Introducing the Guardian’s 2011 Amateur Hour talent competition!


In anticipation of our annual arts awards, the GOLDIES, announced November 9, we proud to present 2011 Amateur Hour: The San Francisco Bay Guardian’s Undiscovered Talent Competition.

You could win $200 and be featured on SFBG.com by submitting a 30-second video that showcases your unique talent. Enter now!


   1. Upload your video
   2. Readers vote
   3. The video with the most votes wins!

 For more information, full contest rules, or to enter — click here
. Entry deadline is 10/25. Good luck!


Stage Listings


Stage listings are compiled by Guardian staff. Performance times may change; call venues to confirm. Reviewers are Robert Avila, Rita Felciano, and Nicole Gluckstern. Submit items for the listings at listings@sfbg.com. For further information on how to submit items for the listings, see Picks. For complete listings, see www.sfbg.com.



Act One, Scene Two SF Playhouse, Stage Two, 533 Sutter, SF; (415) 869-5384, www.un-scripted.com. $10-20. Opens Thurs/7, 8pm. Runs Thurs-Sat, 8pm. Through Aug 20. Un-Scripted Theater Company hosts a different playwright each night, performing the first scene of an unfinished play and then improvising its finish.

Not Getting Any Younger Marsh San Francisco, 1062 Valencia, SF; www.themarsh.org. $15-50. Opens Thurs/7, 8pm. Runs Thurs, 8pm; Sat, 8:30pm; Sun, 7pm. Through July 24. Marga Gomez presents a workshop production of her new comedy, her ninth solo show.

Salty Towers Exit Theatre, 156 Eddy, SF; (415) 673-3847, www.theexit.org. $15-25. Opens Thurs/8, 8pm. Runs Thurs-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 3pm. Through July 23. Thunderbird Theatre Company performs a farce that combines Greek mythology with a tale of sea creatures running a two-star hotel.

Twilight Zone Live: Season 8 Dark Room, 2263 Mission, SF; www.ticketturtle.com. $20 ($5 discount if you use the code word “maggie”). Opens Fri/8, 8pm. Runs Fri-Sat, 8pm. Through July 29. The Dark Room Theater presents its eighth annual tribute to classic Twilight Zone episodes.


Macbeth Dominican University of California, Forest Meadows Amphitheater, 1475 Grand, San Rafael; (415) 499-4488, www.marinshakespeare.org. $20-35. Previews Fri/8-Sun/10, 8pm. Opens July 15, 8pm. Performance times vary; check website for schedule. Through Aug 14. Marin Shakespeare Company takes on the Scottish play, opening under a full moon, no less.

The Verona Project Bruns Amphitheater, 100 California Shakespeare Theater Way, Orinda; (510) 548-9666, www.calshakes.org. $35-66. Previews Wed/6-Fri/8, 8pm. Opens Sat/9, 8pm. Runs Tues-Thurs, 7:30pm; Fri-Sat, 8pm (also July 30, 2pm); Sun, 4pm. Through July 31. California Shakespeare Theater performs a world-premiere play (inspired by The Two Gentlemen of Verona) by Amanda Dehnert.


All Atheists Are Muslim Stage Werx, 533 Sutter, SF; www.brownpapertickets.com. $20. Sun/10, 7pm. Zahra Noorbakhsh returns with her timely comedy.

Assisted Living: The Musical Imperial Palace, 818 Washington, SF; 1-888-88-LAUGH, www.assistedlivingthemusical.com. $79.59-99.50 (includes dim sum). Sat-Sun, noon (also Sun, 5pm). Through July 31. Rick Compton and Betsy Bennett’s comedy takes on “the pleasures and perils of later life.”

Billy Elliot Orpheum Theater, 1192 Market, SF; www.shnsf.com/shows/billyelliot. $35-200. Tues-Sat, 8pm (also Wed, 2pm); Sun, 2pm. Through Sept. 17. As a Broadway musical, Billy Elliot proves more enjoyable than the film. The movie’s T. Rex score may have been a major selling point, but it was a bit maudlin for a story that needed no help in that department. The musical naturally has a sentimental moment or three, but it’s much more often funny, muscular in its staging (with repeatedly inspired choreography from Peter Darling), and expansive in its eclectic score (Elton John) and well-wrought book and lyrics (Lee Hall). Moreover, Stephen Daldry (who also directed the 2000 film) plays up bracingly the too-timely class politics of the modest 1980s English mining town besieged by Margaret Thatcher’s neoliberal regime in the latter’s ultimately successful bid to crush the once-powerful miners union. The cast is likewise very strong, beginning with opening night’s impressive J.P. Viernes in the title role. Broadway’s Faith Prince is an especially engaging presence as the ballet teacher who takes an interest in Billy’s inherent talent, setting him on a course out of the doomed town and into London’s Royal Ballet School — much to the violent disgust of his predominantly male and prickly household. The first act is a nearly perfect balance of bawdy humor, aggressive staging, adept scene-setting and character development and a potent tide of song and group choreography that is hard to resist. There are some unfortunate choices later on, like a bit of Peter Pan wire work that has Billy twirling over the stage (an excessive display that hovers awkwardly over dullsville) and in general the second act is not as strong as the first. It’s also the point where the working-class politics paid homage to by the script gets seriously blunted by a concomitant streak of middle-class individualism. But as crowd-pleasing entertainment the musical burrows deep and more often than not comes up with gold. (Avila)

The Book of Liz Custom Made Theatre, 1620 Gough, SF; www.custommade.org. $10-29. Thurs-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 7pm. Through July 31. Custom Made Theatre performs David and Amy Sedaris’ comedy about an unconventional nun.

“Fury Factory 2011” Various venues and prices; www.brownpapertickets.com. Through Tues/12. Over 30 Bay Area and national companies participate in this bi-annual theater festival.

Indulgences in the Louisville Harem Phoenix Theatre, 414 Mason, SF; 1-800-838-3006, www.offbroadwaywest.org. $20-40. Thurs-Sat, 8pm. Through July 30. Two spinster sisters find unlikely beaux in Off Broadway West Theatre’s production of John Orlock’s play.

The Pride New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness, SF; (415) 861-8972, www.nctcsf.org. $24-40. Wed/6-Sat/9, 8pm; Sun/10, 2pm. New Conservatory Theatre Center performs the West Coast premiere of Alexi Kaye Campbell’s love-triangle time warp drama.

*Vice Palace: The Last Cockettes Musical Thrillpeddlers’ Hypnodrome, 575 10th St; (800) 838-3006, www.brownpapertickets.com. $30-35. Fri-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 7pm. Through July 31. Hot on the high heels of a 22-month run of Pearls Over Shanghai, the Thrillpeddlers are continuing their Theatre of the Ridiculous revival with a tits-up, balls-out production of the Cockettes’ last musical, Vice Palace. Loosely based on the terrifyingly grim “Masque of the Red Death” by Edgar Allan Poe, part of the thrill of Palace is the way that it weds the campy drag-glamour of Pearls Over Shanghai with the Thrillpeddlers’ signature Grand Guignol aesthetic. From an opening number set on a plague-stricken street (“There’s Blood on Your Face”) to a charming little cabaret about Caligula, staged with live assassinations, an undercurrent of darkness runs like blood beneath the shameless slapstick of the thinly-plotted revue. As plague-obsessed hostess Divina (Leigh Crow) and her right-hand “gal” Bella (Eric Tyson Wertz) try to distract a group of stir-crazy socialites from the dangers outside the villa walls, the entertainments range from silly to salacious: a suggestively-sung song about camel’s humps, the wistful ballad “Just a Lonely Little Turd,” a truly unexpected Rite of Spring-style dance number entitled “Flesh Ballet.” Sumptuously costumed by Kara Emry, cleverly lit by Nicholas Torre, accompanied by songwriter/lyricist (and original Cockette) Scrumbly Koldewyn, and anchored by a core of Thrillpeddler regulars, Palace is one nice vice. (Gluckstern)

What Mamma Said About Down There SF Downtown Comedy Theater, 287 Ellis, SF; www.sfdowntowncomedytheater.com. $15. Thurs-Sat, 8pm. Through August 20. Sia Amma returns with her solo comedy.


All My Children Cabaret at Marsh Berkeley, 2120 Allston, Berk; www.themarsh.org. $20-50. Fri, 8pm; Sat, 8:30pm. Through July 23. Not the soap opera — it’s Seattle Improv co-founder Matt Smith in his comedy about a middle-aged man with boundary issues.

East 14th: True Tales of a Reluctant Player Marsh Berkeley, 2120 Allston, Berk; www.themarsh.org. $20-50. Sat, 8:30pm; Sun, 7pm. Through Aug 7. Don Reed’s hit solo comedy receives one last extension before Reed debuts his new show (a sequel to East 14th) in the fall.

Metamorphosis Aurora Theatre, 2081 Addison, Berk; (510) 843-4822, www.auroratheatre.org. $10-55. Tues and Sun, 7pm (also Sun, 2pm); Wed-Sat, 8pm. Through July 17. Aurora Theatre Company performs a terrifying yet comic adaptation of Kafka’s classic by David Farr and Gísli Örn Gardarsson.

A Raisin in the Sun Pear Avenue Theatre, 1220 Pear, Mtn. View; (650) 254-1148, www.thepear.org. $15-30. Thurs/7-Sat/9, 8pm; Sun/10, 2pm. Lorraine Hansberry’s classic play comes to life on the Pear Avenue Theatre stage.

2012: The Musical! Cedar Rose Park, 1300 Rose, Berk; www.sfmt.org. Free. Sat/9-Sun/10, 2pm. Continues through Sept. 25 at various Bay Area venues. San Francisco Mime Troupe mounts their annual summer musical; this year’s show is about a political theater company torn between selling out and staying true to its anti-corporate roots.

*Working for the Mouse La Val’s Subterranean, 1834 Euclid, Berk; www.impacttheatre.com. $10-20. Thurs/7-Fri/8, 8pm. It might not come as a surprise to hear that even “the happiest place on earth” has a dark side, but hearing Trevor Allen describe it during this long overdue reprise of 2002’s Working for the Mouse, will put a smile on your face as big as Mickey’s. With a burst of youthful energy, Allen bounds onto the tiny stage of Impact Theatre to confess his one-time aspiration to never grow up — a desire which made auditioning for the role of Peter Pan at Disneyland a sensible career move. But in order to break into the big time of “charactering,” one must pay some heavy, plush-covered dues. As Allen creeps up the costumed hierarchy one iconic cartoon figure at a time, he finds himself unwittingly enmeshed in a world full of backroom politics, union-busting, drug addled surfer dudes with peaches-and-cream complexions, sexual tension, showboating, job suspension, Make-A-Wish Foundation heartbreak, hash brownies, rabbit vomit, and accidental decapitation. Smoothly paced and astutely crafted, Working for the Mouse will either shatter your blissful ignorance or confirm your worst suspicions about the corporate Disney machine, but either way, it will probably make you treat any “Casual Seasonal Pageant Helpers” you see running around in their sweaty character suits with a whole lot more empathy. (Gluckstern)


Front Line Theatre CounterPULSE, 1310 Mission, SF; www.brownpapertickets.com. Fri/8-Sun/10, 8pm. Also July 21-23, 8pm, Garage, 975 Howard, SF; www.brownpapertickets.com. Both venues, $20. The company presents the world premiere of Rare Earth, a verse-and-movement comedy about waste and the past.

Miguel Gutierrez Garage, 975 Howard, SF; www.brownpapertickets.com. Fri-Sun, 8pm. $15. The choreographer performs his 2010 work Heavens What Have I Done as part of Verge, the Garage’s workshop series.

LINES Ballet Summer Program Cowell Theater, Fort Mason Center, Marina at Laguna, SF; www.linesballet.org. Tues/12, 7:30pm. $15. The LINES Ballet Summer Program celebrates its 10th anniversary with the first of two student showcases.

“OMFG! The Internet Dating Musical” ODC Theater, 3153 17th St, SF; www.odctheater.org. Fri-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 2pm. Through July 17. $15-18. ODC Theater Resident Artist Chris Winslow presents his new comedy about a couple who both fear they can’t live up to reality after meeting online.

“Project Bust” Z Space, 450 Florida, SF; www.brownpapertickets.com. Wed/6 and Aug 3, 8pm. $15. Malinda LaVelle presents her evening-length dance-theater piece.

“Sympathetic: An Aerial Dance Performance Honoring Labor” Rincon Annex Post Office, 121 Spear, SF; (415) 564-4010. Sat, 1 and 3pm. Free. The Labor Archives and Research Center, San Francisco State University, and Flyaway Productions present this work honoring the 1934 San Francisco General Strike by choreographer Jo Kreiter and musician Pamela Z.

“The Tinker Show” Stage Werx, 533 Sutter, SF; www.thetinkershow.com. Thurs-Fri, 8pm. $18-20. “Old school immaturity” via live sketch comedy and improv, plus original short films.

Yubiwa Hotel Performing Arts Company NOHspace, 2640 Mariposa, SF; www.sfiaf.org. Fri, 8pm; Sun, 3pm. $12. The company performs the play Mesujika Doe, a Japanese-American collaboration from Shirotama Hitsujiya and Trista Baldwin.

Film Listings


Film listings are edited by Cheryl Eddy. Reviewers are Kimberly Chun, Michelle Devereaux, Peter Galvin, Max Goldberg, Dennis Harvey, Johnny Ray Huston, Louis Peitzman, Lynn Rapoport, Ben Richardson, and Matt Sussman. For rep house showtimes, see Rep Clock. For first-run showtimes, see Movie Guide. Due to the Fourth of July holiday, theater information was incomplete at presstime.


A Better Life Demian Bichir (Weeds) stars in this drama about an immigrant family struggling to realize the American dream. (1:38)

Horrible Bosses Jason Bateman and Jennifer Aniston star in this workplace comedy. (1:33)

How to Live Forever After his mother died, documentarian Mark S. Wexler began to seriously contemplate aging and, inevitably, his own death. A certain amount of baby boomer naval-gazing is the inevitable result, but Wexler is curious enough to expand his quest into realms beyond his own graying hair and expanding midsection. The film’s (mostly) tongue-in-cheek title comes into play as he visits scientists, inventors, new age types, cryonics-facility workers, and doctors with various anti-aging philosophies and agendas. But probably the most compelling long-life widsom comes from the elderly folks he visits for practical advice. While the Guinness record-holding 114-year-olds aren’t much for coherent communication, quite a few of the 80-, 90- and 100-somethings Wexler talks to suggest that simply being a spitfire is a key to longevity. Highlights include the late fitness guru Jack LaLanne, enviably energetic in his mid-90s; a 104-year-old Brit who’s a smoker, drinker, and aspiring marathoner; and an 80-year-old tap dancer who decides to compete in a beauty pageant for senior citizens. “I’m older than he is,” she giggles of her boyfriend. “But he can drive at night!” (1:34) (Eddy)

Vincent Wants to Sea An anorexic, an obsessive-compulsive, and someone with Tourette syndrome go on a roadtrip: it’s not the setup to a bad joke, it’s the gist of Vincent Wants to Sea, a mostly fun, sometimes touching, but often improbable film. When Vincent’s mother dies, his father (Heino Ferch) decides it’s time for Vincent (Florian David Fitz — who also wrote the screenplay) to once and for all eradicate his tics and spasms and sequesters him at a summer camp-esque institution in the German countryside. The subsequent escape and journey to the Italian coast (where Vincent hopes to scatter his mother’s ashes) with two fellow patients, the anorexic Marie (Karoline Herfuth) and the Bach-loving compulsive Alex (Johannes Allmayer), is rife with self-discovery and uplifting music, so much so that it sometimes resembles a Levi’s ad more than a feature film. There’s real heart and humor beneath the cheese, but there’s a lot of cheese. (1:36) (Cooper Berkmoyer)

Zookeeper Kevin James graduates from policing mall rats to hanging with talking zoo animals. (1:42)


The Art of Getting By The Art of Getting By is all about those confusing, mixed-up and apparently sexually frustrating months before high school graduation. George (Freddie Highmore) is a trench coat-wearing misanthrope — an old soul, as they say — whose parents and teachers are always trying to put him inside a box and tell him how to think. He finds a kindred sprit in Sally (Emma Roberts) who smokes and watches Louis Malle films. Hot. Heavily scored by the now-ancient songs of early ’00s blog bands, it may all sound like indie bullshit but this one has charm and wit despite its post-trend package. Like a sad little crayon, Highmore is a competent Michael Cera surrogate du jour. Writer-director Gavin Wiesen embraces hell of clichés, but he suitably sums up a generational angst along the way. The film may not always feel real, but it does have real feeling. Look out for great performances from Blair Underwood and Alicia Silverstone. (1:24) (Ryan Lattanzio)

Bad Teacher Jake Kasdan, the once-talented director of a few Freaks and Geeks episodes and 2002’s underrated Orange County, seems hell-bent on humiliating everyone in the cast of Bad Teacher. Cameron Diaz is Elizabeth, the title’s criminally bad pedagogue who prefers the Jack Daniels method to the Socratic. Her impetus for pounding Harper Lee into her middle school students’ bug-eyed little heads is to cash in on a bonus check to fund her breast-y ambitions and woo Justin Timberlake and his baby voice. The only likable onscreen presence is Jason Segal as a sad sack gym teacher in love with Elizabeth. But he could do so much better. There’s no shortage of racist jokes and potty humor in this R-rated comedy pandering to those 17 and below. When asked if she wants to go out with her coworkers, Elizabeth ripostes, “I’d rather get shot in the face!” That scenario is likely a better alternative than suffering this steaming pile of cash cow carcass. (1:29) (Lattanzio)

*Beginners There is nothing conventional about Beginners, a film that starts off with the funeral arrangements for one of its central characters. That man is Hal (Christopher Plummer), who came out to his son Oliver (Ewan McGregor) at the ripe age of 75. Through flashbacks, we see the relationship play out — Oliver’s inability to commit tempered by his father’s tremendous late-stage passion for life. Hal himself is a rare character: an elderly gay man, secure in his sexuality and, by his own admission, horny. He even has a much younger boyfriend, played by the handsome Goran Visnjic. While the father-son bond is the heart of Beginners, we also see the charming development of a relationship between Oliver and French actor Anna (Mélanie Laurent). It all comes together beautifully in a film that is bittersweet but ultimately satisfying. Beginners deserves praise not only for telling a story too often left untold, but for doing so with grace and a refreshing sense of whimsy. (1:44) (Peitzman)

*Bill Cunningham New York To say that Bill Cunningham, the 82-year old New York Times photographer, has made documenting how New Yorkers dress his life’s work would be an understatement. To be sure, Cunningham’s two decades-old Sunday Times columns — “On the Street,” which tracks street-fashion, and “Evening Hours,” which covers the charity gala circuit — are about the clothes. And, my, what clothes they are. But Cunningham is a sartorial anthropologist, and his pictures always tell the bigger story behind the changing hemlines, which socialite wore what designer, or the latest trend in footwear. Whether tracking the near-infinite variations of a particular hue, a sudden bumper-crop of cropped blazers, or the fanciful leaps of well-heeled pedestrians dodging February slush puddles, Cunningham’s talent lies in his ability to recognize fleeting moments of beauty, creativity, humor, and joy. That last quality courses through Bill Cunningham New York, Richard Press’ captivating and moving portrait of a man whose reticence and personal asceticism are proportional to his total devotion to documenting what Harold Koda, chief curator at the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, describes in the film as “ordinary people going about their lives, dressed in fascinating ways.” (1:24) (Sussman)

Bride Flight Who doesn’t love a sweeping Dutch period piece? Ben Sombogaart’s Bride Flight is pure melodrama soup, enough to give even the most devout arthouse-goer the bloats. Emigrating from post-World War II Holland to New Zealand with two gal pals, the sweetly staid Ada (Karina Smulders) falls for smarm-ball Frank (Waldemar Torenstra, the Dutchman’s James Franco) and kind of joins the mile high club to the behest of her conscience. The women arrive with emotional baggage and carry-ons of the uterine kind. As the harem adjusts to the country mores of the Highlands, Frank tries a poke at all of them in a series of sex scenes more moldy than smoldery. This Flight, set to a plodding score and stuffy mise-en-scene, never quite leaves the runway. Not to mention the whole picture, pale as a corpse, resembles one of those old-timey photographs of your great grandma’s wedding. These kinds of pastoral romances ought to be put out to, well, pasture. (2:10) (Lattanzio)

*Bridesmaids For anyone burned out on bad romantic comedies, Bridesmaids can teach you how to love again. This film is an answer to those who have lamented the lack of strong female roles in comedy, of good vehicles for Saturday Night Live cast members, of an appropriate showcase for Melissa McCarthy. The hilarious but grounded Kristen Wiig stars as Annie, whose best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph) is getting hitched. Financially and romantically unstable, Annie tries to throw herself into her maid of honor duties — all while competing with the far more refined Helen (Rose Byrne). Bridesmaids is one of the best comedies in recent memory, treating its relatable female characters with sympathy. It’s also damn funny from start to finish, which is more than can be said for most of the comedies Hollywood continues to churn out. Here’s your choice: let Bridesmaids work its charm on you, or never allow yourself to complain about an Adam Sandler flick again. (2:04) (Peitzman)

Buck This documentary paints a portrait of horse trainer Buck Brannaman as a sort of modern-day sage, a sentimental cowboy who helps “horses with people problems.” Brannaman has transcended a background of hardship and abuse to become a happy family man who makes a difference for horses and their owners all over the country with his unconventional, humane colt-starting clinics. Though he doesn’t actually whisper to horses, he served as an advisor and inspiration for Robert Redford’s The Horse Whisperer (1998). Director Cindy Meehl focuses generously on her saintly subject’s bits of wisdom in and out of a horse-training setting — e.g. “Everything you do with a horse is a dance” — as well as heartfelt commentary from friends and colleagues. In the harrowing final act of the film, Brannaman deals with a particularly unruly horse and his troubled owner, highlighting the dire and disturbing consequences of improper horse rearing. (1:28) Smith Rafael. (Sam Stander)

Cars 2 You pretty much can’t say a bad thing about a Pixar film. Cars 2 is by no means Ratatouille (2007) or Wall-E (2008), but the sequel to the 2006 hit Cars offers plenty of sleek visuals and one-note gags under its hollow hood. If nothing else, Pixar seems to have overcome the dingy, dark glaze that plagues 3-D films. Directors John Lasseter and Joe Ranft return to beloved autos Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) and the “extremely American” Mater (Larry the Cable Guy). This time around, secret agents Finn McMissile (Michael Caine) and Holley Shiftwell (Emily Mortimer) come along for the ride while working to expose sabotage in the alternative fuel industry. Compelling chase sequences, explosions and more than a few jabs at cultural stereotypes follow suit. This is the lightest, silliest Pixar film to date, but you probably don’t have any business seeing it unless you’ve got a kid in tow. (1:52) Balboa. (Lattanzio)

*Cave of Forgotten Dreams The latest documentary from Werner Herzog once again goes where no filmmaker — or many human beings, for that matter — has gone before: the Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc Cave, a heavily-guarded cavern in Southern France containing the oldest prehistoric artwork on record. Access is highly restricted, but Herzog’s 3D study is surely the next best thing to an in-person visit. The eerie beauty of the works leads to a typically Herzog-ian quest to learn more about the primitive culture that produced the paintings; as usual, Herzog’s experts have their own quirks (like a circus performer-turned-scientist), and the director’s own wry narration is peppered with random pop culture references and existential ponderings. It’s all interwoven with footage of crude yet beautiful renderings of horses and rhinos, calcified cave-bear skulls, and other time-capsule peeks at life tens of thousands of years ago. The end result is awe-inspiring. (1:35) (Eddy)

Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop seems less of a movie title and more like a hushed comment shared between one of the many hangers-on during the filming of the “Legally Prohibited From Being Funny On Television Tour.” Throughout 23 cities’ worth of footage, O’Brien seethes, paces, sweats, yells and beats dead jokes so hard that they spring back to life, as he is wont to do. At this point, the Leno/Coco drama is a bit stale — at least in internet time — but the documentary is a fascinating comedian character study nonetheless. It may be hard to sympathize with a man nursing a bruised ego as he cashes a $45 million dollar check, but it’s easy to see that he’s one of the best late night hosts (temporarily off) the air. Split primarily between clips of O’Brien performing songs on stage with a myriad of celebrity guests and bemoaning how exhausted and frustrated he is, Can’t Stop derives most of its hilarity from the off-the-cuff comments that pepper Conan’s everyday conversations. (1:29) (David Getman)

*The Double Hour Slovenian hotel maid Sonia (Ksenia Rappoport) and security guard Guido (Filippo Timi) are two lonely people in the Italian city of Turin. They find one another (via a speed-dating service) and things are seriously looking up for the fledgling couple when calamity strikes. This first feature by music video director Giuseppe Capotondi takes a spare, somber approach to a screenplay (by Alessandro Fabbri, Ludovica Rampoldi, and Stefano Sardo) that strikingly keeps raising, then resisting genre categorization. Suffice it to say their story goes from lonely-hearts romance to violent thriller, ghost story, criminal intrigue, and yet more. It doesn’t all work seamlessly, but such narrative unpredictability is so rare at the movies these days that The Double Hour is worth seeing simply for the satisfying feeling of never being sure where it’s headed. (1:35) (Harvey)

Empire of Silver Love, not money, is at the core of Empire of Silver — that’s the M.O. of a Shanxi banking family’s libertine third son, or “Third Master” (Aaron Kwok) in this epic tug-of-war between Confucian duty and free will. The Third Master pines for his true love, his stepmother (Hao Lei), yet change is going off all around the star-crossed couple in China at the end of the 19th century and the start of the 20th, and the youthful scion ends up pouring his passion into the family business, attempting to tread his own path, apart from his Machiavellian father (Tielin Zhang). Much like her protagonist, however, director (and Stanford alum) Christina Yao seems more besotted with romance than finance, bathing those scenes with the love light and sensual hues reminiscent of Zhang Yimou’s early movies. Though Yao handles the widescreen crowd scenes with aplomb, her chosen focus on money, rather than honey, leaches the action of its emotional charge. It doesn’t help that, on the heels of the Great Recession, it’s unlikely that anyone buys the idea of a financial industry with ironclad integrity — or gives a flying yuan about the lives of bankers. (1:52) (Chun)

Green Lantern This latest DC Comics-to-film adaptation fails to recognize the line between awesome fantasy-action and cheeseball absurdity, often resembling the worst excesses of the Christopher Reeve Superman movies. A surprisingly palatable Ryan Reynolds stars as Hal Jordan, the cocky test pilot who is chosen to wield a power ring as a member of an intergalactic police force called the Green Lantern Corps. He must face down Parallax, an alien embodiment of fear, who appears here as a chuckle-inducing floating head surrounded by tentacles. Peter Sarsgaard is effectively nauseating as Hector Hammond, who becomes Parallax’s crony after he is transformed by a transfusion of fear energy. The acting is all over the map, with Blake Lively’s blank-faced love interest caricature as the weakest link, and the effects are hit-or-miss, but scenes featuring alien Green Lanterns should please fans, and you could probably do worse if you’re looking for an entertaining popcorn flick. (1:45) (Stander)

The Hangover Part II What do you do with a problematic mess like Hangover Part II? I was a fan of The Hangover (2009), as well as director-cowriter Todd Phillips’ 1994 GG Allin doc, Hated, so I was rooting for II, this time set in the East’s Sin City of Bangkok, while simultaneously dreading the inevitable Asian/”ching-chang-chong” jokes. Would this would-be hit sequel be funnier if they packed in more of those? Doubtful. The problem is that most of II‘s so-called humor, Asian or no, falls completely flat — and any gross-out yuks regarding wicked, wicked Bangkok are fairly old hat at this point, long after Shocking Asia (1976) and innumerable episodes of No Reservations and other extreme travel offerings. This Hangover around, mild-ish dentist Stu (Ed Helms) is heading to the altar with Lauren (The Real World: San Diego‘s Jamie Chung), with buds Phil (Bradley Cooper) and Doug (Justin Bartha) in tow. Alan (Zach Galifianakis) has completely broken with reality — he’s the pity invite who somehow ropes in the gangster wild-card Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong). Blackouts, natch, and not-very-funny high jinks ensue, with Jeong, surprisingly, pulling small sections of II out of the crapper. Phillips obviously specializes in men-behaving-badly, but II‘s most recent character tweaks, turning Phil into an arrogant, delusional creep and Alan into an arrogant, delusional kook, seem beside the point. Because almost none of the jokes work, and that includes the tired jabs at tranny strippers because we all know how supposedly straight white guys get hella grossed out by brown chicks with dicks. Lame. (1:42) (Chun)

Happy Happy, a documentary by Roko Belic (1999’s Genghis Blues), traces the contented lifestyles of men and women around the globe. Manoj Singh is a Kolkata rickshaw driver sustained by his son’s smile. Anne Bechsgaard’s life is enriched by her co-housing community in Denmark. These soothingly sentimental profiles are intercut with commentary from leading neuroscientists and psychologists. They provide a cursory guide to the rare balancing act that is happiness in the 21st century. A brisk 75 minutes, the film is saturated with thought-provoking tidbits (the Bhutan government aims for gross national happiness instead of GDP) and an ambient backing track that’s heavy on the chimes. However, sometimes there’s the sense that these mechanics of happiness aren’t cinematically compelling enough, and that rifling through a couple Wikipedia pages might offer just as much insight. At its best, Happy sparks a reflection on how many of the unofficial criteria for joy one has fulfilled, and suggests ideas for simple happiness boosters. (1:15) Roxie. (Getman)

Kung Fu Panda 2 The affable affirmations of 2008’s Kung Fu Panda take a back seat to relentlessly elaborate, gag-filled action sequences in this DreamWorks Animation sequel, which ought to satisfy kids but not entertain their parents as much as its predecessor. Po (voiced by Jack Black), the overeating panda and ordained Dragon Warrior of the title, joins forces with a cavalcade of other sparring wildlife to battle Lord Shen (Gary Oldman), a petulant peacock whose arsenal of cannons threatens to overwhelm kung fu. But Shen is also part of Po’s hazy past, so the panda’s quest to save China is also a quest for self-fulfillment and “inner peace.” There’s less character development in this installment, though the growing friendship between Po and the “hardcore” Tigress (Angelina Jolie) is occasionally touching. The 3-D visuals are rarely more than a gimmick, save for a series of eye-catching flashbacks in the style of cel-shaded animation. (1:30) (Stander)

Larry Crowne While Transformers: Dark of the Moon may be getting all the attention for being the most terrible summer movie, I’d like to propose Larry Crowne as the bigger offender. No, it doesn’t have the abrasive effects of a Michael Bay blockbuster, but it’s surely just as incompetent. And coming from an actor as talented as Tom Hanks — who co-wrote, directed, produced, and stars in the film —Larry Crowne is insulting. The plot, insofar as there is one, centers around the titular Larry (Hanks), a man who goes to community college, joins a scooter gang led by Wilmer Valderrama, and ends up falling for his cranky, alcoholic teacher Mercedes (Julia Roberts). The scenes are thrown together hapharzadly, with no real sense of character development or continuity. Larry Crowne doesn’t even feel like a romantic comedy until a drunk Mercedes begins kissing and dry humping her student. But hey, who can resist a shot of Larry’s middle-aged bottom as he tries to wriggle into jeans that are just too small? (1:39) (Peitzman)

Midnight in Paris Owen Wilson plays Gil, a self-confessed “Hollywood hack” visiting the City of Light with his conservative future in-laws and crassly materialistic fiancée Inez (Rachel McAdams). A romantic obviously at odds with their selfish pragmatism (somehow he hasn’t realized that yet), he’s in love with Paris and particularly its fabled artistic past. Walking back to his hotel alone one night, he’s beckoned into an antique vehicle and finds himself transported to the 1920s, at every turn meeting the Fitzgeralds, Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates), Dali (Adrien Brody), etc. He also meets Adriana (Marion Cotillard), a woman alluring enough to be fought over by Hemingway (Corey Stoll) and Picasso (Marcial di Fonzo Bo) — though she fancies aspiring literary novelist Gil. Woody Allen’s latest is a pleasant trifle, no more, no less. Its toying with a form of magical escapism from the dreary present recalls The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985), albeit without that film’s greater structural ingeniousness and considerable heart. None of the actors are at their best, though Cotillard is indeed beguiling and Wilson dithers charmingly as usual. Still — it’s pleasant. (1:34) Balboa. (Harvey)

Monte Carlo (1:48)

Mr. Nice By the second hour of Mr. Nice, star Rhys Ifans and company have exhausted every possible pot smoking flourish. There’s the seductive French inhale by the pool, the suggestive mouth to mouth, the euphoric dragon release in the deserts of Pakistan: all rendered in extreme close-up with improbably thick plumes of white smoke. Mr. Nice is mostly sexy drug use tutorial, though it’s also part biography of real-life drug smuggler Howard Marks. His claim to fame — at least according to the movie’s tagline — is the sheer number of aliases, phone lines, and children he had (43, 89, and 4, respectively). Unexpectedly, it’s the period costuming, cinematography, and the enchanting listlessness of Chloe Sevigny that redeem the film. Mr. Nice is captivatingly interlaced with vintage news and scenery clips from the period and it’s shot in a way that is both hyper-stylized and erratic. Those twists and turns of Marks’s life turn out to be not nearly as suspenseful onscreen as they should be, making the movie less of a traditional drug thriller and more of a mildly interesting reflection on the culture of the period. (2:01) (Getman)

Mr. Popper’s Penguins (1:35)

*My Perestroika Robin Hessman’s very engaging documentary takes one very relatable look at how changes since glasnost have affected some average Russians. The subjects here are five thirtysomethings who, growing up in Moscow in the 70s and 80s, were the last generation to experience full-on Communist Party indoctrination. But just as they reached adulthood, the whole system dissolved, confusing long-held beliefs and variably impacting their futures. Andrei has ridden the capitalist choo-choo to considerable enrichment as the proprietor of luxury Western menswear shops. But single mother Olga, unlucky in love, just scrapes by, while married schoolteachers Lyuba and Boris are lucky to have inherited an apartment (cramped as it is) they could otherwise ill afford. Meanwhile Ruslan, once member of a famous punk band (which he abandoned on principal because it was getting “too commercial”), both disdains and resents the new order just as he did the old one. Home movies and old footage of pageantry celebrating Soviet socialist glory make a whole ‘nother era come to life in this intimate, unexpectedly charming portrait of its long-term aftermath. (1:27) Balboa. (Harvey)

*Page One: Inside the New York Times When Andrew Rossi’s documentary premiered at Sundance this January, word of mouth on it was respectable but qualified, with nearly everyone opining that it was good … just not what they’d been led to expect. What they expected was (in line with the original subtitle A Year Inside the New York Times) a top-to-bottom overview of how the nation’s most respected — and in some circles resented — arbiter of news, “style,” and culture is created on a day-to-day as well as longer term basis. That’s something that would doubtless fascinate anyone still interested in print media, or even that realm of web media not catering to the ADD nation. But that big picture and the wealth of minute cogs within isn’t Page One‘s subject. Instead, Rossi focuses on the Gray Lady’s wrestling with admittedly fast-changing times in which newspapers and any other information source on paper seem to constitute an endangered species. This particular Times, however, is such a special case that that crisis might better have been explored by training a camera on a less fabled publication, perhaps one of the many that have succumbed to a once unthinkable, market-shrunk mortality in recent years. The film finds its colorful protagonist in David Carr, an ex-crack addict turned media columnist who retains his cranky, nonconformist edge even as he defends the Times itself from the same out-with-the-old cheerleaders who 15 years ago were inflating the dot-com boom till it burst. Facing one particularly smug champion of the blogosphere at a forum, Carr notes that without a few remaining outlets — like the Times — doing the hard work of serious research and reportage, the web would have nothing to purloin or offer but its own unending trivia and gossip. Page One does what it does entertainingly well, but if you’re looking for insight toward this not-dead-yet U.S. institution as a whole, you’d be better off simply picking up this week’s Sunday edition and reading every last word. (1:28) Smith Rafael. (Harvey)

*Super 8 The latest from J.J. Abrams is very conspicuously produced by Steven Spielberg; it evokes 1982’s E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial as well as 1985’s The Goonies and 1982’s Poltergeist (so Spielbergian in nature you’d be forgiven for assuming he directed, rather than simply produced, the pair). But having Grandpa Stevie blessing your flick is surely a good thing, especially when you’re already as capable as Abrams. Super 8 is set in 1979, high time for its titular medium, used by a group of horror movie-loving kids to film their backyard zombie epic; later in the film, old-school celluloid reveals the mystery behind exactly what escaped following a spectacular train wreck on the edge of their small Ohio town. The PG-13 Super 8 aims to frighten, albeit gently; there’s a lot of nostalgia afoot, and things do veer into sappiness at the end (that, plus the band of kids at its center, evoke the trademarks of another Grandpa Stevie: Stephen King). But the kid actors (especially the much-vaunted Elle Fanning) are great, and there’s palpable imagination and atmosphere afoot, rare qualities in blockbusters today. Super 8 tries, and mostly succeeds, in progressing the fears and themes addressed by E.T. (divorce, loneliness, growing up) into century 21, making the unknowns darker and the consequences more dire. (1:52) (Eddy)

*13 Assassins 13 Assassins is clearly destined to be prolific director Takashi Miike’s greatest success outside Japan yet. It’s another departure for the multi-genre-conquering Miike, doubtless one of the most conventional movies he’s made in theme and execution. That’s key to its appeal — rigorously traditional, taking its sweet time getting to samurai action that is pointedly not heightened by wire work or CGI, it arrives at the kind of slam-dunk prolonged battle climax that only a measured buildup can let you properly appreciate. In the 1840s, samurai are in decline but feudalism is still hale. It’s a time of peace, though not for the unfortunates who live under regional tyrant Lord Naritsugu (Goro Inagaki), a li’l Nippon Caligula who taxes and oppresses his people to the point of starvation. Alas, the current Shogun is his sibling, and plans to make little bro his chief adviser — so a concerned Shogun official secretly hires veteran samurai Shinzaemon (Koji Yakusho) to assassinate the Lord. Fully an hour is spent on our hero doing “assembling the team” stuff, recruiting other unemployed, retired, or wannabe samurai. When the protagonists finally commence their mission, their target is already aware he’s being pursued, and he’s surrounded by some 200 soldiers by the time Miike arrives at the film’s sustained, spectacular climax: a small village which Shinzaemon and co. have turned into a giant boobytrap so that 13 men can divide and destroy an ogre-guarding army. A major reason why mainstream Hollywood fantasy and straight action movies have gotten so depressingly interchangeable is that digital FX and stunt work can (and does) visualize any stupid idea — heroes who get thrown 200 feet into walls by monsters then getting up to fight some more, etc. 13 Assassins is thrilling because its action, while sporting against-the-odds ingeniousness and sheer luck by our heroes as in any trad genre film, is still vividly, bloodily, credibly physical. (2:06) (Harvey)

Transformers: Dark of the Moon I’ll never understand the wisdom behind epic-length children’s movies. What child — or adult, for that matter — wants to sit through 154 minutes of assaultive popcorn entertainment? It’s an especially confounding decision for this third installment in the Transformers franchise because there’s a fantastic 90-minute movie in there, undone at every turn by some of the worst jokes, most pointless characters, and most hateful cultural politics you’re likely to see this summer. But when I say a fantastic movie, I mean a fantastic movie. It took two very expensive earlier attempts before director Michael Bay figured out that big things require a big canvas. Every shot of Dark of the Moon‘s predecessors seemed designed to hide their effects by crowding the screen. Finally we get the full view — the scale is now rightly calibrated to operatic and ridiculous. The marquee set pieces are inspired and terrifying, eliciting a sense of vertigo that’s earned for once, not imposed by the editing. The human hijinks are less consistent but ingratiatingly batshit, and without resorting to preening self-awareness and elaborately contrived mea culpas. But unfortunately Bay is too unapologetic even to walk back the ethnic buffoonery that not only upsets hippies like me but also seems defiantly disharmonious with the movie he’s trying to make. Bay is like that guy at the party who thinks amping up the racism will prove he’s not a racist. It’s that kind of garbage (plus, I guess, some universal primal hatred of Shia LaBeouf that I don’t really get) that makes people dismiss these movies wholesale. This time it’s just not deserved. I wouldn’t want to meet the asshole who made this thing, but credit where credit is due. It’s a visual marvel with perfectly integrated, utterly tactile, brilliantly choreographed CG robotics — a point that’ll no doubt be conceded in passing as if it’s not the very reason the movie exists. As if it’s not a feat of mastery to make a megaton changeling truck look graceful. (2:34) (Jason Shamai)

The Tree of Life Mainstream American films are so rarely adventuresome that overreactive gratitude frequently greets those rare, self-conscious, usually Oscar-baiting stabs at profundity. Terrence Malick has made those gestures so sparingly over four decades that his scarcity is widely taken for genius. Now there’s The Tree of Life, at once astonishingly ambitious — insofar as general addressing the origin/meaning of life goes — and a small domestic narrative artificially inflated to a maximally pretentious pressure-point. The thesis here is a conflict between “nature” (the way of striving, dissatisfied, angry humanity) and “grace” (the way of love, femininity, and God). After a while Tree settles into a fairly conventional narrative groove, dissecting — albeit in meandering fashion — the travails of a middle-class Texas household whose patriarch (a solid Brad Pitt) is sternly demanding of his three young sons. As a modern-day survivor of that household, Malick’s career-reviving ally Sean Penn has little to do but look angst-ridden while wandering about various alien landscapes. Set in Waco but also shot in Rome, at Versailles, and in Saturn’s orbit (trust me), The Tree of Life is so astonishingly self-important while so undernourished on some basic levels that it would be easy to dismiss as lofty bullshit. Its Cannes premiere audience booed and cheered — both factions right, to an extent. (2:18) (Harvey)

*The Trip Eclectic British director Michael Winterbottom rebounds from sexually humiliating Jessica Alba in last year’s flop The Killer Inside Me to humiliating Steve Coogan in all number of ways (this time to positive effect) in this largely improvised comic romp through England’s Lake District. Well, romp might be the wrong descriptive — dubbed a “foodie Sideways” but more plaintive and less formulaic than that sun-dappled California affair, this TV-to-film adaptation displays a characteristic English glumness to surprisingly keen emotional effect. Playing himself, Coogan displays all the carefree joie de vivre of a colonoscopy patient with hemorrhoids as he sloshes through the gray northern landscape trying to get cell reception when not dining on haute cuisine or being wracked with self-doubt over his stalled movie career and love life. Throw in a happily married, happy-go-lucky frenemy (comic actor Rob Brydon) and Coogan (TV’s I’m Alan Partridge), can’t help but seem like a pathetic middle-aged prick in a puffy coat. Somehow, though, his confused narcissism is a perverse panacea. Come for the dueling Michael Caine impressions and snot martinis, stay for the scallops and Brydon’s “small man in a box” routine. (1:52) Smith Rafael. (Devereaux)

*Trollhunter Yes, The Troll Hunter riffs off The Blair Witch Project (1999) with both whimsy and, um, rabidity. Yes, you may gawk at its humongoid, anatomically correct, three-headed trolls, never to be mistaken for grotesquely cute rubber dolls, Orcs, or garden gnomes again. Yes, you may not believe, but you will find this lampoon of reality TV-style journalism, and an affectionate jab at Norway’s favorite mythical creature, very entertaining. Told that a series of strange attacks could be chalked up to marauding bears, three college students (Glenn Erland Tosterud, Tomas Alf Larsen, and Johanna Morck) strap on their gumshoes and choose instead to pursue a mysterious poacher Hans (Otto Jespersen) who repeatedly rebuffs their interview attempts. Little did the young folk realize that their late-night excursions following the hunter into the woods would lead at least one of them to rue his or her christening day. Ornamenting his yarn with beauty shots of majestic mountains, fjords, and waterfalls, Norwegian director-writer André Ovredal takes the viewer beyond horror-fantasy — handheld camera at the ready — and into a semi-goofy wilderness of dark comedy, populated by rock-eating, fart-blowing trolls and overshadowed by a Scandinavian government cover-up sorta-worthy of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009). (1:30) (Chun)

*X-Men: First Class Cynics might see this prequel as pandering to a more tweeny demographic, and certainly there are so many ways it could have gone terribly wrong, in an infantile, way-too-cute X-Babies kinda way. But despite some overly choppy edits that shortchange brief moments of narrative clarity, X-Men: First Class gets high marks for its fairly first-class, compelling acting — specifically from Michael Fassbender as the enraged, angst-ridden Magneto and James McAvoy as the idealistic, humanist Charles Xavier. Of course, the celebrated X-Men tale itself plays a major part: the origin story of Magneto, a.k.a. Erik Lehnsherr, a Holocaust survivor, is given added heft with a few tweaks: here, in an echo of Fassbender’s turn in Inglourious Basterds (2009), his master of metal draws on his bottomless rage to ruthlessly destroy the Nazis who used him as a lab rat in experiments to build a master race. The last on his list is the energy-wrangling Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon), who’s set up a sweet Bond-like scenario, protected by super-serious bikini-vixen Emma Frost (January Jones). The complications are that Erik doesn’t ultimately differ from his Frankensteins — he pushes mutant power to the detriment of those puny, bigoted humans — and his unexpected collaborator and friend is Xavier, the privileged, highly psychic scion who hopes to broker an understanding between mutants and human and use mutant talent to peaceful ends. Together, they can move mountains—or at least satellite dishes and submarines. Jennifer Lawrence as Raven/Mystique and Nicholas Hoult as Hank McCoy/Beast fill out the cast, voicing those eternal X-Men dualities — preserving difference vs. conformity, intoxicating power vs. reasoned discipline. All core superhero concerns, as well as teen identity issues — given a fresh charge. (2:20) (Chun)

Our Weekly Picks, July 6-12, 2011




Project Bust

Malinda LaVelle’s Project Bust tackles tits and ass without A Chorus Line. Presented as part of the San Francisco Conservatory of Dance’s second annual Summer Dance Series, Project Bust is the culmination of 18 months of research and creation with eight women in their 20s. A group of SF Conservatory of Dance-trained performers make up LaVelle’s company, Project Thrust, and for this evening-length dance theater work, they address some of the ups and downs of being young and female. This fresh crew marries athletic prowess with a fearless attitude, and their work is not complete without a competitive pillow fight. (Julie Potter)

Wed/6 and Aug. 3, 8 p.m., $15

Z Space

450 Florida, SF

(415) 626-0453





Honestly, talking about this band at all makes me feel creepy. I blame their publicist. Since the release of The Rosebuds Make Out and over the course of four albums, Ivan Howard and Kelly Crisp were not just a band, they were married. Ideally, they were in love. It’s the sort of biographical information that can’t be glossed, but also overwhelmingly frames the musical relationship. Now that the pair are divorced, is their new album, Loud Planes Fly Low, truly as plaintively sad as it sounds? Onstage is it just an act? Does Howard seem happier in GAYNGS? Maybe Crisp’s latest blog post has the answers. (Ryan Prendiville)

With Other Lives

8 p.m., $14


628 Divisadero, SF

(415) 771-1421





San Francisco Frozen Film Festival

San Francisco has more film festivals than people I think. But — like the star of Last Fast Ride: The Life, Love, and Death of a Punk Goddess — the San Francisco Frozen Film Festival stands out from the pack. Last Fast Ride, which is screening at the fest, documents the late Marion Anderson: dominatrix, performance artist, and native San Franciscan whose stint as lead vocalist of the Insaints (and arrest at 924 Gilman; hint: it involves nudity and a banana) will forever secure her legacy as one of the wildest and most outspoken women ever to pick up a microphone. Also screening at the festival are several enormously varied collections of short films, as well as other full-length documentaries including Color Me Obsessed: A Film About the Replacements and Ocean Monk, which follows the surfing disciples of weightlifting spiritualist Sri Chinmoy. (Cooper Berkmoyer)

Thurs/7–Sat/9, $11

Roxie Theater

3117 16th St., SF

(415) 863-1087




“Chroma: About Color”

The summer months call for color and spontaneity; the newest exhibit at Cain Schulte Contemporary Art offers both. Tonight’s opening reception rings in a monthlong show featuring bright hues rendered in all kinds of media by five different artists. The gallery consistently spotlights artists on the rise and those just hitting their stride. This show is no different. Jessica Snow displays pieces on canvas and paper; Carrie Seid uses aluminum and silk; David Buckingham constructs with metal; Joel Hoyer with panel; and Eileen Goldenberg encaustic works. Don’t be blue if you can’t make it tonight: the art is on display for most of the summer. (David Getman)

Through Aug. 20

5:30–7:30 p.m., free

Cain Schulte Contemporary Art

251 Post, SF

(415) 543-1550




Act One, Scene Two

Here’s a unique idea from a theater company that takes its name to heart: Un-Scripted’s Act One, Scene Two, which every night hosts a different playwright wielding an unfinished script. After an onstage debriefing with the author, the company takes the stage to perform the first scene from the first act, reading through the lines for the first time. The flyin’-by-the-seats-of-our-pants theme continues as Un-Scripted shifts to full-on improv mode, finishing out the play using their own wits but guided by information shared by the writer in that on-stage interview about his or her writing process, influences, etc. Sophisticated spontaneity (and likely some decent doses of impulsive humor) awaits. (Cheryl Eddy)

Through Aug. 20

Thurs.–Sat., 8 p.m., $10–$20

SF Playhouse, Stage Two

533 Sutter, SF

(415) 869-5384





“Watching Big Brother: A Tribute to the Summer of 1984”

Ah, 1984: “Like a Virgin,” Boy George, Mary Lou Retton, Ronald Reagan — er, anyway. Politics aside, it was a magnificent year if you were an elementary-school kid obsessed with pausing the VCR to better analyze each second of every new Duran Duran video. The movies from 1984 weren’t too shabby, either, with a top 10 filled with now-classics: Ghostbusters, Beverly Hills Cop, Footloose … trust me, you’ve seen ’em all. Midnites for Maniacs salutes one of the greatest years for film (suck it, 1939) with a two-day cinematic throwdown. The event’s title, “Watching Big Brother,” nods to the Orwellian tone of the times, but the films are (mostly) pure fun, from big hits like Gremlins and The Karate Kid to more culty choices: The Pope of Greenwich Village, starring the original faces of Eric Roberts and Mickey Rourke; immortal sci-fi new-wave nugget The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension; and a Midnites for Maniacs favorite, Diane Lane punk-noir musical relic Streets of Fire. (Eddy)

Fri/8, 7:30 p.m.; Sat/9, 2:30 p.m., $12–$13

Castro Theatre

429 Castro, SF

(415) 621-6120




“Let Her Dance”

How high can your hair go? Like, 1962 high? Better get to back-combing, because “Let Her Dance” is a recreation of a prom circa the early ’60s, with a lineup of local musicians crooning tunes from the era (think Ike and Tina, the Bobby Fuller Four, Curtis Mayfield, and the like). The elegant Verdi Club, which could actually serve as a prom venue, has a big dance floor, so you can twist, mashed-potato, watusi, and frug to the sounds of DJ Primo Pitmo, plus Heidi Alexander and Grace Cooper (the Sandwitches), Shannon “And the Clams” Shaw, Quinn Deveaux, and others breathing new life into retro jams, with back-up help from the Goldstar Band. (Eddy)

8 p.m., $15

Verdi Club

2424 Mariposa, SF




Limp Wrist

As punk rock begins yet another agonizing mutation into a marketable consumer good, a process that seems to ebb and flow with each passing lustrum, it’s easy to forget that bands can still be fierce. With a fearsome live show (I have seen the band rip a microphone cord in half, which, if you’ve ever tried — though I don’t know why you would — ou know is not easy) and songs like “I Love Hardcore Boys, I Love Boys Hardcore” and “Recruiting Time,” Limp Wrist strikes terror into the hearts of homophobes everywhere with wit, intelligence, and wicked-fast power chords. Vocalist Martin, also of the infamous Los Crudos, is a hairy-chested, short-shorts-wearing bomb who goes off when drum blasts start and queercore reaches its blitzkrieg zenith. (Berkmoyer)

With Drapetomania and Brilliant Colors

9 p.m., $7

El Rio

3158 Mission, SF

(415) 282-3325




“The Tipper Sound Experience!”

There is an arms race taking place right now in the electronic music scene. The DJ booth has become a launching pad for a complete sensory assault. Tipper is not new to the fight, having built up a reputation by stuffing cars with a dangerous quantity of speakers (Funktion Ones — only the best), and blowing up crowds. This latest project not only continues the weaponization of glitchy breakbeats and wobbly down- tempo, but escalates it through Tipper’s extensive research into holographic surround sound, for 360 degrees of musical bombardment. (Prendiville)

With VibesquaD, Dov, and Hypnotech; visuals by Johnathan Singer

9 p.m., $25–$40

Regency Ballroom

1300 Van Ness, SF





“A Benefit for Cheb I Sabbah”

Algerian-born DJ turned world musician Cheb I Sabbah been a part of San Francisco’s music scene since the 1980s; he’s the kind of innovative, constantly evolving musician who can’t help but influence other creative types he’s met along the way. That community, as well as his many fans, are uniting to help Cheb I, who is uninsured, cover medical bills after a devastating diagnosis of stage four stomach cancer. As you might suspect, the benefit boasts a massive lineup, with artists drawn from Anon Salon, Hookahdome, Opel Productions, Non Stop Bhangra, and Six Degrees Records, plus Fat Chance Bellydance dancers and DJs Syd Gris, Janaka Selecta, Turbo Tabla, DJ Sep, and many more. There will also be a raffle (win private belly dance lessons!) and if you can’t make the show, you can donate directly to the cause at Cheb I’s website. (Eddy)

9 p.m.–4 a.m., $15 and up

1015 Folsom, SF




“Ugly Sweater Scavenger Hunt”

CLASH’s Ugly Sweater Scavenger Hunt finally gives you an excuse to bust out that Christmas gift from Grandma on a summer Saturday night. The hunt is stitched together by so-bad-it’s-good fashion, flowing alcohol, and scavenger accomplishments beamed in by social networking. Four to six people team up to complete funky challenges that might include coercing clues from characters planted in the city, thumb wrestling children, and sparking impromptu street dance parties. CLASH (which stands for California League of Adult Scavenger Hunters) pledges to “avoid the raunchy” but warns of a “light suggestive undertone at times” to shake things up. Luckily, anyone age 21 to 87 is welcome, so feel free to bring along the original gifter! (Getman)

8 p.m., $20

Blackthorn Tavern

834 Irving, SF

(415) 623-9629


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Rep Clock


Schedules are for Wed/6–Tues/12 except where noted. Director and year are given when available. Double and triple features are marked with a •. All times are p.m. unless otherwise specified.

BALBOA 3620 Balboa, SF; www.balboamovies.com. $20. “Opera, Ballet, and Shakespeare in Cinema:” Love’s Labours Lost, performed at the Globe Theater, Sat-Sun, 10am.

CASTRO 429 Castro, SF; (415) 621-6120, www.castrotheatre.com. $7.50-13. •Out of the Past (Tourneur, 1947), Wed, 3:15, 7, and The Night of the Hunter (Laughton, 1955), Wed, 5, 8:55. Cave of Forgotten Dreams (Herzog, 2010), Thurs, 3, 5, 7, 9. “Watching Big Brother: A Tribute to the Summer of 1984: Day One” •The Last Starfighter (Castle, 1984), Fri, 7:30; Gremlins (Columbus, 1984), Fri, 9:45; and The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (Richter, 1984), Fri, 11:59; “Day Two:” •Cloak and Dagger (Franklin, 1984), Sat, 2:30; The Karate Kid (Avildsen, 1984), Sat, 4:45; Red Dawn (Milius, 1984), Sat, 7:15; The Pope of Greenwich Village (Rosenberg, 1984), Sat, 9:45; and Streets of Fire (Hill, 1984), Sat, 11:59. “Marc Huestis Presents: I Dream of Barbara Eden:” 7 Faces of Dr. Lao (Pal, 1964), Sun, noon; Gala Event with on-stage interview, performances, and more, Sun, 8. Tickets for the Gala Event, $25-45 at (415) 863-0611 or www.ticketfly.com.

CHRISTOPHER B. SMITH RAFAEL FILM CENTER 1118 Fourth St, San Rafael; (415) 454-1222, www.cafilm.org. $10.25. Buck (Meehl, 2011), call for dates and times. Page One (Rossi, 2011), call for dates and times. The Tree of Life (Malick, 2011), call for dates and times. The Trip (Winterbottom, 2010), call for dates and times. Mann vs. Ford (Chermayeff, 2011), Wed, 7. With director Maro Chermayeff and producer James Redford in person. Swan Lake, performed by the Bolshoi Ballet, Thurs, 7; Sun, 1. The Big Uneasy (Shearer, 2011), Mon, 7:15. With director Harry Shearer in person; this event, $15.

“FILM NIGHT IN THE PARK” This week: Creek Park, 451 Sir Francis Drake, San Anselmo; (415) 272-2756, www.filmnight.org. Donations accepted. ) Beatles movie TBA, Fri, 8.

FOUR STAR 2200 Clement, SF; www.lntsf.com. $10. “Asian Movie Madness” •Torrid Wave (Lin, 1982), and Sex and Zen III (Min, 1998), Thurs, call for times.

MECHANICS’ INSTITUTE 57 Post, SF; (415) 393-0100, rsvp@milibrary.org. $10. “CinemaLit Film Series: Music and Nostalgia:” Oh! What a Lovely War (Attenborough, 1969), Fri, 6.

PACIFIC FILM ARCHIVE 2575 Bancroft, Berk; (510) 642-5249, www.bampfa.berkeley.edu. $5.50-9.50. “Japanese Divas:” Twenty-Four Eyes (Kinoshita, 1954), Wed, 7; Carmen Comes Home (Kinoshita, 1951), Thurs, 7 and Sat, 6:30: When a Woman Ascends the Stairs (Naruse, 1960), Sat, 8:20; •Woman of Tokyo (Ozu, 1933) and A Hen in the Wind (Ozu, 1948), Sun, 5. “Bernardo Bertolucci: In Search of Mystery:” Before the Revolution (1964), Fri, 7; The Grim Reaper (1962), Fri, 9:10; The Spider’s Stratagem (1970), Sun, 7:45.

PARAMOUNT 2025 Broadway, Oakl; 1-800-745-3000, www.ticketmaster.com. $5. National Velvet (Brown, 1944), Fri, 8.

RED VIC 1727 Haight, SF; (415) 668-3994; www.redvicmoviehouse.com. $6-10. Vertigo (Hitchcock, 1958), Wed, 2, 7, 9:25. Circo (Schock, 2010), Thurs-Fri, 7:15, 9:15. Poster sale, noon-6pm. “An Evening with Jonathan Richman:” Vengo (Gatliff, 2000), Sat, 8. Babe (Noonan, 1995), Sun-Mon, 7:15, 9:15 (also Sun, 2, 4). What’s Up Doc? (Bogdanovich, 1972), July 12-13, 7:15, 9:20 (also July 13, 2).

RIALTO CINEMAS ELMWOOD 2966 College, Berk; (510) 433-9730, www.rialtocinemas.com. $5-10. The Big Uneasy (Shearer, 2011), July 8-14, call for times.

ROXIE 3117 and 3125 16th St, SF; (415) 863-1087, www.roxie.com. $5-9.75. Happy (Belic, 2011), Wed-Thurs, 7, 8:30. Viva Riva! (Munga, 2010), Wed, 7, 9. “San Francisco School of Digital Filmmaking Graduating Class ’11 Presents: Love the Shorts,” Thurs, 7, 9. “San Francisco Frozen Film Festival,” Thurs-Sat. Visit www.frozenfilmfestival.com for tickets and info. The Big Uneasy (Shearer, 2011), Sun-Mon, 7, 9 (also Sun, 3, 5). “Where Did That Come From?,” illustrated lecture with Bill Nichols, 7. For tickets ($20), visit www.sffs.org.

“TEMESCAL STREET CINEMA 2011” 49th St at Telegraph, Oakl; www.temescalstreetcinema.com. Free. D-Tour (Granato, 2009), Thurs, 8:45. With music by Pancho San at 8pm.

VIZ CINEMA New People, 1746 Post, SF; www.vizcinema.com. $15. Das Boot (Petersen, 1981), Thurs, 6. Restored and remastered director’s cut version of the film in honor of its 30th anniversary, with producer Ortwin Freyermuth in person. VORTEX ROOM 1082 Howard, SF; www.myspace.com/thevortexroom. $5 donation. “The United States of Vortex:” •Wild in the Streets (Shear, 1968), Thurs, 9, and The Werewolf of Washington (Ginsberg, 1973), Thurs, 11.

WORLD PREMIERE: Shannon and the Clams, “Tired of Being Bad”


Fierce and bluesy East Bay garage rockers Shannnon and the Clams premiere the new video for “Tired of Being Bad” from their “Sleep Talk” album, animated by Owen Cook, in this SFBG exclusive. (And check out their recent revealing interview with us.)

Conning immigrants


By Lauren Rosenfeld


To many of his clients, former immigration attorney Martin Guajardo seemed capable of performing miracles. He claimed to have unique access to judges and immigration officials. He wore slick Italian suits and drove a Rolls Royce. When other attorneys couldn’t help Victor Jimenez, a Mexican waiter from San Mateo, Guajardo promised to save him from deportation for a $15,000 fee.

Jimenez figured that since Guajardo charged high fees and had won tough cases in the past, he must be worth the money.

But Jimenez did not know that Guajardo had been charging clients six to nine times the market rate for services he allegedly failed to deliver. And when Guajardo was forced to resign from the California State Bar two years ago, he illegally continued to advise clients, according to documents filed in a civil lawsuit by the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office.

"The purpose of this case is to put a stop to one of the largest immigration frauds in the Bay Area," said Deputy City Attorney Josh White.

In November, the city filed suit to stop Guajardo from practicing law, seek civil penalties, and demand repayment of unearned fees. It targets the last two years of a three-decade career — after Guajardo resigned from the State Bar of California with disciplinary charges pending. The suit alleges that Guajardo practiced law after his effective disbarment and failed to notify clients he was no longer a lawyer. Additional defendants in the case include the law firm Immigration Practice Group and Christopher Stender, a San Diego attorney who allegedly covered for Guajardo.

Immigration Practice Group closed its doors in San Francisco soon after the city filed the case, and Guajardo vanished as well. He has not responded to the charges filed against him and no one, including Stender, claims to know where he is. Stender declined requests for comment, but in a February declaration for the case, he stated he was unaware of Guajardo’s whereabouts.

In December, Orrick, Herrington and Sutcliffe, a private firm that filed a class action lawsuit in conjunction with the city’s case, organized a free legal clinic for Guajardo’s former clients. "The line was out the door and around the block," Orrick attorney Mike Aparicio said. "There were hundreds of people."

When the city began an in-depth probe into immigration fraud in San Francisco two years ago, Guajardo soon dominated the investigation. It is usually difficult to build solid fraud cases because victims are often afraid to come forward, and the state bar couldn’t do anything more about Guajardo because he is not a member. But the City Attorney’s Office had the resources and the will to pursue the case.

"We built a network of contacts — nonprofits, academics, private attorneys," White said. "Virtually 100 percent of them had known Guajardo was continuing to practice without a license."

Nora Privitera is a staff attorney at the Immigrant Legal Resource Center and an expert witness in immigration fraud trials. She said Guajardo made a powerful impression on people and gave them false hope.

"When people are desperate, they suspend disbelief," Privitera said. "Hope is like a drug."

Jimenez and his partner, Macrina Mota, have lived in the United States for more than 20 years. They panicked at the thought of deportation and being separated from their six American-born children. Jimenez worked 15-hour days as a waiter to support the family and was willing to sacrifice anything to keep them together.

Guajardo secured a work permit for Jimenez and appealed his case to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. While collecting additional fees over the years, Guajardo assured Jimenez that the case was in process and that the court "just takes time," according to Mota. So it was a complete shock to her when Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents came to the couple’s home, arrested Jimenez, and told Mota she had to turn herself in to immigration officials the following day. Guajardo failed to tell Jimenez he had in fact lost his case and faced immediate deportation.

"Guys like Guajardo are worse for immigrants than immigration authorities," said Angela Bean, a private immigration attorney who works with some of Guajardo’s former clients. "When he couldn’t get more blood out of the turnip, he’d let them go."

Mota and her children had trouble paying rent after Jimenez’s deportation in December 2008. They were evicted from their home and moved to a shelter for five months. The trauma devastated the couple’s oldest daughter, who attempted suicide shortly after her father’s sudden deportation.

"That was the worst nightmare my family ever lived," Mota said. "Guajardo knew we had a big family. He gives you a lot of hope, and you believe it because you have six kids. You don’t want to be torn apart."

Mota said Guajardo was a powerful presence in court and knew how to work the room, but he was sometimes more humble during private meetings at his office. As a Mexican American and the son of California farm workers, Guajardo appealed to many clients’ cultural roots. He often wore traditional guayabera-style shirts and conversed with them in Spanish.

"He had all the opportunity in the world to empathize with clients who had similar backgrounds," immigration attorney Angela Bean said. "He was in a unique position to understand their issues and fears — but instead he exploited those fears for his own economic advantage."

Bean said some of Guajardo’s clients mortgaged their homes to pay fees that reached tens of thousands of dollars. One victim was Jagdeep Singh, a convenience store cashier who lived in Contra Costa County with his U.S. citizen wife and children. Guajardo told Singh to stay in the United States and promised he would obtain a green card, according to Singh’s declaration for the case.

"Sometimes we waited three to four hours to see him," said Singh. "He didn’t seem to know the details of my case very well. He asked me to pay more money every time I came to meet with him."

Singh borrowed from relatives, spent his savings, and contributed large portions of his salary to pay Guajardo $95,000 over the course of three years. He later discovered that the best chance for his case was to voluntarily return to India.

The state bar disciplined Guajardo three times in the 1990s for taking thousands of dollars from clients while neglecting to take action in their cases. Documents filed in the lawsuit claim that he refused to refund fees for work he promised but never performed.

The class action lawsuit also alleges that Guajardo sexually coerced female clients. In the case of one woman whom Bean characterized as a domestic violence victim, he "filed frivolous petitions that had no hope of success and instead ‘engaged in a pattern of sexual misconduct with her over the course of nearly six years,’ " according to the suit, which quoted from several other lawsuits involving Guajardo.

Finally in 2007, the state bar brought multiple charges against Guajardo "alleging that he continued to charge excessive or unconscionable fees for inadequate representation," according to the city’s lawsuit.

With the threat of disbarment looming, Guajardo voluntarily resigned in 2008 — but not before changing his firm’s name from "Martin Resendez Guajardo, A Professional Corporation" to "Immigration Practice Group (IPG)" and making Christopher Stender the CEO.

But IPG and Christopher Stender were just fronts for Guajardo, who continued to run the show, the city alleges in court documents. Plaintiffs say Guajardo maintained control over their cases and never revealed that he was ineligible to practice law.

On March 18, a judge approved the city’s motion for a preliminary
injunction barring Stender and IPG from doing any legal work on
Guajardo’s behalf and requiring them to notify his clients that he’s
ineligible to practice law.

Attempts to reach Guajardo were unsuccessful, and city officials say they don’t know where he is or if he has retained an attorney. Stender’s attorney, Kristin Caverly, told the Guardian: "We are not able to provide comments to the press at this time given the ongoing litigation."

White said that an important goal of the civil suit is to get the word out to immigrants so that they look into attorneys’ backgrounds before hiring them. "If clients had gone to the state bar website," White said, "they would have seen that Guajardo resigned in April 2008."

The dead fish plan


By Patrick Porgans


The recently formed Delta Stewardship Council, charged with protecting the San Francisco-San Joaquin Delta Estuary, released a draft report in February with more bad news about the possible fate of aquatic species.

A number of the fish, which have been the focus of national attention, are already listed as threatened or endangered under the provision of the Endangered Species Act.

This preliminary finding comes after more than $10 billion has been expended over the course of a decade by federal and state officials — who have insisted that their plans would not only restore estuary fisheries but would double the populations of endangered species such as salmon.

But CALFED — the joint federal/state effort — failed to restore fish populations, and now the state says some species may never recover. So it’s hard to have a lot of confidence in the new agency.

The draft report was released by DSC’s executive officer, Joe Grindstaff, former director of CALFED’s Bay-Delta program. At one point, in 2007, Grindstaff acknowledged: “Fundamentally, the system we designed didn’t work.”

That’s an understatement. Tens of millions of fish have been killed by government-operated projects pumping and exporting water from the delta. More than 50 million fish were considered “salvaged” — saved from the pumps — but millions of them also wound up dead. And there are tens of millions, perhaps hundreds of millions, more that are unaccounted for.

Ironically, this unfathomable loss occurred while officials were engaged in several failed fish-doubling plans that spanned decades, cost the public billions of dollars in borrowed money, and contributed the California’s deficit-ridden budget crisis.

And now there’s a new plan, crafted by the same people who bungled the last one. It’s projected to cost as much as $80 billion and take another 90 years to complete.

According to the draft plan, “the funding needed … is large. Capital expenditures required for the delta in the next 10 to 15 years could range from $12 billion to $24 billion, with a high estimate of $80 billion. The annual operating costs of the … council are unknown.”

We’ve been here before. Critics argued from the inception of CALFED that it was doomed to fail because, like the new council, it was composed of many of the same agencies that caused the estuary to become imperiled. And it has, in fact, failed. When I called to find out its status, Eric Alvarez, a spokesperson for the new delta council, responded that CALFED “no longer exists in the conventional sense. It does not have a staff or a location.”

The first draft report of the new council provides some key preliminary findings, all of which ignore the essence of the problem.

First, it states that “California’s total water supply is oversubscribed. California regularly uses more water annually than is provided by nature.” It’s true that California’s water resources are oversubscribed — but that’s the result of the government’s failure to prudently appropriate the water we have.

Next it says, “California’s water supply is increasingly volatile” — a fact that has been made worse by mismanagement.

“Even with substantial ecosystem restoration efforts, some native species may not survive,” it adds, noting that “there is no comprehensive state or regional emergency response plan for the delta.” It doesn’t mention that state officials have had 50 years to come up with such a plan, and have consistently failed.

“Even with substantial restoration efforts, some native species may not survive,” the plan states. “Expert opinion suggests that some stressors are beyond our control and the system may have already changed so much that some species are living on the edge…. In addition, habitat conditions for some species may get worse before they improve.”

That’s an astonishing admission coming, in effect, from the same government agencies that once promised they would double fish populations by the year 2002.

The fact is that anadromous fish and other pelagic species populations, which depend on the delta estuary, have reached alarming all-time lows.

How did the salmonid and other endangered species reach what may be the point of no return? It’s simple — the delta pumps that send water south to irrigate arid land, as approved by CALFED, are by their very nature fish- killers.

According to data from the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG), from 1984 through 2006 an estimated 22 million fish were killed at the State Water Project’s Delta pumping facilities alone. That works out to an annual average of nearly 1 million fish killed as a result of SWP’s water exports from the delta.

And that’s just one pump. The federal Central Valley Project, which also sucks up delta water, provides estimates of federally-listed Chinook salmon and steelhead loss, as well as estimates for salvage rates of delta smelt, Sacramento splittail, and longfin smelt.

Data obtained from government sources indicate that from the period of 1980 through 2002, 54 million fish were salvaged from the SWP Skinner Fish Facility and the federal project’s Tracy Fish Facility. That averages out to 2.4 million salvaged fish, or five per minute, 365 days per year.

What happens to the salvaged fish? Nobody knows for sure. The DFG recently disclosed that it has never conducted a quantitative analysis or study on the topic.

The numbers would not be good. The salvaged fish are placed in tanker trucks and transported from the pumping facilities and dumped back into designated locations in the delta, where eagerly awaiting predators have a daily feeding frenzy. According to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife 2008 report, “salvaged” Delta smelt, which in some years ranged as high as 5 million, are typically written off as dead.

Ironically, in all that time the responsible officials have yet to be held legally accountable for even one dead fish.

The fight for KUSF


By Irwin Swirnoff

OPINION For almost 34 years, KUSF (90.3 FM), has provided unique and varied local programming that truly is the audio representation of the qualities that make San Francisco such a special place. A place where diversity is honored and given a voice. A place where art, culture, and music are given a platform to tell stories, evoke emotions, and unite a wide range of people.

With shows in more than a dozen languages and every imaginable musical genre, era, and region represented on its airwaves, KUSF stood as one of the most respected college and noncommercial radio stations in the country.

Beyond its wide scope of music programming, KUSF provided crucial cultural and public service programming that served so many communities and cultures in our city that are all too often marginalized. Chinese Star Radio was the only radio program in Cantonese for the large and vibrant Chinese community in San Francisco. Disability and Senior News Report provided in-depth reporting on pressing issues facing these often overlooked and neglected parts of our community.

On Jan. 18, at 10 a.m., all those voices, all those communities, and all those services were silenced and squashed. In a secret deal behind the back of the community, the University of San Francisco sold KUSF’s transmitter to the University of Southern California in a deal that also involves the large media conglomerate Entercom.

It went down like a hostile corporate takeover. The DJ on air wasn’t allowed to sign off. Armed security entered the station as every lock in the studio was being changed. As stewards of a scarce public resource, USF has an obligation to the community. It’s time for the university to take a step back from this deal and allow for a mutually beneficial solution that will keep community radio alive in San Francisco.

It’s become clear that USF had no idea what an irreplaceable public resource it was killing when it entered this sneaky deal that would afford USC with its sixth territorial radio station as it aims to create a monopoly on the left side of the dial and extend its fundraising capacities deep into the Bay Area.

It’s obvious that this is a bad deal for the city of San Francisco. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors, the San Francisco Democratic Party, and the USF Faculty Association have passed resolutions condemning the deal. Outspoken support has come from a wide range of city and state leaders, including state Sen. Leland Yee.

No one is arguing USF’s right to liquidate an asset. All we are asking is that the community be involved in this decision and be given the first opportunity to purchase the transmitter.

This is not a done deal. Our petition to deny the transfer has been filed at the Federal Communications Commission. Serious questions about the legality of this deal are being addressed, and the next several weeks and months will allow us time for negotiations to help save community radio in San Francisco.

This is not about a format change. It’s about a community being robbed of its voice. We are committed to this fight and need everyone in San Francisco to join us in saving this crucial community asset. Now is the time to speak truth to power.

Guardian contributor Irwin Swirnoff has been the musical director at KUSF. 

Good Fortunes, Song Dong, and you


We’re throwing a party tonight at YBCA (2/25) to celebrate Chinese New Year — and the opening of the amazing Song Dong exhibit (if you’re a fan of “Hoarders” you will not weant to miss this). Jonas Reihardt rocks it, lions dance, sake and other liquor flows, and fortune cookies will fill your pockets. You know how crazy these YBCA parties get. Details after the jump

.The San Francisco Bay Guardian Presents

Friday February 25th from 8PM – 11PM

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
701 Mission at 3rd Street.

A Chinese New Year Celebration/Opening Night Party
$12 Advance | $15 Door | $10 Tickets for Guardian Readers*
*Use promo code SFBGSD online or bring in a hard copy of the ad running in this week’s paper to the door.

Visit the opening of Dad and Mom, Don’t Worry About Us, We Are All Well
A solo exhibition by Chinese conceptual artist Song Dong, including the much-heralded large-scale installation Waste Not, comprised of over 10,000 items collected by the artist’s mother over the course of more than five decades.

Live Performance by JONAS REINHARDT
Inspired in equal measure by continental European experimental rock, electronic dance music, and the freewheeling aesthetic of punk.’

Lion Dance provided by Leung’s White Crane

San Francisco’s Chinese Cultural Center presents: Daily Lives
An interactive exhibition exploring everyday existence through a variety of sensory experiences. Bring your treasured objects, scraps of material and little mementos to be repurposed as part of the work, “Discarded Repairs.” Explore the powerful sense of smell by collaborating on a scent to be included in the piece, “Close to Home.”




Tell us how you met your snugglebunny — and win a $160 date!


Maybe your hands brushed while browsing the vinyl jazz bins at Amoeba. Maybe she caught up with you on the new Valencia bike lanes to compliment your ride. Or perhaps your kite strings got entangled on Marina Green one windy afternoon …

If you found your special someone in a very special way, enter our first annual SFBG Meet-Cute Contest! No matter how improbable, mystifying, funny, weird, or, yes, mushy, we want to know how you met your sweetie (or sweeties) for the Guardian’s Valentines Issue.

Tell us in 100 words or less your personal meet-cute story by Thursday, February 3. We’ll pick our 10 favorites and publish them in our Valentine’s Issue, coming out Feb. 9. One lucky participant, drawn at random, will win a date at Yoshi’s San Francisco worth $160! (Dinner and a live show with your honey — how can you beat that?)

CLICK HERE to enter and tell us your story!



*Entrants will be automatically added to our Guardian G-List newsletter


Rep Clock


Schedules are for Wed/19–Tues/25 except where noted. Director and year are given when available. Double and triple features are marked with a •. All times are p.m. unless otherwise specified.

ARTISTS’ TELEVISION ACCESS 992 Valencia, SF; www.atasite.org. $5. “OpenScreening,” Thurs, 7:30. For participation info, email ataopenscreening@atasite.org.

CASTRO 429 Castro, SF; (415) 621-6120, www.castrotheatre.com. $7.50-20. The Social Network (Fincher, 2010), Wed, 2, 4:30, 7, 9:20. “SF Sketchfest: Tribute to It’s Garry Shandling’s Show,” Thurs, 7; “Night of the Shorts,” Thurs, 9:30. For tickets ($25) visit www.sfsketchfest.com. “Noir City 9:” •High Wall (Bernhardt, 1947), Fri, 7:30, and Stranger On the Third Floor (Ingster, 1940), Fri, 9:30; •Strangers in the Night (Mann, 1944), Sat, 1, 4:40, and Gaslight (Cukor, 1944), Sat, 2:20; •They Won’t Believe Me (Pichel, 1947), Sat, 7:30, and Don’t Bother to Knock (Baker, 1952), Sat, 9:30; •A Double Life (Cukor, 1947), Sun, 1, 4:15, 7:45, and Among the Living (Heisler, 1941), Sun, 3, 6:15; •The Lady Gambles (Gordon, 1949), Mon, 7:30, and Sorry, Wrong Number (Litvak, 1948), Mon, 9:30; The Dark Mirror (Siodmak, 1948), Tues, 7:30, and Crack-Up (Reis, 1947), Tues, 9:30. For complete program information, visit www.noircity.com.

CHRISTOPHER B. SMITH RAFAEL FILM CENTER 1118 Fourth St, San Rafael; (415) 454-1222, www.cafilm.org. $6.50-10.25. “For Your Consideration:” The Human Resources Manager (Riklis, 2010), Wed, 7; Steam of Life (Berghäll and Hotakainen, 2010), Thurs, 7. The Illusionist (Chomet, 2010), Jan 21-27, call for times.

FIRST UNITED METHODIST CHURCH Nine Ross Valley Dr., San Rafael; www.miffamericas.org. $5-10. Why We Come, Fri, 7:30.

HUMANIST HALL 390 27th St, Oakl; www.humanisthall.org. $5. Casino Jack and the United States of Money (Gibney, 2010), Wed, 7:30.

MECHANICS’ INSTITUTE 57 Post, SF; (415) 393-0100, rsvp@milibrary.org. $10. “CinemaLit Film Series: New Year’s Revolutions:” A Tale of Two Cities (Conway, 1935), Fri, 6.

PACIFIC FILM ARCHIVE 2575 Bancroft, Berk; (510) 642-5249, www.bampfa.berkeley.edu. $5.50-9.50. “Film 50: History of Cinema: Fantasy Films and Realms of Enchantment:” Beauty and the Beast (Cocteau, 1946), Wed, 3:10. “Radical Light: Alternative Film and Video in the San Francisco Bay Area:” “Luminous Projections: Light in Bay Area Film and Performance,” Wed, 7:30; “Post-Conceptual Performance Video, 1977-1997,” Sun, 5:30. “World Cinema Foundation:” Dry Summer (Erksan, 1964), Thurs, 7; Al Momia (Salam, 1969), Sat, 6:30; The Housemaid (Kim, 1960), Sat, 8:35; The Wave (Zinnemann and Muriel, 1936), Sun, 4. “Suspicion: The Films of Claude Chabrol and Alfred Hitchcock:” Blackmail (Hitchcock, 1929), Fri, 7; This Man Must Die (Chabrol, 1969), Fri, 8:40.

RED VIC 1727 Haight, SF; (415) 668-3994. $6-10; www.redvicmoviehouse.com. Breakfast at Tiffany’s (Edwards, 1961), Wed-Thurs, 7, 9:25 (also Wed, 2). Let Me In (Reeves, 2010), Fri-Sat, 7, 9:25 (also Sat, 2, 4:25). Last Train Home (Fan, 2009), Sun-Mon, 7:15, 9:15 (also Sun, 2, 4). Tiny Furniture (Dunham, 2010), Jan 25-27, 7:15, 9:25 (also Jan 26, 2).

ROXIE 3117 and 3125 16th St, SF; (415) 863-1087, www.roxie.com. $5-9.75. •On the Bowery (Rogosin, 1956) and The Perfect Team (Rogosin, 2009), Wed-Thurs, call for times. Two in the Wave (Laurent, 2009), Jan 21-27, call for times. “Bringing Up Léaud: The Antoine Doinel Cycle:” The 400 Blows (Truffaut, 1959), Fri, 6:45, 8:45; Made in the U.S.A. (Godard, 1966), Sat, 3:15, 5:15, 6:45, 8:45; Masculine Feminine (Godard, 1966), Sun, 2:45, 4:45, 9:15; La Chinoise (Godard, 1967), Sun, 7:15; Stolen Kisses (Truffaut, 1968) with “Anton Et Colette” (1962), Mon, 6:30, 9; Bed and Board (Truffaut, 1970), Tues, 6:45, 8:45.

VIZ CINEMA New People, 1746 Post, SF; www.vizcinema.com. $10-12. Evangelion 1.0: You Are (Not) Alone (Anno, 2009), Wed-Thurs, 7:15; Evangelion 2.0: You Can (Not) Advance (Anno, 2011), Jan 21-27, check website for times.

YERBA BUENA CENTER FOR THE ARTS 701 Mission, SF; (415) 978-2787, www.ybca.org. $6-8. “Volume 14: Middle East,” nine videos focusing on the Middle East compiled by ASPECT: The Chronicle of New Media Art, Jan 13-March 27 (gallery hours Thurs-Sat, noon-8; Sun, noon-6). Ne change rien (Costa, 2009), Thurs, 7:30; Sun, 2. DE YOUNG MUSEUM Koret Auditorium, 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Dr., SF; www.ruthstable.org. Free. Ruth Asawa: Roots of an Artist (Toy, 2011), Fri, 6, 7:15.



Alerts are compiled by Nicole Dial and Jackie Andrews




Noam Chomsky interview

Pick the brain of linguist and author Noam Chomsky as Wild Wild West Radio hosts an interactive cyber-convo with the influential professor and political dissident. Listeners may phone in questions or chat with Chomsky online for a unique, collective experience.

3 p.m., free

Wild Wild Left Radio



San Francisco Bike Party

The new year brings a new kind of mass bicycle ride, one a bit more civilized than Critical Mass. Join the inaugural San Francisco Bike Party, a new monthly ride that begins at AT&T Park and follows a planned route through the city, obeying most traffic laws along the way. But it will still be a rolling party, complete with a mobile sound system and three party stops for dancing and socializing along the way.

7:30 p.m., free

Giants Stadium, Willie Mays Gate




Board of Supervisors swearing-in

Members of the newly elected Board of Supervisors take their oath of office, followed immediately by the election of a new board president, who could also become acting mayor once Gavin Newsom is sworn in as California’s new lieutenant governor. Or if Newsom resigns by then, the board could also directly select a new interim mayor. It promises to be high political drama under the dome.

Noon, free

Room 250, City Hall

1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Dr., SF



Writers with Drinks

Writers with Drinks mixes genres and authors and throws in a dash of alcohol. It’s more than just a reading series, it’s also a celebration of performers, intellectuals, and writers from all over. This month it features writers Jane Wiedlin, Ethan Watters, Jesús Ángel García, and Blake Charlton. More good news: proceeds benefit the Center for Sex and Culture. 7:30 p.m.; doors open at 6:30 p.m.

$5 to $10, sliding scale The Make Out Room 3225 22nd St., SF www.writerswithdrinks.com



Found the Free University of SF

Matt Gonzalez, Alan Kaufman, and others are forming the new Free University of San Francisco, and they want public input. Organizers ranging from political activists to poet laureates will put on a public meeting to discuss plans for the university. The Free U aims to promote free higher level education for anyone who wants it. Future plans include a weekend-long teach-in Feb. 5–-6. Come down and help promote and organize free education. 10 a.m., free Viracocha 998 Valencia, SF 415-573-5766


Guantánamo Means Torture

Attend a public planning meeting for the national demonstration scheduled for Jan. 11 against the continuation of Guantánamo Bay’s detention facility. World Can’t Wait hosts the meeting here in San Francisco, and then travels to Washington, D.C., with Witness Against Torture, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and other activists to demand an end to the horrors of Guantánamo. 2:30 p.m., free Mechanics Library 57 Post, 415 864 5153


Deportation hotel


By David Bacon


MEXICALI, Mexico — Last year, almost 400,000 people were deported from the United States. That’s the largest wave of deportations in U.S. history, even larger than the notorious Operation Wetback of the 1950s, or the mass deportations during the Great Depression.

Often the Border Patrol empties buses of deportees at the border gates of cities like Mexicali in the middle of the night, pushing people through at a time when nothing is open and no services are available to provide them with food or shelter. Most deportees are young people. They had no money in their pockets coming to the United States, and have nothing when they return to Mexico.

These are invisible people. In the wave of anti-immigrant hysteria gripping the United States, no one asks what happens to the deportees once they’re sent back to Mexico.

In Mexicali, a group of deportees and migrant rights activists have taken over an old abandoned hotel, formerly the Hotel Centenario (or Hundred Year Hotel). They’ve renamed it the Hotel Migrante, or the Migrant Hotel. Just a block from the border crossing, it gives people deported from the United States a place to sleep and food to eat for a few days before they go home or try to cross the border again. The government gives it nothing. Border Angels, the U.S.-based immigrant rights group, provides what little support the hotel gets. A cooperative of deportees cooks the food and works on fixing the building.

During the winter, about 50 or 60 people live in the hotel at any given time, while five or six more knock on its doors every night. Last summer, at the peak of the season when people try to cross the border looking for work, the number of deportees seeking shelter at the hotel rose to more than 300. “A lot of people get hurt trying to walk through the mountains around Mexicali,” says Benjamin Campista, a cooperative member. “It’s very cold there now, and when they get caught and deported, many are just wearing a T-shirt and tennis shoes. Some get sick — those we take to the hospital. The rest stay here a few days until their family can send them money to get home, or until they decide to try to cross again.”

Border Angels and the hotel collective agreed to pay the landlord 11,000 pesos a month in rent (about $900), but they’re already six months behind. Every day hotel residents go out to the long lines of people waiting to cross through the garita (the legal border crossing). They ask for money to support the hotel, and each resident gets to keep half of what he or she is given. The other half goes mostly for food for the evening meal. Deportees have plenty of time to explain their situation to people standing in line, since on a recent afternoon the wait to get through the garita was two hours.

Every day Campista hears deportees tell their stories. “Three brothers stayed here last summer, before they tried to cross. A month later, one came back. I saw him on the roof, crying as he looked at the mountains where the other two had died from the heat. A woman came here with her two-month-old baby. Her husband had died in the desert too.”

“We’re human beings!” Campista exclaims. “We’re just going north to try to work. Why should we die for this? Our governments should end these violations of human rights. Then our hotel wouldn’t even be necessary.”

David Bacon is the author of Illegal People — How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press, 2008) and Communities Without Borders (Cornell University/ILR Press, 2006)


A twisted “Alright” from Public Jones


In the grand tradition of creatively uglifying yourself for videos comes this catchy (if somewhat bleak) little number from LA “groove-based electronic art rockers” Public Jones, who’ll be playing the Red Devil Lounge on Fri/10 with Fake Your Own Death.

Sip Snack and Shop on Chestnut Street


The Marina Merchants Association & The San Francisco Bay Guardian Present:

Sip Snack & Shop on Chestnut Street

Thursday, December 2nd from 6-9PM — Start your holiday shopping this season in the Marina, woo! There’ll be great deals and yummy treats all evening.

Ticket includes:
Tastings from over 20 restaurants and more than 25 beverage sponsors! Raffles & discounts of 15% or more at all participating businesses. Live Entertainment!

$30 Tickets available at http://sipsnackshop.eventbrite.com

Ticketed guests may pick up your wristbands, wine glass, and program guide at either of these locations on Dec. 2nd starting at 6PM:
Eastside West – 3154 Fillmore Street (at Greenwich)
Wells Fargo – 2197 Chestnut Street
Kelly Keiser Splendid Interiors – 2381 Chestnut St.

*All proceeds benefit the Marina Merchants Association.

Participating Businesses
The Animal Connection II | Arbonne International | Benefit | Bin 38 | Books Inc. | Circa | City Optix | Crunch Fitness | E’Angleo | Eastside West | eCosway | GAP | Heritage Row | Isa |J’s Galleria | Jack’s | Judy’s Café | Kara’s Cupcakes | Kelly Keiser Splendid Interiors | Marina & Kebab | Marine Layer | Mezes | Monkey on Chestnut | Pacific Catch | Paper Source | Patxi’s Chicago Pizza | The Plant | Pluto’s | Pottery Barn | Pure Beauty | Rabat | The Republic | Ristorante Parma | San Francisco Optics on Chestnut | SusieCakes | Toss Designs | Two Skirts | Wandering Vet | We Olive | Wells Fargo | Y&I Clothing Boutique

Artesa | Bear Flag | Black Star | Blue Moon | Brugal Rum | Chateau Potelle | DeLoach | Don Pilar | FIJI Water | Haamonii | Honest Tea | Hope & Grace | Hotel Del Sol | Long Meadow Ranch | M Squared | Magners | Millesime Cellars | Pale Moon | Peroni | Pretzel Crisps | Red Bull | Rock Sake | Solerno | Spring Mountain Vineyard | St. Supery | Svedka | Tres Agaves | Trumer | Vivid Bliss | Y. Rousseau

The Bachelors of San Francisco | Crawl SF | Marina Community Association | PinchIT | San Francisco Ballet | SF City Dish | Spinsters of San Francisco | Urbanis | Yelp

The Clef Divers | The Lollipop Guild, a San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus ensemble | Marina Middle School Band

For a family-friendly affair on the next night check out Chestnuts on Chestnut: http://www.face

Delta death


By Patrick Porgans and Lloyd Carter


While Californians were held captive waiting for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Legislature to agree on spending cuts and adopt a budget, state officials were throwing hundreds of millions of dollars down the drain and compounding California’s water crisis.

Water officials have wasted more than $10 billion and 35 years in extended delays in their failed attempt to carry out their legal mandates to protect the waters of the state and restore the San Francisco Bay-Delta Estuary. The result: water quality in the estuary is rapidly declining; fisheries are in crisis; and the proposed solution, an $11 billion bond act set for the ballot in 2012, will only make things worse.

The primary source of the water-quality crisis is a toxic mix of salt and chemicals discharged from lands irrigated by subsidized water delivered by the federal Central Valley Project to contractors farming on the arid west side of the San Joaquin Valley.

The salt comes from several sources. Irrigation water — particularly from the delta, where the water is somewhat brackish — contains salt. There also is salt and traces of much more toxic selenium in the soil. Industrial fertilizers add more dangerous chemicals to the mix. And since crops grown in the Central Valley don’t absorb much salt and the constant flushing with irrigation water leaches the selenium out of the soil, a nasty stew starts to build up.

This U.S. Geological Survey map shows a plan by federal and state regulators to divert toxic water more directly into the Sacramento Delta. All these diversion plans ignore the fact that poorly drained land isn’t suitable for farming.

If the irrigation water isn’t drained off, the salt buildup in the groundwater renders the land unusable to farming. In essence, farmers have been dumping the runoff water — laden with salt and selenium, along with mercury and boron — into the San Joaquin River, which carries it back into the delta and the bay.

All this is being done as the government declares its intent to save the San Francisco Bay-Delta Estuary.

How much salt are we talking about? According to a 2006 U.S. Geological Survey report, it amounts to about 17 railroad cars a day, each capable of carrying 100 tons of salt, as well as selenium and mercury. That’s 3.4 million pounds of salt a day being dumped in the lower San Joaquin River.

Of course, the river is a freshwater habitat, so all that salt damages plant and fish life.

Some experts say that part of the toxic stew is ultimately flushed out to sea, and the rest perhaps enters the aquatic food chain or at least degrades cleaner delta water.

As far back as the 1998, the state Water Board staff reported that salt loads in the valley were doubling every five years. Toxic salt-loading is not only taking its toll on the river and Bay-Delta Estuary, it’s draining the state treasury since myriad publicly funded programs for drainage, water quality improvement, fisheries restoration, and others continue to be financed with borrowed money from the deficit-ridden General Fund.

The water quality problem was identified as a potential crisis in the 1950s and has contributed to the pollution of a significant length of the 330-mile San Joaquin River. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 215.4 miles of the river are on the list of waterways so polluted they’re unfit to swim in. And some species of fish from the river aren’t safe to eat.

On a 1999 EPA map, the valley is the single largest “more serious water quality problem — high vulnerability” area in the nation.

Water officials, drainers, and the major environmental groups forged a deal in 1995 to permit the toxic drainage to continue until October 2010, at which time the discharges were to end. But that hasn’t happened; the water boards have approved a new target date for compliance (2019) and sanctioned continued dumping of toxic drainage. The train wreck in the making will be allowed to continue dumping and pumping toxic salts every day into the waters of the state for the rest of this decade.

The tons of toxics salts being discharged into the waters of the state are only the tip of the iceberg. An unfathomable amount of toxic salts are also being stored in the soil underground, contaminating groundwater basins throughout the valley.

State and federal officials have put a lot of faith in a federal Bureau of Reclamation project known as the Grasslands Bypass, which is designed to send contaminated agricultural water through a part of the old San Luis Drain (that once led to the contamination of the Kesterson Wildlife Refuge) into a San Joaquin tributary known as Mud Slough.

The Grasslands Bypass Project, begun in 1995, is operated by the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation. It reroutes subsurface agricultural drainage water around wetlands on its way eastward to the San Joaquin River.

Originally the agricultural runoff traveled through Salt Slough (a San Joaquin River tributary), which passed through wetlands on the way to the river. The Grasslands Bypass Project uses the San Luis Drain to reroute that runoff around approximately 100,000 acres of land between Firebaugh and Los Banos and into Mud Slough (another tributary of the San Joaquin River).

Carolee Krieger, president of the California Water Impact Network (C-WIN), says the Grasslands Bypass Project misses the point. The best solution, she said, is to stop farming altogether on the poorly-draining western valley along the San Joaquin River.

The project protects the wetlands but hurts the river itself. Dennis Lemly, research professor of biology at Wake Forest University in Winston/Salem, N.C., confirmed in December 2009 that the continuation of the Grasslands Bypass Project will cause a 50 percent mortality among juvenile Chinook salmon and Central Valley Steelhead in the San Joaquin River. Furthermore, the state water board lists both the Carquinez Strait and Suisun Bay, both downstream from the San Joaquin River, as “impaired” for their excessive selenium content.

At best, the bypass project can only slightly mitigate the damage. The only real way to resolve the discharge of the tons of toxic salts is to stop irrigating land that has known drainage problems.

In the early 1980s, the discharge of the toxic salts into the now-closed Kesterson National Wildlife Refuge, located in the San Joaquin Valley, was the site of one of the worst government-induced wildlife crises in American history. Several studies have since been conducted and numerous Band-Aid-type fixes have been implemented, costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. So far officials have failed to identify a viable cost-effective solution to the toxic agricultural drainage crisis and estimate a pilot program will cost at least $2 billion.

Meanwhile, the Legislative Analyst reported in 2008 that the state and federal government have spent $5 billion on projects to improve the Delta.

This is one of the ways your tax dollars fund the destruction of the San Francisco Bay-Delta ecosystem.

Patrick Porgans is a Sacramento-based water-policy consultant. Lloyd Carter, a former UPI and Fresno Bee reporter, has covered water issues in California for more than 30 years. For more information, go to www.lloydgcarter.com and www.planetarysolutions.org. Additional research was done by Noah Arroyo.

How California exports water


By Patrick Porgans

In 2009, the last year of the so-called great California drought, a strange thing happened: Sacramento Valley growers produced a near record amount of rice, and down south, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (Met), the largest urban water supplier in the nation, experienced record-breaking water sales. All this despite repeated mainstream media accounts in 2009 of an economy-wrecking dust bowl water shortage.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the California rice harvest in 2009 was up 9 percent from the previous year and approached the record crop of 2004.

Rice consumes a great deal of water for its dollar value and produces little net income. According to a report by the University of California, Davis, the minimum amount of water required to grow a crop of rice is about 42 inches per acre. Unavoidable losses can add to this amount — so that the amount of water consumed (or evaporated) can be as much as 100 inches per acre, depending on the soil. That appears to be enough water to drown the tallest person on earth.

The California Rice Commission, a trade group representing 2,500 rice farmers, estimates that rice uses 2.2 million acre-feet of irrigation water yearly, about 2.6 percent of the state’s total water supply. According to records obtained from Met, that’s equal to the annual average water it supplied to all of its 19 million customers.

UC Davis data from 2008 show that California exported 52 percent of its rice production, much of it to Japan. For every pound of rice exported, about 250 gallons of embedded water used in growing and processing that rice leaves along with it, according to “Water Footprints of Nations,” a 2004 UNESCO study. (The report spawned the Web site www.waterfootprint.com.)

The rice harvest should be of great consolation to the chairman of the California State Water Resources Control Board, Charles Hoppin, who is also a rice grower, vice-chairman of the Rice Growers Cooperative, and immediate past chairman of the California Rice Industry Association. Chairman Hoppin, in a March 2010 speech in Yuma, Ariz., complained that the regulatory community, including much of his staff, doesn’t know or understand the issues facing agriculture and “doesn’t give a rat’s ass.”

According to the Environmental Working Group, rice subsidies in California totaled $2.4 billion from 1995-2009. In that period, the single largest recipient of subsidies was the Farmers’ Rice Cooperative of Sacramento, California, totaling more than $146 million.

Farm recipients of USDA subsidies in California totaled $9.1 billion from 1995-2009.According to EWG, “Washington paid out a quarter of a trillion dollars in federal farm subsidies between 1995 and 2009. But to characterize the programs as either a big government bailout or another form of welfare would be manifestly unfair — to bailouts and welfare.” Then there’s hay — another water-gulping product that’s getting exported, with much of it going to Japan.

Writer Melinda Burns, in a June 10, 2009 story on Miller-McCune.com, notes: “In the Imperial Valley of California, a region drier than part of the Sahara Desert, farmers have found a lucrative market abroad for a crop they grow with Colorado River water: They export bales of hay to land-poor Japan. Since the mid-1980s, this arid border region of California has been supplying hay and feed for Japan’s dairy cows and black-haired cattle, the kind that get daily massages, are fed beer, and produce the most tender Kobe beef.”

She quotes Patrick Woodall, research director at Food and Water Watch, an international consumer advocacy group with headquarters in Washington, D.C.: “There is a kind of insanity about this,” Woodall said. “Exporting water in the form of crops is giving water away from thirsty communities and infringing on their ability to deal with water scarcity.”

War on drugs rages on


By Pamela A. MacLean


The two Norton brothers thought someone was breaking into their Oakland apartment to kill them one pre-dawn day in October 2007. Instead, a couple dozen well-armed and screaming federal drug agents stormed the place, rousted the pair, and dragged them around the apartment before arresting them.

Winslow and Abraham Norton operated one of the most successful medical marijuana dispensaries in the Bay Area, the Compassionate Patients’ Cooperative of California, in Hayward. In just the first six months of 2007, the operation grossed $26 million.

But if they thought facing a federal indictment on charges of conspiracy to possess and distribute more than 1,000 kilos of marijuana and money laundering was their worst nightmare, the Norton brothers just weren’t dreaming big enough.

The pair — with all-American good looks, close-cropped beards, and infectious smiles — finish each other’s sentences when they describe their run-in with the federal justice system.

“We were 11 and 14 when medical marijuana was legalized, and we grew up in Berkeley,” Abraham said “It may be naïve, but we didn’t understand the legality. Now we know federal law a lot better.”

Abraham, 26, and Winslow, 29, played by the rules in California’s fledgling medical marijuana law. In 2005 they got an Alameda County permit to operate from the former Sheriff Charles Plummer, a seller’s permit from the state, paid taxes, and had random inspections by local police.

They even hired security guards to patrol the place to make sure patients felt safe. After abandoning a couple of security companies as “no good,” they hired a tough bunch that had former Navy SEALS, Marines, and cops in their ranks, SEAL-Mar Security. They rotated a crew of 44 different guards who patrolled outside and carried Glocks, Smith & Wessons, Sig Sauers, and Rugers to make sure no one caused trouble.

“We are very proud we were squeaky clean and examined under a microscope,” Winslow said. “We never did a deal out the back door,” Abraham insisted. They sold so much marijuana to legitimate patients “it never made sense and it would have hurt the company” to do any illegal side deals, Winslow said.

But selling marijuana is still a federal crime, and in negotiations the prosecutor insisted the brothers accept five-year minimum prison terms. They refused, offering to plead guilty to conspiracy and let U.S. District Judge D. Lowell Jensen set the sentence. Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Corrigan balked. Then, according to the Nortons and their lawyers, Corrigan upped the ante, threatening to indict their mother, who helped out in the co-op by opening up for the early shift.

“We had to tell her over a Thanksgiving,” Winslow said. “It was pretty miserable. We didn’t know what to do.”

Then, in February 2009, the government indicted their father instead, along with a coworker, and added a far more serious charge: aiding in the carrying of a firearm to further a drug crime. That charge alone carries up to life in prison, but no less than five years.

The Nortons had no guns. It was the gun-toting security team that was “aiding” in a drug conspiracy.

“It is plain and simple coercion, nothing less than that,” said Harold Rosenthal, Abraham’s attorney.

“When we heard the charge, we said ‘you must be kidding,'” says Doron Weinberg, the high-profile defense lawyer who defended record producer Phil Spector in his 2007 murder trial. “I have never before heard of a person charged with violation of a gun law because they hired a security guard.”

Although there is a new U.S. attorney, Melinda Haag, she isn’t talking. “It is an ongoing case so we have no comment,” said her spokesman Jack Gillund.

Sheriff Plummer, who retired in 2007 after 50 years in law enforcement, said of the weapons charges: “It’s bullshit.”

“While I don’t favor their type of business, it was legal. I wanted to make damn sure they were protected, people were protected, and the building was protected. I told them to hire a security crew,” he said.

Abraham says Plummer assured them during a county Board of Supervisors meeting that if they did everything he required, the feds would leave them alone. “I could have said that,” Plummer said when asked about that assurance.

Although the new charge is “aiding” use of weapons, the security crew was not charged with a crime. It had no effect on the guards or the company, according to Tom Turner, one of SEAL-Mar’s owners.

The indictment of their father, Michael, was no accident. Michael is a patient of the dispensary, but the brothers and his lawyer, Bill Osterhoudt, say Michael had no ownership interest in the co-op.

What Michael Norton does have is a criminal record. In the 1980s, he went to prison for two years in what was known as the Kona coffee caper. He bought low-cost Guatemalan coffee beans and sold them as pricey Hawaiian Kona coffee.

Piled on to the Norton brothers’ legal problems is a tax bill that went unpaid when the federal agents raided their apartment and the business. When the federal agents swept in three years ago, they seized the brothers’ two cars, a house they just bought, more than 300 pounds of marijuana, and an electronic deposit of nearly $340,000 in sales tax sent to the state Board of Equalization, according to Winslow.

“We thought the wire transfer cleared. We had confirmation, but the government still seized it,” Abraham said. “They stole the money,” Winslow said. That debt, with penalties and interest, is now close to $1 million, according to Abraham.

“The feds snatched the sales tax money and left the Nortons liable for it, and now they have liens against them for the money,” Rosenthal said.

The irony for the brothers is that they believe they were the first dispensary to voluntarily pay sales taxes. “We collected them for six months and took a check for $1 million to the BOE,” Abraham said. “They didn’t want to take money from medical marijuana sales and told us to call it something else,” Winslow said. “We refused. They wanted us to lie and say the bags cost $300 and the contents were free. But that would have screwed up our accounting.”

After accepting the initial payment, within a week the board issued letters to all the dispensaries in the state asking for sales tax, according to the brothers.

Judge Jensen rejected defense efforts to get the gun charges thrown out in September. But Jensen, a Republican former prosecutor, signaled he is not happy and ordered both sides to sit down Dec. 9 for formal talks before a magistrate to see if they can resolve the case.

“It’s not enough to say we want the case dropped,” Abraham said. “Our credit is destroyed. We can’t work.”

“Three years later we are still fighting it,” Winslow said. “We’ve been fighting this almost as long as the dispensary existed.”

As for the brothers’ chances to negotiate a resolution with the feds, Rosenthal said, “I’m somehow hoping the clouds are going to part and sanity is going to set in.”

Election 2010: The Cohen party


By Shawn Gaynor

Malia Cohen, her campaign staff and enthusiastic supporters gathered at Poquito’s on Third street anxiously awaiting election results. “It feels good to be the underdog,” said a grinning Cohen.

In a crowded district 10 field Cohen says, “she is the most prepared to work with all of the district’s people, district 10 is not monolithic it is not simply an African American community.”

“I am going to go where the people are and speak with people in their places of comfort they have ideas, creditable policy ideas. The people know how to solve our problems.”

 When asked what the district’s most pressing problem is, Cohen said: “it is an issue she saw highlighted on the campaign trail. We had a campaign BBQ up on third street and it really showed how profound the need is. We have to be addressing  food issues better in our community.” Cohen placed an importance on attracting new business including tourism to the district. “I see some real gems in district 10 and we need to  help polish those gems.”

Snap Sounds: The Walkmen


By Landon Moblad


(Fat Possum)

You & Me, the Walkmen’s excellent 2008 album, showcased how strong the band could be while working within a mellower, more plaintive framework. Not that they’d ever been entirely void of it before, but that album’s wistful horns and lyrics dripped with melancholy that hardly let up. Early publicity about its follow-up, Lisbon, hinted at the group’s desire to revisit some of the more raucous material they toyed with on earlier albums and then fully succumbed to on 2006’s track-by-track cover of the Harry Nilsson/John Lennon album, Pussycats.
Inspired by the Memphis Sun Studio sound of the ’50s, Lisbon was written off-and-on during various trips to the Portuguese title city and then recorded in Philadelphia and New York City. The final product is an album of 11 songs (whittled down from a whopping 28 they recorded) that confirm the Walkmen’s status as one of the most consistent rock bands working today. To think these guys were initially lumped in with the wave of awful one-off bands ripping the Strokes in the early part of last decade is laughable now.

But is Lisbon the overhaul in style that advance word suggested? Well, yes and no. Standout “Angela Surf City” alone rocks harder than pretty much the entirety of You & Me. It also gives drummer Matt Barrick—the band’s secret weapon, in my opinion—a chance to attack his kit with a ferocity not heard since “The Rat” from 2004’s Bows + Arrows. Elsewhere, “Woe Is Me” is the Walkmen at their breezy up-tempo best, while “Follow the Leader” makes a lot of racket but unfortunately doesn’t really serve much of a purpose.

Ultimately, however, the sweeping, dreamy tracks again carry the majority of Lisbon. The appropriately titled “Torch Song” is a beautiful vessel for Hamilton Leithauser’s voice—a bourbon-soaked lovechild of Spoon’s Britt Daniel and early Rod Stewart. With its lullaby-like verses and old-fashioned backup harmonies, it’s also the most glaring example of the inspiration pulled out of those early Sun albums from the likes of Elvis Presley and Roy Orbison.

Lisbon probably won’t be remembered as many fans’ favorite Walkmen album—it’s not as flashy as earlier recordings and it’s not quite as unified as You & Me. But when a band has created a catalog as front-to-back strong as theirs has become, picking favorites starts to feel a little ridiculous anyway.

Women in the sky: Flyaway Productions is bold


By Emmaly Wiederholt

Recently I’ve been volunteering with an older blind woman. During our last volunteer session I mentioned I was attending Flyaway Productions’ Singing Praises: Centennial Dances for The Women’s Building (Sept. 10-18) and asked if she had heard of The Woman’s Building. She practically laughed out loud, and I was surprised to learn she was very familiar with it as an active member of the second-wave feminist movement during the ’70s and ’80s. She described the struggle against sexual and gender inequality in the workplace, in the family, and in reproductive rights.

That night as I stared at the brilliantly lit murals of The Women’s Building with aerial dance artists scaling the walls and windows, I thought again of my blind friend’s activism and pondered what it meant to be a woman watching this particular dance performance. So many of the values I cherish about being a woman were present in the bold women flying above.

These women were strong. While dance requires a certain amount of brawn in itself, aerial dance requires much more abdominal and upper body strength than in most dance forms. This may seem self-evident, but in the context of the piece it was particularly telling that these were women with musculature. These women took risks. Hanging suspended over asphalt by a harness requires a certain amount of fearlessness. The risks inherent in this type of dance lent to the thrill audiences felt as dancers swung upside down or sideways high above the ground. These women challenged each other. Much of Jo Kreiter’s choreography consisted in the dancers pushing and pulling at one another, not as antagonists, but as competitors, driving each other to new physical heights. And finally, these women were intuitive. Dance in unison is difficult. Three women, each positioned on a different flight of stairs on the fire escape, danced in tandem though they could hardly see each other. Rather, they had to feel one another’s energy, a feat that takes sensitivity and practice to perfect.

Aside from the lovely testament to women inherent in the dancing, I also enjoyed how unassumingly the performance garnered an audience. Passersby stopped and looked up in wonder. Cars slowed. Buses full of people crammed to look out the window and see what was going on. The performance ran about one half hour in length and by the end quite a crowd had accrued. This rapt community of onlookers, some there by chance and others by premeditation, were yet another demonstration of the role The Women’s Building plays in bringing people together.

Nearing the end of the performance, a dancer stood on the corner of the colorful four story building, her body illuminated in white light, her clothing and hair billowing frantically in the wind. She looked seven feet tall and practically biblical in effect.  Looking around, I noticed the now sizeable crowd, their faces upturned towards the Amazonian woman atop the poignantly muraled walls, a veritable bastion of womanhood in the sky.

The Asylum: an appreciation


By Landon Moblad

The fine art of creating shitty movies can be divided into two camps — intentional and unintentional. And while I have to admit, I’m much more a fan of the latter (Troll 2, The Room and the Blair Witch sequel all come to mind), I really love what the folks at the Asylum are up to. Any film studio with the balls to release a movie called Titanic II (“Looks like history is repeating itself”) is just fine in my book.

Based out of Burbank, CA, the Asylum produces truly awful rip-offs of major Hollywood blockbusters, which they’ve dubbed “mockbusters.” These straight-to-video travesties are hastily thrown together (the studio makes a movie a month) with a mix of embarrassing CGI, surreal casting decisions (Debbie Gibson, the scientist!) and insulting plots. They’re then promptly thrown into stores to coincide with the theatrical releases of the films they’re capitalizing on. Transformers becomes Transmorphers. I Am Legend turns into I Am Omega. And Snakes on a Plane is now Snakes on a Train (a spoof of a spoof — so meta!) But here’s the thing. These films are supposed to be bad and the guys calling the shots wouldn’t have it any other way. In fact, they think it’s hilarious.

“There’s a part of me that thinks that anyone who walks into a store, sees Transmorphers on the shelf and thinks that it’s the Michael Bay film on the same day that it’s entered into the theater, to a certain extent deserves to be fooled,” said Asylum partner, Paul Bales during this YouTube interview.

The self-awareness the studio employs in making these films and the fact that a lot of the audience is in on the joke leads to some opportunities to push the limits of what defines a bad movie. Sure, a lot of films have wooden acting, grade-school level writing and hilarious plot holes. But do they have a giant shark leaping out of the water and attacking a plane at full elevation, like in Mega-Shark vs. Giant Octopus? Nope. They don’t.

I also love how much the Asylum seems to revel in its shamelessness. You called your movie, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull? Well, ours is called Allan Quatermain and the Temple of Skulls. Deal with it.

Really though, there’s something wonderful about consciously creating trash. Especially in the world of film, where we’ve grown accustomed to movies being synonymous with insane budgets, top-notch special effects, and elaborate scores. To turn that all on its head and make something terrible in the interest of just allowing people to laugh and be entertained is pretty awesome.

And to the sourpusses who find this all to be offensive or harmful to the Hollywood system, Asylum partner David Rimawi has offered up this advice: “If you want this to stop, you’ve gotta stop watching these movies.” Love ‘em or hate ‘em, that’s going to be easier said than done.