Wednesday January 18 A stand-up kinda guy: Remember Tom Hanks in his role as a comedian in Punchline? The comic touch in his routines came directly from the funny bone of Barry Sobel, who not only coached Hanks in the fine art of making people roll on the floor but also wrote Hanks's material for the film. Sobel will take a break from his own television and film career (his latest flick, Love and Happiness, recently played the Palm Springs Film Festival) to make his Denver debut at the Comedy Works, 1226 15th St., Larimer Square. He'll appear tonight at 8 and continue nightly through Sunday. For showtimes and other information call 595-3637.

Thursday January 19 Occidental tourists: West meets East in Enchantment of Japan, a culture-crossing series of four interrelated exhibitions now showing at the Foothills Art Center, 809 15th St. in Golden, through March 5. The exhibits include a survey of beautiful objects--dolls, kites, masks and more--used in conjunction with Japanese festivals, photographs of Japanese temples and gardens by Boulder shutterbug William Corey, classic wood-block prints from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries and, finally, contemporary works by both Japanese-Americans and Anglo Japanophiles from Colorado. In addition, Corey will give a slide show and talk titled Temples and Gardens: The Soul of Japan, this evening at 7:30 at the Green Center, Colorado School of Mines campus. A reception follows at Foothills. Admission to both the exhibition and the program is free; call 279-3922 for details.

Plumbing the depths: Four women artists explore illness, infertility and other feminine medical issues in Female Problems, a new exhibit opening today at Emmanuel Gallery, 10th and Lawrence on the Auraria campus. The show, which features visceral work incorporating photography, text and collage by Catherine Angel, Leslee Broersma, Lynne Brown and Karen Hymer-Thompson, continues through February 9. A reception will be held from 5 to 8 this evening; for gallery hours call 556-8337.

Ketchum while you can: Sensitivity is a hot commodity in the '90s--just check out the rising popularity of Hal Ketchum, a good-looking, guitar-slinging country singer with a gentle, decidedly un-macho side to him. The bushy-browed Ketchum completes the January stock show parade of C&W stars tonight and tomorrow at the Grizzly Rose, 5450 N. Valley Hwy., with a pair of spurs-optional concerts beginning at 8. Tickets are $12.50; call 295-1941 or 290-TIXS.

Friday January 20 Storm's a-brewin': North Dakota singer/songwriter Celeste Krenz, now a Denverite, has garnered a ton of effusive local--and national--praise for her first album, a countryish disc called Edge of the Storm. Now Krenz has done it again--her new release, Slow Burning Flame, hits town today, and the Swallow Hill Music Association is throwing a party to celebrate. They'll spotlight the versatile Krenz, along with a hotshot back-up band including co-writer and right-hand man Bob Tyler, bassist Scott Smith, string expert Tim O'Brien and his sister, vocal specialist Molly O'Brien, pedal-steel player John Macy and harmonica virtuoso Clay Kirkland, tonight at 8 at the Bluebird Theater, 3317 E. Colfax. Tickets are $12 ($10 Swallow Hill members); call 777-1003.

Personal best: The Theatre on Broadway continues its gay-theater series with a funny, late-night offering fresh from a six-month-plus run in San Francisco. Ronnie Larsen's Scenes From My Love Life follows a group of gay men on a poignant romp through the back rooms of sex clubs and Castro Street bars in search of intimacy and friendship. The nine protagonists engage in hot talk on phone-sex lines and chance personal ads and blind dates, charming critics and audiences along the way. See Scenes at 10:15 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, beginning tonight and continuing through Feb. 11; to reserve tickets, $12, call 860-9360. The theater is located at 13 S. Broadway.

Saturday January 21 Eagle scouts: They're not really bald, that's the main thing. But chances are there's a lot more you don't know about the national bird. For one thing, maybe you had no idea that between 100 and 150 bald eagles winter at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge. To draw attention to the visiting regal raptors, the refuge sponsors Bald Eagle Days activities throughout January, when the eagles are most likely to roost. And today is family day, complete with an Eagle Expo and Rocky Mountain Wildlife Society Open House taking place from 9 to 3 at the refuge's visitor center. There'll be a captive bald eagle, the refuge's mascot, on display for an up-close look, and a Name the Bald Eagle Contest, Eagle Express wildlife tours, spotting scopes at the Eagle Watch, exhibits and more. Shuttles to the visitor center will leave from the west and south entrances of the refuge--at 72nd Ave. and Quebec St. or 56th Ave. and Havana St.--every fifteen minutes, so you won't have to worry about finding the once-damned place. For information about this and other eagle events, call 289-0232.

Sunday January 22 Just folks: Once upon a time, possibly before you were born, Denver's hipsters gathered for folk concerts at long-gone clubs like the Exodus and Little Bohemia. And the biggest folkie of them all was a fellow named Walt Conley, who claims to have been the only paid folkie at the outset of that ancient trend. That was a long time ago, but Walt's not quite ready to throw in the towel. Instead, he'll throw Walt Conley's 35th Anniversary/ Almost-Retirement Party, with a gaggle of guest performers, as a benefit for the Rocky Mountain Music Association. It takes place from 2 to 8 today at the Mercury Cafe, 2199 California St.; admission is $2. Call 294-9281.

Monday January 23 Picture this: You've seen dozens of profiles of the stars and clip collections celebrating all the big movie-production houses. You've suffered through those film-bite tributes at the Academy Awards. You think you've seen it all. But you've never really gotten the whole picture--never gotten under the skin of the movies, to a place where you really understand the true intrigue of the medium. American Cinema, a new ten-part series premiering tonight on PBS, will delve into the mystique of Hollywood with stunning examinations of film genres and the directors, actors, screenwriters, cinematographers and hundreds of little people who make it all work. A pageant of glittery names from beginning to end, the series begins tonight with two episodes: "The Hollywood Style," featuring the insights of directors Martin Scorsese, Sydney Pollack and Lawrence Kasdan, and "The Star," which includes archival footage of Joan Crawford as well as interviews with Julia Roberts, Jack Lemmon, John Waters and others. Tune in to Channel 6 tonight at 8; American Cinema continues, two hour-long programs at a time, on Monday nights.

Canin's able: Author Ethan Canin made an auspicious entrance into the literary world with his novel Emperor of the Air and its followup, Blue River. Canin now is on the book beat to introduce his newest bit of fiction, a quartet of lovely portraits called Palace Thief. He'll read some passages and sign copies of the book this evening at 7:30 at the Tattered Cover Book Store, 2955 E. 1st Ave. in Cherry Creek. By the way, if you avoided this always-packed-to-the-gills monster of a shop during the even-more-packed holidays, you'll be pleasantly surprised by the remodeling job that has blessed the place with the one thing it lacked--a coffee bar. You can get your buzz and then get your autographs. Call 322-7727.

Tuesday January 24 Young blades: Now that the Tonya & Nancy scandals are behind us, we can once again appreciate the grace and beauty of skating, that ballet on ice we usually only see from afar on the boob tube. Some of the biggest names ever seen pirouetting through the winter Olympics can be viewed in the flesh--albeit cold flesh (ever wonder what it's like to slip in one of those skimpy costumes?)--at Stars on Ice, which hits the ice at McNichols Arena (usually reserved for the rough-and-tumble Grizzlies hockey team) tonight at 7:30. Your favorite ex-champions--Katarina Witt, Kristi Yamaguchi, Scott Hamilton and the like--will all be there. Admission prices range from $22.50 to $35; to purchase tickets call 290-

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