Volume 47 Number 31

Aquarius rising


FILM Under the guidance of charismatic, luxuriously-bearded leader Father Yod (once named Jim Baker, later known as YaHoWha), the Source Family operated one of the country’s first health food restaurants. They lived in a Hollywood Hills mansion, wore flowing robes, assumed dreamy new names, meditated, and studied Father Yod’s custom blend of Eastern and Western philosophy and mysticism.

As the home movies that comprise Maria Demopoulos and Jodi Wille’s documentary, The Source Family, suggest, there were golden moments aplenty, even as the mainstream began to view the group with suspicion (and an aging Father Yod’s decision to take multiple wives confused some members — particularly the woman he was already legally married to). Tapping into the group’s extensive film and music archives, as well as interviews with surviving members, The Source Family (opening here with a big gala Thu/2 and running through May 9 at the Roxie) offers a captivating look at what had to be the most earnest (and most photogenic) cult of the 1970s. I spoke with Demopoulos and Wille to learn more.

San Francisco Bay Guardian When did you first hear about the Source Family, and how did you hook up with “Family historian” Isis Aquarian?

Jodi Wille In 1999, a friend showed me a CD box set with all nine of the original Family records. I’d been obsessed with cults, communes, and radical groups from the 1960s and ’70s for 20 years — but I’d never heard of the Source Family. I was shocked that this existed, and that they had this kind of musical output. Also, there were pictures of them looking very beautiful and stylish. But I went online and there was nothing there [about them].

One day, my then-husband, [Feral House publisher] Adam Parfrey, came home with a DVD he’d found at Amoeba Records: a very limited-release student film on the Source Family. We watched it, and I was struck by how thoughtful and charming the Family members were in the interviews.

I went online again, and this time there was a website. I’m a book publisher, too — I put out books on counterculture, sustainability, and things like that [on Process Media and Dilettante Press] — so I emailed, asking if they’d ever considered doing a book. Isis Aquarian wrote back and said [she and her Source Family brother Electricity] had been working on a book for seven years. So I started going through her massive archives with her; we worked to expand the book, which had been written for Family members, for the public. As we were doing that, we were filming interviews with other Family members. When Isis let me know about the film component to her archive, I realized that this was an extraordinary story that had all of the elements we would need for a great documentary.

At that point, I brought in Maria, a close friend of mine who had become a very talented commercial director. Before the book, [The Source: The Untold Story of Father Yod, Ya Ho Wa 13, and The Source Family], people were really private about their experiences, and I think some of them were uncomfortable about going public. But the book was received positively; it told the story from the believers’ point of view and I think that helped develop their trust. So we were very lucky to get incredible access.

SFBG You were friends with Isis, who’s credited as an associate producer, by the time you started working on the film — yet it offers a balanced portrait. How did you stay objective?

JW Isis has done an enormous amount of work helping us in many ways, but she was not involved creatively. That was really important to us, to have that freedom, and she agreed to that. But I became close to some Family members, so I think bringing Maria in was really essential to help with the balance.

Maria Demopoulos I think, objectivity aside, we just focused on letting the Family members speak for themselves, and trying to go for as much authenticity as possible, hearing all perspectives. We worked hard to represent as many Family members as possible and really tell the story from an insider’s point of view.

JW We tried to reflect the overall feelings that we were getting from Family members, because everyone had completely different experiences within the Family, and everybody had strong opinions about it.

And it’s not really about being objective — no filmmaker or documentary is ever truly objective. It’s just about being open and letting people come to their own conclusions.

SFBG Since you had access to all of that footage, what was the editing process like?

MD It was extremely difficult, but honestly, we hit the jackpot. It was just like an incredible gift and honor to go through the archive. We had a three-and-a-half-hour cut, and we just kept whittling it down. Often times, we just had to stay focused; even if we had some fantastic footage, if it didn’t absolutely serve the story, we had to pull it out. It was difficult, but that’s actually a great problem to have.

JW And I’d like to give credit to Isis Aquarian for preserving that archive. There were hundreds or maybe thousands of groups like this that existed. But most of them didn’t document themselves, or if they did, they didn’t hold on to the artifacts or preserve the documents. She’s a true documentarian, even now.

SFBG Did you encounter any resistance from former members, or anyone who thought the documentary shouldn’t be made?

MD From the Family members’ perspective, no. They were extremely cooperative. [On the other hand,] since the Source Family existed in Hollywood, they had many connection to celebrities. We approached a lot of celebrities who were around at that time, and we had a tough time getting access to them.

JW The Source Family members all knew about the book, and they knew that people in their 20s and 30s had become fans of the Family. So I think that made them a lot more open to talking to us. But as far as people like Warren Beatty and Donald Sutherland, who were actually friends with Father Yod, I don’t think they were aware of that phenomenon. They were still thinking about how the Source Family was perceived with a lot of controversy back in the ’70s. I think it’s possible that those people, besides being really busy, weren’t quite sure what we were doing with the material, or if they wanted to associate themselves with it.

SFBG Also, now that decades have passed, when people hear “Southern California cult” and “the Family,” they automatically think “Manson.”

JW For me, that was an important inspiration to make this film. Again, when you speak with the participants, or even with scholars, you find it’s a very different story. We have such a primitive understanding of what these radical, social, and spiritual experiments were really doing back in the 1960s and ’70s, and the kinds of effects that they were having on the participants’ lives.

Maria and I interviewed about 40 of them just for The Source Family, and I’ve gotten to know members of other groups over the years. I find that these groups, more often than not, were very important cultural incubators. A lot of progressive ideas came from them, including the slow food movement, the mind-body-spirit movement, the natural birthing movement. A lot of tech-industry people came from these experiments — San Francisco was a hotbed for them. And many of them were harmless. They didn’t create any major havoc. They were high-risk experiments, of course, but a lot of what people took away was deep and transformative.

SFBG Music plays a huge part in the film, and again, you had a lot of material to choose from. How did you decide which songs to match with the footage?

JW I knew the music really well, and then our editor, Jennifer Harrington, did an incredible job working with the music, and Maria pitched in, too. We did it by knowing the music and thinking about the mood, and just playing with stuff to see what fit.

MD We often chose songs that actually lyrically fit with what was happening in that particular scene. The music was incredibly well-suited to what was happening, because they’re basically singing their own story.

SFBG I missed The Source Family when it played the San Francisco International Film Festival last year, but I heard the Q&A got pretty colorful. How have screenings been going overall?

MD Response has been great. We’ve been selling out shows, and the Q&As have been very lively. A lot of people who participated in social experiments or lived in communes have been coming to the Q&As, but we’ve been getting a lot of younger kids as well. It’s been intergenerational.

JW That was the fun part in San Francisco, because there were two or three people in the audience who were in different communities who spoke up during the Q&A, and it became this really interesting group therapy session. And it’s not about us saying, “Oh, it was this way.” It’s us opening up new ideas so people can have new discussions about what was really going on back then.

SFBG What’s the opening event going to be like?

JW For the various premieres, we have Source Family members showing up to do Q&As in eight cities. We’ve got three in San Francisco: Isis, Electricity, and Galaxy — who was the fashion designer in the family. Also at the Roxie, we’re going to have food made from original Source Family recipes.

We’ll also have tribute bands in six cities. In San Francisco, after the screening, the Source Family tribute band is going to be playing at the Chapel [at 777 Valencia] — they’re called the Penetration Blues Band, with Michael Beach from Electric Jellyfish and Colossal Yes, Noel von Harmonson from Comets On Fire and Sic Alps, [and others]. It’s going to be a really fun night! *


Opening event Thu/2, 7pm (complete experience with food, film, and concert, $40; film only, $10; concert only, $15)

Film runs May 3-9, 7:15 and 9:30pm (also Sat/4-Sun/5, 2:45pm), $6.50–$10


3117 16th St., SF


Scenes from the struggle for economic justice


Hacking Oakland’s budget

Sporting trucker hats, nose rings, and in activist Shawn McDougal’s case, a white tee with “Revolutionary” printed across the front in simple black lettering, the young, energetic activists assembled at Sudo Room, an Oakland hacker space, come across as unlikely ballot-initiative proponents. Nevertheless, in a few short weeks, the all-volunteer Community Democracy Project crew intends to hit the pavement and begin collecting signatures for a measure to introduce “participatory budgeting” to Oakland city government.

Their objective is to set up a kind of direct democracy system for hashing out the city’s discretionary spending. The proposal would create a charter amendment and a new Oakland city department to reconfigure the politically contentious budget allocation process, by “shifting accountability in a way that more people are able to engage,” says organizer Sonya Rifkin.

The proposal envisions convening democratic “neighborhood assemblies,” each of which would represent roughly 4,000 Oaklanders. Any resident age 16 or older would be free to attend meetings and vote on NA proposals. The NA proposals would then be forwarded onto citywide committees and synthesized as proposals for the ballot, whereupon the electorate would have the final say.

For the Community Democracy Project organizers, who mostly became acquainted through Occupy Oakland, the radical concept is just as much about achieving equitable budget allocation as it is about stoking the embers of community building. To place it on Oakland’s city ballot, the ambitious campaigners hope to collect 40,000 signatures in the next six months.

It’s a tall order, yet the activists appear undaunted. It’s a movement, McDougal says, comprised of “regular people, realizing that they don’t have to be spectators. They can be participants.” (Rebecca Bowe)

Solidarity with Bangladeshi sweatshop workers

News of a Bangladesh factory collapse last week that killed hundreds of low-wage workers reached San Francisco just as labor organizers were preparing to rally for stronger safety measures in overseas sweatshops.

Last November, a fire broke out in the Tarzeen Fashions factory in Bangladesh, killing 112 employees who produced garments for Walmart and other retailers. Sumi Abedin, a 24-year-old garment worker who earned about $62 a month working 11-hour days, six days a week, survived the blaze.

Through a translator, Abedin told reporters, “We were trying to exit through the staircase, and then we saw a lot of burned bodies, injured bodies. And I jumped through a third floor window because I thought, instead of being burned alive, even if I die, my mother will get my body.”

Abedin was standing outside San Francisco’s Gap headquarters, flanked by Bay Area activists from Jobs with Justice, Unite HERE, Our Walmart, and others. They were there to call on the popular retailer to sign a fire-safety agreement to implement renovations, at an estimated cost of about 10 cents per garment. In a statement, Gap noted that it had implemented its own four-point plan “to improve fire safety at the selected factories that produce our products.”

Gap had no direct connection with the Tarzeen Fashions blaze that Abedin narrowly escaped. Yet Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity organizer Kalpona Akter explained that the campaign was targeting Gap because “they’re saying they have corporate social responsibility,” yet have refused to sign onto the worker-sanctioned, legally binding fire safety agreement endorsed by BCWS, which brands such as Tommy Hilfiger and German retailer Tchibo have committed to. “This is one appropriate thing Gap can do in this moment,” Akter said, “if they really wanted to prevent this death toll in other parts of the world.” (Bowe)

Making job-training programs actually work

The phrase “welfare” may conjure up the image of a couch potato catching up on daytime soaps while the checks roll in, but Karl Kramer of the San Francisco Living Wage Coalition says it’s simply not the case — some people are not only working to earn those meager checks, they’re faced with few options once their participation in such programs comes to an end.

In San Francisco, many recipients of public assistance are part of the local Community Jobs Program, designed to provide unemployed people with on-the-job experience to help them land on their feet after six months. In practice, however, “it’s not happening,” Kramer says. “They’re dead-end programs. People aren’t moving onto jobs, and at the end of the Community Jobs program, they’re cut off completely.”

Part of the problem is that few pathways exist to connect the workers with actual paid gigs once they’ve finished. So the Living Wage Coalition is pushing for legislation that would improve and expand upon the Community Jobs Program, by raising the wage rate from $11.03 to $12.43 per hour, giving participants the option of working 40 hours a week, extending the program from six months to one year to square with eligibility requirements for many job listings, and creating an advisory committee to facilitate entry-level job creation in city departments.

“There has not been political will to really make these programs successful,” Kramer notes. And in the meantime, “people don’t connect it with why there’s such a growth of homeless families” in San Francisco. (Bowe)

Basic rights for domestic workers

The California Domestic Workers Bill of Rights would apply basic federal labor protections (such as a minimum wage, the right to breaks, and basic workplace safety standards) to domestic workers. If it becomes law, credit will go in part to its author, Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, but also to the California Domestic Workers Coalition, which has been pushing the issue for years.

Supporters of the bill say it’s unconscionable that domestic workers — the people who care for our children and grandparents and tend our homes — are one of just two occupations exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, the other being farm workers (another profession with a well-documented history of labor abuses, and also one comprised largely of unpaid immigrants). “We need to have protections for the people who do really important work,” Katie Joaquin, campaign coordinator for the coalition, told the Guardian.

As we reported recently (“Do We Care?,” 3/26/13), Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed the measure last year after it was overwhelmingly approved by the Legislature, expressing the paternalistic concern that it may reduce wages or hours of domestic workers. But its supporters have come back stronger than ever this year. Now know as Assembly Bill 241, the measure cleared the Assembly Labor Committee on a 5-2 vote on April 24 and it now awaits action by the Assembly Appropriations Committee. They say this bill, which New York approved in 2010, is a key step toward valuing caregiving and other undervalued work traditionally performed by women. (Steven T. Jones)

Debt peons, unite!



David Graeber is renowned among occupiers and idealists as an intellectual founder, or anti-leader as it were, of the Occupy Wall Street encampment that sprung up in Zucotti Park in the fall of 2011. He’s an organizer, an anarchist, a professor of anthropology and sociology at Goldsmiths University of London, a former instructor at Yale, and the author of several books, including Debt: The First 5,000 Years, a tome tracing the concept of debt back to the roots of Western civilization.

His latest book, The Democracy Project: A History, a Crisis, a Movement (Spiegel & Grau, 2013), chronicles the rise of Occupy, a leaderless economic justice movement Graeber unapologetically characterizes as a success. In honor of International Workers Day, May 1, the Bay Guardian caught up with him over coffee to talk about economic pressures facing today’s workers, particularly the young and marginalized.

Turns out, it’s not a pretty picture out there — but at least Graeber, who has a propensity to collapse into giggles between full throttle ruminations on the absurdity of global economic policy, has a sense of humor about it.

Below are some excerpts.

San Francisco Bay Guardian: Looking at the Occupy movement, the mainstream narrative seems to be that it was a short-lived, failed experiment and now it’s over. But in your book, you ask the question ‘why did it work?’

David Graeber: Let’s put it this way. When was the last time that the issue of social class was put at the center of American politics? Probably the 1930s. Social movements have been desperately trying to do this for 50, 60, 70 years and gotten nowhere. We managed to do it in three months. Um, that’s pretty impressive. … And I’m pretty sure that if it weren’t for us, we’d have a President Romney right now. That whole 47 percent thing? It would not have resonated had it not been for the 99 percent thing.

SFBG: Why do you think the idea of wealth inequality, of all issues, resonated so much?

DG: I think because there’s a basic change in the way capitalism works in America. It’s been going for some time, but it just became unmistakably apparent after 2008. People talk about the “financialization” of capitalism, and it sounds very abstract. Casino capitalism, speculation, they’re playing these games, they’re making money appear out of thin air, which is not entirely untrue. … It’s based on getting everybody into debt. The profits of Wall Street are — they now say a very small percentage is actually based on commerce — it’s now based on finance. But what does ‘based on finance’ actually mean? It means they go into your bank account and take your money.

I’ve been trying to figure out just what percentage of the average American’s income is simply extracted every month by the finance sector. …You count mortgages, you count credit card debt, loan debt, all the fees and penalties that you don’t notice… all that stuff put together comes to about 20 percent at least, and probably higher. For example, families that are in their early 30s, it’s often 40 percent. … I saw a poll the other day that said, for the first time since they’ve been taking statistics, a majority of Americans don’t consider themselves middle class. … And I think the reason for this is because it really never was an economic category. It has to do with how you feel you relate to basic institutions. What middle class first and foremost means is, if you see a policeman, do you feel safer, or do you feel less safe? … Then there’s more going on. For the first time, we found that there is incredible solidarity between students and workers, which have traditionally not been friends — go back to the 60s and it’s hard-hats beating up hippies. Now, the transit workers in New York are suing the police over taking their buses to arrest us [occupiers].

SFBG: How would you reflect on the economic condition that workers are facing, compared with how things were historically over the last several decades?

DG: It’s atrocious. One thing that’s happened is there’s been this disconnect between productivity and wages. This is kind of the deal they struck at the end of World War II in most of the North Atlantic countries: It used to be that you work harder, you produce more, you get a share of the profits. And that was worked out through mass unionization, it was worked out through negotiations, and it was tacit somewhat, but you know, it was understood.

Since the ’70s, that deal is off. So, productivity goes up, wages stay flat. So that’s why they say all profits have now gone to one percent of the population. So workers are working harder and harder, more and more hours, under more and more stress. …It’s all the more difficult because of education, because now it’s gotten to the point where if you don’t have a college degree, your chance of having any benefits at work is basically nil. If you want to have health care, you need to go to college. At the same time, if you want to go to college, you need to pay student loans. So you’re double damned. … You have all these people who are sort of trapped: I’d like to finish, I’m still going, I’ll take night classes — for five or ten years, while you have a working class job. So the line between the students and the proletariat blurs, and this is one of the reasons why the student loan issue actually spoke to people in unions.

And there’s also a shift in the type of work. Did you ever see the “We are the 99 percent” tumblr page? It was all these people talking about their jobs… their debts and difficult medical problems…. One of the things that fascinated me about that was that like 80 percent of the people on that page were women. …They were all doing something where the work was clearly to the benefit of someone else. And I think that those are the people who are the most screwed right now, ironically. The more obviously your work benefits other human beings, the less you’re paid.

SFBG: Going back to this idea of debt — your book [Debt: The First 5,000 Years] looks at debt through the ages of human history. I’m curious to hear your thoughts on debt as it relates to personal freedom.

DG: That’s one of the most pernicious things about the current debt regime in America. Being young is supposed to be a place where you can let your imagination run free and explore your sense of possibility. That’s what college used to be. In a sense, those students who are just out of college, I always call them post-students, they’re the kind of people who are activists, the kind of people who are thinking okay I’ll start a band, maybe I’ll be an artist. That’s where everything comes out of in a generation, where everything new and exciting emerges. What could be more stupid than taking all those people and turning them into debt peons? … I think of it like horror movies — what is it that’s so scary about monsters? It’s that they turn you into them, right? Vampires, werewolves. But you don’t get to be like the really cool super count vampire, you get to be a pathetic minion vampire, where you’re in debt for the rest of eternity, as a flunkie. In a way, that’s what’s scary about debt. It forces you to think like a capitalist, you have to think about money and profit all the time. But it’s even worse, because you’re a capitalist with no capital. It like totally destroys your ability to think of anything but money, and you don’t even have any money.

SFBG: Another thing we’re seeing increasingly is austerity measures and public sector spending cuts. What’s the root cause of these rollbacks, and what do you see as the most appropriate response from economic justice activists?

DG: I am in the peculiar situation at the moment that some members of the ruling class actually talk to me and even ask for my advice. Which, you know they’re in trouble if they’re talking to me, right? Part of the reason for that is that these guys are on a completely self-destructive course. I live in the UK most of the time. They’re going into a triple debt recession because of these austerity programs. Now what are you going to make of it? It has nothing to do with economics.

SFBG: So why is it happening?

DG: It’s moral. It’s political, and moral. Neoliberalism is not basically an economic ideology. It’s about politics … Always prioritize the political advantage over the economic advantage. Breaking unions, getting rid of job security, making people work more and more hours — that’s not economically efficient … So what does it do? Well, it’s the best thing you could possibly do if you want to depoliticize workers … The classic justifications for capitalism are harder and harder to maintain. … So what excuse do they have left? They can say, well, it’s the only thing that’s possible. Basically all they can do is hammer away at our imagination. The only alternative is this, or North Korea. And the amazing thing is that the only war they’ve won, is the war against the imagination.


A call to arms


OPINION No one can deny that the San Francisco of the new dot-com boom is a scary place to live. Rents are astronomical: $2,353 is the median rent for a one-bedroom in the Bayview, an area that has never had high rents. Ellis Act evictions are up 68 percent from last year, and buyouts and threats of Ellis (de facto evictions) are skyrocketing. Longterm rent-controlled tenants live in absolute dread that their buildings will be sold to a real-estate speculator who will decide, a month later, to “go out of the business of being a landlord.”

Neighborhoods are being transformed, and not for the better. The once immigrant Latino and working-class lesbian area of Valencia Street is now mostly white, straight and solidly upscale. The Castro has more baby strollers per square foot than a suburban mall, not to mention a high rate of evictions of people with AIDS. Along Third Street and in SOMA and other areas, people of color are being pushed out, and the working-class is being replaced by middle-income condo owners. The African American population of the city is down to 6 percent.

Small businesses, too, are being decimated, as landlords demand higher and higher rents and chain stores try and creep into every block. If the demographics of the city continue to change and become more moderate, many longstanding political gains could be lost.

Resistance is not futile.

During the Great Depression, the Communist Party in the Bronx and elsewhere successfully mobilized the working class to block doorways when the marshals arrived to evict tenants. In the 1970s here in San Francisco, the “redevelopment” of the Fillmore and the I-Hotel was met with widespread protests. Then-sheriff Richard Hongisto went to jail rather than evict the working-class Filipino tenants at the I-Hotel. In the late 1990s, organizing to fight the evictions and displacement happening in the wake of the first dot-com boom culminated in a progressive takeover of the Board of Supervisors.

These days, there’s no mass movement to fight the evictions and displacement. Occupy Bernal, ACCE and others have successfully stopped the auctions of foreclosed homes, and even twisted the arms of banks to renegotiate some mortgages. Tenant organizations have been holding back efforts to weaken rent control for years.

Where is the building-by-building organizing of renters? Where is the street outreach in every neighborhood? Where are the blocked doorways of those being forced out of their apartments by pure greed? Where are the direct actions against the speculators and investors who are turning our neighborhoods into a monopoly game? Where is the pressure on the Board of Supervisors to pass legislation to curb speculation and gentrification rather than approve tax breaks for dot-com companies? Where is the pressure on state legislators to repeal the Ellis Act and other state laws that prohibit our city from strengthening rent control and eviction protections?

Every moment we wait, more people are displaced from their homes, more neighborhoods become upscale, more small businesses are lost. Progressives wake up.

It’s time to take back what’s left of our city.

Tommi Avicolli Mecca is a longtime queer housing activist who works at the Housing Rights Committee. He is editor of Smash the Church, Smash the State: the early years of gay liberation (City Lights).


A win for the tenants


EDITORIAL In a stunning victory, tenant advocates have managed to derail a terrible piece of condo-conversion legislation — and replace it with a compromise that actually improves the current situation and could help slow the wave of speculative evictions.

The supervisors need to support the revised version of the bill — and if Mayor Lee wants to have any credibility at all with tenants, he needs to sign it.

For some 30 years, San Francisco has had a strict policy limiting the conversion of rental apartments to condominiums. Only 200 units a year get permission, through a lottery.

But thanks to the popularity of tenancies in common (a backdoor way around the limit) and the state’s Ellis Act, which allows landlords to evict all their tenants and sell the units as TICs, there’s now a long waiting list.

TIC owners say it’s unfair that they have to accept (somewhat) higher mortgage payments and reduced value on their homes because the wait for a conversion permit has grown to ten years or more. Real-estate speculators see huge profits in clearing buildings of long-term tenants with rent-controlled apartments and selling the places as TICs.

When Supervisors Scott Wiener and Mark Farrell first proposed allowing more than 2,000 tenancy-in-common units to bypass the lottery, tenant advocates began organizing to defeat the bill. Nobody thought a compromise was possible — particularly when the landlord-backed Plan C refused to negotiate in good faith and look for a solution everyone could accept.

But with the help of Supervisors Norman Yee, Jane Kim, and David Chiu, the tenants were able to craft a deal that clears up the backlog — and then prevents any further conversions for at least a decade. That’s fair: If the limit is 200 a year, and TIC owners want to clear up a backlog of 2,000 all at once, a ten-year moratorium makes sense. The tenant package also bars conversion of any buildings with more the five units and includes more protections for existing tenants.

If this proposal is really about helping TIC owners who face a long and uncertain time on the conversion list, then the compromise ought to be fine — and indeed, many TIC owners support it. The real-estate speculators who want to see evictions continue at a rapid pace hate it — this would make TICs less appealing and less valuable. But that’s fine: Buying a TIC has never been, and should never be, based on a future promise of condo conversion. And if this slows down the horrifying epidemic of evictions and displacement, it will be a very positive change.

Wiener and Farrell didn’t accept the compromise, but it was amended into their legislation anyway. The new version will come before the supervisors May 7. The supervisors should see this for what it is — greedy speculators against everyone else — and vote yes.

Mean Greens



THE BLOB Good green goddess, we’re only midway through the season but your Blob is getting asparagused out! This year, that delectable spring stalk seems especially abundant on menus about the Bay, from the warming canh cua mang tay (crab and asparagus soup) at PPQ Dungeness Island (www.ppqcrab.com) in the Outer Richmond to the verdant asparagus ice cream served at a Blob friend’s garden party. Along the way: zingy asparagus lemon pizzetta with prosciutto at Per Diem (www.perdiem.com) in the FiDi, using Zuckerman Farm in Stockton’s trademark purple variety, and the snap of a Shattuck tempura roll with battered yam at Mission vegan Japanese go-to Cha-Ya (762 Valencia, SF).

The following treats are deliberately void of nubby spears — you can asparaguess why. Yet they’re pretty veg-tacular all the same.



As the Blob was rolling through the diner-riffic wonderland that is West Portal — seriously, the bottomless coffee per square footage of this neighborhood is out of countrol — she remembered a sustainable, construct-your-own salad green spot had sprung up among the laden hash brown platters: Market and Rye. (There’s also one on Potrero Hill.) With choices like strawberries, flax seeds, crispy onions, and, yes, roasted asparagus, it was a lunch lock. It was also lunch rush, and the supercute staff seemed a might stretched to put together everyone’s picky orders, so the Blob chose a signature Wolfgang salad ($10.50) instead. It’s a twist on your old school Asian chicken salad, loaded with roasted chicken, red cabbage, carrots,

toasted sesame seeds, mandarin oranges, crunchy Asian trail mix, and hot mustard soy vinaigrette.

The dressing was just a might too creamy-thick for the Blob’s taste. But if there’s one thing

she loves, it’s a twisted Asian chicken salad. So she sat right down at the rustic space’s communal table with her Mason jar of strawberry water — and Wolfganged that ish right down. You can also order yummy premade salads like spring pea with lemon dressing or broccolini Waldorf by the scoop, like ice cream, which is neat.

68 West Portal and 300 De Haro, www.marketandrye.com



The Orbit Room is such a special splice of atmospheric Europe cafe into artisanal SF cocktailia that the Blob hates to risk ruining it by overpromotion. Its spring drink menu is stunning ($10 each — add egg white for two more dollars, cluck cluck). The Blob stopped in with tasty amiga the Tablehopper (www.tablehopper.com), who recounted her scandalous Coachella exploits while enthusing over a Koriander — practically a salad in a glass, with leafy cilantro, tequila, ginger syrup, lime, and celery bitters. A Spring Shrub shapes a traditional American shrub (a colonial-era cocktail using sweetened vinegar syrup) with strawberry balsamic and black peppercorn base, vodka, lemon, a splash of rosé, and mint seltzer.

But the delicious Hayes Valley Farm coated the Blob’s gullet. It’s a classic bee’s knees cocktail, popular during Prohibition, with honey from the farm down the street, gin, lemon, celery juice, and rose water — all romantically garnished with dried rose petals. Sweet, but also bittersweet: sweet because the Hayes Valley farm honey came back after a massive bee die-off in 2010, bitter(ish) because the farm itself will be demolished next month for pricey condos. (The stalwart farmers claim to be OK with this, appreciating the brief time they had.) In 50 years, will people believe there was once a thriving farm there, not in 1813 but in 2013?

1900 Market, SF. www.orbitroomcafe.com



If you’re going to name something “the feast of all feasts” and price it at $30 per person, you know the Blob’s gonna check it out — even if it’s at a mall (in this case under the dome, thus “cupola,” at the Westfield Center). And yes, even though it does that awful phony four percent HealthySF surcharge thing, which the Blob didn’t know until she got the bill. Up to that point, she would have recommended it profligately.

Strap yourself in for eight or so random courses from handsome Lark Creek offshoot Cupola’s impressive Italian menu, decided by the kitchen. (A complementary “Festa Di Bacchus” wine journey can be had for $17.) As in: two-plus hours of well-portioned food — no flighty tasting menu flim-flam here, these are actual dishes. As in: the Blob and her companion Pinky received two whole Neapolitan pizzas (margherita and spice sopressata), a gloriously delicate handkerchief pasta with simple red sauce, a butter lettuce and gorgonzola salad, another salad of chopped veggies and wine-marinated croutons, an al dente squash and (sorry) asparagus dish, and frothy strawberry tiramisu. The highlight? A somehow feather-light artichoke lasagna — they do pasta soft here — accompanied by an arugula-cashew salad. Finally, the Blob was stuffed!

Westfield Center, 845 Market Street, fourth floor, www.cupolasf.com


Take the plunge



DANCE FACT/SF’s new Falling is a conceptually demanding, convincingly realized 70-minute sextet that annoys, puzzles, and ultimately persuades. Choreographer Charles Slender set his work on six beautifully-trained, well-rehearsed women. He also engaged excellent collaborators.

Falling asks questions that resonate beyond the physicality of what Slender has said he wanted to look at: the human need to stay upright and the reality of falling. That’s what the dancers do. They walk, stand, wobble, turn, and they fall — like rocks, sponges, and leaves. And then they get up. Again, and again, and again.

Repetition and unisons are the work’s most effective strategy. At first they are also annoying. A dancer bourrées across the stage like some Swan Queen, another joins her, then another. One starts an in-place stepping pattern, companions pick it up. A daisy-chain run calls up responses.

After a very short time this domino effect defocuses attention the way a déjà vu does. It also threatens to paralyze Falling’s thrust. But Slender keeps it going, and the set-up becomes uncomfortable because the process seems unstoppable. Then he shifts gears, with Shannon Leypoldt at the head of a diagonal shooting up her arm into the air as if delivering a manifesto.

That single gesture, besides elongating the body, becomes perhaps a leader’s command, an invitation, or a greeting among equals. It will be repeated over and over again, and everyone responds to it. To watch this process recalls cults and causes, rigid beliefs, and military indoctrination. In Falling, it’s insidious because not force but seduction sends those arms into the air. The initiation is made gently with a close body-to-body encounter as if in a tango. Tender hands help you take off that monkish, hooded robe to reveal the pretty dress, just like everyone else’s, underneath. Subjugation becomes possible because you really want to belong, no matter how hesitantly your arm responds.

There is a cool sense of inevitability about the way Leypoldt accrues these acolytes, until only Catherine Newman is left as the outsider. Desperately trying to hang on to her gown, and yet trying to step into the existing unisons, she attacks one of the dancers but crumples. That’s when hands reach out and welcome Newman to the brave new world accompanied by Dan Cantrell’s “angelic” voices. However, in that section, with its quasi-militaristic, though bare-foot stepping pattern, Falling stepped rather too close to literalism.

When Newman becomes the last acolyte and Leypoldt goes into a tailspin, Falling’s emotional temperature rises to something like a fever pitch. For the most part Slender keeps overt expressiveness in the cooler. The choreography stresses clarity and unity of purpose; there is little room for individual phrasing. Some of the floor patterns look as if they were designed on graph paper. Even when the dancers squirm flat on their backs and look like beasts about to expire, Darl Andrew Packard throws a harsh light on body parts as if they were on a dissecting table. Even in pretty phrases, elegantly rendered, the women look impersonal, primarily engaged in tasks — not in communicating. The dancing exists within strict parameters, yet not oppressively beyond the implications of the thematic material. The finale could have become melodramatic, but it didn’t; the dancers just walked away, leaving us with more questions than answers.

Falling benefits greatly from excellent production values. Packard suspended dozens of reflectors across the stage that blink on and off, suggesting a vast but dark space. Together with Slender he designed a simple set of dark woods in the beginning that became something like a world aflame at the end. Cantrell’s score, often fractured, is first-rate. Often you sense that the music, or its absence, serves as a comment to what’s happening in front of our eyes. Miyuki Bierlein designed two outstanding costumes, one a dark body-hiding robe, the other a subtly colorful summer frock that enhanced turns and suggested common ease. In addition to Leypoldt and Newman, the praiseworthy performers included Liane Burns, Michaela Burns, LizAnne Roman, and Amanda Whitehead.

Short takes: SFIFF week two


Prince Avalanche (David Gordon Green, US, 2012) It has been somewhat hard to connect the dots between David Gordon Green the abstract-narrative indie poet (2000’s George Washington, 2003’s All the Real Girls) and DGG the mainstream Hollywood comedy director (2008’s Pineapple Express, yay; 2011’s Your Highness and The Sitter, nay nay nay). But here he brings those seemingly irreconcilable personas together, and they make very sweet music indeed. Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch play two men — one a fussy, married grown-up, another a short-attention-spanned man child — spending the summer in near-total isolation, painting yellow divider lines on recently fire-damaged Texas roads. Their very different personalities clash, and at first the tone seems more conventionally broad than that of the 2011 Icelandic minimalist-comedy (Either Way) this revamp is derived from. But Green has a great deal up his sleeve — gorgeous wide screen imagery, some inspired wordless montages, and a well-earned eventual warmth — that makes the very rare US remake that improves upon its European predecessor. Wed/1, 4pm, and Fri/3, 6:30pm, Kabuki. (Dennis Harvey)

Fill the Void (Rama Burshtein, Israel, 2012) Respectfully rendered and beautifully shot in warm hues, Fill the Void admirably fills the absence on many screens of stories from what might be considered a closed world: the Orthodox Hasidic community in Israel, where a complex web of family ties, duty, and obligation entangles pretty, accordion-playing Shira (Hada Yaron). An obedient daughter, she’s about to agree to an arranged marriage to a young suitor when her much-loved sister (Renana Raz) dies in childbirth. When Shira’s mother (Irit Sheleg) learns the widower Yochay (Yiftach Klein) might marry a woman abroad and take her only grandchild far away, she starts to make noises about fixing Shira up with her son-in-law. The journey the two must take, in possibly going from in-laws to newlyweds, is one that’s simultaneously infuriating, understandable, and touching, made all the more intimate given director Rama Burshtein’s preference for searching close-ups. Her affinity for the Orthodox world is obvious with each loving shot, ultimately infusing her debut feature with a beating heart of humanity. Wed/1, 6:30pm, and Thu/2, 4pm, Kabuki. (Kimberly Chun)

The Strange Little Cat (Ramon Zürcher, Germany, 2013) There’s a strange music to this light-on-its-toes, rhythmic, and ultimately mesmerizing chamber piece by first-time feature director Ramon Zürcher — one seemingly informed by dance, Gerhard Richter, contemporary opera, and Jean-Luc Godard in a latter-day gimlet-eyed state. The arc of a banal yet odd day is traced, within mostly the close confines of a Berlin apartment, as family members enter, interact, and then retreat in a kind of call and response: the mother runs a kitchen machine, a girl cries out as if to mimic its roar, a cousin who looks as if he’s straight out of a Dutch master painting soberly surveys the scene, while the eponymous feline weaves in and out of the action. In fact, that pet is the most domesticated of the lot populating this riveting domestic scene, all of which makes you want to see what Zürcher cooks up next. Wed/1, 9pm; Sun/5, 7pm; and May 8, 4pm, Kabuki. (Chun)

Salma (Kim Longinotto, England/India, 2012) Kept like a prisoner in her in-laws’ house for more than two decades, Salma is more than the most famed woman poet writing in the Tamil language. She’s also an archetypal South Indian woman of her time and place: married as a teen despite her desire to read and write poetry, her body controlled by her husband and family, and her freedom constricted to the point where she was once forced to write on scraps of paper in the toilet and to smuggle her verse out to have it published. What follows is the stuff of fairy tales, as Salma evolves into a politician and heroine who speaks for those otherwise muffled by their burkas and smothered by circumstance. Documentarian Kim Longinotto keeps a close eye on the oppressive culture that once harbored the writer — and inspired her to express herself — yet also takes the time to notice Tamil Nadu’s many small instances of beauty, in mutable pink and purple skies, a gold-flecked green sari, and showy weddings that mark both the beginning, and end, for so many young girls. Documentarian Longinotto whets one’s appetite for more of Salma’s words, while upholding her story’s relevance amid rising consciousness concerning the rights of all women in India. Thu/2, 6:15pm, Kabuki; Sat/4, 2pm, PFA; Sun/5, 3:45pm, New People. (Chun)

Computer Chess (Andrew Bujalski, US, 2013) Mumblecore maestro Andrew Bujalski (2002’s Funny Ha Ha; 2005’s Mutual Appreciation) makes his first period picture, kinda, with this stubbornly, gloriously retro saga set at an early-1980s computer-chess tournament (with a few ventures into the freaky couples-therapy seminar being held at the same hotel). The technology is dated, both on and off-screen, as hulking machines with names like “Tsar 3.0” and “Logic Fortress” battle for nerdly supremacy as a cameraman, wielding the vintage cameras that were actually used to film the feature, observes. Tiny dramas highlighting the deeply human elements lurking amid all that computer code emerge along the way, and though the Poindexters (and the grainy cinematography) are authentically old-school, the humor is wry and awkwardly dry — very 21st century. Keep an eye out for indie icon Wiley Wiggins, last seen hiding from Ben Affleck’s hazing techniques in 1993’s Dazed and Confused, as a stressed-out programmer. Thu/2, 9pm, and Sat/4, 4pm, Kabuki. (Cheryl Eddy)

The Cleaner (Adrián Saba, Peru, 2011) An austere take on substitute-parental bonding dressed in apocalyptic sci-fi clothing, Adrián Saba’s Peruvian feature finds the world ending not with a bang but with a sickly whimper. (If you’ve ever breathed the toxic air or looked at the shit-brown sea around Lima, you’ll find this pretty credible.) A middle-aged loner (Victor Prada) tasked with cleaning up the death sites of citizens felled by a fatal epidemic finds a surviving young boy (Adrian Du Bois) in one such apartment. Their forced, awkward pairing — because the death toll is so high city services can no longer taken in another orphan — is poignant and terse in what’s a minimalist companion to the underrated 2008 adaptation of José Saramago’s plague saga Blindness. Sat/4, 6:15pm, Kabuki; Tue/7, 8:40pm, PFA; May 9, 8:30pm, Kabuki. (Harvey)

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Philip Kaufman, US, 1978) Yes, Vertigo (1958) is very nice. But here is my alternate choice for Best San Francisco Movie Ever: 2013 SFIFF tributee Philip Kaufman’s 1978 remake of the 1950s sci-fi classic. Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams, Jeff Goldblum, Veronica Cartwright, and Leonard Nimoy are among the locals who get very paranoid — with no pot brownies involved — when everyone around them starts turning coldly conformist. Given the film’s fond evocation of the city’s loopy, friendly, countercultural vibe at the time, this shift in the psychological weather really is alarming — arguably much more dramatically so than it was the vanilla small-town setting of Don Siegel’s original or Abel Ferrara’s military-base 1994 version. Wonderfully creepy, eccentric, stylish and humorous, it was Kaufman’s first commercial success. He will appear at the Castro screening to discuss it, his career in general, and to accept his Founder’s Directing Award. Sun/5, 7:30pm, Castro. (Harvey)

Waxworks (Paul Leni, Germany, 1924) Paul Leni’s 1924 omnibus horror feature is considered one of the great classics of German Expressionist cinema. A young man (William Dieterle, who went on to a long Hollywood directing career) answers an ad seeking “an imaginative writer for publicity” work at a wax museum. There he’s asked to write “startling tales” about specific wax figures, envisioning himself and the owner’s comely assistant (Olga Belajeff) as hero and heroine in each narrative. The first and longest tale has the two of them as a couple who get unwanted attention from the tyrannical, lusty Caliph of Bagdad (Emil Jannings). It’s an attenuated comic episode sparked by spectacular abstracted “Middle Eastern” sets. Next, Conrad Veidt (of 1920 Expressionist flagship film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari) plays Ivan the Terrible in a more macabre story of bloodthirst and madness. Finally, Werner Krauss is “Spring-Heeled Jack” (i.e. Jack the Ripper), terrorizing our protagonists in a brief riot of nightmarish superimposed images. SFIFF’s annual silent film extravaganza at the Castro will be accompanied by a stellar quartet of musicians playing an original score: Mike Patton, Scott Amendola, Matthias Bossi, and William Winant. Expect an eclectic and propulsive evening of sounds equally schooled by punk, prog rock, and jazz. Tue/7, 8:30pm, Castro. (Harvey)

Before Midnight (Richard Linklater, US, 2012) Proving (again) that not all sequels are autonomic responses to a marketplace that rewards the overfamiliar, director Richard Linklater and his co-writers Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke reconnect with the characters Céline and Jesse, whom we first encountered nearly 20 years ago on a train and trailed around Vienna for a night in Before Sunrise, then met again nine years later in Before Sunset. It’s been nine more years since we left them alone in a Paris apartment, Céline adorably dancing to Nina Simone and telling Jesse he’s going to miss his plane. And it looks like he did. The third film finds the two together, yes, and vacationing in Greece’s southern Peloponnese, where the expansive, meandering pace of their interactions — the only mode we’ve ever seen them in — is presented as an unaccustomed luxury amid a span of busy years filled with complications professional and personal. Over the course of a day and an evening, alone together and among friends, the two reveal both the quotidian intimacies of a shared life and the cracks and elisions in their love story. May 9, 7pm, Castro. (Lynn Rapoport) *

The San Francisco International Film Festival runs through May 9 at the Castro Theatre, 429 Castro, SF; New People Cinema, 1746 Post, SF; Pacific Film Archive, 2575 Bancroft, Berk; and Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, 1881 Post, SF. For tickets (most shows $10-15) and info, visit festival.sffs.org.


‘Maximus’ through Flarf



LIT Mm-hmm

Yeah, mm-hmm, it’s true

Big birds make

Big doo! I got fire inside

My “huppa”-chimpTM

Gonna be agreesive, greasy aw yeah god …

In 2000, Gary Sullivan’s grandfather fell victim to a then-familiar poetry.com scam. (“You’ve won a poetry contest! Order the book with your poem in it now!”) In revenge, he went on the scam site and wrote what he thought was the worst, most offensive poem ever — which of course won its own scam contest. Then a curious thing happened:

“When Sullivan sent his poem to friends online, they decided to write their own purposely bad poems,” editor Paul Hoover tells the tale in the introduction to his updated Norton Anthology of Postmodern American Poetry, released last month. Soon a whole listserv of sniggering poets were randomly Googling phrases from bad poems (this was when Google was brand new, mind you) and “plugging in” the random juxtapositions to create new, worse ones — which incidentally also captured the logorrheic splooge, misfired proto-snark, corrosive cuteness, pornographic troll-holes, and manic self-hype of the Internet itself.

Thus a new poetic movement called Flarf was born.

A lot has changed since the first edition of NAPAP came out, in 1994. Back then, hyperacademic multicultural poetics and practitioners of the Language school, which sought to “scatter attention” over the poem with discursive overload and deliberate (yet often hilarious) difficulty, were riding high. In the color-saturated days before the Internet, the first edition was a revelation. Hoover, a San Francisco-based poet and teacher with a knack for highlighting the emotional resonance in abstract practices, served as a perfect guide to postmodern poetry, or at least a certain exciting type, which he broadly defines as “an experimental approach to composition, as well as a worldview that sets itself apart from mainstream culture and the sentimentality and self-expressiveness of its life in writing.” In other words: “truth” is out, truthiness in. And enough weeping over your dead great-grandmother’s recipe book, already.

I met with the tall, calm Hoover in his frighteningly humble San Francisco State office, where he’d been “locked up for months” working on the second edition (see my full interview this week at www.sfbg.com/pixel_vision). “We called the anthology ‘post-modern’ rather than ‘experimental’ or ‘avant-garde’ mostly because those terms are problematic, and have enough cultural baggage to really turn people off. So we started with the poet Charles Olson, who was the first poet to label himself postmodern and attempt to break with the grand modernist past. ‘And had we not ourselves (I mean postmodern man) better just leave such things behind us — and not so much trash of discourse, & gods?’ he wrote to fellow poet Robert Creeley. And he put this into practice in his ‘Maximus’ poems.”

The anthology is chronological: after Olson, in almost 1000 pages, we get almost all the big avant-garde-y names like John Cage, Robert Duncan, Denise Levertov, Frank O’Hara, John Ashbery, Jack Spicer, Allen Ginsberg … Uncontroversially, Hoover takes his lodestars to be the Black Mountain School, the New York School, and (somewhat shakily to me, in terms of intellectual rigor, yet still charming) the Beats. Then come the Language poets, near where the first volume ended, and afterward a multitude of newbies — Vanessa Place, G.C. Waldrep, Noelle Kocot, Ben Lerner — begin.

“In order for this book to not be 13,000 pages, I had to make some hard decisions, about who was not to be included, and who needed to go. It wasn’t so much a matter of redefining what is ‘post-modern’ or even what’s ‘American,’ although maybe those things have also changed. But so much has happened — the Internet, social media, September 11, the expansion of global capitalism, mass media, and multinational corporations. I don’t think there’s been such a fundamental change that we’ve moved out of this thing called ‘postmodernism’ into something completely different or new. But poetry reflects these changes with constant innovations of its own. There’s a lyricism completely of the time in the best of these poems, but also completely outside of it.”

So what are some of the innovations? Besides the hyperreal grotesqueness of Flarf poets like Sullivan, Sharon Mesmer, and K. Silem Mohammed, there is its nemesis — at least in a poetry beef possibly ginned up for attention — Conceptualism. Whereas Flarf adrenalizes visceral response within a poem’s span, conceptualism often makes the poem into nothing but the static result of grand idea: the best example of this is Kenneth Goldsmith’s epic “Day,” in which he reconstructed the entire September 1, 2000 issue of the New York Times into a 900-page book (excerpted in the anthology).

In between lie practices like Proceduralism (Christian Bök’s strangely affecting “Vowels” made out of words that contain the same letters as the title, and which ends “wolves evolve”), Google sculpting and cybernetics (Muhammed’s hilarious “Sonnagrams,” in which he puts Shakespeare’s sonnets through an online anagram generator, then “sculpts” the results in Microsoft Word, dragging the words around to form a new sonnet). There is also the deliberately “girly” “Gurlesque” poetry of Catherine Wagner, and the eerie and complex “ambient” poetics of Tan Lin, which is just a beautiful drift of words across a page, a “gossip of the mind.” And much, much more in this fascinating and necessary volume.

Funny, infuriating, dangerously familiar, hauntingly strange, way too intellectual, true despite itself: poetry is the same as it ever was. The next edition, in 2034, ought to be a real corker.

POSTMODERN AMERICAN POETRY READING CELEBRATION with Paul Hoover and 16 more poets: Fri/3, 6:30pm, free. Koret Auditorium, de Young Museum, 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, SF. 


Skate or die



MUSIC Compared to the 1980s and early ’90s, it doesn’t seem like there are many places in this city to skate. There are always the hills and odd spots for the creative, but the few designated skateparks seem to be paltry peace offerings in proportion to the laws, security guards, and anti-grind hardware put in place to elsewhere restrict the activity. For a short time this week, the new SFJAZZ Center will be added to the small list of skate venues, with a pair of live skating performances accompanied by lauded improvisational pianist Jason Moran and his group Bandwagon.

It may seem an odd pairing, but one that has natural connections for the pianist. “San Francisco has always had an association with skateboarding for me,” Moran told me over the phone. “As a kid in the ’80s, our parents would visit SF from Houston, and my older brother and I would take our skateboards along. We weren’t super good, but we’d go down to EMB.” At that time — before merchants, property owners, and police worked to close it off — Embarcadero’s Justin Herman Plaza (or “EMB”) was an international destination for skaters who came as if it were their Mecca.

At its peak, those drawn to its concrete waves, challenging gaps, and tempting stairs could number in the hundreds (although how many were just there hoping to spot Mark Gonzales is unclear). For Moran, it left an imprint. “I think of it sort of like Minton’s Playhouse, which became known as the incubator for bebop. The kind of place where people would hang out, practice, exchange tips, and learn from each other.”

To be honest, when I first heard of the live skateboarding events SFJAZZ had planned, it struck me as an attempt to bring “low” culture into a “high” venue, the genre having increasingly entered into a museum-like curatorial setting, much like classical music. Something similar to what the Museum of Contemporary Art in LA had done under divisive director Jeffrey Deitch, with its “Art in the Streets” and planned (unplanned?) “Fire in the Disco” programs. As Artistic Advisor for Jazz at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC and a recipient of the MacArthur “genius grant” — an award which comes with a large, no strings attached monetary award and basically the suggestion of “keep doing what you’re doing” — Moran seems as much in the art world as he does the music. But it’s a position he’s aware of, addressing it head-on with his album Artist in Residence and the song “Break Down,” which riffs over a vocal track expressing a need to do exactly that to the art world (and barriers, the artist, the general public, society, misunderstanding, etc.).

As one of the first Resident Artistic Directors at SFJAZZ’s new center, Moran sees the opportunity get past these sort of dichotomies. “SFJAZZ is at a place where as a new establishment, they’re in a way positioned with more freedom, to try different things and attract a more diverse crowd and bring in a larger part of the community. Often institutions say that they want to do that, but really end up being this kind of elitist thing.” Moran’s stint includes at the center also includes a solo performance and a tribute to Fats Waller in the form of a dance party featuring Meshell Ndegeocello. Keeping with the populist ideal Moran said that, “at the Kennedy Center, where I also work, we did the Fats Waller party, and we just did it for free. It certainly brings out a different crowd. Four hundred people, whoever wants to come.” (It is, however, a paid event in SF.)

For the skating performance, Moran has partnered with FTC Skateboarding and Kent Uyehara’s Western Addition, a company that frequently adopts a jazz aesthetic in its videos and decks, the latter emblazoned with images of John Coltrane, Jaco Pastorius, or Mati Klarwein’s art for Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew. A custom half ramp is being built out in the Sunset, to be hauled into the SFJAZZ Center. Skateboarders including Adrian Williams, Alex Wolslagel, Dave Abair, Jake Johnson, and Ben Gore have been recruited. The only question is how well it will coalesce. There will be no rehearsal.

“I already know that the sound of the wheels, and the slap of the board, the quality of these sounds, for my band it’s something to work with. But as far as syncing up with them and making music that goes along perfectly, I’m not going to try and do that. It’s more about capturing the energy, and giving them support so they can sort of solo on top of it,” Moran said, also mentioning a desire to not necessarily cover but channel the spirit of bands like Suicidal Tendencies, more conventionally associated with skateboarding.

Moran’s confidence extends to the skaters, who he sees as improvisers as well. “There’s an understanding among skateboarders that’s similar to musicians, where you can see someone perform a trick or a move, and they make it look easy, and unless you’re at the level they are, or you watch a lot, you might not be able to perceive how difficult it is.” In this way the root is transcription, learning by observing, practicing, and applying. After that comes adapting, transposition. And that’s little more than a change in location.


Sat/4, 7:30pm, $20-$40

SFJazz Center

201 Franklin, SF



Love spells trouble



TOFU AND WHISKEY The twin star driving forces behind Bleached (hellobleached.tumblr.com) have been around. Not in a cruising with delinquents kind of way, but that’s probably where their music is best blasted — careening down the California coast in a shiny convertible with a shitty ex-lover or two, rooftop down, an open bag of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, lipstick-stained cola can, and the stereo crackling.

Really though, being around more refers to the basic facts that singer-guitarist Jennifer Clavin and bassist Jessie Clavin have been playing music together for a long time, since junior high, and have toured nearly as long. More so, they’ve been connected since birth — they’re sisters who grew up together in the sleepy San Fernando Valley and reached for instruments partially out of boredom and isolation.

Their first notable band was early Aughts-born Mika Miko, which became known for its near-residency at formerly grimy downtown LA venue the Smell — and its frenetic live shows on tour with bands like the Gossip and No Age.

“Mika Miko was a mutual breakup,” younger sister Jessie says with a casual Valley girl affect from the dusty tour road between El Paso and Austin, Texas. “It ended because everyone wanted to do something else, go different directions. But me and Jen still wanted to play music together.”

They began slowly picking up the pieces for Bleached shortly after Mika Miko’s 2010 breakup and released three well-received seven-inches, but had yet to debut a proper LP until just recently. On April 2, they unfurled a melodious, punks-in-the-sun full-length, the punchy pop Ride Your Heart on Dead Oceans. On tour promoting the new record, Bleached will be in San Francisco Sun/5 at the Independent, 628 Divisadero, SF. www.theindependentsf.com.

So while Jen and Jessie are blood-related and forever sonically entwined, there’s an exhilarating feeling of something new afoot at this very moment in time. “I feel like it’s a new little chapter right now for us,” Jessie says. “For so long we were just like, playing live shows with songs from the seven-inches, and that’s basically all people really knew. So now that it’s out, this tour just feels really exciting — people are going to have the record, they’ll know what to expect.”

“At the beginning [of Bleached] everyone was comparing us to every current girl band, but not anymore, maybe now that our record came out, that’s why it’s changed.”

The rock’n’roll record hints at early punk like the Ramones around its edges on opener “Looking for a Fight,” but that’s washed away with cooling waves of jangly California surf pop melodies and mid-century teen dream vocals on songs like “Dreaming Without You” and “Dead Boy.” And despite the inherent upbeat nature of the tracks, much of the lyrics in songs like “Love Spells” and “When I Was Yours” reflect a somewhat darker time for singer Jen, who moved to New York briefly between the fall of Mika Miko and rise of Bleached. Suffice to say, she’s not singing about her cats or whatever.

In NYC she joined the band Cold Cave, desperately missed her sister, dated the wrong kind of boy, and wrote breakup songs for the band she’d soon reform back on the West Coast. “I was going through a really rough time,” Jen says as Jessie passes her the phone. “I moved back to LA and stayed in [our] parent’s house in the desert for a month…and locked myself in my room, kept myself distracted by writing a bunch of songs.”

Ride Your Heart was recorded and produced last fall in various studios in Burbank and at Bedrock LA in Echo Park. At the time, Jen was listening to a lot of Blondie (there’s a song on the album called “Waiting By the Telephone”), and both sisters survived on a steady diet of Bowie — Ziggy Stardust era — along with the the Stones, Velvet Underground, and the Kinks. “We communicate better when we know exactly what we’re listening to,” Jessie says.

And communication is key to any relationship, particularly the mythic sibling-bandmate dynamic. Though this one seems far less tumultuous then those widely discussed rock’n’roll brotherhoods. “We’ve been doing this for so long. It helps to work through it and get stronger,” says Jessie. That connection was tested when Jen was in New York. While she was with Cold Cave, she was still occasionally working on songs for an early version of Bleached, but the distance was too great. “We were trying to still write back and forth, but it was just difficult, it wasn’t the same as when we’re in the room together and start playing and Jen starts singing and has the melody. It just didn’t work out.”

Now, Jen lives in Hollywood, walking distance from the Universal backlot, and Jessie lives in Silverlake. The local LA bands they listen to are most frequently their friends’ acts, including Pangea and Audacity, and they like Oakland’s Shannon and the Clams, and other Burger Records acts. As is the current zeitgeist, Jessie says Bleached might soon be doing a tape with Burger too.

“We grew up with mixtapes. I definitely remember first hearing the Germs [that way],” Jessie says. “I was transitioning from listening to like, KROQ alternative to like, underground, but then I’d go to school in a Germs shirt and think I was really cool.”

Laughing, she adds, “Well I wouldn’t say cool, but definitely different.”



Oui! The multilingual French-German power-pop duo Stereo Total is back with a new album, Cactus Versus Brazel on Kill Rock Stars, packed with the expected adorable electro ditties, and a rejuvenated je ne sais quoi. With Super Adventure Club, Giggle Party.

Wed/1, 8pm, $15. Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell, SF. www.rickshawstop.com.



Crystalline psych-folk crooner Mariee Sioux’s twinkly followup to debut Faces in the Rocks (2007), Gift for the End was released a whole year ago, but there was never a proper SF release party (and there was some drama with the label it was supposed to be on going defunct) so the local songwriter is celebrating now. It’s a haunting, whispery, tender album, like a less annoying Joanna Newsom selection, and deserving of attention — no matter if that’s taking place on a much later date. With Alela Diane, Conspiracy of Venus.

Thu/2, 8:30pm, $16. Great American Music Hall, 859 O’Farrell, SF. www.slimspresents.com



Experimental contemporary live music always seems to creep its way into the SF International Film Festival. And who better to bring weirdo sound experiments than the current king of such things: Mike Patton. The operatically inclined Patton, perhaps best known as the debonaire genius behind Faith No More and Mr. Bungle (and recently as songwriter for the film The Place Beyond the Pines), will appear alongside three percussionists: Scott Amendola, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum’s Matthias Bossi, and William Winant at the Castro. The quartet, which has never before performed in this arrangement, will play an original score to 1924 German expressionist silent film, Waxworks.

Tue/7, 8:30pm, $22–$27. Castro Theater, 429 Castro, www.sffs.org.


So SoMa



SEX The tech-y, day lit factory space of high design sex toy manufacturers Crave (www.lovecrave.com) is located at Folsom and Eighth Street, so of course the innovative, pronged vibrator that industrial designer Ti Chang is showing me doubles as a USB storage device.

“I can’t imagine a better city in the United States to do this,” Chang tells me, ushering me past the way-cool 3-D printer, laser engraver, and laser cutter the company uses to build its line of pricey vibrators (besides motors and batteries — difficult to source affordably from this country — the vibes are made and assembled right there in the SoMa space.)

Crave’s full line-up. Please note vibrating nipple clamp lariat necklace (top)

Assembly line. Bottom left, a contraption meant to test the vibes under water pressure

Chang launched the Crave line on Valentine’s Day with business partner Michael Topolovac after a wildly successful crowdfunding venture, accomplished without the help of Kickstarter, which eschews sex-related campaigns. They hosted a “build a vibe” workshop that allowed customers to see just how “safe and lovely it is when these [toys] come together,” she says.

The line is beautiful, made to appeal to women put off by more vulgar devices. The “Duet” vibrator features two prongs meant to surround the clitoris, and can deliver a powerful, silent range of vibrations. It’s USB rechargeable, and its base comes in stainless steel or plated with 24 karat gold, in the case of the model that also houses 16GB of data storage. (“That’s for the uber jet setter,” jokes Chang.)

I can’t remember what this machine does. Shapes metal?

Crave’s resident teddybear

Chang’s designs are so gorgeous you want to show them off — and you can. Crave’s “Foreplay” jewelry line (which is made in China) doubles as accessories. The “Droplet Necklace” is a lariat design featuring two graceful silver weights that can be affixed to your nipples, and set to vibrate.

Titillated? Crave is one of the local businesses hosting a factory tour through SFMade Week — go see how pleasure is built.


May 9, 4-5pm, free

1234 Folsom, SF



“Porn 2.0: Creating Adult Content for Online Consumption” Wed/1, 7pm, $10. Feelmore510, 1703 Telegraph, Oakl. www.feelmore510.com. Roxxie Cyber teaches you about the best way to convert that sex tape to rock-hard… dollars.

“I Masturbate” Through May 31. Opening reception: Fri/3, 7-10pm, free. Center for Sex and Culture, 1359 Mission, SF. www.sexandculture.org. Down for a gallery show of positively sexy people masturbating? Of course you are! As bonus, photographer Shilo McCabe is willing to wager more displays of this nature are key to improving society’s openness about our sexuality. Now you’re perving with a purpose!

Thong Protest Sat/4, noon-2pm, free. Jane Warner Plaza, Market and Castro, SF. nude-in.blogspot.com. Toe the line of legality at this demonstration against the recent nudity ban, where thongs, jockstraps, socks-on-your-cock are the recommended dress code.

Rough, rough



They have cheerleaders at semi-pro football games. They have semi-pro cheerleaders. At halftime the five of them went out to the 50-yard line of the Rancho Cotate High School football field in Rohnert Park and put on a li’l halftime show.

I’m not a dog. Nevertheless, I really really felt like chasing Frisbees. The girls were good, but the halftime show could have used . . . something. Maybe a semi-pro Frisbee dog.

There was a semi-pro field announcer. Semi-pro concession stand. Semi-pro refs — one with a microphone, so the semi-pro spectators had a clue. There must have been about a hundred of us, maybe two, counting players’ wives and such, and their kids, who were running around on the sidelines, playing catch.

Girls from Hooters were trolling the stands, handing out coupons for a chicken wing special. And members of the North Bay Bruisers, Sonoma County’s roller derby team, were rumbling back and forth across the aluminum bleachers, in their skates, trying to sell raffle tickets.

Hedgehog, semi-pro photographer, was down on the field taking some pretty decent pictures of things. Including: a nice sideline catch, a runner crossing the plane of the end zone, and — late in the second quarter — a punter about to get creamed.

He was Angelo Jeffereys of the Nor Cal Knights, who double-dutied as a running back. And probably the play would have drawn a roughing-the-punter call in the NFL, because the punt blocker got more leg than pigskin.

Semi-pro refs are not flag shy, either, far as I can tell. I think there were two or three penalties on that play alone, and at least one of them was a personal foul. Oddly, though, none were for roughing the punter. Who wasn’t getting up.

One of the North Bay Rattlers tended to him — the same guy who I’d seen seeing to the injured Knight’s quarterback earlier in the half, on the Rattlers’ sideline.

Semi-pro football is rough. Not semi-rough. Rough rough.

But (as I might have mentioned) I’m not a dog. I’m a semi-pro sports writer. I was sitting just under the field announcer’s booth, in the sun, scribbling semi-legible notes on the back of a grocery receipt and just generally enjoying my Saturday.

I love Sonoma County. The air up there, the pace, the ten degrees it has on the city this time of year . . . There are many reasons why the North Bay is one of my favorite bays, but the Rattlers, their semi-pro football team, isn’t one of them.

Not that they’re not good. Oh, they’re that — a little overly so, is the problem. They win by scores like 85-0, 60-0, and, last Saturday against the Knights, 56-6.

The Knights had their moments: Two or three quarterback sacks, an interception . . . Early in the first quarter, trailing only 7-0, Jeffereys boomed a professional-quality punt which briefly changed the complexion of the game, field-positionwise …

After that, and a 15-yard facemask penalty against the Rattlers, the Knights had almost even seemed to be “in it.”

But they couldn’t capitalize, and fifteen game-clock minutes later when Jeffereys finally hobbled off the field after the roughing-the-punter non-call, the sense of in-it-ness was long gone. It was 28-0.

It was 35-0 at the half.

But here’s the thing: There are twelve teams in the West Coast Football Association. At least one of them is capable of beating the Rattlers: The Pacifica Islanders. They already met in the regular season (Rattlers 25, Islanders 17), and will likely face off again for the league championship in June.

If you’re a football fan, like me, you’re going to want to see that rematch.

Meanwhile, the Nor Cal Knights, even with last weekend’s lopsided loss, are 3-2 on the season, which puts them in the middle of the pack. They need a quarterback. (They went through three of them, each as ineffective as the last, against the Rattlers.) But against most WCFA teams, on any given Saturday, they are liable to give you a good ‘un.

These guys are big. Fast. Talented. Brave-bordering-on-maybe-crazy. I mean, it’s not the S.F. Women’s Flag Football League, but it’s fun.

And cheap.

There are teams in Modesto, San Jose, Santa Cruz, Reno . . . And the Knights play their home games at Castlemont High School, in Oakland. Check it out.

West Coast Football Association

www.wcfanetwork.com. Click on “application” for info about joining the league.


Special occasion eviction


STREET SEEN “My customers are Latin,” says the owner of Latin Bridal Silvia Ferrusquia, entertaining a crowd of mamas, grandmas, and our photographer while we wait for the models for our photoshoot to get their hair and makeup done, and don the massive, fairytale quinceañera dresses and tiaras they bought from her shop for their big days.

“They may not have a lot of money, but they have good taste. There’s nobody that serves this community the way we do.”

Sadly, the community may have to look for other options. After a decade in the Mission Street storefront, Ferrusquia — whose crowded, colorful shop is one of the last of its kind in the neighborhood — has been served an eviction notice.

In the spring of 2012, in the middle of the shop’s busy season, a damaged sewage pipe caused 11 ceiling tiles to fall, ruining close to a hundred of Ferrusquia’s ornate bridal, communion, and quince dresses with foul liquid. She says a representative from Prado Group, her landlord, told her to hold her rent payments until damage could be assessed and reparations made.

“What are we going to do without you?” customer Veronica Ortiz wonders, when she hears of the shop’s predicament. Ortiz was picking up her daughter’s communion dress, with its skirt of carefully-curled tulle roses. Like her sisters and sisters-in-law, Ortiz also bought her wedding dress from Latin Bridal. An extravagant gown inspired by Princess Diana’s famous nuptials, it had 6,000 crystals sewn to it, and a 20-meter train that Ortiz says was mistaken by guests at her hometown wedding in Durango, Mexico for the church aisle’s carpet as she said her vows.

Things went further south for the shop when the Prado representative with which they were communicating was fired. Ferrusquia was told by the company that she had to pay up the three months’ back rent in short order. After the losses sustained while her shop was smattered with sewage, mildew, and subsequent discovery of asbestos during its busy months, she was forced to file for bankruptcy.

After multiple warnings to pay the back rent (which has ballooned to a figure over $25,000 — a number representing six months’ rent that Ferrusquia does not understand and went unexplained by the Prado Group, who declined to comment when contacted for this feature), she was served with a final eviction notice this month. She tells me the building’s other tenants are being pushed out, that the Prado Group would only renew the shoe store next door’s commercial lease for a year and a half, and that she worries for the residential tenants upstairs.

The shop may be gone by the time you read this, if small business advocates are unable to help. At the very least we will have these photos of young customers in the Latin Bridal dresses they wore on the heretofore most important day of their lives — proof positive of Latin Bridal’s importance in a neighborhood that seems to have decided to change. “At least we’ll have gone out big,” says Ferrusquia’s son Eddie, thanking the shoot crew after the lights and curling irons are packed out.

“Don’t worry about anything on your day,” Ferrusquia says in Spanish to one of our customer-models, for whom the shoot is a test drive for her quinceañera next week. “Don’t let anyone rush you! This day will never happen again.” 

Latin Bridal 2631 Mission, SF. (415) 647-4200, www.latinbridal.com


Models: Amaris Tenorio, Brenda Diaz, Michelle Trejo

Art direction: Caitlin Donohue

Photography: Shot in the City

Makeup: Sarina Martinez/porcelainglow@gmail.com

Hair: Vivien Brown/Salon Miel

Assistant: Dick Van Dick