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New Sneers' Eve 

Comics skewer our weird year

WED 12/31

Political comedy took a shot right to the kisser after 9/11, which sensitized us to the point that quips about current events seemed, for a while, a lot less amusing. This retreat proved a great big bummer for the many comics who formulate jokes by perusing Section A of the newspaper. Cutups like Jamie Foxx and Janeane Garofalo were forced to postpone or cancel shows; Letterman and Leno refused to crack wise in their monologues; and poor Bill Maher, former host of the TV program Politically Incorrect, learned the hard way that our national humor threshold had sunk to unfunny lows.

But gradually our funny bone has grown back. The Onion was one of the first publications to take on the World Trade Center attack, with a special edition released soon after 9/11 featuring headlines such as "America Vows to Defeat Whoever We're at War With" and "God Angrily Clarifies 'Don't Kill' Rule." Jon Stewart followed up on The Daily Show, tagging his wartime coverage "America Freaks Out." On a local level, S.F. funnyman Will Durst has similarly returned to his old waggish ways, with jokes about Dubya, Saddam, and other topical faces and places making their way back into his act. Expect a fearless take on the events of 2003 at "The Big-Fat Year-End Kiss-Off Comedy Show XI," a wittily erudite alternative to rowdy New Year's parties, featuring the talents of Durst, cockeyed commentary from Johnny Steele and Steven Kravitz, and improvisational sketches by Debi Durst and Michael Bossier. The wisecracks start flying at 7 and 10 p.m. at the Cowell Theater, in Fort Mason's Herbst Pavilion, Marina & Buchanan, S.F. Admission is $25-40; call 345-7575 or visit
-- Joyce Slaton

New Good Time

WED 12/31

New Year's Eve at the Embarcadero is a young tradition, only a few years old, but it's already a favorite of in-the-know San Franciscans -- and with good reason. For so long burdened with an unsightly highway, the post-earthquake waterfront has been restored to its previous glory: The view! The bridge! The water! The islands! It's once again one of the prettiest places in our already good-looking burg. Add fireworks over the bay (as the city promises to do), plus tons of people in the mood for kissing and celebration, and really, what's not to like? The pyrotechnics begin at midnight; the best viewing spot is along the Embarcadero between Mission and Howard, S.F. Admission is free; call 274-0584.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser

It Tolls for Thee

WED 12/31

At the stroke of midnight, most city revelers commemorate the new year with champagne, smooches, and "Auld Lang Syne." But in accordance with ancient tradition, in Japan the joya no kane (end-of-the-year bell) is struck 108 times before midnight to symbolically hamper the 108 mortal desires Buddhists believe plague humankind. The solemn ceremony takes about two hours, since each beat must be delayed until the reverberations from the previous one have died away. Grab a stick and take part at the Japanese New Year's Bell Ringing Ceremony starting at 11 a.m. at the Asian Art Museum, 200 Larkin (at McAllister), S.F. Entrance is free with museum admission (free-$10); call 581-3500 or visit
-- Joyce Slaton

Submit to It

TUES 1/6

Are you now writing or have you ever written a play? Answer yes or no, please. Taking the Fifth only incriminates you. If you have poured your life's blood onto the page in hopes of becoming the next Clifford Odets or Lillian Hellman -- well, what are you going to do now? The Playwrights' Center offers a helpful event: a "Submission Party." Center staffers provide advice about formatting, cover letters, and synopses, plus general inspiration to get those envelopes stuffed and sent out into the world. The party begins at 7:30 p.m. Admission is free; call (510) 913-5413 for location information and a reservation or visit
-- Hiya Swanhuyser


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  • Nevada City and the South Yuba River: A gold country getaway

    Nestled in the green pine-covered hills of the Northern Sierra Nevada is the Gold Rush town of Nevada City. Beautiful Victorian houses line the streets, keeping the old-time charm alive, and a vibrant downtown is home to world-class art, theater and music. The nearby South Yuba River State Park is known for its emerald swimming holes during the summer and radiant leaf colors during autumn. These days the gold panning is more for tourists than prospectors, but the gold miner spirit is still in the air.

    South Yuba River State Park and Swimming Holes:
    The park runs along and below 20 miles of the South Yuba River, offering hiking, mountain biking, gold panning and swimming. The Highway 49 bridge swimming hole is seven-miles northwest of Nevada City where Highway 49 crosses the South Yuba River. Parking is readily available and it is a short, steep hike to a stunning swimming hole beneath a footbridge. For the more intrepid, trails extend along the river with access to secluded swim spots. The Bridgeport swimming hole has calm waters and a sandy beach -- good for families and cookouts -- and is located 14 miles northwest of Nevada City. Be sure to write down directions before heading out, GPS may not be available. Most swimming holes on the South Yuba River are best from July to September, while winter and spring can bring dangerous rapids. Always know the current before jumping in!

    Downtown Nevada City
    The welcoming, walkable downtown of Nevada City is laid back, yet full of life. Start your day at the cozy South Pine Cafe (110 S Pine St.) with a lobster benedict or a spicy Jamaican tofu scramble. Then stroll the streets and stop into the shop Kitkitdizzi (423 Broad St.) for handcrafted goods unique to the region, vintage wears and local art “all with California gold rush swagger,” as stated by owners Carrie Hawthorne and Kira Westly. Surrounded by Gold Rush history, modern gold jewelry is made from locally found nuggets and is found at Utopian Stone Custom Jewelers (301 Broad St.). For a coffee shop with Victorian charm try The Curly Wolf (217 Broad St.), an espresso house and music venue with German pastries and light fare. A perfect way to cool down during the hot summer months can be found at Treats (110 York St.) , an artisan ice cream shop with flavors like pear ginger sorbet or vegan chai coconut. Nightlife is aplenty with music halls, alehouses or dive bars like the Mine Shaft Saloon (222 Broad St.).

    The Willo Steakhouse (16898 State Hwy 49, Nevada City)
    Along Highway 49, just west of Nevada City, is The Willo, a classic roadhouse and bar where you’re welcomed by the smell of steak and a dining room full of locals. In 1947 a Quonset hut (a semi-cylindrical building) was purchased from the US Army and transported to its current location, and opened as a bar, which became popular with lumberjacks and miners. The bar was passed down through the decades and a covered structure was added to enlarge the bar and create a dining area. The original Quonset beams are still visible in the bar and current owners Mike Byrne and Nancy Wilson keep the roadhouse tradition going with carefully aged New York steaks and house made ingredients. Pair your steak or fish with a local wine, such as the Rough and Ready Red, or bring your own for a small corkage fee. Check the website for specials, such as rib-eye on Fridays.

    Outside Inn (575 E Broad St.)
    A 16-room motel a short walk from downtown, each room features a unique décor, such as the Paddlers’ Suite or the Wildflower Room. A friendly staff and an office full of information about local trails, swimming and biking gets you started on your outdoor exploration. Amenities include an outdoor shower, a summer swimming pool and picnic tables and barbeques. Don’t miss the free vegetable cart just outside the motel in the mornings.

    Written and photographed by Beth LaBerge for the SF Weekly.

  • Arcade Fire at Shoreline
    Arcade Fire opened their US tour at Shoreline Amphitheater to a full house who was there in support of their album "Reflector," which was released last fall. Dan Deacon opened the show to a happily surprised early audience and got the crowd actively dancing and warmed up. DEVO was originally on the bill to support Arcade Fire but a kayak accident last week had sidelined lead singer Mark Mothersbaugh and the duration of the west coast leg of the tour. Win Butler did a homage to DEVO by performing Uncontrollable Urge.

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