A lo chileno 

It's Chile at La Peña

9/3-10/3

The most symbolically fraught moments in Chile occur right on schedule, during a few weeks each year in September. The 11th is the anniversary of the coup that brought General Augusto Pinochet to power in 1973, and the 18th and 19th mark the two-day-long fiestas patrias, or celebration of independence from Spain. Chile is a fiercely proud and patriotic country -- with a long, if interrupted, democratic tradition -- but this month, it is also particularly introspective and demanding of answers that have been decades in coming. The only thing that everybody can agree on, of course, as street protesters mix with partiers drinking chicha and dancing the cueca, is: ¡Viva Chile!

Naturally enough, this month Berkeley's La Peña Cultural Center -- founded in part by Chilean expats in 1975 -- focuses on that narrow nation of extremes, with a music series and photo exhibit marking its own thirtieth anniversary. Photographer Thea Bellos' recent trip to Chile coincided with the Asia Pacific Economic Conference in Santiago, and she was able to capture some of the tension between antiglobalization protesters and the gussied-up business community with its extra contingent of carabineros. Other photos document her travels in Chiloé, an island shrouded in myth and fog. The show Viva Chile! Views and Voices runs through October 30, with an opening reception this Friday from 6-8 p.m. On September 18, Bellos presents a slide show and talks about her trip. She'll be joined by Katherine Silver, editor of Chile, A Traveler's Literary Companion, an anthology of short writings by Chilean authors published last year by Berkeley's Whereabouts Press.

Musicwise, there'll be four special concerts to look forward to this month. This Friday, Duaxama celebrates the release of its new CD, Entre Fronteras, and on Sunday, singer and guitarist Rafael Manriquez honors Chilean victims of the dictatorship in "Homenaje a los Caidos (Tribute to our Heroes)" with Ingrid Rubis and Whitney Moore. Down the line, folk musicians and dancers Araucaria show up on Saturday, September 17 to show you how they do it a lo chileno, and Afro-Latin-reggae-salsa-rocker Joe Vasconcellos, a superstar in his home country who tends to scoff at definition, rolls in on Saturday the 24th. 3105 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley. www.lapena.org -- Nora Sohnen

9/10-9/26

Loose Seuss

The Doctor Is In

More than anyone else -- more than Norman Rockwell or Grant Wood or Andy Warhol or Jackson Pollock -- Dr. Seuss deserves to be the Ultimate American Artist. Who else is beloved of five generations of kids who cannot, for the life of them, ever get Sam I Am or Thing 1 and Thing 2 out of their heads, and wouldn't want to? Who put the Circus McGurkus and that delightful beatnik chick, the Martini Bird (above), into the national consciousness? The art of the good doctor, aka Ted Geisel (1904-1991), is making the commercial gallery rounds these days. Catch up with it at The Art of Dr. Seuss, a free exhibition of his ad and editorial work, his beloved children's-book illos, and even his Secret Art Collection. The show opens Saturday at Studio 7 Fine Arts, 77 West Angela St., Pleasanton, 925-946-4322. -- Kelly Vance

9/11-10/15

In the Realm of the Sofa

It may look like the Snuffleupagus on its way to a '70s costume party or an explosion in Jan Wahl's closet, but Susan Danis calls her creation (right) La Femme en Rose. The artist works in found materials -- distressed fabric, colored glass, hardware, fishnets, kids' toys -- to create fanciful, childlike visions, the embodiment of "harmless." She labels her work Pleasure, and that's an apt description of the wildly tactile thingamabobs she makes out of old davenports and torn quilts. Her solo show opens Sunday at the Berkeley Art Center (1275 Walnut St.) with a free 2 o'clock reception with Danis, and runs through October 15. BerkeleyArtCenter.org -- Kelly Vance

SAT 9/10

Novel Ideas

Perhaps the real reason not everyone has completed the Great American Novel we all have within us is that no one has told us how to do it -- until now. Nina Schuyler, a creative writing instructor at USF, whose first book The Painting was named a Best Book for 2004 by the Chronicle, will share the secrets of writing a history-based work of fiction this Saturday at the California Writers Club luncheon, held at the Hungry Hunter in Lafayette (3201 Mt. Diablo Blvd.) Topics include plot building, chapter structuring, and research compiling. $17 members, $20 nonmembers. Reserve your spot by today (Wednesday) by calling 510-881-8929 or e-mailing camille@minichino.com -- Eric K. Arnold

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