Student reading Middle and high school students who've worked in the Rice/HISD School Writing Project will read from their works. Isn't this brave of them? Public speaking is often tough for slick, highly paid CEOs, and here are school kids getting up in front of the public to read their own personal, creative works. 4-6 p.m. Rice University, Ley Student Center, entrance no. 13 off Rice Boulevard, 521-0031. Free.
"In the Crossfire" A battle of words between state Senator Jerry Patterson and Deborah January-Bevers, executive legislative director of ZAK (which stands for "Zero Accidental Killings"). Patterson and January-Bevers will not face each other alone -- as seconds they have Ron Wong, a law enforcement officer, and Leslie Barnard of Houstonians Against Gun Violence, respectively. Senator Patterson is quite the gun enthusiast and has proposed a statute which would allow us to carry concealed weapons. Oh, sure, that sounds great for people like us, but what about them? This debate, "In the Crossfire: A Debate on Gun Control," is number two in a series presented by the American Civil Liberties Union. 7:30 p.m. Houston Metropolitan Multi-Service Center, 1475 West Gray. For details, call 942-8966. Free.
Let's Be Friends Zoe, a junior Joan Rivers of muppetdom, is the star of this show, but other Sesame Street monsters and our old pal Mr. Aloyisious Snuffleupagus are on-stage, too. The theme of this show is that art and entertainment are vital to public life and the well-being of the citizenry, and that any speakers of the house who would say otherwise are much, much meaner than Oscar the Grouch. At least, that's a subtext some people could see in any Sesame Street show. Big Bird and Bert and Ernie and the rest are all drawing top dollar now, but they started out on the dole. Not that kids care. Kids will enjoy the singing and dancing and encouraging messages. The show continues through Sunday. Today's performance is at 7:30 p.m. The Summit, 10 Greenway Plaza, 629-3700. $10, $11 and $12.
New Texas '94 The very charming and talented Lorenzo Thomas, Bobbie Wright and Therisa Callier are all included in this anthology of prose and poetry and plain Texas. The book will be read from and signed at Nia, which is a terrific little bookstore and a great place to visit for all your Black History Month needs. If, for whatever reason, these modern writers don't speak to you, pick up works by turn-of-the-century or 19th-century writers. Or scope the non-fiction selections. New Texas '94 readings and signings 6-8 p.m. Nia Gallery and Bookshop, 7725 West Bellfort, 729-8400.
Sourdough unplugged: Cowboy Valentine Don Sanders will celebrate cupid day in his own inimitable way, and as "Sourdough," for the kids. Sourdough is the folk singer's cowpoke character. In this afternoon's concert, Sourdough will croon Western tunes, talk about Wild West lore and tell a special story of a cowboy's pet alligator who falls in love with the crocodile girl from the circus. This story is, plainly, whimsical. However, Sanders' "Sourdough" performances are usually educational and full of really true facts about cattle punching life. After telling of the reptile romance, Sanders will, as himself, lead the children in modern activity songs. 2 p.m. McGonigel's Mucky Duck, 2425 Norfolk, 528-5999.
Tiny and Ruby: Hell-Divin' Women Hot-blooded, no-nonsense babes on tour are celebrated in this documentary about The InternationalSweethearts.The International Sweethearts were an interracial, all-woman jazz band with Tiny Davis and Ruby Lucas. Tiny played trumpet, Ruby played drums, and guess what else? Yep. Melissa Ethridge was not the first lesbian musician. This delightful short documentary precedes a screening of Spike Lee's She's Gotta Have It. The whole show starts at 7:30 p.m. Museum of Fine Arts, 1001 Bissonnet, 639-7515. $6.
Hug-a-Bug An entire week of anti-aphid biological control is under way and all of y'all are invited to participate. From today until next Saturday, people who visit the Cockrell Butterfly Center will be given a vial of live ladybugs to release inside the glass cone. The good folks of the butterfly center must use this method of pest control because conventional chemical pesticides would kill the very expensive, delicate, butterflies as well as killing plant-eating mealy bugs -- and never mind that tin of ant bait we spotted on our last visit. During Hug-a-Bug week, visitors to the center will be treated to an exhibition explaining exactly what plant pests are and, conversely, which good bugs will eat them up, yum. The exhibit will tell not only which bugs are which, but also where to find them. All these insect extras are included in the regular butterfly center admission. Houston Museum of Natural Science, Hermann Park, 639-4600. $3; $2 seniors and kids.
Suzanne Westenhoefer This lady is not just another lesbian dope-head on a Moped. Oh, looking at her dark roots and frizzy perm, one might assume she's just another mallbilly Beverly Hills 911 wannabe wearing too much eyeliner -- and perhaps she is that. But she's something else, also. Westenhoefer is a dyke comic, which just goes to show you never can tell. And why would you want to? I mean, unless you're looking for a valentine, her sexual proclivities are none of your business. (Even though she uses them as a marketing tool. Oh, well.) Westenhoefer makes merry on the subject of valentines, all types, and other social ills for one show only. 7:30 p.m. HCCS Central Campus, Heinen Theatre, 3517 Austin (at Holman). Advance tickets are available at Inkling Bookshop, 1846 Richmond, 521-3369 and Crossroads Market, 610 West Alabama, 942-0147. $15 advance, $17 at the door.
Ben-Hur Want blood and guts? This pre-OSHA, largely pre-union production reportedly cost a few extras their lives, and, well, it doesn't seem to be the case that no animals were harmed during the filming. Horses got snuffed in the chariot race scene. Back in the roaring twenties, people would pay that price for art. People like Irving Thalberg would, anyway. (The thousands he hired as extras might not have knowingly risked their lives for a couple of bucks and box lunch, but they were desperate people.) He also gave a couple of directors near mental collapses and built a full-scale replica of Rome's Circus Maximus. This ten years after D.W. Griffith rebuilt an acre of Babylon for Balshazzar's feast. And all to tell the story of Ben-Hur and his archrival, Messala. Their final, spectacular battle is the famed chariot race. Like many movies, both before and after, Ben-Hur was, at the time, the most expensive movie ever made. This is the 1925, silent Ben-Hur with Ramon Novarro and Francis X. Bushman. 7:30 p.m. The Rice Media Center: Rice University, entrance no. 8 off University Blvd., 527-4853. $4.50 (for single or double feature).
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Fire Local writers' plays are being read, out loud in public, through mid-March long in the Country Playhouse New Plays Reading Series. Tonight, native Texan Chris Woods' play will be presented in a rehearsed, script-in-hand reading. Fire is not his first effort. Woods' works have been produced in our own home town, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York City. Fire is a dramatic story about a burn victim, the only survivor of a fire that killed her family, and her physical and emotional recovery. 8 p.m. Country Playhouse, 12802 Queensbury (behind Penny's in Town and Country shopping center), 467-4497. Free.
Valentine's Day Whoo-hoo! Loot! Nylons and chocolate bars; diamonds and rubies and pearls; automobiles and vacation homes even Lady Walker would envy. At times like this, aerobics and carefully timed peroxide and ammonia rinses can really pay off. For even more loot, open a card and gift shop. Every mall has one. Heck, every strip-center has one, and people troop in, with a glassy-eyed stare Pavlov would recognize, and drop beaucoup bucks on cards and gifts for every official holiday on the calendar. It's probably too late to make a killing of this holiday, but check into franchises right away and get set for Easter swag. In the meantime, celebrate like a civilian. According to the mile-high stack of faxes on my desk, every other restaurant in the city is having a Valentine's Day special. Take your pick. Or go to your -- as in "our song" -- special place. Or cook for your significant other. (I mean, if you know how.) In a really solid relationship, a disastrous culinary attempt can be a hoot, but in most romances, kitchen mishaps make for an uncomfortable evening. Actually, couples without a plan the week before Valentine's Day are probably not so much "couples" as two people who happen to be dating. What I mean is, if you're looking for Valentine's Day ideas, if you're not inspired, you might as well give up. Give flowers, go the movies, just do something simple and wait for next year. (Those who wish, violently, to not celebrate candy and flowers on this day may mediate on the untimely end of Captain Cook, in Hawaii, February 14, 1779. Or quote Lady Day: "Don't threaten me with love, baby. Let's just go walking in the rain.")
Scoot a boot downtown Already we're in the grip of rodeo madness. This afternoon, mild-mannered workers from all over downtown can spend their lunch hours at a free kicker concert with Dale Nowak and Bustin' Loose. Most of the six band members wear Vince Gill-style shirts, but a couple go more for the Clint Black look. Musically, they're in that mainstream, too. Vittles will be provided by Luther's Barbecue; a $4 sack lunch deal will be offered. Of course, if you'd rather stop by Antone's for a sub, or just bring a real brown-bag lunch from home, that's okay, too. 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., Cullen Center, 1600 Smith Plaza. In the event of rain, the concert will be held in the Cullen Center lobby.
Spell of the Tiger: The Man-Eaters of the Sundarbans This book is about Bengal tigers, tigers which are not endangered. Not endangered, and they eat people. There is a lesson here, and we can only hope other animals don't learn it. Author and feline expert Sy Montgomery suggests that the tigers here, in the vast swamp between India and Bangladesh, are more than hungry; they're defending their turf. She also notes that they are literally man-eaters -- women go un-gobbled. (Of course, women in the area don't go in the forest much. Less brave than the men, or just smarter?) The men, the un-eaten men, don't resent the striped beasts, they revere their fearful symmetry. Moslems and Hindus both see the big cats as guardians of the swamp -- a swamp that provides for them just as the squish of southern Louisiana provides for the people of that region. Montgomery will talk about the tigers, show slides and sign copies of her book at 7 p.m. Brown Education Center, Houston Zoological Gardens, 1513 North MacGregor, Hermann Park. For tickets, call 529-2632. $8.