You Bet Your Life Artist Steven Raspa adds his two cents to the gambling debate with "A Dollar and a Dream," his multimedia installation linking long shots like prayer and the American Dream with games of chance. For the last three years, Raspa has been collecting Lotto forms and scratch-off games he's found in cities across our country and others; the stubs take their place within a jumbled assemblage of fortune cookies and dice, horseshoes and wishbones, tarot cards and rabbits' feet, American flags and those praying-hands plaques one sometimes finds hanging in the homes of elderly ladies or on the basement walls of community churches. (Raspa got his at secondhand stores and flea markets, and it appears that no old ladies were harmed in the making of this piece.) There, amid the clutter and the sculpture and the sound installation Raspa has cobbled together, gallerygoers are invited to consider their own crazy dreams and deepest desires. The show opens at 6 p.m. with a reception (and runs through Feb. 2) at the Crucible Steel Gallery, 2050 Bryant (at 20th Street), S.F. Admission is free; call 648-7562.
And Then I Said ... The day after New Year's Day, cabaret singer Sharon McKnight, "sexpert" Fairy Butch, and comedian Julia Jackson discussed holiday hangovers. Later in the month, Supervisor Gavin Newsom, drag psychics Tara and Chrystallah, and comedian Marilyn Pittman hashed out "The Worst of San Francisco." Now, as Late Night Live With David Mills and Bridget Schwartz resumes its weekly Friday night convergence, playwright Doug Holsclaw, "Trannyshack" hostess Heklina, and former supe-turned-scribe Angela Alioto share on-the-job stories during tonight's show, themed "Workers of the World Unite!" It's sort of like those "If you could have a dinner party with a bunch of famous dead people" situations, except with less famous live people and no dinner. Still, seeing how Angela's and Heklina's stories compare ought to be worth it, if only for one memorable local quote. The show begins at 10 p.m. at Josie's Cabaret & Juice Joint, 3583 16th St. (at Market), S.F. Admission is $8; call 861-7933.
There's Gold in Them Thar Halls Slavery, genocide, and environmental destruction notwithstanding, the California gold rush is significant state history, and the Oakland Museum's sesquicentennial exhibit "Gold Rush! California's Untold Stories" helps tell its tale. Sure, there are theme-park elements to this show -- museumgoers can mine for gold and take their findings to a make-believe assay office to be evaluated as fool's gold or the real thing -- but the museum is also sponsoring a lecture series that sifts though the effects and aftereffects of the prospecting boom with panel discussions like "Statehood, Urban Expansion, Vigilance, Racial, and Economic Conflict: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" (Jan. 25) and "The California Environment: Before and After the Gold Rush" (April 5). The exhibit is split into three parts: the collection of artifacts, artwork, and daguerreotypes of "Gold Fever: The Lure and Legacy of the California Gold Rush"; the period's paintings, watercolors, and drawings in "Art of the Gold Rush"; and the early daguerreotypes and ambrotypes of miners, their plots, and their co-workers and kin in "Silver and Gold: Cased Images of the California Gold Rush." The exhibit opens at 10 a.m. (and runs through July 26) at the Oakland Museum, 1000 Oak (at 10th Street), Oakland. Admission is free-$8; call (888) OAK-MUSE.
Swing Out for Sisters Cocktail Nation pairs off with the California Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League at "Swing for Choice," a swing band double-header benefiting CARAL's lobbying efforts. Broadway Studios in-house instructors Rob and Diane, who make a persuasive argument for the toning effects of swing, will don their little microphone headsets and guide even the most two-left-footed of beginners through an hourlong lesson, followed by live sets from Steve Lucky & the Rhumba Bums and Lavay Smith & Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers. Between bands, jitterbugging Jacks and Jills get to show off a little in a ladies' choice swing dance contest. Doors open at 7 p.m., lessons begin at 7:30 p.m., and music begins at 8:30 p.m. at the DNA Lounge, 375 11th St. (at Harrison), S.F. Admission is $15; call 546-7211.
The Short Form Don't expect the tales in "Short Stories by Jewish Writers" to have much in common, other than Jewish authorship; the writers themselves come from all over the globe, and only Isaac Bashevis Singer and Grace Paley may be well-known to American audiences. A Traveling Jewish Theater ensemble members will read Singer's "The Dance" and Paley's "Listening," along with "A Hat of Glass" by Israel's Nava Semel. Brazilian writer Moacyr Scliar's "Inside My Dirty Head the Holocaust," from Tropical Synagogues, and Guatemalan compilation-mate Victor Perera's "Kindergarten" round out the selections. The reading precedes the live appearance of all the authors except the late Singer at the Writing the Jewish Future conference held in the city next weekend. "Short Stories" begins at 2 p.m. at A Traveling Jewish Theater, 2800 Mariposa (at Florida), S.F. Admission is by donation; call 399-1809.
They made their names banging on refrigerators, wielding flaming torches, bouncing off walls, and dusting off long-neglected chapters of theatrical history, and now the artists participating in the Open Field Festival Improvisation Workshops will share their hard-won wisdom with anybody who might hope to benefit from it. Spontaneity reigns in this series of creative exchanges, and these teachers can point to their own, collectively huge body of work to illustrate the ways improv makes performance and performers stronger. Facilitators include Kathleen Hermesdorf and Scott Wells, who created a dance company that relies heavily on contact improv; Topiary, who recently staged a work in progress based on the myth of Atalanta; and Kim Epifano, a former member of the lost and lamented dance-theater troupe Contraband, whose inventiveness was matched by its daring. The workshops begin at 6 p.m. (tonight and tomorrow) and continue through Feb. 1, followed by the Open Field Improvisation Swap/Meets, held in two programs Feb. 5-8 at ODC Theater, 3153 17th St. (at Harrison), S.F. Admission is $10-15; call 626-6745 for info on the workshops, 626-9834 for the Swap/Meets. For a sample of Epifano's work, catch the dance-theater performance Sonic Luminescence, inspired by the writings and music of 12th-century German abbess Hildegarde Von Bingen and directed by Epifano Jan. 23 through Feb. 1 at Dancers' Group Studio Theater, 3221 22nd St. (at Mission), S.F. Admission is $12; call 824-5044.
Oi! Music for Oi! People See if California's smoking ban doesn't get a kick in the teeth from self-proclaimed East London "lager louts" the Gonads, whose five-city American reunion tour, to be filmed by a TV crew from Britain's Channel 4, promises good, loud, hard-drinking fun for all those good, loud, hard-drinking fans of British punk and pub culture. The Gonads don't traffic in the racist-skinhead-variety oi! that gave the genre a bad name; rather, they essay a class consciousness that charges songs like "Jobs Not Jails" between the beer-drinking medleys. The band's best-known breakthrough came with 1982's Pure Punk for Row People, but their presence on the music scene dates way back to 1974. San Francisco's Reducers and U.K. export the Filth F.C. ("football club"), who debuted last year with the "Stay in Bed/Die Happy" single, open the show at 9 p.m. at the Cocodrie, 1024 Kearny (at Broadway), S.F. Admission is $8; call 986-6678.