Audrey Jones Beck Building groundbreaking With age comes girth: a truism for investment portfolios, adult humans and our own Museum of Fine Arts. The MFA will turn 100 in 1999, the same year the Beck Building will open and double the museum's exhibition space; today, our community leaders and the good folks whose donations have made this $100 million project possible will wield shovels for the ceremonial groundbreaking. Also, the HSPVA Jazz Band will perform, MFA director Peter Marzio will offer an update on his fundraising efforts and onlookers can get the first peek at murals created by local school kids to decorate the construction-site fence. 11:30 a.m., rain or shine. 5601 Main (at Bissonnet), 639-3700. Free.
Gene Mann Wild Game Cook-off This time of year, charity cook-offs are as common as ants at a picnic, but this wild pre-rodeo meatfest is the queen of the colony. Prominently featured will be the Sierra Grill's chef Charlie Watkins, who holds the current Cook-off title. In the past, he's served South Texas antelope with chipotle-cherry sauce, barbecued rabbit over field lettuces and Axis venison in cranberry sauce. This year, will he be cooking that dastardly shark from his latest commercial? Afraid not: Rumor has it that wild boar anchors his new creation. Local chefs and celebrities will do the tasting and judging, but the rest of us can buy samples. Kickoff party, 8 p.m.-2 a.m. tonight; cooking and judging, 5 p.m.-2 a.m. Friday and 11 a.m.2 a.m. Saturday. Somewhere in there Perfect Stranger, Hatfield & McCoy and Billy Rutherford will perform. Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery, 6111 Richmond, 974-2739. $5 (proceeds benefit Houston Proud).
Argentine Tango Workshop The tango master comes to town: Daniel Trenner fervently believes that the tango can be a vehicle for building community and a tool for sustaining energy and focus. Over 15 years, he's traveled to 75 cities on four continents to teach this passionate, detailed dance, and he'll share his optimism and experience with novices this weekend. No experience and no partners are necessary to participate. Introduction, 7-9 p.m. tonight; workshop, 1-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Houston Center of Dance, 5700 South Rice Avenue, 861-2243. $70 per person.
ASID showhouses The American Society of Interior Designers just loves a challenging material -- like, say, concrete. As proof of their talents, the decorators offer two Bellaire showhouses, each constructed of you-know-what. The first house, at 5106 Pocahontas, is a 3,639-square-foot craftsman-style home made of insulating concrete forms -- meaning that workers poured concrete between two panels of polystyrene foam to form six-inch walls with foam insulation on either side. Even the island top in the gourmet kitchen is made of concrete, though it's been stained to match the room. The next house, 5112 Pocahontas, is a 3,915-square-foot country-style home produced from concrete blocks. Notice those concrete floors! On view today through February 16. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday; late hours till 7 p.m. Thursday; 1-5 p.m. Sunday. $8 in advance; $10 at the door. For more information, call ASID at 626-1470.
!Mexico Magnifico! Also known as Mardi Gras! Galveston 1997. The 12-day festival, this year celebrating our neighbor to the south, officially began Friday, but today is the first full day of traffic congestion and slugging it out for cheap plastic baubles. The main attractions today include the Texas A&M University at Galveston Mardi Gras 5K Run, plus performances by the Neville Brothers, Joe Ely (!), Wilbert Thibodeaux, Paul Richard & the Zydeco Rockers, the Zydeco Dots and more. Good side bets include the dangerous dancing of Voladores de Tacanhuitz, George O. Jackson Jr.'s colorful photos of festivals in East Central Mexico and of course, empanadas and margaritas. 8 a.m.-7 p.m. For more information, call the island's visitor's bureau at (800) 351-4237 or visit www. galvestontourism.com. $10.
One Minute Axe Finally, live theater for the attentively impaired: Singers, dancers and performance artists -- basically, anyone who signed up -- get 60 seconds to do their thing. If they exceed their allotted stage time, the Axe-man cometh. Starts at 7:30 p.m. with Axe-man auditions. Zocalo Theater, 5223 Feagan (at Shepherd), 861-2442. $5.
Meet the Keeper Specifically, the keeper of the Houston Zoo Orang Gang. Jennifer Lippold will reveal what her orangutans do behind the scenes -- divulging even the latest love connections among Rudi, Cheyenne, Bubba and pals. 9 a.m. Houston Zoological Gardens, Brown Education Center, 1513 North MacGregor Drive, 529-2632. $6, including regular zoo admission.
Rice Environmental Conference While meat-eaters cavort at the Rock Bottom this weekend, the more gentle of our species revel in their own earth-loving way. Students at Rice University are hosting this fifth annual conference, expo and career fair, hoping to heighten environmental awareness, promote old-fashioned grassroots activism and maybe find an environmentally friendly job that pays. Nobel Prize winner Richard Smalley is but one of the participants in the "Limits of Technology" panel. 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Rice University, Rice Memorial Center, 795-0226. Conference, free; catered vegetarian lunch, $4.
Black History Tour The Heritage Society marks Black History Month with its yearly tour of Houston's African-American communities. Stops on the way include Antioch Baptist Church, Emancipation Park, a Fifth Ward cemetery, Bediko's antique shop and lunch at Drexler's Barbecue. That last destination isn't so much for its historical significance as it is to satisfy grumbling bellies. 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Meet at Sam Houston Park, Heritage Society parking lot, 1100 Bagby. To make reservations, call 655-1912. $55, including lunch.
Living Houston Blues Bash Living Blues magazine devotes its entire January/February issue to Houston talent, from Trudy Lynn to Milton Hopkins to Big Roger Collins. These folks and many more have been invited to celebrate the honor at Billy Blues, which could result in one hell of a jam. KPFT's Nuri Nuri "Big Boss Man" and Kathleen "The Blue Broad" are the hosts; Jerry Lightfoot & the Essentials serve as the designated house band; and Living Blues staff will be on hand to cover the event and peddle copies of the issue. 8 p.m.-2 a.m. Billy Blues Bar & Grill, 6025 Richmond Avenue, 942-9427. $8.
Jazz & Poetry Series Jazz drummer Bubbha Thomas and poet/playwright Thomas Meloncon join forces to charm youths into thinking about music, rather than just listening to it. For more than a decade, the pair has presented this American music-history lesson to more than 600,000 students, and they're about to start another round -- 36 schools in one month. Before they do, they'll offer parents and the rest of us a chance to catch their 40-minute act. 11 a.m. Houston Public Library, 500 McKinney, 227-8706. Free.
This Bud's ... for You Not the beer, though on the Richmond Strip, a cold brew is never far away. Instead, the Budweiser Hou-Dah Parade offers a satirical salute to Oilers owner Bud Adams. The Krewe's point is that though we're losing our professional football team, we'll never lose our sense of humor. The Mardi Gras-style parade starts at Richmond Avenue and Greenridge and heads east to Chimney Rock. Parade start, 4 p.m.; Hou-Dah Do! awards ceremony, 7 p.m. at City Streets, 5078 Richmond Avenue near the 610 Loop. For more information, call the Krewe of Hou-Dah, 781-8605.
A Taste of the Good Life More than 50 innkeepers from the great state of Texas will vie for the vacation dollars of discriminating travelers at this low-key travel expo. See what's available in the way of historic inns and B&Bs, from Winnsboro to Fort Davis to Port Isabel, and chat for a spell with people whose livelihoods depend in part on their ability to make strangers feel welcome. 3-6 p.m. University of Houston, Hilton Conference Center grand ballroom (entrance no. 1 off Cullen). For more information, call (800) 428-0368. $3.
Kids' Stuff Cooking Class Hot dogs are full of nitrites, don't you know. Beanie-weenies? Don't even think about 'em. Sure, these are the foods your tykes crave, but there are healthier ways to indulge their prepubescent taste buds. Chef Tony Lee will show you and your kids how to make low-fat and vegetarian versions of hamburgers, hot dogs, pizza, tacos, and pork and beans, and will try hard to convince all of you that each dish has "all the yummy tastes of the originals." 3-5 p.m. A Moveable Feast, 2202 West Alabama, 528-3585. $20 per adult; no charge for the mini-vegetarians.
Sweet Charity The Foundation for Interfaith Research and Ministry (FIRM) presents this chocoholic fantasy fundraiser. As in previous years, chocolate desserts will take center stage, but FIRM is also offering Sweet Charity: The Chocolate Cookbook, chock full of celebrity dessert recipes from the likes of Barbara Bush (broccoli with chocolate sauce?) and Robert Redford (they eat chocolate at Sundance?). Reception and live auction, 6 p.m.; tasting and silent auction, 7 p.m. Texas Medical Center Ballroom, 2151 West Holcombe, 682-5995. $125.
Zeke and Ned At last, a new book from Larry McMurtry, he who wrote Lonesome Dove and Terms of Endearment. His latest effort is produced with the help of his Pretty Boy Floyd partner Diana Ossana. Their first collaboration was the history-based tale of a sadly misguided youngster. Their brand-new book, too, is based on a bit of Western history: specifically, that of the Cherokee Nation, late 19th century. Tonight the two will read from the novel and sign copies. 7 p.m. Brazos Bookstore, 2421 Bissonnet, 523-0701.
subUrbia With his first film, Austinite director Richard Linklater added the word "slacker" to the average American's vocabulary. In his fourth film, based on the Eric Bogosian play, Linklater explores the concept further. A group of aimless 20-year-olds hang around outside a 7-Eleven, pondering their lives on the very night that an old high school classmate returns to town as a newly minted rock star. Tonight marks not only the Houston premiere of subUrbia, but also a benefit for the Museum of Fine Arts film department. Linklater will make his first-ever public appearance in Houston to present the film, and will meet'n'greet ticket holders afterward. Museum of Fine Arts, 1001 Bissonnet, 639-7531. $25.
Cats A theatrical phenomenon unparalleled in the history of musical theater, that's what this is. And unlike many pop successes, this Andrew Lloyd Webber blockbuster had a respectably literary beginning: It's based on T.S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats. The musical's hype has circled the globe since 1981, but if you've somehow missed the buzz, here's the blueprint: A bunch of kitties scrounge around a junkyard, singing songs such as "Memory" (yes, the Barry Manilow hit!) and purring about their lives. 8 p.m. Through February 9. Music Hall, 810 Bagby, 629-3700. $34--40.
Cowboy Boots: The Exhibition Attention, connoisseurs of manly footwear: This HCCS exhibit has hard-lived, high-dollar vintage boots and more. See trademark designs from the country's leading bootmakers and one-of-a-kind items such as those made for Dolly Parton, Shaquille O'Neal and Elizabeth Taylor. Perhaps the most exciting exhibit since Larry's Shoes brought Vincent Price's sandals to town. 11 a.m.3 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, or by appointment. Exhibit shows through February 28. Houston Community College Central, Gallery One, 1300 Holman Avenue, 718-6191. Free.
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