Ciné West 

Saddle up in Oakland

SUN 11/2

It may not be decorous to ask a cowboy about his past, the movies have taught us, but it is safe to assume that he has one, and that it's complicated.Scott Simmon, who codirects the UC Davis film studies program, has ventured gamely into this frontier with a new book, The Invention of the Western Film: A Cultural History of the Genre's First Half-Century. Taciturnity about such matters is not limited to cowboys, and Simmon will give a talk at the Oakland Museum (100 Oak St.) Sunday at 2 p.m., even though, as he writes, "I've found that admitting I'm writing about Western movies can be an excellent conversation-stopper."Simmon's book examines the genre's common narratives, including those engineered by -- and especially familiar to -- Californians. "The Western genre," he writes, "claims this: We have a history in America, and we must celebrate it, but at our best we must also know when to leave it behind and start afresh." That should get the conversation going. For further details, call 510-238-2200 or visit -- Jonathan Kiefer


Lit Happens

Her slaughter-and-slang novel In the Cut is now a new movie starring Meg Ryan; Susanna Moore reads at Black Oak from One Last Look, her latest, set in India under the Raj (Wed., 7:30 p.m.). ... Nobody likes bipolar disorder; New York Times best-selling author Bebe Moore Campbell tells kids all about it in her first work for young readers, Sometimes My Mommy Gets Angry. She's at Marcus Books (Wed., 6:30 p.m.). ... If you think things are martially messed up now, wait till the distant future as envisioned in the fantasy novels of Fox News military adviser John Ringo. He'll read from There Will Be Dragons at The Other Change of Hobbit (Wed., 6 p.m.). ... You're unemployed now, but Cal grad and Danville resident Scott Adams brings back cubicular memories at Barnes & Noble Walnut Creek, where the cartoonist will sign copies of Dilbert and the Way of the Weasel (Thu., 7 p.m.). ... Executive chef Walter Frey reads at Livermore's Altamont Books from his memoir, A Piece of Cake, in which he reveals that life en route to the culinary heights isn't always ... well, you know (Thu., 7:30 p.m.). ... Talk in tongues about books at Café Literario, a bilingual reading and discussion group at the Berkeley Public Library's West Branch. Call 510-981-6270 or 510-981-6140 for details (Thu., 7 p.m.). ... Wizardry, spellcraft, secrets, an English boy -- it's not what you think. It might even be better. Jonathan Stroud reads from The Amulet of Samarkand at Cody's 4th Street (Fri., 7 p.m.). ... Fortysomethings remember him as Father Guido Sarducci on the old Saturday Night Live -- multiple personalities aren't a mental disorder but a meal ticket for versatile comic Don Novello, reading at Diesel from his latest, From Bush to Bush: The Lazlo Toth Letters (Tues., 7:30 p.m.). -- Anneli Rufus


Lester Leaps

The Art Ensemble of Chicago has been playing its creative brand of jazz (they hate the word, but that's what it is) for some 35 years to an audience of hipsters, other musicians, and appreciative Europeans. The band suffered a profound loss when trumpeter Lester Bowie died in 1999, but his playfulness and harmonic brilliance live on in AEC's many recordings, the latest of which, Tribute to Lester, features Roscoe Mitchell's gorgeous soprano sax and flute work. They play Thursday through Saturday at Yoshi's, and only a fool would miss it. Kelly Vance


Reel Variety

From noon to 11 p.m. at Cal's Wheeler Auditorium, the Berkeley Video & Film Festival continues the tradition it began in 1991, spanning genres faster than you can say "Action!" This year includes Titillating Steven, the Donelli Twins' semi-autobiographical romp, to David Finkelstein's Radiant Emanators, an experimental performance video. 510-843-3699 or Stefanie Kalem

SAT 11/1

Outside the Box

Chinese punx at Gilman

The "punk" part of pop-punk bands is often connoted by haircuts and studded accessories, as young bands disguise their hard-on for hooks and clever rhyme schemes with a feigned, rebellious snarl. Not so with Hang on the Box -- it may be catchy as the Clap (hey, how come nobody's taken that name for their band?!), but being an all-girl band in the People's Republic of China, pop-punk or otherwise, takes more than a trip to the Hot Topic Web site. The band got together in 1998 in true punk rock fashion, when Li Yang Fan bummed a cigarette off classmates Wang Yue and Yilina in a Beijing bootleg store. They debuted at Scream, China's first underground music club, shortly thereafter, with Yue on vocals and guitar, Yilina on bass, and Yang Fan on drums. In 1999, sixteen-year-old drummer Shenjing joined up, Yang Fan took over on guitar, and the current lineup was solidified. Hang on the Box and other groups, such as ska-punks Brain Failure, started calling themselves "the losers of Beijing," eventually becoming known as the Wuliao Contingent. (There is no English equivalent to the word wuliao, the closest definition being a state of being silly or vapid.) And though Hang on the Box made its debut to derision, they've now got three CDs under their belts, and they're still challenging the dominant view of submissive Chinese women with songs like "I Am Mine," "Be My Seed," and "Ass Hole, I'm Not Your Baby." Hang on the Box, Brain Failure, Lovesongs, Systems Brutal, and Deadfall play tonight starting at 8 p.m. at Berkeley's 924 Gilman. The all-ages show costs $5. Call 510-524-8180 for venue details.-- Stefanie Kalem


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