Press Picks

february 16
Islam in Asia More tricky, sticky multicultural issues.
The Asia Society has brought John L. Esposito down to talk about the effect of Islamic movements in Southeast Asia. Esposito himself is neither in Islamic territory nor Southeast Asia; his natural habitat is Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., where he's a professor of religion and international affairs and director of the Center for Muslim-Christian understanding. The Asia Society was not the first to take advantage of Esposito's expertise; in the past he's served as president of the Middle East Studies Association of North America and been a consultant to the Department of State. Esposito will attend a 6:30 p.m. reception before the program itself begins at 7:15 p.m. Innova Design Center, 20 Greenway Plaza. For reservations, call 439-0051. Free.

The Mystical Arts of Tibet Saffron robes, death's-head masks and horns the size of telephone poles -- all that and more represent the mystical arts of Tibet. The Yoga Center of Houston has brought in genuine monks, from Drefung Joseling Monastery, for a complete program of stress-relieving, tantric and enlightening entertainment. Today's feature is sacred music and dance.(Saturday at noon, the monks will indulge us with zok ke, or awesome voice, chanting in Curtains Theater.) 7:309:30 p.m. Emerson Unitarian Church, 1900 Bering Drive, 782-8250; or, call the Yoga Center for details, 524-5472. $10 donations expected.

february 17
A Tribute to El Vaquero and El Ranchero Hey kids, more than a century before those prissy Pilgrims set out for the new world, ranchers were working in our neighborhood -- we had printing presses and vineyards, too. Sadly, the photo exhibit opening today doesn't have any images from those earliest days. No, the heart of this exhibition is shots from the King Ranch taken between 1939 and 1944. Those pictures are from Toni Frissel's series, along with work by other professionals. To maintain their standing as a folk art gallery, Casa Ramirez will also exhibit artifacts from the 1880s and thereabouts and recent, rodeo-themed artwork by local schoolchildren. AViva! el vaquero! (Or, why do you think they call it rodeo?) Images and objects on display through March 9. Casa Ramirez Folkart Gallery, 239 West 19th Street, 880-2420.

Mr. Payback What's more expensive and annoying to parents than a Sega addiction? Interactive movies, that's what! Mr. Payback was written and directed by Bob Gale, who made a packet of dough as the creator of Back to the Future. Back to the Future star and all-around mutant Christopher Lloyd is featured in Mr. Payback, along with Billy Warlock of Baywatch and Leslie Easterbrook from Police Academy. Mr. Payback is an "Interfilm" technology experience, which means it contains segments of film interspersed with video game elements. (A three-button pistol grip, something like the Love Connection technology, allows the audience to vote on what the next plot turn will be, and the film then goes with the democratic flow.) The whole thing is all multimedia and wave of the future -- and lasts only 20 minutes. Something had to give to bring technology to the people, and apparently time was it. Mr. Payback begins today at Sony Memorial City and at nine other locations across the country, 467-5639. $5.

Upcoming Events

Spider Baby Way poppin' black-and-white animated critters and kids frolic during the opening credits of this 1964 film while a cheery Lon Chaney Jr. sings about "boys and ghouls having a ball." At dinner, it seems, because "Frankenstein, Dracula and the mummy are sure to end up in somebody's tummy .... Mix in seven legs from an eight-legged beast, and you're all set for a cannibal feast!" It gets better! First a very blond, very bad actor offers incredibly stupid medical babble by way of exposition, ending his spiel with an eerie warning: "Some people say the Merrye Syndrome doesn't exit! But I know it did ... although it all ended on that fateful day ten years ago." Then, Rochester shows up on a motorcycle delivery cart and a nut-case nymphet with Bardot-tousled hair snuffs him. Later, they eat bugs and house pets. Well, maybe it's not Rochester, but does that really matter? Lon Chaney Jr. plays the loyal chauffeur, and a nominally normal woman claims to revere the mummy. "I love how his feet go: step scrape, step scrape," she says. And she thinks all men should be like the wolfman, "real beasts." Spider Baby is a wonder to behold. Part of a double feature with Switchblade Sisters (1976), both of them mutant films by auteur Jack Hill, who's alive, well and enjoying the attention his movies are getting. Okay, his exact words at a recent L.A. screening were, "I don't know what all this interest is about. If someone can figure it out, please let me know." The double feature starts at 7:30 p.m., tonight and tomorrow. Rice Media Center, Rice University (entrance no. 8 off University), 527-4853. $5 and no, they don't sell popcorn and the odds for successfully smuggling in beer are slim to none. Rice has a lot of money -- why don't the regents build a drive-in screen for occasions like this?  

The Human Language What is good for? Why do we bother? After all, most of what most people have to say most of the time could easily be expressed by throwing a rock and then running away. Perhaps we have language so that we can talk about why we have language. Or so we can make things up -- and by make things up I don't mean fiction. I mean plain untruths such as, "This is the only attempt ever made to 'explain language' in a way that all intelligent people will enjoy and truly understand." The brochure for this three-part series contains that line, and one would guess that whoever wrote it would know that scholars and writers have always labored to "explain language." Still, judging from the quotes in the press kit, this is a zippy show. People from all over the world and Sid Caesar will talk about talking. We'll learn that the Siberian Yupik Eskimos have a single word that means "without us being sprayed upon, by water, when we're traveling by boat." We'll learn the secret signals of the Atlanta Braves third-base coach. We'll learn why chimps can't talk and we can, and if they're bright enough to understand when we slander them. Tonight's episode is "Acquiring the Human Language: Playing the Language Game," and how children come to have and use language is the focus. The entire series has the Noam Chomsky seal of approval. 8 p.m. KUHT/Channel 8.

february 18
This Bitterly Beautiful Land Ray Miller makes the Picks page again. Tonight, the well-known Texas journalist and TV personality, Mr. Eyes of Texas himself, will introduce a choral concert featuring the works of Houston composer David Ashley White, whose music is based on the records and writings of the folks who first settled this great state or ours. Soprano Marilyn Taylor, baritone Eric Edlund and the 130-voice Houston Masterworks Chorus and chamber orchestra will be directed by Robert Brewer. English music is also on tonight's program. 8 p.m. Alice Pratt Brown Hall, Rice University, use the Stockton entrance off of University. For tickets, call Houston Masterworks Chorus, 529-8900. $15, $25 and $25 with a $5 discount for seniors and students.

Bad Girls Upset by the Truth Cat-eyed brunette Jo Carol Pierce presents her offering for DiverseWorks' All the Rage II series. Pierce sings songs that Kitty Wells would like. Where Kitty simply says it wasn't God who made honky-tonk angels, Pierce has a whole theology of bad-living and honky-tonk heartbreak. Bad Girls Upset by the Truth is Pierce's title for her song series, and that should be evidence enough that this musical event is more complex than the non-country fan might expect. One show, 8 p.m. DiverseWorks, 1117 East Freeway (I-10 at North Main), 223-8346. $12, $7 students.

february 19
Captain Kirk At one point, William Shatner's star had sunk so low that he was hosting The Search for Houdini's Grave or some such mess on Halloween. Now, of course, his star is at its zenith. He's the elder statesman of a whole slew of TV shows and a baker's half-dozen Star Trek movies. Fans young and old will actually glimpse their idol today at the Creation Star Trek Convention. When? To lure fans in for a full seven hours of contests, movie previews and shopping, the fine folks at Creation are being coy about exactly what time Shatner will give his little speech. Doors open at 11 a.m., close at 6 p.m., and sometime during the day William Shatner, live and in the flesh, will talk to his fans. Sheraton Astrodome, 8686 Kirby. For tickets, call Ticketmaster, 629-3700. $13.50 advance; $16 at the door, $10 children ages 712.

Wee Peeple Beginning Doll Making Doll maker master Kandra Stacey provides the doll bodies for wee ones. Wee doll makers are expected to bring all manner of decorative doll things -- lace, scraps of cloth, sea shells, shiny things and what have you to dress the doll. Also a "00" paint brush (or two), glue gun, needles and thread, and some grippers. (And we suggest bandages and polymyxin B sulfate ointment in case of minor glue gun accidents.) Lucia's Garden has photographs of dolls made in previous classes on display. If you call, someone at Lucia's Garden can probably tell you what grippers are. The class will be taught from 14 p.m. Lucia's Garden, 2942 Virginia, 523-6494. $55 fee includes doll body.  

Freedom Spoken Here: The Life of Phyllis Wheatley A special Black History Month family day at Bayou Bend. Young Audiences of Houston has a living history biographical presentation about the life and accomplishments of the poet Phyllis Wheatley, who was captured in Africa, shipped to America, sold into slavery and then became a famous writer. Throughout the day, the museum will focus on black history. Freedom Spoken Here: The Life of Phyllis Wheatley will be presented at 2 and 3 p.m. Bayou Bend is open 15 p.m. One Wescott Street (at Memorial), 639-7750. Free.

february 20
JITRO The well-trained piping voices of 34 members of the internationally famous Czech children's choir will be heard in Houston. Now, if you want to hear all 500 children of the JITRO (which translates as "The Daybreak") choir, you'll probably have to visit them in the East Bohemian city of Hradec Kralove. If you don't have the airfare or time for travel just at the moment, you can hear the touring choir in a program of Antonin Dvorak, Giovanni Batista Pergolesi and Irving Berlin. 7:30 p.m. Christ Church Cathedral, 1117 Texas Avenue. For tickets, call 222-2593. $10, $5 seniors and students. Secure, free parking.

february 21
Friends of the UH Libraries spring booksale This is not quite an everything must go sale, but the Friends of the UH Libraries has truckloads of books, so everyone is sure to find something. Sure, the members-only preview is held on Monday, but they won't get away with all the good books. This is a great opportunity for early Christmas shopping -- and you'll have time to read all the books before wrapping them. The sale is today and Wednesday, 10 a.m.6 p.m. In the basement of the M.D. Anderson Library, University of Houston main campus, main entrance. For details, call 743-9750.

february 22
Afro-jam Music, coffee from Kenya, stacks and stacks of books and music from EON. Black History Month celebrations are not rare events -- as the jokes note, Black History Month is the shortest month, but in Harris County people plan enough events to fill any 31-day month you've got. Moreover, Borders Books is always hopping. The store has regular book signings and reading groups and live music many days of the week. If you haven't been, check it out. (The family illiterates can hang at the music store upstairs.) This may not be the celebrated clean, well-lit place, but it's a refreshingly roomy spot to get some book-learning and relax. (By the way, today is Julius Erving's birthday. That's the Julius Erving, also known as Philadelphia 76er's Dr. J. Check the sports and biography sections.) 7:30 p.m. Borders Books & Cafe, 9633 Westheimer, 782-8066.

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