Thursday, November 11

Robert Frank's The Americans, a book of photographs from a 1955 road trip, is considered by many to be the most important photography publication in post-World War II America. But Frank abandoned photography for decades afterward, opting instead to dabble in film. Now, in celebration of Frank's 80th birthday, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston is showcasing his first feature-length film, Me and My Brother, which follows beat writers Allen Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky and Orlovsky's brother Julius. The stark, stirring docu-fiction chronicles Julius's release from a mental institution, flickering from color to black-and-white, reality to fiction. In an era when the term "bohemian" is carelessly used to describe furniture and clothing, Me and My Brotheris a genuine artifact from the dawn of American counterculture. Local poet Austin James introduces the film at 6 p.m. Brown Auditorium, 1001 Bissonnet, 713-639-7300, www.mfah.org. $5 to $6.

Friday, November 12

Watch any daytime soap or Cinemax "after dark" flick -- or hell, just watch Keanu Reeves -- and it's clear: Some actors are plastic. Why, it's almost like you could program a robot to deliver their lines. That's the premise of the play Comic Potential, where, in the future, "actoids" -- not actors -- star in B movies. They never forget lines. They have no problem watching their weight. They never talk back. When the actoids start flubbing lines, it's clear they're malfunctioning. Except one, that is, who seems to have developed a sense of humor. A lonely, alcoholic director falls for this fascinating 'droid, and the two embark on a little human-robot love affair. The plot makes sense to us, but since when was a director dating a robotic actress considered fiction? 7:30 p.m. Main Street Theater, 2540 Times, 713-524-6706, www.mainstreettheater.com. $20 to $30.

Saturday, November 13

Much of the joy of buying albums comes from sliding the little jacket out of the case, meticulously studying all the photos and artwork and skimming through the seven paragraphs of thank-yous. Yep, music and art go hand in hand, and to celebrate that blessed union, the Houston Chapter of the American Institute of Graphic Arts is throwing its fifth annual Loud & Clear: Texas Music Looks Like This party. The event, which benefits KPFT/90.1 FM, showcases original posters by the best and brightest local graphic designers. This year's exhibits include posters for Beyoncé, Los Lonely Boys, the Fabulous Thunderbirds and more. Check out the silent auction and tunes from James McMurtry and the Heartless Bastards at 6 p.m. DiverseWorks, 1117 East Freeway. For information, call 832-275-2629 or visit www.aigahouston.org. $25 to $35.

The holiday season is much like our current administration: Whether you asked for it or not, it's here, so you'd better get used to it. To help usher in the season and get you in the mood, the Galleria is hosting its annual Tree Lighting Ceremony. Here's the scoop: A 55-foot Christmas tree boasting 100,000 lights and 5,000 ornaments is lit in the middle of the ice rink as pro skaters whiz by and teenagers gawk from the food court. You can also expect to see Santa Claus arrive with pyrotechnics shooting from his skates. If huge trees, ice skaters and Santa blasting hellfire from his feet don't say Christmas, nothin' does. 6 p.m. The Galleria's Polar Ice Skating Center, 5075 Westheimer, 713-966-3500, www.galleriahouston.com. Free.

Sunday, Novermber 14

If you've visited the Houston Museum of Natural Science during the past week, you may have noticed a small group of Tibetan Buddhist monks diligently working on what looks like a colorful board game. It's actually a mandala, an insanely intricate flat representation of the palace of a deity made completely of sand. The kaleidoscopic piece of art is a spiritual exercise in patience -- just a sneeze will blow the work away -- and peace. Today, in a show of goodwill to all, the monks will present their offering to the public, then sweep it up and hand scoops of their works to visitors. That's right, these gentlemen have spent a week shaping sand into art just to sweep it away like a hairdresser sweeps away a shorn mullet. There's a lesson in that somewhere. 1 p.m. HMNS Grand Hall, One Hermann Circle, 713-639-4629, www.hmns.org. Free.

Monday, November 15

Director Antoine Fuqua has made Denzel Washington seem evil, Ethan Hawke look tough and Bruce Willis appear heroic. Not bad, but what can he do with Aaron Neville? See how he works it in his new blues documentary, Lightning in a Bottle, which captures a February 2003 one-time-only concert in New York's Radio City Music Hall. The flick features a who's who of the music world, including Aerosmith, Buddy Guy, India.Arie, John Fogerty, Larry Johnson, Natalie Cole, the Neville Brothers and more. 4:50 p.m., 7:10 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Angelika Film Center, 501 Texas, 713-333-3456 www.angelikafilmcenter.com. $8.

Tuesday, November 16

The joy of Scotch is a costly affair. A lousy bottle can set you back at least $20, and you'd have to sell your liver (or what's left of it) to afford the really good stuff. To the rescue comes the Scotch Connoisseurs Official Tasting Club, which holds a tasting every third Tuesday. For the price of a six-pack, you can sample three featured Scotches and nab a drink ticket. As you swirl the dark gold ambrosia in your glass, toast the fact that the event benefits Gabriel's Gifts Missing Children's Organization from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. McCormick & Schmick's, 1151-01 Uptown Park Boulevard. For information, call 713-526-2694 or visit www.scotch.bz. $5.

Wednesday, November 17

In 1926, Willem de Kooning arrived in the United States, a stowaway from Holland. He moved from New Jersey to New York, worked here and there as a commercial artist, got a job with the government-sponsored WPA Federal Art Project painting murals, and then finally settled in to become a leader in what would become abstract impressionism. Though his images became exceedingly haunting as he slowly succumbed to Alzheimer's in the '80s, de Kooning will always be remembered for his early black-and-white paintings. Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swanhave penned a comprehensive biography of the artist, and they'll sign copies of de Kooning: An American Master and share their perspective on his groundbreaking work today at the Menil Collection. Space is limited, so reserve a spot and meet the authors at 7:30 p.m. 1515 Sul Ross. For information, call 713-525-9414 or visit www.brazosbookstore.com. Free.

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