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With climate change threatening life as we know it, perhaps it's time to revive the forgotten goal of spending less time on our jobs

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GREEN ISSUE: Save the planet, work less. Plus: Martinez Brothers, Hope Mohr Dance, Oakland Drops Beats, 'Faust,' more. Articles Online | Digital Edition

From the Blogs

Why Newsom drives me nuts

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This is the kind of thing that drive me nuts about the Newsom administration.

A few days ago, SF Appeal ran an item on a speech Newsom gave about condo conversions. The mayor wants to let more people turn rental units and tenancy-in-common units into condominiums; that, Newsom argues, will bring more revenue into the city treasury (those conversion permits are expensive).

But there’s a reason why the city limits to 200 the number of units that can be converted in any one year. Turning a rental unit into a condo reduces the number of rentals available, and turning a rent-controlled unit into a condo (or into a TIC and then a condo) cuts into the affordable housing stock.

And a majority of the supervisors, who recognize the impact the mayor’s plan would have on tenants (by making it easier to take rental units off the market), are dubious.

Okay, that’s a difference of opinion. You don’t have to make it personal. And yet, at his press conference, the mayor insisted that

“Half of the members of the board have been beneficiaries of condo conversions, and yet they deny it to other people."

As the Appeal pointed out, that’s simply untrue.

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Newsom's perplexing attack on San Francisco's economy

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There’s a crazy disconnect in City Hall these days over how to help the local economy. Mayor Gavin Newsom has spent much of the last month focusing on “jobs” and “local economic stimulus,” proposing to give a few million dollars in tax breaks to local companies while refusing to discuss new tax measures to help close the city’s $522 million budget deficit.Read more »

Strong Beer Month pours it on, is strong

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There’s not a lot to look forward to in February. Unless, of course, you happen to be into beer. (And, er, love.) Yes, we're currently in the middle of a great SF Beer Week. But the city has also embarked on an entire month of sudsy exploration. A proud tradition imported from Munich, Germany, strong beer (Starkbier) festivals have become part of the beer drinker’s winter calendar worldwide. In San Francisco, where good beer is as easy to find as a decent burrito, and not much more expensive, Strong Beer Month, co-hosted by Magnolia Pub and Brewery and 21st Amendment (both of which make their own) still stands out on the beer enthusiast radar as a special occasion. First, because it’s about beer. Second, because it’s about strong beer – as in extra-alcoholic. And mostly, because like any celebration of the craft of beer-making, it’s full of delicious and surprising nuances.

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The Sexy Professor speaks at City Lights

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Literary critic, Stanford professor, and sexy-brainy scholar Terry Castle will be speaking at City Lights Books on Tuesday, Feb. 9, about The Professor and Other Writings, a series of meditations on topics ranging from Art Pepper to the Polermo catacombs to Susan Sontag. When read together, the essays coalesce into a singular, fearless new memoir.

Castle has produced an incredible body of literary criticism and, in her work, she often explores the complicated relationship between literature and sex. Books like The Apparitional Lesbian and The Literature of Lesbianism examine depictions of love between women in the Western literatary canon. Boss Ladies, Watch Out: Essays on Women, Sex, and Writing investigates female sexuality in works by famous women writers.

But don't let the lit theory put you off. Even those allegedly allergic to theory will enjoy the candid, intelligent essays in Castle's latest work. Her intellectual gifts are obvious -- even her informal pieces have the pleasing effect of making their reader feel smarter -- but Castle remains accessible to a wide audience. In fact, her writing seems targeted at those who exist on the outskirts, or even outside, of the literary cognoscenti. Castle makes no secret of her distaste for the "preening and plumage display" of current day literary criticism, or what she calls "jargon-ridden pseudo-writing," and her informal pepperings of middle- and low-brow references throughout The Professor add to Castle's likableness. None of my college professors would ever (admittedly) discuss the "hotitude" of famous Hollywood stars; neither would they (admittedly) jam out to bass-bomping hip hop on their iPods.

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Welcome to the new SFBG.com

New decade, new look

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Happy 2010, and welcome to the new SFBG.com -- the Web site for the San Francisco Bay Guardian.

We've redesigned the site in order to have a more immediate interaction with you, our reader, and to launch the next phase in our 45-year history of serving the Bay Area community with the latest, local-oriented, proudly made-in-the-Bay news, reviews, commentary, and guides. It's a fiesta, so dig in!

In the near future, we'll be adding new features, making some wee adjustments, and ironing out any kinks. We always appreciate your feedback, and hope that you enjoy our changes.

Here are a few notes to help you get oriented.

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Memorial for Charles Lee Smith (1925-2010), passionate pamphleteer

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Memorial services for Charles Lee Smith, a classic liberal activist whose hero was Tom Paine and whose passion was pamphleteering, will be held at 3 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 12, at the Friends Meeting House, Walnut and Vine, in Berkeley. He died at his Berkeley home on Jan. 7 at 84.

His wife Anne said that Charlie, as we all called him, fell in December and never fully recovered. She brought him home under hospice care on Jan. 5 and she and his two sons Greg and Jay were with him his last three days.

Charlie first contacted me in the early days of the Guardian in the late l960s. I soon realized that he was my kind of liberal, always working tirelessly, cheerfully, and quietly to make things better for people and their communities. He was a remarkable man with a remarkable range of interests and causes that he pursued his entire life.

He campaigned endlessly for causes ranging from the successful fight to stop Pacific Gas and Electric Co. from building a nuclear power plant on Bodega Bay to integrating the Berkeley schools to third brake lights for cars to one-way tolls on bridges to disaster preparedness to traffic safety and circles to public power and keep tabs on PG@E and big business shenanigans.

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Gavin for Lite Guv?

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Willie Brown thinks it's a good idea. And you can tell Newsom wants to consider it, since he knows there's nothing else obvious for him to do once his term as mayor is up -- and there are going to be a lot of options not too far down the road. Sen. Dianne Feinstein isn't getting any younger, and at some point she'll retire. If Jerry Brown doesn't get elected governor, the Democrats will be looking for someone very different in four years. But once a politician like Newsom is out of office and out of the spotlight, he'll have a hard time coming back.

So he could sit up there in the Lite Gov's office, doing what John Garamendi did -- taking on issues like cuts to the University of California (the Lt. Gov. sits on the Board of Regents) and making speeches about reform, and maybe he could get out in front of this constitutional convention stuff, and keep his name in the news, without having to make a single difficult or unpleasant decision that he can be blamed for later.

You know he wants to do it ....

But there's this problem, and for Newsom, it's very real.

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Roll over, Beethoven: Real Vocal String Quartet takes the classics for a ride

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“The classical composers we know so well, Beethoven and Bach and Vivaldi, they were improvisers. So really, we’re carrying on that legacy,” says Real Vocal String Quartet founder Irene Sazer. I’d love to know what the old masters would think of a RVSQ gig- would they throw down their powdered wig and get down when the women launch their cellos into “Fontana Abandonada-Passatempo,” their Afro-Brazilian jam? Get their britches in a twist over “Kothbiro,” a nyatiti song by Kenyan artist Ayub Ogada?

I reckon they’d have dug the tunes. After all, RVSQ, performing this Thursday at Freight and Salvage, attributes their freedom to perform such divergent genres to their traditional classical training. The band members- Dina Maccabee and Sazer on the violin, Alisa Rose on the violin and fiddle and cellist Jessica Ivry- were all band kids, many raised in families of classical musicians and most recipients of college degrees in their respective axes.

Some started careers in orchestras and the like. But there was always something beyond the Bach that beckoned.

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Street Threads: Ian

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SFBG photog Ariel Soto scoops SF street fashion

Today's Look: Ian, 30th Street and Church

Tell us about your look: "Vintage"

(Bonus handlebar closeup -- for all you mustachafarians -- after the jump)

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Snap Sounds: The Album Leaf

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By Amber Schadewald


THE ALBUM LEAF

A Chorus of Storytellers

(Sub Pop)

 
Be lured into a deep daze with the frosty, sublime sounds of The Album Leaf’s new release, A Chorus of Storytellers. The San Diego band -- which will be performing Fri/12 at Great American Music Hall -- is ambient to its core. Only four of the 11 well-crafted tracks incorporate vocals. (Ironic, considering its the album's title.)

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Dick Meister: Combating workplace violence

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Organized labor and its allies are rightly alarmed over the high incidence of on-the-job accidents that have killed or maimed many thousands of workers. But they haven’t forgotten – nor should we forget – the on-the-job violence that also afflicts many thousands.

Consider this: Every year, almost two million American men and women are the victims of violent crime at their workplaces. That often forces the victims to stay off work for a week or more and costs their employers more than $60 billion a year in lost productivity.

The crimes are the tenth leading cause of all workplace injuries. They range from murder to verbal or written abuse and threatening behavior and harassment, including bullying by employers and supervisors.

Women have been particularly victimized. At least 30,000 a year are raped or otherwise sexually assaulted while on the job. The actual total is undoubtedly much higher, since it’s estimated that only about one-fourth of such crimes are reported to the police.

Estimates are that more than 900,000 of all on-the-job crimes go unreported yearly, including a large percentage of what’s thought to be some 13,000 cases annually that involve boyfriends or husbands attacking women at their workplaces.

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Progressives control City College board

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By Anna Widdowson

The reelection of Milton Marks III as President of the City College of San Francisco’s Board of Trustees ruffled some feathers during last week’s board meeting, but it signals a real shift in the balance of power in the governance of this troubled district.

Dissent came primarily from longtime board member Natalie Berg, a fairly conservative and consistent (and crabby) supporter of former City College Chancellor Philip Day, who was indicted last July on eight felony charges for misappropriating public funds. Other longtime board members (and Day enablers) Lawrence Wong and Anita Grier also voted against Marks, who was a fairly isolated public interest advocate until two years ago, when he began to accumulate some allies.

One of those allies, progressive activist John Rizzo, last year replaced Berg as the board’s vice president, a post we was reelected to last week on the same 4-3 vote that Marks got. But while Berg opposes the pair on ideological grounds, she couched her criticism in the “long-standing tradition” of Board presidents’ declining to serve two terms in a row. She called Marks’s reelection “unprecedented” and a blow to the Board’s democracy.

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Joseph Stiglitz: Muddling Out of Freefall

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Here is our monthly installment of Joseph E. Stiglitz's Unconventional Economic Wisdom column from the Project Syndicate news series. Stiglitz is University Professor at Columbia University and the winner of the 2001 Nobel Prize in economics. His new book is Freefall.

NEW YORK – Defeat in the Massachusetts senatorial election has deprived America’s Democrats of the 60 votes needed to pass health-care reform and other legislation, and it has changed American politics – at least for the moment. But what does that vote say about American voters and the economy?

It does not herald a shift to the right, as some pundits suggest. Rather, the message it sends is the same as that sent by voters to President Bill Clinton 17 years ago: “It’s the economy, stupid!” and “Jobs, jobs, jobs.” Indeed, on the other side of the United States from Massachusetts, voters in Oregon passed a referendum supporting a tax increase.

The US economy is in a mess – even if growth has resumed, and bankers are once again receiving huge bonuses. More than one out of six Americans who would like a full-time job cannot get one; and 40% of the unemployed have been out of a job for more than six months.

As Europe learned long ago, hardship increases with the length of unemployment, as job skills and prospects deteriorate and savings gets wiped out. The 2.5-3.5 million foreclosures expected this year will exceed those of 2009, and the year began with what is expected to be the first of many large commercial real-estate bankruptcies. Even the Congressional Budget Office is predicting that it will be the middle of the decade before unemployment returns to more normal levels, as America experiences its own version of “Japanese malaise.” 

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Supervisors come together to help Haiti

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Amid all the political acrimony that divides San Franciscans, the Board of Supervisors has finally found something that it can unanimously and enthusiastically support: fundraising for relief to earthquake-ravaged Haiti.Read more »

Drinking the tea, ignoring the facts

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Listening to members of the Tea Party movement on KQED’s Forum this morning, I and many callers to the show were struck by the basic inaccuracy of their core beliefs, these revanchist delusions about what’s in the U.S. Constitution and how this country really operates.

There’s a lot of justifiable anxiety out there over the state of the country, and the Tea Party movement has tapped into that with bumper sticker slogans that are just broad enough to capture alienated Americans from across the political spectrum. One recent poll shows that 41 percent of respondents are sympathize with the movement, stronger support than either major political party now enjoys.

But facts should matter, and they just don’t to many teabaggers or their high priestess, Sarah Palin, who is headlining the current national Tea Party convention in Nashville. For example, the two self-described “patriots” on this morning’s show railed against all the unconstitutional actions of the runaway federal government in ways that reveal an astonishing ignorance about the document they claim to prize so highly.

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