Volume 44 Number 13

Volume 44 Number 13 Flip-through Edition

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Guns ‘n’ rosés

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If you like Beretta – and Beretta is very likable – you’ll likely like its younger sibling, Starbelly. I wonder who is thinking up the names in the Beretta folks’ briskly expanding universe of restaurants. “Beretta” makes me think of guns, while “Starbelly” sounds like a spoof of Spaceballs, Mel Brooks’ epic spoof of the Star Wars franchise.

The restaurant opened in the fall in a space (at 16th and Market streets) that once was Josie’s Juice Joint. Subsequent occupants include ZAO Noodle Bar and Asqew Grill, a pair of local chains that pitched affordable, high-quality, quick-turnaround food to younger people. Starbelly certainly attracts younger people and their traveling circus of noise but, as befits its status as a version of the California café, it has all kinds of people, including older ones and heterosexuals. The crowd is, to my eye, less hipstery and tech-moneyed than Beretta’s, although the glow of human energy is similar. Starbelly is too stimulating to be relaxing, but once you’re seated, your blood pressure does return to something like normal. Because the restaurant doesn’t take reservations for small parties, there can be a scrum near the host’s podium at the front. If you want a less hubbuby table, angle for one in the rear, past the bar, where the dining area opens out some.

In matters of food, Starbelly and Beretta are like fraternal twins: similar in certain respects but sharply different in others. The most conspicuous similarity is the prominence of pizza on both menus, along with the little wire stands to serve them on. But pizza is less dominant at Starbelly, where chef Adam Timney’s cooking rolls away in a number of sophisticated directions. Starbelly is probably the highest gastronomic peak in the Castro District at the moment, much as 2223 was 15 years ago. Of course, we should remember that the Castro has long been the Death Valley of restauranting and temper our enthusiasm accordingly. Still, Starbelly is good.

The dinner menu tilts toward smaller, shareable plates and divides among the categories “snacks” ($5 each), “small,” “salads,” and “vegetables.” Then come the pizzas and bigger plates. “Snacks” often means a dish of warm, spicy nuts, but here you can indulge in such witty treats as mini corn dogs, each riding its little toothpick and ready for dipping in spicy mustard (coarse, country-style) or house-made ketchup (fruity in a way the commercial product can never be and worth the price of the dish just for the experience).

The kitchen handles seafood skillfully. Grilled baby octopus ($9), recommended by our server, turned out to be nicely tender with a faint hint of smoke; the octopus was arranged on an arugula salad. Pan-roasted diver scallops ($14) also had been expertly cooked, but I thought the accompanying gingered yam purée, scattered with pepitas, was a little too sweet. Scallops, like pork, are naturally sweet and seem to invite sweet harmonies, but I (and here I state a personal preference) would rather have counterpoint, something sour, spicy, or salty.

Pizzas do not disappoint. The crusts are on the thin side, with a bit of puff on top and a hint of blister underneath but — hooray — no charring. Toppings range from the classic (tomato sauce, mozzarella, and basil on a margherita) to New World (Mexican chorizo with eggs and cilantro) but on the whole are fairly simple. A good example is a pie topped with Starbelly bacon ($13) along with market peppers and tomatoes. All that red lends a certain Murder in the Cathedral look, but the tangy, aromatic combination of toppings catches the sense of summer shading into autumn.

Speaking of fall: brussels sprouts have been on just about every menu I’ve seen since Labor Day, and they’re on Starbelly’s, too ($6). Here they’re halved and pan-roasted with chunks of bacon until nicely caramelized at the edges. Bacon seems to be the consensus remedy for the palatability issue that haunts brussels sprouts, and a good roasting, whether in an oven or pan, has set right many a troublesome vegetable. A shot of lemon juice wouldn’t have hurt here, for a final bit of zing.

The big plates are reasonably priced, mostly in the low to mid-teens; only lamb chops breaking the $20 barrier. The kitchen does offer what might be sly homage to Zuni Café: a half-chicken ($15), roasted on a rotisserie until sensuously tender and juicy, then plated with a spinach panzanella — basically swirls of braised greens in a warm, savory bread pudding under a roasted-onion vinaigrette. It’s not formally offered for two like the Zuni version, but it’s ample enough to be quite shareable, especially if you’ve previously stocked up on some of the smaller plates.

Which undoubtedly you will have done, since at Starbelly, the path to a full belly is a winding one, with many delightful turn-outs and outlooks along the way. *

STARBELLY

Mon.-Thurs., 11:30 a.m.–11 p.m.; Fri., 11:30 a.m.–midnight.

Brunch: Sat.–Sun., 10:30 a.m.–4 p.m.

Dinner: Sat., 4 p.m.–midnight; Sun., 4–11 p.m.

3583 16th St., SF

(415) 252-7500

www.starbellysf.com

Beer and wine

AE/MC/V

Noisy

Wheelchair accessible

Raison ritual

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YEAR IN FILM “We could live like this forever.” Josephine, the serious young woman in Claire Denis’ gorgeous chamber drama 35 Shots of Rum, whispers this line to her father while they’re camped out on the beach. It’s unclear, however, whether she’s referring to this particular sandy spot or the rituals of home and work that structure the film. As with Chris Chong’s remarkable short, Block B, 35 Shots of Rum (a ritual in the title itself) is set in a superficially unattractive apartment complex. Beyond the concrete is an intricate network of human relations. In the republic of cinema, the Denis film descends from that great poet of routine life, Yasujiro Ozu. Daily rituals dilate exposition and emotion; the safe enclosure of home unfolds in time.

Many of the most indelible, mood-lifting moments of my sporadic year of film-going arrived in the deepened presence of ritual: two shots of espresso, in separate cups; dismantling a bomb; shaving radishes; sheering sheep; the ecstatic sweat of a Lightning Bolt concert; the murderous talk surrounding a stand-up act. The Limits of Control cracks a zen joke out of those scenes that take us to edge of plotlessness; The Hurt Locker posits them at the lip of death. Every genre has its rites, but ritual is roped off by an extraordinary and transformative act of concentration: not so much a slice of life, as the heart of it.

To begin with an imperfect example, take Funny People. The informal joke workshops are the best thing about Judd Apatow’s chef-d’oeuvre by some distance — a romantic plot is deathly flat next to the backstage lollygagging. Likewise, for all The Hurt Locker‘s amazing mappings of harm’s way and its rigorous equation of work and action, Kathryn Bigelow’s film sags in the bland passages earmarked for character development. However momentarily, both movies put the blockbuster through paces.

Rituals, as I’ve described them, give us time to think and feel, and thus crop up with greater frequency in experimental work (ritual makes the documentary-fiction divide matter less). In Heddy Honigmann’s Oblivion, political history flows from her interview subjects’ ingenious livelihoods. Representatives of the service class relay personal and national narratives at work, their gestures embodying resilience and wisdom beyond the bounds of political rhetoric.

A clarifying admiration of labor also animates Sweetgrass, Ilisa Barbash and Lucien Castaing-Taylor’s near-wordless immersion into a final sheep drive across Montana. Recorded with ethnographic grit and uncommon lyricism, the film counterpoints detailed sound recordings with monumental, temporal landscape photography. A peculiar mix of estrangement (the implacable animal stare) and intimacy (the last cowboys’ muttered curses), Sweetgrass packages a dying way of life as a wayward phenomenological experience — the ritual as haunting.

Rendered as cinema, there is every possibility that ritual will make for a trance. Ben Russell actively cultivates this state in his Black and White Trypps series. Excerpts of all six of these shorts, as well as a 10-minute slice of Russell’s acclaimed feature debut, Let Each One Go Where He May, are available on his Vimeo site, but seeing the third installment in 35mm at the Pacific Film Archive raised the stakes considerably. In it, Russell sends a beam of light into the teenage sprawl of a Lightning Bolt show, creating a visible field barely broad enough for one or two wild faces. The crowd’s pulse makes for an ephemeral, twisting portrait. Projected on the big screen, the baroque expanse of sound and black gave the mined portraits a distinctly transcendent aura. Russell’s Warhol-worthy idea locates solitude in collectivity and authenticity in performance. The 11-minute film also invites us to reconsider the coordinates of that other common ritual that brings us alone together in the dark — cinema.

Tenant Torment

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Mayor Gavin Newsom’s mid-December decision to announce — on YouTube — that he planned to introduce legislation to protect San Francisco renters from foreclosure-related evictions has outraged tenants rights organizations.

They say Newsom is trying to undermine a much stronger bill by Sup. John Avalos that would give thousands of tenants in newer buildings the same protections as tenants in buildings constructed before 1979.

The mayor’s bill is a classic piece of politics — stealing some of the limelight and giving political cover to mayoral candidate Sup. Bevan Dufty, who voted against Avalos’ package but doesn’t want to be seen as anti-tenant.

This way Newsom and Dufty can enthusiastically support a bill that won’t offend as many landlords — while the mayor vetoes a more robust tenant-protection measure.

Dufty’s decision to side with Sups. Michela Alioto-Pier, Carmen Chu, and Sean Elsbernd in voting Dec. 8 against Avalos’ just-cause legislation gave Newsom veto power over a package that would have empowered thousands of renters.

The Avalos legislation seeks to extend just-cause eviction requirements and protections to tenants in units that are not now subject to eviction controls, which includes most residential rental units built after June 13, 1979. That’s when the city’s current rent control law took effect — and as part of a compromise needed to get the votes for that law, its framers agreed to exempt all “newly constructed” housing.

Newsom’s proposal would only protect those tenants from one category of evictions.

While Newsom promised to introduce his counter-proposal Dec. 15, nothing has come from the Mayor’s Office of Housing so far, fuelling suspicions that the legislation is in fact being drafted by Michael Yarne, a former developer who now works for the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development.

Asked Dec. 16 if the Mayor’s Office has submitted any tenant protection legislation, mayoral spokesperson Joe Arellano e-mailed the Guardian, “Not yet. Still ironing out a few details.”

‘OUTRAGEOUS’

In his YouTube address, Newsom said he was committed to vetoing the Avalos legislation, which he claimed was “well-intended” but “went too far.”

His alternative, Newsom said, would protect tenants from the “predatory nature of banks” and “other circumstances” related to “macroeconomic challenges.”

Sara Shortt, executive director of the Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco, described Newsom’s play as “outrageous.”

“The mayor is essentially stealing a bill that came out of the community, watering it down and taking credit for other people’s work,” she said.

“Probably the most frustrating part of this is that there was no attempt to work with any of us,” Shortt added.

As Shortt notes, if Avalos’ legislation doesn’t pass, tenants in at least 10,000 rental units that have come onto the market since 1979 will be left without just-cause eviction protection. That means they can be tossed out for almost any reason.

Shortt’s estimate includes 1,900 units at Trinity Place, 113 units at 430 Main St., 308 units at 333 Harrison St., 113 units built by the Emerald Fund in the Castro District, 192 recently completed units at Strata in Mission Bay, 179 units at 1 Polk St., 720 units at 1401 Market St., 52 units at 818 Van Ness Ave., 5,679 units at Park Merced, and 720 units at Archstone, 350 Eighth St.

But her estimate doesn’t factor in the thousands of potential rentals in the pipeline for Treasure Island, the Candlestick Point shipyard development and the old Schlage Lock site.

Facing a mayoral veto and unwilling to leave tenants without any hope, Avalos introduced an amended version of his just-cause evictions package that addressed Dufty’s concerns about unintended consequences during the board’s Dec. 15 meeting.

“Dufty said he was worried that if someone was in the military and was sent to Afghanistan or decided to go to Harvard to finish their master’s and then wanted to return to their apartment, they’d have to pay a relocation benefit,” Avalos legislative aide Raquel Redondiez explained.

So Avalos amended his legislative package to provide an owner the option of giving additional notice in lieu of making relocation payments for owner move-in eviction of a newly converted single-family home or individually-owned condominium, provided the tenant was initially given specified notice of this status.

The amended bill would also allow eviction from a condominium unit with separable title that had been rented by the developer for a limited time prior to sale of the unit, when the developer has given specified advance notice to the renters.

But Dufty still voted against the amended legislation.

Dufty’s legislative aide Boe Hayward claimed the office didn’t cut a deal with Newsom. “We heard Newsom was interested in introducing legislation but we haven’t seen a draft,” Hayward said. “Michael Yarne mentioned it.”

NO DATA

Hayward told the Guardian that part of Dufty’s problem was an absence of data to support advocates’ claims that people in non-rent-controlled units are being evicted without cause.

“I’ve heard anecdotally that this has happened, but I’ve never seen anyone testify that this has happened,” Hayward said.

He also said Dufty wants Avalos to sit down with small property owners and the San Francisco Apartment Association to hear their concerns.

Shortt acknowledged that such data is hard to come by, but noted that this data gap occurs precisely because there is currently no reporting requirement for evictions that occur in buildings built after June 1979.

“For folks in non-rent-controlled units, it’s like the Wild West,” she said. “Landlords can say ‘I want you out’ and they don’t have to give a reason.

“Right now, such evictions are perfectly legal,” Shortt added, noting that part of the benefit of Avalos’ proposed legislation is that these evictions would be tracked and monitored in future.

She said the mayor’s alternative doesn’t address the larger problem. “While foreclosures are a huge piece of the problem, they are not all of it. There is all this new construction going on. And now that the housing market has turned, units that are either being built or temporarily marketed as rentals, not condos. We’re gaining more units without protections. We can’t just turn a blind eye and say there is no problem and wait for a crisis.”

Dufty told the Guardian that he voted Dec. 15 against Avalos’ amended proposal because “small property owners weren’t invited to the table to dialogue. There needs to be more dialogue between tenant advocates and property owners to come to common ground.”

He said owners are already keeping thousands of rent-controlled units off the market and fears they’ll do the same with post-1979 units. “I don’t want to legislate to the extremes and create a ripple effect where post-1979 units are kept off the market. I’m trying to find ways for folks to rent out their units.” Dufty also said he hadn’t seen the mayor’s proposed legislation.

Shortt said she doesn’t understand what Dufty hopes to achieve by convening landlords and tenant groups. “I feel like we’ve made it clear where we’re willing to go on this, and I can’t imagine anything the San Francisco Apartment Association or others might say that would convince us otherwise. Maybe it’s just a torture technique.”

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PROTECTING FAMILIES FROM EVICTIONS

Another major tenant protection bill — Sup. Eric Mar’s legislation to protect families from owner move-in evictions — is headed to the full Board of Supervisors in January. The legislation follows what Mar calls “a couple of minor tweaks” during a Dec. 14 Land Use Committee hearing that took place after months of vetting his bill with the public and family, tenant, and landlord advocacy groups.

The bill seeks to protect families with children from eviction through the OMI process, but would preserve the right of a landlord’s family to evict a tenant’s family, Mar explained.

“During these challenging economic times, our city needs to do whatever it can to ensure that our families are able to live and work here,” Mar said. “This legislation will help our city protect one of our most vulnerable populations: families with children.”

During the hearing, Mar observed that San Francisco is the third most expensive county in the nation for renters and that rent-controlled housing, which encompasses about 70 percent of the city’s rental housing stock, contributes to maintaining a balanced city.

“When a rent-controlled unit is vacated voluntarily or through eviction, the landlord can bring the rental property up to current market rate, making these units unaffordable for our working class and low-income families,” Mar said.

Ted Gullicksen, executive director of the San Francisco Tenants Union, said children need to be protected from no-fault evictions.

“San Francisco protects seniors and other vulnerable tenants from no-fault evictions like the so-called owner move-in eviction,” Gullicksen observed. “We see many families with children being evicted in San Francisco, too often resulting in the family being forced to leave the city where their children were born.”

Advocates say the problem is serious. “We see families flee San Francisco every year due to evictions such as owner move-ins,” said Chelsea Boilard, family policy and communications associate at Coleman Advocates for Children.

Representatives for the San Francisco Apartment Association and other landlord groups spoke out against Mar’s proposal, arguing that anyone with children would have a permanent protection and raising similar objections to ones raised in hearings on Sup. John Avalos’ just-cause legislation.

By the meeting’s end, Mar had amended his legislation to address concerns around the definition of “custodial parent,” including the worry that a 19-year-old could sublease a room to a 16-year-old pretending to be the “custodial parent.”

But Sup. Sophie Maxwell came out against Mar’s amended proposal, which is headed to the full board in January at the recommendation of Mar and Board President David Chiu. All three supervisors sit on the Land Use committee.

“I’m not comfortable with a yes on this legislation,” Maxwell said. “I think we need a comprehensive look at our rental laws and what we need to do. Otherwise, we’ll end up with a hodgepodge.” (Sarah Phelan)

2000 and gone

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YEAR IN FILM I will follow him. The opening moments of Pablo Stoll’s Hiroshima convey that sentiment’s dedication in a single shot, a lengthy behind-the-shoulder look at Stoll’s brother Juan Andres as he traverses a suburban street in Uruguay. Such a simple film, Hiroshima: a day-in-the-life structure; silent film intertitles instead of spoken dialogue; “only” one brother’s look at another. Yet there is passion beneath Juan Andres Stoll’s mute detachment, and grief beneath Pablo Stoll’s at times humorous familial portrait of a half-somnambulant with dark circles around his eyes. The passion is revealed in the final scene, when the film’s potent and unconventional use of music reaches a climax. The grief floats around the edges of the screen, and is locked within the closing dedication to Juan Pablo Rebella, Stoll’s co-director on 2001’s 25 Watts and 2004’s Whisky, who killed himself with a gun three years ago, at 32.

Mapping infinite negative space within the movie maze, I can’t help but see Stoll’s brother as Rebella, and connect Hiroshima’s opening shot with the last major shot of Whisky: an uncomfortably extended look at forsaken Marta (Mirella Pascual), tears streaming down her face, in the back of a taxi going who knows where. When Whisky was released, that scene might have seemed like a pale descendant of the notorious 10-minute crying jag at the end of Tsai Ming-liang’s 1994 Vive l’amour. But as time goes on, the increasingly arch Tsai’s vision of isolated sorrow seems less genuine, if not potent. In contrast, Whisky‘s farewell is some kind of transformation, a baton, both end and beginning.

Wherever he may go. Last week, rummaging through a drawer, I came across Alexis Tioseco’s card. My heart hurt more than usual. I remember when I first saw Alexis, at a screening of Jacques Rivette’s Out 1 in Vancouver. During short breaks between segments of Rivette’s 12-hour opus, I’d wonder who he was, recognizing he was important to me before we’d even said hello. A few days later, after we’d met, I remember him walking out of an obnoxiously provocative film, and how his wasn’t an empty or dramatic gesture, just an honest decision. At the end of the festival, Alexis, the filmmaker John Torres, Chi-hui Yang, and I had dinner, and over the course of close conversation with knees touching, I realized my nascent crush was actually a matter of meeting someone extraordinary whom I admired. A month or two later, Alexis let me excerpt part of one of his best essays for the type of year-end Guardian film issue you’re reading now.

On Sept. 1, Alexis and his girlfriend and fellow writer Nika Bohinc were shot to death in their apartment in Manila. There are tributes to them online, many written by people who knew him far better than I. I’m trying now, but I can’t pay respect to Alexis yet. When I’m not feeling rage about his killing, I’m haunted by the purity of his commitment to film and his culture, and how I fall short of it. (As for most U.S. film critics, don’t get me started. The entertain-me imperial indulgence typical of them is especially disgusting in the context of Alexis’s death, a context it now lives within for me.) My failure is something I think about daily, and aim to change.

This is not sentimental. Alexis wasn’t faultless, but he was that special. I remember coming across a short entry on one of Alexis’s sites that not just pointedly but also poignantly exposed the colonialism of a Bruce Baillie film. That little piece of illustrated writing provided a counterpoint to Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s valuable appreciations of Baillie. I thought about it this year through tear-blurred eyes while watching Apichatpong’s For Alexis. “The Letter I Would Love to Read to You In Person,” Alexis’s essay for Nika, is a great piece of film writing. Its title is downright painful to behold. Revolutions happen like refrains in a song, he wrote. I will follow him, wherever I may go.

 

Editor’s Notes

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A year ago, we were dancing in the streets celebrating Barack Obama’s election. Now we’re marching in the streets protesting his escalation of the war in Afghanistan — and a lot of us are calling for the defeat of his signature legislation. That’s a failure that goes well beyond a couple of bad policy decisions, and it threatens more than just the next few years of Obama’s presidency.

The late philosopher Herbert Marcuse used to say that the worst disaster of the Vietnam War was the division it created between the baby boomers and their parents, the generational distrust that would last well beyond the final artillery fire. And I fear that the worst legacy of Afghanistan and the mess that is health care reform will be another deep blow to whatever fragile faith remains among young Americans that a well-meaning president and his party can make a difference, the faith that government can accomplish something worthwhile — and that the public sector is worth the fight it takes to save it from a well-organized and lavishly funded effort to continue the privatization of the United States.

The fight over the public option in the health care bill wasn’t just about containing costs, or preventing tax hikes, or mandating fair competition. The insurance industry knew that from the start.

One of the reasons the radical right has always hated Social Security is that it’s a government program that helps people, one that tens of millions of citizens rely on and support. When the government sends you a check every month, you tend to think of the folks in Washington as something other than crooks, liars, and villains.

And if the government offered health insurance that cost less than the private companies, covered more, and was less of a hassle to use, then millions more American voters would begin to realize that the public sector can do some things very well — much better than private industry. And that would be a social transformation on the scale of the New Deal.

So that’s why the insurers and their toadies wouldn’t allow it to happen — and why, in the wake of the Afghanistan fiasco, Obama’s failure to force the issue is such a momentous disappointment.

Just look around the streets of San Francisco at any antiwar demonstration and you see the problem. We’re mad at the president, not at the insurance industry. Nobody’s marching in front of the headquarters of the handful of big companies that have — as a matter of course and intentional policy — destroyed the health care system in America. We figure: hey, they’re just big businesses, doing what they do.

So instead, we’re going to be pissed off for a long time at the man who — maybe for just a moment, one bright shining moment — had the ability to turn around about 50 years of cynicism and distrust that has poisoned American politics. And we should be pissed, because he let us down. He promised us hope. Now he’s giving up, without even putting up much of a fight.

Spooky-normal activity

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YEAR IN FILM This year was scary enough — what with the collapsing economy, rising unemployment rate, a summer of celebrity deaths, and new lows reached by reality TV programming — that going to see a horror movie became a kind of respite from the constant feed of depressing shit plastered across news crawls, posted to blogs, and bolded in headlines. Who wouldn’t take the escapist thrills of the Saw VI‘s elaborate, Rube Goldbergian endgames over the quick, “painless” death meted out by a pink slip? Then again, Paranormal Activity reminded us that the scariest thing these days is to be a homeowner.

Hollywood, no doubt, was counting its pennies as much as the movie-going public: hence the slew of classic horror franchise remakes, resurrections, and continuations. In addition to Saw VI, the body count included The Final Destination (a.k.a. Final Destination: Death Trip 3D), the umpteenth return of Jason Voorhees in Friday the 13th, Rob Zombie’s H2: Halloween 2, and remakes of violent classics such as The Last House on the Left, My Bloody Valentine 3D, and The Stepfather.

I admire the bald-faced cynicism of these releases, especially with canonical titles like Last House and Friday the 13th. It’s a post-Scream series world, after all. The big studios know that fresh-faced, hormonal PYTs still want to see glossy versions of themselves get butchered by roving psychopaths and Freudian straw men in masks, but with a hat tip to the fact that most audiences have seen it all before.

Films that attempted to twist the received formulas and court the same demographic of Jigsaw and Mike Meyers devotees fared with mixed results. Jennifer’s Body, which should have been the supernatural follow-up to 2004’s Mean Girls, couldn’t find the right balance between funny and scary due to the ill-fit of Megan Fox’s blandness and Diablo Cody’s overly-precious zingers. Drag Me to Hell, Sam Raimi’s PG-13 tour de force, on the other hand, offered a master class in how to elicit the perfect uneasy mix of chills and laughs with nary a disemboweling (I would include the raucous Zombieland in the same camp).

And then there is Ti West’s little indie that could, The House of the Devil, which meticulously recreates the aesthetic of the cheap video nasties of the early 1980s. The film’s spot-on production design and anticlimatic resolution shouldn’t detract from West’s considerable talents as a conductor of suspense. But it’s interesting how House returns us to the decade that spawned the very slashers that Hollywood continues to remake, and one that started out, as we are now, in a bleak recession. Timeliness aside, House offers an object lesson in how to do something new with something familiar — a lesson Hollywood would do well to study in 2010.

The next budget battle

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EDITORIAL There is some good news — in a manner of speaking — about Mayor Gavin Newsom’s proposed midyear budget cuts: they don’t just affect Muni, recreation and parks, human services, and public health. The departments that have been hammered hardest in the past year still face spending reductions — but so do police and fire. The $6 million in Police Department cuts and $1.7 million in Fire Department cuts actually exceed the $7.4 million that the Department of Public Health will have to absorb.

That, of course, requires some context — over the past few budget cycles, DPH has lost far more money than public safety. And the Fire Department has far more fat than its modest cut reflects. And the Human Services Agency is still taking a $3.3 million hit. And the mayor is still keeping five press secretaries. And it’s not at all clear how much of the cuts will involve paring the bloated management ranks, and how much will be the further elimination of front-line services.

And this is just the start — the budget deficit for next year is more than $400 million, and the blood on the floor by the time that’s resolved will make this round look easy.

But the very fact that some of the sacred cows of San Francisco are facing their own financial pain sends an important message: this budget crisis won’t be solved just by screwing the poor — and the unions representing the cops and firefighters are going to have to step up and work with the rest of organized labor to push for some new revenue. And they’ll need to put up some money and reach out to the more conservative voters to promote the tax increases San Francisco desperately needs.

Now it’s up to the supervisors to put in motion the process to take substantial changes in the way the city is funded out of the discussion stage and into the policy arena.

When Newsom was running for governor, it was almost impossible to get him to talk seriously about raising revenue; he clearly wanted to be the candidate who could talk about balancing a city’s budget without raising taxes. Now that he’s not looking for votes in the Central Valley, he’s been a little more open to the idea that a cuts-only budget won’t work the next time around.

Unfortunately, the two main ways he wants to raise money are both terrible ideas. Newsom is talking about gutting the condominium conversion limits and allowing anyone who pays a fee to get a permit to turn an apartment into a condo. That would have a devastating impact on the city’s rental housing stock. He also wants to sell off taxicab permits — a plan that would undermine the city’s longstanding policy of allowing working cab drivers to use the permits at a modest fee and create a structure where the right to drive a cab would be determined at auction and given to the highest bidder.

The condo conversion plan is unlikely to get six votes, and the progressive supervisors should make it clear that a taxi privatization proposal isn’t the best way to solve the budget crisis, either. Then the mayor and the board can start working on a progressive tax plan to put before the voters next year.

The Budget Committee will be ground zero for the debate. Sup. John Avalos chaired that committee through last year’s harrowing budget battles, but in the past the job has rotated. If Board President David Chiu intends to appoint a new chair for next year, he should name one of the two qualified progressives with background on the committee. Either Sup. Ross Mirkarimi or Sup. David Campos would be an excellent choice.

The year in film

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YEAR IN FILM More than $10 billion in movie tickets were sold in 2009 — a new all-time high in a year stuffed with so many all-time lows, cinematic and otherwise. Many of those tickets, I’m afraid, provided entry to the garish, ghoulish Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, far and away the year’s top-grossing release, though the top 10 did include at least one movie I can recommend (Star Trek) without feeling like a sellout. Nestled at No. 5 is The Twilight Saga: New Moon, part of a cultural phenomenon so huge the movie itself seemed like an afterthought. You have to scroll all the way to the 27th slot to find the year’s true top grosser: Paranormal Activity, which earned over $100 mil off a reportedly sub-$15,000 budget (less than a third what it cost to make 1999’s The Blair Witch Project, an obvious influence).

Paranormal Activity‘s success gives me hope, though I fear its inevitable shaky-cam imitators more than unexplained bumps in the night. Where there’s a buck, Hollywood will follow. This year, big-budget movies stepped up their games, employing IMAX, 3-D, and ever-more sophisticated CG to lure crowds on opening weekend. Avatar, which uses all three to greater effect than perhaps ever before, appears to be attracting gobs of people who’re simply curious to see what the fuss is about (my take: effects good, story crap. And for the record, I actually liked 1997’s Titanic). Multiplexes, with their corporate hookups and direct lines to movie studios, are thrilled by cinemaniacs eager to binge on new technology; brisk business proves 10-foot tall alien Smurfs are alluring enough to fill seats with butts that usually spend Friday nights at home, on the couch, watching DVR’d TV on a 60-inch flat-screen.

Of course, small, independently-owned theaters that can’t afford to upgrade their projection equipment to accommodate films like Avatar just might be screwed in 2010 and beyond. Hell, even the big guys have to contend with ever-shorter time periods between theatrical and DVD releases — sometimes these events happen simultaneously — and increasingly popular video-on-demand services offered by cable companies. Sometimes there’s a disconnect between versions that can affect the experience: Norwegian chiller Dead Snow was available to home audiences in dubbed form weeks before it rolled out at the Roxie, with subtitles (FYI: Nazi zombies are far more enjoyable when subtitled).

Still, think of all the scary shit you have to put up with simply by going to the movies: incessant texters; $15 tickets; people who cart their wee ones to hard-R fare; chatterboxes; seat-kickers; teenagers; jerks who sit in the middle of the row despite their pea-sized bladders; I could go on. Can you blame people who’d rather unspool their bootlegged copies of District 9 from the comfort of their own La-Z-Boys?

Yes! I can (and will) blame ’em — because true movie magic absolutely must include a big screen, preferably one that won’t fit into your living room. Even if you fear the megaplex, in the Bay Area we have access to a huge array of rep-house, art-house, and independently-owned screening venues. In short, there are still plenty of places to kick it old-school, movie geeks. So get out there and pass the popcorn!

Brunch fitness

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Good morning, sunshine! Or shall we say good afternoon? You are perhaps in need of a solid dose of protein, vitamin C, and a little hair of the dog in observance of this fine new trip around the sun? No worries — we are blessed to live in a city that takes its lingering late morning gluttony very seriously. Here are eight sites to struggle out to for New Year’s Day brunch.

FRONT PORCH

Get your beauty sleep before you’re ready to face the waiting lists and mimosa-or-bloody mary decision. You’ll fit right in with the crew at this South Mission favorite. Front Porch’s “fried and pickled” crab boil doesn’t start serving till noon. Couple your shellfish with a heaping side of black-eyed peas — traditional food for good luck in the new year — and nod your head to beats graciously supplied by KUSF’s DJ Adam.

65A 29th St., SF. (415) 695-7800. www.thefrontporch.com

FARMERBROWN

Where other chefs see the holidays as a chance to shill higher-priced, posh versions of their menu, farmerbrown is taking a different route. The industrial chic Tenderloin hot spot will be offering a discounted price tag on its popular brunch buffet this New Year’s Day. Sure, chef Jay Foster has a few tricks up his sleeve — almond and orange brioche french toast and fried catfish will find their way into grateful 2010 bellies — but $25 will still get you fed on Southern comfort food, drunk on a bottomless mimosa, and happy from sweet tunes by jazz group Blue Roots.

25 Mason, SF. (415) 409-FARM. www.farmerbrownsf.com

PRESIDIO SOCIAL CLUB

Originally built in 1903 as enlisted men’s barracks, the Social Club has a bygone-era atmosphere — a feeling echoed by their throwback 1960s brunch, heavy on the beignets and stick-to-your-ribs biscuits and gravy plates. On Jan. 1, it is also busting out $12 bottomless bloodys or Harvey Wallbangers — for the uninitiated, Mad Men-worthy cocktails made of vodka, Galliano, and orange juice.

563 Ruger, SF. (415) 885-1888. www.presidiosocialclub.com

MAMA’S

Fight the post-Christmas tourists to this old school North Beach spot, open for 40 years right across the street from Washington Square. Mama is taking advantage of this season’s iconic SF fruit of the sea by serving up a Dungeness crab benedict with fresh baby spinach ($11.50), or a crab omelet with avocado and brie ($18).

1701 Stockton, SF. (415) 362-6421. www.mamas-sf.com

BOARDROOM

What if you’re having trouble finding that after-after party and your stomach is starting to rumble? Enter this aesthetically pleasing sports bar, which starts its full brunch at 6 a.m., plying the “still awake and hungover” crowd with a $5 chicken and waffles special — a tradition that started last year. Also present: four televisions blasting college athletic competitions all day long to make intelligible conversation a non-issue.

1609 Powell, SF. (415) 982-8898. www.woodyzips.com

TRIPTYCH

This SoMa hangout is adding a few special New Year’s items to its already formidable brunch arsenal. They range from traditional (crabcake benedict with a side of sweet chile, english muffin, poached egg, and roasted potatoes for $12) to veggie-friendly fare (a Malibu organic garden burger made with wild rice, bell peppers, and oats for $8). Couple one of these plates with a side of Triptych’s crowd-pleasing sweet potato fries and an orange, mango, or raspberry mimosa ($8 a glass, $20 a pitcher) while you recap what dropped after the ball last night.

1155 Folsom, SF. (415) 703-0557. www.triptychsf.com

DOTTIE’S TRUE BLUE CAFE

Blessed/cursed with a worshipful crowd of customers (lines regularly extend out the door), Dottie’s is the spot for affordable breakfast classics to ring in 2010. This year it’ll be guaranteeing you prosperity with its traditional black-eyed pea cake, topped with sour cream and homemade pico de gallo and accompanied by eggs, a piece of grilled chile-cheddar cornbread, and home fries ($8.95). Now that’ll set you on your feet after a season of champagne and eggnog.

522 Jones, SF. (415) 885-2767

ZAZIE

Did you pass out before you had time to blow through all that cash in your wallet? If you’re part of the financially stable set, you can head to Cole Valley’s finest for its $39 prix fixe, which includes an appetizer, entrée, a half bottle of Charles de Fere champagne, a pitcher of your favorite juice, and espresso. Among your options are homemade cream cheese coffee cake, gingerbread pancakes with lemon curd and roasted Bosc pears, eggs monaco, and roasted white trout. That diet resolution can probably start tomorrow, right?

941 Cole, SF. (415) 564-5332. www.zaziesf.com

We are family

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Dear Andrea:

Is it OK to ask out my ex sister-in-law? I always thought she was hot. Now we are both divorced and I keep thinking, why not? Is there some reason I’m not thinking of why I shouldn’t?

Love,

Free and 50

Dear Free:

What is an ex sister-in-law, exactly? An ex wife of your ex wife’s brother? Entirely doable, assuming that none of these people are still in close touch with any of your people, and I’d imagine they’re not. If, rather, you mean your ex-wife’s sister, proceed only if childless or post-emigration (both of you) to someplace suitably distant, like New Zealand or the International Space Station. In other words, you are adults and can do what you like, but nobody else is going to like you for it.

While I am a big believer in living an authentic life (come out if you’re gay, don’t promise monogamy if you’re poly, etc.) I’m equally dedicated to what Michael Jackson’s rabbi Shmuley Boteach flogs, catchily, as “shalom in the home.” (Boteach calls himself “America’s rabbi” but having been MJ’s best grown-up little buddy all over the media for years makes him no rabbi of mine, yuck.) Peace to you! Peace to your ex-in-laws! (“Peace to you and all your mailmen,” sings our own rabbi, who is a bit of a goof.) Do not go sowing discord and discomfort. Have a merry Christmas and a happy New Year. Don’t date your ex wife’s sister.

Exes who were never blood relatives of former spouses are a big whatev, go for it. We must keep in mind, though, that there is no reason to believe that the ex wife of an ex wife’s sibling or whatever she has been thinking you were hot all the years you were thinking she was. She may never have noticed you because you are not the sort of person she notices. She may find you repulsive. It’s no different from any other “should I ask her out?” situation — nothing ventured nothing gained and all that. But in the case of an ex’s ex-ex, if she rejects you, word may get back to the people you are still in touch with, and they may laugh at you. But if you ask her out, she may have sex with you. Decisions, decisions.

Love,

Andrea

Dear Andrea:

Can you marry your cousin? Is it legal, and is it a good idea?

I am just wondering because we used to flirt a lot when we were teenagers and I still find her attractive (and will see her on the holidays) but of course I would never do anything about it.

Love.

No Harm in Asking

Dear No:

You could have just looked it up! This is not obscure information, although it does manage to be continually surprising information. The answer to your first question, as to so many others, is “it depends.” Fifteen or so states (and not just weird little forgotten out-of-the way states, either, count California and New York) allow first cousins to marry without any restriction. A handful more have various hoops to jump through. The rest still have anti-cousin laws on the books but you know, it is not unheard-of to go to another state to marry if your own is still too bigoted to allow it. It’s also legal in Mexico and Canada.

What do you mean, “bigoted,” you ask? Isn’t marrying your cousin a good way to get a kid with flippers and three eyes? No, actually, it’s not. There’s a slightly — very slightly — higher incidence of birth defects, like 1 percent or 2 percent. If your (mutual) family suffers from a heritable genetic condition, you’re both going to want to get tested for that before having kids. But for most people, it’s just not going to be an issue.

What is an issue is: your families would hate you. Or hate one of you and consider the other a victim. Or not hate but be so horribly uncomfortable in your presence that it would come down to the same thing, as far as happy holidays and shalom in the home go.

I am not horrified or even bothered by cousins marrying. It seems kind of lazy to me — what, you couldn’t be bothered to meet someone else? — but it isn’t bad or wrong or gross or even dangerous. It is, however, Not Done. It used to be done (every article you read on this is illustrated with a picture of the Darwins, I think), but it is currently Not Done. And you are not the Jukes and the Kallikakses (look it up) and you are not pharoahs or European royalty. You do not, presumably, possess dynastic wealth that requires cautious and xenophobic husbanding. So you probably want to not do it.

And now I can’t get Dorothy Parker’s poemlet out of my head, so here, Merry Christmas:

Oh, life is a glorious cycle of song,

A medley of extemporanea;

And love is a thing that can never go wrong;

And I am Marie of Romania.

Love,

Andrea

2k10 zonkers

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SUPER EGO Wherein we present an alphabetical rundown of New Year’s Eve nightlife diversions, sprees, galas, fetes, and carousals.

AFROLICIOUS Around the world! Ultimate Latin funk brothers Senor Oz and Pleasuremaker team up with DJ Jimmy Love of Non-Stop Bhangra and Trinidadian MC Fresh4Life for a global-groove blast.

9:30 p.m., $15–$25. Elbo Room, 647 Valencia, SF. www.elbo.com

BE It’s another glorious case of trance mania — perfect for our ADD times — at 1015 Folsom. Above and Beyond, Super8 and Tab, and DJ Taj keep the eve pumping wildly.

10 p.m.–8a.m., $50–$100. 1015 Folsom, SF. www.1015.com

BEARRACUDA Will large, hairy gay men still be in next year? Probably. DJ Ted Eiel of MegaWOOF sheds all over the tables at this rump-pumping free-for-all.

8 p.m.–4 a.m., $32 advance. Deco, 510 Larkin, SF. www.bearracuda.com

BEYOND BEYOND Find a queer hottie to kiss in the new as the wonderfully alt Stay Gold kids, DJs Rapid Fire and Pink Lightning, host Dr. Sleep, Bunny Style, and tons of shawties.

9 p.m., $15. Makeout Room, 3225 22nd St., SF. www.makeoutroom.com

BLOW YOUR WHISTLE Miss Juanita More! gathers a gaggle of queer underground superstars to pop your cork, including DJ Pee Play, Stanley Chilidog, Joshua J, Tiara Sensation, and Miss Honey.

9 p.m., $35. Bambuddha Lounge, 601 Eddy, SF. www.juanitamore.com

BOOTIE BOOTLEG BALL Mashup the decades at the city’s — possible world’s — biggest mashup club, with Adrian and Mysterious D, Smash Up Derby, and Freddy King of Pants.

8 p.m.–late, $40 advance only. DNA Lounge, 375 11th St., SF. www.dnalounge.com

CLUB 1994 Don’t let the name fool you — there’ll be classic jams pumped for sure, but with special electro guests Wallpaper the vibe will be pure 2010.

9 p.m.-3 a.m., $18.50 advance. Paradise Lounge, 1501 Folsom, SF. www.club1994.com

CLUB COCOMO NYE What would New Year’s be without a little salsa? Break out your cha cha heels and join live band Avance and KPFA DJ Luis Medina on the floor.

8 p.m., prices vary. 650 Indiana, SF. www.clubcocomo.com

CODA NYE Jazz it up for the next chapter of the millennium at the deluxe supper club, with the Mike Olmos Organ Combo, Dynamic, and Hot Bag.

6 p.m., prices vary. Coda, 1710 Mission, SF. www.codalive.com

COMEDY COUNTDOWN Ha ha ha — the naughts. It was to laugh! And still will be, with chuckleheads Greg Behrendt, Maria Bamford, Amy Schumer, Doug Benson, and loads more.

8:30 p.m., $49.50. Palace of Fine Arts, 3301 Lyon, SF. www.livenation.com

DEBASER + BOOTY BASEMENT Party down ’90s style, when Debaser’s grunge meltdown meets Booty Basement’s hip-hop gangsta swagger. DJs Jamie Jams, Dimitri Dickenson, Emdee, and Ryan Poulsen bring it.

9 p.m.-4 a.m., $15. The Knockout, SF. 3223 Mission, www.knockoutsf.com

DECADANCE Acoustic rock meets electro-hop in the universe of headliner (and apparent hair model) Chris Clouse. Longtime dance favorites DJ Zhaldee and Chris Fox warm it all up.

9 p.m.–3 a.m., $99 advance. Mezzanine 444 Jessie, SF. www.mezzaninesf.com

THE GLAMOROUS LIFE Omnivorously poppy-hoppy DJ White Mike pops the cork at the newly renovated (and quite lovely) Beauty Bar.

10 p.m., $10. Beauty Bar, 2299 Mission, SF. www.beautybar.com

MARGA GOMEZ NYE SPECTACULAR More hilariously hilarious queers (and friends) than you can count at the off-her-awesome-rocker comedian’s, yes, spectacular. With David Hawkins, Ben Lehrman, and Natasha Muse. Balloon drop!

7 p.m. and 9 p.m., $25/$30. Victoria Theatre, 2961 16th St., SF. www.therhino.org

OM 2010 Work it on out with the OM Records stable and some surprising talent, including techno Jesus Nikola Baytala, Lance DeSardi, Galen, M3, and Sammy D

9 p.m.-4 a.m., $20 advance. Triple Crown, 1760 Market, SF. www.triplecrownsf.com

OPEL NYE Bass-shaking goodness at the ever-bumping Opel’s year-end teardown, with Stanton Warriors, Syd Gris, Dex Stakker, and Melyss.

10 p.m.–4 a.m., $20–$50. Mighty, 119 Utah, SF. www.mighty119.com

PLANET ROCK Oh, Afrika Bambaata, “Amen Ra of Universal Hip-Hop Culture” — how could we not pop and lock it with you, and three floors of others, for 2k10?

8 p.m.–4 a.m., $25 advance. Club Six, 60 Sixth St., SF. www.clubsix1.com

REDLINE Dubstep took over in 2009 — celebrate the dominance with the Bay’s best steppers, like Sam Supa, Ultraviolet, Kozee, and Spacer.

8 p.m., $10. Matador, 10 Sixth St., SF. www.myspace.com/redlinedjs

SEA OF DREAMS The cavernous, Burnerish NYE joint celebrates 10 years with a stellar lineup — Glitch Mob, Ozomatli, Bassnectar, Ghostland Observatory, Sila and the Afrofunk Experience …

9 p.m.–5a.m., $75–$125. Concourse Center, 635 Eighth St., SF.

SOM NYE The turntablistic wonderfingers of Triple Threat meet the hiphop party cunning of Distortion 2 Static, with DJs Vinroc, Shortkut, and Prince Aries at this new hotspot.

9 p.m.- a.m., $25/$30. SOM, 2925 16th St., SF. www.som-bar.com

TEMPLE OF LIGHT Templekeepers Paul Hemming, Ben Tom, A2D, Jaswho?, Nacho Vega, and so many more ring in the new Zen.

9 p.m.–late, $40–$60. Temple, 540 Howard, SF. www.templesf.com

TRIGGER NYE The exquisite steroid pop of DJ Mykill is sugar rush enough to get you through a night of Trigger and the Castro as the balls drop

9 p.m., $15 advance. Trigger, 2344 Market, SF. www.clubtrigger.com

THE TUBESTEAK CONNECTION

DJ Bus Station John helps all the nice-naughty queers cruise into a dirty new decade of bathhouse disco indulgence.

9 p.m., $10. Aunt Charlie’s Lounge, 133 Turk, SF. www.auntcharlieslounge.com

QOOL NYE

The longest running happy hour dance party in SF joins with Honey Soundsystem and takes on the night, with DJs Silencefiction, Peeplay, Jondi & Spesh, Ken Vulsion, Derek Bobus, and Looq Records playmates.

9 p.m., $15–$50. 111 Minna Gallery, 111 Minna, SF. www.qoolsf.com

Woodyland

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YEAR IN FILM The defining adjective for Woody Harrelson is hard to pin, but I’d nominate … limber. Not just because he’s a deft physical comedian — in The Late Henry Moss, a star-encrusted but not very good Sam Shepard play that premiered in San Francisco in 2000, he stole the show from the likes of Sean Penn, Nick Nolte, and Cheech Marin with a 20-minute bit as a cabbie stuck in a front door. But also because he undergoes gymnastic changes from one screen role to another without ever seeming to break a sweat, or lose

his essential congeniality.

He appears to be a laid-back guy, and he’s a certainly a laid-back actor — one never sees the heavy Actor Man gears rotating (unlike with Sean Penn). It all seems to be pure pleasure and/or instinct. Maybe because he makes it look so easy — and because he’s so good a goofball — Harrelson has seemed kinda taken for granted, a guy who lucked out in TV (Cheers), then movies. He’s had a haphazard career by the usual upwardly-mobile standards, mixing leads, support parts, cameos, mainstream and indie projects, network guest spots, heavy drama and low comedy. One suspects he takes work because he likes the people involved or it sounds like fun. No wonder he’s not the possessor of a screen image as carefully calibrated (and, at least until recently, lucrative) as Tom Cruise.

I’m sure there was no intentionality involved — dig the randomness of his 2008 output — but 2009 turns out a year that insisted attention be paid. Closet Harrelson fans (why would you hide that love?) emerged. How could they not? His conspiracy theorist was the sole spontaneous note in humungous idiot’s-delight 2012. He gave the sublime Steve Zahn a run for his scene-owning money in undervalued indie flop Management, as principal rival for Jennifer Aniston’s affections.

More significantly, he ruled as brokenhearted macho blowhards in two wildly different films. In Zombieland, his joyriding undead hunter has gorgeous comic rapport with Jesse Eisenberg’s shambling teen coward, improving their material considerably. That surprise box-office triumph was followed by underachiever The Messenger, in which Harrelson plays the officer who trains-partners Ben Foster in the terrible task — considered by many the military’s worst job — of informing home-front families their loved ones

have been killed.

Harrelson’s role in that was sarcastic, hostile, loutish, hilarious, tender, tragic — a tribute to director-coscenarist Oren Moverman, for sure, but especially to the actor he rightly figured as best possible choice. It’s a beautiful performance. But in a toss-up between that and Zombieland, I’d be hard-pressed to choose a favorite.

Yet even those movies don’t let Harrelson dominate as in Defendor, a 2009 Toronto International Film Festival premiere not due theatrically until next year. In that, he plays a near-homeless schizophrenic who imagines himself a superhero. That tricky role brings out nearly all his colors, especially the loopy, athletic, and pathos-driven ones.

It’s another small film in a career whose highlights are often under-the-radar, like his gay Southerner escort to Manhattan socialites in 2007’s The Walker; the quiet hired gun in 2007’s No Country For Old Men; guess-who in 1996’s The People vs. Larry Flynt; the grenade recipient in 1998’s The Thin Red Line; and so forth. Not to mention such funny-farm swerves as Natural Born Killers (1994), Kingpin (1996), Wag the Dog (1997), and (in drag) Anger Management (2003).

To his credit, Harrelson has also been a high-profile spokesman for hemp, veganism, and overall greening. At his Mill Valley Festival tribute in October, he was charmingly abashed by his own success and serious about attributing achievement to others. All this overcoming a most unfortunate familial background fictionalized in fellow-Texan-turned-local-playwright Octavio Solis’ brilliant Santos & Santos.

Will he age out? Unlikely — already straddling Steve Buscemi and Matthew McConaughey terrain, he can be our next Jeff Bridges for another 30 years.

Pure war

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YEAR IN FILM As the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq nears its second decade, the question of its influence on modern American cinema has been redoubled by this year’s sampling of seminal combat films. Not only were Quentin Tarantino’s epical Inglourious Basterds and Kathryn Bigelow’s anti-epic The Hurt Locker two of the best releases of 2009, they represented a startling mutation in the zeitgeist’s popular narratives of geopolitics, absenting the requisite leitmotifs of nationalism, ethic, and archive. The disappearance of a moral imperative in Inglourious‘ Holocaust revenge parable and Locker‘s chronicle of an adrenaline junkie flummoxed numerous critics who admonished them for a dangerous aestheticization of war. Having accentuated the alternative fantasies and ecstasies of military violence, Tarantino and Bigelow committed the cardinal sin of privileging the inner experience of war over its ancillary politics, or, rather, made them one in the same.

Most of the putatively titled “war on terror” pictures, solidified as a genre in the aftermath of 9/11, fulfilled one of several bog-standard paradigms: the preening, ideological propaganda of Michael Moore (2004’s Fahrenheit 9/11) and Errol Morris (2003’s The Fog of War and 2008’s Standard Operating Procedure), with its leftist moralizing thinly camouflaged as real “documents” of war; the quasi-jingoist paeans to American imperialism in Black Hawk Down (2001) and We Were Soldiers (2002); and the grid-skipping, pan-global tourist thrillers Syriana (2005), The Kingdom (2007), and Body of Lies (2008). Regardless of their ideological positions, all of these war on terror films linked cinematic politics with moral engagement and the need for historicizing the truth of combat.

But Inglourious and Locker fail to follow any of the necessary formulae and are thereby excluded from the generic privilege of the modern war film. In its attempt at a sui generis retributive fantasy, Inglourious details a vicious gang of Jews who collect Nazi scalps and immolate Hitler in a third-act ejaculation as cartoonish as it is intertextual. Treading in a Pynchonian zone of alternative history, the film not only lampoons but seeks to rewrite the archive of the 20th century.

But Tarantino’s violence is not ballasted by any of the ruminative “what ifs” (what if the Holocaust could have been prevented? What if you could kill Hitler?) that have become the ethicist’s fundamental paradox. He obviates such moral concerns in favor of bloody spectacle and, in so doing, risks erasing the last, sacred vestiges of the Holocaust — namely, that it occurred. In Tarantino’s comic-book universe, fiction-making refuses to be caught in the crossfire between truth and engagement. The Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek alludes to as much in his recent treatise on violence when he claims “the threat today is not passivity, but the pseudo-activity, the urge to ‘be active,’ to ‘participate.’ Those in power often prefer even a ‘critical’ participation, a dialogue, to silence. Sometimes, doing nothing is the most violent thing to do.” Such valuations are a disturbing reproach to the oft-repeated Holocaust maxim, “Never again.”

Similarly, Bigelow’s film pivots on the saga of American IED fatalities in Iraq, but celebrates as heroes morally dubious outlaws playing in the postmodern desert of the real. Locker‘s insidious epigram, “The rush of battle is a potent and often lethal addiction, for war is a drug” — lifted from Chris Hedges’ War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning — sums up a picture that is as much about the sensory pleasures of combat as its horrific ugliness. While Bigelow turns to the hard-boiled Americana of Samuel Fuller and Howard Hawks for her inspiration, she has translated them through what French cultural theorist Paul Virilio might term “dromocratic” consciousness, where traditional cinematic politics have disappeared and been replaced with a hyperreal “logistics of perception.”

The result is an apolitical pleasure dome of sensory overload; guns become canons, explosions appear as living sculpture, urban war zones are makeshift playgrounds. Like Inglourious Basterds, The Hurt Locker delights in its own ethical and political vacuum, generating fantasies of immolation without sourcing it as either a psychological grotesque (e.g. PTSD) or an ideological other (i.e. Nazis or Iraqis). When the IED experts finally reach the end of their tour, the tedious suburban lives that await them are a pathetic denouement. Is it possible, Bigelow seems to muse, that the real American dream lies on the battlefield and not the home front?

 

A walk with L.A.

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CHEAP EATS For a while there I was running the airport shuttle and it was like the old days when I drove a van. One day I picked up my North Carolina sister L.A. and her husband, and the next, for example, I was dropping off Crawdad’s whole family. This was at an ungodly hour, like 6 a.m.

Knowing that L.A., an early bird to begin with, would be lagging some serious jet, I called her cell phone. They were sleeping at my nephew’s flat, their son’s flat, South of Market. It was 6:15, Saturday.

“Come on by,” L.A. said, not the faintest trace of sleep in her voice. So I did. I came by and picked her up, and we left the boys a-snoring and drove around and about and up and down and across, just generally drawing a big X over 2009 in San Francisco, and wondering about breakfast.

The thing about this particular sister is that she doesn’t seem to necessarily need to be always exactly eating. In other ways, though, we are a lot alike. For example, we have the same mom and dad. For another, our hair and noses are somewhat sorta similar.

L.A. is my favorite kind of vegetarian: the kind who eats bacon. But you have to talk her into it. All in all, she would rather go for a walk. I personally need some coffee at least, if not a full-on breakfast, before I can move about in any kind of consistently vertical fashion. My sister not only doesn’t need coffee, she doesn’t drink it. In short, I didn’t know what to do with her.

So I pointed us toward Glen Park, where we would walk, but drove real slow, hoping hard that a restaurant would open before we got there. Or a coffee house.

I wasn’t thinking about donuts …

And then there they were. There it was, on 24th Street between Hampshire and York, and miraculously the clock struck 7 a.m.. I had forgotten all about Dynamo. Alice Shaw the Person told me about it months or maybe years ago. And here it was, the home of bacon maple apple donuts, flipping on the lights, so to speak, exactly as we were driving almost aimlessly by.

I pulled over abruptly into one of 7,000 available parking spots, and then backed up into another one.

“Bacon donuts,” I explained.

“What?” said my vegetarianish caffeine-free sister. Did I mention she doesn’t eat sugar?

“Coffee,” I said. “Do you want to wait in the car?”

She didn’t. We went up to the sidewalk window and I ordered a coffee and a donut. A bacon donut, of course. Know how much it costs?

Three dollars. That’s just for the donut. With coffee, it was something like $5, which is more than most full-on meals cost where my sister lives.

She ordered a cup of hot water.

There’s one row of tables inside the place, and the tables have flowers on them. It’s a donut shop. There are flowers on the tables. My sister, who is older than me by three years, sat with her back to the wall, watching the bakers work the dough across the counter. They were young and cheerful and listening to good music.

I could almost actually see every single thing in my big sister’s brain shifting, resettling, jiggling into whole new places. It seemed like a good time to ask: “Do you want a bite?”

She didn’t say no, or yes. She sat there, her mouth a little bit open. Sugar gives her yeast infections. She had already told me this.

I sunk my teeth into my $3 bacon-grease-sautéed apple donut, glazed with maple and stuck with crumbled bacon. It’s not a big breakfast. It was already half-gone, but I love my sister, so I held the remaining half-donut to her, and she took it. And she took a bite.

And you could see that she was in immediate heaven, her eyebrows joining her hairline, and her hand reaching for her purse.

“Let’s get another one,” she said.

And we did. And Glen Park was beautiful. *

DYNAMO DONUTS

Tue. –Sat., 7 a.m.–5 p.m.; Sun., 9 a.m.–4 p.m.

2760 24th St., SF

(415) 920-1978

No alcohol

Cash only

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

The Dobler Effect

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YEAR IN FILM If 2008 was the year of the bromance, 2009 likely sounded its death knell. (The title alone of the March release I Love You, Man proves the genre blip has said everything it possibly could.) This can only mean one thing: confused hetero men-children have returned to their first loves, idealized pretty-girl ciphers who fulfill their wanton need to worship and be “understood.” This year in particular has seen a resurgence of those impossibly sensitive, crush-worthy romantic misfits. Sadly, as in the past, they usually spurn flesh-and-blood females for unattainable pseudo-goddesses.

Call it the Dobler effect, in honor of every indie girl’s sigh-inducing Valentino, Lloyd Dobler. The raw heart of Cameron Crowe’s gushy-earnest 1989 romantic dramedy, Say Anything, Lloyd (John Cusack) falls for Diane Court (Ione Skye), a brainy, humorless beauty who eventually succumbs to his potent weirdo charms. But Lloyd puts Diane on a pedestal so high it’s a wonder she can even hear his proclamations of undying devotion. For me at least, Say Anything has always posed a conundrum: if the awkward, goofball guys are all going for the gorgeous ice princesses (and getting them), who’s left for all of us — I mean, those — awkward, goofball gals?

At least Crowe made Diane a complex character in her own right, unlike Mark Webb’s creation of Summer in his clever yet ultimately trite breakout hit, (500) Days of Summer. Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), his lovelorn protagonist, embarks on a love affair with Summer (Zooey Deschanel), a free-spirited, haughty, and (according to omniscient voice-over) spellbindingly hot woman who tears out Tom’s heart like so much ribbon from the mixtape of a hated ex.

While Tom decides his idealization of Summer is the product of insidious pop romanticism, that’s not entirely the case: Summer herself is its product. She simply transforms from the personification of Tom’s need to be needed to that of his need to be free of that need. (Did I mention Tom is pretty needy?) A disingenuous apparition, she’s as workshopped as any of the insipid, sentimental slogans Tom conjures at his day job for a greeting card company. Perhaps that’s the point, but it doesn’t make her, or rather the idea of her, any more palatable.

The movie may be emblematic of the Dobler effect, but 2009 did offer some light at the end of this tunnel of one-sided love. Released early in the year and largely overlooked, James Gray’s romantic drama Two Lovers offers a stinging rebuke of the Pedestal Girl in a way (500) Days of Summer only pretends to. But in terms of romantic trope blow-ups, Charlyne Yi in Paper Heart outdoes them all. A quasi-documentary love story, the film’s meta-conceit might be wobbly, but that doesn’t make its message any less refreshing. Yes, the weirdo goofball finally gets her man. It seems in 2009, we can finally chalk one up for all the real girls.

New Year’s relief

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SONIC REDUCER Ah, if only one could give the gift of foresight, how many of us would just throw in the towel, ditch the bitching squeeze, and descend into a netherworld of never-again when faced with the prospect of a dubious New Year’s Eve celebration? Oh, the effing pressure to perform, to live it up and to have a ball, especially when booting out a good-riddance-already year like ’09.

Yet who wants to send it out with a whine rather than on a note of sublime? Who wants to crash to the curb rather than kicking it with joyful liberation and libation? Not I, La Reducer. So let me take the effort out of the forced merriment, remove the angst from the party ranks: here’s the best New Year’s Eve plan for everyone — no matter how magnificent or misguided, buttoned-up or taste-challenged they may be. Pick your NYE poison — then take two Advil and drink a big glass of water before you pass out during the warmed-over breakfast buffet the following morning, at the start of a new decade.

For my keeping-it-casual soul music maestro with a taste for the live jammies The Roots keep their distance from that adorable but far-too-desperate-to-please Jimmy Fallon for NYE and break out the deep originals, assisted by the sprawling SoCal Orgone, at this “sneakers required” beatdown. 9 p.m., $72–$95. Warfield, 982 Market, SF. www.goldenvoice.com

For our favorite mulleted hesherette, forever in acid-washed blue jeans Jump on your bad motor scooter — Montrose is totally bringing some rock candy to Avalon, the same Silly-con nightspot that came through with Y&T last year. With Voyeur and Terry Lauderdale. 8 p.m. doors, $35 advance. 777 Lawrence Expressway, Santa Clara. www.liveatavalon.com

For your too-cool coworker with the asymmetrical crop and the skinniest jeggings on the block Too hep to 12 step? Glass Candy’s nouveau disco darlings Ida No and Johnny Jewel make you wanna strive for the next level in awesome. With Desire. 9 p.m., $45. Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell, SF. www.rickshawstop.com

For that shy, retiring indie-rock cutie-pie with a sweetly sunken chest and a song in his heart His fave local indie rockers Morning Benders just signed onto Rough Trade for their next long-player, Big Echo. Time is now to trip on the new songs. With Miniature Tigers and A B and the Sea. 10 p.m., $20. Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., SF. www.bottomofthehill.com

For my vintage Bettie Page still mourning the passing of the lindy-hop revival Lee Presson and the Nails keep the antics on edge, alongside veteran Southland stompers Big Sandy and His Fly-Rite Boys. And we’ll all wanna get a gander of the infamous Girl in the Fishbowl. With Project: Pimento and the Cottontails. 8 p.m. doors, $60. Bimbo’s 365 Club, 1025 Columbus, SF. www.bimbos365club.com

For our indie hip-hop homes with a penchant for a smoking party Devin the Dude wants to put you at ease and bring you home in one piece — blunts and brews intact. 9 p.m., $20. Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck, Berk. www.shattuckdownlow.com

For that indie kid with a wild streak and a secret love of FM radio Local up-and-comers Audrye Sessions might be just the ticket to check out, while Hottub bid y’all to jump in and test its waters. With Soft White Sixties and Manatee. 9 p.m., $12–$15. Uptown, 1928 Telegraph, Oakl. www.uptownnightclub.com

For your art-jam darling with a proggish spirit Chop-chop to the multitalented NorCal player Les Claypool. 9 p.m., $59.50. Fillmore, 1805 Geary, SF. www.livenation.com

For my Southern crust-vamp with a pointy-toed bootie in both the burner and retro-gypsy camps Squirrel Nut Zippers skirt the definable before sinking teensy-tiny incisors into a kind of bluesy cabaret. With Steve Soto and the Twisted Hearts. 9:30 p.m., $65. Café du Nord, 2170 Market, SF. www.cafedunord.com

For that up-for-anything music fan in the mood to shake his milky bottom line You’re down with anything, as long as it’s got a groove or a bit of blue-eyed soul — so get thee to Bay-bred Brett Dennen, A.L.O., and SambaDA, all determined to get the party ‘tarded. 8 p.m., $40–$50. Fox Theater, 1807 Telegraph, Oakl. www.apeconcerts.com

The Candlestick farce

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No one was really surprised when commissioners for the Redevelopment Agency and Planning Department voted last week to only give the public a Scrooge-like 15 days to review a six-volume, 4,400-page draft environmental impact report for Lennar Corp.’s massive 700-acre Candlestick Point redevelopment project.

Everybody knew that Michael Cohen, Mayor Gavin Newsom’s top economic advisor, wanted to jam this proposal through the certification process by early June in a last-ditch effort to win back the 49ers, even though the team has said it wants to go to Oakland if the City of Santa Clara doesn’t vote to build a new stadium.

The decision gives the public until Jan. 12th to submit written comments on the DEIR. A broad coalition of community and environmental justice groups asked for a 45-day extension.

And the entire process — including condescending remarks by commissioners, a fight, the forcible removal of several members of the audience, and statements from developer allies that were, at best, highly misleading — can only be described as a farce.

The rush to approve the document is entirely political. Santa Clara voters go to the ballot June 8 to decide if they want to build the 49ers a fancy facility near Great America. But June 8 is the same day, according to a spreadsheet maintained by city Shipyard/Candlestick planners, that the San Francisco Board of Supervisors is scheduled to approve the EIR for Lennar’s proposal.

The city’s DEIR envisions building a new 49ers stadium on the shipyard — a position that would allow thousands of luxury condos to be built on the site where the team currently plays, including a significant slice of Candlestick Point State Recreation Area.

To meet the increasingly artificial-looking June 8 EIR deadline, Cohen signaled he’d only be able to squeeze out 15 extra days for draft EIR review.

LENNAR’S PAID SUPPORTERS

With Cohen nowhere in sight at the DEIR hearings last week, his deputy, Tiffany Bohee, was left to kick off Redevelopment’s Dec. 15 and Planning’s Dec. 17 DEIR hearings.

“Time does matter for this project,” Bohee told commissioners, claiming that the project has been vetted exhaustively, including at least 177 public meetings — when the truth was that the public had never had an opportunity to review the complete draft EIR, a binding legal document, before its recent release.

“The consequence of delays is that it precludes the city’s ability to get ahead of the Santa Clara election in June,” Bohee said.

Bohee’s introduction was followed by a string of “no delay” and other off-point comments from representatives of the San Francisco Labor Council, the San Francisco Organizing Project, SF ACORN, and other groups that signed a community benefits agreement with Lennar in May 2008 that promised them millions of dollars in work and housing benefits — provided they show up at public meetings and support the development.

SF Labor Council vice president Connie Ford told commissioners that her organization “looks forward to the day when much-needed resources and support comes our way.”

A dozen residents of the Alice Griffith public housing project talked about their deplorable living conditions.

Asked by Redevelopment commissioner London Breed what the impact of a DEIR review extension would have on the planned rebuild of the Alice Griffith project, Bohee said, “It will jeopardize our ability to get any city decision on the project by June. As a result, delays to Alice Griffith could be indefinite.”

But that’s a stretch — at best. According to Lennar and the city’s own schedule, new Alice Griffith replacement units won’t be available before 2015 at the earliest. An additional 30 days of environmental review at this point will make no difference.

THE BOZO COMMISSIONERS

Compounding the city’s half-truths was the patronizing attitude of those commissioners who thought that their opinion of the DEIR should satisfy members of the public who hadn’t had enough time to review it.

“I think it’s an extremely well done document,” Planning commissioner Michael Antonini told a crowd that had sat through five hours of testimony and been warned by Planning Commission chair Ron Miguel that they’d been thrown out if they spoke during others’ testimony.

Bizarrely, planning commissioner Bill Lee tried to use the fact that the public wasn’t making many substantive comments on the DEIR as an argument against giving anyone more time to read it. Commissioner Gwyneth Borden made the equally odd argument that since people are almost certain to sue the city over the DEIR, there’s no reason to give an extension now.

And Miguel asked the public to put their faith in some vague meeting in the future rather than agreeing to what were asking for at the meeting. “I do believe that when all the comments are considered and answered and the final EIR comes before us and the Redevelopment Agency, that everything will come together,” Miguel said.

By that time, Arc Ecology’s director Saul Bloom, Jaron Browne of People Organized to Win Employment Rights, and POWER’s attorney Sue Hestor told the commissioners that they believe the project’s impacts on transportation, state park habitat, and the foraging requirements of the peregrine falcon had not been adequately analyzed. Eric Brooks of the Green Party expressed concern that sea level rise will be more pronounced than the DEIR projections.

Bloom also explained that a lack of adequate review time hindered his staff’s ability to prepare comments in time for a hearing that came only a month after the DEIR’s release.

Planning Commission vice president Christina Olague and commissioners Kathrin Moore and Hisashi Sugaya tried to extend the review period to February. As Olague pointed out, the commission recently granted a public DEIR review extension to a 15,959-square-foot parcel in Russian Hill, which is tiny compared to Lennar’s 708-acre proposal in the Bayview, where residents have the city’s lowest educational levels

But the Planning Commission’s 4-3 vote against a February extension revealed how mayoral appointees ignore common sense once they have their political marching orders.

COHEN’S FANTASY

“This appears to be all about Cohen’s fantasy of out-maneuvering Santa Clara to get the 49ers to move into a new Hunters Point stadium,” Hestor told the Guardian.

Hestor also pointed to a Dec. 18 San Francisco Business Times guest editorial titled “Business Leaders Can Save the Niners” that Planning Commissioner Michael Antonini had clearly written before Planning’s marathon Dec. 17 hearing.

“The editorial illuminates why, at the Planning Commission on Dec. 17, Antonini argued against any extension for public comment on the DEIR beyond Dec. 28,” Hestor said, noting that Dec. 28 was the absolute minimum DEIR review period required under the California Environmental Quality Act — a review period that straddled Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Kwanza and Christmas (see Holiday Snowjob, 12/09/09).

Earlier this month, a coalition of environmental and community development groups, including Arc Ecology, the Sierra Club, the Potrero Hill Democratic Club, San Francisco Tomorrow, Literacy for Environmental Justice, Young Community Developers, the Neighborhood Parks Council, the South East Jobs Coalition, Walden House, Urban Strategies Council, India Basin Neighborhood Association, California Native Plants Society, Golden Gate Audubon Society, and the Bayview Resource Center, wrote to Mayor Gavin Newsom, requesting a 45-day DEIR review extension.

The request seemed further vindicated when it became apparent that most of the people who showed up at the DEIR hearings, including those opposed to extending the review period, admitted that they had not actually read the documents in question. And the commissioners’ failure to honor the extension request represents a new low in a process that threatens to become a classic lesson in the dangers of public-private partnerships.

Opponents of giving the public a decent chance to read the DEIR argue that there have already been hundreds of meetings on the proposed project. But as Bloom pointed out, the character and focus of EIR is different from any other document that has been produced for discussion. “If an issue is not raised during the EIR process, it cannot be raised subsequently,” Bloom said. “Releasing an EIR during the holiday season and providing the minimum amount of time allowable under the law for public review undermines the public’s ability to evaluate an EIR and disenfranchises people at one of the most critical points of the project approval process.”

Bloom also noted that a standard strategy for drastically limiting public input while appearing to be transparent is to spend time evaluating nonbinding documents while providing the minimum time required to evaluate the legally binding stuff.

“The Phase 2 Urban Design Plan released in October 2008 was in public discussion until it was approved in February 2009 — five months,” Bloom observed, noting that nothing in that document was legally binding. Neither was Lennar required to disclose negative effects of its plan. But an EIR is a legally binding document. “It’s a fiction that a 45-day DEIR public review extension would have cause a domino effect of indefinitely delaying the approval of the project,” Bloom added.

Editor’s Notes

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A year ago, we were dancing in the streets celebrating Barack Obama’s election. Now we’re marching in the streets protesting his escalation of the war in Afghanistan — and a lot of us are calling for the defeat of his signature legislation. That’s a failure that goes well beyond a couple of bad policy decisions, and it threatens more than just the next few years of Obama’s presidency.

The late philosopher Herbert Marcuse used to say that the worst disaster of the Vietnam War was the division it created between the baby boomers and their parents, the generational distrust that would last well beyond the final artillery fire. And I fear that the worst legacy of Afghanistan and the mess that is health care reform will be another deep blow to whatever fragile faith remains among young Americans that a well-meaning president and his party can make a difference, the faith that government can accomplish something worthwhile — and that the public sector is worth the fight it takes to save it from a well-organized and lavishly funded effort to continue the privatization of the United States.

The fight over the public option in the health care bill wasn’t just about containing costs, or preventing tax hikes, or mandating fair competition. The insurance industry knew that from the start.

One of the reasons the radical right has always hated Social Security is that it’s a government program that helps people, one that tens of millions of citizens rely on and support. When the government sends you a check every month, you tend to think of the folks in Washington as something other than crooks, liars, and villains.

And if the government offered health insurance that cost less than the private companies, covered more, and was less of a hassle to use, then millions more American voters would begin to realize that the public sector can do some things very well — much better than private industry. And that would be a social transformation on the scale of the New Deal.

So that’s why the insurers and their toadies wouldn’t allow it to happen — and why, in the wake of the Afghanistan fiasco, Obama’s failure to force the issue is such a momentous disappointment.

Just look around the streets of San Francisco at any antiwar demonstration and you see the problem. We’re mad at the president, not at the insurance industry. Nobody’s marching in front of the headquarters of the handful of big companies that have — as a matter of course and intentional policy — destroyed the health care system in America. We figure: hey, they’re just big businesses, doing what they do.

So instead, we’re going to be pissed off for a long time at the man who — maybe for just a moment, one bright shining moment — had the ability to turn around about 50 years of cynicism and distrust that has poisoned American politics. And we should be pissed, because he let us down. He promised us hope. Now he’s giving up, without even putting up much of a fight.

The next budget battle

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EDITORIAL There is some good news — in a manner of speaking — about Mayor Gavin Newsom’s proposed midyear budget cuts: they don’t just affect Muni, recreation and parks, human services, and public health. The departments that have been hammered hardest in the past year still face spending reductions — but so do police and fire. The $6 million in Police Department cuts and $1.7 million in Fire Department cuts actually exceed the $7.4 million that the Department of Public Health will have to absorb.

That, of course, requires some context — over the past few budget cycles, DPH has lost far more money than public safety. And the Fire Department has far more fat than its modest cut reflects. And the Human Services Agency is still taking a $3.3 million hit. And the mayor is still keeping five press secretaries. And it’s not at all clear how much of the cuts will involve paring the bloated management ranks, and how much will be the further elimination of front-line services.

And this is just the start — the budget deficit for next year is more than $400 million, and the blood on the floor by the time that’s resolved will make this round look easy.

But the very fact that some of the sacred cows of San Francisco are facing their own financial pain sends an important message: this budget crisis won’t be solved just by screwing the poor — and the unions representing the cops and firefighters are going to have to step up and work with the rest of organized labor to push for some new revenue. And they’ll need to put up some money and reach out to the more conservative voters to promote the tax increases San Francisco desperately needs.

Now it’s up to the supervisors to put in motion the process to take substantial changes in the way the city is funded out of the discussion stage and into the policy arena.

When Newsom was running for governor, it was almost impossible to get him to talk seriously about raising revenue; he clearly wanted to be the candidate who could talk about balancing a city’s budget without raising taxes. Now that he’s not looking for votes in the Central Valley, he’s been a little more open to the idea that a cuts-only budget won’t work the next time around.

Unfortunately, the two main ways he wants to raise money are both terrible ideas. Newsom is talking about gutting the condominium conversion limits and allowing anyone who pays a fee to get a permit to turn an apartment into a condo. That would have a devastating impact on the city’s rental housing stock. He also wants to sell off taxicab permits — a plan that would undermine the city’s longstanding policy of allowing working cab drivers to use the permits at a modest fee and create a structure where the right to drive a cab would be determined at auction and given to the highest bidder.

The condo conversion plan is unlikely to get six votes, and the progressive supervisors should make it clear that a taxi privatization proposal isn’t the best way to solve the budget crisis, either. Then the mayor and the board can start working on a progressive tax plan to put before the voters next year.

The Budget Committee will be ground zero for the debate. Sup. John Avalos chaired that committee through last year’s harrowing budget battles, but in the past the job has rotated. If Board President David Chiu intends to appoint a new chair for next year, he should name one of the two qualified progressives with background on the committee. Either Sup. Ross Mirkarimi or Sup. David Campos would be an excellent choice.