Pixel Vision

The Performant: Cheers for fears

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If you consume the news at all you'll find a lot to be afraid of that seems endemic to the modern age: swine flu, restless leg syndrome, Ellis Act evictions, terrorist sleeper cells, compromised data privacy, zombie attacks. But despite its almost constant presence in our lives, this kind of fear merely creates a continuous low-grade malaise, an emotional state which appears to benefit only the evolution of pharmaceutical companies and the self-help book publishing trade.

So it's no wonder that in our search for "real" sensation, we often turn towards a more primal state of fear. The sort of fear that compels us to skydive out of airplanes, ride roller coasters, and surf giant waves, activities designed to trigger that survivalist fight or flight instinct that we then harness for our own adrenaline-generating, sensation-seeking purposes. The kind of fear that compels us to visit that most seasonal of attractions: the haunted house.

There are haunted houses designed to make you laugh and haunted houses designed to make you scream, and ideally a bit of each, a giddy state of being which San Leandro's Fear Overload makes a considered effort to provide.

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'Long Shot' doc follows Bay Area hoops star Kevin Laue

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Perfectly timed to coincide with the start of basketball season: the release of Franklin Martin's Long Shot: The Kevin Laue Story, billed as "Hoop Dreams meets Murderball," with a healthy shot of Linsanity (now playing) to boot.

Martin spent four years following the Pleasanton-raised Laue, who was born with a left arm that ends just below his elbow. We see the budding hoops star — an honor student at Amador Valley High School as the film begins — mature from tousle-haired teen standout to Division I hopeful, refining his skills at a tough Virginia military academy along the way. Read more »

Sweet 'n' local: chocolate-making with Dandelion at the SF Botanical Garden

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"My name is Kaylen, and I'm a chocoholic," I announced at the Mesoamerican cloud forest at the San Francisco Botanical Garden Society (SFBGS), where users like me met for a recent course taught by Dandelion Chocolate. But what else is there to know about chocolate, apart from learning how to quit?

A whole botanical and cultural history, as it turns out, including tribal trading spats, terroir to make a oenophile envious, and ancient medicinal remedies — so don't stop drinking just yet. (Sound enticing? Sign up for SFBGS's upcoming class with Dandelion Chocolate and Four Barrel Coffee on Nov. 9; more Dandelion events here.) Here's the report.

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Docs, docu-dramas, and one verrrry angry high schooler: new movies!

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This week's fare includes a thoughtful doc about the debate over late-term abortions, Benedict Cumberbatch's star turn as Julian Assange, the Carrie remake, and more.

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The Performant: There will be blood

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It’s Halloween season at last, a time of year when San Francisco really shines, despite the encroaching autumnal shortening of days. In fact, during the day, it’s almost hard to remember that it’s October at all, what with all of those music and street festivals soaking up the rays, but once night falls, it belongs very definitely to darker entertainments, a realm in which San Francisco excels. One of the season’s most reliable harbingers are the Thrillpeddlers and their patented evenings of Grand Guignol spectacle, Shocktoberfest!

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They came, they saw, they burned: scenes from the 2013 Dirtbag Challenge

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This is a follow-up to Keep Choppin'. You probably wanna check that (and this blog post) out first.

The go-to joke is that Alex "Koshka" Verbitsky claimed the Dirtbag Challenge — held Sun/13 at the end of Quesada Ave. — for Moldova. His 1969 CB 450 build took home not only the Coolest Bike title as voted by the fellow builders, but also the People's Choice Award. His build was inspired by old-fashioned board-track racers, taking chopping back to its roots in the 1910s and '20s.

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Pleased to meat you: Fatted Calf Charcuterie

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If you’ve ever found yourself waiting for the 16 Express on the corner of Fell and Gough, then it’s easy to bet you’ve swiveled around on that red bench to peer through the glass wall of the charcuterie and butcher shop behind, where ruby-colored sausages, pâtés, smoked ham, bacon and meatloaf show off their curves inside a refrigerated display. Unthinkingly, you’ll have walked in.

The Hayes Valley location of the Fatted Calf Charcuterie — the store also has a Napa outpost and a weekly presence at the Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market — sells a plethora of coveted artisanal delights as well, like hard cheese, house-pickled beets, dried beans, and impeccable pastas. Among the sandwiches, the coffee-bourbon barbeque pulled pork sandwich contains a moist piquancy, while the toasty Croque Monseiur, dripping of Mornay sauce and overlaid with squiggles of cured ham, is worth missing the next bus for. (Grab an extra napkin — these beasts invariably fall apart in your hands and lap.)

You can’t take the entire shop with you, but luckily owners Taylor Boetticher and Toponia Miller just published their first cookbook, In the Charcuterie (Ten Speed Press, 2013), which reads like a whole world of meat — one I’ve become enamored with, after making the Flaky Leaf Lard Biscuits. I caught up with Boetticher before the couple left on a promotional trip, asking him about their journey in charcuterie.

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Machete rages, Tom Hanks sails, and Romeo and Juliet (spoiler alert!) die in the end: new movies!

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First things first: do not pass go or collect your turkey leg until you've seen Escape From Tomorrow, the shot-secretly-at-Disney sci-fi drama that will, in fact, blow your mind. Dennis Harvey's review here. (Speaking of mind-blowing, have you seen Gravity yet? If not, why are you still reading this? Why aren't you rushing to the theater RIGHT NOW?)

Elsewhere this week: two powerful tales of survival are told in doc The Summit and Paul Greengrass' Captain Phillips, which stars Tom Hanks and will make you glad your job doesn't require you to traverse pirate-infested shipping lanes. My reviews of both here.

We've also got the latest exploitation-fan catnip from Robert Rodriguez, Machete Kills, starring Danny Trejo (fantasy role-swap: Danny Trejo as Captain Phillips), a comedy in which Amy Poehler plays Adam Scott's stepmother, a Twilight-informed Shakespeare flick, and more. Read on!

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"You've got to be inside the action:" Paul Greengrass discusses filmmaking and 'Captain Phillips'

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Paul Greengrass' latest action film, Captain Phillips, stars Tom Hanks as an American cargo-ship captain taken hostage by Somali pirates. This based-on-true-events tale also stars newcomer Barkhad Abdi as pirate leader Muse. It opens tomorrow — but today, read on for more intel from my recent interview with Greengrass when he stopped by San Francisco to promote the film.

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Jinkx Monsoon brings Little Edie to SF (and beyond)

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Who would have thought a self-described theater nerd, narcoleptic comedy queen would win it all in Season 5 of RuPaul’s Drag Race? Anyone watching the season could have told you as much, especially after sweet, talented Seattle queen Jinkx Monsoon took on legendary Jackie O relative/documentary subject Little Edie Beale during the “Snatch Game” episode.

Her vivid, spot-on Little Edie drawl, mannerisms, and makeup made Monsoon a shoe-in for the episode winner at least, even though “Snatch Game” impressions usually lean heavily toward over-the-top pop star and actress imitations. 

That’s not to say Monsoon’s not an actress -- she’s a star of theater, having performed in a handful of colorful productions including her own two-person play, The Vaudevillians. And she’ll bring those sharp acting chops and glamorous old-fashioned movie star style to the Peaches Christ arena this weekend with two shows and showings of the original Grey Gardens (1975) documentary. Read more »