Press Picks

august 24
Party on the Plaza As the sweaty, sticky people of Houston wait for another summer to end, the Party on the Plaza people bring us a sultry Southern concert. The Reverend Horton Heat and Southern Culture on the Skids play rowdy, unrepentant music that would thrill any Snopes in town, not to mention all the downtown wonks who like to loosen their business clothes and affect trashiness. This show is exactly the thing for this muggy weather and our end-of-summer attitudes. 5-10 p.m. Jones Plaza, downtown at the intersections of Texas, Capital, Louisiana and Smith. Free.

Dog Days of Summer "Some of the raciest hounds in town, real party animals," are expected to attend DiverseWorks' third annual membership party. Passion, a two-man mariachi party machine, will supply the music, Mesa will lay out a Southwestern buffet, and art mavens and scene queens will provide small talk, deep dish and genuine erudite conversation. Join in and get set to support DiverseWorks' state-of-the-art art -- a whole season of it, in visual, musical, dance and performance modes. Members and would-be members alike are invited to attend this cocktail soiree. 6:30-9:30 p.m. Mesa, 1971 West Gray. For details, call 228-0914. Fee for party includes membership. $10 for current members; $20 for students and artists; $30 for the average bear; or spring for $50, $100 and $250 membership packages.

august 25
Ballunar Liftoff Festival Travel out to Space Center Houston to see 18th-century technology glorified for three full days. The festival celebrates hot air balloons, which go way back. (Ben Franklin, during his waggish days in France, flew in one.) More than 70 colorful hot air balloons will waft over our area during the festival, with the highlight flight being the maiden voyage of a full-scale balloon replica of the Space Shuttle. Other special shape balloons include a moving van, a shoe, a cat, a battery and a flame. Our guess is that the flame, being closest to normal balloon shape, is the easiest to steer. Balloon steering is always a tricky endeavor. Skydivers, in fact, can steer more easily than balloonists -- gravity ensures that skydivers fall in one basic direction, down, while balloons can go any which way. Skydiving is also part of the festival, although as far as we can tell, none are jumping from balloons. (There will be a chute-off, with 80 skydivers trying to break the Texas state record for formation, on Saturday.) NASA astronaut Mary Ellen Weber will be honored tonight with a skydiving award and may attend the MIX 96.5 mixer, held under the bobbling lights of the balloon glow. Fun begins mid-afternoon today, continues Saturday and Sunday. Rocket Park, adjacent to Space Center Houston, 20 miles south of downtown on I-45, 244-2100. Admission to the festival is free, parking won't be. Park at Space Center Houston, $3, or Baybrook Mall and Bay Area Park & Ride lots, $5 for carload; $1 seniors, students and handicapped.

Mamma Roma Repertory films are dreadful because they come and go so quickly -- often, there's only one screening. You, the eager cinemaphile, may have waited for years to see some obscure film -- Sam Fuller's Park Row or Ministry of Fear with Ray Milland -- and then, when the movie finally comes, you don't find out until the night after. The MFA has taken steps to prevent these "blast and damn" moments and are showing classics for not one night, but for two weekends. Mamma Roma, a 1962 Pier Paolo Pasolini film, will be shown six, count 'em, six, times. Anna Magnani stars as a former prostitute/ Madonna figure who has stopped selling herself on the streets, hoping instead to peddle produce in the market and make a "good" life for her teenage son. Mamma Roma looks like Italian neo-realism, except that it's too bawdy -- bawdy in a tragic, medieval way. This weekend and next: 8 p.m. Friday; 7:30 p.m. Saturday; and 7 p.m. Sunday. Museum of Fine Arts, 1001 Bissonnet, 639-7515.

august 26
Women voters go underground The League of Women Voters will commemorate the 75th anniversary of the 19th Amendment with a tunnel walk and rally downtown. The walkers will lace up athletic shoes, rather than corsets, and stroll past historical exhibits on their one-mile walk under downtown. After getting fit and finding out about Houston during their stroll, walkers will come up for a rally in front of City Hall, where speakers will explain how the 19th Amendment has affected history. (The climate difference between the tunnel walk and the outdoor rally will explain how air-conditioning has changed history.) Check-in and registration for the walk begins at 10 a.m., in the Bank One Center (enter off Milam). At noon, walkers will march across Smith Street for a 45-minute rally in Hermann Square Park. The route is wheelchair- and stroller-accessible. For more information, call the League of Women Voters, 784-2923. $10.

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Edith Sorenson