Crack, Baby "Dark Alliance," San Jose Mercury News reporter Gary Webb's three-part investigative series on the CIA-crack connection, was contentious enough to generate a flurry of conspiracy theories, journalistic debate, and its own Website since its publication last August. Working off a tip, Webb traced California's crack trade through L.A. gangs and South Central drug dealer Rick Ross to CIA-backed Nicaraguan contras and drug runners. Webb discusses the events that unfolded during his pursuit of the tale in "The Big Crack, Contras, and the California Connection," a lecture beginning at noon in Conlan Hall, Room 101, City College, 50 Phelan, S.F. Admission is free; call 239-3580.
Poets Going South "Convoy" joins the lexicon of poetry when members of the '95 and '96 San Francisco Poetry Slam Teams and various assorted others present "Point-Us-in-the-Direction-of-Albuquerque-Palooza." This collection of local spoken-word all-stars, including Horehound Stillpoint, Justin Chin, Beth Lisick, Hank Hyena, and Bucky Sinister, will read to raise money for the cheap beer and motel rooms they'll be needing en route to the Albuquerque Poetry Festival. Audiences who support the home team may also win loot like zines, CDs, tapes, and books at an accompanying raffle. The show begins at 8 p.m. at Intersection for the Arts, 446 Valencia, S.F. Admission is $8-29.95; call 552-6542.
Kickoff Time Australian choreographer Stanton Welch created his first-ever ballet for an American dance company, Maninyas, for the San Francisco Ballet, which returns the favor by opening their '97 season with it. Highlights of the company's six programs include Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes and Pacific, ensemble pieces by modern dance's musical maverick Mark Morris (Programs III and II, respectively); Paul Taylor's Sunset (Program VI), local and world premieres like Sergeant Early's Dream by Ballet Rambert's Christopher Bruce, and revivals of three Balanchine works under the adept direction of SFB Artistic Director Helgi Tomasson, a former Balanchine dancer who understands full well the speed and lyricism the late choreographer's work requires. Program I, which also features Four Last Songs and Western Symphony, begins at 8 p.m. (and continues through March 1) at Center for the Arts, 701 Mission, S.F. Admission is $35-85; call 865-2000.
The Deal of the Art The search for Chinese snuff bottles finally ends this weekend at the Arts of Pacific Asia, a local show and sale. International galleries and dealers converge here, bearing pre-1940s art and artifacts of various Pacific Asian regions, from intricate Hmong weaving to Burmese Buddhist sculptures, Korean ceramics, and Japanese weapons. The event begins with a preview benefiting the Asian Art Museum and featuring entertainment, a buffet, and live and silent auctions at 5 p.m. (admission is $75-125); regular show times are Friday through Sunday at 11 a.m and lasting all day. All events are held in the Festival Pavilion, Fort Mason Center, S.F. General admission is $10; call 557-6990.
Con Artist Israeli secret service agent Peter Malkin, an accomplished painter, relied on personal experience when he posed as an artist for an operation designed to nab former Austrian Nazi operative Adolf Eichmann. Malkin and his colleagues from Israel's Mossad agency went undercover in Buenos Aires in 1960, where they captured Eichmann, who'd lived there under an alias since fleeing Germany in 1946. Malkin helped bring Eichmann down with his martial-arts training, and applied his talent with paints to makeup artistry, disguising Eichmann so that the agents could smuggle him out of the country to Israel, where he was later tried and hanged for war crimes. Malkin reflects on his career when a local exhibit of his paintings and prints opens with a reception at 5:30 p.m., followed by Malkin's short talk at 7:30 p.m. (He gives a complete lecture Sunday, Feb. 16, at 3 p.m.) at Vorpal Gallery, 393 Grove, S.F. Admission is free; call 397-9200.
Out on a Limb Rarely is a costume so integral to a work as it is to Sha Sha Higby's work. Higby's detailed "costume sculptures" are made from wood, paper, silk, lacquer, ceramics, and gold leaf, costumes that take hours to create and put on, and that give sound and hue to her style of solo dance theater, an amalgam of Eastern and Western traditions. Higby has performed and studied textiles and theater arts throughout the world, and will translate her experience by teaching mask and movement workshops this Saturday and Sunday at 3:30 p.m. and performing Tea on a Twig, a meditative movement piece with sets by artist Sherry Petrini, tonight at 8 p.m. (also Friday through Sunday) at Theater Artaud, 450 Florida, S.F. Admission is $6.50-16.50; call 621-7797.
Ages and Stages An actress afraid of aging finds herself channeling the spirits of a dauntless senior, an angry teen, a gay man, and a Jewish vaudevillian in Old, Jewish, and Queer, Naomi Newman's one-woman musical theater piece. Using original songs and Yiddish and Hebrew dialogue, Newman, a founding member of A Traveling Jewish Theater, guides her character(s) through the inevitable life-and-death considerations of encroaching maturity. Teryl Saunders provides live musical accompaniment. The show begins with a preview at 8 p.m. (previews continue through Feb. 23; the show opens Feb. 24 and runs through March 23) at A Traveling Jewish Theater, 2800 Mariposa, S.F. Admission is $16; call 399-1809.
Spatial Arrangements They're not officially billed as Black History Month shows, but two new exhibits at SFMOMA -- "Seydou Keita" and "Kara Walker: Upon My Many Masters -- An Outline" -- provide points of reflection on that theme. Nearly 40 black-and-white photographs shot by Keita, a studio portraitist, reflect changes of his native Mali between the mid-'40s and the late '70s, including the rise of the gold trade and his country's move from French colonialism to independence in 1960. Walker uses 18th-century-style black cutout silhouettes to create gritty mock scenes from the antebellum South, skewering in the process all its attendant stereotypes: Civil War scenes, romance novels, master and slave tableaux. The exhibits, which go up during the same week the sculpture exhibit "Robert Arneson: Self-Reflections"is installed, open at 11 a.m.; "Seydou Keita" is up through June 3, and "Kara Walker" is up through May 13, at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 151 Third St., S.F. Admission is free-$7; call 357-4000.
To the Core Their peers are trying hard to run performance group CORE out of town, but it's a friendly kind of coup, a benefit to send CORE to New York's PS122, with the expectation that they'll return after fine-tuning their craft before hypercritical Manhattanites. A three-day fund-raiser reflects CORE's blend of contact improv, dance, and experimental theater: Tonight's dance concert includes performances by Margaret Jenkins and Pearl Ubungen, tomorrow night's music event presents the Dodge Brothers, and Sunday night, "Queer Performance for CORE," features group members Keith Hennessy and Stanya Kahn alongside Remy Charlip and Nao Bustamente. Show times are 8:30 p.m. each night, all held at 848 Community Space, 848 Divisadero, S.F. Admission is $10-50; call 922-2385.
The Golden Age Time finds an eerie suspension in "Amber: Window to the Past," a natural science exhibit with the aesthetic impact of fine art. The body of an ancient tree frog and crane flies frozen in the act of mating are among the exhibit's 145 fossil specimens, some of which are millions of years old. Because of its relative durability and clarity, amber offers scientists a kind of window on evolution by preserving anything from plant life to strands of DNA. The exhibit also demonstrates the decorative uses of the resin with centuries' worth of amber carvings in rich shades of red and gold. The exhibit opens at 10 a.m. (and runs through April 15) at the California Academy of Sciences, Golden Gate Park, S.F. Admission is free-$7; call 750-7145.
From Tannhauser to Your House A word of advice to 21st-century Cinderellas: The Opera Guild's "Opera Attic Rummage Sale" will be unloading ball gowns, jewelry, and other formal attire at greatly reduced rates. The Guild's education programs benefit from the sale of these and other fairly well-preserved items ranging from art and furniture to electronics and CDs. The sale begins at 9 a.m. (also Sunday at 10 a.m.) at the Baker Hamilton Building, 601 Townsend, S.F. Admission is free (with a $10 "early bird" 8:30 a.m. admission and a half-price sale the second day); call 565-6432.
Reduce, Reuse, Remodel Clothes dryer lint can serve a useful purpose, if you know what to do with it. So can used Wonder bread wrappers and wine corks, melted-down guns, and old computer circuit boards, which are all given new life in the exhibit "Hello Again: A New Wave of Recycled Art and Design." Local and international artists and designers have created over 600 items ranging from a sequined beer-can tunic by Isaac Mizrahi to Boris Bally's bowls made from traffic signs, all testaments to the values of eco-consciousness and ingenuity. The story of a work's evolution is often as intriguing as the final product, as in the case of the bracelet made from a B-52 bomber shot down over North Vietnam. The exhibit opens at 10 a.m. (and continues through July 27) at the Oakland Museum, 1000 Oak, Oakland. Admission is free-$5; call (510) 238-2200.
Shape Notes If Beer-Drinking Sonata doesn't sound like a familiar title from the classical repertoire, consider that it was created for the Art Orchestra, a Sculptors' Ensemble, whose instruments range from cans, wheels, bowls, and shells to the more traditional strings and pipes. The 14-member ensemble is comprised of local conceptual artists who prefer inventing their instruments to buying them; they'll play the lush's opus and Unity Without Uniformity, both of which were written by orchestra founder/composer Tom Marioni, who helped create San Francisco's now-defunct Museum of Conceptual Art. The concert begins at 3 p.m. in the Florence Gould Theater at the Legion of Honor, 34th Avenue & Clement, S.F. Admission is free with museum admission; call 495-3193.
Tiger Tales Depending on who's doing the describing, Peter Matthiessen is a natural historian, an author, an anthropologist, a Zen Buddhist, or the founder of The Paris Review. He's best known as a writer, though his books The Snow Leopard and At Play in the Fields of the Lord derive from his interests in indigenous peoples and conservation. At Play, which made its way to film, contained shades of Chinua Achebe's novel Things Fall Apart in its portrayal of the Amazon's vast beauty, and the damaging effects of missionaries and other outsiders on its culture. Matthiessen delivers the lecture "On the Fate of Tigers," a benefit for the California Academy of Sciences, at 8 p.m. in the Herbst Theater, 401 Van Ness, S.F. Admission is $16; call 392-4400.
Hello, Cleveland! "This one goes up to 11" is the line quoted most frequently by This Is Spinal Tap fans, but the film gave us many other memorable phrases, among them "Go ahead, kick my ass. I'm not asking you, I'm telling you." The former comes from Nigel (played by Christopher Guest, director of the upcoming comedy Waiting for Guffman), the dim-bulb guitarist of faux heavy metal band Spinal Tap, in Rob Reiner's reference-laden spoof of the music industry. The latter comes from Letterman band leader Paul Shaffer, who plays a PR guy, but it could have come from the music industry itself: Spinal Tap premiered in 1984, when heavy-metal conceits like small guitars and epic balladry enjoyed renewed popularity with MTV metal acts. The '90s made a joke of the joke, as the fictional band went on an actual national tour and appeared on The Simpsons. Spinal Tap screens at 7:30 and 9:20 p.m. at the Red Vic Movie House, 1727 Haight, S.F. Admission is $4.50-6; call 668-3994.