may 31 Abraham Verghese In My Own Country, Dr. Abraham Verghese documents his experience as the local AIDS expert in Johnson City, Tenn., one of many places in America where the disease and those who have it are ignored. Verghese captures both his pa-tients' feelings of alienation and his own sense of removal from rural America, contrasting them with bonds that form in the face of death. His story has garnered front-page praise in the New York Times Book Review, and Time named it one of the top 10 books of 1994. Hear Verghese at 7:30 p.m. at A Clean Well-Lighted Place for Books, 601 Van Ness, S.F. Free; call 441-6670.
Hiroshima This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Allied bombing of Japan, the dawn of the Atomic Age. The Ellen Webb Dance Company confronts this enormous, charged subject with Hiroshima, a piece integrating dance (by Webb's 10-member company), text (from various perspectives), art (by Sandy Walker) and music (by Alvin Curran and Miya Masaoka). Panel discussions featuring bomb survivors and cultural/historical scholars will follow each performance. Hiroshima plays Wed-Sun at 8 p.m. at Cowell Theater, Fort Mason Center, S.F. Tickets are $12-16; call 392-4400.
Robert Williams "At first sight, (Robert) Williams' paintings may shock, titillate or disgust as readily as bloody bodies or mangled metal," Keith Seward writes in Artforum. "But they differ from the spectacle of auto fatalities insofar as they are not senseless. Informed commentaries lurk beneath their apocalyptic veneer." Hmmm. Does this mean Williams' infamous Guns N' Roses cover showing a steel robot hovering over a curvy, near-naked rape victim is an "ironic comment" on America training adolescent boys to treat women like meat? If so, the irony is lame: That's probably not why Axl Rose liked the image, and it's doubtful many 12-year-olds connected with its "informed commentaries." Still, with Crumb-y comic art getting pretentious props from high-culture snoots, Williams is certainly open to new interpretation. Make up your own mind (and give Williams a piece of it) at a reception for the artist 5:30-8:30 p.m. at Walter/McBean Gallery, 800 Chestnut, S.F.; "Robert Williams: Lowbrow Art d'ElŽgance" continues Tues-Sat 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sun noon-5 p.m. through July 2. Call 749-4588.
Batter Up Butch jocks and creative nerds kiss and make up as George Krevsky and Bay Package Productions bring together some odd bedfellows: baseball and art. The resulting exhibition -- "Art: The Great American Pastime" -- features works in a variety of forms: drawing, painting, photography, ceramics, sculpture and mass media. Celebrated beans-and-rice renaissance man Jason Mecier expresses his vision with fresh materials in Carol Channing: A Study in Yarn; others taking part include John Baldessari, Cheryl Meeker, Rex Ray, Ben Shahn and William T. Wiley. Witness the fruits of a strange marriage at a benefit opening (proceeds come from a silent auction of sports memorabilia) 5:30-7:30 p.m. at George Krevsky Gallery, 77 Geary, S.F. The show continues Tues-Sat 11 a.m.-5:30 p.m. through June 30; call 397-9748.
Homer Uncensored Yeah, it's a cartoon, but The Simpsons has qualities -- a brain (Homer excepted) and a pulse, for example -- that flesh-and-blood prime-time programming usually lacks. Matt Groening and pals frequently push the boundaries of network television, usually sneaking the really subversive stuff by at the speed of light. Sometimes, though, they cross that invisible line and pay the price (censorship) for having a working imagination. Thankfully, David Silverman -- one of the show's producers -- has collected a special program of never-before-seen scenes to share with anyone who doesn't mind having his family values exposed, corrupted and mocked. Join Silverman at 7 and 9:15 p.m. at the Roxie, 3117 16th St, S.F. Tickets are $6; call 863-1087.
The Art of Theft Appropriation is an everyday part of contemporary art, but corporations see red (or, better yet, black and green) when they don't like what's been done with what they "own." The panel discussion "Treasure Hunting: Theories of Appropriation" brings together some people who have found this out the hard way. They include Don Joyce of Negativland (whose use of U2's sacred sounds landed his band in court) and Frank Kozik (the poster artist whose irreverent renderings of Fred Flintstone caused Hanna-Barbera to throw hissy fits). Sponsored by Artists' Television Access and Film Arts Foundation, "Treasure Hunting" will touch on ethics, aesthetics and the effects new technologies have on mass cultural icons. The chitchat commences at 7:30 p.m. at 992 Valencia, S.F. Tickets are $5; call 552-8760.
Kitchens of Distinction Though the mainstream media might have you believe out-and-proud homo rockers first landed on planet Earth in the year 1994, the truth ain't that simple. On the 1989 LP Love Is Hell, Patrick Fitzgerald of the British group Kitchens of Distinction fused subtle same-sex romantic scenarios to grandiose dream-pop soundscapes. Since then, Fitzgerald's lyrics have bounced back and forth between boy-boy and boy-girl angst, and his group's music has grown less fashionable and less powerful. Still, live, he and his bandmates make a beautiful noise, a noise that can trick even the most average person into thinking his or her life is dramatic and important. Hear them at 9 p.m. at the Great American Music Hall, 859 O'Farrell, S.F. Tickets are $8-10; call 885-0750.