Volume 45 Number 04

FEAST: Distilled genius

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It’s a thrilling time in Bay Area spirits. The same players who’ve made us proud in years past continue to reinvent themselves, while newcomers add flavor — literally — to the scene. In visits to four local distilleries, I came away inspired by their inventiveness and skill. And while none of the spirits I tasted use extracts or flavorings (like many of their big-brand counterparts), they do manage to fit in countless pounds of local, unexpected fruits, even natural herbs.

Even more exciting to the small batch booze enthusiast? Most of the following distilleries open their tasting rooms by schedule or appointment so the tippling public can discover for itself the motto emblazoned on the bottles of Old World Spirits: “Good stuff needs no special effects.”

ST. GEORGE’S SPIRITS

At the mighty St. George, inventiveness reigns, with a rock star attitude to boot. The distillery’s small staff experiments broadly and distillers Lance Winters and Dave Smith drive this license into genius. A behind-the-scenes journey through their labs unveiled nothing short of a wonderland apothecary: test tubes and bottles of spirits flavored with herbs, fruits, vegetables, foie gras — even beef jerky. You may (rightly) love their eaux de vie, absinthe, agave spirits, rum, vodkas, and whiskeys, but have you heard they’re toying with a carrot brandy? Clear and vegetal, it showcases the essence of the orange vegetable with a delicate hand. We can only pray they’ll bottle this one.

I also sampled St. George’s bourbon aging in charred American white oak that was a few years away from being officially bottled. Only five months young and made from the required minimum amount of corn (it needs at least 51 percent to qualify as bourbon) plus barley, crystal malt, wheat, and rye, it’s full of malty, rich promise. The same holds true of its white dog (clear-white whiskey) made from the same grains — one we could possibly see sooner on the shelves.

St. George’s next single malt whiskey, Lot 9, has been aging five to 12 years in barrels blended with 17 woods, including used American bourbon oak, sherry refills, port refills, and French oak. If you’re lucky, you soon may be able to purchase (in limited quantities) a single malt-single barrel selection that has been aged eight years in bourbon barrels then finished for four years in French oak apple brandy barrels. It is a wonder of complexity compared to their regular whiskey releases.

Only the brave attempt to down the scorching fire that is St. George’s in house habanero vodka. Grown men confessed of crying or throwing up just sipping it — only a handful of people have downed a legitimate amount and have been permitted to sign the distillery’s bottle of the burn. But my name is on that bottle — no tears, no throwing up, just a raging habanero sizzle.

2601 Monarch, Alameda. (510) 769-1601. www.stgeorgesspirits.com


CHARBAY

On a winding road above St. Helena and under peaceful Spring Mountain pines, there’s more going on than this distillery’s impeccable line of vodkas. Thirteen generations have gone into this family business, founded in 1983 and run by Miles and Susan Karakasevic, their son Marko, and his wife Jenni. The distillery’s lineage is evident to the discerning tippler who sips their port, rums, pastis, brandy, grappa, wines — even their herbaceous tequila. Charbay’s father-son distilling duo traveled to Mexico to painstakingly learn traditional tequila-making technique, which they expertly riff on to make their distinct blends.

Don’t even get me started on Release II of Charbay whiskey! 110 proof, aged six years with a pilsner beer base, it’s a stratospheric $325, but one of the most exceptional things I’ve ever tasted. From its astounding complexity, I caught everything from hops to echoes of the pine trees surrounding the distillery. I also sampled an unreleased 12-year version of Release II: higher proof, rich, a stunner.

But there’s no rest for the Karakasevics. Future whiskeys are already aging in French oak barrels — the one I’m most thirsty for, a stout whiskey, won’t be ready until 2012. If early tastes are any indication, it’s already brilliantly complex with coffee, spice, and dark chocolate notes. Made with neighboring Bear Republic’s stout in copper alembic stills, it’ll age for two years to reach 90 proof and is expected to retail around $90 — part of a younger, more affordable line of whiskeys compared with the divine but costly Release II. The bold explorer spirit that propels Charbay to Mexico to make a fine tequila shines in their future whiskeys.


TEMPUS FUGIT SPIRITS

These importers have already made waves with their Swiss-produced Gran Classico Bitter, which I hailed for reinventing classic cocktails like the Negroni. They also import some of the best French and Swiss absinthes in existence. Absinthe historians and spirits experts Peter Schaf and John Troia are the masterminds behind Tempus Fugit — and owners of one of the finest vintage absinthe poster collections in the world. It was a thrill to check out these rare pieces while tasting the history and forward-thinking vision in their bitters and liqueurs.

Tempus Fugit’s modus operandi is reinventing classic recipes and distilling them locally. Petaluma-produced Liqueur de Violettes is next up for the duo, a taste along the lines of Creme de Violette and other violet liqueurs yet somehow unlike any of them. Made with less sugar, the liqueur is a more appropriate cocktail ingredient — it’s less cloying, more purely floral and light. Each time I sample it, its bouquet blossoms like a layered wine: a sophisticated, botanical aperitif.

Tempus Fugit future project (a two-man team, after all, only has four hands) is Crème de Cacao-Chouva, a chocolate liqueur that will change chocolate cocktails the way St. George’s Firelit transformed coffee liqueur. It’s dark, lightly sweet, lush and earthy. Tasting it, I envision a resurgence of my guilty pleasure cocktail, the Grasshopper, refined and grown up with Crème de Cacao-Chouva and creme de menthe. It came alive with soda water — an elevated egg cream soda materialized in my cocktail windshield.

Keep an eye on these guys. They have more spirits and bitters as exciting as the ones I’ve listed in the works. Their dizzying knowledge of the history and intricacies of forgotten or neglected spirits, along with refined taste, suggests revelatory possibilities for the future pours of Tempus Fugit.

(707) 789-9660, www.tempusfugitspirits.com


OLD WORLD SPIRITS

Just north of San Carlos in a nondescript smattering of office buildings, is Old World Spirits, which has been in production since 2009. Davorin Kuchan, its third-generation distiller from Croatia, says family plays an irreplaceable part in the operation, as is evident from the photos lining the walls of the distillery. The whole clan is involved — Kuchan’s young daughter even drew the girl peeking out from foliage that graces Old World’s playful absinthe label. The output of both Davorin and business partner Joseph Karakas is astounding for a two-person operation, with two absinthes, a gin, a black walnut liqueur, three eaux de vie/brandies, and more liquors slotted for future release.

Old World uses custom-made German stills and local fruits like the Indian blood peach, which Davorin calls the “heirloom tomato” of stone fruit. As with the best natural fruits, the Indian blood has cracks and flaws, its lower sugar content imparting a lush understatement of taste. Though he grew the peaches himself in Croatia, in California Davorin orders in from Placerville’s Goldbud Farms. The clear blood peach eau de vie impresses with notes of ripe, juicy fruit flesh and spicy skin. I found Old World’s eaux de vies well-balanced, both the pear-inflected Poire Williams and the three- to seven-months oak-aged O’Henry Peach. I sipped a raspberry eau di vie it has yet to release: clear and lightly floral, free of the cloying sugar common in raspberry liqueurs.

Watch for Old World’s sold out dark black walnut liqueur — another batch is out in two years. Kuchan’s Blade Gin stocks the shelves of many a Bay Area bar, journeying down a nontraditional, California-inspired gin route with whispers of ginger, citrus, cilantro, lemon verbena, and black cardamom. Two kinds of absinthe, a green (verte) and clear blanche/white (referred to as Bleue, as in Switzerland), take cues from classic absinthes but resound with Davorin’s interpretation of 20 percent more herbs than what enlivens a traditional absinthe. Old World’s next release: a Cognac-style double barrel brandy aged in French and American oak and finished in Kentucky bourbon casks, which they hope to release soon. My early taste straight from the barrel yielded an already rich, spicy brandy.

Thirsty yet? Visit Davorin and Joseph during their monthly Friday Flight nights. Davorin will turn on some fine French pop tunes as both pour spirits, transforming the distillery into a warm familial party.

121 Industrial, Belmont. (650) 622-9222. www.oldworldspirits.com 

You can also find these spirits at Cask (17 Third St., SF), John Walker & Co. (175 Sutter, SF), and K&L Wine Merchants (638 Fourth St., SF).

 

 

FEAST: 6 hot C-cups

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A funny thing happened on the way to adulthood: hot chocolate became interesting. Remembered by most Americans as the insipid, lukewarm, desiccated powder-based drink of ice rinks (often dispensed from a machine that simultaneously squirts water and dark matter into your cup), 21st century big-kid hot chocolate has heat, depth, spice, richness, variety. It is, in short, both hot and chocolate. And let’s not forget innovations in topping technology. Today’s hot chocolatiers don’t open a bag of petroleum-based white things or spray on the ReddiWip — they make their own marshmallows and whipped cream.

Hot chocolate is also one drink you never find yourself saying, “If only I hadn’t had that last (fill in cocktail) … ” Indeed, researchers at Cornell found that hot chocolate has more antioxidants per cup than red wine or tea. So as we enter hot chocolate season — our summer, which they call “autumn” on the rest of the continent — raise a cup to your health. 

BOULETTE’S LARDER

In the third season of Dexter, top cop Maria has a pair of bonding experiences with women that are consummated with two words “ganache frosting.” Ganache — that rich, delicious, thick, delicious, dense, delicious mix of chocolate and cream — is the base element of Boulette’s singular cup of Eastern European-style hot chocolate. All day long, Boulette’s chefs keep a pan of molten ganache simmering in anticipation of its HC fans. The result is hot chocolate so thick you almost need a spoon, and so satisfying you can omit that dollop of cream.

One Ferry Building # 48, SF (415) 399-1155. www.boulette’slarder.com


COCO LUXE

This pretty-in-pink Haight Street anomaly makes eight kinds of hot chocolate (including a green tea version for serious antioxidant-counters) plus a milk-free drink for all those people who can’t, won’t, or don’t swing bovine. Billed as warm chocolate pudding, the molten concoction blends dark chocolate and hot water until it’s only navigable by spoon. Like our beloved Earth, it also retains its molten core, so it can be toyed with for some time without losing any of its hot, thick mojo. Coco Luxe also has solid chocolates, gorgeous ones that look like mini wall art. And let’s face it, we all need a little solid food occasionally to add weight and depth to our c-cups.

1673 Haight SF. (415) 367-4012. www.coco-luxe.com


CHRISTOPHER ELBOW CHOCOLATES

When the abundant novelty of SF’s innovative hot chocolate scene has worn off, head to this sleek corner store for even more innovation. The boutique chocolatier, which originated in Kansas City, Mo., has all the customary spicy, dark, and milky brews you’ll find at many of our other HC providers — along with some never-before-seen variations spiked with ginger, curry, and coconut milk. Christopher Elbow also makes powdered versions of some of its best-selling drinking chocolates, which make a lovely nyah-nyah-nyah gift for friends still living in Hershey’s just-add-water-powdered-packet land.

401 Hayes, SF. (415) 355-1105. www.elbowchocolates.com


FIVE STAR TRUFFLES

You gotta love this under appreciated one-man operation, where the one man makes your cup by shaving generous helpings of his superlative block chocolate into every liquid cup. The price is right — $2.75 for 16 ounces — and the one man always offers one of his handmade truffles on the house. The one man also exhibits a sincere liberalism about how much milkfat is really necessary for hot chocolate. If you want nonfat hot chocolate (no judgments!), so be it. With base chocolate this good, you won’t miss the milkfat.

411 Divisadero, SF. (415) 552-5128, www.fivestartruffles.com

BI-RITE CREAMERY

Although most people waiting in line at Bi-Rite see only the ice cream and soft-serve, hot chocolate heads can’t help but notice, tucked as it is on the counter behind the cookies, la machine. A combination hot plate-whirligig, Bi-Rite’s single-purpose hot chocolate machine (rumored to have been developed by SF’s own Recchiuti) keeps its brew in a perpetual state of warmth and agitation. What does this mean, besides one terrific cup? No waiting! Traditionalists all the way, Bi-Rite uses only ground chocolate, cocoa, sugar, and milk. A word of warning, though: Bi-Rite only makes HC during the winter (other people’s winter) and on unusually cold or rainy days. Pray for rain.

3692 18th St., SF. (415) 626-5600. www.biritecreamery.com


CHILANGO

Most people come to this Mexican restaurant — and rightly so — for the food. But if you’re here and have postpriandial room, you’ll notice hot chocolate on Chilango’s dessert menu, right up there with flan and churros. But like any good dessert, Chilango’s hot chocolate takes time — the chefs stir each cup over the stove. Let’s face facts, all the delicious Mexican and spicy hot chocolate around town originated from … Mexican hot chocolate. Get the real deal here. And never forget that nothing brings out the flavor of churros like dipping them in hot chocolate.

5 Church, SF. (415) 552-5700. www.chilangococina.com 

 

 

FEAST: 5 sardinerias

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When it comes to sardines, you have to think outside the earthquake shelter. On the flavor-o-meter, the tinned food of last resort (served on tarps with Saltines and stale water) bears no resemblance to its wild, fresh self. Even a humble sardine doesn’t deserve to be jammed in like a sardine, oil slicked, and left to age in the farthest reaches of the cupboard.

As several San Francisco eateries are ably proving, sardines, when treated with respect, are a tasty addition to the dining table. And healthy. And sustainable (they’re on the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Super Green list!) Everyone from Andrew Weil to the Italian grandmother we all wish we had proclaim the virtues of the pungent silver herring. And with good reason: its tiny, 25-calorie body is packed with essential fatty acids, iron, protein, and calcium.

Let’s face it, the good people of Sardinia didn’t get their beautiful skin and convivial personalities from eating schweinebraten on spätzle. They’re all high on EFAs. Sardine EFAs.

PESCE

Pesce was one of the first and finest restaurants to introduce San Franciscans to the joys of sardine cuisine. The casual Russian Hill restaurant offers small plates of fish, pasta, and vegetables (and please, can we call it cicchetti, as they do, instead of “Italian tapas”?) patterned on the cooking of Venice. Pesce serves its sardines (all from Monterey Bay) simply — grilled, on a bed of mixed greens and pickled vegetables with a wedge of lemon. The result is tart, briny, and clean. If you’re still on the fence about sardines, Pesce is the place that will convert you to a bona fide a-fishyanado.

2227 Polk, SF. (415) 928-8025. www.pescesf.com

RAGAZZA

In Provence, shmear means aoli. They put it on meat; they put it on vegetables; they put it on fries; they put it on fish. Heck, they probably put it on ice cream. At Ragazza, the new relative of Glen Park’s Gialina Pizzeria on Divis, the chefs splat a huge dollop of it on its sardines. Apart from the aoli, Ragazza takes an Italianesque approach, stuffing them with an earthy mixture of breadcrumbs, olive oil, garlic, oregano, and onion and baking them in the restaurant’s gas-fired Wood Stone oven. The result is a crispy exterior over sardines that almost melt away on the fork. Add some mixed greens and a robust Italian red and you can practically feel your arteries unclogging. Oh, Ragazza also has pizza.

311 Divisadero, SF. (415) 255-1133. www.ragazzasf.com

NOPA

There’s locavore, 100-mile radius locavore, and there’s ultra-loca, five-mile radius locavore. While most of the city’s sardine-serving restaurants get their sardines from Monterey Bay, Nopa gets its from our very own San Francisco Bay. This is great news because our local sardines nearly went extinct in the 1950s. And — sardine cognoscenti consider the Pacific sardine as flavorful as those on the Sardinian coast (take that, overpriced cans from Norway). Speaking of flavorful, Nopa serves the little San Franciscans baked in its wood-fire oven with fingerling potatoes and frisee. The only thing missing is an order of flatbread, a gems salad, wine, and the burnt honey crème brulee.

560 Divisadero, SF. (415) 864-8643. www.nopasf.com

BARBACCO ENO TRATTORIA

You have to give Barbacco credit. Unlike most of the restaurants that have rediscovered the sardine, Barbacco doesn’t seem to be operating on the principle that sardines are an after-5 p.m.-only food. Although not exactly in the let’s-have-herrings-for-breakfast! camp, Barbacco at least believes that noon is a perfectly reasonable time to start the jonesing. The bustling, suits-heavy Financial District eatery is the creator of what may be the city’s only sardine sandwich (if this isn’t true, we’d like to know). Barbacco also breaks the don’t-get-too-weird-with-sardines taboo, pairing its sardines with a hefty piece of seared calamari. Not most people’s first choicem perhaps, but the two get along swimmingly, especially when served on an Acme torpedo roll and slathered with arugula and Barbacco’s housemade “roasted tomatoe condimento.”

220 California, SF. (415) 955-1919. www.barbaccosf.com

FERRY PLAZA SEAFOOD

When you don’t want others dictating what you can and can’t have on your sardines, duck into Ferry Plaza Seafood. This celebrated purveyor of all things aquatic sells wild, locally caught sardines (and by this we mean our our SF as well as Monterey bay) when available. “We love sardines,” said one salty staffer. “Especially the local ones. They just glisten.” They recommend bringing out the glisten by brushing with olive oil, salt, and pepper; grilling a few minutes on each side; and dressing with lemon. Call first for availability, these guys swim in and out of supply.

One Ferry Building, #11B, SF. (415) 274-2561. www.ferryplazaseafood.com 

 

FEAST: 7 burrito-free late nights

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We’re spoiled rotten living in the city where if you fling an ankle boot, it’s bound to hit a taqueria open past last call. Its like a burrito vortex — go out in San Francisco and at some point you will get wrapped up in flour tortilla and snuggle in with your old buddies, carnitas and shredded cheese. But gooey and warm as it is in there, you must resist the pull to turn into a burrito. I know, I know, we’re gonna hold your hand through this one. We’ve assembled the meeting places for Burritos Anonymous: purveyors of snacks so fine — and open at least until 1 a.m. on weekends — that your frijoles negros withdrawal-twitches will subside and your post-bar, pre-bed caloric intake will rejoin your regularly programmed San Francisco culinary adventuring. We’re talking calamari bulgogi, vegan smoked duck sandwiches, chilaquiles, pambazos, and beef brisket with a side of cucumber salad. We’re talking late night. Clip this page and store it near your bus fare.

TOYOSE

There’s a converted garage in the heart of the Sunset District stuffed with carousing young’uns into the wee hours. Its charmingly narrow dining area has enough foliage and hanging screens between tables to hide 1 a.m. sloppiness — and enough Korean delicacies to entertain the most rabble-rousing group for hours. Try their noodle dishes, which can feed four with their toss-it-yourself mounds of veggies, cold rice noodles, and chile sauce. House favorites include the seafood pancake, kimchee fried rice, bulgogi, soju smoothies, and the damn largest bottles of Korean lager seen this side of the Pacific.

Open until 2 a.m. daily.

3814 Noriega, SF, (415) 731-0232


NOMBE

A hip izakaya whose name roughly translates to “he who doesn’t remember the walk over.” Nombe’s menu can be boggling, but that doesn’t detract a smidge from the table of pickled daikon, stewed onion pork belly, steaming bowls of ramen, and sake flights that is apt to materialize after speaking with the friendly serving staff. Motor skills eschewing spoons and forks for the moment? Play swords with something off the tasty skewer menu.

Open until 2 a.m. weekends

2491 Mission, SF. (415) 681-7150. www.nombesf.com

REACTION RESTAURANT

When the owners of all-ages art-punk venue Sub-mission decided to open up a dining room next door, they kept it accessible. Reaction’s got a menu full of little-seen Mexico City specialties that won’t break the bank of their underage clientele, but still don’t relapse into the boring realm that sub–$5 food often falls. Our favorite is the pambazo, a roll that’s been dipped in red sauce, grilled, then stuffed with your choice of meats or beans. You’ll also find huaraches, gorditas, and burgers — all in a sleek, red and black ambience that won’t harsh your buzz.

Open until 3 a.m. weekends

2183 Mission, SF. (415) 552-8200

J & V CAFE

There’s late night, and there’s late night. If the sun’s coming up and you’re not ready to mix and mingle with the morning suits, head to Bayview. Not that J & V will be filled with drunken sops like you — a well-turned, few-frills cafe located in the middle of SF’s wholesale produce market, the work day here begins in the dark of the night. Standard diner fare, decent espresso, a few quality Mexican specials — no b-words, but plenty of heaping chilaquiles plates to palliate that come-down.

1 a.m.-2 p.m. Mon.-Fri.

2095 Jerrold, SF. (415) 821-7786. www.jandvcatering.com

THE LIBERTIES

A place that takes no liberties with the notion of good pub food available when you need it most. The Liberties offers stomach-liners like mashed potato-topped cottage pie, bangers, and Anglo-happy chicken curry for those who’d rather have their biggest meal of the day post their biggest pints of the day.

Open until 2 a.m. weekends

998 Guerrero, SF. (415) 282-6789. www.theliberties.com

TOMMY’S JOYNT

With an exterior decorated in shades of circus tent, the 63-year old legend is a great place for Mom’s cooking at hours Momma woulda freaked had you started rustling around in the kitchen. Hofbrau service has you line up with a tray and point to which braised meat and starch you’d like heaped on your plate. Beef brisket? Buffalo stew (their specialty)? Veggiesaurus? No worries. Scoops of pasta salad, greens, and potatoes await.

Open until 1:40 a.m. daily.

1101 Geary, SF. (415) 775-4216. www.tommysjoynt.com

LOVE N HAIGHT DELI & CAFE

Stating the obvious: vegans get short shrift when it comes to late night. Seriously, how often can you order the same thing Carnivorous Carl is having … minus the protein and sauce? Unfair. Pay it no mind — with Love N Haight’s head-whirlingly large menu of vegan (and some meat) sandwiches, you’ve got the upper hand. Sure, the fake roast duck may taste similar to the fish and the chicken — but its a chewy, satisfying kind of same.

Open until 2 a.m. weekends.

553 Haight, SF. (415) 252-819

 

 

Volume 45 Number 4 Flip-through Edition

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Fall election ’10 clip out guide

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Click here for the San Francisco Bay Guardian’s complete endorsements — and happy voting. CLICK HERE for the printable PDF from our home page.


 

NATIONAL RACES

U.S. Senate

Barbara Boxer

 

Congress, 6th District

Lynn Woolsey

 

Congress, 7th District

George Miller

 

Congress, 8th District

Nancy Pelosi

 

Congress, 9th District

Barbara Lee

 

Congress, 13th District

Pete Stark

 

STATE RACES

Governor

Edmund G. Brown

 

Lieutenant governor

Gavin Newsom

 

Secretary of state

Debra Bowen

 

Controller

John Chiang

 

Treasurer

Bill Lockyer

 

Attorney general

Kamala Harris

 

Insurance commissioner

Dave Jones

 

Board of Equalization, District 1

Betty Yee

 

Superintendent of public instruction

Tom Torlakson

 

State Senate, District 8

Leland Yee

 

State Assembly, district 12

Fiona Ma

 

State Assembly, District 13

Tom Ammiano

 

State Assembly, District 14

Nancy Skinner

 

State Assembly, District 16

Sandré Swanson

 

STATE BALLOT MEASURES

Prop. 19: YES, YES, YES

Prop. 20: NO

Prop. 21 YES

Prop. 22: NO

Prop. 23: NO, NO, NO

Prop. 24: YES

Prop. 25: YES, YES, YES

Prop. 26: NO, NO, NO

Prop. 27: YES

 

SAN FRANCISCO CANDIDATES

Supervisor, District 2

Janet Reilly

 

Supervisor, District 4

No endorsement

 

Supervisor, District 6

1. Debra Walker

2. Jane Kim

3. Glendon “Anna Conda” Hyde

 

Supervisor, District 8

Rafael Mandelman

 

Supervisor, District 10

1. Tony Kelly

2. DeWitt Lacy

3. Chris Jackson

 

Board of Education

Margaret Brodkin

Kim-Shree Maufas

Hydra Mendoza

 

Community College Board

John Rizzo

 

BART Board, District 8

Bert Hill

 

Assessor-Recorder

Phil Ting

 

Public Defender

Jeff Adachi

 

San Francisco Superior Court, Seat 15

Michael Nava

 

SAN FRANCISCO BALLOT MEASURES

Prop. AA: YES

Prop. A: YES Prop. B: NO, NO, NO

Prop. C: YES

Prop. D: YES

Prop. E: YES

Prop. F: NO

Prop. G: NO

Prop. H: NO

Prop. I: YES

Prop J: YES

Prop. K : NO

Prop. L : NO, NO, NO

Prop. M: YES

Prop. N: YES

 

EAST BAY ENDORSEMENTS

BART Board District 4

Robert Raburn

 

Berkeley City Auditor

Ann-Marie Hogan

 

Berkeley City Council District 1

Linda Maio

 

Berkeley City Council District 4

Jesse Arreguin

 

Berkeley City Council District 7

Kriss Worthington

 

Berkeley City Council District 8

Stewart Jones

 

Berkeley Rent Board

Asa Dodworth

Lisa Stephens

Jesse Townley

Pam Webster

Dave Blake

Katherine Harr

 

Oakland City Auditor

Courtney Ruby

 

Oakland Mayor

1. Rebecca Kaplan

2. Jean Quan

 

Oakland City Council District 2

Jennifer Pae

 

Oakland City Council District 4

Daniel Swafford

 

Oakland City Council District 6

Jose Dorado

 

EAST BAY BALLOT MEASURES

Berkeley Measure H: YES

Berkeley Measure I: YES

Berkeley Measure T: YES

Oakland Measure L: YES

Oakland Measure V: YES

Oakland Measure W: YES

Oakland Measure X: NO

Oakland Measure BB: YES

 

Falling for Fallout — again

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Fallout: New Vegas

(PC, PS3, Xbox 360) Obsidian Entertainment/Bethesda Softworks

GAMER Despite the reverence it commands, the Fallout series has a tortured history. The first two games (both classics) were developed by Black Isle Studios and published by Interplay. Out of nowhere, Micro Forte and 14 Degrees East stepped in to produce a licensed spin-off in 2001. Interplay’s 2003 financial difficulties led to the demise of Black Isle, and the publisher produced a fourth game in-house before selling the Fallout name to Bethesda Softworks, which released the mega-hit Fallout 3 in 2008.

The creative core of Black Isle, meanwhile, went on to form Obsidian Entertainment, which cut its teeth on ambitious-but-flawed follow-ups to popular franchises like Knights of the Old Republic and Neverwinter Nights. After the success of Fallout 3, the company got permission from Bethesda to return to its roots, producing a new game in the post-apocalyptic Fallout universe, superintended by series vets Josh Sawyer and Chris Avellone.

The result was Fallout: New Vegas. Though its outward appearance is defined by the wooden character models and awkward animations of the Gamebryo engine (a holdover from Fallout 3 and Bethesda’s swords-and-sorcery smash OblivionNew Vegas feels and plays more like one of Black Isle’s isometric 1990s classics.

This distinctive sensibility is most notable in the writing, which oozes dark comedy and pulpy, hard-boiled dialogue in a way that Fallout 3 never did. Questing and character creation have also been redesigned in accordance with the Black Isle games’ core principles, necessitating difficult choices whose outcomes are not always immediately clear. The score, by delightfully named Israeli composer Inon Zur, deftly echoes the series’ bizarre, dystopian musical tradition.

There is one element of the original Fallout titles that nobody missed: the bugs. Unfortunately, Black Isle’s questionable quality assurance survived the name change, and New Vegas is not without its many hiccups. Given the sheer scope of the game, however, it’s hard to complain too stridently.

When Interplay shuttered Black Isle in 2003, many of the company’s leading lights felt that the Fallout franchise, every bit their brainchild, had been unfairly taken from them by the vicissitudes of corporate law. Seven years later, they’ve gotten the opportunity to welcome the gaming public back to wasteland. And nothing, after all, says “we’ve missed you” like a dual-mohawked psychopath with a belly full of mutated cockroach steak and a rusty machete.

 

Different walls

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arts@sfbg.com

Palestinian perspectives are in. You know it when a major filmmaker like Julian Schnabel makes a big-budget film like Miral, based on the book by Palestinian journalist Rula Jebreal (which recently screened at the Mill Valley Film Festival in advance of a general release next year).

In many ways, though, it’s the rest of the country that’s catching up to places like the Bay Area, where Palestinian voices have long been a part of the cultural landscape. The Arab Film Festival, for instance, which just closed its 14th season, once again featured several films from and about Palestine. And this year the San Francisco International Film Festival gave us a look at Port of Memory, the latest work from Kamal Aljafari, one of the most interesting and sophisticated filmmakers to come from Palestine since Elia Suleiman.

In theater, San Francisco’s Golden Thread Productions just gave a staged reading of biographical work from youth in embattled Gaza called The Gaza Monologues. For years, Golden Thread has produced works incorporating the Palestinian perspective amid a mass culture overwhelmingly slanted toward the more powerful side in a basically colonial project. And currently Campo Santo and Intersection for the Arts bring the diasporic repercussions of Palestinian dispossession center stage in Habibi, a new play from a new Palestinian American theatrical voice, Sharif Abu-Hambeh.

Habibi makes its debut as the second offering in a trio of world premieres at Intersection by first-time playwrights (the first having been Chinaka Hodge’sMirrors in Every Corner). Directed by Omar Matwally, Abu-Hambeh’s play weaves together two distinct storylines that attempt to capture the inter-generational confusion and displacement experienced by assimilating Palestinian immigrants in the Bay Area. That confusion can regrettably transfer to the play itself, whose intentional deployment of ambiguity ends up, at least to some extent, being merely fuzzy rather than thought-provoking. But the ideas here are at times intriguingly subtle and the effort a promising one. Moreover, Matwally and Campo Santo give the play a strong production with various charms along the way.

At the center of this double helix of a narrative is young Palestinian American Tariq (a coolly vital and engaging Aleph Ayin). Tariq shares a small Mission District apartment and even — talk about family overload — a single bed with his loving but paternalistic father, Mohammed (a stern, sympathetic Paul Santiago). The deliberate and routine-loving Mohammed — who unlike his Americanized son speaks in accented English — is a museum guard with a strong work ethic that he’s trying, unsuccessfully, to instill in his slacker offspring. Tariq, for his part, has just happily shed his menial job at a local café and is in no hurry to find a new one. His absent mother (Nora El Samahy) apparently left them some time before, though she reappears at one point in his imagination.

This father and son dynamic, familial and almost too familiar, comes intercut with a public talk by a high-class museum curator (a sharp and funny El Samahy, dressed by costume designer Courtney Flores in esteem-grabbing Manhattan chic and sporting a very respectable English accent), who leads us through a slide lecture on the great art heists of the last century. Her talk, avid but meandering, is interrupted by simultaneously exasperating and guilt-producing phone calls from her terminally ill father, and a consequent tendency to wander into ruminations farther afield — summoned for us in pictures of dispossession that float by on the screen behind her (in video projections designed by Aubrey Millen).

Maybe these wayward ruminations aren’t so far afield after all, we come to suspect, as her theme of cultural theft warms up to its own complexities and encourages us to consider the nature of cultural transmission, loss, and hybridization in the life-and-death circumstances of exiled populations. This idea deepens as Tariq’s raucous and rebellious spirit extends to breaking into the curator’s monologue, and even smashing the fourth wall to confront us, her audience. Tariq also has a unique tendency to narrate his own actions, a self-conscious conceit that can be productive at times, especially of humor, and works as an indirect aside to the audience.

By the end, the two narratives come even closer together through a rash act of Tariq’s father that trades disastrously on the concept of family heirlooms, or the physical symbols of patrimony and place. The climax arrives too hastily, and its potential impact is muted. At the same time, the play’s departure from the more universal, shopworn gestures of “melting pot” tales verges on something rare and coruscating.

HABIBI

Thurs.–Sun., 8 p.m.; through Nov. 7; $15–$25

Intersection for the Arts

446 Valencia, SF

(415) 626-2787 

www.theintersection.org

 

 

Playlist

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E.M.A.K.

A Synthetic History of E.M.A.K. 1982-88

(Universal Sound)

This banana-yellow retrospective comp devoted to a small collective-group of electronic musicians in Cologne, Germany offers a number of John Carpenter-like pleasures. E.M.A.K. member Kurt Mill provides two of the best. The vaguely sinister bass line, otherworldly organ, and synth stabs of “Bote des Herbstes” would fit in perfectly alongside tracks from Carpenter’s soundtrack for Christine (1983), and “Filmmusik” has a dancefloor as well as cinematic appeal. A fun document of a time when sampling was being invented and Commodore 64s were making music.


THE FRESH & ONLYS

Play It Strange

(In the Red)

A half-dozen or so listens in, this is shaping up to be the best album by SF’s Fresh & Onlys to date, thanks in part to its widescreen production (the album was recorded by Tim Green). With its Duane Eddy twang, ghost harmonies, propulsive rhythms, and dovetail lyric about bickering between dying forms of media, “Waterfall” is as terrific as it is catchy. I kinda wish the group would slow down the tempo from time to time for more variety, particularly because they seem more than capable of pulling off a big ballad. But not many groups can evoke both Morrissey and late-period Damned while sounding like themselves, and “I’m All Shook Up” offers exactly the kind of irresistible classic rock ‘n’ roll its title promises.


NICK GARRIE

The Nightmare of J B Stanislaus

(Cherry Red/Rev-Ola)

In 1970, when The Nightmare of J B Stanislas was released, Nick Garrie was young, blond, and beautiful. But one need only look to Scott Walker at the time to see that pop idol looks and ambitious melancholic talent didn’t necessarily equate to record sales. Garrie’s debut album isn’t as dramatically symphonic as Walker’s solo efforts of the time, but it features beautifully lush orchestration. His purple lyrical style — which bears some similarity to Donovan’s — and gentle choir-schooled voice meet up with strings to best effect on the plaintive “Can I Stay With You?,” a love song to a girl in his French lit class.


SMALL BLACK

New Chain

(Jagjaguwar)

Last summer I saw Small Black play after Pictureplane and before Washed Out on a chillwave triple bill of sorts that was disappointing in terms of how the sound translated to a live context. At the time, Small Black came off as the closest to an actual band, calling New Order to mind in terms of sound if not songwriting caliber. A year or so later, with a chillwave backlash in effect, Small Black’s debut album arrives amid a blogosphere’s worth of dodgy enthusiasm about the latest microgenre du jour: drag (or haunted house, or witch house). You can hear some trendy witch house elements in the production of New Chain, especially the album’s variety of woozy and wheezy speedball sounds, but Small Black is far more musical and melodic than the wretched hype-magnet Salem, and fond of vintage hi-NRG touches. A little pretty goes a long way, and at least “Search Party” and “Photojournalist” have incandescent moments.


T. REX

The Slider

(Fat Possum)

Kudos to Fat Possum for reissuing this hard-to-find 1972 T. Rex all-time great, which moves from high point to high point as quickly as Marc Bolan’s lyrics find new nicknamed characters to describe. Every once in a while — say, on “Baseball Ricochet” — Bolan’s playful language is a bit too nonsensical for its own good, but glam gems such as “Telegram Sam” and “Metal Guru” are matched by most of the album tracks. One peculiarity — how much the riff of “Chariot Choogle” resembles Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love,” recorded two year earlier.


VARIOUS ARTISTS

Califia: The Songs of Lee Hazlewood

(Ace)

There are all kinds of treats and discoveries to be made within this grab-bag of Lee Hazlewood obscurities. Who else could write a song called “The Girl On Death Row,” not to mention deliver it with the authority of a winking Johnny Cash? (Turns out the song was for an American International Picture that went and changed its title.) Califia also includes some squalling girl-pop by Hazelwood’s early flame Suzi Jane Hokom and his later muse Ann-Margret, and a number of guitar-themed gems penned for his buddy Duane Eddy. It all closes with a song in German by the formerly “Little” Peggy March.


WEEKEND

Sports

(Slumberland)

To hear how extraordinary Weekend can be, check out “Age Class,” a rock song of instant classic status because of its furious guitar, ghost rider breakdown, and Shaun Durkan’s vocal, which builds to a crescendo that grasps extremes of love and death from the repeated line “There’s something in our blood.” Sportsis an always-promising and sometimes powerful debut album, with a peculiar track sequence — its first half is erratic and largely opaque, but it hits stride with “Age Class” and the songs that follow. The Bay Area group’s antecedents range from Joy Division to Ride to the Wedding Present but they’re already on their own path. I’m excited to hear where they go next.

 

The. Rent. Is. Too. Damn. High!

3

 

As continued reports of unprecedented, record-breaking amounts of cash from corporate real estate developers and big landlords flood the Board of Supervisor races, the damaging impact of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision is becoming more and more clear. But even worse, Thomas J. Coates, a far-right extremist Republican real estate developer and landlord, is trying to buy the Board of Supervisors so that he can end rent control. Last week, Coates made the largest donation to supervisors races in the 150-year history of San Francisco.

Who is Coates? He spent more than $1 million on Proposition 98 in 2008 trying to repeal rent control statewide. He was the largest single contributor to that campaign, which was so extreme that even Gov. Schwarzenegger and former Republican Gov. Pete Wilson opposed it. Coates gave the maximum contribution allowed by law to George Bush and Dick Cheney’s campaign and funded GOP candidates across the country. Now he’s spending more than $200,000 to elect anti rent control San Francisco supervisors: Mark Ferrell in District 2, Theresa Sparks in District 6, Scott Wiener in District 8, and Steve Moss in District 10.

With this one donation, the stakes in this election for every San Franciscan — especially renters and progressives — became even higher. By spending his fortune here, Thomas Coates hopes to erode San Francisco’s strong rent control laws by electing supervisors who are less sympathetic to renters. Through influencing the election of the supervisors, he also influences the selection of the interim mayor (since the supervisors will choose the next mayor by a majority vote if Gavin Newsom is elected lieutenant governor), which would result in an anti rent control mayor.

To make matters worse, workers and their families are already on the defense fighting Jeff Adachi’s anti-labor ballot initiative proposal (Proposition B), which would make city workers pay huge increases in their health care coverage. Adachi is mischaracterizing his initiative as pension reform even though the bulk of the cuts will come from forcing low-wage workers to pay for their children’s health care.

Wall Street speculators crashed the stock market, causing workers’ pension funds to lose billions and wiping out retirement savings. The losses require local and state governments to spend more to keep the funds solvent. So who do Gov. Schwarzenegger, Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman, and Adachi blame? The victims: the workers.

Renters and city workers aren’t the only ones under attack. Newsom’s cynical sit/lie initiative (Proposition L) demonizes young homeless kids. Many of these youth are queers who ran away to San Francisco because it is a queer haven, and others are abused kids who left home because it wasn’t safe. If Prop. L passes, for 12 hours a day these kids will be criminalized if they sit or lie on the sidewalk.

All this in one of the most progressive cities in America? If we are under attack from conservatives in San Francisco on some of the most fundamental issues of our city, it’s no wonder the Tea Party is raging in the rest of the country.

Now more than ever we need labor, progressives, and renters to come together to fight back by voting Tuesday, Nov. 2. Harvey Milk once said, “Give ’em hope.” Show us that hope on Election Day by voting for progressive supervisors, rejecting Adachi’s so-called pension reform, and opposing the so-called sit/lie ordinance. Remember to vote and vote for Debra Walker in District 6, Rafael Mandelman in District 8, No on B, No on K, No on L, and Yes on J and N.

Gabriel Haaland is a local queer labor activist.

 

 

Onra’s future funk

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arts@sfbg.com

I first stumbled upon Onra’s music three years ago when I picked up Chinoiseries (Label Rouge), a sprawlinlg beat-tape in the line of J Dilla’s blueprint for the future of hip-hop, Donuts (Stones Throw, 2006). But unlike the late Dilla’s many lackluster imitators, Onra proves a worthy disciple. 

Chinoiseries crackling intro blends hip-hop quotables over boom bap percussion, closing out with Dilla’s signature rally call, “Let’s go!” But the transition into “The Anthem” is unexpected: a bass-heavy break anchors unfamiliar horn blasts and traditional Mandarin vocals, unsteady and fissured in odd rhythm. What follows are 30 head-nodding beats culled from late 1960s and early 1970s vinyl straight outta dusty Saigon crates — some Vietnamese, some Chinese in origin. The effort certainly takes cues from RZA’s eerie psychedelic architectonics for the Wu-Tang Clan, in which he transformed Staten Island street sagas into a Shaolin kung-fu epic, but Chinoiseries is more furtive and gargantuan, scattered and undigested.

Onra, or Arnaud Bernard according to his French government papers, isn’t your typical Parisian hip-hop producer (whatever that is). He was born in Germany to a Vietnamese father and French mother and moved to France at a young age. He spent summers in the Ivory Coast where his mother lived and listened to the Caribbean polyrhythms of Zouk. But what initially hooked Onra to the beat was early 1990s American hip-hop. “I never really liked music before hearing my first rap song,” Onra tells me over an extended e-mail correspondence. “I was like, ‘This is it, and anything else is garbage.’ I had this state of mind for a few years before opening to other genres.”

Travel permeated Onra’s early life, and hip-hop gave him a common language with other wayward teens searching for a sense of themselves. “Through hip-hop, it has always been easier to connect with people because we share the same passion. So we’re pretty much on the same wavelength — at least, we speak the same language,” he says.

What makes Onra stand out is a talent not only for exploring the semantics of hip-hop’s codified scriptures, but its heavily layered emotional fabric. The MPC sampler/sequencer is his weapon of choice for recontextualizing sonic histories and mythologies. I’d even go so far as to say that he usurps tools of hip-hop to ground a sense of place in today’s widespread diaspora, where traditional and modern, distant and far, the animate and artificial grind against each other in sometimes uncomfortable, and unsalvageable, ways.

Earlier this summer Onra dropped his strongest effort, Long Distance (All City), which he considers his full-length debut. The record, a thoroughly futuristic approach to early 1980s boogie funk, helped propel the wave of recent revivalism for the genre heralded by Los Angeles’ Dam-Funk. Locally, the Sweater Funk crew has steadily unearthed overlooked boogie jams, playing original vinyl of low rider grooves and synthesized soul in the basement of Chinatown’s Li-Po Lounge every Sunday night. Somehow the cheese factor of these sounds has retained its original funky odor, and even rampant irony has given way to wholehearted appreciation for lustful forays into buoyant bass and lush melodies.

But Onra’s approach to the funk gathers inspiration from Notorious B.I.G.’s Mtume-based “Juicy” and Foxy Brown’s “Gotta Get You Home” more than the analog-minded heritage channeled by Dam-Funk. “There were so many songs in the ’90s that sampled ’80s funk and modern soul,” Onra says. “That’s the feeling I wanted to have on my album. I had to find a way of recreating their feeling, but with a fresher touch.” Long Distance manages that tension well, navigating nostalgia for Roland chord progressions and vintage drum machines with a finger on the pulse for the spacey beat-futurism cultivated by the likes of Flying Lotus and Hudson Mohawke.

The rolling bass lines of “Comet” and “Rock On” pick up where Parliament’s mothership landed 30 years ago — but the rusty funk machine scrapped together during the days of the cold war gets a bit of a facelift on Long Distance. The swerving slap bounce is reconfigured into a fragmented narrative of sensual ideas and indulgent desire outlined in chalk. On “High Hopes” and the title track, R&B crooners Reggie B and Olivier Daysoul wax seductive over woozy beats that sound like Dilla flipped the Prelude vaults.

Voices are distorted and guzzled through technological mediation: “Oper8tor” receives the vocoder-inflected Zapp treatment and “Girl” traces a love interest’s absent-minded confession over a fuzzy telephone voice message. Onra also ventures into uncharted intergalactic territory. “Wonderland” cruises on ecstatic altitudes higher than the intoxication of house, while “WheeOut,” featuring Buddy Sativa wilding out on synth chords, discovers the sticky underbelly of electro.

A general theme of travel, and the insatiable desires that emerge from such trips through space and time, saturates the warm sonic textures of Long Distance. Onra doesn’t care to divulge too much on the topic: “I have been traveling a lot these past few years,” he says. “This album has been inspired by my own personal experiences, by a few long distance relationships I had … I think it’s a very inspiring subject.”

I would dare trace the notion of distance back even farther, to the very impulse of Onra’s stylized hip-hop production. Whether seeking out some sense of imaginative rootedness across disparate traditions and backgrounds in Chinoiseries and other beat-tapes, or the heart of expressionistic eros in Long Distance, a sense of absence drives Onra’s work. But he doesn’t get lost in mournful nostalgia for a lost past and places already visited; some sort of dreamy future — a strange horizon where the erotic and robotic merge — seems to rise from the rubble. Desire might just find what it’s been looking for. 

ONRA

With Buddy Sativa, Sweater Funk DJs

Fri/29, 10 p.m.; $10

SOM

2925 16th St., SF

(415) 558-8521

www.som-bar.com

 

Don’t stop this crazy thing

0

arts@sfbg.com 

Coldcut used to brag that it was “Ahead of Our Time.” In the late 1980s, they slapped the phrase onto a host of groundbreaking forays into cut-and-past sound mathematics like “Beats + Pieces,” “Doctorin’ the House,” and “Stop This Crazy Thing,” freewheeling tunes that treated the history of sound as an enormous candy shop, copyright laws be damned.

And now? Coldcut’s long-running company Ninja Tune reflects the musical times in all its heterogeneous subgenres and variations on familiar themes. When Matt Black and Jonathan More launched Ninja Tune in 1990, it was to create an outlet for the group’s abiding passion in instrumental beats (which the British press would soon garnish with colorful nicknames like “trip-hop” and “sampledelia”). It was built on Coldcut-related productions like DJ Food’s Jazz Brakes series and Bogus Order’s Zen Brakes. Over time, the label flowered into a major indie with two sublabels (Counter and Big Dada) and dozens of artists passing through its doors, from Amon Tobin and Roots Manuva to Antibalas and Mr. Scruff. Today, it releases iconoclastic statements from the L.A. beat scene (Daedelus), the Baltimore indie/electro scene (Spank Rock and the Death Set), and London’s grime and bass worlds (the Bug).

During a phone interview from London, Coldcut’s Black says, “All the artists on the label have their own character. It’s like a collection of audibles, really. There’s a consistency in the fact that we’re all quite out there.” He adds that Ninja Tune is more “advanced” than it was in its first decade, when most of the roster — including production units like the Herbaliser and Funki Porcini — fit under the “trip-hop” rubric. “I felt that some of the early releases interpreted the Coldcut blueprint too literally, just getting some funky loops and sounds and stringing it out for a bit.” Part of this is due to maturity. The Herbaliser, for example, began making beat “loops” for discerning headz but has since grown into a full-fledged band. Even DJ Food, which now solely consists of producer Strictly Kev, has become a purveyor of soundtrack music inspired as much by David Axelrod as Marley Marl.

The mutating Ninja Tune amoeba is being chronicled through a series of 20th anniversary promotions. The deluxe box set Ninja Tune XX includes a hardcover book, six CDs, and six 7-inch vinyl records. The book, Ninja Tune: 20 Years of Beats & Pieces (Black Dog Publishing, 1992 pages, $29.95), is also available separately as a paperback. “If you look at the arrangements and the musicality on the music on the XX set, it’s a lot more advanced than it was a few years ago,” says Black, pointing to San Francisco’s Brendan “Eskmo” Angelides as an example.

Eskmo isn’t the first Bay Area artist to record for Ninja Tune; that honor belongs to rap experimentalist cLOUDDEAD, which released the U.K. edition of its 2001 self-titled album through Big Dada. However, he gives Ninja Tune a foothold in the thriving bass and organic electronic music scene through the symphonic boom of tracks like “Hypercolor.” Eskmo says that signing with Ninja Tune, which just released his self-titled debut, has been “really inspirational,” adding, “It’s a unique thing in this day and age for an independent to be flourishing and still put out creative stuff.”

According to Stevie Chick’s book 20 Years of Beats & Pieces, Ninja Tune emerged in the wake of the music industry’s brief yet disillusioning courtship of Coldcut, who dazzled with a game-changing remix of Eric B. & Rakim’s “Paid In Full” (the classic “Seven Minutes of Madness” mix) and U.K. pop hits like Yazz’ “The Only Way Is Up” and Queen Latifah’s “Find a Way.” The label began as Coldcut’s middle finger to demands that they become another group of pop-dance hacks like Stock Aitken Waterman. “We really liked making instrumental hip-hop, fucking around, not having to make another ‘pop’ track,” Black tells author Chick. On albums such as 1997’s Let Us Play, Coldcut found an equilibrium between advocating the wonders of cutting-edge technology and vinyl consumption and promoting anticapitalist themes.

An inevitable byproduct of Ninja Tune’s success (as well as that of its great rival, Warp Records) is that its fashion-forward yet radical communal lifestyle seems more myth than reality. In 2005, the label released Amon Tobin’s soundtrack for the Ubisoft video game Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory. Last year, Speech Debelle won the U.K. Mercury Prize for her Speech Therapy debut. A few months later, the British rapper announced that she wanted off the Big Dada label because it didn’t promote her work enough. Meanwhile, several roster artists have scored popular car commercials, from Mr. Scruff’s “Get a Move On” for the Lincoln Navigator to the Heavy’s “How You Like Me Now?” for KIA Sorento minivans.

“We’ve adapted our game,” Black explains. “We’ve got a company called Sync, Inc. and they specialize in getting sync licenses or getting our music placed in films, TV, video games, and adverts. That’s become an important part of our business.” When asked if that contradicts Coldcut’s earlier independent philosophy, he answers, “We give our artists a lot of freedom. If an artist wants to license a track to Coca-Cola, we wouldn’t necessarily block them. Coldcut has turned down a lot of syncs, particularly car ads, ever since we did one for Ford and realized that was a terrible idea.” Ironically, the song used was “Timber,” an instrumental decrying the eradication of rain forests. Even though Coldcut gave half of the licensing money to Greenpeace, says Black, “We didn’t feel comfortable with it.”

Two decades on, Ninja Tune continues to weather the rapid changes of the music industry while sustaining Coldcut’s dream of an independent haven for progressive artists. But the future ain’t free. “I believe the corporations are the Nazis of our age,” Black says. “But you sometimes have to talk to the Nazis because they’re a reality.”

NINJATUNE XX

With Amon Tobin, Kid Koala, DJ Food and DK, Toddla T and Serocee, Dj Kentaro, Eskmo, Ghostbeard, An-Ten-Nae, Motion Potion

Fri/29, 9 p.m.-4 a.m.; free with rsvp

1015 Folsom

103 Harriet, SF

www.ninjatunexx.xlr8r.com

 

 

Seeing spots

0

arts@sfbg.com

Jancar Jones Gallery might be no larger than most gallery kitchens, but New York City-based artist Bill Jenkins has created the illusion of more space within it through very simple means. For his solo show “Lids and Dots,” he irregularly spray painted black polka dots across the gallery’s white walls, evoking Yayoi Kusama’s spot-covered installations from the 1960s as well as Keith Haring’s doodled-over interiors from two decades later.

The dots, especially when gazed at from the corner of one’s eye, make the gallery’s tiny dimensions seem more malleable. They curve corners rather than cut them, and their irregular placement suggests protrusion or indentation where there is actually only flatness.

This play off the given shape of a space is taken up in the exhibit’s other titular component. Made from papier-mâché, sometimes studded with debris and small objects from his studio, Jenkins’ coral-like “lids” sit atop a variety of everyday domestic vessels: a filing tray, a small plastic waste basket, a bowl — that have themselves been placed on white plinths.

The juxtaposition of Jenkins’ handmade components with the mass-produced products they only haphazardly cover is funny and strange. But the absurd pairings also raise the more serious question — echoed in Jenkins’ transformation of the exhibition space itself — of what happens when functionality is no longer a self-apparent quality of a thing but becomes something to be discovered in-process or, perhaps, to discard altogether.

THAR SHE BLOWS

Narwhals are the sort of animals that seem too strange to actually exist yet are that much more fantastic because they do. The same could be said of Seth Koen’s wonderfully suggestive wood sculptures at Gregory Lind, currently on display in a show that takes its inspiration from the small Artic whale, and its singular spiraling horn (actually a tooth).

Koen carves and planes his pale maple and basswood pieces into smooth planks with soft, curved edges that typically bend 90 degrees at a certain point. Their placement on the walls or floor, along with their titles, suggest various marine mammals, or the sort of tools that ancient fisherman would use to hunt those very same creatures.

With its two dowel-like appendages poking from what resembles the joined back and seat of a chair turned upside-down, Tusk sketches a walrus with but the simplest lines. So, too, does Selkie, with its upturned spire, evoke the titular shape-shifting seal of Celtic lore, as well as the horned creature from which the exhibit takes its name and creates a strange new adjective: “Narwhellian.”

It is a fanciful variation on “Orwellian,” as well as a repudiation of that word’s sinister connotations of control and manipulation. Koen’s sculptures, whose simple shapes are at once unspecific and particularly evocative, welcome a freedom of interpretation. Almost toy-like, they invite play.

I WANT CANDY

If you don’t get your candy fix this Halloween weekend, be sure to browse the rainbow-colored confections at Scott Richards Contemporary Art when the group show “Sweet Tooth” opens Nov. 4.

Your eyes will probably hurt as much as your teeth after taking in so many glossy, photo-realistic depictions of sugar, as well as its cheaper, government subsidized imitations. There are paintings of candy drops, a cocktail umbrella-topped mountain of sorbet, a truly dubious Jell-O mold, and a package of colorfully iced cookies (Daniel Douke’s Invasion) that resembles an edible version of one of Warhol’s Flowers silkscreens. The effect is one of brightly hued and cutely packaged obscenity.

There’s even some old fashioned, Easy-Bake sexism courtesy of pop pin-up artist Mel Ramos, whose Reese’s Rose features a busty brunette emerging from a Reese’s candy bar wrapper, à la Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus. Katy Perry should hit him up for her next album cover.

Wayne Thiebaud’s 1970 gouache painting Study for Gumball Machine is remarkable for its vivid two-dimensionality, reducing the spherical nature of its subject to colors and mostly straight lines. Dimension is drawn in, but Thiebaud’s line and color combinations create an aura around the gumball machine rather than convey its seeming tactile immediacy.

Thiebaud’s study lacks the glossy shellac that drips across the other works in “Sweet Tooth.” It is a useful reminder that we can’t always get what we want. 

BILL JENKINS: LIDS AND DOTS

Through Nov. 13

Jancar Jones Gallery

965 Mission, Suite 120, SF

(415) 281-3770

www.jancarjones.com

SETH KOEN: NARWHELLIAN

Through Dec. 11

Gregory Lind Gallery

49 Geary, Fourth Floor, SF

(415) 296-9661

www.gregorylindgallery.com

SWEET TOOTH

Nov. 4–Dec. 31

Scott Richards Contemporary Art

251 Post, Suite 425, SF

(415) 788-5588

www.srcart.com

 

 

Dancing with the dark

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FILM Kazuo Ohno, who died this past June at 103, probably received the broadest exposure of his long career when Antony and the Johnsons chose Naoya Ikegami’s black and white Ohno portrait as the cover art for their 2009 album The Crying Light. Shot in profile, wearing a black dress with a cluster of white flowers pinned in his hair, the visibly aged Ohno — his head tilted back, mouth slightly agape, and hands thrust forward like twisted branches — appears frozen somewhere between ecstasy and his last breath.

The image captures something of the powerful ambiguity of Ohno’s solo performances, in which he frequently embodied female characters. Beneath the What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? pancake makeup and vintage rags, Ohno — one of the founders of the postwar Japanese dance-theater form butoh — could still convey great tenderness as well as sorrow, and that it was possible to laugh in the dark while struggling through it. It is Ohno’s undeniable humanism that courses through Yerba Buena Center for the Arts’ retrospective of films documenting his life and practice, with an accompanying performance run by acclaimed butoh troupe Sankai Juku.

Known for its evocations of darkness and decay, butoh came about as an artistic response to the horrors of the World War II, horrors Ohno had experienced first-hand when he was held for two years as a prisoner of war in China and New Guinea while serving as an intelligence officer in the Imperial Japanese Army. Ohno’s first solo performance, Jellyfish Dance, given in Tokyo in 1949, was a reflection on the burials at sea he witnessed on board a vessel bearing captives to be repatriated to Japan. Ohno was 43 years old.

In the audience that night was the much younger artist Tatsumi Hijikata, who was entranced by Ohno’s performance. The two spent the next several years developing what was to become known as Ankoku Butoh-ha, “the dance of darkness.” Although Hijikata choreographed many of Ohno’s performances from the 1960s on, he became known for his grotesque and boundary-pushing performance style, whereas Ohno developed a more introspective, sometimes even delicate approach.

Ohno was born on Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island. His life changed in 1926 when, while still a student at the prestigious Japan Athletic College in Tokyo, he attended a performance by the Argentinean flamenco dancer Antonia Mercé, who would become the subject of his 1977 magnum opus Admiring La Argentina. Soon after he began to study with the modern dance pioneers Baku Ishii and Takaya Eguchi, while teaching physical education at a private Christian school in Yokohama — a position he held until the 1970s when he momentarily retired from public performance.

Although his choice of characters and costuming frequently drew attention to his aging body, Ohno was an indomitable performer. Even when he was confined to a wheelchair, late in his life, Ohno was still determined to use his body as a means of expression. The documentary An Offering to Heaven focuses on a remarkable 2002 collaborative performance with ikebana master Yukio Nakegawa, in which Ohno brought to life a dream he had in which a million tulips were cast from a helicopter, by dancing under a shower of flower petals and rain using only his upper body.

When he could no longer use his hands, he would dance with his eyes. On his death bed, he claimed that he would continue to dance with his breath until he exhaled for the final time. 

“Remembering Kazuo Ohno”

Nov. 4-21, $6–$8

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

701 Mission, SF

(415) 978-ARTS

www.ybca.org

 

The Good Shepard

0

arts@sfbg.com

This is doubtless no news to people who have TV reception, but I was disappointed to recently learn Dax Shepard is a regular on the NBC series Parenthood. Which is probably fine. But for a few minutes there it looked like he was going to become a movie star, and now that seems less immediately likely. Shepard is a fine example of talent deserving and getting breaks that boost them to the B list, but no further. (For proof life isn’t fair thataway, observe that just because she lucked into Knocked Up — a movie Shepard cameoed in, probably just for fun — Katherine Heigl now gets movies built around her.)

Shepard is goofy, off-kilter’dly attractive, versatile, capable of being subtle (yet funny) in broad circumstances. He’s shown those qualities in Without a Paddle(2004), Employee of the Month (2006), Baby Mama (2008), and When in Rome. He starred in three barely released to theaters: Mike Judge’s Idiocracy(2006), which has a cult following; Bob “Mr. Show” Odenkirk’s Let’s Go to Prison (2006), which deserves one but has a reputation for world-class suckage instead; and Smother (2008) with Diane Keaton, which nobody defends. You see the problem: this is not a winning resume. Ergo, Shepard is back where he started (as Ashton Kutcher’s Punk’d minion), on TV every week.

Except this week, when he’s also at a theater near you in The Freebie. This is one of those actors-making-work projects that often turn out badly, because creating a movie to act in yourself is seldom an impetus from which greatness springs. Then again, writer-director-star Katie Aselton has spent years grooming for greatness — let us note in 1995 she snagged both Miss Maine Teen and the Jantzen Swimsuit Competition.

And in fact, The Freebie is pretty good. Not as good as Breaking Upwards, the somewhat similar New York City indie earlier this year. But among movies about long-term couples pondering Seeing Other People, it’s up there. Annie (Aselton) and Darren (Shepard) have been married seven years, in Los Angeles yet, and still they hang out and have fun, just the two of them, all the time. (We never learn what either does for a living.) It has not escaped notice, however, that their sex life has receded to the point where there’s no answer to “When did we last … ?” because no one can remember. “I still get major boners for you,” Darren reassures. “They’re just, like, snuggle boners.”

When at a dinner party Darren fervently urges a friend to sow all wild oats lest she meet Mr. Right and be doomed to never have sex with anyone else again, this low ebb becomes an issue. Should they do something about it? Perhaps by choosing a single, specific date on which they are free to (separately) do somebody else? Then return home refreshed, newly appreciative of and horny toward each other? Uh-huh.

This plan is presented so stealthily by Darren — and Shepard is one of those actors whose characters’ thought processes leak haplessly through his googly eyes, rendering fibs and scheming hilarious — that by the time it’s agreed on, Annie thinks it’s her idea. Was there ever a romantic comedy in which mutual cheating turned out a good idea? It doesn’t here, either. But getting to the “We’ve made a terrible, terrible mistake” part proves loose, amusing, credible, and briefly dead serious. (That serious bit proves that the ingratiating Shepard can do mirthless, ugly, and abusive when necessary.)

The Freebie was largely improvised. Aselton is used to such processes, being married to and sometimes cast by mumblecore leader Mark Duplass (2005’sThe Puffy ChairCyrus). Like many m-core movies, The Freebie — which otherwise feels too eventful to be classified as such — looks like crap. But Aselton gets a lot of other things right, from the regular-people L.A. milieu to perfect mixtape soundtrack choices by artists you’ve never heard of.

All the performances are excellent, the director herself playing naturalistic straight-woman to Shepard’s toned-down yet still slightly surreal mix of sly, snarky, and spacey. File his career next to that of Steve Zahn, Seann William Scott, or David Arquette, to name other guys who may seldom or never get movies built around them. They should, though. 

THE FREEBIE opens Fri/29 in Bay Area theaters.

 

 

 

 

Hey boo

0

marke@sfbg.com

Time to slice some holes in a bedbugged sheet and hack through this year’s Phantasmatorium of Flabberghastly Fantastic Halloween Parties. Our chilling soundtrack is provided by terror-iffic local post-electro haunter oOoOO, who’s being broomed into the contentious new witch house subgenre, but who sends his own unique shiver down the spines of my stiletto eyeballs. You go, ghoul. (That joke kills me every time.)

Find oOoOO’s ghoulish tunes at www.myspace.com/wkwkwkwkwkwkwkw

POPSCREAM

Long-running 18+ mainstay Popscene unleashes the horror, the horror of Brit pop bliss on a suspecting crowd of young fabs. DJs Omar and Aaron Axelsen bloody the decks — and this is the official warm-up party for the huge Spookfest at Cow Palace (www.cowpalace.com), so you know there’ll be special guests. Thu/28, 9 p.m., $10. 330 Ritch, SF. www.popscene-sf.com

DEBASER HALLOWEEN

The city’s best alternative retro-’90s club is reaching into the mothballs and pulling out the flannel and the neon — look out it’s gonna be a warehouse party theme! That’s right, rave meets grunge for all you young freaks. DJ Chris Orr makes sure it’s all quality. OMG free Glo-Stiks while they last. Dress up, peeps. Fri/29, 9 p.m., $5. 111 Minna, www.111minnagallery.com

DEATH BY DISCO

Calling all pink furry freaks and majik man-moths — inimitably beastly Burner crew Pink Mammoth hosts a night of chunky techno with an arsenic lace of dubstep. Phantasmic DJs Gravity and Jdub Ya whip your wool into a frenzy. Fri/29, 9 p.m., $5. Shine, 1337 Mission, SF. www.pinkmammoth.org

ICEE HOT HALLOWEEN

The scariest thing about this party is how good the music’s gonna be: Ghosts on Tape, L-Vis 1990, SBTRKT, Rollie Fingers, and Disco Shawn bring the down-low future funky for a cute crowd that creeps. Fri/29, 10 p.m., $10. Elbo Room, 647 Valencia, SF. www.elbo.com

NINJA TUNE XX

Everybody freak out! The 20th anniversary party for headtrip-tastic label Ninja Tune comes equipped with massive heavy hitters Amon Tobin, Kid Koala, DJ Food, Eskmo, and tons more — this isn’t necessarily a Halloween party, but it’ll tear you up nonetheless. Fri/29, 9 p.m.–4a.m., free with RSVP at website. 103 Harriet, SF. www.1015.com/onezerothree

ONRA

French future funkster who Frankensteins J Dilla slickness, Dam Funk sizzle, and Flying Lotus sass performs live with Buddy Sativa on synths. Boo-gielicious all-vinyl Sweater Funk crew warms up the operating tables. Fri/29, 10 p.m.–late, $10. SOM, 2925 16th St., SF. www.som-bar.com

GO BOO!

It’s a disco bloodbath, hawney. Legendary old-school disco and hi-NRG DJs Glenn Riviera, Andre Lucero, and Steve Fabus join Sergio Fedasz for an amped up version of monthly mirrorball extravaganza Go Bang! Sat/30, 9 p.m.–late, $5 (free until 10) Deco Lounge, 510 Larkin, SF. www.decosf.com

BIG TOP HALLOWEENIE

It’s a major electro-pop sausagefest (with a fab crowd redeeming the buzzsaw tunes), as this monthly circus-themed queer hoo-haw stuffs it up your Motel Hellhole. Highlights: Drag rapper Kalisto and witchy mama Mutha Chuka perform, and Tweeka Turner hosts a haunted crackhouse upstairs. Sat/30, 9 p.m.–late, $5. Club Eight, 1151 Folsom, SF. www.joshuajpresents.com

BLOW UP HAUNTED MANSION

Arise, ye amped-up ghosts of electro bangers, throw on your uber-stylish dancing togs, and make the scene, as the raucous Blow Up crew conjures its annual Halloween bash. Plus: full blown costume contest. Sexytime, sexytime. Sat/30, 9 p.m.–3 a.m., $10–$20. Kelly’s Mission Rock, 917 Terry Francois Blvd., SF.www.blowupsf.com

DAS KLUB

Um, how could we argue with a “20,000 Homos Under the Sea” theme (insert seamen crack here). Bathhouse disco captain DJ Bus Station John joins forces with queer punk Hey Sailor crew to swab your alternaqueer poop deck. Sat/30, 10 p.m., $5 in costume, $7 without. Das boo! Club 93, 93 Ninth, SF.

HAUNTED TEMPLE

Local dance-rock fixture Jaswho? celebrates the release of his electrofied new album Nudroid Musik by performing live at this hair-raising affair, with backup from DJs Paul Hemming, Brian Salazar, and many more as Temple becomes a haunted graveyard. Sat/30, 10 p.m., $30. Temple, 540 Howard, SF.www.templesf.com

LESBO BLOODBATH IV

Sapphic spooks and gore-geous lesboos haunt the girlicious Lexington Club, with rockin’ DJs Jenna Riot and LA’s Miss Pop. Killin ’em Kelsey hosts the costume contest for amazing prizes, and I’m totally going as Vagina Den-Tatas, grrrl. Sat/30, 9 p.m., free. Lexington Club, 3161 19th St., SF.www.lexingtonclub.com

TABOO HALLOWEEN EXTRAVAGANZA

Soulful house godfather David Harness wowed the pants off ’em at the Fag Fridays reunion a couple weeks ago, follow him deeper at this installment of his lovely mixed Taboo monthly. Now with more spooky! Sat/30, 9 p.m., $10. Eve Lounge, 575 Howard, SF. www.eveloungesf.com

HALLOWEEN: A PARTY!

The name may be laughable generic (irony kills!) but the shindig’s anything but/butt: Peaches Christ and Trannyshack’s Heklina bring you a nightmarish night of outsized drag gutsiness, with tons of psycho performers and special guest Julie Brown. “Homecoming Queen’s Got A Gun” — and she gonna pop yo ass. Sun/31, 9:30 p.m.–3 a.m., $20 advance. DNA Lounge, 375 11th St., SF. www.dnalounge.com

I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST COCKTAILGATE

Suppositori “Skeletor” Spelling and her kooky coven of trash-drag underlings happily horrify you with a scary movie-themed night of pustulent performances and Satan-knows-what-else. Bring a towel and scream in it. Sun/31, 9 p.m., $4. Truck, 1900 Folsom, SF. www.trucksf.com

 

 

Cash not care

5

sarah@sfbg.com

With the general election just days away, campaign disclosure reports show that downtown interests are spending huge amounts of money to create a more conservative San Francisco Board of Supervisors and to pass Proposition B, Public Defender Jeff Adachi’s effort to make city workers pay more for their pensions and health insurance.

Much of the spending is coming from sources hostile to programs designed to protect tenants in the city, including rent control and limits on the conversion on rental housing units to condominiums. An ideological flip of the board, which currently has a progressive majority, could also have big implications on who becomes the next mayor if Gavin Newsom wins his race for lieutenant governor.

At press time, downtown groups were far outspending their progressive counterparts through a series of independent expenditure committees, most of which are controlled by notorious local campaign attorney Jim Sutton (see “The political puppeteer,” 2/4/04) in support of supervisorial candidates Mark Farrell in District 2, Theresa Sparks in District 6, Scott Wiener in District 8, and Steve Moss in District 10.

Prop. B has also been a big recipient of downtown’s cash, although labor groups have pushed back strongly with their own spending to try to kill the measure, which is their main target in this election.

But the biggest spender in this election appears to be Thomas J. Coates, 56, a major investor in apartments and mobile homes and a demonstrated enemy of rent control. He alarmed progressive groups by giving at least $250,000 to groups that support Farrell, Sparks, Wiener, Moss, and Prop. G, legislation that Sup. Sean Elsbernd placed on the ballot to cut transit operator wages and change Muni work rules.

Although Coates declines to identify with a political party on his voter registration, he donated $2,000 to President George W. Bush in 2004. More significantly, he was the biggest individual donor in California’s November 2008 election, when he contributed $1 million to Prop. 98, which sought to repeal rent control in California and limit the government’s right to acquire private property by eminent domain.

Coates, who is also a yachting enthusiast and sits on San Francisco’s America’s Cup Organizing Committee (ACOC), donated $100,000 on Oct. 20 for Farrell, $45,000 for Sparks, $45,000 for Moss, and $10,000 for Wiener through third-party independent expenditure committees such as the Alliance for Jobs and Sustainable Growth.

The group has already received thousands of dollars in soft money from the San Francisco Police Officer’s Association, the Building Operators and Managers Association, the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, and SEIU-United Healthcare Workers, which supports a high-end hospital and housing complex on Cathedral Hill.

Those downtown groups have spent close to $200,000 on English and Chinese language mailers and robo calls in support of Sparks, Wiener, and Moss in hopes of securing a right-wing shift on the board.

Progressive groups including California Nurses Association, the San Francisco Tenants Union, and the SF Labor Council have tried to fight back in the supervisorial races. While downtown groups spent more than $100,000 promoting Sparks in D6, labor and progressive groups spent $13,000 opposing Sparks and $72,000 supporting progressive D6 candidate Debra Walker.

In D8, progressive groups that include teachers, nurses, and transit riders have outspent the downtown crowd, plunking down $40,000 to oppose Wiener and $90,000 to support progressive candidate Rafael Mandelman. So far, downtown groups have spent about $100,000 to support Wiener.

But in D10, the district with the biggest concentration of low-income families and communities of color, downtown interests spent $52,000 supporting Moss and $5,000 on Lynette Sweet while the Tenants Union was only able to summon $4,000 against Moss. The SF Building and Construction Trades Council spent $4,000 on Malia Cohen.

But that’s small potatoes compared to what downtown’s heavy-hitters are spending. The so-called Coalition for Sensible Government, which got a $100,000 donation from the San Francisco Association of Realtors, has already collectively spent $96,000 in support of Sparks, Wiener, Moss, Sweet, Rebecca Prozan in D8, Prop. G and Prop. L (sit-lie) and to oppose Prop. M (the progressive plan for police foot patrols) and Prop. N (a transfer tax on properties worth more than $5 million).

The Coalition for Responsible Growth, founded by Anthony Guilfoyle, the father of Mayor Gavin Newsom’s ex-wife, Kimberly Guilfoyle (who now works as a Fox News personality), has received $85,000 from the Committee on Jobs, $60,000 from the Realtors, and $35,000 from SF Forward. It has focused on spending in support of Prop. G and producing a voter guide for Plan C, the conservative group that supports Sparks, Wiener, Sweet, and Moss

Coates’ donations raise questions about his preferred slate’s views on tenant and landlord rights. A principal in Jackson Square Properties, which specializes in apartments and mobile homes, Coates is the founding partner of Arroya & Coates, a commercial real estate firm whose clients include Walgreens, Circuit City, and J.P. Morgan Investment Management. In 2008, when he backed Prop. 98, Coates told the San Francisco Chronicle that rent control “doesn’t work.”

Ted Gullicksen, director of the SF Tenants Union (SFTU), which has collectively spent $30,000 opposing Sparks, Wiener, and Moss, is disturbed that Coates spent so much in support of this trio.

“Coates was the main funder of Prop. 98,” Gullicksen explained. “His property is in Southern California. He’s pumping a lot of money into supervisors. And he clearly has an agenda that we fear Moss, Sparks, and Wiener share — which is to make the existence of rent control an issue they will take up in the future if elected to the board.”

That threat got progressive and labor groups to organize an Oct. 26 protest outside Coates’ San Francisco law office, with invitations to the event warning, “Be there or be evicted!”

Sparks, Moss, and Wiener all claim to support rent control, despite their support by someone who seeks to abolish it. “I answered such on my questionnaire to the SFTU, which chose to ignore it,” Sparks told the Guardian via text message. “In addition, I’ve been put out of apartments twice in SF, once due to the Ellis Act. They ignore that fact as well.”

Records show that in May 2009, Moss — who bought a rent-controlled apartment building near Dolores Park in D8 for $1.6 million and he lived there from the end of 2007 to the 2010, when he decided to run for office in D10 — served a “notice to quit or cure” on a tenant who complained about the noise from Moss’ apartment. Ultimately, Moss settled without actually evicting his tenant.

“I read about Coats’ [sic] contribution in Bay Citizen,” Moss wrote in an e-mail to the Guardian. “This donation was made to an independent expenditure committee over which I have no control and almost no knowledge. I have stated throughout the campaign, and directly to the Tenants Union, that I believe current rent control policy should remain unmolested.”

But Moss is with downtown on other key issues. He supports Newsom’s sit-lie legislation and the rabidly anti-tenant Small Property Owners Association, whose endorsement he previously called a “mistake.”

Yet Moss, who sold a condo on Potrero Hill in 2007 for the same price he paid for the entire building in 2001, seems to voice more sympathy for property owners than renters, who make up about two-thirds of city residents. He told us, “Landlords feel that they are responsible for maintaining costly older buildings and that they are not provided with ways to upgrade their units in ways that share costs with tenants.”

Another realm where downtown seems to be trying to flip the Board of Supervisors on a significant agenda item is on health care, particularly the California Pacific Medical Center proposal to build a high-end hospital and housing project on Cathedral Hill in exchange for rebuilding St. Luke’s Hospital in the Mission.

The project has divided local labor unions. UHW supports the project and a slate of candidates that its parent union, Service Employees International Union, is opposing through SEIU Local 1021, which is supporting more progressive candidates. The California Nurses Association also opposes the project and candidates such as Wiener who back it.

“A recent mailer by CNA falsely says that CPMC is closing St. Luke’s and Davies,” CPMC CEO Warren Browner recently complained in a letter to the Board of Supervisors. “We are not. We are committed to building a state-of-the-art, high-quality replacement hospital at St. Luke’s and continuing to upgrade Davies.”

But the CPMC rebuild is contingent on the board approving the Cathedral Hill project. So the CNA mailer focused on what could happen if the city rejects the CPMC project: “We could lose two San Francisco hospitals if Scott Wiener is elected supervisor.”

SEIU-UHW’s alliance with downtown groups and its use of member dues to attack progressive candidates places it at odds with SEIU Local 1021 and the SF Labor Council, which has endorsed Janet Reilly in D2, Walker in D6, Mandelman in D8, and Cohen (first choice) and Chris Jackson (second choice) in D10.

“We’re really disappointed that there are labor organizations that feel they have to team up with Golden Gate Restaurant Association, which is against health care [it challenged the city’s Healthy San Francisco program all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court], and with CPMC, which is working to keep nurses from joining a union,” Labor Council Director Tim Paulson said. “This alliance does not reflect what the San Francisco labor movement is about.”

Paulson said that the Labor Council values “sharing the wealth … So we don’t want Measure B [Jeff Adachi’s pension reform] or K [Newsom’s hotel tax loophole closure, which has a poison pill that would kill Prop. J, the hotel tax increase pushed by labor] or L [Newsom’s sit-lie legislation],” Paulson said.

CPMC’s plan is headed to the board in the next couple months, although Sup. David Campos is proposing that the city create a health services master plan that would determine what city residents actually need. Hospital projects would then be considered based on that health needs assessment, rather than making it simply a land use decision as it is now.

Moss told the Guardian that UHW endorsed him because of his positions on politicians and unions. “I agreed that politicians should get not involved in union politics,” Moss said. “The United Healthcare Workers seem to be a worthy group,” he added. “All they said was that they wanted to make sure that they had access.”

But CNA member Eileen Prendiville, who has been a registered nurse for 33 years, says she was horrified to see UHW members recently oppose Campos’ healthcare legislation. “I was shocked that they were siding with management,” she said.

Prendiville believes UHW is obliged to support CPMC’s Cathedral Hill plan, which is why it is meddling in local politics. In his letter to the board, Browner noted that his company and its parent company, Sutter Health, can’t legally do so directly. “The fact is that CPMC and Sutter Health are 501(c)(3) not-for-profit, nonpartisan organizations, and we neither endorse nor contribute to candidates,” Browner wrote.

“When UHW settled its contract with its members [as part of its fight with the rival National Union of Healthcare Workers], they had to publicly lobby for Cathedral Hill,” Prendiville claimed.

SEIU 1021 member Ed Kinchley, who works in the emergency room at SF General Hospital, is also furious that UHW is pouring money into downtown’s candidates and measures. “UHW isn’t participating in the Labor Council, it’s doing its own thing,” he said.

Kinchley said UHW, which is currently in trusteeship after a power struggle with its former elected leaders, is being controlled by SEIU’s national leaders, not its local membership, which explains why it’s aligned with downtown groups that have long been the enemy of labor.

“Sutter wants a monopoly on private healthcare and people like Rafael Mandelman and Debra Walker have been strong supporters of public healthcare,” Kinchley said. “I want someone who can straight-up say, here’s what’s important for families in San Francisco, especially something as important as healthcare. But it sounds like UHW is teaming up with the Chamber and supporting people who are not progressive.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Citizen’s Band

0

paulr@sfbg.com

DINE One of the revelations in Peter Mayles’ cycle of enchanting memoirs about life in Provence (A Year in ProvenceToujours ProvenceEncore Provence) is that some of the best food in France is to be found at truck stops. This stands to reason, since truckers are a migratory species whose survival depends on knowing where to eat — and French truckers spend their days zooming around France, a land where food and wine are as much a part of the national identity as the language itself.

Citizen’s Band (which opened in August on a semi-sketchy stretch of Folsom St. in SoMa) isn’t quite a truck stop and it certainly isn’t in France, but it does have, stashed above the door, a collection of vintage CB radios, the kind whose tinny crackle helped drive C.W. McCall’s 1975 truckers’ anthem, “Convoy.” And it is, in its hipster-city way, a convincing contemporary version of a roadside diner: it has a long counter, zinc-topped tables, harsh lighting, and plenty of din, all at the edge of an insanely busy street.

But the place doesn’t serve Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, despite a plethora of hipsters, and the staff all seem to be relations of Flo, the cheeky woman from the Progressive Insurance TV ads. Indeed, beer places a distant second as a libation to wine, which is offered in a variety of interesting pours listed on the huge chalkboard that backs the counter. So maybe we’re not so far from France after all. Or somewhere in Europe. Lately I’ve noticed a small but definite bloom on wine lists of reds produced in German-speaking lands, and Citizen’s Band offers a glass of Blaufränkisch, an Austrian red, for $7.50. Our (female) server described it as “feminine,” not a customary description for wine. To me, the wine was light and spicy, like a nero d’avola after some heavy core training. Could this be what she meant?

If a convoy of hungry, discerning French truckers came rolling up to Citizen’s Band, what would they find, apart from trouble in parking? American food, subtly reimagined and cooked to the highest standard. Chef Chris Beerman’s menu includes elements of what we might call comfort cuisine, including macaroni and cheese and a burger with fries, but it also soars into the higher airs of the gastronomic ether — and even the homey stuff is enriched by a close attention to detail.

The mac ‘n’cheese ($8) was made with fontina and a Sonoma dry-jack fonduta, which helped permeate the pasta tubes. I didn’t like the fried onion rings on top; they were crunchy but discordant. A plate of humble franks and beans ($8) was stylishly reinvented with grilled sweet Italian sausage from Paul Bertolli’s Fra’ Mani in Berkeley, surrounded by butter beans (from Iacopi Farms) in a rich sauce of oregano, pecorino romano, and (to judge from the glossiness) butter. And how many diners, or truck stops, would toss a salad of baby arugula leaves ($8) with diced peaches (for deep sweetness), almond brittle (for sweet crunch), Point Reyes blue cheese (for rich bite), and a huckleberry vinaigrette for a final fillip of piquancy and (deep purple) color?

The burger ($13, plus $2 for cheese) was quite a production. The beef was kobe, from Snake River Farms; the bun, challah (which is pretty much brioche, for purposes of richness). Also aioli and house-made burger pickles and — better than either of those items, good as they were — no raw onion. Best of all, the kitchen actually grilled the meat as ordered, to medium rare, as recommended by Flo. A medium-rare burger means a juicy burger, and juiciness makes all the difference. A dry burger is a dead burger. The stack of fries on the side was excellent, still warm and crisp from the deep fryer.

The roasted red trout ($20) looked like a pair of cantaloupe slices slipped atop an heirloom-tomato panzanella, with a scattering of garlicky Monterey Bay calamari and some uncredited braised greens. The fish was lovely, but it was the panzanella that commanded our attention: it was colored by several shades of cherry tomatoes and made crunchy by croutons toasted gold. Panzanella is summer on a plate, but it’s also, at least traditionally, frugality on a plate, a way of rejuvenating bread that’s past its prime. To find it deployed with such elegant discipline here was a delight. Encore!

CITIZEN’S BAND

Dinner: Tues.–-Sat., 5:30–11 p.m.

Lunch: Mon.–Fri., 11:30 a.m.–2 p.m.

Brunch: Sat., 10 a.m.–2 p.m.

1198 Folsom, SF

(415) 556-4901

www.citizensbandsf.com

Beer and wine

MC/V

Noisy

Wheelchair accessible

 

Paradise lost

0

arts@sfbg.com

DANCE Expanding like a landscape, the view into ODC’s theater from its narrow hallway entrance has become a theatrical experience. Passing through, you can’t help but be in a good mood. For the site’s official opening program, ODC Theater Director Rob Bailis invited two local choreographers of quite different temperament to create their own scenery. Planned or not, Yannis Adoniou and Ben Levy explored similar territories — the debt that each of them owes to his heritage as an artist and human being. Adoniou is of Greek and Levy of Jewish Persian descent. Neither lapsed into sentimentality; the two pieces were fierce and dark, and each connected like a powerful punch.

Adoniou based Kunst-Stoff’s Rebetiko on the underground music that Greek emigrants brought with them when they were forcefully expelled from Turkey in the early part of the 20th century. It’s a work in which haunting memories and contemporary pain flow through choreography that whimpers, rebels, and howls yet finishes on a note of peace, or at least resignation. At 45 minutes, Rebetiko is a stretch for its material. Nonetheless, it is perhaps Adoniou’s most integrated and finest work to date. Marina Fukushima, Chin-chin Hsu, Daniel Howerton, Daiane Lopes da Silva, and Julia Stiefel were the ferocious dancers; Catherine Clambanevea the excellent singer.

Adoniou plunges his refugees into a sea of darkness (fabulous lighting by Lisa Pinkham) and ominous city sounds (music and songs by Minos Matsas). They struggle, hide, escape, and survive — barely. Whips lash, ropes imprison, bodies are pulled to ground. Lopez da Silva whirls herself into a fury like a goddess of revenge and Howerton runs, hunted by invisible pursuers. Hsu seems stunned, frozen in deep plié or doubled over. Yet out of the darkness emerges a ray of hope, a tentative Greek folk dance duet for Howerton and Fukushima. Still, at the end he collapses — a man overcome, a culture destroyed.

Setting off the gloom is a luminous banner that spills onto the stage. Under Pinkham’s masterful lighting, it variously suggests turbulent memories, a place of safety, a paradise lost. It also pays fine tribute to rebetiko’s culture of shadow puppetry.

In Our Body Remembers, LEVYdance strips away the layers that have accumulated in our bodies, sending us back into an inchoate state of being. If I understood choreographer Levy correctly, he looks at this unspooling with a mix of trepidation, bemusement, and awe. Sarah Phykitt’s lighting and set divides the stage into various areas of activity, making fine use of ODC’s new space. Kardash (Marty Huerta and Murat Bayhan) create the aural landscape.

Initially Our Body uses an epigrammatic, quasi-narrative structure, out of which bursts an increasingly physical flood of energy that borders on the violent. Drawing turbulent emotion and motion from Persian dance’s curvy lines and gentle undulations seems like an act of foolish bravado. Yet Levy succeeds admirably. A charming dance for hands pays tribute to Middle Eastern and Asian traditions of using fingers as something more than the end of an arm.

The dancers (Aline Wachsmuth, Ali Schechter, Morgelyn Tenbeth Ward, and Bianca Cabrera) are credited with movement. Levy provides the direction and — no doubt — the drive. My one reservation about Our Body pertains to the writing scene in which Wachsmuth gives and denies written cues about her body’s function. It didn’t add enough to the piece’s thrust.

The tempest starts slowly. Little tremors shake these women as they pass snippets of paper — gossip? memory? — to Wachsmuth, who becomes increasingly agitated. Putting heels on the barefoot dancers, Our Body hits high gear, sending the dancers down the runway, primping and posing, but with a decidedly aggressive note. When they begin tearing clothes off of each other, this is no mere catfight. It’s anger, chaos, and violence at its most extreme, and it’s frightening. Finally, stripped down with feathery snowflakes falling on them, the dancers awaken into a dream state. I couldn’t decide whether Levy was sarcastic or lyrical.

KUNST-STOFF AND LEVYDANCE

Thurs/28–Sat/30, 8 p.m.; $15–$18

ODC Theater

3153 17th St., SF

(415) 863-9834

www.odcdance.org

 

 

The mad hatter

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le.chicken.farmer@gmail.com

CHEAP EATS I had a coffee date after work in Alameda. He wasn’t feeling well and wondered about chicken soup. I knew exactly what to tell him, and he invited me to come along, but got it to go.

“Do you want a drink?” he said, while we were waiting.

I liked the guy alright, but don’t drink before dinner.

When his soup came, he walked me to my bike and gave me a hug.

“Let me know what you think of the soup,” I said. The place was La Piñata, but it said something else on it. It still said La Piñata, but it just also said I-forget-what. Some other name. So maybe it was La Piñata, and maybe not. But, hey, I get sick too, and what if my favorite bowl of chicken soup in Alameda is not what it used to be?

These were the thoughts I was thinking. Honestly, I knew I wasn’t going to see the guy again, datewise. I just wanted to know about the soup. In retrospect, of course I should have just ordered a bowl, to stay, and sent him packing.

I remember why I didn’t. I had to get to Deevee’s house in downtown Oakland to pick up/borrow my/her pink cowboy hat before she went to sleep. This was important because I was going camping the next day, and Deevee goes to sleep early. So no matter how hungry I was (very very), I had to suck it up, bike to BART, BART to downtown Oakland, bike to Deevee’s, and bike back toward BART on an empty stomach.

All for the sake of a pink cowboy hat. What can I say? I have a huge fucking head, and this is one of only two hats I have found in my life that fits it. It’s good to have a cowboy hat when you go camping. Keeps the sun off your ears, the rain out of your eyes, and the pine needles out of your hair — and if it’s pink it might even make you popular with park rangers.

Just a thought.

Thinking which, I forsook a bowl of sit-down soup to get to Deevee’s before bedtime (hers). Then, on my way back to BART, I thought I would duck into the first restaurant I saw for a quick little bite of something-or-other.

Binh Minh Quan. Vietnamese. Downtown Oakland just a couple blocks shy of BART on 12th Street. It was after 9 p.m. so the place was more than half-empty.

Me, I rarely want to eat in a hurry, but I do, on occasion, have low blood sugar meltdowns that — as many of my friends will attest — can get a little dicey. Usually I manage to keep the dice in my head. I just quietly go crazy, lose my sense of self and direction, then, glazed and psychotic, stagger to the nearest refrigerator and eat every single thing in it in 30 seconds or less. Blink, everything’s okay again, give or take a little heartburn.

I’ve learned to stave off these attacks by eating five meals a day and snacking in between. But sometimes when I’m at work, dating over coffee, or on an urgent hat-related mission — not to mention all three back-to-back — shit happens.

Wouldn’t you know it? The cute little staff of Binh Minh Quan, on this particular evening, was entirely overwhelmed by a party of seven. It took them almost 15 minutes to take my order, and another 20 or so to bring me my bun. Meanwhile, I tried to distract myself by talking local politics to my hat in a Cookie Monster voice, but under my breath.

Finally! The bun was of course great, but no way is this my New Favorite Restaurant. No. My New Favorite Restaurant is the guy at El Rio who makes fry bread, or Indian tacos, on Monday nights. His name is Rocky, he recently transplanted himself here from Arizona, and I think he might be Apache or else maybe I got that wrong.

Any case, I’ve run into him twice, once on the sidewalk and once on the El Rio patio, and both times he made my day. His savory fry bread, stacked with beans, cheese, and onions, transports me back to Delta’s Depression Dough, and breakfast.

And that’s a great place to start. 

ROCKY THE FRY BREAD GUY @ EL RIO

Mon. 8 p.m. until he runs out of dough

3158 Mission, SF

(415) 282-3325

Cash only

Full bar

 

 

alt.sex.column: Straitlaced

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Dear Readers:

We were lately discussing objects and outfits that make you feel sexier and more attractive, as opposed to fetish items, inanimate stuff you’re attracted to.

I don’t have too much faith in the power of random dress-up to recharge a flagging relationship’s batteries, but I do believe you can tap into your own image of an ideal sexual self and recharge from there. This is not at all the same thing as “If I were thinner (bustier, better hung, had nicer ears …), I’d be able to have the kind of sex I actually want.” That sort of self-judging will just hold you back. And since hardly anyone ever achieves anything like their ideal body, it’s basically just a way to keep yourself from ever enjoying anything.

Donning a costume (sexy underwear or whatever) that you hope will interest a partner is nice, but dressing for yourself will always be more reliable, just as the masturbater needn’t waste time telling him/herself to do it a little harder or to spend a bit more time on foreplay.

It’s about finding a mode of dressing or grooming that expresses — to you — a way you want to be perceived, yes, but most of all the way you want to feel and behave. I’m most intrigued by the way that dress outside the bedroom can cross-pollinate, to positive effect, with sexual self-image. It’s entirely possible to go out dressed, quite respectably, as your secret sexual self. And doing so, not necessarily even on a date, can bring considerable zing back home with you. Think butch or flirty shoes/boots, garter belts and stockings, leather jackets. And corsets.

Corsets, you say? Are people really wearing corsets — again? — and isn’t compressing your internal organs like that kind of unhealthy? People are, and no it isn’t.

And no, ladies of yore did not used to have a rib removed (without, you will recall, anesthesia or antibiotics). Neither are you likely, now or then, to crack ribs, faint, or die of the vapors.

But you can hurt yourself, usually while “tight-lacing” — pulling the thing as tight as you can all at once — rather than “waist-training,” gradually reshaping your body through steady compression. Don’t.

As a visual, the appeal is hardly obscure, harking back as it (presumably) does to the savannah and the instinctual and apparently universal appeal of the small waist.

Do I fear that sometimes wearing a corset (or boots or items generally meant for another gender, or any other signifier you care to name) will have a negative, rebound-y affect on the wearer when not wearing it? No more, I suppose, than I worry that using a vibrator will make it impossible to orgasm without. Rather, I think that conceiving of oneself as the sort of person who would wear a signifier of sexual self-image gives a boost that can carry over easily until the next time one has the opportunity.

And yes, you can do it with the corset on. Can you ever.

Love,

Andrea

 

Email Andrea at andrea@mail.altsexcolumn.com

PG&E fast and loose on repairs, tight-lipped on info

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It was clear at several times during the Oct. 19 Senate committee hearing that Pacific Gas & Electric Co. had done a poor job of communicating with those affected by the pipeline explosion that brought catastrophe to San Bruno, a practice that is in keeping with its longstanding pattern of secrecy.

Kathy DeRenzi, a survivor who testified at the hearing, noted that she had written several letters to PG&E since the event, addressed to Vice President of Gas Operations Kirk Johnson. “I haven’t heard back from anyone,” she said. DeRenzi also noted that she has been in close contact with many affected residents since the blaze, and very few had received notification that the hearing would be held. “There would’ve been a lot more people here” had they known, she said.

San Bruno Mayor Jim Ruane also complained of the utility’s lack of communication. In the weeks following the blaze, he said, the company started a repurchasing program for residents whose homes had been damaged — but never mentioned it to city officials. “The city was never informed,” Ruane said. “It’s kind of a mixed message when we find out from the media about this program.”

Weeks earlier, the company continued to hide crucial information about its top 100 priority repairs until intense public pressure forced it to release the list. A recent article in the San Francisco Chronicle noted that two key PG&E employees who were on duty the night of the explosion declined to be interviewed by federal investigators about the pressure spike in the gas pipeline, saying they were “too traumatized” to talk.

PG&E also ignores the inquiries of certain media outlets. When a Guardian reporter attempted to approach Johnson to ask a question, media relations representative Joe Molica stood in the way and insisted that Johnson didn’t have time to talk. Asked for contact information so that an interview could be set up later, Molica appeared to search for a business card but came up empty-handed.

He then refused outright to provide his phone number or e-mail address. Asked why a media relations representative could not share his e-mail address with a reporter, Molica scoffed. “Because it will end up on some blog,” he snapped.