same — and before that, Butterfly, whose layout was different and whose tables were each finished with a candle, so that, on entering, you gazed upon a flickering sea of candlelight. Candlelight is wonderfully softening, like a dab of foamed milk atop a demitasse of strong, dark espresso. Shafts of red halogen light, such as shine on one of Coda’s brick walls, are arresting but don’t cast the same limbic spell.

Onward. The space is comfortable enough without candles. The tables, in particular, are nicely spaced, with plenty of breathing room between them. This gives an appealing sense of insulation from other tables and the conversations going on at them (nota bene, eavesdroppers). The overall noise level is also surprisingly moderate, at least when live music isn’t being played. But Coda, in addition to being a good restaurant, is also a live-music venue, with performances every night of the week, beginning at 9 p.m. weekday evenings, 10 p.m. Saturdays, and 8 p.m. Sundays. If it’s just food you seek, plan accordingly.

Simple seekers after food won’t be disappointed. Coda’s menu has been put together by Chris Pastena, who is one of the local masters of Cal-Ital cooking and had a hand in the revival of Bruno’s a few years back. Pastena’s Coda menu divides its offerings according to their nature rather than along the formal lines of a dinner service, so instead of first, main, and side courses, you have soups and salads, starches and grains, vegetables, and flesh. This sort of arrangement is conducive to nibbling; it also helps gently remind us that we should mind our starch intake.

Having said that, I must say that one of the best items on the menu, pastena in brodo ($6.25), smuggles starch to the table under cover of soup. Pastena, in addition to being the chef’s surname, is a small, star-shaped pasta, and it is usually spelled "pastina" — but that would wreck the joke. The pasta is a bit player, anyway, since the real star is the golden brodo, chicken broth stoutly fortified with truffle oil and grated parmesan cheese. The broth could have stood alone, like a brilliant (or consummate) consommé.

As a loather of brussels sprouts in childhood, I am perhaps perversely drawn to them now. They are a real test of vegetable cookery: can the bitterness be drawn away and the texture softened without losing the essential character of the vegetable? Coda’s kitchen makes a lovely salad out of the little cabbages; they are coarsely shredded, dressed with a vinaigrette of sherry and toasted garlic, tossed with bacon and goat cheese, and topped with a poached egg. I didn’t like the egg, which introduced a gooiness I found unsettling, but the rest was fabulous. You could easily re-spin these flavors into a fine pizza.

Another potentially difficult member of the cruciferous family, cavolo nero, or black kale ($4) is simply braised here (in what? we couldn’t tell, but maybe just olive oil) to a tender crispness that reminded me of the flash-fried arugula leaves I had years ago at Abiquiu near Union Square. The bane of kale cookery is toughness, so if your kale turns out tender — as here — you have succeeded.The lone small dish we found underpowered was a bowl of Israeli couscous ($4.25) tossed with what appeared to be mainly a dice of carrots and zucchini. It lacked a unifying flavor or theme and would probably work best as a side dish — to one of the formidable plates of flesh, say.

Among the most interesting of these was the coffee-crusted pork loin ($16): four slices of medium-rare meat bathing in a shallow pool of (Jameson) whiskey-cream sauce. The coffee rub and cream sauce combined to produce a latte effect — beguiling in its own right and also a welcome change from the usual cliched accompaniments of apples, cherries, and so forth. Less impressive, though still quite good, was a grilled ribeye steak ($24.50), nestled on a mat of watercress. The meat had a good smoky flavor and was nicely rare, but it was a little fattier than ideal.

Of an ideal fattiness was the honey-lavender panna cotta, like a tasty, creamy cloud that had been captured in a martini glass. At $5.50, it has to be the best buy on the dessert menu. And a deal is always music to some ears.


Dinner: Tues.–Sun., 5:30–-10 p.m.

1710 Mission, SF

(415) 551-CODA (2632)


Full bar



Wheelchair accessible

Our weekly picks




Keith Hennessy: Saliva: The Making of and Saliva

Saliva is probably Keith Hennessy’s best known and least seen work of the last 20 years. When it premiered on a cold December night in 1988 under a San Francisco freeway overpass — and when it was performed again in March 1989 — it had not been advertised, word got around in the underground arts community. Saliva was a ritualistic solo in which Hennessy forcefully, poetically, and hopefully spoke for his own manhood and for a community caught in the anguish of AIDS. To use spit — an "uncouth" bodily fluid — as healing balm was a revolutionary act in both humanistic and theatrical terms. It may be difficult in 2009 to recreate the sense of pain, helplessness, and fury that generated the work. But isn’t that what memorials are for? Lest we forget, these events are the opening act of a celebration of Hennessy’s work and contribution to the Bay Area that continues in January. (Rita Felciano)

Saliva: The Making of discussion and screening: 7:30 p.m., free


1310 Mission, SF

Saliva performance: Sun/13, 8 p.m.; $15–$25 (no one turned away)

check www.circozero.org for location, SF





Don’t expect fairy folk and mythical critters to prance through the new Espers album, III (Drag City) — regardless of song titles like "Trollslända." That’s Swedish for dragonfly, band member Meg Baird assures me. Despite appearances and a name that evokes paranormal-minded cultists, it’s clear the group of mostly Philadelphians is more earthy and no-nonsense, as Baird reels off the various scratch song names and ideas Espers toyed with as they were making III — a witchy, intoxicating blend of psychedelia, prog, and English folk revival. For Baird’s interview, see this week’s Noise blog. (Kimberly Chun)

With Wooden Shjips and Colossal Yes

8 p.m., $13–$15

The Independent

628 Divisadero, SF

(415) 771-1421



Historic Libations

San Franciscans have long enjoyed a romance with alcohol — from the debauchery of the Barbary Coast era to the modern renaissance of the artisan cocktail, the City by the Bay knows how to knock ’em back. You can celebrate this high-proof history at Historic Libations, a party inspired by Cocktail Boothby‘s American Bartender (Anchor Distilling, 152 pages, $14.95), an expanded reprint of a classic 1891 book by one of the city’s earliest and most influential mixologists. Revelers can sample a variety of uniquely San Francisco cocktails, including the pisco sour and the Martinez. At the end of the festivities, they’ll be given their own copy of the book to take home and consult to perfect historic and potent concoctions. (Sean McCourt)

6 p.m., $40–$50

California Historical Society

678 Mission, SF.

(415) 357-1848, ext. 229



SF Mime Troupe 50th Anniversary Exhibition Birthday Bash

Even if 50 is the new 40, it’s rare for many 50-year-olds to be as robust as the SF Mime Troupe. Challenging entrenched racism, endemic poverty, and politics-as-usual regionally and nationally since 1959, the Mime Troupe has earned theatre’s greatest awards — three Obies, a Tony, and an obscenity trial. Celebrate a half-century of provocative street performance — and toast the next 50 with one of San Francisco’s most venerable, anti-institutional institutions— at this birthday party, which includes a special staging of its 1981 Christmas Carol remix Ghosts, an ode to those displaced by the building of the nearby Moscone Center. Stop back on Saturday for a four-hour interactive workshop with Mime Troupe collective members Ed Holmes and Keiko Shimosanto in which participants will be called upon to create their own "anticonsumption" pageant and parade it through downtown SF. (Nicole Gluckstern)

Performance: 7:30 p.m., free

Workshop: Sat/12, 12:30 p.m., $15

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

701 Mission, SF

(415) 978-2787





Artists’ Television Access 25th Anniversary

The year 1984 contained delights and horrors, some more Orwellian than others: Ronald Reagan, Apple computers, Cabbage Patch Kids, Mary Lou Retton, Gremlins, Dynasty, New York’s "subway vigilante," American punk rock, etc. Amid that churning, neon-wearing, Cold War-tensed milieu, Artists’ Television Access was formed, and the activism-through-art hub has been keeping tabs on news and culture ever since. Toast 25 years of independent, radical, community-oriented programming at ATA’s Valencia Street gallery, the site of both a decades-spanning screening of works by staff and associates (Lise Swenson, Craig Baldwin, Rigo 23, Konrad Steiner) and a day-long musical get-down (with Ash Reiter, Eats Tapes, a raffle, and much more). (Cheryl Eddy)

"ATA 25: Quarter Century of Alternative Work": 7:30 p.m., free

"Underground — Experimental — Unstoppable": Sun/13, 11 a.m.–10 p.m., $10

Artists’ Television Access

992 Valencia, SF

(415) 824-3890




Hell yeah, y’all: New Orleans’ legendary Eyehategod is coming to town, seeping into your eardrums on a slow-moving sludge tide of doom, noise, reefer smoke, and fuck-the-system politics. Singer Mike Williams famously overcame his heroin addiction during a post-Katrina jail stint, and the band — semi-dispersed since the early aughts, with most members engaged in other projects (Down, Mystick Krewe of Clearlight, Soilent Green, etc.) — is at last back on the road. Everyone who’s been fiending since 1993’s Take as Needed for Pain (Century Media) can finally feast on what Decibel magazine called "a series of buzzing, lurching dirges steeped in feedback and contempt." (Eddy)

With Stormcrow, Brainoil, Acephalix

8 p.m., $20

DNA Lounge

375 11th St, SF

(415) 626-1409



Mark Morris Dance Company: The Hard Nut

If you have never seen The Hard Nut, Mark Morris’ extraordinarily musical and equally touching and hilarious version of the holiday classic, go now. The times are a-changing in Berkeley as well, and it may be quite some time until this glittering jewel comes back. The company is not scheduled to perform it here again in the near future. Morris set the piece in a cartoon version of the ’60s, removed some of the sugar but not much of the sweetness, kept the family spirit (though somewhat reinterpreted) alive, and heard things in the music as only he can. You will never see a dance of the Snowflakes — brilliant — like that and the grand pas de deux becomes a glorious grand pas de tutti. The score — Morris used every single note — will be performed live by the Berkeley Symphony conducted by Robert Cole. (Rita Felciano)

7 p.m., (through Dec. 20), $36–$62

Zellerbach Hall

UC Berkeley Campus, Berk.

(510) 642-9988




Tetris Tournament

Hey Tetris Master, here’s your chance to finally go out on Saturday night, do something semi-social at an art gallery, and win a prize — all while playing your favorite game of Tuck-Every-Tile-Rack-In-Snugly. But don’t get carried away: although you’ll have a chance to impress everyone with your phenomenal organizational skills, you won’t be taking anyone home. One other thing: you’re not going to have those cute little Tetris ditties to keep you in rhythm. Instead, there will be live bands (Microfiche, White Cloud, and Middle D). They might remind of those well-worn synth loops, but they’re more dynamic, more human. This is the night you’ve been waiting for; don’t let that sheep baaaaaah. (Spencer Young)

8 p.m., $5–$15 (free with membership)

The Lab

2948 16th St., SF

(415) 864 8855



San Francisco Silent Film Festival Winter Event

Perfectly timed as an antidote for all the year-end noise at first-run theaters, the SF Silent Film Festival Winter Event dips into cinema history, unspooling films made long before Peter Jackson got his mitts on CG technology or Guy Ritchie decided Sherlock Holmes should learn kung fu. The four selections include a 1927 Thailand-shot adventure from the future minds behind the original King Kong (1933), Chang: A Drama of the Wilderness; a U.S. premiere (90 years after the fact!) in Abel Gance’s 1919 World War I epic J’accuse; the Tod Browning-Lon Chaney collabo West of Zanzibar (1928); and a pair for Buster Keaton fans: the 1921 short The Goat, and delightful 1924 featurette Sherlock Jr. (Eddy)

11:30 a.m., $14–$17 per film (all-day pass, $52)

Castro Theatre

429 Castro, SF

1 (800) 838-3006



Bazaar Bizarre

Handmade letterpress stationery, Scottish shortbread, dolls dressed up in home-knitted pinafores, wind chimes made from rusted dining utensils — love those old fairs and festivals. This local incarnation of the nationwide Bazaar Bizarre includes a one-woman metal studio, ceramic wares, boutique cupcakes, children’s clothes, hand-bound books, silk-screened apparel — and birds as finger jewelry. There will also be music by Slide and Spin Studios, crafty workshops, and giveaways. Get ready to overdose on cuteness and creativity. (Jana Hsu)

Noon–-6 p.m. (also Sun/13, noon–6 p.m.), $2 (children free)

San Francisco County Fair Building

Golden Gate Park

Ninth Ave and Lincoln, SF

(415) 831-5500




Jenny Scheinman

As any music aficionado knows, describing an act that avoids prescribed categories can result in verbal apoplexy of a most unfortunate kind. How then to best convey the many talents of one Humboldt County-born Jenny Scheinman, whose collaborative projects and studio sessions have ranged over the years from avant-garde jazz to moody blues, and whose formidably-wielded violin is the perfect foil for her straight-shooting, honky-tonk-inflected voice? From John Zorn’s Tzadik label to Lucinda Williams’ recording sessions, Sheinman’s been making a widening splash since leaving the Bay Area in 1999. Skillfully combining a wiser-than-her-years strain of down-home melancholia with sturdy yet evocative multilayered orchestral composition, her appeal lies not in a narrowness of focus, but an expansive, expressive musical palette. She’s showcasing her range in three separate sets — an instrumental duet with pianist Myra Melford, a vocal set with guitarist Robby Giersoe, and a final act with singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn. (Nicole Gluckstern)

8 p.m., $18.50–$19.50

Freight and Salvage

2020 Addison, Berkeley

(510) 644-2020





Kid Cudi

More Urban Outfitters than the rooftops of Brooklyn, Kid Cudi has successfully capitalized off of Kanye West’s hipster niche. For the MTV crowd in search of someone less embarrassing than West, Kid Cudi is their go-to neon hoodie. He makes intergalactic pop-hop mixed with lazy lyrics like "The lonely stoner needs to free his mind at night" and "I’ve got some issues that nobody can see<0x2009>/And all of these emotions are pouring out of me." A poet he ain’t. It’s more spectacle than speculation. The songs "Heart of Lion" and "Up Up & Away" are infectious with youthful ambition, and we’re reminded this is a kid from Cleveland who now wears his Air Yeezys on the streets of Brooklyn. Is this the future of hip-hop? I don’t know. I just came here to get high and dance in my skinny jeans. (Lorian Long)

8 p.m., $29.75–$33.00

Regency Ballroom

1290 Sutter, SF



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Don’t rush the Candlestick EIR


EDITORIAL The Candlestick Point redevelopment project is by far the biggest land-use decision facing San Francisco today, and one of the most significant in the city’s modern history. The project, sponsored by Lennar Corp., would bring 10,500 housing units and 24,000 additional residents to the area. Those residents would need new schools, playgrounds, open space, and transportation systems. Industrial and commercial development would create some 3,500 permanent jobs, and those people would need ways to get to work. Plans calls for new roadways, including a bridge over the fragile Yosemite Slough. The 708-acre site includes areas with significant toxic waste issues.

It’s no surprise that the draft environmental impact report on the project weighs in at 4,400 pages. It took two years to review the land use, transportation, air quality, water quality, population, employment, noise, hazardous materials, and other potential issues.

And now the Planning Department and Redevelopment Agency wants all public comment to be completed in a 45-day period that includes the winter holidays. That’s crazy – and it’s a sign that the city just wants to rush this project through without adequate oversight, review, or discussion.

The EIR in a project this size is a major political battleground. It’s one of the few times that the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors will get to weigh in on the entire project and look at its local and citywide impacts. It’s quite possibly the only time prior to construction when the economic, social, and environmental issues around the project will get widespread public discussion.

And anyone who reads these reports on a regular basis can tell you that they’re thick, dense, tough to follow, and filled with minute details and arcana that add up to very big policy decisions. Among the most pressing issues:

• The housing mix. The city’s own General Plan notes that almost two-thirds of all new housing built in San Francisco needs to be available at below-market rates. Lennar won’t even meet half that target. So the project would create an even greater unmet demand for affordable housing — something the EIR, at least on first read, glosses over. The report refers to “a broad range of housing options of varying sizes, types, and levels of affordability [that would] be developed at Candlestick Point” and states that “such housing would be in close proximity to the jobs provided by the project, [so] it is likely that future employees at Candlestick Point would seek housing at the project site prior to searching for housing in the surrounding Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood. However, if future employees did seek housing elsewhere in the neighborhood, the effects would not be adverse.”

Actually, if comparatively well-paid employees at the project’s research and development facilities decided to move into the existing Hunters Point/Bayview neighborhood, it would almost certainly drive up housing prices, displacing existing residents.

• Transportation options. The project projects significant improvements in Muni service — but doesn’t say how the city will pay for them. There’s a sizable focus on cars — the EIR estimates the project will need more than 21,000 parking spaces. That’s a lot more cars on the streets of the city, a lot more traffic in the southeast — and a direct clash with the city’s transit-first policies.

• What jobs, and for whom? The 3,500 permanent jobs that would be created are badly needed in that neighborhood, which has the highest unemployment rate in the city. But a comprehensive labor pool study, and a discussion of how existing residents will be trained for projected jobs, appears to be missing from the EIR.

• Hazardous materials. The EIR broadly proclaims that “construction activities associated with the project would not result in a human health risk involving the disturbance of naturally occurring asbestos, demolition of buildings that could contain hazardous substances in building materials, or possible disturbance of contaminated soils or groundwater within one-quarter mile of an existing school.” That is — at the very least — a matter of some dispute.

There’s lots more – 4,400 pages more – and if the approval process is going to be anything other than an utter farce, the Planning and Redevelopment directors need to extend the public comment period for at least another 45 days. *

State of the art displacement


OPINION What does the loss of 11 residences and a few jobs matter if it means a state-of-the-art hospital will be built?

That’s the question Examiner columnist Ken Garcia asked Oct. 20. The line cut like sharp knives into my eyes and heart as I read about Sutter Health/California Pacific Medical Center’s proposal to put a billion-dollar hospital subsequently displacing elder and disabled tenants and low-income workers at Geary and Van Ness streets, on the edge of one of the poorest neighborhoods in San Francisco.

As I read and reread the hypothetical question, I knew it could only have been written by someone who hadn’t witnessed countless low-income elders die or become seriously ill after they were evicted or displaced or hundreds of poor migrant workers and their families struggle and go hungry because they couldn’t find a steady job with a living wage.

How do you quantify the importance of even one decent job for a poor person struggling to survive? Or one business owned by a small business owner who treats his or her employees with respect and love? Or the loss of one long-term residence of a disabled and elder tenant?

How do you rationalize the pain of relocation and job eradication in lieu of the building of a huge structure supposedly there to “heal people?”

And then there is the question of the building of a “state of the art” hospital – read: rich people’s hospital – in a community where the majority of people are poor. And the issue of how the corporation funding the building made another, perhaps more devastating, decision to leach resources and support from St. Luke’s, a truly community-based hospital.

“I won’t be able to sit in Mama Dee’s chair anymore.” My six-year-old son looked down as he spoke. We were sitting in the Van Ness Bakery & Cafe at the corner of Van Ness and Geary, one of the many small businesses facing displacement.

When my son and I heard about the pending proposal to demolish and build, not only did we know that the spirit of my Mama Dee, cofounder of POOR Magazine who passed on her spirit journey in March 2006, was very angry with the demolition of her favorite spot. But more important, as someone who struggled with poverty, racism, and gentrification her entire life, I knew my mama was also mad, as I was, at the lie of California Pacific Medical Center, for proposing to build a hospital that isn’t really needed, in a community it isn’t really geared toward, and in the process dismantling the jobs, homes, and livelihoods of tenants, poor workers, and small business owners.

“This is a bad economy, and I really have no other job options. I don’t know what we workers will do” said Ruthie Seng and Oy, two of the workers at the family-owned and humanely-operated Van Ness Bakery.

As we consider granting the plans for this $1.7 billion dollar hospital proposal, perhaps we should reassess what hospitals are there to do and whom, they are doing it for.

Tiny a.k.a. Lisa Gray-Garcia is a poverty scholar and daughter of Dee, coeditor of POOR Magazine and the author of Criminal of Poverty: Growing Up Homeless in America.





Berkeley Critical Mass
Help to promote different modes of transportation during this critical time of Global Warming and Oil wars at this community bicycle protest and celebration that takes over the streets of Berkeley.
6 p.m., free
Meet at Downtown Berkeley BART station
Shattuck between Allston and Addison, Berk.

Terra Madre Day
Celebrate Slow Food’s 20th anniversary by taking part in a worldwide “eat local” effort that aims to link chefs, artisans, and regular people. Coordinate your own event, join in with other people in your community, or just eat local in solidarity.
All day, free
San Francisco Bay Area and countries around the globe


Health Forum
Learn more about single-payer health care at this screening of two short videos on the national single-payer plan, HR 676, which is being supported by many progressive leaders, and California’s SB810, which passed the state Legislature twice, only to be vetoed by the governor.
2 p.m., free
Community Room
1501 Blake, Berk.

Velo Vigil
Rally to support cycling on the eve of the U.S.’s participation in the U.N. Climate Conference in Copenhagen this month. Cyclists will circle the Oakland Federal Building to create a swarm of LED lights, while pedestrians congregate in front of the building. Bring as many LED lights as possible.
6 p.m., free
Oakland Federal Building
1301 Clay, Oak.


“Anti-Capitalist, Anti-Consumption Christmas”
Take part in this theater workshop and performance with the San Francisco Mime Troupe. Class begins by collecting impressions and images among holiday shoppers, then returns to the YBCA to create characters, costumes, speeches, and actions for a procession that takes the show back to the streets of downtown for holiday shoppers to enjoy.
12:30 p.m., $15
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
YAAW Lounge
701 Mission, SF
(415) 978-2787

Art as Propaganda
Discuss tactics for making effective banners for demonstrations and community spaces with artist Hannah Blair. Blair will teach sketching designs with gouache paint and coming up with powerful messages and images. More work sessions will be available to gear up for the Bay Area Coalition for Our Reproductive Rights day of action Jan. 23, 2010.
2 p.m., free
Radical Women
625 Larkin, Suite 202, SF
(415) 864-0778

Rainwater Harvesting
Learn more about rainwater harvesting options in an urban area and hands-on skills for working with rain barrels just in time for our winter rains. Harvesting can be as simple as placing a barrel under your drain spout or using tanks and pumps to route water inside for toilet flushing.
10 a.m., $15
Garden for the Environment
Seventh Ave., SF
(415) 731-5627

“That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals”
Attend this vegan book-signing and ice cream social with children’s author and illustrator Ruby Roth. The event is designed to encourage children to think about the emotional lives of animals, factory farming, the environment, and endangered species in relation to the food we eat.
1 p.m., free
Café Gratitude
1730 Shattuck, Berk.
(510) 725-4418


Protest AIPAC
Challenge and confront the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which supports Israel’s hawkish policies toward Palestine, at their annual dinner.
5 p.m., free
Hilton Hotel
333 O’Farrell, SF

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