MAD About Harvey He created MAD magazine. He mentored Art Spiegelman and R. Crumb. He died in 1993. He's Harvey Kurtzman, and he's the subject of a new exhibit, "Retrospective of a MAD Genius: Harvey Kurtzman." Over the years, Kurtzman's work shifted focus from history (war depictions for EC Comics) to parody (his MAD work), but unlike many in his field, he always preferred reality to fantasy. See his stuff from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. (through April 14) at the Cartoon Art Museum, 814 Mission, S.F. Admission is $1.50-3.50; call CAR-TOON.
Hubby From Hell In 1945's Gaslight, director George Cukor trades the million-words-a-minute pace of pictures like The Women for the subtle suspense of Patrick Hamilton's script. Ingrid Bergman is a young woman with a big mansion, big money, lotsa jewels, and a sinister husband. Charles Boyer is the hubby in question: Cukor lights him so his face glows with evil intent. A young Angela Lansbury -- yes, she was young once -- plays an uppity maid. A special '40s-style screening benefits ACT's stage production of Gaslight. Cocktails are served at 8 p.m.; the film begins at 9 p.m. at the Castro Theatre, Castro & Market, S.F. Tickets are $35-45; call 393-9666.
Viva Karen "Talking to myself and feeling old/ Sometimes I'd like to quit/ Nothing ever seems to fit," Karen Carpenter sings in "Rainy Days and Mondays"; saying "Goodbye to Love," she also hit the top of the charts with sentiments like "No one really cares if I should live or die." Though anorexic Karen died of ipecac poisoning, A Karen Carpenter Christmas Concert prefers to focus on the happy side of her life -- it is a holiday show, after all. Set in Las Vegas, with Katie Guthorn as Karen, the show begins its fourth yuletide go-round at 8 p.m. (continuing through Dec. 28) at the Transmission Theatre, 314 11th St., S.F. Tickets are $12-14; call 861-6906.
Bang a Gong Presented by Redwood Cultural Work, "Percussion Party With Carolyn Brandy" lets people ring in the solstice with drums, chants, clave, samba, rock, and more. The racket starts at 7:30 p.m. at Auditorium Theater, City Center (14th St. and Clay), Oakland. Tickets are $12; call (510) 835-1445.
Super Phreaks Who are the hackers of the world? Exactly what do they do, and why do they do it? Are hackers mental masturbation experts, or are they using technology to fight back and take control of bureaucratic systems? Do you care? If so, Annaliza Savage offers the answers to these questions in Unauthorized Access, a filmic look at global hacker culture. Savage will appear in person at the screening, which starts at 8:30 p.m. at Artists' Television Access, 992 Valencia, S.F. Tickets are $5; call 824-3890.
After Apartheid "Eight From South Africa" explores the ongoing political and cultural changes in that country, through sculptures and paintings by a diverse group of contemporary artists. The exhibition springs from (and comments upon) recent controversies surrounding the first Johannesburg Biennale, which commemorated South Africa's democracy and re-entry into the international arena. One of a handful of shows opening at Center for the Arts today, "Eight From South Africa" is on view from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at 701 Mission, S.F. Admission is $2.50-5; call 978-2787.
Nice and Naughty Leave it to those krazy Klubstitute kids to come up with a kooky holiday party. This year's "Klubstitute Kristmas" begins with "Ruby's Rated X-Mas"; hosted by Ruby Toosday, it features performances by Tribe 8's Lynn Breedlove, Wolfie, Heklina, and more. The festive fun continues with "Happy Birthday, Jesus," a birthday party for God's son that includes a rousing rendition of "For He's a Jolly Good Messiah," a surrogate holiday spanking booth, and games like "Pin the Christ on the Crucifix." Bring Mom and Dad; the party starts at 10 p.m. at the Embassy Lounge, 600 Polk, S.F. Admission is $3-6; call 331-1500.
Zounds! What Sounds! The Mistletones -- featuring members of Polkacide and Those Darn Accordions -- offer "twisted Christmas music for the forlorn and loveless"; they play at 6:30 p.m. at the rad new Flat Plastic Sound, 24 Clement, S.F. Free; call 386-5095.
Baby You're a Richman Last year, the effervescent, irrepressible Jonathan Richman did some busking out on the streets of San Francisco, but the king of the Modern Lovers has taken his act back indoors. He plays at 9:45 p.m. (Saturday also) at the Starry Plough, 3101 Shattuck, Berkeley. Daisy Spot opens. Tickets are $10; call (510) 841-2082.
Nutty for The Nutcracker Oakland Ballet's production of The Nutcracker is mammoth. It features a cast of over 50 costumed characters; more than 300 children from Bay Area dance academies will perform during the show's run. Accompanied live by the Oakland East Bay Symphony, the ballet -- choreographed by Ronn Guidi -- begins at 2 and 7 p.m. (Saturday also; Sunday at 11 a.m.) at the Paramount Theatre, 2025 Broadway, Oakland. Tickets are $5-35; call 776-1999.
Werner's World Though infamous for his clashes with frequent collaborator Klaus Kinski, director Werner Herzog often recruited (extra)ordinary people instead of professional actors to star in his films. In 1971's Land of Silence and Darkness, Herzog jettisons fiction for documentary, telling the story of 56-year-old Fini Straubinger. Struck blind and deaf as a child, bedridden for three decades, Straubinger helps others similarly afflicted come to terms with their lives. Herzog's film provides a patient study of individuals at worst rejected, at best condescendingly "treated" by society. It screens at 8 p.m. at Total Mobile Home Cinema, 51 McCoppin, S.F. Admission is $5; call 431-4007.
Hungry for Stink Lots of indie rockers act like kids, but Stinky Puffs frontguy Simon Fair really is young. Stepson of Jad Fair (of Half Japanese), 12-year-old Simon founded his group before he started kindergarten. He released A little tiny smelly little bit of ... the Stinky Puffs earlier this year, and he's working on a new LP called Songs and Advice for Kids Who Have Been Left Behind (apparently Jad's not the greatest dad). Hear Simon, his mom Sheenah, 9-year-old Cody Linn Ranaldo (son of Sonic Youth guitarist Lee Ranaldo), and other Stinky Puffs at 8 p.m. at Kilowatt, 3160 16th St., S.F. Tickets are $5; call 861-2595.
Belly Laughs Created three years ago by Lisa Geduldig, the third annual "Evening of Kung Pao Kosher Comedy" offers hot-and-sour beef, fortune cookies containing Yiddish proverbs, and -- of course -- kung pao chicken; it also offers kosher stand-up by three Jewish comedians -- Roseanne writer Cathy Ladman; Funny Gay Males member Jaffe Cohen; and Geduldig. The Borscht Belt by the Bay humor benefits Family Link and the Jewish Film Festival; fill your belly, then belly laugh at 6 and 10 p.m. (5 and 9 p.m. Monday) at Hunan Restaurant, 924 Sansome, S.F. Tickets are $20-35; call 431-7363.
Food You Can Live In Throughout December, teams of Bay Area architects have worked to build edible edifices -- also known as gingerbread houses -- at the Bay Area Discovery Museum. Their efforts culminate in the "Gingerbread Architecture Showcase and Cookie Decorating Extravaganza." Look but don't eat from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 557 East Fort Baker, Sausalito. Admission is $6-7; call 487-4398.
Christmas in Space It's not quite so apropos as Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (Pia Zadora's cinematic debut), but Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey sure beats It's a Wonderful Life for Christmas fare. According to its director, 2001 is "a nonverbal experience" that "directly penetrates the subconscious with an emotional and philosophic content." Kubrick spent over four years making 2001, including a year (with Arthur C. Clarke) writing the script, six months on pre-production, 4 1/2 months filming with actors, and a year and a half filming the 205 special-effect shots. It's hard to imagine how 2001 would be treated if it opened today, since contemporary audiences have little patience for scenes that don't move a plot's action forward. See HAL the computer, see the monolith, see the floating fetus, and ponder the universe, the meaning of life, and whether you should drop some acid at 1, 4, and 8 p.m. at the Castro Theatre, Castro & Market, S.F. Tickets are $6; call 621-6120.
Another Day Most gentiles crawl into their caves and close down the world today, so "Being Jewish on Christmas" offers activities for Bay Area Jewish families. Presented in conjunction with the final day of the exhibition "Light Interpretations: A Hanukkah Menorah Festival," the event includes storytelling, music, an art workshop, treasure hunts, and videos. It lasts from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Jewish Museum of San Francisco, 121 Steuart, S.F. Admission is free for museum members, $5 for non-members; call 543-8880.
Ruthless World She's old, she's feisty, she's Ruth Gordon in her greatest film role: Maude of Harold and Maude, that wacky May/December romance co-starring a suicidal Bud Cort. If the holidays have you contemplating self-destruction, you'll enjoy Hal Ashby's 1972 cult classic; it contains numerous scenes in which Cort creatively pretends to off himself. Which is funnier? A) Gordon faking she's a great pianist; B) Gordon making a cop eat dust while he's writing her a speeding ticket. Decide for yourself at 7:15 and 9:15 p.m. (2, 7:15, and 9:15 p.m. Wednesday) at the Red Vic, 1727 Haight, S.F. Tickets are $3-5.50; call 668-3994.