By Erin Sherbert
By Erin Sherbert
By Leif Haven
By Erin Sherbert
By Chris Roberts
By Kate Conger
By Brian Rinker
By Rachel Swan
This is the year of ... what? No one event is adequate to explain it. When you study all the events of 2013 with a deep enough focus, the image becomes noise. You're staring at pixels. How to pull meaning out of this goddamn absurdity? We've been doing it at this paper for a year, but really, aren't we just constructing a narrative, like the way images begin to take shape and move among the static on an unsignaled TV? (Remember when TVs had static?) Seems like the things that make the most sense are the most absurd. For that reason, we shall add to the menagerie of the Chinese zodiac one more animal: This shall be the Year of the Drunken Marmot, after the animal that hitched a ride from the Sierras to Bernal Heights to quench a terrible thirst for antifreeze. It seems as appropriate as anything else; this is, after all, a city making way for strange outsiders.
2013 could also be the Year of the Defiant Perineum, or the Year of the Overpromised Boat Race, or the Year of the Cab Which Is Not a Cab. The Year of BuzzFood and Overpowering Musical Nostalgia and Abandoned Chess Boards. On and on. Maybe it's good there isn't a single through-line for the year. Who'd want to live in that simple of a narrative? This, our Year in Review, pulls the knotted-up power cords of 2013 from behind the desk and tries to unravel them. The Year of Knots? Well, that's not quite it, but it's a start. Brandon R. Reynolds
Clothing is Not an Option
In 2012, the known world had a good laugh at a man named Wiener introducing legislation banning most forms of public nudity. In San Francisco, we had a different name for this occasion: Tuesday.
The city's "urban nudists" didn't just take unkindly to Supervisor Scott Wiener's legislation barring them from exposing their "genitals, perineum, or anal region" across the city. They made a federal case of it. On Jan. 17, 2013, in front of an audience of clothed nudists, Judge Edward Chen took in the arguments of the city and the nudists' attorney. For anyone who harbored a lifelong ambition to witness a federal judge quoting Justice David Souter's opinion regarding naked dancing — this was the place to be.
In the end, Chen roundly rejected the plaintiffs' arguments, handing the city an unambiguous victory in its battle against free-swinging genitalia. The nudists aren't taking this dressing down without a fight, but they will have to find a new lawyer; lead plaintiff Gypsy Taub told SF Weekly that attorney Christina DiEduardo dropped the case after the nudists failed to pay her.
But while she lost her case, Taub did find love. She and husband Jaymz Smith were married on the City Hall steps on Dec. 19. And, yes, they were naked.
Mazel tov! Joe Eskenazi
The Squaring of Market Street
When the owners of Kaplan's Surplus & Sport Goods announced plans to retire their business and sell the 90-foot-long building they own on Market Street, nostalgists saw the end of not just an era, but an epoch. The yellowing posters, vintage Brazilian cleats, and satin Knicks jackets in Kaplan's inventory would all go to dust; in their place, new owner G and M Hospitality would build a 100-room hotel for San Francisco's well-heeled tourists and newly minted business class.
It was just one more domino to fall in the grand restoration of mid-Market, which had transformed, over the last century, from a bustling theater district to a den of blight and squalor, until Mayor Ed Lee juked the city's tax code to lure in Twitter. With the "Twitter tax break" enhanced by a voter-approved payroll tax that favors tech over other industries, a slew of new companies joined the fray. Yammer, One Kings Lane, and ZenDesk all accompanied Twitter to a rehabbed furniture store at 1355 Market — now rechristened Market Square — while the ride-share start-up Uber and mobile payments company Square Inc. moved in down the street. A massive land-grab ensued, with Michelin star restaurants displacing the old greasy-spoon diners, and luxury housing erected to satisfy the wealthy pied-a-terre types. Highbrow institutions like the SFMOMA and American Conservatory Theater launched vast remodeling campaigns, while their smaller peers struggled to stay afloat.
This year, the narrative about mid-Market shifted. It had long been a battleground for development, but now it's become a perfect gentrification allegory — a kind of visual tableau of tech money displacing San Francisco's boot-strapped nonprofits and art houses. Supervisors David Chiu and Jane Kim have struggled to save the vestiges of a previous era, but they may face an uphill battle as commercial real estate balloons to $80 a square foot. When McDonald's made a bid for a spot occupied by and Indian-vegetarian diner at the intersection of Hayes and Ninth streets, even Lee's biggest pro-development cheerleaders balked.
Former Mayor Gavin Newsom had dreamed that mid-Market would become the Champs-Élysées of San Francisco, but detractors say it more closely resembles Wall Street. And as such, it's become a major battle line in the gentrification wars — a place where labor organizers picket the new tech tenants, while cash-strapped nonprofits beg the mayor to siphon off affordable real estate. When the city banned street chess, Occupy protesters geared up for war.
Development shows no sign of slowing in San Francisco's most-contested retail corridor, and the class wars are starting to heat up. They'll persist until every last nonprofit is priced out, and every arts organization crumbles, and even the city's homeless have to migrate to Oakland. Rachel Swan
Crash Landing: Asiana and Its Aftermath
It would be wholly accurate — albeit a slight understatement — to describe the July 6 crash of Asiana Flight 214 at San Francisco International Airport as "a concatenation of horribles." New documents released by the National Transportation Safety Board this month reveal that 16-year-old passenger Ye Meng Yuan was run over by not one, but two San Francisco fire rigs as they rushed to rescue the victims. And the first vehicle to hit her was properly equipped with both a heat sensor and "spotter," contrary to previous reports.
But the misbegotten rescue effort was eclipsed by a flurry of lawsuits launched against Boeing and Asiana for running shoddy aircraft, and by a bizarre reporting blunder from local news station KTVU, which erroneously named the Korean pilots as "Sum Ting Wong, Wi Tu Lo, Bang Ding Ow, and Ho Lee Fuk." The botched names went instantly, massively viral as soon as the station aired them, begetting yet another lawsuit — this one filed by Asiana against KTVU. Asiana withdrew the complaint shortly thereafter, evidently heeding the words of local attorney Joshua Koltun, who deemed it "spectacularly inadvisable."
So, not surprisingly, many people spent the rest of the year apologizing. Asiana and Boeing had to make amends with crash victims' families, while local firefighters bewailed what Chief Joanne Hayes-White called "a tragic accident." For its part, KTVU expressed utmost contrition to the Korean community. In December, the station tried to atone by airing a 30-minute documentary on Korean-American "Success Makers," hosted by former reality TV star Yul Kwon. Members of the Korean American Bar Association of Northern California, who'd helped conceive the idea, called it a nice gesture.
The organization's vice president, Taewoong Koo, said he'd like to see more comprehensive coverage of Koreans, and of Asian-Americans at large — and not just in the event of a major gaffe, or a plane crashing into a seawall. RS
A Circus at BART
Circus acrobat Yenier Perez Garizabaldo gained Internet notoriety this summer, when a BART surveillance camera caught him doing perfect cartwheels and pirouettes over a station turnstile — in the nude. Though he was quickly fired from local circus troupe Clowns Not Bombs and charged with sexual battery of a BART employee, Garizabaldo became an instant star in the blogosphere. He was also a harbinger of bad things to come for BART, at a time when employees and managers were stewing in a protracted labor dispute.
Weeks after his arrest, Garizabaldo became a cudgel in BART labor negotiations, when union organizers strung together a film montage of his antics. He became a bit player in a film meant to rouse the general public, about the horrors that station agents confront every day. Not only do they face long hours, meager benefits, and cranky customers, the unions said, they also live in fear of being molested by circus escapees.
Two labor strikes ensued at BART this year, one in July and another in late October, resulting in heavier air pollution, a temporarily battered economy, and two worker fatalities that are still under investigation. Two weeks ago, the transit system's labor unions filed a lawsuit against BART management in Alameda County Superior Court. Trains still rattle down the tracks each morning, but the specter of another nude acrobat hovers everywhere. RS
America's Cup, Spilled
When yachting billionaire Larry Ellison ebulliently hoisted the America's Cup over his head, it capped a modern-day San Francisco tale of success: The self-interested tech oligarch, with the orgiastic support of city government and little regard for rules, crushing poorer, more homespun opposition.
Root, root, root for the home team.
To be fair, Oracle Team USA's come-from-behind victory deserves to sail into the sporting pantheon. It was, truly, an amazing comeback and a testament to the men aboard the yacht. It was not, however, a "stirring" comeback as described in the sporting press; that would require large numbers of people to be "stirred."
Optimistic counts bandied about by event organizers claim 700,000 people took in the Cup action during the course of three months. Grand — but that's far fewer than the number of folks who showed up to watch Hardly Strictly Bluegrass in one weekend. And no one can say for certain just how many people actually showed up to watch the regatta who wouldn't have visited the city anyway, and if these people didn't actually crowd out other would-be tourists flooding San Francisco in peak tourist season.
The promise of a $1.4 billion infusion into the city's economic veins was sharply downgraded to $900 million in March before reports this month it registered a $364 million impact. And yet, it remains uncertain how much of that money wouldn't have been generated, regardless, by the hordes of visitors visiting our visitor-friendly city.
A less friendly — and more definite — number is the minimum of $5.5 million biting taxpayers in their taxpaying rear ends: money out of public coffers to subsidize a billionaire's boat race.
As the city this week makes its pitch to host the next Cup, only one thing is truly certain: uncertainty. JE
A Bay Bridge Over Willie Waters
San Franciscans were witness to two telling examples of How Stuff Works this year delivered by the same bridge.
The first came via the ethereal new eastern span of the Bay Bridge, a luminous ivory tower resembling a Tolkien fortress — only wrought from concrete and steel of questionable provenience, and decked out with palm trees.
At last the question was answered: How many years late and how much over budget will the Bay Area's most vital connector be? Answer: A decade late and billions over budget. In a nod to those niggling truths, a costly extravaganza slated to mark the opening was replaced by Gavin Newsom wielding a blowtorch on Sept. 2 to cut a chain (the industrial version of a ribbon-cutting). He mentioned something about the monument to runaway capital projects being an impetus for big dreamers to dream big dreams — but many people were likely distracted by the proximity of an open flame to Newsom's pomaded head.
A lesson of another sort was imparted via the photogenic western span of the Bay Bridge (which in March was adorned with artist Leo Villareal's Bay Lights mega-sculpture). With rapidity befitting a shipment of milk to hurricane victims and a series of lopsided votes akin to parliamentary procedures in a junta, the state Legislature on Sept. 10 named the city side of the bridge after Willie Brown. The move was foisted upon San Franciscans by a coterie of Southern California representatives and, on its face, didn't jibe with the legislature's own rules. But only dreamers dreaming big dreams would think that mattered in the least.
Brown, the former boss of the Legislature, two-term mayor of San Francisco, and current influence-peddler extraordinaire, now shares a name with the bridge those priced out of the city via his actions will take to their new hometowns. JE
View from the Top
San Francisco's municipal election of Nov. 5 was far, far below whelming. In a city of more than 800,000, featuring 440,000 registered voters, only 129,000 of us bothered to cast a ballot.
And yet, elections do matter. And it was a rough, dare we say underwhelming, one for proponents of the 8 Washington luxury condo tower. Powerful developers, powerful influence-peddlers, powerful members of the building trades, powerful money-laundering downtown groups, and powerful members of the so-called "City Family" were folded, spindled, and mutilated by the electorate. Some two-thirds of the voters gave the thumbs-down to the notion of $5 million condos for the uberwealthy in a structure nearly triple waterfront height limits and mere feet from a sewer pipe carrying a quarter of the city's effluvia.
For observers sifting through the wreckage of 8 Washington, the message in the black box seemed to play differently to those of differing ideologies. If you're a pro-development, downtown sort forced to scoop your teeth off the pavement, you can blame disingenuous sloganeering and cheap NIMBY populism. If you're a self-styled progressive, you can crow about cracks appearing in the armor of the pro-development forces enthusiastically running this city.
Or, maybe, it was just a tough sell to ask voters' permission to slap down condos on the public boulevard they could never, ever afford — in the midst of giddily spiraling home prices and rents and a scourge of evictions.
More certain is what's to come: continuing battles for the plight of the waterfront and, all but surely, more ballot-box city planning.
Don't forget to vote. JE
The Silk Road Moves Onward
Up until the day of his arrest, in the science fiction department of the Glen Park Public Library, local currency trader Ross Ulbricht lived the life of any cash-strapped, aspiring tech bro. He sublet a room in the West Portal neighborhood, worked out of coffee shops, hewed to all the standard libertarian principles, talked about forming a start-up the way nerds of yesteryear talked about writing the great American novel, and told everyone his name was "Josh." All the while, he allegedly ran a vast Internet black market called Silk Road, which offered product listings for narcotics, fake IDs, weapons, and other contraband, all traded via the electronic currency Bitcoin.
Now Ulbricht awaits a criminal trial in New York, and in the meantime, a new Silk Road has risen from the ashes, with more than 3,000 drug listings to date. Bitcoin, meanwhile, has only strengthened in value, becoming an object of fascination for bankers, and a somewhat viable transaction system in San Francisco, where it's accepted by sushi restaurants and certain enlightened landlords. The FBI has launched yet another game of wack-a-mole with Silk Road 2.0 and other such "dark" Internet sites, but with one case ostensibly closed, others keep opening. If Ulbricht remains behind bars, the Silk Road might go on without him. RS
Dispatch from the Future
One of the best symbols of "new" San Francisco is actually a relic of the past — the black Lincoln town car, gliding along Market Street with all the slow-motion elegance of a spacecraft in orbit. Many of these livery vehicles now contract with the technology start-up Uber, a company launched in 2010 with grand aspirations to "disrupt" the taxi industry. In the three years since its inception, it's spawned a veritable empire.
Uber and its various copycats — among them Lyft and SideCar — tout themselves as referral services out to modernize an old, crumbling taxi system. Without fleets of their own, they've managed to corner a market that someone else has capitalized, enlisting armies of journeyman drivers to squire customers around town. Offering an easy dispatch system that could summon a car with one button on a smartphone, they appealed to riders who'd long complained about San Francisco's sub-par transit options. To taxi interests, though, the app-based start-ups weren't great innovators. They were parasites.
Earlier this year, the California Public Utilities Commission launched a series of regulatory proceedings to figure out what to do with the new start-ups, which it rechristened "Transportation Network Companies." Lax oversight and lean operational costs had helped enrich the start-ups, to a point that San Francisco transit had become increasingly privatized. The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency suddenly faced a bedeviling labor shortage as drivers defected to Lyft and Uber. Taxi companies watched their businesses devolve and their political influence slip away.
For a while, the future looked bright for Uber and its ilk, even as regulators kept haggling in the CPUC. Then. in early December, U.S. District Judge Edward Chen greenlit a class-action suit that challenged a core tenet of the transit start-up model — the practice of treating drivers as independent contractors rather than a labor force. Uber is the defendant, but if it loses, Lyft and SideCar could unravel shortly thereafter. The future of transportation may have been upon us, but it just hit a pothole. RS
2013, Our Year of the Cronut, was the year the culinary mashup exploded onto the scene like so many Pop Rocks. Most of the unholy concoctions cooked up by enterprising chefs were devoured by the Internet with relentless enthusiasm: ramen burgers, cheeseburger ramen, burgers with grilled-cheese-sandwich buns, burgers with mac-and-cheese buns, ramen wings, Cronut burgers, on and on it went. It didn't matter that many of these items weren't especially practical or even good. Novelty trumped substance, at least when pageviews and social-media followers were involved.
Not that there's anything wrong with novelty; without it, the culinary scene would never move forward. But novelty for its own sake is meaningless. Six a.m. Cronut lines continued at Manhattan mothership Dominique Ansel Bakery not because the Cronut was supposed to be too delicious to miss — many New York food writers decried the doughnut/croissant hybrid as too sweet — but because trying the Cronut had become a form of social currency, measured in likes. The Cronut's trickle-down effects were seen in the Bay Area knockoffs (the Fauxnut, the CroNot) that San Franciscans dutifully lined up for, even though many of them were sorry approximations of the real thing.
Then there was the frenzy over the ramen burger at Nombe, which drew a block-long line at August's San Francisco Street Food Festival, fed by hype from a similar burger at Brooklyn's hip food gathering Smorgasburg. The ramen burger turned out to be merely okay, its greasy, crunchy "bun" of deep-fried ramen noodles no substitute for a fluffy bread roll. A few weeks later, the ramen burger beget the cheeseburger ramen at a Hapa Ramen pop-up. Its complex, meaty broth tasted good, but the whole thing was so rich that even though I shared a $15 bowl with a friend, we only got through half of it.
But it didn't matter, because I went to eat cheeseburger ramen that night not to review it, but to tweet about it. I posted a photo of the menu on Twitter and Instagram, a menu that included a ridiculous litany of add-ins like bacon, uni, crispy pig's ear, chorizo gravy, kimchi, and whipped lardo that I'd gleefully ordered. And I was rewarded for my performance when I was retweeted by Pete Wells, restaurant critic for The New York Times. "For the time capsule," he wrote to his 60,000 followers. Come to think of it, burial is probably the best outcome we can hope for. Anna Roth
Halfway through the year, while editing this paper's music section, I began to notice that we were using an awful lot of apostrophes. They usually appeared in a reference to some decade — "'70s," "'80s," or "'90s" — and those decades were being used not as actual dates, but adjectives. Time periods were serving as shorthand for particular qualities of new music — qualities we apparently found reason to invoke again and again, usually approvingly.
It's not just us doing this. An obsession with the musical past has been in full swing for years now. The British critic Simon Reynolds argued in a 2011 book that our pop culture, music especially, now looks backward more than forward. That felt truer than ever this year, whether looking at the vast spectrum of music represented by the Bay Area's disparate scenes, or the national pop landscape. Acts, whether they play rock, dance, or increasingly hip-hop, are now defined by the particular slice of the past they evoke. Staying relevant means finding new corners of the past to steal from: This fall, Arcade Fire reinvented itself as a product of downtown Manhattan in the early '80s. San Franciscans Thee Oh Sees once owed a heavy debt to '60s psychedelic garage, but their new stuff looks back to the German Komische bands of the mid-'70s. Countless dance acts we covered sought to evoke the vibes of '80s Chicago, a time and place that saw a huge resurgence in popularity, even as contemporary Berlin and L.A. (and S.F.) host some of the most fertile dance-music scenes in history.
The past reappeared again and again. A new David Bowie album, complete with history-referencing album art. An Iggy and the Stooges tour. A Flamin Groovies reunion. A Comets on Fire reunion. A Black Sabbath reunion. A Daft Punk album that sought to mimic, right down to its choice of producer, the indulgent products of a bygone era of pop. Coming next year: an Outkast reunion, and who knows what else.
The question is why, at this moment, is the past so enticing? Is it because it's suddenly so available for us to review, in places like the bottomless archive of YouTube? Is it because, as Reynolds argues, the past is now so present that we can't escape it?
Maybe it's something else. Never since the birth of the recorded pop music industry have things been as uncertain and bleak as they are now. Album sales are at historic lows. Streaming is replacing downloading, and while more people than ever are listening to music, most of them aren't paying for it. The major labels still try to launch blockbuster albums, but whether it's Jay-Z or Lady Gaga, they usually disappoint. Mid-level musicians have seen one revenue stream after another disappear, leaving them with endless touring and/or licensing music to commercial interests, neither of which is very attractive long-term. The entire industry is waylaid with a fear of the future that seems entirely justified.
And it's not just musicians who are frightened. We're at an apprehensive moment as a country — about our jobs, our lives, our impending adulthood (or middle age, or retirement), our ability to remain in the cities we thought we wanted to live in forever. Next to a future that offers lots of anxiety and little reassurance, the past, and its music, feels comforting. At other times in history, we've looked to music to propel us forward, to push us out of dark years from which we'd just emerged. But now it's our present, or our immediate future, that we're seeking escape from. So is it really a surprise that in 2013, when our government is spying on us, when our friends are leaving town, when our careers are more tenuous than ever, that we look to music, new or old, that conjures a more known, comforting, carefree past, and think: Yeah, that sounds good? Ian S. Port
Top 5 Moments in Gentrification
It was the narrative of the year, no matter which side you saw it from: either that the techies and their new money are killing the soul of San Francisco, or that the fossils and the freaks are keeping it from evolving into the city it needs to be. So many news stories in 2013 prompted outbreaks of finger-pointing and name-calling re: the so-called gentrification of S.F., but these five were the biggest:
5. City boots chess players from mid-Market
That sound you hear is the San Francisco of old, slipping away one gritty institution at a time. In September it was the chess games that have taken place for 30 years on Market Street between Fifth and Sixth, many of which were played by the homeless or other folks on the fringes. The SFPD decided that the games had become a "big public nuisance," and suspected they were a disguise for other illegal activities. So the cops confiscated the tables, chairs, boards, and game pieces, shutting down the gatherings for good. Players complained that the shutdown was mean-spirited, or at least they did when anybody knew where to find them.
4. The Mission says no to Jack Spade
Upscale menswear retailer and precious yuppie outfitter Jack Spade nearly moved into a storefront on Valencia that used to house Adobe Books, just sneaking in under the city's anti-chain-store ordinance. But nearby merchants and neighborhood activists summoned a passionate opposition, and eventually pressured the company into abandoning its plans. The battle was won, but the war is not over yet: Store reps said they're eying other, potentially more welcoming areas of the city in which to ply $400 briefcases. May we suggest the Marina?
3. Twitter goes public, and voila: billionaires!
Twitter, the social network whose mid-Market headquarters and sizable tax breaks have made it the poster child for the big changes taking place in San Francisco, went public in a $15-billion November IPO. While its founders were ringing the bell on the New York Stock Exchange, housing and labor activists protested the company from the corner of 10th and Market, and S.F. real-estate prices continued soaring. Next time you walk by Saison or Gary Danko, and wonder who all those people are and how they got their money, kick yourself for not getting in when your nephew first told you about Twitter back in '08. Or just cry.
2. Peter Shih shits out complaints about S.F., falls back in them
In the Medium post heard round the Internet, a twentysomething start-up founder named Peter Shih proclaimed the 10 things he hates about San Francisco, and in the process became the No. 1 thing everyone else hates about San Francisco. Shih's list included weather "like a woman who is constantly PMSing," "homeless people," "the girls who are obviously 4s and behave like they are 9s," bicyclists, and, of course, Muni. Though he promptly apologized, Shih became the city's most-hated figure pretty much overnight — an all-too-fitting symbol for the entitlement and arrogance synonymous with the city's coding elite. Fliers appeared around the city telling him to go back to New York, but as far as we know, he's still here, eating artisanal crow.
1. Google Bus-gate
If a guy sounds too douchey to be real, he probably is — even in 2013 S.F. The supposed Googler yelling at anti-gentrification protesters that "You can't afford it? You can leave!" turned out to be a union activist named Max Alper, and the whole display — the protest, the so-called street theater, the instant national-media reaction — turned out to be one transcendental waste of time. A waste, that is, but for one thing: Maybe this incident, along with the ugly battles of 2013, will help us realize that it's neither the fearful long-timers or the hardworking newcomers who are the real enemy in this debate. It's our caricatures of each other. ISP
So Much Drama
Theater in 2013 showed us that, like pretty much everything else in the Bay Area, we have something for every niche (and fetish). Here are some highlights and lowlights from the year:
Most Pleasant Surprise: The Golden Dragon by Do It Live!
The young company's production of Roland Schimmelpfennig's elliptical script, which weaves together a series of stories all loosely connected by a "Thai/Chinese/Vietnamese" restaurant, was so urgent and artful as to seamlessly meld kitchen-sink dialogue and the mythic storytelling of cutout insect puppets.
Least Pleasant Surprise: Buried Child at the Magic
Sam Shepard's tragedy, one of the great modern American plays, was born in the Magic Theatre, in 1978, but this production featured forced performances with egregious tonal mistakes, as when performer Denise Balthrop Cassidy reacted to the play's climax as if she were in a slapstick comedy.
Best Investment in the Community: The Costume Shop
ACT's leasing of its mid-Market space has been a boon for the theater world. With support from San Francisco Neighborhood Arts Collaborative and the Kenneth Rainin Foundation, small theater groups like 2by4 Theatre and Campo Santo have been able to use the space rent-free for performances and rehearsals — a thespian's dream come true.
Most Improved: The We Players
This company, which stages site-specific theater outdoors, typically in national parks, doesn't essay easy tasks. In the past, logistics of crowd-management have disintegrated focus and taxed even physically fit audiences' energy. But with this year's Macbeth, at Fort Point, the company guided its audiences with grace and economy while also letting us explore the extraordinary venue.
Best Coming Out: A Maze by Just Theater
Okay, Just Theater has been around since 2006, but with Rob Handel's play, about the power and danger of art in interlocking worlds — including one that's in the book that other characters in the play are writing — the small company became the talk of the town. Thanks to a partnership with Shotgun Players, those who missed it in the summer will have a chance to make up for their loss; the same production plays at the Ashby Stage in February. Lily Janiak
2013 was a year of renewal and reconsideration marked worldwide by the centennial of Igor Stravinsky's monumental Rite of Spring. Vaslav Nijinsky's choreography for the Ballets Russes famously provoked a riot among the beau monde of Paris in 1913, and dance-makers ever since have striven to achieve similar heights of notoriety. Scandal, aggressive brass, irrepressible creativity, and virgin sacrifices: a legacy that inspired numerous interpretations on Bay Area stages, including the viciously primal version by Yuri Possokhov for the San Francisco Ballet, Mark Morris' abstract notion of spring in Spring! Spring! Spring! at Zellerbach Hall, and Enrico Labayen's spring training-themed rendition in a town obsessed with baseball at Dance Mission.
Most intellectually and artistically compelling was Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company and SITI Company's collaborative theatrical production A Rite, given its West Coast premiere at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in October, which fragmented the modernist score and wove it into historical, dramatic, and scientific contexts by considering the impact of art during a time of war — a condition that mankind has not mastered in the intervening century. Punctuated by the ramblings of a shell-shocked World War I veteran, scholarly exposition by a musicologist, and utterances oracular, rational, and strange by other members of the combined troupes, the piece questioned the possibility of a coherent relationship to time, space, and memory. Combining string theory with the antiquated brilliance of the Zoetrope, and virtuosic technique with the arresting power of sheer personal presence, the production acknowledged the past in an experience that could only ever be of the present moment.
Other notable premieres included the sold-out, standing-room-only reception for Christopher Wheeldon's Cinderella for San Francisco Ballet, slated to return in 2014, Sheetal Gandhi's captivating one-woman show about the struggles of existing as a woman between cultures in Bahu-Beti-Biwi at ODC, and Shen Wei Dance Arts' West Coast premiere of the dance and visual art installation Undivided Divided at the YBCA, among the most intense 35 minutes of the entire year. Irene Hsiao
A Study of "Studies"
Take a look around you and see if you spot any babies. Found one? Great. If you're in San Francisco, chances are that baby is adorbs beyond compare.
Now take a look at that baby's parents. If you're in San Francisco, chances are that dad is a DILF with an above average penis size and that mom is into serious kink. Notice how tight she wears that baby carrier. #Kinky.
Now take a look at yourself. If you're in San Francisco, chances are you're wearing a bit of flannel, with a hint of prep (check out those penny loafers) and a ton of confidence because you've been voted most attractive in the country.
San Francisco had plenty to brag about in 2013. Various publications and companies from Travel + Leisure to Movoto Real Estate did us a great service all year long by consistently ranking the city at the top, or damn near it, in their pseudo-scientific "studies."
Let's do a double take. That baby is healthy (No. 1 city for babies). That dad is hung low (sorta). (No. 15 for penis size). He's definitely hot (No. 1 for attractive dads). And his wife likes to get spanked (No. 1 for kinky women).
Don't believe us? Check your fingernails (No. 6 for manis/pedis). Check your clothes (No. 1 for laundromats.) Check your ride (No. 1 for green commuting). Check your high (No. 3 for herbal refreshment). Check your attitude (No. 1 for snobbiness). Check your life (No. 3 most livable city).
Now do the math (No. 1 for intelligence) And check your reaction. Blushing? Thought so. We ranked ourselves 18th in the looks department. Color me modest, stuff me with noodles (No. 3 for take-out) and drape me in rainbow (No. 1 gay-friendliest), San Francisco killed it in 2013!
So what's it all mean?
Easy. We're ridiculously attractive yet humble flannel-wearing preps with nothing-to-be-ashamed-about penises that make contact with happily fertile, bite-loving mommies who then birth tech-savvy, most-likely gay babies who grow up to be eco-friendly wizards with a penchant for Stanley Kubrick. Jonathan Ramos
The year in visual art was a year of breathtaking highs and a few definite letdowns. Without further ado, the hits and misses:
Best exhibit to have seen at 2 a.m.: Christian Marclay's The Clock, the 24-hour film featuring thousands of movie scenes that reference the time of day. From April 6 to June 2, SFMOMA screened The Clock, including a series of all-night showings that were completely surreal. Sleeping, snoring art-goers? Yup. Once-in-a-lifetime art experience? Yup, again.
Most indelible display of French artistry: From Sept. 12 to Oct. 26, the Modernism gallery devoted its entire space to Jacques Villeglé, whose artwork comprises ripped street posters. Villeglé's large-scale works are frenetic and impossibly beautiful, with faces of yesteryear mixing with advertising phrases and snippets of extravagant colors. For lovers of collage, Villeglé's sea of canvases was complete ecstasy.
Most inspired (but still disappointing) exhibit of a formerly famous painter: Anders Zorn of Sweden was so revered in his day that three U.S. presidents chose him as a portraitist. "Anders Zorn, Sweden's Master Painter," which opened Nov. 9 at the Legion of Honor, showcases Zorn at his surprising best — but still falls short, missing as it does the presidential works that cemented Zorn's reputation in America.
Most inspired (but still disappointing) exhibit of a still-famous painter: The de Young Museum's retrospective of David Hockney, "David Hockney: A Bigger Exhibition," which opened Oct. 26, takes up two floors, and gives us Hockney at his most expansive. Hockney's iPad drawings are divine. His portraits are less so, but they're there in droves — one after another after another, many of them from the same perspective.
Best street art that stayed visible: "Rush Hour" at Market Street near Seventh, which features a wolf-like creature and an intricately tattooed figure. The work — done by Cannon Dill, Zio Ziegler, and Feral Child — fronts a lot that's undergoing construction. The building boom continues, but so do the city's daring street artists.
The most transfixing photo exhibit: A tie among Camille Seaman's iceberg photos at Corden/Potts (Jan. 3-Feb. 16), Gordon Parks' centennial images at Jenkins Johnson Gallery (Feb. 21-April 27), Garry Winogrand's accumulated works at SFMOMA (March 9-June 2), and Philip Jarmain's shots of faded Detroit at the Meridian Gallery (Sept. 7-Oct. 20).
Best exhibit of behind-the-scenes art: Chuck Close is famous for his huge grid paintings. From Sept. 5 to Nov. 16, John Berggruen Gallery's Close retrospective included a series of gridded photos that Close used as the basis of paintings. Deconstructing Close's process gave us the full Chuck Close — art as a journey rather than a finished destination. Jonathan Curiel
Sex on BART and With BART
It's hard to know what's more disturbing about the video: the very fact of two people fucking in a seat on a BART train or the weird intimacy of it. This is not the kind of performative, porny sex that you might expect from a couple going at it on public transit. It's just a woman riding a man, the two of them seeming to want to find some kind of rhythm, and the effect on the viewer is a sort of embarrassment, as though we've intruded on a private moment, via someone's smartphone camera.
Which is patently ridiculous, of course, because these people were having sex on a goddamn train. They should be the embarrassed ones, not us. Nevertheless, the mid-July video went viral and confirmed some deep fear about what we all assume is happening on those seats when we exit the car, a reminder that when we settle into that upholstery, we are sharing the intimate space of countless others.
This was all unsettling enough, of course, until we recall the case of the man in May who was caught by a conductor having sex with a BART seat as opposed to on it. If you're the sort of person who's attracted to furniture, you might assume a person would choose a nicely-upholstered love seat, or at least a Barcalounger. A BART seat seems like the Atlantic City prostitute of furniture. But to each his own. The man himself was evidently so satisfied with the tryst that he sat back to smoke some crack afterward, but was polite enough to apologize to the conductor — for smoking. In October, he escaped indecent exposure charges because it was decided that he seemed to be trying to keep his encounter as private as possible. Again, no grandstanding, no furniture-porn.
The takeaway from all this may be that when we ride, we ride alone, together. BRR
Call of the Wild
From late June to early August, a yellow-bellied marmot, native to the Sierras, rampaged through Bernal Heights. On the surface, it could be read as a parable for nature finally beginning the reclamation of our developed world. But of course, that omits the obvious fact that nature, like human society, is full of jackasses. In this case, the marmot, that Cadillac of squirrels, had been looking to score some antifreeze up in the mountains when it stowed away in a traveler's car and found itself in the big city.
Marmots, so the scientists were delighted to report, have a powerful thirst for the sweet, sweet ethylene glycol in antifreeze. But unlike other animals that have been known to partake of this animal-kingdom absinthe, marmots don't seem to suffer the toxic effects; they just get drunk and sit around under cars in mountainous parking lots, talking a lot of big talk about their college days. So it was a crazy series of mishaps that led this drunken fellow to disembark in San Francisco, eyes wide (if bleary). It's basically the story of An American Tail, only with the contemporary twist that the marmot got its own Twitter account out of the deal. BRR
The Batkid Rises
Say what you will about whatever else happened on Nov. 15, but most eyes that had access to screens that Friday were tuned in to the story of Miles Scott, a 5-year-old leukemia survivor for whom the Make-A-Wish Foundation, in conjunction with the city and many volunteers, transformed San Francisco into Gotham City and launched young Miles, as Batkid, on an adventure through it. Together with a Batman and a modded Lamborghini Batmobile, Batkid thwarted the Penguin, saved a damsel, had a spot of lunch, and charmed the whole world. Bitterness lifted, cynicism retreated, people felt good.
Or at least, most people felt good. A minority of folks were like, "Aren't there better things to spend money on?" while the vast, unified, enchanted mob was like, "Fuck you, it's adorable." There was some eager vitriol in shutting down the naysayers, a sign that, perhaps, people are desperate for something positive, inspiring, or simply nice in these strange times. The cost to the city was $105,000, a sum that won't fall on taxpayers but whose practical value can be debated. The symbolic value, of Batkid and a city that would transform itself for the sake of spectacle, seems like the more interesting thing to consider: Do we all, in our sophistication and urbanity, still just need heroes? BRR