Cultural calendar, December 11-17, 2003

THURSDAY, December 11
Swing swap:
The Charlottesville Swing Dance Society holds this weekly east coast swing practice session with recorded music. 7:30-9pm. Albemarle County Office Building auditorium, 401 McIntire Road. Free. 980-2744.

Tell me a story:
Toddlers get into the holiday spirit with stories, songs, finger plays, and crafts at Central Library. 11:30am. Free. 201 E. Market St. 979-7151, ext. 3.

Jan Smith and Robert Donnan at Gravity Lounge:
Jan Smith brings her exquisite voice to another rip-roaring good evening at Gravity Lounge– be warned: a good time will most likely be had. $5, 8:30pm.

Josh Mayo at Michael's Bistro. $3, 10pm.

Jim Waive (country-folk) at the Blue Moon Diner. Free, 8pm (W)

Karaoke Night with DJ Wild Wes at Buffalo Wild Wings. Free, 9pm (W)

Chicken Head Blues Band at Dürty Nelly's. $4, 9pm. (W)

John D'earth and friends (freeform jazz) at Miller's. $4, 10pm. (W)

Garon: Discotek at Rapture. $3, 9pm.

Inner Space (sonic adventurers) at Mountain View Grill. $5, 8pm.

Sedamentreous (hard rock) at Outback Lodge. $3, 10pm.

Game Night at Rapunzel's Coffee & Books. Free, 5pm. (W)

Middle Eastern Belly Dance Class at Rapunzel's Coffee & Books. Free, 6:30pm. (W)

Kathy Olsen Trio (jazz) upstairs at Tokyo Rose. Free, 9:30pm. (W)

Jim Gagnon's Dreamtime Project at Twisted Branch Tea Bazaar. No cover, 8pm.

FRIDAY, December 12
Good grief: Author/undertaker Thomas Lynch (The Undertaking, Bodies in Motion and at Rest) talks about "good death, good grief, and good funerals" in a talk entitled "Bearing our Burdens Honorably: Hospice and Humanity." The Miller Center, 2201 Old Ivy Road. 924-0921. 11am. See Words feature.

New generation: Know a child born since 1982? Does she bear a striking similarity to someone who's undergone a near-death experience? Researcher P.M.H. Atwater (The New Children and Near-Death Experiences) can tell you why. Quest Bookshop. 619 W. Main St. 3pm. Tea and revelations about Einstein promised! 295-3377.

All-nighter: UVA alum Erika Meitner reads from her collection of poems Inventory at the All-Night Drugstore. Sex, tattoos, inner city education and Judaica galore. New Dominion Bookstore, 6:30pm. Downtown Mall. 295-2552.

Santa Claus is coming:
Rockfish Valley community center welcomes the old gent to a community evening of Christmas caroling, games, informational booths, an arts and craft show, the First Annual Church "bake-off," free health screenings, the grand opening of the new Sheriff Substation and RVCC's Senior Program, and the ribbon cutting for a handicap accessibility project. 6-9:30pm. Call 434-361-0100 to register for the "bake-off" or arts and crafts show.

Monticello Holiday Evening Tours: Monticello marks the season with self-guided evening tours of the house and dependencies, featuring live music in the parlor. Complimentary treats will be served in the museum shop. 5.30-8pm. $13 adults, $6 children ages 6-11. 984-9822.

Ash Lawn &endash;Highland: Tour President James Monroe's house by candlelight. 7-9pm. $12, $11 and $6. Reservations recommended. 293-9539.

Christmas pageantry:
"The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" is performed at Tandem Friends School. See Family feature.

Frontier lights: The holidays of the past are illuminated on the four historic farms at the Frontier Culture Museum in their annual Lantern Tours. Costumed interpreters perform vignettes about the heritage of 1720s Germany, 1730s Northern Ireland, 1690s England, and 1850s Shenandoah Valley. Tours leave every 30 minutes from 5:30-8pm. Advance tickets required. $12 adults, $8 children. Rt. 250 west in Staunton. 540-332-7850.

Meet the president: President James Monroe will be in residence at his home Ash Lawn-Highland to greet guests during the historic home's annual candlelight Christmas tour. Costumed guides will tell of traditions from the Colonial through Victorian times. Cider and refreshments will be served. 6-10pm. $10 for adults, $9 for seniors, $5 for children ages 6-11. Rt. 795. 293-9539.

Middle Earth adventure:
Bilbo Baggins and friends set out in search of treasure from the dragon in the Four County Players dramatization of J.R.R. Tolkien's classic The Hobbit. 7:30pm. $12 adults, $10 seniors and students, $8 children. Barboursville Community Center off Rt. 33 on Rt. 678. 540-832-5355.

Grapes of Wrath: Live Arts presents the first main stage show in its new space, an adaptation of John Steinbeck's epic novel of struggling migrant workers in the '30s. Runs until December 20. Bring canned goods or other non-perishable food items to donate to the Thomas Jefferson Area Food Bank. Live Arts Down Stage, 123 E. Water St. 8pm. $10-15. 977-4177.

Contra dance: The Albemarle Chapter of the Country Dance & Song Society presents a contra dance featuring live traditional music with Bill Wellington on fiddle and Lynn Mackey on piano. The caller for the night will be Jim Morrison. Dance 8pm-11pm; free beginners workshop at 7:30. Municipal Arts Center, 1119 Fifth Street Extended. $7, under 12 free. 295-1245.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead: Live Arts opens their first season at their new space with a LATTE production of Tom Stoppard's comic fantasy on Hamlet, through December 13. Live Arts Up Stage, 123 E. Water St. 8pm. $7. 977-4177.

A Christmas Carol: Shenandoah Shakespeare presents their annual staging of Dickens' classic, featuring actors from the Excellent Motion Troupe, teen-age actors from Shenandoah Shakespeare's Young Company Theatre Camp, and children from the local community. Runs through December 28. Two shows today, 10:30am and 7:30pm. 10 S. Market St., Staunton. $10-26. 540-851-1733.

Catherine Carraway Quartet at Gravity Lounge:
Jazz singer Carraway and friends play music that will make you long for days past, taking you back to a glitzier age. $5, 8:30pm.

Danny Schmidt at Rapunzel's Coffee & Books: Schmidt's rootsy folk/pop has not been seen much in Charlottesville much as of late&endash; probably because the artist moved to Austin! Now his shows are like pearls– few and precious. $5, 7:30pm.

Atsushi Miura and the Dirty Round Eyes CD release party with The Lilas at Tokyo Rose: The long-awaited CD release from Atsushi Miura and his band, the Dirty Round Eyes, is finally upon us-&endash; get there and get one for yourself. Watch the band perform, supported by the Lilas, a nice little angsty- pop outfit. $5, 10:30pm.

Johnny & The Lowdowns at the Dew Drop Inn in Scottsville. No cover, 9:30pm.

Jim Waive (country-folk) at the Blue Moon Diner. Free, 8pm (W)

Karaoke Night with DJ Wild Wes at Buffalo Wild Wings. Free, 9pm (W)

Chicken Head Blues Band at Dürty Nelly's. $4, 9pm. (W)

Josh Mayo at Michael's Bistro. $3, 10pm.

John D'earth and friends (freeform jazz) at Miller's. $4, 10pm. (W)

Garon: Discotek at Rapture. $10, 9pm.

Inner Space (sonic adventurers) at Mountain View Grill. $5, 8pm.

Sedamentreous (hard rock) with False Evolution at Outback Lodge. $3, 10pm.

R2: $3 Thursday's with Garron (house/trance) at Rapture. $3, 9pm.

Game Night at Rapunzel's Coffee & Books. Free, 5pm. (W)

Middle Eastern Belly Dance Class at Rapunzel's Coffee & Books. Free, 6:30pm. (W)

Kathy Olsen Trio (jazz) upstairs at Tokyo Rose. Free, 9:30pm. (W)

Jim Gagnon's Dreamtime Project at Twisted Branch Tea Bazaar. No cover, 8pm.

Vernon Fisher ("romantic side of jazz") at Bashir's Taverna. No cover, 6:30pm. (W)

Oregon Hill Funk Allstars at Outback Lodge. $6, 10pm.

R2: Blowoff featuring Bob Mould and Richard Morel (dance) at Rapture. $10, 9pm.

Steve Gigante at Twisted Branch Tea Bazaar. No cover, 10pm.

SATURDAY, December 13
Been good?:
Wander through ye olde McGuffey Art Center during its Holiday Open House. Enjoy treats for the tongue and treats for the eyes. Stuck for a gift? Remember art is the opposite of a lump of coal. 11am-3pm. 201 Second St. NW. 295-7973.

Glassy eyed?: Finally, your kids will come home with stains you'll welcome when they attend a stained glass mosaic workshop at the McGuffey Art Center. $35 per child (includes materials). Mimi Tawes' studio. 1:30-4:30pm. 201 Second St. NW. For more information, call the artist at 977-7858.

Blow it yourself: Add something special to the tree this year with a glass ornament you blow yourself at the McGuffey Art Center. 10am-5pm. Make reservations if you're bringing a group of 10 or more.

Aboriginal art sale and party: Original art on bark and canvas, didjeridoos, woven dilly bags, baskets, carved animals, Aboriginal art prints, Christmas tree ornaments, calendars, note cards and more! Hot cider and cookies too. 400 Worrell Drive, Peter Jefferson Place. 244-0234. Noon-3pm.

CSDS Swing Dance:
The Charlottesville Swing Dance Society offers an evening of swing dancing and a variety of other dances, with live music by Li'l Ronnie and the Grand Dukes. A free East Coast Swing (jitterbug) lesson is included with admission from 8-9pm. Dance from 9pm-midnight. Greek Orthodox Church, 100 Perry Drive. $6-12. 980-2744.

Christmas Carol: See Friday, December 12. Today's shows are at 2 and 7:30pm.

Grapes of Wrath: See Friday, December 12.

The Hobbit: See Friday, December 12.

Rosencrantz: See Friday, December 12.

The Improfessionals: Charlottesville's comedy improv troupe "will come at you with music and fun, and if you're not careful you may learn something before it's done." 7:30pm. C'ville Coffee, 1301 Harris St. $5. 977-9957.

Monticello Holiday Evening Tours:
See Saturday, December 12.

Bazaar rescheduled:
Because of last week's winter weather, Charlottesville Waldorf School's Holiday Bazaar will take place today at the school's main campus in Crozet from 10am-4pm. Admission is free. The puppet play is presented at 11am, noon, and 2pm. Tickets are required and can be purchased at the door. Children's activities and food carry a nominal fee. 1408 Crozet Ave. 823-6800.

On the air: "Tell Us A Tale," central Virginia's popular children's radio program, returns to the Prism for another live taping of holiday favorites. Hosts Peter Jones and Jen Hoffman celebrate the season with some of their favorite stories including How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins, and a story destined to be a classic by a former writer for The Simpsons, How Murray Saved Christmas. Jan Smith Band will be on hand with some help from the Charlottesville Waldorf School's third grade chorus. Fans can join either or both of two shows to be recorded today, one from 1-2pm, the second from 2:15-3:15. The results will air on WTJU 91.1 FM on Sundays from noon-2pm. Donations accepted. 214 Rugby Road. 978-3603.

Off to see the wizard: Jefferson Youth Theatre's latest production of "The Wizard of Oz" is at the Albemarle County Office Building. See Family feature.

Three and three: Old Michie Theatre's latest puppet show features the Three Bears and The Three Little Pigs. See Family feature.

Holiday house: Kids ages four and up can sample the goodies as they create their own edible gingerbread house at the Virginia Discovery Museum. 10:30-11:15am. $5 members, $7 non-members. Reservations required. East end of the Downtown Mall. 977-1025.

Big red: Clifford the Big Red Dog stops by Barnes & Noble today for a special story time. Cookies and stickers are part of the fun. 10am. Free. Barracks Road. 984-6598.

100 years in the air: It's been exactly 100 years since Wilbur and Orville Wright got us off the ground. Visitors can follow the history of powered flight with hands-on activities and displays at the Virginia Aviation Museum. 10am-noon. Included with the price of admission: $5.50 for adults, $3 for children. 5701 Huntsman Road., Richmond International Airport. 804-236-3622.

Treats for pets: Crozet Library invites folks to treat their pets well for the holidays. Kids ages five and up can create catnip toys and homemade dog biscuits for their animal friends then finish up with stories. Participants are invited to bring a treat for the pets at the Charlottesville SPCA. 10am. Free. Registration is required. In the old Crozet train station on Three Notch'd Road. 823-4050.

Nature's treasure: Pinecones, nuts, glitter, beads, ribbon, and wiggly eyes make perfect ingredients for some great holiday ornaments. The folks at Gordon Avenue Library invite kids ages six and up to experiment with these natural elements and hear some stories, too. 10:30am. Free. Registration required. 1500 Gordon Ave. 296-5544.

All aboard: The Polar Express takes off for an exciting holiday adventure at the Scottsville Library. Kids of all ages can listen to the story and make their own candy train. 11am. Free. 330 Bird St. 286-3541.

Christmas pageantry: See Friday, December 12.

Middle Earth adventure: See Friday, December 12.

Frontier lights: See Friday, December 12.

Clare Quilty at Outback Lodge:
The rock band's first show since August, when an accident took the group's guitarist out of the picture for a while, tonight sees all the pent up live energy of the last couple of months come out&endash; something not to be missed. $6, 9pm.

Tell Us A Tale at the Prism: The radio program head from noon to 2pm on WTJU 91.1FM will be featuring Christmas and Chanukkah tales this week, with the Jan Smith Band leading the caroling. The Charlottesville Waldorf School third graders will be providing additional music. Pay what you may, 1pm and 2:15pm.

Evan Mook at the Prism: Young pianist Evan Mook will be performing a two-part program focusing on classical and jazz. This will be the last Prism show of 2003. $12/$10 advance, 8pm.

Jeff Romano and Amanda French at Rapunzel's Coffee & Books: Romano, one half of the quirky folk group Nickeltown joins poet and songwriter Amanda French on-stage for evening of bi-greatness. $5, 7:30pm.

Luxury Liner CD Release Party at Baja Bean. Free, 9pm.

R2: DJ Sseleman (hip-hop), Kid Ellipsis (garage), and Focus Group & Doctor Faustus ("quaternity/soft control") at Rapture. $10, 9pm.

The Fair Weather Bums (bluegrass) at Sheben. No cover, 9:30pm. (W)

AA Bottom (ZZ Top cover band) at Twisted Branch Tea Bazaar. No cover, 9pm.

SUNDAY, December 14
Blow it yourself:
Today's hours are 12-5pm.

Rink in the season:
Holiday Ice Show at 4pm at the Charlottesville Ice Park at the very bottom of the Downtown Mall. Tickets can be purchased for $5 in the Ice Park lobby, or for $7 at the door on the day of the performance. Recreational League Championship Hockey Game - 6pm. 817 2400. See Walkabout feature.

Audition Notice:
Live Arts holds auditions for their upcoming production of the musical Nine, which runs from 3/18 to 4/3. Bring 32 bars of music to sing– accompanist provided– plus a one-minute monologue. Call the theater to set up an audition time. 7-11pm. Live Arts, 123 E. Water St. 977-4177.

Winter Dance Showcase: Terry Dean's Dance Studio presents a showcase featuring instructors from the studio and local dancers. 7pm. Omni Hotel, Downtown Mall. $5. 977-3327.

Grapes of Wrath: See Friday, December 12. Today's show is a matinee at 2pm.

Christmas Carol: See Friday, December 12. Today's show is at 2pm.

The Hobbit: See Friday, December 12. Today's show is at 2:30pm.

Sunday night dance party: The Charlottesville Swing Dance Society holds this weekly west coast swing practice session with recorded music. 7-9pm. Dance Center, 380 Greenbrier Drive. $3. 980-2744.

Sunday salsa: Charlottesville's Salsa Club sponsors a weekly opportunity to learn and practice salsa and other dances in a smoke-free nightclub atmosphere. A basic lesson (usually salsa) gets the evening started at 8pm. Complimentary water and sodas. The Outback Lodge, 917 Preston Ave. 8pm-midnight. $3-5. or 979-7211.

International holiday:
The Science Museum of Virginia celebrates "Joy from the World" in a special way today. Visitors can create their own constellation, learn about star patterns, find out how to make Polish ornaments, buy some yummy Italian cookies, enjoy Scottish Country Dancers at 1pm, or take a class to learn how to decorate Ukrainian Pysanky Eggs from 1-4pm. The class costs $17 and registration is required. Everything else is included in the price of admission. 2500 W. Broad St., Richmond. 800-659-1727.

Christmas pageantry: See Friday, December 12.

Off to see the wizard: See Saturday, December 13.

Middle Earth adventure: See Friday, December 12. Time today is 2:30pm.

Frontier lights: See Friday, December 12.

Charlottesville Municipal Band Holiday Concert:
It's not Christmas in Charlottesville until we've heard from the Municipal Band. Join them for their annual holiday concert. Free tickets available at Greenberry's and Plan 9 Records. 3:30 and 7:30pm. V. Earl Dickinson Building, 500 College Drive. 295-9850.

Erin McKeown with Devon Sproule at Gravity Lounge: Pop/folk singer/songwriter McKeown's new album, Grand, has some great pop songs on it, but it's just a little too hygienic. Live, though, McKeown just might muss things up enough to show some real signs of promise. $12/$10 advance, 8pm. See Tunes feature.

Paul Curreri at Thomas Jefferson Memorial Church: Curreri's finger-picking goodness and pop sensibilities light up this house of god Sunday night- just be prepared for poetry readings and reflections from the minister, if you're not into the whole salvation thing. Free, 7pm. 923-7940.

The Oratorio Society of Charlottesville-Albemarle presents its annual Holiday Candlelight Concert at Old Cabell Hall: Traditional seasonal music will be the theme of the evening this Sunday, as the Oratorio Society of Charlottesville perform accompanied by a full orchestra. The show will feature Donald McCullough's "Canite Tuba," for chorus, brass and percussion, and "A Musicological Journey Through The Twelve Days of Christmas." Danielle Talamantes will be the featured soloist for the evening. A pre-concert lecture will be given by L. Thomas Vining, director, 1 hour before the performance. $20 adults/$10 for under 19, 3:30pm.

The Hogwaller Ramblers (bluegrass mayhem) at Escafé. No cover, 10pm. (W)

The Zing Kings at Gravity Lounge. Free, 11am.

MONDAY, December 15
LiveArts Playwright's LAB:
This twice-monthly playwriting workshop is designed to give new and seasoned playwrights an environment to develop and refine original works. Meets the first and third Monday of every month. 6:30pm. Live Arts, 123 E. Water St. Free. 977-4177 x100.

Open Mic Night with Charles Davis at Baja Bean. No cover, signup 8:30pm/9pm. (W)

Jackson Gibson at Coupe DeVille's. No cover, 10:30pm. (W)

Max Collins (experimental acoustic) at Michael's Bistro. No cover, 10:30pm. (W)

Open Mic Night at Miller's. Free, 9:30 signup/10pm start. (W)

George Melvin (piano merriment) at South Street Brewery. No cover, 9:30pm. (W)

Jim Ryan (jazz bass and love songs) upstairs at Tokyo Rose. Free, 9pm. (W)

Travis Elliot (pop) at the Virginian. No cover, 10:30pm. (W)

TUESDAY, December 16
Live Arts Acting LAB:
The new eight-week session of this weekly Tuesday-night class starts today. Instructor Carol Pederson allows actors to review the fundamentals of acting technique, brush up audition skills, and explore scenes from the plays in Live Arts' new season. Drop-in session from 7-8pm, full session from 7-10pm. The Attic, The Glass Building, Studio 208, 313 Second St. SE, Studio 208. $10 drop-in, $160 full session. 977-4177 x100.

Poetry Lounge: The Lounge celebrates its one-year anniversary with a night of open-mic poetry, music, snacks and booze. Special musical guests Folkskunde. Reception to follow. 8:30pm. Live Arts UpStage, 123 E. Water St. $3 for audience members, free for poets. 249-8812. See Performance feature.

Grapes of Wrath: See Friday, December 12. Today's show is at 7:30pm.

Christmas Carol: See Friday, December 12. today's show is at 7:30pm.

Messiah Sing-In:
Donald Loach leads the 36th annual Messiah Sing-In, which offers community members a chance to perform selections from Handel's masterpiece alongside musicians from around the city. 8pm. Old Cabell Hall. $5. 924-3984.

Karaoke Night at Baja Bean. Free, 8pm. (W)

Jamie and Rolland (partial bluegrass mayhem) at the Blue Moon Diner. No cover, 8pm. (W)

Glen Mack at Coupe DeVille's. No cover, 10:30pm. (W)

Vernon Fisher (mellow jazz) at Sheben. No cover, 7pm. (W)

WEDNESDAY, December 17
Country dance night:
Couples and line dancing at Fry's Spring Beach Club. Dance lesson free with cover. Lesson 7pm, dancing 8-11pm. 2512 Jefferson Park Ave. $7 cover, $4 full-time students. 977-0491.

Grapes of Wrath: See Friday, December 12. Tonight is pay-what-you-can night.

A Christmas Carol: See Friday, December 12. Today's shows are at 10:30am and 7:30pm.

Peggy's Pinch:
Come and see one of Wintergreen's secret spots and hike to the Lower Shamokin waterfalls. This moderate hike is approximately three miles. Bring lunch and plenty of water. $3 members; $5 non-members. 10.30am. 325-7453.

Hamilton at Outback Lodge:
Members of local jazz/pop/hip-hop luminaries X-Porn Stars have a new project&endash; Hamilton. Let's see if they can continue the magic. Free, 10pm.

Benny Dodd (cover-man) at Coupe DeVille's. No cover, 10pm. (W)

Vyktoria Keating (folk) at Gravity Lounge. $5, 8pm.

Jeff Decker and Mike Rosensky Quartet (jazz) at Miller's. No cover, 9pm. (W)

Open Jam at Rapunzel's Coffee & Books. Free, 7pm. (W)

Middle Eastern Belly Dance Class at Rapunzel's Coffee & Books. Free, 6:30pm. (W)

Mark Goldstein and Tusker (acoustic rock) upstairs at Tokyo Rose. No cover, 9:30pm. (W)

THURSDAY, December 18
Swing swap:
The Charlottesville Swing Dance Society holds this weekly east coast swing practice session with recorded music. 7:30-9pm. Albemarle County Office Building, 401 McIntire Road. Free. 980-2744.

A Christmas Carol: See Friday, December 12. Today's shows are at 10:30am and 7:30pm.

Grapes of Wrath: See Friday, December 12. Tonight's show is 7:30pm.

Peace on Earth:
Join members of the Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice as they rally for peace at various locations today. 4-5pm, pro-peace, anti-war demonstration outside the Federal building on McIntire Road near the Omni. 5-5:15pm deliver pro-peace petitions to Congressman Virgil Goode's office. 5:15-6pm, candlelight vigil at the Central Place downtown. 293-9818.

Visions of sugarplums:
The Moscow Ballet performs the traditional holiday favorite Nutcracker Ballet featuring local kids at the Charlottesville Performing Arts Center. 7:30pm. Melbourne Road. 961-7862.

Away in the manger: The Charlottesville Waldorf School presents The Shepherds' Play, a spirited, medieval version of the nativity story. This family-friendly musical, filled with a sense of wonder and reverence, has become a not-to-be missed holiday tradition. 7pm. Donations accepted. 1408 Crozet Ave. 823-6800.

R2: $3 Thursday's:
INTERZONE DJs Xiane, AudioRapture, and Rift Electronica, EBM, Downtempo, Trip-Hop, Darkwave at Rapture: Dance the night away at R2, Raptures new motion-oriented event– every Thursday the door costs just $3, but the friends you're sure to make there will be priceless. $3, 9pm.

Jim Waive (country-folk) at the Blue Moon Diner. Free, 8pm (W)

Karaoke Night with DJ Wild Wes at Buffalo Wild Wings. Free, 9pm (W)

Chicken Head Blues Band at Dürty Nelly's. $4, 9pm. (W)

Jan Smith Band with Kathryn Mostow at Gravity Lounge. $5, 8pm.

John D'earth and friends (freeform jazz) at Miller's. $4, 10pm. (W)

In Tenebris, Heretics In The Lab, and Terminal Ready (rock) at Outback Lodge. $3, 10pm.

Game Night at Rapunzel's Coffee & Books. Free, 5 pm. (W)

Middle Eastern Belly Dance Class at Rapunzel's Coffee & Books. Free, 6:30pm. (W)

Kathy Olsen Trio (jazz) upstairs at Tokyo Rose. Free, 9:30pm. (W)

Booty Jam-Rock dance party: Benefit for Human Right at Tokyo Rose. $5, 10:30pm.

Upcoming and Ongoing:
On the frontier:
Modern folks can visit families of the past on the four historic farms at the Frontier Culture Museum. Costumed interpreters talk about holiday traditions of Old World Europe through December. 10am-4pm. $8 adults, $7.50 seniors, $4 children 6-12. Rt. 250 west in Staunton. 540-332-7850.

Celebrate diversity:
The Children's Museum of Richmond's holiday exhibit "Our Community, Our World in Celebration" highlights a number of cultural festivals and traditions from around the world. Interactive displays, crafts, demonstrations, games, and toys introduce the sights, tastes, and sounds of Hanukkah, Diwali, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Chinese New Year, Ramadan, and Eid. Through January 25. Included with the price of admission: $7. 2626 W. Broad St., Richmond. 474-7013.

Pass it on: AlbemarleKids encourages local children and family volunteers to share their stories in the third annual "I Volunteer Student Essay & Art Contest." Kids are invited to express their thoughts and feelings about the volunteer projects they're involved in this holiday season. Deadline is December 20. Send to Check for details.

Measuring up: The Virginia Discovery Museum takes a Magical Measurement History Tour in their latest back gallery exhibit. Kids can explore the tools, units, and reasoning behind the evolution of measuring. Included in the price of admission. East end of the Downtown Mall. 977-1025.

Seeing stars: Visitors can learn how cultures around the world celebrate the season of light at the Science Museum of Virginia's holiday celebration "Joy From the World: Starlight, Starbright!" through January 1. Holiday displays, traditional dancing and singing, arts and crafts. And Carpenter Science Theatre Company's storytellers entertain children of all ages with 10-15 minute stories about stars and star patterns from many cultures, places, and times. Call or see website for schedule and cost. 2500 W. Broad St., Richmond. 800-659-1727.

Star search: Two centuries ago, Lewis and Clark didn't have GPS. They and other explorers used the stars to navigate uncharted lands and waterways. The Science Museum of Virginia gives modern travelers the chance to "Follow That Star!" in their new multimedia Planetarium show now through January 11. Included in the price of admission. 2500 W. Broad St., Richmond. 800-659-1727.

IMAX is huge!: The five-story IMAX screen at the Science Museum of Virginia has a plethora of offerings this fall. Extreme offers a glimpse into the unique relationship between nature and humanity including athletes involved in big wave surfing, ice climbing, skiing, snowboarding, windsurfing, and rock climbing.

Body works: If you like to know how things work from the inside out, you'll love the film on the inner workings of The Human Body.

Westward ho!: Fans of Lewis and Clark can join the great adventurers and the Corps of Discovery on their grueling two-year trek across the continent in Lewis & Clark: Great Journey West. Call or see website for schedules and costs. 2500 W. Broad St., Richmond. 800-659-1727.

Basketball for senior citizens:
Charlottesville Parks and Recreation is offering basketball for seniors 55 and up at the Downtown Recreation Center, 800 East Market Street for the months of November, December, January and February. The program will be held Mondays from 10-11.30am. 970-3264.

Cut your own Christmas tree at Ash Lawn: To December 24. Cutting is permitted from 11am to 4pm daily. A donation, which will be used to help preserve the historic presidential home, is requested. Check in at the Gift Shop for directions to the cutting fields. Bring a saw and a rope to tie the tree to your vehicle. 293-9539.

Holiday market: Mark the holiday season at the Holiday City Market at Central Place on the Downtown Mall, Fridays and Saturdays, 10am-5pm, December 5, 6, 12, 13, 19 & 20. Browse through handmade gifts, toys, jewelry, baked goods, decorations, wreaths and fresh greenery. Sponsored by Charlottesville Recreation & Leisure Services. Info: 970-3271.

Button Kick-Off: First Night buttons are the price of admission and are $12 per adult and $6 for children 4-12. Children ages three and under are free. Buttons available at Timberlakes Drug Store, Spenser's 206, Plan 9 (both), Blue Ridge Mountain Sports (Barracks Road Shopping Center), and Dippin Dots (Fashion Square Mall).

Separation support group for lesbians and gay men: If you have experienced a break and need a safe place to cope with your loss. Meets Thursdays 7pm-8.30pm. 978 2195.

Talk the talk: Join in the conversation with English as Second Language learners as they interact with native English speakers at the Dialogue Café. In the Adult Learning Center at 1000 Preston Ave. Thursdays 11:30am-1pm. 245-2815.

Historic Downtown Charlottesville: Walking tours are given by the Albemarle County Historical Society. $3. Meet at the McIntire Building, 200 Second St. Saturdays 10am. 296-1492.

Seminar on Stained Glass: Every Saturday, geared to the beginner but open to anyone. Call by Friday to reserve a spot. Blue Ridge Glass &Craft, McIntire Business Park at 1724 Allied St. Free. 3:30-5pm. 293 2876.

Settling down: Midday Meditation, Tuesdays 12:15-12.45pm and Thursdays, 12:15-1:15pm. Free, but donations are accepted. Gesher Center, 1824 University Circle. 970-7836.

Habitat for Humanity: Volunteers with a yen to build or paint for a good cause needed for projects in the area. 293-9066.

Wreath Workshops at Monticello: December 12, 13, and 15. These ever-popular workshops, now in their seventeenth year, produce a gratifying and tangible end-product: a beautiful Christmas wreath. Janet Miller and Maggie Thompson will lead you through the process of making your own. All materials (straw wreath forms, pins, wire, etc.) will be provided, including a cornucopia of natural materials. This three-hour workshop will stretch your imagination and transform any novice into a stylish holiday artist. $35 covers the workshop and all materials. Reservations may be made in advance. Call 984-9822

Framing the West at Monticello: "Thomas Jefferson and the Lewis and Clark Expedition" features a recreation of Jefferson's "Indian Hall" and objects on loan from other institutions. Included in price of general admission. Through December 31. 984 9822.

Thomas Jefferson and the Origins of American Political Parties: Rare printed materials illustrating early U.S. politics are on exhibit at the Jefferson Library. 9am to 4:30pm. Free. 984-7540.

Canine Companions for Independence: The national nonprofit organization that trains assistance dogs for people with physical and developmental disabilities is looking for people interested in becoming volunteer puppy raisers. 800-572-BARK or

Families anonymous: A free, self-help fellowship for anyone concerned with the destructive behavior of loved ones (emotional problems, drugs, or alcohol, etc.) meets at 7pm each Monday at Aldersgate Methodist Church,1500 E. Rio Road behind Fashion Square Mall, rear lower level entrance. 923-7929.

Narcotics anonymous: Meets daily. Call for information and meeting place: 434-979-8298.

The University of Virginia Library swings with "Portraits of the Golden Age of Jazz: Photographs by William P. Gottlieb," on display, along with other items related to the Harlem Renaissance, through March 5. McGregor Room, Alderman Library. 924-3025

The Second Street Gallery inaugurates its brand, spanking new space with "30 Years: Three Decades of New Art," featuring recent works by 55 artists from SSG's past. Through February 1. City Center for Contemporary Arts, corner of Second St. SE and E. Water St. 977-7284.

The C&O Gallery presents the photography of Elaine Futhey through December. Next door to the C&O Restaurant, 511 E. Water St. 971-7044.

Transient Crafters displays "Glimmering Glass," featuring kiln-fired jewelry, plates, and more by Mary Ellen Larkins, through December. 118 W. Main St. on the Downtown Mall. 972-9500.

CODG opens its new space with a group show. Among the artists featured is Billy Hunt, who recently shot the "Hot Moms of C'ville" calendar. 112 E. Main St., under the Jefferson Theater. 242-4212. See Art Feature.

David Cochrane's abstract/geometric paintings and Matisse- and Picasso-influenced portraits are on view at the architectural firm of Stoneking/Von Storch. Fifth and Water streets, second floor. 295-4204.

Galerie LaParlière is showing "Impressionist Bouquets," new works by French artist Maryvonne LaParlière. Also through January, "Angels on Wood," frescoes. 414 E. Jefferson St. 245-1365.

Mountain Air Gallery, Etc. showcases the work of Norfolk artist Cara Mayo (oil and acrylic) and local painter Lavely Miller (oils) through December. 107 E. Main St. on the Downtown Mall. 244-3393 or

Beatrix Ost explores what contributes to the formation of identity in "Intimacy: 15 Minutes of Drawing," on display at Les Yeux du Monde@dot2Dot through the end of January. 115 S. First St. 973-5566.

The Thomas Jefferson Memorial Church is showing "Once Upon a Time in Europe," acrylic paintings by Angela Corriveau. 717 Rugby Road. 293-8179.

The Mudhouse presents digital artist Paul Troy's "Persons, Things & Other Objects" through December 28. W. Main St. on the Downtown Mall. 984-6833.

L'étoile Restaurant displays paintings by local artists Barry Gordon and Malcolm Hughes. Gordon's abstract works feature interiors and everyday objects; Hughes portrays landscapes in the Impressionist style. Through the end of January. 817 W. Main (across from the Amtrak Station). 979-7957.

Take a stroll through the 57 acres of Virginia's first-ever Sculpture Park, located on the grounds of Baker-Butler Elementary School. 2740 Proffit Road. 974-7777x1402.

Paintings by Gloria Mitchell are on display at The Artful Lodger, 1807 Seminole Trail. 970-1900.

"Recent Works by The Virginia Stone Carvers Guild," an exhibition of sculptures by eight artists, runs through January 9 at the ArtSpace gallery on the third floor of Newcomb Hall. 924-4164.

Art Upstairs presents its members' work in a holiday group show through December 27. 316 E. Main St., above The Hardware Store, on the Downtown Mall. 923-3900.

"Art and the Natural World," an exhibit featuring science themes, is on display at the Science and Engineering Library's new reading room. The exhibit is a highlight of the library's grand opening in Clark Hall, and will be up through the academic year. The exhibit features work by UVA art faculty. 924-3628.

The Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection displays "Kulam Kannga (Beginning): New Work from the Lockhart River Art Gang," plus "Photographs of Lockhart River" by Kerry Trapnell through January 24. 400 Peter Jefferson Place, off Rt. 250 east at Pantops. 244-0234.

Holiday cheer getting to you? Sober up by taking in "Portraits of the Human Condition," recent work by Polly Mikulski, on display at the Gravity Lounge through December. 103 S. First St. 977-5590.

Jerry O'Dell's paintings and stained glass creations are on view at Blue Ridge Glass & Crafts. 1724 Allied St. 293-2876.

The McGuffey Art Center presents its Annual Holiday Group Show presenting the work of McGuffey's artists, who work in painting, drawing, printmaking, fiber art, calligraphy, mixed media, stained glass, hot glass, sculpture, photography, cabinetry, marbling, ceramics, and book arts. Something catch your eye? Get instant gratification with cash and carry. Through December 28. 201 Second St. NW. 295-7973.

During December, the BozArt Gallery presents an All Member Show, featuring a wide range of styles and media. 211 W. Main. 296-4669.

The University of Virginia Art Museum presents "Our View," an exhibit of area high school students' award-winning photographs focusing on hometown life, through December 21. Also "The Moon Has No Home: Japanese Color Woodblock Prints from the Collection" runs through March 7. And "Steam Power: Railroad Photographs of O. Winston Link," runs through December 21. 155 Rugby Road. 924-3952.

The John Ruseau Watercolor Gallery features paintings by John Ruseau, along with art and objects from the Connecticut-based Mystic Seaport Museum. York Place on the Downtown Mall. 977-0627.


The Nichols Gallery Annex displays small works by 20 regional artists, including Ron Boehmer, Philip Koch, Maruta Racenis, and Priscilla Whitlock, through January 4. Barboursville. 540-832-3565.

Marcus Alan Vincent exhibits "Sojourn in a Dream" at the Williams School Library at Washington and Lee University through December 31. Lexington. 540-458-8602.

Richard Robinson and Larry Volk show their unique views of the Italian culture and landscape in "Robinson and Volk: Fotografie dell'Italia" at The Arts Center In Orange through January 3. 1250 East Main St, Orange. 540-672-7311.

Al Rossi's watercolors of Fluvanna area scenes are on display at the Carysbrook Library through December. Highway 15. Fluvanna. 434-842-2230.

The Fluvanna Art Association's Annual Show runs through the end of December at the Fluvanna County Community Center in Fork Union. Highway 15. 34-842-3150 or

Sunspots Studios in Staunton offer live glassblowing demonstrations every day by master glassblower Phillip Nolley and art glass artist Minh Martin, both in residence. Corner of Lewis and Middlebrook streets in downtown Staunton, across from the train station. 540-885-0678.

Lynchburg College's Daura Gallery, features "Poster Design: The Power of Pattern" and "The Seasons: Monotypes by Joellyn Duesberry, Poems by Pattiann Roger," through December 17. Lynchburg. 434-544-8343.

"Extremely real, extremely warped," that's the word on Robert Lazzarini's sculptures. The artist's distorted realism is on view through January 4 at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. While there, check out "The New VMFA: Collecting for the Future," which runs through January 4. 2800 Grove Ave. Richmond. 804-204-2704.

Marc Charette presents his landscape photography at Caffé Bocce during the month of December. 330 Valley St., Scottsville. 286-4422.

Getting Cilli: CODG hopes to shake things up


Talking with Monty Montgomery is like throwing back a double&emdash; no, make that a triple shot of espresso. The 28-year-old artist, who just opened CODG (which technically, stands for Cilli Original Designs Gallery, although Montgomery prefers its acronym), can't get the words out fast enough as he gushes about his latest endeavor, sitting in his zebra-rugged studio, its ceiling and walls jammed with photos, quotations, and other scraps of inspiration.

How did he decide to open a gallery?

"I've been deciding it for years," he says and points to a tick list plastered on the ceiling labeled "The Map," which outlines goals Montgomery has set for himself.

The clothing designer/poet/painter moved from Richmond to Charlottesville last year and took over a studio space adjacent to the Bullseye Gallery beneath the Jefferson Theater. When Bullseye owner Kimberly Larkin decided not to renew the gallery's lease, Montgomery jumped at the opportunity to create an artists' cooperative and alternative art venue.

His ideas for CODG, which officially opened its doors December 5, pour forth as if from a wide-open faucet. He imagines offering radically different gallery hours, perhaps 7pm-midnight. "When do most people have time to go see art?" Montgomery asks.

On Tuesday or Thursday evenings, he plans to host "Monty's Lounge," a forum where artists, writers, and musicians can present works-in-progress and receive friendly feedback to fuel completion. His hope is that even non-artists will attend and muster up the courage to get creative.

Montgomery says the freshly painted and newly lighted gallery space will display both CODG members' and outside artists' work. In addition, he intends to occasionally rent out walls to up-and-coming artists who want to test their ideas publicly.

"It's going to be always like an organism," Montgomery explains. "That's the best word for the gallery."

CODG currently has an alliance of 12 artists– hand-picked by Montgomery, who values spirit over skill level. Its opening group show provides an introduction to the wide range of its members' visions.

At the bottom of the inky stairwell, Montgomery's acid-colored pop-art paintings, reminiscent of '60s artist Peter Max, usher visitors into the gallery proper. The opposite wall, in contrast, teases with saucy glossies from photographer Billy Hunt's "Hot Moms of C'ville" calendar. And surrounding the pillar at the gallery's center, Tara Griffin's abstract acrylics draw attention to the simple power of the line.

Looking around the space, Montgomery positively effervesces with excitement. "It's a new urban art hub!" he raves.

CODG's group show is on view through December. 112 E. Main St., under the Jefferson Theater. Info: 242-4212 or

Good grief! Making the most of dying


There's no shortage of ways to anthropomorphize death. He's a reaper, he's a ferryman, he's a black-eyed lady. No wonder we're scared. Put him in a fedora and a bow-tie, and far more people would be willing to make his acquaintance. Even if they're just confusing death with George Burns.

Thomas Lynch talks a lot about the "good death." He's seen it, he's participated in it, he's celebrated it, and he's coached it. He's made some money from it&endash; but then he's made money from the bad ones, too. He's an undertaker– and yes, he wears a bowtie.

"Funerals are like sonnets," says Lynch. "When they're on, they're sublime; when they're not, you get some real clunkers."

Like any well-adjusted specialist in death, Lynch sees the end of life as a growth opportunity for both the dying and the bereaved. He figures a bedside scene can be like a wedding– a satisfactory mix of tears and laughter– and considers any funeral director within his rights to encourage both emotions when that time comes.

People deal with death differently, it's no secret. This being 21st century America, there is also a wide array of commercial opportunities for people to deal with their deaths differently. Beyond urn shape and psalm choice, options abound: environmentally sound caskets (100% recycled paper); virtual headstones (touch the screen for testimonials); sea burials and bagpipes for the sentimental. There's even an outfit that will make arrangements for your mummification&endash; for a mere $67k. It's a racket, agrees Lynch, who has sardonically proposed a golfatorium as the next trend in death planning.

"See, when it's 3am, and Ms. Smith is dying, there are only three cars," he says. "One's her pastor, one's hospice, one is her funeral director; and there aren't any cars behind them. All you have to bring to the table is your humanity."

Lynch is the sole undertaker in Milford, Michigan, population 15,000. He took to writing as a reader who "went karaoke." His collection of essays The Undertaking was a National Book Award finalist and is in its 12th print run. Without an ounce of treacle or sentimentality, Lynch writes of death with uncommon grace.

He comes to the Miller Center this week to talk about hospice, an organization which he calls "heroic" and which he credits with teaching people to "deal with dying by dealing with the dying."

Because if we're going to dress death up, let's at least give it the face of the departed. It's much more honest than a hooded shroud.

Thomas Lynch is the author of The Undertaking, Still Life in Milford, and Bodies in Motion and at Rest. His lecture at the Miller Center is titled "Bearing our burdens honorably: Hospice and Humanity." December 12, 11am. 2201 Old Ivy Road. 924-0921. Book signing follows.

Sparkling: Local talent shines in ice show

Once upon a time, not that many years ago, Charlottesville was a grim and dismal city where teenagers turned into hooligans as soon as the sun went down. Then a good fairy built the Ice Park on the Downtown Mall, and parents were happy, and the city landed at the top of the nice-places-to-live charts.

Like all legends, this one has a kernel of truth, and even if it hasn't brought about a social miracle, the ice rink has become a popular source of entertainment since it opened eight years ago.

Adults go too, and they feel wholesome and worthy because they haven't spent the afternoon postponing their thank-you letters again. As they wobble off the rink and back into the changing room where their rented skates make little puddles on the floor, they're surprised at what a good time they had, optimistic about how many calories they burned, and resolute to make this a weekly outing.

But what surprises and impresses them most of all are the other adults&endash; and children&endash; who really do come regularly and are expertly reversing and twirling and even lifting each other in the air and jumping.

Those are the ones who will be performing at the Ice Park's annual fundraiser&endash; "Ring in the Season"&endash; on Sunday, December 14 at 4pm.

There will be amateurs-&endash; like Sue Sharon, who had wanted to skate all her life and finally took her first lesson five years ago, when she was nearly 40. She trained five days a week for up to two hours, just because Charlottesville had an ice rink and she could.

"What do I like best about this place? How intensely the people committed to skating feel," says co-owner Roberta Williamson as she hangs a huge white snowflake on the Ice Park's window. "It's so difficult, and they're so committed. There's a woman on the rink right now playing hockey with her son. I know another one who drives 500 miles a week for her child's training." (Instructors work in rinks all over their states, and their disciples often have to follow them.)

Saturday's show will feature figure-skating amateurs of all ages, as well as professionals from Richmond, two synchronized skating teams, a hockey match, carols, and a raffle. The event is to raise money for the synchronized-skating team to participate in a national competition in New Hampshire.

Much of America tunes into ice skating once every four years, when the Michelle Kwans and Eric Heidens of the world perform on the Olympic stage, executing triple axels with grace, or speeding around the track in those skimpy bodysuits, arms swinging wildly.

Others just watch ice hockey in the winter as a way to fill the gap between the football and baseball seasons. What better proof than a local ice show that skating is not just for Canadians and New Englanders?

The ice show is on Sunday, December 14, at 4pm at the Charlottesville Ice Park at the west end of the Downtown Mall. Tickets can be purchased for $5 in the Ice Park lobby, or for $7 at the door on the day of the performance. A recreational league championship hockey game happens at 6pm. 814-2400.

Get up and go: Take the kiddies to the show

Sometimes the thought of dressing the kids up and dragging them out to some sort of fancy holiday performance is just too much to bear. Wouldn't it be easier to just snuggle up around a nice warm fire and read How the Grinch Stole Christmas?

It may be easier, but there's nothing like live theater to sprinkle some magic on the season. And for families with wee ones, there's nothing like this year's collection of kid-friendly holiday classics to draw you out of the doldrums.

Let's start with the Herdman's, the six worst kids in the neighborhood who show up at rehearsal for the Sunday-School Christmas pageant because they heard there were snacks. Tandem Friends School's eighth grade presents Barbara Robinson's "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever."

OK, I know what you're thinking: an eighth grade play? How good could it be? So I have to tell you that my son goes to Tandem. He's not in the play, but I'll still be in the audience, because this is the school that knows how to do drama with youngsters.

"This play was a perfect match for this group of kids," said director Lydia Horan, who sometimes feels like the parent who unwittingly gets thrown into the job of directing her kid's pageant. And like the characters they play, the student performers are learning something interesting about the real meaning of Christmas, too.

Across town, munchkins of all ages will want to skip down the Yellow Brick Road to see the Jefferson Youth Theater's final production of "The Wizard of Oz." A musical version of the Frank Baum novel adapted and directed by Peter Ryan, the play features a surprising wizard, an adult Wicked Witch of the West, and over 50 local kids playing Dorothy, Scarecrow, Cowardly Lion, Tin Man, and all the other folks from the magical kingdom of Oz.

If it's puppets you like, Old Michie Theatre offers some favorite folk and fairy tales. The last performances of "The Three Little Pigs and the Three Bears" happens this weekend featuring hand-made marionettes from the Czech Republic. Next week, hand puppets take the stage for a five-day holiday run of the perennial favorite, "The Elves and the Shoemaker."

So go ahead and get out with the kids this holiday season. These shows are just as comfy as home and much more exciting. Festive attire is optional.

"The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" takes place in the Tandem Community Hall December 12-13 at 7pm, December 14 at 2pm. $8 adults, $6 students. Mill Creek Road across from Monticello High School. 296-1303, ext 408. "The Wizard of Oz" is performed by the Jefferson Youth Theater in the auditorium of Burnley Moran School December 13-14 at 5pm. $6. 1300 Long Street off of 250 East. 249-2803. Old Michie Theatre's "The Three Little Pigs and the Three Bears" is December 13. "The Elves and the Shoemaker" will be presented December 20-23 and 27. All shows at 11am, 2pm, and 4pm. An additional performance of "The Elves" takes place at 1pm. $5. 221 E. Water St. 977-3690.

Subversive! Poetry Lounge a '50s throwback

It's easy to forget what a treacherous time the 1950s were for America. The nightmare of the Communist witch-hunts, the backlash against the early Civil Rights movement, the slowly mounting threat of nuclear war. And all of them dwarfed by the dark, inscrutable menace of beatniks, spreading over the country like a plague, cigarettes dangling, fingers snapping.

I don't want to alarm you, America. But they're back. If you don't believe it, you'll learn this Tuesday, when the Poetry Lounge celebrates its one-year anniversary with a night of live music, open-mic poetry, and enough clove cigarette smoke to fill a zeppelin.

Actually, there's no smoking in the new Live Arts building. And you'll notice that the new beatniks have traded their turtlenecks for ill-fitting t-shirts with clever logos. But they still read to live jazz accompaniment. And try asking Poetry Lounge co-founder Tucker Duncan who his favorite poet is.

"Charles Bukowski takes the cake," he says.

Some things never change.

Duncan started the Poetry Lounge a year ago with Charlottesville impresario and No Shame Theater founder Todd Ristau and friend Erin Fleck. Since the latter two left town, it's been entirely in Duncan's hands, and he's clearly doing something right: Nearly every one of the 12 monthly shows has sold out.

"There's a big fan base," Duncan says. "There's a community of people who come out every month."

The Lounge gives local poets the chance to perform with or without backup from a house band, and though many of the readers are the same each month, there are always a few new faces. Duncan stresses that anyone who wants to read at the anniversary show will have the chance.

"If 200 people sign up," he says, "all 200 are going to read." Just one poem apiece, though, please.

In addition to the readings, Tuesday's show features a performance by the local band Folkskunde, food and drink, and an after-party to celebrate the Lounge's first birthday and a CD release by the band. Duncan has high hopes for the event.

"I challenge anyone to come out this Tuesday night and throw three bucks down to see something that will blow you away," he says.

This from a kid who just graduated high school. With that kind of crazy, clove-fueled confidence, there's no telling what he and his kind are capable of. It may be too late to stop the new beatnik menace.

But if we move now, we can still head off the hula hoop invasion.

The Poetry Lounge's one-year anniversary starts at 8:30pm on December 16. Reception follows the show. Live Arts UpStage, 123 E. Water St. $3 audience members, free for poets. 249-8812.

Hypoallergenic: Cleaner than need be

Pop/folk singer/songwriter Erin McKeown's new album, Grand, is diverse in styles, catchy in manner, and extremely hypoallergenic in production. For though sometimes one can get tired of all the boils and pustules produced by assorted lovers of the lo-fi, be them indie-rockers or bluegrass hoodlums, a total lack of grit and grime in your stereo spectrum is not the preferable choice.

Music is made by humans, and humans are, at least according to the last biology textbook I opened back in ought-9, "organic carbon based life forms." The sound of Grand having been constructed by an "organic" being is the one thing McKeown's new disc is missing, but I think that her live show, at Gravity Lounge on December 14, may muss up her musical do in just the right way. If watching a lot of live music has taught me anything (other than a love for cheap beer), it's that things (be they makeup or acts) get messier when performed under the spotlight.

Hailing from the far-away exotica that is Fredericksburg, McKeown found her musical muse while attending Brown University, and began performing her tunes around town. In 2000, the performer released her debut album, Distillation, on Signature Sounds records, and this year dropped Grand on the seemingly spelling-challenged Nettwerk America.

Grand begins with the ridiculously jaunty "Slung-lo," a song on which the offbeat carries you along to a land where each sunrise brings warmth to the candy-cane nation and each sunset hush across the gingerbread suburbs. In other words, the song is goddamn poppy.

Sounding a bit like Edie Brickell crossed with Kay Hanley from early '90s poppers Letters To Cleo (and possessing a singing accent that speaks not to her origins), McKeown sings, "I was slung-lo, and so gung-ho, for anything to get me to start / I had my rock, I had my roll, but I couldn't find my spark."

"Cinematic," the next tune up, calls to mind any Go-Gos B-side-&endash; a good time, but recorded after the A-side by a band a little worn out. Maybe I'm just lamenting what the song could have been with the drums turned up a lot, and more guitar (indie-rockified, in other words)– a little pop gem, with lyrics like "I begin with Culver City, where the handsome faggots make pretty pretty" standing in divergence from the song's upbeat nature.

"Born to hum" is definitely my personal smiling favorite, where soft acoustic guitar, even softer drums, bass, tambourine, and a little banjo create a background on which McKeown sings her often nonsensical lyrics. But this slow song sits in a sea of slower tunes, making one wish for a way to speed them up without making the vocals overly Alvin and the Chipmunk-esque.

Grand is a nice album, the kind that you could see trying to sell you Girl Scout cookies out in front of the Safeway, with the older sister you don't fear taking home to mama. It's plain to see McKeown has the pop-chops; what she needs now is just a bit of kink.

Erin McKeown performs with Devon Sproule at Gravity Lounge, December 14. $12/$10 advance, 8pm.