Volume 47 Number 36

In search of …

0

arts@sfbg.com

FILM In the 1970s conspiracy-theory culture flourished as never before, an unsurprising development considering the disillusioned malaise that set in after the turbulence of the 1960s and Watergate. In addition to innumerable theories about the “truth” behind JFK’s death (and later Elvis’), there was suddenly a widespread fascination with such questionable phenomena as the Bermuda Triangle, UFOs, Bigfoot, extra-sensory perception, the “Amityville Horror,” and so forth. Naturally this interest rapidly spread from cheap paperbacks to television and drive-in screens.

Such obsessions occasionally sparked upscale treatment (i.e. 1977’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind), but were more often exploited by filmmakers working on the trashier side of the audiovisual entertainment spectrum. Ergo the surfeit of cinematic dumpster-diving that comprises the Vortex’s June series “The Vortex Phenomena,” whose four Thursday evenings are dedicated to exploring the unknown in movies that themselves are largely pretty dang unknown.

There are at least a couple exceptions — and interestingly they’re the ones least relevant to the theme, being traditional supernatural horror. Most prominent is John Carpenter’s 1980 The Fog, his entry into the relative big time after indie Halloween basically invented slasherdom two years prior. Depicting murderous mariner ghosts who attack a coastal town on its centennial, The Fog is an atmospheric classic of sorts that almost became a career-ending bomb. Assembling a rough cut, Carpenter thought the results so flat he did extensive reshoots that ultimately constituted about a third of the final, successful version. The film still has a structural problem, though: we know early on that the ghoulies want to claim six lives, and since right off the bat they take three, there’s no huge sense of peril for the cluttered cast (including Jamie Lee Curtis, her Psycho-shower-victim mom Janet Leigh, bodacious Adrienne Barbeau, and Hal Holbrook). Trivia note: it was partly shot in Point Reyes and Bolinas.

The other moderately well-known film in the Vortex series is The Dunwich Horror, a striking 1970 H.P. Lovecraft adaptation with erstwhile Gidget and all-around perky girl Sandra Dee as a graduate student unknowingly recruited for demonic sacrifice by a superbly creepy Dean Stockwell. Otherwise, “Phenomenon” features movies even the fairly learned horror fan has probably never heard of — though if you were of viewing age in the 1970s you might have actually seen (and forgotten) a couple of them on network TV.

A pilot for an unproduced series, 1973’s Baffled! features Leonard Nimoy in an unusually debonair role as a racecar driver who begins experiencing psychic visions of future mayhem (sometimes, inconveniently, when he’s behind the wheel). They draw him to England, where a visiting movie star (Vera Miles, another veteran of 1960’s Psycho) finds her 12-year-old daughter going through an uber-bratty phase possibly heightened by demonic possession. The slick mix of comedy-mystery and horror doesn’t quite work, but Star Trek aficionados will enjoy the inexplicable wrongness of seeing Nimoy as a conventional suave action hero, saying things like “You’re a great-lookin’ chick!”

A stand-alone, more typical TV “Movie of the Week” of the same era was 1975’s Satan’s Triangle, which offered “one explanation” for the ongoing mystery of disappearances in the Bermuda Triangle. Forgotten bo-hunk Doug McClure is part of a Coast Guard rescue team answering a distress signal from a wrecked yacht on which are found various corpses — and one traumatized survivor, Kim Novak (yet another Hitchcock veteran). What happened? A hint: Name-check the title. And expect a very Christian ending. It’s like a fairly clever attenuated Twilight Zone or Night Gallery episode. Those series’ actual mastermind, Rod Serling, narrates the 1973 omnibus horror feature Encounter with the Unknown — something of a ruse, since he neither wrote or produced this amateurish trilogy of dull, dismal horror stories. Also on the yakkety side is 1978 Italian lukewarm mess Eyes Behind the Stars, in which space invaders wearing sparkly hoodies and leotards with motorcycle-helmet-type face visors wreak convoluted havoc on any human who gets wise to their murky global conspiracy.

There’s likewise too much talk and not enough terror in 1979’s The Kirlian Witness, a murder mystery about a dead florist (and telepathic plants) that’s just odd enough to hold interest. The “secret life of plants” was big that year — then-massively popular Stevie Wonder released an album of that same name, one that was soundtrack to a documentary about floral phenomena that played theaters but seems to have been completely removed from the public sphere since.

The hairy mother of all speculative subject matters arrives in the form of Yeti: The Giant of the 20th Century, a 1977 wonder that manages to combine two of the decade’s most disreputable subgenres, the Bigfoot cash-in and the King Kong knockoff. Dino De Laurentiis’ massively publicized, critically mauled 1976 Kong remake inspired a lot of cheap imitations, none sillier than this Italian production which basically copies the entire second half of that revamp, albeit with a muscled bear in a fright wig giganticized via primitive process shots, terrorizing Toronto. He’s like a 100-foot tall, glacier-thawed, million-year-old Wolfman Jack.

The yeti does not appear to have genitals, but gets very excited when the heroine of this otherwise family-targeted entertainment inadvertently rubs one giant nipple. (That is the kind of attention to detail one appreciates in “Un Film di Frank Kramer,” a.k.a. Gianfranco Parolini, a vetern of spaghetti westerns and Hercules movies.) It’s no Shriek of the Mutilated (1974) as yeti movies go, but it does have disco music, super loud wide-lapel men’s sports coats, a heroic Lassie-type dog, and magical leaps of narrative continuity. *

THE VORTEX PHENOMENA

Through June 27

Thu, 9 and 11pm, $10

Vortex Room

1082 Howard, SF

Facebook: The Vortex Room

 

Mad dreams

0

SUPER EGO One of the best yet worst-kept secrets of the plastic fantastic SF underground has been Vinyl Dreams, a pop-up record shop in DJ Mike Bee’s living room. It’s been a must for visiting headliner DJs — and those of us who get all giddy at the mere flash of a fresh vinyl platter gingerly unsleeved in a private space. I’ve long yearned to write about this parlor of grooved delights, where Mike Bee would happily try to get his hands on any underground tune one desired. But a girl must have her secrets. And I’m not one to gossip!

Wow, it actually hurt me to type that last thing. Well, out of the living room and onto the streets: at last, Mike, who is one of the sweetest people ever and a killer decksmith himself, has opened an official hot chops shop in Lower Haight called, yes, Vinyl Dreams (593 Haight, SF. www.tinyurl.com/vinyldreamssf). Go there and live the vinyl dream! It’s tucked in the cozy basement spot formerly occupied by the legendary Tweekin Records (and the first iteration of Black Pancake, now closed), so there’ll be a lot of twitterpating rave ghosts hanging at the record racks. Eeeeeeeee.

 

CHICHA WHOMP

This new first Thursdays joint at the Showdown sounds real cute. Dancehall, riddim, rap, tropical bass, and downtown Latin twists are all on deck — as are DJs Tom Doane and Yoni Klein, plus this month’s slammin’ guest B Majik, a.k.a. Sergio Flores.

Thu/6, 9pm, free. Showdown, 10 Sixth St., SF. www.showdownsf.com

 

THE FIELD

It’s been a minute since we heard from brilliant hypnotic electronic looper Alex Willner. The last time he was here, supporting 2011 album Looping State of Mind, he came with a full band and blew the crowd away with a 10+ minute version of seminal “Over the Ice.” (Alas, a bunch of talky gay bears kept breaking the spell.) This time around he’s performing a special live ambient set on all-analog audio and video equipment. (Gay bears, hush!)

Thu/6, 8:30 doors, $16.50 advance. The Independent, 628 Divisadero, SF. www.blasthaus.com

 

MADLIB MEDICINE SHOW: THE SOUNDS OF ZAMROCK!

Yes! Wonderful beat konducta Madlib takes to the tables to reprise the ecstatic golden age of Zambian 1970s rock. Get into it, it’s afreakin’ amazing. Bandleader Emmanuel “Jagari” Chanda of seminal Zamrock outfit WITCH will be there, too, for his first appearance in North America ever, so can’t miss.

Fri/7, 10pm-3am, $20. 1015 Folsom, SF. www.1015.com

 

HOUSE OF HOUSE

Saw these two NYC cats — whose actually epic, 12-minute “Rushing to Paradise (Walking These Streets)” is a soundtrack for life — tear down the house-house a couple years ago at LA’s infamous A Party Called Rhonda, and often still recall the acid-happy, bass-bliss moment I couldn’t stop screaming on the dancefloor.

Sat/8, 9:30pm-3am, $10–$15. Public Works, 131 Erie, SF. www.publicsf.com

 

TECHNO CASINO

The sublime Voices from the Lake, Monolake, and Deadbeat perform at this casino-themed party upstairs in the stunning upstairs Lodge Room of the Regency. This is cool, OK. Also cool is that it’s a fundraiser for the Gray Area Foundation for the Arts’ Creative Code Education program, which helps bring artists and performers to the coding table, expanding everyone’s digital-magical horizons.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IhCrzCpdvVU

Sat/8, 9pm-late, $30. Regency Center Lodge, 1300 Van Ness, SF. www.gaffta.org

 

RITE SPOT 61ST ANNIVERSARY

Woah, everybody’s favorite unpretentious, old-timey hang in the Mission is almost as old as me. Join its awesome cast of regulars — and others who love fried appetizers, drink specials, and wicked Tin Pan Alley-type piano-playing — in a big “hats off” to this gem.

Wed/12, 5pm-close, free. Rite Spot, 2099 Folsom, SF. www.ritespotcafe.net

 

Go deep

0

SEX Public Sex, Private Lives filmmaker Simone Jude was on set with Kink.com dominatrix Isis Love when Love received a call from Child Protective Services. The single mom would have to meet with CPS staff — there’d been questions raised about her parenting of 12-year old Rusty. For most documentarians, plot line would pause there.

But Jude was a cameraperson for the San Francisco BDSM porn company before and while embarking on the four-year challenge of following three of Kink’s most known dommes for PSPL (screening Sat/8 at the Roxie for SF DocFest). She was a trusted quantity.

So Jude jumped in the backseat behind Love’s sweet, aspiring dancer offspring Rusty, and was there when the mother-son duo emerged relieved that the cause for the meeting had been not Love’s penchant for hogtying subs for the Internet, but rather Rusty’s petulant reportage of a minor fight they’d had to a mandatory reporter employee at his school.

Though it will be judged as such by mainstream audience (not necessarily a bad thing), this is not a documentary on Kink.com, or BDSM porn, or porn at all. Leave that to James Franco’s documentary kink, which makes its SF debut at Frameline Fri/21 (www.frameline.org).

In another stressful scene, we watch PSPL protagonist Lorelei Lee agonize as she prepares to explain to the jury at John “Buttman” Stagliano’s 2010 obscenity trial her reasons for starring in a film featuring milk enemas. Jude’s third muse Princess Donna not only allowed her real first name to be used in the film (a name that I, even after years of interviewing and hanging out with Donna, learned for the first time thanks to PSPL), but let Jude film her beloved dad’s funeral and an awkward moment exploring her newly-kink-curious mom’s bag of sex toys.

Through this intimacy, PSPL emerges not as a love letter to, or exposé of, rough sex on camera, but rather a portrait of three extraordinary women, whose singularity dictated, rather than resulted from, their career path.

“You have to be willing to be outside the norm of society,” Stagliano muses, regarding porn industry careers. The dairy enemas and tit slaps that the PSPL three undergo are far from the three dommes’ primary hurdles — those would be dealing with the outside world’s perception of their lives.

Which is not to say the film’s a downer. Some shots sing: a golden ray slices behind Tina Horn’s bound figure as Lorelei strides into a Donna-directed bondage scene; Princess Donna and her mother connect post-funeral by a blue river framed by rolling hills.

“It’ll be interesting to see how [Donna, Lee, and Love]’s fans react,” Jude tells me. But given the film’s easy access point — even “BDSM” is defined by a cue card flashed on screen — she hopes the wider world will learn a little about the objects of its desire.

Public Sex, Private Lives Sat/8 and June 12, 9pm; $11. Roxie Theater, 3117 16th St., SF. June 15, 7pm, $11. New Parkway, 474 24th St., Oakl. www.sfindie.com/festivals/sf-docfest

THIS WEEK’S SEXY EVENTS

“Fairoaks Project” Through June 30. Opening reception: Fri/7, 7-10pm, free. Center for Sex and Culture, 1349 Mission, SF. www.sexandculture.org. Photographer Frank Melleno’s Polaroids from the Fairoaks Hotel Haight-Ashbury bathhouse between 1977-’79. Play parties, commune living, history galore.

“Hot, Healthy, Happy, and Living With Herpes” Tue/11, 6:30-8:30pm, free. Good Vibrations, 1620 Polk, SF. www.goodvibes.com. Sex educators Midori and Charlie Glickman teach how to live (sexily) with herpes, including ways to break the news to partners, safe sex practices, more.

Dan Savage Tue/11, 7pm, $80. Castro Theatre, 429 Castro, SF. www.commonwealthclub.org. The source of Senator Rick Santorum’s SEO problems and the country’s leading voice on progressive sex education comes to the Castro to chat about his new book American Savage.

Volume 47 Number 36 Flip-through Edition

0

Three! Out!

2

IN THE GAME Home runs are called fuoricampi, which translates literally to outfields, in the sense of “out of the park.” Hits are valide, or “valids.” And a strike out is a strike out. It’s pretty adorable, when the field announcer at Stadio Nuevo Europeo in Parma exclaims, “Strike! Three! Out!”

At one point last Saturday, Parma’s starter Jose Sanchez struck out seven in a row. Over six shutout innings, he struck out 12, so we got to hear it a lot:

“Strike! Three! Out!”

I’m 50.

How it happened was like this: I was born, and it was 50 years ago. And now it’s now. So: yeah . . . fuckin’ 50.

Many years ago I had a sweatshirt with Chief Wahoo (the Cleveland Indians’ politically insensitive logo) on it, only instead of saying Cleveland it said Nettuno. The Nettuno Indians.

Then, when anyone said they were offended by my shirt I would say, but it’s not Cleveland; it’s Nettuno. Which admittedly didn’t solve the problem. At best it diverted attention away from it long enough for me to sneak out a side door — you know, while my assailant’s pot-addled brain was flipping through his rolodex of planets, from the sun outward, looking for Nettuno.

Is “rolodex” still a word?

In either case, we couldn’t believe we missed the World Baseball Classic at AT&T Park earlier this spring, so, so long as we were in Europe for my birthday we thought we’d go see us some world baseball. Which is to say, Italian baseball. Which is to say, Parma vs. Grosseto. Which is to say, Enegan Toshiba Grosseto. Which is also to say, the Grosetto Mastiffs.

The names of the teams are very confusing over there. And they tend to change a lot, sometimes even between innings. In fact, sadly, I don’t think the Nettuno Indians are the Nettuno Indians anymore. Probably Cleveland sued them. Or someone pointed out that Native Americans were inherently American and, by extension, from Earth.

Anyway, we had hoped to make it to Nettuno, to find out, but they were away that Saturday, playing a doubleheader against Saturno. Italian baseball only happens on weekends, see. There just isn’t enough interest in it, when Hedgehog and I aren’t around, to support more games than that. Even with us, attendance for the game in Parma was 139. I know because I counted.

I also used my passport as a straight-edge to line some squares into a piece of paper and I kept score. All so I could tell my loyal and baffled readership back here at home in San Francisco that Parma beat Grosseto on Saturday 9-3.

Leftfielder Massimo Pesci, hitting in the nine hole, crushed a two-run homer off Grosseto starter Rafael Garcia in the second. Parma added two in the fifth, chasing Garcia, then blasted Coronado Angel Marquez in the sixth with five straight hits, capped by a Luca Scalera two-run shot.

With the game securely out of reach, Parma reliever Alexander Tabata Velasquez came on in the 7th and earned a three-inning save.

Grosseto got all three of their runs in the eighth. Francesco Di Mattia led off with a pinch single, Rafael Lora walked, and Bernardo Encarnacion singled to load the bases. Cleanup hitter Nelwin Sforza came through with a sharp single to center, scoring two, and Vincenzo D’Addio followed with a sac fly to right, plating Encarnacion.

There. I just wanted to say all that. Because I’m 50, so I can.

Winning pitcher: Jose Sanchez. Losing pitcher: Rafael Garcia. And if you’re wondering why all the Italian league pitchers have Spanish sounding names, it’s because they import them from Latin America. I think because Italians in Italy don’t play enough baseball, growing up, to develop into pitchers. This is just a guess.

But it could explain why Italy tends to surprise then fizzle in international competitions like the World Baseball Classic. This year, for example, they upset Mexico and Canada in the first round, then lost out in the second. Their starting pitching holds, and then all hell breaks loose when you get into their bullpen.

Such is the state of soccer-dominant Europe, when it comes to trying to use their hands and arms at something. There’s a promising Italian national in the Seattle farm system (Alex Liddi), and one of my favorite current major leaguers is Netherlands-born shortstop Didi Gregorious, of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Oh, and the Bundesliga in Germany has a team called the Dohren Wild Farmers. That’s who I want to play for.

When I grow up.

Foggy holiday

2

culture@sfbg.com

COCKTAILS Having worked in retail for the past five years, I’ve had Memorial Day off precisely zero times in the past half-decade. That means never enjoying the pleasure of spending the unofficial start of Summer barbecuing in the park, leisurely sipping ice cold beers with friends as the sun gets higher and the shorts get shorter. So when I got the email from the CEO of my new gig telling us all to go out and enjoy the holiday, I was delighted. That is until, in pure San Francisco fashion, the fog rolled in and all my visions of patios, grills, and parks misted over. What to do? My friend. Danielle and I didn’t take too long to figure it out: um, bar crawl.

We started at the Blarney Stone (5625 Geary, SF. (415) 386-9914) in the Outer Richmond. Along with some guys aching to watch a baseball game, I found myself waiting promptly at 2pm for the doors to open. Yes, that’s dedication. After taking my seat, Nathan behind the bar mixed me me a Paloma with freshly squeezed grapefruit juice, and I pulled out my book, waiting for my habitually late partner to arrive.

I’m a Blarney regular (I live a couple blocks away) and over the past four years of frequent Stoning, I’ve gotten to know the bartenders, who have gladly introduced me to some new spirits. And friendly fellow patrons have creatively helped me dodge uncomfortable encounters with any creepy visitors, all while enjoying said spirits. Can’t complain with that.

After several Palomas (at $7 each) and an Irish coffee (which was paid for by a gentleman who was probably a might too caffeinated by Irish coffees himself) — and after Danielle finally showed up — we hit the road and headed for Trick Dog (3010 20th St., SF. www.trickdogbar.com) in the Mission. I’ve been longing to hit up the Dog for some time now. If you’re a cocktail enthusiast, you already know why. Owned by Josh Harris and Scott Baird, otherwise known as swashbuckling bar-consulting duo the Bon Vivants, it’s been the hot spot ever since it opened this January.

Although all the seats were taken, we were lucky enough to be able to grab a standing spot by the window immediately after walking in. Danielle shifted through the cocktail menu made to look like a paint color swatch, while I ordered the mezcal-based Polar Bear ($11). Along with the mezcal, the Polar Bear is made with dry vermouth and Creme de Menthe. It’s a bit like a Glacier mint served up in a stemmed cocktail glass: minty and clear, instantly refreshing and smoky at the same time. I loved it. Danielle ordered the Straw Hat ($11), a Calvados (French apple brandy) drink with chestnut honey, hard cider, vermouth, rosemary, and lime served on the rocks, and I could tell in an instant she was into it. I moved on to a Baby Turtle: reposado tequila, Compari, cinnamon, grapefruit, and egg white (a weakness of mine in cocktails). It was frothy, pink, and lovely.

Blackbird (2124 Market, SF. www.blackbirdbar.com) at Church and Market, has been one of my favorite bars for a while now. Here’s hoping it remains popular but doesn’t get too crowded once the new tenants of all the condos being constructed on Market move in.

I love that the artwork inside changes as much as the drink menu (although I’m longing for the day the amazing Grape Drink returns). But nothing can beat the happy hour special. $5 sours? Yes, please.

Already floating a heavy buzz, we strolled in and easily sat at the bar. Whiskey sours would top off our night just right. Even better, more egg whites topped the yummy sours. I believe I had about three of these frothy treats before our Sidecar arrived to take us home.

After squeezing 10 drinks into six hours, I don’t remember much about the ride home (and I don’t dare look at my bank statement). But a Memorial Day filled with new drinks and new friends — cheers to that.

Hello solo

0

arts@sfbg.com

DANCE Christy Funsch’s latest program, State: not anywhere near to now (May 31-June 2, CounterPULSE), represents what we have come to expect from her work: it is full of surprises, as comfortable as one’s own skin, and both immensely private and ever so open. It also keeps some of its secrets. Funsch’s primary output has been in solos, a genre she enters into with the utmost confidence. Her dance making is nuanced, rich in detail, and impeccably crafted. For all their quietness, her pieces resonate like finely tuned bells.

Last year’s illuminating and entertaining One on One at Z Space, in which Funsch set a number of her solos on other dancers, served as a reminder of just how bursting with possibilities the genre is. Yet there is no place to hide. The dancer and the dance are always on the spot.

Sharing this year’s concert with Funsch was Portland, Ore.-based Katherine Longstreth, clearly a kindred spirit in creating small-scaled works that are anything but modest.

The program opened with two of Longstreth’s own solos, O What, danced by Funsch, and O Where, performed by the choreographer. Highly condensed, they propose one vision but quickly turn it inside out. O What’s collage of Americana songs called up easy corn-fed living while Funsch explored the dark stage with a flashlight. Walking, stretching her arms, rolling through the torso, and rocking to the beat, Funsch seemed to relish entering the world of Oklahoma! But in the end, she stretched herself onto a narrow strip of Astroturf, her head stuck in what looked like a huge cloud of cotton candy.

With echoes of Over the Rainbow overlapping with “Home on the Range,” O Where pierced the concept of the Americana home. Dressed in black with a white blanket that turned into a shawl, a hood, and body covering, Longstreth carefully traced regular linear patterns. Rolling on the floor, she opened her blanket into wings and eventually an elegant white frock coat. Then very quickly, she discarded it to carefully fold it — like a military flag.

Nol Simonse reprised Funsch’s fine 2012 Kneel Before the Fire. He is an articulate, highly expressive dancer always good to watch, though I couldn’t help but wonder if he took a lot of liberties with Funsch’s choreography. Performed to Alex Keitel’s viola da gamba, Simonse embraced a free-spirited approach to the music that ended when he threw himself at Keitel’s feet. A gesture of thanks, well deserved.

The beautifully economic Narrative Medicine, choreographed by Longstreth and performed by her and Kelly Bartnik, traced what was a perhaps a friendship imperiled of illness. Casually rolling big wooden spools that became chairs and a table, the women tenderly examined each other’s hands. Then Longstreth moved to what looked like a medical screen to return to her partner, now stretched out on the table. Bartnik now fiercely resisted an examination. A lovely touch was the screen’s unraveling, ensnaring Bartnik in the process. Yet Longstreth held onto her.

Funsch’s newest solo, Moving Still(s), was apparently inspired by Fritz Lang’s 1931 film M, from which she borrowed 15 characters. It’s been too long since I’ve seen that movie to discern any echoes; however, Keitel’s suggestive sound collage proposed a world through which Funsch moved, at times searchingly, at times perhaps threatened by it. Above all she seemed to have her antennas out all the time, examining space close up but also peering into nowhere.

When the fingers of one hand began to tremble, it began to look like a conversation within her body. Grabbing her leg, she wanted to control a limp that careened her downstage. When the music switched into a jazz mode, she rollicked along with it. Opening and closing Moving were Funsch’s arms angled against her head. Their motion suggested that of the shutters on a lens. If Moving returns, I’ll revisit M beforehand.

At this point, the final work, she’s near she’s now she’s nowhere (which was announced as “in-progress”) is a loosely constructed trio for Celine Alwyn-Parker, Aura Fischbeck, and Peiling Kao. How and if its robust physicality eventually will be tamed and shaped will be the challenge. Tamara Alburtis’s sound sculpture of tiny speakers looked promising, but remained silent for much of the duration.

Have love, will travel

0

emilysavage@sfbg.com

TOFU AND WHISKEY Trails and Ways have zigged when others zagged. Though in reality, the band’s process is becoming more in line with the path many underground musicians take to create and distribute work in 2013. It’s avoided traditional labels, instead choosing to release a record through a Tumblr-based community project, and before that generated intense web interest with original singles, clever covers, and inspired remixes, building a reputation as a talented crew of globally inspired dream poppers.

And that windy route has paid off. The melodic Oakland quartet, which was named one of the Guardian’s Bands on the Rise earlier this year, will play its biggest headlining show yet this week, Fri/7 at the Independent (9pm, $12, 628 Divisadero, SF. www.theindependentsf.com). It’s part of its first full US (and Canadian) tour. All of this is in celebration of a record that’s been buzzed about since the first hints were dropped a year or so ago: the Trilingual EP is here.

If you’ve been following the band’s trajectory, you’ve heard many of the tracks before. Five-song Trilingual begins with faraway wind chimes and sturdy hand-claps, kicking off new single, “Como Te Vas,” which then builds into a electronic dance pop track with catchy guitar hooks over island synths and layers of echoing Spanish vocals. It bleeds directly into championed early released “Nunca,” lovely and moody “Tereza,” which ends with the sounds of rolling waves, along with previous single, the bossa nova beat driven “Border Crosser” (which supports the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights) and bubbly “Mtn Tune.” A few of the tracks showcase that two female-two male vocal counterpart dynamic of Trails and Ways, others spotlight and highlight one or two voices — all strong in their own right.

“Some of the songs we put out last year but had never given them a home. It’s our debut of songs written and recorded together as this band,” guitarist-vocalist Keith Brower Brown tells me. “Working as this four-piece changed how and what we do to the core. Before we went on this first major tour, we wanted to bring together our work so far — and new material — into this physical object to tour behind, a declaration of who we are and what we’ve done as a band.”

Although the foursome — Brower Brown, bassist Emma Oppen, drummer Ian Quirk, and guitarist-synth player Hannah Van Loon — initially considered expanding Trilingual into an LP, they decided not to force the additional tracks, to let the work settle and grow organically. “We realized that we never want to rush a full-length out the door. A lot of things have happened really fast for us — especially given that we’ve just been doing all this on top of demanding jobs and other projects.” (That ends soon; two of the four quit working full-time jobs on May 31, so when they return home from tour, they’ll be spending “infinite time” on their music.)

“If you’re too deep in the echo chamber you can feel this pressure to kick out new material every week. But when we put out a debut LP we want it to be as good as the albums that inspire us to make this music.”

It’s this kind of careful attention to detail that draws listeners in to Trails and Ways, the delicate layers of sound, the snippets of additional beats and instruments. Each track tells a story, and is intended to take a listener on a journey. As Brower Brown points out, that intension is right there in the band’s name. These joint interests in both traveling and exploring other cultures came from the time Brower Brown and bassist Oppen spent living in Brazil and Spain. “When you’re traveling in foreign space, wrestling with language and identity to express yourself takes you — by necessity — to the most creative place I know…and a lot of our songs and musical obsessions were sparked in those moments at the raw edge of translation and incomprehension.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TNi_xKxySos

The band will release the EP through Non-Market, a brand new East Bay based DIY community label in which Trails and Ways are very involved. “We hope [it] will transcend the market of music promotion and distribution, by just having Bay bands write about other Bay bands,” Brower Brown says. “So it’s a open, principled, non-commercial music community.”

Along with being a stop on the band’s “Trans-American Trilingual Tour,” the Independent show is also kind of the label kickoff. The band’s San Francisco openers are local pals, Social Studies — and Astronauts Etc., which has also been a core part of the Non-Market dream.

The tour will take the travel junkies through much of the US and Canada. They’re “looking forward to 8,000 miles of time together in the minivan,” along with the hopes of popping off the road for hikes and lake swimming. The band is also itching to meet Drake in Toronto, and will play the same stage as both Kendrick Lamar and Tom Petty at the Firefly Music Festival in Delaware, plus a show in Chicago with its Portland, Ore. friends Radiation City. Even without the release of a proper full-length LP, the group will be headlining most of its US tour.

 

TOTAL CONTROL

If you somehow missed killer 2012 LP Henge Beat, Total Control is an Australian punk supergroup of sorts, featuring members of Eddy Current Suppression Ring, UV Race, and more. The band, which recently put out a split with Thee Oh Sees, sounds like a mix of Suicide and Joy Division, with lyrics aimed at sci-fi curiosities and paranoid guitar lines doused in just the right amount of doom and gloom.

Sat/8, 8pm, $12. Eagle Tavern, 398 12th St., SF. www.sf-eagle.com. With Thee Oh Sees, Fuzz.

Sun/9, 8pm, $10. Uptown, 1928 Telegraph, Oakl. www.uptownnightclub.com. With Grass Widow, Neon Piss, Synthetic ID.

 

LUMERIANS

It’s been awhile since we’ve seen the Lumerians out and about in San Francisco, as the five-piece spacey, psychedelic wanderers (also recently described as a “Oakland stoner quintet”) reminded fans on social media this week. They also claim to have some secrets in store for the crowd at this show, which opens with fellow locals Wax Idols, at SF’s newest music venue, the Chapel. With this group, it’s got to be something cosmic.

Sat/8, 9pm, $15. Chapel, 777 Valencia, SF. www.thechapelsf.com.

 

NVH

Local record and book shop the Explorist International (which specializes in rural American music, jazz, international pop and folk, and electronics) is curating shows at Amnesia for the month of June, this week bringing out Sub Pop’s NVH, a.k.a. Noel Von Harmonson of Comets on Fire. With this solo project, the experimental knob-twister and guitarist blasts out mind-numbing soundscapes. With Diego Gonzales, DJs Special Lord B and Phengren Oswald. Upcoming Explorist International-curated shows at Amnesia include free-jazzists Aliacensis (June 18) and Nordeson/Shelton Duo (June 25).

Tue/11, 9:30pm, $5. Amnesia, 853 Valencia, SF. www.amnesiathebar.com.

 

SONNY AND THE SUNSETS

Here’s yet another show at the newly re-opened Eagle Tavern: the record release party for Sonny and the Sunsets’ newest, Antenna to the Afterworld. The confessional record, which hints at Modern Lovers and Silver Jews (a shift from country break-up record Longtime Companion), opens with Sonny Smith talk-singing a call-and-response conversation, “Something happened/I fell in love/but it was weird/Real weird.” “Good weird?” the voice on the other side implores. With Burnt Ones, Cool Ghouls.

Tue/11, 8pm, $7. Eagle Tavern, 398 12th St., SF. www.sf-eagle.com.

Addressing the unspeakable

0

arts@sfbg.com

DANCE Liz Tenuto and Justin Morrison — two dancer-choreographers who’ve made up for their limited time in the Bay Area by being highly, polymorphously productive — share a bill at CounterPULSE this weekend. Tenuto will show a work for three dancers in two parts, the first of which premiered at ODC Theater last December under the title The Darkest Hour Is Just Before Dawn (featuring the trio of Esmeralda Kundanis-Grow, Elizabeth McSurdy, and Rebecca Siegel). Morrison performs in the debut of his new solo work, entitled Weapon.

As performers and performance makers, Tenuto and Morrison are very distinct, but each brings to their work substantial rigor and experience as well as strong connections to local dance-performance work at large, including collaborations with many leading figures in the Bay Area scene. As a dancer, Tenuto has brought her distinctive blend of physical skill, manic humor, and sinuous sensuality to several productions by Laura Arrington Dance, and worked too with Anne Bluethenthal Dance and Scott Wells & Dancers, among others.

Morrison, a graceful and intelligent force on stage, has been a member of Hope Mohr Dance Company, and continues to work with Sara Shelton Mann as well. In fact, it was his first work with Mann (in 2009) that introduced him to San Francisco, which he adopted the following year following three years in Amsterdam as part of Katie Duck’s improvisation-driven Magpie Music Dance Company. (That relationship continues too: Duck was at Kunst-Stoff in April with Crimes and Casualties, performed with Alfredo Genovesi and Morrison, as part of Arts Building Consortium’s Visiting Artist Series Exchange program.)

Tenuto and Morrison share important points of contact in the local scene —for example, in their mutual appreciation for and conversations with contemporary drag, especially as it continues to evolve in the Bay Area’s rich mixture of nightlife performance and contemporary dance. They have both performed as part of Oakland-based SALTA collective’s monthly performance program, PPP (a bright area of experimentation and conversation that celebrates its one-year anniversary in June).

But probably more interesting still is what separates them. Between the new work on display from each artist, Pageantry — as the CounterPULSE program is titled — promises to offer an intriguing contrast, reflecting something of the breadth of styles and formal concerns that make the contemporary dance scene here both dynamic and complex.

This diversity has been an empowering force, notes Tenuto, who comes to dance from a strict ballet context initially and credits her Bay Area contemporary dance peers with a radical development of her outlook and work.

“[In coming to the Bay Area] I was taking in a whole new set of values, and that was very eye-opening for me. It really freed me from this dance past that I’d inherited. As a dancer, you’re trained to be very obedient,” she says. “All of these people stirred me up in a lot of different ways; opened up a whole realm of possibility for me, all these other states of mind that I didn’t normally access when I dance — darker states than I had every been comfortable dancing with before — and feeling the power of the poison, being comfortable expressing that and not feeling shame for it or being afraid of it. I think prior to meeting all these people I was afraid of that. Now I’m able to not only access it but also decide how much I let in, to control it, fine tune it, which is very exciting.”

In her new piece, Tenuto aims at expressing the emotionally and psychologically volatile between-ness that comes with a powerful disruption to one’s everyday equilibrium.

“Both pieces are really about the moments right before you go through a big change,” says Tenuto, “it’s a close reading of such moments. It’s very detailed, [and performed] in a very rich way, a very vibrant and dense way —but also a little bit artificialized and over the top, which is definitely something that I’ve inherited from being a performer in San Francisco and commingling with drag and commingling with theater.”

According to Tenuto, her work plays with the suggestion of narrative rather than a specific storyline (she notes that whereas part one operated tonally as a kind of hyper-drama, on a par with a Mexican soap opera, part two will be more of a mystery-noir). Morrison, by contrast, eschews narrative altogether, in terms that imply a reluctance to imbue dance with the limiting horizon such narrative tropes can form.

“There seems to be a proliferation of works that are, or seek to be, ‘about’ something,” notes Morrison. “Perhaps [that’s] a byproduct of the grant writing process.”

Morrison says he finds this problematic, since “it forces artists to contrive a narrative, often steeped in cliché.” More often than not, this means for Morrison familiar platitudes around identity and politics.

“Work,” he contends, “becomes overtly a narrative about self, about the performers, about the economy, for example; at times, [this means] ignoring the phenomenological, the abstract, or that which cannot otherwise be described, only experienced.”

PAGEANTRY

Fri/7-Sun/9, 8pm, $15

CounterPULSE

1310 Mission, SF

www.counterpulse.org

 

First lady of fajas

0

caitlin@sfbg.com

STREET SEEN Never in my time writing this style column has a clothing seller interrupted our interview to deal with an inquiry about legal advice or natural medicine.

But then, very few of the stores and designers I’ve featured have served as crucial a function in its community as the small enterprise run by Martina Lopez de Perez, who sells traditional huipils and fajas to her community of indigenous Guatemalan Maya Mam refugees out of her family’s home in Fruitvale.

Lopez de Perez’s husband, Felix Perez Mendoza, is the president of the thousands-strong East Bay community of indigenous Guatemalans, who were forced to flee the highlands of their historically conflict-wracked country during the dirty war that peaked in violence during the 1980s and officially came to a close in 1996.

Their small living room in a Fruitvale duplex is set up for business: a desk with neatly-stacked reams of paperwork, well-worn couch seating, a map of the United States, and smiling family photographs hung on the walls. A long glass case holds the traditional garb Maya Mam wear to religious events — or in everyday life as Lopez de Perez does, she tells me, when it’s not as ridiculously hot as it is on the afternoon I visit.

The first couple of Oakland’s Maya Mam

“I feel great wearing these clothes — it’s my traje,” Lopez de Perez tells me in fluent Spanish (though many Maya Mam speak only their indigenous language, she received formal schooling in Todos Santos, the town from which she and her husband hail).

She shows me the components of a traje típica(traditional outfit) — the round-brimmed sombrero with woven hat band, the square-cut huipil blouse, and corte, a solid floor-length wrap skirt, both made of a thick cotton and secured by an intricately embroidered faja, or belt around the waist. For men, she stocks striped button-downs, cut from a thick cloth and accented with patterned collars. The embroidery is magic, the colors vivid, but the pieces are a far cry from trend items.

Lopez de Perez imports the materials and finished hats from indigenous seamstresses in Todos Santos. “It’s a source of work, both here and there,” says Perez Mendoza, who encourages non-Maya Mam to contact them for a private shopping appointment if they’re interested in buying a summer blouse to support their indigenous community members. (Attention coffee nerds: Perez Mendoza is also looking for Bay Area roasters interested in purchasing the organic coffee beans grown by Maya Mam in their homeland.)

It’s with these traditional outfits that Lopez de Perez and her fellow Maya Mam represent a culture from which they have been separated from by tragic circumstance. Though Efrain Rios Montt, the dictator who murdered thousands of indigenous people throughout the country’s civil war, was sentenced to 80 years in prison last month, his head of military intelligence Otto Pérez Molina is the country’s current leader. My hosts’ daughters and son still live in Guatemala City, where they study at one of the capital’s universities.

In the past, Lopez de Perez says, Oakland’s Maya Mam were too afraid of being targeted by immigration police to wear the outfits proclaiming their heritage. Nowadays, thanks to the battles they and other immigrant groups have waged, they can wear their huipils wherever they like.

Which is not to say that she doesn’t need a little bit of convincing to be my Street Seen model on the unseasonably hot day we visit. But — with the added pleas of the friends who have stopped by the house that day — she eventually ties on her faja. She has to strut, I tell her. After all, she is Oakland’s Maya Mam Michelle Obama.

To set up an appointment to shop Maya Mam style, call (510) 472-6660

Three! Out!

2

By L.E. Leone

IN THE GAME Home runs are called fuoricampi, which translates literally to outfields, in the sense of “out of the park.” Hits are valide, or “valids.” And a strike out is a strike out. It’s pretty adorable, when the field announcer at Stadio Nuevo Europeo in Parma exclaims, “Strike! Three! Out!”

At one point last Saturday, Parma’s starter Jose Sanchez struck out seven in a row. Over six shutout innings, he struck out 12, so we got to hear it a lot:

“Strike! Three! Out!”

I’m 50.

How it happened was like this: I was born, and it was 50 years ago. And now it’s now. So: yeah . . . fuckin’ 50.

Many years ago I had a sweatshirt with Chief Wahoo (the Cleveland Indians’ politically insensitive logo) on it, only instead of saying Cleveland it said Nettuno. The Nettuno Indians.

Then, when anyone said they were offended by my shirt I would say, but it’s not Cleveland; it’s Nettuno. Which admittedly didn’t solve the problem. At best it diverted attention away from it long enough for me to sneak out a side door — you know, while my assailant’s pot-addled brain was flipping through his Rolodex of planets, from the sun outward, looking for Nettuno.

Is “Rolodex” still a word?

In either case, we couldn’t believe we missed the World Baseball Classic at AT&T Park earlier this spring, so, so long as we were in Europe for my birthday we thought we’d go see us some world baseball. Which is to say, Italian baseball. Which is to say, Parma vs. Grosseto. Which is to say, Enegan Toshiba Grosseto. Which is also to say, the Grosetto Mastiffs.

The names of the teams are very confusing over there. And they tend to change a lot, sometimes even between innings. In fact, sadly, I don’t think the Nettuno Indians are the Nettuno Indians anymore. Probably Cleveland sued them. Or someone pointed out that Native Americans were inherently American and, by extension, from Earth.

Anyway, we had hoped to make it to Nettuno, to find out, but they were away that Saturday, playing a doubleheader against Saturno. Italian baseball only happens on weekends, see. There just isn’t enough interest in it, when Hedgehog and I aren’t around, to support more games than that. Even with us, attendance for the game in Parma was 139. I know because I counted.

I also used my passport as a straight-edge to line some squares into a piece of paper and I kept score. All so I could tell my loyal and baffled readership back here at home in San Francisco that Parma beat Grosseto on Saturday 9-3.

Leftfielder Massimo Pesci, hitting in the nine hole, crushed a two-run homer off Grosseto starter Rafael Garcia in the second. Parma added two in the fifth, chasing Garcia, then blasted Coronado Angel Marquez in the sixth with five straight hits, capped by a Luca Scalera two-run shot.

With the game securely out of reach, Parma reliever Alexander Tabata Velasquez came on in the 7th and earned a three-inning save.

Grosseto got all three of their runs in the eighth. Francesco Di Mattia led off with a pinch single, Rafael Lora walked, and Bernardo Encarnacion singled to load the bases. Cleanup hitter Nelwin Sforza came through with a sharp single to center, scoring two, and Vincenzo D’Addio followed with a sac fly to right, plating Encarnacion.

There. I just wanted to say all that. Because I’m 50, so I can.

Winning pitcher: Jose Sanchez. Losing pitcher: Rafael Garcia. And if you’re wondering why all the Italian league pitchers have Spanish sounding names, it’s because they import them from Latin America. I think because Italians in Italy don’t play enough baseball, growing up, to develop into pitchers. This is just a guess.

But it could explain why Italy tends to surprise then fizzle in international competitions like the World Baseball Classic. This year, for example, they upset Mexico and Canada in the first round, then lost out in the second. Their starting pitching holds, and then all hell breaks loose when you get into their bullpen.

Such is the state of soccer-dominant Europe, when it comes to trying to use their hands and arms at something. There’s a promising Italian national in the Seattle farm system (Alex Liddi), and one of my favorite current major leaguers is Netherlands-born shortstop Didi Gregorious, of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Oh, and the Bundesliga in Germany has a team called the Dohren Wild Farmers. That’s who I want to play for.

When I grow up.

No security

3

rebeccab@sfbg.com

To qualify for his job as a security officer, Jerry Longoria had to obtain a license, undergo a background check, and take a drug test. He’s required to wear a suit to work. He’s stationed at a downtown San Francisco high rise that houses Deloitte, a multinational consulting, finance, and real-estate firm that reported $31.3 billion in revenues last year. His employer is Universal Protection Services, a nationwide security contractor with a slick online marketing pitch emphasizing that all guards are “electronically supervised around the clock,” and “kept accountable on the job through our 24-hour command center.”

If an intruder showed up at his office building brandishing a firearm, it would be Longoria’s problem; that’s the job. Nevertheless, he says he doesn’t earn enough to cover rent for an apartment in San Francisco. Instead, he stays in a single room occupancy hotel near Sixth and Mission streets, an area known for a high rate of violent crime. Walking home still wearing the suit makes him stand out on the street.

He’s lived in the 150-unit building, which has shared bathrooms and a shared basement-level kitchen, for 11 years. “It’s affordable for me, and it allows me to be closer to work,” he explains. He can’t afford a car, and says a public transit delay could prove disastrous if he relocated outside the city. “If you’re late to your post, you get fired.”

At press time, about 7,000 security officers throughout the Bay Area and Los Angeles were gearing up for a strike that could begin any day. Members of United Service Workers West, affiliated with Service Employees International Union, authorized their bargaining committee to call for the work stoppage because officers have been without a contract since the end of 2012.

The starting wage for a security officer is $14 an hour in the city, which comes to slightly more than $29,000 a year before taxes. In some places that would be sufficient to meet basic needs. In San Francisco, where the median market rate on rental units recently peaked above $3,000 a month, it doesn’t go very far. “With the cost of living here in San Francisco, $14 an hour is simply not enough to make ends meet,” Kevin O’Donnell, a USWW spokesperson, told us.

The security officers’ threats to strike coincided with a second worker action in the Bay Area last week. Despite lacking any form of union representation, Walmart associates from stores in Richmond, Fremont, and San Leandro affiliated with the nationwide organization OUR Walmart joined 100 employees from across the country in walking off the job and caravanning to Bentonville, Arkansas to raise awareness about their poverty-level wages and insufficient benefits at Walmart’s annual shareholders’ meeting. But first, they paid a visit to the Four Seasons in downtown San Francisco, which houses the 38th floor penthouse apartment of Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, a Walmart director.

Despite seeking full-time working opportunities and staying with the company for years, a handful of associates we interviewed said they can’t earn enough at Walmart to cover basic needs, so they rely on government assistance or help from extended family to make ends meet. Some said they had witnessed their coworkers get fired after participating in OUR Walmart activities.

Walmart associates in the Bay Area are in a considerably more precarious situation than the security officers, earning lower hourly wages. But in the pricey Bay Area, security officers, Walmart employees, and scores of other low-wage private sector workers all share something in common. Despite reporting to work every day and working long hours in many cases, they’re forced into impoverished conditions due to economic circumstances, while a middle-class existence remains far out of reach.

FIGHTING FOR STABILITY

ABM Security and Universal Protection Services are the largest employers in the private security contractor industry; in the Bay Area, the majority of guards are stationed at office buildings in downtown San Francisco. On May 30, Supervisors John Avalos, David Campos, David Chiu, Jane Kim and Scott Wiener all voiced support for the guards at a rally outside City Hall. “Better working conditions for security officers mean more stable, family-supporting jobs, less turnover, and more ability to handle challenges at work,” Avalos said.

Matt Roberts has been working as a security officer for years, and originally moved into his unit in a San Francisco SRO in a financial pinch. “I figured, I’ll get out of this rut eventually. And here I am, seven years later, still paying $1,000 a month for a space that’s really not much bigger than a walk-in closet,” he told us. Roberts was terminated recently, and believes it’s because he spoke up to his site director about workplace issues his fellow guards felt needed to be addressed.

In Roberts’ view, the situation he’s found himself in is reflective of the broader erosion of the middle class, which is particularly acute in an area with a soaring cost of living. He was born and raised in San Francisco’s Crocker Amazon district, with a father who worked as a firefighter and a mother who worked as a clerk typist at the Cow Palace.

“They were able to achieve the American dream,” he said. “They had a house, they paid their mortgage off in 25 years, they were able to send me and all my three siblings to good schools. I realized when I was still in my 20s that I’m probably going to be a renter the rest of my life. The American dream is totally eclipsing my generation.”

Keven Adams, a security officer of 23 years who lives in Oakland, also attended the City Hall rally on May 30. “We’re fighting for wages, health care, and stability in the workplace,” Adams said. “We’re in a city we love so very much, but the community and the middle class is shrinking.” Adams said he was once held at gunpoint for four hours during a work shift. He’d love to live in San Francisco, he said, but can’t afford it.

According to a June 3 media advisory, unions throughout the Bay Area were preparing to demonstrate support for the security officers as they geared up to strike. “The support could come in the form of workers attending rallies, non-violent civil disobedience or perhaps even non-security workers refusing to cross picket lines,” according to USWW, “and walking off their own jobs in solidarity.”

‘STAND UP, LIVE BETTER’

Among the small group of protesters who had assembled on the sidewalk far below Mayer’s San Francisco penthouse on May 29 were associates who had taken the drastic and unusual step of going on strike from Walmart — the nation’s largest private employer. Clad in bright green shirts and waving signs, they chanted, “stand up, live better,” a play on Walmart’s slogan, and also, “What do we want? Respect.”

Dominic Ware, who works part-time at a Walmart in San Leandro, led chants and sounded off on a megaphone about the need for greater respect in the workplace. Ware, who’s been involved with OUR Walmart activities on a national level, said he earns $8.65 an hour and stays with his grandmother, since his paycheck isn’t enough to cover rent. He estimated that roughly half his earnings go directly back to Wal-Mart, where he purchases groceries and other basic items. Asked what motivated him to strike, Ware mentioned his daughter, who turned eight on June 1. “What if she has to work there some day?”

He added that some elderly colleagues were experiencing problems such as being unable to get a shift changed so as to catch a bus home at the end of the night. Another one of his coworkers was let go after it became clear to management that he was participating in OUR Walmart activities, Ware said.

While only a tiny fraction of Walmart’s 1.4 million workers took action to strike, their campaign appears to resonate in high places. A report recently released by the Democratic staff of the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce seized on Walmart’s low wages, emphasizing that so many of its workers are forced to turn to government assistance that it is resulting in a collective drag on taxpayers.

“Rising income inequality and wage stagnation threaten the future of America’s middle class,” the report notes. “While corporate profits break records, the share of national income going to workers’ wages has reached record lows. Walmart plays a leading role in this story. Its business model has long relied upon strictly controlled labor costs: low wages, inconsiderable benefits and aggressive avoidance of collective bargaining with its employees. As the largest private-sector employer in the U.S., Wal-Mart’s business model exerts considerable downward pressure on wages throughout the retail sector and the broader economy.”

When the Coastal Commission fails

43

The sensationalist title of the Bay Guardian article “Fornication loses to soccer fields” (5/15/13) overshadows the far-reaching implications of the Coastal Commission’s rubber-stamp of San Francisco’s Beach Chalet soccer complex. Lost in the article is the story of what really happened: powerful political interests leaned on the commissioners to abrogate their responsibility to protect the California coast.

Project supporters repeated the fallacy that seven acres of artificial turf and 150,000 watts of sports lighting next to Ocean Beach would stem the flight of families from the city. Notably, none of the commissioners acknowledged that the City of San Francisco’s own environmental impact report identified an alternative that meets the project goals — including the need for playtime — without any impact on the coastal zone. In fact, the “need” argument is a red herring to push through a pet project.

When the commissioners approved the Beach Chalet’s 150,000 watts of lights — situated only 500 feet from the beach — they did not even discuss the impacts from sports lights. They disregarded their own staff report — which said much of what opponents of the project have been saying for years — and ignored copious evidence from well-credentialed experts demonstrating the city’s faulty environmental analysis on the negative biological and aesthetic impacts of lights on people and wildlife in the coastal zone.

Only Commissioner Steve Blank seemed willing to uphold his duty to protect the coastline. Blank reminded the panel that its mandate is to uphold the Coastal Act and protect the interests of the 38 million Californians in our shared coastline. The California coastline has remained protected for decades due to the diligence of past commissions. The commission is supposed to transcend local politics. But the remaining commissioners failed to do this.

The approval of the Beach Chalet project is not just the acquiescence of the Coastal Commission to a single project but an all-out attack on coastal protections. Now, any developer who can trump up claims of local need for recreation can expect this commission to rubber-stamp its project.

Anyone concerned about the integrity of California’s coast should be outraged. We encourage you to let your elected representatives know that if the Coastal Commission members can’t abide by the Coastal Act, they should be replaced before they can do even more damage to our remaining coastline.

For those not at the hearing, the Bay Guardian headline refers to the claim that the Beach Chalet is a cruising ground for gay men, a claim used to sensationalize the issue and also to assert that healthy, all-American recreation field would make the area “safe for children.” This homophobic tactic was a recurrent theme during local hearings and has been deeply felt by the LGBT community.

The battle for our parkland is not over. There is currently a CEQA lawsuit in the courts; in addition, a broad coalition of groups is moving forward to continue to fight this project. Join with them — it will take everyone’s participation to win back our parkland, our beach and our coast.

Sue Englander is an Executive Board Member, Harvey Milk LGBT Club. Arthur Feinstein is chair of the Sierra Club, Bay Chapter. Mike Lynes is executive director of the Golden Gate Audubon Society. Katherine Howard is a member of the Steering Committee of SF Ocean Edge.

Editor’s notes

51

Tredmond@sfbg.com

EDITORS NOTES It’s as if someone has some kind of auto-respond system: Every time I write about housing or rent control, one of the trolls who comments on the Guardian Politics blog complains that landlords are “subsidizing” longterm tenants.

That’s a complaint I’ve heard plenty of times before — rent control is a “subsidy” because property owners have to allow the use of their property for a lower rate than the current market might allow.

And it’s completely wrong.

In fact, it only takes a basic understanding of economics to realize that in many cases, tenants are subsidizing their landlords. That’s how the business works.

You don’t have to read Karl Marx to learn that in a capitalist system, the owner of a business typically pays his or her employees less than the value they bring to the operation; the difference is what’s called “profit.” It’s how American capitalism works.

Same way, when a landlord signs a rental agreement with a tenant, the rent he or she charges is typically enough to: (a) cover that tenant’s portion of the building mortgage; (b) cover expected maintenance costs, and (c) provide the owner with a profit. Not that many landlords go into the business to lose money, or to break even.

I have a friend who bought a multi-unit building in the East Bay a few years ago, and it’s a great deal for him: He lives in one unit, and the tenants in the other units pay enough rent to cover most of the mortgage. So my friend’s housing is practically free. The tenants are subsidizing him.

Now: Add in rent control, and what do you get? The same exact situation. At the time a landlord and a tenant agree on a lease, the payments are adequate to cover the landlord’s costs plus a margin of profit. (Otherwise the landlord would be a fool to sign the lease.) Over time, the rent goes up a little bit every year. The landlord’s mortgage either stays the same, or, these days, goes down after a refinance at the lowest rates in history. The landlord’s next biggest expense — property tax — goes up by less than the allowable rent increase most years. So every year, the tenant pays the landlord more than it costs the landlord to provide the housing. Every year, the vast majority of landlords in San Francisco make a profit.

Yes: a rent-controlled unit prevents someone who bought a building years ago and has longterm tenants from making even more of a profit. It is, and should be seen as, a way of limiting profit on rental property to a reasonable amount, not to what a speculative market could bring. That’s fair; housing is a public right, and should be regulated a little like a public utility. (PG&E gets to make a profit every year, but not an unlimited profit.)

But like workers in a capitalist system whose product of labor subsidizes the profit of the owners, tenants in San Francisco are subsidizing landlords. That’s how the private housing market works.

Burning questions

7

steve@sfbg.com

A documentary called Spark: A Burning Man Story is arriving on the big screen, with dreams of wide distribution, at a pivotal moment for the San Francisco-based corporation that has transformed the annual desert festival into a valuable global brand supported by a growing web of interconnected burner collectives around the world.

Is that a coincidence, or is this interesting and visually spectacular (if slightly hagiographic) film at least partially intended to shore up popular support for the leadership of Burning Man as the founders cash out of Black Rock City LLC and supposedly begin to transfer more control to a new nonprofit entity?

Filmed during last year’s ticket fiasco — in which high demand and a flawed lottery system created temporary scarcity that left many essential veteran burners without tickets during the busy preparation season — both the filmmakers and leaders of Burning Man say they needed to trust one another.

After all, technology-entrepreneur-turned-director Steve Brown was given extensive, exclusive access to the sometimes difficult and painful internal discussions about how to deal with that crisis. And if he was looking to make a film about the flawed and dysfunctional leadership of the event — ala Olivier Bonin’s Dust & Illusions — he certainly had plenty of footage to make that storyline work.

But that wasn’t going to happen, not this time — for a few reasons. One, Brown is a Burning Man true believer and relative newbie who took its leaders at face value and didn’t want to delve into the details or criticisms of how the event is managed or who will chart its future. As he told us, that just wasn’t the story he wanted to tell.

“We got trusted by the founders of Burning Man to do this story,” he told us. “They were in the process of going into a nonprofit and they wanted to get their message out into the world.”

Two, Black Rock City LLC needed to sign off on the film for it to be distributed, given that the corporation controls the use of images from the event. “Could Burning Man have prevented us from distributing this film? Yeah, they probably could have,” Brown told us. And during my own experience writing and promoting a book about Burning Man, I learned that its leaders resent criticism and can make or break efforts to promote books or movies to the larger burner community.

Finally, as is increasingly the case with many documentary films, the filmmakers and their subjects are essentially in a partnership. Brown and the LLC’s leaders reluctantly admitted to us that there is a financial arrangement between the two entities and that the LLC will receive revenues from the film, although they wouldn’t discuss details with us.

Chris Weitz, an executive producer on the film, is also on the board of directors of the new nonprofit, The Burning Man Project, along with his wife, Mercedes Martinez. Both were personally appointed by the six members of the LLC’s board to help guide Burning Man into a new era.

Brown insists that these relationships had no influence on the film and that the LLC neither requested nor received any editorial changes. “I made it clear to them that I’m only going to do a film that is completely independent,” Brown said.

And his co-director, Jessie Deeter, is a respected journalist and veteran documentary filmmaker whose strong reputation lured estranged Burning Man co-founder John Law to participate in the film, offering the only real questioning of the event’s leadership (although it focused on the decisions in the late 1990s to continue growing the event, not on its more recent stewardship and questions of relinquishing some control to the larger community).

“I’m fair and I’m really proud of my reputation as a journalist,” Deeter told us, noting how important she thought it was to have Law’s contrarian voice in the film.

Still, both Deeter and Brown are also clear that they believe in the leadership of the event. “I found their intentions to be honorable and positive as they deal with difficult-to-solve problems,” Brown said, while Deeter later told us, “I believe in their intentions.”

More cynical burner veterans may have a few eye-rolling moments with this film and the portrayals of its selfless leadership. While the discussions of the ticket fiasco raised challenging issues within the LLC, its critics came off as angry and unreasonable, as if the new ticket lottery had nothing to do with the temporary, artificial ticket scarcity (which was alleviated by summer’s end and didn’t occur this year under a new and improved distribution system).

And when the film ends by claiming “the organization is transitioning into a nonprofit to ‘gift’ the event back to the community,” it seems to drift from overly sympathetic into downright deceptive, leaving viewers with the impression that the six board members are selflessly relinquishing the tight control they exercise over the event and the culture it has spawned.

Yet our interview with the LLC leadership shows that just isn’t true. If anything, the public portrayals that founder Larry Harvey made two years ago about how this transition would go have been quietly modified to leave these six people in control of Burning Man for the foreseeable future.

CHANGING FOCUS

As altruistic as Spark makes Burning Man’s transition to nonprofit status sound, Harvey made it clear during the April 1, 2011 speech when he announced it that it was driven by internal divisions that almost tore the LLC board apart, largely over how much money departing board members were entitled to.

The corporation’s bylaws capped each board member’s equity at $20,000, a figure Harvey scoffed at as ridiculously low, saying the six board members would decide on larger payouts as part of the transition and they have refused to disclose how much (Sources in the LLC tell me the payouts have already begun. Incidentally, author Katherine Chen claimed in her book Enabling Creative Chaos that the $20,000 cap was set to quell community concerns about the board accumulating equity from everyone else’s efforts, but Harvey now denies that account).

In that speech, Harvey also said the plan was to turn over operation of the Burning Man event to the nonprofit after three years, and then three years later to transfer control over the Burning Man brand and trademarks and to dissolve the LLC (see “The future of Burning Man,” 8/2/11).

Board member Marian Goodell assured us at the time that the LLC would be doing extensive outreach to gather input on what the future leadership of the event and culture should look like: “We’re going to have a conversation with the community.”

But with just a year to go until the event was scheduled to be turned over to the nonprofit board, there has been no substantive transfer, the details of what the leadership structure will look like are murky — and the six board members of Black Rock LLC still deem themselves indispensable leaders of the event and culture.

The filmmakers say that the transition to the nonprofit was one of the things that drew them to the project, but the ticket fiasco came to steal their focus, mostly because the nonprofit narrative was simply too complex and confusing to easily convey on film.

Deeter said they decided to close the film with Law and his questions of whether the event should have been allowed to grow so large. “We insisted on having John Law at the end to counterbalance that idea” of who would be leading the event.

As she said of the transition to a nonprofit: “You know that transition is a really, really complicated thing.”

TRANSITION TIME

Yes, and it’s something that seems to be made even more complicated by Harvey and Goodell, who offered dizzying answers to our questions about how the event and culture will be led going forward. All we can tell at this point is that it’s still a work in progress.

“We’re pretty much on schedule,” Harvey told me, noting that he still hopes to transfer ownership of the event over to the nonprofit next year. “The nonprofit is going well, and then we have to work out the terms of the relationship between the event and the nonprofit. We want the event to be protected from undue meddling and we want it to be a good fit.”

From our conversations, it appears that a new governance structure seems synonymous with the “meddling” they want to avoid.

“We want to make sure the event production has autonomy, so it can water the roads without board members deciding which roads and the number of tickets and how many volunteers,” Goodell said. “We did look at basically plopping the entire thing into the nonprofit, but if you look at what we’re trying to do out in the world, we don’t have any interest in becoming a big, large government agency.”

It was an analogy they returned to a few times: equating a new governance structure with bureaucratic tyranny. They rejected the notion that the new nonprofit would have “control” over the event, even though they want it to have “ownership” of the event.

“You just said the control of the event would be turned over to the nonprofit,” Goodell said.

“No, the ownership,” Harvey added.

“Yeah, there’s a difference,” Goodell said.

That difference seems to involve whether the six current board members would be giving up their control — which she said they are not.

“All six of us plan to stay around. We’re not going off to China to buy a little house along the Mekong River,” Goodell said.

“We want to make sure the event production company has sufficient autonomy, they can function with creating freedom and do what it does best, which is producing the Burning Man event, without being unduly interfered with by the nonprofit organization,” Harvey said.

“That’s why you heard it one way initially, and you’re hearing it slightly differently now, and it could go back again,” Goodell said. “We don’t think it’s sensible, either philosophically or fiscally, to essentially strip away all these entities and take all these employees and plop them in the middle of The Burning Man Project.”

In other words, Black Rock LLC and its six members will apparently still produce the event — and it’s not clear what, exactly, the nonprofit will do.

“We are giving up LLC-based ownership control, we are not giving up the steerage of the culture,” Goodell said. “That we’re not giving up. We’re more necessary now than ever.”

PLAYA AS BACKDROP

There are burners who see things in much simpler terms. Chicken John Rinaldi, the longtime burner and thorn in the LLC’s side, was interviewed for Spark but not included in the film. [CLARIFICATION: Deeter and Rinaldi had one phone conversation “on background,” she says, and both deny that he was “interviewed,” as Deeter had told us]. Rinaldi, Law, and others have repeatedly questioned why the LLC doesn’t create a more inclusive and community-based leadership structure, something that would seem appropriate for an event whose value is derived almost entirely by the volunteer efforts of burners, who acquire no equity in the event even after years of work.

But these aren’t the issues that Spark explores. In following both the leaders of the LLC and storylines involving two different art projects and a theme camp, the filmmakers say the film isn’t really about Burning Man at all, but what it brings out in people.

“This film is about ordinary people following extraordinary dreams,” Brown said at a press screening at the Roxie last month. “Burning Man is the context, but it’s not necessarily what it’s about.”

When I asked Brown about whether he paid the LLC for access and the right to use footage they filmed on the playa — something I know it has demanded of other film and photo projects — Brown paused for almost a full minute before admitting he did.

“We saw it as location fees. We’re making an investment, they’re making an investment,” he said, refusing to provide details of the agreement. “The arrangement we had with Burning Man is similar to the arrangements anyone else has had out there.”

Goodell said the LLC’s standard agreement calls for all filmmakers to either pay a set site fee or a percentage of the profits. “It’s standard in all of the agreements to pay a site fee,” Goodell said, noting that the LLC recently charged Vogue Magazine $150,000 to do a photo shoot during the event.

But the issue of paying subjects is a controversial one in the documentary film world, according to a couple of veteran Bay Area documentary filmmakers we interviewed (one spoke only on background). For documentaries that present themselves as journalism, documentary filmmaker Chris Metzler told us, “The rule is, you don’t pay a subject because it will corrupt the process and authenticity you’re trying to capture.”

That rule has become more of a guideline in recent years, particularly as technological advances have made it easier to become a documentary filmmaker. And even the guideline is a little squishy when it comes to interviewing consultants or powerful people who expect to be compensated for their time, or with wanting to ensure people of limited means can take part in a film’s promotion.

Metzler also said that a financial arrangement can influence a film less than an ideological or cultural affinity. That can be particularly strong in the Burning Man world, as Weitz told us, conceding that most art done on Burning Man ends up being at least a little hagiographic: “I think it’s inevitable whenever anyone writes about or makes a film about Burning Man, because we love it.”

Metzler said he simply doesn’t pay sources, but he also said the determining factor should be, “Does it change what you have access to and how people behave?”

TWO VIEWS

There are at least a couple ways for burner true believers to look at the event, its culture, and its leadership. One is to see Burning Man as a unique and precious gift that has been bestowed on its attendees by Harvey, its wise and selfless founder, and the leadership team he assembled, which he formalized as an LLC in 1997.

That seems to be the dominant viewpoint, based on reactions that I’ve received to past critical coverage (and which I expect to hear again in reaction to this article), and it is the viewpoint of the makers of this film. “They’ve dedicated their lives to creating this platform that allows people to go out and create art,” Brown said.

Another point-of-view is to see Burning Man as the collective, collaborative effort that it claims to be, a DIY experiment conducted by the voluntary efforts of the tens of thousands of people who create the art and culture of Black Rock City from scratch, year after year.

Yes, we should appreciate Harvey and the leaders of the event, and they should get reasonable retirement packages for their years of effort. But they’ve also had some of the coolest jobs in town for a long time, and they now freely travel the world as sort of countercultural gurus, not really working any harder than most San Franciscans.

Should the gratitude we feel toward them really be so much greater than the gratitude they feel toward us, the people who hold fundraisers and make sacrifices and toil for months on end for no compensation to give Burning Man its artistic, cultural, and financial value?

In that sense, it’s the community that has gifted Burning Man to the people who run it. So, as Spark claims, is the LLC really planning to gift it back? We’ll see. As Weitz told me when we discussed that idea and whether it’s really true, “I think everyone wants to live up to that phrase.”

Brown also told us that final phrase might have been a little wishful thinking, or perhaps a prompt for burners: “I wrote that card for the end of the film expressing the intention we heard from the Burning Man founders, but I also wrote it to show that it is a process that is just beginning, and we do not yet know the outcome. My bet is that the community will hold them to it.”

Guardian City Editor Steven T. Jones is the author of The Tribes of Burning Man: How an Experimental City in the Desert is Shaping the New American Counterculture (2011, CCC Publishing).