This Week's Day-by-Day Picks

Wednesday, July 13, 2005
Although he's a graduate from Yale, a law school dropout, and a former staff writer for Late Night With Conan O'Brien-- clear Type A stuff, sans the quitting part -- Demetri Martin sneaks up on you with his ultra-relaxed observational humor. The stand-up is disarmingly at ease onstage, as if he stopped for a chat while taking a shortcut to the bathroom, and even though his jokes won't always slay you (there are much better jokes), you'll want him to keep telling them. (This chestnut actually killed on Late Show With David Letterman: "Swimming is a confusing sport -- sometimes you swim for fun, and sometimes you swim to not die.") Leo Allen and Matt Morales open for Martin starting at 9 p.m. (and continuing through Saturday) at the Punch Line, 444 Battery (at Clay), S.F. Admission is $10; call 397-4337 or visit www.punchlinecomedyclub.com.

Thursday, July 14, 2005
It could be either a plus or a minus depending on your tolerance for vintage Jane Birkin, but at the "Bardot A Go Go Bastille Bash," founding DJ Brother Grimm and his pals spin more than just French pop circa 1960-67. Of course, the vibe is strongly influenced by the era in question, and dancers are always dressed to the knee-booted nines. Just be aware that amid the Jacques Dutronc and (bien sûr!) Serge Gainsbourg you'll hear "Northern Soul, shagadelic electro, mambo-tronics, banda-hop, boogaloo, and psychedelic rock en espanol," according to miniskirted sources. Get far out starting at 8 p.m. at the Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell (at Van Ness), S.F. Admission is $5; call 861-2011 or visit www.bardotagogo.com.

Friday, July 15, 2005
Fritz Lang's silent epic Spies from 1927, packed with the director's trademark cinematography, outsize characters, and tight editing, serves as a virtual blueprint for political thrillers. Most iconic is Rudolf Klein-Rogge starring as über-criminal Haghi, outfitted with a wheelchair, a mute nurse, and a fierce hairstyle, heading up a spy ring stealing government documents. When he's not disguised as a bank president or music-hall clown, the evil genius is seated at his command center (a modernist office) in full control of all the trappings of modern technology: thimble-size cameras, telephones, a newspaper-flipping contraption (which is just silly), and a text-based communication device that looks suspiciously like e-mail. Spies, a staggering three hours long, starts at 7:30 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive, 2575 Bancroft (at Bowditch), Berkeley. Admission is $4-8; call (510) 642-1124 or visit www.bampfa.berkeley.edu.

Saturday, July 16, 2005
Although Lucero's previous records flirted with traces of indie and country, delighting reviewers who were eager to add a band to the sounds-like-Wilco genre, that's all gone on 2005's Nobody's Darlings. "This new one I wanted southern-rock," singer Ben Nichols said in press materials. "I wanted a rock and roll record." And he has it, a raw, barroom sound with dueling guitars crossed with Nichols' early-morning sandpaper growl, telling tales of life and its inevitable disappointments. The self-described "touring rock band" worked with Memphis musician and Replacements producer Jim Dickinson on the release, and, indeed, there's more than a bit of young Paul Westerberg's ragged sincerity in Nichols, who's known to be a charmer onstage. Lucero plays with the Honorary Title and the Glass at 10 p.m. at the Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St. (at Missouri), S.F. Admission is $10; call 621-4455 or visit www.bottomofthehill.com.

Sunday, July 17, 2005
Any reason to head out to the Marin Headlands works for us, but the "Headlands Center for the Arts Summer Open House" is perhaps the best. Housed in historic buildings at Fort Barry, the center is an artist's retreat ripped out of the pages of a novel: Imagine working in a restored 1907 building with 13-foot ceilings and maple floors, then repairing to the bluffs at sunset for spiced rum and cheese, or whatever artists repast with. And the center's directive is equally soothing, allowing artists "open-ended investigation, experimentation and collaboration -- free from the usual imperative to create finished artistic product.'" See the results for yourself as more than 30 artists in residence welcome the public starting at noon at the Headlands Center for the Arts, 944 Fort Barry (near Simmonds), Marin Headlands. Admission is free; call 331-2787 or visit www.headlands.org.

Monday, July 18, 2005
It's about time 89-year-old John Dobson got his movie. After earning a degree in chemistry from Berkeley, Dobson became a Vedanta monk of the Ramakrishna Order for 23 years, then founded the Sidewalk Astronomers, an organization that encourages amateurs to set up telescopes on city streets and engage the locals on the mysteries of the universe. A Sidewalk Astronomer follows Dobson as he tours the country spreading his astronomy-for-everybody message, spiced with footage of the universe in all its confounding glory. Called "one of history's greatest popularizers of science" by the Wall Street Journal, Dobson is a freethinker who deserves his shot at movie stardom. The film plays nightly at 6:15, 8, and 9:45 (and at 2:30 and 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday) through July 28 at the Roxie Cinema, 3117 16th St. (at Valencia), S.F. Admission is $4-8; call 863-1087 or visit www.roxie.com.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005
At the start of Jonathan Ames' book Wake Up, Sir!, you'll think you've dipped into a Wodehouse novel, with main character Alan Blair ordering his butler Jeeves to do things like prepare the morning toilet and the day's neckwear. Then the cracks appear. Blair is an unreliable narrator of the highest order: He is not a British novelist, he's a thirtysomething American drunk crashing about town in assorted states of denial. His aunt wants him to go to rehab; he wants to summer with Jeeves in the Poconos, and the two set off on a Lolita-like road trip into America, with Blair keeping up his hilarious faux-British intellectual outlook as he mixes with the locals. It's a recovery novel entirely different from the slew of them out there, and a welcome change. Ames reads at 7 p.m. at the Booksmith, 1644 Haight (at Cole), S.F. Admission is free; call 863-8688 or visit www.booksmith.com.


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