Accordions aren't just for polka musicians and "Weird Al" Yankovic anymore. They've clawed their way into the earnest alterna-mainstream, thanks to musicians like Gloria Deluxe and Mark Growden. After all of Growden's (mostly jazz) instruments were stolen seven years ago, he stumbled upon an accordion in the basement of the elementary school where he was teaching. That squeezebox helped him find his voice as a singer-songwriter, and since then, he's been building a base of fans who can appreciate the accordion for what it is: haunting, melodic and beautiful. Seriously. You can catch Growden working the bellows and singing his humanistic story-songs today at Helios. 8 p.m. 411 Westheimer. For information, call 713-526-4648. $5.
Friday, November 7
Take the title of today's screening at Rice Cinema at its word: Actors do get naked in Nackt ("Naked"). The German film brings three couples together for that classic evening's entertainment for the paired-up: the dinner party. When the question of how well the partners know each other comes up, they decide on a straightforward course of investigation: identifying each other's naked bodies by touch alone. We're no strangers to the dinner party circuit, but we've never seen anything like that go down between the cheese course and the coffee. 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Rice University, entrance no. 8 (off University Boulevard). For information, call 713-348-4853 or visit www.ricecinema.rice.edu. $6; $5 for students and seniors.
Saturday, November 8
The skating rink Christmas tree at New York's Rockefeller Center isn't lit up until a tasteful week after Thanksgiving. Count on Houston to do it bigger, sooner and indoors. Today the Galleria invites you to its annual tree lighting at the skating rink in the O.G. (that's "original Galleria"). Santa will be sliding into town atop the Zamboni, with any luck avoiding the performing skaters and Harbor Lights Choir. For the charity-minded: The mall is collecting canned goods in advance of Thanksgiving, and shoppers can select the holiday wishes of underprivileged children and nursing home seniors from a Salvation Army Wish Tree. 6 p.m. The Galleria Ice Skating Center, 5075 Westheimer. For information, call 713-622-0663 or visit www.shopsimon.com. Free.
Sunday, November 9
Turn off that TV -- there's nothing on but sports and Ghostbusters 2, anyway. Rediscover the nearly lost art of reading today, just up 290 at Austin's Texas Book Festival. Close to 200 authors from Texas and a few from other states (ho hum) will be on hand, participating in panels, readings and book signings. B-movie critic Joe Bob Briggs will be at Austin's Alamo Drafthouse Cinema both Friday and Saturday at midnight, screening clips of movies he discusses in his new book, Profoundly Disturbing: The Shocking Movies that Changed History. At Saturday's authors' party, you can see Amy Tan in full dominatrix gear, along with Dave Barry, Scott Turow and the other writer-musicians in the Rock Bottom Remainders, a second-career garage band with plans to sully Austin's reputation as a live-music mecca. Festival: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Capitol and Capitol Extension, 409 Colorado, Austin, 512-476-1320. Free. Alamo screening: Midnight, Friday and Saturday, November 7 and 8. $7.50. Authors' party: 8 p.m. Saturday, November 8. Austin Music Hall, 208 Nueces. $40. For information, call 512-477-4055 or visit www.texasbookfestival.org.
Monday, November 10
Poetry can be a little precious and dainty sometimes. When a poet writes of a "trembling flower," does he mean a breeze-blown garden plant, or something below the waist? You don't have to wonder when you read works by Sharon Olds and Galway Kinnell. With lines like "Your penis slowly caressed me / as if you were licking me goodbye" (Olds) and "Right then, over toast and bramble jelly / if such things are possible, she came" (Kinnell), these poets make their subject matter plain. The two will be reading some of their candidly concupiscent new works today. Bring someone to whom you'd like to send a clear message. 7:30 p.m. Alley Theatre, 615 Texas. For information, call 713-521-2026 or visit www.inprint-inc.org. $5; free for students and seniors.
Tuesday, November 11
Going to Scott Gertner's Sky Bar today is like tuning in to the last episode of American Idol. There's plenty of drama left, but you'll have been spared the truly floptastic performances. Welcome to the final round of Power 97.5's R&B Talent Search. The winning performers from three previous Tuesdays will be belting out smooth jams, angling for a $5,000 cash prize (but alas, no record contract). The competition is being held because, as Power 97.5 program director Maurice DeVoe says, "Outside of karaoke, there are not a lot of opportunities for local singers to showcase their talent." One of the judges will be from local R&B label Music World, which is run by Beyoncé's dad and boasts Destiny's Child as one of its acts. Perhaps the label knows something that we don't, and is really just looking for a fresh voice to fill that rotating third Destiny's Child slot. 7 p.m. 3400 Montrose. For information, call 713-520-9688. Free.
Wednesday, November 12
Over a 40-year career, it might get a little boring always playing the same style of music. Linda Ronstadt has changed genres almost as often as Spinal Tap has changed drummers. Ronstadt started out in the mid-'60s playing folk and has since explored country, rock, jazz, mariachi, Latin music and children's lullabies. Today at Jones Hall, she'll be singing American popular standards arranged by Nelson Riddle, accompanied by the Houston Symphony. Hear the grand dame swing through "Straighten Up and Fly Right," "Someone to Watch Over Me" and "When You Wish Upon a Star" from Pinocchio. After all, what's more standard and American than Disney? 8 p.m. 615 Louisiana. For information and tickets, call 713-224-7575 or visit www.ticketmaster.com. $23.75 to $108.75.