Thursday, March 20, 2003
Say what you will about Madonna, but the Material Girl made history in our minds when she brought masturbation out of the dark at the 1984 MTV music awards. Her controversial performance of "Like a Virgin" -- during which she felt herself up while dressed in a wedding gown -- caused a media ruckus, but randy chicks everywhere gave her the thumbs-up for publicly acknowledging that men aren't the only ones to play with themselves now and again. Thomas W. Laqueur, a history professor at Cal, agrees with Nonnie that self-manipulation is common practice for both genders. His book Solitary Sex: A Cultural History of Masturbation takes a scholarly look at autoeroticism throughout the ages. Citing everything from biblical to pop culture references -- the infamous Seinfeld episode and the Farrelly brothers' movie There's Something About Mary, for starters -- Solitary Sex examines changing attitudes toward the act and questions why one of the safest means of sexual gratification has historically carried such a stigma. Laqueur reads at 7:30 p.m. at Black Oak Books, 1491 Shattuck (at Vine), Berkeley. Admission is free; call (510) 486-0698 or visit www.blackoakbooks.com.
Friday, March 21, 2003
In Samm-Art Williams' play The Dance on Widow's Row, four African-American women on the prowl for new husbands throw a fancy soiree for a group of eligible bachelors. The hitch? Magnolia, Simone, Annie, and Lois are man-killers -- literally. Between the four neighbors, they've laid to rest nine husbands, each of whom has died of unnatural causes. This unfortunate coincidence leads to rumors that their street -- dubbed "Widow's Row" -- is jinxed. Williams' lighthearted whodunit leaves audiences wondering which of these now-wealthy widows played a part in her husband's death, and which of the brave (not to mention foolhardy) gentlemen callers will be the next victim. Fans of The Love Boat will be especially thrilled with the Lorraine Hansberry Theatre's production: Ted Lange, who played the sweet-talking bartender Isaac Washington on the TV show, stars as one of the suitors. The Dance on Widow's Row previews tonight at 8 (and runs through April 13) at the Lorraine Hansberry, 620 Sutter (at Mason), S.F. Admission is $25-32; call 474-8800 or visit www.lhtsf.org.
Saturday, March 22, 2003
It's safe to assume that most folks watching porn aren't paying attention to the music. But that assumption could change if the PornOrchestra has its say. A group of classical musicians and guest instrumentalists whose mission is to "radically reinterpret the soundtrack to pornographic film," the PornOrchestra replaces the usual cheesy loops of synthesizers, wah-wah guitar, and pounding bass with original compositions and improvised scores, performed live while classic adult films play behind the ensemble on an oversize screen. It's not exactly Koyaanisqatsi with music by Philip Glass, but it's just as sharp. Whether the PornOrchestra will entice more people to watch blue movies -- or change how they watch them -- remains to be seen, but the evening promises to be a visual as well as an oral, um, aural spectacle. Performances start at 8 p.m. today and tomorrow at 21 Grand, 449B 23rd St. (between Broadway and Telegraph), Oakland. Admission is $6-10; call (510) 444-7263 or visit www.pornorchestra.com. Sorry -- no one under 18 admitted.
Sunday, March 23, 2003
The good people at the London-based Centre of Attention art gallery have generously agreed to a) put together a really cool show at Spanganga, and b) temporarily change the spelling of their organization's name (from Centre to Center) to suit our nationalistic tastes. In return, they get to call San Francisco "the land of Google and Yahoo!" in their press release -- so we're about even. Names aside, the "Center of Attention Search Engine" replicates the search algorithm as a curatorial process. Translation: The show comes together over time through the investigative efforts of its curators. At tonight's reception, visitors will notice an empty gallery, representing a blank screen. Throughout the week, the curators will search for art, not only via artists bringing work into the gallery, but also by way of field trips to studios, art colleges, and cafes. The goal is to showcase the process of curating a contemporary art exhibit, not just the finished product. The opening reception is from 6 to 8; the exhibition takes shape through March 30 at Spanganga Gallery, 3376 19th St. (at Mission), S.F. Admission is free; call 821-1102 or visit www.spanganga.com.
Monday, March 24, 2003
Based on the quietly emotive music of two Seattle-based bands, it's hard to believe the city was the birthplace of grunge. Both the Prom and Carissa's Wierd (the misspelling is intentional) wallow in existential angst like Cobain and company, but their way of expressing it is worlds apart. What Jenn Ghetto and Mat Brooke of Carissa's Wierd lack in stage presence, they make up for in poignant lyrics and haunting tunes. Their new album, Songs About Leaving, suggests the calm before the storm: The eerie acoustic strings, shimmering acoustic and electric guitars, and subdued delivery speak volumes. Likewise, fans of the Prom aren't flocking to the trio's gigs to thrash in the mosh pit. On Under the Same Stars, spare piano, bass, and drum arrangements get fleshed out with horns and a full string section. Iron & Wine rounds out tonight's bill, which starts at 9 at the Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St. (at Missouri), S.F. Admission is $8-10; call 621-4455 or visit www.bottomofthehill.com.
Tuesday, March 25, 2003
American Idol may be the nadir of the Yankee experience on TV, but fortunately we've got the PBS series Becoming American: The Chinese Experience to tell a smarter tale. Organized into three chronological segments, the special chronicles Chinese immigration to America through interviews with historians, first-generation émigrés, and ABCs ("American Born Chinese"). The program covers everything from the first wave of immigration during the California Gold Rush to the 1906 San Francisco earthquake (which ushered in the widespread practice of claiming "paper sons") to present-day concerns, revealing how refugees and their descendants, unlike many of their European counterparts, faced unique difficulties because of racism. Bay Area personalities such as authors Jade Snow Wong and Maxine Hong Kingston and activists Helen Zia and Charlie Chin are featured in the broadcast, which airs at 9 tonight through Thursday on KQED, Channel 9; visit www.pbs.org/becomingamerican.