Supermassive black holes may seem as near as your bedroom closet, but actually they're in the distant corners of the universe, composed of millions of spent stars. Astronomer Tim Heckman of Johns Hopkins University (home of the Hubbell Telescope) will talk about these and other cosmic disturbances in a free lecture titled The Violent Universe. The talk is geared toward Cub Scouts and anybody else who ever peered at the heavens through a cardboard paper-towel roll. Avid stargazers will really get a rise out of the latest news on gamma ray bursts, those far-off explosions of energetic particles that, upon their discovery in the 1960s, sparked rumors that the Soviets were playing in their atomic sandbox. Heckman speaks at 8 p.m. in the Cleveland Museum of Natural History's Murch Auditorium, 1 Wade Oval. For more information, call 216-231-4600.
Writer Fen Montaigne wanted to connect with the real Russia, so he planned a fly-fishing trip to its vast hinterlands. He didn't catch many salmon, but he did share twelve bottles of vodka with six loggers in a single evening and drove a truck with no brakes through a Siberian forest. He also got more than his share of the usual Ugly American abuse; after sweet-talking his way onto the Trans-Siberian Railway, he was beaten by a vodka-swilling passenger after declining an invitation to drink with the rest of the menfolk. In the dining car, a group of women even tried to slip a mickey in his orange soda. "They were so insistent I drink it," he recalls. "There was this big fat woman who blocked my way. I had to knock her on her rear to get away." A former Moscow correspondent for the Philadelphia Inquirer and the author of Reeling in Russia, Montaigne will talk about his ass-busting adventures at 7:30 p.m. at Happy Days Visitor Center in the Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area, State Route 303, 1/2 mile west of State Route 8 in Boston Heights. Admission is $5 adults, $2 children ages six through twelve; call 800-257-9477.
A wayward condom wrapper tears a household asunder in Cleveland playwright Greg Vovos's Trojan Wars: A Comedy of Bad Manners, set in the apartment of two young lovers cursed with an acute sense of impending doom. When they find the "evidence" in their living room, each accuses the other of unfaithfulness--suspicions intensified by the tireless antagonism of their friend Wiley, one of those laid-back dudes who sets everybody else on edge. Matters escalate into a mock trial to determine who's been gettin' some on the side. Dobama Theatre's Night Kitchen ensemble is staging the work through March 28. Showtimes are 11 p.m. tonight and Saturday, March 13; 8 p.m., Sunday, March 14. Tickets are $5; call 216-932-6838. At the Dobama Theatre, 1846 Coventry Road, Cleveland Heights.
Raise a glass to peace, love, and booze with the Prodigals, an Irish-American rock band that's nothing if not danceable--even their dirges are quick and dirty. The New York pubsters started out as a traditional folk group, later speeding things up with the addition of a punked-out drummer and a classically trained bassist with a rock and roll resume (backing up Peter Gabriel and Stewart Copeland). They'll return to the East Side Irish American Club (22770 Lake Shore Boulevard, Euclid) tonight at 8:30. Tickets are $7; call 216-731-4003.
Before the Kool-Aid guy burst through the kitchen walls, kids passed the time riding rocking horses with glass eyes and saving their pennies in cast-iron banks shaped like circus animals. Today's rugrats can see some of those original playthings--a tea service decorated with nursery rhymes, a hand-carved barn with livestock accompaniment--and horse around with factory-made reproductions in the program Turn of the Century Toys. They'll take a tour of a rich kid's nursery circa 1916 and make their own dollhouse furniture and Victorian paper dolls. At 2 p.m. in the Hay-McKinney Mansion of the Western Reserve Historical Society, 10825 East Boulevard. For every adult paying the $6.50 historical society admission, two kids get in free. Call 216-721-5722.
Like getting to Carnegie Hall, becoming a professional turkey caller takes practice--about two hours a day, according to Doug Crabtree, Ohio's five-time champion clucker. Now in his twenties, Crabtree started calling as a youngster while on hunting trips with his father. "From there, I just kept a hold of my dad's pocket and learned to be a woodsman," he says. He's since worked on perfecting his pitch--to please the judges, he says, not the hens, who don't mind an off-key salutation. Contracts with muzzle-loader manufacturers and camouflage clothiers have followed, but Crabtree says fame hasn't taken the fun out of bagging a twenty-pounder on an early spring morning. He'll talk about the vocabulary of the wild turkey and advanced techniques for hunting spring gobblers at the Cleveland Sportsman's Show today at the I-X Center, 6200 Riverside Drive in Brook Park. The show runs daily through March 21; today's hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Admission is $7.50 adults, $3.75 for kids six through twelve.
Old-school bluesman R.L. Burnside rendezvoused with the new school last year when he asked Tom Rothrock, mixmaster for Beck and the Foo Fighters, to throw some hip-hop backbeats into his bacon-and-egg standards about no-good women and done me wrongs. That project, Come On In, was released late last year, and the hate mail poured in faster than a postal service rate hike. The 71-year-old Burnside will leave the turntables by the side of the road tonight, when he kicks off his American tour in Cleveland with his traditional backwoods combo (which includes his grandson, Cedric). Burnside's fellow Fat Possum labelmates Elmo Williams and Hezekiah Early are also on the bill. Showtime is 9:30 p.m. at the Euclid Tavern, 11629 Euclid Avenue. Tickets are $12; call 216-241-5555.
Hang on to your false teeth--here come the Peking Acrobats, a group of cyclists, jugglers, tumblers, gymnasts, and for that matter, juggling cyclists and tumbling gymnasts. They'll turn upside down and breathe flame, just like their two-headed, four-armed forefathers did (okay, two guys, one bike) back in 206 B.C., when amazing feats of Chinese physicality first moved from the farmyard to the imperial courtyard. Showtime is 8 p.m. at the State Theatre in Playhouse Square. Tickets are $10, $17, and $25; call 216-241-6000. The troupe will also give a free one-hour performance at noon in the theater.
It's old home day at St. Colman's parish, the sanctuary with the shamrock motif inlaid into the marblework on the baptistery and communion rail. Founded in 1914 by immigrants, the church was the cornerstone for Cleveland's Irish community until their second-generation offspring resettled in the suburbs. Members of the new West Side Irish-American Club in Olmsted Township will be bused in for the church's St. Patrick's Day Mass, a traditional parade sneak preview with a drum-and-fife procession led by Grand Marshal Rip Reilly and Irish Mother of the Year Mary Kilbane. Bishop Anthony Pilla will bless the repentant sinners before the green beer spills from the downtown floodgates. Arrive early, as luck won't get you pew space in the 1,200-seat church after 9:30 a.m. Mass is at 10:30, immediately followed by soda bread and coffee served in the adjacent hall. St. Colman's is at 2027 West 65th Street; for more information, call 216-651-0550.