"Midnight Special" is a song by the blues standard-bearer Leadbelly, about a Southern jail where all the men are lined up outside every night at witching hour. That's when the Midnight Special train comes around the bend: They say the first person that the train shines a light on is set free. For the founders of Midnight Special Law Collective -- operated out of a small Oakland garret where half the members live -- Leadbelly's train is a metaphor for liberation from tyranny. In other words, it's an apt name for a group that provides legal support for mass protests. According to Midnight Special member Dan Spalding, "The thing we do best is develop trainings that take an extremely complicated issue, or topic, and boil it down in a way that's useful, and that everyone can understand." Founded in the aftermath of the Seattle WTO protests -- and comprised mostly of liberal arts geeks with no formal legal education -- Midnight Special offers free training to equip activists with techniques of nonviolent direct action. Spalding contends that before you try to duke it out with an officer, you should know -- besides your rights, of course -- the ways that cops try to trick you out of them.
Having spent several months collaborating with the National Lawyers Guild to defend people arrested during antiwar protests, Midnight Special is currently working with the Electronic Frontier Foundation to provide free workshops to teach regular folks how to have better computer security. The group recently collaborated with the young persons' newspaper Youth Outlook and the Oakland organization PUEBLO to produce a Know Your Rights comic book. They have a Spanish Derechos para estudiantes comic in the works for next year.
It shouldn't take much arm-twisting to draw you to the Parkway Theater for a special screening of Monty Python's classic egghead crusade to benefit the collective. But if Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) doesn't do it for you, come for the eight-minute short, Ring of Free Trade, a video montage with subtitles explaining how Lord of the Rings is actually an anticapitalist epic. Nobody knows who directed it, but it was probably someone whose raison d'être is best characterized as "liberation from tyranny." Monty Python and the Holy Grail screens this Thursday at 6:30 and 9:15 p.m. at the Parkway Theater, 1834 Park Blvd., Oakland, 510-814-2400. Admission is $7.--Rachel Swan
... even to Oakland Raiderettes
Muscles frazzled from forking over credit cards while sleigh bells ring? Licensed massage therapist Lisa Mazzocut offers free ten-minute pick-me-ups to holiday book-shoppers at Boadecia's (Wed., 5 p.m.). ... Before becoming a distinguished Livermore biomedical scientist, Hector Timourian was born in Mexico to Armenian parents. Reading at Altamont/Goodenough Books from his collection of vignettes, Gifts from America, he revisits the immigrant experience (Wed., 7:30 p.m.). ... It's almost never a white Christmas on Suisun Bay, but the Bay Point Public Library likes to dream. Storytellers recount famous tales of snowmen while you craft your own flossy white decorations to take home (Fri., 4 p.m.). ... Calling all otaku: Check out a backpackful of manga, then stick around at the Albany Public Library as the BeefBowl Anime Club shows screen versions of your favorite Japanese comix. Today's program includes episodes of Macross, Fullmetal Panic, and Prince of Tennis (Sat., noon-4:30 p.m.). ... Time is running out to have a personally autographed Oakland Raiderettes calendar ready for New Year's Day. Meet the cheerleaders at Fremont Borders (Sat., 4 p.m.). -- Anneli Rufus
Gang of Few
The Drogues are, as is the fashion these days, a band out of time. But don't expect sharp suits, ghostly pallor, or Casio keys -- the Oakland trio cites such hearty influences as Wire, Mission of Burma, Crazy Horse, and the Minutemen. They play tonight at the Stork Club, as do Giant Haystacks, who also mine the Minutemen and MOB veins, albeit with an emphasis on the dancier stuff -- Gang of Four, the Jam, and the Minutemen's descendants, fIREHOSE. Kicking off the music at 9-ish p.m. is the Basement League, a trio born in LA but now based in Oakland. Admission for this 21-and-up show costs $5, and the Stork is located at 2330 Telegraph Ave. in downtown Oakland. Details: 510-444-6174. -- Stefanie Kalem
It hasn't snowed here in about five years, but Oakland definitely has its share of dirty sludge -- particularly of the metal kind. Give your holiday angst a soundtrack when our very own gloom-'n'-doom purveyors, Brainoil, bring the grinding pain to you tonight at Berkeley's 924 Gilman, supported by LA's Slitwrists, Tennessee hardcore outfit Bury the Living, and, straight outta the Pacific Northwest, the appropriately named Friday Night Youth Service. The all-ages show starts at 8 p.m., and cover is $5. -- Stefanie Kalem