Before the '60s, most Texas literature was exactly what a non-Texan would've expected it to be: full of cattle drives, campfires and tumbleweeds. But then along came the writers of Mad Dog Inc. "In some ways, they're the Texas version of the Beats, in terms of the relationships that they had with each other, the friendships, and how they influenced each other's work," says Steven L. Davis, whose book, Texas Literary Outlaws: Six Writers in the Sixties and Beyond, details the lives and writings of Bud Shrake, Gary Cartwright, Billy Lee Brammer, Larry L. King, Dan Jenkins and Peter Gent. "They're significant in Texas because this is really the first group of writers to address modern Texas," says Davis. "Before this generation, most Texas literature was focused on rural matters, pastoralism and so forth. And these guys were writing about politics, civil rights."
"The group as a whole really revolves around Shrake [in Austin] and Larry L. King in D.C.," he says. "They were really the two driving intellectual forces in the group." Shrake wrote novels and screenplays, but he hit pay dirt when he co-wrote Harvey Penick's Little Red Book, the best-selling sports book of all time. King solidified his name with Confessions of a White Racist, an autobiography about growing up in Texas. "And then of course he had that fluke Broadway hit, Best Little Whorehouse in Texas," says Davis.
"A lot of what these guys did is considered embarrassing today," he says. "They were male chauvinists for much of their lives, they heartily abused alcohol and drugs, and made all kinds of mistakes. Of course, they also did a lot of things wonderfully." Davis signs Texas Literary Outlaws at 2 p.m. on Saturday, August 14. Barnes and Noble Town and Country Village, 12850 Memorial. For information, call 713-465-5616. Free. -- Keith Plocek
There's just something inherently spooky about a carousel. Organ music and bobbing animals -- all that's missing is a creepy clown. The Houston Zoo's new carousel just might be able to break free from such characterizations, though, if only because its menagerie of hand-carved animals includes an armadillo. Armadillos aren't scary; they're speed bumps. And check this out: For a fee, you can sponsor one of the animals, guaranteeing yourself free rides 'til the year 2015. By that time, the kid you kicked off your sponsored beast just might be big enough to come back and kick your butt. 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. 1513 North MacGregor. For information, call 713-533-6500 or visit www.houstonzoo.org. $3 to $7 for admission; $2 to ride the carousel. -- Keith Plocek
Stop Carrot Top
We know the feeling: You stare at your television screen thinking, "How the hell is Carrot Top working? I'm funnier than that guy!" If you've been waiting for the chance to strut your comedic stuff, you'll get your chance at the Laugh Across America Contest auditions this week at the Comedy Showcase. The folks at the Las Vegas Comedy Festival are scouring the country looking for comedic talent in impersonation, variety and stand-up. Winners from each category move on to semi-finals and eventually the finals in Sin City. "We're encouraging people who never go to comedy clubs to audition," says Jeff Abraham, the event's promoter, "the kind of people who've always wanted to try this but have never known how." (Great. It's that kind of attitude that gave us Carrot Top.) 10 a.m. Thursday, August 12. 11460 Fuqua. For information, call 281-481-1188. Free. -- Steven Devadanam
Charles Cramer risks it all for the sake of a good snapshot
What with inflation and all, it's hard to say precisely what the picture-to-word exchange rate is these days, but photographer Charles Cramer's landscapes surely surpass the traditional thousand per. A tireless aesthete and technician, Cramer has devoted his life to capturing scenes of breathtaking beauty, using both traditional and computerized printing methods. He braves the elements, risking severe exposure and even bodily harm to get the shots he wants. Cramer resides in California, where he studied piano for two decades before turning to photography in 1980. Since then, he's gradually taken his place in the very foreground of that impressively deep field. His works are on view from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, through Wednesday, September 1. John Cleary Gallery, 2635 Colquitt. For information, call 713-524-4456 or visit www.johnclearygallery.com. Free. -- Scott Faingold
Truth Be Told
Sure, you've heard plenty of versions of "the truth," but now you've got the whole truth, which, one can only hope, is nothing but the truth, so help us God. This Friday, the Aurora Picture Show is offering up Robert Greenwald's film Uncovered: The Whole Truth About the Iraq War. We've got former ambassadors, weapons inspectors, CIA operatives and anti-terrorism experts all coming to make their case for book deals -- oh wait, for transparency. The showing is part of the city-wide "Voting Machine" series, which explains why they're showing it at Dean's Credit Clothing: Gotta work on rallying the coveted hipster vote. 9 p.m. Monday, August 16, 23 and 30. 316 Main. For information, call 713-868-2101 or visit www.aurorapictureshow.org. $5. -- Julia Ramey