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.
Dance, Dance, Dance Hey kids, it's numbers time: With 46 dance companies representing 36 different nationalities, the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival is bigger than ever this year. Spreading three programs over as many weekends, the event's 17th season begins with "The Pacific Islands in Dance, Chant and Music," featuring artists from Hawaii, Fiji, New Zealand, Australia, Samoa, Rarotonga and Melanesia. Hula and Maori dances, chants and songs and music for steel guitar and didgeridoo are just part of the overall performance. The festivities begin Fri-Sat June 1-2 at 8 p.m.; Sun June 3 at 2 p.m. at the Palace of Fine Arts, Bay & Lyon, S.F. Tickets are $15-23; call 392-4400.
Stephen Pelton Dance Company The life and art of New Zealand author Janet Frame has already been translated to film, in Jane Campion's An Angel at My Table. Now Frame provides the source material for a piece by the Stephen Pelton Dance Company. Scored by Robert Maggio, Waltzes for the Dayroom uses the title dance to focus on the elusive distinctions between madness and sanity, reality and fantasy. Two other works -- Troubadour/
Trobairitz and Boat Song -- round out this performance, a benefit for Project Inform. Part of the Bay Area Dance Series, Waltzes for the Dayroom plays Thurs-Sun June 1-4 at 8 p.m. at Theater Artaud, 450 Florida, S.F. Benefit tickets are $35, regular tickets are $12.50-14.50; call 241-0111 or 621-7797.
Gay and Lesbian Self-Defense Free to Fight is the name of a super new CD/book "interactive project" designed to teach women and gay men self-defense. It has rock music and hip hop, it has essays and stories, it has comics and it has verbal instruction. The only thing Free to Fight doesn't have is actual in-person demonstrations; thankfully, the International Association of Gay and Lesbian Martial Artists fills this void with two days of programs at the Central YMCA. Hosted by Allen Wood, the seminar's first day focuses on first steps, public and private defense, controlling opponents and defending against knife attacks; the second day (only open to martial artists) addresses tae kwon do, aiki-ju-jutsu and judo. Classes run Sat June 3 10 a.m.-noon, Sun June 4 9 a.m.-4 p.m. at 220 Golden Gate, S.F. Tickets are $5-35; call 563-1655.
Nadine Strossen In the recently published Defending Pornography: Free Speech, Sex and the Fight for Women's Rights, Nadine Strossen gives plentiful examples of the Dworkin/MacKinnon school's talent for silencing views they don't agree with, not just in "pornographic" realms, but in other areas -- a thoroughly researched women's health guide, praised by the likes of Barbara Ehrenreich, for example. "The Original Contract With America: The Bill of Rights" is the title of a new lecture by the ACLU president. Those who choose to do so can hear it at 8 p.m. at First Unitarian Church, 1187 Franklin, S.F. Free; call 979-6699.
YouthTime The S.F. probation budget for teen-agers is five times the size of the recreational budget. While 81 percent of S.F. teens believe youth crime would be reduced if they had safe places to go, over 80 percent seldom or never participate in after-school activities. Why? Because after-school activities are inadequately funded, ineffective or they simply don't exist. YouthTime, a program by Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth, aims to change this. Hear how and offer your own suggestions at a 10:30 a.m.-1 p.m. pancake breakfast and forum at Center for the Arts, Yerba Buena Gardens, 41 Mission, S.F. Free; call 641-4362.
Dead Can Dance Back in the 1980s, Dead Can Dance were huge with the big-hair-and-black-eyeliner brigade, but in recent years, they've escaped the gloomy, gothic corridors of their youth for a sound that fuses Celtic folk, Middle Eastern percussion and otherworldly vocals. Directed by Mark Madgison, Toward the Within features live footage of the seven-member ensemble, interspersed with brief interviews of core members Brendan Perry and Elsa Lanchester-look-alike Lisa Gerard. It plays with Anima Mundi, a half-hour visual collage of natural environments from the creators of Koyaanisqatsi, set to music by Philip Glass. Catch the last day of the program's four-day run at the Red Vic at 2, 4, 7:15 and 9:20 p.m. 1727 Haight, S.F. Tickets are $3-5.50; call 668-3994.
Reynolds Price In 1962, Reynolds Price received the William Faulkner Award for his debut novel, A Long and Happy Life. Since then, he has published more than two dozen books, including Kate Vaiden, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1986. In the recently published A Whole New Life, Price gives a nonfiction account of his battle with spinal cancer; like Fenton Johnson's excellent Scissors, Paper, Rock, Price's latest fictional work -- The Promise of Rest -- focuses on loyalty and mortality within a Southern family. Hear Price read from Rest, the third panel of his trilogy A Great Circle, at 7 p.m. at Borders Books and Music, 400 Post, S.F. Free; call 399-1633.
Jewish Lit and Jewish Wit Edited by Alan Kaufman and published by Danny Shot, It's the Jews! A Celebration of New Jewish Visions contains musings on culture and identity by a varied cast of figures: George Segal, Larry Rivers, Adrienne Rich, Luis J. Rodriguez and more. Join some of the journal's West Coast cast of contributors -- including Josh Kornbluth, David Meltzer, Jack Hirschman, Alan Kaufman, Julia Vinograd and Vampyre Mike Kassel -- for a reception and reading. The performance/party begins at 8 p.m. at Place Pigalle, 520 Hayes, S.F. Free; call 567-6689.
Scopitone Hysteria See French kitten Sylvie Vartan twist and pout her way through "Twist and Shout." See Johnny Halliday -- France's answer to Elvis Presley -- shimmy around in tight pants in front of a smirking woman. See Dion light up a smoke in a flying plane (ah, those were the days) as he sings "Ruby Baby," then see him roll open a window without being sucked out to his death. See the mega-talented Exciters live up to their name with "He's Got the Power." See the anti-talent that is Jody Morgan be upstaged by cardboard scenery in "Queen of the House." See the very butchy and very underrated Leslie Gore confess her love to a bespectacled "Wonder Boy." See all this and more as Sam Wasserman and Wade Wright unveil another program of Scopitones -- film versions of pop songs made long before video killed the radio star. The jukebox jive begins at 7 and 9:15 p.m. at the Roxie, 3117 16th St, S.F. Tickets are $6; call 863-1087.