Volume 46 Number 05

November 2-8, 2011

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Rhythm nations


DANCE Watched over by two pink carousel horses, a rainbow. and a big lotus flower, they sway, stomp, and slide even as they chant, clap, and body slap in increasingly complex rhythms. They are SlamDance, Keith Terry’s sextet of musician-dancers, and they are rehearsing their upcoming performance at the fourth International Body Music Festival, held this year at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

Last year, the (free) festival took place in São Paulo, Brazil; next October it will happen (also free) in Istanbul, Turkey. “Free performances [are] something we could never do in this country,” Terry ruefully observes. Still, the plan is to have a local festival (2011 tickets start at $25) every other year.

Terry, who organized the first festival in 2008, started out as a percussionist. He was the first drummer for the Jazz Tap Ensemble, and he is a founding member of Berkeley’s Gamelan Sekar Jaya. So the beat has been in his body for a very long time — yet early in his career he changed from “a seated musician to a moving musician,” as he calls himself. Using one’s body as a musical instrument, he says, sometimes is called “body percussion” or “body drumming.” Terry prefers the term “body music” because it includes melodic and harmonic aspects as well as its rhythmic components. SlamDance performers, for instance, use their voices to percussive effect as well as in simple part-singing.

Using your body to make music is pretty basic. We all do it, perhaps starting as toddlers with patty-cake, progressing into clapping games at recess, and ending up as oldsters who play the spoons. Much of these practices go back to folkways rooted in ritualistic endeavors. But there are also innovations: the gumboot dance, for instance, was developed by South African miners early in the 20th century, while African American fraternities popularized a particular form of step-dancing.

Body music is both a communal practice with a sense of freedom even as it demands great discipline and precision. “That’s what makes it fun,” Terry explains. Often it integrates improvisation and fixed passages, not unlike what happens in both hip-hop and jazz.

Noticeable from a dance perspective is the SlamDancers’ slight sway in the torso. “It helps with the breathing,” Terry notes, though he was surprised to see how practices change from culture to culture.

“One of the things that fascinates me about these festivals is how differently these musicians, who come from all over the world, carry themselves. It was one of the most profound experiences with my first body music festival because we are, basically, all just clapping and stepping. It’s definitely a cultural thing. You put a French group next to a Brazilian one and you can immediately see the difference.”

One of the first groups Terry identified with as kindred spirits was Çudamani, an astounding troupe of male dancer-musicians from Bali. They perform kecak, a rhythmic, chanting-and-swaying “monkey dance” that originated in trance rituals. Six of its dancers bring new choreography as part of this year’s International Body Music Festival line-up, which features a total of eleven companies.

Others include the theatrical Cambuyón, from the Canary Islands, which integrates tap and hip-hop into other percussive forms, and Kantu Korpu, which draws on flamenco and tap to translate regional Greek music into motion. Both of these groups are making their US debut. KeKeÇa’s five performers interpret Turkish songs within Near Eastern movement traditions. Fernando Barba from Brazil draws from samba and maracatu; Danny “Slapjazz” Barber is a hambone virtuoso; the Las Vegas-based group Molodi pulls in theater and just about everything with a beat. A gentler soul is Quebec’s Éric Beaudry, who will also team up with a trio of Oakland step dancers.



Fri/4-Sat/5, 8 p.m.; Sun/6, 2 p.m., $25–$50

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

701 Mission, SF.


Frame missing



FILM Of all Elliot Lavine’s noir programs for the Roxie, “Not Necessarily Noir” is both the toughest sell and the most creative from a curatorial perspective. There are two programs in this abbreviated “Not Necessarily Noir” run that should have built-in audiences — a slam dunk Joan Crawford double bill of Johnny Guitar (1954) and Female on the Beach (1955), and a full course of Ed Wood — but the terrifically nervous movies at the start of the series do the most to stake out its intuitive terrain.

As a thorough revision of Robert Siodmak’s classic adaptation of the Hemingway story, Don Siegel’s The Killers (1964) is a fine place to begin. Siegel’s remake was initially contracted for television, but that fell through when the director littered the film with mean specks of violence; a sniper sequence seemed in especially poor taste after the Kennedy assassination. If they only knew: in the movie version it’s Ronald Reagan pulling the trigger.

The wild casting combinations are dynamite in Siegel’s hands: the future president and John Cassavetes brawl and killer pair Lee Marvin and Clu Gulager pursue the story of a big heist. Marvin’s hired gun wants to know what made former racecar driver Johnny North (Cassavetes) die without a fight. Gulager’s goofy psychopath needs the suggestion of a million bucks to get interested. Ducking Siodmak’s smooth noir style, Siegel gives us hard daylight, cheap motels, and actors sweating through their makeup. The director approaches fatalism matter-of-factly, leaving the expressionistic language of seduction and madness without much purchase. With characteristic perversity, Siegel has Johnny accuse femme fatale Sheila Farr (Angie Dickinson, a Kennedy friend) of betrayal when his head is wrapped up following an auto accident. It should be an emotional peak and we can’t even see his eyes.

Against the odds of its title, the unjustly obscure Brainstorm (1965) charts a well-plotted crackup. With its glinting surfaces, jazz score, and debauched party scenes, the William Conrad film can evoke a pulp La Dolce Vita (1960) or La Notte (1961). Jim (Jeffrey Hunter) is a chiseled intellectual manning room-sized computers. In a dreamlike prologue, he discovers a beautiful woman (Anne Francis) wrapped in mink in the backseat of her car. She’s unconscious, and her car is parked in the path of a train. After the rescue, Jim finds out she belongs to Jim’s boss Cort Benson (Dana Andrews in a fine menacing turn). A little later Cort finds out the two youngsters have been playing around and uses his power to cast Jim as a lunatic. Jim begins to play along when he realizes it could make for a persuasive alibi for murder.

Brainstorm never ventures into the underworld, but Conrad’s squeezed widescreen framing gives the sense of being underwater. Along with the hard horizontals of modernist offices and passing references to the Nuremberg Trials, the film’s self-conscious tripling of female threat (the traditional femme fatale, a woman psychologist, a hired hand who accuses Jim of lewd phone calls) insinuates deep pathological reserves of noir anxiety. Brainstorm‘s disintegration isn’t quite up to Shock Corridor (1963) and The Manchurian Candidate (1962), but they’re all stirring the same pot.

If Clint Eastwood’s avenging cop in Siegel’s Dirty Harry (1971) was a neo-noir lodestar, his directorial debut of that same year pushed in a different direction. In Play Misty for Me, an extreme amplification of the femme fatale into a castrating bitch (many fatal attractions followed) obscures his character’s masculine code. As Dave, Eastwood appears every bit the New Hollywood playboy driving along the Pacific Coast Highway to his nighttime disc jockey gig. After the show he has a drink with his barkeep friend (Siegel, naturally) and soon looks to pick up a swell-looking babe down the bar (Jessica Walter). Back at her place Evelyn admits she’s the one always calling in with a request for “Misty,” and things only get stickier from there.

Dave grasps at Evelyn’s movie-romance psychosis with the same hard stare reserved for bad dudes in the spaghetti westerns and crime movies, but here this front signals disbelief, frustration, and ineffectuality. Instead of trapping his onscreen persona in the frame, as in the classical noir, Eastwood pictures himself enjoying a false mastery of space. Dave strolls with a good girl in sylvan nature (shades of 1947’s Out of the Past), but the unnervingly distant framings anticipate the knockout moment when Evelyn’s hand strikes menacingly into the foreground of one of these shots. Play Misty for Me isn’t necessarily noir, but Eastwood’s cunning extension of the “deadly is the female” trope doesn’t play nice with the audience’s identification — and that’s maybe the coolest killer of all.


Nov. 4-8, $5–$9.75

Roxie Theater

3117 16th St., SF

(415) 863-1087





MUSIC In a once-pink house, atop a hill where San Francisco and Daly City collide, freak folk four-piece Little Teeth practices its trash thrash in a small living room decked with tawdry holiday tchotchkes year round, as if suspended in a never-ending Christmas.

When I arrive, pajama-clad vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Sofia Bell is baking Christmas tree-shaped vegan cookies. As she enters the bedroom, she serves percussionist Sean Real and the band’s newest addition, Brian Rodriguez, her freshly baked confections. Her wife, vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Dannie Murrie, is in their bed, watching 16 and Pregnant. When Bell ensures everyone is eating, she gets in the bed and cozies up next to Murrie. The room’s energy shifts when the interview commences.

Weeks prior — to accompany Daly City/Andalusia, an EP of demos — Little Teeth posted a tell-all bio on Bandcamp, scrupulously detailing the dissolution of the band’s original lineup (Ammo Eisu, Andy Tisdall, Murrie — Murrie remains the only original member).

On New Year’s Eve 2008, after she was introduced to Little Teeth’s music by her boyfriend, Bell saw Tisdall perform solo. His music — simple folky melodies above clamorous creaky piano, banjos, and cellos — made for enchanting chamber folk. “It was like a religious experience. Everyone blacked out of the room. Doves were flying. [There were] huge choruses of kneeling skeletons,” she says, catching her breath. “It was a very dramatic experience for me.”

She also met Murrie that evening. “I saw her come up the stairs. And I will never not remember that ’cause it really [was] like that love at first sight thing,” she says.

To Bell, the music Tisdall and Murrie were making both together as Little Teeth and separately as solo artists was what she had been waiting for her whole life. “I just felt like nothing had ever played the sound of a person — what it felt like to be on the inside in your nervous system running and the voices in your head arguing with you,” she says. “I just felt so completely naked in front of their music.”

So enamored with Tisdall’s music, Bell began cheating on her boyfriend with him. A room opened up in the Pink House — where Murrie resided — when the band was at SXSW. Bell moved in. And upon his return, Tisdall shared a room with Bell.

During what Bell and Murrie call “the golden era,” Bell was experimenting as Stanzamaphone, her solo project, while Murrie was producing Little Teeth’s debut album, Child Bearing Man (Absolutely Kosher). In it, Murrie’s snarling, metallic gruff rises above the banging of pots and pans and wailing of mandolin, accordion, banjo, and cello. When Murrie began working on Stanzamaphone with Bell, they fell in love.

“It was the Chernobyl of the house,” Murrie says, referring to the day she and Bell decided to disclose their feelings for each other with their housemates. “It went the worst way it could have possibly gone. It went the way of hospitals and 5150s” — involuntary 72-hour hold in a psychiatric hospital.

All the while, Bell had developed a gastrointestinal disorder. After her hospitalization, she began to write down what had happened over the past six months. The pared down version of that story was posted to Bandcamp, as the band worked on repairing itself. With sagacious hindsight, in the house frozen in Christmas time, Murrie says, “Our sentence is to face the ghost and do it justice and do it service. And live with it everyday. And live it through our songs.” *



With Faun Fables

Fri/4, 9p.m., $10–<\d>$13

New Parish

579 18th St., Oak.


Volume 46 Number 5 Flip-through Edition


Anyone but Lee



Two weeks ago, the race for mayor of San Francisco seemed in the bag. Mayor Ed Lee was so far ahead in most polls that everyone else looked like an also-ran. A Bay Citizen simulation of ranked-choice voting showed Lee getting enough seconds and thirds to emerge easily as the winner. His approval rating with voters was above 70 percent. The money was pouring in to his campaign and to the coffers of independent expenditure committees promoting him.

But that was before the voter-fraud scandals, OccupySF, Sup. John Avalos appearing on national TV, a controversial veto, Sup. David Chiu getting the endorsement of the San Francisco Chronicle, and an attack on City Attorney Dennis Herrera backfiring.

“It’s changing,” Corey Cook, a political scientist at the University of San Francisco, told us. “I don’t know whether it’s tightening up, but it’s certainly changing.”

One campaign consultant, who asked not to be named, was more blunt: “The Lee campaign is one bad news story away from free-fall.”

That’s not to say Lee is going to lose, or even that he’s anything but the clear front-runner. But over the past week, as Lee has taken a series of hits, supporters of the other candidates — particularly Herrera and Avalos — are starting to wonder: Could somebody else really win?

The answer, of course, is yes — anything can happen in the week before an election. But defeating Mayor Lee will take a confluence of events and strategies that starts with a big progressive turnout — and with voters who don’t like the idea of an incumbent with ties to a corrupt old political machine carefully allocating their three ranked choices.



So far, there’s been no crushing “October surprise” — no single event or revelation that can change the course of the election. And the impact of anything that happens in the next few days will be blunted by the fact that 27,000 absentee ballots have already arrived at the Department of Elections.

By all accounts, Lee’s campaign and the somewhat sketchy independent expenditure groups that are working in parallel, if not in concert, have done an impressive job of identifying and turning out absentee voters. Local consultants from most of the campaigns agree that at least 20 percent of the final turnout will be Chinese voters — and Lee will get at least 75 and as much of 90 percent of that vote.

But as Cook notes, there are still “huge undecideds” for this late in a race. And while Lee was polling above 30 percent a few weeks ago, by most accounts his numbers have been dropping steadily. One recent poll shows him falling 10 points in the past two weeks, leaving him closer to 20 percent than 30 percent.

“If the election were held three weeks from now, he’d lose,” said one consultant who asked not to be identified by name.

What’s happened? A confluence of factors have put the incumbent in a bad light.

The voter-fraud allegations have made headlines and the district attorney is discussing a criminal investigation. Although Lee and his campaign weren’t directly involved — the possibly illegal efforts to steer voters to Lee were run by one of the IEs — the last thing a politician wants to see in the waning days before an election are the words “voter fraud” and “criminal investigation.”

And the allegation — that Lee supporters in Chinatown filled out ballots for absentee voters then collected them for later delivery — play right into Lee’s weakness. While voters generally have good impressions of his work at City Hall, the fact that he’s connected to sleazy operators and tied to the old discredited Brown machine continues to haunt him. And this sort of activity simply re-enforces that perception.

The Leland Yee campaign has taken direct advantage of that perception, releasing a parody of the hagiographic Lee biography written by political consultant Enrique Pearce. “The Real Ed Lee story,” which repeatedly talks of his connections to unethical power brokers, hit the streets this past weekend.

Lee also sided with the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce over a coalition of labor and consumer groups with his veto of legislation by Sup. David Campos that would have prevented employers from draining $50 million per year from health savings accounts set up to comply with city law. Many restaurants even tack a 3-5 percent surcharge onto customers’ bills, making it essentially consumer fraud.

“It’s important for us to take a stance on the issue and say that what the mayor did was wrong,” Campos told us. “It’s a defining issue for us in City Hall.”

Then there’s OccupySF. Nobody knows for sure, but it’s likely that a majority of San Franciscans are at least somewhat sympathetic to the group’s message. And Lee has so far avoided the public relations disaster of Oakland’s crackdown.

But the left is unhappy with Lee’s constant threats to clear out the encampment, and the right is unhappy that he hasn’t sent in the cops already — and even the San Francisco Chronicle has denounced his lack of decisiveness.

Lee put the police on high alert and had them moving around in buses, ready to move in — than at the last minute changed his mind. “What this shows,” said former Supervisor Aaron Peskin, “is that we don’t have a mayor with a firm hand on the tiller.”

Most observers expected that the Chronicle would join the San Francisco Examiner and endorse Lee. But the paper came down on the side of Supervisor David Chiu. Chiu is still running well behind in the polls, and not that many voters follow the Chron’s advice, but the endorsement was a huge boost to his campaign.

“Ed Lee’s had a bad couple of weeks, and some of the others have had a good couple of weeks,” Cooks said.



Ranked-choice voting puts an interesting twist into all of this. Several consultants and election experts I talked to this week said that Lee would be far more vulnerable in a traditional election. “He would lose a runoff against almost any of the top challengers,” one person said.

But every poll that’s tested the ranked-choice scenario — even recent polls that show Lee faltering — still put him on top after the votes are all tallied and allocated. That’s in part because supporters of candidates who are lower in the pack — Chiu, for example — tend to put Lee as a second or third choice. The Bay Citizen/USF poll showed that when Chiu was eliminated, most of his votes wound up going to Lee.

“Ranked-choice voting clearly favors incumbents,” Cook told me.

And, people walking precincts say, there are still some Herrera and even Avalos voters who put Lee second or third. And the only way Avalos — or anyone other than Lee — can win the election is if progressive and independent voters stick to a clear “anyone but Lee” voting strategy.

Avalos is doing well in recent polls; in fact, one shows him ahead of Herrera in first-place votes. Herrera does better when seconds and thirds are counted. Michela Alioto-Pier gets a fair number of first-place votes, which isn’t surprising since she’s one of only three women in the race, the only woman with citywide name recognition — and the only real credible conservative.

Yee and Chiu are both in the running, and Yee has come out strong attacking Lee and is running hard for progressive votes. He showed up at OccupySF the night a police raid was threatened and has been the leading critic of the alleged voter fraud.

Cook says a scenario where somebody beats Lee is still “an inside straight” — but it’s not at all impossible.

If Lee gets 30 percent of the first-place votes, most observers (including his opponents) agree that he’s going to cruise to victory. But if his first-place total is closer to 20 percent, and one or more of the other candidates are within five points, it’s going to be a lot closer.

Here’s the bottom line: If you don’t want to see a repeat of the late 1990s, when Willie Brown was mayor and City Hall was for sale to the highest bidder, vote for anyone but Lee — and use your three votes strategically. If you like John Avalos, put him first — but give your second-place vote to Herrera, who seems positioned right now to be the other strongest challenger. If you like Herrera, give your second to Avalos. If you like Leland Yee or David Chiu, make sure that Avalos and Herrera are also on your slate.

Fill out all three votes. And get your friends and family to the polls. Because turnout is projected to be low, which helps Lee — and the race may well be decided on the basis of who shows up November 8th.

On Guard!





Hit pieces are common in San Francisco politics. So, sadly, are negative mailers funded by outside independent expenditure committees that can raise unlimited money.

But it’s highly unusual for an organization devoted to electing queer candidates to fund an attack on a candidate who is endorsed by both leading LGBT organizations and is, by all accounts, an ally of the community.

That’s what happened last week when the Washington-based Victory Fund — the leading national organization for LGBT political candidates — sent out a bizarre mailer blasting City Attorney Dennis Herrera for taking money from law firms that do business with the city.

The Victory Fund has endorsed former Sup. Bevan Dufty, who is the most prominent LGBT candidate in the mayor’s race. That’s to be expected; it’s what the Victory Fund does.

But why, in a race with 16 candidates, would the fund go after Herrera, who has spent much of the past seven years fighting in court for marriage equality? Why try to knock down a candidate who has the support of both the Harvey Milk Club and the Alice B. Toklas Club?

It’s baffled — and infuriated — longtime queer activist Cleve Jones, who is a Herrera supporter. “I have long respected the Victory Fund,” Jones told us. “But I’ve never seen them do what they did here. And it’s going to undermine the fund’s credibility.”

Jones dashed off an angry letter to the fund’s president, Chuck Wolfe, saying he was “appalled that this scurrilous attack, in the waning days of a mayoral campaign, would go out to the San Francisco electorate under the name of the Victory Fund.

“You really screwed up, Chuck, and I am not alone in my anger.”

We couldn’t get Wolfe on the phone, but the fund’s vice president for communications, Denis Dison, told us that the mailer “is all about fighting for our endorsed candidates.”

So how does it help Dufty, in a ranked-choice election, to attack Herrera? (In fact, given the dynamics of this election, the person it helps most is probably Mayor Ed Lee). Dison couldn’t explain. Nor would he say who at the fund decided to do the attack mailer.

But there are a couple of interesting connections that might help explain what’s going on. For starters, Joyce Newstat, a political consultant who is working for the Dufty campaign, is active in the Victory Fund, sits on the board of the fund’s Leadership Institute, and, according to a March 24 article in the Bay Area Reporter, was among those active in helping Dufty win the Victory Fund endorsement.

But again: Supporting Dufty is one thing. Attacking Herrera is another. Who would want to do that?

Well, if there’s one single constituency in the city that would like to sink Herrera, it’s Pacific Gas and Electric Co. And guess what? PG&E Governmental Affairs Manager Brandon Hernandez chairs the Victory Fund’s Leadership Institute. PG&E’s corporate logo appears on the front page of the fund’s website, and the company gave the Victory Fund more than $50,000 in 2010, according to the fund’s annual report.

Dison insisted that neither Hernadez nor anyone else from PG&E was involved in making the decision to hit Herrera and said the money went to the Leadership Institute, which trains LGBT candidates, not directly to the campaign fund.

Maybe so –- but the folks at the private utility, who are among the top three corporate donors to the Victory Fund, have to be happy. (Tim Redmond)




Herrera was also the target of another attack on his LGBT credentials last week, this one by the San Francisco Chronicle, which ran a front page story on Oct. 26 in which anonymous sources said he raised doubts in private City Hall meetings about San Francisco’s decision to issue same-sex marriage licenses in 2004. It was entitled, “Fight turns ugly to win gay votes in mayor’s race.”

Despite trying to couch the hit in passive language, writing that ” a surprise issue has emerged” based on accusations “leveled by several members of former Mayor Gavin Newsom’s administration,” it was clear that it was the Chron that made it an issue, for which the newspaper was denounced by leaders of the LGBT community from across the political spectrum at a rally the next day.

“Those who are saying this now anonymously are as cowardly as Dennis and Gavin were courageous back then,” said Deputy City Attorney Theresa Stewart, the lead attorney who defended San Francisco’s decision in 2004 to unilaterally issue marriage licenses to same-sax couples, in defiance of state and federal law, which eventually led to the legalizing of such unions. “We can’t have our community turn on us for petty political gain.”

“WTF, Chronicle?” was how Assemblymember Tom Ammiano began his speech, going on to lay blame for the attack on surrogates for Mayor Ed Lee. Ammiano also called out the mayor for campaign finance violations by his supporters, for undermining the Healthy San Francisco program that was created by Ammiano’s legislation, and for repeatedly ordering police raids on the OccupySF encampment.

“How about some fucking leadership?!” Ammiano said.

Cleve Jones, an early gay rights leader who marched with Harvey Milk, also denounced Lee and his supporters for cronyism, vote tampering, money laundering, and the “fake grassroots” efforts of the various well-funded independent expenditure campaigns, which he said have fooled the Chronicle.

“To the Chronicle and that reporter — really? — this is what you do two weeks before the election? You should be ashamed of yourself,” Jones said. “How stupid do you think we are?”

Yet Chronicle City Editor Audrey Cooper defended the article. “Clearly, I disagree [with the criticisms],” she told the Guardian. “I personally vetted every one of the sources and I’m confident everything we printed is true.” She also tried to cast the article as something other than a political attack, saying it was about an issue of interest to the LGBT community, but no LGBT leaders have stepped up to defend the paper.

Beyond criticizing the obvious political motivations behind the attack, speakers at the rally called the article bad journalism and said it was simply untrue to suggest that Herrera didn’t strongly support the effort to legalize same-sex marriage from the beginning.

“I can tell you that Dennis never once shrank from this fight. I was there, I know,” Stewart said, calling Herrera “a straight ally who’s devoted his heart and soul to this community.”

Sen. Mark Leno, who introduced the first bill legalizing same-sex marriage to clear the Legislature, emphasized that he isn’t endorsing any candidates for mayor and that he didn’t want to comment on the details of the article’s allegations. But he noted that even within the LGBT community, there were differences of opinion over the right timing and tactics for pushing the issue, and that Herrera has been a leader of the fight for marriage equality since the beginning.

“I am here to speak in defense of the character and integrity of our city attorney, Dennis Herrera,” Leno said, later adding, “I do not appreciate when the battle for our civil rights is used as a political football in the waning days of an election.”

Molly McKay, one of the original plaintiffs in the civil lawsuit that followed San Francisco’s actions, teared up as she described the ups and downs that the case took, working closely with Herrera throughout. “But this is one of the strangest twists I can imagine,” she said of the attack by the Chronicle and its anonymous sources. “It’s ridiculous and despicable.”

Representatives for both the progressive Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club and fiscally conservative Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club also took to the microphone together, both saying they often disagree on issues, but they were each denouncing the attack and have both endorsed Herrera, largely because of his strong advocacy for the LGBT community.

Sup. Scott Wiener called Herrera, “One of the greatest straight allies we’ve every had as a community.”

When Herrera finally took the microphone, he thanked mayoral opponents Joanne Rees and Jeff Adachi for showing up at the event to help denounce the attack and said, “This is bigger than the mayor’s race. It’s bigger than me.”

He criticized those who would trivialize this issue for petty political gain and said, “It was my pleasure and honor to have been a part of this battle from the beginning — from the beginning — and I’ll be there in the end.” (Steven T. Jones)





October yielded tremendous financial contributions from real estate investors and interest groups for Yes on E, feeding fears that the measure will be used to target rent control and development standards in San Francisco.

Sup. Scott Wiener has been the biggest proponent for Prop E since May 2011. He argues that the Board of Supervisors should be able to change or repeal voter-approved ballot measures years after they become law, saying that voters are hampered with too many issues on the ballot. Leaving the complex issues to city officials rather than the voters, makes the most sense of this “common sense measure”, Wiener calls it.

But how democratic is a board that can change laws approved by voters? Calvin Welch, a longtime progressive and housing activist, has his own theory: Wiener is targeting certain landlord and tenant issues that build on the body of laws that began in 1978, when San Francisco voters first started adopting rent control and tenants protection measures. Yet the measure will only allow the board to change initiatives approved after January 2012.

“That is what the agenda is all about — roughly 30 measures that deal with rent control and growth control,” he said. Critics say  the measure will leave progressive reforms vulnerable to a board heavily influence by big-money interests. Although Wiener denies Prop E is an attack on tenants, who make up about two-thirds of San Franciscans, the late financial support for the measure is coming from the same downtown villains that tenant and progressive groups fight just about every election cycle. High-roller donations are coming straight from the housing sector, which would love a second chance after losing at the ballot box.

Contributions to Yes on E include $15,000 from Committee on Jobs Government Reform Fund, $10,000 from Building Owners and Managers Association of SF PAC, another $10,000 from high-tech billionaire Ron Conway, and $2,500 from Shorenstein Realty Services LP. Then — on Oct. 28, after the deadline for final pre-election campaign reporting — the San Francisco Association of Realtors made a late contribution of another $18,772, given through the front group Coalition for Sensible Government.

Prop. E is organized so that the first three years, an initiative cannot be subject to review. However after four years, a two-thirds majority vote by the board could make changes, and after sevens years, a simple majority could do so.

 (Christine Deakers)

Wine tales



APPETITE The wine scene never rests, particularly during harvest time. Besides traveling to Bordeaux for harvest a couple weeks ago (where I picked grapes with the harvesters one day in Sauternes), and continued weekends in Napa and Sonoma, I’ve been savoring the city’s latest wine bars, wine books, and a rare panel for Robert Mondavi staff of key Napa winemakers discussing Napa’s premier soil.



Alongside the best wine bar openings of 2010 — like Barrique (www.barriquesf.com) and Fat Angel (www.fatangelsf.com) — there are the new Barrel Room (www.barrelroomsf.com) in the old Hidden Vine space, and the new Hidden Vine (www.thehiddenvine.com), near the Transamerica Building.

But for city-produced vino, I’d head to brand new Bluxome Street Winery (www.bluxomewinery.com). Reclaiming a SoMa winemaking heritage they say was thriving pre-1906 Great Quake, the Bluxome crew grows their own grapes within 100 miles of SF, producing a handful of whites and reds, from Sauvignon Blanc to Pinot. Tasting through flights of each, I found all balanced and interesting, particularly a Chardonnay, which reigns in typically over-oaked California qualities for a pleasantly acidic, well-rounded white. In the tasting room, sit in front of giant windows overlooking production of the wine you’re tasting.



This summer I spent an unforgettable weekend with Robert Mondavi staff at Mondavi’s To Kalon vineyards, where vines were first planted in 1868. Mondavi’s master of wine, Mark de Vere, deems this land, “the preeminent Grand Cru [exceptional growth] site of Napa since the 19th century.” At the cost of more than $40,000 per acre, it’s outrageously expensive land. But to the winemakers who each claim a plot of it, they say it produces some of California’s (and the world’s) finest wine, reflective of the unique terroir of Napa.

A panel of six To Kalon winemakers (including Mondavi’s Genevieve Janssens, a Frenchwoman named 2010 winemaker of the year by Wine Enthusiast) mesmerized me, discussing how Napa is reaching maturing in the quality of vines, land, and winemaker technique. Tor Kenward, of TOR wines, said working with To Kalon vines is “intellectually challenging…. Despite price, it’s fascinating to work with.”

Sampling five To Kalon Cabernet Sauvignons side-by-side, each reflects similar characteristics pointing to the properties inherent in the land. Each also reflects winemaker style (these winemakers likewise produce wines from other Napa regions).

Standouts were Carter Cellars 2008 Cab ($125 a bottle), with dusty earth and spice giving it profound character, balanced by bright floral notes. At a mere 185-300 cases a year, it’s truly a limited wine. The other was TOR’s 2008 Cab ($150, with 400-500 cases a year). A clean, mineral nose exudes light perfume, while it tastes of dark berries with gentle spice, vanilla, and a creamy finish.

As one would expect, these are pricey bottles, hovering between $125-150 due to immense land costs. Provenance Vineyards was the exception at $75 a bottle for its 2007 Cab, exhibiting notes of white pepper, vanilla, and berries. Provenance winemaker Tom Rinaldi may get flak for not increasing the price of his To Kalon wine to more closely match fellow winemakers, but he keeps costs low for reasons akin to benefiting from rent control: he secured an early contract and plot with an essentially fixed price. I admire that although he could be making double, he has chosen not to put this on his customers… yet. (His current rates will be re-examined soon.)

Tor Kenward commented on Napa’s maturing winemaking, playfully expressing California’s place in the wine world: “I’ve gone mano y mano with Bordeaux through the decades. It’s amazing how California goes head to head.”



My recent flights overseas required some serious reading, and finishing Natalie Maclean’s new Unquenchable: A Tipsy Quest for the World’s Best Bargain Wines (www.nataliemaclean.com) helped a 10-hour flight pass quickly.

Each section hits a different part of the world in search of high quality, value wines. From South Africa to Sicily, wine terms and history are subtly slipped into stories about individual winemakers and pairing recipes. A cheery book cover belies Ms. Maclean’s skill with imagery (she’s won the M.F.K. Fisher Distinguished Writing Award and four James Beard Foundation Journalism Awards). For example, in her particularly engaging chapter on German riesling, she compares riesling as the “quivering … opera diva Sarah Brightman singing pop tunes… [with a] range [that] stretches far beyond what I hear,” to popular chardonnays as: “breathy pop stars who have to whisper the high notes.”

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Drive, she said



CHEAP EATS Hedgehog was going to baseball games before she met me — mostly minor league ones, but anyway she was in it for the hot dogs. And beer. And people-watching. Now that she understands what’s actually going on down there on the field, well, it’s a whole new ball game.

Naturally, she wants to play. I’m all for that, so I got us a big bag of spits, and once she learned to spit them like a pro, I went to K-Mart: two gloves, one baseball, and a big old brand new wooden bat. Wood because Hedgehog is of course a sound person, and the crack of the bat is more important to her than longevity and distance, or even the ethics involved with the slaughter of innocent trees.

Through the course of only a few catch sessions, my boo evolved into a world class glove user and ball thrower. Now, having mastered the "wax on/wax off" and "paint the fence" of baseball, it was time for her to learn the Crane kick. So it was that we happened to be out and about in search of batting cages, me and her and Earl Butter.

He’s in the back seat, humming a happy little ditty and just generally playing with the power windows. I’m driving Hedgehog’s car, because I kind of know where Redwood City might be, and Hedgehog is firmly fastened into the passenger seat, trying to look casual while pressing the life out of the dashboard — her usual position when she’s not driving. Or at least when I am.

Our sense of equilibrium was toppled, however, when the conversation turned to oysters — an inevitable subject since, not only were they food, and not only were they one of our collective favorite foods, but Hedgehog had just had a batch of bad ‘uns in her hangtown fry. Not bad as in "get the bucket"; bad as in not fried, like I told Just For You to do a long time ago. Because every time I get breaded and fried oysters in my hangtown fry, it’s my new favorite dish ever, and every time I get just out-of-the-jar and into-the-eggs oysters, it’s crap.

So: Just For You. I’ve been trying to sell Hedgehog on San Francisco for almost a year, and now that I have her here, you feed her an overpriced and undergood hangtown fry. If she runs screaming back to New Orleans, it’s on you.

Anyway, the post-mortem being concluded on Hedgehog’s unfried fried oysters, someone who might have been me mentioned something about raw oysters. And then someone else who might have been me mentioned how when oysters are eaten raw, they might maybe be still alive.

"Define ‘alive,’" Hedgehog gasped, even wide-eyeder than she already was on account of my driving skills, which are considerable.

"Don’t worry, babe. They aren’t alive the way we are," I said, changing lanes for the third time in three seconds and zooming through what I like to call a "pink" light. (I may not enjoy living on the edge, but I sure do enjoy driving on it.)

"’Not alive the way we are’?" Earl Butter said. "Just remember that when the aliens spear you with a cocktail fork and swallow you whole with a spritz of lemon."

He had a point there.

But speaking of eating things raw: sushi! Sushi is a good thing, I’m sure we all agree, but it turns out there are levels of good. I don’t mean fine, good, and great; I mean there is sushi that just tastes how it tastes, and then there is Morally Superior sushi. Welcome to Tataki South.

We weren’t there, when we were there, just because it was rumored to be yummy (which it was).

We wanted to try us some "ethically caught fish" to see if it was like aluminum bats.

Well, the fish that is ethical to kill and eat is pretty tasty, but the short story that accompanies every slice justifying its death made dinner seem more like an outing to a museum than a meal. It also turns out that, just as in the Real World, clearing your palate’s conscious has a higher price tag.

Tataki is a tiny place that doesn’t believe in reservations for parties of less-than-six, so the wait was kinda long. But once we were inside, shoving ethically murdered fish down our gullets, it was so damn cozy and friendly, nothing else mattered. *


Sun.-Thu. 5-9:30 p.m.; Fri.-Sat. 5-10 p.m.

1740 Church St., S.F.

(415) 282-1889


Beer & sake

Deep south



FILM It’s a sunny day in Los Angeles, and Omi Vaidya is puttering around, looking for a neighbor who’ll loan him a lawnmower. Vaidya is an actor of the “working” (as opposed to “unemployed” or “superstar”) variety, with bit parts on shows like Arrested Development and The Office dotting his resume. Finding work as an Indian American actor can be frustrating — “a lot of it is typecasting,” he notes. Computer nerds and such.

But thousands of miles away in Mumbai, Vaidya’s star is about to explode. Accompanied by a film crew comprised of pals from UC Santa Cruz, he makes the trek to India to attend the premiere of 3 Idiots — a massive movie even by Bollywood standards — in which he has a small but showy part. Big in Bollywood tracks Vaidya’s journey from unknown to chased-down-the-street famous, a process that begins happening literally halfway through the film’s very first screening. (This being Bollywood, the movie is so long there’s an intermission.) Vaidya doesn’t speak much Hindi, but neither does the buffoonish character he plays; the film’s breakout joke, on the scale of “Show me the money” or “I drink your milkshake,” hinges on his confusing the word for “miracle” with the word for “rape.” (Indian audiences find this hilarious, and Vaidya is so endearing it’s almost easy to let that ickiness go.)

Working in a totally unfamiliar environment, directors Bill Bowles and Kenny Mehan, both of whom are slated to appear in person at Big in Bollywood‘s screening at the 3rd I International South Asian Film Festival, are forced to go gonzo at times. Amazingly, fake press passes identifying them as “Hollywood Kitchen” correspondents are all it takes to get their camera onto 3 Idiots‘ red carpet, and later, backstage at a glitzy awards show, where new sensation Vaidya is both co-host and nominee.

As Vaidya enjoys his success, Bowles and Mehan capture an insider’s view of how different the Bollywood and Hollywood industries are. Massive fame, however, evokes the same reaction in any language: “It feels like a zombie movie!” Vaidya exclaims, breathless after dodging an enthusiastic hoard of fans. Despite the adulation, he remains humble — thanks in part to his supportive mother, once an aspiring actress herself, and understanding wife, a PhD student who’s due back for class in SoCal just as Omi-mania starts to overtake India. Having his buddies film his every move probably also helped keep his ego in check, though he doesn’t seem prone to diva-ish behavior anyway: soon after he goes home to L.A., Vaidya — whose imdb.com profile suggests he’s not hurting for gigs — is back tending to his lawn, apparently unruffled about his return to anonymity.

While the 3rd I festival isn’t, alas, screening 3 Idiots, you can get your Bollywood fix with Delhi Belly, which looks to be in the same song-and-dance-infused screwball vein (with a poop-joke title). In a tidy illustration of how insular the industry is, Imran Khan, nephew of 3 Idiots star Aamir Khan (producer of Delhi Belly), plays the lead.

Other fest selections worth noting include Sanjeewa Pushpakumara’s grim (if overly long and rambling) Flying Fish, one of several films from Sri Lanka in this year’s program; its multiple stories are united not by overlapping characters but by a sense of despair in a country ravaged by war. In a program of short films about gender and sexuality, The Boxing Ladies, a doc about a trio of rebellious Kolkata sisters who shock their Muslim family with their shared passion for pugilism, is a standout.


Nov. 9-13, $12

Roxie Theater

3117 16th St., SF

Castro Theater

429 Castro, SF


Beautiful pop



MUSIC I half-expect Jhameel to be sporting face paint whiskers swiped across his cheeks as I walk up to meet him at Cafe Strada near the UC Berkeley campus. Lyrically, he’s inspired by Ben Gibbard, musically by Sufjan Stevens, but aesthetically, it’s early Bowie.

After listening to Jhameel’s latest full-length — The Human Condition, which came out in early 2011 — on repeat, I’ve grown accustomed to seeing his face painted with black streaks like on the cover, or in rainbow stripes like in the frenetic video for the poppy “How Many Lovers.” The rational side of my brain, however, assures me he’ll show up in street clothes.

It’s not like the multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriter wears face paint in real life, or even in all of his output. In reality, his style is gradually morphing. It’s fluid, like the danceable baroque-pop music itself, which Jhameel (his legal name, meaning “beautiful”) composes and creates almost entirely solo. He played every instrument on the album: guitar, piano, bass, drums, violin, cello, trumpet, keyboard. While it’s not his biggest strength (that would be violin), he says he’s most in line with the cello. “I relate to its personality,” he explains, fresh-faced when we spot each other at the cafe wearing similar black pea coats, “It’s got a strong foundation. It’s rooted in the ground. I get a good vibe out it.”

The son of a master violinist (who appeared in the original Fame) Jhameel spent his childhood surrounded by instruments. “I’ve been writing [music] since before I can remember, it’s been like a language for me.” It can be included in the long list of languages he knows, including Spanish, bits of Korean and Chinese, Latin, some Russian, and near fluency in Arabic.

He majored in Arabic at Berkeley and graduated in two years, paying for schooling through ROTC (Reserve Officers’ Training Corps). But something happened during that time, a “cliché self-identity crises” — a seismic shift of values, mentality. He won’t shed too much light on the life change, but he says he had to let go of ROTC. He joined a co-op; the contrasts enlivened his lyrics. “I only have one life to do this. I’d like to have a positive effect on the world.”

In a stroke of DIY music-maker ingenuity, Jhameel this week announced that beginning Nov. 8, he’ll release a new song every week for the next five weeks in a series called Waves. Each song will be accompanied by individual photography, and will be totally free to download. He calls the upcoming series more primal and animalistic then the highly poetic The Human Condition, which is an analysis of emotion.

He does have some experience mining pop culture. Early in this musical journey he covered T-Pain’s “Buy You a Drink” — on violin — and posted it to Youtube. It’s the perfect slice of modern music. Go watch it now. He’s not wearing any fancy face paint, but he’s got style.

(Note: this article has been changed from its original print version to reflect Jhameel’s decision after press time to change the nature of his next release.)


With Company of Thieves, and Motopony

Nov. 14, 9:30 p.m., $12

Cafe Du Nord

2170 Market, SF

(415) 861-5016



Mood setters



MUSIC Water Borders, a gloomy beat-driven San Francisco band with a new release (Harbored Mantras) on Tri Angle Records, spent the past few weekends practicing the art of creating atmosphere for obscure vintage films.

The band was picked for the first San Francisco installment of Celluloid Salon, a multimedia series that also takes place in cities such as New York, Chicago, and Austin, Texas. At the event — Nov. 15 at Public Works — the trio will live score four silent shorts from the 1920s and ’30s. “We’re good at soundscapes,” explains the group’s singer Amitai Heller, sitting amongst pedals, synths, stacked TVs, and laptops in the band’s Tenderloin practice space. “It’s kind of what we do best, is create moods.”

He’s right. The textured tracks on Harbored Mantras creep from black velvet-swaddled eerie (“What Wiwant”) to veiled ethereal (“Waldenpond.com”). Moody synths and drum machine beats are layered with cinematic samples that recall snake rattles, dragging chains, even bird chirps. The album — which is the band’s first full-length release after putting out a CD-R, a cassette, and a few records on labels such as Disaro — also takes hints from post-punk and experimental industrial, most notably, Coil.

Heller’s doomed, swallowed vocals are the most startling. “There’s definitely a lot of studio tricks with the vocals,” says Heller’s partner-in-sound, Loric Sih. “Our music is generally dense and cavernous, the vocals have to be mixed in a specific way to sound right sitting on top of that. There was a lot of experimenting, a lot of trial and error, a lot of long nights in here.” Here meaning the practice space, where a nearby metal act’s muffled guitar bleeds through the walls.

While this project arose in 2009, the two met 10 years back at UC Santa Cruz when Heller was the “flamboyantly dressed” singer of Gross Gang. After Gross Gang ended, Heller started New Thrill Parade and asked Sih to join. With Water Borders, Heller says they had a plan: “everything in reverse from how we did things in the previous band.” In the other band, they “self-promoted aggressively, toured insane, and lost tons of money.”

Says Heller, “With this, [Loric and I] decided that we wanted to get everything in order first, have concise direction…and not show people the evolution as it unfolded. So it’s record it, perfect it, show it.” While that was the theory, the reality was a bit more complicated. They had to work at bringing the synth-and-machine music to the stage in an engrossing way. “It’s taken us about this long to understand how to make electronic sound good live. I think the [record release] show we just played at Amnesia was probably the first time that nothing went wrong.”

Part of that newfound live strength comes from the band’s newest member, Matt Rogers, a longtime friend and recent Seattle transplant. At shows, the multi-instrumentalist plays guitar, keyboard, and an electrical kalimba, among other pieces. The addition of Rogers, who joined in August, meant Heller could focus mainly on vocals. And those are important to him. While they’re murky, under a thick goth-y haze, the lyrics on Harbored Mantras touch on themes of dissatisfaction, systemic and institutional change, and colonialism. They come from Heller’s sociopolitical awareness; raised on a kibbutz in Israel, he’s now a volunteer counselor at the Tenants Union and frequents the Occupy SF grounds.

While likely not so in line with his personal politics, he once composed music for a documentary on the Seastedding Institute (which, he says, is basically an organization of rich libertarians who want to colonize the ocean by creating autonomous cities). The event at Public Works will be the first scoring for Water Borders as a band though. Sih and Heller seem stoked at the prospect. “I would be happy if this band was able to score films professionally,” enthuses Sih. The tones of the short films vary wildly, one even has a slapstick element — which seems worlds away from the Water Borders vibe. Says Heller, “It’s challenging in a good way.”



Nov. 15, 7 p.m., free with RSVP

Public Works

161 Erie, SF

(415) 932-0955



Homemade shaman



THEATER A rare event for rare times: Robert Steijn comes to San Francisco. The visit — which included a workshop Oct. 31-Nov. 2, and comes courtesy of THEOFFCENTER, Zero Performance, and Jorge Rodolfo De Hoyos — marks the first Bay Area show by this somewhat unexpected but internationally acclaimed figure in contemporary dance-performance.

A onetime dance critic who made a mid-career leap into performance, Steijn is at 53 defiantly not young, nor especially sleek despite a close working relationship with his spirit animal, a deer. But a graceful, probing, witty, and intriguing artist he certainly is. Known to collaborate widely — most consistently with compatriot Frans Poelstra, with whom he forms United Sorry — he’s also the creator of a handful of idiosyncratic solo works, one of which he performs Thursday night at the new Joe Goode Performance Annex in the Mission.

“I am reborn a smoker/Allowing myself to get high in the clouds of imagination” is billed as “a performance in the form of a lecture/demonstration,” but that’s a misleadingly dry description for a euphoric foray into the “invisible” places Steijn — who counts among his influences Jack Smith, Korean shaman-performer Hi-Ah Park, and ayahuasca rituals — has long pursued with a playful earnestness.

“Every time I do it, it changes a little bit,” Steijn says of the piece. “In a way, it’s my introduction about what I can do onstage, but it’s also a kind of showcase of how we use imagination. It’s really about belief systems.”

It’s also a piece where he channels a deer to communicate with the dead. “I dance a lot with a deer, and also it comes into my mind sometimes.” Of the title’s reference to a reborn smoker, Steijn explains, “I was working on shamanistic power animals, and I manifested the deer, and the deer was smoking a cigar.”

Steijn, who divides much of his time between Vienna and Amsterdam, spoke by phone last week from New York City, where he was at work on a new collaboration with choreographer Maria Hassabi (with whom he made a splash last year in an eye-locking duet at New York’s Danspace). Genial, thoughtful, self-effacing, and prone to shy laughter, Steijn remembers that as a lonely child he fantasized a guardian angel. “And it really worked,” he chuckles. It led him to consider “how you can comfort yourself with imagination; how imagination can open up a certain structure for reality.”

“I found I was interested in how the mind works,” he continues, “how we can put our self in a certain mind state, or in a way of thinking, or in a way of perceiving reality, and how that could be very truthful for theater, to show what happens when you are in this state of mind. Because I feel sometimes we’re too rational — or not even rational, but we think too much in the patterns we are used to thinking in.

William Forsythe [showed how] we can change the center of movement in the body; it can be in every body part almost, and you can [put it] also outside the body sometimes. I like to think in that way about the mind: how can you perceive or analyze reality from another center than you are used to? I felt that in shamanism it was very playful to go there, to still a little bit your logical mind. What I found is that when I imagine [myself] into a state, I look at the world with much more compassion and love. It’s a strategy to relate differently to the audience and to movement in the body, to a different imagination.”

Steijn had been in New York only a few days, but said he’d already visited Occupy Wall Street several times. Waxing enthusiastic about what he found there, he spoke of the dialogue and imagination opened up in this re-appropriated public square, and it seemed to recall much of his own work with “intensifying” a space, setting it free of the usual constraints to imagination and experience.

“You know when Joseph Boeys said everybody has to be an artist? I think it would be nice if everyone has to be a poet,” he says. “Perhaps there’s not so much difference between the two. But I like to think you meet with a situation and then you have to create how you want to deal with it, how you want to change it. It’s not to adapt yourself to a situation but really to make it your own. I think this empowerment is important.”


Thurs/3, 8 p.m., $10-$20

Joe Goode Performance Annex

401 Alabama St., SF


Combat fatigue


Battlefield 3

(DICE, Electronic Arts)

Xbox 360, PS3, PC

GAMER It’s disappointing that a Battlefield 3 review has to begin with a discussion of Call of Duty, but we can’t ignore the elephant in the room. For months, the Battlefield team has been shooting barbs at Call of Duty, warning the makers of the best-selling video game in the world that they intended to steal the Brown-War-Shooter crown. The previous Battlefield release was a multiplayer surprise success, performing just below Call of Duty for the better part of a year, and Swedish developer DICE intended to go all the way this time.

Well, the time has come to evaluate the threat. And while the multiplayer delivers on the promise, the rest of the package makes those earlier boasts seem a little premature.

A significant number of Battlefield fans never touch the single-player campaign, bypassing it to dive right into the online experience, and this time they aren’t missing much. In search of authenticity, the campaign takes a deliberate approach to combat, but it feels old hat. Most action takes place in corridors — not Battlefield‘s strong suit — where soldiers pour into an area and you have to clear them out. Yawn. You start thinking, maybe Call of Duty was right to juice up their ostentatious campaigns in the name of fun.

In the campaign’s second half, DICE comes around on Call of Duty‘s strengths as well, feebly aping that series’ better bits: a nuclear threat, car chases and shootouts in the streets of Paris and the NY subway. It’s not just disappointing that the levels are unmemorable and derivative, it’s a shame there’s no real exploration of the team-based combat that makes the series unique.

And yet: it’s revealing that for the reviewed Xbox version, Battlefield 3’s campaign comes on the second of two discs; the campaign itself is negligible. Battlefield‘s roots are multiplayer, where their Conquest and Rush modes prove that war is not just about killing, it is about cooperation. Whether you’re driving friends around in a jet, helicopter, or tank, fixing vehicles or attacking capture points, Battlefield is more than a shooter, it’s a full war experience. Undeniably, having 64 combatants on the field in multiplayer makes PC the go-to version if you can afford the rig.

Despite how much went wrong with the story missions, if you approach Battlefield 3 with the right expectations, it comes out largely unscathed. DICE’s multiplayer offers up massive vistas and the opportunity to feel like an essential cog in the war machine. Will it take this year’s Brown-War-Shooter crown? The online community will suss that out for themselves, but until DICE can deliver a complete package, I suspect Battlefield will have to learn to share. 

That’s amoré



HERBWISE The ever- unfolding swath of life’s problems that can be solved by cannabis has been extended the length of an aphrodisiac shot made from cannabis, cane syrup, glycerin, citric acid, and other supplements. Product name: Amoré. Don’t worry, it’s locally made.

Amoré is the brainchild of a one Ed Silva, a gregarious medical industry product developer (think defibrillators and glucose monitors) who started up his San Jose dispensary Sensi Herbal Care in November 2010. It sells topical cannabis treatments, lemonade, chocolates, and buds, but Silva says its “flagship product” is its insomnia-fighting cannabis shot called Indi.

“That product has literally helped thousands of people with their insomnia problems,” he told the Guardian in a phone interview. The dispensary also stocks an energy formula, of course Amoré, and has a pain reliever in the works.

Recent legislation posed at the city level in San Jose, where regulations that would limit the city’s number of dispensaries (now hovering around 900) to 10 businesses. Paid campaigners and volunteers say they turned in 48,598 petition signatures last week to halt the process. They only needed 29,653 to initiate a referendum on the new guidelines. The United Food and Commercial Workers union Local 5 donated $5,000 towards supporting the referendum to stop them.

The city’s new policies, an employee who answered the phone at Sansi said, could have shut down the dispensary — and community access to the Viagra of the cannabis world — down. Later, Silva sounded triumphant when he informed the Guardian reporter on the laws’ impending curtailing.

Without a medical background — besides developing defibrillators — Silva was a bit vague about his methods of creating cannabis formulas, but was confident in the way customers responded that they were doing their job. He’d submitted the product to lab quality assurance testing and informal focus groups.

The optimal way to use Amoré? Silva cautioned that the drink’s effect would vary among individuals. “It doesn’t work for everyone, that is true for every medication out there,” he said. But generally, “45 minutes before.” It was further clarified that he meant pre-sexual escapade.

Our Guardian tester, who took the “for her” variety of Amoré, found its power varied, a.k.a., got turned-on, then slightly nauseous, then turned-on. Tastes like a particularly gnarly 5-Hour Energy Drink, fades fast. A mixed bag. On a small “caution” panel, the label of Amoré prohibits the contents being taken with alcohol, other supplements, and heavy machinery.

When asked about one of the label’s more esoteric ingredients, the fo-ti root (also listed are dodder seed extract, kudzu root, and tribulus fruit), Silva semi-helpfully explains “It’s also called sho-wu. It means ‘black-haired Mr. Hee.’ It means that in Chinese, it’s a Chinese herb. That’s a name from someone in an old village in China. You can research that on Google, there’s a story behind that.”

So of course we do, and sure enough, it tends to be used to restore graying hair. So that’s fo-ti. But why is it in this cannabis aphrodisiac shot, whose silver hard plastic bottle clearly states “for her”?

Says Silva: “It’s also known as a happy herb. It has the effect of making you happy, which is always a good thing. There’s a few people who I’d like to give that regularly, like every hour.” Which left us still unconvinced regarding Amoré, but still a big fan of Silva.

The Guardian Clean Slate 2011


1. John Avalos
2. Dennis Herrera
3. Leland Yee

1. David Onek
2. Sharmin Bock
3. Bill Fazio


1. Ross Mirkarimi


Proposition A (school bonds): YES
Proposition B (street bonds): YES
Proposition C (consensus pension reform): YES
Proposition D (Adachi pension reform): NO
Proposition E (changing voter initiatives): NO
Proposition F (campaign consultant rules): NO
Proposition G (sales tax increase): YES
Proposition H (neighborhood schools): NO

>>Read our full endorsements here

>>Download the Clean Slate PDF

Vote for three but not Ed Lee


OPINION Halloween 2011. Next week San Francisco will choose a new mayor. Is this a masquerade? Who is behind Mayor Ed Lee’s mask?

I’ll call it exactly how I see it: I am disappointed in Ed Lee. I’ve known him since before I was first elected to the Board of Supervisors in 2000. I wanted to be hopeful, but I actually can’t say that I’m surprised. Ed Lee has always been a go-along-to-get-along bureaucrat who has moved up the feeding chain by doing the bidding of former Mayor Willie Brown and Willie’s loyal lieutenant Rose Pak. I had a fantasy that maybe Ed would rise to the occasion, become his own person, and emerge as an independent leader free of those that orchestrated his appointment to “interim” mayor.

But in the first year since appointment (in one of the most masterful political plays since Abe Ruef got Eugene Schmitz installed as mayor in 1902), Ed has consistently sided with the powers and their “City Family” that “made” him. Even I was astounded when Ed moved legislation to displace hundreds of hotel workers at San Francisco’s Fairmont Hotel. And I was actually shocked when he did the bidding of the right-wing Restaurant Association and vetoed common-sense legislation to stop the exploitation of local restaurant workers.

His list of disappointments grow. He orchestrated the demolition of more than 1,500 units of rent controlled housing at Park Merced. Then he had the audacity to laud Pacific Gas and Electric Co. as a “great local corporation” on the anniversary of the lethal San Bruno pipeline explosion.

Several pols have been credited with the statement that “money is the mother’s milk of politics.” Well, Willie and Rose and their friends at the Chamber of Commerce got milk! Willie Brown is fundraising for three different committees to get Lee elected, Rose Pak started two different fundraising committees of her own, and right-wing Republican billionaires like Ron Conway and right wing corporations like Pacific Gas and Electric are lining up to throw money into the coffers.

Why? Because Ed is their guy.

The proof is right in front of us. All of Willie’s trademark slights of hand are resurfacing in Ed Lee’s friends’ bag of tricks: money laundering, pay to play politics, allegations of voter fraud. These are all hallmarks of Brown and his cronies, all executed under the visage of the supposedly humble Ed Lee. And voters shouldn’t fall for it. Because if we do, we’ll go back to the days before Gavin Newsom when backroom deals, self-dealing, cronyism and out-and-out corruption were the rule of the day.

It is no coincidence that in a year gripped by the divide between the 99 and 1 percent, the latter is working feverishly to elect Lee. If you don’t believe me, look it up on the Ethics Commission website (sfgov.org/ethics). PG&E alone has contributed at least $50,000 to one such “independent” committee.

I know this is the first race for mayor with ranked choice voting—and it is confusing. That’s a concern. But frankly, at this point all I care about is that voters understand not to mark Ed Lee anywhere on their ballot.

The good news? The outcome of the Mayor’s race is far from a foregone conclusion. San Franciscans are seeing through the millions of corporate dollars being spent on behalf of Lee.

You have a choice—three, in fact. And you should use them strategically, because you can make a difference by voting not just with your heart, but also with your mind. That means making sure you do your research and vote for three candidates who represent your values—and have a chance to win.

The Guardian has endorsed three candidates—Avalos, Herrera, and Yee—who have demonstrated enough of a commitment to progressive values and an aversion to the powers of the once-dormant machine that, like a vampire, is attempting to rise from the crypt. These three candidates also happen to have the best shot to beat Lee. Your votes for all three—in any order—are your best guarantee not to elect Ed Lee.

Vote for three and don’t vote for Lee!

Aaron Peskin chairs the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee.


Leave the occupiers alone


EDITORIAL With all of the police raids and arguments over messages and demands and tactics, it’s easy to forget that the Occupy Wall Street movement has a clear political point — and it’s right.

The movement is about the devastating and unsustainable direction of the American economy, about the fact that a tiny elite controls much of the nation’s wealth, that virtually all of the income growth over the past 20 years has gone to the very top, about the collapse of the middle class and the rise of economic inequality that would have been unthinkable a generation ago. Those are the central issues facing the United States, the state of California and the cities of San Francisco and Oakland today — and instead of trying to crack down on the protests, city officials ought to be endorsing the occupy movement and talking about cracking down on the financial institutions and the wealthy.

A few things worth noting:

1. The protesters are almost entirely nonviolent. Although there have been a few isolated incidents in Oakland and SF, the overwhelming majority of the thousands of people at Justin Herman Plaza and Frank Ogawa Plaza are actively promoting and insisting on nonviolence. This is not a crowd that is a threat to anyone.

2. There’s a precedent for long-term political protest camps in San Francisco. The AIDS Vigil remained at U.N. Plaza — with tents, tarps, and cooking gear — for ten years, from 1985 to 1995.

3. The city of San Francisco’s citations — reported without question in the daily newspapers — about health and sanitation problems are way overblown. The OccupySF protesters are making extraordinary efforts to keep the place clean. When the city failed to live up to its promise to provide portable toilets, the protesters ordered (and paid for) their own. As state Sen. Leland Yee (not known as a crazy radical) noted after a visit Oct. 26: “While hundreds gathered, there was not one incident of violence. If the interim mayor thinks there are health issues, I certainly didn’t see them.” We visited Oct 31, and the place was clean and peaceful.

4. The cat-and-mouse game with the San Francisco police is the equivalent of psychological warfare; protesters have to be on edge at all times for fear of a crackdown that may or may not come.

5. Mayor Jean Quan made a bad mistake sending in the cops to roust Occupy Oakland. Nothing good at all can come of any further police eviction action.

Frankly, we don’t see why the protesters — who are well-behaved, represent no threat to anyone, and are doing a huge civic and national service by bringing attention to an issue that the powers that be in Washington, Sacramento and (sadly) San Francisco have largely ignored — can’t stay where they are. If there are health issues, let the Department of Public Health work with the occupiers. If there’s a problem with a portable kitchen, let the Fire Department show the protesters how to run it safely and legally (there are portable cooking devices at every street fair, in dozens of food trucks and in probably 100 other places around town).

The people at OccupySF and Occupy Oakland have done an amazing job of building a safe, respectful and inclusive community. They are the political heros of 2011. If there’s anyplace in America where the movement ought to be allowed to grow and thrive, it’s here in the Bay Area.

Editor’s notes



One cool October day in 1985, when I was a young reporter at the Guardian, a friend who was visiting from New York where she was working with Gay Men’s Health Crisis, called me with an urgent message:

City employees were out with water hoses, trying to force a couple of HIV-positive men from camping in front of a federal office building at U.N. Plaza. I ran down there; she had photos. I talked to the men, who were tired and wet, but determined not to leave — and within a few days after my story ran (“AIDS vigil under attack,” 11/6/85), they were joined by dozens more.

And as the months passed, the AIDS vigil grew and grew. It raised awareness of the federal government’s criminal lack of attention to the epidemic. It became a tent city, a small community in the middle of San Francisco with donated food and supplies. Every once in a while, a politician or a media celebrity would spend a night there.

The feds backed off with the hoses and the city figured out that the encampment was no danger to anyone and was making an important political statement. And it remained there — with tents and tarps — for ten years.

I was at the OccupySF camp Oct. 3rd to do a live KPFA broadcast with Mitch Jeserich, and the place was clean, peaceful and well-organized. A couple of cops walked through while we were on the air; they were smiling and chatting with the protesters, who were negotiation with the Department of Public Works about vacating the grassy areas to allow watering. I saw none of the filth that the daily newspapers have talked about.

The only real health and safety problem was the lack of portable toilets — the seven on site weren’t enough for the number of people there. So if the city wants to keep things sanitary, Mayor Ed Lee ought to send in some more. Oh, and the medical tent needs supplies, particularly ice packs and sterile gauze.

A woman from Occupy Vancouver was down visiting and showing solidarity; she said that protesters all over the continent were looking to San Francisco and Oakland for inspiration.

This is a good thing. The protests may not have an agenda, but they have a message, and it’s getting to big and too loud to ignore. I hope it doesn’t take ten years for politicians at the local, state and federal level to respond — but as long as nobody’s addressing economic inequality, OccupySF is and ought to be here to stay.