Cute Cherubs and Bad Seeds The media-savvy button-pushing of Larry Clark's Kids and Calvin Klein's latest underwear ads prove one thing: Childhood innocence/culpability is a contemporary U.S. obsession. Historical perspectives are rare, but two new University Art Museum exhibitions -- "The New Child: British Art and the Origins of Childhood, 1730-1830" and "We Look and See" -- bring the controversies about sex, violence, and adolescence into focus. The former divides 110 works into three sections, focusing on the inherent goodness or evil of little nippers, their relation to work and family structures, and their abuse or exploitation. The latter offers current photographic approaches -- including Sally Mann's ambiguous treatment of sexuality and Keith Cottingham's ambivalent approach to technology -- that question traditional notions of how children can and should be seen in the visual arts. Gaze at dewy-eyed dolls and evil urchins from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the University Art Museum, 2626 Bancroft Way, Berkeley. "The New Child" continues through Nov. 19; "We Look and See" (which takes its title from the first book in the Dick and Jane series of elementary readers) continues through Nov. 12. Admission is $4-6; call (510) 642-0808.
Divine Drama DramaDIVAS is a weekly workshop that provides an opportunity for lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and gay youth to learn writing and acting in a non-threatening environment. In other words, it gives queer teen-agers a chance to express their identity, rather than hide it. A series of new works directed by award-winning Chicana playwright CherriŽ Moraga, "The Life of a DIVA" is the group's latest project. See it at 7 p.m. at Brava! Studio, 2180 Bryant, S.F. "The Life of a DIVA" continues through Sept. 4. Tickets are $5-12; call 978-2345.
Peter Pan Punks Continuing this week's adolescent theme, the ageless Ramones are coming to town, and if the breakup threat implicit in the title of their new LP -- Adios Amigos -- is true, this just might be their last S.F. appearance. Dressed up in a Daniel Clowes-style comic-book video, Joey and company's new single, "I Don't Wanna Grow Up," simultaneously parodies and pays tribute to American pop culture's youth fixation; unlike most middle-aged people still singing the puberty blues, the Ramones are smart enough to poke fun at themselves. Look at the always lovely Joey, and hear his group's patented Phil Spector chain-saw massacre sound, at 8 p.m. at the Warfield, 982 Market, S.F. Tickets are $16.50-17.50; call 775-7722.
Tres Underground Q: Where can you see films about disco, worms, and Andre the Giant? A: At the Fault Line Film Festival, a one-night-only national showcase of experimental and independent flicks. Curated by Danny Plotnick of Motorbooty mag infamy, this year's fest includes Jeff Vilencia's Smush, where naked feet and plump earthworms collide; Valerie Soe's Scratch Video, in which high winds help spread allergies and skin irritation; and Rodney Ascher and Michael Garon's True History of Crime, a cinematic bio that uses sock puppets to tell the tale of serial killer Henry Lee Lucas. The fest's finale is Speed Racer: Welcome to the World of Vic Chesnutt, an award-winning doc about a fabled Athens, Ga., singer/songwriter who is far more eccentric than Michael Stipe. The screening starts at 8:30 p.m. at Artists' Television Access, 992 Valencia, S.F. Tickets are $5; call 824-3890.
Unleashing the Freak Within "I'm into handcuffs and blindfolding and all that. It's having the control that interests me. That and making men feel like bitches. If I could have my way, what wouldn't I have them do?" That's Adina Howard on the art of being a freak, and she should know -- her single "Freak Like Me" went gold earlier this year. Raised in the heart of Calvinist country -- Grand Rapids, Mich. -- Howard somehow escaped with a mind of her own and a sex drive to match. As a performer, she owes more to Millie Jackson than Madonna: Her No. 2 pop smash aims to amuse, and her recent essay in Details is full of funny/raunchy advice like "Freaks are made, not born" and "There's a time to wear poom-poom shorts and a time not to." See Howard sing and shake that thang at 8 p.m. at the Paramount Theatre, 2025 Broadway, Oakland. Comedian Eddie Griffin opens. Tickets are $25; call (510) 465-6400.
Ab Fab S.F.'s biggest food, wine, and music festival, Absolut à la Carte, à la Park features cooking demonstrations by local chefs, jazz and blues by local musicians, and, of course, vitamin V. Superchefs Alain Redelsperger, Narsai David, Elka Gilmore, Julie Ring, and Alain Rondelli do the cooking. Queen Ida and Her Zydeco Band, the Charlie Hunter Trio, and the Tommy Castro Blues Band (among others) play the music. Absolut and 20 microbreweries provide the liquor. A benefit for the Free Shakespeare in the Park program, this year's fest showcases the S.F. Shakespeare Festival in a performance each day at noon. The merriment lasts 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Golden Gate Park, S.F. Absolut à la Carte continues through Monday. Admission is $6-8 (free for kids); call 383-9378.
How Soon Is Now? When does the mid-'90s revival start? Instead of aiming for innovation, today we race to see who can go retro first. Right now, musical salutes to the '80s are commonplace on TV (VH-1) and CDs (via Rhino), but New Wave City revived the era long before it was trendy to do so. The traveling new wave/new romantic club is celebrating its third anniversary, and it's an "Unhappy Birthday," devoted to the peerless poetic miserabilism of the '80s' greatest boy band, the Smiths. As Morrissey prepares to unleash his worst solo album yet, a look back to a time when his singing and writing was interesting couldn't be more timely. Style your quiff, put on your nerd specs, and dance from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Trocadero Transfer, 520 Fourth St, S.F. Admission is $8; call 435-8642.