Volume 46 Number 18

February 1-7, 2012

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Toward the sun

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I was pretty excited to hear about Heliotrope (www.heliotropesf.com), the new line of locally sourced, all-natural, unisex, essential oil-based, mostly fragrance-free beauty products launched by Bay Area style maven Jonathan Plotzker. I got more excited when Heliotrope’s exquisite, neighborhood-feeling retail boutique opened in Noe Valley (1515 Church, SF. 415-643-4847) — you mean I can grab some insanely good hot and sour soup from Eric’s Chinese and snag some natural product to vanish my all-night party bags? OK!

But things really got crazy for me when Plotzker told me over the phone about Heliotrope’s massage candles — when the candles melt, the heated wax dissolves into an oil perfect for an intimate rubdown. “We’re all about integration,” he said with a laugh, “our candles will melt you two ways.” Yes, I could go for a two-way melt right about now, in the middle of winter.

Plotzker had just returned from a visit to one of his chemists in Sonoma. “One of my original visions for the line was to help bring to light a lot of the small-batch local beauty developing going on,” he said. “The name Heliotrope means ‘turn toward the sun’ — but besides have the connotation of ‘enlightenment,’ I just really like the word. I think it describes our customers: smart, nature-oriented, and confident.” He adds that the company’s wood-grain logo comes from a scan of an actual redwood log that he happened to have in his car when he met with a graphic designer, giving it an extra local angle.

Heliotrope puts out dozens of products, from Witch Hazel and Birch Head-to-Toes Wash to single-note lemongrass essential oil. (The Heliotrope boutique sells a full range of accessories as well.) I asked Plotzker to pick out a few favorites that he’d recommend for our unique Bay Area winter.

 

FACE CARE

 

OLIVE LEAF AND NEROLI MOISTURIZER

Neroli is the essential oil of the orange blossom, and it’s a wonder, with anti-inflammatory and anti-redness properties. No more winter bloaty look. ($29 for 2 ounces, $39 for four ounces)

 

FRANKINCENSE AND ROSE GERANIUM OIL SERUM

People are realizing how good the right kind of oils can be for their skin! Our serums are concentrated treatments for the face — the frankincense calms, and the rose geranium rejuvenates. ($42)

 

ROSEWATER AND VITAMINS EYE LIFT CREAM

The rosewater acts as a humectant, meaning that the rose oil molecule attracts and retains the water molecule, keeping you hydrated and healthy. ($32)

 

BODY AND MASSAGE

 

SHEA AND BEESWAX HAND AND CUTICLE THERAPY

This is my favorite product in the shop. It’s a rich, creamy treatment for hands, cuticles, and nails that sinks in quickly so you don’t feel it — and your mittens won’t stick to your hands. ($16)

 

SOY AND SHEA BUTTER MASSAGE CANDLES

Soy wax melts at a lower temperature, so the resulting liquid can be poured on the skin and used as a smooth and natural massage oil, in fragrances like black fig cardamom and citrus nutmeg or fragrance-free. ($24)

 

ORGANIC AROMATHERAPY SPRAY MISTS FOR BODY AND HOME

Use this on your body to enhance your mood, use it as a facial toner to stay hydrated, and use it as a room fragrance — aloe, açai, pomegranate, and more. It’s a triple threat! ($19)

On the township

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FILM Opposition to apartheid didn’t really pick up steam as a popular cause in the U.S. until the early 1980s. Which makes it all the more remarkable that New York City-based documentarian Lionel Rogosin made Come Back, Africa about a quarter-century earlier — though less surprisingly, the film itself was barely seen here at the time. Now finally playing American theaters outside his home town in a restored print, it’s a time capsule whose background is as intriguing as the history it captures onscreen.

The horrors of World War II and some subsequent global travel had stirred a profound awareness of social injustices in Rogosin, who began planning a feature about South Africa while still working at his father’s textile business. He had very little filmmaking experience, however, so he took $30,000 of his earnings and as “practice” made On the Bowery (1956), a semi staged portrait of Manhattan’s skid row area that won considerable praise, if also some shocked and appalled responses from Eisenhower-era keepers of America’s wholesome, prosperous self-image. (It was, as 1959’s Come Back, Africa would also be, much more widely appreciated in Europe.)

Armed with the confidence bestowed by that successful effort and several international awards, Bogosin traveled to South Africa — not for the first time, but now with the earnest intent of making his expose. In the mid- to late ’50s, however, that was hardly a simple task. He and wife Elinor Hart had to do everything clandestinely, from making contacts in the activist underground to recruiting actors and crew. (The latter eventually had to be brought in mostly from Europe and Israel.) To get permits he fed the government authorities a series of lines: first he pretended to be making an airline travelogue to encourage tourism; then a music documentary to show local blacks “were basically a happy people;” then another doc, about the Boer War. Amazingly, despite the myriad likelihoods of being informed on, he shot the entire film without being shut down or deported. It remained, however, a stressful and dangerous endeavor for all concerned.

Like On the Bowery, Come Back, Africa qualified as a documentary by the looser standards of the time (Rogosin preferred the term “poetic realism”), but mixed a loose, acted narrative with completely nonfiction elements. Like the prior film, it also followed the luckless wanderings of an agreeable protagonist played by a first-time actor actually found on the street — here Zacharia Mgabi, a 30-ish bearded worker “discovered” on a bus queue.

His character, Zachariah, is caught in one catch-22 of apartheid life: he can’t get a job without the appropriate permits, and can’t get the permits without a job. First he tries finding employment in the misery of a mining encampment, then travels to Johannesburg — where it’s illegal for him to be without further permits — where he’s bounced from one position to another. Working as “house boy” to a middle-class white couple, he’s fired when the racist, shrewish wife (a memorable performance by Myrtle Berman) catches him sneaking a drink from her own secret booze stash. An auto-shop stint is lost due to a friend’s incessant goofing off, while service as porter in a hotel is terminated when a hysterical white lady guest cries “Rape!” simply because he surprises her in a hallway.

Meanwhile Zachariah’s wife arrives from their native KwaZulu, and they tentatively set up house in a Sophiatown shack. (Come Back, Africa is of particular interest for its scenes there — within a few years the government had forcibly emptied this poor black township, having made its population mix of races illegal, and the area was razed to become an unrecognizable whites only suburb.) But even this small foothold on stability is doomed. Just as alcoholism dragged On the Bowery‘s hero back into a downward spiral at the end (both on- and offscreen), so Zachariah and his family are helpless to save themselves from the violence, police harassment, and self-destruction apartheid breeds and maintains itself with.

All show and almost no “tell,” Come Back, Africa pauses around the two-thirds point to let several men pass around a bottle, discussing the nature of and solutions to their oppression. They’re happily interrupted by the incongruity of a young woman in an elegant cocktail dress — no less than a then-unknown Miriam Makeba, who sings a couple of songs in her inimitable voice. When the film was finished, Rogosin bribed officials to get her out of the country, bankrolling his contracted “discovery’s” launch at the Venice Festival, and in the U.S. and England. But to his great disappointment, she was quickly taken under Harry Belafonte’s wing, dismissing her first benefactor as “not very nice” and “an amateur.” Thus a legend was born, with Rogosin pretty much cut out of the resume.

Come Back, Africa, too, would disappoint its maker in some respects. With a furious South African government swiftly condemning this portrait as “distorted,” his original plans for a trilogy became impossible. The film won a number of prizes — although unlike On the Bowery, it was pointedly not nominated for a Best Documentary Oscar — and would eventually be widely seen on European television. But it has still never been broadcast in the U.S., and despite Rogosin’s efforts — he went so far as to open NYC’s still-extant Bleeker Street Cinemas in 1960 to show it and other important new works — it collided with a thud against the overwhelming indifference of middle-class white audiences. They were barely starting to confront such thorny racial issues in their own backyard, much less in far-flung nations. Not shown in South Africa until the late 1980s, Come Back nonetheless proved a great influence on development of the whole continent’s indigenous cinematic voices.

A liberal shit-kicker to the end, Rogosin made other documentaries, was integral to the New American Cinema movement (alongside Jonas Mekas, Robert Downey Sr., Shirley Clark, and other experimental luminaries), founded distribution company Impact Films, and moved to England for a spell before dying in Los Angeles at the century’s turn. It’s a pity he didn’t live to see his two first features restored and rediscovered — though interviews late in life suggest he never let limited exposure dampen his activist zeal one whit.

COME BACK, AFRICA opens Fri/3 at the Roxie.

Hello, Carol!

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FILM It is close to impossible not to love Carol Channing; those who would protest otherwise are simply heartless. The only adequate response to her is unconditional surrender, as if standing before an oncoming cyclone filled with puppies.

With her saucer eyes topped with false lashes that could give Bette Davis’ a run for her money and a mouth that seems as if it could swallow the world, Channing is a living incarnation of a Muppet (to watch her duet with Miss Piggy just seems natural, somehow). And yet, despite her cartoonish physicality and exaggerated appearance, there is nothing false or put-on about Channing.

When I hear that voice — dripping with whiskey, smoke, and honey, begging to be imitated — the effect is instant happiness. Everything just feels right. As Roland Barthes writes in his essay “The Grain of the Voice,” I then must face the task of articulating “the impossible account of an individual thrill I constantly experience in listening to singing.”

Dori Bernstein’s sweet if worshipful documentary Carol Channing: Larger Than Life necessarily fails at that task, even as it proves the now 91-year-old Broadway legend more than lives up to the second half of the film’s title.

Now slightly stooped, her hair in a choppy gray bob, which she occasionally pulls into a Peggy Moffitt-esque topknot, and her lips a smear of Malibu pink, Channing is still ever the professional, hilariously impersonating a Russian theater troupe one moment and chatting with young dancers in Times Square the next.

The life Channing recounts is an abbreviated and selective version of the one detailed in her 2002 memoir Just Lucky I Guess: her childhood in San Francisco spent being the class clown and worshiping Ethel Waters; her first big Broadway break playing Lorelei Lee in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes; and her career-cementing role as Dolly Levi in Hello, Dolly! And many of the memoir’s same supporting characters, such as frequent TV variety show co-star Loni Anderson and Dolly composer Jerry Herman, also make appearances here.

What Bernstein’s documentary offers is the rare chance to witness the palpable impact Channing has made on others. In personal interactions, she gives her attention equally and wholly to anyone who seeks it (including the camera). Those who have worked with her — particularly the many gay chorus members interviewed here — speak of her as a mother rather than a diva.

The film’s most touching footage is of Channing with her late husband Harry Kullijian, who passed away last year. The two were childhood sweethearts who some 70 years later tied the knot (in Channing’s fourth go at marriage), and seeing them joke together and read aloud poetry passages they shared as love-struck teens is the very definition of adorable.

Curiously, Kullijian’s passing is not mentioned in the film, even as a postscript. You get the sense more generally that Bernstein tried to stay clear of reopening any old wounds with her subject. The awful tempestuousness of Channing’s second marriage to her publicist and manager Charles Lowe is referenced by others but not Channing, who speaks only in passing of the toll life on the road took on her relationship with her son from her first marriage.

Additionally, despite her fame, Channing has always had to share the larger cultural spotlight with Marilyn Monroe and Barbra Streisand, powerhouses in their own right who became associated with the roles she originally made famous on stage (Channing would have her Hollywood comeuppance in 1967 when she was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for 1967’s Thoroughly Modern Millie). Larger Than Life attempts to provide a corrective to this, but its motivations for doing so are as transparent as they are understandable. This film is a mash note to Channing as much as it is a gift to her fans, who, rest assured, didn’t need any more reason to love her. *

 

CAROL CHANNING: LARGER THAN LIFE opens Fri/3 in Bay Area theaters.

The key is patients

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HERBWISE “Never in a million years would I have chosen to do this,” wrote Randy Thompson’s mother in the September 1997 issue of Good Housekeeping. The title of Karen Thompson’s article was “I Broke the Law to Save My Son.” Her choice? To allow Randy to use marijuana to mitigate the gastrointestinal irritation, nausea, vomiting, and lack of appetite he suffered chronically from his Crohn’s Disease.

Two months after Karen’s article appeared, the magazine published letters it had received in response under the header “A Controversial Choice.” One respondent, a Crohn’s sufferer who opted to have her small bowels re-sectioned to mitigate her symptoms, claimed to be “disgusted” with the Thompsons: “It was the best decision I ever made. How foolish of Simon’s parents to not exhaust all medical possibilities before allowing him to smoke pot.”

Today Randy, undeterred by such suggestions, helps other cannabis users to find healthy ways to smoke. He is the sole proprietor of a San Jose vaporizer distribution company, Puff It Up (www.puffitup.com). Medical studies have suggested that using vaporizers dramatically cuts down the amount of tar ingested compared to smoking joints.

Johnson’s company is entirely staffed by patients — he has had his card since before Proposition 215 passed — and tries to stock the “little guys” of the vaporizer world, like San Diego’s Magic-Flight company. Surprisingly, Puff It Up doesn’t sell Volcano vaporizers, the most popular “vape” brand whose products you’ve probably seen filling massive plastic bags with smoke on a dorm room coffee table somewhere.

Randy says Volcanoes, which begin at $539 for a starter package, just aren’t practical. “Simplicity, that’s what we’re going for,” he says. Thompson’s favorite vaporizers — which he proceeded to pull out of his backpack by the handful at his Guardian interview on a sunny day on the Zeitgeist patio — are the kind of affordable, easy-to-use, portable tools you would expect people to use for self-administering medicine. Many of the models he brought go for under $200.

“We’re non-evil,” he says of Puff It Up’s small box approach. “We don’t like to think of ourselves as profit-driven, we’re just trying to get the word out that there’s a better way to smoke.”

Randy is still dealing with blowback from his decision to be involved with marijuana. Like many greater Bay Area dispensaries, Puff It Up received a letter from the Department of Justice a few months ago threatening punitive action if it did not stop selling vaporizers, which exist in a legal netherworld.

In the 1997 article, the Thompsons went by aliases. But in 2012, Randy is done with hiding. He thinks it’s important to stick his neck out for the medicine that he says has made his life better so that other people might have the same option.

In the struggle to make cannabis accessible to everyone who needs it, he thinks patients have a big role to play. Says Randy: “People need to stand up and say ‘I’m human too.'” 

Next week in Herbwise: We test out Randy Thompson’s favorite vaporizer — does the Magic Flight live up to its name?

 

Cheers, puppeteers!

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Showcasing the boldly imaginative and innovative talents of the artisans at the Jim Henson Company, the 1982 fantasy film The Dark Crystal broke new ground when it came to visual special effects and believable creature creations.

The movie’s tale — evil Skeksis versus good Gelflings and Mystics, just tryin’ to restore balance and freedom to their world — captivated viewers’ imaginations upon its release, and has gone on to become a beloved part of many people’s childhood memories. And it’s still earning new fans: in honor of the film’s 30th anniversary, SF Sketchfest presents a special Crystal screening with guest Dave Goelz, who performed the puppetry for fan favorite Fizzgig, as well as the Skeksi Garthim Master SkekUng.

Goelz, who’ll introduce the film and share some rare, behind-the-scenes footage, is looking forward to marking the movie’s milestone with fans. “What I love about doing these events is that it reminds me of the quality of the things we were doing, and that they are enduring, and how much we enjoyed making them,” he says.

Having worked with Henson since 1973, Goelz was no stranger to busting through creative and logistical boundaries on film and television projects, but even he was uncertain for a time about Crystal‘s chances of success. “We all knew Jim as an incredible, indefatigable optimist. He was just so positive about everything, and he just believed that we could do anything — and he usually figured out a way to do it,” Goelz remembers.

“On the first day of shooting, though, we had to have the Skeksis file by the bedside of their dying emperor, and that was the very first shot that I was in. We were up on a two-foot riser, walking, and each Skeksis has two people inside, and then about four people down below, sort of duck walking on the floor, with each one holding a cable control.

Partway through the first shot I fell off the riser — it was dark, I couldn’t see where I was going. I remember thinking at that moment, ‘Jim’s optimism has really caught up with him this time. We’ll never get this thing shot!’ But of course, within two weeks we were ad-libbing in the characters.”

Goelz attributes the film’s success to the hard work of everyone involved, but points especially to Henson’s emotional and financial commitment to the quality of their projects.

“These things were developed and rehearsed for months, only Jim Henson would make that kind of investment,” Goelz says. “He was always like that. People who worked in the shop all those years tell me that he never came in and said, ‘You can’t buy that fabric for Miss Piggy. It’s $200 a yard!’ — he never held back on anything for the shop and the characters.”

In addition to the time, money, and effort spent on bringing the world of Crystal to life through advances in special effects technology, the crew also found simple ways to add depth to the film’s characters, as was the case with the lovable Fizzgig.

“The reason he’s convincing is because he’s used sparingly,” Goelz notes. “He’s a character who can’t really do much; he can move his paws and blink and open his mouth, so if you overexpose him you will realize that he’s limited. But the way he was conceived was to be used sparingly and that was useful.

Secondly, the way he traveled was by rolling [himself into a ball], which made it very easy for us to shoot him. We just rolled him across the shot, so that was extremely simple. One of the simplest things in the movie!”

Having worked with the Muppets for nearly 40 years (bringing life to much-loved characters like Gonzo and Bunsen Honeydew) and lending his talents to affiliated projects such as Labyrinth (1986), Fraggle Rock, and a host of other films and television shows, Goelz says he loves to see the impact of his efforts on fans.

“A lot of people who originally saw these projects [as children] are in their 30s now and have little kids, and they want to pass this along to their kids,” he reflects. “It’s very heartwarming to see there is a legacy.”

THE DARK CRYSTAL 30TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION

Sat/4, 11 a.m., $10

Castro Theatre

429 Castro, SF

www.sfsketchfest.com

Bike lightly

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DIY has long been an integral part of San Franciscan culture. Underground music venues, art cars, pop-up food trucks — San Franciscans have been crafting their own good times for years. And while the concept of creating and customizing your own bike isn’t new, a bike studio in the Tenderloin is putting a lightweight, environmentally-friendly spin on it.

Bamboo Bike Studio, started in 2009 by three Brooklyn-based bike obsessives, gives patrons the opportunity to build a safe, quality, visually-striking bike from the ground up by attending one of its weekend workshops. (Kits start at $459.) The shop uses bamboo — a plentiful, regenerative material — harvested from the Yucatan Peninsula.

While the concept of creating a bike from scratch may seem like a tall order, the friendly, committed staff makes the bike-building fun and fascinating. (For those without a lot of time to tinker, the studio also offers a steel frame option that only takes about four to six hours to complete.)

Worries about the legitimacy, safety, and durability of bamboo bikes can be assuaged by a quick test-drive and conversation with someone who has either built one or ridden one. The bikes come in a variety of different sizes and with a variety of fixtures and are exceptionally smooth and strong. They are also pretty light and easy to take care of, perfect for commuters. And if you ever have a problem with your bike, you can always drop into the studio and get it fixed.

“It was intimidating for me before I built them,” says BBS co-founder Justin Aguinaldo, a Mendocino County native who originally opened the shop in Brooklyn, but moved it here in 2009. “I can understand that. But actually, we are specifically looking to help people who are not already experienced builders because the empowerment from building your own things so exceeds the part of being afraid. It’s something that everyone can enjoy and benefit from, which is what we build our program around.

Aguinaldo, a longtime bike messenger, never seems far from two wheels. “I ride a bamboo bike mostly because it’s incredibly comfortable. I use other bikes, but I mostly ride bamboo. I don’t use it for racing or working, but just day-to-day and functionality-wise, it’s really enjoyable and reliable.”

When you walk into the Tenderloin BBS studio, it’s clear that the DIY ethos is as integral to the shop as the bikes themselves. From the homemade tool racks to the not-yet-completed shop sign that is being worked on by an employee, nearly everything (save for the foosball table) was built by the studio workers from scratch. As someone who struggles to tie their own shoes, just being in the place was inspiring, and the process of building my own bike was, well, enlightening.

“DIY has always really appealed to me,” studio worker Erik Castillo said. “You don’t have to go get a fancy bike and pay for the brand. You can get just as good a bike here — whether it’s the steel frame ones or the bamboo ones. The actual bamboo bike is just one of our ships that we use to get where we’re going.”

That’s what’s really interesting about the studio — that its goal is not even necessarily to get you on their bamboo wheels, but to spread bike culture in general. In 2010, the founding members of the studio even traveled to Ghana to help open up a bamboo bike factory to serve those who couldn’t afford expensive rides.

The shop is also committed to integrating into the Tenderloin, and building a inspiring, positive haven in a community that is short on such places. Spend a half an hour in the unpretentious studio, and you’re liable to meet a cast of characters including bike messengers, regular citizens working on their bikes, and Tenderloin neighbors.

“It’s not closed off to anyone,” Castillo explained. “It’s totally open to everyone. If you need help, we are here for you. But if you want to just hang out, you can do that too. Everyone is welcome.”

“If just owning a bamboo bike was the end goal, we’d just build them for you,” Aguinaldo told me. “For us, it’s about empowering more people and providing people with the value of creating your own thing. The bike isn’t the end goal. It’s about building it, riding it, learning from it — seeing how it affects everything else in life.” *

Bamboo Bike Studio 982 Post, SF. www.bamboobikestudio.com

 

Volume 46 Number 18

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Tycho

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It felt like we were all on the verge at Tycho’s (www.tychomusic.com) December show at the Independent, the breaking point of something momentous, a perfect merging of visuals and sounds. In an effortlessly cool — though I’m sure highly engineered — production, Tycho, a.k.a graphic designer Scott Hansen, played synthesizers with live guitars and drums out front of a screen splashed with fuzzy orange surf images, rolling waves and crashing water.

It was the backdrop to the expressive and expansive Dive (Ghostly International), the first official release in years from the Sacramento native-longtime San Franciscan. And it was the ultimate sensory experience. Now on tour on the East Coast and in Europe, Tycho recently blogged, “I spent the last year locked in my basement working on the album so it’s been really refreshing to be out here performing it for people.”

Description of sound: Ambient / Psychedelic / Electronic.

Like most about the Bay Area music scene: Any show at the Independent.

What piece of music means the most to you and why: I couldn’t really pick one instrument in particular. I see the studio and all of the equipment in it as a single instrument, so I suppose that means the most.

Favorite local eatery and dish: Thai Time — Red Chicken Curry (or anything else there).

Who would you most like tour with: Midlake.

Bands on the Rise 2012

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emilysavage@sfbg.com

MUSIC There’s no underlying theme running through the 12 acts profiled here other than geographic: they all reside somewhere in the Bay Area. Well, that and we think they’ll break huge this year. Or at least, deserve a larger audience in 2012. It’s not based on buzz or hype, I can assure you of that. It’s about their artistic output, innovation, and listenability, the grand scheme of the band’s lifespan (just how many EPs did they record?), and the current cultural zeitgeist as we see it.

Perhaps what links them is what divides them — their musical diversity. As opposed to recent years, we are not in 2012 overloaded with a single genre. That blanket, behemoth of fuzzed out garage rock, which at times felt overdone, overhyped, and overworked, is finally expanding. That’s not to say we aren’t fans of garage, it’s just a note that there’s so much more out there in our freaky little section of the West Coast. This year feels electric; it began with a refreshing mix of acts on the rise.

In the Bay Area blender there’s doomy metal, tropical synth pop, cloud rap, moombahton, dirty rock, and all the gratuitous additional descriptors you can stomach. In asking the chosen acts how they personally described their sound, I got back cerebral explanations such as “post-Apocalyptic-art-wave,” “zenith snowflake pop” and “an avalanche of barbed wire and rabid sharks.” I can’t stop listening.

Some of the bands and DJs have been haunting around Bay for nearly a decade, others picked up their instruments as a collective just last year. Some have amassed thousands of social media fans, a modern indicator of popularity if ever there was one, while others currently hover around 100 likes. Most have an exciting new release coming in the next twelve months, and all will likely be touring to a city near you.

It can be difficult to capture the essence of a living, breathing band, so we went straight to the source. I asked the tough questions — how would you describe your sound (as in, here’s a soapbox, let’s get it right this time) — and the headier ones, because everyone wants to know what musicians eat, right? Below, I’ve given you a brief wrap-up of who they are and why they should be on your radar in 2012. Following that you’ll see their answers to our quickie take off the Proust questionnaire.

>>DIRTY GHOSTS

>>DJ THEORY

>>METAL MOTHER

>>MAIN ATTRAKIONZ

>>SEVENTEEN EVERGREEN

>>JHAMEEL

>>TERRY MALTS

>>FUTURE TWIN

>>BLACK COBRA

>>SILVER SWANS

>>LE VICE

>>TYCHO

 

District lines: a community alternative

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Early in April, a nine-member task force most San Franciscans have never heard of will draw lines that could change local politics for a decade. The Redistricting Task Force is using the 2010 U.S. Census data to adjust supervisorsial districts to reflect changes in the city’s population. Some shifts are dramatic — the area now covered by District 6 has some 25,000 new residents, and will have to shrink. Others will have to grow. And the way the new boundaries are set could affect the representation of ethnic groups, the political leanings of the board members, and the ability of progressives to pass legislation.

The task force has held a series of hearings on individual district lines. The S.F. Board of Realtors and other downtown groups are drawing their own maps. But almost nobody on the left has been looking at the city as a whole and how the different district lines can impact our ability to get six votes.

As campaign consultant David Looman puts it, “what downtown wants is clear — they want to quarantine all the progressives in districts five, six and nine, so they can control the rest.” What do the rest of us want?

The Guardian held a forum on the topic Jan 26, and about 70 people from across the wide rainbow that is the city’s progressive moment attended. The goal: To create a community alternative to what downtown, the Mayor’s Office, and possibly a majority of the task force members is suggesting.

>>VIEW THE MAP HERE

The map above represents a first draft. Fernando Marti, a community architect and housing activist, did the heavy lifting, looking for ways to keep ethnic communities, neighborhoods, and other so-called communities of interest together, while still avoiding the downtown quarantine.

It’s not an easy task, and there was a lot of discussion around some of the lines. Many of the people in the room were unhappy with the border between District 8 and District 6; in the next draft, that will probably be moved back from Valencia to Guerrero.

There was discussion about whether Japantown should be in District 1 or District 5, whether Portola should be in District 9 or split up, how the District 6 lines should be drawn, and much more.

It’s a work in progress — but we’re publishing it to get some feedback, to let people know that the process is going on, and to let progressive and independent neighborhood activists know that the task force decision, which can’t be appealed or overturned, is critical to the city’s future.

Transfer of power

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yael@sfbg.com

Feb. 1 marks the first day that San Francisco and other California cities no longer have redevelopment as a tool for building affordable housing or dealing with urban blight, but questions remain about how the power and functions of the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency (SFRA) will now be used.

On Dec. 29, the California Supreme Court upheld the validity of Assembly Bill 26, which dissolved all redevelopment agencies throughout the state and redirected the property tax revenue they accumulated to prevent deep cuts to public schools.

Redevelopment agencies, established in California in 1948, were charged with revitalizing “blighted” areas of cities. There were 400 such agencies throughout California, funded by incremental increases in property taxes within a redevelopment zone. Agencies could borrow against that revenue source to subsidize development projects.

AB 26 mandated that all cities dissolve their redevelopment agencies by Feb. 1 and transfer assets to successor agencies meant to “expeditiously wind down the affairs of the dissolved redevelopment agencies,” according the bill’s text.

A resolution passed by the Board of Supervisors on Jan. 24 authorized the transfer of SFRA affordable housing assets to the Mayor’s Office of Housing (MOH) and its non-housing assets to the city’s Department of Administrative Services. It also created a board to oversee the implementation of the SFRA’s ongoing projects.

Now, San Francisco is faced with the task of continuing to fund affordable housing projects and other development without the SFRA, and the board’s resolution laid out some of the terms for how the city will do that, although much remains to be determined.

Mayor Ed Lee appointed all members of the oversight board, which includes Planning Director John Rahaim; MOH Director Olson Lee; Nadia Sesay, director of the Mayor’s Office of Public Finance; and Bob Muscat, director of International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, Local 21.

In recent weeks, some groups have raised concerns that these appointees are not representative of the communities impacted by the ongoing redevelopment projects that they will be entrusted with overseeing, and that too much power is concentrated in the Mayor’s Office.

“One of our biggest concerns is that the oversight body could be made much more accountable and democratic,” said Jeron Browne of People Organized to Win Employment Rights (POWER)-Bayview. Much of Bayview-Hunters Point is no longer under the authority of the Planning Commission or any regular zoning laws since it was declared a redevelopment project site in 2000.

Sup. Malia Cohen, who represents the area, added an amendment to the board’s resolution that would impose term limits on oversight board positions. “I understand that there are a number of concerns that have been raised about the composition of the board. However, given the short time frame and the technical nature of the board and its obligations, I’m very comfortable with these appointees that they will be able to make decisions necessary to make the projects move forward. Additionally, with the inclusion of staggering terms we will be able to ensure that there is ample opportunity to include representation from affected communities,” Cohen said at the meeting.

The board also passed an amendment to “clarify that the land use controls granted by the oversight board are consistent with previous land use authority granted by the Board of Supervisors and the redevelopment commission,” as a response to concerns that the oversight board will have too much power over land use in project areas.

Tiffany Bohee, interim director of the SFRA, said that the court’s ruling was the “least desirable possible outcome.” Bohee said the SFRA has spent recent weeks analyzing all enforceable obligations outlined by the ruling to make sure that the transition complies with the law and is as fair as possible to SFRA employees.

The positions that these 101 workers filled at the SFRA will no longer exist as of Feb. 1, and layoffs are underway. However, most will remain employed throughout a transition period that ends March 31, and Bohee said that many will find work in city agencies that will be charged with continuing the work of the SFRA, such as MOH and the Planning Department.

MOH was historically responsible for allocating federal housing grants to city agencies. In past decades, federal budget cuts have severely limited the grants to build affordable housing. Now, although MOH has some power over city housing policy and allocation of funds to build housing, many of those responsibilities had been transferred to the Planning Department — or, until recently, the Redevelopment Agency.

The Planning Department is governed by the Planning Commission with four mayor-appointed members and three members appointed by the Board of Supervisors. The Planning Department implements planning standards and signs off on structural changes to the city, ranging from homeowner requests to alter houses to developer requests to build high-rises.

In many ways, the Redevelopment Agency was redundant, shadowing work done by the Planning Department. When an area was designated an SFRA project area, the planning code and zoning restrictions no longer applied, and developers working in partnership with the city had the power to define new land-use regulations.

Many critics of the SFRA said that private developers were able to use this lack of regulation to take advantage of the significant amount of money reserved for the agency. Deepening this concern was the fact that the Redevelopment Commission, which oversaw the SFRA, was composed entirely of mayoral appointees, which some felt were less accountable to the public interest than the Planning Commission.

Some feel that the oversight board, composed entirely of mayoral appointees, will repeat the same lack of accountability to neighborhoods.

“The city is setting up a planning commission for the 1 percent. And the Planning Commission that we have is the for the 99 percent,” said Tom Radulovich, executive director of Livable City, which works on land use issues. He said that with the dissolution of the SFRA, the city has an opportunity to facilitate the construction of affordable housing in a more democratic fashion. His organization expressed concerns to the Board of Supervisors, cautioning that the Oversight Board should not have undue power over land-use in development project areas and that the new structure in city government for facilitating development projects should be created with the input of communities. The Board of Supervisors made clear Jan. 24 that the Oversight Board and its appointees are a temporary measure to comply with AB26 by the Feb. 1 deadline. As Sup. Christina Olague said, “I just want to assure the public that this isn’t the end-all, be-all of this discussion, that it will be ongoing, and we welcome any of your concerns at any time.”

After the tear gas clears

3

yael@sfbg.com

After a chaotic day of marches and confrontations between police and protesters Jan 28, I was arrested along with about 400 others who were trapped by police in front of the downtown Oakland YMCA. Seven of us were journalists.

The goal of the march was to take over an abandoned building — an the vacant Kaiser Convention Center, a city-owned building that’s been closed since 2005, was a prime target.

I have not yet been able to retrieve my property, including my recorder and notebook, which is being held by the Oakland Police Department. What follows is a pieced-together account and a perspective on what the events of Jan. 28.

I spend 20 hours behind bars, and missed the later parts of the action. But I was able to observe what happened in jail and make some sense of what happened.

Occupy people are constantly debating tactics and goals, and for many, the idea of occupying a vacant building made sense. When Occupy Oakland had a camp in Frank Ogawa Plaza, also known as Oscar Grant Plaza, and commonly shortened to OGP, it created a strong community. That community bridged divides between the homeless and the housed, between students and labor organizers, and between Oakland residents of different races, genders and levels of ability in an unprecedented fashion.

The camp had a kitchen that fed hundreds of people everyday and a network of shared tents and blankets which welcomed in hundreds who otherwise would have slept on the streets, often feeling isolated from other residents of their city and made to feel inferior.

The camp was repeatedly raided, Occupiers were tear gassed and shot with rubber bullets, and when OGP was cleared out, the community no longer had a home. And the police started that violence.

That was the practical reason for wanting to occupy a vacant building: to have a social center for Occupy Oakland.

Of course, there are other reasons. There’s the question that many squatters and homeless advocacy groups have been making for decades: why let buildings lie vacant while people freeze on the street?

Remember: The building that Occupy wanted to occupy is public property, and right now nobody is using if for anything.

In one exchange in jail, a guard asked a protester why the activists thought they had the right to take over a vacant building. “I mean, it’s not yours,” he insisted. The protester replied that many vacant buildings are government-owned and therefore public.

“So it’s the government’s,” the cop said.

“But I pay taxes,” the protester responded.

“Me too!” replied the cop. “It’s mine!”

“It’s both of ours,” smiled the protester. “It’s all of ours.”

That’s what made the convention center action such a clear and easy political decision.

A lot of people in Occupy would go further, saying that at a time of a severe housing crisis, it’s perfectly legitimate to take over privately owned buildings that are sitting there vacant. It’s part of the central argument of Occupy — that corporations and the rich unfairly own and continue to acquire much more wealth than the majority of people. For many people, owning a vacant building and doing nothing with it, while hundreds freeze on the streets, is a crime itself.

 

UP AGAINST THE COPS

Then there’s the question of the police — and violence.

The word “nonviolent” has a specific meaning in the history of political movements. Martin Luther King Jr. defined it in his essay “The Meaning of Non-Violence”: “If you are hit you must not hit back; you must rise to the heights of being able to accept blows without retaliating … But it also means that you are constantly moving to the point where you refuse to hate your enemy. You are constantly moving to the point where you love your enemy.”

It’s a philosophy but also, in political terms, a tactic.

Many of the people who make up Occupy Oakland get their start as activists organizing against police brutality in a city that has longstanding problems with violent and undisciplined officers.

Police Chief Howard Jordan said in a press release that “It became clear that the objective of this crowd was not to peacefully assemble and march, but to seek opportunity to further criminal acts, confront police, and repeatedly attempt to illegally occupy buildings.”

It was certainly clear that the intent of the crowd was to illegally occupy a building. And any honest assessment of Occupy Oakland would have to acknowledge that some members are not wedded to King-style nonviolent civil disobedience. (Neither, by the way, were a lot of the protest movements of the 1960s.) Many protesters wore masks and bandanas to disguise their identities and protect them from tear gas and pepper spray, and the march was led by protesters with makeshift shields, which suggests that they expected to be attacked. You could certainly argue that what those people were doing wasn’t confrontation; it was self-defense.

Frankly, it made sense to be prepared: In other Occupy Oakland actions, police have attacked with batons, tear gas, pepper spray, flash-bang grenades, and smoke bombs. And for quite a few Oakland residents, the police have always been seen as an outside force that can’t be trusted.

In fact, violence did break out. Many, including myself, have eyes still stinging from tear gas. I saw several wounds caused by rubber bullets shot at protesters. I spoke individually to at least a dozen people — one of them a pregnant woman — who were struck with police batons.

And protesters did not remain peaceful while this violence was being used against them.

Some picked up tear gas canisters and threw them back towards police; that much I saw. I also saw protesters throw empty plastic bottles at police.

According to the police, they also threw metal pipes, rocks and bricks. According to the protesters, they threw mainly empty plastic bottles and fruit at police. But as protesters often say of the police, “They’re the ones who showed up with the guns.” If the cops didn’t want violence, why unleash such an arsenal of weapons?

People got hurt, protesters and police alike. Several bystanders who had nothing to do with the situation were swept up in the mass arrest.

The city of Oakland, already in dire financial straits, likely spent hundreds of thousands of dollars reacting to the protests. Police claim that they were unable to sufficiently respond to violent crimes over the weekend, including five murders, because they were overwhelmed with Occupy troublemakers.

Of course, city officials were the ones who decided to arrest 400 people — with all the expense that involves.

There are, at this point, no reports of serious injuries to any police officers. However, at least a dozen protesters had welts on their faces or bodies from being beaten by clubs or shot with rubber bullets. One woman was shot in both arms with rubber bullet; one man was shot in the face with rubber bullets while holding a video camera to document the events. Several protesters were shoved to the ground and received wounds on their faces while being arrested. Police raised their rubber-bullet rifles to the faces of protesters throughout the day, threatening attacks. A rubber bullet to the face can cause brain damage and blindness.

 

 

DID IT HAVE TO HAPPEN?

How could this have been prevented?

Police say that “while peaceful forms of expression and free speech rights will be facilitated, acts of violence, trespassing, property destruction and overnight lodging will not be tolerated.” But 40 people were arrested during an ongoing Occupy Oakland vigil in the first weeks of January for having “illegal property” at OGP in what many saw as clearly a peaceful expression of First Amendment rights.

On KGO radio Jan. 29, Chief Jordan said that he has allowed Occupy Oakland to protest without a permit and would continue to do so, but those early January raids were ostensibly due to permit violations — violations of the terms of a permit that Occupy Oakland did in fact have.

There’s no question: The police response to Occupy Oakland over the past few months has caused some people in the movement to get more radical.

Many Occupy Oakland-affiliated medics condemned those who threw objects at police, saying that they provoked a backlash that caused more injuries. Many Oakland residents who might be in line with the socio-economic critique presented by the Occupy movement feel endangered and confused by marches that result in the massive use of police weapons in broad daylight. A lot of people would rather protest in a lot of ways that less resemble urban warfare.

On the other hand, there are also ways that Oakland officials could have prevented the consequences of weapons deployed and 400 arrested Jan. 28. They could, for example, have allowed protesters to occupy the vacant building.

When protesters seized a building Jan. 20 in San Francisco, police first attempted to prevent them. They lined up in front of the targeted building. They deployed pepper spray and struck several protesters with batons. When they were unsuccessful, and protesters entered the building from the back, they opted to block the surrounding streets and wait until the time seemed right to enter the situation and make arrests. Police spokesperson Carlos Manfredi told me that the cops were not going to rush into the situation and were trying to prevent injury and violence.

The Kaiser Convention Center has been vacant for years. The city of Oakland recently made plans to sell it to its Redevelopment Agency, but that plan fell into legal limbo when Gov. Jerry Brown signed AB26, a bill that dissolved all California redevelopment agencies.

At this point, nobody at Oakland City Hall has any plans whatsoever for the big, empty structure.

Why not allow Occupy to use the convention center? It’s not downtown, where Mayor Quan says businesses have been adversely affected by Occupy Oakland’s presence. It would give the movement a chance to stop focusing on trying to occupy spaces and start focusing on benefiting the community with food, shelter, and community programs that they provided when they had a camp. It would give the building tenants who could be held responsible for maintaining it. It might even help get Occupy Oakland and the Oakland Police Department out of the cycle of violence that they have been spiraling into for months.

Each time arrests occur, each time violence occurs, both sides blame the other. Both sides are correct that they were provoked. Both sides are correct that something that they think is worth defending was violated — for the cops, it’s the law. For the protesters, it’s the right of the people to assemble.

In fact, many Oakland residents have experienced violence at the hands of the Oakland Police Department for years before Occupy began. There was already a mass movement formed around the murder of Oscar Grant, and thousands of people fed up with police murders of unarmed, often black, suspects.

In recent decades, other radical groups, notably the Black Panthers, insisted that their community lacked basic needs because the city of Oakland refused to prioritize them. The Black Panther free breakfast program served food in a strikingly similar way to Occupy Oakland. Black Panthers were also notorious for carrying guns to defend themselves against police violence.

Occupy Oakland protesters (unlike Tea Party members) certainly don’t carry guns. But, more and more, they cry “fuck the pigs” as much as any Panther.

For much of the Occupy movement’s 99 percent, unjust actions by banks, corporations, and the government officials that they have often bought and paid for are the worst problems facing the United States today. For others, particularly the poor and people of color, these problems are magnified and exacerbated by the fact that they feel the threat of police harassment every day. For years, they’ve understood that police disproportionately do not investigate or solve crimes that happen to them and their families.

 

 

THE RADICALS AND THE BROADER MOVEMENT

The Oakland General Assembly Jan. 29 was the biggest it’s been in weeks. While there were still over 300 people in jail, 300 more came out to get involved with the meeting. That happened at the same time that many who felt that inexcusable violence and property destruction occurred Jan. 28 and concluded they could no longer have anything to do with Occupy Oakland.

It’s a challenge for the movement nationally, too: How do you accept and encourage the people whose legitimate anger at economic injustice and police abuse turns them toward more radical responses — and at the same time make room for a people who want nothing to do with the black bloc Fs, vandalism, and confrontation with the police?

There are tactical issues with the way the building occupation was planned. Many who were completely in line with the concept felt unsafe and uncomfortable with the secretive nature of the organizers who planned it. The location of the building targeted for occupation was kept secret for practical reasons; police could easily prevent a successful takeover. Supporters must often be led to the locations of planned takeovers without knowing where the action is and how they’ll get there. But how do you reconcile this with the transparency required when organizers are leading more than 1,000 people who want to use tactics they feel comfortable with and make their own choices?

Occupy Oakland is asking the people to imagine a world where property rights wouldn’t prevent them from doing all the good that they could do with a building like the Kaiser Convention Center. They must also ask themselves to imagine a world in which goals like a building occupation can be achieved in a way that everyone involved is able to consent to their involvement.

These debates continue to occur at Occupy Oakland. Some will leave the movement, some will join. Some will take the ideas and try to manifest them in new and different ways. Participants in Occupy Oakland desperately want basic needs of food and shelter met for their community members, and for the system that governs the city to do so in a way that allows people to thrive when it comes to health, education, and opportunities for creativity and growth. They think that they have the beginnings of a community and a process that can achieve those visions, better than the city government ever has, and they care more about achieving it than respecting the property rights of the owners of abandoned buildings.

First Lady blues

0

arts@sfbg.com

DANCE Randee Paufve’s voice is quiet. But once you have heard her speak through her dances, you are unlikely to forget the strength of what she has to say. Her craft is impressive, her topics are many-layered, and the resulting choreography is pared down to its essence. Sometimes, I have even wished for a little more looseness just so I could catch my breath.

So I Married Abraham Lincoln takes on the life of Mary Todd Lincoln, wife and widow of a President, a life-long Washington outsider, the target of vicious gossip, a spiritualist, perhaps mentally unstable, and a mother of four sons — only one of whom outlived her. In this hour-long work, set on seven primary and nine additional dancers, Paufve examines the sense of restriction — personal, social, political — with which this Kentucky-born outcast, a free spirit at one time, had to cope.

>>View our slideshow of Paufve Dance’s So I Married Abraham Lincoln

Though Married starts with the figure of Todd Lincoln, it opens up to include all the First Ladies whose identities disappeared into their positions. In the work’s main section, in a take-off on beauty pageants, they parade down a runway cooing their first names. Taking a broader perspective, Paufve also addresses the toll taken when anyone — one of the wives is danced by a man — is forced into a role and is not allowed to be him or herself.

Married is structured in the now-fashionable installation format, in which the audience travels through a series of episodes. At its premiere at Dance Mission Theater, it opened with an informal lobby overture of short individualized solos that were probably meant to highlight each dancer’s uniqueness (sight lines were difficult). Then Paufve moved the show down a narrow hallway, segueing through several studios and ending in the theater proper. The idea, again, was clearly to focus on one woman and then widen the lens. Theoretically, the format looked good, but the logistics of having to squeeze all the audience members (the show was more than sold out) through narrow doorways, and then cram them into places to sit, stand, or lean, impeded the piece’s flow.

Todd Lincoln first appears on a throne-like chair at the end of the hallway, contemplating her life and people’s expectations and misperceptions of her. Her words echo back to her as from another world. A couple of scenes later, we find ourselves around a low table outlined with burning tea lights. Two women in white shifts (costumes by Keriann Egeland) anxiously crowd into a corner. Perhaps they are ghosts, perhaps they are mourners. The real action, however, happens above the table where — in a stroke of genius — designer Jack Carpenter suspended linked teacups over the candles. The rising heat makes the cups tinkle, and they gently dance.

Though it has its moments of levity and softness, Married aims for a stark, uncompromising perspective, with choreography that is linear, pattern-oriented, and rigorous. It’s powerful in the way it suggests a sense of objectification. You sense an invisibly controlling hand as women are moved around like figures on a chessboard. In the last scene, they parade, they strut, they primp, and they pose. When the bugle calls, off they march. You watch Todd Lincoln awkwardly trying to weave gaudy flowers into her hair, and you hear a voice cry out against “that ugly home,” presumably the White House. Several times in the middle of scurrying activity, like a photo you can’t forget, you see identical images of a body being mourned. Lincoln? His sons? Soldiers, then and now?

At the same time, Heather Heise’s lovely songs recall wistful folk traditions and suggest the possibility of a communal purpose. Beginning with a single voice, the music opens into rich harmonies. One of tunes starts with “Oh Mary, don’t you weep, don’t you mourn.” And as the piece comes to a quiet ending, the women sing “Oh where are our dear mothers?/They are gone to heaven a’shouting/Day is a’breaking/In my soul.”

 

An upside

0

le.chicken.farmer@gmail.com

CHEAP EATS I’ve been saving something for you. Something special. For a time just like this.

The 49ers have fizzled in the drizzle, and the spring season of dyke football is a long way off. Not to mention spring training. Not to mention Spring.

Sportswise we are left with the Warriors. And speaking of lose-lose situations, there’s the murky mess that our sheriff is in. Oh, and the Republican candidates for prez, whose collective aim is so untrue (also speaking of the Warriors) that even those of us who try and stay out of it are covered in mud and shit.

Is everyone sick and suicidal, or just sick?

Well, my dears, I have something for you, and it isn’t duck soup. It’s better. It’s butter corn ramen at Halu, which is my new favorite restaurant by 10 miles. Or at least thirty blocks.

Unfortunately, we aren’t the only ones who know about it. Halu isn’t open for lunch and doesn’t accept reservations for dinner. It’s a hole in the wall. So, unless you get there at five, expect a line.

And expect that line to be worth waiting in. (I rarely say that.)

About a year ago or so I started hearing about this place from all sides. Alice Shaw the Person gave me its business card. Which I lost. But I still recall her rhapsodic description of skewered scallops wrapped in bacon. We were getting ready to play soccer. “One of the best things I ever ate,” she said. “The scallops …” Her eyes fluttered and started to roll back under their lids, until I thought she might lose consciousness. Which would have sucked because we’d have had to forfeit.

Then Papa, my butcher, started in on it. “Pork jowls,” she kept saying. At football practice. In the huddle. Every time I saw her: “Pork jowls.”

When people say pork jowls, I listen. They only need to say it once. After three or four times, I start to dream cheeky things. So, long before I ever ate there, Halu was on my mind and under my skin.

I tried to go once with a big group, but at least one of us was too hungry to stomach the wait, so we wound up at the Burmese place around the corner on Clement.

Then, finally, last summer while Hedgehog and me were house sitting in the Richmond one week, we walked over right at five and sat right down and ordered all the wrong things. Lava ramen, which was the best and second-spiciest bowl of ramen I had ever had, but it wasn’t spicy butter corn ramen. Or, as they inexplicably call it, spicy corn butter ramen. Which, I would have to wait three more months to learn, is even better.

Amazingly tender roast pork, crisp kernels of fresh corn, and pats of butter melting into it as they bring the bowl to your table. The noodles taste homemade, and the broth has an insane amount of flavor to it.

I must not have looked at the menu the first time I was there, or I would have become a Halu addict sooner. But the lava ramen was on the wall, with a lot of other yummy sounding dishes, and all the Beatles posters and ’60s stuff — including a cool old bass and an even cooler acoustic guitar.

The yakitori menu is on the wall too, and every time I get my butter corn butter ramen butter fix, I sample one or two of these, on the side. So far I’ve had mochi bacon, which was divine, and of course the pork jowls, which were even diviner. Chicken livers. Good. The boneless short ribs were a little dry.

Oddly, since it was what sold me on the place in the first place, I have yet to try the bacon-wrapped scallops. (Sorry, Alice Shaw the Person.) Other didn’t-get-yets include asparagus bacon, enoki bacon, and eringi bacon, because in my opinion two of those things are mushrooms. But I do love asparagus.

One time we had karaage (fried chicken), by way of an appetizer. It was nothing special.

Otherwise, though: worth the wait. Way. Go say hi to Baseball Mary across the corner at Clement Street Bar and Grill. The game’ll be on, if there is one.

HALU

Tue.-Thu. 5-10 p.m.; Fri.-Sat. 5-11 p.m.; closed Sun.-Mon.

312 8th Ave., SF.

(415) 221-9165

MC/V

Beer and wine

Lookin’ good

0

culture@sfbg.com

BODY If your New Year’s resolution is flagging, here are some budget boosts to kickstart your makeover (or de-stress) ambitions. Never give up! Deals are for February: call ahead for more details or restrictions information.

 

FITNESS

Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center 1200 Arguello, SF. (415) 681-2731, www.sfyoga.com Find your center at this Inner Sunset nonprofit that’s run by world peace-inspired volunteers. Get your first class for free, and 50 percent off the 10-class ($95-115) or monthly unlimited pass ($110). Individual classes are $10-15 each.

Planet Granite 924 Mason, SF. (415) 692-3434, www.planetgranite.com An indoor climbing gym and yoga studio in the Presidio that boasts of the best views in the Bay Area. A belay lesson for $34 comes with free gear rental and one-day pass.

START Fitness 1625 Bush, SF. (415) 225-5715, www.STARTfitness.com These Pacific Heights bootcamp workout programs are designed by an army fitness trainer. START claims to be the oldest program of its kind in the country. Four-week bootcamp $199, from regular price of $290.

Bianchi Fitness 566 Dolores, SF. (415) 218-7045, www.bianchifitness.com Year-round outdoor fitness training in the Castro that takes advantage of the Bay Area’s natural beauty, offering group and individual classes. Take as many classes as you want during a two-week period for $75.

Body Mechanix Fitness Cooperative 219 Brannan, SF. (877) 658-4757, www.body-mechanix.com An independently-owned fitness cooperative in SoMa offering innovative training programs. $49 for a $120 certificate.

ODC School and Rhythm and Motion Dance Program 351 Shotwell, SF. (415) 863-9830, www.odcschool.org This Mission District mainstay offers classes in all styles of dance, from ballet to hip hop, at every level of ability, from amateur to professional. $14 per dance class, $7 for seniors and teens.

Chestnut Pilates 1877 Chestnut, SF. (415) 673-3280, www.chestnutpilates.com Run by dancer Cathie Caraker, this Cow Hollow studio guides students to toned abs and inner peace through a better understanding of the body. $60 for $80 certificate.

Primal Health and Training 1074 Folsom, SF. (510) 432-9648, www.primalhealthsf.com At his SoMa studio, Khalid Kohgadai teaches how to overcome inertia and unwanted weight gain through the methods that worked for him. $50 for two sessions.

Caitlin Weeks Nutrition and Personal Training 2435 Polk, Suite 8, SF. (415) 624-5121, www.grassfedgirl.com In Russian Hill, Weeks teaches methods for battling obesity gathered from her personal experience of dropping 80 pounds and keeping it off. $75 for a $100 certificate.

Yoga Garden 286 Divisadero, SF. (415) 552-9644, www.yogagardensf.com This tucked-away studio is committed to teaching safe, accessible classes in Iyengar, Asthanga, Vinyasa, Hatha and pre-natal yoga in the Lower Haight. Get a four-week introductory membership for $65. First timers score an hour-long massage for $49. Get a class-a-day membership plus monthly massage for $120/month.

Jamz Trainings 292 4th Street, Oakl. (415) 857-5269, www.jamztraining.com In Oakland, James Robinson customizes personal programs specializing in weight loss, athletic performance, motivation, and strengthening. $50 for $75 certificate.

Bridges Rock Gym 5635 San Diego, El Cerrito. (510) 525-5635, www.bridgesrockgym.com This El Cerrito gym offers indoor “bouldering,” relatively short climbs full of obstacle arrangements designed to test problem-solving skills. $25 for a three-visit pass and climbing gear.

 

BEAUTY

The Barber Lounge 854 Folsom, SF. (415) 934-0411, www.barberlounge.com This 2012 industrial warehouse approximation of an old-fashioned barbershop caters to men and women in sunny, art-bedecked loft space. $15 brow-shapings, Mon.-Fri. 4 p.m.-8 p.m. Book a cut and color and receive $20 off a facial or massage of at least 60 minutes.

John Francis Spa Martin De Porres Medical Building, 4200 18th St., Suite 101, SF. (415) 861-3000, www.johnfrancisspa.com The staff at this Castro spa offers holistic massage, waxing and skin care, plus mineral makeup, and tension relief foot treatments. Glycolic peels are reduced from $75 to $35 when combined with a facial. Registered clients receive 20 percent off on facials on their birthdays. $20 off when combining facial and massage on the same day.

Shear Bliss Salon 275 Gough, SF. (415) 255-8761, www.shearblisssalon.com These Aveda-trained stylists use eco-friendly styling techniques and products. The salon focuses on straight perms, coloring, extensions, and curly hair. New clients receive $20 off hair coloring.

San Francisco Community Acupuncture 220 Valencia, SF. (415)675-8973, www.missionsfca.com Affordable acupuncture is offered here in a comfortable, calm group setting. Pay $25-50 per treatment, sliding scale. Yelp users can receive a $40 gift certificate for $25.

Love Your Face SF 1075 Pacific, Suite A, SF. (415)529-2368, www.loveyourfacesf.com Curious about semi-permanent eyelash curling or eyelash-eyebrow tinting and ditching the daily regimen? LYF is the place to check out. Also: Ayuvedic ear treatments for wax removal and nourishment of the ear canal and drum. Refer a friend for $5 off your next service. Purchase five services and get one free. Yelp users get $50 worth of treatments for $35.

Earth Body 534 Laguna, SF. (415) 552-7200, www.earthbody.net This organic skin care spa takes a holistic, sustainable approach that draws on ancient traditions of healing. First time clients receive $15 off any treatment Mon.-Fri. Add a supplemental foot therapy, facial massage, or heated neck therapy to your session for free.

Chez Sylva 1310 8th Ave., SF. (415) 242-1100, www.chezsylva.com Salon offers waxing, threading, and a number of signature facials, but is best known for electrolysis and permanent hair removal. New clients receive a 10 percent discount on first treatment. Mention its website and receive an additional 5 percent discount.

Flourish Skin and Wax 1905 Union, SF. (415) 370-6559, www.flourishskinandwax.com Cheerful pastel walls and mellow music here eases the usual pain of waxing. Perfectionist waxers can satisfy even the most sensitive skin types. Book a Flourish facial and receive a complimentary cleanser; book a Brazilian wax and receive a complimentary brow wax.

Rincon Chiropractic Massage and Acupuncture 101 Howard, Suite D, SF. (415) 896-2225, www.rinconchiro.com Rincon focuses on the relationship between the structure and function of your spine. It provides a wide range of services, like rehabilitation therapies, mother-to-be, and stress-relieving massages. $25 off for students who bring in a valid student ID. Yelp users can get a $90 specialty massage for $50.

Tiptoes Nail Spa 300 De Haro, Suite 336, SF. (415) 626-9637, www.tiptoesnailspa.com This swanky Potrero Hill spot uses vegan and DBP, touelene and formaldehyde-free nail polish as well as botanical-based, petrochemical-free products. Go for a relaxing ambiance, cool chairs, and free Red Vines. Early bird special: mani-pedis for $35 before 3 p.m.

Curl Up and Dye Beauty Salon 350 Alabama, SF. (415) 861-2515, www.curlupanddyesf.net Ally likes big hair and monster movies. Jerry likes cheeseburgers and tight fades. Both have trained with Vidal Sassoon, Bumble and bumble, and Kevin Murphy. Both have devoted clients who come back time and time again for bold cuts and sexy styles. Receive $20 off a cut or color with either stylist.

Baumé

0

virginia@sfbg.com

APPETITE There are meals that live on in memory: dioramas of conversation, heartwarming food, and that misty glow from a fine bottle of wine. Then there are those that are game-changers, the food an elaborate tapestry, weaving complex threads of creativity into an unexpected whole as impacting on the taste buds as to the eye. It borders on art.

Baumé (pronounced “bo-meh”) in Palo Alto vies for the latter category at a level not seen enough in the Bay Area. Foams may be long over, but for an adventurous food lover, to sit down for three hours with merely a list of ingredients and almost 20 bites and courses, is an exciting event. I’d call Baumé one of our best fine dining restaurants. It is artful, employing molecular processes alongside classic French technique. A list of menu ingredients like vadouvan, Calvados, kabocha, caviar, and the like tease, but essentially give little intimation as to what lies ahead.

Naming Baumé one of 2010’s best new restaurant openings in both the Guardian and my Perfect Spot newsletter, I found chef Bruno Chemel’s vision inspiring, even as the restaurant was still discovering itself. Returning at the end of 2011, it is coming into its own. Prices reflect this “sense of self.” Formerly just over $100 per person, it’s now a whopping $168 without drink. Add on wine pairings and it’s $288 (or $368 if you desire the premium wine pairing). It’s one mighty expensive night out. But there are more courses than there were before, more intermezzos, bites, and delights at every turn. If you’re going to splurge, Baumé is one of the more experimentally satisfying options.

The setting is understated, modern, but still a little staid, even museum-like. Thankfully, intimacy and bright orange and brown tones keep it from being cold, with one small room of four or five tables and additional individual tables behind curtains. Service is seamless — although with this many courses, expect to see waitstaff often throughout the meal. I am always impressed when I can ask even a server filling my water about ingredients and all are well-versed on each dish. This level of care is crucial in a place like Baumé.

Even a menu of expensive aperitifs (four, ranging from $15-28) has been elevated since my last visit. A Baumétini ($18) is dramatically presented with sparkling sake poured over liquid nitrogen lilikoi and passion fruit “ice,” a frosty haze erupting from the glass. The taste is tart, intense, palate-cleansing.

On a white, indented ceramic block sits a round roll of fig pistachio “focaccia” — the bread course. Looking more akin to mochi, the warm, green roll perks up in yuzu glaze with salt flecks. This was followed by juicy beets and onions in panko crumbs with a potent shot of celery beet juice. In 2010, Chef Chemel’s most memorable dish was a 62-degree egg. This is the only dish I recognize from the year before, silky as ever, though its presentation is different over lentils in a vermouth sabayon, topped with tiny sage leaves and toasted garlic bread crumbs.

Chemel shines at produce: a delicate autumn salad is one of the most beautiful and finest tasting dishes. It combines bits of apple, pear, squash, and vivid red leaves with acorn wafers. The dish blossoms with a gorgeous pairing of 2005 Domaine des Baumard Clos du Papillion Savennieres from the Loire, a 100 percent Chenin Blanc that surprises with orchard fruit contrasted by mineral earthiness.

Other stand-out moments included the add-on course (yes, for even more money) of Alba white truffles from Piemonte, Italy, in season and available for a matter of days. The staff generously shaved a luxurious truffle over cauliflower tapioca risotto, pairing it with 2006 Morey-Coffinet Morgeot Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru from Burgundy.

Fatty suckling pig in crispy skin is a winning main with braised endive and ginger foam. Apple plays prominently in both freeze-dried green apple slices and a sauce of balsamic Calvados (French apple brandy). A bright, acidic 1999 Heitz Cellars Trailside Vineyard Cabernet from Napa alternately displays a raisin richness reminiscent of port, making it an ideal apple-pork companion.

Dessert comes in four parts, but it’s a liquid shot that leaves an impression: fizzy young coconut water soda with a creamy lychee float. After dessert, I was served house eggnog with nutmeg foam in an egg shell. Perfect for December, it was a playfully refined statement to end a nearly three-hour feast. 

BAUMÉ

201 S. California Ave., Palo Alto

(650) 328-8899

www.baumerestaurant.com

Subscribe to Virgina’s twice-monthly newsletter, The Perfect Spot, www.theperfectspotsf.com

 

Silver Swans

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When is the cover better than the original? When the original is by newbie/vitriolic web backlash victim Lana Del Rey, and the cover is a sensual send-up by seasoned San Francisco duo Silver Swans (silverswans.bandcamp.com). The local act split open the pop song — “Video Games” — slowed it down, and filled it with chilly synth floating below breathy vocals.

But we’re not here to debate Del Rey’s musical ability; we’re here to keep a glossy superhero eye on Silver Swans. Formed by Las Vegas-born vocalist Ann Yu and Jamaica-bred effects wizard-DJ Jon Waters in 2007, the band has delivered a lovely catalogue — most recently 2010’s Secrets EP and the upcoming LP Forever (Feb.7) — of heart-wrenching synth pop and shoulder-dancing, Manchester-evoking icy club rock. It’s high time they get their international due.

Description of sound: Someone else said it best: “tropical synths and stuttering 808s” wrapped in ambivalent romance and bittersweet longing.

Like most about the Bay Area music scene: The Bay Area music scene is both sophisticated yet charming. So many amazing bands come out of SF, yet you can still create your own place here and find people who appreciate what you do. In that sense, it’s still fresh here. The scene isn’t jaded and over-saturated, there’s charm and new inspiration everywhere.

What piece of music means the most to you and why: This is a hard one, so many songs have come into my life and forever changed me, the first mixtape I got had a song on it called “So Said Kay” by The Field Mice and I think I could have listened to that song on repeat for days reading into every lyric and just taking in the voice. It made me sad too, and just made me feel exactly what I wanted to feel at the time. It was one of the first songs to inspire me to write and also tap into that unknown territory where you don’t care about how unique or difficult a part is write, you just let yourself get carried away in the moment of the song itself and let it almost write itself.

Favorite local eatery and dish: El Metate Mexican Veggie burrito, the vegetables are roasted and always fresh. Everything there is delicious and on the cheap, right down to their alfajore cookies, I fully endorse the entire menu.

Who would you most like to tour with: Karin Dreijer Andersson — Jon and I are both admirers of everything she does. She is a true artist, and I get lost in her songs always.

Black Cobra

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Last year was epic for Black Cobra (www.blackcobra.net); the duo toured with a reunited Kyuss Lives, closed out the night at Yerba Buena’s awesome art-meets-metal live show, and released Invernal. The album, full of pummeling hardcore, saw vinyl release last month on Southern Lord, thus kicking of another doomy year for the act that got together way back in 2004 when drummer Rafa Martinez (formerly of Acid King and Gammera) was living in LA and ex-Cavity guitarist Jason Landrian was in NYC.

Black Cobra essentially began by snail mail, each sending brutal bits of song across the country. Moving to San Francisco in 2007, the band evolution was complete. While Black Cobra on record sounds undeniably good, the band is at its very best when live, with polyrhythms, Martinez beating the shit out of the drums, and Landrian’s gravity-defying backbends. The next show will be a charmer, Valentine’s Day at the New Parish (8 p.m., $10–$13. 579 18th St., Oakl. www.thenewparish.com), the best way to confess to the dark lords, “Nothing Says I Love You Like Doom” (which happens to be the event’s title). Hopefully it’ll be touring with Black Sabbath by the end of this year.

Description of sound: Jason Landrian: Like an avalanche of barbed wire and rabid sharks.

Rafa Martinez: sounds like drinking the blood of your enemy.

What do you like most about the Bay Area music scene: JL: The size and variety. It’s not too big, but not too small and there is not just one type of band.

RM: Awesome bands, diverse crowds, cool clubs.

What piece of music means the most to you and why: JL: Master of Puppets by Metallica. This was a massive staple of my youth and a huge influence on my playing when I was first learning guitar.

RM: Der Ring des Nibelungen by Wagner. It was the soundtrack of my childhood.

Favorite local eatery and dish: JL: Cathead’s Barbecue. Cornmeal crusted tofu is killer!

RM: The Submarine Shop on West Portal. Italiano center sub with a Coke.

Who would you most like to tour with: JL: Black Sabbath

RM: Rush

Two clean energy tracks for SF

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OPINION CleanPowerSF, San Francisco’s green electricity alternative to Pacific Gas and Electric Co., is set to launch this year. The program is following two parallel paths — one to build renewable energy in San Francisco and create thousands of local jobs, the other to purchase clean power from remote sources from Shell Energy.

While both tracks bring advantages, this bifurcated approach could end up serving only 30 percent of city residents. Fortunately, the city can easily improve the launch of CleanPowerSF by merging the two tracks.

Enacted by the Board of Supervisors and Mayor Gavin Newsom in 2004 and in 2007, CleanPowerSF is not a public-power program like Santa Clara’s Silicon Valley Power or Alameda Municipal Power. CleanPowerSF is a public-private partnership, much like the successful Marin Clean Energy, which can buy power in bulk from outside companies — and also generate its own renewable energy. PG&E still owns the transmission grid and will deliver electricity to customers, who then have the option of choosing between CleanPowerSF and PG&E.

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission has embarked on a detailed analysis of PG&E electricity data to find out how much electricity is used in different parts of the city at different times of the day and how much it costs. That will pinpoint exactly where in San Francisco renewable energy should be built for the highest efficiency and lowest costs to ratepayers.

While this analysis is being conducted, the SFPUC plans to initiate the second track, offering ratepayers 100% renewable electricity purchased from Shell Energy North America. That will get CleanPowerSF up and running quickly — but would cost ratepayers between $6.70 and $54.50 more a month more than PG&E. As a result, the SFPUC estimates that as many as 70% of ratepayers could leave CleanPowerSF and go back to PG&E.

The SF PUC plans to offer CleanPowerSF to two-thirds of San Francisco customers — 230,000 residences — with as many as 155,000 opting out. Once these people opt out, they won’t be customers of the cheaper, locally produced, job-creating, green energy that will come later.

By comparison, only 20 percent of Marin Clean Energy customers opted out at initial rollout. That’s because Marin Clean Energy offers a 27 percent renewable energy option in addition to a higher-cost 100 percent green option. The “light-green” option is cheaper because it mixes in lower-cost, non-renewable electricity.

The PUC could keep more San Franciscans in CleanPowerSF by integrating the local generation and data analysis and purchasing tracks. First, it could include a cheaper light-green option like Marin’s. To determine what mix of renewable and non-renewable electricity would be cost-competitive with PG&E, the PUC would use the results from the first track, the analysis of electricity usage data, expected this spring. The Board of Supervisors could make these changes when it takes up the Shell contract this month or next.

In the past few months, CleanPowerSF has made much progress thanks to San Francisco Supervisor David Campos and Ed Harrington, general manager of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. The addition of a cost-competitive light-green option would enable CleanPowerSF to better compete with PG&E and keep more San Franciscans in the program — for the long term. That would significantly increase the number of new local jobs created and have a greater effect in fighting global climate change. It worked in Marin, and it can work in San Francisco as well..

John Rizzo is former chair of the Sierra Club Bay Area Chapter and current president of the San Francisco Community College Board

 

Future Twin

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The two females in Future Twin (www.futuretwin.com) — Jean Yaste and Stephanie Rose — met one another in a moped gang called the Lockits, another member of the band was in a moped crew called Treats of the Loin; I’m not sure if you can concoct a greater back-story than that but I’d be hard-pressed to find one. And the San Francisco fivesome, which formed in December 2010 originally as a trio, makes the equivalent of moped rock on its debut EP cassette, Situation (which is also available for download, for those without a tape player). Released Jan. 31, Situation revs up with roaring guitar, and incorporates field recordings of gunshots and small engines such as lawnmowers and of course, mopeds, but veers from blunt roughness, instead leaning towards powerful girl group-style vocals and multi-part harmonies.

While the first release is a small one, the Mission-based band has chops, brains, and a clear bond. Though perhaps not tight enough to get all its members to a photoshoot — while the drummer Antonio “Tones” Roman-Alcala with strep throat made it, another Future Twin simply texted, “yo, just didn’t feel like going.” No matter, Future Twin celebrates the release of Situation at the Hemlock this Thu/2 (9 p.m., $6. 1131 Polk, SF. www.hemlocktavern.com).

Description of sound: Psychedelic farmageddon grandma rock.

What do you like most about the Bay Area music scene: The things we liked most was the Clarion Alley block party until the damn breeders built their precious condos next door and started their war on fun. These people need to be taken out and the “scene” will heal itself.

What piece of music means the most to you and why: Rap News Occupy 2012. Why? No reason.

Favorite local eatery and dish: Secret Spot has delicious bagels, fresh squeezed juice, and homegrown greens.

Who would you most like to tour with: Bill Murray (as a zombie) and Kool Keith (as himself).