This Week's Day-by-Day Picks 

WED 4 Van Gogh's Ear is a poetry and prose anthology published in English by French Connection/Yadé Films in Paris, and the contributors are the cream of the literary crop -- everyone from Leonard Cohen and Thich Nhat Hanh to Paul Auster, Norman Mailer, and Anne Waldman. The ear is now on the road. This evening at 7:30 at Diesel bookstore in Oakland, a gaggle of writers, including poets Diane di Prima, Gloria Frym, Mary Burger, and Albert Flynn DeSilver; environmental journalist Michael Rothenberg; poet and art critic Bill Berkson; and Ian Ayers, cofounder of French Connection Films, pour words into your ear. Be there to listen. It's cheaper than moving to Arles. Diesel is at 5422 College Ave., Oakland, 510-653-9965, Dieselbookstore.com -- Kelly Vance

THU 5 Those hobbits really know how to live -- all those cute, burrowlike little houses with cubbyhole windows and rounded archways. But no one could actually live in a hobbit house, could they? Well, yes, they could, and do. As a holdover event from Earth Weekend, the rammed earth passive solar cottage at 431-433 37th St. in Oakland (between Telegraph and Webster, at Mosswood Park) is open to visitors who want to note its foot-thick earth walls and passive solar design. The deceptively roomy-feeling 360-square-foot house, designed and built in 1994 by Christina Bertea and Mary B. White, is part of the Green Homes Tour, and it's open today from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. -- Kelly Vance

FRI 6 Yesterday was the big day, but tonight is Friday, entiendes? Carry the Cinco de Mayo celebration one night further -- engomado or not, es igual -- with the 5 de Mayo Dance Party at the delightfully funky La Estrellita Cafe & Bar in East Oakland's Eastlake neighborhood, where Martin Franco y la Rebellion (a group of Bay Area and Los Angeles Latino musicians) play a little bit of everything in the tropical category -- Colombian cumbia, merengue, salsa brava -- alongside funky urban dance beats, for maximum party atmosphere with a Caribbean flavor. When the band takes a break, DJ Cezanne takes over, and you can grab a burrito to go with the suds. Showtime is 9 p.m., and the music is free. Wear your tricolor. La Estrellita is located at 446 E. 12th St. (at 5th Ave.), Oakland. -- Kelly Vance

SAT 7 Launched more than a decade ago in Chicago, the Higher Gliffs collective currently provides break-dancing and aerosol art classes at East Oakland's Fremont High School and Urban Arts Academy. In fact, if you walk down Foothill Blvd. between 41st and 47th avenues, you'll see five walls covered with the students' work: Everything from fruit painted on fruit stands to ribbony, wild-style letters. The title of their current all-youth exhibit, Urban Funk Rebellion -- which runs through June 2 at the Museum of Children's Art (538 Ninth St., Oakland) -- is about busting moves and breaking boundaries. It features the graffiti artists Daz One and Arik, who like to incorporate elements of their Cambodian heritage in their pieces, as well as the more punk or Dungeons and Dragons styles of Benji and Keneda, who both rep for Fremont High. Other artists will paint burners on a variety of surfaces -- including the museum walls -- and there are sure to be DJs spinning classic hip-hop, B-boys doing backspins, and a fat barbecue. 510-625-9940. -- Rachel Swan

SUN 8 And now, a story about a donkey. Balthazar, a forlorn little jackass whose fate is to be passed from owner to owner, is the unlikely star of filmmaker Robert Bresson's Au Hasard, Balthazar, seemingly the unlikeliest movie to ever be universally praised as a masterpiece. He is live action black-and-white, not cartoon color, and he isn't voice-acted by Eddie Murphy. In fact, he doesn't have a single line of dialogue; he's a donkey, after all. Worse yet, the people who own him are a bunch of creeps. What is it about this silent, obedient, long-suffering, never-complaining animal that moves hardboiled intellectuals like Jean-Luc Godard to proclaim Bresson's quasireligious fable some sort of secular miracle? Find out for yourself this evening (7:25 p.m.) at the Pacific Film Archive (2575 Bancroft Way, UC Berkeley, 510-642-1124, BAMPFA.berkeley.edu) -- Kelly Vance

MON 9 Want to see what happens when pixels pixilate into provocative images? Communications from Elsewhere is the name of an exhibition organized by artist and San Francisco State professor Lewis deSoto to show off the work of some nineteen emerging artists working in the digital processes. As deSoto explains it: "This exhibition is a conceptual collaboration piece. Rather than curate in a typical way, a group of artists are brought together to riff on a poetic statement. As a process, the title is created by the group and from this place the work is created." Magnolia Editions Fine Arts Press Gallery in Oakland (2527 Magnolia St., 510-834-2527) is the Somewhere where the artists from Elsewhere are showing, helped out by master printer Donald Farnsworth, who is lending his digital studio for their large-scale creations. Through May 14. For more info: MagnoliaEditions.com -- Kelly Vance

TUE 10 Ever wonder what goes on in department-store windows in the middle of the night when no one is looking? Do the mannequins have a party? Or do they merely gather dust? Almost everyone has looked into a store window at one time or another and mused on the idyllic unreality of it all. Photographers William Van Meter, Carl Lantz, and Steven Ansley decided to investigate the secret life of store windows in New York City and the Bay Area. Their group photo show, Windows, is a collection of museum-grade black-and-white and archival color prints, on display now through May 27 at the William High Gallery in Laney College's Photography Department, Room A-160. Daily, except Thursday, at Laney College, 900 Fallon St. (across from the Lake Merritt BART station), Oakland. -- Kelly Vancen

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