Volume 45 Number 02

Whiskeyfest 2010 highlights, part two


Earlier on sfbg.com, Virginia Miller turned WhiskyFest into Whisky Week, meeting with seven different distillers who’d come to attend the Fest from such far-flung booze berths as Kentucky and Scotland. Here’s part one of her scotch-heavy Whisky Week highlights. Read on for part two: conversations with bourbon and rye distillers.

10/8 COFFEE WITH JIMMY RUSSELL OF WILD TURKEY – The morning before WhiskyFest I learned about a company that’s been a Kentucky mainstay since 1855, and met with its master-distiller since 1954. Jimmy Russell comes from a family of distillers: grandad, dad — who worked for him at Wild Turkey in the early years — and now Russell is distilling with his son, Eddie. Jimmy could not be more charming. An older Southern gentleman, he’s soft-spoken, with an adorable sense of humor that I discovered as we chatted over coffee.

Russell makes Wild Turkey bourbons and ryes “the old-fashioned way” and says he doesn’t even tell his son all of his distilling secrets. They use barrels charred four times and made of white oak mainly from Missouri, Kentucky and the Ozarks of Arkansas. Their basic bourbons are a blend of six, eight and ten year-aged, with a lower proof than some bourbons, generally 108-110 proof. He explains lower proof is actually more costly as there is more water added to dilute higher proof bourbons. 

The distiller’s yarns about his town of Lawrenceburg, KY are fascinating, particularly because it’s in a mostly dry county where no drinks are allowed in restaurants and bars do not exist. “We’re not dry, we’re moist”, he says, as there are a few limited options to purchase drink in the area. It was only a couple years ago they secured a souvenir liquor license, one of many complicated hoops to jump through to in order to allow tastings in their actual distillery. Russell says he adheres to the Southern Baptist tradition that one only drinks hard liquor for medicinal purposes. He qualifies in a gentle, Southern drawl, “I keep a cough pretty much most of the time”.

10/7 SIPPIN’ WHEATED BOURBON WITH PARKER BEAM – Amidst the annoying happy hour din at Bloodhound last Thursday night, distilling legend Parker Beam was hanging out with the Heaven Hill crew and a few of their whiskeys. They pulled out a bottle of brand new Parker’s Heritage Wheated Bourbon, an earthy, wood-laced wheat beauty whose mix blends in corn and malted barley.

Parker raised a glass as we attempted to chat above the din. Hearing took some effort as the delightful Parker speaks in a slow, Southern drawl that lulls one into a real enjoyment of the moment. His passion for distilling shines in his calm demeanor. He’s distilled for decades, both with father, Earl and son, Craig. And yes, he’s related to “that” Beam. His grandfather and namesake, Park Beam’s, brother was the storied Jim Beam (aka James Beauregard Beam). Parker is part of a royal distilling heritage. I asked if his son had any children who might next enter the fray. “My son has five daughters, so no,” he surmised. “But who knows? Maybe we’ll have the first female bourbon distiller someday.” It wouldn’t be the first noteworthy accomplishment in the Beam family’s rich history.

10/10 BACON BRUNCH WITH KEITH KERKHOFF OF TEMPLETON RYE – Setting: Reza Esmaili’s Long Bar. Food: delectable spread from chef Erik Hopfinger. Heaping bacon piles of Eden Farms Berkshire Pork — And don’t forget the rye. Templeton Rye from Templeton, Iowa, to be exact. The brunch was in celebration of this delightful rye — previously restricted for sale to Illinois and Iowa — finally becoming available in San Francisco.

Templeton is so small batch that you won’t find it in any Bay Area shops outside of SF, where our usual suspects, like Cask, Jug Shop, and K&L all stock the brand. Assistant master-distiller Keith Kerkhoff (I wrote about a Whiskies of the World seminar with their president, Scott Bush earlier this year) and brand manager Michael Killmer hosted us for a relaxed, festive brunch where the coffees were spiked with the rye and topped with Fernet whipped cream. Welcome to SF, Templeton.

Waxing poetic with Maker’s Mark at The Alembic

10/10 DIPPING WAX WITH KEVIN SMITH OF MAKER’S MARK — At The Alembic, Kevin Smith, the master distiller of Maker’s Mark, spent a couple hours with a small group, tasting through various ages of the bourbon from white dog to pours that were years older than the finished Maker’s product, so that we could get an idea of when a spirit is ready. From a somewhat neutral base cut down to 90 proof, the bourbon gained most of its flavor from barrel aging, and we sampled a woody 12-year version that came off astringent and tannic, though not unpleasant. Smith used the two to highlight their choice of the smoother, rounder balance of the fully matured final product which is aged roughly years.

We finished with Maker’s 46, their first new product in 50 years. I’ve had it a few times and it makes sense Kevin said the inspiration was rye whiskey with advanced spicing, toasty oak and that “cinnamon bite.” It’s certainly my preferred Makers. Thanks to The Alembic for serving us a gorgeous, bright Maker’s 46 cocktail: sweet vermouth, absinthe, maraschino and a mint garnish. But the session wasn’t over until we had hand-dipped glasses in Maker’s signature red wax, a tradition established from the chemist wife of Bill Samuels, Sr. (Maker’s original owner). She loved brandy and wanted the bottle shape and wax to imbue Maker’s with a brandy elegance.

Interestingly, California just surpassed Kentucky as Maker’s number one-selling US market. Raise a glass, shall we, to the pioneers and tastemakers who brought love of spirits to share during this past whirlwind week of whisky.

Subscribe to Virgina’s twice monthly newsletter, The Perfect Spot

From here, cinema


I saw my first movie when I was four or five: it was a revival of 101 Dalmations (1961), and I liked it enough to ask my mother if we could sit through it a second time (we did). I saw my second first movie when I was 19: it was a nine-minute short by Bruce Baillie titled Valentin de las Sierras (1967), and after seeing it I knew film history must be full of secrets. It was only after moving to Berkeley a few years later that I began to contextualize Baillie’s tactile daydream of a Mexican village — a singular vision, to be sure, but one emblematic of a regional avant-garde as difficult to survey as San Francisco itself.

Here’s to trying: “Radical Light”‘s ambitious ecology of alternative film and video in the Bay Area encompasses an invaluable anthology of firsthand accounts, secondhand appreciations, and historical overviews; a film series with many artists-in-attendance and restored prints (through the winter at the Pacific Film Archive and various SF Cinematheque affiliates); and a gallery show of ephemera at the Berkeley Art Museum.

To first address the question underlying the whole series: why here? Some of the book’s contributors offer fanciful conjectures: it must be the ghost of Muybridge, an island ecology, a city that won’t hold a straight line, the quality of light, or, more realistically, the influence of the Beats’ vow of poverty. While I’m attracted to environmental speculations like these, it seems important not to let them overshadow the essential evidence of hard work without promise of financial compensation or art world status. This is clearest in the Bay Area’s rich tradition of artist-run, self-reliant screenings: museum takeovers, backyard hoedowns, and basement salons.

It would be difficult to overstate the importance of Frank Stauffacher’s post-World War II “Art in Cinema” series at the San Francisco Museum of Art (before it became “modern”) in establishing this climate of creative investment. Handsome as hell and himself a fine filmmaker, Stauffacher audaciously placed cinema in an art context, colliding European avant-gardes, Hollywood outliers, and homegrown talent in a museum setting a few decades ahead of schedule. In essence, he prepared the audience for what became known as independent filmmaking (before that term was commoditized). Which is more remarkable: that Stauffacher showed Christopher Maclaine’s still incendiary The End (1953), precipitating a chair-clearing uproar, or that he fronted Maclaine (a bagpipe-playing speed freak known as North Beach’s Antonin Artaud when there was plenty of competition) the funds to make this unsellable thing? Most of “Art in Cinema”‘s audience wasn’t ready for The End, but one young spectator found it a revelation: his name was Stan Brakhage.

Less than 10 years later, after Stauffacher’s tragic death in 1955, Baillie and his Canyon Cinema collaborators (notably, Chick Strand and Ernest Callenbach) came down from the hills over Oakland and expanded their bohemian screenings to include public production equipment, a journal, and the distribution co-op that is today run by filmmaker Dominic Angerame. The early Canyon group’s ambitions were local, but nonetheless represented an alternative cinema practice as profoundly liberating as that of their Nouvelle Vague contemporaries — one taken up by the dozen or so major series (e.g. No Nothing Cinema, Total Mobile Home, Other Cinema) and college film departments (especially San Francisco Art Institute and San Francisco State University) detailed in “Radical Light.”

Though wildly eclectic in form and content, the “Radical Light” films cohere around a widespread distrust of moral authority, whether political or aesthetic, as well as an abiding interest in the bending truths of portraiture, documentary, ethnography, and found footage. The anarchic and mystical are preferred modes, though not mutually exclusive ones. There is a long tradition of collaboration between filmmakers and, perhaps more strikingly, with poets, painters, and musicians. To cite but a few examples: Larry Jordan’s Visions of a City (1979, begun 1957) is drawn from material shot to accompany readings by Michael McClure and Philip Lamantia; Bruce Conner did lightshows at the old Avalon Ballroom before making music videos for Devo and documenting the Mabuhay Gardens punk scene; and Brakhage made In Between (1955) while living with Robert Duncan and Jess (and set the film to a John Cage composition). Early “Art in Cinema” habitués like Jordan Belson, Harry Smith, and James Broughton all approached film from different mediums, and later artists like Nathaniel Dorsky, Warren Sonbert, and Konrad Steiner explored the poetic or musical resonances of moving images. It runs the other way too — unsurprisingly, it takes someone like poet Bill Berkson to get Dorsky’s films in a (parenthetical) nutshell: “(Without being stupid about it, Dorsky really seems to put every conscious instant up against the growth chart of Eternity.)”

Indeed, all these films burn brightly as you watch. Witness all the different ways in which the makers seek to alter the cinematic experience, turning it into a Zen monastery (Dorsky), paranoid classroom (Craig Baldwin), troubled innerspace (Gunvor Nelson), innocent grindhouse (George and Mike Kuchar), confessional (Lynn Hershman Leeson), firing squad (Maclaine), astral plain (Belson), cross-examination (Trinh T. Minh-ha), beat street (Dion Vigne), all-night roadhouse (Conner), “unguided playground” (how Ernie Gehr described the images in his 1991 film, Side/Walk/Shuttle, two weeks ago), and on and on. If “Radical Light”‘s chronologically-based film programs serve an informative purpose similar to the well-labeled sectioning of a botanical garden, the thematic programs come off more as a noisy farmers market where the full variety of produce jams a narrow aisle. As always, the fruit tastes best when you know where it came from.


Through April 30, 2011, $5.50–$10

(Book launch Fri/15, 7:30 p.m.)

Pacific Film Archive

2575 Bancroft, Berk.

Berkeley Art Museum

2626 Bancroft, Berk.

(510) 642-0808


Spread ’em


The city has its fair share of microclimates, microbreweries, microlocal eateries, and even microtrannies. Also: micronightlife. The wobbly stilettos of North Beach on Fridays, the indie electro tang of Mondays in the Castro (served especially kinky at DJ Richie Panic and Key&Kite’s packed “nutter-butter” Wanted weekly — Mondays, 9 pm, free, QBar, 456 Castro, www.sfwanted.com), the late night surf-rock bar crawls out near Ocean Beach … It’s easy to stereotype some of our heirloom hotspots — or get locked into them — but, um, you’re the one who brings the party, so spread it around a tad.

Here are some off-the-blackout-path watering holes I’ve recently had the pleasure of stumbling out of, none too pricey: The Republic (3213 Scott, SF. www.republicsf.com) in the Marina is, yes, a fancy sports bar, but it’s a chill place to meet friends and mingle with a shockingly snob-free and diverse crowd. Glittery lodge Swank (488 Presidio, SF. 415-346-7431) in Laurel Heights didn’t destroy my credit rating, and its cozy fireplace is perfect for the rainy nights ahead. Cole Valley’s EOS (901 Cole, SF. www.eossf.com) is perf for sipping a spot of primo vino and N Judah people-watching. Bloom’s Saloon (1318 18th St., SF. 415- 552-6707) in Potrero Hill still has the best beer-guzzling view of the city, even if it recently had to rope off the patio due to complaints, boo. And tony new SoMa resto Heaven’s Dog (1148 Mission, SF., www.heavensdog.com) has a gangbusters bar, with nom-nom pre-Prohibition concoctions like the gingered Monk Buck and kicky Daisy de Santiago, surely some Chilean child’s drag handle.

If you missed the bonkers opening weeks of the civic-minded Public Works (161 Erie, SF. www.publicsf.com), you’ll soon be hooked by the late-night club and gallery’s crazy-canny programming, like the one-off return of gloriously debaucherous shindig Fag Fridays (Fri/15, 9 p.m.-4 a.m., $10), with DJs David Harness, Rolo, and Juanita More and the future dub power of Surefire Sound (Sat/16, 9 p.m.-4 a.m., $15), with Bristol steppers Pinch and Gemmy. Public Works was launched by a who’s who of local nightlife talent, including longtime invisible hand of the SF club scene Pete Glikshtern, who’s also behind the neato new Jones (620 Jones, SF. www.620-jones.com), which rightly focuses on its enormous outdoor terrace and downtown-glamour feel.

One of the zazzliest transformations on the scene, however, has to be that of 11th Street Corridor mainstay Holy Cow (1535 Folsom, SF. www.theholycow.com) which just got a knockout steampunky makeover by artist Dara Young. Fear not, “woo!” girls and bro-bros, your chartered party limos will still drop you off to top-40 bliss Thursday through Saturday. But owner Bill Herrmann is expanding the Cow’s party palate, by giving the homo-futurist Honey Soundsystem’s weekly Honey Sundays (Sundays, 9 p.m., $3) a new home, now that Paradise Lounge has bit the dust. (Holy Cow was the original site of the Stud in the 1960s, so edgy queer nightlife comes full circle.) And there are more pleasant shocks on the way. Herrmann’s a guy I can’t help but adore — a slick Burner with a head-turning look, he genuinely enjoys hosting parties, whether the clientele is gelled-up meatmarketeers or post-techno fairies. Expanding definitions!



Techno meets classical when composer Mason Bates and conductor Benjamin Schwartz thread live orchestral performances through thumping DJ sets at this roving party (www.mercurysoul.org). It’ll give you auditory shivers on the dance floor.

Thu/14, 9 p.m., $8–$10. The New Parrish, 579 18th St., Oakl. www.thenewparrish.com and Fri/15, 5 p.m.–9 p.m., $5, 111 Minna, SF. www.111minnagallery.com



Electronic soul outfit from New Zealand that manages the neat trick of combining D’Angelo steaminess, Avalanches effects, and DJ Shadow atmospherics. With smoothie singer Jesse Boykins III.

Fri/15, 10 p.m., $10. SOM, 2925 16th St., SF. www.som-bar.com



L.A. future bass slammer always gets heads banging with his special brand of experimental fuzz. I’m living for the stoner cosmic-laptop kids this year. With Daedelus, 12th Planet, and Teebs.

Fri/15, 10 p.m.–4 a.m., $15. 103 Harriet, SF. www.1015.com 


Treasure Island Music Fest preview, take one


Cords. Pedals. Buttons. Plugs and pieces. What is electronic music but a soundtrack of electricity flowing from one plastic part to another; a collection of volts humming and vibrating in an ironically harmonious fashion that somehow manages to tantalize our organic bones and flesh? Treasure Island’s Saturday lineup is dedicated to the electronic elements of today’s sound waves, but the event’s artist grouping distorts the genre’s seemingly obvious definition to one that is tattered with new sound bytes and unlikely additions.

Out goes the assumption that “electronic music” equals tranquilized club kids, and in come the offshoots of chill wave, electro-pop, electro-rock, folktronica, dance rock, and all kinds of made-up names. From the dance-party infiltrators, LCD Soundsystem, to the “next level shit” of Die Antwoord, each of the 13 acts playing Saturday’s Island stage hold unique qualities. DeadMau5 and Kruder and Dorfmeister remain strictly digital; Little Dragon and Holy Fuck incorporate traditional instruments; French duo Jamaica bans synth completely, while Miike Snow and Wallpaper might consider their vintage plug-in pianos family members. When it comes to defining today’s electronic scene, DJs and professional remixers definitely count, but the full set of rules is still TBD.

Music is what frees us from our overloaded lives, cutting through our webbed-out existence with sounds that take us “away from it all,” yet electronic music seems to work as both an escape and a reminder. Aren’t we tired of hearing our computers bleep? How about those ridiculously catchy videogame noises and horrid ringtones that rot the brain? Electronically-inclined musicians are adding such sounds to their repertoire, disguising them with mustaches and wigs, tangling them with bass and dreamy melodies then handing them back in a totally rad new package.

It’s a streamlined recycling process, melting, molding, and converting junk sounds into something that injects new movement into our robot routines. No, not everything has been thought of before — here is one area where fresh sounds are being discovered.

In fact, things are so new and up in the air that some bands included in the electronic half of this weekend don’t even consider themselves part of the genre. Sarah Barthel, half of the newest blog sensation Phantogram, is one example, though she and bandmate Josh Carter use a fair amount of outlet-powered instruments like samplers, synths, beat machines, and loop machines. “Sound has so many options today. It’s mind boggling and amazing,” she says while riding in a tour van to Atlanta.

Phantogram’s mysterious electro-rock doesn’t necessarily call out “brand new” when it spins, mostly due to its throwbacks to ’90s trip-hop. But similar to a fair portion of Saturday’s bill, the duo is living somewhere off the classic genre map.

“People will ask, ‘Where’s your drummer? Why don’t you have one?” and I just tell them, ‘We don’t want one,'” Barthel says with a laugh, remembering that just moments prior she had expressed her excitement over Phantogram’s newest addition to the tour family— a real drummer to replace their box with buttons. “In general, we’re just trying to go for a different aesthetic. And typically, more traditional elements like a live drummer wouldn’t fit that. But right now, it’s totally working.”

Electronic music today is full of contradictions — as many loopholes as loops. Anything goes and nothing fits quite right, which is why Antoine Hilarie of Jamaica doesn’t even know how to answer the question, What is electronic music?

“I don’t have the slightest idea, to be honest,” he says, before taking it a philosophical step farther and questioning the point of my question altogether. “Genre-defining is a bit obsolete in my opinion. These days I only listen to bands I like, whether they’re rap, electronic music, rock, or folk.”

It’s a genre that can incorporate all genres, meaning it’s own definition is completely lost for words. But none of the bands on Saturday will be playing unplugged. And if the power does disconnect any of our electric artists, we’ll have a very quiet island. 


Sat/16, noon–11 p.m.; Sun/17, noon–10:30 p.m.;


Treasure Island, SF



Treasure Island Music Fest preview, take two


Don’t make Gollum come over here. Is 2010 the year that Treasure Island’s indie rock programming skews “precious, precious,” playing to our staider, more subdued selves, in search of sure things and still uncertain that we’ve recovered from that doozy of a Great Recession hangover?

How else would Ms. Indieface Snap-Judgement — always a tough critic — size up a day crowned by the excellent, seldom-seen, but never-too-outta-hand Belle and Sebastian? A day studded with such dutiful students of well-behaved melodicism as She and Him (whose “Home,” off Volume 2 [Merge], is either ironic or one of the most overly-sugared numbers this year) and the National, deep-throating dryly and eloquently about masculine banalities via Matt Berninger’s well-used baritone?

Down, girl — no blubbering, land-lubber. Listen to the still-raging, feisty Superchunk, navigating its own frothing white-water distortion. Behold a different breed of rock-out madness in the crowd-control maestros of Monotonix and the passionate school-band kids of Ra Ra Riot. You know there’s no way to dismiss Treasure Island’s rock seafarers as simply too-cute weak geeks and stubborn post-punk freaks.

Nay, matey, if anything unites the washed and unwashed swept ashore Sunday at Treasure Island fest, it’s the conceit that indie is completely fractured in 2010: a broken social scene, for sure, encapsulated by no one sound. This year’s rock labels skew toward the other coast — more Matador/4AD and Merge than Sub Pop — and the bands trend older rather than younger, tending toward the proven rather than the unknown. A few common themes thread through disparate bands’ songs in ways that might amuse followers of the collective unconscious — whether it’s the ghosts that float through Belle and Sebastian and the National’s latest discs, or the way Superchunk hollers, “I stopped swimming/ Learned to surf” on, of course, “Learned to Surf,” while Surfer Blood, natch, warbles, “If you move out west, you better learn how to surf” in “Floating Vibe.”

Catholic tastes, classical gases come out to play, although nothing is ever clear-cut. In fact, Belle and Sebastian appear to be making moves toward Saturday’s electronics with Write About Love (Matador), as subtle synthesizers shimmer along the surfaces of “I Didn’t See It Coming,” and guest vocalist Norah Jones slathers buttery soul over the mannered Dusty-goes-to-Memphis-Sunday-service of “Little Lou, Ugly Jack, Prophet John.” Picture B&S dragging itself — via Northern soul and brassy, oh-so-forward grooves — into, gulp, the 1970s and even ’80s. Not that Stuart Murdoch is going easily into middle age: tracks such as “Calculating Bimbo” hinge on barbed jabs. Are B&S feeling sinister and bitter to be woken from a twee dream, one that the Pains of Being Pure at Heart and the Crystal Stilts seemed to be taking for their own last year?

There’s no need to retreat to precious twee when bands like the National are brooding so prettily and anthemically. On High Violet (4AD), the blandly, grandiosely monikered combo sounds like ‘burb-bound Ian Curtises wandering betwixt the sadlands of Bruce Springsteen and the cushy enclaves of Coldplay. Ms. Snap wonders how the group can reproduce the recording’s plush, simultaneously warm and coolly detached production in concert. It’s as much a character as any of the dour, pathetic, and somewhat mean-spirited men populating High Violet.

Better still are groups like Broken Social Scene, which keep you guessing while lobbing one wobbly, janky curveball after another on Forgiveness Rock Record (Arts and Crafts), dipping toes into puddles of foghorn-like electronics (“World Sick”), toying with dynamic highs and lows while embracing the rock-out (“Meet Me in the Basement”) and the close-up (“Sentimental X’s”). You forgot that indie rock could still do it, but songs like “Forced to Love” and “Sweetest Kill” jolt you out of cozy complacency.


Sat/16, noon–11 p.m.; Sun/17, noon–10:30 p.m.;


Treasure Island, SF



Appetite: WhiskyFest 2010 highlights, part one


“[Whisky] feels appropriately intellectual: a drink you can wrestle with, linger over, and appreciate with all its nooks and crannies.” – Victoria Moore, How to Drink

WhiskyFest turns into Whisky Week with many of the world’s great master distillers and brand ambassadors in town from the reaches of Scotland and Kentucky for a tasting event of nearly 300 whiskies. I had the privilege of meeting with seven different distillers – some met with me over coffee or lunch, others at intimate gatherings. Impressed by the wide range of approaches, styles and personalities, I could easily write an article about each one and their respective distilleries. I will share highlights, this time with Scotch master, Richard Paterson, from a Charbay whiskey dinner, and tastes from the event. Part two will be conversations with bourbon and rye distillers.

10/8 LUNCH WITH RICHARD PATERSONRichard Paterson, known as “the nose” for his impeccable nose and taste, has been Whyte & Mackay’s master blender for decades. He’s one of the world’s leading scotch experts, author of the book Goodness Nose (which I savored as “homework” all through Whisky Week). To be part of one his seminars (such as at WhiskyFest Friday night), is to be bombarded with dates, history, uproarious expertise, irreverence, drama, laughter. When one lucky member of the class samples Dalmore Sirius (which has sold at up to $60,000 a bottle!), Paterson sets off a mini-rocket filled with confetti. Fireworks. Revelation. Kind of like tasting it myself…

I had the privilege of an intimate three hour lunch over food and the Dalmore line with Paterson at Wayfare Tavern. We covered the range from 12 year to King Alexander III scotches (which I first had at Whiskies of the World). The chocolate, marzipan, tropical fruit of King Alexander III remains a Dalmore highlight for me. It’s the only single malt in the world finished in six different woods (Port, Bordeaux Cabernet Sauvignon, Marsala, Madeira, Matusalem sherry, small batch Knob Creek bourbon barrels). Dalmore’s Gran Reserva stood out more the second and third time I sampled it with spiced marmalade, crushed almonds, and sherry notes from the 60% Oloroso sherry casks it’s aged in.

Get Richard started on wood and he says, “The wood is, as far as I’m concerned, the be all, end all.” With a devotion to fine sherry casks (like Gonzales Byass), a key source of Dalmore’s elegant taste profile, they also use a generous amount of American white oak, bourbon casks from Heaven Hill and Jim Beam, which enriches the profile further.

A favorite, which I would happily sip on its own, isn’t bottled: the unaged distillate or, whisky base. It’s amazing how much you can tell of a spirit’s quality by its foundation. I was pleasantly assaulted with an array of tastes from spice and earth to lemongrass in the clear, strong distillate. I finished every drop.

Certainly a pinnacle is reached with the Sirius. The rare opportunity to sample highly aged spirits just a handful times (like two 1800s cognacs in New Orleans or Highland Park’s 40 and 42 year scotches) has opened doors of flavor I could not dream up – this scotch transported me to regions beyond. There are only 12 bottles of Sirius in existence, a ’51 vintage with a blend of Dalmore scotches from 1868, 1878, 1926, 1939. History courses through each drop, while Paterson’s expert blending skills are illuminated here. Rich chocolate earth gives way to licorice and a bonfire smokiness. I count myself lucky.

To drink with Paterson is to learn how to properly nose a glass, how to hold whisky in your mouth for maximum taste (from many seconds, up to 2-3 minutes). One learns how the dreaded phylloxera aphid (which wreaks havoc on vines) inadvertently aided whisky’s growth by making dominant cognac in short supply, creating demand for other drink (read chapter seven in Paterson’s book). But he doesn’t just talk aphids, he brings visuals: big, plastic bugs to illustrate whisky’s unexpected “friend”.

Quirky and colorful, whisky comes to life through Paterson’s interpretation. Intelligent and challenging though the whisky world can be, Paterson retains the intellect but makes it approachable, fun. A Paterson course in whisky education should be mandatory for all would-be and already-avid drinkers.

TASTES – As usual, VIP hour is the time for the rare, the old, the latest, though it was more packed than ever with a mad rush waiting at the door at opening time.  This meant less opportunity to chat with distillers and hear about what you were tasting. A lot can happen in a year and the number of whiskies I’ve had since the last WhiskyFest meant this year was a lot of re-tasting and confirming favorites. Of the whiskies I had not tried, there weren’t a slew of stand-outs.

One that jumped out was a special unlisted, under-the-table pour of George T. Stagg bourbon. Toasty, charred oak warms, rounded out by a raisin-vanilla sweetness. Out of many over-hyped whiskies in the 20-40 year range during VIP hour, Bowmore’s 25 year stood out with a robust profile of salty brine and baked pear sweetness. Glenfarclas 40 year made a statement with tobacco, elegant tannins, orange. But it was many of my usual favorites that remained at the top, including Highland Park’s 30 year, Pappy Van Winkle’s 20 and 23 year bourbons, Parker’s Heritage 27 year bourbon, and Charbay’s incomparable Release II 1999 Pilsner whiskey. It was good to see Wes and Lincoln Henderson (of Woodford Reserve fame) with their new, port barrel-finished Angel’s Envy bourbon – I sampled an early version from Wes way back in December. Also on the non-whisky tip, I was happy as ever to sip a couple Germain-Robin beauties, including their complex Varietal Grappa, and oaky Coast Road Reserve brandy.

10/6 CHARBAY SPIRITED DINNERWith a magnificent sunset from atop the Marriott’s View Lounge as our backdrop, Marko and Jenni Karakasevic of Charbay hold an intimate spirited dinner annually. With plenty of time to hang out with the Karakasevics and meet fervent food and drink lovers at the two tables, the highlight was, of course, drinking Charbay’s incomparable spirits. Starting off with refreshing Green Tea Aperitif paired with Kumamoto oysters on the half shell, we then moved to one of the stand-out white whiskeys in existence: Doubled & Twisted Light Whiskey.

We moved on to what qualifies as one of the best things I ever tasted in my life (now, and every time I taste it): Release II of Charbay Whiskey. This was the best food match of the night, paired with slow-smoked Berkshire Farms Pork Belly and a mini-tamale in Lagunitas chili mole. Surprise whiskey barrel tastings followed: the Release II, but aged 12 years instead of the 6 years of the current release. At a higher proof, it’s superb, complex, rich.

A Meyer Lemon Vodka  ice intermezzo was a refreshing palate cleanser over basil ice, imbuing tart lemon with almost absinthe-like notes. Dessert was paired with their Black Walnut liqueur. As with most Charbay spirits, it’s a stunning standard-setter in its genre.

-Subscribe to Virgina’s twice monthly newsletter, The Perfect Spot

Nan on Jean



WRITERS ISSUE So this is my very first book review ever (!) unless you count the book review I had to do in school on The Yearling, so bear with me because I’m a beginner. But anyway the title of the book is A Book of Jean’s Own (St. Martin’s Griffin, 288 pages, $14.99) and the author is Jean Teasdale who lives in an apartment somewhere with her husband Rick and her two cats, one was named Garfield which I’m guessing she took from the comic strip and I forget the name of her other cat. You’ll find out if you read her book!

Now I liked this book very much and someone told me it was supposed to be “satiric” but to me it just felt like meeting an old friend and sharing a little “wit and wisdom.” I must say I got quite a few chuckles from Jean’s stories and now that I’m writing this I remember from The Yearling that the hard part of writing a book review is that you’re not allowed to say exactly what’s in the book because that would spoil it for everyone else so I can’t actually tell you the stories here. Sorry!

I have to tell you one thing because I just can’t resist and it’s that Jean shaved off all her hair one day by accident even “down there” and I had to laugh out loud when I read that. Can you imagine?

Now I don’t know about the guys, but I suspect a lot of the gals that read this book might have a few pieces of advice for Jean.

For one thing, Jean has Type 2 diabetes and still eats rich chocolate desserts and I looked that up on the Internet and found out that it’s a very serious disease and that people who have that should not be eating sweets at all (which is what I thought before I even checked). For heaven’s sake Jean put a few recipes in her book and the “Oooey gooey choco-cocoa-mocha cupcakes with raspberry filling and coconut-cream-cheese-cola frosting” has tons of sugar! Jean even insists that you make the frosting with real cola instead of diet even though I think Coke Zero tastes just as good as Coke and I even like it better than Diet Coke and either one would be a fine substitute although I think Diet Pepsi has a nasty aftertaste and I wouldn’t use that.

And I also thought that Jean could be bit more strict with Rick because he seems to get drunk and stay out after work quite a bit and I gather from Jean that he’s not exactly the romantic type, but girls! You know we’ve got to work on our husbands now and then to get them to “shape up” and I know when Doug seems distracted I have a few tricks up my sleeve like a certain pout that isn’t obvious and it’s kind of hard to do but after 28 years I’ve “got it down” as the kids say and it works!

Anyway Jean’s a doll and I’m planning on reading her book all over again from Page One because sometimes I don’t “get” everything there is to “get” in a book the first time around and it’s helpful to read it twice. And there was one part where Jean was wondering if writing the book was worth it and if she really had anything important to say and my heart went out to her and I wanted to scream through the book into her ear and tell her that she was doing a great job and that you don’t have to have something “important” to say in order for it to be well worth saying! 

It’s not easy being an arrogant know-it-all



WRITERS ISSUE Having to constantly suffer the company of the ignorant, it’s difficult to suppress my condescension. After all, I know about obscure music and books that few others know of and this makes me superior.

For that matter, I must also tolerate the naive with regard to politics and current events. It is a constant struggle to maintain a civil façade, to avoid an outburst. After all, the polite response to the uninformed is not to point out their glaring faults but to gently correct their errors in a subtle, guiding way. Maintaining patience is not easy.

I was talking the other day to an acquaintance (it’s hard for people to actually be friends with one as superior as me) and I was shocked to find he’d never heard of Sainkho Namtchylak. Come on, what rock do you have to be living under to not know of the Tuvan throat-singing virtuoso — a singer who makes Diamanda Galas sound like Whitney Houston — who collaborates with free-jazzers like saxophonist Evan Parker? I tried not to be too disdainful as I informed him of her numerous releases on the British record label, Leo. It’s just so difficult not to get sarcastic when faced with that sort of colossal ignorance and cultural complacency.

Do these people just take whatever is offered them on MTV, instead of digging deeper? I have to laugh at the people who think they’re hip just because they listen to something they consider obscure, like Borbetomagus. Come on, they’ve been around forever. Even some grunge-listening moron who hasn’t picked up a magazine since Forced Exposure turned into a mail-order company knows that.

How did I become as I am: namely, one of the most hip people on the planet, endowed with a broad cultural knowledge? Obscurantists are made, not born. To tell the wounding truth, my strength came from weakness. In high school, I was a geek, woefully ignorant of popular culture and rock music in particular. My reading was predominantly in the genre of science fiction. I listened to the folk and classical music my parents preferred and, for exoticism’s sake, enjoyed the synthesizer stylings of Wendy Carlos and Tomita. Children have no taste. We’re shaped (or should I say twisted?) by our environment.

Once I discovered punk rock, I shot up like a late bloomer whose delayed pubescence doesn’t preclude his growth to a height greater than six feet. I devoured the Trouser Press Record Guide, listened to lots of music from the collections of friends. I started reading obscure magazines that reviewed music none of my friends listened to and I was an early adopter of the Internet: I had email in college in 1984 and my Usenet newsgroup posts archived on Google Groups date back that far, before the 1987 Great Renaming, which reorganized online discussion forums. I was an invited member of a secret e-mail music list called “Music-flamers” in 1986.

Let’s face it, it’s too easy to put someone down for being a fan of Korn or Britney Spears (what’s the difference, really?). I prefer to insult people for being so obvious as to be fans of virtually mainstream 1970s British psyche-folk group Caravan instead of Everyone Involved or fill-in-the-blank with your favorite ultra-obscure, private pressing, un-reissued psyche-folk LP of the early ’70s.

Why should music be something that we have in common, something that might bring us together, when it can be a soapbox to stand on to put us above other people? Why settle for the pleasure of turning on someone to good music when you can use it to put them down? If you can tell me, I’ll let you listen to my copy of Jim French and Galas’ If Looks Could Kill or Orchid Spangiafora’s Flee Past’s Ape Elf

Excerpted from The International Homosexual Conspiracy (Manic D Press, 224 pages, $14.95).


Moving portraits



WRITERS ISSUE The Metreon is handy if you require 10 different Inception showtimes. But watching a movie there is not same as seeing one — even the same one — at a circa-1922 palace like the Castro Theatre, a space lovingly dedicated to the specific pleasure of Going To The Movies. Edited by Julie Lindow (a former Castro employee), the brand-new Left in the Dark: Portraits of San Francisco Movie Theatres (Charta Art Books, $39.95) compiles essays from Bay Area film advocates, paying homage to San Francisco’s dwindling population of theaters. The book is illustrated by photographer R.A. McBride’s colorful, often haunting images of spaces robust (the Roxie) and ravaged (the New Mission).

Cinephiles will recognize most of the contributors, including San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival director Chi-hui Yang (topic: Chinatown cinemas); Landmark Theatre cofounder and current Balboa Theatre proprietor Gary Meyer (a personal timeline of his life as an exhibitor); and Guardian writer D. Scot Miller (a look at theaters in the onetime “Harlem of the West,” the Fillmore), among others. There’s also an interview with author Rebecca Solnit, who points out that the shared-experience aspect of movie-going is lost in a multiplex environment. Buying a ticket in a theater inside a mall, she writes, “you don’t have that funny sudden spiritual bond that this person next to you in line, who looks so different, also wants to see cowboys.”

Even before they met, Lindow and McBride had a mutual interest in local theaters. “I had been thinking about doing a book to help the movie theaters. At a party that Melinda Stone [another of Left in the Dark‘s essayists] had, I met Rebecca [McBride] and she had started her series of [theater] photographs. So we thought, that might make a great book if we combine these two things together. And then she handled the photos, and I handled the text.” The collaborative spirit continued to the selection of contributors. Lindow says making a connection with one author would lead to her to another; she describes the writing process as a true community effort.

By contrast, McBride found that accessing every venue she wanted to document wasn’t easy (she was flatly denied access to Cow Hollow’s Metro shortly before it closed). She also made some surprising discoveries (a toilet in the projection booth at the Clay, for example).

“There were over 100 theaters at one point in the San Francisco Bay Area — and I’ve only photographed 19 of them,” McBride says, with a certain amount of wistfulness. “One my favorites was the Coronet, which is now gone.”


Wed/13, 5:30 p.m. reception;

7 p.m., slideshow with R.A. McBride

SF Camerawork

657 Mission, second floor, SF


More events at www.leftinthedark.info


Tick tock



HAIRY EYEBALL In a characteristically poetic passage within 1980’s Camera Lucida, Roland Barthes describes early cameras, given their cabinet-like appearance and precise mechanical innards, as “clocks for seeing.” I couldn’t shake the phrase while taking in Will Rogan’s “Stay Home,” an ambiguous smile of a solo show composed of photographs and three-dimensional photographic collages at Altman Siegel.

Taking the measure of time is very much on Rogan’s mind, as it was on Barthes’ some 40 years ago. A photograph is but an imperfect means of forestalling time’s onward march: it offers the present a momentary record of an instant long gone. So too has photography, at least in the nondigital form that Barthes was writing about, become an index of a past medium, and in our current age of Photoshop, an object for nostalgic longing (see the Hipstamatic iPhone app).

Rogan skirts this sand trap even though his practice deliberately engages with 1970s printed matter and evokes a range of photographers from that decade and later, most notably Lee Friedlander and Daido Moriyama’s social landscapes, and to a lesser extent, Sherrie Levine’s appropriations. The three small sculptural collages of cropped images affixed to painted wood pieces with beeswax even look as if they are from another time. Indeed, it’s easy to get distracted by Rogan’s mode of address (“hey guys, here are some cool books I found at a yard sale, and look what I came upon while walking to the corner store”), by his work’s muted cleverness and calculated arrangement of happenstance, that it can be easy to overlook the substance of what he’s saying.

Viewing the Past As it Happens takes its title from a passage in a picture book on astronomy that is itself the subject of the photograph. The book lies open; a picture of a galaxy on the right page. A description on the adjacent page details that what we are looking at, that what astronomers gaze at through their telescopes night after night, is in fact millions of years old. Of course, this also functions as a gloss (as does the photograph’s title) on the act of taking a picture: in that moment when we look into the viewfinder, our fingers poised to capture what we see before us, we are in a sense seeing what will become the past.

Two other photographs of educational books, The Elusive Nature of Time and Man Versus Clock: The Unequal Struggle, drive the point home that the photographer’s relationship to time is a Sisyphean one, even as the lifted bathos of their titles sends up the self-seriousness inherent to such postulating. Rogan seems to say, “Don’t freak out, too much,” while simultaneously holding up evidence to the contrary. The detritus that catches Rogan’s eye in other pictures — reflective glass shards, a gutter-lodged beer can, a taped-together window, an abandoned sneaker — are corollaries to the amazing sign on the paper shredding business captured in Shredder that reads, “DOCUMENT DESTRUCTION — While You Watch,” in light of which “document” starts to read more as a verb than a noun.

With Busts, a series of six magazine pages (covers perhaps?) that have been altered so that only the ghostly white silhouettes of unknown seated subjects remain, Rogan moves from documenting destruction to participating in it. It’s hard to tell whether or not the outlines are formed from erasing a prior image or painting over unrelated text, some of which is visible underneath the white. Regardless, the message is still clear: time is on no one’s side.



Time will certainly not be on the side of Hugh Brown, who demonstrates in his solo show “Allegedly” at Robert Koch that no amount of skilled workmanship or flawless execution can make up for a paucity of ideas. Indeed, he has but one, and truly, it is more a gimmick than a concept: to remake iconic works of art in his own image.

And how does the artist picture himself? As a chainsaw-wielding bad boy, cutting through the canon and art world pretensions with the power phallus of choice for exploitation filmmakers and ice sculptors. Brown’s smash and grab tour through art history includes Diane Arbus (here, the child clenched in rage holds a toy saw instead of a grenade), John Baldessari, Henri Matisse, Barbara Kruger (“I saw therefore I am”), and Roy Lichtenstein, among many others.

Granted, Brown’s art is well made and it exhibits a careful attention to the material details of the work it parodies. A “Bruce Nauman” is actually done in neon (surprise, it’s a chainsaw). Each work is also credited to the original artist, a parenthetical “allegedly” following their name, as if the dubiousness of what we we’re looking at weren’t apparent already.

Appropriation is by no means a new game, and many of the artists hijacked by Brown made poaching and quotation central to their own practices. But the art in “Allegedly” lacks any real critical force. It says nothing about the works being pillaged and everything about Brown’s estimation of himself. The show is apiece with those postcards that put sunglasses on the Mona Lisa or banana hammocks on Michelangelo’s David.

How Brown has managed to convince gallerists otherwise is a mystery that “Allegedly” leaves unsolved. *


Through No. 6

Altman Siegel Gallery S/F

49 Geary, Fourth floor, SF

(415) 576-9300



Through Oct. 30

Robert Koch Gallery

49 Geary, SF

(415) 421-0122



To tell the truth



FILM Have you heard the one about the hook-handed killer who stalks little kids deep in the woods? Filmmakers Barbara Brancaccio and Joshua Zeman met as adults, but they both grew up on Staten Island, hearing stories of a local boogeyman nicknamed Cropsey — campfire tales that took on more sinister shades when a girl with Down syndrome went missing in 1987. Turns out a lot of children vanished from Staten Island over the years. Was the urban legend real?

Brancaccio and Zeman’s fascinating documentary, Cropsey, is obsessed with answering this question. The film follows the recent trial of transient Andre Rand — convicted of that 1987 kidnapping and suspected by a fearful community of more terrible crimes. Was bringing Rand up on new charges the result of a witch hunt, or was justice finally being served? Cropsey, which considers layers of details (from circumstantial evidence to wild rumors), encourages the viewer to form his or her own opinion on the case. Along the way, there are visits to abandoned mental hospitals, discussions of Satanism, and glimpses of hidden histories stashed all over Staten Island.

As Brancaccio and Zeman worked on Cropsey, they became so involved with the material that they weren’t sure what to believe themselves. “We each had a viewpoint about whether [Rand] was guilty or innocent, and it switched during the middle of the filming,” Zeman recalls. “At times we didn’t know what to think. I think that’s something we wanted to convey to the audience. There was definitely enough doubt to go around.”

Unsurprisingly, given its subject matter, Cropsey is genuinely scary. (It’s attracted horror fans for that reason, including director Peter Jackson, who recently requested a copy.) “At times it’s part crime thriller, at times it plays like a narrative horror film,” Zeman says. “That was not an easy task — we really had to play with the tone [while editing] and figure out what kind of movie we wanted to make. Also, how do you make a documentary seem literally scary? Thing is, filming the movie, we were scared all the time. We weren’t creating an emotion that wasn’t there — we would come home from shooting and have nightmares.”

Rand, who communicated with the filmmakers from prison via a series of incoherent letters, hasn’t seen Cropsey — yet. In the meantime, fans of the doc can be assured the legend will live on: “We’re trying to work on a narrative remake of Cropsey,” Zeman says. “There was so much we couldn’t put in the doc, so rather than make Cropsey 2: Electric Boogaloo, we’re going to try and tell some other parts of the story in a narrative version.”



Cropsey made its local debut at the 2009 San Francisco Documentary Film Festival; this year’s DocFest kicks off with Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone, codirected by San Franciscan Chris Metzler (2004’s Plagues and Pleasures on the Salton Sea). Sunshine, which Metzler made with Lev Anderson (Salton Sea co-helmer Jeff Springer served as Sunshine‘s cinematographer and editor), is a lively, revealing look at cult SoCal ska-punk rockers Fishbone.

Its formation — circa 1979, in a San Fernando Valley junior high newly filled with bussed-in South Central kids — is explored via animation, which is used periodically throughout the film. The film’s quirkier stylistic choices offer evidence that Sunshine was made by two guys who don’t like traditional music docs. It’s a label they resist because it could potentially limit the film’s audience.

“I find music documentaries kind of boring and formulaic,” admits Anderson, who worked on Taggart Siegel’s 2005 doc The Real Dirt on Farmer John. A lifelong music fan, his father took him to a Fishbone concert when he was 10 years old. “But I figured if you could make a music documentary that would be interesting, have good characters, have a good story, and be able to reflect on some larger cultural issues — I thought that would be the Fishbone story.”

Anderson, who met Metzler at a Salton Sea-era film festival party and pitched him the Fishbone idea on the spot, was confident the band would be an ideal subject. “I knew that we could interview just about anybody in popular music, from Ice-T to Mike Watt, Flea to George Clinton — I knew that those were all people who were aware of Fishbone in one way or another. The musical legacy they have is inspiring. If you’re going to do one music documentary, that’s the one, because you can talk to everybody.”

In addition to chatting with famous faces (and getting longtime Fishbone fan Laurence Fishburne to narrate), the filmmakers spent months on the road with the band, capturing the infectious energy of its live shows in addition to behind-the-scenes tension. Past members chime in, but the main protagonists are bassist-vocalist Norwood Fisher and lead vocalist-saxophone player Angelo Moore. Their intertwining stories offer a poignant portrait of creative soulmates who’ve weathered many storms (personality conflicts, legal and money troubles, an industry that didn’t know how to categorize them) without once giving up on their music.

Metzler sees Sunshine‘s appeal as extending beyond Fishbone fans, or even music fans. “We’re hoping that the people who come to see the film are the same sort of people who were attracted to the Salton Sea film,” he says. “People who want to watch an engaging, offbeat story about these eccentric personalities and their perseverance to do things their own way. The Fishbone story is an outsider tale about these guys who fit in everywhere — yet didn’t fit in anywhere, all at the same time.”


Fri/15–Tues/19, $6–$10

Red Vic

1727 Haight, SF



Oct. 15–28, $11


3117 16th St., SF



Bar Agricole



DINE At the risk of sounding like a grossly premature exit poll, I am willing to say that Bar Agricole, which opened mid-August on a rather grimy block of 11th Street, is already, and easily, the best restaurant on that block. Not that the bar (pardon my punnery) is set all that high. You might very well think that Butter, across the street, doesn’t represent serious competition. You might, if you have a long memory, remember Undici (later Eleven), a lofty, 1990s place across the street that might have been worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as Bar Agricole — but was also deafening. Bar Agricole is supremely worthy and not deafening.

The sonic detail deserves mention for several reasons, one of which is that the restaurant looks like it should be deafening. Once you gain the dining room (after a trek up a woody incline, past a semi-secluded open-air terrace), you find yourself in a onetime plumbing-supply shop remade in the sleek Euro-modern style that you might find in one of the more happening neighborhoods of Stockholm. Interior vistas consist of wood, plate glass, and seating that doesn’t look ergonomic. Noise is almost always the companion of these chic design elements.

But Bar Agricole’s tables are spaced widely enough to let the restaurant breathe, and, for a rustic-enviro touch, the long bar is made from wood recycled from an Ohio farm, if my eavesdropping ears heard the story right. The madding crowd is never far away, yet the sound is muted just enough not to become the center of attention. It’s like watching a big pot of simmering stock coming to a boil it never quite reaches. This kind of ambience management is a subtle but real triumph.

Agricole — as Francophiles might know — refers not only to agriculture but to a type of rum favored by the French. The chief impresario of the place, Thad Vogler, is a cocktail man, and the cocktail list is impressive. But you’d have a hard time finding any mixed drink to top the white, or unaged (“blanche”) armagnac, which, like my beloved grappa, is as clear as water but fruitier, more melodious, less openly fiery. Like agricole rum, it finds its way into a number of cocktails, but it’s splendid when taken straight.

Chef Brandon Jew’s cooking is also melodious and goes down easy. The theme is California eclectic, with, like a corniche, a fair number of tight twists and turns. The chopped liver on toast ($8), for instance, was warmed all the way through, which lent the dish an appealing melted-fused quality. Tomatoes with bottarga ($14) revealed itself to be a colorful salad of heirloom fruit with a heavy (and unannounced) scattering of shell beans. For seasoning, there were flecks of bottarga (salt-cured fish ovaries, a Mediterranean delicacy).

The kitchen’s eye for color is sharp. A plate of picalilli ($6), or pickled vegetables, was dominated by luminous yellow cauliflower florets and nearly as luminous quarters of red beet. Other players: halved baby carrots, long beans, skinny green peppers flushed with red as if by dawn, and whole okra pods. Altogether it looked like something Cézanne might like to paint, if he didn’t gobble it down first, which was what we did.

No menu is truly complete without at least one flop. At Bar Agricole, this would be the beguilingly named sardine roll mops ($6), which consisted of a large piece of fish wrapped pig-in-a-blanket-style around a pickle spear the color of radiator fluid, then laid on a board of flatbread and doused with crème fraîche. The overall effect was supposed to be, I guess, a variation on a Sunday-morning shmear, but the flatbread was uncooperative and difficult to eat and the fish-pickle pairing wasn’t much better, despite the cream’s attempts at reconciliation. If a dysfunctional family were turned into food, it might seem something like this.

On the other hand, we loved the tanginess of the olive-oil poached tuna ($14) mingled with fennel-root shavings and cilantro. And the corn pudding ($16) — like an eggy polenta, topped with corn kernels, okra halves, whole padrón peppers, and served in an earthenware crock — was original and sublime, while being at least plausibly vegetarian-friendly.

If you like lemon verbena cream, you’ll want dessert. A puffy cloud of it semi-salved the dryness of the blueberry shortcake ($8) — tons of blueberries, though — while another puff appeared, uncredited, with the wondrously glazed peach-pluot upside-down cake. If you had to bet the farm on one of these, you’d be wise to choose the latter. 


Dinner: nightly, 6 p.m.–1 a.m.

355 11th St., SF

(415) 355-9400


Full bar


Tolerable noise

Wheelchair accessible


Hula heartbeat



DANCE Quite a few hula companies populate the Bay Area, but none is led by a kumu hula (teacher) quite as charismatic as Patrick Makuakane. Watch him warm up an audience, and you’d think he could charm cash out of a bunch of IRS agents. Then he steps on stage, grabs a drum, and starts to chant, and you know that this is an old soul, somehow still in touch with hula’s roots as a spiritual practice. “We love that duality about him,” explains Makani da Silva Santos, one of his longtime dancers.

Makuakane’s choreography for his Na Lei Hulu I Ka Wekiu company, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, reflects his complex personality. He is as much at ease creating hulas based on pop songs as he is at excavating meaning out of ancient chants or creating politically searing dance dramas.

Hula, like many other dance forms—Indian, Balinese, West African—was born in rituals that both strengthened a group’s identity and attempted to get in touch with the Divine. In Hawaii, that meant paying tribute to natural forces, particularly the goddess Pele. But missionaries who colonized Hawaii in the 19th century and tried to force Christianity on its people prohibited hula. They considered all Hawaiian culture crude and lascivious. They almost succeeded when King David Kalakaua restored hula and other native customs, saying famously: “Hula is the language of the heart and therefore the heartbeat of the Hawaiian people.” Even so, long after the king’s death, hula had to be practiced in secret. Makuakane’s stark 1999 The Natives are Restless unsparingly looks at that sorry part of Hawaiian history. In one haunting passage, a “priest” tattoos a cross onto bare-chested women.

You can’t miss hula’s deep connection to the earth. Often the dancers wear garlands, head-dresses, and anklets made from flowers and plants. Watching the dancers sway, step, and turn in unison, bent knees opening and closing, feet firmly planted on the ground, you can sense that they are engaged in something that goes beyond simple entertainment, even when dressed in modern garb.

That doesn’t mean hula isn’t also great fun to do and to watch — Don Ho was not all that wrong. Makuakane once told an interviewer that he wanted two things for his dancers: to have fun and to develop a sense of community. Watching her mother in Makuakane’s classes at the age of eight, da Silva Santos first experienced that sense of belonging, When Makuakane asked her whether she wanted to dance, it made her feel special to be invited into this group of grownups. (There were no children’s classes at the time). Twenty-five years later, she is still at it and hopes that one day her daughter “will also dance hula because it’s a link to my Hawaiian culture.”

In addition to dancing with the company for many years, da Silva Santos has undergone the Uniki process, an extensive formal training in Olapa (master dancer) and Ho’opa’a (master chanter) which, as she explains, demands a “disciplined frame of mind” to study the “deeper meanings of the ancient chants and practices”. Does she speak Hawaiian? “I am learning,” the Vallejo resident says. Even after all these years she — in the company of other dancers — still makes her own leis. They no longer have to fashion the skirts themselves. “Fortunately, we now have seamstresses,” she laughs. “Though I do sometimes miss those long nights working together.”

Along with works from the repertoire, Na Lei Hulu will premiere Ke Kumulipo, based on the epic Hawaiian chant of creation. If past celebrations are any indication, you can expect to see many of the students who take hula classes every week for the sheer fun of it — as well as the more than 40 professional dancers.


Sat/16 through Oct. 24

Palace of Fine Arts Theatre

3301 Lyon, SF

(415) 392-4400



All tied up


Dear Andrea:

I’m from the Netherlands and stumbled on a Guardian column yours in which you say: “I don’t believe you can get ‘addicted’ to silk scarves and stilettos.” This struck me because I have an experience that might prove the opposite. I’ve been married many years. We have integrated my love for silk scarves in our sex life and everything was OK until I met this other beautiful woman. I fell hopelessly in love with her and we ended up in bed. No scarves around. I just couldn’t perform, It happened twice. The strange thing is that a vanilla fuck at home never was/is a problem….

Could I be addicted to silk scarves? And if so, do you think I should restrain myself from me fetish altogether?


Little Dutch Boy

Dear Boy:

Some of your confusion comes from my use of and your lack of idiom. If I did say “You can’t get addicted to silk scarves and stilettos,” I would have been using the S-words as shorthand for kinky, fetishy sex in general. I believe that one can get habituated to thrills and chills and — especially — to extreme sensation, after which the sweet and the subtle may come to seem not merely different but, unfairly, inferior. This can happen. I’d hate to think that anyone contemplating a walk on the wild side would shy away for fear of habituation, but it’s certainly something to keep an eye on. But I don’t think such habituation can accurately be classified as an addiction.

But that’s not what has happened to you. Your scarves, whatever it is you do with them, are something of an end in themselves. You, sir, are a scarf-fancier.

Which is fine. I would say, though, that you may not be quite as dedicated a scarf fancier as you would have me believe. I mean, sure, there were no scarves on hand when you had your fling. And while that could have been the reason for your lack of performance, it probably wasn’t.

You do say, after all, that scarf-free “vanilla” sex with your wife is no problem. So what, besides the scarf, was missing? Could it have been your wife, or at least your wife’s consent, and perhaps your self-respect?

I suggest that you felt crappy about stepping out. I don’t believe for a second that you were or are “haunted” by scarves (“wooooo-oo-oo”) or the lack of same. You are haunted by your own behavior.

Clearly you feel conflicted about the scarf thing, so by all means try to proceed without them while you get your equilibrium back. You can get back to them later. I also can tell you that if you want to keep your wife, you need to get back with her. I am quite sure she has noted your absence and, by this point, she is either peeved, aggrieved, or both. Likely, she blames herself (she has gotten too old, she has gained weight, she is no longer exciting …). You’d better let her know that’s not at all what is going on with you.

I suggest cunnilingus.





Lost city



WRITERS ISSUE With its vast divide between the rich and poor, its lusty appetite for sex, and its backroom real estate deals, it would seem that even the boutique and completely gentrified San Francisco of today offers to writers of crime fiction a rich vein of noir opportunity. Yet the lone novelist today determinedly probing the dark side of San Francisco’s endless battle to clean up the streets is Peter Plate. His latest novel, Elegy Written on a Crowded Street (Seven Stories Press, 176 pages, $13.95), is Plate’s ninth in a hardboiled writing career that spans the era of out of control gentrification in San Francisco. With little fanfare or support, against the real life backdrop of police sweeps of the homeless and the start of the dot com boom, Plate has produced a shelf of books that represent a lonely, yet noble and deeply radical literary effort to write noir crime fiction in which not the cops but the criminals are the protagonists.

Plate’s novels are full of delicious hooks. They reliably begin with some of the best premises in noir fiction today. Fogtown (Seven Stories Press, 2004) opens as a crowd of Market Street homeless and down and outers witness the crash of an armored Brinks truck at dawn that temporarily fills the desolate street with crisp, new hundred dollar bills. In Police and Thieves (Seven Stories Press, 1999), Doojie, a small-time Capp Street weed dealer, accidently witnesses the murder of a homeless man by a police officer and spends the rest of the book on the run from the murderous cop who seeks to silence him.

Like Doojie, Plate’s characters are always in the wrong place at the wrong time, unwilling spectators as the city changes around them. The free money in Fogtown offers the Market Street dwellers a tantalizing glimpse of the kind of new carefree life being lived all around them by the rich who have newly arrived to the city. Yet, like the upscale new eateries and clubs popping up everywhere, the money is off limits to them, and those who take the money instantly become, like Doojie, hunted by police. Plate’s strength is in conveying the hopelessness and despair of lone characters pitted in Doestoyevskian battle with societal forces far greater than they are. As they are slowly ground down by this struggle, we feel their terror, incomprehension and paranoia. As the drug dealer and SRO hotel manager, Jeeter, says in Fogtown, “Rights? You don’t have any rights. You have choices. That’s all you have. And you made the wrong one.”

In this context, noir fiction for Plate is protest fiction. A longtime street activist, Plate writes with the gut instincts of a protester, taking his novels right to the barricades where different visions of San Francisco violently clash. One Foot Off The Gutter (Incommunicado, 1995), is a mordant postcard from a Mission District just about to enter its gentrification era in which a homeless cop, a Latino gang member, and a yuppie doctor all covet the same Victorian houses at 21st Street and Folsom. Soon The Rest Will Fall (Seven Stories, 2006) is set in the Trinity Plaza Apartments on Market Street at the height of housing activists’ struggle to save the low income housing from demolition. Plate has so reliably found the pulse of change in the city that at times his work has blurred tragically with reality. Police and Thieves ends with a fire at the Crown Hotel on Valencia Street. Just months after the book’s publication, the real life Crown Hotel burned to the ground.

Since Plate finished his Mission Quartet at the close of the dot-com era, he has turned his attention to San Francisco’s Main Street, Market Street. Recently, in its inaugural issue, the incipient local newspaper San Francisco Public Press reported that one lone real estate speculator owns 62% of the vacant real estate between 5th and 6th on Market Street and that he is willfully leaving those properties vacant until he can make the money he thinks he deserves off of the property. Those uselessly abandoned and boarded up buildings at the very heart of the city are the recurring backdrop for much of Elegy Written On a Crowded Street, perhaps Plate’s darkest and most emotional work to date.

Elegy is not so much a traditional crime fiction thriller, but a lyrical roman noir in which police and thieves battle not each other but the stifling conditions of the city. Plate’s latest evokes Don Carpenter’s 1966 classic Hard Rain Falling (reissued this year by New York Review of Books), an unrelenting work that also took place largely on Market Street. Carpenter’s novel brings to life the old dive 24-hour pool halls and dirty hotel rooms of a 1950s San Francisco where the promise of the Gold Rush American West has faded. The novels’ restless young pool hustlers and small time thieves can only shuttle aimlessly back and forth in the new remote control city, like the 8 Ball, waiting to fall. Elegy’s characters are their descendents, still on Market Street and still waiting.

Down this mean street walks May Jones a tough, hard-drinking bail bondswoman, who is nearing forty with no prospects. Like everyone around her, Jones dreams of escape from the city. Even Jones’ clients are leaving for Portland. “It’s got trees. Good people. Cheap housing,” an erstwhile, young crusty-punk bank robber earnestly tells Jones as she prepares to skip bail. But Jones is condemned to remain, while all around her are the undead ghosts of those already disappeared and the soon to be departed. The cleaned up San Francisco is haunted. The living are exhausted. Jones says to herself, “I have pipelines to the lands of the dead.’

Jones echoes the food stamp caseworker, Charlene Hassler from Plate’s welfare reform novel, Snitch Factory (Incommunicado, 1996). Like Hassler, Jones is being worn down between the insatiable needs of her clients and the treacherous intrigues that surround her job. Jones’ client is Mary Anderson, a pregnant twenty-year-old African-American who has killed her boyfriend, the SFPD’s star snitch on Fillmore Street. By keeping her client out of jail, Jones finds herself on the cops’ shitlist and in fear for her life. As in other Plate novels, a police hunt for Jones ensues. As in other recent Plate novels, after the initial hook, the plot soon becomes murky and this hunt becomes elliptical and hard to follow, perhaps even a bit ridiculous. A plot sideline in which Jones has a brief fling with a dyke she meets at the End Up goes nowhere. The ghosts of Lenin and punk rock legend, Will Shatter make surprise cameos that stretch the reader’s credulity. Yet, Plate’s spot on descriptions of Market Street today and the universe of dread his characters inhabit there remains compelling throughout and one never doubts that the unraveling narrative is what life feels like for his characters. Plate writes with a tightly wound urgency throughout and Elegy makes a persuasive case that what is happening at 5th and Market today is happening to the city as a whole.

Fantastical plot aside, it is the weight of the dead that is the true subject of Elegy. The book opens with a dreamy scene, shrouded in fog, in which Jones watches the dead body of one of her former clients as it bobs up and down in the surf, unable to either reach the shore or go under for good. Some policemen have waded into the water to grapple with the dead man and bring him in, but the body proves too difficult to apprehend and the cops are pulled down with the it into the crashing waves. Throughout Elegy, Plate’s characters similarly bob along, paralyzed and unable to take decisive action, only pulling each other down, and as the novel ends, May Jones is more or less back where she started. Sadly, like many of Plate’s recent books, the novel fails to fully satisfy because there is no resolution to the plot. Plate’s characters do not seem changed by their ordeal; they only become more numb. Yet perhaps that is the point. Plate seems to be saying that as long as the city fails to grapple with its own dead, nothing can change, and the city is condemned to go around and around in a sort-of netherworld, reliving its past traumas in new conflicts. “It’s a moment in hell that should be taking place beneath the ground,” Plate writes of a brutal police assault on a drunken derelict in Elegy, and it sums up the whole book. The dead won’t stay buried.

While an elegy is a funeral song, a lamentation for the dead, it also suggests a last word. With Elegy has Plate said all he has to say about San Francisco? One hopes not. Perhaps no writer working today has left such a record of what it feels like to live in the American city in the era of gentrification. Yet, in life as in Plate’s fiction, knowing the truth can take its toll, as Doojie finds out when he is hunted by the police for the truth he alone knows. By the end of Elegy, May Jones has spent so much time wallowing in the murky depths where her clients dwell, that her identification with them is complete and her fate has become inseparable from theirs.

The exhausted tone of Elegy suggests that like Jones, Plate, the lifelong activist and engaged writer, has perhaps stared into the abyss too long. Nonetheless, his nine novels are a significant achievement, the life’s work of a doggedly engaged writer. In each book, I have found scenes that remain unforgettable in my own mind and that have permanently altered my own perceptions of San Francisco and its streets. While Plate’s novels are each flawed in their own way, I love them with the Algren-like compassion he clearly has for his memorable characters, like the homeless cop who lives in his squad car in Gutter, and the ex-con who robs a pot club while dressed like Santa Claus in Soon the Rest Will Fall. Taken as a whole, Plate’s novels offer a compelling and defiant portrait of the psychic toll the disappearance of loved people, places, and opportunity from the city has taken on those left behind.




Big Oil’s false choice



Tapping into voters’ economic insecurities at a time of record high unemployment rates, out-of-state oil interests say addressing global warming will cost California more jobs. But a broad coalition that includes environmentalists and top business groups argue that just the opposite is true, saying the economy will suffer if we suddenly kill the incentives now driving the clean energy industry, one business sector that actually grew during the recession.

Proposition 23 would indefinitely suspend Assembly Bill 32, California’s Global Warming Solutions Act. Texas oil companies are bankrolling the initiative, spending millions of dollars to convince voters that they must choose between saving jobs and saving the environment. Since jobs are more important right now, they argue, the environment will have to wait.

But the other side — which includes groups such as the Chamber of Commerce, whose top priority is always job creation — is promoting the compelling idea that the path to economic recovery lies in rising to the challenge of climate change. They argue that addressing global warming now isn’t just about avoiding more out-of-control wildfires, diminishing crop yields, prolonged intense droughts, coastal flooding, and other calamities that climate scientists say global warming will bring to California. It’s also about creating jobs now and trying to lower California’s 12.4 percent unemployment rate, the third highest nationwide.

The push to defeat Prop. 23 has brought together prominent business people, public-health advocates like the American Lung Association, big green organizations such as the Sierra Club, and environmental-justice advocates who are pushing for green jobs as a way to fend off poverty and tackle air quality problems in disadvantaged neighborhoods. If the coalition of unlikely allies is successful, Big Oil’s comfortable lock on the energy market could be thrown off balance by California’s emerging green economy.

“Ultimately, we think it’s going to be a David vs. Goliath battle, because they have very deep pockets,” said No on 23 campaign spokesperson Steve Maviglio. “The proponents are playing to the fears of those most affected by the economy.”

When voters decide on this one, it will signify a choice to proceed down one of two paths at an important crossroads. A global climate summit in Copenhagen late last year failed to produce an effective response to climate change. A push for a federal cap-and-trade system to combat global warming yielded similarly disappointing results. AB32 presents a third chance to set a new standard, and a precedent, for curbing greenhouse gas emissions. But if Prop. 23 passes, environmentalists will have struck out.

A report issued in July by the National Academy of Sciences lays bare the far-reaching implications of policy decisions around climate change. “Emissions reductions choices made today matter in determining impacts experienced not just over the next few decades,” the report notes, “but in coming centuries and millennia.”



In 2006, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed AB32, mandating a statewide reduction of greenhouse gases to 1990 levels by the year 2020. The law is slated to go into full effect in January 2012, when a cap-and-trade system will make it more costly and burdensome for major polluters to continue burning high quantities of fossil fuels, among other strategies.

The law helps alternative energy companies and creates incentives for large and small businesses to green their operations. Prop. 23, deceptively titled the “California Jobs Initiative,” would suspend AB32 until the state’s unemployment rate drops to 5.5 percent for four consecutive quarters. A decade could pass before such a market condition is in place — in the past 40 years, it’s occurred just three times.

Speaking at the Commonwealth Club in Santa Clara in September, Schwarzenegger blasted Texas-based oil companies Tesoro Corporation and Valero Energy Corporation, which have contributed a combined $5.6 million to the Prop. 23 campaign, for trying to deceive California voters. “They are creating a shell argument that this is about saving jobs,” Schwarzenegger said. “Does anybody really believe that these companies, out of the goodness of their black oil hearts, are spending millions and millions of dollars to protect jobs? It’s not about jobs at all, ladies and gentlemen. It is about their ability to pollute and thus protect their profits.”

Prop. 23 has been unpopular even among many traditional right-wing and business interests. Oil giants Chevron and BP have remained neutral on it. Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman also renounced it, but straddled the fence by vowing to suspend AB32 for a year anyway.

According to a breakdown of campaign spending issued by opponents, oil interests contributed 97 percent of the funding for Prop. 23, while out-of-state interests were responsible for 89 percent. Kansas-based Koch Industries, run by billionaire siblings David and Charles Koch, dropped $1 million into the effort. The Koch brothers have been singled out as the financial backbone of the Tea Party.

Yet despite bipartisan opposition in Sacramento, polls suggest Prop. 23 could be a close race. A recent Los Angeles Times poll showed a dead heat among California voters, with 40 percent in favor, 38 percent opposed, and about one-fifth of likely voters undecided. The television commercials advocating Yes on 23 drive home a simple yet misleading message: “Save jobs. Stop the energy tax.” A spokesperson from the Yes on 23 campaign did not return the Guardian’s calls seeking comment.

Ironically, jobs are also the cornerstone of the No on 23 campaign’s arguments. “We have very heavy hitters who see this as a job killer,” Maviglio said. The campaign is highlighting the fact that the only economic area that has experienced growth amid the recession is green tech.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown referenced green jobs as a bright hope for economic recovery in a televised debate against Whitman, and the prospect of green job creation as a way to alleviate poverty is clearly articulated in The Green Collar Economy, a widely influential book by Green for All founder Van Jones. Green for All has joined the Greenlining Institute and a host of 80 organizations statewide in a united front against Prop. 23, called Communities United Against Prop. 23, which is part of the larger opposition campaign dubbed Communities United Against the Dirty Energy Prop.

Low-income communities and communities of color will be disproportionately affected if Prop. 23 wins, said Orson Aguilar, executive director of the Greenlining Institute. “The communities we represent are feeling a double impact,” Aguilar noted. “They’re suffering from pollution,” since power plants and polluting industries tend to be sited in low-income communities, “and they’re suffering from unemployment and the economic crisis. There definitely is a double-whammy.”



At a recent green business symposium hosted by Urban Solutions, a nonprofit that aids small businesses and seeks to create job opportunities in low-income communities, a Castro District merchant explained her decision to enter green-business certification process. “I’m dedicated to going green because, No. 1, it’s the right thing to do,” said Elaine Jennings, who runs Small Potatoes Catering & Events. “No. 2, it’s the right thing to do. And No. 3, it’s the right thing to do.”

But the moderator of the panel, a business reporter, wasn’t as interested in the moral rationale — instead, she followed up by asking whether going green was a wise financial move. Anthony Tsai, green business program manager at Urban Solutions, made the case that it is. Water bills have gone up 40 percent since 2000, Tsai said. Electricity costs have gone up 60 percent and waste disposal fees have increased 250 percent. By conserving energy and water and reducing waste, small businesses can save money during tough economic times.

Aguilar sees energy-efficiency building retrofits as an opportunity to create jobs for disadvantaged populations. In order to comply with the climate regulations under AB32, energy-efficiency retrofits would have to be completed to hit conservation targets. “We have thousands, if not millions, of buildings in California that need to be retrofitted,” he said. “A lot of people who are out of work are in the construction industry. Latinos and African Americans were hit hard when construction fell.” With energy retrofits and solar-panel installations on the agenda, AB32 could be good news for electricians, too, Aguilar said.

There are signs that AB32 is already giving green business a lift. A manufacturer of electric delivery trucks, for example, relocated from Mexico to California’s Central Valley late last year. A wind-energy company recently relocated to San Diego from Spain. The solar industry is growing faster in California, particularly in the Bay Area, than anywhere else nationwide. And in the past five years, roughly $9 billion in venture capital investment has gone into clean tech industries, with more going to California than any other state.

“Prop. 23 would essentially pull the rug out from under this explosive growth, which we’re experiencing during a recession,” Maviglio noted.

Jeanine Cotter, CEO of Luminalt, an independently owned San Francisco solar and installation company, is active in the campaign to defeat Prop. 23. “There is an entire ecosystem that feeds off of good policy,” Cotter said. If Prop. 23 passes, “we will lose the spark that we have and we will go backward.”

Despite the economic downturn, Luminalt experienced its best year in 2009 in the six-year history of the company, and if AB32 goes into effect in 2012 as planned, the demand for new solar installations will only grow. But with less than a month to go before the election, Cotter said she was alarmed by the lack of awareness about Prop. 23, even among environmentalists.

“We were at West Coast Green with No on 23 literature,” she said, referencing a widely attended green-business conference, “and I was shocked at how many people didn’t know what it is.”



Small business owners and conscience-driven activists aren’t the only ones touting this theory of a new energy economy. The San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, a fiscally conservative business association that is often at odds with environmentalists and progressives, is actively campaigning against Prop. 23 — and it’s not out of any sense of moral duty.

If Prop. 23 succeeds, explained Chamber spokesperson Rob Black, it will scare off the venture capitalists. “For them, water’s like money,” he explained. “It will flow to the easiest place to invest.” Regulation like AB32 guarantees a return on investment for climate-friendly technology, he added. But if that regulatory structure is thrown into question, investors may flee overseas because investing would be too risky. “If we walk away from clean tech, the next Microsoft will be a Chinese company,” Black said.

Donnie Fowler, a political consultant who has worked for Al Gore and other top Democrats, is a senior adviser to the Clean Economy Network and a leader in the effort to defeat Prop. 23. Oil companies “went to Washington and spent hundreds of millions” lobbying against climate change regulations, Fowler pointed out. “Now they’ve opened up a second front. If California goes backward, all of those senators and Congressional representatives will say, ‘No way … I’m surely not taking a political risk. If they went backward, there’s no reason we should go forward.'”

Fowler said that for environmentalists, voting No on 23 could be seen as an affirmation of statewide efforts to address climate change in a meaningful way. “This is a real opportunity,” he said, “for Californians to stand up and say we’ve had enough. We are going to take a stand — right now.”



East Bay endorsements 2010




Incumbent Carole Ward Allen has been a disappointment, part of the moribund BART establishment that wastes money on pointless extensions, ignores urban cores, and can’t control its own police force. Robert Raburn, a bicycle activist with a PhD in transportation and urban geography, would be a great replacement. If he’s elected, and Bert Hill wins in San Francisco, BART will have two more progressive transit activists to join Tom Radulovich. Vote for Raburn.




Hogan’s running unopposed and we see no reason not to support her for another term.





Maio in the past has had a decent progressive track record, but lately she’s been something of a call-up vote for Mayor Tom Bates. We’re not thrilled with her more recent positions years (against raising condo conversion fees and for new high-rises downtown), but she has no strong credible opponents. Green Party Jasper Kingeter has never run for elective office before and needs more seasoning.



Arreguin and Kriss Worthington hold down the progressive wing on the City Council. He’s pushed the Berkeley police to stop impounding the cars of undocumented immigrants and is a foe of the development-at-all costs mentality of the mayor.



It’s disappointing that Mayor Tom Bates and his allies are trying to get rid of Worthington, who by our estimation is the best, hardest-working, and most progressive member of the City Council. He’s been willing to stand up to the mayor when he’s wrong — and has managed to force developers to build more affordable housing. He’s against the mayor’s downtown plan, but sees a way forward to a compromise that includes all the positive elements without big high-rises. Vote for Worthington.



Gordon Wozniak, the incumbent, is the most conservative member of the City Council and has been a bad vote on almost everything. He’s going to be tough to beat in this district, but we’re giving the nod to Jones, a teacher, Green Party member, and neighborhood activist. He lacks experience, but almost anyone would be better than Wozniak.









There’s a six-person tenant slate running, with endorsements from Worthington, Arreguin, and other progressive leaders. The members couldn’t find an easy mnemonic, so they’ve used the last letters of their last names, which, in the right order, add up to SHERRY. We’ve listed them in the order they’ll appear on the ballot.




Ruby’s moved the office forward a bit, and we don’t see any argument to replace her.





The danger in this race is Don Perata, the former state Senate president, longtime power broker, and friend of developers who has, at the very least, a checkered ethical record that led at one point to a five-year federal corruption investigation (the investigation ended with no charges filed). Perata wants to use the mayor’s office to continue his role as a regional kingpin, and he has the support of Pacific Gas and Electric Co. and the big developers. No thanks.

Two strong progressive challengers are taking him on. Our first choice is Rebecca Kaplan, an at-large City Council member who is full of great, innovative ideas for Oakland. She wants to enforce an Oakland-first hiring law, work on transit-oriented development, and encourage small businesses that can attract some of the $2 billion a year Oakland loses in retail sales from local residents who shop out of town.

Kaplan told us she thinks that if Proposition 19 passes and local government has the right to regulate legal marijuana, Oakland is perfectly situated to take advantage of the new law. By combining pot sales and possibly on-site consumption with new restaurants, bike lanes, and street-level amenities, the city could revitalize neighborhoods and bring in significant new tax revenue.

She’s a big bicycle advocate, would consider a progressive city income tax, and is a strong supporter of public power. She also has a practical sense of how to solve problems.

Jean Quan has been active in Oakland politics for decades. She served 12 years on the school board, eight on the City Council, and has the experience, skills, and vision to run the city. She’s also almost tied in the polls with Perata, despite being outspent dramatically (and being the subject of some nasty, inaccurate Perata hit pieces). She told us she wants to be a cheerleader for the public schools, to work with local businesses, expand the high school internship program, and add city wrap-around services to public schools. She’s had a long, impressive record on environmental issues (she worked with San Francisco on a plastic bag ban and wrote Oakland’s Styrofoam ban). She recognizes that much of the city’s budget problem comes from the police department and police pensions. But she’s a little less aggressive than Kaplan about raising new revenue, and while she fully supports Prop. 19 and the Oakland plan for allowing commercial marijuana operations, she is, in her own words, “relatively conservative” on how far Oakland should go to allow sales and use in the city.

Kaplan’s got more of the cutting-edge progressive vision. Quan’s got more experience and a longer track record. They’re the two choices to beat Perata and save Oakland’s future, and we’re happy that ranked-choice voting allows us to endorse them both.





Patricia Kernighan is among the most conservative votes on the council. She’s also representing a wealthy, conservative hills district and will be hard to beat. We’re endorsing Jennifer Pae, community outreach director for the East Bay Voter Education Consortium. She has the backing of progressives like Supervisor Keith Carson and Berkeley City Council Member Kriss Worthington (as well as the Alameda County Green Party). She’s a long shot, but better than the incumbent.



The front-runners in this race are probably Libby Schaaf, a former aide to Ignacio de la Fuente; Melanie Shelby, a small business owner; and Daniel Swafford, a business consultant. Schaaf is too close to her old boss. We liked Shelby, but she’s awfully vague on solutions to Oakland’s problems — and she voted for Prop. 8. She now says her position on same-sex marriage is “evolving,” and she supports equal rights for all couples. But that’s an awfully big issue to have taken an awfully wrong stand on just two years ago.

This leaves Swafford, a neighborhood activist who grew up in Oakland and was City Council Member Jean Quan’s appointee to the Neighborhood Crime Prevention Council and is a strong advocate of community policing. He gets the nod.



Conventional wisdom says Desley Brooks is almost certain to get reelected to this seat. Her only competition comes from Nancy Sidebotham, whose platform is all cops all the time, and Jose Dorado, a bookkeeper with little political experience. Brooks is a fierce advocate for her district and has been tough on banks and good on pushing local hiring, but has too many ethical problems to merit our endorsement. She has never denied that she kept her boyfriend’s daughter on as a $5,000-a-month aide while the young woman was a full-time student at Syracuse University in New York. When San Francisco Chronicle columnist Chip Johnson challenged some of her ethical lapses, she sued him for libel (the case was dismissed).

Dorado is a neighborhood activist who is running a grassroots campaign and, while he needs more experience, he’s raising good issues (like public financing of elections). And unlike Sidebotham, he’s supporting the revenue measures on the ballot.


East Bay Ballot Measures




The East Bay cities have done a much better job than San Francisco at using parcel taxes — a poor substitute for property taxes but still a relatively progressive form of revenue — to support schools and other public services. Measure H would continue an existing tax on residential and commercial buildings — 6.3 cents per square foot on residences and 9.4 cents on businesses — to pay for maintenance on public school buildings. Vote yes.





Measure I is a $210 million bond act to expand and upgrade the public schools. Vote yes.





Measure T is on the ballot as part of Berkeley’s effort to implement Prop. 19, the statewide pot-legalization measure. Berkeley and Oakland are both ahead of San Francisco in planning for legal marijuana. Prop. T would allow six medical cannabis clinics with cultivation permits, but restrict future industrial pot uses to industrial districts. Vote yes.





Another parcel tax for schools, this one $195 a year for 10 years, essentially to offset state cuts. There’s an exemption for low-income taxpayers. Vote yes.





If Oakland goes ahead with its plans to allow large-scale cultivation and passes this tax hike on pot sales (to $50 per $1,000 of gross revenue for medical pot and $100 per $1,000 for recreational pot) the city could take in as much as $30 million a year — almost enough to offset the budget deficit. Vote yes.





Another creative — if imperfect — way to raise some revenue, Measure W puts a modest $1.99 a month tax on phone lines to raise money for the general fund. Vote yes.





We typically support any reasonable tax on property to pay for public services, but we can’t back this one. Measure X would impose a fairly high ($360 a year) parcel tax on single-family homes — entirely to pay for cops. The police union has been intractable, refusing to give back any of its generous pension benefits to help solve the budget deficit. We can’t see raising taxes for that department alone when so much of Oakland is hurting for money.





Measure BB would allow Oakland to continue collecting violence-prevention money under a previous ballot measure even if the police department falls below a mandated staffing level. It would give the City Council more flexibility in addressing public safety. Vote yes.



Trans action time



CHEAP EATS And then there was Kiz’s wedding, and I was honored to be a part of her get-ready team. Although: I had nightmares about branding her face with a curling iron or, worse, catching her hair on fire.

She must have had the same nightmares, because when the big day finally came, she barely let me touch her hair. This was probably for the best. She looked awesome and entirely unmismanaged by her get-ready team, and anyway the ceremony was held outside, at the lighthouse in Santa Cruz, in a wind so strong that the four women holding the chuppah damn near missed the vows for parasailing to Reno. Kiz’s naturally fantastic hair was pretty much horizontal the whole time anyway. It stayed fantastic, but horizontally fantastic.

Wind notwithstanding, both she and her dude went ahead and said they did, and that was it, give or take a lot of other things.

For example: three times in the past 30 days I have heard straight newlyweds include, as a part of their ceremony, shout-outs to California gays. Meaning straight people with a conscience are feeling increasingly weird about their participation in a bigoted and discriminatory system that excludes many of their close friends.


Cooler yet will be when straight couples start to stop getting married, in protest. Proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that in fact antiquated marriage laws undermine marriage, whereas queerness might could rejuvenate it.

Coolest of all will be when I get married. Won’t that be a hoot? Won’t that change the cynical way everyone feels (or at least I feel) about the eroding, outmoded institution?

For the moment, of course, there is nothing preventing trans people in most states from being married — legally (as long as no nasty dispute ever arises inspiring someone to prove for the sake of financial gain or custody or some such that their marriage was never really valid — which, really, how often does anything like that happen in this neat, clean world we live in?)!

My more immediate concern is one no amount of legislation can ever redress, undress, or even approach: how to get on the menu. As it is, there are not a lot of guys willing to be seen in broad daylight with girls like me, let alone take us home to mother. Let alone stand on some windy precipice and say they do. I’m working on this. I have ideas. Big ‘uns.

But speaking of going behind a rock and yipping like a coyote, there’s Los Coyotes right there near the 16th Street BART station. I’ve walked by it a zillion times without it ever registering, until Earl Butter was kind enough to notice the picture in the window of meat and melted cheese all over a bed of french fries.

He did what you’re supposed to do: he told me, so at the next imaginable mealtime we were there, sharing a big plate of carne asada fries and a pretty small bowl of birria.

The birria was greasy and bare-bones. In this case, that means we found a lot of weird pieces of bone without any meat on them. But there was a lot of meat too. And nothing else. Oh well … that’s birria, as the saying goes. Just goat and goodness, and you gotta love that.

Well, I do. Points for serving it any old day of the week. And points for adding carne asada fries to the Mission District burrito scene. It wasn’t the best carne asada. Or the best cheese, or the best fries, for that matter. But somehow when you added them all up, it was a damn great thing to be eating.

And we each drank a lemonade and each ate some green chips with a variety of salsas, including a mango one. And one that was just strips of pickled nopales and onions, speaking (still) of coyotes.

The atmosphere is really good, too. A lot of cool, colorful tile work, and color and brightness in general, plus Mexican soap operas on TV.

New favorite taqueria? Next time I’ll get a burrito, and weigh back in.

Taqueria Los Coyotes

Mon.–Thu. 9:30 a.m.–10 p.m.;

Fri.–Sat. 9 a.m.–3 a.m.

3036 16th St., SF

(415) 861-3708


Beer and wine

Waiting to inhale



Much of the controversy around Proposition 19, which would legalize marijuana in California for even nonmedical uses, involves speculation about what comes next. Hash bars on Market Street? Packs of joints next to the cigarettes in Mission District bodegas? Bags of green buds available with the bongs for sale on Haight Street? They are questions that have yet to get serious consideration in the city where the medical marijuana movement was launched.

The measure would give local governments almost complete control over how to regulate recreational-use cannabis sales in much the same way that cities set their own standards for medical marijuana dispensaries, a realm in which San Francisco has shown real leadership and created a well-functioning, successful, and legitimate industry (see “Marijuana goes mainstream,” Jan. 27).

But San Franciscans have been slow to prepare for the post-Prop. 19 world, with some other Bay Area cities leaving it in the dust on these issues. Oakland City Council Member Rebecca Kaplan, who is now running for mayor, not only spearheaded that city’s ballot measures on taxing recreational pot sales and permitting large scale growing operations, she’s actively talking using the Amsterdam model to revitalize the city’s downtown business district.

“[Hash bars] absolutely potentially would be part of the mix,” Kaplan told us when we asked about the issue during her mayoral endorsement interview, seeing it as part of a multipronged economic development strategy.

When asked if Oakland should have places where people could go to blaze legally, something Oakland doesn’t allow in its medical marijuana dispensaries, Kaplan said, “Yes. Oh yeah, we’re definitely gonna have those. The only question is gonna be whether the consumption facilities are separate from [those for] sales,” or if they’re under the same roof.

Kaplan thinks this will be part of the winning strategy that takes cannabis use off street corners while acknowledging its appeal to visitors and “synergy with the restaurants. When I talk about wanting to replicate the Amsterdam model in Oakland … it doesn’t just mean that you have … a regulated cannabis facility. You also have restaurants, shops, pedestrian safety, nice lighting, patio dining, musicians, artists.”

She points out that although an Oakland-regulated cannabis industry may use current alcohol regulation as a template, the two substances would not be sold alongside each other. “Frankly, ABC [California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control) will freak out.” That means, at least in Oakland, you won’t be able to purchase cannabis at bars, liquor, or grocery stores.

On this side of the bay, Sup. Ross Mirkarimi — who wrote the regulations on the city’s medical marijuana facilities — says it is “extremely premature” to contemplate Amsterdam-esque hash bars. “That would have to occur within a strong regulatory framework,” he said, one the Board of Supervisors has yet to envision. San Francisco attorney David Owen, who has helped advise some medical marijuana purveyors, said some dispensaries currently allow on-site medication, and San Francisco might legislate to extend the practice to bars.

Meanwhile other California cities such as Berkeley and Oakland are anticipating Prop. 19’s passage much more proactively. Berkeley’s Measure S would tax cannabis businesses, applying different rates to for profit med-use cannabis businesses, nonprofit med-use businesses, and rec-use businesses (which won’t exist unless Prop 19 passes). The measure would secure medical-use cannabis for low-income patients and tighten regulations on Berkeley’s current med-use dispensaries and cultivators regardless of how Prop. 19 fares. There’s also a Measure T on the ballot that would establish a new committee that, in the event that Prop. 19 passes, would advise city officials on how to implement it.

Berkeley City Council Member Kriss Worthington said planning for the post-Prop. 19 world is smart to “synchronize a forward movement on the state and local level” and to “hit the ground running,” a sentiment that Kaplan also voiced for Oakland and one shared by other cities.

Stockton’s Measure I would tax rec-use cannabis businesses at a higher rate than med-use businesses. Sacramento’s Measure C is similar, containing a provision for a rec-use tax range if Prop. 19 passes. Richmond’s Measure V would tax 5 percent of gross sales of cannabis, and could apply to rec-use businesses too. Oakland’s Measure V would add a 5 percent tax to other taxes already on med-use cannabis, and put a 10 percent sales tax on rec-use cannabis. Measure H, on Rancho Cordova’s ballot, would tax personal cultivation at a higher tax on any square footage beyond the 25 square feet that Prop 19 specifies. Long Beach’s Measure B would establish a business license tax on the city’s potential recreational cannabis businesses. Even Albany, which has no dispensaries, would tax for-profit and nonprofit dispensaries differently through its Measure Q.

But Mirkarimi said he would like to tax marijuana cultivation, and has even voiced support for med-use cannabis dispensaries working directly with SF General Hospital to provide to patients, “thereby segregating a special use” and keeping cannabis prices low or nonexistent based on patient needs.

So if Prop. 19 passes, where will San Franciscans be able to purchase rec-use cannabis? Current med-use dispensaries may be a logical choice. “We already have the infrastructure,” said SF dispensary Medithrive co-owner Daniel Bornstein.

Whereas alcohol purveyors are accustomed to providing one barrier to purchase (when they card the buyer), dispensaries such as Medithrive offer many. “We already card and only accept patronage from those with a valid doctor recommendation. We also require he/she become a member of the dispensary and limit to one visit per day.”

When he contemplates whether Medithrive might provide rec-use cannabis in the future, Bornstein says “If [the city adopts] a responsible statute that’s fair, we would welcome the opportunity to offer a broadened service to more people.”

That avenue troubles Mirkarimi. “I don’t know how that works,” he said. Rec-use cannabis purchase would require no doctor’s notes and could occur within a for-profit business model. How would dispensaries legally reconcile making money under their nonprofit status? “I don’t want to put that burden on them,” Mirkarimi said.

Prop. 19 offers other potential implementation conundrums. For example, the measure will only give local governments the option to legalize the limited cultivation/sale of cannabis. Legalization won’t be compulsory. Therefore, it is likely that a post-Prop. 19-approved California will become a patchwork of alternating “dry” and “wet” municipalities.

So let’s say you’re on a road trip and you pass through many cities that all treat cannabis differently. Bornstein and his Medithrive partner Misha Breyburg worry about such a “patchwork of legal complexity.” But Prop. 19 provides for the legal transport of cannabis through cities that prohibit its sale, and California Assemblymember Tom Ammiano has already proposed legislation to smooth out the rough spots in Prop. 19 and answer open questions.

So for now, everyone is just waiting to see what state voters do.