Pretty soon, nearly every customer-service rep you deal with on the phone will be talking to you from India, so you might as well get to know the country. You can get your start at the annual Houston International Festival, which returns to downtown after being held at Reliant Park last year. To salute India, the event boasts the Incredible India Zone, spotlighting Indian dance, fashion and cuisine. H-E-B's Cuisines of India features cooking demonstrations and a bustling international market. Look for a 25-ton Taj Mahal made completely out of sand and a photo exhibit called "Reflections of India." Performers include dance groups Manipur Dance Troupe and Rajasthani Sapera Group, and a host of bands who'll be showcased on the Budweiser World Music Stage (see Racket, page 63, and Playbill, page 71, for the skinny). Thanks to the fest, you and Sanjeev will have plenty to chat about when you're getting tech support at 2 a.m.
Do the Desi at the opening ceremony at 10 a.m. Friday, April 22. Festival runs Saturdays and Sundays through May 1. Tranquility Park, Smith at Bagby; and Upper and Lower Sam Houston Park, 1100 Bagby. For tickets and a schedule, call 713-654-8808 or visit www.ifest.org. $10; free for children ten and under. -- Steven Devadanam
Enjoy Franco-Texan relations at "Lyon via Houston -- A Celebration"
Bet you didn't even know there was a Texan-French Alliance for the Arts. Oui, there is, and it's out to bridge the recent cultural schism with a nine-day assemblage of art, lectures, film, literature and performance called "Lyon via Houston -- A Celebration." Alain Bublex opens the event with his photo exhibition "Plug-In City" at the Blaffer Gallery. Performances include a puppet show and circus-inspired dance pieces from Compagnie Adrien M and Jean-Baptiste Andr. French author Martin Winckler joins American Justin Cronin for a reading at the Menil Collection, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston will present Bertrand Tavernier's contemporary film Laissez-Passer ("Safe Conduct"). Be respectful of the Frenchies, because next year Houston is dispatching its artistic best to a similar event in Lyon. Reconcile with France starting Thursday, April 21. Runs through April 29 at various venues. For locations and a full schedule, call 713-985-3264 or visit www.tfaarts.org. Free to $25. -- Julia Ramey
BEEN THERE, DONE THAT
Flexing My Guns
"Daaaanng, look at that hippo drop!" exclaims a gleeful hunter to his chuckling buddies. We're watching video footage of big-game hunters using a high-tech rifle tripod to blast cheetahs, zebras and even the occasional mammoth hippopotamus. One by one, exotic animals you'd see on the Discovery Channel get picked off by the booming gun. Nearby, the hunting guys take a gander at a portable hunting tower. Its name: the Nimrod.
It's a mixed crowd of nearly 60,000 people who've come to celebrate the Second Amendment at the NRA convention this Saturday afternoon. There are a lot of mullets, big glasses (of the tinted variety) and ambiguous tattoos. But there are also some genial families, young folks and enthusiasts. We "oooh" as world champion sharpshooter Bob Leatham nails 12 side-by-side targets -- just eight inches wide -- in only 3.99 seconds with his laser-sighted pistol. We "aaah" over Concealed Carry Clothiers, which offers tank tops to hide your pepper spray, revolvers and even semiautomatic weapons. (Suddenly jogging is so much easier!)
I draw a swarm of people when I pick up the Barrett M107, a military assault rifle that's nearly five feet long and weighs almost 30 pounds. The thing is capable of hitting a target 2,000 yards away. Damn if you don't feel like a badass when you pick up a gun the size of a small person!
My hubris suddenly awakened, I decide to test my gat skills at the air-gun range. I fire off several rounds and hit the center bull's-eye once.
A good showing, until a handler tells me that the competition beat me soundly. "She had the fundamentals down," he explains. "She hit the target almost every time." Well, she was cold and calculating -- a natural marksman.
Oh, and she was five. -- Steven Devadanam
A New Drug
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The line between art dealer and drug dealer blurs at New Gallery this week, thanks to the work of Brooklyn's Tom Fruin. Fruin scours NYC crackhouses and drug dens for discarded baggies, which he uses to construct quilts and flags. The work has paid off -- Fruin has been written up in The New York Times, and his work has been purchased by the likes of Willem Dafoe. Also opening at New Gallery are the paintings of Iranian-born Nicky Nodjoumi, who's considered an anti-Muslim insurgent in his native land -- and thus resides in New York City. Opening reception at 6 p.m. Friday, April 22. Exhibit runs through May 29. 2627 Colquitt. For information, call 713-520-7053 or visit www.newgallery.net. Free. -- Scott Faingold
Comic-book geeks, here's your mission: Create a 24-page comic book. A cinch, you say, as you've just sketched your new horny military superhero, Private Parts. But there's a catch: Your graphic tome must be completed -- concept and story, art and layout, everything -- in 24 hours. It's part of 24-Hour Comic Day, a national event that takes place locally at Super Happy Fun Land. Hole up through the night (organizers are offering live music and snacks) and create your graphic masterpiece. And remember who tipped you off when Private Parts makes the Cartoon Network. 1 p.m. Saturday, April 23, through 1 p.m. Sunday, April 24 (hang around afterward until 4 p.m.). 2610 Ashland, 713-880-2100, www.superhappyfunland.com. Free. -- Steven Devadanam