Piece of Meat Theatre

(THEATER) One day soon the ass-backwards executives in Hollywood will yank their pointy, moussed heads out of each other's rumps and reward Seattle's hometown boys, Piece of Meat, with their own TV show. They've been down in L.A. plugging away with their patented brand of shocking sketch comedy and hilarious performance art for two years now, and dammit, they deserve their big break! But until that happy day, the only way to see this infamous quartet perform is to check out their third annual Seattle Holiday Extravaganza. They've escaped from the City of Angels for one show only, and it promises to contain both pointed political satire and Christmas cheer. In their own words, "In this current climate of conformity and fear, we find ourselves boiling over with no shortage of targets to skewer with our 'unique' point of view." See 'em quick, before John Ashcroft has them carried away to a secret location, tried by a secret tribunal, and summarily executed. TAMARA PARIS

Sit & Spin, 2219 Fourth Ave, 441-9484, 9:30 pm, $8.


Damien Jurado

(LIVE MUSIC) If you're planning on being lonely this Christmas, take heart: There are lots of lonely losers out there, and some of them are even very cool. Take Damien Jurado, for example, who will be performing at Graceland's A Very Special Xmas with Death Cab for Cutie and Seldom. That guy's very sad. And angry, too. Jurado's next Sub Pop release, called Break Chairs (very Hüsker Dü, and he even sounds a bit like Bob Mould) is slated for a February release. And it's really good: "Smoke that cigarette and down another drink on me/Well, you've got better things to be done than to be seen with me," Jurado sings, over muscular guitar, on the song "Dancing." Merry Xmas lonely losers, one and all! JEFF DeROCHE

Graceland, 109 Eastlake Ave E, 381-3094, 9:30 pm, $14.

Elliott Smith

(LIVE MUSIC) I was thinking recently that it would be really funny for a gay to redo Elliott Smith's excellent song "Needle in the Hay," which he penned for his self-titled 1995 Kill Rock Stars release. Only on the gay version, instead of crooning the lyric "needle in the hay" in a beautifully listless whisper, as Smith does on the original, some big nelly thing would sing "needle in the HAAAAAAAAAY, giiiiirl!" while flitting his arms about wildly and performing the running man. I was only thinking that, though, because I had gone all sentimental and pulled Elliott Smith from its dusty sleeve. It's a great album--not his brilliant best, which would be 1997's Either/Or, but great nonetheless. JEFF DeROCHE

Showbox, 1426 First Ave, 628-3151, $15.


Ellington's Sacred Music

(MUSIC) In 1973, Duke Ellington called his suite of sacred music "the most important thing I have ever done." It's a staggering statement for the luminous and profound composer, and just one of the reasons why, if you are only going to see one jazz concert this year, it should be the Seattle Jazz Repertory Orchestra's performance of Ellington's Sacred Music. Not only is the SJRO the all-star band of all-star bands in Seattle--led by the demanding Clarence Acox and the astute Michael Brockman, and featuring outstanding players like Marc Seales, Floyd Standifer, Don Lanphere, and guest vocalist Dee Daniels--but the music they'll interpret is also absolutely unimpeachable. Because Ellington's compositions really are about worship, in the broadest possible sense--worship as limitless self-expression, as communion, as resonance. Put that message on the tongue of Ellington, who spoke African, Anglo, Jazz, Blues and Classical, and you have an evening of truly sanctified sound. NATHAN THORNBURGH

University Christian Church, 6556 35th Ave NE, 525-8400, 7:30 pm, $17/$19.

Cheb i Sabbah

(MUSIC) Cheb i Sabbah began displaying his DJ internationalism in the mid-1960s, as an Algerian-born Berber Jew teenager in Paris spinning American soul. (The romance is already killing me!) Decades later he coined the term "outernational" to describe his blend of "Triple A--Asia, Arabia, Africa" music, set to electronica beats that range from house to breaks. Sabbah has been holding court weekly at a San Francisco club called Nickie's for almost 15 years. The man's got cred. He imbues his sets with the kind of mysticism that dance music has held for every culture on Earth, and his sets are "outernational" because the music doesn't simply borrow from the musics of different nations, but leaves the very idea of nationhood behind. This is the good kind of globalization, kids! BRIAN GOEDDE

Baltic Room, 1207 Pine St, 625-4444, $10.


NW Film Forum Christmas

(FILM) So, yeah... it's Christmas or whatever. Seems like most of my friends have decided to commemorate the holiday season by pretending the holidays aren't happening; I can already tell this is going to be the Little Christmas That Wasn't. But even in the absence of any discernible Noël spirit (not to mention sunlight), it's difficult to spend a whole December in denial. Sometimes you just need to mainline a little holiday cheer. To that end, the Northwest Film Forum is showing It's A Wonderful Life, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol, The Year Without a Santa Claus, a program of Christmas cartoon classics (with Woody Woodpecker, Wally Walrus, and all your favorites), and a series of matinees for kids. Repelled by malls, multiplexes, and "shopping days," it's nice to know that we can always turn to the Grand Illusion and Little Theatre for succor. SEAN NELSON

See Movie Times.

A Tap Dance Christmas Carol

(DANCE/THEATER) I don't know if I'm recommending this for its potential for camp absurdity or because I have a soft spot for tap dancing. It's highly probable that, as a piece of theater, this will be a sappy, sentimental mess. But it may be rescued by the crazed notion that, at any moment, Ebenezer Scrooge, Bob Cratchit, and the Christmas ghosts will suddenly start twitching their feet into a frenzy of syncopated rhythms. The lead dancers/choreographers, Cheryl Johnson and Anthony Peters, are former Broadway hoofers and veterans of numerous tap-dance festivals; it sounds like they've got some serious chops, so the dancing could be a genuine pleasure--and few things express sheer joy and vitality like good tap dancing. But truly, if Tiny Tim has a tap on the tip of his crutch, the entire evening will be worth your time. BRET FETZER

Broadway Performance Hall, 1625 Broadway, 325-6500, Fri-Sat at 8 pm, Sat-Sun at 2 pm, $16-$18 in advance, $18-$20 at the door.


American Mall

(PHOTOGRAPHY) I think it's appropriate to take a moment, this holiday season, to think about the act of shopping itself, and the environment that so subsumes you that the act of buying becomes one of participatory art, cultural communion, and, this year at least, patriotic duty. Artist Craig Pozzi knows this; he's been photographing people taking part in fairs and festivals since the 1970s, in an ongoing investigation of the public face of celebration. This series of works--showing Americans in their malls--brings his line of inquiry into exciting new territory; that is, the place where we celebrate our freedom to be corporate suckers. Well, that's what I think. To see what he thinks, come see the art. EMILY HALL

The Little Theatre Gallery, 610 19th Ave E, 675-2055, Mon-Fri, 10 am-6 pm.



(FILM) Hollywood sure does get into the gift-giving spirit this time of year, what with 15 major commercial films being released this week. But maybe the most peculiar gift this year Hollywood will give America--the plaid sweater that raises the eyebrow--is the most inoffensive black man in America, Will Smith, playing one of the most revolutionary black men of the 20th century, Muhammad Ali. Will the Fresh Prince's evocation of the trash-talking (to his opponents and the United States) heavyweight hero dilute Ali's political, racial strength? Or will Big Willie break out of his "friendly black apparently unaffected by chronic racism" Bagger Vance career by correctly playing this fascinatingly volatile boxer? Today, Christmas Day, this film will be released, and it's sure to be a landmark for racial dialogue. I can't wait to see America unwrap it. BRIAN GOEDDE

See Movie Times.


Samuel Johnson Is Indignant

(GOOD BOOK) For most authors, the term "writer's writer" is the kiss of death--really, it means you will never make any money, ever. On the bright side, there's a good deal of cred attached to it: Yours is a name invoked late at night during whiskey-soaked conversations between writers, written down on the back of an ATM receipt and then lost, the writer they always meant to read, but kept forgetting. But if anyone was going to turn the situation on its head, it was Lydia Davis, the ex-Mrs. Paul Auster, whose stories flash through the mind like a fever, some as short as two lines, some an extended burst of anxiety that leaves you reeling. With the publication of her third collection (by the prescient wise guys at McSweeney's), the tone of the posturing is going to change ("I was reading her years ago," many will sniff). But it's all to the good if it brings us more literature that tilts toward the difficult, the experimental, language wielded like the dangerous tool that it is. EMILY HALL

Available at Bailey/Coy Books, 414 Broadway E, 323-8842, $16.95.