Ring Ding If you're afraid of clowns, steer clear of Clown Alley, and Boss Clown Tom Parish, when Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus parks its big top in the Bay Area this weekend. "The Greatest Show on Earth" may not exude the same freaky glamour that it did in the pre-cyberspace era, but clowns and dancing elephants aside, the traveling spectacle does offer some intriguing new attractions. Among these are Airiana, the Human Arrow, who flies through the air (looking like a Marvel Comics superhero, if the posters are to be believed) after being shot from the world's largest crossbow; Marguerite Michelle, who dangles midair by her hair; and Samson Power, who lifts weights with his teeth. Hokey? Sure. So what? The circus opens its weekend run at 7:30 p.m. at the Cow Palace, Geneva & Santos, Daly City. Admission is $10.50-15.50; call 469-6065.
Many Happy Returns Recycling is known for giving old products a new usefulness, whether it's the transformation of packing foam into tennis shoes or old bottles and cans into new bottles and cans, instead of into roadside debris. And until recently, bottle caps, although they sometimes appear in drinking games, have mostly had a singular purpose. San Francisco's Green City Project first turned its attention to Tenderloin residence the Senator Hotel in 1992 with a rooftop gardening project; now, project members, artist Remi Rubel, and hotel residents have created the Bottle Cap Quilt, a piece of art made from used bottle caps, food packaging materials, photos, and hand-drawn pictures with the theme "home." The quilt will hang in the hotel's lobby as an educational testament to recycling. An unveiling party for the quilt, with a bottle-cap-bedecked clown host and light refreshments provided by local restaurants and bakeries, is held at 5 p.m. in the Senator Hotel Lobby, 519 Ellis, S.F. Admission is free but space is limited; call 285-6556.
What a Trip! Diane Amos has two mommies. Because she was raised by lesbian parents -- one Jewish, the other African-American -- in the ghettos and suburbs of Indiana, she didn't exactly have an all-American kid kind of experience. This was the '60s, after all, long before "diversity" had been integrated into the language of family. Amos, a stand-up comedian and actress known nationally as the Pine Sol pitchwoman, traces her life's journey in the one-woman show Balancing Act, a chronicle of growing pains and culture clash in the Midwest. Amos' eventual trek to San Francisco, where she made a name for herself with appearances in Nine Months and Angels in the Outfield even as she found a place for herself, will no doubt resonate with audiences in this city of nomads. A preview of the show begins at 8:30 p.m. (also Friday, Saturday, and next Thursday) at the Marsh, 1062 Valencia, S.F. Admission is $8-12; call 826-5750.
Babe Magnet The Festival of the Babes is a weekend soccer tourney and party for lesbians and, as organizers put it, "any woman willing to be mistaken for one." Twenty-four U.S. and Canadian women's teams, with players of all ages and abilities, will compete, but cheering fans of both genders are welcome to attend. Entertainment highlights include the "Demi Moore Striptease Impersonation" and "Sexiest Soccer Legs" contests, the "FOBwear" fashion show, and an awards ceremony. The registration party begins at 7 p.m. at the Mars Cafe, Brannan & Seventh St., S.F. Games begin at 8 a.m. Saturday and Sunday at the West Sunset soccer fields, Quintara & 39th Ave., S.F. Admission is free; call 974-9455. (A FOB party is held Saturday at 8 p.m. at the Transmission Theater, 314 11th St., S.F. Admission is $7; call 974-9455.)
An Antidote to Entropy Former Bay Area elementary school teacher Dierdre Blomfield-Brown has a new identity and a new mission. The educator, who now goes by the name Ane Pema Chodron, was ordained in 1974 as a novice Buddhist nun by His Holiness the 16th Karmapa; in 1981, at the Karmapa's recommendation, she became the first American Tibetan Buddhist nun to be fully ordained. Chodron, the director of the Nova Scotia monastery Gampo Abbey and author of The Wisdom of No Escape, emphasizes maitri, or "loving kindness," toward oneself and others. She elaborates on the concept in her forthcoming book, When Things Fall Apart, a primer for Buddhists and non-Buddhists on dealing with adversity. Chodron reads from and discusses When Things Fall Apart at 8 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 1187 Franklin, S.F. Admission is $15; call 550-1142.
Radical Topiary As the Sun King's director of gardening, Andre Le N™tre was responsible for the immense and complex formal gardens at the Palace of Versailles, Vaux-le-Vicomte, Sceaux, St. Cloud, and Marly-le-roi. There, as well as in other areas of 17th-century France, artifice was meant to prevail over nature, and maintenance was demanding, to say the least. A series of 50 black-and-white shots by San Diego-based photographer Becky Cohen reveals the behind-the-scenes work of designing and preserving the artistic landscaping and statuary in the outdoor theaters where Louis XIV once held court. "The Gardens of Le N™tre: Photographs by Becky Cohen" opens at 11 a.m. (and continues through Dec. 31) at the University Art Museum, 2626 Bancroft, UC Berkeley campus. Admission is free-$6; call (510) 642-0808.