Pet project: It's hard to understand how the animal urge ever got stuck with a negative connotation. After all, the birds and beasts have a much better grip on the natural order of things than humans do, and they exercise their urges merely because they're supposed to. It's those human urges that cause all the problems. On that note, why not get in touch with your inner critter? A good place to start might be A Show of Kindness, an animal-themed benefit exhibit for the Humane Society of Boulder County opening today at Boulder's MacLaren Markowitz Gallery, 1011 Pearl St. The show, which features paintings, weavings and three-dimensional depictions of fun and functional fauna, runs through November 30. Attend an artist reception tomorrow evening from 6 to 9; the celebration continues from 1 to 3 on Saturday with demonstrations and poster signings. Call 449-6807.
Pot o' gold: Sad, but true--it's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas, holiday shoppers. Handmade pottery makes a thoughtful gift that's often as functional as it is fun or beautiful, and you'll have plenty to choose from this weekend at the Colorado Potters Guild Fall Show and Sale, which gets under way at the Hellenic Community Center, 4610 E. Alameda Ave., tonight from 6 to 9. The show/sale continues from 9 to 9 Friday and 9 to 5 Saturday; call the Colorado Potters Guild at 733-3003 for additional information.
Dark shadows: Put a pencil in Bill Amundson's hand, slip him a sheet of drawing paper and you'll get back portentous personal visions. The local draftsman's latest series of graphic social comments, a suburban nightmare called Billboards and Playlands, opens tonight at the Zip 37 Gallery, 3644 Navajo St., with a reception from 7 to 11; a slightly less disturbing selection of affordable colored-pencil drawings rounds out the show. Amundson's work remains on display through November 23; call 477-4525 for gallery information.
At home on the range: When singer/songwriter and fourth-generation Coloradan Jon Chandler sings country-Western, the emphasis is on Western: Chandler's got a voice shaped precisely like a moonlit, coyote-howlin' night around the campfire on some godforsaken, tumbleweed-strewn prairie in the middle of nowhere. On top of that, he loves being there: Preserving the range experience in song is something of a mission for this consummate singing cowboy. Chandler brings a crack band, local country diva Celeste Krenz and special guest John Schikora along to Cameron Church, 1600 S. Pearl St., when he performs tonight at 8. Tickets are $10 to $12; call 1-800-444-SEAT to reserve yours. For more information call the Swallow Hill Music Association, 777-1003.
Great sax: No use crying in your beer for missing out on John McLaughlin's sold-out show tonight at the Boulder Theater: The Joe Lovano Quartet, performing at 8 at CU-Boulder's Macky Auditorium, is certain to provide audience members there with a stellar musical experience. Cleveland-born saxophonist Lovano moves smoothly from one end of the modern jazz canon to the other, absorbing its varied vocabularies. Remarkably, what comes out of that brew is completely original and stacked with rich tone. He's as likely to join up with Manhattan's cutting-edge players as he is to record a dreamy tribute to Sinatra; he brings a hand-picked combo with him to Boulder tonight. Admission ranges from $10 to $30; for reservations call 492-8008.
Transfigured night: Concert pianist Misha Dichter, Shanghai-born and Juilliard-trained, earned his international reputation simply by being a man of the world. Of course, his talent didn't hurt. Dichter cuts loose with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra on Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5 tonight at 7:30 at Boettcher Concert Hall, 14th and Curtis in the Plex, but not before the CSO's interpretation of Arnold Schoenberg's impassioned Verklarte Nacht--along with Weber's overture to Oberon--takes shape during the concert's first half. The program repeats tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m.; for tickets, ranging from $5 to $40, call 830-TIXS.
They shoot horses, don't they? This is the kind of rerun you'll always tune into, no matter how late it's on. Doll yourself up and put on your game face for the Swingathon, a marathon swing dance event taking place into the wee hours at the appropriately atmospheric Casino Cabaret, 2633 Welton St. You'll have two dance areas to choose from--one laid-back and the other joint-dislocation-prone; the Dalhart Imperials and Savoy Jump Swing Band, alternating on stage throughout the night from 8 p.m. to 3 a.m., will propel the action with swingin' sounds. Those not yet worn out can wind down with DJ Kurt Ohlen, who'll spin platters until 4 a.m. (whew!)--after that, you'll have to hobble on home. Tickets are $10 at the door; call 733-4140 for information.
Up and down: Going up? Warren Miller, America's favorite ski-adventure filmmaker, will take you higher--again--with Snowriders 2, his 48th ski feature in as many years. This year's model, an extreme extravaganza that travels around the globe from Alaskan slopes to New Zealand mountaintops, spotlights no end of boarders, shredders, windsurfers and even heli-skiers, backed by an up-to-date soundtrack that perfectly matches the action. Miller's icy thriller screens tonight at 5 and 8 at the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities, 6901 Wadsworth Blvd.; further screenings take place during the coming weeks at the Paramount Theatre (November 13-15), CU-Boulder's Macky Auditorium (November 20) and the Boulder Theater (November 21-22). Call 830-TIXS for showtimes and reservations.
Going down? A City Symphony, an artfully machine-driven and surreal black-and-white flick documenting the demolition of San Francisco's quake-damaged Embarcadero Freeway, will get you there, piece by piece. Bay Area filmmaker Dominic Angerame appears in person for an 8:30 p.m. screening at the Bug Performance and Media Art Center, 3654 Navajo; for tickets, $7 ($5 members), call 477-5977.
Soul food: A trip tonight to E-Town will do your jaded ticker good. The environment-friendly radio show's taping features a pair of musical acts whose messages come straight from the heart. African-American, all-woman, a cappella group Sweet Honey in the Rock can uplift an entire room with a single, perfectly harmonized note, borrowing the soul of gospel music, the bedrock of the blues and the joy of an African chant to create a sound steeped in social consciousness and cultural pride. In contrast, country-blues revivalist Kelly Joe Phelps digs deep into Mississippi Delta mud for his inspiration, drawing a glorious, lonesome sound out of little more than a bar slide and a lap-held Gibson Jumbo guitar. Fine picking skills and a gruff voice that recalls Skip James complete the Phelps package. Both acts appear at 7 at the Boulder Theater, 2030 14th St., Boulder; admission is $9 in advance ($11 day of show). For tickets and information call 786-7030.
Can 'do: Remember the guy in the apron at the grocery store who used to stack soup cans into impossible pyramids, inviting pranks and certain disaster? The results of the CANstruction Design/Build Competition, on display at the Denver Design Center, 595 S. Broadway, gives those supermarket architects a shiny new image--while benefiting the Food Bank of the Rockies. Ten crews of real architects went blueprint-to-blueprint Saturday to create structures from canned and boxed foods; you can drop by and see the results through Wednesday. After that, the edible building materials will be dismantled and donated; if you'd like to join in with a donation of your own, call the food bank at 371-9250.
The beat goes on: The jump from her homeland of Cameroon to the cosmopolitan hotbed of Paris might seem unsurpassable, but not so for worldbeat star Sally Nyolo, a former member of the acclaimed Zap Mama whose Afro-European roots are her stylistic bread and butter. Nyolo's blistering vocals hold those multicultural influences in resonant check, with traditional and electronic percussion and instrumentation trading beats at every turn. A truly global artist, Nyolo performs tonight at 8 at the Boulder Theater, 2030 14th St., Boulder; for tickets, $10, call 786-7030.
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Miami voice: Hold on to your seats, ladies and gents. Tonight at the Tattered Cover, Carl Hiaasen is in the house. A powerhouse purveyor of outrageous, offbeat plotting, unforgettable characters and laugh-out-loud wit, the Florida journalist-turned-author is in town to threaten--on the heels of Strip Tease and Stormy Weather--with Lucky You, his latest and potential best-selling detective laugher. Hiaasen reads at 7:30; free tickets for a seat and a place in the book-signing line will be given out beginning at 6:30. The Tattered Cover is located at 2955 E. 1st Ave.; call 322-7727.
Firm foundations: So. You'd rather keep your feet on the mile-high ground of your own home, sweet home. Okay, here's an alternative: The other Tattered Cover, at 1628 16th St. in LoDo, is hosting a book-signing of a totally different ilk. To showcase a second collection of handy, slim, pocket-sized and thoroughly informative Historic Denver Guides, a handful of contributing authors and photographers will discuss and sign the new four-volume series, which focuses on historic buildings and neighborhoods in Capitol Hill, Potter-Highlands and along East Seventh Avenue. Meet the historians tonight at 7:30; for details call 436-1070.
Sturm and twang: Loosen up. Dress down, chew on a straw, mosey on up to Boulder and show up on the doorstep of the Fox Theatre, 1135 13th St., tonight around 9, when local throwback country-Western band Slim Cessna's Auto Club teams up with Oxford, Mississippi, trio Blue Mountain for a down-home evening of music. Too durn much. Tickets are $5.25; call 443-3399.