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
In a broken world not unlike our own, the state corrals a group of teenagers into a tightly controlled terrain and compels them to murder one another with an assortment of weapons until there's a sole survivor. Such is the plot of Hollywood's second-highest-grossing film of 2012, but also of a 12-year-old genre mash-up from Japan, which receives its belated theatrical premiere just in time to stoke side-by-side comparisons. (Author Suzanne Collins says she encountered 2000's Battle Royale only after completing The Hunger Games, published in 2008.) Yet pitting one apocalyptic teen-massacre exploitation against the other tends to break down into biases of taste and gender: Where the American product gets branded as melodramatic and soft on violence -- read: feminine -- Battle Royale is celebrated for its dark humor and unrestrained brutality. Writer-director Kinji Fukasaku finds the overlap between teenage dreams and nightmares, between first love and the terror of extinction. "You're so cute," a boy confesses to the girl who just shot him, while another coed shrugs away her sudden bloodthirstiness: "Why not kill? Everyone has their issues." After a masterful establishing scene in which former teacher Mr. Kitano (an exquisitely self-parodying Takeshi Kitano) lectures on the rules of engagement, Fukasaku's narrative jerks forth in rhyme with the action, inserting schmaltzy flashbacks for previously underdeveloped characters right before wasting them away. Masamichi Amano's swollen-stringed romantic score, set against the ultra-violence, might be the film's most perverse play. It might suit a certain worldview, but Battle Royale's cynicism is still a form of fantasy -- a balm as well as a bomb.
Aug. 10-16, 2012