Leah Garchik

Friday, March 11, 2005

Leah Garchik
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UC Berkeley's got a new Center for New Media, and on Monday night Professor Ken Goldberg hosted former Talking Heads leader David Byrne lecturing on PowerPoint as an artistic medium. "Rather than resist,'' Byrne said in the announcement of his appearance, "I decided that I must surrender and learn to use this software myself, for, like everyone, I long to belong.''

PowerPoint inventor Bob Gaskins was in the audience. I'm told the first question posed to Byrne was, "How is your PowerPoint influenced by the political theory of montage?'' "Now I know I'm at Berkeley,'' he began his response, presumably referring to the politics wafting through that East Bay ozone.

P.S.: As to other particularly local phenomena, someone brought a dog to the opening of "Red, White & Blacklisted" the other night, and there was a slight jingling of its collar during the performance. Brian Dennehy (starring as Dalton Trumbo) told Ron Bergman at the after-party that he'd been told the owner needed his canine companion "for emotional reasons.'' Dennehy said the sound was slightly audible to co-star William Zielinski, but not a big deal "during the big moments. I'm told the dog was a big fan of Brian Dennehy," said Dennehy. "If there's one town where you can bring a dog into the theater, it's San Francisco.''

The Austrian post office Tuesday issued a stamp honoring Austrian-born Carl Djerassi, who synthesized a steroid oral contraceptive, "the Pill." Each standard-size stamp featuring Djerassi's face is perforated and printed within a larger image of the honoree, in which the face is made up of tiny chemical formulas for the steroid. Djerassi, a playwright and novelist as well as a chemist, is professor emeritus at Stanford.

P.S.: Inspired by the Postal Service's new Ronald Reagan stamps, montage artist Winston Smith has designed an envelope to accommodate the smiling face on the stamp. It's a TV set with an empty screen; the stamp becomes a picture of the Great Communicator being broadcast. This is proof, says Smith (whose name is no accident) that "big brother is watching us, but that we are watching him'' too. The artist is selling the envelopes through http://www.winstonsmith.com/.

And Larry Maxcy says he is looking forward to buying some of the stamps, because "Every time one is used, Reagan is canceled.''

Attention, San Francisco shoppers: The late punk rocker Johnny Ramone's major collection of movie posters, to be auctioned in Dallas on March 17 and 18, includes images of "Vertigo,'' "The Birds,'' "Charlie Chan at Treasure Island,'' "San Francisco'' and "Dark Passage,'' the last of which actually pictures a little cable car climbing halfway to the stars. One introduction to the Heritage Vintage Poster company catalog for this sale is by Kirk Hammett of Metallica, who lives in San Francisco, shared the collecting bug with Ramone and reminisces about their friendship: "I once gave him a 'Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman' one-sheet as a gift for all the musical inspiration he gave me.'' The auction house is holding a simultaneous sale of posters collected by Rudy Franchi, the "Antiques Road Show'' expert on such items.

P.S. Ed Moose, who was in New York attending Tom Wolfe's 75th birthday party, says a Bloody Mary at the St. Regis costs $18.50 plus $3 tip, and "all political talk is about Condi-Hillary battle for prez in '08.''

"Shopdropping: Experiments in the Aisle,'' opens tonight at Pond on 14th Street. This is a group show about the putting of art into stores, particularly "conglomerate retail stores.'' In Packard Jennings' "Il Duce Action Figure,'' for example, a hand-made Mussolini action doll is placed on shelves at Wal-Mart. The piece includes a spycam video of workers putting a value on the item. This sounds like good mischief, but the artists have a serious purpose (uh-oh, here comes the highfalutin jargon): "The works eschew a reductivist commodity critique in favor of complex strategies that detourne situations, present alternatives to normative systems of exchange, and graft together alternate economic regimes.''

Went bowling in the Presidio on Wednesday night at a charity event for Central City Hospitality House; many of the teams were neighbors, nonprofits (Tenderloin AIDS Resource Center, for example, and St. Boniface, with whom I bowled) and businesses (the Deutsche Bank and Hilton among them). The night air was warm, and as I left, the landscape was dotted with tiny bouncing lights. Closer inspection revealed they were from miner-like headlamps that seem to be favored by runners on the way down and up Presidio Heights. This fashion statement/safety device fills a gap that's needed filling for a long time in San Francisco: Finally, we have fireflies.

Public eavesdropping

"I really am attracted to people with hyphenated names. It shows extra effort.''

- Overheard on the UCSF shuttle by Michelle Vevoda-Rossini-King.

Open for business at (415) 777-8426 or e-mail lgarchik@sfchronicle.com.

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