Of the more than 2,000 paintings, drawings and sketches Vincent Van Gogh created in his lifetime, Moonrise has always been one of the most mysterious. The majority of the postimpressionist painter's works can be dated through letters he wrote to his brother Theo. But Van Gogh didn't leave many clues about Moonrise, a painting once thought to have depicted a sunrise. Southwest Texas State University physics professors Donald Olson and Russell Doescher, along with English professor Marilynn Olson, recently set out to discover just when Van Gogh painted Moonrise. The team traveled to Saint-Rémy, France, in June 2002 and visited the Saint-Paul monastery where Van Gogh was staying when he mailed Moonrise to his brother. Sure enough, using clues from the painting's landscape, the team determined that Van Gogh had painted the work right there.
By studying the sun, moon, stars and their relationship to the landscape -- and comparing them to Van Gogh's painting -- the professors were able to come up with an amazingly precise time frame for the work. Van Gogh painted Moonrise at 9:08 p.m. on July 13, 1889 -- meaning it definitely depicts a moon, not a sun.
Olson says it was surreal to stand where Van Gogh had stood and see what he had seen. "This research gives me a deeper appreciation of how Van Gogh derived his works, in part, from his love of nature," he says. "Walking around in Saint-Rémy is like walking inside the canvases of Van Gogh." -- Rachel Otto
Candace Bushnell, author of Sex and the City and 4 Blondes, has a bone to pick with superficial, two-faced, upper-crust New York society. But she clearly delights in it as well. In her latest offering, Trading Up, we once again meet Janey Wilcox, a woman who has it all, including a Victoria's Secret modeling contract and her very own Porsche Boxster. The problem is, in New York, there's always somebody better off than you are -- hence Janey's inability to ever feel truly satisfied.
In her trademark style, Bushnell has peppered the story with absurd names like Roditzy Deardrum. Part of the fun is figuring out certain characters' real-life counterparts. Take Roditzy, who works in public relations: "Roditzy would later end up in a French jail due to a freak boating accident in the South of France, in which several of her friends would lose arms and legs during an Ecstasy fest arranged by Roditzy herself, but at the moment, nothing bad had happened to her and she was considered the party queen of New York." Can you say Lizzie Grubman? Bushnell reads and signs Trading Up from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday, July 28. Barnes & Noble, 7626 Westheimer. For information, call 713-783-6016. Free. -- Cathy Matusow
You Gold, Girl
Howard Peel, the Highland Village Edward Jones investment rep hosting a "Smart Women Finish Rich" seminar, wants to "help women understand how to create wealth and a secure financial future." More likely it's to help women who married rich keep their money when their husbands die (or go to federal prison). A better name: "Rich Women Finish Rich If They're Smart." 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 29. Doubletree Hotel, 2001 Post Oak Boulevard. For reservations, call 713-355-1066. Free. -- Troy Schulze
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Not Yet a Woman
If you're not a 15-year-old Latina, you're probably not going to have a quinceañera. But sometimes even girls who fit the demographic don't get their party. The celebration of the passage from girlhood to womanhood is damn expensive, and not everybody can afford it. That's why Gwendolyn Zepeda, author of To the Last Man I Slept With and All the Jerks Just Like Him, is having her own quinceañera/reading at MECA. There will also be an open mike; folks in quinceañera garb get first dibs. 7 p.m. Friday, July 25. 1900 Kane. For information, call 713-802-9370. $3. -- Cathy Matusow
A Is for the Murders in Student Bodies
Movie slashers like Jason and Freddy who kill with machetes, knives and sharp claws are so, well, boring. Try offing a horny teenager or school principal with a paper clip, eraser or eggplant. Now that takes some ingenuity, and the villainous "Breather" from the 1981 comedy/horror cult fave Student Bodies gets an A for creativity. The Orange Show will whisk you back to the Reagan era with a screening of the film and a concert by '80s cover band Molly and the Ringwalds. "The '80s were all about self-indulgence, which is cool, but I think everyone took things way too seriously," says the Orange Show's Meg Griffin, who picked the flick. "Student Bodies is the perfect antidote. I mean, you can't take a movie seriously that has cheerleaders performing at a funeral."
Griffin, who thinks the perfect slow-torture death involves a locked room and Yanni CDs, has high hopes that the band will play "Mr. Roboto," "Dancing with Myself" and "Ghostbusters." In between, DJ Farahani will spin '80s grooves. And there's free popcorn to munch on while the blood flows. 7:30 p.m. band; 9 p.m. movie. Saturday, July 26. 2401 Munger. For information, call 713-926-6368 or visit www.orangeshow.org. $4. -- Bob Ruggiero