Volume 49 Number 01

Bearing it all

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arts@sfbg.com

DANCE Whatever else Keith Hennessy’s homespun ritual Bear/Skin offered its audience last Wednesday night at the Joe Goode Annex, it brought the rain. One night’s worth fell on the thirsty ground and into a record-making drought, displaying itself marvelously on the clothes and flattened hair of the last audience members to wander in as Hennessy walked about the postindustrial performance space in fuchsia track shorts prepping the show, his first solo since 2008’s Bessie-winning Crotch.

A white teddy bear recognized from that earlier solo sat propped against a far wall of the stage area, beside a white rabbit, though from some angles you’d miss them both thanks to one of two large silvery obelisks that stood nearby — both composed of Mylar sheets hoisted maybe 10 and 14 feet high on wire rigging. More of the material was stuffed into an oversized Mission Street market bag, among other colorful piles and pools of materials around the floor of the white utilitarian box theater, much of it referenced in the single-page program: “Floral tights, inheritance from Remy Charlip; plaid blanket skirt, inheritance from my family; pompom tail, Lisu people in northern Thailand; embroidered neck piece, fabric market in Dakar, Senegal; credit cards, personal collection.”

Personal objects and personal history would soon reverberate with a collective consciousness, a political and animal consciousness, in a sacramental performance that, among other things, seemed to limn the potential for an alternative destiny on an ever more blighted planet. (In an alternately hushed and rustling moment later that night, those extra space blankets covered the audience, almost as if to shield it for a moment, not from space rays, but from all the noxious energy beamed from every orifice of a loud, lurid, snooping, thieving hydra that is entirely local.)

The first incarnation of Bear/Skin was in spring 2013 at Subterranean Art House in Berkeley, during an edition of the roving monthly performance series of East-Bay collective SALTA. It was the centenary of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, an avant-garde assault on convention that became a modernist classic. Hennessy both addressed it and appropriated a key part of it, not reverently but critically and creatively. His partly impromptu and wholly brilliant 40-minute performance was built around a comical bear suit, a feed-backing microphone, intimate direct address, a discussion of three “suicide economies,” and his re-creation of the last section of Vaslav Nijinsky’s choreography in that seminal ballet — a series of dozens of jagged leaps that Hennessy’s middle-aged body essayed with remarkable, heaving determination, doubling the ballet’s sacrificial climax with one of his own.

These elements are all retained in the latest iteration, though amid further elaboration, not all of which works equally well. The aforementioned moment with the audience under Mylar blankets acts as a bridge between two rough halves, as Hennessy, donning the personal articles and totems listed in the program, reemerges as a glittery thrift-store shaman amid a Hardkiss track and a scattering of patterned laser light. The piece builds intelligently, shrewdly toward this new climax, with a kind of honesty few artists can manage so well. But it both broadens and dilutes those original components in a progression of movements that feels more rigid, less fluid, while not necessarily adding depth to the themes or experience.

At the same time, Bear/Skin will continue to evolve. It’s slated for more San Francisco and East Bay showings in January, right after it returns from New York, where young but astute maven of contemporary dance-performance Ben Pryor has slotted it into 2015’s American Realness festival. It is a must-see.

Moreover, some of the newer elements are commanding — especially an original poem near the beginning, an inspired response to epidemic police violence. Hennessy speaks with pounding legs and trembling form, in a furious rapid-fire monotone that evokes the banal bullets of Hollywood’s white male machine-gun entertainment. If that sounds didactic, it is and it isn’t — which is to say, it is only in the best sense of a clear, precise blow. Hennessy is not just an inimitable but also a highly skilled performer, and the intersection of his political awareness and his performance “realness” is a purposefully relaxed, open and porous zone in which a genuine sense of moment rises gently but surely, like some measure of the miraculous or of simple joy, some small grace; a little rain maybe for a world on fire. *

www.circozero.org

Cel mates

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arts@sfbg.com

MILL VALLEY FILM FESTIVAL One of the Mill Valley Film Festival’s signature if under-celebrated programs is its long-running Children’s FilmFest, which lets families enculturate their offspring with an annual sidebar of movies from around the world — non-English-language ones given live translation for those viewers not yet up to reading text at the speed of subtitles. There’s always some animation in the mix, and this year, in addition to several shorts and the French-Belgian 3D feature Minuscule: Valley of the Lost Ants (which was unavailable for preview), two titles measure the form’s state-of-the-art across a span of nearly 75 years.

The golden oldie, offered in a free outdoor screening at Old Mill Park Oct. 10, is 1941’s Hoppity Goes to Town — the second and last feature from Fleischer brothers Max and Dave, still best known for their cartoons starring Betty Boop, Popeye, and Superman. (The beautifully designed latter remain the movies’ most faithful representation of the original comic books.) Despite those successful series, the siblings were increasingly dogged by bad luck, internal friction, studio inference, corrupt accounting, and other factors. After Walt Disney waded into feature animation with 1937’s spectacularly successful Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the duo followed suit, uprooting their entire organization — and nearly quadrupling its size — to make 1939’s Gulliver’s Travels in the cheaper environs of southern Florida. Nonetheless, that film cost a fortune, ultimately losing money despite its healthy box-office performance. No friendly competitor, Disney purportedly snapped after seeing it, “We can do better than that with our second-string animators.”

Their precarious financial position made worse by a deteriorating personal dynamic, the brothers nonetheless moved forward with Hoppity (originally called Mr. Bug Goes to Town), an original story penned after they failed to win the screen rights to Maurice Maeterlinck’s The Life of the Bee. Its hero is a happy-go-lucky grasshopper who tries his best to relocate the insect residents of “the Lowlands” when their community is threatened by rising foot traffic — a broken fence has made this tiny patch of urban green a destructive shortcut for oblivious human beings. He also battles villainous Mr. Beetle for the hand of bee ingénue Honey.

Partway through production, debt forced the Fleischers to sell their studio whole to distributor Paramount, which kept them on under humiliating circumstances — they could be fired from finishing their own film at any moment. Its release delayed to avoid competing with Disney’s Dumbo (1941), the film finally opened on Dec. 5, 1941, exactly two days before Pearl Harbor threw the nation in a state of shock.

Hoppity never recovered from that ill fortune, falling into the public domain after its copyright was allowed to expire. As a result, it was seen for years mostly in low-quality copies by budget distributors. It’s not a great movie. The Fleischers’ antic strengths were best suited to the short format; the sentimentality and melodrama then required for a family feature came much more naturally to Disney. But it still merits the cult love gradually earned over subsequent decades, notably for then-innovative multiplane “3D” backgrounds that add a vertiginous depth to the contrasts in bug-vs.-human perspective.

One wonders what the Fleischers might have wrought if given the artistic and commercial freedom apparently enjoyed by Brazilian Alê Abreu on The Boy and the World — one of those extremely rare animated features these days that feels entirely handcrafted and personal, no matter how many umpteen illustrators and technicians get credited in the final credit crawl. This dialogue-free adventure finds a stick-figure tot wandering from his rural home in pursuit of the father forced to look for work in the distant city. The closer our wee protagonist gets to “civilization,” the more dehumanizing and nightmarish what he witnesses becomes.

One wonders what the average under-12-year-old would make of a movie that scarcely shrinks from blunt sociopolitical indictment: Its innocent’s journey encompasses militaristic fascism, garbage-foraging poor vs. infinitely privileged rich, empty consumerist distraction, and the death of traditional indigenous life. Nonetheless, this parabolic parade of injustices never feels too didactic because of the dazzlingly varied execution. Alê draws on everything from modernist painting masters to collage and (briefly) live action footage in a visual presentation that grows ever more complex and intoxicating. (Fans of Brazilian roots music will find the soundtrack by Ruben Feffer and Gustavo Kurlat equally thrilling.) The term “masterpiece” gets thrown around a little too easily, but it’s hard to think of a recent animated feature more deserving of the term than this imaginatively ambitious yet refreshingly intimate one. *

MILL VALLEY FILM FESTIVAL

Oct 2-12, $8-14

Various North Bay venues

www.mvff.com

 

Bridgeworthy

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Clouds of Sils Maria (Olivier Assayas, US/France/Switzerland/Germany) A cunning backstage drama occupying the middle ground between Olivier Assayas’ naturalistic dramas and reality-bending puzzles, Clouds of Sils Maria is set in the Swiss Alps and more nearly in the charged intimacy between an aging actress (Juliette Binoche) and her young assistant (Kristen Stewart). The grand dame has been cast in the same play in which she made her name decades earlier, only now she’s playing the older half of a Sapphic duo. “The play’s the thing,” and as actress and assistant rehearse lines they are simultaneously testing the bounds of their shared privacy. Further complicating things, Assayas’s brash characterization of the young starlet (Chloë Grace Moretz) cast opposite Binoche in the play invariably recalls Stewart’s own tabloid trials; like any hall of mirrors, entering Clouds of Sils Maria is much simpler than finding your way out. Assayas certainly isn’t the first filmmaker to examine slippages between actor and role, and yet he seems uniquely sensitive to rendering performance as simultaneously being a matter of artifice and absorption — the fact that it’s never entirely one thing or the other is what keeps things interesting. Fri/3, 8:45pm, Sequoia; Mon/6, 1pm, Smith Rafael. (Max Goldberg)

Dracula vs. Frankenstein (Al Adamson, US, 1971) MVFF had the bright idea this year of inviting Metallica to be its artists-in-residence, with each of the four members selecting a new or revival feature for the program. The most eccentric choice by far is guitarist and diehard horror fan Kirk Hammett’s. Drive-in schlock king Al Adamson’s 1971 cult classic is a triumph of lurid incoherence starring genre veterans Lon Chaney Jr. and J. Carrol Naish (both in their last film appearances), the director’s busty peroxided wife, Regina Campbell, Russ Tamblyn of 1961’s West Side Story (and Adamson’s 1969 biker epic Satan’s Sadists), and as Count Dracula, one Zandor Vorkov — aka Roger Engel, a goateed stockbroker who got the part because the filmmakers couldn’t afford forking out $1,200 for their first choice, John Carradine. Cobbled together from stock footage, a prior abandoned feature, and whatever trendy ideas came to mind (LSD, biker gangs, etc.), Dracula vs. Frankenstein is the ultimate exploitation-movie example of make-do disorder so profound it achieves a sort of surrealist genius. Fri/3, 10pm, Smith Rafael. (Dennis Harvey)

 

Imperial Dreams (Malik Vitthal, US) Focused on survival rather than violence, Malik Vitthal’s accomplished first feature offers a strong riposte to those who dismiss crime in African American communities as some kind of pervasive racial characteristic. Released from a prison stint on an assault charge, Bambi (John Boyega) wants nothing more than to keep his nose clean and reconnect with his four-year-old son (played by twins Ethan and Justin Coach). The latter has been raised — if you can call it that — by Bambi’s strung-out mother (Kellita Smith) and drug-dealing uncle (Glenn Plummer); the boy’s own mother (Keke Palmer) is still stuck in prison herself on an unrelated charge. It’s no healthy environment for a kid, or an adult either, since the uncle keeps trying to force Bambi back into illegal doings. Our protagonist can’t get a job without a driver’s license; can’t get a license without paying the back child support his imprisoned ex didn’t even file for; as a parolee, can’t move into government housing with his brother (Rotimi Akinosho); and can’t seem to make a move without local cops suspecting the worst of him. This low-key, Watts-set drama is sobering but not hopeless, and the tenderness between father and son never feels like a sentimental ploy. Sat/4, 5:30pm, Lark; Sun/5, 2pm and Oct 8, 11:30am, Smith Rafael. (Harvey)

 

Diplomacy (Volker Schlöndorff, France) Based on Cyril Gely’s play — itself inspired by real-life events — this drama from Volker Schlöndorff (1979’s The Tin Drum) is set during the waning days of World War II and stars the actors who originated the stage roles: Niels Arestrup as weary German military governor von Choltitz, and André Dussollier as crafty Swedish consul-general Nordling. Diplomacy puts a tighter focus on chaotic Paris, circa August 1944, than previous works (like 1966’s similarly-themed Is Paris Burning?), with most of the action confined to a hotel suite as the men discuss von Choltitz’ orders, handed down from a spiteful Hitler, to blow up Paris as the Allies loom. Nordling’s negotiating skills are already known by history, but how he got there, as imagined here, makes for tense, tightly-scripted and -acted viewing. Sat/4, 8pm, Sequoia; Oct. 8, 3:30pm, Smith Rafael. (Cheryl Eddy)

 

Charlie’s Country (Rolf de Heer, Australia, 2013) David Gulpilil memorably made his film debut as the nameless aboriginal youth whose ability to live off the land in harsh Outback terrain saves two lost British children in Nicolas Roeg’s 1971 Walkabout. Forty-three years later he’s an embittered hostage to “civilization” yearning for that near-extinct way of life. Living on a reservation in northern Australia, chafing under the regulations of well-intentioned government overseers (or “thieving white bastards,” as he calls them), he tries to regain some sense of independence and harmony with nature by hunting — only to have his weapons confiscated. Peers who remember traditional ways are dying out or being hauled off to urban hospitals where they feel completely alienated. This latest from ever-idiosyncratic Aussie director Rolf de Heer (2006’s Ten Canoes, 1993’s Bad Boy Bubby) is one of his more conceptually simple efforts, sans elements of fantasy, black humor, or outrageousness. But it’s all the more poignant for its clear-eyed purity of intent. Sun/5, 7:45pm, Lark; Oct. 8, noon, Sequoia. (Harvey)

Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem (Ronit Elkabetz and Shlomi Elkabetz, Israel/France/Germany) Ever felt trapped in a relationship? Odds are what you went through was nothing compared to the maximum-security imprisonment suffered by the titular protagonist in siblings Ronit and Shlomi Elkabetz’s Israeli drama. The former plays a middle-aged woman who was married off at age 15, and three decades of incompatibility later has decided the only solution is divorce. (By this point she’s already lived separately with most of their children for several years, supporting them with her own work.) But that can only be granted by a Rabbinical Court whose three members seem to see almost no reason why man should put asunder what God purportedly joined together in matrimonial contract. Seemingly out of sheer spite, the strictly religious (and humorless) husband played by Simon Abkarian further drags the process out for months, even years by refusing to cooperate when he doesn’t flat-out refuse to show up for mandated court sessions. Set entirely in the plain courtroom, this Israeli Oscar submission is claustrophobic both physically and psychologically — the strangling sensation of being in a situation our heroine’s culture and laws won’t permit escape from is excruciating at times. Mon/6, 7:30pm, Sequoia; Oct. 8, 6pm, Smith Rafael. (Harvey)

 

What We Do in the Shadows (Jermaine Clement and Taika Waititi, US/New Zealand) Before you groan “Oh no, not another mockumentary horror spoof,” be informed that this is THE mockumentary horror spoof, rendering all other past and prospective ones pretty well unnecessary. Vijago (Taika Waititi) is our 379-year-old principal guide as a film crew invades the decrepit Wellington, New Zealand, home he shares with three other undead bloodsuckers: Callow newbie Deacon (Jonathan Brugh), who refuses to do his assigned domestic chores; medieval Transylvanian warlord Vladislav (Jermaine Clement), still “a bit of a perv” torture-wise; and Nosferatu-looking mute Petyr (Ben Fransham), who’s scarier than the rest of them combined. When the latter recklessly “turns” local layabout Nick (Cori Gonzalez-Macuer), his loose lips — really, you don’t want to go around telling every pub acquaintance “I’m a vampire!” when you really are — threaten this fragile commune of murderous immortals. Though it loses steam a bit toward the end, Shadows is pretty hilarious for the most part, with its determined de-romanticizing of vampire clichés from Bram Stoker to Twilight. Tue/7, 7:45pm, and Oct. 9, 4pm, Smith Rafael. (Harvey)

The Theory of Everything (James Marsh, UK/US) It’s instant attraction when Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) meets Jane Wilde (Felicity Jones), though a dark cloud passes over the sweet romance between the Cambridge students when Stephen learns he has motor neuron disease. The odds are against them, but they get married anyway; as Stephen’s fragile condition worsens, his fame as a brilliant physicist grows. Though The Theory of Everything suffers from biopic syndrome (events are simplified for dramatic convenience, etc.), director James Marsh (2008’s Man on Wire), working from Jane Hawking’s memoir, does offer an intimate look at an extraordinary marriage that ultimately failed because of utterly ordinary, ultimately amicable reasons. In the end, the performances are far more memorable than the movie itself, with Redmayne’s astonishingly controlled physical performance matched scene for scene by Jones’ wide-rangingly emotional one. Oct. 9, 7pm, Smith Rafael. (Eddy)

In Order of Disappearance (Hans Petter Moland, Norway/Sweden/Denmark) Stellan Skarsgård makes like Liam Neeson in this bloody yet droll revenge saga. His unfortunately named Nils Dickman is a Swedish émigré living in a remote Norwegian community, working as a snow plowman. When their only son is kidnapped and killed — the innocent victim of a co-worker’s stupid plan to steal cocaine from major-league drug traffickers — his wife bitterly assumes he must have been the hapless addict that circumstances paint him as. But Nils refuses to accept that explanation, his own dogged investigations (and heavy fist) soon exposing a complex web of goons responsible, most notably rageaholic vegan racist villain Ole (Pal Sverre Hagen). He triggers full-scale war between local and Serbian crime factions to eliminate those few perps he doesn’t off himself — an ever-rising body count marked by onscreen titles commemorating each latest casualty. Hans Petter Moland’s film has been compared to Tarantino, and indeed there are similarities, but the frozen-north setting and bone-dry humor are Scandinavian as can be. Oct. 10, 5:45pm, Smith Rafael; Oct 12, 2:45, Sequoia. (Harvey)

MILL VALLEY FILM FESTIVAL
Oct 2-12, $8-14
Lark Theater
549 Magnolia, Larkspur
Cinearts@Sequoia
25 Throckmorton, Mill Valley
Smith Rafael Film Center
1118 Fourth St, San Rafael
www.mvff.com

You better recognize

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cheryl@sfbg.com

MILL VALLEY FILM FESTIVAL The Mill Valley Film Festival opens with selections by Oscar nominees (Men, Women & Children director Jason Reitman), winners (The Homesman director Tommy Lee Jones), and multiple winners (Hilary Swank stars in The Homesman). But while MVFF prides itself on star power, it’s also a champion of unsung artists, exemplified by a quartet of documentaries in this year’s lineup.

Robert A. Campos and Donna LoCicero’s 3 Still Standing charts the careers of veteran San Francisco comedians Will Durst, Johnny Steele, and Larry “Bubbles” Brown. All were integral members of SF’s booming stand-up scene in the 1980s, and seemed destined to emulate breakout stars Robin Williams and Dana Carvey (both are interviewed; the film is dedicated to Williams). The giddy energy contained in footage from the Holy City Zoo, where Williams got his start, is undeniable. For a hot minute — Durst won a prestigious comedy contest; Brown brought his self-deprecating digs to The Late Show with David Letterman; Steele scored a big-shot agent — fame, or at least lucrative TV and movie deals, seemed inevitable.

The doc jumps ahead 20 years without ever pinning down why superstardom proved elusive, but there were some obvious factors: The comedy-club scene cooled, and most of the big names moved to Los Angeles’ greener pastures. And one gets the sense that none of the men longed to play a goofy neighbor on some generic sitcom; the paycheck would’ve been nice, sure, but to hear them discuss the joys of stand-up suggests they’ve come to embrace living the dream on a slightly smaller scale. The crisply-edited 3 Still Standing benefits enormously from the fact that everyone interviewed is hilarious — with responses spiraling into riffs — though it might’ve been interesting, as part of the film’s then-and-now structure, to look at SF’s current indie comedy scene, which is livelier than it’s been in years thanks to venues like Lost Weekend’s Cinecave. (Fodder for a future doc, perhaps?) Along with a trio of screenings, 3 Still Standing‘s festivities include a Sat/4 performance with Durst, Brown, and Steele, plus Sun/5’s Robin Williams: A Celebration, a free showing of clips culled from the late great’s many MVFF appearances.

As it happens, Durst turns up in another MVFF doc about an SF artist whose career path has been highly unpredictable. Settling into Plastic Man: The Artful Life of Jerry Ross Barrish knowing nothing about its subject, the viewer might be forgiven for thinking that William Farley’s doc (produced by MVFF programmer Janis Plotkin) is about an elderly sculptor who delights in crafting figures of people and animals from found objects made of plastic.

And it is — but Jerry Ross Barrish also happens to be the son of a professional boxer (who had Mafia connections). He’s been a bail bondsman since 1961 (a staunch progressive, he bailed out Berkeley’s free speech protesters in ’64, San Francisco State rioters in ’68, and multiple Black Panthers). He’s a San Francisco Art Institute-trained filmmaker who acted in a 1974 George Kuchar short before making his first feature, 1982’s Dan’s Motel, which landed him a spot in New York’s prestigious “New Directors/New Films” series. (His final film, 1989’s Shuttlecock, co-starred Durst.) Oh, and there was also that DAAD award he won in 1986, which enabled him to live in Berlin for a time and play a director in Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire (1987).

It’s an incredible life story, and Plastic Man — buoyed by Beth Custer’s dynamic score — manages to cram in all of the above, while keeping its focus trained on Barrish’s present artistic passions. He has trouble selling his work or getting gallery representation because “the plastic is holding him back,” according to one art-world observer. In other words, trash ain’t hip. But his work is whimsical and cleverly crafted, and it makes people happy — enough that Barrish scores a huge project at the end of the film that locals just might recognize.

German director Doris Dörrie (2002’s Enlightenment Guaranteed, 2007’s How to Cook Your Life) travels to Mexico City for the meticulously observed Que Caramba es la Vida, about female musicians who’ve added their talents to the male-dominated mariachi world. We meet three segments of this rarefied group. First, there’s a single mother who frequents gritty mariachi hotspot Plaza Garibaldi. “It’s horrible being surrounded by men,” she bitterly reports, but as soon as she croons her first staggeringly soulful note, it’s apparent why she’s pursued such a difficult line of work. Mariachi is less fraught for the other subjects, whose outlook on the culture’s sexism is mitigated by the fact that they perform in groups that are extensions of their own families. There are the housewives who comprise Las Estrellas de Jalisco, singing melodramatic tunes at birthday parties or — in Que Caramba‘s most moving sequence — during a Day of the Dead memorial. Most delightfully, there are the “still standing” members of Mexico’s first all-female mariachi troupe, 50 years on but still full of energy and rousing vocals.

The final film in this gang of four is presented as part of a tribute to its maker, Chuck Workman, the editing wizard behind those rapid-fire montages that pop up on Oscar telecasts. In Magician, Workman takes on Orson Welles, whose 1941 Citizen Kane is often called the greatest film ever made — but who suffered a subsequent career of studio interference, budgetary woes, and general creative frustration. “He was the patron saint of indie filmmaking,” Richard Linklater asserts, a theory amply supported by this essential primer of Welles film and interview footage, expertly stitched together with Workman’s trademark flow. *

MILL VALLEY FILM FESTIVAL

Oct 2-12, $8-14

Various North Bay venues

www.mvff.com

Strictly speaking

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LEFT OF THE DIAL When Slim’s booker Dawn Holliday first met with Warren Hellman in 2001, she had no way of knowing that the quaint little music festival the investor wanted to organize would grow to be one of San Francisco’s most fiercely cherished traditions.

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, which runs this Friday, Oct. 3 through Sunday, Oct. 5 (featuring this rather impressive lineup of bands, whose music you’ll find in the YouTube playlist below) is special for a number of reasons. It’s free, thanks to an endowment from the late sir Hellman. You can’t buy alcohol. You won’t find huge video screens projecting tweets about the festival in real time. To get distinctly San Francisco on you and use a word I generally avoid, its vibe — yes — is about a solar system away from certain other huge music festivals in Golden Gate Park that shall remain nameless. And it just couldn’t take place anywhere else.

Little story for ya: Four years ago this week, I moved back to the Bay Area from New York. I was unemployed and aimless and temporarily living with my parents again at 26, and the future was terrifying. I was regrouping, but I didn’t know if I was back here for good. The day after I landed — hungover, disoriented by the smells and sounds and lack of sensory overload of not-New York City — I headed to Hardly Strictly with a few old friends. I remember foraging our way into the park, just pushing toward the music, and literally stumbling out of a wall of shrubbery to find Patti Smith just starting her set.

The crowd was insane: people tightly packed in, drinking, passing joints, hollering, bundled in seven layers each, sitting on each other’s shoulders, stepping on each other’s army blankets full of microbrews and organic rice chips and apologizing as they tried to push up closer to the stage.

My eyes darted from the older woman with flowing batik-print pants, eyes closed, swaying joyously by herself, to the young couple with matching dreads who were tripping on god knows what, to the balding-but-ponytailed and potbellied man who seemed to be trying to get a hacky sack game going to the beat of “Because the Night.”

I don’t want to speak for all Bay Area kids, but I’ve always been pretty ambivalent about large groups of hippies — there’s just a saturation point when you grow up here. Unlike so many of my transplant friends, I have never found the remnants of the Summer of Love overly enchanting; this is what happens when you are forced to watch the documentary Berkeley In the Sixties in high school history classes. I am also, for what it’s worth, not the biggest fan of crowds.

I knew I’d been gone a while because I was in love. I’d never been so happy to see ridiculous, stoned, absolutely beside themselves weirdos all doing their own weird things next to each other and nobody caring. Little kids dancing with grandparents; teenagers making out. I felt like I’d stumbled onto some sort of magical island, one where nobody talked about the stock exchange and everyone was incredibly, almost purposefully unfashionable and the thought of waiting in line to get into a club was ludicrous. I wanted to live in this smelly pile of humanity forever, and that was a new one for me. I knew I’d been gone a while because I was seeing SF the way transplants see SF. And I also knew I was home.

That atmosphere, I learned while talking to Holliday last week, is absolutely by design.

“I think of it more as a gathering of music lovers than a festival, really,” says Holliday, who’s booked Hardly Strictly every year since its inception. “I think having no fences — you can walk away at any time — and not selling alcohol makes a huge difference in people’s attitudes.”

As for the task of putting together a lineup each year that appeals to everyone from teenagers to folks in their 70s and 80s — the announcement of Sun Kil Moon, Deltron 3030, the Apache Relay, Sharon Van Etten, and others had many pronouncing this the hippest (read: appealing to folks under 40) lineup in years — Holliday says she actually keeps it relatively simple.

“When it started, and I kind of still do this, it was just with Warren in mind,” she says. “I was thinking about what he hadn’t heard yet. I knew he didn’t start listening to music until later in life, so I wanted to book music that I thought he should be turned on to. As long as there was some kind of roots in it. The Blind Boys of Alabama, Gogol Bordello, all stuff that he would really love to hear, but he’d never go out and see because he went to bed at 9:30. That was my goal for 12 years. ‘What would blow Warren’s mind?'” She laughs, noting that Hellman’s early bedtime is also the reason for the festival ending not long after dark.

“I don’t think [my booking] has changed that much with his passing,” she says. “It’s still music that I feel doesn’t get a whole lot of attention. Nothing’s bigger than the Fillmore. A lot of the bands don’t fill our rooms [Great American Music Hall and Slim’s], so a lot of people get to hear music they’re not normally exposed to. The age range is all over the place. And with bands that usually are a higher ticket, it’s a an opportunity for fans to go see $60, $70 shows for free.”

The park itself also has a lot to do with how she books: “I walk through it and see what I hear,” she says. “The contours of the meadows at different times of the year speak differently to you. Sometimes when I walk down JFK, I still hear Alejandro Escovedo singing, and that was eight years ago now.”

She also has a long-running wish list of artists; Lucinda Williams and Yo La Tengo, both playing this year’s fest, have been on it for some time. And she’s especially looking forward to the annual tribute to those who’ve passed away, which happens Saturday afternoon at the banjo stage — Lou Reed, Pete Seeger, and the Ramones will all be honored this year.

“It’s the best gift,” she says. “I mean if someone were able to give us world peace, I’d say that was the best gift. But since no one’s going to — yep, this is the best.”

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass is all day Fri/3 through Sun/5, for free, of course, in Golden Gate Park. Check www.hardlystrictlybluegrass.com for set times, and visit our Noise blog at www.sfbg.com/noise for more coverage of the fest. Until then — we’ll see ya in the park.

 

Volume 49 Number 1 Flip-through Edition

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Prop. L puts cars over people

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By Fran Taylor

OPINION Just as climate change most affects people who contributed little or nothing to causing it, pollution and injury from traffic most affect communities least likely to create traffic. Nationally, people of color are four times more likely than whites to rely on public transportation. At the same time, African Americans have a pedestrian fatality rate 60 percent higher than that of whites. For Latinos, that rate is 43 percent higher.

Locally, Chinatown and the Tenderloin have some of the lowest rates of car ownership in San Francisco. Yet these poor neighborhoods suffer some of the highest rates of pedestrian injury and death, including a woman killed in a crosswalk at Stockton just last month.

Instead of acknowledging these inequities, the proponents of Proposition L on the November ballot have cast themselves as victims, claiming that pedestrian and bicycle safety improvements create impediments to their ability to drive fast and park easily.

But streetscape improvements don’t make it impossible to drive. They help make it possible to not drive. And the ability to get around without a car benefits everyone, as a matter of health and fairness.

Fewer speeding cars on the road means fewer injuries and deaths, which in San Francisco disproportionately affect people walking. Of the 19 traffic deaths so far in 2014, 13 have been pedestrians. In the wider Bay Area, these pedestrian deaths are almost twice as likely to occur in poor communities.

The Prop. L campaign claims that streetscape improvements worsen pollution by forcing drivers to idle engines and circle for parking. Free-flowing car movement is the measure’s goal. If fast traffic is so much healthier, freeways must be the healthiest of neighbors. Yet studies show that not only is asthma much more widespread near freeways, but uncontrolled asthma is twice as prevalent within two miles of that ideal zooming traffic. Meanwhile, lack of walkable access to schools and parks contributes to epidemic levels of obesity and diabetes, particularly in low-income populations and communities of color.

Medical costs throughout the city for pedestrian injuries alone amount to about $15 million a year, while the total annual health-related costs of traffic, including asthma and other conditions, come to $564 million, according to the San Francisco Department of Public Health.

The national average annual cost of owning a car is close to $10,000, likely more in San Francisco. Were families more easily able to reduce that cost by having one car instead of two or living car-free entirely, they would free up needed money for food, housing, and education. And that housing would be cheaper without parking requirements. The construction of off-street parking can add costs of up to 20 percent per unit. Prop. L demands more garages, so cars can have homes in a city where so many humans lack them.

The recent transformation of Cesar Chavez Street, led by the community group CC Puede, personifies the type of project Prop. L proponents object to. Changing a six-lane freeway on the ground did indeed slow traffic and remove some parking at intersections to accommodate pedestrian bulbouts and improve visibility, both proven safety fixes. It also made it easier for parents to cross the street with their children to Flynn and St. Anthony’s elementary schools. It made it safer for seniors and pregnant women to reach St. Luke’s Hospital. Bicycle ridership on the street has increased 400 percent. Lately, no cars have crashed into homes, a regular occurrence on the old six-lane speedway.

Prop. L proponents decry the loss of parking, but where are those spaces going? A parking lot at 17th Street between Folsom and Shotwell in the Mission is about to be ripped up to make a park designed in part by children living nearby. In a dense neighborhood with little greenery, half of the parking lot will give families crammed into crowded housing a place to walk to. The other half will eventually be used for affordable housing.

We could hardly have a clearer choice of priorities. Parking lots or parks? Parking lots or affordable housing? Prop. L is a vote for parking over people. Vote No on L.

Fran Taylor is cochair of CC Puede.

 

End mass incarceration

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EDITORIAL We at the Bay Guardian wholeheartedly support the Stop Mass Incarceration Network and its call for the month of October to be “a month of resistance to mass incarceration, police terror, repression, and the criminalization of a generation.” It’s time to rediscover our humanity, redirect our resources, and invest in this country’s underclass instead of attacking it.

The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world, 717 per 100,000 citizens last year, or about 2.3 million people behind bars. Put another way, the US has about 5 percent of the world’s population but 25 percent of the world’s prisoners, costing this country over $60 billion a year.

San Francisco has long been a leader in criminal justice reform, pursuing policies based on rehabilitation and redemption instead of the mindless “tough-on-crimes” approach of other jurisdictions. Two of our state legislators, Sen. Mark Leno and Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, have chaired their respective Public Safety Committees and been important statewide leaders on prison reform.

Yet it hasn’t been enough in a state that still has among the world’s highest incarceration rates, and which is still resisting demands by federal judges that we reduce our prison population to address severe overcrowding and its unconstitutionally inadequate health care system.

So we need to join this broad and growing national movement that seeks to drastically reduce our prison population and redirect those resources into social services, education, and other more productive pursuits.

The Stop Mass Incarceration Network began in 2011 with a proclamation by Carl Dix and Cornell West, two important thinkers who have highlighted the disproportionately high arrest and incarceration rates of Latino and African American young men.

“If you don’t want to live in a world where people’s humanity is routinely violated because of the color of their skin, JOIN US. And if you are shocked to hear that this kind of thing happens in this so-called homeland of freedom and democracy — it does happen, all the damned time — you need to JOIN US too — you can’t stand aside and let this injustice be done in your name,” they wrote.

Recently, this movement has been joined by a wide variety of activists from the Bay Area, including Van Jones and Matt Haney, who have co-founded #50Cut, an initiative focused on cutting the US prison population in half in the next 10 years (see “Schools not prisons,” 9/3/14).

While dissident Chinese artist Ai WeiWei laudably uses his new exhibit on Alcatraz Island to focus attention on political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, the injustice of incarceration here in the US is even broader and deeper, affecting entire generations of young people and their families. It must end.

 

Project Censored 2014

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joe@sfbg.com

Our oceans are acidifying — even if the nightly news hasn’t told you yet.

As humanity continues to fill the atmosphere with harmful gases, the planet is becoming less hospitable to life as we know it. The vast oceans absorb much of the carbon dioxide we have produced, from the industrial revolution through the rise of global capitalism. Earth’s self-sacrifice spared the atmosphere nearly 25 percent of humanity’s CO2 emissions, slowing the onslaught of many severe weather consequences.

Although the news media have increasingly covered the climate weirding of global warming — hurricane superstorms, fierce tornado clusters, overwhelming snowstorms, and record-setting global high temperatures — our ocean’s peril has largely stayed submerged below the biggest news stories.

The rising carbon dioxide in our oceans burns up and deforms the smallest, most abundant food at the bottom of the deep blue food chain. One vulnerable population is the tiny shelled swimmers known as the sea butterfly. In only a few short decades, the death and deformation of this fragile and translucent species could endanger predators all along the oceanic food web, scientists warn.

This “butterfly effect,” once unleashed, potentially threatens fisheries that feed over 1 billion people worldwide.

Since ancient times, humans fished the oceans for food. Now, we’re frying ocean life before we even catch it, starving future generations in the process. Largely left out of national news coverage, this dire report was brought to light by a handful of independent-minded journalists: Craig Welch from the Seattle Times, Julia Whitty of Mother Jones, and Eli Kintisch of ScienceNOW.

It is also the top story of Project Censored, an annual book and reporting project that features the year’s most underreported news stories, striving to unmask censorship, self-censorship, and propaganda in corporate-controlled media outlets. The book is set for release in late October.

“Information is the currency of democracy,” Ralph Nader, the prominent consumer advocate and many-time presidential candidate, wrote in his foreword to this year’s Project Censored 2015. But with most mass media owned by narrow corporate interests, “the general public remains uninformed.”

Whereas the mainstream media poke and peck at noteworthy events at single points in time, often devoid of historical context or analysis, Project Censored seeks to clarify understanding of real world issues and focus on what’s important. Context is key, and many of its “top censored” stories highlight deeply entrenched policy issues that require more explanation than a simple sound bite can provide.

Campus and faculty from over two dozen colleges and universities join in this ongoing effort, headquartered at Sonoma State University. Some 260 students and 49 faculty vet thousands of news stories on select criteria: importance, timeliness, quality of sources, and the level of corporate news coverage.

The top 25 finalists are sent to Project Censored’s panel of judges, who then rank the entries, with ocean acidification topping this year’s list.

“There are outlets, regular daily papers, who are independent and they’re out there,” Andy Lee Roth, associate director of Project Censored, told us. Too many news outlets are beholden to corporate interests, but Welch of the Seattle Times bucked the trend, Roth said, by writing some of the deepest coverage yet on ocean acidification.

“There are reporters doing the highest quality of work, as evidenced by being included in our list,” Roth said. “But the challenge is reaching as big an audience as [the story] should.”

Indeed, though Welch’s story was reported in the Seattle Times, a mid-sized daily newspaper, this warning is relevant to the entire world. To understand the impact of ocean acidification, Welch asks readers to “imagine every person on earth tossing a hunk of CO2 as heavy as a bowling ball into the sea. That’s what we do to the oceans every day.”

Computer modeler Isaac Kaplan, at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration office in Seattle, told Welch that his early work predicts significant declines in sharks, skates and rays, some types of flounder and sole, and Pacific whiting, the most frequently caught commercial fish off the coast of Washington, Oregon, and California.

Acidification may also harm fisheries in the farthest corners of the earth: A study by the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme outlines acidification’s threat to the arctic food chain.

“Decreases in seawater pH of about 0.02 per decade have been observed since the late 1960s in the Iceland and Barents Seas,” the study’s authors wrote in the executive summary. And destroying fisheries means wiping out the livelihoods of the native peoples of the Antarctic.

Acidification can even rewire the brains of fish, Welch’s story demonstrated. Studies found rising CO2 levels cause clown fish to gain athleticism, but have their sense of smell redirected. This transforms them into “dumb jocks,” scientists said, swimming faster and more vigorously straight into the mouths of their predators.

These Frankenstein fish were found to be five times more likely to die in the natural world. What a fitting metaphor for humanity, as our outsized consumption propels us towards an equally dangerous fate.

“It’s not as dramatic as say, an asteroid is hitting us from outer space,” Roth said of this slowly unfolding disaster, which is likely why such a looming threat to our food chain escapes much mainstream news coverage.

Journalism tends to be more “action focused,” Roth said, looking to define conflict in everything it sees. A recently top-featured story on CNN focused on President Barack Obama’s “awkward coffee cup salute” to a Marine, which ranks only slightly below around-the-clock coverage of the president’s ugly tan suit as a low point in mainstream media’s focus on the trivial.

As Nader noted, “‘important stories’ are often viewed as dull by reporters and therefore unworthy of coverage.” But mainstream media do cover some serious topics with weight, as it did in the wake of the police officer shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. So what’s the deciding factor?

As Roth tells it, corporate news focuses on “drama, and the most dramatic action is of course violence.”

But the changes caused by ocean acidification are gradual. Sea butterflies are among the most abundant creatures in our oceans, and are increasingly born with shells that look like cauliflower or sandpaper, making this and similar species more susceptible to infection and predators.

“Ocean acidification is changing the chemistry of the world’s water faster than ever before, and faster than the world’s leading scientists predicted,” Welch said, but it’s not getting the attention is deserves. “Combined nationwide spending on acidification research for eight federal agencies, including grants to university scientists by the National Science Foundation, totals about $30 million a year — less than the annual budget for the coastal Washington city of Hoquiam, population 10,000.”

Our oceans may slowly cook our food chain into new forms with potentially catastrophic consequences. Certainly 20 years from now, when communities around the world lose their main source of sustenance, the news will catch on. But will the problem make the front page tomorrow, while there’s still time to act?

Probably not, and that’s why we have Project Censored and its annual list:

 

2. TOP 10 US AID RECIPIENTS PRACTICE TORTURE

Sexual abuse, children kept in cages, extra-judicial murder. While these sound like horrors the United States would stand against, the reverse is true: This country is funding these practices.

The US is a signatory of the United Nations’ Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, but the top 10 international recipients of US foreign assistance in 2014 all practice torture, according to human rights groups, as reported by Daniel Wickham of online outlet Left Foot Forward.

Israel received over $3 billion in US aid for fiscal year 2013-14, according to a Congressional Research Service report. Israel was criticized by the country’s own Public Defender’s Office for torturing children suspected of minor crimes.

“During our visit, held during a fierce storm that hit the state, attorneys met detainees who described to them a shocking picture: in the middle of the night dozens of detainees were transferred to the external iron cages built outside the IPS transition facility in Ramla,” the PDO wrote, according to The Independent.

The next top recipients of US foreign aid were Afghanistan, Egypt, Pakistan, Nigeria, Jordan, Iraq, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. All countries were accused of torture by human rights groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

Kenyan police in Nairobi tortured, raped, or otherwise abused more than 1,000 refugees from 2012 to 2013, Human Rights Watch found. The Kenyan government received $564 million from the United States in 2013-14.

When the US funds a highway or other project that it’s proud of, it plants a huge sign proclaiming “your tax dollars at work.” When the US funds torturers, the corporate media bury the story, or worse, don’t report it at all.

 

3. TRANS-PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP, A SECRET DEAL TO HELP CORPORATIONS

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is like the Stop Online Piracy Act on steroids, yet few have heard of it, let alone enough people to start an Internet campaign to topple it. Despite details revealed by Wikileaks, the nascent agreement has been largely ignored by the corporate media.

Even the world’s elite are out of the loop: Only three officials in each of the 12 signatory countries have access to this developing trade agreement that potentially impacts over 800 million people.

The agreement touches on intellectual property rights and the regulation of private enterprise between nations, and is open to negotiation and viewing by 600 “corporate advisors” from big oil, pharmaceutical, to entertainment companies.

Meanwhile, more than 150 House Democrats signed a letter urging President Obama to halt his efforts to fast-track negotiations, and to allow Congress the ability to weigh in now on an agreement only the White House has seen.

Many criticized the secrecy surrounding the TPP, arguing the real world consequences may be grave. Doctors Without Borders wrote, “If harmful provisions in the US proposals for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement are not removed before it is finalized, this trade deal will have a real cost in human lives.”

 

4. CORPORATE INTERNET PROVIDERS THREATEN NET NEUTRALITY

This entry demonstrates the nuance in Project Censored’s media critique. Verizon v. FCC may weaken Internet regulation, which Electronic Frontier Foundation and other digital freedom advocates allege would create a two-tiered Internet system. Under the FCC’s proposed new rules, corporate behemoths such as Comcast or Verizon could charge entities to use faster bandwidth, which advocates say would create financial barriers to free speech and encourage censorship.

Project Censored alleges corporate outlets such as The New York Times and Forbes “tend to highlight the business aspects of the case, skimming over vital particulars affecting the public and the Internet’s future.”

Yet this is a case where corporate media were circumvented by power of the viral web. John Oliver, comedian and host of Last Week Tonight on HBO, recently gave a stirring 13-minute treatise on the importance of stopping the FCC’s new rules, resulting in a flood of comments to the FCC defending a more open Internet. The particulars of net neutrality have since been thoroughly reported in the corporate media.

But, as Project Censored notes, mass media coverage only came after the FCC’s rule change was proposed, giving activists little time to right any wrongs. It’s a subtle but important distinction.

 

5. BANKERS REMAIN ON WALL STREET DESPITE MAJOR CRIMES

Bankers responsible for rigging municipal bonds and bilking billions of dollars from American cities have largely escaped criminal charges. Every day in the US, low-level drug dealers get more prison time than these scheming bankers who, while working for GE Capital, allegedly skimmed money from public schools, hospitals, libraries, and nursing homes, according to Rolling Stone.

Dominick Carollo, Steven Goldberg, and Peter Grimm were dubbed a part of the “modern American mafia,” by the magazine’s Matt Taibbi, one of the few journalists to consistently cover their trial. Meanwhile, disturbingly uninformed cable media “journalists” defended the bankers, saying they shouldn’t be prosecuted for “failure,” as if cheating vulnerable Americans were a bad business deal.

“Had the US authorities decided to press criminal charges,” Assistant US Attorney General Lanny Breuer told Taibbi. “HSBC (a British bank) would almost certainly have lost its banking license in the US, the future of the institution would have been under threat, and the entire banking system would have been destabilized.”

Over the course of decades, the nation’s bankers transformed into the modern mafioso. Unfortunately, our modern media changed as well, and are no longer equipped to tackle systemic, complex stories.

 

6. THE “DEEP STATE” OF PLUTOCRATIC CONTROL

What’s frightening about the puppeteers who pull the strings of our national government is not how hidden they are, but how hidden they are not.

From defense contractors to multinational corporations, a wealthy elite using an estimated $32 trillion in tax-exempt offshore havens are the masters of our publicly elected officials. In an essay written for Moyer and Company by Mike Lofgren, a congressional staffer of 28 years focused on national security, this cabal of wealthy interests comprise our nation’s “Deep State.”

As Lofgren writes for Moyers, “The Deep State is the big story of our time. It is the red thread that runs through the war on terrorism, the financialization and deindustrialization of the American economy, the rise of a plutocratic social structure and political dysfunction.”

This is a story that truly challenges the mass media, which do report on the power of wealth, in bits and pieces. But although the cabal’s disparate threads are occasionally pulled, the spider’s web of corruption largely escapes corporate media’s larger narrative.

The myopic view censors the full story as surely as outright silence would. The problem deepens every year.

“There are now 854,000 contract personnel with top-secret clearances — a number greater than that of top-secret-cleared civilian employees of the government,” Lofgren wrote, of a group that together would “occupy the floor space of almost three Pentagons — about 17 million square feet.”

 

7. FBI DISMISSES PLOT AGAINST OCCUPY AS NSA CRACKS DOWN ON DISSENT

Nationally, law enforcement worked in the background to monitor and suppress the Occupy Wall Street movement, a story the mainstream press has shown little interest in covering.

A document obtained in FOIA request by David Lindorff of Who, What WHY from the FBI office in Houston,, Texas revealed an alleged assassination plot targeting a Occupy group, which the FBI allegedly did not warn the movement about.

From the redacted document: “An identified [DELETED] as of October planned to engage in sniper attacks against protestors (sic) in Houston, Texas if deemed necessary. An identified [DELETED] had received intelligence that indicated the protesters in New York and Seattle planned similar protests in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Austin, Texas. [DELETED] planned to gather intelligence against the leaders of the protest groups and obtain photographs, then formulate a plan to kill the leadership via suppressed sniper rifles.”

Lindorff confirmed the document’s veracity with the FBI. When contacted by Lindorff, Houston Police were uninterested, and seemingly (according to Lindorff), uninformed.

In Arizona, law enforcement exchanged information of possible Occupy efforts with JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, according to a report by the Center for Media and Democracy titled Dissent on Terror. The CEO meant to evade possible protests, and local law enforcement was happy to help.

Law enforcement’s all-seeing eyes broadened through the national rise of “fusion centers” over the past decade, hubs through which state agencies exchange tracking data on groups exercising free speech. And as we share, “like,” and “check-in” online with ever-more frequency, that data becomes more robust by the day.

 

8. IGNORING EXTREME WEATHER CONNECTION TO GLOBAL WARMING

In what can only be responded to with a resounding “duh,” news analyses have found mainstream media frequently report on severe weather changes without referring to global warming as the context or cause, even as a question.

As Project Censored notes, a study by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting found extreme weather events in 2013 spurred 450 broadcast news segments, only 16 of which even mentioned climate change. National news outlets have fallen on the job as well, as The New York Times recently shuttered its environmental desk and its Green blog, reducing the number of reporters exclusively chasing down climate change stories.

Unlike many journalists, ordinary people often recognize the threat of our warming planet. Just as this story on Project Censored went to press, over 400,000 protested in the People’s Climate March in New York City alone, while simultaneous protests erupted across the globe, calling for government, corporate, and media leaders to address the problem.

“There is a huge mismatch between the magnitude of the challenge and the response we heard here today,” Graca Machel, the widow of former South African President Nelson Mandela, told the United Nations conference on climate change. “The scale is much more than we have achieved.”

 

9. US MEDIA HYPOCRISY IN COVERING UKRAINE CRISIS

The US battle with Russia over Ukraine’s independence is actually an energy pipeline squabble, a narrative lost by mainstream media coverage, Project Censored alleges.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has drawn fire from the media as a tyrant, without complex analyses of his country’s socio-economic interests, according to Project Censored. As the media often do, they have turned the conflict into a cult of personality, talking up Putin’s shirtless horseback riding and his hard-line style with deftness missing from their political analysis.

As The Guardian UK’s Nafeez Ahmed reported, a recent US State Department-sponsored report noted “Ukraine’s strategic location between the main energy producers (Russia and the Caspian Sea area) and consumers in the Eurasian region, its large transit network, and its available underground gas storage capacities,” highlighting its economic importance to the US and its allies.

 

10. WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION SUPPRESSES REPORT ON IRAQ IMPACTS

The United States’ legacy in Iraq possibly goes beyond death to a living nightmare of cancer and birth defects, due to the military’s use of depleted uranium weapons, a World Health Organization study found. Iraq is poisoned. Much of the report’s contents were leaked to the BBC during its creation. But the release of the report, completed in 2012 by WHO, has stalled. Critics allege the US is deliberately blocking its release, masking a damning Middle East legacy rivaling the horrors of Agent Orange in Vietnam. But Iraq will never forget the US intervention, as mothers cradle babies bearing scars obtained in the womb, the continuing gifts of our invasion.

Straight shooter

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culture@sfbg.com

THE WEEKNIGHTER I’ve never been hunting and I’ve only shot a gun on one occasion. OK, it was multiple guns on the same occasion in a shooting range in San Diego, but still I’ve only shot at things once in my life. I guess I did a good job of killing the piece of paper I was shooting at since my friend Josh told me I had good aim for a beginner. It was pretty easy considering the target just hung there and took the abuse.

Despite my lack of hunting prowess and experience, I’ve been to Bloodhound (1145 Folsom, SF. www.bloodhoundsf.com) lots of times. Even though it’s a hunting lodge theme bar, I’m pretty sure it would be frowned upon if you were to walk in there brandishing a hunting rifle. And by frowned upon, I mean people would flee from there as quickly as possible screaming horrible, terrified profanities about someone having a gun. They might do the same if you walked in there dressed like you were going on a hunting expedition, except instead of frightened running and yelling about firearms, it would be about your atrocious attire. Even San Francisco has standards when it comes to what you wear.

I went on a date there once with someone whose ex-boyfriend was employed by my ex-girlfriend’s current boyfriend. It was some San Francisco shit to say the least. I went on another date there where a crazy lady yelled confusing obscenities at my date while also trying to woo her. That was also some San Francisco shit. Considering that Bloodhound is on Folsom between Seventh and Eighth, it is basically surrounded by San Francisco shit. And I mean this in a literal sense this time. People poop everywhere in SoMa.

I like Bloodhound. It’s got fancy drinks and lots of wood and light bulbs that look old timey but aren’t because actual old timey light bulbs probably wouldn’t light. I know a lot of SF bars have this look now but Bloodhound opened in 2009 so it was ahead of the curve. Plus it has stencils of birds on the ceiling, chandeliers made out of antlers, and dead animal parts on the walls. I think this is supposed to make you think about shooting stuff and since everyone knows shooting stuff makes you thirsty, your mind will get tricked into buying some fancy cocktails. I really like Bloodhound’s fancy cocktails, especially the one named the Bloodhound. This is great just in case you get so drunk you forget where you are. If you remember the name of your drink, you’ll also know where it is that you’re drinking. This also works in reverse.

In case you still had any doubts that Bloodhound is your local hunting lodge in the heart of San Francisco, you must visit the website. Once you get there, you will be serenaded by the sweet and twangy sounds of Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazelwood doing their rendition of “Jackson.” (No Ted Nugent, though.) I’ve never been to a hunting lodge or to Jackson, but I imagine this website feels exactly like a hunting lodge in Jackson would feel. The website even has a game you can play that lets you shoot stuff! I’m getting thirsty just thinking about it!

Hopefully one day soon you and me can go to Bloodhound together and plan our first hunting trip. And in case we just get too wasted to follow through on our plans, let’s just settle on playing Big Buck Hunter and call it a day.

Stuart Schuffman, aka Broke-Ass Stuart, is a travel writer, poet, and TV host. You can find his online shenanigans at www.brokeassstuart.com.