No way of knowing



CHEAP EATS I was sick. I couldn’t get out of bed, and I couldn’t sleep either. If I tried to talk on the phone, I sounded like Don Corleone smoking helium. People didn’t know who I was, and after a while I didn’t know who I was either.

Weirdo the Cat remained Weirdo the Cat and tried her best to keep me oriented.

Weeks in the woods are not very conversational for me, anyway. I express myself, cry out to the universe, assert my existence, and endear myself to my neighbors by tapping on steel with an eight-pound sledge hammer. When that gets old, I clack plastic and make a little poem or Cheap Eats happen. Sometimes I talk to myself. Sometimes I laugh out loud, which weirds out Weirdo and makes me feel crazy which, in turn, helps me to know that I’m not.

Now I had no way to know. I couldn’t hammer, clack, or blabber, and nothing was funny. I’m not a sickness reviewer, but laryngitis I find to be every bit as discombobuutf8g, almost, as an inner ear infection. Pretty much, more or less.

Well, I’d asked for it. I hadn’t been sick, really, in two years. Which was long enough to notice, and so I noticed and then started to talk about it.

"I haven’t been sick in two years!" I said. Out loud. To people.

Bad medicine. This is not a matter of juju; it’s mental and physical and automatic: You start bragging, you let your guard down. Bam! No voice, no sleep, no energy, no soup, no NyQuil, no more Jane Austen novels to read, no one to go to the library for you, and nothing to watch on video except The Deer Hunter.

Ever watch The Deer Hunter? Bad medicine. Good movie, bad bad medicine. Now even if I could’ve slept I couldn’t have slept. Me!

But enough about me. Eventually you just get tired of being sick, and you realize that lying around in bed isn’t going to get you better, so you kiss Weirdo the Cat on the lips, drag yourself out to your pickup truck, drive down to Balboa Park, tie on your spikes, strike out twice, ground weakly to second, ground even weaklier to third, take a shower, and go look for a bowl of duck noodle soup.

There you have it. All better. New favorite Vietnamese restaurant: Pho Ha Tien, just down the road, toward the Sunset, on Ocean. Duck noodle soup ($4.95/$5.95). Jalapeños, hot sauce, that other kind of hot sauce, and . . . you can talk again, if you’re me.

"Blah blah blah, blah blah," I said. "Blah blah blah."

There was even someone there to hear me. Yay! My cousin the Choo-Choo Train and his boyfriend, Ding-a-Ling-a-Ling, meaning I can also tell you these things: goi cuon chay ($4.50). Bun bi thit nuong ($6.50). And com ca nuong sa ($6.75).

Got that? That’s cold vegetable spring rolls, which were good, shredded pork and barbecued pork over vermicelli, which was good, and a charbroiled sole filet, over rice, which was also good. Allegedly. I didn’t get any. Choo-Choo eats so fast his plate was clean by the time I’d finished applying all the proper hot sauces, cilantro leaves, bean sprouts, jalapeños, and other medicinal touches to my soup.

And letting Ding-a-Ling-a-Ling taste some before I infected it, which favor he kindly and gentlemanlikely returned by chopsticking some of his pork and pork onto a little plate for my particular pig-partaking pleasure.

"Thank you, sir," I said.

"Thank you, Chicken Farmer," said he.

Meanwhile, the loco locomotive is licking his plate, wondering what’s for dessert.

Anyway, the soup was good, but not as good as my old favorite duck soup because the noodles were overdone, one, and, two, it had too much slimy bamboo in it that could have been ducks. And the ducks that there was didn’t have skin, just bones. A lot of bones. You have to eat with your hands and leave a big pile somewhere on the table.

Other atmospheric touches: general quaintness, funny little 3-D paintings, TV, and my personal favorite: side-by-side, the requisite Buddha shrine and a gratuitous wooden plaque of Mickey and Minnie Mouse saying, Welcome.

You know what I say to that, Mickey, Minnie, now that I have my voice back? I say, "One shot." SFBG

Pho Ha Tien

Wed.–Mon., 10 a.m.–9:30 p.m.

1900 Ocean, SF

(415) 337-2168

Takeout available

Beer and wine



Wheelchair accessible

{Empty title}



PRESS PLAY Extreme emotional response is never quite as simple as stroking an erogenous zone or pressing a few buttons keyed to childhood memory, but like select performances in The Last Waltz, Marvin GayeThe Real Thing in Performance reduced — or rather, elevated — me to tears.

This "first official" Motown-approved DVD anthology of TV performances comes freighted with expectations as large and moss-lined as a certain label head’s ego — and as baroque and biblical as the Gaye story itself (the very stuff of Shakespearean tragedies/Hollywood biopics, with the singer finding musical succor in his father’s church and later death at Marvin Sr.’s hands). Nonetheless, the execution is — mercifully — graceful, with performances drawn from biggies like American Bandstand and lesser-known programs such as Hollywood A Go-Go, intercut with mostly Dinah Shore interviews. Extras include a cappella studio vocal tracks of Gaye hits.

Invaluable is concert footage of Gaye on piano playing off a conga player on "What’s Going On" in 1972 (pulled from Save the Children) and a groovily camp "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" from a 1969 Hollywood show. These excerpts remind you that — yes, you heard right — Gaye was the genuine article (ever the son of a preacher man, he reveals in a talk with the doting Shore that he doesn’t remember writing What’s Going On and thus regards it as "divine"). Radiating an easy sexuality and often distractingly surrounded by wildly frugging go-go girls and later Solid Gold–style strutters, Gaye finds his true, sublime fit with Tammi Terrell, dueting on "Ain’t No Mountain High Enough" in mod street togs at Montreal’s Expo ’67, in one of only two known TV appearances by the pair. The duo manages to project a sheer joy that encapsulates the heartbreaking promise of an era on the precipice. Even the obvious lip-synching — emphasized by the fact that Motown stereo masters replace the mono TV audio — can’t hide Gaye’s heaven-sent powers as a performer, with a riptide of feeling and grace pulling close to the surface of his always handsome, often sleek image. (Kimberly Chun)

On the “Con” with cartoonist Daniel Clowes


It was so much fun talking to Eightball cartoonist and Ghost World and now Art School Confidential writer Daniel Clowes –- and so much conversation was left on the cutting room floor that I thought I’d resurrect a few choice tidbits here.

Max Minghella (left) sports a mean beret in Art School Confidential.

Bay Guardian: How did you get into the minds of teenage girls with Ghost World?

Daniel Clowes: I don’t know. I remember one day I did an interview with [Hate cartoonist] Peter Bagge, and they transcribed it word for word. Usually they’ll fix up our syntax and everything, but really it was like two teenage girls talking. It was really gossipy, “And then I went and she goes,” you know. I said to him, “We really sound like two teenage girls,” and he said, “Yeah, haven’t you ever noticed that that’s how we are.” And I thought, “Hmmm, ching-ching! Maybe I can make a fortune!”

BG: Maybe the differences aren’t that stark between teenage girls and older men?

DC: I think men have the maturity of a teenage girl when they’re about 30. I think that’s sadly true.

BG: And before then they have the maturity of…?

DC: A fetus. Yeah. To me, I had a revelation of those girls in high school, that’s why that girl cried at that time! You think back and think, now I get why they were like that! Now I’m at a 25-year-old maybe. At a certain point, women slow down and men get overly mature and turn into little old men. I think I’ve gone past that stage. [Laughs]

BG: On the other hand, the Steve Buscemi character in Ghost World seems like a character straight out of Terry Zwigoff’s Crumb.

DC: We thought of Steve Buscemi and just we kept expanding the character. There are a lot of great scenes that Terry wrote that we didn’t use that I wish we’d filmed. Just pointless scenes that had funny moments from his life, like we had one at an antique collectors’ faire. It was pre-eBay. Enid was like, “There’s a place where you’re going to meet a girl!” And it’s 600 overweight men, and this one woman, and she’s like this grotesque ‘20s flapper. I was reading it recently and laughing my head off, thinking, oh I wish to god we had filmed this. Totally inappropriate for the movie.

[We talk about how the movie might be scary for Clowes’ 2-year-old son, Charlie, and films that frightened Clowes like The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T]

BG: Do you cherish those movies like 5,000 Fingers, which scarred you?

DC: I was traumatized yet couldn’t wait to see it again. I was talking to some of my friends about this recently. Nowadays any movie you hear about. You just get it on Netflicks or rent it, or whatever. Soon it will be a computer click away. When we were kids, Night of the Living Dead or something was on, we’d hear about it and we’d scour the TV guide, and there it is, it’s at 2 in the morning on Thursday, and we’d have to sneak downstairs and not let our parents know and watch it really close to the screen so you could hear the sound. You were all alone but you had this weird communal feeling, like my friends are across town doing the same thing. And it was so much more exciting and it was charged with something. Its gone for me totally now. Now I’ll just Tivo it, and watch it whenever. I remember staying up late to watch the Wolfman or something. Literally, like, holding my eyelids open — so tired! “Gotta get through it! Gotta tell my friends that I saw the ending!” I don’t know, it’s gone.

BG: Whatever happened to Ghost World’s Thora Birch?

DC: She was a child actress, and did stuff from the time was a 2 or 3 years old, and it’s so much money. She didn’t seem that gung-ho about doing all that stuff. She’s like, “I can live without it.” She always said, “I never get scripts like Ghost World.”

BG: You ruined her for other movies.

DC: That’s our goal. Trying to destroy as many young talents as we can.

BG: Max Minghella in Art School Confidential is also great.

DC: We were friends with producer of Bee Season — Terry has known him for years. It was that old story you always hear and you never believe: We looked at a hundred actors and we literally looked at every single actor you’ve heard of or never heard of under 20. It’s just post-child actor, pre-adult actor. So it’s this very iffy area. It’s this awkward age because they change and they’re not who they were.

This producer said there’s this guy Max – he’s really good. and we met him and it just hit us right away, there he is. There’s Jerome. He was finally the guy we felt right about. Bee Season was first film he had ever done, and we gave him a lead in a feature, second time out. He’s a great guy — most kids that age are really arrogant and obnoxious and he’s just the sweetest, nicest, most modest guy. He was exactly 18 also. We always hit these guys at the right age.

BG: Young and impressionable!

DC: Yeah so we can mold them to our own devious ends! We were desperate to find somebody who was innocent and had sort of a charming quality but take it in this dark direction and not let the darkness kind of dominate him. It’s a very tough part – it’s all about who you really are.

BG: What about the other parts in Art School?

DC: John Malkovich produced Ghost World, and he said, “Next time give me a part.” “Oh we didn’t know you wanted one.” That’s the only part I ever wrote with an actor in mind.

Jim Broadbent was Terry’s idea. At first I thought that’s a very weird idea, but then actually it was pure genius. In the script it was supposed to be a very American guy, a Jerry Van Dyke or something. Someone who you know as being a real friendly, avuncular guy, but is seething with anger underneath. I once saw Jerry Van Dyke get really pissed off in a restaurant in LA — his hair was pure white and his face turned all red. That’s what gave me the idea.

BG: Speaking of your son, do you have an urge to do a children’s film or comic?

DC: No, I really don’t at all. I did a thing once, Art Speigelman did a thing once called Little Lit, kids’ stories, and I did a thing for it that was just not something I felt good about. It was not my way of thinking at all. I can’t censor what I’m doing. I just can’t think in terms of this is inappropriate for an 8 year old, so I better change it.

I do drawings for my son all the time but it’s not something I ever want to publish. People always say, “Oh, I wanna do a children’s book,” and I always thought, “Why? Why would you want to do that? Don’t you want adults to read your work.” [Laughs]


Longer discussions with the two artists who contributed paintings to Art School Confidential: his old friend Charles Schneider, who painted the serial killer’s workers, and Oakland painter and SF Art Institute instructor Caitlin Mitchell-Dayton, who made the protagonist Jerome’s pieces.

NOISE: Coachella cracked open?


Guardian intern Jonathan Knapp checked out Coachella last week and lived to tell the tale:

Jose Luis Pardo of Los Amigos Invisibles
holds forth Sunday at Coachella.
Photo: Mirissa Neff.

As someone who has lost his once-vigorous passion for indie rock and large music festivals, I approached my trip to Coachella with caution and confusion. Why the hell was I driving 500 miles to spend two days in the brutally hot desert sun to see a bunch of bands that I had, at best, an intermittent interest in? All right, my girlfriend really wanted me to, and our companion — a good friend and a guitarist from local post-hardcore outfit And a Few to Break — was the perfect guide: He’d been before and has been largely responsible for turning me on to the little new music that excites me.

It’s not as if I now hate indie rock — I’ve just become preoccupied with the music of the past. I’d much rather, for instance, discover nearly forgotten gems like O.V. Wright’s “You’re Gonna Make Me Cry” and Wanda Jackson’s “Fujiyama Mama” than be the first to herald the Bloc Party or Clap Your Hands. There were definitely some newer bands at Coachella that had already easily won me over — Animal Collective, TV on the Radio — and some holdovers from my indie rock youth: Sleater-Kinney, Cat Power. Additionally, Madonna was playing; though I wouldn’t have admitted it at the height of my Drag City- and Merge-fuelled ecstasy, this was unquestionably exciting.

To a relatively recent East Coast transplant, Coachella’s setting is nothing short of alien. Set aside the heat (which is consuming and oppressive) and what remains is a beautiful, if stark and bleak, atmosphere: palm trees, miles of flat, bush-littered sand, and — when the Los Angeles smog recedes — snow-capped mountains. This year’s fest brought a mostly predictable mix of inappropriately black-clad SF/LA hipsters, shirtless/bikini-topped OC trust-funders/frat types, Arizona college hippies, and — given that this was Tool’s first show in five years — metalheadz. Though people-watching is certainly fruitful and entertaining, Coachella does not provide as much craziness as one might expect — but it certainly does exist.

The festival, held over Saturday and Sunday, April 29 and 30, on the incongruously green and groomed Empire Polo Fields, is a whirlwind of simultaneous activity and overstimulation. If you’re really only there to see one act (like Depeche Mode), it’s no problem. But for those whose interests are a bit more catholic, the prospect of navigating five separate stages that feature virtually nonstop, and eclectic, music from noon till midnight is daunting.

Do you choose Kanye West or My Morning Jacket? Wolf Parade or Jamie Lidell? In my case, both these choices proved easy, if not fully satisfying. For the former: With tickets on Kanye’s late-2005 tour being at least $45, the relatively reasonable one-day Coachella pass of $85 (about $190 for both days, including service charges) makes it
the best opportunity to see him.

West’s set was entertaining, if not transcendent. Mindful of the temperature (he played a still-blistering 6 p.m. slot), West substituted the angel-winged getup he’s favored recently for a white Miles Davis T-shirt and jeans. Backed by live drums, turntables, backup singers, and a string section, he offered a respectable but awkward approximation of his increasingly ornate recordings (no Jon Brion in sight). The highlight: West inexplicably announced his DJ would play a few of his biggest influences, moving from Al Green and Off the Wall-era Michael Jackson to a-ha’s “Take on Me,” dancing around the stage with a goofiness that, though obviously calculated, seemed charmingly unselfconscious.

Following West on the main stage, Sigur Ros created one of the festival’s moments of impossible beauty, bringing their ethereal noise to day one’s lofty sunset slot (7:00-7:50 p.m.). Admittedly, I’ve been a bit hesitant to embrace the beloved Icelandic group. Though I’ve enjoyed much of their work, I’ve been turned off by what I’ve interpreted as delusions of grandeur: a made-up language (there’s already one Magma), bullshit declarations of “creating a new type of music,” and the hushed reverence with which they’re frequently discussed. However, I can’t think of a better band to accompany a desert dusk, or a better setting for the band — apart from a glacier, perhaps. Backed by a mini-string section, they played a set that, at that time and in that place, was astonishing. My gratitude goes to the man and woman who danced behind the netting just immediately off stage right: Their undulating silhouettes would have brought me to tears, had dehydration and hours of standing not already beaten them to it.

My other day one highlight was Animal Collective, a band whose aesthetic of psych-pop, tribalism, and general weirdness was perfectly suited to the surreal setting. Though I’ve adored many of their recordings (they’re one of the few current bands that I’m genuinely excited to watch evolve), I’d heard that their propensity for wandering and wanking can be their downfall live. I found that they kept this mostly in check, grounding their less accessible and more abrasive experimentations with hypnotic rhythms and a convincing feeling that this was, in fact, going somewhere. Much of the crowd didn’t seem to know what to make of it. Too bad: To my ears, few artists approach their inventiveness, live or recorded.

That day I also caught some of Deerhoof (appropriately erratic, with some fantastic moments), Cat Power (as expected, the Memphis Rhythm Band has given her a new sense of confidence and composure, and they sound fucking great), Wolfmother (energetic, but dull), White Rose Movement (I’ll stick to my Pulp records, thank you), the New Amsterdams (nothing new about them), and the Walkmen (solid).

After returning to the grounds Sunday (we fortunately camped at the much-less-populated Salton Sea, about 20 minutes away), we immediately went to catch Mates of State (adorable and infectious), who closed with a decent version of Nico’s “Time of the Season,” and Ted Leo, who was reliably engaging. To try to get close for Wolf Parade, we headed to the medium-sized tent (there were three) and watched Metric. I’d been intrigued by their Broken Social Scene connections, but their set of dancey agit-pop left me cold and bored (my companions disagreed).

I separated from my friends to stand in the back for Wolf Parade, so I could head to the main stage for Sleater-Kinney. After starting late, Wolf Parade apologized for technical issues (“Everything’s fucked”) and began a set that, from my perch hundreds of feet away, sounded slight and thin. Disappointed, I left after three songs. I’ve been told that the experience up-front, however, was quite different, and among the best of the festival.

I fell in love with the women of Sleater-Kinney about a decade ago when I was 16. I’ve tried to see them a number of times over the years, but something always fell through: sold-out, unbreakable engagements, etc. I usually don’t think about them, except when they release a new album and, maybe once or twice a year, when I put on Call the Doctor or Dig Me Out — briefly reminding myself why they once meant so much to me.

Clearly, this has been a huge mistake: Focusing mostly on songs from the past couple albums, the trio played a fierce, powerful set that all the years of hearing about their live show hadn’t prepared me for. At a festival that celebrated scenes that I’ve mostly abandoned, this became my essential moment. Mses. Corin Tucker, Carrie Brownstein, and Janet Weiss reminded me not only why I loved them, but why I loved going to shows in the first place — for the sheer raw, sweaty energy. These women deserve to fill stadiums.

After watching a bit of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, who impressed me more than I expected, I headed to the dance tent, joining an apparent majority of festivalgoers in an attempt to see Madonna. Unable to get anywhere near the stage, we settled for a spot outside it, where our view was of a large screen and, when we were lucky enough to be able to peek through the massive throng at a distant stage.

Several minutes before the set (which unsurprisingly started late), a line of people carrying parasols and decked out in lingerie bondage gear made their way through the crowd on stilts. Managing the seemingly impossible feat of reaching the front of the stage, they were easily the festival’s smartest and most inventive attendees.

When Madonna finally took the stage, all hell broke loose — an appropriate response, perhaps, but not one that the performance itself warranted. Predictable and short, Madonna’s set started with the superb “Hung Up,” then moved on to “Ray of Light” and four more songs, most of them newer material. Most surprising was her guitar playing (or at least the appearance of it) and the rock-like arrangements of all the tunes. She occasionally provoked the audience (“Don’t throw water on my stage, motherfuckers,” “Do you want me to take my pants off?”), but nothing here was shocking. That said, the woman looks fantastic and commands a stage in a way that few could. After six songs, she left abruptly. It was anticlimactic, yet still somehow thrilling. It was, after all, fucking Madonna.

Immediately after, we ran into Andy Dick, who stood talking to a pair of starstruck 13-year-old girls. Far more behaved than the blogs have reported he later would be, Dick seemed as amused with the girls as they were with him. Though he claimed to have to go meet his “girlfriend,” he talked to them for several minutes: “Oh, I love Madonna too. Hey — how are you even here? Aren’t people, like, drinking? Where are your parents?”

After catching a fantastic, fun set from the Go! Team (who had Mike Watt guesting on bass), we attempted to see Tool. Unable to get anywhere close to the stage (this seemed by far to be the most crowded show, though Madonna was close), we sat down, expecting to watch the band on the giant screens on either side of the stage. While the band played, however, their videos (you know: internal organs and jittery, alien-looking people doing painful things) were projected on the screens. Bored and wary of the inevitable hours of traffic that we’d hit if we stayed for the set, we bid Coachella adieu.

Acts I wished I had caught, but couldn’t for various reasons: Lady Sovereign, Jamie Lidell, Gnarls Barkley, Seu Jorge, My Morning Jacket, Phoenix, Mogwai, Depeche Mode, Coldcut, and TV on the Radio. Biggest regret (by far): missing Daft Punk. Word of their closing Saturday night set hovered all day Sunday, discussed in whispered, but rhapsodic tones.

I left the festival exhausted, anxious to return to San Francisco, and — most importantly — reminded why I devoted so many years to indie rock. Will I stop seeking out New Orleans R&B, rockabilly, and Southern soul? No, but that doesn’t mean I have to ignore this wave of postpunk, does it? That said, I’ll take Gang of Four, Wire, and Pere Ubu over Bloc Party and Franz Ferdinand any day.

But, right now, I just want to listen to Sleater-Kinney.

King “B”


King "B"

ICON John Saxon is many things to many people: 1950s teen idol (during his Universal contract player days he won a 1958 Golden Globe for "Most Promising Newcomer"); ubiquitous TV guest star (scratching the surface, the list includes Dynasty, Melrose Place, The A-Team, Fantasy Island, Wonder Woman, and Gunsmoke); and, most prominently, B-movie superstar. Throughout his still-active career, Saxon (real name: Carmine Orrico) has proved a charismatic presence no matter the setting. Program your own Saxon invasion with just a few of his best (and most widely available) performances.

Enter the Dragon (1973): Saxon showcases his black belt in this Bruce Lee classic.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) and A Nightmare on Elm Street III: Dream Warriors (1987): Lt. Thompson doesn’t believe his daughter’s crazy Freddy Krueger dreams are real … until it’s too late.
Black Christmas (1974): Lt. Fuller doesn’t believe the crazy phone calls that are freaking out the sorority house are cause for concern … until it’s too late.

Tenebre (1982): Saxon’s supporting role in this Dario Argento giallo features a memorable hat dance and plenty of vigorous bloodshed.

The Evil Eye (1963): Two decades earlier, Saxon acted in this serial killa thrilla for Italian horror king Mario Bava.

Cannibal Apocalypse (1980): Another Italian horror entry, but this one’s infinitely trashier. Saxon stars as a Vietnam vet who discovers several of his men have returned from the war with, uh, peculiar eating habits.

The Cynic, the Rat, and the Fist (1977): Saxon was often the only American cast member in his films, including this criminally hard-to-find cops ’n’ robbers tale from ambassador of ultraviolence Umberto Lenzi, best known for 1981’s Cannibal Ferox, a.k.a. Make Them Die Slowly. (Cheryl Eddy)

Worst album of the week



"A strange new sound that makes boys explore."

Will and Grace‘s Eric McCormack singing Elton John and Bernie Taupin’s "The Greatest Discovery"

SONIC REDUCER Not one of El’s greatest moments of songcraft. A lot of strange, new sounds regularly leak through the CD cat door just how many albums have the C*nts made? We get more than our share of musically ho-hum benefit recordings, amateurish anti-Bush anthems, and those almost quaintly, obliviously sexist Ultra dance comps. But the fundraising comp the aforementioned track was drawn from, Unexpected Dreams: Songs from the Stars (Rhino), is oddly, exquisitely … painful. This showcase of film, TV, and theater actors is almost as cringeworthy as contemputf8g that Tom Cruise DJ set rumor floating round Coachella last weekend.

I suspect Unexpected Dreams‘ cause is a decent one: Music Matters, a Los Angeles Philharmonic music outreach program for school kids. But I can’t imagine inflicting this disc on the youngsters that producers Wayne Baruch, Charles F. Gayton, and "vocal coach to the stars" Eric Vetro supposedly intended it for, although Baruch thoughtfully adds in the liner notes that the creators considered including a sticker saying, "Warning: Parents with children may experience drowsiness; do not operate machinery. For those without children … this may cause children."

Yuck. Don’t get me wrong I can take the corn, cheese, anything you want to poke in your bowtie-and-top-hat aural burrito. But disregard the vanity backslapping commentary and try to suffer through the actual renditions themselves: They make Shatner’s silly spoken-word symphonies look visionary; Lindsey Lohan’s pop pachyderms, cerebral; J-Lo’s albums, stone-genius.

Oh, the vanity, the vanity of actors who think they’re singers. Faring best: Scarlett Johansson singing a smoky blues-jazz version of the Gershwins’ "Summertime" (in the CD notes, Vetro claims "lightning struck the room" when Johansson lay into the helpless tune), her Island costar Ewan "O Obi-Wan" McGregor wrapping his Moulin Rouge round Sade’s "The Sweetest Gift," and Teri "Close encounters with Desperate Housewives poltergeists" Hatcher’s relatively unembellished rendition of Lennon and McCartney’s "Goodnight." Hatcher and vocalists like John C. Reilly rate lower on the icko-meter simply by sounding like themselves rather than affected high-school glee club achievers Alias‘s Jennifer Garner, for instance, sounds like all the variety show choristers I’ve been happily not missing since those endless, mind-numbing days of school assemblies. In fact, you can imagine a lot of boys and girls discovering that the "strange new" sounds on this album make them want to trash all their parents’ well-meaning children’s albums and explore some quality Slayer recordings.

Taraji P. Henson (Hustle and Flow‘s hook-warbling hooker) does bring some soul to her song but it’ll be hard to pimp tracks by the otherwise fine actor Jeremy Irons, who never should have been allowed to try his all-too-white gimp hand at Bob Dylan’s "To Make You Feel My Love" from Time out of Mind. And there are the many others who look at their songs as a license to overemote, like the worst rankamateur karaoke contestants, in love with the fact that they can even hit the notes. Onetime warrior princess Lucy Lawless bludgeons her quasi-Christian Vetro original. Nia My Big Fat Greek Wedding Vardalos unleashes the feta on an overwrought, taste-free stab at Lennon and McCartney’s "Golden Slumbers," and Hairspray‘s Marissa Jaret Winokur makes one gag with a cloying, faux-childlike Vetro number. "Who wouldn’t want Hollywood’s biggest stars to sing them to sleep?" the album’s press release states. Yeah, I guess that would be all right but if John Stamos is one of ’Wood’s biggest stars, I think Tinseltown is in trouble. Hint: I could be convinced to donate to any cause Rhino chooses, if they just, please, stick to reissues. SFBG


Watch it this time


The budding art star was recently feted in Artforum. Modern Reveries and F-Hole also perform. Wed/3, Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF. Call for time and price. (415) 923-0923

The Herms

What’s this about the porn written by one of the he-men in the solid indie-rockin’ Herms, here celebrating their CD release? Loquat and the Husbands also perform. Thurs/4, Great American Music Hall, 859 O’Farrell, SF. Call for time and price. (415) 885-0750

Rainer Maria

The Brooklyn indie-rock romanticists return. Thurs/4, 9 p.m., Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., SF. $12. (415) 621-4455

16 Bitch Pileup

All female, all noise, all hands on deck when the Bay Area band plays with LA’s Crom and Goldie winners Total Shutdown. Fri/5, 8 p.m., 924 Gilman, Berk. $6. 16 Bitch Pileup and Crom also play Sat/6, 5 p.m., Elbo Room, 647 Valencia, SF. $6. (415) 552-7788


Soulful vocals meet aggro rock. Play nice. Boyjazz and Turn Me on Deadman also perform. Fri/5, 10 p.m., Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., SF. $10. (415) 621-4455. Also Sat/6, 2 p.m., Amoeba Music, 1855 Haight, SF. Free. (415) 831-1200

Drive-By Truckers

The Southerners set up camp with Son Volt. Fri/5–Sat/6, 9 p.m., Fillmore, 1805 Geary, SF. $28.50. (415) 421-TIXS or (415) 346-6000

Doug Gillard

The Guided by Voices guitarist took his time, getting last year’s addictive solo release out in front of breathing humanoids. Richard Buckner also plays. Sat/6, 9 p.m., Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., SF. $13–$15. (415) 621-4455

Secret Machines

The buzz band was no secret at SXSW. Sat/6, 8:30 p.m., Independent, 628 Divisadero, SF. $20. (415) 771-1421

Blood on the Wall

Flannel, ’80s art rock, and a certain groove. Physic Ills and the Death of a Party open. Mon/8, 9 p.m., Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., SF. $8. (415) 621-4455


The English duo dig into T-Rex–drenched electro with Supernature (Mute). Mon/8, 8 p.m. Fillmore, 1805 Geary, SF. $22.50. (415) 421-TIXS or (415) 346-6000

Starlight Mints

Your indie-pop hop happens with Dios and Octopus Project. Tues/9, 9 p.m., Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., SF. $8–$10. (415) 621-4455  SFBG

Stick to it



Dear Andrea:

This might be a little vanilla for you, but I thought I’d chance it.

My boyfriend and I are in our mid-20s, and I’m fairly confident that we’ll be married at some point. I’m only the second girl he’s slept with, though, and the only girl he’s had an orgasm with. I’ve had a few more partners. I genuinely feel like he should have sex with other women before committing. Do you think the numbers matter? Is he going to wake up at 45 needing something different? Is there any way I can get him to have sex with another woman and not feel like he’s cheating on me?


Commitmentphobe (for him)

Dear ’Phobe:

Well that last part is up to you, isn’t it? If you’re going to feel like he’s cheating even though you pretty much ordered him out the door with your phone number and address pinned to his underpants, there’s nothing I can do for you. You’re going to have to decide which is more important to you: lifelong fidelity or knowing he’s had a look around and still chose you. Without a time machine at your disposal (oh, how I wish I had one, for so many reasons), you’re not getting both.

Here are two facts, make of them what you will. (1) Americans, on average, have not had anything like the number of partners racked up by unmarried characters on any sitcom you might watch. At last count by a trustworthy source, half of all adult Americans had had three or fewer sex partners over the course of their lifetimes. More than your boyfriend/husband will have to show for it on his deathbed, should he neither cheat nor obey your order to go out and slut around first, granted, but certainly not what you’d expect from the way people do go on. (2) If he’s going to get bored at 45 and need a little something different, that’s going to happen whether or not he does the homework you assign him at 25. If it helps, when the data for the landmark "Sex in America" study were collected in the early ’90s, it appeared that the vast majority of married or cohabitating couples were in fact faithful to each other, something that, again, you’d never guess from watching TV or movies, or even reading popular or literary fiction.

And, anyway, cheating is not the leading cause of divorce. Many studies point to money or plain old "incompatibility" for that, and not necessarily sexual incompatibility although that does count. There is even some research showing that "being very unhappy" needn’t cause divorce in and of itself: 86 percent of couples who reported being unhappily married in the late ’80s described themselves as happier five years later, and indeed most called themselves "very" or "quite" happy by then. It seems that the best indicator of whether a marriage will last is whether the couple wants it to last and is willing to stick it out.

I do digress and I do apologize, but I guess what I want you to get here is that projecting your worries into the future (there’s that time machine again) is not necessarily the best use of your time while you’re young and happy and have a wedding to plan. If you’ve made the offer ("Sure you don’t want to go out and spread it around a little before we settle down?") and he is still not interested, you might want to consider just being glad he’s so satisfied with you, and start picking out china patterns.



Dear Andrea:

My boyfriend has described an ex-girlfriend of his as "really great in bed," so I asked him what was great about it. He described her vagina as "ribbed for [his] pleasure" and said that she had muscle striations that gave him a pleasurable sensation because she did Kegel exercises regularly.

I do Kegels regularly too, but obviously he does not consider our respective vaginas to be comparable. Am I doing something wrong? Do I not do it enough? Would one of those weights that you’re supposed to put in there help?

I definitely have more "tricks" than that girl, but I want to be considered "great" too!


Wanna B. Great

Dear Great:

Of course you do. I wonder, deeply and truly, about those "muscle striations" and in fact assume that they were in his head, along with a lot of other muscle and not too much of the more useful sort of tissue. By all means get a barbell-style exerciser if you like it couldn’t hurt but you’re not going to get any more "striated," just stronger. Your boyfriend could get to work developing his tact muscles at the same time, if he knows what’s good for him.



Andrea Nemerson has spent the last 14 years as a sex educator and an instructor of sex educators. In her former life, she was a prop designer. Visit to view her previous columns.

{Empty title}


At one time in my life, I thought I had a handle on the meaning of the word "service." Service is "the act of doing things for other people." Then I heard these terms which reference the word

Internal RevenueService
Postal Service
Telephone Service
Civil Service
City and County Public Service
Customer Service 
Service Station

Then I became confused about the word "service." This is not what I thought "service" meant. So today, I overheard two farmers talking, and one of them said he had hired a bull to "service" a few of his cows.


It all came into perspective. Now I understand what all those "service" agencies are doing to us.
I hope you now are as enlightened as I am.

Black and White
(Under age 40? You won’t understand.)

     You could hardly see for all the snow,
     Spread the rabbit ears as far as they go.
     Pull a chair up to the TV set,
     "Good Night, David. Good Night, Chet."

     Depending on the channel you tuned,
     You got Rob and Laura — or Ward and June.
     It felt so good. It felt so right.
     Life looked better in black and white.

     I Love Lucy, The Real McCoys,
     Dennis the Menace, the Cleaver boys,
     Rawhide, Gunsmoke, Wagon Train,
     Superman, Jimmy and Lois Lane.
     Father Knows Best, Patty Duke,
     Rin Tin Tin and Lassie too,
     Donna Reed on Thursday night! —
     Life looked better in black and white.

     I want to go back to black and white.
     Everything always turned out right.
     Simple people, simple lives.
     Good guys always won the fights.
     Now nothing is the way it seems,
     In living color on the TV scr! een.
     Too many murders, too many fights,
     I want to go back to black and white.

     In God they trusted, alone in bed, they slept,
     A promise made was a promise kept.
     They never cussed or broke their vows.
     They’d never make the network now.
     But if I could, I’d rather be
     In a TV town in ’53.

     It felt so good. It felt so right.
     Life looked better in black and white.

     I’d trade all the channels on the satellite,
     If I could just turn back the clock tonight

     To when everybody knew wrong from right.
     Life was better in black and white!


For Oldtimers:

My Mom used to cut chicken, chop eggs and spread mayo on the same cutting board with the same knife and no bleach, but we didn’t seem to get food poisoning.

My Mom used to defrost hamburger on the counter AND I used to eat it raw sometimes, too. Our school sandwiches were wrapped in wax paper in a brown paper bag, not in ice pack coolers, but I can’t remember getting ecoli.

Almost all of us would have rather gone swimming in the river or lake instead of a pristine pool (talk about boring), no beach closures then.

The term cell phone would have conjured up a phone in a jail cell, and a pager was the school PA system.

We all took gym, not PE . . . and risked permanent injury with a pair of high top Ked’s (only worn in gym) instead of having cross-training athletic shoes with air cushion soles and built in light reflectors. I can’t recall any injuries, but they must have happened because they tell us how much safer we are now..

Flunking gym was not an option . . . even for stupid kids! I guess PE must be much harder than gym.

Speaking of school, we all said prayers and sang the national anthem, and staying in detention after school caught all sorts of negative attention.

I thought that I was supposed to accomplish something before I was allowed to be proud of myself.

I just can’t recall how bored we were without computers, Play Station, Nintendo, X-box or 270 digital TV cable stations.

Oh yeah . . . and where was the Benadryl and sterilization kit when I got that bee ! sting? I could have been killed!

We played ‘king of the hill’ on piles of gravel left on vacant construction sites, and when we got hurt, Mom pulled out the 48-cent bottle of Mercurochrome (kids liked it better because it didn’t sting like iodine did) and then we got our butt spanked. Now it’s a trip to the emergency room, followed by a 10-day dose of a $49 bottle of antibiotics, and then Mom calls the attorney to sue the contractor for leaving a horribly vicious pile of gravel where it was such a threat.

We didn’t act up at the neighbor’s house either because if we did, we got our butt spanked there and then we got butt spanked again when we got home.

I recall Donny Reynolds from next door coming over and doing his tricks on the front stoop, just before he fell off. Little did his Mom know that she could have owned our house. Instead, she picked him up and swatted him for being such a goof. It was a neighborhood run amock.

To top it off, not a single person I knew had ever been told that they were from a dysfunctional family. How could we possibly have known that?

We needed to get into group therapy and anger management classes? We were obviously so duped by so many societal ills, that we didn’t even notice that the entire country wasn’t taking Prozac! How did we ever survive?

King of Shadows


TRIBUTE Days of Our Lives had Patch and Kayla; Passions had Precious, Timmy, and Zombie Charity (don’t ask). But Dark Shadows had werewolves, time travel, ghosts, a vampire protagonist (Jonathan Frid), and plots that revolved around such curious objects as the severed hand of one Count Petofi (much sought after for its mystical powers). Dark Shadows — the original version of which ran from 1966 to 1971; it also spawned multiple films and revivals — was clearly a singular sensation, and much of the credit goes to its beloved creator-producer, Dan Curtis.

Curtis, who passed away March 27 at the age of 78, was also noted for his many 1970s TV films. Most contained gothic elements, includingThe Night Stalker and the Karen Black tastic Trilogy of Terror, plus versions of Frankenstein, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Dracula (the latter two starring Jack Palance). On the big screen he directed Black in the haunted-house tale Burnt Offerings; he also helmed the anthology tale Dead of Night, written by frequent collaborator Richard Matheson.

These days, The Montel Williams Show tapes in Dark Shadows’ old New York City studio (not among Dark Shadows’ horrors, as far as I can tell, are unexpected paternity test results). But the soap’s cult lives on, much like lovelorn vamp Barnabas Collins, with multiple DVD collections from MPI Home Video ( — endearing flubs from the show’s live tapings intact. For more information on Curtis, visit the frighteningly complete, operated by European fanzine Dark Shadows Journal. (Cheryl Eddy)

Kill-er dude

Kill the Moonlight


PRESS PLAY It coulda been Slacker, and instead, true to "Loser" form, it got lost. That was the fate of Steve Hanft’s 1994 "underground classic" feature Kill the Moonlight.

Kill has a rep for being rarely seen but, weirdly, widely disseminated — due to the fact that its title character, would-be race car driver, fish hatchery feeder, and toxic waste cleaner Chance, provided the direct inspiration for Beck’s first Gen X–Rosetta stone single, "Loser." Samples from the movie ("I’m a driver/ I’m a winner/ Things are gonna change/ I can feel it," drones the never-say-die, ultimately unkillable Chance) popped up in the sleeper pop hit itself, and clips of the movie surfaced in the song’s video, directed by Hanft (who also played with Beck in a band called Liquor Cabinet).

Alterna-strippers, Kiss revivalism, and bitchin’ Camaros — how much more ’90s can you get? With the release of this DVD — which includes a bonus soundtrack CD of music by Beck, the Raunch Hands, and Go to Blazes — you can finally bask in the low-budget, occasionally funny, often stiff, yet extremely atmospheric lo-fi glory of this 76-minute feature, which Hanft seems to have spun off with his bigger-budget 2001 feature,Southlander, starring a goofy musician named Chance and, well, Beck. (Kimberly Chun)

Oaklandish pride, Leela, Lila, and torn, torn, torn


Ever wish you were everywhere at once? Don’t. Be in this body now.

So this body got down to the Parkway Theater last night to catch an eyeful of Oakland pride at the “Celebrate Original Oakland Charm” party thrown by Oaklandish . We beheld a montage of invaluable historical footage including clips of Sun Ra touching down in O-town proper; the bit-too-long, but ultrainformative “Rebels of Oakland,” a TV-ish doc on the A’s and the Raiders; snippets of Too Short, the Hell’s Angels, Black Panthers, The SLA, Remembrance of the Hills Fire & Earthquake, etc. Missed the Bruce Lee. Dang! EEEEE-ya! Also caught the premiere episodes of “It’s Crazy Time”, the local punk-rock sketch comedy show put together by the multitalented Dan Aaberg of the Cuts and friends. Funny stuff–Count Tabascula is a soon-to-be classic.

Leela James works it out. But what is she wearing?

Tonight I’m torn, torn, torn between catching Tinariwen at Yoshi’s, Dinosaur Jr and Comets on Fire at Great American, and Leela James (above) at Fillmore. The sleeper nouveau soul diva makes a stand in the Fillmo’ at 8 p.m.

Later this week at the ‘Mo, Lila Downs brings out her bold new disc, Entre Copa y Copa. The disc shows off both the smooth and strong sides of the Frieda lookalike. She performs April 20, 8 p.m., at the Fillmore, 1805 Geary, SF. $25. (415) 346-6000.

Whew. Now off to finally see Brick.

Tsai me up, Tsai me down


I could have sworn that the late Susan Sontag had labeled Tsai Ming-liang a fraud. I even looked up Sontag’s New York Times piece "The Decay of Cinema," as well as the longer essay "A Century of Cinema" that was published in the 2001 collection Where the Stress Falls, for proof. But no such dismissal was to be found. And here I had formed a whole argument: "How ironic," I thought, "that an essay by Sontag about the demise of cinema disapproved of Tsai, and that around the time of her own passing Tsai would unveil perhaps the greatest film about the decay of cinema to date, 2003’s Good Bye, Dragon Inn."


It turned out I misattributed the remark — in fact, it was a film historian who dismissed Tsai as "your archetypal pretentious festival fraud." Yet I wonder if Sontag cared as much for Tsai as she did, say, Hou Hsiao-hsien, since Tsai has participated in the very "internationalizing of financing" that she laments in A Century of Cinema, noting its destructive effect on her beloved Andrei Tarkovksy. Tsai’s Taiwan-France coproduction What Time Is It There? (2001) might be the weakest of his works, yet there’s still something to be loved about its presentation of Paris as a tourist’s hell, even if Sontag might not have cared for such a treatment of that city.

But enough of Craig Seligman<\d>style routines: I’ve come to praise Tsai, not to answer Sontag’s erudition with casual conversation. Creating a follow-up to the majestic loneliness of Good Bye Dragon Inn could not have been an easy task, and yet Tsai has done just that with another Taiwan-France coproduction, The Wayward Cloud, a work that is as glaringly vulgar as Dragon was cavernous and shadowy, as sexually graphic as Dragon was furtive, as contemporary as Dragon was nostalgic, as disturbing as Dragon was melancholic, and as hilarious as Dragon was … hilarious.

One of the first thoughts I had while watching The Wayward Cloud was this: Matthew Barney can eat Tsai’s shorts.

A few weeks ago, a Guardian writer fantasized about a DVD box issue devoted to a pair of contemporary directors, and I thought, "It really has come to this: A devoted young movie lover can’t even realistically imagine a rep house program devoted to the career of one of his current favorite filmmakers." The Wayward Cloud is about to play the palatial Castro — not the TV at the local video store or the flat-screen in someone’s apartment — and I can’t wait to be there. In fact, I will fantasize about a film series devoted to all of Tsai’s movies to date, the kind that places like the Castro used to give to directors like Fassbinder. The type of event where a certain breed of celluloid-loving maniac could meet up every night and become friends over shared dark laughter, drugs, you name it.

I can’t think of another contemporary director whose work would flourish so well with that type of presentation. Take Tsai’s relationship to his muse, Lee Kang-sheng, who has starred in every one of his features to date as the character Hsiao-kang. In The Wayward Cloud, Hsiao-kang is dissolute, and there is something really disturbing and honest about his look, and the way Tsai in turn looks at it. There is something deep — not fraudulent — in the way Tsai has tracked this young man through passages of his life, in the way What Time Is It There? was built from Lee’s grief and loss, for instance. There is something awesome I can’t yet pinpoint about the way The Wayward Cloud, with its jaw-dropping (anti-) climax, manages to rhyme off of the crying-jag final shot of Tsai’s Vive l’Amour (1994), the harsh porn appraisal of his follow-up The River (1997), and the musical, apocalyptic rains of the Tsai movie after that, 1998’s The Hole.

Tsai’s seven features may be a cup-and-ball game stretched over 12-plus hours. But you could say life is a cup-and-ball game too, and the harsh truth is that The Wayward Cloud, a major work by one of the best filmmakers on the planet today, does not have a distributor. It might not play anywhere in the Bay Area after it screens at the San Francisco International Film Festival. Tsai’s movies sell tickets at festivals, but in commercial runs they result in the kind of empty house that he explored so tellingly in Dragon. Yes, Tsai Ming-liang is "the quintessential festival" genius, all right. See his movies while you can.<\!s><z5><h110>SFBG<h$><z$>


(Tsai Ming-liang, Taiwan/France, 2005)


Sun/23, 9:30 p.m., Castro

Tues/25, 10:15 p.m., Kabuki

April 26, 3:30 p.m., Kabuki

April 28, 9:15 p.m., PFA

Week one



Perhaps Love (Peter Ho-Sun Chan, Hong Kong, 2005). The pan in pan-Asian here stands for panic: This meta–love story within a metamusical tries to please everyone and runs with damn near everything, except sparkly red shoes, and fails at almost all it attempts. Hong Kong director Peter Ho-Sun Chan (Comrades: Almost a Love Story) oversees players like Chinese actress Zhou Xun (Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress), Takeshi Kaneshiro (House of Flying Daggers), Bollywood choreographer Farah Khan, and cocinematographer Christopher Doyle, but is he really to blame? Only Kaneshiro manages to project a glimmer of real emotion in this pointless East-kowtows-to-West, torture-by-style exercise, glaringly poisoned by contempo-musicals like Chicago and Moulin Rouge. 7 p.m., Castro (Kimberly Chun)


Sa-kwa (Kang Yi-kwan, South Korea, 2005). In Oasis and A Good Lawyer’s Wife, Moon So-ri took on emotionally and physically daring roles, playing characters who flouted convention. She confirms her rep in Sa-kwa as a woman torn between a boyfriend who drops her while they are at a great height (a gesture she repays) and a husband who treats her like an acquisition. Director Kang Yi-kwan keeps the handheld camera up in Moon’s face, and she more than delivers, though the symbiosis between director and performer doesn’t quite match that between Lee Yoon-ki and Kim Ji-su in 2004’s less conventional This Charming Girl. 4:45 p.m., Kabuki. Also May 1, 8:45 p.m., Kabuki; and May 4, 4:30 p.m., Kabuki (Johnny Ray Huston)


*Circles of Confusion (various). This vaguely defined and stylistically varied program of shorts contains at least one first-rate local work, Cathy Begien’s Relative Distance, which expertly mines the humor and pain within family ties through a direct-address approach. There is absolutely no doubt which of the 10 movies here is the virtuoso mindblower: a strobing, percussive blast from start to finish — even if it stutters, stops, and restarts like a machine possessed by a wild spirit — Peter Tscherkassky’s Instructions for a Light and Sound Machine takes The Good, The Bad and the Ugly and makes it better, badder, and so ugly it’s gorgeous. 3:30 p.m., Kabuki. Also Mon/24, 4:15 p.m. Kabuki (Huston)

*Factotum (Bent Hamer, Norway, 2005). Unfortunately titled but cleverly plotted, director Bent Hamer’s paean to Charles Bukowski revels in the boozy textures of the author’s work. The movie’s meandering vignettes draw from various novels, which makes sense since old Chuck’s work can fairly be said to comprise one sprawling, bawdy picaresque. Matt Dillon is fine as the author’s fictionalized self, but Lili Taylor makes it — she uses her throaty whisper to excellent effect as the antihero’s sometimes lover. Beyond the performances, Factotum gives pause to the way Bukowski’s episodic, prose-poetry narration style has influenced indie cinema conventions, especially of the sort practiced by screenwriter Jim Stark’s longtime collaborator, Jim Jarmusch. 9 p.m., Kabuki. Also April 30, 3 p.m., Kabuki (Max Goldberg)

The Glamorous Life of Sachiko Hanai (Mitsuru Meike, Japan, 2004). A hooker who titillates clients by acting like a naughty teacher winds down her workday with a froofy coffee drink. Suddenly, a pair of baddies exchange gunfire right in the middle of the café. Though she’s pegged between the eyes, the lass somehow survives; in short order, she’s humped by a cop, demonstrates Will Hunting–<\d>style math prowess, and quotes Descartes. So what’s up with that weird little object she’s got rattling around in her enormous handbag? This pink film’s weirdly unflattering sex scenes raise a different question: So who cares? 11:15 p.m., Kabuki. Also Tues/25, 1:15 p.m., Kabuki (Cheryl Eddy)

*Heart of the Game (Ward Serrill, USA, 2005). "Sink your teeth in their necks! Draw blood!" That’s no vampire, just Bill Relser, the tax professor turned girls’ basketball coach, rallying his team. Documentary filmmaker Ward Serrill clearly absorbed the lesson, grabbing us by the necks with his extraordinary saga of the Roosevelt High Roughriders. Over six seasons the team wins and loses, soaring to unimaginable victories and crashing into heartbreak. Serrill pays close attention, on court and off, and ultimately delivers a smartly paced chronicle that nails the socialization of girls, the costs of playing ball, and the perils of female adolescence. The spectacular basketball is an added bonus. Hoop Dreams, move over! Noon, Castro. Also Tues/25, 4 p.m., Kabuki (B. Ruby Rich)

In Bed (Mat??as Bize, Chile/Germany, 2005). Over the course of a single night, strangers Daniela (Blanca Lewin) and Bruno (Gonzalo Valenzuela) reveal themselves to one another in guarded conversation and periodic bouts of lovemaking. Director Mat??as Bize and writer Julio Rojas have trouble stirring up enough genuinely surprising (or moving) drama to break down the fourth wall of this dual portrait; unlike the similar but superior Before Sunrise, In Bed never transcends its own dramatic construct. 9:15 p.m., Castro. Also Mon/24, 3:15 p.m., Kabuki (Goldberg)

*Le Petit Lieutenant (Xavier Beauvois, France, 2005). Skinned of pop songs and even a score, decorated in grays and blues, and populated by more realistic gendarmes than one is likely to see outside le station, this clear-eyed, no-merde look at the career of an eager, recent police academy graduate (Jalil Lespert), his fellow cops, and his tough but vulnerable recovering alcoholic of a chief investigator (Nathalie Baye) is less a policier than an anthropologically minded character study. A student of Baye’s Detective commandant Jean-Luc Godard as well as Spielberg and Tarantino, director Xavier Beauvois mixes an almost clinical attention to detail with a genuine warmth for his characters and has a knack for tackling the knotty racial dynamics in today’s Paris. 3:30 p.m., Kabuki. Also Tues/25, 6:45 p.m., Kabuki; and April 26, 9:15 p.m., Kabuki (Chun)

*The Life I Want (Giuseppe Piccioni, Italy, 2005). Here is the engrossing meta–<\d>love story that fest opener Perhaps Love wants, or rather needs — though that film’s clumsy kitsch pageantry would have completely spoiled this refreshingly mature romance, which delicately references both Camille and Day for Night, Visconti and Laura Antonelli. At a screen test, all-too-established actor Stefano (Luigi Lo Cascio) is drawn in by the tremulous magnetism and churning emotions of the troubled, unknown actress Laura (Sandra Ceccarelli). Director Giuseppe Piccioni brings an elegant, hothouse intensity to the on-again, off-again, on-again tryst while speaking eloquently about the actor’s life, the hazards of the Method, and the pitfalls of professional jealousy — and giving both actors, particularly the impressive Ceccarelli, a layered mise-en-scène with which to work. 9:15 p.m., Kabuki. Also Mon/24, 8:30 p.m., Kabuki; April 27, 6 p.m., Kabuki; and April 30, 7 p.m., Aquarius (Chun)

Perpetual Motion (Ning Ying, China, 2005). Ning Ying explores the changes Western-style capitalism has brought to Chinese society in a gathering of four privileged, affluent, fictional ladies — played by some of the real-life republic’s best-known media personalities and businesswomen. They’ve assembled for tea at the posh home of Niuniu (Hung Huang), who’s got a hidden agenda — she’s invited these "friends" over to figure out which one is secretly boinking her husband. There’s some interesting political-cultural commentary around the edges here. But it’s disappointing that a female director would do what Ning soon does, reducing her characters to campy, bitch-quipping, weeping-inside gorgons in a pocket-sized variation on hoary catfight classic The Women. 6:45 p.m., Kabuki. Also Mon/24, 9:25 p.m., PFA; April 26, 3:30 p.m., Kabuki; and May 1, 9:30 p.m., Aquarius (Harvey)

*Taking Father Home (Ying Liang, China, 2005). In Ying Liang’s engrossing debut, urban decay and an impending flood follow protagonist Xu Yun (Xu Yun) around every turn of his doomed search for his absent father. The film — shot on video without the funding, or the approval, of the Chinese government — takes a no-frills approach, its only indulgences being Ying’s dark, quirky humor and obvious love of the long shot. Much of his action unfolds from afar, allowing the countryside and industrial wasteland of the Sichuan province to create a surprisingly rich atmosphere for this simple, effective story. 1:30 p.m., PFA. Also April 30, 3:30 p.m., Kabuki; and May 3, 6:15 p.m., Kabuki (Jonathan L. Knapp)

*Turnabout (Hal Roach, USA, 1940). Each convinced they’re on the low end of a marital totem pole, Carole Landis and John Hubbard say some hasty words in front of a Hindu deity’s statue. Voila! Husband and wife find themselves swapping bodies. This Freaky Friday precursor was a risqué surprise in the censorious climate of 1940 Hollywood and for that reason was denounced by the Catholic Legion of Decency as "dangerous to morality, wholesome concepts of human relationships, and the dignity of man." Why? ’Cause the guy acts femme and the girl acts butch, that’s why. Directed by comedy veteran Hal Roach, this seldom revived curiosity is too hit-and-miss to rate as a neglected classic, but it’s vintage fun nonetheless. 3 p.m., Castro. Also Sun/23, 6:15 p.m., PFA (Harvey)

*Workingman’s Death (Michael Glawogger, Austria/Germany, 2005). This five(-and-a-half)-chapter documentary examines manual labor of the most backbreaking variety: Ukrainian coal miners scraping out a dangerous living; Indonesian sulfur miners pausing from their toxic-looking quarry to pose for tourist cameras; Pakistani workers philosophically approaching the task of tearing apart an oil tanker ("Of course, this is a shitty job, but even so we get along well"); and, in the film’s most graphic segment, Nigerian butchers slogging through an open-air slaughterhouse. A Chinese factory and a factory-turned-park in Germany are also on the tour. Without narration, the film places emphasis on its images, which are often surprisingly striking. 3:45 p.m., PFA. Also April 30, 9 p.m., Kabuki; and May 4, 5:30 p.m., Kabuki (Eddy)


All about Love (Daniel Yu, Hong Kong, 2005). If you’ve got the fever for the flavor of Andy Lau, you can’t miss this melodrama, with the HK hunk in two roles: the clean-shaven doctor grieving over his dead wife, and the goateed fashion designer who realizes his true feelings after abandoning his sick wife, a heart-transplant patient. That the story lines intersect, bringing forth slo-mo shots of breaking glass and dripping tears, should surprise no one; Lau, of course, emerges as swoon-worthy as ever. 4:30 p.m., Kabuki. Also April 26, 5:15 p.m., Kabuki (Eddy)

*The Eagle (Clarence Brown, USA, 1927). Originally released in 1925, The Eagle is a spry star-vehicle for heartthrob Rudolph Valentino (that name!). Despite being set in decidedly unsexy 18th-century Russia, Valentino prances through as Vladimir, a dashing Cossack guard who disguises himself as the Black Eagle (as well as a French tutor) to exact justice upon a plundering landlord. In the process he finds romance with that same landlord’s daughter (Vilma Banky) and trouble with Russia’s queen (played with Garbo cool by Louise Dresser). The Alloy Orchestra performs a new score for this classic adventure story. 7 p.m., Castro (Goldberg)

*Live ’n’ Learn (various). You’ll find two excellent Bay Area–<\d>made movies in this program of short works. Tracing a heart-wrenching path away from — and yet toward — the stabbing at the end of Gimme Shelter, Sam Green’s painfully perceptive tribute to Meredith Hunter, Lot 63, Grave C is one of the best films at this year’s festival, period. The brightness of the cinematography in Natalija Vekic’s Lost and Found is as unique as its object-obsessed dive into memories of one Schwinn banana-seat summer — any kinks in the dialogue or narrative are trumped by the atmospheric potency of the visuals. 1 p.m., Kabuki. Also May 2, 1:30 p.m., Kabuki (Huston)
*Waiting (Rashid Masharawi, Palestine/France, 2005). A burnt-out Palestinian film director, an ex–TV journalist returned from abroad, and an unworldly local cameraman set out to audition actors at refugee camps in Gaza, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon on behalf of the National Palestinian Theatre (which promises, with relentless optimism, to open soon). "How can we really make films in this situation?" the director asks — a serious question when military occupation, dispossession, closed borders, broken families, and deferred dreams confront the impulses of human hearts and an art form premised on action. Filmmaker Rashid Masharawi (himself born in Gaza’s Shati camp) doesn’t always avoid staginess, but his acute sense of irony and his generous lens — opening onto a landscape of ordinary Palestinian faces — manage a persuasive emotional and thematic complexity. 3:30 p.m., Kabuki. Also Tues/25, 4 p.m., Kabuki (Robert Avila)


House of Himiko (Isshin Inudo, Japan, 2005). Young Saori (Kou Shibasaki) can’t afford to pass up a part-time job at a private old-age home. But she doesn’t have to like it: The residents are all gay men, and they include the father (Min Tanaka) whose abandonment long ago left Saori a grudge-keeping homophobe. But her prejudices eventually melt amid these aging queens’ wacky and poignant antics. This is the kind of movie that does soften up mainstream audiences’ attitudes, if only because it panders to them so carefully — the ol’ ’mos here are all cuddly, harmless, and postsexual, despite their occasional trash talk. For more sophisticated viewers, the cutesy stereotypes and maudlin moments may outweigh director Isshin Inudo’s good intentions and passages of low-key charm. 6:30 p.m., Kabuki. Also April 27, 5:45 p.m., Castro (Harvey)

*Runners High (Justine Jacob and Alex da Silva, USA, 2006). Inspirational sports movies are hard to beat, and this doc about Students Run Oakland, a group that trains high schoolers for the Los Angeles marathon, is particularly potent. Rough neighborhoods, unstable home lives, and plain old out-of-shapeness provide obstacles for the dedicated kids profiled here, but the training benefits nearly all who stick with it. "If you can accomplish a marathon, you can accomplish anything" would be a clichéd thing for a coach to say in a narrative film; in the context of this doc, the words feel truly sincere. 7 p.m., Kabuki. Also April 27, 10 a.m., Kabuki; April 29, 3:30 p.m., Kabuki; and May 2, 8:30 p.m., El Rio (Eddy)


Looking for Madonna (John de Rantau, Indonesia, 2005). Part potboiler romance, part quirky street-level character study, and part gritty message-movie about the fears that continue to surround HIV/AIDS — Looking for Madonna plays it multiple ways. In this, the gangly, freewheeling, and well-meaning feature debut of Indonesian director John de Rantau, Madonna is a pop star singing, "Don’t Cry for Me, Indonesia," as well as a local prostitute prized for her fair skin. The Virgin Mother, however, is nowhere to be found — although AIDS-infected Papua teen Joseph tries his best to reach a state of grace, aided by his cheeky, bawdy chum Minus. 7:15 p.m., Kabuki. Also April 29, 12:45 p.m., Kabuki (Chun)

*News from Afar (Ricardo Benet, Mexico, 2005). Just as Carlos Reygadas’s Japon gave viewers ample time to contemplate its maker’s talent and ponder his pretense, so does Ricardo Benet’s first feature as it turns a man’s relationship to landscape into an existential equation. When that landscape is as broke as a nameless saltpeter town or as forbidding as Mexico City, can it be anything else? Whether Benet will follow this movie with something as sublime and ridiculous as Reygadas’s Battle in Heaven is unclear, but there is no doubt that he is talented, and that News from Afar can slap a drowsy viewer upside the head with the full weight of fate gone bad. 7 p.m., PFA. Also April 29, 6 p.m., Kabuki; and May 2, 3 p.m., Kabuki (Huston)

Hotel California


The father of all masked superheroes, Zorro first appeared in California in 1919, in serial form, brought to life by pulp writer Johnston McCulley. Soon afterward, the suave, playful Zorro (the secret identity of the decidedly unglamorous Don Diego Vega) became an enduring international phenomenon, thanks to screen legend Douglas Fairbanks Sr., and continues to evolve in a slew of films, TV shows, and comic books up to and including a new Isabel Allende novel and a forthcoming musical scored by the Gipsy Kings.

A new wave of anti-immigrant demonizing and criminalization under way nationwide makes all the more obvious the urgency behind the breezy but pointed comedy Zorro in Hell, Culture Clash’s beautifully staged romp in black leather, mask, and cape, in a coproduction with La Jolla Playhouse and Berkeley Rep and deftly helmed by the Rep’s artistic director, Tony Taccone. If it took the LA-based, Mission Districtbred Latino political-comedy troupe (composed of Richard Montoya, Ric Salinas, and Herbert Sigüenza) 22 years of writing and performing to finally tackle the mythical Hispanic crime fighter, their timing couldn’t have been better.

But is Zorro to be considered an authentic pop-cultural or folk hero despite his conflicted origins in mass entertainment, ethnic stereotype, and pseudohistory? The trio’s own initial ambivalence serves as an engine for Zorro in Hell‘s critical but redemptive excavation of the myth at a time when resurrected rebel heroes, as spurs to mass action, seem to be the order of the day (very Z for Vendetta, in other words, and little wonder the Wachowski Brothers’ film is one of myriad cultural reference points bandied around to nice effect here).

The story centers on a frustrated LA writer and nominal Latino (Montoya) who’d prefer to be penning sitcoms but, meanwhile, has an “other voices” grant to write a play about the Zorro legend. He arrives at the El Camino Real Inn less than enthusiastic about a subject he considers culturally specious and politically irrelevant and meets a couple of larger-than-life characters who take it upon themselves to set him straight: the 200-year-old proprietress (a feisty, very funny Sharon Lockwood) and her ancient bellhop, Don Ringo (Sigüenza), proudly self-described as “the first Chicano.” Together, their careers seem to touch (literally in the case of Doña’s countless love affairs) upon most of California’s cultural history.

Cracking open the Zorro legend (given stage form by a versatile and amusing Joseph Kamal) sets in play a whole history and rebel tradition peopled by names like Ambrose Bierce, William Saroyan, Jack London, Ginsberg, Kerouac, Sacco and Vanzetti, Marx, Nietzsche, and, of course, the Scarlet Pimpernel (likely inspiration for McCulley’s masked avenger). Other references are more off the wall, or off the flag, as in the case of a talking grizzly named Kyle (Salinas), an erudite bear offering the slightly spooked, drug-addled writer some talking-cure in a charmingly professional bedside manner. Then there’s legendary outlaw Joaquin Murieta (Salinas again), the incarnation of crafty but principled revenge: “I taught myself to walk, talk, drink like them. But I never murdered like them.” The writer’s own transformation includes entering an old Zorro movie in the part of the archetypal “sleepy Mexican,” who, in this radical reappropriation of cultural capital, we’re told, is more like a sleeping giant beneath the wide brim of his tilted sombrero.

Doña has an ulterior motive behind all this consciousness-raising: She needs help fending off the imminent threat brought by land-snatching developers in league with the evil Gobernador, who naturally arrives by Humvee. (As the Latinos who voted against their own interests by helping to elect an action movie icon demonstrate, the superhero sword can cut both ways.)

Charming, sharp, and frequently wacky, the cutting jokes, quips, and allusions in Zorro come at a remarkable clip (a breathless 20 rpms, or references per minute, at least). All of it unfurls amid Christopher Acebo’s colorful, kinetic, and multifaceted scenic design; some zesty swordplay choreographed by fight director Dave Maier; and appropriately dramatic on- and offstage musical accompaniment by guitarist Vincent Christopher Montoya as the swashbuckling movies of yesterday spill onto the stage, and the stage antics of Culture Clash and company, in turn, transform into cleverly refashioned celluloid dreams projected onto a massive movie screen.

And so, with rapier wit, Culture Clash leaves its own mark on the Zorro legend, proving the pun to be mightier than the sword and the myth capable of new, subversive energies in a reactionary age. It might be that its sprawling, garrulous nature fails, in the end, to lay the best ground for the play’s final call to arms (at least the culminating “rise up!” segment feels a bit forced and tends to drag on), but no matter: Hundreds of thousands of Latinos and others are already in the streets of LA and other cities across the country. Zorro may or may not be a myth with real political traction, but either way, justice, as Zorro would be the first to tell you, is a do-it-yourself job.


Through April 16

Tues., Thurs.–Fri., 8 p.m.; Wed., 7 p.m.; Sat., 2 and 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 and 7 p.m.

Berkeley Rep’s Roda Theater

2015 Addison, Berk.


(510) 647-2949 or (888) 427-8849

Yeah Yeah Yeahs, all right already


SONIC REDUCER In the best of all music fans’ worlds, an album will grow on you like lichen, excessive body hair, or a parasite à la guinea worm, only with more pleasure and less arterial spray, I pray. You like it more and more as you play-repeat-play. It starts with an ear-catching opening track or appetite-whetting overture, as that well-worn pop recipe goes, and builds momentum until track three or four. That one should sink its little tenterhooks into you and refuse to let go until you listen to it once again or upload it to your iPod or whatever musical delivery system serves the addiction.

That analyzed, it’s amazing how some bands, like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, can go from compulsively listenable to annoying with one album, Show Your Bones (Interscope). Too bad because the YYYs still stand out, like a slash of smeared red lipstick, as one of the few female-fronted groups to emerge from that much hyped, new-rock New York music scene of the early ’00s. That barely sublimated burden of representation, the YYYs’ association with the Liars and the more artistically ambitious NYC crew, as well as the heightened critical expectations after the strength of 2003’s Fever to Tell hasn’t helped Show. Once the flurry of screeching, obscuring noise and rockabilly riffs are stripped away and the songs are spruced up in the studio, the poppier YYYs sound deathly similar to peers like the Strokes at their most singsong (“Dudley,” “Mysteries”). O’s slight lyrics are exposed as the slender vehicles they are her piercing tone, which cut through the distortion in the past, simply seems affected.

Even when O toys with teasing double entendre on “Cheating Hearts,” confutf8g the act of taking off a ring with a sexed-up strip (“Well I’m / Taka-taka-taka-taka-takin’ it off / And she’s / Taka-taka-taka-taka-takin’ it off / And he’s / Taka-taka-taka-taka-takin’ it off / And we’re / Taka-taka-taka-taka-takin’ it off”), the story doesn’t go anywhere beyond the (again, repeated) lines “Sometimes / I think that I’m bigger / Than the sound.” The entire enterprise gives up the reheated, ego-stroking aroma of Zep knockoffs like Heart. That wouldn’t necessarily be bad, if those commercial rock invocations seemed to serve more than an ego that seems “something like a phenomena, baby” (see the key fourth track, “Phenomena”). This album feels like a grandiose, strident, ultimately airheaded mess all Show, no go.

“Fab Mab” flap

I was a humongoid Flipper fan back in the day, but, truthfully, I wasn’t thinking too hard about the imminent “Fab Mab Reunion” show featuring the SF dadaist-punk legends and Mabuhay Gardens regulars the Dead Kennedys, the Avengers, and the Mutants. The reunion part of the show’s name brought out ex-DK vocalist Jello Biafra, who issued the statement, “No, it is not a Dead Kennedys reunion. Yes, I am boycotting the whole scam. These are the same greedmongers who ran to corporate lawyers and sued me for over six years in a dispute sparked by my not wanting ‘Holiday in Cambodia’ sold into a Levi’s commercial. They now pimp Dead Kennedys in the same spirit as Mike Love suing Brian Wilson over and over again, then turning around and playing shows as the Beach Boys.”

I was curious about the pimping notion. The idea can’t help but cross one’s mind with the crowded pit of punk reunion shows (including the Flesh Eaters; see “Zombies Are Back!” page 35), all within spittin’ distance of each other in the past few years. So I spoke to Flipper drummer Steve DePace, who put together the “reunion” after the band’s first performance after a “10-year hiatus” (Bruno DeMartis sitting in for the late Will Shatter) at a CBGB’s benefit last year. Following that, they answered a request to play LA’s closing Olympic Auditorium. “I thought to myself, in the spirit of the funnest days of my career back in the late ’70s and early ’80s at the Mabuhay Gardens when that scene was flourishing and that club served as the hub to the punk rock scene that developed in SF what if we were to do a show with that vibe?” says the 49-year-old exanimation industry project manager, who now lives in LA. “What are the bands around that are still playing from back in those days?

“Listen, Flipper is not making a ton of money,” he continues, adding that Flipper has reformed because they still have a passionate audience. To DePace, the most famous of those Flipper fans was likely Kurt Cobain, who wore his homemade Flipper T-shirt on TV and magazine covers. Of course, there were no official Flipper shirts, he says. “Back in those days we were not into the commerce,” he explains. “No one thought about selling merchandise nowadays it’s the biggest thing. People gobble it up.” Just keep feeding.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs

April 28 and 29


982 Market, SF

Call for time and price.

(415) 775-7722

“Fab Mab Reunion”

Sat/8, 9 p.m.


1805 Geary, SF


(415) 346-6000


After supporting his buddies the Shins and finding inspiration on Fleetwood Mac’s Future Games (Reprise, 1971), ex-Califone side guy Eric Johnson made one of the loveliest, most underrated indie pop LPs of 2005, Spelled in Bones (Sub Pop). Images of blood injury (the legacy of cutting his head open as a five-year-old and, later, one auto accident too many) crop up, as does a ref to that distinctively northern Midwestern “land of sky blue waters” from the old Hamm’s beer commercial. Johnson’s obviously comfortable listening in the past, judging from these items in the iTunes library on his new computer:

Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band, Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller) (Bizarre/Straight/EMI)

Bob Dylan, Blonde on Blonde (Columbia)

Kinks, Muswell Hillbillies (Rhino/WEA)

Steve Martin, A Wild and Crazy Guy (WEA)

Meat Puppets, Meat Puppets II (SST/Rykodisc)

Rod Stewart, Every Picture Tells a Story (Polygram)

Kelley Stoltz, Below the Branches (Sub Pop); “Favorite thing I’ve heard this year so far.”

T. Rex, The Slider (Rhino/WEA); “I listen to it when I clean house.”

Fruit Bats play Mon/10, 8 p.m., the Independent, 628 Divisadero, SF. $10–$12. (415) 771-1421


Dada Swing

Italy’s punky musical absurdists swing through town once more, after last year’s power-packed Hemlock and Cookie Factory dates. SF experimentalists the Molecules also reunite. Fri/7, 9:30 p.m., Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF. $7. (415) 923-0923

Levi Fuller

The Seattle musician makes moody folk songs with a bleeding edge; check his second album, This Murder Is a Peaceful Gathering (Denimclature). Jean Marie, the Blank Tapes, and 60 Watt Kid also play. Thurs/6, 8:30 p.m., Hotel Utah Saloon, 500 Fourth St., SF. $6. (415) 546-6300

Enrico Rava and Stefano Bollani

The Trieste trumpet-player and Bollani back up their recent album, Tati (ECM), while collaborator, drummer Paul Motian, remains in NYC. Enrico Pieranunzi fills out this il Jazz Italiano bill. Fri/7, 8 p.m., Herbst Theatre, 401 Van Ness, SF. $25–$51. (415) 621-6600,

Trannyshack east


Apparently all drag queens work for tips.

Last year, a gay club owner in Manhattan wanted to copy the aberrant-behavior-fest known as Trannyshack, unaware that its San Francisco founder, Heklina, owns legal rights to the name. Upon finding out — he paid her for it. Now, on late Sunday nights in Chelsea, New York City’s gay tourist ghetto, something akin to Trannyshack®-Lite transpires between Desperate Housewives and shirtless dancing. The talent is tamer and better rehearsed, the audience more jaded, and the venue a thumping 10,000-square-foot disco cavern called Splash Bar New York.

Imagine your favorite public access TV show has gotten picked up and retooled for Bravo: That’s how the legendary Tuesday night at the Stud translates at Splash. Unlike similar versions in Los Angeles, Reno, and (come April) London, which are Heklina’s own offspring, Trannyshack New York is the bastard spawn she rarely visits.

On a recent Sunday night, hostess Sweetie strolled out at 12:45 a.m. and warned the crowd, "I’m running on fumes!" Moments ago, meaty go-go dancers had yanked up their thongs and scurried away, and small, metal tables with candles had been rolled out for the show. Sweetie, a nightlife veteran who paints her face "for the back row," introduced Miss Bianca Leigh, "the Donna Mills of the drag set." (Leigh has a bit part in the transgender-themed road trip flick Transamerica.) The would-be Knots Landing understudy has the slender figure, sculpted cleavage, and sweet smile of a suburban trophy wife. Her gown plunging deep, her long, blown-out reddish hair swaying just this side of Farrah Fawcett, she performed a sultry version of "Sisters" — drag legend Joey Arias’s signature at the old Bar d’O, before he stopped channeling Billie Holiday there for a living and moved to Vegas.

"We’re going to send these bitches packing!" Sweetie barked before the next act, with the viciousness of a reality show judge. Like much of life in New York, Trannyshack here is a cynical competition with no real prize. Sweetie, we learned, had been cast as a hooker named Olestra in RuPaul’s new movie, a hush-hush transploitation flick, and she’d woken up early to do a shoot with various porn stars and dragsters. "I’ve been working this face since eight a.m.," she announced, but her day-old mug looked flawless.

And then Miss Debbie Taunt was bounding across the stage like a Saint Bernard in hose and heels, gyrating to a diva medley. Behind her the floor-to-ceiling mirrors featured working shower heads for the naked strippers who usually earn their rent there. Miss Taunt’s short black overcoat concealed neither her barrel-shaped torso nor her large white panties, out of which poked two hamlike thighs. Sweetie praised the "shameless, shameless bitch" for her gratuitous crotch shot and then set the stakes: "These girls are competing for a $50,000 Jeep Cherokee full of Latino hustlers picked up at the Port Authority!"

Mother Flawless Sabrina, a stately figure and contemporary of Andy Warhol, performed next, tottering under a large wig that looked like a vanilla ice cream tsunami wave with chocolate swirls. With her taut pale skin, she could have been Warhol himself in a gold-beaded flapper dress and black eyeliner. Using a prop telephone, she phoned her deceased pop artist friend to tell him about cell phones, Internet sex, and the fact that speed is back.

Appropriately enough, a statuesque queen named Miss Tina performed last, neck-rolling, convulsing, and shaking her buxom booty to ’70s funk. Composed of thigh-high boots and a hooded, backless, shredded outfit assembled with safety pins, her look said "Flashdance burqa meets sexy new wave pirate."

The most choreographed and leggy of the bunch, Tina was the clear crowd-pleaser — but as diehard Trannyshack fans know, the winner never wins. With Tina doomed, Sweetie, whose low-battery light was by that time blinking, pitted Flawless Sabrina against Bianca in a scavenger-hunt tiebreaker. Among the 16 items: an out-of-state driver’s license, lip balm, a cock ring, a straight female, a condom, breath strips, one white athletic sock, a six-foot-tall man and poppers. Before the girls could hit the floor, a drunken crowd rushed the items to the stage. And the winner was … Miss Bianca Leigh!

San Francisco phenoms rarely translate well in New York (long live the Cockettes!), and Splash isn’t serving Trannyshack à la Heklina. But Sweetie’s show is tasty too — even if it is lite. *

Paul Freibott writes about New York and San Francisco and will travel anywhere for a good drag show.


When to go Trannyshack NYC celebrates its first birthday March 5. Avoid the cover by signing up on the Web site before 6 p.m. that night. Go early for the beer blast ($8 for 10 Buds) and go-go boys showering onstage; end the night drunk, horny, and wondering when the dancing beef slabs in G-strings morphed into singing drag queens.

Where to stay The Chelsea Lodge and Chelsea Lodge Suites (1-800-373-1116, offer historic panache in a renovated brick townhouse; $99 a night and up. The gay-friendly Colonial House Inn (1-800-689-3779, has a clothing-optional roof deck (seasonal); $104 a night and up. Rooms at the Chelsea Inn (1-800-640-6469, are mere slivers without private baths, but it’s right next door to Splash.


50 West 17th St., New York

(212) 691-0073

No one steps to Kitchen Stadium!



Taking over Project Runway’s time slot, Top Chef has some big shoes to fill. No, I don’t mean Santino’s (or his friend Tony Ward’s) or creepy Heidi Klum’s. How in the hell does this show even think it can approximate the greatness of Iron Chef? (Not the US version — I’d sooner flay Bobby Flay than pledge allegiance to any culinary competitor other than the huggable Hiroyuki Sakai.)

Needless to say, there is no one as funny or smart as culinary critic Asako Kishi (or master filmmaker and onetime Iron Chef judge Nagisa Oshima) among Top Chef’s decision makers. "Where is Chairman Kaga?!" I demand, as I bite into a vegetable and grin maniacally à la Kaga.

What Bravo’s latest prize battle does have so far, unsurprisingly, is a villain: Stephen, the flush-faced blond so snotty he’d serve wine to children and expect them to react like connoisseurs. Since aged Marianne Faithfull type Cynthia has already left in a blizzard of Kleenex, it’s hard to say how much character is left. Mostly, I see brownnosers and grumps — and blink-and-miss shots of San Francisco. Last week’s episode hyped Aqua. (Johnny Ray Huston)

Not that Carrington woman


Just typing the name Pumkin fills me with a kind of flesh-crawling dread that even a thousand soapy baths couldn’t wash clean. Yes, the fact that the Flavor of Love finale was VH1’s highest-rated show of all time does register as the one million and third piece of evidence that this country is headed toward a pit somewhere just a little below the fire-flurries of hell. Thank somebody, anybody, that Alexis Arquette has arrived. Yes, she’s trapped on the beyond-wack Surreal Life, but in a wonderful turnabout from her Last Exit to Brooklyn screen debut, Rosanna and Patricia’s sister is more than ready to kick frat- and straight-boy ass on behalf of trannies everywhere. She’ll probably prove she’s the second funniest queen (after Vaginal Davis) in LA as well. (Huston)

Whither Slither?


What, you don’t already have plans to see Slither? A glistening new horror comedy is certainly reason to break out the Sno-Caps and take the missus to the picture show. Slither heralds the feature directing debut of James Gunn, a screenwriter with Sgt. Kabukiman on his résumé (Troma overlord Lloyd Kaufman cameos in Slither as "Sad Drunk"), as well as both Scooby-Doo movies (boo!) and the recent Dawn of the Dead remake (yeah!). The cast includes Elizabeth Banks (Wet Hot American Summer), Nathan Fillion (Serenity), and Michael Rooker (Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer); the R-rated plot involves sluglike alien critters who infiltrate a small town — guess they’re waiting for the sequel before they take Manhattan.

If Slither gets you hooked on slime-encrusted giggles and shivers, kill time until Snakes on a Plane (Aug. 18: enough is enough!) with gold standards of the genre. Of course, there’s The Blob; consider a double feature to incorporate both Steve McQueen (original 1958 version) and Kevin "Drama" Dillon (1988 remake) into a single evening. And in 1976 writer-director Jeff Lieberman (the auteur behind that same year’s Blue Sunshine) unleashed the magnificent Squirm, which pits rednecks against flesh-chomping earthworms.

The mid-1970s also spawned They Came from Within, a.k.a. Shivers and Orgy of the Blood Parasites. Creepy critters! Sex maniacs! The most disturbing bathing scene since Psycho! Calm your anger over writer-director David Cronenberg’s not getting an Oscar nom for A History of Violence — seriously, WTF? — by revisiting this early, deliciously depraved effort.

Then, of course, there’s 1986’s Night of the Creeps, a grade-A B-movie that proves once and for all that oops-I-accidentally-unthawed-a-corpse-infected-by-aliens is the ultimate party foul. Spanish import Slugs: The Movie (1988) and 1957’s Salton Sea snail-terror flick The Monster That Challenged the World are also worth a mention, as well as 1959’s Attack of the Giant Leeches (directed by Bernard L. Kowalski, who also did 1973’s SSSSSSS — for all of you who wish Anaconda were a trilogy).

Maybe the best postirony critter-horror film is Tremors. Giant underground "graboids" terrorize an armpit Nevada town filled with such characters as a cowboy named Valentine (Kevin Bacon, never better) and a pair of survivalists (the dad from Family Ties and, uh, Reba McEntire) wielding cannons and elephant guns. This 1990 miniclassic spawned a TV series and no less than three straight-to-video sequels. OK, technically, one was a prequel (Tremors 4: The Legend Begins), but you were kinda curious about that origin story, right? (Cheryl Eddy)


Opens Fri/31 in Bay Area theaters

Go to for showtimes.

Stone cold cooking

 Sonic Reducer Wonderful, unforeseen taste combinations are everywhere you look — and they go beyond the mundane peanut butter and chocolate, Tom and Katie, horse and donkey paradigms. Take, for instance, cooking shows and stoner rock. Sure, you wouldn’t trust Ozzy in the kitchen with an electric knife and a puffer fish — that only seems like a recipe for pain, with, I’m sure, Ozzy "I not only bark at the moon; I also act psycho on TV" Osbourne on the receiving end. But hey, dope smoking and the munchies — together they’re both natural and expected. And they can even be good for your reputation — even my crap cooking tastes palatable after a few medicinal MJ snickerdoodles.

Nonetheless, it was a revelation to finally get a looky-loo at the recently released Hot Chick Hot Rod Stoner BBQ DVD (Stroker Productions,, the straight-to-DVD-in-all-its-glorioski sequel to Hot Chick Stoner BBQ. Both projects star Hot Rod Honey — the charismatic, witty, and much more likeable rock ’n’ roll alternative to Rachael Ray.

The latest disc picks you up, throws you in the backseat, and gives you a smokin’ ride to Ace Junkyard in SF, where HRH gently but firmly takes you through the gutbucket basics of barbecuing, from starting a flame to cooking some beer can chicken, while hep, cute, but grittily real-looking metal and stoner rock chicks mill about, show off their shh-weet hot rods, chow down, and get buzzed. HRH lays down the grillable wisdom, urging hot-rodders to "put some time into your ride and some time into your food" before quipping that she’s making her food mild for the party because "I know some folks here have a bad case of honky mouth, so I don’t want anyone’s asshole to blow out."

Between barbecue tips, hip chicks (one, Vicki, works as a mechanic at Oakland Ford and is said to be married to a Drunk Horse) show you how to do elementary work on your machine, like changing the spark plugs. An added bonus: a solid soundtrack by local heavies like Om, Hightower, High on Fire, Acid King, and Dirty Power and cameos of familiar Bay faces and their rides, including Leslie Mah of Tribe 8, Meg of Totimoshi, and Windy Chien, former owner of Aquarius Records (showing off her now-departed Porsche). Toss in some shots of hot girls hot-boxing it and a recipe for "potcorn" with "pot butter," and you can imagine rock kids in Peoria drooling over the high times, good eats, and hip crew in SF.

Hot Chick Hot Rod Stoner BBQ looks that cool, as conceived and directed by Tina "Tankdog" Gordon, drummer of onetime Guardian Goldies winner Lost Goat. The video production teacher, who now drums in Night after Night, found the impetus for the series in Hot Rod Honey herself. "Hot Rod Honey is an old friend of mine. She’s been cooking for rockers for years," says Gordon over the phone. "In fact, she was the reason I stopped being a vegetarian. My old band was playing at Pondathon [in Mendocino County], and she was sitting at the edge of the pond surrounded by a pack of dogs. I said, ‘What are you cooking?’ And she said, ‘Beer Boat Sausage. It’s good. You should try some.’ It was like she put a spell on me. I said, ‘OK,’ and I ate it, and then I ate rattlesnake and steak."

The project took form because, Gordon says, Hot Rod Honey (who apparently not only works on her hot rods but also rides horses, shoots guns, bartends, and barbecues like a bad ass) "needed to be appreciated and kind of honored. I see all these cooking shows, but none of them are interesting to me, y’know. So I wanted to do something I was interested in, in this genre. In general, the stuff I like to document are things that aren’t generally documented. I’m not excited by most of what I see in TV and popular culture; so when you don’t like what you see and you’re someone who makes stuff, you gotta make the stuff you want to see. It’s just like music."

For the Hot Rod shoot in fall 2004, Gordon assembled pals who could understand the project and the vibe "and are down with barbecue." Even her vegan hot chick friends could get with the spirit of the series. "The love of hard rock is a huge thing," Gordon says. "There’s a cross section in there who can appreciate hard rock and who are hungry for that right now." Chomp chomp, there go those crunchy guitars.

Gordon tells me the next DVD will be titled Hot Chick Backwoods Stoner BBQ, and I’m probably not outta line to make a wise crack about seeing a pattern here. But after that, who knows? Gordon and HRH have been invited to film in Mississippi in May with the boys of Yokel, a Jackass-related redneck hipster pride TV series on the Turner South network. Nashville Pussy lovin’—Nascar Nationals meet NorCal hottie headbangers? Bring it on.

Class act


With a new full-length on storied UK label Beggars Banquet in their present and a European tour with the National in their recent past, Bay Area band Film School might be assumed to have the world on a guitar string. But think again.

When I last spoke to them two years ago, founder-vocalist-guitarist Krayg Burton was bemoaning his broke state to guitarist-vocalist Nyles Lannon, beneath the posters of Malcolm "By Any Means Necessary" X and the other righteous underdogs at Café Macondo. Film School’s last recording, the EP Alwaysnever (Amazing Grease) had just come out, the tech bubble had burst, and the world was wide open, leaving Burton and Lannon to hawk their Web-related skills on their own.

Now here we are, in early January, tucked into the lamp-lit control room of drummer Donny Newenhouse’s Middle of the Mile basement studio in San Francisco’s Mission District, where Film School recorded about half of the new self-titled second album. The band has been awarded the gift-of-gab buzz at recent SXSWs, praised by NME, and described by BBC 6 host Steve Lemaq as his favorite new band. Next-level stuff. Now if only they can decide how best to approach a set list.

"We fight about the set list every night, every show," the laid-back Newenhouse says from behind the mixing board. He’s the A/V guy of Film School, according to his bandmates. "It’s like the A team – we’re pretty cool, unified, but …"

"We write the set list five minutes before we go on," interjects keyboardist Jason Ruck, Film School’s class clown. So there’s no room for dissention? "But then there is dissention, and we’re discussing it onstage when we’re supposed to be playing. That actually happened once in front of our label head." He looks pleased.

"It kind of ties into going to the next level," bassist Justin LaBo says, curled catlike in an easy chair in the corner. He’s the guy most likely to be expelled from Film School. "Not being, like, I don’t want to say, amateurs or rookies, but having your shit together, being confident and walking onstage knowing what you’re going to play, and not arguing onstage."

You’d be more pro and more polished, but perhaps less … interesting, I offer from the center of the Middle of the Mile booth. "That’s been the argument the whole time," Newenhouse exclaims, miming an irate bandmate. "<\!q>’I don’t want to be one of those fucking bands that has the same set every night and knows what they’re doing when they get onstage!'<\!q>"

"I kind of like winging it a bit," Burton mutters, the "tenured teacher with the vodka in the coffee cup" at this Film School.

"I want to have a rotating set list, written in stone," Newenhouse continues, half-self-mockingly pretending to carry stone tablets engraved with songs to a stage. "<\!q>’Here’s the 10 commandments’ – straight down from the dressing room every night. It’ll be like Spinal Tap’s Stonehenge – we can have midgets dance around them."

Spitballs aside, it’s comforting to know that some things never quite change – be it Film School’s collective, self-deprecating sense of humor or their honest, exploratory doubts – even as one chapter ends and the band appears to be on the brink of graduating into some sort of big time.

At first listen, the new Film School is almost off-puttingly polished: It’s one of the best-sounding self-produced, headphones-only albums by a local band I’ve heard of late, blending the poppier hook-and-groove singles-craft of "On and On" and the elastic, massive, 4AD-ish groove of "Pitfalls" with gorgeous wall-of-psych longer pieces such as the airy, multitextured, Floyd-drenched "He’s a Deep Deep Lake," and "11:11," which moves from an almost early U2-like twitch into glitched-up drone before finally ascending into a dervish of guitar noise.

The mixture of tones was deliberate. "We actually value a record that comes from different directions and has a different sound here and there, as long as it’s cohesive, and we spent a lot of time trying to make it cohesive," wise man on campus Lannon says, sprawled in a lounger. "The record actually has, I think, a unique flow to it. It kind of takes you on this ride."

Just don’t call them "shoegazer." "We just like [My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless] because it’s really textured and spacey, not because it’s guys in bowl cuts staring at their shoes," LaBo gripes.

Much like their six-minute singles, it took a while to get to Film School. The band that began in 2001 as a live ensemble charged with playing ex-Pinq member Burton’s first Film School self-released album, Brilliant Career, has since become a full-fledged collaborative entity, with plenty of production experience courtesy of Lannon, LaBo, and longtime Bottom of the Hill soundperson Newenhouse (who replaced Ben Montesano in Film School when the latter got married about a year ago). Lannon has worked as Azusa Plane and N.Lannon, LaBo has recorded as Technicolor, and Newenhouse has drummed with Holly Golightly and Hammerdown Turpentine.

They started working on Film School in 2004, turning to three different producers before finally deciding to do it themselves in Newenhouse’s studio, where they cut five newer songs and mixed in older dreamier material recorded in Lannon’s bedroom.

"We actually wasted six month’s worth of time on one song," Newenhouse says. "That was a real drag. Technically, it was difficult. I think [the producer’s] idea of what he wanted it to sound like didn’t really mesh with ours. That’s when we realized we should just do this ourselves."

"I haven’t been back here since we recorded," Burton marvels from the corner, a stocking cap pulled over his ears. "I’m starting to remember those eight-hour days, looking round here – it’s like, oh god."

Since the album spans such a long period, one wouldn’t expect the songs to have much in common with each other, though Burton swears they do: "Maybe there’s a little bit of a theme about trying to move forward and feeling a little stuck." And perhaps that has something to do with the long, drawn-out making of Film School? "Maybe!" he says. "I think it might be just getting older and trying to make those next steps in life."

Beggars Banquet first made contact with Film School’s manager two years ago when the band played with TV on the Radio in the UK. It took about a year of e-mails and talk before a deal was struck, around the time when the album was completed. "It took basically all of last year until the dust settled," Lannon says. "Is it even settled yet? I don’t even know. On this last tour we were like OK, it’s official, right? We’re spending money, this advance. I think once the money is in your account, the thing is really happening."

"It’s weird to be working with a label that isn’t worried about going out of business. Not having this dark cloud over you the whole time," Lannon continues, mimicking an imaginary imprint. "<\!q>’Urrrrr, rock music. Records just don’t sell like they used to.’ That’s every other label we talked to. It’s just a recurring theme that you hear as a person in the indie rock world. Every label you talk to has that, starts with that ‘Feel sorry for me, I’m a label’ sob story. But Beggars has figured it out; they’ve been around for a while – it’s a nice situation."

"We can exhale a little," Burton adds gently.

"Now we just have to play well every night!" Ruck cracks.

FILM SCHOOL  Jan. 26, 6 p.m.  Amoeba Music  1855 Haight, SF  Free  (415) 831-1200  With Sound Team and Citizens Here and Abroad  Jan. 26, 9 p.m.  Bottom of the Hill  1233 17th St., SF  $10  (415) 474-0365

‘Winner’ takes all


IF YOU CONSIDER  it amazing that New York Times best-selling author Augusten Burroughs was able to maintain a lucrative job in advertising while consuming enough alcohol nightly to poison a small town (see the opening pages of Dry), consider the talents of Evelyn Ryan, who, through the ’50s and ’60s, not only supplied America’s merchants with enough advertising jingles to last the century but also raised a family of 10 while avoiding the wrath of a husband who also consumed enough alcohol nightly to poison his own small town. Unlike Burroughs, Ryan never really did get rich off her advertising campaigns – she won just enough prize money to keep her family fed and housed, and her husband never quite made it into rehab. But her daughter, Terry Ryan, did write a winning memoir about her mother’s startling and subversive stay-at-home career conquering the jingle contests popular at the time. And this weekend Ryan’s memoir hits its own jackpot, as the Jane Anderson-directed film of the book, The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio, opens. Anderson (the TV director of Normal, as well as the 1961 segment of If These Walls Could Talk and When Billy Beat Bobby) turns the perky pre-post-feminist into a model of good-humored heroism.

The leaf doesn’t fall far from the tree. Despite her recent diagnosis with stage-four cancer, Terry Ryan, a tech writer and cartoonist who lives in Noe Valley with her longtime partner, Pat Holt, former book review editor of the San Francisco Chronicle, amiably entertained journalists from a room at the Ritz-Carlton a few weeks back. She said she was incredibly happy with the film, though she can barely remember it; she says she was too amazed by Julianne Moore’s re-creation of her mother to concentrate. The most difficult aspect of the whole project, she says, was the death of her mother, which led to the discovery of the vast jingle archive she used for her memoir research. In her papers, Terry Ryan also found evidence of her mother’s real poetry – witty rejoinders to poems by the likes of Edna St. Vincent Millay – as well as the rhymes that paid the milkman and the mortgage, like "For chewy, toothsome, wholesome goodness / Tootsie Rolls are right – / Lots of nibbling for a nickel / And they show me where to bite."

Like her resourceful mother, the younger Ryan is also a poet (published), and, following in family tradition, she too found her way to the contesting world. One of her most memorable wins? A Bay Guardian cartoon contest more than 25 years ago. (Susan Gerhard)

‘The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio’ opens Fri/30 at Bay Area theaters. See Movie Clock, in film listings, for showtimes.

Cruisin’ for a bruisin’


EVER SINCE THAT fateful day on the family farm when our stud calf Beauregard threw me from his back and rammed me several times against a large oak, giving me one heck of a concussion, I knew I was destined to become a leather queen. I was only 11 at the time, and the options were few for actual experience, but dammit — if I couldn’t have the sex, then at least I’d have the outfits. “And what are you?” my innocent neighbors would ask when they opened their doors at Halloween. “I’m Freddie Mercury!” I’d reply with a wiggle of my little homemade chaps (Hefty bags and duct tape) for emphasis. And then they’d give me candy.

Nowadays everyone’s got to have at least one kinky fetish on their sexual resume — thanks, Madonna — yet often the men, women, and “other” of that twisted tribe known as the Leather Community still get a bad rap, especially among young gay club patrons. Part of this is fear, of course: Doesn’t all that pain hurt a little? And part of it is shame: The leather generation that came of age in the ’70s and ’80s has had to shoulder not just the burdens of age and rejection, but also a ridiculous cross between jealousy for living through the hedonistic homo heyday and blame for AIDS. And then, of course, there’s the primal terror of turning into one of those old men with cottage-cheese buttocks and a basketball belly who strut around the Eagle wearing nothing but rainbow flip-flops and a leash.

Oh sure, we’ll let them take us home and spank us on weeknights, but when we see them at the disco, we just shudder and throw shade.

In response, it seems, the leather queens closed ranks. No longer feeling welcome, they became a kind of secret society in the ’90s. Once-omnipresent social institutions like the Imperial Court of San Francisco and the Rainbow Motorcycle Club went underground ��� and, sadly, saw their profiles dwindle. Tight-knit contingents like Mama’s Family and the Men of Discipline sprang up, with their unique rituals and dress codes, shunning the clubs in favor of charity Golden Gate potlucks, cabaret fundraisers, and converted-garage play parties promoting safe-sex awareness. (Leatherfolk are all about the benefits, these days.) The sash circuit moved to the suburbs. Half the community morphed into bears. Even the dawn of the Internet connection only increased the generation gap.

But as the first Arab American leather hip-hop disco clubkid muppet queer San Francisco Drummer Boy 2001 (runner-up), I feel it’s my deep responsibility and honorable duty to reprazent my peeps in the hide. If there’s one thing my leather dad (love you, Ray) taught me, it’s respect, and if there’s another, it’s how to keep from passing out after hanging upside-down for 40 minutes. It’s time for all this nonsense to stop. This year may have seen three more local leather haunts — Loading Dock, My Place, and Club Rendez-Vous — close to become upscale, straight-type martini lounges; the baths are still outlawed; and creepy tweekers have invaded the sex clubs; but the leather lifestyle is still brilliant and vital, bouncing back up through the queer underground and swelling its ranks with curious alternaqueers and radical faeries, who fetishize being open-minded.

Today, the only places the whole queer community can come together regularly are our precious few leather bars. Daddy’s, Aunt Charlie’s, Marlena’s, and The Eagle have all undergone recent renaissances, fueled by a combo of renegade young promoters, indulgent owners, and a healthy new lust for the underground. Where else can beef and chicken meet? Not to mention old punks, baby dykes, hustlers, drag queens, bull daggers, grandpas, gymbots, ex-clones, Aberzombies, club kids, A-gays, bikers, circuit boiz, transgendered hotties, Log Cabin Republicans, and the odd closeted TV anchorman. It seems the more the mainstream media bleaches out our filthy abominations, the more we return to our fruitful past, when lust was the glue that held us together, and abomination was a kind of gang handshake. We may be more diverse than ever, but leather’s still our common ground.

Daddy’s. Daily, 9 a.m.-2 a.m., 440 Castro, SF. (415) 621-8732,

Marlena’s. Mon.-Fri., 3 p.m.-2 a.m.; Sat.-Sun., noon-2 a.m., 488 Hayes, SF. (415) 864-6672.

Aunt Charlie’s. Mon.-Fri., noon-2 a.m.; Sat.-Sun., 10 a.m.-2 a.m., 133 Turk, SF. (415) 441-2922,

The Eagle Tavern. Daily, noon-2 a.m., 398 12th St., SF. (415) 626-0880,

E-mail Marke B. at

It may not be sexy, but it’s important


The problem with reading comprehensive analyses of the state of anything — the union, the art or the economy — is that you often have to wade through a whole lot of facts and figures before you get to the good stuff. Most of us zone out when we see too many numbers in front of our eyes. No matter how interesting or important we find the topic, if a report contains more than one statistic per paragraph, we never make it to the end.

For The Bay Guardian, that has always been a dilemma. Unlike a lot of news outlets, we don’t ask you to believe our stories on faith alone; we give you the facts to back them up. Sometimes, with complicated stories, we give you so many that you can’t be bothered reading them all.

Bruce Brugmann, the editor and publisher, is fond of telling us that the headline on every story has to summarize everything important in the story. Most people, he says, won’t read anything else. If we want to make sure they get the point, we have to put it in 96-point Tempo Bold.

Which makes sense. But when the story is about the state of San Francisco’s economy and how the next mayor should guide it, the point doesn’t lend itself to a few short, bold words on the top of a page. It’s too complicated for headlines.

It’s also too complicated for short campaign slogans, or for 30-second radio and TV ads. That may be one reason why the mayoral candidates have, by and large, ignored the issue. It just isn’t sexy. It takes too long to explain. Too many numbers. The voters will go to sleep.

Unfortunately, the issue is also crucial. The economic policies of the next mayor will affect the lives of everybody living or working in San Francisco. It’s something the candidates should be talking about.

We aren’t running for public office, so we don’t need to hustle for votes. But we are concerned about the future of the city — and no matter how much work we put into a story, it does no good if people don’t read it. This week’s main news story, by reporter Tim Redmond, is full of numbers and statistics, and I’ll be the first to admit it’s

the kind of story that would normally scare me away. But the story is important, and the proposals that form the final section should be required reading for anyone interested in a serious debate over the city’s future. Give it a shot — then call your favorite candidate and ask him or her what they think of our ideas and why they aren’t discussing these issues as part of the campaign.

Seven months late, mainstream media discovers school asbestos problem


A little known group of teachers, union representatives and parents of school children called the Asbestos Council, has met twice a month since its inception in March to monitor the district’s asbestos program with no attention from the press. But when the Council and staff members met July 23rd with Tom Sammon, executive assistant to the superintendent of schools, and Eduardo Escobedo, head of general services, the superintendent’s stuffy little conference room was packed with television cameras and reporters from just about every major news outlet in town.

Suddenly, asbestos in the schools is big news. The Chronicle and Examiner have run several front-page stories on the problem, and all three TV news shows in the city have given it extensive coverage. KRON’s NewsCenter 4 alone has aired six segments on the problem in the past week.

KRON Reporter Emil Guillermo presented detailed, hard-hitting stories outlining the extent of the potential hazards the substance poses to district students and staff, and forced top district officials to acknowledge that they had misjudged the situation in the past and allowed it to continue unabated.

Overall, however, the rash of news stories have provided very little information that wasn’t published in the Bay Guardian seven months ago. Back in January and February, the rest of the local media, with the exception of KKCY radio and the San Francisco Progress, seemed remarkably uninterested in asbestos in the schools. (Only KKCY even mentioned during the recent rush of reports that the Bay Guardian had broken the story in January).

And even today, with the exception of KRON, none of the newspapers or broadcast outlets with a newfound interest in the crisis have sought to explain why the school district allowed the asbestos problem to go unacknowledged and unabated for so many years — and who is to blame.

The rash of mainstream news reports, however, does raise an interesting question. For months, top school officials, including Superintendent Ramon Cortines and Escobedo, who directly oversees the school district’s facilities, have sought to downplay the extent of the problem. Although district consultants and some staff have recommended that several schools be shut down and fully cleaned up before students are allowed back, only in July did Cortines decide to close McAteer High School. In recent interviews, the superintendent has still dismissed the staff, students and media concerns as “asbestosphobia.”When the Bay Guardian first warned of the serious and pressing asbestos danger, school administrators and some Board members accused the paper of “scare tactics” and “journalistic misrepresentation.” Now that just about every news outlet in town has confirmed our reports, will the district begin to change its tune?*