Volume 45 Number 08

Editor’s notes



The pollsters like to call it the Santa Claus effect, and we’ve seen it over and over in surveys of California voters in the past few months. I think of it more as some sort of deep political pathology, a schizophrenia combined with delusions that underlies the state’s inability to get anything done.

Here’s what the data shows:

California voters don’t want cuts to higher education; in fact, they want to see more money spent on the University of California system, the California State University system, and local community colleges. They don’t want cuts to K-12 education either. Nor do they want to shut down state parks, release prisoners early, close public hospitals, stop building high-speed rail, reduce state support of local government … or do anything else that would save a significant amount of money.

And they don’t want tax increases.

If you ask people how they think the state should balance the budget, they talk about cutting waste — even though the current Republican governor admits there’s not that much waste left to cut.

I could spend hours talking about how we got here, how decades of corruption and bad governmental priorities soured people so much on the public sector that they don’t believe the state can be trusted to spend their money properly. But part of the issue is that the news media (which love to find a little waste here and there to trumpet) are very bad at presenting the choices.

Nobody in Sacramento’s going to do anything serious about the budget until Jerry Brown takes office; that’s just how it is. So this psycho-financial nightmare is going to fall in his lap — and I wonder sometimes if he ought to force us all to make the choices we want to avoid.

Maybe Brown ought to call a special election in February or March and put two — and exactly two — measures before the voters. Both would balance the state budget. One would do it almost entirely with cuts, and those cuts would be clearly defined: public schools would shut down all over the state. Class size would rise to 40 or more kids. UC would close half its campuses and admit half the number of qualified students it does today. At least 100,000 prisoners would be released as several prison are mothballed. The entire state park system would be shuttered. And that’s just the start. Consumer protection agencies would be abolished, public health devastated — there wouldn’t be a single thing that Californians take for granted that would survive.

Because that’s what a cuts-only, no borrowing budget would look like.

The other proposition would save those services by closing tax loopholes that benefit big business and raising income taxes on the wealthiest people in the state. Brown would have to travel up and down the state and make it clear: these are the choices we face. You can’t solve a $20 billion budget crisis without either tearing the state apart or raising taxes.

No more ducking. No more pretending. No more looking around for Santa Claus. Make the choice, folks: accept new taxes on a small percentage of the population, or give up on the state.

It’s a scary thought, but it may have to come to that.


The Dozen


DANCE The Hip-Hop Dance Fest has grown up. What started 12 years ago as a showcase for local crews and studios has become an excellently balanced showcase of national and international artists. Only four of this year’s 11 participants came from the Bay Area. Sad to say, the sorriest performance all night long came from a local one. Still, the future for hip-hop dance on stage looks brighter than ever.

One of the most moving and wildly applauded works on Nov. 19 was South African dancer/choreographer Jane Sekonya-John’s deftly and economically choreographed Spoti. She donned an old spoti — fisherman’s cap — and transformed herself from a limping, bent old woman into a victorious (though scar-bearing) freedom fighter. Another highlight was Raphael Xavier’s almost oppressively serious Black Canvas, in which breakdancing, much of it floor-bound, became the paint that portrayed three men in fractious, competing, and cooperating relationships. It’s one of the best examples I’ve seen of hip-hop’s theatrical expressiveness.

Los Angeles’ exuberant VersaStyle Dance Company’s Legacy paid tribute to hip-hop’s ancestry by weaving live dance with beautifully chosen video clips from past greats such as Bill Bailey (inventor of the moonwalk), Fred Astaire, Peg Leg Bates, and the Nicholas Brothers. DS Players from San Jose returned with Before Old School, a tribute to the ballroom style of the 1930s and ’40s. Anything this trio touches is blessed with understated wit and a sense of camaraderie.

Also from Southern California, One Step Ahead presented Tables and Chairs, which brought split-second timing and a sometimes humorous approach to the subject of an argumentative family. The kitchen table became the locus for blame-assigning, with flips, kicks, and leaps as synchronized as clockwork. Everyone took as much as they got. Bringing up the L.A. contingent was the b-boying duet between Rock Steady Crew’s YNOT and BailRok, a pint-size virtuoso with a mountains of attitude. Remember the name.

Pro-Phenomen, seven men from France, closed the program with a performance of Signum that justifiably brought down the house. Thematically, the piece had something to do with the preservation of freedom. Impeccably performed, the dancers’ silken combinations and fabulous sense of timing were mesmerizing. Gestures ran down a line or through a circle. Helicopter-like movement popped up like an afterthought from otherwise engaged groups, and tiny dramatic or tender duets exploded out of nowhere and evaporated as quickly. Huge stretches went into military-type push-ups; dancers “fainted,” were thrown, or ended up on the sidelines.

The 12th Hip-Hop Fest also embraced more traditional presentations. Future Shock Bay Area, a large studio company, opened the evening with Rappin Da Bay. The choreography broke what could have been tedious unisons into ever-shifting small ensembles, with a spot for a soloist or two. Perhaps not terribly original, Rappin stayed vital through its performers skill and commitment. SoulForce Dance Company enlivened its choreography by assigning it to characters such as Brandy Logue as “the Elder” and Meegan Hertensteiner as “Miss Meow Meow,” among others. The piece was an amusing, successful mashup of individuality.

Mind over Matter was this year’s serious misstep. Choreographer Allan Frias, who recently appeared on So You Think You Can Dance, has made it something of a specialty to go for sex and violence. Psyke was probably inspired by gangsta rap and underground aspects of gay culture. (The performance was announced as having “adult material.”) Raunch — in this case, simulated violence against women and simulated sex — can be funny, ironic, and pornographic. What it should never be is boring.




MUSIC Local multi-instrumentalist and Root Strata label cofounder Jefre Cantu-Ledesma has titled his newest solo album, Love is a Stream (Type), but the watercourse this robust and unexpectedly sharp collection of dazzlers brings to mind is Niagara Falls.

Whether he’s playing a pastoral variant of psych rock with his more recent project The Alps or improvising a soundtrack to one of Paul Clipson’s gorgeous 8mm films, a careful attention to timbre and a nimble, even delicate, shaping of sound through the graduated addition of sonic elements have always been trademarks of Cantu-Ledesma’s musicianship.

Love is a Stream is, in some ways, a sustained exploration of what happens to timbre when you keep piling sounds on top of each other. Cantu-Ledesma smears what sounds like racks of overdriven keyboards and the warped buzz of a hundred guitars into thick, shimmering fog banks, as if following Iggy Pop’s lead when he remixed Raw Power in 1997 so that it sounded more “in the red.”

Variations exist across the album’s 12 beatless and wordless tracks, but they can be easily missed if one isn’t listening closely. Opener “Stained Glass Body” warms up with 20 seconds of tonal clusters ham-fisted on a Casio and keening vocals until a tangled low-end of what sounds like processed-to-bits guitar burrows up through the mix, building to a sustained crescendo of speaker-shredding intensity. This quick and early peaking is consistent over the next 45 minutes, with brief moments of respite spaced throughout (track five, “Body Within Body,” and track nine, “Womb Night,” keep things at a comparative simmer).

“Orbiting Love” is a church bell carol as reorchestrated by the Cocteau Twins and fed through dying computer speakers. “White Dwarf Butterfly” perfectly recaptures the enveloping hiss and warped cassette-like warble of My Bloody Valentine’s “To Here Knows When” (listening to the two tracks simultaneously produces a smile-inducing complementarity not unlike one of Humphry Slocombe’s less outré taste combinations). The appropriately titled closing track “Mirrors Death” ends the album on a more meditative note, as a recurring rumble gently breaks apart an ice floe of quietly droning guitars, until it too has sputtered into silence.

The My Bloody Valentine comparison is inevitable with an album such Love is A Stream, and with a musician of lesser gifts than Cantu-Ledesma, it could be taken as faint praise. As was noted in this paper’s recent profiles of local acts Weekend and Tamaryn, the continued influence of shoegaze can be heard all over contemporary indie music but it takes more than a studied replica of Kevin Shields’ “glide guitar” to build something decidedly new — or even fresh — when working with well-worn floor plans.

Like the beautiful, overdriven digital tsunamis of Tim Hecker or Christian Fennesz, Love is A Stream employs a familiar vocabulary to new ends. I hope Cantu-Ledesma, at least for the next little while, continues to keep things turned up to 11. 


Pwning the classics


Jennie Ottinger’s last solo painting show at Johansson Projects, “ibid,” presented an assortment of ghostly figures — ballerinas, nurses, schoolchildren, businessmen — lifted from found photographs. The less-is-more aesthetic of Ottinger’s small oil and gouache canvases underscored the fact that, save for the recovered images used as source material, the everyday people depicted in them had long been lost to history.

The same could hardly be said of the authors Ottinger breezily engages with in her latest show, “Due By,” in which she casts a gimlet eye on William Faulkner, Virginia Woolf, David Foster Wallace, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Harper Lee, John Updike, and Leo Tolstoy, among other notable figures of the modern Western literary canon.

Ottinger has essentially remade these authors’ best-known works in her own image with her own images. In addition to painting scenes from titles such as The Loved One and To Kill A Mockingbird, she has also created new covers for them (based on the design of older editions) enfolding her art around actual books. The contents of the books don’t match their titles. Their plastic slipcases, though, are a clever nod at authenticity.

On one wall these new-old books have been stacked horizontally into humorous thematic groupings whose titles frequently double as groan-inducing punchlines: the Madame Bovary, Couples, and Anna Karenina stack is called Why Buy the Cow When You Can Get the MILF For Free? Another short stack that includes Lolita, Sons and Lovers, and Oedipus Rex is titled, appropriately enough, Inappropriate Lovers.

Also throughout the gallery are single volumes, propped open on shelves. Ottinger has glued together the books’ pages and carved out small rectangular spaces into which she has placed her own summaries of the re-covered work, which you are allowed to pick up and leaf through.

Ottinger’s retellings — handwritten in a tiny, tidy scrawl that resembles birdtracks across fresh snow — are by far the best thing in “Due By.” Her observations are pithy, and at times, flash an understated brilliance. Ottinger is also, on occasion, not above proclaiming her ignorance of the text she’s writing on and doesn’t hesitate to quote Wikipedia and SparkNotes for backup.

Here she is on Anna Karenina‘s titular doomed heroine: “We will soon see evidence of her extraordinary relationship skills.”

Or the protagonist of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man: “Much like tofu, he adopts the qualities of those around him.”

And I challenge any English PhD to come up with a more perfect gloss on As I Lay Dying‘s Budren clan as, “Holy shit! This family is cursed. Very National Lampoon’s Vacation.”

If Ottinger were a high school student, she would be the bright kid who always makes wisecracks in class because she’s bored with or understimulated by her surroundings, and not necessarily by the assigned reading (I wonder, in fact, if Ottinger was that student). Her writing, for all its glibness and front-loaded superficiality, carries a palpable amount of affection for the texts. Ottinger’s sassiness is an informed sassiness; it lacks the underlying vitriol of true snark.

In other words, Ottinger’s armchair criticism is the sort that the Internet — and blogs, in particular — has made us more accustomed to. At the same time, educators attempting to teach any of the texts featured in “Due By,” have had to become more adept at sniffing out the lines in their students’ papers lifted from the same Wikipedia and SparkNotes entries that Ottinger playfully quotes. You can read Anna Karenina in its entirety online, or you can find a million ways to get around reading it and still turn in a term paper on “the death of the heart.”

Mind you, I don’t think Ottinger is clutching her pearls over the fate of the literary canon (or the book as object, or the coarsening of pedagogy, etc.) in the age of Google. If the smart, funny, and lovingly crafted objects she has created in “Due By” must be burdened with a takeaway message about the way we read now, I’d like to quote one of the great antiheros of television, Don Draper: “Change isn’t good or bad. It just is.”



With Ed Moses’ dazzling acrylics, what you see is what you get. That’s not a diss by any means. Rather, don’t expect something else to emerge if you give into the temptation to slowly cross and uncross your eyes while staring down one of the textile-like paintings in “Wic Wac,” Moses’ current show at Brian Gross Fine Art.

Moses — a L.A. veteran who had his first show at the city’s legendary Ferus Gallery in 1958 — identifies as an abstract artist, even though paintings such as Anima Kracker can’t help but cause pattern recognition: their fractal-like smears of off-set yellows and purples are in fact made up of the morphed stripes, spots, and other tell-tale markings of zebras, giraffes, and tigers. 


Through Jan. 8, 2011

Johansson Projects

2300 Telegraph Ave, Oakland

(510) 444-9140



Through Dec. 23

Brian Gross Fine Art

49 Geary, SF

(415) 788-1050


Mädchen gone wild


Every nation had its distinct cinematic response to the sexual revolution of the 1960s and ’70s. Germany’s was characteristic in offering the pretense of order, “scientific” educational value, and encouraging a healthy collective morality — even if all this was usually mere gloss over the usual, more marketable qualities of copious T&A.

Encouraged by Scandinavian films already tearing down censorship barriers worldwide, Deutschland screens (the free-Western ones only, needless to say) began addressing the matter directly in 1968. Then, Oswalt Kolle, a psychiatrist’s son and tabloid journalist turned celebrity sex educator, commenced making features like Sexual Partnership (1968), The Sensual Male (1970), and Your Child, That Unknown Creature (1970). These fairly sober mixtures of documentary and dramatized “case histories” were as widely translated as his writings. (Nonetheless, Kolle and his family relocated to Amsterdam, citing constant harassment by conservative German politicians and media as the cause.)

Such success inevitably attracted imitation. Dr. Gunther Hunold’s Schulmädchen-Report had made best-seller waves with its collection of interviews with 14- to 20-year-old women about their sexual experiences and opinions. Enter Wolf C. Hartwig of Rapid Film, producer-distributor of such savory titles as Satan Tempts With Love (1960) and Your Body Belongs to Me (1959). He bought the book’s film rights, retaining Hunold as co-scenarist and consultant for 1970’s Schoolgirl Report: What Parents Don’t Think Is Possible, which proved so enormously popular that an entire national subgenre was born.

The resulting series of Schoolgirl Report features stretched through the entire Me Decade. All 13 are being issued on DVD by the Impulse Pictures label of South San Francisco’s CAV Distributing Corporation, a project that reaches its precise midpoint next month with 1974’s Schoolgirl Report Volume 7: What the Heart Must Thereby …. Watching too many of these interchangeable vintage sexploitation “documentaries” in close succession can be hazardous to your mental health, but in moderation — as with most things – — they prove instructive.

Volume 1 set the mold, sometimes in stone: factors like the groovy Farfisa-acid guitar-flute rock instrumental theme by Gert Wilden and His Orchestra (whose original soundtracks would continue to run a delightfully dated gamut from go-go discotheque to cocktail jazz to Mantovani-like schmuzak), cheap production values, Ernst Hofbauer’s on-the-nose direction, the wooden acting (despite allegedly “starring many anonymous youths and parents”), and an entire opening credits sequence would scarcely budge in film after film. More flexible within a limited range were the bodies bared by 20-something actors playing teens (seldom convincingly) and the framing devices for each installation of variably comic, dramatic, and tragic vignettes.

The first movie started with a flower-decal-covered VW full of hippie chicks and dudes driving by as a female voice says “That’s us: today’s youth. We want a new morality without hypocrisy.” Then an actor playing a reporter announces this “effective and spontaneous documentary shows our youth as they really are. [It] will open many parents’ eyes.”

More likely the Schoolgirl films opened a lot of men’s pants. For all the earnest jabber about “sexual prejudice and why German families hang on to it,” Hartwig, Hofbauer, scenarist Gunther Heller (Hunold split after the series’ launch) and company weren’t interested in liberating minds — let alone promoting feminism — so much as wrapping age-old male fantasies in a cloak of socioanthropological inquiry.

Women are occasionally victimized in the Schoolgirl universe: a lone black girl is set up for gang rape by racist classmates, a country lass is forced into prostitution by loutish dad, etc. But such instances usually end up with the protagonist rescued by a convenient Prince Charming, often as our narrator urges us to question whether they brought the abuse on themselves.

The overwhelming majority of tales present a brave new world of brazenly aggressive females demanding satisfaction whenever, wherever, with whomever. Particularly with older men, including priests, teachers, bus drivers, family friends, guest workers (Rinaldo Talamonti often appears as a comedy-relief Italian stereotype addressed in terms like “Hey, spaghetti! Show us your macaroni!”), even sexy older brothers.

Their behavior sometimes edges from fantasy fodder into the fanatical, as when a married fencing instructor tells his obsessed student, “You must be reasonable!” and she replies “I’ll be reasonable when I’m 75!” Or when another underage lassie brags that beyond regular partner sex, “I also do myself four or five times a day.” Most disturbing is a frequent refrain of blackmail, almost invariably used by nymphets on a reluctant authority figures to maintain a sexual relationship (and/or good grades). In the ickiest instance, Volume 5‘s 15-year-old Margit seduces Grandpa, saying if he refuses she’ll say he raped her; three months of action later he confesses to parents and police rather than endure more shame.

Ostensibly celebrating women’s newfound sexual freedom, the Schoolgirl Reports often seem to regard that as a menace to society as well. (At one curious point we’re informed “They’re all reading Valerie Solanas’ SCUM Manifesto, which turns men into slaves and a necessary evil for sex.”) Needless to say, the series’ major off-camera collaborators were an entirely penis-bearing roll call.

These films made tens of millions, not just in Western Europe but in overseas locations where their copious full-frontal nudity (nearly all female, of course) required cutting or fogging to meet local standards. Entries appeared around the globe under titles like Campus Pussycats, Smartie Pants, Further Confessions of a Sixth Form Girl, and Super Sexy Show. The 1980 final chapter didn’t hit American screens until three years later as Making Out — quite the reduction from an original German title translating as Don’t Forget the Love in Sex. Meanwhile Germany had been flooded with copycat “reports” (housewife, schoolboy, nurse, etc.), and in 1975 saw the legalization of hardcore porn. So a once ubiquitous, now quaint and bizarre example of mainstream softcore slowly petered (ahem) out.

The Impulse-CAV discs are notably stingy with extras — there aren’t any, not even trailers or a horrible-English-dubbing option — but in a way that suits their blunt appeal. After all, one shouldn’t expect many frills from movies wherein a dessert-spooning virgin (sex aside, ice cream appears this generation’s predominant onscreen indulgence) muses that a passing motorist “could help me get rid of that bothersome hymen,” or the “pathological dream world” of a girl troubled by incestuous thoughts features psychedelic imagery of Daddy menacing her nubile naked self with a shish kabob.

Bodies and bacon



CHEAP EATS My new friends are young and queer and, most important, bikers, so I get to hang out at Benders where the burgers have whiskey and bits of bacon in them. Many of my new friends are vegetarian, which saves me from the awkwardness of having big fat crushes on them. My crushes are small and skinny and eat veggie burgers.

We’re starting a team in the girls football league. Remember, I wrote about them a few years back? I used to go to games on Sundays, and it was inspiring and scary. So scary that I tried to get on a team, but they never called me.

I can’t wait to play that team! It will be a made-for-TV movie made in heaven.

Probably, because I grew up in Ohio, I will have to start out at one of the so-called “skill positions,” such as running back or wide receiver, where I will bide my time making diving one-hand catches and long, slash-and-burn touchdown runs (yawn). But once I have earned everyone’s respect with my off-the-field poetry and appreciation for opera, maybe then they will move me to the offensive line.

Which is, as anyone who has ever played electric football knows, the most important position on the field.

Our coach, whom we call Coach, is such a consummate athlete that she doesn’t need to eat meat or rice. Fueled by air and eagerness, and maybe sometimes whiskey, she routinely wins bike races! And if anyone else enters, she comes in third. She lives in the Mission and owns at least three bikes that I know of, yet dates a motor vehicle. Coach jokes about never leaving the neighborhood, which is bullshit because I met her in a pond in Sonoma County. Interestingly, we were skinny dipping.

Or, I don’t know, maybe that’s not interesting.

How about if I described all my new friends’ bodies in full detail? This way everyone in the world will want to go skinny-dipping with me from now on! I’m kidding, of course. Respectfulness may not be my strong suit, let alone my swimsuit, but there are some lines I know better than to cross.

I’ll only describe Coach’s body — because our friendship I think can handle it, and anyway she’ll be on a three-week bike ride by the time this comes out, somewhere between here and San Luis Obispo, far far from newsstands.

How she does this shit — without fettuccini, I mean — I will never know. But the other day I ate Chinese food with Coach and Fiver, and I swear that all the rice on the table, and all but maybe one or two of the noodles wound up in me. The meat goes without saying.

The restaurant was Mission Chinese Food, which everyone has been singing about since I moved back to the neighborhood. It’s the restaurant inside the restaurant (Lung Shan) on Mission at 18th Street. You can believe what people are singing. It’s pretty special, despite its name.

I mean, where else can you get “thrice-cooked bacon” or “tingly lamb noodle soup”? And the bacon can be vegan, and still damn good, and the soup comes in a “numbing lamb broth.”

Which … they mean it. It’s a Szechwan spice, or herb, that literally numbs your mouth, and it was in the pickled beans and pickled pickles too. I don’t like that. I loved the flavor of everything I ate, even the fake bacon, but I’m sorry, I just don’t understand the point of numbness, except with respect to dentistry.

Folks, I want to feel what I eat. The not-at-all-fake lamb belly in the sizzling cumin lamb, for example, was a heavenly blend of crispy, tender, salty, peppery, game-flavored meat outside with an interior layer of soft, buttery, clouds of juicy joy.

Now I know what you’re thinking: No! There is no way that she’s that sexy.

I’m just saying. My job is to review restaurants. Your job, if you drive a car in California, is to go slow, watch the road, and see bicycles. Thanks for reading.


Mon.–Sat.: 11 a.m.–10:30 p.m.;

Sun.: noon–10 p.m.

(inside Lung Shan Restaurant);

2234 Mission, SF

(415) 826-2800


Beer and wine

Green vs. “green”



Years ago, Greg Gaar was a scavenger, wandering the neighborhoods around Twin Peaks picking up bottles and other kinds of recyclable trash. He began working at the Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council (HANC) Recycling Center in 1982.

During his tenure, a project designed primarily to divert waste from the landfill expanded to include a unique San Francisco native plant nursery. Located on a converted parking lot on Frederick Street near Lincoln Boulevard, the recycling center is a drop-off for recyclable materials, including used veggie oil, and a source for soil and 65 species of potted plants.

Gaar started small. “I took some seeds,” he explained, “and scattered them into a flat. They came up like fur on a dog’s back.” Over the years, he researched the natural history of the area, saved seeds, and cultivated the grounds surrounding the recycling center. HANC also converted a traffic triangle across the street into a thriving garden.

The Recreation and Parks Department, directed by Phil Ginsburg — former chief of staff to Mayor Gavin Newsom — is seriously considering a plan to evict HANC recycling center and replace it with a garden resource center.

While trading one garden center for another might not seem like a big deal, it appears to be an attack on poor people who make their living recycling cans and bottles, a group that organized to oppose Proposition L, the sit-lie ordinance that Newsom supported in this election.

Or as HANC Executive Director Ed Dunn put it: “He’s going to take it from his enemies and give it to his friends.”

The HANC recycling center has leased Rec and Park property since its inception in 1974, and it’s been at its current location for 30 years. HANC does not receive any city funding for the center, and it pays a small amount in rent for use of the parking lot. It processes roughly 160 tons of recycling per month.

Newsom has worked hard to cultivate his reputation as a green mayor and promote green-job creation, but evicting the recycling center would kill 10 green jobs. Many of the employees were formerly homeless and previously earned petty cash gathering cans to exchange at the center’s buyback station. They were hired without any help from San Francisco taxpayers and now they’re earning living wages while diverting waste from the landfill.

But some neighborhood residents are annoyed by the presence of people who arrive at the center with shopping carts filled to the brim with bottles and cans that they can exchange for cash. Buyback hours are held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., so during those times, people who haul around bundles of recyclables line up to receive modest rewards for their hours of effort.

HANC, a progressive organization, publicly and vehemently opposed Prop. L, the voter-approved ordinance that bans sitting and lying down on city sidewalks. Newsom enthusiastically endorsed Prop. L.

Dunn believes the recycling center is being targeted due to HANC’s position on that issue. “It’s all about political payback,” says Dunn. Incidentally, Haight voters rejected sit-lie and HANC sees the pending recycling-center eviction as part of the same agenda. “It’s all part of the gentrification that’s enveloping San Francisco,” said Jim Rhoads, who chairs the HANC Recycling Committee.

Once word of the plans got out, letters started pouring into to Newsom’s and Ginsburg’s offices from the Sierra Club, San Francisco Tomorrow, the Senior Action Network, and other organizations. Additionally, the center’s supporters mailed at least 400 postcards opposing the eviction.

Residents have voiced complaints about the shopping-cart recyclers, some of whom are homeless. The Inner Sunset Park Neighbors (ISPN), which is petitioning Rec and Park to evict the recycling center, has a message posted on its website linking the shopping-cart pushers with “quality-of-life issues such as aggressive panhandling, drug use/dealing, and public safety.” ISPN also charges that the recyclers swipe cans and bottles from rolling curbside bins. The neighborhood group had not responded to requests for an interview by press time.

Rhoads believes that if the recycling buyback program is removed, it would only encourage panhandling — after all, people already lacking basic resources would lose a critical source of income. “People will be very desperate,” he said. According to the results of a HANC survey, one in six recyclers regularly turning up at the center to exchange bottles for cash sleeps outside.

The Recreation and Park Commission will discuss the possible HANC eviction at its Dec. 2 meeting. And since the recycling center is on a month-to-month lease, the 36-year-old green resource could soon suffer eviction. There’s likely to be significant resistance, since the HANC Recycling Center has forged partnerships with urban-agriculture projects throughout the city.

It was a fiscal sponsor of the Garden for the Environment and donated several tons of cardboard for mulching at Hayes Valley Farm. The HANC nursery project has distributed plants to urban agriculture projects throughout the city, including school garden plots, urban habitat corridors designed to protect rare species, and the Mission Greenbelt Project, a network of sidewalk gardens in the Mission.

Details on the proposed garden resource center that would be installed in lieu of the HANC Recycling Center are sketchy. An artist’s rendering of the plan, drawn up by the city’s Department of Public Works, envisions an outdoor classroom amphitheatre, raised garden beds, a semi dwarf orchard, and a composting area. However, Guardian inquiries to Rec and Park requesting more specific details about funding and operation went unanswered by press time. 

Boring through



Despite an official groundbreaking ceremony last February, the Central Subway — an underground Muni connection to Chinatown — still doesn’t have its full $1.5 billion in funding lined up yet, and now the project is facing renewed criticism that the high cost isn’t worth the benefits.

The project was a promise by former Mayor Willie Brown to Chinatown leaders who were upset that the Embarcadero Freeway was torn down after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake and never rebuilt, leaving that densely populated part of town difficult to access. But not everyone in Chinatown wants the project.

Wilma Pang, founder and co-chair of A Better Chinatown Tomorrow (ABCT) stands firmly against it, while the Rev. Norman Fong, deputy director of programs for the Chinatown Community Development Center, takes a solid stand for building the project, as does Board of Supervisors President David Chiu, who represents the district.

Fong explains that the majority of Chinatown has united to make sure the subway comes through, and that he himself has never seen the community in Chinatown more set on something. “This is an environmental justice movement,” Fong said. “For me, this was the first time Chinatown had ever fought [for such a major infrastructure project].”

City staff is also focused on moving the project forward. “This project has been supported by our state, local, and federal officials,” Brajah Norris, external affairs manager for the Central Subway Project, told the Guardian.

But the group SaveMuni — formed last year by progressives, transit engineers, transit advocates, and other activists “working to reverse Muni’s death spiral” — recently called for the Central Subway to be shelved and its resources put to more efficient projects. “Now that the analysis has been done, it’s time to rethink the situation,” SaveMuni says in a white paper on the Central Subway.

The group argues that using the subway will take longer than other transit options, threatens many businesses on Stockton Street, and doesn’t even connect effectively with the Muni system. Even worse, they point out that Muni would have to spend an additional $4 million a year in local operating expenditures beyond the existing bus service, an expenditure that seems unnecessary to the organization members.

Although creating a subway for the crowded community seemed like a good idea initially, people like Tom Radulovich soon began to realize that a 1.7 mile subway stretch buried 20 feet underground is not the same as the plan he hoped for when considering an economically efficient transportation system for the people in Chinatown.

“People deserve a whole range of alternatives,” said Radulovich, executive director of Livable City and an elected member of the BART Board of Directors. “You have to be mindful of when the [current] project is not the same project you voted for.”

For those at SaveMuni, the project long ago strayed from its original goal. Although they agree that Chinatown community members deserve their own form of reliable transportation, they believe this is not the right way to be spending federal, state, and local money.

“It’s an important corridor, so funding should go there,” Radulovich said. But he thinks the same money could be better used other ways, such as for a dedicated Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) lane.

Jerry Cauthen, a retired SFMTA transportation engineer who cofounded San Francisco Tomorrow and SaveMuni, explained that he initially liked the concept of a subway but then became “bitterly disappointed” as the project progressed.

The subway line has three stops mapped out: one at Moscone Center, one at Union Square/Market Street, and one in Chinatown. From the Chinatown station, the tunnel will continue under Washington Square and remain there for future extensions to the subway, which is projected to begin service in 2018.

“There’s no reason to wait 10 years for a subway,” Cauthen said. “Because it is not going to do what it says it will do.”

Cauthen explained that the route for the Central Subway misses the most important lines anyway, which would be “serving Chinatown poorly.” Cauthen was not alone in his concern that the three-stop subway system will prove to be more of a hassle than a convenience.

But in a committee meeting held Nov. 16 at City Hall, the San Francisco County Transportation Authority (which oversees capital expenditures, while the SFMTA runs Muni) addressed the issue that the city in fact does not have all the money it needs to complete this project. While federal officials have already handed over $72 million out of $948 million, getting the rest of that federal money requires the city and its affected agencies to come up with local matching funds of between $137 million to $225 million.

Malcolm Yeung, public policy manager for the Chinatown Community Development Center, explained that based on the recent hearing, the SFMTA needs to find a viable source for the remaining $137 million. It has until February to inform the Federal Transportation Administration how it will obtain the rest of this money. The SFCTA meeting was an attempt to request an allocation of about $22 million in Proposition K (sales tax) funds.

Now that the city is having trouble meeting its fiscal goal by February 2011, the new question is, if city officials don’t come up with the money, will San Francisco lose the project and its funding?

“I don’t think it means that we lose the whole project,” Yeung said, but there could be delays. And every time there is a delay, there is also an associated cost to be paid.

According to SFMTA, the project received $948.2 million in federal money, $375 million from the state, and $255.1 million in local contributions. Norris explained that since the federal money was given for this specific New Starts program, then it can only be used for this project. And if the project comes to a halt, the money will go somewhere else. “People don’t realize that $948 million is part of the New Starts program,” Norris said. “If we don’t get it, we actually lose it.”

Fong, Chiu, and other supporters of the project rallied in its support outside City Hall on Nov. 15. As Fong told us, “[People against the project] don’t appreciate the hard work, that it takes a decade to get the federal funds … It cannot be simply shifted or “redirected” as some have said.”

For Fong, ending this project would be “disregarding two decades of hard work.” Although the ideas to improve Muni seem fair to Fong, moving forward with the subway is the only option for him right now.


*This article has been corrected from an original version.

Score board


Dear Andrea: My girlfriend is 19 and has had 15 partners. I’m 28, with 10. It pisses me off. I’m in love, but part of me feels that I ought to be honest about this. Is it possible for me work through my jealousy and anger or will I succumb to the stud/slut double-standard that rewards promiscuity in men but punishes it in women? Am I being too uptight? Love, Grrrrr!

Dear G: You are being crazy uptight, but the question isn’t where you register on some uptightness scale supplied by your local sex expert, it’s whether you can work through your resentment before you chase this girl away and have to hate yourself forever. You can, but it’s going to be a pile of work and you may need her help, so you’re going to have to confess eventually. At that point, you’d best be prepared to hear, “You’re mad about what? Five guys who meant nothing to me, back before I even met you? What the hell is your problem?” I certainly hope she doesn’t apologize for having had a life before she met you. Even if it were worth apologizing for, it’s not like there’s anything she can do about it now.

I have one question for you: is your problem really that your girlfriend had a 15 lovers by her late 20s, or that you hadn’t? Next time, don’t ask questions if you’re not prepared to hear the answer. Love, Andrea

Dear Andrea: When I met my wife, I think she was reluctant to date me because I had two children and she was a very eligible bachelorette. She limited our romantic activities to a kiss and some heavy petting. Being a regular guy, I tactfully kept the pressure on her, and eventually we became lovers. I once asked her jokingly what her other boyfriends would say about such a Puritan relationship, and she laughed and told me they got the same treatment. I knew she had dated extensively but out of respect for her; I didn’t pry into her past. I must admit I was curious, but she seemed a little guarded and I didn’t press it.

After all these happy years together, my wife has never brought up the subject of intimacy or lack of it with her previous boyfriends other than to laugh and comment that when we met, she was a young innocent and that I corrupted her. I am still curious if I was her first lover, but out of respect I have not asked. I am not the jealous type, and she knows that, but curiosity is killing me. Do you think after all this time and mutual devotion, I am foolish to still wonder about her prior sexual relations with old boyfriends? Love, Tactful

Dear T: Very foolish. But don’t let that stop you.

Love, Andrea

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

The high harvest



CULTURE “There was some sweet in there and some spice — it was like finger food, you could eat it like chips.” Larry Medders, 11-year resident of the Cecil Williams Glide Community House, is showing off the new rooftop garden, installed by the San Francisco Zen Center, on top of his nine-story supportive housing complex. He’s talking about his introduction to kale.

Medders cooks for himself in his studio apartment and used to stick to the same meals. He likes pasta and herbal teas, which he now brews with the mint and chamomile growing upstairs. An older man from the South endowed with a becoming drawl, he comes up once a day “to water and make sure everything’s in its place.” At the opening ceremony for the new green space, Medders tried the iron-rich greens for the first time. “Now I’m hooked,” he says.

If a once-bare Tenderloin rooftop seems like an incongruous spot to grow spinach, carrots, lemons, blueberries, parsley, onions, and tomatoes (a few of the nascent crops at the Community House), it shouldn’t. The buzzing streets below Medders’ feet offer sparse play areas for children, occasional safety risks, and few places to buy fresh veggies.

The city has tried to attract grocery stores to the area, so far unsuccessfully. “Grocery store operators and other retailers perceive that the area is unsafe and have expressed concerns about the safety of their employees and customers,” says Amy Cohen, director of neighborhood business development. TL residents largely must content themselves with corner stores for neighborhood shopping trips — a bummer for low-income seniors who live in the area.

For the residents of Community House’s 55 units — many dealing with life post-addiction and homelessness and all low income — the roof was already a place to gather. Building barbeques were common. But they knew the rooftop could be much more. “I just wanted to see more greenery, because it really is beautiful,” Medders says.

Enter the San Francisco Zen Center (www.sfzc.org). The center has operated in tandem with Muir Beach’s Green Gulch Farm since the early 1970s, providing a green dojo for meditation students and producing organic produce for restaurants such as Greens in Fort Mason. Says Zen Center vice president Susan O’Connell, “the color green alone is calming, the oxygen and the sense of being surrounded by life.” Gardening can aid in one’s quest for enlightenment, she says. “Zen takes a lot of different forms, it’s not just sitting down.”

Taking inspiration from a garden next door on top of Glide Church, the Zen Center pledged to fill Community House’s communal space with veggies. Now 15 planter boxes built by construction training nonprofit Youth Builds stand at different heights so children and residents in wheelchairs can work them. There are compost bins, shaded tables, chairs, a sink where cooking classes will be held once a local artist finishes painting a mural on the surrounding wall.

The roof’s design, plotted by ex-Green Gulch apprentice Jamie Morf, is laid out so residents can socialize (when Medders and I toured the roof, three children were eating a late lunch on one of the round tables) as well as sit and be thoughtful in nooks designed with peace in mind. “One of the most important precursors to being able to meditate is called taking refuge. But that’s really hard for people in the Tenderloin,” O’Connell says.

We are joined by Patty Rose and Arlinda Van Brunt, two other long-term residents who, with Medders, have stepped up to form the core gardening group. The three teach me about the challenges of running a plot that belongs to every one of the residents living in a nine-story building, including many who have never tended a kitchen garden before. The learning curve can include beginner’s missteps, like overpicking a hardy green onion plant that the trio laments.

“Look at this,” Van Brunt, an energetic woman whose father’s landscaping career left her with a severe aversion to seeing mistreated plants, is pointing at a vertical potato cage that doesn’t seem to be producing the same bushy green leafs as its neighbor. “They overwatered it! It’s our first year, we’re still finding a lot of things out.”

But these kinds of small setbacks show that the garden is being used — and often, they lead to new discoveries in and of themselves. The aforementioned rotting potato cage attracted the notice of the roof’s nightcrawlers, which must have scooted the 10 feet between their two massive bins to the cage, where they were discovered by Van Brunt.

The composting process in the worm bins is now one of her favorite parts of the garden. With the aid of Medders, she lifts the heavy metal lid of one of the bins and pulls aside the shredded newspaper piled on top of the composting material. Underneath, there is a teeming, squirming mass of pink worms. Van Brunt tenderly fingers a handful of them. “Look at that, are they really breeding in there? The nastier it is, the more they like it,” she says, exhibiting the satisfaction of a woman who has taken charge of her food system.

Critical care



A complex and controversial project that would involve five San Francisco hospitals — including building a huge showcase facility for the wealthy atop Cathedral Hill — has prompted a debate about what average city residents need from the health care system.

California Pacific Medical Center, an affiliate of Sutter Health, proposes to downsize St. Luke’s Hospital, which primarily serves a low-income population in the Mission District, as part of a $2.5 billion proposal to renovate and retrofit three existing medical campuses, close another one, and build housing and a megahospital on Cathedral Hill that would draw patients from around the country.

CPMC’s grandiose plan was being considered strictly as a land use decision, despite its far-reaching impact on the city’s health care system. So Sup. David Campos created legislation calling for the city to create a citywide health services master plan and to use that as another tool for gauging future medical projects.

Debate over that legislation left some activists on both sides unhappy, with progressives disappointed that it won’t be able to stop a CPMC project they see as neglectful of the poor, and moderates wary of creating a new way to challenge development projects in the face of widespread unemployment in the construction industry.

But it struck a fine enough balance to win 8-3 approval by the board Nov. 16, enough to override a threatened mayoral veto. “I’m really happy and excited about the passage of this legislation,” Campos told the Guardian after the vote.

The legislation has a two-part mandate, with the first part kicking in as soon as it has final approval. It requires the Planning Department, with input from the Department of Public Health, to prepare a health care services master plan to identify current and projected needs for health care services and where they should be provided.

The second part, which begins in 2013, requires Planning to determine whether medical projects are consistent with the findings of this plan. That delay is credited to a last-minute amendment Campos granted during a Nov. 15 committee hearing after the hospital industry complained that the process could jeopardize its ability to meet state-mandated seismic retrofitting deadlines for projects already in the planning pipeline.

The passage of Campos’ legislation comes eight months after President Barack Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Hailed by its supporters as the most significant change to the U.S. health care delivery systems in 40 years, the reform package has also been greeted with criticism on both ends of the political spectrum. Progressives complain that it relies too heavily on private insurance companies and medical providers, while Tea Party supporters says that it’s government run amok and they have vowed to “kill the bill.” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) recently compared so-called Obamacare to “tyranny” in a speech to conservative legal scholars.

But here in San Francisco, the debate over Campos’ legislation — as heated and divisive as it was at times — yielded a surprising amount of consensus around the long-neglected idea that government should play a role in health care planning.



The passage of Campos’ legislation marks the first time in 30 years that a government entity has mandated health care services planning in California. That approach West Bay Health Systems Agency, whose creation he opposed as governor of California.

Lucy Johns, a San Francisco-based health care planning consultant who wrote the only health care services master plan California has ever had, recalls what happened in the mid-1970s after President Gerald Ford signed legislation that established health system agencies nationwide.

“California established 14 health systems agencies, including the West Bay Health System Agency, which governed the nine Bay Area counties,” Johns told the Guardian. “The legislation mandated that they be established by every state, with the federal government providing the funding. So every state had to decide how many, how big, and how structured the health system agencies would be.”

Johns notes that state legislators were constrained when it came to the decisions these health service agencies made. “The governing bodies of the health systems agencies had to have a membership that was 51 percent consumer and 49 percent healthcare provider, which included doctors, nurses, and hospital administrators,” she said.

That history served as a backdrop for discussion of the Campos legislation, with the Planning Department staff report noting, “With the elimination of the West Bay Health Systems Agency in 1981, there is no longer a routine or comprehensive analysis of health service resources, needs, trends, and local impacts conducted for changes to or within medical uses.”

“It’s truly a historic moment for San Francisco,” Campos said after his legislation passed its Nov. 16 first reading (the second and final reading is set for Nov. 23, after Guardian press time). “We are the first city in the country to make sure land use decisions are aligned to our health care needs. That’s an unprecedented step that will shape the future of healthcare planning for years to come.”

Campos acknowledged that the passage of Obama’s heath reform package — which includes a mandate to purchase private health insurance beginning in 2014 — was also a catalyst for his legislation, along with the CPMC project.

“But it had more to do with seeing that the city didn’t have the tools it needed to evaluate projects in terms of whether they met the city’s healthcare needs and how they might impact people’s access to healthcare,” Campos said. “The main catalyst came from the community, which felt it was being asked to make decisions that will have long-lasting health care implications, but didn’t have any way to understand those needs. Those concerns were compounded by changes at the national level — and the recognition that these changes offer us an opportunity to engage in planning.”

Campos’ legislative victory came two months after members of the Cathedral Hill Neighbors Association joined nurses, medical workers, patients, and community groups in voicing concerns at a Sept. 23 public hearing about the draft environmental impact report for CPMC’s Cathedral Hill hospital and the other facilities that are part of its proposal.

These groups collectively expressed fear that downsizing St. Luke’s, closing the CPMC California campus, and transforming CPMC Pacific campus to an outpatient-only hospital will force low-income people to travel farther to access health care services while offering better service to the wealthy at Cathedral Hill. And neighbors worried that the proposed complex would increase traffic and require the demolition of rent-controlled apartments.

Formed in 1991 through the merger of Pacific-Presbyterian Medical Center and Children’s Hospital of San Francisco, CPMC has been affiliated with Sutter Health since 1996 and currently has four medical campuses in San Francisco: Pacific in Pacific Heights, California in Presidio Heights, Davies in the Duboce Triangle, and St. Luke’s in the Mission.

But CPMC’s longtime goal was to build a facility intended to be like the Mayo Clinic of the West Coast, a 15-story, 555-bed full-service hospital and specialty care facility at the corner of Van Ness Avenue and Geary Boulevard. Company officials have made approval for that project conditional on keeping St. Luke’s open in the face of the state’s deadline on seismic safety standards that the hospital doesn’t now meet.

“St. Luke’s Hospital was the big issue that got our attention,” Le Tim Ly, lead organizer for the Chinese Progressive Association, told the Guardian. His group has worked with residents in the city’s southeast sector around environmental justice, air quality, and pollution issues when they became aware of the threat to St. Luke’s. “All this, coupled with efforts to downsize Luke’s, left us alarmed by the disproportionate impact on an already impacted area.”

But alarm over CPMC’s plans has now revived the idea of healthcare planning.



As recently as the beginning of November, representatives for the Hospital Council of Northern and Central California — whose members include CPMC, Chinese Hospital, Jewish Home, Kaiser Permanente, Laguna Honda, St Luke’s, St. Mary’s, San Francisco General Hospital, and Veterans Affairs Medical Center — seemed opposed to any change in the way healthcare planning is done in San Francisco.

At a Nov. 1 hearing on the Campos legislation at the board’s Land Use and Economic Development Committee, Ron Smith, the Hospital Council’s senior vice president for advocacy, said his organization favored maintaining the city’s current procedures. “We would like to propose that the Health Commission does the planning, the Planning Commission does the land use, and that there is a required determination process which is in the current legislation,” Smith said. “We’re proposing that that continue.”

But two weeks later, after Campos amended his legislation so projects now in the planning pipeline are exempt from having to comply with the city’s health care services master plan, some members of the Hospital Council seemed to have a change of heart.

CPMC’s Chief Executive Officer Warren Browner surprised just about everybody when he publicly stated in mid-November that CPMC supports health care planning. “We strongly support the efforts of the city — we are in favor of health planning,” Browner said at a Nov. 15 hearing on the legislation.

“That statement was extraordinary,” said Lucy Johns, recalling CPMC’s history of resisting government control. “The conversation about this legislation has already changed the discourse, at least in public.”

Linda Schumacher, chief executive officer of Chinese Hospital, a community-owned, not-for-profit facility, explained at the same hearing that her organization had been concerned that Campos’ legislation would affect her hospital’s ability to move ahead with a $150 million project that has been in the pipeline since 2003.

“We thank you for that amendment that allows the effective date to be changed,” she said.

“It shows how much progress had been made, even before this legislation goes into effect,” Campos said of the hospital industry’s apparent shift in attitude. “It’s a monumental step, something that was not expected as recently as a few months ago.”

But Ly of the Chinese Progressive Association said he believes the Hospital Council still doesn’t want to see the city getting involved. “As recently as a month ago, their folks were speaking out against any kind of legislation. But I think they started seeing the writing on the wall.”

Ly fretted about the potential negative impact of Campos’ last-minute amendments. Sup. Campos’ plan represents a victory. But we could use that information as soon as possible. The 2013 deadline means the city will be handicapped: it will have information it can’t use yet.”

Ly ventures that the hospital industry’s approach will be to try to lessen the impact of the legislation. “As written, it still provides the Planning Commission and the board with the discretion to approve projects,” Ly said. “Ultimately, the struggle is about values. Just because there are plans and guidance doesn’t mean the healthcare needs of the community will become a top priority — it just provides us with tools to make an assessment.”

Campos counters that his bill will allow the city to create incentives for, and apply pressure on, the hospital industry. “If they truly want their projects to be expedited and approved before state-mandated seismic retrofitting deadlines kick in, they’ll propose plans that work for the community,” Campos explained.

But even as it publicly vows to be supportive, the Hospital Council continues to express concerns about the Campos legislation. “It’s the council’s job is to be supportive now that the board has approved Campos’ plan,” Smith said. “And Sup. Campos was very generous. He started talking to us in June. But we really didn’t get a handle on his proposal until much later. We think the idea of healthcare planning is very good. We still have concerns about the process, but now the board has voted on the legislation, our goal is to do our best to work with the law.”

Concerns that the legislation would be used to mire projects in repeated appeals and give too much weight to critics’ concerns was raised at the Nov. 16 hearing by Sup. Sean Elsbernd.

“Right now, if anyone has concerns, there’s a conditional use process and a CEQA [California Environmental Quality Act] process,” Elsbernd told the Guardian. “But this turns up a brand new appeal. It means the appeals are heard at the same time, but you’ve now created a third route.”

Campos responded to these concerns by amending the legislation to clarify that the board must act on consistency determination appeals at the same time it acts on other related appeals, so projects won’t be delayed.

Evidently this wasn’t enough to appease the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce. “We cannot be supportive of that piece of legislation,” Rob Black, the Chamber’s vice president of public policy, told the Guardian after the legislation was approved. “We believe appeals should be done at the Department of Public Health in conjunction with service providers, since San Francisco provides 20 percent of service, and private organizations provide the remaining 80 percent.”

Black says the Chamber was pleased Campos amended his legislation so as not to slow down projects that are currently in the planning pipeline. But he claimed Campos’ legislation could actually limit access to healthcare services. “The Chamber is concerned that Campos’ legislation will make it harder for doctors to pool together in pods, and if we don’t do that, it won’t make healthcare more available because services will be more expensive,” Black said. “But we absolutely think” the city should analyze gaps in providing health care to San Franciscans.

Campos’ aide Hillary Ronen confirmed that Black is correct in saying that anyone can appeal a hospital project’s consistency determination. “But the final analysis will revolve around asking if the proposed project meets the health care needs of San Francisco,” she said. “If it doesn’t, and the board doesn’t believe there’s a compelling public policy reason to approve the project, [the board] can override the approval.”



Mary Michelucci, a registered nurse for 40 years and a member of the California Nurses Association, is hopeful that Campos’ legislation will rein in the hospital industry.

“I hope that any plan that would favor patient care over profit would be the way to go,” Michelucci said. “Running a hospital is expensive. But with the profits that Sutter and CPMC are making, they can afford this.”

Michelucci says the dispute over St. Luke’s came to a head three years ago, when nurses began to suspect that CPMC was planning to let the facility fail, suspicions that intensified when CPMC closed St. Luke’s neonatal intensive care unit 18 months ago.

“Now the babies who need neonatal special care are transported to CPMC’s California campus, which is in the Richmond,” Michelucci said. “But the moms may be discharged and most of them live in the Mission or Bayview-Hunters Point.”

Michelucchi still fears that CPMC will wage “a horrific campaign” against the California’s Nurses Association as it continues to push the plan for its megahospital. “CPMC wants to be in complete control of the registered nurses,” she said. “We, unfortunately, are their conscience, while they are a business model in the business of healthcare. The decisions they make about healthcare are not in the interests of patients or nurses, and we are the thorn in their side.”

All this is happening against the backdrop of the worst economic recession since the Great Depression, and for construction workers facing high unemployment rates in San Francisco, CPMC’s megaproject clearly represents light at the end of a very dark tunnel.

“CPMC is my future,” William Hestor, a 28-year-old father of two and member of SEIU-United Healthcare Workers, said at the Nov. 15 hearing. “We worked hard on a contract and we just want to make sure our hospital is built on time.”

CPMC media spokesperson Kevin McCormack told the Guardian that the real issue between CPMC and the CNA is union membership at CPMC’s Cathedral Hill facility. “CPMC is reducing beds at St. Luke’s because the beds aren’t in use, but the facility will be able to take care of 90 percent of patients’ needs and if you need specialist care, a shuttle will take you to Cathedral Hill,” McCormack said. “This centralized arrangement is the best way to attract the best staff and equipment.”

McCormack noted that there are union members and 1,200 nonunion nurses working at CPMC facilities in San Francisco. “We are bringing together nonunion and union nurses together at this facility, and we don’t feel we have the right to force our nonunion nurses to join,” he said, adding that since the Teamsters, the Carpenters, and SEIU-United Healthcare Workers (UHW) are already unionized at the Pacific and California campuses, they’ll be allowed to unionize at Cathedral Hill.

CNA member Eileen Prendiville, who has worked in San Francisco as a registered nurse for decades, recalls the negative changes she has already seen at CPMC’s facilities, including eliminating registered nurses and specialty services.

“If you pull services, as they have, of course you’ll have fewer patients. And the physicians start leaving, so it’s a vicious cycle,” she said. “St. Luke’s was a small community hospital but now it’s all about corporate medicine.”

Sup. Eric Mar sided with those seeking to exempt current projects from the city’s health care services master plan. But Sup. Sophie Maxwell noted that the Planning Commission will take a facility’s historical role into account in determining whether projects are consistent with the city’s health care services plan.

“We believe that addressed community concerns,” Maxwell said. “St. Luke’s would never have been targeted for closure had this legislation been on the books in the past.”

Campos insists his legislation is not simply about CPMC. “Ultimately this legislation stems from a number of pleas we have heard in the last couple of years from people throughout the city,” he said. “It takes the institutional master planning process to the next level. We have tried to consolidate the appeal process under existing law. Important as the legislation is, it’s key to make sure we have the right master plan because that’s where the heavy lifting will take place.”

Meanwhile, the final EIR is being completed for the CPMC project, which should go before the Board of Supervisors for approval early next year.




DINE Ragazza is the younger sorella of Sharon Ardiana’s Gialina in Glen Park and, as is so often the case with siblings, the two restaurants do and do not resemble each other. Much of the differences are traceable to the respective neighborhoods. Glen Park (where we find Gialina) has in recent years become an annex of city’s baby belt, whose big, shiny buckle is just over the hill in Noe Valley. Kids like pizza, and Gialina has fine pizza, along with a selection of pastas, a roast or two, and a selection of contorni. Eating at Gialina is a little like waiting to check in for a flight on Southwest Airlines: the environment is lively, lighthearted, and swarming with small children. (Shouldn’t shrieking children be flown on their own airline, perhaps Screaming Babies Airways, with a big screaming baby head painted on the tail of every plane. But if they want to eat at Gialina, okay.)

Ragazza, by contrast, brings haute pizza culture to a vortex of the Haights (lower and upper) and NoPa that so far shows few signs of turning into kiddieland. The restaurant opened recently in a space that’s worn quite a few masks over the past decade; 10 years ago, it was a bistro called Metro Café, then became a fine Nepalese restaurant called Metro Kathmandu, reverted briefly to Metro Café, and now this.

There is nothing distinctive about the mid-block, storefront setting. The glowing red paint scheme of the Kathmandu era has been dialed back to milder earth tones. Otherwise, the look of the restaurant is little different. (In this aesthetic continuity, too, Ragazza differs from its older sibling, whose neglected space was heavily made over before its opening in early 2007.)

Ragazza’s menu is somewhat less pizza-pie-centric than Gialina’s. The new place offers a number of antipasti choices and small plates, along with several roasted items. (Gialina offers one antipasto and one roast.) You could make do very nicely here without having a pizza at all. But the bulk of the clientele seems to understand Ragazza to be a pizzeria at heart, and so the pies emerge from the kitchen in a steady stream, with at least one seeming to turn up on virtually every table. It’s like watching a quarterback spread the ball around to eight different receivers.

Although Ragazza doesn’t offer Gialina’s fabled chili-bomb pizza, the aptly named atomica, it does have a spicy pie of its own, the moto, fired with Calabrian chilis. (These have an aromatic fume all their own and haven’t really been given their due.) The amatriciana pizza ($16), festooned with a sunny-side-up egg, also offered a noticeable nasal kick. And even the pies that aren’t armed with chili heat tend to be bracingly fragrant — a potato version ($15), for instance, topped with red onion and gorgonzola cheese and liberally laced with thyme. No hint of starch overload here, despite the potentially smothering presence of the spud.

Herbal perfumes, along with chili heat, are a recurrent theme. We were particularly aware of the oregano breath wafting from a crock of corona beans ($6) simmered with oven-roasted tomatoes. Oregano is the quintessential pizza smell, but I’d never come across corona beans before and, from their pale chubbiness, would have guessed them to be cannellini or flageolet. They’d been cooked just right and still offered nominal tooth resistance before yielding an interior creaminess.

Purely creamy, on the other hand, was the soft polenta ($9). Polenta can be bland, and it is sometimes enlivened by sautéed mushrooms and gorgonzola — and given Ragazza’s obvious gusto for big flavors, I wouldn’t have been surprised to find those players here. Instead the boost came from a medallion of tomato mascarpone cream, freighted with basil and set atop the polenta like a rosette.

The real test of any restaurant’s food is whether it can hold your attention even if, say, Mark Zuckerberg is sitting at the next table, making moony eyes with a comely ragazza. Was that really Mark Zuckerberg at the next table, an actual person as opposed to the character in the movie The Social Network and the subject of far too much quacking in the key of same from The New York Times’ waddling line of op-ed ducks? We weren’t sure. Zuckerberg is said to live in the wilds of the Peninsula, sleeping on a mattress on the floor of some faceless apartment, just as Jerry Brown did during his first go-round as governor. Yet there he was — maybe — in Ragazza, having come for the girl and stayed for the (pizza) pie. He didn’t friend us, alas, alack. *



Dinner: Sun.–Thurs., 5–10 p.m.;

Fri.–Sat., 5–10:30 p.m.

311 Divisadero, SF

(415) 255-1133


Beer and wine



Wheelchair accesssible

The screwy rules for mayoral succession


EDITORIAL The clerk of the Board of Supervisors, at the request of Board President David Chiu, has released a proposal for the selection process for a new mayor, and it’s about as complicated and confusing as everyone expected. That’s in part the result of the vagueness of the City Charter, which simply specifies that a vacancy in the office of mayor shall be filled by a San Francisco registered voter chosen by a majority of the supervisors but offers no procedural clues on how to get there. And the Political Reform Act sets very strict limits on conflicts of interest for elected officials in California; a supervisor, for example, can’t vote for himself or herself or do anything to promote his or her candidacy for an office that comes with a pay raise.

In the end, the proposal leaves limited room for public input — and makes it very difficult for any sitting supervisor, particularly one of the progressives, to wind up winning the job.

The way the rules are laid out, the board would accept nominations — but any sitting supervisor who accepted the nomination would have to leave the room at once, cease all communication with his or her colleagues, and play no role in further deliberations or voting. Since it’s entirely possible that several supervisors — and possibly several progressives — could be nominated, the process would cripple the final outcome since the only ones allowed to vote would be the remaining board members whose names aren’t in the mix.

That skews the outcome heavily toward one of two options: the supervisors appoint someone who isn’t on the board — or Chiu winds up as both acting mayor and board president because nobody else can muster six votes. The only other option: The progressives all stick together, line up in advance behind a candidate who’s currently on the board, and find one more vote for that person.

The whole thing is so screwy that the supervisors ought to make some changes before they adopt it and try, to the extent that it’s legal, to inject some sanity into the process.

For example: Instead of opening the nominations, collecting a long list of names, sending all of the sitting supervisors on that list out of the room and then voting, the board could take the names one at a time. A supervisor gets nominated, leaves the room, and the votes are tallied; if he or she has fewer than six, the process starts again. (The problem: who goes first — because the first person eliminated can’t be nominated again. To be fair, there would have to be some sort of random drawing of which supervisor could make the first nomination — which alone might add too much random chance to the outcome.)

Then there’s the question of when this all takes place. If the process starts now and an interim mayor is chosen, the board will have to reconfirm that person Jan. 4 when Gavin Newsom actually resigns to take over as lieutenant governor. There’s a chance something could go wrong in the meantime and the board would have to change its vote, and there’s a chance that state law would prevent a supervisor who won from acting in any way to influence the final vote. But those are better risks than the option of leaving everything to the last day. And if the board decides that it can’t or shouldn’t act until Jan. 4, special meetings ought to be calendared for Jan. 5, 6, and 7 to give the current board more than one day to make the final decision.

And before anything happens, the board needs to schedule at lest one open hearing to get input from the public on the qualifications for the next mayor and on potential candidates.

The bottom line: any candidate who wants to get progressive support needs to be willing to do more than sign legislation and manage the city. He or she needs to be willing to use political capital and the mayor’s bully pulpit to make the case for progressive change — on taxes, services, the budget, and an overall civic vision. And the six board members on the left need to stick together, or that won’t happen.




SUPER EGO Nightlife things I’m so gloriously thankful for I could bust a lower giblet and call it vogueing: No one’s been shot at the kind of club I like to attend! I have yet to hear that extremely annoying NYC-centric “Barbra Streisand” song here! I live in a city where there is not one, but two fat-burning rollerskating parties on Thanksgiving eve — the wonderfully 1970s-bumpy Roller Disco Thanksgiving Edit (Wed/24, 9 p.m., $5 entry, $5 skate rental. Mighty, 119 Utah, SF. www.mighty119.com) and the all-star DJ, ’80s-wheelin’ New 7th Heaven Sadie Hawkins Roller Prom (Wed/24, 9 p.m.-late, $7 entry, $5 skate rental. Mezzanine, 444 Jessie, SF. www.mezzaninsf.com)! None of my friends have lost a smart phone in the past three days!

Actually, this has been an amazing, thankful-worthy year for SF nightlife. Next month I’ll be dropping my infamous annual look back — in the meantime, here are a few choice club joints to set your turducken aflame. Wait, you want me to shove that can of Bud up what?



‘Twas the night before Thanksgiving, and all the kids got down to a Dirty Bird. SF’s fantastically light-hearted techno Dirty Bird label, that is, with founder Vonstroke and early Dirty Birder Jesse Rose on the tables together, like freaks of a feather.

Wed/24, 9 p.m.–4 a.m., $20. Public Works, 161 Erie, SF. www.publicsf.com



There’s punk rock in my gravy, and it’s free. The splendidly named DJ Lumpen the Laptop-Hero of Monday’s weekly retro Wave Not Wave party is throwing down punk jams on Thanksgiving night. Ditch your parents and come out, get soused, tear shit up.

Thu/25, 10 p.m., free. Beauty Bar, 2299 Mission, SF. www.thebeautybar.com



Hot young Brooklynite remix master gives the funky R&B treatment to tracks almost before they hit the ‘Net (like his twist on my cut of the month, Teengirl Fantasy’s “Dancing in Slow Motion.” He’ll be showing off in SF for the first time, at the always tail-flailing Icee Hot party, with residents Ghosts on Tape, Disco Shawn and Rollie Fingers.

Sat/27, 10 p.m., $5. 222 Hyde, SF. www.222hyde.com



At last, your chance to see drag queens wrestling in Jell-O. Now word yet if there’ll be whip cream, but there will be hostess Ambrosia Salad, as well as the ever-colloidal VivvyAnne ForeverMore, and her royal wobless Monistat. Plus DJs Alexis Blair Penney, Carnita and Brown Amy from Hard French, and many more.

Sat/27, 8 p.m., $5–$10. UndergroundSF, 424 Haight, SF. (415) 864-7386



Sweet marshmallow yams, the DNA is almost older than I am! This gala is a special installment of huge mashup club Bootie (www.bootiesf.com), but with aerialist Your Little Chernobyl, a special DJ set at 8 p.m. by DNA Lounge cofounder Brian Raffi, and an open bar from 8 p.m.–9 p.m. with paid admission.

Sat/27, 9 p.m.–late, $6 before 10 p.m., $12 after. DNA Lounge, 375 11th St., SF. www.dnalounge.com



Shake your trypto-fanny to a little glamorous disco and funk, why don’t you? One of my favorite little parties is turning two, with DJs Ken Vulsion, Steve Fabus, Stanley Frank, Sergio and more, plus a live performance by Tres Lingerie. Check out this amazing mix for some idea: http://soundcloud.com/go-bang/go-bang-year-2-mix

Sat/27, 9 p.m.–late, $5. Deco Lounge, 510 Larkin, SF. www.decosf.com



This is actually a big gay wet underwear contest, which is fine. (Fear the talent portion!) The winner will be crowned the new face of Manhunt.net — because that’s just what Manhunt needs, more faces. DJs Pee Play, Manicure Versace, and Robert Jeffrey add some spicy aural twists to the proceedings, while various gay porn stars yuck it up at this goofy monthly homo-disco circus.

Sat/27, 9 p.m.–3 a.m., $10. Club Eight, 1151 Folsom, SF. www.joshuajpresents.com

Darkest heart



FILM Claire Denis was raised in colonial Africa, and White Material is her third feature set in its wake (the first two were 1988’s Chocolat and 1999’s breathtaking Beau Travail). This new film is very much about Africa, compositing elements of several different “troubles” (child soldiers, a strong man’s militia, radio broadcasts fomenting violence) into an abstract of conflict. Between the dead-eyed rebels in the bush and the brutally efficient forces in town stands Maria Vial (Isabelle Huppert), a colonial holdout. She continues to work her family’s coffee plantation after the European men have retreated indoors, after a French military helicopter has dropped survival kits on her land (she curses “these whites”), and finally after the African workers have fled. “Coffee’s coffee. Not worth dying for,” one tells her before speeding off.

As the troubles mount, Maria buries the signs of encroaching threats — literally when a cow’s head rolls out of a basket of coffee berries. Her refusal to be terrorized is a trait we typically ascribe to male action heroes (the film would make an interesting double-feature with 2008’s Gran Torino), though Maria’s resolute blindness is its own kind of privilege in the African context. Her restless movements are starkly contrasted by the wounded still lives of three men: her slothful son Manuel, a nihilist nitwit; a shadowy colonial patriarch who doesn’t walk beyond the threshold of his house; and an equally mysterious figurehead of the rebel movement ailing in a plantation dugout (played to some distraction by Isaach de Bankolé). A woman’s tragic strength, a weak grown child, a downward spiral knotted by a complex flashback structure: White Material seems a bit like a postcolonial Mildred Pierce.

Unusually for Denis, the film is both a literary adaptation (cowritten with author Marie NDiaye and based on Doris Lessing’s The Grass is Singing) and a star vehicle for Huppert, whose stringy musculature is a nice match for Yves Cape’s lithe camerawork. The idea of Maria’s character already tends toward the parabolic, though, and all these different inputs can result in too much dramatic underlining. When Maria’s flashback first lands us in the liberating rush of a motorcycle ride, Denis’ handheld cinematography generates an ample rush — but then Huppert lets her hair down with a flourish, and we feel we’re being pressed too hard. The same is true whenever the child soldiers march to Tindersticks’ funereal score, or when the mention of white material (Maria’s cigarette lighter, for instance) ends a scene on an overly foreboding note. Far more effective are those dizzying moments when a freshly vulnerable Maria notices rebel girls wearing her clothes.

For all White Material‘s novelistic concessions, Denis’ subtle command of composition and rhythm as elements of narration is beyond doubt. Her use of the handheld camera remains preternaturally attuned to her characters’ pleasures and anxieties, and she is still quite capable of finding the most telling framing of a given power dynamic. To that effect, there’s a brilliant shot early in Maria’s flashback when her regular workers leave the plantation. She implores them to stay, but they ride off one by one in an indistinct line, remaining out of focus while her darting head weaves the bulk of the widescreen frame. The vacuum of authority is vividly realized in seconds of screen time.

White Material begins at the end, with unattached subjective images of someone searching the plantation house with a flashlight. The beam settles on certain talismanic objects (a photograph of a young woman, an African mask, an oxygen tank) before sliding across more of the obscure space. The tantalizing vision of scenes like these makes me wish White Material wasn’t so dutifully attached to its (admittedly fierce) star. But watching the film a second time, I found that the embers of repression came into better focus between the broad strokes of plotting. Intimations and symbols flash through a dusky storm that doesn’t need a name to rumble.

WHITE MATERIAL opens Fri/26 in Bay Area theaters.



MUSIC Andreya Triana is a singer-songwriter from Southeast London, and Tokimonsta (Jennifer Lee) is a post hip-hop producer from Los Angeles’ South Bay. Triana delivers soulful jazz vocals, forged from a personal and fragile source, and Tokimonsta crafts warm synthetic R&B beats with a driving low-end. Triana’s music is sincere and confessional, Tokimonsta’s amplified and playful. But both artists adeptly recast sensuality in today’s electronic music, which is all too often submerged in a limited emotional sphere between two hedonistic impulses: aggro and more aggro.

I first heard Triana’s voice on “Tea Leaf Dancers,” one of Flying Lotus’ most memorable forays into computer soul from the Reset EP (Warp, 2007). What is most striking is how effortlessly Triana is able to inflect her full-bodied vocals into the lustful synth and bubbling bassline, expertly intertwining the emotional resonance of her lyrical skill with the song’s fissured digital architecture. In the past few years, Triana has steadily cropped up on singles and remixes from some of the most innovative producers in the U.K., from Natural Self to Mount Kimbie. And just this last year, she teamed up with Bonobo (Simon Green), who featured her vocals and songwriting on his new record, Black Sands (Ninja Tune), and produced lush orchestration for her lovely full-length debut, Lost Where I Belong (Ninja Tune).

On Black Sands, Triana breathes life into “Eyesdown,” floating confident verses over an uneasy two-step breakbeat and dreamy ambient swirls. She gathers tremendous strength while staring into the pain of loss: “Hands up/ I got my eyes facing down/ Slowly while the tears fall down/ Slow down.”

For Lost Where I Belong, Bonobo delved into a more minimal take on production with machines and live instruments, hinging together spheres of downtempo jazz and folk in a unique body of pastoral sound. Soft chord progressions twirl among wistful guitar riffs and horn blasts of tranquil joy. On the title track Triana traces the struggle of finding home, and in “A Town Called Obsolete,” she looks inward to find comfort in face of the most demanding other: oneself. The looseness of the song structure lets Triana take control of the narrative and unfold her talent as a visceral songwriter while simultaneously exerting the full-fledged powers of her pipes.

Tokimonsta also has been making noise the last couple of years. She gained shine from Mary Anne Hobbs’ late BBC Radio 1 “Experimental” show as well as the extended family of L.A.’s now infamous Low End Theory weekly. She’s also the only female beatsmith officially on the roster of Flying Lotus’ Brainfeeder upstart. Tokimonsta’s style of sound can be sketched through a light study of her pseudonym: “toki” means bunny/rabbit in Korean while the “monsta” signifier has its own range of connotations on the cutesy side of evil. The name might bring to mind mutant anime toys, or for more adventurous-minded cartoon geeks, the prophetic rabbits haunting the lots of Watership Down.

You could say that Tokimonsta pulls from the psychedelic elements underpinning animation to infuse her music with a soulful, otherworldly quality. Her first EP from earlier this year, Cosmic Intoxication (Ramp), travels through the spacier realms of instrumental hip-hop. And her recent full-length, Midnight Menu (Art Union), begins where DJ Shadow’s “Midnight in a Perfect World” left off: in awe toward the abyss of the city’s night sky and fully enthralled with the prolonged indulgence and manipulation of emotion. Telephonic buzzes begin “Sa Mo Jung” just before a huge bassline kicks the engine toward a maximalist warp zone. The 8-bit haywire synth and rumbling sub-bass of “Chinese Smoothie” evoke the trailing luminescent tail of a dying comet. But some of the best Tokimonsta joints are remixes: an enchanting rendition of Marvin Gaye’s “If This World Were Mine” and a flip of Tweet’s “Call Me” into a glitched-out marvel of electric desire.


Sat./27, 9 p.m., $22.50

444 Jessie, SF

(415) 625-8880


The in sounds of ‘The Way Out’


MUSIC Accurately summing up the music The Books create is a tall order. Folktronica, indie pop, cut and paste, experimental — all these tags can loosely be assigned to it, but none fully express the group’s acoustic virtuosity and electronic archival flair. After meeting in New York City in 1999, Nick Zammuto and Paul de Jong soon began to craft their unique mix of found sounds, cello, guitars, vocals, and studio experimentation. That work has led to four albums, a remix collaboration with Prefuse 73 and a commission to create elevator music for the Ministry of Culture in Paris. Zammuto took some time to chat about the group’s use of samples and its newest release (on Temporary Residence Ltd.), The Way Out.

SFBG You guys seem to put a lot of thought into which venues you perform at.

Nick Zammuto More than anything, the venue creates the evening, the shape of it and the sound of it. And it’s amazing how it brings out different characteristics in an audience. Part of it is what they bring and part of it is what we do. But there’s that third element, which is the venue. It’s a mysterious thing.

SFBG I’m curious about how you find what you sample. Where did the material featured on The Way Out come from?

NZ During our tours in 2006 and 2007, we just stopped at thrift shops all along the way, wherever we could. We’d pick up VHS tapes and audiotapes. Basically we take the tapes and digitize them and then go through them and save all the stuff we think might be useful, having no idea what it might be used for. If it kind of has this memorable, emotional quality to it, we save it and keep it around. And the cream rises to the surface, in a way. We end up with these samples that are so far and above anything that anyone would expect, and you just have to use them. We throw all those in a folder called “Must Be Used.” And that’s what starts a lot of the ideas for the compositions.

SFBG Considering how meticulous you guys seem to be with crafting albums and each individual song, do you ever struggle with deciding when something is done being worked on?

NZ Yeah. I mean, I compose the stuff and it takes forever (laughing). And it’s a completely exhausting process. But you just kinda know when you’re done because you don’t want to work on it anymore. It becomes like a zero-sum game. Nothing you can do can make it any better than what it is, so you just let it go. Tracks are never finished, they just kind of escape.

SFBG Have you ever been contacted by someone who appears in one of the found samples you’ve used throughout your career?

NZ People wonder about this a lot, and we haven’t, I think for a couple of reasons. Who knows how old some of the people on those tapes are now? And you know, we’re a pretty small band, so I don’t know how it would get to them, unless it was through some crazy kind of way. Maybe it will happen someday …

[Working with the tapes] feels like archeology, even though it’s of the recent past. There’s some distance between now and then, so [the material] takes on a totally different meaning. There’s all this inadvertent cultural information in the tapes. Stuff that was the background when people were making them becomes the foreground because it’s so different from how we are now. And it often comes across as funny. But it also has this unconscious quality to it in that none of the stuff is planned. What it means isn’t preconceived. It’s really honest in the way it comes though. It’s just people being themselves. And that’s what I really like about it.


With Black Heart Procession

Palace of Fine Arts Theatre

3301 Lyon, SF

(415) 567-6642



Heavenly landing



THEATER A rare sighting the weekend of Nov. 18-20 at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts: Cynthia Hopkins, as intergalactic space pilot Ruom Yes Noremac, a post-human “Druoc” in a floppy silver space suit hovering high above the stage of the Novellus Theatre, returning from the far distant future … to do what? “Save the earth, of course.”

It was one of many memorable moments in The Success of Failure (Or, the Failure of Success), a comical operetta musing on “the pros and cons of evolution,” and part three in the wildly inventive Accidental Trilogy developed by the New York City–based artist and company Accinosco. Before a spacescape projected across an enormous screen, above a stage aglow and twinkling with arch sci-fi phantasmagoria, Hopkins appeared to defy gravity with her deft spectacle and ethereal song. The atmosphere was one of all-pervading nostalgia and regret.

The real high-wire act, however, lay ahead, in the second half of the piece, after the conclusion of a wacky and yearning sci-fi bedtime story narrated from a billion years hence by a silvery flashing orb to her smaller, highly inquisitive offspring. By that point, baby orb has rebelled against the downer ending of mama orb’s story, preferring to make up a happy conclusion instead — that childlike one in which human beings do manage to evolve past self-destruction just in time.

The stage emptied itself of all pretense and everything but the barest of effects, leaving just the 38-year-old Hopkins and her story. Surrounded by a cluster of musical instruments and backed by a hand-drawn star chart of personal crisis and loss, she managed a feat of confessional theater. With uncommon and at times unnerving frankness and poise, Hopkins’ planetary grief and trepidation gave way to a hauntingly brazen concern with saving herself.

Between the planetary and the personal there was no contradiction. The stated aim of the entire Accidental Trilogy is a “mediation on the miraculously powerful (though intensely challenging) process of self-transformation,” as well as the tension between unbearable truths and their transformation into entertainments. Hopkins makes that plain at several points along the way, but never more brilliantly than in the opening lines of the final monologue, as she verbally telescopes, by orders of magnitude, from the full expanse of time and space to her precise location before a San Francisco audience.

This soul-bearing, careening, and stunningly well-delivered monologue cracks open the trilogy’s slyly self-referential conceit, founded on the life of character and alter ego Cameron Seymour (spelled backward in the sci-fi joint to derive space pilot Ruom). Hopkins takes us without artifice — beyond the assistance of her luminous songs — to the darkest points of her own evolution. Amnesia, escapism, failure, and alcoholism: these points reaching back to the defining grief of a mother who died of cancer when Hopkins was a girl. Her mother’s resolute faith and early demise stand throughout in wrenching ironic contrast to both her own and her father’s willful yet unsuccessful attempts to “throw ourselves into the jaws of death.”

“This is a funeral pyre,” she tells us, “and onto it I’m going to toss this method of turning truth into grotesque fiction.” The end comes in a blaze of passion and pain and conjecture, frenetic and quasi-poetic reenactments of past mania, and almost sacramental bursts of quirky, moving song. But, through “a magical ritual called forgiveness,” from those ashes something else rises, mushroom-like, at the scene of disaster. The universe collapses even further — down from the distance of galaxies and tongue-in-cheek fantasy, the pretense of art and performance, and the nostalgia for the loss of it all — onto a single face, captured in a tight beam of slowly fading light, as above her own unamplified guitar a bare crystalline voice muses in song on the wonder of the sun.

As a close encounter, it was one of a kind.