Strictly Business Computer Expo '96 Get on the bus -- the Silicon Graphics Magic Bus, that is -- at this huge event devoted to the latest and greatest in hardware and software. See it all now -- after all, it'll be obsolete in 18 months. 10 a.m.6 p.m. Astrohall, Astrodomain, Kirby at Loop 610. For more information, call 894-8007. $20.
Le Guignol de Lyon The French puppet-theater troupe makes its first Houston appearance and performs La Fontaine's Animals (Les Animaux de la Fontaine). It's in French, but don't worry if you're not fluent. Puppetry is like silent movies: dialogue is incidental. Presented by L'Alliance Francaise at the University of St. Thomas, Jones Hall, near the intersection of West Alabama and Yoakum. For more information or reservations, call 526-1121. $10; $5, students.
All in the Timing This witty, fast-paced production is actually an evening of six short comedies by David Ives, who worries about language, modern problems and first-year philosophy-student issues. Oh, and adult issues -- this show is not for kids. Opening tonight, 8 p.m. (Further showtimes listed in Thrills, Theater.) Strand Theatre, 2317 Ships Mechanic Row, Galveston, (409) 763-4591. $12.
Women's Interest Network monthly breakfast meeting Meet Pamela Yip! Yes, the Chronicle's perky and informed Money Matters columnist will be the featured speaker. She'll talk about women in the workplace and smart ways to accrue assets. 7 a.m. University of Houston Hilton, 4800 Calhoun, 743-9550. $15.
Harriet the Spy So that impressionable young minds won't have to rot their brains in front of the TV, Sony Theatres offer kids a chance to rot their brains at the movies. The Kids Film Series presents after-school and weekend shows of recent hits. This week, Harriet the Spy. Next week, Flipper. For more information, call the Sony Theatre in your neighborhood. Free for kids 12 and under; $1, adults with kids.
12 Minutes Max! The extra two minutes, that's what gets me. When this type of performance-art smorgasbord originally appeared, they were for ten-minute acts. Did DiverseWorks add the extra two minutes to stand out? For the benefit of the performers? Because they enjoyed the syllabic music of the number 12? Or was it just a whim? In any case, this episode of 12 Minutes Max! features dance works, many by young artists. 8 p.m. DiverseWorks, 1117 East Freeway, 228-0914, email@example.com. $12; $7, students.
Haunted Hotels 'Tis the season for spooks: if the presence of Frankenweenie on cable doesn't convince you, then perhaps the bumper crop of haunted houses will -- not to mention Haunted Hotels. Haunted Hotels I and II will have lines around the block by next week, so see them now. 8 p.m.midnight tonight ; 8 p.m.10:30 p.m. Sunday and then weekdays starting Monday. 2803 and 2817 Fannin, 267-7800. $7, one house; $10, both houses.
Tosca Yee-haw! It's opera time again, ma! Come on out for Puccini's dark, dramatic tale of lust, art and death. Australian Michael Blakemore, a director well-known for his work on the West End and Broadway, makes his Houston debut with this Houston Grand Opera production. His Tosca is Kirov Opera prima donna Galina Gorchakova. Opening tonight, 8 p.m. (Other performances listed in Thrills, Theater.) Wortham Center, Brown Theater, Texas Avenue at Smith, 227-ARTS. $20$175.
Opera gala A black-tie event after the opening of Tosca, this fundraiser takes place in the Founders Salon with a late supper on the Brown stage. For gala invitations, call Judy Waters, 546-0242. $250, single tickets; $3,000$10,000, tables.
Hermann benefit concert Harry Connick Jr., Chaka Khan and Dana Carvey will perform at a benefit for Hermann Life Flight. The helicopter-to-hospital program -- which, by the way, receives no public funding -- is celebrating its 20th anniversary. 7:30 p.m. The Summit, 10 Greenway Plaza, 629-3700. $30$50. For special Gold or Platinum Circle seating, call Hermann, 704-4800.
Hope Therapy horse show See disabled kids who've improved their muscle tone, range of motion and balance through hippotherapy -- that is, therapeutic horse riding. Their show demonstrates the value of such programs and, the Hope people hope, will move you to contribute some money to the cause. Along with the riding kids, today's fundraiser features a dancing Arabian, the Chambers County Drill Team, carnival games and concessions. 8:45 a.m.3:30 p.m. Moody Gardens, One Hope Boulevard, Galveston, (409) 744-1745. Bring money for the silent auction.
Circus Flora For the third glorious year, the Children's Museum's annual fundraiser brings Circus Flora to town. Ivor David Balding's one-ring show is part of the New American Circus movement, an anti-Ringling, neo-traditionalist trend. Circus Flora is a steadfastly simple show (Balding calls it "pure") with one elephant (Flora), a couple of horse acts and a Wallenda (Tino) on the high wire. Today's show is part of a family day circus party; family day begins with a show at 9:45 a.m. and continues till 1 p.m. Regular circus shows in the 1,500-seat tent through October 27. The Children's Museum, 1500 Binz, 227-ARTS. Tonight, $35 adults, $25 kids. (Other nights, tickets are $8$25. See Thrills, Kids, All Over.)
Pumpkin Patch Okay, this fall fest has a little extra that really counts. Yes, yes, they've got a spooky graveyard, scarecrows and a patch full of Halloween pumpkins, but it also has a mule-drawn hay wagon for rides around the neighborhood. Decent people never miss a chance to teach their kids about mules. 11 a.m.5 p.m. Nature Discovery Center, 7112 Newcastle, 667-6550. Free. Bring money for the pumpkin sale and craft booths.
Bocktoberfest Music Festival There's not a hotel room to be had in all of Lavaca County tonight, 'cause this Saturday, 15,000 lovers of Texas music are expected to deluge Shiner as the Spoetzl Brewery hosts this city's second annual music fest. The Hollisters and Carolyn Wonderland and the Imperial Monkeys, Houston's contribution to the aural extravaganza, will kick-start the show about the time you're trying to digest your lunch; silken-haired Ian Moore, the Fabulous Thunderbirds and hot, hot Robert Earl Keen are the headliners. Rent a Winnabego or shanghai a designated driver and make a day trip of it to experience what may well be the only nightlife the 2,000 or so townsfolk here will see all year. And be sure, the beer -- Shiner products, of course -- will flow as freely as the music. 110:30 p.m. Spoetzl Brewery, Highway 95 in Shiner. For info, call (800) 5-SHINER. $20,orvisittheShinerWebsite (http://www.Shiner.com) to win free tickets.
America: Women Vote! That's a statement, an imperative and the name of a multicity project to rile up the female electorate. EMILY's List, which raises money for pro-choice women Democrats, today hosts a rally to support Congressional candidates across the country. 1:30 p.m. University of Houston, University Center, Houston Room (entrance no. 1 off Calhoun). $100. (202) 326-1400, extension 3049.
The Fantasticks See an old, oft-performed show with a lighthearted love theme, and see young, largely unpracticed actors who may grow up to be famous. Matinee today, 3:30 p.m. High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, Black Box Theatre, 4001 Stanford, 942-1966. $9.
A Streetcar Named Montrose ... the Musical The Halloween Magic Players, persons of considerable energy, some wit and no scruples whatsoever, have prepared a theatrical benefit for the Bering Community Service Foundation and Body Positive Houston. Previous offerings have included The Sound of Montrose, The Phantom of Montrose and Montrose Boulevard. A good time is always had by all, and the whole thing (the evening includes a reception with the cast, cocktails and silent auction) is for a good cause. Liddy Dole, Hillary Clinton, Elyse Lanier and Blanche DuBois are all spoofed in this musical, and Edward Albee is the honorary chairman for the event. 6:30 p.m. Texas Medical Center Conference Center, 2151 Holcombe, 587-6005. $35.
AutumnFest Around here, we really don't have any autumn to fest. We don't have outdoor ice skating either. And the marvelous thing is, people cope. The Greater Houston Skating Council, a group who can arrange an artificial environment (such as an indoor ice skating rink), hosts a showcase, AutumnFest, in the brand-new Texas Ice Stadium. Local skaters will show their stuff in a dress rehearsal for the season's first qualifying competition for the National Figure Skating Championships. 24 p.m. Texas Ice Stadium, 18150 Gulf Freeway (near the Clear Lake exit), 623-2272. $5.
Electric harp Ray Pool plays jazz on an amplified, plug-in harp, but he also does all the typical New York harpist things. Many Broadway shows have featured his fine fingerwork, and he plays for the Waldorf's daily tea. One Houston show only. 7:30 p.m. Ovations, 2536-B Times Boulevard, 522-9801, firstname.lastname@example.org. $5.
Coming Home to America Torie Osborn will sign her new book, subtitled "A Roadmap to Gay & Lesbian Empowerment," and share her message about being out all the time, in every situation, until finally bigots shut up and go on with their lives instead of always trying to figure out the sexual preferences of everyone they meet. Osborn, a snub-nosed cutie, practices what she preaches, despite difficulties: after she came out, her mother didn't speak to her for six years, and though she met with Clinton, he doesn't seem to have been listening. 7 p.m. Crossroads Market Bookstore & Cafe, 1111 Westheimer, 522-7988, email@example.com.
Margarett Root Brown Houston Reading Series The literary dames for tonight's word orgy are poet Heather McHugh and short story writer and essayist Mary Gaitskill. McHugh, a pleasant-faced woman with the air of a baker, or maybe someone who would have been a goatherd six generations ago, is a busy bee who's published five books of poetry, three of translations and one of essays. 8 p.m. Museum of Fine Arts, Brown Auditorium, 1001 Bissonnet, 743-3013. $5; free, seniors and students.
David Copperfield He sings, he dances, he dates supermodels! And, of course, he does magic. He made the Statue of Liberty disappear (it came back) and now tours the world with a Las Vegas-size and -style spectacular. David Copperfield: The Magic Is Back makes four Houston appearances. 6 and 9 p.m. tonight and tomorrow. Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana, 629-3700. $35$45.
Simply Barbra After seasons with themes such as "Dangerous," "Sin" and "Rapture Theater," Theatre LaB now unveils the "Fascinating Women" series. Steven Brinberg's Streisand revue is the opener, and it's quite a gem. For at least three years, Brinberg's show ran in New York's Don't Tell Mama (which is a real cabaret, because the front part of the room is a plain bar where people go, not for entertainment, but to drink). He earned rave reviews for his work, and even a mention on Saturday Night Live. Opening 8 p.m. tonight. (Subsequent shows listed in Thrills, Theater.) Theater LaB, 1706 Alamo (off the 2100 block of Houston Ave.), 227-