Gaga for Gizmos Would-be Edisons will be emerging from their basements for a public show of whatchamacallits and thingamajigs at Invention: Future Products Pavilion, an offshoot of the adjoining Small Business Fair. The California Invention Center presents 60 new patented local inventions, including fish lures festooned with holograms; a self-stirring cook pot; flavor-enhanced moist towelettes doubling as toothbrushes and tongue scrapers; adjustable picture-hangers; and some kind of culinary appliance ominously tagged the Roast Master. El Sobrante first-graders contribute to the science-fair feel when they present aids for the disabled, the nature of which remain cloaked in secrecy. The exhibit begins at 11 a.m. (also Thursday) at Moscone Center, 747 Howard, S.F. Admission is $10; call 546-1997.
Khan, Man Benevolent Mongolian land lord Kubilai Khan and his wife Chabui oversaw an Eastern Empire, developing trade, exploration, science, arts, and law in their time, and making them overachievers worthy of an epic production like In Xanadu, a ShadowLight Productions piece told through shadow puppetry, masked actors, and dancers, film, and original live music composed by Miguel Frasconi. The title comes from the Coleridge poem ; the story from Morris Rossabi's book, Khubilai Khan: His Life and Times. The show, which has been invited to this summer's Spoleto Festival, opens locally at 8 p.m. (and runs through May 25) at the Cowell Theater, Fort Mason, S.F. Admission is $15-18; call 392-4400. (Backstage visits are open to families Friday-Saturday after matinee performances).
Gunning for Peace The Zooman in Charles Fuller's Obie Award-winning drama Zooman and the Sign is the remorseless gangbanger whose bullet misses its target and fatally wounds a 12-year-old girl. The sign refers to the placard her father places in the window of the grief-stricken family's home after her death, indicting the community for failing to come forward with information on the killer. The theater company, which revived the 1980 production in the wake of Tupac Shakur's and Notorious B.I.G.'s violent deaths has scheduled post-performance discussions where viewers, particularly kids, are asked to relate their own brushes with gangs and violence and talk about methods of prevention. The show opens with a preview (and runs through June 15) at the Lorraine Hansberry Theater, 620 Sutter, S.F. Admission $15-20; call 474-8800.
Nader off the Radar One of the big "aha!" moments in Ralph Nader Is Missing! comes from the realization that all the kidnapping suspects look strangely familiar because they're all played by the same guy: Rush Limbaugh in Night School playwright Charlie Varon, who also wrote this satirical thriller. A band of young attorneys (Marin and SF Shakespeare companies alumni Bobby Weinapple, Stacy Ross, and Carl Magruder) are visited by a mutually psychic vision of Nader's disappearance -- their mad search for the former presidential candidate is interrupted by a parade of odd characters. The show, directed by Stanley Williams, opens at 8:30 p.m. with a preview (and runs through June 29) at the Marsh, 1062 Valencia, S.F. Admission is $12-18; call 826-5750.
Lip Lock The couple making out in the RV might be a man and a woman, two men, or two women, but they will be smearing lipstick all over themselves regardless, and anyone can spy on them while they do it. Voyeurism is a two-way avenue in SOON 3's Smackers, an interactive performance that emphasizes issues of privacy and sexual politics by setting up camp between a row of strip joints and a venerable Catholic church (and in a neighborhood where the socialite kiss still thrives). The locally based company, whose last work audiences may remember from the human-sized bunnies pacing in outdoor cages, continues its long tradition of "performance landscape" pieces as viewers happen upon performers, drawn by their silhouettes on the window shades and the close-ups of their faces on the video monitors. Eventually, the watching becomes part of the show. Performances begin at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays (through June 7) at Washington Square Park, S.F. Admission is free; call 558-8575.
Lilias, Yoga, and You A pony-tailed Cincinnati housewife wearing a leotard and tights stood America on its head back in the early '70s, when PBS began airing the program Lilias, Yoga, and You (making that other PBS standby, Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, seem manic by comparison). Lilias Folan is a 60-year-old granny now, but that hasn't prevented her from recently completing her "Thirty Years of Yoga World Tour." Posturing obviously has its benefits. Folan speaks at "Yoga, Mind, and Spirit: The Yoga Journal Conference," where she and other yoga enthusiasts like Dr. Dean Ornish and Judith Lasater will lecture and give workshops on various styles of yoga; the event also includes a Saturday night dance concert with Jai Uttal and the Pagan Love Orchestra. The conference begins at 9:30 a.m. (and runs through Monday) at the Sheraton Palace Hotel, 2 New Montgomery, S.F. Admission is $25-395; call (800) 587-9065.
Three for Free A young Filipino-American man tries to cope with his mostly Anglo workplace in the strait-laced climate of 1950s San Francisco, in Michael Arago's Silencio, one of three films in the first installment of "Asian Pacific Heritage Month" programs on KQED. Academy Award-winning local filmmaker Steven Okazaki adds his name to the bill with American Sons, a docudrama employing actors to tell the real-life tales of Asian-American men's experiences with racism, while the shooting death of Japanese exchange student Yoshi Hattori serves as the catalyst for Christine Choy's The Shot Heard 'Round the World, a look at gun violence and cultural differences. Programming continues Saturday with films including Arthur Dong's Lotus, and on May 30 with Arnold Iger's Pins and Noodles. Tonight's broadcast begins at 9 p.m. on KQED Channel 9 (and is followed at 11 p.m. by A.K.A. Don Bonus).
Cinema's Next Wave Christa Collins' Restaurant, a photo essay on waiting tables, and The Production Codes, Kara Herold's computer installation about her grandfather's anti-Hollywood preaching pilgrimage from Kansas to California, are just two of many attractions at "Unfinished Business," the 1997 SFSU Cinema MFA Symposium, where film students reveal the fruits of their academic labors. Meanwhile, the cinema department offers visions in claymation, stop-motion, and 3-D at the "Animation Film Finals" screening today 1 p.m. in Room A1 101, Arts and Industry Building, and narrative, experimental, and documentary films and videos at the "SFSU Film Finals" screening tonight at 7:30 p.m. at McKenna Theater, Creative Arts Building. "Unfinished Business" installations are shown throughout the Arts and Industry Building through May 29, culminating in on-campus screenings May 28-29. All events are held on the SFSU campus, 1600 Holloway, S.F. Admission is free-$7; call 338-1629.
Miles of Style Before the shopping frenzy commences, just try to remember that the bodies out front belong to professional models at Q San Francisco magazine's swimsuit fashion shows, and to sweet young things at the "Style and Taste" youth fashion show and auction. That said, Q offers his-and-her previews of new and neo-retro Versace, Armani, and Speedo swimwear. The men's show is held at midnight at Club Universe, 177 Townsend; the women's show is held at midnight at Club Skirts, 300 De Haro, S.F. Admission is $7 for the women's show (or two-for-one admission before 10 p.m.) and $12 for the men's show; call 285-9626. Teen models are the perfect idiom for "Style and Taste" sponsors the Gap, Banana Republic, and Esprit, whose mall-ready designs feed nicely into that high school herding instinct. The evening begins with an indoor food tasting and auction, followed by an open-air fashion show and post-show DJ dance party. "Style and Taste" begins at 6 p.m. Sunday at Center for the Arts, 701 Mission, S.F. Admission is $25-50; call 929-1115.
On a Samba Note It may not match Brazil's pre-Lent bacchanalian sprawl, but San Francisco's Carnaval parade still brings out the extravagantly glittery, ruffled, and feathered finery, as well as generous expanses of bare skin. The percussive rumble of salsas and sambas and merengues propel waves of stiltwalkers, oversized puppets, elaborate floats, and exactingly prepared dancers through the streets at one of the city's best dressed, most musical affairs. The free outdoor festival, which includes entertainment, food, and arts and crafts, runs 11 a.m.-6 p.m. (also Sunday) on Harrison between 16th and 22nd streets; the parade begins at 10 a.m. Sunday at 24th Street & Bryant, running down 24th Street to Mission, down Mission to 14th Street, and from 14th Street to Harrison, S.F. Admission is free; call (510) 762-2277 for reserved seating tickets.
Fight! Fight! Jon Spencer fans and Cramps fanatics will be shaking and twitching once the Oblivians rip into a set of Memphis-style garage rockers like "Do The Milkshake," a raunchy revision of that hip shake thang, and an occasional surprise, like the cover of Trio's "Sunday You Need Love." The Oblivians headline the last night of Rip Off Rumble '97, a three-day Rip Off Records party where two minutes is a long time, 85 mph is a reasonable pace, the ghost of the Ramones hovers backstage, and the collective set list includes songs called "I Hate You" and "I Hate Your Guts." Get the picture? The hard-drinkin', stupid good fun begins Friday at Bottom of the Hill with the Motards, the Stitches, the Steve McQueens, and the Illnesses, and moves west on Saturday to the Kilowatt, where the Spites, Infections, and Chinese Millionaires open up for the Registrators. The Sunday rumble begins at 8 p.m. with the Retardos, followed by the Brides, Loli and the Chones, and the Oblivians at Kilowatt, 3160 16th St., S.F. Admission is $8; call 861-2595.
You Can Call Him J After writing songs for Matt Dillon to lip-synch in Grace of My Heart and turning out the solo album Martin and Me, J Mascis returns to Dinosaur Jr territory with bassist Mike Johnson and My Bloody Valentine's Kevin Shields on backup vocals on Hand It Over. Through the horn and Mellotron organ embellishments and the song written with New Order in mind, a familiar Mascis emerges; the lonely guy sounding a raggedy lament over a melodic guitar crush. Melody links Mascis to opening act Imperial Teen, but that band's hook-driven pop (honed in part by former Faith No More keyboardist Roddy Bottum and former Sister Double Happiness drummer Lynn Perko) offers the kind of creative variation that Mascis has yet to display. The show begins at 9 p.m. (also Tuesday) at Slim's, 333 11th St., S.F. Admission is $15.50-17; call (510) 762-2277.
Up by the Bootstraps The junior-year-in-Paris crowd can probably skip this, but anyone else who ever yearned to roam the globe will want to listen in when author Brad Olsen speaks. Olsen's travel books World Stompers I & II guide potential world travelers with limited funds through all the world's countries, from itinerary and budget planning to meeting each country's entry requirements, staying safe and healthy, and finding work overseas. Olsen, whose forthcoming books include World Party Stomp! 101 Best Global Bashes, speaks at 5:30 p.m. at the Rand McNally Map and Travel Store, 595 Market, S.F. Admission is free; call 777-3131.