Ah, blue jeans. Is there a garment quite as ingenious in its versatility? Jeans are comforting yet sexy, timeless yet trendy. Whether running errands or heading out for a night on the town, we humans have adopted jeans as a worldwide uniform. But it wasn't always like this. It was during the '50s that jeans went from working man's coverall to fashion statement, and -- much like their cultural cousin, rock and roll -- they're here to stay. Blue jeans are just one fashion phenomenon that Myra Walker, a professor of fashion history at the University of North Texas, will touch on in her lecture "Image, Perception and Style," which is being presented in conjunction with Laura Lark's exhibit "Primp, Indigo" at Lawndale Art Center. Through the use of vintage Vogue images from the '50s and '60s, Walker will show the parallels between changing fashions and the escalation of the revolutionary social movements of the era, when fashion, art and music eventually linked up and "pop culture" itself was created.
"We're focusing on body image and the drastic change in focus from the mature woman presenting herself in the '50s to the total youth culture of the '60s," says Walker. "These days a fad can last one to two months, but back then trends had a much slower arc. You can see the influences -- whether it's the Beatles or the Vietnam War or the women's movement -- develop over an entire decade." 7 p.m. Thursday, January 22. 4912 Main. For information call 713-528-5858 or visit lawndaleartcenter.org. Free. -- Sarah Heenan
With the news of Bush's forthcoming proposal to build a space station on the moon and send astronauts to Mars, it's a good time to be Greg Klerkx. Currently on tour supporting his first book, Lost In Space: The Fall of NASA and the Dream of a New Space Age, the former senior manager of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute says what's needed now is more of, as Pa Bush would say, "the vision thing." Klerkx argues that it's time to put bureaucratic NASA out to pasture and let private enterprise take over the job of moving space exploration forward. This idea is such a good match with free-market politics, it gives us the shivers. Klerkx reads at 7 p.m. Wednesday, January 28. Barnes and Noble, 7626 Westheimer. For information, call 713-783-6016. Free. -- Lisa Simon
Improv-ing Local Comedy
Houston's been a pretty glum place these last few years, but with the construction on Main Street nearing its final stages, there's reason to smile again. And if that doesn't cheer you up, perhaps the opening of The Improv Comedy Theater, located at the Marquee Entertainment Complex at I-10 and Silber, will help slap a grin on your face. Organizers are saying that the Houston facility, one of the Improv's 17 clubs in the United States, will rank as the country's largest comedy club. The 400-seat theater features a cocktail lounge and a restaurant. Hot young comic Gabriel Iglesias is the first of the A-list comedians coming to make the new palace ring with laughter. 8:30 p.m. Thursday, January 22; 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. Friday, January 23; 7 p.m., 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. Saturday, January 24; 7 p.m. Sunday, January 25. 7620 Katy Freeway. For information and tickets, call 713-333-8800 or visit www.improv.com. $15. -- John Yandrasits
Building the Windy City
How will a mecca of architectural modernity fare in a postmodern world?
You may think of Houston as a laboratory for architectural experiments, and you wouldn't be wrong. But Houston was still muddy back when the most innovative modern architects began to scrape Chicago's skies. Now that "modern" is history, is Chicago trapped by tradition? The Rice Design Alliance is bringing several noted Chicago architects here to tackle that question in a lecture series called "Chicago Architecture Now." "There's an orthodoxy associated with buildings in Chicago," says RDA president Patrick Peters. "The question is, how does new work connect to the modern tradition in Chicago? Of course, there's a density there that's only hinted at here."
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That may be true, but Houston's revitalized downtown spaces are filling up. Those visiting Midwesterners just may be able to teach us a thing or two about developing our own burg. 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays, through February 18. Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Brown Auditorium, 1001 Bissonnet. For information, call 713-348-4876 or visit www.rda.rice.edu. $3 to $10 single tickets; $10 to $40 series. -- Lisa Simon
Some of the best lines of the blues were just downright raunchy, like Robert Johnson's "squeeze my lemon 'til the juice runs down my leg." Heralded as a new kind of blues, Kevin Young's poetry is no different. He might shine in mournful lines like "Without you I got no one / to say sorry to," but he turns up the heat with "you threaten, brick- / house, to burn / all this down. You leave me / only a chimney" or the boastful "Wouldn't be no fig leaf / if I was Adam / but a palm tree." He reads with Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Yusef Komunyakaa at 7:30 p.m. Monday, January 26. Alley Theatre, 615 Texas. For information, call 713-521-2026 or visit www.inprint-inc.org. $5. -- Keith Plocek