The Scarecrow and The Tale of the Fox The natural ancestors of Jack Skellington are the puppets of Polish animator Wladyslaw Starewicz. Don't talk to me about claymation -- this is magical. The element missing in claymation, and the element central to cinema magic, is spookiness. The Scarecrow is a silent movie from 1920. In the 14-minute film, Starewicz used 150 different masks for the scarecrow's expressions. A decade later, The Tale of the Fox was ready. Some scenes show as many as 100 puppets; one three-minute slice of celluloid required 273,000 different puppet scenes. The sloppy and quick-fix-seeking may ask why anyone would take so much time, take so much care, to make fantasies flicker across the cinema screen. This is not a perfect world, and godless, soulless little toadies are always asking idiot questions. Ignore them. Relish the sublime. 7:30 p.m. Museum of Fine Arts, Brown Auditorium, 1001 Bissonnet, 639-7515. $6, $5 members; single show $5, $4 members.
Magical Folktales of Africa This is family theater from Amandla Productions. A good trick is to take the kids through the zoo in the afternoon, to kind of wear them down, then stake out a good spot on the hill and have a picnic supper before the show begins. 7:30 p.m. Miller Outdoor Theater in Hermann Park. All seating is free but tickets are required for places under the pavilion. Call 520-3290 for details or information on handicapped seating.
Soulstice big band night With this and CMC's Friday event, you might think the '40s never ended. Where's Artie Shaw when you need him? This narrow downtown spot has done a brisk business since its opening last spring. Pretty pictures hang on the walls, poets perform and the club owner's stated goal was "filling a void in Houston; bringing people of all persuasions together to witness where jazz meets funk, reggae meets be-bop in a progressive art setting." Still, Soulstice has turned out to be a hang for grown ups. The ceilings are high, the lights are just right and old photos of early Houston can be seen downstairs for those who need to stroll around occasionally. Tonight, Soulstice presents a 16-piece jazz orchestra playing big band music and a blues set. 9 p.m. Soulstice, 910 Prairie, 224-3711. $5.
Jet Ski parade and rally Those who don't take to the waves can enjoy the Jet Ski trick show and live entertainment, and laugh at the mishaps of the Jet Ski rally racers. Or cheer for their favorites. Budweiser and Z-Rock are sponsoring this splashy Labor Day event, so don't expect it to be too serious. (Although proceeds will go to Texas Adaptive Aquatics, a Houston organization that teaches the disabled to enjoy the independence of water sports.) 10 a.m., Clear Lake Park, off NASA Road One. For more information call the hotline, 859-9015.
Labor Day Block Party The name is something of a misnomer. The party is not in a residential area, it's on the Richmond strip. Still, 104/KRBE wants you to meet your neighbors. Around 10,000 of your neighbors, if estimates from the good folks at 104 are accurate. (Ten thousand: that's only one-fourth of 1 percent of the Houston population, a downright cliquish crowd, from a certain perspective.) They've thought of everything. This parking-lot party has a rain room to keep you cool, a fun flush dunking both to keep you fun flushed and goofy sporting-type events such as sumo wrestling and boxer jocks boxing matches. Cause and Effect are the main band, but the all-day concert includes loud music from Anything Box, Dee-Lite, Liberty City, Collage and Red Red Groovy. Noon-8 p.m. Club Blue Planet, 6367 Richmond. Call the radio station for more information, 266-1000. $10.
The Ultimate Louie, Louie Contest Forget those little piddling Louie, Louie contests, because this is the Big Kahuna of Louie, Louie contests. Labor Day seems to bring out the best in radio stations. Oldies 94.5 invites you to "Gather up your kazoo, your trombone, your French horn, your harmonica or whatever "instrument" you play plus your best Louie, Louie voice and come on down ...." Don't get any sick ideas about the quotation marks around instrument. This is a serious contest. Some of the contestants will compete for prizes during the Channel 2 Labor Day Muscular Dystrophy Telethon. Some may even be on TV with Jerry's Kids. Prizes will be awarded (and they're being rather coy about the nature of these prizes) for the best, worst and most creative renditions of the kegger and frat-party classic. Prizes will also be awarded for "whatever we feel like giving away a prize for!" Those who wish to compete should call KLDE, 622-5533, before noon, Fri. Sept. 2. Those who wish to see Louie, Louie contestants cavort should be at Dave & Busters, Richmond at Fountainview, from noon-6 p.m.
Rosh Hashanah Dr. Herbert Levine, the Houston Reconstructionist Havurah's recently appointed spiritual leader, will conduct services in Hebrew and English and recite a gender-neutral liturgy. HRH emphasizes rabbis and lay persons sharing the responsibility for leadership. HRH also supplements its services with readings and prayers chosen for contemporary relevance. Talks and discussions are integral to the services, and music is an important part of the proceedings. All members of the greater Houston Jewish community are invited to attend these "friendly, small and open to all" services. A reception follows tonight's Rosh Hashanah service. Child care and special programs for children will be offered. The services will be held at the I. Weiner Jewish Secondary School, 12583 S. Gessner. To order tickets or for further information, call 728-5050.