Shannon Lucid Last week, youngsters were invited to party with Darth Vader; today, they can meet a space figure even more awe-inspiring: Dr. Shannon Lucid, fresh from her record-setting flight aboard the space station Mir. She's spent 223 days of her life orbiting the big blue marble we call home -- no woman has done more -- so maybe she can explain how a person could wile away so much time up there. 2:30-3:30 p.m. Moody Gardens, Garden Lobby, 1 Hope Boulevard, Galveston, (800) 582-4673. Free.
Amelia Long before Shannon Lucid was setting records on high, Amelia Earhart set out to prove that women were indeed more than poor relations in the house of male adventurers. Now, choreographer Michele Brangwen, working with Rice University professor and composer Arthur Gottschalk and three local dancers, has attempted to capture the spirit of Earhart, her sense of exuberance and daring, through dance. The site-specific work was recorded on video at Hooks Airport in Spring, and will be shown at 3 p.m. today. Beforehand, there will be a slide show and video on women in the space program -- and, indeed, the roles of women in the space program have changed significantly since astronauts first proved they had the right stuff. Tomball College Teaching Theatre, FM 249 just north of Main Street, Tomball, 351-ARTS. Free.
Methodist Health Care Houston Marathon This is Houston's largest sporting event of the year, right down to its large tales of struggles and courage. Take for example the story of David Smith, 59, a TCB vice president who's bouncing back from prostate cancer to take his second stab at finishing the marathon; his trainer is former Olympic marathoner Mark Conover, himself a Hodgkin's disease survivor who ran 50 miles a week while undergoing chemotherapy. Smith and the rest of the remarkable athletes competing in the marathon will take off at eight this morning from the George R. Brown Convention Center. Highlights of the 26.2-mile course, for the viewer anyway, include the Mecom Fountain, where runners will pass by between 8:40 and 9:30 a.m., University Avenue through West U about 15 minutes later and, of course, the finish line. If you're not up to completing a marathon and you're not content to be a spectator, you can show your Houston pride by running in the Downtown 5000 5K fun run, which also begins and ends at the convention center. 7:45, wheelchair start; 8, marathon start; 8:15 a.m., Downtown 5000 start. For more information, call the race hotline at 957-3453.
Julian Calendar New Year Party And you thought New Year's was over. In the land of opportunity, though, there's always more. In 1974, Greg Harbar, frontman for the Gypsies, threw the first of these Julian calendar New Year's parties for his Orthodox friends. The celebration has since grown so large that Harbor and his bandmates now hold their fest at Blue Planet. And as you can imagine, a party this large attracts every ilk of reveler: the Russians, Ukrainians and Czechs are now doing the polka, the frailach (my favorite) and the jig with the Greeks, the Irish, even the Cajuns. Ethnicity isn't a concern; a love of ethnic music is. The Gypsies invite you to dress in your favorite ethnic costumes, and we implore you -- Cajuns included -- to exhibit good taste. Joining the Gypsies will be Myllarit (the Millers), of the Karelian Republic in northwest Russia, and Lenya and Vladimir, a duo from Kiev. 5 p.m.midnight. Blue Planet, 6367 Richmond, 978-5913. $6.
1997 Inaugural Ball Republicans with open wallets are just as welcome as their Democratic counterparts at this Inaugural Ball, a gala fundraiser for United Cerebral Palsy. There's nothing like a night of luxurious dining and quality entertainment -- the latter by way of Grady Gaines and the Texas Upsetters -- in the name of bringing money and awareness to a worthy local cause to convince a good-hearted Houstonian to put his politics aside. The ubiquitous auction for this event is anything but common, featuring tickets for two, compliments of Monica Seles, to the U.S. Open, along with a signed racket, and, thanks to Tony Vallone, a private dinner bash for 12 in his restaurant. 6:30 p.m. Tony's, 1801 Post Oak Boulevard, 522-1051. $175.
Hidden Secrets of Rubber: Ancient Native American Toys and Modern Space Suits The Smithsonian Voices of Discovery lecture series continues with Mary Baker, a research chemist at the Smithsonian Conservation Analytical Laboratory, and her presentation on the development and conservation of space suits. If you've been to Space Center Houston and tried on the sample helmets they have there, then you're no stranger to looking goofy and you're well aware of the clunky nature of spacewear. Judging from her title, Baker's more interested in function over fashion, and can explain why space suits have developed as they have. 9:30 a.m. Houston Public Library, Moody Branch Library, 9525 Irvington, 697-2746. (For additional lecture times, see Thrills, Museums.) Free.
Looking at Art Some people can look at a painting of geometric shapes and see a tree. They gaze upon a giant canvas of squiggles and stand in awe of the motion and energy portrayed. You, too, can learn to see that way, and without taking any illegal substances. Local art collectors Marshal and Victoria Lightman will lead novices on a tour of Houston's contemporary art scene, starting tonight at McMurtrey Gallery, where Sandi Seltzer Bryant will talk about her works. The class meets weekly for five weeks, during which time students will become familiar with the major players in Houston's art world, discover new and unusual places in Houston, meet stimulating people and learn the proper shade of black to wear when being artistic. 7-9 p.m. McMurtrey Gallery, 3508 Lake Street, 868-9589. $60.