Synthetic Pleasures: By all means, make plans to catch Iara Lee's droll, kinetic feature documentary, Synthetic Pleasures, before it ends a one-week run on December 13. Resplendent with MTV-inspired samplings from animation, various film stocks, and expressionistic editing techniques, the movie looks at the one significant way in which human beings have transcended the other animals on the planet--we have created environments that suit our needs, rather than allowing evolution to transform our bodies and minds to adapt to the natural environments around us. Iara Lee is a Korean woman born and raised in Brazil who received degrees in film and philosophy from New York University. She integrates a series of interviews with artificial intelligence experts, computer program designers, physicists, and cyber magazine publishers with montage sequences that express--with startling clarity--her thoughts on how technology is controlling humanity. Synthetic Pleasures runs for one more day at the AMC Glen Lakes, 9450 North Central Expressway. Call (214) 855-6286.
Amahl and the Night Visitors: Before Gian-Carlo Menotti became the American composer who excelled in short operas, we learn in a recent copy of the national gay and lesbian magazine The Advocate, he stood in the out-to-his friends, discreet-for-the-press company of other prominent 20th century American composers like Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, and a few more outspoken artists like Ned Rorem and Lee Hoiby, whose version of The Tempest was recently staged by the Dallas Opera as part of Sun & Star '96. Amahl and the Night Visitors is Menotti's Pulitzer Prize-winning version of the Bible's birth of Christ written for the radio. The show runs Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. through December 29 at Theatre on Elm Street, 3202 Elm. Tickets are $5-$20. Call (214) 871-ARTS.
The Dallas/Fort Worth Woodworking Show: There is no honorary, fraternal name for the men (and women) who will gather for the Dallas/Fort Worth Woodworking Show. But if we could give them one, it would be something like woodchuck or ol' sure blade. This collection of demonstrations, seminars, and workshops from national woodworkers specializes in everything from carving to homebuilding and remodeling. Beginners and veterans are encouraged to attend. Show hours are December 13, noon-7 p.m.; December 14, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; and December 15, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. at the Fair Park Grand Place, 1300 Robert B. Cullum Blvd. Call 1-800-826-8257.
The Nutcracker: Fort Worth Dallas Ballet continues its holiday tradition of Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker and in the process offers the twin cities of North Texas a vision close to Balanchine's. Artistic director Paul Mejia isn't interested in repeating anyone, of course, but he's very much into pleasing audiences with a show that constitutes, for Fort Worth Dallas Ballet as well as for dance companies nationwide, a guaranteed box office hit. Performances of The Nutcracker happen December 13-15 and December 19-22 at the Tarrant County Convention Center, JFK Theatre, Fort Worth. Tickets are $12. Call (214) 369-5200.
Andy Hanson: Under the Rainbow: Many would describe veteran Dallas photographer Andy Hanson as a gentle giant--a quiet man who tops out at over 6'2" and is known for his placid dealings with editors and subject matter alike. When most Dallasites express their yearning for Dallas to become an "international city," they measure it by the number of famous people who come here. Andy Hanson is the most reliable yardstick around, having covered movie stars, rock musicians, and international politicians at the defunct Dallas Times Herald for thirty years. Photographic Archives Gallery presents its third Hanson retrospective in seven years, called Under the Rainbow: Thirty-Five Years in Photography. Opening reception December 14, 10a.m.-5:30p.m. The show runs through January 25 at 5117 West Lovers Lane. Call 352-3167.
Archaeology Day: Here's a kickstart to a cool career for a kid--every child who brings a worn-out toothbrush to the Dallas Museum of Natural History gets admitted free to Archaeology Day, a special afternoon of events and exhibits dedicated to the recovery of the past from the earth. These toothbrushes are needed by the field workers of the museum's various projects to clean what they find. Archaeology Day features short films, crafts, Texas-found artifacts, interactive exercises, and best of all, the presence of experienced museum staffers who can tell you everything you want to know about archaeology. The event happens 11 a.m.-4 p.m. at 3535 Grand Avenue, Fair Park. Tickets are $2.50-$4. Call (214) 421-DINO.
La Virgen de Tepeyac '96: For anyone who doubted that the centuries-old Madonna is more popular than the one who's about to play Evita in movie theaters, Ballantine Books comes along with a fascinating compendium of Blessed Virgin sightings entitled Meetings With Mary: Visions of the Blessed Mother. This fascination with the Virgin, of course, is nothing new in Dallas. The Toltec Gallery and Studio presents its fifth annual La Virgen de Guadalupe art show, under the direction of Dallas artist Jose Vargas. Artists from Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio have contributed original art dedicated to Mary in the form of photography, illustration, sculpture, painting, and more. The artists' reception happens December 15, 1-5 p.m. The show runs through December 29 at Toltec Gallery and Studio, 112 South Beckley Avenue, Oak Cliff. (214) 943-1631.