G Whiz The "g" in GFest Film Festival stands for gravity, although it might as well stand for gonzo. This globe-hopping collection of award-winning films on fate-tempting athletic feats screens under the stars, and will appeal to X Games fans and adrenalin junkies, as well as nature lovers and local moviegoers who miss the summertime conviviality of drive-ins. Viewers bring their own chairs, preferably the kind with armrests that they can grip while they gasp over the terrifying, untamed beauty of Ode to Avalanche or marvel at the wonders of Andean windsurfing during Camanchaca. The show, which includes an auction benefiting the national nonprofit trail-building and wilderness cleanup group the Access Fund, begins at 7:41 p.m. (sunset) at the Pyramid Brewery, 901 Gilman, Berkeley. Admission is $5-7; call (510) 558-0106.
Taking the High Road "The Path of Peace," a series of events organized by the Community of Mindful Living, culminates next month with a day of meditation led by Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, a Nobel Prize nominee who counsels his audiences to pair deep thinking inside the meditation hall with committed community service outside. As a prelude to Hanh's address, the series features art, music, and spoken word at the "New Rhythms, Old Roots" show (Aug. 29 at Lake Merritt), as well as Deborah Edwards' one-woman performance From Whores to Matriarchs: Black Women Survivors on the Edge. Rhodessa Jones, who worked with female prison inmates in the Medea Project theater group, is uniquely qualified to direct this show, a compilation of poetry, narrative, and song that addresses the historical degradation of black women. Edwards assumes a variety of characters, beginning with Sarah Bartman, also known as the Hottentot Venus, an African slave who was displayed in a cage throughout Europe in the 1800s because of her ample buttocks. The show begins at 8 p.m. (and runs through Sunday) at the Berkeley Repertory Theater, 2025 Addison, Berkeley. Admission is $15-20; call (510) 845-4700.
What a Little Moonlight Can Do It's been 30 years since the first Apollo mission awed Earth with images of the vast, shadowy lunar landscape, and photographic artist Michael Light is still moon-struck. Inspired by the similarities between lunar landscape photography and the aerial photos he was making over a Southwestern desert, the San Francisco-based artist won access to the film masters from NASA's archive of moon photos, and selected 51 images to work with in his exhibit "Full Moon: Apollo Mission Photographs of the Lunar Landscape." Using new digital scanning technology, Light developed sharp panoramic prints from the original pictures, blowing them up to as much as 49 by 192 inches to convey the immensity and mystery of this still widely uncharted territory. The public has never seen many of these images, which include astronaut Dave Scott's slice of the moon's primordial crust and fellow crew member James Irwin's shot of the Hadley Rille, a winding, 80-mile-long volcanic lava canyon. The exhibit opens at 11 a.m. at the SFMOMA, 151 Third St. (at Mission), S.F. Admission is free-$9; call 357-4000.
I Laugh at Your Fish Balls! In Iwai Shunji's Love Letter, a grieving woman sends a "letter to heaven" in care of her late boyfriend's address, only to receive an utterly unexpected reply; the Iron Chef-like plot of Stephen Chiau Sing-Chi's God of Cookery, meanwhile, revolves around a disgraced chef whose plan for renewed glory hinges on marketing the world's greatest fish balls. Rumors are rife that Meg Ryan and Jim Carrey will star in American remakes of each, so now's the time to catch the originals at the Asian Art Museum's weekend-long film fest "2 x 2: Iwai Shunji and Stephen Chiau Sing-Chi." The Japanese director Shunji specializes in emotionally powerful, technically seamless films, while Chiau Sing-Chi, a younger actor/director from Hong Kong, leans toward comedy. The series begins at 7 p.m. with April Story, Shunji's tale of a withdrawn university student, and continues through Sunday at the Asian Art Museum, Golden Gate Park, S.F. Admission is $6-8; call 379-8879.
Monster Mash In this corner, draped in a luxe smoking jacket and two buxom ladies, you'll find your MC for tonight's Incredibly Strange Wrestling show. From all corners, drunken fans will be hurling epithets and tortillas at the center ring, where Mexican wrestlers with names like El Pollo Diablo and El Borracho Gigante will try to dominate one another with their flashiest holds and maneuvers. And then you have the bands: Electric Frankenstein invokes its big, dumb, havoc-wreaking namesake with big, dumb, thunderous rock grafted from Kiss and the Misfits; the group's How to Make a Monster isn't bad at all, just ... misunderstood. Look at the Dwarves the wrong way, on the other hand, and they'll kick you in the head, and it's best to remain standing during the band's fake-blood-spattering, incendiary short sets, if only for the pyrotechnics of guitarist He Who Cannot Be Named. 440 Six-Pack launches the show at 9 p.m. at the Fillmore, 1805 Geary (at Fillmore), S.F. Admission is $13.50; call 346-6000.
Punk You Up From its disarmingly pretty acoustic guitar intro through its full-throttle Spanglish account of a mentor's downward spiral, Union 13's "A Life's Story" invigorates hardcore punk, and not a minute too soon: The last 10 years have seen a progression of hardcore bands whose vitriolic swaggering can't disguise a disappointing lack of original music or message, as demonstrated abysmally in Penelope Spheeris' third Decline of Western Civilization documentary. Punk-O-Rama, a handful of Epitaph bands from all over the country, attempts to set things right again with a national tour that traffics in all kinds of punk permutations. Union 13 will represent East L.A, while Orange County's Straight Faced and U.S. Bombs (headed by veteran skateboard champ Duane Peters) hold up SoCal's reputation for aggressive but affable beer-fueled noise. New Jersey headliners the Bouncing Souls feed ska into their comic sensitive-guy ballad, "Hopeless Romantic," and 7 Seconds, one of the last holdouts from the peace punk movement, puts in a special appearance. The pit forms at 7:30 p.m. at the Great American Music Hall, 859 O'Farrell (at Polk), S.F. Admission is $10; call 885-0750.
Fair Play Signs that Pistahan '99 is in full swing: former Miss Universe Gloria Diaz smiling and waving at onlookers, and hordes of screaming preteen girls mobbing singer Billy Crawford, who performs "Urgently in Love" for a second time this week, after opening for N'Sync at Shoreline. The Pistahan Outdoor Fair and the Pearl of the Orient Parade, in which floats snake up Market Street's lower half, comprise the Filipino American Arts Exposition, a two-day cultural celebration that opens with 23 Filipino priests blessing the proceedings and ends with Crawford showing off his best MTV moves. Filipino food, arts, and performances are sandwiched in between. The fair begins at 11 a.m. (also Sunday) at Yerba Buena Gardens, Mission & Third Street, S.F. Admission is free (the Crawford concert is $12-50); call 436-9711. The parade begins at noon on Sunday and travels from Market & Embarcadero to Yerba Buena.
Lucky Seven After a two-year wait, L7 aficionados have been rewarded with Slap-Happy, a new album that channels all the elements fans expect through a handful of dizzying effects: the whipsaw buzz of Suzi Gardner's guitar, Dee Plakas pounding the bejesus out her drum kit, and Donita Sparks inveighing against poseurs, scams, violence, stupidity, nightlife, and other hazards of L.A. living. But there are changes afoot; the band launched this sixth effort on its own label, Wax Tadpole, in conjunction with Bong Load Records, and has taken a new bass player on tour following Gail Greenwood's departure -- Janis Tanaka, formerly of San Francisco hometown favorites Stone Fox. L7 opens for Ministry, which returns from its Jello Biafra/Lard hiatus with songs from last month's release Dark Side of the Spoon. The show starts at 8 p.m. at the Warfield, 982 Market (at Sixth Street), S.F. Admission is $25; call 776-1999.
Everything Old Is New Again The criticism once lobbed at Oakland -- that there was no "there" there -- predated the city's thriving art scene, which has produced techno cosmic raves and studio tours, swing jazz and swamp boogie. Porcelain painters, quilters, weavers, potters, lace-makers, and other artisans dressed in period costume will be plying their trades at the Enduring Arts Festival, but the most attractive part of the fest is its bargain-rate sampler of the city's classical performing arts. The Oakland Ballet, fine guardians of the Tudor and Nijinska legacies, offers the pas de deux from Ronn Guidi's The Secret Garden, while Dance Through Time whirls through social dances of the Romantic and Victorian eras. The Oakland East Bay Symphony's Brass Quintet revisits various eras as well, with works by Handel, Joplin, and Ellington. The Oakland Lyric Opera and Opera Piccola also perform at the festival, which begins at noon at Dunsmuir Historic Estate, 2960 Peralta Oaks, Oakland. Admission is free-$12; call (510) 615-5555. The BRAVA Youth Arts Festival, produced by and starring local youth, is another good performing arts deal. Teatro Armonia, a BRAVA summer youth program, stages Mariposa: The Journey Home, a drama about a Mission District family. The daylong event also features performances by the excellent dance and percussion ensemble Loco Bloco, acrobatic martial arts/dance troupe Omulu Capoeira, and Youth Speaks readers. Special guest Mayor Willie Brown takes a crack at the pinata at the festival, which begins at 1 p.m. on 24th Street, between Hampshire & York, S.F. Admission is free; call 641-7657.
No, Thank You Unlike her namesake, the Carthage queen who incinerated herself over a bad love affair, British singer/songwriter Dido is only metaphorically on fire. Her foray into soul, "Thank You," made the Gwyneth Paltrow vehicle Sliding Doors, and her album No Angel, produced in part by brother Rollo, cracked the twenty-/thirtysomething market with a combination of breathy acoustics and light dub, winning her comparisons to Sinead O'Connor. A former child prodigy of sorts, Dido was playing piano, violin, and recorder at London's Guildhall School of Music by age 10; by her teen years, she was making off with Rollo's Gregory Isaacs albums and singing in his band Faithless, which was, as they say, huge in Europe. Dido and her band play at 9 p.m. at Bimbo's 365 Club, 1025 Columbus (at Chestnut), S.F. Admission is $10; call 474-0365.
It's Big and It's Easy New Orleans, with its sybaritic flamboyance, its hot, swampy climate, and its voodoo tradition, must have cast a spell on us, because we can't seem to get enough of New Orleans-themed parties. Along with "Swamp Boogie" at Eli's in Oakland and "New Orleans Boogie Night" at Nickie's, Ashkenaz hosts periodic Louisiana-style music nights with the California Cajun Orchestra, the Zydeco Flames, and Gator Beat, which plays zydeco swing and Cajun funk after Cheryl McBride teaches the Cajun two-step. The fun begins at 8 p.m. tonight at Ashkenaz, 1317 San Pablo (at Gilman), Berkeley. Admission is $7; call (510) 525-5099. Would-be dancers can sneak in a little practice the weekend before the show at the 10th annual Farmers' Market Cajun Festival, where Pattie Whitehurst teaches free dance lessons and students practice to live sets from Motor Dude Zydeco, Zydeco Mama, and the Creole Belles. Catered Cajun food and microbrews will be served at this neighborhood street fair, which begins at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Berkeley Farmers' Market, Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park, Center & MLK, Berkeley. Admission is free; call (510) 548-3333.