Jalal al-Din al-Rumi, beloved poet and father of Sufism (an esoteric and mystical offshoot of Islam), once explained how to use music as a form of prayer to facilitate a direct link to the divine. “You need to listen with your heart,” he advised, “rather than with your body.” Yet if you were lucky enough to join the elite group of whirling dervishes, you could also spin round and round to the sacred melodies — chanted, sung, and played on lutes, flutes, and zithers — until you reached the proper trancelike state for a perfect union with Allah. Though most Westerners associate this custom with Turkey (the Sufi religion's 13th-century birthplace), the tradition lives on today primarily in a handful of Arabic countries, including Iraq and one of George W. Bush's other most-favored nations, Syria, home of world-renowned vocalist Sheikh Hamza Shakkûr. See if you can fall into reverie just by watching as the Whirling Dervishes of Damascus & Sheikh Hamza Shakkûr and Ensemble al-Kindî perform at 8 p.m. at Zellerbach Hall, Bancroft & Telegraph on the UC Berkeley campus. Tickets are $22-42; call (510) 642-9988 or visit www.calperfs.berkeley.edu.
— Sam Prestianni
Though they're generally run by art lovers, most galleries operate under a hard economic reality: Their displays are for sale, they welcome visitors they hope will buy, and they claim a percentage of artists' profits. But the Mission District's Galería de la Raza is more than a retail outlet. Started by a group of locals active in the 1970s Chicano arts, culture, and civil rights movements, the Galería has acted as both a traditional gallery and a social service agency, with programs that connect disenfranchised groups to the arts. The group pays for such philanthropy with a brilliant yearly blowout party/art auction called Pachanga. This year, visual pieces from around 80 artists are displayed for buyers, along with installations from video and sound artists. Comic Bill Santiago provides yuks, DJ Guanaco spins, and famed Latina activist/painter Ester Hernandez accepts her Premio Galería award at 7 p.m. at Galería de la Raza, 2857 24th St. (at Bryant), S.F. Admission is $20-40 and includes an open bar; call 826-8009 or visit www.galeriadelaraza.org.
— Joyce Slaton
Five decades of mutant beasts
When Godzilla stormed across the Pacific in 1956, American audiences saw a doctored film stripped of the 1954 original's strong anti-war message. The 20 minutes of deleted scenes were replaced by spliced-in footage of Raymond Burr as a MacArthur-like father figure, some crazy-ass dubbing, and a Westernized creature — a big, scary lizard that symbolized nothing but a big, scary lizard.
Fifty years and scores of related movies later, America's vision of a dumbed-down Godzilla seems to have carried the day. The steady stream of Godzilla-vs.-something-or-other sequels have become B-movie classics, and the monster's shriek (created by rubbing an oiled glove across a contrabass) is more recognizable than King Kong's roar. Celebrate Godzilla's 50th birthday by getting close to the outsized reptile at Godzillafest, a seven-day festival that features 20 kaiju eiga (literally “monster movies”) starring all of your favorite abominations, like Rodan, Megalon, and Mothra. Special guests include actor Hiroshi Koizumi; stuntman Tsutomu Kitagawa; and Bob Wilkins and John Stanley, former hosts of the Bay Area's Creature Features TV series. Completists may also flock to “Imagine Godzilla,” a companion exhibit of production artifacts from director Ishiro Honda and art director Yasuyuki Inoue.
Beast week runs Nov. 17-23 at the Castro Theatre, 429 Castro (near Market), S.F. Admission is $8.50 per screening, $70 for a festival pass; call 621-6120 or visit www.sfgodzillafest.com. “Imagine Godzilla” is up until Nov. 23 at the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California, 1840 Sutter (at Webster), S.F. Admission is free; call 567-5505 or visit www.jcccnc.org.
— Michael Leaverton
Though actor Harold Lloyd's fame peaked during the silent era, he was still notable enough to coax thousands of Tinseltown dames to pose in the buff for arty snaps, often taken with his newfangled stereoscopic (3-D) camera. The new book Harold Lloyd's Hollywood Nudes in 3-D, published by the star's granddaughter, reprints 200 portraits, many of familiar faces like Marilyn Monroe, Bettie Page, and Tura Santana. Suzanne Lloyd reads and shows slides at 7 p.m. at the Booksmith, 1644 Haight (at Cole), S.F. Admission is free; call 863-8688 or visit www.booksmith.com.
— Joyce Slaton
A rose, the Chinese character for “rage” — the tattoos we wear speak without our having to utter a word. At “Pins & Needles: Writers on Body Art” a crew of authors (including Bucky Sinister and Daphne Gottlieb) expound on their own pieces of body art and what each means to them at 7:30 p.m. at the Dark Room Theater, 2263 Mission (at 18th Street), S.F. Admission is $5-10; visit www.darkroomsf.com.
— Joyce Slaton