Jonas Mekas is independent cinema's Che Guevara. The Lithuanian-born "filmer," who escaped the Nazis for a life in America, dedicated more than 40 years to preserving, protecting and advocating experimental film. An outspoken critic, Mekas was arrested on obscenity charges for screening Jack Smith's controversial, sexually charged film Flaming Creatures in 1963. In the following years, Mekas planned the ambitious Anthology Film Archives, a film museum, screening space and library that opened in New York in 1970. As the inventor of the film-diary form, Mekas championed abstraction, allowing the camera to simply document life. He once said, "I am a filmer, not a filmmaker. And I am not a film 'director,' because I direct nothing. I just keep filming." This month, Deborah Colton Gallery and Aurora Picture Show will present a joint exhibition of Mekas's iconoclastic work, ranging from portraits and still projections to film screenings. The exhibit opens with a reception at 6:30 p.m. Friday, April 1. Exhibit runs through April 30 at Deborah Colton Gallery, 2500 Summer Street, third floor. (Special screening at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, April 3, at Aurora Picture Show, 800 Aurora.) For information, call 713-864-2364. Free. -- Troy Schulze
The Apple of His Eye
A New York Times editor gushes over America
Even cynical, hard-nosed journalists get gushy from time to time. Case in point: New York Times associate editor R.W. Apple, who has traveled the country to document the politics, architecture, history and food of our United States for his newest book, Apple's America. The guy that Slate magazine once called a "master gasbag" isn't afraid of a little cheese: "The American Danish can be doughy, heavy, sticky, tasting of prunes and is usually wrapped in cellophane," he writes. "The Danish Danish is light, crisp, buttery and often tastes of marzipan or raisins; it is seldom wrapped in anything but loving care." (How sweet.) Pushing what many consider to be this year's consummate summer travel guide, Apple will be in town sharing his version of America at 5 p.m. Sunday, April 3. Ouisie's Table, 3939 San Felipe. For information and reservations, call 713-528-2264 or visit www.brazosbookstore.com. Free. -– Steven Devadanam
BEEN THERE, DONE THAT
You'd think, having grown up in Houston, that I would've met a gay cowboy before. Oh, sure, I've seen the campy variety in flashy chaps at some local clubs (that's another story). But a real, honest-to-goodness roper? Naw -- until I met one at Dean's Credit Clothing, where Aurora Picture Show was screening American Cowboy.
The documentary about Conroe resident Gene Mikulenka's life as a bronco rider follows him as he moves up through the ranks of the gay circuit, all the way to the 1996 International Gay Rodeo Finals -- while nursing a broken leg. It's funny, watching him take bubble baths with his cast; painful, watching him mount a horse just weeks after nearly shattering his right leg; and sad, as he and his partner Stephen lose a horse that's like a child to them. Mikulenka, who looks like a studlier version of Roy Scheider (the guy from Jaws), ends up winning it all. He's a complete badass, especially since just weeks ago, he won the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo amateur pole-bending event with his 22-year-old horse, Sassy. Oh, and this cowpoke is forty-freakin'-seven years old, and he looks like an Olympic gymnast. After the screening, we peppered him with questions. "Where's Stephen?" we asked. (Turns out Mikulenka is single now.) "How's your leg?" (It's fine, he told us. He even cracked a bone in the other one recently.) "Do you get hit on a lot?" (Well, duh. He is a cowboy, after all.) Then, "Will there be a sequel?"
"Well, I'm working on a sequel to the movie," he said with a friendly drawl. "It's called American Cowgirl."
We all perked up.
"That's right, it's gonna follow me as I get a sex change and then compete in the ladies' circuit."
"Aw, I'm just kiddin'," he said with a chuckle. "I had you guys, didn' I?"
Man, what a badass. -- Steven Devadanam
While your average U.S. household goldfish might have a life span of a day, the Japanese koi fish can live up to 100 years and cost up to $50,000. The venerable koi are saluted as "Japan's Living Jewels" at the 12th annual Houston Japan Festival. Featuring a Japanese garden, games, food, art displays and entertainment with Taiko drummers, Kabuki theater, martial arts and even Japanese jazz, it's a celebration of all things from the Land of the Rising Sun. (Just don't ask for koi fish sticks.) 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, April 2, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, April 3. Hermann Park Japanese Garden, 6001 Fannin. For information, call 713-963-0121 or visit www.jashouston.org. Free. –- Bob Ruggiero
If you haven't gotten your fill of outdoor arts fests -- á la the recent Bayou City Arts Festival -- you're in luck. Our neighbors to the west are throwing the Austin Fine Arts Festival, a two-day shindig featuring 220 local and national artists, tons of live music, kids' activities and plenty of live artist demonstrations. With SXSW now over, the folks in A-town might be a tad festivaled out, so go easy on them from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, April 2 and 3. Republic Square Park, Fifth at Guadalupe. For information, call 512-458-6073 or visit www.austinfineartsfestival.org. Free for children eight and younger; $8 for adults. –- Steven Devadanam