Fly by Night Here's a test. What do Bizet's Carmen, Buckwheat Zydeco's "Sitting in My Ya Ya" and Bobby McFerrin's "Spain" have in common? Absolutely nothing -- except that they all accompany new dances created by the Duplex's resident dance company, Fly. The dancers are all male and completely urban, and they know how to sashay and hip-hop and muscle themselves across the floor like no la-di-da ballerina can. Enjoy a glass of free wine while you sit and chat with the choreographers and performers after the show. 8 p.m. tonight thru July 26. The Duplex, 1924 Brun. Call for reservations at 521-4560. $8.
Success with Less: Starting a Business with $300 or Less Aren't most millionaires in this country self-employed entrepreneurs? After all, this is the land of Horatio Alger's dreamy myth, where all smart, hard-working boys and girls can grow up to be rich. If you still believe in this quintessential American illusion, College of the Mainland says it has the course for you. In this short seminar led by Cathy Stucker, learn to "start small and build big" and to "use what you have and what you know," along with many other tricks of the entrepreneurial trade. 6:30-9:30 p.m. College of the Mainland, 1200 Amburn Road, Texas City. Call to register: (281) 280-3991, ext. 373; or (409) 938-1211, ext. 373. $26, residents of Texas City, La Marque, Dickinson, Hitchcock or Santa Fe school districts; $31, non-residents.
SAM Fest '97 The dulcimer and the lonely-sounding music it makes have been around since the 15th century. Today, it's associated with Appalachian folk music that's hard to find in almost any commercial venue. This weekend, hear all the dulcimer music you want at the Summer Acoustic Music Festival. Besides performances, the festival will offer a series of classes and workshops on a number of instruments including the dulcimer, autoharp, fiddle and guitar. Contests abound, and some of the prizes offered are handcrafted instruments. The whole thing starts this evening with a covered-dish supper and jam session. (See Thrills, Music, for more times and dates.) 6 p.m. St. Mark Lutheran Church, 1515 Hillendahl, (281) 370-8993. In-towners need only bring a covered dish to get in; out-of-towners are asked to make a donation.
Poo Giveaway For all you serious gardeners out there, here it is: head-high piles of life-giving dung, ready for the taking. Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is oh-so-generously giving away its hay-eating creatures' "pure and unadulterated" poo, mineral-rich and chemical-free; get it while it lasts. Bring a shovel and a container, and don't forget to let it age several months before you use it. And offer some to the neighbors. That way they can't complain about the smell. Noon-1 p.m., The Summit, 10 Greenway Plaza.
Rudz! Opening Okay, so Rudyard's sign has blazed RUDZ in red neon for a way long time; and yes, the new space upstairs has been the home of some raucous good times for at least a month already. But tonight is the real, official and true-blue opening of the new club up there entitled, as you have probably intuited, Rudz! And what an opening it will be. That vagabond theater company Infernal Bridegroom is premiering its latest show, Cowboy Mouth, written by Sam Shepard and Patti Smith, a play that seems absolutely right for such a scungy theatrical venue. It's about Shepard's low-down, hard-drinking, drug-reveling days and the kind of cooked-up love that only that kind of self-abuse can make. Later in the night, around 10, listen to "willful child" Mary Cutrufello tease musical magic from her guitar as she sings her strange country lyrics about love in the days of the dysfunctional family. And at the witching hour, Texas Guinness Lovers and their Irishy-folkly rock and roll will take center stage. It all starts at 8 p.m. Rudyard's Pub, 2010 Waugh Drive, 521-0521. Tickets for Cowboy Mouth, $6.99; all the rest is free.
A Celebration of Hip-Hop Culture For those of you completely out of the know, a b-boy is a breaker and a breaker is a breakdancer. Want to learn more? The Orange Show offers an opportunity no pop-culture nitwit should pass up, a chance to discover that hip-hop isn't all about gangsta rap and death. Come and be introduced to what the Orange Show has conveniently categorized as "the four basic elements of hip-hop": 1) DJs, those folks who produce weirdly musical noise by mixing and scratching records on turntables; 2) MCs, or rappers; 3) b-boys and b-girls, flying, leaping, spinning street dancers; and 4) writers, also called taggers and graffiti artists, people who have managed to turn the spray can into an artist's tool. Those of you who have found this whole explanation tediously old news may recognize the performers: among them, lyrical groups THENOMAD and Imphatigo; DJs Baby C. and Baby Roo and the Mathematechs DJs; plus dance crews K.O.R.O., Dynamics and Action Figgaz. 7 p.m.-11 p.m. The Orange Show, 2401 Munger, 926-6368. $5.
Sweet Success You've seen them on TV, those lithe little girls triple-salchowing through the air, more birdlike than human with their ribbony arms and legs and flouncy flapping skirts. The Ice Skating Institute is now affording you an opportunity to see figure skaters in person without traveling all the way to Nagano, Japan, (which is where the 1998 Winter Olympics will be held). This third annual "Sweet Success" challenge features exhibits and competitions in 30 individual and team events at a range of skill levels. 5-8 p.m. (See Thrills, Sports, for other dates and times.) Aerodrome, 16225 Lexington Blvd., Sugar Land, (281) 265-7465. Free.
Carl Hampton Memorial Tribute Festival Twenty-seven years ago, Houston cops approached a Black Panther to ask that he not sell the group's newspapers in the streets. The man ran into Panther headquarters, and a group, including 21-year-old leader Carl Hampton, emerged and aimed guns at the cops, daring them to shoot. After a 45-minute standoff, the police backed down. A week later, Hampton gave a short speech in front of Black Panther party headquarters in which he argued that "revolution is not necessarily a violent confrontation," then crossed Dowling to check out reports that white men were perched on top of St. John Baptist Church. He was shot once, fatally, by a police sniper hiding atop the church, as was Roy Bartee Haile, a white activist who attempted to pull Hampton out of the road as the police continued to fire. After Hampton's death, he became a kind of revolutionary saint; in the words of Sepia magazine, he was "the only black man in Houston who had drawn his gun on a Houston policeman, stared 'The Man' down, and come out a winner, at least temporarily." Today, to mark the anniversary of his death, join the New Panther Vanguard Movement, the Nation of Islam, S.H.A.P.E. Community Center and the Black Heritage Society as they salute Hampton. Speakers, poets and musicians such as Nomad and D.R.U.M. will be on hand to entertain and burnish Hampton's legend. 1-4 p.m. Emancipation Park, off Dowling and Elgin. For information, call 521-0629 or (281) 623-7333.
Fondren Discovery Place The Houston Museum of Natural Science's new installation is a 6,600-square-foot area that holds a recreational factory floor and a research lab full of interactive physical science exhibits. In the "Works" area, you can feel in your very own palms what happens to the heavy stuff of the world when gravity goes away. In the "Waves" laboratory, learn how sound turns into music and how seemingly clear light breaks into color. And figure out how to make movies move on the "Wonder" platform. Besides all that, there is a tornado that never moves and a ball that never falls, and if all that's not enough, today there is also free pizza, face painting, prizes and, of course, all the other exhibits at the science museum. 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Houston Museum of Natural Science, One Hermann Circle Drive, 639-IMAX. $3; $2, children under 12.
Miss Black Houston/Miss Black Teen Houston Pageant finals Watching a bevy of beautiful girls and women strut around a stage, hoping to get noticed just because they're beautiful, is as politically incorrect as you can get -- but what the hell. These pageants take place at a university and all the contestants are supposed to be good girls; after all, they do have to be in school in order to compete. And besides, if you get terribly political about it, you could argue that the feminists have done such a darn good job over the years that women no longer need to adhere to the fascist strictures of political correctness. In any case, the show starts at 6 p.m. Texas Southern University, 3100 Cleburne (University Auditorium), 771-6513. $15.
Chorus Auditions Is your voice deep and manly? Have you ever secretly dreamed of singing on a stage in four-part harmony? (Admittedly, that's a desire most of us would keep to ourselves.) If so, tonight is your night to shine. The Houston Tidelanders Barbershop Chorus is looking for a few good men -- sorry to you smoky-voiced women -- who sing bass and baritone and who don't mind singing a capella. Attend the rehearsal and see what you think (and what they think of you). 7-10 p.m. Bethany Christian Church, 3223 Westheimer, 466-7795. Free.
Comets vs. Cleveland Rockers Near the top of the WNBA in team defense, the Houston Comets have a better record than the Astros and are upholding the honor of women's b-ball, where the salaries don't soar into the tens of millions but the talent burns bright. And their games are affordable. If you haven't been yet, what are you waiting for? The games are a great date and an even better family outing, and there aren't that many more chances to see our women here at home before the season ends. 7:30 p.m. The Summit, Ten Greenway Plaza, 627-9622, $8-$35.50.
James Lee Burke Murder By The Book has come up with a wonderfully innovative way to celebrate an author's arrival in town -- match good and easy books with some good and greasy food. And crime fiction lovers will tell you that Burke's arrival deserves a little celebrating. His writing career has crossed from the elite literary world, where he was a Pulitzer Prize nominee, to the popular fiction land of movie options, movie stars and hugely famous characters such as his Dave Robicheaux, Louisiana crime detective. Tonight Burke will read from his latest book, Cimarron Rose, which is set in Texas; and you can eat Tex-Mex barbecue while you listen. Buy your tickets early in the day at Murder By The Book, 2342 Bissonnet; none will be available at the door. The dinner/reading takes place at 7 p.m. Longhorn Cafe, 1200 McKinney. Call 524-8597 for information. $20 includes the buffet.
Noontime Series Give up: This is Houston and it's July and that can mean only one thing: It's hellishly hot outside. Once you realize that, you have two choices: 1) Hole up in the coffin-like cool of a high-rise office all day; or 2) Use a little imagination. Think balmy Pacific air, long, spindly coconut trees waving in the wind and a small bit of ocean winking in the sunlight that scatters over its surface. Maybe a little Hawaiian music would help fill out this scenario? You got it. Sunny 99.1 will feature tunes from the Polynesian Cultural Center today at its Noontime Concert Series in Hermann Square. All you need is a lunch, the bravery to venture out in the heat and a little imagination. Think white sand, cool water, and a lovely salty breeze. 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Hermann Square (on Smith Street between Walker and McKinney). Free.