Hare Attitudes One of the great things about art is that, in the hands of a thoughtful and skilled artist, anything can be a provocative topic. If you doubt that assertion, you need look no further than Nayland Blake's current show at the CAM, which uses the rabbit in all its many aspects -- from Easter candy to Bugs Bunny to the phrase "they breed like rabbits" -- as its theme. "Nayland Blake," says exhibition curator Lynn M. Herbert, "is a thought-provoking conceptual artist who, with deceptively simple means, explores complex and multilayered contemporary issues." The "simple means" she refers to are rabbit costumes and kids' toys, and the issues discussed are gay and racial. Sure, anyone can get complex racial issues from Brer Rabbit and Uncle Wiggily, but Blake's study of the hare goes all the way back to Renaissance iconography. Blake will talk about his disarmingly witty and revealing show at a gallery talk followed by a reception. As part of the show, Blake's 30-minute video Negative Bunny will be shown continuously. The show continues through February 25. Talk, 6:30; reception, 7-9 p.m. Contemporary Arts Museum, 5216 Montrose, 526-0773.
David Burgess Can't get the soundtrack for Desperado out of your head? Hungry for the intricate, furious sound of Latin guitar? Well, then, this concert is for you. David Burgess studied with Andres Segovia, won many prizes at international competitions and now comes to Houston playing Spanish music. The program for Burgess' concert includes "Two Pieces" by Isaac Albeniz, "Three Pieces" by Joaquin Turina, "Intermezzo from Goyescas" by Enrique Granados and "Un Tiempo Fue Italica Famosa" by Joaquin Rodrigo. Music that Burgess learned while traveling through South America will also be presented -- tangos and sambas and melodies of the Incas. 8 p.m. Houston Baptist University, Mabee Theater, 7502 Fondren, 995-3338. $5; free, seniors and students with ID.
Caroline Rhea Possibly because she's Canadian, Caroline Rhea is a unique comedienne. While cable comedy shows are beset with herds of women who either dress for MTV and cling desperately to arch, tres hip aptitudes or are just grown-up bratty girls bitching about men, Rhea simply says funny stuff and is herself. She's a nice WASP girl who looks at her nice WASP girl life, and television and society, with an eye for contradictions and conundrums. She's done all the comedy shows and, briefly, had a sitcom, Pride and Joy, on NBC. Her Houston debut began Wednesday, and she'll be here through February 4. 8 p.m. nightly; 10:30 p.m. late shows Friday and Saturday. The Laff Stop, 1952 West Gray, 524-2333. $6.50, Thursday and Sunday; $10, Friday and Saturday. The two-drink minimum applies. No one under 18 admitted.
Gene Mann Wild Game Cook-off This cook-off, a tradition that dates back to "Houston Proud" days, began with local sportsmen searing flesh over an open fire at the Cattle Guard restaurant. From that playful beginning in the heady days of the boom, the cook-off has grown to a two-day event with world-class chefs, live musical entertainment on several stages and a Ms. Wild Game pageant. This year, for the first time, spectators will be able to sink their teeth into the wild game, along with, of course, fine food from reputable vendors. The cooks follow a refreshingly liberal "no rules" policy. Competitors include Charles Watkins of Sierra, the Road Kill team and three "Mystery Teams." (TV Food Network viewers may wonder if Emeril Lagasse of The Essence of Emeril is on one of the Mystery Teams. We don't know. We just don't know.) The 16th annual cook-off, 4 p.m. today and 11 a.m. Saturday. Garden in the Heights, 3926 Feagan, 880-1065. $5 cover charge; bring cash for food and drinks.
Hollywood or Bust Pauly Shore is paired with a Baldwin, not yummy Brendan Fraser, in his latest movie; nonetheless Bio-Dome is true to an old formula. If you want to see a bumbling idiot and his straight man make good in classic style, catch Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin in Hollywood or Bust, one of several hundred movies made by the pair (okay, 17, of which this was the last). In Hollywood, as in the whole catalog of Martin/Lewis comedies, Dean sings and gets the girl, and Lewis, although he's playing an earnest, unmonied simpleton, wears a pinkie ring and a Rolex. That unlikely costuming is Lewis' way of saying, hey, babe, this is Hollywood. Hollywood or Bust will be shown with one of the worst movies ever made, the infamous rat pack movie Ocean's 11. 7:30 p.m. The Rice Media Center, Rice University (entrance no. 8 off University), 527-4853. $4.50 (for single or double feature).
P.S. 122 Field Trips P.S. 122 is not a public school, it's Performance Space 122 NYC, and it's taking its show on the road. Danny Hoch, Molissa Fenley, James Godwin and Reno each do solo pieces incorporating dance, theater, music, stand-up comedy and grotty East Village performance art aesthetics, but it would be a mistake to pigeonhole the troupe as just another pack of performance artists mewling about their neuroses. No, these performers, especially Danny Hoch, like to have fun. Two of the artists, Hoch and Reno, have had HBO specials, and Hoch has won an Obie and several other awards for his stage work. And, the group from P.S. 122 is not afraid of beauty. Godwin is a student of mask-making and puppetry, and his creations are magnificent. (Godwin uses his puppetry skills for commerce as well as art. One of his rent-paying gigs was handling a rubber shark in a Mattel toy commercial.) This show is the first of P.S. 122's 1996 season, and in keeping with the debut mood, Danny Hoch will present a work-in-progress, "Evolution of a Homeboy." See Thrills, Theater, Opening, for information on "An Evening with the Artists." P.S. 122 Field Trips, 8 p.m. tonight and Saturday, Wortham Center, 500 Texas, 227-ARTS. $20, $24 and $30.
Freedmen's Town Walk-a-Thon As a fundraiser for their organization, and as a Black History Month event, the Freedmen's Town Association is having an early morning walk-a-thon. Walkers will circle Freedmen's Town enjoying the sights, refreshment pit stops and a buffet breakfast at the end. Money raised by the walk-a-thon will be used for education, health care and business development programs in Freedmen's Town and other inner-city neighborhoods. The walk begins at West Dallas and the Gulf Freeway, circles the neighborhood, then returns to the starting point. 7:30-10 a.m. For more information, or to offer support, call the Freedmen's Town Association, 739-9414 or 739-9413.
PFLAG and anti-hate group meeting Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays and other organizations devoted to fighting hate crimes will hold a meeting to discuss goals and strategies. 1 p.m. Bering Memorial United Methodist Church, 1440 Harold. For more information, call 995-9777, or e-mail kellettaol.com.
An Evening with Ossie Davis The Houston-Baytown Employees Association has invited Ossie Davis, actor, writer, director, producer and legend, to speak at its fundraising dinner to benefit the United Negro College Fund. Grammy Award-winning songwriter V. Michael McKay will also appear. Social hour, 6:30; dinner, 7:30 p.m. The Houstonian, Evergreen Room, 111 North Post Oak Lane. For reservations, call the 24-hour reservation line, 457-1190. $50 per person.
An Awfully Big Adventure Hugh Grant's latest is a downbeat coming-of-age drama that vividly evokes the seedy glamour of backstage life in post-World War II Liverpool. Sixteen-year-old Stella (newcomer Georgina Cates) is frightfully determined to establish herself in theater and willingly endures the bitchy authoritarianism of gay impresario Meredith Potter (Grant). Unfortunately, she makes the mistake of falling in love with fading matinee idol P.L. O'Hara (Alan Rickman). Even more unfortunately, O'Hara discovers a dark secret from their shared past that leads to tragedy. But the main attraction here is Grant, gleefully shattering his boyishly romantic image with a flamboyantly nasty portrayal of a petty tyrant who delights in his own cruelty. This film is not having a wide release in our neighborhood (although it is out on video). Your only chance to see it on the big screen is this weekend. 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. today and Sunday. The Rice Media Center, Rice University (entrance no. 8 off University), 527-4853. $5, premiere admission.
Symphony Concert benefiting UNCF Jazz great Ramsey Lewis and his trio will join conductor William Henry Curry and the Houston Symphony on the Jones Hall stage for an exciting benefit concert. The College Fund/ UNCF performing arts scholarships will profit from the proceeds. 8 p.m. Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana, 227-ARTS. $10-$40.
Living Tibet The Yoga Center of Houston and the MFA present the monks of Sera Je Monastery in a program of sand paintings (mandalas), theater and dance arts. During their stay in Houston, the lamas will be available for master classes. They'll also be available to tell students stories about trekking through the Himalayas to escape Tibet, and what it means to be political refugees. Today through February 17, during regular hours, the monks will demonstrate sand painting and sand painting rituals. The Museum of Fine Arts, 1001 Bissonnet, 526-1361. $3; $1.50, students, children six-18 and seniors; free, children under five. For more information about the special programs, call 524-4572.
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New Play Reading Series More grab-bag theater! Country Playhouse presents new work by local writers each Sunday night in February. The fourth annual series begins with Rebecca Burrough's comedy, Behold, an Angel! 7 p.m. Country Playhouse, 12802 Queensbury (Town and Country Village), 784-1750. Free.
The Beardstown Ladies' Stitch-in-Time Guide to Growing Your Nest Egg The 15 blue-haired old ladies of the Beardstown Ladies' investment club started meeting in 1983. At every meeting, they put $25 in the kitty and planned investments, and they made lots and lots of money and wrote a book, The Beardstown Ladies' Common-Sense Investment Guide. The book was a bestseller, and the ladies became famous, especially Maxine. However, they did not let any of this go to their heads. Instead, they kept writing. Their latest book, the Stitch-in-Time Guide, is as down-home as the first, and full of simple, practical advice about saving money and making sure all the money you save is properly distributed after your passing. Meet these nice ladies from Illinois and buy their book. 7:30 p.m., Borders Book Shop, 570 Meyerland Plaza, 661-2888. Free, though you'll have to pony up $19.95 for the book.
Why Girls Can't Paint Cows and Other Myths of the Art World Perhaps it's not a very prevalent myth, but it makes for a snazzy rodeo-time title. In conjunction with the "Artgirls of the West" show at the Firehouse Gallery, the Houston Women's Caucus for Art presents a panel discussion. Men and women, Western artists and academics, will speak openly and publicly about women and Western art. Vivian Atwater, art history professor from UH-Clear Lake; Western artist Betty Gates; Susan Hallsten McGarry, editor-in-chief of Southwest Art; and Jack Austin Morris Jr. of Altermann & Morris Gallery are featured speakers. 7-9 p.m. Arrive early because the gallery is tiny. Firehouse Gallery, 1413 Westheimer. For more information, call 520-7840.
John Singer and the Dummy Company The dummies appearing on-stage with John Singer include Bush and Clinton, and a hairy ape. Singer is a talented ventriloquist who appears with not one or two, but at least a half-dozen dummies. Singer, who's in his sixties, tours the country in a 35-foot motor home with his Dummy Company, competing with young stand-up comics at clubs throughout the country. Tonight, he opens at the Showcase, where he'll play through February 11. Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday, 8:30 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 8 and 10:15 p.m. Comedy Showcase, 12547 Gulf Freeway. (at Fuqua), 481-1188. $6-$9.