The Pen Is Mightier Reigning U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Hass has more than just craft in common with nominees at this year's Bay Area Book Reviewers Association Awards. Hass, who accepts the Fred Cody Award tonight for a lifetime of written achievement, is a San Francisco native and Stanford alum, which means he also meets the contest's other criterion: local. Author Michael Krasny is the keynote speaker at the BABRA Awards ceremony, where literary luminaries like Gary Snyder and Maxine Chernoff -- nominated in nonfiction, fiction, poetry, and children's literature categories -- will sign books and meet their readers. The evening begins at 7 p.m. at the Cowell Theater, Fort Mason, S.F. Admission is $10-12; call (510) 525-5476.
Hung Up "Starving artist" takes on new significance with the Homeless Art Project Foundation, whose members dabble in media like fast-food ketchup and used lipsticks, and whose studios double as laundromats and parking lots. Bay Area musician Charlie Colin put the project together after trawling the streets of L.A. for graffiti to use as album-cover art; he began collecting work from homeless artists, whom he repaid with art supplies or cash. Colin found that people forced to scrounge for basic food and shelter will nonetheless set aside time to work on art. He believes viewers get a clearer sense of the issues affecting the homeless from work they create, and intends to raise funds for shelter art programs. Train, Box Set Acoustic Duo, and Black Lab play a local benefit for HAP. Doors open at 8:30 p.m.; the show begins at 9 p.m. at the Great American Music Hall, 859 O'Farrell, S.F. Admission is $10; call 885-0750.
True Crime Stories By now, photojournalist Gilles Peress is acutely attuned to the carnage of war: He's trained his lens on clashes in Ireland, Iran, Bosnia, and most recently Rwanda, the subject of his book The Silence. Black-and-white 36-by-54-inch prints from that book, which were first shown at New York's Museum of Modern Art, will be shown on the West Coast for the first time in the local exhibit "The Silence," which also features excerpts from the United Nations report on the Rwandan situation. The exhibit is held in conjunction with "Reporting From the Killing Fields," a conference on genocide, crimes against humanity, and war, which begins at UC Berkeley's Boalt Hall at 8 p.m. tonight with an address by Justice Richard Goldstone, a former chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, and at Bechtel Engineering Center Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., when Peress speaks as part of a panel discussion in the afternoon. "The Silence" exhibit opens with a reception at 4 p.m. (and is up through April 24) in the Graduate School of Journalism's Center for Photography, North Gate Hall, UC Berkeley campus. Admission is free; call (510) 642-3383.
Going Off Too much of stand-up comedy relies on the Differences Between Men and Women, but at brand-new alternative comedy show "Tangent," the idea is to skip battle-of-the-sexes jokes and other lowbrow comedy staples in favor of smarter subjects and a spontaneous narrative approach in which comics get to riff off each other's sets. Gay sensibility distinguishes "Tangent" 's debut, which is hosted by Sabrina Matthews and features drag queen and former presidential candidate Joan Jett-Blakk and Mrs. Doubtfire's Scott Capurro. The show begins at 7 p.m. at Cafe Du Nord, 2170 Market, S.F. Admission is $8; call 979-6545.
Night Lights At after-hours hangout Club Aztlantis, the backdrop to Ricardo Bracho's The Sweetest Hangover (& other stds), promoter Octavio Deseo and his friends share gossip and grooves, chemical highs and emotional lows. Playwright Cherrie Moraga contributed the dramaturgy to Bracho's vision of young, queer, ethnic urban subcultures, and served as mentor on this, his first full-length play, which he was commissioned to write through his work with DramaDIVAs. Members of that company, the product of an arts-intervention program for gay, lesbian, bi, and questioning youngsters of color, join a cast of professional actors in the production. The Sweetest Hangover previews at 8 p.m. (also Friday, regular performances continue through April 27) at the Brava Theater Center, 2789 24th St., S.F. Admission is $10-14; call 647-2822.
Pretty in Pink The beastly side of the beauty business emerges at the premiere of The Face by the Door, a black comedy with pink highlights. Writer/actress Kristina Robbins mined material from her real-life sales experience with Mary Kay cosmetics for this solo show about desperate women and greed, lip liner and lust, set on a hot night in Dallas, Texas. Robbins, a founding member of improv comedy troupe Scratch Theater, makes a second debut a few neighborhoods over at the S.F. International Film Festival with a role in the new feature film Dream With the Fishes. Face previews at 8:30 p.m. (and runs through May 3) at the Marsh, 1062 Valencia, S.F. Admission is $8-12; call 826-5750.
Get Your Fill It may seem ridiculous when audiences worship the goddess -- a cigarette-smoking, hairnet-wearing Nao Bustamante -- by blowing into their party horns at Bustamante's performance piece with Coco Fusco, Stuff. But the dueling forces of hunger for the exotic and fear of the unknown characterizing America's clumsy, often fetishistic relationship with its Latin neighbors has already been satirized with re-enactments of tequila-swigging frat boys and moony New Agers. Stuff's fresh approach to food, sex, and Latin women opens the S.F. Art Institute series "Conscious Chronicles: New Left Coast Performance" at 8:30 p.m. (also Saturday) at Brady Street Dance Center, 60 Brady, S.F. Admission is $5-10; call 558-9355.
Fool's Gold April babies are treated to a black-tie-optional birthday bash with Big Bad Voodoo Daddy at the Fool's Ball, a benefit for privately funded homeless family shelter Raphael House. Hi-Ball Lounge proprietor Max Young, whose birthday falls on April Fools' Day, inaugurated the ball a few years back to celebrate his 30th; the guest-of-honor roster includes club-night producers Martel Toler and Nabiel Musieh, Johnny Love's owner Johnny Metheney, and other local scene-makers. The Swamis open for Swingers house band Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, whom locals may also recognize from the "Swing Rumble" showdowns with the New Morty Show. Gift certificates for dinner at restaurants including Postrio and Balboa Cafe will be awarded at the ball's raffle, and tickets to the ball itself will be given away periodically on KUSF. Doors open at 8 p.m. at Bimbo's 365 Club, 1025 Columbus, S.F. Admission is $25-30; advance tickets available through Blues, the Comet Club, and the Hi-Ball Lounge. Call 474-6299 for more information.
Good for You They're doing full-body tuneups over in the Mission, where in one place, at one time, at no cost, anyone can be tested for glaucoma, diabetes, HIV, TB, high blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and vision and dental conditions. Along with the poking and prodding, the fair also provides educational material on health-related topics. Spanish- and English-speaking health care professionals and UCSF students will be working on-site. The fair begins at 9 a.m. at the Mission Neighborhood Health Center, 240 Shotwell, S.F. Admission is free; call 552-3870.
Another Spring Sprung The yearly reappearance of fragrant pink cherry blossoms isn't yet cause for a national celebration the way it is in Japan, but San Francisco is one of those American cities (Washington, D.C., is another) that does commemorate the occasion in fine style. From the traditional smashing open of the sake barrel and drumming by S.F. Taiko Dojo at opening ceremonies to the Grand Parade at 1 p.m. April 20 from Civic Center to Polk to Post, the festival provides a two-week slew of cultural performances and exhibits, held mostly in Japantown. Highlights include the exhibit "Joy Under the Blossoms: Lacquer Picnic Sets" (opening April 17 at the Asian Art Museum); a kimono show (2:45 p.m. April 19 in the AMC Kabuki Theater; call 202-0353 for ticket information); and classical Japanese puppet drama (6 p.m. April 20 at the AMC Kabuki Theater). Artisans and vendors of Japanese, Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, and American eats open their booths at 11 a.m. this weekend and next and opening ceremonies begin today at noon on the Peace Plaza Stage, Japantown, Post & Geary, S.F. Admission is free; call (800) 827-6909.
Who Are You? Mark Van Proyen answers the question "How do you see yourself?" with a photograph of himself digitally manipulated to look a lot like Satan, while photographer Stephanie A. Pryor pops up in a flock of mannequins and painter Patricia Fillingame evokes the primal self with a series of howling infants. These are just three of the 26 exhibiting artists in "Mirror, Mirror: Current Reflections on Self-Portraiture," a group show about finding and exposing oneself through film, sculpture, video, painting, photography, and various other media. The exhibit opens at 9 a.m. (and is up through April 19) at the Diego Rivera Gallery, S.F. Art Institute, 800 Chestnut, S.F. Admission is free; call 771-7020.
Grand Designs Meet "I Love NY" logo designer Milton Glaser and The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover director Peter Greenaway at "Moving Images," the eighth annual Design Lecture Series by SFMOMA and the San Francisco chapter of the American Institute of Graphic Arts. Glaser, who also designed the Observation Deck and the Permanent Exhibit at the World Trade Center, opens the series tonight, followed by Greenaway (May 5), MTV and PBS animator R.O. Blechman (May 12), movie title designer Kyle Cooper (June 9), and Hunter S. Thompson's favored illustrator Ralph Steadman (June 16). In expressing the impact of good design, the ever-graphic Greenaway says it best when he borrows from French philosopher Jacques Derrida: "[T]he image always has the last word." Lectures begin at 7:30 p.m. at Center for the Arts, 701 Mission, S.F. Admission is $15-20; call 626-6008.
Web (In)sight Lest we forget, cyberspace isn't the exclusive realm of sci-fi-loving cultists, porn-swapping lonely hearts, or wired Wunderkind. Working from the premise that the Internet ought to be a democratic and useful medium, panelists at the forum "Technology, Culture, and Community" will use demonstrations, video, and digital storytelling to address such questions as who determines Internet content and how expanded access to multimedia benefits communities. Panelists include Christina Ibarra and Dan Schott of Artists' Television Access, who use video production and training to help Spanish speakers tell their stories, and James Littlejohn of the Columbia Park Boys and Girls Club, who guides kids through computer applications as they explore education and work options. The evening begins at 6 p.m. in the New Main Library's Koret Auditorium, 100 Larkin, S.F. Admission is free; call 557-4277.