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Shiver and Shake

Halloween will be different this year. But it doesn't mean we have to give up all the chills and thrills of the season. If you're a goosebumps fan and haunted houses excite you, we've compiled a list of terrifying tales, frightening films and spooky virtual tours guaranteed to make you shiver and shake all the way up to Halloween night. 

Terrifying Tales:

Agatha Raisin and the Haunted House by M.C. Beaton - Returning from an extended stay in London, Agatha Raisin struggles to adjust to the pace of the English countryside. Bored, she finds herself falling for charming new neighbor Paul Chatterton and together, they offer to help a cranky old woman solve the mystery of paranormal occurrences in her home. Gentle scares for the faint-hearted. 

Burnt Offerings by Robert Marasco - Ben and Marion Rolfe rent a surprisingly inexpensive country mansion in the remote North Fork of Suffolk County, New York for an entire summer. By midsummer, the family is plagued by bizarre experiences, personality shifts and inner turmoil that seem to be emanating from the house itself. This 1973 American horror novel was adapted into a movie by the same name in 1976. 

Grief Cottage by Gail Godwin - After his mother's death, eleven-year old Marcus is sent to live with his great aunt, a reclusive painter with a haunted past. During the lonely hours while his aunt is in her studio, Marcus visits the deserted 'Grief Cottage,' as the locals call it because a boy and his family disappeared during a hurricane 50 years before. Their bodies were never recovered and the house has stood empty ever since. A powerful exploration of grief, remorse and the memories that haunt us. 

Haunted Houses of California by Antoinette May - Paranormal occurrences aren't just the stuff of fiction, they are real and recorded. May's book includes stories of several haunted residences in San Francisco, including the Atherton House, the San Francisco Art Institute, and the Haskell House.

I Remember You by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir - A chilling tale of three friends who set to work renovating a rundown home in a remote, isolated location in Iceland. Partly based on a true story, this title won the Icelandic Crime Fiction Award. 

Rooms by Lauren Oliver - Wealthy Richard Walker has died, leaving behind his country estate full of his belongings. His estranged family -- bitter ex-wife Caroline, troubled son Trenton and unforgiving daughter Minna have arrived for their inheritance. But the Walkers soon find that they are not alone. Also available as an ebook.

The Shape of Night by Tess Gerritsen - After an unspeakable tragedy, Ava Collette flees from Boston and rents a remote cottage in Maine. At Brodie's Watch, Ava finds peace and encounters the ghost of a long-dead sea captain. While he feels very real, she also learns that every woman who has ever lived at Brodie's Watch has died under suspicious circumstances. 

The Voices by F.R. Tallis - A page-turner about a film soundtrack composer who moves his family into a faded Victorian home in north London in 1976 and becomes obsessed with the voices he hears through the baby monitor. 

White is for Witching by Helen Oyemeyi - In Dover, England, the grand and cavernous Silver family house with its hidden passages and buried secrets has been home to four generations of Silver women -- Anna, Jennifer, Lily, and now Miranda, who lives there with her twin brother, Eliot. Oyemeyi's eerie mystery novel is a meditation on race, nationality and family legacies. 

The Widow's House by Carol Goodwin - Hoping to rejuvenate their waning writing careers, a married couple moves into Riven House, an aging estate in New York's Hudson River Valley. A spellbinding ghost story. 

Frightening Films:

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir - This 1947 film based on Josephine Leslie's novel written under the pseudonym of R.A. Dick stars Gene Tierney and Rex Harrison. An impoverished young widow moves into a seaside cottage with her young daughter and loyal maid. She quickly learns the place is haunted by its previous owner, a salty sea captain. Part romance and part fantasy, this 1947 film directed by Joseph Mankiewicz received an Academy Award nomination for Best Cinematography.

The Haunted Castle - Frederich Willhelm Murnau's moody drama about a storm-bound manor and the grim mystery that lurks within was a precursor to his later classic horror films, including Nosferatu, Faust and The Last Laugh. For viewing on Kanopy, MI's streaming platform.

The Haunted House - A bank clerk ends up in a seemingly haunted house that is actually a thieves' hideout. This 1921 silent film was written and directed by Buster Keaton and Edward Kline. This comedy won't make you shiver in fright but will bring on a chuckle or two. Streams on Kanopy.

The Haunting - A trained anthropologist tries to conduct an experiment on Hill House, a place that has claimed the lives of several young inhabitants, in the hopes of identifying the source of its terror. Based on Shirley Jackson's 1959 novel, The Haunting of Hill House, this 1963 film starring Julie Harris and Claire Bloom remains as creepy as ever. 

The House on Haunted Hill - This 1959 campy horror film about a millionaire (Vincent Price) who offers $10,000 to each member of a diverse group if they spend the night in a haunted house is also based on Shirley Jackson's novel, The Haunting of Hill House. Streams on Kanopy.

Paranormal Activity - If you happen to be a Blair Witch fan, you'll enjoy this film shot security-camera style. It's a familiar story: a young couple moves into their first home only to find it's haunted. The movie excels at psychological creepiness, which spawned a series of films, all with the same title. The seventh Paranormal Activity installment is scheduled to hit theaters in 2022. 

Psycho - Beware the motel that adjoins an eerie Victorian mansion, especially if its owner evenly remotely resembles Anthony Perkins. More psychologically creepy than gory, you haven't truly lived until you've experienced this classic horror film by Alfred Hitchcock. 

The Shining - Technically not a house but an isolated and snowbound resort hotel sheltering an aspiring writer and his family during the off-season. When the hotel's ghostly occupants drive the caretaker, played by Jack Nicholson, insane, his wife and young son find themselves in grave danger. This classic film, based on Stephen King's 1977 novel by the same name, was directed by Stanley Kubrick. Truly terrifying. 

The Uninvited - A pair of siblings purchase a surprisingly affordable, lonely cliff-top home in Cornwall, England. Soon, they're caught up in a strange, romantic triangle from beyond the grave. The 1944 film is based on Dorothy Macardle's novel Uneasy Freehold. This delightfully shivery movie was filmed on location in San Francisco and Phoenix, AZ.

Spooky Locations and Virtual Haunted House Tours:

The Pittock Mansion - This 46-room mansion in Portland, Oregon was the home of Georgina and Henry Pittock, publisher of the Oregonian newspaper. Both passed away less than five years after its completion. Visitors to home, now a museum, report strange happenings such as ghostly sightings, weird flowery smells and moving objects. The 3-D virtual tour is truly impressive.

The Stanley Hotel - Chances are you've seen this hotel before, perhaps not in person but as the film location in the movie, The Shining. In 1974, Stephen King and his wife arrived at the hotel just before it shut down for the winter. The only room available was Room 217, which is where King drew the inspiration for his 1977 novel, The Shining. There's a remarkable backstory here as to what happened to King while staying at the hotel so be sure and take the walking tour.

The Winchester Mystery House - For 30 years, Sarah Winchester renovated her mansion nonstop. Legend has it that the widow believed that the ghosts of every person killed by a Winchester rifle haunted her, so she remodeled her home to thwart the spirits.

Posted on Oct. 22, 2020 by Celeste Steward

Understanding the 2020 Ballot

The November 3 election ballots arrive in mailboxes this week! If you're one of the lucky folks who have received yours, MI reference librarians have assembled a list of unbiased resources to help you navigate this year's long and complicated ballot. 

Voters will decide on 12 statewide measures and a host of local propositions, depending on where you reside. Your votes matter now more than ever. Together, we have the power to chart the direction of our communities and for our country. 

California Secretary of State Voter Information Guides has the 2020 General Election ballot, online voter registration (it's not too late if done by October 19), ballot tracking instructions, and information on how to find your polling place (should you choose to vote in person) all available in a variety of languages. 

Calmatters, a Sacramento-based nonprofit, nonpartisan state news organization has shared its 2020 Voter Guide with libraries. The guide is easy to navigate, breaks down each state ballot proposition, explains California's role in the presidential election, and identifies key races by district. You'll find a variety of interactive tools, including brief videos and games to help you make an informed choice. A detailed section for frequently asked questions will provide answers on voting and registration.

Easy Voter Guide is a collaboration of the League of Women Voters, the California State Library and the Common Knowledge Group. You can download the helpful voter information guide in English, Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Korean. It has information on the statewide and local propositions, as well as the pros and cons for each measure. 

KQED Election 2020 has unbiased information and explanations of all the California propositions, including information on local propositions by county. 

League of Women Voters has unbiased explanations of ballot measures as well as a detailed list of pros and cons for each ballot in both English and Spanish. If, after reading through the ballot measures, you are still not confident about how to vote, the League has a helpful section on their Ballot Recommendations. The League of Women Voters is one of the oldest nonprofit organizations to support and inform voters. Each year, the LWV posts an Easy Voter Guide including an in depth look at what's on local ballots by zip code. 

Vote Smart has a wealth of factual information on politicians, political candidates, including voting records, where they stand on issues, bios, speeches, and campaign financing. 

Voter's Edge was created by the California State Library. By entering your address, you'll get a personalized page with contests that will appear on the user's ballot, including candidate priorities and biographies, ballot measure explanations, endorsements, funding sources, news articles and additional vetted resources.

Posted on Oct. 8, 2020 by Celeste Steward

Small Screen Adaptations

It's been a stellar year for book-based television adaptations and readers are going to love this fall's exciting lineup of new shows and films. The current network trend toward bookshelf borrowing doesn't appear to be slowing down anytime soon. Your library stocks all these titles and more so you can read before you view. Tune in to see how well they translate to the small screen! 

All titles are available for checkout through Mechanics' Institute's To Go service or download through the library's website. Here's a glance at what's in store for fall:

The Devil All the Time by Donald Ray Pollock - Set in Ohio, this psychological thriller follows a cast of unsavory characters between World War II and the Vietnam War. Pollock's 2011 novel, adapted into a film by the same name, premiered on Netflix in September. 

An Event in Autumn by Henning Mankell - How did Sweden's top police inspector become such an opera-loving curmudgeon? Follow Kurt Wallander's early career in the Netflix prequel, Young Wallander that began airing in September. Since his creation in 1991, Wallander has been in more than a dozen books, a Swedish TV show and a British TV show starring Kenneth Branagh. Just a heads up, the new Netflix series has a twist: it is set in present day rather than the original 1970s setting from Mankell's novels. 

The Good Lord Bird by James McBride - In 1857, a young slave living in the Kansas Territory is swept up in the events leading up to the Harpers Ferry Raid of 1859. The show, starring Ethan Hawke as John Brown and Joshua Caleb Johnson as Henry, the teenage slave, airs in October on Showtime. Also available as a book on CD and as an Ebook

A Higher Loyalty by James Comey - FBI Director James Comey's memoir has been adapted into a TV miniseries entitled The Comey Rule. The series, starring Jeff Daniels as James Comey and Brendon Gleeson as President Donald Trump, premiered in September on Showtime. A Higher Loyalty is also available as a book on CD and as an Ebook

The Highway by C.J. Box - Two sisters traveling a remote stretch of Montana road vanish without a trace. The unsolved case piques the interest of former police investigator Cody Hoyt after he discovers that the two teenagers aren't the only ones who went missing on that gorgeous mountain highway. Adapted for a TV series, Big Sky premieres on ABC in November. 

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance - A former marine and Yale Law School graduate, J.D. Vance's memoir of growing up in a poor Rust Belt town takes a hard look at America's white working class for three generations of his Appalachian family. Directed by Ron Howard, the Netflix film by the same name is scheduled to be released in November. Also available as an ebook and as a book on CD.

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier - A whirlwind marriage to a wealthy widower and life in an isolated estate off the Cornish coast provide a haunting backdrop for the mysterious legacy of the first Mrs. De Winter. The question of how director Ben Wheatley will top Alfred Hitchcock's 1940 film will be answered when Netflix releases Rebecca in late October.

The Queen's Gambit by Walter Tevis - Finally, a series based on a female chess prodigy! Tevis' 1983 novel about an orphan who competes for the world championship will premiere on Netflix in October. Chess fans will rejoice and non-aficionados will be enchanted by the chess world.

The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe - This October, Wolfe's 1979 novel about the early days of the US space program and the seven military pilots who made it happen will air as a miniseries on Disney+. The series follows the crew from their spacecraft tests in the Mojave Desert to orbiting around the Earth. This isn't the first adaptation for the Right Stuff. Wolfe's book was previously adapted as a film by the same name in 1983, also available on DVD.

Sand Castles by Nicholas Freeling - Amsterdam is the backdrop for Dutch detective Peter Van der Valk's cases. Freeling's Van der Valk mystery series provided the inspiration for the original TV series that ran in Great Britain from 1972-1992. The new series, entitled Van der Valk and starring Marc Warren, began airing in September on PBS.  

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James - Loosely based on James' 1898 ghost story about a governess caring for two orphaned children in their uncle's English country home, The Haunting of Bly Manor miniseries premieres on Netflix in October. In addition to the digital audiobook, the print edition and a book on CD are also available for checkout. 

You Should Have Known by Jean Hanff Korelitz - Successful therapist Grace Sachs authors a book castigating women for not valuing their intuition regarding men. But in weeks before the book launches, her husband goes missing, a string of terrible revelations unfolds to reveal that Grace has not heeded her own advice. Also available as a downloadable audiobook. The miniseries based on Korelitz' novel is called The Undoing and premieres on HBO in October. 

A Wilderness of Error by Errol Morris - Based on Morris' true crime novel, this docu-series examines the 1970 case of Jeffrey MacDonald, a high-profile Army doctor accused of killing his wife and two daughters. Although MacDonald went to prison in 1979, it remains uncertain as to whether he was wrongly convicted. The five-part series, directed by Marc Sperling, premiered on FX Network in September.


Posted on Oct. 1, 2020 by Celeste Steward

Banned Books Week 2020

Sunday marked the start of this year's Banned Books Week (Sept. 27-Oct. 3), an annual event  traditionally associated with celebrating our First Amendment rights. If you do nothing else this week, take a moment to savor your freedom to buy, borrow, publish or read any book of your choice. During the final week in September, the entire book community -- librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types -- joins together in support of the freedom to seek and express ideas, even those considered unorthodox or unpopular.

Mechanics' Institute (MI) has a long history as a forum for intellectual advancement. Since 1854, MI has welcomed authors and readers into its library. Today, MI continues to serve as a platform for creativity and growth among its members through cultural events, programs and classes. For your reading pleasure, the MI Library stocks many titles that have been challenged in schools and libraries across the country. We are proud to make these titles available to our members through our To Go express service

Read a classic title this week to show your collective support of First Amendment rights. According to the American Library Association (ALA), the following list is a sampling of frequently challenged titles in American libraries, schools and the media. 

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie - One of ALA's Top 11 Most Challenged Books for 2018, this title has been banned and challenged for many offenses, including its mention of under-age drinking and for its religious viewpoint. 

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley - Challenged for its immoral content, this title has raised parental objections in many school districts, including California classrooms.

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger - A favorite target of censors, this title has been challenged repeatedly for its vulgarity, profanity and obscenities in various regions of the United States, also including California. 

The Color Purple by Alice Walker - Challenged multiple times for explicit language and sex scenes. In the 1980s, this title was challenged in the Oakland Unified School District and rejected for purchase by the Hayward Unified School District. Also available in Large Print and as a feature film on DVD

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck - This title has upset censors all over the world, including those in Ireland and Canada, for its offensive language and anti-Christian sentiments. It was once banned in Kern County the setting of Steinbeck's novel. Also available as a book on CD

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood - While not an official classic, this title made it onto ALA's Top 10 Most Challenged Books of 2019 for profanity and vulgarity. Also available in Large Print, as a book on CD, and as an EBook

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas - Also on the 2018 challenged title list, this book was deemed by censors as "anti-cop" and objected to for its references to drug use and sex. Technically a teen novel, this title can be appreciated on an adult level for its timely content. Also available as an Ebook

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov - In 2006, this novel was challenged in Ocala, Florida's public library. The Marion County commissioners asked its county attorney to review the book's themes of incest and pedophilia. By a 3-2 vote, Lolita was retained on the Marion County Public Library. Also available as a feature film on DVD.

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck - Challenged repeatedly for profanity, sex and offensive language. In 2007, the book was challenged by a parent for being "derogatory towards African Americans, women and the developmentally disabled" but was retained in a Kansas high school library. Also available as a book on CD and as a feature film on DVD.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey - Challenged in many public schools and most recently on the basis of its offensive content by parents in a Southern California school district. Also available as a feature film on DVD

Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut - This title has a lengthy list of challenges for offensive content, including being burned in Drake, ND in 1973. Also available as a book on CD and as a feature film on DVD.  

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee - Another title with an extended list of challenges, including one in 2009 for offensive language. Also available as an Ebook, book on CD and as a graphic novel. 


Posted on Sep. 28, 2020 by Celeste Steward

And Justice for All: RBG's Legacy

Just when you thought 2020 could not get any worse, more bad news arrives. The recent passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg leaves an enormous void in both the legal profession and in our hearts. The second woman to serve on the US Supreme Court, Ginsburg was a champion for restrained justice. Early in her law career, she overcame many obstacles, including discrimination based on her gender. In 1972, she founded the American Civil Liberties Union's Women's Rights Project.

A highly intelligent leader who fought tirelessly for gender equality, Ginsburg led the ACLU in a host of legal battles that laid the foundation for women's rights advocacy. In 1993, she was nominated to the Supreme Court by President Bill Clinton. She is remembered, among many other accomplishments, as the author of the 1996 landmark decision United States vs Virginia, which held that the state-supported Virginia Military Institute could not refuse to admit women.

Diminutive and soft-spoken, Ginsburg served 27 years on the nation's highest court. She has become a role model for both men and women as well as a pop culture icon. Today Mechanics' Institute honors her legacy with resources that showcase her many contributions to justice for all. 

All titles are available through MI Library's To Go express service

Advise and Dissent: Selecting Supreme Court Justices - Available for free with your MI Library card on Kanopy, Mechanics' Institute's streaming platform. (From www.milibrary.org, click on the Books and More tab, under Research, choose Books & More and select Kanopy from the dropdown menu. (Remember, you must create a Kanopy account with a username and password to access the platform.)

My Own Words: Ruth Bader Ginsburg with Mary Hartnett and Wendy W. Williams - Also available as an e-book and as a book on CD

Notorious RBG: the life and times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Irin Carmen and Shana Knizhnik.

On the Basis of Sex - A feature film starring Felicity Jones on the life and early cases of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

RBG - Nominated for an Academy Award, this 2018 documentary is an outstanding tribute to Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Also available for streaming on Kanopy.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: the case of R.B.G. versus inequality by Jonah Winter

The RBG Workout by Bryant Johnson - Physical fitness was highly important to Ginsburg. Some of the routines in this book were featured in her documentary film, RBG. 

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: a life by Jane Sherron de Hart

Sisters in Law: how Sandro Day O'Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg went to the Supreme Court and changed the world by Linida Hirshman. Also available as an e-book

The Unstoppable Ruth Bader Ginsburg: American Icon by Antonia Felix


Posted on Sep. 24, 2020 by Celeste Steward

Goodbye Summer, Hello Fall!

It's that time of year when pumpkins, spiced lattes, and apples appear. Seasonal changes mean it's time to treat yourself to a reading list full of titles guaranteed to put you in an autumnal state of mind. Here in San Francisco, September ushered in with a heat wave and smoky horizons. So as the days grow shorter and the air grows healthier, it seems fitting to swap out beach reads for titles as comforting as a warm blanket on a crisp afternoon. 

All titles are available for checkout and pickup through Mechanics' Institute Library's To Go express service.  

Autumn: a novel by Ali Smith - A girl's friendship with an elderly songwriter form the backbone of this multilayered story about meditation, art, love, and affection. Also available as an E-audiobook.

The Cider House Rules by John Irving - John Irving's sixth novel tells the story of an obstetrician who runs an orphanage in rural New England. This heartwarming tale set in an apple orchard is full of the sights and smells of autumn. The 1999 book was adapted for the stage and was made into a film by the same title

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness - There's nothing like the transition into into fall to bring on thoughts of witches, shadowy libraries and dark corners. This first volume of the All Souls trilogy delves deep into the stacks of Oxford's Bodleian Library where Yale historian Diana Bishop stumbles upon a bewitched manuscript that unleashes a host of supernatural beings who threaten, stalk and harass her. 

First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen - Autumn has finally arrived in the small town of Bascom, North Carolina only to find sisters Claire and Sydney Waverley at turning points. Claire's candy business has exploded and she has more work than she can handle. Sydney is soon to have an empty nest and she desperately wants another child. The first frost is nearly upon them and, as everyone knows, with it comes strange happenings and a mysterious guest. A lighthearted story that continues the Waverley family saga from Allen's first book, Garden Spells

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley - Autumn seems a superb time to read the classic novel of Victor Frankenstein, a young scientist who creates a living creature from an unorthodox experiment. Spooky, yes. Forgettable, definitely not.

If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio - If you were to judge a book by its cover, this one practically screams haunted house. A group of aspiring Shakespearian actors at an elite arts academy share a rivalry that escalates dangerously. On opening night during their fourth year, the competition turns ugly and violent and requires each cast member to play a leading role--that of convincing police they are innocent. 

Night Film by Marisha Pessl - On a cold October evening, the daughter of a cult horror film director is found dead in a Manhattan warehouse. The death was ruled a suicide but investigative journalist Scott McGrath probes deeper into the unusual circumstances surrounding the girl's death. 

The October Country: stories by Ray Bradbury - This is the quintessential book to put you in a fall mood. Stories told in short bursts by the master of macabre will make you want to burrow under the covers late into the night. 

Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman - If fall is the season of witches, then Hoffman's 11th novel is the perfect blend of elderly aunts, a musty New England home and magic. Even if you've already seen the movie, Hoffman's writing is a spellbinding treat you won't be able to put down.

The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter by Theodora Goss - What happens when the daughters of literature's most infamous scientists band together? A Gothic adventure of epic proportions is sure to follow. When Mary Jekyll, daughter of Dr. Henry Jekyll finds herself orphaned and penniless, she decides to pursue a police reward for information leading to the capture of her father's former assistant, murderer Edward Hyde. Dark London streets, secret societies and reanimated literary figures strike the right chord on a chilly night. 

The Witches of Eastwick by John Updike - You can practically hear the wind and see the leaves swirling in Eastwick's story of three divorcees bewitched by a dark, decadent stranger in a small New England town. Don't forget to catch the film by the same title that stars Jack Nicholson at his diabolical best, Cher, Susan Sarandon, Michelle Pfeiffer. 


Posted on Sep. 17, 2020 by Celeste Steward

Labor Haze

This Labor Day 2020 will be a temporary break from tradition. Outdoor activities around crowds remain risky, while staying indoors with the windows closed is looking better all the time. Between the poor air quality from myriad Northern California fires and an ongoing pandemic, why not just stay home? Not ideal but quite safe. There's an alternative way to celebrate labor by watching films featuring a diverse cast of working men and women in the city by the Bay. 

Here's a list of fabulous movies filmed on location in San Francisco, portraying workers from all walks of life. No need to leave your living room, except of course to pick up a DVD from the Mechanics' Institute Library's "To Go" service. (Just request titles through the catalog or give us a call at 415-393-0101.) 

All About Eve - A classic film about an aspiring young actress, Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter) who meets her idol, Margo Channing (Bette Davis) by hanging around the back door of the Broadway star's theater. The interior of the theater was filmed in San Francisco's Curran Theatre on Geary Street.

Bullitt - A star witness in a controversial court case is murdered and the police detective (Steve McQueen) assigned to guard him goes after the killer himself. Hang onto your seat as this 1968 American action thriller is best known for its extended chase scenes through the streets of San Francisco. 

The Conversation - Harry Caul (Gene Hackman) is a private eye hired to spy on a business tycoon's unfaithful wife. Caul becomes convinced someone is watching him and he suspects that the wife and her lover are in danger. Union Square, the Jack Tar Hotel, St. Patrick's Church and Casa Madrona in the Haight appear in many scenes during this 1972 film directed by Francis Ford Coppola

Dopamine - San Francisco film director Mark Decena's romantic story of a computer animator and a kindergarten teacher was shot in South Park, Presidio, Fort Point and Golden Gate National Recreation area. 

Experiment in Terror - A bank teller, Kelly Sherwood (Lee Remick) is terrorized by a psychopath who threatens to kill both her and her sister unless she steals $100,000 from her employer. Filmed on location in San Francisco, the opening shot has a stunning panoramic view of the Bay Bridge and includes scenes from Kelly Sherwood's home at 100 St. Germain Ave. as well as her workplace (now Wells Fargo Bank) at One Montgomery Street. The 1962 thriller has views of Fisherman's Wharf and North Beach, topped off with a climactic chase scene at the now demolished Candlestick Park. 

Haiku Tunnel - A workplace comedy about Josh, a career office temp who accepts a permanent position at a San Francisco law firm, only to discover that a full-time commitment upsets his happy equilibrium.

The Lady From Shanghai - A seaman becomes involved in a murderous intrigue of a disabled criminal lawyer and his estranged wife. This 1947 film noir directed by Orson Welles has original footage of San Francisco's old Hall of Justice that once stood at 750 Kearny Street and an exterior scene of the Funhouse at Playland. 

The Last Black Man in San Francisco - Jimmie Fails dreams of reclaiming the Victorian home his father built in the heart of San Francisco. He and his best friend search for belonging in a rapidly changing city that seems to have left them behind. Shot exclusively in San Francisco, this 2019 shoestring film garnered awards for Best Directing and Creative Collaboration at the Sundance Film Festival. The most prominent feature in this indie movie is the lovely home at 959 South Van Ness featuring all the original, intricate detailing of the 1889 house.

Sudden Fear - Successful playwright Myra Hudson (Joan Crawford) fires leading man Lester Blaine (Jack Palance), dismissing him as unsuitable in her new Broadway play. Afterward, Myra bumps into Lester on a train trip and the two fall in love. But when Lester discovers Myra is leaving her fortune to charity, he and his former ex-lover, Irene (Gloria Grahame) plot to kill Myra. Viewers will be treated to glimpses of some of the city's finest living quarters, including a mansion on Scott Street (now the Indonesian Consulate) and swanky apartments on both Lombard and Greenwich streets.

Thieves' Highway - This 1949 film noir tells the story of Nico "Nick" Garcos (Richard Conte), a truck driver who returns from the war to find his immigrant father, a California fruit farmer has been crippled by unscrupulous produce dealer Mike Figlia (Lee J. Cobb). Shot on location in San Francisco, you'll see original footage of the city's once vibrant produce warehouse district, then located adjacent to the Embarcadero north of the Ferry building. By the end of the 1950s, the market was closed and moved to the southeastern part of the city. 

Vertigo - San Francisco police detective Scottie Ferguson (James Stewart) is forced to retire after a freak accident leaves him with a fear of heights. When Ferguson is hired privately to follow a rich shipbuilder's wife, he finds himself falling in love with Madeleine (Kim Novak). One could spend an entire day just driving around to all the San Francisco film locations in Alfred Hitchcock's 1958 masterpiece, including the Financial District, Palace of the Legion of Honor, Fort Point, Palace of Fine Arts and Mission Dolores.

Zodiac - Two SF Chronicle reporters, Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllennhaal) and Paul Avery (Robert Downey Jr.) become obsessed with a Bay Area serial killer who taunts police with his letters and cryptic messages. Much of the movie takes place inside the SF Chronicle building and it provides the backdrop for this 2007 film. There are numerous local landmarks here, including the original Original Joe's and the Transamerica Pyramid under construction, which is used as a timekeeper for the storyline. 


Posted on Sep. 3, 2020 by Celeste Steward

Pondering the Pandemic: Films and Virtual Exhibits

Few families have been left untouched by disease, whether it's COVID-19 or a pandemic in the past. At 32, my own grandmother perished during the Influenza Pandemic of 1918. Stories of how she left six young children behind, including my mother, remain cautionary tales to this day. Undoubtedly, many families have stories such as these.

Aside from oral histories, pandemics leave an educational opportunity in their wake. Through statistical research, inspiring stories and new discoveries, we can learn from the past and move forward with more accurate information. Just how much the current pandemic will change our future remains to be seen. Hopefully, we will find ways to better protect ourselves.

We've gathered several inspiring exhibits and helpful films that offer a chance to consider outbreaks from the past and present.

Films on Mechanics' Institute Library's Kanopy Streaming Service - free with your MI library card. (To get started, go to the MI homepage, choose Books and More, Articles and Online Resources, and locate Kanopy from the alphabetical list. Follow the prompts to create your own account.):

Outbreak! Contagion! The Next Pandemic!: Episode 24 of the Great Courses - An Introduction to Infectious Diseases

Returning to the Workplace: Creating a Safe and Healthy Environment  - working safely in the age of COVID-19 environment.

Plagued - a four-part series that investigates the relationship between history, destiny and disease.

Epidemiology of Plague - Episode 2 of The Black Death. Explore the medical understanding of plague, as seen in the 6th century Plague of Justinian, the Black Death of the 1300s, and the 19th-century third Pandemic. 

Inspiring Virtual Museum Exhibits:

The Ormond Art Museum and Gallery - As we socially distance, two online art exhibits offer hope for a stronger sense of community.

Museums of Quarantine - Street museums in LA and elsewhere feature pandemic-inspired artwork.

Art in a Time of Quarantine Virtual Youth Arts Exhibit - Awe-inspiring works from students at Krannert Art Museum in Illinois.

Beyond Statistics: Living in a Pandemic - A fascinating look at New York City's Tenement Museum in a time when the link between cleanliness and sickness was only beginning to emerge.

Outbreak: Epidemics in a Connected World - Extensive Smithsonian exhibit demonstrating that the saying, 'we are all connected' wasn't just a hippie mantra of the 1960s--it is actually based in scientific fact.

Watching Hands: Artists Respond to Keeping Well - The human hand is truly a work of art and there is much to admire here in the simple act of handwashing.

Posted on Aug. 28, 2020 by Celeste Steward

Cooking at Bay: Dining In with Local Cuisine

Meal preparation during a pandemic is tricky business. Navigating the food store and farmer's markets never used to be hazardous. Yet there is a silver lining to the current situation--more quality time in the kitchen! Whether you are an accomplished cook or a novice, experimenting with new recipes and incorporating seasonal produce feels like Sunday dinner preparation. In the new remote work environment, quick, weeknight meals in many homes have evolved into more nutritious, leisurely dinners, carefully planned and executed by a home chef.

If cookbooks have become your treasured companions, you will be happy to know that several  Bay Area restaurants have published their own collection of signature recipes. Venues that once tempted us with delicious fare and ambience can be simulated at your own dinner table. Here is a sampling of cookbooks from the Bay Area's finest eating establishments, all available for checkout through the Mechanics' Institute Library's To-Go express service. 

Tartine Bread by Chad Robertson. Who doesn't love the smell of freshly baked bread? Renowned baker Chad Robertson shares bread recipes he developed over ten years working with the finest bakers in the United States and France. The only thing missing from this luscious book is the heavenly aroma.

Boulevard: the cookbook by Nancy Oakes - Rich and elegant dishes from the world class restaurant located in San Francisco's historic Audiffred Building. Lush photographs and delectable food from Bay Area-born chef Nancy Oakes. 

Atelier Crenn: metamorphosis of taste by Dominique Crenn. Nothing says fine dining like seasonal French fare. This gorgeously illustrated cookbook includes anecdotes about Chef Crenn's childhood in France. A treat that will take you away when you can't leave home. (Also available as an E-book.) 

The Millennium Cookbook: extraordinary vegetarian cuisine by Eric Tucker and John Westerdahl. Full-color photographs of elegant and intriguing vegetarian fare to help you recreate gourmet meals from Chef Eric Tucker's Oakland restaurant.  Plant-based meals never looked so tasty!

East Bay Cooks: signature recipes from the best restaurants, bars, and bakeries by Carolyn Jung. An impressive collection of 80 signature recipes from 40 East Bay restaurants, such as Oakland's Gastropig, Berkeley's Local Butcher Shop, Danville's Bridges, and many others. 

Savoring San Francisco Recipes From the City's Neighborhood Restaurants by Carolyn Miller and Sharon Smith. A culinary tour of neighborhoods, from the city center to the oceanside, with recipes and essays that celebrate San Francisco's cultural diversity. Fine food heritage, Herb Caen-style. 

Mission Street Food: recipes and ideas from an improbable restaurant by Anthony Myint and Karen Leibowitz. Even though this innovative, community-driven restaurant is now closed, its ethnic, Californian street food legacy can be enjoyed at home. A collection of the most popular recipes to bring Mission Street's diverse food into your own kitchen.

The Foreign Cinema Cookbook: recipes and stories under the stars by Gayle Pirie and John Clark. This book will capture the experience of the restaurant, featuring atmospheric photography of its dramatic space--the atrium, screening room and veranda overlooking the 220-seat dining room. Chef-owners, Gayle Pirie and John Clarke offer 125 favorites from the menu, a collection of recipes that reflect their training under Judy Rodgers of Zuni Cafe and the legendary Alice Waters.

Food52 Genius Desserts: 100 recipes that will change the way you bake by Kristin Miglore. It's quite possible to gain ten pounds just perusing this gorgeous book--a tribute to the most beloved desserts from the Food 52 blog. Most importantly, Miglore's book includes several San Francisco favorites, such as Michelle Polzine's slow-roasted strawberries from 20th Century Cafe and Nicole Krasinski's double chocolate cookie crumbles from State Bird Provisions.

Posted on Aug. 21, 2020 by Celeste Steward

Eek! It's Shark Week!

In the jaws of summer, social distancing takes on new meaning when it comes to sharks. For the most part, congregating on beaches is off limits during the COVID-19 situation. However, a global pandemic hasn't stopped some from swimming, surfing or scuba diving. This year, as of August 3, there have been 14 shark attacks in the U.S., including a recent fatality off the coast of Maine.

Viewing or reading about sharks is far better from a distance. Mechanics' Institute has a variety of shark films and selections of reading material to satisfy your curiosity about one of nature's most deadly yet misunderstood creatures.

Films about sharks on Kanopy, Mechanics' Institute's streaming service:

Great White Shark - Part of the PBS Maneater Series, Mark Evans travels to Western Australia, where seven people have been killed by sharks. Evans is exploring non-lethal ways to keep sharks--and people--safe.

Sharks: Stewards of the Reef - Green Planet Films examines the escalating threats to shark population decline.

Shark Reef - Part of the PBS series Saving the Ocean, this film examines innovative efforts to protect sharks from the devastating effects of the global shark fin trade.

Saving Jaws - Join biologist Ocean Ramsey and her team as they travel the globe trying to halt the looming extinction of sharks.

Great White Lies - This film examines the reputation of sharks as monsters of the deep.

Books (all materials can be reserved through (MI's To Go contactless library service):

Demon Fish: travels through the hidden world of sharks by Juliet Eilperin - In this globe-spanning adventure, environmental journalist Juliet Eilperin investigates the ways different individuals and cultures relate to the ocean's top predator.

Jaws by Peter Benchley - One could say this is the book that started an extreme shark-watching phenomenon. In any case, Benchley's dramatic tale is the ultimate summer reading material. Read it first, then watch the movie Jaws on DVD.

The Secret Life of Sharks: a leading marine biologist reveals the mysteries of shark behavior by A. Peter Klimley - The author challenges misconceptions about natural shark behavior, describing their intricate social relationships, their preference for non-human prey and their elaborate biological survival activities.

Surviving the Shark: how a brutal great white shark turned a surfer into a dedicated defender of sharks by Jonathan Kathrein and Margaret Kathrein - After surviving a shark attack off Stinson Beach in Northern California, the author uses his story to raise awareness about sharks and ocean conservation.

Posted on Aug. 12, 2020 by Celeste Steward