Don't Call it a Sequel: Attica Locke Revisits Houston in Her Latest Novel Pleasantville

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Attica Locke hasn't lived in Houston for 20 years, but the city in which she grew up leaps off the pages of her latest novel, Pleasantville. The book is a follow-up to her popular 2009 novel Black Water Rising--a look at the intersection of race, oil money, and politics in 1980s Houston--and reacquaints readers with protagonist Jay Porter, the disaffected lawyer whose inner turmoil drove much of the action. That doesn't mean Pleasantville is a sequel, though--not quite.

"There was a lot of back-and-forth about whether I was pulling this off," confessed Locke. "I wanted to write this so that you didn't have to read the first book. I bristle at the word 'sequel'. I feared that people would expect the same experience, the same character, and I wanted Jay to grow as an individual who has aged, and a city that has grown up a little bit since 1981."

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Bill Maher Does a One-Night Stand in Houston

Categories: Special Events

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Photo by David Becker, WireImage
The man of many irrepressable opinions
Political comedy fans rejoice. Veteran stand-up Bill Maher will be visiting Houston for a one-night affair at the Bayou Music Center on Sunday, May 3. The critically acclaimed but polarizing satirist is known to most for his work as host of the 11-time Emmy nominated Real Time with Bill Maher, which has aired on HBO since 2003. Before that, Maher hosted the cancelled-to-soon ABC roundtable program Politically Incorrect, which ended in 2002.

When asked why it's been years since Maher's last stop in Houston, the sharp-tongued comic replies: "You gotta wait. Like a farmer, you gotta let the field lie fallow for a while before planting new crops. Because comedy is sort of the opposite of music," Maher says. "When I see The Rolling Stones are going back on tour, [I think] well, they'd better play 'Satisfaction'. And you know they've gotta be sick of playing Satisfaction, but with music, you have got to play the oldies. Comedy is the exact opposite."


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UH Professor and Author Kimberly Meyer Writes a Memoir About Mothers and Daughters

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When Kimberly Meyer was a senior in college she thought she was about to embark upon "a Bohemian-explorer-intellectual kind of life". As often happens, life had other plans. Kimberly found herself pregnant, and soon enough her duties as a single parent forced her to put her Bohemian-explorer-intellectual dream aside. She raised her daughter, Ellie, and eventually married and had two more daughters, but Kimberly's wanderlust remained intact -- if untapped. When the time came for Ellie to head off to college, Meyer made a decision. Mother and daughter would take a journey together--to bond, to heal old wounds, to create new memories--and then mom would write a book about it.

"To me the trip was a lens to look back on this complicated relationship, and myself as a mother," explained Meyer. "If you leave something in your head it can feel overwhelming and chaotic. Writing is cathartic; it helped me put things in order, and give it meaning."

Meyer, a professor at the University of Houston, will appear at Brazos Bookstore at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 14, to present The Book of Wanderings: A Mother-Daughter Pilgrimage.

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View Some of the Most Important Archaeological Finds of the 20th Century at The Houston Museum of Natural Science

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Photo courtesy of Bowers Museum, Santa Ana, CA
Sun Wheel from "China's Lost Civilization: The Mystery of Sanxingdui" exhibit at the Houston Museum of Natural Science

Objects from what is being billed as one of the most important archaeological finds of the 20th century can be viewed at the Houston Museum of Natural Science in its upcoming exhibit, China's Lost Civilization: The Mystery Of Sanxingdui, opening April 10.

The ancient jades, weapons, burned animal bones, elephant tusks, statues and masks were found in two sacrificial pits outside the Sichuan Province capitol of Chengdu, in southwest China. "We all know China has one of the oldest civilizations, other than Egypt and Mesopotamia," said Dr. Dirk Van Tuerenhout, HMNS curator of anthropology.

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Anime Matsuri Returns to Houston and It's Bigger Than Ever

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Photo courtesy of Anime Matsuri Convention
Anime Matsuri features one of the biggest Lolita fashion shows in the United States.
Anime Maturi, the convention that anime fans of all ages love, returns from Friday April 3 through Sunday, April 5. It's now in its ninth year and there are several new features for 2015. The show has grown so large it will take up all of the first floor of the George R. Brown convention center and two-thirds of the third floor.

Deneice Leigh, who co-founded Anime Matsuri along with her husband, John, is excited about the additions. "This year, we have so many exciting new things for the convention!" she says. "For one, we've lined up one of the biggest Japanese names in rock music, Anna Tsuchiya, who will be our headliner for the live concert on Saturday. There are also several artists, voice actors and actresses from studio TRIGGER, one of the biggest Japanese animation studios."


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Houston's Society For the Performing Arts Announces Its 2015-16 Season Today

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Photo by Harry Fellows
The Hot Sardines
In a season once again serving up an eclectic mixture of dance, music and theater as well as speakers including returning favorites such as writer/performer David Sedaris and chef/author/TV personality Anthony Bourdain, Houston's Society For the Performing Arts remains dedicated to its mission to bring the arts to Everyman.

No, everyone is not going to like everything offered here but that's the point -- pick what suits and maybe stretch your world by trying one more. Who know, you might discover a previously unknown fascination for Russian accordian playing technique. And the price of a ticket is still less than what you'd pay for a trip overseas.



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2015 Oscars Recap: Hate Watch Edition

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Photo courtesy of ABC
Still pissed about Boyhood.
Nobody likes the Oscars.

Maybe that's too broad an indictment, but if your only sources of feedback on the 87th Academy Awards were social media and blogs, it's easy to get that impression. 36.6 million people watched the ceremony last Sunday (down 18 percent from last year), and apparently every one of them resented the experience.

But even for a TV viewing population as bitchy as ours, the vitriol aimed at this year's ceremony (and its smirking host, Neil Patrick Harris) seemed a little excessive. There were plenty of legitimate reasons to complain: a painfully white group of nominees, another near three-and-a-half hour running time, no streakers; but it's the other stuff I'd like to take a closer look at.

Oh, and in case anyone cares, I went six for nine on my Oscar predictions. Curse you, Big Hero 6!


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Birdman, Boyhood or Budapest? Predicting the 87th Academy Awards

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Photo by Alison Rosa
Norton was nominated solely for his choice of underwear.

Oscar days are here again
That most pompous time of year again
So, let's get 'faced on all our beer again
Oscar days are here again.

The 87th Academy Awards will be handed out this Sunday. In between Neil Patrick Harris rendering the plot of American Sniper through interpretive dance and attempting to exorcise the unquiet spirit of Seth MacFarlane from the Dolby Theater once and for all, some major awards will be distributed.

As I have every year since I can remember, I'll be watching as well. My experience hasn't transitioned to full-on hate watch mode yet, but there has been a noticeable uptick in my drinking during the broadcast over the last decade. And having long ago discarded any illusions about the artistic merit of this (or any other) awards show, I now pay attention mostly for gentlemanly wagering purposes.

To that end, here are my (for entertainment purposes only) picks for the 2015 Oscars. I also put the odds on an Amal Clooney red carpet eyeroll at 13/5.

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Stanton Welch's Romeo and Juliet Brings Authentic Italian Design to Houston

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Courtesy of Roberta Guidi di Bagno
Sketch of Juliet
For the past year and a half, world-renowned Italian costume and scenic designer Roberta Guidi di Bagno has worked to design the sets and costumes for the first new production for Houston Ballet in 28 years -- Artistic Director Stanton Welch's Romeo and Juliet.

Guidi di Bagno and Welch met in 1998 while working on his commission of ├śnsket for the Royal Danish Ballet. When it came time to look for a designer, that's who Welch reached out to in his search for authenticity in the classic tale of young lovers doomed by a family feud, a story set in Renaissance-era Verona, Italy,

"After speaking with Stanton, I looked at paintings from the Old Italian Masters of the 1400s," Guidi di Bagno says. "I took inspiration from those real representations of the time period and then I washed a surface away in my mind and added my own interpretation."

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Move, Breathe, Learn at the Sixth Annual Texas Yoga Conference, February 20-22

Categories: Special Events

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Thinkstock

All six of the Texas Yoga Conferences that Jenny Buergermeister has organized have been hosted in a different location, but this year she thinks they've finally found a home at the new ISKON Hare Krishna Houston temple in Oak Forest. "One of the benefits of moving around was to connect and show unity with each location," said Buergermeister. "When we were at the George R. Brown people were like, "Wow! You've really made it now!" but now we want to get traction; to plant a seed, and let it grow."

As always, the Texas Yoga Conference features an impressive lineup of instructors from around the state, and around the country. Yoga enthusiasts will recognize names like Robert Boustany, Dana Damara, and local Forrest Yoga rockstar Catherine Allen--and these are just a few of the dozens of teachers who will lead three days of classes and workshops on February 20-22.


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