This Week's Day-by-Day Picks

Wednesday, June 23, 2004
Most of us know at least one grammar Nazi who takes delight in correcting our speech ("That's to whom, you ninny!"), usually in front of attractive members of the opposite sex. So reading an entire book about the origins and proper usage of common words may sound like a persnickety pain in the ass. But what separates Geoffrey Nunberg's Going Nucular: Language, Politics, and Culture in Confrontational Times from a pack of similar volumes is the playful curiosity with which the author regards the English language. Here the regular NPR Fresh Air commentator turns his attention to the terms we use to describe political entanglements, and in clarifying words and phrases like "terrorism," "appeasement," and "rogue states," he holds a mirror up to a part of our culture that could really use some examination (given that our president pronounces "nuclear" as "nucular"). Hear Nunberg read at 7:30 p.m. at Modern Times Bookstore, 888 Valencia (at 20th Street), S.F. Admission is free; call 282-9246 or visit www.mtbs.com.

Thursday, June 24, 2004
Wanna know the best place to pick up an off-the-clock porn star or sex worker? Usually it's one of those Haight Street shoe stores stocked with ankle-breaking heels, but tonight there's a new spot: You'll find strippers, call girls, and dommes by the dozen at "Naughty Nursies and Dirty Docs," a benefit so stuffed with smut it's practically erect. Hoping to fill the coffers of the St. James Infirmary (which provides medical and other services for those who work in the sex industry), altruistic adult film stars like Ron Jeremy, Vanessa Del Rio, and Annie Sprinkle mingle with the crowd, while titillating performers such as Apocalipstick and Fetish Diva Midori dominate the stage. But the real action is in the VIP Lounge, with barely-legal activities including lap dances, lube wrestling, and shenanigans involving a pole. The good times roll at 8 p.m. at the DNA Lounge, 375 11th St. (at Folsom), S.F. Admission is $25-50; call 626-1409 or visit www.dnalounge.com.

Friday, June 25, 2004
"I didn't realize our songs were so good until Ella sang them," Ira Gershwin said about Ella Fitzgerald. Gifted with a three-octave range, a spine-tingling voice, and a talent for scatting that put even Louis Armstrong to shame, Fitzgerald brought something special to the silliest of songs -- witness the enduring success of her signature hit, the nursery-rhyme ditty "A-Tisket, A-Tasket." "Lady Ella" died in 1996 after a long, debilitating bout with diabetes, but her music lives on in Ella! First Lady of Song, an evening-length tribute to the jazz singer, with Jamie Myrick playing mimic to the strains of the Maestro Curtis Trio. The show starts at 10 tonight and tomorrow at the Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter (at Powell), S.F. Admission is $15-30; call 433-3040 or visit www.jpmyrick.com.

Saturday, June 26, 2004
We can't be the only ones who reread the Little House on the Prairie books and yearn for the homespun pleasures Laura Ingalls Wilder describes so beautifully. Horehound candy! Crackers from a barrel! Beribboned bonnets and homemade jam! It all sounds so quaint and sweet we just want to travel right on back to the 19th century (except for that nasty scarlet fever). Or maybe we should just head over to the "Victorian Lawn Party," a veritable deluge of vintage pleasures happening in San Rafael today. Enthusiasts can indulge in such old-fashioned diversions as carriage rides, sack races, and croquet, or just fill up on popcorn and lemonade (made from actual lemons!) while perusing antique vehicles, quilting and flower-arranging demonstrations, and artsy-craftsy vendor booths. Get really retro starting at noon at the Falkirk Cultural Center, 1408 Mission (at E Street), San Rafael. Admission is free; call 485-3327 or visit www.falkirkculturalcenter.org.

Sunday, June 27, 2004
If you've ever had the experience of returning home from a night of clubbing with what you think is a superhottie and then waking up next to a hideous gargoyle, you understand the transformative power of light. Even the smallest glow can reveal unexpected perspectives, metamorphosing ordinary objects into things of great beauty or monstrous ugliness. The Canvas Gallery borrows a little of this everyday alchemy for "Firefly," an exhibition of hanging lamps and illuminated sculptures by artists such as Rob Newell, Valeria Raps, and John Haines. Under these artists' hands, metal, glass, and paper meet dazzling luminescence, creating works that are far more than just sources of brightness. Get turned on as the exhibit continues today (and runs through Sept. 30) at the Canvas Cafe and Gallery, 1200 Ninth Ave. (at Lincoln), S.F. Admission is free; call 504-0060 or visit www.thecanvasgallery.com.

Monday, June 28, 2004
The Decemberists don't sound like anything you've ever heard before. Yeah, we know that must seem like bullshit -- we get at least 10 press releases in here a day touting bands whose supposedly unique music is just another low-rent version of the Stooges or Radiohead. But with a reedy-voiced frontman singing hoary tales of chimney sweeps and Legionnaires backed by a band featuring atmospheric old organs, accordions, and acoustic guitar, the Decemberists produce albums that more closely resemble soundtracks for the creepy pen-and-ink drawings of Edward Gorey than anything you'll find in Amoeba's stacks. The group plays with the Long Winters and the Places at 8 p.m. at the Great American Music Hall, 859 O'Farrell (at Polk), S.F. Admission is $15; call 885-0750 or visit www.musichallsf.com.

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