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September 17
After you see the Houston Ballet's production of Dracula, learn more about the bloodsucking count at the University of Houston Dracula Gothfest. Renowned Dracula expert (we never knew there was such a thing) Elizabeth Miller, a professor of English at the University of Newfoundland, shows slides and discusses Dracula's home territory, Romania and Transylvania. She's the author of Reflections on Dracula and Dracula: The Shade and Shadow. 8 p.m. The Honors College at UH, 4800 Calhoun, entrance no. 1, in the M.D. Anderson Library basement. Info: 743-9010. (Leigh Hopper)

September 18
Okay, so Houston is no New York City. We know this much, but the fall festivals here make it clear we've got a substantial international scene. One such festival kicks off its three-day run today at the St. George Orthodox Christian Church. The Mediterranean Festival celebrates its 17th year, once again offering Habebe the Camel, colorful costumes, cuisine worth cruising for (falafel, baklava), music and trinkets. 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., 3505 Bissonnet, between Mercer and Sewanee. Admission: $2 or two canned goods per person. Info: 464-4221. (Darcel Rockett)

Sculptor Virginia Fleck thinks a lot about home, and it shows in her work. Her altered birdcages hint of a homebody's confinement, but her curvy brick-and-mortar pieces (such as the untitled one pictured here) seem cheerier. By matching the masculine (bricks) with the feminine (curves), she strikes a comfortable mommy-and-daddy balance. A show of her latest work opens tonight, 68 p.m., at the Rudolph Poissant Gallery, 5102 Center Street, 802-1886. The show runs through October 31. (Lisa Gray)

September 19
The Second Annual Museum District Day offers free admission to 11 museums -- meaning that you, the dedicated but tight-fisted parent, can expose your kids to all kinds of educational stuff absolutely free. Walk through a ten-foot-high brain, take a seat on a cavity or peruse the other Texas-sized organs at the Museum of Health and Medical Science's Amazing Body Pavilion. So check out serenity at the C.G. Jung Center; walk through Jean Tingley's sculpture that looks like a water bird at the Menil Collection; check out the Contemporary Arts Museum, where art of Africa and the African Americas is currently being displayed. And at the end of the day, rest while the kiddies visit Baby Luna, the littlest orangutan at the Houston Zoo. Get a map and start the day at the visitor's center on Main at Southmore. An additional visitor center will be located at the zoo. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Info: 284-7765. From 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. continuous free Metro shuttle service will link the museums. (Darcel Rockett)

Do your co-workers look at you blankly when you crack a joke? Do your keynote addresses start with knock-knock jokes? Does your mom fall asleep while you're talking to her? Perhaps you're humor-impaired. Comedy veteran James Pineapple -- a man whose resume includes Showtime and Comic Strip Live -- offers help. In A Comedy Sweatshop/ Workshop, he'll teach you the basics of the funny business. In six sessions, you'll learn the history of American comedy, get one-on-one instruction from Pineapple and get the chance to try your material on a live audience. Classes begin today, 9 a.m.noon, and continue through October 24. 1952 West Gray. $150. For more info: 869-5283. (Darcel Rockett)

In the '80s, "actionist" filmmaker Kurt Kren -- an emigrant from Vienna, and a security guard at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston -- was a fixture on the local punk scene; groups such as the Mydolls projected his films during their concerts. Tonight, at the Kurt Kren Memorial Film Screening and Wake, you can view his body of work in the company of others who appreciated his brand of anarchy. Midnight. No Tsu Oh coffeehouse, 314 Main. 222-0443. (Lisa Gray)

September 20
If you're looking to complete your collection of dusty old National Geographic magazines, the Theta Charity Antiques Show is not for you. You probably won't find a painting of dogs playing poker, either. On sale here will be the first printing in pamphlet form of the Texas Declaration of Independence, and other Texabilia, as well as antique British children's china (the next hot thing, we understand, among those who care about such things). Two estate jewelers from New York will display glittering wares, and an "animal art antiques'' dealer will tout all manner of paintings and furniture depicting furred and feathered creatures. The event, one of the largest of its kind in America, benefits 14 local organizations ranging from Taping for the Blind to Stages Repertory Theater. Noon5 p.m., Astrohall. $9. 942-8699. (Leigh Hopper)

September 21
Some of the trees are so perfectly preserved that features such as growth rings, worm holes and evidence of fire and disease remain clearly visible. Take a break from cell phones, VCRs and rush-hour traffic and spend time with the antithesis of all that: an exhibit of petrified wood. See fossilized slabs of birch, the rock-hard remains of conifers that hid herbivores from stalking predators. "Jurassic Bark II" (clever name, eh?) is on view 9 a.m.6 p.m. at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, located in Hermann Park across from Miller Outdoor Theatre. $4 adults, $2 children. Info: 639-4629. (Leigh Hopper)

"Mapping the Queer Body" is the title of the Queer Artist Collective's (QuAC) spoken-word event. It's open mike, but University of Houston prof Maria Gonzalez will be the featured speaker. Gonzalez, graduate chair of the English department, is working on two new books relating to Chicana queer theory and the collected works of Kathy Acker. If that sounds too brainy for you, register to win a Comets jersey at the end of the night. 8 p.m., Toopee's Coffeehouse, 1830 West Alabama. Info: 216-2711. (Leigh Hopper)

September 22
Part scholar, part circus ringmaster, Anthony Hecht spins out poetry that is both hilarious and creepy, ironic and deeply humane. In "Death the Mexican Revolutionary" he writes: "We recommend the quail / Which you'd do well to eat / Before your powers fail, / For I inaugurate / A brand-new social order / Six cold, decisive feet / South of the border." Winner of a Pulitzer and a Prix de Rome, author of seven books of poetry, including Flight Among the Tombs, Hecht kicks off the Margarett Root Brown series of lectures by writers. 7:30 p.m. in the Brown Auditorium at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. $5 suggested donation; students and senior citizens free. Co-sponsored by the University of Houston Creative Writing Program. Info: 743-3014. (Leigh Hopper)

September 23
Buddha says that freedom from selfish concerns ends suffering. But what do we say? We say, attend the lecture by Tenshin Reb Anderson from the San Francisco Zen Center. Anderson and the Zen ancestors say it's only through full self-expression that we can become truly free of self-cherishing habits. Or in layman's terms: Be yourself, but don't be full of yourself. Sponsored by the Houston Zen Community. 7:309:30 p.m. at the First Unitarian Universalist Church, 5200 Fannin. $10. Info: 682-4148. (Darcel Rockett)


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