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Getting My Geek On

November 21, 2011

Bay Area culture is a many-splendored thing. You don't have to go to a theatre, concert hall or art gallery to have a cultural experience.

The only "traditional" arts event I attended all weekend, which happened to be the least engaging of all the things I did, was a production of The Gate Theatre of Dublin's stage adaptation of Samuel Beckett's novel Watt at Zellerbach Hall in Berkeley. The production, presented under the auspices of Cal Performances, is built on texts selected from the book by Barry McGovern, who also performs the piece. It's an hour long, it rambles, and, with little effort made to transform Beckett's quirky-opaque prose into a stage worthy vessel, feels like a costumed recitation. But though I had trouble staying awake at times, McGovern is an engaging performer and delivers Beckett's poetic language and wit with plenty of gusto.

On Friday afternoon, I joined a journalist friend from Reuters on a tour of the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory at Stanford where I spent a fascinating two hours learning about the joys of particle physics. The research lab is home to a two-mile linear accelerator -- the longest such building in the world. I got a strangely vertiginous feeling standing inside the structure, which extends in both directions further than the eye can see. It's not everyday that you're indoors and can't see the edges of the space you're standing in.

On Sunday, I took my first archery lesson with SF Archers in Pacifica. The community-minded organization offers two free "outreach" days a month where anyone can go and get three-hours of personalized tuition on how to shoot a recurve bow and arrow. To my immense surprise, I find that I have a knack for this sport. The club members are expecting a deluge of new visitors in 2012 with the release of The Hunger Games, an upcoming Hollywood movie based on a series of science-fiction books in which a young woman runs amok in a futuristic landscape surviving on her wits with the aid of a bow and arrow. According to SF Archers, every time there's a movie with archery involved, the club gets an influx of new people. "It happened with Robin Hood and Lord of the Rings," a club member said. "We're bracing ourselves for a busy year with The Hunger Games."

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