Thursday, December 11, 2003
Reading a great book is like engaging in a satisfying love affair: The object of your affection utterly consumes your consciousness. A short story is more like a quickie -- some are great, some are crap, but all are over so soon they get comparatively scant recognition. A Clean Well-Lighted Place for Books strikes a blow for the underrated brief tale at its "Best American Short Stories Panel." Taking their cue from the annual collection of notable pithy narratives, illustrious writers such as Dorothy Allison, Ryan Harty, and Susan Straight discuss their contributions to Best American Short Stories 2003 as well as favorite abbreviated epics by other authors. Chronicle book critic David Kipen moderates starting at 7 p.m. at 601 Van Ness (at Turk), S.F. Admission is free; call 441-6670 or visit www.bookstore.com.
Friday, December 12, 2003
The seemingly eternal popularity of The Nutcracker is a double-edged sword for the ballet world. The show is one of the very few that can draw the unwashed masses to see live dance, but most performers are so sick of the Sugar Plum Fairy they'd rather munch on their toeshoes than launch another rendition of the 19th-century chestnut. And so in classic Bay Area iconoclastic style, local troupes have created holiday-themed dances that have become traditions in their own right. Smuin Ballet's The Christmas Ballet does not feature an enchanted prince or a giant rodent sword fight. We suppose tap-dancing Christmas trees, surfboard-riding gallants, and a surprisingly rhythmic Frosty the Snowman will have to do. See it tonight at 8 (and through Dec. 28) at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater, 700 Howard (at Third Street), S.F. Admission is $21.50-60; call 978-2787 or visit www.yerbabuenaarts.org.
Saturday, December 13, 2003
Today's adult movies are all steak and no sizzle. In these shot-on-video throwaway flicks porn actors get right down to business without wasting time on fripperies like plot, character development, and dialogue. But there was an era when many pornos were similar to feature films, with elaborate sets, well-known actors, and directors who made a distinction between their own upscale sex pictures and the sleazy, all-action "loops" shown at stag parties. Given that the works of some porn directors -- like San Francisco's Mitchell Brothers -- are now venerated as classics, why has Bay Area auteur Alex de Renzy remained so underappreciated? The fledgling Alex de Renzy Library and its first exhibit, "The Life and Times of Alex de Renzy," aim to correct this oversight, with poster art, photographs, memorabilia, and screenings of de Renzy's best-known films, such as Pretty Peaches, Femmes DeSade, and Baby Face. Stop by to goggle starting at 11 a.m. today and tomorrow at the Institute for the Advanced Study of Human Sexuality, 1523 Franklin (at Bush), S.F. Admission is free; call 928-1133 or visit www.iashs.edu.
Sunday, December 14, 2003
Every once in a while, we come across a press release for a calendar item and it's agreed: This is the funniest thing we've ever seen. The Bike Rodeo and the world-record-breaking breast-feeding event come to mind. This week, the one that has us snorting coffee out the nose is a reading by author Ira Meyer from his book Disney Recipes: From Animation to Inspiration. Yes, it's a cookbook, featuring Snow White's gooseberry pie, bouillabaisse from The Little Mermaid (Ewww! She's half fish herself!), and spaghetti and meatballs à la Lady and the Tramp. At first we were hoping it was an unauthorized idea -- that the mouse hadn't gotten his tiny paws into the batter -- but the book is, in fact, completely aboveground. But wait, why is the event being held at the city's most out-and-proud bookstore? Oh, what a crazy, mixed-up world we live in. Meyer signs at 2 p.m. at A Different Light Bookstore, 489 Castro (at 18th Street), S.F. Admission is free; call 431-0891 or visit www.adlbooks.com.
Monday, December 15, 2003
Despite the oceans of press coverage given to the tragic events of 9/11, more than two years later nagging questions still remain. Are rumors of connections between our national intelligence agencies and the terrorists' cabals true? Did the United States initiate confrontations with Afghanistan and Iraq solely because of the attacks, or were there other, less honorable motives? Does legislation like the PATRIOT Act really help to counter terrorism, or does it merely oppress those it's ostensibly protecting? Indie media service Guerrilla News Network attempts to resolve these lingering issues with the documentary AfterMath: Unanswered Questions From 9/11, in which nine experts try to provide spin-free answers to these and other challenging queries. See it tonight or tomorrow night at 7:15 (and again at 9:15) at the Red Vic Movie House, 1727 Haight (at Cole), S.F. Admission is $3-6.50; call 668-3994 or visit www.redvicmoviehouse.com.
Tuesday, December 16, 2003
Once a red-hot television format, variety shows are now pretty much dead. Gone are the days when Donny and Marie would mix corny skits with pop songs, or Ed Sullivan would introduce Robert Goulet right before a dog that could do handstands. But thankfully for lovers of kitsch and talent, "Viva Variety" has resurrected the medium on a local level, with enthused crowds turning out to see queer and queer-friendly comics, singers, dancers, musicians, and just plain unclassifiable performers since the series' 1999 launch. The latest "Viva" -- which features electric violinist Adrian West, witty drag shtick from Peggy L'Eggs, bountiful bump-and-grind from Big Burlesque, and many other acts -- promises more of what's kept audiences coming back, with proceeds benefiting nonprofit sober space Castro Country Club. The show starts at 8 p.m. at the Buriel Clay Theater, 762 Fulton (at Webster), S.F. Admission is $15; call 863-0741 or visit www.makeitsoproductions.org.
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