Arrivederci, Roma Who's covering the pope while NPR foreign correspondent Sylvia Poggioli's in town? While many of her dispatches have come from Rome, with church bells pealing in the distance, Poggioli was most recently assigned to Eastern Europe, where the war detained her from giving an earlier City Arts & Lectures talk. Now that the situation in Kosovo is returning to some semblance of normality, Poggioli will sort through the uneasy relations between Albanians and Serbs against the complex context of Eastern European history, which she has seen unfold firsthand ever since she joined NPR's Foreign Desk in 1982. She'll speak live onstage with KQED California Report host Scott Shafer at 8 p.m. at the Herbst Theater, 401 Van Ness (at McAllister), S.F. Admission is $17; call 392-4400.
Between the Dials If the Go-Betweens' album Bellavista Terrace sounds familiar, it's not because the band is the next big thing: Founders Grant McLennan and Robert Forster signed to Rough Trade way back in '78 as students at Australia's Queensland University. And it's not because any of the songs on this greatest hits compilation were actually hits, at least in the commercial sense. You probably didn't see the group play, unless you caught them touring with Lloyd Cole in 1990, the year they broke up. And Go-Betweens albums are hard to find, although Beggars Banquet rereleased five of the six records the band put out over 12 years. No, if the Go-Betweens sound familiar, it's because they epitomize the best that college radio had to offer in the '80s: the jangly guitars, the irrepressible pop hooks, the wistful lyricism of a band that deserves more than a small but fervent cult following. Etienne de Rocher opens this KALX-sponsored show at 8 p.m. at the Great American Music Hall, 859 O'Farrell (at Polk), S.F. Admission is $14; call 885-0750.
The Not-a-Show Pre-Show Punk, minus long lines, steep ticket prices, convenience fees, Portosans, and commuter hassles, arrives in the form of a Sleater-Kinney in-store at Amoeba. Following the long-awaited release of their Kill Rock Stars album The Hot Rock, the Olympian threesome return to their workmanlike roots, warming up for their This Is Not a Festival! gig tomorrow night (with Sonic Youth and Guided by Voices) with a free show at 6 p.m. at Amoeba Records, 1855 Haight (at Stanyan), S.F.; call 831-1200.
Nothing Going On But the Rent The bitter battle brewing over the Mission's changing demographics isn't the first, as KQED's historical documentary The Mission points out -- trouble began as far back as the early '70s, when BART construction commenced. "Rage Against Rent!," a night of video selections and a panel discussion on the gentrification of the Mission, will present excerpts from The Mission along with two featured videos expounding on the problem. Christopher Daly and Tracy Hoare's On 16th Street (1999) contrasts the rise of trendy restaurants and precious boutiques with the residential hotel fires that have displaced local residents; Mike Kavanagh's 1999 video Defend the 'Hood! documents the Mission Yuppie Eradication Project and the debate it sparked. After the films, speakers from the Eviction Defense Network and other groups will discuss the desperate measures being taken by tenants and landlords alike over rents. The event begins at 8 p.m. at Artists' Television Access, 992 Valencia (at 21st Street), S.F. Admission is $5; call 789-8484.
The Sound of Music Paul Pena's road to Tuva was long and arduous, as the documentary Genghis Blues proves. A vast geographic expanse separates San Francisco from the ruggedly beautiful terrain straddling Siberia and Mongolia, and getting there from here entails a series of grueling plane rides and car trips. But part of what makes Adrian and Roko Belic's otherwise rudimentary film so engaging is the way they trace the odd circumstances that landed Pena halfway around the world in the first place. Pena, the blind San Francisco bluesman who wrote the Steve Miller hit "Jet Airliner" and performed with Bonnie Raitt, B.B. King, and T-Bone Walker in his day, stumbled upon Tuvan throat singing (a multiharmonic vocal technique) through a shortwave Radio Moscow program. Pena taught himself the kargyraa technique, and so thoroughly amazed visiting Tuvan throat singer Kongar-Ol Ondar with an impromptu demonstration that Ondar invited him to a national throat singing competition. Though the Belics admit their inexperience upfront (this is their first feature), they got it right with Genghis; it's pure pleasure watching international barriers fall away as Pena and Ondar forge a musical brotherhood, and heartbreaking hearing Pena sing about leaving a place that finally feels like home. The film screens daily at 12:30, 2:45, 5, 7:15, and 9:30 p.m. (except July 11) through July 14 at the Castro Theater, 429 Castro (at Market), S.F. Admission is $6.50; call 621-6120.
The End Is Near The shining promise of the new millennium is that once it finally arrives, we won't have to hear so damn much about it for another thousand years. Until then, of course, we'll be seeing shows like Keith Reddin's Brutality of Fact, a black comedy on the widespread and often colorful religious extremism prompted by the uncertainty of a new age. Reddin, who debuted Brutality to critical acclaim in Chicago, was inspired by the events at Waco, but the sheer number of doomsday sects and religious cults that have surfaced since then suggest an accelerated search for meaning. Actors Theater stages the show, which revolves around bitter divorcee Jackie, a religious convert who distributes evangelical magazines with her elderly mother until the prodigal sister Jackie claimed was dead returns, occasioning a familial Judgment Day. Brutality opens at 8 p.m. (and runs through Aug. 7) at Actors Theater of San Francisco, 533 Sutter (at Powell), S.F. Admission is $20; call 296-9179.