Everything Texans Need to Know About the Other 49 States, a "mockbook" by Friendswood residents Brook and Julie Syers, is good for a laugh. You open it up, and all the pages are blank. Har-har. Strangely, though, the Syerses seem to think they're performing some kind of public service with the book. An excerpt from its only page of text: "We don't know anyone, with the exception of students, who has time to read anymore. There is just too much to do and not enough free time. Fortunately for you, a mockbook only takes a couple of minutes to read and will make you laugh out loud, thereby saving you time and improving your health."
Only people who never read (clearly not you, gentle reader) would need us to point out how silly that is. Still, the Syerses have already broken even on the self-published volume, which is being sold at real bookstores, including Texas Capitol Giftshops, Y'alls Texas Store, Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.
Apparently, the Syerses had originally planned to write a book containing some sort of text. But then, says Brook Syers, "I came across these statistics in a bunch of different places that people who buy books aren't reading." So the couple nixed that project and came up with the idea for a mockbook, which was surely an easier project to complete.
The choice of subject -- what little there is -- wasn't hard. "We have a room in our house with nothing but Texas stuff," says Syers. "Everybody knows how much we like the state. This was a good way to help everybody else celebrate that pride." And for all you people out there who would like to save time and improve your health, more mockbooks are on the way. For information, visit www.mockbooks.com. $7.95. -- Cathy Matusow
An economic slump makes people hold on to their cash. But sewing your bills into your mattress is a risky venture -- after all, what if there's a fire? At Leisure Learning Unlimited's Investing in an Uncertain Economy class, you can learn about making your moola work for you in stocks, bonds, mutual funds, commodities, real estate and precious metals. Maybe the instructors will persuade you to purchase a few gold bars. At least you'll know they won't evaporate overnight the way so many companies do these days. 1:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, June 14. 2990 Richmond, suite 120. For information or to register, call 713-529-4414. Free. -- Cathy Matusow
So you think you're funny -- Mike Vance can help
If you're not funny, you're never gonna be funny. But if you've got some talent, 25-year comedy veteran Mike Vance can help you become a stand-up comedian. His comedy class at the Laff Spot focuses on writing funny bits and developing timing and technique. "I came there just to work on my segues, but he helped me with some of my material," says recent student Ryan Sparks. Since most comics get their start as emcees, host and emcee skills are also part of the comedy curriculum. "I'm thinkin' in the next two months I can get an emcee job," says Sparks. If nothing else, the class imparts confidence. 7 p.m. Tuesdays from June 17 through August 26. The Laff Spot, Texas Highway 249 at FM 1960. For information, call 281-955-9200 or visit www.laffspot.com. $425. -- Eric A.T. Dieckman
A beat photographer shares the work of his fans
Robert Frank's first book of photographs, The Americans, pierced through the superficial optimism of the '50s to reveal a grainy world of cool melancholy, inspiring Jack Kerouac to write that Frank "sucked a sad poem right out of America onto film." Apparently, Frank also inspired several generations of photographers to suck just as hard as he did. He has given the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston nearly 200 photographs sent to him over the years. "For Robert: Images Given to Robert Frank by Other Artists" shows the vast scope of his influence on contemporary photography. Frank has personally arranged the groupings of these images without identifying labels, so audiences can check them out before finding out who the artists are. The exhibit runs through August 10 at the Caroline Wiess Law Building, 1001 Bissonnet. For more information, call 713-639-7300 or visit www.mfah.org. $3.50 to $7 (free on Thursdays). -- Keith Plocek
Take Your Chances
Art aficionados can pick out works by well-known artists whether or not they have signatures. But that doesn't mean they'll be taking the best works home from "Blue Hawaii," the second annual Luck of the Draw DiverseWorks Summer Auction. Guests can purchase $100 "Artwork Chances" that allow them to choose works of art from a selection of almost 200. The key, though, is to draw a ticket that lets you pick your painting early on. "There's definitely going to be a wide range of works," says Gina Sonderegger of DiverseWorks, "from recognized artists to people that are local and maybe aren't as well recognized." 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 18. 1117 East Freeway. For information, call 713-223-8346. $25 admission. Hawaiian dress encouraged. -- Cathy Matusow