Archive for February, 2009

Want another headache? Sign Manny

As the Barry Bonds saga winds excruciatingly through the courts and Bonds himself ages on the shelf until his legal problems are finished, fans in both southern and northern California watch with appalled fascination the spectacle of the Manny Ramirez contract negotiations. On Thursday night the negotiations between the Dodgers, for whom Ramirez last played, and his agent exploded into public recriminations as accusatory emails flew back and forth. The more things like this happen, the more Giants ownership has to wonder, do they really want another headache like the one they had with Bonds?

Bonds’ trial was postponed indefinitely after his “friend” and former “trainer” Greg Anderson again refused to testify about what he knows about Bonds’ steroid use, which he allegedly facilitated. Anderson spent a year in jail on contempt charges already, and he might be headed for another spell if this keeps up. Yesterday on KNBR Ralph Barbieri and Tom Tolbert went on a hilarious riff about how the prisoners and guards at the Pleasanton federal lockup where Anderson vacations probably ask him for Bonds memorabilia and that the prison is likely festooned with Bonds signed balls, jerseys and posters.

SFGate to begin charging for content

chronicle_frontpage_27feb09Missed in the general reaction to Tuesday’s news that the San Francisco Chronicle will have to shrink radically, be sold, or closed — as Denver’s Rocky Mountain News went out of business today — was this bit, which I noticed courtesy MediaBistro: The Chronicle is also planning to charge online readers for its SF Gate online presence, Newsosaur reported.

According to the report, “(The plan) would require the elimination of nearly half of the 1,500 employees of the newspaper to wipe out the operating deficit. To avoid cutting that deeply into the staff, the Chronicle plans to boost revenues by increasing subscription prices for the newspaper and to begin charging consumers for access to certain features and sections at its website.”

Some observers speculated that Dean Singleton’s MediaNews Group was positioning itself to buy the Chronicle. The company also owns the San Jose Mercury News, the Oakland Tribune, and many other smaller dailies in the Bay Area — as well as the Denver Post.

Read more after the jump

The Black Rock: The African American Experience on Alcatraz

This Friday night the Red Vic hosts the San Francisco premiere of “The Black Rock”, a new film that explores the largely undocumented history of the African American prisoner experience on Alcatraz. Heralded local filmmaker Kevin Epps has shifted his documentary lens from previous subjects like life in Hunters Point, and the Bay’s Hip Hop underground, to life in SF’s notorious offshore federal lock up.

new Alcatraz film : The Black Rock

new Alcatraz film : The Black Rock

The film, presented in starkly haunting black & white, had it’s first public screening earlier this month in the actual Alcatraz mess hall for 300 lucky guests of Epps and The National Park Service. Now, having been released from it’s island prison exile, it can reach mainland audiences and will run at the Red Vic on Haight St this week through March 5th. The NPS has indicated it will soon use portions of the film in the permanent exhibits and tours of the historic prison.

Fascination with Alcatraz permeates pop culture and the crumbling prison ranks high amongst San Francisco’s most popular tourist attractions, attracting more visitors than the city’s total population each year. Epps’ new film approaches the prison from a very different socio-political angle than the usual Hollywood fare, and pulls together tales that are unique amongst the plethora of prison videos, books and memorabilia that already clutter local gift shops.

For More, Including A Peak At The Trailer, Read On… (more…)

SF tranny coder may have wrought ViddyHo IM worm

The ViddyHo phishing worm that sought to trick Google mail users out of their usernames and passwords is allegedly the work of an “Anarcho-Transexual Afro-Chicano American Feminist Studies Major” from San Francisco, Hoan Ton-That — according to a Harvard Crimson article.

Gawker yesterday first reported the attack, which was unrelated to a major GMail outage that took place Sunday. Their story today, adding reports on the Crimson’s investigations as well as a lurid photo of Mr. Ton-That, closes with this comment:

Everything about Ton-That’s life and work is a screaming stereotype of San Francisco’s Web crowd — a bunch of supposed individualists who’d be paralyzed with fear by the idea that they’re not living in the right neighborhood, working in the right office, and chasing the right technological trend. That’s the irony of Ton-That’s involvement with ViddyHo. If he is indeed the perpetrator of the worm, it may make him hated. But it would be the first truly original thing he’s done.

Ouch, harsh! Like Gawker readers are not obsessed with the same things?

S.G. Browne’s "Breathers" sold to Hollywood; Diablo Cody to produce

Santa Cruz writer S.G. Browne‘s book Breathers, a comic zombie romance which he describes as “a classic story of suffering and redemption, like The Color Purple or the New Testament, only with cannibalism” has been sold to Fox Searchlight, with Diablo Cody set to produce. (Cody is last year’s slumdog millionaire, as it were — her Academy Award for the “Juno” screenplay vaulted her to fame and Hollywood power.) Browne, a former Disney screenwriter, will be appearing at next month’s Writers with Drinks as well as other venues after the March 3 release of his book.

Hearst to Chronicle: Implement Massive Layoffs or be Shut Down

In yet another manifestation of the long, sad and widely-noted decline of the San Francisco Chronicle, Hearst Corporation has threatened the paper with sale or closure if it doesn’t make major, immediate cuts to both union and non-union staff.

While no deadline was laid down for making these cuts, and their scope was not quantified, it’s clear that Hearst means business. SFist has published a memo sent to Chronicle employees by Chairman and Publisher Frank Vega, in which he intimates “a series of cost-saving initiatives designed to alleviate” the continuing losses at the paper. Well, we all know what that means.

Vega goes on: “First and foremost of these cost savings will be a significant reduction in force across all areas of our operation affecting both represented and non-represented employees. We will shortly begin discussions with union leadership on proposals. Our current situation dictates that we accomplish these cost savings quickly. Business as usual is no longer an option. If we are unable to accomplish these reductions in the immediate future, Hearst Corporation, which owns the Chronicle, has informed us that it will offer the newspaper for sale or close it altogether.”

The San Francisco Business Times also reported on the story, adding that the paper lost $50 million dollars in 2008, and possibly that much every year going back to 2001.

And SFGate itself posted a story — byline, Hearst Newspapers — giving the story the predictable, rolling-up-the-sleeves angle that the company would have: it’s a venerable institution amidst industry turmoil; this’ll hurt, but it’s got to be done.

However, some have suggested that the “if” phrase in the memo makes the subtext read like this: if the unions don’t cave to our demands, we’ll shut the paper down, and then where will they be?

This is distressing news to me for personal reasons: I know a number of people who are now employed, directly or indirectly, by the paper. But I can’t help but think it might be for the better, in the long run, if the Chronicle did shut down. As a San Francisco reader who really cares about the news, it’s impossible not to have noticed that the Chronicle has been a sub-par news source for many years. SFGate always seems to be the last site to publish breaking stories, San Francisco itself appears almost not to exist in its pages apart from shootingsCity Hall, and entertainment, and much if not most of its content is taken straight from the AP wire. I keep checking the page out of a sense of duty, but I’m not sure what it gets me, when I get such excellent national news from the New York Times, and most of my local news from Streetsblog, Missionlocal, Eater SFCurbed SF, SFCitizen, and San Francisco Business Times — all of which routinely feature original reporting. As for arts stories, you can’t go wrong with KQED. And I haven’t even mentioned the sites that are less about news per se but which are fun to read and are often useful, such as SFistMission Mission, and this blog. I’d probably feel differently if it were my job at stake, but somehow I think that journalism in San Francisco has a future with or without the Chronicle — and it just might have a brighter future without it.

Film: The Betrayal, 2/27-3/5 @ Lumiere


[Thavisouk Phrasavath and his mother, Orady Phrasavath in Ellen Kuras’ documentary, The Betrayal. Courtesy of The Cinema Guild.]

[Disclosure: I haven’t seen this film, so I can’t recommend it on that basis. But I got a quick glimpse of it and heard good things about it at Landmark’s Film Club Spring Preview a couple of weeks ago.]

The Betrayal is a documentary about one Laotian family’s flight from Laos and their journey to NYC, and their struggles to survive. Thavisouk is the eldest of 10 children, and responsibility for the family fell upon him when his father was arrested in 1975 by the Pathet Lao. His father’s crime? Working for the Americans. Allow me to quote the press release:

[Director Ellen] Kuras and Phrasavath have created a lyrical film that fluidly incorporates archival footage, cinema verite, interview material and visually poetic montages. The result is a story of what it means to be in exile, of the far-reaching consequences of war, and of the resilient bonds of family. Thavisouk’s unforgettable journey reminds us of the strength necessary to survive unthinkable conditions, and of the human spirit’s inspiring capacity to adapt, rebuild, and forgive.

Twenty-three years of filming and research went into this film. Director Ellen Kuras is a famed cinematographer; she has won the Best Dramatic Cinematography award at Sundance no fewer than three times, and she also shot Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. The Betrayal is her directorial debut.

The film opens at the Lumiere this Friday, February 27th, and will run until March 5th. Showtimes: Fri-Sun (2:20 4:45) 7:10 9:20. Mon-Thu (4:45) 7:10 9:20.

"Just say No!" to rude Bouncers

Scene with the Doorman from "Knocked Up"I really think that the days of douchenozzle bouncers is over. Or should be. Last night I was out in the Mission with some friends and patronized a few bars. The door guys at 500 Club, Doc’s and Bender’s were all their laid back, cool Mission hipster selves but the guy at Laszlo’s was totally out of place.

A friend told us to meet him at Laszlo’s but to go in through the Foreign Cinema door, so we did. As we were walking down the hall the bouncer came running after us (in his dress pants and white running shoes no less) and started yelling at us about going the wrong way. We complied and went back the way we came in and then proceeded to go in the Laszlo door. He stopped us and said we had to pay a $5 cover. It was 1:30AM and we were flabbergasted. All we wanted to do was say hi to someone and leave and we explained this to him. He was really rude and pretty much turned his back on us. There was no way after that we were going to patronize a business that wants to be represented by someone with a bad attitude.

Why is it that some bouncers think it’s necessary to act like a complete ass to people that aren’t causing any trouble? I thought they were there to keep out the riffraff and to manage any issues that arise with unsavory types. I’m not saying that he should have waived the cover charge, I’m just saying that we were not purposefully causing any trouble, and there was no need for him to be a jerk. Due to that experience at least 4 people will never return to Laszlo’s again and maybe others that read Yelp reviews like my buddy Andrei’s and will choose to not go there.

Your experience at a bar starts with the doorman and if they are total jerks then why bother going if there are a lot of other choices, especially in the Mission.

Bill Brand, Beer Columnist: 1938-2009

Sadly, former Oakland Tribune reporter and What’s On Tap columnist Bill Brand died the evening of February 19th, at the age of 70, from injuries sustained in a Muni accident on February 8th. He was struck by an N-Judah at 2nd and King near the 21st Amendment Brewery, where he had been covering an SF Beer Week event. Extended obituary here, some appreciative notes here and here by Jesse and commenters at Beer and Nosh, and here’s the comment stream on the notice at What’s on Tap.

Oscar Weekend around SF: AMC Best Picture Showcase, Oscar Parties at the Roxie, Balboa and Castro

Oscar night is Sunday, and if you’ve managed to somehow evade one or another of the Best Picture nominees — perhaps all five — it’s not too late to catch them all. They’re still playing at area theaters: Embarcadero Cinemas, the Kabuki, the Roxie, the Castro, the Balboa, and the Metreon all offer screenings of one or two of the nominees.

But what if you haven’t seen any of them? The AMC Van Ness is the only place where you’ll be able to see all five of the nominees in one monster marathon, thirteen and a half hours of putative greatness. They’re calling it the AMC Best Picture Showcase, and it may be too much for the soul to bear.

However, it shouldn’t be too much for the wallet. The ticket is $30 and it comes with free popcorn. Unlimited refills! Showtimes are: Milk at 10:30, The Reader at 1:05, Benjamin Button at 3:45, Slumdog Millionaire at 7:15, and Frost/Nixon at 9:45.

Then, once you’ve got your required (or desired) viewing out of the way, you can attend one of the live Oscar broadcasts in one of these fine independent theaters the following afternoon and evening:

The Roxie Theater will host the 17th Annual ‘Up the Oscars’ Benefit Bash. Tickets $15, and doors open at 3:45, just minutes before the Red Carpet show begins on the Big Screen. “Food, drink, and a big sassy attitude are allowed and encouraged,” at least according to the press release.

The Castro Theatre will also present the Oscars telecast, live on the great big screen, starting at 5:00 PM. Tickets $20, with champagne and hors d’oeuvres being served. The Castro, that is one classy place. The broadcast, naturally enough, will be followed by a screening of Milk at 9:45.

The Richmond’s Balboa isn’t just celebrating the Oscars: it’s also celebrating its 83rd birthday. And to mark the occasion, the early afternoon will feature the 1926 blockbuster, My Best Girl, starring Mary Pickford, whose charm is timeless. Prospective theatre-goers are encouraged to don clothing of the period. And if you pay $15 for the first show, you’ll get to hang out in your high-waisted pants and flapper dresses to watch the broadcast of the awards show, starting at 4:30 PM. The Balboa solemnly promises that whenever a commercial comes on, they will turn down the volume and provide live entertainment of much higher caliber.

Know of any other live broadcasts or Oscar parties around town? Let us know in the comments.

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