October in San Francisco, with its glorious skies and fleeting warmth, seems an odd time to spend weekends indoors, but that's exactly what thousands of people do during S.F. Open Studios. The oldest and biggest free visual arts event in the nation, this eclectic celebration of everything painted, sculpted, etched, photographed, and otherwise created gives art fans and collectors a chance to escape the stuffy world of museums and galleries and step into the more intimate (and often cluttered) studios, warehouses, and garages of more than 800 local artists. From the eerie nighttime deserts of photographer Tim Baskerville to the quirky sculptures of Adele Louise Shaw to the muted cityscapes of painter Carol Jessen, the pieces lead aficionados and newcomers on a nomadic path through the city (the event features different neighborhoods each week) to meet the artists and watch them work. Get drawn in at the opening exhibition on Friday at 5:30 p.m. at SomArts (934 Brannan at Eighth Street), and then from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. each Saturday and Sunday for the next four weekends throughout S.F. Admission is free; call 861-9838 or visit www.sfopenstudios.com for maps and schedules.
-- Jack Karp
The Book of Ruth
Gourmet magazine's new manual
Much like Pavlov's dogs and their bell, I can't hear Gourmet Editor in Chief Ruth Reichl's name without drooling. Sweet memories of the fried chicken and towering chocolate cakes I've made from her recipes drift through my brain, accompanied by anticipation for all the dishes I've yet to try, now available via The Gourmet Cookbook, a recipe compendium culled from 60 years of issues. The tome's about as heavy as an encyclopedia and twice as useful for cooks, with instructions on preparing favorites both old (pasta marinara, coq au vin) and new (the truffle-stuffed pork loin with rosemary roast potatoes is proof of God's good works), plus kitchen notes and instructional line drawings. Reichl discusses the mammoth undertaking at 7 p.m. at A Clean Well-Lighted Place for Books, 601 Van Ness (at Golden Gate), S.F. Admission is free; call 441-6670 or visit www.bookstore.com.
-- Joyce Slaton
Neal Stephenson's colossal trilogy
It has come to my attention that some think Neal Stephenson's 2,500-plus-page trio of books, which he calls "The Baroque Cycle," makes a fine doorstop. These persons, typically female, are mysteriously bored by dizzying, savantlike accounts of 17th-century natural philosophy, cryptography, vagabonds, Newtonian alchemy, courtly intrigue, pirates, coinage, hound vivisection, disease, and whatnot, all wrapped up in three enormous volumes released just months apart. I ask: What's not to like? The final entry, The System of the World, is out now, much to the delight of fans aching to spend the next year poring through it. The author reads .005 percent of it at 7 p.m. at the Park Branch Library, 1833 Page (at Cole), S.F. Admission is free; call 863-8688 or visit www.booksmith.com.
-- Michael Leaverton
The Coast Road
Larry Sultan and Miranda July are only the best-known names in "Baja to Vancouver: The West Coast and Contemporary Art," a comprehensive show presented by the Wattis Institute that also includes the work of 31 others who explore coastal culture. It continues through Dec. 11 in the college's Logan Galleries, 1111 Eighth St. (at Hooper), S.F. Admission is free; call 551-9210 or visit www.wattis.org.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser