Volume 47 Number 08

Hail to the Chief


GAMER They say you have to go away in order to make a comeback. To be fair, the Halo series never really “went away,” having released two non-numbered titles and an HD remake in the four years since Halo 3, but those entries lacked the presence of the iconic Master Chief and, compared with the pop-culture phenomenon that was Halo 3, they didn’t exactly set the gaming community on fire.

Perhaps fearful of diminishing returns, series creator Bungie left the franchise in 2010 and Halo 4 (343 Industries/Microsoft; Xbox 360) was left to a new developer, 343 Industries. I’m not sure anyone expected the first-time company to knock it out of the park on their first try, but Halo 4 is a unmistakable grand slam — both a love letter to the franchise’s legacy and a re-introduction to a beloved character that once appeared as fundamentally one-note.

Fittingly, Halo 4 picks up four years after the events of Halo 3. Master Chief is awakened from cryo-sleep by sidekick computer A.I. Cortana and, fearing an attack from villainous alien race the Covenant, the pair set off on a quest that once again endangers Earth and the future of humanity. The first entry in a new trilogy of games, Halo 4‘s story favors mystery over the hollow exposition of past titles, and the relationship between Master Chief and Cortana suggests a truer sense of humanity for the man behind the mask.

Pacing is also revamped, and the game is always barreling towards something new and exciting, as players shuffle from spaceship to alien planet and back again, on the run from a new alien-machine hybrid race called Prometheans. Even when you’re required to perform the same action multiple times, mundane acts like flipping switches rarely play out the same way twice thanks to some impressive artificial intelligence and smart level design. Frankly, it’s surprising that the trusty Halo formula can still be put to such joyous effect; the single player campaign is the most satisfying since the series debuted in 2001.

If you’ve played the multiplayer of the past few entries, you’re largely prepared for the wealth of intuitive maps and game types, solid matchmaking, level editor and ability to save and edit videos of your online escapades. You have new armor and a few new special abilities — like a portable turret — but game play remains easy to learn and challenging to master.

In a field where conventional military shooters top the list each month, it’s exciting to have an invincible space marine blasting up the charts again. After years of releasing games that were essentially two sides of the same space-coin, Halo 4 takes the series back to basics: Master Chief and a whole lot of firepower. Everybody loves a comeback.



We’re sorry to contribute to your stress. We know that our 2012 Holiday Guide is coming out the day before Thanksgiving, and while you are to be accusing for bridling at our anticipation, we think you’re going to like this one. After all, with a list of over 24 presents for your boo, your neighborhood, and more — for under $10! — Marke B.’s explanation of a slightly-scatalogical adopted holiday rite, a full listing of tree lightings and other twinkly November/December happenings, and so much more, you’re going to be better prepped than ever for surviving the next six weeks. Or our name’s not Saint Nick. 

>>THE UNDER $10 GIFT GUIDE: Locally-available trinkets for your partner, your parents, your buddies, and that cranky lady who lives downstairs

>>THE REASON FOR THE SEASON: No, not Jesus. It’s an article about volunteering and gifts that give back

>>GABBA GABBA BUY: What to cop for your headphone-obsessed loved one? Our picks, from boxed sets to lovely local presents

>>BEATING THE POOP LOG: A family adopts an ancient Catalonian tradition

>>THAT’S A WRAP: Gift ideas for your favorite film fan 

>>CREATING OUR OWN TRADITIONS: A guide to the holidays for queer and sex-positive families

>>RUN OVER BY A REINDEER: Holiday events: tree lightings, flamenco concerts, Chinese food buffets, and more

>>9 BOTTLES (AND SOME CHERRIES) FOR UNDER $9: Cask’s store manager makes a list of what to buy if you’re social and strapped

Likes the name



STREET SEEN “People were like, we wanna wear some clothing from you guys,” San Franpsycho owner Christian Routzen tells me from the behind the counter of his DIY brand’s newish (it’s seven months old) location on newly-trendy Divisadero Street. “But we didn’t make clothing.”

I guess sometimes the brand just comes first, and then the product. Or rather, the movie comes first. Routzen made a 2001 Ocean Beach surf film with cohort Andy Olive called, yes, San Franpsycho. Apparently the flick, along with its 2005 follow-up San Franpsycho: Wet and Wreckless, captured the imagination of certain sector of San Francisco. They wanted T-shirts, so Routzen and Olive located some silkscreening gear and a mail truck and became a presence at Indie Marts, bars, and street fairs, silkscreening clothing with their bon mot. I’ve seen them do it, they get slammed.

“We had people taking off their shirts. Men, women, and children,” concludes Routzen. People resonated with the name, he says.

A couple of bangin’ blonde girls interrupt our conversation to buy wristbands for the surf fashion show the brand is hosting at Public Works that night. Later, I see a shot on Instagram involving a runway, a lot of thigh-high American Apparel tube socks, and bikinis. That same weekend, San Franpsycho was hosting a surf tournament and a poker competition.

The girls recede into the distance, banded. And then a guy interrupts us asking about customizing an aqua sweatshirt, as if to complete the San Franpsycho milieu I’ve found myself in the middle of.

But I kind of want Routzen to spell it out. “Can I ask you a less tangible question? Why’d they want to wear clothes from a bunch of guys that don’t make clothes? It’s all the name, really?”

Routzen shrugs, and hands me a DVD copy of Wet and Wreckless ($20, buy a copy at the store.) I watch it with my roommate the next night. It is a Jackass-paced piece of San Francisco bro-moblia, featuring gentlemen named Simo, Doobie, and Brownie, guys bouncing their penises while frying hot dogs in the kitchen, claymation sex, girls making out, an Ocean Beach parking lot shooting, a broken surfboard montage, and an incoherent interview with Andy Dick. Also: barrel rolls.

Most of the SFP dudes are pretty hot, they surf gnarly OB waves, and they straight-boy don’t give a fuck. Ding ding ding! Well yeah, obvs everybody wants San Franpsycho to rub off on them.

Which is a totally unfair analysis, because Olive and Routzen have (in addition to being attractive) created a real cute, real-real, repurposed wood retail galaxy. The Golden Gate Bridge-San Franpsycho logo can now be found on man-tanks, lady tanks, dog sweatshirts, boy shorts, hoodies, aprons, duffel bags, water bottles. The machines they’re printed on are clearly visible in the shop’s workspace.

The boys also sell a host of products made by buddies who live in the immediate neighborhood. The ginger-Afroed Olive holds up an expanse of black Cordura nylon, excitedly gesturing at a bank on the wall of the classic roll-top, leather-strapped Motley Goods backpacks (also available on Etsy) that it will be made into. That brand’s based out of their friend’s apartment, Olive says. “Literally, two blocks away.” The shop also stocks Sea Pony Couture (sea-pony-couture.myshopify.com), a line of delicate gold-chained, be-charmed jewelry by San Franciscan Fatima Fleming.

505 Divisadero, SF. (415) 829-7874, www.sanfranpsycho.com

Far, far away from the San Franpsycho clubhouse sits a Noe Valley clothing store that has absolutely zero hot men in it, but managed to pull me in on the strength of its color palette alone (I am, at my heart, a primary shades kind of person. This is Atlantis and I’m like, nautical.)

Said shop was Mill, and it’s MILF territory — at least, such were the women audibly rhapsodizing over the shop’s stock while I was there, and who were subsequently drawn in by the incredibly informative employees for a conversation about respective kids’ ages, the pleasures of teaching one’s youngster how to give mommy a foot massage, etc.

I was back in the dressing room trying on my Japanese striped/solid BlueBlue boatneck dress, silk drawstring pants with daisy motif by Janezic (a line designed by Michele Janezic, Mill’s store manager whose drapey tank tops are a touch more club-ready and sexy than the rest of Mill’s offerings), and high-waisted, below-the-knee, A-line Levi’s denim skirt.

“I just can’t believe this! It’s amazing,” went the raptures. I should mention that Mill is the brand-new female wear offshoot of beloved Castro store Unionmade. Unionmade was recently dinged by Gawker because its clothes are not, sadly, union-made. Nonetheless, its collection has garnered an enthusiastic following among those who swoon for spendy, high quality denim and other rugged forms of fashion. These followers included females, leading to the birth of Mill, which carries some unisex items in addition to female items from the same brands as Unionmade.

“The philosophy of Mill is to offer classic, quality, and timeless products,” Janezic told me in an email after my visit (I didn’t cop any of the items I tried on, but that was more a question of insufficient funds than personal proclivity because I wanted them all very badly. Even the Barbour “Morris” waxed utility jacket that seemed like a must-have for the drippy SF winter was $379, so I guess I must not-have it sob.)

But I’ll tell you this: if Mill ever needs someone to watch the store at night, say curl up on a pile of goldenrod Levi’s wool trenches lined with poncho material next to its stacks of design mags, wake up in the morning and go out brand representing in some Imogene + Willie jeans (this is cute — manufactured in Tennessee by a twangy couple who started in a gas station basement and still get their fabric from one the country’s last and oldest denim factories) and Gitman Bros. gingham button-ups…

… well, at least now they know my name.

3751 24th St., SF. (415) 401-8920, www.millmercantile.com

Gabba gabba buy



TOFU AND WHISKEY’S HOLIDAY GUIDE Before I expound on anything, I’ve got to spit this out: buy local. If you’re going to buy something; in particular, if you’re going to buy actual vinyl records or CDs or books or musical equipment, get them from an independent store in the Bay Area.

Support Aquarius, Amoeba Music, Black Pancake Records, GROOVES, 1-2-3-4 GO!, Recycled Records, Rooky Ricardo’s, Rasputin’s, Streetlight, and the smaller mom-and-significant-other type stores; otherwise, the brick and mortars will slowly die and we’ll be stuck rifling only through the virtual library, which will inevitably lead to a host of other problems (loneliness, fatigue, hive mindedness).

Making it even easier to shop live, Record Store Day has a Black Friday special releases list (Fri/23), which means there will be lots of specialty music and rare editions on the shelves. And yes, some detractors complain of the single-mindedness of asking shoppers to obsess over rare vinyl jewels just one day a year — actual Record Store Day takes place in April — and that most of the items end up online with jacked up prices anyways. I disagree with this mindset, especially around the holidays. That push can make the difference for a struggling independent shop. Keep in mind, this is not advocating for actual Black Friday shopping at Wal-Mart and the like. End rant.

Last year, all I wanted for Chanukah was the Phil Spector box set, each disc enveloped in tiny cardboard sleeves made to replicate the original records in miniature — like dollhouse versions. I got the CDs, and have listened to the Crystals’ “Frankenstein Twist,” on average, once a day for these past 12 months. This year, I’m just not sure what to covet, so I asked around.

From my non-academic study, I found that musicians tend to be of the practical angle when it comes to gifts. They want extra cables, or picks, headphones, or record needles. One mentioned the Fender Champ amp, which is good for thin-walled apartment use, or the $39 Fireye Mini portable headphone amp. Better yet, a gift certificate to a (local) music shop — try spots like Real Guitars (15 Lafayette, SF; www.realguitars.com), SF Guitar Works (323 Potereo, SF; www.sfguitarworks.com) or Starving Musician (2474 Shattuck, Berk; www.starvingmusician.com).

Those one step apart from the musicians, the quintessential music nerds such as myself, on the other hand, tend to desire the ostentatious and/or extraordinary. They want that rare, hard-to-find seven-inch on white vinyl, the oversized coffee table book, or that carefully curated box set.

Or something else entirely: a gift subscription to Turntable Kitchen’s pairing boxes ($25/month, www.turntablekitchen.com) is a particularly cool gift that’s based right here in the Bay. The boxes ship once a month and include dry ingredients, recipes, and limited edition seven-inches, often by local musicians.

Now on to the music shops. The specialty records, box sets, and CDs in general that stuck out to me as great gifts this year — of course dependent on the listener — are Blackbird Blackbird’s covers of Kate Bush on limited edition vinyl with origami, Castle Face Record’s The Velvet Underground and Nico Tribute, and new box sets from the English Beat, and Death Cab for Cutie. That Castle Face Records full album tribute features covers by a who’s-who of revered locals: Kelley Stoltz, Fresh and Onlys, Warm Soda, Ty Segall, the Mallard, and more (www.castlefacerecords.com).

There’s also Record Store Day’s Black Friday exclusives such as the Fat Boys pizza disc — the record looks like a saucy pie and it comes packaged in a cardboard box — Wanda Jackson’s Capitol Rarities, the Asobi Seksu/Boris split seven-inch,”obscure giants of acoustic guitar” trading cards, and a limited deluxe edition of Joey Ramone’s Ya Know?.

For all the Record Store Day Black Friday specials and to check participating Bay Area shops, visit recordstoreday.com/SpecialReleases.

For the Chanukah specific, I’d recommend ‘Twas the Night Before Hannukah: The Musical Battle Between Christmas and the Festival of Lights. It’s another release from the Idelsohn Society for Musical Preservation, generally the best archivists of vintage Yiddish and Jewish-centric music from the past century or so. The 34-track double CD comp includes Chanukah songs by Woody Guthrie, the Klezmatics, and Mickey Katz, along with Christmas tunes performed by Jewish musicians like Lou Reed, Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, and the Ramones.

An added bonus, there will be a ‘Twas the Night Before Hannukah show at Brick and Mortar Music Hall in December (Dec. 15, 9pm, $15–$18, 1710 Mission, SF. www.brickandmortarmusic.com), with live appearance by Luther Dickinson, Sway Machinery, Thao, Steve Berlin, Ethan Miller, and Ceci Bastida.

As for books, there’s a new coffee table beast that I’ve been dying to talk about called The Art of Punk: The Illustrated History of Punk Rock Design (Voyageur Press, 224pp, $40), by Russ Bestley and Alex Ogg. It’s a beautiful hardcover with splashy images showcasing the aesthetics of punk; graphic fliers, posters, album covers, patches, and other imagery from the proto-punk era through the present, including international punk art, hardcore designs, and fringe elements (though aren’t they all?). Interesting, there’s another great book on punk graphics released this fall: Jon Savage’s Punk: An Aesthetic (Rizzoli, 352pp, $55).

As The Art of Punk puts it, “The value of such groundbreaking artwork, which continues to have an impact on music, fashion, design, and media to this day, is even now only becoming fully apparent. The visual legacy of punk is extensive and its graphic codes — symbols of struggle and resistance, but also a complex subcultural visual vocabulary, and more cynically, a means to tap into deeply held antiauthoritarian consumer sentiments by lifestyle branders — still have resonance. “

The books will appeal to anyone that ever spent hours carefully sewing garish back-patches to jackets to represent the music they believed in, or those who stared at album covers so long their eyes crossed, and the imagery has been burned in their brains ever since. Basically, the music nerds we’ve been shopping for here today.



It’s the swinging, soul-funk group’s first headlining show in San Francisco in more than two years, and in the grand Davies Symphony Hall to boot. The Brooklyn nine-piece Dap-Kings, is of course led by the velvety, luminous Sharon Jones and will likely be belting tracks off 2010’s I Learned the Hard Way LP.

Sat/24, 8pm, $15–$82

Davies Symphony Hall

201 Van Ness, SF

(415) 864-6000




Is there anything more exciting than reverb-heavy surf guitar? It warbles through the veins. Last time the King of Surf Guitar, Dick Dale, popped up at the Uptown he roared through all the hits — yes, “Misirilou” was high on the setlist — and then some, rapidly fingering his custom guitar at a blistering speed, his long white hair whipping around him. Trust me, see the 75-year-old maven while you still can.

With Jonny Manek and the Depressives

Sat/24, 9pm, $20


1928 Telegraph, Oakl.

(510) 451-8100



Beating the poop log



Poop log, log of Christmas,

don’t poop herrings, which are too salty,

poop sweet almond cakes, which are much better!

if you don’t poop well, I’ll hit you with a stick,

Poop log!

HOLIDAY GUIDE Despite its media image, Detroit is a vastly diverse place, full of Hmong, Arabs, Christian Lebanese, Chicanos, Jews, Greeks …. but very few Spaniards, at least that I know of.

So it may seem a bit out of place for my family to be kneeling each year around a blanket-covered log that we’ve drawn a smiley face on, beating it until it “poops” out presents — an ancient Catalonian tradition known as tió de Nadal, or the “Christmas poop log.”

We call him by his more informal name, Caga Tió, and he comes to stay with us every year, bringing us a kind of exotic, slightly malicious delight. (Much better we beat up a log than each other.) About two or three weeks before Christmas, we set him out on our hearth and cover him with a small blanket. Each night, just like for Rudolph and friends, we lay a plate of treats and some milk for him. The treats are gone by morning, and Caga Tió starts to swell underneath the blanket. Soon, Caga Tió is one fat, smiling log!

Then, on Christmas morning, we gather around him with sticks and sing a slightly different Spanish version of the song above. (How slightly different depends on how much spiked eggnog we Anglophones have imbibed.) Then we beat him vociferously with the sticks.

We’ve literally beaten the shit out of him! And the shit is presents. We reach under and see what Caga Tió has been kind enough to poop out. One year the gifts were tiny windup toys that we raced down the kitchen table. Another, it was fake mustaches for a hilarious family portrait. And another it was various plastic animal noses, and 3-D puzzles, and chocolates. No sweet almond cakes (a.k.a. turrón) yet, however.

How did my family embrace this strange practice? In January of 2006, I’d just gotten back from attending my friends’ wedding in Madrid, one of the first legal same-sex weddings under Spanish law, performed by the member of parliament who sponsored the bill. In Bush’s America, this was unimaginable. So I brought back an obsession with all things Spanish. The Catalan region lies east and north of Madrid, but one night I fell into a Spanish history Youtube hole (a Yubehole, if you will) and came out with the poop log on the other end. I was determined to try it when visiting my parents for the holidays. They loved it — it was something different we could share as a far-flung family — and we’ve continued ever since. Once he’s pooped out your gifts, you’re supposed to burn the log like a yule log. But we’ve kept the same one: he’s almost part of the family!

Why poop for Christmas? Let’s just say the wonderful people of Catalonia are big on holiday shit. Besides the tió de Nadal, derived from medieval Catalan mythology and beaten for centuries, they’re also keen on exquisitely hilarious caganers, tiny porcelain figurines of well-known personages that they place in the background of nativity scenes. And what are these personages doing? Why taking a dump with their pants around their ankles, of course. Darth Vader, Justin Bieber, Spongebob, Obama, the Queen of England, the Pope — all are fair scatological game. It’s a good-natured note of vulgarity that reinforces the immediacy of life amid all the theological pomp and mysticism.

Caga Tió isn’t so strange to Americans: South Park‘s Mr. Hanky, the Christmas Poo, is a famous manifestation. Soon, maybe, you’ll be beating a poop log for the holidays, too. And you thought you wouldn’t get shit for Christmas.

The reason for the season



HOLIDAY GUIDE With the presidential election over, we are reminded that though our quest for reproductive rights and LGBTQ equality may continue unabated, making a difference must not be limited to a “Ya Voté” sticker every four years. Here’s a brief list of ways to do good this season, including community gardening, beach cleanups, and gift fairs where you can shop for a good cause.


Outdoorsy types take note. SFGRO (www.sfgro.com) has a mission to elevate the profile of community gardening in San Francisco, and to provide support to local gardeners. You can do your part by helping out in the following areas: composting, garden safety and security, resource material development, administrative tasks, and fundraising. Jump into the mix all over the city: the De Haro, Dearborn, Alioto Mini-Park, Page Street, and Potrero Del Sol gardens all need help.

You can also help out at Hayes Valley Farm (450 Laguna, SF. www.hayesvalleyfarm.com) during it’s last winter. The farm is set to be turned back over to the city next year, at which point founder Jay Rosenburg hopes enough people will have learned agriculture skills at the farm to continue its mission elsewhere. “It will create a big fireworks explosion and everything we’ve created here will break off to little pieces all over town,” he recently told Edible San Francisco.

Help maintain the beauty of the five-mile-long Ocean Beach with the Surfrider Foundation‘s regular cleanups. Bonus: they’ll give you a chance to commune with our sandy spaces in the winter, when the waves are at their most ruggedly beautiful (Next events: Dec. 4 and 18, 10am-noon. Ocean Beach, Stairway No. 17, SF; Dec. 31, 10am-noon. Baker Beach, SF. sf.surfrider.org)

In the North Bay, we suggest you peruse the various opportunities available through Volunteer Marin (555 Northgate Drive, San Rafael. (415) 479-5710, www.volunteermarin.org.) The organization solicits requests from local nonprofits for donations or volunteer time. Its altruistic options include preparing and serving holiday meals, donating food, clothing, or requested gifts, and decorating or wrapping presents.

We are very much proud to say that San Francisco is home to the oldest toy drive in the whole country. The organization responsible for this is our beloved San Francisco Fire Department (www.sffirefighterstoys.org.) Find the nearest fire station to you and be part of the effort to get gifts to over 40,000 disadvantaged children.

Although many homeless shelters tend to fill up their volunteer shifts early on during the holiday season, head to At The Crossroads (Dec. 12, 6-8pm. 333 Valencia, SF. (415) 487-0691, www.atthecrossroads.org), when volunteers are needed to assemble care packages for homeless youth in city.

Kids Enjoy Exercise Now (www.keensanfrancisco.org) is an awesome national organization whose mission is promote physical activity among kids and young adults who have developmental disabilities. KEEN is recruiting people to be volunteer coaches, and those who sign up will be paired with an athlete for hours of fun and games — an easy thing to do that’ll make a big difference in a young person’s life.

And finally, for those of us too lazy or computer-bound to do anything besides point-and-click this holiday season, we present to you Games that Give (www.gamesthatgive.net) Play an online game like solitaire or mini-golf and for every 10 seconds you’re occupied — and viewing the site’s sponsors’ ads — a charity of your choice receives a certain amount of funds.


One thing people in the Bay Area love to brag about is our access to a wide selection of some of the best wines in the world — which many will be taking full advantage of this holiday season. Sometimes the vast number of options can be anxiety-inducing, which is why we recommend ONEHOPE (www.onehopewine.com), a socially-conscious winery that donates 50 percent of its profits to partner charities and has raised over $750,000 to date.

It’s not only one of the largest events recognizing women’s craft in the nation — the Women’s Building’s Celebration of Craftswomen (Dec. 2, 9am-1pm, free. Fort Mason, SF. (650) 615-6838, www.celebrationofcraftswomen.org) is a great place to satisfy your gift-giving needs. Note: an event as big is this requires all hands on deck — the organization would love your help in admissions, crowd monitoring, relief for exhibitors, plus organizing the raffle and silent auction.

One of our favorite entrepreneurship programs in the city puts together an amazing assemblage of its graduates just in time for your eight crazy nights or stocking stuffing. La Cocina’s Gift Bazaar (Dec. 7, 1-7pm, free. Crocker Galleria, 50 Post, SF. (415) 824-2729, www.giftbazaarsf.com) presents a pageantry-filled flea market dedicated to showcasing foodie goodies and handcrafted/artisan gifts.

This is the first year that the Contemporary Jewish Museum (736 Mission, SF. (415) 655-7800, www.cjm.org) has published a gift catalogue featuring its gift shop’s treasures, like modern-eclectic menorahs — one of which is shaped a cable car — artisan jewelry, and children’s toys. All sales proceeds benefit the museum’s ongoing efforts to bring Jewish art, history, and culture to the Bay Area.

Meals on Wheels (www.mowsf.org) would to invite you and yours to put those creative aptitudes to work brightening the holidays for the elderly and handicapped. Wrap and stuff gifts, and make holidays card for distribution to the group’s meal recipients during the first two weeks of December.

Under $10 gift guide: Under the mistletoe


Swagger Cosmetic’s founder Blake Karamazov is your holiday girlfriend. See her vegan makeup line at www.swaggercosmetics.com



You can find vendor Elden Diaz on most weekdays in Civic Center Plaza, with his racks full of friendship bracelets. Get a personalized one for your babe with that nickname you call them that they love to hate.

Civic Center Plaza, SF


They just couldn’t get sweeter? Yeah they can – with this little pot of herb-inflected bee juice.

Village Market, One Ferry Building, No. 29, SF. www.villagemarketsf.com


Among the superlative selection of compartmentalized lunch boxes and impressive wall of fake eyelashes, this Japanese dollar store also stocks gag private part prosthetics. Wear them yourself? Strap them on your sweetheart? Insert some levity into December with these goofy gifts.

Daiso, 570 Market and 22 Japantown Peace Plaza No. 400, SF. www.daisojapan.com


No, it’s not just chocolate. Tell your boo that not only is this the trendiest cocoa in SF right now (its makers just opened a brick and mortar location in the Mission), but also the most holistic. Dandelion makes its bars from the beans themselves, where many other producer create their confections from pre-made chocolate.

Dandelion Chocolate, 826 Valencia, SF. www.dandelionchocolate.com (Also available at Chocolate Covered, 4069 24th St., SF. www.chocolatecoveredsf.com)


Truly, there is nothing for which you cannot use duct tape — even jumpstarting your kinkery, which you can do easily with a roll of this skin-safe erotic adhesive.

Good Vibrations, various Bay Area locations. www.goodvibes.com


Love watching that ass high in the air? This keychain is perfect for the one who belays your world, and it’s made here in the city by a civil engineer-climber who sells rock-ready accessories to pay off her grad school debt.

AllBeta, www.etsy.com/shop/allbeta


Under $10 gift guide: Parent wrap


The Guardian’s parents for the holidays are Mary Camilang and artist Sarah Sass Biscarra-Dilley



What better place to replenish your favorite cooks’ supply than this mom and pop shop in North Beach?

Columbus Cutlery, 358 Columbus, SF. (415) 362-1342


Imported from South Africa, these recycled gems are great for parents who like a little funk and flair.

Lava9, 542 Hayes, SF.


Hyacinth print? Color block motif? Rock your parent-peoples’ worlds with these sure-to-be-found-wacko footsies.

New People, 1746 Post, SF. www.newpeopleworld.com


We all dream of a perfectly organized kitchen, but your ‘rents may just be settled enough for that to become a reality. Snag them some Masons from a superlative vintage cookware store.

Cookin’, 339 Divisadero, SF.


Encourage your pop’s inner gourmand by introducing him to the glories of Ferry Building shopping. Far West Fungi also sells a mean mushroom log, if you think papa is down to grow his own caps.

Far West Fungi, 1 Ferry Building No. 34, SF. www.farwestfungi.com


Your parents’ new kid (y’know, that Boston terrier that now lives in your childhood room) will be thrilled to bits by this durable, Bay made veggie plushie.


Under $10 gift guide: Neighborly love


Our Holiday Guide “neighborhood” is Cookie Dough, who plays Sofia Petrillo in the now-classic annual drag queen production of The Golden Girls: The Christmas Episodes. The show runs Dec. 6-30, get your tickets at goldengirlssf.eventbrite.com



Presents for acquaintances should draw on the things you have in common — like a love of your shared territory.

Lola, 1415 Grant, SF. www.lolaofnorthbeach.com


Oaxaca, Mexico’s women-run Raahuna artisan collective makes this beautiful, fair trade purse. It’d make a socially-conscious (and hip) token of your esteem.

Artillery Gallery, 2751 Mission, SF. www.artillery-ag.com


If your neighbor’s going to be leaving you passive-aggressive memos about placement of recycling bins, they may as well be on these friendly animal and guitar-shaped sticky notes.

Kinokuniya Bookstore, 1581 Webster, SF


Associate yourself in their minds with good, clean living with these soaps from San Franpsycho’s Divisadero store. Choose from Golden Gate Park, Mission, Hayes Valley, Potrero Hill, Pacific Heights, SoMa, Nopa, Ocean Beach, and more.

San Franpsycho, 505 Divisadero, SF. www.sanfranpsycho.com


In addition to poetry-engraved ceramic necklaces and porcelain buttons, San Franciscan Lynae Zebest sells these sweet little bowls on her Etsy site.

Zebest Pottery, www.etsy.com/shop/zebestpottery


Every Tuesday and Saturday from 9am-1pm Santa Rosa Flowers sells bright bundles of blooms perfecting for brightening your giftee’s foyer, or even cubicle

Alameda Farmers Market, Webster and Haight, Alameda

Under $10 gift guide: Thank you for being a friend


Serving time as “friend” for the Holiday Guide photoshoot, Guardian intern George McIntire exudes bike-buddy realness



Show your bike gang member you care with the gift of safety. What are you, their mom?

Nomad Cyclery, 2555 Irving, SF. www.nomadcyclery.com


SF artist Lex Mex traveled Latin America with an eye to the walls. Lucky you, the photo prints that came out of that journey are perfect for the street art fanatic on your list.

Artillery Gallery, 2751 Mission, SF. www.artillery-ag.com


That flick you and your bestie watched as artsy college stoners? They’ve got the score at local music mecca Grooves for insta-trips down memory lane.

Grooves, 1797 Market, SF


Do not fear the practical present. If homeboy or girl has a beloved hobby, they’ll never be mad about you re-upping supplies for it. Bags of yeast, hops, or grains will sit perfectly with the homebrew enthusiast.

San Francisco Brewcraft, 1555 Clement, SF. www.sfbrewcraft.com


What better gift for your emotional rock and partner in crime than off-brand Sanrio socks?

New People, 1746 Post, SF. www.newpeopleworld.com


Made locally from the same ingredients as true friendship (chocolate and coffee), SFQ was made as an attempt to foster an SF barbeque style. Made with Californian ingredients like Wine Country red wine vinegar, your bud will want to slather on this vegan treat.

Park and Pond, 1422 Grant, SF. www.parkandpond.com


That’s a wrap



HOLIDAY GUIDE “Film fan” can mean many things: that guy who knows the name of every weapon in the Star Wars universe, the late-period Clint Eastwood apologist, the kid who dreams of being the next Joss Whedon, the woman who dresses like a 1940s femme fatale, or the neighbors who just named their new puppy “Kubrick.” What’s more, most people have some love for movies (or at least really good TV), so a cinematic gift is more or less a win-win situation as long as you make a slight effort to tailor it to the individual. Herewith, some ideas to get you started.

Bodacious Blu-ray box set Bond 50: The Complete 22 Film Collection goes from Sean Connery to Daniel Craig, compiling all the 007 flicks to date (with the exception of the current Skyfall, of course). Though not all Bond films are created equal (2002’s Die Another Day vs. suave 1960s Connery? No contest), the set would be a handsome addition to any space-age bachelor or bachelorette pad. For added impact, throw in a snazzy cocktail shaker and some martini glasses. Instant secret agent party!

For the Giants fan who’s already drowning in World Series memorabilia, why not splash out for one or both volumes of the ESPN Films 30 for 30 Gift Set Collection? The films in this Emmy-nominated series transcend typical feel-good sports docs to closely examine specific moments and important (or infamous) figures, with acclaimed directors (John Singleton, Barry Levinson, Barbara Kopple) contributing alongside up-and-comers. Each entry is different from the last, but all the stories are fascinating, focusing on topics as wide-ranging as the death of basketball star Len Bias, a New York City fantasy baseball league, fan love during the Los Angeles Raiders years (directed by Ice Cube), the friendship between Mike Tyson and Tupac Shakur, and the downfall of track athlete Marion Jones.

But maybe you don’t want to risk gifting any DVDs, since you’re not sure what the film fan in question’s collection already contains. To avoid any awkward, “Gee, thanks, but I already own the Deluxe Uncensored Letterbox Edition of Cannibal Ferox” moments ‘neath the mistletoe, seek out something completely unique. Visit the online boutique of local celebrity and film enthusiast Peaches Christ (store.peacheschrist.com) to pick up a t-shirt or tank top illustrated with an eye-catching image of Peaches herself (merry Christ-mas!) For another wearable option, check out the, pardon me, fucking amazing t-shirts offered by Los Angeles’ Cinefile Video (www.cinefilevideo.com), famed for tweaking band logos with names of famous directors — like, say, “Herzog” in Danzig font, with demon skull floating behind. The tees are highly popular and are therefore often out of stock, but as of this writing you can still pick up a Carpenters/John Carpenter/They Live mash-up in either black or cream. (I have the black one; it’s a real conversation-starter.)

With Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey coming out in December, consider guiding a younger reader back to the source with his or her own copy of the book. Naturally, there’s now a movie tie-in edition, but all that means is that the cover looks like the theatrical poster. For more Middle Earth fun, type “hobbit” into the search bar on Etsy.com, and you’ll find a range of gift ideas, from stocking stuffers (“Shire” scented candles, for pipe-weed aficionados) to big-ticket items, including a pair of Vans fantastically hand-painted with Bilbo’s likeness.

And what goes better with movies (and pipe-weed) than popcorn? San Francisco’s 479° Popcorn is organic and sold in dozens of Bay Area (and beyond) locations, like Rainbow Grocery, Bi-Rite, and even some swankier corner stores. You can also order it online (www.479popcorn.com). Flavors include black truffle and white cheddar, fleur de sel caramel, and Vietnamese cinnamon sugar. Sure beats the radioactive stuff they sell at the megaplex.

If the film fan on your list is local, consider investing in a membership to a local theater or cinema organization on his or her behalf — a rad gift for the recipient, and a boon to the venue or group you’re supporting. Members at the Roxie (roxie.com/support) get perks like free admission to regular screenings. Join the San Francisco Film Society (sffs.org/membership) for access to members-only events and the ability to purchase San Francisco International Film Festival tickets before they go on sale to the public. And San Francisco Cinematheque (www.sfcinematheque.org) members get discount admission to screenings and access to the group’s archives. All gifts that keep on giving, even when the lights come up.

Creating our own traditions



HOLIDAY GUIDE Hold onto your butts, sweethearts, ’tis the season. Your kids are about to be out of school, your extended family is about to fly in, and your alone time is about to dwindle down to a nub.

Don’t fear, we’ve got you covered.

This holiday guide is designed specifically for LGBTQ families, sex-positive families, and other parents who don’t fit into the monogamous, heteronormative mold. Why? Most holiday advice directed at families comes with a heaping dose of heterosexism. Plus, feeling isolated from larger community networks — a common experience for parents — is especially prevalent among parents with sexual identities that reside outside the norm. That feeling of not being connected can result in stress on alt-families during the holiday season.

But not this season! This year we’ve got tips, a recipe, and events to keep you loving your queer, kinky, radical-parenting self.


The easiest way to stay sane during the holidays is to maximize the friends and family you’ve already got. If you’re not careful, a house full of holiday guests can seriously cut down on the already limited amount of sexytime parents are allotted.

So don’t think that you have to be the one to take your children to the San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band’s Dance-Along Nutcracker. Try to get your in-laws to do it, while you squeeze in a quickie with your partner or have a grown-up play date with your friend with benefits. Sure, you still have to wrap the kids’ presents — but you should really have someone unwrap your clothing first.

In this truly unique SF version of the Nutcracker, the audience dances along while the Freedom Band plays Tchaikovsky’s classical suite. Tutus are available for rent on site.

Dec. 8, 2:30 p.m. and Dec. 9, 1pm, $25 for adults, $16 for children and seniors. sflgfb.townalive.com


The best part about being a non-traditional parent is that we create the rituals. Here’s two family-focused events that each seek to empower parents.

At Rad Dad Zine’s 23rd issue release party — celebrating an end-of-the-year issue appropriately titled “Making Family” — parents will do short readings from the zine, followed by a discussion on radical parenting at this kid-friendly community gathering. Parenting norms? Hmph, let’s go poke at stick at them.

Dec. 15, 5-7pm, free. The Holdout, 2313 San Pablo, Oakl. raddadzine.blogspot.com

You’re encouraged to “bring the foods and holiday traditions that make this season meaningful to your family” to the annual Our Family Winter Solstice Party. This year, the LGBTQ group is partnering with San Francisco Recreation and Parks to hold the celebration at the Eureka Valley Recreation Center, where the party will feature a magician, the group’s legendary multi-table gingerbread-making station, and other arts and crafts.

Dec. 16, noon-2:30pm, free. Eureka Valley Recreation Center, 100 Collingwood, SF. www.ourfamily.org


I encourage potluck-style casual dinners with other families during the holiday season. It doesn’t have to be a big production, and if it’s other parents who are coming over, your house doesn’t even have to be super-clean. (They get it.) Just offering a space to gather is an important contribution, and if it goes well, next time around a different family can host.

At the best family holiday potluck I ever went to, the kids made all the food. My sons were six and seven at the time, and weren’t allowed to use sharp knives or the stove, as was the case for most of the other children in our little after school collective. We found easy, no-cook recipes that they could make with very little assistance from their grown-ups.

The variety of dishes we wound up with was hilarious and festive — probably not the most balanced meal ever cooked, but nutritional concerns took a back seat to the pride the kids felt in sharing food they had made themselves. The hands-down favorite dish of the evening was this little number:



1 package instant vanilla pudding mix

1 container frozen whipped topping, thawed

3 cups milk

1 package graham cracker squares

1 package prepared chocolate frosting

1 package holiday M&M’s


Whisk together the pudding mix, whipped topping, and milk. Arrange as you would a lasagna, with a single layer of graham cracker squares in the bottom of a 13×9 inch baking pan. Drop spoonfuls of the pudding mixture over the crackers, leaving about half in the bowl. Then add another layer of crackers and the remaining mixture. Top with the last of crackers. Spread the frosting over the whole cake, up to the edges of the pan. Place M&M’s on the frosting. Cover, and chill at least four hours before serving.


No holiday guide would be complete without the perfect gift recommendation. I’m bestowing this honor on Santa Rosa-based Calliope Designs’s personalized holiday ornaments. The company has been making them for over 30 years, and its website specifically states how happy it is to make ornaments for LGBTQ families: “We know that families come in all shapes and sizes and are happy to present ornaments to the gay and lesbian partners and families all over the world.” How can you not adore that?



Regardless of if you’re having sex alone or with a partner, your sexuality matters. That can mean prioritizing some grown-up time at one of the great sex-ed classes offered by Good Vibrations. I’ve heard that sometimes attendees leave with a free gift! The only challenge is that classes are during prime “must be at home with the kids” time. How to resolve? Do a childcare swap that includes dinner. One day a week, you host the brood, then later in the week your parent-ally can host. Maybe you can even attend a Good Vibes “Humpday Happy Hour” workshop. Every Wednesday you can find a free sexuality workshop at one of the store’s Bay Area locations. Here are two upcoming classes that I highly recommend:

“The Art of Clitoral Stimulation” Dec. 6, 6:30-7:30pm, free. Good Vibrations, 1620 Polk, SF;”50 Shades of Play” Dec. 12, 6:30-7:30pm, free. Good Vibrations, 603 Valencia, SF. (415) 522-5460, www.goodvibes.com

Airial Clark is the Sex-Positive Parent, an East Bay sex educator who teaches workshops on raising kids outside heteronormative models of family. Read more about her work at www.thesexpositiveparent.com


Run over by a reindeer




Union Square ice-skating rink Union Square, SF. www.unionsquareicerink.com. Through Jan. 16, 10 a.m.-11:30 p.m. except for when closed for private parties, $10 for 90-minute session. Sweetheart, the rink is open, grab my hand and try not to twist an ankle as we glide in circles around downtown’s living room.

Westin St. Francis sugar castle Westin St. Francis, Landmark Lobby, 335 Powell, SF. www.westinstfrancis.com. Through Jan. 24, on view 24 hours/day. Don’t lick it. For although this ever-growing sweet behemoth which each holiday season occupies the lobby of downtown’s classic luxury digs with its 1,300 pounds, 20 towers, 30 rooms, and sugar replicas of 2012’s movers and shakers has a hold on our heart, its original dimensions were sugar-spun back in 2005. Incredibly made, undeniably festive, but altogether inappropriate for dietary purposes.

Jack London Square holiday tree lighting Jack London Square, Oakl. www.jacklondonsquare.com. Nov. 30, 4:30-7pm, free. Performances by Disney-approved pop stars! Reindeer petting zoo! Miss California 2012 and a kids dress-up station with costumes from the Oakland Ballet! You’ll be hard-pressed not to find some holiday cheer at this annual lighting of Jack London’s fir tree for the masses.

Oakland-Alameda Estuary Lighted Yacht Parade Visible from Jack London Square, Oakl. www.lightedyachtparade.com. Dec. 1, 5:30pm, free. Let those cheeks get rosy, it’s boat-watching time. This yearly tradition sees the yacht owners of the East Bay putting their aquatic rides on display, stringing bulbs galore across decks and sails.

Festival of lights Union between Van Ness and Steiner, Fillmore between Union and Lombard, SF. www.sresproductions.com. Dec. 1, 3-7pm, free. Wiggle your nose at Santa at this explosion of twinkly tinsel and Cow Hollow reindeer — today Union Street puts on the holiday glitz and lays out the welcome mat. Cudworth Mansion (2040 Union) will be hosting a cupcake-decorating session from 3:30-5:30pm, at which Old St. Nick himself will make an appearance out front.

Golden Gate Park holiday tree lighting McLaren Lodge, 501 Stanyan, SF. www.sfrecpark.org. Dec. 6, 5pm, free. A tradition started by Golden Gate Park grandfather and San Francisco’s first park superintendent John McLaren in 1929, the lighting of the tree returns to Fell Street for the 83rd year in a row. Accompanying fanfare includes live performances, carnival rides, and a visit from Saint Nick.

Great Dickens Christmas Fair Cow Palace, 2600 Geneva, SF. www.dickensfair.com. Fri/23 and Sat.-Sun. Sat/24-Dec. 23, 10am-7pm, $21-25. For an ace weekend drunk this holiday season, toodle over to the Cow Palace. Once ensconced in the warm period embrace of the Dickens Fair, you will have the run of five bars (absinthe!), a multitude of meat pie shoppes, hilarious accents, near-constant stage shows, and the company of “famous Victorians,” including Charles Dickens and Her Majesty, the queen herself.

Family holiday crafts day Randall Museum, 199 Museum Way, SF. (415) 554-9600, www.randallmuseum.org. Dec. 1, 10am-3pm, free admission, activities fees vary. Bring the kiddos to the always-free-admission Randall Museum so they can spend the morning making holiday decorations and gifts. Cap off the morning with a performance by Asian American performance troupe Eth-Noh-Tec and its fusion of ancient and contemporary movement.

Community Hanukkah candle lighting Jewish Community Center, 3200 California, SF. (415) 292-1200, www.jccsf.org. Dec. 8-14, 4:30pm, free. Join up with your neighbors for the Jewish Community Center’s daily lighting of the menorah in the building’s atrium. Attend the Shabbat celebration on Dec. 14 for a family storytelling session, grape juice, hallah, and Hanukkah gelt.

Bill Graham Menorah Day Union Square, SF. www.chabadsf.org. Dec. 9, festivities start at 3pm, menorah lighting at 5pm, free. Each day from December 8-15, a candle will be ceremoniously lit on the Bill Graham mahogany menorah, a gift from the famous San Francisco promoter to his city. But on the 9th, Bill Graham Menorah Day festivities will occupy Union Square, a beautiful beginning to the Festival of Lights in the city.

Public library winter celebration Bernal Heights Library, 500 Cortland, SF. www.sfpl.org. Dec. 12, 6:30-8:30pm, free. The library’s got all kinds of free holiday programming this year, from cupcake-decorating and card-making to a magic show with a winter wonderland theme. Today’s no exception: join the Bernal Heights community for a kid-friendly celebration featuring the Bernal Jazz Quintet, refreshments, and children’s movies.

Frosting the Conservatory Conservatory of Flowers, 100 John F. Kennedy, SF. (415) 831-2090, www.conservatoryofflowers.org. Dec. 15, 11am-3pm, $10. Make your own ginger-greenhouse at this event amid the hothouse blooms of the Conservatory of Flowers. This events gets our thumbs-up for guaranteed toastiness, because being warm and cozy is a pre-req for Christmas cheer.

Jewish Christmas with Broke Ass Stuart The Make-Out Room, 3225 22nd St., SF. www.makeoutroom.com. Dec. 25, 5-11pm, $10. Strip dreidel set to the tune of streaming Woody Allen, Larry David, and Sascha Baron Cohen footage sounds like our kind of Christmas. Such was the vision of DJ Matt Haze and host Broke Ass Stuart, who designed this kitschy extravaganza for all of you (Chosen and Left Behind alike) who can’t stomach staying in on a perfectly good day off. Did we mention there will be a Chinese food buffet?

Kwanzaa celebration Bay Area Discovery Museum, 557 McReynolds, Sausalito. www.baykidsmuseum.org. Dec. 26, 9am-5pm, free. A traditional Kwanzaa altar will greet you upon arriving at the kids museum’s celebration of African-American culture, featuring two performance (at 11am and 1pm) by African Roots of Jazz.


The Christmas Ballet Various times and Bay Area locations. www.smuinballet.org. Nov. 23 — Dec. 23, $25-65. Back by popular demand, the Smuin Ballet Company returns with this annual production, split this year into two acts: “Classical Christmas” and “Cool Christmas.” Both promise eye-opening, energetic entertainment set to eclectic tunes from Elvis to klezmer.

A Christmas Carol American Conservatory Theatre, 415 Geary, SF. (415) 749-2228, www.act-sf.org. Nov. 30-Dec. 24, various times, $20–$160. Stressful election year and rumors of apocalypse tightened those purse strings? Exorcise your inner Scrooge at this classic stage production of Charles Dickens’ terrifying ode to generosity and kindness towards diminutive children.

The Golden Girls: The Christmas Episodes Victoria Theatre, 2961 16th St., SF. www.victoriatheatre.org. Dec. 6-30, Thu.-Sat. 8pm, Sun. 7pm, $30. Our cover girl Cookie Dough co-stars as Sophia Petrillo in this now-traditional SF holiday stage production of the classic sitcom that employs more shoulder pads, even, than the original TV show. You’ll never know a catty elderly network television star until you’ve seen her re-enacted by a drag queen. Buy tickets pronto, the shows usually sell out.

California Revels Oakland Scottish Rite Center, 1547 Lakeside, Oakl. (510) 452-8800, www.californiarevels.org. Dec. 7-9, 13-15. Fridays 8pm, Saturdays and Sundays 1 and 5pm, $20-55. Feast and family are cornerstones of this annual interactive period piece performance celebrating the winter solstice. Hoist your mead and turkey leg and sway to the music, friends, good times will be upon ye here.

The Nutcracker Palace of Fine Arts, 3301 Lyon, SF. www.cityballetschool.org. Dec. 8, 2pm & 7pm; Dec. 9, 2pm, $20. Yes, everyone does The Nutcracker. At this point, it’s like the Rocky Horror Picture Show of ballet. (Would that ballet patrons donned Rat King costumes to attend!) Embrace the tradition, and check out the City Ballet School’s production of a classic.

Charles Phoenix Retro Holiday Show Empress of China Ballroom, 838 Grant, SF. www.charlesphoenix.com. Dec. 12, 8pm, $25. The creator of the Cherpumple, a pie-stuffed cake concoction that rises to the dizzying heights of kitsch, humorist Charles Phoenix celebrates the retro in every occasion. Tonight, he regales the crowd with tales of his favorite SF landmarks, road trips, and yes, feats of food fantasy.

Holiday youth mariachi concert Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts, 2868 Mission, SF. www.missionculturalcenter.org. Dec. 14, 7:30-9pm, $15. Three mariachi troupes made of young people join forces for this exciting holiday program. The hat-dropping, guitar plucking action will be highlighted by Zenon Barron’s Mexican youth folk dance class.

The Snowman Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness, SF. (415) 864-6000, www.sfsymphony.org. Dec. 22, 11am, $13.50-57. Even the smallest budding season ticket holder will find this film-symphony presentation of Joe Nesbø’s classic children’s book a welcome boost to their holiday cheer. The animated version of this story of a youg’n’ whose bud is a Frosty-like chap will soar when paired with the world-class musicians of the SF Symphony.

Kung Pao Kosher Comedy New Asia Restaurant, 772 Pacific, SF. www.koshercomedy.com. Dec. 22-25, various times, $44-64. There’s nothing like having dinner on Christmas to up your alterna (or simply, not pan-Christian) cred. Add stand up comedy and you have a winning formula, which is obvious from the longevity of Lisa Gedulig’s annual show. This year features yucks from Judy Gold, Mike Capozzola, and Adrianne Tolsch.

Clairdee’s Christmas Yoshi’s San Francisco, 1330 Fillmore, SF. (415) 655-5600, www.yoshis.com. Dec. 24, 8pm, $20. Everything could use a little soul in lives and the holidays are no exception. Come hear the sounds of soul-jazz vocalist Clairdee, and soak in her ensemble’s rhythmic takes on Christmas standards.

“Holiday Memories” double feature A rare 16mm showing of Dylan Thomas’ A Child’s Christmas in Wales will be accompanied by a screening of The Sweater, a tale of a young hockey player’s passion for the sport, and the dangers that come of wearing the wrong jumper. Dec. 22, 2pm, Exploratorium, 3601 Lyon, SF. (415) 563-7337, www.exploratorium.edu


Darkness and Light: A Hanukkah Meditation Retreat Jewish Community Center, 3200 California, SF. (415) 292-1200, www.jccsf.org. Dec. 9, 10am-5pm, $50-60. No prior experience is needed for this day-long workshop on finding the light within during the Hanukkah season. Sitting and walking meditation will be covered — the perfect primer for a month that can try the patience of even the most festive reveler.

Winter solstice ceremony San Francisco Zen Center, 300 Page, SF. (415) 863-3136, www.sfzc.org. Dec. 21, 6:15pm, free. Recharge on the longest night of the year in the peaceful confines of the SF Zen Center. The crowd here promises to be made of meditation newbies, Zen Center students, and all those in-between. It will also be your best bet to avoid jingles and tinsel, if that’s what your body is craving at this point.

Reclaiming’s Sing Up The Sun ritual Inspiration Point parking lot, Tilden Park, Berk. www.reclaiming.org. Dec. 21, 6:30am, free. Wake up before the sun does to greet it on this, the day of the year when it spends the least time out of its bed. A pagan celebration, you’re welcome to bring musical instruments and a warm Thermos of liquid to the community gathering.


Celebration of Craftswomen Herbst Pavilion, Fort Mason Center, SF. (650) 615-6838, www.celebrationofcraftswomen.org. Nov. 24-25, Dec. 1-2, 10am-5pm, $9 or $12 two-day pass. The first edition of this alternative holiday fair took place 34 years ago at the now-defunct Old Wives’ Tales Bookstore on Valencia Street with 22 female makers-of-things. Today, the event fills the Herbst Pavilion, features 150 juried artists and a mini-film festival. It’s still the best place for feminist shopping, some things don’t change.

Holiday Design Bazaar Intersection for the Arts, 925 Mission, No. 109, SF. www.artsedmatters.org. Nov. 30, 5-8pm; Dec. 1, noon-6pm, free. An arts fair with 25 local creators, plus live music and refreshments that may well make a difference in our kids’ art education. The event is a benefit for Arts Ed Matters, a group that is looking to build community support for art in schools.

Creativity Explored holiday art sale Creativity Explored, 3245 16th St., SF. www.creativityexplored.org. Dec. 1-2, noon-5pm, free. Shop at this studio for developmentally-disabled artists and half of your bill will go straight into their pocket — standard practice for Creativity Explored, which has been the real-deal spot for outsider art in San Francisco since 1983.

Paxton Gate holiday party Dec. 1, 3-6pm at Paxton Gate’s Curiosities for Kids, 766 Valencia; 8-10pm at Paxton Gate, 824 Valencia, SF. (415) 824-1872, www.paxtongate.com. One of the city’s most beloved families of taxidermy/kid’s toys/nursery shops, Paxton Gate is turning two decades of age this weekend. What better time to shop there? And what better to get your face painted “Victorian-style” (?!), check out stilt walkers and an accordionist-ballerina duo, and eat snacks during the day at its kids location — then walk two doors down later that night for more circus freakery, door prizes and a Hendrick’s gin open bar at 826 Valencia’s pirate shop?

Palestinian Craft Fair Middle East Children’s Alliance office, 1101 Eighth St., Berk. www.mecaforpeace.org. Dec. 1-2, 10am-5pm, free. Sip Arabic coffee while you paw through painted ceramics from Gaza, children’s book, scarves, West Bank olive oil, and more at this chance to support a nonprofit benefiting craftspeople living in Palestine — a particularly salient cause in this year of war and turmoil.

Bazaar Bizarre Concourse Exhibition Center, East Hall, 620 Seventh St., SF. www.bazaarbizarre.org. Dec. 1-2, 11am-6pm, free. This traveling indie craft fair stocks all the twee and yippee you need to get your gift recipients in your pocket. New in 2012: a mini-version of Forage SF’s Underground market, for all your small biz-sourced holiday edible needs.

Muir Beach Quilters Holiday Arts Fair Muir Beach Community Center, 19 Seascape, Muir Beach. www.muirbeach.com/quiltersfair. Dec. 1, 10am-5pm, Dec. 2 10am-4pm, free. Make a blustery beach journey that has time to spare for handicraft browsing. This annual gift fair stocks locally-made knickknacks by local groups (Muir Beach Garden Club included), and has more than retail opportunities. Hands-on crafts bars will stoke the creative fire of kids and big person shoppers alike.

La Cocina Gift Bazaar Crocker Galleria, 50 Post, SF. www.giftbazaarsf.com. Dec. 7, 1-7pm, free. You’re not going to have problems finding foodie-friendly presents at this fair — but getting them safely to their intended destination sans bite marks might be a problem. La Cocina business incubator program graduates Clairesquares, Onigilly, Love & Hummus Co., Chiefo’s Kitchen, and more will all have their wares for sale.

East Bay Alternative Book and Zine Fest Berkeley City College, 2050 Center, Berk. Dec. 8, 10am-5pm, donations suggested. www.eastbayalternativebookandzinefest.com. For the indie comic nerds on your list, you’ll want to check out this expo of all things zine. Talks by New Yorker illustrator Erik Drooker and Go the Fuck to Sleep author Adam Mansbach spice up the fair’s schedule and there’s rumor of a dance party to take place at day’s end.

KPFA Crafts Fair Concourse Exhibition Center, 635 Eighth St., SF. www.kpfa.org/craftsfair. Dec. 8-9, 10am-6pm, $10. Our public radio station hosts 220 artists and their wares for this no-brainer shopping weekend. Pick up unique wrapables from leather fashion to gourmet snacks to lotions and creams to pamper your loved ones.

Mercado de Cambio/The Po’ Sto’ market and knowledge exchange 2940 16th St., SF. www.poormagazine.org. Dec. 15, 3-7pm, donations suggested. We can pretty much guarantee you that there is no other gift fair that will have better hip-hop music. The Mercado de Cambio organized by POOR Magazine aims to counterbalance the corporatization of our holiday season. Go here for aforementioned live beats, indigenous crafts, Occupy gear, and POOR-published literature.

Renegade Craft Fair holiday market Concourse Exhibition Center, 635 Eighth St., SF. www.renegadecraft.com. Dec. 15-16, 11am-6pm, free. A DIY gift wrap station is one of the attractions at this one stop for cute gift shopping, which makes one of its two yearly appearances in the Bay Area for the holiday season. The Oakland Museum of California will truck out its mobile “we/customize” exhibit, and of course, there will be crafters: over 250 will have booths hawking clothes, accessories, home stuff, kid stuff — most handmade, and most awesome.


9 bottles (and some cherries) under $20


HOLIDAY GUIDE True party pros know how to work the holiday season without going broke. The rest of us needs tips from people in the know — a designation which Amanda Womack definitely falls under. Womack is a store manager at of one of the town’s best liquor stores, Cask (17 Third St., SF. (415) 281-6486, www.caskstore.com), and she graciously gave us her top picks for cheap-o merrymaking. The list includes some quality cocktail berries that Womack assures us fly off the shelves this time of year.

St. George gins, 200ml for $9 “Choose from three different versions (Botanivore, Terroir, Dry Rye) of these gins, which are made in Alameda with many of their botanicals sourced locally from Northern California and Mt. Tam.”

Reyka Icelandic Vodka, 750ml for $19 “This vodka is made from the purest Icelandic spring water in Borganes, and filtered through lava rock. It’s great in cocktails or on the rocks.”

Cocchi Americano, $19 “Similar to Lillet Blanc, this aperitif wine is herbaceous and softly sweet. It pairs wonderfully with food and is served chilled.”

Jelinek Fernet, $19 “For the Fernet lover in your life — and there are many in SF — this is a great alternative brand that is mellowed out in flavor and mixes well in cocktails.”

Meletti Amaro, $18 “Enjoy as a digestif after your holiday festivities. Meletti features notes of ginger, cinnamon, and saffron.”

Weller Special Reserve Bourbon, $18 “If you’re a Pappy Van Winkle fan, you’ll love this whiskey from Buffalo Trace Distillery. It uses a similar wheat recipe, and is from the same supplier at a great price.”

Johnny Drum Kentucky Straight Bourbon, $18 “A brand you don’t see every day. At 80 proof this is an excellent bourbon for sipping neat.”

Old Overholt Rye, $17 “A classic lightly spiced rye that’s versatile in cocktails and great for sipping.”

Bank Note Blended Scotch, $18 “Featuring a smoky flavor profile, this scotch makes excellent hot toddies.”

Luxardo Marasca Cherries, $16 “To top off a perfect cocktail use these beautiful (and hard-to-find) Italian cherries.”


A hello to arms



FILM The results of the wee election that happened a couple weeks ago were generally a good thing, needless to say, but just as light also causes shadow, so the light bulb that went off for a majority of voters cast into deeper darkness a certain minority. Oh, you’ve heard the wailings and lamentations: the death of “traditional” America (read: white people, “they” are coming to take your women and steal your home entertainment center), brutal new taxations designed to funnel your hard-earned money to whole communities of professional freeloaders, the national anthem to be translated into Communist (it’s a language, like speaking in demonic tongues), etc.

Some patriots, no longer loving it, are leaving it — mostly to inexpensive warmer retirement magnets whose natives aren’t too uppity yet to avoid calling you “Sir” or “Boss.” Others are planning to secede, one state at a time. (Yes, definitely including the ones you were already hoping would somehow cut ties. Can they take Fox News with them?) Mentally and politically, they seceded a while ago. But now it is on — Elvis is leaving the building, because he didn’t get his way so fuck y’all.

What’s bad about this is that, as with any psychotic break, bystanders may suffer for not sharing or getting in the way of the sufferer’s particular symptoms — in this case likely to primarily consist of depression, violent outbursts, substance abuse, weapons stockpiling, paranoid delusions, paranoid delusions, and reckless home schooling. How many basement man caves have been fertilizing plans for what we might term “assassination,” “domestic terrorism” or “going postal” since November 6, imaging personal heroism and national salvation their eventual reward? It’s like a significant section of the populace has turned into our crazy uncle, off his meds, muttering apocalyptically in the corner and sure to remember where we live sooner or later.

So it is with mixed emotions, to say the least, that one greets the alarmingly timely arrival of Red Dawn. A remake of a 1984 movie that seemed a pretty nutty ideological throwback even during the Reagan Era’s revived Cold War air conditioning (and even alongside such crazy Satan-is-Soviet competition as 1985’s Rambo: First Blood Part II and Rocky IV), it is a movie that should have come out a couple years ago, having been shot late 2009. But in the meantime MGM was undergoing yet another seismic financial rupture, and as the film sat around for lack of the means needed for distribution and marketing, it occurred that perhaps it already had a fatal, internal flaw. You see, this update re-cast our invaders from Russkies to People’s Republicans, tapping into the modern fear of China as debtor and international bully. But: China is also a huge fledgling market for Hollywood product, despite censorship, import quotas, and whatnot. China heard about Red Dawn and was not happy, endangering the foreign profit margins for future MGM product.

So a tortured makeover of the remake ensued; scenes were added, re-shot, and digitally altered to impose a drastic narrative change. China now goes unmentioned, replaced as villain by the country which is nobody’s film market, even if that choice is so absurd it gets acknowledged as such by dialogue: “North Korea? It doesn’t make any sense!” someone says here. It’s a query that goes unanswered.

Yup, in the new Red Dawn a coastal Washington state burg — mom, apple pie and flag figuring large in the opening montage — is the first attack point in a wholesale invasion of the U.S. (pop. 315 million) by the Democratic People’s Republic (pop. 25 million). It’s football season, so a Spokane suburb’s team — Wolverines!! — lends its name as battle cry and its revved up healthy young flesh as guerilla martyrs to the fight for, ohm yeah, freedom. Do they drink beer? Do they rescue cheerleader girlfriends from concentration camps? Do they kick North Korean ass? Do you really need to ask?

Of course this Red Dawn is ridiculous, though as a pulp action fantasy it’s actually fairly entertainingly well-crafted by veteran stunt coordinator-second unit director Dan Bradley. The actors maintain straight faces with variable degrees of success — on the upside pre-Thor Chris Hemsworth, (whose other 2009-shot MGM film The Cabin in the Woods also got released this year) as ex-Marine alpha male, on the downside an irksome Josh Peck as his little bro and an inexplicable Connor Cruise as a teammate. The adopted son of a certain really famous Scientologist, the latter surely got this role on merit alone; otherwise we’d be forced to believe he made up in nepotism what he amply lacks in looks, voice, and presence.

So what does this silly movie have to do with the election, you ask? Just this: its production travails mean this rah-rah, just-credibly-gritty-enough (but still mostly video-game-like) tale of fighting the power has arrived just in time to become a training manual (or at least recruitment video) for revolutionist reactionary rednecks. It’s ready-made for an audience so deprived of air, irony, and other key elements to reality that they’re probably in a hundred or more basements right now, plotting the overthrow of our Socialist Islamophilic oligarchy. 

RED DAWN opens Wed/21 in Bay Area theaters.

No satisfaction



DANCE The tenth anniversary concert for Benjamin Levy’s LEVYdance Company should have been an occasion for looking back a little and glancing into the future a lot. The fact that this was a subdued, at-time depressing event was certainly not the dancers’ fault. They were fabulous, crackerjack performers: fierce, fast, and committed, whether in solo passages or in ensemble work. If you watch dance primarily because of its performers, this was your night.

Where the program fell short was in choreography that would stay in your mind beyond its ephemeral existence on stage. Instead of showing a work that would hint at where he might be going in the next decade, Levy chose to present two pieces from the past. Good as they were, they gave the unfortunate impression that he is a one-note choreographer. He is not. One of the reasons this choreographer has been a pleasure to watch over the years is because he tries to find new vehicles for his volatile and fractured vocabulary. Despite their surface appeal, an undercurrent of violence and danger often propels Levy’s choreographies. It’s what keeps you on the edge of your seat.

It’s with the stunningly tight Falling After Too that Levy introduced himself as choreographer in 2003. Performing it himself at the time, he was partnered by a much heftier Christopher Hajin Lee. The up and down of this contest between will and muscle was partly based on the two men’s different physicalities. Reprised as a duet between Yu Reigen and a slender Paul Vickers, it inevitably shifted the focus onto a male-female relationship. It’s a sign of the work’s choreographic strength — and the performance, including Anthony Porter on piano — that it worked as well as it did.

But why did Levy program Physics (2008), which is essentially an elaboration for two couples of that earlier work? The sequential and overlapping duets, including switching partners, didn’t really tell us much about these couples. Still, Levy has an appealing way of including tiny gestures — a pat here, a kick there — in the muscularity of these ever-shifting encounters. They suggested a sense of spontaneity not unlike the grace notes in a piece of music.

And why Levy chose Sidra Bell Dance New York to collaborate on this concert remains a mystery. What on earth did he think his company — such as it is — could learn from Bell’s? Robert Moses’ Kin introduced her last spring when she set a modest quartet on his female dancers. Here the New York-based artist created less for Levy, and Nudity for her own dancers. Bell knows a good thing when she sees it; she sent her dancers behind the screen, up the walls, and into the audience. She took advantage of ODC Theater’s vaunted lighting possibilities, lowering and tilting levels of the grids in less and having a bank of floor lights shine directly into her audience in Nudity. Maybe turn-around is fair play since that’s what performers have to deal with on a daily basis. But there was something offensive about the approach that left my seat neighbor with a fierce headache and a fiercer fury.

Bell is a complete creature of the theater. Interestingly, she takes credit as “director” instead of “choreographer” of her works. One thing is certain: she is big on image making — whether they come from Glamour or “girlie” (and their male counterpart) magazines. And the accoutrement of these two dance theater works looked promising; the dancers in less wore flimsy whites with big, noose-like scarves, and in Nudity they went Goth — mohawks, black outfits, and fright make-up.

Spectacle, in-your-face aggressiveness, a contempt for continuity in favor of the moment, and raw and supposedly unmediated energy seem to be the elements that fascinate Bell. That’s fine and good, but these practices need to arise from ideas that suggest more than clichés. A man crawling on all fours? Throwing people and catching them — sometimes? Retching to some comment on nutrition — in French? Dominatrixes in both pieces?

The ferocious physicality of Bell’s dance making is its most attractive quality, but the imagery — and she uses a lot of it — has to accumulate into something bigger than its constituent parts. Otherwise why do it? Both of Bell’s works fell short that way. They left behind a sense of ennui and déjà vu.

Sattdown strike



CHEAP EATS Dang it, my sports writer has gone on strike. Over something really stupid, too. Really really stupid. How stupid? A couple columns ago, I changed her spelling of youse to yous. Why?

Oh, you escape my meaning entirely, don’t you?

Youse. Yous. The former preferred by Hedgehog, whereas I like the latter.

Understand, dear reader, if you dare (for it’s bad luck, allegedly, to stand under latters): either word, according to expert wordstress Miriam Webster, is an acceptable misspelling of y’all. But before you leap to inclusions, let me tell you for a Cheap Eats fact that yous is better.

“No!” insisteth Hedgehog. “You don’t understand. I researched this. In Central Pennsylvania, where ‘yous’ is said, I asked a lot of people how to spell yous, and they all said yous: y-o-u-s-e.”

“That’s great, but wait’ll you read how I write what you just said!” I said. “Besides, this isn’t Central Pennsylvania. It’s Cheap Eats. And Cheap Eats has its own Manual of Style, just like Chicago.”

“Then I’m going on strike.”

“You can’t!” I screamed. I kicked, bucked, clucked, and sputtered to this end and that one — the crux of my argument being that Cheap Eats was already on strike, and that, Cheap Sports being my sophisticatedly subversive and top-secret way of being on strike and still getting paid, going on strike from the very strike of which she was, in effect, the expression, would create a profoundly dense expressionlessness on this page, which blank hole, if it fell into the wrong hands, could (for example) wipe Austin, Texas off the map.

And do you know what she said?

“Mwa-ha-ha,” she said, the evil and cuddly animal, “ha!”

And she walked out. Just like that. Over one lousy letter, albeit a pretty popular one, Cheap Sports walked out on my walkout, engendering an all-out word stoppage the likes of which this column has never known.

Thus the ramble. Because I can’t exactly bring you a relevant restaurant, can I? Under the circumstances.

Lucky thing, I am in Los Angeles. Eating hot dogs and hot dogs at Pink’s, and other things at other Bay Irrelevant places.

Tomorrow night a short film which I catered is up for an award down here. Oh, and I’ll bet Hedgehog would have loved to have written that last sentence instead of me, since she was also peripherally involved in the project — writing, directing, videographing, editing, mixing, and just generally producing it.

If we win (as I understand it) we will be awarded $60,000 worth of whisks, pans, and Brillo and things, so please keep your fingers crossed for me. Us, technically. Or “use,” as Hedgehog would have it.

In fact, had she not walked out on my walkout, over e, my everloving life partner and future ex-sportswriter (if she doesn’t come off strike soon) would have by now told you all about her first ever real live baseball game. That she played in, I mean.

Since there’s no sports section this week, however, how will you know whether she ripped her first fastball down the right field line for a triple or dribbled a grounder back to the pitcher? How will you know whether she made diving catches in the outfield or merely got the ball back into the infield in a timely and generally athletic manner?

I wish I could just publish a picture I took instead of all this gobble-de-gravy, Happy Thanksgiving, but if you want to see how friggin’ hot Hedgehog looked in her baseball uniform, stepping up to the plate for her first time ever, with a cheekful of sunflower spits, you will just have to ax/axe. (Hint: pretty friggin’ hot.)

My knee was monked, or I’d of been out there on the field with her — maybe even throwing her big slow curves — instead of standing behind the fence with her camera, photographering.

BTW, my new favorite restaurant in Los Angeles is not Pink’s famous hot dog stand, which I loved, but the Jamaican joint on Ventura where I had curry goat with roti for the first time in a long time and it was awesome.

Does anybody know? Where is Penny? She could end this madness. She could.


Tue.-Thu., 11am-8pm; Fri.-Sat., 11am-9pm; Sun. 4-8pm; Closed Mon.

11320 Ventura Boulevard, Studio City

(818) 766-3696


No alcohol



Sea change



APPETITE Two unrelated seafood restaurants have quietly undergone chef and menu changes in the last year. I was less than impressed with both when they debuted; now they’ve taken a turn for the better. There’s a low-key Mission seafood outpost with vegan accents, Weird Fish (renamed Dante’s Weird Fish), and a Financial District restaurant catering to the FiDi set, Georges, with upscale-casual seafood.

Tiny Weird Fish (2193 Mission, SF. www.weirdfishsf.com) has been around a few years, pleasing vegans and hipsters alike with grilled fish and seitan tacos. Owner Tim Holt left in 2011 to focus on Roshambo Farms (www.roshambofarms.com) in Healdsburg, which still supplies the restaurant with much of its produce. Holt opened Weird Fish with Peter Hood, who is back as owner alongside Ryan Simas, returning to roots of fish and vegan options, infused with new life. Simas knows seafood as chef de cuisine at Farallon, where he’s worked for nine years, now simultaneously co-owner at Dante’s and its neighbor, The Perch, eventually supposed to open next door.

Dante’s all day hours and a playful, affordable menu (discounted during lunch hours) are its selling points. Portions are small, but it’s rare to see enticing fish entrees under $10 — think of it as piecing together a meal. I can’t say the hit-and-miss aspects of the former Weird Fish has entirely changed, but I notice greater consistency and higher “high points” than before. “Pete’s famous clam chowder” ($4.75 cup, $6.75 bowl) is one surprise. Unlike the bland tortilla soup, the creamy chowder is flavor-rich with spanking-fresh clams. Fish and chips ($11 for two pieces, $14 for three), filling all on its own, features fresh fish of the day, flaky and light in Speakeasy’s Big Daddy IPA beer batter. A mix of sweet potato and regular potato fries falls flat, but fried fish dissolves comfortingly.

The vegetarian Waco Taco ($5) is one of their best bites. Though I’m a fish taco fanatic, a tilapia fish taco tasted over-salted and lifeless under mango salsa compared to this lively Waco Taco, packed with mashed yams, spinach, pepitas (pumpkin seeds), and guacamole. Fried calamari ($9.50) is perked up by fried lemon and sage leaves, dipped in lemon aioli and oh! chipotle sauce. Among fish entrees, I’ve fared best with Dijon-almond encrusted rainbow trout ($9.50) alongside buttery mashed yams ($4.75) laced with coconut milk and curry.

Dante’s casual, rock-and-roll (sometimes blaring a bit loud in the small space) attitude is a bright spot on Mission Street, uncommon if not “weird,” amid a sea of taquerias and 99 cent stores. In its Dante’s incarnation since March, Weird Fish captures the quirk of former days with greater focus on the food.

Georges (415 Sansome, SF. www.georgessf.com) took over the Financial District’s classic London Wine Bar in 2010 (which lacked an impressive wine list but boasted dated charm), completely revamping the space from dim, old school to white and airy. I dined during opening weeks — but was immediately turned off by overcooked fish at high prices. I didn’t return until a couple months ago, having heard good things about Chef Michael Bilger who came on in early 2011 from Wayfare Tavern, and now defunct Moose’s and Vivande Porta Via. Bilger’s cooking is a marked improvement since my 2010 visit.

Serving sustainably-sourced seafood per Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch (www.montereybayaquarium.org) standards, Georges’ focuses on being environmentally responsible in numerous aspects, like crushing raw bar shells into fertilizer for the local farmers who provide its produce.

Lunch is a bustling, convivial time to dine. As with lobster rolls, a Dungeness crab roll is expensive ($21), but a real beauty. Lush white crab is packed between bread with basil, piquillo pepper, and pleasing Southern touches of fried green tomatoes and remoulade, and the whole thing is accompanied by housemade BBQ potato chips. A silky crudo ($15) of albacore tuna cleanses the palate alongside a crisp white wine. Six cuts of tuna rest on hearts of palm, reasonably doused in garum (a fermented fish sauce I’m seeing on many menus lately), McEvoy Ranch olive oil, and vivid Meyer lemon.

Mussels and frites ($16 for mussels, $20 with fries) comfort on a chilly day, particularly with beer. Bilger steams plump mussels in Ommegang Witte beer, the broth exhibiting notes of fall from Rubinstar apples, savory with smoked bacon and leeks. One seafood misstep on a follow-up visit, however, was an overcooked, dry albacore tuna confit in bucatini pasta, tossed with zucchini, Calabrian chilis, Castelvetrano olives, and dose of bread crumbs ($16 lunch, $19 dinner). An affogato, a robust shot of espresso drowning lush vanilla gelato, the glass covered with a waffle cone crisp, is an ideal finish and caffeine boost before returning to work.

Georges is pricey but not out of line with the FiDi or the quality of ingredients. It’s not the same restaurant I dined at when it opened… and for this the entire staff deserves kudos.

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

The master



FILM If there’s one thing Hollywood loves more than a biopic, it’s a biopic about someone in showbiz. (Well, OK — first choice is probably someone in politics. But showbiz is a close second.) How better to explain the praise lavished on last year’s mediocre My Week With Marilyn? In retrospect, Marilyn‘s most intriguing element was not Michelle Williams’ decision to go with padding rather than weight gain, it was the scenes filmed backstage at Pinewood Studios, affording viewers a glimpse of what the real Marilyn’s workplace might have looked like.

Movie magic in the making is a theme in Hitchcock, too — another biopic about an instantly recognizable celebrity viewed through the lens of a specific film shoot. Here, we have Anthony Hopkins (also sporting padding, one assumes) playing the Master of Suspense, mulling over which project to pursue after the success of 1959’s North by Northwest. Even if you’re not a Hitch buff, it’s clear from the first scene that Psycho, based on Robert Bloch’s true crime-inspired pulpy thriller, is looming. We open on “Ed Gein’s Farmhouse, 1944;” Gein (Michael Wincott) is seen in his yard, his various heinous crimes — murder, grave-robbing, body-part hoarding, human-skin-mask crafting, etc. — as yet undiscovered. Hitchcock, portrayed by the guy who also played the Gein-inspired Hannibal Lecter, steps into the frame with that familiar droll greeting: “Guhhd eevvveeeening.”

And we’re off, following the veteran director as he hunts for new material, determined not to repeat himself and to stay relevant, despite a softened image thanks to his successful TV show. “What if somebody really good made a horror picture?” he muses, and though his wife and collaborator, Alma (Helen Mirren), cautions him against doing something simply because everyone tells him not to, he plows ahead for (partially, it seems) that reason. When he strikes a deal to finance the film himself — because the studio disapproves of its content, much like the censor board will, in an era when showing a toilet flushing onscreen was nearly as scandalous as a shower murder — Psycho becomes even more personal. His reputation (and his continued ability to live in a fancy house and fund his foie gras habit) teeters in the balance.

The filmmaking scenes are fun to watch, peppered with behind-the-scenes moments detailed in Stephen Rebello’s Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho, the inspiration for John J. McLaughlin’s script. Also important is the contrast between Hitchcock’s contentious relationship with Vera Miles (Jessica Biel) — his onetime protégé who’d dropped out of 1958’s Vertigo due to pregnancy, to the director’s supreme annoyance — and his warm interactions with Janet Leigh (Scarlett Johansson, working hard but perhaps too recognizable to be playing such an icon) and Anthony Perkins (Cloud Atlas‘ James D’Arcy, an uncanny match for Norman Bates).

Hitchcock avoids shot-for-shot replications of Psycho scenes — been there, Gus Van Sant’ed that — but there’s a particularly vivid re-enactment of filming the infamous shower scene. When the knife-wielding stunt double playing Mrs. Bates isn’t slashing vigorously enough, Hitch himself steps in to elicit the proper level of terror from Johansson-as-Leigh’s Marion Crane. There emerges the demanding, perfectionist tyrant suggested by sources beyond the Rebello book; most recently, the made-for-HBO film The Girl featured a particularly lecherous Hitchcock (Toby Jones) as cruel, sexually harassing boss to Tippi Hedren, star of Psycho follow-up The Birds (1963).

But Hopkins’ Hitch offers nothing so extreme, aside from gentle leering at his leading ladies’ ample assets — still enough to make Alma Hitchcock (“a smart, shrewd lady who had a lot of influence over him,” the book praises, in one of few mentions of her) cringe. Feeling overlooked, she begins spending time with the unctuous Whitfield Cook (Danny Huston), a writer who’d worked on Hitchcock’s 1951 Strangers on a Train, but whose current project is the shudderingly-titled Taxi to Dubrovnik.

As the film’s tagline — “Behind every Psycho is a great woman” — suggests, the relationship between Alma and Hitch is, stubbornly, Hitchcock‘s main focus. While Mirren is effective (and I’m all for seeing a lady who works hard behind the scenes get recognition), the Whit subplot exists only to shoehorn more conflict into a tale that’s got plenty already. We can tell Whit is a sleaze from the moment he appears, but the film insists on having him hang around, lure the attention-starved Alma out to his beach house, etc. If this were a real Hitchcock movie, the ruthless director would’ve excised this go-nowhere drama from his first-draft storyboards.

Elsewhere, however, Hitchcock director Sacha Gervasi — making his narrative debut after hit 2008 doc Anvil: The Story of Anvil — shows stylistic flair, working Hitchcock references into the mise-en-scène (lots of birds), and echoing Psycho‘s themes (Hitch as voyeur, peering through window blinds and peepholes) and symbolism (the first time we see Alma, she’s wearing white undergarments, much like our initial glimpse of Marion in Psycho). There are comedic moments that spring from Hitchcock’s own dry wit and canny grasp of showmanship, as when he invites the Hollywood press over to his house to discuss his new project — then proceeds to solemnly pass around gruesome Ed Gein crime scene photos. (Gein pops up throughout the film as a kind of Hitchcock inner demon; clever, but the device gets old quickly.) Also nice: Hitch’s reaction to the audience‘s reaction at Psycho‘s first public screening.

Hopkins, all things considered a pretty obvious casting choice, is 74 — nearly 15 years older than Hitchcock was in 1959 — and is helped along to that famous profile with prosthetics. But his portrayal of the Master renders the great man a likable but flawed artist: still determined to improve his craft after decades in the biz (Psycho was his 47th film); anxious for approval (he finally won an honorary Oscar in 1968); and a consummate professional on-set — but fond of studying hot-young-thing headshots a little too closely in his home office. And while Hitchcock may not best the political biopic that’s its current box-office competition, Lincoln (nor will Hopkins likely upset Daniel Day-Lewis on any award-show podiums), it’s miles better than another Hopkins-starrer in that vein: 1995’s Nixon. 

HITCHCOCK opens Fri/23 in Bay Area theaters.

A developer’s wet dream


CORRECTION: This article has been updated to correct a statement from Sup. Scott Wiener about affordable housing.


Sup. Scott Wiener is proposing a dramatic overhaul of the city’s environmental review process that would limit the ability of citizen activists to appeal projects and could ease the path for major developments.

The new rules — some of which are fairly simple and routine, others more far-reaching — cover the city’s interpretation and implementation of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), the state’s venerable land-use and environmental oversight law. The legislation is before the Planning Commission and could reach the supervisors in December.

According to city staff and outside analysts, the Wiener proposals would:

• Eliminate the public’s legal right to appeal a ruling by the Planning Commission if the Board of Supervisors has to approve any part of the project.

• Weaken the standard for environmental review by city planners.

• Weaken the public notice requirements for CEQA exemptions.

• Speed up the process for developments by compacting the time frame for CEQA appeals.

“Generally, the amendments decrease the opportunities for individuals and community groups with serious environmental concerns to provide input and assert influence on development projects as part of the CEQA process,” an analysis by Community Economic Development Clinic at Hastings College of the Law notes. “The amendments arguably would streamline the CEQA process for various projects, but at the cost of significantly curtailing public participation.”

Wiener told us that he wants to eliminate lengthy, sometimes unpredictable appeals. “The goal is to make sure we have a good CEQA process but also a more predictable process,” he said. “Right now it’s so chaotic and loose that we have unnecessary delays.”

Aaron Peskin, a former supervisor and neighborhood activist, calls the proposed legislation “a developer’s wet dream. It shuts off or makes impossible citizens’ ability to participate in the environmental review process.”


At issue is a critical part of city planning, mandated by state law and sharpened by years of court decisions. Before any project is approved, the city’s environmental review officer (ERO) must either determine that the proposal “could not have a significant impact on the environment” or is exempt by law from CEQA review. If not — if in fact the proposal could have an impact — then the project sponsor has to pay for a full environmental impact report.

If any member of the public thinks that the ERO’s decision is wrong — or believes that an EIR is inadequate — he or she can appeal to the Board of Supervisors. An appeal halts all work on the project until the supervisors resolve it.

If the board rejects the environmental review, it doesn’t kill the project — planners just have to go back and write, or rewrite, an EIR.

On a practical basis, appeals are relatively rare — the city, Peskin told us, makes tens of thousands of CEQA determinations every year, and at most a couple dozen get appealed. “I don’t understand what the abuses are,” Peskin said.

But in some cases, opponents of a project file a CEQA appeal after they’ve lost at all the policy bodies — and that, Wiener argues, just slows things down. “If you’re going to appeal, then appeal, but don’t wait around,” he said.

Wiener said his proposals would benefit not only private developers but also nonprofit affordable housing projects. “This will help prevent unnecessary challenges to affordable housing,” he told us.

But Calvin Welch, a member of the Council of Community Housing Organizations who has been working to build affordable housing for more than 30 years, told us he doesn’t see the problem. “CEQA never gets used to stop affordable housing,” he said. “It just doesn’t happen.”


Perhaps the most profound change would eliminate any CEQA appeal for a project that has to go to the supervisors anyway. Wiener’s idea: if the board already has to sign off on, say, a zoning change or a special use district or any finances of a project, the environmental review can be done at the same time. “It’s as if there’s an automatic appeal,” he said.

But that conflicts with the concept of environmental review, critics say. No member of the public has the legal right to a sustainable or environmentally sound project; planning commissions, city councils, and county supervisors can, and often do, approve horrible projects.

But everyone has the right to a complete and fair environmental review. CEQA mandates that the decision-makers accept and acknowledge the consequences of their decisions — and if an EIR is flawed, those consequences can be understated.

Wiener would do away with the mandate that the supervisors hold a hearing, accept appeal briefs, and address CEQA questions as a distinct and separate part of a project approval. “The public would be denied the right to a hearing before the full elected body on the adequacy of an EIR or other CEQA determination,” a Planning Department staff analysis states. “And if a member of the public introduced new information at the committee hearing, there would be no way for the city to respond to or modify the environmental document.”

Among the projects that this provision would affect — where the public would lose the right to appeal an environmental determination: The America’s Cup, the Central Subway, the Parkmerced rebuild, the 8 Washington project, and the California Pacific Medical Center’s billion-dollar hospital proposal.

The proposal would also change the standard city planners apply when they review projects. The current rules require that the city show there is a “fair argument” that a project would have a significant environmental impact. The new language would mandate the staffers find “substantial evidence” that a full review is needed.

“It is likely more projects would require an EIR under the ‘fair argument’ standard and fewer projects would require an EIR under the ‘substantial evidence’ standard,” the Hastings analysis concludes.

And while the Board of Supervisors now has to certify that an environmental determination is accurate and correct, Wiener would change that to a determination that the city has made “an independent judgment” on the merits of the review. That, the Hastings lawyers state, “is a more discretionary standard that would be used to uphold an EIR certification decision even if the board determines that the conclusions and findings in the EIR are incorrect.”


A lot of the language in the complex package of CEQA changes involves public information and notice. Many of the lawyers and activists who have reviewed the legislation say it limits public notification of some CEQA determinations, particularly when the city concludes that a project is categorically exempt.

“If the ERO determines that a project is exempt from CEQA review, he may or may not be required to provide public notice of this determination,” the Hastings analysis states.

There’s no question that it would add to the complexity and burden of filing an appeal; and shorten the time frame for doing so — in a way that some say would actually encourage more lawsuits.

Kevin Bundy, a lawyer with the Center for Biological Diversity, argues that “The proposed amendments create a situation where appellants will be required to file litigation prior to the board’s decision on appeal.”

It’s a complicated situation, but in essence, the new Wiener rules would set the timeline for project approval at the first stage of policy decision — and if the supervisors overturned an environmental appeal, the clock for the project would be set back to that day.

That could upset the statutory timeline for CEQA lawsuits — and thus lead to more cases.

Wiener acknowledged that there were a lot of technical issues like that one that still need to be resolved. “We will be conferring with the people who have commented on the legislation and making the appropriate changes,” he said.

He added, however, that he sticks by the essential parts of his proposal despite the opposition: “There are a lot of CEQA lawyers out there,” he said. “And they aren’t always right.”

Aggressive Warriors



No standard defensive strategy is likely to stop the Golden State Warriors, Mayor Ed Lee, and their huge team of partners and employees from dominating the game of approving construction of a new basketball and concert arena on San Francisco’s central waterfront. That became clear on Nov. 14, as the political operation overcame fire, darkness, and neighborhood-based opposition for the first big score.

The Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee was set to consider declaring the project, which the Warriors want to build on Piers 30-32 by the 2017 basketball season, to be “fiscally feasible,” recommending it move forward with more detailed environmental studies and a term sheet nailing down myriad administrative details.

Before the 11am hearing, the project team held a packed press conference to announce that the Warriors had volunteered to abide by the city’s local-hire standards for public works projects, hiring San Francisco residents or military veterans for at least 25 percent of total construction jobs and 50 percent of apprenticeships. A beaming Lee praised the deal as an “unprecedented” indicator of the Warriors’ willingness to partner with the city.

The event overflowed with union members in hard hats and orange “Build It Now!” T-shirts, as well as a full range of local political pros, from former mayoral and current project spokespersons PJ Johnston and Nathan Ballard to former aides to progressive supervisors, David Owen and David Loyola. Among the agreement’s four signatories were Joshua Arce, the Brightline Defense Project head who last year crusaded for Sup. John Avalos’s local hire ordinance, and building trades chief Michael Theriault.

Strikingly missing at the press conference was Sup. Jane Kim, in whose District 6 the project would be built — over the objections of many residents who are raising concerns about the loss of waterfront views, huge crowds attending what is projected to be more than 200 events per year, high interest rates paid by city taxpayers, the project’s accelerated approval schedule, and other concerns.

Kim is one of the three members of the Budget Committee, which held its meeting despite an electrical fire in the basement of City Hall that knocked out power to the building. Portable photography lighting was brought in to supplement the emergency backup lights, making it bright enough so the televised show could go on but giving a strangely surreal feel to the proceedings and reinforcing the urgency project supporters feel to move this forward without delay.

Kim raised the concerns of her constituents, winning support for amending the resolution to ensure the Citizens Advisory Committee — whose chair was given two minutes to convey how its members feel steamrolled by the accelerated process, asking it be delayed by a month or two — will be given chances to weigh in and pushing the EIR scoping meetings back a few weeks to January.

In the end, Kim and the committee voted to move the project forward. A few days later, on Nov. 19, the process repeated itself with another flashy press conference in the Mayor’s Office — with another important union endorsing the project — followed by the Land Use Committee responding favorably to the project.

The full Board of Supervisors was scheduled to approve the project’s fiscal feasibility the next day, after Guardian press time, but there was little chance that the full board would take any other action than giving the Warriors, Lee, and their huge roster of teammates what they want.

This despite unusual financing and some very real concerns about waterfront development.




Mayor Lee — who has placed a high priority on this project since announcing his deal with the team in May — emphasized its job creation and contribution to the local economy during the Nov. 19 press conference.

“I remind people, this is a private investment of hundreds of millions of dollars,” Lee said of a project pegged to cost around $1 billion. “It means a lot of jobs, and that is so important to all of us.”

The project is expected to directly create 4,300 jobs: 2,600 construction jobs and 1,700 permanent jobs, including those at the 17,000-seat sports and entertainment arena and the 250-room hotel and 100,000 square feet of retail and restaurants that would be built as part of the project.

“We’ve been spending a lot of these last many months describing what it is we want to build,” Warriors President Rick Welts said at the press conference before casting the project in grander terms. “That’s not really what we’re building. What we’re really building are memories.”

But city residents and workers are looking for more tangible benefits than just the highs of watching big games or concerts. The building trades were already expected to strongly support the project, which only got stronger with last week’s local-hire deal. Labor’s support for the project was broadened on Nov. 19 with the announcement that the Warriors agreed to card-check neutrality for the hotel, making it easier for its employees to join UNITE-HERE Local 2.

“Thank you for being a partner and we’re looking forward to working with you in the future,” Local 2 head Mike Casey, who notably also serves as president of the San Francisco Labor Council, said to Welts at the event before the two signed a formal agreement.

In addition to allowing the hotel workers to easily organize, the Warriors agreed to card-check neutrality for vendors at the arena with at least 15 employees and those outside the arena with more than 45 employees, as well as giving those who now work Warriors’ games at Oracle Arena first dibs on jobs at the new arena.

“I think that speaks a lot about what the project is. It’s not just a San Francisco project, but a Bay Area project,” Casey said. He also said, “I want to thank the mayor for bringing people together and laying all this out.”

While Lee and the Warriors do seem to have this deal pretty well wired, this is still a San Francisco project, a complex one on the politically and environmentally sensitive waterfront that city taxpayers are helping to pay for and one for which the residents there will bear the brunt of its impacts.



Lee, Office of Economic and Workforce Development head Jennifer Matz, and other key project supporters have repeatedly claimed this project is funded completely with private money, noting how rare that is for urban sports stadiums these days.

But in reality, city taxpayers are spending up to $120 million for the Warriors to rebuild the unstable piers on which the arena will be built, plus an interest rate of 13 percent, an arrangement that has drawn criticism from a key source.

Rudy Nothenberg, who served as city administrator and other level fiscal advisory roles to six SF mayors and currently serves as president of the city’s Bond Oversight Committee, wrote a Nov. 12 letter to the Board of Supervisors urging it to reject the deal.

“Quite simply, I would have been ashamed of such a recommendation,” Nothenberg wrote of the high interest rate. “In today’s markets it is incomprehensible to have such a stunning recommendation brought to your honorable Board in such haste.”

Johnston and Matz each disputed Nothenberg’s characterization, citing a report by the project consultants, the Berkeley-based Economic and Planning Systems Inc. (EPS), that 13 percent is a “reasonable and appropriate market based return.”

Matz told us the rate was based on the risky nature of rebuilding the piers, for which the Warriors are responsible for any cost overruns. And she compared the project to the massive redevelopment projects now underway on Treasure Island and Hunters Point, from which the city is guaranteeing powerful developer Lennar returns on investment of 18.5 percent and 20 percent respectively.

Johnston, who was press secretary to former Mayor Willie Brown and worked with Nothenberg on building AT&T Park and other projects, told us “I have great respect for Rudy.” But then he went on to criticize him for taking a self-interested stand to defend the views from the condo he owns nearby: “They don’t want anything built in their neighborhood. They would rather leave it a dilapidated parking lot.”

But Nothenberg told us his stand is consistent with the work he did throughout his public service career in trying to keep the waterfront open and accessible to the public, rather than blocking those views with a 14-story stadium and hotel complex.

“I have a self-interest as a San Franciscan, and after 20 years of doing the right thing, I don’t want to see this rushed through in an arrogant way that would have been unthinkable even a year ago,” Nothenberg told us. “I spent 20 years of my life trying to deal with waterfront issues.”

He is being joined in his opposition by other neighborhood residents, land use experts such as attorney Sue Hestor, some opponents of the 8 Washington project concerned with the creeping rollback of waterfront development standards, and members of the Citizens Advisory Committee who have felt steamrolled by the rapid process so far and unable to thoroughly discuss the project or the neighborhood’s concerns.

“We would like to slow this process down,” committee Chair Katy Liddell told supervisors on Nov. 14. “Things are going so quickly.”



The $120 million plus interest that the city will owe the Warriors would be offset by the $30 million the team would pay for Seawall Lot 330 (the property across from the piers where the hotel would be built), a one-time payment of $53.8 million (mostly in development impact fees), annual rent of nearly $2 million on its 66-year lease of Piers 30-32, and annual tax and mitigation payments to the city of between $9.8 million and $19 million.

Kim raised concerns at the Budget Committee hearing about the more than 200 events a year that the arena will host, but she was told by Matz that’s necessary to make the project pencil out for the Warriors.

Many of the project’s financial and administrative details are still being worked out as part of a term sheet going to the Board of Supervisors for approval, probably in April. Other details will be studied in the project Environmental Impact Report, which is expected to come back to the board in the fall.

The Department of Public Works, Police Department, and — perhaps most critically given its impact on Muni and roadways — Municipal Transportation Agency have yet to estimate their costs.

“We do have a lot of concerns in the neighborhood about this project,” Kim told the Land Use Committee, singling out impacts to the transportation system as perhaps the most important, followed by quality-of-life issues associated with huge crowds of sports fans.

Kim noted that the area already has a problematic transportation infrastructure, with some of the highest rates of motorist-pedestrian collisions in the city and a public transit system that reaches capacity at peak times, and said that many residents worry this project will make things worse. The EIR will deal with the transportation details. But Kim praised how about half the space on the piers, about seven acres, will be maintained as public open space: “I think the open space aspect is incredible and it could actually increase access to the waterfront.” In the end, Kim urged project proponents to heed the input of the CAC and other concerned parties because, “This could be a very valuable project, or it could also be a disaster.”

A crisis of will


OPINION In 2009, I was working in Congress when the eminent South African judge Richard Goldstone came to the House of Representatives to defend the UN report he authored on war crimes committed by both Israelis and Palestinians during that year’s war.

Goldstone stood before a few of members of Congress and told them that before they condemned the report, they should at least read it. A few staffers and I sent emails across Capitol Hill offering to hand deliver a paper copy of the entire 575 page report. Only two members took up our offer. That afternoon 344 out of the 435 members of US Congress voted in favor of condemning the report. Most members said the same thing: we need to move forward and not point fingers.

But pointing fingers, Goldstone reminded us, is sometimes the most important thing to do. Without ascertaining who violated the law and therefore who should be held accountable, we create no system of punishment for those who harm civilians. We give them, in short, no incentive not to do such things again. As I left the Capitol building, an Israeli friend who worked with me in support of Judge Goldstone reminded me that in Congress the ultimate four letter word is “accountability.”

Three years later Goldstone’s fear has come true: The same war is happening again. And it is happening again because the US too often looks away when Israel violates international law.

You can almost copy a news article from 2009 and paste it into a newspaper today: Israel kills children in Gaza. Hamas fires rockets into southern Israel, killing civilians. The US issues a statement defending Israel’s right to self defense. The US says Hamas must change its actions but will not deliver these messages to Hamas because the US does not talk to terrorists. Then a few months later, a fact-finding report is released saying Israelis used US weapons and failed to distinguish between civilians and combatants. The UN votes on the report, the US vetoes, and the report’s author, like Goldstone, is vilified. Pundits come on TV and debate who fired first, and Fox News argues if there is a Palestinian proclivity to violence and hopelessness. And finally, NGOs put together donor pitches about how the solution to the Israeli Palestinian conflict is getting Israelis and Palestinians to spend a summer on a picturesque lake in Maine.

But the solution is not getting Israelis and Palestinians to drink tea together. Nor is the solution to investigate Palestinian culture. The solution is addressing US aid to Israel. Last year, the US gave $3.1 billion to Israel. In comparison, Ethiopia received just $580 million. And while US law stipulates that no US weapon should be used to carry out human rights abuses, these laws are seldom applied to Israel. Even when 23-year-old American Rachel Corrie was killed by an Israeli bulldozer, the US did not press Israel for justice.

This is not to absolve Palestinians of guilt—Israelis civilians have also been killed, and we must not forget that. But we should not think this is an Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This is a issue of occupation.

Thankfully there is rising resentment over this lopsided support. Jon Stewart regularly skewers Israel and there is a growing group of Americans—across all faith lines—who wonder if the US should give Israel so much money given its record.

But this shift is not reflected among US politicians. This is a crisis of will, after all, not a crisis of solutions.