This Week's Day-by-Day Picks

Wednesday, January 19, 2005
It's one thing to watch an adult recount painful childhood memories. It's quite another to watch a troubled kid grow up in front of your eyes. The documentary Tarnation begins with adult filmmaker Jonathan Caouette's discovery that his mentally ill mom has overdosed on lithium, but then it spirals backward to piece together his life story: a checked-out single mother rattled by prolonged shock therapy, abusive foster parents, neglectful grandparents, and a bright spot -- the solace he finds at the theater. Vintage home movies, answering machine messages, Caouette's video diary entries, and re-enactments are combined to form a compelling picture of a messed-up adolescent who somehow, against all odds, turns out all right. See the critically acclaimed film (which many consider an Oscar contender) today at 2, 7:15, or 9:15 p.m. at the Red Vic Movie House, 1727 Haight (at Cole), S.F. Admission is $4-7; call 668-3994 or visit www.redvicmoviehouse.com.

Thursday, January 20, 2005
Inauguration Day won't be jubilant in the Bay Area, but are you going to sit around and feel sorry for yourself? Whether or not you're planning to attend the umpteenth "bring the troops home" march at the Civic Center, you might want to check out "What We Do Now." At this publication party for an "instant book" by the same name, contributing journalist Danny Schechter and other noncomplacent types pipe up about what they're doing instead of feeling sorry for themselves. The book, an anthology of essays by Howard Dean, Greg Palast, Donna Brazile, and others, is available to buy (and hopefully to inspire you as well) at 7:30 p.m. at the Make-Out Room, 3225 22nd St. (at Mission), S.F. Admission is free; call 647-2888 or visit www.makeoutroom.com.

Friday, January 21, 2005
Many gay kids who come out to their parents do it in a letter, or over dinner -- you know, in a way that they think will cause the fewest possible waves. Tommy Avicolli Mecca chose to inform his old-fashioned Italian family of his queerness on a TV talk show. But that's pretty much par for the course for the rabble-rousing Mecca, who left his conservative boyhood behind when he became a marching, protesting, draft-dodging adult involved in causes from fair housing to gay rights. While Mecca's usual milieu is Bay Area rallies rather than the stage, in his one-man autobiographical show Italian.Queer.Dangerous he holds forth on a life writ large. Meet your next local hero at 8 tonight (and Friday and Saturday nights through Jan. 29) at the Jon Sims Center for the Arts, 1519 Mission (at 11th Street), S.F. Admission is $5-10, or free for those in financial straits; call 554-0402 or visit www.jonsimsctr.org.

Saturday, January 22, 2005
Blame it on the Strokes. Just as Nirvana's success created a simmering musical scene in sleepy Seattle, the critical adulation handed to the so-called saviors of rock 'n' roll casts a shadow across every alt-ish band that emerges from Manhattan, from Ted Leo to the Walkmen. Which is why you'll see the Strokes referenced in each and every article written about the stellar foursome Elefant. On first listen, Elefant's breakout record, Sunlight Makes Me Paranoid, presents tweaked tributes to earlier pop-punk stalwarts (the Smiths, the Velvet Underground, the Stooges) similar to those found on the Strokes' Is This It. But the album's melancholy lyrics, Britpop-esque melodies, and Bowie- and Bryan Ferry influenced vocals (courtesy of frontman Diego Garcia) definitively set Elefant's output apart. Everybody Else and Citizens Here and Abroad open at 9 p.m. at the Great American Music Hall, 859 O'Farrell (at Polk), S.F. Admission is $13; call 885-0750 or visit www.musichallsf.com.

Sunday, January 23, 2005
By day San Francisco's eastern coast is sun-drenched and scenic. But at night, with the lights of the Bay Bridge twinkling above and a vast expanse of pitch-black water bleeding into the inky sky, the area is spooky, mysterious, sometimes even desolate. Fascinated by the changes that occurred after the Loma Prieta earthquake -- when the seaside land was transformed from an industrial wasteland into a spiffy stretch lined with restaurants, shops, and a gleaming new ballpark -- members of the photographic collective the Nocturnes vowed to document what they saw. The result, "Embarcadero Nocturne," an exhibition of after-dark images by 22 photographers (who capture silent, looming ships, an iconic Ferry Building, and gleaming neon), continues in three different locations: South Beach Café (800 Embarcadero at Townsend), Four Embarcadero Center (Drumm & Sacramento), and Fort Mason's Building A (Marina & Buchanan), all in S.F. Admission is free; call 824-1653 or visit www.thenocturnes.com.

Monday, January 24, 2005
Some foods are just foods: broccoli, wheat bread, oatmeal. And some are substances that ascend into the realm of legend. As its legions of fervent eaters can affirm, chocolate is more than just a sweet. It is a passion, a drug, an obsession. In his swoony book Chocolate: A Bittersweet Saga of Dark and Light, foodie author Mort Rosenblum (revered for his similarly worshipful previous tome, Olives) digs into the background of the brown stuff, tracing its history and production in visits to cacao plantations, interviews with buyers and tasters, and tours through such major manufacturers as Hershey, Godiva, and Valrhona. Tonight Rosenblum discusses his work (and illustrates it with tastings from Recchiuti Confections paired with dessert wines) at 6 at the Mechanics' Institute Library, 57 Post (at Market), S.F. Admission is $12-15 and reservations are required; call 393-0101 or visit www.milibrary.org.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005
Lisa Dewey's soaring, dreamy vocals, when layered over reverberating piano and guitar, are easy to buttonhole: If you like the ethereal pop made famous by the British record label 4AD, you're probably going to like her sound, too. But Dewey's no cookie-cutter goth girl; instead, she's a committed, inspired musician whose talent lured none other than the Cocteau Twins' Simon Raymonde to provide producing help on her two most recent albums. The latest, Busk, is now out on Dewey's own Kitchen Whore label, also home to former Wall of Voodoo guitarist Marc Moreland. The album -- and her "Sexiest Artist" title, granted by her hometown weekly newspaper in San Jose -- makes us wonder why she's not better known. Dewey and Caldera open for Estereo at 9 p.m. at the Hotel Utah, 500 Fourth St. (at Bryant), S.F. Admission is $6; call 546-6300 or visit www.thehotelutahsaloon.com.


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