September 06, 2004

Americus I

It used to drive my brother nuts when I picked up the latest book in a series without bothering to read the volumes that preceded it. And maybe I missed some valuable nuances by seeing Spider-Man 2 with Patrick Wednesday night without having seen the first one, but as far as I was concerned everything was broadcast pretty clearly. I give full credit to Sam Raimi for adding beautifully twisted little touches to a very mainstream Hollywood movie, and to Alfred Molina and J.K. Simmons for making me care more about the supporting characters/"bad guys" than I did about our hero and his girl. As comic book movies go I prefer Ang Lee's The Hulk, and as Sam Raimi movies go I prefer Army of Darkness, but I still enjoyed this one a lot.

Thursday evening Dubya was giving his speech at the Republican National Convention at the exact moment that Heather and I were perched on stools at a packed-to-the-gills City Lights listening to Lawrence Ferlinghetti read from his latest work, Americus I. It was an auspicious occasion indeed. Any uncertainty I heard in his voice as he greeted the audience completely disappeared once he started reading his cantos, his rhythm rising and falling in a hypnotic cadence and incorporating his Freudian slips right into the poetry. He moved from the political to the personal and ended with a short piece about New York that made my heart ache.

We were encouraged to leave work early on Friday before the three-day weekend, so I went to see Jonathan Demme's remake of The Manchurian Candidate to kill some time before my evening plans. Although I thoroughly enjoyed Liev Schreiber's performance as the young and charismatic vice-presidential candidate, Demme's direction gave me a headache. The original film is so clever and creepy and subtle, and while I appreciated the attempt to update the plot with terrorism concerns and corporate evil, adding film gore does not automatically make a story more exciting.

Later that evening I found a seat in the basement of the Park Branch of the San Francisco Public Library for a Booksmith-sponsored reading by Dave Eggers, Jim Shepard, Jason Roberts, Peter Ferland, Dan Kennedy, and Tom O'Connor. It was all to celebrate the publication of Created in Darkness by Troubled Americans: The Best of McSweeney's Humor Category, and basically every San Franciscan who wasn't at Burning Man was in that room. Eggers was in fine form as emcee: relating the story of how his notebook ended up in the hands of the State Department, hocking Shepard's new book Project X by offering detritus from his car to potential customers, inviting his fellow writers to read amusing excerpts. Sometimes I think McSweeney's is far too clever for its own good, but on this particular night I laughed so hard I forgot.

Did I mention the weather turned incredibly hot just in time for the long weekend? This became especially apparent at the SF Indie BBQ at Thee Parkside Saturday afternoon, as sweat dripped off performers and audience members alike. Fortunately I was enjoying all of the music so thoroughly I barely even noticed. Bermuda Triangle Service opened with some mellow countryish rock, then Black Ghost pleasantly blew out my eardrums, then the Ex-Boyfriends had me bouncing, then Audio Out Send lulled me with their drone, then the Slow Poisoners finished off with a bang. It was a veritable cornucopia of San Francisco sounds, and in between sets Tanya and I had some impressive ping pong volleys going on outside on the patio.

Sunday morning I ran over to Cellspace to browse the second day of the SF Zinefest while most of the vendors were still waking up. I'm especially drawn to zines (and comics and prints and patches and stickers and tees) made with nifty techniques like letterpress-printing and silkscreening, though sometimes nothing does it for me like classic construction: cut, paste, photocopy, staple. It was incredibly inspiring to see so much great self-published and self-made work spread out for sale, and I did what I could to stimulate the economy.


Spider-Man 2
City Lights Books Upcoming Events
Lawrence Ferlinghetti
The Manchurian Candidate (2004)
The Booksmith
Dave Eggers
Jim Shepard
SF Indie
Thee Parkside
Bermuda Triangle Service
Black Ghost
The Ex-Boyfriends
Audio Out Send
The Slow Poisoners
San Francisco Zinefest

Posted by nightfall at September 6, 2004 10:48 PM