Archive for the ‘Downtown’ Category

Writer-designers to appear at RADAR

Laura Albert, Savannah Knoop

Savannah Knoop (pictured at right in 2007 with erstwhile JT LeRoy writer Laura Albert), who for several years played the role of JT LeRoy in public — as seen here, where she is referred to as “Trannie to the Stars” — will appear as herself in the monthly RADAR reading series Tuesday at 6:00 pm at the San Francisco Public Library. Knoop, a fashion designer, is the author of “Girl Boy Girl,” a memoir about the hoax. (“Knoop” means “knot” in Dutch, by the way, a suitable name for someone with a tangled identity.)

Also appearing is Meliza Bañales, who also designs clothing in addition to being a writer, filmmaker and performance artist, and Chelsea Starr, ditto. These are the kind of people for whom the Bay Area queer arts scene was invented; and if it didn’t already exist, they would invent it. Produced by Michelle Tea (who else?), the reading will be at 6:00 pm at the SF Public Library Main Branch [map].

Unless there is a riot following the Prop. 8 decision by the California Supreme Court.

The Mysteries of Pittsburgh: The Movie

MOP014_Peter Sarsgaard as Cleveland Arning and Jon Foster as Art Bechstein stare up at the cloud factory

[Peter Sarsgaard & Jon Foster contemplate The Cloud Factory. Courtesy Peace Arch Films.]

Michael Chabon’s first novel, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, has been made into a feature film (website here) opening this Friday evening at the Embarcadero Center Cinema. It stars Jon Foster as Art Bechstein and Nick Nolte as his gangster dad, Sienna Miller as the love interest, and Peter Sarsgaard as the jealous semi-ex boyfriend. To quote the plot summary from the ticket page:

A coming-of-age story set in the faded glory of early 1980s-era Pittsburgh … the story opens with Art Bechstein (Foster) floundering in his new-found post-college freedom, opting to take the job with the least amount of responsibility he can find (at the appropriately titled Book Barn), while sleep walking through the Series Seven prep courses that will speed him into a job chosen for him by his father (Nolte), far away from the security of his childhood Pittsburgh. Art’s fortunes begin to change when a chance encounter with freshman roommate and part-time drug dealer Mohammed (Omid Abtahi) lands him at a swanky summer party where he falls for the beautifully tipsy Jane Bellwether (Miller). The two quickly connect over a late-night plate of pie, but Jane’s on-again off-again boyfriend Cleveland (Sarsgaard) has other plans for the pair. Taking Art hostage from the dreary Book Barn, Cleveland threatens to throw Art off the top of an abandoned steel mill, a hide-out that Cleveland romantically calls “The Cloud Factory.” Suspended high above Pittsburgh, Art realizes that his summer has finally begun, what would become the last true summer of his life.

Superfans of the book should know that the director and screenwriter, Rawson Marshall Thurber (Dodgeball) has substantially reworked the material to make it more cinematic; you may already have noticed that one major character is entirely gone from the summary above, and a lot of other stuff has been dropped, added, or otherwise changed. But in spite of all that, it really captures the essence of the book — which isn’t surprising, as Michael Chabon himself was intimately involved with the development of the film, giving a great deal of support to Thurber and feedback on his script, and he has approved of the final product.

Incidentally, last year I wrote about how Oakley Hall prompted Chabon to turn that dad into a gangster, so in a way, we have Oakley Hall to thank for this nice movie.

Tickets available here; engagement begins Friday night at the Embarcadero Center Cinema.

Florida bookstore display has Obama fans enraged, but SFers yawned

According to the Washington Post, a bookstore window display in Coral Gables, Fl. has people outraged at the pairing of Obama books with one entitled “Monkeys.” But when Alexander Book Co. did something similar in January and SFist blogged about it, commenters yawned. “There reaches a point when pointing one’s finger and screaming ‘racism’ crosses the line into paranoia,” one wrote, while another said, “Only in overly sensitive San Francisco would something this obviously meaningless get any attention.” Hmm, maybe not.

RADAR reading includes appearance by JT LeRoy hoaxer

Laura Albert (l.) and Savannah Knoop

'JT LeRoy' writer Laura Albert (l.) and Savannah Knoop

Savannah Knoop, who for several years played the role of JT LeRoy in public, will appear as herself in Michelle Tea’s monthly RADAR reading series tonight at 6:00 pm at the San Francisco Public Library. (Description, times and location of the event here.)

Knoop is the author of Girl Boy Girl: How I Became JT LeRoy from Seven Stories Press. Tea told me Knoop would be “reading something, and that there will be elements of performance art as well” at the event.

Also appearing are filmmaker and writer Hilary Goldberg,performer Lauren LoGiudice, and Fresno poet Bana Witt — who is great. My money’s on Witt to steal the show.

Vegas’s loss is San Francisco’s gain

After President Barack Obama Monday told an Indiana audience that companies should “not give out these big bonuses until you’ve paid taxpayers back. You can’t get corporate jets — (applause) — you can’t go take a trip to Las Vegas or go down to the Super Bowl on the taxpayers’ dime,” the investment bank Goldman Sachs announced it was moving a conference from Las Vegas to San Francisco. (Update: here’s a link to information about the conference in question.)

Not because San Francisco is cheaper, because it’s not. No, money was “not the driving reason behind (the decision),” a spokesman said. “The decision to relocate the conference is based on our best efforts to operate according to the requirements of the new landscape of our industry.”

Goldman Sachs got $10 billion in the TARP bailout last fall. Wells Fargo, based in San Francisco, recently canceled a trip to Vegas for some of its employees. They received $25 billion. (The bank, not the employees.)

Now Las Vegas’s mayor is demanding an apology from Obama for implying there’s something wrong with going to Las Vegas. “What’s a better place, as I say, than for them to come here,” Oscar Goodman told a Las Vegas TV station. “And to change their mind and to go someplace else and to cancel — and at the suggestion of the president of the United States — that’s outrageous.”

Trash Pile-Up

Along with burning portapotties, there’s another stinky & troublesome condition in urban life, the trash pile-up.

I live in an apartment building. My neighbor notices that when she throws trash down on the weekend, it piles up in the dumpster. She has to go down to the garage and shuffle around the bags to make sure none of it falls out and breaks on the floor.

The situation is that the weekend trash guys don’t empty the dumpsters. They take an empty recycling container, put a few bags in it, and wheel that out of the garage.

I have video of this occurring, but I’m worried that if I post the footage, garbage guys will know which building, and we’ll *never* get our trash picked up. Our recourse? Pretty much none. It’s a 1-trash-company-town.

Time to air some dirty laundry- do you have any gripes with the trash guys?

San Francisco Graphic Design Presents a Vibrant Picture of Bay Area Design, Past and Present

North Face packaging. Nature’s Gate shampoo bottles. The Prismacolor box. Chances are, you’re already familiar with these items, among many others on display in San Francisco Graphic Design, an exhibit running through April 26th at the San Francisco Museum of Craft and Design (500 Sutter Street). Although you’ve seen these items, and they’ve probably touched your life, you may not know that they were all designed by individuals and firms right here in the Bay Area. From 6 to 8 tomorrow evening, curator Michael Osborne will give a public walk-through of this great show.

During a similar press tour given one week after the opening, Osborne told me that one of his goals with the show was “simply to show people the wide range of everyday products with extraordinary design that they know, but which they might not necessarily know was done here.” To that end, the show begins with a timeline on one wall near the entrance, presenting a history of local graphic design, featuring iconic images that have been produced here, such as the 1969 Gap logo.

However, the show is much more than a greatest-hits parade of Bay Area design. Out of approximately 1,400 graphic designers active in the Bay Area right now, Osborne selected 13 to be specially featured with large displays. His goal with these designers was to show work that is “slightly under the radar.”

Those two goals — demonstrating the ubiquity of extraordinary design from the Bay Area on the one hand, and bringing to the surface work that few are aware of on the other — don’t conflict as much as one might think. For example, few objects are more familiar in kitchens and sitting rooms throughout the Bay Area than the titles published by Chronicle Books. If you’ve spent any time in the cookbook section of a bookstore lately, you’ve undoubtedly seen books like The Country Cooking of France and Simply Organic on the shelf, or maybe you’ve seen the Rex Ray titles in the art section. But it’s likely you’ve never heard of their designer, Sara Schneider, who is the publisher’s in-house design director. The display devoted to her work is even set up like a bookstore, with a chair nearby and a reading light — strictly notional, at 40 watts — hanging above it. I was told that visitors to the museum are invited to sit down and pull a book off the shelf for browsing. I highly recommend you take a good look at Love Hotels: The Hidden Fantasy Rooms of Japan.

Osborne is a good choice to put together just such a show. A noted designer in his own right, he founded his own firm, Michael Osborne Design, Inc. in 1981, and he has designed quite a number of things you’ll probably recognize, not only Prismacolor’s packaging, but also a number of stamps for the USPS: the 2002 and 2004 Love stamps, the 2006 Wedding Stamp set, the 2006 Madonna and Child stamp, and the 2007 Patriotic Banner Stamp.

Osborne said that although his selection is representative of the Bay Area design community, it does not provide an exact mirror image. For one thing, although women are outnumbered in the field at large, this show presents nearly a 50–50 split. And because one of his objects was to inspire students just getting into design, he chose to place a heavy emphasis on the work of designers who are now in the prime of their careers, along with three relative newcomers to keep things fresh.

Two of those relative newcomers are Adam Brodsley and Eric Heiman of Volume Inc, whose work you may recognize from the 2008 San Francisco Jewish Film Festival materials or from the ReadyMade book. (They like yellow. A lot.) The other designers and firms featured in the show are Philippe Becker (Philippe Becker Design, which did the Nature’s Gate design), Josh Chen (Chen Design Associates, which did the North Face packaging), Barbara Vick (Barbara Vick Design), Tom Ingalls (Ingalls Design), Jennifer Jerde (Elixir Design), Mitchell Mauk (Mauk Design), Jennifer Bostic (Paper Plane Studio), Michael Schwab (Michael Schwab Studio), Christopher Simmons (MINE), and Cinthia Wen (NOON).

One of the most intriguing portions of the exhibit was a wall consisting of large, square shopping bags, each one designed by a different individual in the show. Osborne gave them a simple task: use only black and white, and put a statement on the bag that summarizes your approach to design. Perhaps because designers are not necessarily verbally-oriented, the assignment turned out to be more daunting than he supposed, and the display turned out to be the most difficult one to curate in the whole show. However, the effort was worth it: the arrangement of the bags, with all their bold text — advice on how to live and how to design — is really striking where it’s placed, against a back wall between two riotously colorful and busy walls, and it serves as a nice summary of the show itself, as it brings all the designers, with their disparate viewpoints and approaches, together to be appreciated in a single glance.

Seller’s Market

Market St.
New shop opened 3 different locations downtown. Between 3rd and 4th on Market is “Seller’s Market” a kind of quick, organic eating place with SCORE outside seating. I’m somewhat pimping, as a friend’s coworker left her ad agency job to be marketing manager here, and plied me with fresh drinks and yummy guacamole…
Besides the great people-watching, as this is the common corridor from Bart to all MUNI points beyond, I ran into an old friend here, walking to the gym, and I got to ply her with beer and conversation. Isn’t that a fantasy we all have- that on the way to the gym our friends will pull us into a cafe and make us drink beer and eat nachos?

Tales from the MLA: profs and job seekers in the trenches

From the annual MLA conference taking place in San Francisco this weekend, bloggers report:

  • Bev, “English professor at a small college in the Midwest,” says the Hilton is a maddening labyrinth, so “I fought my way out this morning at 6 a.m. (because my body thinks it’s still in Ohio) and walked down Market Street to the Embarcadero and back, accompanied only by the snap-crackle-pop of the streetcars, the snoring of homeless people sleeping on the sidewalk, and the occasional frantic flutter of a flock of pigeons. … Store windows sparkle with dresses I can’t imagine wearing…”
  • The mass interview room at the Hilton, where dozens of career make-or-break interviews take place simultaneously, “is undignified and it stinks.” The same post cites another blogger who reported on a candidate “whose bag fell over spilling a veritable pharmacy of drugs across the floor.”
  • Another blogger reports: “I am not loving the MLA, as I never have loved the MLA. I’m insecure about my lame-ass institution; I can’t find anyone I know, nor did I do a remotely good job of setting up fun reunions… I’m likely to be eating most meals alone.”
  • In the Chronicle of Higher Education, Jennifer Howard reports, “This year the unofficial theme is ‘Who’s getting work at all?’ The numbers look terrible. Job listings in language-and-literature fields are down more than 22 percent from last year…”

The conference continues through Tuesday.

Film: SFFS New Italian Cinema Continues Through Nov. 23


[Image from Black Sea.]

Another one of the many, many film festivals of late November, the San Francisco Film Society’s New Italian Cinema series continues at the Embarcadero Cinema tonight through Sunday, November 23rd. If you haven’t been to any of the films since it started Sunday, don’t fret: you’ve only missed three out of the twelve features that comprise the festival. So don’t write it off!

There are a number of good-to-great films in the lineup, as KQED’s Michael Fox reports here. The films for this afternoon and evening include two that Fox reviews: A Night at 4:30, and Cover Boy: The Last Revolution at 6:15. (Each has another screening on the 22nd and the 23rd, respectively.) Don’t miss Black Sea, pictured above, which screens at 7:00 on Friday and Saturday night.

Above all, don’t miss the closing night reception on Sunday from 7:30 in the former Gallery One space of One Embarcadero. The reception offers “complimentary Peroni beer, wine from Siena Imports and delicious appetizers from Fuzio Universal Bistro,” and it will be followed by a screening at 8:45 by a film I’ve been advised no one should miss: Gomorrah, a “hyper-realistic drama” based on Robert Saviano’s groundbreaking expose by the same name: “far from the glamorized portrait of the Mafia common in American films, Gomorrah is grim, gritty, almost documentary-like cinema—an exposé of widespread corruption and an impassioned demand that something be done to halt its spread.”

In other words, if you are weak of stomach, don’t hit the Peroni too hard before viewing this one. But don’t skip it, either.

Full schedule here; all films screen at the Embarcadero Cinema, in Embarcadero One. Advance tix here.

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