Oscar! Oscar! 

La Peña's New York state of mind

Thu 8/26

In conjunction with the San Francisco Bay Area Latino Film Festival and as part of their monthly international Latino film series, La Peña presents acclaimed director and screenwriter Luis Argueta's second feature film, Por Cobrar (Collect Call), this Thursday. In this cross-cultural portrait of a young Guatemalan actor named Oscar and his search for the fabled American Dream, gorgeous footage from Oscar's remote village bounces off chaotic scenes of his attempts to get along in bustling New York City, after a random collect call to a friend sends him to the metropolis of dreams. Director Argueta's innovative approach -- using Oscar's improvised interactions with real-life people -- adds more bizarre and hilarious turns to the film than could have been imagined in any scripted performance, as he finds that dealing with aggressive New Yorkers trying to seduce him can be just as difficult as dodging those trying to take advantage.

The film starts at 7:30 p.m. and costs $8 general and $6 for students, seniors, and the disabled. Visit www.lapena.org for more details. -- Amrah Johnson

8/25-8/31

Lit Happens

When is a city not a city? When it's a concept, as author Ellen Weis and photographer Kiran Singh reveal in Berkeley: The Life and Spirit of a Remarkable Town. Their slide show at Easy Going celebrates Athens West in all its redwoody, radical glory (Wed., 7:30 p.m.). ... Even when they're chewing up the couch, they know more than you think they do, says Canadian psychologist, animal researcher, and spaniel owner Stanley Coren, author of How to Speak Dog and The Intelligence of Dogs. Ask him to sit up and beg at Orinda Books (Thu., 4 p.m.). ... In her new novel The Tree Bride, UC Berkeley's Bharati Mukherjee reintroduces narrator Tara Chatterjee as she pursues the irresistible legend of an ancestor who married a tree as a child and became a nationalist freedom fighter. Bash British colonialism at Cody's Southside (Thu., 7:30 p.m.). ... But will she blow bubbles? Julia Vinograd, poet laureate of Telegraph Avenue, reads at Berkeley's Book Zoo (2556 Telegraph Ave. #7), followed by an open mic (Fri., 7:30 p.m.). ... The Stalinist Nobel laureate would have turned one hundred this year, so read your favorite Pablo Neruda poems or your own Neruda-inspired poems to an open mic presented by the Rhythm & Muse poetry series at the Berkeley Art Center at 1275 Walnut St.; for details, call 510-644-6893 (Sat., 7 p.m., signups start at 6:30). ... In his foreword to Rajinder Singh's Inner and Outer Peace Through Meditation, the Dalai Lama his serene self advises us "to begin with some kind of inner disarmament." Local physician Marshall Zaslove leads a discussion on the book at Barnes & Noble Berkeley (Tue., 7:30 p.m.). ... Discuss James Frey's grueling rehab memoir, A Million Little Pieces, with the Times Book Club at Rakestraw (Tues., 7:30 p.m.). -- Anneli Rufus

Fri 8/27

But Does it swing?

It's partner-swapping night at the Jazz House! No, it's not going that crazy trying to stay open -- it's a night of solos, duos, and trios featuring bassist Trevor Dunn (of Mr. Bungle and Trio Convulsant), drummer Ches Smith (Good for Cows, Trio Convulsant), and saxophonist Phillip Greenlief , founder of the Evander Music label. Trio Convulsant is about to embark on a seven-week tour with the Melvins, so come out to 3192 Adeline (at MLK -- look for the blue light and "ANT" over the door) for some really freaky shit that might just be jazz. 8 p.m., $8-$15 sliding scale. Info: TheJazzHouse.com -- Stefanie Kalem

Thu 8/26

Northward, Ho!

The Ecology Center has added a third farmers' market to its schedule, giving another opportunity to buy organic goodies direct. The North Shattuck Farmers' Market -- at Rose St. -- holds its official kickoff party from 3 to 7 p.m. Thursday, with Alice Waters and Mayor Tom Bates, a cooking demo by Cal Peternell (of Chez Panisse) at 5, and jazz by the Robert Keller Group. EcologyCenter.org -- Stefanie Kalem

Sun 8/29

Roots Ranking

Reggae returns to the Greek Theatre

Once the annual destination for the Reggae Sunsplash tour, Berkeley's venerable Greek Theatre has been noticeably lacking in irie vibrations for several summers. But as Bob Marley once said, "Jah children, weep no more" -- the official Bob Marley Roots Rock Reggae Festival lands in the Berkeley Hills Sunday afternoon for what should be a top-notch show. Headlining are roots reggae's first family, the Marley Brothers -- Ziggy, Stephen, Julian, Damien, and Ky-Mani -- who have grown into artists in their own right two decades after they first started performing as the Melody Makers. Ziggy probably is the most recognizable of the clan, with the most impressive amount of solo material, but in recent years Ky-Mani and Julian have both dropped their own albums, building on the Tuff Gong's foundation while veering off into R&B and hip-hop territory. Meanwhile, Stephen and Damien (aka Jr. Gong), better known as the Ghetto Youth Crew, have kept the Marley bloodline going in the dancehall scene, with recent hit riddims like "Educated Fools." These onetime "Tomorrow People" have answered their own question, "How long will you last?" -- they've become a dynasty.

Equally majestic and no less a member of reggae royalty is Toots Hibbert of Toots and the Maytals, the man responsible for such classics as "Time Tough," "Sweet and Dandy," "Monkey Man," "Funky Kingston," and his cover of John Denver's "Country Roads." Still kicking even in the twilight of his career, Hibbert has way more energy than a man his age ought to, and he's at his best onstage. Slightly Stoopid and Looner round out the bill, while Stone Love (featuring Geefus on the mic), Jamaica's celebrated soundsystem, will keep the vibes level between acts. It all starts at 1 p.m., Hearst Avenue at Gayley Rd., Berkeley. $35.50-$40. Info: AnotherPlanetEnt.com -- Eric K. Arnold

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