80 DAYS IN AN EVENING: Around the World in 80 Days, the 1873 Jules Verne novel, can be enjoyed in a few different ways. On one hand, the framework for the story is one that most people know and almost anyone can relate to. To attempt a voyage around the entire world in 80 days is not nearly the challenge it was in the 19th century, but readers can still conceive how daunting of a task it would have been. In this respect, the novel is made for anyone who likes adventure, never mind what age. Just about any person could pick up the book and get something out of it, which is more than you can say for just about any author. On the other hand, there are several things in the story that serve to create a historical backdrop and place the story in context. The protagonist, Phileas Fogg, is a wealthy Frenchmen and a member of the Reform Club, his resolution to travel the globe is brought about by a newspaper article reporting the advent of a new railway system in India. If someone is knowledgeable about this time and place in French history, the book is even more than an entertaining read. So why all this talk of Jules Verne? Glad you asked. Birmingham Festival Theatre is putting on their own theatrical version of the story this week, and it starts on Thursday and runs through March 19. All showtimes (Thursday- Saturday) are at 8 p.m., save March 13’s 2:30 p.m. Sunday matinee. March 10 is “pay-whatyou-can-afford” with a $7 minimum. Tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for students. For more information about times and prices, call (205) 933-2383 or visit www.bftonline.org.
HARRIS HOMECOMING: Here’s something I didn’t know until I researched this: Emmylou Harris was born in Birmingham. I’m gonna go out on a limb and say most of you already knew that, especially those that plan on attending her concert at the BJCC with John Prine on Friday. It’s not surprising she hails from the ‘Ham (God knows there’s no shortage of musicians with roots in Alabama), but it should make for a more intimate concert-going experience. You know, if that’s your thing. The show starts at 7 p.m., and tickets will run you about $70 (or more, depending on the seats). For more information, call (205) 458-8400 or visit www.bjcc.org.
DITCH YOUR BOOKS: If you’re an avid reader, then you know the feeling of getting a brand new book in your hands. There’s nothing that can quite match the feeling of anticipation that comes when you’ve bought something new to escape into. But once you’ve pored through the entire book, maybe even more than once, what are you left to do? Nothing, except stick it on a shelf and let it be absorbed into your collection. Maybe one day you’ll pick it up and read it again, but that day will be a long time from now. In the meantime, the book sits, collecting dust for ages and ages. What I’m getting at is this: there really is no reason to own books. The only purpose I can see in trying to collect them is precisely just to have them on your shelf. They exist in your life solely to express to others that you, indeed, have read some books. So here’s a proposal: take a long look at your bookshelf. Find everything you haven’t read in at least three years, and don’t plan on reading again in the next three. Now, throw all of those books into a box and take them to the second annual “Shop and Swap Book Sale” this Saturday. Hosted at the Crestwood Center, the sale is a day-long affair, where visitors can bring in their own books or buy the ones already on sale. (In fact, anyone that donates gets a half-off pass for all items at the sale.) The event is being commissioned by Girls Incorporated of Central Alabama, a non-profit that organizes wholesome activities for school age girls, so you already know your books are going to a better place. It all starts at 10 a.m. and goes until 3 p.m. For more information, call (205) 595-4475 or visit www.girlsinccentral-al.org.
TINY CLASSICS: Speaking of places I’ve covered in the past, let me reiterate a few things about Reed Books Antiques, or as Jim Reed likes to call it, “The Museum of Fond Memories.” This book store is hands down one of my favorite places to visit in downtown Birmingham. Chalk this up to the city’s lack of independent book stores, or the lack of businesses downtown in general if you want. Reed Books would still stack up if there were double the downtown enterprises. In addition to his massive book collection (half of which you won’t even see in the store because it’s in storage), the shop is jam-packed with any oddity you can think of. On top of all that, Reed always runs a monthly or bi-monthly exhibition, with specially priced merchandise. Right now, they have an exhibition centered around miniature versions of popular books. Not essential, no, but definitely worth a look. The Miniature Book Exhibition will continue until March 31. Reed Books Antiques is open daily from 10:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. For more information, call (205) 326-4460 or visit www.jimreedbooks.com.
BRING YOUR BEADS: Birmingham will be in full Mardi Gras swing this week. You probably don’t need me to tell you how to celebrate it, especially if you’re the type that embraces the occasion. But there is one event that hasn’t gotten very much hype. In addition to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute’s event I discussed a few weeks ago, Five Points South will be holding a Mardi Gras parade. Beginning on the corner of Highland Avenue and 20th Street South, the procession will move through the heart of historic Five Points and end on University Boulevard. The event is being handled by the Birmingham Carnival Society, who have the right idea about using Five Points for all we can. The line-up for the procession will start at 7 p.m., but the actual parade begins at 8 p.m. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
DON’T TELL THE DORMOUSE: I try my best to highlight the unsung organizations of the city in this section, so let me turn to an area I don’t mention that often: dance. In terms of events, most of the things you’re going to find in Birmingham are dance classes. That’s fine if you’re looking for a hobby, but most people interested in the medium want to see performances. Maybe if we support the classes now, it’ll pay off in dance productions down the line? Who knows. In the meantime, we can support organizations like Children’s Dance Foundation with events like the “Mad Hatter Party” next Thursday at Matt Jones Gallery. It has all the makings of a great fundraiser: games, a raffle, a silent auction, live music from DJ Karen Day, food and refreshments from Urban Cookhouse, desserts from Little Savannah and a night-long contest to determine the silliest hat in the room. You’ll hardly even feel like you’re donating to a cause! The night starts at 7 p.m. and continues until 11 p.m. Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 at the door, and they come with food, beer and wine. For more information, call (205) 870-0073 or visit cdf.eventbrite.com.