Thursday, December 25
Merry Christmas, Houston singles. Have you had enough silent nights? No? Then take yourself over to Solero for silent dating, the newest trend in mate-meeting. The idea is less pressure-filled than speed-dating, and more likely to guarantee actual chemistry than online personals. Soothing instrumental music and chirping-bird sound effects are piped into the room. Pads of paper and pens are made available on every surface. Without speaking, silent daters smile and bat their eyes, and pass each other clever little notes. When two participants make a connection, they're upgraded to a "whispering lounge," where they can lean in close to trade witty banter. The only caveat: You might become invested in your silent match without factoring in his outrageous accent or her high, squeaky voice. 8 p.m. 910 Prarie. For information, call 713-227-2265 or visit www.solerorestaurant.com. $10.
Friday, December 26
Despite the images that its title might conjure, The Young Black Stallion is not, in fact, the first IMAX porno flick. It's actually Disney's live-action, family-friendly prequel to the 1979 movie The Black Stallion, and the studio's first film made exclusively for the giant screen. Neera, the movie's young heroine, becomes separated from her family in the North African desert at the close of World War II. A wild stallion comes to her aid, and Neera and the horse form a special (and quite platonic) bond. After Neera is returned to her grandfather, she enters the horse in an annual high-stakes desert race in order to restore her grandfather's reputation -- perhaps as a man who would not leave his young granddaughter in the care of an untamed beast. Every two hours, from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. through Saturday, January 3. Moody Gardens IMAX Theater, One Hope Boulevard in Galveston. For information, call 1-800-582-4673 or visit www.moodygardens.com. $5.95 to $8.95.
Saturday, December 27
Although Austin claims them as sons of the Texas alt-country scene, the members of Reckless Kelly actually came together in the wet green of Bend, Oregon. No one could fault them for moving their country sound south, though, and in truth it was Austin that gave the band to the world. RK has moved its sound, if not its members, yet again, this time to the heartland of country record-making. Under the Table & Above the Sun was released this year on Nashville's Sugar Hill indie label to the band's best reviews yet. Although the big time may not be far away, the style remains the same. Mandolins, fiddles and slashing guitars twang and burn through the new material. Brothers Willy and Cody Braun harmonize as only kids who were dunked in the same bathwater together can. We recommend you catch their small-club gig today, before Ticketmaster starts to take its cut, and some manager suggests that the band drop the cover of AC/DC's You Shook Me All Night Long from its sets. 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. McGonigel's Mucky Duck, 2425 Norfolk. For information, call 713-528-5999 or visit www.recklesskelly.com. $15.
Sunday, December 28
We know your Christmas tree looks good right now. You've spent a lot of time picking it out, transporting it home, carefully unwrapping your treasured ornaments and hanging each one on a perfect little branch. But face it: Pretty soon your tannenbaum is going to be shedding dried-up needles all over the floor, and it'll be time to get it out of your living room. J. Kolenovsky of the Native Plant Society of Texas has some environmentally sound suggestions for ridding yourself of your formerly beautiful tree, and he'll be sharing them today at his "Recycle That Holiday Tree" lecture. If you just stuff it in your Department of Solid Waste trash barrel, your tree's headed straight for the landfill. Instead, you can find out how to give it new life as mulch or a new job shoring up sand dunes on the coast. 2 p.m. Houston Arboretum and Nature Center, 4501 Woodway. For information, call 713-681-8433 or visit www.houstonnaturecenter.org. Free.
Monday, December 29
Winter is upon us -- no, seriously, it is. What better time is there to thumb our noses at the frozen north and take advantage of Houston's outdoor-activity-friendly weather? The Hermann Park Japanese Garden consists of five acres of meticulously landscaped, year-round splendor. In the Japanese tradition, the garden combines an elegant layout of plants and trees with naturalistic water features. There are two large ponds populated with koi, little streams that flow between them and a large waterfall. Azaleas, crape myrtles and spring-blooming peaches, cherries, Mexican plums and redbuds line the garden paths. The teahouse, where you're welcome to sit and eat a picnic lunch, was fabricated in Japan, then taken apart, flown over here and assembled on site by designer Ken Nakajimi and his team. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Hermann Park, 6001 Fannin. Park at the zoo or the Houston Garden Center. Located at the back of Miller Outdoor Theatre. For information, call 713-284-1989 or visit www.hermannpark.org. Free.
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Tuesday, December 30
What's the difference between a child's paper snowflake and a professional work of art made using the same fold-and-punch technique? The answer is hanging on the walls at Mixture Contemporary Art Gallery. Reed Anderson's works on paper not only utilize kids' methods for creating paper crafts, they also use images familiar to any kindergartner. Illustrations of bears, deer, beavers and garden plants call to mind the pages of picture books read while sitting in the laps of grown-ups. But the snowflake method Anderson uses to double and reverse the images paradoxically matures them. His beautifully crafted figures seem to float ethereally, like real snowflakes. The finished works are anything but juvenile. 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. 1709 Westheimer. For information, call 713-520-6809 or visit www.mixturegallery.com. Free.
Wednesday December 31
Most people start on their New Year's resolutions in the clear light of January 1. Over toast and black coffee, we swear to clean up our acts after having spent New Year's Eve engaged in that one last, decadent hurrah. Today we eat, drink and are merry, for tomorrow we diet. Right? Well, the folks at 24 Hour Fitness, the national chain of fitness centers that, true to its name, stays open 24/7/365, have another humble suggestion. You can get a head start on your plan to shape up in 2004 with their free workout days from Tuesday, December 30, through Thursday, January 1. Just think how much more energy you'll have for the New Year's debauchery if you've gotten in a good sweat during the day. Twenty-four locations in the Houston area. Call 1-800-204-2400 or visit www.24hourfitness.com. Free.