This Week's Day-by-Day Picks

Wednesday, October 29, 2003
The theme of Studs Terkel's new book is hope, but one of the best moments is with a guy who claims not to have any. Hope Dies Last is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author's latest set of interviews, and, as in his other work, the profiles make up an unflinching, varied look at the people of this country. For instance, the above-mentioned character produces the following, which someone else might have edited out: "[As a boy during the Depression] I didn't hope for more money or food or clothes, I worked for it. I didn't hope to go into the military to fight the Germans; I went into the military. ... I didn't hope to be more efficient as a killer; I worked out ways to do it." But after asserting his current anti-war stance, retired Rear Adm. Gene LaRoque admits to optimism. "I think the world has a wonderful future. ... But it's not hope that's going to bring it about; it's going to be intelligent action." We find this hopeful. Mr. Terkel will appear in discussion with Harry Kreisler and will be introduced by Dave Eggers at 8 p.m. at Wheeler Auditorium, Bancroft & Telegraph, UC Berkeley campus. Admission is $12-18; call (510) 642-9988 or visit www.calperfs.berkeley.edu.

Thursday, October 30, 2003
George Romero's original Night of the Living Dead was so innovative that viewers forgot the film was basically a low-budget grade-B shocker. Other than some creepy zombie makeup and brief shots of humans battering the decayed monsters, the movie was lacking in modern splatter and flash, and built its ominous mood instead with whip-crack twists and fleshed-out characters. That's exactly why Spanganga's live-action version of Night makes so much sense, oddball as it sounds. Spanganga top dog Sean Kelly, who adapted the script with help from an L.A. buddy, promises an extremely interactive show in which audience members will find their personal space violated by a stage full of the walking dead. Those with a desire to rampage for brains are invited to don makeup before the show and join in. The hungry revenants start drooling at 8 p.m. (and continue through Nov. 8) at Spanganga, 3376 19th St. (at Mission), S.F. Admission is $10-15; call 821-1102 or visit www.spanganga.com.

Friday, October 31, 2003
If Burning Man were more literal, held in the city, or could be contained in a single building, it might look a lot like the infamous Haunted Barn. The latter's organizers seem to have the same urgent energy, bizarre work ethic, and intense creativity of Black Rock Desert people, but their projects have way, way more blood. Past years have included grisly operating rooms, ghost-kissing booths, and elaborate back stories about crazed, vengeful pirates whose accursed, gore-soaked ships may have been used to build this ... very ... barn! New this year, according to the HB Web site, will be "Murderous Muni: Take the ride of your life as you struggle through your commute to HELL!" and "Santon Levay's' Basement: Leave your heart in San Francisco -- literally." This event is too scary for kids, not least because of the many opportunities for poor judgment at "Chop Chop Chinatown." The Haunted Barn opens at 9 tonight and tomorrow at Evans and Innes avenues, S.F. Admission is $13; visit www.thehauntedbarn.com.

Saturday, November 1, 2003
"Tell Mama -- all about it." These are some of the sexiest words in the English language when Etta James sings them. Her famous song "Tell Mama" is full of innuendo, and the diva's raucous delivery gives us full permission to leer right along with her. To be honest, that's why we love her. But there are many other reasons to love Etta James -- probably the most popular is the classy wedding first-dance favorite "At Last." Or maybe you love "Miss Peaches" for her rendition of the heartbreaking "I'd Rather Go Blind." In any case, thanks to the San Francisco Jazz Festival, our lonely days are over. James appears with the Roots Band at 8 p.m. at the Masonic Auditorium, 1111 California (at Taylor), S.F. Admission is $25-55; call 788-7353 or visit www.sfjazz.org.

Sunday, November 2, 2003
For centuries Balinese artists have transformed light into performance magic. The island nation's shadow theater or wayang kulit, the art of using backlit silhouettes to tell a story, is one of the world's oldest theatrical forms. Skilled puppeteers use lacy, scalloped rawhide cutouts as flat puppets that caper in front of a flame, casting their shadows on a plain white screen and retelling familiar legends through mostly improvised speech and song. The effect is at once hypnotically beautiful and unearthly, a good thing since in rural areas of Bali plays can last up to five hours. Local shadowmaster Larry Reed, one of the few Americans to train in wayang kulit, brings the ancient art home with Wayang Bali: Dangerous Flowers, which relates the tale of Bima, who battles his brother and all the gods to bring flowers to his beloved. As haunting gamelan music plays, Reed manipulates up to 40 puppets; all you have to do is watch. The performance starts at 2 p.m. at the Julia Morgan Center for the Arts, 2640 College (at Derby), Berkeley. Admission is $7-15; call 648-4461 or visit www.shadowlight.com.

Monday, November 3, 2003
Almost 40 years after its release, Stanley Kubrick's cutting political satire Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb has reached icon status. Some of its strongest images -- Slim Pickens gleefully riding a nuclear missile through the sky, Sterling Hayden's Gen. Ripper stroking his phallic cigar while ordering a nuclear strike against Russia -- are so familiar that those who haven't seen the film lately may have forgotten how shocking the scenes are beneath their veneer of good humor. Considering Dr. Strangelove as a series of gags misses the central point. This is a movie about mass destruction and the unreliable men who hold the power to order it, and any laughs the director managed to wring out of that grim premise were intended merely to disguise a polemic as acceptably lighthearted farce. See it all over again at 7 and 9 p.m. (also tomorrow night) at the Castro Theatre, 429 Castro (near Market), S.F. Admission is $5-8; call 621-6120 or visit www.castrotheatre.com.

Tuesday, November 4, 2003
Though the notion of updating traditional fairy tales is a sound one (Angela Carter won our eternal adoration with her feminist revision of "Little Red Riding Hood," the short story that became Neil Jordan's movie The Company of Wolves), we have to confess we didn't much like author Gregory Maguire's Wicked, which visited Oz to tell the Wicked Witch of the West's life story, or his Cinderella takeoff, Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister. Maguire's newest book, Mirror Mirror, delves still further into his signature gimmick, but this time he draws in threads from history that immeasurably improve the plot and pace. The sinister Lucrezia Borgia, it turns out, is the wicked-stepmother equivalent of Snow White's doppelgänger, Bianca Nevada. Maguire reads an excerpt starting at 7:30 p.m. at Books Inc., 2275 Market (at 16th Street), S.F. Admission is free; call 864-6777 or visit www.booksinc.net.

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