Al-Jazeera, the famous Arab-world television channel, isn't in the business of making friends. The popular Qatar-based network has been called, among other things, anti-Egyptian, anti-Moroccan, and anti-Algerian, as well as that old standby, anti-American. Why? Hafez Al-Mirazi, Al-Jazeera's Washington bureau chief, will tell you it's because the station's journalism is high quality and doesn't pander to anyone. "I could name 22 Arab countries whose governments didn't like what we were saying," he said recently in an address to the World Media Association. He was speaking on the subject of whether his organization is biased against the United States or is simply telling the truth -- the truth that governments, no matter what side they're on, don't always want to hear.
A lot of nongovernmental entities, aka regular people, agree with Al-Mirazi, and count on the station's coverage to provide a different (some would say "more knowledgeable") perspective on events in the Middle East than, say, CNN. This afternoon he discusses the role of Arabic media in "Al-Jazeera News Coverage: What American Viewers Don't See." The talk begins at noon at the Commonwealth Club, 595 Market (at Second Street), S.F. Admission is $6-12; call 597-6701 or visit www.commonwealthclub.org.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser
When horror meets art
Most everyone retains a childhood fear of a boogeyman once glimpsed in nighttime's shifting shadows. An imp hiding under the bed? A flesh-eating villain creeping out of the closet? For me it's dolls, ventriloquist dummies, and mannequins; the glittering, glassy eyes of the child-sized doll that sat on a chair at the end of my bed warped me for life, and I'm forever turning my head and expecting to see supposedly lifeless figurines watching me malevolently.
Just in time for the Halloween season, über-groovy gallery Creativity Explored tweaks our residual jitters with "Monster," an exhibit that gives classic monsters -- Dracula, the Mummy, Frankenstein -- an imaginative spin. With a life-size Creature From the Black Lagoon sculpture and painted panels of the Wolf Man's human-to-hellion transformation among the displayed pieces, local art lovers have a new reason to tremble. The show launches tonight (and runs through Nov. 29) with a reception beginning at 7 at Creativity Explored, 3245 16th St., S.F. Admission is free; call 863-2108 or visit www.creativityexplored.org.
-- Joyce Slaton
On the Waterfront
Peek inside buoyant abodes
Sausalito, once a hippie-ish enclave loaded with secondhand stores, has spent the last four decades determinedly turning itself into an upscale tourist shopping mall. But there's one remnant of boho culture the city hasn't managed to scrap: the rows of houseboats that line the bay coast. Ever wondered what life might be like in a watery abode, or what the view looks like from a seaworthy window?
See for yourself at the 19th iteration of the Sausalito Floating Homes Tour, a self-guided glimpse into 13 unique bobbing buildings. The tour begins at 11 a.m. at Kappas Marina, Gate 6 Rd. (at Bridgeway), Sausalito. Preregistration ($25-30) is strongly recommended; visit www.floatinghomes.org.
-- Joyce Slaton
With meat-free alternatives springing up everywhere from supermarket shelves to fast-food menus, today's vegetarians have a world of options. Toast the meatless milieu at the World Vegetarian Day Festival, with lectures from famous veggies, live music, cooking demos, and booth after booth of free-sampling food manufacturers. The fun starts at 10 a.m. at the San Francisco County Fair Building, Ninth Avenue & Lincoln, S.F. Admission is free-$5; call 273-5481 or visit www.sfvs.org.
-- Joyce Slaton