Christmas in July Frequently during the holiday season, one wants to give to charity but is strapped for cash. You can't use the Christmas-spending excuse at this time of year. Knowing that, and knowing that it's too darn hot, MIX 96.5 unwraps a holiday gift drive today. Santa will be on hand, figure skaters will sweep across the ice and carols will be sung. Best of all, this will all happen in the cool comfort of the Aerodome Ice Skating Complex in Sugar Land. All proceeds go to the MIX 96.5 Christmas Wish gift fund. 14 p.m. Aerodome, 16225 Lexington Drive, 790-0965. $5 gets you everything for the ice-skating party -- admission, skate rental and refreshments -- but you can always donate more.
Opossums and Low-Tech Laundry Opossum lovers of all ages are welcome to attend"Opossums:Factand Fantasy," a talk about the glint-eyed garbage-eaters who dwell in our forests, garages and sewers. This Friends of Texas Wildlife presentation, hosted by the Jesse H. Jones Park & Nature Center, will cover the habits of these living fossils and explain what they think they're doing here in North America, being marsupials and all. The possum expert will also dispense Native American lore and tips for homeowners who are sick of losing pet food to the greedy creatures. Moon, Harris County Precinct 4's non-releasable opossum, will represent his species, live and in person. "Opossums: Fact and Fantasy" starts at 2 p.m. From 13 p.m. Saturday, park personnel invite everyone to the Redbud Pioneer Homestead for a historical re-enactment of a pioneer wash day. After this, you'll go home and kneel down in thanks before your appliances. Jesse H. Jones Park & Nature Center, 20634 Kenswick Drive, Humble, 446-8588. All park programs are free. Call ahead to arrange disabled access.
Afro-Nouveaux Local merchants who deal in African and faux-African designs will display their fashions, along with the clothes of New York designer Paul Lawrence. This is a regular fashion show, with hot hors d'oeuvres and cocktails, but it's also a sale. Bring your checkbook, and plan to stock up on African clothes and art. Presented by M.E.D.I.A. (Multi-Expressive Dramatic, Informative Artists). 5 p.m. Ovations, 2536 Times (at Kirby), 526-7996. $15, advance; $20, at the door.
George Foreman's Knock-Out-the-Fat Barbecue and Grilling Cookbook First he's a huckster for Fritos; now he's Mr. No-Fat. Oh, well, at least in his dotage, George Foreman has the good sense to find some work outside the ring. His latest book is jam-packed with healthful recipes, and "filled with George's wit and charm." (Purists who think barbecue means beef fat should see the Wednesday Picks.) 7:30 p.m. Barnes & Noble, 7626 Westheimer (at Voss), 783-6016.
A Little Yellow Dog Walter Mosley is even more popular since his Easy Rawlins mystery Devil in a Blue Dress was made into a major motion picture. Never one to rest on his laurels, Mosley is in town promoting the fifth Easy Rawlins mystery, A Little Yellow Dog. (Yes -- shades of Travis McGee -- each of the Rawlins books has a color in the title.) At noon, the author stops by Murder by the Book, 2342 Bissonnet, 529-CLUE, mrdrbybk30, he talks to fans at Barnes & Noble, 7626 Westheimer (at Voss), 783-6016.
Andrew Lloyd Webber -- Music of the Night The songs are the work of a man so successful that Madonna and Michael Jackson both probably envy him, and the show stars gypsy-maned Grammy-winner Melissa Manchester. 8 p.m. Through July 28. Tuesday through Friday, 8 p.m.; Saturday, 2 and 8 p.m.; Sunday 2 and 7 p.m. Wortham Center, Brown Theater, 629-3700. $25$45.
Buzz Aldrin Astronaut Buzz Aldrin, one of the men who actually walked on the moon, took a cue from William Shatner and, with hisoriginalcareerwaning, stepped into the writing arena. His science-fiction novel, Encounter with Tiber, was officially released yesterday, and today Buzz will sign copies at three area stores. (Buzz didn't walk on the moon alone, and he didn't write the book alone. His co-author is Hugo and Nebula nominee John Barnes.) Buzz will promote his book, promote the space program and shake paws with book buyers from 3:305:30 p.m. at Jeremy's Bookshelf, 2441 Bay Area Boulevard, Clear Lake, 486-8028; from 6:308 p.m. at Future Visions Books, 10570 Northwest Freeway (Highway 290 between Mangum and 34th), 682-4212; and at 8:30 p.m. at Borders Book Shop, 9633-A Westheimer, 782-6066. Buzz will sign only books purchased at the bookstore where he is appearing.
Smokestack Lightning Will George Foreman show up for this? Author Lolis Eric Elie and photographer Frank Stewart celebrate the release of their social history of barbecue with a taste-off. Smokestack Lightning: Adventures in the Heart of Barbecue Country discusses sauces ranging from standard red to Vietnamese duck, and describes the men and women who have made this country's barbecue great. A dozen local joints will present their barbecue for tasting, and local folks will compete not only as cooks, but also in a "Keeping Clean and Getting Creative" contest for creative bibs, aprons and chef's hats. 711 p.m. The Orange Show,2402Munger,926-6368, email@example.com. $15; $5, children under 12.
Speakeasy Somewhat in conjunction with Blaffer Gallery's "Asia/America" show, Lawndale Art & Performance Center presents a two-part video series, "Home: A Series of Short Videos and Films." Tonight's program offers Xich-Lo, a 20-minute study of a Vietnamese woman preparing to visit Ho Chi Minh City; HOME, a 37-minute feature about the identity issues of two Indian women; Letter Back Home, a video letter about the inner-city life of Laotians and Cambodians in San Francisco; and White Christmas, "a personal documentary of Philippine culture 'after 400 years in a convent and 50 years under Hollywood.' " 7 p.m. (The series' second part is tomorrow.) Lawndale Art & Performance Center, 4912 Main Street, 528-5858, firstname.lastname@example.org. Free.