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SHE'S FUNNY AND POLITICAL. She's been described as a "red-hot, fire-bellied, feminismo-spewin' volcano" by Alison Bechdel of Dykes to Watch Out For.

Alix Olson was a member of the 1998 Nuyorican National Championship Slam Team, plus a winner of the 1999 OutWrite National Slam. Since then, she's been a touring folk poet and spoken-word artist, performing internationally at colleges, clubs and festivals. She's been on stage with such artists and activists as Michael Moore, Pete Seeger, Christine Lavin, Howard Zinn and Leslie Feinberg. She's even headlined the National Organization for Women conference.

Olson speaks up about peace-related subjects in a poetic, funny way on Thursday, May 22, at 9 p.m., at Solar Culture, located at 31 E. Toole Ave. Tickets cost $8 and are available at Antigone Books. Doors open at 8 p.m. It's an all-ages show and it's co-sponsored by Wingspan, Southern Arizona's lesbian, gay, bi and transgender community center.

Call 884-0874 for details.

RIVERS THAT WERE. Travel a 4,000-year journey. It won't take long.

Río Viejo/Río Nuevo is an exhibit that digs around Tucson to uncover its relationship to the Santa Cruz River--a past you might not remember. The structure of the show reflects an actual archaeological excavation containing interactive components for adults and children.

It starts with a landfill. The Tucson Pressed Brick Company, whose bricks built

many Tucson buildings from 1896 to 1965, became a big trashcan when brilliant city officials decided to use the vacated business at the foot of Sentinel Peak as a dump, filling the clay mining holes with trash for a decade until 1980.

Other exhibits highlight the excavation of a well used by the Chinese community, where diggers found remnants of a wok, rice bowls and soy jars. Another exhibit features the relationship of the Santa Cruz River to the relocation of the Presidio. Going even further back in time, archaeologists have unearthed a substantial ancient farming culture along the river.

There's a hands-on area for kids of all ages where they can operate a mini backhoe to excavate a pit, plus plenty of computer-generated learning. The show opens with a reception on Friday, May 23, from 5 to 7 p.m., at the Arizona Historical Society Main Museum, located at 949 E. Second St. The exhibit is slated to stay up for a while--until May 2006. Museum hours are Monday through Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Call for all the details at 628-5774.

DUDE MUSIC. Tom Chambers is known for his Western-style singing, guitar playing, storytelling, poetry and folklore rambling. He was the founding president of the Western Music Association and still sits on its board. Plus he's been a working cowboy and spent several years as an entertainer on the dude ranch circuit.

So here's what you can expect when he ambles on stage at the Arizona Folklore Preserve on Saturday, May 24, and Sunday, May 25, at 2 p.m.: His show includes original songs like Green Sonoita Hills and La Luna de Sonora plus traditional Western music such as (you know this one) Back in the Saddle Again and The Streets of Laredo. He'll sing old Arizona songs such as Tyin' Knots in the Devil's Tail, Spanish is the Loving Tongue and the Marty Robbins' song, Man Walks Among Us.

Tom not only sings the songs; he tells the folklore surrounding the tunes. He mixes the best, and often funniest, of cowboy poetry with his songs. Maybe he'll even recite a Baxter Black poem about a very special "cattle drive."

Tickets for either day of the Memorial Day Weekend shows cost $10 apiece and $5 for kids 12 and younger. To get to the preserve, drive six miles south of Sierra Vista on Highway 92 to Ramsey Canyon Road. Turn right and drive 3.5 miles into the canyon. Turn left at the AFP sign and cross the creek on the automobile bridge and park behind the buildings.

Call with questions at 378-6165.

POEMS AS INTIMATE AS BREATHING. The poet Robert Creeley has described the work of Keith Wilson both as personal as one's inhalation and as quick as a lizard moving in the sudden sun.

Wilson was born on the Llano Estacado and grew up on army bases, mostly in the Southwest. He was the New Mexico State University poet-in-residence as well as professor emeritus there. His more than 25 books of poetry include Midwatch and When Dancing Feet Shatter the Earth. His most recent book, Transcendental Studies, has been published by Tucson's Chax Press. It will be available for the very first time at a reading Wilson gives on Saturday, May 24, at 7 p.m. Wilson shares the podium with Mark Salerno, a New York-born poet who now lives in Hollywood where he edits Arshile: A Magazine of the Arts.

Salerno's poetry has been described by C.D. Wright as "a spoken nightscape, a starry, commiserating agent between Bronk and Creeley, a cavalcade of impeccably broken lines, not forgetting the invisible crack in everything." (Don't you just love the poetry used to describe the poetry?)

The two poets offer their sparkly words in a reading held at the Museum of Contemporary Art located at 191 E. Toole Ave. POG and Chax Press are the hosts. Admission costs a mere $5 or $3 for students. Questions? Call 620-1626.

IN THE LIMELIGHT. Take a peek into Observations, a new exhibit of work by two photographers at the Limelight Gallery.

James Luckett got his training at the UA in the mid-'90s. A native of Washington state, he now lives in Japan, practicing commercial photography. But his creative work has led him towards an enigmatic, almost spiritually voyeuristic documentary style of black-and-white images. The eye of his camera floats through the crowds of contemporary Japan, noting its silent, ancient relics and loudly confused modernity.

Chirstopher Lane is a native of Austin, newly transplanted to Tucson. On his travels this last decade, he took his camera--a good thing for a photographer to do--and captured a range of subjects. Melding his journalism background with his abstract painting styles, he ends up with large color photographs of man-made objects and landscapes. It's an exploration of the physical world created by humanity.

The two photographers show up for a reception on Saturday, May 24, from 7 to 9 p.m. The show stays up through July 5. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and the gallery is located at 634 N. Fourth Ave.

For details, call 623-3973.

HOW TO TELL A STORY. In this era of digital communication, there are many ways to get from "once upon a time" to "they lived happily every after."

Ellen La Forge is a computer graphic artist and animator whose work includes book illustration, photography, performance and interactive design. She's the coordinator of the graduate computer graphics program at the New York Institute of Technology in Manhattan and comes to Tucson to talk about works that focus on the Internet as the medium for new forms of storytelling.

The difference these days in publishing is how far these stories can go--the audience is a global one. La Forge touches on narrative approaches, cross-cultural perspectives, multi-user games and artistic uses of interactivity in her lecture on Tuesday, May 27, at 5:30 p.m. It's part of Summerfest 2003, the UA lecture and arts series. The Department of Media Arts hosts the talk held at the Integrated Learning Center, Room 130, located on the UA Mall across from the main library west of Cherry Avenue.

It's free. Call for details at 621-9966.

TESTOSTERONE POISONING. Gee, I wonder why there isn't a Men's History Month. Answer: Because they get the 11 other months of the year to wreak havoc!

While the social construction of femininity has been widely examined, the dominant role of masculinity has, until recently, remained largely invisible. Tough Guise: Violence, Media and the Crisis in Masculinity is a documentary that examines the relationship between images of pop culture and the social construction of masculine identities at the dawn of this century.

The documentary features Jackson Katz and is directed by Sut Jhally, who also directed Dreamworlds: Gender/Sex/Power in Rock Video. Katz argues that the widespread violence in American society--including tragic shooting rampages at high schools around the country--needs to be understood as part of an ongoing crisis in male identity.

The documentary may provoke both men and women to look at their own participation

in the culture of contemporary masculinity. The free screening on Thursday, May 29, starts with a potluck dinner at 6 p.m. at Wingspan Community Center, located at 300 E. Sixth St. Co-sponsors include The Brewster Center, Tucson Center for Women and Children and ARC/Elder Shelter.

Bring a favorite dish to share. Call 327-2665 for more information.

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