This Week's Day-by-Day Picks

Wednesday, March 19, 2003
You don't need to be bilingual to understand the appeal of "Afropean" duo Les Nubians. Though Hélène and Célia Faussart sing in both French and English, their unique style overcomes language barriers. The sisters grew up in Bordeaux, France, and in the north-central African country of Chad, and their hip-stirring blend of tribal rhythms, hip hop grooves, and reggae melodies reflects their global upbringing. One Step Forward, the follow-up to 1998's Princesses Nubiennes, also draws its flavor from across the map, but it drops the overly polished veneer of their debut release in favor of more grit and substance. The duo's laid-back vocals and jazzy vibe have drawn inevitable comparisons to Sade -- they've even covered Sade's "Sweetest Taboo" -- but they're more bons vivants than "smooth operators" onstage, donning eye-catching costumes and body glitter and busting out coordinated dance routines. Les Nubians perform at 8 tonight and tomorrow at Bimbo's 365 Club, 1025 Columbus (at Chestnut), S.F. Admission is $20; call 474-0365 or visit www.bimbos365club.com.

Thursday, March 20, 2003
Say what you will about Madonna, but the Material Girl made history in our minds when she brought masturbation out of the dark at the 1984 MTV music awards. Her controversial performance of "Like a Virgin" -- during which she felt herself up while dressed in a wedding gown -- caused a media ruckus, but randy chicks everywhere gave her the thumbs-up for publicly acknowledging that men aren't the only ones to play with themselves now and again. Thomas W. Laqueur, a history professor at Cal, agrees with Nonnie that self-manipulation is common practice for both genders. His book Solitary Sex: A Cultural History of Masturbationtakes a scholarly look at autoeroticism throughout the ages. Citing everything from biblical to pop culture references -- the infamous Seinfeldepisode and the Farrelly brothers' movie There's Something About Mary, for starters -- Solitary Sexexamines changing attitudes toward the act and questions why one of the safest means of sexual gratification has historically carried such a stigma. Laqueur reads at 7:30 p.m. at Black Oak Books, 1491 Shattuck (at Vine), Berkeley. Admission is free; call (510) 486-0698 or visit www.blackoakbooks.com.

Friday, March 21, 2003
In Samm-Art Williams' play The Dance on Widow's Row, four African-American women on the prowl for new husbands throw a fancy soiree for a group of eligible bachelors. The hitch? Magnolia, Simone, Annie, and Lois are man-killers -- literally. Between the four neighbors, they've laid to rest nine husbands, each of whom has died of unnatural causes. This unfortunate coincidence leads to rumors that their street -- dubbed "Widow's Row" -- is jinxed. Williams' lighthearted whodunit leaves audiences wondering which of these now-wealthy widows played a part in her husband's death, and which of the brave (not to mention foolhardy) gentlemen callers will be the next victim. Fans of The Love Boatwill be especially thrilled with the Lorraine Hansberry Theatre's production: Ted Lange, who played the sweet-talking bartender Isaac Washington on the TV show, stars as one of the suitors. The Dance on Widow's Rowpreviews tonight at 8 (and runs through April 13) at the Lorraine Hansberry, 620 Sutter (at Mason), S.F. Admission is $25-32; call 474-8800 or visit www.lhtsf.org.

Saturday, March 22, 2003
It's safe to assume that most folks watching porn aren't paying attention to the music. But that assumption could change if the PornOrchestrahas its say. A group of classical musicians and guest instrumentalists whose mission is to "radically reinterpret the soundtrack to pornographic film," the PornOrchestra replaces the usual cheesy loops of synthesizers, wah-wah guitar, and pounding bass with original compositions and improvised scores, performed live while classic adult films play behind the ensemble on an oversize screen. It's not exactly Koyaanisqatsi with music by Philip Glass, but it's just as sharp. Whether the PornOrchestra will entice more people to watch blue movies -- or change how they watch them -- remains to be seen, but the evening promises to be a visual as well as an oral, um, aural spectacle. Performances start at 8 p.m. today and tomorrow at 21 Grand, 449B 23rd St. (between Broadway and Telegraph), Oakland. Admission is $6-10; call (510) 444-7263 or visit www.pornorchestra.com. Sorry -- no one under 18 admitted.

Sunday, March 23, 2003
The good people at the London-based Centre of Attention art gallery have generously agreed to a) put together a really cool show at Spanganga, and b) temporarily change the spelling of their organization's name (from Centre to Center) to suit our nationalistic tastes. In return, they get to call San Francisco "the land of Google and Yahoo!" in their press release -- so we're about even. Names aside, the "Center of Attention Search Engine" replicates the search algorithm as a curatorial process. Translation: The show comes together over time through the investigative efforts of its curators. At tonight's reception, visitors will notice an empty gallery, representing a blank screen. Throughout the week, the curators will search for art, not only via artists bringing work into the gallery, but also by way of field trips to studios, art colleges, and cafes. The goal is to showcase the process of curating a contemporary art exhibit, not just the finished product. The opening reception is from 6 to 8; the exhibition takes shape through March 30 at Spanganga Gallery, 3376 19th St. (at Mission), S.F. Admission is free; call 821-1102 or visit www.spanganga.com.

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