Danny Krauss used to be in the rock band Oscar Edison Jones (which has since disbanded). But he got sick of going by Oscar, as anyone whose name is not Oscar would. He's back to being straight-up Danny Krauss, playing acoustic guitar and singing at Prospero's tonight at 10. The shows at this bookstore are oddly comforting. Something about the unmatched chairs lined up in haphazard rows and the books crowding one another off the shelves makes everyone, even Krauss -- whose performance style can be pretty introverted in rowdier settings -- feel at ease. At Prospero's, he slouches comfortably over his guitar, making jokes and laughing with the crowds that turn out, among them the neighborhood folk who recognize him from his day job at the coffee shop next door. It's like Cheers: Everybody knows his name (Danny, not Oscar) as well as the names of their favorite Danny Krauss songs (almost unanimously "Falling Backwards"). Prospero's may not be a bar like Cheers, but somehow, mystically, ashtrays appear, and it looks as though intoxication in its more subdued forms is as acceptable here as in any bar. For more information, call 816-960-7202.
Ancient Cowboys sounds as though it should be some kind of fictional adventure movie. Perhaps men in togas would mount horses and sing campfire songs together on their way to rape and pillage nearby. No such luck. As it happens, the so-called ancient cowboys are based in historical fact, and they're San Antonio Museum of Art curator Gerry Scott III's specialty. As co-curator of the Nelson exhibit titled Gold of the Nomads: Scythian Treasures From Ancient Ukraine, Scott gives a talk in Atkins Auditorium, 4525 Oak, today at 2. Scott's talk, Ancient Cowboys: The Horse Culture of the Nomadic Scythians, explains how these nomadic people were much like the cowboys of American folklore. Once his idea takes hold, it's only a matter of time before Billy Crystal stars in a movie about a hairy man who leaves the ancient Ukraine to find his smile and Roman ruins. To get the real story before Hollywood sensationalizes it, you'll have to attend the lecture. For more information, call 816-751-1ART.
Tonight at Nichols Hall at Kansas State University in Manhattan, a comedy sketch show that usually airs on public radio from Liberty Hall will be filmed for an upcoming television series. Back in September, a mock infomercial for the "Vote-O-Veg-O-Matic" forewarned the Imagination Workshop's audience members that apathy would befall them in the next election. A spokesman suggests the Vote-O-Veg-O-Matic, offering, "I just voted against Proposition 19 and sliced these julienned tomatoes." He then shares recipes that make use of the little pieces of paper that are punched out of voting cards. We hope tonight's live shows starting at 5 and 8 will provide other such useful advice. For more information, call 785-532-6428.
Works now on display in the Natural History show at the Dirt Gallery, 1323 Union in the West Bottoms, are a lot of fun. The artist currently known as Scribe has filled the gallery with cartoonish, colorful fantasy figures climbing around corners and on the floor; framed works that range from pink robots to prints of the Gerber Baby; and three-dimensional rhinoceroses, bumblebees in shoes and oversized guys in nightcaps and bunny slippers. We hope the area surrounding the gallery has finally recovered from the party that took place on Union in front of the gallery on the Fourth of July. For more information, call 816-471-3278.
British author Zadie Smith is only 24 years old, and her first novel, White Teeth, already has been endorsed by Salman Rushdie, who says, "It has ... bite." When a man in hiding takes time to go public with his love of a book, it's not just for kicks. It's because the book matters. Smith discusses her novel at Unity Temple on the Plaza, 707 W. 47th Street, at 7:30 p.m. Although her book is generally regarded as an examination of race and gender in England, Smith recently said that the words "multicultural," "postcolonial" and "stereotype" make her tired, and she gives fair warning that she may experience a mental shutdown upon encountering them. She also dislikes the word "zucchini," so anyone planning on offering her some might want to refer to it as "squash" instead. For more information, call 913-384-3126.
In the Steven Spielberg/Stanley Kubrick film A.I. Artificial Intelligence, even a robot boy can sense that a lock of his mother's hair might be worth saving for sentimental reasons. Before Spielberg and Kubrick made humanlike robots, however, real people had already developed fairly elaborate hair-saving methods. The nineteenth-century hair wreaths and hair jewelry on display at Leila's Hair Museum at the Independence College of Cosmetology -- 815 W. 23rd Street in Independence -- prove that. Owner Leila Calhoon isn't grossed out by the hair; she has said that it gives her a sense of gratification to know that this hair is all that's left of someone in this world. Admission is $3. For more information, call 816-252-HAIR.
Tonight at 5, the Platte County Fair gets under way. There's a Southern Drawl event nightly at 9 through Saturday. This event does not in any way involve ridiculing the way southerners say "pie" (pah) or "bye" (bah). It's just a proud country-music festival. Rural pride also plays a lead role in the nightly melodrama Pony Expresso -- in which Aunt Dee Caff struggles to save her down-home business from Fifi Latte. With the modern world as sped up as it is in the city, slower country traditions are unhealthily caffeinating to keep up pace. The play starts at 8. If getting out of the city for the night doesn't help you slow down, the mud marathon races could match your pace and dirty up those fancy city pants at the same time. Admission costs $6. For more information and directions to the fairgrounds off I-29, call 816-431-FAIR.