This Week's Day-by-Day Picks

Thursday, August 12

In Beatriz Rivera's latest novel, Playing with Light, two groups of Cuban women -- one in bustling present-day Miami, and the other in 19th-century Cuba -- read about each other. Rivera herself will read from the resulting tale of adultery, sexism, classism and, of course, family today at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston's "Artful Thursdays" program. Venezuelan group Zaranda will be on hand playing a blend of Caribbean and Latin American music. 6 p.m. Brown Auditorium Theater. 1001 Bissonnet. For information, call 713-639-7300 or visit www.mfah.org. Free.

Curl up with dreamy Josh Groban for a night of opera-tinged muzak at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion. See Saturday.
Olaf Heine
Curl up with dreamy Josh Groban for a night of opera-tinged muzak at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion. See Saturday.

Friday, August 13

Have you been unusually nervous, sweaty-palmed and anxious today? Good news: You may not be crazy. You're probably just suffering from paraskevidekatriaphobia, the abnormal fear of Friday the 13th. Do yourself a favor and stay home tonight while the rest of us hit Club Go for the Search for Miss Darque Tan Houston. Ten to 12 ladies will compete in two rounds -- miniskirt with baby tee, then two-piece swimsuit -- and the top three will advance to the state finals on August 21. The winner of the state finals will christen those naughty Darque Tan billboards you see on the freeways, so this is your chance to finally back up your "dude, I totally met her" line. 11 p.m. 2001 Commerce. For more information, call 713-699-9858 or visit www.premierepromotions.net. $10.

Saturday, August 14

The cactus gets a bad rap, doesn't it? How would you like to go through life being known for your prick (and not in a good way, either)? Celebrate the beauty of this water-bearing flora at the Houston Cactus and Succulent Society's Annual Show and Sale. There'll be cactus experts on hand to tell you where, when and how to grow them and even a kids' cactus drawing contest. Join the other green thumbs at 10 a.m. today and Sunday. The Houston Arboretum and Nature Center, 4501 Woodway Drive. For information, call 713-681-8433 or visit www.houstonarboretum.org. Free.

All that Friday-night hell-raising with hardbodies got you in the mood for something mellow? Simmer to the sounds of muzak maestro Josh Groban tonight at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion. The opera boy turned heads when he subbed for crooner Andrea Bocelli at the '99 Grammy rehearsals. A duet with Celine Dion followed, and soon Groban was forgoing college for a record contract and nationwide touring. Expect his sweeping "You Raise Me Up" (it's like a next-generation "Wind Beneath My Wings") and classical pieces in Italian, Spanish and English. And expect a man with thick curly hair and a dreamy gaze: Besides being easy on the ears, Groban's easy on the eyes. 8 p.m. 2005 Lake Robbins Drive. For information, call 713-629-3700 or visit www.ticketmaster.com. $29.50 to $85.

Sunday, August 15

Every year since the early '60s, Theatre Suburbia has put on a summer "mellerdrammer" -- an over-acted, overly dramatic show. This year's The Wrong Side of the Law was written specifically for Theatre Suburbia by Denver-based playwright Dave Brandl. Cheer on the hero and throw popcorn at the villain as he twirls his moustache and threatens our heroine. Not much of a plot, but who needs Shakespeare when you're tossing Jiffy Pop? Matinees at 3 p.m. today and Sunday, August 22. Shows also run at 8:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through Saturday, August 28. 1410 West 43rd Street. For information, call 713-682-3525 or visit www.theatresuburbia.com. $8 to $10.

Monday, August 16

Ah, the downtown-after-five conundrum: You're looking to chill after work but not ready for the throbbing boom-tit-boom-tit chaos of most clubs. Kick back at a real-life speakeasy tonight at the Cotton Exchange Bar's Sweet Smoke & Nectar Happy Hour.Once you find the entrance under the canopy marked "808," come upstairs to a sharply dressed and über-chic crowd, drink specials and free flavored cigars for ladies. (Attention all Village People impersonators: The club is discouraging anyone wearing "caps, throwbacks or construction boots." Probably a good idea to leave your Indian outfit at home, too.) 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. 808 Franklin. For information, call 713-236-0499 or visit www.cottonexchangebar.com. Free.

Tuesday, August 17

Between constant health warnings and the low-carb South Beach and Atkins diets, it seems like you need an excuse to get good and stuffed at your favorite restaurant these days. For a limited time, however, the deprived have an excuse to indulge: It's Houston Restaurant Week. Over 71 area restaurants are offering discounts on lunch and dinner, with portions of the proceeds going to the Houston Food Bank. So when you polish off your cup of gazpacho and roasted pork tenderloin dinner with a brioche bread pudding in caramel sauce at Backstreet Cafe, reassure your concerned date with a simple, "Relax, it's for charity." Runs through Sunday, August 22. For a complete list of participating restaurants, visit www.houstonrestaurantweek.com. $20 to $30.

Wednesday, August 18

Few things are more fun than toasting Hump Day at an Irish pub. But be respectful. Seriously, no one finds that "Do you have any Irish in you? Want to?" joke funny anymore. Besides, an Irish accent can be dead sexeh, as evidenced by Bono, the Corrs and Colin Farrell. Perfect yours at Brian O'Neil's Irish Pub with their weekly Irish Language Class. Try not to get too tanked -- these classes include Irish Gaelic phrases and conversational situations, so you'll learn more than just how to order a Guinness. (And please, resist the urge to introduce yourself as Patty O'Furniture.) 7 p.m. 5555 Morningside. For information, call 713-522-2603. $5.

 
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