This Week's Day-by-Day Picks

Thursday, December 4

It's not like the entire star-studded population of MTV's TRL is swinging through town to make all the little girls weep with proto-lust and idol worship. But today's Jingle Jam 2003 isn't too far from the mark. The list of artists is fairly studded with stars and skews young. The Black Eyed Peas will bring the hip-hop; Hilary Duff will take care of the bubblegum pop; Thalia will represent the Latin sound; Sean Paul will provide the reggae; and Simple Plan will be left to handle the perky punk-pop. Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey, the country's favorite headed-for-disaster newlyweds, will co-host the pubescent blowout. If you plan to attend (or are roped into chaperoning daughters, nieces and what-have-you), we suggest you join in the fun of screaming your lungs out at the well-scrubbed entertainers. Otherwise, earplugs are de rigueur. 6:45 p.m. Reliant Arena, 8400 Kirby. For tickets, call 713-629-3700 or visit $25.

Friday, December 5

Flamenco, according to its premier practitioner, Omayra Amaya, will stomp its way under your skin. The Andalusian dance-and-music art form arose among the poorest elements of Gypsy society as an angry reaction to the oppression of Gypsy culture in the south of Spain. "Flamenco was their way of expressing their social, economic and political situation," says Amaya. "It began as a scream of liberation for them. It is impossible to hear flamenco music and not feel your heart turn around and scream." Amaya brings the emotionally charged flamenco to town today with her show Raza. With all the foot-stomping and harsh facial expressions of the dancer, Amaya warns, "Flamenco is not pretty. But it is beautiful." 8 p.m. today and tomorrow. Hamman Hall, Rice University, entrance no. 14 (off Rice Boulevard). For information and tickets, call 713-348-PLAY. $30.

Saturday, December 6

Even though the reality-TV wave may have already crested, you haven't missed the boat, er, bus yet. A passel of brief, bright MTV stars has hit the road in separate tour buses for the Reality Bar Crawl. The tour itself is being filmed for airing in February, so if you show up today, your mug could wind up on the tube. But there's another draw: The buses are carrying casting directors from the new Hollywood agency Reality Casting Call, which specializes in guess what. From behind the camera lens, the casting directors will be keeping their eyes open for random talent to pluck from obscurity, thrust into the limelight and then hurl back into obscurity. Yes, folks, it's finally happened -- a reality show about a reality show. How utterly meta. Casting call: 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. today and Thursday; bar opens 10 p.m. today (with Mark Long of Road Rules 1 and Eric Nies of Real World: New York), and Thursday, December 4 (with David Giuntoli and Abram Boise of Road Rules 12: South Pacific). BAR Houston, 534 Texas,713-227-5516, $10. Additional casting call: 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday, December 5 (with Christina Trainor and Ace Amerson of Real World: Paris), Hurricane Hut, 3403 FM 1960. For information, call 832-484-1960 or visit $5 for 21 and up; $10 under 21.

Sunday, December 7

Perhaps you've grown a bit complacent about the molecular biology revolution. After all, it's been a while since the gene therapy clinical trial had to be called off because of the death of a participant, and the shouting match over stem cell research has pretty much fallen off the front page. But rest assured that even if you've stopped worrying about evil clones harvesting your organs, a number of experimental video artists haven't. Today's Gene Genies: Recent Experimental Works About the Human Genome will give these artists' alarmist hysteria free and sometimes funny rein. And remember, just because they're paranoid doesn't mean they're wrong. 3 p.m. today, and 8 p.m. Saturday, December 6. Aurora Picture Show, 800 Aurora. For information, call 713-868-2101 or visit $5.

Monday, December 8

The musicians dress in sharp suits, shade their eyes with classic Ray Bans and play songs you -- or at least your parents -- already know. Today, take comfort in the timeless and familiar with local boys the El Orbits at the band's weekly gig at the Continental Club. The Orbits will be blowing the dust off some golden oldies (Peggy Lee, anyone?) and taking them out for a spin. You can take a spin on the dance floor if you can keep up with the jitterbuggers. Otherwise, just sit back and enjoy the retro atmosphere, including some seriously retro drink prices. Today is also Bingo Night at the club, with a perky Peggy Sue lined up to call out the numbers between numbers. 9 p.m. 3700 Main. For information, call 713-529-9899 or visit Free.

Tuesday, December 9

The last time they visited Portland, the Rockets blew a first-quarter lead and point guard Steve Francis blew his cool. Francis worked himself into a lather as the clock ran out, missing a three-pointer, getting the rebound and making a meaningless layup at the buzzer. With the "L" fresh in the Rockets' away-game column, Francis approached Portland forward Quintel Woods, started in on him and didn't stop until he was pulled away. Neither Woods nor Francis would disclose what was said, but Francis indicated that Woods had really crossed the line of trash-talking decency -- could mamas have been mentioned? Perhaps personal animosity will flare up again at today's Rockets vs. Portland Trail Blazers matchup here at home. Or perhaps by then Jeff Van Gundy will have managed to put a muzzle on our man. 7:30 p.m. Toyota Center, 1510 Polk. For information and tickets, call 1-866-4HOUTIX or visit $10 to $325.

Wednesday, December 10

Downtown is all decked out in its December finery. And you don't have to crane your neck out of the car window as you whiz by on I-45 to see it. You can stop, park and take a 90-minute guided Holiday Lights Walk courtesy of Discover Houston Tours. The walking portion of the tour will take you through the Allen Center Gardens, Antioch Missionary Baptist Church and the Bob Smith Fountain. After that, you can rest your tootsies on a comfortable Metro trolley. It will take you past the windows at Foley's department store and a dramatic water-and-light show at Main Street Plaza. The tour wraps up with a photo of you and yours in front of the City Hall Christmas tree. 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Doubletree at Allen Center, 400 Dallas. For information, call 713-222-9255 or visit $10; $5 for children.

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Lisa Simon