North Texas Irish Festival: It's been said that the unhappiest people throw the most elaborate parties. This might go a long way toward explaining the centuries-old reputation the Irish have for celebrating life with raucous music, merry dance, and prodigious drink--when they haven't been treated like a mongrel race in everyday exchanges with their European neighbors, they've been starved into submission, brutally occupied, and imprisoned without cause. The North Texas Irish Festival--the largest annual musical event in Dallas, one of the largest in the state, and the single largest gathering of Irish in the Southwest--has always maintained a policy of strict neutrality about the Catholic and Protestant conflict, mostly because that tragedy raises emotions which generally sour any celebration, if not encourage fisticuffs or worse. But given the cease-fire flag that still dangles tentatively in the Belfast wind, the sponsors are taking a stand in the name of peace--they're collecting signatures and messages of hope on a long scroll to send to the embattled Irish. On a cheerier note, the event includes a state championship of Irish dancing, a celtic dog parade and exhibition, song and dance workshops, plenty of Irish food and drink, and a dizzying array of local, regional, national, and international musicians and performers who specialize in the old traditions and the new variations. The North Texas Irish Festival happens March 3, 5-11 pm; March 4, noon-midnight; and March 5, noon-9 pm. Various activities happen in six different buildings behind the Cotton Bowl in Fair Park. Tickets are $10-$15. For more information call 821-4174.
World Viral Plague Predicted: As if AIDS, viral meningitis, and last year's celebrity germ streptococcus A weren't enough to keep us rushing for our thermometers, immunologists and bio-researchers have reached a quiet consensus about a strange new development--the return of deadly viral diseases once thought conquered, such as tuberculosis, that are newly resistant to antibiotic treatments. Then there's the best-selling hair-raiser The Hot Zone, which dramatized the real efforts of scientists in Virginia to contain the Ebola Zaire virus, an intrusive little bugger that, once contracted, causes you to swell up, turn blue, and vomit black stuff until you die. If you're the kind of person who gets off on microbiological panic tales, then see the latest presentation of The Eclectic Viewpoint--which hosts author and award-winning Orange Coast College professor Barbara Bullard on "World Viral Plague Predicted--And What You Can Do About It." She'll offer the latest in tantalizing horror stories and then offer some practical steps on how to keep your own immune system strong. The Eclectic Viewpoint sponsors Bullard's presentation at 8 pm in the Unity Church of Dallas, 6525 Forest Lane. Tickets are $15. Call 601-7687.
John Graves Day: Even as Russian writers examined incontrovertible destiny and French writers pondered the crushing weight of the universe and German writers culled the spiritual and moral significance of national heritage, American writers have maintained a strict love affair with the earth, its generous gifts, and sudden, cruel acts. The traditional American mythic hero is one who has the arrogance to try to tame nature. Margaret Atwood once suggested a country's writing can be summed up in its literary treatment of animals--the English turn animals into furry, four-footed versions of themselves; the Canadians attempt to adopt the viewpoint of the other creature; and the Americans either commune with or kill animals as a test of their own power. Writers Cormac McCarthy, Annie Dillard, and Jim Harrison delve into this eternal power struggle, and all of the above consider themselves fans of John Graves, the Texas-born author of Goodbye to a River and Limestone Ledge. While urban scribes like Mailer and Capote were squabbling over who blurred the lines between what genres, Graves offered a mix of fiction and nonfiction, plain-faced observation and poetic imagery, that came from his gut. As part of the Arts & Letters Live series, John Graves is honored with a day-long series of readings, talks, panel discussions, and video presentations by folks like Bill Moyers, Lawrence Wright, Beverly Lowry, Larry L. King, Sarah Bird, and Elmer Kelton. Arts & Letters Live hosts this tribute to Graves beginning at 1 pm and lasting until 10:30 pm at the Dallas Museum of Art, 1717 N Harwood. The event is free until readings begin after 6:30 pm. At that point, tickets cost $8-$10. Call 922-1219.
Ballet Dallas: There are a host of independent choreographers and a handful of companies that specialize in contemporary dance, but if you--like most of us--don't know pirouette from arabesque, then the experience of watching the new stuff can be frustrating, if not downright disheartening. It's helpful to know where these dancers have been to understand where they're going, and with that in mind, we turn to Ballet Dallas, a city company that specializes in staging traditional works by well-known choreographers. What's the seal of authenticity on their repertory? Many of the artists whose work they stage have been dead for a long, long time. Hence, you know you're witnessing la creme! The latest offering by Ballet Dallas is a program that pairs two Russian classics, the second acts from Swan Lake and Firebird, with a recent work by John Clifford, founding director of the Los Angeles Ballet, titled Caprice Viennois. March 3 & 4 at 8 pm and March 5 at 2 pm in the Majestic Theatre, 1925 Elm. Tickets are $5-$33. Call 373-8000.
Dallas Rock 'n' Roll Expo: Dealers from all over the country flock to the vinyl-hungry collectors of Dallas for the Rock 'n' Roll Expo. Produced by Houston-based Southwest Promotions, the event features a wide range of paraphernalia for the pop music lover--new and used tapes and CDs, imports never released domestically, music videos, out-of-print titles, and a range of genres from blues to folk to jazz to comedy to straight-ahead rock 'n' roll. For the pop icon lover, there's posters, buttons, photos, T-shirts, autographs, and magazines, too. The event places a special emphasis on vinyl, for which an underground cult of enthusiastic Luddites exists. The Dallas Rock 'n' Roll Expo happens March 5, 10 am-5 pm in the Dallas Parkway Hilton, 4801 LBJ. Admission is $3, but kids 12 and under get in free. For information call 661-3600.
Pump and Circumstance: Why, you might be asking, should any of us give a hoot about the passing of a tradition as insignificant as the human-powered roadside gas station? You know, the kind that have non-digital soft-drink advertisements and real-live petroleum jockeys who wipe your windows as a courtesy while filling your tank. Road stops used to mean a lot more than plugging cards into computer equipment, pushing money, and dealing with (understandably) nervous attendants through a couple of inches of bullet-proof glass--they were symbols of community, outposts where you could relieve the loneliness of a long trip by interacting, however briefly, with another person whose job it was to provide you with relief and reinforcement. Nationally renowned photographer John Margolies gives a slide presentation and lecture on one of his favorite topics. Entitled "Pump and Circumstance: The Golden Age of the Gas Station," this award-winning architectural critic will include pictures from his photo book of the same title and provide a little background on his love for all things American and automobile-centered. John Margolies lectures on his curious obsession at 7 pm in the Hughes-Trigg Student Center on the grounds of Southern Methodist University. It's free. Call 768-3231.
Molly Ivins: Some of us are downright flabbergasted that Southern Methodist University actually has a population which publicly identifies itself as Democrats (don't they weed out those nasty little malcontents in the admission process?), much less a related organization which is proud to associate itself with something like women's issues, a dusty relic from the B.N. (that's "Before Newt") dark ages. Declaring yourself a liberal these days is likely to get you shot on sight, but doesn't that return a certain dangerous glamour to social and humanist concerns that those dreary Orwellian prison wardens of "diversity" and "sensitivity" robbed from us? Well, the SMU Democrats and the SMU Women's Interest Network have joined forces to bring a subversive force into the halls of Yber-WASP academia--our very own Molly Ivins, the nationally celebrated guttersnipe and unrepentant gripe-gut who's turned East Texas bluntness into a radical manifesto for the vindication of the downtrodden everywhere. Ivins has long listed one of her proudest accomplishments as being banned from Texas A&M University by the ultra-reactionary campus administration there, so who knows how many well-manicured toes she'll step on at SMU. Her talk happens in the Hughes-Trigg Theater of SMU. A question-and-answer session follows the speech. The event is free, but you'd better show up early--seats are expected to disappear fast. 768-6302.
American Originals: Although jazz is the medium which has raised the University of North Texas' music school to international renown, that institution also sports a symphony orchestra that has toured and won many awards. Last fall, the group began a series of Dallas performances known as The Meyerson Showcase, hosted by guess-which-venue. The third concert in that series is called American Originals, and is dedicated to the works of American composers Leonard Bernstein and Aaron Copland. The University of North Texas Symphony Orchestra performs its tribute to American Originals at 8 pm in the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center, 2301 Flora. Tickets are $10. Call (817) 565-3805 or (800) 654-9545.
The Peaceful Liberators: Jain Art From India: In our stampede to co-opt anything that appears exotic to us, Americans have either confused or deliberately ignored the major differences that exist among the great religious movements of India. In the popular U.S. consciousness, Hinduism and Buddhism have become indistinguishable props which allow too many stateside enthusiasts to feel good about their narcissism (oops, we mean self-enlightenment) and still parrot vaguely left-wing platitudes (harmony with the earth, peace in the world, yadda yadda yadda). Actually, it's neither Hinduism nor Buddhism that inspired the nonviolent policies of leaders like Gandhi and King, but Jainism, India's third major religion and the only one which didn't spread significantly beyond its borders. It's also responsible for some of the most beautiful and elaborate art and architecture India has produced over the last 2000 years. The Kimbell Art Museum hosts the only Southwest display of one of the most significant exhibitions of Indian art to appear in this country in the last half-century. The Peaceful Liberators: Jain Art From India features more than 140 pieces of art culled from temples and domestic shrines across the centuries. One of their biggest contributions was an Eastern cult of the body represented by the jina, a seated figure who represents the human form as an artwork itself and a resolution of spiritual and physical contradictions. The Peaceful Liberators: Jain Art From India opens March 5 and runs through May 28 at the Kimbell Art Museum, 3333 Camp Bowie Blvd in Fort Worth. Admission is $4-$8 per person. For more information call (817) 332-8451.