Weekender: This Weekend's Top Five Events

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Don't cry yet — the election's almost over! Here are the top five things you can do this weekend, besides re-watching this apt assessment of America's brutally endless campaign cycle:

Before California
Artist-naturalist Laura Cunningham works primarily as a scientific illustrator, rendering fossils for paleontology publications by the likes of UC Berkeley and the Smithsonian Institution. Her background comes through loud and clear in her first ever solo exhibition, Before California, which reads like a terrifically illustrated textbook about the effect of human activity on local wildlife. Cunningham captions paintings of condors and wolves with text explaining the nature of the species' endangerment, and draws East Bay flora along with an illustrated calendar of wildflower bloom times. The exhibition meanders into the domain of art with a series of imaginative works juxtaposing photographs of Bay Area locales with painted renderings of how the places might have looked five hundred years back, before the touch of civilization. Before California runs through January 30 at the David Brower Center. 510-809-0900 or BrowerCenter.orgAlex Bigman

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Strictly Speaking: Dan Savage
"If there's one thing that straight people could take from gay culture that would improve heterosexual sex lives, it's the four magic words of every same-sex encounter: What. Are.You. Into," said sex columnist and podcast host Dan Savage at Rhodes College earlier this year as part of his new MTV show, SavageU. As part of the Cal Performances "Strictly Speaking" series, the famously frank creator of the "It Gets Better" campaign stops by Zellerbach Hall on Saturday, Nov. 3, to answer burning questions about love, life, and sex. Obviously, due to subject matter and language, the event is for mature audiences only. 8 p.m., $20-42. 510-642-9988 or CalPerformances.orgAzeen Ghorayshi

Art in Science Gallery Gala
Who says scientists don't care about art? In "The Intersection of Image and Research," the Berkeley Arts Festival Gallery brings together artists and scientists to discuss the symbiotic relationship between the two seemingly disparate fields. As part of the Bay Area Science Festival, the two-day event on Thursday and Friday, Nov. 1-2, will feature photography, video, painting, sculpture, lectures, and demonstrations addressing topics like the role of artists in exoplanet exploration and the use of 3-D modeling to recreate the spaces of the Han Dynasty. 5:30-9 p.m., free. BayAreaScience.orgA.G.

Rachel Neumann
New York writer Rachel Neumann was on a speedy path to exhaustion in the weeks after September 11, 2001, when, on assignment for the Village Voice, she met renowned Vietnamese Buddhist teacher-monk Thich Nhat Hanh. He was just sitting — nothing deeper than that — but his very being, quiet and present, changed her hectic life. Soon, she became his personal editor, learned about Buddhist practices, had two children, turned forty, and returned to the rural California commune of her youth — everything seemed to fall into place for this skeptic-workaholic-turned-mindful woman. Neumann shares the story of her conversion and lessons she learned along the way in Not Quite Nirvana, which she'll read from at Moe's Books on Wednesday, Nov. 7. 7:30 p.m., free. 510-849-2087 or MoesBooks.comAlison Peters

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Tall Tales or the Fish in my Head
Join the renowned physical theater ensemble, Dell'Arte Company, as they perform "the untold stories that swim around in our dreams." The seven actor/musician/acrobats will combine masks, circus skills, physical comedy, stilt-walking, music, and song into a theatrical storytelling spectacle. Appropriate for all ages, on Sunday, Nov. 4. 11 a.m. & 3 p.m., $10-20. UC Berkeley's Wheeler Auditorium. — A.G.

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