It's All Kosher Untraditional though they may be, a trio of Jewish-holiday parties are steeped in the very seasonal traditions of giving. An Evening of Kung Pao Kosher Comedy -- which is actually four evenings of seven-course Chinese banquets and comedy shows -- benefits WORLD (a network for women with HIV/AIDS) and the Bay Area Council for Jewish Rescue and Renewal. Headliners include famed Borscht Belt comedian Freddie Roman and wisecracking Manhattanite Sara Cytron, whose appearance at Josie's a few years back had 'em rolling in the aisles; Dan Lewis and Kung Pao creator Lisa Geduldig also perform. The Kung Pao Kosher Comedy Show offers a dinner performance at 6 p.m. and a cocktail show at 9:30 tonight through Sunday (Christmas Eve's dinner show has sold out) at the New Asia Restaurant, 772 Pacific (at Grant), S.F. Admission is $32-46; call 522-3737. New Wave nostalgists will want to drop in on The Latke Ball, where the '80s cover band Tainted Love plays Adam Ant and Culture Club, and DJs spin '90s dance music. Guests will be leaving at least some of their clothing at the door, so that the Young Adults Division of the Jewish Community Center can donate it to groups that serve the homeless. The ball begins at 8:30 p.m. at Club Ten 15, 1015 Folsom (at Sixth Street), S.F. Admission is $15-25; call 436-0711. And finally, The Torah Rave integrates the Kabalah with world-beat music, meditation, chanting, and ritual into a dance party benefiting the Jewish Arts and Culture School. The rave begins at 8 p.m. at Western Sky Dance Studios, 2526 Eighth St. (at Parker), Berkeley. Admission is $10-15; call (510) 232-9750.
Outside In While artists participating in the Jewish Museum show AlterNativity: The Other Side of Christmas ponder what it means to be Jewish on Christmas, guests of the museum's annual "Being Jewish On Christmas" party can weigh in on the issue too, with the interactive video installation Talking Tents. Created by the artists' collective Please Louise Productions/Museo Contempo, the video lets guests voice their thoughts and feelings about Christmas on camera. Their reactions, mixed with other previously conducted interviews, will be projected live on the walls and on multiple monitors throughout the museum during the party, held on the exhibit's opening day. Lisa Kokin's book Babes in Goyland, a wry account of the time she was hired to create a nativity scene, offers an outsider's perspective on the holiday, although not all the artists approach marginalization from a strictly Jewish perspective: Christopher Johnson's cardboard cityscape installation looks at the holidays from the viewpoint of the homeless. Rhonda Liberman's Christmas stockings filled with gelt, meanwhile, suggest a balance struck between two cultures. The art and the tents are only part of the party's entertainment: Ruth Halpern tells stories, California Klezmer and the Jewish Folk Chorus provide music, and kids can join in art workshops or peer into the tiny kosher kitchen of the Jewish Victorian dollhouse. The celebration, capped with a Shabbat candlelighting ceremony at 4 p.m., begins at 10 a.m. at the Jewish Museum, 121 Steuart (at Mission), S.F. Admission is free-$3; call 788-9990.
And You, And You, And Even You Were There! There couldn't be a better place, short of Kansas after a twister, to watch the newly restored The Wizard of Oz than at the Castro Theater's palatial digs, surrounded by enthusiastic friends of Dorothy cheering for camp idol Judy Garland. The timing is optimal too: Like the traditional holiday fare White Christmas, The Grinch, and It's a Wonderful Life), Oz threatens us with loss to remind us how lucky we are. And just like festive decorations and comfort food, the movie momentarily transports us back to our childhoods, although many people who've seen the film annually on TV since it came out nearly six decades ago have never seen it on the big screen -- which is yet another reason to make the trip. The picture and sound have been digitally improved, making Dorothy's ruby slippers sparklier and the Wicked Witch's evil shriek more bone-chilling than ever. The movie screens at 2, 4:30, 7, and 9:15 p.m. at the Castro Theater, 429 Castro (at Market), S.F. Admission is $6.50; call 621-6120.
Come to Balmoral Country Victorian England set aside Boxing Day as a workman's holiday: Servants and tradespeople got the day off to celebrate Christmas with their families; the contents of tip boxes and church almsboxes were meted out; and well-off English families gave small gifts to folks in the service industries. (The holiday was evidently meant to preserve the monied class as well, which considered the holiday solicitation of tips by its less fortunate neighbors to have gotten out of hand.) Filmgoers who caught Mrs. Brown may recall the holiday ball Queen Victoria threw at Scotland's Balmoral Castle for her highland tenants and servants, at which she danced a reel with her Scottish horseman John Brown. The Period Events & Entertainments Recreation Society, which throws costume parties locally throughout the year, finishes off 1998 with A Victorian Christmas Ball at Balmoral, a recreation of Queen Victoria's annual fete. Costumed revelers (costumes are "admired but not required") whirl merrily through waltzes, polkas, and Scottish country dances to live 19th-century dance music by Bangers & Mash, making intermittent trips to the buffet. The ball begins at 6:30 p.m. at the Masonic Lodge, 100 North Ellsworth (at Tilton), San Mateo. Admission is $15; call (510) 522-1731. Back in the city, meanwhile, the Irish and honorary Irish celebrate St. Stephens Day (another holiday with a tradition of soliciting money), with a St. Stephen's Day Pub Crawl. Traditionally, young men with masked or coal-marked faces march through the streets in the Wren Boys procession, singing and bearing a long pole topped with a holly bush, which is supposed to contain a captured wren for whose sake the marchers seek money. Here, the San Francisco Cooley-Keegan Branch of Comhaltas Ceoltóri ireann invite the Wren Boys and friends on a similar outing beginning at 7 p.m. at the Shannon Arms, 915 Taravel (at 19th Avenue), S.F. Admission is free; call 564-7188.
Words to Live By Pity the degreed liberal artist, doomed to a life of low-paying jobs. Actually, hold the pity party until after the Modern Language Association Convention and its job fair leaves town. Granted, many of the employment opportunities are reserved for those with Ph.D.s, but even people who don't have advanced degrees may find something among the academic and nonacademic postings for English and foreign-language specialists. For everyone else, the MLA hosts public forums, film screenings, and events that celebrate (excoriate, flagellate, etc.), the spoken and written word. Engage total strangers in a profanity-laced argument about "The Plays and Films of David Mamet"; take in Pratibha Parmar's The Color of Britain; hear poets like John Kinsella and Adrienne Rich read live. The conference begins at 3 p.m. (and runs through Wednesday) at the Hilton (333 O'Farrell), Fairmont Hotel (California & Mason), and Westin St. Francis Hotel (Powell & Geary), S.F. Admission is free to the public; call 923-7505 for a schedule of events.
Sonic Tonic Every Sunday afternoon, college radio station KUSF offers a two-hour tribute to a band or a musical genre with the Spotlight show. Past spotlights -- hair bands! be-bop! elf core! Halloween with the Stranglers! -- have gone where commercial radio would never dare, and maybe never think, to go. Frank Andrick caps the 1998 Spotlight series with Only Sonic Spoken Here, a must for fans of Sonic Youth and bands of their ilk. Andrick offers spoken word, outtakes, poems, music, sounds, solos, and other stuff from the band and its friends, as well as offshoots like Ciccone Youth. Besides offering a deeper look at a band people mostly know from its artful dissonance (on cult-status albums like Daydream Nation), the show also provides a significant conclusion to a difficult year at the station: After KUSF music director and major Sonic Youth fan Jason Knuth took his life last spring, the band released a limited-edition memorial CD in his name, to benefit local suicide-prevention agencies. The show airs at 4 p.m. on KUSF 90.3 FM.
Wheel of Fortune Working from the theory that nobody wants to be more tense or depressed than they already are during the holidays, the Red Vic screens a perfectly silly film for kids of all ages: Tim Burton's live-action cartoon Pee-wee's Big Adventure. Try to forget all that sordid business about the porn theater, and enjoy Pee-wee Herman's (ne Paul Reubens') finest hour as a cheerful, hyperkinetic, overgrown nerd kid who sasses bullies and loves his shiny bike so much that when it's stolen, he'll dance on bars to appease toughs and hitch a ride with a bug-eyed lady trucker if that'll help him get it back -- anyone who's ever had a bike stolen in the city can relate. Morgan Fairchild and James Brolin make cameo appearances in the film, which, between Herman, Burton, and score composer Danny Elfman, couldn't be snappier. The film screens at 7:15 & 9:15 p.m. (also Tuesday) at the Red Vic, 1727 Haight (at Cole), S.F. Admission is $3-6; call 668-3994.
Puppy Uppers The vivid mayhem of Saturday-morning cartoons inspired Wild Brain Animation Studio director Dave Thomas to create A Dog Cartoon, an animated comic short about a high-maintenance dog and the many harrowing obstacles that impede his search for a bone. The film, in turn, inspired a zippy new score by the Sprocket Ensemble, who play live when A Dog Cartoon screens with films like the claymation work Publegg Enemy, a radio-drama-style film about a seedy gangster nightclub run by ... ducks. This is the last show of the year for the Sprockets, who specialize in putting new music and new film together, and they've taken steps to insure that the atmosphere is as zany offscreen as it is on: People can have their pictures taken with a 15-foot Doggie Diner head (a special treat, since the restaurant chain has been reduced to a single Doggie Diner, across the street from the SF Zoo). Additionally, Mike Temple Brady eats fire with chopsticks and does contact juggling in the Flaming Won Ton Show. The fun begins at 7:30 p.m. at the Fine Arts Theater, 2451 Shattuck, Berkeley. Admission is $10; call 681-3189.