Play Rites Fargo fans won't want to miss opening night of the Bay Area Playwrights Festival XX, when Deke Weaver unveils The Crimes and Confessions of Kip Knutzen: A Hockey Way of Knowledge, a comic trip through Minnesota's hot dishes and frozen tundra, as a 1979 high school hockey team tries to maintain its winning record. Jayne Wenger, who directs Crimes, also oversees the festival, which has developed and presented new work by over 250 playwrights since its inception, Sam Shepard and Anna Deavere Smith among them. This year's highlights also include Nina Siegal's A Falsifying Bell, in which a woman whose husband is leaving her confuses the men from the moving company with the denizens of her vivid fantasy life. The festival opens with Crimes at 8:30 p.m. (and continues with work by Siegal, Prince Gomolvilas, Jorge Ignacio Cortinas, Rickerby Hinds, and Michelle Carter, through Sept. 21) at the Magic Theater, Building D, Fort Mason, Marina & Buchanan, S.F. Admission is a $9 suggested donation per show; call 263-3986 for reservations.
Book-Buying Without Bank-Breaking Expressed as haiku (really bad haiku, to be sure), the Friends of the Library Book Sale might sound something like this: "New and used books sold/ Over 1,000 titles/ Raffle, auction, stills." This annual event, billed as "the largest book sale west of the Mississippi," benefits the S.F. Public Library system by offering reduced rates on a variety of donated titles, as well as collectors editions of Life maga-zine and MGM movie stills from The Philadelphia Story, The Picture of Dorian Gray, and others. A silent auction of rare books begins on opening night, and a mountain bike, concert tickets, restaurant certificates, and a hotel getaway are among the raffle prizes. The event begins at 4 p.m. (and continues through Sunday) at Fort Mason Center, Marina & Buchanan, S.F. Admission is $15 on opening night, free the other days; call 557-4257.
It's a Gas Medea, the Musical meets As the World Turns in Route 80: Cars, Cows, and Caffeine, a comic drama about an emotional cross-country road trip. Medea's Erin-Kate Whitcomb, a one-time stand-up comedian with a gift for physical comedy, wrote this meditation on family, dating, love, sex, and death. She and co-star Elaine Tse, a soap opera actress and Yale drama alum, play multiple characters dotting the landscape. Amy Resnick (Why We Have a Body) directs the show, a premiere work opening Theater Rhino's 20th season. Route 80 previews at 8 p.m. (also Friday, continuing through Oct. 11) at Theater Rhinoceros, 2926 16th St. (at South Van Ness), S.F. Admission is $12-22; call 861-5079.
Circuit Jamming All systems are go for the NTT New Media Minds Forum "Intelligence, Technology, and ARTificial Society: Who or What Are We Becoming?" Last year's series found guests like composer Laurie Anderson at the crossroads of art and technology; this year's lineup opens with Jaron Lanier speaking on humanity's relationship to computers. Lanier might be considered the modern equivalent of a Renaissance man; as a computer scientist, he coined the term "virtual reality" and founded the first VR company, VPL Research Inc., but his experience as a pianist and a specialist in unusual instruments led him to experiment with virtual reality in musical performance, and to write about technology and culture for Wired and Spin. The series, which continues with musician Thomas Dolby Robertson (Oct. 9) and the panel discussions "A Cyber-Feminine Perspective" (Sept. 25) and "Virtual Communities and Virtual Worlds" (Oct. 22), begins at 7:30 p.m. at Center for the Arts, 701 Mission (at Third Street), S.F. Admission is $13-18; call 978-ARTS.
The Dope on White Punks The usual suspects -- Iggy, Exene, Deborah Harry -- are lined up against the wall at "Search and Destroy: Punk Photography 1976-79." (The unusual suspects in this venture are beat poets Allen Ginsberg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who provided Search and Destroy magazine's initial funding.) In honor of the re-publication of V. Vale's punk tabloid, which chronicled the punk movement of the late '70s, the Lab has mounted an exhibit of reprinted photos from Search and Destroy and beyond by photographers like Charles Gatewood, and has curated original video footage of bands including D.O.A. and the Dead Kennedys. In conjunction with the exhibit, the Neanderdolls, Jumbo Shrimp, and Polkacide play a benefit Sunday at the Kilowatt (3160 16th St. at Albion; 8 p.m.; $5-20); other related programs happen at the Lab, including "Rare Punk Films," which screens Mindaugis Bagdon's Louder Faster Shorter, Marc Huestis' X-Communication, Richard Gaikowsky's Deaf/Punk, and more Sept. 17 at 8 p.m. Exene and the Kennedys' Jello Biafra host a spoken-word salon Sept. 25 at 5 p.m., and Biafra, Vale, and younger punks like Tribe 8's Lynn Flipper weigh in as the "Panel of Punks Discuss '21st-Century Punk Principles and Ethics' " Oct. 1 at 8 p.m. The exhibit opens with a reception tonight at 7 p.m. (and is up through Oct. 11) at the Lab, 2948 16th St. (at Capp), S.F. Admission is free; call 864-8855. Also, Exene's band, Auntie Christ, headlines a show with Hectare and Stone Fox Sept. 25 at 8 p.m. at the Bottom of the Hill (1233 17th St. at Texas; $8; 621-4455). If the exhibit leaves you wanting more, "Influenza II," Gail Butensky and Erik Auerbach's photos of bands including Television and Devo, is up through Nov. 15 at Aquarius Records, 1055 Valencia (at 22nd Street), S.F. Admission is free; call 647-2272.
Swinging Both Ways Swing music and baseball helped sustain second-generation Japanese-Americans (Nisei) through the grim detention-camp years of World War II, and now, two exhibits curated by the National Japanese American Historical Society illustrate the history of that time. "Reminiscing in Swingtime: Japanese Americans in American Popular Music" is a collection of photographs and archival materials like old radios and records, song sheets, costumes, and music stands set up in a re-creation of the detention camp stages. It tells the stories of musicians like Paul Higaki, a California-born trombonist who played in a camp band and went on to tour with Lionel Hampton's group. George Yoshida, author of the book by the same name, signs copies today, and presents a slide show and a music demonstration with the J-town Jazz Ensemble, who perform instrumentations used in the camps in the Oct. 12 program "From J-town to Jazz: A Continuum of Japanese Americans in Music." Uniforms, photos, sports page clippings, and memorabilia related to Japanese-American baseball teams from the '20s to the '50s comprise "Diamonds in the Rough: Japanese Americans in Baseball"; players from segregated leagues will describe their experiences in the program "Leagues of Their Own: Baseball in Communities of Color" (Oct. 11 at 1 p.m.). In addition to the outlets they provided in the camps, music and baseball also afforded Japanese-Americans professional opportunities in Japan before and after the war. The exhibits open with a reception at 2 p.m. (and are up through Nov. 9) at the Herbst International Exhibition Hall, Building 385, Moraga at the Main Parade Ground, the Presidio, S.F. Admission is a $2.50 donation; call 431-5007 for information on other exhibit-related programs.
Lunar Legacy The official Moon Festival should happen Tuesday this year, according to 1,000-year-old tradition placing its date on the 15th day of the eighth moon, when that celestial body is brightest. Chinatown will, however, celebrate moon mythology in traditional fashion this weekend at the Moon Festival (also known as the Mid-Autumn Festival) with moon cake vendors and Chinese arts and crafts, martial arts demonstrations, lion dancers, and giant puppets. The dancing dragon takes to the streets at 6 p.m. today and 5 p.m. Sunday. The festival begins at 11 a.m. both days in Chinatown, along Grant between California and Pacific, S.F. Admission is free; call 982-6306.
Follow the Bouncing Bartender Remember those big, inflated rubber balls with the handle at the top that kids used to hop around on until they lost their balance and knocked out their teeth? Those were good times. Remember the squabbles that broke out between less fortunate neighborhood youngsters waiting for their turns? Remember how hilarious it was to watch someone straddle one of those things and bounce off down the street? The balls were called Hoppity Hops, and their value as sight gag/injury magnet has not gone unrecognized by the brilliant creators of the Cointreauphy Hop, a fund-raiser for the American Foundation for AIDS Research. Approximately 75 local bartenders have already registered to race custom-made adult-size Hoppity Hops through Peacock Meadow, although contestants may also collect and turn in pledges of any amount the day of the event to participate; the grand prize winner of this national campaign will be awarded a trip to Paris, where he or she can nurse bruises and swap photos over glasses of the orange liqueur for which the event is named. The race begins at 1 p.m. in Peacock Meadow (near Conservatory Drive East), Golden Gate Park, S.F. Admission is free to cheering spectators; call (888) POUR-IT-ON to register.
Gong Show The Grateful Dead could have dreamt up the Nuclear Mystery Temple as a conduit between themselves and their fans, but they didn't. They could have their given their albums fanciful druggy names like Camembert Electrique and Flying Teapot, but they didn't. They could have thrown sitar into one song and a techno beat into the next, but they didn't. Gong did all those things, and attracted a cultish, if not Dead-size, international following in the nearly 30-year process. It's all those factors, plus singer Gilli Smyth's famous "space whisper" and former Soft Machine founder Daevid Allen's proclivity for the fusion of jazz and spoken word, that make Gong's groovy psychedelia more interesting than standard 30-minute space jams. Melting Euphoria open for Gong at 8 p.m. at the Great American Music Hall, 859 O'Farrell (at Polk), S.F. Admission is $17; call 885-0750.
Beauty and the Burbs The Downstairs Gallery's modest basement setting is a good fit for Beth Yarnelle Edwards' black-and-white photography exhibit on suburbia, "Where the Mundane Meets the Mythic." Using a wide-angle lens and maximum depth of field, Edwards looks in on the American dream of property ownership, noting how Bay Area residents' homes and possessions have been influenced by TV and film, advertising, culture, and gender. Her sharp-focus silver gelatin prints look like documentary photography, but Edwards stages most of her shots, emphasizing the surreal in her search for signs of modern life in places most city folks consider cultural wastelands. The exhibit opens at 8 a.m. (and is up through Oct. 24) at the Downstairs Gallery, UC Extension Center, 55 Laguna (at Market), S.F. Admission is free; call 252-5221.