While there are very few people one should trust in regard to experimental art, curator Elliot Lessing's taste is exceptional. His faith is also undeniable: He once allowed Lynn Lu to fill his living room with 3 inches of water to create a reflective-art piece. Lessing's new exhibition, "EyE sEe U: VIRUS," explores the corporeal, with such artists as Laura Splan, who in the past has created delicate pink pillowcases from magnified skin samples and pillows fashioned from close-up images of meat; Karen Farrall, who achieves her vibrant photography through the phosphorescent banding of bacteria used in menome research; and Clint Taniguchi, whose DVDs capture the natural majesty of fluids on a microscopic scale. Other artists include Jill Epstein, Yuriko Iga, Jon Knowles, and Karen Carlo Salinger. "EyE sEe U: VIRUS" will be up Friday, Dec. 27, through Sunday, Jan. 5, at Brain Cookies (1340 Bryant at Division) from noon to 4 p.m. (An opening reception will be held Jan. 3 from 7 to 11 p.m.) Admission is free; call 437-0949.
What do you get when you combine the fizzy aural confections of Cotton Candy Cabaret and the wayward jazz shuffles of Dr. Abacus? Abacotton's Cartoon Candy, that's what. Independently, Dr. Abacus consists of five men with twice as many arms, wielding bass trombone, saxophone, clarinet, flute, vibes, upright bass, and drums while wandering through Tin Pan Alley on LSD; meanwhile, Cotton Candy Cabaret weaves spells through bouncy songs about toasters and hula hoops, accompanied only by the sinister sweetness of accordion, upright bass, and a siren's soprano. Together, what the ensemble will be is anyone's guess. A supergroup for clinically insane marzipan fiends? A marching band for sparkler-wielding flamingos? A revue for downtrodden Oompa Loompas and feather-filled jabberwockies? Whatever it becomes, Abacotton's Cartoon Candy will be accompanied by cartoons on Monday, Dec. 30, at the Rite Spot at 9 p.m. Admission is free; call 552-6066.
New Year's Eve has never been my idea of a good time. Nightclubs demand 400 percent of their usual door price for the privilege of choking down $4 bottles of complimentary champagne; bookers embrace the lowest common denominator in hopes of attracting the highest-paying cash cows; everything is too crowded, and people are too desperate for fun. It makes me sad; I usually try to leave town -- especially since, over the last decade, my neighborhood has become particularly noxious on New Year's Eve. Every jackass within 50 miles seems to converge on my corner, fueled by the ruthless compulsion to have the "best fuckin' night" of the year. (Oddly enough, vomiting loudly on my front steps seems to be a mandatory element of such an evening.) These yahoos shout and piss on cars, break bottles, fight in the middle of the street, flash their tits, dry-hump each other's legs, scream into their cell phones, and pass out in their vehicles with all the windows rolled down and their keys in the ignition. It's like one big, wild, roving frat party (or at least that's what I'm told -- having never attended college, I must apologize in advance to all non-puking, non-dry-humping pledges who might take offense at my gross characterization). Thankfully, a dash of irony can make even the most tasteless aesthetic somewhat palatable, so this year I'm going to embrace the inner essence of New Year's Eve by putting a lampshade on my head, throwing a sheet over my shoulders, and heading over to the East Bay for my first toga party.
Hosted by "Thrillville"'s Will the Thrill and Monica Tiki Goddess and produced in part by Barely Legal Productions, which puts on the Parkway Theater's weekly screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, the Parkway's New Year's Eve Toga Party includes trivia contests, finger food, costume awards (for biggest nerd, easiest cheerleader, hunkiest jock, and hottest coed, among others), and, of course, a champagne toast. But more important, the event features a screening of National Lampoon's Animal House. While best remembered for John Belushi's portrayal of "Bluto" Blutarsky, the human zit capable of chugging a fifth of Jack Daniel's in one take, Animal House should not be overlooked for its cultural significance: It was the first major-studio comedy aimed at a collegiate audience, as well as being among the initial movies to feature a commercially viable soundtrack, with early hits from the likes of Bobby Lewis, Paul & Paula, and Sam Cooke. Without Animal House, there would have been no Meatballs, no Saving Silverman, no Slackers, no American Pie; nor would there be gratuitous, overbearing, completely inappropriate songs packed into every movie coming out of Hollywood. For those reasons, director John Landis will be spending eternity in his own custom-built circle of hell. A sad fate since Landis could not foresee what hackneyed idiocy his project would spawn, but, in the wake of Vietnam, when college campuses were still considered the social and moral conscience of the nation, Landis risked popular opinion by portraying students as vulgar and debauched maniacs. (The script was in fact loosely based on screenwriter Chris Miller's experiences at Dartmouth, much to the university's Ivy League chagrin.) Still, Animal House was not devoid of social commentary: Note the parallels between Dean Wormer and President Nixon, and between Omega House leaders Greg Marmalard and Doug Neidermeyer and Nixon "plumbers" H.R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman. Or just grab a pitcher of beer and an old couch, and laugh your ass off. The Parkway's New Year's Eve Toga Party will be held on Tuesday, Dec. 31, at the Parkway Theater (1834 Park at Lake Merritt in Oakland) at 8 p.m. Tickets are $30; call (510) 814-2400 or go to www.picturepubpizza.com.