Al's Pals 

Making fools of Rush, Rupert

THU 10/23

He's good enough, he's smart enough, and doggone it, people like him. It's good to be Al Franken these days. Current King of All Media, he dominates book sales, the talk-show couch, and the speaking circuit. First, in an ironic, ill-advised request for an injunction, Fox News inadvertently accelerated Franken's most recent climb to the top of the best-seller list with its ludicrous lawsuit against Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right. Laying claim to the phrase "Fair and Balanced," Fox's legal maneuver boomeranged back on it when a federal judge kicked the case out of court. The network was forced to pay Franken's legal fees and to publicly admit that it threw away $60 million trying to trademark the phrase.Then Rush Limbaugh proved all by himself that he's an even bigger, if not fatter, idiot, with his admission of addiction to painkillers that he purchased illegally in Florida, which carries a penalty of up to five years in jail. Slimmer but wiser, Rush is now in rehab, but the coverage of his admission is another boost to Franken's career, ostensibly causing a surge in sales for his 1996 title Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot and Other Observations. Free publicity from enemies -- what more could a funnyman, or his fans, want?

Actor, Emmy-winning writer and producer, Grammy-winning recording artist, screenwriter, author, and professional "I told you so," Franken shares his hilarious method for staying ahead of right-wing hypocrisy and making a profit from political satire Thursday at 8 p.m. at Zellerbach Hall on the UC Berkeley campus. This inaugurates Cal Performances' new "Strictly Speaking" lecture series, featuring notable cultural, literary, political, and scientific voices. Alice Sebold, author of the New York Times best-seller The Lovely Bones, follows on November 18. Tickets from the Cal Performances ticket office at Zellerbach Hall, at 510-642-9988, online at, or at the door on the night. -- Pat Katzmann



Lit happens

Are handheld devices evolving into human organs? William Mitchell, author of Me++: The Cyborg Self & the Networked City, probes boundaries and the ethics of engineering at Builders' Booksource (Wed., 7:30 p.m.). ... In Sneaky Uses for Everyday Things, science scribe Cy Timony reveals how to use everyday household objects to detect counterfeit $20 bills and unwanted intruders and otherwise amaze your friends with paperclips, aspirins, and the like. Barnes & Noble Berkeley (Wed., 7:30 p.m.). ... Charisse Jones and Kumea Shorter-Gooden, authors of Shifting: The Double Lives of Black Women in America, ask whether African-American gals downplay their abilities for fear of outshining black men -- and other uncomfortable questions at Marcus Books (Thu., 6:30 p.m.). ... Call 510-655-1015 in advance to claim a juicy slot during Boadecia's Dyke Open Mike (Sat., 7:30 p.m.). ... Its title is a bit preposition-challenged, but Gilles Marin's book Healing from Within with Chi Nei Tsang combines massage, meditation, and qi-gong techniques. He'll be at Berkeley's Elephant Pharmacy (Sat., 3p.m.). ... You loved his insomniac-nun novel, Lying Awake; ever-amiable Mark Salzman signs True Notebooks, his new nonfiction work about teaching writing to underage convicts, at Diesel (Tues., 7:30 p.m.). ... His cartoons are cute, but the message behind Bloom County creator Berkeley Breathed's latest book, Flawed Dogs, is as funny as formaldehyde: Too many potential pets die in dog pounds. Breathed will sign copies at Cody's Fourth Street (Tues., 4 p.m.). ... He wrote about Abbey Road in McSweeney's and about Tashkent in Salon, which more than qualifies Tom Bissell (above) as one to watch. So watch him read from Chasing the Sea, about Central Asia's poor shrinking Aral, at Cody's Southside (Tues., 7:30 p.m.). ... Making a stand for alternative-press fiction, H.T. Hamann reads from Anthropology of an American Girl and Grant Bailie reads from Cloud 8 at Moe's (Mon., 7:30 p.m.). ... Australian clown, performance poet, and novelist Alan Clay, whose new novel Believers in Love concerns a father-and-daughter sand-sculpting team, hosts an open mike at Oakland's Beanery (Tues., 7 p.m.). -- Anneli Rufus

WED 10/22

Take Your Medicine

The Native American Health Center has held its Strong Medicine Concerts before, but this year's edition of the annual fund-raising event, subtitled The Healing Voices of Native Women, is special -- it's the first all-Native-American-women's concert in the group's history. Headlining the musical powwow tonight (Wednesday, 8 p.m.) at Oakland's Paramount Theatre (2025 Broadway) is recording artist Lila Downs (above), a Mixtec from the Yucatàn, Mexico, who sang on the soundtrack of the movie Frida; her latest CD release is Border. Also on the bill are the First Nations a cappella trio Ulali, singer Annie Humphrey (of the Ojibwa nation), and the Sweethearts of Navajoland, performing traditional social songs. Tickets range from $15 to $50, with proceeds going to the construction of a new health-care facility in the Fruitvale neighborhood. They're available at or 510-625-8497 -- Kelly Vance

SAT 10/25

Book Social

Happy birthday, Walden Pond!

"I think that I love society as much as most," wrote Henry David Thoreau in Walden, "and am ready enough to fasten myself like a bloodsucker for the time to any full-blooded man that comes in my way. I am naturally no hermit, but might possibly sit out the sturdiest frequenter of the bar-room, if my business called me thither." Walden Pond Bookstore (3316 Grand Ave., Oakland) exists much in the same spirit, fostering community through books and an open-door policy. The Walden Pond Thirtieth Anniversary Open House Saturday honors all aspects of that, with everything from a Halloween Storytime for kids (at 2:30 p.m.) to an art exhibit of muralist Chris Trian's work, depicting counterculture types such as Noam Chomsky, Charles Bukowski, Che Guevara, Malcolm X, and Billie Holiday (right). The store will be open regular hours, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., with anarchist folk quintet Folk This! playing in the window from noon till 2, and a jazz band tentatively slated for 5. Raffles, cookies, a 30-percent-off table, gifts for the first 125 kids, and more make for a party worthy of an Oaktown institution. 510-832-4438. -- Stefanie Kalem

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