Houston goes to the dogs—and we mean that in a good way. Plus: Jerry Seinfeld (perhaps you’ve heard of him) in San Antonio; pride of a country legend in Fort Worth; nature on display in Dallas; crossed swords in Austin.


Bow Wow

The dog days are coming to Houston—and for once, we’re not referring to the city’s steamy summer doldrums. No, we’re talking about the canine extravaganza that takes over the ’Dome complex each year, the Astro World Series of Dog Shows. This four-day event, which begins July 16, is the largest dog show in the U.S. The big draws, of course, are the conformation shows, the doggie beauty pageants in which the bests of breed, group, and show are chosen. (The top dogs from these competitions can go on to the Animal Planet National Dog Championships early next year.) But there’s plenty to hold the attention of the casual puppyphile as well. Do you have an incorrigible corgi or a naughty Scottie? Obedience experts will be on hand to answer training questions. Thinking of buying a Shar Pei (right) but not sure if it’s the right pooch for you? In the Meet the Breed area, owners and their dogs will provide an up-close look at more than sixty breeds. And if the relay-racing and hoop-jumping and Frisbee-fetching doesn’t make you smile, you must be an old sourpuss. Erin Gromen


Master of His Domain

Yes, maybe we have had this conversation before—not that there’s anything wrong with that. But after nine seasons of being the must-see in NBC’s Thursday-night “Must See TV,” Jerry Seinfeld, the comedian turned television star, has packed up his cereal boxes and returned to the road doing what he likes best: stand-up. And while Jerry, Elaine, George, and Kramer never made it to Paris during the show’s finale, ending up in the hoosegow instead, the real Seinfeld has embarked on a three-month, five-country tour of such exotic locations as Melbourne, Australia; Des Moines, Iowa; Stockholm, Sweden; Omaha, Nebraska; Reykjavík, Iceland; and our own San Antonio. Although Seinfeld wouldn’t talk to me about his act—granted, I’m no Leno or Letterman—it’s a safe bet that he will be making casual observations and don’t-you-hate-it-when? jokes. Tickets for his performances at the Majestic Theatre are steep at $61 apiece, but what can you expect from someone who commanded $1,703.58 per word during his show’s final season? Let’s see now: That comes to $5,110.74 just for saying “Yada, yada, yada.” Brian D. Sweany


Pride and Joy

On July 7 Charley Pride will be knocking some hits off the dome of Fort Worth’s Nancy Lee and Perry R. Bass Performance Hall. But if fate had favored him with a golden arm instead of a golden throat, he might be famous for hits of an entirely different kind. Baseball was Pride’s initial calling, but although he tried out for various major league teams, he never made the cut. Meanwhile, when touring with the Negro American League in the late fifties, he would go to country venues after games to sing with the house bands—and his luck with his music turned out a bit better. Today Charley Pride is a country-music legend, with 31 number one records to his credit. And while some might think of retiring after more than thirty years in the business, the sixty-year-old Pride continues to tour internationally (this spring he performed in England, Scotland, Ireland, and Barbados), always coming back to Dallas, where he has lived for 29 years. Baseball is still important to him—he works out with the Texas Rangers every year during spring training—and so are his fans. “Every now and then I see people who have been coming to my shows for twenty years or longer and we reminisce like family,” he wrote in his 1994 autobiography. “When that happens, you wish it could be that way all over the world.” Katy Vine


Small Wonders

Chances are the names Albert Bierstadt and Frederick Edwin Church conjure images of their monumental, romantic landscapes of the West and more-exotic locales. But before these artists attacked the large canvases, they went out into nature and painted small oil studies to refresh their memory when they returned to the studio. It is these diminutive, quickly done works that are the focus of “The Painted Sketch: American Impressions From Nature,” an exhibit of landscapes by eight leading nineteenth-century painters that will be at the Dallas Museum of Art through September 20 before traveling to the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts. Some of the ninety paintings in the exhibit—such as Church’s Mount Katahdin (1856) which was done from a pencil sketch made in the field—never led to larger works. Bierstadt’s The Valley of the Yosemite, on the other hand, was a study for his first big picture of Yosemite. “It’s the personal aspect of these oil sketches that I find so enchanting,” says curator Eleanor Jones Harvey. “Some of them are so cursory that you really do get the feeling that the artists are standing out in the world trying desperately to get those colors down before the sun sets. They have a breathtaking exhilaration.” Quita McMath


A Cut Above

For most of us, swordplay has been defined by Errol Flynn in Captain Blood, any of the Three Musketeers movies, even Luke Skywalker battling Darth Vader. But for competitive fencers, most movie duels, though great entertainment, are little more than pretty choreography. At the United States Fencing Association’s 1998 Summer National Championships, which will be held at the Austin Convention Center July 4 through 12, some of the nation’s best fencers will demonstrate just how a thrust should be parried. More than 1,500 fencers, from as young as ten to well past seventy, are expected to compete in 66 events involving the three fencing weapons—foil, saber, and épée. Though none of the events will feature competitors swinging from chandeliers or dueling down staircases, the action will be fast and furious, with the fencers exhibiting the speed and agility the sport demands. And the spilling of blood won’t determine the victors; the competitors’ weapons are equipped with electric sensors that measure the “touches” that earn points in a match. Coincidentally, The Mark of Zorro, starring Antonio Banderas and Anthony Hopkins, will be released on July 17—allowing us to see expert swordplay and then critique Banderas’ performance as the legendary swordsman. On guard, Antonio! Jane Dure