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A Party for a Good Cause

Community Food Bank's Mardi Gras 2009
7 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 31
Hotel Congress
311 E. Congress St.
622-0525, ext. 234
Community Food Bank

The Community Food Bank's effort to stop hunger in Tucson culminates in its third annual Mardi Gras event at Club Congress on Jan. 31. The Food Bank hopes to attract 400 people to raise money for its Child Hunger Nutrition Program. "Forty percent of emergency food is for children," says the Food Bank's Pauline Hechler. "We're seeing a huge rise in the need."

The Child Hunger Nutrition Program is an umbrella name for the three main services that the Food Bank provides for local children.

The Snak Paks program gives children who have been identified by their school as chronically hungry a backpack full of snacks to take home for the weekend. "They take it home and share it with families," says Hechler. "For some it's the only food they'll get all weekend."

Alongside a snack, the Kids Club program offers low-income children in after-school programs a nutrition lesson. The program operates three days a week at nine area schools, and according to Hechler there are more schools waiting to receive the program. The Food Bank also has a summer meals program that provides breakfast and lunch for children who would otherwise go hungry.

According to Hechler, the Mardi Gras theme came about through the Food Bank's work helping victims of Hurricane Katrina. "We really want to grow it to be a gigantic street event," says Hechler. "I realize it's $100 and that's hard for a younger crowd," she adds, but "it's really important to provide food."

The event will include New Orleans-style food, two bands including King Bees and a wine-themed auction. Tickets are available at the Food Bank Web site or by calling 622-0525, ext. 492. Space is limited. -L.A.


Stuff White People Like

Talk and Signing With Author Christian Lander
4:30 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 4
University of Arizona Bookstore
1209 E. University Blvd.
621-2426
UA Bookstore

White people love Christian Lander. They love him so much that the former copy writer has more than 53 million hits on his Web site, "Stuff White People Like," and his book of the same name has been on the New York Times bestseller list for 17 weeks.

It could be that Lander has finally pointed out some of the ridiculous and oftentimes absurd tastes of upper-middle-class white culture, many of which Lander himself is guilty. "I'm making fun of myself," says Lander. "I'm pretty vicious."

His book graces the shelves of Urban Outfitters (a recommendation for another entry of stuff white people go crazy for), but Lander will be in Tucson to promote his book at a more likely venue, the University of Arizona Bookstore, on Wednesday, Feb. 4.

How did this huge success story all begin? With the television show The Wire.

A friend of Lander's didn't trust any white person who didn't watch The Wire. Eventually they began to throw out things white people did besides watching the show. From there a list grew to a blog with entries ranging from farmers' markets, scarves, Asian girls and San Francisco.

"The blog started as a joke and it grew ridiculously fast," says Lander. So fast that only a month after the blog was posted he had an agent, and within two months, a book deal. "I know how lucky I am," says Lander, who is living the writer lifestyle in Los Angeles. "I'm going to see where it takes me."

The Toronto native is actually a former University of Arizona media arts student, and according to Lander our city was lucky enough to influence a few blog entries. "If there's a place in Arizona that has the right kind of white people, it's Tucson," says Lander. -L.A.


Cultural Stereotypes Revisited

Positive Change: Exploring the Middle East
Noon to 6 p.m., Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday; noon to 8 p.m., Wednesday, through Feb. 20
Union Gallery
1303 E. University Drive
621-6142
Union Gallery

Artist Sama Alshaibi uses herself to represent her people. The half-Iraqi, half-Palestinian displays her self-portrait (though she doesn't call it that) at the Union Gallery's show titled Positive Change: Exploring the Middle East.

Wearing a traditional abaya over the head and black stitching across her lips, Alshaibi casts a glance that does not meet the viewers' eyes. At the bottom, written in Arabic and roughly translated into English, is, "If you don't have anything good to say, don't say anything at all."

"By the time I made this piece I didn't have the best feelings," says Alshaibi.

That time was right after Sept. 11, when negative attention was focused on Iraq, the Middle East and its people.

The Positive Change exhibit was created by artist and curator May Hariri Aboutaam to strip away stereotypes through art. The show presents art from almost 50 artists from many different nationalities using a variety of media including paint, photography and collage.

"Living in the West we only get one view of the Middle East," says Union Gallery curator Holly Brown. "It's exploring the Middle East and different misconceptions."

The Union Gallery's show is a collection of two thematic print exhibitions: Re-interpreting the Middle East: Beyond the Historical Stereotypes and Re-Inventing the Middle East II: Re-Thinking Today's Terminology.

Alshaibi's hope is that her art can focus positive change on her countries and people, shedding light on their true identities. "I hope it's a platform for dialogue," says Alshaibi. "I'm presenting the conflicts my people are dealing with. ... I want to hold them right there and make them think."

Admission to the gallery is free. -L.A.


One Man Does It All

'A Bronx Tale' Starring Chazz Palminteri
Various times through Feb.1
Tucson Convention Center
260 S. Church Ave.
321-1000
Broadway in Tucson

While sitting on his stoop as a young boy, actor Chazz Palminteri saw a man being shot by another man. He later transformed the incident into A Bronx Tale, a play Palminteri loosely based on his childhood and the Italian-American community he grew up in.

You may have seen the film adaption with Robert De Niro playing Lorenzo Anello, the Bronx bus driver who tries to keep the respect of his son, Calogero, from transferring to the local crime boss, Sonny. But before and since the big-screen version, Palminteri played all 18 roles in A Bronx Tale in a one-man show, which since 1989 has made stops in Los Angeles and Off Broadway.

"It's such an intimate experience. It's mesmerizing how he plays all these characters," says Broadway in Tucson's Marc Viscardi. Viscardi witnessed the one-man show in Los Angeles and is now bringing Palminteri and A Bronx Tale to Broadway in Tucson through Sunday, Feb. 1.

Two University of Arizona graduates, brothers Matt and Trent Othick, are producers of the show.

Palminteri approached the Othicks, who also produced his movie Yonkers Joe, about resurrecting the play and taking it back to Broadway. It didn't take much coaxing on Palminteri's part because, says Trent Othick, "Eight weeks later we were opening on Broadway; it was quite stressful."

On Broadway, the production attracted a new theater crowd. "We brought people out that don't usually go to shows. We're like the working-man's Broadway show," Othick says.

After the strikes that left some Broadway shows dead, A Bronx Tale actually gained sales and Palminteri and the crew decided to tour nationally.

"There's a lot of nostalgia in it," says Othick. "It's a simple show that sucks you right in." Tickets are $25 to $65. -L.A.

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