Press Picks

August 7
Teach Good Study Skills to Students School is starting up again, and every conscientious, hard-working parent knows what that means: homework.
Oh, that hateful hair-pulling hour or so of begging, badgering and browbeating, trying to get your kids to do their homework. This year, start off with a little advice from a professional. Licensed counselor Norma Callendar will show you how to help your teenage scholar learn the study skills she needs for school success. This workshop will focus on grades six through 12, and you're encouraged to bring your truculent student along. Maybe all she needs is a little good advice from someone besides Mom and Dad. 7 p.m. Barnes & Noble Booksellers, 1029 West Bay Area Blvd., Webster, (281) 554-8224, (281) 554-5669. Free.

August 8
Naomi Wolf In her new book Promiscuities: The Secret Struggle for Womanhood, feminist, social critic and writer Naomi Wolf explores coming of age during those uncertain years of the 1970s, between the sexual revolution and AIDS. The book, which has already garnered much national attention, reveals a good deal of Wolf's very own sexual coming of age and posits her experience as a sort of universal touchstone from which to discuss the sexual experience of all modern-day American women. This rhetorical strategy seems unabashedly pointed toward selling lots and lots of books -- don't we all want to know what the gorgeous young feminist did with boys while she was growing up? Hear what she has to say about all this at her discussion and book signing tonight. 7:30 p.m. Borders Books, Music & Cafe, 12788 Fountain Lake Circle, Stafford, (281) 240-6666.

Bottom Line Sale You've been frugally denying yourself that perfect couch or the lovely new lamp or some funny little decorative doodad. Today, your patient austerity will be rewarded. Several decorators have gathered their showroom floor samples together under one roof, tied hot-pink tags to them and are sitting back and waiting for the bargain-hunter stampede to arrive. Window- shop, lie on the fancy decorator couches when the salesman's back is turned and maybe bag a bargain. Most everything is one of a kind and, according to the sponsor, is "typically sold at manufacturer's cost or below." Good things come to those who wait; now's the time, though, to get up off your duff and get down there. 9 a.m.-6 p.m., Decorative Center of Houston, 5120 Woodway, 960-9807. $5.

Gypsies, Thieves and Con Artists Okay, so the title of the program is weirdly ethnocentric and offensive, and every Gypsy out there deserves an apology. Consider it done. In point of fact, this seminar has nothing to do with any ethnic group, but with criminals who come in every shape, size and color. And if one is standing sweetly at your door, seemingly offering the chance of a lifetime, you might not realize you've been taken till long after the scoundrel has scooted off. Protect yourself. Learn to recognize bad guys right off the bat. Judge Jean Spradling Hughes, who has appeared on Dateline NBC as an expert on con games, will show you how many of them work. To be informed is to be ready, so you'll know when and how to slam the door in that rapscallion's face before he even starts talking. 10-11:30 a.m. Spring Branch Community Center, 1721 Pech Road, 932-9573. Free.

Upcoming Events

Super Speedway How many American kids spend Saturday afternoons flipping through various television sports shows, inevitably ending up at some point hypnotized by the races? They lie on the couch, mesmerized by those wild steel capsules whizzing around and around and around -- until suddenly comes that heart-crushing moment when one car spins out of control, and the kids are on their feet, groaning and exclaiming, "Oh my gosh!" as they watch the thing burst like a bomb into a jillion pieces, spitting fire as it goes. Then, miraculously, the driver steps out from the wreckage, alive and walking and even waving like any hero there ever was. How does that happen? Even more curious, what madness drives a racer who's been through that trauma to get back into a racecar again, daring such a demonic death? A new IMAX film can answer these questions and many more. Follow the legendary Mario Andretti and his son Michael through the world of high-speed racing. Learn more about the physics, the romance and the visceral rush of racecar driving and the speedway. Shows at 3, 5, 7 p.m. today (see Thrills, IMAX for other dates and times). IMAX at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, One Hermann Circle Drive, 639-4600. $5.50; $3.50, children.

The Young Houston Playwrights' Festival All year long, Houston students, along with Mappamundi, a nonprofit organization dedicated to teaching kids the arts, have been conjuring up plays, writing and, as every writer knows, rewriting their scripts, making them ready for production. Opening night has finally arrived. The kids will get to see the fruits of their labors acted out by professional players on the Alley stage. See Swisher Days, a play written by ten students from the first-period English class at Sterling High School; Magic Book, written by 11-year-old Julio Jovel; and five other plays by Houston youths. The evening promises to be sweet. 8 p.m. (See Thrills, Theater for other dates and times.) Neuhaus Stage at the Alley Theatre, 615 Texas, 228-8421. Free  

August 9

Bowling for Rhinos Oh those rhinos, so humongously bovine, so bullheadedly ornery and so, well, downright ugly. But by golly, they need your help. Once there were over 100 species of rhino; now only five remain. And the measly five still lumbering the earth are always in danger from poachers unless the big beasts are contained on protected wildlife sanctuaries. The American Association of Zoo Keepers asks you to come out and bowl a few games to fund the animals' sanctuaries and help stop the poaching. 6:30 p.m., registration; 7 p.m., games start. Fair Lanes, 8180 S. Gessner, Highway 59 at Gessner. Call 529-2632, ext. 100 to preregister. $12 with preregistration; $15 at the door. Fee includes three games, shoe rental and entry in the door-prize drawing.

Great American Train Show Even children get it, that wistful pang of longing brought about by the sound of a distant train whistle. Most all Americans have imagined, if only for a moment, hopping a far-off locomotive and leaving behind all responsibility. Maybe that's why model trains are so mesmerizing, so delightful: Our wild dreams of escape are all right there before us, in innocent, controllable, miniaturized packages. Or maybe we just like making the tiny choo-choos crash gloriously into each other. Whether it's violence or escape that appeals to you, the toy trains are here. The Great American Train Show features 550 tables of them, with 17 operating model railroad layouts. There is even a huge four-track railroad that all comers, pintsize or grown-up, can operate. Both new state-of-the-art trains and old Lionel and American Flyer trains will be on display. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. today and Sunday. The Astrodome/Astroarena, 8400 Kirby. $5; kids under 12 get in free with an adult.

Philippine Cultural Night Traditional music and dances from the Philippines are featured at this evening marking the country's centennial anniversary. The Philippines Performing Arts Company, a national touring group, will dance the dances that reveal the many cultures that have influenced and colonized the islands. Indigenous dances such the Tinikling, which depicts the Tinikling bird as it hops to escape bamboo traps, will be performed. See the beautiful costumes and listen to the native language of Tagalog, one of the few languages we don't hear all that often here in Houston. 7 p.m. University of Houston's Cullen Performance Hall, 4800 Calhoun, entrance one, 524-6929. $15.

August 10
Tejano Festival It's gonna be hot today, but if you can stand the heat, you might want to make your way to Six Flags AstroWorld for a daylong party. A mariachi band and local Tejano bands La Traicion and Divino will perform throughout the day. Folklorico dancers will kick up their heels (hope they don't faint dead away while doing so from heat prostration), and in the evening, at the theme park's Southern Star Amphitheatre, you can see Emilio in concert at 7 p.m. Park hours, 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Six Flags AstroWorld, 9001 Kirby, 799-1234. $31.95, those 48 inches or taller; $20.95, those under 48 inches; free, two and under.

August 11
Group Rebirthing To all you nonbelievers who run around pooh-poohing the energy-breathing, rebirthing, touchy-feely, aromatherapy, crystal-carrying, tarot-card-reading mystic stuff as just a bunch of folderol and claptrap: This class is absolutely not for you. But if you do not fall into the above category, CenterPoint Project might be offering the class that will start you down the road to New Age, inner-child, past-life, astral-plane self-discovery. Susan Shorr and Bruce Hurta, who, we're assured, "have both explored many enlightenment disciplines and practices," will lead a class in a breathing technique that promises "beneficial effects on the mental, spiritual and emotional" self. They advise all comers to be ready for "surprises." Bring a blanket and wear comfortable clothing. 7 p.m., registration; 7:15-8:45 p.m., class. No latecomers allowed in. CenterPoint Project, 7621 Westview Drive, 528-1529. $10.

August 12
Communications and the Comets The Association for Women in Communications Houston Professional Chapter is offering a close-up look at the Houston Comets, the Women's National Basketball Association team, on and off the court. The AWC monthly meeting will focus on the marketing of the team and the future of the WNBA and provide an opportunity to see the team play. John Thomas, senior executive vice president of business for the Houston Rockets, will be the guest speaker at a social prior to the Houston Comets vs. Utah Starzz game. 5 p.m., pre-game social, Houston City Club, 9 Greenway Plaza; 6:30 p.m., game time, the Summit; Call Sarah Harvision to RSVP at 665-2963. $35; $30, members and students -- includes Comets ticket, parking fees, food and beverage.  

August 13
Downtown Educational Fair Are you a bookkeeper adding up the columns of all your CPA boss's audits but making only half his salary? Or a self-taught computer geek writing just as many programs as the engineers but not getting close to their wages? Do you find yourself muttering how different things would be if only you had a degree? It doesn't matter how old you are, how bad your high school grades were, what your work hours are or how much money you don't have, you can go to college if you really want to. To prove it, the University of Houston-Downtown will have representatives available to answer all your back-to-college questions. Four years from now, you'll be four years older whether or not you go to college. Why not be four years older with a college degree? 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Tunnel below Texas Commerce Tower, 600 Travis, 221-8522. Free.

Get Customers Calling You: Smart Marketing for Small Business The Houston Small Business Development Corporation says this alluring class will teach the ephemeral ability that poor old Willy Loman always wanted and never had: that of getting customers to buy and then buy more. How can a small business owner resist such a sales pitch? Act now! Be the first on your block! The envy of your peers! Offer available for a limited time only! Includes a lunch and workbook! Reservations required. 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Business Technology Center, 5330 Griggs Road, 845-2400. All for the low, low price of $15.

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