Speed Kills Traveler is artist Lewis deSoto's variation on a theme in the group show “Dromology: Ecstasies of Speed”: a baby crib containing a toy truck activated by movement sensors that cause the truck to careen crazily around the crib. Ed Osborn's sculpture Flatfoot is another: a stack of worn race-car tires piled up around an audio track that plays the sound of cars accelerating, screeching, and crashing. Marcia Tanner curated the exhibit, which examines how the evolution of technology continues to shape our relationship to speed. Car imagery figures prominently in several of these pieces, like Jessica Bronson's video Shunt, which is filmed inside a Long Beach Grand Prix race car, from the vantage point of the driver. It's not all sharp angles and fast turns, though: Viewers who stand still long enough to absorb Anya Gallaccio's Press #5 — Rosebud, in which the artist presses 300 red rosebuds between layers of glass, will be reminded of speed's antithesis: the slow, inexorable process of decay that no one can escape, regardless of how fast he runs. The show opens at noon (a reception is held 6 p.m. Thursday) at New Langton Arts, 1246 Folsom (at Ninth Street), S.F. Admission is free; call 626-5416.
Hey, Sailor! The musical parody Dames at Sea has plenty of material to work with. In this affectionate spoof of Hollywood's wartime musicals and small-town gals with big dreams, a tap-dancing innocent from Utah gets off a Greyhound bus in midtown Manhattan and lands a job in the chorus of a Broadway show soon after. When she falls in love with a sailor/songwriter and steps in as a last-minute replacement for the seasickness-prone star of the show, the revue recalls Stage Door, Ruby Keeler, James Cagney, and Busby Berkeley. Andrea Chamberlain plays the ingenue Ruby, a role Bernadette Peters originated off-Broadway 30 years ago, and Joel Carlton is her seaworthy paramour in the show, which features song titles like “The Sailor of My Dreams.” Dames previews at 8 p.m. (and enjoys an open run) at the Marines Memorial Theater, 609 Sutter (at Mason), S.F. Admission is $25-44; call 771-6900.
Begin Again In thinking about rebuilding society from scratch, Harriet Dodge, Shannon McGuire, Miranda Mellis, and Alessandra Ogren rework performance structure as well in their multimedia show Scratch. Ogren, a member of trapeze dance company the Turnbuckles, finds kindred spirits in Knee Jerk Dance Project members Mellis and McGuire, a former performer with the highly theatrical companies of Wim Vandekeybus and Contraband. Together with Dodge, an adventurous performance artist/musician, they embark on a theatrical quest enlivened by fire-handling and stilt-walking, live music, and storytelling, as they stare down danger in their search for answers. The show begins at 8 p.m. (also Saturday and Sunday) at the Somar Gallery, 934 Brannan (at Ninth Street), S.F. Admission is $10; call 550-6928.
Pop Life If the Run-D.M.C. and Tom Tom Club cuts don't take people back (people over 30, that is), the Pong games surely will. “PoP,” a dance party inspired by the Keith Haring exhibit at the MOMA, offers both at a one-night re-creation of early '80s Manhattan. Upstairs, the museum has created an exacting chronologic tour through Haring's life and career, including a selection of his favorite cassette tapes under glass and a room styled after a nightclub and littered with TV monitors, where images of Haring and friends dancing in a warehouse space flicker on an eternal loop. Downstairs, DJs Mark Farina, John Howard, Mark E. Quark, and Matt Valenz will spin house music in the grand lobby atrium while a 17-projector video collage flickers in the background. In the B.O.L.T. gaming lounge, meanwhile, DJs Push, Flux, Abstract, and Gamekat will play jungle and the Bureau of Low Technology will offer prehistoric Pong and Atari games alongside newer titles. Shepard (aka Andre the Giant) will create live graffiti as part of the mix, and a raffle drawing at midnight will send home a few lucky guests with new clothes and music. The party begins at 9 p.m. — the exhibit will be open until 12:30 a.m. and dancing continues until 3 a.m. — at the SFMOMA, 151 Third St. (at Mission), S.F. Admission is $10-12; call 789-7690.
Oh My Diosa! Ten-piece mambo band Cabaret Diosa calls Boulder home, but its album Hi-Fi Latin Exotica is rooted as much in the nightclubs of Cuba as in the tiki torch-lit suburban theme parties that the “exotica” element suggests. Cabaret Diosa sounds like Martin Denny on a three-day bender and looks like Tito Puente dancing the cha-cha with Esquivel. Costume changes, belly dancing, and skits are live show mainstays, and while swing dancers will be confounded by the mambo beat, the impromptu conga lines that sometimes form at shows are open to anyone. Some of the music is campy; much of it is lovely. The jazzy, hip-switching conjunction of horns, strings, and percussion does justice to the mambo bands of the '30s and '40s, while some of the arrangements fold in Middle Eastern and African influences as well. Cabaret Diosa go on at 10 p.m. at Cafe Du Nord, 2170 Market (at Sanchez), S.F. Admission is $7; call 861-5016.
Sowing Circles Take a break from the city's cracked pavement and car exhaust fumes as Greenbelt Alliance member Peter Cohen guides an outdoor expedition through the flora and verdure of Mission neighborhood gardens and parks at Open Garden Day, in which 80 community and school gardens around the Bay Area open their gates to plant fanciers touring on bus, bike, or foot. SLUG (also known as the San Francisco League of Urban Gardeners) hosts a treasure hunt for kids and offers city-specific gardening tips and demonstrations for adults at 11 a.m. in its Garden for the Environment (Seventh Avenue & Lawton), and has arranged neighborhood tours with the Mexican Bus and the S.F. Bicycle Coalition; call 285-SLUG for more information. Neighborhood influences bloom over at Richmond's Verde Elementary School Partnership Garden, where Laotian parents and kids show off their butterfly garden and offer a crash course in Laotian cooking using garden vegetables, and at South Berkeley's Strong Roots Youth and Intergenerational Gardens, where demonstrations involve medicinal herbs particular to African tradition. The event runs all day in various Bay Area locations; call (510) 526-2788 for a garden map and schedule information. (The Greenbelt Alliance tour meets at 11 a.m. at Dolores Street Community Garden, Dolores & 15th Street; call 398-3730 for more information.)
Get on the Buss You've put the finishing flourishes to your space-age, post-industrial, pre-millennial get-up, sprinkled glitter in your hair, and made your way down to the Cyberbuss Costume Ball without being attacked by nest-building birds or hit by lightning. The next order of business is deciding which part of the all-night street party to hit first. You could cool your heels at Bianca's Smut Shack, where couches and grilled cheese sandwiches await. You could tune into live music from Here Are the Facts You Requested and F-Space, or DJ'd music with B))merang and Vertigo. You could swing by “Urban Theme Units” like Rina's Romper Room or the Space Cowgirls Fashion Consultation Salon, where makeovers tend more toward the freakish than the flattering. You could have pancakes while you watch the sun rise. Or you could stay home and experience the whole thing vicariously by logging onto http://www.cyberbuss.com. The ball, where futuristic costumes are essential and the intersection of cacophony and perpetual indulgence is inevitable, begins at 6 p.m. on Griffith between Quesada and Revere streets, S.F. Admission is $8-13; call 753-6890.
And They Called It Puppet Love The remarkable (or is it alarming?) puppetry trend in this town continues to balloon with two shows in one day. At the first, A Tommy Roberts Tribute, Snapdragon puppeteer Roger Mara performs in honor of the late artist, followed by a reception held adjacent to an exhibit of Roberts' puppetry memorabilia. It starts at 3 p.m. at the Main Library, 100 Larkin (at Market), S.F. Admission is free; call 557-4277. Adults get theirs at “Not Your Usual Puppet Show,” which features Tim Miller and his “picky large nose” in Rhinotelexomania and Margaret Milden moving her puppets to Yeats' “The Song of the Wandering Aengus.” The show, which paves the way for this fall's Beyond Puppetry festival, begins at 7 p.m. (also Sunday, June 7) at Venue 9, 252 Ninth St. (at Folsom), S.F. Admission is $10; call 289-2000. Strangely enough, Stand for Children Day '98, a daylong festival and children's advocacy fair, offers traditional activities like sack races and mask making, but is conspicuously devoid of puppets. People will just have to make do with performances by Latin drum and dance ensemble Loco Bloco, youth hip-hop dance troupe Culture Shock, the S.F. Mime Troupe's youth group, the Young People's Musical Theater, and turntablists the Invisibl Skratch Picklz. The festival, meant to highlight the need for more study and recreation spaces for city kids, begins at 1 p.m. at Yerba Buena Gardens, Mission & Third Street, S.F. Admission is free; call 641-4362.
And Now for Something Completely Different Monty Python's Michael Palin is a serious author. Forget the silly British TV sketches about the fish-slapping dance or the cheese-shop owner who has no cheese left. Banish from your comic consciousness the musical interlude in Monty Python's The Meaning of Life when he and Terry Jones sing “Every Sperm Is Sacred,” or his turn in Monty Python's Life of Brian as Pontius Pilate's kidnapped wife. Try not to think about Ken, his stuttering, animal-loving, accident-prone thief in A Fish Called Wanda. Palin's autobiographical Full Circle, a chronicle of his international travels in canoes and mail planes and on the backs of camels, is shelved under travel rather than humor. That isn't to say Palin's writing style lacks the comic sensibility for which he's famous: Some of his anecdotes — like the one about his trip to Japan, where he found himself wearing the wrong shoes, standing in the wrong place, and bowing at the wrong time — sound suspiciously like Flying Circus material. And his novel Hemingway's Chair, about a British postal-service employee with a Hemingway fixation, promises comedy in the premise alone, despite a serious overriding theme. Palin signs copies of Hemingway's Chair at noon at the Booksmith, 1644 Haight (at Cole), S.F. Admission is free; call 863-8688.
Taylor Made American modern dance icon Paul Taylor wraps up a weeklong series of free dance concerts with some of the better local experimental companies at the Bay Area Dance Festival. The inaugural concert, the first of six, begins today at 12:30 p.m. with Jess Curtis and Gravity in Atrophy, an exploration of love and loss, and Annie Rosenthal and Company in Ruins, which, compatibly, muses on innocence and experience. The series continues with Theater Flamenco of San Francisco and Yaelisa & Solera Flamenco Dance Company 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, the AWD Performance Band and Torque 12:30 p.m. Thursday, and Robert Moses' Kin, Company Chaddick, and Erica Essner Performance Co-op 12:30 p.m. Friday. The series' only evening show, at 8 p.m. Saturday, takes advantage of dusk to show off Steamroller's Monster Trucks piece and the 300-pound block of ice central to Core's Ice/Car/Cage Experiment. Taylor, whose own long years of experimentation have yielded tuxedoed men sailing debonairly through space, the anthropologic Profiles recently performed in Berkeley by the White Oak Dance Project, and a smoldering tango redux, is bringing the Paul Taylor Dance Company and Taylor 2, his company of up-and-comers, to the city for a 12-month residency. The PTDC will perform said tango number Piazzolla Caldera along with repertory works A Field of Grass, Profiles, and Mercuric Tidings 2 p.m. Sunday. All shows are held at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission (at Third Street), S.F. Admission is free; call 978-