Great American Meatout River Phoenix, Ally Sheedy and other celebrities noted for treating their bodies like temples (ha!) have campaigned for past Great American Meatouts; this year, Rue McClanahan and James Cromwell top the star-studded list of plant-eaters urging Americans to forgo meat, for today at least, and experience the joys of more compassionate noshing. For more information, call (800) MEAT-OUT, or visit www.envirolink/org/ arrs/farm/index.htm.
Celebrate India's 50th anniversary It's been five whole decades since India said no to British rule and became its own boss. To celebrate, Brazos Bookstore is hosting a spring reading series by three Indian authors. First up is novelist Vikram Chandra, who used to spend a good deal of time around these parts. His new book, Love and Longing in Bombay, offers five tales for the price of one: a love story, a ghost story, a mystery and so on, all recounted by a civil servant in a Bombay bar. 7 p.m. Brazos Bookstore, 2421 Bissonnet, 523-0701. The reading is free; the book sells for $22.95, and Chandra will only sign copies bought at Brazos.
Smell Patti LaBelle And, if you like what your nose finds, you can smell like Patti LaBelle, too. Those who've already caught a whiff of Patti LaBelle's new signature fragrance describe the scent as a light, exotic blend of floral notes and musk. Today, the benailed one herself will be on hand to plug her namesake perfume. 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Foley's, 1110 Main Street, 651-7038. Ogling, free; products, $27.50-$35.
Big fishing show Anglers come from hundreds of miles away to attend the Annual Fishing Show, where they visit old friends, keep up with the latest technology and, mostly, snare great deals on the paraphernalia a fisherman needs to catch big fish. Learn how to use all the new high-tech gadgets; take a gander at new-issue rods like the Corky, designed for use with soft jerk baits; and sidle up to the worm bar for your choice of wigglers. A full slate of seminars is scheduled daily. Noo-n9 p.m. today and Friday; 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday; 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday. George R. Brown Convention Center, 1001 Avenue of the Americas, 353-1618. $6, adults; $2, children ages six12.
Monkey King A new children's production features not Dave Letterman (that would be Monkey Boy) but a character from Chinese folklore. Lily Chen and Trey McIntyre (yes, of the Houston Ballet) conspired to bring this 400-year-old superhero to the stage. The first part is performed in the traditional Chinese style; the second, set in the 20th century, is rapped. 7 p.m. Through March 30. (See Thrills, Kids, On-stage for additional showtimes.) Presented by Express Theatre at the Children's Museum, 1500 Binz, 759-1314. $5.
Duchamp weekend Marcel Duchamp established himself as one of the most influential artists of this century -- and spawned a repeatedly used sitcom gag -- when he proffered an actual urinal for exhibition. A few decades later, in 1957, the French Dadaist traveled to Houston to talk on "The Creative Act." Now, on the 40th anniversary of that lecture, Rice University hosts "Rethinking the Creative Act," revisiting Duchamp's impact through a symposium featuring a half-dozen Duchamp scholars. 4-5:30 p.m. and 7-8:30 p.m. tonight and 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday. Rice University, Sewall Hall, Room 301, 527-8101, ext. 2770. Free.
Spring Space Out That's the theme for this spring-break happening for brainiacs. At Space Center Houston today, gaze upon a real-deal Martian rock, as well as a replica of the international space station's X-38 crew escape vehicle. In more down-to-earth fashion, conduct your own debriefing of a space shuttle crew. The STS-82 shuttle crew, the space walkers who recently fine-tuned the Hubble telescope, will sign autographs and answer questions, 11 a.m.-noon today. The theme for next week: Speed Week. 10 a.m.-7 p.m. daily through March. Space Center Houston, 1601 NASA Road 1, 244-2105. $11.95, adults; $8.95, children four11; free, children under four.
Don Quixote and the Knight of the Mirrors Unencumbered by norms (such as an organized theater company) and employing various forms of expression (video, puppetry, actual acting), a group of artists have come together to present the many-layered story of the chivalrous but impractical knight. Adapted and directed by Nick Cooper, with an original score by Dan (not Dana) Cooper. 8 p.m. tonight and Saturday and March 28 and 29. EZ Credit Theater, 316 Main Street, 222-0443. $5.
Houston Children's Festival The venue has changed and a fence has gone up and, sadly, for the first time ever it's going to cost money to attend an event at the theater in Hermann Park. But the Children's Festival continues to offer a lot of bang for the buck, not the least of which is a night-topping fireworks display at Miller Outdoor Theatre with Garfield, Odie and a 60-piece symphony orchestra. All day, kids can make their way through 12 Big Family Adventure Zones (a zone for big adventures, that is, not a zone limited to big families) and meet Mario Andretti (!) and Chris Economaki ("The Voice of Indy") as the two host a mini-Grand Prix for kid-size race cars. 9 a.m.-8 p.m. today; 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday. Hermann Park, Miller Outdoor Theatre, 684-6080. $3.95; free, children under three.
Driver Excellence Contest At noon today, teen drivers are gathering to show off their driving skills -- but drag racing, this ain't. Attitude, auto maintenance and knowledge of the rules of the road will help students who've passed driver's ed and have clean driving records to score trophies and free pizza. Houston Community College Northwest, Westgate Center, 1550 Foxlake Drive, 718-5262. Free.
Twilight Zone Cabaret The Orange Show is peeling back its doors for another season, and kicks off 1997 in a spooky-groovy way -- with the eerily pleasant sounds of Little Jack Melody and His Young Turks wafting through the moonlight. The music, described by New York magazine as "Kurt Weill for the Tarantino age" and featuring a tuba, provides only the first odd turn for this night. Dress is Twilight Zone/cabaret wear. 7:30 p.m. The Orange Show, 2402 Munger, 926-6368. $8.
Test your Star Wars trivia George "Doc" Burt, who wrote The Ultimate Unauthorized Star Wars Trilogy Trivia Challenge, is ready to take on all comers, and Jedi Masters of trivia will leave with prizes. We suggest you ask Burt just how long it would take to gain entry into the Emperor's inner circle, and once there, how long one should wait before suggesting the Emperor get a facelift. Who knows? It might lighten up his dark side. Come in costume to improve your chances of leaving with a prize. 3-5 p.m. Barnes & Noble, 3003 West Holcombe, 349-0050. Free; the book is $14.
High Impact Squad acrodunkers AstroWorld takes spring break to the extreme, as in MTV-style extreme sports: Freestyle skateboarders, in-line skaters, BMX bikers and our own slam-dunk heroes, the High Impact Squad, will offer thrills on par with riding the Texas Cyclone. And yes, you do know the High Impact Squad. Their leader, FX, is sort of the Racer X to the Rockets' unfuzzy mascot, hiding his true identity behind a mask; one peek at his thrusting hips and power dunks, though, and you'll know his pedigree. He and the rest of the team -- Ozone, C-4, Eclipse, Reflex and DK -- may dress like Power Rangers, but they know all about athleticism, music and humor. 10 a.m.8 p.m. today; EXTREME festivities continue daily through March 31. AstroWorld, 9001 Kirby Drive, 799-1234. $30.95; $19.95, children under 48 inches tall; $14.98, seniors; free, children under three.
Winefest VII Wine is what you get at Stages's annual fundraiser -- wine, plus foods from various restaurants and a chance to bid on items such as a Hill Country tour of Texas wineries. You'll leave knowing that you had the good taste to support local theater, if not the taste to distinguish between the vintages you gulped down. 7 p.m. Stages Repertory Theatre, 3201 Allen Parkway, 527-0220. $75-$500.
Women's Challenger tennis finals The contest's final match is today, and if the story plays out as a sports fairy tale should,27-year-old Helen Kelesi will be among the competitors. Kelesi was ranked 13th in the world when she underwent emergency brain surgery in 1995; this tournament marks her return to professional sports. Tennis buffs take note: This is the only women's professional tournament we get this year. Singles final starts at noon, with the doubles final immediately after. The Woodlands Executive Conference Center Resort and Country Club, 2301 North Millbend, The Woodlands, (281) 364-6236. Free.
Czech SpringFest What's not to love about accordions, kolaches, gingerbread decorating, folk dancing and jolly Czechs who believe Mlcak is a viable name? Noon5 p.m., St. Christopher's Parish Hall, 8150 Park Place Boulevard. For more information, call Lillian Pivonka at 861-7403. $6.50; $4.50, children under 12.
Gaylapalooza It's the Gay Comedy Jam team plus two, the biggest gay comedy event ever, and its world tour is making a two-night stop here in Houston. For three of the four comedians, the show will be something of a homecoming. Kevin Maye and Scott Kennedy, the Comedy Jam couple, live in Houston, and Georgia Ragsdale (seen on PBS and HBO) grew up here. The odd man out, Bob Smith, was the first gay comic on The Tonight Show. As those mainstream credentials imply, this is comedy even straight folks can enjoy. 8 p.m. tonight and Tuesday. Laff Stop, 1952-A West Gray, 524-2333. $15, with proceeds going to Q-Patrol.
March Madness "Final Four" Don't worry, this has nothing to do with the dullest of sports -- college basketball. The folks at Gulf Greyhound Park just "borrowed" the name for their own seeded elimination tournament. The field has been narrowed to four dogs; drop your dollars on your favorite. 6:30 p.m. Gulf Greyhound Park, I-45 at exit 15, La Marque, (800) ASK-2WIN. $1-$4.
Creating the Wealth Corner As readers of last April's Press story "A Sense of Placement" may recall, feng shui is an ancient Chinese discipline concerned with the spirituality rightness of how things are positioned around us. Of course we Americans have now turned that into the interior design du jour. But hey, that's what's great about this country: We get down to the nitty-gritty. Today, Johndennis Govert, author of Feng Shui: Art and Harmony of Place, will visit the Decorative Center Houston to explain exactly where red flowers should be positioned in a room to help a relationship flourish, and also to describe the "wealth corner," the center of energy for the whole family. 10 a.m. Decorative Center Houston, 5120 Woodway, 961-9292. Free; copies of the book sell for about $20.
The Bunny Bash The Christmas Teddy Bear Crusaders have expanded to a new holiday -- Easter, of course -- and they plan to put a stuffed rabbit into the hands of every child at Hermann Children's Hospital. The first step toward that goal is tonight's Bunny Bash. Bring a plush rabbit, and you'll receive a buffet dinner with live music. 6-10 p.m. Baci Ristorante, 2441 University Boulevard, 666-6098.