Stephen Jay Gould The author of such easy-to-read science musings as The Panda's Thumb and Full House: The Spread of Excellence from Plato to Darwin will gently share his informed opinions on evolution. Thanks to your friends at the Children's Museum and Brazos Bookstore, the Harvard zoology and geology prof and award-winning author will discuss his views of life on earth for happy fans. 7 p.m. Children's Museum, 1500 Binz, 523-0701. Free.
Hail to the Chief: The Making and Unmaking of American Presidents Robert Dallek, a history professor at Boston University, of all places, made the papers here when his LBJ book, Lone Star Rising, appeared in '91. (A book so anti-Robert Caro that at one point in the notes, Dallek's citation reads, "Ever ready to put Johnson in the worst possible light ....") Dallek has a new book, a book about what qualities make for a great president instead of a Millard Fillmore, and he'll be signing it here today. 7-8 p.m. Tanglewood Super Crown, 6570 Woodway, 465-7278.
1996 Houston In-the-Water Boat Show Captain Ron's Wanderer, a movie-star ship seen in Captain Ron, will be the centerpiece of the show, bobbing gently at the end of Pier 99 and serving as a backdrop for gag photos of boat show-goers in pirate garb. Elsewhere around the seaside, hundreds of new and used ocean-going craft and accessories will be displayed, and folks in the know will be on hand to explain how financing can be arranged. Noon-7:30 p.m. today and Friday; 10:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m. Saturday; and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday. Watergate Yachting Center, Clear Lake Shores. Take I-45 south, go east on League City FM 518 and take the FM 2094 exit. For more information, call 981-7668. $7; $3, children under 12.
Greek Festival Opa! The festival returns, and street parking throughout the area will be a nightmare as hundreds, perhaps thousands, drive in for honey cookies, baklava, cheese pastries, cheese-and-spinach pastries and souvlaki. Each year, the festival planners plan bigger, and each year the festival gets bigger -- and some of the best food items are gone by Sunday. Dance programs every day. Today, 5-10 p.m.; Friday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. and 5 p.m.-10 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; and Sunday, noon-7 p.m. Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral, 3511 Yoakum, 526-5377. $2; free, children under 12.
The Hermitage: Supermuseum at the Time When the Empire Collapses The Amoco Distinguished Lecture Series on Russia presents Mikhail Piotrovski, director of the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. Piotrovski has published more than 100 manuscripts in his area -- the early history of Islam and ancient Middle Eastern civilization -- and he will talk about overseeing the Hermitage during difficult times. 7 p.m. Museum of Fine Arts, 1001 Bissonnet, 621-6300, ext. 25. Free, but seating is limited.
Volatile Organic Compounds The Weave Dance Company and the Duplex Dance Company have prepared a program of women-centric dance, and the program includes two fun bits from Jennifer Bairamgalin. Mighty Mites, Mold and Mildew, performed to spoken word and music by Steve Reich, might have been written after a long day watching commercials for cleaners; and Oomp is set to polka music. 8 p.m. tonight, Friday and Saturday, and Friday and Saturday, October 11 and 12. Duplex Center for the Arts, 1922 Brun, 523-3709. $8.
Fright Fest Before the days of Hallmark, holidays were over and done with pretty quickly, but now mall-going Americans celebrate pretty much all the time. Halloween season is officially here, as evidenced by Fright Fest at AstroWorld, and the minute it's over we start Thanksgiving and don't get a break until after New Year's Eve. Pumpkins, zombies and such will thrill families weekends through October 27. Kids under 54 inches tall are encouraged to dress up and trick or treat through Bugs Bunny's Pumpkin Patch. Six Flags AstroWorld, Kirby at Loop 610, 799-8404. Fridays, 6 p.m.-midnight; Saturdays, 10 a.m.- 10 p.m.; Sundays, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. $30.95; $19.95, children under 54 inches tall; $14.98, adults over 55.
Welcome to the Dollhouse They're doing it again -- all through the summer, the Strand Theatre film program gave second chances to those who missed worthwhile movies during their first runs. If you haven't seen this stunning, fearless black comedy about the horrors of seventh grade, here's an opportunity. 7 and 9:30 p.m. today and Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday. Strand Theatre, 2317 Ships Mechanic Row, Galveston, (409) 763-4591. $6; $4, seniors and students with ID.
Race for the Cure Across the country, women are running for a reason in the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation 5K run. In Houston, 8,000 registrants are expected to gather near the Galleria for the women-only 5K run and family one-mile walk. Runners will wear pink back signs; survivors should wear pink visors; and spectators are asked to "create a sea of pink -- the color of breast cancer awareness -- at every race." Women-only 5K run, 7:30; family one-mile, 7:35 a.m. Same-day entry fee, $25. The starting line is the corner of Post Oak and Westheimer. For information on the run, call 850-9877. For information on breast cancer, try the Quaker Rice Cakes-sponsored hotline, (800) I-SNACK-2.
Texas Renaissance Festival This year's anachronism festival features Chateau du Macabre, a haunted pseudo-dungeon. So far, no public flogging -- but there is a bear show, plus the marital antics of a costumed Henry VIII. Can the guillotine be far behind? Weekends through November 17, rain or shine. 9 a.m.dusk. Reservations required for the twice-daily feast of the Beefeaters. Take I-45 north, turn left on Highway 105, left on FM 1774 in Plantersville and drive six miles to the Texas Renaissance Festival. (800) 458-3435. $14.95; $6.95, kids five-12; free, four and under.
The Territory Houston's own showcase of independent film is back, and this year, the producers blushingly announce, it can be seen on PBS stations all across Texas. Of course, that matters more to them than it should to you (unless you're planning on getting your cable feed from, say, El Paso). What matters to us lowly viewers is that, for the next eight weeks, we can see some cutting-edge video from around the country free in our own homes. Tonight's show features three female animators (Suzan Pitt, Wendy Tilby and Maureen Selwood) strutting their stuff, after which some academic talking heads dive for deeper meaning. Forget the deeper meaning, though, and just enjoy what you see. This stuff, especially Pitt's Joy Street '95, is visually fascinating. 10:30 p.m. Channel 8/KUHT.
Galveston Octoberfest "What's a festival without food?" is the rhetorical question posed by the Octoberfest people, and that question is answered with a menu of manna for any festival fan: meatball sandwiches, Caribbean red beans and rice, fajitas, bloomin' onions, sausage dogs and egg rolls. All that food and plenty of polka! 11 a.m.6 p.m. today and tomorrow. Kempner Park, 27th Street at Avenue O, Galveston, (409) 763-5326. $2; free, children under 12.
Round 5 Ever industrious Rick Lowe has another artists' installation ready to go, and will introduce the project at an opening with refreshments and "activities for the young ones." The fifth round of installations includes a group effort called The Blues and the Abstract Truth, which features text, jazz and video, and is based on an album by the same name from jazz composer Oliver Nelson. Opening reception with "activities for the young ones," 4-7 p.m. Project Row Houses, 2500 Holman (between Dowling and Live Oak), 526-7662.
Bach Family Extravaganza Da Camera opens its ninth season with a salute to Johann Sebastian and his boys, Wilhelm Friedemann, Carl Phillipp Emanuel and Johann Christian. As part of the Bach-analia, a buffet dinner will be served on the Cullen stage; and after the concert, a champagne and dessert reception on Fish Plaza will allow you to mingle with the musicians and soprano Susan Narucki. 6:30, dinner; 8 p.m. concert. Wortham Center, Texas at Smith, 524-5050. $14-$25, concert only; $75, dinner, concert and reception.
Fragments An exhibition of works on paper and wood by Lydia Bodnar-Balahutrak will open today with a reception. Although now Houston-based, Bodnar-Balahutrak grew up in a Ukrainian neighborhood in Ohio, and Ukrainian was her first language. The works in "Fragments" were inspired by her first visit to the Ukraine. Reception, 3-5 p.m. George Memorial Library, 1001 Golfview, Richmond, 342-4455.
Seabrook Music Festival Actually, this thing started Friday at 5 p.m., but the best part is this afternoon. After two days of family fun, cookouts, carnival games, crafts and music, Mason Ruffner and then Edgar Winter and the White Trash Horns take the stage today. Mason's at 2:30; Winter's at 4:30 p.m.; and gates open at 11 a.m. Seabrook Music Festival and Pelican Party, Highway 146 at Redbluff Road, 474-3838. $5; free, children under 13.
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Founder's Day at the Heights Festival In the thick of the fall festival season, the 19th annual Heights shindig offers kids stuff -- pony rides, moonwalks, games and so forth -- and really a lot of live music for just one afternoon. Eleven acts will play on the Singer/Songwriter Stage, including Gary Burgess and Don Sanders; four, including Easy Money and New News, will grace the Country, Rock & Blues Stage; and in an unabashed display of neighborhood pride, the Local Entertainment Stage features song and dance from "ballet, local schools, dog clubs, etc." Noon-6 p.m. on Heights Boulevard between 14th and 20th streets, 861-4002. Free.
CandlelightvigilThe Battered/ Formerly Battered Women's Coalition sponsors this gathering on the steps of City Hall as part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. If you can't stop by the vigil, stop by the downtown library for Women in Action: Rebels and Reformers, an exhibit sponsored by the League of Women Voters. 6 p.m. Steps of City Hall, 900 Smith. For more information, call Bessie Love, 445-8310.
The Cello in 1915 Houston Symphony cellist David Garrett performs two pieces that share only their year of origin. Max Reger's Suite in G, op. 131c, is a splendid example of the Romantic tradition still going strong in 1915, while Zoltan Kodaly's Sonata, op. 8, illustrates how a forward-looking composer of the time incorporated folk and ethnic styles. 7:30 p.m. University of Houston, Dudley Recital Hall, Fine Arts Building (exit 16 off Cullen Boulevard), 743-3009. Free.
Steel Magnolias Ladies, stopping at a strip-center salon for "man & ped, $20" may improve your looks, but quick service like that doesn't provide the sense of place offered by an old-time beauty parlor. That sense of place is explored in Robert Harling's play, a story that was an off-Broadway hit and a major motion picture. Deborah Eckols, director of the A.D. Players production of Steel Magnolias, says, "the beauty shop becomes a microcosm, a safe haven for the women where they share compassion, concern and great laughter." The distinctly Southern comedy plays through November 3. Tonight's show is at 8 p.m. (Other times listed in Thrills, Theater, Ongoing.) A.D. Players Grace Theater, 2710 West Alabama, 526-2721. $15.