Spelunker's Paradise Experienced cavers are used to dodging jagged limestone formations in clammy, dark, and sometimes narrow spots, but neophyte spelunkers won't know they've gotten too close until they set off buzzers inside simulated stalactites at the interactive exhibit "California Underground: Our Caves and Subterranean Habitats." Exhibits and activities illustrate how caves are formed, what they look like, what lives inside them, and how to explore them. The "Man in Caves" area lets guests experience the actual physical sensation of squeezing through tight spaces, and what equipment cavers use to clamber inside and map the area. Recordings offer the true stories of caving adventures, and cave photographers like Peter and Ann Bosted and Dave Bunnell provide color shots of the five "realms" of cave formation, including fire and ice, and slip and slide. A series of special events further illustrates what goes on in the thousands of caves in California and elsewhere: Opening day features live bat presentations and Bunnell's multimedia slide and music presentation on state caves, while "Caves Family Day" (March 14) offers rope tying and rock rubbing activities. The exhibit opens at 10 a.m. (and runs through Jan. 9, 2000) at the Oakland Museum, 1000 Oak (at 10th Street), Oakland. Admission is free-$6; call (888) OAK-MUSE.
Eat to the Beat After a couple of greasy chicken wings and a shot of JD at the Bottom of the Hill's weekly barbecue show, the Crosstops oughta sound pretty good. They're the cowpunk foursome who claim to have met in a Kentucky truck stop, and their four-song 7-inch Drinkin' Fightin' Fuckin' and Truckin' feeds the legend with a salute to big-bottomed gals and a swipe at Motsrhead's Lemmy in "Everybody's Making It Big But Me." Headlining San Diego band Furious IV will have to work twice as hard after a rip-snortin' set like that if they want to keep the crowd in the club. These boys, whose specialty is bouncy punk-pop, reportedly held their own on last year's Freshmaker and Warped tours, though, and S.D. neighbors Rocket From the Crypt aren't complaining about the frequent comparisons, so they must be doing something right. Jack Killed Jill kicks off the show at 4 p.m. at the Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St. (at Texas), S.F. Admission is $5; call 621-4455.
Nattering Nabobs 60 Minutes viewers need no introduction to co-editor Lesley Stahl, who actually introduces herself at the beginning of the show. The lone woman in that wrinkled crew is used to it by now: Stahl began her career at CBS in 1972, when, as a young reporter with considerably less female company than she has today, she was assigned to cover a "third-rate" burglary at the Watergate building. Her appearance at City Arts & Lectures should yield a few good yarns about the major political figures she grilled as White House correspondent from 1978 to 1986. Stahl has hopped on planes with Presidents Carter, Reagan, and Bush, gone head-to-head with such imposing figures as Margaret Thatcher and Yasir Arafat, and gotten firsthand exposure to some of the biggest stories of the last two decades. KQED's Scott Shafer interviews Stahl onstage at 8 p.m. in the Herbst Theater, 401 Van Ness (at McAllister), S.F. Admission is $17; call 392-4400. While Stahl was wrangling with politicos, fellow journalist Daniel Bergner was wrassling with the Louisiana Department of Corrections and Warden Burl Cain for access to Angola Prison, where inmates compete in an annual rodeo. Bergner eventually sued for, and against heavy legal odds won, access to the prison and the story there, namely how and why rapists, murderers, and robbers serving life sentences would attempt to better their lives under otherwise unforgiving circumstances. Writer Peter Y. Sussman will interview Bergner about his findings and the book they produced, God of the Rodeo: The Search for Hope, Faith, and a Six-Second Ride in Louisiana's Angola Prison. The talk begins at 5:30 p.m. at the Freedom Forum Pacific Coast Center, Steuart Tower, 21st Floor, 1 Market, S.F. Admission is free; call 547-4123 to RSVP.
Something Without Mary There's something disarming about Jonathan Richman: the weathered but still boyish face, maybe, or the guileless sincerity he projects. The lyrics are a big part of it, too; after his early '70s punk years with the Modern Lovers, he went acoustic and bared his soul with quirky tales of everyday living, lyrics best absorbed in an intimate venue. People who didn't yet know they were Richman fans got a dose of his talent in There's Something About Mary, in which he and drummer Tommy Larkins served as a stone-faced Greek chorus with Latin, punk, and folk accents. The movie could leave new listeners with the impression that Richman only does precious and/or silly, and many of the titles in his extensive back catalog, like "I Was Dancing in the Lesbian Bar," "I Eat With Gusto, Damn! You Bet," or "You're Crazy for Taking the Bus," would support that idea, but then he'll turn around and break your heart with a line like this one from his recent album, I'm So Confused: "People all over the world are starving for affection/ And to me, this ain't funny/ To me, this is real." Feel the confusion up close when Richman plays at 8:30 p.m. (also Wednesday and Thursday) at the Make-Out Room, 3225 22nd St. (at Mission), S.F. Admission is $7; call 647-2888.