For those who fancy a bit of salon-style conversation on thought-provoking topics, why not make the journey to the Corner Coffee House (100 North Florissant Road, 314-839-0634) at 6:30 p.m. tonight for a three-hour discussion on The Lord of the Rings' Gollum: The Conflicts Within Us. Clips from the movie will be aired, and then everyone shares their insights on the symbolism and layered meanings of our favorite twisted Hobbit. Let's try to avoid any obvious Dr. Phil "Evil Hobbits Who Love Magic Rings, and the Hobbits Who Hate Them" pop psychoanalysis and focus on the deeper issues, people. (Gollum obviously fears his own mortality, and his mother is to blame; his attraction to Frodo is strictly platonic). Admission is free.
Thursday, October 9
The Japanese -- their ice sculpture and postage stamps are so intricate, so different from any other country's. Their traditional carpentry is just the same. This week is the culmination of a group of events centering around Tamotsu Edo, a traditionally skilled carpenter visiting Washington University (Skinker at Forsyth boulevards) from Japan. Edo is able to create wooden pieces joined with no nails or glue but built just as solidly as a Chippendale (the furniture and the male dancers). Today he gives a demonstration at Givens Hall (5-7 p.m.), and it's also the final day to view a display of Edo's old-school tools and pattern books at Steinberg Hall. Then, from 4-6 p.m. this Saturday, students working under Edo's tutelage will unveil the new Japanese teahouse-style bench they've built in the school's Elizabeth Danforth Butterfly Garden. Call 314-935-8772 for more on the free events.
Friday, October 10
St. Louis, you may not realize, has a history of bringing popular toys into the world. The now-defunct Trendmasters pumped out rubber Godzillas, fighting Rumble Robots and various "cyber pets." Haystack Toys, another company that folded within the past few years, scored with its innovative Toy Hunts, nationwide contests that allowed first-time toy designers to see their ideas become reality. And let's not forget Ted "KPLR-11" Koplar, who brought Voltron (the TV show and the robot toys that followed) from Japan to the United States. Enter St. Louisan Stuart Montaldo and his Cogno: The Alien Adventure Game. The new board game makes its debut at Magic House Family Game Night, a fun event with life-size checkers, Twister, hopscotch and dozens of other games and prizes from 5:30-9 p.m. tonight (516 South Kirkwood Road, 314-822-8900, www.magichouse.org, free with museum admission of $6, free for kids younger than two). Cogno, the press materials inform us, "is a game about space aliens who must collect various space gear as they race across the universe on two separate game boards. Along the way, they answer simple, but mind-bending questions about how our universe works." Visit www.cogno.com to meet the aliens.
Saturday, October 11
If you've been wondering if there's a good reason why the lanes of traffic narrow to an annoying bottleneck on eastbound Delmar Boulevard just east of Skinker Boulevard, the answer is yes -- we're all being asked to sacrifice for art. The new HQ for the Regional Arts Commission (6128 Delmar Boulevard), givers of grants to very worthy local arts groups, is bulging out into the street and is now open for business. They're celebrating with a Cultural Resource Center Grand Opening featuring a little payback from a lot of grant recipients. From 10 a.m.-2 p.m., you can catch performances by the St. Louis Arches tumbling team, Equinox Chamber Players, Mid America Dance Co., African dancers of COCA, Cameron Youth Chamber Orchestra, Atrek Dance, the improv comedian Ed Reggi, the Bakari African drummers and the Cultural Flamenco Society. Don't forget the kids' workshops, featuring color theory by the South City Open Studio and Art Gallery and the gang at Art from Recycled Materials, along with storytelling and poetry readings. Call 314-863-5811 or visit www.art-stl.com for more on the free fun.
Sunday, October 12
It's October, which means it's time for Octoberfest, which means everyone's turtle-waxing their best lederhosen and ironing precise, Teutonic pleats into their dirndels. But German heritage is more than fancy pants; it also includes fancy instruments. As part of the Missouri History Museum's Second Sunday Series, the Waterloo German Band will be performing a free concert at 2 p.m. today, and they're bringing their nine-foot-long Alpine horn and their Stumpf-fiddle. You know the former from the Ricola commercials, but the latter needs some 'splainin'. It's essentially a long stick with rattles affixed and a heavy string; the whole thing is pounded on the ground to keep the beat, and the string is simultaneously plucked with a notched bow to produce music. Precise, German engineering, indeed. The museum is located at Lindell and DeBaliviere boulevards; call 314-746-4599 for info.
Monday, October 13
The words of the Sage of Baltimore, H.L. Mencken, are a balm for all ornery, secretly unhappy journalists. Mencken's monumental body of work remains both an inspiration for the working writer and a reminder that no one will ever equal the quantity and quality of this early twentieth-century curmudgeon. How can you not love a man who wrote, "All men are frauds. The only difference between them is that some admit it. I myself never do"? Terry Teachout, author of The Skeptic: A Life of H.L. Mencken, reads from his new biography of the Sage in room 204 of Anheuser-Busch Hall (Forsyth Boulevard at Olympian Way, on the Washington University campus; 314-935-5576) tonight at 8 p.m., as part of the Center for the Humanities Writers' Series. Admission is free, but keep this tidbit of Menckenalia in mind: "I never lecture, not because I am shy or a bad speaker, but simply because I detest the sort of people who go to lectures and don't want to meet them." Tally another one for H., from beyond the grave.