Volume 45 Number 39

Upcoming summer festivals

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July 14-24

Midsummer Mozart Festival Various Bay Area venues. (415) 627-9141, www.midsummermozart.org . Prices vary. You won’t be hearing any Beethoven or Schubert at this midsummer series — the name of the day is Mr. Mozart alone.

 

July 16-17

Connoisseur’s Marketplace Santa Cruz between Camino and Johnson, Menlo Park. (650) 325-2818, www.miramarevents.com. 10am-6pm, free. Let the artisans do what they do best — you’ll polish off the fruits of their labor at this outdoor expo of artisan food, wine, and craft.

 

July 21-Aug 8

SF Jewish Film Festival Various Bay Area venues. www.sfjff.org. Times and prices vary. A three week smorgasbord of world premiere Jewish films at theaters in SF, Berkeley, the Peninsula, and Marin County.

 

July 22-Aug 13

Music@Menlo Chamber Music Festival Menlo School, 50 Valparaiso, Atherton. (650) 330-2030, www.musicatmenlo.org. Classical chamber music at its best: this year’s theme “Through Brahms,” will take you on a journey through Johannes’ most notable works.

 

July 23-Sept 25

 SF Shakespeare Festival Various Bay Area venues. www.sfshakes.org. Various times, free. Picnic with Princess Innogen and her crew with dropping a dime at this year’s production of Cymbeline. It’s by that playwriter guy… what’s his name again?

 

July 30

Oakland A’s Beer Festival Eastside Club at the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum, 7000 Coliseum Way, Oakl. www.oakland.athletics.mlb.com. 4:05-6:05pm, free with game ticket. Booze your way through the Oakland A’s vs. Minnesota Twins game while the coliseum is filled with brewskies from over 30 microbreweries, there for the chugging in your souvenir A’s beer mug.

 

July 30-31

 Berkeley Kite Festival Cesar Chavez Park, 11 Spinnaker, Berk. www.highlinekites.com. 10am-5pm, free. A joyous selection of Berkeley’s coolest kites, all in one easy location.

 

July 31

Up Your Alley Dore between Folsom and Howard, SF. www.folsomstreetfair.com. 11am-6pm, $7-10 suggested donation. Whether you are into BDSM, leather, paddles, nipple clamps, hardcore — or don’t know what any of the above means, this Dore Alley stroll is surprisingly friendly and cute once you get past all the whips!

 

Aug 1-7

SF Chefs Various venues, SF. www.sfchefs2011.com. Times and prices vary. Those that love to taste test will rejoice during this foodie’s paradise of culinary stars sharing their latest bites. Best of all, the goal for 2011’s event is tons of taste with zero waste.

 

Aug 7

SF Theater Festival Fort Mason Center. Buchanan and Marina, SF. www.sftheaterfestival.org. 11am-5pm, free. Think you can face about 100 live theater acts in one day? Set a personal record at this indoor and outdoor celebration of thespians.

 

Aug 13

San Rafael Food and Wine Festival Falkirk Cultural Center, 1408 Mission, San Rafael. 1-800-310-6563, www.sresproductions.com. Noon-6pm, $25 food and wine tasting, $15 food tasting only. A sampler’s paradise, this festival features an array of tastes from the Bay’s best wineries and restaurants.

 

Aug 13-14

Nihonmachi Street Fair Post and Webster, SF. www.nihonmachistreetfair.org. 11am-6pm, free. Founded by Asian Pacific American youths, this Japantown tradition is a yearly tribute to the difficult history and prevailing spirit of Asian American culture in this SF neighborhood.

 

Aug 20-21

Oakland Art and Soul Festival Entrances at 14th St. and Broadway, 16th St. and San Pablo, Oakl. (510) 444-CITY, www.artandsouloakland.com. $15. A musical entertainment tribute to downtown Oakland’s art and soul, this festival features nationally-known R&B, jazz, gospel, and rock artists.

 

Aug 20-22

* SF Street Food Festival Folsom St from Twenty Sixth to Twenty Second, SF. www.sfstreetfoodfest.com. 11am-7pm, free. All of the city’s best food, available without having to go indoors — or sit down. 2011 brings a bigger and better Street Food Fest, perfect for SF’s burgeoning addiction to pavement meals.

 

Aug 29-Sept 5

Burning Man Black Rock City, Nev. (415) TO-FLAME, www.burningman.com. $320. This year’s theme, “Rites of Passage,” is set to explore transitional spaces and feelings. Gather with the best of the burned-out at one of the world’s weirdest, most renowned parties.

 

Sep 10-11

* Autumn Moon Festival Street Fair Grant between California and Broadway, SF. (415) 982-6306, www.moonfestival.org. 11am-6pm, free. A time to celebrate the summer harvest and the end of summer full-moon, rejoice in bounty with the moon goddess.

 

Sept 17-18

SF International Dragon Boat Festival California and Avenue D, Treasure Island. www.sfdragonboat.com. 10am-5pm, free. The country’s largest dragon boat festival sees beautiful man-powered boats take to the water in 300 and 500 meter competitive races.

 

Sept 23-25

SF Greek Food Festival Annunciation Cathedral. 245 Valencia, SF. www.sfgreekfoodfestival.org. Fri.-Sat., 11am-10pm; Sun., noon-9pm, free with advance ticket. Get your baba ghanoush on during this late summer festival, complete with traditional Greek dancing, music, and wine.

 

Sept 25

Folsom Street Fair Folsom between 7th and 12th St., SF. www.folsomstreetfair.org . 11am-6pm, free. The urban Burning Man equivalent for leather enthusiasts, going to this expansive SoMa celebration of kink and fetish culture is the surest way to see a penis in public (you dirty dog!).

 

Sept 30-Oct 2

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Speedway Meadows, Golden Gate Park, SF. www.strictlybluegrass.com. 11am-7pm, free. Pack some whiskey and shoulder your banjo: this free three day festival draws record-breaking crowds — and top names in a variety of twangy genres — each year.

 

Items with asterisks note family-fun activities.

Ameri-cows rejoice!

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Come our nation’s day of independence, all non-meat eaters will eat one: a homogenized, unexciting tofu dog. Especially if they are shy and/or lazy – the dog package conveniently slips into one’s red-white-and-blue woven straw tote, and they are easily sneakable onto BBQ grills without a huge amount of haranguing from friends pumped up on animal proteins. 

But they suck (except for Field Roast sausages, whole food fist pump). And thankfully, this year all you little veggies have an option to the tube-shaped madness: the San Francisco Vegetarian Society‘s Healthy Holiday BBQ on Sun/3.

Belly up to the benefit for Go Vegan Radio (which airs Sundays at 3 p.m. on am channel GREEN 960) BBQ for treats from a tummy grumbling V-list: Souley Vegan, Rudi’s Bakery, and Sunshine Burger among other moo-friendly vegan magic makers. 

But what would a vegan gathering be without a little speechifying on topics that affect your belly and other things? Dr. Elliott Katz, the founder of In Defense of Animals will give a talk to reaffirm your anti-burger convictions, and at 2:30 p.m., animal rights crusaders Jake Conroy of the persecuted e-activists Shac Seven, Alfredo Kuba, and Pat Cuviello will flap jaw in a panel discussion entitled “Coffee, Cake, and Constitution.” 

Oh, and vegan bodybuilder Kenneth G. Williams will be there. Stoked!

Meat-free muscles: Kenneth G. Williams

Should Sunday’s festivities leave you unable to stomach the thought of being restricted to one kind of coleslaw and buns on the Fourth itself, you’re in luck: bring your best cornmeal-crusted tempeh over to the Presidio for a conveniently-located potluck before the fireworks, also sponsored by the Veg Society (details below).

 

San Francisco Healthy Holiday BBQ

Sun/3 noon-3:30 p.m., $10 suggested donation

First Unitarian Universalist Center

1187 Franklin, SF

www.sfvs.org

 

Fourth of July SF Vegetarian Society-Living Foods picnic potluck

Mon/4 1 p.m., free

O’Reilly Avenue between Lincoln and Eddy, SF

www.sfvs.org

 

Dearly beloved

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Pop historians have praised Prince’s 1984 Purple Rain as the greatest soundtrack of all time, the greatest album of the 1980s, and even the greatest album (full stop) of all time. Fans agree — the Oscar-winning platter has sold more than 13 million copies.

Purple Rain, the movie, occupies another space entirely — it’s a time capsule of the big-hair, tight-pants era. Far from a forgotten footnote to the Purple Rain album, however, the movie has emerged as a full-fledged cult classic. Naturally, this means it’s a favorite of Peaches Christ, who’ll be feting the movie in royal style this weekend. The film’s leading lady, actor-musician Apollonia, who still performs and also runs her own production company, will appear in person. I spoke with her from the shores of Lake Minnetonka — er, Los Angeles — ahead of her San Francisco visit.

SFBG One of the highlights at the Castro event is sure to be the costume contest. Do you have any ’80s fashion regrets?

Apollonia I think my fashion regret was wearing, like, lace leggings. I wore those with undies underneath for a TV show in Mexico. They looked great in person. You know, sometimes you wear things and you look in the mirror and you go, “Oh man, this is kickin’.” Then I saw it on TV and I was like, “Oh shit, what the hell did I just do?” It was baaad. [Laughs.]

SFBG I’m sure Purple Rain fans always ask about your relationship with Prince.

A The funniest thing — a bit annoying, too — is that a lot of people will ask, “I want to buy tickets for the Prince concert, can you get me better seats?” [Laughs.] And these are just innocent fans who don’t know better. [I also get] “Did you guys date? Were you married?” No, we never dated. We were not married. I’m not the drummer, I’m not the ex-wife. I’m the actor that was in the movie!

SFBG How was Prince to work with? Do you keep in touch?

A He’s funny, great personality. Musical genius. We don’t see each other every month, but we [performed together] at the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood maybe two years ago. I always tell friends, you know, forever it’s Ike and Tina, Sonny and Cher, and Prince and Apollonia. I could see people’s faces, they were freaked out watching us!

SFBG Do you have a favorite memory of working on Purple Rain?

A It was all hard work, but I enjoyed it from day one — and going to the Oscars, which was wild! Just being part of music folklore — it’s an iconic movie and I’m honored to have been part of it. 

PURPLE RAIN

Fri/1, 8 p.m., $25–$43

Castro Theatre

429 Castro, SF

www.peacheschrist.com

 

He’s back!

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steve@sfbg.com

It’s been more than a year since relations between San Francisco’s nightlife community and the San Francisco Police Department bottomed-out following a nasty crackdown and pattern of harassment led by plain-clothes Officer Larry Bertrand and Michelle Ott, an agent with the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.

The pair’s antics included repeatedly shutting down clubs, aggressively raiding private parties, seizing laptop computers and other property, making arrests for minor infractions, roughing up and threatening those who objected to the harsh treatment, dumping out dozens of bottles of alcohol, and, according to one lawsuit, retaliating against those who filed complaints.

There were at least four lawsuits against the city related to the crusade, including one that the city is in the process of settling for $50,000 (involving promoter Arash Ghanadan, who had repeated run-ins with Bertrand) and another federal lawsuit alleging that Bertrand’s harassment of legal businesses amounted to a criminal racketeering enterprise. The federal case is headed for trial later this year.

After cover stories in the Guardian (see “The new War on Fun,” 3/23/10) and SF Weekly exposed the abuses, and the nightlife community formed the California Music and Culture Association to counter the assault, Bertrand and Ott were pulled off the nightlife beat and things slowly got better.

So when Bertrand appeared back on the beat on a recent Friday night, June 17 — targeting two of the same clubs he allegedly harassed before, Mist and Sloan, and shutting Sloan down for the night on a technical violation — many in the nightlife community freaked out, fearing that their improved relationship with SFPD was over and the bad old days were back.

“My phone was blowing up with texts and photos of his raid on Sloan nightclub. People are livid,” attorney Mark Rennie, who works with clubs on permitting and compliance issues, wrote to a group of nightlife advocates in an e-mail titled “Officer Larry Bertrand back on the Streets last night and up to his old tricks.”

Complaints were made to new Police Chief Greg Suhr and others in the command staff. The SFPD initially refused a Guardian request for comment on whether Bertrand would remain back on the beat, citing the ongoing lawsuits. But police spokesperson Sgt. Mike Andraychak eventually admitted it was a mistake to have Bertrand busting clubs and said he won’t be back on that beat anytime soon.

Andraychak said the new commander of Southern Station, Capt. Charlie Orkes, assigned Bertrand to police the clubs for the night and “he wasn’t aware of the history of lawsuits, and so that’s why Officer Bertrand was out there that night doing permit inspections … He won’t have Officer Bertrand in that role again, in the interests of good community relations.”

Those relations have become much better and more cooperative in the last year, according to Suhr, Rennie, and Entertainment Commission Executive Director Jocelyn Kane. “We’re happy with our relationship with the Police Department right now,” Kane told us. “That’s why [the reappearance of Bertrand] was of concern to people.”

During an interview with the Guardian on the morning of June 17, Suhr said he was supportive of nightlife. “I’m pro entertainment and I want the clubs to succeed. It think it draws people to the city and allows us to do a lot of things,” Suhr said, emphasizing the importance of clear communications and good relations between clubs and the SFPD. “If we’re being fair, consistent, and objective in how we treat situations, the clubs will know how it works.”

To many in the nightlife community, Bertrand represents the antithesis of that approach. Mist owner Mike Quan, a plaintiff in the ongoing federal lawsuit alleging Bertrand repeatedly harassed him and his customers, said he was shocked to hear Bertrand showed up at his club and was abrasive with his employees again. “My attorney sent [SFPD] a letter the next day saying this is not acceptable,” Quan told us. “Hopefully they got the message.”

Mayoral candidate Bevan Dufty, who is close to the nightlife community, helped reach out to Suhr after the incident and said he believes it was an aberration. “This is something that is a concern and the leadership needs to be sure that we’re not falling back,” Dufty told us.

Appeals also went out to the City Attorney’s Office, headed by another mayoral candidate, Dennis Herrera, who said he was happy to hear this was an isolated incident. But he said it illustrates something he’s been saying in meetings with clubs and cops — that SFPD’s nightlife enforcement policies need to be clear and consistent.

“We need to get it above the ad hoc way we’ve done it, so that it’s above the captain level and coming from the command staff,” Herrera told us.

Suhr, who has better relations with the nightlife community than any of his recent predecessors, also emphasized the need to lay out clear expectations. But he stopped short of saying there wouldn’t be anymore undercover raids of clubs and parties, telling us, “I think it’s important that people think that’s a possibility.”

Volume 45 Number 39 Flip-through Edition

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Smells like motherland spirit

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cheryl@sfbg.com

FILM When North Korea makes the news, it’s usually under unpleasant headlines containing words like “nuclear” and “hostilities.” What most Americans know of this secretive country is either drawn from these dire reports or formed via pop culture. Notable are Vice magazine’s surprisingly illuminating North Korean travelogue, which “aired” online, and a pair of 2004 films: doc A State of Mind, about two girls training for the country’s circus-on-a-terrifying-scale Mass Games, and, of course, Team America: World Police.

For the sum of a few thousand euros, Beijing-based Koryo Tours can book Westerners (except journalists — NO JOURNALISTS ALLOWED!) on trips that include the Mass Games, the DMZ, Baekdu Mountain, and more (act now for the “Kim Il Sung 100th Birthday Ultimate Mega Tour 2012”!) The Koryo website’s FAQ (“Will the guides try to brainwash me?”) offers quite an education about how controlled access to the country really is — as you might suspect, tourists have to be extremely careful where they point their cameras. Still, a vacation in North Korea would surely be a one-of-a-kind experience.

With that in mind, Koryo is sponsoring a screening of a one-of-a-kind — at least in America — film, Centre Forward, a 1978 curio that was digitally restored in 2010. Directed with limited artistic flair by Pak Chong-Song (according the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts’ website, “considered one of the DPRK’s finest filmmakers”), this 75-minute, black-and-white propaganda piece weaves the tale of Comrade In Son, a gifted but inexperienced soccer player struggling to succeed on a team that recently upgraded its training regime from merely exhausting to sadistically brutal.

Along the way, the lad wearing No. 17 learns important lessons from his sister (a dancer whose training also tends toward the sadistically brutal), his roommate (an older player with international triumphs under his belt), his coach (who gives motivational speeches that invoke the teachings of the Fatherly Leader), and the lyrics of the rousing tunes that play over the film’s many montages — “Oh we are sportspersons of the Leader, let us demonstrate wisdom and vigor,” that sort of thing. There’s never any doubt, because it’s emphasized over and over, that sporting glory is owned by the motherland, not individual players. (Though if you fail, you’re personally responsible for hindering the DPRK’s pursuit of being “a kingdom of sports.”)

Centre Forward‘s original release must’ve stirred the hearts of North Korean soccer fans who recalled the national team’s best-ever World Cup showing; in 1966, it reached the quarter-finals after defeating perennial powerhouse Italy. Contemporary fans might better remember the 2010 World Cup, though they’d probably prefer not to — while even qualifying for the tournament was an accomplishment (and the extreme underdogs did score a goal in their game against Brazil), the team exited after three losses, including a humiliating 0-7 defeat versus Portugal.

The media, of course, feasted on the oddities the outsider country brought to the World Cup stage: the identically-dressed fans that were alleged to be Chinese actors imported to South Africa for the occasion; the assertion that the North Korean coach was getting pitch-side advice from Kim Jong-il via an invisible phone invented by the Supreme Leader himself. We chuckled, sure. But who didn’t worry a bit when the team had to trudge back to Pyongyang, still stinging from having their asses handed to them on international television by Cristiano Ronaldo and company?

Multiple sources reported the team and coach were “publicly rebuked” (some said for six hours) for their poor showing, and that the team was forced to “reprimand” their own coach, who was then quickly shunted into a laboring job (see above, re: “kingdom of sports.”) Superstar striker Jong Tae-se — loyal to North Korea, but born in Japan, so he enjoys the decadent luxury of playing in Europe — was spared from this punishment. But what happened to the other players? If Centre Forward‘s “no pain-no gain” training philosophy at all resembles real life, I shudder to imagine.

CENTRE FORWARD

Thurs/30, 7:30 p.m., $6–$8

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

701 Mission, SF

(415) 978-2787

www.ybca.org

Down Mexico way

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arts@sfbg.com

FILM Traditional noir cinema is like a whirlpool (and there is, in fact, a 1949 noir titled Whirlpool): its protagonists are haplessly sucked into a vortex of escalating, devouring peril against which their struggles are likely to be futile. Violence, deceit, perversity, love gone wrong, vengeance, and insanity envelop the good and the weak, the haunted and proud alike.The familiar noir setting is that of the bustling city turned malevolent and strange, suddenly underpopulated streets fraught with danger in an unending night of guns, dames, and double crosses. But the open road is equally a noir landscape, exchanging the maze of urban entrapment for flights that seek rescue from dire straits but instead only dig deeper into trouble with each incriminating mile. Loss of control and comfort is the noir hero’s inevitable slippery slope; he (or the occasional she) is increasingly at the mercy of cruel fate, unrelenting pursuit, bad judgment, and/or unforgiving alien surroundings.

The Pacific Film Archive July series “Going South: American Noir in Mexico” explores one such manifestation of the traveler becoming “lost” in ways no AAA map can help. The eight vintage black and white features in curator Steve Seid’s program trace Yank protagonists’ odysseys southward, often on the lam or otherwise under duress. Some never actually make it to Mexico, or just to those border towns fabled for lawlessness and licentiousness (if largely because northern money, cultural ignorance, and thrill-seeking encouraged criminal predation).

Those who do make it find no comfort in a strange land: the stark desert, tourist traps, and insinuating locals with their maddening foreign tongue (the titular villain from 1953’s The Hitch-Hiker keeps expressing exasperation that Mexicans insist on speaking “Mexican”) provide no hiding place from their demons.

No less than three features star the inimitable sloe-eyed Robert Mitchum, a man who always seemed like he’d have a few Tijuana stories unfit for family consumption. Two by Mia’s dad John Farrow (1950’s Where Danger Lives and the next year’s His Kind of Woman), as well as Jacques Tourneur’s 1947 noir classic Out of the Past, find his variably innocent heroes drawn like flies into ornate sticky webs with an alluring brunette at their center. If Danger and Past prove her deadlier than the male, Woman‘s lighter tone allows a tropical resort near Santa Rosalita to parody den-of-thieves exoticism. In it, Jane Russell gets to be one dame who’s hard-boiled on the outside but soft on the in, as opposed to vice versa.

Mexico is likewise just the end point of thorny chases — after stolen loot or lying tail, respectively — in Phil Karlson’s excellent 1952 Kansas City Confidential and Anthony Mann’s cheesy Blue Angel (1930) update The Great Flamarion (1945) (with Erich von Stroheim as a grandiose vaudeville sharpshooter). But it’s central to the series’ three most potent entries, which also notably offer more complex takes on the relationship between our perennially poorer neighbor and imposing Gringolandia.

If you haven’t seen Orson Welles’ 1958 Touch of Evil — either in its original studio cut or drastically different 1998 Walter Murch reconstruction of the director’s original intent — you need to, because it’s a masterpiece of noir, exploitation, irony, and stylistic delirium. When Charlton Heston’s unlikely spray-tanned Mexican narcotics agent marries very blonde, “pure” (and racist) gringa Janet Leigh, their honeymoon becomes a grotesque nightmare of border-straddling sleaze, though the Spanish-speaking miscreants are just pawns in the hands of Yankee pros — especially Welles’ own Jabba the Hutt-like police captain.

Much lesser-known are two other films by actors behind the camera. Ida Lupino’s The Hitch-Hiker finds two average American Joes on a Baja fishing trip kidnapped by a serial-murdering psycho who forces them deep into desolate foreign terrain. It’s the keen eye of locals rather than our desperate heroes’ resourcefulness that might ultimately save them from the maniac’s itchy trigger finger. Spare, tense and realistic, it’s contrasted by Robert Montgomery’s 1947 Ride the Pink Horse, a sort of noir-fever-dream spin on Under the Volcano (1984) in which the director stars as a war-veteran tough guy unraveling from sleep deprivation and general dislocation on a revenge mission in a fictitious border town. Full of phony ethnic exoticism and stereotypes, it nonetheless offers hope of salvation solely from kindly Spanish-speaking locals, notably a teenage girl (pigtailed Wanda Hendrix) who can see his imminent death in our gruff hero’s eyes.

“Go on, beat it. Scrambo!” he barks at her — a good line to be sure, though none can beat Out of the Past‘s (false, it turns out) koan “A dame with a rod is like a guy with a knitting needle.”

GOING SOUTH: AMERICAN NOIR IN MEXICO

July 1–29, $5.50–$9.50

Pacific Film Archive

2575 Bancroft, Berk.

(510) 642-5249

www.bampfa.berkeley.edu

Fake-out

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arts@sfbg.com

HAIRY EYEBALL It’s not just the title of Stephanie Syjuco’s solo show “RAIDERS” — her first at Catharine Clark Gallery — that brings to mind Indiana Jones. Something of the latter-day swashbuckler comes across in Syjuco’s art, which, like Indy, initially seems to be playing to all sides for the sake of plunder — when in fact this cleverness is the outward expression of a deeper skepticism toward the very institutions it’s engaged with.

But Indiana Jones is also a pop cultural commodity and a franchise that has netted millions for creators George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. This too, I imagine, is not lost on Syjuco, whose work frequently strips Pop Art bare of its smart, slick exterior (as well as Conceptual Art of its pretensions) to access the larger and far less glamorous network of market forces, production processes, and questions of ownership that shape it as a commodity.

Whereas Takashi Murakami installed an actual Louis Vuitton boutique inside Los Angeles’ Museum of Contemporary Art, Syjuco’s project “Counterfeit Crochet” called on hobbyists the world over to knit fake designer bags, complete with logos, and even provided the patterns and instructions. She has also, on more than one occasion, set up detourned versions of shops and marketplaces inside museum walls.

“RAIDERS” opens with an installation of what at first glance appears to be a collection of handsome Asian antiquities — mainly vases and small, decorative vessels — arranged on the very shipping crates they were transported in. It quickly becomes obvious that what we’re looking at is truly a set-piece, and that the “priceless” cache before us is actually an arrangement of life-size photographic reproductions adhered to laser-cut wooden backings.

Raiders: International Booty, Bountiful Harvest (Selections from the A____ A__ M______) — to give the installation its full title — becomes more interesting when you consider that Syjuco used images downloaded from the Asian Art Museum’s online database of its holdings as her source material. Love and theft (if I may poach the title of Eric Lott’s remarkable study of American minstrelsy) are certainly forces that have shaped many a museum’s prized holdings, and it is this history — one so often bound to colonialism and its aftermath — that is also embedded in Syjuco’s fakes.

And Syjuco decidedly, politically, traffics in fakes, not forgeries. Practically every piece in “RAIDERS” has rematerialized online, open source materials — be they digital images or readily accessible canonical texts — into art objects that are themselves parodies of object-ness. Conceptually whip-smart and materially banal (wood, tape, paper, and glue are common ingredients), Syjuco’s pieces continually taunt us with the question, “Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?”

In the gallery’s back room, jewel-case-size blocks of wood covered in pixilated digital prints of CD cover art representing Syjuco’s entire collection of “music illegally downloaded or pirated from others” are, as the bright orange stickers adhered to their shrink-wrapped exteriors proclaim, really available for the “blowout price” of $9.99 a piece.” Across from this pile that looks as if it had been airlifted straight from a Tijuana bootlegger, is Phantoms (h__rt _f d__kn_ss) an installation organized around Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, replete with a table, sawhorses, houseplants, TV monitors, and 10 bound copies of different online, public domain versions of Conrad’s text that are strictly “price upon request.”

Syjuco is certainly not the first artist to take on the art world’s biggest white elephant: value. But she wields her scalpel with a thoughtful precision and economy of gesture that will forever be beyond the abilities of a gaseous giant such as Damien Hirst. And that, to borrow another clichéd bit of market-speak, is truly priceless.

 

INKSTAINS

If you missed the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s excellent Eadweard Muybridge retrospective that closed earlier this month, Matt Bryans has created something of an homage to the early master’s photographic panoramas and doctored views of a not-quite-virginal Yosemite at SF Camerawork.

“Untitled” unfurls along one of the gallery’s walls for nearly 30 feet, a fantastical expanse of ever-shifting landscape seemingly captured from a middle distance. Glaciers give way to snow-capped peaks, which then dip into valleys that ease into rolling plains and finally abut more misty crags. In the piece’s upper half, clouds swirl and dissolve across the arc of the sky as in a Chinese ink painting.

Although the piece has the weathered patina of an old daguerreotype and recalls Muybridge in its staged epicness, Bryans is a collage artist who works solely with a medium whose livelihood has been called into question about as often as film photography’s: newsprint. “Untitled” — which like the other large collage commissioned by SF Camerawork is all explosions and stars wrapped around a support column — was created using only India erasers and inky photographs clipped from newspapers.

Scanning the sky of Bryans’ panorama, you can make out the smudged traces of what was once type. And the closer you look, you start seeing the fissures between the thousands of carefully glued pieces that Bryans has transformed into a seemingly organic whole, which nonetheless appears on the point of disintegration.

The panorama piece is large enough that it sags a little and billows whenever a current of air hits it. It seems to hang heavy with the losses it embodies — photography’s ghosts, newspapers as a disappearing medium, the unknowable contexts of the images themselves — a load that’s almost too much to bear. 

STEPHANIE SYJUCO: RAIDERS

Through July 16

Catharine Clark Gallery

150 Minna, SF

(415) 399-1439

www.cclarkgallery.com

MATT BRYANS: BREAKING THE LAND

Through Aug. 20

SF Camerawork

657 Mission, SF

(415) 512-2020

www.sfcamerawork.org

 

Zero Zero

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paulr@sfbg.com

DINE Our recent bout of pizza chic was bound to reach some sort of apex sooner or later, like all fevers, and it now appears to have done so at Zero Zero, the Bruce Hill endeavor that opened last summer in the old Azie space adjoining LuLu. The name refers to a vaunted Neapolitan flour used to make pizza dough, but it also seems to suggest the turn of the millennium, with its near-5,000 Nasdaq and the reinvention of SoMa as the urban version of Silicon Valley. If you’d gone to sleep about 10 years ago and were just now waking up, you probably wouldn’t think much had changed, except that pizza had become very grand indeed during your little nap.

As a pizza master, Hill has a formidable pedigree. He was the longtime chef at Oritalia, one of the city’s most interesting and innovative restaurants of the 1980s and 1990s before moving on to reinvigorate the cooking at both the Waterfront and Bix. The Zero Zero gamble is to open a pizzentric restaurant in the heart of the city’s new restaurantland instead of at its fringes, in the lower Haight (Ragazza), Dogpatch (Piccino), or Glen Park (Gialina). A major plus of the location is that a rich lode of clientele is near at hand; being upstairs at Zero Zero on a busy weekend night is a little like trying to work your way through the break room of the Abercrombie and Fitch catalog. Clearly pizza is familiar and reassuring to people who aren’t too many years past their college graduations and who are now living in SoMa’s innumerable new luxury lofts. But is pizza enough to carry a serious restaurant?

Hill has gracefully hedged his bets by laying out a menu that’s considerably broader and more sophisticated than a few tomato-red pies to be washed down with steinfuls of brew. The kitchen turns out an assortment of crudo, antipasti, and pasta plates to keep things interesting. And if you don’t want pizza at all, you can certainly get by — although you won’t find so much as a single conventional large dish. It’s little dishes, with or without pizza. Or bupkes.

We found the food beautifully conceived and presented, although several dishes struck me as being on the verge of too salty. This is odd, considering that so much restaurant food has struck me as underseasoned over the years. Whenever I come upon oversalted food in a restaurant, I find myself thinking of the young chefs-in-waiting who can often be seen in clusters on the sidewalks in front of culinary academies, puffing away at their ciggies. It is well known that smoking cigarettes dulls the sense of taste and affects the way a chef is seasoning things.

A crudo of California halibut flaps ($12.95) was presented on a narrow sushi platter, as if subtly to enhance our sense of its freshness. And it was glisteningly tender, its butteriness deepened by Fiordolio EVOO. But the promised “panzanella” was just golden-crisp croutons with salt sprinkled over the top. It is surprising how much damage even a little salt can do to delicate food. I also found too salty an otherwise marvelous salad of wild arugula ($9.50) with quarters of ultra-ripe yellow nectarine and marcona almonds. The greens, with their almost prickly freshness, could have been picked five minutes before. But the lemon vinaigrette tended toward briny. One dish we did find in good tune was expertly braised octopus ($13.95), cubed and tender and plated with Sicilian chickpea fritters that could have passed for polenta triangles, along with the wondrous weed purslane and an agrodolce (sweet-sour) sauce. There was an important clue in this dish — that saltiness is a relative phenomenon. It can be balanced.

The pizzas buck the local trend by using a slightly thicker, puffier crust. One nice feature of puffs: they blister well. Blisters suggest that the pie has been rushed to you straight from the oven, like a popover. The topping combinations are elegant and restrained; even a relatively lavish pie, the Fillmore ($15.95), with leeks, mozzarella, hen-of-the-wood mushrooms, garlic, thyme, and three cheeses (parmesan, pecorino, fontina), remained coherent, with fresh herb breath.

But Zero Zero’s best feature is probably its build-your-own-dessert option. You choose your base ($4), your ice cream ($4.95) — simple flavors but housemade — and your toppings ($1 each). Olive oil and sea salt are among them, but so is chocolate hazelnut crunch. Which would you rather have? 

ZERO ZERO

Dinner: Sun.–Thurs., 5:30-10 p.m.;

Fri.–Sat., 5:30–11 p.m.

Lunch: Mon.–-Fri., noon–-2:30 p.m.

Brunch: Sat.–Sun., 11:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m.

826 Folsom, SF

(415) 348-8800

www.zerozerosf.com

Full bar

AE/DS/MC/V

Noisy

Wheelchair accessible

 

Punk prophet

0

arts@sfbg.com

LIT Perhaps the biggest faux pas in critical art writing is using the artist’s first name when addressing his or her work. Countless teachers, critics, and editors have embedded this notion deep into the recesses of the right side of my brain. However, when writing this essay I continuously found myself wanting to address Mark Morrisroe only by Mark — as if I were having a personal conversation with him about his work. It could be that after spending a great deal of time with the artist’s recently published posthumous monograph Mark Morrisroe (JRP-Ringier, 512 pages, $65), that a bond, strong enough to diminish such formalities, seems to have formed between us. I feel as if we would have been the best of friends had Mark survived his untimely death from AIDS in 1989.

This mammoth publication spans the artist’s relatively short but undeniably influential oeuvre and includes 500 impeccably printed reproductions of his photographs, photograms, Polaroids, Super 8mm films, and signature “sandwich prints.” The resulting survey is nothing short of breathtaking. Mark’s dynamic approach to image-making is showcased alongside several poignant theoretical and explanatory essays reminiscent of Felix Gonzales-Torres’ retrospective monograph published by Nancy Spector and the Guggenheim Museum in 1995. As Gonzales-Torres would say, this is a book you would want to bring on leisurely day at the beach.

The monograph is divided into several sections, each encapsulating a portion of Morrisroe’s career and augmented with an essay detailing the importance of the specific subject matter in defining his artistic vision. I found myself spending countless hours examining each section and noting how Morrisroe’s hand is so vividly present throughout. Even in his most straightforward portraits, the notion of his human presence behind the camera — like so many other artists in the history of photography — is not lost. He is not simply producing likenesses of his subjects, he is simultaneously projecting reflections of himself onto the surface of the paper.

To be honest, I have yet to give the literary portion of the book its due diligence because I have been so blindingly seduced by the imagery. There is potential for this to happen to you as well, but keep in mind that the biographical knowledge available greatly informs the work and provides essential historical context that considerably heightens its cultural significance. I won’t go into too much detail of Morrisroe’s biography here because I feel that a few short sentences on the matter won’t do him justice. Besides, it would be far more entertaining for you to discover his story on your own among the pages of drag queens, hustlers, X-ray images, and vintage porn photo montages.

As a young photographic artist myself, I was struck most by Morrisroe’s visceral interest in understanding the alchemical processes of his chosen medium and the unflagging beauty of the individuals and peripheral culture he aligned himself with. Morrisroe’s photographs might be considered off-center — infused with the tumultuous happenings of his extraordinary life story. Yet the immediate sense of tragedy present within much of the work is lyrically transcended through his bold use of color and dreamlike, oftentimes surreal, and pictorial imagery.

Today Morrisroe’s palette could be read as reminiscent of the 1980s, a consciously busted queer-punk aesthetic. But it also serves as an elegiac reminder of dying analog photographic processes. (For those who aren’t photonerds: many of the techniques used by Morrisroe over the course of his career have become nearly extinct with the rise of digital technology and rapidly increasing cost of maintaining a strictly analog practice.)

The last section of the book features installation images from various solo exhibitions of Morrisroe’s work before and after his death. I can’t help but think of the myriad possible trajectories that would have been available had he survived the AIDS epidemic. It seems as if he was just beginning to come into his own and to fully understand his potential as a maker and progenitor of culture. Instead we are left with an impressive and spontaneous collection of work that was light-years ahead of its time. It seems appropriate that a monograph of this caliber would come to fruition now to allow a younger generation to connect with Mark’s spirit found in every lush-hued image.

Girls just want to have fun

9

culture@sfbg.com

SEX It was their first official slumber party and a late-night run to the grocery store for pink hair dye was in order. Decked out in a combination of pink, pajamas, and leather, the San Francisco girls of Leather shrieked and giggled as they wandered the aisles searching for anything rosy-colored. The girls could easily have been mistaken for a freshman herd of coeds soaked in Malibu and cheap vodka, but as the group’s president, Leland, remembers, they were “just high on girls.”

Until they discovered the store’s collection of pink and white unicorns — on sale.

“We all oohed and ahhed and ended up purchasing six of them, surprising the other girls by returning to the party with an entire unicorn herd,” Leland says. From sleeping bags and hair braiding to dirty storytelling and play piercing, the night teetered between innocent and naughty, sweet and sexy. “So many unicorns, so many needles, and so much blood!” she said.

The SF girls of Leather (the girls prefer a lowercase “g” and uppercase “L” out of respect for the traditions of the leather community) are giddy and flirty: the epitome of seventh-grade girliness, complete with kinky sleepovers, hearts, and cuteness. As this year-old group sees it, maturity is overrated when it comes to BDSM — and a hint of silliness in a dark dungeon can only heighten the sex appeal. Who else is going to giggle or blush after a spank?

The group’s approach to leather is hardly in line with the masculine traditions that have come to be associated with the history of the kink community. But in the year since the girls formed their group, they’ve been working to secure their place in the continuum of leather lovers. And judging from the group’s growing membership — and accolades from the leather community at large — SFgoL is providing a much-needed refuge for marginalized fans of lighthearted play, splashing accents of pink across the traditional wash of black.

 

GIRL GOALS

Historically, a girl in the leather community has been defined as the female-identified version of a boy — a submissive expected to service a dominant individual in various kinds of BDSM play. But in SFgoL parlance, girl means something way more fun. Top, bottom, submissive, dominant, giver, receiver, experienced, or curious: all roles are welcome in the group, as long as you “girl” identify.

Which means what, exactly?

“Leather doesn’t have to be serious,” says Leland, who is of the mind that people of all ages, bodies, and sexual preferences can find bliss by tapping into their own personalized “girl-space.”

“You’re a leathergirl if you feel like it,” says SFgoL Vice President Kate McKinley. Even boys and bois are allowed in the group — as long as they have a “girl heart.” Coincidentally, McKinley wears one of these around her neck — a silver heart necklace.

“I play girly and therefore this group is where I belong,” she says.

An important tenet of the leather life, service (traditionally, the practice of obediently pleasing a dominant character) is still an integral part of the girl group’s goals — but its definition of the term goes beyond tending to masters and daddies.

In the year since the group’s inception, SFgoL has volunteered at multiple fundraisers and organized charity drives for nonprofits benefiting women in the leather community and beyond. Members are free to service individuals but are required to serve the community by means of philanthropy: grown-up Girl Scouts earning merit badges for kink.

Their efforts haven’t gone unnoticed — the San Francisco Bay Area Leather Alliance recognized SFgoL as its best new organization of 2010. “Contributing to the community makes it easier for us to enjoy what we’re doing,” says SFgoL member Anita, who asked that we not use her last name for professional reasons.

Anita moved to San Francisco from Norway on a work visa, but soon found herself lusting for a close encounter with leather. She discovered some BDSM groups for women interested in playing with women, but because she identified as straight when she arrived in the city, the SFgoL’s more inclusive membership requirements felt like a better fit.

She was also attracted to the group because it didn’t require members be in a dominant-submissive relationship. She was free to play with whomever, whenever, and however she pleased. “I’m a girl and I was interested in exploring the leather community in a group where I could just be myself and share my feelings,” she says.

Last month the SFgoL celebrated its one-year anniversary with 18 full members and more than 100 girls on its Listserv. The numbers are a strong indicator of its success, especially since the current version of the SFgoL isn’t the city’s first attempt at a girly collective. In 2004, a leathergirl group was formed, but failed to secure footing in the established leather community. The second time around seems to be the shiny charm — or maybe these girls are just extra-charming?

“We do have a smokin’ hot group of girls,” giggles Leland, looking around the table and raising her eyebrows at Anita and McKinley.

It’s lunch hour on a Tuesday and the three girls flirt like crazy, constantly laughing and finishing each other’s sentences between small bites of spicy Thai food. The three are a prime example of the group’s demeanor and exactly why Leland has enforced a “no cruising” rule during official meetings.

“The meetings are meant to be safe space and for taking care of business. But yes, we can play outside the meetings,” she says, batting her lashes as the other girls smirk, hiding a thousand secrets anyone with a pulse would die to hear.

 

RESIZING THE LEATHER FIT

Since its inception, the leather community has been predominately male. Icons like Marlon Brando, and the work of Tom of Finland and the Satyrs Motorcycle Club, defined modern masculinity in the 1950s, igniting a kinky obsession in the gay community. A badass jacket, muir cap, and related wardrobe of black hide became a symbol of sexual power and masculine independence, eradicating the stereotype that all gay men were effeminate.

Leather rules and traditions grew from military protocol and were diligently enforced by masters and their slaves, daddies and their boys. Women were intrigued, but struggled to find a place among the men; many leather bars turned away women at the door.

Over time, elements of BDSM became associated with leather and the community began to flex. During the ’80s, leatherwomen competitions popped up, and in the ’90s, groups like San Francisco’s Outcasts — now the Exiles —provided the community with strong female-identified role models. In 2006, the Exiles helped open Betty Paige’s Secret, which in subsquent years of the festival became Venus’ Playground. It was the first leatherwomen play space at the Folsom Street Fair.

It’s been six years since the Venus milestone, yet during this April’s International Ms. Leather competition in San Francisco, it was apparent that questions about the role of women in the leather community remain.

In a moment of call and response, “Where are the leatherwomen?” was shouted into the microphone. The answer was loud and proud: “Here we are! We’re here!” followed by a rumble of audience applause. Women may be standing their ground with paddles in hand, but the exchange was telling of their struggle for continued acknowledgment.

Deborah Isadorah, a veteran of kink and current leather momma, has been entranced by the leather community for more than 40 years, and is proud to have watched the roles of women expand. But in Isadorah’s eyes, the progression has been slow going.

“We live in a patriarchal society and that reflects on every part of our society, including leather,” she says, sipping a latte in Oakland and soaking in the spring sun.

“The men outnumber us physically in this community, [but that] doesn’t mean women’s voices are missing,” she continues. Isadorah is pleased with the progress of her generation of leatherwomen and is happy to sit back and nurture the younger crop. “I think we’ve done our job: to educate women about their bodies and the opportunities they have to explore sexuality beyond what society thinks is appropriate.”

Today, nearly half the current directors of the Leather Alliance, the community’s well-respected governing board, are female.

“We’re sitting at the table now,” says Daddy Vick Germany, a female-bodied leather daddy who has been a part of the Bay Area’s leather community for more than 15 years and serves as a director for the Alliance. Overall, Daddy Vick is content with the community’s moves toward inclusivity. “The men are leaving more space for us,” she says.

But traces of segregation can still be found. “Sometimes men just don’t see you — you’re not even in their line of vision,” she says, referring to a recent experience at the Up Your Alley street fair where a man blindly butted in front of her while she stood in a concession line. She recognizes that these incidents can be subconscious, but any female who roams the SoMa leather fairs is bound to encounter this feeling of invisibility. It makes her “mad as hell.”

Elected SF Dyke Daddy in 2002, Vick made substantial efforts to bridge gaps between the sexes. She’s currently running for SF Leather Daddy, a traditional competition built on fundraising for the AIDS crisis. In 2009 a transman won the competition, but if she wins, Daddy Vick would be the first female-bodied daddy to hold the title. Her candidacy alone is sure to shake things up with leathermen who believe in upholding traditional roles — but her motives are pure.

“I’m not doing this to make a statement as a female daddy. I’m running because I think I’m a good daddy for the community,” she says, meaning she cares about being a supportive, reliable father figure for those around her. The “working title” would help her foster change more effectively than her individual efforts.

Besides Folsom’s Venus’ Playground, there are no official social spaces intended for leatherwomen. This makes sharing communal bars and events incredibly important. Change is a slow process, but Daddy Vick says ample motivation is brewing in all corners, and — paired with the diffusion of kink — the space for growth can only flourish. Leather is opening into an umbrella term with the capacity to encompass multiple elements of fetish, and to further accept people of all genders, bodies, and preferences in any role.

In this respect, Daddy Vick thinks the SFgoL could play an important role. “It just takes people like Leland, coming in with a different energy. People who stand up in the crowd, see a need, and start organizing.”

 

FOLLOW THE PINK BRICK ROAD

While leatherwomen made slow but steady strides in the past decade, those straddling the space between butch and femme — the girl space — began breaking ground for themselves, too. In 2003 an international Leather Girl Network was born, led by the Bay Area’s Cheryl D. The group intended to mirror the already well-established leather boy community. Girls everywhere were giddy with possibilities.

“I had always identified with the title of ‘girl.’ I was a girl who liked to serve the community, but I was also a switch,” says Mistress Pilar, a longtime leather veteran and member of the original, and now revived, SF girls of Leather. Being a switch — someone who doesn’t commit to top or bottom exclusively — meant her definition of girl didn’t fit with that of the Leather Girl Network, which stated: girl equals submission. She wasn’t alone in her dilemma.

In 2004, San Francisco girls decided to put together their own troop, headed by girl Lori, the 2003 San Francisco Leather Dyke girl (a contest that no longer exists), and girl Hayden, the 2004 title-holder. They intentionally left the definition of girl open to allow for individual interpretation. The leather community shuddered at the loose restraints, confused by the men, boys, and transpeople that joined the girl ranks.

“People in the leather community were not comfortable with this idea at the time. No one even liked talking about it,” says Pilar, referring to the notion that a girl didn’t need to be a biological woman to be in their group. “The attitude that people should ‘get off the fence’ really hurt.”

The initial group grew to about 30 members and its short three years as a successful alliance was packed with fundraising, volunteer work, and super-girly fun. But eventually the negative attitudes, biased expectations, and confusion over the definition of “girls” wore down on moral.

“People would walk up to me and demand, ‘girl, clean my boots’ and I would say, ‘I don’t serve you, I serve the community,'” Pilar says shaking her head.

Even Daddy Vick remembers how the group of strong, independent individuals struggled to prove themselves to the wider leather community. The girls, she says, “took a lot of flak” for contesting tradition. “There was still a belief in place that girls and boys couldn’t be leaders. Some thought girls and boys should be seen and not heard.”

The girls managed to have good times regardless, but Pilar says by early 2007 the group was down to five members who reluctantly agreed the end had come. It wasn’t until the 2010 International Ms. Leather competition — when Pilar decided to donate the leftover SF girls memorabilia and a curious Leland started asking questions — that SFgoL sparked back into life, with a little PR and a lot of ambition.

“Leland is a wonderful leader. She creates a really positive image of a girl,” says Pilar, nostalgically looking over an old stack of meeting notes, scribbled calendars, and photos from the original group. The dissolution of her crew hit hard, and it’s bittersweet for Pilar to hear about the new group’s instant success. But more than anything, she’s proud. “I feel like a proud mom. Those are my girls.”

Coincidentally, just as the girls sprung out of the woodwork and formed an official group, the San Francisco boys of Leather, a longstanding and once very active organization, hung up their chaps and caps due to a decline in membership. The boys generously donated all their remaining funds to the girls.

Steve Gaynes, the 1994 SF Leather Daddy and Alliance director representing the 15 Association, a longstanding sexual fraternity for men interested in BDSM, has been a leatherman since 1978 and has watched all kinds of groups come and go. He says the ebb and flow is just a reflection of the community’s current needs.

“The energy ran of out the boys and ran into the girls. If there’s no driving force behind a group, it will die,” he says, noting the community’s excitement for the new girl group. “They’re enthusiastic, inclusive, and have clear ideas for their future. And they’re doing [it all] with a lot of respect for tradition.”

And the SFgoL’s continued dedication to volunteer work and partnerships with other groups have shown the community at large that it values the path paved by the forefathers — and foremothers — of leather.

Paying tribute to old protocol is simple. Isadorah boils it down to three simple rules: integrity, honesty, and service to the community. Judged by this metric, she says, anyone who thinks the SFgoL is out of line is just being stubborn. “Whenever something happens in the community that brings change, there will always be someone who is offended,” Gaynes says. “You won’t know you’ve created change until you’ve offended those people. Change is good and should be embraced.”

 

LOOKING OUT FOR THE GIRLS

Leland and McKinley agree that there seems to be a buzz of excitement surrounding the SfgoL lately. The group’s logo is everywhere, and partnerships are being fostered across the community. Leland has even been asked to serve as a director for the SF Leather Alliance.

But her primary concern is making sure the SFgoL remains a safe, welcoming landing pad for girls who are new to the leather community. And these days, the media is providing all sorts of inspiration for curiosity. Rihanna’s song “S&M” speaks directly to sexual play, but even a quick Google search for “girls in leather” retrieves images of celebrities in fetish gear, from Lindsay Lohan and Miley Cyrus in leather leggings to Emma Watson in a full latex suit with collar. In general, our society is opening up to alternative sex and women want in on the action.

But girls who jump in with little research and few friends may not leave with the most positive experiences. The inherent power dynamic associated with BDSM relationships and play can blur the lines between consent and abuse, and Leland says it’s important for newbies to have mentors within reach. “Sometimes the person you’re playing with may not have your best intentions at heart,” she says. “But as an alliance of girls, we can look out for each other.”

Bernal’s bucks

0

caitlin@sfbg.com

SHOPPING I stumbled into a small-town saloon, complete with a dingy 1950s cowboy mural over the door, a horseshoe-shaped bar, and the feeling that everybody — everybody! — knew the score better than I did.

Oh wait, I remembered. I’m just in Bernal Heights.

Normally I do not spend my Tuesday night on this hill, but tonight was an exception. Cortland Avenue was hosting a local business walk — the sidewalks lined with bustling young families and the fundraising popcorn stands of neighborhood groups. Paulie’s Pickling was offering free tastes of its delicious jarred carrots and cauliflower.

I wasn’t even on the hill for the sour samples. The evening also was meant to debut the Bernal Bucks card — an innovative, or at the very least, new take on the idea of local currency.

Bernal Heights is a neighborhood full of folks who don’t have much call to go anywhere else. Harriet — the kindly woman whose hubby was playing fiddle in the bluegrass sextet perched cozily on the small stage to the side of the Lucky Horseshoe’s front door — told me that they had lived in the neighborhood since 1971. They were well-acquainted with Lisa Marie Delgadillo, owner of the Horseshoe. In fact, Delgadillo’s partner would be playing banjo during the next set with his band Shedhouse.

“I wasn’t expecting this many people to show up,” Delgadillo said. As luck would have it, that day was actually the soft opening of the tavern, which she had bought from an owner who had stocked the historic space with great blues music but “hadn’t given it a good clean in 20 years.”

“Bernal really has a tight-knit community of business owners and residents — it totally makes sense that they’d promote in this way. It’s totally Bernal,” she said, refilling my pint as Shedhouse launched into four-part gospel harmony.

Mind you, this was not the start of Bernal’s local currency program. Bernal Bucks have been in circulation since 2009, initially as stickers users could affix to $1 bills. By spending them, users got a little more for their money — a free Fuji apple at Good Life Grocery, a free used DVD from Four Star Video, $1 off your drink at Stray Bar. The money went to the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center and other community groups. The nonprofits got funding, shoppers felt warm inside, and businesses passed along the stickered bills to the next consumer, encouraging more people to drop dough in the area.

But now there’s a debit card, which eliminates the sticker step and acts like a frequent-flyer miles credit card. The more you spend, the more Bernal Bucks you rack up. You print out the bucks in $10 increments on your computer and spend them in your favorite local enterprise — on a screwdriver on Wild Side West’s garden patio perhaps, or a quick knife sharpening at Bernal Cutlery. The whole shebang is accessible via computer: no fuss, no muss.

“How can we create a mechanism that gives us more control over our economic destiny?” asked Arno Hesse, co-creator of the program, in a phone interview. Hesse hopes the card will “create a reminder in the wallet and an incentive to do the right thing more often.” He cited a study done on a similar shopping mall program that yielded a 24 percent income growth for business owners as a result of increased buying trips and ticket sales.

Hesse expects that “hundreds, hopefully even thousands” of Bernal Heights residents and workers will sign up. “We are optimistic that it will be a mainstream phenomenon. You don’t have to have a degree in economics to jump on this program,” he said.

He estimates that the program’s participating companies receive 50 percent of the neighborhood’s cash flow to locally run businesses.

The card is available through Mission SF Federal Credit Union, whose sole location is just down the hill from Cortland Avenue. Local bank, local businesses, card design by local artist (Ashley Wolff, an accomplished children’s book author) — it’s all local except for one thing: the glaring Visa symbol in the card’s lower right-hand corner.

Hesse is aware of the irony of having a megacorporation’s logo on a card meant to prevent Bernal money from “leaking out to the Safeways, Home Depots, or Amazons of this world.” There was debate at the Bernal Business Alliance over the issue, he said. But in the end, it was all about convenience: Business owners were unsure if part-time employees would be able to grasp an alternative payment system and counter space was too valuable to set up another kind of card-processing apparatus.

“Choosing Visa makes sense because is widely accepted by most merchants,” said Kathleen Scheible, an eight-year resident of the area and owner of Bernal Homeopathy. She added that the program also features a Web interface for businesses that would like to skip the Visa step. “There was a fair amount of logistical challenge to using the Bernal Bucks: having to go somewhere to physically purchase them, knowing how to use them. We like the idea of cash over credit in Bernal, but for many of us, debit or credit is the reality for anything over $10.”

I handed Delgadillo my sticker-less cash and told her I’d be back for more bluegrass when the bar gets its cabaret license in August. Judging from the convivial tenor of her first night, I bet by that point she’ll have seen her share of the Bernal Bucks card.

Bernal Heights is truly doing its own thing — few neighborhoods in the city produce the same close-knit, down-home vibe. If the program succeeds, Hesse said his group might respond to requests to help implement it in other neighborhoods or even citywide. The responses I heard from neighbors that night indicated the program will continue to succeed. Still, it is somewhat discouraging that even this successful local business campaign comes by way of plastic fantastic.

To learn more about the Bernal Bucks program, let your fingers do the walking to www.bernalbucks.org.

 

Farmville

1

le.chicken.farmer@gmail.com

CHEAP EATS I probably could have picked a better route to the restaurant. Maybe if I’d gotten off at the Powell station instead of Civic Center. As it was, at not-even-9 a.m. on a Saturday, I had to step over piles of shit and vomit.

It was like reading one of my restaurant reviews; it’s part of life, yes, but not necessarily the part you want to happen before dinner. Or in this case, breakfast.

But, so you know, I would step over dead bodies and piles of fish guts to caffeinate and chew things up with my friend Kayday. Especially at farm : table, which I had heard about and have been meaning to get to for forever. High on my list of Things To Do this year is to find my way back to my former farmerliness. Because I miss the eggs, but also because I’m tired of myself in my shit-kicking city-fried people personhood. I long for the smell of a chicken coop.

Kayday, who was essentially nudged out of San Francisco for the same reason I will be one day — for not being the cool kind of queer — was down for the weekend from Seattle. Not for Pride — for the weekend before, to consign and collect her guitars and things.

I do hope everyone had a happy and proudful Pride month, and weekend, and parade. I encourage this forward-thinking bubble, being the self-proclaimed beacon of queer acceptance that it, um, proclaims itself to be, to start opening not only its mouth but its employment opportunities, its hearts, and even in some cases (gasp) its zippers to transwomen before we lose more good guitar players to Seattle.

Mine had about a gazillion job interviews in the one year she was here, but no job offers, whereas she was one-for-one in both Los Angeles and Seattle. Which reminds me of my romantical track record, home and away. Not that we talk about this. You just can’t help wondering.

“I feel like I was dumped by San Francisco,” Kayday said.

We were sitting at the inside table. That’s officially all there is, inside, at farm : table, is one pretty big square one, seats maybe eight, and then a couple more on the sidewalk.

“That sucks,” I said, biting into my fresh pea and pecorino quiche, which didn’t. It was light and fluffy, and I could almost hear the hens that laid those eggs, clucking softly in the kitchen. I was almost halfway done with it before Kayday figured out how to even approach her baguette-bacon-hard-boiled-egg pileup. By which time everyone else at the table had weighed in with their own techniques.

“Turn the egg over and smash it into the bread,” one woman offered. Another said she just takes the pieces off and eats them à la carte.

“Me, I get the quiche,” I said, chomping on clouds. Christ, I love San Francisco. And the Tenderloin.

One nice thing about sharing a table with a bunch of strangers: Kayday was spared the gory details of my recent bad butt health. I only told her what the surgeon told me: that if it doesn’t heal in two to four weeks, the next procedure is so uncomfortable they will have to put me to sleep. Those were his words.

“I hope he doesn’t come from a veterinary background,” Kayday said.

“I know. Right?” I said. “I’m getting my affairs in order, just in case.”

FARM : TABLE

Mon.–Fri. 7:30 a.m.–6 p.m.;

Sat. 8 a.m.–6 p.m.;

Sun. 9 a.m.–3 p.m.

754 Post, SF

(415) 292-7089

No alcohol

Cash only

Life at 45 r.p.m.

2

arts@sfbg.com

MUSIC Hunter Mack is many things — visual artist, U.C. Berkeley mechanical engineering PhD, new dad — but music fans know him best as the owner and president of Oakland-based, 7-inch-centric Gold Robot Records. The indie label’s releases include the now-disbanded Volunteer Pioneer, San Francisco’s Man/Miracle, and Bonnie “Prince” Billy of Drag City Records, among others.

Thirty-two-year-old Mack, an avid concert-goer and audiophile, became disheartened when bands he saw perform only had their music available on CDRs. And he would continually hear these musicians express their want and longing to do a vinyl record. His close friend, Graham Hill, drummer for Beach House and Papercuts who records solo under the moniker Roman Ruins also had a few tracks that had not been released. “[Hill] is one of the reasons [I started the label]. His music needed to be preserved on something archival,” Mack explains.

Early on, Mack resolved to physically release GRR’s music on vinyl only (through its website, gold-robot.com/records, the label also distributes digital downloads). “I like the active listening experience that a 7-inch forces you into. You listen to things on one side; you have a song; if you want to listen to that song you have to actively flip it over,” he says. “Instead of setting your music on shuffle and not knowing where it came from or not making an actual choice, a 7-inch makes you — forces you — to make a choice.”

Thus GRR’s inaugural release was “Releasing Me/Your House,” a 7-inch by Roman Ruins, in 2007. “It was wonderful. I worked with [Hill] since and continue to work with him now,” Mack says.

Since its inception, GRR has grown to include a very diverse array of artists who have produced more than 30 releases, from Ned Oldham’s simple guitar songs, to the 1990s hip-hop of Meanest Man Contest, to the experimental noise rock of Railcars. “There’s something vain about being able to choose all the music that goes onto [the label]. I’m essentially the decider on what comes out,” he says. “For that reason, it ends up being an extremely eclectic collection of music because I listen to extremely eclectic music.”

An older version of GRR’s website explained that the only requirement for music to be considered for the label was that it “inspired space travel.” This, of course, was a joke — but it stuck and has become the label’s tagline throughout the years. In selecting artists to work with, Mack exclusively seeks out musicians who are as excited, motivated, and invested in the project as he is. “I’m just looking for stuff that I’m listening to and that I’m loving. I’m looking for somebody who needs my support,” he explains.

Mack enjoys working with artists in different stages in their careers: emerging artists like Monster Rally; well-established musicians doing a unique project (Bonnie “Prince” Billy’s Gold Robot Release featured poetry set to music); or a solo side project of an artist already in a band, like Roman Ruins. Mack’s openness to work with artists at different points in their professional careers reflects his commitment to providing musicians with several avenues to showcase their art.

This philosophy extends to designers too. While Mack has created album art for different releases — including the abstract cover for “Pastor/al,” a Roman Ruins 7-inch on orange vinyl — most of the artwork is done by other artists. “I know when I was just starting my visual arts career, I would have jumped at any chance to make art for a release. And so I’m trying to give people that opportunity,” Mack says. This year, Mack anticipates the release of five new GRR releases, from Not the 1s, Primary Structures, Seamonster, Monster Rally, and Roman Ruins. He acknowledges that this release schedule is very ambitious. “[It’s] a lot for me,” he says. Despite his mild apprehension, his passion for and love of music is palatable. “I’m not making any money off this,” Mack says. “It’s solely a project of getting music out and giving music back to the musicians.”

Cryptic cave wave

0

SOUND TO SPARE “What show are you here for?” asked what looked like a curious 10-year-old as I took care of business at the urinal. “I’m here to see Uzi Rash,” I answered matter-of-factly. But I wasn’t so sure he was curious about the bands by the way he stared at what makes it the men’s room. Apparently Oakland’s the New Parish (www.thenewparish.com) took the phrase “all ages show” to heart.

After that somewhat disturbing run-in, I settled into the bar excited for a night of firsts. It would be my first time at the venue, as well as my first time seeing openers Terry Malts. They were fine, but like I told the tiny Peeping Tom, I wanted to check out the East Bay’s Uzi Rash (www.myspace.com/uzirash). I hadn’t seen them since they did a memorable night of Monks’ covers on Halloween, where their performance included theatrical embellishments like shaved monk-like heads and makeshift robes.

This night’s scene was different. The onset of a rare heat wave was kicking in while the murky, cave-wave sounds of the mutable band — these days, a seven-piece stage outfit — took charge with a commanding and cacophonous presence. The Rash seems to be sitting on a backlog of sludgy, lo-fi treasure: current LP Palmwine Rumpus Vol. 2 (Party Ngg! Records) precedes a September release on Volar Records titled I Was 30 in 2012. Next month the band plans to start recording another full-length album, Whyte Rash Time — not a play on “white trash,” but a reference to the Monks’ Black Monk Time — which will hopefully see the light of day before the year’s end and they embark on a West Coast tour.

I caught up with Max Nordlie, the band’s toenail-painted, jorts-wearing guitarist and vocalist. He gave me a peek into his philosophy on degeneration and premonitions. (With song titles like “Bag of Dirt” and “I’m a Trashbag,” it’s tempting to see Uzi Rash as emblematic of the self-deprecating sounds I often notice oozing out of Oakland.)

Nordlie directly references 2012 as the year of the band’s apocalyptic demise, and explains how the Rash players were “born grown” four years ago. “The band sound was much more the same of itself than it could possibly be now,” Nordlie says cryptically, going on to cite a permanent need for regression. I hear that yearning for regression in the music — at times it reminds me of an unpolished version of Devo’s de-evolution.

That night, the ensemble’s delivery of what Nordlie calls “beach party squelch and shimmy” included electro-sax, keys, and cool-looking guitars. The band looked sort of like a low-budget version of Sly and the Family Stone: keyboardist Thee Whyte Bitch in her long white wig hammering out some discord and bassist Mateo Luv looking svelte in his long johns.

Their performance is raw and charged, and while the front man looks as if he’s working out some serious emotion, Nordlie assures me that he’s aiming at “getting it right” in an expressive sense — he just wants a playfully spirited “twist-and-shout-up.”

I asked Nordlie if the constant revolving door of musicians in the band dizzies him. “Stability, much like ability, is overrated,” he replied. “We seek to compensate for the traditional rock spectacle of ritual with monstrous unpredictability — even to ourselves,” he said, before quipping that the forthcoming Volar record is simultaneously “sophisticated and appalling.” That sounds like a great introduction to 2012, end times or no.

There will be a few more local opportunities to catch Uzi Rash this summer — most notably the 1-2-3-4 Go! Records 10-year anniversary show July 22 at Oakland Metro Operahouse (www.oaklandmetro.org) — before it goes on tour with Unnatural Helpers.

Rock on with you

0

arts@sfbg.com

MUSIC Oh, Michael. So much has happened in these two years since you’ve been gone. I left my man and got my heart broken by another, chipped my front tooth, had to pay all my taxes up front, and manually upgraded my ass into the kind of shape that gives a woman like me a certain pride. Things have been rough; things have been good. And 90 percent of the good shit, including the fruits of all that ass-pumping, I achieved together with you. Keep on with the force, don’t stop. No, I’ll never stop getting enough of you.

Speaking of you, my darling, well, for you things have stayed exactly the same. Crazy-ass La Toya is still on TV, running her mouth about murder conspiracies, and the headlines are still a sordid “Jacko the Mysterious Nutter” mess. Every book written about you is still rude, invasive, and tabloidy, and the family, friends, and fans who claim to have cared for you the most still refuse to lovingly embrace you for who you were: an incomparable genius, the world’s greatest superstar, who, BTW, was totally gay.

Fuck everybody else and their delusional ways. After all this time, I’ve come to see: I am the only one who ever got you.

Memories of you, especially the ones honored on the anniversary eve of your death, should be as celebratory and joyous as the world’s greatest dance party — complete with fog machines, chemical inhalants, and unicorns. But all everyone wants to talk about is the drama. Little boys this, plastic surgery that. They actually think you did your face-up weird because you wanted to be a white Diana Ross with a superbutch Marlboro Man chin. That you hated yourself so severely you had to become someone you were not. But I know the truth: you built that distracting construction zone around your sacred temple to claim your private space. Only behind a strap-on nose and reptilian fake white skin could the real you stretch out and relax, connect with your spirit, make some art, do all your drugs. Who could blame you — and who’s to judge you? — for needing a tangible shield between yourself and all the stupid bitches who could not deal?

But as you receded further into this private space, your shield got thicker and you started to piss everybody off. Because it was awfully, horribly amorally sissy of you to want to look like a woman. A real man takes the face he is born with. In other words: you lied to us, motherfucker. You sang about loving women, rubbed your silky load on their thighs, even married all those hags. You grabbed your cock onstage and put on like vagina was cool.

Why was everyone so dumb and gay-blind in the first place? Because at the height of your Thriller fame in the 80s, no one was gay, not even those old warhorses George Michael and Boy George. But when it turned out that they, too, had lied to us — leading us on with all that maddening, un-Christian ambiguity — the real men had to take them out back and have a little talk. George and Boy — where are they today? Ruined.

No one forgives a liar. But maybe you were trying to tell us the truth, just no one was paying attention:

If they say, why, why?

Tell ’em that it’s human nature

Why, why, does he do me that way?

I like livin’ this way

I like lovin’ this way …

I listened to you, dear friend. I heard what you said about Billie Jean, that wacked-out club trash who said that you, rare orchid of the disco, would be “the one, who will dance, on the floor, in the round” — whether you were feeling it or not. She didn’t say anything about fucking! Not only that, you told us over and over — 10 times in less than five minutes, in fact — that, “Billie Jean is not [your] lover.” And I believed you. Everybody else was being a fool.

And so they had to tear you down, proving that total, brutal, violent annihilation of character is even more delicious when the victim is rich and black.

I always tell people the same high-minded thing: don’t read a single book; watch the movie instead. By that I mean 2009’s This Is It, of course, with its amazing rehearsal footage shot right before your death. If anyone has any questions or misgiving about who you were, this movie will correct it. All the drama and the Jacko the Freak-o bullshit fades away for once, revealing a musician of astonishing skill and professionalism. Not only do you hit every note on your own with your pure, naked voice, you also dance like a 20-year-old at the height of his game. To all those who scoff at my insistence that you were a genius: fuck you in the heart and prance on to hell.

But it wasn’t just your artistry that made me cry in This Is It — it was your extreme, almost over-the-top graciousness as well. I was stunned by the level of gentleness and respect you showed every single member of your crew — from the dancers to the musicians, the lighting guys to the PAs. You surely didn’t have to be so kind. Equally revealing was how your crew responded — unable to contain their awe and ecstatic delight, they were just plain thrilled to work with a compassionate legend like you. To them, you were the embodiment of love, humility, and respect. And if the people who worked so intimately with you before your death knew this, why can’t everybody else?

Don’t go changin’

0

arts@sfbg.com

THEATER The story of earnest young traveling salesman Gregor Samsa, who awakens one morning to discover he has changed into something he and his family can only describe as vermin, Kafka’s 1915 novella The Metamorphosis has undergone a number of metamorphoses of its own in terms of adaptations for stage and screen. One of the latest is the lauded 2006 interpretation by actor Gísli Örn Gardarsson and director David Farr, a coproduction between Iceland’s Vesturport Theatre and England’s Lyric Hammersmith that debuted in London and made its U.S. premiere at the Brooklyn Academy of Music last winter.

Berkeley’s Aurora Theatre offers the first wholly American production of this stage version, under the direction of Bay Area playwright-director-actor Mark Jackson. The production has many fine features, but the balance between the social and emotional content of the story and its abstract or absurdist framework gets skewed a bit too far toward the latter.

Jackson’s production stakes out its own territory by eschewing the Nazi-era periodizing of the original Vesturport–Lyric Hammersmith production. This Metamorphosis is set in the American 1950s — although the trappings of that place and time are only vaguely evoked here. Indeed, the costumes, semi-abstract split-level set, and heightened performance style together seem a blurry blend of Germanic petit bourgeois culture, high modernism, and Leave It to Beaver-esque TV surreality.

A horror and embarrassment to his family, Gregor (a winningly agile and sympathetic Alexander Crowther) confines himself most of the time to a variety of perches in his second-floor room — an environment rendered via a striking modernist pop-out painting and vertical jungle gym by Nina Ball. Its spare features are all askew and rotated forward on a sloped, accordion-like set of ridges, a veritable waterfall of steps supporting an elongated metallic bed frame and the creeping, scrambling Crowther.

Formerly the main breadwinner of his downwardly mobile lower-middle-class family, Gregor does not report for work one day. It’s that day, of course, that he drops so far in the estimation of his family that he is no longer even comprehensible to them, no longer even human. They instinctively side with his overbearing employer (Patrick Jones) and consider their own plight now that they must fend for themselves. Only his beloved sister Grete (Megan Trout) makes a serious attempt at communication and sympathy, although with melancholy results.

Grete is the key figure in this brisk 80-minute stage adaptation. Her brother’s transformation entails her own, from a would-be dancer into an eligible commodity in the material calculations of her desperate family and finally into a self-possessed agent in the cold material world. Trout is sharp but perhaps too perky and superficial in the role, since the anguish Gregor feels at seeing her metamorphose doesn’t have the same impact in the absence of a convincing sibling bond. Gregor clearly lives vicariously through the promise of Grete’s freedom, her life as an artist. When that dies, when she is transformed, his own demise is complete.

Gregor’s parents (played with sure satirical exaggeration but, again, little beyond comic anguish by Madeline H.D. Brown and Allen McKelvey) also feel too distant from it all. The cast offers little coherence as a family, albeit a fractured one. Instead we get a nicely wrought metaphor without much of a sense of its stakes, a lost opportunity and no doubt an unintended consequence. Bosses and subhumans, marriage as sexual commerce, art as perversion, the quiet everyday destruction of personality, the corruption of the closest social bonds by vast coercive hierarchies of power and authority — Jackson’s right, you don’t need to go back to Nazi Germany to find all that. It should all feel closer to home. *

METAMORPHOSIS

Through July 17

Wed.–Sat., 8 p.m.; Tues. and Sun., 7 p.m.;

Also Sun., 2 p.m., $10–$55

Aurora Theatre

2081 Addison, Berk.

(510) 843-4822

www.auroratheatre.org

The way forward

0

sarah@sfbg.com

Two days before President Obama announced his plan to begin withdrawing 33,000 troops from Afghanistan over the next 15 months, Peace Action West’s political director Rebecca Griffin delivered a box containing thousands of toy soldiers to Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s office in downtown San Francisco.

Tied to each soldier were handwritten messages that gave reasons for demanding a large and swift withdrawal. Many of the petitions came from folks whose loved ones are in the military or are veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Unlike most Democratic Party leaders, Feinstein has not demanded a significant draw-down of combat troops, despite polls showing that Americans increasingly support leaving Afghanistan, particularly after the killing of Osama bin Laden. There’s good reason for the public’s growing restlessness. This 10-year war has already surpassed Vietnam as the longest conflict in U.S. history.

According to the online database icasualities.org, 1,637 U.S. soldiers have died in Afghanistan and 4,463 soldiers have died in Iraq. Another 11,722 service members have been wounded in Afghanistan, and 32,100 in Iraq, primarily by improvised explosive devices. And that’s not counting the thousands who are suffering from depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, and other ailments.

Griffin said her goal was to draw attention to the political organizing in support of ending the war. But even as she made her delivery, Feinstein was on MSNBC maintaining that draw-down decisions should be left to the military generals.

In the wake of President Obama’s June 22 announcement, which went way farther than the generals wanted, many of Feinstein’s colleagues such as Sen. Barbara Boxer and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the house minority leader, expressed disappointment that the pace of withdrawal isn’t quicker.

“I am glad this war is ending, but it’s ending at far too slow a pace,” Boxer said.

“We will continue to press for a better outcome,” Pelosi stated.

Rep. John Garamendi (D-Concord), who visited the troops over Memorial Day weekend, told us that a different strategy is needed. “Our troops are incredible, dedicated, and skilled. But every minute of every day, they are in a very dangerous situation, and many of them are dying. There is no recognition that we are caught in the middle of a five-way civil war.”

And Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Oakland) vowed to offer defense appropriations amendments to cut all funding for combat operations. “History shows there is no military solution in Afghanistan,” she said. “We’ve got to engage with the Taliban and engage with those in the region to find some stability.”

But where does Obama’s plan leave the peace movement as the election nears?

Griffin said activists should take credit for getting Obama to withdraw 33,000 troops rather than the smaller number his generals wanted. She sees his plan as a sign that activists need to keep pushing for more, including a concrete timeline for when he will bring all the troops home.

Under Obama’s plan, 68,000 troops will still be on the ground in September 2012, and 2014 is identified as the deadline for completing the transition to Afghan control and ending the U.S.’s combat mission.

“This means there’ll be a significant military presence in Afghanistan for at least another three-and-a-half years,” Griffin said. “By the end of Obama’s first term, the war will be 11 years old and there will be nearly double the American troops on the ground as there were when [George W.] Bush left office.”

Progressive activist and author Norman Solomon, who is running in the 2012 race to replace Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Marin County), noted that a recent New York Times’ headline read “Obama Opts for Faster Afghan Pullout.”

“But faster than what?” Solomon said, noting that “10,000 troops are only 10 percent of our force. This is a pattern we saw in Iraq, where the withdrawal was too slow and the numbers remaining doubled when you factored in all the private contractors.”

Solomon said that when Nixon pulled 500,000 troops from Vietnam in the late 1960s, the conflict actually increased in terms of the tonnage of weaponry used. “And the U.S. is now engaged in wars in Libya, Yemen, and a Pakistan air war.”

But longtime antiwar activist and former Democratic state legislator Tom Hayden saw a number of clues in Obama’s speech for how to push for a faster, bigger, more significant draw-down.

“Obama said 33,000 troops will be withdrawn by next summer, followed by a steady pace of withdrawal. So that gets you to 50,000 troops by the election, and all combat troops out by 2014,” Hayden told us. “If he could be pushed by the peace movement, that would break the back of the warmongers’ planning.”

In his speech, Obama noted that the U.S. will host a summit with our NATO allies and partners to shape the next phase of this transition next May in Chicago, where Obama’s former chief of staff is mayor.

“Get ready, Rahm Emanuel, for big demonstrations,” warned Hayden, who was a member of the Chicago Seven group tried for inciting riots during the 1968 Democratic National Convention. “But do you imagine Obama would do that if he were going to escalate the war? No — he’s wrapping a ribbon of unity to transfer control to Afghanistan on a timetable.”

He also noted that Obama’s allies aren’t exactly pushing him to stay. “They may not have an exit strategy, but they are heading for the exits,” Hayden said. “So if you organize demonstrations with international support, that gives you an organizational opportunity in multiple governments to press Obama to leave.”

Hayden predicts that Obama is moving toward a diplomatic settlement, led by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, that is pro withdrawal and pro women.

“But Obama’s got a genuine problem of his own making. He escalated the damn war,” Hayden said. “He doesn’t want the military to be attacking his plan. But if he wants to be in the center, he’s going to offend the generals.

Hayden noted that in his speech Obama said, “America, it is time to focus on nation building here at home.” It was a statement that sounded in line with a recent U.S. Conference of Mayors resolution calling on Congress “to bring these war dollars home to meet vital human needs, promote job creation, rebuild our infrastructure, aid municipal and state governments.”

But Richard Becker, western regional coordinator of the antiwar ANSWER Coalition, described Obama’s draw-down as “a minimal pledge.”

“Given the growing discontent with the war, it’s hard to see how you can claim that this is a step forward,” he told us.

Becker said it has been difficult to mobilize the antiwar movement under a Democratic administration. He also stressed the importance of people coming out in San Francisco for a “protest, march, and die-in” on Oct. 7, the 10th anniversary of the war, and for a major action in Washington. D.C., on Oct. 6. “What’s going to get the U.S. out is a combination of what’s going on in Afghanistan — and what kind of antiwar movement we have here.”

Don’t privatize public safety

3

Four weeks ago, surgeon Dimitry Nikitin walked out of Florida’s Orlando Regional Medical Center to his car and was shot dead by a disgruntled patient who then turned his gun on himself and committed suicide. Last September, a doctor at Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins was shot and killed by a patient distraught over his mother’s terminal diagnosis.

There is an epidemic of violence in America’s health care facilities. Many of the scenarios are familiar — the news is full of stories of combatants in gang fights following wounded rivals into hospital emergency rooms to finish them off. But the full depth of the problem is largely unreported and extends to hospital wards, clinics, and long-term care facilities

A recent report from the U.S. Department of Labor based on 2009 statistics says health care providers rank third in the likelihood of being assaulted on the job — just behind police and correctional officers. In 2009, there were 38 assaults per 10,000 nurses aides.

Despite this troubling trend, the San Francisco Department of Public Health is asking the Board of Supervisors to approve its proposal to replace institutional police officers in some public health facilities with low-paid private security guards.

Here are two reasons this is a profoundly bad idea.

1. Health care is a stressful environment and growing more stressful every day.

As the providers of last resort, public hospitals and clinics often face a perfect storm of patients who are involved in violence, alcohol and drug abuse, or are suffering from untreated mental illness. But even outside emergency wards, health care workers must work up-close with patients and family members pushed to the breaking point by an overburdened delivery system.

As health care costs spiral, public health budgets shrink and access to high quality care dwindles, many hospitals and clinics are reporting assaults by patients and family members upset by long lines, half-day waits, and unaffordable care.

According to a September report by CNN on rising violence in health care facilities, violence caused by patients’ frustration with health care services is on the rise.

“People are just tired of waiting, or they are just angry that they’re not getting the care they feel is acceptable,” nurse Rita Anderson told CNN. “Instead of saying something, their response is yelling, hitting, screaming, and spitting.”

2. Well-screened and trained security officers reduce health care violence.

According to a study on reducing violence in hospitals by the National Crime Prevention Council, three top strategies for keeping health care facilities safe include reducing patient wait-times through well-organized and managed patient processing; controlling facilities through locked wards, staff ID badges, and security cameras; and hiring carefully selected and well-trained security personnel.

Currently, San Francisco’s hospitals and health care facilities are protected by highly trained San Francisco Sheriff’s deputies and institutional police officers. The Department of Public Health wants to replace some of these officers with private security guards.

But the private security industry is notoriously bad at screening recruits and plagued with turnover, in part because of low salaries. As a result, the use of private security creates unsafe working conditions for employees who deal with difficult or violent patients, such as those in San Francisco’s psychiatric emergency wards.

Unlike institutional police officers, private security guards cannot make arrests. Instead, they must involve the San Francisco Police Department, accumulating costs that quickly defeat the budget savings of using low-paid private guards to do work that should be done by highly trained officers.

Everyone who uses San Francisco’s public health system should contact the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and ask them to make the right choice to keep our hospitals, clinics, and long-term care facilities safe.

Ed Kinchley is an emergency room social worker at San Francisco General Hospital.

 

Editor’s notes

5

tredmond@sfbg.com

I’m not going to tell Ed Lee he can’t run for mayor. I know he promised he wasn’t going to. I know that if he hadn’t made that promise, he wouldn’t have had the six votes to win the office. I think Lee believed at the time that he didn’t want to run in November, and he may believe it now.

But this is still a democracy, and if Lee thinks the situation has changed and he’s the only person who can properly lead the city over the next four years, he ought to put his name forward.

Right now, though, he’s allowing the “draft Ed Lee” movement to get out of control.

Chinatown powerbroker Rose Pak and political consultant Enrique Pierce (who runs the clearly misnamed Left Coast Campaigns and loves to tout his progressive credentials) have set up an office, are raising money, and have hatched this plan to get Lee to agree to put his name on the ballot and not actively campaign.

The operation — which, let’s remember, carries Ed Lee’s name on it — has already run afoul of the law. The Ethics Commission — hardly an aggressive political watchdog — says the campaign had improperly filed as a political action committee. That’s not Lee’s fault — he has nothing to do with this. But it already taints his reputation.

Lee, by all accounts, has done a far better job with the budget than his immediate predecessor. He’s actually been talking to people. He listens; he accepts logic; he tries to make thing work. I admit, the bar is pretty low — Gavin Newsom was a complete asshole. Still: Lee’s a decent guy.

But he has some heavy political baggage — and most of it has to do with his connections to sleazy operators like Pak and Willie Brown. As long as he’s linked to people who treat campaign finance laws, lobbying rules, and political ethics with disdain bordering on hostility, he’s going to have trouble keeping the public trust.

And right now, those same people are raising money — money that is already being spent on a political campaign — and the noncandidate is letting it happen.

Run if you want, Ed. But if you’re going to keep your promise, then it’s time to call Pak, Pierce and company and tell them to quit.

Three good initiatives for the fall

2

The progressive wing of the Board of Supervisors (including, to her credit, Sup. Jane Kim) has placed three important reform measures on the November ballot. That the measures are headed for the voters is a clear indication of the shift of power at the board — progressives no longer have a reliable six votes. But the progressives still have the ability to push issues — and in an mayoral election year, these measures will provide a valuable gauge for the candidates and create broad-based organizing opportunities.

The measures include a ban on the demolition of more than 50 units of rent-controlled housing; a ban on further admissions charges at parks or leasing park facilities to private companies; and a requirement that participants in the Care Not Cash program get an actual housing unit — not just a shelter bed — before their welfare grants are cut.

The supervisors are under immense pressure to back off from those proposals, and if two of the five supporters pull their names before the final deadline of July 14, the measures won’t make the ballot. Some argue that the controversy over the measures could threaten the mayoral campaign of progressive standard-bearer John Avalos. But Avalos told us he supports all three measures and has no interest in turning back. He’s right — the supervisors should hold firm and insist on a public vote on all three.

The Care Not Cash reform has already generated a lot of controversy. Mayor Ed Lee has denounced it, saying it will destroy the entire program, and two mayoral candidates, former Sup. Bevan Dufty and Assessor-Recorder Phil Ting, have come out against it. But the measure is pretty simple and straightforward: it says that a bed in a shelter doesn’t count as “housing.”

That’s a critical definition, because under Care Not Cash, the city tries to put homeless welfare recipients into housing, mostly single-room-occupancy hotels — and in exchange, takes back most of the welfare grants. But by law, a bed in a shelter counts as a home — so the minute the city finds someone a cot to sleep on in a noisy, sometimes dangerous shelter with no privacy and arbitrary curfews and rules, that person loses most of his or her welfare grant. Along the way, the city locks up shelter beds for people in the CNC program — so when other homeless people show up for a place to sleep, they’re told there’s no room. That’s a sign of a broken system.

The housing demolition measure comes as a response to a badly flawed proposal to rebuild Parkmerced — tearing down hundreds of rent-controlled housing units in the process. The parks measure is an attempt to stop Phil Ginsburg, head of the Recreation and Parks Department, from turning public property over to private for-profit firms in an effort to raise cash.

The community groups and grassroots sponsors of these measures have a responsibility to organize and mount serious campaigns; there’s going to be big-money opposition. But it’s worth having all three on the ballot in November.

Smooth sailing for developers

3

rebeccab@sfbg.com

It’s a mad dash at San Francisco City Hall to put all the pieces together in preparation for the America’s Cup, the prestigious regatta that will culminate in the summer of 2013 along the city’s northern waterfront. But once that spectacle is over, the biggest impact of the event will be a massive, lasting, and quite lucrative transformation of the city’s waterfront by a few powerful players, a deal that has been modified significantly since it was approved by the Board of Supervisors.

As negotiations on the fine terms of the development agreements continue to unfold, the future landscape of a huge section of the San Francisco waterfront is in play. If the America’s Cup Event Authority (ACEA) — the race management team controlled by billionaire Oracle CEO Larry Ellison — aims high in its investments into port-owned infrastructure, it has the potential to lock-in leases and long-term development rights for up to nine piers for 66 years, with properties ranging from as far south as Pier 80 at Islais Creek to as far north as Pier 29, home of the popular dinner theater Teatro ZinZanni.

The possibility of securing long-term leases and development rights to Piers 19, 23, and 29 — provided race organizers sink more money into infrastructure improvements — was added to the deal in the last two weeks of 2010, just before San Francisco won its bid to host the world-famous sailing match. The possibility of obtaining rights to portions of two additional piers, 27 and 80, were also added at the last minute. Race organizers and city officials negotiated the final modifications after the Board of Supervisors signed off on the Host City Agreement on Dec. 14, 2010.

Not all board members knew that three additional city-owned piers were being added as possible extensions of the land deal, and those properties weren’t mentioned in any of the earlier documents that went through a public review process in the months leading up to the approval of the agreement. Yet Board President David Chiu was evidently appraised of how the last-minute negotiations were unfolding and he quietly offered his support.

On Dec. 22, 2010, Chiu sent a letter to Russell Coutts, CEO of Oracle Racing, the team that won the 33rd America’s Cup and is an integral player in laying plans for the 34th. “I understand that Mayor Newsom and the city’s team have been working directly with you since the board’s approval of the Host City Agreement to make the necessary adjustments and clarifications to the agreement to ensure it meets your needs. I am aware of these changes and support them,” Chiu wrote in a letter that was not shared with his fellow supervisors.

Quoting from a section of the agreement that explains that ACEA is ensured long-term development opportunities in exchange for funding improvements and upgrades, Chiu’s letter went on, “This section specifically applies to … Piers 30-32 and Seawall Lot 330, as well as Piers 26 and 28, and if mutually agreeable could apply to Piers 19, 23, and 29. To obtain the community’s support and agreement for future development rights to piers on the northern waterfront, you will need to invest in a strong partnership with the community … I am prepared to help facilitate that relationship.”

Former Board President and Democratic County Central Committee Chair Aaron Peskin, who has closely followed the America’s Cup land deal and has for decades been actively involved in land-use issues along the northern waterfront, interpreted Chiu’s letter to Coutts as a backroom deal.

“There is no question that the president of the board, without the authorization of the majority of the Board of Supervisors, went behind closed doors, out of view of the public, and committed to [long-term development] for three piers,” Peskin said, highlighting the fact that no other supervisors were copied on Chiu’s letter. “That he has done this unilaterally, without the consent of a board’s vote at a board meeting, is not good governance. If there’s one body that’s supposed to do all of its work for the public, it’s the Board of Supervisors.”

Chiu defended the letter by emphasizing the part that asked for a partnership with the community. “This was all within the broader framework of the Host City Agreement that we signed in the middle of December,” he told the Guardian when presented with the letter during an interview and asked to comment. “They had questions about, well, can we develop on these other piers? And what I said was, ‘Well, as I think the language here specifically says if mutually agreed upon … you could possibly do this.’ And we specifically said you’ll need to invest in a strong partnership with the community.”

He added that specific development plans would still have to be approved by the Board of Supervisors. Proposals for each parcel will be made in separate Disposition and Development Agreements, subject to board approval.

On hearing Chiu’s response, Peskin was still critical of the lack of transparency in this deal: “My position is, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck.”

Meanwhile, an analysis prepared by Budget Analyst Harvey Rose in mid-March suggests that the final amendments did reflect new commitments for the city that go well beyond what was discussed publicly. “No city approval of the Event Authority’s selection of Pier 29 for a long-term lease is required in the agreement, as modified by the Mayor’s Office and other city officials,” the Budget Analyst’s report notes. “This entire provision … was not included in the agreement of Dec. 14, 2010 as previously approved by the Board of Supervisors.”

Brad Benson, special projects manager at the Port of San Francisco, explained the Pier 29 provision slightly differently. “The city would have to be acting in its reasonable discretion to say no,” he said, emphasizing that ACEA would have to invest well above the $55 million threshold to obtain rights to Pier 29.

At a time when a new era of civility is being hailed at City Hall, two elements of the city family are essentially agreeing to disagree on the broader question of whether the 11th-hour modifications to the deal resulted in a greater hit to city coffers than supervisors approved. While Rose stated in public hearings that the modifications would deal a greater blow to city revenues, City Attorney Dennis Herrera, a mayoral candidate, has stood with the Office of Economic and Workforce Development in his assessment that the changes did not significantly exceed the scope of what was approved by the board. Fred Brousseau of the Budget & Legislative Analyst chalked it up to “a difference in opinion,” reflecting “the auditor’s standard for materiality versus the city attorney’s.”

Legalese aside, it’s clear that the race organizers stand to gain some highly desirable waterfront property in exchange for investing in the piers and bringing an event to the city that is expected to generate substantial economic activity. If ACEA invests a minimum threshold of $55 million for infrastructure improvements, it can likely secure long-term development rights for Piers 30-32, a 13-acre waterfront parking lot where Red’s Java House is located, plus win the title to Seawall Lot 330, a two-acre triangular parcel along the Embarcadero that has been discussed as the site of a future luxury condo tower that has already cleared city approval for that use.

A high-rise next door to Seawall Lot 330, called the Watermark, currently has condos going for $1.2 million apiece on average, according to a calculation of online listings. Under the America’s Cup deal approved by the board, the port would have received 1 percent of each condo sale plus 15 percent of transfers or subleases made by ACEA. “Such required payments … have been entirely removed from the agreement as modified by the Mayor’s Office and other city officials,” the budget analyst’s report points out.

Waterfront real estate in San Francisco, always expensive, has recently soared to even higher values. According to a June 22 article in the San Francisco Business Times, Farallon Capital Management recently put up for sale a 3.36-acre parcel in Mission Bay zoned for life science and tech office space — and it’s expected to fetch around $90 million. This past April, BRE Properties shelled out $41.4 million for two Mission Bay residential development sites entitled for 360 residential units, and last year, Salesforce.com acquired a 14-acre Mission Bay property for $278 million, or $140 per buildable square foot.

By comparison, the $55 million that ACEA must invest to be granted a two-acre waterfront parcel on the Embarcadero, plus long-term rights to lease and develop an additional 13 acres across the street, sounds like a good deal. “We’re using an appraisal approach. It’s not going to ridiculously undervalue the property,” Benson said. Under changes made to the deal after the board signed off, base rent for Piers 30-32 will be $4 per square foot of building area. Rent for all other possible piers will be $6 per square foot of building area.

The ability to transfer city-owned Seawall Lot 330 outright to the ACEA is predicated on the approval by the State Lands Commission to strip that property of constraints placing it, like all coastal properties, in the public trust. Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who pushed the deal as mayor, is one of the three members of that commission.

Under a provision in the agreement, the ACEA’s $55 million investment will be applied toward rent credits on city-owned parcels — and depending on how much the company puts in, that credit balance can increase by 11 percent every year. Benson described this as a typical arrangement, saying, “It’s not out of the line with other rent-credit deals the port has done.”

Two former mayoral advisors from OEWD, Kyri McClellan and Alexandra Lonne, have since gone to work for the America’s Cup Organizing Committee (ACOC), a nonprofit entity working in tandem with the city and the ACEA to secure financial commitments for hosting the race. Newsom has also been named ambassador at large for the America’s Cup effort.

Meanwhile, an OEWD budget proposal includes $819,000 in staffing costs for four management-level positions relating to America’s Cup planning. A refund is expected in the form of $12 million that the ACOC has committed to fundraise by the end of 2011, with an ultimate target of $32 million by 2013. So far, ACOC has only raised $2 million, but plans to seek higher donations once it gains tax-exempt status. “I think the $2 million is a really good start,” said Mike Martin, who transferred in February from the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission to OEWD to direct the America’s Cup effort. “They’re building a foundation for an effective pitch.”

For now, city departments are scrambling toward completing the environmental review process for the infrastructure improvements, expected to be complete sometime in November. “It’s incredibly compressed,” Martin said. “There’s a lot to be done in a very short time.”

Peskin, for his part, seemed be keeping a watchful eye on the unfolding America’s Cup plans. “What we, the citizens of San Francisco, have to watch out for is that we’re not being taken advantage of,” he said. “We’ve got to be vigilant that we don’t get taken to the cleaners.”