For an event called "Random Acts of Art 2," the organizers have left precious little to chance when it comes to keeping the audience entertained. At its core, "Random" is a Lollapalooza-like happening featuring 16 California artists, most of whom work days as graphic designers and illustrators for magazines such as The Source and National Geographic. Of their pieces, keep an eye out for Joe Ledbetter's cartoon-esque paintings of menacing, dark-eyed animals; David Ho's nightmarish Hellraiser-meets-The Matrix digitally tweaked designs; and Cameron Chun's classical portraits made with coffee and tea on rice paper. But it's the extra perks that make this night, from the standard (beats from DJ J1 of the Freedom Park All-Stars and live jazz-funk from Guru Garage) to the thoughtful (decadent treats catered by Sexy Red's and live painting from the DPI artist collective).
One unusual bonus mimics a phenomenon that swept college campuses in the early 1990s: adults gathering to drink and watch the baffling Ren & Stimpy, the original hardly-for-children children's cartoon that aired just after liquor stores opened on Sunday mornings. Now you can relive those aimless hours in Studio Z's loft with the Cartoon Network's late-night "Adult Swim" programming, including the off-the-deep-end wackiness of Tom Goes to the Mayor, The Brak Show, and Robot Chicken, along with anime-inspired 'toons. Whether you want to dance, enjoy art, or go infantile in front of the tube, "Random" has you covered at 8 p.m. at Studio Z, 314 11th St. (at Folsom), S.F. Admission is $7; call 252-7666 or visit www.studioz.tv.
-- Michael Leaverton
Tales of the City
There are many reasons I love San Francisco -- but mostly, it's the endlessly fascinating oddballs I come into contact with every day. Michael Disend shares my obsession, as evidenced in his series of short stories The Penman Chronicles. Its narrator, an aging ne'er-do-well with a penchant for Zen Buddhism, recounts "the tomfoolery of living beings." Penman has side-splitting encounters with outspoken Marin poets, the rough-and-tumble Irishmen of the Sunset District, and the she-males of Polk Street. Hear Disend read at 7:30 p.m. at Adobe Book Shop, 3166 16th St. (at Valencia), S.F. Admission is free; call 864-3936.
-- Jane Tunks
Anne of keen fables
Foulmouthed, brutally honest Christians with dreadlocks may not be as rare as they seem to be. Still, Anne Lamott sets the bar high for the rest of them, assuming she isn't the only one. The author of a handful of novels and several notable works of nonfiction (most recently Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith), the Marin County resident is a lady the Bay Area listens to.
At today's taping of the radio variety show West Coast Live, Lamott should be in her element: trading bons mots with host Sedge Thomson and enjoying the somewhat random assortment of other guests -- the band Tango No. 9, author and singer Nerissa Nields, and jazz vocalist Sony Holland. The program begins at 10 a.m. at the Empire Plush Room, York Hotel, 940 Sutter (at Hyde), S.F. Admission is $5-18; call 664-9500 or visit www.wcl.org.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser
Eller High Water
Up with banjos
A man often billed as "New York City's angriest yodeling banjo player," Curtis Eller is known for a blistering, old-timey set of intelligently rendered and soulfully delivered songs about Buster Keaton and tearing the wings off angels.
But let us be clear: Ellis' show contains scenes of explicit banjo-picking, which may not be appropriate for audience members who don't enjoy banjos. Likewise, those who have decided that yodeling is not for them should perhaps choose another entertainment this afternoon. For the rest of us, however, Eller's banged-up but still pretty voice and skillful tunesmithing are a sure bet, and we'll probably want to bring home the band's latest recording, Taking Up Serpents Again. Jim Chomas and friends open at 4 p.m. at the Atlas Café, 3049 20th St. (at Alabama), S.F. Admission is free; call 648-1047 or visit www.atlascafe.net.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser
Most plays set around a protagonist's deathbed offer the familiar arc of reconciliation, especially between estranged family members. But Moonlight, by British absurdist playwright Harold Pinter -- the latest chapter in Last Planet Theatre's "Season of Guilt & Betrayal" -- sets a more realistic scene. A dying man is surrounded by his bitter wife and two alienated sons, who can't forgive him for his many betrayals. The spirit of a long-dead daughter watches over them all, offering the family its only chance at redemption. Moonlight previews May 19 (and continues through June 12) at 8 p.m. at the Last Planet Theatre, 351 Turk (at Hyde), S.F. Admission is $10-18; call 440-3505 or visit www.lastplanettheatre.com.
-- Jane Tunks