Blaxploitation Movies: Let's Talk About Them! In conjunction with its series of '70s blaxploitation films, the MFA hosts a panel discussion. The talking heads will include Houston Chronicle film critic Jeff Millar, Houston Community College professor Brenda Jones, poet Lorenzo Thomas and University of Houston professor Garth Jowett. They'll discuss contemporary cinema's debt to such classics as Super Fly, Foxy Brown and Sweet Sweetback's Baadassss Song. 7 p.m. Museum of Fine Arts, Brown Auditorium, 1001 Bissonnet, 639-7300. Free.
Searching for the Promised Land Connecticut Congressman Gary Franks -- the first conservative African-American elected to the House -- is on a book tour, signing copies of his upbeat autobiography and defending his controversial political beliefs. 68 p.m. Nia Gallery and Bookshop, 7725 West Bellfort, 729-8400.
Geek chic Landmark Theaters is offering you, the ticket buyer, a chance to win valuable prizes and show the world your nerdy junior high self. Tonight and tomorrow night at the 7 p.m. shows of Welcome to the Dollhouse, highly trained theater employees will collect photos (or quality copies) of patrons that show them at their adolescent worst. In return, the theater will give all willing victims a film pass valid at either Landmark theater, plus, each night, the person with the geekiest photo will win a Dollhouse prize set. (Soundtrack CD, posters, movie passes, dinner for two, ponytail holders with weird plastic balls on top ....) Landmark warns, "All photos (or copies) will go on display at the River Oaks 3 (unless you're just too darn embarrassed!) and will not be returned." 7 p.m. tonight and Saturday. River Oaks 3, 2009 West Gray, 524-2175. $6.75; $4.25, seniors and children.
Jake Johannsen He's not Tim Allen -- and that's not meant to reflect badly on Mr. Tool Time or Johannsen; it's just a way of saying that Johannsen's comedy is subtle, even sneaky. The low-key comic likes to tell long, weird stories about family life and such -- and Texans traditionally go ape over well-told tales. He can do bits, and even jokes, when the spirit moves him, but Johannsen would rather meditate on toasters or mumble at length about "SALT talks with his sister about where, exactly, the middle of the back seat was." Tonight and Saturday, 8 and 10:30 p.m. Laff Stop, 1952 West Gray, 524-2333. $12.99.
Ashik Kerib National news shows and CNN offer the average American a lot of information from Armenia and Georgia, reporting on elections and political struggles and such. But for a look at the human side of the region, see Sergei Paradjanov's 1986 film. His visual style makes any midnight movie you can think of look like a ketchup commercial: Ashik Kerib includes tigers, machine guns, magic carpets and medieval costumes. Based on a story by Mikhail Lermontov, the plot follows a Turkish minstrel, Kerib, on a quest. Shown as part of a double feature with Swan Lake: The Zone, an homage to Paradjanov made by his disciple Yuri Illiyenko. (Special note to all friends of Dorothy: these films could be construed as a Pride Week event, since Paradjanov was often thrown in jail for being gay. Homosexuality did not go over well back in the U.S.S.R.) Program begins at 8 p.m. Museum of Fine Arts, 1001 Bissonnet, 639-7515. Double feature, $6; $5, seniors and students.
Houston Symphony and Hilary Hahn The Summer Symphony Nights series opens with Stephen Stein conducting and 16-year-old violinist Hilary Hahn demonstrating her virtuosity with Camille Saint-Saens' Violin Concerto. 8:30 p.m. Miller Outdoor Theatre, 100 Concert Drive, Hermann Park, 520-3290. Free.
Canoe tour Not enough bugs on your suburban lawn? You need some major bites, a bit of muscle ache and possibly a nice sunburn? Try a canoe tour of the Brazos River. Wilderness Furnishings and the Brazos River Preservation Society will show you the beauty of the river on a slow, quiet paddle on waters the color of coffee with cream. You bring your lunch and drinking water; the preservation society provides canoes, paddles and life jackets. $15. (Those with their own canoes and gear can join the tour free of charge.) Tours begin promptly at 8:30 a.m. For more information, or to make a reservation, call 980-3545.
From Blank to Beautiful East End kids will be painting building walls this summer -- but at least some of them will do it while supervised by honest-to-god artists, and with the permission of the walls' owners. On weekends now through mid-August, several artists will help kids create murals on three walls frequently tagged by gangs. The gig is open to all kids ages ten-19, and the Orange Show enthusiastically invites those who are at risk or already involved in gang activity. Adult volunteers are also needed, and donations of painting supplies would be appreciated. 9 a.m.noon. The Orange Show, 2402 Munger, 926-6368 (orangeoINSYNC.NET).
SNAKES ALIVE! GET IN TOUCH WITH THE OPHIDIAN WORLD, LEARN ABOUT REAR-FANGED SNAKES AND STARE INTO THE UNBLINKING EYES OF LIVE REPTILES AT A PARK PROGRAM LED BY HERPETOCULTURIST MIKE HOWLETT. SNAKE LOVERS OF ALL AGES ARE WELCOME. (SUNDAY, AT 2 P.M., THERE'S A PROGRAM ON REPTILE HUSBANDRY.) SNAKES ALIVE!10 A.M. JESSE H. JONES PARK & NATURE CENTER, 20634 KENSWICK DRIVE, HUMBLE, 446-8588. FREE; ANYONE REQUIRING SPECIAL ASSISTANCE SHOULD CALL AHEAD TO MAKE ARRANGEMENTS.
ROBIN LEACH AND CAROLYN FARBo Together at Last! Former Rocket Robert Reid and cheery Aussie TV star Robin Leach will join their very dear friend for "The Magic of Carolyn Farb," a roast and toast honoring her life of twisting arms to raise money for good causes. Tonight's good cause: the Trinity Life Center for abused and neglected children, which teaches kids self-respect and lets them work with horses and perform ranch chores. Black tie. Cocktails and silent auction, 6:30; dinner, 7:30; entertainment, 8:30 p.m. Doubletree Post Oak, 2001 Post Oak Boulevard. For tickets, call308-1000. Suggested underwriting levels, $1,500$10,000.
Unity: Together We Can Continue to Make a Difference Lee Brown -- former police chief of Houston and New York, former national drug czar, current Rice professor -- will address the local chapter of the National Association of Black Accountants Inc. Will he finally announce that he's running for mayor? Is he auditioning potential campaign treasurers? Is he explicitly courting the black-accountant bloc vote? Don't expect answers. 6:30 p.m. Sheraton Astrodome, 8686 Kirby, 241-0215. $50.
The Bar Art Show An exhibit of work culled from bars. Really. Prankster/artists the Art Guys and three unidentified "special guest curators" have gathered objets from dives and posh spots throughout the Gulf Coast. Opening 8 p.m.1 a.m. Contemporary Art Guys Museum, 631 West 22nd Street, 880-2302.
Texas Grape-Grazing Not that we're sick of beer festivals, but it's about time we had a celebration of the grape. Texas wines, vintages with a long history beginning with Catholic Spanish conquistadors who had to have communion wine, are the flavor of the day. Reds and whites from Grape Creek, Llano Estacado, Messina Hof, Ste. Genevieve and other wineries will be poured, and food from fine downtown restaurants will be served. Take note, trendoids: there's a cigar seminar! All this and live music. (And, yes, beer.) Noon6 p.m. Market Square Park, downtown at Congress and Travis. $2, sampler ticket; $3, taster ticket; $6, connoisseur kit, with wine glass, notebook and taster ticket.
Pride Knows No Borders Press releases and announcements have been arriving for weeks, announcing events connected to Lesbian and Gay Pride Week with the earnest charm of Kiwanis missives. The female grand marshall, we were told, was elected at a "heavily attended meeting." (And with good reason, apparently: Jeanette Vaughn is a longtime member of the Royal, Sovereign and Imperial Court of the Single Star, and bears the title "Imperial Queen Mother for Life.") In any case, the end result of all those committee meetings is Pride Week, and its crowning events are today's parade and Pride Fest. The parade begins at 5 p.m., and runs down Westheimer, from Woodhead to Whitney. At 7 p.m., the parade dead-ends into the fest, at the corner of Taft and Lovett. For more information, call 529-6979, e-mail info//www.pridehouston.org/~pridehou.
A Retrospective of the Works of Massimo Troisi Before Il Postino made him famous, actor Massimo Troisi did a lot of good work. Now, eager to satisfy American appetites for "that skinny guy with the big eyes," the Cecchi Gori Group and Miramax Films have assembled a retrospective package with four other thoughtful, sensitive Troisi films. (The weekend features are listed in Thrills, Film & Video.) The Houston tour concludes with tonight's feature, Che Ora E (What Time Is It?), a 1989 film directed by Ettore Scola and, reportedly, Troisi's favorite among the three films he made with the director. In a shift that may startle Postino fans, Troisi plays the son of a lawyer (Marcello Mastroianni). Three shows this evening. Landmark, Greenway 3, 5 Greenway Plaza, 626-0402. $6.75.
Pint for a Pint Ben & Jerry's and the Blood Center have joined forces. The Vermont ice-cream makers have announced a new flavor, the iron-rich Hemoglobin Hash, and... Okay, I made that up. But in an attempt to make donating blood more appealing, the Blood Center is offering a "Pint for a Pint" trade off; you give blood, you get a coupon for ice cream. You can give (and get) at any of the Blood Center's fixed-site facilities or at a mobile center. For more information, call 790-1200.
The Book of Mercy Houstonian Kathleen Cambor -- a protege of the late Donald Barthelme and a student of Rosellen Brown -- has produced a first novel that draws heavily on her own bizarre life experience: specifically, the discovery that her in-laws belonged to a secret alchemy society and cast spells. Her novel is about a woman trying to understand her own father's oddball religious ideas. She reads at Brazos Bookstore. 7 p.m. 2421 Bissonnet, 523-0701.