Volume 47 Number 17

Hello goodbye



TOFU AND WHISKEY While it’ll be hard to say goodbye, Brass Menažeri’s founder Peter Jaques might have the best possible reason for dissolving his decade-old, San Francisco band. He got a Fulbright grant to study traditional Greek music — in Greece.

He’ll be traversing the Grecian island of Crete, coastal Epiros, mountainous Florina, and capitol city Athens, studying with Greek master musicians. So yeah, don’t cry for Jaques. It’ll more be the Bay Area Balkan scene’s loss than his, given the group’s influence on the local set, lo these past 12 years. (Remember that Tofu and Whiskey column on the bumping Bay Balkan scene a few weeks back? That wouldn’t have happened without it.)

With two full sets of Balkan dance music, the band will bid adieu at a final show this Fri/1 (New Parish, 579 18th St., Oakl. www.thenewparish.com. 9pm, $15). That night will include four-part horn melodies, special guest dancer Zoe Jakes of Beats Antiques, and the debut of trumpeter eO’s new DJ set of “glitch-seasoned, heavy Balko-electronic compositions and remixes.”

With that in mind, I asked Jaques to give me the rundown on the highlights — and low points — in the life of Brass Menažeri.

There are those less-than-ideal band situations: “the sound guy who insists he needs to boost the ‘kick drum’ (we don’t have one) in a room with overwhelming bass resonance. We could hear nothing at all aside from the drum; playing an outdoor festival at Civic Center 100 feet from a techno stage; getting stiffed for a measly $200 when a venue said they’d paid our money to the other band (why?) and the other band denied it.”

And then there are the inspiring moments that kept the band humming: “collaborating with Boston MC Mr. Lif at the Seattle Folk Fest in 2010; playing for Ruth Hunter’s 50th birthday party while the sun was setting on a beachfront in Seattle; crowd surfers at Amnesia; the 2008 CD release at Great American Music Hall with Aphrodesia, and returning there for Kafana Balkan last year with Fishtank Ensemble; crowd reactions at the Sebastopol Apple Blossom Festival; chasing Rupa around the Mission during her birthday procession a few years ago; double bill Balkan brass afterparty for the Goran Bregovic show, with Inspector Gadje last year; the first Kafana Balkan at ArtSF in the Mission, with people hanging from the rafters”

Wouldn’t you know it, there’s a Kafana Balkan night this weekend as well. As Jaques mentioned, Brass Menažeri played the first of these raucous Balkan dance parties. This Sat/2 is the club night’s sixth anniversary show, with Inspector Gadje, Jill Parker and Foxglove Sweethearts, and DJ Zeliko (Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell, SF. www.rickshawstop.com. 9pm, $15).

So yes, you can pretty much spend your whole weekend reveling in the Balkans.



For those more interested in the scores than the moving pictures on the screen, indie rock icon — and master jazz spawn — Petra Haden has done something quite unique with her newest album, Petra Goes to the Movies, released last week on Anti-. She’s rearranged classic film scores — think Psycho, A Fistful of Dollars, Superman, and 8 1/2 — mainly using her extraordinary voice to flesh out the formerly instrumental sections. For “Psycho,” that means high, layered a capella vocals creating that haunting paranoia so associated with the film’s theme. “Goldfinger” is a fun one as it also features Haden’s sultry lyric singing, and bum-da-bum “Hand Covers Bruise” from The Social Network stands out as an unexpected new gem. “When I saw the film Social Network, I thought it was a great movie but it was the music that really drew me in,” Haden said in a statement to her record label. The former That Dog vocalist’s interpretations on this album have minimal instrumental contributions courtesy of her famous father, jazz bassist Charlie Haden, pianist Brad Mehldau, and guitarist Bill Frisell.



To celebrate the release of new book, Pussy Riot! A Punk Prayer for Freedom (Feminist Press), City Lights is hosting an evening of reading, declarations, and manifestos, with Frightwig (Deanna Mitchell, Mia Simmans, Cecelia Kuhn, Eric Drew Feldman), Daphne Gottlieb, Penelope Houston (of the Avengers), Deborah Iyall (of Romeo Void),Sophia Kumin, and Michelle Tea. Pull up some neon tights, tug a hot pink ski mask over your head, and join the movement.

Wed/30, 7pm, free. City Lights, 261 Columbus, SF. www.citylights.com.



Experimental, ’90s-born Portland act Jackie-O Motherfucker live at Mexican restaurant Casa Sanchez, where I can also eat chips and salsa during the set? That’ll do just fine, thank you. With You Nori, Cuttle Buttle, Baus.

Thu/31, 7:30pm, free. Casa Sanchez, 2778 24 St, SF. www.casasanchezfood.com.



Ted Leibowitz has been doing Internet radio far longer than the majority of your favorite podcast hosts. His indie rock-oriented Internet radio station, BAGel Radio, is turning 10 this year. So the station founder-music director is throwing this show with local rock bands including Pixies-honoring Mister Loveless, angsty Churches, and tender Birdmonster. A lineup worth showing up early for.

Fri/1, 9:30pm, $12. Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., SF. www.bottomofthehill.com.

It’s the end of Brass Menažeri, the 10th anniversary of BAGel Radio, and the start of Petra Haden’s foray into a capella film scores. Plus: Pussy Riot Night at City Lights!

Are your friends criminals?


STREET SEEN Nearing the climax of her presentation at last week’s Zero Graffiti International Conference, Vancouver PD’s graffiti-fighting specialist Valerie Spicer despaired over graffiti’s affects on its perpetrators.

“He didn’t die because of graffiti,” she said sadly, a deceased Canadian graffiti artist’s childhood photo on the PowerPoint screen behind her. “But I’m quite sure that the behaviors he learned in the subculture didn’t help him confront the man who stabbed and killed him.”

It wasn’t the only conflation between societal decay and graffiti made at the conference (www.zerograffiti.org), held Jan. 16-18 in the soaring white St. Mary’s Cathedral on Geary and Gough — the one designed so that God sees a cross when he looks down at it.

Organized by the SF Graffiti Advisory Board, anti-graffiti nonprofit Stop Urban Blight, and citizen’s group SF Beautiful, the conference gave law enforcement and city officials the chance to attend lectures on prevention and investigation of graffiti, tours of Mission and Tenderloin murals on Academy of Art buses — the school was one of the event’s sponsors, in addition to the SF Arts Commission — and a play put on by a Sacramento anti-gang and graffiti group. This last, “performed in the colloquial dialect of youth and street culture,” as the program delicately put it.

As Spicer wrapped up her tragic tale, the lights came back on in the St. Mary’s basement. I fumbled with my things I was targeted by one of the graffiti fighters present.

“Are your friends into crime?” said Monty Perrera, professional buffer for the City of Oakland. “I assume you’re probably in the subculture,” he continued (my pink-and-purple hair made for poor camouflage, I guessed.) He was wearing a T-shirt screen printed with one of Oakland street artist Gats’ enigmatic visages.

“I’ve met many of the main [graffiti artists] in Oakland,” Perrera continued, after apologizing for “promoting graffiti” with the shirt. “They don’t really trust me or like me, but…” The admission hung between us in the air.

Perrera has a healthy interest in street art — so much so, he told me, that he buffs selectively, paying special attention to “bubble taggers” (“we call them the ego artists”) and new artists (“if someone’s new I get you because you’re new. Maybe you’ll go away.”) Despite having attended East Bay street art blog Endless Canvas’ “Special Delivery” mural exhibit in an empty Berkeley warehouse twice, Perrera was adamant that the work he does removing graffiti is vital to his community. “The ego taggers just have no mercy,” he told me.

Between public and private enterprise, as the police chief asserted from the Zero Graffiti podium, San Francisco spends $20 to $30 million dollars a year combating graffiti. The Department of Public Works, which takes responsibility for quickly removing graffiti deemed motivated by gang activity, drops a cool $3.6 million alone.

But to be fair, no one has ever asked me for cash to buy a spray can. That dollar figure is what graffiti removal costs us. And behind the rows of folding chairs at the conference, the rows of sponsoring vendor booths gave hints as to what that money could go towards. Graffiti Safe Wipes, suitable for removing paint from stone walls with a swipe. This Stuff Works! brand anti-graffiti wall coating.

Perhaps the most ominous is one of the tools our own city uses, according to SF’s DPW director of public affairs Rachel Gordon. Meet the GraffitiTech graffiti detection system, a 10″ x 3.8″ box that mysteriously detects tagging as it happens by means of “advanced heuristics and algorithms,” according to its company’s website. The sensor’s inner workings are left unexplained for fear of vandalism attempts but I’ve taken the liberty tracking down GraffitiTech’s US Patent Office full text description for those interested.

The second and final lecture open to the public that day was that of Dwight Waldo, a retired San Bernadino cop who proudly recounted tales of shutting down legal street art shows and murals by proving associated artists had drug convictions. He described the “five types” of graffiti to the crowd, and lauded the use of the Internet for its utility in researching crime (you can start by searching “tag crews fighting” on YouTube, he advised.)

“You’re going to hear things in trainings where you’ll go ‘oh I can’t do that’ because your political climate doesn’t allow it,” Waldo told Zero Graffiti attendees.

An hour later Mohammed Nuru, director of the DPW, used the podium to announce plans to fight for higher mandatory fines for convicted taggers, and to require commercial truck owners to rid their vehicles of graffiti before their registration could be renewed. Perhaps the political climate in the Bay Area is changing when it comes to the war on graffiti.


Find your happy place



HEALTH AND WELLNESS January may be cold, but it’s not particularly chill. The temps are low and it’s still dark out, which makes it a natural time for hibernation. Problem is, no one’s hibernating.

People, in fact, are exceptionally busy. We are trying to make up for time we lost during our temporary retirements in December. We are also frantically trying to realize our resolutions (before we forget them) and get back into shape after eating pie twice a day last month.

By the third week of the year, our holiday vacations are nothing but distant dreams, and we’ve all but tossed away any intention to be more present and calm in our lives in favor of strong partnerships with our coffee makers and datebooks to keep us afloat through the madness. Though Elton John once sang that “January is the month that cares”, it’s hard to believe it’s true. If January really does care, it certainly has a funny way of showing it.

>>Read Karen’s biweekly yoga and spirituality column, On the Om Front, here.

But I care. So here’s my advice: Unplug. Check out. Hop in or on your vehicle of choice, and get thee to a refuge. Go someplace where you can reconnect with your breath and your body. And stay for an hour—or at least until you remember that there is more to life than organizing your inbox. Here are some of my favorite winter spots for dialing down the noise and reconnecting with oneself.


The Buddhist ambiance at these colorful lounges makes you feel like you’re actually in a temple. The tea — which ranges from earthy, caffeinated varieties like the Blood Orange Puerh to delectable herbal teas like Moorish Mint — isn’t cheap, but its surrounds really make it a spiritual experience. Two more bonuses for the midwinter urban escape artist: There is no Internet access and it’s always toasty inside.

Various SF locations. www.samovarlife.com


This beautiful Episcopal cathedral is home to awe-inspiring architecture, stained glass windows of Biblical scenes, and the famous indoor Grace Cathedral labyrinth, the walking of which evokes sweet, honey-glazed mind states. You can cruise the labyrinth any time during regular church hours, take a candlelit labyrinth walk on the second Friday evening of each month, or do yoga in the labyrinth each Tuesday at 6:15 p.m. with Darren Main.

1100 California, SF. www.gracecathedral.org


Fire was a fantastic discovery — and not only because marshmallows are better toasted. Watching a fire burn is mesmerizing, and can take you to a different plane of consciousness in seconds. There’s nothing quite like meditating on the power of heat and transformation. During select hours each week, the Yoga Society holds free fire ceremonies led by yoga teachers and other spiritual leaders who chant Sanskrit mantras as the flames dance around the indoor fire pit.

2872 Folsom, SF. yssfyoga.blogspot.com


Sometimes you just need to play! Jump, spin, do cartwheels and handstands, fall down. Children know this intuitively, but adults tend to forget. If you want to honor your inner child, the Athletic Playground is the place to do it. Every day there is a full schedule of classes, including acro-yoga, “monkey conditioning”, and aerial conditioning. It’s a perfect treat on a chilly day, and you don’t need to bring a companion — everyone plays very nicely at this playground.

4770 San Pablo Ave, Emeryville. www.athleticplayground.com


This small, cozy day spa is on the edge of Western Addition, and is a nice, lower-profile alternative to some of the more popular spots in town. It’s got a hot tub, a cold pool, and the requisite dry and wet saunas, but the real gem here is the red clay room. According to the spa, red clay removes toxins, boosts your metabolism, and gives you more energy. Lying naked in the hot (but not too hot) room on straw mats with your head on a beaded pillow also just feels really good.

1875 Geary, SF. www.imperialdayspa.com


Any yoga class taught by a respectable teacher will take you on a journey of the spirit. But Rusty Wells’ two-hour weekend morning classes here are one of the best antidotes for the winter doldrums. They are hot and sweaty (you’ll need to be fairly fit to fit in), and have often been called “yoga church”. Rusty sings, dances, beats a drum (or just the floor), and preaches the best of things: love, courage, and connection with your juicy self.

1543 Mission, SF. www.urbanflowsf.com


Zip it. No, really, that’s what you do at Spirit Rock. You stop talking. Sometimes for an afternoon, sometimes for a day, sometimes for 10 days. This beautiful, hilly retreat center in Woodacre is a great place to do a silent meditation retreat, one of the best ways to reconnect with yourself. We spend so much time thinking about what someone is saying, what to say next, and what we should say, shouldn’t say, or shouldn’t have said. Take all of that socializing off your plate for a few hours or days, and you’re left with a contemplation of some serious depth. I couldn’t recommend it more.

5000 Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, Marin. www.spiritrock.org

Check out Karen Macklin’s yoga column On the Om Front on the Guardian’s Pixel Vision blog


Peace of mind



HEALTH AND WELLNESS When New Leaf Services closed its doors in 2010, after 35 years of providing vital mental health and substance abuse services to the queer community of San Francisco, a huge gap was left in its wake. New Leaf was the victim of budget shortfalls when the city reduced funding allocated for various nonprofits.

In response, four like-minded New Leaf colleagues — Nancy Heilner, Chris Holleran, Stacey Rodgers and Joe Voors — banded together to create a safe space in which LGBTQQI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Intersex) people can receive client-directed services specifically oriented toward their community. Just days after the closing of New Leaf, the four opened SF Therapy Collective, a marriage and family therapist corporation owned and operated by the colleagues in the heart of the Castro.

In July of 2011 the group launched Queer LifeSpace, an LGBTQQI-focused nonprofit counseling agency located on the same floor as SF Therapy Collective that provides quality, low-cost mental-health and substance-abuse care with a focus on people who have been historically marginalized or who are at risk, as well as individuals who belong to underserved communities.

Although the four colleagues supervise and serve as the staff for Queer LifeSpace, the nonprofit’s services are provided by a team of nine trainees who come from four different graduate schools in the Bay Area, as well as six volunteer postgrad interns who receive LGBTQQI-specialized training hours to count toward their licensure.

The Queer LifeSpace team provides therapy in individual, couples, and group settings, addressing issues that commonly affect the lives of queer people including anxiety, depression, relationship and intimacy issues, substance-abuse issues, trauma, HIV/AIDS-related issues, gender identity issues and aging-related concerns. Depending on a client’s income, the service provides low-fee, sliding-scale therapy at $20 for individual sessions, $40 for couples sessions and $5 for group therapy.

Included in Queer LifeSpace’s roster of services are support groups for trans and gender-variant individuals, queer people of color, individuals seeking to address such issues as men’s relationships, and sober folks, and the intersex community (the sole services of their kind available in the city.) The operation has been tremendously successful, having provided 1,800 units of service to 215 clients as of December 2012 — a goal they hadn’t anticipated reaching until the end of 2013.

Queer LifeSpace was founded not only to provide services that had previously been available at New Leaf, but also to serve as a vanguard institution for the next generation of queer trainees in psychotherapy. Given the tenuous nature of government funding for nonprofits, the formation of the service was a risky undertaking, and one that the group commenced against the advice of nearly everyone they spoke to.

As executive director Nancy Heilner recalls, “It wasn’t our intention to open a nonprofit, but what happened was people began calling and needing services at a fee lower than what we offered [at the Collective]. We also discovered that we couldn’t have a training program if we were to remain a for-profit corporation. And having a training program was something we felt really strongly about.”

What’s most remarkable about the service is that it’s entirely volunteer-run. As Heilner describes it, Queer LifeSpace has been a “labor of love. Nobody gets paid for it. We have donated at least half our workweek to making it a reality.”

In spite of their success to date, the colleagues recently learned that the lease for Queer LifeSpace cannot be renewed after April. As the staff and board of the nonprofit look toward the future, they are eager to reach their fundraising goal of $60,000 to cover the costs of moving and establishing plans for a long-term center that can serve 350 members by the end of 2013.

Eventually, they hope to expand their capacity for clients and trainees in the new space and develop a financial model for long-term success and sustainability. But in the meantime, they face the crisis of not having a home in the spring.

As Heilner made clear, “Our next step is finding funds to sustain growth and reach. We’ve been reassuring people that we will make it through this. We will.”

Queer LifeSpace 470 Castro, Suite 202, SF. (415) 358-2000, www.queerlifespace.org.

Here’s the deal




Lash Lab 2166 Union, SF. (888) 406-5274, www.lash-lab.com. Full set of eyelash extensions (normally $219) for $150.

Gentle Star 14 Mint Plaza, Suite 110, SF. (415) 618-0108, www.gentlestar.com. On Mondays, get $100 microderm treatment (regularly $150), or $25 off a facial.

Population Salon 537 Divisadero, SF. (415) 440-7677. www.populationsalon.com. First-time clients get haircuts for $40 men’s styles, $55 women’s styles.

Waxing 4 Men 500 Sutter, SF. (415) 640-1414, www.waxing4men.net. Get “Four Layer Hydration Facial” (regularly $95) for $40 during the month of January. First-time clients can get a Brazilian wax and trim for $65 (regularly $95) through Yelp deal.

Fringe Salon 322 Hayes, SF. (415) 255-3036, www.fringesalon.com. Yelp Deals users pay $75 for a haircut and gloss treatment (regularly $140).

John Brody Salon 2338 Market, SF. (415) 252-0782, www.johnbrodysalon.com. Yelp Deals users pay $200 for a Bumble and Bumble hair smoothing treatment (regularly $400).


Bikram Yoga Seacliff 6300 California, SF. (415) 751-6908, www.bikramyogaseacliff.com. Seven-day trial for $20. Buy a drop-in or single class card, get free towel and mat rental.

Dance Mission Theater 3316 24th St., SF. (415) 826-4441, www.dancemission.com. Through Jan. 21, get 15 classes for $150 (good for one year after purchase.) Drop-in Fee: $13.00/class. $44.00 for four classes, or $100.00 for 10 classes, good for three months

Earthbody 534 Laguna, SF. (415) 552-7200, www.earthbody.net. Pay $89 membership fee, receive one massage a month (regularly $115), special services and promotions, 10 percent off all retail products. First time clients get an essential foot therapy, facial massage, or heated neck therapy treatment for free.

Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center 1200 Arguello Blvd, SF. (415) 681-2731, www.sfyoga.com 90-minute classes start at $12 drop-in rate, 60-minute classes $10. Sign up for “Beginner Yoga” and “Meditation I” classes together and save $30.

Balance the Clinic 3303 Buchanan, SF. (415) 440-4033, www.balance.us.com Get massages this month for $50 (normally $95).

Baby Boot Camp Various locations, SF. www.babybootcamp.com. New moms can try Strollfit and Strollga, yoga-inspired stroller fitness classes, for $96/month. Get eight classes for $128. First class is always free.

San Francisco Community Acupuncture 220 Valencia, SF. (415) 675-8973, www.missionsfca.com. Treatments available on sliding scale, $25–$45. Yelp Deals users receive $40 redeemable voucher for $25.

Mission Massage 3150 18th St., Suite 551, SF. (415) 954-2180, www.missionmassagesf.com. During month of January, get three one hour-long sessions for $175 or three 90-minute sessions for $265.

EOS Lymphatic Massage and Aromatherapy Bodywork 450 Sutter, Suite 2011, SF. (415) 971-9373, www.eosmassage.com. Yelp Deals users pay $149 for a two-hour session of “holistic, realistic life-coaching.” Regularly $225.

Juicey Lucy’s Available online and at SF farmer’s markets. (415) 786-1285, www.juiceylucys.com. “Mean Green for 2013” cleanse package for $40/day, including restorative tea and soup.

Green Chiropractic Clinic 1406A Valencia, SF. (415) 702-3311, www.sanfranciscochiropractordc.com Yelp Deals users receive $99 worth of services for $79.

Skin Space 323 Geary, Suite 720, SF. (415) 577-0982, www.skinspace.com. New customers enjoy $15 off Brazilian wax or $20 off facials.

Planet Granite 924 Mason, SF. (415) 692-3434, www.planetgranite.com. New customers can skip the initiation fee in January (regularly $35).

Life Chiropractic 5330 College, Oakl. (510) 594-9994, www.lifechiropracticdc.com. Yelp Deals users pay $100 for $150 worth of services.

Energy Matters Acupuncture and Qigong 4341 Piedmont, Oakl. (510) 597-9923, www.energymatterseastbay.com. Receive $70 worth of treatments for $120 when purchased through Yelp Deals. Six-treatment acupuncture package available for $432 (regularly $480).

SKYEFiT 864 Folsom, SF. (415) 992-3110, www.skyefit.com. First session of boot camp or personal training is free. This month, pay $89 for one-month unlimited training or two personal training sessions (regularly $150). Regular boot camp classes are $175 for a month.

Body Mechanix Fitness 292 Fourth St, Oakl. (877) 658-4757, www.body-mechanix.com. Get one month of unlimited group training for $99 (regularly $190) when purchased through Yelp Deals.

Phoenix Aerial Art and Pole 1636 University, Berk. (510) 504-5065, www.phoenixaerialartandpole.com. Phoenix is offering a Yelp Deals promotion of $50 for $75 on classes.

Purusha Yoga 3729 Balboa, SF. (415) 668-9642, www.purushayoga.org. Free yoga at 11am on weekend mornings (check website for locations). New students get one week of unlimited classes for $25, one month for $49. College students receive 10 percent off any regularly-priced membership, class. or package.

Pop Physique 2424 Polk, SF. (415) 776-4678, www.popphysique.com. First-time customers receive 30-day unlimited class pass for $100. New moms get three months of unlimited classes for $375.


TIC legislation is a rent control issue


OPINION If legislation introduced by Supervisors Scott Wiener and Mark Farrell passes the Board of Supervisors next month, up to 2,000 tenancies in common will be allowed to bypass the lottery process and convert to condominiums.

Add those to the nearly 6,000 conversions that have occurred from 2001-2011 (according to stats from the Department of Public Works), and you have a sizable chunk of rent-controlled units that will have been yanked from our housing stock in the past decade or so in a city that can’t afford to lose rental units, especially those that preserve affordability while tenants live in them. TICs are still under rent control; condos lose it when they’re sold.

Which makes the Wiener and Farrell legislation a rent-control issue. Not to mention a really bad idea at a really bad moment in time.

San Francisco’s perennial housing crisis can’t possibly get worse. Rents are the highest in the country — and still rising. The average rent in the city these days is $3,000. The vacancy rate is low.

Ellis Act evictions, a tool for creating TICs by allowing a landlord or speculator to circumvent just-cause eviction protections, are on the upswing. They’re not as high as they were at the height of the dot-com boom of the late 90s, but, considering that these days many landlords and speculators threaten tenants with Ellis or buy them out rather than do the dirty deed, the number of folks displaced for TICs is higher than what is recorded at the Rent Board. Some tenants have actually received letters from new landlords with two checkboxes — one for Ellis and the other for a buyout. Take your pick, which way do you want to be tossed out and possibly left homeless?

The folks being displaced are from every district and represent the diversity about which we always brag: longterm, generally low-income seniors, disabled people, people with AIDS, families, and people of color. And they’re less likely to find other apartments they can afford.

Wiener claims that buildings where there are evictions will not be eligible for conversion, but many of the TICs currently in the lottery, which will be eligible for conversion under the Wiener/Farrell legislation, were created by evictions. Almost 20 percent of the units in the pipeline were formed before legislation was put into place to restrict conversions if tenants are ousted. How many of the other 80 percent are the result of threats and buyouts, de facto evictions? Or were entered into the lottery even when they shouldn’t have been?

Brian Basinger, founder of the AIDS Housing Alliance, was evicted from his apartment for a TIC, yet his place was converted to a condo, despite the fact that he’s a protected tenant.

Allowing as many as 2,000 conversions not only diminishes the rent-controlled housing stock, but it also jacks up rents. Not to mention it gives speculators incentive to do more Ellis evictions or buyouts — after all, though Wiener and Farrell say this is a one-time only deal, once Pandora’s box is opened, it’s going to be hard to keep it shut. I think landlords and speculators know that.

The Housing Element of the City’s General Plan, adopted in 2009, instructs officials to “preserve rental units, especially rent controlled units, to meet the City’s affordable housing needs.”

This legislation won’t preserve rent-controlled units. It’s a bad fit for our city.

Tommi Avicolli Mecca, who’s worked for the Housing Rights Committee for 13 years, is a longtime queer tenants right/affordable housing advocate.

Quarterback sack



CHEAP EATS Mz. Grizz is tall and beautiful with a gleam in her eyes that says both I have something funny to add and, if you put a football in her hands, I will knock you over like a freight train hitting bowling pins.

If we played tackle instead of flag football, she would lead the league in yardage and touchdowns, and probably a lot of people would quit. As it is, her area of dominance is the defensive line. And the bowling pins are the opposing team’s O line.

I know I wouldn’t want to quarterback against her. Other hand, if I am totally honest (which I mostly totally am), I haven’t always exactly loved being Mz. Grizz’s teammate either. There’s the generational gap that bebaffles me to most of my teammates at least some of the time, and there was this thing I overheard her say once on the sideline: “I don’t care whether we win or lose,” she said. “I’m in it for the personal glory.”

Which statement bristled me for a while, even though I knew she was saying it to be funny — a twist on it’s how you play the game.

I must have been in a bad mood. Meaning: we must have just lost. Because for me, partially, it is whether you win or lose. That’s what makes it sports. And, in particular, team sports. Supposedly, although spelling is not my forte, there is no I in team. But this was a long time ago.

And, alas, there is an I in time.

Like a lot of our team, Mz. Grizz is a med student. Still, she manages to make more practices than anyone. And games. And she plays and practices –- and eats, it turns out — with an endearingly fierce and bearlike voracity.

Coach’s 35th birthday party was not the first time I got to eat next to Mz. Grizz, but it was the one that won me over. All the way, and in spite of any previously held differences of opinion regarding queer politics or English spelling.

Hers was the biggest plate of food I have seen since the days of Ann’s Cafe. And the way she pinned her ears back (in the parlance of pass-rushing specialists) and tackled it … it earned my undying respect and admiration. It was, in fact, glorious. And I understood.

I mean: first of all, we’re talking Celia’s — which should change its name to Surrealia’s — in San Rafael. I forget what they called the plate, but it had tacos, enchiladas, flautas, chile relleno, steak, beans, rice, and just basically all-things-Mexican all over it. And Mz. Grizz picked up her fork and knife with this super-sexy look, and fucking sacked its ass. I’m not saying it was quick. Or easy. You could tell she was using all her moves: the spin move, the stunt, the club, the rip, the hoop, the inside-out sock…

And those were just the ones that I saw! For the most part my attention was drawn to the wide-screen TV at the opposite end of Celia’s banquet room, on which the 49ers were all-of-the-above-ing it to the Green Bay Packers.

Also I had my own plate to deal with: big, yummy grilled shrimps with beans and rice and a big ball of salad dolloped quite pleasantly, thank you, with pico de gallo.

Everything was great. Warm, fresh-made chips and hot table salsa kept coming, margaritas happened, and Coach presided very thirty-fivishly at the head of the table, until the mariachi band came over from the main dining room behind a small flan with a single lit birthday candle in it.

They sang in Spanish. They sang in English. And by the time Coach wished for another winning season this Spring and blew out the candle, her birthday dessert was mostly melted wax. Yum!

While everyone else was woohooing her, I hugged and high-fived Mz. Griz, who was just then putting the finishing hurt on her quarterback. I think it was called “The Perfecto Special.” Look into this.

“You’re my hero,” I said.

Then, very mysteriously, everyone started disappearing into the restroom in pairs and coming back with each other’s pants and shirts on. Kids! Then they all went bowling across the street, but Hedgehog and I, being old, came home.


Mon-Thu 11am-10pm; Fri-Sat 11am-10:30pm; Sun 4-9:30pm

1 Vivian, San Rafael

(415) 456-8190


Full bar


The end of landlines?



The market for smart phones has reached the saturation point in the United States; it’s hard to find anyone who doesn’t have a mobile device. Hard, maybe — but not impossible. There are still thousands of people, many of them seniors, who rely on that old-fashioned, low-tech landline for their inexpensive connection to the world — and they’re about to lose out.

The deregulation of the telecommunications industry has reached the point where phone companies in California and elsewhere are getting ready to pull out and disconnect the copper wires that support traditional landlines — which, by law, have to be made available at dirt-cheap rates to low-income people.

And while so-called Lifeline rates for cell phones are coming, they aren’t available yet.

“It’s extremely important,” Nick Pasquariello, a senior and low-income resident of San Francisco who uses a landline with a Lifeline rate, told us. Like many seniors, Pasquariello says his old phone is cheaper, more reliable and simpler than a wireless plan.

“The technology and rates are changing all the time. It’s confusing,” he says, adding that the end of landlines would be detrimental to many people. “I haven’t heard of Lifeline for cell phones.”

So over the next year or two, seniors could find themselves disconnected. “It’s clear to us that companies like AT&T and Verizon are planning to get rid of their copper networks,” said Paul Goodman of the Greenlining Institute in Berkeley, which conducts public policy research and advocacy. Telecom companies have spent years lobbying to retire those lines, arguing that they’re expensive to maintain, which explains why they’ve been remiss when it comes to their upkeep.

“The phone companies are not repairing or maintaining old copper networks. They don’t want the responsibility,” Goodman explained.

Basic utilities like phone service have long been considered necessities and legislators have ensured that every household has access to them.

But replacing copper with newer technology makes better business sense. “It’s more lucrative to operate the VoIP and wireless networks,” Mark Toney, Executive Director of The Utility Reform Network, or TURN, told us. “They’re able to charge more per month and the profits are greater.”

The deregulation of phone service is nothing new; it started back in 1984 with the break up of AT&T. But it’s reaching the point where there’s little oversight at all.

In 2011, lawmakers in Wisconsin passed the Telecommunications Modernization Act and last year, virtually eliminating state regulation of phone companies. In New Hampshire, Governor John Lynch signed a similar bill into law. In California, SB 1161 went into effect a few months ago, lifting the California Public Utilities Commission’s regulatory power over internet-based phone services like VoIP and IP, among other things.

The bill’s passage caused consumer advocates to argue that deregulation would lead to price gouging and unfair business practices like cramming (or unauthorized third party charges found on a customer’s bill).

“We’re concerned with making sure consumers and seniors still have their protections which we think should apply regardless of the technology,” said Michael Richard, associate state director of advocacy for AARP.

Right now, Lifeline service is only offered through landlines. Retiring copper wire networks, and thus traditional landline service, could eliminate Lifeline altogether.

As the telecommunications industry has upgraded its products and services to accommodate newer technology, the CPUC has been forced to rethink its idea of what basic service looks like. Bill Johnston, Telecommunications Advisor to CPUC Commissioner Catherine Sandoval, told us the commission is working to make improvements.

“The earlier definition of basic service was from 1996 so there was a need to update that definition to include wireless service,” said Johnston, adding that the commission approved redefinition of “basic service” in December. That redefinition included offering Lifeline to “wireless and non traditional providers.” The definition reads: “Any basic service provider offering basic service must offer Lifeline rates on a non-discriminatory basis to eligible customers within the region where the provider offers basic service.”

But the service isn’t yet available for wireless or VoIP — and some fear that the current program will eclipse before a new one is in place. Johnston said a meeting is set for January 29 to discuss the scope of rules for Lifeline, and public hearings will be held around the state later this year to address this and other issues related to telecom deregulation.

The argument that landline phones are dying out may have some validity, but their benefits and practicality are evident — take for instance weather emergencies. After Hurricane Sandy struck the Northeast a few months ago, many towers providing service to cell phones went down. Landline users, however, were unaffected and still able to get in touch with family and emergency services.

According to Johnston, the commission is well aware of the benefits. “They want to make sure the wire line remains available because it has traditionally been the more reliable service.”

The notion that landlines phones are becoming obsolete has some consumer advocates rolling their eyes. “Most people in California have both cell phones and landlines,” said Toney.

Old joy — and pain



FILM Film editor Sari Gilman — her resume includes 2007’s Ghosts of Abu Ghraib and 2002’s Blue Vinyl — made her directorial debut with the 30-minute documentary Kings Point, a bittersweet exploration of a Florida retirement community. The film first screened locally as part of the 2012 San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, and will air on HBO in March. In the meantime, it’s been nominated for an Oscar for Best Documentary Short. I caught up with Gilman to talk about her film — and little gold men.

San Francisco Bay Guardian Congratulations on your nomination! You knew your film was on the shortlist, but were you surprised when you made the final cut?

Sari Gilman Thank you! You know, I had no idea. I have worked very hard in my life to try not to predict the future. [Laughs.] I was very happy when I found out, but I don’t think it would have destroyed me if it hadn’t happened. Obviously, though, it’s a total thrill and a complete honor, and more than I ever expected when I started making this movie.

SFBG Do you get to, like, walk the red carpet?

SG I do! I gotta get a dress! I mean, not that anyone’s going to care who I’m wearing, but for me, it’ll be fun.

SFBG What’s your connection to Kings Point, the place, and what made you want to create a documentary about it?

SG My grandmother moved to the community in 1978, when I was about nine years old. I visited her there many times a year for 30 years. About 15 years in, I was starting to get involved in storytelling and still photography, and I was always really fascinated with the place on a couple of different levels: socially, it sort of seemed like it was a summer camp for old people, and then visually — it’s 7500 identical one- and two-bedroom condominium units, spread out over miles. So there’s a lot of architectural homogeneity. These long hallways that look exactly the same, with these palm-tree shadows on them. It seemed like a natural place to start exploring.

SFBG Since you knew the residents already, was it easier to get them to open up in interviews?

SG I think so. None of the subjects in the final film were people that I knew personally before I started making it, but some of them did know my grandmother, and they all knew me as the granddaughter of someone who lived there. I think that’s what made it easy for them to talk to me. I also shared a lot with them about my grandmother’s experience and my experience there, so the interviews weren’t so much interviews as they were conversations. Obviously, we cut my voice out in most cases, but I think that I was able to get the kind of candid stories that I got because I was on the other end of the camera talking to them.

SFBG Though you’ve worked extensively as an editor on other people’s films, you didn’t edit Kings Point. Why was that?

SG As an editor, I knew how badly I needed an editor. I know that directors need to have a collaborator to provide perspective, and look at the footage with a little more of an objective eye. I got incredibly lucky in that I was able to hire Jeffrey Friedman [co-director, with Rob Epstein, of 2010’s Howl and 1995’s The Celluloid Closet, among others], who is a local luminary and an amazing filmmaker who edits occasionally. He was actually my mentor when I was learning how to edit in the 1990s in San Francisco, so working with him on my first film was a really great experience.

SFBG The tone of the film is unique in the way that it balances light-hearted moments with the sort of sad undertone that runs throughout.

SG That was the biggest challenge. I knew there was going to be sadness and darkness, and humor and lightness, and I had a sense of what I wanted that to be, but I knew from the beginning that it would be hard to achieve. Jeffrey and I spent a lot of time achieving the tone. It was kind of like salt and sugar — “A little sprinkle here, oh, now it’s too dark, let’s add more of the other.” The feeling that I wanted to evoke, more than anything, was that certain feeling that I had when I was visiting there.

SFBG Had you always intended for Kings Point to be a short film?

SG No, I actually intended it to be a feature. It was in the cutting room that we decided to make it a short. A large part of that was because of the tone, actually — we had enough story to keep it going, but the tone of those stories were shifting the film in a direction that I wasn’t comfortable with. It was a little more of that “cute old person” movie. Kitschy, kind of, “Look at the old people doing belly dancing,” or whatever.

I was extremely sensitive to the fact that most people, when they heard about the film, would think that’s what they were going to be seeing. I was a little crazy-determined not to make that movie, because that wasn’t what my experience was. That’s not what I saw. In cutting it down, we got rid of a lot of the lighter stuff, which is what helped us achieve the tone that we did.

SFBG There have been several films with themes about aging lately: Amour, Quartet, and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (all 2012) come to mind. Why do you think that is?

SG Oh, I definitely want to see Amour. I think it’s a moment whose time has come. As a population, the baby boomers have now started to retire, and in the next 20 years, we are going to see a major shift in the demographics of this country. There will be many, many more elderly than there are now. I think that people are starting to think about aging issues in a new way.

I truly hope Kings Point will encourage people to have those kinds of discussions. Nobody likes to grow old or think about what’s going to happen, but the truth is that we kind of need to. There’s a bit of a denial about the realities of aging; there’s so much emphasis placed on being independent, self-reliant, and remaining active. On the cover of AARP Magazine, you always see pictures of, like, 75-year-olds on bicycles riding to the beach. And that’s great, and everyone wants that to be their experience, but not everyone is so lucky. *


Surfing to shoot



Somewhere in rural Southern California, a Craigslist user is offering a Hi-Point 9mm carbine, a kind of semi-automatic rifle, for “straight trade” in exchange for a quad or dirt bike. A post from Craigslist in San Mateo screams “i NEED AMMO” — in bulk, for various kinds of rifles. And across the state, Craigslist ads for Glocks, Berettas and other handguns commonly turn up in the mix, often instructing prospective buyers to respond by text message only.

Selling guns is explicitly prohibited on the world-famous website with the signature purple peace sign. Firearms, ammunition, and less-lethal weapons hover near the top of Craigslist’s prohibited items roster — but a cursory search reveals dozens of firearms-related ads in various US cities. Meanwhile, the San Francisco-based classifieds forum is just one of thousands of websites where people who want to obtain guns can make discreet connections with private sellers.

Gun listings on the Internet make it extremely easy for people to buy firearms with the click of a mouse and no questions asked. But in many cases, this activity is perfectly legal, website terms-of-service notwithstanding.

Federally licensed firearms dealers are obligated by law to conduct background checks on all buyers, whether they’re selling at a gun show or online. But that’s not the case for unlicensed individuals who aren’t officially in the business of dealing weapons. And these private transactions — which are increasingly initiated online — account for an estimated 40 percent of U.S. gun sales, according to estimates by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Under federal law, there’s nothing barring an unlicensed individual from advertising a gun for sale online and then selling the weapon to a person living in the same state without the involvement of a licensed dealer. California law does go further to require the involvement of a licensed dealer in firearms sales, but the proliferation of Internet ads shows how difficult that is to regulate.

As long as the seller isn’t knowingly selling to someone who’s prohibited from gun ownership due to a violent criminal conviction or some other reason, federal law imposes no obligation to perform a background check for in-state transfers. This leniency, combined with the unprecedented availability of weapons online, is a focal point for legislative reform efforts.


The Guardian recently heard from a distraught Craigslist user from Illinois who’d launched a one-person crusade against a persistent string of gun ads posted in his hometown. “It’s an anything goes, no-holds-barred, 24/7 gun show,” he charged, adding that he’d flagged posts for AK-47s, AR-15s, high-capacity magazines, and other combat-style weapons listings for removal.

He spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution. “The gun crowd outnumbers other folks around here,” he explained, and forwarded some profanity-laden responses he’d received after calling attention to the issue in an online forum and urging other community members to help him flag the posts.

Craigslist staff members were responsive to emails alerting them of the posts, he said, but the measures they took weren’t always effective. Ads were removed a few days after being flagged, but many just cropped up again later. Online chatter suggests that sellers remain undeterred. “The liberal whiners flag the ads, then you just repost it,” one user advised in an online message board.

In 2011, New York City authorities conducted an in-depth, undercover investigation of online gun sales. In 45 days, they discovered 1,792 unique Craigslist posts advertising guns in 49 states. In that time, just 584 — about 33 percent — were flagged for removal, investigators reported.

Susan Best, a press contact at Craigslist, didn’t respond to several Guardian queries seeking information about how the company is handling the issue of unpermitted gun postings.

Despite the Illinois crusader’s sense of futility, some private gun dealers have migrated away from Craigslist after experiencing pushback from community members who consistently flag the unpermitted posts. The number of gun listings on Craigslist barely registers in comparison with the thousands of weapons readily available on ArmsList.com, a site created to make it easy to shop for guns online.

ArmsList was started in 2009 “by gun owning and gun loving Americans,” according to the website, “after seeing firsthand how the popular marketplace sites on the Internet shun firearms.” Anyone casually browsing ArmsList gun ads can view phone numbers and emails of sellers without creating an account, and the website does not get involved in sales.

Disturbingly, the New York City investigation found that more than half of the private gun dealers contacted via ArmsList said they’d be willing to sell to buyers who said they couldn’t pass a background check. That’s illegal, but there isn’t much currently in place to prevent it from happening.


Under California law, an unlicensed individual can sell a gun to another individual if both seller and buyer go through a fully licensed dealer, known as a Federal Firearms Licensee (FFL). The FFL files paperwork for a background check, and releases the weapon only after the buyer’s name has cleared and a mandatory 10-day waiting period has passed.

“Bottom line: If you want to sell a firearm, you need to go through a licensed dealer,” says Michelle Gregory, a spokesperson for the California Department of Justice. “Even if they’re advertising online, they’ve still got to go through it.”

California’s rules are some of the strictest in the nation because lawmakers closed the “private-sale loophole” that exists under federal law, says Ben Van Houten, managing attorney at the San Francisco-based Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. The loophole, also known as the “gun show loophole,” refers to the federal law provision allowing in-state transfers of firearms between private individuals without FFL involvement.

“The issue of online gun sales is most dangerous in states that have not closed the private-sale loophole,” Van Houten says. “It’s easy to find people you can buy a gun from, without having to pass a background check.”


Closing the private-sale loophole is a key piece of a broader gun-law reform agenda unveiled by President Barack Obama Jan. 16. The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence applauded the move. “Obama’s commitment today — to support federal legislation to fix our background check system and to ban military-style assault weapons and large capacity ammunition magazines — confirms that we are at a historic moment,” the organization noted.

The state of New York recently passed gun laws that surpass even California controls, Van Houten noted, because new safeguards were enacted to regulate ammunition sales. In California, several legislative efforts have sought to tighten ammo sales, which are currently unrestricted, but none have been enacted into law.

On the federal level, US Sen. Dianne Feinstein has also introduced legislation to ban high-capacity magazine clips, which can quickly feed 30 rounds of ammo into a rifle. As the Obama Administration advances its gun-law reform agenda, Bay Area residents have also been stirred to action.

San Francisco celebrity Craig Newmark, who founded Craigslist in the mid-1990s and isn’t involved in its day-to-day operations, recently urged his followers to support an effort to prevent gun violence.

“One month after the tragic mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, a group of Newtown, Connecticut citizens have organized to honor the lives lost by unveiling a national grassroots initiative committed to preventing similar tragedies,” announced a Jan. 14 post on Newmark’s website, CraigConnects. “The initiative’s a nonprofit called Sandy Hook Promise,” and it’s “asking folks across the country to make a promise to encourage and support common sense solutions. We must get all of America to sign the Sandy Hook Promise.”

A shot of warmth



APPETITE Let’s be clear: the Bon Vivants crew’s newly opened Trick Dog in the Mission — featuring a cocktail menu modeled after a Pantone swatch book — is the hot food and drink destination of the moment (see my early review on the Pixel Vision blog at SFBG.com). But slipping at the bar at these three restaurants, ranging from elegant to festive, offers some of SF’s best cocktails with incredible bites on a long winter’s eve.



It’s impossible to get a reservation at Rich Table, one of the most buzzed about restaurants in the country right now, but I find seats at the bar open up often on a Monday, and arriving when they open at 5:30pm is ideal.

With new bar manager Jason “Buffalo” LoGrasso (from Quince and Cotogna), already lovely cocktails expand from four-five offerings to seven on the regular and four on the dessert menu. After tasting every LoGrasso cocktail ($10), I’m in love with the Carnegie Martini. Inspiration is genius — a pastrami sandwich from Carnegie Deli, where my Dad took me for my first reuben as a teenager. LoGrasso combines elements of the ultimate sandwich into a clean, refreshing whole. Wisely using St. George’s Dry Rye Gin as a base, caraway comes in the form of Combier’s Doppelt Kummel Extra liqueur, an aromatic caraway liqueur redolent of cumin. LoGrasso adds drops of mustard oil and a pickle.

Other heights include a lively Shivered Timbers, red with pomegranate touched by ginger and cinnamon, evoking rhum agricole but using Smith & Cross Pot Still Rum. Top aperitif? Figaro Chain — bright, stimulating Swan’s Neck vodka, Averna, lemon, and ginger. Dessert cocktails shine, too. Rich Coffee is a harmonious blend of Fernet, Sightglass coffee, and pistachio cream. Carthusian Hot Cocoa sings with chocolate, Green Chartreuse, mint, and pineapple marshmallow.

Eat with: doughy, savory doughnuts ($7) topped with shaved dried porcini, the clincher being thick raclette dipping sauce. Amuse bouche “Dirty Hippie” elevates granola to gourmet with cool buttermilk panna cotta doused in pumpkin seeds, sprouts, and spices. Divine tajarin ($27) egg noodles (a Piedmont pasta style) in house cultured butter under shaved Perigord black truffles dissolve in the mouth. Sigh.

199 Gough, SF. (415) 355-9085, www.richtablesf.com



Carlo Splendorini has crafted some of the most elegant, balanced cocktails anywhere. In my travels sampling cocktails the world over, it’s rare to experience the precision and finesse Splendorini brings to drinks ($11-14). Prime example: the way barrel-aged Bols Genever and Beefeater Gin seamlessly weave with pine-y notes of Clear Creek Douglas Fir eau de vie, the earthiness of sencha green tea, brightened by tart yuzu, lemon, and grapefruit foam. This combination could easily go wrong, but it’s exquisitely layered. Similarly, Yamazaki 12-year Japanese whiskey, chamomile tea, and a spoonful of Yellow Chartreuse over a shiso leaf dramatically cast against a giant ice cube in a wine glass make a striking sipper.

Eat with: oysters brilliantly accented by drink sauces (Pimm’s Cup, Elderflower Fizz, Bloody Mary) instead of the usual mignonette, or a meaty Monterey bay abalone ($21) grilled over shiitakes, tokyo turnips, mirin-scented rice in a miso broth. A more affordable bar bite: Mina’s signature ahi tuna tartare starter ($19) doused in ancho chile, sesame oil, and mint is $10 during happy hour.

252 California St., SF. (415) 397-9222, www.michaelmina.net



With new chef Robin Song (formerly of Haven and Plum) on board, there are elevated touches to Hog & Rocks’ ever-approachable food, like a special of perch crudo ($14), delicate with nasturtium, puffed rice, minced Manila clams, and blood orange. This suits bar manager Michael Lazar’s robust yet refined cocktails just fine. Chef Song’s amuse bouche of buckwheat gougeres topped with warm, salty lardo is divine with Lazar’s Miller’s Meyer ($11), a vivid winter cocktail of Martin Miller’s Gin, Meyer lemon syrup, and herbaceous Elisir M.P. Roux liqueur lending whispers of anise, verbena, and lavender. My drink of choice is house Willett bourbon, a bracing 130 proof but cut with water. Rye spice and sweet corn notes meld perfectly in Lazar’s Old Fashioned with orange and Angostura bitters.

A refreshing Cider Press Buck ($11) showcases one of the most edible garnishes around: a spiced Arkansas black apple (preserved via Cryovac). This delicious garnish evolves with the seasons, atop Old Fitzgerald bourbon, lime, ginger, and Wandering Aengus dry pear cider, confirming the current cider craze. The Buck pairs with H&R’s always pleasurable ham platters ($16), now with Monte Nevado Jamon Serrano from Spain, Greci and Foizani Proscuitto from Italy, and a stunningly smoky ham exemplifying all I love best in Southern hams, Edwards Surryano from Virginia.

3431 19th St., SF. (415) 550-8627, www.hogandrocks.com

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Editor’s notes


EDITORIAL Airports are special. There are schools and roads and buildings — and rest stops on the New Jersey Turnpike — named after famous and not-so-famous people, but airports, particularly major international airports, are, in a word, monumental. Tens of millions of people, many of them immigrants, have come through Kennedy Airport in New York, a place named after an inspirational leader who was killed before his time. We’re not so enamored with Reagan National in Washington, but the guy was a hugely influential president of the United States. Lt. Colonel O’Hare was a war hero.

That’s why the idea of naming San Francisco International Airport after Harvey Milk is so wonderful — and entirely appropriate.

There are lots of politicians in the world, and there have been many civic leaders who have done great things in and for San Francisco. But Harvey Milk was different, and special.

Milk was the first openly person gay person elected to public office in a major American city. He was an inspiration to tens of thousands of people, and his speeches, his signature line — “you’ve gotta give them hope — and his role as an LGBT icon made a better life possible for generations of young people who faced, and often still face, oppression, discrimination and fear.

It’s important to remember that, although he only served 11 months in office, Milk changed San Francisco, changed America, and changed the world. His bold actions forced the nation to accept a marginalized community. He represented the best of San Francisco, the essential spirit of rebellion, the demand for justice and the passion for equality that defines this city in the world.

And the struggle he embodied isn’t even close to over: All over the world, LGBT people are beaten, denied basic rights, killed for who they are. And if San Francisco can’t make a giant global statement against that, nobody can.

The renaming of SFO wouldn’t just honor a local political figure. I would make an international statement. The airport is a major West Coast hub, and people from all over the globe pass through its gates. While many of them won’t care who the airport is named for, others will — and an appropriate display in the terminals would educate countless visitors, many from countries and cultures where LGBT people are still not accepted, about the role Milk played in changing society’s attitudes.

We don’t take lightly the naming of civic institutions. There’s too much opportunity for political mischief, for someone like former mayors Willie Brown or Dianne Feinstein — neither of whom changed the city in a positive way or made dramatic statements — to get honored. That’s one reason that the San Francisco Airports Commission has declined to name anything after anyone who is still alive.

Sup. David Campos, who is promoting this idea, has taken the right approach: A decision this serious ought to go before the voters. The supervisors should place his charter amendment on the ballot, and the people of San Francisco should tell the world that the legacy of Harvey Milk is alive — and out there, our front, for everyone to see.

Peace corps



DANCE In a pre-rehearsal conversation at the ODC Commons, choreographer Robert Moses says that his newest piece, Nevabawarldapece (“never be a world of peace”– premiering at YBCA Fri/25-Sun/27), is “a dance about protest movements.” The evening-length work is set on ten dancers and is a collaboration between Moses and Obie and Bessie winning writer-performer Carl Hancock Rux; activist and singer-composer Laura Love; and MacArthur Fellow and blues musician Corey Harris. The trio will perform live during this weekend’s world premiere at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

The impetus for Neva, explains Moses, came less from the specifics of historic revolutions and contemporary challenges to the social order than from the people who gave their all attempting to bring about fundamental change — only to see their efforts dissipated, co-opted, or met with failure. “It’s about idealism, the loss of it, and then what you do? What are you left with if the rage, the energy, and all the sacrifices you have made fall by the wayside? Can you pick up and keeping moving forward? I don’t know,” he says.

Moses and Love, who is in town for her first look at the company, discussed leaders like Malcolm X, James Brady, and Nat Turner, but also contemporary movements like Occupy Wall Street, the Arab Spring, and environmental activism. Referencing Sisyphus’ rock, Moses says, “When it falls, it’s hard to go down that mountain and pick it up again. It takes courage and energy to roll it and believe that this time it just might stay up.”

For Love the choice is clear. “I have moments of disillusionment, and moments when I believe that we can have justice. Right now I am more afraid not to act than to act.” She remembers a banner at a recent Freedom of Choice rally that said: “I can’t believe that we have to do this again.”

Neva had been in the back of Moses’ mind for a long time. “It’s a big idea,” he admits. So he was pleasantly surprised that when he called his now collaborators and described exactly what he wanted to explore, everybody agreed to participate. For Love, it was Moses’ willingness to not restrict her role. (Moses laughs, “I can’t do what she does, so why would I restrict her?”)

Love and Harris sent him musical suggestions; Hancock Rux emailed texts he had written. Moses has yet to determine Neva’s final shape. For instance, he has two versions of one of Love’s banjo tunes. He also wants to hear Hancock Rux’s voice reading text. “I don’t want to pin myself down, because when we get together I want to see how context and content push against each other.”

Heading into rehearsal, he chuckles, “Yeah, the piece is finished … and it is not.” A thread, he knows, will emerge when everybody finally meets in the studio a few days before the premiere. Right now, he explains, the dancers have between 30 and 40 choreographic sections from which choices will be made.

In the studio on this particular afternoon, the dancers work on three of these pieces. As other couples observe and copy, Moses refines small gestures — a handgrip, a leg stretch, an overhead lift — on tiny Norma Fong and lanky Brendan Barthel. Then Crystaldawn Bell, softly but intensely, talks the company through a section that she has developed based on a solo which Moses had created for senior dancer Katherine Wells. Finally, Moses gives newcomer Jeremy Bannon-Neches five minutes to keep teaching to the company a piece he had choreographed for him. “The teaching is good experience,” Moses notes.

Dripping with sweat, tired to the point of exhaustion, and throwing themselves with every ounce of their being into fierce, volatile, and ever-changing movement challenges, the dancers are an odd contrast to the studio’s serene and neutral environment. They are also unstoppable — just like those who are willing to commit whatever it takes to make their ideals come to life.


Fri/25-Sun/27, 8pm, $25-$50

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

Lam Research Theater

700 Howard, SF



Smith happens



FILM Every year there’s at least one: the adorable-old-coot fest, usually British, that proves harmless and reassuring and lightly tear/laughter producing enough to convince a certain demographic that it’s safe to go to the movies again, just this once. The last months have seen two, both starring Maggie Smith (who’s also queen of that audience’s home viewing via Downton Abbey), and in this case more is probably less.

Last year’s The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, in which Smith played a bitchy old spinster appalled to find herself in India (hip replacement operations being cheaper there), has already filled the slot. It was formulaic, cute, and sentimental, yes, but it also practiced more restraint than one expected, delivering a certain amount of emotional payoff you didn’t have to cringe over the next day. (Particularly if you forgot how one-dimensional the Indian characters were — and they certainly were forgettable.)

Now here’s Quartet, which is basically the same flower arrangement with quite a bit more dust on it. Smith plays a bitchy old spinster — complete with hip problems — appalled to find herself forced into spending her twilight years at a home for the elderly. It’s not just any such home, however, but Beecham House (actually Hedsor House, a much-filmed estate in Buckinghamshire), whose residents are retired professional musicians.

Gingerly peeking out from her room after a few days’ retreat from public gaze, Smith’s Jean Horton — a famed English soprano — spies a roomful of codgers rolling their hips to Afropop in a dance class. “This is not a retirement home — this is a madhouse!” she pronounces. Oh, the shitty lines that lazy writers have long depended on Smith to make sparkle. Well, even she’s not that much of a magician.

Quartet is full of such bunk, adapted with loving fidelity, no doubt, from his own 1999 play by Ronald Harwood, who as a scenarist has done some good adaptations of other people’s work (2002’s The Pianist, 2007’s The Diving Bell and the Butterfly). But as a generator of original material for about a half-century, he’s mostly proven that it is possible to prosper that long while being in entirely the wrong half-century. The highlight was The Dresser, a play (later filmed, in 1983) of that type which throws bouquets at theater itself while handing an enormous slice of ready-cooked ham to the actors playing theatrical archetypes. The lowlight has been 2008’s Australia — for which Baz Luhrmann shoulders the primary blame, but anyone associated with that script should have had their Writers Guild membership suspended at least until the screams of unprepared ticket buyers stopped.

This play, too, seems to have inspired enthusiasm only for its performers in its original West End run. (Oddly, however, it’s been a long-running hit in a Finnish adaptation.) It seems doubtful anyone was chomping at the bit to make a movie version. But then in one of those periodic reminders that the ways of show biz (when not strictly commercial) can be unfathomable, it has found new life as the directorial debut of … 75-year-old American actor Dustin Hoffman.

Which ought to be more interesting than it turns out — with its workmanlike gloss and head-on take on the script’s very predictable beats, Quartet could as well have been directed by any BBC veteran of no particular distinction. The English countryside can be counted on to look pretty; this cast and its hundreds of years of experience (including those members identified at the end as former classical musicians) need hardly break a sweat realizing such soft material.

So, Maggie Smith arrives at Beecham House to the varying delight of former operatic colleagues Pauline Collins (comic ditherer), Billy Connelly (randy old goat), and Michael Gambon (nasty old queen), as well as the initial dismay of Tom Courtenay as the ex-husband whose heart she carelessly broke. Naturally, the joint is in danger of closure and can only be saved by the starry new arrival’s participation in an annual charity performance. Yes, it’s just like the plot of Roller Boogie (1979), and every other hoary “Let’s put on a show to save the [blank]” exercise. You know just what’s going to happen — “How dare you!” turns to “Oh, all right then” turns to triumph, although the film (like the play) cheats by declining to actually show us that triumph — and it does, on cue, for 98 digestion-easing minutes.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with providing vehicles for beloved older actors — but why does it always have to be this kind of vehicle, bland as toast and no more nutritious? Even Dame Maggie Smith doesn’t seem particularly interested; no doubt she’d like to play someone to whom the adjective “bitchy” doesn’t apply once in a while. The classical canon is full of great roles for fully mature actors. But for the movies, it seems, after a certain point you only get to play silly old dears or bitter crones. There’s got to be room for something between condescending trifles like Quartet and the bleak staring-death-in-the-face of Amour


QUARTET opens Fri/25 in Bay Area theaters.

Harmon’s way



THEATER Dan Harmon, performing at this year’s SF Sketchfest, is on the phone, talking about therapy. He’s explaining his belief that a person can find a mental illness for anything they can name, with some fetishistic examples. “There are people out there who like to be walked on,” the creator and former show runner of NBC’s Community says. “There’s people who like to eat human fecal matter. There’s people who want to have sex with kites.”

“Hold on, Dan. Are there really?” I ask, making a note to Google it later.

“I guarantee it. I promise you. There are six billion people in the world and there’s gotta be someone who wants to have sex with a kite. But I don’t know if you’d ever find someone that craves the feeling of being alone.”

We’re on the subject because of Harmontown, the comedy show-town hall meeting-podcast Harmon regularly holds in the back of an LA comic shop, based around “one day forming a colony of like-minded misfits.” Harmon’s about to take the show on a daunting cross-country tour, that will stop in SF for Sketchfest before returning to LA. It’s been eight months since Harmon was unceremoniously fired from the much-analyzed, but little-watched sitcom Community by Sony, and had a public feud with actor Chevy Chase that brought a TMZ level of public scrutiny. Subsequently, the Harmontown episodes have frequently taken on the air of a psychiatric session, with the audience filling an important role.

“The whole point of therapy is the therapist doesn’t particularly matter. You’re listening to yourself talk and I think some people are more comfortable talking to one guy holding a clipboard if they’re going to say ‘Hey, I put a Sharpie pen up my ass the other day, does that make me a pervert?’ I feel weirder saying that to one guy with a masters degree and a tiny office who doesn’t laugh than I do telling it to eight people in the back of a comic book store. It feels healthier to do the latter.”

Harmon doesn’t hold much back; after all, this is a guy that earlier in his career broke ground (and insert obvious pun here) with the self-explanatory “Laser Fart” web series for the no-budget, no restrictions, faux-TV network/film festival, Channel101.com (which he co-founded.) A performer only as a hobby, a “self-destructive writer” by trade, there’s no stand-up at Harmontown and ideally little planning. Instead, alcohol-enabled improv and tangents can lead to talking about being hit with a belt by his father, getting dangerously close to breaking up with frequent guest and girlfriend Erin McGathy on stage, or having Ricki Lake Show-styled heart-to-hearts with the audience.

It could be alienating, but Harmon’s uproarious logic, perspective, and self-awareness (an overabundance of which has caused his work to frequently be deemed “meta”) has gained him a following. “Where I tend to go,” says Harmon, “I tend to start asking the question ‘Am I a good person? Am I a good person?’ over and over again, and a kind of family forms around me. Or everyone else gets repelled.”

Channel101.com was at one time the focal point for this quasi-family. “It was like a barn raising, a church, something we did each month,” recalls Harmon. “We had a thing that we did and a belief system, and that was definitely something that I craved and wanted.” But as Community took over his life for three years, Harmon no longer could make the monthly films required, and moved into a fatherly rather than brotherly role.

Harmontown‘s filled that space, in a culty sort of way, with white-boy freestyle raps and live Dungeons and Dragons. The show tends to draw out bright millennials, eager Aspergians, and closeted creatives who find Harmon’s neuroses at least amusing but more often inspiring (also: nerds). It’s a mix that suit-wearing co-host Jeff B. Davis (Whose Line Is It Anyway?) best termed a “mutual anxiety association.” Harmontown isn’t meant for everybody. But that’s clearly by design. And as he hits the road with the show, Harmon’s looking for his people. 


Jan. 31, 8pm, sold out

Punch Line Comedy Club

444 Battery, SF



Mestranda Cigarra kicks ass



HEALTH AND WELLNESS It is impossible to climb the stairs to the San Francisco chapter of Abadá Capoeira and not know that you are in the Mestranda’s house.

Márcia Treidler founded the Mission District capoeira school, and she is there in the first photograph you see when you come in off the street. In it, she strikes her customary pose, an improbable one-handed flip (kick?) Her washboard abs challenge visitors to trade sedentary habits for the rich traditions and fat-carving core moves of the Brazilian martial arts form, the love of which made Treidler beg her mom for classes as a teenager, brought her from Brazil to the Bay Area, and led her to start a chapter of her teacher’s school right here in San Francisco.

In person, seated at a table next to Abadá’s statue of Iemanjá, orisha goddess of the Southern seas and patron deity of Rio de Janeiro, Treidler is hardly as intimidating. Mestranda Cigarra (her capoeira-given name) is in fact incredibly patient while explaining Brazilian history and basic tenets of the martial arts form to a stranger. She does do it for a living, after all.

Sharing information is a guiding principle of capoeira, which began as a covert form of fighting practiced by African slaves in Brazil who certainly couldn’t rely on written record to educate new generations in the martial art. After escaping servitude, some used their martial skills against the law enforcement sent after them. Capoeira helped fend off colonial attacks on their newly formed quilombos, the settlements ex-slaves built in remote locales.

Even after abolishing slavery in 1888, the Brazilian government considered capoeira subversive. It was officially banned in 1890, a tool used by authorities to put black men in jail. When waves of immigration brought new labor forces to the country and left many Africans jobless, public perception often equated capoeira with criminal activity.

The sport’s rise to acceptance and spread to other countries is a relatively recent occurrence. Treidler, who is now one of two of the highest ranking females in her school Abadá’s 41,000-member international organization, started practicing 31 years ago in Rio de Janeiro. She lived in Botafogo, a middle class beachfront neighborhood. At the time, capoeira still wasn’t considered respectable — and certainly not an obvious choice for an ambitious young woman. After becoming entranced by the sport at a school performance, the current Mestranda had to work on her mother for a year before she would agree to finance her classes.

“Women in capoeira was not popular at all,” Treidler says. “[My mother] was like ‘are you crazy? What are you thinking?'” Treidler had been active in sports — swimming and gymnastics — since she was six, but her mother insisted on observing capoeira classes before she’d agree to let her high school age daughter enroll.

“The [sport’s] reputation was really bad at the time,” Treidler remembers. “But when I first started, I never stopped.” Prepped by her athletic background, she took easily to capoeira’s acrobatics. She graduated through levels quickly, and struck a deal with her instructor to pay when she could after her mother withdrew financial support. Treidler credits the sport with teaching her patience, and became close with Mestre Camisa, the founder of Abadá.

The importance of their relationship today means Abadá students benefit from the vision of the founder, who still lives in Brazil. “She follows his vision 100 percent,” Treidler’s student and fellow Abadá instructor Antonio Contreras says. Camisa and Treidler are in constant contact, and he was present at the school’s January batizado graduation ceremony at Dance Mission Theater.

Eighty-plus students take classes at Abadá San Francisco chapter. They perform at places like the Academy of Sciences and in the Ethnic Dance Festival. The studio also offers Portuguese classes. Although there are only three adult Brazilians who currently take classes, the studio is somewhat of a center for Brazilian culture here in the city. Displays that tell of the legacy of capoeira line the walls in the main room, interspersed with statues of figures in traditional poses. Brazil’s world-famous street art duo Os Gemeos have whimsically rendered Abadá practitioners in large paintings that hang in the studio’s front stairwell, alongside the Mestranda’s portrait.

It is perhaps indicative of Treidler’s own start in the sport that her students are nothing if not diverse. At the recent batizado, the spotlight lingered on tiny children, middle-aged practitioners, developmentally-disabled capoeiristas sparring, flipping, playing musical instruments, and smiling tremendously in an immense roda, the circle of practitioners that encloses a capoeira presentation.

Treidler is the only instructor that Contreras, her only other full-time teacher at Abadá SF has ever had. An ex-personal shopper, he has called the studio home since 2000, when the sounds of single-stringed berimbaus and tambourine-like pandeiros pulled him into the studio after dinner at a Mission Street restaurant. He was amazed by the maculelê, the traditional dance that accompanies capoeira, and impressed by Treidler’s presence.

“I was like, ‘whoa, who’s that’ — this larger than life person,” he remembers. He was back that Tuesday for his first class. A cardio-weights gym rat who still employs a personal trainer, Contreras says that first day was the best workout of his life. He started noticing the changes in his body “immediately.”

“To me, it was very natural to learn from Márcia,” Contreras says, sitting next to a jar full of juice one afternoon at the studio. “The advantage is that she had it tough. She identifies with the difficulties you face because she has had her own.” He himself felt unflexible and uncoordinated when he first started his practice. He’s convinced that many instructors would have given up on him long ago.

But Treidler’s teaching eventually brought Contreras to a level of mastery that compelled him to quit his day job, to stop having to rush to the school from the stores every day at 5:45pm. Contreras says that the decision to commit to teaching is a natural part of capoeira.

Unlike other martial arts forms, in which the progressively more masterful levels of belt reward physical mastery of the form and discipline, capoeira reserves the next stage of training — and corresponding 10 colors of cords worn around your hips — for those who have displayed their ability to role model for others.

Treidler originally made ends meet here in San Francisco by working construction jobs, starting to teach capoeira a few times a week at SoMa’s Rhythm and Motion dance studio. She was deemed eligible for an “alien of extraordinary ability” visa by the US government and opened her first studio on Mission in between 19th and 20th Streets, moving to the current space 11 years ago.

Capoeira’s divergent skill sets — singing, playing musical instruments, sparring, and dancing — do seem to be a sport that can reward many kinds of students. Treidler resists generalizing when it comes to her students, but will say that the “women are very rational. Men identify with the power. I think that’s why it’s unique. We help each other in class.”

Capoeira is a good opportunity to let go of the “I’m sorry” hair trigger that plagues some females. “Women are too careful with each other,” the Mestranda says. “It’s like, I’m sorry? There’s no sorry! You get out of the way. That’s the challenge, for women not to think about it so much.” It’s difficult to picture Treidler hesitating — but then, she has been in rodas since she was 17 years old.

At the batizado in December, the Mestranda’s values of inclusion are as visible among her white-uniformed students as the high fives they can’t stop giving each other in the roda. After each class of graduates’ names are called, honorees “play games” — capoeira terminology for the minute-long sparring sessions that show off the flowing acrobatics and feigned violence of the sport. These run the gamut from the younger kids’ hyper, sky-high flips — done alongside each other as much as at each other — to the more focused bouts between older students. The latter range in tone from comical to rapid-fire serious. Everyone looks really good — er, healthy.

After a 2012 packed with performances, Treidler’s ready to expand her flock, make it possible for her part-time instructors to follow her path and leave their construction or restaurant job to focus on their passion for the sport. “What’s next you know?” she asks, somewhat rhetorically. “How can we use capoeira to make the world a better place?”

Abadá Capoeira 3221 22nd St., SF. (415) 206-0650, www.abada.org


All kinds of work and one play



THEATER SF Sketchfest, running this year Jan. 24-Feb. 10, has changed the face of comedy in the Bay Area. It has done this by importing faces, many very funny faces, and mingling them with a complement of local ones. The precise composite changes yearly but, 12 years on, the juggernaut founded by David Owen, Cole Stratton, and Janet Varney has developed one of the largest comedy profiles in the country. My spellcheck may still not recognize improv as a word, but there’s no denying the influence this festival has had on the Bay Area’s exposure to the greater world of comedy.

Fans of drama may wish to know that this year’s comedy feast — which again unfolds across everything from standup to game shows to film-related events — also includes a little theatrical soufflé called SEX a.k.a. Wieners and Boobs, a 1998 work for the stage penned by State cofounders Joe Lo Truglio, Michael Showalter, and David Wain. The play, although hardly what you’d call regional fare, has since been published, and gleefully mounted by amateur companies here and there. But its creators — who famously went on to other things, including films such as Wet Hot American Summer (2001) — are only now revisiting the work themselves.

Lo Truglio explains that the genesis of the play was owed to Maria Striar, founder of New York’s Clubbed Thumb theater company, who in 1998 called up her old Brown University classmate Showalter with a last-minute invitation.

“They were doing a summer series, and one of the plays had dropped out,” recalls Lo Truglio by phone from Los Angeles. “So Maria called Michael Showalter and said, ‘Do you guys have anything you want to do?’ He said yes immediately. The catch was that we didn’t have anything ready. So we had to write the play in about three days.”

They started with the title, according to Lo Truglio, only because Striar needed to place an ad in the paper the next day. Coming out of theatrical left field, he acknowledges that a grabber was in order. “We just came up with that title to get people to come see it,” he explains. Taking no chances, the ad also promised a scene from David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross — a claim the authors later make good on in one of the play’s brasher non-sequiturs.

The plot was borrowed from High Noon and set in a Teaneck, New Jersey menaced by a cranky desperado named Tad Theaterman. That narrative spine supports some wayward elephantine flesh, including a meta-theatrical opening scene involving a Q&A with the audience, and the aforementioned segue into Mamet (pronounced “mam-AY” in the play). Other moments were derived from previously untapped material, as Lo Truglio remembers.

“We had some bits that might have come from, probably not the State, but some stuff that David [Wain] and Showalter did at Stella, when they were doing live shows in Time Cafe on Lafayette in New York City. I also performed there and did some characters. I think a few characters and maybe a couple of the scenes in SEX were born out of that. But the majority was just this new-sheriff-in-town idea. We have a scene from Glengarry Glen Ross, because we just thought would be so cool to perform. [The process] went along those lines: what kind of thing would we like to see in a play? What bit do we have that we haven’t been able to use anywhere else?”

San Francisco audiences will be the first to see what this late 20th-century opus looks like in the garish light of a new millennium, with its creators in the roles they originated 15 years ago.

“I have no idea how it’s going to play after so many years,” admits Lo Truglio. “It’s very vignettey, which is a new word I’m coining. Looking back now, I think we would have cut out a lot of it. But it’s only about 55 pages anyway.”

A glance at the script suggests there’s still gold in them there pages, and anyway it’s hard to imagine the play’s triumvirate disappointing an audience reared on the State and all the subsequent work it has spawned. For his part, Lo Truglio looks forward to returning to a festival he recalls fondly and sees as essential.

“It’s fantastic that Janet Varney and the rest of those guys have created an annual event where really the best people in comedy go to perform,” he enthuses. “I think it’s important. It’s very similar to the way I feel about Marc Maron’s podcast, which I think is a terrific, really important record of some amazingly talented comics and actors. At Sketchfest there are so many people who are interested in comedy, different types of comedy, that it creates a terrific environment for it to thrive.” 


Feb. 8, 8pm, $30

Marines Memorial Theatre

609 Sutter, SF