Press Picks

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Sweet Success You've seen them on TV, those lithe little girls triple-salchowing through the air, more birdlike than human with their ribbony arms and legs and flouncy flapping skirts. The Ice Skating Institute is now affording you an opportunity to see figure skaters in person without traveling all the way to Nagano, Japan, (which is where the 1998 Winter Olympics will be held). This third annual "Sweet Success" challenge features exhibits and competitions in 30 individual and team events at a range of skill levels. 5-8 p.m. (See Thrills, Sports, for other dates and times.) Aerodrome, 16225 Lexington Blvd., Sugar Land, (281) 265-7465. Free.

july 26
Carl Hampton Memorial Tribute Festival Twenty-seven years ago, Houston cops approached a Black Panther to ask that he not sell the group's newspapers in the streets. The man ran into Panther headquarters, and a group, including 21-year-old leader Carl Hampton, emerged and aimed guns at the cops, daring them to shoot. After a 45-minute standoff, the police backed down. A week later, Hampton gave a short speech in front of Black Panther party headquarters in which he argued that "revolution is not necessarily a violent confrontation," then crossed Dowling to check out reports that white men were perched on top of St. John Baptist Church. He was shot once, fatally, by a police sniper hiding atop the church, as was Roy Bartee Haile, a white activist who attempted to pull Hampton out of the road as the police continued to fire. After Hampton's death, he became a kind of revolutionary saint; in the words of Sepia magazine, he was "the only black man in Houston who had drawn his gun on a Houston policeman, stared 'The Man' down, and come out a winner, at least temporarily." Today, to mark the anniversary of his death, join the New Panther Vanguard Movement, the Nation of Islam, S.H.A.P.E. Community Center and the Black Heritage Society as they salute Hampton. Speakers, poets and musicians such as Nomad and D.R.U.M. will be on hand to entertain and burnish Hampton's legend. 1-4 p.m. Emancipation Park, off Dowling and Elgin. For information, call 521-0629 or (281) 623-7333.

Fondren Discovery Place The Houston Museum of Natural Science's new installation is a 6,600-square-foot area that holds a recreational factory floor and a research lab full of interactive physical science exhibits. In the "Works" area, you can feel in your very own palms what happens to the heavy stuff of the world when gravity goes away. In the "Waves" laboratory, learn how sound turns into music and how seemingly clear light breaks into color. And figure out how to make movies move on the "Wonder" platform. Besides all that, there is a tornado that never moves and a ball that never falls, and if all that's not enough, today there is also free pizza, face painting, prizes and, of course, all the other exhibits at the science museum. 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Houston Museum of Natural Science, One Hermann Circle Drive, 639-IMAX. $3; $2, children under 12.

july 27
Miss Black Houston/Miss Black Teen Houston Pageant finals Watching a bevy of beautiful girls and women strut around a stage, hoping to get noticed just because they're beautiful, is as politically incorrect as you can get -- but what the hell. These pageants take place at a university and all the contestants are supposed to be good girls; after all, they do have to be in school in order to compete. And besides, if you get terribly political about it, you could argue that the feminists have done such a darn good job over the years that women no longer need to adhere to the fascist strictures of political correctness. In any case, the show starts at 6 p.m. Texas Southern University, 3100 Cleburne (University Auditorium), 771-6513. $15.

july 28
Chorus Auditions Is your voice deep and manly? Have you ever secretly dreamed of singing on a stage in four-part harmony? (Admittedly, that's a desire most of us would keep to ourselves.) If so, tonight is your night to shine. The Houston Tidelanders Barbershop Chorus is looking for a few good men -- sorry to you smoky-voiced women -- who sing bass and baritone and who don't mind singing a capella. Attend the rehearsal and see what you think (and what they think of you). 7-10 p.m. Bethany Christian Church, 3223 Westheimer, 466-7795. Free.

july 29
Comets vs. Cleveland Rockers Near the top of the WNBA in team defense, the Houston Comets have a better record than the Astros and are upholding the honor of women's b-ball, where the salaries don't soar into the tens of millions but the talent burns bright. And their games are affordable. If you haven't been yet, what are you waiting for? The games are a great date and an even better family outing, and there aren't that many more chances to see our women here at home before the season ends. 7:30 p.m. The Summit, Ten Greenway Plaza, 627-9622, $8-$35.50.

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Lee Williams