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TWINKLING IVORIES. Have you ever seen Vladimir Horowitz' hands move deftly across a piano keyboard? Even in his later years, the legendary pianist's spindly, freckled and longer-than-typical fingers moved like a lithe dancer across a stage.

Here's a chance to play Horowitz' Steinway. It's the equivalent of a baseball fan being allowed to hit a few fly balls with Babe Ruth's bat. Steinway & Sons, the maker of what most music experts consider the world's finest pianos, is offering music lovers an opportunity to touch history. Its Legendary Piano Tour rolls into town at Washburn Piano Company now through July 16.

Not only is Horowitz' piano on tour; there's a Steinway concert grand owned by Van Cliburn and the Frank Pollaro-designed Rhapsody piano--a brilliant, blue, 7-foot-long, art deco-style extravaganza. Feeling generous? You could buy it for $149,000.

For the rest of us short on cash, we can pretend for a moment that we're Vladimir or Van or your own piano muse. Close your eyes, sit down on the cushy leatherette seat, imagine you're at Carnegie Hall and give that middle C a good jab. Goosebumps abound.

As a matter of fact, on Thursday and Friday, July 10 and 11, Washburn Piano offers free CD recordings of you--yes, you--playing the piano of your choice. Make your reservations by calling 745-5680. Or just stop by, Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., to see the beautiful keyboards twinkling.

Washburn Piano is located at 5725 E. Broadway Blvd.

SIXTY DAYS OF ART. That's 60 long, hot, stifling, excruciatingly bright days of Tucson summer. Why not duck into the darkness of a gallery to wile away your time and see some cool art?

AHundredDaysOff sounds like the run-on feeling of a Tucson summer. Kevin Lucero Less and Nathan Britko explore issues of abstraction in a world that praises figuration in photography, paintings and prints.

Lucero Less produces paintings that represent his time spent in the acting program at the American Academy of Arts in Los Angeles--a conflict of reality, theatricality and abstraction. Britko's prints take a nostalgic look at the ever-changing boundaries of abstract space.

Both artists show up for a reception on Friday, July 11, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. , at the Lionel Rombach Gallery, located in the Fine Arts complex just east of Speedway Boulevard and Park Avenue. The show continues through Aug. 14 with gallery hours Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call with questions at 626-4215.

Another summer theme show opens at Obsidian Gallery this week. Icono-Clash offers a venue for 47 artists to interpret the theme. They come from Tucson and the Southwest as well as from all over the country. It'll be interesting to see which icons clash. Among the media are painting, drawing, sculpture, clay, jewelry, metal, glass, wood, found and recycled materials, along with other media all mixed together.

An opening reception and monsoon party take place on Saturday, July 12, from 6 to 9 p.m. The gallery is located in St. Philip's Plaza at 4320 N. Campbell Ave. The exhibit continues through Sept. 13. Regular summer hours are Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Call 577-3598 for all the details.

The Phantom Gallery is for real--not surreal or ethereal--and it's presenting its summer exhibit inside the Tucson Arts District offices at 4 E. Congress St. Artist Ward Wallingford, a retired securities and commodities broker and investment officer, has turned his people-watching and photography interests into works of art. His black-and-white photos of outdoor street-party nightlife hang in the windows, staring back at the real-time street life that parties on past them--this from a guy who received the prestigious Stalwart Standby Extraordinaire award from the Arts District, where he's a regular volunteer.

Wallingford's photos can be seen with Artist of the Month Rebecca Carlton's charcoal irises and tile works, Gavin Troy's wood-carved paintings and new paintings by the Arts District's own Sally Krommes.

Hours for the Phantom Gallery are Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and the show stays up through August. Call 624-9977 with questions.

CAGED ANIMALS. If the press release is any indication, this is the event to go to. I'll spare you the hyperbole and get to the details.

Rage in the Cage is a professional sport. It mixes martial arts where athletes can showcase their own talents. This is what the promoter calls "xtreme fighting." Here's how it works.

Two fighters get into an 8-foot-tall octagon steel cage along with a referee. Matches are three minutes long with a panel of judges awarding the decisions. (If your face is still in one piece, you've won?)

Apparently, the cage draws not only athletes, but novelists (I kid you not) and other "professionals" from all age groups.

RITC, as it's coolly known in the biz, has been held 54 times through the Ultimate Fighting Championship. "It all started four years ago in a little bar in Phoenix," says Roland Sarria, the event's promoter. Since then, events have been staged at Celebrity Theater, Dodge Theater and at Rodeo Nights in Phoenix, as well as venues in Casa Grande and here in Tucson.

It takes place on Saturday, July 12, at 7:30 p.m. Doors open at 6 p.m. to watch the athletes warm up. It all takes place at Inn Suites Hotel, located downtown at 475 N. Granada Ave. Tickets cost $20 general and $30 for ringside seats. Call 622-3000 for details or visit www.rageinthecage.com.

And remember, it's a professional sport.

COMING IN THE MIDDLE. You flop on the couch after a long day (or night). You power up the tube with a flick of your thumb on the remote. You find what seems like a fascinating story, but you haven't a clue about the characters. Hang in there; you'll figure it out by the next set of commercials.

Imaginary Year is written and designed by Jeremy Bushnell. It's a serial novel intended for anyone to walk in and figure out the cast of strange characters. But it's not something you watch. Instead, you read it (what a novelty)--a new installment every Monday and Friday appears online.

The Web site--

www.imaginaryyear.com --is the creation of a Chicago writer who received his master's degree here at the UA. The story line, as well as its presentation, is simple. Makes you want to go out and create your own Web serial novel. Even the graphics on the site are simple: just text and a few cartoonish images.

Bushnell reads from his literary gems along with fellow UA alum Deborah Bernhardt, whose work can be chased down in various journals. "She's all that and a bag of chips," says fellow UA Creative Writing alum Maggie Golston, owner of Biblio Books, where the reading takes place on Saturday, July 12, at 7 p.m.

The evening is dubbed, "It Came From the Midwest," and features the two writers who now hail from somewhere in the middle of the country. They're joined by Kat McLellan.

Biblio is located at 222 E. Congress St. For more information, call 624-8222.

IT'S NOT JUST FOR LITTLE BOYS. It's interesting to note that of the 16 events at this year's UA Summerfest performing arts and lecture series, a quarter of them focus on the comic arts. There's this week's performance by the Live Action Cartoonists and a couple of lectures by comic strip and comic book artists themselves. One of the contacts I spoke to recently is even teaching a first-ever comic book class in the Visual Communications department.

I smell a trend.

On Wednesday, July 16, at 6 p.m. , Gregory Petix talks about trends, styles and the general history of comics since their creation. Petix is a published comic book historian and contributor to two widely recognized periodicals of the comic book industry, The Comic Journal and Comic Book Artist.

In his lecture this week, he talks about the history of the comic book beginning with its abstract origins and leading up to contemporary figures such as Daniel Clowes and Alan Moore.

The lecture takes place in the UA Music Building, Room 146, located in the Fine Arts complex just east of Speedway Boulevard and Park Avenue. It's free as is parking in all Zone 1 lots and at street meters after 5 p.m. Call the School of Art at 626-7639 with questions.

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