Other urban centers have it all over us when it comes to movies that portray the life of cities. I can name dozens of films steeped in the atmospheres of New York, Paris, Tokyo, and Los Angeles, so why is it that directors use San Francisco's stunning views and swooping hills as a setting without conveying any of the vibrant, freaky energy of our town? Fortunately, Mission Movie is different. Written collaboratively by a group of residents and directed by the co-founder of Artists' Television Access, Lise Swenson, the yet-to-be-released feature film tells five "only in S.F." stories about the immigrants, artists, shop owners, and slumming hipsters who call the Mission District home.
Show the home team some support by attending "Mission Movie Magic," a fund-raiser featuring a candlelit four-course meal, a silent art auction, and dinner-theater performances from artists such as tongue-in-cheek international folk vocalists JouJou, idiosyncratic instrumentalists Go Van Gogh, and throat-singing beatboxer extraordinaire Kid Beyond. The party starts at 6 p.m. at Cell Space, 2050 Bryant (at 18th Street), S.F. Admission is $35-50; call 364-3082 or visit www.missionmovie.org.
-- Joyce Slaton
According to Paul DeMarinis, acetylene torches are amplifiers, computers are record players, and walls sometimes function as radios. The guy is serious, and if he weren't an artist/ historian/chemist/physicist/engineer, it wouldn't matter so much what he thought. But because this uncontrollable Renaissance man has the know-how to prove that stuff to be at least plausible, it matters plenty. In "Firebird," DeMarinis' current exhibition, the proof is made of art: Gas flames trapped in old-fashioned bird cages somehow act as speakers, and broadcast, just for fun, the speeches of Roosevelt, Stalin, and Hitler. How? Why? Perhaps the inclusion of arcane turn-of-the-last-century studies in "phonological work," including photos of manometric flames, whatever those are, will make it all clear to obscurantists. For those not in the know about hundred-year-old pseudo-science, the conjunction of what DeMarinis calls "orphaned" technology and contemporary hardware will simply keep you asking good questions. The show is up through May 22 at the Braunstein/Quay Gallery, 430 Clementina (at Fifth Street), S.F. Admission is free; call 278-9850 or visit www.bquayartgallery.com.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser
The May Poll
Laboring, but under no illusions
In other countries, Labor Day is May 1, not Sept. 6. The day commemorates an event that happened in Chicago, so it's kind of funny that Americans picked such an odd date for ours -- with end-of-summer day-off barbecues instead of springtime celebrations of people who work hard. If you wonder about this, there are a slew of illuminating events this May Day.
One is "Manifesto: Coming Out Against Empire," a giant reading and "literary crucible," at which 30 writers -- among them Tamim Ansary, Dave Eggers, Michelle Tea, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti -- spend three minutes each making "declarations against the 'logic of rule.'" Invoking the spirit of those who fought for the eight-hour workday and the weekend, the stellar lineup is matched by high hopes: "Our goal," organizers say, "is to reinvent history."
If looking rather than listening is more your speed, the "May Day Labor Rights Walking Tour" takes participants on a ramble around the Financial District to see where big decisions were made and crazy ideas entertained, like the site of the 1870s newspaper that suggested eliminating taxes on labor. And it wouldn't be May Day without music, so trek over to "Celebrate May Day" in Oakland for Red Dust's left-wing rockabilly, plus a barbecue, speakers, films, and a singalong "Internationale."
"Manifesto" begins at 7:30 p.m. at Cell Space, 2050 Bryant (at 18th Street), S.F. Admission is $10-15; call 362-8193 or visit www.citylights.com. The "Walking Tour" launches at 3 p.m. at the Dewey Monument in Union Square, Geary & Stockton, S.F. Admission is free; call 452-8860 or visit www.henrygeorgesf.org. "Celebrate May Day" starts at 10 a.m. at the Niebyl-Proctor Marxist Library, 6501 Telegraph (at Dana), Oakland. Admission is free-$5; call (510) 595-7417 or visit www.marxistlibr.org.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser
Any guidebook can inform globe-trotters about their destination's lodging, restaurants, and attractions. But only someone who's been there can spin stories about the day-to-day life of faraway lands. With 10 years of Travelers' Tales under their belts, series editors chose the cream of the crop for a new title, The Best Travelers' Tales 2004: True Stories From Around the World. Hear contributors read at 7 p.m. at Get Lost Travel Books, 1825 Market (at Guerrero), S.F. Admission is free; call 437-0529 or visit www.getlostbooks.com.
-- Joyce Slaton
Rising in the East
Though we consider baseball all-American, in Japan the popularity of the game has created a new generation of sports stars. Hideo Nomo was the first; now sluggers like Ichiro Suzuki and Hideki Matsui are breaking through. Hear about this new trend from author Robert Whiting at "Play Ball! 'Godzilla' in the Major Leagues," at 6 p.m. at the Fairmont Hotel, 950 Mason, S.F. Admission is $10-15; visit www.usajapan.org.
-- Joyce Slaton