Seen that commercial where a dude runs with a pack of wolves and fetches a stick? The ad guys are reaching pretty far back with that one. Back in ancient times -- especially during the Greek empire -- the notion of man wrestling the beast within was explored in mythology and art. And a collection of more than 100 half-man, half-beast sculptures from the Princeton University Art Museum will be on display here as part of "Centaur's Smile: The Human Animal in Early Greek Art" at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. J. Michael Padgett, Princeton's curator of ancient art, says the Greeks created monsters -- centaurs, satyrs, sirens and Gorgons -- to pay homage to the battle between good and evil. "The centaurs, who were half man and half horse, represented the true duality thought to reside within humans," says Padgett. "This dichotomy of these two worlds colliding was thought to parallel the ascent of human culture."
The empire-expanding Greeks actually stole ideas for these beasts from other civilizations. In Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq), they saw images similar to the ones they would later fashion onto metalware and pottery. And they gave the creatures personalities. Satyrs, which were part goat, were regarded as lazy and less noble than centaurs.
But perhaps the coolest of all was the Gorgon -- a PMS avenger with snakes in her coif whose mere glance could turn men to stone. The Gorgon's image was used on temples and bronze vessels to ward off evil or bad luck. Says Padgett with a laugh: "Perhaps they just found women to be as inscrutable as we do today, and represented it in that way." Exhibit opens Sunday, February 22, and runs through May 16. 1001 Bissonnet, 713-639-7300, www.mfah.org. $7; $3.50 for students and seniors. -- Greg Barr
Who Are You?
Steven Johnson can read your mind. For his new book, Mind Wide Open: Your Brain and the Neuroscience of Everyday Life, Johnson subjected his own brain to a series of tests -- including scanning his head with a $2 million fMRI machine -- in order to show how neuroscience can teach us about ourselves and others. And if mention of the word "neuroscience" alone isn't enough to send you scrambling to the bookstore, how about this: He'll also teach you why monogamous couples are like prairie dogs, why men have Male Refrigerator Blindness and why you'll never beat Tiger Woods at golf, ever. (It has very little to do with your shoddy putting.) Johnson signs at 7:30 p.m. Friday, February 20. Borders River Oaks, 3025 Kirby. For information, call 713-524-0200. Free. -- Keith Plocek
One Last Christmas Party
Don't you miss the cycle of self-indulgence and parties that each December brings? The people at Revels Houston sure do, and to prove it, they're holding a "wake of remembrance" for the Italian Renaissance Revel they held this Christmas just past. "A wake is traditionally to celebrate a person who's passed," says Bob Stevenson, Revels company member and KUHF radio personality. "But in this case it's our show that's passed. We're saying, 'Let's continue the fun one more time.' " There'll be piping, Irish step dancing, audience sing-alongs and all the St. Arnold's you can drink. Don't miss the chance to party like it's 1599. 7:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Saturday, February 21. St. Arnold's Brewery, 2522 Fairway Park Drive. For information, call 713-668-3303 or visit www.revelshou.com. $20. -- Lisa Simon
Godard displays a slightly chilly fondness for Hollywood, Paris and his wife
A Woman Is a Woman, Jean-Luc Godard's 1961 film (in CinemaScope!), is not quite a musical. Angela (Anna Karina, a.k.a. Madame Godard) whistles, sticks her bottom out and skips through the streets of Paris as if choreographed -- almost. And the movie's soundtrack sends us into showstopper territory several times -- practically. In the same way, the characters approach love -- even new love -- with an oh-so-French New Wave reserve. Angela wants to conceive a child. Her lover, Émile (Jean-Claude Brialy), won't oblige, but his best friend, Alfred (Jean-Paul Belmondo), will. You can almost hear Bogie and Bacall crying as the prior conventions of screen romance are trampled underfoot. But any film in which lovers argue silently by holding up the titles of books to each other deserves its place in the pantheon of true romance. 7:30 p.m. Friday, February 20; 7 p.m. Sunday, February 22; 7 p.m. Friday, February 27. Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Brown Auditorium Theater, 1001 Bissonnet. For information, call 713-639-7515 or visit www.mfah.org/films. $6. -- Lisa Simon
No Critics Allowed
If coloring within the lines has never been your forte, we've got an event for you: Bad Art Night at Tropioca Tea and Coffee Bar. "People will get out and hack at playing sports and don't feel like they have to be pros," says Cody Clark, the event's organizer, "but when it comes to art, for some reason people think they've got to be talented." Clark hopes the event will help people escape from this insular notion. "The point is not to make bad art, but the idea is that bad art is okay," he says. "We're just trying to have fun." Free your mind and bring your own supplies. 7 p.m. Wednesday, February 25. 2808 Milam, 713-737-7111. Free. -- Keith Plocek