Either there's a fun talk being given tonight at the Millennium Student Center (University of Missouri-St. Louis, 8001 Natural Bridge Road) or this is just part of an elaborate con game. You have to wonder, given that the speaker is Frank Abagnale, author of the biography that became the film Catch Me If You Can. The man who's cashed $2.5 million in fraudulent checks in every state and 27 countries is now a consultant who speaks on forgery, embezzlement and corporate security. (Maybe he should go into business with Ivan Boesky, Michael Milken and Kevin Mitnick). As many of us know from the Spielberg/DiCaprio film, Abagnale posed as an airline pilot, attorney and pediatrician and served time in French, Swedish and American prisons. Ask him whether crime pays at a free 6:30 p.m. lecture. Call 314-516-5291 for more info.
Thursday, March 13
A child of the early '60s, David Helm remembers being taken to trade shows by his parents to ogle automatic home features that would never attain popularity: robotic vacuum cleaners, banks of electronic switches attached to the headboards of beds, nuclear-powered appliances. As an artist, Helm uses his fascination with the mechanized world to comment on human relations. His Automated Dispositions, opening tonight in UM-St. Louis' Gallery 210, is a group of installations composed mainly of plywood and computer monitors. Enter Helm's mock home and sit on the loveseat, where couples can sit in cockpits and interact by way of telephone and video monitor -- no touching, please. The dining room encourages four guests to converse with electronic scripts scrolling down the monitors, and the living room, den and bedroom offer a similarly cold take on domestic relaxation. Sit in Helm's freaky labor-intensive furniture at a 4:30-6:30 p.m. reception tonight, or check it out during regular gallery hours through April 12. Call 314-516-5976 for more info on the free exhibit.
Friday, March 14
Robert Cohon is a fellow who can take a dry subject such as archaeology and make it as compelling as a Raymond Chandler novel. Cohon's specialty: fakes and frauds, especially statues that supposedly date back to ancient civilizations but have actually been made by modern-day crooks. The curator of ancient art at Kansas City's Nelson-Atkins Museum offers an 8 p.m. slide talk at the St. Louis Art Museum in Forest Park called "Fakes, Frauds and Scholars." His cool stories include the one about how he emptied the museum so that he could expose a bust to dangerous gamma rays (they're stronger than X-rays, y'know); the expert who noticed a tiny speck of paint that instantly proved a statue had to be a classic; and the ancient Roman girl with the strangely Victorian nose. Cohon was trained to interpret ancient sculpture; he trained himself as an expert in the telltale gaffes of forgers. The St. Louis Society of the Archaeological Institute of America welcomes this Sherlock Holmes of sculpture. Call 314-721-0072 for more on the free lecture.
Saturday, March 15
Tales of pioneering blues musicians' getting screwed out of their royalties are legion, but the aging blues survivors have extra problems now. For one thing, they usually don't have health insurance, and those drinkin' and womanizin' menfolk could use a few livers and some penicillin. That's where the Cover the Uninsured Week Concert helps out. The American Medical Student Association welcomes the Oliver Sain Trio, the Ericka Johnson Band, the Marty Abdullah All-Stars and DJ Alexis Tucci with the Hot House Sessions to Michon's Barbecue & Fish, 8181 South Florissant Road, from 8 p.m.-1:30 a.m. The $5 admission goes to the St. Louis Blues Society Blues Mission Fund to help provide health care for uninsured artists. Call 314-345-5546 or go down to the crossroads for more info.
Sunday, March 16
The New York-based After Quartet received some attention five years ago for their ambitious electronic score for silent-film masterpiece Metropolis. Since then they've tackled The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, as well as silents starring Fatty Arbuckle, Charlie Chaplin and Harold Lloyd. These four young men, now specialists in the small world of scoring silents using modern instruments, are on tour, providing live music for Buster Keaton shorts. At 8 p.m. Saturday and today, the quartet tackles 1920s slapstick comedies "The Boat," "The Goat" and "The Electric House" in Webster University's Moore Auditorium (470 East Lockwood Avenue). You'll see Keaton's deadpan expressions and wild stunts and hear After Quartet's guitar, bass, trumpet, percussion, concertina and electronic sounds. Call 314-968-7128 for more info; tickets are $5-$6.
Monday, March 17
Happy St. Patrick's Day. You can eat green scrambled eggs at a tavern and drink beer till you puke in an alley, or you can go see the new Remains of a Rainbow photography exhibit at the Missouri Botanical Garden instead. It seems our 50th state is home to some funky and nearly extinct flora and fauna that you can only find on the islands. Renowned nature photogs David Liittschwager and Susan Middleton are lending the Garden gorgeous prints of furry spiders, crested tropical birds and snails with gummy eyestalks, captured at close range. Their shots of iridescent dragonfly wings, all rich purples and blues, put the most artful stained glass to shame. See their work from today through April 8 at 4344 Shaw Boulevard; it's free with regular Garden admission. Meet the photographers at a free slide lecture and booksigning at 11 a.m. Wednesday, March 19. Call 314-577-9400 or www.mobot.org for more info.
Tuesday, March 18
The Ville and Carr Square in the city, Kinloch in the county and the south end of East St. Louis: four historic foci for African-American residents of the St. Louis area, four "havens from the humiliations of the segregated world beyond," in the words of the press release for Through the Eyes of a Child: Growing Up Black in St. Louis, 1940-90. The Missouri History Museum (near the intersection of Lindell Boulevard and DeBaliviere Avenue) mounts a new exhibit on the joys of childhood in four St. Louis neighborhoods and the evolution of those neighborhoods as official segregation faded and unofficial segregation took its place. Audio interviews, ambient sounds, photos, newspapers, videos and artifacts tell the story in three areas of the exhibit: home, school and church. Through the Eyes of a Child opens Sunday, March 16 and is on view daily, for free. Call 314-746-4599 for more info.