Imagine a day with no cell phones chiming, no pagers beeping, no you-have-mail notices ringing and dinging. Whoever dreamt up the Jewish Sabbath must have been thinking ahead. Practiced every Saturday by observant Jews, the Sabbath — also known as Shabbat — is a sundown-to-sundown meditative refrain from material distraction. It's a pretty sweet retreat, but it goes without saying that returning to the real world can be a bit jarring. To make the transition easier, yummy-smelling spice boxes (known as besamim) are passed around as the holiday comes to a close. Now a number of artists, both religious and religiously controversial, have gathered to create original versions of these ritual tools for an exhibition called “Scents of Purpose: Artists Interpret the Spice Box.” The pieces on display include Buddhist conceptual artist Lee Mingwei's giant kite (in the image of Chinese goddess of creation Nu Kua) and Brisbane artist Beth Grossman's sculpture of two female hands carved from old Polish soup spoons in remembrance of Shabbat at her grandmother's house. “Scents of Purpose” continues through Sept. 5 at the Contemporary Jewish Museum, 121 Steuart (between Mission and Howard), S.F. Admission is $5; call 344-8800 or visit www.jmsf.org.
— Karen Macklin
All Night Long
Get “Dawn” and funky
Mixing philosophy and debauchery, the all-nighter “Dawn” is a modern interpretation of a low-key religious holiday. Traditionally Shavuot is a Jewish observance of the harvest, but this event sports performers equally dedicated to the orthodox pondering of big questions and to their own amusement. For example, Jeremy Cowan, founder of He'Brew, gives a beer seminar — which isn't exactly the called-for studying, but could be considered harvest-related research. Likewise, Amy Tobin is a cabaret diva drawn to the spotlight, but not without her faith: She's the creator of the rock opera The Esther Show. Ditto the cross-dressing rabbi, the rock groups, and the DJs, who want to get down, but also want to consider some heavy ideas while they do.
A couple of standout acts are Gershon Kingsley, a Moog organ innovator, and experimental musician John Schott, who's written a night-long piece just for the occasion. The marathon starts at 8 p.m. at Club Six, 60 Sixth St. (at Mission), S.F. Admission is $12-15; call 863-1221 or visit www.dawn2005.com.
— Hiya Swanhuyser
Bring It On
Pom-poms and nuns' habits
The mere mention of lesbian nuns and nubile cheerleaders is usually enough to pique any movie geek's interest. “Nuns vs. Cheerleaders,” a two-night film series, kicks off with Beauty Knows No Pain, a 1971 documentary about the brutal regimen Texas coeds go through to become high school majorettes, and Norifumi Suzuki's School of the Holy Beast, which curator Joel Shepard described in an e-mail as “a story of suppressed sexual desire erupting into violence and sexual psychosis.” Catholic schoolgirl uniforms are optional at the screenings at 7:30 p.m. today and 7 p.m. on June 17 in the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Screening Room, 700 Howard (at Third Street), S.F. Admission is $5-8; call 978-2787 or visit www.ybca.org.
— Jane Tunks
The Cruel Outdoors
The life of a park ranger always seemed so idyllic. But in his book Nature Noir: A Park Ranger's Patrol in the Sierra, Jordan Fisher Smith details some of the dangers, like suicidal campers, protective marijuana farmers, and bloodthirsty mountain lions. Hear Smith's chilling tales at 6:30 p.m. at the San Francisco Public Library, Latino/Hispanic Community Meeting Room, 100 Larkin (at Grove), S.F. Admission is free; call 557-4400 or visit www.sfpl.org.
— Jane Tunks