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This Week's Day-by-Day Picks 

Wednesday, May 28, 2003
In the wake of A Mighty Wind, Robert Cohen's documentary The Travellers: This Land Is Your Land blows in like a stiff breeze. The tale of four spunky Jewish Canadian teenagers inspired by Pete Seeger to sing the folk songs of their country isn't the same story as Christopher Guest's parody, but boy, is it close. The original members of the band have become estranged: Jerry Goodis gave up on Marxism and opened an advertising agency, Simone Johnston is convinced she never could sing, Sid Dolgay got kicked out in 1965, and Jerry Gray continues to perform with all-new cohorts. One online review says, "Few of the members look back on their time together with any real fondness," and notes that Goodis calls them "the first folk group and the worst folk group." In spite of all that, the Travellers are widely recognized by folk historians to have brought the music of working people to a popular audience. The movie promises rare archival footage, political history, and lots of idealistic, left-wing songs. S.F. Jewish Film Festival Director Don Adams introduces the picture at 7:30 p.m. at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission (at Third Street), S.F. Admission is $6-7; call 978-2787 or visit

Thursday, May 29, 2003
Choreographer Deborah Slater leads a group of artists into the unknown in Survival of the Fit Enough: The Galapagos Project, a multimedia performance based on Slater's own experience of a tragic shipwreck in the Galapagos Islands -- one man died while the others struggled to survive. The piece investigates human responses to terror and the function of community during crises, and offers a new interpretation of Charles Darwin's theories. Slater and collaborators Erling Wold, Thom Blum, Martha Sue Harris, Kyle Burrows, and Mikiko Uesugi use puppetry, video, dance, theater, and several other kinds of media to dramatize not only the harrowing accident itself, but also the new perspectives of the survivors. Blue-footed boobies and salt-spitting iguanas greet audiences in the lobby at 8 p.m. (also Friday and Saturday) at Dance Mission, 3316 24th St. (at Mission), S.F. Admission is $20; call 273-4633 or visit

Friday, May 30, 2003
In 2001 the last standing Doggie Diner head at Sloat and 48th Avenue was granted protected landmark status after a battle between landowners and devoted Dog lovers. Since then the smiling, 10-foot-tall dachshund in a chef's hat has stayed put. Sebastian Melmoth's privately owned trio, however, has been on the move. Under his care, the three pooches (which he rescued from a junkyard death several years back) have been regulars at various underground functions about town. In April, they joined the Cyclecide Bike Rodeo for a cross-country trip to New York City. En route, the caravan stopped at such roadside attractions as Mount Rushmore, Graceland, and the Grand Canyon. At tonight's "Doggie Diner Heads and Cyclecide Bike Rodeo Homecoming Show," we won't have to imagine what a sight they made on the open road -- we'll see for ourselves. Folks who made the trip share all the dirty details, enacting a Mini Bike Rodeo, displaying images from the voyage, and performing Jarico Reese's play, which he wrote while traveling. It starts at 9 p.m. at the Odeon Bar, 3223 Mission (at Valencia), S.F. Admission is $5; call 550-6994 or visit

Saturday, May 31, 2003
On their way to becoming two of the best-loved indie rock bands in the Bay Area, the Quails and the Aislers Set have played together a lot, knitted a lot, and toured a ton. Part of the hard-working, community-oriented scene that has made San Francisco a magnet for artists, musicians, and the no-talents who love them, these groups are often seen opening up for indie superstars like Sleater-Kinney and Le Tigre. The Quails' furiously catchy anthems and the Aislers Set's brilliant proud-to-be-pop are, this evening, rounded out by the Advantage, a Nintendo-noises cover band, aka Spencer Seim from Hella. California Lightning opens at 9:30 p.m. at the Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St. (at Missouri), S.F. Admission is $10; call 621-4455 or visit

Sunday, June 1, 2003
As Julie Christie observes in the documentary A Decade Under the Influence, the 10 years between the late '60s and the late '70s "wasn't a good time for women." But it was a very good time to be a young, white, arrogant male filmmaker. Bogdanovich, Scorsese, Altman, Coppola: They were among the Young Turks of the moment, ready to topple the movie establishment that had churned out megaproductions like Hello, Dolly! They and their peers made Bonnie and Clyde, M*A*S*H (a creepy, disturbing movie, if you've only ever seen the sitcom), Chinatown, and many others as alternatives, once Hollywood realized it needed something new to get the money out of Vietnam War protesters' pockets. The doc, by Richard LaGravenese and the late Ted Demme, has interviews with directors and actors and clips galore, and it sounds like a lot of fun to watch, even if calling the era the "American New Wave" is really going too far. It screens at the Opera Plaza Cinema, 601 Van Ness (at Golden Gate), S.F. Admission is $6-9; call 352-0810, visit, or see Page 59 for show times.

Monday, June 2, 2003
Giant canvases cover the walls with off-kilter desolation at Odd Nerdrum's art exhibit. Salvador Dali and Hieronymus Bosch are the painter's closest relatives, but he calls himself "kitsch" and grinds his own ocher. Nerdrum, the Marilyn Manson of figurative painting, is widely hated in his native Norway, but is acclaimed here in the United States -- currently, a team of documentary filmmakers is following him around to figure out why. His work presents bleak deserts and joyless oceans stretching to the horizon, broken only by the occasional boulder. The drama of the landscapes, however, is upstaged by the figures: Twisting, confused, mostly nude, and always monumental, they scream and bleed and look frightened. It's a tormented universe, to be sure, but it includes peaceful moments as well, as in Wanderers by the Sea, 78 by 101 1/2 inches of warm sand and strange people resting beneath bizarrely non-threatening funnel clouds. It's required viewing for absurdists, showing through Aug. 15 at the Weinstein Gallery, 253 Grant (at Sutter), S.F. Admission is free; call 397-6177 or visit

Tuesday, June 3, 2003
Ask any 13-year-old boy and he'll tell you: The sounds of bodily functions are funny. If you agree, then Thwak, an outlandish performance piece created by two Aussie pranksters who go by the name Umbilical Brothers, will leave you in stitches. Shane Dundas and David Collins (who aren't siblings) have a knack for making every sound imaginable using only their bodies. They're also pretty good at employing mime, precision lip-syncing, and hand puppets to create comic vignettes -- like a battle of epic proportions with a pesky fly, or a horse race with imaginary horses. Thwak plays tonight at 8 (and runs through June 22) at the Post Street Theatre (formerly Theatre on the Square), 450 Post (at Mason), S.F. Admission is $30-45; call 321-2900.


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