Deborah Giattina

Raiding Long Haul



Previously sealed documents related to the Aug. 27 police raid at the Long Haul Infoshop in Berkeley now reveal what the UC Berkeley Police Department was after, even if questions remain about its tactics.

The Statement of Probable Cause refers to e-mail threats against UC Berkeley researchers made by animal rights activists, sent from Long Haul’s IP address. Long Haul — along with its tenants Slingshot, a quarterly newspaper supporting radical causes, East Bay Prisoner Support, and Berkeley Liberation Radio — had several of its computers seized by an assortment of gun-wielding campus cops, Alameda County sheriff deputies, and federal agents who broke into the nonprofit locale, which has been providing office and meeting space for political and social justice groups since 1994.

During the raid, according to Kathryn Miller, one of the first Long Haul collective members to arrive on the scene, authorities wouldn’t show anyone the warrant until they finished breaking open cabinets and nabbing CDs and hard drives in pursuit of evidence. Miller says she even offered to unlock cabinets for them provided they show her the warrant, but the cops still refused.

That warrant explained little about the reasons for the intrusion, other than to refer to the Statement of Probable Cause affidavit filed with the Superior Court and to grant permission to confiscate property that could show a felony had been committed. Immediately after the raid, Robert Bennett, a staff member of Slingshot, expressed his suspicion that the raid was a form of "collective punishment" against left-wing groups, especially considering his publication’s support of the tree-sitters who have delayed a UC Berkeley construction project.

Carlos Villareal, who is part of a team from the National Lawyers Guild that will be representing the besieged nonprofit pro bono, told the Guardian that Long Haul and its tenants have grounds to contest the search as unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment.

"I’m pretty confident that we have a good argument that the search was overbroad and the tactics were heavy-handed. Searches need to be limited in both their scope and how they’re done," he said.

Villareal didn’t even see the affidavit until Heather Ishimaru, an ABC Channel 7 news reporter, brought it to Long Haul seeking comment. Ishimaru obtained the document by accident from the Wiley Manuel Courthouse in Oakland on Aug. 8 when a clerk in training provided it to her even though it was under protective seal. If not for that lapse in procedure, Long Haul’s lawyers would have to petition a court to see the incriminating document.

The affidavit, written by Detective Bill Kasiske, details some alarming e-mails sent via free Internet e-mail accounts to a researcher at the university, like one demanding, "STOP TORTURING ANIMALS OR THINGS GET UGLY" or another that correctly stated the researcher’s home address and said, "im a crazy fuck and im watching YOU."

Kasiske concludes, "A search of the Long Haul’s premises could reveal logs or sign-in sheets indicating which patrons used the computers on particular dates." But he doesn’t draw a distinction between computers open to the public and those strictly for the use of tenant organizations.

Even if the search is limited to the public-access computers, not much information can be gleaned from them. Much like at the local public library, anyone — from the Unabomber and Osama bin Laden to an FBI agent — can walk in and use the computers without logging on or leaving any trace of their identity.

It’s unclear why Kasiske didn’t research Long Haul’s practices regarding patron use prior to filing the affidavit, and no one from UCBPD would respond to our calls for comment. Villareal, the legal spokesperson on the case, noted that, "there are less disruptive methods of law enforcement…. We don’t think they would do something similar to a business, Internet café, or library."

“Getting in on the Ground Floor and Staying There”


PREVIEW I read those articles in Vanity Fair blathering on about a woman’s ability to be funny. First, Christopher Hitchens says women can be witty, but since they issue children, ours is a dignified, cerebral kind of humor. Unless we’re fat or gay. Then along comes Alessandra Stanley’s article, which fixates on how all the new funny ladies are smokin’ hot, and if you’re not, you won’t ever get on MTV, or something. Well, long before those stories, I saw Carole and Mitzi, a local female comedy duo who combine a powerful sexual magnetism with down-in-the-dirt, clit-tickling humor. So I find it shocking that the pair — who are hotsy-totsy (especially when naked), kinda gay, and possibly pregnant — still haven’t managed to get their big break on cable — not even local access, really. They are, of course, the alter egos of Beth Lisick and Tara Jepsen, two bizarrely funny bosom buds whose kindred spirit–ship dates back to their days on the 1999 Sister Spit tour, when their imaginations gave birth to the failed child pop stars Miriam and Helen. On her own, Lisick has penned a number of semi-autobiographical novels — among them Everyone into the Pool (William Morrow, 2005) — spent eight years keeping a weekly nightlife column for the Chronicle called "Buzz Town," formed the sketch comedy group White Noise Radio Theatre, actually had a kid … with her husband … and started the popular Porchlight Storytelling series. Meanwhile Jepsen organized the long-running queer spoken word night, K’vetch, and teamed up with Jenny Hoysten of Erase Errata to form the issues-centric rock band, Lesbians. I know, it still hasn’t really quite sunk in how women can be funny, gorgeous, and not on TV. Go figure. And go see the show. (Deborah Giattina)

GETTING IN ON THE GROUND FLOOR AND STAYING THERE Center for Sex and Culture, 1519 Mission, SF. Thurs/31–Sat/2, 8pm. $12–$14. (415) 255-1155,,

2008 Bay Area Playwrights Festival


PREVIEW Even 32 years after the Playwrights Foundation chose a young Sam Shepard for its first Bay Area Playwrights Festival in 1976, the annual celebration of the script still runs below the radar of the larger local theater-going audience. Perhaps that’s because most fans of the stage want to see a full production — with costumes, sets, and lighting design — rather than the bare-bones staged readings at the festival. Over the decades, the event has played an important role in keeping stages across the country full of vital new works and aiding the budding careers of now-established playwrights such as Pulitzer Prize–winner Nilo Cruz and Liz Duffy Adams, who won critical acclaim with 2002’s Dog Act. (SF’s Crowded Fire is currently premiering her latest, The Listener). Venture off to Fort Mason during the 10-day festival and you can check out the up-and-coming talent. Of particular interest to conspiracy theorists will be Dominic Orlando’s Danny Casolaro Died for You. In the thriller, the writer attempts to suss out the circumstances of his brother’s death. A freelance journalist, Casolaro was found dead in a hotel room in 1991 while investigating labyrinthine connections between spy software company Inslaw, US and Israeli governments, and various Islamic organizations. Marcus Gardley is another promising writer worth getting a peek at. The Yalie who made a name for himself here with the East Bay historical drama Love Is a Dream House in Lorin brings a new work, every tongue must confess, about the burning of black Baptist churches in a small Alabama town during the late 1990s. Proving that there is an art to the reading of the play, popular Bay Area director Amy Glazer takes on Whisper from the Book of Etiquette, Claire Chafee’s look into the dynamics of wooing surrogate mothers.

2008 BAY AREA PLAYWRIGHTS FESTIVAL July 25–Aug 3. See Web site for details. Magic Theatre, Fort Mason Center, Marina and Buchanan, SF. $15–$25. (415) 626-0453, ext. 105,

The Hot Pink List 2008



Yes, they’re gay brothers, which is, like, totally hot. But even if they weren’t related, their individual artistic creations would have us on the hook. Heads of HomoChic (, the new gay mafia collective that combines gallery shows, fashion design, and nightlife craziness into mind boggling events, they’re inspiring the latest generation to revel in its scandalous past. Leo’s photography mixes porn with historical reference to dizzying, stimuutf8g effect. Allan’s costuming and styling brings bathhouse and backroom gay culture to light. Currently the Chihuahua, Mexico-born siblings have pieces in the queer Latino "Maria" show at Galería De La Raza. Leo features pants-raising boy-pics and a video installation centered on Harvey Milk. Allan, whose Money Shots underwear line graces many an alternaqueer’s backside, displays a chandelier made of 2,000 pink condoms.


Through July 4

Galería De La Raza

2857 24th St., SF

(415) 827-8009


Who’s the superbusy M-to-F artist and activist stirring up trouble with the mighty force of a Dirt Devil — the one they call Annie Danger? She’s sketched flora and fauna for environmental manifesto Dam Nation (Soft Skull Press, 2007), appeared as a blackjack-playing nymph in a shit-stirring Greywater Guerillas performance, dressed like a wizard at a recent Gender Pirates party, and just played Pony Boy in a queered-up "Outsiders." Right now at Femina Potens gallery (, you can see her as Sister Wendy, the wimpled PBS art nun, in her video for "Untold Stories: Visual and Performative Expressions of Transwomen." In a rare occurrence, you can meet Annie Danger as herself at the National Queer Arts Festival’s edgy "TransForming Community" spoken word event. Who she’ll be when she MCs Friday’s thrilling Trans March ( is anyone’s delightful guess.


Thurs/26, 7:30 p.m., $8–$15

LGBT Community Center

1800 Market, SF

(415) 865-5555


"I worry not just for fashion, but for the future of television," this multitalented fashion designer, stylist, hair and makeup artist, model, and Oakland native told us with a laugh backstage at the Vans Warped Tour, where he was frantically preparing bands for the stage. "There’s a cheesy aspect creeping in right now because of fashion reality TV that scares me. It looks too easy, and creates too many followers. Wise people want one-of-a-kind, personalized looks. That’s why I love San Francisco," he adds. "It’s small but big — global even — and it likes to take risks." Dexter’s company, FLOC (www.teamflocouture), formed with his best amigo Lauren Rassel, has been taking local runways and nightclubs by fierce, feathery storm since it was formed two years ago, and local rockers like Von Iva and Svelt Street swear by FLOC’s Warriors-inspired designs. Now working as a stylist for SF-based online retail giant, Dexter seems destined for the big time — his designs are penetrating the world and making heads turn a wee bit sharper.


She’s too-too much, this Miss Starr. A genre-straddling DJ and ubiquitous promoter celebrated for her many regular parties (including new weekly Buffet at Pink, a fabulously popular all-female DJ weekly shindig, and Hot Pants, a queer biweekly that draws out the crème de la crème of the city’s thigh-baring night owls), as well as a groundbreaking writer who just toured the country as part of the Sister Spit all-girl spoken word road show, and a fashion designer with her very own eponymous line of eminently wearables — there are just so many ways to love her. This week she’ll find time to spin at umpteen Pride parties, as well as at her very own special Pride edition of Hot Pants. "I’m also a twin, a Gemini, and a cookie monster," Chelsea tells us with a wink.


Fri/27, 10 p.m., $5

Cat Club

1190 Folsom, SF

(415) 703-8964


We can’t fib — smarties turn us on. So when we heard that cutie DJ Josh Cheon, host of West ADD Radio’s thuper-queerific "Slave to the Rhythm" program ( held advanced degrees in cell biology, neuroscience, and psychology, we suddenly had to hide our pointiness. An integral member of San Francisco’s gay vinyl-fetishist collective Honey Soundsystem (, Cheon just got back from rocking London’s premiere alternaqueer club, Horsemeat Disco. While his radio show’s name pays homage to Grace Jones, his eclectic sets encompass Candi Staton classics and Detroit Rock City jams. As a featured disc-meister at Bibi, San Francisco’s glorious, charitable party for Middle Eastern and North African queers, he taps his Lebanese roots with Arabian and Persian pop and disco favorites like Fairuz, Googoosh, and Dalida — and some surprise grin-givers from the likes of Boney M.


Fri/27, 9 p.m., $20

Pork Store Café

3122 16th St., SF

(415) 626-5523


She’s everywhere, lately, this feisty mistress of the night. Trash drag fanatics, glamorous electro freaks, after-hours hipster hot tub revelers — she’s a muse to many, with a sharp tongue and handmade Technicolor outfit for all. Plus, just in general: hot Asian tranny fierceness. "I’m thoroughly inspired by the pigeons in the Civic Center," she tells us. "Also, parties full of beautiful people worshipping me." She’ll be hosting the Asian and Pacific Islander stage at this year’s Pride festivities. But first this plus-size supermodel, trainwrecking DJ, oft-blacklisted performer, and dangerous skateboarder will be throwing a sleazoid party called Body Rock on gay-historic Polk Street "for the musically impaired and fans of a man in a dress, which would be me. I’ve walked through the fire and come out blazing!"


Thu/26, 10 p.m., free


1160 Polk, SF

(415) 674-1278


Which highly influential SF gallery owner brought John Waters, Todd Oldham, the mayor, and hundreds of sweaty kids together (with a couple kegs) under one roof this spring for photographer Ryan McGinley’s West Coast solo debut? Chris Perez of Ratio 3, whose shows also helped artists score Artforum covers and big time awards. Perez pairs an intuitive talent for identifying a popular hit with innovative curatorial decisions. But his space is no mere white box in the gourmet ghetto: "You’re never just walking down Stevenson," explains this escapee from Catholic school and former San Diego Museum of Photographic Arts volunteer. "Unless you’re hooking up or getting cracked out." Or peeping great art. On Friday, Ratio 3 dresses up as ’90s queer-radical gallery Kiki, for "Kiki: The Proof is in the Pudding," a group tribute to late curator-activist Rick Jacobsen.


Fri/27, reception 6–8 p.m., free

Ratio 3

1447 Stevenson, SF

(415) 821-3371


If you think constant AIDS activism is exhausting, try doing it in drag. Stanford grad Hunter heads up StopAIDS ( community initiatives by day, and is a board member of diversity-seeking And Castro For All (, through which fellowships in his name are awarded to young queer activists every year. By night and early morning he becomes Felicia Fellatio, a precariously-heeled tranny who’s single-handedly hauling grunge back onto drag stages — a recent flannel-drenched lipsync of Pearl Jam’s "Jeremy" teared up many a jaded eye — and he DJs queer punk parties like Trans Am ( and Revolution, the hot monthly tea dance for HIV-positive men at Club Eight ( Felicia also auditioned for America’s Next Top Model (seriously) but was eliminated when her man hands slapped someone prettier. You can catch Hunter and Felicia, although probably only half of each, at the StopAIDS booth at this year’s Pride celebration.


Hipsters sporting $80 faux-penciled rainbow patterns and glossy-mag ads with jagged color intersections are fronting a style artist Alicia McCarthy helped originate — but she does it a hundred times better. Her current show at Jack Hanley takes off in a dozen different directions from her signature shapes and spectrums in a manner that reflects an honestly fractured identity. Coiled thought forms, a wooden chair facing the backside of a scruffy penguin flying toward a wall of mirrors, and a show-within-the-show by friend Stormy Knight that includes sketches by a parrot named The National Anthem and sculpture by Redbone the dog. McCarthy’s latest exhibition also displays more than a few small works subtly placed where a wall meets the floor, which goes to show that she’s still making some art that only people who pay attention will discover.


Through Sat/28, free

Jack Hanley Gallery

395 Valencia, SF

(415) 522-1623


Half-naked, goo-spitting art rock in a sling never got so deliciously tawdry. When this San Francisco quartet of self-professed "bunch of fags with vision and bacon cheeseburgers" takes the stage and launches into "Tweaker Bitch" or "Pigdog" off their new album Quelle Horreur (World Famous in SF Records), anything involving titilutf8g revulsion can happen and usually does. Fronted by enigmatic singer Emile, a Belgian addicted to plastic surgery — 39 procedures to date — and leather thongs, Mon Cousin Belge ( updates queercore for the ambivalent masses with "deep faggotry jams" and knickers-wetting live performances. Bring a towel to their launch party at Thee Parkside bar in Potrero Hill. You’ll definitely need it — the crowd of cute intel-queers they draw is over-the-top steamy.


Sat/28, 10pm, $6


1600 17th St., SF

(415) 503-0393

The Guardian Queer Issue 2008

Small Business Awards 2008: Community Spirit Award


El Rio is the kind of place that makes your head spin. So much happens in this neighborhood bar and venue, affectionately referred to as "your dive." On any given night, DJs play an eclectic mix of music while neighborhood locals shoot pool. Every Sunday night, revelers dance salsa and enjoy BBQ on one of the most spacious back patios in the city. Local bands rock out old-school punk and metal in the adjoining live music space several times a week. Once a month, women of color meet for a Saturday afternoon salsa event, Mango. It’s also where the annual MadCat Women’s International Film Festival will be held for the 11th year in a row.

All this makes El Rio one of the most diverse intersections of San Franciscans you’ll ever find.

For the last 13 years, the club has been owned and run by Dawn Huston, who sees herself more as support for her staff — the overflow person doing whatever needs to be done — than the boss. Mostly she thinks of herself as someone who enables communities. Send her an e-mail about the kind of event you want to put on and, if inspired, she’ll figure out how to make it happen.

She started out working the door when Malcolm Thornley (who passed away this year) and Robert Nett owned the place. The two started the business 30 years ago, primarily as a Brazilian gay men’s bar. Thornley and Nett branched out beyond the typical role of neighborhood watering hole proprietors to help a lot of people, especially in the LGBT community and the Mission District. The partners eventually made a very reasonable financial arrangement with Huston so she could take over when they were ready to retire.

Continuing in the spirit of the original owners, the staff at El Rio makes its rental prices accessible so that a constant flow of benefits — as many as 250 per year — can be held. Day after day, El Rio helps teachers, public schools, the women’s surf club, the Dyke March, various AIDS riders, independent filmmakers, and animal rescuers raise money so they can contribute to the community at large.

By aiming to break even, the club maintains its bent toward fundraising. The whole point is not to make profit but to make the business something that allows all of us — drinkers, dancers, musicians, activists — to live in the city comfortably and to keep doing it so brilliantly.


3158 Mission, SF

(415) 282-3325,



New York playwright Theresa Rebeck has made a name for herself railing against the shallow, self-absorbed depravity of people. In her savagely written The Scene, four Manhattanites working in television (like Rebeck, who has written for Law and Order) demonstrate just how low they’ll stoop as they try to choose the lesser of evils.

Instead of sucking up to a cheesy TV producer, Charlie (Aaron Davidman), a long-out-of-work actor, sponges off his wife, Stella (played by Daphne Zuniga from Melrose Place), who makes a decent living booking guests on a vapid talk show that cons its audience into believing their salvation can be found in low-carb pasta.

The show opens with Charlie and his best friend, Lewis (Howard Swain), shmoozing at a party. Along comes Clea (Heather Gordon, in real life Miss Marin) — young, new to town, and the living embodiment of all that Charlie detests. She buzzes on incoherently about how New York City is so, like, surreal and is instantly drawn to Charlie as he flies into one of many eloquent tirades on banality. It’s their ill-conceived match that becomes the center of the play, which director Amy Glazer orchestrates with just the right flow. Meanwhile affable Lewis and virtuous Stella get caught in the scrimmage. All four deliver pitch-perfect performances. But guess which one steals the whole Scene?


Through March 8

Wed–Sat, 8 p.m. (also Sat, 3 p.m.), $20–$65

San Francisco Playhouse

533 Sutter, SF

(415) 677-9596

The Fisher queen



There are two questions that can really get on Carrie Fisher’s nerves: What was it like playing Princess Leia? And what’s it like having Debbie Reynolds for a mom? As if nothing else had ever happened in her life — not the drugs, the bad marriages, the great kid, the best-selling novels, or the wild, manic upswings that colored her world in its brightest hues and caused her to topple everything in her path.

Stupidly, when I enter Fisher’s suite in Berkeley’s Resort and Spa, the first thing I mention to her is that my parents named me after their favorite actor, her mom. Insipid conversation about how I never liked the name and neither did Carrie’s mom, who was born Mary Frances and renamed by MGM, ensues.

"She wouldn’t answer to it for two years," says the fiftysomething offspring of the Singin’ in the Rain star and the heartthrobby ’50s pop crooner Eddie Fisher as she curls her bare feet under her, leans back in a comfy chair, and lights up a smoke.

And yet how could I avoid asking a Hollywood royal about her famous parents and her larger-than-life role in the original Star Wars trilogy? Particularly as these are major subjects in her solo show Wishful Drinking, which opens at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre this week. And because she is wearing a draping black jersey version of the robe she wore in Episode IV. And especially since her mom always wanted her to do some kind of live act, in spite of her daughter’s reluctance.

"In my family the biggest act of rebellion is not doing a nightclub act," Fisher purrs with her throaty voice, oft given to delivering a snappy one-liner. "She wanted me to be a singer, but I had stage fright. Really terrifying."

In fact, Fisher frequently says in interviews that she never really wanted to go into the family business. The whole Star Wars thing was just a lark. She thought it would never make it beyond midnight movie cult-film status. But having made the nightclub rounds with her mom as a young teen — even singing in her act — and having studied drama in London, she seemed perfectly groomed for the thespian life. If you go to YouTube and check out a nowhere-near laughingly bad clip from the Star Wars holiday special, you’ll see Fisher in princess garb singing some hack’s weird idea of an outer-galactic spiritual. As goony as the whole thing is, it’s undeniable that Fisher has impressive pipes.

Despite her talent, she didn’t exactly become a box office giant — preferring to take small roles in good films like Hannah and Her Sisters. To some it might look like Fisher disappeared from the universe, much like Leia’s home planet.

I decide the way to go is ask her about writing instead, since I love her work. She’s funny, nimble with language, and not only has a vivid imagination but also totally delivers on the juicy details of what rich and famous people are really like. I almost envy her bipolar disorder, which has a way of stirring up the winds that take her on her wild flights of wordplay — and make it all too easy for her to compose lines like "They say that religion is the opiate of the masses. Well, I took massive amounts of opiates religiously."

Of her first novel, Postcards from the Edge, which won her a Los Angeles Pen Award for Best Novel in 1987, she says, "Writing was a sort of a way of kind of coping for me. You know, organizing. I used to read books and underline what I loved about them. I love all the things you can do with words, the alchemy of taking something that might in someone else’s hands become some tragic boo-hoo story and making it funny."

If you’ve read her books or seen the movie version of Postcards starring Meryl Streep, you know that post–Star Wars, Fisher was well on her way to self-destructing. The dryly witty roman à clef chronicles the life of a young actor named Suzanne Vale, who, floundering in a sea of drugs, ends up like so many of her colleagues, overdosing and paying her first of many visits to rehab. But as the book demonstrates, Fisher wasn’t just another actress on drugs: she’s gifted, and she transcends the kiss-and-tell genre by aptly capturing the inner lives of Hollywood’s own and revealing the human side — in all of its embarrassing detail — of a woman who turns out to be not unlike our mortal selves.

Fisher tells me none of the material for her show has been gleaned from her novels. It’s all new stuff. And with the help of director Tony Taccone, she’s reworked the premiere version she did in LA two years ago so that it’s more like a conversation you’d have with someone in your living room.

At long last she’s finally following through on her mom’s plans for her. Fisher once said in an interview that when she first read the script for Star Wars she wanted to play Han Solo. She didn’t get that role, but in Wishful Drinking she does get to perform solo. And sing too.


Through March 30, $13.50–$69

See Web site for schedule

Berkeley Repertory Theatre

2015 Addison, Berk.

(510) 647-2949

Queen’s density


Over the past two decades Julie Queen has earned her ballsy-woman stripes. She’s played truck-driver killer Aileen Wuornos in Carla Lucero’s opera Wuornos and the lead in Robert Rodríguez’s Frida, based on the life of painter Kahlo. In the ’90s, as a member of the Qube Chix, the avant-garde singing trio lead by Pamela Z, she belted out heady Karlheinz Stockhausen atonality and defiant riot-grrrl lyrics at the same time. It never struck me that she would be as likely to go out on a limb with Shirley MacLaine as to take a leap with Ann Magnuson, the former queen of New York’s ’80s underground scene who has also set her life to song onstage.

Unfortunately, with her solo show Ten Dollar Destiny, an hourlong multimedia performance, Queen lends her operatic voice to a series of songs that map her midlife soul search through the all-too-familiar territory of self-help experts — shrinks, psychics, and astrologists — as she tries to figure out where she got lost on the path of life and how to get back on track.

As Queen appears onstage, her opening song prepares us for a gauzy look through the pages of her life. The crew of scene designers and set constructors who formed the pop-up book of said life by creating a series of walls that pivot across the stage, each exposing a new leaf, are fantastic. The endless "I’m stuck on the road of life without a map" metaphors in every song of the five-part cycle are not.

Yet for all of her incisive criticisms of the self-help industry (her "You need yourself today" jingle for a little pill, Assurezen, is perfectly pitched at the false promises of medication), I can’t help but wonder why she’s wasting so much time worrying about where she went wrong. Queen has gone from boldly careless to overly careful, and I badly want to see a woman at the crossroads who just says "Fuck it," buys a bitchin’ car, and gets the hell out of Dodge.


Through Jan. 27

Thurs.–Sun., 8 p.m.

Thick House

1695 18th St., SF

(415) 401-8081

What a bash!


GEEK CHIC Seems like hipster bashing has replaced trailer-trash cracks as the new way to get laughs. By now we’ve all watched the Hipster Olympics, "brought to you by Pabst Blue Ribbon," on YouTube and chuckled vindictively as a clique of Williamsburg, NY, brats in tight pants posed for MySpace photos as part of the competition.

It was bound to happen sooner or later. Now everyone cool is into metal, and those skinny kids with the sideways haircuts — the ones we lauded in 2001 as the antidote to the morosely boring ’90s — are sneeringly referred to as, pardon my French, annoying hipster douche bags. Gosh, they didn’t even get a whole decade to themselves.

To alleviate all of the bilious contempt in which we hold these abominations of humanity, we have the cute and cuddly Patton Oswalt. He makes the best hipster-bashing jokes ever. When he suggests that anyone with the nerve to have the words "I’m powered by puppy kisses" emblazoned on their chest must be thinking, "My coolness obviously defeats this douchiness," he gives voice to our universal annoyance at hipsters and their lame ironic T-shirts — ones that the nerdy J.R.R. Tolkien–reading, true-crime fan would never be able to pull off.

At the same time, he has a new album, Werewolves and Lollipops, out on what one might still consider a hip, let’s say alternative (but not as indie as it once was), label: Sub Pop. The record reached number 18 on Billboard‘s indie chart and number 1 on its comedy chart — it even made it onto the big top-200 chart. Like it or not, this pudgy little smart-ass is cooler than the cool.

I found out what really bothers Oswalt about hipsters when I talked to him Nov. 30 between sets at "The Comedians of Comedy," a marathon show at the Independent that included the comics he holds in highest esteem — Brian Posehn, Maria Bamford — and a posse of local faves, like Brent Weinbach.

It isn’t so much hipsters’ self-made ironic aesthetic that bugs the crap out of Oswalt. "I just don’t like the fact that it’s so clearly a marketing demographic now," he said in his backstage dressing room, where he’d just polished off a glazed donut and Posehn was hiding out under his jacket. In other words, what was once authentic and original was gone as soon as a major retail chain started mass-producing knockoff Smurf T-shirts. Hate the game, not the playa, people.

The thing is, the participants in the "Comedians of Comedy" tour, which makes stops at all of the same clubs as many young, cool bands, have a bigger tour bus than those bands do. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not hating game or player. I’d rather someone on top have the postironic wherewithal to talk politics. And Oswalt, who lived in the Haight for a few years in the ’90s, has performed numerous times for the radical’s radicals at Oakland’s AK Press in the past two years and at a feminist bookstore in New York City. "Uh, so where are the cookbooks kept?" was his ice breaker. It got the ladies giggling.

Could someone who looks like Alex Kapranos get away with that? Going to these smaller scenes and getting people to laugh at themselves makes him edgier than does the George W. Bush bashing he has been doing on larger stages. According to Oswalt, it isn’t a big roll of the dice for a comedian to make fun of the unpopular commander in chief anyway. "There’s no point left in bashing him. Because who’s left to go, ‘Excuse me, he rocks’? People who supported Bush in 2000 are like Creed fans. They’re, like, ‘Look, I know, all right. I was drunk. I thought he was kinda good-looking. Fucking get off me, man. We all make mistakes.’<0x2009>"

Oswalt spent half his set at the Independent poking fun at his former citymates. Without an ounce of smugness, he asked one guy with a two-pronged beard if he used product to keep the facial protrusions separated. And did he do it to piss off his parents? If someone in Fall Out Boy tried to say that to this guy, he’d probably get his lights knocked out. But when it comes from the little guy with the razor-sharp wit, vivid imagination, and goofy grin, we just adore him all the more.

In Pixar’s Ratatouille, Oswalt provides the voice for Remy, an endearing animated rat who achieves the impossible by becoming a chef at one of Paris’s cordon bleu establishments. There’s no irony in the way the epicurean who recommends dining at the Mission’s Andalu, not Puerto Alegre, has begun peppering his material with jokes about the eccentricities of top chefs at five-star restaurants. His movie rocked the box office, and he’s probably making bigger bucks than the staffs at arbiter-of-cool magazines Vice and Paper combined.

So I kind of didn’t get it when he told me he would trade cute and cuddly for badass in a second. "Yeah, I don’t think badass loses its breath when it’s trying to tie its shoes," he said. Aw, well, excuse me while I try to hold back the tears … of laughter.


With Arj Barker, Tony Camin, and Doug Benson on various nights

Dec. 28–30, 8 and 10:15 p.m.; Dec. 31, 7 and 9:30 p.m.; $23.50–$50.50

Cobb’s Comedy Club

915 Columbus, SF

(415) 928-4320

Shop like a Scrooge



As soon as Black Friday came, you reflexively started rocking back and forth, chanting, "No, no, no," in order to drown out the concert of ho, ho, hos blaring from malls and gift shops across town. The shopping frenzy that occurs between Thanksgiving and Christmas brings you down faster than a kid-wet Santa. Until, in a moment of weakness, at the 11th hour, you decide it’s a wonderful life after all and you want to partake in the joy of giving. So how are you going to round up a sack of gifts before it’s too late to avoid the bitter loneliness of being a Scrooge? Don’t worry — lots of places are open on Christmas Eve, and a few on Christmas Day. Follow one of these strategies and you won’t even feel like you’re Christmas shopping, or trying to cram it all in last minute.

Hit the corner store

I’m not suggesting you get your loved ones cancer sticks and a bottle of Night Train for the yuletide, though for some, booze and smokes might be at the top of the list. Still, if you’re in a bind, you can always buy a bottle of top-shelf liquor. Personally, I’m a Jameson’s girl. Less embittered individuals might prefer Yellowtail’s celebrated Shiraz, while sober friends might appreciate a handful of Lotto tickets. Any of these are available at your convenience store just around the corner. But when seeking out the finer things in life, try these gourmet mini-marts:


Organic fruits, fresh flowers, imported sparkling wines like Prasecco, and fancy chocolates will help you throw together an assortment of decadent gift baskets for all of your peeps.

1400 Guerrero, SF. (415) 282-6247, Open Christmas Eve, 8 a.m.–9 p.m. Closed Christmas Day.


Your gift recipient will think you special-ordered the rare Belgian beer from Europe, but all you had to do was grab it on the go at this top-shelf Castro District liquor dispensary.

2299 15th St., SF. (415) 255-0610. Open Christmas Eve until 6 p.m. and Christmas Day, 9 a.m.–6 p.m.


The first step is admitting it: all of your friends are winos. The next step is popping over to this classy Hayes Valley cellar for vintages in all varieties and prices.

384 Hayes, SF. (415) 863-1104, Open Christmas Eve, 11 a.m.–7 p.m.

Resort to the Internet

The road to Scroogeland is often paved with the best of intentions: last year you vowed not to fill your shopping cart at the megachain stores. Of course, they’re the only ones that will ship your product overnight if you buy online, but you can PayPal these purchases on Christmas Day and still make it look like you thought of them months ago.


It doesn’t matter if you give tickets to a ballet fan or someone who has never been. The 2008 season has many exciting things in store, such as a new-works series that will debut pieces by Mark Morris and Paul Taylor.


Buy a 2008 Peace Calendar from this international human rights organization. No one needs one for another week anyway. Or make a donation in the name of your loved one for any amount. They get the tax deduction, you get the easy way out, and the world gets a little better.


Worsening the pressure of the holiday shopping season is the nonstop guilt trip of public television subscription drives. One way to make up for the nature shows you watched without subscribing is to join our local PBS affiliate’s wine club.

Be a tourist in your hometown

You can kill two birds with one stone by doing your Christmas shopping while showing your relatives around town. Tourist areas always have lots of places open on holidays.

Chinatown is your one-stop shop for everything, especially for those most quintessential of Christmas gifts: robes and slippers. And many shops there will be open until as late as 10 p.m. on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, just as they always are. On Pier 39, where Moms and Dads can’t resist going, no matter how much of a trap it is, there are a few shops that sell something more than shot glasses with the Golden Gate Bridge painted on them.


You’ll find three full floors of those good-luck cats with raised paws, Buddhas for your spiritually Eastern friends, kimonos and house slippers, and sake sets for your ample heavy-drinking associates at this classic Chinatown store.

616 Grant, SF. (415) 362-5750. Call for hours.


Give the classic Scrooge gift of socks. The huge selection means you can cover the feet of everyone in your life with something they’ll actually like.

Pier 39, bldg. G, level 1. (415) 392-7625. Open Christmas Eve, 10–6 p.m. Closed Christmas Day.

Lighten up, for Christ’s (oops, I mean Pete’s) sake:

Maybe you just need a few laughs to get into the spirit of things. Head to one of these comic shops, get lost in the escapist pleasures they offer, then grab some gifts for your friends.


Now that Al’s has moved from his cramped Mission spot to roomier digs in the Castro, he’s turned his store into a one-stop gift shop. In addition to comics in all genres, the store sells greeting cards and a few toys.

1803 Market, SF. (415) 861-1220, Open Christmas Eve until 5 p.m. Closed Christmas Day.


From the huge selection of back issues and superhero figurines at this Sunset District shop, you should be able to find something that will bring a smile to the faces of many in a matter of minutes.

2381–2387 Ocean, SF. (415) 239-2669, Open Christmas Eve, noon–5 p.m. Closed Christmas Day.

Green City: Little prefab boxes



GREEN CITY Lately, I’ve been reacquainting myself with the sticky herbal side of green. How I turned over a new leaf after having sworn off the bud so long ago might have something to do with my recent enthrallment with Weeds, Showtime’s suburban family drama about a pot-dealing mama of two, which I keep watching and rewatching on DVD.

Consequently, the opening theme, Malvina Reynolds’s "Little Boxes," has gotten more stuck in my head than my Planet Unicorn ringtone or Amy Winehouse’s ubiquitous tribute to inebriation, "Rehab." For those who aren’t intimately familiar with Reynolds’s terse 1962 folk ditty, it begins like this: "Little boxes on the hillsideThe sing-songy, childlike tune looped through my head as I made my way around a model prefab home now sitting across the street from City Hall in the Civic Center Plaza. Builders plopped down the 800-square-foot structure in just a day, in time for West Coast Green, an expo for green residential building being held this week at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium. Designed for ExtremeHome (, a year-old company in Oroville, and constructed mostly in a factory, the one-bedroom house costs a mere $199 per square foot, and that’s with all the fancy fixings like a stereo system and rosewood floors.

The home was dubbed the mkLotus house by its designer, Michelle Kaufman Designs. The exterior is smart and sleek, with double-paned, floor-to-ceiling windows surrounding the living room and sustainably grown red balau wood and slabs of fly-ash concrete siding the back half. It certainly looked attractive enough, but as someone who spends my spare time scouring Craigslist in search of people’s one-of-a-kind heirlooms to furnish my apartment, the place seemed a little too IKEA for me.

Nevertheless, prefabricated housing is all the rage these days. Who can beat the price and the prospect of actually having a finished home within months of approving a design? A number of panels on the trend took up large chunks of time at Dwell magazine’s "Dwell on Design" conference Sept. 14 to 16.

According to XtremeHome CEO Tim Schmidt, without all the extras, an mkLotus could cost as little as $64,000, and he can have one good to go in less than six months. It’s all very practical. Everything is energy efficient, from the interior LED lighting to the structurally integrated Styrofoam panels that make up the walls of this one- to two-person abode, to the cross-ventilation design. Varnishes use as few toxins and as little formaldehyde as possible, and the shower tile is made from a soothing green recycled glass. Energy Star, Build It Green, and the Forest Stewardship Council have all given Schmidt’s models high marks.

It’s said that Reynolds, a San Francisco–born folksinger, wrote "Little Boxes" about Daly City, though many associate it with Levittown, N.Y., on Long Island, the first planned community of mass-produced housing in the United States, started by the Levitt and Sons construction firm in 1947. Either way, it’s clear that Reynolds, on the cusp of ’60s cultural rebellion, was criticizing ’50s suburban monoculture and the conformity it elicited from its little box dwellers. Anyone growing up in a subdivision can relate.

And yet many lefty locals have taken umbrage at the song’s apparent elitism. "What’s wrong with affordable housing?" sniped one critic in a recent posting, drawing the connection between the song and our south-facing neighbor.

When considering how prefab will catch on in San Francisco, where everyone is encouraged to march to his or her own beat, one wonders if ’60s-era individualism will make way for Ikea-style pragmatism. These days it’s just too darn expensive to be one of a kind. On the other hand, one wonders how San Franciscans can go for prefab when there isn’t any open land anyway.*



Bill Graham Civic Auditorium

99 Grove, SF

(415) 974-4060

Feast: 7 locally grown bulk foods


Think about it: every time you take a sip of Bordeaux, a fuzzy baby polar bear loses another drop of its habitat. Importing your party goods from overseas comes at a big fossil fuel–spewing cost. If you want the good times to keep rolling into the next millennium, you won’t have to suffer a bit. Just stick to Napa Valley wines and local microbrews and limit your fruit and veggie intake to the produce of local organic and sustainable farms. But what about some of the bulk items you keep in your kitchen? Getting some of your dietary staples from local sources isn’t as difficult as you might think. And, remember, the fresher your food, the better it tastes. (Deborah Giattina)


Eureka! There’s wheat growing in California. This certified organic and sustainable farm in the Capay Valley, about an hour north of Sacramento, tills four to five acres of the grain, mills it, and bags it for sale at farmers’ markets in Berkeley and Marin. The same goes for Full Belly’s three acres of blue corn. Freshly milled flour and corn contain oils that dissolve more quickly than those in the all-purpose varieties shelved at the supermarket, making the flavor dramatically more delicious.

(530) 796-2214,


To get away from genetically modified, corporate-trademarked crops and seek out interesting varieties, organic farmers are looking to vintage legumes. Rancho Gordo, a Napa Valley farm, grows heirloom beans in limited quantities and gives them pretty names like Nightfall Red and Black Valentine. These fresh beans, once unfamiliar to the American palate, are bursting with yumminess — and the potential for new recipes. Buy them at Rainbow Grocery, farmers’ markets, or online. Rancho Gordo also grows corn and makes its own tortillas.

(707) 259-1935,


Just because you need your olive oil brand to end in a vowel to feel authentic doesn’t mean you have to ship it in from Mother Italy. Two local family-owned and -run olive growers and pressers can service all of your extra virgin needs. The Barianis moved to Sacramento from the Lombardy region of Northern Italy in 1989 and have been producing limited quantities of raw organic extra virgin olive oil from their own orchard and handmade press since the 1990s. Sciabica and Sons have been pressing oil from olives harvested in every season since the 1930s. Their organic variety comes from their San Andreas orchard.

(209) 577-5067, (415) 864-1917,


No doubt, banishing refined sugar from your diet isn’t easy. But when you think about Brazil being the largest producer of sugarcane and the spike in carbon dioxide levels caused by the loss of rainforests to make way for massive plantations, you might consider turning to recipes that replace the white powder with honey. Mint Hill honey is produced in the Castro and is conveniently stocked at Bi-Rite Market.

(415) 290-7405,


Known as a healing food, seaweed enhances vegetables, makes great soup stock, and can even substitute for noodles. An ocean-loving couple living on the rocky shores of Mendocino County carefully harvest wild seaweed from the Pacific and dry it for consumption. According to John Lewallan, who cofounded the Mendocino Seaweed Vegetable Co. in 1980, the Pacific Northwest has the cleanest water and produces the best seaweed. Buy your sea palm fronds and iron-rich red dulse online or at Rainbow Grocery.

(707) 895-2996,


Honestly, the beans used by Minh Tsai and John Notz of Hodo Soy originate in the Midwest, but the benefits of purchasing Hodo’s hand-rolled tofu are the freshness and the astounding flavor that come from processing the beans in Hodo’s nearby Santa Clara facility. Tsai and Notz also sell adventurous prepared tofu dishes at Bay Area farmers’ markets.

(415) 902-5137,


Gluten-intolerant San Franciscans can find refuge in grains and rice flours grown and ground at Koda Farms, located in the San Joaquin Valley. The Koda family for generations has been farming sweet, brown, and paddy rice, which it sells both as whole grain and ground into a gluten-free flour it calls Mochiko. Its Kokuho Rose Premium Rice Flour is organic and runs in limited production. You’ll find Koda’s goods at Rainbow Grocery.

(209) 392-2191,

“Bella” epic



As you walk into the theater to see Anna Bella Eema, you’ll meet the play’s three women seated on high stools in the midst of a found-object concert. They make sounds by swinging their arms, chomping their teeth, slurping through a straw, and rattling a hodgepodge of objects within arm’s reach. This prelude to Lisa D’Amour’s beautifully written, intermissionless play reminds us that the most basic instrument is the air we breathe.

Soon the lights dim around the dilapidated, debris-filled stage, and the women begin to form words with that air, singing to us in a round a story about a girl made from mud, Anna Bella Eema. Fittingly, her name sounds like an incantation, as D’Amour’s exquisite, dreamlike verse draws you deeply under its spell for the next 90 minutes. The characters spin from their song the tale of how this creature (Julie Kurtz) came to be.

Without leaving their perches, Irene (Cassie Beck) and Anna Bella (Danielle Levin) take turns telling the story, explaining that they are a mother and a daughter living in a trailer park soon to be razed to make room for an interstate, and Irene — who looks on the outside with disdain — won’t budge. Insulated from the world by an overbearing mother who thinks she’s part wolf, Anna Bella develops a powerful imagination. Through the character’s ensuing journey into alternate universes, D’Amour entangles Mary Shelley’s classic Frankenstein with a Gaia origin story, creating a distinctly feminine mythology that has a strong connection to the body, the breath, and all the fluids of the earth. The stage’s three inhabitants execute this complex work with perfect elocution and graceful movements to provide nothing short of a wonderfully engaging and magical experience.

Rarely is an experimental work so completely accessible. Such daring is what perpetuates the vitality of live theater, and we are lucky to have an extraordinary company like Crowded Fire to produce and perform works like this.


Extended through July 15

Mon. and Thurs.–Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; $10–$20

Ashby Stage

1901 Ashby, Berk.

(415) 439-2456

Small Business Awards 2007: Golden Survivor Award


It didn’t seem like Harold and Larry Hoogasian were going to take up the family business, floristry. The brothers, exactly three years apart in age (both were born on Bastille Day), attended UC Berkeley in the ’70s – Harold studied genetics; Larry majored in architecture.

But a love of the customers and the family tradition drew them back into the fold. "We grew up in the business," says Larry, who remembers working with his older brother and father, Harold Sr., after school and on weekends at the flower stand that has occupied a spot in front of Gump’s on Post Street since Feb. 14, 1953.

Prior to establishing possibly the first stationary flower stand in the Financial District, the siblings’ grandfather was one of many small vendors of gardenias and violets operating a pushcart around the bustling downtown area. "One day he just got lazy and stayed in one place," Larry says, recalling what he’s always been told about his grandfather’s bold move.

It was their father who extended the reach of the business to the Cannery on Fisherman’s Wharf and Treasure Island, then a naval base. Both locations afforded the stand’s customers large doses of ’60s flower power. The tourists who flocked to the Cannery had all heard Scott McKenzie croon, "If you’re going to San Francisco …," and made sure to wear one of the Hoogasian blooms in their hair. The Treasure Island business was the spot where soldiers wired their last tokens of affection to loved ones before heading overseas.

After taking ownership, the sons brought the business to the next level. Harold took on marketing and promotions; Larry handled all of the designs and arrangements, then opened a storefront on Lombard Street, which closed shortly after he set up the current shop in South of Market six years ago.

It seems fitting that Harold and Larry, both fans of the city’s vibrant music scene as teens, would become an important part of the city’s music culture – florally speaking.

As the story goes, Harold entered a design contest at a flower show in 1976. Larry’s task was to build a gazebo. He pulled out all the stops, constructing a massive 1,000-square-foot structure. As he was nailing flowers over the trellises, a man strolled by and exclaimed, "My, my, my. I’ve never seen a pile of sticks so beautiful." That man happened to be Bill Graham. Not only did the siblings win the contest, but they also began a long relationship as the concert promoter’s florist, decking out dressing rooms for the Grateful Dead and Elton John and even putting together the wedding bouquet for Madonna’s "Like a Virgin" tour.

A career highlight for Larry, who was raised Catholic and had a contract with St. Mary’s for many years, came when he won the bid to make all of the arrangements for Pope John Paul II’s 1987 visit. "I had to chase away all the nuns," he says, explaining that many habited women were trying to snatch keepsakes from the floral decorations that were being broadcast to millions of television viewers.

His brother, Harold, has received his fair share of accolades too. His efforts have put the company in online and telephone floral service FTD’s top 100 in volume sales since the mid-’90s. To keep up with the competition, Harold has sealed contracts with 30 Walgreens, where a lot of last-minute flower sales occur these days.

Larry foresees customers soon pouring into the location on Townsend and Seventh streets as more residents move into the increasingly residential neighborhood. It looks like Hoogasian Flowers will be creating beautiful arrangements for locals on their birthdays and for their weddings and funerals for many years to come. (Deborah Giattina)


615 Seventh St., SF

(415) 229-2732

Open water



For the casual stroller, a walk under the 101 interchange at César Chávez is none too inviting. Trucks and cars zoom off the freeway and onto the street all day long, bringing noise and exhaust with them. An atmosphere of abandonment and neglect allows crime to fester.

And if you dare to walk far enough under the highway, you might notice that water often floods the lowest point of the underpass.

That’s not rain collecting; it’s water seeping into the streets from the paved-over Islais Creek, which runs through Glen Park to the eastern neighborhoods and ultimately channels into the bay.

It’s just one of a network of creeks that flow through San Francisco, invisible urban treasures that have long since been filled in or paved over. The city has been burying the creeks since the 1906 earthquake. Back then the Board of Supervisors voted to fill the marshy lands near Islais with debris from the fires.

Standing under the overpass, Bonnie Ora Sherk, artist and founder of the urban planning nonprofit Life Frames, reaches for some leaves poking through a chain-link fence that separates the path from mostly empty islands of space. I can barely hear her through the ongoing traffic din when she says, "I haven’t been here in so long…. See those roses? We planted those."

Sherk dreams of allowing some of the water in the area to emerge from its underground culvert and fill a pond surrounded by beautiful riparian plantings such as willow trees.

With the Planning Department putting the finishing touches on its eastern neighborhoods plan and the Mayor’s Office launching its Better Streets program — which will put $20 million toward improving streets, sidewalks, and unused spaces — it’s a good time to talk about daylighting Islais Creek.

Sherk wants only a small piece of the underground stream brought back to life, but in theory San Francisco could open up much bigger stretches, allowing water to flow through neighborhoods and parks between its source in Glen Canyon Park and its outflow.

Sherk has been turning forsaken lots and concrete jungles into thriving natural areas that provide educational opportunities for children since she started the Crossroads Community art collective, also known as the Farm, under the freeway in 1974. With a colony of artists, she turned the void into a crossroad for the Bayview, Bernal Heights, and Mission District communities. During her six years at the collective, she led children from the neighborhoods in planting and gardening, built a barn for chickens and goats, and curated art shows.

Check out the photos on a Living Library Web site (, and you’ll see how that area flourished during Sherk’s days as the collective’s executive director. Back then a landscape of native plants grew under the overpass. Now fences enclose these scraps of dead space to keep homeless people from setting up encampments in them.

When Sherk learned from old maps that the area was built over a watershed of intersecting creeks that feed into Islais, she tried to convince the city to uncover some of the creek water that flows under an open space next to the Farm, what is now Potrero del Sol Park.

The city built the park as she suggested but separated it from the artist community by a fence. Her idea to expose the creek wasn’t adapted either. A concrete-bottom pond fed by Hetch Hetchy water was installed instead. Soon it will be transformed into a skateboarding area, which Sherk thinks is better than constantly piping in precious reservoir water.

But she hasn’t given up on the idea of daylighting Islais at the interchange. She envisions diverting the off-ramps a bit to make way for the pond at the center of the underpass. From there César Chávez would be resculpted into a curving road, forcing traffic to slow down. Poplars could line the street, and educational artwork could be added to the mix. The fences would come down under the freeway, and the area once again would be replanted. It would be a nice place to drive and walk. Perhaps the crime and litter would disappear.

According to Sherk, the idea of an urban environment needs a paradigm shift from the days of factory-school settings. To her, it’s not just a matter of beautification or convenience. "Why do one thing when you can do 10 things simultaneously?" she asks — meaning a pond isn’t just a pool of water, it’s part of a place where nature intersects with industry, technology, and our everyday culture and where we can look at all of those elements, as she often says, "through the lens of time." *

Superlist No. 831: Box office steals



Bertolt Brecht wanted theater to be for the people, not the power. In order for that to happen, tickets need to be cheap. Luckily, many local venues are committed to fulfilling Brecht’s directive, at least in terms of money, by ensuring that their shows are accessible to people of all income levels. With these shows costing less than the latest soulless CGI flick you just saw, what’s stopping you from spending the night at the theater?

Even though they call the new and soon to be solar-powered Ashby Stage (1901 Ashby, Berk. 510-841-6500, home, the Shotgun Players haven’t forgotten their humble roots in the basement of a pizza parlor. They make their innovatively staged plays accessible to folks on a pizza budget by holding a pay-what-you-can first week for every production.

Theater company Central Works stages all of its collaboratively written, developed, and produced plays in a dining room of the Berkeley City Club (2315 Durant, Berk. 510-558-1381, You’ve never seen drama this close, and rarely so inexpensive: tickets are on a sliding scale and start at $9.

All shows are pay what you can at CounterPULSE (1310 Mission, SF. 415-626-2060,, which presents theater, dance, music, and interdisciplinary performances — all with a political and cultural edge.

The African-American Shakespeare Company (African American Art and Culture Complex, Buriel Clay Memorial Theater, 762 Fulton, SF. 415-762-2071, ext. 1) brings an African American perspective to classical works by such playwrights as William Shakespeare, Anton Chekhov, and Aristophanes. All preview performances cost $5.

Strange things happen on the tiny stage of the Dark Room (2263 Mission, SF. 415-675-9963, and at a very reasonable price. Pay $5 to watch performers compete for the honor of being named the worst act in the city (and claiming the title of Miss American Fido) on the last Thursday of the month or heckle the screen during Monday’s Bad Movie Night — which is sort of like Mystery Science Theater 3000, only live.

Established in 1965 specifically to find creative ways of addressing the Vietnam War, Intersection for the Arts (446 Valencia, SF. 415-626-2787, is the oldest nonprofit arts space in San Francisco. Its resident theater company, Campo Santo, performs and helps create challenging plays by local playwrights and nationally known authors such as Denis Johnson. Every Thursday is pay what you can at this community theater and gallery.

The Julia Morgan Center for the Arts (2640 College, Berk. 510-845-8542, is the latest Bay Area venue to provide a stage for storytellers and solo performers. Its “Tell it on Tuesdays” series (the last Tuesday of every month) costs as little as $8, and it has seen performers such as Jeff Greenwald and Ron Jones spin a good yarn.

The clever people at Last Planet Theatre (351 Turk, SF. 415-440-3505, have devised the best way to bring the cost of your theatergoing experience below silver-screen prices: pay two for one on Thursdays. Bring a date and check out the avant-garde experience this nine-year-old company — which has staged works by Harold Pinter, Caryl Churchill, and Rainer Werner Fassbinder — has to offer.

Impact Theatre picks up where Shotgun left off, at La Val’s Subterranean (1834 Euclid, Berk., the basement of a pizza parlor. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. Impact produces some of the hippest, edgiest new plays around and lets you watch them for whatever you want, so long as seats are still available a half hour before the show starts.

Over at Sam Shepard’s old stomping ground, the Magic Theatre (Fort Mason Center, bldg. D, third floor, Marina at Laguna, SF. 415-441-8822, continues to bring fresh work and plenty of world premieres to audiences. The 40-year-old space has a sliding-scale ticket price on Wednesdays that dips down to $5, and it also holds a minimum of 10 last-minute tickets for $10, available 30 minutes before curtain.

You never know what’s going to sprout up at Monday Night Marsh, held at the Marsh (1062 Valencia, SF. 415-826-5750, for just $7. The curated almost-weekly event puts performers, improv artists, storytellers, musicians, clowns, and any combination thereof in its black box. The only rule is no fire in the house.

Home to Footloose, which incubates primarily women’s work, Shotwell Studios (Shotwell Studios, 3252A 19th St., SF. 415-920-2223, is the place to see contemporary dance and the occasional comedy night, and every show is pay what you can.

Keep your fingers crossed that shows at Z Space Studio (131 10th St., third floor, SF. 415-626-0453, don’t sell out. The venue, which also helps performing artists and playwrights bring their ideas to fruition and then sends them off on tour, offers pay-what-you-can rush tickets on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday nights. Call first to make sure the deal applies to the show you want to see. *


Careers and Ed: Hard on the job



Just a short walk northeast from the Hall of Justice in SoMa lies an internationally renowned palace of forbidden pleasure.

The nondescript four-story stone building is the headquarters for Kink, an online enterprise specializing in the production of short, sexy, streaming BDSM videos, available for a monthly subscription fee. Started by British bondage aficionado Peter Ackworth about a decade ago, Kink is home to such fetish favorites as Hogtied, Fucking Machines, and Ultimate Surrender (in which the winner of a female wrestling competition in a Greco-Roman setting gets to fuck the loser). It’s also — perhaps surprisingly — a great place to work, according to the people who work there. And that’s not just those strapped down in front of the cameras talking.

Granted, when you were young and dreaming of a fabulous career in film, porn might not have been your chosen niche. But if you’re looking for a job in media and are unenthused by the paltry postings on Craigslist offering the opportunity to work in the lackluster world of industrial video production, you might want to broaden your options. There used to be a steadier stream of work shooting commercials and Hollywood films on location here, but the high costs have caused that flow to taper off. Still, the Bay Area harbors a vibrant industry creating DVD and Internet adult content.

Crack all the jokes you want about the sleaziness of the porn business, but there’s some real dedication behind it. I used to have a job where I regularly interviewed people about their jobs: dot-com jobs, to be specific. Most of the time, the Web guru, marketing guru, or whatever guru I was interrogating would stare at me with a Stepford wife’s eyes and tell me what a blast it was to work at All the while I could hear the voice in his or her head blaring, "If my stock options end up amounting to nothing more than toilet paper, I’m gonna be pissed!"

Many local erotica production studios, on the other hand, offer a positive and creative work environment, upward mobility, and good pay with full benefits for everyone from customer service representatives to IT workers and video editors.


As I’m guided through the maze of sets at Kink — a jail cell, a dirty bathroom, a dungeon with vaulted ceilings reminiscent of the Doom video game, even a sci-fi room — I pass workers who are going about the business of making naughty fantasies come to life. Production assistants in black jumpsuits prepare sets for shoots. Set builders in flannels construct a booth in the back lot for the imminent Adult Video News Awards in Las Vegas. A model naps in the green room before his close-up.

In the office space where the postproduction editors work with the directors to piece together videos on large, brilliant flat-panel monitors, everyone I see looks like someone who could be working at an indie rock record label. They’re hip, young, hard at work, and having a good time.

I get to interview some of them on the canopied roof deck, replete with a bar, heat lamps, and a hot tub. Kelly Schaefer, a young woman with jagged layers of blond locks jutting to her chin, tells me she’s worked at Kink for about a year. Now the lead production assistant, in charge of scheduling and training all the other PAs for shoots and making sure everything runs smoothly, she started out as a model, performing in Kink’s Ultimate Surrender. The former Good Vibrations sales associate still models, because she really enjoys the wrestling. But she’s also working toward becoming a full-fledged producer.

Schaefer has a rep around Kink for being motivated, which is partly why she was able to move into a different role with greater responsibility. Since she didn’t have a background in production, being a model helped her get a foot in the door. For those interested, Schaefer says, "It’s a great company if you’re just getting started in BDSM." Kink follows the BDSM credo of safe, consensual, and respectful play and trains its PAs to make sure that all models are treated well, taking care to stop the shoot when limbs fall asleep during difficult poses involving mouth gags and rope.

Her coworker Guillermo Garcia, a videographer and PA, got his start by taking a number of production and editing classes in Final Cut Pro at City College. In addition to gaining more experience in lighting a soundstage on the job, the dreadlocked musician from Medellín, Colombia, says he enjoyed scoring the theme to Ultimate Surrender. He also has to make sure all the gadgets for the Fucking Machines series are in proper working order and, truth be told, clean the sex toys.


Over at Colt Studios, which is in a converted warehouse near Potrero Hill that also houses an accounting firm, a team of 19 people works hard to produce slick and beautiful photos, calendars, and videos of handsome, masculine guys.

President John Rutherford, who got his degree in broadcasting at San Francisco State, realized that making internal videos at Hewlett-Packard with straight guys wasn’t in his future. He started working at San Francisco’s famed hardcore gay porn company Falcon Studios just as he was coming out. Rutherford said he aims to run a team of creative and self-directed people who are serious about attaining company goals. He likens working with porn to a nurse working with blood. "I can’t even watch Nip/Tuck, but here I think, ‘Hey, that’s a great picture; that’s a big dick.’ " It’s all in a day’s work.

His business partner, Tom Settle, says, "Our customer service agents get the question at least once a day: ‘Well, what’s it like to work there?’ People have a fantasy that models walk around servicing our customer service agents all day…. We’ve had people come to work here looking for the forbidden fruit. When they find out it’s not what they expect, they think, ‘Well, I could never tell anyone I work here.’ "

Not that it’s dull working at Colt, a company with a 40-year history of male erotica production, mind you. The elegant offices are filled with fine art. Georgia, Rutherford’s beagle, roams freely. The staff is urbane and witty.

Kim Ionesco, a Colt customer service rep who is starting to work more in marketing, jokes that she never thought her career would flourish in male porn. "I didn’t hit the glass ceiling," she exclaims, sipping a Red Bull. When she started working at Colt, all her lesbian friends began clamoring for DVDs starring Chris Wide, a hot property in Colt’s exclusive stable. She had no idea her girlfriends would know who he was. Then again, she quips, "I appreciate nice, polite, good-looking gay men." So why wouldn’t other dykes feel the same way?

Even straight IT professionals such as Aaron Golub find working in male, mostly gay porn surprisingly refreshing too. Previously, he worked as an IT director at a multinational company but quit because, as he explains, "I did not feel like what I was doing was noble. I feel more guilty about generating junk mail. I’ve never sat there and said, ‘Oh, I need some advertising,’ but I’ve definitely felt like I needed porn. I feel like what we’re doing is for people who really, truly want it. Where I worked before, I didn’t feel like that was truly the case."

Aside from working toward the common goal of providing customers with images of Colt’s much-admired, wood-chopping manly men, the twentysomething IT whiz gets to work with technology on the cutting edge. "We’re doing things you don’t do when you’re developing a site for IBM." He wouldn’t tip his hand, but basically he means that by making downloads and streams seamless and infallible, online porn is on the forefront of content delivery.

When I ask him if working in porn might cause some stigmatization with future employers, he says, "I’m in a different boat than actors or directors, because my skills are very transportable. I’m not in a situation where I’m going to have to present a reel." He also echoes what every other worker I interviewed told me.

"I wouldn’t want to work for someone who has a problem with what I do." *

Eleventh-hour Christmas shopping



Last year you waited until you heard Santa’s sleigh bells ringing overhead before you started your Christmas shopping. You ended up at the corner store purchasing smokes and PBR for your friends and loved ones. You felt about as festive as warm champagne in a can.
The fact that you’re a procrastinator doesn’t mean you can’t round up some rockin’ gifts in time to scoot them under the tree. We made the rounds and found some easily accessible shops for you to hit up. Follow our lead for 11th-hour shopping, and you’ll have gifts galore without the headaches. Most of these places are open extra hours this week and are definitely open on Christmas Eve. For you real snowflakes, a few will be open even on Christmas. Careful though: some places close when the flow of shopping traffic peters out.
This recently opened, perfect postespresso stop is in the heart of North Beach. Buy a beret for your bongo-playing poet friend or a “Fuck Hate” Charles Bukowski poster for your dearest misanthrope. And where else are you going to find limited edition signed posters by the Grateful Dead and Fillmore poster artist Stanley Mouse?
540 Broadway, SF. Wed.–Sat., 11 a.m.–7 p.m.; Christmas Eve, 11 a.m.–9 p.m.; Christmas, 11 a.m.–2 p.m. (415) 399-9626,
Make your cable car destination the Buena Vista, a bar and grill by the bay. Here you can sip the famous Irish coffees, then head into the gift shop, which sells Irish coffee–<\d>scented candles. Toss in a bottle of Buena Vista whiskey for a more intoxicating package.
2765 Hyde, SF. Wed.–Sat., 9 a.m.–8 p.m.; Christmas Eve, 10 a.m.–8 p.m.; Christmas, closed. (415) 474-5044,
The Castro’s hardware store isn’t just a place to buy nuts and bolts. At Cliff’s you can get everything from quality cookware and napkin rings to board games and mittens. But if someone in your life is really hankering for a power drill, you’ll find a good one here.
479 Castro, SF. Wed.–Sat., 9:30 a.m.–8 p.m.; Christmas Eve, 11 a.m.–6 p.m.; Christmas, closed. (415) 431-5365;
Also known as “the gourmet pharmacy,” Elephant has fancy items you won’t find at Walgreens. For the powder room denizen, grab a spa kit filled with naturally scented candles, soap bars, and body butter in blood orange or Tahitian gardenia fragrances. Your ecoconscious associates will appreciate sustainably grown kitchen products such as the bamboo cutting boards and salad bowls. Creative teens will be wowed by the pinhole camera kit.
1607 Shattuck, Berk. Wed.–<\d>Sat., 8:30 a.m.–<\d>11 p.m.; Christmas Eve, 9 a.m.–<\d>6 p.m.; Christmas, 8:30 a.m.–<\d>6 p.m. (510) 549-9200,
Probably the coolest shop in the Mission District, Fabric8 specializes in unusual gifts made and designed by local artists. Jenn Porreca has stick-on iPod skins and small, reasonably priced paintings for sale. C. Lee Sobieski designed a washable matching dog collar and owner wrist cuff with a cute skull-and-heart motif. And DJ Romanowski’s wall of knickknacks has something for everyone.
3318 22nd St., SF. Wed.–<\d>Sat., 11 a.m.–<\d>11 p.m.; Christmas Eve, 11 a.m.–<\d>7 p.m.; Christmas, 11 a.m.–<\d>2 p.m. (415) 647-5888,
Embracing the moderne can be quite an expensive proposition at this posh Hayes Valley housewares shop, but you can most likely afford to buy your mate some good cheer in the form of the “The Good Book,” which is actually just a hollow cover for a flask.
401 Hayes, SF. Wed.–<\d>Sat., 11 a.m.–<\d>7 p.m.; Christmas Eve, noon–<\d>5 p.m.; Christmas, closed. (415) 552-1717,
You’ll find just about anything under the exposed beams of this Bernal Heights store: picture frames, stationery, organic cotton baby jumpers, candles, and something we would all like to wipe our asses with — toilet paper printed with George W. Bush’s face and quotable remarks.
436 Cortland, SF. Wed.–<\d>Sat., 10 a.m.–<\d>10 p.m.; Christmas Eve, 10 a.m.–<\d>5 p.m.; Christmas, closed. (415) 648-1380,
You’ll have an easier time getting gifts for kids at this well-stocked downtown toy store than fighting the crowds at the not-so-near big box. Stimulate the developing brains of youth by getting Lego sets and human anatomy puzzles here. The tarot jigsaw provides some alternative spiritual guidance to Christianity, and the porcelain unicorns are just plain cute.
685 Market, SF. Wed.–<\d>Sat., 9 a.m.–<\d>8 p.m.; Christmas Eve, 10 a.m.–<\d>6 p.m. (or earlier, depending on business); Christmas, 10 a.m.–<\d>6 p.m. (415) 243-8697
You’ll please collectors big and small with limited edition toys from this hipster enclave in the Haight. Little anime items such as Munny zipper pulls, a paperweight-size pile of poo known as Superduex Shikito Brown, and figurines of the band Gorillaz will all be worth a fortune some day.
1512 Haight, SF. Wed.–<\d>Fri., 11 a.m.–<\d>7 p.m.; Sat., 11 a.m.–<\d>8 p.m.; Christmas Eve, 11 a.m.–<\d>3 p.m.; Christmas, closed. (415) 487-9000,
This petite and stylish shop on Piedmont Avenue has gifts for the ankle biter in your life, whether it be a friend’s dog or your sister’s teething toddler. You can also find gifts for grown-ups, such as the Hostess Twinkie Cookbook and sets of self-adhesive mustaches. The handmade bike-messenger bags made with vinylized pages of the New York and Los Angeles Times are a real find.
3820 Piedmont, Oakl. Wed.–<\d>Sat., 10:30 a.m.–<\d>8 or 9 p.m.; Christmas Eve, 10:30 a.m.–<\d>8 or 9 p.m.; Christmas, closed. (510) 428-9638
You can’t beat the hours at this emporium of gifts in Chinatown. Many of the store’s bagatelles come in beautiful silks: totes and wallets, lanterns and pillows, kimonos for him and her. It also specializes in iron tea sets and houses a large jewelry section.
826-832 Grant, SF. Open Wed.–<\d>Mon., 10 a.m.–<\d>10 p.m. (415) 982-9847,
Keep the people you’re closest to smelling good. This West Portal store has one of the best soap and bath product selections in town.
44 W. Portal, SF. Wed.–<\d>Thurs., 9 a.m.–<\d>8 or 9 p.m.; Fri.–<\d>Sat., 9 a.m.- 9 p.m.; Christmas Eve, 9 a.m.–<\d>9 p.m.; Christmas, closed. (415) 759-7487
After visiting the sea lions and taking a spin on the carousel, you can get a gift that doesn’t say “I Went to Pier 39 on Christmas Eve and All I Got You Was This Lousy Alcatraz T-shirt.” Poster Source has movie posters, scenic shots, fine art and photography prints, and sports cars pics to accommodate everyone’s decorative tastes.
Pier 39, SF. Wed.–<\d>Thurs., 10 a.m.–<\d>8 p.m.; Fri.–<\d>Sat., 10 a.m.–<\d>9 p.m.; Christmas Eve, 10 a.m.–<\d>6 p.m.; Christmas, call for hours. (415) 433-1995
The Mission District retailer has cozy sweaters, handsome leather-band watches, and purses in a variety of shapes, sizes, and prices. For that special headbanger in your life, pick up the Metallica book Nothing Else Matters: The Stories behind the Songs.
541 Valencia, SF. Wed.–<\d>Thurs., 11 a.m.–<\d>9 p.m.; Fri.–<\d>Sat., 10 a.m.–<\d>10:30 p.m.; Christmas Eve, 10 a.m.–<\d>9:30 p.m.; Christmas, closed. (415) 861-6213
One way to really take the edge off Christmas shopping is to have a drink first. Enjoy a pour at the Ferry Building’s Wine Merchant, then point yourself directly toward the “Great Wines for under $20” section. You’ll find everything from fussy California pinot noirs to fruity Belgian and German whites. Spending more than $150 entitles you to free delivery.
Ferry Bldg., stall 23, Embarcadero and Market, SF. Wed., 10 a.m.–<\d>8 p.m.; Thurs.–<\d>Fri., 10 a.m.–<\d>9 p.m.; Sat., 8 a.m.–<\d> 9 p.m.; Christmas Eve, 10 a.m.–<\d>7 p.m.; Christmas, closed. (415) 391-9460,<\!s>SFBG
Hayley Elisabeth Kaufman and Laura McCaul did research for this story.

Goldies Dance winner Sean Dorsey


One look at Sean Dorsey — a debonair dancer with slightly mussed hair and innovative modern dance choreographer — and two words instantly come to mind: dip me!
But watching him dance, you see more of a rough-and-tumble Gene Kelly than a gliding Fred Astaire. Which isn’t to say he can’t throw down a steamy tango, as he does in Red Tie, Red Lipstick, a moving pas de deux about violence against a transgender couple. Dorsey featured the piece, with narration by trans poet Marcus Van, in his first full-length show, Outsider Chronicles, staged last year at ODC Theater and soon to be remounted Nov. 16 to 18 at the Dance Mission Theater.
Since moving to San Francisco in 2001 from Vancouver, Dorsey has blazed a fierce trail for transgender performers. He immediately became enamored with the city when he met site-specific choreographer Lizz Roman while visiting here with the Kokoro Dance company. “There was very little release technique or inversion work in Vancouver,” the native Canadian recalls. “I totally fell in love with her [Roman’s] movement and what she was doing.”
The feeling was mutual, and Roman gave the young dancer a spot in her company. Dance Brigade founder Krissy Keefer also went mad for Dorsey, granting him a solo slot in the now-defunct Lesbian and Gay Dance Festival. Even our pampered SF LGBT audience wasn’t used to seeing butch-looking dancers like Dorsey onstage, and its response was ecstatic.
By the spring of 2002 he was in ODC Theater’s Pilot Program, which nurtures emerging choreographers as they develop new work eventually showcased on the theater’s floor. Three months later he founded the groundbreaking Fresh Meat Productions, which brings trans and queer performers, filmmakers, musicians, and writers together annually to tell their stories through their chosen artistic discipline. Since the first two-day show at ODC Theater that summer, Fresh Meat has moved on to cosponsoring Tranny Fest, a festival of independent trans cinema now helmed by Dorsey’s partner, filmmaker Shawna Virago, and also helped to organize national tours of trans artists. Currently, Dorsey, the nonprofit’s artistic director, is organizing a show for a trans printmaker at the Femina Potens gallery and another solo show for a trans visual artist.
Amid all the organizing, marketing, and promoting, Dorsey brought his own point of view to queer performance with last year’s Outsider Chronicles, via an individual artist grant from the San Francisco Arts Commission. Written and choreographed by Dorsey, the program combines modern dance with music and narration in five stories that reflect the life of a transgender person — as well as any human being who has ever had a crush, a secret, or a high school guidance counselor with a textbook full of bad advice. Each vignette (most performed with dance partner Meir Culbreth) expresses a language of movement that is boldly real and acutely honest.
Through Fresh Meat and his own choreography, Dorsey has been able to combine art and activism in a way that creates alliances, fosters a community of like-minded artists, and changes our notion of what defines dance and, at its most basic level, our bodies. Next on the horizon, the onetime housing and poverty activist who realized his dance career almost accidentally while on a hiatus from grad school plans to use his Gerbode Emerging Choreographer Award to continue combining his two great passions. Tentatively titled Some Went Untold, the envisioned piece will be based on interviews Dorsey conducts with trans folk across the land.
“I’m still, like, ‘Hello, hello, hello, where are all the trans dancers?’” Dorsey says. “I’m hoping very soon that there will be more trans dancers to work with.” He also hopes to find the time to learn ballroom dance. Let the dipping begin! (Deborah Giattina)



There’s something about the infectious confidence of do-it-yourselfers that makes me feel like I can learn to build my own space rocket in the blink of an eye.
That’s definitely the vibe I got when I pedaled up to the BioFuel Oasis in West Berkeley’s light industrial district and met with three of the six women who run the worker-owned cooperative, which is doing so well it’s in the market for new digs.
After pulling off the blue coveralls she wore for a Guardian photo shoot and quickly returning to a project she had going on the computer, Melissa Hardy tells me, “It’s not that hard to work on the fuel delivery system of a car…. Let me just demystify that for you.” Folks who haven’t ventured under their own hood much may be put off knowing that the fuel filter and lines of their trusty old Mercedes-Benz could need changing if they make the switch to biodiesel, but Hardy likens these tasks to changing the tire on a bicycle.
Hardy met the women of BioFuel Oasis in the Berkeley Biodiesel Collective (, a group that promotes the use and creation of alternative energy through educational seminars. Before getting into biodiesel, Jennifer Radtke brewed her own wine and Gretchen Zimmermann always enjoyed tinkering with cars. They learned to make their own biodiesel while with the collective. Radtke then started BioFuel with SaraHope Smith, who no longer works with the group, in December 2003.
Thanks to them, diesel car owners can go to the BioFuel facilities garage and fill up on recycled oils processed from the greasy waste of a potato chip factory. At $3.70 per gallon, that’s more than the falling diesel prices, currently $2.83 per gallon in California, but biodiesel drivers still get pretty good mileage — about 8 percent less than when they use regular diesel fuel — and they won’t be contributing to asthma in children.
One reason the price is so high is lack of supply. After filling up his Mercedes 1980 240D and three five-gallon tubs for $113.40, customer Ryan Lamberg, who works with Community Fuels, a company in the process of building a biodiesel refinery, points out that the price can come down as more local farmers turn to growing feedstock crops.
As Radtke explains, the collective has “a commitment to selling biodiesel from recycled vegetable oil, because it is the most sustainable feedstock.”
Though veggie oil has less than half the carbon monoxide and other greenhouse gas emissions of diesel fuel, it does release more nitrogen oxides than other fuels. Perhaps in recognition of this downside, the collective has been running a series of events called “Driving Still Sucks,” which encourages people to continue to walk, bike, and bus.
“We think biodiesel is a transitional solution — not the answer,” Radtke says.
Still, the group believes in its mission to provide an alternative fuel in an alternative way to meet the demands of green-minded Bay Area residents — not to mention Willie Nelson, who stops by to fill up every time he passes through town.
“We’re busting at the seams,” Hardy says. The collective currently is seeking a new, larger space to serve the 1,600-plus customers signed up with the co-op. “We want to create a place that isn’t just a pump and run but more of a crossroads or meeting place, like a natural food store,” Radtke says. SFBG
2465 Fourth St., Berk.
(510) 665-5509

Seven up!


› a& Andromache Berkeley company Central Works remounts its 1994 production of Racine’s gripping 17th-century account of the Trojan War aftermath. Though the company likes to emphasize its collaboratively written projects, director Gary Graves’s adaptation of the play, which follows the trail of unrequited love leading to the enigmatic Andromache, was one of the first shows that brought the company critical attention. Oct. 14–Nov. 19. Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant, Berk. (510) 558-1381, Colorado After producing a successful run of Killing My Lobster member Peter Sinn Nachtrieb’s first play, Hunter Gatherers, at the Thick House this past summer, Impact Theater takes on another piece by the up-and-coming dramaturge. Again the central theme is everyone’s favorite human trait: jealousy. This time a teen beauty queen disappears the day before the big pageant and everyone in her family is a suspect. Sept. 14–Oct. 21. La Val’s Subterranean, 1834 Euclid, Berk. (510) 464-4468, The God of Hell Entering its 40th year this season, the Magic Theatre celebrates with the latest play by the company’s erstwhile playwright-in-residence, Sam Shepard. The God of Hell is Shepard’s indictment of the Bush administration; he wrote it in 2004 with hope that Dubya wouldn’t see a second term. Amy Glazer directs this piece about a Midwestern couple whose lives are disrupted by an odd visit from a traveling salesman hawking patriotic goods. Sept. 23–Oct. 22. Magic Theatre, Fort Mason Center, building D, Buchanan at Marina, SF. (415) 441-8822, Passing Strange Berkeley Rep enters uncharted territory with this not-quite musical conceived and written by Stew (with music cowritten by longtime collaborator Heidi Rodewald), a singer-songwriter whose solo songcraft and controversial band the Negro Problem have received acclaim from the New York Times and Village Voice. With a live band to accompany Stew and his cast, the show follows the African American on a journey from his native Los Angeles and the church community he’s raised in to an alternative life in Amsterdam and Berlin, as Stew searches for an authentic self amid people who pass for something they’re not. Oct. 20–Dec. 3. Berkeley Repertory Theatre (Thrust Stage), 2025 Addison, Berk. (510) 647-2949, “Pinteresque” The Oxford English Dictionary does indeed have an entry for the titular term: “Of or reutf8g to Harold Pinter; resembling or characteristic of his plays…. Pinter’s plays are typically characterized by implications of threat and strong feeling produced through colloquial language, apparent triviality, and long pauses.” Eastenders Repertory Company and some aspiring playwrights tap into and respond to those qualities with this program, which features Pinter’s The Lover and short pieces inspired by that work. Four years ago the company struck gold with a similar idea applied to Tennessee Williams, just one of its many inventive one-act programming ideas. See its take on Pinter, and then grab a pint, er. Sept. 13–Oct. 8. Eureka Theatre Company, 215 Jackson, SF. (510) 568-4118, “SF Fringe Festival” If you can spare an hour, then get to a Fringe show. Now in its 15th year of rounding up improv troupes, comedy groups, soloists, and multimedia acts from the frontiers of the theater world, the festival delivers 40 original performances in 200 shows over 12 days. This year features Best of SF Fringe 2002 RIPE Theatre putting on a handful of new shorts, Boxcar Players doing improv on the Mexican Bus, someone rolling a boulder up Powell for 20 minutes, and a group from India performing from the Kama Sutra (oh my). Maybe you can spare two hours. Sept. 6–17. For information go to Tings Dey Happen Dat dey do, and Dan Hoyle (the son of Geoff Hoyle but a lot more than that as well) has made a show about them — specifically, the things that happened in 2005 when he went to Nigeria on a Fulbright scholarship. Malaria and militant karaoke are two of the experiences Hoyle had, along with some educational ones that give him added insight into the United States’ oil-hungry policies. Hoyle may be young, but he’s an old hand at one-man shows by this point; Tings Dey Happen follows in the Marsh- and self-directed footsteps of his previous performances, Circumnavigator and Florida 2004: The Big Bummer. Only the Almighty might know why tings dey happen the way them happen — but Hoyle probably has some clues as well. Dec. 14, 2006–Jan. 27, 2007. Marsh, 1062 Valencia, SF. (415) 826-5750, SFBG

Learning from leaks


Brace yourself. What you are about to read might go against what you think is the general wisdom of conservationists: if it’s pee, don’t let it be. Now, I’m not advocating that you should flush. What I’m about to suggest emerges from the world of permaculture, and you’re about to find out all about it.
Permaculture is an approach to sustainable living that entails close, spiritual observation of nature and its inherent patterns and rhythms. Through contemplation of the land — a backyard, an entire city, Yosemite’s wilderness — humans can learn how to interact with the environment in a balanced and harmonious way. According to its adherents, permaculture design can integrate the vast spectrum of biological diversity into a functional system that naturally replenishes what it depletes. It seems fundamental that imitating the cycles of nature would produce a less wasteful way of living, but permaculturists insist that we’ve strayed so far from that course (for example, by farming miles and miles of wheat and using limited sources of energy) that it’s time for a full-on return to basics.
But permaculture is more than just a lesson on the how-tos of composting. And it’s more than simply a call to turn back the clock of industrialization. As Guillermo Vásquez, a Mayan from Central America who has been running the Indigenous Permaculture design course around the Bay Area since 2002, puts it, “It’s about how local communities can use their resources in the city in a sustainable way.”
Though geared to the urban environment, Vásquez’s classes use farming techniques drawn from native rural communities in El Salvador, South Dakota, and Guatemala. As a demonstration of how some of these techniques can be applied to everyday situations for the typical city dweller, he talked to me about the patch of bereft soil that is my backyard. Local permaculture courses such as the one Vásquez teaches introduce students to a holistic way of gardening that goes beyond throwing down some dirt, plugging a tomato seedling into the ground, and then turning on the hose. I mentioned that I should probably wait until winter to plant, in order to take advantage of the spring rains, so that I don’t have to wastefully water the yard so much, to which he responded, “you’re right, but first you have to find out what’s in your soil.” His classes give practical lessons in such things as testing the soil for lead and rotating crops and adding trees that retain water and recycle nutrients.
Vásquez’s class is taught on a shoestring budget. He organizes the course with elders from native communities in Central America and the United States. The staff includes specialists in water, soil, and green business. Employees of local nonprofits and people from underserved communities are invited to take the course for free, so long as they make a solemn commitment to do permaculture work in their communities for at least a year after the training. “We have a really teeny budget. Sometimes we work with nothing. We do this because we believe in hard work. We don’t get a salary. We organize the students to work with no money. We prove to them and show them that we can do positive things in our community with no money.”
Permaculture courses were developed in Australia in the mid-’70s when it first became obvious to environmentalists that the planet was in serious trouble due to monoculture farming. These environmentalists believed that we should value the earth’s bounty and endeavor to not hog all of its resources. Then they looked for ways to draw upon the interconnection between earth, water, and sky. One should meditate upon a site for as long as a year before farming, permaculturists advise, making note of all the connections observed. You might notice the sun’s path through the area or how water is leaking away from the site instead of being absorbed into it.
Besides ecological sustainability and environmental relationships, most permaculturists focus on creating social sustainability, recognizing cultural and bioregional identity, and building creative activist networks to implement “placemaking” and “paradigm reconstruction practices.” Not surprisingly for such an interactive philosophy, permaculture has found a huge following on the Web — sites such as and host lively online forums.
Permaculturists also believe that humans should not interfere with the wilderness and that our only interaction with it should be to observe and learn from its ecological systems. The permacultural interactivity of humans and the environment is usually organized and described graphically as a system of concentric zones, like a mandala, beginning with “home” and extending toward “community,” so that the patterns of our social worlds can be put into balance.
Permaculture instructor Kat Steele of the Urban Permaculture Guild got into this kind of holistic approach because she wanted to combine her graphic design background with what she learned about sustainable living while traveling. She took a permaculture design course and started a landscaping business, then moved on to teaching certification courses. (In most cases, permaculture certification allows graduates to teach and participate in larger projects). The Urban Permaculture Guild uses “nonheirarchical decision-making” as one of its principles, and its members, in between contributing to the guild’s operations, have been involved in such large-scale projects as working with Jordanians to green their heavily salted deserts and transforming water recycling policies in Australia.
Steele discussed the guild’s training course with me while on a break from a six-week course conducted at the education facility of Golden Gate Park’s botanical garden. (It’s the first time the park has offered the course; the educational director hopes to develop the program further with Steele.) As in Vásquez’s class, students learn about the principles and concepts of permaculture and put them into practice in gardens. They learn from guest lecturers about soil enrichment and gray water (any water except toilet water that’s been used in the home). Both Vásquez’s and Steele’s classes follow the guidelines of the Permaculture Institute of Northern California and offer certification to students who successfully complete the course. They can be beneficial to yard gardeners like me, architects who wants to consider the best way to orient a building in order to make use of the sun and shade, and civil engineers looking for different approaches to water use and recycling.
During my conversation with Steele, she indicated how the concepts of permaculture could translate to social systems. “In our social landscape, we want to look at where energy is leaking. Typically in most businesses there is an organizational structure that is sort of top-down, and we can create feedback loops from energy or information that might be stored in areas that aren’t being used, so that it all can come back to decision makers. So creating flows that mimic cycles in nature in our business structures can help that.”
So learning from leaks is a key practice of permaculture design. Before we finished our interview, Steele got me thinking about how much I leak at home and that flushing isn’t just a gross misuse of water, it’s a waste to send all that pee down the drain. Turns out pee, when diluted in, say, a backyard pond fed by rain runoff from your roof, is excellent for your garden. SFBG
Aug. 26–Sept. 13
20 hours a week, dates subject to change after first class session
Free with one-year commitment to community work
Ecology Center
2530 San Pablo, Berkeley
Check Web site for upcoming sessions in the Bay Area

Pup culture


Move over, onesie makers. San Franciscans are more likely in need of a dog collar than a baby outfit.
According to San Francisco Animal Care and Control, based on 2000 census reports, there are just under 118,000 canines in the city. The same census report tallied 112,812 locals 18 or younger.
Not surprisingly, pet product manufacturing is a growing cottage industry among Bay Area crafters. Shea Pet, a Santa Cruz company, helps keep Fifi’s coat shiny with its shampoos made from fair-trade shea butter; Berkeley’s Dorothy Bauer makes sparkling crystal bling in your pet’s first initial, if you like; and Red Rover in Marin bakes homemade biscuits in a variety of animal and Louis Vuitton handbag shapes.
Furthermore, a host of vendors will be present at the SF Dog Owners Group’s Dog Days of August picnic and celebration, an arts and craft fair for canines and their owners to be held in Dolores Park on Aug. 26 from 3 to 6 p.m. Helping to fill the pet accessories niche, at the fair and in general, is Ana Poe, the brains and beauty behind Paco Collars.
“Dogs are the new kids!” exclaims the lithe and garrulous designer during a visit to her subterranean Oakland studio. Upon my arrival, Poe, her handy assistant Jack, and three rather affectionate pit bulls, one of which had an unfortunate case of the runs, greeted me. The lean and handsome brown pit is Paco himself.
As a self-described “tool whore,” Poe became passionate about craft and animals while growing up in Sonoma County. She raised pygmy goats in the 4-H program for years and learned sewing from her mom. Paco Collars was born four years ago while she was working at Every Dog Has Its Day Care in Emeryville. She wanted a tough-looking collar for Paco, but, as she explains, “The only leather collars I could find had three-inch spikes — and people cross the street when they see him as it is.” Which seems unfair, considering Paco was a perfect angel in my presence.
The eye candy alone on the Paco Collars Web site is enough to make any doggy or kitty owner browse and shop online at length. Mushy-faced bull dogs, newborn pups, and the beckoning Siamese known as Pirate all don the 100 percent handmade leather collars that are Poe’s trade. And the animal handlers aren’t too shabby either.
But I digress. As the story goes, Poe decided to make a collar for her pit that looked cool but nonthreatening. She ended up studding a leather strip with Paco’s name, and her boss at the dog care facility liked it so much, she asked Poe to make one for her dog. She also encouraged the budding leather worker to put a few on display for customers. Eventually Poe decided to go full-time with her hobby, put together a Web site, and hired a handful of part-time employees, mostly other local artists. In the last year, her business has increased threefold.
All of the collars are made from Latigo leather, which is what pros use for horse saddling and is very strong. Paco’s been wearing his sheriff’s collar, sporting gold stars on silver conchos, for more than two years straight. Each collar is named after the animal it was originally designed for. Thus, the Celtic-design-inspired Gunther ($82.99) was made for a pit-lab mix while the Chickie ($45) was crafted especially for a Chihuahua, so that even little dogs can look badass. Harnesses and braided leashes are also for sale, as are special leash add-ons for training purposes. Humans can purchase a variety of wristbands and belts. Custom-designed collars go for about the same price as a comparable collar.
Meet Poe and check out her Paco Collars line at the dog fair or see the goods at George (2411 California, SF; 415-441-0564) and Pawtrero (199 Mississippi, SF; 415-863-7297) pet stores in San Francisco. Also, help raise money for Bad Rap (, the nonprofit that tries to foster a better understanding of pit bull terriers, by attending the Living Room Gallery art show (3230 Adeline, Berk; 510-601-5774, — curated by the very busy Poe — and buying some pit bull–related art at the gallery’s black-tie gala Aug. 19. SFBG

Bike safety chic



Lately, I’ve been feeling too spooked to ride my bike. Chalk it up to too many near misses, some of which occurred when I was just walking my bike home in the rain. I often think of the shoulder injury my friend has yet to fully recover from or be compensated for (damn those uninsured motorists who skip town) after being doored two years ago. It doesn’t help matters that I spent the weekend at an East Bay music festival held annually in memory of Matthew Sperry, a bassist, composer, husband, and dad, whose very special life ended while he was cycling to work at LeapFrog in Emeryville on June 5, 2003. And let’s not forget Sarah Tucker (hit and run accident, 1/12/06) and Spider Davila (deliberate hit and run, 12/17/05).

Looks like I’m not alone in my fretting. According to a "report card" issued by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, 13 percent of us are reluctant to pedal around town because we’re too scared. Overall, our city got a C-minus in bike friendliness from the 1,151 respondents who filled out the SFBC’s online and hand-distributed survey, mostly owing to scary motorists, bumpy streets, and not enough bike lanes (all issues the bicycle coalition works very hard on to make for a better biking city).

Even though I’m afraid of eating pavement while riding, I don’t wear a helmet. I used to, but those things never look good with my outfit. Besides, if two tons of car slams into me while I’m rolling down Gough, a little piece of plastic and foam wrapped around my Gulliver won’t save my life. Some of you fixies reading this article might be nodding in agreement. Well, that’s because your heads are still attached to your bodies.

Fixed-gear bikes do look beautiful, unfettered as they are by brakes, cheap plastic reflectors, and clunky beam lights, but I’m here to say that you don’t always have to sacrifice aesthetics in favor of living to a ripe old age.

Here’s a handful of ways for you, whether you’re a fixie, a chopper rider, a hybrid commuter, a BMX daredevil, or just really vain (like me), to avoid wearing a neck brace as a fashion accessory. Trust me, you and your bike will still look cool.

1. Get a light How many times has a passing motorist screamed that at you? You bitch about it, because every time you buy one, someone steals it, so finally you got one that slides on and off. But it was too big to fit in your pocket, and then some moron decided to strip the light’s pedestal still screwed to your handlebars. I solved this problem by getting a Topeak front beam light ($20). It’s small enough to fit in your mouth, and it straps on kind of like a wristwatch. No screwdriver necessary, no tacky plastic pedestal marring the sleek looks of your untaped handlebars. I got mine at San Francisco Cyclery on Stanyan across from Golden Gate Park.

2. Don’t be a sucker Jerks are also always stealing back lights and reflectors off bikes. Valencia Cyclery sells lots of "lollipop" lights, which are made by Cat Eye and attach with elastic cords to your backpack, seat, helmet, belt loop. They cost $13 for a red and $17 for a more-expensive-to-make white LED light.

3. Cop skater style It’s hard to say how these things get decided, but among the tragically hip, lightweight and aerodynamic helmets specifically made for biking are as out as fanny packs. Case in point: Only hybrid riders wear them. But for some reason, wearing a skateboarding helmet while biking is dope. Whatever, they protect equally well. Giro and Bell make bicycle helmets that look like skater (or BMX) helmets, which are more rounded and human headshaped than the amphibious-looking bike helmets of the ’90s. They come in an array of colors in matte and sparkling finishes. Freewheel and American Cyclery sell them for between 20 and 40 bucks. Skates on Haight sells actual skate helmets online for $20.

4. Just don’t commit suicide Road bikes are more the rage these days, but it’s hard to look out for wayward traffic while leaning over those drop handlebars. Cyclocross interrupter break levers ($20$40) install at the top of the bars, near the stem, allowing road bike riders to sit upright. Since these levers connect to the housing instead of to your lower brakes, they are a much better alternative to the old-school versions often referred to as suicide brakes. Valencia Cyclery will retrofit your vintage road bike with these for $30. SFBG

Freewheel Bike Shop

1920 Hayes and 914 Valencia, SF

(415) 752-9195, (415) 643-9213

San Francisco Bike Coalition’s Report Card

San Francisco Cyclery

672 Stanyan, SF

(415) 379-3870

Valencia Cyclery

1065 Valencia, SF

(415) 550-6601