Young Writers Reading Series Writers in the Schools, a nonprofit organization that sends real live writers around to teach children, allows kids to have the whole literary experience, up to and including public readings of their own deathless prose. High and middle school students from M.D. Anderson Hospital who've worked with Writers in the Schools will read, out loud and standing up straight, from their own works. 7:30 p.m. The Menil Collection, 1515 Sul Ross, 523-3877. Free.
Hot reptiles The Houston Museum of Natural Science continues its Distinguished Lecturer Series with paleontologist Robert Bakker. Sure, he looks like Sam Neill in Jurassic Park with a dash of Indiana Jones, especially considering the hat, but Bakker is a genuine Ph.D'ed scientist. His ideas have been brought to bear in Little Golden Books, the Encyclopedia Britannica and Jurassic Park. In the 1960s Bakker was a bona fide radical: he argued that dinosaurs were not cold-blooded reptiles but hot-blooded relatives of birds.
Throughout the series, the museum has presented science authorities who are outstanding in their fields, and Bakker certainly fits that bill -- he, the adjunct curator at the University of Colorado Museum, is often out in the field (though most likely stooped over, rather than standing). His crusading is often featured on public television, and he frequently arranges conferences to introduce real scientists to toy-makers and game-designers in the hopes that entertainment can be made more educational and accurate. Bakker was selected to speak in conjunction with the May 16 grand opening of Life Through Time, the museum's expanded paleontology exhibit (see Monday Picks). Reserve seats with a credit card by calling 639-IMAX. 7 p.m. The Houston Museum of Natural Science, One Hermann Circle Drive, 639-4600. $12.
Bike to Work Day Great for downtown workers who live in The Woodlands, heh heh. No, really, workers whose homes are ten miles from their workplaces should seize the day. You don't need a spiffy Velcro strap to keep your pants leg out of your bike chain -- just use a big ol' rubber band or an old shoelace. It just doesn't matter. What matters is getting around under your own steam; the benefits are better health (not to mention better legs) for you and decreased traffic and air pollution for our city. Ah, it's sweet. (A little sweat never hurt anybody -- and if you pedal fast enough, you can air-cool yourself, even in a suit.)
And, folks in The Woodlands and other far-flung burbs can't wuss out -- Metro will provide free round-trip passes to anyone who bikes to Park & Ride lots or Transit Centers. But wait, there's more! Over 100 Houston-area companies will compete for trophies, and all those company riders will be entered in a grand-prize drawing for two round-trip air tickets.
If you don't bike to work, at least be a considerate, law-abiding motorist. Cyclists have rights, and often the right-of-way.
Children's Festival The East Lawndale Civic Association has raspas, clowns, cultural programs, music, sodas, dancing, hot dogs and karate planned for a positive day in the park. Local elementary, middle and high school students will perform skits, songs and dances from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. as part of this celebration of safe summer fun. Parents are encouraged to bring lawn chairs and blankets (and some money for the plant sale). 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Mason Park, 75th Street at Harrisburg. Free admission.
Celebrate Korea! This is Houston's final event in the year-long, nationwide Asia Society Festival of Korea. Entertainment includes the renowned Korean National Taekwondo Demonstration Team, which opened the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, and a farmers' dance group from a small village. The Taekwondo team and Nongak Farmer's Dance will perform three times during the day. Along with the active art, there will be less strenuous demonstrations of Korean calligraphy, mask-making, fan and flower-making. This is no funnel-cake festival; bulgogi, mandu and kim bap will be served (that's grilled beef, fried dumplings and Korean-style "California rolls"). There will be, of course, a souvenir booth. 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Tranquility Park, downtown. Call 629-9316. Free admission.
International Festival No, not that international festival -- it's the W.G. Love Accelerated Elementary International Festival. W.G. Love students are predominantly low-income, so-called "at risk" students. Their parents, while often willing, do not always have the financial resources or the time to support the school.
The students hope their festival will raise money and forge alliances with members of the business community. This bazaar will feature games, food booths, dancing and music, and a peek at classroom activities. The festival begins with a parade at 10 a.m. and continues until 5 p.m. 1120 West 13th Street, 861-9980. Free admission.
Cypress Creek Cafe's Crawfish Festival These may not be the first mudbugs of spring, but laissez les bon temps rouler anyhow. These crawfish are hatched east of the Sabine -- Bideaux Crawfish Co., a fine old firm of Hammond, Louisiana, ships in fresh and frisky Atchafalaya crawdads for the festival. This 13th annual jamboree has live music by the Volunteer Fire Ants with Erik Hokkanen, the Texana Dames and the tres groovy W.C. Clark Blues Revue. People in California talk about a "laid-back" lifestyle, but they have no idea (although, to its credit, the population of California has relatively few annoying goobers who wear "Suck my head" T-shirts). Crawfish Festival begins at 1:30 p.m. Cypress Creek Cafe, Ranch Road 12, on the square in Wimberly, (512) 847-5300. $5, $1 kids 12 and under.
Family Day at Bayou Bend To celebrate International Museum Day (this time of year, the calendar is packed with this stuff), come to Bayou Bend for demonstrations of spinning, weaving and needlework. George Washington's mother will be on hand to talk about our first president's life as a little boy. (Not, of course, his real mother, but an amazingly lifelike representative.) Museum docents and other staff will also be answering questions today. This is the day to find out how precious objects are acquired and cared for. 1-5 p.m. Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens, 1 Westcott Street, 520-2600. Free, no reservations required.
Galveston Historic Homes Tour The 20th annual tour takes visitors through nine amazing houses dating from antebellum Texas through the turn of the century. "Each of these homes has a unique history," says Galveston Home Foundation executive director Betty Massy. "Some have survived occupation by Civil War combatants, devastating fires, Galveston's 1900 hurricane and, in many cases, years of abandonment and neglect."
The tour includes an illustrated Homes Tour catalog with a map and descriptions of each home. You can set your own pace and route, or take advantage of shuttle service. Noon-6 p.m. Tickets available at The Strand Visitor's Center, 2016 Strand, and at the 1859 Ashton Villa, 2328 Broadway, Galveston, (409) 762-TOUR or (713) 280-3907. $15.
Transit Appreciation Week There's an old Pogo strip in which Churchy La Femme, turtle and troubadour, urges his friends in the Okefenokee Swamp to observe "Farmers' Wash Day." Silly as it may sound, we may well have signed such a celebration into officialdom by now, what with Hallmark, special-interest groups and elected officials all crowding up the calendar. Likewise, "Transit Appreciation Week" may sound like a bad joke, but it's a good idea.
Ask around: if you have friends who work I'll bet you find at least one wage slave who took Park & Ride once, because of car repair or some such, and has been a faithful Metro rider ever since. If you work regular hours on a paved two-lane street, chances are good that you could enjoy the bus. Think of it -- free time to read, in the morning and afternoon. You could save big bucks on gas money and enjoy environmental moral high ground.
There are unique thrills, too, in Transit Appreciation Week. Captain Planet will appear at Metro RideStores on Tuesday, May 17 to give away posters, pop-up books and other Planeteer items. During Transit Appreciation Week, May 16-20, five bucks will get you a ticket good for all week and anywhere Metro goes. And, you might just get to travel elsewhere in the contiguous United States -- patrons who mail in their $5 passes by May 31 will be included in a drawing for two round-trip air tickets (be sure to print your name, address and phone on the pass before mailing it). Passes and contest details can be found at many grocery stores, all designated ticket outlets and Metro RideStores. Call 635-4000 for schedules and information.
Life Through Time The Museum of Natural Science's expanded and improved paleontology exhibit opens today. Walk under the tail of a 20-ton herbivorous dinosaur, or feast your eyes on a raging battle scene with Tyrannosaurus Rex. More than 450 specimens will be on permanent display, and oh what a display it is. It's got a working waterfall, and elaborate murals and dioramas complement the fossils exhibited.
Life Through Time is designed to give visitors a sense that they're strolling through various times, beginning with Precambrian -- 4.5 billion years ago -- and marching on through the Paleozoic Era, the ever-popular Jurassic and right up to the fairly recent Cenozoic Era. (All Houston-area local fossils are from the Cenozoic Era. The swamp we live in was once home to Ice Age mammals such as the giant sloth and the giant armadillo. One of each, dug up along Brays Bayou in 1952, will be presented, and as you stare at the remains of these colossal creatures, remember that similar bones could be right in your own back yard.) 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Life Through Time is now a permanent exhibit at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, One Hermann Circle Drive, 639-4600. $3, $2 children under 12. (There's never an admission fee for members.)
The Modern Theater of Language Inprint Inc. presents prose and plays read by Alley Theatre company members. Before the reception, enjoy excerpts from Christopher Durang's Beyond Therapy, Eugene Ionesco's The Bald Soprano, David Mamet's Duck Variations, Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey into Night, Harold Pinter's Applicant and Last to Go, Gertrude Stein's A List, Tom Stoppard's The Real Thing, Tennessee Williams' The Lady of Larkspur Lotion and, wrapping up this festival of modernity, Robert Wilson's Letter from Queen Victoria. The goal of this web of words is to benefit Inprint Inc., which will in turn do even more to promote writing and the appreciation of the literary arts in Houston. 7:30 p.m. Alley Theatre, Neuhaus Stage, 615 Texas Avenue, 521-2026. $20, $5 students.
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Boatyard Tonight's always the night for comedy book-ended by jazz, under the low-slung roof of a long shed by the freeway. Dick Williams, who organized the show, says, "This venue survives on the interest of those who desire to see developing comedy, and the good will of comics who are willing to participate for little or no compensation." Comics say it's a great place to learn how to bomb. Although not always cheerfully. As one put it with a certain measure of rancor, "I was there working to six people who really didn't like me and the other tables were all fighting with each other." I say Pauly Shore would never have made it through a dues-paying process like this, and any true fan of the wacky arts would delight in seeing newbies develop their craft. And, it's not all amateur. Certain well-known former locals drop by to work on new material, to fool around, or just because they can't stand not going up.
Young upstarts such as Jack Mize and Rob Mungle have done their little acts at the Boatyard, along with local comic Robin Forman and actual celebrity Riley Barber. You just never know -- and isn't that nicer than seeing a set show of canned comedy by road hacks? The 90-minute show begins at 10 p.m. Proceeded and followed by live acoustic jazz. The Boatyard, 3839 Morningside, 942-7774. No cover.
Noontime concert The Houston Parks and Recreation Department is quietly putting our tax dollars to work all over town for a variety of diversions, including this workday respite. Don't eat a microwaved meal at your disorderly desk; get out, get some air. Enjoy fine jazz at City Hall. (Ignore the ludicrous decorations dangling from the trees, or thank Elyse, if your taste runs that way.) You can down an espresso or enjoy a fine, steamin' styrofoam cup of latte from the vendors (whose home office, by the way, is in League City). Sit by the reflecting pool and, well, reflect. A little sensitivity won't hurt you, no matter how hardcore corporate you aim to be.
Today, the Tony Campise Quartet performs. 12:15-1:15 p.m. City Hall, Hermann Square, 901 Bagby. For more info call 845-1222.