Oh, Harry, how you've grown! When we met you in J.K. Rowling's first book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, you were an orphaned but magically delicious child. Now you're the BMOC at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. And the much-anticipated sixth Potter tome, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, will be unleashed on a ravenous public this weekend. Houstonians can hop on their Quidditch brooms and head to Potter parties at bookstores around town on Friday, July 15. At midnight, they can buy the book. At Blue Willow Book Shop (14532 Memorial, 281-497-8675), the party starts at 10 p.m., with broom races, potion classes, fortune-telling, Weasley's practical joke shop and a costume contest. At 9 p.m. at Books-A-Million at Katy Mills Mall (5000 Katy Mills Circle, 281-644-2665), participants will draw from a hat to join one of the four Hogwarts houses -- Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw or Slytherin -- then delight in face painting, wizardry classes and a chance to win a free copy of The Half-Blood Prince. Or head to any local Borders bookstore (visit www.bordersstores.com for locations) for their citywide Midnight Magic Party, which starts at 9 p.m. and promises activities, games and plenty o' giveaways. Not to be outdone, Barnes & Noble (visit www.barnesandnoble.com for locations) also is hosting a citywide celebration, starting at 8 p.m. and featuring family-themed games and activities. For more Harry Potter events, check our listings at www.houstonpress.com. -- Steven Devadanam Hero in the "Shadows"
The Holocaust Museum Houston spotlights a stealthy liberator
You may not have heard of Hermann Wygoda, but that's par for the course for a hero who did most of his work underground and in disguise. The Holocaust Museum Houston is presenting a new exhibit this week titled "In the Shadow of the Swastika: Hermann Wygoda," which traces Wygoda's development from a ghetto smuggler in Nazi-occupied Poland through the adoption of his nom de résistance, Comandante Enrico, under which he led a small platoon of soldiers that eventually liberated the Italian town of Savona. Wygoda was decorated as an international hero in both the United States and Great Britain and was much later posthumously honored by the city he helped lead to freedom. Opening reception 6:30 p.m. Thursday, July 14. Exhibit runs through October 9. Central Gallery at the Holocaust Museum Houston's Morgan Family Center, 5401 Caroline. For information, call 713-942-8000 or visit www.hmh.org. Free. -- Scott Faingold
BEEN THERE, DONE THAT
In a classic case of bait and switch, I drove out expecting a wife-swap and ended up at a swap meet. The day started off with the best of sleazy intentions: I got up at the crack of ten and dragged my better half way the hell west on U.S. 290 for a chance to be one of the lucky couples on the next season of ABC-TV's domestic reality show Wife Swap. But no such luck. The network had canceled the audition at the last minute, leaving my untraded spouse and me stranded in an alternate universe, one known as Traders Village.
There we stood, smack in the middle of a massive flea market/RV park, surrounded by hundreds of bargain-seekers happily roasting in the noonday sun as they skittered from one makeshift concession to the next. We hadn't eaten breakfast, so I ordered a Styrofoam cup full of corn from a distracted-looking woman who casually asked if I wanted "mayonnaise and Parmesan cheese on that."
A quick saunter around the Village revealed a garden of earthly consumer delights. High points included five-buck parakeets (informally referred to as "keets" by one hand-lettered sign), a Bonsai Outlet for all your miniature-tree needs, incredibly cheap stereo equipment and a large array of assault weaponry.
Half-conscious from encroaching heatstroke, I stumbled past a selection of ninja-style swords and "sport air guns" straight to a two-for-one dagger sale. My unsteady right hand was drawn to a particularly handsome dragon-shaped metal sheath. Before I realized what I was doing, I'd pulled the long, sharp, curved blade out into the open air of the crowded flea market. I stood gazing at my distorted reflection in the lethal stainless steel as the guy manning the table eyed me warily. Snapping back to reality, I returned the blade to its scabbard and ambled away, my bewildered spouse in tow.
Finally accepting the loss of our 15 minutes of Wife Swap fame, we bid farewell to Traders Village. As we pulled back onto the freeway, I cranked up the volume on our brand-new CD player ($135 installed) and said a silent hosanna in praise of the capitalist system. -- Scott Faingold
Beauty in "Ruins"
If art is generally about beauty, then can paintings of ruined buildings be beautiful? That's the question posed (and answered) in the exhibit "The Splendor of Ruins in French Landscape Painting, 1630-1800." It features nearly 40 paintings by 18 different artists who combine pastoral landscapes with crumbling edifices for an effect both eerie and comforting. Artists hoped to evoke the mystery of ancient worlds, creating a sense of elapsed time and history. Think of it as MTV Cribs for the Dangerous Liaisons set. Exhibit opens Sunday, July 17, and runs through October 16. Audrey Jones Beck Building at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 5601 Main. For information, call 713-639-7300 or visit www.mfah.org. $3 to $7. -- Bob Ruggiero