Mammy selling syrup. "Coons" on cookie jars. Slave auction certificates. Restaurant signs that read "If You're Black Get Back." The relics are a stark reminder of the past status of an entire racial group of Americans. And now, they're at the Menil Collection for all to reflect on, thanks to a new exhibit, "Deep Wells and Reflecting Pools." The extensive, rarely seen collection of black images and Americana came from a 1960s Menil-commissioned research project that went unfinished. Appalled by the virulent racism depicted in the found objects, the museum turned to local artist David McGee, who combed through the artifacts and chose pieces for the exhibit that would strike a nerve. "It's hard-core to see ourselves depicted with all this hatred and all these stereotypes," says McGee, "because we know who we are."
Hard-core, maybe, but for McGee, the controversial imagery provides blacks -- and everyone else -- a much-needed opportunity to examine their history and identity. "When you look into a well," he says of the show's fitting title, "you see your image reflected back at you." Through April 17. 1515 Sul Ross. For information, call 713-525-9400 or visit www.menil.org. Free. - Felicia Johnson-LeBlanc
Celebrate the rooster at the Houston Zoo's Asian Festival
Are you a hottie? Are people drawn to your radiant, eccentric personality and your snappy wardrobe? Well, hell, you're quite the arrogant SOB, aren't ya? You're also a rooster under the Chinese zodiac, if you were born in 1981 or any multiple of 12 years before or after. According to legend, Buddha summoned all the animals before he left the earth, but only 12 -- including the rooster -- showed up. As a reward, he named a year after each one. Today, you can celebrate your animal magnetism at the Houston Zoo's annual Asian Festival. You'll be treated to traditional lion and peacock dances, Chinese folk music and origami and martial arts demonstrations. 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, January 29. 1513 North MacGregor. For information, call 713-533-6500 or visit www.houstonzoo.org. $3 to $7; free for children two and under. - Steven Devadanam
BEEN THERE, DONE THAT
Pruning the Bush
People are bumping into one another as they stare at a long procession of street puppets and protesters winding around the University of Houston central campus. A giant Bush head and a dancing, glad-handing Cheney are leading the fray. People carrying a banner that says "The Evil Empire" are mock-heckling the ones carrying "Civil Society" and "Direct Democracy" signs. A boom box is pumping out throbbing rap.
It's Inauguration Day, and a protest group called "Inaugurate Yourself" is bellowing catchy chants like "It's bullshit, get off it, the enemy is profit!" and "Four more wars!" The procession stops in the middle of campus, where the "Direct Democracy" group symbolically overcomes "The Evil Empire." So far, there's been no opposition to the party, but then an Asian guy wearing a "Real Men Like Bush" shirt yells out, "Four more years -- take that, liberal media hos!" A small frat and sorority group then stops and flashes "W" signs with their fingers. "Go home, hippies!" they yell.
"We challenge you to a dance-off!" yells back one of the protesters. The boom box kicks in as they proceed to shake their collective asses. The Bush supporters sneer, point and laugh, but they don't, I notice, dance.
The moment seems to be passing. But the "Inaugurate Yourself" crowd deserves credit for sparking lively political debate out of the apathetic students at UH -- even if some of the students are still working out the whole democratic-process thing.
"Man, these people need to get jobs -- they don't even get what democracy is," a backpacked passerby remarks, staring as democracy unfolds before his eyes. "I mean, dude, we were just talking about it in class today." - Steven Devadanam
A Real Hothead
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In the early '50s, Japanese producers had a tough time deciding whether their Gojira -- translation, Godzilla -- monster should be a mammoth ape or a giant octopus. Their answer? A fire-breathing lizard who looked like Cookie Monster on steroids. The original 1954 Japanese Gojira film wasn't shown in U.S. theaters (we got the 1956 dubbed version with different scenes), but the restored, subtitled Godzilla print playing at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston this weekend features 40 additional minutes of footage from the original film. Watch the gray guy wreak havoc on Tokyo at 9 p.m. Friday, January 28; 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday, January 29; and 7 p.m. Sunday, January 30. Brown Auditorium Theater, 1001 Bissonnet. For tickets and information, call 713-639-7515 or visit www.mfah.org. $6. - Greg Barr
Rolling Out the Aid
If you were to try to explain the event to the people it's helping, you might be at a loss, since last we checked, there aren't too many motorcycle rallies in Indonesia. But we say, hey -- if it helps, it doesn't matter if it's a zany procession of leather-clad folk. The Tsunami Motorcycle Ride for Relief unites Houston's loudest on a police-escorted ride that starts at Gallery Furniture and finishes at Sam Houston Race Park. Register at 8 a.m., and wheel up at 9:15 a.m. on Saturday, January 29. 6006 I-45 North (between Tidwell and Parker). For information, call 832-203-4624 or visit www.house911.com. $20 minimum donation. - Julia Ramey