Press Picks

August 7
Teach Good Study Skills to Students School is starting up again, and every conscientious, hard-working parent knows what that means: homework. Oh, that hateful hair-pulling hour or so of begging, badgering and browbeating, trying to get your kids to do their homework. This year, start off with a little advice from a professional. Licensed counselor Norma Callendar will show you how to help your teenage scholar learn the study skills she needs for school success. This workshop will focus on grades six through 12, and you're encouraged to bring your truculent student along. Maybe all she needs is a little good advice from someone besides Mom and Dad. 7 p.m. Barnes & Noble Booksellers, 1029 West Bay Area Blvd., Webster, (281) 554-8224, (281) 554-5669. Free.

August 8
Naomi Wolf In her new book Promiscuities: The Secret Struggle for Womanhood, feminist, social critic and writer Naomi Wolf explores coming of age during those uncertain years of the 1970s, between the sexual revolution and AIDS. The book, which has already garnered much national attention, reveals a good deal of Wolf's very own sexual coming of age and posits her experience as a sort of universal touchstone from which to discuss the sexual experience of all modern-day American women. This rhetorical strategy seems unabashedly pointed toward selling lots and lots of books -- don't we all want to know what the gorgeous young feminist did with boys while she was growing up? Hear what she has to say about all this at her discussion and book signing tonight. 7:30 p.m. Borders Books, Music & Cafe, 12788 Fountain Lake Circle, Stafford, (281) 240-6666.

Bottom Line Sale You've been frugally denying yourself that perfect couch or the lovely new lamp or some funny little decorative doodad. Today, your patient austerity will be rewarded. Several decorators have gathered their showroom floor samples together under one roof, tied hot-pink tags to them and are sitting back and waiting for the bargain-hunter stampede to arrive. Window- shop, lie on the fancy decorator couches when the salesman's back is turned and maybe bag a bargain. Most everything is one of a kind and, according to the sponsor, is "typically sold at manufacturer's cost or below." Good things come to those who wait; now's the time, though, to get up off your duff and get down there. 9 a.m.-6 p.m., Decorative Center of Houston, 5120 Woodway, 960-9807. $5.

Gypsies, Thieves and Con Artists Okay, so the title of the program is weirdly ethnocentric and offensive, and every Gypsy out there deserves an apology. Consider it done. In point of fact, this seminar has nothing to do with any ethnic group, but with criminals who come in every shape, size and color. And if one is standing sweetly at your door, seemingly offering the chance of a lifetime, you might not realize you've been taken till long after the scoundrel has scooted off. Protect yourself. Learn to recognize bad guys right off the bat. Judge Jean Spradling Hughes, who has appeared on Dateline NBC as an expert on con games, will show you how many of them work. To be informed is to be ready, so you'll know when and how to slam the door in that rapscallion's face before he even starts talking. 10-11:30 a.m. Spring Branch Community Center, 1721 Pech Road, 932-9573. Free.

Super Speedway How many American kids spend Saturday afternoons flipping through various television sports shows, inevitably ending up at some point hypnotized by the races? They lie on the couch, mesmerized by those wild steel capsules whizzing around and around and around -- until suddenly comes that heart-crushing moment when one car spins out of control, and the kids are on their feet, groaning and exclaiming, "Oh my gosh!" as they watch the thing burst like a bomb into a jillion pieces, spitting fire as it goes. Then, miraculously, the driver steps out from the wreckage, alive and walking and even waving like any hero there ever was. How does that happen? Even more curious, what madness drives a racer who's been through that trauma to get back into a racecar again, daring such a demonic death? A new IMAX film can answer these questions and many more. Follow the legendary Mario Andretti and his son Michael through the world of high-speed racing. Learn more about the physics, the romance and the visceral rush of racecar driving and the speedway. Shows at 3, 5, 7 p.m. today (see Thrills, IMAX for other dates and times). IMAX at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, One Hermann Circle Drive, 639-4600. $5.50; $3.50, children.

The Young Houston Playwrights' Festival All year long, Houston students, along with Mappamundi, a nonprofit organization dedicated to teaching kids the arts, have been conjuring up plays, writing and, as every writer knows, rewriting their scripts, making them ready for production. Opening night has finally arrived. The kids will get to see the fruits of their labors acted out by professional players on the Alley stage. See Swisher Days, a play written by ten students from the first-period English class at Sterling High School; Magic Book, written by 11-year-old Julio Jovel; and five other plays by Houston youths. The evening promises to be sweet. 8 p.m. (See Thrills, Theater for other dates and times.) Neuhaus Stage at the Alley Theatre, 615 Texas, 228-8421. Free

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Lee Williams