ART ON THE HORIZON: The Horizon School on 15th Avenue South is a transitional institution for high school graduates with learning disabilities. The organization offers a “nondegree postsecondary program specifically designed to facilitate personal, social and career independence for students with...mild handicapping conditions.” Educational work like this is one of the most worthy programs a person can donate to, and that’s why I suggest attending “Reflections of Me,” a silent auction and art exhibit now in its third year from the Horizons School Junior Advisory Board. Not only will there be a display of student artwork—other local artists, including Charles Neugent and Forsyth Tynes, have pitched in some pieces of their own. And throughout the whole thing, attendees can bid on items like discounts at area restaurants and a weekend luxury vacation. The event takes place at Historic Rucker Place, a house on 12th Avenue South built by Civil War General Edmund Winchester in 1900. It will run from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Advance tickets are $20, and $25 if you wait to buy them at the door. For more information, call (205) 322-6606 or visit www.horizonsschool.org.
UNDERPANTS SURPRISE: Anyone who’s a big fan of comedy knows what an interesting thing improv comedy can be. Most of what we see and hear in humorous films and television shows is heavily and rigorously scripted, tweaked within an inch of itself to keep audiences compelled and laughing. Jokes are moved around, punchlines are punched up and measured in terms of how the silliness, or the satire, etc. will affect the product as a whole. With improv comedy, all of that goes out the window and you’re left with the opposite process. Improv takes the joke to its basest form—a fleeting thought in a comedian’s head. But I’m not alone when I say that improv jokes, more often than not, get a much bigger laugh out of me than scripted ones. I have nothing but respect for those who can finely craft a joke over a period of time, but when it comes down to it, no one’s going to remember how long it took, or how much they thought about the joke when they heard it. They’re going to remember how hard they laughed. With that in mind, I recommend to you “Project Codename: Vulcan’s Underpants,” a show performed by the improvisers in the Extemporaneous Theatre Company.
It is comprised of a series of small sketches, reminiscent of the game show Whose Line Is It Anyway, and features plenty of audience participation. Friday will be the first of two shows continuing on May 14. The shows start at 9 p.m. General admission is $20 but students can get in for $15. For more information, call (205) 687-5233 or visit www.extemporaneoustheatre.com.
CLIP AND TRIM: Art is everywhere. Even things we need to do to survive, like cooking, contain elements of the artistic world. Another hobby that rides the line is gardening.
Planting crops is necessary for survival, but these days hardly anyone is expected to grow all of their own food. Gardening has always been touted as a decorative practice, but I think we reached the point a long time ago where the hobby crossed over into art. Nothing exemplifies this better than the art of growing bonsai trees. As Wikipedia so succinctly tells me, “bonsai is not intended for production of food, for medicine or for creating yard-size or park-size gardens or landscapes. Instead, bonsai practice focuses on long-term cultivation and shaping of one or more small trees in a single container.” If that’s not art, I don’t know what is. The Alabama Bonsai Society will be organizing a “Bonsai Show” at Birmingham Botanical Gardens this Saturday and Sunday. It will feature, among many others, the Japanese Kimono and a Tokonoma. You can catch them from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday. The event is free. For more information, call (205) 414-3958 or visit www.bbgardens.org.
DIG IN: When it comes to festivals, you can usually expect a bounty of food—granted, that food might be hideously overpriced, but it’s there nonetheless. Festival organizers never underestimate people’s desire to hop from booth to booth and indulge themselves with a variety of cuisines. Some of the best festivals, then, are the food fesivals. The “Birmingham Slow Food Fair,” otherwise known as the “Party in the Garden,” takes place this Sunday at Jones Valley Urban Farm. Slow Food Birmingham will be on hand with the largest selection of locally produced foodstuffs this side of Southside. Participating businesses include Bettola, Bottega, Bottletree, Brick & Tin, Cantina, Food Studio B, Good People Brewing Company, Grassroots Wine, International Wines, Jim ‘N Nick’s, Kathy G, Rojo, Salt Fine Catering and Trattoria Centrale. In addition to all the sampling you’ll be doing, you might also want to check out the mini farmers market, or the series of cooking workshops, or maybe you just want to listen to live music while you gorge yourself. The festival starts at 2 p.m. and goes until 6 p.m. General admission is $30 (children 12 and under get in free). For more information, visit www.slowfoodbirmingham.com or www.jvuf.org.
THAT’S FINNEY: Finney James is an old standby in our weekly music calendar. For a long time his name appeared under Metro Bar & Music’s listings with “Open Mic w/ Finney James.” He’s involved in other projects, namely as the lead vocalist and guitarist for Suburban Love Junkies, and the drummer for Caddle, but I know him best for his consistency with those open mics. He’s jumped back into that consistency recently by continuing his event at Rogue Tavern—with a small twist. He now calls it the “Singer/Songwriter Open Mic w/ Finney James.” And that’s pretty self-explanatory. Fans of the quiet, subdued genre are in for a treat. For more information about times, call (205) 202- 4151 or visit www.roguetavern.com.
BRING YOUR OWN: And speaking of open mics, here’s another with a twist all its own—one that should provide for even more entertainment. Bottletree has organized an “Only Originals Open Mic” for this Tuesday. That means no covers, only original material from each participant. This is a highly entertaining concept for me, because it boils the competition down to only those with the audacity to put their own work out there. And it provides an eclectic mix of performances—comedians, poets, musicians and performance artists alike are invited to perform. It starts at 8 p.m., and admission if free. For more information, call (205) 533-6288 or visit www. thebottletree.com.
AUTHOR AMONG US: Claire Datnow’s reading and book signing at Little Professor in Homewood this week will no doubt be a riveting learning experience, but I can’t help but think of how appropriately it would have fit into the event landscape a month ago, when the Birmingham Museum of Art was wrapping up its “Darkroom: Photography and New Media in South Africa since 1950” exhibit. That exhibit, combined with the BMA’s film screenings on the subject, would make a perfect companion to Datnow’s book, Behind the Walled Garden of Apartheid. I say this because Datnow has a first-hand account of the atrocities and can provide a level of insight face-toface that even a heavily researched art exhibit cannot. In any case, whether you caught the exhibit or not, this is one signing worth attending. It starts at 4 p.m. and goes until 6:30 p.m. For more information, call (205) 870-7461 or visit www.littleprofessorhomewood.com.
IT MEANS GREMLIN: Here’s a show you don’t want to miss for $17. I’ll admit I’ve never explored much Mogwai, but I’ve heard some songs here and there and I’ve understood their reputation for quite some time. For those who don’t know, they’re a post-rock group, which means disorienting time signatures, endless musical build-up and a lot of instrumentation—all things I enjoy (once in a while). Being a fan of similar groups like Tortoise and My Bloody Valentine is enough for me to give this a high recommendation. The WorkPlay show starts at 8 p.m. with opening band Errors. General admission is $17. For more information, call (205) 380-4086 or visit www.workplay.com.