Volume 46 Number 19

February 8-14, 2012

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Meet the new supervisor


Christina Olague, the newest member of the Board of Supervisors, faces a difficult balancing act. She was appointed by Mayor Ed Lee, whom she supported as co-chair of the controversial “Run Ed Run” campaign, to fill the vacancy in District 5, an ultra-progressive district whose voters rejected Lee in favor of John Avalos by a 2-1 margin.

So now Olague faces the challenge of keeping her district happy while staying on good terms with the Mayor’s Office, all while running in her first campaign for elected office against what could be a large field of challengers scrutinizing her every vote and statement.

Olague has strong progressive activist credentials, from working with the Mission Anti-Displacement Coalition to protect low-income renters during the last dot-com boom to her more recent community organizing for the Senior Action Network. She co-chaired the 2003 campaign that established the city’s minimum wage and has been actively involved in such progressive organizations as the Milk Club, Transit Riders Union, and the short-lived San Francisco People’s Organization.

“One of the reasons many of us are so supportive of Christina is she is grounded in the issues of low-income San Franciscans,” said Gabriel Haaland, who works with SEIU Local 1021 and accompanied Olague to a recent interview at the Guardian office.

She also served two terms on the Planning Commission — appointed by Board of Supervisors then-President Matt Gonzalez in 2004 and reappointed by then-President Aaron Peskin in 2008 — where she was known for doing her homework on complicated land use issues and usually landing on the progressive side of divided votes.

“Coming from the Planning Commission, she can do a lot of good,” said Tom Radulovich, executive director of Livable City and a supporter who has worked with Olague for 15 years. “We lost a lot of collective memory on land use issues,” he said, citing the expertise of Chris Daly and Aaron Peskin. “We do need that on the board. There is so much at stake in land use.”

Olague disappointed many progressives by co-chairing Progress for All, which was created by Chinatown power broker Rose Pak to push the deceptive “Run Ed Run” campaign that was widely criticized for its secrecy and other ethical violations. At the time, Olague told us she appreciated how Lee was willing to consider community input and she thought it was important for progressives to support him to maintain that open door policy.

In announcing his appointment of Olague, Lee said, “This is not about counting votes, it’s about what’s best for San Francisco and her district.” Olague also sounded that post-partisan theme, telling the crowd at her swearing-in, “I think this is an incredible time for our city and a time when we are coming together and moving past old political pigeonholes.”

With some big projects coming to the board and the working class being rapidly driven out of the city, progressives are hoping Olague will be a committed ally. There’s some concern, though, about her connections to Progress For All campaign’s secretive political consultant, Enrique Pearce.

Pearce has become a bit of a pariah in progressive circles for his shady campaign tactics on behalf of powerful players. In 2010, his Left Coast Communications got caught running an independent expenditure campaign partly funded by Willie Brown out of Pearce’s office, even though Sup. Jane Kim was both its beneficiary and his client — and that level of coordination is illegal. Last year, Pearce was hired by Pak to create the “Run Ed Run” campaign and write the hagiographic book, The Ed Lee Story, which also seemed to have some connections with Lee’s campaign. The Ethics Commission hasn’t fined Pearce for either incident, and he didn’t return a Guardian call for comment.

Olague told us not to worry. “He’s a friend…and I think it’s an exaggerated concern,” she said, confirming but minimizing his role so far. Yet she hired one of Pearce’s former employees, Jen Low, as one of her board aide. Olague’s other aides are Chris Durazo from South of Market Community Action Network (SOMCAN) and Dominica Henderson, formerly of the SF Housing Authority.

Debra Walker, a progressive activist who served on the Building Inspection Commission and has worked with Olague for decades, said she’s a reliable ally: “She’s from the progressive community and I have no equivocation about that.”

Olague makes no apologies for her alliances, saying that she is both independent and progressive and that she should be judged by her actions as a supervisor. “People will have to decide who I am based on how I vote,” she said, later adding, “I support the mayor and I’m not going to apologize for that.”



Olague was born in Merced in 1961 to a Mexican immigrant father who fixed farming equipment and a stay-at-home mother. She went to high school in Fresno and moved to the Bay Area in 1982. She attended San Francisco State University but had to drop out to help support her family, working at various stock brokerage firms in the Financial District. She later got a degree in liberal studies from California Institute of Integral Studies.

In 1992, Olague’s mother was in serious car accident that left her a quadriplegic, so Olague spent the next seven years caring for her. After her mother died, Olague left the financial services industry and became a community organizer for the Mission Anti-Displacement Coalition, battling the forces of gentrification and then-Mayor Brown and becoming an active player in the ascendant progressive movement.

But Olague never abided progressive orthodoxy. She backed Mark Leno over the more progressive Harry Britt in their 2002 Assembly race and backed Leno again in 2007 when he ran for state Senate against Carole Migden. She also voted for the Home Depot project on Bayshore Boulevard despite a progressive campaign against the project.

Olague worked with then-Sup. Chris Daly to win more community benefits and other concessions from developers of the Trinity Plaza and Rincon Tower projects, but now she is critical of Daly’s confrontational tactics. “Daly’s style isn’t what I agree with anymore,” Olague said, criticizing the deals that were cut on those projects to approve them with larger than required community benefits packages. “I think we romanticized what we got.”

So how does Olague plan to approach big development proposals, and is she willing to practice the brinksmanship that many progressives believe is necessary to win concessions? While she says her approach will be more conciliatory than Daly’s, she says the answer is still yes. “You push back, you make demands, and if you don’t think it’s going to benefit the city holistically, you just fucking say no,” Olague said.

Walker said Olague has proven she can stand up to pressure. “I think she’ll do as well as she did on the Planning Commission. She served as president and there is an enormous amount of pressure that is applied behind the scenes,” Walker said. “She’s already stood up to mayoral pressure on some issues.”

Yet even some of Olague’s strongest supporters say her dual — and perhaps dueling — loyalties to the Mayor’s Office and her progressive district are likely to be tested this year.

“It’ll be challenging for her to navigate,” Radulovich said. “The Mayor’s Office is going to say I want you to do X and Y, and it won’t always be progressive stuff, so it’ll be interesting to see how that plays out.”

But he said Olague’s land use expertise and progressive background will likely count for more than any bitter pills that she’s asked to swallow. “Sometimes, as a policy maker, you have to push the envelope and say we can get more,” he said. “It helps if you’re willing to say no to things and set boundaries.”

When we asked Olague to lay out her philosophy on dealing with land-use issues, she said that her approach will vary: “I have a very gray approach, project by project and neighborhood by neighborhood.”

Only a couple weeks into her new role, Olague said that she’s still getting a lay of the land: “I’m in information gathering mode, meeting with neighborhood groups to try to figure out what their issues are.”

But Olague said she understands that part of her job is making decisions that will disappoint some groups. For example, after Mayor Lee pledged to install bike lanes on Fell and Oak streets to connect the Panhandle to The Wiggle and lessen the danger to bicyclists, he recently stalled the project after motorists opposed the idea.

“I’m a transit-first person, for sure. I don’t even drive,” Olague said of her approach to that issue, which she has now begun to work on. “We’ll try to craft a solution, but then at some point you have to fall on one side or the other.”



One issue on which Olague’s core loyalities are likely to be tested is on the so-called “jobs” issue, which both Lee and Olague call their top priority. “Jobs and economic revitalization are very important,” she told us.

Progressives have begun to push back on Lee for valuing private sector job creation over all other priorities, such as workers’ rights, environmental safeguards, and public services. That came to a head on Jan. 26 at the Rules Committee hearing on Lee’s proposed charter amendment to delay legislation that might cost private sector jobs and require extra hearings before the Small Business Commission. Progressives and labor leaders slammed the proposal as unfair, divisive, unnecessary, and reminiscent of right-wing political tactics.

But when we interviewed Olague the next day, she was reluctant to criticize the measure on the record, even though it seemed so dead-on-arrival at the Board of Supervisors that Mayor Lee voluntarily withdrew it the next week.

Olague told us job creation is important, but she said it can’t squeeze out other priorities, such as protecting affordable rental housing.

“We always have to look at how the community will benefit from things. So if we want to incentivize for businesses, how do we also make it work for neighborhoods and for people so that we don’t end up with where we were in the Mission District in the ’90s?” she said.

Olague also said that she didn’t share Lee’s focus on jobs in the technology sector. “There’s a lot of talk of technology, and that’s fine and I’m not against that, and we can see how it works in the city. But at the same time, I’m concerned about folks who aren’t interested necessarily in working in technology. We need other types of jobs, so I think we shouldn’t let go of the small scale manufacturing idea.”



SUPER EGO The last time I tried to make out with a cute boy who wasn’t my husband, he actually said, “OK, I’m going to stand over there now. But you’re a great dancer.” Smooth save, Cornelius J. McRejector. I mean, if I had any pride left to be wounded do you think I’d be standing here wearing pink Baby Phat bedazzled cutoff jeans, a sequined visor that reads “Party Bottom,” possum-brown Keds, and some totally offensive, insensitively appropriated Native American item, possibly a dreamcatcher nose ring? I don’t need you! I’m busy re-embracing irony.

Anyway, that whole tackiness is over, and the point is this: dancing. If it seems there are more wild Valentine’s themed parties than ever this year (check out our roundup in this issue), there are also, well, more parties in general, including choice ones such as below. Just like Lana del Ray’s top lip, there’s always enough nightlife to go around. So don’t let some piddly fear of rejection lock you in the closet with zombie Mitt Romney. Be the great dancer you are.



Wide-ranging party players Marco de la Vega, Gary Riviera, and Brian Furstman have launched the new Future Perfect weekly at Monarch with the intent to obliterate whatever few genre boundaries remain in dance music — no central feel, “just good, forward thinking, contemporary” music, de la Vega told me. That’s a tough trick: without a definable flavor for a crowd to hold onto, you need to sustain a wholly unique energy (drink specials help!) or rely on big guest names to draw people back. Future Perfect seems to be succeeding at both strategies. The party’s already hosted Cold Cave, Jokers of the Scene, and Nguzunguzu; the latest big name is beguilingly dark live duo Light Asylum, anchored by singer Shannon Funchess’ throaty vocals. Considering Light Asylum’s justifiable reputation as one of the most riveting live acts around, this party’s energy will keep building.

Thu/9, 9 p.m., $10–$15. Monarch, 101 Sixth St., SF. www.monarchsf.com



SF’s cosmic jam legends Jeno and Garth brought down club Mighty’s roof when they played at their original party Wicked’s 20th anniversary last year. Now they’re celebrating the lucky seventh of the party that sees them both on decks at the same time, finishing each others’ musical sentences. Poetry for your feet, child, and not to be missed for anyone interested in DJ sets that color outside the lines. (I’m so excited, I’m mixing my metaphors.)

Fri/10, 8 p.m.-4 a.m., free before 11 p.m., $7 after. Mighty, 119 Utah, SF. www.mighty119.com



Rad dance sounds from India seemed in danger of fading from the SF club scene recently. The lively Bollyhood Cafe in the Mission closed. (The space was taken over by expanding Senegalese restaurant-nightclub Bissap Baobab, so all is not lost worldwise). Forward-thinking global bass collective Surya Dub had faded from local DJ decks, although member Kush Arora continued to release ass-kicking riddim tracks at a furious pace. And when I heard long-running monthly dance extravaganza Non Stop Bhangra was looking for a new home I totally got a Punjab sad. Luckily, Non Stop has now landed on second Saturdays at Public Works — last month’s launch included the return of the Surya Dub crew, even. Whirl away with the expert Dholrhythms dance crew to DJ Jimmy Love’s bhangra bangers and a truly diverse Bay Area crowd, now going afterhours. This month, DJ Rekha of NYCs raucous Basement Bhangra guests. (Check out my interview with her — full of some amazing tunes — here.)

Sat/11 and second Saturdays, 9 p.m.-3 a.m., $10 advance, $15. Public Works, 161 Erie, SF. www.nonstopbhangra.com


A part of our nightlife so huge, its decade celebration had to be split in two. Opel usually blows up the underground with tech house and drum and bass glory — founding member Syd Gris is responsible for the massive Lovevolution festival. But this above-board extravaganza at Mezzanine boasts Opel stalwart DJs Meat Katie, Dylan Rhymes, Syd, and Melyss downstairs, and a “looking back” room upstairs with longtime spinners Kramer, Ethan Miller, Dutch, and Spesh.

Sat/11, 9 p.m.-4 a.m., $20 advance. Mezzanine, 444 Jessie, SF. www.mezzaninesf.com



Some tasty undergroundish events have been popping up at 46 Minna lately — raising a few eyebrows, since 46 Minna is otherwise known to the mainstream bottle-service crowd as Harlot. A recent chat with one of my favorite DJs, Adnan Sharif of the Forward SF house collective, cleared up the mystery: the Harlot peeps want to draw a more adventurous crowd to their lovely space on non-weekend days. Rebranding’s fine with me, especially if it brings a four-hour set by Droog, the LA trio of expert house deconstructionists who fill their funky mindtrips with all kinds of electronic Easter eggs. This is the launch of Forward SF’s weekly Forward Sundays Sessions (with a fresh fruit buffet!). Adnan himself is opening up.

Sun/12, $10–$20, 6 p.m.-midnight. 46 Minna, SF. www.forwardsf.com

New year


MUSIC Waiting for his coffee at Cafe Divis, Ezra Furman (who performs Sat/11 at Hotel Utah) flips through the latest issue of the Guardian. “I’ve been meaning to do more drugs,” he says, pointing to the cannabis column, Herbwise. The wheels in Furman’s head seem to always be in motion; there’s a constant mischievous look in his eyes. We’ve met here to discuss the most recent product of his overactive imagination — his solo debut, The Year of No Returning, released on Tuesday through Furman’s own Kinetic Family Records.

Making records is by no means unfamiliar territory for this San Francisco-via-Chicago transplant. After Furman’s band Ezra Furman & the Harpoons formed in the dorms of Tufts University in 2006, they released three studio albums and completed several tours throughout the United States and Europe. As the title suggests, however, The Year of No Returning is in many ways a departure for the 25-year-old musician.

Abandoning the comfort of recording live with the band in lieu of endless “tinkering” at Studio Ballistico — which is in a Chicago attic above his old apartment — Furman lovingly assembled these songs piece by piece. “It’s more like a Russian doll,” he explains, “cause you can find the first piece that was there.” Though a guitar remains his primary songwriting instrument, for his solo effort Furman often swapped the Harpoons’ standard rock’n’roll set up for instruments like an upright bass, cello, violin, clarinet, and saxophone.

“Bad Man” features a brooding Furman backed by piano reminiscent of early Tom Waits, and the rollicking chorus on “Sinking Slow” is Beatles-esque. These nods to great songwriters of decades gone by are no coincidence. Some of his first memories are “running around” to the Beatles, and howling along to Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London.” Now all grown up, Furman can be heard howling and snarling on the retro power pop track “That’s When It Hit Me.”

Furman began emulating his heroes long before he picked up a guitar. “When I was 10 or 11 I used to just, like, make whole albums,” he says. “I would make [them] up in my head and write on a Microsoft Word document. I knew how they all went and I would go through the lyrics when I was alone with the door closed, and just kind of sing them to myself. They’re all Beatles and Billy Joel rip-offs.”

Although it’s not uncommon to catch glimpses of Bob Dylan or the Violent Femmes’ Gordon Gano in Furman’s songs, he has different tools at his disposal than his predecessors. “I don’t need the Internet / I don’t need TV,” he declares on the sunny album closer “Queen of Hearts,” but in 2009 Furman took full advantage of modern day accessibility for a special project. Each copy of the bootleg Harpoons album Moon Face came with a personalized track for its recipient. “I was just writing so many songs at the time that I didn’t know what to write them about anymore,” he says. “So I asked people what they wanted songs about. And they had some good ideas.”

For Furman, The Year of No Returning isn’t just a title, it’s a way of life. “I’ve been doing a lot of things just ’cause [they] seem risky,” he tells me. “And that just becomes enough reason to do it.” These risks include leaving Chicago behind to make a new home in San Francisco, and taking a solo tour of Europe last November. “[I] was like, I can fucking do this,” he says. “I can just be a force of nature on my own.”

“It gives a feeling, that phrase Year of No Returning, of changing your life,” Furman says. “You know, having a year when you do everything differently. I guess I’ve had a year like that.”

The Year of No Returning is available at www.ezrafurman.com


With Clouds & Mountains, and Debbie Neigher

Sat/11, 9 p.m., $10

Hotel Utah

500 4th St., SF.

(415) 546-6300


Right about now


THEATER It’s a rare thing, really too rare, to find an audience eagerly erupting into political discussions between acts of a play. But that’s what Little Brother inspires, and in an unaffected way, without pretension or unwelcome goading. It’s too cool, confident, and contemporary for that. After all, the night I saw the play — adapted by director Josh Costello from the 2008 teen novel by Canadian sci-fi author and activist (and co-editor of Boing Boing) Cory Doctorow — was just one night after Occupy Oakland tried to convert a vacant building into a much-needed community center for the needier of the 99 percent. That didn’t go too well. The street clashes with shock-trooping Oakland police forces led to something like 400 arrests before the night was over.

That latest incident, in an ongoing resistance to systemic and overweening injustice, resonated effortlessly with the proceedings onstage at Custom Made Theatre. There, on an intimate thrust stage, three sharp young actors (Daniel Petzold, Marissa Keltie, and Cory Censoprano) smoothly embodied a fleet series of characters in a story pitting a group of Mission District high school teens against the Department of Homeland Security. The battle takes place in the aftermath of a terrorist attack that levels the Bay Bridge and unleashes an all-out totalitarian crackdown by the federal government. It’s a dramatic, humorous, irreverent, and urgent story all at once. While far from a perfect play (dramatic consistency and verisimilitude are stretched a bit thin by the end), Little Brother is probably the most exciting thing on stage just now, alive like few other productions in its response to the present moment.

Behind the dynamic trio onstage stands a patchwork wall-projection screen (courtesy of set designer Sarah Phykitt, video designer Pauline Luppert, and video engineer Darl Andrew Packard) papered over with pages seemingly torn from radical histories and revolutionary tracts (it was easy enough to make out Emma Goldman’s visage among the repeated black-and-white pages), and periodically set aglow with live video feed, scene-setting photo montage, text messages, and hacker scrawl across computer and videogame screens.

While DHS is synonymous with Big Brother throughout, and for good reason — the agency is at the forefront of a total invasion of American private life and the Gitmo’ing of American teens — it can also be understood at times as a synonym for the state at large, from high school vice principals on up. As main character Marcus Yallow (a bright, engaging Petzold) explains in an early address to the audience, he’s a senior at a San Francisco public high school. Even before the Bay Bridge attack, “that makes me one of the most surveilled people in the world.”

Before being transformed into an all-out revolutionary by his violent, extra-constitutional encounter with DHS, Marcus and buddy Darryl (a sharp and versatile Censoprano) are fun-loving rebel hackers and gamers often on the receiving end of unwanted attention by the usual authorities. In an early scene, an inept school administrator interrogates Marcus, believing him, correctly, to be the hacker menace “w1n5t0n” (though, hilariously, pronouncing the handle literally instead of the intended “Winston”). Marcus outwits him, and the administrator loses his grip on the free-roaming online hooligan who, among other things, has handily derailed the “snitch tags” the school plants in library books to track the students.

At this point, Little Brother bears a striking similarity to The North Pool, Rajiv Joseph’s psychological two-hander set in a vice principal’s office after school, which had its premiere last year at Palo Alto’s TheatreWorks. But Joseph’s battle, while resonating with a larger political and historical context, ultimately remains more personal than political. Little Brother moves via the next terrorist attack into the realm of all-out political crisis, as short a distance from here as that may seem, and in this way resists reducing its themes to merely personal terms, highlights a tension with the personal throughout — even as it cleaves to a familiar coming-of-age narrative involving Marcus and girlfriend-coconspirator Ange (played compellingly by Keltie).

Costello shrewdly emphasizes this tension in his staging, which begins with the three principal characters recreating the story for a video cam so that it can be posted online. As Marcus begins a first-person account, his cohorts interrupt him almost immediately. “Dude, you can’t make it all about you,” says Darryl, with good-humored conviction. “It’s too big.”



Through Feb. 25

Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m., $25-$32

Gough Street Playhouse

1620 Gough, SF


Local control of cops



Sup. Jane Kim has introduced legislation to the Board of Supervisors calling for a re-examination of the San Francisco Police Department’s participation in some aspects of the Joint Terrorism Task Force, which was created by the Federal Bureau of Investigations to do domestic surveillance.

The proposed ordinance would prohibit the SFPD from working with the JTTF to collect intelligence on individuals in the absence of criminal wrongdoing, which has been a concern of civil libertarians since last year when a secret memo revealed that local officers were under FBI command and not bound by local and state restrictions on such surveillance (see “Spies in blue,” 4/26/11).

Kim said the ordinance was necessary to ensure the “requirement of reasonable suspicion before we do any type of investigation of criminal activity. And we don’t base it on ethnic identification or religious practice as some of the members of the community have been experiencing the last couple of years.

“Our office is sponsoring this because many members of the Arab, Asian and the Muslim community worship in the district and own many small businesses,” she said.

Critics of the relationship between local and federal law enforcement agencies, facilitated through participation in the JTTF, have long raised concerns about racial profiling and unnecessary spying ordered at the federal level, and carried out by SFPD inspectors assigned full time to the task force.

Federal regulations governing FBI intelligence gathering are weaker than standards set by San Francisco and California’s Constitution. In 1990, the San Francisco Police Commission established rules requiring that intelligence-gathering involving any First Amendment activity be based on reasonable suspicion of significant criminal activity. Those rules reflect the California Constitutional requirement of an “articulable criminal predicate” before law enforcement agencies engage in intelligence-gathering activity.

However, because the SFPD inspectors assigned to the JTTF work under the direction of the FBI, the local regulation and control of law enforcement is effectively limited in JTTF investigations.

“It’s important that a clear prohibition against policing based on race, ethnicity, national origin, or religion applies to all of our officers, all of the time,” said John Crew, police practices expert for the Northern California chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU is one of more than 30 civil rights and community organizations participating in the Coalition for Safe SF, which helped develop the proposed ordinance.

According to the coalition, current rules prevent the SFPD from barring its inspectors assigned to the JTTF from joining FBI agents in collecting intelligence on San Franciscans without any “particular factual predication.”

“The purpose of this legislation is to restore local control, civilian oversight, and transparency over the SFPD’s participation in FBI intelligence-gathering,” stated attorney Nasrina Bargzie of the Asian Law Caucus, which is part of the coalition.

The coalition was a major participant in the San Francisco Human Rights Commission hearing in 2010 on the issue of baseless spying and racial profiling in JTTF investigations. The result was a comprehensive report, endorsed by the Board of Supervisors last spring.

But in 2011, the ACLU and Asian Law Caucus learned that key protections for civil liberties — including civilian oversight of intelligence activity and safeguards to limit intrusive tactics — were thrown out the window and replaced by a secret Memorandum of Understanding with federal law enforcement in 2007.

Under the MOU, SFPD paid officers work out of the local FBI office. The secure nature of their work means they must seek federal permission to even talk to their superiors in the SFPD about their work, effectively removing them from the local chain of command. Despite mandated requirements on local law enforcement, the MOU does not allow for any civilian oversight of the work of officers assigned to the JTTF.

San Francisco Chief of Police Greg Suhr said he believes that the concerns have already been addressed. In his first days in office, Chief Suhr issued a binding Bureau Order #2011-07 setting forth the requirement that officers comply with local standards.

An excerpt of the order reads, “SFPD officers shall work with the JTTF only on investigations of suspected terrorism that have a criminal nexus. In situations where the statutory law of California is more restrictive of law enforcement than comparable federal law, the investigative methods employed by SFPD officers working on JTTF investigations shall conform to the requirements of such California statutes.”

“With this Bureau Order, the language of the 2007 Memorandum of Understanding no longer applies and SFPD personnel are bound by the provisions of the 2011 Order,” SFPD Public Information Officer Albie Esparza told the Guardian.

But Crew said that as long as the MOU between the SFPD and federal law enforcement remains in place, Suhr’s order at best creates contradictory policy. “The Memorandum of Understanding is a binding legal contact with the federal government. Which do you think will take legal precedence when it comes up against a local police chief’s departmental order?” said Crew, who urged the department to clarify the matter by withdrawing from the MOU, a step the SFPD has thus far been unwilling to take.

A letter from Sept. 28 of last year to Coalition for Safe SF from FBI Special Agent Stephanie Douglas regarding the contradiction clarifies the matter. “I do retain the right to assign FBI JTTF cases,” states Douglas, who goes on to assert it is she who makes the confidential judgment of which cases fall afoul of the state and city rules and which do not.

After years of intelligence-gathering authorized under a secret memorandum, public mistrust in the SFPD’s relationship to federal law enforcement persists. Kim says she believes the proposed ordinance will still help make San Francisco safer. “It increases the trust of the community members that are working with public safety in reporting, and in cooperating around many of the actual criminal activities that might be going on in the city,” she said.

The proposed legislative approach of regulating the scope of local participation in federal JTTF work is not unprecedented. The city has the option of terminating the MOU with 30 days notice, a step that the city of Portland, Oregon has taken to prevent its police force from spying on citizens in violation of local and state law.

In December, the city of Berkeley suspended its agreement with the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center (an arm of the Joint Terrorism Task Force) as part of a broad review of that city’s relationship to other local and federal law enforcement agencies (see “Policing the police,” 12/13/11).

“What this is about is maintaining local control of law enforcement and ensuring the civil liberties of the people of San Francisco,” Crew said. “Don’t San Franciscans deserve the same protection of their civil liberties as the people of Portland?”

Kim was joined by Sups. David Compos and John Avalos in sponsoring the ordinance. Supervisors are expected to vote on the whether to adopt the ordinance this spring after the measure is heard by the city’s Public Safety Committee following the normal 30-day hold. The measure seems to have the support it needs to pass the Board of Supervisors, but it remains unclear whether Mayor Ed Lee, who did not answer our inquiries, will sign it.

The sex worker struggle



Google has come under fire in the past year for everything from privacy policies to censorship. But in December, some Bay Area residents were protesting the tech giant for a very different reason. The group that marched in front of the company’s San Francisco office was angry over the company’s donation to organizations fighting human trafficking.

The flyers declared, “Google: Please fund non-judgmental services for sex workers, NOT the morality crusaders that dehumanize us!”

Google had donated a whopping $11.5 million to organizations that “fight slavery” last December, including the anti-sex trafficking groups International Justice Mission, Polaris Project, and Not For Sale.

But the activists said that these are religious organizations that ignored the rights of consensual sex workers.

According to a press release from Sex Worker Activists, Allies, and You (SWAAY), “As frontline sex-worker support services struggle for funding to serve their communities, it is offensive to watch Google shower money upon a wealthy faith-based group like the International Justice Mission, which took in nearly $22 million in 2009 alone.”

“I appreciate what they’re trying to do, but I wish that they had done more research,” Kitty Stryker, a local performer, sex worker and activist, of Google’s choice to fund the organizations.

In a society where the term “sex worker” — coined to describe those who consensually engage in commercial sex and consider it legitimate labor — is still new to most people, this sex workers rights struggle can be an uphill battle. But it rages on, and San Francisco remains one of its most important front lines.



The heart of the struggle is, and or years has been, fighting the prohibition of prostitution, and the ultimate goal of the sex workers movement is the repeal of the laws that criminalize sex for hire. Decriminalization would be a vital safety measure for escorts, people working on the street, phone-sex operators, exotic dancers, porn actors, and other occupations that fall under the umbrella category of sex work.

Sex workers held worldwide conferences in the 1980s, meeting in Amsterdam and Brussels. Sex work was legalized and decriminalized in several countries around the world, including New Zealand, the Netherlands and Germany. The Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP) became one of the most important organizations fighting for the cause, with chapters around the world.

Here in San Francisco, the city remains a hub for sex-workers rights advocates, who raise awareness about issues ranging from STD prevention to consent in BDSM contexts. The Saint James Infirmary supports and treats sex workers when they need medical assistance, and the Center for Sex and Culture is a resource and community center that embraces all San Franciscan’s with their minds in the gutter, sex industry workers included.

San Francisco’s sex workers rights history includes two unions. Workers at the North Beach strip club the Lusty Lady formed the Exotic Dancers Union in 1997. The union became part of the Service Employees International Union, and the Lusty Lady remains the only collectively run, sex-worker-owned strip club in the United States.

Maxine Doogan founded the Erotic Service Providers Union (ESPU) in 2004 as an umbrella organization for sex workers in various industries. The ESPU has been active in opposing regulations of the massage industry and sponsoring Proposition K, a 2008 ballot measure that would have decriminalized sex work in San Francisco.

I spoke to a handful of Bay Area sex-workers rights activists to get a sense of the major issues and priorities for the next year.


Activists are currently planning for the July, 2012 International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C.

Many international sex workers rights advocates have been denied visas to get to the conference. The U.S. typically bars convicted felons — but there’s a special exception for people guilty of misdemeanor prostitution charges.

“SWOP has an idea of getting in touch with some of the people denied entrance and asking them what they were going to present on and to try and present their papers in their place, to make sure these organizers voices are heard,” said SWOP-Bay Area spokesperson Shannon Williams.

But that’s not where the government’s weird exclusion of sex workers from its efforts to fight AIDS ends.

The Presidents Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) fund allocates $48 billion to organizations around the world engaged in AIDS treatment and prevention. But thanks to the religious right, the law, approved in 2003, includes a stipulation that all recipient groups must make a pledge decrying prostitution. It’s known as the “anti-prostitution loyalty oath.”

A court ruling July 6, 2011 declared the oath a violation of the free-speech rights of organizations in the United States, but the U.S. still blocks PEPFAR funding for international organizations based on the “loyalty oath.”

“Sex worker activists are going to converge in D.C. for the AIDS conference and talk about the loyalty oath. The US is exporting its ideology through this funding requirement” said Carol Leigh, a longtime activist who curates the annual San Francisco Sex Worker Film and Art Festival.



Sex workers rights activists continue to be engaged in their complex, decades-long struggle with anti-sex trafficking organizations.

People who want safer working conditions say that decriminalization would make it easier for police to distinguish between coerced and consensual prostitution and encourage those with knowledge of crimes perpetuated against sex workers to come forward without risking prosecution for their own illegal work.

But many anti-trafficking advocates dismiss the distinction between forced and consensual prostitution in their efforts. According to a document called “Ten reasons for not legalizing prostitution,” on the website of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, “There is no doubt that a small number of women say they choose to be in prostitution, especially in public contexts orchestrated by the sex industry… In this situation, it is harm to the person, not the consent of the person that is the governing standard (emphasis theirs).”

It’s this refusal to acknowledge the importance of consent that really pisses off advocates —and has a powerful effect on the policy that governs them.

The federal definition of sex trafficking includes consensual prostitution, and defines coerced prostitution as “severe sex trafficking.” “Law enforcement agencies can use anti-trafficking funds to arrest sex workers in prostitution, on the grounds that the feds define all prostitution as trafficking, even though the government distinguishes between trafficking and severe trafficking,” said one sex workers rights activist.

According to Leigh, anti-trafficking organizations are not all bad; she named the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women as an organization that “has been allied with sex workers rights movement and takes rights-based approach.”

But organizations that conflate consensual and coerced commercial sex are often big-time recipients of public and private funding.

Doogan is wary of any attempt to further regulate or criminalize sex work. She says that often, laws meant to deter prostitution trap people who may want to change occupations.  “Women have to continue working in the industry because no one else will take them for work when they have those convictions on their record,” said Doogan.

That may be the case with Lola, an occasional Erotic Service Providers Union volunteer who was arrested on prostitution-related charges outside California earlier this year. She moved to the Bay Area and is looking for a job, but after a promising interview last week, she’s nervous that a background check will reveal her arrest.

“I’m waiting to hear whether that’s going to be an issue or not. They could tell my landlord, and then I could lose my house too…all I’m trying to do is get a job,” Lola told the Guardian.



For most sex-workers rights activists, the long-term goal remains decriminalization. For now education, creative projects, and protest in service of that goal continue.

Members of SWOP-Bay Area have a program called Whorespeak that does outreach at colleges, and “we’ve also been speaking in classes for therapists about how to work with current and former sex workers and not pathologize them,” said Williams.

According to Stryker, one of the most exciting projects happening now is Karma Pervs. The website, run by local queer porn star Jiz Lee, sells unique sex-positive porn and donates the proceeds to organizations like the Saint James Infirmary.

Then, of course, there’s the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, when sex workers and allies gather to commemorate sex workers who have been assaulted and killed.

Sex workers often can’t go to police to report crimes for fear of being locked up themselves, society retains a huge stigma surrounding sex work, and there is an insidious cultural myth that “you can’t rape a prostitute.” These all add up to put sex workers at high risk for assault and murder; serial killers, such as the Green River Killer in Seattle and a murdered in Long Island-area this past summer, are disproportionately likely to target prostitutes.

That’s why, for Williams, “Our long-term goal is to decriminalize prostitution. But the real goal is to end violence against sex workers.”

The cat and the hedgehog



CHEAP EATS You know who I love? Hedgehog. One year ago today we had our first date, and now we are domestical partners. She calls me root beer eyes. I know it’s a compliment because her favorite drink is Abita root beer with bourbon in it, and sometimes she looks at me like that.

One year ago today, I was a tagalong nanny for a Tulane-S.F. State couple, and Hedgehog was supervising sound editor for an HBO show set in New Orleans. This year, she is also a writer for that show, and I am a tagalong housewife. Count em: two dreams come true!

For our anniversary, she’s on set all day, and I’m writing this then going to play flag football. Maybe we will see each other in bed.

What a difference a year makes! One year ago today, for example, it was Monday. I had the day off. She did too. For our first date we were going to go to the cemetery, but then we found out it was closed. In New Orleans, the dead do not receive visitors on Mondays. They have been partying too hard all weekend. They have hangovers, and couldn’t get out of bed, let alone a grave.

So we went to the French Canadian Quarter instead, ate lunch, walked along the river, looked at the water, drank at a gay bar, walked some more, and did not kiss.


Now, the big loser in all of this, of course, is Stoplight. The cat. Not only because I’ve been home a lot less, but — even sadlier than that — my domestical partner is allergic to my domesticated partner. So before we left for the Big Greasy this time, I had to have a little talk with my furry friend.

Well, but first I had to have a little talk with some cheese farmers from Petaluma. Which brings us (very very naturally) to the downtown Berkeley farmer’s market one Saturday.

As it happened — and we’ll never know why — Hedgehog was stricken on that particular day with a very bad stomachache, so all she could do while I sought out and talked with my cheese farmers was sit on a bench and watch some hippies play their guitars. Maybe she was moaning and groaning, too. I know I would have been, if I had to sit on a bench and watch hippies play their guitars.

In fact, I was sure she was going to puke. (The kids had it. It was going around.)

Now: my cheese farmers, on whose cheese farm Stoplight was born, had told me way back when that if things didn’t work out for him in the big city, they would take him back. This, they unflinchingly, un-guilt-trippingly agreed to do. So I bought some cheese.

The drop would be made the following Saturday. Meanwhile, I was surprised to learn upon fetching my li’l sicky, Hedgehog was hungry. So here’s to the curative powers of hippies! I take back everything I said about them.

The Berkeley farmer’s market has a lot of greasy looking and happy smelling food stands, but Hedgehog understandably wanted something healthy. Which to her means pho. Pho ga. (That’s chicken.)

We have a running argument about pho. Beef is best, I say. Whatever, says she. For sure, downtown Berkeley is not the best place to be when dying for Vietnamese food in a hurry.

But we saw Saigon Express there on the corner of Addison and Shattuck, went in, sat right next to the bathrooms (just in case), and ordered our pho.

And of course Hedgehog was yelping the place while we waited for it. Two people mentioned food poisoning.

Food poisoning doesn’t scare me. Stomach bugs do. But according to Hedgehog, it’s impossible to tell the difference. “Food poisoning takes three days to hit you, usually,” she said.


“Could be,” she said. Then she started Googling that. But the pho came and was surprisingly fantastically delicious. At least mine was. The beef broth, heavy on the star anise, was really very wonderful. And the rare beef was still pink.

The noodles had a good texture. A little bit of pull to them, not mushy. Basil, cilantro, jalapenos, sprouts. And nobody threw up. Not even Hedgehog. New favorite restaurant:


Mon.-Sat. 10:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m.

2045 Shattuck Ave., Berk.

(510) 486-1778


Beer & wine

Twisted misters



FILM This year’s San Francisco Independent Film Festival kicks off with a film that knows exactly what time it is: 4:44 Last Day on Earth.

Abel Ferrara’s latest imagines what the end of the world might be like for a volatile Lower East Side couple — he’s an ex-junkie (Ferrara favorite Willem Dafoe), she’s a young painter (Shanyn Leigh, Ferrara’s real-life companion). The film’s title refers to the predicted instant that an environmental catastrophe will completely dissolve the ozone layer, but 4:44 is mostly set indoors, specifically within the headspace of Dafoe’s character. It’s a gritty film that veers between self-indulgence and stuff that honestly seems pretty practical (sure, there’s a lot of Skyping, but if the world were ending, wouldn’t you?); as far as inward-looking disaster movies go, anyone planning an apocalypse film festival could double-bill 4:44 nicely with 2011’s Melancholia.

IndieFest is not an apocalypse film festival, per se. You could choose to have a jolly old time; there’s a power ballad sing-along, and even a flick called I Like You. But the selections for sick puppies are truly, truly outstanding this year. Personally, I recommend going as dark as you can possibly stand.

Start your journey with Michael R. Roskam’s Bullhead, a Belgian import that just scored a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar nomination. The five-second description of this film, which is about a cattle farmer who injects both his livestock and his own body with illegal hormones, doesn’t do it justice. Who knew there was such a thing, for instance, as a “hormone mafia underworld”? While some of Bullhead‘s nuances, which occasionally pivot on culture-clash moments specific to its Belgium setting, will inevitably be lost on American viewers, the most important parts of the movie come through loud and clear, and you won’t soon forget them.


Also memorable is Snowtown, another standout Australian crime film on the heels of Animal Kingdom (2010). While Snowtown — whose vérité shooting style recalls Andrea Arnold’s films about desperate living amid Britain’s council estates — isn’t quite as exportable as Animal Kingdom, it is just as uncomfortably tense, and features a teenage protagonist struggling to survive amid close-to-home evil. It’s based on the real-life case of Australia’s worst serial killer, and follows the gruesome facts quite closely. The film has a lot of characters that come and go without much explanation or introduction, which starts to seem deliberate after awhile. Fortunately, the core cast is magnetic. Remember 2005’s Wolf Creek? Snowtown is just as intense.

Still have a lust for blood? Of course you do. British director Ben Wheatley made a splash with 2009 gangster drama Down Terrace; he’s back with much buzz surrounding Kill List, with a review in the IndieFest catalog citing it as “the number one horror film of the year.” I’d hate to hand out that accolade so early in 2012, but this hired-killer-down-the-rabbit-hole tale is indeed worth considering.

Of course, there’s more to horror than guts and torture; if you need a reminder as to why, check out the festival’s pair of home-is-where-the-creepy-is films from Austria, Beside My Brother and Still Life. Beside My Brother‘s set-up — an emotionally disturbed father pretends his twin sons are the same person, and forces them to live as such, a practice they maintain into adulthood — is more promising than its payoff. Remember how in Dead Ringers (1988), the doppelganger bros were gynecologists? Here, they’re painters, and pretty bland ones at that. Far more harrowing is Still Life, about the irrevocable damage wrought by a father’s single, horrible revelation. First-time feature director Sebastian Meise manages to distill the complete crumbling of a seemingly normal-ish family into a slender, wrenching 77 minutes.

Speaking of harrowing, there’s nothing scarier in all of IndieFest than the early scenes of documentary Last Days Here, made by Don Argott and Demian Fenton (directors of 2009’s excellent The Art of the Steal). The film alights upon Bobby Liebling, dubbed the “godfather of doom” for his forty-plus year stint fronting legendary band Pentagram, as a fiftysomething crack addict living in his parents’ basement. Last Days Here is both heartfelt and gloves-off; it’s also blessed with having one of the most unbelievable comeback stories at its core (not a spoiler if you keep abreast of Bay Area concerts; Pentagram’s played here several times in recent years). It, like many of the films discussed here, has a distributor and will be coming around after IndieFest, but I implore you not to sleep on this one — even if you don’t love heavy metal, but especially if you do.

Less successful but no less intriguing is Atlanta oddity Snow On Tha Bluff, which is somewhere between an old-school ethnographic film — like, Robert Flaherty old — and self-aware product of the YouTube generation. The opening and closing scenes are obviously staged, as a drug dealer named Curtis Snow steals a video camera and decides he’ll make an autobiographical movie from the footage he collects. What’s between those bookends is what appears to be an authentic record of life in Snow’s crime-infested neighborhood, complete with drive-by shootings, home invasions, run-ins with the police, copious drug use, etc. Why any of the involved would allow their faces to be shown on camera while, say, firing a non-street legal weapon into a rival’s home is the film’s biggest mystery; its biggest accomplishment is obscuring the obvious lines of demarcation between what’s real and what’s not.

To end your IndieFest experience on a slightly uplifted note, you will have to die — or at least be cool with hanging out with the ghosts in Finisterrae, the first feature from Catalan artist Sergio Caballaro.

Expressing themselves via droll, post-production “dialogue” (in Russian, subtitled in English), the newly-deceased, sheet-wearing duo decides they would like to live again. A-journeying they go, following the wind and encountering an array of strange characters, including enough taxidermied animals to make Chuck Testa‘s head spin. Finisterrae starts slow but builds to glorious, gorgeously filmed and supremely weird heights. Hippies beware.


Feb. 9-23, most films $11

Roxie Theater

3117 16th St., SF



Eternal return



FILM Gregory Markopoulos was born in Toledo, Ohio, but his Greek heritage lights the way in critical appraisals of his refined and elusive body of work. Many of the films featured in the Pacific Film Archive’s “Seconds of Eternity” series are imagined on the stage of Greek myth. After leaving New York in 1967 with his partner Robert Beavers, an outstanding filmmaker in his own right, Markopoulos drew still closer to his ancestral home. He died in 1992, but Beavers, who will be on hand at the PFA to shepherd the films, has preserved the work for the Temenos, a unique archive and biennial outdoor screening cycle located near Lyssaraia, Markopoulos’s father’s home. This June brings another such event.

Markopoulos’s films have themselves long achieved mythic stature. He was a colossal figure during the heroic phase of the American avant-garde and then left it behind. Dissatisfied with exhibition standards, he withdrew his prints from circulation (the Temenos screenings represents the idealistic rejoinder). Remarkably, he requested that critic P. Adams Sitney excise a full chapter on his works from Visionary Film, generally considered the central critical survey of the American avant-garde. So Markopoulos went to almost unthinkable lengths to maintain the primacy of his early films (he continued making new ones, as well). Any opportunity to watch these ravishing films close to home is unusual.

Markopoulos once remarked that “locations and beautiful faces have been the backbone of my work,” and one sees that to an archetypal degree in Psyche (1947), the first film of his Du Sang, de la volupté et de la mort trilogy, made when he was still a teenage student at USC living across the hall from Curtis Harrington. Inspired by a Pierre Louÿs novella, the film replaces spoken language with dynamic color and framing. We begin with a man and woman crossing each other on a leafy Angeleno street: a few steps further and they turn back to consider what they’ve just passed. All that follows might be transpire within this instant: a languid fantasia hatched within a fugitive moment of lost time. Markopoulos frames the couple in deep focus two-shots, grazing shoulders and lips and tumbling toward dreams.

An evident poverty of means only concentrates the film’s withdrawal into a private world of frustrated beauty (across town Kenneth Anger was fashioning his more explicitly Dionysian Fireworks). The dive into inexpressible desire reaches a peak when Ralph Vaughn Williams’ “Serenade” suddenly drops out and the image snaps to a silent interlude of natural splendor bordering on abstraction — sea grass gorgeously superimposed upon the sea. This image gives magnificent form to the phrase “out of the blue” and overflows the frame in such a way as to shake loose the film’s more studied visual effects.

Markopoulos would later articulate in written form (“Towards a New Narrative Form in Motion Pictures”) what he set out to accomplish beginning with Psyche: “The film maker gradually convinces the spectator not only to see and to hear, but to participate in what is being created on the screen, on both the narrative and introspective levels. The magnificent landscapes of emotions, with colors brighter than the film viewer has ever been concerned with, begin to exist. The transient impact of meetings, handshakes, kisses, and the hours apart from these contacts becomes revealed in all its astounding simplicity.”


That “astounding simplicity” is readily apparent in A Christmas Carol (1940), a compressed bildungsroman evoking a richly embroidered fabric of memory with only a few spare images (mother setting the table, father looking up over his newspaper, figures dancing on a nearby rooftop). Twice a Man (1963) reveals the full extent of Markopoulos’ dream of a new narrative language. A psychologically fraught interpolation of the myth of Hippolytus and Phaedra (son seduced by mother and liberated from suicidal thoughts by a healer-artist), the film surfaces an internal state of emergency in a persistently emergent form.

Most remarkable is the densely interleaved editing by which Markopoulos folds multiple registers of time, color, and theme. Though often likened to other seminal works of the American avant-garde (especially Stan Brakhage’s Dog Star Man, 1961-64), Twice a Man‘s fractal form also recalls contemporaneous French films like Alain Resnais’s Muriel (1963) — though if anything Markopoulos’s cutting seems more evolved for its thoroughgoing commitment to simultaneity. Beginning with a ferry ride into blue New York, suggestive of any number of mythic crossings, there is an ever-sharpening concordance of different blocks of imagery. The protagonist’s central struggle to get out from under his mother and be reborn as his own person takes root in these syntactical somersaults. Indeed, this is where the modernist character of Markopoulos’s work shines through: a classical story embodied in the radical address of the senses. (You don’t need a neurologist to know that your brain gets a tune-up watching this film). Less successful is the cut-up spoken address that Phaedra delivers to her son, with which Markopoulos seems a little too assured of his genius. The haranguing pure speech dampens an otherwise brilliant film with a faintly misogynistic mist.

Though Markopoulos delved still deeper into myth with his Illiac Passion (1964-1967), he also gravitated towards more focused portraits of people and places in these years. San Francisco Cinematheque will screen Galaxie (1966), his anthology of New York people, in May. Meanwhile, the PFA sneaks in Ming Green (1966) before the epic Illiac Passion. The silent film gathers up images of the New York home Markopoulos was soon to leave as if for a bouquet. Edited in camera with great fluency, Ming Green revises the still life for cinema: the apartment’s objects sit in repose, vibrating with the articulation of color and residue of memory. Flourishing superimpositions put on a terrific show without abandoning the refined air of quietude. It’s unlikely that you’ll see a more exquisite short roll of film this year.


Feb. 9-16, $5.50-$9.50

Pacific Film Archive

2575 Bancroft, Berk.

(510) 642-5249


Hippies do it better



HERBWISE I am not given overmuch to squealing over technology, particularly weed technology. Over the past few months I have sampled candy cane-flavored rolling papers, a cannabis aphrodisiac shot, the Ziggy Marley-endorsed Marijuana Man comic book.

Mind you, I’m not complaining. But –- minus perhaps Humboldt Hemp Wicks –- none of those products have found their way into my everyday retinue. Until, that is, the subject of last week’s Herbwise, Randy Thompson of the vaporizer website Puff it Up, introduced me to a singular machine.

The Magic-Flight Launch Box is a thing of beauty. A clean maple wood box barely larger than a matchbox, it makes the black plastic tabletop models I once associated with vaporizing look clunky, wasteful. Vaporizing, university studies show, cuts down on the lung-coating tar that results from pipes and joints. Plus, it imparts a much cleaner marijuana taste –- perfect for the scores of cannabis connoisseurs who are popping up across the Bay Area.

Operating the Launch Box is simple. Insert the glass mouthpiece into the small round hole, a battery (two lithium batt’s and a recharger come with the starter kit) into the large round hole, press down for about five seconds, and inhale. No wall jack, no noise, no black plastic. The back of the box is engraved with a manifesto on what love is.

Obviously, hippies made it. Namely, a one Forrest Landry, who in a recent phone interview with the Guardian explained that the Launch Box’s ingenious design is a reflection of a New Age philosophy he’s cultivated over decades.

“Understanding the nature of communication allows us to understand the nature of community,” Landry says. “The vaporizer as a device is a communication event. We’re helping people breathe easier because of what we do.” The Launch Box’s backside is engraved with Landry’s personal philosophy on love (precious!)

He says the internationality of the product extends to the mindset of the company’s staff, who convene in a workshop located just outside San Diego. “Working with these tools is a kind of meditation. Doing this kind of work allows for an expanded awareness. You’re not aware just of how the tool is cutting the wood.”

Once an East Coast software developer, Landry changed careers upon his migration to California (to follow a lady love, he tells me). “I was thinking about what community of folks I want in my life.”

The answer was cannabis folks –- or more accurately, herbal folks, since the Launch Box can be used to ingest other plants like St. John’s wort (a useful tool for fighting seasonal affective disorder) and tobacco. Magic-Flight plans to start selling its own herbal blends in the next few months that can be vaporized solo or with cannabis.

The last thing that Landry wants is for Magic-Flight to be considered an activist company –- but that’s not to say that there’s nothing the federal government can learn from his philosophy.

“We’re not trying to shift the laws or policies per se, but we’re promoting the idea that love is enabling choice. We’re hoping the government realizes that enabling choice is a good thing.”

The story of hip-hop


By Courtney Garcia

MUSIC From the start, Ice-T was a versatile chameleon, the product of an integrated culture, and a student of the marginalized.

Born in New Jersey, raised in the Crenshaw District of LA, he joined the Crips then pursued the army to pay his bills. His career was blazed in rap, though he once flipped the game to heavy metal. Multifaceted talent that he is, Ice would later grow even more famous on television.

It’s no surprise, then, that he now adds the title of director to his resume, with the debut of his first documentary, Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap, at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. The feature length endeavor is the pioneering artist’s tribute to the culture that bred him, beat him, and made him who he is; it’s a culture he feels is slowly slipping from his grasp. It’s a story as much about the traditions of hip-hop as it is a fervent call to action, told through the eyes of its maker and his impressive posse of friends.

The premise, nevertheless, is simple: this is the story of hip-hop. “It’s a lot of life lessons because you’re not only hearing about rap, but experiences and struggles,” explained Ice during a one-on-one breakfast interview at The Lift in Park City, Utah. He was present for the screenings, along with Grandmaster Caz and Chuck D, both of whom appear in the film.

Other notable feature players include Eminem, Dr. Dre, Kool Moe Dee, Kanye West, Royce da 5’9,” Common, Rakim, KRS-One, Bun B, and Snoop Dogg. “You’re hearing people who you thought woke up successful talk about how they thought about quitting, how they had to find their voice,” Ice said. “I wanted to catch these guys when they were vulnerable, to show they’re real people, and that success doesn’t come without some blows.”

Ice got into rap initially to avoid falling back into gang life, first experimenting with turntables while enlisted in the military. Musically, he made his name as an underground artist before signing with Warner Music/Sire Records, and eventually winning a Grammy for his song, “Back On the Block.” He would follow such success with a branch into acting, currently starring in the primetime series, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. And while his schedule is more than demanding, he found time between shoots to direct this documentary, a film he believes had to be made to challenge the fallacious imagery of hip-hop in American culture.

“This movie is not about the money or the cars, it’s about the craft,” he says. “The only questions we get asked by the press were, you know, ‘Who are you having sex with?’ ‘How high do you get?’ ‘Who don’t you like?’ They don’t care about your work…I wanted people to see the hip-hop I know, not the hip-hop that’s been given out until now. You’re getting this image that’s not real.”

Something From Nothing begins on the streets of New York, and follows the beat to the sunny coast of Los Angeles. Interviewing the gamut of rap’s finest, Ice catches his friends at the record store, in the studio, on their patio and at the diner. They eat; they smoke; they talk hip-hop. Some, like Kanye, freestyle for the camera; others spit the rhymes they can’t get out of their heads.

In one of the more poignant scenes, Ice speaks with Eminem about his toil to commit to the trade amidst extreme discouragement, and the moment he realized it was his raison d’etre. Equally surreal, the filmmaker travels to Dr. Dre’s lavish estate in the Hollywood Hills, where the two converse about the late, Tupac Shakur.

Because the name ‘Ice-T’ signifies authority, the strength of this film is his access to the inside, exposing tales most people would never have a chance to hear. He hits on every shade of the genre, from gangster rap to native tongue, the poetics of Q-Tip to the in-your-face anarchy of Immortal Technique.

Introducing the film at Sundance, he described his impetus as a dissatisfaction with the current state of hip-hop, and an earnest aim to improve the situation.

Later, he elaborated. “To me, the most pinnacle moment in the movie was when Mos Def quoted Q-Tip saying ‘rap is not pop; rap never had pop ambitions.’ It’s a counterculture. Now it’s become pop, and how you gonna get mad at the kids? They want to eat; they want to make money; they want to live. If you ask me what my dream is, I would love to see a 19 year-old Public Enemy come out of nowhere; I would love to see the new 18 year-old Ice Cube just come kick in the door, and start telling motherfuckers, ‘Fuck the bling, this is what’s good. Let’s talk about Obama, let’s talk about Occupy Wall Street. Let’s go in.'”

He added, “It will never get radio play, but I believe if a young group of kids really nailed it, they could get a movement going. And it’s needed. I took Rage Against the Machine out as my opening act, so of course I want to see that. The terrain is wide open.”

It’s rare to catch Ice-T without his signature shades, and somehow it’s obvious he truly is the OG he claims. Yet his inner sincerity and passion show through in this project, an ode to the first platform to ever give him a voice. He sold the rights to film after the Sundance showings to The Indomina Group for worldwide distribution; a theatrical release is planned for summer.

“Music has that power to give people emotion, and that’s what’s lacking right now,” he reiterated. “They’re not using art form at full power. They’re just rubbing the surface of it.”

Brews you can use



BEER Even if your hankering for a beer paunch pales in comparison, say, to your desire to fit into your Valentine’s Day party dress, you have a responsibility to indulge during SF Beer Week. It’s not just a gustatory pleasure — consider yourself stumping for a burgeoning local industry. From Feb. 10-19, the fest will stage everything from urban beer hikes to beer-and-chocolate pairing events, beer-and-cheese couplings to a showcase of the finest in local bitter ales. Recently, the Guardian had the pleasure of a one-on-one (via email) with David McLean, the mastermind behind the superlative suds at Magnolia Brewery. He is also a member of the SF Brewer’s Guild, the organizing entity behind Beer Week. McLean shared with us his can’t-miss picks for hobnobbing and hops during this year’s festival. And yes, they include an stout made with Hog Island oysters.

SFBG: How has the beer scene changed over the past year in the Bay Area? Has there been a profound expansion? 

DM: Here and everywhere. We started in 2011 with about 1,700 breweries in the country. We are creeping up on 2,000 a year later and there are something like 800 or so known to be in planning. It’s safe to say craft beer is exploding right now. In the Bay Area, some notable highlights are Southern Pacific, Elevation 66, Dying Vines, Pacific Brewing Laboratories, and Heretic Brewing. There are plenty more on the way in 2012.

SFBG: Anyone new on the scene whose brews you’re excited to sample? 

DM: After many delays (all par for the course) it is super-exciting to have Southern Pacific Brewing Company open just in time for Beer Week. As the first new brewery built in San Francisco in many years — close to 10 — that one leads the pack in terms of excitement level. Another SF company just getting off the ground is Pacific Brewing Laboratories, which is starting to get its Squid Ink IPA and a couple of other beers into bars and restaurants. Almanac’s latest seasonal release, Winter Wit, should be hitting the streets just in time for Beer Week too, and it’s worth hunting down.

SFBG: A food-beer pairing event you think is a can’t-miss?

DM: Some pairings are just so perfect as to be timeless. They’re less about being creative and more about flavors that need no help fitting together. A personal favorite is oysters and beer, particularly oysters and certain kinds of stout, especially dry stouts. We go a step further at Magnolia with an oyster stout we make using Hog Island Sweetwater oysters in the beer. The effect is subtle, and maybe it is gilding the lily, but a few freshly-shucked Sweetwaters and a glass of that beer, Oysterhead Stout, is about as good as it gets. We’ll be spending all day on Valentine’s Day shucking a variety of oysters and serving them with that stout and some other good oyster-pairing beers until the oysters run out. If I were free on Mon/13, you might find me at the “Butcher and the Beer at the Beast and the Hare” — it’s a dinner with [4505 Meats butcher] Ryan Farr and Almanac Beer.

SFBG: Your tip for making it through Beer Week — how do you survive such a strenuous schedule?

DM: The well-timed vacation waiting on the other side of Beer Week helps maintain my sanity during Beer Week. With multiple events to work everyday, it’s a definitely a marathon and not a sprint. But it is also one of the premier celebrations of craft beer in the country and the sense of enthusiasm, camaraderie, and support from the beer community is more than enough to help us all get through the week. It’s energizing, actually. But don’t forget to hydrate.


Fri/10 6-10 p.m., $65

Concourse Exhibition Center

635 Eighth St., SF



Making black herstory, every day



Deconstructing the roots of

The black n gray suits

with hands in the Loot

That has buried the truth

About our black, brown and disabled youth

— excerpt from KKKourt by Tiny

OPINION On the first day of Black Herstory Minute (I mean, Month), I practiced black herstory, and walked through activism and breathed organizing and lived resistance by putting my body in the benches belonging to the criminal injustice system (a.k.a. the plantation) at 850 Bryant. I was there to support a struggle against injustice in the case of a young African warrior for truth, Fly Benzo, a.k.a. Debray Carpenter — student, son, media producer, organizer, and hip-hop artist who is facing a felony charge, jail sentence and $95,000 fine for nothing more than exercising his First Amendment right to free speech.

How many among you, overwhelmed with multiple Face-crack postings and a cacophony of tweets, might have missed the story of Fly, who spoke the truth about racism, police brutality and the unjust death of Kenneth Harding Jr. to a cop in a poor-people-of-color neighborhood, Bayview, which is under seize from the occupying army known as the police (or po’lice as we call them at POOR Magazine)?

As a woman criminalized and incarcerated for the sole act of being poor and houseless, the melanin-challenged daughter of a poor black single mother who spent all of her life in poverty and in struggle, I have witnessed first hand unequal justice against people of color and poor people. It’s a fact that remains, in 2012, still a very dire reality.

“They arrested me for exercising my Constitutional right to free speech,” said Benzo, 22.

Benzo’s revolution began when he was born to conscious African-descendant parents who, like many African descendant people in San Francisco, have been under the constant threat of removal, displacement, redlining, and ongoing police harassment for decades. He has been speaking out about injustices since he was a teen, starting with the fact that hardly any Bayview residents were hired to construct the multi-million-dollar T-Train that runs from downtown to Third Street — and the dramatic rise in the violent policing of the T-Train and the Muni bus lines that run through the poor communities of color in S.F.

But the beginning of Benzo’s current battle with the criminal injustice system began when he began to speak up about Harding, murdered by San Francisco police officers for not having a $2 dollar bus transfer. The judge might not admit the video that was taken at the scene of Benzo’s arrest, making his case all the more difficult to fight, and the truth all the more difficult to hear and see, which is where community support comes in.

A lot of people and organizers and politricksters talk about stopping the violence and how to “deal” with the inequities of racism and classism and violence on our youth of color. And yet when this brother spoke out, used his voice for nothing but truth and resistance about injustices he personally experiences everyday, who comes out to support him?

Practicing revolutionaries at POOR Magazine, the Idriss Stelly Foundation, The BayView Newspaper, Education not Incarceration, and United Playaz have been there, as well as his hard-working attorney, Severa Keith, and a few more. But we all need to be there, fighting for a very alive, very revolutionary, young truth-teller who is making black history, every day.

Tiny, a.k.a. Lisa Gray-Garcia, is an editor at POOR Magazine. Opening statements in the trial of Debray Carpenter are expected to begin Feb. 8 in Dept. 27.

Ellison wins, SF loses


EDITORIAL San Francisco’s not going to lose the America’s Cup. Oracle CEO and yachting billionaire Larry Ellison is too excited about the prospect of bringing the sport (and his company’s logo on the sail of his boat) to a mass audience for the first time in history that he’s not about to abandon San Francisco Bay. The process is too far along; that much is a done deal.

But the development agreements for the city’s waterfront is not a done deal at all — in fact, the proposal could wind up giving Ellison effective control over five piers and a valuable waterfront lot that he could develop for condos. And the city won’t get anywhere near enough out of the deal.

The development agreement is really just a sideshow in the cup planning; nobody’s disagreeing that Ellison’s America’s Cup Event Authority will need space to stage the race, and that will require the renovation of some waterfront property. And nobody disputes that the event will bring tourism and revenue to the city, which will offset some of the cost of allowing Ellison rights to the waterfront.

The rest of it is purely a real estate deal: Ellison’s offering to put millions of dollars into renovating crumbling and underused piers, and in exchange the Port of San Francisco — which lacks the money to rebuild the waterfront and has no credible plans for a good part of its property — could give Ellison long-term low-cost leases and development rights on Piers 26, 28, 30-32 and possibly 29, as well as Seawall Lot 330 at Embarcadero and Bryant.

The city’s never been terribly good at cutting tough deals with real-estate developers, and the history of San Francisco is littered with examples of the taxpayers losing out to the speculators and builders. And in the furor of excitement over the America’s Cup, this development agreement could become the latest sellout.

The original projections for the economic impact of the event are looking more and more questionable; it’s entirely possible that San Francisco will wind up with far less than the $1.4 billion in spending and the thousands of jobs that cup promoters have promised. It’s still going to be a big deal, and the city (particularly the hospitality industry) will do well — but it’s not the answer to all of San Francisco’s problems. By the end of 2013, the event will be over — and Ellison will have essentially taken title to a huge amount of public land, for as long as 60 years into the future. And he won’t be paying the city the normal development fees, the normal impact fees, or even reasonable annual rent to the Port.

The supervisors need to put aside the hype around a sailing regatta and look at this for what it is: A real-estate development agreement with one of the world’s richest people. And right now, it’s not a good deal for the city.

Cheap dates!


VALENTINE’S Whether you’re hopelessly in love, completely philophobic, or somewhere in between, here’s a sweet slew of events on the horizon that won’t tap you dry. We’ve chosen our favorites that are all less than $20 (except for a couple worthwhile charity fundraisers). Now go out and get starry-eyed, you kid.  




Aphrodesia Afterhours Valentine’s Day Conservatory of Flowers, Golden Gate Park, 100 John F. Kennedy, SF. (415) 831-2090, www.conservatoryofflowers.org. 6 p.m.-10 p.m., $10. Chocolate is hands down the best part of Valentine’s Day. Join local chocolatier TCHO’s chief chocolate guru, Brad Kintzer, for his demonstration on how to transform beans into bliss. Afterwards, grab a love potion from the Cocktail Lab, frolic amongst the orchids, and enjoy a live performance by Le Quartet de Jazz. Remember to take a picture in the photobooth — a night dedicated to chocolate is a night to remember.

Love on Wheels dating game Public Works, 161 Erie, SF. (415) 932-0955, www.sfbike.org. 6 p.m., $5 for SF Bicycle Coalition members; $10 for non-members. The cutest people always seem to be railing past each other on their bikes. The SF Bicycle Coalition is going to sit all you guys down so you can date already. Lovebirds will quiz three potential dates (hidden from view) and go on a date provided by one of the sponsors. This annual tradition is a cute hoot.




“Animal Attraction” NightLife aquarium gallery and sex talk California Academy of Sciences, 55 Music Concourse, SF. (415) 379-8000, www.calacademy.org. 6 p.m.-10 p.m., $12. Cal Academy’s weekly Thursday evening party, NightLife, is launching a new gallery for fish-lovers (and friends!) with a series of reproduction-themed talks. Various experts will be talking about mating strategies in the animal kingdom, penis bones of different species, and the sex life of Zodiac signs. Dr. Carol Queen from Good Vibrations will be sharing her knowledge about the science of orgasms. So let’s do like they do on the Discovery Channel.

“Cupid’s Back” sixth annual Valentine’s Day party Supperclub, 657 Harrison, SF. (415) 348-0900, cupidsback.kintera.org. 8 p.m.-midnight, $30-35. Gay charity impressario Mark Rhoades is back — like Cupid, you might say — with this popular shindig that brings together oodles of hot men. DJ Juanita More will fluff the crowd, and it all goes to help out our invaluable GLBT Historical Society. Shoot your arrow and it goes real high …

“Go Deep” lube wrestling for the boys El Rio, 3158 Mission, SF. (415) 379-8000, www.calacademy.org/events/nightlife. 8 p.m.-11:30 p.m., $10–$15. What says romance more than watching half-naked queer boys with fantastical monikers like Yogzar and Red Dragon wrestling in a vat of lube? Slide your way into V-Day at this monthly (second Thursdays) grip ‘n slip put on by neo-Vaudevillian troupe SF Boylesque, with DJ Drama Bin Laden, a performance by the Bohemian Brethren, and Cajon food from Family Meal available on the back patio.






Bardot A Go Go Pre-Valentine’s Dance Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell, SF. (415) 861-2011, www.bardotagogo.com. 9 p.m., $10. “Music by French people for everybody” is the motto of the neato longtime roving Bardot A Go Go — and that includes a bubbly beretful of cute folks who revel in 1960s pop glamour filtered through contemporary va-va-voom. Live band Nous Non Plus is très adorable, and DJs Pink Frankenstein, Brother Grimm, and Cali Kid bring French kisses galore. Plus: free hairstyling by Peter Thomas Hair Design, d’accord.

I Heart Some Thing The Stud, 399 9th St., SF. (415) 863-6623, www.studsf.com. 10 p.m.-late, $8. “We love love! We just love it!” scream the awesome queens of Some Thing, the mind-altering weekly friday drag show and party at the Stud. You may detect a hint of the sardonic in there, but the smart Some Thingers always cover their bases with a healthy dose of sincerity to go with the staged pop culture send-ups. heart-shaped performers include Glamamore, Manicure Versace, Cricket Bardot, and Nikki Sixx Mile. Afterhours dancing, too.

Mortified’s Annual Doomed Valentine’s Show DNA Lounge, 375 11th St., SF. (415) 626-1409, www.getmortified.com. 7:30 p.m., $14 adv; $21 at door. Do you remember your first kiss when you went in for the gold, missed completely, and your lips puckered mid-air? Well, the folks at Mortified sure do. They have sorted through the oldest and nerdiest notebooks, letters, photos, and shoeboxes so that they can share with you their most humiliating romantic encounters. Reinvigorate your disdain for this holiday by taking comedic comfort in the mishaps of these thick-skinned Valentine’s veterans.

Ninth Annual Food from the Heart Festival Ferry Building Marketplace, 1 Ferry Building, SF. (415) 983-8000, www.ferrybuildingmarketplace.com. Through Saturday. 5:30-8 p.m., free entrance. Nothing says “I love you” like food. Give the gift of a happy stomach to your lover this Valentine’s in the candlelit Grand Nave of the Ferry Building, with a night of dancing and eating. Revel in the magic of the waterfront, sip on wine poured by local Napa Vinters, and taste a scrumptious hors-d’oeuvre or five.

“On The Edge 2” erotic photography exhibition Gallery 4N5, 863 Mission, SF. (415) 522-2400, www.gallery4n5.com. Through Sunday. Gallery hours Fri., 4 p.m.-9 p.m.; Sat., 11 p.m.-9 p.m.; Sun., noon-5 p.m., free. Valentine’s Day may be about romance for some people, but for us it’s about getting naked. (And eating, but mostly getting naked.) This group exhibition features 400 pictures of artful sexiness taken by 25 erotic photographers who bring on the nudes.




“Drunk with Love” with Carol Peters The Emerald Tablet, 80 Fresno, SF. (415) 500-2323, www.carolpeters.net. 8 p.m., $10. Carol Peters, a.k.a. “Velvet Voice,” is known for her passionate and amorous renderings. For one steamy night in light of Valentine’s Day, Peters will grace the stage to croon sensual tunes that capture the many dimensions of love.

Valentine’s Surprise SF Lindy Ball Womens Building, 3543 18th St., SF. sfswingjam.eventbee.com. 7:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m., $22 This Lindy Hop and Swing ball is actually the centerpiece of a three-day swing summit in celebration of romance (check the website for full line-up) — because what says, “I love you” more than artfully mopping the floor with your partner? We sure don’t know. Hoppin’ workshops and technique tune-up sessions complement the ball, which consists of a Lindy contest, live swing music, and a surprise 91st birthday celebration for classic movie star Ray Hirsch. Lessons offered!

Watson’s “Naked at the Art Museum Scavenger Hunt” Legion of Honor, 34th Ave, SF. (415) 750-3600, legionofhonor.famsf.org. Through Sunday. 2 p.m.-4:30 p.m., $20. Who said museums had to be tame? Bring a lover or friend this weekend to the Legion of Honor for a sexy scavenger hunt. You will scope the halls for studly sculptures, titillating paintings, bathing beauties, and many sexy inanimate objects more. Museums will never be the same again.




SF Mixtape Society’s “Under The Covers” music exchange and contest The Make-Out Room, 3225 22nd St, SF. (415) 440-4177, www.sfmixtapesociety.com. 6 p.m., free with mix. Don’t have someone to make a mixtape for this year? It’s OK. Your ex’s music taste was awful anyways! Put that playlist you love on a CD, cassette, or USB drive and have it land right in the ears of a random yet lucky someone. You’ll end the night with someone else’s coveted mix, and everyone will get to vote for the playlist with the best track listings and artwork.




Litquake Literary Festival presents: Love Hurts readings of grief-stricken passages of love and lust The Make-Out Room, 3225 22nd St, SF. (415) 440-4177, www.litquake.org. 7 p.m., $10. Ten Bay Area writers will give their own cynical (and mostly hilarious) twists on the forlorn words of some of the most melancholic and/or melodramatic novels ever written. Come sort out the parallels between drug dependency and romance in Valley of the Dolls, the masochistic plotline of The Story of O, and many more classics that well forewarned of broken hearts.




Club Neon’s Eighth Annual Valentine’s Day Underwear Party The Knockout, 3223 Mission, SF. (415) 550-6884, www.theknockoutsf.com. 10 p.m.-2 a.m., $5, free with no pants before 11 p.m.! This is THE event for fresh and nubile indie heartbreakers, stripping down to make you all “damn!” and stuff. One of our favorite annual pantsless throwdowns, with steamy rock DJs Jamie Jams and EmDee making you want to take it all off.

The Fifth Annual Poetry and Music Battle of ALL of the Sexes Uncle Al and Mama Dee’s Cafe at POOR Magazine, 2940 16th St, SF. (415) 865-1932, www.poormagazine.org. 7 p.m., $5-$20 suggested donation for dinner and show. Instead of scribbling your words in to a Hallmark card, show off your love this Valentine’s in rhyme and verse. All proceeds will support POOR magazine, a local arts organization that advocates education and media access for struggling communities. The theme is 1950s, but the beats will be timeless.

Love Story film showing and gala with Justin MX Bond Castro Theatre, 429 Casto, SF. (415) 621-6120, www.castrotheatre.com. 8 p.m., $10 film only; $25 for gala tickets. Relive the drama, the tragic heartaches, and the swooning love story of the 1970 film classic. Ali MacGraw will be at the Castro mezzanine in person, “Theme from Love Story” will be sung by Katya Smirnoff-Skyy, and special guest Mx Justin Vivian bond will be doing a “sorry” medley.


Passion Punch Valentine’s day kickboxing class UFC Gym, 1975 Diamond, Concord. (925) 265-8130, www.ufcgyms.com. 6:30 p.m., free. Valentine’s got you foaming at the mouth? Let it out. This 60-minute class will incorporate dynamic boxing moves so that you can punch away all the annoyances you will be feeling by the end of this day.

The Crackpot Crones present “I Hate Valentine’s Day” sketch comedy and improv show The Dark Room, 2263 Mission, SF. (415) 648-5244, www.crackpotcrones.com. 8 p.m., $20. Outrageous duo Terry Baum and Carolyn Myers are providing a public service for the romantically challenged. They will be making fun of everything Valentine’s related — especially silly little concepts like true love and soul mates. Belt along to the song, “The Twelve Days of Being Dumped,” and give your best evil cackle at this sketch comedy show.

Valentine’s Day Party with T.I.T.S and Uzi Rash Hemlock, 1131 Polk, SF. (415) 923-0923, www.hemlocktavern.com. 9 p.m., free. There is no need for all the fuss, the fancy gifts, the cutesy ribbons, or the overpriced dinner. If you’re sick of the pink, come dance your anti-heart out at this doom punk show. Flowers wilt anyways.