St. Louis has taken an excessive number of cheap shots lately. Our city is too polluted or too dangerous or too close to the water -- it's always something. But why not focus on the positive "too something"s this city has? For instance, St. Louis is maybe too wrapped up in our collective sports identity; and maybe St. Louis is too concerned with our need to be correct (both qualities personified by our adopted son, Bob Costas). But if you combine that passion for athletics and trivial knowledge, well, that is a mighty force that could be used for good, not evil.
Such is the case with the Missouri Athletic Club's St. Louis Sports Trivia Challenge (405 Washington Avenue, 314-539-4470). Sure, on the surface, it's another excuse to drink beer and eat ribs while showing off your sports-smarts; but the $30 per person admission fee helps Boys Hope Girls Hope, an organization devoted to housing and educating at-risk children; let's see those other cities raise some money with their tiny crime rates! Statistics are bunk, unless you're talking Terry Pendleton's career batting average. And that's exactly the type of St. Louis-centric question emcee Frank Cusumano is going to be throwing at you. Hit it out of the park, know-it-all -- make your city proud. -- Paul Friswold
A shocking true tale
Thomas Edison: beloved genius and inventor, exemplar of American ingenuity, savvy businessman and...executioner? In Edison & the Electric Chair, St. Louis native Mark Essig transmits the whole shocking story of Edison's least-acclaimed invention. Why did the Wizard of Menlo Park, who opposed capital punishment, employ his talents to develop the ghastly device? Was he aiming to make executions more humane? Or did Edison, a leading proponent of direct-current electricity, seek to discredit the competing alternating-current system by associating it with death by electrocution? The author discusses his fascinating examination of death, technology and American dreams at 7 p.m. at Left Bank Books (399 North Euclid Avenue; free; call 314-367-6731 for more info). -- Jason Toon
Slav to the Beat
Harmonia at the Focal Point
From hauntingly beautiful to dizzying and frenzied, traditional Eastern European music is often rife with mixed emotions. All the melancholic beauty and angry joy of life is compressed into songs that coax the most stoic of men to jump onto tables and dance furiously with tears in their eyes.
If it's passion that's been lacking in the live music you've seen lately, this one's for you. Cleveland's own exponents of the Eastern European musical tradition, Harmonia, are among the finest traditional ensembles in the country, and they play tonight at the Focal Point (2720 Sutton Boulevard) at 8 p.m. Hailing from various Slavic locales and drawing inspiration from late-nineteenth-century gypsy bands, the members of Harmonia have a flair for historical accuracy that's matched only by their virtuosity on the traditional instruments of the region. Tickets are $16 at the door, $14 in advance and can be purchased at Music Folk (8015 Big Bend Boulevard) and the Maya Café (2726 Sutton Boulevard). For more information, call 314-781-4200. -- John Goddard
In a smooth update to the venerable talent-show concept, Club G (Fourth at Chestnut streets, inside the Adam's Mark hotel) has ex-Blue Kelly Chase and radio personality Smash (above) judging both the best and the worst talents in its Saturday-night amateur contest (midnight to 1 a.m. each week). Both top and bottom picks get the same prize, except in the upcoming Grand Final: Then, the best goes to Vegas by plane, and the worst goes to Branson by bus. Call 314-342-4699 or log on to www.clubg.net to register. -- Paul Friswold