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How a high-minded countercultural experiment ended up on everyone's bucket list

This Week's Paper

weekcoverGrover Norquist brings the Black Rock blues as Burning Man Jumps the Shark! Pro-Palestine protesters block the boat, fed-up teachers take strike vote, and crack cocaine sentences may soon get smoked. Plus: Myron & E lay down street soul at Noise Pop, Nick Monaco belts out his Mating Call, and Aubrey Plaza slays in Life After Beth. Articles Online | Digital Edition

From the Blogs

The children

Robert Moses returns to classic storytelling with Fable and Faith

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Robert Moses may not know it, but he is a pied piper. The ability to hold the attention of 200 hormone-packed middle school students at 9 a.m. on a Wednesday in early February must qualify as some kind of superhuman ability.

But Moses, choreographer and artistic director of Robert Moses' Kin, defers to his own pied piper, the one on stage who immortalized the German city of Hamelin. As the fabled character, Dexandro "D" Montalvo twitches, churns, and first commands the rats; then, with beckoning index fingers, he mesmerizes the "children" to follow him who knows where.Read more »

Onek to SFPD Chief turned D.A. Gascon: release records of officers cleared in shootings

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Calitics has a revealing letter from David Onek, a senior fellow at the Berkeley Center for Criminal Justice, a former member of the San Francisco Police Commission and a candidate in the 2011 District Attorney’s race, demanding greater transparency from the D.A.’s office when it comes to explaining why officers have been cleared in officer-related shootings. Read more »

Hot sexy events: February 16-22

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'Tis the weekly sex events of playa-sized proportions! In addition to our city editor Steve Jones' reading at Kinky Salon this week, this week you can also catch a reception for a new art book on goofily half-attired or gleefully naked Burners published for the world to see, courtesy of playa photographer Julian Cash.

The People of Burning Man is the product of Cash's insistence on bringing an immaculate white portable studio to the playa year after year,  setting up actual photo shoots in a festival world where most documentation relies on the most candid of cameras. The result is that BRC's wacky personas and costumes are explicated and orchestrated better than they'd ever be if you just saw them strutting past you through Center Camp. Not surprisingly, a lot of the photos have to do with sex. But Cash's impish camera-side manner has a way of making even the most pierced, punked perv look playful (I should know, he took myphotos last fall) – and his signature white backdrop strips his subjects' context away so that you can really focus on what that pair of furry pink chaps, nipple paint, or lifted tutu wants to express.

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Planned Parenthood calls for support against GOP attack

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As the struggle to keep the doors open at the legendary women's clinic, Lyon-Martin Health Services, continues here in San Francisco, yet another blow to women's health care at the national level has advocates sounding the alarm. Planned Parenthood has issued a call for help defeating a federal bill it's calling "the most dangerous legislative assault on women's health and Planned Parenthood in our 95-year history."

Congress is gearing up to vote on the Title X Abortion Provider Prohibition Act, which would eliminate federal funding for all health-care services provided by any clinic that offers abortion services. The legislation places Planned Parenthood, a leading national provider of reproductive health care serving primarily low-income and uninsured women, squarely in the crosshairs. Read more »

When radical protest works

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It's easy to get turned off by protests, to say that direct action, sit-ins, arrests are counterprodcutive and don't make any difference. But then you read something like this and you realize that, over time, in-your-face activism can have a very direct impact.Read more »

No more San Brunos!

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For decades, the Guardian has done story after story on PG&E's deteriorating service, terrible maintenance record, continuous stonewalling and coverups, emphasis -- not on safety -- but on jacking up executive salaries and putting tens of millions into fighting community choice aggregation in San Francisco and Marin, and on the granddaddy of monopoly moves (last year's Prop 16). The San Francisco Chronicle, to its immense credit, has come through with a series of stories laying out PG&E's virtually criminal behavior in the San Bruno pipeline explosion.

Now TURN, the consumer watchdog over utilities, is putting forth an excellent way to fight back with a  tough petition and spreading the word. TURN says, "PG&E charged its customers $5 million to fix a gas pipeline under San Bruno in 2009, but delayed the work citing other priorities. The company then spent $5 million on executive bonuses."

Take action to demand PG&E make customer safety its top priority, and pay for the costs of this tragedy with its own profits, not our pockets. Read more »

Warren Hellman: The rich are undertaxed

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I couldn't reach financier Warren Hellman before I wrote my column in this week's paper talking about the employee pension discussions. But he called me yesterday (Feb. 16) after he'd seen it, and I expected he'd give me some shit.

Wrong.

In fact, Hellman had only one problem with my analysis: "Your article is didn't go far enough." Turns out he thinks I was a bit too easy on the billionaires.Read more »

The Performant: Enter the Platypus

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French “Art” and Fringe wins at the EXIT Theatre

Of all the theatre companies in the Bay Area currently operating, the most specifically focused may well be our premiere (or rather only) amateur Francophone company Le Theatre Platypus. Though the Goethe-Institut sometimes hosts touring productions, such as Bridge Marklund’s “Faust in the Box” which will play in the Institut auditorium March 3 and The Mission Cultural Center hosts occasional Spanish-language plays such as Dolores Prida’s “Coser y Cantar” (playing March 17-19), dedicated multi-lingual local troupes are unfortunately scarce. This makes going to see a Platypus play more than just a night out, but a bona-fide cultural immersion experience.

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Lion dancer takes off his mask

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Another year and another ferocious super-natural lion symbolically rips and spits out heads of lettuce along the storefronts of Kearny Avenue. This is the lion dance, a highly visceral and visually unique performance that is a centerpiece in the city's Southwest Airlines Chinese New Year parade, a 150-year old event that draws the participation of over 100 community groups. 

Although each performance is different, one thing stays the same: the lion dancers' faces are never revealed and their identity stays behind the mask. We were lucky enough to speak with one veteran lion dancer about growing up with the parade and his time inside the lion. Read more »

Live Shots: 7th Annual Black Choreographers Festival, ODC Theater, 02/16/2011

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I believe it's almost everyone's dream to be able to fly and for some, it is a reality. I stopped by ODC Theater this week to check out a final rehearsal of a dance piece choreographed by Raissa Simpson and actually got to watch her fly across the stage. OK, she was actually attached to cables, but there was still quite a bit of airborne action going on, and to be honest, it made me a little jealous.

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Mad science

Mophono and Salva are searching for the future beat

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Is the Bay Area's experimental beat scene finally coming together? After a few years of lagging behind the explosion of beat conductor talent in Los Angeles, and suffering a steady exodus of potential down south, the Bay Area's time for creating a forward leaning psychedelia — composed from the bass-infused backbone of instrumental hip-hop — might have arrived.Read more »

Appetite: Lovely visit, with vino

Exploring the farm and winery at Long Meadow Ranch, St. Helena

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Long Meadow Ranch Winery does it all in Wine Country: grass-fed beef, heirloom fruits and vegetables, eggs from their chickens, lush olive oils, and, of course, wines. Seeking to grow everything used in their restaurant and winery, they continue to push boundaries, currently exploring a dairy and cheese-making.

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Adachi and Ballard's pension reform gloves come off

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Yesterday, I talked to Public Defender Jeff Adachi about the latest efforts to address pension reform in San Francisco. Readers may remember that Adachi roused the ire of the labor unions last year, with the ultimately unsuccessful Proposition B. At the time, most folks felt Adachi’s measure didn’t have a snowball’s chance because it asked public employees to bear the brunt of the city’s ballooning retirement and health plan costs. Yet, they all praised Adachi as a great city leader who has been on the right side of many other battles in this city’s rich political history. Read more »

Muni looks for money -- but not downtown

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The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency is looking for new ways to bring in money, which is a fine thing. I think taxes for transportation make perfect sense. And while not everything in government gets better when you throw money at it, Muni generally does. Some of the ideas are pretty sound and take a progressive approach; it's hard to argue against a vehicle impact fee, since private cars on the road increase traffic and slow down the buses. Read more »

Eye dance: Eonnagata and the heroics of being seen

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Consider the need to be seen. The dance world is consumed by this challenge. Dancers repeatedly put ourselves in situations where we have optimal visibility via auditions, performances, and even day-to-day classes. Choreographers market themselves to be presented through grants and venues. But is this need, this desire to interest and engage and ultimately compel people to watch us, heroic, or simply pathetic? Suppose for a second not the plight of a common dancer trying to be seen, but of a very high profile dancer or choreographer, who for better or worse is seen, has been seen, and who people clamor to see. Would the work err more toward heroic because it is practically their duty to be seen? Read more »