Look Back in Anger

A short-film series plumbs a dark cultural data bank

Aurora Picture Show continues its series of screenings at Dean's Credit Clothing with You Can't Do That on Television, a video compilation that, according to curator Ed Halter, explores "that new psychedelia that erupts when ADD is your LSD." And while each short film exudes symptoms of raised-in-the-'80s disease, by all means don't expect anything as innocuous as old Nickelodeon footage of a teenage Alanis Morissette getting doused with green slime. The shorts range from straight-on video art like Paper Rad's Welcome to My Home Page, a mishmash of low-tech computerized animation, to Memorial Day 2000, Carly Ptak's disturbing 11-minute documentary of a backwoods, redneck camping trip in which mobs of drunken males mud-wrestle, set fires and kick the shit out of each other.

Hands clap against a changing solid-color background in Private_eyez.mid, Cory Arcangel and Frankie Martin's downright hypnotic music video of the Hall & Oates hit "Private Eyes." The cheesy, Casio-keyboard music elicits feelings of both nostalgia and shame.

But the real diamond here is Amy Goodrow: Tape 5925, Eileen Maxson's mock audition tape for MTV's The Real World. Shot from the point of view of the flunky whose job it is to review the tapes, we watch a 21-year-old college senior detailing memories of her first kiss, describing her hobbies (she makes Christmas cards) and confessing her deep feelings of loneliness -- all while the tape reviewer fast-forwards through sections and makes evening plans with his friends over the phone. It's funny, touching and infuriating. The shorts screen every Monday in June. 9 p.m. 316 Main. For information, call 713-227-3326. $5. -- Troy Schulze

Eileen Maxson's Amy Goodrow: Tape 5925
Courtesy of Aurora Picture Show
Eileen Maxson's Amy Goodrow: Tape 5925
AIA's sand castle contest
Bill Heibel
AIA's sand castle contest
Aaron Siskind's Jerome, Arizona
Courtesy of the MFAH
Aaron Siskind's Jerome, Arizona
Lorenzo Thomas
Lise Bjorne
Lorenzo Thomas

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Built to Pass

SAT 6/5

Castles made of sand fall in the sea eventually, but not before the judging commences. This Saturday 85 teams of architects and designers, normally in the business of building things that last, will turn their attention to the more ephemeral pursuit of the perfect sand castle. Spectators can tour the half-mile's worth of 22-foot by 25-foot plots while competition is under way, and vote in the Public Favorite category. The official rules state that all sculptures must be sand only, so do alert a referee if you spy any teams using tar as a binding agent. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, June 5. East Beach, 1923 Boddeker Drive in Galveston. For information, call 713-520-0155 or visit www.aiasandcastle.com. Free; $7 parking. -- Lisa Simon

Chain Reaction

SAT 6/5

Reared in Pasadena, drifting through Austin and ending up in Northern California, David "Gypsy" Chain had always predicted he'd go out in a flash. So when a felled mammoth redwood tree -- one he was trying to protect from cutters -- toppled and crushed his 24-year-old body in 1998, it could've been seen as the fulfillment of destiny. But the story of a lumber company and a new regime of environmentalists was just unfurling for Patrick Beach, a reporter for the Austin American-Statesman who was sent to cover the Chain death. His chronicles, A Good Forest for Dying: The Tragic Death of a Young Man on the Front Lines of the Environmental Wars, follow the hurricane of radical protesters and junk bonds to its eye -- in Houston. The author signs at 2 p.m. Saturday, June 5. Barnes & Noble Deerbrook Mall, 20131 Highway 59 North. For information, call 281-540-3060. Free. -- Steven Devadanam

Married to the Camera
Aaron Siskind's honeymoon made him a star

THU 6/3

In his twenties, Aaron Siskind's passion was literature. Then he got married. On his honeymoon, he received a camera from his wife, Sidonie. One can only wonder what kind of pictures Siskind took of his newlywed, but his fate as a photographer was sealed. Coming on like a born natural, Siskind initially photographed New Yorkers in social-documentary style, displaying an exceptional eye for composition and emotionally gripping scenes. But he soon began experimenting in abstract imagery. Eventually, he wasn't even interested in his subjects; be it road tar, peeling paint or torn bits of cloth, all that mattered were the objects' compositional forms. With "Aaron Siskind: Centennial Celebration," the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston is celebrating the work of this late bloomer who changed the way photographers see. The exhibition opens on Thursday, June 3, and runs through September 26. 5601 Main. For information, call 713-639-7300 or visit www.mfah.org. $7; free on Thursdays. -- Troy Schulze

Stump Poet

All art is political. Artists who eschew politics are just affirming the status quo. The members of the Black Arts Movement had this figured out back in the '60s, when literary figures like LeRoi Jones and Lorenzo Thomas always seemed to have a political message lurking beneath their words. Thomas now teaches at the University of Houston-Downtown, but he still finds time to tinker with text. "They way they've got it now / All kinds of people get to come on down / OK by me. But yet and still / I like it when the colored people win," he writes of The Price Is Right. Thomas reads this weekend at Black Heritage Gallery. 5:30 p.m. Friday, June 4; and noon on Saturday, June 5. 5408 Almeda, 713-529-7900. Free. -- Keith Plocek

 
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