When we heard that veteran photojournalist Val Mazzenga had covered the 1978 mass murder/suicide of the Reverend Jim Jones' followers in Guyana, and then we heard that he was also noted for a photo essay of President Richard Nixon, we realized that this man must know a great deal about evil. So we're donning the black robes of nefarious intent, shaving our pates and trundling off to meet the man at the McKendree College Distinguished Speakers Series (at the Melvin Price Convocation Center, 701 College Road in Lebanon, Illinois). Mazzenga gives a multimedia presentation at 7 p.m., during which he'll tell the stories behind all manner of spectacular, disturbing and poignant photos from his lengthy career. He's truly been everywhere, from the Russian invasion of Afghanistan to Ground Zero, NYC. Call 618-537-6860 or visit www.mckendree.edu/events for more on the free talk.
Thursday, January 22
What kind of partier will you be in 2004? It's not too early to decide. If you're veering toward the socially conscious, party-for-a-cause path, get over to the new Schlafly Bottleworks (7260 Southwest Avenue). Starting at 7 p.m., the St. Louis Freedom of Choice Council will commemorate the 31st anniversary of the Supreme Court's infamous Roe v. Wade decision. Folk singer Edie Carey provides the musical entertainment, and you can toast freedom of choice with any number of delicious Schlafly beers. Tickets are $15 to $35; call 314-531-7526, ext. 340, for more information.
If you're trying out your new party-for-the-art-of-it persona, head downtown to the Schlafly Tap Room (2100 Locust Street; call 314-231-2337 for prices) for their annual Burns' Night celebration. Haggis, kilts, the poetry of Robert Burns, the music of Duddybreeks, more haggis, Scotch eggs and of course, Schlafly's outstanding Scotch Ale, will provide plenty of Highland spirit for even the most plaid-impaired person. The fun begins at 5 p.m. and continues through 11 p.m.
Friday, January 23
That inaugural exhibit of modern African art at the new Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis is out, and two new shows are moving in. Crazy Love, Love Crazy by New Yorker Polly Apfelbaum involved the artist squeezing bottles of wildly colored fabric dye across wide swaths of synthetic velvet. One of the resulting floor installations is red, orange and pink; the other is blue, green and turquoise. The works are supposed to make us ponder questions of "domesticity, femininity and decoration"; we're thinking they'd make swell shower curtains. Yun-Fei Ji's The Empty City is a series of paintings on rice paper that might at first seem to be a tribute to the old Asian masters of nature-painting. Look closer -- an angry protest over the social, political and environmental effects of the world's largest dam, China's Three Gorges Dam, yields a zone of "toxic clouds, boiling polluted waters, fallen modernist buildings, scavengers and ghosts." Tonight's free reception from 7 to 9 p.m. offers a first look (3750 Washington Avenue, 314-535-4660, www.contemporarystl.org; with cash bar). The works remain on display through March 28.
Saturday, January 24
You lift weights; you eat red meat; you drink with gusto. You are, as the Bard so eloquently noted, "stewed, screwed and tattooed." But do you have anywhere to go and flex your badass-ness for the masses? This weekend, the answer is yes: Brave the fury of the Iron Fist Fest, a "Winter Hardcore and Thrash Metal Weekend" (check out www.mancusoproductions.com). So burly and chock-full of heavy bands (Waxwork Dynasty, Mortal Treason and Blood of Me tonight; My Beloved Hatred and Ununbiun on Friday night, and these are but a sampling) it requires two nights to wedge them all in, Iron Fist Fest promises a plethora of thrills for the young tough. Get to the Creepy Crawl (421 North Tucker Boulevard, 314-851-0919) at 4:30 p.m. today (or 7 p.m. on Friday), have $10 to $15 ready (you get 50 percent off your next tattoo at Center Stage Tattoos if you buy the advance two-day pass for $12), and don't expect to hear any power ballads.
Sunday, January 25
On August 21, 2002, sixteen-year-old Malik White was murdered in the early evening in what his family believes was a case of mistaken identity. White was a basketball player, a high school student and a son. Rather than let their grief consume them, White's family and friends rallied together, starting the Malik White Scholarship Foundation to help other children fulfill the promise that Malik showed. To help raise money for the foundation, numerous R&B and soul musicians will perform at BB's Jazz, Blues and Soups (700 South Broadway, 314-436-5222). Henry Townsend, the Soulard Blues Band, Piano Slim (Malik's grandfather) and man-about-town Tom "Papa" Ray display their talents between 4 p.m. and midnight. A donation of $15 is requested.
Monday, January 26
Those videos of the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. delivering various uplifting speeches can fill you with courage, but they're not quite as good as King imitator Gregory Carr. When Carr dresses the part and rolls out the "not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character" line and other gems in his one-person tribute to the freedom fighter, the live show somehow cuts deeper than any recording. Carr, who also wrote C.O.R.E. Beliefs: The Ivory Perry Story for Historyonics Theatre Company, performs Conversations with a King: The Speeches of Martin Luther King Jr. at the St. Louis County Library's Prairie Commons branch (915 Utz Lane, 314-895-1023) at 7 p.m.
Tuesday, January 27
It hasn't escaped our notice that the dude who's programming the free film series at the St. Louis County Library's Mid-County branch in Clayton (7821 Maryland Avenue, 314-721-3008) knows what he's doing. Both last summer's film noir series and last fall's films-based-on-the-novels-of-Graham-Greene series were quality. Now comes End of the World Cinema, a look at a variety of possible earthly apocalypses that coincides with the doldrums of the cold season -- a nuclear winter, if you will. Tonight's free screening of The Day After, a 1983 made-for-TV film so grim that it carried heavy-duty parental warnings, gets going at 7 p.m. For those who've forgotten this cinematic chastening of Cold-War hawks, it starred the likes of Jason Robards, Steve Guttenberg and John Lithgow stumbling through the remains of a small Kansas town after a nuclear holocaust. Remember the church services held amid the rubble? The paranoid survivors ignoring the knocks on the door by irradiated nomads? Fun stuff. Come back over the course of the next few weeks for 12 Monkeys and Dr. Strangelove.