Snap Sounds: The Books


By Landon Moblad

The Way Out
(Temporary Residence)

During the far too long half-decade wait between albums, it became easy to wonder if maybe Nick Zammuto and Paul de Jong, together known as The Books, had lost some of their creative juices. Luckily, one listen to The Way Out proves the wait was well worth it. If anything, this is an album so meticulously thought out and crafted that the two years (they officialy began recording in 2008) it took to create makes complete sense. It’s clear now that it wasn’t a lack of ideas, but rather a surplus of them to work through that caused the delay. And the final product, 15 tracks spread over nearly 55 minutes, is some of the finest work of their career.

For those uninitiated, The Books create a sort of cut-and-paste mix of cello, guitar, found sounds, male and female vocals and manipulated samples. The seamless blend of acoustic, electric and plain bizarre elements is unlike anything you’ve ever heard before, yet somehow instantly accessible. And at the core, underneath all the technical prowess and headphone trickery, lies the two things that separate The Books from their peers—a sense of humor and an ability to conjure up a broad range of emotions through their use of samples. Both are wonderfully intact on The Way Out.
Drawing inspiration this time around from self-help and hypnotherapy tapes, The Way Out is full of samples of new age mantras and cheesy therapists. Opener “Group Autogenics I” floats along on a base of sparse guitar and piano plunks while hypnosis instructions snake in and out. At one point a man says, “You may just possibly detect from my voice that I am Irish. And now, I leap forward in time.” As the last line is delivered, his voice echoes off into the distance and a tacky sci-fi whirl pops up. It’s small moments like this throughout that serve as the nudge and the wink to remind you that The Books aren’t taking any of this too seriously, and neither should you.
One of several highlights comes early on in the form of “A Cold Freezin’ Night.” The story goes that Zammuto and de Jong found an old Talkboy (the Walkman/tape recorder used by Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone 2) at a thrift store with a tape still inside. The content of the tape was a hilariously twisted conversation between what seems to be an older brother and his little sister. The frantic, quick pulse of music The Books created for it meshes perfectly while never drawing too much attention away from the strange source material. “I could kill you with a rifle, a shotgun, any way I want to,” the brother taunts. “Probably by cutting your toes off and working my way up. Towards your brain!” His sister replies with a defeated, “I wish I was a boy.”

Elsewhere, “I Didn’t Know That” is a lively piece of Books’ style slice-and-dice funk and a reminder that these guys can craft awesome grooves. Tracks like “Beautiful People” and “Free Translator” prove that Zammuto has harnessed his limited vocal range to impact the lyric-driven songs in a positive manner, which is something he struggled to do on 2005’s Lost and Safe
But what makes The Books distinct in a genre that can often seem cold or detached is their respect for — and ability to extract emotional elements from — samples. Take the recorded announcement of a pregnancy at a group dinner followed by celebratory applause on “All Our Base are Belong to Them” from their 2002 debut Thought For Food. Or the Japan Airlines flight attendant samples that lace “Tokyo” from 2003’s The Lemon of Pink. Coupled with music, these samples conjure up emotional responses and a vivid sense of time and place in a manner similar to similar a film.
The Way Out has several of these vivid moments, but the best is probably “Thirty Incoming.” The song’s title refers to a series of messages from a man left on a woman’s answering machine. “Hello Mary. Called to wish you good evening. And, uh, wish you good rest. And tell you how much I enjoyed your company last evening. And, uh, it really felt good to lie down next to you. I didn’t realize how much I’d missed that feeling.” Several more snippets of messages are played as the track shifts from distorted dial tone samples, to tribal drum breaks and swelling tremolo strings. It’s one of the most beautiful tracks the group has ever made.
The Way Out is another spectacular release from a group that continues to set its own personal bar higher and higher. And even though we may have had to wait a little longer than we’d have liked for new material, it’s hard to argue with the results. You could tell me the follow-up won’t come out for ten years next time around and I wouldn’t be upset or wonder why. I’d just patiently start counting down the days.

Two views:Joanna Newsom at the Fox, 8/2/10


By Amber Schadewald and Sam Stander

TAKE ONE “Have you seen her before?” a spirited woman asked a random couple in the front row at Oakland’s Fox theater Monday night, just before the lights began to dim. “She’s a fucking angel.” And it’s hard to disagree. California’s own folk-harp-composing-wonder Joanna Newsom is a beautiful, beautiful being who produced a perfectly impressive evening with song after long song of feather-light melodies. 

The show was lined with songs new and old, but consisted primarily of those from her February release, Have One On Me [Drag City, 2010]. Her fingers danced like tiny forest fairies across the towering collection of strings, creating surreal melodies that otherwise only exist in dream sequences and lands of happily ever after. Newsom’s whole face smiled as she played and I especially enjoyed watching her bright red lips as they took on various shapes; from large o’s that created airy open vowels to horizontal concoctions that produced Newsom’s classic, fluttering sounds. Her “new” voice, or what has developed after nodules were removed from her vocal chords last year, is gorgeous and full, yet hasn’t lost all the unique characteristics fans adore and non-fans despise. 

The evening’s mini-orchestra was comprised of local musicians, hailing from Oakland and Alameda. Together they delivered flute melodies, trombone solos, tender violins, banjo, electric guitar and all kinds of funky lil’ sounds to fulfill Newsom’s intricate compositions. Closing my eyes, I saw all kinds of stereotypical soothing images: dolphins clearing the surf, dew drops on roses, whiskers on kittens….well, to say the least, I left the Fox feeling so content, you could’ve wrapped me up with a bow.

Angel? I’d say Ms. Newsom is more of a real-life Cinderella, hypnotizing all the forest critters with her organic harp and piano sounds, calling them to her like a pied-piper, but instead of making them clean her room, she puts them all into a deep, satisfying slumber. Ahhhhh. (Schadewald)

TAKE TWO Remember when Joanna Newsom was this weird dark-horse harp wunderkind with a challenging (some would say grating, others might say revelatory) singing style? That was eight years ago, believe it or not, and by most accounts the 28-year-old singer songwriter has since outrun the shadow of her perceived fey persona to establish herself as a formidable force in modern popular music. Her prodigious skill (which opener Robin Pecknold compared, oddly, to Einstein) was on display Monday 8/2 at Oakland’s Fox Theater, where she took the stage with a five-piece backing band and played a set featuring material from all three of her LPs.

The band set-up is necessary to convey the complexity of her more recent compositions, including bangers like “Emily,” the epic opening track from 2006’s Ys [Drag City], originally arranged by Van Dyke Parks but reduced for this group by multi-instrumentalist Ryan Francesconi. Not so surprisingly, however, the most powerful sonic moments emanated from Newsom’s harp and voicebox. Sometimes, she reaches a kind of ecstatic energy where she is shout-singing some of her lyrics, hitting the odd notes that were more characteristic of her singing voice prior to her development of vocal cord nodules in 2009.

The other musicians provided texture throughout, but on certain numbers, the talented players especially stood out. Andrew Strain’s mournful trombone on “You and Me, Bess” complemented Newsom’s playing beautifully, while the Celtic-y fiddle from Mirabai Peart and Emily Packard added lushness to “Kingfisher.” Have One on Me highlight “Good Intentions Paving Company” was accompanied by “some Pecknolds and some Newsoms” who came out on stage and appeared to be tapping rhythm sticks or drum sticks together.

Newsom is a virtuoso harp player, but in keeping with the general diversification of her music on Ys and this year’s Have One on Me, she spent a lot of the show at the piano, switching off instruments roughly every other song. Her performance of “Inflammatory Writ,” which already features piano in its recorded form on The Milk-eyed Mender [Drag City, 2004], featured a country-inflected arrangement that may very well improve upon the classic album version. Other songs that benefited from live performance were Have One on Me opener “Easy,” on which the whole band just sounded smashingly good, and older track “Peach Plum Pear,” which closed the set before the encore. It’s a testament to Newsom’s development that her wailing intensity at the end of that song now far outstrips the force of the overdubbed choruses on the recording. Still one of her most strikingly beautiful compositions, both musically and lyrically, the track as performed Monday sounded like the closing song to a melancholy romantic film.

In contrast to the quasi-refined aesthetic of much of her music, Newsom brought Pecknold onstage for an encore of “Picture,” the boozy Kid Rock/Sheryl Crow (or Allison Moorer) duet. Perhaps those anticipating a collaboration on “On a Good Day,” a Newsom track that Pecknold covers, might have been disappointed, but the change in tone was both hilarious and well-executed. The auxiliary Pecknolds and Newsoms returned to the stage to snap in time and dance across the stage, before the close of the show was met with a second standing ovation.

Newsom’s novel-length songs might seem a tight fit for a riveting live show, but especially when juxtaposed with Pecknold’s lovely-sounding but formless songs in the opening act, the brilliant structure of her pieces kept the concert hurtling forward. If you’re the sort to dismiss Newsom’s harp-driven stylings as something quaint or merely trendy, seeing her live might persuade you otherwise, since this harpist is as exhilarating as any more conventional rocker or folkie you’ll encounter onstage anytime soon. (Stander)


Best of the Bay 2010 Readers Poll: Shopping






Green Apple

506 Clement, SF. (415) 387-2272, www.greenapplebooks.com



Green Apple

506 Clement, SF. (415) 387-2272, www.greenapplebooks.com



Green Arcade

1680 Market, SF. (415) 431-6800, www.thegreenarcade.com




326 Fell, SF. (415) 621-6543, www.isotopecomics.com



Fog City News

455 Market, SF. (415) 543-7400, www.fogcitynews.com




1855 Haight, SF. (415) 831-1200; 2455 Telegraph, Berk. (510) 549-1125, www.amoeba.com




1855 Haight, SF. (415) 831-1200; 2455 Telegraph, Berk. (510) 549-1125, www.amoeba.com



Lost Weekend

1034 Valencia, SF. (415) 643-3373, www.lostweekendvideo.com




1745 Folsom, SF. (415) 863-0620, www.rainbowgrocery.org




Various locations, SF. www.ambiancesf.com



Sui Generis

2265 Market, SF. (415) 437-2265, www.suigenerisconsignment.com



Chloe’s Closet

451 Cortland, SF. (415) 642-3300, www.chloescloset.com



Colleen Mauer

(415) 637-7762, www.colleenmauerdesigns.com




Various Bay Area locations. www.crossroadstrading.com



Thrift Town

2101 Mission, SF. (415) 861-1132, www.thrifttown.com



Shoe Biz

Various locations, SF. www.shoebizsf.com




Various Bay Area locations. www.shopattherapy.com



Alameda Point Antiques and Collectibles Fair

Main and Navy, Alameda. (510) 522-7500, www.antiquesbybay.com



Cole Hardware

Various locations, SF. www.colehardware.com



The Ark

Various Bay Area locations. www.thearktoys.com




1306 Castro, SF. (415) 641-6192, www.peekabootiquesf.com



Valencia Cyclery

1065 and 1077 Valencia, SF. (415) 550-6601, www.valenciacyclery.com




2250 Union No. 1A, SF. (415) 337-8481, www.cheengoo.com



Eye Gotcha Optometric

586 Castro, SF. (415) 431-2988, www.eyegotchasf.com




1840 Embarcadero, Oakl. (510) 533-0146, www.harborsidehealthcenter.com



Community Thrift

623 Valencia, SF. (415) 861-4910, www.communitythriftsf.org



Paxton Gate

824 Valencia, SF. (415) 824-1872, www.paxtongate.com



Green Arcade

1680 Market, SF. (415) 431-6800, www.thegreenarcade.com



Sports Basement

Various Bay Area locations. www.sportsbasement.com




Various Bay Area locations. www.rei.com



Church Street Flowers

212 Church, SF. (415) 553-7762, www.churchstreetflowers.com



Agent Provocateur

54 Geary, SF. (415) 421-0229, www.agentprovocateur.com



Good Vibrations

Various Bay Area locations. www.goodvibes.com



Madame S

385 Eighth St., SF. (415) 863-9447, www.madame-s.com



Folsom Gulch

947 Folsom, SF. (415) 495-6402


Best of the Bay 2010 Readers Poll: City Living










Funcheap SF








Gavin Newsom



GLBT Historical Society

657 Mission, SF. (415) 777-5455, www.glbthistory.org



Dana King, CBS 5



Distortion 2 Static




KFOG, 104.5 FM




DJ Deevice, Gridlock




Folsom Street Fair




Hotel Whitcomb

1231 Market, SF. (415) 626-8000, www.hotelwhitcomb.com



Golden Gate Bridge



Black and Blue Tattoo

381 Guerrero, SF. (415) 626-0770, www.blackandbluetattoo.com



Idexa at Black and Blue



Rocket Dog Rescue




Dog Tales Walking and Sitting Service

(415) 948-3840, www.dogtalesunleashed.com



VIP Grooming

4299 24th St., SF. (415) 282-1393



Mission Pet Hospital

720 Valencia, SF. (415) 552-1969, www.missionpet.com



Paul Y. Lin, DDS

82 Townsend, SF. (415) 543-6882, www.paulylindds.com



Erika Horowitz, ND

(415) 643-6600, www.sfnatmed.com



Heise’s Plumbing

260 Ocean, SF. (415) 333-0704



Ike’s Electric

3546 19th St., SF. (415) 861-6417, www.ikeselectric.com



Delancey Street Moving and Trucking

600 Embarcadero, SF. (415) 512-5110, www.delanceystreetfoundation.org



Joshua Alexander, CMT

(415) 691-4076, www.joshuaalexandercmt.com



Immune Enhancement Project

3450 16th St., SF. (415) 252-8711, www.iepclinic.com



Marriage Prep 101

417 Spruce, SF. (415) 905-8830, www.marriageprep101.com



Pat’s Garage

1090 26th St., SF, (415) 647-4500, www.patsgarage.com




3248 17th St., SF. (415) 552-8115, www.werkstattsf.com



Box Dog Bikes

494 14th St., SF. (415) 431-9627, www.boxdogbikes.com



Public Barber Salon

571 Geary, SF. (415) 441-8599, www.publicbarbersalon.com




2221 26th St., SF. (415) 294-5004, www.insymmetry.com



Blue Turtle

57 West Portal Ave., SF. 170 Columbus, SF. (415) 699-8494, www.blueturtlespa.com



Anthony’s Shoe Service

30 Geary, SF. (415) 781-1338



Cable Car Tailors

200 O’Farrell, SF. (415) 781-4636



Brain Wash

1122 Folsom, SF. (415) 431-9274, www.brainwash.com



Mission Cliffs

2295 Harrison, SF. (415) 550-0515, www.touchstoneclimbing.com



Xavier McClinton, Body by X

5768 Paradise, Corte Madera. (415) 945-9778, www.bodybyxonline.com



Monkey Yoga Shala

3215 Lakeshore, Oakl. (510) 908-1694, www.monkeyyoga.com



Tim Lincecum



Fog Rugby




Kezar Stadium

755 Stanyan, SF.



Mission Pool

1 Linda, SF. (415) 641-2841



Baker Beach



Golden Gate Park



Muir Woods



Angel Island



Tree Frog Treks




Fort Funston



Potrero Del Sol



Ocean Beach

Shayna Steele embraces her soul passion


By Lilan Kane

Jazzy, sultry, soulful, and smooth, Shayna Steele — performing at Coda on Sat/17 — has a voice and style that is causing quite the buzz. With a background in Broadway (she starred in Rent and Hairspray) and influence from the jazz greats, she had a major break with her vocal feature on Moby’s number one dance hit “Disco Lies.” On her latest record I’ll Be Anything (Highyella Lowbrown), she truly shows that she can sing anything.

Opening the record, “Alright” is driven by funky guitar riffs, “Wishing” is more R&B and even tinged with latin rhythms and percussion, and closes with an elegant jazz ballad “We’ve Already Been Here Before.” Shayna should be considered one of the most promising and versatile up and coming R&B singers, right up there with Rachelle Ferrell and Ledisi. I got a chance to interview her over email aboiut Broadway, Billboard, and the Jazz Mafia.

Shayna Steele with the Jazz Mafia All-Stars
Sat/17, 10pm, $10
1710 Mission, SF
(415) 551-2632

SFBG: How would you describe the Shayna Steele sound?

Shayna Steele: New York subway grit, covered in a buttery and rich jazz gravy with a pinch of Mississippi soul.

SFBG:Tell me about your new album, I’ll Be Anything. What was the writing process?

Steele: I’ll Be Anything covers many styles, musically and vocally, as far as how I interpret the music. My voice changes with how the song makes me feel. My writing process changes with each song…but mostly I write on the subway, in bars and restaurants when I’m alone and when I’m listening to music, mostly jazz. Jazz inspires me most… Miles, Coltrane, Herbie Hancock. The truth.

SFBG: You started on Broadway performing in Rent, Hairspray, and Jesus Christ Superstar. Do you miss the theatre?

Steele: My connections and my professional stage experience started on Broadway with Rent. It certainly opened a ton of doors for me in music, because Rent, at the time and still today has such a profound impact on theatre. It was a historical moment and I was so grateful to be a part of it. The people in the Broadway community will always be family, but for the record, I don’t miss it when I’m doing my own music. It was certainly more constant and stable, but my heart and gut never ached with such passion for theatre as it does for jazz and soul music. My music runs through my veins now. It is part of me and you can see that when I perform live. The Broadway community, I’m certainly very much involved with charity work and live performances through my Broadway connections, such as Broadway Impact (I’m running the NYC marathon on their behalf) and the Broadway Inspirational Voices.

SFBG: When did you know that you wanted to move on from Broadway to your solo career?

Steele: When I did my first gig in 2003 with my band. It changed everything for me. I had a lot of support when I decided to leave and some people were confused as to why I was walking away. I walked away, because I have mucho respect for theatre, therefore I believe in not taking a place that does not belong to me. The “Broadway actress,” position needed to be opened up for someone who craves it, like I crave music.

SFBG: You sang on Moby’s hit song “Disco Lies” in 2008 that went #1 in the U.S. Billboard Dance charts.  Would you ever consider recording another dance song like that?

Steele: If the opportunity came up, absolutely. It’s not something I sought out.  It kinda found me.

SFBG: What can people expect to see at your show at Coda this Saturday?

Steele: Passion! A killin’ band (The Jazz Mafia All-Stars) and strong vocals. I try and surround myself with amazing musicians who love their instrument and dig my music. I’m here to tell a story. It’s an experience. I mean, that’s what people say about me.

Taming finance in an age of austerity


By Joseph E. Stiglitz

NEW YORK – It was not long ago that we could say, “We are all Keynesians now.” The financial sector and its free-market ideology had brought the world to the brink of ruin. Markets clearly were not self-correcting. Deregulation had proven to be a dismal failure.

The “innovations” unleashed by modern finance did not lead to higher long-term efficiency, faster growth, or more prosperity for all. Instead, they were designed to circumvent accounting standards and to evade and avoid taxes that are required to finance the public investments in infrastructure and technology – like the Internet – that underlie real growth, not the phantom growth promoted by the financial sector.

The financial sector pontificated not only about how to create a dynamic economy, but also about what to do in the event of a recession (which, according to their ideology, could be caused only by a failure of government, not of markets). Whenever an economy enters recession, revenues fall, and expenditures – say, for unemployment benefits – increase. So deficits grow.

Financial-sector deficit hawks said that governments should focus on eliminating deficits, preferably by cutting back on expenditures. The reduced deficits would restore confidence, which would restore investment – and thus growth. But, as plausible as this line of reasoning may sound, the historical evidence repeatedly refutes it.

When US President Herbert Hoover tried that recipe, it helped transform the 1929 stock-market crash into the Great Depression. When the International Monetary Fund tried the same formula in East Asia in 1997, downturns became recessions, and recessions became depressions.

The reasoning behind such episodes is based on a flawed analogy. A household that owes more money than it can easily repay needs to cut back on spending. But when a government does that, output and incomes decline, unemployment increases, and the ability to repay may actually decrease. What is true for a family is not true for a country.

More sophisticated advocates warn that government spending will drive up interest rates, thus “crowding out” private investment. When the economy is at full employment, this is a legitimate concern. But not now: given extraordinarily low long-term interest rates, no serious economist raises the “crowding out” issue nowadays.

In Europe, especially Germany, and in some quarters in the US, as government deficits and debt grow, so, too, do calls for increased austerity. If heeded, as appears to be the case in many countries, the results will be disastrous, especially given the fragility of the recovery. Growth will slow, with Europe and/or America possibly even slipping back into recession.

Stimulus spending, the deficit hawks’ favorite bogeyman, did not cause most of the increased deficits and debt, which are the result of “automatic stabilizers” – the tax cuts and spending increases that automatically accompany economic fluctuations. So, as austerity undermines growth, debt reduction will be marginal at best.

Keynesian economics worked: if not for stimulus measures and automatic stabilizers, the recession would have been far deeper and longer, and unemployment much higher. This does not mean that we should ignore the level of debt. But what matters is long-term debt.

There is a simple Keynesian recipe: First, shift spending away from unproductive uses – such as wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, or unconditional bank bailouts that do not revive lending – toward high-return investments. Second, encourage spending and promote equity and efficiency by raising taxes on corporations that don’t reinvest, for example, and lowering them on those that do, or by raising taxes on speculative capital gains (say, in real estate) and on carbon- and pollution-intensive energy, while cutting taxes for lower-income payers.

There are other measures that might help. For example, governments should help banks that lend to small- and medium-size enterprises, which are the main source of job creation – or establish new financial institutions that would do so – rather than supporting big banks that make their money from derivatives and abusive credit card practices.

Financial markets have worked hard to create a system that enforces their views: with free and open capital markets, a small country can be flooded with funds one moment, only to be charged high interest rates – or cut off completely – soon thereafter. In such circumstances, small countries seemingly have no choice: financial markets’ diktat on austerity, lest they be punished by withdrawal of financing.

But financial markets are a harsh and fickle taskmaster. The day after Spain announced its austerity package, its bonds were downgraded. The problem was not a lack of confidence that the Spanish government would fulfill its promises, but too much confidence that it would, and that this would reduce growth and increase unemployment from its already intolerable level of 20%. In short, having gotten the world into its current economic mess, financial markets are now saying to countries like Greece and Spain: damned if you don’t cut back on spending, but damned if you do as well.

Finance is a means to an end, not an end in itself. It is supposed to serve the interests of the rest of society, not the other way around. Taming financial markets will not be easy, but it can and must be done, through a combination of taxation and regulation – and, if necessary, government stepping in to fill some of the breaches (as it already does in the case of lending to small- and medium-size enterprises.)

Unsurprisingly, financial markets do not want to be tamed. They like the way things have been working, and why shouldn’t they? In countries with corrupt and imperfect democracies, they have the wherewithal to resist change. Fortunately, citizens in Europe and America have lost patience. The process of tempering and taming has begun. But there is far more yet to do.

Joseph E. Stiglitz is University Professor at Columbia University and a Nobel laureate in Economics. His latest book, Freefall: Free Markets and the Sinking of the Global Economy, is now available in French, German, Japanese, and Spanish.

Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2010.
For a podcast of this commentary in English, please use this link:

The Unaccountable G-8


By Jeffrey Sachs

(Jeffrey D. Sachs is Professor of Economics and Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University. He is also Special Adviser to United Nations Secretary-General on the Millennium Development Goals.)

NEW YORK – In hosting the 2010 G-8 summit of major economies (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States), Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper called for an “accountability summit,” to hold the G-8 responsible for the promises that it made over the years. So let’s make our own account of how the G-8 did. The answer, alas, is a failing grade. The G-8 this year illustrates the difference between photo-ops and serious global governance.

Of all of the G-8’s promises over the years, the most important was made to the world’s poorest people at the 2005 G-8 Gleneagles Summit in Scotland. The G-8 promised that, by this year, it would increase annual development assistance to the world’s poor by $50 billion relative to 2004. Half of the increase, or $25 billion per year, would go to Africa.

The G-8 fell far short of this goal, especially with respect to Africa. Total aid went up by around $40 billion rather than $50 billion, and aid to Africa rose by $10-$15 billion per year rather than $25 billion. The properly measured shortfall is even greater, because the promises that were made in 2005 should be adjusted for inflation. Re-stating those commitments in real terms, total aid should have risen by around $60 billion, and aid to Africa should have risen by around $30 billion.

In effect, the G-8 fulfilled only half of its promise to Africa – roughly $15 billion in increased aid rather than $30 billion. Much of the overall G-8 increase in aid went to Iraq and Afghanistan, as part of the US-led war effort, rather than to Africa. Among G-8 countries, only the UK is making a bold effort to increase its overall aid budget and direct a significant portion to Africa.

Since the G-8 was off track in its aid commitments for many years, I long wondered what the G-8 would say in 2010, when the commitments actually fell due. In fact, the G-8 displayed two approaches. First, in an “accountability report” issued before the summit, the G-8 stated the 2005 commitments in current dollars rather than in inflation-adjusted dollars, in order to minimize the size of the reported shortfall.

Second, the G-8 Summit communiqué simply did not mention the unmet commitments at all. In other words, the G-8 accountability principle became: if the G-8 fails to meet an important target, stop mentioning the target – a cynical stance, especially at a summit heralded for “accountability.”

The G-8 did not fail because of the current financial crisis. Even before the crisis, the G-8 countries were not taking serious steps to meet their pledges to Africa. This year, despite a massive budget crisis, the UK government has heroically honored its aid commitments, showing that other countries could have done so if they had tried.

But isn’t this what politicians like to do – smile for the cameras, and then fail to honor their promises? I would say that the situation is far more serious than that.

First, the Gleneagles commitments might be mere words to politicians in the rich world, but they are matters of life and death for the world’s poor. If Africa had another $15-$20 billion per year in development aid in 2010, as promised, with the amounts rising over future years (also as promised), millions of children would be spared an agonizing death from preventable diseases, and tens of millions of children would be able to get an education.

Second, the emptiness of G-8 leaders’ words puts the world at risk. The G-8 leaders promised last year to fight hunger with $22 billion in new funds, but so far they are not delivering. They promised to fight climate change with $30 billion of new emergency funds, but so far they are not delivering. My own country, the US, shows the largest gap between promises and reality.

Hosting this year’s G-8 summit reportedly cost Canada a fortune, despite the absence of any significant results. The estimated cost of hosting the G-8 leaders for 1.5 days, followed by the G-20 leaders for 1.5 days, reportedly came to more than $1 billion. This is essentially the same amount that the G-8 leaders pledged to give each year to the world’s poorest countries to support maternal and child health.

It is absurd and troubling to spend $1 billion on three days of meetings under any circumstances (since there are much cheaper ways to have such meetings and much better uses for the money). But it is tragic to spend so much money and then accomplish next to nothing in terms of concrete results and honest accountability. 

There are three lessons to be drawn from this sorry episode. First, the G-8 as a group should be brought to an end. The G-20, which includes developing countries as well as rich countries, should take over.

Second, any future promises made by the G-20 should be accompanied by a clear and transparent accounting of what each country will do, and when. The world needs true accountability, not empty words about accountability. Every G-20 promise should spell out the specific actions and commitments of each country, as well as the overall promise of the group.

Third, the world’s leaders should recognize that commitments to fight poverty, hunger, disease, and climate change are life-and-death issues that require professional management for serious implementation.

The G-20 meets later this year in South Korea, a country that has emerged from poverty and hunger over the past 50 years. South Korea understands the utter seriousness of the global development agenda, and the poorest countries’ needs. Our best hope is that South Korea will succeed as the next host country, picking up where Canada has fallen far short.

Jeffrey D. Sachs is Professor of Economics and Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University. He is also Special Adviser to United Nations Secretary-General on the Millennium Development Goals.

Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2010.
For a podcast of this commentary in English, please use this link:

Fiscal solidarity


OPINION As Mayor Gavin Newsom prepares to skip town for the bleak limelight of Sacramento, he has left a resounding parting shot with massive budget cuts to those San Franciscans most in need of public aid: seniors, youth, homeless people, folks with mental illnesses, health clinic patients … the list goes on.

Newsom has balanced his final budget (and his campaign for lieutenant governor) largely on the backs of the poor, working-class, multiracial, and immigrant San Franciscans, as well as the nonprofits and city workers who deliver vital services.

The Newsom budget actually adds costs: by cutting services for the treatment and prevention of substance abuse and for youth crime prevention and supportive housing, for instance, it destabilizes lives and forces people right back into the treatment systems that are being cut — adding new human and fiscal costs.

"Every cut has a constituency," Newsom’s PR people say repeatedly. And that’s precisely what the mayor is counting on — that each "constituency" will fight on its own, for its own fiscal scraps. He’s wrong.

As members of a broad coalition of community and neighborhood-based organizations, labor unions, and civic leaders and residents across the city, we stand together in opposition to Newsom’s cuts-only budget and his attempts to divide "constituencies."

Fiscal solidarity means we recognize that an injury to one is an injury to all. "Constituencies" are in fact people whose lives cut across multiple budget line items. Cutting city parks is also a senior issue, as well as a youth issue. Closing mental health programs for the poor is not only an unnecessary moral outrage — it’s a public health and safety issue.

As members and supporters of unions and nonprofits, which are sometimes pit against each other in budget cut wars, we declare mutual support. The mayor’s cuts will mean drastically reduced services for those who need them most and deep staff cuts for city employees and nonprofit workers. We may work for different institutions under different budget line-items, but we’re fighting together as one community — one big "constituency."

Budget wars artificially divide communities that overlap and intermingle. Expressions of unity are put to the test by the budget "add-back" process that forces community groups to scuffle for scraps of cash — groups serving populations in critical need are set against each other, and whole communities are reduced to line-items.

We’re standing against fiscal wedge politics and demanding a real alternative. The budget must protect those most in need and be balanced by cutting first from the top instead of the bottom.

We are united for solutions — progressive tax measures on key wealth sectors that can and must pay their fair share to keep San Francisco the beautiful, thriving, diverse, and culturally rich city it is. We’re standing up for the city Newsom’s leaving, for the communities he’s cutting, and for progressive revenue — a tax to make downtown hotels pay their fair share, and a gross receipts tax on large businesses for starters.

Mayor Newsom: if you cut one of us, you cut us all.

This statement was signed by Christopher Cook, Budget Justice Coalition; Gabriel Haaland, SEIU 1021*; Gordon Mar, Jobs with Justice*; Eric Quezada, Dolores Street Community Services*; N’Tanya Lee, Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth*; Jennifer Friedenbach, Coalition on Homelessness; Guiliana Milanese, Jobs with Justice*; Christina Olague, Senior Action Network*; Sheila Tully, California Faculty Association, SF State*; Chelsea Boilard, Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth*; Joseph Smooke, Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center*; Carl Finamore, delegate, SF Labor Council*

* names for ID purposes only

The sublime absurdity of Danzig returns to SF


By Sam Stander

This Sun/27, Danzig takes the stage at SF’s Regency Ballroom. Now, I guess Danzig technically refers to the band as a whole, but the concept of the band is inseparable from its eponymous frontman Glenn Danzig. Danzig is the man behind horror-punk mainstays the Misfits and Samhain, and, to our great benefit, seems to possess almost no self-awareness. Well, maybe a little bit, since he did that Aqua Teen Hunger Force episode. His sublimely absurd sincerity as he revels in images of the occult renders him simultaneously a laughingstock and a sort of heroic eternal adolescent. I guess what I’m trying to say is, Danzig rocks.

He’s touring behind his just-released album Deth Red Sabaoth (Evilive/The End), and this is his last tour date until his fall Blackest Tour. Just to get you pumped up, here is a sampling of why Danzig, well, rocks:



And, not in fact Danzig, but a perfect musical likeness:


Calvin Trillin, Deadline Poet


As Elena Kagan’s Confirmation Hearing Approaches, We’re Reminded of John Robert’s Promise to Be an Umpire Calling Balls and Strikes

By Calvin Trillin

Regardless of which laws he likes,

He’s only calling balls and strikes.

Of balls and strikes that he has eyed,

The union pitches all look wide.

When criminal defendants try

To throw a strike, it’s always high.

Consumers make for easy calls:

Their pitches simply all are balls.

By chance, the pitches that are great-

The ones that nick or split the plate;

The ones deserving of ovations-

Are pitched by cops or corporations.

A left-wing lawyer sharp as Darrow

Will find the strike zone much too narrow.

Behind it, crouching, is the Chief,

Quite confident in his belief:

Regardless of which laws he likes,

He’s only calling balls and strikes.

From the Nation’s June 7, 2010 issue.

Hot Issues and vegan treats


By Sam Stander

Down a little side street branching off the Piedmont Ave. shopping area in northern Oakland, two locals have combined the fine art of the well-stocked newsstand with the high-class vibe of an artsy boutique. Just past its third birthday, Issues offers and expansive selection of magazines and periodicals, as well as an array of t-shirts, buttons, books, and music, all couched in a warm, welcoming atmosphere. Events held at the store often incorporate other local businesses, and on Sat/26 they’ll play host to the East Bay Vegan Bakesale, with sure to be yummy goods on offer from various local purveryors, to benefit Walk Oakland Bike Oakland and the recently fire-ravaged Berkeley East Bay Humane Society. Details after the jump.


Sat/26, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.


20 Glen, Oakl

(510) 652-5700



Push it real good: Push Dance Company’s Great Integration unites hip-hop, martial arts, and epic storytelling


By Katie Gaydos

On opening night (June 18 at ODC Dance Commons) of Push Dance Company‘s Great Integration: A Chamber Hip-Hop Opera, I wondered whether the show would live up to its hefty title. But once MC Kirby Dominant began narrating the the story of apostles and swordsmen, it became clear that the collaboration between choreographer Raissa Simpson and JooWan Kim’s eclectic music ensemble Mik Nawooj would be nothing less than epic.

From the moment the dancers (Simpson, Kat Worthington, Jetta Martin and Julian Pham) arrived, they commanded the stage with valiant charisma. They leapt across the stage like demigods playing atop Mt. Zeus, executing martial arts movements and Simpson’s complex choreography with athletic agility. 

After a battle with the Black Swordsman (danced by Robert Henry Johnson, who later transformed into the Celestial King), the conquered heroes collapsed in a small pool of light. The floor-bound dancers crawled, shuddered and articulated their way through a series of tiny arm gestures that captured an emotionally moving struggle. Propelled by MC Dominant’s driving rap and JooWan Kim’s smooth piano melodies, the dancers rose like warriors and strutted their way through fast-paced gestures and soaring jumps. The result possessed powerful bite and graceful fluidity.

Simpson reinvents classical ballet and modern dance aesthetics with a sleek and sexy edge. Ultimately, her sleek style transcends confining categories. While her movement style refuses to be pinned down, one thing is for certain: her choreography is as fierce and boundless as her dancing.


July 25, 8 p.m., $15-20

Yoshi’s San Francisco

1330 Fillmore, SF

(415) 665-5600




Snap Sounds: Kurt Vile


By Irwin Swirnoff

Square Shells

Seven songs of drifter daydreams. There is something so beautifully lonely and core-hitting about the way Vile’s sprawling songs continue to evolve. He can’t be written off to any scene or fad — he’s one of the most poignant, affecting songwriters around. Check out one reason why after the jump.


CompStat vs. community policing


By Alex Emslie


Two competing visions for the San Francisco Police Department are central to a looming debate involving the mayor and his police chief, who favor the high-tech yet impersonal CompStat model, and progressive members of the Board of Supervisors who are pushing for a community-based, cops-walking-beats blueprint for SFPD.

District 5 Sup. Ross Mirkarimi introduced a proposed ballot measure on June 7 that would require the police chief to institute foot patrols in all districts and ask the Police Commission to establish a written community policing policy. SFPD Chief George Gascón opposes the initiative, instead favoring a reliance on the new CompStat system to determine how best to use police resources.

The terms “CompStat” and “community policing” have become trendy buzz words, UC Berkeley law professor Franklin Zimring told the Guardian, so they mean different things to the police departments that employ them, muddying the waters of the current debate.

“When labels get popular, they get pasted into lots of different things,” said Zimring, who wrote The Great American Crime Decline (Oxford University Press, 2006) and is working on a second book about the crime rate drop in the 1990s in New York City, where CompStat orginated. Yet the two models point to differing law enforcement philosophies.

At its most basic, CompStat uses computerized crime mapping software to drive police deployment decisions. It emphasizes lowering a city’s crime rate by centralizing authority, spotting statistical trends, and targeting crime hot spots. Community policing, a model embraced by many U.S. police departments in the 1980s and ’90s before CompStat swept the nation, grounds police officers in the neighborhoods they serve, decentralizing authority. The model seeks to prevent crime with regular patrols that develop relationships on their beats and lets the community help set law enforcement priorities.

“There is not community policing in San Francisco,” Mirkarimi — the only member of the board to go through the police academy — told the Guardian. “I don’t care what anybody says. If they say there is, then it is isolated. It’s unique to that particular experience or location.”

Proponents of CompStat insist the new model is really just a part of community policing. Gascón wrote a letter to the Board of Supervisors in February saying the proposed legislation “oversteps the jurisdiction of the legislative branch,” “attempts to give district station captains authority and discretion that rightfully belong to the chief of police,” and “will deprive the department of the flexibility it needs to address public safety throughout the city.”

Mirkarimi doesn’t oppose CompStat and said he sees merit in the program’s statistical collection, which has long been a shortcoming in the SFPD. “But I caution against any over-reliance on CompStat as a method that dictates how policing and public safety should be applied,” Mirkarimi told us. “Because the casualty of this over-reliance will be a compromising of any hopes of having true community policing.”

The SFPD website portrays CompStat as starting with data collection and then, similar to community policing, encouraging officers to find creative solutions to ongoing problems, anything from singular incidents of burglary to repeated graffiti or even a spike in murders. The crime triangle, a lasting symbol of community policing, illustrates that victims, suspects, and locations are all necessary for crime to thrive, and successfully policing even one of those factors can prevent crime. But CompStat programs often lack sustained commitment to building relationships with neighborhoods.

“Compstat seemed to engender a pattern of organizational response to crime spikes in hot spots that was analogous to the Whack-a-Mole game found at fairs and carnivals,” argued a 2003 study commissioned by the national Police Foundation titled “CompStat in Practice: An in-depth Analysis of Three Cities.”

The study found immediate contradictions in Lowell, Mass.; Minneapolis, and Newark, N.J. between beat officers’ new responsibility to “simply follow their superiors’ orders” and the community policing model that cast them as individual, authoritative protectors of their neighborhoods. CompStat centralizes authority with the higher echelons of SFPD. It includes bimonthly meetings in which station captains are grilled by SFPD brass and are expected to answer for the statistics in their district.

“Given the gap between the two models of policing, CompStat naturally tends to encounter the greatest resistance in departments that are most committed to community policing,” the study found.

Understaffed and poorly trained crime analysis units tasked with deciphering data patterns into useful correlations (for example, between drug crimes and murder) was another barrier to the success of CompStat outlined in the study. SFPD’s crime analysis unit consists of three civilians housed at the Hall of Justice, SFPD spokesperson Lt. Lyn Tomioka told us. They are not deployed to district stations and are supervised by a lieutenant who also has other responsibilities.

“There are a lot of rough edges. There’s a lot of non-fit there,” Zimring told the Guardian. “Who sets the priorities? CompStat priorities are always crime prevention, and they are set, and tactics are provided, by the chief of police. He is, in the immortal words of George W. Bush, ‘the decider.’ Community policing is supposed to be more cooperative and organic.”

Gascón initiated CompStat in San Francisco in October 2009, although Mayor Gavin Newsom has been touting the CompStat model since he first ran for mayor in 2003, when a campaign policy brief gushed about its “accurate and timely intelligence, rapid deployment, effective tactics, and relentless follow-up and assessment.” Initially, however, SFPD only took baby steps, using a confusing plot system to map crimes. That changed when Gascón took over as police chief last August, bringing experience in the program with him from the Los Angeles Police Department.

SFPD officials say vendor contract costs to start the system’s electronic crime mapping were less than $1 million, and an additional $1 million has been proposed for next year’s budget for technology upgrades in the CompStat unit. But the numbers so far haven’t backed up the boldest claims. SFPD reports 24 homicides this year as of June 12, up 20 percent from last year’s rate for early June. Homicide arrests are down from 12 last year to eight this year. Occurrences of rape are also up by 12 percent, but overall violent crime is down 2 percent compared to this time last year.

Gascón wrote that foot patrols are a valuable tool for community policing in San Francisco, but he doesn’t want to be forced to maintain them with limited staffing. Newsom’s proposed budget maintains current SFPD staffing, 2,317 sworn officers, while many other city departments received deep staffing cuts. Progressive supervisors have pledged to closely scrutinize SFPD’S budget.

Community policing was law enforcement’s response to civil unrest in the 1960s and ’70s, when police were seen as the enforcers of institutional power. Previous beat patrol methods largely ended when the 911 system came along, and the emphasis was placed on calls for service, statistics, and response times, leaving officers with little time to patrol and prevent crime.

The change to community policing emphasized neighborhood input and officers becoming an organic part of the community they served. Citizen contributions, generally through community meetings, began to drive decision-making. Foot patrols were revived and officers were once again expected to have a physical presence and a connection to the community they served.

That change was seen as particularly important in poor neighborhoods and communities of color, where police can sometimes be seen as an occupying army and residents were reluctant to cooperate with investigations. Officials hoped to prevent crimes by showing a presence in neighborhoods rather than simply reacting to them when someone called.

Mirkarimi says a CompStat-driven police force would be a return to that reactive model, potentially sacrificing the long-term commitment required to build trust between a neighborhood and its police department, which is central to community policing. “[CompStat] undermines the principles and practices of community policing because true community policing requires a discipline and a protocol that is sustained,” he said.

While either approach can theoretically result in the same practices, such as a foot beat patrol in a given neighborhood, Zimring said the reasoning behind it depends on the model. “CompStat to begin with is completely crime-driven,” Zimring said. “The reason you have it is to reduce crimes. It involves computerized mapping of crimes. It involves allocating resources to so-called hot spots, and it involves the police department imposing its own priorities as opposed to implementing community priorities.”

The Board of Supervisors will consider Mirkarimi’s measure and SFPD budget in July, airing a debate that could continue on to the November ballot, when voters would decide whether to maintain their faith in CompStat and the SFPD or ask for more community policing and foot patrols.

25 ideas for our queer future


What does the future hold in store for us? In an age of mainstream assimilation and aspiration, is there even such a thing as the queer future? We asked 25 queer leaders, artists, and activists to offer visions in their areas of expertise. The results — philosophical, poetic, practical, and priceless — are inspiring. One thing’s for sure, we’ll never lose our creative spark. Nor will we lose our motivational zeal. Fate is for the lazy: take action now. (Marke B.)

>>Click here for ideas from our amazing 2010 Hot Pink List

>>Click here for our Pride listings, and get out there!

THE FUTURE OF QUEER ACTIVISM We need to take back the power and stop being led by what the other side is doing. We need to empower ourselves enough so that we are no longer reacting but acting. We must use online social networks the way we used the streets and bullhorns to show our strength, speak out against wrongdoing, change minds, and win back our rights. We also must unite with our allies in other communities that are underrepresented and maligned in much of the same ways we are. When we stand with one another, we have that much stronger a voice.

Kelly Rivera Hart is the founder of Poz Activists Network (pansf.blogspot.com).

THE FUTURE OF QUEER COMMUNITY The difference between straight and gay cultures seems to be breaking down more and more, which is one of our goals, but we still need to support our own businesses, nonprofits, and leaders. We need to continue interacting with each other in the real world and not lose sight of who we are and what we share. Despite how the rest of the world sees us, there is still a lot of loneliness and isolation in the queer community. I think many of us have forgotten even simple things, like how to make actual friends, not just online. And it’s so easy! Renewing that spirit of interaction, freeing ourselves from fear of judgment, and moving outside our “safe zone” can lead to the greatest rewards.

Mark Rhoades is a charitable event planner and fundraiser who throws the annual Cupid’s Back and City Hall Pride parties.

THE FUTURE OF QUEER FASHION The past decade has witnessed an obsession with bulky, voluminous silhouettes disguised as “futuristic avant-garde” and inspired by GaGa and the ’80s. Let’s move on. Through clean lines, elegance, and wearable pieces, the future of queer fashion will shine light on socially relevant issues like bottom shame, positive-negative status reinforcement, and elite subcultures by using gay textiles and forgotten, non-era-specific imagery.

Allán Herrera is the design head of fashion house Homo Atelier (www.homoatelier.com) and a founder of HomoChic (www.homochic.com).

THE FUTURE OF QUEER FILM Future queer film will depend on the gays being at the forefront of distribution technology in the same way we pioneered social networking 15 years ago, spreading provocative and sexually honest/explicit films beyond the film festival circuit and toward a global audience. Special attention must be paid to the creeping homophobia of cultural and technological juggernauts like Apple. Our stories will need to bust through the pigeonhole, weaving our traditional themes (AIDS, coming-of-age) into larger storylines that are relevant to multicultural and transcontinental viewers.

Leo Herrera is a video artist, filmmaker, and a founder of HomoChic (www.homochic.com).

THE FUTURE OF QUEER YOUTH To be a true leader, one must envision the future. The future is a diverse society where LGBTQQ youth are embraced for who they are and encouraged to be who they want to be. In my pursuit for LGBTQQ youth rights, leadership has been about fostering the awareness in LGBTQQ young people about their own power as individuals and as a group, supporting them to access, develop, and master the skills and knowledge they need to transform their power into action, and building bridges to opportunities where their action can create just communities.

Jodi Schwartz is the executive director of LYRIC Lavender Youth Recreation and Information Center (www.lyric.org).

THE FUTURE OF QUEER LABOR Storm of protest drives Congress to pass trans-inclusive ENDA! Support by labor unions critical to passage of this landmark legislation. Screaming, “We’re too queer for this bullshit!” workers hold drag-runway picket lines at transphobic companies across the country. Activists redefine the crisis of trans poverty and unemployment as the most critical queer civil rights issue of our time.

Bad hotel boycott forces Hyatt to sign a fair contract and treat their employees with respect. LGBTQ organizations rally with labor unions for immigration reform, hold signs reading “No borders on my cunt, no border on our countries!

Jane Martin is a queer labor activist and community organizer with SF Pride at Work (www.sfprideatwork.org).

THE FUTURE OF QUEER DRAG (PART ONE) My vision for the future of queer drag requires you to take a moment, stop, look, and listen to our past. We have such a rich history of fierce and amazing queens to learn from. The key is to get involved with a queer family that supports and loves you and what you do. Next, figure out your niche — whether it’s high drag or low camp, just be sure to always do it like you don’t need the money! Then pull it together and serve it up with lots of love and generosity. And, of course, top it all off with a fabulous wig!

Juanita More! (www.juanitamore.com) is the queen. Attend her boisterous Pride party on Sun/27 (see Pride listings), benefiting Bay Area Young Positives (www.baypositives.org).

THE FUTURE OF QUEER DRAG (PART TWO) Meg Whitman will become president of the United States and hire Lady Bunny as one of her speech writers. Oprah and Gayle will finally come out, and gender illusionist shows will dominate the OWN Network — every other channel will follow. In 2050, Heklina will clone herself, twice, and perform the hospital-convalescent home circuit as the Del Rubio Triplets. Apple will come out with a product called the iDrag, that transforms anyone into anything.

Fudgie Frottage is the king. He puts on the annual, wonderful SF Drag King Contest (www.sfdragkingcontest.com).

THE FUTURE OF QUEER DANCE FLOORS Lets start with a nice, clean piece of paper. Black paper. A clean slate. Say, for example, a deliriously rich and tasteful daddy were to buy the Stud. Step one: a deep, five-stage gay cleaning. Step two: gut the interior, maybe keep the bar and choo-choo train intact, they are cute. Otherwise keep it simple. Step three: install an exact copy of the sound system used by Dave Mancuso at the Loft parties in New York City. The tasteful daddy would have a matte gray private jet at our disposal to bring guests of our choosing. For the launch party we would have an all Kenny line-up: Kenny Dixon Jr., Kenny Hawkes, Kenny Carpenter, and Ken Collier (back from the dead) would DJ. Live PA by Kenny Bobien. Oh, and Kenny Kenny on the door. At the end, everyone would get together and cry like they do on those exploitative renovation reality shows. Daddy would miss the ribbon-cutting, but that’s OK — he sent flowers and bought an $80 Diptyque candle for the new bathroom. That would be a good start.

Honey Soundsystem is a future-past DJ collective. Catch the old-school house Honey Pride party on Sun/27 (see Pride listings).

THE FUTURE OF QUEER COMEDY The future is here. And now that gay marriage is mandatory for everyone, queer and straight, the same goes for comedy. All comedians, regardless of sexual orientation, are now required to do at least 75 percent queer comedy in their acts unless they obtain Permit No. 758219B through the Comedy Board, allowing for the special provision to do only 50 percent queer material. That’s right: comedy is now regulated by law. No jokes are allowed to have homophobic content, especially if you’re performing for tourists. Remember, you are ambassadors now. If you’re straight and have no queer material, just ask your aunt or your second cousin or your bachelor uncle whose best friend of 40 years, Bruce, comes to all the family functions.

Lisa Geduldig (www.koshercomedy.com) is a comic and MC who puts on such shows as Kung Pao Kosher Comedy, Funny Girlz, and Comedy Returns to El Rio!

THE FUTURE OF QUEER HOUSING It is beyond time for us queers to focus our fabulous and substantial God-given talents toward a vision of the future of queer housing. We are the trailblazers, the social entrepreneurs, the avant-garde. Imagining and creating the future is what we do best. Let’s put those substantial talents to work to realize our very own “No Place Like Home” dream of a home for our LGBT elders, our homeless LGBT youth, our people with HIV/AIDS, our artists, our activists, and everything in between. I’ll show you mine: the largest affordable housing for people with HIV/AIDS in the nation next to the Castro Theater and an LGBT homeless shelter at Geary and Polk. Now you show me yours.

Brian Basinger is the director of AIDS Housing Alliance/SF (www.ahasf.org).

THE FUTURE OF QUEER COMICS The future of LGBT comics will be about creators moving out of the traditional queer media ghetto and into new digital undergrounds, indie markets, and even the publishing mainstream. Web comics, graphic novels, minicomics, and zines … Queer comics will have to continue to diversify their formats to survive. At the core, though, remains the need to tell good stories! Look for more poignant narratives about the intersection of queer identities and the human condition. Also, robo-dykes, super-powered trannies, bisexual Lotharios, and zombie fags!

Justin Hall, a queer and erotic comics artist, runs All Thumbs Press (www.allthumbspress.com).

THE FUTURE OF QUEER LAW We would like to see the law catch up with the reality of transgender lives. Your gender identity is an innate and deeply felt sense of who you are. Whether you feel male, female, both, or neither, we envision a future where your legal gender will be exclusively determined by you and not by doctors or lawyers. By respecting your autonomy and your ability to know yourselves better than anyone else, the law will finally reflect society at large. The law is not far from fully recognizing that fact of life, but there is still work to be done. So break out your queer legal briefs and join in the fight for transgender civil rights!

Executive Director Masen Davis and the staff of the Transgender Law Center (www.transgenderlawcenter.org)

THE FUTURE OF QUEER SPIRIT As I look toward the future, I want to see the consciousness shift that Harry Hay and other gay pioneers were pushing for manifest itself more fully in both the gay culture and the larger hetero culture. As queer liberationists, we’ve already taught the world that we are a people. I want to see us recognized as always having been a people. I want to see us given the opportunity to cocreate a new, more beautiful world. To paraphrase: what if there were no “faggots,” only master healers, teachers, shamans? I hope to see the end of shame.

Zac Benfield is the president of the radical faerie Church of Nomenus. Attend his “Woo 101 for Hipster Faggots” workshop, part of the Faetopia Festival (See “Ongoing” in our Pride listings)


The alien scientist pipettes liquid
Into a flask to be shaken vigorously.
The origins of gay life.

On Earth, planets align, exposing
Realities once thought to be utterly impossible:
Gays are outta this world!

Queer scientists make the future
Always brighter, cleaner, sexier, and more fabulous
Stopping only for a cocktail.

Quietly, the gay scientist works,
Inching closer to the final answer that
Will change the world forever.

In the future of science
We see the world with different eyes,
All judged by ability alone.

Chris Waddling is a PhD scientist at UCSF.

THE FUTURE OF THE QUEER PAST The future of the queer past has always been fragile — and despite some positive developments in the past 25 years, it remains fragile today. The legacy of LGBT people is still largely invisible in the settings where our society formalizes its history. Our stories are rarely told in high school classrooms, in the galleries of museums, on the plaques of public monuments. Supporting the efforts and the growth of such organizations as the GLBT Historical Society and other pioneering queer history institutions will be key to ensuring that the memory of LGBT lives, struggles, setbacks, and triumphs can inform and inspire future generations.

Writer, editor, and antiquarian book dealer Gerard Koskovich is a founding member of the GLBT Historical Society and a member of the board of directors of the Mémorial de la Déportation Homosexuelle, a French national group that commemorates the homosexual victims of the Nazis.

THE FUTURE OF THE QUEER FUTURE My future selves are always popping back from the year 2023 or 2034 for the weekend, mostly because they know I’ll be their sex slave. They remember what 2010-me was like. (And apparently in the mid-2020s, time-traveling self-flagellation becomes a big fetish.) They’re not supposed to tell me anything about The Future, but they let slip wee details here and there — the 20-teens are a troubling time, but then we discover queer telepathy, and everybody starts secreting empathy endorphins and building communal gardens in the upper atmosphere. Hang in there until we get the first queer president, they always say. Once she comes out during her second term, that’s when the government really starts building something.

Charlie Anders is the managing editor of science fiction-forward site io9.com

Old reliable true confessions — John Waters on secret idols, polar opposites, and role models


By Ryan Lattanzio

John Waters. Forefather of filth, pundit of provocation. Not to be mistaken, of course, for 1934 Academy Award recipient John Waters, who kept coming up in my research of the other John Waters.

There’s no point in introducing the man, because — well, if you’re reading this, chances are you’re doing so deliberately. No one ever picked up Pink Flamingos by accident and if they did, I’m sorry. His latest book, a collage of candid essays entitled Role Models (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux; 320 pages; $25) is like Hollywood Babylon meets Sodom and Gomorrah. He even tells us, “I know your eyes are not garbage cans, but somehow I feel it is my duty to share with you the depths of depravity some of our long-lost brothers have fallen to.”

Waters is a writer who has seen all tiers of the entertainment industry’s caste system. For him, perversity is pleasure — something to revel in. The titular role models are his own: some are cult figures and pop cultural pariahs, while others are famous figures with whom he’s found inspiration, friendship, and frustration.

There’s little to say on Waters in terms of biography that hasn’t already been said –- the man defines himself. Still, his material is entirely fresh. He remains, and likely always will be, culturally relevant. “I also like Alvin and the Chipmunks better than the Beatles, Jayne Mansfield more than Marilyn Monroe, and, for me, the Three Stooges are way funnier than Charlie Chaplin,” he writes in “The Kindness of Strangers,” an essay on Tennessee Williams.

Waters begins Role Models with a piece on Johnny Mathis, who represents more or less the beginning of what would become his long line of pop cultural idolatry, an ancestry that runs from Rei Kawakubo to NSFW porn auteur Bobby Garcia. “Is it because Johnny Mathis is the polar opposite of me?” he wonders, puzzling over the source of his Mathis fixation. “Do we secretly idolize our imagined opposites, yearning to become the role models for others we know we could never be for ourselves?”

Role Models is eight chapters total, with a few photographs culled from Waters’ grotesque archive. Each chapter is rather long, as he oscillates between discussing the role model in question and discussing himself -– and there’s plenty of the latter. Then again, no one ever looked to John Waters for brevity. In the course of his name-dropping, shit-talking, and first-person autobiographical passages, he places his audience within close emotional proximity. His approach is never didactic. When he comes clean – but when is it ever clean? – it is often shocking and hilarious. No surprise there.

In the flight path of his name-drops, Waters inconspicuously troubles what we know about certain celebrities, and what we’re comfortable knowing. Considering all the people that can be found in his Rolodex, he traffics in some dubious social territory, like his longtime friendship with convicted ex-Charles Manson groupie Leslie Van Houten. His acquaintances also include Little Richard (the progenitor of the pencil-thin moustache!) and pornographer David Hurles, for whom “danger is the turn-on.”


Hurles, for one, films “psychos. Nude ones. Money-hungry drug addicts with big dicks. Rage-filled robbers without rubbers. And of course, convicts — his ultimate Prince Charmings.” In Waters’ terms, what would seem like the material for a Hubert Selby, Jr. tragedy or a J.G. Ballard nightmare is actually treated with levity. He makes these misfits, these role models, entirely human — even if their occupations suggest otherwise. Still, the book is rife with freakiness of all shapes and sizes. Waters even recommends Ivy Compton-Burnett as one of his most influential writers.

Waters’ persona is so founded on equal parts artifice and honesty that in deconstructing himself, even the artifice we know and love can be overwhelming. I don’t want the perfectly preserved Waters I imagine in my head to be ruffled. I certainly don’t want to know that his moustache is sometimes penciled on. At this point Waters is such a god-among-gods that the everyday nature of his autobiographical confessions can be jarring.

“I’m so tired of writing ‘Cult Filmmaker’ on my income tax forms,” Waters declares near the close of Role Models. “If only I could write ‘Cult Leader,’ I’d finally be happy.” Such humanizing, humbling moments like these unravel the Waters we normally know to be tethered to a pedestal in the art world. Though he wears his sexuality like a bejeweled blazer, he still defies or subverts gender norms. He’s the prince of filmmaking.

Role Models certainly isn’t the final word on Waters, nor is it the first. This isn’t Waters For Beginners, nor is it Advanced Waters, and anyone will find both comfort and trouble in this book. As an autobiography, Role Models isn’t thorough. But like the Love Map he describes in “Outsider Porn” – an estimate of one’s sexual trajectory spanning their entire lives – this book is a way to trace the path of the artist and really get to the roots. Or maybe it’s more of a palimpsest, something Waters will return to, erase, revise, and rewrite as he gets older. Thankfully, in his case, getting older doesn’t mean maturing.



Each year for Pride season, we highlight members of the Bay Area LGBTQ community who turn our heads, inspire us, and make us feel proud. Here’s this year’s list, with their ideas for the queer future. To read more visionary thoughts from queer artists, leaders, and activists on what lies ahead for the community, click here. For our Pride listings, where you can catch many of the folks below in action, click here. (Marke B.)

Catch Courtney’s red-hot Queerly Beloved after-Pride party on Sun/27 (see our Pride listings for info.)

Check out our Pride listings for more info about all the Original Plumbing events!

In defense of Bay to Breakers


By Conor Johnston

OPINION An op-ed piece in the June 9 issue of Guardian (“When the rich can sit on the sidewalks“) was the latest in a rash of negative media stories about Bay to Breakers. I am not going to respond to that article specifically, except to thank the Guardian for giving us equal time.

For 99 years, Bay to Breakers has been lifting the city’s spirits, bringing fun, tax revenue, millions of tourism dollars, and nationwide attention to San Francisco. If ever we needed those things, it’s now, when we have record deficits, 47,000 people out of work, and may lose the football team that is named after us.

So let’s set the record straight.

Bay to Breakers does not cost taxpayers a dime. The event pays for all costs, including cleanup. And the permit fees and tourism generate tax revenue. ING probably dropped its sponsorship for reasons unrelated to B2B. Sponsors come and go. B2B will find another. Bay to Breakers is a financial boon for San Francisco. The event attracts thousands of people to the city; 49 of 50 states were represented by participants in 2008. The average tourist spends $505 in the local economy. Bay to Breakers is and always has been peaceful. There were fewer than five arrests reported this year. I have never seen a fight at B2B, not once, in seven years. Bay to Breakers remains enormously popular. There are about 100,000 participants and spectators, including many world-class runners.

This said, there are problems at B2B, namely public urination and the overall impact on the neighborhoods. We absolutely acknowledge that. But unlike the critics, we still believe in this city’s ability to solve problems.

How do we do it? Not with prohibitions — they are a retreat, not a policy. Sound policy takes effort, collaboration, and commitment. Let’s get the stakeholders together — neighborhood groups, race organizers, race supporters, SFPD, and city officials — and create a plan to protect the neighborhoods while preserving the race’s spirit.

Our group, Citizens for the Preservation of Bay2Breakers, is committing to raise money for 100 additional multiperson urinals and to leading the cultural campaign for more responsibility among participants. And we have other ideas:

Ticket people who urinate on or disturb private property.

Rent more toilets.

Implement multiperson urinals, which are six times more efficient and are one-third of the cost per user.

Improve the barricades to keep participants on course.

Increase revenue with a tiered registration for non-runners.

Host an event in the park that attracts participants out of the neighborhoods sooner.

I see in Bay to Breakers a celebration of what it means to be San Francisco, to be capable, to be unafraid of free expression and unapologetic of diversity.

I see world-class runners lined up next to 30-somethings in Elvis costumes. I see convalescent patients lining the sidewalk, smiling and taking pictures with Rambo and Cinderella. I see mothers pushing costumed babies. I see 100,000 happy faces. But most of all, I see a century-old civic institution that is worth fighting for. *

Conor Johnston is co-chair of Citizens for the Preservation of Bay2Breakers and a resident of District 5.

SCOBY SCOBY do’s and don’ts: Notes on the Kombucha craze


By Katie Gaydos

For me, the words “kombucha on tap” evoke images of endless streams of free-flowing fizzy ambrosia. Unfortunately, while many San Francisco health food markets and juice bars now carry kombucha on tap, kegstands are not an option. Alas, a mere 12 oz. cup of the stuff sets you back anywhere from $3 to $6. Kombucha may be on tap, but as long as it remains on its designer drink pedestal, it’ll cost you. But wait a second, kombucha is virtually cost-free to make. It’s only tea, sugar, water and a SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture/Colony of Bacteria and Yeast). So what’s the deal? How did kombucha become a trend to the degree that people are willing to empty out their wallets?

With health benefits that supposedly include aiding digestion, increasing metabolism, detoxifying the liver, and promoting an overall sense of well-being, it’s no wonder that kombucha has long been considered a valuable elixir. But in the past ten years, ever since G.T. Dave started packaging his Synergy brew in signature bottles, the drink has initiated a consumer craze. More and more health food stores, restaurants, and even liquor stores boast a quickly growing selection.

This is certainly the case in health-conscious, trend-setting San Francisco. In search of all the kombucha this city has to offer, I embarked on an epic hunt and found a wide range of choices (both on tap and bottled) and prices.

Want a fresh ginger elixir? Or perhaps an apple-lemon-ginger kombucha? You got it! Sidewalk Juice (3287 21st St, 415.341,8070) has Lev’s Original Kombucha on tap. The small walk-up bar serves up half-kombucha, half-fresh juice concoctions. Prices range from $4.25 for a 12 oz. serving of coconut kombucha (a.k.a. “The Hangover”) to $7 for a 16 oz. cup of green tea kombucha.

Heading to the Ferry Building? The market Farm Fresh To You (1 Ferry Building #9, 415.834.9981) offers Lev’s original kombucha on tap. For $5 you get a 16 oz. cup with fresh-squeezed apple or orange juice. Farm Fresh also carries 16 oz. bottles of Lev’s (with flavors like mango, fresh mint, and hibiscus) for $4.49. Beware, though: bottled kombucha at Farm Fresh is priced significantly higher than at other SF health food stores — Synergy runs $4.19, and House Kombucha is $5.89 a bottle.

Where can you find the cheapest bottled kombucha? Rainbow Grocery (1745 Folsom, 415.863.0620) offers the widest selection of bottled kombucha at some of the lowest prices I’ve seen: High Country is on sale at $2.59 a bottle; Synergy and Vibranz are $2.99 a bottle; Healing Springs is $3.18 a bottle; Lev’s and Kombucha Botanica are $3.69 a bottle; Rejuvenation Company is $3.79 a bottle; and House Kombucha is $4.69 a bottle.

Where can you find the cheapest kombucha on tap? The Whole Foods Market branches in Potrero Hill and Noe Valley sold Kombucha Botanica at $2.40 for 16 oz., and $3.60 for 24 oz. (Note: Kombucha Botanica on tap is significantly less strong and less carbonated than Lev’s.) But on June 17, the Associated Press reported that Whole Foods temporarily stopped selling kombucha on tap and bottled kombucha for fear that it may contain elevated levels of alcohol.

Will other health food stores follow suit? We’ll have to wait and see. Perhaps the time is right to start brewing your own kombucha — it’s easy to do, and significantly cheaper than store-bought kombucha. You can order a starter kit online for $25 at Bay Area Kombucha Kollective

Janelle Monáe: Soul with perfect teeth


By Ryan Lattanzio

Janelle Monáe has the most beautiful teeth I’ve ever seen. No, really. If you ask me, their pearly whiteness is unmatched.

Just as much as she bared her teeth on Friday afternoon at Rasputin in Berkeley, she bared a little slice of her soul. Monáe stripped her many layers of production and favored an acoustic set – something she said she loves – performing “Tightrope,” the single off this year’s The ArchAndroid (Atlantic), and the gorgeous “Smile” from the 2008 EP Metropolis: The Chase Suite (Atlantic).


After arriving an hour late (“Janelle Monáe’s in the house!” or “She’s putting change in the meter!” the emcee told us), Monáe was nearly done as soon as she started. Despite probably being tired – she had a show later with Erykah Badu at the Paramount – Monae made those two short songs very sweet.

Like in the music video for “Tightrope,” she wore her trademark futuristic bouffant and button earrings that matched so well with her Spats. And then there are those teeth again.

As in-store appearances go, Monáe was exceptional, entertaining, and of course, maintained the necessary sense of brevity. I wish she could’ve put on an entire show.