december 18
It's a Wonderful Price If the holidays don't bring in truckloads of snow, they can at least promise an avalanche of sap. If you're planning to surrender to it, then you'll be watching It's a Wonderful Life, the granddaddy of tear-jerking holiday films. San Francisco State University's Depot offers an absolutely free public screening of Life as well as Edward Scissorhands, another heartwarming story of small-town folk who turn on well-meaning sad sacks; see how these tales play to an audience of smart-assed student types. Edward Scissorhands screens tonight at 5 p.m.; It's a Wonderful Life screens Friday at 3 p.m. in the Depot, located in the basement of the Cesar Chavez Student Center, SFSU campus, 1650 Holloway, S.F. Call 338-1044.

All the President's Pens Play spot the Secret Service when former President of the United States Jimmy Carter visits San Francisco to autograph copies of his "spiritual memoir" Living Faith. The peanut-farmer-turned-nuclear-scientist-turned-world-leader will grant a five-minute press conference, followed by an hourlong book-signing session. Due to the time constraint, Carter is not expected to read or discuss the book, or to socialize at length; the store holds approximately 200 people, so political stargazers are advised to arrive early. The event begins at 12:30 p.m. at Rizzoli Bookstore, 117 Post, S.F. Admission is free; call 984-0225.

Plates From Space What makes the earth quake? New satellite technology, including the Global Positioning System and synthetic aperture radar interferometry, is providing scientists with more clues by tracking the movement of large plates (or sections of the Earth's hard outer layer) that float across the planet's mantle. When rocks shift past each other, strain accumulates in the Earth's crust, which can eventually produce earthquakes. The new technology isn't able to subvert the forces of nature, but it can observe movement over wide areas and help geologists predict when we may next need to brace ourselves. Dr. Howard A. Zebker, associate professor of geophysics and electrical engineering at Stanford, speaks on a topic of particular interest to Californians, "Measurement of the Earth's Tectonic Motions From Spaceborne Satellites," at 7:30 p.m. at the Morrison Planetarium, California Academy of Sciences, Golden Gate Park, S.F. Admission is $3; call 750-7127.

december 19
Doing Da Vinci Proud People wielding slide rules can find ways of relating to people sporting sketchbooks, if this month's "Third Thursday Salon" is any indication. Berkeley Art Center hosts a panel discussion with the topic "Collaborations: Artists and Scientists," with guest speakers who have worked together on six of the 80 books shown in the center's new "Science Imagined" exhibit. Pairs of collaborators will address questions about the divisions and connections between disciplines, and how scientists and artists use their imaginations. Speakers include Marylee Bytheriver and Sam Houston, who worked together on Weather Map, and Kathy Dybeck and Susan Sahl, the collaborators behind A Survey of Plants. The discussion begins at 7:30 p.m. at the Berkeley Art Center, 1275 Walnut, Live Oak Park, Berkeley. Admission is free; call (510) 644-6893.

Baggage Claim Area 'Tis the season of baggage, Samsonite and otherwise. In honor of the holidays, the Luggage Store Gallery offers its fifth annual juried art exhibit, "psychic, spiritual, physical, and/or emotional baggage." This group show features mixed-media and intermedia work by over 65 artists, including Kenneth Huerta, Daphne Bernard, John Jehu, Terry Hoff, and Frederick Hayes. An accompanying "artluck," in which visual artists swap wrapped works, is slated for January. The exhibit opens with a reception at 5:30 p.m. (and continues through Jan. 31, 1997) in the Luggage Store, 1007 Market, S.F. Admission is free; call 255-5971.

Patient Guy Arrives Anthony Minghella's film adaptation of The English Patient looks like a local hit, which bodes well for author Michael Ondaatje's appearance. Ondaatje, a native of Sri Lanka who resides in Canada, won the Booker Prize for his story of an amnesiac Hungarian burn victim and the nurse who cares for him in an abandoned Italian monastery at the end of World War II; fellow scribe Toni Morrison described the book as "profound, beautiful, and heartbreaking." Ondaatje -- also the author of Coming Through Slaughter and In the Skin of a Lion -- reads at 7:30 p.m. at A Clean Well-Lighted Place for Books, Opera Plaza, 601 Van Ness, S.F. Admission is free; call 441-6670.

december 20
Broken Wings Moving Out Dance-Theater Company, founded in Colombia by Swiss theater artist Beat Rettenmund and Colombian dancer Beatriz Restrepo, draws on a wealth of cultural influences for its performances. The company toured Central America before settling into the Bay Area in 1995, and drawing up a working method that includes serious introspection and a nomadic lifestyle. As it has in past projects, the company uses music, poetry, and masks in Death of an Angel, its new movement-theater piece, which juxtaposes conspicuous consumption with the erosion of beauty. The show begins at 7 p.m. at the Balazo Gallery, 2811 Mission, S.F. Admission is a $15 donation; call 920-0897.

december 21
Lens Revenge "In Front of the Lens: Portraits of California Photographers" is like a black-and-white family photo album for famous area photographers. Here are the images Willard Van Dyke captured of a hungover Ansel Adams lying on a couch; the Edward Weston portrait of a sinister-looking Johan Hagemeyer, who wore a cape for the occasion; and Imogen Cunningham's shot Lovers, of real-life couple Weston and Margarethe Mather. There are formal and casual photos in this collection, and self-portraits like Malcolm Lubliner's Me Too, shot against a shimmery mylar backdrop. There's also a considerable amount of overlap between models and artists in this exhibit, which chronicles photographers who worked and lived in California from the 1850s through the 1980s, from Man Ray to Judy Dater. "In Front of the Lens" opens at 10 a.m. (and continues through April 12, 1997) at the Oakland Museum, 1000 Oak, Oakland. Admission is free-$5; call (510) 238-2200.

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