This Week's Day-by-Day Picks

Wednesday, October 5, 2005
"Ask Dr. Hal" is the game show for dorks, hoochie-coochie girls, and the highly intelligent (or any combination thereof). Onstage, find a beaming oracle, Dr. Hal himself, in a custom fez. To his right stands a yammering showman, Chicken John, reading questions and doling out free shots of Fernet-Branca to audience members whose questions are above average in complexity and wit. Stage right sits KROB, master of weird noises (and SF Weekly's "Best Audio and Visual Collagist" for 2005), at the keyboard. Offstage, Yo-Yo King David Capurro mans the computer, calling up visual replies. Add them together, and you get a constant stream of comedy along with the occasional insight; Hal's vocabulary alone is worth the price of admission. Fernet-winning queries from the past: "Why do men have nipples?" and "Why do things appear darker when they are wet?" Jelly Donut and Illbilly open at 8:30 p.m. (and the show continues Wednesdays through Nov. 30) at Café Du Nord, 2170 Market (at Sanchez), S.F. Admission is $7; call 861-5016 or visit www.askdrhal.com.

Thursday, October 6, 2005
You know you're in trouble when the dead are nicer to you than the living are. This is the odd position many of Louise Erdrich's characters find themselves in during the course of events in her new novel, The Painted Drum. The instrument of the title is made with the bones of a young girl; wolves menace long-ago travelers; and a modern woman fights to make her life mean something: It's not a cheery book, exactly. But this author is famous for the elliptical power of her storytelling, for richly drawn characters, and for describing redemption without clichés. Besides, if a ghost is watching over you, you'll never be alone. Hear Erdrich read at 7 p.m. at A Clean Well-Lighted Place for Books, 601 Van Ness (at Golden Gate), S.F. Admission is free; call 441-6670 or visit www.bookstore.com.

Friday, October 7, 2005
"Holy shit, Batman! It's a remake!" OK, Robin would've probably said something more vanilla, since the Boy Wonder never worked blue (he swung more toward pink). But our enthusiasm is warranted, because a Batman episode, re-created onstage by the able actors behind Impossible Productions (which brought us Twilight Zone: The Playsand CLUE: The Play), is definitely cause to get profanely happy. The plot concerns the nefarious theft of a "molecular mass divisor," and the Caped Crusaders must battle the Joker (Wham!), the Riddler (Bam!), the Penguin (Boff!), and -- pause for leather-induced reverie -- Catwoman (Pow!) to save Gotham, not to mention your childlike sense of wonder. BATMAN!!! The TV Show: The Play opens tonight at 7:30 (and continues through Oct. 30) at the Dark Room Theater, 2263 Mission (at 18th Street), S.F. Admission is $15; call 401-7987 or visit www.darkroomsf.com.

Saturday, October 8, 2005
Held on the weekends in October and featuring more than 700 artists, Open Studios typically draws up to 60,000 people who love to tramp through the strange work spaces and homes, fantasizing how their lives could be different (while the artists fantasize about ways to separate them from their money). It's also an opportunity to corner an artist and ask smart-alecky questions -- "Is that finished?" "Do you have a bathroom?" "Is this bowl of chips part of the installation?" -- or find a ready source of ideas to plunder. Of course, it's best to be a good sport and simply admire the work. Studios open at 11 a.m. Saturday and Sunday in South of Market, Potrero Hill, North Beach, Russian Hill, the Tenderloin, the Bayview, the Excelsior, and Portola, S.F. The event continues through Oct. 30. Admission is free; call 248-1909 or visit www.artspan.org.

Sunday, October 9, 2005
After nine years of hard work by volunteers, Shaping San Francisco, a massive collection of documents, stories, and historical images related to the city, now has a home online. While endlessly searchable, the site (www.shapingsf.org) also features ready-made topics for easy browsing, such as "Baseball in the City" and "Beat Tour of North Beach." It's a fine way to uncover the true history of our town without having to tackle library stacks or Google searches, but tonight, it's best to shut off the computer and attend the "Shaping San Francisco Party & Celebration." Catch speakers such as Susan Goldstein, archivist of the city of San Francisco, and Rick Prelinger, board president of the Internet Archive, and watch a variety of films, including 1961's San Francisco in Cinemascope and 1905's and 2005's A Trip Down Market Street, as well as clips of anti-Vietnam War demonstrations. The party starts at 7 p.m. at CounterPULSE, 1310 Mission (at Ninth Street), S.F. Admission is $5-50; call 626-2060 or visit www.counterpulse.org.

Monday, October 10, 2005
What is it with film kids and zombie movies? The attraction of flesh-eating monsters for young, smart, seemingly rational directors, who shy away from similar genres such as alien invasions or old-school horror, is one of the mysteries of film school. Maybe George Romero is to blame. Wait, of course George Romero is to blame -- his spectacular Night of the Living Dead no doubt bored a hole into impressionable minds, what with the cannibalism, unique narrative style, cannibalism, grim humor, and cannibalism. Tonight you can compare the master's effort with that of his young charges at the Edinburgh Castle's "Film Night," hosted by Jackie Moe, which screens the original 1968 movie and local filmmakers' zombie shorts, starting at 9:30 at the Castle, 950 Geary (at Larkin), S.F. Admission is free; call 885-4074 or visit www.castlenews.com.

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