This Week's Day-by-Day Picks

Thursday, October 21

As an Indian comic, Paul Varghese is doing his best to shatter stereotypes, though he's well aware they exist. "I'm taking salsa dancing lessons," he deadpans. "I wanna be known as the only Arabic-looking guy who can dance without having to hold a rifle over his head." NBC liked Varghese's act so much, he made it to the semi-finals in last year's reality series Last Comic Standing. Since then, he's been touring the country sharing his good intentions. "I've 'intended' many things throughout my life," he says. "Years ago, I 'intended' to work out religiously to gain 45 pounds of muscle mass so that my toddler cousin wouldn't scare me anymore." Best of luck with that, Paul. 8:30 p.m. 7620 Katy Freeway, suite 431. For information, call 713-333-8800 or visit $12.

Friday, October 22

These gangsta rappers and thug MCs may think they're the first to bring dopin', drinkin' and doin' hotties to mainstream pop culture, but that stuff's been done -- like 70 years ago. In 1935, George Gershwin caused a minor stage scandal when he premiered Porgy & Bess, which followed the shadier sides of life in an African-American tenement in Charleston, South Carolina, in the late '20s. Ironically, Gershwin was criticized for using black performers in a Broadway show about blacks, and he died before the musical became known as groundbreaking for its use of opera, jazz, and folk music and for its brutally realistic depictions of a lifestyle most Americans had never seen. The story is upbeat, even when it's tragic, following Porgy, a crippled laborer, as he falls in love with the lovely (and taken) Bess. Watch for catchy numbers like "Summertime" and "The Buzzard Song" at 8 p.m. today and Saturday, October 23. Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana. For information, call 713-227-4772 or visit $18 to $50.

Saturday, October 23

You've no doubt found yourself yawning at all the standard Halloween-themed festivities offering "a howlin' good time." For something with a little more substance and style, check out Lawndale Art Center's Día de los Muertos ("Day of the Dead") celebration. The annual event features works by HCC students, including sugar skulls, papier-mâché, skeletons, retablos, altars and large-scale installations. Nibble on pan de muerto ("bread of the dead," -- we won't ask about ingredients) and hot chocolate and catch performances by Ballet Folklorico Mixteco. Have un buen día from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Exhibits run through December 10. 4912 Main. For information, call 713-528-5858 or visit Free.

Sunday, October 24

Sure, you can sit around dreaming of the day that rapper/host Xzibit shows up with an MTV crew at your door offering to pimp your ride. Or, you could get your butt to Reliant Center for the Los Magnificos Car Show, the annual event that showcases all things that hop, drop, ding and bling and features tricked-out cars, trucks and vehicles that defy description. If your rig has the goods, enter it in the show Saturday morning or in the "Hop and Dance," where you can strut your sick hydraulics. Or, come for the show today and catch a concert featuring L.L. Cool J, Fabolous, Lil' Flip, Mase and Xzibit himself. Hang here for a few hours, and you'll get plenty of ideas for your '92 Hyundai. Shows starts 11 a.m. One Reliant Center. For information, call 832-667-1400 or visit $20 to $25.

Or, if you're content with your lovable hatchback with the furry dice, hit the Galleria for the EA Sports Madden Challenge. Sports video game lovers have long worshiped this football-simulation game, which was named for fat TV analyst and former coach John Madden. Now anyone who thinks they've got the skillz to top master player D-Train can take him on for a chance to win $1,000. The top player advances to the championships in Las Vegas and a $50,000 purse. Guys, get your zone blitzes, post routes and thumbs ready, and tell your honey she's got free rein at the mall. 10 a.m. Nordstrom wing, street level, 5085 Westheimer. For information, call 713-622-0663 or visit $10 for contestants; free for spectators.

Monday, October 25

Madonna's doing it, and now the word is that Britney is, too. We're not talking about hittin' it with backup dancers (for once) but about Kabbalah, the mystical, sometimes controversial wing of the Jewish faith. You've probably heard more about how Madge (excuse us, Esther) and Brit practice Kabbalah than about the faith itself. Get the goods today at a free Kabbalah lecture at the Kabbalah Center. The religion has been called "the secret code that governs the universe." Learn how to master things that are toxic to you and how to cherish the things that are important to you. We're guessing it'll work like a prayer. 7 p.m. 4007 Bellaire Boulevard, suite D. For information, call 713-349-9900 or visit Free.

Tuesday, October 26

You don't have to be Japanese or a foodie to become addicted to the culinary kung fu that is Iron Chef. For the uninitiated, the Food Network show features master chefs in a battle to see who can come up with the best dishes in the allotted time using the same ingredients. Now Iron heads and local food lovers can catch the action live with Dueling Chefs at Central Market. In this mix of cooking demonstration class and food face-off, local chefs Toby Joseph of The St. Regis Hotel and Arturo Boada of Beso Restaurant will be given "mystery" bags full of "anything that's in season," says Central Market's Peg Lee. Then, with standard kitchen staples, the chefs will create -- on the fly -- assorted seasonal dishes. The audience will then sample the offerings and pick the tastiest dish. Will the loser tip his toque to the winner, or will a food fight break out? Find out at 6:30 p.m. 3815 Westheimer. For information and reservations, call 713-386-1700 or visit $65.

Wednesday, October 27

Normally, a gigantic seven-foot-six Chinese man in shorts the size of a bedsheet would grab anyone's attention. But given that our local baseball team is trying to make history by actually winning, and our football team is exceeding all expectations, the Houston Rockets have been relegated to the back burner. But if there was ever a season to jump on the bandwagon, this would be it. Now, with the acquisition of All-Star forward Tracy McGrady, the team is cashing in on the buzz of the Yao Ming-McGrady star tandem. Tonight's game should be intriguing, as the Rockets host perennial butt-kickers the San Antonio Spurs, led by dominating big man Tim Duncan. 7:30 p.m. Toyota Center, 1510 Polk. For information, call 713-629-3700 or visit Tickets start at $10.

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