There's a reason they call corporate logos "brands." Though they don't stink of burned flesh anymore, today's brands still retain their air of slavery. The aim, it seems, is to pollute the human mind with a barrage of commercial slogans, swooshes, and "lifestyles." San Francisco artist Hank Thomas-Willis works with the cultural phenomenon of corporate brands and logos. His controversial solo show, "Trade Dress: Value Judgment," examines the societal repercussions of commercial marketing and zillion-dollar media campaigns. Thomas-Willis documents how easily these labels are drilled deeply into layers of human identity and then asks why we let external influences define us. The exhibit opens at 7:00 p.m. and runs through Tuesday, March 23, at Diaspora Vibe Gallery, 3938 N. Miami Ave. Admission is free. Call 305-573-4046. (JCR)
Appropriately on Friday the 13th and just in time for President's Day, the New World School of the Arts presents perhaps the most subversive musical ever written. Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman's Assassins is the anti-Yankee Doodle Dandy. Without glorifying them, the musical portrays the dismal lives of the killers or would-be killers of American presidents. With numbers such as "Another National Anthem" and "Unworthy of Your Love" (a duet by John Hinckley and Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme sung to Jodie Foster and Charles Manson, respectively), the infidels make rabid pleas for just a little attention. Characters such as Lee Harvey Oswald, John Wilkes Booth, and Sarah Jane Moore never got the chance to attain the jumbo-size American Dream, and so somebody's gotta pay. The show is a dark comedy with brilliant ironic touches. No wonder it bombed on its way to Broadway. Performances begin tonight at 7:30 at the New World School's Louis O. Gerrits Theater, 25 NE Second St., eighth flr. Tickets cost twelve dollars. Call 305-237-3541. (JCR)
Occasionally on the news we hear about a frigid panda giving birth to a baby in captivity somewhere. Every once in a while such miracles occur courtesy of artificial insemination, but most of the time zookeepers just throw a couple of beasts together in a cage and wait for years until something finally happens. For those who haven't witnessed Rover mounting Lady next door and wonder what exactly, um, happens when animals get lusty, there's "Sex and the Animals. " That would be Miami Metrozoo director Ron Magill's slide lecture featuring wildlife doing the nasty. Yes, mating behaviors will be scrutinized, so get ready for visions of elephants making whoopie, giraffes getting down, and plenty of hot monkey love. Candy, flowers, a lavish dinner: Who needs 'em? Could there be a more romantic way to spend Valentine's Day? We think not. The show begins at 7:30 p.m. at the Metrozoo Amphitheater (12400 SW 152nd St.). Admission is fifteen dollars and proceeds benefit the South Florida Chapter of the American Association of Zookeepers. Call 305-251-0400. (NK)
The Florida Philharmonic may be dead but the Philharmonic Strings live on. Led by cellist Robert DeVere Moore, a seventeen-year FPO veteran, ten musicians (five violinists, two cellists, two violists, and an oboe player) formerly with the orchestra got together to do their own musical thing, which includes a tour of South Florida. They stop in Miami Lakes this evening for a program of works by Vivaldi, Bach, Tchaikovsky, and Respighi. Music begins at 7:30 at the United Methodist Church, 14800 NW 67th Ave. Admission is free but donations are welcome. Call 305-839-4354. (NK)
In 1979 Barbara Gillman had the madcap idea of opening an art gallery. Since then more than 200 artists, local and internationally renowned, have displayed their work on her walls. Some of them include videomaker Nam June Paik, pop artists extraordinaire Andy Warhol and James Rosenquist, and photographer Andres Serrano, whose Piss Christ, a gleaming image of a crucifix immersed in urine, put many folks in a tizzy. A little more than a week ago Gillman mounted "Celebration: A Barbara Gillman Gallery 25 Year Retrospective," an exhibition featuring special works by many of those who have shown with her and hundreds of old photos of openings and the community. If you missed the opening, today is your last day to take it all in. The Barbara Gillman Gallery is located at 3814 NE Miami Ct. Hours are 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Admission is free. Call 305-573-1920. (NK)
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Forget about that humiliating audition for American Idol. Stick around Miami, where five leaders in the music industry will arrive to offer aspiring songwriters, performers, and producers advice about how to break into the treacherous music industry. The Stamps Family Charitable Foundation Distinguished Visitors Series kicks off today with a visit from Martha "Marti" Sharron. A 1972 UM grad and author of the catchy 1983 Pointer Sisters' tune "Jump for My Love," she has also written songs for Celine Dion and Barbra Streisand, and heads her own recording companies. Her works have sold more than 100 million copies worldwide. Sharron will instruct students on the finer points of songwriting and discuss the future of the music industry at 4:00 and 7:00 p.m. at the University of Miami's Clarke Recital Hall, 5501 San Amaro Dr., Coral Gables. Admission is free. Call 305-284-4940. (NK)
The Afro Roots Sacred Music Festival has been celebrating the influence of African rhythms and traditional beats on modern sounds all around the world. It's clearly evident that no culture, from Tokyo to Havana, remains unmoved by the groove of the Afro-beat. And tonight's performance by Kailash and the Nag Champayons proves the point. Kailash's Rajesh Bhandari fuses the sounds of Africa and electronica with the mystical elements of his native India. The band is part of the sound of Goa, a city on India's southwest coast. Goan pop music developed with the burgeoning club scene there. Because LSD is reportedly used more frequently there than Ecstasy, the sound swerves to the more mystical, trippy side of electronica. The Nag Champayons also blend the sounds of Latin America, Africa, and Asia. The global vibes begin around 9:00 p.m. at the Marlin Hotel, 1200 Collins Ave., Miami Beach. Admission is seven dollars. Call 786-218-6854. (JCR)