Drowning by Numbers

Suzanne O’Malley authors a countdown to tragedy

WED 2/18
Suzanne O'Malley's revelatory new book about Andrea Yates begins with a quote from the Greek tragedy Medea: "I see, the thing I do; it's love not ignorance leads me astray. My help shall save you; only -- saved -- fulfill, fulfill your promise." The quote is fitting. But what really happened in ancient Greece? According to Euripides, a lust for revenge drove Medea to murder her children. They said the same thing about Andrea Yates after she drowned her five children in the family bathtub on June 20, 2001. But O'Malley's "Are You There Alone?" The Unspeakable Crime of Andrea Yates upends that revenge theory and affirms the unfortunate truth behind the killings: that Yates was delusional.

"The reader can interpret that [quotation] in different ways," says O'Malley, an investigative journalist who began covering the Yates story within hours of the deaths. "But certainly Andrea Yates had the delusion that she was saving her children when she drowned them." Yates's fatal vision came out of years of mental illness, which led to several suicide attempts and prescriptions for an outrageous amount of mind- and mood-altering drugs.

"Are You There Alone?" delves into Yates's psychiatric treatment, her hospital records and the transcripts from her trial -- which include an expert witness's mistaken testimony that may have helped Yates escape a death sentence. It's a chilling and heartbreaking read. "I do wonder -- Medea was written at a time women didn't write," says O'Malley. "It's very interesting to imagine myself in that time and what mysteries would be unraveled. Who knows what Medea's story really was?" Book signing at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, February 18. Murder by the Book, 2342 Bissonnet. For information, call 713-524-8597. Free. -- Troy Schulze

Courtesy of Simon and Schuster
Joe Adams, Dorothy Dandridge, Harry Belafonte
Houston
Joe Adams, Dorothy Dandridge, Harry Belafonte
Hear what it's like to be "Naturally Wild" at the Houston 
Zoo.
Courtesy of the Houston Zoo
Hear what it's like to be "Naturally Wild" at the Houston Zoo.

La Donna e Mobile

There are women whose sexual charisma is so powerful that it can destroy a man (or, more accurately, cause a man to destroy himself). Actress, singer and knockout Dorothy Dandridge may or may not have been one of those sirens in real life, but she played the hell out of one in the film Carmen Jones, the 1954 Otto Preminger update of Georges Bizet's opera Carmen. Harry Belafonte manages to look both stalwart and tortured in the not-so-helpless-victim role. If you can overlook the embarrassingly stereotypical libretto (lots of "dat" and "dis") and the fact that the stars' vocal performances were dubbed, the film really sings. 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sunday, February 15; 2 p.m. Monday, February 16. Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Caroline Wiess Law Building, 1001 Bissonnet. For information, call 713-639-7515 or visit www.mfah.org/films. $6; $5 matinee. -- Lisa Simon

Horse Sense

SAT 2/14
Luck be damned -- serious gamblers always have a plan. When it comes to betting on the ponies, it's called horse handicapping. Contrary to the term, it has nothing to do with wheelchair ramps or braille instructions. Horse handicapping is a relative system of assessing the likely winner of any given race. You can learn all about it at Sam Houston Race Park this weekend, where professional horsemen will be on hand for a little Q&A about the finer points of the sport. They also promise to offer up some "inside tips" for the evening's races. But be forewarned: If you bet on the same horse that everyone else does, you'll earn diddly-squat when that horse wins. Then again, 'tis better to win a little than not to win at all. 9:30 a.m. Saturday, February 14. 7575 Sam Houston Parkway West. For information, call 281-807-8760 or visit www.shrp.com. Free. -- Keith Plocek

March of Progress

This weekend, Galveston will be filled with partygoers just looking for a good time. But nothing could be more sobering -- or a more jarring juxtaposition to the excesses of Mardi Gras -- than the images by photojournalist Spider Martin, which capture America simultaneously at its best and worst. The exhibit, "Selma to Montgomery: A March for the Right to Vote," is a visual recollection of civil rights victories achieved by African-Americans, including the infamous Bloody Sunday on March 7, 1965, in Selma, Alabama, when helmeted lawmen laid into a line of 600 marchers with batons flailing. His photos of an impassioned Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the hateful expressions on the faces of white counterprotesters and worn-out feet next to equally battered leather boots are, in a word, stunning. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday, February 12, through Saturday, February 14; noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, February 15. Galveston County Historical Museum, 2219 Market Street, 409-766-2340. Free. -- Greg Barr

Animal Attraction

SAT 2/14
As the old joke goes, porcupines make love very carefully. But according to Houston Zoo director Rick Barongi, there's a bit more to it than that. Animal mating and dating will be the subject of the zoo's sexy, illustrated Valentine's Day lecture, "Naturally Wild." The evening will also feature heavy hors d'oeuvres, chocolate-covered strawberries and a champagne toast. "It's an adult lecture," Barongi says. "Not X-rated, but I think some of our slides will humble some of the men in the audience." 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, February 14. Houston Zoo's Brown Education Center, 1513 North MacGregor. For information, call 713-533-6550 or visit www.houstonzoo.org. $35 to $40; $70 to $75 for couples. -- Lisa Simon

 
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