Magic Fingers Since free love is now about as common as a free lunch, "love the one you're with" applies in an entirely new way. And so it follows that sex toy shop and bookstore Good Vibrations has declared May National Masturbation Month, and suggests that people celebrate by taking an hour off work this morning to touch themselves (bonus points for truthfully explaining why you're late). A "Salute to Masturbation" video screening on Thursday, which offers clips from X-rated and educational videos by mainstream and indie filmmakers, is hosted by Exhibitionism for the Shy author Carol Queen and begins at 7 and 9:15 p.m. at the Roxie Cinema, 3117 16th St., S.F. Admission is $3-6; call 863-1087. (Good Vibrations also hosts a "Top 10 People to Masturbate To" contest at both stores: 1210 Valencia, S.F., and 2504 San Pablo, Berkeley. Call 974-8985 for more information.)
How the West Was Won With Transparent Hinges and Opening the Gate, Chen & Dancers usher in Asian-Pacific Heritage Month in ambitious fashion. Beijing native Long Zhou contributes an original score melding traditional Chinese and Western music with spoken text for Transparent Hinges; the Manhattan-based company and a multigenerational cast from the Bay Area Asian-American community revisit the experiences of American immigrants, from the turn of the century to the Yellow Power movement of the '60s. Hinges, inspired by poetry written on a wall at Angel Island, is delivered through modern and traditional choreographic strokes and elaborate costuming, as is Gate, a tribute to freedom in which the dancers double as drummers. The show opens at 8 p.m. (and runs through May 18) at Theater Artaud, 450 Florida, S.F. Admission is $12.50-20; call 621-7797.
Isn't it Goode? Childhood's sensory pleasures flood the world premiere of the Joe Goode Performance Group's Four Feelings, although there are a few more feelings than that at work throughout the program. A sense of identity, linked to memories of home, emerges in "This Is Where I Am Now," an except from Goode's previous work Take/Place, while the struggle of two burned-out AIDS caregivers to maintain their senses of humor and compassion propels "Everybody Leaves," part of the 1996 installation performance The Maverick Strain. Goode's penchant for live original music and simple gestures on which to build mercurial dance prevails in Four Feelings in passages where, for instance, a man recalls the physical shape of a boyhood argument. The performance begins at 8 p.m. (and runs through May 18) at the Cowell Theater, Fort Mason, S.F. Admission is $20; call 392-4400.
Place That Face There's a kind of parallel universe inside S.F. Camerawork, where a parade of faces seems to be peering back at gallerygoers. Julian Okwu traveled across the U.S. to photograph and interview young African-American men who have bolstered their communities, whether through classrooms or boardrooms, for his just-published book Face Forward: Young African-American Men in a Critical Age. His exhibit of portraits and text by the same name hangs with Adrienne Salinger's "Living Alone," a series of color photos and in-depth interviews with 95 solo subjects, and Douglas Adesko's visual essay "Apartment Building," which offers portraits of, and interviews with, the denizens of a run-down Civic Center edifice. The exhibit opens with a reception at 5:30 p.m. (and is up through June 14) at S.F. Camerawork, 115 Natoma, S.F. Admission is free; call 764-1001.
Sam He Am Equal parts pulp fiction and vaudeville, circus sideshow and radio play, Rough and Tumble's theatrical comedy My Uncle Sam takes basic issues of life, love, loss, and American identity and sends them up over the top. A narrator imagines the intriguing life his mysterious bachelor uncle, a novelties salesman, must have led in the late '40s, spinning the details around nightclubs, opium dens, a college campus, a miniature-golf course, and the Church of St. Christopher, where Sam searches for his fiancee's brother, a louse on the lam with a wad of their gangster father's inheritance money. The show previews at 8 p.m. (and runs through June 15) at the 450 Geary Studio Theater, 450 Geary, S.F. Admission is $15-20; call 673-1172.
We're All Mad Here Denise Uyehara, the performance artist who grabbed our attention by holding a gun to the head of that oh-so-adorable Hello Kitty, has collaborated with L.A. contemporary Dan Kwong on a new work, Samurai Centerfielder Meets the Mad Kabuki Woman. Men and women, queer and straight, yin and yang; they all undergo various permutations here as the performers, leaning on monologue and poetics, work (and play) through questions of how we see one another. Samurai begins at 8 p.m. at New Langton Arts, 1246 Folsom, S.F. Admission is $6-8; call 626-5416.
Listen Here Half Japanese meets half of Portland as Hazel's Pete Krebs and Heatmiser's Elliott Smith open up with solo sets. Krebs sets the tone of this essentially three-man show with a few numbers from his country-tinged solo album Western Electric, on which listeners get acoustic guitar punctuated by squeaky doors, sharpened knives, and Smith on "recyclables." The melancholic beauty of Smith's eponymous second solo record lingers around Either/Or, as he excises the petty business of celebrity and small towns with "Pictures of Me" and "Punch and Judy," while the tuneful "Ballad of Big Nothing" peeks through like a ray of sunshine. Jad Fair leads the most recent incarnation of Half Japanese through a noisy hodgepodge of pop and punk tunes polished over 20 years time and tagged with memorable titles like "I Know How It Feels ... Bad." The show begins at 9:30 p.m. at the Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., S.F. Admission is $7; call 621-4455.
Go Ask Alice After introducing readers to a panoply of vivid, memorable characters in The Color Purple, The Second Life of Grange Copeland, Possessing the Secret of Joy, and a score of other works, Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and poet Alice Walker reveals something of herself in Anything We Love Can Be Saved. With this autobiographical collection of essays, Walker pays tribute to social activists who have helped shape her own activism, from Fidel Castro to a grandmother five generations back. Sedge Thomson interviews Walker at 10 a.m. on the radio show West Coast Live, which is broadcast live on KALW-FM 91.7 from the Cowell Theater, Fort Mason, S.F. Admission is $10-12; call 664-9500 for reservations. U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Hass introduces Walker in an evening benefit for KPFA at 8 p.m. at King Middle School, 1781 Rose, Berkeley. Admission is $10-12; call (510) 848-6767, ext. 609.
Swingin' and Swayin' More than anything, guests at the venerable San Francisco Symphony fund-raiser the Black and White Ball resemble a swarm of boisterous dancing penguins. City swells and out-of-towners numbering in the thousands are expected to converge on this swanky block party, where 40 Bay Area bands and a smattering of nonmusical entertainment, like the French circus Malabar, play 13 waterfront stages. The symphony itself shares the spotlight with acts ranging from the Ethel Merman Memorial Choir and Dr. Loco's Rockin' Jalapeno Band to Harry Denton's Starlight Orchestra and the New Morty Show. The ball begins at 9 p.m. (preceded by a patron's cocktail party and dinner at 6:30 p.m.) along the Embarcadero, with entrances at the Ferry Building, Washington & Drumm, Mission & Market, and Market & Main, S.F. Admission is $150-575; call 864-6000.
Dark Entries While the Black and White Ball sends revelers home dreaming of Fred and Ginger (see above), "New Wave City" 's alternative dance party the Black and Black Ball conjures visions of Budgie and Siouxsie. "Death Guild" 's Melting Girl joins DJs Shindog and Skip as co-hostess and guest DJ, spinning classics by black-clad, late '70s and early '80s icons including the Ramones, Bauhaus, Depeche Mode, and the Clash. Like their symphony-supporting counterparts, party people are expected to dress accordingly; go ahead and relive those memories of the 'rents wringing their hands and pleading, "Why can't you wear something cheery?" The Black and Black Ball begins at 9 p.m. at the King Street Garage, 174 King, S.F. Admission is $5 before 10 p.m., $10 after; call 675-LOVE.
Stop ... Smell Toss the advertising circulars in the recycling bin, because if Mom lives anywhere nearby, what she probably wants most is a quiet afternoon with her kid. The Berkeley Rose Garden, which affords weekend amblers a fragrant and generous view of Berkeley and the San Francisco skyline from its graded, amphitheaterlike environs, celebrates its 60th anniversary with live folk and gospel music, refreshments, arts and crafts vendors, and a raffle of rosebushes in the garden and the adjoining Codornices Park. Full blooms are expected from the new rose plants gardeners have put in over the past year, and the Codornices Park creek has been refurbished with hundreds of new plants. The celebration begins at 11 a.m. at the Berkeley Rose Garden, Euclid between Bay View and Eunice, Berkeley. Admission is free-donation; call (510) 525-3005.
Monkey Man After camping out with the puffins in the North Atlantic, trailing macaws through the Amazon Basin, and trekking after white rhinos in Zaire, longtime National Geographic contributing photographer Frans Lanting has completed a new book on another companion from his wild life: Bonobo: The Forgotten Ape. Bonobos, an endangered primate slightly smaller than a chimp, share a good part of their genetic makeup with people, and are known for their peaceable behavior. Lanting conducts a discussion and slide presentation of photos from the book at 7 p.m. in the Cowell Theater, Fort Mason, S.F. Admission is $15-20; call 777-1070.
The Other Parsons Project Time and gravity lose their grip in Caught, as the pop of a strobe light freezes each midair revolution of a dancer's turns as indelibly as a snapshot. It's that kind of physically charged, visually exhilarating work that has made New York's Parsons Dance Company long-awaited local guests. The troupe, led by former Paul Taylor dancer David Parsons, splits its San Francisco debut into three programs; Caught appears on all three. The first also features live accompaniment by the Turtle Island String Quartet and a modern take on baroque dance, set to a Bach score. Ring Around the Rosie, which draws a line from the black plague to AIDS, highlights Program B. Program A opens at 8 p.m. (and runs through May 18; Programs B and C alternate after that through May 25) at the Marines Memorial Theater, 609 Sutter, S.F. Admission is $15-33; call 771-6900.