Texas Monthly has always been a good read, but, image being everything in this postliterate age, the style honchos at TM have never skimped on art. Many of the top lens artists within these borders (and without) have contributed to the magazine over the last quarter-century -- natives like Keith Carter, Geoff Winningham and Geof Kern and internationally known photographers like Mary Ellen Mark, Richard Avedon, Helmut Newton, William Wegman and Mark Klett. But the photos themselves are pure-dee Texas. Those in "The Pictures of Texas Monthly: Twenty-Five Years" include shots of the bold (Wyatt McSpadden's Environmental Enforcer John Hall) and the beautiful (O. Rufus Lovett's Kilgore Rangerette), the mighty (Newton's Heiress-Hotelier Caroline Hunt Schoellkopf) and the meek (Kern's Field Worker), the scary (Danny Turner's Cosmetics Tycoon Mary Kay Ash at Home) and the truly scary (Dan Winters's White Supremacist). 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, noon to 5 p.m. weekends. The Houston Center for Photography, 1441 West Alabama, 529-4755.
If more proof is needed that NBC's Frasier boasts some of the best acting on the mostly boobish tube, here it is: The show's Dan Butler portrays a bit of a boob himself -- the sophomoric, homophobic, hetero-sex-starved sports-show host "Bulldog." But it turns out that Butler, in real life, goes the other way. The actor recently decloseted himself, and his show The Only Thing Worse You Could Have Told Me... details that and other aspects of the gay lifestyle in 14 vignettes featuring 12 characterizations by Butler. Two of the show's centerpiece scenes include re-creations of the conversations he had with his mother and father in the aftermath of his announcement. According to Richard Laub, the artistic director of the group hosting the Houston premiere, "When Dan told his father, [the latter's] response was, 'The only thing worse you could have told me is that you were dead.' " Adds Laub, "Many of the vignettes are clearly autobiographical; there are some touching moments, but it's primarily an upbeat piece." Opening performances are at 8 tonight and Saturday and 7:30 p.m. Monday; the run continues through April 25. The Little Room Downstairs, 2326 Bissonnet, 523-0791. $10 and $15.
Suddenly, folk music is on another cyclical upswing. But don't think "Puff the Magic Dragon"; think folk with a razor's edge. El Corazon, the latest -- perhaps greatest -- album by angst-ridden cowpoke Steve Earle, opens with "Christmas in Washington," an old-school social lament that includes the lines "Come back Woody Guthrie / Come back to us now / Tear your eyes from paradise / And rise again somehow." Similarly, former Blaster and X man Dave Alvin has always been a rocker with a roots bent, but what's roots but folk with a rock beat? Interstate City, one of Alvin's greatest albums, was a paean to the road, to rock and to the smoky pit stops where the two collide, but, like Alvin, the disc had a beating folk heart; highlights of the live effort (recorded at Austin's Continental Club) included covers of Tom Russell's "Out in California," Jim Ringer's "Waiting for the Hard Times to Go" and a medley of Alvin's "Jubilee Train," Woody G.'s "Do Re Mi" and Chuck Berry's "Promised Land" -- the latter another example of folk in rock clothing. Alvin visits tonight as part of the "Monsters of Folk Tour," which co-stars the aforementioned Russell, Chris Smither and Ramblin' Jack Elliott (see page 77). 8 and 10 p.m. McGonigel's Mucky Duck, 2425 Norfolk, 528-5999. $20.
Frolicking on the "beaches" of the Buffalo Bayou sounds dicey to us, so we'll opt for the other enticements at Miss Penny Rabbitte's Bunnies on the Bayou Easter bash: mixing and mingling with the members of the gay/lesbian charitable organization Bunnies on the Bayou and their guests, casting our vote in the big Bonnet Parade Contest, dancing to the "groovin' tunes" of DJ J.D. Arnold (we'll lay odds that the Judy Garland/Fred Astaire duet of Irving Berlin's "Easter Parade" is in the mix) and, not least, raising funds for AIDS Foundation Houston, the PWA Coalition, Steven's House and the Houston Gay and Lesbian Community Center. (The voluptuous Miss Rabbitte is a cartoon character and the Bunnies' mascot.) 2 to 7 p.m. Fish Plaza at Wortham Center, 500 Texas. Info: 923-1900. $20 (minimum donation). (Gratis shuttles run from Rich's, 2401 San Jacinto, the site of this year's afterparty.)
Previous entries in Inprint's Marathon Reading series included The Inferno of Dante (featuring U.S. poet laureate Robert Pinsky) and James Joyce's Ulysses (with selections read by various local thespians). This year's Ernest J. Gaines Marathon Reading honors the author of The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman; the selection is Gaines's Pulitzer Prize-winning '93 work A Lesson Before Dying. Gaines will read along with the likes of Carolyn Farb, Akua Fayette of Project Row Houses, Sterling Vappie of the Ensemble Theatre and various students and teachers from the Houston ISD. 6 to 11:30 p.m. Brazos Bookstore, 2421 Bissonnet, 523-0701. More info: 521-2026. Admission is free; donations are accepted (proceeds: literacy programs at Project Row Houses and the Jewish Community Center). (Gaines also makes an appearance Tuesday as part of the Margarett Root Brown Houston Reading Series; see Readings & Lectures in Calendar.)
Minimalist composer Morton Feldman was an acolyte of John Cage, and it was through avant-gardist Cage that Feldman began his rewarding association with abstract-expressionist art and New York Schoolers like Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, Franz Kline and Philip Guston. Feldman's music is often likened to abstract impressionism, chiefly because of its improvisational, seemingly unstructured quality. Da Camera fetes the late composer in Art As Inspiration: Morton Feldman and the Menil Collection; the program includes Feldman's most famous work, Rothko Chapel, which was commissioned by the Menil Collection and whose performance here is dedicated to the art trust's late founder, Dominique de Menil. Also scheduled: Structures for string quartet, For Franz Kline, De Kooning and To Philip Guston, plus related readings by Houston poets Daniel Stern, Cynthia Macdonald, Adam Zagajewski, Lorenzo Thomas, Edward Hirsch, Susan Wood and Richard Howard. 7:30 p.m. The Menil, 1515 Sul Ross, 525-9400. $20 (Da Camera Music Center: 524-5050).
You've never seen anything quite like the work of German artist Otto Boll. If we'd waded through the artspeak regarding "Otto Boll: Sculpture, Drawing, Projects, Photography and Film" without accompanying visuals, we'd have thought Boll was the dullest artist on earth. But we've seen the visuals, and they're stunning. Example: Boll's "floating sculpture," hypercool pieces of angular invention/optical illusion that form misleadingly simple -- and inexplicably powerful -- black lines in white space; sometimes the steel and/or aluminum rods sprout "wings" like hollowed-out Stealth bombers. Just as cool: Boll's "Black Stone" series, featuring white-chalk variations on his black lines drawn on jet chunks of plaster or artificial stone; the works call to mind oddly configured coffins, mod divans and the monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey. The exhibit opens with a reception for the artist at 7 tonight and continues through May 28. Goethe-Institut Houston, 3120 Southwest Freeway, Suite 100, 528-2787.
Cheri Knight runs a flower farm when she's not harvesting fragrant and earthy songs, but she's no shrinking violet; in fact, the metaphorical rocker "Black Eyed Susie," one of the best selections on Knight's finely rendered second album, The Northeast Kingdom, kicks major ass while celebrating the process of planting and its flip side: the deathlike inevitability of plowing under. The native of Hatfield, Massachusetts, displays the sort of backdoor approach to Nashville country pioneered by Nanci Griffith, Mary Chapin Carpenter and Emmylou Harris. (Emmy lends her voice to several tracks on Kingdom.) Though Knight doesn't sound much like any of the above, she fuses the sounds of these barstool divas in an unorthodox way, incorporating Griffith's Gaelic-tinged folksiness, Carpenter's literate accessibility and Queen Emmy's technical purity (Knight's lovely "All Blue" would've been right at home on Harris's Elite Hotel). 6 String Drag opens. The Fabulous Satellite Lounge, 3616 Washington Avenue, 869-