Double Vision Two of America's foremost photographers step in front of the camera for a documentary double bill: Illuminations: Ruth Bernhard, Photographer by Robert Burrill, and Berenice Abbott: A View of the 20th Century, by Martha Wheelock and Kay Weaver. Illuminations (5:10 and 7:45 p.m.) and Berenice Abbott (6:30 and 9:15 p.m.) screen at the UC Theatre, 2036 University, Berkeley. Tickets are $6.50; call (510) 843-6267.
See Jane Sing Early in her career, Jane Siberry was like a cutesy Canadian version of Laurie Anderson, "precious" in the worst sense of the word. But over time, her musical experimentation has shifted from willfully eccentric folksiness to free-flowing jazz. Siberry's first full-band tour in six years mixes originals with standards like "The Girl From Ipanema" and "Moon River." See (and hear) Jane at 8 p.m. at the Palace of Fine Arts, 3301 Lyon, S.F. Tickets are $21; call 885-0750.
City Sights "My work is concerned with the worlds of America's underclass," states Ken Miller. "In my photographs, I try to understand and appreciate the things that are important in these people's lives: the eerie beauty of a skinhead's tattoo, a whore's pride in her makeup, the misery of an alcoholic being sick." Does Miller bring anything to these subjects, or does he assume that raw subject matter inherently makes good art? Decide for yourself at "Open All Night," a new exhibition of his work. A reception for Miller lasts from 6 to 8 p.m. at Vision North Gallery, 2300 Polk, S.F. Free; call 474-4581.
Better Homes and Gardens From the '30s through the late '50s, William Wilson Wurster was one of the leading residential architects in America. Characterized by simplicity and livability, his designs often use the natural endowments of a site as a point of departure. Though Wilson's work is far from flamboyant, he has attracted controversy, both through his "regional" Californian style and his advocacy of mass-produced housing (he once built 1,500 units in 72 days). Highlighting 52 dwellings designed between 1922 and 1963, "An Everyday Modernism: The Houses of William Wilson Wurster" includes drawings, photographs, scale models, and mock-ups; you can see it from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the S.F. Museum of Modern Art, 151 Third St, S.F. Admission is free-$7; call 357-4000.
Gay Castro Nightmare The late Reinaldo Arenas' superb autobiography, Before Night Falls, is a personal litany of police threats and torturous imprisonment against gay men (like himself) and lesbians in Castro's Cuba; local filmmaker Sonja de Vries' Gay Cuba offers similar stories with visual accompaniment. A one-hour documentary, the film also mixes in humorous and historical footage. De Vries appears at a benefit premiere at 7 p.m. (also Friday) at the Victoria Theatre, 2961 16th St, S.F. Tickets are $5-50; call 282-7231.
Spooky Moves The latest dance/theater work by the New York-based Dance KUMIKOKIMOTO, Masao combines choreography by Kumiko Kimoto with percussive electronic music. The piece's musical collaborators include Kimoto, the Subliminal Kid, Ikue Mori, Yuval Gabay, and DJ Spooky (whose dark, sexy recordings with Billie Ray Martin are equal to Giorgio Moroder and Donna Summer's best disco dramas). The show starts at 8 p.m. (continuing through Sunday) at Theater Artaud, 450 Florida, S.F. Tickets are $12.50-18.50; call 621-7797.
Stephin the Great Bubble-gum genius Stephin Merritt is so prolific he has four different groups -- the 6ths, the Magnetic Fields (see Recordings this issue), the Gothic Archies, and Future Bible Heroes. A fantastic lyricist, great melodist, and strange-sound scientist extraordinaire, Merritt is unappreciated by gay men who'd rather listen to brain-dead techno and steroid rock, and indie rockers who wouldn't know inventive instrumentation and composition if they smacked them upside the head. But that's OK -- he keeps writing Casio 'n' guitar classics like "Strange Powers" (in which he rhymes "Coney Island" with "prostitutes in Thailand," likens a love-struck kiss to "a flying saucer landing," and describes a Las Vegas where "The electric bills are staggering/ The decor hog-wild/ And the entertainment saccharine"). The sullen, diminutive charmer opens for the Tindersticks at 9 p.m. at Bimbo's 365 Club, 1025 Columbus, S.F. Tickets are $15; call 474-0365.
Wild Kingdom Zentropa director Lars von Trier's new film, The Kingdom, is five butt-numbing hours long, and it's set in a Danish hospital to boot. But those five hours -- divided into four segments -- feature a head-severing intern, a zombie-plagued dream center, an ambulance from hell, two all-knowing but retarded dishwashers, an alien pregnancy, and Haitian voodoo. Parts 1 and 2 of The Kingdom screen at 1 and 7 p.m.; Parts 3 and 4 screen at 3:40 and 9:35 p.m. at the Castro, Castro and Market, S.F. The Kingdom continues through Nov. 23. Tickets are $6; call 621-6120.
You Gotta Have Harp You know the world's gotten mean when harpists start getting into nasty snits. The second annual Bay Area harp event showdown (Harps of the World vs. Festival of Harps) continues this week. The S.F. Festival of Harps includes jazz harp by Deborah Henson-Conant; Celtic classical harp by Rudiger Opperman and Cynthia Mowrey; neogothic harp by Musica Divina; and avant-garde harp by Barbara Imhoff and Diana Trimball. The plucking starts at 8 p.m. at Grace Cathedral, Taylor and California, S.F. Tickets are $16-18; call 759-1028.
Cinemaniacs Over four intensive weeks this summer, each film/video student at California State Summer School for the Arts viewed 120 short and feature films, then produced four videos, three Super 8 shorts, and two 16mm shorts. "Teenage Riot" showcases some of the best works produced. Titles include The Green Hornet and His Bitch by Zoe Crowhurst-Robinson, I Dream of Pee by Daniel Talbott, and The Elevator Dalai Lama by Tony Le. Scope it out at 8 p.m. at Artists' Television Access, 992 Valencia, S.F. Tickets are $5; call 824-3890.
Faster, Baby! Go! Go! Whereas most S.F. gender-bending events cater to a particular type of drag, DragStrip -- a monthly shindig produced by Merkinstock's Lu Read -- aims to bring together kings, queens, strippers, transsexuals, and more. Shirley "Cha Cha" Muldowney won't be there, but Pussy Tourette, Arturo ("Patsy Cline") Galster, Connie Champagne, Elvis Herselvis, Deke & Zeke, and the Fishstix will. Other enticements include a preview of Artful Circle Productions' upcoming show Women's Prison Xmas and music by DJs Alvin a-go-go and Deena Davenport. A benefit for LYRIC, the night starts at 9 p.m. at Transmission Theatre, 314 11th St, S.F. Tickets are $11; call 861-6906.
Twist Barbie In late 1993, the Barbie Liberation Organization claimed to have switched the voice boxes of hundreds of dolls, so -- come Christmas -- youngsters were treated to G.I. Joes that said, "I love to shop with you!" and Barbies that yelled, "Vengeance is mine!" Through a carefully planned strategy of media manipulation, the BLO's alleged activities received worldwide coverage. Organization member Igor Vamos screens news footage of the elaborate prank and other actions -- including "Malcolm X Street," "Quayle/Vomit," and a work-in-progress on penis enlargement -- in a program titled "Private Eyes/Public Spaces." Also featuring Melinda Stone, the show starts at 8:30 p.m. at Artists' Television Access, 992 Valencia, S.F. Tickets are $5; call 824-3890.
Drums Along the Campus Dedicated to traditional Japanese drum music, the International Taiko Festival was created in 1968 by Seiichi Tanaka of San Francisco Taiko Dojo. Tanaka's local ensemble -- which has the largest taiko drum in this hemisphere, a 12-foot, 1-ton whopper priced at $500,000 -- is just one of seven groups performing at this year's event. The thunder and rumbling starts at 8 p.m. (also Sunday at 3 p.m.) at Zellerbach Hall, Bancroft and Telegraph, UC Berkeley campus. Tickets are $17-25; call (510) 642-9988.
Micro Masterpieces Q: Who -- besides your cat -- makes sculptures out of hair and dust? A: Hagop Sandaljian, whose works can only be appreciated by peering through a microscope. A presentation of Sandaljian's art is one part of an afternoon program that also includes films about wee and huge creations. Windsor McCay's The Pet is about a huge domestic beast; Rene Laloux's Les Escargot pits a farmer against giant snails; Folly of Dr. Tube by Napoleon director Abel Gance (with live musical accompaniment from members of the Clubfoot Orchestra) is a silent short that could've been called Honey, I Shrunk the Guests. Ooh and aah at the "About the Size of It" series beginning at 2 p.m. at the Exploratorium's McBean Theater, 3601 Lyon, S.F. Admission is $2.50-9; call 563-7337.
Oy, What an Entuhtainuh! Tovah Feldshuh gushes talent. Can she sing? Go ask Christopher Plummer, with whom she starred on Broadway in Cyrano. Can she act? Check out her ongoing roles on TV's Law & Order and As the World Turns. And for one night only, Feldshuh fanatics can witness her in Tovah Crossovah, her knock-'em-dead one-woman show that incorporates Gershwin, Sondheim, and a gallery of characters from ages 8 to 80. The show comes via New York's Algonquin Hotel to the Hoytt Theater at the Osher Marin Jewish Community Center, 200 N. San Pedro, San Rafael. Curtain is at 5 p.m.; tickets are $9-18; call 479-2000.
The Good, the Bad, and the Pathetique Sewage treatment plants, theme parks, Las Vegas casinos, and Mexican wrestling contests are just some of the cultural delights Ralph Rugoff captures in Circus Americanus, a new monograph. As a columnist for LA Weekly, Rugoff first coined the term "pathetic art" for contemporary work (by people like Mike Kelley and Cary "Candyass" Leibowitz) that obsesses on failure, ineptitude, and social humiliation. He'll talk and show slides at 6 p.m. at City Lights, 261 Columbus, S.F. Free; call 362-8193.
Celluloid Swan Song It was 1960, and two of America's brightest stars -- Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe -- had faded to the back row of Hollywood's pantheon. Enter director John Huston and writer Arthur Miller (Monroe's third husband) with a screenplay about a disgruntled, restless divorcee (Monroe) and her coterie of existentialist cowboy buddies (led by Gable). The Misfits sounds like an overwrought melodrama, but it turns out to be a poignant drama -- and the last screen credit for both of its stars (Gable died in a tragic accident before seeing the final cut; Monroe committed suicide a year and a half later). Supporting scene-chewer Thelma Ritter gets off a few crackling one-liners. The Misfits screens at 6 and 8:30 p.m. as part of a weeklong mini-retrospective of Monroe movies at the Casting Couch, 950 Battery, S.F. Tickets are $7; call 986-7001.
Let There Be Light Next to the Star of David, the menorah is perhaps the most recognizable symbol of Judaism. The nine-branched candelabrum used in the celebration of Hanukkah has been mass-produced over the centuries (including an electric dime-store version with orange Christmas bulbs that screw into the branches). In "Light Interpretations: A Hanukkah Menorah Invitational," 127 unique creations by Jewish and non-Jewish artists in a variety of media have been gathered. The menorahs are on display through Dec. 25 at the Jewish Museum, 121 Steuart, S.F. Tickets are $1.50-3; call 543-8880.