Press Picks

december 21
Not necessarily the "Night Before Christmas" Christmas lovers of all ages are invited out to hear readings, not of Clement Moore's A Visit from Saint Nicholas, but of parodies, satires and imitations of the venerable tale. This is the second annual of these whimsical readings, and hearing the variations on the jolly old elf's breaking and entering of a Victorian household should be a hoot. And, certainly, there's no place like a bookstore for last-minute gift shopping. 7 p.m. Borders Book Shop, 570 Meyerland Plaza, 661-2888.

A Celtic Christmas A lot of what we think of as traditional Christmas stuff -- the trees, the holly and the all-important mistletoe -- come from Celtic, or, to be more specific, druidic, traditions. At least that's the accepted story, and hey, citing these traditions is as good a reason as any for a Christmas party with the O'Maoileidigh Irish Dancers. The Texas Chainsaw Ceili Band and the Scottish Rogues will play, too, along with less goofy musicians such as St. Stephen's Choir, the Houston Saengerbund Choir, "Doc" Grauzer the Harper and Ceili's Muse. All this music is to celebrate the birth of Christ and the winter solstice. Although there will be no burning of people in baskets (something Julius Caesar swore those people did), there will be hot food -- roast pig, soda bread and that perennial favorite, haggis. Wash the lot down with "Celtic spirits," cider, soda and coffee. We're told that this fest will have an "extensive coffee bar," something offered not because the Celts were java hounds -- they weren't -- but because the current crop of Celtophiles enjoys the New World flavor of a cup of joe. Bring the kids and join the lively dancing. 4 p.m.-2 a.m. Garden in the Heights, 3926 Feagan, 880-1065. $7; free, children under 12.

december 22
The Attitude Club The holidays, as women's magazines and TV talk shows point out, are a high stress time. While the traffic and credit card stretching and family squabbles might send one screaming for a shrink and his prescription pad, there is a better way to deal with the pressure. Tonight is the next-to-last evening of The Attitude Club, or, we should say, the very last night of yet another return engagement. When Houston performance artist Marianne Pendino's "one-woman seven-character race through the personal growth movement" opened in the summer of1993,itwasextended,and then extended again. Ever since, the lovely and talented Pendino has been fine-tuning her surprisingly touching and wonderfully clever show. Now, she says, "the piece is much more of a play .... It is more focused on my characters' spiritual journey to change a very bad attitude." She has added two characters: Ramon, a paletero who wants to be the Ben & Jerry of Mexican popsicle vendors, and guru Hazel Dun. Through December 23. 8 p.m. tonight and Saturday. Main Street Theater, 2540 Times Boulevard, 524-6706. $15.

december 23
The Last Days of Charles/Kathryn Celebrate diversity, quietly, in the privacy of your own home. Houston's favorite transsexual, Charles/Kathryn McGuire, is the subject of an up-close and personal documentary to be shown on television tonight. Rice University professor and filmmaker Brian Huberman began interviewing construction boss, socialite and transexual Charlie McGuire before the Mr. became a Ms., courtesy of a surgeon's knife. After the operation was complete, Huberman continued recording the most intimate thoughts of the person now known as Kathryn. McGuire tells all, in her own charming, folksy way. The subjects covered include not just her "change of life," but also the mister's pre-surgery existence. This celebration of diversity heralds not only the free-spirited life of Kathryn McGuire, but also our idiosyncratic society. The film, which contains explicit subject matter, also features the country and western song, "The End of Charlie McGuire," a ballad in tribute to the life and times of the male McGuire that used to be. 10:30 p.m. Southwest Alternative Media Project, The Territory, KUHT/Channel 8. Free.

december 24
Back-to-back brunches Christmas Eve and Christmas day, the hard-working cooks at the Omni Houston Hotel will prepare a yummy brunch. Today's brunch is great for those who want a day off before the Christmas cooking marathon; tomorrow's is great for those who ... let's just say that not all cooking marathons are successful. Turkey, naturally, is a main dish at both brunches, but brunchers will also be offered roast beef loin, salmon in brioche (kids love brioche -- it's the haute cuisine version of smiley face toast), Louisiana crab cakes, caviar, omelets made to order, waffles and crepes, leafy green vegetables and a dizzying array of desserts. Along with this feast, adults will be served champagne. (This complimentary champagne, we hear, will not be a Veuve Clicquot. One of the sad facts we learn as adults is that complimentary champagne is rarely Veuve Clicquot. Perrier-Jouët, Roederer and Chandon will be sold by the glass.) Today and tomorrow, 11 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Omni Houston Hotel, in the Palm Court, La Reserve and the cafe, 4 Riverway, 624-4870. $32.95; $16.50, children ages six-12; free, children under six. Tax and tip not included in brunch price.

Give the gift of money While people who want to do good, and have organizational skills, are all set to spend Christmas day serving stuffing to the homeless or visiting the infirm, you, the well-meaning procrastinator, are probably making plans to do the right thing next year. Yes, we know you intended to sign up for some good deed or to contribute to a worthy organization during the holidays. And we know that, despite all your good intentions, the frantic pace of the season overwhelmed you and that you have every intention of contributing to the less fortunate in 1996. But why wait? You could just write a check! Right now! If you don't have a dog-eared brochure to refer to, and can't use your modem to access Houston Public Library information or World Wide Web sites with information on nonprofit organizations, there's still a way to find a worthy recipient for your largess. You can just look in the phone book. The front section of the Yellow Pages has a list of "Community Service" organizations. You could also look under human services organizations or social services organizations. (Humane societies are listed directly after human services organizations.) While regular staff may not be on duty the Sunday before Christmas, some charitable organizations do answer the phones 24 hours a day. Some organizations, such as the March of Dimes, have a voice-mail message that includes the organization's address and zip code, while still others, such as Sheltering Arms, have an answering service that gives out a mailing address. No excuses: if you have a checkbook and a phone book, you can do something right this minute. Write a check, and then take a brisk walk to a mailbox so you can spend tomorrow knowing you finally got around to giving, instead of just planning to get on the stick after the holidays.

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