This Week's Day-by-Day Picks

Thursday, July 7There's nothing like a bit of audience participation to get a pack of film buffs -- folks accustomed to vegetating in a dark room before a flickering screen -- talking. This year, the Manhattan Short Film Festival, which will run at about fifty venues across the nation in September, is leaving the final judging up to its viewers; to prep local cinema fanciers for the culminating fall fête, the Denver Film Society is hosting a Best of Manhattan Short Film Festival, screening series highlighting past MSFF winners. The second of five programs begins tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the Starz FilmCenter, 900 Auraria Parkway. The slate will repeat Sunday at the same time. Admission is $5.50 to $8.50 (all non-Sunday screenings are free for DFS members). The series continues through the end of August; for a complete schedule, call 303-820-3456 or go to www.starzfilmcenter.com. And for festival details visit www.msfilmfest.com.

Vive le Lance! As Armstrong pedals his way through his last Tour de France this month, cycling fans trapped here in Denver and far from the European sidelines can brush up on their Tour trivia at a 6 p.m. documentary screening exploring the esteemed bicycle race's history. Hosted by Alliance Française de Denver, located at 571 Galapago Street, tonight's leg, Giants of the Road, follows the two-wheel extravaganza through the mid-twentieth century, while Stars of the Road, screening tomorrow at the same time, will bring viewers up to date. (Showings will be repeated at 7:30 p.m., as needed.) Admission is $3, and reservations are required; call 303-831-0304, or log on to www.afdenver.com.

Friday, July 8Naropa University's Summer Writing Program, a cornerstone of the Beat-inspired Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, which was founded as a literary alternative by the late Allen Ginsberg and Anne Waldman in 1974, is hardly a private affair. While students come to hone their writing skills, the talented faculty offers several public readings during the program's four-week stretch. Tonight, Naropa teams up with the Boulder Film Alliance and Boulder Public Library Film Program to present an on-screen manifestation of the SWP spirit. Experimental films by Harry Smith, Stan Brakhage, Joel Haertling and Carolee Schneemann are among the offerings; the free screenings begin at 7 p.m. in the Boulder Public Library Auditorium, 1000 Canyon Boulevard. Call 303-441-3197 for information.

Saturday, July 9Five Points will be hopping this weekend with Black Arts Festival activities, and the Sankofa Arts Collective is joining in with an opening reception and art fair from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m today at the Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library, 2401 Welton Street. The show's title, Cornbread and Gumbo, gives a mouth-watering clue about what's in store for art lovers and foodies: Homemade gumbo will be served between 2 and 4:30 p.m. Amen. The show continues through July 30; call 720-865-2401 for information.

As if a biennial weren't enough, there's even more going on at the Museum of Contemporary Art/Denver. Inspired by a remark once made by French author Andre Malraux -- "I keep inside myself, in my private museum, everything I have seen and loved in my life" -- MCA is also hosting the Aesthetic Picnic: Defining Vision, a pair of panel discussions (one with local gallery owners Dina Castillo, Jim Robischon, Robin Rule, Ivar Zeile and Monica Aiello; the other featuring curators Lisa Tamaris Becker, Diane Vanderlip, Simon Zalkind and Adam Lerner) exploring Malraux's concept of the "museum of the mind" from a variety of aesthetic points of view. Heady stuff? To be sure, but participants will have a chance to unwind afterward at a potluck picnic (this one with food) in Sakura Square. Discussions run from 10 a.m. to noon at the museum, 1275 19th Street; admission is $6, or $1 with a potluck picnic dish (MCA members free). Call 303-298-7554 or visit www.mcartdenver.org.

Get your Celtic kicks at the annual Colorado Irish Festival, where, from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. today and tomorrow in Littleton's Clement Park, aficionados of everything Irish will be walking on Eire. Folks attending can enjoy free workshops on everything Irish, from step dancing to hurling (the ancient sport, not the craic-induced regurgitative act), along with dance competitions, an artisan marketplace, food (authentic and not so authentic), bungee jumping, kids' rides and a Ceili with dance instruction. But the main attraction is the live music, provided by Gaelic Storm, Liz Carroll and John Doyle, The Elders, Switchback and more. Clement Park is at 7306 West Bowles Avenue. For tickets, $10 (children under twelve admitted free), call 1-866-464-2626. For festival details, go to www.coloradoirishfestival.com.

Sunday, July 10Harmsen Ranch, a rustic setting in Golden Gate Canyon State Park that's named for Jolly Rancher entrepreneurs Dorothy and Bill Harmsen, seems the perfect place to learn more about Western art, as the Harmsens donated more than 3,000 works by the likes of George Catlin, Frederic Remington, Charles M. Russell and others to the Denver Art Museum in 2001. Mindy Besaw of the DAM's Institute of Western American Art, who knows the collection inside out, will share her expertise during Art in the Park, an 11 a.m. lecture and slide presentation; it's followed by a ninety-minute hike in the park. The lecture is free; call 303-582-3707 for reservations, which are required, and directions to the ranch.

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