If your idea of a good time at the movies requires a three-act narrative consisting of the hook, the conflict, and the climax, followed by a quick resolution, then Amateurs of the Impossible is not for you. Filmmakers Margaret Rorison and Zach Iannnazzi are like painters — or, as Orson Welles suggested, poets with camera lenses for eyes. They reach beyond the presentational to build film-loop elegies, plein air panoplies, and celluloid sonatas that whip up dreams, memories, emotions, and musings. Rorison, co-founder of Baltimore's much-loved roaming experimental film series Sight Unseen, contributes six shorts, including a handmade study of Danish wind power, a collaboration with the Effervescent Dance Collective, a landscape portrait of Brooklyn's Gowanus Canal, and a 16-mm tribute to her grandfather that is saturated by field recordings of oil rigs and fishing lines on the Louisiana bayou. Iannazzi offers three shorts, including a found-footage scrapbook of fading Northern California and a superimposed diptych of home movies that explores "mid-century male bonding and the hubris of hunting culture."
"Amateurs of the Impossible" begins at 7:30 p.m. at Artists Television Access, 992 Valencia St., S.F. $10; 415-824-3890 or sfcinematheque.org. More
Scientists used to consider it balderdash, but the belief that humans can cause earthquakes has recently been validated by a significant increase in tremors occurring in the Central United States. Nearly twice as many quakes, magnitude 3 and up, have happened there in the last six years than in the previous 36 years; in 2014, more strong earthquakes jolted Oklahoma than California. Justin Rubinstein, a U.S. Geological Survey research geophysicist, believes oil and gas extraction is responsible for this. Hydraulic fracturing is part of the problem, but Rubinstein says the top culprit is the injection of wastewater from oil and gas operations into permanent storage areas underground. He believes that human activity of this sort could trigger a magnitude 7 shaker. All agree that San Francisco's expected Big One will be an act of nature, not industry, but anyone earthquake-curious should find Rubinstein's talk ("Yes, Humans Really Are Causing Earthquakes") of interest. The event is part of a USGS series of free lectures for non-experts.
Justin Rubinstein’s lecture, “Yes, Humans Really Are Causing Earthquakes,” is set for 7 p.m. at USGS, Building 3, Rambo Auditorium, 345 Middlefield Road, Menlo Park. Free; online.wr.usgs.gov/calendar.More
BayTaper.com, an online multimedia documentary featuring live audio recordings, videos, and photography has been tirelessly capturing live jazz and acoustic music in the San Francisco Bay Area since 2005.
Are Americans really just a bunch of gangsters and puritans? This uneven mobster musical definitely wants us to consider the possibility. Happy End follows the clichéd good-girl/bad-boy romance of Salvation Army preacher Lillian Holiday and notorious gangster Bill Cracker. Its easy to see why creators Bertolt Brecht and Elisabeth Hauptmann disowned Happy End slapped together in an effort to capitalize on the success of ThreePenny Opera, it steals liberally from George Bernard Shaws Major Barbara and the B-grade American gangster pictures that fascinated Brecht. More importantly, the play lacks the type of revolutionary intelligence thats coiled behind Brechts best work. Happy End feels like a parade of insipid American archetypes the hypocritical religious zealot, the gun-toting mol with a heart of gold, the vaguely mystical Asian mobster according to Brechtian theory these stock characters are supposed to alienate us from traditionally effective modes of theatrical presentation and make us ponder more important social and political questions. But lacking any engaging intellectual concepts, we are just left with an unimaginative narrative and the type of hooting and hoofing youd expect from a musical like Guys and Dolls. Every element of this high-gloss production is very competent. However, the cast, designers, and director seem to avoid any real sense of danger and debauchery, and its a shame because thats what truly brings the gangsters and puritans together.