Pull up a chair, grab a plate of red beans and rice, greens, and cornbread, and listen to The Dark: Thirty, Black Dot Cafe's "bedtime stories for black folks." As part of its effort to bring literature in the oral tradition to families -- a great alternative to the boob tube -- the Black Dot, along with Dolltars, the Divine Baby Doll Company, presents readings of Carolivia Herron's controversial children's story Nappy Hair plus the African folk tale Kirikou the Sorceress this evening at 6 p.m. $5 donation includes soul food from Sankofa Kitchen. Black Dot is at 1431 23rd Ave., Oakland, 510-532-8559.
Also tonight, the Berkeley Poetry Slam's fourth annual Erotic Slam, a "lyrical boxing match" notorious for its celebrations of love and sex and for such audience giveaways as condoms and tubes of lube -- the top three poets win sex toys. Tonight's Erotic Slam stars Rachel Flood of Vancouver, BC, author of the chapbook I Never Thought It Could Happen to Me. The Berkeley Poetry Slam is a regular Wednesday night fixture (8:30 p.m.) hosted by Charles Ellik at the Starry Plough, 3101 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, 510-841-2082.
Nothing like a nudie-cutie movie spoof with no nudity and starring three impossibly busty, over-the-hill former Russ Meyer superstars to warm up a pre-Valentine winter's evening. We're talking about The Double-D Avenger, a what-the-hell comedy written, produced, and directed by William Winckler. Winckler and his stars Kitten Natividad (Beneath the Valley of the Ultravixens), Haji (Faster, Pussycat, Kill! Kill!), and Raven De La Croix (Up!) work out of Tarzana in the San Fernando Valley, porno capital of the United States, but there's nothing too smutty about the flick, just a parade of good-natured tit jokes and a likable performance by Natividad as a severely cantilevered caped crusader on the trail of a nasty strip club owner named "Al Purplewood." Purplewood is played by actor G. Larry Butler, who appears in person with Ms. De La Croix herself and costar Mimma Mariucci this evening at the Parkway, along with Scott Blacksher, star of Mark of the Astro Zombies -- which fills out the other half of the bill. Too much fun. More info: 510-814-2400 or www.picturepubpizza.com
Wilde Irish Productions claims to be "a new Bay Area company dedicated to fostering and producing theater and film in the Irish spirit with a bold voice, wild(e) and strong and defiant." And the stage company's debut is indeed a tribute to Irish-born cultural bad boy Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde, The Importance of Being Oscar. The show, written by Micheál mac Liammóir (pronounced Michael McLemore) with actor Arthur Scappaticci impersonating the playwright, author, gadfly, and epigram-writer, takes us into Wilde's thoughts as he scandalizes Victorian England and skewers hypocrisy -- his life's work, as it were. Directed by Gemma Whelan, the Wilde Irish/Central Works coproduction opens tonight (8 p.m.) at the Berkeley City Club (2315 Durant Ave., Berkeley) for a run through March 23. Reservations and info: 510-558-1381.
Dig your American roots tonight. The West Coast Blues Hall of Fame and Awards Show is back, just in time for a US Congress resolution proclaiming 2003 "Year of the Blues." Bay Area Blues Society director Ronnie Stewart and his committee of blues aficionados are inducting fifteen blues, jazz, and R&B musicians and club owners into the Hall -- famous names like Wes Montgomery and Dizzy Gillespie as well as Jimmie Ward of Sweet Jimmie's nightclub, the late columnist Perry Phillips of the Oakland Tribune, and William and Esther Mabry, owners of the legendary Esther's Orbit Room in West Oakland. The show also hands out awards in such categories as R&B Vocalist (male and female), Blues Photographer of the Year, and Zydeco Group of the Year. And there's live music by gospel group Stars of Glory, R&B singer Ella Pennywell, and 7th Street regular Teddy "Blues Master" Watson. The show begins at 7 p.m. at the Alice Arts Center, 1428 Alice St., Oakland. $10. Info: 510-836-2227.
It's off the chain and comin' at ya! Tonight is the crucial Night Three of the Bay Area Black Comedy Competition & Festival's first round. Marc Howard hosts tonight's shows at Kimball's East, featuring "love and laughter" from a platoon of stand-up comics, many of whom have appeared on BET and HBO and at the Apollo Theatre. They'll do anything to make you laugh -- and for the $15,000 in prizes. The guffaws go down at 8 and 10 p.m. at Kimball's East, 5800 Shellmound, Emeryville. Visit www.blackcomedycompetition.com
Director Alexander Sokurov's Russian Ark (Russkiy kovcheg) is a film for troubled times. The 2002 production surveys Russian history and society through the eyes of a time-traveler who journeys to St. Petersburg's magnificent Hermitage Museum and joins other time-travelers entranced by images from the museum's world-famous collection -- images of the Russian soul. Dreamlike states and soulful tone poems are what filmmaker Sokurov (Elegy of a Voyage, Mother and Son) is famous for, but here he outdoes himself: all this time travel, incorporating historical figures such as Catherine the Great and Tsar Nicholas II and the Hermitage's art treasures, is conveyed in one single, uninterrupted 96-minute Steadicam shot, with no edits. Sergei Dontsov, Mariya Kuxnetsova, and Leonid Mozgovoy head the large cast. Russian Ark plays Landmark's Shattuck Cinemas in Berkeley through Thursday, February 20.
Kids can discover their African and African-American heritage during Black History Month at a special program at various Oakland Public Library branches. Storyteller, singer, and dancer Yolanda Rhodes entertains the young 'uns with music and stories today at the Main Library (10:30 a.m., 125 14th St.), the Lakeview Branch (1 p.m., 550 El Embarcadero), and the Martin Luther King Jr. Branch (3:30 p.m., 6833 International Blvd.). Children of all ages -- and their teachers -- are invited to come listen.
Culture Spy - February 19, 1:45 PM
What the Fork - February 15, 2:00 PM
Culture Spy - February 15, 10:30 AM
Culture Spy - February 12, 5:45 PM
What the Fork - February 8, 3:57 PM