This Week's Day-by-Day Picks

Thursday, Decenber 18

One of Houston's most successful unsigned bands from back in the day is back together. Yes, Toy Subs will be playing its brand of straight-ahead rock and roll at a kind of reunion show downstairs at Fitzgerald's today, sharing the bill with fellow fondly remembered Houstonians Zu Zu's Petals and Austin convert Carolyn Wonderland. It's like 1992 all over again. "I wanted to do this show because it's an old-school Fitz show, and we wanted to bring these guys back," says Catfish, Fitz's booking agent-cum-bartender-cum-promoter. And even if you're too young to have seen Toy Subs live in its previous incarnation, there's another reason you may recall the band. As Catfish says, "I remember seeing them on Star Search." 8 p.m. 2706 White Oak Drive. For information, call 713-862-3838 or visit www.fitzlive.com. $8.

Friday, December 19

What a rack: Kathy Hall's larger-than-life reindeer is on 
view this Sunday.
Kathy Hall
What a rack: Kathy Hall's larger-than-life reindeer is on view this Sunday.

Instead of saving for retirement, as we are exhorted to do, ancient Egyptians saved up for their afterlives in the next world. Believing not only that you can but that you must take them with you, they packed their tombs with all the supplies necessary to continue their occupations after death. Armies of figurines, who would magically come to life and assist the deceased with his next-world labors, were also entombed along with the dearly departed. And the truly wealthy would also include supervisor figurines to ensure that the worker-mannequins didn't slack off. The ancient Egyptians' belief system has left us today with what amount to lavishly appointed time capsules, offering windows into the world they inhabited. You can poke through the artifacts yourself at the exhibit "Searching for Eternity: Life and Death in Ancient Egypt." So, what if the Egyptians had the right idea? Better safe than sorry: We suggest you take a credit card with you to the afterworld -- surely a capitalist spirit there will be looking to sell anything you may require. 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Houston Museum of Natural Science, 1 Hermann Circle. For information, call 713-639-4629 or visit www.hmns.org. $6; $3.50 for seniors and kids.

Saturday, December 20

Comedians rarely let on that their art is hard. Even when there's a well-honed script to work from, jokes can fall flat and audiences can leave disappointed. Improvisational comedy turns up the heat on this situation. There's no time for reflection and refinement, and if something doesn't work, there are no writers to blame. But the weekly Vagabondage Improv Comedy show, Vagabondage: Reloaded, offers the most professional and reliable high-wire act in town. True, the group starts with nothing but a suggestion from the audience, but the gamers practice, practice, practice, and their host is patient -- he knows how to let the first few tentative or gross suggestions from the audience pass by, waiting for that fruitful little morsel that will set his players on a roll. 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. PJ's Sports Bar, 614 West Gray. For information, call 832-651-7814 or visit www.vagabondage.net. $5.

Sunday, December 21

Christmas comes but once a year -- thank goodness. Beyond the shopping, the overeating and the family stress, there's also all that tinsel and holly to deal with. Local artist Kathy Hall has reclaimed decorating and taken it to a creative extreme with her whole-house installation, Treed. Starting with the reindeer she fashioned out of the large low-hanging tree in her front yard, she's put together unique tree-themed artworks in every room of her home. There's a white-walled room strung with little boughs, creating the look of a ski mountain. Toys from kids' fast-food meals hang in a loose, conical shape from her bedroom ceiling. The computer room features a tree-shaped mountain of unrecyclable plastic-window envelopes. And a burned tree wound with gold thread illustrates a story Hall wrote about a man whose tree was burned by candles, and the spider who saved his Christmas by decorating the remains with her silk. "I never really liked Christmas that much," says Hall. "This is my way of having a good time. It's a way of making Christmas my own." 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. 3521 Nottingham. For information, e-mail halldobb@swbell.net. Free.

Monday, December 22

Today is the astronomical winter solstice, when the sun shines directly over the Tropic of Capricorn, heralding the start of winter in the northern hemisphere. This yearly occurrence is also the shortest day of the year. Many ancient peoples observed the solstice with rituals and festivals, a practice that lasted right up through the Christian age. Pope Julius I finally moved Christmas to coincide with the long-running celebration about 1,600 years ago, figuring that if you can't beat them, you might as well join your holiday to theirs. If you could use a bit of personal renewal, or even if you'll just be happy to see the sun setting a little later after today, you can celebrate at the CenterPoint for Body, Mind & Spirit Winter Solstice Ceremony. Shaman Hugging Bear will be on hand to conduct ceremonies to set goals, to inspire and to find release. You can use the beginning of the new solar year to get a head start on making your list of resolutions. 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. 1920 Hollister. For information, call 713-932-7224 or visit www.centerpointhouston.com. $25 at door; $20 prepaid.

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