Do You Menu? 

Urban sampling downtown

THU 5/8

At a recent lunch with a friend from Red Bluff (no offense to our neighbors up north), it was brought up that, in addition to all the things people take for granted living on the sunny side of the Bay Bridge, there's one big advantage that is overlooked. Most East Bayers, native and transplanted, read fluent menu. Words such as blackened, aioli, dolma, and tartar may be common in most urban areas, but come to Oakland and meet verde, udon, vegan, and stout -- a veritable pinwheel of sweet and savory that reflects the very population that eats it. Everyone is invited to experience the Taste of Oakland at the Oakland Convention Center (1001 Broadway), Thursday at 5 p.m. Devour a sampling of the region's finest restaurants, washed down with wine, beer, or cider. If you're worried about all of those extra calories so close to bathing-suit season, don't. Just boogie it off to live music provided by the Bay Area Blues Society. Or find a cozy spot and settle in for performances by several great dance troupes including Dance-a-Vision and Ballet Folklorico. Come on out and revel in what our city does best -- mix it up, baby! Tickets are $35 until May 2 and $40 after that. www.oaklandcvb.com -- Justine Nicole

TUE 5/13

Shh-hhhh!

What's that sound?

Just from its name, you could tell the USA-PATRIOT Act was going to be trouble. Just how much trouble, we're starting to find out. Since it was passed on October 24, 2001, as a knee-jerk reaction to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the federal law has drawn alarmed scrutiny by everyone from the Center for Constitutional Rights to the American Library Association for its sweeping new investigative powers, which seem to override previous checks and balances in the sensitive spheres of privacy and intellectual freedom -- things such as phone taps and data on your reading habits, for instance. Tuesday evening (6:30 p.m.) at Oakland's First Unitarian Church (685 14th St.), a PATRIOT Act Teach-In seeks to explain it all, with input from Councilwoman Nancy Nadel and the ACLU, among others. It's free and open to the public. For more info, wiretap 510-893-6129. -- Kelly Vance

SAT 5/10

The Sound of Struggle

Thomas Mapfumo and the Blacks Unlimited make music channeled through the experience of the Zimbabwean people. His revolutionary anthems of the civil war against white minority rule got "the Lion of Zimbabwe" imprisoned in 1977. The band later adapted the traditional sound of the mbira for Western instrumentation, brought in jazz and blues influences, and thus was born chimurenga -- "music of struggle." Mapfumo plays Ashkenaz (1317 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley) at 9:30 p.m. $17. 510-525-5054. -- Stefanie Kalem

WED 5/7

Accordion to What?

Uneasy listening at 21 Grand

The music of gravel-voxed, Seattle-based Jason Webley has been compared to that of Pink Floyd and Garth Brooks -- in the same sentence. That should give you some kind of idea how unclassifiable the accordion-toting troubadour is, but if you want a better idea, head to 21 Grand (449B 23rd St., Oakland) tonight to hear for yourself. Fellow squeezebox aficionados Accordion Plague also perform, but be sure to get there close to the evening's 8 p.m. start time so you don't miss the New Bobby Sextet, wherein Jon Brumit (Sliv, Dulet Enterprises) will orchestrate six turntables, each playing songs by different Bobbys. Admission's on a sliding scale from $5-$10. Call 510-444-7623. -- Stefanie Kalem

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