Ancient Greece was a haven for intellectuals, hedonists, warmongers and mystics. But perhaps your high school-era exposure to the Greeks' literature and mythology made them seem remote, even boring. Rest assured, they were nothing of the sort. In his new book, Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea: Why the Greeks Matter, Thomas Cahill breathes new life into bygone Greek society with his exhaustively researched tales of the lives and enduring contributions of those ancient thinkers, warriors and party people. He's in town today to read from his book, the fourth in his Hinges of History series. And he'll stick around afterward to answer any questions you might have about nymphs, nudity and the Oedipus complex. 7 p.m. University of St. Thomas, Jones Hall, 3910 Yoakum. For information, call 713-523-0701 or visit www.brazosbookstore.com. Free.
Friday, December 12
With all the spotlight-hogging, ego-driven entertainers out there, it's nice to know at least one legendary performer prefers to spread the attention around. Sure, you have to leave the secular arena in order to find him, but gospel superstar Bill Gaither makes the trip worthwhile. Today he'll welcome a wide range of singers, musicians and comedians (billed collectively as the Homecoming Friends) to share the stage, including bluegrass/gospel quintet the Isaacs, who made their name backing up country greats Dolly Parton and Vince Gill before they embraced Christian music. Also on the bill: the Hoppers, "America's Favorite Family of Gospel Music," who have been in the business of touring around and sharing inspirational music for 45 years and two generations. That's a lotta Ramada. 7 p.m. Toyota Center, 1510 Polk. For information and tickets, call 1-866-4HOUTIX or visit www.houstontoyotacenter.com. $19.75 to $34.75.
From the front lines of the most un-Norman Rockwell Christmas imaginable come The Santaland Diaries and Season's Greetings. The original tales were written by noted wag David Sedaris and have been adapted for the stage by Joe Mantello. Santaland, starring Trey Huguley, explores the trials of a Macy's elf as he attempts to maintain his dignity through the holiday crush of sticky children and weary shoppers. Greetings, starring Tek Wilson, tells the story of a prodigal daughter's return home -- sort of. The daughter in question is the product of a suburban dad's Vietnam-era dalliance, and her penchant for micro-minis and seductive behavior sets Mom's Christmas plans on their ear. 8 p.m. today; Friday, December 12; Friday, December 19; and Saturday, December 20. Theater LaB Houston, 1706 Alamo. For information and tickets, call 713-868-7516 or visit www.theaterlabhouston.com. $23.
Sunday, December 14
If you find Martha Stewart's holiday ideas too fussy and white-bread, the Museum of Cultural Arts Houston offers a multiculti solution. MOCAH's Artwares Festival invites visitors to take part in free workshops on the hour, including piñata making, woodcut carving, Nigerian fabric printing and Argentine papier-mâché. Local artists will show you how it's done, and you'll get to take home the products of your leisure-time labor. Today's festival will be held at David Adickes's warehouse studio, so you'll also have the opportunity to marvel at his giant molded concrete replicas of the U.S. presidents' heads. A smaller, life-sized presidential head will be raffled off at the event, which also includes barbecue, a live demonstration by spray-can artists Aerosol Warfare and a performance by hip-hop jazz-funk outfit Free Radicals. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sculptureworx, 2500 Summer. For information, call 713-864-2780 or visit www.mocah.org. $5; $3 for seniors; $15 for families of four.
Monday, December 15
An evening at the theater can be enjoyable, but racing through dinner before the show -- or staying hungry through two acts and an intermission -- can put a bit of a damper on the experience. You can stay comfortable and well fed throughout your klieg-lighted evening at today's all-inclusive dinner and murder mystery show The Riddle. Famed fictional detectives Sherlock Holmes, Lieutenant Columbo and international man of mystery Austin Powers will attempt to solve a crime with wit and a clever mix of their standard formulas. As Columbo would say, "Just one more thing": Suspects will include a fascinating array of celebrities both living and dead, real and fictional: Marilyn Monroe, Rocky Balboa, Fran Drescher, Bette Davis, The Drew Carey Show's Mimi, Will and Grace's Karen, Elvis Presley, Captain Kirk, Dudley Moore and Cher will all be interrogated for your amusement. 6:30 p.m. Old San Francisco Steakhouse, 8611 Westheimer. For information and tickets, call 713-305-8117 or visit www.mysterydinnertexas.com. $41 to $55.
Tuesday, December 16
Have you ever uncovered a bone-shaped rock or fossil and wondered if you've just made the archeological find of the century? It can happen -- just ask the Jarkovs of Siberia, who discovered the tusks of a 20,000-year-old woolly mammoth sticking up out of the permafrost in their own backyard. At "Dig It! The Hunt for Lost Dinosaurs" you can learn about how scientists on an October 1999 expedition to Siberia chiseled out a 23-ton block of ice containing the mammoth and transported it by helicopter to an ice cave, where it's been slowly thawing and being studied ever since. You also can make your own fossil find in the world's largest indoor dig, reliving your dreams of a serendipitous discovery that'll lead to fame, fortune and adventure -- and a career that allows you to wear khakis and a pith helmet. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, through January 11. Closed Thursday, December 25. Space Center Houston, 1601 NASA Road 1. For information, call 281-244-2100 or visit www.spacecenter.org. $17.95; $16.95 for seniors; $13.95 for kids.