Volume 47 Number 07

Popping up

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le.chicken.farmer@gmail.com

CHEAP EATS Another new restaurant has sprung up at the corner of Castro and 18th St. across from Walgreens. Korean, this time.

CHEAP SPORTS

by Hedgehog

There are several problems inherent with writing a pirate sports column embedded within a “food” column in any free weekly paper, even when the “food” column isn’t written by your domesticated partner. Which mine is. And don’t think I haven’t suspected that’s how I landed the gig in the first place.

In the second place, local politics is what passes for sport in this paper. You all don’t really care about rec center racquetball, pickup soccer, baseball, or women’s flag football. And that list pretty near completes the length and breadth of my sports experience around here. It’s enough to make me want to hang up my cleats and walk out on Chicken Farmer’s strike. But enough about me. And you. And the Bay Area sports scene.

Last week, while I was in Los Angeles, Kristy Kreme told me about something I’d never heard of or ever even imagined possible:

Trampoline dodge ball.

For the uninitiated, I’ll elucidate: I’m talking about dodge ball, but played on a trampoline.

What?

Yes. It really happens! Kristy played it in the Valley but it can occur anywhere there is a trampoline park. These are giant rooms of interconnected trampolines, so that you have a basketball court-sized bouncing surface. On which to play dodge ball. How brilliant is that?

Here is where I leave the purview of underappreciated so-called sports writer and offer up my opinion in the civic arena, editorialist-style: Can we get some of that there Prop B money allocated to convert the now-dormant Mission playground swimming pool into a trampoline park? Now? It would be one sure way to silence your detractors who cried “fiscal irresponsibility” and so forth.

Trampoline dodgeball.

Pretty please?

Cheap Eats continued …

Yeah! A free one, because the House of Air in the Presidio costs like 15, 16 clams an hour. Per person! Most people I know can’t afford those kinds of clams-per-hour, not to mention per person.

But speaking of the metric system, my friend the Maze has moved to Palo Alto and I had the honor of helping him pack his kitchen. Not to mention pick up lunch.

And that is how I knew that there was a new Korean restaurant called Kpop at the corner of Castro and 18th, where that stupid soup place used to be, and before that I forget what.

Well, so I grabbed an order of kimchee fried rice and an order of bulgogi on my way to the Maze’s box-strewn mess of an ex-place, and we had us a little mid-afternoon lunch break.

OK.

The place wraps its takeout orders like microwave hospital cafeteria food: in plastic containers with plastic wrap stuck over the top, which is weird and hard to open.

And pointless.

What are you trying to prove, Kpop?

The sausage in the kimchi fried rice was pretty weak. It kind of seemed like little pieces of hot dogs, only not as yummy. And the fried egg on top of the fried rice … somehow it managed to be both overdone and underdone at the same time. There wasn’t hardly any juice at all left to the yolk, yet the sunny side was still slimy.

The bulgogi was alright. Nothing special.

Gasp, it’s not my new favorite restaurant; but I will give it another chance, because it’s only been open for a couple weeks. And I love the idea of Korean food a short walk from home.

I just wish this one had bigger portions, or at least better portions. Or, hell, the same size and quality of portions for a slightly smaller price. I would settle for that.

KPOP

Mon-Thu, Sun 11am-11pm; Fri-Sat 11am-2am

499 Castro St., SF

(415) 252-9500

MC,V

No alcohol

 

Volume 47 Number 7 Flip-through Edition

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GOLDIES 2012

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GOLDIES With Obama’s re-election dominating the news, and the 24th annual Guardian Outstanding Local Discovery Awards — or Goldies — dominating this week’s issue, I’m reminded of the 2004 Goldies celebration, a muted affair held just days after George W. Bush was re-elected. Way to wreck our shindig, George. Fortunately, the mood is decidedly happier in 2012. In this issue, we honor local musicians, filmmakers, dancers, and theater and visual artists — all of whom are currently making creative, inspiring contributions to the Bay Area’s arts scene. We aim to award Goldies to those whose careers are still on the rise, having not yet achieved the widespread recognition we suspect they’ll soon be enjoying.

This year, we also bestow an award for Lifetime Achievement on Berkeley’s Shawl-Anderson Dance Studio, a remarkable “heaven for dance” for 54 years (and counting). Thinking back again to Goldies past, the Guardian has had an incredible track record in picking those who’re destined for greatness: Craig Baldwin (film, 1991); Beth Custer (music, 1992); Barry McGee (visual arts, 1994); Charlie Hunter Trio (music, 1994); Charlie Varon (performance, 1995); Dan “The Automator” Nakamura (music, 1997); Krissy Keefer (dance, 1997); Paula Frazer (music, 1997); The Coup (music, 1998); Neurosis (music, 1999) — all big names, and this list ain’t even reached the current millennium yet. In other words, keep this issue around, and you can say you knew ’em when.

The 2012 Goldie winners were selected by a group of Guardian editors and contributors, including Emily Savage, Robert Avila, Rita Felciano, Nicole Gluckstern, and Marke B. Please share the golden moment with us and this year’s winners by hitting up the 2012 Goldies party — details below. Stay gold! (Cheryl Eddy)

GOLDIES PARTY
With Mad Noise, Kat Marie Yoas, Dr. Zebrovski, and DJ Bus Station John
Nov. 28, 9pm, free
111 Minna Gallery, SF.

GOLDIES 2012 (click below to read about our winners):

MUSIC: THE MALLARD

DANCE: JOE LANDINI AND THE GARAGE

FILM: JAMIE MELTZER

PERFORMANCE: MICA SIGOURNEY

VISUAL ART: BRETT AMORY

THEATER: ANNA ISHIDA

MUSIC: 5KINANDBONE5

THEATER: PIANOFIGHT

MUSIC: WATERS

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT:  FRANK SHAWL AND VICTOR ANDERSON, SHAWL-ANDERSON DANCE STUDIO

 

GOLDIES 2012 LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT: Frank Shawl and Victor Anderson, Shawl-Anderson Dance Center

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GOLDIES John Cage and Merce Cunningham, Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, and Fayard and Harold Nicholas are among the dance world’s most famous couples. In the Bay Area, nobody comes close to the relationship between Frank Shawl and Victor Anderson, of Berkeley’s Shawl-Anderson Dance Center.

Over the years the two men have a created a heaven for dance unlike anything that exists here, and probably could not be replicated anywhere else. Shawl and Anderson are the local dance community’s patriarchs.

They started modestly in 1958, above a liquor store on the corner of Alcatraz and College. After dance careers that spanned both coasts, they moved West from New York because they wanted to teach. Anderson had family roots in Berkeley, and the duo figured they might have a better chance at making a living in the Bay Area than in NYC’s competitive jungle.

Having performed and studied with May O’Donnell, a Martha Graham Dance Company member, they wanted to teach modern dance — at the time, a discipline that was not easily available to local dancers. They called their studio “Shawl-Anderson Modern Dance Center,” still its official name. In the beginning, Shawl remembers, “We did not even make enough money to pay its one-hundred dollar rent.”

From those early beginnings has grown the Bay Area’s oldest and — if you listen to dancers — most-beloved teaching institution, with over 100 classes per week. In addition to a full pre-professional curriculum for children, they teach modern dance; that style’s focus on individuality and personal expression has created an atmosphere that also welcomes ballet, hip-hop, jazz, and Horton, plus physical practices like Feldenkrais, pilates, and yoga.

Most remarkable is the breadth and longevity of its teaching staff, all of whom are on salary. Marina Eglevsky, whose artistic roots go back to the legendary André Eglevsky, considered the greatest ballet dancer of his generation, still teaches ballet twice a week. “Her classes are packed — people come from all over,” Shawl says. Wendy Diamond has taught modern since 1988; Joanna Harris’ decade-long Sunday morning class, “Lifelong Movement,” addresses the needs of older adults.

Younger teachers who are still actively choreographing — like Randee Paufve, Nina Haft, Antoine Hunter, and Nol Simonse — bring their own creative perspectives to the classes. The combination of life-long experiences and fresh approaches is invaluable to student dancers.

To get teachers — some start as substitutes — Shawl relies on his instincts and his experience. “I talk with them, and I can usually tell whether they would be a good fit,” he explains. “Very rarely have we had to let somebody go.”

He remembers Reginald Ray-Savage just walking in a few years ago. “I listened to what he had to say, and I just could tell that he was the real thing.” Today, Shawl-Anderson has the Savage Jazz Dance Company in residence.

But back to the earlier days: when the center was facing eviction from the liquor store (apparently, all that dancing made too much noise), student Sylvia McGraw suggested the two men look at a building across the street. “It was a home,” Shawl remembers. “I walked in and all I saw was a bunch of tiny little rooms.” McGraw pointed out that the house was zoned residential-commercial and, furthermore, that her husband was an architect.

With the budget spent on the essentials, in 1968 the school moved into the reconfigured space, with two small studios on the entry level and two huge ones — beautiful dance floors, lots of light, and high ceilings — one floor up. Shawl’s office is still the size of a closet, and the women’s dressing room still looks like it might originally have been a kitchen.

Most remarkably, the building still feels like a home. Walking up the small pathway from the street and the few steps that invite stoop-sitting, it uncannily feels like the rest of the Arts and Crafts residences that stretch toward the Berkeley hills. The wooden floors in the entry are well-worn, and the bench on the side looks like it has been there forever.

No doubt its funky charm and good usable studios have helped make what Shawl-Anderson has become. But it’s these two remarkable men who have given the place its soul. The minute you walk in, you pick up its sense of generosity of spirit, a commitment to craft and creativity, and a welcoming embrace of diversity in all its manifestations.

It’s what Paufve, whose company now is in residence, experienced when she first stepped through the door in 1986. “I don’t remember not ever having felt at home here,” she says. After moving from New York, she heard about the place the first week she was here. She also found teachers with whom she wanted to work. Over the years, she says, “People here have been incredibly generous. I honestly don’t know if I would still have Paufve Dance if it was not for Shawl-Anderson.”

Fog Beast, one of San Francisco’s newest dance companies (formed by Joe Goode dancers Melecio Estrella and Andrew Ward), recently paid tribute to “the decades of dance art cultivation at Shawl-Anderson.” Move Here, created when the duo was in residence, was a site-specific work using the building’s architectural space. It allowed the choreographers “to step into the role of host, exploring the aesthetics of hospitality, the art of friendliness and warmth.” Shawl enjoyed the performance. “They had pictures of the two of us on the walls — it was so nice,” he smiles.

Both men are now in their 80s. Anderson is semi-retired, but Shawl still takes class every day and substitute teaches when needed. Looking back over more than 50 years, is there something that they would have changed? “It is the way it was [meant] to be,” Shawl says. “I believe in the right path. We didn’t do it for the ego, we did it for love.”

GOLDIES 2012: PianoFight

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GOLDIES A PianoFight show can be almost as striking for its audience as for what the company puts onstage, even if few audiences will upstage a machine that blows ducks out of people’s butts, per Duck Lake. PianoFight crowds are conspicuously not your typical theatergoers — they’re closer to the boisterous women in office attire I noticed at the now-defunct Off-Market Theater, PianoFight’s old haunt, who had smuggled in a bottle of Chardonnay and were picnicking in a back row like it was Baker Beach. Such eager insouciance is one sign of this young company’s burgeoning success.

“We’re aiming for those people,” says Rob Ready. “We’re aiming our stuff at Giants fans. That’s who we want in the door. Our generation didn’t grow up with theatergoing as a habit.”

“On the contrary,” says Ready’s colleague, Dan Williams. “You grew up with theater as a joke, as a byline for something boring and stuffy. There’s no reason it has to be that.”

Let it be known that PianoFight is doing its part to insure it isn’t. A PianoFight show takes many forms — sketch comedy, original drama, new play festivals, oyster-fuelled theater al fresco, a rotten vegetable barrage, or the fowl comedy-horror-ballet-musical mash-up of 2012’s aforementioned Duck Lake — but it always includes a rambunctious spirit of collusion with an audience who, very often, take some part in the proceedings.

Ready and Williams, two guys whose laid-back nature belies their seriousness and savvy as theatrical entrepreneurs, first met doing theater in their Santa Barbara high school. After Ready got his arts degree at NYU, he moved out to San Francisco specifically to start a theater company with Williams, who was then working a day job downtown. In Ready’s hands was his own script for a play based on NYU’s string of student suicides called Roommate Wanted. With the help of friends and family, they produced a successful two-weekend run in 2007.

From this humble beginning, PianoFight has mushroomed into a multi-faceted, multi-armed organization that includes sketch comedy troupe Mission Control and its female-driven counterpart, Monday Night ForePlays. It regularly sells out shows, boasts a semi-official “flexible” roster of 46 company members (with many more in unofficial orbit around the company), and is building its own bar-theater complex on the site of the old Original Joe’s on Taylor Street.

Along the way, it’s toured the West Coast (twice), scattered a set of new playlets across an oyster bed in Tomales Bay (two years in a row), opened productions simultaneously in SF and LA, taken four company retreats, and generally developed ambitious programs that balk at the usual small-cast, three-weekend production model, while adding fuel to the fire of local playwrights like Tim Bauer, William Bivins (Pulp Scripture, The Position), Jon Brooks, Megan Cohen, Bennett Fisher, Daniel Heath (FORKING!, A Merry FORKING! Christmas), and Lauren Yee, among others.

Ready and Williams credit Matthew Quinn with taking a chance on their inexperienced but fervent selves when the producing artistic director of Combined Art Form Entertainment, who had co-founded Off-Market Theater in 2004, handed them the keys in 2007. PianoFight eventually left Off-Market when the rent rose, but by then it was on a roll, having proved resourceful and inspired in its own venue. When tenants Point Break Live! moved onto a bigger venue, for instance, Ready and Williams filled the gap by inventing “the nation’s largest audience-judged playwriting competition,” the (now long-lived) ShortLived series.

“So glad Point Break Live! dropped out,” muses Williams, “because ShortLived turned out to be an amazing community builder. It really was one of the biggest drivers of our company initially, since we had to get a bunch of actors, a bunch of directors, and a bunch of writers.”

“The R&D wing of the theater business is [made up of] small, scrappy companies,” says Ready. “If it was just us I’d be, ‘All right, we’re just that more awesome,’ but it’s not. There are a lot of people saying theater can be a lot of different things to a lot of different people.”

As for the name PianoFight, apparently there’s no short answer to that question. I was invited to come back some time with a bottle of whiskey and ask again. “Have at least 24 hours,” cautions Williams. “You’ve got to set aside some time, some whiskey … and bring a credit card, too.”

GOLDIES 2012: Jamie Meltzer

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GOLDIES He may be a filmmaker, but the inspiration for Jamie Meltzer’s first feature-length documentary came while he was flipping through the bins at a record store.

“I found this song-poem compilation,” Meltzer remembers. At the time, he was a San Francisco State University MFA student. “It was such an amazing, undiscovered-to-me subculture that I started making the film that day. It took me two years to go around and meet all of these song poets and musicians, but it really started in the record store.”

The end result morphed from thesis film into 2003’s Off the Charts: The Song-Poem Story, which aired on PBS and earned a cult following. It also opened professional doors for Meltzer; after thanking one of his undergrad professors in the film’s credits, he learned that his alma matter, Vassar College, was hiring in its film department. In 2007, he transitioned to his current teaching gig, at Stanford’s prestigious MFA program in Documentary Film and Video.

“I was happy to come back to San Francisco, of course, but I was also really happy to step into the documentary-centric environment at Stanford,” Meltzer says. “It’s almost like a documentary lab — between the students and other professors, we’re all thinking about documentary films, talking about them, studying them, making them.”

His follow-up to Off the Charts, 2007’s Welcome to Nollywood, takes on another “Who knew?” subject: Nigeria’s vibrant film industry.

“Nollywood is the third-largest film industry in the world, and they have this independent film model that makes a lot more sense than even what we have in the US. That just kind of blew my mind,” Meltzer says.

“But beyond just being a portrait of an industry, the film ended up being a complex story. There’s all sorts of questions of, are these quote-unquote good films, or is the value that they’re being made and consumed as kind of a self-representation? To me, Nollywood and Off the Charts were similar in that way: different people passionately making art, but not sure how well it will be received. The character of the dreamer against all odds, that outsized ambition — I think that’s a big parallel with independent filmmaking in general. You always believe in what you’re doing, but you’re not really expecting other people to believe in what you’re doing.”

Meltzer’s current film, Informant, premiered at the 2012 San Francisco International Film Festival, and has since been on a nonstop festival tour. The doc explores the strange life of Brandon Darby, a lefty activist turned FBI informant who helped send two 2008 Republican National Convention protestors to jail. He’s a polarizing guy, but the film, which is anchored by an extensive interview with Darby, invites the audience to draw their own conclusions. Complexity is once again an important theme.

“The main thing was to try to respect the complexity of Brandon, as a subject, as a person, because he has all these different facets,” Meltzer says. “His story’s very intense, and he was very sincere and conflicted in ways that I found really compelling. It brought up a lot of interesting moral territory and all these moral issues. Then you’d go and talk to Brandon’s activist nemesis, and he had a totally different take, and you’d find yourself agreeing with his story. So, to have that kind of character who can be seen from such different perspectives — that’s totally astounding. I really wanted to get that across in the film.”

Informant, which avoids making any tidy conclusions, reflects Meltzer’s own philosophy on documentary making.

“Some audiences have this idea that documentaries have to make very clear and usually politically-based arguments. And that’s the thing that I set out not to do. I think it’s great that the film creates a dialogue over, ‘What is documentary?’ People question my point of view, they question the point of view of Brandon and the other characters,” he says. “Hopefully they will start questioning other documentaries, too, and the notion of objectivity. Documentary filmmakers know that documentaries aren’t objective in the least. But I think audiences still aren’t entirely clear on that.”

Meltzer credits both the Bay Area filmmaking community (particularly Frazer Bradshaw, Informant‘s director of photography) and his Stanford colleagues (including numerous former students) for helping him make the film. “San Francisco has a lot of people who are committed to working on things that they believe in for little or no money, out of passion. That can’t be overstated,” he says.

So what’s next? Making Informant was so difficult, Meltzer confesses, that he thought it would be his last film. But then he heard about a group of exonerated men in Texas who’ve formed a detective agency to help other innocent people behind bars. “You can’t pass up those kind of ideas,” the filmmaker says. “You have to grab them when they come.”

No doubt it won’t end up being a simple story — but Meltzer will weave all of its threads into a captivating tale.

GOLDIES 2012: Joe Landini and the Garage

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GOLDIES Choreographer, impresario, and arts advocate Joe Landini likes to say yes. “It’s my philosophy to start that way,” the founder and artistic director of the Garage — San Francisco’s most hoppin’ performance venue — explains. “If you say no to something, the conversation is closed. There is nowhere to go.”

Landini is a curious mixture between visionary idealist and pragmatist who has a solid grasp of what it takes to get a job done. As a young jazz dancer, he was told to take ballet to improve his alignment. So he did, until his knees gave out and he switched to modern dance at UC Irvine, where he majored in choreography.

While Landini was in college, master choreographer Donald McKayle suggested that he had talents as an administrator. Landini accepted the observation though he saw himself primarily as a choreographer. He moved back to San Francisco — he grew up in Concord — and waited tables while interning for Mary Alice Fry’s Footloose Dance Company and Shotwell Studios. “I learned to write grants,” he remembers over coffee, near the Garage’s digs at 715 Bryant. “And I got free rehearsal space for my own choreography.” He also learned that per capita, San Francisco funds its dancers reasonably well. “In New York, you might have 200 applicants for one grant. Here, there may be 50 to 60.”

Opening the Garage in 2007 (its original location was on Howard Street) allowed him to offer what he thought artists, particularly young ones, need: an environment where experimentation, learning, and risk-taking are welcome. Artistic failure doesn’t bother Landini; it’s part of the learning process, he says. During the first five years, he estimated that annually around 10,000 people walked through that iconic red door on Howard.

Landini’s major initiative, RAW (Resident Artists’ Workshop), is modeled after AIRspace (AIR standing for “artists in residence”) — which had been set up for queer performers at the Jon Sims Center for the Arts. Landini ran it for a year. When the Sims Center closed, he bought the seats and tech equipment, putting them in storage until needed.

The Garage is run like a time-share in which 30 groups evenly divide up the time slots. While primarily a haven for dancers, theater folks and performance artists are equally welcome. Anybody can apply. True to form, Landini doesn’t tell them no, though “they just may have to wait until a space opens up.”

Wayne Hazzard, executive director of Dancers’ Group, the Bay Area’s dance service organization, considers the Garage a “powerful space where community-building can start. Joe, with his practically 24-hour open-door policy and constant presence, is almost like a neighborhood mom-and-pop store. For first-time young artists, this is particularly valuable.”

All Garage artists get three months of four-hours-a-week rehearsal time that ends with a public performance. Artists can come back — and many do. As for his own choreography, Landini is just getting back into it. During a two-year stint in London for an MA in choreography from the Laban Centre, he immersed himself in the European dance theater tradition. “I learned so much, and I have never been able to use it,” he says — until now: on November 27, he will present his new physical theater piece, Bitter Queen.

As if running the Garage seven days a week was not enough, Landini also started a Summer Performance Festival this year, curated in conjunction with ODC Theater. Again, he couldn’t say no — this time to offering a select group of Garage choreographers a venue more professional than his own modest theater can provide. The event will return in August 2013.

And, of course, Landini couldn’t say no when he heard that the city was interested in keeping another summer event, the 22-year-old West Wave Dance Festival, alive. “Every city needs a yearly independent dance festival, right?” he asks. One guess who will be running it in 2013.

GOLDIES 2012: Mica Sigourney

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GOLDIES Regular appearances are not Mica Sigourney’s thing. True, most Friday nights you’ll find alt-persona VivvyAnne ForeverMORE! at the Stud hosting Some Thing, the boisterously resourceful drag cavalcade (formerly Tiara Sensation) started two years ago with drag mother Glamamore and dj down-E. Even there, though, you couldn’t call VivvyAnne’s appearance regular: one night it’s ersatz Dior, another it’s lipstick, hobo beard, and a jock strap.

Beyond that, you never know where or how you’ll see either VivvyAnne or Sigourney. This is an artist drawn not only to the spotlight (what drag queen isn’t?) but to the genuinely experimental and demanding, whose work runs the gamut from go-go to performance art to contemporary dance (the latter most notably as an all-out ensemble member of Laura Arrington’s Wag in 2011) and in the process bridges the nightlife and performance scenes with untiring ingenuity.

This crossover élan was on display at the 2009 National Queer Arts Festival with the unveiling of Martha Martha Martha, a drag piece co-created with Eli Magid (a.k.a. Elijah Minnelli) in which some maniacally looped dialogue from Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? gets refracted through a stage-full of renegade Liz Taylors. A year later, at the debut of Keith Hennessy and Julie Phelps’ “Too Much!” marathon of queer performance, VivvyAnne ForeverMORE! led an impressive roster of SF drag superstars into the proceedings (including Glamamore and Fauxnique, a.k.a. past Goldie winner Monique Jenkinson, another major influence).

That showcase brought the nightlife scene squarely into the realm of contemporary queer performance, and evolved into the sporadic Work MORE! series, based on crossover collaboration between highly distinct artists. Sigourney, who just produced its fourth installment in August, plans to tour it next year. Meanwhile, a 2012 CounterPULSE residency produced the winking hubris of MASTERWORK, marshaling a cast of po-mo drag queens under Sigourney’s control to question the egotism of the artist and the role of the audience. And in a highlight of 2012’s This Is What I Want festival, Sigourney re-purposed his performance fee to negotiate his sexual currency in real-time with his audience, while a chorus beside him voiced the testimonials of ex-lovers.

The brio and subtle play in these and other works keep Sigourney a vital presence on multiple stages, as well as an important catalyst for new work. But the more makeshift outings, without any stage at all, can be just as memorable: Sigourney in a crowded men’s room at SOMArts, for instance, seated at a table in a wife-beater beside a stack of his own poems, some pages from David Wojnarowicz, a fifth of bourbon, and a lot of shot glasses.

“It was the first time I’d brought my writing into a performance,” says Sigourney of the inebriated presentation in the john (mounted as part of SOMArts’ monthly new queer performance showcase, “The News”). “It was my writing and Wojnarowicz’s from two of his books, and the audience picked what I read.” Sigourney offered bourbon to anyone who wanted a shot with their request, and he committed himself to always drinking one with them. “I was trying to layer people on top of people. It was good for that,” recalls the artist, a little hazily. “Someone actually used the bathroom.”

Another sighting: a makeshift biergarten in Portland last September, during one of the nightly after-parties for that city’s Time-Based Art festival. Out of a small huddle by the fence rises VivvyAnne like a gibbous moon, flashlight held firmly to her face and balancing her leggy fishnets on a combination of high heels and patio furniture. After instructing the crowd in a few dance steps, she leads an impromptu off-program all her own, lip-syncing to a boom box that blasted Miley Cyrus’ “Party in the USA.”

Surprisingly, the Long Island native, a longtime theater (and later, club) kid who moved to San Francisco in 2004 and birthed VivvyAnne ForeverMORE! in 2008, says drag was something he grew up admiring but never thought he could do. Maybe that’s why he can do so much with it.

“I’ll never be a ‘lady lady’ drag queen,” he says. “It just won’t happen for me. So I started out saying fuck the illusion, what illusion? I’d wear things where my chest was exposed or a see-through dress or just underwear. There’s no illusion here to ruin in the first place. Once we agree that it is an illusion [we’re after], then we can make it together.”

GOLDIES 2012: WATERS

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GOLDIES “It’s been a great year for me,” says Van Pierszalowski, slightly out of breath after pushing his bicycle up a seriously steep hill. “It’s been the first year that I’ve lived anywhere in a long time.”

Pierszalowski has been part of the San Francisco indie rock scene for years, first with Port O’Brien and now with WATERS, but he hasn’t actually lived in the Bay Area since his days at UC Berkeley. He’s been mostly out on the road, couch-hopping at friends’ houses upon return, spending summers fishing in Alaska with his father — or in Oslo with his European girlfriend, Marte Solbakken, who also plays in WATERS.

But in 2012, following positive reviews for 2011’s Out In The Light (TBD Records), his debut album as WATERS, he’s finally on dry ground. He’s got a somewhat permanent structure — an apartment he shares with Solbakken — on the top of Potrero Hill, and a part-time job at the bottom of those hills, at Four Barrel.

“I haven’t had a job, other than music and fishing, since college,” he says with a laugh. “Finally I’m not touring for a little while, and I’m just concentrating on writing songs, and I wanted my days to have a little more structure. So I sought out a job — I love coffee and I love Four Barrel.”

Java-brewing skills aside, Pierszlawski’s been garnering notice from music fans for other reasons: his earnest, salty sea-referencing lyrics; matured and more aggressive vocals; grungy, fuzzed out guitar-work; and seriously tripped-out music videos. As far as imagery goes, there’s a lot to take in with the video for “For the One” — flaming dream catchers, creepy convenience store clerks, acid-laced dreams, purplish starry nightscapes that look like screensavers for Windows 95, extras fleeing through smoke machine fog, and Pierszalowski riding his bicycle through a tunnel full of trash and glitter. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JIOJkUFTiwY

It’s kind of what WATERS is all about, the light and the dark, the weird and the weirdly confident, the grungier moments of the ’90s, soulful voyages through choppy seas, the hooks (pop and otherwise), a fisherman in a flannel.

Then there’s the more straightforward tour video for sparkly, garage-punk standout track “Back to You,” and two for moodier, yearning acoustic single “Mickey Mantle” — one clip that’s of Pierszalowski with a guitar on a rooftop, and the other a zoomed-in snapshot of his day — created for the 48-hour Music Video Race this spring. Live, the song’s a crowd-pleaser in which he pleads, “forever, forever” and gets the audience chanting the word back to him. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=izgmACVXVBA

Pierszalowski also toured a whole lot with WATERS this year, opening for Delta Spirit across the US and Nada Surf throughout Europe. But WATERS’ biggest moment came this summer, when the band topped a bill at Brick and Mortar Music Hall.

“It was the first WATERS headlining show and I was super nervous and anxious about it. I thought no one was going to come. I could feel that my mood for the next while was dependent on how it would go,” he says. “To my great surprise, it was an amazing turnout. It was packed, and people knew the songs and were singing along and dancing. It just really felt like almost a solid year of promoting the album had paid off. And I know that’s not a huge deal, but it kind of is to me. It felt like the start of something new.”

With a boyish gleam of hope in his eyes, he adds, “Getting to play for people in San Francisco, on our own, felt infinitely more powerful than any of those [previous] experiences.”

Plus, now that he’s got his own apartment in SF, it probably didn’t take him too long to find his way home after the show.

GOLDIES 2012: Anna Ishida

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GOLDIES One of the very first things you’ll notice about Anna Ishida, onstage and off, is an aura of self-possession that simultaneously grounds her and yet sets her ever-so-subtly apart in a crowd. But she also has a chameleon-like quality, a way of blending seamlessly into her surroundings, whether it’s a 49-seat black box theater on Natoma Street, or the hip buzz of Farley’s East in Oakland, where we meet over coffee and sandwiches.

It’s this very quality that helps make her such a compelling actor to watch onstage. No matter what the role, Ishida appears born to it, whether appearing as an allegorical peasant in an imaginary land (in The Forest War at Shotgun Players), a horny Russian aristocrat with a mic (in Beardo, also at Shotgun), or a frustrated former drag queen forced to languish in the glitter-dusted shadow of her employer-lover (in Boxcar Theatre’s Hedwig and the Angry Inch).

Professionally, Ishida appeared first in The Color of Justice at Oakland’s TheatreFIRST in 2002, following up with roles with a miscellany of companies such as Woman’s Will and the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival, plus a long association with Shotgun Players. But this year, after a powerful performance as Tamora, Queen of the Goths, in Impact Theatre’s Titus Andronicus, Ishida’s been working to make herself even better-known as a triple threat: vocalist, actor, and independent film star. Her turn as Yitzhak in Boxcar’s summer production of Hedwig framed her trademark spiky hairdo in black leather and heartbreak, and matched her versatile vocals and formidable stage presence to the dozen glam-rock divas cast in the title role.

Her current show, Christopher Chen’s The Hundred Flowers Project with Crowded Fire Theater, casts her as an actor exploring the sprawling epic of China’s Cultural Revolution via the creative process. Earlier this year, she spent a week basically locked up in a room for 16 hours a day for her cinematic debut in HP Mendoza’s unsettling art house ode to the horror film genre, I Am a Ghost. The film — about a literal lost soul trapped in an unending routine — premiered at the 2012 San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival, and has been getting raves elsewhere on the festival circuit.

Ishida was born in Tokyo; her family moved to the East Bay when she was four, where she first attended a mostly all-black kindergarten followed by an almost all-white Catholic school, which naturally meant she fit into neither. Gravitating towards music at a young age, she narrowly escaped becoming a business major in college and instead attended the Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts in Southern California, where she connected on a deeper level to acting, and has mostly stuck with it ever since.

“The grass is always greener,” she confesses with a smile. “If I’m acting, I want to be singing; if I sing, I want to do Shakespeare; if I do Shakespeare, I want to dance. I’m fortunate I can do all three.”

Onstage, no matter what the role, Ishida never lets her focus flag, and her signature watchfulness gives her characters a feral, almost predatory depth. Perhaps most interestingly, in a climate of casting controversies particularly affecting Asian actors (such as a recent production of The Nightingale at La Jolla Playhouse, where a Caucasian actor played the Emperor of China), Ishida has successfully avoided being categorized by her racial makeup. With the exceptions of The Forest War and The Hundred Flowers Project, she’s been seen in roles she has successfully rendered colorblind.

“I’ve demanded that people see me as an actor, rather than as ‘Asian’ — and if I didn’t work, then so be it, but I was not going to be pigeonholed,” she emphasizes.

Then she laughs, considering some of her recent roles: a Russian tsaritsa, Poseidon (in Shotgun’s The Salt Plays, Part Two: Of the Earth), and Tamora. “I may have escaped being typecast as Asian,” she allows, “but now I’m typecast as the angry queen. The angry god-queen!”

GOLDIES 2012: The Mallard

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GOLDIES You always hear of those artists that simply must keep creating, regardless of location, monetary resources, health, or free time. It’s the urge, the craving, something deep in the pit of their being. Idle hands and all that. I get the feeling this is just how it is for Greer McGettrick, the Mallard’s lead vocalist-guitarist. There’s a fire in her belly, and it burns from a sonic tinder.

Let’s take just this year as a case example. The Mallard released its psych-garage influenced debut full-length, Yes on Blood, in March on John Dwyer’s Castle Face Records to increasingly rave reviews. The band opened for Ty Segall, Thee Oh Sees, Shonen Knife, Hot Snakes, and countless others, at shows at places like the Verdi Club, Slim’s, and Bottom of the Hill. It toured with the Fresh and Onlys’ Wymond Miles. It put out a split seven-inch with Thee Oh Sees. It’ll have a plexi seven-inch out later this month. It contributed a stirring cover of the classicaly morose track “There She Goes Again” to Castle Face Records’ Velvet Underground and Nico tribute album. Oh, and McGettrick has had a few art shows around the city, showcasing her intricate woodcuts.

In addition to all that, the fuzzy San Francisco four-piece is now working on its follow-up to Blood. “I’m still writing a lot, but I feel like it’s more of a record for me,” says McGettrick, sitting outside the coffee shop-video store where she works. “I feel like Yes on Blood was more of a record for San Francisco, an homage, where it was like, ‘These are the bands that I love and I’m drawing from them’ — there’s the Thee Oh Sees song, the Ty Segall song, the Intelligence song.”

Or, as she’s been know to describe it, the band makes “inside-out-echo-laser-garage-psych-rock.”

“This is more of an album for me in that it’s a lot weirder, a lot darker, more personal,” she says. “I’m learning how to use my voice versus yelping.”

Live, that yelping comes across as more of a gritty punk plea, an emotional core tumbling out, backed by McGettrick’s noisy guitar work; “boy” Dylan Tidyman-Jones on guitar, keys, and backing vocals; “girl” Dylan Edrich on bass; and Miles Luttrell on drums.

This current formation of the Mallard is here after a few false starts. When McGettrick first moved to SF three years back, she gathered friends to start a new band, but it quickly fizzled. So she started again. “I just needed to keep playing songs, keep playing shows,” McGettrick says.

She’d already been in bands for years before her move to the Bay Area. The Studio City, Calif. native was part of the Fresno music scene for five years after college. “I kind of got stuck there, but it was good for me. There are some great people there, some really talented musicians, there’s just not a lot to do. A lot of people move away once they realize there’s something else out there.”

Once in SF, she clicked with the booming garage rock scene, and fortuitously met Dwyer. She played him some of her raw home recordings and he told her to go record more, and he’d put them out on Castle Face.

“It’s a really great scene,” McGettrick says. “Living in Fresno for five years — where it was just such a struggle to get other bands to play from out of town, and it was hard to get any momentum there. People moved away, bands broke up — it got me to work a lot harder. I moved to San Francisco and it kind of seemed easy. There’s all these bands, all these shows, people go to shows. It feels nourishing. We’re really lucky to live in this city.”

Shit happened

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CASH FOR TRASH

Recology, the city’s garbage monopoly, has a problem: It charges residential customers only for the black cans full of unrecyclable material headed for the landfill — but thanks to city policy and environmental consciousness, there’s less and less traditional trash out there. Ultimately, the company wants to get rid of the big black cans altogether.

So a business model based on offering free recycling and compost doesn’t work any more — and everyone has known for some time that it had to change.

But there was no discussion of rate changes earlier this year; in fact, Recology folks said there were no plans for an immediate rate hike in the works. That’s because the June ballot included a measure that would have created competitive bidding for the city’s garbage contract — and the last thing Recology wanted was the threat of a rate hike to drive voters toward amending the 1932 City Charter provision that gives just one company complete control over the lucrative waste franchise.

Ah, but the June election is long over, and Recology beat back that effort — so the rate hike we all expected is now on the table.

On Sept. 11, Recology informed the city that it intends to apply for a new rate structure — and while the process is long and convoluted, we’ll see the details in a few weeks, and you can expect to start paying more for your service by next summer.

There’s no formal proposal yet — that will come in December. The director of the Department of Public Works has to approve it, and so does a Rate Board made up of the city administration, the controller and the head of the Public Utilities Commission. But both Recology and the city say there will be some significant changes in the way San Franciscans pay to have their refuse removed.

“We can’t focus our financial operations on a black can if we’re trying to get rid of it,” Recology spokesperson Eric Potashner told us.

Douglas Legg, the finance director at the Department of Public Works agrees. “As we’ve been pushing diversion, the blue and green cans have been pretty heavily subsidized.”

But shouldn’t good habits, like recycling, be subsidized? Should people who recycle and compost more be penalized? “That’s the challenge,” Potashner said.

And in the end, it’s going to be more than a shift in which bins cost how much. There’s no doubt that your bills will be rising, perhaps by a significant amount. “I assume it will go up,” Legg said. “There hasn’t been a cost-of-living increase since 2010.”

Which, of course, brings back the competitive bidding point. If others had a chance to make a play for the city contract, might rates be lower? Or might the city get more out of the deal?

Retired Judge Quentin Kopp, who helped spearhead the campaign for competitive bidding, thinks so. “If we had competitive bidding,” he told us, “these rate hikes would be more moderate.”

OPENING THE LAST CLOSET DOOR

While most everyone’s attention was focused on electoral politics in late October, Supervisors David Campos and Christina Olague were talking about a different level of political issue, one that’s still a huge taboo: Gay men in professional sports. At an Oct. 30 press conference, the two LGBT supes joined with representatives of The Last Closet, an SF-based campaign that’s trying to get gay professional athletes to come out.

It’s remarkable (or maybe, sadly, it isn’t) that in 2012, not one openly gay man has played in any of the Big Five pro sports (football, basketball, hockey, baseball and soccer). There are, everyone knows, plenty of gay athletes, and the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB and various soccer associations all have gay players. Some of them have come out after they’ve retired. But on the field (or on the floor, or on the ice)? No way.

Why does anyone care? Because youth sports are still, even in this town, full of homophobic language and homophobic attitudes, and it’s hard to imagine what young LGBT football or basketball players have to endure. Even one gay player could make a world of difference.

“What I saw with the San Francisco Giants, all of the Latino players, was such a source of pride to Latino boys and girls,” Campos told us. “We can’t feel that in the LGBT community. We know there are gay baseball players, but the LGBT youth don’t have those role models to look up to.”

The Last Closet campaign emerged out of a documentary film project that sought to look at homophobia in pro sports. “It became clear that some members of the sports hierarchy were not going to make themselves available to speak about this taboo subject,” the group’s website notes.

In fact, Fawn Yacker, one of the project directors, told us that nobody in a senior position in any sports organization was willing to talk — and that’s turned the movie into a political campaign. “We want the fans to push the sports leaders to address this,” she said.

In fact, all The Last Closeters want right now is for the commissioners of the major sports leagues to make a statement that homophobia is unacceptable and that the leagues will do everything possible to make sure that out gay players are accepted. Seems like a pretty simply no-brainer — but so far, not one sports official has gone along.

It’s pretty crazy, considering that it’s almost inevitable that a few major sports athletes will come out in the next few years — and the leagues are going to look foolish if they pretend it’s not going to happen. Any bets on which sport is going to be the first? “I don’t know,” Yackey said. “I think it might be hockey.” 

Protest — and run for office

1

OPINION Millions of Americans are eager, even desperate, for a political movement that truly challenges the power of Wall Street and the Pentagon. But accommodation has been habit-forming for many left-leaning organizations, which are increasingly taking their cues from the party establishment: deferring to top Democrats in Washington, staying away from robust progressive populism, and making excuses for the Democratic embrace of corporate power and perpetual war.

It’s true that many left-of-center groups are becoming more sophisticated in their use of digital platforms for messaging, fundraising and other work. But it’s also true that President Obama’s transactional approach has had demoralizing effects on his base. Even the best resources — mobilized by unions, environmental groups, feminist organizations, and the like — can do only so much when many voters and former volunteers are inclined to stay home.

For people fed up with bait-and-switch pitches from Democrats who talk progressive to get elected but then govern otherwise, the Occupy movement has been a compelling and energizing counterforce. Its often-implicit message: protesting is hip and astute, while electioneering is uncool and clueless. Yet protesters’ demands, routinely focused on government action and inaction, underscore how much state power really matters.

To escape this self-defeating trap, progressives must build a grassroots power base that can do more than illuminate the nonstop horror shows of the status quo. To posit a choice between developing strong social movements and strong electoral capacity is akin to choosing between arms and legs. If we want to move the country in a progressive direction, the politics of denunciation must work in sync with the politics of organizing — which must include solid electoral work.

Movements that take to the streets can proceed in creative tension with election campaigns. But even if protests flourish, progressive groups expand and left media outlets thrive, the power to impose government accountability is apt to remain elusive. That power is contingent on organizing, reaching the public and building muscle to exercise leverage over what government officials do — and who they are. Even electing better candidates won’t accomplish much unless the base is organized and functional enough to keep them accountable.

Politicians like to envision social movements as tributaries flowing into their election campaigns. But a healthy ecology of progressive politics would mean the flow goes mostly in the other direction. Election campaigns should be subsets of social movements, not the other way around.

For progressives, ongoing engagement with people in communities has vast potential advantages that big money can’t buy — and (we hope) can’t defeat. But few progressive institutions with election goals have the time, resolve, resources or patience to initiate and sustain relationships with communities. For the most part, precinct organizing is a lost art that progressives have failed to revitalize. Until that changes, the electoral future looks bleak.

Norman Solomon is founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy and co-founder of rootsaction.org. A longer version of this piece appears in the Nov. 24 edition of The Nation.

Sorting out a strange election

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steve@sfbg.com, tredmond@sfbg.com

The way the San Francisco Chronicle pundits put it, Mayor Ed Lee was the clear winner in a grand San Francisco election. “All his measures on the ballot won hands down,” noted Willie Brown, the high-paid lawyer and political operative who also functions as a Chron columnist. “It was a great day for Ed Lee,” proclaimed columnist C.W. Nevius.

Well, not really.

There are a lot of ways to explain and analyze the inconsistent results of one of the most heavily propagandized elections in recent San Francisco history. But no matter how you look at it, the election was at best a wash for the mayor. Indeed, we’d argue that voters rejected the basic premise of the mayor’s political agenda – that tax cuts and favors for big business are the best economic policy – despite record-breaking outside spending selling that agenda and targeting those who stood in its way.

Let’s take a look at the real facts:

• Every single initiative backed by the mayor, the ones he’s getting credit for – from the City College parcel tax to the housing fund to the business tax – was either a compromise with progressives or a measure that originated on the left. There was nothing the mayor pushed that had any significant progressive opposition; his wins were equally, if not more dramatically, wins for the left.

• Both people the mayor appointed to office were soundly rejected by the voters. Rodrigo Santos, his high-profile appointee to the troubled City College Board of Trustees, spent almost $200,000 and finished a distant sixth. Sup. Christina Olague lost to the candidate Lee had rejected for appointment, London Breed, in a complicated race where the mayor’s actual role was unclear (he never withdrew his endorsement of Olague even as his allies trashed her in nasty ways).

• A million-dollar effort funded by some of the mayor’s allies to oust Sup. Eric Mar was a spectacular failure, suggested some serious problems in the mayor’s political operation, and undermined his emphasis on “civility.”

• The voters made clear on every level that they believe higher taxes on the wealthy and closing tax loopholes on big business are the right approach to the economy and to funding government. From Prop. 30 to Prop. 39 to Prop. A to Prop. E, the message was pretty clear: The tax revolt that started in California in 1978 may be winding down, and the notion of making property owners and the wealthy pay for education and public services is no longer a radical idea.

Robert Cruikshank, who writes for the Calitics blog, argues that the November election signals a major sea change in California. “[The] vote to pass Prop 30 — by a larger margin than most observers expected — does more than just provide $6 billion of badly needed funding to the state’s public school,” he wrote. “It brings to a close a 34-year long tax revolt that came very close to destroying California’s middle class, locking its low income families into permanent poverty, and left the state on the edge of financial ruin.”

That sounds like a progressive message. The agenda put forward by the mayor’s closest allies, including right-wing billionaire Ron Conway, who played a heavy-handed role in this election, not only failed to carry the day; the big-money types may have overplayed their hand in a way that will shape the political narratives going forward.

A LOT OF CONSENSUS

Let’s start with the ballot measures (before we get to the huge and confusing mess that was D5).

Proposition A, the parcel tax for City College, didn’t come out of the Mayor’s Office at all; it came from a City College board whose direction the mayor tried to undermine with the appointment of Santos, a pro-development engineer so conservative that he actually endorsed the Republican opponent of Assembly member Tom Ammiano.

Lee didn’t even endorse Prop. A until a few weeks before the election, and played almost no role in raising money or campaigning for its passage (see “Words and deeds,” 9/11/12). Yet it got a higher percentage of the vote than any of the three measures that Lee actively campaigned for: Props. B, C, and E.

Then there’s Prop. C, the Housing Trust Fund. Lee’s office played a central role in drafting and promoting the measure -– but it wasn’t exactly a Lee initiative. Prop. C came out of the affordable housing community, and Lee, who has strong ties to that community, went along. There were tough negotiations -– the mayor wanted more guarantees and protections for private developers -– and the final product was much more what the progressives who have spent decades on the housing front wanted than what the mayor would have done on his own.

The way the mayor envisioned business-tax reform, the city would have eliminated the payroll tax, which tech firms hate, and replaced it with a gross-receipts tax -– and the result would have been revenue-neutral. It was only after Sup. John Avalos and the progressives demanded that the tax actually bring in more money that the outlines of Prop. E were drafted and it received strong support from groups across the ideological spectrum.

“You had a lot of consensus in the city about these ballot measures,” political consultant David Latterman, who usually works with downtown-backed campaigns, said at SPUR’s post-election round-up.

The supervisorial races were a different story, with unprecedented spending and nasty messaging aimed at tipping the balance in favor of real estate and development interests. Mayor Lee didn’t get directly involved in the District 1 race, but he was clearly not a supporter of incumbent Sup. Eric Mar.

The real-estate and tech folks who are allied with Lee spent more than $800,000 trying to oust Mar — and they failed miserably, with Mar winning by 15 points. While Mar did have the backing of Chinatown powerbroker Rose Pak, who raised money and helped organize ground troops to help, Mar’s victory was primarily the result of a massive outpouring of support from labor and progressive activists, many reacting to the over-the-top effort to oust him.

Mar, who voted to put Lee in office, won’t feel a bit indebted to the mayor for his survival against a huge money onslaught. But in District 5, the story was a whole lot more complicated, and impact more difficult to discern.

THE D5 MESS

Before we get into what happened in D5, let’s dispel some of the simplistic and self-serving stories that circulated in the wake of this election, the most prominent being that Olague’s loss -– the first time an incumbent was defeated in a ranked-choice election –- was payback for crossing Mayor Lee and voting to reinstatement Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi.

It’s certainly true that Lee’s allies went after Olague and supported London Breed, and that they tried to make an issue of domestic violence, but there was much, much more to this district election. Breed is an SF native with a compelling personal story who ran a strong campaign –- and that three strongest progressive candidates in the race each had major flaws that hurt their electability. By most accounts, the Olague campaign was a disaster until the very end. Equally important, the progressive community was divided over D5, leaving room for Breed to slip in.

“It’s hard to unravel what happened here,” Latterman said.

San Francisco Women for Responsibility and an Accountable Supervisor was an independent expenditure group fronted by domestic violence advocates and funded by more than $100,000 from the families of Conway and fellow right-wing billionaire Thomas Coates. It attacked Olague’s Mirkarimi vote as being soft on domestic violence — but it also did a last minute mailer criticizing Olague’s vote for CleanPowerSF, muddling its message of moral outrage.

On election night, Olague told us she believed her split with the Mayor’s Office really had more to do with CleanPowerSF –- which the board approved with a veto-proof majority over the objections of Lee and the business community –- and with her insisting on new revenue from Prop. E than it did with Mirkarimi, whose ouster she dismissed as “a power play” aimed at weakening progressives.

“They don’t want to say it, but it was the whole thing around CleanPowerSF. Do you think PG&E wanted to lose its monopoly?” she said.

Yet Olague said the blame from her loss was also shared by progressives, who were hard on her for supporting Lee, courting his appointment to the D5 seat, and for voting with him on 8 Washington luxury condo project and other high-profile issues. “The left and the right both came at me,” she told us. “From the beginning, people were hypercritical of me in ways that might not be completely fair.”

Fair or not, Olague’s divided loyalties hurt her campaign for the D5 seat, with most prominent progressives only getting behind her at the end of the race after concluding that John Rizzo’s lackluster campaign wasn’t going anywhere, and that Julian Davis, marred as he was by his mishandling of sexual impropriety accusations, couldn’t and shouldn’t win.

Olague told us she “can’t think of anything I would have done differently.” But she later mentioned that she should have raised the threats to renters earlier, worked more closely with other progressive candidates, and relied on grassroots activists more than political consultants connected to the Mayor’s Office.

“The left shouldn’t deal with consultants, we should use steering committees to drive the agenda,” Olague said, noting that her campaign finally found its footing in just the last couple weeks of the race.

Inside sources say Olague’s relations with Lee-connected campaign consultant Enrique Pearce soured months before the campaign finally sidelined him in the final weeks, the result of his wasteful spending on ineffective strategies and divided loyalties once a wedge began to develop between Olague and the Mayor’s Office.

Progressive endorsements were all over the map in the district: The Harvey Milk Club endorsed Davis then declined to withdraw that endorsement. The Tenants Union wasn’t with Olague. The Guardian endorsed Rizzo number one. And none of the leading progressive candidates had a credible ranked-choice voting strategy — Breed got nearly as many second-place votes from Davis and Rizzo supporters as Olague did.

Meanwhile, Breed had a high-profile falling out with Brown, her one-time political ally, after her profanity-laden criticism of Brown appeared in Fog City Journal and then the San Francisco Chronicle, causing US Sen. Dianne Feinstein to withdraw her endorsement of Breed. That incident and Olague’s ties to Lee, Brown, and Pak may have solidified perceptions of Breed’s independence among even progressive voters, which the late attacks on her support from landlords weren’t ever able to overcome.

Ironically, while Breed and some of her prominent supporters, including African American ministers in the district, weren’t happy when Lee bypassed her to appoint Olague, that may have been her key to victory. Latterman noted that while Olague was plagued by having to divide loyalties between Lee and her progressive district and make votes on tough issues like reinstating Mirkarimi –- a vote that could hurt the D5 supervisor in either direction -– Breed was free to run her race and reinforce her independence: “I think Supervisor Breed doesn’t win this race; challenger Breed did.”

But even if Breed lives up to progressive fears, the balance of power on the Board of Supervisors could be up in the air. District 7 soundly rejected Mike Garcia, the hand-picked successor of the conservative outgoing Sup. Sean Elsbernd.

At press time, progressive favorite Norman Yee seemed headed for victory, although FX Crowley was within about 30 votes, making this too close to call. But either way, the once-solid conservative seat will now be a swing vote on many issues, just as Breed will be in the once-solid progressive D5.

“The Board of Supervisors as a whole is becoming a helluva lot more interesting,” was how political consultant Alex Clemens put it at SPUR election wrap-up. “Determining what’s going to happen before it happens just got more difficult.”

GOBS OF MONEY

The other big story of this election was money, gobs of it, and how it can be spent effectively — or used to raise suspicions about hidden agendas.

Third-party spending on D1 loser David Lee’s behalf was $454,921, with another $219,039 to oppose Mar, pushing total spending to defeat Mar up over the $1 million mark, roughly doubling the previous record. Labor groups, meanwhile, spent $72,739 attacking Lee and $91,690 backing Mar. But many political analysts felt that lop-sided spending only served to turn off voters and reinforce the idea that powerful interests were trying to buy the seat.

In District 5, the landlords, Realtors, and tech moguls spent $177,556 in support of Breed, while labor spent $15,067 attacking her as a shill for the landlord lobby. The only other D5 candidate to attract significant spending by outside groups was Olague, who had $104,016 spent against her, mostly by the families of Conway and Coates, and $45,708 spent in support of her by SEIU 1021. Yet ultimately, none of these groups bought very much with their money. Conway, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, and San Francisco Association of Realtors each spent hundreds of thousands of dollars of their money, and the most obvious result was to convince San Franciscans that they’re working together to move an agenda in San Francisco. They may have the mayor on their side, but in a politically sophisticated city like San Francisco –- with its cost of living being driven up by the schemes of Lee, Conway, and the Realtors -– they seem to have a long way to go before they achieve they’re stated desire of destroying the progressive movement, particularly with its rising new leaders on the left, including Matt Haney and Sandra Fewer on the school board and Steven Ngo and Rafael Mandelman on the City College board. As Haney said on Election Night, “It was a good night for progressive San Francisco,” which stands for important egalitarian values. “We are the ones about equity and compassion. That’s what this city is about.”

District surprises

1

tredmond@sfbg.com

EDITOR’S NOTES The Wall Street Journal, which ought to focus on stellar reporting and skip the political analysis, stuck its haughty little nose into California last week, announcing that the Democratic supermajorities in the state Legislature spell doom for us all.

“Liberals,” the paper noted, “will pick up enough seats to secure a supermajority. Governor Jerry Brown then will be the only chaperone for the Liberals Gone Wild video that is Sacramento.”

I guess I go to the wrong parties, but I’ve never seen that movie. In fact, a lot of the Dems in Sacramento would have to cough and gasp a bit to call themselves “liberals,” and that’s on a good day. Frankly, the majority party in the Assembly and Senate tends to be relatively conservative, with many of its members afraid to so much as talk about, say, amending Prop. 13 or legalizing marijuana.

The bigger danger is that the Democrats from the more moderate districts will so fear that loss of their seats that they’ll want to be even more cautious about raising taxes than the Republicans.

See, I don’t think either party quite realizes what happened Nov. 6 in California, and what it means for the future.

This election wasn’t an anomaly. It wasn’t a miraculous twist of fate driven by high Obama turnout or by labor’s GOTV efforts to defeat Prop. 32. It was the inevitable result of two forces — the demographic changes in the electoral map of this state, and the utter, complete collapse of the California Republican Party. Neither one is about to change any time soon.

For decades, the GOP has focused on older, white, suburban voters, and there was a time when that strategy worked. But the future of the state is younger, non-white urban voters who are less frightened by crime, less xenophobic about immigration, less likely to have kids in private schools, and largely uninterested in the traditional Republican social issues.

Brian Leubitz, the insightful blogger at Calitics.com, notes that almost 30 percent of the people who went to the polls Nov. 6 were between 18 and 29 years old. “The California GOP, like the greater national party, has lost young voters,” he writes. “If it hopes to return to a semblance of a statewide party, it will need to moderate itself back into a party that accurately represents some portion of California’s electorate.”

How likely is that? Anyone want to bet that the GOP is going to reject the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association the right-wing radio guys in Los Angeles and start promoting immigration reform and an overhaul of Prop. 13? You’ll have to give me pretty long odds.

No: The era of Democratic supermajorities in the California Legislature is here to stay for a while, and the Dems might as well use it. No need to be afraid of a backlash; there’s nothing out there to lash back with. The only real danger is that Democrats and independents will be so disappointed in the Legislature’s failure to act on the huge issues facing the state that they’ll stay home in two years.

Why not talk about a split-role property tax program? Why not an oil-severance tax? Why not let local government raise local taxes without a two-thirds majority? The Wall Street Journal can whine all it wants, but it can’t change reality — right now, the Democrats are the only game in town.

 

Editor’s notes

0

tredmond@sfbg.com

EDITOR’S NOTES The Wall Street Journal, which ought to focus on stellar reporting and skip the political analysis, stuck its haughty little nose into California last week, announcing that the Democratic supermajorities in the state Legislature spell doom for us all.

“Liberals,” the paper noted, “will pick up enough seats to secure a supermajority. Governor Jerry Brown then will be the only chaperone for the Liberals Gone Wild video that is Sacramento.”

I guess I go to the wrong parties, but I’ve never seen that movie. In fact, a lot of the Dems in Sacramento would have to cough and gasp a bit to call themselves “liberals,” and that’s on a good day. Frankly, the majority party in the Assembly and Senate tends to be relatively conservative, with many of its members afraid to so much as talk about, say, amending Prop. 13 or legalizing marijuana.

The bigger danger is that the Democrats from the more moderate districts will so fear that loss of their seats that they’ll want to be even more cautious about raising taxes than the Republicans.

See, I don’t think either party quite realizes what happened Nov. 6 in California, and what it means for the future.

This election wasn’t an anomaly. It wasn’t a miraculous twist of fate driven by high Obama turnout or by labor’s GOTV efforts to defeat Prop. 32. It was the inevitable result of two forces — the demographic changes in the electoral map of this state, and the utter, complete collapse of the California Republican Party. Neither one is about to change any time soon.

For decades, the GOP has focused on older, white, suburban voters, and there was a time when that strategy worked. But the future of the state is younger, non-white urban voters who are less frightened by crime, less xenophobic about immigration, less likely to have kids in private schools, and largely uninterested in the traditional Republican social issues.

Brian Leubitz, the insightful blogger at Calitics.com, notes that almost 30 percent of the people who went to the polls Nov. 6 were between 18 and 29 years old. “The California GOP, like the greater national party, has lost young voters,” he writes. “If it hopes to return to a semblance of a statewide party, it will need to moderate itself back into a party that accurately represents some portion of California’s electorate.”

How likely is that? Anyone want to bet that the GOP is going to reject the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association the right-wing radio guys in Los Angeles and start promoting immigration reform and an overhaul of Prop. 13? You’ll have to give me pretty long odds.

No: The era of Democratic supermajorities in the California Legislature is here to stay for a while, and the Dems might as well use it. No need to be afraid of a backlash; there’s nothing out there to lash back with. The only real danger is that Democrats and independents will be so disappointed in the Legislature’s failure to act on the huge issues facing the state that they’ll stay home in two years.

Why not talk about a split-role property tax program? Why not an oil-severance tax? Why not let local government raise local taxes without a two-thirds majority? The Wall Street Journal can whine all it wants, but it can’t change reality — right now, the Democrats are the only game in town.

 

The Latin dish

1

news@sfbg.com

San Francisco is a literate community, always has been. Bookstores abound, perhaps not as much as bars, but that’s fish for another soup. The literary scene is uber-vibrant, as highlighted by the recent Litquake Festival with more than 800 writers reading in hundreds of venues.

But looked at from another perspective, the most recent study on adult literacy reveals startling numbers: Nationwide one in seven adults is illiterate, about 14 percent of the adult population. The same study cited San Francisco with an adult illiteracy rate of 18 percent, or nearly one in five adults (National Assessment of Adult Literacy, 2003).

One out of five adults in San Francisco is illiterate and we have 11 supervisors—it’s scary, right? If I think too much about this it keeps me up at night.

So I am proposing that our elected officials, especially our supervisors, post their reading lists on their websites, for the electorate to view, perhaps to even offer comments or questions.

Nothing reveals more about the human heart—who you are, your world view, your interests—than what you’re reading. Where do they get the recipes for all the laws they cook up? Do they read newspapers—I mean community newspapers? Poetry? Fiction? Non-fiction? Adrian Rich? Isabel Allende? Machiavelli? I would like to see the list of their dictionaries, and I hope to see lots of bilingual ones—like Spanish-English, Cantonese-English, Tagalog-Spanish-English, Russian-English. Caló. Me entiendes, Méndez? Or is it English-only dictionaries?

In the best of worlds we would find on their reading lists poetry, novels, history, art, philosophy.

One way out of this morass of violence brought to us in burning color by the powers that be…might just be a poem. Something created by another human being, easy to hold in one hand, or folded in the pocket—sometimes the gift of peace is as simple as that.

It’s not just about books, but writing and stories that speaks to us, our sense of who we are, who we have been—and, if there’s any time left on this planet, where we might be going.

One of the biggest problems in our society right now is that too many politicos run around downplaying reading and writing—proud of the fact they’ve never read a book, don’t know cacahuates about poetry or literature, much less art or music, and could care less. But we live in one of the great literary cities, rich with song and poetry going way back before any Euro cats showed up trapping beavers or digging for gold. So to ignore this heritage would be foolish for any politician. After all—as the wise poet once said, “Poetry is the best word in the best place.”

If we are truly a literate city—the City of Poets — then it must be all of us, from four-year-olds to 100-year-olds. We must all be good readers: From the Rammaytush songs still drifting in the fog that sweeps over Twin Peaks, to Maria Amparo Ruíz de Burton to Oscar Zeta Acosta, the Brown Buffalo, to Roberto Frost. Or any of the past poet laureates will do just fine, Ferlinghetti, Mirikitani, major, Hirschman, di Prima, a virtual all-star lists of voices, styles, visions.

As part of a literacy campaign aimed at city officials and our elected leaders, two poets Virginia Barrett and Bobby Coleman, have put together an anthology Occupy SF: poems from the movement that includes more than 100 poets, from Lawrence Ferlinghetti, devorah major and Jack Hirschman to many emerging poets. The two editors have launched a campaign to place this anthology in the hands of every city bureaucrat and elected official. They are operating as a nonprofit, and all proceeds go to benefit the evolving Occupy movement. The anthology is published by Jambu Press/Studio Saraswati, which can be contacted via email: saraswati.sf@gmail.com or snail mail at PO Box 720050, SF 94172.

And please, political leaders — no excuses about how busy you are. If that’s the case maybe you should retire so you can take some time to read.

 

 

A POETIC PAELLA

 

All the ingredients can be found

At your local bookstore

 

Take the honey from many languages

The poetic juice from many cultures

The crying songs of many lands

The spices of diverse foods

The love a parent has for a child

The love a child has for the wind

Include an image of bound feet

Discovered in a 19th century photo book

Plus the history of war crimes

Seasoned with the salt of exile

The lovers’ caress before sex

Blend them together In any order You will find wisdom in every bite

Alejandro Murguía is San Francisco’s poet laureate. His column will appear regularly.