(East) Indian Summer

SAT 8/16
No other city in Texas or the entire Southwest can match up with Houston's diverse population. In fact, only two other cities in the nation can claim more residents from more countries around the world than the Bayou City. This Saturday, the India Culture Center of Houston hosts India Fest 2003. About 20 different Indian organizations all around Houston work together to host this annual event. More than 10,000 people are expected to show up at Reliant Park Hall to celebrate India's independence. Houston restaurants will offer foods from all over India; traditional dances and skits will be performed throughout the day; Indian art, music, and fashion will be on display; and an entire area will be devoted to games for kids. The event also coincides with the Miss India of Texas Pageant 2003, taking place later in the evening.

To balance out the more festive aspects of the event, business and professional booths, alongside cultural, social, and educational programs will showcase many aspects of Indian culture and heritage. A flag-honoring ceremony and parade will recognize the historical importance of this celebration, and the mayor and the consul general of India are scheduled to be in attendance. 10 a.m. -- 7 p.m., Saturday, August 16. Reliant Park Hall A & B, 8400 Kirby Dr. For information, call 713-875-4336 or visit www.icchouston.org. $3 - $10. -- Anthony Nguyen

Cocoa with Class
Never met a candy bar you didn't like? Join award-winning pastry chef Dominique Bocquier for a one-night cooking class where you and your fellow chocoholics will learn how to whip up sinful truffles, soft caramels, and molded chocolates with ganache (chocolate cream) filling. Afterwards, you'll take home a plate of your own scrumptious creations (and a colossal tummy ache). The Culinary Institute Alain & Marie LeNôtre also offers wine seminars, certification classes and hands-on courses for beginners and professionals in pastry, baking, and catering -- all taught by Master Chefs. 5:30-8:00 p.m., Wednesday, August 20, Culinary Institute Alain & Marie LeNôtre, 7070 Allensby. For information, call 713-692-0077 or email [email protected]. $69. -- Margaret Winchell Miller

SAT 8/16
Batalla de las Bandas
Latin rock is in an exciting stage. Free of Ricky's bonbon, several diverse and many-headed musical beasts are poking their rumps into the spotlight. Originality is a trademark of so-called rock en espanol. Bands have a tendency to flaunt gimmicks and mix elements of jazz, hip-hop and ska -- sometimes all in the same song. This year's Latin Rock Battle of the Bands showcases four up-and-coming outfits from Texas (Austin's Boca Abajo, Dimension Oculta from Dallas, and Houstonians De Sangre and Triple) and one from Nuevo Laredo, Mexico (Punzo Kortante). In a recent interview, last year's winner Chango Jackson dubbed their sound "cock-rock for the new millennium." They'll be performing as special guests alongside headliner El Gran Silencio, a critically acclaimed group from Monterrey, Mexico. 6 p.m., Saturday, August 16. 610 Arena, 5515 1/2 S. Loop East. For information, call 713-734-7469 or visit www.batalladelasbandas.com. $15. -- Troy Schulze

THU 8/14
Special Victims Unit
Pets get their version of Law and Order
Animal abusers beware! Rescuers are on their way to free your furry victims! Turn on the tube and catch Animal Cops: Houston, a show documenting eight investigators from the Houston Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals as they combine their investigative skills and street smarts to uncover animal cruelty. So, unless you envision your 15 minutes of fame as an animal abuser, hide your exotic pets, spay and neuter your 100 cats, and play fetch with your neglected canine. Feeling guilty yet? As Houston SPCA Senior Cruelty Investigator Max Mixson reminds us, "Anytime we bring an animal into our lives, we are responsible for its well being for its entire life. If we fail to provide for that animal, we are doing a great disservice to the animal, our community, and ourselves." 9 p.m., August 14 & 15, Animal Planet Network. -- Noelle Heinze

Fabled Labels
Carol Guess of the Guess Firm wants to "provide Houstonians with an opportunity to gain a wealth of knowledge of the music industry." Hence the Guess Sessions, a series of informational workshops designed to teach hip/hop and R&B artist-wannabes how to be all they can be. Guest speakers will include Ismail Juggernaut of the infamous rap label Murder, Inc., which bills itself as "the world's most dangerous record company." On the softer side, Tank Neil, the A&R man who fueled neo-soul artist India.Arie's rocket to fame, will also talk. The first session focuses on refining the artist's business savvy, i.e., preparing the artist to make a deal. Continental breakfast and lunch will be served. 9:30 a.m. -- 12:30 p.m., Saturday, August 16. Doubletree Post Oak Hotel, 2001 Post Oak Blvd. For more information, call 713-660-7003 or visit www.guessfirm.com. $35. -- Felicia Johnson-LeBlanc

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