This Week's Day-by-Day Picks 

WED 10

When he wasn't swatting clouds of angry mosquitoes in Alaska, dodging the Taliban on Afghanistan dirt roads, lounging in SF Tenderloin massage parlors, or hanging out in the US-Mexico borderlands, William T. Vollmann has spent most of his adult life (23 years, by most accounts) researching Rising Up and Rising Down, a 3,500-page, seven-volume book of narrative-style reportage about political violence. This bit of light bedtime reading was published last year by McSweeney's and consumed, one must surmise, by reviewers, hardcore Vollmann fans, and precious few others. But now the prolix Northern California author has taken pity on the rest of us and authorized an abridged version, Rising Up and Down: Some Thoughts on Violence, Freedom, and Urgent Action (Ecco, $29.95). He shows up in person this evening (7:30 p.m.) to read from his work at Diesel, A Bookstore, 5433 College Ave., Oakland, 510-653-9965, DieselBookstore.com. Maybe he understands why we're in Iraq. -- Kelly Vance

THU 11

Tired of not asking and not telling? Spend Veterans Day showing support for LGBT members of the US armed services at Marriage Equality California's second annual LGBT Veterans Day Event. Speakers from Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, American Veterans for Equal Rights, and the Military Education Initiative will share stories at the Chapel of the Chimes (4499 Piedmont Ave., Oakland), there will be a presentation by the Bay Area American Indian Two-Spirit Group, a reception after the program, and more. Everyone is welcome to this free event, which happens between 1 and 3 p.m. Info: 510-872-0903 or robin@marriageequalityca.org -- Stefanie Kalem

FRI 12

If you like a little party with your politics, may we suggest spending tonight at the American Baptist Seminary of the West in Berkeley? It's hosting an Evening with International Water Frontliners that includes a discussion with antiprivatization activists from Ghana (Mawuli Dake), Bolivia (Marcela Olivera), Guam (Sabina Perez), and the United States (Maureen Taylor of the Michigan Welfare Rights Coalition for Water and Paola Ramos of the Environmental Justice Coalition for Water), followed by a reception featuring African food and music. This benefit for the Ghana National Coalition Against Privatization of Water takes place from 6 to 8 p.m., and suggested donation at the door is $10-$25 (no one turned away for lack of funds). The seminary is located at 2606 Dwight Way, opposite People's Park. Call 510-663-0888. -- Stefanie Kalem

SAT 13

Ore-Ida. The Irish potato famine. R. Crumb's Dick Tater. Couch potatoes. The fact that the Chicago Cubs were once nicknamed the Spuds. Yes, the world is full of folklore about the versatile, starchy tuber, but none more beloved than dear old Mr. Potato Head, the venerable children's toy in which a lowly mickey is tarted up with a funny nose and hair and silly duds. That's why this afternoon's Mr. Potato Head Beauty Pageant is so irresistible. From 2 to 4 p.m. at the Museum of Children's Art (MOCHA) in Oakland, kids and their grown-up friends are invited to bring in their most extravagantly decorated potato for display on a real runway before an admiring crowd. MOCHA guarantees: "Every child goes home with a prize." Entry fee is $7 per child and $3 per participating adult. 528 9th St., Oakland, 510-465-8770, MOCHA.org -- Kelly Vance

SUN 14

We now interrupt your regularly scheduled expectations of Mills College's theater productions -- avant-garde, obscure, cerebral -- with the announcement that, this Thursday through Sunday, the Mills College Players present Ruthless! The Musical, a cynical send-up (or, rather, take-down) of such classic movies and musical theater as All About Eve, Gypsy, The Bad Seed, Les Misérables, The Women, Valley of the Dolls, A Chorus Line, and probably about a dozen others. An untalented stage mom, her extraordinarily gifted (and bloodthirstily ambitious) moppet of a daughter, a sleazy agent, a grande dame theater critic, an identity-thieving assistant, and a lesbian reporter are the bitchy birds who make this tuneful satire sing. See the fur fly at 8 p.m. at Mills' Lisser Hall, 5000 MacArthur Blvd. in Oakland. Tickets cost $5-$15 (sliding scale). Info: 510-636-7106, lwhite@mills.edu -- Stefanie Kalem

MON 15

Mary Rudge's two years as Alameda's first poet laureate are almost up, so perhaps you should go hear what she has to say. Appointed in November of 2002, the thirty-year Alameda resident will join East Bay writer, storyteller, translator, and publicist Nina Serrano in reading at the Oakland Public Library's Lakeview Branch this evening between 6:45 and 7:45 p.m. For Wisdom Women for Peace and Healing, Rudge and Serrano will read new poems, and an open mic will follow. The Lakeview Branch is located at 550 El Embarcadero. Info: 510-238-7344. -- Stefanie Kalem

TUE 16

Among the most depressing sights in the former Soviet bloc are the massive gray mausoleum-like office buildings and housing structures left over from the days of Stalinism -- the legacy of architectural failure with social-failure overtones, landmarks of utopian cities that were not to be. The towers were the unfortunate outgrowth of an art movement called Suprematism, a politically inspired avant-garde style born in 1920s Russian art collectives -- and practiced conspicuously by one Lazar Khidekel, who began his career in Marc Chagall's studio and went through the customary Stalin-era ups and downs. A new exhibition at Berkeley's Magnes Museum, Surviving Suprematism: Lazar Khidekel, puts both the man and the art movement in perspective using his watercolors, drawings, gouaches, and photographs from 1920 to 1965. See it Sundays through Thursdays through March 20, 2005, at the Magnes' Reutlinger Gallery, 2911 Russell St., Berkeley, Magnes.org -- Kelly Vance

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