There was a time -- Biblical times, to be exact -- when the world's Jewish population was concentrated in the Middle East. But these days there's hardly a country without Jewish people, whether they landed there in search of opportunity or as the result of being ushered unceremoniously out of another land. And wherever Jews are, modern French photographer Frédéric Brenner has probably been there. In the last 25 years Brenner has taken 80,000 photographs of Jewish folk spread out over 40 countries on five continents, documenting their incredible diversity and observing them as they follow their traditions in a multitude of ways. About 100 large-scale Brenner prints are on display at "The Jewish Journey: Frédéric Brenner's Photographic Odyssey," a marvelous overview of the Jewish diaspora. Here are leather-clad American Jews straddling burly motorcycles in Florida, grim Holocaust survivors holding out their numbered tattoos for inspection in Greece, busy barbers cheerfully clipping Muslim clients in Tajikistan -- so many different approaches, and yet all one people. "The Jewish Journey" runs through Feb. 27, 2005, at the Contemporary Jewish Museum, 121 Steuart (at Mission), S.F. Admission is free-$5; call 591-8800 or visit www.thecjm.org.
-- Joyce Slaton
Ad-lib tunes for cash
Hey, if Hanson could sell a zillion copies of a song with the deathless chorus "Mmm bop" and both Richard Harris andDonna Summer could make that horrible piece-of-crap "MacArthur Park" a hit (actual lyrics sample: "Someone left the cake out in the rain/ I don't think that I can take it/ 'Cause it took so long to bake it/ And I'll never have that recipe again"), surely you could win yourself a C-note at the monthly Zeppelin Beach Singing Improv Contest. Here's the skinny: The audience suggests a song topic. You make up the words and melody on the spot as a musician attempts to follow along. Everybody laughs. And someone wins $100. Exercise those pipes at 8 tonight (and the first Wednesday of every month) at the Off-Market Theater, 965 Mission (at Fifth St.), S.F. Admission is $5; call 896-6477 or visit www.cafearts.com.
-- Joyce Slaton
Open studios, look inside
The artists' colonies near the Coliseum and Fruitvale areas in Oakland are already the stuff of legend: The cavernous spaces of former industrial buildings seem to encourage debauchery and flights of fancy. So if you've ever wondered where someone made that art car/mural-sized painting/20-foot-tall fire sculpture, now's your chance to find out. We can't guarantee you'll see those exact items at the Dutch Boy Studios Winter Exhibition, but 21 artists in a space that's nurtured all manner of creative people for 26 years are bound to generate a lot of eye-popping work. Peek inside at 1 p.m. at the Dutch Boy Studios, 4701 San Leandro (at 47th Ave.), Oakland. Admission is free; call (510) 533-3775.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser
The Man Book
All the burners we know seem to like it: Brian Doherty's This Is Burning Man is a nonfiction book that tells it like it is at the famous desert art festival. Describing an event that attendees regularly deem indescribable, the author reads at 7 p.m. at the Lab, 2948 16th St. (at Capp), S.F. Admission is free; call 864-8855 or visit www.thelab.org.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser
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