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Monday, July 11, 2011

The First-Thursday "Place to Be" -- Good Food and Outlandish Fashion Challenge Great Art

Posted By on Mon, Jul 11, 2011 at 3:30 PM

The galleries at 49 Geary are always among the hot spots on First Thursday in San Francisco.
  • The galleries at 49 Geary are always among the hot spots on First Thursday in San Francisco.
Dear 49 Geary: I'm afraid you just got served.

First Thursdays at the prestigious address are always intellectually, perhaps even spiritually satisfying, not only for art's enriching effect on the mind and soul, but also because, as with any intellectual or spiritual pursuit, you must suffer physical discomforts, deprivations, and abstentions to achieve enlightenment. The elevators are invariably so busy you don't bother to take them from floor to floor in the five-story complex, and instead opt to squeeze past the corridor texters to schlep the cold stone stairs, regretting the high heels you thought looked so Helmut Newton.

The galleries are lit and kept at a similar temperature to Whole Foods' hot buffet, and when you visit one of the few that offer refreshment, you are given a plastic cup of water that would be enough to soak your contacts in. You find yourself lingering near the refreshment stand, pretending to find whatever art happens to be nearby particularly mesmerizing, and return three or four times, hand outstretched like some sweaty, blotchy Oliver Twist in senseless shoes and Rorschach mascara cheeks: "Please, intern, can I have some more?"

To be sure, notable works were on display at the venerable art-mall. But first, 49 Geary, I'll speak of your First Thursday competition. Its name is the San Francisco Jazz Heritage Center.

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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Matthew Stadler 'Covers' a Novel Like a Musician Would Cover a Song

Posted By on Thu, Jun 23, 2011 at 12:00 PM

Matthew Stadler (right) holds Chloe Jarren's La Cucaracha, a "cover" of John le Carré's A Murder of Quality.
  • Matthew Stadler (right) holds Chloe Jarren's La Cucaracha, a "cover" of John le Carré's A Murder of Quality.

Is the book dead?

I've heard this question so many times you'd think books were as impossible to find as dinosaurs. In peril is the publishing industry as we know it, not the book, and with the advent of print-on-demand publishing, some are finding new models to create and distribute books. One such innovator is Matthew Stadler, who appeared in conversation last night with author and curator Lawrence Rinder at Kadist Art Foundation. In 2009 Stadler cofounded the Portland-based Publication Studios with Patricia No. Now with six imprints spanning North America, Publication Studios offers a glimpse of the possibilities of independent outfits producing handcrafted books.

Stadler is also an innovator in literature itself. He discussed at length his new novel, Chloe Jarren's La Cucaracha, which is what he calls a "cover novel" -- much like a cover song, essentially writing over and expanding upon an established work.

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Friday, June 17, 2011

Opening Night at LGBT Film Festival Frameline35 Feels Like Coming Home

Posted By on Fri, Jun 17, 2011 at 11:03 AM

Frameline35 volunteers Sonya (left) and Chewy celebrate their first anniversary at opening night. - STEPHANIE ECHEVESTE
  • Stephanie Echeveste
  • Frameline35 volunteers Sonya (left) and Chewy celebrate their first anniversary at opening night.
At some film festivals, people talk to you only because they want to steal the seat next to you or think you might be able to get them into the afterparty. Frameline35 is different. Opening night of the San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival was buzzing with friends, albeit mostly gay men, who welcomed each other excitedly, with the same kind of joyful hugs and smiles you'd give to your sister after a long flight home for the holidays.

It felt like more than a film festival. It felt like a homecoming.

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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Cecile Richards: 'Planned Parenthood Does More to Prevent Abortion than Any Other Agency'

Posted By on Wed, Jun 15, 2011 at 4:30 PM

Update: An earlier version of this story Clarification has been clarified regarding the different territories of Planned Parenthood Shasta Pacific and Planned Parenthood Mar Monte. Shasta Pacific covers San Francisco, and Mar Monte covers Oakland.

Talking about politics is like anchovies on pizza: a small, strange portion of the population claims to enjoy it, but most of us can't quite stomach it.

But Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, managed it elegantly last night at the Commonwealth Club, where she discussed her life, her mission, and recent congressional actions that Planned Parenthood has called the "most devastating assault on women's health in American history."

Besides all that, her poise inspired me to try talking politics again and see whether it still make me want to barf. More on that -- and the curious state of Planned Parenthood in San Francisco -- below.

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Friday, June 3, 2011

First Thursday at 49 Geary with the Beautiful and the Braless

Posted By on Fri, Jun 3, 2011 at 10:00 AM

Isa Leshko (left) stands with Ashley Adams at Cordon Potts Gallery, where Leshko's exhibit "Thrills and Chills" opened.
  • Isa Leshko (left) stands with Ashley Adams at Cordon Potts Gallery, where Leshko's exhibit "Thrills and Chills" opened.

It was a quieter first Thursday at 49 Geary than some others in recent memory, which I'm going to chalk up to the glorious weather outside rather than lack of excitement inside. The fourth floor enjoyed something closer to a party atmosphere due to two notable openings, Fan Ho's "A Hong Kong Memoir" at Modernbook Gallery and Isa Leshko's "Thrills and Chills" at Corden Potts, as well as the continuing buzz around Richard Learoyd's acclaimed "Presences" at Fraenkel.

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Thursday, June 2, 2011

Tales of the City at A.C.T.: A Fitfully Entertaining Love Letter to Yesteryear's Bohemians and Sodomites

Posted By on Thu, Jun 2, 2011 at 11:00 AM

Tales of the City

Through July 10 at American Conservatory Theater, 415 Geary (at Mason), S.F. Tickets are $40-$127; call 749-2228 or visit

NOTE: A full-length version of this review will appear in print and online on June 22.

28 Barbary Lane just got a little bit gayer. On May 31, A.C.T. premiered a new musical based on Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City novels, with music and lyrics co-written by Scissor Sisters frontman Jake Shears.

If you're a fan of the books, you'll probably get downright giddy at the sight of Mary Ann Singleton (the radiant Betsy Wolfe) belting out a production number on her first day as a resident of San Francisco, or Michael "Mouse" Tolliver (Wesley Taylor) performing a fully choreographed striptease in the Jockey Shorts Dance Contest. But even the most enthusiastic Maupin partisans should be prepared for a show that is in every respect a very mixed bag.

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Friday, May 20, 2011

BadBadBad, a "Transmedia Underground Novel," Has Frustratingly Brilliant Debut

Posted By on Fri, May 20, 2011 at 9:30 AM

Burlesque and a bullhorn: Jesús Ángel García at the helm.
  • Burlesque and a bullhorn: Jesús Ángel García at the helm.
Jesús Ángel García had intended for the launch party of his underground novel BadBadBad to be a "transmedia" extravaganza that would change the notion of what a book launch could be. He didn't quite get there.

"This is a transmedia novel by a Luddite writer ... so we might have some issues," he said.

And issues there were. The Fivepoints Arthouse projector wouldn't acknowledge García's laptop for a while. There was supposed to be an album that went along with the book. (There is none yet.) There was supposed to be a movie, too. (Only certain sections have been completed.)

"I have a complicated relationship with technology," García said.

So what he ended up with was just a kickass book launch party -- the kind that opens with a woman passing around whiskey shots in Dixie cups from a platter. But he's working on it. And although "transmedia" might not be the clearest vision, whatever it ends up being just might be the future of literature -- if the damn projector will work (which it did eventually).

Here's how he describes it:

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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Bee-In: A Benefit for Literature -- and a Great Opportunity for Public Humiliation

Posted By on Tue, May 17, 2011 at 11:00 AM

Jill Tracy attempts to spell.
  • Jill Tracy attempts to spell.
Fuchsia. Hullabaloo. Knickknack. Sassafras. Luff. Cannelloni. Naiad.

Naiad? Yes, naiad. According to, it can mean one of three things: "[A]ny of a class of nymphs presiding over rivers and springs; ... the juvenile form of the dragonfly; ... [or] a female swimmer, especially an expert one."

Not the easiest word to remember or to spell. That could be why it eliminated author Matt Stewart last night at the Bee-In, the annual fundraiser for Small Press Distribution at Crown Point Gallery. Among others competing were numerous authors, editors, and event producers (Charlie Jane Anders, Susie Bright, Cara Black, Bill Berkson) as well as the random musician (Jill Tracy), actor (Michael Gene Sullivan), and radio reporter (Laura Sydell). Hosting was the ever-lively Sedge Thomson of KALW-FM's West Coast Live. The judge was Geoffrey Nunberg, NPR commentator, UC Berkeley professor, and board member of the American Heritage Dictionary.

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Friday, May 13, 2011

What Armistead Maupin Gave San Francisco in Tales of the City

Posted By on Fri, May 13, 2011 at 12:00 PM

Armistead Maupin and Marga Gomez - SAMUEL KLATCHKO
  • Samuel Klatchko
  • Armistead Maupin and Marga Gomez
Armistead Maupin got teary-eyed Thursday night.

It was right before stepping into the Swedish American Hall, where he'd be the extra special guest at his own literary tribute, Thoroughly Modern Maupin, happening less than a week before the premiere of the musical adaptation of his groundbreaking saga Tales of the City.

"I get such terrible allergies around this time of year," said Maupin, who turns 67 today.

San Francisco's cool uncle is endearing but never sappy.

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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Oliver Stone Gets Political -- and Light-Hearted -- During Film Festival Interview

Posted By on Thu, Apr 28, 2011 at 2:00 PM

"How much more of this can we take? Donald Trump wants to be president," director Oliver Stone asks. - TOMMY LAU
  • Tommy Lau
  • "How much more of this can we take? Donald Trump wants to be president," director Oliver Stone asks.

Say what you will about Oliver Stone, he's a heck of a good sport.

The recipient of this year's Founder's Directing Award from the S.F. International Film Festival was feted last night in the big house at the Sundance Kabuki Theatres with an onstage interview that tilted more toward politics than film. That much was expected. Unexpected were the bemusement, grace, and light humor. They're traits we don't associate with Stone, yet he used them to field an array of absurd comments and queries from the audience, from a kooky screenplay pitch about the 1970 Kent State shootings to a solicitation of his opinion on sustainable gardening in Santa Monica. ("When are we going to get our 40 acres and a mule?")

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