Tree's Company

The tannenbaum gets a makeover at Buffalo Bayou ArtPark

SAT 12/4

You might have the coolest-looking Christmas tree in the world, but since it's in your house, the only people who will appreciate your creativity will be relatives you don't even want to see. But that's not true of the local artists participating in Buffalo Bayou ArtPark's fourth annual Xmas Tree Show. They've set up their dear ol' tannenbaums along Buffalo Bayou for the whole city to admire. More than 35 "reinterpretations" of the Christmas tree will be on view in the parks around the Wortham Center. "I think that the challenge for the artists is to find a middle ground between their own personal artistic vision and the demands of the subject, which has its own unique traditions and history," says Kevin Jefferies of BBAP. "The trees have that Christmas imagery, but also the stamp of that particular artist."

There are plans for video projections, DJs and live music at the opening. As for how artists who might normally work in a more traditional medium can adapt their work to a tree, Jefferies says that's part of the fun. "A tree provides certain parameters that they have to work in, so it might head them in a direction they may not have considered." He remembers the "wildest" tree from the past as one with a motion sensor and a speaker that was rigged up to say the word "Christmas" at passersby. You know, in case people forgot what all the hoopla was about. Opening event 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, December 4. Exhibit runs through January 1. 500 Texas Avenue. For information, call 713-520-0152 or visit www.bbap-houston.org. Free. -- Bob Ruggiero

State of the Arts

A new Guide gives you the skinny on Texas culture

SAT 12/4

Texas may be a red state, but if you know where to look, there's color everywhere. The Art Guide Texaspoints you in the direction of visual arts venues all across the Lone Star State. The fat little volume names both the little guys and the juggernauts of Texas art -- Houston's substantial section features the smaller Cy Twombly and Blaffer galleries alongside the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and the Contemporary Arts Museum -- along with nifty descriptions, visiting tips and a plethora of black-and-white photos. Both neophytes and insiders should appreciate the book -- author Rebecca Cohen even knows where to find culture in Lufkin. The self-described "recovering art dealer" will be on hand to discuss and sign her book from 3 p.m. Saturday, December 4. MFAH Bookstore, 5601 Main. For information, call 713-639-7365 or visit www.mfah.org. Free. -- Julia Ramey

BEEN THERE, DONE THAT
Scaredy Cats

"Obesity in cats is an epidemic," barks a veterinarian in a lab coat and Tony Robbins-style headset to an eager audience at the Friskies Experience. "So we encourage a high-protein diet. It's the Catkins Diet!"

Ten thousand folks are strolling through the Cat Fanciers' International Cat Show at the George R. Brown, scoping thousands of cats in their carriers and judging booths. I make a comment about wanting to pet some kittens, and a stern woman points to a sign reading, "Your Affection Leads to Infection." (Catty bitch.) I am invited to pet one of those hairless "Mr. Bigglesworth" cats -- but I decline, politely trying to mask my gag reflex.

The folks at the Genetic Savings and Clone booth are much more chipper. They introduce us to Peaches, the kitten cloned via stem cells, and her surrogate mom, Mango. Dr. Lyons, an upbeat scientist, demonstrates a DNA swab -- "It's a Pap smear stick," she says, as my knees buckle -- which can store a cat's cells for later cloning. All four cats cloned in the United States are from Texas, the GS&C folks add. Next year, they'll clone a dog.

"Do you think it's fair to all the animals in the pound that we're cloning pets?" I ask innocently.

People in the audience turn and stare. The friendly GS&C folks suddenly start emitting a terse, Scientologist air. "Do you have any more questions, sir?" asks a rep.

"No, thanks," I answer sheepishly. I grab some free samples and a cloning brochure, and then I scamper away. Driving back, I realize I should've gotten a Christmas gift for my cat, Bongo. But I've got bigger worries: I swear I'm being followed. -- Steven Devadanam

A Coastal Carol

SAT 12/4

Dig up your old threads. If you dress in late-19th-century English garb (or even Civil War duds), you'll get in free to the annual Dickens on the Strand festival, that celebration of all things Victorian. Catch afternoon parades -- complete with Victorian-era hookers planting kisses on festivalgoers -- or entertainers like the comedic, sword-swallowing Thom Sellectomy. Or, ditch the landlubbers and head to the West India Dock, where volunteer sailors who maintain the 1877 tall ship Elissa will scale the vessel's rigging and sing ye a crusty song. 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, December 4, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, December 5. Strand and Mechanic streets in Galveston. For information, call 409-765-7834 or visit www.dickensonthestrand.org. $10 to $12. -- Greg Barr

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