Legions of guys who call themselves "hard-core vanners" converge at the Wyandotte County Fairgrounds (I-435 and I-70 in Kansas City, Kansas) this weekend. They chop up vans, redecorate them, camp out and party. Although redecorating, camping out and partying are all things we understand, the matter of chopping up vans like so many onions is a tad baffling. It may be the kind of thing you can't fully understand without firsthand experience, which is why we recommend attending some portion of this weekend's 31st National Truck-In festivities. Today's daytime activities include laps around the Kansas Speedway, kids' games and a beer garden. (Pabst Blue Ribbon is one of the event's sponsors.) At night, enjoy the sounds of Satisfaction. We mean that literally. Satisfaction is a Rolling Stones tribute band. The 31st National Truck-In lasts through Sunday. For a complete schedule of events, see www.31stvannats.com.
Friday, July 11, 2003
The Truck-In crowd is especially likely to enjoy the current Union Station exhibit, which also celebrates street sport. It's called The Open Road: A Celebration of Motorcycling, with models ranging from a 1905 Indian brand of motorcycle to a 2003 Harley. Visitors not only get to eyeball these speedy bikes but also hear the personal stories behind many of them. Photographs by Michael Lichter of Boulder, Colorado, collected in a display titled Biker Generation, include shots from the rallies in Laconia, Sturgis and Daytona. Union Station is located at 30 West Pershing Road. For information, call 816-460-2020.
Saturday, July 12, 2003
In a recipe for science fiction, recommended ingredients include beautiful women who turn out to be robots, homesick space travelers, scientists in tight pants, creatures with giant ears (they can be pointy, but they don't have to be), machines that know things, Russians and -- of course -- monkeys. If these are things you like, head to today's Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Signing at the University of Kansas' Oread Books, located in the Kansas Union (1301 Jayhawk Boulevard in Lawrence). Among the authors is Frederic Pohl, who has been publishing science fiction since 1953's Danger Moon. Other titles by Pohl include The Coming of the Quantum Cats, Digits and Dastards, Gladiator-At-Law, Man Plus and -- our favorite -- The Cool War. We like to imagine that this most recent book is about Americans and Russians silently competing to create the best sunglasses. Somehow, we doubt that this is the novel's actual plot, but please don't crush our dreams. For information on the 12:45 p.m. signing with Pohl as well as Robin Wayne Bailey, James Gunn, Kij Johnson, Leslie What and Kate Wilhelm, call 785-864-4431.
Sunday, July 13, 2003
It's the last night of Beauty and the Beast at Starlight Theatre (6601 Swope Parkway), and, therefore, the last chance to catch a touring Broadway show that combines prosthetics, pyrotechnics and specially wired costumes -- as well as singing and acting and so forth. We all know the story behind Beauty and the Beast, so the plot, though time-honored, is not what's really mind-boggling. What's mind-boggling is how actor Roger Befeler is transformed nightly into a beast, wearing a bulky costume that weighs 35 pounds and going to the bathroom only "carefully," and how the actress who plays Armoire becomes a living, breathing dresser. Ditto for Lumiere the candlestick, Cogsworth the clock, Mrs. Potts the teapot and Babette the feather duster. The unbelievable work done by prosthetics designer John Dods and costume designer Ann Hould-Ward (who told The Los Angeles Times that buttons and fabrics had been her whole life until this production, when "suddenly people were talking about the screws that hold the door frame on Armoire and the hinges") -- that's worth seeing live. The show begins at 8:30 p.m. For information, call 816-363-7827.
Monday, July 14, 2003
According to the Tree Care Industry Association, trees are "nature's air conditioners." Trees in parking lots can reduce air temperatures by up to 25 degrees, and photosynthesis releases beneficial water vapor into the air. This public interest announcement was intended to encourage people to plant trees in their yards, but not everyone has a yard. What about apartment dwellers? Can't they enjoy nature's air conditioners? For maximum tree enjoyment, nontree-purchasing types should head to Linda Hall Library at 5109 Cherry. There's plenty of interesting stuff to read inside, but, more important, the library grounds are considered an arboretum. The groundskeeper will sell you a booklet offering information on every tree around, if you like. Otherwise, just bring a blanket and a book, find a shady spot and enjoy. The grounds are open to the public as long as the library's open. Monday boasts especially long hours, with doors staying unlocked until 8:30 p.m. For information, call 816-363-4600.
Tuesday, July 15, 2003
Photographers who travel the world trying to capture some sense of what life is like for other people have to wrestle with issues like how not to exploit their subjects, and what to eat that won't upset their stomachs. The art on display at the Society for Contemporary Photography's Members' Gallery, Photographing Global Culture, reveals different photographers' choices in representing foreignness. One of the artists, Kathleen Desmond, gives a talk at the gallery (2012 Baltimore) this evening at 6. While you're there, check out Rachel Brumer's Quire: Book of Findings, also on display. Brumer gives her own gallery talk next week. For information, call 816-471-2115.
Wednesday, July 16, 2003
The Wednesday Night Organic Market has returned to the City Market. We give that a big hooray. At the organic market, there's the obvious draw of fresh fruits and vegetables grown without pesticides and other forms of agricultural evil, but there's also the pleasure of actually meeting the people who grow the food. Anyone who wants to learn about organic farms and organic farmers in the area should swing by between 4 and 8 p.m., but we recommend timing your arrival after 5 p.m., because a lot of the farmers are too busy during the day to get everything set up by 4 sharp. The City Market is at 5th and Walnut. For information, call 816-842-1271.