Before I die, if printing still exists: An interview with Daniel Clowes


By Sam Stander

Daniel Clowes has made the leap over the past decade from underground comics hero to a more mainstream identity, with an Oscar nomination for screenwriting, several New Yorker covers, and a comic serialized in the New York Times Magazine under his belt. Despite his raised profile, his newest work, Wilson (Drawn and Quarterly, 80 pages, $15.37), comes closer to home than ever before. The cynical comic strip-based book is largely set in Oakland, of which he is a proud denizen. Clowes recently appeared at Diesel in Oakland, in conversation with McSweeney’s editor Eli Horowitz and the audience. On the setting of the comic, he proclaimed, “I’m pro-Oakland, I’m not sure Wilson is.” He also discussed his forays into film, his debt to Charles M. Schulz and R. Crumb, and the slight controversy over his recent New Yorker cover, among other things.

A lengthy signing followed, where fans presented everything from freshly purchased copies of Wilson to old favorites like David Boring to collector’s items like Lout Rampage for signing. Once the line had dwindled, Clowes sat down for a one-on-one interview.

San Francisco Bay Guardian One of the things I wanted to ask you, if the Oakland observations haven’t been beaten into the ground, was that you also used to live in Berkeley, right? When you were writing Ghost World?
Daniel Clowes Yeah, I was living up by College and Ashby.

SFBG Why are you explicitly writing about Oakland now, and why did you choose to live in Oakland? What do you see as the differences between the different areas?
DC It’s funny, I sort of wound up in Oakland by default. We were living in Berkeley, because my wife was going to Berkeley, and our landlord doubled our rent one month, which I actually didn’t think was legal. And so we said, well, maybe we should try to buy a house. This was years ago. We looked all around Berkeley and it was really expensive, and we found this neighborhood in Oakland that we didn’t even know about, over where we live now, and wound up buying a house there.
You know, I never really thought about Oakland. Even living there for two or three years, I thought, well, we’re near San Francisco and Berkeley. Then I started to walk around and embrace the idea of Oakland. I kind of learned to like Oakland above all its other surrounding cities. I’ve gotten to the point where I almost never go to San Francisco. It’s like, I go to LA more than I go to San Francisco. I just don’t relate to San Francisco at all, and somehow Oakland feels — I grew up in Chicago, and Oakland has this kind of second-tier quality that I find appealing.

SFBG Second-tier?
DC It’s not San Francisco. It’s [its] ugly sister across the Bay, and I prefer that somehow. I was in New York recently, and I was on a block in the Upper East 70s, I think, and I was looking around and I realized every building on the block was a beautiful art deco building built in the ’20s. And I thought, well, Oakland has one building like that. It has the Bellevue-Staten down by Lake Merritt. That’s it. But I’d prefer that, because, to see 20 of them, it has no impact anymore. It’s just, wow, a lot of buildings, and your brain can’t grasp that. But somehow I’m obsessed with this one building in Oakland and I know all about it. I can fixate on that one thing, so I like a city that has one of everything rather than hundreds of the same thing.

SFBG One of the strips in Wilson is him talking about all the bookstores closing down. I was wondering if that was you speaking through him at all, and if so, what bookstore are you saddest to see close down?
DC Well, that was really all about Cody’s. My wife worked at Cody’s, and when I moved here, I sort of agreed to move to Berkeley with my wife because of Cody’s. I thought that [was] something I needed, this world-class bookstore. It was sort of the focal point of my life for many years. I would go there two, three times a week and see what was new, and it just felt like the focus of my world in a way. And when it closed down, it was really hard for me to accept. It was like, you know, you always hear stories of guys who talk about their baseball team leaving town. The guys from Brooklyn are like, “The Dodgers left town in 1958,” or whenever it was. It felt like that to me…Still, when I go to downtown Berkeley and see that empty building, it seems so awful. It seems just like an awful thing that the world couldn’t support that.

SFBG At least it didn’t become a CVS.
DC Exactly.

SFBG [There] was a brief interlude where it was going to be a CVS.
DC Yeah, that’s true. There is that. At least the tomb of Cody’s is still there. And you think, “Well, somebody could just reopen it. Why not? Nobody’s paying rent.”

SFBG Looming over Moe’s.
DC Yeah, I should count my blessings. At least Moe’s is still around, and this place. Better than most cities.

SFBG You were talking about Wilson sort of materializing as a character, [that] you didn’t know who he was at first, but that it was you interacting with him. I was wondering if you’ve ever had experiences with a character who you didn’t have such a productive relationship with, or if you’ve ever had characters who worked against you?
DC Oh, that’s a good question. It’s more that they just run out of — it’s usually a character that I’ve kind of predetermined. Like, I need a character who’s a certain type of person to fit into a story, like, “I need a comic relief character.” Something where you have a role for them, and then they’re never that interesting. I find the best way to do it is to just let the characters come naturally. If they’re forced at all, they tend to [be] artificial. They have to seem like real people. There are characters that I’ve written the hell out of for page after page and they never quite are real people to me. Those are the things that never work, and that I usually have the good sense to throw away before they see print. [Laughs]

SFBG You’ve always had a really strong interest in perversity and human weirdness, and that’s not so central in Wilson. Was that a conscious move away or a permanent move away, or just a change in interests?
DC I think that’s true, you know. I always had a real interest in outsider culture. When I first began doing comics, that kind of thing was so inaccessible. I had a little group of friends who would send me all these weird things. You’d find out about little groups of people who were all linked together by some really odd interest, but they were so segregated. They’d maybe have some little newsletter that they all communicated through, but it felt like the world was filled with these little secret societies. And ever since the Internet has taken hold, it doesn’t feel like that anymore. It feels like the minute anybody hears about any weird little perversion or interest or anything like that, that everybody finds out about it and they know all about it, so it’s sort of lost its interest.
Also, having a child, you sort of reassess what you’re interested in, and you think, would this make me proud for my son to find my collection of books of pictures of freaks, or whatever? You just think, “Ehhh, I’m not sure I want to stand behind that.” Certain [times], you [decide] “I really do think this is cool and I will defend this,” but you weed out a lot of things that were just there because they would get a good reaction out of people.

SFBG Possibly spinning off from that question, but on another angle: You said [during the Q&A] that, specifically, no filmmaker has a strong specific influence on you, but certain films or certain scenes do. Are there any films or scenes you have in mind for Wilson or any of your other works?
DC I feel like Wilson is very non-filmic as far as most of my books go. It’s not about the images at all. A lot of my comics come from ideas that are images, that then turn into stories. Like David Boring and the Velvet Glove thing, and even a little bit of Ghost World. But Wilson was really all about this guy. If it were a movie, it would be more like a Mike Leigh movie or something than a Stanley Kubrick movie. [Laughs]

SFBG And you were saying that to make it into a film would be a strange format for a film.
DC It would be a strange format. I mean, you could certainly rethink it as a story about a guy, and sort of have the same elements, but to replicate the feel of the book would be a very odd thing. That’s the beauty of comics, is you can do all those different styles and they actually resonate off of each other, and even a really amateurish reader, a non-reader of comics, can tell the difference between the styles, whereas in a movie it’d be very hard to do different styles. Only film experts would get that you’re doing, you know, Michael Bay and then Alfred Hitchcock, or whatever.

SFBG Have you seen Natural Born Killers?
DC Yeah, that’s a perfect example.

SFBG Where it’s kind of off-putting at the end of the movie.
DC Right, it’s just a little irritating. Although I think that was the idea, I suppose. I haven’t seen that movie in a long time, I bet it’s really irritating now.

SFBG I’ve never seen all of it, actually. I’ve had friends show me parts.
DC I barely could tolerate it in theaters.

SFBG Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis are —
DC Yeah, she’s great. I like him, too.

SFBG In the right role.
DC Yeah, yeah.

SFBG Somebody was asking you about drawing eyes and mouths and conceiving of how people look in each panel, and you were saying that you do [stick-figure] sketches beforehand. How much do you script or plan out or storyboard versus just drawing a comic?
DC It depends on, not even the story, but just on my mood before I start. I usually try to do each story somewhat consistently, but I’m always trying to come up with a new way to do things. Not to be different or to give myself a challenge, but [because] I’m looking for a better way to work. And I always have this carrot dangling in front of me that there’s some other way, that if I could only find that way, it’ll make everything easy. And then it never does, and it always comes out exactly the same, no matter if I script the thing carefully or if I make it up off the top of my head. I could show those comics to a hundred people, and they would have no idea what was the planned-out one and what was the one I just made up. It all turns out the same. And I think that’s true of most artists. You can’t really tell what they’re going through, it’s just their work is always them, you know.

SFBG Do you always get a stack of other people’s works [at signings]?
DC [Holding a thick stack of various printed matter presented by fans] This was a good stack, I’d have to say. Often it’s much more, like, Xeroxed stuff. This actually looks like some pretty decent stuff that people have actually printed up. But yeah, usually you get a big pile of stuff, although not as much anymore, because a lot of people don’t print anything. So now I get business cards, like, “Check out my webcomic.” I have to go type it in at home.

SFBG You have the thing in the little author’s bio in Wilson about [how] you have danielclowes.com reserved.
DC That’s right.

SFBG Do you have any ideas for using that, or anything you want to use it for?
DC Well, my publisher actually said, “Now you have to put something on there, since you said that in the book.” So they just put an ad for Wilson that links right back to their website. I don’t want to get into doing, like, a blog or responding to people, ’cause my life is already so taken up by just responding to e-mails from my friends that I can’t imagine introducing a whole ’nother element of that. But it would be good to make announcements, and just to clarify things. I feel like the average reader doesn’t understand that I used to do a comic called Eightball and the stories were serialized — I figure if there’s some way [to] really concisely explain my career, then I won’t have to explain it to everybody over and over. [Laughs]

SFBG Are the original sequences of Eightball ever going to be made available again, and things that aren’t collected?
DC One of these days we’re going to do the complete Eightball, and do like a hardcover thing, but that’s nine projects down the road or something. But before I die, if printing still exists.

SFBG As far as film projects, is there anything on the horizon or anything you’re excited about working on?
DC With Ghost World, I learned, don’t tell anybody about your film projects until they have a release date. I used to tell people, “Oh, they’re going to make a Ghost World movie,” and then five years later, they finally actually made it. I felt like such a chump. But I wrote a screenplay for this thing that Michel Gondry came up with, this crazy dystopian sci-fi epic. I wrote a script based on his ideas. His son is going to do the drawings for it. I’m not animating it, but I think he wants to do that as his next film, so that should be fun, if that actually happens.

SFBG Have you ever done any animation?
DC I did a video for the Ramones in 1995, and that was it.

SFBG Would you ever do it again?
DC Yeah, I’d like to, I’d like to. I need to sort of come up with an idea that’s only appropriate for animation, and then actually try to get somebody interested in producing it. So there’s lots of hurdles there. [Laughs] But yeah, I’d love to. I feel like I should do that one of these days.


Summer in bloom


By Sam Stander

It’s that time of year again! You know, the time when Ulysses happens. That’s right, it’s Bloomsday, the holiday commemorating James Joyce’s epic modernist tome, ranked by the Modern Library as the greatest novel of the 20th century. The novel’s events span a single day — June 16, 1904, the date of Joyce’s first date with his future wife, Nora Barnacle.

Though the epicenter of all things Bloom-related is, for obvious reasons, Dublin, San Francisco hardly skips out on the fun. The Mechanics’ Institute Library is hosting ”The Voices of James Joyce: Readings from Ulysses and Beyond #2,” their ninth annual Bloomsday event. It will feature readings and musical performances, as well as a “special Bloom’s Menu” at the Mechanics’ Saloon.


The Voices of James Joyce: Readings from Ulysses and Beyond #2
7 p.m., $10-$12
Mechanics’ Institute Library
57 Post, SF
(415) 393-0114

The devil vs. Miss Jones


By Lilan Kane


MUSIC A contemporary throwback, Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings sound like they stepped right out of Curtis Mayfield’s 1972 soundtrack for Super Fly (Rhino/WEA). Authentic soul music is hard to come by these days, but recording on 8-track reel-to-reel with some of the funkiest live musicians and one of the baddest soul singers on the planet, the group has successfully recreated and updated a late 1960s to early ’70s soul sound. In the process, it has captured a devoted fan base, selling out shows worldwide and gigging everywhere from the North Sea Jazz Festival to The Colbert Report. This journey has been no easy task, as made clear by the title of a new album: I Learned The Hard Way (Daptone).

The super soul sister with the magnetic je ne sais quoi has had some strong trailblazers to look to along the way. Asked over the phone who she would most like to perform with, Jones answers without hesitation: “I always wanted to sing with Mr. Brown.” Indeed, her favorite memory is meeting the Godfather of Soul in April of 2006. She’s also covered his track “I Got The Feelin’.” James Brown “changed my life,” Jones says. A longtime lover of soul music, she had difficulty finding her place in the industry. Breaking the mold of Disney tween sensations and autotuned pop stars, she faced rejection and prejudice. Music industry image and its underlying injustices allowed record execs and DJs to tell her she was too black. Her response? “Damn right. I’m black and I’m proud.”

Brown hasn’t just been a key influence for Jones — he also helped inspire the music and the sound of the Dap-Kings. In 1996, the group’s bandleader and bassist Gabriel Roth (a.k.a. Bosco Mann) invited Jones to sing backing vocals on a Lee Fields session, an experience that prompted a friendship and musical relationship between the two. An avid Brown fan, Bosco has collected every obscure JB record he could get his hands on since college. Over the years he’s brought together some of the best musicians in the New York area to form the Dap- Kings. The band is highly sought after for session work, especially after its contributions to Amy Winehouse’s Back To Black (Republic, 2007).

Jones fans know and love her brilliant remake of Janet Jackson’s 1986 hit “What Have You Done For Me Lately?” Interviewing Jones, I had to ask who had the genius idea of covering the song. Turns out it was a family affair — Bosco’s sister brought the song to the table, and Bosco made a killer arrangement, resulting in one highlight of the 2002 debut, Dap Dippin’ with Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings (Daptone). People can’t be blamed for thinking that Jackson had covered a Jones song, and this time-tripping is characteristic of Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings’ sound. The group’s first 45s were undated, and even soul music collectors often were fooled into thinking they had somehow missed them while on crate-digging missions to discover the most underground soul recordings.

I Learned the Hard Way is, of course, soulful. But beyond that, it’s socially and politically aware. Jones’ favorite track, “She Ain’t A Child No More,” is about an abusive mother and the painful yet newfound triumph experienced by her grown child. The subject matter is heavy indeed, but the song is written and performed in a way that exudes strength and courage. Another song, “Money,” is a clever twist on unrequited love. Recorded five years ago, it has finally made it onto a record — with perfect timing. “Money, where have you gone?” Jones wails. “Money, why don’t you like me?” Many people will find themselves singing along, mad that the money has up and left. With 10 other wrenching songs, the whole record packs some serious heat.


With the Heavy and DJ Harry Duncan

Fri/25, 9 p.m., $22.25

The Warfield

982 Market, SF

(415) 775-7722


Voters are pissed


By Guardian News Staff


After spending more than $70 million, two big corporations failed to convince Californians to vote their way. After spending nearly $70 million, the former head of a big corporation easily convinced Californians to vote her way. And that outcome is not as schizophrenic as it sounds.

On one level, the outcome of the June 8 election was a sign of the anti-corporate anger seething through the California electorate. “BP, Goldman Sachs, PG&E — anything that seems connected to a big corporation is in serious trouble right now,” one political insider, who asked not to be named, told us.

Yet two candidates who were very much corporate icons — Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina — won handily in the Republican primaries and now have a real chance to become the state’s next governor and junior senator. What’s happening? It’s fascinating. The voters in the nation’s most populous state are pissed off — at big business, at government, at the oil spill, at 10 percent unemployment, at Washington, at Sacramento, at Wall Street. It’s an unsettled electorate, uncertain about its future and looking for something new, and definitely despising power.

There’s a populist fervor out there, and it’s going to define this fall’s expensive, dirty, and high-stakes battle for California’s future.



Addressing a crowd of supporters gathered at Yoshi’s San Francisco on election night, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom — who easily beat opponent Janice Hahn to claim the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor — said he was excited to be part of a crucial political year for the Golden State.

“We’re very proud to be in a position to be the Democratic nominee and to work with the other Democratic nominees,” Newsom told supporters. He lavished praise on the Democratic nominee for governor, Jerry Brown — the man who just last year he was trying to beat in a primary — telling stories about his father’s long relationship with the former governor and expressing his admiration. “I couldn’t be more proud to quasi- be on a ticket with Jerry Brown,” he said.

The race for lieutenant governor may prove one of the most interesting this election season — and not just because a victory for Newsom would transform San Francisco politics. Newsom’s opponent is Abel Maldonado, a moderate Republican who enjoys popularity among the growing, influential Latino community, and who Newsom’s team said will be a formidable challenge.

The campaign could revolve around an intriguing question. At a time when the Republican Party has been taken over by virulent anti-immigrant politicians — Whitman and Fiorina have both made harsh statements about illegal immigrants and vowed never to support “amnesty” (that is, immigration reform) — will Latino voters go for a white Democrat over a Latino Republican?

“You talk to them about all the same issues you talk to all voters about: jobs, education, and health care,” Newsom political strategist Dan Newman said when asked whether Newsom could win over Latino voters. “Latinos, like all voters, will appreciate someone with a proven record of success.”

Pollster Ben Tulchin also downplayed the trouble Newsom could encounter in winning the Latino vote. “With what’s going on in Arizona, they are very wary of Republicans,” Tulchin said, but then added: “We don’t want to underestimate the challenge we have. There’s never been a moderate Latino on the statewide ballot.”

Newsom sounded another alarm. If Whitman decides to help Maldonado, the race will get even tougher. “We’re running against Meg Whitman’s checkbook,” the mayor said.

“Expect to see Meg and Abel together a whole lot in the next few months,” one consultant predicted.

If Newsom wins, San Francisco will get a new mayor a year early — and the district-elected Board of Supervisors will choose the person to fill out the last year of Newsom’s term. Technically, the current board will still be in office then, but the task may well fall to the next board — which makes the local November elections even more important.

“Everyone is gaming this out and trying to figure out what happens,” political consultant Alex Clemens said during a post-election wrap-up at the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association office. “There will be a lot of dominoes to fall and deals to be cut.”

Meanwhile, Newsom’s nomination for lieutenant governor places many San Franciscans in an uncomfortable position, one that was illustrated well by Newsom’s victory speech, in which he proudly rejected taxes. Although most San Francisco progressives are disenchanted with their fiscally conservative mayor, few would rather vote for Maldonado.

Tim Paulson, the SF Labor Council president, was at the Newsom event gritting his teeth as he talked about the opportunity progressives now have to work with “a mayor of San Francisco we have issues with.” Now, he noted, “There is going to be a real campaign around this man. It could establish a narrative for what California is about.”



At Delancey Street on election night, San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris talked about getting “tough and smart on crime,” addressing gang-related criminal activity but also focusing on corporate criminals. She talked about cracking down on predatory lenders, supporting health care reform, and protecting California’s environment. And she made a point of dragging in BP.

“It must be the work of the next attorney general to ensure that the disaster and tragedy that happened in the Gulf of Mexico never happens in California,” she said, warning of attacks on AB 32, which set California’s 2020 greenhouse gas emissions reduction goal into law in 2006.

Of course, Harris now has to take on her southern counterpart, Los Angeles DA Steve Cooley, who is a moderate but comes in with much stronger law enforcement support. If Harris wins, it will go a long way to prove that opposition to the death penalty isn’t fatal in California politics, and that voters are finally ready for a women of color as the top law enforcement official — a first in state history.

But she and Newsom will both have to overcome likely attacks for the San Francisco’s crime lab scandal, one of many hits to be magnified by the size of Whitman’s war chest.

Whitman, who trounced opponent Steve Poizner in the primary, is riding the crest of a new wave of Republican-style “feminism,” starring her, Fiorina, and Fox news pundit Sarah Palin as female champions of the right-wing agenda. A few short months ago, it looked as if Brown was in serious trouble. But that was before Whitman and Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner got into an $85 million bloodbath that left the winner of the GOP primary badly wounded. Whitman wants to play off the populist uprising by portraying herself as an outsider running against a career politician; Poizner gave her a huge scare by hammering her ties to Goldman Sachs.

That Wall Street narrative is one Democrats will push against Whitman and Fiorina. “I think it is stunningly politically tone deaf to nominate two Wall Street CEOs to the top of the ticket,” Newman said. Voters will decide whether they are fresh voices with new ideas or corporate hacks who laid off Californians and made fortunes with dubious stock market deals.

Brown leads in the polls — narrowly — but he’s vulnerable. He’s taken so many stands over so many years and Whitman’s fortune will hammer any openings they see. Brown is only slowly getting into campaign mode, but it’s no secret what he has to do. If the campaign is about Jerry Brown, unconventional politician, against Meg Whitman, Wall Street darling, then he wins.

But to take advantage of that, Brown has to offer some concrete solutions to the state’s problems — and he has to start acting like the progressive he once was. “If I were him, I’d run hard to the left,” a consultant who isn’t involved in any of the gubernatorial campaigns said.

The conventional wisdom had Barbara Boxer in trouble, too — but she’s a savvy campaigner who has beaten the odds before. And while the senator appears ripe for attack — almost 30 years in Washington, a voting record perhaps a bit more liberal than the state as a whole — her opponent, Fiorina, has baggage too.

For starters, Fiorina’s entire pitch is that she — like Whitman — would bring business-world savvy to politics. But as CEO of HP, “she was about perks and pink slips,” Newman said. “She laid off Californians and shipped those jobs overseas while enriching herself.”

Her own primary pushed her far to the right (at one point, in an embarrassing sop to the National Rifle Association, she actually argued that suspected terrorists on the federal no-fly list should be able to buy handguns). And speaking of feminist values, her anti-abortion positions won’t help her in a decidedly pro-choice state.



The defeat of Proposition 16 will go down in history as one of the most remarkable campaigns ever. It was, Sup. Ross Mirkarimi noted, “a righteous win:” The No on 16 campaign spent less than $100,000 and still captured 52 percent of the vote. Another narrow corporate-interest measure, Mercury Insurance’s Prop. 17, faced a similar fate.

One reason: PG&E’s $50 million campaign backfired, making voters suspicious of the company’s propaganda. Another: it lost overwhelmingly in its own service area, the company rejected by those who know it best.

Now PG&E CEO Peter Darbee, who pushed to mount the expensive campaign, must return to his shareholders empty-handed — and that’s going to cause problems. “I assume the leadership of PG&E will be called to task,” Clemens said. “They truly rolled the dice.”

The day after the election, PG&E shares dropped 2.2 percent, a possible sign of shaken investor confidence. Mindy Spatt of the Utility Reform Network (TURN), a nonprofit that worked on the No on 16 effort, described the situation succinctly. “Peter Darbee’s got egg on his face,” she said. “Big-time.”

Mirkarimi has witnessed other battles with PG&E, and said this probably wouldn’t be the last. “PG&E, every time we want to have a seat at the table, tries to take us out, like assassins,” he said. “If they were smart, they would take us up on what we asked many years ago, and that is to abide by peaceful coexistence.”

On the statewide level, the bold and expensive deceptions pushed by PG&E and Mercury Insurance were countered by only a handful of super-committed activists and a broad cross-section of newspaper editorials, a reminder that newspapers — battered by the economy and technological changes — are neither dead nor irrelevant.

One of the wild cards of the election was Prop. 14, which will eliminate party primaries for state offices — and potentially shake up the state’s entire political structure. “This is a big deal even if we don’t know how it’s going to play out,” consultant David Latterman said at the SPUR event.

Interestingly, the only two counties that voted No on 14 were the most progressive — San Francisco — and the most conservative, Orange.

Progressives did well in San Francisco, expanding their majority on the Democratic County Central Committee. “In an environment where it was about hundreds of millions of dollars from PG&E and Meg Whitman and Chris Kelly outspending us, we showed that San Francisco is San Francisco and we support San Francisco values,” DCCC chair Aaron Peskin told us.

Money used to define the debates in San Francisco, but the dominant narratives are now being written by the coalition of tenants, environmentalists, workers, social justice advocates, and others who backed a progressive slate of DCCC candidates, which took 18 of the 24 seats on a body that makes policy and funding decisions for the local Democratic Party.

“This time it was the coalition that really made the difference,” DCCC winner Michael Bornstein said on election night. “Frankly, our people worked harder.”

Board of Supervisors President David Chiu agreed, telling us, “For the Central Committee, the message is people power wins.”

The lesson from this election is that people are starting to get wise to corporate deceptions. And they’re realizing that with hard work and smart coalition-building, the people can still prevail.

Steven T. Jones, Rebecca Bowe, Sarah Phelan, and Tim Redmond contributed to this report.


Rubicon taps into the conspiracy TV treasure trove


By Ryan Lattanzio

“Story Matters Here.” AMC’s tagline should tell you something about their primetime gestalt. With two of television’s most acclaimed dramas in its lineup — Mad Men, a show I admire but can’t love, and Breaking Bad, hands down the best show on TV — AMC seems destined to be heir apparent to HBO’s kingdom of smartly written dramadies and tragicomedies (Treme, True Blood, and this fall’s Boardwalk Empire, to name a few).

Much to my chagrin, Breaking Bad just ended its third season and Mad Men isn’t returning for its fourth until August 1st. To triangulate its penchant for anti-heroes (Don Draper, Walter White) and dimly lit subterfuge, AMC has added another series, Rubicon, with a pilot slated for August 1st as well. So far, the puzzle-like plot remains veiled in mystery, but the cast is stellar: James Badge Dale (fresh out of HBO’s The Pacific), Miranda Richardson, and Dallas Roberts, among others.

After the season finale of Bad, AMC previewed the first episode of Rubicon, and it’s now available to stream online. Produced and directed by Allen Coulter, one of HBO’s brilliant episodic directors, the pilot is more enervating than enlightening in its piecemeal delivery of plot.


The pilot opens with a quote from Woodrow Wilson that sets the surreptitious stage: “Some of the biggest men in the United States…know that there is a power somewhere so organized…so pervasive, that they had better not speak above their breath when they speak in condemnation of it.” The next scene is pure bravado: the score swells and segues into a blank, white screen that soon reveals itself as an aerial shot of snow-laden ground. We then hear shots fire, and we know it has something to do with a four-leaf clover on the victim’s desk. It seems the clover is no longer the paradigm of good luck—one of the show’s many subversive elements.

“Not every conspiracy is a theory,” the show’s snarky tagline tells us—and that’s probably true considering how totally insane the protagonist often sounds to his colleagues. We soon meet Will Travers (Dale), a professional code-cracker who looks like a conspiracy theorist: disheveled hair, Oxford shirt, and the stoic gaze of a man who knows too much about something. (“He’s not mopey, he’s just introspective!,” one of Will’s coworkers says.)

In a montage of page-turning and shot-dissolving, Will spots a slippery pattern in an otherwise normal, everyday American pastime: his crossword puzzle. He brings it to his supervisor, who says, “It’s probably an inside joke.” But in a very X-Files-y way—and Will is almost like a dapper version of one of the Lone Gunmen—the boss brings the crossword to another unidentified man-in-a-suit. Something bad is going down. “What’s the big picture here?” Will asks. “You’ll know soon enough,” his associate tells him.

Series creator and writer Jason Horwitch makes Rubicon feel strangely familiar and entirely American in linking Will to September 11. The hysteria—and paranoia—of post-9/11 America is deftly portrayed in the passing of suspicious notes, mysterious phone calls, and train crashes. These tropes might feel tired elsewhere, but here they are fresh and rather chilling. Quickly we realize Will would probably dig something like that YouTube viral documentary sensation Zeitgeist.

Rubicon is a thriller steeped in a paranoid urban milieu — the city is the devil’s playground and it’s best to keep your head in the sand. Yet Will Travers, the kind of guy who shares tea and secrets with strangers after dark, is obsessed by the unexplained deaths of his code-cracking cohorts and isn’t willing to stay shut up about it.

Despite subtle, tightly-wound character development, Rubicon‘s pilot feels like watching a show for the first time in the middle of its season. There’s little to learn from the pilot, but its ambiguity is in the sly interest of bating the audience to come back. What you can see is promising, yet what exactly the series is about remains unclear. So far, it seems to focus on over-educated, conspiracy-crazed geeks who love intrigue and find espionage in the same way you might find shapes in the clouds: they’re there if you’re looking for them.

Regardless of its opacity (and that’s always a good thing in the end, right Lost fans?), Rubicon is poised to be another sparkling gem in the dark trove of AMC treasures that have made recent cable so fascinating and so…adult.

Tomorrow is tonight in Gutenberg! The Musical!


By Sam Stander

Have you ever seen a musical where most of the characters couldn’t read? It really is a novel idea, isn’t it? That’s what Doug Simon and Bud Davenport are here for! The hack musical theater hopefuls who basically constitute the whole cast of Scott Brown and Anthony King’s Gutenberg! The Musical! know that writing a musical is hard, so they’ve done all the work. It’s just up to the bigshot Broadway producers in the audience (purportedly) to make their dreams come true. In Beards Beards Beards: A Theatre Company’s production of the rather madcap little play, which premiered Thursday at Exit Stage Left in San Francisco, Austin Ferris and Joey Price play the two sickeningly sincere song-and-dance men to a tee.

The whole show is composed of them acting out the play by wearing trucker hats with different character names written on them (sometimes as many as seven at once, to facilitate quick changes), while their compatriot Charles (Joe D’Emilio) fastidiously attends to the piano. The hats themselves are a riot, with labels for such crucial characters as “Anti-Semite,” “Feces,” and “Dead Baby.”

The duo’s ideas about what goes into a hit Broadway musical are a double-edged satirical sword, slashing at the formula and self-importance of that often bloated medium while also cutting deeply into the delusions of its archetypal characters. But their Ed Wood-esque mania for doing things the cockamamie way they think things ought to be done is mostly just endearing. Ferris and Price have real chemistry as they dance, declaim, and flirt their way through a cascade of really horrid musical numbers. They especially give it their all on the entirely-not-scary “Haunted German Wood.”


Their failure to understand basic concepts of storytelling is one of the show’s finest points of humor. Their musical, about the inventor of the printing press, Johann Gutenberg, is described as historical fiction. What does that mean? “Fiction that’s true.” After one song is identified as foreshadowing, one of them asks, “What is foreshadowing?” The other’s response: “I’ll tell you…later!”

The play, of course, raises important issues. Doug and Bud are obsessed with illiteracy, and they explicitly state that the difficult issue their musical will tackle is the Holocaust, and how the invention of the printing press failed to prevent its atrocities. Oh, and a poignant discussion about the age-old debate between followers of God and followers of “stuff” is particularly thought-provoking.

Dropping in any more transcribed jokes out of context seems pointless, since so much of what sells these jokes is the full-on genuineness projected through the characters. But, suffice it to say, this thing is funny, and it will make an impression on you (with a printing press, get it?!).

Thurs-Sat, 8 p.m. (through June 26), $20
Exit Stage Left
156 Eddy, SF
(800) 838-3006


The noise of summer is here


By Sam Stander

As part of the Berkeley Art Museum’s eclectic performance series “L@TE: Friday Nights @ BAM/PFA,” a trio of noise- or distortion-oriented musicians takes the…well, there isn’t exactly a stage, but they’ll be playing in Gallery B, where Thom Faulders’ interactive sculpture installation, known as the BAMscape, resides.

The BAM calendar bills the Fri/11 show, titled “Summer Sounds,” as featuring “a lineup of old-school rock ‘n’ roll bands nurtured in our backyard.” First up are Sic Alps, who’ve received accolades of late. Formerly of noise rock pioneers Harry Pussy, guitarist Bill Orcutt — perhaps the headliner of the night — recently put out a solo record. Rounding out the evening are the Baths, a group signed to the verdant Woodsist label who have yet to release their debut record.



Fri/11, 7:30 p.m., $5 (free for UC students)

Berkeley Art Museum, Gallery B

2625 Durant #2250, Berkeley

(510) 642-0808





Felonious gets back into it (and lays it all out) with the smashing “Live City”


By Lilan Kane

A capella, beatbox, theater, vaudeville, live band, and everything in between — that’s Felonious (playing tonite, Thu/10, at the Independent). Originally an a cappella hip-hop duo, Felonious has morphed into a hip-hop theater production receiving rave reviews in The Source magazine, Chronicle and Examiner, and have produced sold-out shows in SF, New York, Germany and Oakland. They have shared the stage with The Roots, De La Soul, Big Daddy Kane, DJ Premier, Black Eyed Peas, Zion I, Living Legends, Radioactive, and Crown City Rockers. Their shows capture different elements of entertainment creating something old school in principal but very innovative and contemporary.

Sharing the stage with notable SF musicians from the Jazz Mafia, Felonious has established themselves not only in the theater arts industry but also as respected musicians in the live circuit. They talked to us a bit about the whats and wherefores as they prepared to celebrate Live City‘s release.

Thu/10, 8:30pm, $15
The Independent
628 Divisadero, SF

SFBG: What’s the story behind the title of your new album Live City?

MC/Beatboxer Carlos Aguirre aka Infinite: I think the name Live City represents the history of the city and how we are the next generation of artists to try and replicate that kind of energy that has made San Francisco a staple in live music for several decades..Plus we know all kinds of dope artists in the city and the bay in general that we got a real Live thing happening over here and if we try to consider ourselves more of a musical family then everyone would reap the benefits..we’re pushin for that vision…it’s not just a name…we believe in our city and the talent here is world class so we’re trying to push a movement…

MC Dan Wolf aka d.wolf: On the surface, we’re talking about San Francisco, the Bay Area, a geographic place that has a history of shaping underground culture (hip hop, rock music, street visual arts, culinary arts, circus arts, etc).  On another level I look at it as very idealized place where live performance is cherished, where the city is a living breathing representation of all the creative energy pouring from the artists and culture makers who live there and shape the landscape.  We are a live hip hop band who come from theater, you cant get any more live than that.  We wanna take you to a place where taking risks is normal.  

MC/Beatboxer/Drummer Tommy Shepherd aka Soulati: Well, the album was originally called Str8 No P@per, which is a word play of Thelonious Monks album Straight, No Chaser and the truth, we’re broke like everybody else.  However not many of the songs supported that theme.  This album is recorded all live so there’s part of the title right there.  Felonious, at the beginning of the year, hosted and co-presented a weekly at Coda lounge in SF Called “Live City Revue” which was a night of showcase/cabaret talent.  Basically, any Bay Area act that was working on anything and wanted to test it out with a crowd, or you just want to come through and build on a piece of text or music.  We discussed the name of the show and how it was a statement that the Bay Area is STILL alive and always has been.  So, if the event was the revue, this album is the soundtrack.

MC/Keyboardist Keith Pinto aka KP: We were gonna call it $tr8.n0.p@per after the thelonious monk album straight no chaser… and also living in an ever increasing digital world. plus having limited funds to produce a project. but then we started doing Live City Revue @coda lounge and it just seemed like a natural fit for the title of the new record. Live City is way more optimistic.


SFBG: What was the recording process for the new album?

Bassist Dylan Mills aka Illin Ills: To record the band in the best rooms possible (Coast, Record Plant, Different Fur…), getting the drums sounding huge.  We worked with producer Ben Yonas to capture the highest quality recordings possible and mixer Hernan Santiago to make the tracks shine.   The group was adamant about making sure everything on the record really belonged there before letting it go out.

Infinite: Amazing…We haven’t truly represented what we do live in shows on an album since The List which was a few albums back so to be able to work in some of the premiere studios in the bay area that carry a lot of history and with an amazing mix team to round out the process, it was a dream come true.

d.wolf: Musically this was the best process we have been a part of.  Recording live hip-hop is very challenging to do well. You have to retain the voice and power of the instruments while creating a sonic world that has booming drums and melodies that feel chopped and sampled yet fully fleshed out.  We never have been able to capture the raw energy of Felonious on record until this one.  Lyrically it allowed us to focus on our own personal styles and continue to try to mesh them together in the studio.  Our last album (2007’s Up To Something) was totally lyrically driven.  We recorded it in Hamburg, Germany over some of the hottest beats produced by Hamburg’s dopest producers.  We lived together in the studio for three weeks and recorded 18 tracks in 22 days.  The process for Live City was spread out over a few years with no real idea what the songs would become.  First we built the beats and freestyled over them as we recorded the tracks and then spent the time writing and crafting the songs.  It taught us how to craft songs based on the strongest verses in the best order.

Guitarist Jon Monahan: Live City was recorded over a span of about a year and a half at 5 Bay Area studios, including The Plant in Sausalito and Coast in SF.  It would have been finished much sooner but so much else was going on in our lives- three members of the band became fathers, our producer got married, one of the people we were working with very closely developed some serious health problems.  It forced us to take our time and allowed us to truly experiment with sounds and ideas that weren’t there when we started.

Soulati: The recording process was a lot of work, one, because it wasn’t recorded in four different studios, and two, because of budget.  The treasure of the experience was we got record in the same room as many music legends such as Stevie wonder and Metallica.  All in all it was a great experience and a very long process but when you’re birthing perfection, you take your time.


SFBG: Tell me about your new play “Stateless.”

d.wolf: Stateless is a hip hop vaudeville that takes what Felonious is doing in the present and mashes it with what my ancestors were doing 100 years ago in Hamburg Germany.  The Wolf Brothers, my great grand father and his brother, were vaudevillians and singers who took popular melodies and changed the lyrics to reflect social and political issues of their time but in a very comical way.  They wrote over 600 songs that were so popular that in 1938 the Nazis said the songs were ‘too German for Jews to sing”.  Stateless is remixed folk songs written by the Brothers Wolf, re-imagined by Felonious and Brooklyn’s One Ring Zero and placed in a loose narrative that touches on brotherhood, performance and performers, history and lineage.  It’s also an excuse for us to just get on stage and act stupid.  Since they were known as the Hamburg Marx Brothers it gives us permission to be the Bay Area Marx Bros.

KP: On a basic level it’s a mash up of genres… hip hop and vaudeville. seemingly different… but the similarities are actually quite strong. most hip hop albums have a patched together mix tape quality to them… just like a variety show… which is vaudeville. hip hop artists often have funny (sometimes random) little skits on their albums… this is also like the comedic skits of vaudeville. plus visually hip hop/r’n’b videos are known to have b-boys/girls and line dances… which is just like the acrobats and dancers (usually tap) that you would have found at a vaudeville performance. not to mention the evolution of hip hop dance itself. as it incorporates many styles, including remnants of tap and swing dancing. look at the “kid n play” also known as the “funky charleston” (yes, the kid n play may be old but 90’s dances are coming back). as the choreographer of Stateless… those similarities give me more to work with than i could ever fit into one show.

Soulati: Stateless is live music, dance, beatbox, singin’, rappin’ with a twist of vaudeville.  It takes you through a journey of past present and future, leaving you with a mind to want to go out and search your own history, if you’re not aware of it already.  Super energetic and moving to boot, Stateless is the play to be looking out for cause it’s coming to you!!!

SFBG: How do you feel Felonious as a group, and the album Live City represent San Francisco?

Illin Ills: We’ve been making this music in the bay for over a decade now and we’ve seen the upturns an downturns and we put our experiences into our songs.  The album Live City is fitting because throughout all that time there has always been a vibrant music and art scene in the city.  Venues move and change, styles come and go, but people always appreciate live music so we try to keep putting on better shows and building up the scene here.

d.wolf: We’ve been working in San Francisco since 1998 so at this point we’re pretty much the OG’s on the scene.  Everything has changed so much since we started.  I am blown away when I think that during our 2000 – 2003 weekly New Roots to Hip Hop series at the Last Day Saloon we created this whole scene before MySpace was even around.  Now there are so many tools to utilize and build a community.  San Francisco needs to reclaim its place among the great cities of the world.  I mean we have so much great food and great arts here but we’re there is such a lack of industry that even the artists have a hard time thinking strategically about how to have a sustainable career.  Live City is our call to action to reclaim the power that was here in the 60s, 70s and 80s.  We think that with all our angles – music, theater and arts ed – Felonious is ready to lead the charge.  

Jon Monahan: “The album itself features Bay Area luminaries like Jazz Mafia horn players and DJs, and singers like Kimiko Joy and Cait La Dee,  They’ve been a part of the SF scene as long as we have, a decade or more.  And our band feels right at home in the counterculture tradition of San Francisco bands- from Sly to Dead Kennedys to Mike Patton… We’re not necessarily heirs to that throne, but if you came out to Live City Revue, the weekly we ran from Jan – April 2010, you saw some guests and collaborations that could only take place in San Francisco… live hip-hop with West African kora and balafon players, a 20 piece men’s choir singing the Leonard Cohen songbook, book readings from local MCs, some seriously bizarre shit.”

Soulati: Felonious as a group came to the Bay at a pinnacle moment of the music scene.  Of course there were your track acts but live Jazz/Hip Hop was thriving.  Alphabet soup was runnin thangs along with Brown Fellinis and other crews that were holding it down.Us, Crown City, Psycho Kinnetics, Most chill Slack mob among others were new to the scene and fit right into the mix.  All these mentioned groups are still hittin to this day and representing SF like ganbusters.  We keep pushing the scene to feel it push back.  The album naturally speaks directly of the San Francisco scene.  It IZZ live.

KP: Felonious has been a part of the SF music scene for over 10 years… sf has a rich history of musicians and hip hop artists working together from the acid jazz days to now. Felonious is a continuation of that. we are multicultural and multidisciplinary.   in this time of ipod dj’s (and i mean… instead of a dj… just an ipod) we feel it’s important to keep the city’s music scene all the way live! 

SFBG: What would you consider the group’s most notable accomplishments have been since Felonious started?

Infinite: Winning best of the bay two years in a row was super dope and opening for The Roots two nights in a row at The Justice League (now The Independent) and working with all the amazing artists we’ve been bless to collaborate with over the years.

Illin Ills: Playing the Fillmore, Maritime Hall, Berlin, Hamburg.  Opening for the Roots, De La, LL, BEP.  Taking Beatbox: A Raparetta to NYC.

Soulati: Since Felonious started we have become a household name in San Francisco/Bay Area.  Among winning Bammy’s and Wammy’s and critics choice shwoompties, we are also published playwrights and educators.  Staying relevant is, I think, our most notable accomplishment.

d.wolf: Survival is our most notable accomplishment.  Along the way we’ve been blessed to travel together, play with some the hottest hip hop acts, produce and publish plays, and build some real deep, lasting personal and professional relationships.

SFBG: How important is it for you personally to put on a captivating live show?

Infinite: It’s absolutely fundamental to both the group and the art form of hip hop..and musical performance in general..i mean there are no rules really but there’s a code and decor and history behind being an emcee and you gotta respect that legacy by paying homage to the meaning behind the emcee..to be master of ceremonies..to control the crowd…to lead the crowd and to ultimately pass on an experience…that’s what playing live is all about for me…”so you remember the name, when you walk out the door.

d.wolf: Coming from the world of theater the live show is actually more important to me than the studio.  That being said we’ve been killing live shows for years and have had a real hard time capturing that energy on our albums.  Hip-hop is a studio art form but you have to kill on stage especially if there isn’t a capacity crowd chanting every word.   You gotta give people a reason to remember you in this oversaturated world.

Soulati: Personally, Why come out to see someone stand there and sing songs? That, you can do at home.  A live show should be just that, LIVE.  And because more than half of Felonious are trained actors, theatrics is our tactic and we better come with a theatrical extravaganza you know?  Cats gotta be their “super human” selves on the stage.  Them times 10.  That’s what makes me as an audience member want to pay 13 in advance or 15 at the door, right?

SFBG: What can people expect to see at your CD Release show at the Independent June 10th?

Infinite: Felonious playing banging beats with live string and horn orchestration ,courtesy of The Jazz Mafia, through out the set…we’re gonna play a whole range of material but alot off the new album ..most of the new album in fact..plus special guest singers Caitladee and Kamiko Joy..and really expect to see ONE OF THE BEST LIVE SHOWS OF 2010… guaranteed!

Illin Ills: The whole shebang.  There will be horns, strings, singers, and more rocking with the Felonious Crew, playing songs from the new record, beatboxing, and generally carrying on.  Shotgun Wedding is another great group from the bay who will be rocking the middle spot.  The amazing Rondo Brothers will be there celebrating the release of their latest record.

Jon Monahan: We’ll premiere at least one brand new song, and play most of the new album reworked and fleshed out with a string section and horn section.  Some top-shelf beatboxing as always.  We’re putting together an all-star freestyle session as part of the set, plus I hear talk of some comedy/ dance routine by some friends of ours that sounds epic and possibly really creepy.  AND sets by Shotgun Wedding Quintet and the Rondo Brothers!

Soulati: A full live band, a string trio, a horn duo, beatboxing, freestyling and some special guests coming to spit vocals.  You’ll get a night of great music and fresh collaboration.  There will be B-boyz and B-girlz, hot ladies if you be boyz and kept gentlemen if you be girlz.  The night, from top to bottom, is gonna smash!!!!

The Good Life, full of passion


By Peter Galvin

Like the musical counterpart of your everyday office workaholic, Tim Kasher has been pulling long hours for most of his life. Currently the frontman for the Good Life — playing Thurs/10 at Bottom of the Hill — and indie-rockers Cursive, Kasher has been making it in various bands since the age of 18, including a ’90s supergroup with members of the Faint and a 15-year-old Conor Oberst.


All of Kasher’s projects revolve around the travails of life, but none feel more personal than the Good Life, which began as a purely solo work and has since bloomed into a four-person band with a lush sound. The antithesis of Cursive’s rage and angst, Kasher’s songs here focus on acceptance and the struggle of growing up. Autobiographical narratives about drinking and playing childish relationship games squarely spotlight his weaknesses, but he seems cognizant of how immature it all is.


The Good Life is Kasher expunging personal demons, and it’s easy to be drawn in, whether by fascination or relatability. Although the band hasn’t released any material since Kasher’s 2007 soundtrack to an unfinanced screenplay, *Help Wanted Nights* (Saddle Creek), the foursome struck up an impromptu tour for the love of it. Music is Kasher’s life and he is livin’ it.

With the Parson Red Heads, the Contrail
9 p.m., $12, 21+
Bottom of the Hill
1233 17th St, SF
(415) 621-4455

Get HEALTH-y with some noise disco


By Peter Galvin

When the massive drums make their entrance on the first track of Get Color (Lovepump United), you’d be forgiven for thinking that HEALTH is a metal band. These L.A. electro-punks — playing Wed/9 at Slim’s — are noisy! There’s also a beauty in the reverberations of those drums, echoing over and over in the background of HEALTH’s tracks, and it makes their music more than a little spine-tingly.


But HEALTH aren’t really metal, and they’re more likely to be lumped in with the emergent electronic noise scene thanks to their 2007 remix of Crystal Castles’ breakout hit “Crimewave.” The comparison is apt, not just because both bands can bank their successes on the same song, but because the sounds of both are so discordant. Where Crystal Castles make noisy electronic music, HEALTH makes electronic noise, playing with grating machine sounds and textures in ways that question what it is that makes most music appealing in the first place. There’s no way to listen to HEALTH at low volume, you gotta crank it up, so I have to believe that seeing them live will be even better.

With Indian Jewelry, Gold Panda
Wed/9, 8 p.m., $15
333 11th St, SF
(415) 255-0333


Holy surf party, Batman!


By Sam Stander

Alameda’s Forbidden Island Tiki Lounge is hosting a variety of events this summer that incorporate film screenings, live music, and alcohol. Curated by Will “The Thrill” Viharo</a>, these are mostly part of a series called ”Forbidden Thrills,” which features themed double features of only the campiest camp, and runs monthly through December.

This Thursday, however, is billed as “Comic Book Superhero Nite,” complete with costume contests, music from the Deadlies, and a screening of the day-glo 1966 film version of Batman, “batapulted” (and I quote!) from the Adam West-Burt Ward television series that my parents always called “Silly Batman” when I was little. And boy, does it deserve that epithet.
Seriously, though, it’s not often you come across a movie that features both an “exploding man-eating shark” and horrendous dialogue. Seize this opportunity while you can.

Thurs/10, 8 p.m., no cover
Forbidden Island Tiki Lounge
1304 Lincoln, Alameda
(510) 749-0332

How safe is your cell phone?


By Brittany Baguio


GREEN CITY In the wake of recent studies suggesting that extensive cell phone use might be linked to some types of cancer, consumer advocates are pushing to require phone companies to publicize the level of radiation their devices emit.

It seems like a simple idea. If fast-food restaurants are required to post the calories and fat content of their junk food, why shouldn’t cell phone companies post the level of radiowave energy coming out of their products? But it’s proving to be a tough fight — in part because the scientific studies are so complex, and also because the industry is fighting furiously against disclosure rules.

The California State Senate narrowly rejected June 4 a bill by Sen. Mark Leno (D-SF) that would have taken a modest step toward better disclosure. Leno’s measure, SB 1212, would have mandated that manufacturers and phone providers disclose radiation levels, or specific absorption rate (SAR), on their Internet websites and online user manuals. They would also be required to state the maximum allowable SAR value, and what it means.

“The federal government has set a standard for this type of radiation and already requires reporting,” Leno told us, “At the very least, consumers should have the right to know about the relative risks of the products they’re buying.”

There’s a similar measure in the works in San Francisco. On May 24, the Board of Supervisors City Operations and Neighborhood Services Committee passed Mayor Gavin Newsom’s plan to require retailers in the city to reveal the amount of radiation released by cell phones. That would make San Francisco the only city in the United States mandating that retailers acknowledge radiation information.

The most recent and largest study focusing on cell phone radiation, the Interphone Study, was released this year. Conducted by 21 scientists in 12 participating countries, the study looked at the long-term risks of certain brain cancers.

The results are mixed. The study found some results of increased risks of tumors, although the authors could not agree on how to interpret the data.

The researchers surveyed 5,000 brain cancer patients, and found that people who were “heavy” cell-phone users (defined as using the phone 30 minutes or more a day) had a slightly higher risk of some kinds of cancer. But, as an Environmental Working Group analysis of the study noted, “most of the people involved … used their cell phones much less than is common today.”

Cell phones emit radiowaves through their antennas, which in newer models are often embedded in the phone itself. The closer the distance from the antenna to a person’s head, the more exposed he or she is to radio frequency energy.

However, as the distance between the antenna and a person’s body increases, the amount of radio frequency energy decreases rapidly. Consumers who keep their phones away from their body while doing activities such as texting are absorbing less radio frequency energy.

The Federal Communications Commission has set a safety level for a phone’s SAR — a measure of radiation energy — at 1.6 watts per kilogram of body mass. All cell phone manufacturers must produce phones at or below this level.

Renee Sharp, director of California’s Environmental Working group, says the evidence doesn’t have to be conclusive to warrant caution. “We aren’t trying to say that cell phones are dangerous because we don’t have definite answers yet and we need more research,” Sharp said. “But when you look at studies with long-term use of 10 years of longer, you see increases in certain kinds of brain tumors. We are trying to give people as much information as we can to make informed decisions because it may or may not impact their health.”

Cell phone manufacturers aren’t required to disclose SAR information directly to phone buyers; they send the data to the FCC. Although the FCC makes this information available on its website, the information is incomplete and hard to find. A list of cell phone SARs information compiled by the Environmental Working Group is at www.ewg.org/cellphoneradiation/Get-a-Safer-Phone.

The telecommunications industry strongly oppose Leno’s bill. Joe Gregorich, a lobbyist for Tech America, an industry group, told us that the requirement in Leno’s bill “has an assumption that a lower SAR is safer than a higher SAR. The FCC, FDA, and Inter Agency Working Group regulate the SAR and have set a SAR threshold where cell phones are considered safe. All cell phone manufacturers make cell phones below this SAR threshold.”

According to Sharp, the FCC’s standards are out of date. “The FCC set SAR standards 14 years ago and has not updated them since,” Sharp said. “This was before we found out that children have thinner skulls and are more susceptible to radiation effects, and before phones developed and exploded into what they are now.”

When the rich can sit on the sidewalks


By Tiny

OPINION Steel gates, steeds with silver spurs, lush red carpet lining the streets, uniformed officers guarding velvet-roped grand entrances to fancy costume balls while commoners are arrested if they so much as stop to rest on a nearby sidewalk. Sounds like the days of feudal England, or Marie Antoinette’s Paris. Guess again — its San Francisco, circa 2010.

In the wake of the proposed sit-lie law, which would make it illegal for poor people to sit or lie on any public sidewalk or street, the San Francisco is increasingly giving public streets and sidewalks away to large corporate festivals where rich, mostly white people stumble around with open containers, drunk and disorderly.

Since last month’s expanding Bay to Breakers "race," at which drunk, oddly dressed white people sat on curbs, stumbled into doorways, toppled onto the streets, and partied with entitled impunity as only people with race and class privilege can in this country, I have felt uneasy. This so-called run, supported by large corporations, has increased its land grab of several blocks of city streets, causing increased traffic, pollution, and blocked arteries for pedestrians, cyclists, and cars — all so that white people can party in undisturbed inebriation all across the city.

And if you think it was just a benign day of public drunkenness, think again. Several of my friends of color who made the mistake of being outside on race day were subjected to an onslaught of hate speech from some very threatening gang members (from the INGCHARLESSCHWABSTANFORD Gang. "You think this is Arizona?" "Are you here to be a valet?" "Go Back to Mexico."

I was riding my bicycle a week later only to be stopped on my route up Van Ness Street because of the two-day preparation, and then almost 24-hour exclusive usage of McAllister and Van Ness streets for the Black and White Ball. Again: a state-sanctioned, corporate-and-private-philanthro-pimped event for rich white people to get drunk and party on city streets.

Why is it that white people in a corporate-sanctioned party are seen as more safe or civilized than the rest of us — and how do houseless people, poor people, and people of color get criminalized in our own communities for the sole act of convening, standing, talking, or being?

It’s important to note that the rhetoric and propaganda in support of sit-lie has gone so far as to cite the struggle of disabled people to get by sidewalks "cluttered" with houseless people or businesses having their customers scared away by houseless folks convening. Yet the plethora of drunk people lying on sidewalks after Bay to Breakers are not seen as an obstacle to safety.

Tiny, a.k.a Lisa Gray-Garcia, is editor of POOR Magazine.

Cutting from the bottom


By Alex Emslie


When Mayor Gavin Newsom unveiled his proposed city budget on June 1, he downplayed the severity of cuts to the city’s Department of Public Health, noting that they amounted to less than 2 percent. But if Newsom’s uneven program chopping becomes a reality, critical social services for some of San Francisco’s poorest and most vulnerable residents will be cut by almost one-third.

The DPH was able to shrink its budget by nearly $31 million, according to a budget proposal currently before the Board of Supervisors, in part by slashing community nonprofit clinics providing outpatient mental health services to some of San Francisco’s most difficult to treat mental health cases.

“It’s very possible you could see more people who are homeless, people who are homeless not getting as much care — they’ll be sicker,” said Dr. Eric Woodard, medical director of psychiatric emergency services at San Francisco General Hospital. “And you could reasonably expect more deaths on the street to occur.”

State and federal matching funding to the DPH dwarfs the amount of money the department receives from the city. What isn’t spelled out in Newsom’s budget is that every dollar cut by the city results in more than another dollar lost in federal funding for social services.

The DPH proposed a nearly 9 percent cut to outpatient community-based health services, and an 11 percent cut to residential inpatient services to meet the mayor’s request that all city departments submit a 30 percent budget reduction to his office. Newsom reversed the proposed cuts to residential services but kept the outpatient cuts.

“I believe in the efficacy of residential [treatment],” Newsom said during his budget unveiling. “I believe there are a lot of question marks around outpatient drug treatment.”

But the cuts affect more than just outpatient drug treatment. While many of the clinics that were cut focus on treating mental illnesses, they are funded through the DPH category that includes substance abuse treatment. Newsom’s office declined to answer our inquiries about the reasons for and implications of his cuts, referring us to DPH.

Walden House CEO Vitka Eisen, whose organization serves people suffering from mental illness and substance abuse in inpatient and outpatient clinics, said she was relieved that residential funding was added back. However, she is concerned about the proposed $4.1 million cut spread across several nonprofit outpatient services.

“There’s a very large cut to outpatient services citywide, and that’s obviously problematic because outpatient services are an important part of our system of care in the city,” she told the Guardian. “You can’t really cut one or the other.”

DPH Community Behavioral Health Services Director Dr. Robert Cabaj is hoping the Board of Supervisors will restore some of the cuts to outpatient clinics. “Unfortunately, they [the Mayor’s Office] left these in,” he told the Guardian. “I’m not sure why — I’m not sure what the mayor was thinking at the time.”

Citywide Case Management and Community Focus, an outpatient clinic serving some of San Francisco’s most severely mentally ill, is one of the hardest hit nonprofit clinics in the mayor’s proposed budget. The agency will lose $1.22 in federal funding for every $1 cut from the city, division director Dr. David Fariello said.

That’s how its 15 percent, $1.3 million cut proposed by the DPH and accepted by the mayor, ballooned into a 33 percent, $2.8 million loss for one of the city’s most comprehensive and best-performing community behavioral health services.

Citywide, at 982 Mission St., boasts the facilities, network, and location to serve one of San Francisco’s most vulnerable populations. The typical Citywide client suffers from schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, or severe depression. They are likely homeless, grappling with substance abuse, and many have posttraumatic stress disorder.

Citywide employees, doctors, and administrators, as well as physicians from outside the clinic, speculate that cutting outpatient mental health services in a city with one of the highest per capita populations of mentally ill homeless people will ultimately cost the city more money than it saves now. Use of expensive city services like psychiatric emergency rooms, jails, police, and ambulance could all rise.

“Frankly, a lot of these budget cuts do not seem to be very well thought out in terms of what the real cost is going to be,” Woodard said. “If you look into the not very distant future, you’re going to incur costs that are probably much greater than your savings were initially by making the cuts.”

Cabaj said that past funding cuts haven’t resulted in higher use of psychiatric emergency services because the DPH prioritizes funding for the most severe cases and screens for those who could possibly be moved into cheaper services. Citywide clients are consistently high users of San Francisco General Hospital acute inpatient psychiatric care, at an average cost to the city of $1,200 per patient, per day, if they don’t have insurance or Medical benefits.

Many end up in costly in-patient psychiatric care facilities or are arrested and land in the city’s Behavioral Health Court, which hears cases in which defendants have been diagnosed with a mental illness that is suspected of being a factor in their crime. More than 70 percent of the Behavioral Health Court’s mandated treatment slots are at Citywide.

“We can manage behaviors that get people thrown out of every other clinic in the city,” Fariello said. “Where is that capacity going to be picked up? These are not clients who, if they don’t get treatment, maybe their doctor will give them some medicine and it’ll be OK. These are clients who are going to continue to be high users unless we intervene.”

Citywide figures show a 40 percent decrease in violent reoffenses for clients referred to their clinic from the Behavioral Health Court. Nearly three-quarters who were homeless are able to maintain housing, and more than 25 percent of clients who were frequent users of inpatient psychiatric services have stayed out of the hospital.

“Citywide really is one of the best,” said Woodard, who works with Citywide’s Linkage Team to stabilize patients from SFGH’s psychiatric emergency room. “They provide excellent care for these really fragile, very ill patients. I would say of the community programs, they’re really at the top of the list.”

Fariello estimates having to reduce the 1,035 clients receiving treatment at his clinic by 400 if the cuts are finalized. He may have to scale back some of his clinic’s innovative and successful categories of service — such as employment support and dialectical behavioral therapy, a highly specialized form of therapy with proven success in treating borderline personality disorder. Citywide has the largest DBT team in San Francisco.

Citywide administrators are baffled by DPH’s decision-making process, given that it serves the city’s sickest, poorest, and homeless — characteristics that should have reduced its cuts, according to the department’s priorities outlined in its budget reduction proposal.

Since founding the agency nearly 30 years ago, Fariello has worked with the city to implement innovative techniques in treating San Francisco’s highest users of expensive psychiatric emergency services. And it has been consistently successful. In a review last year of 15 similar programs conducted by the DPH, Citywide received an average 92.1 out of 100, the highest score. It scored a 4.0 out of 4.0 on another recent program review.

Several divisions within Citywide contribute to its inclusive approach to mental health services. Citywide’s forensics program works exclusively with clients involved in the criminal justice system. Community Focus provides culturally sensitive therapy in several languages. The Linkage Team stabilizes emergency psychiatric patients from SFGH.

Employment support for Citywide clients helps them get and retain jobs, emblematic of the entire agency’s goal of treating clients as complete people, not just mental health patients. “What we’ve found out is that people who have an investment in purposeful activity have an investment in getting better,” Fariello said. “A lot of clients have a notion that their career is being a mental health client. What we’re trying to do is change that.”

Citywide supported employment services supervisor Greg Jarasitis told a story of one client who said she liked her job as a bookkeeper because while she was at work she felt like a “normy,” then added: “These are people who have been marginalized for so long.” *

Get involved: The Board of Supervisors holds a public comment hearing on the deep proposed health cuts, as state law requires, June 15 at 3 p.m. in Board Chambers at City Hall. The board’s Budget and Finance Committee departmental hearings for the DPH are scheduled for June 21 and June 28.

Citizen Kane just got smaller


By Ryan Lattanzio

It should come as no surprise that Netflix has just previewed its new iPhone app. That’s right. Now you can stream unlimited movies for a small monthly fee on your cell phone. Writer Ramu Nagappan of Macworld says it will offer “the full Netflix experience: you can stream video (over Wi-Fi and 3G), view recommendations, browse genres, and access your queue.”

Though cellular-ized cinema is nothing less than a bastardization of the art form (empirically if you ask me — it’s almost oxymoronic), who can blame Netflix for not wanting to resist the demands of the digital age?

If seeing a movie once meant sitting in a dark room with a bunch of strangers, now it means sitting on the subway or waiting in an airport terminal. Just imagine trying to watch Citizen Kane on your cell phone. How do you cover the eyes of a kid who might look over your shoulder as you watch a Lars von Trier in a waiting room where the MPAA doesn’t exist?

And now, if you can watch widescreen epics on your little phone, it’s only a matter of time before you can make your own. There’s already a new wave of cell phone cinema out there dating back a few years, like New Love Meetings, a 93-minute update of a Pasolini documentary shot in the MPEG4 format. It’s a shitty-looking movie, but it’s out there.


Because I can’t say it any better myself, I leave you with David Lynch’s polemic against the iPhone-as-movie theater. The man’s a prophet.



The best worst I’ve ever had


By Sam Stander

There are few fandoms so charmingly enthusiastic as the hordes of video-hounds who treasure Troll 2 (1990), by many accounts the worst movie ever made. This past Saturday night, the East Bay took its turn in the publicity blitz for Best Worst Movie, a documentary about the Troll 2 phenomenon, directed by the ridiculous horror flick’s then-child star Michael Paul Stephenson. Stephenson appeared with his costar George Hardy in San Francisco on Friday, but only Hardy was on hand for the Saturday night screenings at Berkeley’s Shattuck Cinemas.

The theater wasn’t full, but many of its seats were filled with Troll 2 diehards — the woman seated to my right sported a green shirt bearing the legend “GOBLIN.” The uninitiated might be wondering what such a shirt has to do with a movie named for trolls; well, Troll 2 doesn’t feature any trolls, but rather a town (called Nilbog) filled with sap-thirsty vegetarian goblins. About ten minutes before the lights went down for Best Worst Movie, one guy in the audience loudly paraphrased Stephenson’s revelatory line from the film, shouting, “Oh no, Nilbog is ‘goblin’ spelled backwards!”

VIDEO: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fTfjb8Fgiyg

These were, by and large, not Troll 2 virgins, and their reactions to the documentary were warm and joyful. Even some of Best Worst ‘s most uncomfortable or sad moments drew laughter — Stephenson’s movie impeccably balances the camp-informed following of the film with tenderly observed portraits of the ordinary, extraordinary, and occasionally mad participants in the original film fiasco.

As the credits for Best Worst Movie rolled, George Hardy, who plays Troll 2 ’s father figure, Michael Waits, took to the front of the theater, mic in hand. He’s 55 now, a well-established dentist in Alexander City, Alabama, and after a first wave of engaging with his cultish fans that began a few years ago, he’s back on the road to promote the documentary. On Saturday he gave numerous shout-outs to his cousins and dentist friends in the audience at Shattuck Cinemas, often speaking directly to them.

VIDEO: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5tFgZ6DmXmw

Hardy answered questions about the experience with the mostly Italian crew of Troll 2 — “pretty unprofessional, really” — as well as participating in the documentary. For one part of Best Worst, where the core cast returned to the house where much of Troll 2 takes place, he indicated they paid $1500 to clean up the house just so they could enter it.

Hardy spoke in awed tones of a dental patient from 12 years back who had come out of the woodwork for the San Francisco screening the night before — she lived just down the street from the Lumiere Theatre. But the real emotion came when he started to talk about Michael Paul Stephenson, for whom he seems to have a great deal of admiration and love. His light, scatterbrained yet sincere approach to answering the audience’s questions might have been due to tipsiness. “I did have a glass of wine before I came over here,” he admitted.

VIDEO: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_OiD6IlBmtk

I asked Hardy if he’s received any other offers for film roles since the resurgence of Troll 2. He pointed out that he has appeared in one other film, Street Team Massacre (2007), but volunteered the fact that he can’t memorize lines.

Hardy said this was something like theater number 78 on the Best Worst Movie tour, but declared Shattuck Cinemas one of the nicest venues. Then it was back to number 77 again, the Lumiere in SF, to do another Q&A and introduce a midnight screening of the offending film itself, Troll 2. That screening was similarly attended by a small knot of fans, but for those in the audience who hadn’t had the pleasure, Hardy offered, “It’s a religious experience, I promise.”

VIDEO: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9KCct4RwLNM

Live Review: Holy Ghost!, Fillmore, 6/3/2010


By Peter Galvin

While much of the mainstream is still poking fun at the hair bands and taking pot-shots at the easy-listening fluff, the ’80s have snuck back in for a full-on revival. Kids who grew up in the decade of Ninja Turtles and parachute pants surely have the fondest memories, and two of those kids play poker-faced homages to the era as Holy Ghost! Full of flashy synths and smooth vocals, Holy Ghost goes a step beyond the copycat ambiance of Ariel Pink or the sly winking of Francis and the Lights or Chromeo, passing up tongue-in-cheek for reverence.

The band played a flawless five song set in the opening slot for LCD Soundsystem on Thursday night, with the duo of Alex Frankel and Nick Millhiser filling out to six members who played it tight and close to the vest. Drum conversations between Millhiser and Frankel were synched perfectly, their clean sound much better suited to a live setting than headphones. Five songs felt a bit short, but, with just the Static on the Wire EP (DFA) out, it may well have been the extent of the band’s music at this point.

With the draw of the headliner the way James Murphy injects contempo beats onto ’70s art-rock music, Holy Ghost!’s deadpan renditions may have been too much for The Fillmore’s more mainstream concert-goers. Reading the hesitation in the crowd, Millhiser spoke little and thanked the audience “for sitting through our set” before launching into their final song of the night. Inclusion on the DFA roster guarantees any band a ton of reviews and buzz, but I wonder if joining LCD Soundsystem on their US tour will win Holy Ghost! many fans of their own in the long run. I’d certainly love to see them return as headliners.

Hot air: The passion and Hot Lixx of air guitar


By Zach Ritter

Someday, an enterprising cultural archivist is going to compile a history of air-musicianship. I’ve got to assume that the phenomenon long predates the headbanging era. Maybe it’s just because I get a kick out of imagining top-hatted fops sawing away on invisible violins, but the instinct to mime an instrument just seems so natural that I have to assume people have been doing it for centuries. I mean, nobody teaches you air guitar. When you hear a sufficiently righteous riff, the hands just take over.

Which is why, at first, the idea of a national Air Guitar Championship seems so counterintuitive. Air guitar’s not supposed to be something you practice. You do it when you’re drunk at a concert, between shouts of “Freebird.” You do it in front of your bedroom mirror, with the door securely locked.

But at the same time, there’s a certain brilliance to the idea of formalized, stadium-centric air guitar performances. Air guitar is rock and roll stripped down to its pure, unpretentious essence — it’s the ultimate triumph of style over substance, swagger over scales. So bear that in mind when you go to the Sat/5 SF round of the US Air Guitar Championships at the Fillmore. The airy axmen and axwomen who’ll be competing are, in a very real sense, the true descendents of Page and Hendrix. With apologies to Don Mclean, these people believe in rock and roll, and that music can save your mortal soul. Prepare accordingly.

Hot Lixx Hulahan, the 2008 Air Guitar World Champion and current top contender in the nationals:


You down with ICP? The perils and wisdom of being just a Juggalo in 2010


By Zach Ritter

Do you remember the first time you heard of Insane Clown Posse? What was your reaction? Did you laugh? Recoil in horror? Or did you thank the trickster gods of pop culture for allowing such a band to exist?

Now, when confronted with a pair of sneering rappers in greasepaint who call themselves Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope, most people are going to resort to mockery. It’s really the only reasonable response. At the same time, though, it’s beginning to seem as if the whole cottage industry of ridicule that’s sprung up around the band has jumped the shark. Yes, ICP are absurd. Yes, the elaborate “Dark Carnival” mythology that surrounds their albums is profoundly stupid. These are facts, and few non-Juggalos would dispute them. At this point, though, even SNL is doing ICP-themed sketches, which I think is a pretty good indication that the joke has run its course.

So instead of mocking ICP, I instead invite you to consider the implications of their fame. There are few American bands that can lay claim to a fanbase as dedicated as ICP’s Juggalos. It’s possible that this has something to do with misery loving company — the more critically scorned a band becomes, the more its fans close ranks, drawing defiant strength from their shared marginality. But I think there are other forces at work here. ICP can be justly accused of a lot of aesthetic sins, but insincerity isn’t one of them.

This is a bigger deal than it might seem. “Legitimacy” in music has become an increasingly fraught concept, especially in the irony-suffused world of indie rock. A lot of music fans seem to spend an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out whether or not their favorite bands are pulling one over on them. Juggalos don’t have that problem. Juggalos know that J and Shaggy mean, with all their hearts, every last word of the goofy shit they spout on their albums. Case in point: the following video. Either these guys are the most sincere lunatics ever to rock a mike, or they’re the greatest surrealist comics of our time.

So when ICP rolls into San Francisco on June 5, and the Juggalo legions descend upon the Warfield, you might want to actually check out their show. I’m not saying that you’ll have an unironic good time, but you might figure out something that everyone else has missed.

With Kottonmouth Kings, Coolio, Kittie, and Necro
Sat/5, 7 p.m. (doors 6 p.m.), $32.50-$35
The Warfield
982 Market, SF
(800) 745-3000


Spirit of LCD


By Peter Galvin


MUSIC It’s getting more and more difficult to talk about new music without comparing it with the work of some other band, or to whichever Stones song the guitar reminds you of. It’s useful to be able to pick a reference point and say “It sounds like that,” but you’re walking a slippery slope when you imply that all music is directly derivative. James Murphy is probably incredibly aware of this tendency to make comparisons. As LCD Soundsystem, Murphy crafts intricate, dense dance music, but a quick peek into his record bin likely indicates where his true passion lies. It is a bin well-stocked with records from Bowie, Eno, Talking Heads, and other 1970s rock icons. It is not so strange that Murphy, 40 years young, would be a fan of ’70s rock. But he does seem an unlikely figure to emerge as a 21st-century musician who not-so-subtly melds the music of his formative years into contemporary dance hits.

Murphy’s transformation into indie icon happened almost overnight. First single “Losing My Edge” on Murphy’s own DFA records was one of the most buzzed-about songs of 2002. But in the years leading up to its self-titled album in 2005, LCD Soundsystem soon found itself caught between two futures: solid, if silly, dance music and intricate explorations of genre. In those days, Murphy tended to ad lib goofy lyrics over his tracks well after the musical parts were recorded, inadvertently threatening to sabotage dancefloor-fillers like “Yeah” and “Daft Punk is Playing at My House” with self-conscious sarcasms. It wasn’t until LCD’s second album, Sound of Silver, that Murphy proved how seriously he takes his craft, displaying a happy medium between his urges for humor and reference, and allowing his songs to create their own happy personalities.

This is Happening is LCD Soundsystem’s third album and it’s all happy personality, marking it as the best representation of Murphy’s signature mix of dance and ’70s rock. The album cover showcases Murphy in a suit and tie that recalls Robert Longo’s “Men in the Cities” work, or perhaps riffs on the poster for Jonathan Demme’s 1984 Talking Heads performance film Stop Making Sense. Though the cover is an urgent reference to those other works, it announces Happening as the album where Murphy fully directs his self-awareness toward creating music that recalls and riffs on, but never replicates. For every track on Happening, there is a clear ’70s counterpart (the official tally heavily favors the production of Brian Eno and the vocal affectations of David Byrne), but they all surge with freshness and originality.

Opening track “Dance Yrself Clean” exhibits mumble-mouthed vocals and a drum/bass combo that wouldn’t be out of place with the low-key meditations from Murphy’s recent Greenberg soundtrack, at least until the three-minute mark, when the song explodes with sound. If it were possible to live within a song, I’d live here, in the reverberation of drums and synths that keep the song rolling another five minutes. “All I Want” is a direct homage to Bowie’s Berlin era; Eno guitar fuzz swirls around the refrain “All I want/Is your pity” before laser show synths create the impression that the vinyl is literally melting as it spins. “One Touch” and “Pow Pow” have Murphy doing his best Talking Heads and “You Wanted a Hit” is the album’s one concession to Murphy’s meta-humor, as he snottily expounds on the band’s unwillingness to conform to expectations, but the result is a song so layered and catchy that it hardly takes away from the album’s consistent pacing.

Pacing is a big factor in This is Happening‘s success, and many of Happening‘s nine songs would not fare as well apart from the album experience. On its release in March, “Drunk Girls” struck me as a particularly hackneyed stand-alone single, one that threatened to turn off as many listeners as “North American Scum” did from 2007’s Sound of Silver. So it comes as a surprise to hear how fitting the song is within the context of the album itself. The chanty back and forth of “drunk girls” and “drunk boys,” interrupted by the silver-tongued chorus “I believe in waking up together/So that means making eyes across the room,” is likely to score the trailer for whatever terrible dating show MTV comes up with this summer. But the song doesn’t deserve that grim fate. It’s part of a tangible tone and feel that makes Happening that rare dance record that’s best enjoyed as an album rather than as a collection of singles.

It may be all the rage to reference ’70s and ’80s music these days, but Murphy isn’t that ironic hipster mashing up dance beats with dad-rock, or that London band mimicking the Clash. Playing “spot the influences” in This is Happening is easy, but I don’t believe Murphy intentionally sets out to replicate the records he grew up with — they’re an integral a part of who he is. In a 2005 Pitchfork interview, Murphy admitted, “I’m not wandering under a banner of originality or a myth of no influences. There’s no purity in what I’m doing.” But Happening emerges as an undeniably pure-sounding album anyway. Drawing from the familiar sounds of an era, Murphy has gone beyond recapturing a spark that was already there. He’s created a whole new reference point.


Thurs/3, 9 p.m., $35


1805 Geary, SF


The hidden zinger in Prop. 14



By Richard Winger

OPINION Proposition 14, a June 8 ballot measure, would mandate that all candidates for Congress and state office appear on the same June ballot, and that all voters use that ballot. Only the two candidates who got the highest vote totals could run in November. Even write-ins would be banned in November for Congress and state offices.

Prop. 14 also has a hidden zinger in it that would remove the Peace and Freedom and Libertarian parties from the ballot. But so far only one daily newspaper has mentioned it — the San Francisco Chronicle, in a March 11 story by Wyatt Buchanan. The state ballot pamphlet says nothing about this particularly nasty detail of Prop. 14.

California has six recognized political parties: Democratic, Republican, American Independent, Green, Libertarian, and Peace and Freedom. The parties remain ballot-qualified either by polling 2 percent of the vote for any statewide race in a midterm year (all parties get a free ride in presidential years) or by maintaining registration equal to 1 percent of the last gubernatorial vote.

In practice, it’s far easier for the smaller parties to meet the first test. The Peace and Freedom Party has 58,000 registered members, and the Libertarian Party has 85,000 registered members. But these parties always meet the 2 percent vote test. Minor parties typically draw far more votes than they have registered members.

The problem is that Prop. 14 eliminates, in practice, the 2 percent vote test. Under Prop. 14, no party officially has any nominees for any office except president and vice-president. And since minor party candidates almost never place first or second in the June primary, minor party members would never be able to run for statewide office in November. And, the catch is that only the November vote counts for meeting the 2 percent vote test.

Prop. 14 also says that members of unqualified parties will not be permitted to list their party label on the June ballot.

The real irony is that the big newspapers of California know about this problem with Prop. 14 but refuse to mention it. That’s ironic because back in 1981, when Democrats in the Legislature wanted to toughen the ballot-access requirements, the big newspapers of California denounced that bill with full fury. Forty of California’s biggest newspapers, TV stations, and radio stations editorialized against that measure.

This year the Los Angeles Times (which led the charge for minor-party access in 1981) refused to mention that Prop. 14 has the same characteristic as that bill, only worse. The Times has rejected at least 10 op-eds submitted by various individuals in the last year that mentioned this problem. None of the Los Angeles Times stories about Prop. 14 have mentioned it. None of the political columnists for that newspaper have mentioned it.

Prop. 14 is supported by the Chamber of Commerce, the for-profit health insurance companies, the for-profit hospitals, and various multimillionaires, and the Yes on 14 campaign has a huge war chest. Why won’t the L.A. Times even mention this flaw in the measure? Who are the big dailies afraid of offending?

Richard Winger is the editor of Ballot Access News.


Rep Clock


Schedules are for Wed/26–Tues/1 except where noted. Director and year are given when available. Double features are marked with a •. All times are p.m. unless otherwise specified.

ARTISTS’ TELEVISION ACCESS 992 Valencia, SF; www.atasite.org. $6. “Other Cinema:” “New Experimental Works,” Sat, 8:30.

CAFÉ OF THE DEAD 3208 Grand, Oakl; (510) 931-7945. Free. “Independent Filmmakers Screening Nite,” Wed, 6:30.

CASTRO 429 Castro, SF; (415) 621-6120, www.castrotheatre.com. $7.50-10. Call for program information.

CHRISTOPHER B. SMITH RAFAEL FILM CENTER 1118 Fourth St, San Rafael; (415) 454-1222, www.cafilm.org. $6.50-10. Babies (Balmès, 2010), call for dates and times. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (Oplev, 2009), call for dates and times. OSS 117: Lost in Rio (Hazanavicius, 2009), call for dates and times. Touching Home (Miller and Miller, 2009), call for dates and times. Moonlight Sonata (Kayalar, 2009), Wed, 7. Looking for Eric (Loach, 2010), May 28-June 3, call for times.

DECO LOUNGE 510 Larkin, SF; (415) 346-2025, www.decosf.com. Free. “Queer Cinema 101,” Mon, 10. Holly DeVille hosts this weekly show highlighting films that have had an impact on queer culture.

FILM NIGHT IN THE PARK This week: Creek Park, 451 Sir Francis Drake, San Anselmo; (415) 272-2756, www.filmnight.org. Donations accepted. Twilight (Hardwicke, 2008), Fri, 8; On the Edge, Sat, 8.

HUMANIST HALL 390 27th St, Oakl; www.humanisthall.org. $5. The Invisible Forest (Alli, 2008), Wed, 7:30. MECHANICS’ INSTITUTE 57 Post, SF; (415) 393-0100, rsvp@milibrary.org. $10. “CinemaLit Film Series: Heroic Horizons: The View from Australia:” The Sundowners (Zinnemann, 1979), Fri, 6. PACIFIC FILM ARCHIVE 2575 Bancroft, Berk; (510) 642-5249, www.bampfa.berkeley.edu. $5.50-9.50. Theater closed Wed-Fri. “Strange Tales of the Whistler:” •The Whistler (Castle, 1944) and The Mark of the Whistler (Castle, 1944), Sat, 6:30. “Brought to Light: Recent Acquisitions to the PFA Collection:” The Valiant Ones (Hu, 1975), Sat, 8:50; Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (Miyazaki, 1984), Sun, 5; Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (Gibney, 2005), Sun, 7:15. RED VIC 1727 Haight, SF; (415) 668-3994. $6-10. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (Gilliam, 1998), Wed, 2, 7:30, 9:30. The Red Machine (Argy and Boehm, 2010), Thurs, 7:15, 9:30; Avatar (Cameron, 2009), Fri-Mon, 5:30, 8:45 (also Sat-Sun, 2). Call for Tues showtimes. ROXIE 3117 and 3125 16th St, SF; (415) 863-1087, www.roxie.com. $5-9.75. “I Still Wake Up Dreaming! Noir is Dead/Long Live Noir:” •Below the Deadline (Beaudine, 1946), Wed, 6, 8:30, and The Thirteenth Hour (Clemens, 1947), Wed, 7:15, 9:45; Behind Locked Doors (Boetticher, 1948), Thurs, 6, 8:30, and Power of the Whistler (Landers, 1945), Thurs, 7:15, 9:45. Dirty Hands (Kim, 2008), Wed-Thurs, 6:10, 8, 9:50. YERBA BUENA CENTER FOR THE ARTS 701 Mission, SF; (415) 978-2787, www.ybca.org. $6-8. “To the Limit: Pina Bausch on Film:” Dancing Dreams (Linsel and Hoffmann, 2010), Thurs-Sat, 7:30; Bluebeard (1977), Sun, 2.

Our Weekly Picks




Ramona Falls

They say taking time off can be good for the soul, but when Brent Knopf faced down-time from recording as one-third of Portland, Ore., band Menomena, he couldn’t unplug. Though it’s hard to call it a solo record when Intuit boasts more than 35 collaborators, Ramona Falls follows the tradition of Knopf’s day band, forming dense electronic atmospheres from piano and pairing them with energetic drum work. Here, Knopf’s vocals shine as the truest instrument. His voice sounds like a whisper even at its most expressive. It’s a life raft to cling to while more of the nebulous Intuit opens with each new listen. (Peter Galvin)

With The National

8:00 p.m. (also Thurs/27), $30

Fox Theatre

1807 Telegraph, Oakl.

1 (800) 745-3000





Craig Robinson

Name a humorous TV show from the past five years, and chances are Craig Robinson made an appearance. Bit parts on Curb Your Enthusiasm, Friends, and The Bernie Mac Show led to his star-making role on The Office as Darryl, the warehouse manager who is constantly embattled by Steve Carell’s harangues and half-baked schemes. Something about Robinson’s dry wit and level gaze tempts us to throw in our lot with him in every comedic circumstance. And now? Big screen, baby — Knocked Up, Hot Tub Time Machine, Shrek 4. Come see him get down with his original gig — stand up. (Caitlin Donohue)

8 p.m. (through Sun/30; also Fri.–Sat., 10:15 p.m.), $23.50–$25.50

Cobb’s Comedy Club

915 Columbus, SF

(415) 928-4320



San Francisco Popfest 2010: Eux Autres

Popfest is back, and it’s time to celebrate with of SF’s best pop bands, Eux Autres, who are wise enough to worship Françoise Hardy. As they succinctly put it: “Most of [our] songs are about (a) military history (b) being ‘done wrong’ or (c) sports.” For this week’s video issue, in the Noise blog I talk with guitarist-vocalist Nicholas Larimer about five of his fave YouTube clips from the ’70s TV pop music motherlode Midnight Special. (Johnny Ray Huston)

With tUnE-yArDs, Social Studies, Knight School

8 p.m., $10–$12

Rickshaw Stop

155 Fell, SF

(415) 861-2011



“Making Visible”

At a dance recital, the audience can only see so much. Beholding the coiffed hair, makeup, and costumes, it’s hard to imagine what goes on behind the scenes. But inside a dance studio, the creative process comes alive. Within countless hours of rehearsals, despite the blisters and sore joints, something alluring gradually begins to form. The Marina Abramovic Institute West offers a unique chance to witness how a recital comes together. Their series of performances are live rehearsals in which dancers learn the choreography onstage. (Elise-Marie Brown)

4:30 p.m. (through June 13), free

Marina Abramovic Institute West

575 Sutter, SF




Surya Dub Three-Year Anniversary

It’s been a while since they blew our woofers on the regular, but our ambassadors of dread bass have been busy spreading the gospel of global dubstep to farther shores. Lucky for our feet, the Surya Dub crew are roaring back to Club Six to celebrate their third year with excellent special guest urban-electro blaster from Montreal, Ghislain Poirier (now just “Poirier”). Maneesh the Twister, Kush Arora, Kid Kameleon, Ripley, DJ Amar, J.Rogers, and Jimmy Love gird the boom with subcontinental vibes, stirring bhangra, ragga, and other worldly sounds into the low, low, low. Expect eclecticism, receive rad riddims. (Marke B.)

10 p.m.–3 a.m., $10

Club Six

66 Sixth St., SF



El Radio Fantastique, Shovelman

Let us tip our hats to the newest venue along the Valencia corridor, Viracocha. It’s a wood-paneled treasure trove of for-sale antiquity. At night, the place is transformed into an atmospheric community space, a venue for word, thought, and lovely live music — like that of El Radio Fantastique, whose peculiar blend of musical theater seems straight from someone’s front porch in the Louisiana bayou. Which, come to think of it, matches the vibe at Viracocha nicely. Shovelman, a.k.a. Isaac Frankle, takes over the upstairs stage for the night. Expect to hear folksy stomp music. (Donohue)

7:45 p.m.–11 p.m., donations accepted


998 Valencia, SF

(415) 374-7048



Frog Eyes

He can’t get no respect! Though the epic compositions of Frog Eyes rival those of contemporary pals Spencer Krug and Dan Bejar, as reflected by the trio’s work together in Swan Lake, Carey Mercer’s full-time band is consistently shunted to the background. Mercer can howl and he has an antiquated cadence to his voice that makes Paul’s Tomb: A Triumph sound like it belongs in another century. He’s never been in a Wolf Parade or joined the New Pornographers, but those of you who turned up Sunset Rubdown might be surprised by how much you like Frog Eyes. (Galvin)

With Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band and Dominique Leone

9:30 p.m., $10

Hemlock Tavern

1131 Polk, SF

(415) 923-0923



Scott Wells & Dancers: Ballistic

Did you fall in love last year with Scott Wells’ two jugglers? Apparently Wells’ dancers did as well. For Ballistic, all seven engage in elegant athleticism. Not that athleticism is new in Wells’ repertoire. Wild chaos and meticulous order — with and without projectiles — always share the game. It all looks like child’s play, but isn’t, except for an uncanny ability to be totally present in the moment. Contact improvisation — the movement genre Wells has fundamentally influenced — is often more fun to do than to watch. Not with Wells. He is a consummate man of the theater. Jin-Wen Yu Dance shares the program on the first two weekends. (Rita Felciano)

8 p.m. (through June 19)


1310 Mission, SF




Simian Mobile Disco DJ Set

With school out and summer swinging into high gear, lazy days that consist of sleeping in and drinking in the park are here. If you have a day job like me and need to pay the bills, you can free your soul at night with an epic dance party. Simian Mobile Disco has heard my call. Dress to dance and get ready to sweat. (Brown)

With Tenderlions, Ryan Poulsen

9 p.m., $15


444 Jessie, SF

(415) 625-8880



Ab Soto

Queer hip-hop — are we done with it yet? Nope, but this time we’re laying off the “Isn’t this groundbreaking?” tiredness and having fun. The recent crop of homo-hoppers like Cazwell and local hottie Kid Akimbo are doing it cute and naturally. Enter Hollywood’s Ab Soto, whose neon-bright hotness, scruffy hipster looks, and fierce-ruling SpongeBob muumuus are more about giving you banjee boy wet dreams than making political statements. He’ll be throwing down live at the circus-crazy Big Top party. Please keep him away from my boyfriend. (Marke B.)

9 p.m.–3 a.m., $10.

Club Eight

1551 Folsom, SF.




San Francisco Carnaval: “Colors Of Sound, Splashes Of Culture”

Carnaval isn’t just a festival where people drink and eat to their heart’s content. In San Francisco, we focus on Latin American and Caribbean cultures through dance and music. Of course, food is on the menu. The all-day event includes salsa and samba lessons, games, breakdancing, ecofriendly exhibits, and even a health screening center. This time, Sunday is the right day for indulgence. (Brown)

9:30 a.m., free

Bryant and 24th St., SF

(415) 642-1748



Kurt Elling with the Count Basie Orchestra

Kurt Elling has won Down Beat and JazzTimes critics’ polls three years in a row for best male singer. Most recently, he won his first Grammy for best jazz vocal album. Tonight he’s backed by the Count Basie Orchestra, the most prominent big band of the past 60 years. The band has accompanied Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles, and Frank Sinatra, and continues to support the great jazz singers of our time. As part of the SF Jazz Spring Series, Elling and the Basie Orchestra perform some of the original Basie/Sinatra charts arranged by the legendary Quincy Jones. The Basie Orchestra opens the night with classic repertoire. (Lilan Kane)

7 p.m., $25

Davies Symphony Hall

201 Van Ness, SF

(415) 864-6000



KBLX Stone Soul Concert

Wrap up your Memorial Day weekend with some soul and sunshine. A longtime Bay Area source for the soul music, KBLX has booked a solid lineup of some of smooth voices. This year’s artists include Charlie Wilson; New Edition members Bobby Brown, Johnny Gill, and Ralph Tresvant; Minnesota’s Mint Condition, and none other than Mr. Biggs himself, Ronald Isley. This concert serves up favorite jams spanning from the 1970s to the present. (Kane)

Noon, $45

Sleep Train Pavilion

2000 Kirker Pass, Concord

(925) 676-8742





Dark Tranquillity

It’s easy to lump them in with the rest of the ’90s Gothenburg death metal scene, but that sort of careless taxonomy is unfair to a band like Dark Tranquillity. The Swedish sextet have carved out a niche of their own on the strength of their anthemic, atmospheric melodicism, having weathered the storms that afflicted fellow travelers In Flames and Soilwork with dignity and grace. Though the music features the kind of keyboard and electronic textures that tend to alienate bread-and-butter death metal fans, these flourishes fit seamlessly into the band’s dystopian, space-age aesthetic, reinforcing the punishing grooves and soaring melodies. (Ben Richardson)

With Threat Signal, Mutiny Within

8 p.m., $18


333 11th St., SF

(415) 255-0333



The Very Best

A collaboration between Malawian vocalist Esau Mwamwaya and London production duo Radioclit, the Very Best offers vocals in Chichewa over dance beats that translate to fun in any language. Fun is the chief goal of the duo, who rose to blog fame in 2008 with Malawian remixes of Vampire Weekend and M.I.A. If you need proof that smiles are contagious, singer Esau Mwamwaya has a grin that is promptly reflected on the frowniest of show-goers. Trust me, it’s undeniable. (Galvin)

With Disco Shawn

8:00 p.m., $18 (21 and over)

The Independent

628 Divisadero, SF

(415) 771-1421




Cloris Leachman

At 84, actress Cloris Leachman shows no sign of slowing down. From her first major film role in the noir classic Kiss Me Deadly, to her portrayal of Ruth Popper in The Last Picture Show (which won her an Oscar for best supporting actress), to her hilarious turn as Frau Blucher in Young Frankenstein, Leachman has memorably seized the big screen. The nine-time Emmy Award winner made her mark on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Phyllis and keeps on keeping on with recent stints on Malcolm In The Middle and Dancing With The Stars. This six-night run of her one-woman stage show takes audiences on a trip through moments from her extraordinary life. (McCourt)

8 p.m. (through June 6), $40–$45

Rrazz Room

222 Mason, SF



Gates of Slumber

The Indianapolis warriors in Gates of Slumber play an arresting offshoot of doom metal, a NWOBHM-inflected rumble that sounds like Cirith Ungol fighting St. Vitus to the death. Singer Karl Simon is built like a barbarian but sings like a dying druid, all reverb and haunting, ethereal resonance, and his band is well-built to underscore his epic tales of war and bloodshed. If there were a way to resurrect Frank Frazetta with the power of down-tuned guitars and thunderous drumming, these guys would have figured it out by now. Unfortunately, all we can do is mourn and bang our heads. (Richardson)

With Black Cobra, Slough Feg, Salvador

8 p.m., $10

Thee Parkside

1600 17th St., SF

(415) 252-1330


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