Before streaming, iPods and CDs, we got our music fix from cassette tapes. Artist J Hill made a really big one, and he's ready to talk about it during Conversations @ The Center.EXPAND
Before streaming, iPods and CDs, we got our music fix from cassette tapes. Artist J Hill made a really big one, and he's ready to talk about it during Conversations @ The Center.
Photo courtesy of Galveston Arts Center

Ten Things to Do in Houston for $10 or Less (five Free), January 26-February 1

We know the feeling. It's that awkward time of month between paychecks when the wallet feels light but you just don't want to stay home. It's all good, because we have the 411 on improv and comedy, cars and coffee, and even a mash-up of giant cassettes and miniature toilets. Keep reading for ten of our favorite events that won't cost you more than $10 — and five of them are free! Check out the Houston Press calendar for even more things to do.

Conversations @ The Center

Galveston Arts Center, Galveston
6:30 p.m. Thursday, free
What's it like to be an artist trying to keep up with technology? We've seen film give way to digital photography, artists wrestling with 3-D printers and musicians so overproduced that we'd be shocked to hear them live. Local artist J Hill (he's on faculty at the Glassell School of Art) will talk about how technology has always been a part of art making, and how it can actually improve the workflow, in a talk titled "Technology in the Middle." GAC's popular lecture series is back with a new lineup of speakers who delve into the intersection of art, science and technology. We'll also hear from Alex Goss, who has had some success with 3-D printing – he designed the cutest little miniature bathroom with an itty-bitty urinal and potty – in a sort of how-to titled "Drawing with Computers: The Digital Zen Garden." He teaches at the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, but you'll find his studio work under the name "YOUSCREW."

You tell a true story, and then the wacky folks at Houston Playback Theatre will make it come alive with interactive improv.EXPAND
You tell a true story, and then the wacky folks at Houston Playback Theatre will make it come alive with interactive improv.
Photo by Anthony Rathbun Photography

An Evening of Playback Theatre
The Jung Center
7 to 9 p.m. Friday, $10

Everybody can be a storyteller, especially when those touching, outrageous or comedic moments from real life are reflected back through the power of improv. Every night is different, and audience members shouldn't feel too guilty about schadenfreude; it's also quite therapeutic for the "story starter" as seeing those life moments retold through the prism of action and song can provide insight and catharsis. Come out for a few laughs and the realization that we are all connected somehow.

According to the Chinese zodiac, people born in the Year of the Rooster are honest, bright, communicative and ambitious.EXPAND
According to the Chinese zodiac, people born in the Year of the Rooster are honest, bright, communicative and ambitious.
Photo by Anna Veselova

Lunar New Year Festival
Chinese Community Center
10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, free

Here's something to crow about: It's the Year of the Rooster, and they're pulling out all the stops for the 14th annual Lunar New Year Festival. Back in the days before alarm clocks, those punctual roosters made sure we didn't oversleep, and so we're entering a year of fidelity and punctuality. So don't be late, because this shindig has been supersized by the Houston Arts Alliance, with tons of dancing (Lion dances are at 10:44 and 11:24 a.m. and at 1:19 and 1:52 p.m.), music and martial arts performances, plus a bazaar with tasty Asian foods, arts and crafts. If you're feeling lucky, buy some raffle tickets for a crack at more than 60 prizes, including a cruise for you and your honey.

That cute kitty is named Wolverine, and he wants to know when Todd Richards and Marlon Azada, president and vice president of the Feline PAW Foundation, will let him go play.
That cute kitty is named Wolverine, and he wants to know when Todd Richards and Marlon Azada, president and vice president of the Feline PAW Foundation, will let him go play.
Photo by Michelle Richards

Felines, Football and Fun!
Jimmy Burke Activity Center, Deer Park
9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Free to $7
9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday, Free to $7

Is your cat special enough to strut its stuff in the show circuit? Do you love football so much that you're ready to enter a raffle for a Texans football signed by Bum Phillips and Wade Phillips? Come out to this international cat show and check out the Bengals, Scottish Folds and Devon Rexes, then cast your vote for favorite cat or cage decoration and see if official judge and mayor of Deer Park Jerry Mouton Jr. agrees with your pick. Vendors and adoptables are on hand, and you can even channel your inner kitty when Put on a Happy Face transforms your visage with painted-on little whiskers

They might not be doing doughnuts in the parking lot, but you can count on some tasty confections with your coffee this Saturday.EXPAND
They might not be doing doughnuts in the parking lot, but you can count on some tasty confections with your coffee this Saturday.
Photo courtesy of Gateway Classic Cars, STL Showroom

Cars & Coffee
Gateway Classic Cars of Houston
9 a.m. to noon Saturday, free

Weather be damned, Gateway Classic is doling out the doughnuts and coffee all year round now for its monthly Cars & Coffee. We can't wait to see what classic beauties are on deck: Just this month alone, the Houston branch received a silver-anniversary '78 Chevrolet Corvette, a turbocharged five-speed '93 Mazda RX7 and a '65 Ford Mustang V8 with overdrive. Sweet! If the weather sucks, they know you won't want to bring out your pride and joy, so it's okay to drive over in your daily transpo until the weather changes.

California-based baroque pop singer/songwriter Eliza Rickman will be joined by the ensemble for her set at 14 Pews this Sunday.EXPAND
California-based baroque pop singer/songwriter Eliza Rickman will be joined by the ensemble for her set at 14 Pews this Sunday.
Photo by Stevie Mada

Eliza Rickman with Two Star Symphony
14 Pews

4 to 6 p.m. Sunday, $10
No, this isn't a mistake. Believe it or not, we get a chance to hear the breathless voice of baroque pop singer/songwriter Eliza Rickman in an intimate chamber performance for just $10. It's also a chance to preview some of the tunes from her forthcoming album, The Fire Went Wild, as well as old favorites from her previous two releases: O, You Sinners and Footnotes for the Spring. She keeps busy these days: We hear her often enough on the podcast Welcome to Night Vale, she did a few gigs with Rasputina and soloed throughout Europe. Local faves Two Star Symphony take a break from their heavy commission schedule to join Rickman for her Houston return.

We named singer-songwriter Robin Kirby in our Rocks Off 100 portrait gallery for 2013.
We named singer-songwriter Robin Kirby in our Rocks Off 100 portrait gallery for 2013.
Photo by Pin Lim

Last Sunday's at RockStar
RockStar Gallery
1 to 5 p.m. Sunday, free

This one's a one-size-fits-all bash offering something for just about everybody. Choose your poison: visual art, music, live radio, food trucks and art cars. The shebang is free, so be sure to drop some greenbacks at the cash bar. Robin Kirby does her live radio show, The Music Highway, with special guests each month; on Sunday we'll hear from classical guitarist Andrew Bateman, mixing in a little flamenco, folk, contemporary, rock, blues and jazz. Don't miss the art on display, courtesy of native Houston artist and show producer Vena Ashley. Expect slices from Hot Toppings Pizza and wash them down with the finest from Saint Arnold Brewing Company and Karbach Brewing Company.

The Ensemble Theatre is doing a staged reading of Black Spurs by Texas playwright Celeste Bedford Walker. At the same time and in a different space, Ensemble kicks off End Zone Live for the Midtown Cultural Arts and Entertainment District.
The Ensemble Theatre is doing a staged reading of Black Spurs by Texas playwright Celeste Bedford Walker. At the same time and in a different space, Ensemble kicks off End Zone Live for the Midtown Cultural Arts and Entertainment District.
Photo courtesy of The Ensemble Theatre

Salute to Texas Playwrights series, Black Spurs
The Ensemble Theatre
6 p.m. Monday, $5

We're proud to lay claim to Houston-born playwright Celeste Bedford Walker (Sassy Mamas). She's a busy lady, racking up a long list of stage plays, screenplays, awards and honors. The Ensemble Theatre has been celebrating Texas authors with monthly staged readings, and it's doing Walker's Black Spurs this Monday, with direction by Wayne DeHart. But Porky Pig got this one wrong, because "Th-th-th-that's not all folks." In a different space, Ensemble is counting down to the Super Bowl by kicking off End Zone Live.

End Zone Live
The Ensemble Theatre
6:30 to 8 p.m. Monday, free

We're all celebrating the countdown to Super Bowl Sunday in our own way, but it makes sense that those drama folks over at Ensemble are doing it with live dance, music and comedy. It's the first ball out of the park for the Midtown Cultural Arts and Entertainment District, which is launching a five-districts-in-five-nights extravaganza titled, befittingly, The Game City Showcase.

Keanu Reeves mini film festival
Alamo Drafthouse Mason Park, Katy
The Matrix, 10 p.m. Saturday, $9
Constantine, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, $9
The Devil's Advocate, Wednesday, $9

Al Pacino pretty much takes the cake as ultimate creepazoid in The Devil's Advocate, as defense-attorney-to-the-guilty Keanu Reeves eventually succumbs to his own vain destiny and turns to the dark side. But for just $9 a pop, why not check out three of Reeves's greats this week? The Matrix set the fashion world on edge with those floor-length jackets and shades; it screens on Saturday. On Tuesday we've got the DC Comics/Vertigo Hellblazer-inspired trip to hell and back, Constantine, in which supernatural detective Reeves teams up with a skeptical cop (Rachel Weisz) trying to prove her sister was murdered.

Insider tip: Be sure to scrawl on the bathroom wall that a Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure movie party is slated for 7:30 p.m. on February 3, where you can live out the adventure thanks to a stuffed phone booth full of props and pre-movie shenanigans. Dude!

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