The Smithereens Goateed Smithereens frontman Pat DiNizio writes and plays songs (e.g. "Baby, Be Good") that sound a whole heck of a lot like the Beatles. Take that either as evidence that the Smithereens are pasty pop apes with a ripped-off jangly Rickenbacker sound, or as proof that they are honest, simple-hearted troubadours with Gibsons who just happen to have a style mostly heard before. The band is touring for A Date with the Smithereens, a title that suggests they find their pop image fun. After 14 years together, they're billing themselves as "still a Jersey garage band," which would suggest that not much has changed, although the frontman has a little baby girl and carries her photo in his wallet. Aqua Blue Bar, 10531 Gulf Freeway, 941-0122. $8 over 21, $10 ages 1821.
Romania, Transylvania and Other Things Today brings a double feature from Romanian poet, road scholar and NPR commentator Andrei Codrescu. Shortly after noon, the fearless essayist will be signing books at the Bookstop on Shepherd. Two of his recent publications will probably be available for purchase and will likely top the list for signing: The Muse Is Always Half-Dressed in New Orleans -- a collection of NPR pieces -- and The Hole in the Flag: A Romanian Exile's Story of Return and Revolution. Folks who have copies of any of his other books (such as Raised by Puppets Only to Be Killed by Research) or Exquisite Corpse, the literary journal he edits, should take them.
But Codrescu's main reason for stopping in Houston is a speaking engagement. In his stereotypical distracted professor's mumble and his own charming accent, the perpetually bemused little man explains, "This event is sponsored by the Unitarians, whose religion began in Transylvania in the 16th century, about ten minutes before I was born. I just would like to talk about the region and the current ways in which people get, or don't get, along with each other there." This speaking engagement, Romania, Transylvania and Other Things, will help raise money to fix the roof of the First Unitarian Universalist Church. 8 p.m. Episcopal High School, 4621 Fournace. $15, $10 seniors and students.
Me and the Boys Hip Hop Comedy Stop co-owner and emcee Rushion McDonald will soon be off to L.A., where he and J. Anthony Brown will be writers for the new ABC sitcom Me and the Boys. Back here in Houston, the show's star, Steve Harvey, joins the writers for a series of special comedy shows this weekend. (Don't worry, David Raibon will remain to host the Thursday night 102 JAMZ.) Two shows Friday, three shows Saturday and two shows Sunday. Tonight, 8:30 and 10:45. Hip Hop Comedy Stop, 4816 Main, 437-8444. $13.50 advance, $15 at door.
Art Installation Opening and Performance School's out, so schoolteacher/regurgatomime Jim Pirtle has a little extra time to entertain art fans. Pirtle has described tonight's performance at the River Oaks Three theater, which opens his art exhibit there, as lacking the use of bodily fluids. Pirtle gave only sketchy details to RO3 management, but manager Joel K. Orr is confident that the performance will be just the thing for the stalwart patrons of the RO3. "It can't be any worse," the jaded young manager said, "than Rocky Horror."
The cafe at the River Oaks classic repertory cinema theater has long been an alternative space for artings, but the openings aren't usually this spectacular. Pirtle's exhibit features his paintings -- oil on polyester shirts sewn to sheets. Tonight's opening offers, according to Orr, "a once-in-a-lifetime chance for a truly unnerving cinematic experience." After the last movie of the evening, ten or more 8-mm projectors will be set up in the large auditorium, and Pirtle will present a giant on-screen collage performance piece. The audience will get free popcorn (the finest fluffy yellow coconut-oil-popped movie popcorn in the city) and soda. Around midnight. River Oaks Theatre, 2009 West Gray, 524-2175. Free.
America's First Cat It's not Socks -- he's just a lame old substandard, free-out-of-the-back-of-a-station-wagon-in-the-Piggly-Wiggly-parking-lot runt. The Maine coon cat, however, is a proud and noble breed, 'bout as big as a bear. These rugged, long-haired cats hail from the upper East Coast and maybe kept rats and mice from the corn and grains used in the first Thanksgiving. Maybe Thomas Paine had a Maine coon cat. Some of the exact details of their origin are hard to pin down, but it is known that these heavyweight, unflappable house- and barn-cats were recognized as a type and were valued early in this nation's history.
The Texas Maine Coonfederacy Cat Club, a member of the International Cat Association, is sponsoring a show for both championship cats and household cats, with a couple hundred felines from all walks of life -- Maine coon cats included. The show will be a fine place to pick up informative brochures about cat care and animal control regulations, spay and neuter programs, and breeds you might be considering as a pet. (It's Adopt-a-Cat and Alter-a-Cat-For-Free month at the Houston Humane Society, 433-6421.) 10 a.m.4 p.m. today and Sunday, Deer Park Activity Center, 500 West 13th Street, Deer Park, 474-3602. $3, $2 seniors and children.