Captioned Ransom The good people of Silent Entertainment present a captioned screening of Ron Howard's thriller about a self-made millionaire (Mel Gibson) who attempts to rescue his kidnapped son. The theater holds 300, and organizers urge those in the hearing-impaired community to turn out early to secure a seat. 7:45 p.m. Meyerland Cinema, Meyerland Plaza, Loop 610 at Beechnut, 666-0735. $6.75, adults; $4, children and seniors.
Johnny Biscuit Like the food that shares his name, Biscuit's image is one of simple, white-bread goodness. Imagine: A vulgarity-free comedian who's funny enough for TV and safe enough for a first date or a night out with your mom. 8:30 p.m. The Comedy Showcase, 12537 Gulf Freeway (at Fuqua), 481-1188. $6.
11th Annual Tri-Star Collectors Show Several years back, I went to one of these shows hoping to score a 1989 Ken Griffey Jr. Upper Deck. I found one -- a few, in fact -- all going for about 20 bucks. I scoffed, and have lived to regret it: Today, that same card goes for $65. Griffey's not among the heavy-hitters scheduled to appear at this show, but the all-star lineup is deep. To name only a few: boxer Muhammad Ali; football Hall of Famer Jim Brown; and Deer Park native and 1996 World Series hero Andy Pettitte. For their autographs, you'll have to pay extra, but some hometown heroes will sign for free. On deck this evening are beloved ex-Astros J.R. Richard (5-7 p.m.) and Joe Sambito (6-7 p.m.), plus up-and-coming Oiler receiver Chris Sanders (5-7 p.m.). Also, 200 vendor booths and the Legendary Ladies of Baseball (the real women behind A League of Their Own). Show hours are 3-8 p.m. today; 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday; 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday. George R. Brown Convention Center, 1001 Avenue of the Americas, 840-STAR. Admission is $5 in advance (Ticketmaster, 629-3700), $7 at the door. Autograph tickets range from $15 (Ken Norton) to $99 (you guessed it -- Ali).
Knock-out Parkinson's Gala Ali is the star attraction at the Collectors Show Saturday and Sunday, but tonight the Greatest is the special guest for this black-tie fundraiser for the disease he suffers. Tonight's extra special because it's Ali's 55th birthday; anyone who goes to this party gets to share the cake. Proceeds benefit the Houston Area Parkinson Society and the Parkinson Foundation of Harris County. 7 p.m., reception; 8 p.m., dinner and dancing. First City Bank Building, Main at McKinney, 626-7114. $150.
Stella in Studio: The Public Art of Frank Stella, 1982-1997 No, this is not who Brando was screaming for in A Streetcar Named Desire. This is famed abstract artist Frank Stella, who's set up shop in town while he works to produce a mural for the University of Houston's new Moores School of Music building. The huge project -- $1.5 million and 5,000 square feet of Stella's "pictoral architecture" -- is expected to draw tourists, even. And there are more rewards to reap, starting with this exhibition that encompasses Stella's public-art projects, and includes maquettes, sculptures, paintings, drawings, sketchbooks and works never before seen outside the artist's studio. Among the highlights is a three-dimensional interactive model of the Moores School work in progress. Reception, 7-9 p.m. tonight. Through March 23. Blaffer Gallery, University of Houston (entrance no. 16 off Cullen Boulevard), 743-9530. Free.
Holly Nuber She led the Pearland High School girls' softball team to the 5A championship last year, earning coach of the year honors from the Houston Chronicle and the Texas Sports Writers Association. The school fired her anyway -- something about paperwork and not following orders -- or was it perhaps a combination of gender discrimination and suspected lesbianism? (For more details, see "Hardball," Bonnie Gangelhoff's July 4, 1996 Press story on the subject.) Either way, Nuber's now spending her time mulling her legal options and sharing her insight with others. "If you set your mind to it, you can accomplish almost anything" is the theme of this month's LiB (Lesbians in Business) gathering. 7 p.m. Innova Building, Greenway Plaza, 529-0077. Call for prices.
Acrobats of the Chinese Zodiac It's show business, Asian-style; it's circus without the elephant poop; it's 2,000 years of tradition and a lifetime a training culminating into a night of dance, athleticism and awe-inspiring feats. The Chinese Golden Dragon Acrobats are making their third visit to Houston, and they're bringing with them a bag of tricks that includes the "Tower of Chairs," during which Chang Yu-Ching places four champagne bottles on two tables, balances seven chairs on the bottles, then lifts himself atop the wobbly edifice for a one-handed handstand. After all that, you can bet the audience will burst into applause -- just as audiences have for succeeding generations of Chang acrobats. 7 p.m. Cullen Performance Hall, University of Houston (entrance no. 1 off Cullen), 743-5198. Tickets are $10-$15, and are available through Ticketmaster, 629-3700.
Fifth Fly-Tying Festival Some of us still wonder why an otherwise sane adult would voluntarily stand knee-deep in cold water. But if you are one of those otherwise sane adults -- the ones who find fly-fishing relaxing, even fun -- this fest offers a chance to learn fly-tying techniques and buy the gewgaws of the dedicated hobbyist. Novices -- even kids -- can learn to tie the Wooly Bugger and even how to interest a fish in such a thing. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Travelodge, Apollo Room, 2828 Southwest Freeway, 526-4571. $10; $8, seniors; $5, kids under 18.
Triple Focus As a dancer, Sean Curran pounded, beat and snapped his way through Stomp and won a Bessie Award for his work with Bill T. Jones. As a choreographer, he's taught at Harvard and Wesleyan, and had his dances performed at festivals from Denmark to Tel Aviv. His new "(Another) A Musing Machine," which he has set on the Chrysalis Dance Company, debuts at tonight's Dance Month at the Kaplan concert. Joan Karff's New Dance Group and Texas Dance Theatre share the bill. 8 p.m. Jewish Community Center, Kaplan Theatre, 5601 South Braeswood, 551-7255. $12; $7, seniors and students.
13th Annual International Piano Festival As founder of this pianofest, UH professor Abbey Simon did the honors at Friday's festival-opening recital; at 2 p.m. today, he hosts a master class. But one artist does not a festival make, and this year's guests are John Bayless, a native Texan and so-called modern-day Franz Liszt, and Santiago Rodriguez, the 1981 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition silver medalist and one of today's foremost interpreters of Rachmaninoff. Bayless, whom some may remember from his CD Bach Meets the Beatles -- a Billboard chart-topper in the '80s -- will conduct his own master class at 2 p.m. today and is featured in a recital at 4 p.m. Sunday. Rodriguez grabs the spotlight at 7:30 p.m. tonight. Dudley Recital Hall, University of Houston Moores School of Music, 743-3167. $14 per event; $7, students and seniors.
Carnaval Brasileiro Texas Stevens and Pruett, mark your calendars: At this event, sensual music inspires women to shed their inhibitions, don outrageous costumes and expose substantial stretches of skin. Carnaval Brasileiro Texas is a 20-year tradition in Austin, where 3,500 partygoers turn out each year. Since it's new in Houston, this festival may draw a smaller crowd, but the festivities will be full-scale: costumes a la Carmen Miranda, the Latin rhythms of Susanna Sharpe and the Samba Police and five hours of Brazilian-style dancing and revelry. This is an all-ages event, though a cash bar will be available, and promoters warn that preteens may find the experience a bit overwhelming. 8 p.m.-2 a.m. Adam's Mark Hotel, Grand Pavilion, 2900 Briarpark Drive. $20 in advance (available through Ticketmaster, 629-3700); $25 at the door.
Folk Songs Folks Sang Bayou Bend celebrates the songs average people use to express themselves, the sort of homemade music that's passed down through generations. Now, this Family Day event offers you professional help in passing the tunes down to your own kids. Performances are at 1:30 and 2:30 p.m., with music provided by Oasis for Children; KUHF/88.7 FM fills in the gaps. And there are craft workshops, too. If older siblings can't hang with the banjo jam, the grounds of Bayou Bend await their exploration. 1-5 p.m. Bayou Bend Collection & Gardens, 1 Westcott (at Memorial Drive), 639-7750. Free.
Martin Luther King Day Parade and more Today we celebrate the 68th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s birth, and the Black Heritage Society provides us a chance to do so in usual holiday fashion -- starting with a grand parade. Marshals James Douglas, Rod Paige and Lee P. Brown and a slew of marching bands, floats and dignitaries will start at Texas and Louisiana and wend their way to Tranquillity Park between 10 a.m. and noon. Immediately afterward, a festival kicks off at the George R. Brown Convention Center on the other end of downtown. "We the People" is the theme, and, indeed, there'll be 30,000 or so of us, perusing African art and scarfing festival foods. That shindig shuts down at 6 p.m., but the hoopla continues 30 minutes later with a children's pageant. George R. Brown Convention Center, 1001 Avenue of the Americas. For more information, call the Black Heritage Society at 995-1082. Free, parade and festival; $5, pageant.
Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 After the Los Angeles riots, Anna Deavere Smith conducted more than 200 interviews, and drew on them to create the dozen or so "characters" of Twilight. She plays a Korean grocer, a "homeboy," a white juror in the Rodney King trial, Reginald Denny himself and others as she explores the racial and cultural differences in the U.S. For her efforts, Smith has won an Obie and a MacArthur "genius" grant; Newsweek called her "the most exciting person in American theater." Opens tonight at 7:30 p.m. Through January 26 (for additional showtimes, see Thrills, Theater). Wortham Center, Cullen Theatre, 500 Texas Avenue. Tickets are available at the Alley Theatre box office, 615 Texas Avenue, or by calling 228-8421. $26-$36.
Play bridge With cigars, martinis and lounge music back in favor, it was only a matter of time before bridge returned as well. And returned with a trendy vengeance: Loads of newcomers now play the card game in cyberspace. Sure, there's an attraction to hunkering down with your PC, chasing a slam with your new partner from China (bridge, after all, comes complete with its own language). But down deep, wouldn't you prefer to pull trump with a real-life foursome, with a roaring fire and a baby grand to occupy you when you're dummy? Maxim's restaurant opens its piano bar in the afternoons for players who'd like to make a go of it. If you know the difference between Blackwood and a biddable suit, make your reservations now. Maxim's, 3755 Richmond, 877-8899.