The Arena: Should We Build It? Frankly, the idea of former Dallas Observer columnist Laura Miller facing off against former Dallas Mayor Annette Strauss in a debate called "The Arena: Should We Build It?" sounds a little like a tiff between a pit bull and a poodle over the same hydrant. Add the facts that the debate is being sponsored by the Dallas Democratic Forum and that Laura Miller is running for City Council, and you could argue that the pit bull has spikes attached to her front paws. Still, never underestimate the ability of the Dallas Establishment, of which Strauss is a member, to get in a few bites below the haunches. Perhaps a better metaphor for this debate would be imagining Laura and Annette in a basement auction at Nordstrom, competing for the same Dior design. That image certainly levels the playing field. The winner? Your guess is as good as ours. Registration for the event happens at 11:30 a.m. at the Stoneleigh Hotel, 2927 Maple. Tickets are $25-$30, and admission includes lunch. Call (214) 352-1000.
Rocket: Normally, our desk runneth over with the superlatives from mailed and faxed press releases, describing the events they advertise with such chest-heaving adjectives that we're forced to take a cigarette break every half hour while writing "Calendar." But when a brand-new Dallas revue called Rocket advertises itself as bringing "the best of Vegas glitter" to our little burg, we don't know if they mean that as a compliment. The organizers of this "unusual combination of visual artistry, multimedia display, amazing costumes, and innovatively choreographed dance sequences" earnestly desire to entertain the patrons who stumble on this variety show, which includes local talent such as Cricket Taylor, The Dead Comix Society, and Jeff Thornton. And what the heck, if it sucks, it's only 75 minutes long. The show runs every Friday in January at midnight at the Granada Theater, 3524 Greenville Ave. Tickets are $10-$15. Call (214) 742-5757.
Spirited Journeys: Self-Taught Artists of the 20th Century: With its latest visual art show, the McKinney Avenue Contemporary has joined a nationwide campaign to help secure a place in the pantheon of 20th-century American artists for those who never got the chance to quaff Dom Perignon at a SoHo art gallery. Spirited Journeys: Self-Taught Artists of the 20th Century has been curated by Lynn Adele and features 83 works by 33 artists from across the country. With the help of the Webb Gallery in Waxahachie, the MAC presents the works of Dallas-area notables such as The Texas Kid, David Strickland, Clara McDonald Williamson, and Isaac Smith. In an era when almost everyone does everything for money or publicity, these people created art because they loved it. The show opens with a reception 6 p.m.-8 p.m. January 10 and runs through February 22 at 3120 McKinney Ave. Call (214) 953-1212.
Jennysayqaw Gnosis: Speaking of the Texas Kid and obsessive Texas artists in general, Gray Matters presents a show of illustrations by Andy Don Emmons Jr. Emmons not only owns one of the Texas Kid's most celebrated trucks, his own assemblage-on-four-wheels hit the big time when it was featured in Houston's Orange Show. For now, Jennysayqaw Gnosis, his show at Gray Matters, focuses on works that are, by the artist's own admission, "overly decorative." We don't want to suggest that Emmons uses illegal stimulants, but at the very least, his fiercely kinetic, large-scale doodles suggest a first-name acquaintance with a bottomless coffee cup; you can practically see the caffeine jitters in his sharp lines. The show opens with a reception 6 p.m.-10 p.m. January 10 and runs through February 14 at Gray Matters, 113 N. Haskell. Call (214) 824-7108.
Linda Ridgway: A Survey, The Poetics of Form: Sculptor and environmental artist Linda Ridgway has for years used Dallas as a base to expand her reputation throughout the Southwest and, ultimately, the whole country. Linda Ridgway: A Survey, The Poetics of Form is the first one-woman museum show to organize so comprehensively the works of this celebrated Texas talent. Both large and small pieces tend to be dominated by the central dynamic of Ridgway's sensibility--the fragile, either in conflict or conjunction with, the permanent. Hence, her leaf and twig masses, thin enough to be snapped, yet cast in bronze and combined in new organic shapes. Other works are composed of wall installations of grids and maps referring to autobiographical and social themes. The show runs through April 5 at the Dallas Museum of Art, 1717 N. Harwood. It's free. Call (214) 922-1200.
Past, Present, Past: Why is it that ancient artifacts from other countries often have a strangely charged allure even if you have no idea what the hell they mean? Artist Jack W. Plummer has taken note of this and fashioned a whole show around fabricated archaeological forms. Past, Present, Past features wall reliefs and drawings, mostly made of various graphites and paper manipulated to look like stone, that were unearthed from a civilization that never was. Plummer combines shapes and symbols that have recurred throughout history with stuff he's invented himself to create "artifacts" that aim to excite a sense of mystery and timelessness. The show opens with a reception 5:30 p.m.- 8 p.m. January 10 and runs through January 31 at Handley-Hicks, 6515 E. Lancaster, Fort Worth. Call (817) 446-5004.
Menahem Pressler: Internationally celebrated pianist Menahem Pressler has been shy for a very long time. For decades, he preferred to serve as one of a trio in performances around the world with the Beaux Arts Trio. He served twice behind the scenes as a juror for the Van Cliburn Competition. But at the age of 73, he was finally coaxed into taking center stage at Carnegie Hall, and the results were predictable: a flood of invitations for the underdog pianist everyone had loved for decades. Pressler returns to Cliburn Concerts for a show that includes works by Haydn, Schumann, and Chopin. The event happens at 7 p.m. in the Ed Landreth Auditorium of Texas Christian University in Fort Worth. Tickets are $12-$36. Call (817) 335-9000.
Is It a Spare Bedroom...Or The Headquarters of Your Corporate Empire? The truth of the matter is, many of those start-your-own-business schemes wind up failing not because they're inherently flawed enterprises, but because most of us lack the dogged work ethic and long-term dedication required to lift any small business off the ground. Employment Resource Group presents a guest lecture by Ira Nevelow, a certified public accountant from Weaver & Tidwell, entitled "Is It a Spare Bedroom...Or the Headquarters of Your Corporate Empire?" Nevelow doesn't offer easy solutions, but once you've made the commitment to turn your own skills and services into a small business, he offers basic guidelines about taxes, employees, and expenses. The talk happens 7:30 p.m.-9 p.m. at Jewish Family Service, 13140 Coit Road. It's free. Call (972) 437-9950.
Katya Kabanova: You say opera is an elitist, antiquated art form that can't possibly offer you anything in this era of satellite-dish and multiplex variety? Let us introduce you to a woman named Katya, a gal whose strong mind and good heart are overruled by her insatiable desire to be loved. Against her better instincts, she's led by her own lovesickness into a romance she knows is bad for her. Meanwhile, her backstabbing mother-in-law seizes the opportunity the old battle-ax has been waiting for--screw up the younger woman's life but good. Chances are you or somebody you know has had similar experiences, and thanks to Czech composer Leos Janacek and the Dallas Opera, Katya Kabanova can take the fall for your sins. Performances happen at 7:30 p.m. January 9, 2 p.m. January 11, and 7:30 p.m. January 14 and 17 at the Music Hall in Fair Park. Tickets are $29-$150. Call (214) 443-1043.