The many violent and complex conflicts of the three major Middle Eastern religions regularly make banner headlines in the world's major newspapers and create seemingly insurmountable tensions. But rather than focusing on who killed whom, who is occupying whose holy land and whose founding son was really chosen by God, Thanks-Giving Square Interfaith Council's "Friendship Among Faiths" looks past the differences in order to foster unity and understanding amongst the three Abrahamic religions--Judaism, Islam and Christianity. Each of the three faiths--which are all monotheistic, share similar holy texts, and trace their religious genesis through Abraham--will have a leading member speaking on the topic of "Gifts We Share: Respect, Recognition, Reconciliation" at the fifth annual winter celebration at Camp Wisdom United Methodist Church, 1300 W. Camp Wisdom Road. Admission is free (though donations are welcome and go toward supporting the program) and the event is open to individuals of all faiths. The conference runs from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. on January 2, beginning with a traditional call to prayer from each of the faiths. Call 214-969-1977. --Mary Monigold
Bachelors of Buffoonery
We all complain about the sorry state of education, but civilization is even deeper in the clutches of doom than previously thought. There is a clown college, and Tiffany Riley and Dick Monday were once in charge of it. But instead of standing on street corners in sandwich boards shouting Bluto dialogue, they're leading productive lives hosting The Slappy and Monday Show, a variety show featuring world-class magicians, marionettes, circus stars and clowns with degrees at Slappy's Puppet Playhouse in the Galleria at 7 p.m. Friday and 4 p.m. Saturday for $7 to $8. Call 214-369-4849. --Mark Stuertz
Free Ball at Last
It's snowing as we write this. We are only 33, but we feel right now peculiarly akin to our grandmother, who would say, were she here, that she would like to curl up with a good book and a hot mug of mulled cider. But there is Free Ball 2005 to ponder instead, a New Year's Eve party at the Arcadia Theater, 2005 Greenville Ave., that benefits the Cancer Relief Fund. Doors open at 9 p.m. Admission is $40 for women, $60 for men and $80 for couples with an open bar all night. No sitting at home allowed. Visit www.freeball2005.com. --Claiborne Smith
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To honor, or merely reflect, the spirit of young democracy in South Africa, the curators of the newest exhibition at the African American Museum in Fair Park, A Decade of Democracy: Witnessing South Africa, plucked a handful of promising young South African artists to represent the country's aesthetic rejuvenation. It would be impossible to find artists who didn't look back at the legacy of apartheid, however. Lolo Veleko's "Slavery or Revolt" is a photo of wall graffiti that says, "Undergo another 400 years of slavery or revolt!!!" Subtlety isn't the intention of the graffiti artist, or of Veleko, so if you're on the prowl for art devoid of overt "messages," this may not be the exhibition for you. But interspersed among the political artworks are quixotic and emblematic ones, such as Fanie Jason's "Standard of Living," a series of six black-and-white photos of Nolungile, a grandmother dying of AIDS. In one image, she's being wheeled in a shopping cart through a muddy street by an AIDS activist neighbor so she can get to the hospital. She fits right into the shopping cart, which seems sad and undignified, but she is wearing a headpiece that is ornate, almost regal; it is hard to dismiss or forget her. A Decade of Democracy is up until February 27. Call 214-565-9026. --Claiborne Smith
They called it "confinement" with good reason. Beginning in medieval times, peaking during the Victorian era, petering out in the 1930s, society demanded that pregnant women spend their second and third gestational trimesters sequestered at home. Genteel women wouldn't dare reveal their swollen bellies in public, lest someone think they were flaunting carnal knowledge. It's different now. Every beach has bikini-clad women with oiled basketballs where their abs used to be. Maternity clothes in the 21st century cling and tug over the pregnant silhouette with plenty of Spandex. Being preggers is simply all the rage. Still, there's a contemporary form of confinement that comes after the chubby squallers are born. Nice restaurants, theaters, movies and chi-chi retail stores turn up their snooty noses at snotty brats. So moms with under-twos are often confined to home. Post-partum depression drags on if women feel they are missing out on culture, pop culture or current events. Ladies, it's Loews Cineplex to the rescue! The cinema giant organized Reel Moms with baby-friendly and moms/ dads-only showings of current movies every Tuesday. In Dallas, Cityplace 14, 2600 N. Haskell Ave., and Loews Fountains, 11225 Fountain Lake Drive, participate and their managers have thought of practically everything. The lights are dimmed, but the theater is never completely dark. Bathrooms are equipped with changing tables, and breastfeeding is fine. Squalling hardly gets a second glance, and parents are encouraged to walk their fussy babies in the aisles. The movie sound is monitored and moderate. Stroller check is available. Bundle up baby--and get out of the house--on Tuesday. The Reel Moms feature at Cityplace 14 is Jim Carrey's latest, Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, and, at Loews Fountains, it's Spanglish. Both start at 11 a.m. Join Reel Moms at www.enjoytheshow.com. --Annabelle Helber