Jazz singer Patricia Barber has mastered the art of being simultaneously cool and sultry. Her breathy vocalizing and sharp-edged piano playing are urban to a fault. Check the wounded, slangy romanticism of her cover of the Doors' "Light My Fire," or her own composition "Gotcha" on her new Blue Note CD, Live: A Fortnight in France. And don't listen to "Whiteworld" without your ancient mythology book. No wonder she's so popular in Europe. She tells sad stories so seductively you'll pray for bad luck. The comfy confines of Yoshi's are roomier -- and have better amenities, like sashimi -- than the funky Green Mill tavern in Chicago's Uptown, where La Barber holds down a regular Sunday night gig, but don't let luxury dissuade you. Next Tuesday and Wednesday, you can catch this hipster favorite Chi-town chanteuse at the height of her powers. She's backed by her longtime bassist Michael Arnopol plus guitarist Neal Alger and drummer Eric Montzka. For more information, visit Yoshis.com or PatriciaBarber.com -- Kelly Vance
For a while there, she called herself Julie, but Firoozeh Dumas took back her birth name long before penning Funny in Farsi, her memoir of growing up in an Iranian-American family. Titter about yogurt and Disneyland with Dumas at San Ramon Library (Wed., 7:30 p.m.). ... A gold rush is afoot right now in the South American rainforest, as Marc Herman reveals in his new book El Dorado. Ask him about what glitters at Alameda's Spellbinding Tales, where he's showing slides (Wed., 7:30 p.m.). ... In Dreaming Water, she wrote about a weird disease that makes the young look old. The East Bay's own Gail Tsukiyama reads at Soda Activity Center, Saint Mary's College (Wed., 7:30 p.m.). ... Award-winning poets Julie Carr and Jennifer Dick evoke intimacy, imagery, exotica, and those ever-popular but elusive intertextualisms at Diesel (Wed., 7:30 p.m.). ... Teaching tweeners the wonders of DIY, Laura Torres dishes on yarn, beads, glue, and the many uses of dental floss at Barnes & Noble Dublin, where she discusses Best Friends Forever! 199 Crafts to Make and Share (Fri., 7:30 p.m.). ... Size matters at Small Press Distribution's holiday open house. Readings at the SPD warehouse (1341 Seventh St., Berkeley) by Cole Swensen, Laynie Brown, Robert Glück, and Jacques Depelchin augment ample free eats and discounted books (Sat., noon). ... Poets laureate? Collect 'em all! Pleasanton's official PL, Kirk Ridgeway, reads at historic and atmospheric Century House, 2401 Santa Rita Rd. (Sun., 1 p.m.). ... Grab your cloak and dagger and join the new Concord Mystery Book Club, which meets monthly at Concord Library. Today's puzzler is G.H. Ephron's Addiction, in which a Ritalin-addicted teen may or may not have committed matricide (Sun., 2:30 p.m.). -- Anneli Rufus
West Is the Best?
There may be a slight oversight in the titling of Ashkenaz' fifth annual Musical Night in Africa. See, all the bands performing -- Afro-beatsters Kotoja, dancefloor-fillers the West African Highlife Band, and traditional acoustic strummers the Nigerian Brothers -- play music native to West Africa. Maybe DJ Omar will spin some Mahotella Queens, or the drum circle with Pope Flyne will include a kihembe ngoma? Misnomers aside, the party starts at 8 p.m. and goes till 2. Tickets cost $13 (students $11) in advance, $15 (students $13) at the door. 1317 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley. 510-525-5054. -- Stefanie Kalem
Pupu on Profits
What did the 501(c)(3) say to the zombie? "There's how many kinds of booze in you?" Don't get it? Then ka'i on over to Cafe Van Kleef the first Wednesday of every month for Hula Happy Hour with Nonprofits. The East Bay Nonprofit Center invites you to hobnob with orgs and potential volunteers while snarfling fresh-squeezed juices, a pupu platter, and more. 5-7 p.m. 510-763-7711. -- Stefanie Kalem
So What's the Point?
PowerPoint is the point
Earlier this year, David Byrne won a Wired magazine Rave award for his ambitious use of Microsoft PowerPoint, the much-maligned presentation and slide-show program, to create artistic shows filled with the sort of strange ideals that only a Talking Head could have come up with. "Let us imagine, then," Byrne says, "that PowerPoint and its attendant softwares are actually a means to a positive emotional and philosophical end, a path towards a goal that is easy to reach and available to all." Appropriately, he has touched off a minor artistic movement with the tool. Across a pair of Wednesdays, the University of California's Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive will host PowerPoint to the People, a unique event that hopes to turn PowerPoint into a force for good, rather than for evil. The event is the brainchild of PFA video curator Steve Seid, who writes: "This much-ridiculed form of address, generically referred to as PowerPoint after the Microsoft program that drives it, has either lowered the bar for visual presentations, or offered up new conventions to be dismantled by restless and adventurous practitioners."
The work of local artists, designers, and hucksters will be shown to attendees in this two-show event (December 1 and 8, 7:30 p.m.), the second of which will be judged by an all-star jury. Monologuist Josh Kornbluth, digital communications designer Eric McDougall, and artist Anne Walsh will be on hand to yay or nay the various presentations, which are sure to mesmerize and entertain, if not boggle and confuse as well. 2575 Bancroft Way, UC Berkeley. BAMPFA.Berkeley.edu -- Alex Handy
Culture Spy - December 8, 6:10 PM
What the Fork - December 6, 3:51 PM
What the Fork - December 1, 1:56 PM
What the Fork - November 28, 1:33 PM
What the Fork - November 15, 1:37 PM