Corporations and the counterculture make for strange bedfellows -- William Burroughs advertising Nike shoes, for example. There was a time when such marriages were unthinkable, and nothing epitomizes those heady days like the Weather Underground.
A tiny cabal of '60s student radicals committed to overthrowing the government, the Weathermen bombed numerous buildings, in the process becoming media favorites (despite their invisibility) and targets of a frustrated FBI.
Sam Green and Bill Siegel's documentary, The Weather Underground, digs deep into the workings of these "romantic revolutionaries." Sympathetic without being sycophantic, the film blends interviews with WU legends like Mark Rudd and Bernardine Dohrn with commentary by FBI agents and ex-lefties like Todd Gitlin, who dismisses his former comrades' activities as "a children's crusade gone mad." Much of the movie's fascination comes from the strange mix of idealism, intelligence, practicality, and Quixote-like kookiness of zealots whose radical activities, however confused, paved the way for less violent but still effective direct-action groups like ACT UP. Director Green introduces the doc Friday at 7 p.m. (Underground continues through Aug. 7) at the Castro Theatre, 429 Castro. Admission is $8; call 621-6120 or visit www.thecastrotheatre.com.
-- Gary Morris
Freedom Fries Redux
Oily road to independence
Betty Biodiesel, French Fries to Go, and the Veggie Van are coming to town, and they're all bent on destruction. The activist, the independent movie, and the automobile all agree that U.S. dependence on petrochemicals has got to go, and they and their friends have the solution: vegetable oil. Filmmaker Joshua Tickell, one such pal, was on a farm in Germany in 1996 when he saw firsthand the process by which diesel gasoline can be made from used french-fry oil. The idea stuck in his head, and he's now in the middle of making an instructional video on the subject, with the aim of showing people what he calls "this incredible technology." Tonight's "Fields of Fuel Fundraiser" features short films, music, and skits, beginning at 7 at Cell Space, 2050 Bryant (at 18th Street), S.F. Admission is $10; call 244-3622 or visit www.veggievan.org.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser
Velocity! hits the stage
We admit it: We had a crush on Dave Eggers back when he helmed Might magazine in the mid-1990s. We'd attend editorial meetings, hoping his blankly wandering gaze might fall on us. His writing a brilliant best-selling memoir and making pots of money sure helped our crush along, particularly when he invested said money in 826 Valencia, the kids' writing center/pirate-supply depot. But now that Dave is so famous, busy, and, um, married, we don't see him just hanging around nearly often enough.
What's an Eggers lover to do? Pay for a sighting at "Staged Narratives," of course, where members of theater group Campo Santo read from the play-in-progress Velocity!/Sacrament!, based on Eggers' first novel, You Shall Know Our Velocity! Students from 826 Valencia's playwriting workshop read their original pieces, too. The event begins at 8 p.m. at Intersection for the Arts, 446 Valencia (at 15th Street), S.F. Admission is $5-15; call 626-2787 or visit www.theintersection.org.
-- Joyce Slaton
Oh, Mr. Scientist!
Is there life on other planets? Is it smart life or just green goop? Don't ask us; we're clueless. But we know someone who isn't: Dr. Seth Shostack of the extraterrestrial-seeking SETI Institute, who's available for alien-oriented queries sane and silly at "Ask a Scientist." The free questioning begins at 7 p.m. at the Bazaar Cafe, 5927 California (at 22nd Avenue), S.F. Call 831-5620 or visit www.cellmatestoys.com/science.
-- Joyce Slaton