Volume 44 Number 45-

August 11-17, 2010

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alt.sex.column: Special goop

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Dear Andrea:

Have you seen those commercial for the new K-Y product, with all the geysers going off and so on? They’re funny, but does the product work — and why? I have orgasms, but not always, Besides, anything that could make it even more fun …

Love,

Happy Shopper

Dear Shop:

It’s hard to miss those prim little couples with their giant expulsions of boiling fluids. They are pretty funny. But are they accurate?

Who knows. There are a lot of these products: warming, tingling, and INTENSE ( the geysers one) alike. All of a sudden we have aisles of female sexual enhancement products, right there across from the Preparation H and the Depends in your drugstore’s “mortifying conditions” section.

So what’s the deal with all these products? Mostly, no matter how they sell themselves, they are lube with a little Icy-Hot thrown in. The most active of the active ingredients in INTENSE appears to be niacin, a.k.a. vitamin B3, and yeah, that could work. Niacin gets a lot of press for its cholesterol- fighting properties, but it also causes an intense flushing/prickling/skin-on-fire sensation. The same capillary-dilating action that causes the flush ought to have a noticeable effect when applied to an organ that relies on plentiful blood flow to the surface to function properly. And according to the literature, it does, in about 75 percent of women who try it. But at least 25 percent feel nothing at all. My favorite of the Amazon reviews I read was titled “Special Goop for Her Whosis, But Not That Great, Again.”

Further along the gimmickiness spectrum, K-Y also offers a kit with two test tubes of special goop, one for his whosis, one for hers. The girl goop is Icy, the boy goop is Hot. Together you’d think they would achieve a nice “tepid,” but some people claim to really like it. At the same time, you can get a similar effect cheaper, more customizable, and without faintly suspect chemicals using an ice cube and a cup of hot water.

There are other, similar products out there, some of which contain L-arginine, an amino acid that regularly shows up in sex-enhancers and really does have a reasonable reason for maybe working. Whether it really works in whoopie creams, I do not know.

I can tell you what does work. All these products are meant to increase blood flow to the genitals (especially women’s). The other thing that increases blood flow to women’s genitals is a long session of light, teasing touch, alternating with more direct stimulation, applied attentively and with regard to the woman’s response. We could also call this “foreplay,” or “good sex.” I would strongly urge anyone interested in buying any of these tingle-nostrums to try the free, hypoallergenic alternative first.

I am, of course, not opposed or averse to better living through chemistry. But I’m a little irritated by these commercials for a) making women’s sexual response so cute and b) making it all seem so easy.

They seem pretty harmless, though. Go ahead and buy some but maybe look for a coupon first.

Love,

Andrea

 

Shot therapy

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le.chicken.farmer@gmail.com

CHEAP EATS Deevee and me were eating polenta with all the colorful vegetables in the world sauced up on top, and meatballs, complaining about shit. Mostly, I confess, it was me doing the complaining, but Deevee and the meatballs were getting in on it too. We all have problems.

Where some of us are better off than others is in the solutions department. For example, meatballs and me just exist, as in: do what we do. We beat our heads and hearts against brick walls and dumbass dudes and dykes then complain about the lumps … and simmer in a sauce and taste real good, respectively.

“You know what I’m going to do?” Deevee said, after dinner, after dishes, after tea. She was making chocolate chip cookies with butterscotch chips. “I’m going to buy a BB gun.”

“That sounds reasonable,” I said.

“I’m going to bring it to your barbecue on Saturday,” she said, “and we’re going to shoot cans.”

“That sounds great,” I said. It sounded, in fact, better than great. It sounded like just the thing. However, had I anticipated (and I should have, really) that shooting cans with BB guns would make Deevee want to have back her pink straw hillbilly cowboy hat that she’d technically given me, my enthusiasm for the idea would have been less unbridled. Or more bridled — however you say that.

Another thought would have been to hide the pink hat before she showed up with her hot shit new BB gun and truly brilliant ideas. But I was at a rehearsal for a 20-minute rock opera about sea monkeys that I had accidentally gotten involved with, and the rehearsal ran late, and Deevee arrived at my shack before I did with a fold-up camping chair, some beers, and, yes, the gun.

The hat, her hat my hat her hat, was sitting outside on an oil drum, where I’d left it, and — even I had to admit — it accessorized the beer, BB gun, and fold-up chair to a T.

T for treachery! I’m kidding. We’re in our 40s. We have a long history, as friends, as sister-in-laws (or sisters-in-love, as we used to say, because she and my brother were never quite married) and then as friends again. Only better. Sisterly friends, like this: If something looks better on one than the other, they can have it. And this pink straw hillbilly cowboy hat most definitely looks better on her, even without the beer can and BB gun. I freely admit this.

I was too busy making food, because people were coming over, including children and dogs, but Deevee and the Jungle set up cans under the apple trees by the street, and were shooting from the log at the edge of the driveway. Some of my guests were afraid at first to turn in. They thought they had the wrong place.

Until they smelled the baby back ribs with blueberry barbecue sauce and hickory smoke. I’m not bragging. I’m just saying. In fact, the chickens came out better than the ribs this time, I thought. As far as I know, everyone got nervous but no one got sick, which is just the way I want it, when the meat’s on me. I want it to be not only on my dime, but on my conscience.

Deevee slept over, I had nightmares, and the next morning I got to shoot cans too, which was almost as therapeutic as therapy, only 10 times more so. Then, while she and the Jungle went skinny dipping in the hippie compound pond down the road, I made breakfast: bacon, eggs, and leftovers.

In fact, I’ve been eating leftovers ever since, so you’re lucky I have anything at all to say about restaurants. Which I do, which is this:

Earl Butter’s new favorite restaurant is Kome, the enormous sushi buffet in Daly City. I went there with him, but it wasn’t for me. Cheaper than SF sushi buffets, yes ($12-ish lunch, $20-ish dinner), but not a lot of things were great there, and some were downright yucky. Plus: it’s popular! Lines! Why???

Ol’ Earl thought Kome was going to change my life, and he meant well, but was wrong. Cans did.

KOME
Mon.-Fri. 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m.;
Sat.–Sun. 10:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m.
1901 Junipero Serra Blvd., No. A
(650) 992-8600
AE/D/MC/V

Appetite: 3 gourmet cheap eats on Sonoma

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Not far off Sonoma’s idyllic town square lie these three unique gems – you can eat high quality Eastern European, BBQ or Mexican food at a reasonable price.

EL MOLINO CENTRAL: In a sea of taquerias lining Sonoma’s Highway 12, there’s a new addition I’ve been excited to tell you about that opened early this Summer: El Molino Central. I pulled over after doing a double take — it looks like a charming taqueria, but reading hand-painted “tortillas… tamales… blue bottle coffee” on the side of the building made me say, “Wait… what?”

With no dining space inside, there’s a leisurely patio out back. Inside, it’s an open kitchen where you survey Mexican street food prepared with a high level of care and quality ingredients. The staff hand-grinds corn masa and press tortillas in wood presses. There are even fresh tortillas and pre-prepared dishes to heat up at home. The menu offers merely a handful of items: chilaquiles, tostadas, enchiladas and delightful tamales (I like the white corn and cheese version).

What surprises is the Blue Bottle Coffee menu straight down to New Orleans’ Iced Coffee (perfect on a hot Wine Country summer day). You can get your individual drip or a cappuccino, happily savored with a tamale made from local ingredients.

The place looks plucked out of LA with palm trees and all, but exemplifying Slow Food sensibilities. The shock is the quality level (which costs a little more than an average taqueria, though still under $10)… and the Blue Bottle. You, too, can have your Blue Bottle and homemade tamales in a Mexican food joint. Sonoma is lucky to get this lovably quirky new addition.


Pork Schnitzel sandwich and white corn soup at Lokal

LOKAL: Just off the Sonoma square, Lokal has been getting some love lately from SF folk like Michael Bauer. I’m in when you say Eastern European and Hungarian food — difficult to find done well anywhere, much less in Wine Country.

Lokal won me over with shelves full of records and LPs in the dining room, then with sunny, back patio picnic tables. There’s a fine selection of beers making the patio beer garden-reminiscent. Service has it’s kinks, including a pricing discrepancy on their menu it took awhile to work out on my bill, but the food is a pleasure and is now a favored stop in downtown Sonoma.

Lokal makes a mean German Potato Salad ($5), sweetened by grilled red onions, punchy with mustard, maintaining a fresh profile despite starchiness. A Summer special of White Corn Puree Soup ($3.50 a cup) is sweet and bright. Count me in on the Eva Gabor’s Pork Schnitzel Sandwich/”Rueben” ($12). You almost forget there’s no pastrami in there with a breaded pork cutlet layered with mustard and sauerkraut. There’s a satisfying savoriness here reminiscent of a great Rueben. Lightly crunchy brown bread and house pickles seal the deal.


Jalapeno poppers stuffed with carnitas and cheese at Mondo

MONDO: Mondo, a short drive from downtown Sonoma, has the largest beer selection in the area: 23 on tap and more by the bottle, with a little beer garden courtyard through the restaurant. A couple years ago, this was a sausage and burger joint.

The burgers remain but there’s also the kind of bar food that puts a grin on my face: plump Jalapeno Poppers ($7.50) oozing with cheese and shreds of carnitas (pork). There’s fatty Braised Beef Brisket Sandwich ($9.50) piled with crumbly blue cheese and shaved red onion. For a little healthy balance, try specials like Sweet White Corn Salad ($5) tossed in lime, cilantro, red peppers and red onion.

This is a welcome Wine Country respite where you can break from excess wine for beer and cheap, gourmet bar fare. 

New and improv-ed

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The launching of the San Francisco Improv Festival, back in 2004, signaled a major resurgence for improvisational theater in the Bay Area, long dominated by the exceptional BATS (Bay Area Theatre Sports) and related groups, but recently joined by a host of newer outfits as well. The rollicking festival attracted eager audiences, while bringing together a somewhat disparate local and intergenerational community of improvisers with national and even international acts. There was cross-pollination everywhere, in meetings on and offstage between players and groups, in workshops and master classes, and of course in many a bar. It all contributed to the latest wave in a tradition of Bay Area improv that reaches back to the storied days of the Committee in the 1960s.

Then things got rocky as well as rollicking as SFIF organizers shifted around and founding members headed to other projects and/or climes, culminating in last year’s hiatus. The cancellation of SFIF 2009 might have been more discouraging had not the members of Crisis Hopkins, the San Francisco–based improv and sketch comedy troupe, thought fast and leaped into the breach, organizing a last-minute smorgasbord they called the Temporary Improv Festival. Still, while TIF proved a modest success, the name alone inadvertently contributed to an impression that the peak might have already occurred.

Nothing could be further from the truth. As if to prove the point, SFIF has risen once more, like a soggy phoenix from a still-cresting wave. The revival of SFIF, which comes under new Crisis-led management, frankly looks more ambitious than ever. It even comes with an iPhone app.

“Which is ridiculous,” says Sam Shaw, Crisis Hopkins member and a cofounder of SFIF in 2004. “The people I’m working with — including Anthony Veneziale from The Freeze, and Jamie Wright, Cassidy Brown, Chris Hayes, and Chris Libby — we’ve come up with these little touches that I never would have thought of. We’re going to have a food truck for primetime shows hanging out in front of the [Eureka] theater. We’ve got Solstice, this bar in Pacific Heights, [to] help us serve alcohol, so we’ll have a full bar. There’s a lot going on.”

Of course, the real meat is in the shrewd and eclectic programming. In addition to a generous number of local, national, and international troupes, SFIF 2010 is hosting workshops (including an already sold-out improv “boot camp” with Armando Diaz) and inaugurating the SFIF Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Improv Community, which this year goes to beloved veteran performer Barbara Scott of BATS, True Fiction Magazine, Tonal Chaos, and other groups.

Also among the special events is an intriguing “Look Back at The Committee,” featuring a panel discussion with founding director Alan Myerson and other unannounced guests in conversation with improv historian and Monty Python pal Kim “Howard” Johnson. Shaw says this last event, connecting the improv scene with some of its heftier roots, realizes a long-held dream.

“I cofounded the fest with Shaun Landry in 2004, and ever since then I’ve wanted to do a program on The Committee. It was San Francisco’s Second City from 1963 to 1973,” he explains. “They did topical political satire; they did sketch comedy and improvisation.” Led for a time by the wildly influential improv director-performer Del Close, The Committee also spearheaded major developments in the form, in particular an exciting long-form structure called the Harold (a name coined by Committee musical director Allaudin Mathieu). “It’s like a 30-minute riff on a topic where the audience goes along for the ride,” says Shaw. “And it was born in San Francisco.”

Half-way out in the year from SF Sketchfest, the popular comedy showcase held each January, and centered in the same 200-seat venue downtown, SFIF looks more than ever like a natural compliment to its unaffiliated cousin. “We love Sketchfest, and we love doing it every year,” says Shaw, who notes the complimentary aspects to their programming as well. As for the Festival’s performance roster, the names alone tantalize. OJ in a Sippy Cup, for instance, just sounds refreshing.

“OJ in a Sippy Cup is a pretty awesome name,” admits Shaw. “They’re a duo from New York City, and they’re very fun. I have to say that I love the name Slave Leia. That’s an all-woman improv team from L.A.” Among other highlights, Shaw points to Men: A User’s Guide, “a really exciting duo from the Netherlands. They’re very highly trained long-form performers doing a show on men and men’s issues, and it’s just hilarious.” He sheds light on an enigmatic title, The Super-Dupers: Doo-Wop-Ner. “That is going to be doo-wop small claims court improvising,” he says, clearly impressed. “Their submission just said ‘doo-wop small claims court.’ And we let them in.”

Clearly, one take-home lesson is the sheer variety of improv out there. The common denominator remains the all-inclusive collaboration in the moment, in which audiences participate to varying degrees. “The fourth wall is very porous,” agrees SFIF’s executive producer Jamie Wright, a Bay Area native who came to improv from afar while bartending at Amsterdam’s famous Boom Chicago comedy club. But he stresses that interaction shouldn’t sound intimidating. “I’m an improviser and even I don’t like getting singled out by a comedian. Improv is really inviting, a very joyful thing to go to and watch. It’s also impressive. You are going to see something completely unique, and you’re going to be part of it — one way or another.”

SAN FRANCISCO IMPROV FEST

Aug. 12–21, $15–$50

Eureka Theater

215 Jackson, SF

(800) 838-3006

www.sfimprovfestival.com

Queen Carol

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Let me tell you what I think about when I think about Carol Channing: “Jam tomorrow, jam yesterday, but never, ever, ever jam today.” And then she turns herself into a sheep.

That’s not a fever dream: it’s one of the more absurd scenes from the 1985 TV movie Through the Looking Glass, featuring Channing as the batty White Queen. Channing’s 60-year career spans film, television, and theater — she’s probably best known for her iconic roles in Broadway shows Hello, Dolly! and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. And yet, in my mind, she’s waving her arms wildly and ranting nonsense at poor Alice.

In a way, that’s fair. It’s difficult to get a handle on Channing. I don’t think she could do it herself.

“I haven’t the slightest idea,” she said when I asked about the longevity and diversity of her career. “We’re all surprised at everything that happens to us.”

At nearly 90, Channing continues to perform. She’ll be in San Francisco for the Richmond/Ermet AIDS Foundation’s 16th annual Help is On the Way benefit concert. AIDS relief is one of Channing’s longest-running causes, inspired by a longtime friendship with the queer community.

“Way back in 1950, I don’t know what, we opened in San Francisco with Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,” she recalled. “They tell me there wasn’t a blonde wig left in San Francisco. They all came dressed as me.”

And because of her pioneering work, the gay community has continued to support her. Well, that and her status as Broadway legend: it kind of goes with the territory. Until talking to her, however, I had no idea about the politics of being a gay icon.

“They made me their queen, for life,” Channing explained. “The empress is only for three years — but they made me their queen.”

I didn’t have the nerve to ask where Liza Minnelli and Barbra Streisand fit into this hierarchy for fear I’d stir up tension and incite a coup. But Channing is more concerned with her current cause, the Carol Channing and Harry Kullijian Foundation for the Arts, which seeks to preserve arts education to keep kids in school.

“This is a crisis now in our country,” Channing lamented. “Not everybody gets it.”

Luckily, she laid it out for me: “Each of us sees the world differently. All the artist does is recreate what was already created, but as they see it. And once you start expressing how you see the world, it opens up the brain.”

And you were expecting “Raspberries!”  

HELP IS ON THE WAY XVI: THAT’S ENTERTAINMENT

Sun/15, 7:30 p.m., $75

Herbst Theatre

401 Van Ness, SF

(415) 392-4400

www.cityboxoffice.com

 

Volume 44 Number 45 Flip-through Edition

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Bay Area assemblage

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arts@sfbg.com

FILM/MUSIC/VISUAL ART Since July 9, local artist David Wilson has programmed the Friday night L@TE shows at the Berkeley Art Museum, in conjunction with “Gatherings,” his installment in the site’s MATRIX series. On Friday the 13th, Wilson concludes his summer contributions to L@TE with presentations by Jamie Stewart, the veritable prince of darkness for Oakland-based indie band Xiu Xiu, and Bay Area film critic Max Goldberg. The program is not only about gatherings in nature but also the assemblage of disparate art forms. Wilson has traversed between media to suss out the kind of aesthetics you can see, and invisible aesthetics that can only be heard. Or as he puts it in an e-mail: “I have been organizing a seasonal series of performances that foster collaborations with different artists and performers and bring people together in unique circumstances.”

Adjacent to Thom Faulder’s BAMscape — a massive orange installation that doubles as sculpture and furniture, beckoning spectators to “sit on it” but also turning them off with its uncomfortable wood seating — Wilson has placed what he calls “a large cove structure of found wood.” It works like an indoor amphitheater. This summer it has become the playing space of musicians such as Grouper and Gamelan Sekar Jaya. Wilson also has framed some works in conjunction with the interactive architecture installed in the gallery. “I’ve been making art about place and experience in place,” he writes. “Often this takes shape as a series of drawings made during explorations through the hills, or as a single drawing of a place.”

When he’s not brooding onstage or exploring childhood trauma in Xiu Xiu, Oakland native Stewart has cultivated a rather self-effacing hobby: bird-watching. “I find myself inexplicably in North Carolina,” he tells me in a phone interview. He’s been living there for about two years. “There are a lot of hunting stores … [with] rows and rows of different animal calls. A lot of these are really horrifying. The hunting bird calls sound like the environment completely exploding.”

I ask Stewart not to be totally forthcoming about his performance, as the element of mystery and the unexpected will be crucial to this event. “It’s an ambient piece,” he says. “I have a really extensive collection of gongs and animal calls and I will be using these together, but with long periods of silence. It’s an attempt to incorporate ideas of 1950s minimalist composition insofar as focusing on the pauses in sound, animal sounds, and a certain amount of physicality.”

In trying to realize the chasm between din and utter silence, Stewart cites composer Rhys Chatham’s Two Gongs (1971) as an inspiration. Of ambient music, Stewart explains, “It ends up being less of a musical experience and more of a psychological and physical experience.”

The aural and physical aspects of Stewart’s contribution — since he will be running from gong to gong — collide with the almost exclusive visual focus of Goldberg’s carefully curated selection of short films, all culled from Canyon Cinema. In the same way that the aural, physical, and visual get cozy and find a crossroads at BAM, the trio of Wilson, Stewart, and Goldberg will gather and treat BAM like a bazaar for the exchange of artistic interests.

Goldberg, a friend of Wilson’s and an admirer of Xiu Xiu (and Guardian contributer), says in an interview that the films he curated are “tuned into different ideas about recording nature. It’s not just observing. You’re in the midst and you encounter it.” For the exhibit, he sought “aesthetically amazing works” because he is “eager to capture the eyes of people who might not know about experimental cinema.”

The six shorts include films by Jeanne Liotta, Len Lye, and avant-garde household name (because there are so many of those!) Stan Brakhage. One of the most stunning works is Ben Russell’s 2007 Black and White Trypps Number Three, which turns a mosh pit into a fugue state with epileptic, chiaroscuro-heavy visuals. “They’re all films with no spoken language, and that was unintended,” Goldberg tells me. He’s curious about BAM-as-theater since it is “not a controlled environment for viewing films.” The projector will be placed right in the audience, in BAMscape’s center.

While Stewart’s performance and Goldberg’s handpicked film selection will not occur at the same time, they will operate in tandem, addressing the aesthetic concerns of place — and its, well, place in nature — while creating a multisensory experience: a disquieting yet provocative full-course feast for the open eyes, ears, and mind.

L@TE: JAMIE STEWART AND FILM PROGRAM BY MAX GOLDBERG

7:30 p.m., $5

Berkeley Art Museum

2625 Durant, Berk.

(510) 642-0808

www.bampfa.berkeley.edu

 

Beach fossils

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arts@sfbg.com

Live from Betty Ford, it’s the Eddie Money show!” — Eddie Money, Santa Cruz, 8:45 PM, 7/30/10

MUSIC It’s hard to convey your passion for amusement parks without sounding like the lyrics to “Lakeside Park,” Rush’s sentimental 1975 tribute to the summertime midway. Hopefully this observation should serve as a decent justification for an elegy to the unspoken muse of the group’s Caress of Steel.

Consider the beginning of summer in the Bay Area. It can’t properly be called a seasonal phenomenon; rather, summer doesn’t officially begin until you’ve been bombarded with that stupid goddamn Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk commercial — the one that’s remained pretty-much untouched since 1994 — at regular 10-minute intervals. Recall the slightly askance shot of smiling oily young people running on the beach in weirdly lurid 1990s-era one-piece bathing suits, screaming brats strapped into the Fireball, maybe some kind of close-up of a Dip ‘n’ Dots kiosk, all unfolding to the strains of “California Sun.” For better or for worse, this has become the harbinger of the Northern California summer.

Unlike the adjacent pier, another tourist destination, suspended precariously above the water by barnacle-encrusted poles, the boardwalk feels so thoroughly entrenched in its surroundings that it’s effectively become a natural feature of the Santa Cruz shoreline. Years from now, the pelican shall nest on the Giant Dipper “Scenic Coaster”‘s wooden bones while sea lions caper with jellyfish and squid in the sepulchral wrack of Neptune’s Kingdom (the big arcade with Skee-Ball, I mean).

I know it’s naïve to think the commercial hasn’t actually changed — tragically, some new versions of the iconic annoyance have been springing up, laced with recycled footage, of course. Likewise, the Boardwalk has seen a handful of new rides incorporated into its landscape since the commercial originally aired. But stepping onto it in the warm California sun really makes you feel as though you’ve unwittingly wandered into some perpetually-20-years-ago liminal zone — like Richard Linklater’s Austin, Texas, or the Los Angeles of 1987’s Surf Nazis Must Die.

The living, and their fiberglass approximations, populate the “Bands on the Beach!” series, the annual free showcase for long forgotten, mid-level, Frankensteined back together rock acts. It’s certainly hard not to feel cynical about the series after Gregg Rolie (original lead singer for Santana) amuses the crowd with a timely “Who let the dogs out?” reference. But at their core — and I’m only being slightly facetious here — there’s something awesome and spontaneous about these concerts, a judo-like grappling with the condition of being presented as a reanimated artifact.

The first set I caught this summer was Blue Öyster Cult, who I’d seen earlier this year at the Santa Cruz County Fair in Watsonville. BÖC’s facility with vocal harmony and baroque, intertwining guitar arrangement is often discounted. And while the band maintains a rightfully dedicated/defensive cult fanbase, it nevertheless picked up a different set of fans with a certain comedy sketch based on a highly, highly exaggerated cowbell enthusiasm. Multiple factors conspire to make the band’s set a one-note joke, an opportunity to wring those last few precious drops of irony out of a period that’s becoming rapidly depleted.

If this was universally the case, Friday nights at the Boardwalk would be downright sadistic. But Blue Öyster Cult takes seriously the kind of gig that numerous lesser acts would treat as some kind of where-are-they-now closing vignette from an early-period Behind the Music. The dreamy main riff and strange ersatz reggae of “Burnin’ for You” fused together with the sound of waves and ride-machinery and the permeating scent of weed smoke mysteriously radiating from the old hippies and biker couples getting down on the beach. It turned something that for all intents and purposes should be sad and creepy into something weird and beautiful.

But the obverse, and perhaps more exciting face of the summer concert series arcade token is the Eddie Money experience. If Blue Öyster Cult rises above its pigeonholing as a goofy retro spectacle, Mr. Money gleefully embraces it with a show that can only be described as a resplendent, lurid train-wreck. Eddie Money is no resurrected has-been. Quite the contrary: he is finally capable of carrying his earlier work to its full potential — sung by a “supercharged city kid with rock ‘n’ roll in his soul” (as per Journey’s Steve Perry on an episode of Midnight Special).

Staples like “Two Tickets to Paradise” and “Take Me Home Tonight” are admittedly catchy, but ultimately banal. But in the senior Money’s filthy clutches they drip with sleaze. He gingerly struts around the stage while crooning his myriad hits in a scratchy approximation of his original singing voice. He interrupts nearly every song to demand that we “shake it with the money-maker,” and to illustrate what this might look like, he opens and spreads his black suit jacket and gyrates toward the crowd. His set isn’t so much about music as it is about performing the paunchy, slightly unhinged middle-aged ’80s rocker, a staple of the free concert circuit, and a persona that Money seems to have perfected. The Eddie Money of that Midnight Special clip is dead; in his place is someone infinitely more interesting.

Classy to the end, the Money-man closes his set with a “don’t let your girlfriends drive” joke, as the 200-plus in attendance file out of the Boardwalk. Be sure to leave the beach as clean as you found it!

SANTA CRUZ BOARDWALK BANDS ON THE BEACH!

Fridays, 6:30 and 8:30 p.m.; through Sept. 3; free

(Fri/13, Spin Doctors; Aug. 20, Papa Doo Run Run; Aug. 27, Starship starring Mickey Thomas; Sept. 3, The Tubes featuring Fee Waybill)

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

400 Beach, Santa Cruz

(831) 423-5590

www.beachboardwalk.com/concerts

 

Call of the grisly

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arts@sfbg.com

LIT With volumes devoted to numerous U.S. cities and quite a few foreign capitals, it sometimes seems as if Akashic Books’ expanding line of noir story anthologies will wind up covering virtually every major metropolis on earth. Because less gritty burgs like Portland, Ore.; Seattle; and Phoenix all have entries in the crime fiction series, it’s only fair that Mexico City gets a nod.

Akashic must be commended for waiting several years until the great novelist Paco Ignacio Taibo II agreed to take on editing duties for Mexico City Noir (Akashic Books, 250 pages, $15.95). Taibo, who was born in Spain but has lived in Mexico since 1958, is the author of wildly entertaining and internationally successful mysteries that push the genre’s boundaries in interesting directions. In addition to a dense biography of Che Guevara, he has written a doorstop-size book about Pancho Villa that should have been translated into English years ago.

In his introduction to Mexico City Noir, Taibo describes the capital city as having “the most corrupt police force on the planet.” (A recent guidebook cites research showing that 13 percent of the megacity’s incarcerated population are veterans of the police corps.) Taibo writes of the corruption and mayhem sewn by members and ex-members of “security” forces: “If you’re lucky, you can stay away from it, you can keep your distance … until, suddenly, without a clear explanation of how, you fall into the web and become trapped.” He concludes, “You wake up in the morning with the uneasy feeling that the law of probabilities is working against you.” If that’s not noir, what the hell is?

The stories Taibo assembles shine a harsh light on systematic injustice and dire poverty amid, as Taibo puts it, “an economic crisis that’s been going on for 25 years.” Among the book’s highlights are a street drunk who may have witnessed a police killing, a demented priest with some unsavory urges, and plenty of street-level contemplation of the violence of everyday life. There’s also enough grisly narco-related mayhem to satisfy fans of the Saw movie franchise (assuming they can read).

But while stateside crime fiction often achieves such levels of violence at the expense of a moral center, and rarely works on more than one fairly obvious (if lucrative) level, these short stories are rooted in rage at the injustice that permeates life in Mexico City. The sometimes experimental narratives lay out the harsh socioeconomic realities of post-NAFTA Mexico, where the less-than-magical realism of the market makes the rich richer and the poor poorer — and the U.S.-backed drug war provides plenty of bad men with more guns. The warped humor here, especially in Taibo’s contribution about the struggle for the soul of an embattled street corner, is part of the survival mechanism of people who have seen too much of life at its worst but must keep laughing anyway.

Akashic is complementing the release of Mexico City Noir by reissuing The Uncomfortable Dead (Akashic Books, 268 pages, $15.95), the novel Taibo wrote in collaboration with Zapatista spokesperson and strategist Subcommandante Marcos. In an interview included as part of the new edition’s supplementary materials, Taibo describes the frenetic pace at which he and Marcos wrote alternate chapters for serialization in Mexican paper La Jornada, for a total of 12 chapters over 12 weeks. That ongoing deadline pressure has produced a giddy read, and if it doesn’t deliver the kind of straightforward narrative and tight plotting that U.S. mystery readers look for, the literary pyrotechnics of these two impressive wordsmiths offer undeniable pleasures that eschew formulaic predictability.

Taibo’s chapters feature his Coca-Cola-and-tobacco-addled, one-eyed detective Hector Belascoarn Shayne on the trail of a murderer named Morales. Marcos in turn writes about a Zapatista investigator named Elias, who is also searching for a man named Morales. The two stories wind up intersecting in a sometimes surreal jumble in Mexico City, where, in Taibo’s words, there are “more movie theatres than Paris, more abortions than London, and more universities than New York.”

The 1968 Mexico City police massacre of student activists is a key reference point in both books. That bloody repression was clearly a watershed period for Taibo and Marcos, profoundly influencing both of them. In the early 1980s, Marcos went south to Chiapas and joined the guerrillas who evolved into Zapatistas. Taibo became a history professor at the Metropolitan University of Mexico City and president of the International Association of Political Writers; He also went on to write ‘68, a memoir of sorts available in English from Seven Stories Press, and the experimental novel Calling All Heroes: A Manual for Taking Power (which features a survivor of the 1968 police massacres who enlists the aid of his childhood heroes Sherlock Holmes, Doc Holliday, Wyatt Earp, and D’Artagnan to help him in a new reform movement) just reprinted by local publisher PM Press.

Both Taibo and Marcos retained their radical politics and commitment to class struggle. They also share a fondness for absurdist humor, and both display an endearing willingness to laugh at themselves. Self-effacing humor is not a trait one usually associates with committed leftists, alas. The writing of Taibo and Marcos is a fine corrective to the unfortunate association of strident humorlessness with radical activism.

Triad quartet

0

cheryl@sfbg.com

FILM In 2008, the Pacific Film Archive did a retrospective on prolific Hong Kong director Johnnie To, highlighted by his two best films to date: 1999’s The Mission and its sorta-sequel, 2006’s Exiled. Both are about hired killers going about their business — a favored To plot that allows him to explore his fascination with male bonding, particularly amid crooks who fiercely adhere to the underworld’s sticky loyalty codes.

His latest stateside release is 2009’s Vengeance; I had to double-check to make sure this was a new movie, because how could To have not made one called Vengeance already? And a casual fan could be forgiven if he or she found this film familiar. The turf is classic To: hired killers, etc. The Mission and Exiled star Anthony Wong is, of course, the chief assassin; as always, he’s a cool, stone-faced cat of the sunglasses-at-night variety. Taking orders from Simon Yam (as always, buffoonish-homicidal), Wong and his men (fellow To faves Lam Ka Tung and Lam Suet) blow away disloyal minions. There are elegantly staged gun battles, a post-skirmish tending-our-wounds scene, a daring getaway via a series of fire escapes, and lots of slo-mo.

So why not just stay home and rent Exiled instead? Well, there’s one new element here: 60-something Johnny Hallyday, dubbed “the French Elvis” in the 1960s. His Costello is a killer-turned-chef seeking revenge for the death of his Macau-based daughter’s family. He hasn’t been in the game for decades, so he hires Wong and company to help him annihilate the bad guys. Hallyday has a certain glamorous presence, but at times it feels like he’s been grafted onto Vengeance just so it won’t feel like To is repeating himself (again). Costello is losing his memory at a rapid rate, so much time is spent waiting for him to shuffle through his Memento-style sheaf of Polaroids, struggling to recall who he’s with, why he’s there, and finally, “What is revenge?”

Indeed, as another character points out, “What does revenge mean when you can’t remember anything?” Wong’s gunslingers may have just met Costello, but he’s paid for their loyalty — and earned their respect. Plus, his Paris restaurant is called “Frères,” so of course his newfound “brothers” will finish the job. Forgetfulness (for Costello) and déjà vu (for everyone else) aside, when the focus onscreen turns to servin’ up some payback, To fans will be in bullet-ballet heaven.

VENGEANCE opens Fri/13 at the Sundance Kabuki.

 

Geek love

0

arts@sfbg.com

FILM For fans of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s just-completed comics saga Scott Pilgrim, the announcement that Edgar Wright (2004’s Shaun of the Dead, 2007’s Hot Fuzz) would direct a film version was utterly surreal. Geeks get promises like this all the time, all too often empty (Guillermo del Toro’s Hobbit, anyone?). But miraculously, Wright indeed spent the past five years crafting the winning and astoundingly faithful (if slightly divergent plot-wise) Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. The film follows hapless Toronto 20-something Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera), bassist for crappy band Sex Bob-omb, as he falls for delivery girl Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), only to find he must defeat her seven evil exes — like so many videogame bosses — before he can comfortably date her. As it happens, he’s already dating a high-schooler, Knives (Ellen Wong), who’s not coping well with Scott moving on.

To address a primary concern up front, Cera plays a good feckless twerp. His performance isn’t groundbreaking, but it dodges the Cera-playing-his-precious-self phenomenon so many have lamented. Scott is the protagonist, surely, but he’s not exactly a hero. He’s a puny human, which makes his (mostly) unstoppable fighting technique all the more impressive. He’s battling larger-than-life foes imbued with real-life superpowers like self-confidence and cultural cache. The film’s ensemble cast maintains a sardonic tone, with excellent turns by Alison Pill, Aubrey Plaza, and newcomer Wong. Jason Schwartzman is perfectly cast as the ultimate evil ex-boyfriend, hipster asshole Gideon Graves — there’s really no one slimier, at least under 35.

Some of Pilgrim‘s characters operate on winking stereotypes, most notably the pronouncedly Chinese Knives and Scott’s “totally gay” roommate Wallace (Kieran Culkin). The comics’ light gags can seem a tad tasteless when applied to “real” people. But for all Wallace’s comically exaggerated promiscuity, hetero Scott cheats on his partner in a truly reprehensible manner. Says Wright, speaking over the phone, “We tried, in terms of the gay characters in the film to kind of, in hopefully a progressive way, not make a big deal about it.”

The film brilliantly cops the comics’ visual language, including snarky captions and onomatopoetic sound effects, reminiscent onscreen of 1960s TV Batman. Sometimes this tends toward sensory overload, but it’s all so stylistically distinctive and appropriate that excess is easily forgiven. “It wasn’t a film where we had to strive for absolute realism like [2008’s] The Dark Knight,” Wright explains. “We had a chance to embrace the bubblegum, Pop art nature of the artwork.”

All the action in the movie is videogame-derived, with pixel-drenched effects and 8-bit bleats galore; call it the film’s mise-en-Sega. It’s hard to think of another movie that has hewed this aesthetically close to videogames as a form — maybe Tron (1982) — since game-to-film adaptations often try to mine the source material for other genre signifiers. Besides comics and games, Pilgrim finds a third frame of reference in indie rock. The characters’ bands seem like riffs on certain Canadian acts, but Wright says they’re more “a mélange of bands that [O’Malley] played with when he was in a band himself.” Among the contributors to the diegetic soundtrack are Broken Social Scene, Metric, and Beck, who are, as Wright says, “playing a part rather than playing themselves.”

If Pilgrim is a hit, steel yourself for a whole wave of candy-coated imitators. But for now, revel in the fact that we have a film that so intuitively understands its characters and its audience. It’s a killer action film, a charming rom-com, and a weirdo cult rock movie all rolled into one. As the back cover of the first volume of the comic reads, “This is Scott Pilgrim. This is your life.”

SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD opens Fri/13 in Bay Area theaters.

MORE AT SFBG.COM Pixel Vision blog: Sam Stander’s complete Edgar Wright interview.

 

Windblown

0

marke@sfbg.com

SUPER EGO I just zoomed in from Guerneville on the back of Hunky Beau’s cherry red motorcycle, losing a few wigs along the way, oh well. Guerneville, for the uninitiated, is the supergayish resort town located about 100 miles north of here along the Russian River. It’s like the Riviera, but with more fish smell and meth shacks.

It’s also a hoot. We went up there to enjoy some sunshine — finally hello vitamin D — and join in the divine hoopla of Some Are Camp, an annual kiki agglomeration of post-ironic alternaqueer parties that take over the Russian River Resort. Man, there were a lot of shredded Day-Glo lace shawls and filthy Mouseketeer hats floating in the pool by weekend’s end. Little getaways are fierce, but our own party season is heating up, so grab your Dynasty-inspired water wings and let’s dive in.

 

BRIGHTER DAYS, LONGER NIGHTS

Is the Bay Area experiencing another Berlin brain drain? My mascara dribbles at the thought of us losing yet another techno luminary to that admittedly amazing German burg. But Nightlight Music honcho and funky-minimal musicmaker Alland Byallo must move on, and this special bon voyage shindig should give him something to remember. With DJs Dave Aju, Jeniluv, Dead Seal, and loads more.

Fri/13, 10 p.m.–4 a.m., $5. Triple Crown, 1760 Market, SF. www.triplecrownsf.com

 

WE ALL WE GOT

Let’s hear it for homegrown hip-hop: this monthly showcase consciously expands the local rap palette with a slew of upcoming talent that races past the yayo. The Fillmore’s Rappin’ 4-Tay headlines, Sellassie hosts, and T-Reezy, Blaze 1’s Pyrx Band, Unafeyed Bullyz, and tons more perform.

Fri/13, 9 p.m., $10. Club Six, 60 Sixth St., SF. www.clubsix1.com

 

BEARRACUDA 4-YEAR ANNIVERSARY

One of our few small alternative queer venues, Deco Lounge, recently got cited for capacity violations, forcing many parties to temporarily find new homes. But nothing can stop large-and-in-charge bear dance hoohaw Bearracuda from barreling ahead, this time at DNA Lounge. Floss with flying fur to DJs Rotten Robbie, boyshapedbox, and Honey Soundsystem, with art by queer graffitist Jeremy Novy.

Fri/13, 9 p.m.–3 a.m., $10. DNA Lounge, 375 11th St., SF. www.dnalounge.com

 

HERCULES AND LOVE AFFAIR

The Outside Lands pre-party brings back a band with thriving and complex San Francisco connections — and I’m eager to hear what this pulsating act has in store, now that its expansive deep disco and late-1980s house revivalism has become ubiquitous. All signs point to a tighter show and a brighter sound — without losing that special red-light emotion.

Fri/13, 9 p.m.–3 a.m., $20. Mighty, 119 Utah, www.mighty119.com

 

GREEN SOUND FINALE

For adventurous audiophiles, it’s been a wonderful summer so far thanks to the biannual Soundwave Festival that’s taken over the city the past two months. The “green sound” theme has brought us illuminated forests, singing sculptures, battery drones, and blooming speakers in Civic Center trees. This closing party takes it all to the de Young for “a journey inspired by our stunning city of wind, plant life, and fog.” Expect some sonic chills. With avant-jazz band the Drift.

Fri/13, 6:30 p.m.–8:30 p.m., free. de Young Museum, 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Dr., SF. www.projectsoundwave.com

 

MIKE HUCKABY

I’ve been keeping an ear on this Detroit wizard for nigh on two decades now, and his mesmerizing techno-soul style is finally starting to gain major traction among dance aficionados. As the house DJ at beloved Motor City music store Record Time, his selections helped build many famed DJs secret arsenals. You can expect his influential deep-thinking, deep-reaching experience to shine when he takes the decks at the monthly No Way back party.

Sat/14, 10 p.m., $10. 222 Hyde, www.222hyde.com

SUNSET SUMMER BOAT PARTY

Can I just give it up for the Sunset kids this year? Their seasonal gigs have blossomed into true mainstays of good ol’ San Francisco love — no attitude, no trendy self-consciousness. Even the dis-aquatic among us will want to sign on to this floating blast, with classic Italian DJ Alexander Robotnick (of perma-jacking 1983 track “Problemes d’Amour”) and Germany’s Bruno Pronsato live. International wave!

Sun/15, 5 p.m.–11 p.m., $50. Pier 3, SF. www.pacificsound.net 2

Burmese Kitchen

1

paulr@sfbg.com

DINE Burma isn’t quite as isolated as North Korea, but it did take a new name about 20 years ago and isn’t exactly on the beaten path these days. Since I am an admirer of David Lean’s 1957 movie The Bridge on the River Kwai, starring Alec Guinness, I still think of that faraway land as Burma, not Mynanmar.

Even under authoritarian military rule, Burma/Myanmar has no real hope of matching North Korea in dreadfulness since, if nothing else, it has better food. You can find nice examples of Burmese cooking at a pair of longtime restaurants just a few blocks from each other in the Inner Richmond — Burma Superstar and Mandalay — but last year saw the arrival of a new entrant, Burmese Kitchen, a reinvented deli along a run of Larkin Street from the Civic Center to Geary densely populated with Asian restaurants.

Burmese cooking is distinctive, at least to this occidental person, in its blending of the effects of the southeast Asian peninsula and Indian subcontinent. So you will find ong no kau swer ($5.50), a marvelous soup based on coconut milk with diced chicken and fat wheat noodles. It’s as if a bowl of udon and tom kha gai had an impetuous liaison and produced, as a love child, an east Asian version of chicken-noodle soup.

On the other hand, you have a dish like chicken chana dal ($6.50), a piece of boneless chicken set on a coarse berm of yellow split peas, with a gentle hint of what we might call curry flavor. The use of legumes here seemed to be a nod to the west, toward India, land of legumes. If I’ve ever come across a lentil or other legume in Thai or Vietnamese cooking, I don’t remember it.

Burmese Kitchen also offers a version of the baked-rice dish known in India as biryani. Here it’s called dan pauk ($8.95) and is heavily laced with flaps of beef — not, maybe, the protein you’d be most likely to find in an Indian biryani.

Several of the dishes feature ingredients I hadn’t come across before. A tea-leaf salad ($5.95) included cabbage, tomato, fried garlic, and a heavy shower of sesame seeds and peanuts — the salad’s chief effects were crunch and tartness. But while the tea leaves themselves laid there docilely while we ate them, we felt their avenging presence later, in the middle of the night. Tea leaves might not have the caffeine charge of coffee beans, but they have enough to make themselves known.

Then there’s the prawn and sour leaf salad ($6.50). The owner, Dennis Lin, personally recommended this, and one taste revealed why. The salad (which includes bamboo shoots and sliced onions, along with tamarind leaves for sour power) was powerfully tart in a way unlike that of either vinegar or lemons and limes, our most common sources of tongue-curling acidity. If the sourness reminded me of anything, it was of verjus, the unfermented wine-grape juice the French sometimes use in vinaigrettes.

Lin, incidentally, roams the dining room like an Italian patrone, checking, recommending, chatting, confirming. When the owner of a restaurant actually does this, you are made aware of how few actually do it. It’s the restaurant-owners equivalent of boots on the ground, and there’s no substitute for it if the owner wants to know how a place is running and how people feel about the food and, indeed, the whole experience. And most diners tend to feel better about a place if the owner is at hand.

We did find a few dishes that flew slightly wide of the mark. The pork with pickled mango ($6.50), touted by Lin, had a muddy look that affected the way we perceived its taste. A sprig of something green would have been a simple corrective. And the fish with tamarind sauce ($6.50) seemed underpowered, the sauce tasting more of soy sauce than anything else, with just a suggestion of fruitiness.

Yet one is hard-pressed to think of a dish anywhere that overachieves as spectacularly as Burmese Kitchen’s fried golden tofu ($4.95). It sounds like something someone would bring to a hippie Thanksgiving potluck. But tofu need not be gelatinous and white; here it was made with yellow split peas, and when cut into wafers and fried, the result was something like polenta sticks. The spicy dipping sauce was so good that I finished it off like a shot of espresso after the tofu was gone. Did the owner catch this small affront to good manners? If so, he was too polite to say anything.

BURMESE KITCHEN

Mon., 10:30 a.m.–3 p.m.;

Tues.–Sat., 10:30 a.m.–8:30 p.m.

452 Larkin, SF

(415) 474-65569

www.burmesekitchen.com

Beer and wine

MC/V

Average noise

Wheelchair accessible

 

West Coast represents

0

arts@sfbg.com

DANCE Dance is inherently sexy. The millions of devoted fans obsessed with shows like So You Think You Can Dance and Dancing with the Stars certainly think so. But why, when so many people love watching dance, does the general public still place modern dance on an out-of-reach pedestal? Maybe the overly general words “modern dance” scare people away. Whatever the aversion, the question still remains: why is it so difficult to get people to go see something they’ll ultimately love?

ODC’s fourth annual “Summer Sampler,” held July 30-31, proved that ODC/Dance artistic directors and choreographers Brenda Way and KT Nelson not only know how to get people to see dance, they know how to create works that keep people coming back for more. “Summer Sampler” offered pre-performance wine and snacks, an early enough showtime (6:30 p.m.) to allow a Friday and Saturday night out, and most important, an hour of breathtaking dance.

The show opened with the epitome of dance-y dance, Nelson’s Stomp a Waltz (2006). Continually in motion, the dancers ran across the stage, threw each other into the air, and incorporated their entire bodies in fast-paced, rhythmically complex gestures. The ODC dancers possess great athleticism. and Friday night was no exception. Eating up the space around them, they took Nelson’s already daring choreography to the edge. I’ve seen these dancers command the large stage at Yerba Buena’s Novellus Theater, but watching them perform in the ODC Dance Commons — a space so intimate I could hear their breath and see their sweat — was an entirely new and exciting experience.

While Nelson’s very technical Stomp a Waltz was visually exhilarating, there was more to the piece than pretty tricks and leaps. A sense of raw emotion underlies Nelson’s abstract choreography. With the eye of an architect and spirit of a musician, she layered movement phrases that paired perfectly with Marcelo Zarvo’s rhythmically driving, highly emotional music.

Following Nelson’s piece, Way’s newest work Waving Not Drowning: (A Guide to Elegance) demonstrated that dance can be as tongue-in-check and cerebral as it is aesthetic. Inspired by Genevieve Antoine Dariaux’s 1963 A Guide to Elegance, the piece used playful humor and inventive movement to articulate the absurdity of gender norms. A commissioned score by Pamela Z looped text from Dariaux’s original guide, snippets of fashion advice, and a list of “important” feminine concerns like “adaptability, age, weddings, and Xmas” to confront everything from femininity and grace to sex and submission. The dancers — moving through doll-like movements, a sexy hip-swaying waltz, sexually-charged duets, and silly facial expressions — owned Way’s playful yet profound choreography with sassy elegance and bold maturity.

Though ODC is known as one of the nation’s top contemporary dance companies, it hasn’t lost sight of the importance of a local dance community. As a state of the art dance facility — housing a dance company, a pre-professional training school, recreational dance classes, a dancers’ clinic open to the public, and a performance space upstairs — the ODC Dance Commons is making dance accessible for Bay Area residents and visitors. A new ODC Theater is set to open at the end of September, making ODC’s 36,000-square-foot, two building campus the largest, most comprehensive dance facility on the West Coast.

Get that paper

0

caitlin@sfbg.com

CAREERS AND ED Our fair state gives out the most postsecondary degrees in the country. We’re so smart! But we rank somewhere around 43rd when you convert that number to a per capita figure — and of course there’s a budget kerfuffle afoot. Shucks. Still, there are a passel of innovative, unique degree programs available now to suit your unique self and give your career a boost. Consider these.

 

NATIVE STUDIES

Inspired by the Alcatraz takeover and the university’s late 1960s student strike, SF State’s Native studies was the nation’s first degree program of its kind. Students focus on how Native American populations are affected by everything from environmental justice issues to health practices.

San Francisco State, 1600 Holloway, SF. (415) 338-1111, www.sfsu.ca

 

HUMAN SEXUALITY

The institution that awarded the world’s first PhD to a porn star (Annie Sprinkle took home a diploma from IASHS) certainly has what it takes in this field. The school offers legit advanced degrees in that most delicate of our instruments.

Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality, 1523 Franklin, SF. (415) 928-1133, www.iashs.edu

 

DOCTOR OF PSYCHOLOGY

It’s hard to say no to a psychologist with more field experience. The PsyD program at CIIS takes a relatively new approach to the advanced psychology degree, focusing less on lab and library research and more on clinical opportunities.

Center for the Institute of Integral Studies, 1453 Mission, SF. (415) 575-6100, www.ciis.edu

 

TEACHING ENGLISH AS A FOREIGN LANGUAGE

Yup, looks like Sarah Palin’s rearing her aspirational highlights again — that trip overseas is looking more attractive all the time. A TEFL certificate makes you eligible to teach English abroad, a perfect gig for the wannabe expat.

Teach English Abroad, www.onlinetefl.com

 

MUSIC FOR VISUAL MEDIA

Jingle writers, hum-along gamers, and stock characters in middling comedies like Three and a Half Men, Last Chance Harvey, and The Good Night: up your musical game to professional levels. Academy of Art offers a flexible schedule to help you reach your earworming goals.

Academy of Art University, SF. (800) 544-2787, www.academyart.edu

 

FIBER AND POLYMER SCIENCE

Sure, your Etsy store is kicking ass, but when it’s time to move to the next level, this program can deepen your understanding of the hang of that skirt. And how. Study physics, chemistry, and consumer science on this fashion-spelunking expedition.

UC Davis, Davis. (530) 752-2580, www.ucdavis.edu 

 

Selective electives

0

caitlin@sfbg.com

CAREERS AND ED Heed we now Mark Twain: “I never let my schooling interfere with my education.” Holler, MT — that degree on your wall don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing. Why not finish out your coldest winter with an unexpected course in a new — and maybe even marketable — skill?

 

INTRODUCTION TO FIELD ORNITHOLOGY

“Isn’t that a magnificent sulfur-bellied flycatcher!” Joe Morlan has been teaching this City College course for more than 30 years, and his weekend field trips are sure to increase your feathered friend-spotting wingspan.

Sept 14–Oct 26, 7–9:30 p.m., $130–$140. Marina Middle School, 3500 Fillmore, SF. (415) 561-1860, www.ccsf.edu

 

INTRODUCTION TO ANIMATION

What kid doesn’t live in her own cartoon strip? Sirron Norris (painter of sardonic blue bears and “Victorion,” the gentrification bot) empowers young people to give birth to their illustrated worlds at his Mission District studio and gallery.

Aug 26–Sept. 16, 4–5 p.m. $100. Sirron Norris Studio and Gallery, 1406 Valencia, SF. (415) 648-4191, www.sirronnorris.com

 

VIDEO ACTION SKILLSHARE

Calling all activists: up the evocation of your iPhone captures, share production tips with camerapeople-in-arms, even make your footage into an episode of Berkeley’s BeTV at this East Bay Free Skool offering.

Third Thursdays, 7–8:30 p.m., free. Berkeley Community Media, 2238 Martin Luther King, Berk. eastbayfreeskool.wikia.com

 

BELLY DANCE FUNDAMENTALS

Grab your zils (scientific name: handheld clicky-clackers) and turn your paunch to power in this six-week course, which starts at hand floreos and undulates up to the shimmy step.

Tues and Fri 6:30–-7:30 p.m., Sat 11 a.m.–12 p.m., $10 drop-in, $48 for six classes. Fat Chance Belly Dance, 670 South Van Ness, SF. (415) 431-4322, www.fcbd.com

 

YOUTH SUPER SCULPTURE

The perfect class for young’uns to get started on their fire arts career — eight to eleven-year-olds can enjoy this Crucible primer on the joy of creative building.

Sept 20- Oct 26, 4–6 p.m. $240. The Crucible, 1260 Seventh St., Oakl. (510) 444-0919, www.thecrucible.org

 

HONEYBEE BASICS

Their hives were recently the victims of a distressing insecticide attack — but the urban agriculturists at Hayes Valley Farm soldier on in their mission to educate peeps on the beauty of urban beekeeping.

Sept 20, 10 a.m.- 12 p.m. $20–$40 sliding scale. Hayes Valley Farm, 450 Laguna, SF. www.hayesvalleyfarm.com

 

EXTREME STRETCHING

It’s the fast track to that contortionist career you’ve always dreamed about! A crash course in control, stability, and limber limbs at SF’s premier spot for circus learnin’.

Sept.8–Dec 8, 5:30–7:30 p.m., $480. Circus Center, 755 Frederick, SF. (415) 759-8123, www.circuscenter.org

To try a cop

0

news@sfbg.com

Proponents of civilian oversight for the San Francisco Police Department are hopeful that fresh blood on the Police Commission, along with a new set of rules designed to expedite disciplinary hearings, will improve the often-criticized, delay-plagued system of citizens policing cops.

The commission’s backlog of pending cases — which at its worst ballooned to more than 70, with at least one more than nine years old — prompted massive media coverage in 2009; a San Francisco Chronicle editorial calling for the system to be reformed early this year; and former Police Commissioner and District 10 Candidate Theresa Sparks’ recent statements to the Guardian that SFPD’s civilian oversight system is “broken” and that the power to fire police officers should go to the chief.

As it stands now, SFPD Chief George Gascón can handle any case in which punishment will not exceed more than a 10-day suspension, whether initiated from within the department and investigated by the Management Control Division — SFPD’s version of internal affairs — or resulting from complaints made by civilians through the Office of Citizen Complaints. The Police Commission must hold hearings for any case in which more severe discipline is recommended by either office.

“There are litigation delays that occur outside the control of the commission,” OCC Director Joyce Hicks told the Guardian. Appeals to superior courts can indefinitely stall cases before the commission, she said.

The OCC has its own backlog of investigations, which Hicks primarily attributes to budget constraints. San Francisco’s charter dictates that the OCC have one full-time investigator for every 150 SFPD officers. There are 2,317 sworn officers in the SFPD, according to the department’s most recent citywide CompStat report, which means that the OCC should have at least 15.5 investigators. Hicks says she has 14, and that supervising investigators are taking on cases to pick up the slack. OCC’s 2010 second-quarter report states that, due to budget constraints, the office will not be able to meet its full compliment of 17 front-line investigators.

“We do not have an adequate number of investigators for the size of our caseload,” Hicks said. “We are working very hard with the Police Commission to reduce the backlog. But they have to be scheduled by the commission for us to prosecute them.”

Hicks would like to see the number of investigators dictated by the number of complaints the OCC receives instead of the size of the SFPD, as a critical 2007 report by the Controller’s Office suggested.

Police Commissioner Jim Hammer, who was appointed by the Board of Supervisors early this year and has been instrumental in crafting new rules to speed hearings before the commission, said he believes the current system is beginning to work better and will continue to improve with future tweaks.

“I would not be opposed to the chief having more authority to impose discipline as long as a civilian body has the authority to make the final check on it,” he told the Guardian. “This isn’t just about Chief Gascón — this is about the system. Someday there will be another chief.”

A swelled backlog at the commission has real consequences for the city’s available police force and overall budget. Despite numerous attempts, no one in SFPD’s media relations unit, chief’s office, personnel division, or MCD could provide the Guardian with the number of officers taken off active police duty to work a desk while their complaint cases stall before the Police Commission.

Gascón refused to comment directly for this story, stating through SFPD spokesman Sgt. Troy Dangerfield that his thoughts on police discipline were “already out there.” But the chief did tell the Board of Supervisors Budget Committee that the lag in the discipline process was hurting the usable number of officers at his disposal. San Francisco’s charter mandates that the number of full-duty sworn police officers cannot fall below 1,971.

“Two weeks ago, we had an individual who had a case that was pending for nine years,” Gascón told the Budget Committee in June. “I am unable to use him in the field. He will be one of the many who will not be able to do police work as we would expect of someone with a police officer rank.”

And when Budget Committee Chair John Avalos asked if the officer was still on the payroll, Gascón responded: “Absolutely.”

The commission’s Procedural Rules Governing Trial of Disciplinary Cases, which were adopted in April, limit hearings to less than four hours and state several times that requests for delays, called continuances, are generally disfavored. “In the past they’ve turned into trials,” Hammer said. “But these are administrative hearings.”

Angela Chan, a stalwart San Francisco immigrant rights advocate and staff attorney for the Asian Law Caucus and new police commissioner appointed in May, said the commission is prioritizing tackling the backlog. “I know how to manage a docket,” she told the Guardian. “The very first thing I do when I have an initial conference call is set a hearing date.”

But if officers say their attorneys can’t make that date and request a continuance? “My response is to get another attorney,” Chan said. “There is no haggling. As a commission, we have to stay on top of the docket.”

In addition to the rules pushing police commissioners to hold prompt, fair hearings, Hammer and former Police Commissioner David Onek instituted an accountability report for the commission. The commissioners envisioned a monthly report published on the commission’s website — similar to the OCC’s quarterly reports — that outline the total number of disciplinary cases before the commission, the number of cases assigned to each commissioner for evidence intake, and measurements to gauge how well the commission was sticking to the rules adopted in April.

The actual document is a far cry from what the commission envisioned, listing only active cases before the commission, cases filed to date for 2010, and individual commissioner’s number of assigned hearings. It is not available online.

As of July 31, the commission has 44 pending cases, including appeals. Police Commission President Joe Marshall, whose recent reappointment stalled in the Board of Supervisors because of ambiguity about his position on the Secure Communities program, completed no hearings in 2010. He has been assigned eight. Hammer completed six hearings, has an additional three in progress, and has two more scheduled.

Commission Vice President Thomas Mazzucco has held and decided two hearings this year and has three more scheduled. Petra DeJesus completed one hearing, settled two cases, and has two more hearings scheduled. Angela Chan has scheduled four of the five cases she has been assigned. New mayoral Police Commission appointee Carol Kingsley was not included in the latest report because she began her term Aug. 4.

Hammer also wants to refine what is known as the hearing officer process, in which accused officers can elect to have the evidence portion of their case heard by a hearing officer. That officer then reports to the full commission, which makes the final ruling on disciplining the officer. The problem is that getting all parties to agree on a hearing officer takes a lot of time. In addition, final reports to the commission sometimes can take months to generate.

“They’re agreeing to it [using hearing officers] now because it builds in a huge delay,” Hammer said.

Chan wants to convince officers that quickly airing a hearing is just as likely to exonerate them as to create a headache, long suspension, or termination. Hicks, Chan, and Hammer all agreed that the value of civilian oversight of the SFPD outweighed slow, sometimes messy system. “The overwhelming majority of police officers are conscientious, hard-working public servants,” Hammer said. “The overwhelming majority of cops and citizens have a strong interest in making sure the few bad apples are weeded out.”

Appetite: Tales from Tales

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In 100 percent humidity at nearly 100 degrees (and no relief at night), spending a week drinking and eating doesn’t sound like the best idea, but for eight years running, it happens every July in New Orleans at Tales of the Cocktail. For cocktail lovers and industry, this is THE drink event of the year.

My first, or virgin, year at Tales, was as sleepless and packed as everyone said it would be, but moderation is the name of my game (at least outside of the sleep arena), and I managed to indulge and enjoy without so much as one hangover from anything other than sleep deprivation. Of course, it meant merely tasting most drinks, eating a lot (NO problem in New Orleans!) and promptly turning around upon surveying nightly after crowds at Old Absinthe House, heading to quieter bars or the Monteleone lobby for civilized conversation instead.

Opening party at Elms Mansion — a truly magical setting

I already feel completely alive in my skin when I’m in New Orleans. Any reason to be in that queen of cities is a good reason for me. Tales itself grew progressively better as the week went on, despite awful heat and waning sleep… mainly because I continued to meet great people which led to further excursions, tastings, dinners, parties, and as the cumulative effect added up to a host of memories and experiences.  Let me try to summarize a mere few highlights for you – read more about the 2010 Tales and New Orleans in my upcoming 8/15 issue of The Perfect Spot:

LIFE-ALTERING TASTING of 1865 & 1805 COGNAC!
7/25 The Mysteries & Secrets of Distilling in Cognac
Cognac masters, Olivier Paultes and Alain Royer, moderator Dale DeGroff, and spirited bartender extraordinaire, Salvatore Calabrese, were keepers of the surprise that awaited at the end of a fascinating, seemingly routine seminar on the methods of distilling cognac, along with a token five cognac side-by-side tasting.

The seminar suddenly escalated to once-in-a-lifetime experience when Calabrese informed our small group that he had brought not only a bottle of 1865 Rouyer Guillet & Co. cognac to share together, but also an 1805 Maison De L’Emprereur cognac he was going to make a Sazerac with! The room erupted in applause as we stood on chairs to take photos and watch him mix what he called a “$10,000 cocktail”. We passed the Sazerac around, each savoring a profound sip.

Dale DeGroff pours us an 1865 cognac

We all had a pour of the silky 1865. I exhaled and placed my head down on the table after first taste. It was remarkably full, refined with raisin and floral notes initially, a finely balanced burn, evolving into chocolate and nutty notes. I could barely begin to fathom the history wrapped up in each sip. As Calabrese exclaimed, “This was made when Abraham Lincoln was alive!”

Worth far more than the $40 price of admission, the lucky few who happened to be in this seminar got an education beyond what we could have ever expected. We lived a moment that, for drink lovers, will remain a marker of earth-shattering tastes for the rest of our lives.

GREEN GORILLAS DESCENDING on the PELICAN CLUB
7/22 at The Pelican Club Spirited Dinner, French Quarter
Thursday night there were Spirited Dinners across town. I chose the one at Pelican Club mainly because of the all-star line-up of bartenders from across the country pairing cocktails with a six-course dinner: Marcos Tello – The Varnish, LA; Jim Meehan – PDT, NY; Misty Kalkofen – Drink, Boston; Peter Vestinos – Wirtz Beverage Group, Chicago; and our own rockstar, Neyah White, formerly of Nopa.

The food was not as fine as I’d hoped, but the atmosphere was convivial, festive, a warmly welcoming party. The cocktails all featured the night’s spirit: Bols Genever. Neyah clearly had fun creating the dessert cocktail, Drum Shag: Bols, sarsaparilla, PX sherry, infused with smoke.

But the highlight of the night? A foursome of green gorillas descended on the bar during aperitif hour before we were seated at our tables. I’d seen them at the pool of the Monteleone before, or roaming the streets, surely hot and sweaty in their cheap, neon green garb. The site of these guys at the elegant Pelican bar while some of our country’s best bartenders poured them shots was a memorable image, one that somehow typifies the wacky exuberance that is Tales.

DEL MAGUEY – RON COOPER – MEZCAL
7/25 La Verdad (The Truth) about Mezcal Seminar
Everyone who knows anything about mezcal knows Ron Cooper of Del Maguey is the master, having done more to further the mezcal gospel than anyone, even being called the “mezcal missionary”. As my friend whispered to me during the seminar, describing the panel of mezcal distillers: “They’ve all drunk the kool-aid, haven’t they?” Despite the fact that I’ve already been a mezcal fan for years, so did I… so did we all… by the end of the session.

I’m must be honest and say, much as I appreciated every distiller there (Illegal Mezcal, Los Amantes, and Sombra), as has been my common experience in previously tasting these and other mezcals, none hold a candle to Ron’s entire product line. This was sorely highlighted in a side-by-side tasting of all the above next to five Del Maguey mezcals. But all these guys were heartfelt and inspiring, while Ron himself is a small, peace-filled  powerhouse of a man… the Yoda of the mezcal world.

Every single Del Maguey mezcal is a revelation, whether the creamy, smoky sweet of Crema de Mezcal, or the chocolate earthiness of other-worldly Chichicapa. More to come soon in my Guardian column and here about his mezcals. Thanks to Neyah White, try Del Maguey by the shot at Nopalito, in cocktails throughout SF, or order some bottles. Once you dig further into mezcal, particularly through the Del Maguey lens, you, too, will “drink the kool-aid”.

SOUTHERN ROMANCE of DIXIELAND JAZZ under SWEEPING OAKS
7/22 William Grant & Sons Opening Party at Elms Mansion in the Garden District
Yes, by 1am it felt like it was actually getting hotter as I wilted in the oppressive humidity, but what could have been more romantic than the stately, white Elms Mansion with stunning wood carved fireplaces and ceilings, scotch bar in the drawing room, white lights and absinthe in the garden, and live Dixieland band playing under a white-pillared rotunda? Not much. As massive oak trees loomed over us, even larger than the mansion, I felt fully alive and grateful… I was in the South.

A SUDDEN DOWNPOUR entering the BARTENDER’S BREAKFAST
7/24 Bartender’s Breakfast – Spirited Awards after party
A second line jazz funeral was held for Sex on the Beach, a cocktail that surely needed to be buried, on the walk from the Spirited Awards Ceremony to the Bartender’s Breakfast, where the likes of Audrey Saunders and Jim Meehan were making us drinks. Before entering the building, a sultry Summer storm rushed through, dampening our dresses, suits and hair. A warm rain, it wasn’t exactly a respite from the unrelenting heat, but it somehow refreshed, invigorated, injecting us with energy to celebrate late into the night.

Finally, some logic on same-sex marriage

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EDITORIAL Judge Vaughn Walker’s historic decision overturning Proposition 8 was remarkable not so much for its conclusion, but because it has taken so long for a federal court to conclude that same-sex marriage does no conceivable harm to anyone.

The legal scholars can debate whether this particular civil rights issue deserves strict scrutiny or must meet only a rational-basis test. And everyone knows the case will eventually wind up in the U.S. Supreme Court, where nine justices will decide whether official discrimination can be legal in the United States of America.

But what Walker did was crucial — he devoted the vast majority of his 138-page decision to discussing the facts of the case. As Bob Egelko notes in a nice San Francisco Chronicle piece Aug. 8, Walker provided a forum for the public debate that should have happened around the ballot measure but never did. Prop. 8 was decided after political consultants used carefully honed messages designed to play on people’s emotions; the real facts of the matter were hardly ever discussed on a statewide level.

The facts of the matter, as the record clearly shows and Walker eloquently related, are simple: there’s nothing wrong with same-sex marriage. The ability of same-sex couples to marry has no impact on the rights of opposite-sex couples. There is also no legal reason to believe that something rooted in an old tradition — from a time when gender roles were rigidly prescribed — has, in and of itself, any validity. "Tradition alone," Walker noted, citing a 1970 U.S. Supreme Court case, "cannot form a rational basis for a law." Furthermore, studies show that children brought up by same-sex couples fare just as well (and in some studies, better) than children raised in traditional households.

In fact, the judge concluded, the only real reason Prop. 8 supporters put the measure on the ballot is that they don’t like gay and lesbian people: "Proposition 8 was premised on the belief that same-sex couples simply are not as good as opposite-sex couples. Whether that belief is based on moral disapproval of homosexuality, animus toward gays and lesbians, or simply a belief that a relationship between a man and a woman is inherently better than a relationship between two men or two women, this belief is not a proper basis on which to legislate."

That record of factual evidence will make it harder for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals or Supreme Court to overturn Walker’s ruling. And the very essence of his decision — that no harm comes to anyone in society when same-sex couples are allowed to wed — is ample reason for him to deny any stay while the case is on appeal. A stay, which would leave Prop. 8 in effect for several more years while the case works its way through the system, would make sense only if some irreparable harm would come to some party. There’s no such harm — real or potential or imaginable — to anyone or anything except institutional and personal bigotry.

The decision demonstrates another crucial factor, one that politicians of both parties should pay attention to this fall. Courts tend to (slowly) reflect changing attitudes in society. And while the polls are still inconclusive, the demographics are not: Almost nobody under 30 opposes same-sex marriage, and every year that passes, California and the country come closer to the day when Prop. 8 will seem as silly as anti-miscegenation laws.

Both Attorney General Jerry Brown and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger have asked Walker not to stay his ruling. Sen. Barbara Boxer has hailed the decision. But Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman and Senate contender Carly Fiorina remain adamantly opposed to same-sex marriage. Brown and Boxer shouldn’t be afraid to make this part of their campaigns. There’s not a whole lot to bring young people to the ballot this fall, and making Prop. 8 an issue can only help the Democrats.

It’s also worth remembering that nearly every Democratic leader in the nation blanched when San Francisco, under Mayor Gavin Newsom did the right thing and legalized same-sex marriage in 2004. We warned then that Sens. Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and the rest of the Washington crew would wind up on the wrong side of history. And now that a judge who has never been known as a leftist (or even a liberal) has made the case that marriage is a civil right and discrimination is never legally acceptable, they ought to admit they were wrong.

Ideas that work: a plan for a new San Francisco

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OPINION San Francisco is a city of tremendous riches and problems — a locus of wealth, inequality, innovation, creativity, and sometimes stifling resistance by political and economic power brokers. It’s time to break through. We have the ability, and opportunity, to create a whole new set of economic, social, and political relationships between people and government. On everything from municipal banking, to Muni reform, to public-controlled sustainable energy production and community-driven budgeting, we have a flood of ideas from thinkers and activists across the city.

The Aug. 14-15 Community Congress at the University of San Francisco will focus on turning those ideas into a political platform the city can implement. Last week, we described the vision; this week, we offer some proposals that will be discussed at the event; following the event, others will be posted at sfbg.com.

The event runs Aug. 14 from 9 a.m.–5 p.m. and Aug. 15 from 9 a.m.–1 p.m. at USF’s McLaren Conference Center. For information, go to www.sfsummitcongress.wordpress.com. (Karl Beitel and Christopher Cook)

1. A MUNICIPAL BANK


San Francisco is rich — it has $16.1 billion in assets, with a net worth of $6.5 billion, according to the city treasurer. With a little maneuvering and political will, roughly a half-billion of that money could be devoted to creating a municipal bank: a fiscally solvent, federally insured economic engine that would invest in community development projects serving underfunded activities and endeavors, providing significant economic and social benefits to the residents of San Francisco.

With its own public bank, San Francisco could begin to fund and promote more community-centered forms of economic development. Worker co-ops, for instance, could get loans for projects that are socially beneficial and economically viable. The bank could also help generate new homegrown industries that produce both revenue and social value to the city. This would help democratize the city economy, giving financial muscle to community-based projects and neighborhood-serving businesses.

Over a period of three to five years, a modest portion of the city’s liquid investments can be transferred to create to the new bank. The bank could use this pool of capital to extend low-interest, long-term loans for projects located in San Francisco. The bank would offer a full spectrum of retail banking services, such as money market accounts, to attract additional deposits to supplement funds from the city.

A municipal bank has potential to grow into a major economic force in the city for financing community-centered development. With the right up-front commitment from the city, the total asset portfolio of loans and other investments would grow far beyond this initial public investment — representing a significant infusion of loan capital into currently underserved segments of the credit market in San Francisco.

The municipal bank would be a member-owned, federally chartered, and federally insured credit union. It would engage in rigorous vetting of loan applicants. But because the bank would not run as a profit-maximizing enterprise, loan officers would explicitly consider projects in light of their economic viability and potential contribution to the economic, social, and cultural well being of San Francisco.

Priority could, for instance, be given to loans for affordable housing development and community economic development. In particular, the bank could prioritize businesses and enterprises that represent alternative models of ownership such as worker co-ops and worker collectives, and smaller, community-serving, locally-based, social enterprise-type businesses.

To ensure that the bank’s lending activities reflect the need for more democratic modes of credit and finance, governance and oversight could include representation from social groups and constituents normally excluded from corporate governance. The bank’s member-owners would elect the board of directors.

Municipal bank funds would be completely separate from the city’s general fund, with strict firewalls imposed to assure that lending activities do not become intermingled in any way with the annual appropriations process.

By creating its own bank, San Francisco would be a national model for community-based development and economic democracy. It would be a national first, and has the potential to transform how cities think about local economic development. (Beitel)

2. HOUSING SAN FRANCISCO


Since the beginning of the dot-com boom, San Francisco has seen displacement of low-income families from rent-controlled housing in alarming numbers. Much of this displacement has been happening through conversion of small residential apartment buildings (between four and 12 units) into tenancy in common units. Small-site displacement tends to target seniors, disabled people, and working class families — and many of the units that were converted were, under rent control, de facto affordable housing.

In addition, over the past 15 years the city has lost 4,370 units due to Ellis Act evictions. At the same time, the city’s housing production model favors larger projects because of the economies of scale possible for new construction of big projects, with 70 or more units. While these projects are important in adding to the city’s affordable housing stock, sites to accommodate giant developments are in short supply.

So how do we address San Francisco’s chronic affordable housing crisis. First, stabilize low-income communities and preserve diverse neighborhoods by encouraging the city to invest in developing a small sites acquisition and rehabilitation program that could help nonprofits take over and operate affordable rental housing for low-income tenants. That property could also be converted to limited equity housing cooperatives and community land trust properties.

Next, the city should ban all TICs from becoming condos. The city can give landlords and speculators a choice: If you want your property to be eligible for condo conversion, with all the economic benefits that come with that designation, then you need to follow the process and abide by tenant protections in the condo law. If you want to ignore the condo law, then you’re stuck with a TIC.

To further protect renters, prior to sale of a renter-occupied unit, the city could require the owner to offer tenants the right to buy the unit, at a price based on the last best offer from a bona fide purchaser.

The Rent Board also needs reform. The panel, which oversees rent increases, consists of five members: two landlords, two tenants, and one homeowner. All are appointed by the mayor. We suggest three tenants, two landlords, and two homeowners — with the appointments split between the mayor and the supervisors.

There also must be a permanent, local source of funding for affordable housing development. A progressive increase in the real estate transfer tax could generate $45 million annually.

We further support Sup. Ross Mirkarimi’s proposed legislation that would protect resident’s rights during relocation and ensure their right to return to buildings that have been redeveloped. (Amy Beinart and the Council of Community Housing Organizations)

3. THE CRISIS IN CARE


More than any other American city, San Francisco relies on a network of faith- and community-based nonprofits to deliver critical health and human services to its poorest and sickest residents. More than 15,000 people are employed in this sector, which had a total budget of almost $800 million in 2000.

Health and human service nonprofits play a significant role in providing a substantial portion of the city’s services for seniors, people with AIDS, the homeless, children and youth, people with special physical and mental needs, and those who suffer from substance abuse.

Yet this critical sector finds itself bearing the brunt of cuts and reduction in services caused by the fiscal crisis facing San Francisco.

So what can we do? Here are seven suggestions.

First, conduct a coordinated citywide health and human services needs assessment driven by neighborhoods and communities.

Second, working with service users, service providers, and city employees, create a 10-year plan for health and human services that can guide yearly budget considerations.

Third, as the city implements the 2009 ballot measure that calls for a two-year budget cycle informed by five-year financial plans, require department heads and commissions to include the perspective of professional service providers and service users, including a standards analysis plan and a narrative about the impact on services.

Fourth, open a dialogue with the foundation community on addressing the changing needs of the nonprofit human services community, including community needs, accountability, and funding cycles.

Fifth, depoliticize the request-for-proposals (RFP) process by moving it out of city departments and into the Controller’s Office.

Sixth, require city departments that contract with nonprofit health and human service providers to complete their implementation of the recommendations to streamline the city’s contracting and monitoring processes approved by the 2003 City Nonprofit Contracting Task Force, and ensure that current procedures and processes are consistent with those recommendations.

And seventh, preserve services for the most vulnerable San Franciscans by focusing on revenue solutions to the city’s ongoing structural budget deficit, including November 2010 campaigns to increase the hotel tax and the real property transfer tax. (Debbi Lerman, Human Services Network)

4. BUILDING WORKER COOPERATIVES


Although these are hard times, there’s an opportunity for San Francisco to realize a new model of economic sustainability — by supporting worker cooperatives.

The worker cooperative model is a business form well-suited to the diverse needs of urban areas and is already viable in a broad variety of sectors including manufacturing, service, and retail. A key aspect of worker cooperative development is that its goal is not just the creation of jobs; it’s also about making business ownership accessible.

An inspiring new model of economic development is currently taking place with the Evergreen Cooperatives in Cleveland. In an ambitious effort, anchor institutions such as the local universities, hospitals, and the City of Cleveland have established procurement agreements with developing worker cooperatives rooted in the struggling urban communities of Cleveland (where unemployment rates are as high as 25 percent). The goal is to redirect the estimated $3 billion that these anchor institutions spend on goods and services toward worker cooperatives in the communities where these institutions are located. The first two business models underway are a commercial laundry service and a solar installation company.

There’s also a lot of inspiring work already being done by the worker cooperative community in the Bay Area. The Arizmendi Association continues to develop new worker-owned bakeries despite the economic recession. This fall, Arizmendi will launch its second SF location in the Mission District, creating new jobs and opportunities for local residents to have ownership over their work. Rainbow Grocery and Other Avenues are two extremely successful, long-lasting worker-owned grocery stores in San Francisco.

The city ought to officially recognize the worker cooperative model as both viable and preferable, and include it in the city’s various efforts of economic development. And city officials should take a leadership role in reimagining what a vibrant economy could look like and begin to promote worker cooperatives as central to that vision. (Poonam Whabi, Rick Simon, Steve Rice, Inno Nagara, and Nadia Khastagir)