Press Picks

july 17
AstroWorld Series of Dog Shows For 20 years, Pomeranians and pugs, bloodhounds and bassets, dogs of every creed and color have strutted their stuff at the AstroWorld Series of Dog Shows. More than a beauty show, this production features such kid-pleasing events as canine Frisbee exhibitions and a "Good Citizen Test" in which mannerly pets can measure their ability to paw the line and follow commands. A more serious show of Texas hearing and service dogs takes place twice a day; see how hard these deserving dogs work for their chow. And there's a children's doggy art exhibit, dog-training seminars, pet health lessons and lots more. 8:30 a.m.-3 p.m. today. (See Thrills for more times and dates.) Astrohall and Astroarena, 8400 Kirby. For information, call (800) 884-2443. $7; $3, seniors and children under 12.

Improvalooza 1997 Local improv artists turn the art of razor-sharp comic timing into a team sport as they warm up for the National ComedySportz Tournament. Their goal? A prize of no less stature than the Meaningless Cup. Houston placed third in the nation last year, but this year, with performers holding such names as Lucian "Splooshian" Smith, and Dianah "Delooney" Dulany, we can't help but come out undisputed champions, rulers of the meaningless universe. 8 p.m., Treebeards on Market Square, 315 Travis, 521-2226. $10.

The Most Beautiful Cat Contest You've always known she's the most kissably cute cat in creation. Now's your chance to convince everyone else in the world. Bring a photo of your favorite feline to the Landmark River Oaks Theatre and let them show her (or him) upstairs in the cafe. Judges from the Cat Veterinary Clinic will select a winner Saturday, July 19. Be sure to include your name and phone number on the back of the picture so, after your furry sweetie is declared "most beautiful," they'll know where to send all those exciting cat toys and free passes to the movie When the Cat's Away. Pictures can be dropped off anytime during theater hours, 4:30-10 p.m. thru July 18. River Oaks Theatre, 2009 West Gray, 850-0217. Free.

july 18
Seventh Annual Desk & Derrick Golf Tournament There are actually clubs in town whose entire purpose is to promote the professional development of people employed in the energy industry. The Desk and Derrick Clubs invite you to join them in giving an opportunity to help future landmen and engineers, wildcatters and geologists make their oily dreams come true. Today's fundraising tournament offers an opportunity for an altruistic round of golf as well as some fun with the oil guys. Support a scholarship, and get a tan and some exercise. Registration, 7:30 a.m.; tournament, 8 a.m. Cypresswood Golf Course, 21602 Cypresswood Dr. To register or for information, call Nina Milligan, 654-4141. $100 per player; includes cart, greens fees and lunch.

The Mikado Only the imperialist Victorians could gleefully appropriate medieval Japanese culture to spoof 19th-century British manners and morals with such lighthearted cultural insensitivity. But that's exactly what quintessential Victorians W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan did in their wickedly witty, politically savvy and musically ornate opera The Mikado. Legend has it that Gilbert's inspiration for his most famous opera fell, quite literally, at his feet. Brainstorming for operatic ideas, he tromped his big English shoes across the floorboards of his quiet study. A Japanese executioner's sword decorating his wall clattered to the ground before him, and in that moment the muse struck. What came afterward was the creation of some of light opera's funniest and most famous characters -- including the deliciously beautiful Yum-Yum and her handsome lover, the decidedly unfortunate Nanki-Poo, heir to the Japanese throne. There is also Ko-Ko, Lord High Executioner, and of course the Mikado himself; both do everything oldsters do to get in the way of young love before all comes out fine in the end. Thru July 27. 8 p.m. tonight (see Thrills for other dates and times). Wortham Center, Cullen Theater, 500 Texas, 236-8310. $12-30.

july 19
Japanese Bookbinding and Wall Stamping The elegant art of bookbinding is so demure that most of us aren't even aware of it when we are holding a book in our hands. Discover the secrets of this modest art in a demonstration given today by Darla Hartmann, the visual artist who founded Artists Bookworks Houston. In addition, Lyle Barrett, owner of P.O. Box Rubberstamps, will demonstrate the rowdier craft of rubber stamping. Learn to stamp wood, walls, furniture -- anything but pets, spouses and children. Bookbinding demo at 10:15 a.m. & 12:15 p.m.; wall stamping demo, 11:15 a.m. & 1:15 p.m.; stamp-making demo at noon. Heights Pavilion, 244 West 19th St., 864-0656 or 861-3411. Free.

A Glenn Miller Evening What better way to enjoy an old-fashioned good-time Saturday night than with two ballrooms filled with foxtrotters and the luscious long sound of big band music? Imagine the twine of the lonely clarinet snaking down your spine, affording you no choice but to join the others twirling on the glossy floor. The lights are low, but the setups for sale on the side make the night glow bright once you've added a shot from the flask you've brought. Or maybe the music and dancing alone are enough to make the night shine. It's all legal and perfectly healthy (provided that flask isn't too big). Join Billie Ledbetter and his orchestra and dance, as they say, the night away. BYOB, 8 p.m.midnight, West Houston DanceSport Center, 14919 Bellaire Blvd., (281) 933-9970. $10, singles; $18, couples.

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Lee Williams