Spring is in the air. Sure, it’s coupled by a lingering chill, but the past few days have brought a cameo by our fair weather (ha!) friend the sun, flowers are popping up and open toed shoe spottings have been increasing in intensity on our city sidewalks. It’s a time of rebirth, renewal… and no small amount of, shall we say, “fecundity” in the world around us.
Such fertility sets the stage nicely for this month’s Exploratorium After Hours night dedicated to the science of hanky panky. If you haven’t yet checked out the kid-friendly science museum’s adult-friendly monthly event, just know that it features all the regular museum exhibits, a cash bar, music, expert lecturers and free parking. February’s theme is “Sexplorations” and it promises a vaguely titillating evening- particularly if you’re into watching insects bang or modern science’s latest findings on your nasty bits.
In our highly messaged world, it follows that activism is followed closely by art. Sometimes the two are indistinguishable from each other. Film and music celebrities perform to raise funds for an earthquake-ravaged Haiti, a farm workers’ union organizes through political theater. Robert Redford is no stranger to this connection. Building on his history of work within the environmental movement, the actor has created the Robert Redford Center- an organization which holds its first event this Thursday, entitled “Art and Activism.” It will feature a public conversation with Redford himself on the title theme and present awards to two honorees, both of whom have elevated their responsibility to help others to veritable art forms.
Victor Diaz, one of the two leaders that will be recognized this week, might have benefited from a program like the one he runs today back when he was a teenager. Berkeley Technology Academy is a step away from traditional continuation schools, one that acknowledges the complexity of life as an underprivileged teenager. “Nine times out of ten,” Diaz says “a kid will tell us ‘I’m selling weed because I can’t get a job.’ We’ll work with them on resume building, help them with their job search- it’s not unusual for us to even buy them clothes that they can go to an interview in.”
This kind of holistic approach for students for whom the traditional educational system has failed is something that Diaz has worked hard to promote in his five years as principal at BTA. The academy strives to keep kids enrolled through their completion of high school, dodging the pitfalls that can occur with conventional “rehabilitation” schools. Typically, students are sent back to their original high schools after a few months at alternative schools- where the same factors that caused them to fail in the first place continue unabated. “[Our approach] holds us accountable to provide all the things they need to graduate,” says Diaz.
Mixtapes were the bomb, right? They represented dedication; time spent crouching by your boombox, starting and stopping and racing for the ‘record’ button when that song came on the radio (early piracy?). The order of songs, the meaning of songs… remember when you’d even record sweet nothings in between tracks for that special someone?
The last mixtape in my possession was made for me by one of my best friends (shout out to you, A cup!) when we were 15 years old, to bring on my exchange student summer in Mexico. It contained the following classics:
This is what genius is made of. Toy monkeys, Bunsen burners, turkey basters, wooden shoes, a 10,000 volt neon transformer, water. Or at least, this is the shape of inspired thought in “Trimpin: The Sound of Invention,” a film playing this weekend at the Red Vic Movie House whose focus is on a sound sculptor creating fantastic sculptures of instruments that are actually played by intricately tuned computer programs.
"Trimpin: The Sound of Invention" playing this weekend at the Red Vic Movie House
Swoon- so dreamy! Gypsy, Crow, Joel, and Tom Servo from "MST 3K"
Here’s the scene. You’re watching a B movie, or a C movie, a D movie- do the grades go lower? At any rate, it’s in grainy glory on your television. A werewolf is stalking a yokel through the misty woods, or a catastrophic fire is testing the limits of the staff of a hospital, or atomic fallout is causing mysterious happenings on a deserted island. Along the bottom of the screen, there is a row of silhouettes- a janitor stuck in space and his robot companions, one fashioned from a gumball machine and the other from gold, with a beak. They’re all riffing along like there’s no tomorrow, injecting sass into some of the greatest movie failures of the modern age. This is truly, a wonderful premise. This is “Mystery Science Theater 3000.” The show was one of cable TV’s biggest cult hits in the ‘90s, spawning websites and online fan forums back in the days when those things were still the domain of the technologically savvy with time on their hands. Joel Hodgson created the show, built the robots, starred and wrote scripts- for the first hundred episodes. Then he left the show entirely. “MST3K” continued on without him, but for many die hard fans, the success of the Hodgson shows could never be duplicated.
Lucky for us, he’s back. Hodgson has assembled the original cast of the show for a live production called “Cinematic Titanic,” which will provide the same bad old movies and razor sharp verbal barbs on stage. Thanks to the SF Sketchfest, it’s coming to the Castro next week as the comedy festival's closing night strong finish. Don't worry, you've still got ample time to get up your homemade space jumpsuit or robot ‘fit. We had the chance to breathlessly moon over Hodgson the other day and he was just dreamy.
San Francisco Bay Guardian:I’ve gotta tell you, I’m a huge fan of the show. We watched it all the time when I was little.,/em> Joel Hodgson: Oh great! And it didn’t screw you up or anything?
SFBG: Nope. Me and my dad had a whole tradition; we’d pick up a pizza and watch the show together. JH: Oh, that’s really great. We meet a lot of people like you on the road, a lot people that started watching the show back then.
SFBG:How long have you been doing the “Cinematic Titanic” shows? JH: Oh man. I just knocked something over. Okay. Two years. We did our first show two years ago at Industrial Light and Magic in San Francisco at the Lucas Films complex.
SFBG:You left “Mystery Science Theater 3000” after 100 shows. I read somewhere that it was because you were tired of performing in front of the camera. JH: That’s what I said. But it was a bit of a dodge. I was fighting with my partner [producer Jim Mallon]. That’s why I quit. I lied to everyone, basically.
SFBG:Well then it must have been really sad to leave the show. JH: I really regret leaving the show. But I did it in the hopes that it would live on. The nature of [my troubles with Mallon] was the kind of thing that would wreck the show. Surprisingly it worked out. Mike [Nelson, Hodgson’s replacement on the show] got in there and did a great job.
SFBG:How long will you be doing the “Cinematic Titanic” shows? JH: I love “Cinematic Titanic.” It’s a really great job to write riffs. Its one of those things, I love it. But I have to go get in the right frame of mind to do it. I have to go exercise first. For four hours a day, I write. It’s really great fun.
It doesn't bear thinking about. This tray for making heart-shaped ice cubes (50 cents), that "Tamales of the World" poster (two for $3), the pile of fabric swatches over yonder- what would have become of them if not for the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse? The Temescal neighborhood donation center/junk store was started in 1979 by a pair of teachers as a place where educators could find cheap classroom supplies. It's since become a mecca for the creative, the industrious and the very, very cheap. We're talking shelves and buckets of loosely organized ephemera, priced at costs that encourage you to stock up on... whatever. Turkey basters to vintage postcards.
Good morning, sunshine! Or shall we say good afternoon? You are perhaps in need of a solid dose of protein, vitamin C, and a little hair of the dog in observance of this fine new trip around the sun? No worries — we are blessed to live in a city that takes its lingering late morning gluttony very seriously. Here are eight sites to struggle out to for New Year's Day brunch.Read more »
On a sunny afternoon in Civic Center Plaza, a remarkable bounty covered a buffet table: coconut quinoa, organic mushroom tabouli, homemade vegan desserts, and an assortment of other yummy treats. Read more »
Gang, put away those Halloween costumes 'cause it's that time of year again: gift list time. And oh lordy, do we Americans love us some holiday season! It's gotten to the point that the annual orgy of consumerism, though somewhat abated this year (the National Retail Federation says projected per-person spending will fall to a piddling $682.74), has become an important crutch for our gimpy economy. Basically your ducats make a difference. With that in mind, the question becomes: what kind of difference are they making? Read more »
"Silk screening is cheap, easy, and you can do it anyplace," Calixto Robles says, looking over the busy workshop floor at Mission Gráfica. On any given week, the crowd might include a musician designing a CD cover, an activist creating a call-to-arms, an arts-and-craftser turning out calendars she sells online, or Robles himself, who teaches classes here and produces bright-hued prints filled with icons of Latino culture, from Teotihuacan to Carlos Santana.Read more »