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
20 Yerba Buena Lane, 415-744-5000
San Francisco is the gateway to California wine country and for those who can’t seem to find a designated driver to schlep them up for a round of tastings, the luxurious Press Club converts a day trip to Napa or Sonoma into an evening of liquid bliss.
Jonathan Lethem's last two novels 2003's Fortress of Solitude and 2007's You Don't Love Me Yet steered away from the sci-fi leanings of his early work. The talking kangaroos, post-apocalyptic telepaths, and alien hermaphrodites were replaced by flying children and mysteriously endowed songwriters. Okay, so pretty much everything the one-time local author concocts has some element of magic to it. Lethem's latest opus, Chronic City, is no different, offering up chocolate-scented fog, an unseen tiger that destroys whole buildings, and ancient "chaldrons" that may or may not serve with the help of strong dope and the droning guitarscapes of Sandy Bull as portals to other planes of existence. Even though it's set entirely in Manhattan, the book sprawls like a bored teenager, spilling profundities and confusions like so many Cheetos. Lethem delights, as always, in language, coming up with goofy names (Oona Laszlo, Georgina Hawkmaniji), brilliant metaphors (birds "interweaving like boiling pasta"), and absurd cultural jokes (a sitcom is titled Martyr & Pesty). What little plot there is serves to direct the eclectic cast of characters an aging childhood TV star with a fiancé lost in orbit, a stoned cultural savant, a hipster ghostwriter, and a squatter turned political fixer to wander New York's grimy streets and eat cheeseburgers, scour eBay, and wonder whether Marlon Brando is really dead (and if not, whether he can save New York City from the savages who now run it). Lethem has mentioned that Chronic City was influenced by Saul Bellow, Philip K. Dick, Charles Finney, and Alfred Hitchcocks Vertigo, which is only one of many things that could use further explanation when he's interviewed by Paul Lancour tonight.
Wed., Oct. 28, 8 p.m., 2009