San Francisco does not have the greatest track record when it comes to presidents. In 1923, President Warren G. Harding, by all accounts something of a jackass, keeled over at the Palace Hotel. In 1975, President Gerald Ford narrowly missed a bullet fired by Sarah Jane Moore in front of the St. Francis Hotel. In 2015, former President Jimmy Carter is visiting Books Inc. to sign copies of his autobiography, A Full Life, so we all need to be on our best behavior, everybody. Do not ask Carter to snap a selfie with you, do not ask him to sign a can of Billy Beer, do not impress him with your Saturday Night Fever dance moves. And Jimmy, maybe avoid The City's luxury hotels.
The former leader of the free world is appearing at 4:30 p.m. at Books Inc., 601 Van Ness Ave., S.F. Free; booksinc.net. More
Webster's dictionary defines neon as "a chemical element with symbol Ne and atomic number 10." And while that's true, there's much more to this rare element than a name and a number. For example, signs. Neon signs represent something in the imagination, particularly in the iconography of the American city. Without these late-night, back-alley beacons, how would we navigate our urban underworld? How would we know where to drink, to catch a late-night sex show, to have our palms read? Neon, lighter than air, occupies a space in San Francisco's urban history, and that's being celebrated with an illustrated talk by Al Barna and Randall Ann Homan, authors of San Francisco Neon: Survivors and Lost Icons, followed by a screening of The Lady from Shanghai. The 1947 film noir stars Orson Welles, Rita Hayworth, and San Francisco's neon-drenched Chinatown.
The lights go on at 6:30 p.m. at the Vogue Theatre, 3290 Sacramento St., S.F. $12-$15; 415-346-2228 or cinemasf.com/vogue. More
The Mexican supermarket is comedian Stephen Furey's Disneyland. The candy is weird, there's a dude selling corn from a cart, the expiration date on the meat just says "mañana" — ¡Es una aventura! The Sacramento comedian does not exactly live large (he once contemplated fighting a dog for a three-legged couch), but he does live funny. Furey, who co-hosts the Belligerently Uninformed podcast with Emma Haney, does observational humor about everyday situations. Well, everyday situations for the kind of guy who enjoys hanging out in McDonald's ball pits. Ask him why!
Stephen Furey performs at 8 p.m. at the Punch Line Comedy Club at 444 Battery St., S.F. $15; punchlinecomedyclub.com. More
Starting a punk band in 1977, in Northern Ireland, right in the middle of one of the most violent and politically fraught periods in the country's history, takes guts, resilience, and just a soupçon of crazy. Continuing to play in that band nearly 40 years later, however, is almost completely insane — or rather it would be if Stiff Little Fingers didn't still have such a huge and dedicated following and such large, still-untapped reserves of rage. The band's 10th album, 2014's righteous and critically acclaimed No Going Back, stands as proof that the Belfast quartet still have plenty to say for themselves. With an energetic live show that isn't afraid to hark back to the band's earliest albums as well, this is sure to be a riot for new- and old-school fans alike.More
Good films about ballet can be numbered on one hand. And about Chinese dissidents? I've still got enough fingers to type this review. Based on the memoirs of Li Cunxin, Mao's Last Dancer means well, but it stumbles between genres. Li is played by three actors as he grows from plucky peasant lad in the '70s to grim-faced trainee at a Beijing dance academy to visiting student at the Houston Ballet. (By then, 1981, he's portrayed by Chi Cao, a Chinese-born dancer with the Birmingham Royal Ballet, who can act a little.) Confounded by our cowboy hats, materialism, and discothèques, Li feels more comfortable on stage. And thereso corny it's true! -- he gets his big break when a soloist is injured. Don Quixote earns him raves, and a convenient blonde girlfriend provides the chance for a green-card marriage. Should he stay or should he go? And how will the Chinese government respond if Li defects? Director Bruce Beresford employs many flashbacks in this predictable, sentimental tale, but has no feel for the dance sequences, which lurch into slo-mo for each triumphant jeté. There are bits of humor at the margins, chiefly from Bruce Greenwood as Li's arch, gay ballet master. (Kyle MacLachlan's attorney seems like a guest star on Dallas.) The melodrama of a divided family is reliably squeezed for tears, but the movie's best scene is one that awestruck young Li watches with us: There is Baryshnikov dancing on grainy samizdat VHSfree, glorious, yet far from home.
Mon., Sept. 13, 2010