Art that has just begun The Christmas shopping season, is practically at our throats. So wise mavens should get out and catch up on their art enjoyment -- a pastime undoubtedly neglected during the sweltering summer -- before holiday responsibilities and holiday traffic destroy life as we know it. Paintings by Robert Helm are now hanging at the Blaffer Gallery. This is the first major show by the northwestern artist. His still lifes are eerie, in an engaging way. His sparrows have their eyes on you. Through Dec. 18. Tue.-Fri., 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sat. & Sun., 1-5 p.m. University of Houston, entrance no. 16 off Cullen, 743-9530.
Art that's ubiquitous Bring Beavis and Butt-head into your own home! Yes, the lovable TV teens can be yours for mere money. Fine Toon, right here at home, is the very first gallery in the entire U.S. of A. to offer original animation cels of head-banging America's favorite cartoon couple. Mon.-Fri., 11 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sat., 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sun., noon-5 p.m. 2427 Bissonnet, 522-6499.
The Future is Not What It Used to Be Ah, but what is? Peter Blake, author of No Place Like Utopia and God's Own Junkyard and formerly editor of Architectural Forum, will lecture on what we can, in his considered opinion, expect. Does he envision a neutopia of Monster Trucks barreling through the smoldering wreckage of goober arcologies? A vast wasteland? Attend and find out. Be prepared for what is to be. Blake is known for his way with words, as well as for his way with space and design. 6:30 p.m. University of Houston College of Architecture Theatre, entrance no. 18 off Elgin. (It's the building with the Doric temple folly on the roof. Said folly based on a design by Age of Reason utopian architect Claude-Nicolas Ledoux, shamelessly ripped off by Philip Johnson. You can't miss it.) 743-8154. Free and open to the public.
Wayne Newton Ol' Eagle boy himself has flown in from Vegas to do a super-duper show in the round. "Danke schsn, oh darling danke schsn...." Oooh! I can hardly wait. What do you suppose he'll wear? Black leather? Something with feathers? Brut and a Speedo? Get your tickets now and get ready to squeal. 7:30 p.m. Houston Arena Theatre, 7326 Southwest Freeway, 988-1020. $34.
Keenlies Hey, if you can't afford the Newt Boy, check out Brad Moore and his happening band. Brad Moore is not quite as stylish as the Waynoid, not just yet. But he's working on it. And he has a band. They cover Rush tunes and sing their own original wailings and ravings and occasional droolings. Tons o' fun guaranteed. Tenish. Rudz, 2010 Waugh, 521-0521. $3.
Lou Ann Barton Lou Ann Barton is a plain, unpretentious blueswoman. Although her crooning is high class, her origins and current mores are not haute. Once upon a time, she wandered into a saloon in the afternoon. She was fresh from a bout with a bottle of fragrance. "My, that's lovely," said a gentleman impressed by the scent. "What is it?" "It's perfume," was Barton's proud answer. 9:30 p.m. (Doors open earlier.) Fabulous Satellite Lounge, 3616 Washington, 869-COOL. $8.
Dia de los Muertos There are ofrendas, alters with mementos and offerings for those who have passed, all over this Southwestern town; those who loath crowds should seek them out. Lawndale's seventh annual Day of the Dead celebration is sure to be a big party. Perhaps even too big. A Houston Press Romance Event has added to the festivities. (5:30-7:30 p.m.) After the mixing and mingling of the singles, everybody parties. Costumes are encouraged (by me, at least) and there will be live music and live performances and, for the best show of all, you can slip upstairs and look out over the crowd. Pan de Muertos will be sold, along with other Mexican food and margaritas, beer and wine. 7-11 p.m. (The ofrendas and retablos will remain on display, Mon.-Fri., 10 a.m. 5 p.m.; Sat., noon-5 p.m., through Nov. 5.) Lawndale Art & Performance Center, 4912 Main, 528-5858. Free admission, cash on the barrelhead for food and drink.
Little House of Horrors There are some spook houses that scare by being clearly not up to any building standards whatsoever; not so with this moldering manse. Here, the things that go bump in the night are not vital struts giving way. All thrills and chills are carefully planned and executed effects. You get your old boogies: Frankenstein, Dracula, Karloff's limping mummy Kharis and generic witches. You get your new boogies: Leatherface, Jason and Freddy. (Whither Pinhead?) Wander, if you dare, whoo-oo-oo! through the dark, every night through Halloween. Till midnight weekdays, till 2 a.m. weekends. 22420 Highway 249 at Spring Cypress Plaza (four miles north of Willowbrook Mall at Wal-mart), 840-2BOO. $8.
Screamers Not the Mamet play but something really scary, albeit in a more straightforward manner. This Screamers is another haunted house. It's altogether ooky. Gosh, I love this stuff -- thrills, chills, weird noises and other inane excuses for screaming. Whee! Hwy. 50 South at West Airport (just south of Beltway 8 at Wal-mart), 840-2BOO. $8.
Zoo Boo What must the animals think? Here come hoards of costumed little children and all the grounds are redecorated. Instead of pleasant walkways, the open areas of the zoo are now taken up with a hay bale corral, the Wheel of Creepy Critters, a haunted house and a pumpkin patch. Tricks and treats and face painting will take place while magicians and puppets entertain. And, most important, there are plenty of indoor activities in case of bad weather. The children's party at the zoo begins at 10 a.m., there's a costume contest at 2:30 p.m. and most of the fun winds down around 4 p.m. Houston Zoological Gardens, Hermann Park, 1515 North MacGregor, 525-3300. $2.50, $2 seniors, 50 cents for children, free for children under 12 in costume or having proof of purchase from Clemente Jacques Salsa and accompanied by a paying adult.
Halloween The ween that is hallowed and all it's attendant festivities are official today. No one takes paganism seriously anymore, save Camelia Paglia, who has no sense of humor. Oh, sure, there are practicing pagans and even Wiccans afoot, but they're having fun. Everyone should. Bob for apples, bob for beer, bob for crabs. Try the tried and true or start your own tradition. Wouldn't it be a fine holiday tradition if Tim Burton made a new movie for every Halloween! Or, at least, if Ed Wood somehow fell into public domain and became very popular with broadcasters, as It's a Wonderful Life did? Ah well, the holiday is not yet so organized, although the Houston Parks and Recreation Department is working on it. Throughout the Halloween weekend, 43 city parks will hold celebrations. Today, between sometime after school and a little bit after dark, 22 parks will offer safe celebrations, carnivals and haunted houses for kids ages 6-18. It's all free! We don't have the space to list every location. Call your local park office, or Parks and Rec at 845-1177, for details.
Nine Inch Nails See, Trent Reznor is just a big sweetie. Way back when, when planning the current tour, he selected our town for the Halloween show. We should all feel special. Call Nine Inch Nails what you will -- and note that Reznor prefers the appellation "pop" -- their work to date and especially the "Closer" video has a certain Great Pumpkin mood. I mean, really, after all those long nights alone in the pumpkin patch, Linus probably passed through puberty quite twisted and grew up to be the sort of man who would spend hours and hours alone with his electronic toys, mixing music.
I doubt anyone knows what sort of theatrics Reznor will present -- although he has repeatedly sworn he is more careful of his person than, say, Iggy Pop. Perhaps he will burst out of a Great Pumpkin. Who knows? Maybe he'll just bathe himself and the band in gooey pumpkin pie mix. Wouldn't that be a nice change from cornstarch and mud? Whatever, illusion and horror are part of the package, even before the band takes the stage. Summit parking looks like a nightmare, but actually it's almost efficient. Meanwhile, once in the arena, getting any kind of beverage is almost impossible. Brightly lit, full-service stands are every few feet and yet ... and yet the lines are endless. (Although not as bad as the lines for the restrooms -- now there's a horror story.) One would hope that, for this special Halloween show, barkers would work the crowd selling not hot dogs but pig heads on a stick or perhaps live lizards. Unlikely, though. Probably the same old beer and pretzels. Nine Inch Nails with Marilyn Manson and The Jim Rose Circus. The Summit, 10 Greenway Plaza. Tickets available from any broker and the Summit box office, 961-9003. $22.50-$25.
Ensemble Rebel This fresh, young Dutch ensemble is quickly establishing an international reputation. If you doubt the acclaim of critics and baroque music lovers in Utrecht, Brussels and Vienna, then give a listen to their debut CD, L'Immortelle. The group is most often praised for playing as musicians, rather than as scholars -- although no one would dare besmirch their scholastic skills. The ensemble: Jsrg-Michael Schwarz and Karen Maire Marmer on violin; Gail Ann Schroeder on viola da gamba; Pieter Dirksen playing harpsichord and organ; and Mike Fentross playing chitarrone and baroque guitar. Vitale Lust am barocken Klang! 8 p.m. Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church, 6221 Main Street, 497-7382. $15, $10 seniors and students.
China Wakes Oregon native and Harvard and Oxford law grad Nicholas Kristof and his New York wife and New York Times correspondent Sheryl WuDunn have put out a book that attempts to explain China for the Western world, especially for the Western banking and business world. The title comes from a Western comment on China. Napoleon said, "When China wakes, it will shake the world." China, according to Kristof and WuDunn, is waking, and the world is shaking.
Kristof and WuDunn lived in Beijing, China, for five years and admit that gathering information there was "no picnic." However, they did cull a few items of interest. For instance, they say secret (at least to most of us) Communist Party documents describe the world's greatest known episode of modern cannibalism. The flesh of the dead was eaten by more than a thousand Chinese who supped upon "class enemies" to demonstrate their commitment to Communism. They also say that China is thick with millionaires. Reservations are suggested. Book signing and luncheon 11:30 a.m. Omni Hotel, 4 Riverway. Call the Asia Society for ticket information, 439-0051. $30.