Pixel Vision

SF Sketchfest posted its schedule today! (Spoiler: it's awesome)

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Dudes! Nerds! Pedro-voters! SF Sketchfest 2014 posted its complete schedule today, unveiling over 200 shows to be held in 20 venues from Jan. 23-Feb. 9. Over the past 13 years, the fest has exploded from humble local offering to one of the most popular comedy events in the country, luring the biggest names in the biz — as well as cult comedy heroes — to town.

Tickets go on sale Sun/15 at 10am, and since SF Sketchfest is P.O.P.U.L.A.R., you won't want to delay if something in the line-up catches your eye. (Pro-tip: though the festival does contain sketch shows, it also has music, film screenings, live recordings of pod casts, panel discussions, lots of tributes, and more.) You want guidance? Highlights? Best bets and sleeper hits? Read on!

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Dragons and drag: new movies from Peter Jackson and Tyler Perry, plus more!

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Breathe easy, halfling: the middle installment in Peter Jackson's Hobbit trilogy is a huge improvement over the first film. Also new this week: Emma Thompson turns in a cranky-yet-lovable performance as the woman who wrote Mary Poppins in Saving Mr. Banks (with Tom Hanks playing Walt Disney); Liev Schreiber battles oddly familiar space monsters in The Last Days on Mars; and Tyler Perry celebrates the holidays as only he can, with A Madea Christmas. Read on for reviews and trailers.

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Personal archives: CAAM's home-movie project Memories to Light

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For as long as I can remember, my family has spent New Year's Day at my aunt and uncle’s house in Campbell. As we had our fill of sushi and kamaboko, watched football, and, in more recent years, entertained my little cousins, my Uncle Hiro would walk around the house with his video camera, getting everyone on tape. He would focus in on my brother and me, narrating in Japanese so I could only catch our names and how old we were that year. It was just a thing Uncle Hiro did on New Years Day. I never thought of it as recording history.

But that’s exactly what home movies are – a largely untapped source of our histories from an intimate and personal perspective. Recognizing this, the Center for Asian American Media has developed Memories to Light, an initiative that collects, digitizes, and shares the home movies of Asian American families. Advances in digital media and discussions between CAAM executive director Stephen Gong and archivist and filmmaker Rick Prelinger gave way to the project, which has now gained over a dozen family collections and somewhere between 30 and 50 hours of footage.

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The Performant: Home is where the art is

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Valencia Street art space struggles to retain its physical and spiritual existence
 
Sometimes you stumble across places that just feel like home the instant you step across the threshold. Maybe not the kind of home where you lounge around in sweatpants binging on Dynamo Donuts and Netflix, but a home that offers comfort for the spirit, where creativity and intention reign. Curiosity shop, design showcase, and artist enclave, Viracocha at 998 Valencia Street has been one such home for many, from the poets who helped build its pallet-wood walls, to the neighborhood literati who donated to and borrowed from Ourshelves, the private lending library that until very recently occupied the back of the building, to the acoustic musicians and spoken-word artists who gathered in the basement to perform and to connect, to the visual artists whose work was treated as décor first and merchandise almost as an afterthought.

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In the last week before Oscar/Christmas season really roars to life ... new movies!

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This week, we feature a pair of excellent documentaries: Frederick Wiseman's At Berkeley (review here) and The Punk Singer, about riot grrrl icon Kathleen Hanna (review and interview here). Read on for short takes on this week's new releases!

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The Performant: Dead man’s party

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Despite the supposed onset of winter, it’s another sunny day as I pedal up to the San Francisco Columbarium, a stately domed edifice perched at the end of a discreet cul de sac off Geary and Arguello. Currently operated by the secular Neptune Society, the Columbarium is one of the last remaining repositories for the dead within San Francisco city limits, the majority of San Francisco’s deceased having been relocated to Colma from the turn of the 20th century on. A group of about 30 curiosity seekers have gathered at the gates. We’ve all come for an Obscura Society “field trip,” in this instance a tour of the iconic structure, led by the man who has been credited with almost single-handedly presiding over the Columbarium’s resurrection from decades of neglect, Emmitt Watson.

The Obscura Society is an offshoot of four year-old online encyclopedia of wonder, Atlas Obscura, and other local excursions have included ones to Suisun Bay, the Albany Bulb, the San Francisco Motorcycle Club clubhouse, an abandoned train station in Oakland, the Zymoglyphic Museum of San Mateo, and an after-dark tour of the Woodlawn cemetery in Colma. Like a darker, more relentless version of Nerd Nite with stronger drinks and more historians, its Tuesday night salons at the DNA Lounge are equally expansive, covering a whole gamut of hidden histories on topics such as vigilantes, rum-runners, the Donner Party, rail transportation, and absinthe.

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A fan reacts: 'The Day of the Doctor' at Comic Outpost

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No power in the universe was going to stop local Whovians from enjoying the Doctor Who 50th anniversary special, The Day of the Doctor, at Comic Outpost ("home of the largest Doctor Who section in the Bay Area") this past weekend.

Despite recent financial troubles, which Comic Outpost has managed to bounce back from thanks to big sales and community support, the comic shop hosted the screening party that had been promised way back when the 50th anniversary special had been announced.

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Who dares challenge Katniss for box-office supremacy? New movies!

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This week, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire stands poised to crush all who dare step to it, but there are some alternatives out there. There's the San Francsico Film Society's weekend-long Cinema By the Bay festival (my overview here), as well as the latest from acclaimed director Alexander Payne, the small-scale but still very moving Nebraska (Dennis Harvey's review here.)

Plus: a festival favorite from Belgium, and Vince Vaughn's sperm-bank comedy. Reviews for both (plus guaranteed big kahuna Catching Fire) below.

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We will survive! Annalee Newitz's 'Scatter, Adapt, and Remember'

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Spoiler alert: Humans survive at the end of the world.

It’s a bit more complicated than that, of course, but it’s good to start on a note of hope. It’s a hope we can afford to have, as Annalee Newitz (editor of science and culture site io9.com, and a former Guardian contributor) discovered in the research that yielded her book Scatter, Adapt, and Remember: How Humans Will Survive a Mass Extinction (Doubleday, 320 pp., $26.95). She's among the participants in tonight's "Last Things"-themed InsideStoryTime at North Beach's Glass Door Gallery.

Fascinated with the possibility of future disasters, Newitz set out to learn all there is to learn about the history of mass extinctions on Earth. From megavolcanoes to meteor strikes, the common thread of disaster on this planet is that something has always survived. An impressive amount of work is being done to make it possible for us to continue this streak of survival, and we all possess some tools of survival already. Read more »

Chef Michael Anthony talks 'The Gramercy Tavern Cookbook'

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The Gramercy Tavern Cookbook (Clarkson Potter, 352 pp., $50) takes you on a restaurant tour, beginning with Danny Meyer’s initial conception of opening this New York establishment, continuing past the chief steward and his wheelbarrow of fresh spring produce from the Greenmarket, around the harvest table where the floral designer pairs yellow sprays of sunflowers with splayed summer squash, into the kitchen during the staff’s family meal, past the pastry station where Nancy Olson creates her autumn peanut butter semifreddo, and ending at the dining table with a winter dish of guinea hen prepared by James Beard Award-winning chef Michael Anthony.

By the time you’ve read through this serious and seriously exquisite cookbook, ogled the colorful photos, and closed the enormous, masculine-elegant back cover, you’ve spent a whole year eating inside the Tavern. Your appreciation for the minute mechanics that run a restaurant will have widened, and your list of must-try recipes? Exploded. (I’ve already checked off the curious “Cauliflower with Quinoa, Prunes, and Peanuts” with happy results). Chef Anthony, making his first trip to San Francisco in December, spoke to me about his vision behind the book.

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