Sci-fi conventions are either really good, or horrible wastes of time and money. Many people argue that all of them are pretty lame, but since we have attended at least a handful of them, we can't exactly agree. Not that we don't think spending several hours sifting through some overpriced toys and spending $15 for an autograph by some guy who had one line in The Empire Strikes Back isn't a little pathetic. We know it's pitiful that some people would spend an entire paycheck on toys. But hey, we can't condemn an entire race of shut-ins for the actions of a few (speaking in the Klingon language, getting into fistfights over minor plot points in Star Wars books, extending William Shatner's post-T.J. Hooker career). Still, we're not sure about Stellar Occasion, billed as a "multimedia science-fiction and fantasy convention for all ages." First off, the convention's headliner is actor Stephen Furst, currently starring in TNT's Babylon 5. He is best known as Flounder, the overweight fraternity pledge in Animal House. Plus, most of the other guests are nobodies. Finally, there is a promise of 24-hour gaming. Frankly, we didn't think anybody who actually played those role-playing card games knew their way out of the house, and the fact that some of them do frightens us on many levels. We can't in good conscience recommend any convention that would be even slightly excited about having Flounder as its main attraction, but we know most of you would go anyway. Well, some of you. OK, maybe just a few. Anyone? Stellar Occasion happens at Sheraton Dallas Brookhollow, 1241 W. Mockingbird, Friday through Sunday. Passes for the weekend are $30. Call (214) 630-7000.
Earlier this year, at the four-year anniversary party for 94.5 FM's "The Adventure Club," Wally Pleasant wove his peculiar brand of joke-folk magic on the assembled throng at Deep Ellum Live, managing to get called back onstage (well, he never really left the stage, but he was packing up his equipment) for an encore. Which wouldn't have been that strange, except there was still another band left on the bill, and opening acts never do encores. Sixteen Deluxe--the band that followed Pleasant that night--might not have liked his antics, but the crowd sure did. In fact, most of the people that attended the show stayed late into the night just to see Pleasant play songs like "Alternateen" and "Stupid Day Job." Since Pleasant started making the trip down to the metroplex from his home in East Lansing, Michigan, a few years ago, he has built up a dedicated following that will come to see him play anywhere--in bookstores, at coffeehouses, and, sometimes, on rooftops. His latest appearance, at the Gypsy Tea Room, benefits the Pediatric AIDS Association/Bryan's House. Dinner will be served before his performance. The dinner, catered by the Olive Garden, costs $15 per person and starts at 6 p.m. Pleasant will perform at 7 p.m. Admission to the show only is $5. The Gypsy Tea Room is located at 2548 Elm St. Call (214) 74-GYPSY.
The press material accompanying drum instructor Arthur Hull's visit to Dallas calls him, among other things, "the Pied Piper of hand-drumming, an elf of a man who nonetheless can make thousands do his bidding." (Parents, watch your children!) While we doubt that any drummer, no matter how much talent he possesses, can make us do his bidding, we'd like to see Hull try. His drum clinic will teach people some basic hand-drumming techniques, as well as how to start and facilitate drum circles. This is probably not the place to come if you have a splitting headache (or some common sense), but if you enjoy playing Hacky Sack, own more than one Grateful Dead album, and like to wear tie-dyed anything, this might be just your thing. Hull hosts drum workshops on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The workshops happen at White Rock Pump Station, White Rock Road at Lawther. Call (214) 823-DRUM.
It's been an up-and-down season for the Texas Rangers. We all gasped with amazement at their incredible early-season run, gasps that quickly turned to groans as the team started dropping games faster than Dallas Cowboys running back Sherman Williams drops footballs. Now, the Rangers have an outside shot at making the playoffs, where some team--any team--will surely trounce them. But hey, there's always next year. Hell, that might as well be the team's motto. The Rangers host their last home game of the regular season at The Ballpark in Arlington on Sunday against the Oakland A's. Call (817) 273-5100 for tickets.
Ted Davey--a longtime member of the Undermain Theatre company--has recently taken on his toughest part: the ghost of Frank Sinatra. Of course, that's not what his Monday-night gig at the Lakewood Landing is billed as, but it might as well be. Davey, backed by Royce Cooper and a swingin' trio, conjures up the spirit of Ol' Blue Eyes every Monday, belting out standards while the crowd quietly sips martinis. He's not really doing an imitation of Sinatra, but then again, he's not really not doing an imitation either. He's lucky Sinatra passed away earlier this year. A stunt like that might have gotten him whacked. Davey performs every Monday night from 10:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. at the Lakewood Landing, 5818 Live Oak. Call (214) 823-2410.
We always thought that The Eclectic Viewpoint had the market cornered on peculiar lectures, but the new Philosopher's Forum has made us rethink that opinion. The group meets on the second and fourth Tuesday of every month, discussing anything from the work of Jean-Paul Sartre to cyber culture. The Philosopher's Forum's latest discussion is titled "Genes, Cloning, and Other Weird Issues," and features guest speaker Morton Prager, a professor at SMU. We still think The Eclectic Viewpoint is probably better, but there's always room for another place to indulge in quirky debates. Probably. The Philosopher's Forum meets at the Wyatt's Cafeteria on the southwest corner of Marsh and Forest Lane. Admission is $4. Dinner begins at 6 p.m., and the presentation starts at 7 p.m. Call (214) 373-7216.
Two people rarely remember the same event exactly the same way. That's probably why photographers Luther Smith and Thomas W. Southall's methods of exploring how a photograph can stir memories--in their exhibit Souvenirs & Meditations--are so disparate. While Smith presents his photographs--his recollections--in a stark, straightforward manner, it's Southall's images that really capture the spirit of memory. His come from a combination of photos that capture the subject from every point of view, montages that are disjointed but perfectly clear. Which is kind of the way many people remember things. The exhibit opens on September 18 at Photographic Archives Gallery, located at 5117 Lovers Lane, and continues through October 31. Call (214) 352-3167.