This Week's Day-by-Day Picks

Wednesday, April 14, 2004
Hey rock fans, you look tired. There are bags under your eyes from the harsh music you've been ingesting at all hours. You may have a garage-over. Can we recommend the revitalizing sonic serum of the Soft? It's scientifically designed to open and soothe your neural passages with a trance-y sound hailing from the psychedelic rock scene of Japan (also home to the Boredoms). The band's rejuvenating ambient (but not at all flabby) compositions make judicious use of samples, bursts of guitar crunch, and a heavy, heavy bottom end. Best-known for its 72-minute abstraction "Shamanic Waveform," the group will stop at nothing to relax and firm up your eardrums. Your brain will be dewy-fresh afterward. The Soft opens for Neung Phak at 10 p.m. at the Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk (at Post), S.F. Admission is $8; call 923-0923 or visit www.hemlocktavern.com.

Thursday, April 15, 2004
Passionate cooks can be rather obsessive; they'll sit around for hours happily debating which company makes the best zesting tool or whether the flavor in that pan reduction sauce was chervil or aniseed. But there's never been anything like the cult that surrounds Cooks Illustrated, the bimonthly, advertising-free Consumer Reports of food mags, and its companion TV show, America's Test Kitchen. Unlike other foodie publications, which produce flashy yet unpredictable recipes, Cooks meticulously tests its formulas for American standards such as roast beef or potato pancakes, ultimately engineering the ne plus ultra end products. (It even provides cool details on the scientific reasons behind successes and failures.) Bespectacled, homespun Cooks founder Christopher Kimball has emerged as an unlikely culinary superstar with an ardent fan base. Expect those zealots to crowd Stacey's Bookstore tonight when Kimball conducts a chocolate tasting and discusses Cooks' new book, Baking Illustrated, starting at 5:15 at 581 Market (at Second Street), S.F. Admission is free; call 421-4687 or visit www.staceys.com.

Friday, April 16, 2004
Runway shows are a lot like porn. The objects of desire are presented with maximum care taken to make them alluring, while the titillated audience yearns for what's so near yet often so utterly out of reach. But tonight's Gen Art San Francisco's "Inspiration Defined" Fashion Showdoesn't confine its offerings to goodies available only in too-snooty-for-you New York boutiques and precious Parisian ateliers. Local design outfits Colleen Quen Couture, Jan Warnock, Sounthavong, and Zilda by Flavia do the runway thing, while Galya Rosenfeld, bingbang, and Miel Accessories pimp their ornaments at walk-through booths, where even the fashionable down-and-out can afford a fetching hat or handbag. Gawk and drool starting with an accessories reception at 7:30 p.m. (the runway show starts at 8:45) at the Asian Art Museum, 200 Larkin (at McAllister), S.F. Admission is $20-30; call 284-9400 or visit www.genart.org.

Saturday, April 17, 2004
Charles Ludlam's two-man farce The Mystery of Irma Vep is a sendup of both melodrama and horror movies, forms that have always been, and will always be, badly in need of mocking. An exercise in "How many costume changes can one evening take?," the show stars NYU grad and actor-with-serious-chops Erik Steele and Broadway veteran Arnie Burton as, variously, Jane Twisden, Nicodemus Underwood, Lord and Lady Hillcrest, An Intruder, Alcazar, and Pev Amri. We won't tell you who plays whom -- that would ruin the surprise. Those of you thinking that this play has something to do with the 1996 French flick Irma Vep, starring Maggie Cheung and Jean-Pierre Léaud, are mistaken, but you should go see the production for comparison's sake. The show starts this afternoon at 2 and again tonight at 8 (continuing through May 23) at Berkeley Repertory's Thrust Stage, 2025 Addison (at Shattuck), Berkeley. Admission is $43-55; call (510) 647-2949 or visit www.berkeleyrep.org.

Sunday, April 18, 2004
We liked comedian Greg Proops, he of the caustic wit and liberal slant on current events, even when we caught mere snippets of his act on programs like Win Ben Stein's Money, The Drew Carey Show, and, um, Hollywood Squares(give us a break, we were taking a sick day and nothing else was on). But his uproarious turn at 2003's "A Hed-Wigged Out X-Mas" event at the Castro, at which he simultaneously demonstrated comic chops and a very San Francisco affection for preening drag queens, transformed us into full-fledged fans. Cheer on the hometown boy tonight starting at 8 at Cobb's Comedy Club, 915 Columbus (at Mason), S.F. Admission is $17; call 928-4320 or visit www.cobbscomedyclub.com.

Monday, April 19, 2004
Robert Sullivan spent a year of nights in a putrid Manhattan alley. Standing next to piles of garbage, breathing the stench of centuries of urine and rot, he observed the wild creatures that live in human houses and eat human food, yet are such objects of disgust that they've been targeted for extermination since ancient times. His resulting field study, Rats: Observations on the History & Habitat of the City's Most Unwanted Inhabitants, is one of the most unusual natural history epics ever published. Sullivan shows us the rat we know: the disease-carrying pariah (besides the plague, rats can transmit salmonella, trichinosis, rabies, and tuberculosis) and destructive force. But he also introduces us to the rat we never imagined: the humble immigrant -- which, like man, has colonized every landmass in the world -- the hunted outsider, the tough and clever survivor. The author reads from his work tonight at 7 at the Booksmith, 1644 Haight (at Cole), S.F. Admission is free; call 863-8688 or visit www.booksmith.com.

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