Basquiat Back to Life "Stripping away surfaces, [Jean-Michel] Basquiat confronts us with the naked black image. There is no 'fleshy' black body to exploit in his work, for that body is diminished, vanishing." So writes the frighteningly prolific bell hooks in a superb essay from her latest collection, Art on My Mind. Hooks highlights the racial and sexual pain, rage, and ambivalence in Basquiat's paintings, rescuing the painter from facile comparisons with the chilly likes of Warhol; local poet/performer Wayne Corbitt (Crying Holy) taps into the same themes in A Fish With Frog's Eyes, a one-man autobiographical performance set against a backdrop of images by Basquiat. Hear and see a fierce talent at 4 p.m. at Headlands Center for the Arts, Fort Barry, Bldg 944, Sausalito. Tickets are $3-5; call 331-2787.
Dog Day Afternoon How did Canis lupus, the wolf, become Canis lupus familiaris, the dog? How did weird-looking critters like pugs, Shih Tzus, and Lhasa apsos come to be? The answer has something to do with Darwin and something to do with Mendel, and it's the motivation behind "Dog Diversity Day," the latest Exploratorium program to focus on the touchy relationship between science and nature. See whippets, greyhounds, boxers, miniature dachshunds, Siberian huskies, and other breeds, as well as the breeders behind them; also, hear a lecture by Dr. Jasper Rine from 2-5 p.m. at 3601 Lyon, S.F. Free with admission to Exploratorium ($2.50-9); call 563-7337.
Live From Death Row In 1992, after a less-than-adequate trial, reporter/journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal -- president of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists -- was sentenced to death for the murder of a Philly police officer. Maintaining his innocence, Abu-Jamal has railed against judicial racism and political bias in the pages of The Nation and on National Public Radio (whose sudden cancellation of his commentaries sparked a free-speech controversy). With Abu-Jamal's execution imminent, artists, writers, and activists are rallying behind him. Here in the Bay Area, Adrienne Rich, Piri Thomas, Michael Parenti, Mujah Shakir, Judi Bari, Kiilu Nyahsha, and Diane DiPrima are just some of the participants in a benefit for his defense. Sponsored by Equal Justice USA/Quixote Center and KPFA Radio, the event starts at 7:30 p.m. at M.L. King Jr. Junior High School, 1781 Rose, North Berkeley. $10-12; call (510) 848-6767.
Yes, But In these complicated times, Alexander Cockburn is a contrarian nonpareil: He's for population growth but against cutting down forests; he ridicules the Book of Revelations, yet he supports Scientology. Ultimately, Cockburn is more than his views: He's a sharp (as in cutting) writer. The Golden Age Is in Us is his latest book, and it cobbles together diary entries and letters along with essays previously published in The Nation. Hear him read at 8 p.m. at Printers Inc., 310 California, Palo Alto. Free; call 327-6500.
Dancing Muses As the New York City Ballet's prima ballerina, she was choreographer George Balanchine's original "muse." She was also a frequent partner of the S.F. Ballet's director, Helgi Tomasson, during his dancing years. She's Violette Verdy, and she's the first participant in "Words on Dance," a new series of conversations with prominent dance artists created by local dancer Deborah DeBowy. Verdy will discuss her 40-year career with the San Francisco Ballet's Mikko Nissinen, Tina LeBlanc, and Muriel Maffre, then she'll answer questions from nonperforming members of the audience. The evening's program -- which also includes historical film and video -- begins at 8 p.m. at the Forum at Center for the Arts, 701 Mission, S.F. Tickets are $8-15; call 978-2787.