Fire Play 

Oakland burns again


Admit it -- this year's Fourth of July fireworks were a little tepid. The traditional pyrotechnics are cool, distant, predictable. How about something hotter, and in the order of artistic, enthralling, even apocalyptic? Then improve on the summer sparklers by attending the Fire Arts Festival, copresented by Burning Man, the now-venerable Black Rock City, Nevada, institution, and the Crucible, the more recent East Bay fire-metal-glass-light arts center. Wednesday's opening includes free art previews and lectures, followed by Thursday's fund-raiser preview gala featuring fine foods and wines, stage performances, announcement of the 2004 Black Rock Arts Foundation grant recipients, and a bronze pour. There will also be a preview of the signature weekend events: the Fire Arts Arena, which showcases the latest in fire and light art and sculpture in a 150,000-square foot space at the Crucible's site in West Oakland. Knock $5 off your ticket price by wearing your playa costume (the kind of getup you've seen -- or been seen in -- at Burning Man). Event organizers boast partnerships with the City of Oakland, Oakland Museum, and the Oakland Fire and Police departments, signaling a new legitimacy for an art with ancient roots. Friday's Youth Field Trip and the daylong classes and workshops over the weekend (prior registration and fee are required) illustrate the Crucible and the festival's commitment to sparking artistic creativity, as well as to arts education and expertise in fire safety.

A fire artist who hopes to make the scene from several states away -- and who asked to remain anonymous -- tells us the Fire Arts Festival "offers the chance to experience a form of art which is very popular at Burning Man, but not often seen outside the event. It's a chance to view it in an intimate setting, without dust, and without having to traipse all over the playa." This year Burning Man brings some of its most exciting sights and sounds straight to you -- if you don't play with fire, you'll get burned. For schedule and ticket information, see -- Frako Loden


But Soft...

Lit Happens

What light through yonder window breaks? It's the Teen Playreaders, strutting and fretting at the Berkeley Public Library's North Branch. Join this merry band as it waits for Godot (Wed., 5 p.m.). ... We can't grow good mangoes at this latitude, but Pam Peirce knows what will sprout in fog and smog. Ask the author of Wildly Successful Plants: Northern California what makes a blue gum blue at A Great Good Place for Books in Montclair Village. Refreshments will be served (Wed., 7 p.m.). ... John Steinbeck immortalized his beery-but-bright pal "Doc" Ricketts in his tales of Monterey's Cannery Row. In Beyond the Outer Shores: The Untold Odyssey of Ed Ricketts, the Pioneering Ecologist Who Inspired John Steinbeck and Joseph Campbell, Eric Enno Tamm delivers the actual goods on the man, a marine biologist and popular-science writer who was way ahead of his time. Tamm is at Barnes & Noble Walnut Creek (Thu., 7:30 p.m.). ... Everyone knows an ant can't move a rubber-tree plant, but Orinda-bred Peter Karplus offers further meditations on this matter in his debut poetry collection, Dancing with Fear, Rejection, Doubt, and Hope, from which he'll read at Orinda Books (Sat., 11 a.m.). ... Live happily ever after, after dipping into the Thirteenth Annual International Storytelling Festival, where yarnspinners take turns on Monday nights in the San Ramon Library Community Room, 100 Montgomery St., call 925-973-2850. This week Megumi revives classic tales from Japan (Mon., 7 p.m.). ... Spotlighting the darkest corners of her heritage, Irene Kai writes in Golden Mountain: Beyond the American Dream about the violence, death, drug addiction, and depression that plagued successive generations of the Chinese women in her family. Learn how Kai seized the reins of her own future at Black Oak (Mon., 7:30 p.m.). ... Don't ask Tom Hayden about his ex-wife Jane Fonda's morning breath when he arrives at Cody's Southside to read from Street Wars: Gangs and the Future of Violence, the former state senator's blistering exposé of outlaws, prisons, and urban decay (Tue., 7:30 p.m.). -- Anneli Rufus

SUN 7/11

Jackfruit of All Trades

"When I play music inspired by a jackfruit tree in Rio and I play it in Seattle, I'm not transplanting the tree here, but the vibration of the tree is here, that does travel with the music," said Jovino Santos Neto in a 2003 Earshot interview. "That vibration is not just about ethnicity. If my band is all Brazilians, I might be a lot more successful by now because it would be as all Brazilians think." But the pianist, flutist, and composer has never thought as his countrymen do, and his nuanced Brazilian jazz reflects that. Though he has played extensively with compatriots Hermeto Pascoal, Sergio Mendes, Airto Moreira, Flora Purim, and Maria Bethânia, this Sunday at 4:30 he brings the jackfruit tree to Jazzschool, 2087 Addison St., Berkeley, with bassist Peter Barshay and drummer Paul van Wageningen. They'll play songs from Santos Neto's new CD, Canto do Rio, and other compositions. Tickets cost $18. 510-845-5373. -- Stefanie Kalem


Wash Days

A decade of Brainwash in West O.

Cancel that hybrid Hummer rental and turn down the tux offer from Armani. Your bicycle or hoopty will get you to the tenth annual Brainwash Drive-In Movie Festival just fine, and the only special-occasion apparel you'll need are your regular ol' East Bay summer layers. The independent outdoor festival has the usual variety of flickering tricks up its spool, including William Ross' South of Baghdad (showing Friday night), the tale of twelve-year-old "Little Orphan Ali" as told through real footage and animation; and Beautiful Boys & Girls: Superstars, J.M. Magrini's homage to Warhol's motionless screen tests (showing Saturday). Awards will be handed out Saturday night and Mark States and his fellow performance poets in the Rhythmic Revolution will serve as both evenings' human hosts. Just pull up to the parking lot of the Alliance for West Oakland Development, 1357 Fifth St. (at Mandela Parkway), at 9 p.m. Friday and/or Saturday, hand over your $8, and tune in the sound broadcast on your boom box or FM stereo. Info: -- Stefanie Kalem


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