Volume 46 Number 45

Outer limits



MUSIC Last year, we thought it couldn’t get better, and then it upped the ante. Outside Lands 2012 takes place this weekend, and the lineup is packed with legendary performers, reunited favorites, and flashy newcomers, pieced together (some overlapping) in a masterful Golden Gate frame, outlined by all that glorious flora and fog.

There’s little to debate; our inboxes have been unequivocally flooded with requests to cover the event from the moment the full list roared onto the web. Who’s to say what sparked the revved up offerings and subsequent queries?

The facts: 72 bands on stage, 15 DJs in the Dome, 25 comedy-variety acts in the Barbary, plus 10 night shows featuring 20 performers. Expected attendance is more than 65,000 people per day, according to the organizers.

It’s a lot to take in, even for the seasoned San Francisco festival-goer (keep hydrated, wear layers, duh). So we’ve whittled down the schedule to the must-sees — those with a certain unscientific combination of vitality and vigor, of historical significance and a very-modern presence.

Of course, if you’ve got a one or three-day pass, you’re likely planning on packing in as many acts as possible, with perfectly timed bathroom, wine, and gourmet food stand breaks. But if you’re of the looser sort, one to wander with feckless abandon among those throngs, keep the below in mind.

Here are your must-see Outside Lands performances:


Headliners and icons

Watching an old friend dance with his bride to iconic folk ballad “Harvest Moon,” it dawned on us: despite his gruff persona, broadly influential singer-songwriter Neil Young & Crazy Horse (8:10-9:55pm Friday, Lands End) is for lovers. And his words — and strumming — are deeply personal for a handful of generations. They’ve left a yearning imprint on our collective pleasure center.

This is a grand return for ’90s indie rockers, Grandaddy (5:10-6:10pm Saturday, Sutro). The Modesto five-piece split in 2006, after a respected career that included touring with Elliott Smith (RIP) and a song, “AM 180,” used in a memorable zombie-less supermarket sweep scene in 28 Days Later.

Kill ‘Em AllAnd Justice For All…okay, and we guess St. Anger. The heavy metal — and then some other stuff — back catalogue of Metallica (7:55-9:55pm Saturday, Lands End) is forever drilled into our brains. In a press call leading up to the fest, drummer Lars Ulrich said, “we’re very proud of our…relation and our history with San Francisco,” (does that mean the band will do us a solid and play early tracks?), later adding, “it’s an amazing thing, 31 years into a career to be able to be as busy as we are and to [see] people give a shit and to be able to still tour.” We give a shit, Lars.

As one fan noted, Mr. Superstition, Steve Wonder (7:20-9:30pm Sunday, Lands End), is likely the most creative choice of a headliner in 2012. And it makes the night-map easy for some of us; in the scheduling contest between dub-monster Skrillex and Motown icon Stevie Wonder, there is no contest.


Best of the Bay represented

It’s been five years since Two Gallants (1:50-2:40pm Friday, Lands End) released an album, and this fest (along with the OL night show) are the first local shows for the folk-punk duo touring on the new record, The Bloom and the Blight. Seems they’ll have a lot of stowed away energy to release in the park.

Perhaps never has man and computer so beautifully collided than with San Francisco digi-rock act Geographer (2:10-2:55pm Saturday, Twin Peaks). Swelling vocal melodies blend so evenly with darting beeps and blurps and laser synths, sometimes deepened by floating violin. It’s hard-rocking orchestral pop, operatic robot love, and world travel in a machine. The band paid its dues playing Rock Make, Treasure Island, Live 105’s BFD, and now, Outside Lands.

These San Francisco pysch-surf-punks are notorious for their headspinningly prolific songwriting, unpredictable live shows, and spastic energy. Regardless of what happens during Thee Oh Sees (6:05-6:45pm Saturday, Panhandle) set, it’ll be an act people are talking about.


Who everyone will be Tweeting about

Having just premiered barely pronounceable single “XP€N$IV $H1T” (“I rub my dick on XP€N$IV $H1T” being actual lyrics) it’s safe to assume that Southern African freak-rap trio Die Antwoord (5:25-6:15pm Friday, Twin Peaks) is going to continue down a path of what-the-fuck-did-I-just-witness trashy splendor. There will be rave wear and Ninja’s inexplicable junk-thrusting dance moves, DJ Hi-Tek records spinning, and Yo-Landi’s hyper-high chirp.

When Father John Misty (2:55-3:35pm Saturday, Panhandle), a.k.a. J. Tillman of Fleet Foxes, stopped by Bottom of the Hill earlier this year, folks didn’t know what hit them. FJM was a wild force on stage, engaging in an ongoing and increasingly odd conversation with the audience, with quips and asides a-plenty in between a hectic set of woozy pop and crunchy-hippie psychedelic jams.

Perhaps not since Janis Joplin, have we heard a lady blues vocalist with pipes this powerful. That wail is a show-stopper. And, four-piece Alabama Shakes (3:50-4:40pm Saturday, Sutro), led by Brittany Howard (she of the powerful pipes), is actually born and raised Alabama, as the band name would imply, meaning its a more authentic experience, it would seem.

After a prolonged break, Santigold (5:10-6pm Sunday, Twin Peaks) dropped long-awaited Master Of My Make-Believe this year, with reggae-flecked party jam single “Disparate Youth,” cut through with a machine-gun guitar riff. Clearly, Santigold is no less bold in her return. Both the sound and her avant-pop style will surely absorb those expansive outdoor stages.


Globally relevant bands from far and wide

Sigur Ros is not the only Icelandic band at Outside Lands 2012. If ambient soundscapes aren’t your thing, check out the lesser-known folk sextet Of Monsters and Men (5:25-6:25pm Friday, Sutro), which balances catchy melodies with beautifully harmonized vocals. Amadou & Mariam (3:35-4:25pm Sunday, Twin Peaks) met at Mali’s Institute for the Young Blind. What the African duo lacks in 20/20 vision they make up for in mesmerizing sound — irresistible hip-hop-and blues-inspired world music. We dare you not to dance. Globally recognized Columbian culture-masher band Bomba Estéreo (6-6:40pm Sunday, Panhandle) mixes in the sounds of Latin America, the Caribbean, reggae, dub, and beyond, with bouncy hip-hop beats. Live, lead vocalist Li Saumet (who this year also released a side-project in which she imagines killing her boyfriend) pumps up the energy tenfold.


Explore beyond the music

Imbibe in yeasty concoctions at this year’s first ever Beer Lands (oui, Wine Lands will be there too). And the beer lineup is made up of local craft breweries: 21st Amendment, Anchor Brewing, Magnolia, Pac Brewing Labs, Speakeasy (all San Francisco); Bear Republic (Russian River area), Drakes, (San Leandro) and Linden Street (West Oakland). Oh, and Sierra Nevada is debuting the Outside Lands Saison at the fest, said to be inspired by OL itself. Reggie Watts, Neil Patrick Harris, David Cross, Kristen Schaal, Nerdist Chris Hardwick, the list goes on for The Barbary. The comedy and variety tent keeps getting bigger, and weirder. There are the big names of course (see above) but also some awesome homegrown talent — Jesse Elias, for one. We caught him in the Cinecave last month, and were blown away by his timing. Our cheeks ached from laughing. And he never once looked up at the audience, only moving to push his glasses back up his nose.


Fri/10-Sun/12, noon, $95

Golden Gate Park, SF


Giving you L1fe



SUPER EGO Summer has been carrying a look. A killer neon queer hip-hop wave is splashing across better dance floors, raiding classic i-D magazine spreads, relaunched Boy of London lines, and cheeky RHLS lookbooks (or anything coming out of former SF club kid Frankie Sharp’s insane Tuesday night Westgay party in Manhattan or our own Future| Perfect, Stay Gold, or Swagger Like Us), and soundtracked by ghetto gothic vogue beats and freaky Internet-pastiche rappers. Who knew vogue dramatics and a retro-MS Paint aesthetic would save hip-hop? Somehow a rupture opened in the forcefield and a way ahead appeared.

“I’m totally coming from the Internet, I can be honest about it,” emblematic star Le1f tells me over the phone from his home in NYC, when I ask him about his look and feel. (He’s performing at the Lights Down Low party Sat/11, 10pm-4am, $10–$18 at Monarch, 101 Sixth St., SF, www.monarchsf.com) “It is what it it is, and very natural to me. I’m very much about digital mystique, completely inspired by open source culture. I wanted to be an avatar when I grew up.”

The whip-smart MC has indeed become an avatar of a kind. On the strength of his bass-a-holic, fiercely gay mixtape Dark York, which dropped last April and tapped bleeding-edge producers Ngunguzungu, Booody, Cybergiga, and Morris, and especially track “Wut?,” produced by SF’s 5kinandbone5, with its brilliant accompanying video, Le1f has been branded as the face of the “new queer hip-hop,” if that’s even a thing. In a post-Frank Ocean world, it’s been hilarious watching larger media awkwardly trying to address this whole gay thing. In some cases, critics have been surprised that a gay rapper’s voice can be so low. (Le1f often sounds exactly like 80 percent of the black gay men I know, which is what’s so completely refreshing about him blowing up.)

“I’ve seen the comments, and although I can’t directly address anyone’s personal audio-homophobia, I will say that I do play with different voices and characters — and maybe people are bugging when I’m in my erotic creepy zone. I’m only getting deeper and darker, though.”

I guess why not let new queer hip-hop be a thing, when Le1f is lightening our loafers and intriguing fellow DIY homo-cosmic rappers like Zebra Katz, House of Ladosha, and Mykki Blanco are getting second looks. (Maybe some of the media shine will rub off on our own totally worthy Micah Tron.) Still, there are no outright political statements here — “Conscious rap is not my favorite type of rap,” Le1f has said — nor is there a desire to work in the still-lively, decades-old homo-hop tradition. The new queer hip-hop deal is more about doing your own hyperreal thing, posting alien emoticons from another dimension to killer abstract beats and feeling sexy about it.

Le1f studied dance for most of his life and received advanced training at Wesleyan University (he’s responsible for the beats behind fellow Wesleyan rappers Das Racist’s “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell”), yet told me, “I always wanted to be a rapper. I mean, I was a gay kid at a boarding school, it was the furthest escape I could think of. ” He cites influences from Missy Elliot to seminal vogue DJ MikeQ, but when it comes to traditional hip-hop audiences and their reactions to all the awesome weird that seems to be flooding into the scene lately, Le1f says, “I really have no connections whatsoever to those crowds or those types of performers. I’m sure they have a scene, and that’s great for them — just like my scene is vibrant and right for me.”

The current popularity of Dark York, which took three years to record, and even some of Le1f’s media spotlighting as a “gay rapper” are all part of a painstaking masterplan. “If people are freaking out now, wait until they see my next video, for ‘Mind/Body.’ I’m an alien transsexual being writhing in a trance rave cosmos.” You need to take us there, Le1f.



“I generally feel like 18 and over parties pander and talk down to their audience,” mega-wicked promoter Marco de la Vega tells me. “So I’m trying to focus on the opposite.”

Um, talk about respect — here’s the dark, dreamy, bass-crazy lineup of his first monthly youthful assay: Gatekeeper, Teengirl Fantasy, Nguzunguzu, 5kinandbone5 with secret spec1al guest, and the Tenderlions. Good thing I turned 18 last month, see you there.

Fri/10, 10pm-4am, $10–$18. DNA Lounge, 375 11th St., SF. www.dnalounge.com

Korean commotion



APPETITE The nation’s on a kimchi kick. Truth be told, California has long been home to some of the country’s densest Asian populations, so here in the Bay Korean cuisine is at a crossroads — is it a staple? Exotic novelty? With the help of a few new openings, the answer may be shifting. Despite a smattering of Korean BBQ joints in SF and a concentrated Korean population in Oakland, it hasn’t been until the last few years that I’ve witnessed local Korean eateries offering much beyond barbecue.

But now, thanks to the forward-thinking fusion of Namu Gaji and home-cooked joys of To Hyang, Nan, Manna, and Aato, the Bay is getting a crack at more diverse Korean offerings. In Oakland, good times can be had at the “porno bar,” a.k.a. Dan Sung Sa (2775 Telegraph, Oakl. (510) 663-5927), so-called due to the Korean film posters lining its walls, though there’s actually nothing explicit to be seen. Its fried chicken, Korean beers, and comfortably dive-y atmosphere evoke an under-the-radar speakeasy vibe, reminiscent of long-timer Toyose (3814 Noriega, SF. (415) 731-0232), tucked away in a similarly relaxed spot in an Outer Sunset garage.

Here’s two stand-outs in a wave of openings that exemplify the gourmet fun of casual Korean snacking, both an ideal locales for cheap beers with good friends.


The Kim family has taken over what was once the Old Chelsea Fish and Chips space in the Tenderloin. Aria Korean American Snack Bar is a closet-sized eatery — still appropriately dingy for its bustling block, but the Kims have infused it with fresh life, greeting visitors with a smile and a record player stocked with Tom Jones and Sinatra LPs. Mom and Pop Kim run the place, though their son and his girlfriend have come up from LA to help them get going.

The family has a hit on its hands with the Korean fried chicken (nine pieces for $6.99-7.99, 16 pieces for $12.99-13.99). It feels like everyone is doing KFC these days, but these boneless, overgrown nuggets are special: crispy-tender and fried in cottonseed oil, with zero trans fat. Dip them into earthy-sweet spicy sauce and an addiction will be born. Mama’s acidic sweet-and-sour radishes are just the right accompaniment to clean the palate and perk up the taste buds.

There’s also an array of fried snacks from mixed veggies (carrots, sweet potato, zucchini, onion) to seaweed rolls packed with potato and glass noodles (eight pieces for $5.99). Hot and spicy rice cakes ($5.99) are another of mom’s recipes. They arrive blessedly chewy, sitting in — what else? — a spicy red sauce. The Kim family good cheer and authentic fried bites make this the kind of snack bar every neighborhood should be so lucky to have.

932 Larkin, SF. (415) 292-6914


Tucked away in a sunny courtyard off desolate West Oakland streets sits FuseBOX, a truly exciting haven for Asian fusion. Those looking to categorize its food could satisfy themselves by calling it Korean food served Japanese izakaya style, but the FuseBOX mashup goes above and beyond this simplification.

In the three months it’s been open, this cash-only respite created by Sunhui and Ellen Sebastian Chang offers daily robata specials ($1–$3). Granted, these are merely bites, but there’s real joy in sampling this range of grilled vegetables and meat.

From the spare, industrial interior sparsely dotted with tables to rice purified with binchotan, or Japanese white charcoal ($2), it’s clear this no typical Asian eatery. There is — of course! — KFC ($5), although here it is lightly fried, yielding spicy chicken more akin to buffalo wings than the aforementioned boneless chicken at Aria. Bento box-like “BAP sets” ($6-10) offer meat or veggies alongside rice and banchan or panchan (mini-dishes that often accompany Korean meals that could account for the name of these plates on the menu), which rotate daily. Spinach roots and French breakfast radish crowns are brined in mustard and nori, and sesame leaves are pickled in soy, white zucchini or green mango in vinegar. Kimchi comes in multiple forms, including versions made with bok choy and kale.

Robata specials are grilled on wood skewers. There’s okra and snap peas and tender chicken “oyster” cuts. The best bite of all? Bacon mochi ($2.50). The mochi is sticky, subtly savory, and gummy, satisfying on its own merit — until you reach the bacon and accompanying mustard seeds. I’d eat this fantastic bite for breakfast, dessert — basically any way at all. For bigger appetites, there’s sandwiches ($8) like a Tokyo po’ boy laden with fried chicken, red cabbage slaw, house mayo, and pickles.

To drink there’s a bracing, cool roasted corn tea ($1), chilled and nearly creamy with fresh corn flavor. Other drink options include Tang (yes, Tang!), house barrel-aged soju, and glasses from the neighbors, like Alameda’s Rock Wall Wines and beer on tap from Oakland’s Linden Street Brewery. FuseBOX is only open Wednesday through Friday, 11:30am—2:30pm, but promises that its dinner menu will soon be operational. As its hours expand, I’ve no doubt it will become even more crowded than its three-day-a-week lunches already are. There’s no place like it.

2311A Magnolia, Oakl. (510) 444-3100, www.fuseboxoakland.com

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


Poppin’ off


TRASH The late, beloved Werepad begat the Vortex Room, the former closing when co-founder Jacques Boyreau moved from SF to Portland, Ore. But ties between those concerned with both venues remain tight, and August is a big month for them all. Firstly, it sees the release of Boyreau’s latest coffee table tome, Sexytime: The Post-Porn Rise of the Pornoisseur (Fantagraphics, 96pp., $29.95). Really, you might ask, does there need to be a book devoted to full color reproductions of posters from the “golden age” (circa 1971-82) of XXX features?

Ohhhh yes. These hundred pages excavate a retro wonderland of film-shot sleaze with the usual tasteless ad lines (Finishing School: “She took a cram course in pleasure”) and graphics variably dime-novel crude, psychedelic, and disco-era slick. There are titles topically trendy (CB-themed Breaker Beauties; Erotic Aerobics; Patty Hearst-inspired Tanya) and parodic (Blazing Zippers; One Million Years AC/DC; Flash Pants). There’s even cautionary sexploitation, as the sheet for 1976’s Female Chauvinists warns “DO YOU KNOW: Women libbers are planning to take over the world? That they have recruiting camps in every corner of this planet?” So that’s where Rush learned about feminism.

Meanwhile back at the Vortex, the venue’s fifth anniversary is being celebrated through the month’s end with a Pop art-themed series of Thursday night double bills. It doesn’t get any more Pop, or Op, than incredible and inexplicable The Touchables, which despite its obscurity today was actually a mainstream 20th Century Fox release in 1968. Ah, the Sixties. This was just a simple tale of four Swinging London model types who, after stealing a Michael Caine dummy from Madame Tussauds, decide to be more ambitious and kidnap a live male pop star. They then take him to their giant-inflatable-plastic-dome country hideaway, torture him with sex play and go-go dancing, and unknowingly await the arrival of gangsters hired by a gay wrestler who also covets the abducted lad.

You know, that old story. Keen minds thought up this insanity: Robert Freeman, the Beatles’ “official” photographer making his directorial debut, cooked up the screenplay with Ian La Frenais (future Tracey Ullmann collaborator) and Donald Cammell (soon to be responsible for 1970’s Performance and 1977’s Demon Seed). The Touchables‘ co-feature is the almost equally daft Deadly Sweet (1967), another Swinging London artifact, albeit one directed by Italian Tinto Brass, who had yet to meet Caligula or his true calling as ass-man equivalent to Russ Meyer’s boobaholic in the softcore sexploitation hall of fame.

Next week things settle down a bit with Streets of Fire, Walter Hill’s fetishistically stylized 1984 music-video fable, and 1971’s Captain Apache, a weak Euro Western enlivened by a trip sequence and Carroll Baker’s apparent belief that she’s acting in a farce.

Then the weirdness level rises dangerously again August 23, with two lysergically bent missives from the “turbulent” decade. From 1969, Cult of the Damned (a.k.a. Angel, Angel, Down We Go) is the least-known of American International Picture’s psych flicks, and no wonder — compared to giddy The Trip (1967), Psych-Out (1968), and Wild in the Streets (1968), it’s a twisted downer. Future feminist singer-songwriter icon Holly Near plays the plump, unhappy only child of a jaded Hollywood couple whose household is seduced whole by rock singer Bogart (Jordan Christopher) and his entourage. Advertised with “If You’re Over 30 This Is A Horror Story,” Robert Thorn’s only directorial feature is rancid, baroque, and bizarre to no end, offering the opportunity to hear Roddy McDowell say “Baby man, I am just sexual. Like sometimes I can just stare at a carrot and baby man, that carrot can turn me on,” as well as Jennifer Jones (as mom) brag “I made 30 stag films and never faked an orgasm.” (It should be noted that shortly after completing her role, Jones had a nervous breakdown.) Cult‘s co-feature is 1962 sci-fi oddity Creation of the Humanoids, which was purportedly Andy Warhol’s favorite movie — that should be recommendation enough.

The series’ final bill moves upmarket to showcase two expensive early 1970s flops. You may search in vain for defenders of 1972’s Bluebeard, which features Richard Burton as the famed ladykiller and an array of Eurobabes as his victims — alas, not including American lounge-act extraordinaire Joey Heatherton, whose final wife is by far the most annoying but lives to tell. For a movie that features Raquel Welch as a nun, it’s pretty slow going, despite some imaginative production design and hints of a satirical zest that old-school Hollywood director Edward Dmytryk just couldn’t grok.

A more rewarding curio is 1974’s 99 and 44/100% Dead, a gangster spoof that supposedly represented a career nadir for director John Frankenheimer. (Actually, his nadir came the prior year with Story of a Love Story, one of those movies so interesting in concept and cast you can’t imagine it’s worthless — until you see it.) What can you say about a film that features Chuck Connors as a thug who screws different lethal weapons into his severed arm socket? Plus a rare appearance by the mysterious Zooey Hall of I Dismember Mama (1972) and Fortune and Men’s Eyes (1971)? That it can’t be all bad, and in fact it isn’t.


Thursdays through Aug. 30, 9pm, $7

Vortex Room

1082 Howard, SF

Facebook: The Vortex Room


Eternal return



MUSIC Those were days of mystery, when a rare album would come to you like a message from alien shores, a spectral cryptogram, the crackle of the plastic wrap as you tore it open subbing in for ghostly static. Especially if that album found its serendipitous way to you (breathtakingly arty gay older coworker, amazing cool girl from another high school who lived in her parents’ patchouli-scented basement, astronomical sum plunked down at unerring record store clerk’s slightly condescending suggestion) from willfully obfusc label 4AD, its releases so calculated to transcend earthly bonds that you could barely figure out the lyrics, let alone what possessed angelic being those mouthfuls of gothly warbled vowels belonged to. The label was notoriously recalcitrant about exposing its artists to mundane promotional hoo-haw. Pre-Internet, this often insurmountable unknowing became almost erotic.

And more than any other act on 4AD’s roster in the 1980s — more than Cocteau Twins or Throwing Muses, more than the vague amalgamated entity known as This Mortal Coil — Dead Can Dance (appearing Sun/12 at the Greek Theatre) embodied and perpetuated this exquisitely agonizing inscrutability. You knew they were an Australian-British duo that traded in deep musico-anthropological investigations worked up into stately, chthonic pop, you knew their names, you even saw a picture or two. But that was a close as you’d get to any kind of intimacy. The music (and of course the iconic cover art — I still dream of the imagery for albums Spleen and Ideal and Within the Realm of a Dying Sun) had to stand for everything.


So it was a bit unsettling for me to be on the other end of the phone from DCD’s high priestess of eerie glossolalia, Lisa Gerrard, as she dished about her tumultuous relationship with her musical partner, Brendan Perry.

“Oh, we had such fights, such awful fights — wrecking things, really, in the studio, and often we’d just have to separate ourselves,” she told me, her wonderfully animated voice ringing clear with a certain pastoral mysticism.

“But you see, darling, it was all in service of the music, this powerful force that we tap into together, that comes through us into the world. We had to learn that we just can’t force it, the power must emerge when it’s ready. You must be very patient and wait for the unlocking to begin — the great unlocking that connects all literature and art, and shines through in our shared humanity.

“We can’t weave the specific threads of this underlying magnificence if the loom isn’t there. You must have the loom. Now, we feel we’ve found it again.”

Specifically, Gerrard was referring to the fact that solidly pleasurable and Middle Eastern-tinged return to form, Anastasia, to be released on August 12, is the first Dead Can Dance album in 16 years. The pair has kept themselves very busy in the meantime. Gerrard produces highly acclaimed soundtracks for movies like Gladiator and The Insider and Perry, the more somberly bucolic of the pair, has converted a mid-19th century church in central Ireland into a studio, Quivvy, where Anastasia and several of his solo albums were recorded.

After a focused but exhausting reunion tour in 2005, the pair found it wasn’t the right time to reconnect in the studio and headed back to separate lives in different hemispheres. (Prominent in the pair’s press materials is the fact that their physical relationship ended in the early ’90s.) But a couple years ago, Perry commented on his online forum that the two were talking, and sure enough Anastasis, the Greek word for resurrection, was born.

The album weaves Platonic and Ayurvedic philosophical sentiments into esoteric folk-derived rhythms and eerie chant-like vocals — although they’ve left 4AD for the more, er, familiarly named Play It Again Sam label, they’ve retained the occultish fabric of the 4AD DCD sound, with its usual deliciously shivery rewards.

“Working on the album, we relished the opportunity to work with new instruments like the hang [a UFO-shaped Swiss instrument that crosses a steel drum with a gamelan gong] and a host of other percussion that we’ll be talking on the road with us,” Gerrard said about the tour, “as well as another fantastic singer who we’ve trained to double my vocals so we can really bring out the sounds of our older catalogue. I can’t wait to uncork those songs for everyone at the beautiful Greek Theatre in Berkeley. They’re just the right vintage now, they’re so ripe for the ears, if you will.

“And our new ones, we’re working in 6/8, 9/5 time signatures in these lovely Sufi and Eastern traditions. It really is going to be a show — but we’re putting so much practice into it, it’s not just feeding everything into a digital machine.”

About that digital machine: how does Dead Can Dance feel in a world of instant access — and a lot less mystery when it comes to musical artistry?

“Connection is both the key and the mystery, darling — it depends where its coming from. We try to locate ourselves within the connective tissue of an ur-culture that can free us from the suffocating membrane of mediocrity.”


Sun/12, 7:30pm, $39.50

Greek Theatre

2001 Gayley Rd, Berk.




Fangs, but no fangs



FILM The whole “lesbian vampire” thing may seem a very 20th-century, pop entertainment trope, as it blends sex and violence in one neatly exploitative package offering voyeuristic maximum appeal to straight men, long perceived as the primary audience for both horror and erotica. (In recent years, however, that assumption has begun to seem outdated.) But in fact Irish writer Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s Gothic novella Carmilla was published in 1872, a quarter-century before Bram Stoker’s Dracula, thus placing lesbian vampires well ahead of heterosexual ones in literary history. If that order was reversed in movie history, well — you can’t expect much girl-on-girl action to have surfaced before censorship standards began crumbling in the 1960s.

That decade began and ended with two major Carmilla adaptations: French horndog Roger Vadim’s 1960 Blood and Roses (originally titled And To Die of Pleasure) and the English Hammer studio’s 1970 heaving-bodice marathon The Vampire Lovers. Since then, lesbian vampires on screen have become ubiquitous.

They’ve usually been distinctly designed with the “male gaze” in mind, however, appealing to that guy-spot which (to quote the inimitable Axl Rose) would “rather see two women together than just about anything else.” Inevitably, though, someone was going to reclaim the concept for the younger female audience that has made the Twilight books and movies huge.

Ergo we now have The Moth Diaries, Rachel Klein’s 2002 novel turned into Mary Harron’s film. Why it’s an Irish-Canadian production that’s landed on our local SF Film Society Cinema screen for a week rather than a Hollywood extravaganza playing a bazillion multiplexes is a matter for further study. It’s certainly the director’s most mainstream-friendly effort, being less edgy and grown-up than American Psycho (2000), I Shot Andy Warhol (1996), or even The Notorious Bettie Page (2005).

It’s the start of a new academic year at an upscale girls’ boarding school. Despite the strictness of their overseers, the girls manage to be ordinary, fun-loving teens. Becca (Sarah Bolger from The Tudors) is particularly happy to be reunited with best friend and roommate Lucie (Sarah Gadon), as the former is still psychologically fragile in the wake of her well-known poet father’s suicide. But a wedge is driven between them by the arrival of Ernessa (Lily Cole), a tall, English-accented student with a face like a creepy porcelain doll. She “colonizes” Lucie, who at first guiltily hides her infatuation from Becca, then (along with everyone else) accuses her of simple jealousy.

But Becca notices things others don’t, or dismiss: how Ernessa never seems to eat, how she can’t abide water, the sickly sweet smell emanating from her room and her odd disappearances into the luxury-hotel-turned-school’s off limits basement. One ally gets expelled; another, after witnessing Ernessa doing something logically inexplicable, meets a more brutal fate. Meanwhile, Lucie (the same name as Dracula’s preliminary victim in Bram Stoker’s novel) grows seriously ill. Turning to a sympathetic (as well as hot) new literature teacher for help, Becca instead gets inappropriate overtures from Mr. Davies (Scott Speedman).

Klein’s book, which had our heroine looking back on this episode from middle age, insisted on ambiguity: we’re never sure whether Ernessa really is a supernatural predator, or if all this is just a hysterical fantasy Becca devises to process (or evade) her profound grief over losing a parent. Adapted by Harron as scenarist, the movie eliminates that frame and leaves little room for doubt that there be vampires here.

But the film’s weakness is that it still tries to play it both ways, as troubled coming-of-age portrait and Gothic horror, with the result that the two elements end up seeming equally half-realized. Despite an inevitably somewhat glamorized surface, a certain attention is paid to real-world adolescent detail, like the presence of casual recreational drug use or the disappointment voiced by one student whose eagerly awaited deflowering turns out neither good or bad, but just an indifferent experience. There’s also a knowing wink at the usual adult dismissal of teenage ideas when Mr. Davies condescendingly shrugs off Becca’s fears: “Cooped up here you girls can get so close, all that emotion can turn toxic.” The movie is handsome enough, with a color palette that aptly grows darker and more untrustworthy as things progress.

Cole is well-cast for her eeriness, while Bolger gives an intelligent performance even if the film ought to be channeling her character’s growing instability more vividly — as Harron managed very well for Valerie Solanis and Patrick Bateman.

There’s little suspense here, however, and the fantastical elements are seldom staged with any inspiration. You get the feeling that this highly talented director ultimately couldn’t find anything all that interesting in her young-adult-fiction material, but still hoped for a Twilight-style hit that might make more personal future projects easier to fund. (Even after Kathryn Bigelow’s 2010 Hurt Locker Oscar, it still seems like the road is always uphill for women directors.) Instead she wound up with a polished but forgettable genre piece that’s probably the mildest entry in the annals of lesbian (or at least Sapphically-tinged) vampire cinema yet.


THE MOTH DIARIES opens Fri/10 at SF Film Society Cinema.




FOOD AND DRINK It was another humid, sweltering year at Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans. The world’s biggest cocktail event drew thousands of attendees July 25-29 for a week of nonstop tastings, seminars, and parties in the great queen of the South.

Any reason to be in Nola is a good one and with the city overrun with some of the world’s best bartenders, brand ambassadors, writers, and distillers, it was as usual, one long party. Here’s a few highlights — read the rest online at sfbg.com.


Though Tales’ Spirited Awards continue to be dominated by winners from Europe and New York , particularly London, this year San Francisco made a dent that still only hinted at our long-established cocktail culture. At Thursday night’s Bar Room Brawl, bars from six US cities fielded teams that served up special drink menus as brass bands blew. The winner of this showdown, and by extension, the tile of best cocktail bar in America? Our own Beretta. Ryan Fitzgerald, Jennifer Colliau, Enrique Sanchez, and a hard-working crew of SF bartenders ecstatically accepted a giant trophy.

Scott Baird, Josh Harris, Alex Straus of the Bon Vivants deservedly won the John Lermeyer award for good behavior at the Spirited Awards. It was a joy watching them be acknowledged for their humanitarian work. In addition to painting over 30 New Orleans charter school classrooms with a team of volunteers, the group threw its third annual Pig and Punch school fundraiser on Saturday in Washington Square Park. With delicious barbecue (whole hog, y’all), Don Julio and George Dickel punches, and a crowd of over 800 people, it raised over $21000, a shining example of how to have fun and give back at the same time.

With two of the four nominees for Spirited Awards’ best restaurant bar award being from SF (the other was the wonderful Bar Agricole), it was a delight to see the ever-talented Erik Adkins win for the Slanted Door. He’s done equally impressive work behind Heaven’s Dog. I wish more US bars would win awards at Tales — and that the list of those honored would be a little more up to date. Often, places are nominated that were great or established years ago. Though I adore the town and have been to all the bars that were nominated from London, I can’t help but notice that the US isn’t represented at its Cocktail Week. Why shouldn’t we reserve a platform to more specifically acknowledge the fantastic bars right here in the States?


Thank you to Suntory for what was my top highlight of Tales: an intimate, invite-only tasting room in a warehouse district loft. Down a candlelit hall stood a white room punctuated by glowing bar, decorative kimono on loan from a Paris museum, and mini-tables lined with vials of single barrel whiskies from the Suntory line for us to mix and pour over hand-cut ice.

Michael Mina corporate chefs Lincoln Carson and Gary Lamorte flew out to cook four exceptional bites. I’m still dreaming of the 76-degree sous vide egg strained through a siphon, so creamy served over vanilla brioche and bacon. Cool banana mochi on top of golden raisin puree elicited a long sigh of delight. The space’s zen-like peace and the camaraderie I found there with my fellow whiskey aficionados were spectacular, and the afternoon was made a landmark event by a bar stocked with Hakushu 25-year, Yamazaki 1984, Hibiki 30-year, and other extremely rare, unavailable in the US Japanese whiskies. While I would be hard pressed to chose a favorite, Yamazaki ’84 lingered on my palate long after I returned to the blinding heat outside.


Meeting with distillers and previewing unreleased spirits are key reasons I go to Tales, even if there wasn’t an overwhelming amount of new offerings in 2012. This year, I spent time with WhistlePig master distiller Dave Pickerell, who was also a Maker’s Mark master distiller for 14 years. Pickerell told me I was the very first to try his upcoming October Whistlepig release, TripleOne. This is a 111 proof rye versus the standard 100, aged 11 years in place of the typical 10. The bracing TripleOne doesn’t boast quite as long a finish as Whistlepig’s flagship rye, but it’s even more complex, surprisingly akin to applejack or Calvados at first sip, opening up into spicy rye body with citrus and chocolate notes. American whiskey fans, watch for this one.


You say amaros, but I say amari (short grammar lesson about the plural for amaro). The bottom line is amaro (Italian for “bitter”), the wide range of herbal liqueurs commonly sipped as after-dinner digestifs in Italy, has been hot for the past few years and only continues to get hotter. Though there are still countless amari not yet imported from Europe, big names like Fernet and Cynar have ushered bitter liqueurs into the mainstream. Amari popped up all over Tales, most notably in the fortified and aromatized wines tasting room highlighting port, sherry, etc. Not to mention some of the US’ best vermouths like SF’s Sutton Cellars and Imbue in Portland. The highlight of the tasting was Neil Kopplin pouring Imbue’s debut of brand new Petal & Thorn, a gorgeously bitter gentian liqueur using homegrown beets for color, alongside cinnamon and menthol.

On the Italian front, The Spirit of Italy threw a two-morning brunch hosted by Francesco Lafranconi and featuring seven producers: Amaro Lucano, Luxardo, Moccia, Nardini, Pallini, Toschi and Varnelli. Lafranconi’s cocktails stole the show, there was an addictive Amaro Lucano-bourbon milk punch and Zabov NOLA coffee. Zabov is essentially zabaglione (the Italian dessert of whipped egg yolks, sugar, sweet wine) in a bottle. It was a little sweet on its own but fascinating in texture and in the coffee cocktail. On the other end of the spectrum, Varnelli’s expensive ($52), uber-bitter Amaro Sibilla is a complex delight, unfolding with chestnuts, coffee, honey, and intense bitter notes. This one is not for the novice amaro drinker.


Kudos to Dave Schmier for Indie Spirits That Rock, a version of his Indy Spirits Expo here in San Francisco. Crowds thronged around small, independent spirits — methinks they need a bigger tasting room next year. I even discovered a few new spirits I had not tasted before, including West Virginia’s Smooth Ambler Spirits‘ (I’d had their Old Scout bourbon before) fascinating Barrel-Aged Gin, aromatic with orange marmalade, bitter subtleties, pine, cinnamon, and their Very Old Scout bourbon, earthy with oak, nuts, toast and butter. Few Spirits (from Evanston, IL) also offered an intriguing rye and bourbon, the former spicy, sweet, bracing, the latter smooth but not lacking in character. I look forward to revisiting each of these.


Besides Suntory’s sacred den of Japanese whiskey, the other haven from Tales madness and New Orleans’ Summer heat was Francis Ford Coppola’s French Quarter home. By invite only, we were merely given an address, entering a candlelit walkway into a classic New Orleans courtyard and hundred years’ old home with exposed brick walls, fireplaces, grand piano and jazz duo serenading us as we sipped Krug and Inglenook wines. I stopped in more than once, grateful for a peaceful gathering on comfy couches where I ran into friends from New York to Ireland.


Thanks to Portland’s House Spirits for the brilliant idea of a coffee bar — with booze, of course —  every morning at an art gallery across the street from the Tales’ home base of the Hotel Monteleone. Iced Stumptown Coffee perked us up on those slugglishly hot, post-party mornings. And if one must add House Spirits’ coffee liqueur or aquavit to the coffee, so be it.

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


2012 TALES of the COCKTAIL Spirited Award Winners

Winners in bold

The John Lermeyer Award for Good Behavior

The Bon Vivants 

American Bartender of the Year

Eric Alperin

Charles Joly

Jeffrey Morganthaler

Joaquin Simo


Best American Brand Ambassador

Erick Castro

Elayne Duke

Jamie Gordon

Jim Ryan


Best American Cocktail Bar

Anvil Bar & Refuge – Houston, Texas

Clover Club – Brooklyn, New York

Columbia Room – Washington, District of Columbia

The Varnish – Los Angeles, California


Best Bar Mentor

Bridget Albert

Wayne Collins

Francesco Lafranconi

Steve Olson


Best High Volume Cocktail Bar

Beretta – San Francisco, California

Clover Club – Brooklyn, New York

Eastern Standard – Boston, Massachusetts

La Descarga – Los Angeles, California


Best Cocktail Writing, Non-Book




Time Out NY


Best Cocktail Writing

Gary Regan

Robert Simonson

David Wondrich

Naren Young


Best International Brand Ambassador

Jacob Briars

Ian Burrell

Claire Smith

Angus Winchester


Best New Cocktail/Bartending Book

The American Cocktail by the Editors of Imbibe

Bitters: A Spirited History of a Classic Cure-all

Gaz Regan’s Annual Manual for Bartenders 2011

PDT Cocktail Book


Best New Product

Chairman’s Reserve Spiced Rum

Cognac Pierre Ferrand 1840 Formula

Lillet Rose

Perlini System


Best Restaurant Bar

Bar Agricole – San Francisco, California

Rivera – Los Angeles, California

Saxon + Parole – New York, New York

Slanted Door – San Francisco, California


International Bartender of the Year

Zdenek Kastanek

Alex Kratena

Sam Ross

Dushan Zaric


World’s Best Cocktail Bar

69 Colebrooke Row – London, United Kingdom

Black Pearl – Melbourne, Australia

The Connaught Bar – London, United Kingdom

The Varnish – Los Angeles, California


World’s Best Cocktail Menu

Black Pearl – Melbourne, Australia

Callooh Callay – London, United Kingdom

Clover Club – Brooklyn, New York

Mayahuel – Manhattan, New York


World’s Best Drinks Selection

Artesian Bar at The Langham – London, United Kingdom

Death & Co. – Manhattan, New York

Eau de Vie – Sydney, Australia

Salvatore Calabrese at The Playboy – London, United Kingdom


World’s Best Hotel Bar

Artesian Bar at The Langham – London, United Kingdom

Clive’s Classic Lounge – Victoria, British Columbia

Clyde Common – Portland, Oregon

The Zetter Townhouse – London, United Kingdom


World’s Best New Cocktail Bar

Aviary – Chicago, Illinois

Candelaria – Paris, France

Canon – Seattle, Washington

The Zetter Townhouse – London, United Kingdom


Helen David Lifetime Achievement Award

Gaz Regan 


Liver or leave ‘er



CHEAP EATS Kayday came back down to town and for letting her stay in our bottom apartment, she treated Hedgehog and me to Chinese food, and just me to Japanese. The Japanese was at Izakaya Yuzuki, which I can see out my window right now cause it’s just across the street, kitty-corner-wise.

Small plates. Big bucks. Not the kind of place I would ever dare to go to if there weren’t at least a 67 percent chance of someone else picking up the check. In this case there was a 100 percent chance.

I’m not saying that this is a review of Izakaya Yuzuki, but this one dish . . . I never got its name, but it was squid marinated in its own liver and something really very salty.

I love liver, and that includes every kind of liver I have ever had, including squid liver, but the really remarkable thing about this dish was that the squid didn’t go away when you chewed it. It didn’t grind, crush, tear, or otherwise respond to mastication in any of the usual ways. You couldn’t even call it chewy. It just kind of immediately . . . shrunk. It retreated into itself and became a small, condensed blip in my mouth.

My first thought was, it’s alive.

But it wasn’t, of course.

This is a review of Salumeria, where once I shared a prosciutto-on-pretzel sandwich with Stringbean the Person, my beloved quarterback, because really if there’s one person in life a wide receiver needs to eat with, it’s her quarterback. Nothing says “throw me the ball” more than sharing a sandwich and pickle board at an outside table on a sunny Mission day.

She insisted on paying for her sandwich though, dadburn it.

“Throw me the ball,” I said, thrusting her wadded up ten back at her. She wouldn’t take it — maybe because of some quarterbacky code I don’t know about.

But, anyway … yeah: pickles. As in pickled things — maybe some of the same ones that were conspicuously missing from my beans a couple weeks ago in this column. Salumeria delivers. Salumeria comes through, on the pickle front. Okra. Green tomatoes. Beets …. Pickles!

And the sandwich came through too. It was prosciutto on pretzel, and it was dee-fucking-both-licious-and-lightful. I’d never had pretzel bread before. And I’m not sure I ever had that much prosciutto, either, on a sandwich. Fantastic!

The Person had to go to Rainbow Grocery after lunch, she said, to return things. “What are you returning?” I said. She told me she’d accidentally bought an overpriced foodie magazine for $11, and something else overpriced for $11 — I think she said vitamins. “I’m going to return them,” she said, “and buy $22 worth of sausage.”

Seldom in my life have I heard such sound economic theory laid out before me, like pickles on a board. I was touched.

I was moved.

I loved my quarterback right then, and felt proud to be one of only a handful of people in life who gets to catch her balls. I mean, 11 + 11 = 22, forever and always, but when you express this mathematical truth in terms of sausage attainment, it kind of sizzles and pops. Like poetry.

And when I first met Stringbean, bear in mind, she was a skinny vegetarian! Speaking of which, I did feel a little badly for my many skinny vegetarian friends down at Rainbow, because of course they don’t sell sausages. Which gave me an idea.

“Bean, wait right here,” I said, and I ran back into Salumeria to buy her a homemade salami. For (what? whoa!) 10 bucks. Ack! I couldn’t pull the trigger, even though I had a 10-dollar bill I didn’t really want. Which gave me an even better idea.

I ran back outside and handed the 10 to Stringbean. “I bought an overpriced salami for you,” I explained. “But then I returned it for cash to add to your sausage fund. Here.”

She looked at me like I was crazy and would not take the ten.

“Throw me the ball,” I said.


Daily 9am-7pm

3000 20th St., SF

(415) 471-2998

AE, D, MC, V

Beer and wine



Let it learn



CAREERS AND ED Be not dazzled by the big show across the pond into forgetting your studies! Regardless of how assured and gosh-darn perfect the Olympians may seem, few of us will ever find our dream job by cutting another tenth of a second off our 100-meter dash, or adding another five pounds onto our barbell (egads! Didn’t you people check that Korean weightlifter’s horrific elbow dislocation last week? Low weight, high reps out there, please.) But there are ample ways to improve your lot in life, by attending a class or two or enrolling at one of our fine educational institutions. We’ve compiled some amazing options within your grasp here. Grasp… poor, poor Sa Jae-hyouk.



Saturdays at the Accordion Apocalypse repair shop offer a shot in SoMa at learning to tickle the ivories on sweet, sweet squeezebox. For only $20, staff teach accordion-playing hopefuls about the inner workings of the instrument. It’s said you’ll even emerge from your day of instruction knowing how to wheeze an entire song. Lessons happen once a week and hey, how convenient! If you really take to the accordion, fine specimens are available for purchase mere feet from your classroom.

Saturdays, 4pm. $20. Accordion Apocalypse, 255 10th St, SF. www.accordianapocalypse.com


You don’t have to be a stoner to be upset about the way the federal government has been shutting down our cannabis dispensaries and raiding marijuana trade schools here in the Bay Area. And you don’t have to be a stoner to not know, like, what the hell to do about it. Enter patient advocacy group Americans For Safe Access, who is teaching you how to stand up for medical marijuana with its free Camp WakeUpObama program. Earn online merit badges for calling your elected officials, making protest art projects — even coordinating pot-themed street theater with the help of ASA’s exhaustive website’s educational resources.



Maybe you don’t want to go back to college, but you are down to take a college class. It happens, and San Francisco State’s extended learning department gets it. Register for an Open University course for this kind of real class, real life confluence. For example, its Studio Sculpture course. It’s a rare opportunity to get a in-depth studio sculpting experience without all the boring prerequisites. That doesn’t mean you won’t get ample lessons in theoretical background. You didn’t think your trip back to college will be all clay and play, did you?

Tuesdays and Thursdays Aug. 27-Dec. 17, 9:10-11:55am. $960. SFSU Fine Arts Building, 1600 Holloway, SF. www.sfsu.edu


Sharpen your hamachi-making skills at this City College of San Francisco two-session course on the best in raw fish prep. We Be Sushi owner Andy Tonozuka opened his first sushi shop in 1987, so he should be able to impart all you need to know, from rolls to sashimi. Best of all: the lessons take place in Tonozuka’s classic Mission District eatery. You can’t get more San Francisco sushi-authentic than that — and we’ll bet you your class fee covers at least a free sample or two.

Sundays, Sept. 26-Oct. 6, 10am-1pm. $65-80. We Be Sushi, 538 Valencia, SF. www.ccsf.edu


From camp-happy urbanites to professional explorers, Bay Area citizens can take their wilderness savvy to the next level with Adventure Out, one of NorCal’s ultimate resources on all things wild. With the organization’s flintknapping and stone tools course, students will be introduced and trained in stone technology, which sound like an oxymoron, but actually entails exacting processes like spalling, percussion, and pressure flaking. Apocalypse now!

Sep. 29-30, 10am, $250. Adventure Out, Santa Cruz. www.adventureout.com



A concentration within the school’s counseling psychology degree, this is one of the nation’s only master’s in drama therapy. The program is intended for those who’d like to make their living implementing Erik Erikson’s psychological prescription to “play it out.” Courses focus on broadening self-understanding and activating dormant aspects of the human psyche.

California Institute of Integral Studies, 1453 Mission, SF. (415) 575-1600, www.ciis.edu


If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. After all, if our media sources aren’t covering the news to your liking, it may be high time you became a newscaster. This program teaches students the appropriate research, writing, and reporting skills for careers in media forms including radio, television, cable, syndicated, Internet, and satellite news organizations.

Community College of San Francisco, 50 Phelan, SF. (415) 239-3285, www.ccsf.edu


For every consumer consuming, there must be an industry creating. San Francisco State keeps this basic fact of capitalism on the books by offering a degree that is as much kooky inventor as it is savvy economist. Process, people, and product provide the basis for this bachelor’s degree in industrial design with a concentration in product design and development. Students will learn product design through researching technology, material, aesthetics, and the nuances of that ever-present invisible hand.

San Francisco State University, 1600 Holloway, SF. (415) 338-1111, www.sfsu.edu


Body-conscious, food-obsessed Californians can thank their stars that some of the state’s brightest students are equally as nutrition-oriented, and driven to make moves in the world of healthy eating. UC Berkeley’s College of Natural Resource undergraduate degree in dietetics focuses on disease prevention through understanding metabolic regulation, genetics, and the biological and chemical sciences of nutritional studies. Graduates from the program are generally expected to gun for a future in food production, clinical settings, or community and governmental leadership.

UC Berkeley, 318 Sproul Hall No. 5900, Berk. (510) 642-7405, www.berkeley.edu

If you want my advice


CAREERS AND ED In July, the unemployment rate in California was 11 percent. Which got us thinking: what’s the smart way to job hunt these days? We’re not the only ones — this month, the Commonwealth Club is hosting a series of lectures and workshops called “The Future of Work.” We tapped two of the series’ experts for email interviews, asking Marty Nemko, author of Cool Careers For Dummies, and Joel Garfinkle, Oakland-based career coach, for their takes on the matter. They offered two points of view on today’s dreary job market. Upside? Nemko, who spoke on August 1, is positive that more workers will be needed to implement upcoming immigration reform. Of course, he also foresaw growth in “bio-chemical terrorism.” Oh, the future.

San Francisco Bay Guardian: Tell us about your Commonwealth Club event.

Marty Nemko: [My focus was] on which careers are likely to burgeon [in] the result of [an] Obama win — which ones polls and Intrade [a speculative, crowd-sourced website] betting suggest will occur. I’ll also talk about how to survive and even thrive during what may be America’s decline and fall.

Joel Garfinkle: Working hard and being good at what you do is not enough to attain the level of success you truly deserve. So what exactly makes one person more successful than another? The answer: leveraging and applying perception, visibility, and influence better than anyone else.

SFBG: What kinds of issues are older workers facing in terms of getting new jobs?

MN: It’s very tough to convince an employer that a 40-year old with no experience is better than a 25-year old with experience. In this job market, the employer doesn’t have to settle.

JG: Mid-life career transitions occur because after years of success, many of my clients find that they lack fulfillment. Success isn’t enough anymore to satisfy them. [But] it’s difficult to make a mid-life career transition due to the lack of financial stability that exists when making the change. Learning of new skills in a different profession can be a daunting and intimidating task.

SFBG: What are some place that are still proving fruitful for job searchers?

MN: Some of my predicted areas for growth are auditing for corporations, the US Treasury, and the IRS; immigration-related bureaucrats that will be needed after Obama gets comprehensive immigration reform after the election; health care advocates to help people get the health care they need as ObamaCare is implemented; and bio-chemical terrorism. Anything mandated will be the last sort of employment to get cut. Lastly, multicultural marketers to address the tastes of the fastest-growing ethnic groups.

JG: Information technology is still growing. About two-thirds of hiring manages have been adding staff this year and will continue to add headcount to the IT departments. Health care is still pretty in-demand due to rising ages in the US. And many employers have had difficulty finding and hiring enough engineers.

SFBG: Should people still be striving for their dream job? Is that idea still relevant?

MN: It’s in the Bay Area’s drinking water. If there was a motto on the San Francisco flag, it would be “Do what you love and who cares if the money follows. My parents will support me.”

JG: The increase in collective desire to love one’s job comes from something missing in a person’s life. Statistics over the years have stayed consistent in stating that over two-thirds of Americans are unhappy in their jobs. The task is to recognize that people are uniquely special, have something to give, have a talent no one else shares in quite the same way.


(next lecture) Thu/9 6pm, $20

Commonwealth Club 

595 Market, Second Floor, SF


Aug. 30, 7pm, $15 

Silicon Valley Bank

3005 Tasman, Santa Clara

(415) 597-6700



We need a hero



HERBWISE News coverage of the Olympics have successfully converted the world’s premier sporting event into a gossip fest befitting a British royal family divorce, and talk of record-setting Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps’ pot smoking have ignited the cannabis blogosphere. But not so fast: Phelps hasn’t owned up to smoking weed since 2009, when he was spotted ripping a bong during an extended break from training. He told CNN in an interview that aired just last week that the feeling of having the photo published was “the lowest of the low.” Perhaps the cannabis world should look elsewhere for celebrity endorsement…


“Kids were walking around light-headed. The animals and everything.” Oakland radio DJ cum-MTV News executive producer Sway had the pleasure of introducing Snoop Dogg’s latest reincarnation at a recent press conference (still available online if this abbreviated sum-up doesn’t cut it for you.) But before he introduced Snoop Lion, he wanted us to know Dogg had smoked out Sway’s guest house on a recent visit — so badly, in fact that it took weeks to air out. Think of the children!

Snoop is. He just recorded Reincarnated, a roots album with Diplo. The first single “La La La” already available to buy. The rapper said the project is for his fans that can’t stomach his career’s gangsterisms. “I can’t just keep taking them to a dead end street and dropping them off,” he said. “I got to teach them how to fish, how to plant, how to grow.” Oh, and he’s bored. ” I’m a wise man in this music industry,” he said. Onto the next genre, where he at least has to hustle.

“I’ve always said I was Bob Marley reincarnated,” the Lion mused. The rebirth apparently took place on visit to a Jamaican temple. A priest informed Snoop “you are Brahimi, you are the light, you are the lion.” Said Snoop, “from that moment on, it was like I began to understand why I was there.” Helpfully, Vice cameras were on hand for the meeting, for Snoop getting dreadlocks, and for the creation of the album. A documentary named Reincarnated will be debuting at the Toronto International Film Festival, but surely the intrepids of Vice Media will be happy to bring it your way after that.

When Sway asked him straight up if he’d be converting to Rastafarianism, Snoop said that being a rasta was more about lifestyle than religion. “It’s the way you live, it’s the way you do what you do. I felt like I’ve always been Rastafari. I just didn’t have my third eye open. But it’s wide open right now.”

What his tri-eye see? Will Snoop Lion shake his mane at cannabis Prohibition in the United States? What would Bob Marley do?


Tuff Gong would certainly not have been stoked had he been in the Bay on July 31, when SF dispensaries Vapor Room and HopeNet shut their doors for the last time after receiving prohibitory letters from US Attorney Melinda Haag. The next day, activists took to the streets in a mock funeral for medical cannabis, touting “Cannabis is Medicine: Let the States Decide” signs, a coffin, and a paper mache version of Haag to the US Federal Building, where she has an office.


New release exploring the complications involved in ending Prohibition: Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs to Know (Oxford University Press, 288pp, $16.95), co-authored by Oakland’s Beau Kilmer. Kilmer is the co-director of RAND’s Drug Policy Research Center, and appears to be recommending a cautious approach to making pot legal — a prospect being voted on in three states in the fall election.

When in Venice



FILM The distinguishing characteristic of André Téchiné’s movies is the speed and force with which life changes people and their relationships with one another, even as the director’s presentation is so matter-of-fact that no single moment betrays the enormity of changes endured. He’s put out a film every year or two since the mid-1970s, and like a prolific, reliable literary novelist, his efforts are always admirably crafted even when they’re not particularly inspired. When they are inspired, as in Wild Reeds (1994) or My Favorite Season (1993), they’re superb — yet not all that different from the rest, just a bit better.

His latest, Unforgivable, is only quite good, but then one might as well be grateful he’s still this interested and deft at age 69. Francis (the estimable André Dussollier) is the French author of best-selling crime novels who’s decided to recharge his batteries by living in Venice for a year. He’s struck by the brisk attractiveness of Judith (Carole Bouquet), the estate agent he consults to find a rental; she finds his brazen come-on more annoying than amusing, let alone tempting.

Yet 18 months later they’re contentedly married, and hosting two daughters of his by a prior marriage. The eldest, Alice (Mélanie Thierry), clearly takes her mother’s side in a lingering grudge match she’s doing her best to keep alive; when she disappears, probably with a ne’er-do-well local aristocratic boyfriend, there is puzzlement but also a certain relief. That turns to real worry for Francis, however, as days go by and no one at all seems to know Alice’s whereabouts — not even the husband she’s possibly abandoned. Has she eloped with her lover? Or drowned, having last been seen swimming?

Advised on all sides to relax and wait for her to turn up, Francis instead hires a private detective in the form of Anna Maria (Adriana Asti), who was once ex-model Judith’s paramour and, like Francis, has a problem child in the recently prison-sprung, extremely prickly-tempered Jérémie (Mauro Conte). The paternal quest that’s become an obsession oddly fosters a bond between Francis and this mercurial delinquent, even as it erodes the happiness he’s won in autumnal life with Judith.

Unforgivable is based on a novel by Philippe Djian, but feels very much of a piece with films whose stories Téchiné originated with or without collaborators. It hurtles forward with a casual intensity that’s uniquely his own, sometimes surprising or even shocking us, but never inflating incidents to the point of melodrama. It offers a morally complex universe without judgment — Téchiné may be a gay filmmaker, but it’s typical of his unpredictability that the most horrific action here is taken by two minor characters as payback for a homophobic incident. Unforgivable isn’t among the director’s most memorable creations, but particularly in the midst of the usual summertime pap, it’s satisfying to spend two hours with someone who thinks like an adult, and treats the audience as one.


UNFORGIVABLE opens Fri/10 in Bay Area theaters.

Eternal return



MUSIC Those were days of mystery, when a rare album would come to you like a message from alien shores, a spectral cryptogram, the crackle of the plastic wrap as you tore it open subbing in for ghostly static. Especially if that album found its serendipitous way to you (breathtakingly arty gay older coworker, amazing cool girl from another high school who lived in her parents’ patchouli-scented basement, astronomical sum plunked down at unerring record store clerk’s slightly condescending suggestion) from willfully obfusc label 4AD, its releases so calculated to transcend earthly bonds that you could barely figure out the lyrics, let alone what possessed angelic being those mouthfuls of gothly warbled vowels belonged to. The label was notoriously recalcitrant about exposing its artists to mundane promotional hoo-haw. Pre-Internet, this often insurmountable unknowing became almost erotic.

And more than any other act on 4AD’s roster in the 1980s — more than Cocteau Twins or Throwing Muses, more than the vague amalgamated entity known as This Mortal Coil — Dead Can Dance embodied and perpetuated this exquisitely agonizing inscrutability. You knew they were an Australian-British duo that traded in deep musico-anthropological investigations worked up into stately, chthonic pop, you knew their names, you even saw a picture or two. But that was a close as you’d get to any kind of intimacy. The music (and of course the iconic cover art — I still dream of the imagery for albums Spleen and Ideal and Within the Realm of a Dying Sun) had to stand for everything.

So it was a bit unsettling for me to be on the other end of the phone from DCD’s high priestess of eerie glossolalia, Lisa Gerrard, as she dished about her tumultuous relationship with her musical partner, Brendan Perry.

“Oh, we had such fights, such awful fights — wrecking things, really, in the studio, and often we’d just have to separate ourselves,” she told me, her wonderfully animated voice ringing clear with a certain pastoral mysticism.

“But you see, darling, it was all in service of the music, this powerful force that we tap into together, that comes through us into the world. We had to learn that we just can’t force it, the power must emerge when it’s ready. You must be very patient and wait for the unlocking to begin — the great unlocking that connects all literature and art, and shines through in our shared humanity.

“We can’t weave the specific threads of this underlying magnificence if the loom isn’t there. You must have the loom. Now, we feel we’ve found it again.”

Specifically, Gerrard was referring to the fact that solidly pleasurable and Middle Eastern-tinged return to form, Anastasia, to be released on August 12, is the first Dead Can Dance album in 16 years. The pair has kept themselves very busy in the meantime. Gerrard produces highly acclaimed soundtracks for movies like Gladiator and The Insider and Perry, the more somberly bucolic of the pair, has converted a mid-19th century church in central Ireland into a studio, Quivvy, where Anastasia and several of his solo albums were recorded.

After a focused but exhausting reunion tour in 2005, the pair found it wasn’t the right time to reconnect in the studio and headed back to separate lives in different hemispheres. (Prominent in the pair’s press materials is the fact that their physical relationship ended in the early ’90s.) But a couple years ago, Perry commented on his online forum that the two were talking, and sure enough Anastasis, the Greek word for resurrection, was born.

The album weaves Platonic and Ayurvedic philosophical sentiments into esoteric folk-derived rhythms and eerie chant-like vocals — although they’ve left 4AD for the more, er, familiarly named Play It Again Sam label, they’ve retained the occultish fabric of the 4AD DCD sound, with its usual deliciously shivery rewards.

“Working on the album, we relished the opportunity to work with new instruments like the hang [a UFO-shaped Swiss instrument that crosses a steel drum with a gamelan gong] and a host of other percussion that we’ll be talking on the road with us,” Gerrard said about the tour, “as well as another fantastic singer who we’ve trained to double my vocals so we can really bring out the sounds of our older catalogue. I can’t wait to uncork those songs for everyone at the beautiful Greek Theatre in Berkeley. They’re just the right vintage now, they’re so ripe for the ears, if you will.

“And our new ones, we’re working in 6/8, 9/5 time signatures in these lovely Sufi and Eastern traditions. It really is going to be a show — but we’re putting so much practice into it, it’s not just feeding everything into a digital machine.”

About that digital machine: how does Dead Can Dance feel in a world of instant access — and a lot less mystery when it comes to musical artistry?

“Connection is both the key and the mystery, darling — it depends where its coming from. We try to locate ourselves within the connective tissue of an ur-culture that can free us from the suffocating membrane of mediocrity.”


Sun/12, 7:30pm, $39.50

Greek Theatre

2001 Gayley Rd, Berk.




When the people lead


By Jon Golinger

OPINION Thursday, July 19, 2012 was an especially gorgeous day in San Francisco. On that warm and sunny summer afternoon, a colorful collection of more than 100 citizens from every corner of the city gathered together on the steps of City Hall to announce they had done something political insiders and powerbrokers had just weeks earlier dismissed as “impossible.”

This grassroots coalition of neighborhood leaders, tenant activists, homeowners, seniors, environmentalists, and recreation enthusiasts had just collected more than 31,000 petition signatures in less than 30 days from San Francisco voters. For the first time in more than 20 year, they had just qualified a referendum for the ballot challenging a Board of Supervisors-approved ordinance. They had just stopped in its tracks the seemingly done-deal to dramatically increase height limits on the waterfront for the proposed 8 Washington luxury condo high-rise project.

This citizen activism was made even more difficult by developer Simon Snellgrove, who went to extraordinary lengths to interfere with the petition drive and prevent it from succeeding, including:

• Using crafty legal maneuvers to require the petition to include not just the five-page city ordinance it challenges, but 515 additional pages of charts and addendums. This created a 520-page “book” that was expensive to print and heavy to carry.

• Spending $30,000 to pay hired “blockers” to encircle petition gatherers wherever they could find them and shout, intimidate, and otherwise interfere with their talking to voters.

• Paying an attorney to hover over the shoulders of workers at the Department of Elections as they counted petition signatures, repeatedly challenging their decisions.

While all of these hurdles and questionable tactics certainly had an impact, the citizen activists and volunteers nevertheless persevered. Soon after the 65 boxes overflowing with signed petitions had paraded through the corridors of City Hall, they were certified as sufficiently valid by the San Francisco Department of Elections. The “impossible” was done.

A recent poll by David Binder Research found that voters citywide would overwhelmingly reject the 8 Washington waterfront height limit increase by a vote of 56 percent to 25 percent if the Waterfront Referendum were put to a vote today. However, before it is officially placed on the ballot, the referendum process offers the Board of Supervisors a “second-chance” to make the right decision at its September 4th meeting.

Supervisors Christina Olague, Jane Kim, Eric Mar, and Malia Cohen — who all voted in favor of the waterfront height limit increase in June — now have the opportunity to take some time to talk with their constituents, reexamine their initial decision, and hopefully make a different choice.

But if they fail to do so, the referendum on the proposed 8 Washington project’s “Wall On the Waterfront” will appear on the November 2013 ballot and the people will decide. The people will decide whether a special exemption should be made to give away prime public land to a developer to build multi-million-dollar condos that 99 percent of San Franciscans can’t afford. The people will decide whether to allow the construction of a high-rise luxury condo building on the waterfront that would be 50 feet higher than the old Embarcadero Freeway. The people will decide whether we should protect or neglect our unique and beautiful waterfront. If the leaders fail to lead, the people will lead.

Jon Golinger is the Campaign Director for No Wall on the Northeast Waterfront www.NoWallOnTheWaterfront.com

Creating activist scholars



This semester, the California Institute for Integral Studies (CIIS) will start a new Anthropology Department featuring teachers who are grassroots organizers with decades of experience, including Boots Riley, Roxane Dunbar-Ortiz, Sasha Lilley, and Chris Carlsson.

The program’s goal is to create “activist scholars,” to get students into communities outside the institution, and to use their research and intellectual opportunities at the school to move social justice projects forward. And the man who organized it all is an unrepentant anarchist.

“The most distinguishing character of anarchism for me is prefigurative politics — creating the new within the shell of the old,” Adrej Grubacic, the new department head, told us.

His classes come at a time when anarchism is being more widely discussed in the US than it has been for generations. Non-hierarchical general assemblies and consensus-based “direct democracy,” long practiced in anarchist and other leftist circles, swept across the country along with the Occupy movement last year.

Anarchists have been associated in the public eye with everything from spirit-fingered affirmations to the masked, black-clad protesters smashing bank windows and scrawling anti-corporate messages on walls. But Grubacic says it’s more than that.

As anarchism exploded into practice in Occupy’s tent cities, it was also experiencing a renaissance in the ivory tower. The North American Anarchist Studies Network was founded in November 2009, and since has brought together a growing number of professors who want to explore and teach anarchism through annual conferences.

Big names such as Yale Anthropology Professor James Scott have declared themselves anarchists. In a country where the study of economics is usually code for the study of capitalism, professors longing to talk alternatives are coming forward in droves.

It’s more than a little ironic that, within an ideology focused on a lack of hierarchy, it can be hard for those on the street to connect with those in the lecture halls. So how can the academic-types truly support The People?

From Zapatista schools in Mexico to universities run by the Landless Worker’s Movement in Brazil to popular universities throughout Canada and Europe, people all over the world have developed institutions based on anarchist and Marxist principles.

Now, in San Francisco, Grubacic is hoping to do the same.

A historian who was an anarchist by age 13, Grubacic grew up in socialist Yugoslavia, a country engulfed in brutal civil war by the time he reached his 20s.

“I was raised a Yugoslav,” Grubacic says. “So I was raised to be a citizen of a country that doesn’t exist anymore.”

He was teaching history at the University of Belgrade, but his political beliefs became a problem.

“The political cultures and political groups in power were either Serbian nationalists or these hyper-capitalists,” Grubacic told me. “And going after them, because I was publishing and I was doing a lot of things, was—let’s say, not a smart career choice.”

It was with input from his mentor, famed leftist writer and academic Noam Chomsky, that Grubacic left the crumbling Balkan state for his own safety. After a frustrating stint at University of San Francisco, he found CIIS.

“This is the first place where I think that I was hired because I was an anarchist, or I am an anarchist. It’s kind of funny,” Grubacic says.

Founded in 1968, CIIS grew out of the California Institute of Asian Studies, and has quietly taught holistic approaches to psychology and integrative approaches to psychology, spirituality and the humanities since then . Today 60 percent of CIIS students are studying clinical or counseling psychology. The Anthropology and Social Change program is part of the School of Consciousness and Transformation.

“It’s the only department like it in the United States,” Grubacic says. “This is going to be one of the few places where anarchism is going to be studied.”

“So anarchist social theory, anarchist education, anarchist ideas in general. We are going to study them, seriously, because they need to be recognized seriously. It’s a beautiful history, it’s a beautiful tradition,” he says. “How important it is, I think, is revealed, by the recent rediscovery or reinvention of anarchism at Occupy. So I think that it’s more relevant than ever to create a space where anarchism will be studied.”

A CIIS education doesn’t come cheap. Two years in the masters program costs at least $35,000, and to earn a PhD will cost more than $60,000. Scholarships and financial aid are available, but Grubacic called the question of access to this program “a huge question.”

“It’s troubled me from the very beginning,” he says. “We are creating an experiment. It’s a social justice, community-based program in a private school.”

He hopes, however, that students will learn applicable skills in the program. Classes on radio, film, and writing, Grubacic says, will give students practical skills. “They will be able to continue, either as academics and go to get their PhDs, or to join the non-governmental sector, to work with NGOs, to work with community groups, to work with labor groups.”

Not the most lucrative professions, perhaps, but likely the chosen fields for many Anthropology and Social Change students.

Grubacic calls creating a program based on teaching grassroots and subversive knowledge in an elite institution “a paradox,” and one he’s not alone in. Grubacic got advice on the issue, he said, from Anibal Quihano, a Peruvian scholar known for his theories on colonial power who now teaches sociology at the Binghamton University in New York.

In fact, Grubacic practically convened a conference of post-colonial and anarchist scholars to help develop Anthropology and Social Change. Grubacic sent the program’s description around to everyone from his buddy Chomsky to Immanuel Wallerstein to World Social Forum organizer Boaventura de Sousa Santos. He got advice, too, from organizers at the Popular University of Quebec and the Popular University of Social Movements, a school in São Paulo, Brazil run by the landless workers’ movement there.

“The deciding thing about our own methodology was that we would like to listen, both to the voices coming from the past, so people who are doing similar things before us, and to people who are doing similar things right now,” Grubacic said. “We also went — and this is the third form, let’s say, of listening — to the people in the community.”

He reached out to contacts and friends of professors in the university, as well as hanging out in gathering places and striking up conversations with those who showed up. He told one story of doing this covert outreach in the Tenderloin National Forest, the botanical garden and neighborhood spot just 10 blocks from CIIS’s building on Mission and 11th streets.

“Some people were completely uninterested and thought, what’s the purpose? Who are you, with this weird accent? Go home,” Grubacic laughed. Some, though, were more receptive, including a woman who said the program could help with those fighting against San Francisco’s problem of environmental racism.

“This person told me that she thinks activists can come to a particular community, do an ethnography, do research, and then present that research to people in the city, and show the people who have power in the city to make decisions why such behavior is unjust,” Grubacic said.

In the end, that is essentially how the program will work. Students will partner with local organizations, neighborhood groups, or other affiliated people working on social justice goals, doing research to help further their goals.

“The document they’re going to produce after two years of activist research is going to be written for that community,” Grubacic said. “We are the second readers. We are less important in the process. What they do has to be useful to the community. They have to be passionate about working with that community group. And they have to produce something that’s going to be useful to what that community group does.”

In addition to classes and research projects, students will participate in “convivias,” one of the most unique aspects of the program. People from the public, scholars, and others with special knowledge will hammer out ideas with students in week-long “political laboratories.” Revolutionary art will be practiced in a convivia called “Atelier of Insurrectionary Imagination.” And Grubacic and his students will turn a certain vacant part of the CIIS building into an “Emergency Library,” a place for books as well as what the program description calls “scholars on call, responding to the emergent needs of the communities in struggle, who might be in need of legal advice, activist companionship, scholarly input, or a media suggestion.” The convivias have corresponding student work-study positions — yes, there will be a paid Emergency Librarian.

CIIS spokesperson James Martin said Grubacic brings a lot to the school: “The thing I’m really excited about is that we’re engaging the local community. We live in San Francisco for a reason. This is one of the places in the world where all these intellectuals come together who have the passion to try and change things.”

Despite the paradoxes and problems that come when the elite meets the grassroots, Grubacic has high hopes. “We need to redefine what it means to be an intellectual who works within academia,” he said. “And the only way to do this is to become a part of a larger social movement’s formation, that is aimed at changing society. We cannot offer much. But we can offer something.”

Celebrity rehab



THEATER Opening night of Project: Lohan arrived on the wobbly heels of its subject’s latest headline humiliation: another car accident for 26-year-old actress, singer, model, and tabloid treasure Lindsay Lohan. While a less serious one than the month before, the crash still served as a fitting epilogue to the cross-dressing mocudrama created by playwright-actor D’Arcy Drollinger (wielder of 2010’s riotous Scalpel!), a satirical but hardly uncompassionate trek into celebrity oblivion now making its West Coast premiere at the Costume Shop, American Conservatory Theater’s new performance venue on Market Street.

Actually, though it reads like one, Project: Lohan isn’t really mocking at all, since all of its crass and buffoonish dialogue comes directly from sources in the public record — trial transcripts, 911 calls, chat shows, magazine copy. Lohan is a pretty straightforward exercise in “Laramie”-style documentary theater executed in less-than-straight camp mode. The approach ends up being more than mere parody, offering some critical distance on both the docudrama genre itself and the media-born regime of beauty and success that sacrifices pampered lives like Lohan’s to the general distraction and degradation of the public imagination.

Not to put too fine a point on it. Under assured direction by Tracy Ward, the whole thing plays as high-octane comedy. A panoply of personalities crisscross the stage, if only for a hot second, including the likes of Tina Fey, Jane Fonda, Meryl Streep, Britney Spears, and James Franco (in Franco’s case a headshot on a Popsicle stick serves nicely); and the piranha-like Lohan peer group of Paris Hilton, Scarlett Johansson, Hilary Duff, et al. With a sharp and vivacious Drollinger in the role of Lohan, flanked by a quick-change cast of cross-dressing comedic talents (Liz Anderson, Allegra Rose Edwards, Michael Patrick Gaffney, Cindy Goldfield, and Sara Moore), it’s a 90-minute feast of campy impersonations and shrewd comic timing.

But in sending up the freak show that is celebrity culture, Project: Lohan‘s despoiled subject unexpectedly gains back some of her humanity. Meanwhile, the focus shifts gradually from Lohan to our complicity with the celebrity mill as ready voyeurs-consumers of its pathetic winners and vaunted losers. At the nadir of scandal but the height of publicity, Lohan repeatedly moans about alternately safeguarding or recharging her “career.” But by now it’s clear that the debauched sideshow of her “personal life” really is her career already.

Even in Kent Taylor’s expertly doctored photographs — which replace Lohan with Drollinger (in Lohan drag) on tabloid pages, magazine covers, movie posters, and the like (all projected on a screen at the back of the stage)—the barrage of glitz suggests the sharp arc of a talented girl’s mean ride on the celebrity roller coaster. And Richard Neveu’s final video montage adds a mesmerizing and chilling coda to the whole romp, as we watch a smiling child model morph jarringly into a burnt-out “star.”

But the easy pickings of the public record are as much a problem as a boon to the script itself, at least at first. If the play owes its narrative shape to a balanced diet of National Enquirer, theater of the ridiculous, and the self-congratulatory documentary theater of the Tectonic variety (whose style has ripened into parody before, as in 2009’s Zombie Town), it’s the strict adherence to a chronological docudrama approach that girdles it in a relentless rhythm that, punctuated by datelines and pull-quotes, quickly becomes monotonous — and undercuts somewhat the natural hilarity in the rowdy stage show.

Nevertheless, there’s a thematic consistency to the repetition that slowly emerges as the real point of Project: Lohan‘s satirical spree: Even as the chameleon cast, in perennial transformation, riffles through half-concealed wardrobe racks, the increasingly lost starlet they’re tracking engages in an almost pathological obsession with changing her hair color and reprising her worst exploits.

We’re left wondering just whose “project” Lohan really is: her manager-mother’s? The media’s? The complex-inducing mass entertainment complex? Documentary theater’s? Could she ever be her own project in such a whirlpool of bad taste?

Maybe in the middle of all the babble, she actually says it all herself.

“And for everyone who thinks I’m crazy? I’m not,” announces Lohan to a world of greedy cameras and microphones. “I’m just trying to act.”


Through Aug. 19

Thu-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 7pm, $25

Costume Shop

1117 Market, SF



Faces of City College



The first thing you notice about Bouchra Simmons is her hair. Her black curls are bold and larger than life, much like Simmons herself.

Simmons moved to the United States from Morocco in 2008. A single mother of a nine-year-old daughter, Simmons is taking English as Second Language classes as well as business classes and working towards a certificate in management at City College.

Somehow, she also found time to become Associated Students President at the Downtown Campus. That campus is one of several that the college is now looking at to consolidate. While the analysis isn’t complete, the school might move students out of the valuable downtown property to lease it, which may generate $4-5 million a year for the school.

And the ESL classes which Simmons takes could face cuts, too.

Like many other students, she relies on Muni to get around, even to drop her daughter off at childcare and the Downtown Campus is easier for her to commute to than other campuses around the city.

“We students are not lazy, we have goals, we’re craving education,” Simmons said. She is going to work with one of the college’s new accreditation workgroups and plans on emphasizing the need for the downtown campus in particular.

Her dream is to be able to earn a living wage to support her family. “I’m a single mom, and going back to school empowers me,” Simmons said. (Fitzgerald)




When asked to describe her life, Rosa Morales, 18, said, “I was born, I loved the Jonas Brothers, and then I died.”

An SF native who just graduated from the Ruth Asawa School of the Arts, she is passionate about making films. Her work focuses on social issues, often touching on the lives of Latino housekeepers or how toys affect young girls’ body image.

Morales has many achievements, but her math grades weren’t among them. At 18 years old, Morales decided to go to City College, a place she says will allow her to learn basic math skills at her own pace.

“If I were not able to go to community college, I wouldn’t go to school,” Morales said.

She smiles, flashing her braces, as she says that she has registered and gotten all the classes she needed for the semester, including math. Other students her age aren’t as lucky.

Classes at California’s overburdened and underfunded community colleges are becoming harder to get into, including at CCSF. Students like Morales may soon get priority, so they can get the classes they need to transfer to a four-year university on time.

“All of [my counselors] say that I can’t transfer in two years, but I hope I can do it,” she said.

When asked how she feels about the loss of ESL classes and non-credit courses, Morales said that the issue affects more than just her. Out of the 10 extended family members she lives with, five of them (including herself) are enrolled at City College, all for different reasons.

“My uncle takes night English classes,” she said. Morales’ uncle is a housekeeper, and being unable to speak English makes it a lot easier for employers to accuse him of stealing money, and more likely for him not to get hired at all, she said.

“I know that knowing them, they’d give them up for me if they had to. But I know that from a selfish point of view, of course I want classes to be allotted to people like me… I don’t know what I’d do without those classes,” Morales said. But, she added, ” I can’t genuinely say, ‘Give them to me,” without there being a tug in my heart.” (Fitzgerald)


City College doesn’t just churn out degrees. It creates opportunities. For Galina Gerasimova, that opportunity led to a great job with the school.

A part-time instructor at the college for about eight years now, Gerasimova moved to San Francisco from the Ukraine in 1997 and immediately began taking ESL classes at the school. With a teenage son to take care of and not a lot of money to survive on, she not only mastered English but was also inspired by the warmth and dedication of her instructors.

As a recent immigrant, “you’re scared, you’re frustrated, you don’t really know what to expect,” Gerasimova said, explaining that ESL teachers are often the first people English learners really interact with after moving to the United States. “(They) helped me a lot … and of course that actually influenced my decision to become an instructor at City College.”

By 2000, she became an instructional aid, all the while pursuing an Associate’s Degree in computer sciences. She then transferred to San Francisco State University and earned a degree in Human Physiology — a subject that complemented her previous studies in biology, chemistry and physics in the Ukraine, where she worked with war veterans.

Gerasimova remembers how easy it was to enroll in all the classes she needed at CCSF and she laments the steady deterioration of public education in California.

“It just became more intense over the past year,” she said, “and I see how that impacts City College and our services.” (Bloomberg)

Quick facts about City College of San Francisco


• CCSF has 10 main campuses: Ocean (Ingleside), Mission, Civic Center, Chinatown, Southeast (Bayview), Evans, Noe Valley, John Adams (on Masonic), Fort Mason, and Downtown.

• CCSF also has single class “instructional sites” littered throughout San Francisco in various office spaces, spare SFUSD classrooms, and other locations. The exact number of these sites isn’t known by the college, but they are estimated at more than 100.

• CCSF’s English as Second Language (ESL) Department serves around 20,000 students annually, compared to an English Department that serves around 7,000.

• Non-credit courses at City College are tuition-free, as mandated by the state, although some charge nominal fees. Credit courses at CCSF are $46 a unit. A semester of full classes (12 units) costs less than a single course at San Francisco State University.

• The neighborhood campuses primarily provide non-credit classes including ESL, certificate training, and enrichment courses. Ocean Campus in Ingleside provides the bulk of credit courses, which are used to attain associates degrees or transfer to a four-year university.

• Tracking exactly how much each campus costs the school is difficult, according to school officials. Faculty and staff serve multiple campuses frequently, and many services aren’t tracked on a campus basis, making campus consolidation or closure something that will take time to evaluate.

• The state funds community colleges based on enrollment, a process known as “apportionment.” The enrollment time is measured in Full Time Equivalent Students (FTES), a measure of instructional time in hours.

• CCSF has been absorbing about $24 million a year in costs to non-credit courses when the state reduced the amount of apportionment it allotted to schools for non-credit courses. The school did not want to reduce classes in light of state cuts, and began paying for them out of pocket.

• Credit classes receive higher rates of apportionment than non-credit classes.

• In order to make up for the unique nature of its campus sites, the state offsets low apportionment at CCSF with money called a “foundational grant.” Essentially, the school receives anywhere from $500,000 to $1.5 million a year for specific campus locations. 

Saving City College



CAREERS AND ED City College of San Francisco (CCSF) is fighting for its life, and that struggle has turned old enemies into new allies. Suddenly, past differences seem less important than the need to work together, bringing a new sense of unity and purpose to the troubled community college.

In June the school was sanctioned and ordered to “show cause” from the Accrediting Commission of Community and Junior Colleges, putting it on the brink of losing its accreditation — certification necessary for the college’s degrees to be worth anything and for the school to secure federal aid (see “City College fights back,” July 17).

Twelve workgroups comprised of faculty, staff, administrators, students, and college board members are working feverishly to prove by October that the school is making major progress. Otherwise, it could face dire consequences.

While few people with any education or political background believe the school will actually close, there are serious consequences if its accreditation is revoked. A special trustee assigned by the state chancellor’s office could assume the powers of the college’s board or the school could be merged with another community college district.

The only college in California to ever suffer both of those fates was Compton Community College in 2006. Though the two colleges serve wildly different communities, many speak of their fates in the same breath. Its shadow hangs over City College like a ghost of what is to come.


The newfound sense of common purpose was displayed on Aug. 1 in CCSF conference rooms, where once-battling special interest groups and employees gathered to tackle problems that have plagued the school for years.

The feuds aren’t just of interest to political geeks and college insiders. Infighting and a dysfunctional governance structure had stalled the school from tackling urgent issues, according to the accrediting commission.

“During interviews, criticism regarding the efficiency of the institutional governance process was revealed. The criticism centered on the length of time to reach a recommendation. It was also noted that there may be misunderstanding regarding the role of a recommending body versus a decision-making body,” according to the commission’s report.

That snippet of the 66-page critical report represents years of strife at the school, not only among the school’s elected trustees but also between the board and other college groups on issues ranging from placement testing to school site closures.

The 12 newly formed workgroups — constituted by the Chancellor’s Office and comprised mostly of faculty, administrators, and trustees — met to discuss issues and make recommendations to the system’s decision-making authorities: the Chancellor’s Office and Board of Trustees. One of the workgroups is in charge of evaluating that very decision-making system, with 14 people from different college constituencies hashing out a new style of democracy for the school.

At their first meeting, the members brought in stacks of papers to hand out — research on best practices and policies in college governments around the state and the nation. This particular workgroup discussed how an ideal student government should run, and how to enact those changes at City College.

The workgroups are brainstorming sessions, and each one has a different task ahead of it, including how to measure student learning, leveraging technology to streamline the school, facilities planning, and fiscal planning. Each workgroup acts independently, although some themes and members overlap.

The Board of Trustees is scheduled to meet and report on the progress of the workgroups on August 14 — the day before fall semester classes begin.

A final, preliminary report based on the findings of the dozen workgroups is expected to be completed before the accrediting commission’s October 15 deadline. With everything on the table, from staff layoffs to campus closures, CCSF is an anxious institution facing an uncertain future.


In Compton, faculty and staff lived in constant fear of losing their jobs between 2002 and 2006, while the school was at risk of losing accreditation. Its path offers some lessons for CCSF.

“From three or four years prior to the accreditation being revoked, every March everybody got a pink slip and then you found out, you know, whether or not you actually had a job to come back to the next year,” Ann Garten, the community relations director of El Camino Community College District, told the Guardian in a phone interview.

El Camino swooped in to save Compton from total closure when its accreditation was revoked in 2006. The fate of employees at City College is a mystery for now, but based on Compton’s experience, part-time faculty are most at risk.

During spring semester, City College had nearly 1,700 instructors, approximately half of which were part-timers, according to college payroll documents. The school’s faculty are represented by the American Federation of Teachers Local 2121.

Classified workers — those who perform services such as administrative support, technology services, and grounds maintenance — could also be at risk. Their numbers exceeded 800 during the last fiscal year, according to the school’s assistant director of research, Steve Spurling.

They are represented by the Service Employees International Union Local 1021, a large and active union that also represents most city workers. In recent years, both unions have already taken pay cuts and freezes on raises and accepted furlough days to help plug the college’s fiscal holes.

If a special trustee were to take over, these workers would become even more vulnerable. But even without a special trustee, will there be layoffs?

Though there is no definitive answer yet, “everything needs to be on the table,” Trustee Steve Ngo told us. Yet most indications are that part-timers are at the most risk.

“I’m not convinced [full time faculty] pay cuts are what is called for. Our part time is the highest paid in the country,” CCSF Chancellor Pamila Fisher told the Associated Student Presidents, made up of elected leaders from CCSF’s eight main campuses. “We pay them health care. That’s unheard of” and could be re-evaluated, she said.

Yet it’s also possible that more creative and aggressive fundraising could save the part-timers and other college functions. Alisa Messer, president of AFT local 2121, said statewide categorical funds exist expressly to help fund part time faculty health care costs, she said, although not all colleges follow through.

“AFT 2121 has been a leader in this state, and in fact in the nation, on increasing parity for part-time/contingent faculty,” Messer said. “We will not allow this crisis to be an excuse to roll back significant progress that has been made on the rights of our most vulnerable faculty.”

The commission’s June report dinged the school for spending higher than average levels on salaries and benefits, 92 percent of their funds to be exact, while other community colleges in the Bay Area have figures in the low to mid 80s.

Yet many of CCSF’s defenders say that comparison isn’t fair or accurate, noting San Francisco’s higher cost of living and the fact that the district provides health coverage to part-time faculty, which most other community colleges in the state do not provide.


As the college unites, many conflicts that remain boil down to the question of open access. CCSF currently operates with what it sees as a true community college ethos, where the varied needs of a diverse student population are balanced.

Recent high school graduates preparing for transfer mingle with adult students continuing their education, while English as Second Language (ESL) learners work towards proficiency and others seek new technical skills or transition to a new career.

Many students also take so-called “personal enrichment” courses — one time classes in the arts or languages, for example — that state government has de-prioritized as the budget hole has gotten deeper.

“I think we have to spend money better,” Ngo said, concerning “non-credit” courses, which are primarily classes for adult learners. He pointed to the fact that ESL classes are a full semester long, despite a unique “hop in, hop out” structure to the lessons, which gives students flexibility in their attendance over the course of the semester.

Reducing the number of weeks in a semester that those classes meet could be one possible strategy for saving money, he said. He emphasized that the college needs to work with hard data, and that calculations from what could be saved by such moves aren’t finished.

The number of campuses within the district is also being re-evaluated. “Yes, one of things we’re looking at is whether we should have nine sites. Centers may be combined. We don’t know if that will pay out yet,” Chancellor Fisher told the student presidents, referring to complex funding formulas that could actually prevent CCSF from saving money by closing campuses.

Fisher said officials are researching the possibility of combining campuses in close proximity, which drew a mixed reaction from the presidents. Bouchra Simmons, the Downtown Campus student president, said that combining the Civic Center and Downtown campuses would be disastrous.

“[Downtown Campus] is already pushed to capacity in terms of class size,” Simmons said. And the reverse, moving Downtown Campus students into Civic Center, would make it difficult for her to drop her daughter off at child care and still be able to make it to school on time.

Emanuel Andreas, Southeast Campus president, disagreed when it came to his constituents. “We understand what is happening, and everything needs to be on the table,” he said.

The threat of campus closures and a reduction in non-credit classes are all part of the attack on open access, as some students have said. To combat that, they’ve formed a new student group aimed at educating the city about what they stand to lose.

Project Unity is comprised of Occupy CCSF students, former student trustee Jeffrey Fang, student body President Shanell Williams, and other students, led by the newly elected student Trustee William Walker. They’ve rallied for their school at City Hall, where Supervisors Eric Mar and John Avalos have sponsored a resolution to support City College.

Project Unity met at the Mission Campus shortly after supporting the resolution, and started to plan a grassroots campaign to educate the city and its residents about open access.

Bob Gorringe, a member of Occupy San Francisco, was on hand to help the fledgling group strategize. “[Trustee] Anita Grier came out to the Occupy action council, and she was very open,” Gorringe told the group on July 31, referring to the longtime board member who is not exactly known for her radical tendencies.

Students taking such a vested interest in their college should come as no surprise, considering what happened to Compton before it folded into El Camino.

Although Compton never actually closed, it hemorrhaged students as public fears of the college closing grew larger, and the student body dropped to around 2,000 when El Camino took over, Garten told the Guardian.

Some students went elsewhere, but many appear to have just abandoned the education system.

“We looked at two or three colleges around Compton and none of us had a significant increase in students from the Compton district” enrolling, Garten said.

In other words, it looked like many disillusioned students had simply dropped out, something that nobody wants to see in San Francisco.


Just over two months remain for CCSF and its supporters to hash out a preliminary plan. Aiding them is a team of experts that will create a detailed report on everything related to the college’s financial woes — possibly the most critical problem area.

The Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team, or FCMAT, explained their process to the college on August 3.

Without revealing any specific details, Michelle Plumbtree, the chief management analyst of FCMAT, warned an audience of a couple dozen interested people that its report would seem negative, but only because that’s exactly what the report is supposed to be: a critical review of problem areas.

“You guys are doing incredible things…But that’s not what we talk about [in our reports],” Plumbtree said.

Mike Hill, another FCMAT team member, succinctly layed out the biggest obstacles to City College’s fiscal future. “This is not a one year problem…We’re looking at three years. What makes that complicated is the governor’s tax, and the parcel tax,” Hill said, referring to Prop. 30 and the San Francisco ballot measure City College sponsored. “There are four scenarios… It’s not predictable.” Prop. 30, the tax measure placed on the ballot by Governor Jerry Brown, wouldn’t raise new revenue for community colleges. If it passes, they simply break even, staving off more drastic cuts. But the parcel tax offers more hope for CCSF, if city voters approve it. It would free up $14 million in revenue for this fiscal year, restoring some of what was lost and prevent the deep cuts and scaled back mission that the school’s support most fear.