Press Picks

february 5
"Bound/Books by Artists" Many of Houston's top visual artists (and a couple of out-of-towners) contributed to this group exhibition focusing on the medium of the book "as a vehicle for the artists' self-expression" and/or "a point of departure." And there are a few departures. Bill Davenport's Things in My Apartment, March 30, 1988 is an obsessive-compulsive compendium of every one of the 3,143 items in his Rhode Island flat on that particular day in '88 (art -- what a gig). Mel Chin's offering -- an homage to Duchamp's "Valise and Green Box" series -- comprises a garbage bag stuffed with the objets and ephemera Chin used to document his creative process on the large-scale piece Landscape. Chance Books (The Book of Depletion/The Book of Accumulation) by Brooklyn's Tamalyn Miller is billed as "the poem as game board as mandala as clock." And one of Jabari Anderson's submissions -- a bound edition on primed canvas -- is accompanied by an ink pad that encourages the participant to "fingerprint himself before turning each page." Why? "... to simultaneously humble the viewer and mark his presence as an integral part of the ... creative process." Fun with books -- cool. Wei Hong, David McGee, Caroline Huber, Virgil Grotfeldt, Tierney Malone, Mark Flood, Jim Love and Natalie Lovejoy also contributed to "Bound," which was organized by William Steen. The exhibit can be viewed daily, through February 28; the secured cases the works are displayed in are opened for closer inspection and viewer interaction between 4 and 5 p.m. Sundays. Brazos Bookstore, 2421 Bissonnet, 523-0701. Free.

Wendy Liebman There's a difference between this comic and most of the other comedians prowling the cable ghetto and the late-night talk-show circuit: She's funny. From L.A. by way of Long Island, the winner of last year's American Comedy Award for Best Female Stand-up was schooled as an undergrad at Wellesley College near Boston (she calls it "I.O.U."). But Liebman's self-trained in the fine art of the one-two punch line, the well-turned zinger with the two-second trap door -- that is, the delayed-reaction verbal twist that takes a moment or two to wend its way through the higher consciousness before striking the lo-fi funny bone and making it hum like a tuning fork. A Wendy sampler: (on romance) "I was incompatible with my last boyfriend. I'm a night person ... and he didn't like me"; (on reunions) "I recently went to my 30th class reunion from nursery school. I didn't want to go because I've put on maybe 90 or 100 pounds since then"; (on workplace [im]politics) "I kept my secretarial day job, though I would call in sick a lot. I would say I had 'female problems.' My boss didn't know I meant her." Chard Hogan and Anthony Andrews share the stage. Showtime is 8:30 p.m. (see Thrills for other dates and times). The Laff Stop, 1952-A West Gray, 524-2333. $10-$14.

"Slide Jam!" The intimate, intermittent series of slide shows provides a window to the world of Bayou City visualism, promising informal and easily digestible programs about contemporary art and artists, who show and discuss their works, answer questions and do the meet-and-greet thing. Highly inventive folk artist Jesse Lott and abstract painter Brian Portman are featured this time. Seating is limited. 7 p.m. The Contemporary Arts Museum, 5216 Montrose, 284-8250. Free.

Gene Mann's Wild Game Cook-off Among other things, Texas is one of the last remaining strongholds for the carnivorous; we are unapologetic meat-eaters who dine hard and die young, clutching our hammy hearts in our fists as we fall ashenly -- though filled with bliss and beef -- to the floor. And Gene Mann's 18th annual festival of exotic flesh is so Texas. Goose, pheasant, pickled livers, quail, venison, sport fish and various oddball strains of Lone Star varmint and roadkill are on the menu; related events like the Wild Mann Beer Tapping Party, the Ms. Wild Game Contest, concerts by the Sidewinders and Jesse Dayton, and final judging in the cook-off proper are on the agenda. Today's hours are 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. (for this weekend's schedule, see Thrills). The Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery, 6111 Richmond, 974-2739. Free for all tonight; $5 Friday and Saturday; free anytime for accompanied kids 15 and under.

february 6
Garth Fagan Dance Jamaica-born dancer/choreographer Fagan likes his troupers physically fit and wildly virtuosic, the latter at least potentially, as he recruits most of them fresh off the farms -- or in this case, the universities and even the dance academies. His company's hallmark is a graceful, semiformal naturalism mated with acrobatic, antiformalist invention. P.S. Fagan's non-GFD credits are simultaneously impressive (the choreography for Duke Ellington's "swing opera" Queenie Pie and the New York Shakespeare Festival's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream) and stultifying (the retooling of Disney's The Lion King for Broadway). Fagan Dance, which hasn't visited Houston in almost a decade, performs at 8 tonight and the same time Saturday. The Cullen Theater at Wortham Center, 500 Texas, 237-1439. $23-$33 (Houston Ticket Center: 227-ARTS; Ticketmaster: 629-3700).

"Pablo Picasso: Buffon's Natural History -- Rare Proofs" In brief, this exhibit includes previously undisplayed animal representations by the great 20th-century Spanish artist, commissioned by publisher Ambroise Vollard in 1936 to accompany a reissue of the massive Natural History (Histoire Naturelle, generale et particuliere) by 18th-century French taxonomist George Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon. The significance of the so-called "Buffon suite," created by Picasso after the style of master printer Roger Lacouriere, is that the pieces are presented in their original subtlety, in prints made previous to "steelfacing," part of the printing process. The installation opens with a reception from 6 to 9 tonight and continues through March 16 (see Thrills for more info). The Gerhard Wurzer Gallery, 1217 South Shepherd, 523-4300. Free.

The Pat Metheny Group See the story on page 75. Showtime is 8 p.m. Aerial Theater at Bayou Place, 520 Texas, 230-1600. $22.50-$37.50 (Ticketmaster: 629-3700).

"Witness: Endangered Species of North America" Produced by the California Academy of Sciences, the traveling exhibition of conservationist works by concerned camera-eye witnesses and CAS staffers Susan Middleton and David Liittschwager includes 50 color-dye-transfer prints and more than 100 black-and-white photos of some of America's most-threatened floras and faunas, including the bald eagle, the Florida panther, Heller's blazing star, the black-footed ferret, the thick-billed parrot and the Hawaiian monk seal. "Witness" opens today; viewing hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. The exhibit continues through June 14 (for more info, see Thrills). The Museum of Natural Science, 1 Hermann Circle Drive in Hermann Park, 639-IMAX. $4, $2 for kids under 12 and members.

International Piano Festival This year's fest, the 18th annual, includes performances by IPF founder and University of Houston faculty member Abbey Simon, UH professor Horacio Gutierrez and guest artist Angela Cheng. The opening program, featuring Gutierrez in his local recital debut, includes Haydn's Sonata in C Major, Hob. XVI:50, Schumann's Humoreske in B-flat Major, op. 20, George Ferie's "Phantasyplay" and Liszt's Sonata in b minor, S. 178. 7:30 p.m. (for info about the other performances, see Thrills). Moores Opera House, University of Houston entrance 16. $18; $10 for students and seniors (tix: 743-3167).

february 7
The Strange Demise of Jim Crow Subtitled How Houston Desegregated Its Public Accommodations, 19591963, director David Berman's documentary tells "the never-before-told [on film] story of how the city with the largest African-American community in the South" moved into the 20th century -- or, more to the point, was moved by a combination of protesting, behind-the-scenes power-brokering and pitched battles waged at Houston lunch counters, movie theaters and hotels. Jim Crow was scripted by journalist/author Tom Curtis, based on historian Thomas R. Cole's book No Color Is My Kind: The Life of Eldrewey Stearns and the Integretation of Houston. The screening concludes the "Local Spin: Independent Houston Filmmakers" series. 7:30 p.m. The Museum of Fine Arts, 1001 Bissonnet, 639-7515. $5.

Kaddish Like The Strange Demise of Jim Crow, this 1997 film by Swiss filmmakers Beatrice Michel and Hans StYrm deals with the high human costs of racial politics and warfare, but it's about a very different sort of war in another place and time: Europe during Hitler's Holocaust. The movie's title, of course, refers to the prayer that Jewish mourners recite in memory of loved ones. Michel and Storm are scheduled to discuss the work following the screening, which continues the "Switzerland and World War II" series. 7:30 p.m. Rice Media Center, Rice University entrance 8 (off University Boulevard), 527-4853. Free.

february 8
Marian Barnes The author/performer is best known as an oral historian -- a collector and disseminator of African-American folk tales and traditional story poems. She relates some from her personal vault of memory in a program titled "Talk That Talk and Talk That Talk Some More." 3 p.m. The Grand 1894 Opera House, 2020 Postoffice Road in Galveston, (800) 821-1894, (409) 765-1894. $10.

Houston Pan-Cultural Film Festival See the story on page 45. Today through February 15. Rice Media Center, Rice University entrance 8 (off University Boulevard), 527-4853; the Museum of Fine Arts, 1001 Bissonnet, 639-7300; Talento Bilingue de Houston, 2115 Runnels, 222-1213. More info: 527-9548. $6-$130.

Southern Culture on the Skids See Critic's Choice on page 80. The Fabulous Satellite Lounge, 3616 Washington Avenue, 869-COOL.

february 9
The Only Thrill Diane Keaton, Sam Shepard, Diane Lane and Robert Patrick are the stars of the latest movie -- a love story -- by Houston-born director Peter Masterson (The Trip to Bountiful, Full Moon in Blue Water). Masterson and several unspecified cast members are scheduled to be on hand at tonight's world premiere, a fundraiser for the Southwest Alternate Media Project (SWAMP). The event, titled "21 Thrills & a Rose," also includes a tribute to the late Dominique de Menil, a SWAMP co-founder. A reception is slated for 6:30; the screening starts at 8. Angelika Film Center at Bayou Place, 510 Texas, CALL-AFC. $25 (advance tix: 522-8592).

february 10
Lord of the Dance featuring John Carey While we wish no one ill -- not even the fatuous Michael Flatley -- we're gratified to report that this incarnation of the Riverdance offshoot does not include the injured Flatley, who apparently pulled a muscle in his massive ego and had to cede the stage to his understudy, Carey. The latter hoofer is not yet 20, but he's a seven-time world champion as well as a multiple winner of the Irish, British and North American all-arounds. As for the production proper, well, let's just say that the press-release assertion that "Lord of the Dance stretches the definition of Irish dance" is laughably mild, and akin to comparing a mosquito to an elephant. While Riverdance can be irritating in anything above a mild dose, at least it's true to its roots -- and tastefully done. The garish, Vegas-trashy Lord stomps all over its purported Celtic heritage on its artistically flatfooted way to the big-bucks watering hole. Opening performances are at 8 tonight and the same time Wednesday (see Thrills for more info). Aerial Theater at Bayou Place, 520 Texas, 230-1600. Officially sold out.

Mendelssohn String Quartet DaCamera brings this hard-to-top foursome -- violinists Nick Eanet and Nicholas Mann, cellist Marcy Rosen and violist Maria Lambros -- to town for the state premiere of a new work, String Quartet no. 2, by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Bernard Rands. Also on the bill of fare: Haydn's Quartet in D Major, op. 20, no. 4 and Dvorak's Quartet No. 11 in C Major, op. 61. 7:30 p.m. The Menil Collection, 1515 Sul Ross, 525-9400. $20 (DaCamera Music Center: 524-5050).

february 11
Robert Olen Butler The Lake Charles, Louisiana-based author pocketed a Pulitzer for his collection of stories A Good Scent from a Good Mountain. Butler reads from his latest novel, The Deep Green Sea, a tragic, erotic love story about the relationship between an American veteran of the Vietnam War and the orphaned daughter of a Vietnamese bar girl, at 7 p.m. Brazos Bookstore, 2421 Bissonnet, 523-0701. Free.

Marcy Playground See Critic's Choice on page 80. Lincoln opens. Numbers, 300 Westheimer, 526-6551. $8 (Ticketmaster: 629-3700).

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Clay McNear
Contact: Clay McNear