On a more serious note, the Japanese New Year is historically celebrated by striking a large bronze bell exactly 108 times, to correspond with the 108 mortal desires that plague mankind. The number is derived from multiplying the six senses recognized in Buddhism (mind, eye, ear, nose, tongue, and skin) by the three references of time (past, present, and future), then doubling it by the two states of being (living and dead) to ensure inner purity in all conceivable realms of consciousness. With that heady task already completed last week, the Japanese summon good luck and prosperity by offering mochi, a sweet rice paste, to the honorable god of the new year, Toshigami. The Shinto ritual called Mochitsuki (mochi pounding) is a raucous and rhythmic affair (led, this year, by the Bay Area group Kagami Kai) in which folks are asked to swing ceremonial wooden mallets in time with taiko drums and bamboo flutes, and to participate in a Japanese version of lion dancing. After the pounding, everyone will be invited to partake of sweet cakes and join in a self-guided treasure hunt through the Asian Art Museum galleries (in Golden Gate Park) on Saturday, Jan. 6, at noon. Free with museum admission of $7; call 379-8879.
If sushi and mochi aren't enough to sate your artistic appetite, Jan Richman and Beth Lisick present the 9x9 Industries benefit "Poetry & Pizza," a somewhat futile attempt at keeping artists afloat without having to suck at the corporate aqua-lung. Richman was the 1994 recipient of the Walt Whitman Award for her book of poetry Because the Brain Can Be Talked Into Anything; Lisick penned the acclaimed collection Monkey Girl and has performed at Lollapalooza, Bumbershoot, and South by Southwest. While both poets slave by day at SF Gate, the online version of the San Francisco Chronicle and KRON-TV, their poignant musings on existence and pop culture are better appreciated with a slice of pie -- rather than a mouse -- in hand. "Poetry and Pizza" will be held on Friday, Jan. 5, at Escape From New York Pizza (at Bush and Montgomery) at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $5; call 421-0700.
In the space western GoodGuy/BadGuy, the title character (played by performance artist Rajendra Serber) preserves a tenuous sense of order on Flat Earth by vigilantly monitoring the Flat Earthlings' feeble notions of good and evil. When he suddenly abandons the planet in a fit of rocket-fueled, self-absorbed introspection, the two-dimensional world falls victim to its own inner truth. The resultant string of absurd-yet-ominous revelations leaves the town sheriff dunged and feathered by an army of mutant cows, among other things. But that's more than you needed to know.
"A Flat Earth Benefit" hopes to raise last-minute capital for RK Corral, the conglomeration of multimedia artists that brought Enie Macy and the Ten Step Program to the Lab last year, so RK Corral can stage GG/BG with real 3-D humans, live music, and a sequence of still photography. The benefit includes live sets by Count Dante & the Black Dragon Fighting Society, Three Day Stubble's Donald Eugene Nutella III and his solo AVI freakout, and Westward Expansion, which will re-create the GG/BG soundtrack with the help of whoopee cushions, party horns, violas, violins, and sheets of metal. Dante, whom you may also know as the MC for Incredibly Strange Wrestling, appears in GG/BG as Flat Earth's drunken, whoring mayor, while Mr. Nutella plays the sheriff. One can also expect appearances by other deranged Flat Earthlings and their hesitant friends at "A Flat Earth Benefit," at the CW Saloon on Sunday, Jan. 7, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $5-15 sliding scale; call 487-1978. GoodGuy/BadGuy will be shown Thursdays through Saturdays, Jan. 18-27, at the Lab (2948 16th St.); call 864-8855.