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december 12
Shine and romance If the goober at the center of Shine can find true love, then your chances must be super! This event offers hopeful singles a chance to fill out a free Houston Press Romance ad and then enjoy, gratis, a preview of Shine. It's the greatest thing since sliced bread, according to many critics, and tells the bittersweet story of a musical genius who loses everything -- and then goes on to find a woman who appreciates him. Those who compose Romance ads will be eligible for the free movie (while there are seats available, of course) and will be entered in a drawing. The prize is dinner for two at Riva's Italian restaurant. Clipboards with ad forms will be ready at 6:30 p.m.; the movie starts at 7:30 p.m. Cineplex Odeon, River Oaks Plaza on West Gray. For more information, call 624-1414.

december 13
Out of the Blue: An Evening of Theatrical Clowning and Humor Bob Berky comes from a school of theater somewhere between Avner the Eccentric and silent-film star Harry Langdon. In his modern-day vaudeville show, the mute Berky does pantomime, plays the kazoo, rides a unicycle and performs a piece-within-the-piece work about the nature of circus clowning. His show is great fun for art snobs and innocent kids alike. The show opens with a party on Fish Plaza (free pizza for the first 400 ticket holders), 6-7 p.m.; show, 7:30 p.m. Presented by the Society for the Performing Arts at the Wortham Center, Cullen Theater, Texas at Smith, 227-ARTS. $16-$26; half-price children's tickets can be purchased at the Houston Ticket Center in Jones Hall.

december 14
Holiday Edition of the Antiques, Collectibles and Crafts Market One-stop shopping with everything you expect -- that is, the opportunity to use credit cards and snackage of food-court quality. This huge sale is in its 23rd year. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. today; 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday. AstroHall, Astrodomain, 799-9790. $2; $1, seniors; free, children under 12 accompanied by a paying adult.

Take a Homeless Pet to Dinner for Christmas The Citizens for Animal Protection are having an open house at their shelter, and those who have warm holiday wishes for our furry friends are encouraged to drop by, and to drop off cans of pet food for the creatures who live at the shelter. Those who donate food can take a peep at the adorable animals, buy something from the volunteer bake sale and even adopt an animal (we're against adopting animals during the holiday season, by the way, but if you have been thinking about getting a pet, and have seriously considered the responsibility involved, then okay, go ahead and do it). Open house, 1-5 p.m. today and Sunday. CAP Shelter, 11925 Katy Freeway (between Kirkwood and Dairy Ashford), (281) 497-0534.

The Christmas Revels: A Family Celebration of the Winter Solstice This year's theme is "A Mesoamerican Revels," and what happens is that the Aztec goddess Tonantzin morphs into the Virgin of Guadalupe. Sounds hokey and convenient, perhaps, but this holiday show is a sincere and delightful two-hour production featuring the talents of Mexican actress Angelica Aragón (A Walk in the Clouds) and the Huehuetl family musical dance group. We're also promised a Mayan creation-myth story, a Nativity scene and sing-alongs with traditional carols. There will be shows at 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. today, 1 and 5 p.m. Sunday and 7:30 p.m. Monday and Tuesday. (Also, members of the Revels will appear at special outreach shows around town; call 668-6866 for details.) Rice University, Stude Hall. For advance tickets, call 629-3700. $20; $15, seniors; $10, children 12 and under.

The Nutcracker The city of Houston Ballet presents its production of the Tchaikovsky-scored classic in the lovely environs of the Grand 1894 Opera House -- you can even enjoy the show in a low-cost box. (The company also does its ballet as Inner City Nutcracker for inner-city schools.) 2:30 and 8 p.m. today; 2:30 p.m. Sunday. The Grand 1894 Opera House, Postoffice Street, Galveston, (800) 821-1894. $17, boxes; $14; $11, seniors and students; $9.50, kids 12 and under.

Lights in the Heights More than 7,000 luminarias will line select streets in the Heights, and almost that many happy holiday people will stroll those select streets during the Woodland Heights Civic Association holiday celebration. Musicians (classical, country and Elvis) will play from the porches of historic homes, and Santa will pose for pictures on the Norhill Esplanade. (Snaps with he of the ho ho ho are $5 each.) Magician Daniel Garcia and a slew of professional entertainers will perform on the esplanade, and Rockets mascot Clutch will be on hand. (Will Turbo be lurking, forlorn, in the shadows?) Parking is going to be tough, but everything else about this low-key neighborhood party is easy as pie, savory homemade pie. 6-9 p.m. Along Bayland and Woodland between Norhill and Beauchamp. To reach the Woodland Heights, take the Taylor/Watson exit off I-10 and go north toward Bayland; or exit Houston/North Main off I-45 and take Houston Avenue south toward Bayland. Do not, not under any circumstances, attempt to actually drive your car on one of the Lights streets; therein lies madness. Park a couple, maybe three blocks away. For more information, call 683-5188. Free.

Evening of Dances of Universal Peace The Houston Holistic Arts Group presents spiritual folk-type dances based on the traditions of a variety of ethnic groups whose core beliefs are in vogue with the Houston Holistic Arts Group. Their motto is "What is art but life and life art?" -- which sounds like something Homer Simpson would say if he'd been bitten by the caring-and-compassion bug. They mean well, but aren't exactly articulate. 7:30 p.m. Several Dancers Core Studios, 2328 Bissonnet, 813-4842, $5.

1996 Enron Jingle Bell Run The stated purpose of this fun run is to benefit the Houston Downtown YMCA Youth and Urban Services Programs, but it may also benefit Downtown Y members, who will get free oranges and bananas on Monday and Tuesday if the runners don't gobble up all the post-run snacks. The one-loop, level course is on downtown streets, and the event includes a one-mile race for kids ages ten-13, a five-mile wheelchair race, a 3.2-mile in-line skate, an adult five-mile run and a 3.2-mile family fitness walk. And there's a costume parade at 4:40 p.m. The other runs start between 2 and 3:15 p.m. Anyone who participates, either as a runner, volunteer or just gawker, is urged to bring a Care Enough to Share gift and put it under the Y's tree for inner-city kids. The Jingle Bell Run begins and ends, and has an after-race party, at the downtown YMCA, 1600 Louisiana, 659-8501, fax, 758-9210. To volunteer as a helper, 659-8501. $17, adults; $8, children.

december 15
Celtic Christmas A lot of people can boast about how they overate during the holidays -- but why not be one of the few who can brag about overindulging with haggis? Yes, at the second annual Celtic Christmas, that entrails treat will be served -- plus colcannon, fit-for-any-festival turkey legs and good ol' Irish stew, accompanied by fine beers, ales, mead and cider. Father Christmas, face painters and games will entertain the kids while grownups just get soused near the warm glow of a yule log. Celtic music makers such as Ceili's Muse, Gordian Knot and Wyndnwyre and Scottish dancers will perform. Noon-10 p.m., rain or shine. Garden in the Heights, 3926 Feagan, 880-1065, $7; free, children 12 and under.

december 16
Find out what kids are up to Tonight the winners of Intel's "Inventors of the Future" contest will be honored at an awards ceremony. Local kids in grades five through nine were invited to "artistically render" their version of the future, and the grand prize is a pair of 133 MHz Pentium-based multimedia computers. The winning student gets one machine; the student's teacher gets the other. The awards ceremony will take place in the Intel Interactive exhibit at America's Smithsonian, and the winning "artistic rendering" will become part of the exhibit. Awards festivities, 79:30 p.m. George R. Brown Convention Center, 1001 Avenue of the Americas. Exhibit tickets are free and available on a first-come, first served basis; advance tickets may be ordered by calling (800) 913-TOUR at least five days in advance, though a $3.50 service charge applies. Groups of 20 or more can reserve free advance tickets by calling Jill Chappell at (202) 227-3100.

Hamlet Plucky Englishman Kenneth Branagh is here, live and in person, to introduce his version of Shakespeare's story of the melancholy Dane. Branagh's film features great actors such as Derek Jacobi (members of a certain generation remember his role in I, Claudius), John Gielgud, Judi Dench and Rosemary Harris. Big-name Americans such as Charlton Heston and Robin Williams are also in the show. The celebrity introduction of the four-hour film begins at 7 p.m. Landmark River Oaks 3 Theatre, 2009 West Gray, 524-2175. $15-$50.

december 17
Heritage Society Holiday Dress The only time I've ever been carsick in my life was during a return trip from seeing the Heritage Society Homes in holiday dress, so it is possible that this could be a less-than-perfect family event. Of course, thousands and thousands of Houston families have taken their children to see this glowing display of Christmas traditions and priceless antiques without incident. Holiday celebrations, we all know, involve risk. Kids get sick, they get cranky, they get in horrible fights with their siblings and say hideously embarrassing things in front of relatives -- that's just the way it goes. Viewing the historic homes in Sam Houston Park as homes, as places where kids got sick, got cranky, got in horrible fights with their siblings and said hideously embarrassing things in front of relatives, adds depth and insight to the tour, and might make you realize that your home is just as special as any of these. Tours through January 6, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. every day except Sunday; 1-4 p.m. Sunday. Sam Houston Park, 1100 Bagby, 655-1912. $6; $4, seniors; $2, children under six.

december 18
Adopt an animal Adopt an animal the easy way -- through the Houston Zoo's Adopt-an-Animal program. Those who spend as little as $20 will get a holiday zoovenir kit including a five-by-seven glossy of the adopted animal. "Parents" also get a yearlong subscription to Adopt Nooz and invitations to the Pumpkin Patch party in October. Adopt-an-Animal is a great gift idea, too. (Imagine: "Look, Uncle Bud, I've got you a warthog!") The adoptable animal of the moment is McLane, a miniature donkey. The four-month-old beast currently lives with his mother in the Children's Zoo, and he is an especially apt Christmas gift because Mary, pregnant with baby Jesus, was carried on a donkey to Bethlehem, and according to the sort of people who can say "baby Jesus" with a straight face, the distinctive marking on a burro's back is a cross. In any case, all the animals at the zoo can be supported by Adopt-an-Animal, and you can spend as little as $20 or as much as you can afford. For more information, call or visit the zoo. Houston Zoological Gardens, Hermann Park, 529-2632.


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