Elvis Presley's 60th Birthday: If you really want to rile die-hard Elvis fans, pop the subject of the King's new son-in-law and watch their ears burn. Last October's planned tribute to Elvis at Graceland was supposed to feature Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley performing duet versions of her father's hits, but co-organizer Priscilla nixed all but a brief appearance by Jackson, perhaps sensing that an effeminate African-American pop star accused of child molestation wouldn't be a big hit with Memphis fans. Lest anyone get too high and mighty about Jackson soiling the Elvis legend by marriage, the pill-popping, binge-eating, gun-toting Presley was a few bricks short of a load himself. It seems like he's been dead forever, but this January 8 marks only the 60th anniversary of his birth. Had Elvis not succumbed to the Final Call of Nature, what would he be like right now? Perhaps somewhere close to the curiosity value currently held by Marlon Brando--obese, mercurial, hostile to the press, working only occasionally and with little evident enthusiasm. Two area live music venues remember the King with special events planned all night. On Thursday, The Hard Rock Cafe features a special Elvis menu, an Elvis impersonators contest, and a performance by legendary double Dave Tapley with his 10-piece band. On Saturday at Dick's Last Resort, you can watch Elvis Reenactor James L. Wages and his band perform two shows. There's also favorite Elvis food and drinks and a karaoke contest with the best singer winning $250. The Hard Rock Cafe hosts its Elvis birthday celebration January 5 at 8:30 pm, with Tapley taking the stage at 10 pm. Tickets are $5 (free if you come dressed like The King). The Cafe is located at 2601 Mc-Kinney Ave. Call 855-0007. Dick's Last Resort, Ross & Record in the West End, celebrates the King's b-day starting at 8 pm. It's free. Call 747-0001.
Southwest Boat and Tackle Show: Fishing is the American sport closest to the meditational exercises practiced by Hindus, Buddhists, and other devotees of Eastern spiritual disciplines. Contrary to its reputation as a lazy person's hobby, fishing requires a pretty balanced temperament--or, at least, the ability to maintain one for a few hours. You either love the solitude, the quiet, and the ritual cooperation with nature, or it makes you start thinking about your past failures, present uncertainties, and a future dominated by the specter of death--better pack plenty of beer along with those Chinese take-out baskets full of meal worms and crickets. The Southwest Boat and Tackle Show boasts more than 250,000 square feet of displays featuring everything the die-hard angler needs to get his or her fix--the latest technology in fishing paraphernalia, experts, seminars, demonstrations, and of course, boats, boats, boats. One of the highlights of the four-day show is a Thursday night lecture by nationally renowned professional angler Rick Clunn, a man who participates in some 20 bass tournaments a year. The Southwest Boat and Tackle Show happens Thursday, 5-10 pm; Friday, noon-10 pm; Saturday, 10 am-10 pm; and Sunday, 10 am-6 pm at the Dallas Convention Center, 650 S Griffin. Tickets are $2-$6. For more information call 661-0725.
La Bete Humaine: The Major Theatre screens one of the most technically influential films of the sound era--albeit one with which you might not be familiar. Jean Renoir's 1938 La Bete Humaine (The Human Beast), based on Emile Zola's novel, poses the question, is violence an act of animal instinct or moral calculation? The film follows a misogynistic train conductor (Jean Gabin) who gets tangled up in a plot to kill the husband (Julien Carette) of his mistress (Simone Simon). The filmmaker, of course, was the son of the great Impressionist master Renoir, and although he never claimed his father's visual sense as an influence on his own screen composition, historians have been hunting for parallels ever since. Zola's novel and Renoir's film both matched the gloomy mood of a Europe overrun by fascist dictators. The three screenings of La Bete Humaine--Friday-Sunday at 8 pm--are offered in conjunction with the Dallas chapter of MENSA, although the general public is certainly welcome. Tickets are $6. The Major Theatre is located at 2830 Samuell in East Dallas. For more information call 821-FILM.
The Conformist and La Strada: Kicking off its new Italian film series, The Dallas Museum of Art offers a rare big screening of a compelling classic by a recently deceased master and an even rarer screening of an early work by an acclaimed living filmmaker. Federico Fellini's 1954 La Strada needs no introduction to movie fanatics, but for art film neophytes and folks who've never seen it on a big screen, this one-time-only screening is highly recommended. Rarely has Fellini the storyteller been more disciplined than in this tale of a sad-eyed waif (Giulietta Masina, who died shortly after her husband last year) who finds herself positioned between the cruel circus showman who purchased her as his assistant (Anthony Quinn) and the trapeze artist who understands her better than anyone ever has (Richard Basehart). Bernardo Bertolucci's daring 1971 psychological thriller The Conformist reopened in New York several months ago to great acclaim. Bertolucci explores the ravages of fascist conformism by examining an Italian secret service agent in the 1930s whose repressed homosexual urges involve him in a complex plot that includes an assignment to murder his former professor. The Conformist screens Thursday at 7:30 pm and Saturday at 2 pm. A fresh 35 mm print of La Strada screens Sunday at 2 pm. Tickets are $3-$4 for each. The Dallas Museum of Art is located at 1717 N Harwood. Call 922-1200.
All-Star Chamber Music Concert: The Richardson Chamber Music Society is the organization responsible for importing five top national musicians and music teachers from the top schools in the country. From Juilliard comes international medal winner and head of the piano department Jerome Lowenthal and violinist (as well as former classmate of the Dallas Symphony's Andrew Litton) Cho-Liang Lin; Harvard University violist-in-residence Toby Hoffman; and Richardson Chamber Music Society artistic director and chairman of the string department at the University of North Texas Phillip Lewis. The program includes compositions by Dvorak, Shostakovich, and Brahms. The concert kicks off at 8 pm in Caruth Auditorium on the grounds of Southern Methodist University. Tickets are $8-$15. Call 385-7267.
Eighth Annual Exhibition of the Association of Oriental Art: In a world where art is disposed of if it doesn't reach out and knock you on the head with its virtues, the Association of Oriental Art quietly labors to preserve the ancient media of flower arranging and brush painting. In these disciplines, the form is the content and vice versa. An artist would labor his whole life trying to copy the style of his master, then once he reached that union with greatness, begin to branch away and find his own vision--all the while employing an extremely regimented technique, from a limited variety of subject matter to a specific number of brushstrokes per subject to special paint and brush materials suited only to that particular task. These days few of us have the subtlety of eye to detect the minutest differences between the ancient Oriental works of teacher and student, but they are there. Far Eastern Fantasy is the name of the Association's show, with floral exhibits provided by the Dallas and Fort Worth chapters of Ikebana International. Far Eastern Fantasy opens with a reception January 8, 2-4:30 pm (music provided by singer Sung Cheng Hua and pianist Ding Aiye), and runs through January 22 at the Irving Arts Center, 3333 N MacArthur Blvd in Irving. It's free. Call 579-1548.
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Toxic Tour of Texas: With America poised to join the World Trade Organization and a Republican Congress saber-rattling promises of unprecedented cuts in government regulatory agencies, the notion that businesses should be responsible to both the communities in which they reside and the environment at large is pretty unpopular. Why worry about a little toxic waste when the economic health of the country is at stake? Most of us don't...until some chemical corporation decides to take a dump on uninhabited land a few blocks from our homes. Houston-based photographer Sharon Stewart has spent the last five years traveling all over the state, listening to the tales of folks who've been forced to take action against businesses and government agencies whose waste habits threaten their friends and family members. She has collected 40 black-and-white photos of people and places and grouped them together in a show called Toxic Tour of Texas. The subject may not be an altogether pleasant one, but it demands your attention, since available landfill space becomes scarcer by the year. Toxic Tour of Texas is on display January 7 through February 8 at the Haggar Gallery of the University of Dallas, 1845 E Northgate Drive in Irving. It's free. For more information call 721-5319.
The Problem of Evil Once Again: We're living in a society that has, over the last decade, become increasingly hostile toward the suggestion that people do bad things--robbery, rape, murder--for reasons more complex than they're just plain evil. Many would insist that evil is not a problem at all, that some people are evil, and that's that. "The Problem of Evil Once Again," the latest presentation hosted by The Dallas Philosopher's Forum, conducted by Southern Methodist University professor Ben Petty, attempts to address the issue. In addition to the catastrophic financial costs of a penal system that seeks no solutions beyond incarceration and execution, the mantra that some people are "just that way" smacks of defensiveness--destructive behaviors are ghettoized, and "good" people are encouraged to ignore their own capacity for cruelty and selfishness. The Dallas Philosophers Forum convenes at the Wyatt's Cafeteria at Forest & Marsh. Admission is $4, and the meeting is open to the public. For information call 373-7216.
Avenue X: The Dallas Theater Center kicks off the New Year with a musical production that combines elements of 42nd Street, West Side Story, and an August Wilson play, all in a script that debuted to sold-out performances at New York's Playwrights Horizons less than a year ago and is still in the process of development. Indeed, writer and lyricist John Jiler and composer Ray Leslee have sat in throughout the rehearsal process of DTC's production of Avenue X, fine-tuning and streamlining the story of two street singers in 1960s Brooklyn--an African-American and an Italian--who combine their talents for a stage show and incur the wrath of their bigoted neighbors. All the songs in the show are a cappella (no instrumental accompaniment), and the vocal styles range from barbershop quartet to doo-wop to almost every other kind of popular harmony you can imagine. The Dallas Theater Center performs Avenue X Tuesday-Thursday at 7:30 pm; Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 2:30 & 8 pm; and Sunday at 2:30 & 7:30 pm through February 8 at the Kalita Humphreys Theater, 3636 Turtle Creek Blvd. Tickets are $9-$36. For more information call 522-TIXX.
Lee Cullum: The press release for the talk being given by Lee Cullum--former Dallas Times Herald staffer, current Dallas Morning News columnist, and frequent guest on both the national MacNeil-Lehrer News Hour and Bob Ray Sanders' local current-events gab-fest Between the Lines--promises she "puts our fin-de-siecle predicament in the context of post-modern limbo." Anybody got some Maalox? Actually, her topic, "The Age of Limbo," is a simple and extremely predictable gripe from conservatives, who, through naughty boy Newt Gingrich, have once again raised the spectre of McGovernicks--i.e., any Democrat who encourages the poor as well as ethnic and sexual minorities to take part in the political process. According to right-wing revisionism, the guiding philosophy of the left--and the single greatest force of erosion in American society over the last 30 years--is moral relativism. Yet moral relativism is itself a relative concept, and we are all moral relativists (yes, even fundamentalist Christians), making compromises that reconcile experience with expectation, and constantly weighing our sense of right and wrong against the need to understand why some of our loved ones make such terrible choices. Cullum calls for "moral imagination" to take the fore. The question is, who will have the courage to stand up and point out the class-based, money-driven political agenda that's hiding under the preacher's robe? Lee Cullum speaks as part of the Wednesday Night Talk Series at 7 pm in the Hotel Crescent Court, 400 Crescent Court. Tickets are $25. Call 520-0206.