Cultural calendar, December 31, 2003, to January 8, 2004

WEDNESDAY, December 31
First Night Virginia:
Celebrate with the community in an a family-oriented, alcohol-free party with a variety of visual, performing and musical arts on the Downtown Mall. 3pm to midnight. Admission buttons are sold in advance at all Charlottesville Kroger stores, Mincer's, Timberlake's, Plan 9 Records and St. Anne's Belfield Bookstore. Buttons are $10 for adults, $5 for children 12 and under. Reserved seating tickets for selected performances will be available for $2 on December 29,30, 31 from 11am until 2pm at the First Night Headquarters in the Omni Hotel Atrium. 975-8269

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.

Ryegrass Rollers: Piedmont-area musicians Phil Audibert, Heather Trout, Michaux Lowry, and Alex Canton perform traditional Irish music in a new and compelling way. 6pm, 9pm and 10:30pm. Holy Comforter Church, Jefferson St. between Second and Third streets. Free with First Night General Admission button ($6-12). 975-8269.

The Improfessionals: Formerly known as the Charlottesville Generated Improv, this improv comedy group includes college professors, a shrink, a psychologist, a Pilates instructor, an Alexander teacher, a video store clerk, and a museum programs coordinator. 4:30pm, 6pm and 7:30pm. Old Town Center, Market St. between Sixth and Seventh streets. Free with First Night General Admission button ($6-12). 975-8269.

Zack Thomas, Hypnotist: Though certified in hypnotherapy, Zack specializes in Comedy. Volunteer audience members are guided into the world of hypnosis and soon become the stars of the show. 6pm, 9pm and 10:30pm. Lane Auditorium, Albemarle County Office Building, 401 McIntire Road. Free with First Night General Admission button ($6-12). 975-8269.

Encore Theatre: Back for its fifth consecutive performance at First Night Virginia, Encore presents Shakespeare's Clowns and Fools, in which Shakespeare's silliest scenes are rendered into a New Year's Eve celebration. 7:30pm and 10:30pm. Jefferson/Madison Library, Market St. between Second and Third streets. Free with First Night General Admission button ($6-12). 975-8269.

Pianist Randy Hudson: This local piano teacher, a graduate of the Boston Conservatory and Berkley College of Jazz, performs a selection of works ranging from old standards to classical done in a modern style. 6-8pm. Omni Charlottesville Hotel Atrium, Downtown Mall. Free with First Night General Admission button ($6-12). 975-8269.

Mark Nizer: Back by popular demand for a second consecutive year, "the juggler your mother warned you about" combines original comedy, world class juggling, movement, music and technology. See Performance Feature. 4:30pm and 7:30pm. Lane Auditorium, Albemarle County Office Building, 401 McIntire Rd. $2 with First Night General Admission button ($6-12). 975-8269. See Performance feature, page 47.

Party in the streets:
Families can ring in the New Year with entertainment galore at First Night Virginia. See Family feature.

Journey inward: Thomas Jefferson Memorial Church invites the community to walk into the New Year with purpose at their Open Labyrinth Walk. Walking the path of the labyrinth is an ancient tradition that can be rewarding on many levels. All ages are welcome. 6-9pm. Free. 717 Rugby Road. 293-8179.

Circle 'round: The Charlottesville Sufi Circle invites the community to celebrate the Dances of Universal Peace at the Tandem Friend's School Community Hall. No experience is necessary. Light refreshments provided. Families welcome. 9pm-midnight. Mill Creek Road. across from Monticello High School. 979-0826.

Sierra at Charlie's:
Start off the new-year right with a little country from local boys Sierra (also receive "munchies" free of charge), at Charlie's New Year's Eve party. $15/$10 advance, 9pm.

Aquanett at Outback Lodge: Sure to be the most amusing way to ring in the new year in town, faux '80s hair-metal band Aquanett are sure to surprise you with ballerina style stage-antics and witty between song dialogue. All right, maybe not… $6, 10pm.

New Year's Eve Party with Indecision at Starr Hill: One of the acts to be praised/blamed for starting the jam band scene in the 80s, Indecision does not play out much these days, but might want to check them out on New Year's Eve &endash; if you like extended solos, that is. $30, 10pm.

New Year's Eve with Devon Sproule (folk), Paul Curreri (country-folk), Nickeltown (off-kilter acoustic duo) & The Jan Smith Trio (folk-pop) at Gravity Lounge. $35, 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)

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

Betty Gone Bad live at Awful Arthur's, W. Main. $3, 9pm.

Plasmodium (experimental sounds and records) at Twisted Branch Tea Bazaar. No cover, 8pm.

THURSDAY, January 1
Take flight:
The world's fastest spy plane is on display at the Virginia Aviation Museum along with reproductions of Wright Brothers' gliders and flyers, a 1936 Vultee V1-A that once belonged to newspaper baron William Randolph Hearst, Sr., and lots more. Today is two-for-one day. 9:30am-5pm. $5.50 adults, $4.50 seniors, $3 kids 4-12. 5701 Huntsman Road at Richmond International Airport. 804-236-3622.

Let Go and Let God:
Releasing old patterns, letting in new light, workshop led by Donovan and Susan Thesenga through January 4 at Sevenoaks Pathwork Center in Madison, 540-948-6544 or email

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)

Hangover Helper Brunch with The Zing Kings at Gravity Lounge. Free, 11am.

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

John & Mary (from 10,000 Maniacs) at Gravity Lounge. $12, 8:30pm.

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

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

FRIDAY, January 2
20th Annual Charlottesville Antique Show:
Period and country furniture from the 18th and 19th centuries. Textiles, silver, jewelry, oriental rugs, linens, books, prints, and other distinctive accessories. Appraisals on Saturday and Sunday. 6:30-9:30pm. Omni Hotel 296-8018.

First Colony Winery: Wine and Soup. Noon-5pm. 1650 Harris Creek Road. $8 per person includes tasting, wine glass, and soup. 979-7105.

The Grandsons at Ashland Coffee & Tea:
Having just released their fourth CD, The Grandsons-&endash; Live at the Barns, the group brings its "American music in a blender" sound (rockabilly, blues, swing, etc.) to Charlottesville for what is sure to be a genre-hopping night. $6, 8pm.

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

John & Mary (from 10,000 Maniacs) at Gravity Lounge. $12, 8:30pm.

SATURDAY, January 3
First Colony Winery:
See Friday, January 2.

20th Annual Charlottesville Antique Show: See Friday, January 2.

First Saturday bird walk: Sponsored by the Monticello Bird Club and the Ivy Creek Foundation. 7.30am at the parking lot of the Ivy Creek Foundation off Earlysville Road. Free. 972-7772.

Eli Cook and Robert Coombs at Rapunzel's Coffee & Books:
Blues player Cook combines with quirky performer Coombs for an evening of good times in Lovingston. $5, 7:30pm.

Duck Baker (fingerstyle jazz guitarist) at Ashland Coffee & Tea. $8, 8pm.

CommonbonD at Gravity Lounge. $10, 8:30pm.

CD Release Mini-Tour: Mark McKay w/ Andy Grimm at the Mountain View Grill. $5, 7:30pm and 9pm.

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

The Dawning: at Tokyo Rose. $5, 10:30pm.

Mining Vinyl– Synthesis (House/Trance/Breaks) with Sroud and Friends at Gravity Lounge. $5, 9pm.

Mike Seeger takes Requests at the Prism. $18/$15 advance, 8pm.

The Extreme Animals at Twisted Branch Tea Bazaar. No cover, 8pm.

SUNDAY, January 4
First Colony Winery: See Friday, January 2.

Tracking the wooly and wild: Join experts to search for signs of wildlife on the trails of the Ivy Creek Natural Area. Meet at the Ivy Creek Natural Area barn, off Earlysville Road. 9am. Free. 972-7772.

20th Annual Charlottesville Antique Show: See Friday, January 2.

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

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

Wave featuring Juliana Marquez at Gravity Lounge. $5, 7:30pm.

MONDAY, January 5
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, January 6
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)

Matt Curreri at Gravity Lounge. $5, 8:30pm.

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

WEDNESDAY, January 7
Political meeting:
People interested in knowing more about Howard Dean or who would like to support his campaign meet at 7pm at the Gordon Avenue library off Rugby Road and at the Starr Hill Restaurant/Art Gallery on Main Street. Info: 296-3442 or

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

Fountainhead (organic jamming) at Gravity Lounge. $5, 8:30pm.

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)

Plasmodium (experimental sounds and records) at Twisted Branch Tea Bazaar. No cover, 8pm.

THURSDAY, January 8
Dean Fields at Ashland Coffee & Tea:
"Really nice" would be a good description of roots-popper Dean Fields-&endash; the songs on his 2002 release Imitations are a showcase for his fine slightly John Mayer-esque voice. $5, 8pm.

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)

Jeff Romano and Andy Friedman at Gravity Lounge. $5, 8:30pm.

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

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)

Upcoming and Ongoing:
One in ten:
VABook is sponsoring a comic poetry contest. Ten lines or fewer to make the grade. Make former poet laureate and funny-man George Garrett belly-laugh to take the prize. Deadline February 10. Details on the website.

Something different:
Beginning January 4, Thomas Jefferson Memorial Church shows the abstract relief acrylic paintings of David Breeden, more famously known about town for his sculpture. 717 Rugby Road. 293-8179.

Seeking artists: Charlottesville in 2 Dimensions is receiving artwork in any medium from any age artist depicting scenes of Charlottesville, on Friday, January 31, 1-5pm at McGuffey Art Center. $500 Best in Show Award + age appropriate awards. $10 per entry. All work submitted will be displayed. Information and application at Show at McGuffey is February 3-29, 2004.

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.

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 this IMAX film at the Science Museum of Virginia. Through January 9, visitors can examine, in all its mega-screen glory, the inner workings of their insides in The Human Body. Call or see website for schedule and cost. 2500 W. Broad St., Richmond. 800-659-1727.

Westward ho!: Fans of Lewis and Clark can join the great adventurers and their Corps of Discovery on their grueling two-year trek across the continent in the giant-screen IMAX film "Lewis & Clark: Great Journey West" now through January 9. Call or see website for schedule and cost. 2500 W. Broad St., Richmond. 800-659-1727.

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.

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.

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 John Wade's photographs of southern Tuscany. The gallery pulses with "a landscape from another planet." Next door to the C&O Restaurant, 511 E. Water St. 971-7044.

Shake off the chill with a visit to Angelo Jewelry, where Ann Therese Verkerke's "Hot Flashes&emdash; Tropical Images in Oil" is on display through February 29. 220 E. Main St. on the Downtown Mall. 971-9256.

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.

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 January. 115 S. First St. 973-5566. See Art feature, page XX.

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

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 January. 817 W. Main St. (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.

In January, Christine Rich displays her watercolor exhibition at Art Upstairs entitled "Architectural Fragments." 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.

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

In January, the McGuffey Art Center features Frederic Crist's "The Pillar Series," an exhibition of forged metal abstractions of controlled chaos, plus its New Members Group Show. 201 Second St. NW. 295-7973.

It's wild and woolly (not to mention surreal) in a mammoth kind of way at Hotcakes, which is displaying the paintings of Mary Atkinson through February 1. Barracks Road Shopping Center. 295-6037.

In January, Pamela Reynold's recent paintings arrive at Bozart Gallery. 211 West Main St. 296-4669.

The University of Virginia Art Museum presents "The Moon Has No Home: Japanese Color Woodblock Prints from the Collection" through March 7. 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.

Martha Jefferson Hospital presents "3 Views of Landscape," featuring work by Robert Llewellyn, Scott Smith, and Barbara Southworth, through March 1. 459 Locust Ave. 982-7000.


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.

First Fridays: January 2
Angelo Jewelry hosts a reception for Ann Thérèse Verkerke's exhibition "Hot Flashes&emdash;Tropical Images in Oil" 5:30-8pm. 220 E. Main St. on the Downtown Mall. 971-9256.

The C&O Gallery opens its photography exhibit of John Wade's "Images of Southern Tuscany." 5:30-7:30pm. Next door to the C&O Restaurant, 511 E. Water St. 971-7044.

Cilli Original Designs Gallery celebrates the photographs of Aimee Wade and the prints and paintings of Gracey Sessoms with an opening reception 6-10pm. 112 E. Main St., under the Jefferson Theater. 242-4212.

The McGuffey Art Center hosts a reception for Frederic Crist's "The Pillar Series," an exhibition of forged metal abstractions of controlled chaos, and for its New Members Group Show. New members Zen Monkey Project, Brad Stoller and Prospect Dance Group will stage performances. 5:30-7:30pm. 201 Second St. NW. 295-7973.

Welcome Pamela Reynolds to Bozart Gallery and enjoy her paintings at a reception, 6-9p.m. 211 W. Main on the Downtown Mall. 296-3919.

Art Upstairs holds an artist's reception for Christine Rich, whose watercolor exhibition, "Architectural Fragments," is on view. 5:30-9pm. 316 E. Main St., above The Hardware Store, on the Downtown Mall. 923-3900.

Mudhouse hosts an artist's reception to welcome painter Mike George and his acrylic paintings. 6-8pm. W. Main St. on the Downtown Mall. 984-6833.

Drawing room: Ost gets intimate
Last week I received a letter announcing the retirement of my favorite college art professor. I immediately flashed to the warm-up exercises in his drawing classes. As a model shifted poses every few minutes, I worked feverishly to capture the angle of an elbow or the twist of a spine. Mr. Lloyd would quietly walk around the room, stopping to gesture at the lines on my page.

"This works well," he would say, or, "Nice passage."

Looking at the 148 pieces in Beatrix Ost's "Intimacy: 15 Minutes of Drawing," currently on view at Les Yeux du Monde@dot2dot, I heard Mr. Lloyd's words echoing in my head.

Ost creates her figurative drawings using a range of media&emdash; pencil, pen and ink, conté crayon, charcoal, ink wash&emdash; on a variety of papers&emdash; from butcherblock to smooth white. Arranged across the gallery's walls, they give the collective impression of a dramatic mosaic, each tile an Ost experiment in conveying a sense of her subject.

Ost suggests in her artist's statement that intimacy is "stillness: silent, motionless meditation on the sitter's part, accompanied only by the singing of graphite on paper. A kind of Platonic camera, tracing the most essential outlines of life."

The intimacy here is not found in the nude (in fact, some of Ost's models are fully clothed), but in the focused, quick drawing, which requires an immediate confidence and surety of hand. Like striking up a friendship while traveling, there's no time for pretense or doubt. Trust is required from the outset.

Some of Ost's pieces keep to minimal, bare-bones lines for impact, such as the pencil "Helen Bath II" (#96), in which a woman reclines diagonally across the page. Elsewhere, Ost works and re-works her initial drawings, enhancing highlights or adding unexpected color (a shock of turquoise hair, for example).

Ost also plays with composition. Sometimes her subjects are fully represented and centrally seated. In other cases, the artist truncates their bodies or splays them upside down across the page or locates them in an unexpected section of the available space.

In "Beate Bending" (#139), Ost places her figure in the lower right corner of the page. Viewed from behind, the woman's pastel-shaded hips and legs dominate, as billowing black and red-striped fabrics swallow her down-leaning torso. Yet Ost leaves the upper left half of the drawing empty, balancing the worked area and creating a sense of yin-yang.

This works well.

Beatrix Ost's "Intimacy: 15 Minutes of Drawing" is on view at Les Yeux du Monde@dot2dot through January.

Holiday wishlist: Who gets
Ali's GOAT?


It's the bookworm's year-end irony: the "best-of" literary compendiums hit the presses, fodder for the already inhumanly long list you tote about to the library and bookstores; then, just as you've whittled down the top five titles you hope to get a crack at over the holidays, well-wishing gift givers load your bedside table with half a dozen hardcovers– none on the list, all enticing.

The solution to the confounding law is to keep adding to the list. You'll improve the odds that one of the tomes wrapped up under the Christmas tree is actually one you wanted, keep the economy humming, and give me an opportunity to plug my Hook Holiday Wishlist.

Lively history: Dreamland by Kevin Baker (in paperback by Perennial) is a fable of love and survival in turn-of-the-century New York. Starring Coney Island dwarf-barkers, Orchard Street meydelas, and gangsters named Kid Twist and Gyp the Blood, with cameo appearances from Tammany bosses and a decidedly disoriented Sigmund Freud.

Also available in paperback this year is Baker's Paradise Alley, a novel of the 1863 New York draft riots and the scary micks that led them. It's not as satisfying as Dreamland, but a sight more exciting than Leonardo DiCaprio in a brawl.

For more on the dark dawn of the American leisure era, travel to Chicago, site of the 1893 World Exhibition and the modern era's first serial killing spree, as recounted in Erik Larson's non-fictional The Devil in the White City (this one made the San Francisco Chronicle's year-ender).

Lives of the Artists: The world would be decidedly more ignorant about life in the 17th century without the prolific and ribald diaries of Samuel Pepys. Claire Tomalin harnesses the man's spirit and historical contributions in her biography Samuel Pepys: The Unequalled Self, which is much shorter than Pepys' 10-volume account and which won this year's prestigious Whitbread Prize.

Jumping ahead in 200-year bounds, read a critically acclaimed life of Pushkin by T.J. Binyon and the first of three memoirs by the ineffable Gabriel Garcia Marquez, entitled Living to Tell the Tale.

Heavy Hitters: For those who anticipate multiple snowed-in afternoons and sleepless flu-socked nights, the best bet may be to invest in one single endless tome. For that, consider Infinite Jest, Master of the Senate, or the astonishing 75 pound tribute to Muhammad Ali, GOAT. Limited to 10,000 signed editions, GOAT features 800 pages, a Luis Vuitton leather jacket cover, and specially commissioned art from Jeff Koons. No mere candidate for the year's best list, GOAT is nothing less than the Greatest Of All Time.

The above suggestions are made with the best intentions and in good faith and can all be purchased in local bookstores. The notable exception to both these statements is GOAT.

Take to the streets: First Night rules outside

While hangover cures go beyond the scope of this column (although thistle milk, if you can find it, has been known to work wonders), there's a radical alternative to waking up on New Year's day feeling painful regret for an evening's merriment.

First Night is the alcohol-free, family-friendly celebration on the Downtown Mall, from 3pm to midnight on New Year's Eve. Founded in 1976 by a group of Boston artists keen to show their work to sober people, the party has become a nationwide phenomenon. Charlottesville is proud to have pioneered it 22 years ago, as the second city in the nation to adopt the festivity.

But to call First Night "an alcohol-free family-friendly community celebration," runs the risk of making it sound more wholesome than fun. In fact, there will be more than 37 live performers, many of them putting on several shows in the nine-hour period.

Mardi Gras without the booze? Maybe not quite. An evening of serious entertainment? Certainly.

The festivities, which are paid for by business sponsors and the sale of admissions buttons, culminate in fireworks at midnight at Lane field on McIntire Road.

While newcomers have been known to remark upon Charlottesville's homogeneity, the performances, at least, will reflect a multitude of cultures.

This year's event has been titled "Celebrate in the Street!" and shows range from the "Buckingham Lining Bar Gang," made up of African-American railroad maintenance crew veterans who recreate traditional work songs, to "The Sugar Ridge Quartet," which takes chamber music in new directions.

Then there's John McCutcheon, the folk singer with five back-to-back Grammy nominations and Mark Nizer, a comedian whose tricks include juggling five ping pong balls using only his mouth.

"First Night is really diverse," says executive director Cynthia McIlnay. "I think it really pulls together Charlottesville."

Children can join in the fun at "Creation Station," featuring magic, music, clowning and costume-making to prepare for the New Year's Eve parade&endash; also known as "The Grand People's Processional" at 5:30pm.

And for those determined to end the year in an altered state, there's Zack Thomas, hypnotist and comedian.

First Night will be on the Downtown Mall, from 3pm to midnight on January 31. Admission buttons are sold in advance at all Charlottesville Kroger stores, Mincer's, Timberlake's, Plan 9 Records and St. Anne's Belfield Bookstore. Buttons are $10 adults, $5 children 12 and under. Reserved seating tickets for selected performances will be available for $2 on December 29, 30, 31, 11am-2pm at the First Night Headquarters in the Omni Hotel Atrium. 975-8269.

First night fun: Magical celebrations welcome 2004


Hold onto your seats everybody. This year's First Night Virginia promises to be the rockin'est New Year's Eve party ever. Now in its 22nd year, First Night offers eight very full hours of the widest variety of family-friendly, non-alcoholic entertainment imaginable.

Kids can get an early jump on the fun at "Creation Station" at the Omni beginning at 4:30pm. Paper, paste, paints, glitter… all the cool stuff is here for rowdy revelers to decorate themselves (strollers and wagons, too) with colorful costumes, party hats, and noise-makers in preparation for the Grand Processional Parade down the Mall at 5:30pm.

Mary Poppins will be singing, dancing, and telling stories with partiers. Bumpy the Clown, Dr. Magic Jr., and MetLife's Snoopy will also be celebrating at Creation Station, which is open until 7pm.

Not to be missed (because they are so-o-o tall) are the stilt walkers from Second Story Theatre who will be making mischief on the Mall throughout the evening. Mr. Magic's Family Magic Show is back by popular demand at the Jefferson Theatre. Applause Unlimited Theatre makes their own sort of magic using hand puppets to tell American folk-tales at Temple Beth-Israel Sanctuary. And hosts of WTJU's "Tell Us a Tale" Peter Jones and Jen Hoffman will be telling stories in their own unique way at Central Library.

Five-time Grammy nominee folksinger John McCutcheon has two performances at First Baptist Church. Fans may want to consider paying $2 more for reserved seating tickets for his 4:30pm show, which will be especially geared for children.

Juggler, comedian, and major crowd pleaser Mark Nizer returns to wow the throngs with several brand new feats along with some everyday sorts of fun including (don't try this at home, kids) juggling five ping pong balls with his mouth, hang gliding as he hoists objects into the air, and something with toilet paper that you'll never forget.

Little party animals can make horns, squawkers, and bells to ring in the New Year at the Virginia Discovery Museum. Families wearing First Night buttons can get in free and explore all the terrific exhibits and displays from 2-5pm.

And if the wee ones can make it all the way to midnight, they can watch the New Year explode on the scene with a fireworks display that's bigger and better than the 4th of July.

There's oodles more fun for celebrators of all ages making this party in the streets the most entertaining way to ring in the New Year for everyone.

First Night Virginia events take place all around the Downtown Mall on December 31 from 4:30pm-12:30am. Admission buttons are on sale at Timberlake's Drug Store on the Downtown Mall, Blue Ridge Mountain Sports in Barracks Road Shopping Center, and both Plan 9 Records locations. Buttons are $12 adults, $6 children 4-12. A special family deal of $30 for two adults and two children is available December 29-30 at the FNV headquarters at the Omni on the west end of the Downtown Mall. Schedules, maps, on-line sales, and lots more information are available at 975-8269.

Believe!: Nizer stuns and amazes


Once in a generation, there is born a man or woman who challenges our most basic ideas about ourselves and the world, who makes us redefine what we believe. Sometimes it's a novelist, a physicist, an historian. But more often than not, it's a juggler.

It's happened again. To the envy of novelists, physicists, and historians everywhere, Mark Nizer has asserted himself as the true wonder-worker of our time. Oh, he tries to keep things light. He tries to hide the revolutionary force of his work behind his humor, calling himself, among other things, "the juggler your mother warned you about." But this Wednesday, when he performs twice as part of the First Night Virginia festivities, the veil will be lifted.

Prepare yourself to be shaken to the core. By juggling.

We call him a juggler for lack of a term worthy of his powers. Other titles seem even less adequate. "Juggler-comedian"? True, he's performed with Bob Hope, Jerry Seinfeld, and Arsenio Hall. But how can "juggler-comedian" describe a man who makes an audience believe, as he puts it, that "the impossible is possible, the improbable is probable"?

More significantly, how does he do it? Juggling five ping-pong balls at a height of 20 feet with his mouth, for one. Not impressed? There's also the Laser Diabolo, with which Nizer sends four lasers whirling over the audience's heads at 1000 RPM. Too ethereal? What will you say when Nizer, before your very eyes, juggles a bowling ball, an electric carving knife, and a burning propane tank– all at once?

How many novelists do you know who can do that?

As long as Nizer lived in Los Angeles, we could hide ourselves from the revelation. But he was here last First Night, and he must have liked what he saw, because he now he lives in Charlottesville. If you need proof of the man's preternatural sensitivity, consider his reaction to his first year of Charlottesville life:

"Stranger things have happened to me since I moved here," Nizer says, "than ever happened in LA. Earthquakes, wildfires, and riots are nothing compared to the local color here."

He's one of us now. Prepare yourselves.

The fact that he performs twice in one day does make for a dilemma, though, and its one you'll have to solve for yourself. If I go only once, can I live with myself for having missed a chance to see this man, this force, this power?

If I go twice, can my heart take it?

Mark Nizer performs at 4:30pm and 7:30pm on Wed, December 31, in Lane Auditorium, Albemarle County Office Building, 401 McIntire Road. Ticket are $2 with First Night General Admission button ($6-12). 975-8269.

Finding the ropes: On the road to timelessness?

I've been finding myself using the fabulous late '70s/early '80s eight-hit-wonders Dire Straits as a touch point for a number of reviewed acts of late, and I'm kinda digging that fact. To merely call the Straits an overgrown bar-band is to do their memory harm, for although it's plain to see where the group's influences lie (booze and cigarettes seem to ooze from the group's recordings), the group also possessed one of the better songwriters of his generation, Mark Knopfler.

Any man who can write tunes like "Romeo and Juliet" and "Sultans of Swing," as well as the lyrically fabulous "Lady Writer" ("Lady writer on the TV, Talk about the Virgin Mary/Reminded me of you, Expectation left to come up to yeah") is someone I'd like to buy a drink for.

DC singer/songwriter Mark McKay's acoustic-rock tunes are not quite as timeless as Knopfler's, but McKay has released only one studio album so far– it took the Straits seven years to break it big with Brothers in Arms in '85– so the artist has some time to become a legend.

Hailing from Chicago, McKay moved to the DC area a few years back and played in the band "Sixty Acres" before embarking on a solo career three years ago. "Constantine Gardens" is the first song from McKay's latest release, Live from the Memory Hotel (actually it's live a number of places, including Jammin Java in Vienna, up near Tyson's), is a sweet lightly strummed folk/pop tune.

"Forget the night you've done it before, and this time there's no coming back to me" McKay relates to a amazingly quiet audience, his clean, slightly John Popper (Blues Traveler's frontman)-sounding voice ringing out clear into space.

"Black and Blue Over You," a song from McKay's 2001 release, Nothing Personal, is a bit more my cup of tea, employing a full band with a fine sense of Strait-ish dynamics. McKay's simple acoustic starts the tune off, and shortly seizure-esque heartbeat bass swings in with the songs distant drums. The atmosphere of the track, with its haunting slide guitar, probably most reminds me of Straits' tunes like the aforementioned "Sultans of Swing," though that song's pure joyous nature is noticeably absent here.

"Nashville," a tune that makes its appearance on both of McKay's releases, is an organ-tinged slow pop-mover, a moody remembrance of love-lost (definitely my least favorite kind), where "A million miles to Nashville" provides the song's fitting credo with its emotionally distant lyrical content.

McKay's got some songwriting chops– maybe he's not yet a Knopfler, but I'd buy him a drink.

CD Release Mini-Tour: Mark McKay with Andy Grimm perform at the Mountain View Grill. $5, 7:30pm and 9pm.