Volume 47 Number 26

Free expression

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arts@sfbg.com

VISUAL ART Los Angeles painter John Millei is mostly known for muscular abstraction writ large, either because he usually applies his cerebral mark making to wall size paintings, or because he produces works in very large series.

So it’s a bit of a switch to see his suite of six new, small paintings made specifically for George Lawson’s pocket-size Tenderloin gallery. Each of the works in “Recent Paintings” is titled by a prepositional phrase that sets out various ways to begin a journey, and the titles down by the stream, past the gate, out the door, and so on refer as much to Millei trying out responses to the size of the space as framing an interpretation for the images. Whatever it is, the architectural constraint is very good for the work — these are some of Millei’s most offhand and unguarded paintings, and colors press and slide against each other with something approaching intimacy. In most of the suite, marks become indistinct from color fields presented in slim, tightly compressed layers, held together by off-balance, looping gestures.

You can’t help but think that these were lots of fun to paint.

In conversation, Millei remarked on how these new paintings were informed by a long-running dialogue with area painter Mel Davis, who coincidentally has a show, “Start Here,” up now at Eleanor Harwood Gallery. It’s probably a stretch to draw too thick a line between the two bodies of work, but knowing about the interplay between them does tease out a sort of common concern.

Davis’ work, semi-abstracted, and knowingly winking at Matisse and Gauguin — especially the way that those two painters in particular have been filtered and lensed over the last hundred years by weekend painters and amateurs — presents a slowly unfolding narrative about the difference between loving painting and trying to love painting. There’s something both subdued and lovely in these floral abstractions, especially ones like Space Between the Trees which layers flat, flesh-colored light on top of tropical blues and greens. Where Millei’s paintings use a variety of visual devices at the service of fairly direct and aggressive compositions, Davis is more ruminative about the burden of expertise, and the possibility of reclaiming a beginner’s naiveté.

John Millei, “Recent Paintings”
Extended through May 18
George Lawson Gallery
780 Sutter, SF
www.georgelawsongallery.com

Mel Davis, “Start Here”
Through April 27
Eleanor Harwood Gallery
1295 Alabama, SF
www.eleanorharwood.com

Spring means open studios in the bay, and the chance to rub elbows (and shoulders, since these things get crowded) with 1000-plus artists in their workspaces. The season kicked off with Art Explosion Open Studios last weekend in the Mission, and continues over the next several weeks throughout the area. If you’re looking to support local artists, or just check in on what ideas are being thrown around by area creatives, there’s no better way. Here’s a rundown of upcoming open studios events.

SOMANIA Open House
Fri/29, 6-10pm
Featuring 30 or so artists at six studio locations between 7th and 9th Avenues south of Civic Center BART. Participants include Arc Studios, Lizland Studio & Gallery, Dickerman Prints, the Oddists, Moss St. Studios, and Misho Gallery. www.somac-sf.org

Mission Artists United
April 20-21, noon-6pm
Approximately 130 artists at two dozen venues peppering the Mission; largest is 1890 Bryant, which houses 38 participating artists. According to the website, you’ll be able to spot open studios by looking for red dots on the sidewalks outside each, including several near the 16th St BART stop. Check the site for a map and guide. www.missionartistsunited.org

Hunters Point Open Studios
May 4-5, 11am-6pm
More than 130 artists work at this Bayview facility. You’ll need a car or the 19 bus to get there, but along the route stop at the separate Islais Creek facility to see the Hunters Point sculpture studios. www.shipyardartists.com

American Steel Studios
May 11, noon-11pm; May 12, noon-5pm
More than 40 participating artists and organizations are in this former West Oakland steel plant. An indoor-outdoor exhibition accompanies the event, which also will include guided studio tours, demonstrations, artist talks, and performances. Oh, and fire: Fire Arts Collective will perform, plus there’ll be fire sculpture and fire-breathing art cars. Check the website for updated schedule. www.americansteelstudios.com

Pro Arts Open Studios
June 1-2 and 8-9, 11am-6pm
More than 400 artists throughout the East Bay make this one of the largest open studios events of the year. Pick up a free Pro Arts guide with map and artist descriptions; you’ll need it to cover the sizable ground. www.proartsgallery.org/ebos

SFBG.com to start charging for “premium content”

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This will be the last day you can read this blog for free.

To reflect the changing environment of the new business, the SF Bay Guardian will begin instituting a $27-a-day paywall April 2, in what Managing Editor Marke B said was an attempt “prevent any sane person from actually reading this stuff.”

The site known as sfbg.com will remain in place, and remain free, but all content will be removed except for the comments of Lucretia Snapples and a selected number of “guests,” whose extensive contributions the Bay Guardian hopes to spin off as another packaged product in the coming months.

All staff-written content will now be available at sfbayguardiancostsalotofmoney.com. Except for Marke B.’s own Super Ego nightlife column, since no one really knows what the hell she’s jabbering on about anyway except teenagers, and teenagers don’t pay.

The idea of newspaper paywalls is spreading, with the San Francisco Chronicle creating one just this month. “We’re, frankly, just copying the Chron,” Bieschke, who also oversees Web operations, said. “If there’s nothing in one place and something somewhere else, and nobody knows which is where or why, then it only makes sense to charge a lot of money so the traffic will all go away and I can take a goddamn nap after yesterday’s all-nighter.

“Anyway, I say let the interns handle it.”

The fist style

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le.chicken.farmer@yahoo.com

At the beginning of class, the children of the Oakland Kajukenbo Kwoon circle up and take a knee, with their heads bowed and their little fists pressed into the hardwood.

“I am powerful!” one little voice squeaks.

“I am fierce!” shouts the next.

“I am speedy!”

“I am unstoppable!”

It’s so freakin’ cool I don’t know what to do with myself and have to play with my phone just to keep from crying. They are learning something I wish I’d learned at five: how to have a say in things.

“I am somebody!” . . . is my personal favorite.

According to Sifu Kate Hobbs, a fifth-degree black belt and chief instructor of the school, vocalization is an integral part of self-defense. She lists “a voice that comes from deep in the guts” right alongside physical skills, agility, and timing, as factors she hopes will give her students a valuable edge if they are ever attacked.

For her, it’s all about the repetition of techniques and drills.

“I don’t spend any class time talking about what students might do if this or that happens,” she said. “Students are expected to attend regularly, engage fully, practice on their own, and stay for their whole lives.”

Kajukenbo, an American-made martial art, was established in the late 1940s in a violent Honolulu neighborhood by five black belts in five different Eastern disciplines — one of whom also happened to be Hawaii’s welterweight champion. So add a little Western pugilism to the mix.

Through this fist style, stilts the official Kajukenbo motto, one gains long life and happiness. The focus from the start — and Hobbs most definitely carries this torch — was on realism. Street smarts.

“Kajukenbo is beautiful and tough,” Hobbs told me. “It was created so men could kick other men’s asses if they got fronted on.” She described her own two Kajukenbo teachers as tough Irish-American women, and said she has tended — being herself of Irish descent — toward their “practicality and gritty-but-humorous self expression.”

Hobbs, who teaches a “Little Tigers” class for 3-5-year-olds, as well as older kids and adults, quoted Sijo Adriano Emperado, one of the five founders of Kajukenbo, as saying that “a great class was one where blood was shed.”

OK. But also, it’s cute. At least watching kindergartners practice “this fist style” is.

The parents who line the sidelines with me at the St. Columba Church in North Oakland seem sometimes mesmerized, sometimes traumatized, and sometimes proud as punch(es), watching their li’l beloveds stumble and soar through a variety of agility drills, jabs, and kicks.

I can speak for myself. Underlying everything, there is a sense of incredible gratitude, watching the kids I love (and worry about), as if they were my own, learn and practice something fundamentally important: using their five senses, their voice, and their bodies to not only defend themselves, but express what happened afterwards.

Sifu Kate, as they all call Hobbs, has a way with kids, and I feel like I could learn a little Nanny Fu from her, too. Without any perceivable effort, she has their respect and, generally speaking, their attention.

“I think I have a great combination of patience with the wild and unfettered nature of humans, and the timing of the drills and lessons,” she told me.

Watching my charge, Chunk de la Cooter, going through the running drills, forwards, backwards, skipping, grapevining, leaping, twirling — with an athletic grace I hadn’t yet seen in her — of course I couldn’t help imagining her with a soccer ball. And vowed to stay healthy enough to play on her rec league team one day.

When she’s 21, I’ll be 65. But that’s OK. I’m inspired, and she’s in excellent hands.

“Is Kung Fu sports?” I asked her in the car, driving home.

“No,” she said.

Then, after a brief period of reflection, she said: “Yes.”

Then: “We’ll ask Daddy.”

Hobbs, who I also asked, said, “I don’t think martial arts practice is anything like team sports. It is very individual and the competition is personal.

“We partner and we need each other to learn, and we bond,” she said, “but it has a totally different tenor.”

Among the lessons she feels are most important: Commitment, focus, love, self-respect . . . “Connect with the world,” she said. “Be open and curious, not afraid and careful, but large and messy and ugly.”

Oakland Kajukenbo Kwoon

www.oaklandkajukenbokwoon.com

sifukate.hobbs@gmail.com

 

Faith in flow

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culture@sfbg.com

ON THE OM FRONT Every Tuesday evening, hundreds of people flock to the Grace Cathedral Labyrinth to practice yoga with local teacher Darren Main. With Easter around the corner, I talked to Main and the Reverend Jude Harmon, who manages the program, about how this unlikely class came to be, and why it works so well in San Francisco.

San Francisco Bay Guardian Darren, how did you wind up teaching the class at Grace Cathedral?

Darren Main Jamie Lindsay, a yoga teacher who had been attending Grace Cathedral for years, started the class there. When he moved to New York in 2009, he asked me if I would take the class. I had long admired Grace Cathedral for both its architectural wonder as well as how it has been on the cutting edge of social justice and spiritual equality. Right from the start I could feel something magical happening. What started off as a small group of students has now grown to over 300 people each week.

SFBG How does yoga fit in at the church?

Jude Harmon Grace Cathedral was established with the founding vision “to be a house of prayer for all people.” We were at the forefront of civil rights, welcoming Martin Luther King Jr. to preach here, and we paved the way forward for the embrace of LGBT people in the sacramental life of the Church long before it became the norm at a national level. This yoga class is just a natural extension of our commitment to welcome all people, from every walk of life, and to support them in their spiritual growth.

SFBG What’s it like to teach yoga at Grace?

DM It’s an amazing experience. You can’t help but feel something sacred by simply walking through the door. It’s like teaching in the Taj Mahal or the Great Pyramid. People come from all over the world just to see this building, walk its labyrinth, and admire the architecture and artwork. I am moved to tears sometimes when I think of how much this cathedral — and specifically doing yoga in this cathedral — represents the magic of San Francisco.

SFBG Do you have to be a churchgoer to attend?

DM Not at all. Yoga is a science, not a religion and so it requires no belief to be effective as a practice for quieting the mind, opening the heart, and balancing the body. In fact, many atheists find yoga extremely rewarding. Non-Christians attend the class for the community, the practice, and the beauty of the cathedral.

SFBG Can yoga enhance one’s spiritual practice?

DM Yes, because it helps us to more easily access the divine when we have a quiet mind, a balanced body and an open heart. Yoga can also be a way of exploring the same universal questions that religion explores, like “why are we here?” and “who are we?”

SFBG Does the practice of yoga connect in any way to the practice of Christianity?

JH I remember the first time I saw the yoga students ascending Grace Cathedral’s great steps in droves on the dusk of a July evening. They seemed like angelic visitors from some Hyperion realm. But they weren’t carrying Books of Common Prayer in their hands, or hymnals, or even Bibles — they were carrying yoga mats! While most of them wouldn’t dream of setting foot in a church for a traditional Eucharist, I felt my heart bond with them. At the heart of a yogic practice, just as at the heart of our Eucharistic practice, is the possibility of a self-integration that opens out our consciousness toward the world in compassion.

SFBG What is the yoga class like?

DM Given that the class is so diverse in terms of age, physical ability, and level of yoga practice, I focus on the more gentle and meditative side of yoga. The cathedral itself invites a more inward and contemplative experience as well, so it is really a perfect fit. Every week, I invite Bay Area musicians who have a transcendent quality to play at class.

SFBG Why do you think a class like this became so popular in San Francisco?

DM San Francisco has always been known for being open-mined, and that quality makes people open to the unique experience of doing yoga in a church. That said, I would not be at all surprised if we see this idea spreading beyond the Bay Area over the next 10 years or so.

Karen Macklin is a writer and yoga teacher in San Francisco. Read her On the Om Front column every other week on the SFBG Pixel Vision blog.

 

Volume 47 Number 26 Flip-through Edition

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Alternative medicine

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arts@sfbg.com

FILM No country exports mainstream films to the extensive success that the US does. To the frequent chagrin of local filmmakers and cultural watchdogs, Hollywood dominates many nations’ box offices, non-English-speaking ones included. Nor do we reciprocate much — there remains a wide separation between what are perceived as commercial entertainments and “art house” films, with foreign-language (or even just British) ones almost invariably limited to the latter category.

We’ve all rolled our eyes at otherwise sophisticated people moaning that they can’t be bothered with even the most accessible movie in another language because subtitles are too much trouble. As a result, ‘murricans seldom hazard big-screen exposure to anything but the most rarefied, prize-winning, serious, or conceptually novel features from other nations. While we feed them plenty of our mall flicks, their less-than-exceptional homegrown genre movies are considered to have little marketable value here. (Save as fodder for remakes, of course.)

So it’s a tiny bit unusual when one week brings openings of two movies unalike in every aspect save their being solid if unremarkable examples of mainstream hits abroad. French-Canadian comedy Starbuck and German crime thriller The Silence are both an uptick or two above “decent,” but they hardly sport the thematic-stylistic edginess or other qualities that usually win US distribution. They’re just kinda fun.

Maybe “fun” is a tasteless way to describe The Silence, which hinges on pederasty and child murder — though in the end this is more an intelligent pulp thriller than serious address of those issues, uneasily as it straddles both at times. In 1986 two men abduct an 11-year-old girl — one the initially excited, then horrified observer to the second’s murderous sexual assault. Twenty-three years later, another young girl disappears in the same place under disturbingly identical circumstances.

This event gradually pulls together a large cast of characters, many initial strangers — including the original victim’s mother (Katrin Sass) and the just-retired detective (Burghart Klaubner) who failed to solve that crime; parents (Karoline Eichhorn, Roeland Wiesnekker) of the newly disappeared teen, who experience full-on mental meltdown; a solidly bourgeoisie husband and father of two girls (Wotan Wilke Möhring), inordinately distressed by this repeat of history; and the erstwhile friend he hasn’t contacted in decades, an apartment-complex handyman with a secret life (Ulrich Thomsen).

Part procedural, part psychological thriller, part small-town-community portrait, director-scenarist (from Jan Costin Wagner’s novel) Baran bo Odar’s The Silence is just juicy and artful enough to get away with occasional stylistic hyperbole. Let alone having enough subplot intrigue and weirdo characterizations — Sebastian Blomberg’s spazzy grieving-widower police detective is a bit much, in the Anthony Perkins tradition — to float a miniseries. It’s a conflicted movie, albeit handled with such engrossing confidence that you might not notice the credibility gaps. At least until thinking it over later. Which, don’t.

There’s no complicated narrative brain-teasing in Starbuck, which has a great (if not entirely original) comedic concept it chooses to play seriocomedically — i.e., less for the laughs it seldom earns than for the heart-tugging it eventually pretty much does. An ingratiatingly rumpled Patrick Huard (a major Quebec star best known for the mega-hit Les Boys series and 2006’s Good Cop, Bad Cop) plays David, erstwhile stellar contributor to a Montreal sperm bank in his salad days. Now older but no wiser, he finds himself confronted by the reality of 533 biologically fathered, now-grown offspring who’ve filed a class action lawsuit to discover his identity even as he deals with mob debt and an exasperated, pregnant semi-ex-girlfriend (Julie LeBreton).

This is one of those “loser man-boy must semi-grow up fast amid crisis, finding family values en route” scenarios tailor-fit for Adam Sandler. That said, the overlong, stubbornly endearing Starbuck is so much less insufferable than anything Sandler has made since … um, ever? Halfway through, this agreeable movie gets clever — as David stumbles into a meeting of his prodigious anonymous progeny — and remains reasonably so to the satisfyingly hard-won happy ending.

It’s still got moments of contrivance, editorial fat (too many montages, for one thing), and more climactic hugs than any self-respecting dramedy needs to get the redemptive point across. Yet it’s also got something few comedies of any national origin have today: a lovely, distinctive, bright yet non-cartoonish wide screen look.

THE SILENCE opens Fri/29 in Bay Area theaters; STARBUCK opens Fri/29 in San Francisco.

Mind-doggling

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cheryl@sfbg.com

FILM Poor Dolph Springer. His life’s already oozing downhill — he’s been unemployed for months and yet continues to show up at his old job, to the white-hot annoyance of his former co-workers — when his beloved dog, Paul, goes missing. His favorite backyard palm tree is suddenly a pine tree. His alarm clock flips from 7:59 to 7:60 every morning. Pretty much everyone he meets, from a pretty pizza-restaurant cashier to a traffic cop to the “top-level detective” who gets drawn into the search for Paul, behaves precisely the opposite of whatever normal would seem to be. What’s a lonely man living in a permanent state of mindfuck to do?

Wrong is the latest surreal-absurdist-subversive comedy from writer-director-cinematographer-editor Quentin Dupieux, who rightly earned a cult following for 2010’s wickedly funny Rubber (about a tire that goes rogue after summoning Carrie-like powers of destruction). The French filmmaker — also known by his musical pseudonym, Mr. Oizo — attempts a slightly more conventional tale with Wrong; Rubber‘s Jack Plotnick stars as the hapless Dolph. Unfortunately, for all its deadpan weirdness, Wrong contains nothing so genius as that diabolical tire.

However, few movies do, and for every element that telegraphs forced quirk (rain pours down indoors at Dolph’s office, because … why?), there are several that actually do work. As Dolph’s gardener, Victor, French comedian Eric Judor mixes his thick accent with hilariously dry line readings, and the detective character (Eastbound & Down‘s Steve Little) dresses exactly like Indiana Jones for reasons unknown — which is just as nonsensical as the rain thing, but funnier for being more subtle.

The lost-pet narrative that propels the story is nothing original, though Dolph’s quest is perhaps more existential than, say, Diane Keaton’s in last year’s not-dissimilar (but much warm-fuzzier) Darling Companion. Both films put forth the idea that humans and dogs can communicate telepathically — though in Wrong, it’s made out to be hilariously literal. Soon after Paul vanishes, Dolph learns he’s been pooch-napped by one Master Chang (William Fichtner, sporting a rat tail), a Zen-ish self-help guru who steals other peoples’ pets at random to make sure they’re being properly appreciated. Traditionally, he returns the animals once everyone’s attitude has been properly realigned, but there’s been, uh, a complication with Paul, who is now well and truly MIA.

As Dolph rightfully freaks out — amid even more bad news, like when his boss (who already fired him once) tells him he really needs to stop hanging around, or when the pizza clerk turns shrill and decides that Dolph is her destiny — the Master tries to soothe him. See, he happens to be the author of a two-volume series, My Life, My Dog, My Strength, featuring clip-art illustrations (“Diagram 13-D: Mind Link”) that instruct humans on making psychic connections with their canines. Just mind-link with Paul, and he’ll be found!

If that sounds like a lot to take in, it is. I didn’t even get to the subplot about Dolph’s neighbor who goes jogging every morning, but has a mental block against admitting it. (This “joke” is made more than once.) Though Wrong is a mere 90-something minutes, its deliberately slow pace and frustratingly even keel can be off-putting. Clever touches, like the use of ominous sound flourishes at seemingly innocuous moments, enhance the film’s overall bizarro-world milieu. But its overall success likely depends not on Dupieux’s artistic choices, but on the individual viewing it — and whether or not he or she finds its details tedious, twee, or transcendent. Me, I miss the tire. *

 

WRONG opens Fri/29 at the Roxie.

Fallacis and fallacies

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arts@sfbg.com

THEATER Speaking of oneself in the third person is a thing few figures outside of fiction can really pull off. Tarzan and Yoda, fine. Oriana Fallaci — well, in journalist-playwright Lawrence Wright’s new two-hander, Fallaci, you could be forgiven for thinking the title character is not that real either.

But she was. And in a way the cartoonish aspects of this clunky bio-play do some unintentional justice to the sillier and more reckless and reprehensible qualities of the influential Italian journalist and war correspondent known for her confrontational interviews with powerful men like Henry Kissinger and the Ayatollah Khomeini, as well as for her post-9/11 book-length screeds against Islam.

Berkeley Rep’s production, directed by Oskar Eustis of New York’s Public Theater, opens on a sixtysomething Oriana Fallaci (Broadway veteran Concetta Tomei donning Italianate gestures) at home in her book-cluttered New York brownstone as a young New York Times reporter comes calling. Maryam (a somewhat anemic Marjan Neshat), a fictional creation of the playwright’s, is an Iranian American journalist tasked with preparing the obituary on the famous Italian now battling cancer (such an assignment being a standard practice at the paper for subjects of hefty historical stature). We soon learn that Maryam, who has idolized the older woman since the latter famously threw off her chador during her interview with Iran’s Khomeini, “fought like a tiger” for the assignment.

She gets past Fallaci’s initial brush-off a bit too easily to be believed, but secures a 25-minute interview with her cagey and self-aggrandizing heroine. Early on, Fallaci lets drop several casual racist dismissals of Iranians, Mexicans, and others as she recounts the highlights from her storied career and slowly opens up (or seems to) about her personal life, especially her father and the child she lost. Maryam, who seems to have all of Fallaci’s published writings memorized, is quick to recognize inconsistencies, however, and to call her out on them. “This is a lesson for you, huh?” prods Fallaci. “Find the lie.”

Fallaci’s master class in the art of the interview is baldly spelled out a little further on: the interviewer is out to violently expose her subjects, insists Fallaci, to lay them bare, but ultimately as an “act of love.” This, indeed, is the dynamic set up, in both directions, between Fallaci and her protégé-antagonist who defends a moderate version of Islam against the older woman’s insistence that “moderate Islam does not exist,” and so on. Several years pass and Maryam returns to confront Fallaci again. By now Maryam is a best-selling author herself (she seems to have written a book reminiscent of Azar Nafisi’s Reading Lolita in Tehran). She has also become a more devout Muslim and, moreover, has returned from an Iranian prison where nothing less than the intervention of Fallaci seems to have saved her from execution. However, now it’s Fallaci’s turn to dig into Maryam’s father complex —producing in no time a revelation as crassly dramatic as it is impossible to take seriously in so heavy-handed a form.

As if the mishmash of citation, exposition, and motivation that makes up the dialogue were not wearying enough, each time the dramatic tables turn in this play they creak so loudly you want to hide under your seat. Equally strained and unconvincing are the roughly managed philosophic debate about the relation between truth and drama and the half-hearted infusion of operatic overtones — naturally, and far too predictably, Fallaci’s story lends itself to the comparison, and it asserts itself like an afterthought in a dry-ice moment at the end.

But more disconcerting than the clichéd premise and the poor staging (which includes uneven, often leaden performances) is the way the relationship at the center of the play has a way of sweeping fundamental issues, and serious charges, under the carpet in the name of a shared admiration and soul-bearing. Those interested in a more serious investigation of such subject matter would be better off at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, where the current gallery exhibition, “Without Reality There Is No Utopia” (through June 9; www.ybca.org), provides a lively critical engagement with the vast false narratives of the age, including the role of media and journalism in the ideologically laden construction of historical truth.

FALLACI

Through April 21

Tue, Thu-Sat, 8pm (also Sat, 2pm); Wed and Sun, 7pm (also Sun, 2pm), $29-89

Berkeley Repertory Theatre

2015 Addison, Berk.

www.berkeleyrep.org

Hospitable pectorals

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caitlin@sfbg.com

SEX The clan I had assembled that day in my living room had little idea what was in store for them.

“So they’re strippers?” one of my friends hoped, fingering their tumbler of champagne.

“Not strippers, they’re sexy butlers. Same tipping rules,” I said. “They’ll serve drinks and do icebreakers.” “Oh.”

The parties in our living room are rarely in need of icebreakers, but the offer from the Bare Bachelors (www.barebachelor.com) to do a test run at a hastily-organized cocktail hour in honor of my roommate’s birthday — for journalism, mind you — was not one, I felt, a thinking person would pass up.

************

“I was looking for this kind of business and it didn’t exist in San Francisco.” I’ve installed Bare Bachelors founder Maureen Downey at my kitchen table so we can talk as two of her “actors, models, bartenders, or whatever,” attired in jockey briefs, aprons, and bow ties prepare Cazadores-and-grapefruit-sodas for the suddenly-awkward guests in the living room.

Downey, who tells me her previous career was in medical device clinical research, envisioned a party service less “dated” than strippers, but still sexy. It’s a combination that makes sense for the straight 30-something lady clientele Bare Bachelors has been attracting, mainly through word of mouth, since 2010. Downey’s Bachelors are self-aware, scantily clad caterers. She hopes to expand the clientele base.

For individuals well used to groin-thrusting go-go’s under strobe lights — or Dolores Park on a sunny day, as one of my guests pointed out — the Bare Bachelors’ impressive pectorals will not have quite the same novelty. But they charmed the goddamn pants off of the birthday boy, were handsome, and managed to get surprisingly candid during the game of Never Have I Ever they happily catalyzed.

************

So candid, I thought I’d open up the party to a little Q&A for my guests. Which was a mistake.

“So if someone, like, gave you a little more money will you, you know, go further?,” inquired another roommate emboldened by her tequila-and-grapefruit.

“No, absolutely not.” The Bare Bachelors tittered nervously, pecs unsure about the appropriate course of action under this kind of scrutiny.

“Do you consider yourself sex workers?,” her line of questioning pressed on, unrelenting in its desire to contextualize the Bachelors.

“No, definitely not.” The room pondered its next probe, but was unable to go further down the rabbit hole before one of my more socially-sensitive friends effectively closed interrogations.

Post-Bachelors, we reconvened for a processing session. Results were mainly favorable: “not creepy,” “tried to mesh with the group,” “the biggest problem was that there were no tits,” “visibly shy,” “pretty tasty drinks,” and perhaps most succinctly: “really sexy, and they had ass hair!”

THIS WEEK’S SEXY EVENTS

Spring Breakers Various Bay Area theaters. ATL twins, Gucci Mane, Vanessa Hudgens, blatant perversion of typical crime movie gender roles — Harmony Korine’s latest cult classic is the sexiest film of 2013 and you should see it before you get secondhand sick of the catchphrases.

Goodbye Gauley Mountain Sat/30, dinner 6:30pm, screening 7pm, $10-100. Center for Sex and Culture, 1349 Mission, SF. www.sexandculture.org. Feminist porn pioneer Annie Sprinkle and partner Beth Stephens premiere the couple’s documentary on their ecosexual relationship with the Appalachian mountains and the crusade to stop destructive mining practices. Come early for the pre-screening vegan Appalachian dinner.

FEAST: 5 stoner cookbooks

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culture@sfbg.com

FEAST If that joint’s got you jonesin’ for some serious grub, look no further. We’ve rolled up the latest and greatest in stoner cookbooks, perfect for any discerning bud lover’s taste test. No, we didn’t include any weed-infused recipes in this list, but hey, feel free to augment the recipes in the brownie cookbook. Whether you’re a marathon midnight toker or a one hitter-and-quitter, we understand your need for accessibility, availability, and general ease in eating after that smoke sesh. But move beyond Pop Tarts — even the most gourmand of pot heads could use some guidelines for grilling up goodies every once in awhile.

THE MAC AND CHEESE COOKBOOK BY ALLISON AREVALO AND ERIN WADE

Get your mac on. Allison Areval and Erin Wade, co-owners and authors of The Mac and Cheese Cookbook dish out 117 pages dedicated to one of America’s most beloved dishes, based on the crowd pleasing specialties dished up in their Oakland restaurant Homeroom. The book is an homage to Homeroom’s endless variations on the classic orange variety. That’s good news if your cravings leave you hankering for a variety of tastes. Basic bechamel sauces figure on the pages alongside smoky bacon, blue cheese, sriracha, and jalapeno poppers. There’s even a section on desserts suitable for your post-mac munch.

Ten Speed Press, $16.99

FIFTY SHADES OF BACON BY JENNA JOHNSON AND BEN MYHRE

This self-proclaimed “erotic” cookbook sinks its teeth into all things bacon. Bacon au gratin, bacon-wrapped asparagus, bacon Alfredo (just to name a few) — this pork-inspired parody cookbook has all the seductive appeal of its sexy, silly source material. But instead of a half baked S&M narrative, Johnson and Myhre’s book gets you off with five different carnivorous sections of easy-to-follow recipes. A seductive succession of events unfolds with chapters entitled “Foreplay,” “Multiple Orgasms,” “Morning Wood,” and “Bondage”, where bacon bits, bacon jam, bacon martinis, and bacon peanut stoke your stoner flames. And even if pig parts don’t get you off, they’ll almost certainly taste better when you’re high.

CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, $19.95

TRY THIS AT HOME: RECIPES FROM MY HEAD TO YOUR PLATE BY RICHARD BLAIS

We’ve all done it. Remember that time when you were so high, you thought putting chocolate sauce on canned jalapeños was the most genius concept ever? Until, of course, you made that dream reality and were left with a wounded mouth and sobering regret. It turns out, however, that unlikely pairings aren’t always painful. Top Chef: All Stars winner Richard Blais proves it to us in this cookbook. From root-beer basted lamb-shanks to coffee butter pancakes, the chef’s recipes do flavor exploration the right way — 125 right ways, to be precise. Go forth and concoct creatively.

Clarkson Potter Publishers, $30

MAD HUNGRY CRAVINGS BY LUCINDA SCALA QUINN

Lucinda Scala Quinn takes on take-out. Her mission in Mad Hungry Cravings is to reconcile the almost unbeatable deliciousness of fast food with the nourishment and nutrition that a home kitchen can produce, without a lot of work. Can good for you also be good for munchies? Damn straight. While raising three boys in NYC, where street food beats about anything found in the fridge (particularly if you’re a ravenous adolescent), Quinn had to create home-cooked meals capable of competition with street dogs and shawarmas.

Artisan, $27.95

BRILLIANT BROWNIES AND BARS: 25 FAVORITE BROWNIE AND BAR RECIPES BY COOKING PENGUIN

Stoners, perhaps more than most, know that not all brownies are created equal. If you have ever tried to make a batch of brownies with your favorite herb, you know it requires a careful balance of elements and timing. This book’s sugary-sweet offerings are winners, and recipes are composed with chocolate and without for more innovative pastry pleasure. The pages start with the standards and segue into non-traditional options, like cocoa-avocado, pumpkin pie, and nonpareil brownies. If you’d rather stick to the classics, try whipping up chocolate walnut brownies or Cooking Penguin’s ace pecan blondies.

168 Publishing, $12.95

FEAST: Fave leaves

0

What to do when printing the news and raising hell leaves you with an appetite for healthy greens? Let the Guardian staff guide your salad steps.

SLANTED DOOR’S GRAPEFRUIT AND JICAMA SALAD

Can a salad be declared a cult classic? Mention the Slanted Door to a veggie-loving type and inevitably, the grapefruit and jicama Salad is the first thing off his or her lips. It’s so popular it’s on the lunch menu, the dinner menu, and is offered for takeaway or casual noshing at Out the Door, next to the Ferry Building restaurant. Since when do people go to a fancy, critically-beloved restaurant serving all manner of Vietnamese cuisine and walk out raving about a humble salad? And maybe go back the next day ’round noon for the to-go version? Since Chef Charles Phan created this mélange of grapefruit, jicama, red cabbage, pickled carrots, and candied pecans, apparently. (Cheryl Eddy)

1 Ferry Building, No. 3, SF. www.slanteddoor.com

HARD KNOX CAFÉ’S BLACKENED SHRIMP SALAD

Peruse the soul food offerings at San Francisco’s mouthwatering Hard Knox Cafe and you will likely be tempted to go all-in. Three-piece fried chicken? BBQ pork spareribs? Mac ‘n’ cheese? You could go there. Or, you could exit this delightful Southern homestyle-cooking establishment without plunging into a food coma directly afterward. Go with the blackened shrimp salad and you won’t be disappointed. The shrimp is cooked to tender perfection and coated in delicious Cajun seasoning with just enough bite. Paired with mixed greens, iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, mushrooms, red onions, and slivers of pepperoncini, we recommend trying it with the vinaigrette dressing. The waitress told us the salad has changed up a bit from the way they used to make it, so you may have to adjust if it’s already an old favorite. (Rebecca Bowe)

2526 Third Street, SF. 448 Clement Street, SF. www.hardknoxcafe.com

CHA CHA CHA’S WARM SPINACH SALAD

This isn’t the salad to order when you’re looking to cut back on calories, but goddamn it is good. Pretty much all of Cha Cha Cha’s New World cuisine gets five stars in my book, but just the thought of its warm spinach salad is enough to make me drool. The dish consists of thick bacon chunks, bits of mushroom, and green onion tossed in a warm Dijon mustard-sherry wine cream dressing. The dressing is cool enough to keep the leaves from wilting and warm enough to encourage you to dig in while it’s hot. (Cortney Clift)

1801 Haight, SF. 2327 Mission, SF. www.cha3.com

THE PLANT’S DINO KALE SALAD

Dino kale is all the rage. And why shouldn’t it be? It’s a hearty, richly-vitamin-packed dark leafy green. Plus, it has the word “dino” in it, which gives it a super cool edge. Likewise, the Plant Cafe, with locations at the Embarcadero, Financial District, and Marina, is known for a more decadent, and thus more exciting, take on the healthier side of lunch. Put those together, and you get the delicious, vegan, and gluten-free dino kale salad, with the aforementioned leafy green, avocado, red quinoa, almonds, cucumbers, tomato, and a fresh and tangy lemon cumin vinaigrette — that cumin packs the wallop. It’s the dish a Yelper recently described as the “best salad on earth.” I’m not about to disagree. (Emily Savage)

Various SF locations. www.theplantcafe.com

 

FEAST: Adventures in crabbing

1

brooke@bayguardian.com

FEAST I’ll admit, the prospect of DIY crabbing during our Bodega Bay camping trip was enough to give me pause. But the thought of a pot full of freshly caught crabs cooking over a campfire was enough to kick off a quest to add “amateur crabber” to my resume.

Taking a cue from our stomachs, my camping crew did some research. We needed advice and supplies, and a single trip to the Outer Richmond yielded both.

The owners of Gus’ Discount Fishing Tackle were happy to help some flailing first-time crabber, and outfitted my group with a circular crabbing net, rope, bait bag, and crab measuring gauge. Since we were venturing outside the city for our quarry, we opted to buy bait closer to our crabbing site (the better to avoid a fish-scented car.) Upon our arrival in Bodega Bay, we headed to Diekmann’s Bay Store for frozen mackerel and squid (for the crabs) and deli sandwiches (for the humans.)

Well armed, we made our way to the rock jetty that stretches past the harbor in Bodega Bay’s Doran Park. We picked out a sunny, unoccupied stretch of rock, chopped up some mackerel — the bloodier the better, we were advised, since crabs hunt with their noses — zip-tied our bait bag to the bottom of the net, and tossed it into the bay. Then we got busy chatting, snacking, and getting tips from other crabbers. (One entrepreneurial crab hunter suggested using a barely-open can of cat food as bait, but we stuck with the mackerel and squid to preserve the natural order of things.)

Every 20 minutes or so, we pulled our net in to see if it had snagged any crustacean treasures. We didn’t have much luck snagging specimens that met California Department of Fish and Wildlife size requirements — 5.75 inches for Dungeness (in season until June 30th), four inches for rock and red crabs (in season yearround.) We successfully netted one beefy Dungeness and one rock crab.

One of our neighbors (not the cat food guy) was a little more lucky, and managed to pull in what seemed like buckets of crabs. We begged for tips, but he was using the same trap and same bait that we were. We decided that staking out a good spot on the jetty was everything when it came to crabbing, and noted that many of our more-experienced peers took a more mobile approach to the hunt.

And then: seals. When the other crabbers saw them, they began to pack up and leave. We thought they were cute.

Pro crabbing tip: seals are not cute. If they arrive while your net is submerged, they are most likely after your bait and you are done crabbing for the day. If you stick around, you’d better be OK with your bait cage being dismantled by their nimble maws or losing your bait bag entirely. Or both.

When one of the seals was beelined for our net, we moved to the opposite side of the jetty, but to no avail. Five minutes later, it resurfaced, bait bag in mouth. To the excitement of a pack of squawking seagulls, the seal ripped it open and devoured its contents — the last of our bait.

Bait bag decimated, dreams of crab feast crushed, we headed home with the two crabbies we’d managed to catch.

They were delicious.

 

GUS’ DISCOUNT FISHING TACKLE

3710 Balboa, SF

(415) 752-6197

www.gusdiscounttackle.com

 

DIEKMANN’S BAY STORE

1275 Highway 1, Bodega Bay

(707) 875-3517

www.diekmannsbaystore.com

 

DORAN PARK

201 Doran Beach Road, Bodega Bay

Day use: open 7am to sunset; $7 per vehicle

Campsite: check-in 2pm, check-out 12pm; $26–$32 per campsite

(707) 875-3540

 

Do we care?

77

steve@sfbg.com

Teresa Molina faced abusive, belittling treatment on the job.

The 52-year-old immigrant from Sinaloa, Mexico, says she was paid $500 a month to provide 24-hour, live-in care to a girl in a wheelchair and her family. She wasn’t allowed regular breaks. She couldn’t eat what she wanted. Even her sleep was disrupted.

“I spoke up a couple times, but when I did, my employer told me I was dumb and good for nothing,” Molina, speaking Spanish through a translator, told us. “She would ask my immigration status, and I said that was not important, but she used that as a threat.”

Molina is a domestic worker — one of the only two professions (the other being farm work) exempt from federal labor standards.

Her experience, a common one among immigrant women in California, prompted Molina to get involved in last year’s California Domestic Worker Bill of Rights campaign, part of national effort that resulted in the first-ever protections being signed into law in New York in 2010.

Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed the California version of the bill late on the night of Sept. 30, 2012, the deadline for signing legislation, citing the paternalistic concern that better pay and working conditions might translate into fewer jobs or fewer hours for domestic workers.

“I was offended by how he did it, in the middle of the night on the last day, and he basically trivialized it,” Assembly member Tom Ammiano (D-SF), who sponsored the measure, told us. “Here in California, it’s a major workforce, but there’s no rules and there’s a documented history of abuses.”

But if anything, Brown’s veto has energized local activists, who say the battle for domestic worker rights is part of a much larger issue that women, children, immigrants, and their supporters are struggling against as they try to get society to value one of the most basic of social and economic functions: caring and caregiving.

Those in the caregiving professions are used to such defeats, but this one seems to be galvanizing and uniting several parallel movements — most of which have a strong presence here in the Bay Area — that want to apply human values and needs to an economic system that has never counted them.

It is, economists and policy experts say, a profoundly different way to measure economic output — and if the domestic workers and their allies succeed, it could have long-term implications for national, state, and local policy.

 

CARING DOESN’T COUNT

There are endless examples of how society undervalues caring and caregiving and other labor that has long been deemed “women’s work.” They range from nurses fighting for fair contracts to in-home support service workers fighting for their jobs. Many are jobs that have traditionally been done in the home — and in some cases, not counted at all as part of the Gross Domestic Product.

Social work, teaching, administrative support, caring for children or seniors, community organizing, and other jobs held predominantly by women and people of color are consistently among the lowest paid professions.

But the demand for those jobs is increasing — and the price of under-investing in education, caregiving, and child development is decreased productivity and increased crime and other costs for decades to come — so activists say they are critical to the nation’s future.

“It’s a different perspective. Caregiving isn’t transactional the way we think about other jobs,” said Alicia Garza, executive director of People Organized to Win Employment Rights (POWER), which has joined with other organizations nationwide for a Caring Across Generations campaign. “We’re a nation that has a growing aging population with no plan for how we’re going to take care of these people.”

In California today, caregivers find themselves under attack. Despite playing an important role in electing Brown as governor and in keeping Kaiser Hospital in Oakland and CPMC’s St. Luke’s Hospital in San Francisco open to the low-income residents they serve, the California Nurses Association is still stuck in a years-long contract impasse with those huge hospital corporations.

“We don’t think of ourselves first, we think of others first,” says Zenei Cortez, a CNA co-president who has been a registered nurse for 33 years, noting that patient care and advocacy standards have been key sticking points in their negotiations.

During each year with a budget shortfall, in-home support services for the sick, elderly, and disabled have been placed on the budgetary chopping block in California and many of its counties — including San Francisco, which has about 21,000 such workers — saved only by political organizing efforts and a longstanding lawsuit against the state (which was just settled on March 20 and will result in an 8 percent across-the-board cut in services).

“This program has been under assault for a full decade,” says Paul Kumar, a public policy and political consultant for the National Union of Healthcare Workers, calling that attack short-sighted, in both fiscal and human terms. “People get better care in a home setting.”

 

UNDERVALUED, ACROSS THE BOARD

If people generally act in their financial self interest, as economic theory holds, Oakland resident Lil Milagro Martinez would oppose the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights and its requirement that she pay her nanny at least minimum wage and allow for breaks and sick days.

After all, Milagro and her family are barely scraping by, with her husband working four jobs as she balances care for their infant son with coursework as a theology graduate student. Instead, Milagro said, she offers their nanny a living wage, benefits, and good working conditions.

“I wanted to feel that we were affirming her rights, so she would pass on that level of respect to my son,” Milagro told us. “If I can do this, and there are companies out there saying they can’t afford to do the right thing, that angers me.”

She was also angry when Brown vetoed the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights. She’s been working with a domestic worker employer group called Hand in Hand, a part of the larger National Domestic Worker Coalition.

“Our goal is to bring people together to create the kinds of worker relationships they want with people in their homes,” Danielle Feris, the national director of Hand in Hand, told us. “There will just be more and more people that need care in the home, so this touches all families.”

Milagro and other domestic worker employers say their stand is about much more than enlightened self-interest. They say this is an important step toward recognizing the important contributions that women and minority groups make to society and creating an economy focused on addressing human needs.

“Care, we can say, is undervalued across the board,” Feris said.

In addition to reintroducing the bill in Sacramento this year, the coalition is pushing similar legislation in Massachusetts and Illinois.

“I think the domestic workers have done a fantastic job at organizing across the country,” Ammiano said. “Making a movement of something isn’t easy, but once it gets traction then it’s tough to ignore.”

Like Milagro and Ammiano, Molina said she was bitterly disappointed by Brown’s veto, although all say it only strengthened their resolve to win the fight this year. “I felt very sad, depressed, and betrayed,” Molina said. “But we will win this…And I think the movement for women, workers, and immigrants will only grow from us winning.”

Domestic Workers Coalition campaign coordinator Katie Joaquin noted that the campaign is about triggering a cultural shift as much as it’s about winning legal protections, as important as they may be. “Once this bill passes and we have basic protections doesn’t mean the abuses will stop,” she said, noting that this is really about valuing care work.

“It’s bringing people together around the care we need,” Joaquin said. “These are conversations that are breaking new ground. The bill is really something that gets the ball rolling.”

Once some household work gets recognized, it’s not a big step toward a conversation about valuing all kinds of caring work and including that in our measures of economic progress.

“We definitely support the idea of valuing all care work, both paid and unpaid,” Feris said. “We all have something to gain by valuing each other.”

 

THE REAL WEALTH OF NATIONS

Author and researcher Riane Eisler has been a leading thinker and advocate for creating a more caring economy for decades, work that resulted in her seminal 1988 book The Chalice and the Blade, which sold half a million copies and was lauded as a groundbreaking analysis of the gender roles in ancient and modern history. She followed that with The Real Wealth of Nations in 2007, and the creation of the Center for Partnership Studies (CPS) and the Caring Economy Campaign.

Eisler takes issue with what most people call “the economy,” a wasteful and incomplete system that doesn’t actually economize in connecting what we have to what we need. She persuasively argues that it makes sense in both human and fiscal terms to value caring and caregiving, for one another and the natural world, providing myriad examples of countries, cultures, and companies that have benefited from that approach.

“In a way, the concepts are very simple. What could be more simple than saying the real wealth of nations isn’t financial? It consists of the contributions of people and nature,” Eisler told us by phone from her home in Monterey.

On March 20, Eisler gave a Congressional Briefing (attended by members and staffers in the Rayburn House Office Building) entitled “The Economic Return From Investing in Care Work & Early Childhood Education,” presenting a report on the issue that CPS and the Urban Institute released in December: “National Indicators and Social Wealth.”

“I think this is extremely timely,” Eisler told us, noting that the Republican Party’s currently aggressive fiscal conservatism must be countered with evidence that meeting people’s real needs is better economic policy than simply catering to Wall Street’s interests.

Her address to Congress followed ones that Eisler has given to the United Nations General Assembly and other important civic organizations around the world, and it was followed the next day by an address she gave to the State Department entitled: “What’s Good for Women is Good for World: Foundations of a Caring Economy.”

While Eisler said “there are people who are very excited about it,” she admits that her ideas have made little progress with the public even as the global economy increasingly displays many of the shortcomings she’s long warned against. “This is still very much on the margins.”

But that could be changing, particularly given the political organizing work that has been done in recent years around the rights of domestic workers and immigrants and on behalf of the interests of children and the poor, some of it drawing on the work of liberal economists such as Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz.

“The Gross Domestic Product is a very poor measure of economic health,” she told us, noting that it perversely counts excessive healthcare spending, rapid resource depletion, and the cleanups of major oil spills as positive economic activity.

Erwin de Leon, a Washington DC policy researcher, opens “National Indicators and Social Wealth” with a quote from a speech that Robert F. Kennedy gave in 1968 criticizing GDP as a bad measure of progress: “It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor devotion to our country, it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.”

De Leon then writes: “An urgent need met by measuring a nation’s social wealth is identifying the attributes of a society that make it possible to create and support the development of the full capacities of every individual through the human life span. Social wealth indicators identify these drivers, with special focus on the economic value of caring for and educating children and the contributions of women and communities of color.”

The carefully documented report makes an economic argument that investment in caregiving and early childhood development more than pays for itself over the long run in terms of increased productivity and decreased costs from crime and other social ills, creating a happier and more egalitarian society in the process.

“Nobody talks about the work that immigrant women do and how it contributes to productivity. They free us up to do other things, but we don’t count it,” De Leon told us in a phone interview. “We put lots of value on numbers and the views of economists. The problem with the numbers is it’s an economic number that just values production.”

Eisler’s approach is neither liberal nor conservative, and she takes equal issue with capitalism and socialism as they’ve been practiced, labeling them both “domination-based” systems (as opposed to the “partnership-based” systems she advocates) that devalue caregiving and real human needs.

In fact, she seems to be even harder on progressives than those on the other end of the ideological spectrum, given the Left’s stated concern for women and communities of color. It was a point that Ammiano echoed: “There’s a lot of liberal guilt, but the follow-through has yet to happen.”

“What this entails is re-examining everything,” Eisler told us. “It starts with examining the underlying beliefs and values.”

 

INSTITUTIONAL SEXISM

Even in supposedly enlightened San Francisco, things are getting worse. On March 26, following a battle with SEIU Local 1021 that began last fall, the city’s Department of Human Resources submitted to a labor mediator its proposal to lower the salaries for new hires in 43 job categories, including vocational nurses, social workers, and secretaries.

The rationale: Those workers were paid more than market rates based on a survey of other counties. But it’s also true that those positions are disproportionately held by women and minorities. In the 1980s, San Francisco made a policy decision to raise the pay of what were traditionally female-dominated professions, part of a nationwide campaign to erase decades of pay inequity.

“The city is rolling back decades of historic work on pay equity in this city,” SEIU Political Director Chris Daly told us. “We were concerned about equal treatment of workers who were disproportionately women and people of color.”

DHS spokesperson Susan Gard told us, “The city is committed to that principal, equal pay for equal work, and we don’t think our proposal erodes that.” But she couldn’t explain why that was true. In reality, the move will lower the salaries for women that come to work for the city.

Those involved in the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights campaign mince no words when it comes to seeing the long history of sexism in political and economic institutions as one of the main obstacles they face.

“In so many ways, domestic work is women’s work, and women’s work has always been undervalued and underpaid,” Milagro said.

She even saw it growing up as child when she accompanied her father when he did housekeeping work, when he was treated “as nonentity, not human,” abuse and mistreatment that was exacerbated by the twin facts that he was an immigrant doing women’s work.

“Sexism has undervalued care work,” Feris said.

Ammiano likened the current struggle to the gay rights movement, and he said that when he started as a teacher back in the 1970s and wanted to teach in the early primary grades, he was told that was for women.

“It’s the feminization of labor,” Ammiano said. “When you have institutional sexism, you have to peel it back layer by layer.”

Eisler is equally direct: “We’ve all been taught to marginalize anything connected to the feminine,” she said.

She noted the vastly disproportionate global poverty rates of women compared to men and said “it’s because most are full or part-time caregivers,” work that isn’t often compensated.

Eisler said the current economic system “marginalizes and dehumanizes half the population,” asking how that could ever be considered ethical or equitable. She dismisses arguments that we can’t afford to value caregiving or work done in the home, noting that “there’s always money for the masculine values” of war and economic expansion.

Ammiano said the cultural blinders that prevent people from seeing how society discriminates against women and the work they do makes the problem more insidious and tougher to solve.

“If they’re doing it deliberately, it’s almost better because you can sink you teeth into it, but if it’s not deliberate then it’s tougher to corral,” he said.

Yet there could be subtle but important changes underway in how people value the roles of men and women in society.

There are indications that substantial majorities of people increasingly see men and masculine values as a big part of the problems the people of the world are facing. Author John Gerzema, whose forthcoming book is entitled Athena Doctrine: How Women (And the Men Who Think Like Them) Will Rule the Future, revealed some of the extensive polling research behind his book in a recent TED Talk.

Much of it points to what he called a “global referendum on men,” with strong majorities in countries around the world — with Canada the only exception — agreeing with the statements “I’m dissatisfied with the conduct of men in my country” and “The world could be better if men thought more like women.”

He and his research partners also had the tens of thousands of people they surveyed rate a list of traits as either masculine or feminine, and then later he had respondents state the traits they most wanted to see in their political leaders, finding that people around the world have begun to strongly prefer feminine traits to male ones in their leaders.

His conclusion: “Femininity is the operating system of 21st Century progress.”

 

THE SILVER TSUNAMI

The “silver tsunami” — Baby Boomers reaching old age and about to need more care — is about to break.

POWER, Senior Action Network, and many other San Francisco-based organizations in the Caring Across Generations campaign are part of a national push to increase access to and investment in caregiving, from early childhood development through care for those with disabilities to elder care.

“The caregiver industry is something we should invest in,” said POWER’s Garza. “We believe in a society that values care and we want to value that work.”

Yet with short-term, bottom-line thinking guiding the decisions, that requires a bold paradigm shift. Instead, the popular state In-Home Support Services program — which provides some compensation for caregivers of those with disabilities — is now facing an 8 percent cut as part of the recent settlement to lawsuits filed to prevent the 20 percent cut that then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger had proposed.

The SF-based lawyer who filed the lawsuit, Stacey Leyton, told us this was the best settlement possible given the current political climate and the risk of deeper cuts if the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in the state’s favor. But she thinks any IHHS cuts are short-sighted: “Any cuts to home care may balance the budget ledger now, but they can cause more costs later in the form of nursing home care and emergency room visits.”

James Chionsini, a community organizer with the Senior and Disability Action (SDA, formerly Senior Action Network), tells us that in addition to the sheer size of the “silver tsunami” coming through — which will require a huge influx of caregivers — efforts by the federal and state governments to contain medical costs could hurt the “upper-poor,” who are required to somehow pay a share of their MediCal health care costs.

That’s one reason why SDA, POWER, and other groups are supporting several campaigns aimed at creating a more caring society, from the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights to Caring Across Generations to basic, bread-and-butter political organizing efforts.

“Organizing is so important,” Garza said, while Chionsini said, “It’s about raising the profile of people who are providing care.”

Milagro said that if the immigrant women who do domestic work score a major victory, that could empower other marginalized groups. “It’s about a change in consciousness,” she said. “This can show a path for other movements to build, strengthen, and work together.”

Garza agrees that important, foundational changes are already underway, even though they will require lots of hard organizing work to bring them to fruition.

“There is a groundswell. This is happening,” she said, noting that it revolves around asking important questions. “How do you look at an economy not rooted in patriarchy? What would it look like if we had to compensate mothers?”

Next week: Part II, Do we care about the natural world?

The fist style

2

le.chicken.farmer@yahoo.com

At the beginning of class, the children of the Oakland Kajukenbo Kwoon circle up and take a knee, with their heads bowed and their little fists pressed into the hardwood.

“I am powerful!” one little voice squeaks.

“I am fierce!” shouts the next.

“I am speedy!”

“I am unstoppable!”

It’s so freakin’ cool I don’t know what to do with myself and have to play with my phone just to keep from crying. They are learning something I wish I’d learned at five: how to have a say in things.

“I am somebody!” . . . is my personal favorite.

According to Sifu Kate Hobbs, a fifth-degree black belt and chief instructor of the school, vocalization is an integral part of self-defense. She lists “a voice that comes from deep in the guts” right alongside physical skills, agility, and timing, as factors she hopes will give her students a valuable edge if they are ever attacked.

For her, it’s all about the repetition of techniques and drills.

“I don’t spend any class time talking about what students might do if this or that happens,” she said. “Students are expected to attend regularly, engage fully, practice on their own, and stay for their whole lives.”

Kajukenbo, an American-made martial art, was established in the late 1940s in a violent Honolulu neighborhood by five black belts in five different Eastern disciplines — one of whom also happened to be Hawaii’s welterweight champion. So add a little Western pugilism to the mix.

Through this fist style, stilts the official Kajukenbo motto, one gains long life and happiness. The focus from the start — and Hobbs most definitely carries this torch — was on realism. Street smarts.

“Kajukenbo is beautiful and tough,” Hobbs told me. “It was created so men could kick other men’s asses if they got fronted on.” She described her own two Kajukenbo teachers as tough Irish-American women, and said she has tended — being herself of Irish descent — toward their “practicality and gritty-but-humorous self expression.”

Hobbs, who teaches a “Little Tigers” class for 3-5-year-olds, as well as older kids and adults, quoted Sijo Adriano Emperado, one of the five founders of Kajukenbo, as saying that “a great class was one where blood was shed.”

OK. But also, it’s cute. At least watching kindergartners practice “this fist style” is.

The parents who line the sidelines with me at the St. Columba Church in North Oakland seem sometimes mesmerized, sometimes traumatized, and sometimes proud as punch(es), watching their li’l beloveds stumble and soar through a variety of agility drills, jabs, and kicks.

I can speak for myself. Underlying everything, there is a sense of incredible gratitude, watching the kids I love (and worry about), as if they were my own, learn and practice something fundamentally important: using their five senses, their voice, and their bodies to not only defend themselves, but express what happened afterwards.

Sifu Kate, as they all call Hobbs, has a way with kids, and I feel like I could learn a little Nanny Fu from her, too. Without any perceivable effort, she has their respect and, generally speaking, their attention.

“I think I have a great combination of patience with the wild and unfettered nature of humans, and the timing of the drills and lessons,” she told me.

Watching my charge, Chunk de la Cooter, going through the running drills, forwards, backwards, skipping, grapevining, leaping, twirling — with an athletic grace I hadn’t yet seen in her — of course I couldn’t help imagining her with a soccer ball. And vowed to stay healthy enough to play on her rec league team one day.

When she’s 21, I’ll be 65. But that’s OK. I’m inspired, and she’s in excellent hands.

“Is Kung Fu sports?” I asked her in the car, driving home.

“No,” she said.

Then, after a brief period of reflection, she said: “Yes.”

Then: “We’ll ask Daddy.”

Hobbs, who I also asked, said, “I don’t think martial arts practice is anything like team sports. It is very individual and the competition is personal.

“We partner and we need each other to learn, and we bond,” she said, “but it has a totally different tenor.”

Among the lessons she feels are most important: Commitment, focus, love, self-respect . . . “Connect with the world,” she said. “Be open and curious, not afraid and careful, but large and messy and ugly.”

Oakland Kajukenbo Kwoon

www.oaklandkajukenbokwoon.com

sifukate.hobbs@gmail.com

 

Caring: The Shanti project

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In 1974, Charles Garfield was working in the acute care facility of the newly founded UCSF Cancer Center. A psychologist, Garfield had a patient named Jim Dees who had been diagnosed with Guillain Barré Syndrome. Dees’ body was rapidly deteriorating, and his prognosis was uncertain.

Garfield met with Dees for an evaluation. He quickly realized that Dees had no pathologies, no phobias — nothing for a mental-health professional to treat. He was simply “an extraordinarily aware man facing an ugly death,” Garfield later wrote.

Instead of leaving his care to physicians and nurses, Garfield ontinued to meet with Dees — not so much as a trained psychologist, but as a peer. He became someone Dees could talk to and share his fears, someone he could rely on for practical support after he was discharged from the hospital.

Dees was the first client of what Garfield would call the Shanti Project, and the basis for the sort of peer-to-peer, volunteer caregiving that has become a model for an estimated 600 organizations all over the world. It’s an organization that’s been a crucial thread in the fabric of San Francisco’s history. When the AIDS epidemic struck in the 1980s, the city asked Shanti to step in. In the early years of the epidemic, basically every person with AIDS had some form of contact with Shanti, Garfield estimates.

“If you had taken what we did away, I have no idea what many of those folks would have done,” says Garfield. “The catastrophe would have been unimaginable.”

Kaushik Roy, a former volunteer who is now the organization’s executive director, notes: “We do for our clients what you or I might do if one of our family or close friends got sick. It’s the difference between having one person there for you, or none at all.”

The Pope’s political sins

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news@sfbg.com

OPINION I still remember when I was removed from solitary confinement into the general inmate population of Tres Alamos — one of the infamous concentration camps of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet -– and the special welcome given to us 30 or so freshly arrived detainees by the commander of the camp, Conrado Pacheco.

He was dressed in his best military attire. I will never forget the clattering of his black shiny boots, his watery eyes, his mouth salivating like a predator before a feast.

The bloody military rule was in full swing. It was the end of 1975, a time when one of the fiercest repressions was unleashed against the left, the supporters of the ousted Salvador Allende’s government — and the progressive wing of the Catholic church, lead mostly by Jesuit priests.

Next to me was a tall dirty man with a somber yet authoritative look behind his glasses. A bold lawyer who later became president of Amnesty International, Jose Zalaquett’s unclenched look made Conrado Pacheco uneasy. The curas buenos — the good priests Patricio Gajardo and US citizen Daniel Panchot — were also standing in the line.

The roughed up lawyer and priests were from the Comité Pro Paz. Created a few months after the military coup of 1973 the Committee for Peace was the only organization that, under the protection of a sector of the Catholic Church, was defending and giving sanctuary to the thousands of victims of human rights violations.

The welcoming speech of the commander waxed Nazi-like verbose about nationalism, order, communist evil, Che Guevara, and sarcastic references about God. “Mister lawyer here,” I remember him saying while looking at Zalaquett, “since he should be outside and not inside … I’m not sure what he can do to defend you all.” And pointing at the priests, the scoundrel said, “since we have two distinguished representatives of God, you all now know where to go in case you have some pending debts with the Lord, you all fucking sinners!”

All these memories flooded back to me when I learned about the ascent of Jorge Mario Bergoglio as Pope Francis I, and the stories dripping out of Argentina about his collusion with the military during the guerra sucia, dirty war.

Horacio Verbinsky, an Argentinean investigative journalist who has written extensively about the church and the military, wrote in his 1995 book, The Silence, that Bergoglio gave information to the Argentinean secret police about the activities of the Jesuit priests Francisco Jalics and Orlando Yorio, after they refused to stop working with the poor in Buenos Aires’ shanty towns. Bergoglio dropped their protection, a sort of immunity offered to the Jesuit society by the military, which eventually lead to their arrest. Both were brutally tortured and dumped drugged and naked on a wasteland.

Bergoglio also befriended General Emilio Massera, a member of the Argentinean military junta, who was later accused of crimes against humanity and of stealing the babies of disappeared political prisoners to be raised by military families.

Jalics, Yorio, and those two fathers I came to know in prison, Gajardo and Panchot, were among those priests who followed to the letter the teachings of Christ to protect the helpless, to feed and be with the needy and did not capitulate in silence.

The Vatican has recognized that Bergoglio asked “a request for forgiveness of the Church in Argentina for not having done enough at the time of the dictatorship …” But the statement, read by Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi March 15, falls short.

The Sumo Pontífice, the Pope Francis l, the one who will lead more than 1.1 billion people, must come clean and respond to all the testimony that is fogging his character. He must side with truth and justice; the only door that can lead us to reconciliation. After all, forgiveness, after the truth comes out, has always been an option in the Catholic Church.

Fernando Andrés Torres is a San Francisco writer

Fighting for patients, beyond the bedside

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It’s no coincidence that the California Nurses Association has been the most active and effective union in fighting for a broad social and economic justice agenda, one that seeks to give greater value to caring and caregiving. Unlike many unions that fight mostly for their members’ interests, CNA is an extension of the nursing ethos itself.

“It’s not enough to advocate for patients at the bedside. We take it out into the streets and the community. That’s what nursing is,” Zenei Cortez, an RN of 33 years and co-president of CNA, told us. The CNA agenda has included support for increasing taxes on the wealthy to restore cuts to social services, advocacy for a single-payer healthcare system, affordable housing, and some of the best and sharpest opposition to the gubernatorial ambitions of Meg Whitman, who proposed deep cuts to state spending on education and other essential programs.

“We have a health care system that only cares about profits and nothing else,” said Chuck Idelson, who heads the communications staff that works for the nurses, “which is why you need people who value care over profit.”

And that’s the nurses, who have been growing in both numbers and political strength just as the healthcare profession has increasingly fallen under the sway of Wall Street and its values, making CNA an important political force.

“When I first started in nursing, we had a lot of time with our patients at the bedside,” Cortez told us. “But now, that human factor has disappeared.”

Nurses first began to flex their power early in Cortez’s career when “nurses were thought to be the handmaidens of doctors. But we were able to change that mentality,” one that was rooted in sexism and old domination-based models.

After the doctors, the nurses stood up to the healthcare corporations, winning statewide minimum patient care staffing ratios and contracts for themselves that gave them a stronger voice in patient care. As the Occupy Wall Street movement took root two years ago, CNA and its larger National Nurses United launched its Main Street Campaign to push people’s interests over those of the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans. “We have to have partnerships with our patients,” Cortez said. “The companies only care about the bottom line…We are not afraid to fight, particularly because we know it’s not for our own jobs, but for the good of our communities.”