Volume 44 Number 47

Appetite: Wine Country’s new hot spots


SPOONBAR, Healdsburg – I could write a piece on the cocktails alone at brand new Spoonbar in the h2hotel off of Healdsburg’s town square. You’ve already heard me mention Scott Beattie over the years, who is truly one of our country’s great bartenders. His cocktail menu at Spoonbar is a revelation.

Yes, you’ll get waylaid by the initial cocktail list, but don’t let that stop you from asking for the additional one. It’s a glory of new creations, featuring edible flowers and the herbal, produce-driven beauties Beattie has perfected since his Cyrus days. But there’s the added bonus of classics done with a Beattie sensibility. I get giddy at the site of three versions each of Old-Fashioneds, Negronis, Manhattans, and Sazeracs, the holy foursome of cocktails. I sampled five, each exquisite. It feels right seeing Beattie behind the bar again.

I chose the Tempus Fugit Negroni ($8.50). How could I not? Made with Ransom‘s impeccable Old Tom Gin, Dolin Rouge Vermouth, orange zest and Tempus Fugit’s brilliant Gran Classico Bitter, it’s a musky, full revelation. As I mentioned in my last Appetite, I’m beginning to see a whole new possibility when it comes to Negronis, thanks to Gran Classico and bartenders willing to experiment with it.

On the classics front, Beattie’s Dark ‘n Stormy trumps all others. There’s a lovely Appleton Reserve version for $7.50 (or pitcher for five at $37.50). I’ll put my money on the version with Ron Zacapa Solera 23 (a rum I’ve long been a fan of already) for $9/$45. With fresh lime juice and Angostura bitters, Beattie adds drops of essential oil of ginger for a more pure, round taste. Locally grown sunflower leaves are a vivid garnish.

Going the creative Beattie route is equally thrilling. John Chapman ($10.5) is a taste of fall. When you take St. George Whiskey and Pear Eau de Vie, then mix it with lemon, apple, ginger and a Thai coconut foam, you get magic. Ditto, on the other side of the spectrum, for the Summery taste of  Siddartha ($9.5). I normally wouldn’t choose a vodka drink, but this one utilizes Hangar One Buddha’s Hand Citron with Beefeater Gin, St. Germain Elderflower, lemon, Thai coconut milk and lemon verbena. It’s silky, seductively bright and garden fresh.

But the joys at Spoonbar are many as the food and wine list are likewise robust, the space open and airy (playful with hints of mid-century modern), the price point a nice mid-range. In early opening weeks, this has automatically become my # 1 Healdsburg spot for drink or food (since I can only afford Cyrus for a special occasion), and one of my tops in all of Wine Country.

Where to start? There’s wines on tap, a trend I am happy to see growing from an environmental and casual accessibility standpoint. Let wine director Ross Hallett, choose and you’ll likely get a nice range of local and international wines. With dinner, he paired a dry 2000 Villa Claudia Gattinara and a full  ‘05 Savuto Odoardi that yielded spice notes when paired with the Spoonbar Burger. For dessert, he poured thoughtful choices like Rare Wine Co.’s New York Malmsey Special Reserve Madeira, rich with earthy, coffee notes, and Ratafia de Bourgogne, a sweet but balanced liqueur.

The food? With Moroccan and Mediterranean influences, Chef Rudy Mihal’s menu shines as fine bar food with cocktails or as multi-course dinner. Appetizers offer all kinds of goodness, like addictive little Fried Smelt Fish ($8) dipped in a caper aioli. Or how about skewers of plump, grilled Calamari ($12) in a preserved lemon vinaigrette? You’ll find me equally hyped over imported Burrata ($13), creamy heaven in a pool of fine olive oil with meltingly soft brioche and a finely diced beet tartare.

On the entree front, the lamb/beef mix is right in the Spoonbar Burger ($15), albeit small, on a house-sesame bun with a mini-bucket of fries. Kudos for a restrained but permeating burger topping of sweet tomato confit, cucumber chutney and spiced yogurt.

Though I am easily bored with chicken, their signature Moorish-style Brick Chicken ($24) is rife with flavor from herbs and spices, tender over grilled lemon couscous. Definitely a highlight.

Restaurant Manager, Darren Abel, runs a relaxed, festive restaurant that truly is the whole package. I’ll be plotting my next chance to get to Spoonbar when up that way – at the very least for cocktails and apps. If only this place was in the city…

MORIMOTO NAPA, Napa – Despite the celebrity chef status of the one and only Masaharu Morimoto (yes, I love the original Iron Chef), and the high price tag, the brand new Morimoto Napa restaurant is an experience and a welcome addition to Wine Country.

The space is huge, with a sea of greys enlivened by bright, yellow chairs. There’s patio waterfront seating and an ultra-cool touch of grape vines dramatically running the wall over the bar and in the lobby, as if to say, “Morimoto is now in Wine Country.”

As for the food, it adds up fast, but thankfully there’s beyond-the-norm presentations lending excitement to the expensive meal. Like me, you may have eaten a thousand tartares, but you haven’t had one quite like this: Toro Tartare ($25) comes on a little wood tray you scrape with a mini paddle, then dip in nori paste, wasabi, sour cream, chives, or a house dashi soy, smoky with a hint of bonito. Finish with a bright palate cleanser of Japanese plum.

Green Fig Tempura ($16) is a playful change of pace on the tempura front, but the real clincher is a creamy peanut butter foie gras sauce underneath, dotted with pomegranate reduction. Again, as a big beef tartare fan, I’ve had many a version. This one stands out. Beef Tartare ($18) Morimoto-style comes with asparagus flan hiding an egg in the center. As you slice through it, it oozes over the beef, asparagus slivers, lotus chips and teriyaki sauce. Morimoto Bone Marrow ($16) is an intriguing version: one giant bone loaded with gloppy, warm marrow, perked up with caramelized onions, teriyaki and spices on top.

Entrees continued in this creative vein, though Whole Roasted Lobster “Espice” ($35) had its flaws. It’s a generous portion but the lobster meat is lost in too much garam masala spice, coriander, peppercorn, and cayenne, even though that was what sold me on the dish initially. It was over-spiced but the saving grace was a divine, whipped lemon creme fraiche, contrasting the blackened spice aspect with airy tart.

Duck Duck Goose ($36) was my preferred entree – essentially duck in four parts, from a bowl of duck confit fried rice with frozen foie gras shavings topped with duck egg, to duck soup, duck confit leg, and slices of duck meat with gooseberries. Tofu Cheesecake ($12) in coffee maple syrup with maple ice cream is a signature dish for Morimoto, but though I liked the light texture of the tofu cheesecake, it was overwhelmed by thick maple syrup. A Raspberry Wasabi Sorbet was a better finish for me, hitting strong on both key ingredients.

Morimoto sat at the table next to us with friends, surveying the expansion of his growing restaurant empire. The GM stopped by our table to see how things were going and mentioned that Morimoto loved it so much here he was staying for a couple months. Even when the novelty of his first West Coast venture wears off (he’s opening in LA next – http://eater.com/archives/2010/07/23/morimoto-hits-la.php), my initial visit, merely a week after opening, suggests that this restaurant will long remain one of downtown Napa’s destinations.

The final act



FALL ARTS The Brother/Sister Plays The most anticipated event of a rather sparkling fall theater lineup is surely this triptych of plays penned by a 20-something playwright being hailed as a vital new voice in American theater. Tarell Alvin McCraney’s celebrated trilogy, which premiered at New York’s Public Theater, delves with potent language and exceptional theatrical imagination into the lives of ordinary people in the bayous of Louisiana, its setting and themes made more urgent than ever in the wake of manmade catastrophe in the gulf. To make room for this epic work, three of San Francisco’s leading theaters are collaborating in the presentation of all three plays, with mid-September seeing the unveiling of In the Red and Brown Water at Marin Theatre Company and The Brothers Size at the Magic, and October following with Marcus, or the Secret of Sweet at ACT. Sept.–Oct., various venues; www.brothersisterplays.org.

How Can You Stay in the House All Day and Not Go Anywhere? Ralph Lemon began as a dancer/choreographer but has evolved into an interdisciplinary artist of broad scope and rigorous invention. Yerba Buena Center for the Arts presents his latest multimedia piece, which unfurls in four separate events or chapters, together combining live performance, visual art and film in various spaces. Oct. 7-9, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts; www.ybca.org.

Etiquette This half-hour, site-specific, audience-as-actor piece from lauded London-based experimental theater company Rotozaza plants two willing participants at a time in a San Francisco eatery (The Grove on Mission Street), wearing headphones that feed them their lines and actions. First launched in London in 2007, the globetrotting piece arrives in SF. Sept. 16-Oct. 3, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, www.ybca.org.

The Companion Piece A vaudeville duo struggle to cobble together their floundering opening act alongside the aesthetic perfection of the Headliner, as Z Space at Theater Artaud presents a new devised work conceived by actor Beth Wilmurt and directed by Mark Jackson. But this opportunity is more than the finished piece, which is still evolving ahead of its premiere in early 2011. This fall, audiences are invited into the process — by walking into the theater or watching streaming video online. Check the Z Space website for details. Jan. 16- Feb. 26, 2011, Z Space; www.zspace.org

Coraline It started as a book; it was made into a stop-motion animated feature; now it’s a musical brought to life by composer Stephin Merritt (of the Magnetic Fields) and playwright David Greenspan (She Stoops to Comedy; Dead Mother). Together they compliment the decidedly weird imagination of author Neil Gaiman, a latter-day Lewis Carroll of the children’s fiction genre who penned this creepy-funny story of a little girl’s battle against chaos and evil in a bizarre world just on the other side of the drawing room door. This West Coast premiere by astute presenter SF Playhouse will mark only the second production of Coraline after its initial off-Broadway run in 2009. Nov. 16–Jan. 15, SF Playhouse; www.sfplayhouse.org.

Compulsion Berkeley Rep, New York’s Public Theater. and Yale Repertory Theatre present Rinne Groff’s play based on the life of writer Meyer Levin and his complex obsession with producing his own version of a play based on the diary of Anne Frank. The Public’s Oscar Eustis, who cut his teeth at San Francisco’s storied Eureka Theater in the 1980s setting, among other things, Angels in America aloft, returns to the Bay Area to direct lead Mandy Patinkin amid a cast augmented by marionettes. Sept. 13-Oct. 31, Berkeley Rep; www.berkeleyrep.org.

San Francisco Fringe Festival A perennial, a pearl, a Road Trip to Pluto (judging by one title), the Exit Theatre–sponsored San Francisco Fringe Festival is always a trip. Sept. 8–19, various venues; www.sffringe.org.

Port Out, Starboard Home I recently saw a staged reading of this new work from New York playwright Sheila Callaghan at the Bay Area Playwrights Festival. While Callaghan is still developing the piece with producing company foolsFURY, it seems clear the finished product — set aboard a mysteriously intense cruise liner among a group of vacationing seekers in the material world — should be well worth a look. But this production has yet to find a safe harbor. It will apparently be docking at a theater near you this fall. Date and venue TBD; www.foolsfury.org.

Failure to Communicate Performers Under Stress (PUS) opens its season with a new work of physical theater channeling the perspectives and inner visions of students and teachers at an inner-city high school for severely behavior disordered, emotionally disturbed, learning disabled children, based on the teaching experiences of the company’s managing director, Valerie Fachman. Oct. 29-Nov. 14, The Garage; www.pustheatre.com

Anton in Show Business (Sept. 2–Sept. 26) Three nightmare actresses come together in San Antonio, Texas, for a dismaying production of Chekhov’s Three Sisters in Jane Martin’s 2001 award-winning send-up of the theater world. Oakland’s ever able TheatreFIRST leads off its new season with this swift and ruthless backstage comedy, helmed by artistic director Michael Storm and featuring a strong all-female cast meting out satirical justice to the men and women (and critics) of the art form and the dubious cultural landscape at large. Sept. 2-26, Marion E. Greene Black Box Theater; www.theatrefirst.com.

Music, lovers



FALL ARTS La-dee-dah, ’tis autumn, and to hold your loved ones close really is no crime — just ask the birds and the trees and old Father Time. So an old song goes, one that applies to some lovely new songs by Kisses. Musical and romantic partners Jesse Kivel and Zinzi Edmundson have crafted what might be my favorite album of the year so far, Heart of the Nightlife, a ten-song collection that summons a strong sense of longing in a resort setting, thanks to Kivel’s handsome voice and way with a melody. Perhaps too fittingly, considering the album’s atmosphere, Heart of the Nightlife has yet to find a label to call home, but that hasn’t stopped the duo from moving forward with a fall tour, including a November stop in San Francisco. I recently caught up with Kivel on the phone.

SFBG Travel and a sense of place and of displacement sort of dance with one another throughout Heart of the Nightlife. Can you tell me a bit about that, both in terms of personal experience and inspiration?

JK A year and a half ago I quit my day job and was trying to find ways to make money. I found an ad on Craigslist about writing for a travel site. It focused on vacation spots and timeshares. I thought it might be a scam, but then I started getting paid. They didn’t care about me going anywhere — it wasn’t mandatory for me to go to a hotel before recommending it. In terms of journalistic integrity it was pretty low, but it was a funny way of making money. Kisses was already happening. The song “Weekend in Brooklyn” was the first song I recorded. I’d been listening to a lot of Arthur Russell.

SFBG To me Kisses brings a sort of new new romanticism or Postcard (as in the record label) romance. In the ’80s, new romanticism was a pop phenom. There are waves of groups with ’80s qualities at the moment, but Kisses is the only one that seems to distill or refine them into something potent and distinct.

JK My favorite artists have always toed the line in terms of sentimentality, where the lyrics might be heart-on-your-sleeve or sentimental, but it works. Instead of writing lyrics about vague, cool, things — with so many bands now, you can’t even hear the lyrics.

That’s why I get so mad about being lumped in with chillwave. No one knows how to write songs, but there’s an aesthetic to it that can be easily imitated and people take advantage of that. They can’t sing, but the vocals are covered in reverb. I like a cool vibe, but at the end of the day there’s nothing unique about it. Being a part of a scene like that is degrading to me in terms of songwriting and work put into music.

SFBG The beat of “People Can Do the Most Amazing Things,” puts me in mind of Arthur Russell’s “Platform on the Ocean.” I also feel like there a kinship between the tender and human quality of Russell’s lyrics and yours.

JK It’s unbelievable how few people have even recognized that. Everybody is so engrossed with what is happening this second. There are bands I don’t mind being lumped in with — the Balearic and Swedish bands, the people on Sincerely Yours. But that isn’t chillwave. Culturally, those groups pull off a lot of lyrics because of their unique relationship to the English language. They phrase things in a more poetic way but its incidental.

SFBG How and when did you come up with the line “I would like to take you out for a nice steak dinner” [from “Midnight Lover”]?

JK Have you ever seen Catch Me If You Can? That line is in the movie, and Leonardo DiCaprio says it in this weird accent to a girl, and she loves it. There’s something archaic and formal about it. There are so many things you’re assuming with that line. You’re assuming that a girl would eat red meat. That’s a bold move in this day and age. I liked the image I got from that lyric.

SFBG The other line I have to bring up is “I thought all my friends were over me,” from “Bermuda.” I love how it mixes solitude and closeness.

JK That’s one of the most honest lyrics on the record. I’ve seen this happen with me, and with Zinzi and her friends. You can be wrapped up in your life and have this insecurity about your friends being over you. After school, you are restricted by space and time from hanging out with the people you grew up with, and you wonder whether you’re still important.

SFBG Disco producers such as Alec Costanidos and Gino Soccio are mentioned in relation to Kisses. How does Constanidos figure in your music?

JK I’ve known Alec my entire life. My mom’s best friend is married to Alec, and I remember going to his studio when I was little and dancing around to MC Hammer. I never cared about what he made — in the ’90s, disco was something cheesy and irrelevant.

I revisited Alec after listening to more contemporary artists revive disco in a way that I thought was exciting — people like Lindstrom and Glass Candy and Chromatics. I was trying to figure out my voice in dance music. Songs like Cerrone’s “Supernature” and “Love in C Minor,” which Alec wrote with him, really inspired the style and feeling of Kisses. There are pop elements to them — even though they’re long-playing, with tons of repetition, they have great hooks. 


Show time


Alps, Sept. 4, Cafe du Nord

Baths, Oct. 12, Bottom of the Hill

Best Coast (with Sonny and the Sunsets), Oct. 26, Great American Music Hall

Big Boi, Sept. 23, Regency Ballroom

Black Mountain, Nov. 26, Fillmore,

Blonde Redhead, Nov. 19, Warfield

Caribou (with Emeralds), Oct. 6, Regency Ballroom

Chapterhouse (with Ulrich Schnauss), Oct. 9, Mezzanine

CocoRosie, Oct. 5, Regency Ballroom

Cold Cave, Sept. 5, Great American Music Hall

Connie Francis, Oct. 16, Castro Theatre

Corin Tucker Band, Oct. 11, Great American Music Hall

Davy Jones, Oct. 8-10, Rrazz Room,

Deerhunter (with Real Estate), Oct. 29, Great American Music Hall

Delorean, Nov. 10, Great American Music Hall

Elvis Costello (with Nick Lowe), Oct. 1, Great American Music Hall

Fennesz, Sept. 28, Swedish American Hall

Flaming Lips (with Ariel Pink, Health), Oct. 1-2, Fox Theater

Florence and the Machine, Nov. 5, Fox Theater

Ghostface Killah, Nov. 11, Slim’s

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, Oct. 1-3, Golden Gate Park

High on Fire, Sept. 29, Great American Music Hall

Hot Chip, Oct. 17, Warfield

Indian Jewelry, Oct. 15, Hemlock Tavern

Interpol, Oct. 18, Fox Theater

Jeffrey Johnson (as “Edie Beale”), Nov. 5-6, Rrazz Room

Jennifer Holliday, Nov. 12, Castro Theatre

Jenny & Johnny, Sept. 3, Great American Music Hall

Jonas Brothers, Sept. 18, Shoreline Amphitheatre

Jonsi, Oct. 19, Fox Theater

Jose James and Jef Neve, Nov. 7, Gould Theatre

Klaxons, Oct. 7, Great American Music Hall

Mantles, Oct. 1, Hemlock Tavern

Marina and the Diamonds, Sept. 15, Independent

Mary Wilson, Sept. 22-26, Rrazz Room

Melvins, Sept. 19, Slim’s

Nobunny, Oct. 14, Uptown

Of Montreal, Oct. 29, Warfield

Oneohtrix Point Never, Sept. 3, Cafe du Nord

Panda Bear (with Nite Jewel), Sept. 6, Fox

Pantha Du Prince, Sept. 18, Independent

Perfume Genius, Sept. 27, Bottom of the Hill

Queers, Nov. 27, Bottom of the Hill

Ravi Shankar, Oct. 27, Davies Symphony Hall

Rubinoos, Oct. 23, Great American Music Hall

Ryuichi Sakamoto, Nov. 3, Regency Ballroom

San Francisco Electronic Music Festival, Sept. 8-11, Brava Theatre

School of Seven Bells, Sept. 30, Independent

Screaming Females, Sept. 3, Thee Parkside

Rufus Wainwright, Nov. 11, Davies Symphony Hall

Sleep (with Thrones, Saviours), Sept. 12-13, Regency

Stereo Total, Sept. 2, Slim’s

Taj Mahal, Oct. 23, Paramount Theatre

Tallest Man on Earth, Sept. 13. Fillmore

Teenage Fanclub, Oct. 12, Fillmore

Tom Tom Club, Oct. 8, Great American Music Hall

Treasure Island Music Festival, Oct. 16-17, Treasure Island

Trey Songz (with Monica), Warfield

Unkle, Oct. 28, Regency Ballroom

Vampire Weekend (with Beach House, Very Best), Sept. 25, Greek Theatre

Van Morrison, Oct. 8, Nob Hill Masonic Center

Vaselines (with Dum Dum Girls), Oct. 20, Great American Music Hall

Vetiver (with Fresh & Onlys), Sept. 5, Independent

Weekend, Oct. 30, Hemlock Tavern

xx (with Zola Jesus), Sept. 23, Fox

Yusef Lateef, Oct. 22, Grace Cathedral

ZZ Top, Sept. 3, Shoreline Amphitheatre

Sounds of music


Blonde Redhead, Penny Sparkle (4AD, Sept. 14) The band returns, with help from Fever Ray producers Van Rivers and the Subliminal Kid.

Brian Eno, Small Craft on a Milk Sea (Warp, Nov. 2) Eno records for the electronic label, and the material world versions include a vinyl set with lithograph.

Corin Tucker Band, 1000 Years (Kill Rock Stars, Oct. 5) The Sleater-Kinney singer-guitarist strikes forth solo in a manner of speaking, with contributions from Unwound’s Sara Lund and Golden Bears’ Seth Lorinczi.

El Guincho, Pop Negro (Young Turks, Sept. 14) Barcelona’s pride issues his second album, with a gorgeous octopus cover art and a track called “FM Tan Sexy.”

Frankie Rose and the Outs, Frankie Rose and the Outs (Slumberland, Sept. 21) The Crystal Stilts, Dum Dum Girls, and Vivian Girls drummer fronts her own band, and covers Arthur Russell.

Fresh & Onlys, Play It Strange (In the Red, Oct. 12) The local foursome teams up with Tim Green for a new album that includes creepy fireside cover art and a song titled “Be My Hooker.”

Kelley Stoltz, To Dreamers (Sub Pop, Oct. 12) The San Francisco songsmith does it all (or most of it) himself this go-round, covering Peter Miller’s “Baby I Got News For You.”

Laetitia Sadier, The Trip (Drag City, Sept. 21) The Stereolab member goes solo, and covers Les Rita Matsouko.

Liza Minnelli, Confessions (Decca, Sept. 21) Liza’s back, after back surgery and a Snickers ad with Aretha Franklin, with her take on “At Last.”

Neil Young, Le Noise (Reprise) Shaky isn’t recording an album of chansons — the title is probably a nod to producer Daniel Lanois.

OMD, History of Modern (Bright Antenna/ILG, Sept. 28) The synth duo that all chill wave acts should bow down to issues its first album in 14 years, with a lead single featuring (wait for it) Aretha Franklin.

Swans, My Father Will Lead Me to the Sky (Young God, Sept. 21) Another group returns after a 14-year absence — Devendra Banhart lends a hand (or voice), but Jarboe doesn’t.

Tamaryn, The Waves (Mexican Summer, Sept. 14) The new wave of San Francisco shoegaze steps out into the world with this widescreen effort.

Weekend, Sports (Slumberland, Nov. 9) San Francisco shoegaze, step two: a double-album debut.

Representing the reps


FALL ARTS Here’s a list to get your started; visit the venue or organization website for even more events than could possibly fit here.

Artists’ Television Access (www.atasite.org): “Other Cinema,” the Saturday-night showcase of creatively programmed films and videos, returns Sept. 11 (www.othercinema.com); the “Electronic Cinema” series brings sound artists together with experimental filmmakers Sept. 14.

Castro (www.castrotheatre.com): “Blonde Bombshells” series (lot o’ Marilyn) Aug. 27–Sept. 5; a digital restoration of 1957 classic Bridge on the River Kwai Sept 10–16; and a Chaplin series Sept. 18–21. Jesse Hawthorne Ficks’ always-fun “Midnites for Maniacs” (www.midnitesformaniacs.com) rolls out a “Reinventing Prom” triple feature Sept. 17 (at midnight: 1982’s Zapped!).

Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Festival (www.cafilm.org): The biggest event up north is the 33rd Mill Valley Film Festival (www.mvff.org), Oct 7-17. Other special events: the “Films of My Life” series, with Talking Head Jerry Harrison discussing Jim Jarmusch’s 1984 Stranger Than Paradise.

Clay (www.landmarktheatres.com): The Clay closes Aug. 29. Head out for Aug. 28’s midnight showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975), with the Bawdy Caste on hand for a live performance and Clay “funeral.”

Film Night in the Park (www.filmnight.org): Dude! Season-capper The Big Lebowski (1998) invades Dolores Park Sept. 25.

Forbidden Island (www.forbiddenislandalameda.com): Shout out to Will “The Thrill” Viharo, whose “Forbidden Thrills” double-feature-and-signature-drink series packs in some true oddities. Nov. 15’s entry is an Ed Wood tribute, with “The Angora Sweater” cocktail.

Pacific Film Archive (www.bampfa.berkeley.edu): Highlights of the fall program include “Drawn from Life: The Graphic Novel on Film” (Sept. 10–Oct. 31); and the San Francisco Cinematheque co-sponsored “Radical Light: Alternative Film and Video in the San Francisco Bay Area” (Sept. 17–March 31).

Red Vic (www.redvicmoviehouse.com): Oh, hi. Good luck trying to get a ticket for The Room (2003) with THE Tommy Wiseau in person Sept. 17–18. Other fall delights: the local theatrical premiere of Cropsey, a doc that investigates the intersection of true crime and urban legend, Oct 15–19.

Roxie (www.roxie.com): It’s a festival-a-thon, with the SF Latino Film Festival (www.sflatinofilmfestival.com) Sept 16-19 and the SF Irish Film Festival (www.sfirishfilm.com) Sept. 23–25. Don’t miss the Robert Altman miniseries, with 1977 personality-swapping epic 3 Women Sept 21.

San Francisco Cinematheque (www.sfcinematheque.org): Complete program information was unavailable at press time, but SF Cinematheque heads to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (www.sfmoma.org) for a screening of films by avant-gardist Alexander Hammid, plus live music by the Beth Custer Ensemble, Oct 21.

San Francisco Film Society (www.sffs.org): A few highlights: the NY/SF International Children’s Film Festival (Sept. 24–26); programs of films from Taiwan (Oct. 22–24), France (Oct. 23–Nov. 3), and Italy (Nov. 14–21); the San Francisco International Animation Film Festival (Nov. 11–14); and a screening of 1919 silent Sir Arne’s Treasure with accompaniment by the Mountain Goats (Dec. 14).

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (www.sfmoma.org): Picks include “The Elements” sound and film performance Sept. 30, with experimental filmmaker Paul Clipson; and the “Witches” double feature Oct. 28 with George Romero’s Season of the Witch (1973) and Dario Argento’s Suspiria (1977).

Victoria (www.victoriatheatre.org): Joshua Grannell’s horror comedy All About Evil screens at the very theater where it was filmed, Oct 21–24 — with Grannell’s alter ego, Midnight Mass hostess Peaches Christ in person (www.peacheschrist.com).

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (www.ybca.org): The maker of 1965’s Dead Birds gets his due at “Others/Ourselves: The Cinema of Robert Gardner” (Sept. 23–30); plus, check out “Totally Ridiculous: The Lost Films of Charles Ludlum” (Sept. 24–26) and “Sesame Street: A Celebration” (Oct. 1–30).

And more: Bernal Heights Outdoor Cinema (Sept. 2–5) blankets the ‘hood with free screenings (www.bhoutdoorcine.org). Good Vibrations Fifth Annual Indie Erotic Film Festival (Sept. 18–23) aims to tickles your fancy (www.goodvibes.com). The 14th Arab Film Festival (Oct. 14–24) screens films from and about the Arab world (www.arabfilmfestival.org).

Magic 8-Ball



FALL ARTS/ SUPER EGO What does the immediate future of nightlife hold? “Cloud” DJs, quantum trannies, Hovaround races, de-friending parties, cocktail holography, xylophones? Honey. I just rolled in from a night at Aunt Charlie’s in the TL. Answer hazy, ask again later — maybe after I score some hot hangover grits from Eddie’s on Diviz. In the meanwhile, here’s all tomorrow’s parties I want to see your pretty game face at.



A recent tipsy visit to the California Academy of Science’s Thursday Nightlife party confirmed that it’s still one of the most consistently intriguing events on the scene. (It’s also full of gorgeous, smart women — hint, hint all you lonely geeks). Appropriately for its “Inventors Month” theme, this week will see nonstop live electronic music performances from the likes of Edison, Scuzzy, Seventh Swami, Moldover, Spit Brothers, and the Evolution Control Committee. Will the penguins dance? Yes. Yes, they will dance.

Thurs/26, 6 p.m.–10 p.m., $12. California Academy of Sciences, 55 Music Concourse Drive, Golden Gate Park, SF. www.calacademy.org/nightlife



Kind of freaking out about this. Mezzanine is getting done up like 1982 Detroit cable dance show The Scene (think Soul Train but with early techno and house) — tinsel curtains, dance runway, platforms, and all. Party Effects, BT Magnum, Black Shag, and more keep you popping and locking — and it’ll all be filmed VHS-style. Jihaari T. hosts, and the Miss Honey children, including Terry T and Manicure Versace, preside.

Fri/27, 9 p.m., $5. Mezzanine, 444 Jessie, SF. www.mezzaninesf.com



Very deep, very spiritual, very fantastic global house grooves from the busy Yoruba Soul artist. Carlos Mena of Oakland’s lovely Yoruba Dance Sessions weekly and hometown funkologist J-Boogie support, with live drum troupe Loco Bloco.

Fri/27, 10 p.m.–late, $20. Mighty, 119 Utah, SF. www.mighty119.com



Koo-koo queens once again take on the Icelandic idol in true Trannyshack fashion. With Cousin Wonderlette, Miss Rahni, Elijah Minnelli, Jupiter, Fruitbomb, Suppositori Spelling, Raya Light, Ambrosia Salad (who was born to Björk out), and of course Heklina herself, the queen of creamed salmon. Ever-stylish DJ Omar tickles your medulla.

Fri/27, 10 p.m.–3 a.m., $12. DNA Lounge, 375 11th St., SF. www.trannyshack.com



Intensely funky, forward-thinking Night Slugs artist brings the future grime with a side of early Chicago spooky house feel. He’ll be at the quite nice Icee Hot monthly with Disco Shawn, Rollie Fingers, and Ghosts on Tape.

Sat/28, 10 p.m., $5. 222 Hyde, SF. www.222hyde.com



So, what’s the retro-disco scene like in Omaha, Neb.? Find out when cutie Omahanian DJ Brent Crampton heats up the tables at one of my favorite monthly parties. Headliners funky Cole Medina and Sergio V from L.A. join residents Steve Fabus and Sergio Fedasz, plus newcomers Tres Lingerie, to call down the spirits.

Sat/28, 9 p.m.-late, $5. Deco Lounge, 510 Larkin, SF. www.decosf.com



Promoter Joshua J’s parties are curious mélanges of disparate nightlife flavors, dizzying yet fun. His monthly circus-themed extravaganza Big Top certainly operates under the big tent principle: this anniversary gig includes electro-indie DJ Jeffrey Paradise, fab photog Ava Berlin, drag-vogue shenanigans by the Miss Honey Children and Hoku Mama Swamp, a “lights out” makeout lounge, clothing optional Twister, go-go boys, and a fortune teller. Whew!

Sat/28, 9 p.m.–3 a.m., $5 advance. Club Eight, 1151 Folsom, SF., www.joshuajpresents.com



The dreamy French hip-hopiste comes bearing surreal stoner grooves. (His new album Seven includes an appearance by reclusive house legend Nicolette!) Sway along with local bass-twister Mophono of mind-bending weekly Change the Beat and Carey Kopp.

Sat., Sept. 4,10 p.m.–late, $10 advance. Mighty, 119 Utah, SF. www.mighty119.com



San Francisco’s original dub haven, this weekly joint always makes me smile while turning my head all spacey. Mission maestro DJ Sep welcomes Dr. Israel, Patch Dub, Katrina Blackstone, Turbo Sonidero Futuristico, and MC Mex Tape for a global-eared night of true vibes.

Sun., Sept. 5, 9 p.m., $10 advance. Elbo Room, 647 Valencia, SF. www.elbo.com



The sixth installment of this amazing party brings Brainfeeder knob-god Flying Lotus back from L.A. (via space). Trust, you will not know what hit you when he’s done. Also on deck: dubstep slayer Caspa, who radiates a classic bonkers feel.

Fri., Sept. 24, 9 p.m.–late, $20 advance. Mezzanine, 444 Jessie, SF. www.mezzaninesf.com



I caught this tireless NYC banger duo a few years back when they opened at a Blow Up party — they seemed far too sweet for the face-melting (yet strangely melodic) set they went on to unleash. It was madness! They’re a lot more well-known now, but their funhouse-electro sound still causes heart murmurs and panty drops.

Sat., Sept. 25, 9 p.m.–late, $12 advance. Mezzanine, 444 Jessie, SF. www.mezzaninesf.com



Thanks to some canny programming, the Folsom Street Fair is turning into a major music festival in its own right — this year’s performers include Nitzer Ebb, Dragonette, FM Attack, and HOTTUB. Folsom 2010 also sees the launch of a crazy-sounding new after-party, Deviants, with an ear toward extending the pervy deliciousness for hip omnisexuals. House-y thrill The Juan Maclean performs, with DJs Zach Moore of Space Cowboys and Johnny Seymour of Stereogamous opening the floodgates.

Sun., Sept. 26, 6 p.m., $30 advance. 525 Harrison, SF. www.flsomstreetfair.org/deviants



Change is in the air for this fantastic mega dance festival, formerly known as Lovefest. The party has outgrown its Civic Center location, and a new one is soon to be announced. What hasn’t changed is that the Bay Area is home to several kinds of electronic music, and it would be a shame if we couldn’t all celebrate once a year outdoors, safely and peacefully.

Sat., Oct. 2. Check website for times, location, and price. www.sflovevolution.org



Ain’t nothing wrong with a little straight-up, nonironic New Wave nostalgia, especially if venerable 1980s-obsessed DJs Skip and Shindog are serving. Of course, the fun part about this being NWC’s 18th is that the ’80s were barely over before the nostalgia began. Also of course, you won’t be able to not sing and dance along.

Sat., Oct. 2, 9 p.m.–3.am., $12. DNA Lounge, 375 11th St., SF. www.newwavecity.com



My fondest wishes for this fab four-year-old? More local talent and a DJ tent playing continuous tunes for dancing. Still, it’s hard to argue with a lineup that includes Four Tet, Die Antwoord, Wallpaper, Little Dragon, and more undergroundish acts.

Sat., Oct. 17 and Sun., Oct. 18, $67.50 single day, $119.50 advance two-day package. Treasure Island, www.treasureislandfestival.com



I’ve been dying to sing the praises of the awesome crew of DJs and artists involved in this new club and gallery space, located on a nifty street called Erie and marked by a Banksy mural. Now that they’ve set an opening date, I can gush: if all goes well, this should be another hot spot to make the city proud. The launch should be a dance dream.

Wed., Oct. 20, 9 p.m.–4 a.m., price tba. Public Works, 161 Erie, SF.




DINE At last, a restaurant name we can believe in. That would be Prospect, Nancy Oakes’ new venture on the ground floor of a glassy residential tower that would probably seem like home sweet home to the Jetsons.

If you like Oakes’ other restaurant, the massively famous Boulevard, you’re likely to find Prospect a multilayered shock. The older place, which opened in 1993 and was one of the first tendrils of post-earthquake renewal along the Embarcadero, trades on the antique charm of the Audiffred Building, a 121-year-old, Parisian-looking structure that rode out the 1906 earthquake, as well as on its Pat Kuleto interior design, a warmly whimsical reimagining of a brasserie.

Prospect, by contrast, offers no such design charms and appears to be unconnected to any past, only to a future — a prospect? — that might politely be described as deracinated. The space is deep, high, and filled with plenty of natural light, along with (reclaimed) wood-plank flooring, hempy-looking fabrics, columns of sound baffling that resemble panels of corrugated cardboard (but feel like Corian) and pillars of naked concrete for a touch of modern urban grit. The result is … really not all that different from nearby RN74. Moderation in all things, including — as Oscar Wilde might have said — restraint.

The food is also more than subtly different from Boulevard’s. Oakes is one of the masters of a highly polished American cuisine that’s a little too hearty to be called Californian. Serving sizes at Boulevard have long been ample, in the American grain. But we were told right off the bat one evening at Prospect that we should revise our expectations downward with respect to size. In this sense Prospect’s prices, on their face quite a bit lower than Boulevard’s, are at least slightly illusory, especially if you double down on starters, as our server suggested.

But there can be no arguing with the actual food coming out of executive chef Ravi Kapur’s kitchen. The flavors are bold, the juxtapositions artful, and the execution solid. I was particularly impressed by a double-decker filet of petrale sole ($24). Here the fish was given a gorgeous bronze crispness, then presented with … no, not lemon and capers but a ragout of summer beans, king trumpet mushrooms, and a wondrous tasso aioli that was something like bacon transmuted into cream.

The fish and seafood cookery in general is outstanding, from a petite black cod filet ($15) bathing in a mild red curry broth and accompanied by shiitakes, snap peas, and a shiso shrimp fritter, to an opalescent mat of yellowtail crudo ($14), scattered with coins of pickled cucumber and served with an undulating seaweed rice cracker the color of wasabi but without the nuclear nasal blast. All this is noteworthy mostly if it’s been your impression, as it’s been mine for years, that the heart of Oakes’ gastronomic wonder-working has tended to involve meat and potatoes.

Meat isn’t neglected, however. The pork cheeks ($22) were particularly fabulous, with some of the tender-stringy character of short ribs. The meat was capped with ribbons of fennel-root confit and set on a bed of ancient grains (farro and amaranth, it seemed), with Santa Rosa plums, cloves of roasted garlic, and chunks of watermelon radish for contrast — a refreshingly unsweet and (apart from the plums) unfruity ensemble.

The flesh-free dishes are just as vivid. First-of-the-season tomatoes ($13), although a monochromatic red, benefited from the tanginess of sheep’s-milk fromage blanc. And slices of porcini mushroom ($16) found themselves splashing playfully in a balsamic-pancetta sauce with semolina (rather polenta-ish) and a tempura-like farm egg. Tempura recurred on the soft-shell crab ($14), which seemed unfocused and bland despite the flooring of jalapeño-corn relish and green-tomato tartar sauce. But then, soft-shell crab is an East Coast delicacy that can lose something in translation.

Desserts, like just about everything else on the menu, are small and intense. Chocolate orbit ($9) included warm flourless chocolate cake with a pat of bittersweet chocolate ice cream, and if that had been it, it wouldn’t have been much. But the cake sat on a bed of mojito granita, whose colorless grains belied a strong lime charge. Chocolate and lime? Believe it. Believe, too, in the peach hand pie ($9), with diced peaches, a brown-butter pastry pocket and, best of all, muscovado brown sugar ice cream. It’s not as sweet as you’d think. 


Dinner: Sun.–Thurs., 5:30–10:30 p.m.;

Fri.–Sat., 5:30–11 p.m.

300 Spear, SF

(415) 247-7770


Full bar


Well-damped noise

Wheelchair accessible

Leap into fall


Looking over the fall dance schedule, two ingredients jump out: celebration and experimentation. Given the depressed economy and vacuous political conversations, this optimism comes as a welcome surprise. But then dancers are a resilient lot; they are used to rock bottom or nonexistent budgets and functioning below the radar screen of the pundits who try to tell us which way the culture is tilting. They simply go about doing what they sense needs to be done and put their own stamp on the social ecology. Here is a glimpse at what you can expect until Nutcracker time. 

Flyaway Productions Jo Kreiter’s troupe of strong female warriors — one of our more innovative equipment-based ensembles — is taking to the air to celebrate the Women’s Building’s centennial. They have an open rehearsal Aug. 26 at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 10–18, Women’s Building; www.flyawayproductions.com.

Central Market Arts This is a truly exciting initiative by four Mid-Market Street arts organizations: Alonzo King’s LINES Dance Center, The Garage, Kunst-Stoff Arts and Project Bandaloop. Billed as “24 Days of Art, Music, Dance & Theater,” it presents art in the places where it is made. One idea is to show that the “theater district” exists on the streets. It kicks off with free performances by a who’s who of talents at the Mint Plaza by Fifth and Martet. Kunst-Stoff, LEVYdance, and Robert Moses Kin are the among those doing the honors. Sept. 24–Oct. 17, Market St. corridor; www.jonsimsctr.org.

San Francisco Hip-Hop Dancefest Taking its cue from the jam-packed auditions for the San Francisco Ethnic Festival, the San Francisco Hip-Hop Dance Fest is opening its local company auditions to the public. There are so many applicants, it had to create two separate Sept. 12 sessions at Cowell Theater: one from 11 a.m–2: 30 p.m. and another from 3:30 p.m. –7 p.m. (Out-of-town groups undergo separate evaluations.) This all-day event offers a fabulous opportunity to sample Bay Area hip-hop dance and should whet the appetite for the big event in November. Nov. 19–21, Palace of Fine Arts; www.sfhiphopdancefest.com.

West Wave Dance West Wave is back for its 19th season, this time structured as a monthly series falling on usually dance-free Sunday and Monday nights. Each program features five choreographers. Including a night devoted to dance on film, this is a must for anyone wanting a perspective on Bay Area dance. Sept.20–Dec. 13, Cowell Theater; www.westwavedancefestival.org.

Mark Morris Dance Company The much-welcome perennial returns with three West Coast premieres: this year’s Socrates, about dying; 2007’s Looky, about gallery-hopping; and 1990’s Behemoth, which has been described as “cold, abstract, and silent.” Doesn’t sound much like MM, does it? Sept. 30–Oct. 2, Zellerbach Hall, Berk; www.calperformances.org.

“Traditions Engaged: Dance, Drama, Rhythm” To celebrate its 30th anniversary, Chitresh Das Dance Company follows its 2006 “Kathak at the Crossroads” — which brought together an amazing assembly of dancers, teachers, scholars, and aficionados — with a performance that expands to other classical Indian dance forms: bharata natyam, kathakali, kuchipudi. and odissi. Oct. 1–3, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts; www.kathak.org.

Smuin Ballet Try McIntyre has made himself a reputation for skillful, congenial, and exuberantly danceable choreography. So his Smuin Ballet world premiere — set to indie rock by the Shins — is a good match for the company’s fine crop of dancers. It joins Michael Smuin’s Blue Grass/Slide (which involves pole dancing), and Brahms/Haydn Variation, one of Smuin’s more refined essays on a gorgeous piece of music. Oct. 1–19, Palace of Fine Arts; www.smuinballet.org.

ODC Theater (Oct. 1–3, ODC Theater, SF) is opening its new facilities with a firework of performances. First in line is the world premiere of Brenda Way’s “Architecture of Light”, then comes “JumpstART” (Oct. 16), a daylong celebration of dance, music, and theater, to be followed throughout the fall by a series of commissions, the first one for Kunst-Stoff and LEVYdance (Oct.21–28).

Na Lei Hulu I Ka Wekiu Happy 25th birthday to Patrick Makuakane’s company. If you have seen these remarkable hula dancers, you know that every concert by them is a celebration of contemporary and old-style Hawaiian culture. You can expect a cross-section of their repertoire as well as a special one-hour family matinee on closing day. Oct. 16–24, Palace of Fine Arts; www.naleihulu.org.

Scheherazade Today the Orientalism and racism of Mikhael Fokine’s 1910 extravaganza Scheherazade make the work just about unperformable. Not so, says Alonzo King of LINES Ballet Company, who accepted a commission from the Monaco Dance Forum to rethink the tale. Zakir Hussein does the honors for the Rimsky-Korsakov score. This is the U.S. premiere. Oct. 14–24, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts; www.ybca.org.

“Harvest: The Fall 2010 Choreographers Showcase” Dance Mission Theater’s fall showcase rides in on an unlikely premise. Unjuried and programmed on a first-come, first-serve basis, it includes beginners and experienced artists. The results should be surprising, and are frequently satisfying. Oct. 22–23, Dance Mission Theater; www.dancemission.com.

Sankai Juku For sheer elegance of presentation of a very demanding dance style, the 35-year-old Sankai Juku has few equals. It is bringing 2002’s mesmerizing Hibiki: Resonance from Far Away to San Francisco. If you want to see a newer work, head for Stanford, where it presents Tobari (As If In an Inexhaustible Flux), from 2008. Nov. 9, Memorial Auditorium, Stanford; www.livelyarts.stanford.edu. Nov. 11–13, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts; www.ybca.org.

alt.sex.column: New is as new does


Dear Andrea:

We have been happily married five years and I think we’re kind of out of ideas for new things to do. I think we’re in a rut, and the weird thing is we’re not talking about it. We usually talk about everything, but we’re not talking about this! What are some new ideas for us, and how do I bring it up that I think we should try something new?


Almost Bored

Dear AB:

You won’t be surprised to hear that I have a theory about this. The conventional wisdom goes something like, you settle down and eventually sex gets kind of cozy and pleasantly predictable if you’re lucky, and just plain dull if you’re not. Eventually it just dries up, but if you’re very dedicated to the prospect of a stimulating sex life you can “spice it up.” Since familiarity is assumed to be the sex-killer here, maybe somebody should wear a fake mustache and everyone should pretend they’ve just met under slightly seedy circumstances.

But I’m not sure that’s it’s familiarity, precisely, that’s at fault when the Big Dull hits a few years into an otherwise excellent marriage, partnership, whatever. I think we get do bored and do crave novelty, but I think familiarity and comfort also breed something else and I don’t mean contempt.

Familiarity and comfort can breed, oddly, an sort of shyness — often it’s easier to be your kinkiest, least inhibited self with a barely trusted stranger than your nearest and dearest. We tend to cast ourselves and our partners in particular roles — nice roles, for the most part, but roles nonetheless — and stepping out to try new stuff just feels impossibly awkward, and like work. We come to think of ourselves as people who together do these things but not, you know, those. And it can be very hard to reimagine and redefine within an ongoing relationship.

So my proposal is not that you butch it up and suggest some crazy stuff to your spouse. I’m pretty well convinced that a couple needs, on occasion, to do something a little bit scary, challenging, ridiculous, or, at the very least, a little not-them like. What you need — what any couple needs — to retain and rekindle romance and its associated Really Hot Sex, is surprise, hilarity, adrenaline, and the admiration that comes from watching one’s partner reveal a new and unsuspected skill.

What you need is to do new things and start seeing each other in a new, different, and, one hopes, newly enticing light. Once you are both less certain of who you are and what you are capable of, you may be amazed how much less awkward it feels to say “Hey, let’s (blank) each other with a (blankety-blank) tonight, what do you say?



Got a question? Email Andrea at andrea@mail.altsexcolumn.com

Funny face, fecal face



FALL ARTS/HAIRY EYEBALL “New Work: R. H. Quaytman” It’s appropriate that the paintings commissioned by SFMOMA for R.H. Quaytman’s first West Coast showing were conceived in response to the museum’s own photography holdings as well as the work of SF Renaissance poet Jack Spicer. I’m curious to see what sort of conversation Quaytman’s precise, labor-intensive, and site-specific silk-screens (in “seven interrelated sizes based on the golden ratio”) stage with Spicer’s salty and spicy verse. Oct. 22-Jan. 16, 2011; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, www.sfmoma.org.

“Masami Teraoka: The Inversion of the Sacred” Masami Teraoka built his reputation in the 1980s and ’90s on his apocalyptic ukiyo-e-style paintings, which juxtaposed topical content (AIDS, the globalization of fast food) against their faithful reproduction of an older, “traditional” aesthetic. In recent years he’s turned to Renaissance altar painting as the medium of choice to express his disgust over a whole host of new evils. His latest gilded blasphemy — a triptych that reenvisions the Last Supper as a Papal stag party in hell — encompass the ever-mounting sex abuse scandals linked to the Catholic Church and the gulf oil spill. Oct. 2-Nov.13; Catharine Clark Gallery, cclarkgallery.com.

“Tammy Rae Carland: Funny Face, I Love You” For her second solo show at Silverman Gallery, Mr. Lady Records cofounder and visual artist Tammy Rae Carland presents a suite of new work inspired by female comedians. Carland’s photographs of empty stand-up stages give off a slightly forlorn vibe, to be sure, but her anywhere clubs are also sites of possibility to laugh off gender difference as well as to laugh at it. You’ll leave in stitches. Sept. 10-Oct. 23, 2010; Silverman Gallery, www.silverman-gallery.com.

“10 Years of Fecal Face, An Anniversary Show” A decade in Internet years is a long-ass time, so three cheers to founder John Trippe and his army of global correspondents for sticking to their guns these past 10 years and creating an invaluable resource and platform for Bay Area artists and visual art fans. Tripp has pulled together a who’s who of site and Fecal Face Dot Gallery alum — David Choe, Matt Furie, and Jeremy Fish, to name a few — for this epic retrospective. Support the scene that supports you. Sept. 10-Oct. 9, 2010; Luggage Store Gallery, www.luggagestoregallery.org.

“HARVEST: what have you gathered?” Just in time for the lead-up to Thanksgiving, the North of Market/Tenderloin Community Benefit District Gallery lays out quite a spread. “Harvest” asked a diverse group of TL-based artists, “What have you gathered?” Their responses should make for an interesting snapshot of the lives that comprise a neighborhood in flux. Sept. 1–Nov. 30; 134 A Golden Gate, www.nom-tlcbd.org.

“Reclaimed: Paintings From the Collection of Jacques Goudstikker” Fact: the Nazis did many shitty things, such as taking other people’s (wealthy Jews, in particular) cultural property as their own. Such was the fate of the collection of prominent Dutch art dealer Jacques Goudstikker, who had amassed a sizable number of Northern Renaissance rarities. After much effort conservators finally repieced together the collection in 2006, and now SF gets a peek at Goudstikker’s greatest hits. And what hits they are: for starters, Hendrick Avercamp’s Winter Landscape with Iceskaters (1608) could give Breughel’s peasantry a run for their money. Oct. 29-March 11, 2011; Contemporary Jewish Museum, www.thecjm.org.

“Chris Duncan: Eye Against I” Though it takes its title from a seminal album by Washington, D.C., hardcore-legends Bad Brains, “Eye Against I” can also refer to the mind/body split one undergoes when staring down one of Chris Duncan’s refracted whirlpools of color. Fry art by way of Saul Bass is one way to think about Duncan’s carefully hued spirals of isosceles triangles, but some of the guest artists scheduled for a series of accompanying live events might provide some other ways to re-see the work. Sept. 11- Oct. 16, 2010; Baer Ridgway Exhibitions, www.baerridgway.com.

“One Night Stand: A Mills MFA Group Show” Art doesn’t come much cheaper than this. The bright-eyed and bushy-tailed talents in the 2011 Mills MFA class are selling their work for under $50 a pop. Buy now or cry later after they’ve won a SECA award and made the cover of Juxtapoz. Oct. 8, 6-9 p.m.; Branch Gallery, www.branchgallery.com.

“Cliff Hengst and Wayne Smith: New Work” Both Hengst and Smith have been longtime fixtures on the SF art scene, but their work — different as it is in tone and medium — is always refreshing. Here’s hoping Hengst unveils work in line with the small gems in his last showing at 2nd Floor Projects: news photo-sourced images of demonstrations in which everything but the protestors’ signs have been blackened out. Sept. 10-Oct. 29; Gallery 16, www.gallery16.com.

“Suggestions of Life Being Lived” This exciting group show curated by Danny Orendorff and Adriane Skye Roberts promises to live up to the dare laid down by Bikini Kill many moons ago to be “worse than queer.” Bypassing the usual identity politics-centered narratives and concerns that have defined much LGBT art practice, “Suggestions” seeks out new territory for queerness, whether it be in Kirstyn Russell’s photos of gay bars past, Jeannie Simm’s intimate study of an Indonesian maid training agency, or Chris Vargas and Greg Youman’s humorous “real life” Web sitcom Falling in Love With Chris and Greg. Sept. 9-Oct. 23; SF Camerawork, www.sfcamerawork.org.


Not all fall hits are in the city. Borrow some wheels and head to points north and south to check out these promising shows:


Before SF Art Institute was SF Art Institute, it was known as the California School of Fine Arts and had one of the finest photography programs in post-World War II America. Set up by Ansel Adams, the program counted such celebrated photographers as Dorothea Lange, Homer Page, and Imogen Cunningham among its illustrious faculty. Smith Anderson North in San Anselmo collects an unprecedented showing of photographers who came out of the program at the height of its fame. Sept. 14-Oct. 15; Smith Anderson North, www.smithandersonnorth.com.

“2010 01SJ BIENNIAL”

You may know the way to San Jose, but San Jose knows the way to the future. The 01SJ Biennial has grown into one of the Bay Area’s premier art events, bringing together visual artists, architects, computer programmers, and a whole host of other creative doers and thinkers and unleashing their creations and collaborations across the city, this year, with the prompt to “Build Your Own World.” Sept. 16-19; www.01sj.org.

Girlschool 2010



FALL ARTS/MUSIC When I last looked at the state of all-female bands in 2006, Sleater-Kinney, Destiny’s Child, and Le Tigre had hung up their guitars, mics, and samplers. Since then, the Bay Area has produced a motherlode of female-dominated rock outfits — including Grass Widow, the Splinters, Brilliant Colors, the Twinks, the Sandwitches, the Sarees, the Glassines, and Shannon and the Clams — while frontperson Dee Dee (née Kristin Gundred) of the Dum Dum Girls has moved back to SF, where she grew up.

Is there a girl band revolution on the horizon? Mainstream charts don’t reflect a change, despite the rising national profiles of the Dum Dum Girls, Vivian Girls, Frankie Rose and the Outs, and the all-female band backing Beyonce during her last tour. Yet since 2007, waves of all-female bands have been breaking locally — outfits often informed by girl groups, as well as garage rock and generations of punk. Jess Scott of Brilliant Colors told me she recently broached this subject with riot grrrl vet Layla Gibbon, editor of Maximum Rocknroll: “I think people are writing about the music itself, which is exciting. I’m always for new music, and I’m doubly for girls in music.”

But just because girl bands are becoming more of a norm doesn’t mean that sexism has evaporated, much like the election of Barack Obama hasn’t dispelled racism. “When we go on tour in the South or Midwest or anywhere else, you realize how different it is,” says Lillian Maring of Grass Widow. “You’re loading into the venue and hearing, ‘Where’s the band?’ ‘Heh-heh, it’s us — we’re the band.’ ‘You’re traveling by yourselves?'” She looks flabbergasted. “Are you fucking kidding me?”

Intriguingly, the very idea of foregrounding gender, above music, chafes against some musicians. “There’s definitely a history of women being objectified in all kinds of visual culture,” says Grass Widow’s Hannah Lew. “We’re thoughtful people who work hard at writing songs and are trying to challenge that whole system of objectification, so it would kind of be an oxymoron if we were to capitalize on the idea of being a girl group. Our gender is an element of what we do, but the first thing is our thoughts and our music.”

Still, others see gender as an inextricable part of writing music, often collaboratively, about their own experiences. “I think it’s a powerful thing to be a troupe of women together writing music,” says the Splinters’ Lauren Stern. “The lyrics are totally different, and there are certain things that a woman writer conveys differently.” Her bandmate Caroline Partamian believes the popularity of all-female combos like the Vivian Girls may be “subconsciously giving girl bands more power to keep writing songs and keep playing shows.”

The Girlschool class of 2010, would probably agree that a new paradigm is in order. Scott, for instance, confesses she’d rather align herself with politically like-minded labels like Make a Mess than simply other all-female bands that “want the same old things tons of guy bands have wanted.” The same old won’t get you a passing grade.



The dilemma of so many women’s bands — to be on the CD or LP cover, or not to be — is beside the point when it comes to SF’s Grass Widow, hunkering down over burgers and shakes in the belly of a former meatpacking building at 16th and Mission streets, in a onetime-meat locker-now-practice space jammed with drum kits, amps, and gear.

“I think it’s annoying to try and sensationalize girl groups, but at the same token maybe it’s cool because it might normalize, a bit, the idea of gender,” says bassist-vocalist Hannah Lew. “But it’s definitely the thing we don’t like to talk about first. I almost don’t want to use our image in anything. People are automatically, ‘They’re hot! Omigod, that one is hot!'”

The cover of Grass Widow’s second, newly released album, Past Time (Kill Rock Stars), appears to sidestep the issue, until you look closely and notice Lew, guitarist-vocalist Raven Mahon, and drummer-vocalist Lillian Maring poking their heads out a car window in the background. “We’re very blurry, but we could be really hot!” Lew jokes. “We probably are really hot!”

Some consider Grass Widow hot for altogether different reasons: the band is often brought up by other all-female local bands as a favorite, and Past Time stands to find a place beside such influential groups as the Raincoats for its blend of sweetness and dissonance, spare instrumentation and sing-out confidence, and interwoven vocals. In some ways, Grass Widow sounds as if it’s starting from scratch in a post-punk universe and going forward from there, violating rockist convention.

Are they, as their name might suggest, mourning an indie rock that might or might not be dead? Well, when Lew, Mahon, and Maring started playing together in 2007 under the moniker Shit Storm (“It was a self-fulfilling prophecy, like the facial tattoo of band names!” says Lew), they probably couldn’t predict how sadly apropos Grass Widow — a centuries-old phrase referring to a woman whose husband is away at sea or war or on duty — would become. Last year, among other events, Lew’s father, noted SF Rabbi Alan Lew, passed away. “We took a six-month break during this intense grieving period, and it was strange to come out of it and think, we’re in a band called Grass Widow,” Lew says now. “And we were grass widows to each other! Then playing again, it felt right to be in a band like that — it took on this other meaning.”

In a similar way, the group regularly works together to transform their experiences, thoughts, and dreams through allegory into song lyrics — and for its release party, it plans to incorporate a string section and a 35-lady choir. “We’re not a girl group mourning the loss of our boyfriends and waiting for them to return,” muses Mahon. “It’s more like we’re working together to create and we’re functioning just fine that way.”


“We’re associated with a lot of bands that came along a few years later, but when I started writing songs three or four years ago, it was a wasteland,” says Jess Scott, Brilliant Colors’ vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter. “It was really hard to find people who wanted to play pop, not hardcore. It seems like a given now, but it was hard to find people who were into Aislers Set.”

Scott’s tenacity and focus comes through — loud, clear, and as vivid as the brightest hues in your paint set, and the most resonant melodies of Aislers Set — on Brilliant Colors’ 2009 debut, Introducing (Slumberland). Her breathy vocals and rhythm guitar — a crisp combination of post-punk spunk and drone — bound off drummer Diane Anastacio’s frisky, skipping beats and bassist Michelle Hill’s simple, straight-to-the-gut bass lines like the most natural thing in the world, recalling punk classics by early Buzzcocks and Wire as well as later successors Delta 5 and LiliPUT and riot grrrl-era kin Heavens to Betsy and Huggy Bear.

Scott has been writing songs since she was 15, which, full disclosure, was around the time I first met her, the daughter of two moms, one of whom I worked with. At the time, her sound was softer, more melodic, and at times weirder than the punk outfits that frequented 924 Gilman Street Project, her pals’ preferred hangout. Nevertheless, Brilliant Colors has gone on to somehow fuse Gilman’s political-punk commitment with Scott’s obsession with perfecting pop songcraft.

“We get offers to do cheesy things and we don’t do it. We’re extremely liberal punk kids, y’know,” explains Scott, who sees all of her band’s numbers as love songs, with a few intriguing angles: “Motherland,” say, is “an overtly feminist song about solidarity between women,” while “Absolutely Anything” concerns vaginal imagery in art.

Call Brilliant Colors’ inspired tunes a true reflection of its music-obsessed maker: Scott studied political science and economics as an undergraduate at Mills College, and arts journalism as a fellow at University of Southern California, and she regularly writes for Maximum Rocknroll. She also runs a cassette label, Tape It to the Limit.

“You could say we’re conscious of who we play with and where we play and what we say,” says. That means saying “no way” to playing at chain clothing stores such as Top Shop, though she humbly adds, “I don’t want to seem ungrateful or rude about it, but we want to stick to shows that are all ages and cheap.”

Snackable: The Sandwitches

Give naivete a good, hard twist and you get something close to the rock ‘n’ roll-primitive originality of the Sandwitches. Little wonder that two of the winsome ‘Witches, vocalist-guitarists Grace Cooper and Heidi Alexander, were once backup vocalists for the Fresh and Onlys — the Sandwitches’ music rings out with the ear-cleansing clarity of smart girls who understand the importance of preserving the best, raw parts of their innocence, even amid the pleasures and perils of age, wisdom, snarking hipsters, and intimidating record collections.

One of the SF trio’s recent tunes, “Beatle Screams,” embodies that fresh, crunchy, approach: its lo-fi echo; lumbering, click-clack drums; and sad carnival-organ sounds are topped off with the comic pathos of girlish, ghoulish shrieks from the depths of groupie hell.

Live, the Sandwitches come across as offhand, upbeat, and surprisingly passionate, playing music that harks to lonely teardrops, mom ‘n’ pop low-watt radio stations, the Everlys and Gene Pitney, with a twinge of country and a dose of dissonance. The trio’s recordings have a nuanced view of love and lust. They assume the perspective of infatuated naifs on “Idiot Savant,” and warble “Fire … I fill the room, I fill the womb,” on “Fire” from the 2009 debut album, How to Make Ambient Sad Cake (Turn Up). Produced by the Fresh and Onlys’ Wymond Miles, the new Sandwitches EP, Duck, Duck, Goose! (Empty Cellar/Secret Seven) plunges even deeper into the shadows, tackling “Baby Mine,” Fresh and Onlys’ honcho Tim Cohen’s “Rock of Gibraltar,” and other eerie lullabies with confidence and tangible vision.

The Sandwitches materialized two years ago when Alexander and drummer Roxy Brodeur began playing together. “She said she really liked the way I drummed and we should play music sometime,” recalls Brodeur, who has also drummed in Brilliant Colors and Pillars of Silence. Alexander had also been playing with Cooper, and it seemed only natural for the three to join forces.

Brodeur was adept at following along: “I play to the vocals a lot, and it depends on the song because Grace and Heidi write in pretty different styles — with Grace it’s lighter and jazzier and with Heidi it’s a little heavier and thumpy.”


Sept. 10, 7 p.m., all ages

Cyclone Warehouse

Illinois and Cesar Chavez, SF



What do Canadian tuxes, temporary tats, TLC, and touring by pickup truck have in common? They’re all pleasures, guilty or not, for the Splinters. The soon-to-be-bicoastal Bay Area all-girl combo is all about fun and friendship, gauging the laughter levels as guitarist Caroline Partamian and vocalist-tambourine player Lauren Stern sip PBRs by the hideaway fireplace in the back of Oakland’s Avenue Bar. Some other choice subjects: seedy green rooms, messy Texas shows, honey-dripping Southern accents, and bandmates that make their own thongs.

“Sometimes being girls has gotten us out of trouble,” says Stern, chuckling. Like that time at an Austin house party when the Splinters got grossed out by the bathroom and decided to go pee next to their truck instead. “We had baby wipes,” Partamian explains. “And we had the truck doors open.”

“So we’re all squatting in a row, and this guy walks out with his dog and his friend,” continues Stern, “and he’s like, ‘You guys are peeing in front of our house!'” Girlish oohing and aahing over his pooch saved the day, and the aggrieved dog walker ended up replacing the truck’s brake pads at a drastic discount.

Likewise, positivity and camaraderie infuse the Splinters’ all-fun debut, Kick (Double Negative), though “Sea Salt Skin” injects melancholy into the garage-rocking shenanigans and “Oranges” levels its gaze at girl-on-girl violence with a withering Black Sabbath-style riff. “Cool” and “Dark Shades” flip the dance-party ethos on its side, playfully critiquing the hip crowd like wiseacre modern-day Shangri-Las. No surprise, then, that these women were friends and fellow students at UC Berkeley before they started playing together in late 2007, inspired by Partamian’s four-track birthday gift. The first show was an Obama house-party fundraiser. “It was $5 for a 40 and a corn dog,” Stern remembers.

The ensemble has turned out to be much more than an end-of-school lark. A New York City move is next for Stern and Partamian — the latter will be starting the museum studies graduate program at NYU. But the Splinters will stay together, in part for four female superfans who sing along to all the Splinters’ songs, and for a Bristol, U.K. father and son who have bonded over their affection for the group.

“I don’t know, we just love playing music together,” says Partamian.

“It’s so much fun,” Stern adds. “Almost in an addictive way.”



Whether you see the term as sweet talk or a slam, the Twinks’ name couldn’t be more appropriate. After all, as drummer Erica Eller says with a laugh, “We’re cute and we like boys!”

True to form, they’re young — the foursome’s first show took place last month — and fun. The Twinks are all-girl, rather than a band of adorable and hairless young gay men. Their sugar-sweet, hip-shaking rockin’ pop unabashedly finds inspiration in the first wave of girl groups — vessels of femininity and Tin Pan Alley aspiration such as the Crystals, the Shirelles, the Dixie Cups, and the Shangri-Las. But in the Twinks’ case, girls, not the producers, are calling the shots. Tunes like “Let’s Go” and “There He Was” are tracked by the group on a portable recorder and overdubbed with Garage Band. It’s a rough but effective setup, capturing keyboardist and primary songwriter Kelly Gabaldon, guitarist Melissa Wolfe, and bassist Rita Sapunor as they take turns on lead vocals and harmonize with abandon.

The band came to life amid an explosion of creativity, when Gabaldon, who also plays in the all-girl Glassines with Eller, wrote a slew of songs last winter. “All of a sudden I had a burst of inspiration,” Gabaldon marvels. “I’d email them a new song every day.” The numbers seemed less suited to the “moodier, singer-songwriter” Glassines, so Gabaldon got her friend Wolfe and finally Sapunor into the act.

Says Gabaldon: “I started listening to a lot more oldies music than I had been before.”

“We also went to a bunch of shows in the past year,” adds Eller as the group sits around the kitchen table at her Mission District warehouse space. “Shannon and the Clams, Hunx and His Punx, a lot of local bands, for sure.”

“I got influenced by Girls,” interjects Gabaldon.

Eller: “All these concerts going on — Nobunny — “

“We went to a lot of shows in the past year!” says Gabaldon. “It was like, ‘We want to do that!'<0x2009>”

Now the Twinks are just trying to play out as much as they can and record their songs. They work ties and other menswear delights into their stage getups, and drink shots of Chartreuse before each show. “I think we all have similar ambitions,” says Sapunor, “but there’s a sense of lightness and playfulness and fun, so it doesn’t seem like work. I think that’s how female culture plays into the overall experience for us, and hopefully for audience members, too.”


With Milk Music and White Boss

Sept. 9, 9 p.m., $7

Hemlock Tavern

1131 Polk, SF

(415) 923-0923



Sept. 10, 7 p.m., all ages

Cyclone Warehouse Illinois and Cesar Chavez, SF www.myspace.com/grasswidowmusic

Crackdown on gangs — or civil liberties?



City Attorney Dennis Herrera’s Aug. 5 decision to file a civil gang injunction against two alleged gangs in Visitacion Valley is being hailed by top local law enforcement officials as an important weapon in a war between heavily-armed members of two rival gangs in the Sunnydale housing projects.

“I consider this another vital tool in the prosecution of violent criminals,” District Attorney Kamala Harris said in a City Attorney’s Office press release announcing the suit against the Down Below Gangsters (DBG) and Towerside Gang.

But in the middle of a heated race for supervisor in District 10, the gang injunction also has become a political issue — and infuriated civil liberties activists who say it’s unfair and won’t work.

Herrera’s complaint names and identifies 41 young black men using declarations from gang task force members, police reports, photographs of the men sporting tattoos, flashing hand signs, and wearing purported gang clothing — and even extracts from a letter that one listed individual sent to another alleged gang member, who was in jail.

If Herrera’s request is granted in court Sept. 30, it will be San Francisco’s fourth civil gang injunction. Herrera secured similar injunctions against the Bayview-Hunters Point Oakdale Mob in October 2006; the Mission District’s Norteños in 2007; and the Western Addition’s Chopper City, Eddy Rock, and Knock Out Posse in 2007.

The City Attorney’s Office claims a “cooling off” effect as a result of those injunctions. “Since Herrera launched the civil gang injunction program at the end of 2006, 46 percent of identified gang members (43 of 93) have gone without even a single arrest in San Francisco for crimes other than minor violations of the injunction itself,” Herrera’s office states.

It claims that the data also show progressive improvements over time. “Only 14 percent of identified gang members (13 of 93) were arrested for noninjunction crimes so far in 2010 — down from 41 percent in 2007,” Herrera’s office states.

But San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi, civil rights lawyers, and community advocates worry that the injunction raises constitutional issues and practical problems that could be counterproductive in terms of Herrera’s stated effort to reduce violence in Visitacion Valley.

“The first difficulty you observe is that there is no right to counsel,” Adachi said, pointing to the three injunctions Herrera has already launched. “Instead, the burden is on the individuals named in the injunction to come forward and contest the injunction.”

Contesting an injunction is expensive and difficult, Adachi says.

“There’s a large amount of filing, and then there’s a hearing and a trial,” said Adachi, who represented individuals named in Herrera’s 2007 suit against the Norteños. “It costs between $10,000 and $20,000 to mount an adequate defense.”

Adachi claims Herrera’s past injunctions were mostly based on allegations and stale information that could have triggered more violence. “We saw that the city attorney based its injunction solely on what police officers had alleged, officers who in most cases were members of the Gang Task Force,” he said. “For instance, there was a woman who had been in a gang, but left years before. As a result of being named, her family was threatened and she was fearful there would be reprisals.” The woman’s name was ultimately removed.

Adachi represented a young man who had never been in trouble but found himself on Herrera’s Mission-based injunction list after he rapped about the Nortenos. “There was no evidence, but when we said there had been a mistake, the city attorney disagreed,” Adachi said. “In the end, a judge found there was insufficient evidence.”

Adachi worries about the impact on individuals mistakenly named in the suit. “When you name someone, that brands them. What we saw in other injunctions was that people lost jobs.”

He notes that only a few people came forward to challenge past injunctions. “But in at least four cases, people were found not to be gang members,” he said.

At the time of those injunctions, there was no way to get off the list. “So we worked with the ACLU to demand one and the City Attorney’s Office agreed,” Adachi said. “But I don’t know how many people have since filed paperwork.”

Ingleside police station Capt. Louis Cassenego told us that as of Aug. 20, 12 men had been served with the injunction — six allegedly from DBG, six from Ingleside.

“We had signage posted on utility poles, and no signs have been torn down,” Cassenego said. “And so far, the folks served have taken it in a matter-of fact fashion.”

But Sharen Hewitt, executive director of the C.L.A.E.R. Project, a community empowerment and violence prevention nonprofit, said she worries that people don’t understand the implications of being served and won’t take the trouble to opt out. “I talked to a young man after he got served and he tore up his notice,” Hewitt said.

Hewitt invited representatives from the City Attorney’s Office, Police Department, Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, Bay Area Legal Aid, and residents of the area to an Aug. 12 emergency debriefing. “We are sitting in the middle of a major war zone,” Hewitt said, referring to the meeting’s location at Britton Courts, a public housing project that Herrera claims is on DBG turf. “Although this situation threatens the community, it has also brought us together. And now we are trying to pull together a legal team.”

Deputy City Attorney Yvonne Mere explained that the suit seeks to ban criminal and nuisance conduct by creating a proposed safety zone that covers two-tenths of a square mile and encompasses both gangs’ alleged turf plus a buffer zone.

The injunction would impose a 10 p.m. curfew on the 41 men listed, who are a barred from trespassing, selling drugs, and illegally possessing firearms, loitering, displaying gang signs, and associating in public in neighborhoods surrounding the Sunnydale, Heritage Homes, and Britton Courts developments.

Some of this conduct is already against the law, but other activities, including assembling in groups, is typically protected by the Constitution, Mere explained.

Lt. Mikail Ali of the Ingleside station said many youngsters don’t want to be in a gang. “This is an out,” Ali said.

But some residents questioned whether some men on Herrera’s list are in a gang. “Who are you to say who is a gang member?” asked Sheila Hill, who was concerned that her son, the victim of a shooting a couple of years ago, was on the list. “Yes, they might have done something three or five years ago, but many of them have moved on, got married, and got a job. I don’t believe you guys are really checking your records.”

Mere disagreed (later clarifying that Hill’s son isn’t named by the injunction). “We looked at criminal records within the last five years, including shootings, shots fired, and weapons possessed, and it’s a pretty violent zone down here,” Mere said. Mere claims the war between DBG and the Towerside caused 10 murders in the last three years.

Leslie Burch, president of the Britton Courts Neighborhood Association and cofounder of the Visitacion Valley Peacekeepers, said a lot of the men named grew up together, playing sports, staying at each other’s houses overnight, and making affiliations.

“So I wouldn’t necessarily classify them as gangs,” Burch said. “They are just a bunch of friends who have common interests like music, sports, and hanging out together.”

Mere pointed to the opt-out option, part of a 2008 agreement between the city attorney, ACLU, and Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights.

“It’s an option for people to say, ‘No, you are wrong,'<0x2009>” Mere said. “They can submit letters from pastors and friends, and we’ll consider that between now and Sept. 30.

But Burch challenged some of the evidence posted at the City Attorney’s wesbite, including photographs of people sporting alleged gang tattoos and clothing.

“Take the T sign,” Burch explained “The city attorney says it represents the Towerside. But I had a nephew who was murdered. His name was Trayon, and some people wear the letter T in remembrance of him. I was in court with a nephew who was trying to explain that he is not a gang member just because he’s wearing a hat with a T on it.”

Hewitt noted that the injunction follows budget cuts that decimated local nonprofits and that funding is desperately needed for programs that provide young men with jobs and other alternatives to crime.

Hewitt also noted that the injunction gives District 10 candidates an opportunity to show the community that they are tracking all the issues in this pivotal race. “D-10 has been reduced to the Lennar issue, and that’s what’s criminal,” Hewitt said, adding that coverage of the race has so far largely excluded Viz Valley, even though it’s home to the city’s largest public housing site.

Indeed, the injunction is becoming part of the dialogue in the District 10 supervisor campaign. Candidates Isaac Bowers, Kristine Enea, Chris Jackson, Nyese Joshua, Steve Moss, and Marlene Tran attended Sharen Hewitt’s Aug. 12 gang injunction debriefing. By meeting’s end, Bowers and Enea said they would help community members get legal representation. “A lot of people being served don’t know what an injunction is or don’t show up at the hearing, and then they become subject to the injunction,” Bowers said.

Jackson said he’s committed to helping these men get access to job and education opportunities.

Candidate Tony Kelly said if there are gangs in Viz Valley, Herrera’s injunction would be valid. “There is gang-like activity, but it’s small-scale turf wars, shootings. and retaliations. And it’s not organized,” Kelly claimed. “Instead, you’ve got unorganized young black men with no other options doing whatever it takes to get ahead. But instead of doing something constructive, the city attorney calls them gangs.”

DeWitt Lacy, also a candidate, said he remains concerned that gang injunctions are circumventing people’s due process rights. “In a criminal case, you have the right to an attorney — but that’s not so in a civil action.”

Rooting out the bad apples?



The San Francisco Police Department will begin tracking the records of officers who have histories of misconduct or other red flags so the information can be disclosed to the district attorney if the officer is called to testify in a criminal trial.

Chief George Gascón announced the new protocol Aug. 20 in response to revelations in the wake of the crime lab scandal that San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris had failed to comply fully with a constitutional obligation to provide criminal defense attorneys with the misconduct records, which the defense could then seek to have admitted as evidence to undermine a witness’ credibility.

Harris’ office has to rely on police to determine whether any problems lurk in a police witness’ background, so the hiccup in compliance was blamed on weak communication between the two departments.

But there’s a big lingering question Gascón hasn’t directly addressed: the research will almost certainly turn up information that ought to lead to officer discipline, and in some cases to cops losing their jobs. How, exactly, will the department handle that?

Speaking at a press conference, Gascón said he’d worked closely with the DA’s office and San Francisco Police Officers Association (SF POA) to streamline the process to ensure compliance. “We believe this will be a model policy throughout the country,” Gascón said, flanked by high-ranking members of the department as a line of television cameras pointed toward him.

Since the constitutional requirement stems from the 1963 case Brady v. Maryland, a bureau order issued by the chief refers to negative marks on an officer’s personnel record that is determined to be admissible as evidence as “Brady material.” It could be as simple as a 10-year-old D.U.I. charge, or a more serious offense involving an officer’s conduct in the line of duty.

If an officer has been disciplined in the past for making false statements, for example, and that history is admitted as evidence in trial, the jury might be less inclined to take his or her word as gospel.

In the past, anytime the DA called on an officer to testify against a criminal defendant, the DA’s office was supposed to contact the SFPD to request a background check for that officer to see if any Brady material had to be turned over to the defense. Under Gascón’s new plan, SFPD will notify the DA in advance about officers who have potential “Brady material,” without revealing just what the historic offense is. If the DA calls a police witness whose name has been flagged, the prosecutor will have to file a motion for the court to open the personnel file and determine if the past misconduct is relevant to the case at hand.

So how does an employee get his or her name flagged? The SFPD has assembled a powerful new body with a hokey-sounding name, “the Brady Committee,” to determine whether an employee’s name should be forwarded to the DA. Comprised of various heads of SFPD divisions plus a retired judge with a background in criminal law, the committee will review personnel backgrounds and give employees a chance to make their case as to why the dirt the department has on them shouldn’t be counted as Brady material.

Not surprisingly, “the list” — as it’s being called — won’t be made available to the public, but at the Aug. 20 press conference, reporters wanted to know how many names were on it. Gascón indicated that it was too early to say. “There is unquestionably going to be a number that will start surfacing,” he responded. “At this point, we do not have a list.”

A host of questions surround this new development, and one of the first to emerge is whether officers who are still on patrol duty despite major offenses in their histories will ultimately be shown the door as a result of the internal investigative procedure. Gascón alluded to as much, saying, “When some one commits a criminal act, they taint the entire organization. When we have a bad apple, we’re going to deal with the bad apple.”

And while he declined to give a tally of the list, the chief did make it sound as if the investigations had already been completed. “We have basically gone through the process of assessing. We have vetted our entire department and to the greatest extent that we can tell, we know what needs to be known.”

In an era of economic austerity, another question that has been raised is what the impact will be for officers who have been reassigned to desk jobs in the wake of misconduct charges — earning salaries much higher than would-be civilians capable of performing the same tasks. A recently issued report by the Controller’s Office found that the SFPD could do more tighten its spending. “The department needs to improve its controls over overtime and premium pay,” the office concluded after an audit. “While the department has reduced overtime costs in recent years, it does not consistently follow its policies and procedures for earning, documenting, and approving court appearance premium pay and acting assignment pay.”

Aside from the spending issue are speculations about the political ramifications. Some have been wondering what kind of backlash could be prompted from the politically powerful SF POA if the new Brady protocol results in dismissals or demotions.

The issue of reassignments is alluded to briefly at the close of the chief’s bureau order. “This procedure does not address the situation in which the department determines that the existence of Brady material may prevent an employee from effectively testifying and consequently may limit the assignments available to the employee,” the order notes. “The department intends to implement a separate procedure to address that situation after [meeting] and conferring with the Police Officers Association and other affected employee organizations.”

But that alone is a red flag: SF POA will almost certainly resist any efforts to use the Brady material discipline officers — or to get rid of cops who shouldn’t be on the force. And if Gascón allows the union to set the terms, plenty of bad apples will remain in the barrel.

Furballs ahead



CHEAP EATS It’s hard to believe that Walt Whitman never ate a kimchi burrito. Maybe this is for the best, from the point of view of American literature, but that’s no help to me at 4:30 a.m.

Don’t worry, I’m getting a kitten. Not that having a kitten in the house will help me sleep, but it should provide a more cuddly, playful, and cute excuse for not being able to.

This kitten, the kitten that will be my kitten starting tomorrow (hawks and coyotes permitting), was born feral on a farm outside of Petaluma. My blackberry friend NFC and me were there on Sunday, picking blackberries. NFC, she knows the farmers from the farmers market in Berkeley. They are cheese farmers, and they’d said, “Come pick blackberries!”

So we did.

It was beautiful there. I got about three-quarters of a gallon of berries, then made the mistake of showing them to the Chunks de la Cooter next morning. By dinnertime, I didn’t have any berries. Just a kitten.

How my kitten came to be named Stoplight … well, anyone with a name-needing cat and three-year-old friends would be a fool not to ask the latter for help with the former.

So I did, I asked C. Chunk, and with great seriousness, admirable enthusiasm, and some thought, she said, “Um. Um. Um. Um … Stoplight!”

Bing, a cat was named. A litter box was bought, and the Chunks each picked out a toy for Stoplight, who will join my little hovel of horrors tomorrow. Today, besides cat-proofing the place, I am craving kimchi burritos, naps, and, of course, hot and hopeful sex. Did I mention I have given all the way up on dating?

Yay! Maybe my favorite advantage, besides the Return of Self-esteem, is that I now have more time than ever to organize the wires behind my desk. The tangle back there had gotten downright jungular ever since I started recording music again.

So I needed new glasses, so I went downtown with a buy-one-pair-get-one-free coupon in one pocket and a treasure map for kimchi burritos in the other. The map was courtesy of my new favorite fanmail sender, who had written me a little pick-me-up back in January, then a Welcome Home in March in which he’d mentioned, as Reason No. 1,498,234 for being happy to be back in San Francisco, a little place in the Financial District that was (then) offering their allegedly super-spicy Kimchi Burrito of death (or suicide burrito, or some such scary name) for free, if you could eat it in the store.

It took me two tries to find the place because my fanmailer didn’t know the name or exactly even the street, and I was expecting something more interesting sounding than “John’s Snack & Deli.” It’s on Battery Street, not far off Market, way the hell down there.

The Financial District, as you may know, is not my stomping grounds, so you will forgive me please for not headsing you up to the existence of such a thing as a kimchi burrito any sooner than this.

What do you think? It’s fan-fucking-tastic. Imagine: Korean-style barbecued beef, or bulgogi, with spicy kimchi, rice, and bits of tomato, onion, cilantro, and lettuce, all rolled up burrito-style in a flour tortilla.

I don’t want to start any riots in my own neighborhood, but … never mind.

Suffice to say, it almost ain’t fair how juicy and delicious this kimchi burrito is. If I had been eating over a mug, I could have had a nice cup of kimchi burrito tea to wash down my new favorite burrito with. As it is, I ate on the sidewalk. The real reason they can get away with a promotion like the one mentioned above: it’s takeout only, tiny, and not unpopular (not surprisingly) already.

My intention was to take one bite, then bring the rest home. Yeah, right. I finished it in one standing, straddling my bike, which afterward needed repainting. And my clothes too, and my respect for American poetry … ruined!



Mon.–Fri. 6 a.m.–6 p.m.

40 Battery, SF

(415) 434-4634

Cash only

No alcohol


Apathy and the arboretum


OPINION Nobody believed it could happen, that the ordinance might pass. On the face of it, it seemed inconceivable. The very idea that visitors would have to pay to enter a public park appeared absurd, and had been rejected only the year before. Some believed the hype and were convinced that this would help solve the budget deficit. Others expected someone besides themselves would take action, or believed that that the $7 fee, once imposed, would apply only to nonresidents.

So, by and large, people sat on their hands. Meanwhile, the San Francisco Botanical Garden Society at Strybing Arboretum, the driving force behind the privatization of the arboretum in Golden Gate Park, was using the camouflage of hard times to mask the absurdity of its proposal. The way had been carefully paved. A real estate developer and Bolinas resident handpicked by Mayor Gavin Newsom to head the Recreation and Park Commission voiced his enthusiasm. The rubber-stamp commission he heads passed it on to the Board of Supervisors. Despite the presence of his grandfather’s native plant garden within the arboretum, the mayor lent his support.

The society had craftily employed lobbyist Sam Lauter, who had set up meetings between individual supervisors and wealthy trustees.

The strategy succeeded. Astonishingly, only three supervisors voted against the ordinance imposing a fee on entrance to the arboretum. Leading the charge for the measure was John Avalos, who had added a “sunset” clause along with other vaguely worded amendments. At the hearing, the ever-congenial Chris Daly accused opponents of “elitism.” No public comment was permitted, and no supervisor questioned Recreation and Parks Department head Phil Ginsberg, although Eric Mar did announce his intention to join the Botanical Garden Society.

Much was made about union jobs — as though holding three gardeners’ salaries hostage to the passing of a privatization ordinance was a reasonable proposition.

As things stand now, the society is planning to allow its members free admission to the arboretum. Given that the reason for the $7 fee is all about the budget, this makes no logical sense. Low-income people and the undocumented (not to mention the homeless) will be excluded.

The society is also planning to build a $13 million glorified greenhouse that would have its own entrance on John F. Kennedy Drive. No community discussion has been held, but that has not deterred the society from soliciting the state to pay $7 million toward this so-called “sustainable gardening center,” an edifice that would likely memorialize the likes of Dede Wilsey or similar donor.

So what’s a good citizen to do? If you value public free space, the wings of the society need to be clipped. The best way to do this is to directly contact the offices of your supervisors, especially Sups. John Avalos (554-6975), David Campos (554-5144), David Chiu (554-7450),Michela Alioto-Pier (554-7752), Sean Elsbernd (554-6516) and Carmen Chu (554-7460). And vociferously voice your feelings.

Otherwise, the fee will not sunset next year — or any year.

Harry S. Pariser is a long-term resident of the Inner Sunset. You can join the Yahoo! group at groups.yahoo.com/group/keepthearboretumfree.

Beyond Chief Gascon’s reforms


EDITORIAL You have to give San Francisco Police Chief George Gascón credit: he talks more about reform, and seems to take discipline more seriously, than anyone who has headed the department in at least 30 years. In the wake of the crime lab scandal, he did what the department should have done years ago: ordered a complete investigation of the background of every officer on the force to determine if anyone has skeletons that might affect his or her ability to testify in criminal cases.

But if the list of problem officers becomes nothing more than a closely guarded secret used only when the district attorney fears for the future of a criminal case, the exercise will have only limited value.

The fallout from the crime lab revealed a much deeper problem in San Francisco law enforcement: the police and the district attorney had not been properly informing defense lawyers when cops who were taking the stand for the prosecution had problems in their past. Hundreds of convictions could be overturned by that failure to abide by Brady v. Maryland, which requires prosecutors to turn over to the defense any material in an officer’s record that could relevant to the credibility of the cop as a witness.

Gascón didn’t create the problem, and he has moved expeditiously to come up with a plan to address it. But as Rebecca Bowe reports on page 8, there’s another gigantic issue here. There are cops at every level on the force who ought to be fired for misconduct — and the discipline process has been so slow that it’s utterly ineffective.

There’s plenty of blame to go around — the Police Officers Association balks at anything that could possibly help clear out bad cops. The Police Commission is abysmally slow at holding disciplinary hearings. And the culture of secrecy in the department — enhanced by some really terrible state laws — makes it impossible for the public to find out where the problems really lie.

But if Gascón is serious, he can make some dramatic changes. For starters, he ought to make the disciplinary process as open as possible. He probably can’t release the names of every cop on the Brady list; that would run afoul of state law. But he can certainly tell the public how many names there are and what offenses are included.

He’s been pushing to change the role of the Police Commission in disciplining cops, asking that that ability to fire an officer, now reserved for the commission, be shifted to the chief, leaving the civilian panel in the role of an appellate body. We agree that the chief ought to be able to fire a bad cop — but so should the commission. If Gascón adopts that stance and asks for more personal authority without eliminating the fundamental powers of the commission, he’d have the support of nearly every progressive in town.

The commission needs to change its own practices, too. Serious discipline cases drag on for years because the commissioners don’t put the time into holding hearings. Either the panel should set a weekly schedule for disciplinary hearings, outside of its regular meetings, or hire hearing officers to do that work. The backlog is insane and needs to be cleared up.

The next few months will demonstrate whether the chief is serious about changing the climate of bad behavior in the department. If he steps up, he’ll get immense public support.

Editor’s Notes



Every once in a while, The New York Times Magazine drops a profound and staggeringly important bit of information into a slot that typically reserved for softer articles. So I read at least the first few paragraphs of everything — and on Aug. 22 the opening essay by Judith Warner made a point that ought to be the center of the national debate on the Bush tax cuts, the value of philanthropy, and the direction of economic policy in a lingering recession.

Warner was struck, as I was (see Editor’s Notes, Aug. 18) by the massive praise heaped on Bill Gates and Warren Buffet for their vows to donate half their wealth to charity. "After all," she noted, "what better illustration could there be of the great social good that wealthy people can do when the government lets them keep their hard-earned dollars to spend as they please?"

Yet it turns out that Gates and Buffet are very much the exception. It’s odd and counterintuitive, but the truth is that most rich people give less of their money to charity than most poor people. Upper-class people, studies show, are much less compassionate toward others and more likely to be selfish with their money.

"This compassion deficit," she wrote, "is perhaps not so surprising in a society that for decades has seen the experiential gap between the well-off and the poor (or even the middle class) significantly widen."

In other words: we already know that cutting taxes on the rich hurts the economy, makes the deficit worse, and does little or nothing to improve the lot of others. Trickle-down economics has been widely proven a fraud.

But the new evidence shows that letting the very wealthy decide how the wealth of society should be divided doesn’t work well either. For one thing, very little of the charity coming from the rich goes to the poor; those tax write-off donations tend to wind up helping big cultural institutions or successful universities — and those gifts, Warner notes, "come with the not-inconsequential payoff of enhancing the donor’s status among his or her peers."

More important, it’s a public policy failure. You can’t trust the rich to make the right decisions about where the nation’s resources should go; that’s why we have elections, open government hearings, political debates. And that’s why that big, bad word "taxation" — taking the money from the rich and giving it out the way the representatives of the rest of us decide is best — is actually a far more efficient and fair way to go.