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"Blue Velvet" at Ron Robinson Thursday 

THURSDAY 12/18

'BLUE VELVET'

7 p.m. Ron Robinson Theater. $5.

"The key to the whole duck is the eye and where it is placed," David Lynch once said, explaining his approach to filmmaking. "When you're working on a film, a lot of times you can get the bill and the legs and the body and everything, but this eye of the duck is a certain scene, this jewel, that if it's there, it's absolutely beautiful. It's just fantastic." In "Blue Velvet," Lynch's dreamlike 1986 mystery, the "eye of the duck" is a scene that occurs about halfway through the movie, in which Kyle MacLachlan (as Jeffrey Beaumont) is kidnapped by the nightmarish, gas-huffing lunatic played by Dennis Hopper and taken to a strange apartment, where Dean Stockwell takes up a microphone and lip-syncs, very powerfully and oddly, Roy Orbison's "In Dreams" ("A candy-colored clown they call the sandman ..."). It is not our first hint as to the movie's strange intentions, but it is the moment at which what has seemed like a noir thriller tips over into a kind of surreal fugue state.

David Foster Wallace once wrote that the term "Lynchian," "refers to a particular kind of irony where the very macabre and the very mundane combine in such a way as to reveal the former's perpetual containment within the latter." "For me," he went on, "Lynch's movies' deconstruction of this weird irony of the banal has affected the way I see and organize the world." Or, as he later put it to Charlie Rose, "I find him instructive and useful to think about." As his most personal and profound take on the contradictions of the domestic sphere, the intrusion of dream-logic into the everyday and the inherent violence of sexuality (all things Lynch has repeatedly explored, in "Twin Peaks" and elsewhere), "Blue Velvet" is, I'd submit, highly instructive and useful to think about. For these and other reasons, it's our December pick for the Arkansas Times Film Series at the Ron Robinson Theater.

THURSDAY 12/18

'TEXAS LOVE LETTER' LISTENING PARTY

6 p.m. South on Main. Free.

The Oxford American, the quarterly literary magazine based in Little Rock, is maybe best known for its annual music issues, which for the past several years have focused on a particular state and its music culture. This year it's Texas: The new issue (on newsstands this month) includes in-depth features on, among other things, Roy Orbison, DJ Screw, Texas folklorists, Willie Nelson's drummer, Daniel Johnston and the roots of Tejano music. Plus, a new Texas music compilation. "These CDs practically belong in the Smithsonian," New York Times critic Dwight Garner once wrote of the magazine's mixes. "If a fire broke out in my house, I would — after saving my family, pets, photos and favorite cocktail shaker — make a beeline for them." This year, the magazine has also assembled a limited-edition vinyl release, "Texas Love Letter," with a completely different track listing, including Doug Sahm, Charlie Sexton and Townes Van Zandt's previously unreleased final recording. The price tag is high ($240), so the magazine is hosting a listening party and official release event for those of us who can't afford it.

THURSDAY 12/18

CELEBRITY KARAOKE

7 p.m. Verizon Arena. $24.50-$49.50.

This year KABZ-FM, 103.7, The Buzz, hosts its 10th annual Christmas Celebrity Karaoke showcase at Verizon Arena benefitting Youth Home. In a top-secret email sent several weeks ago, probably to a lot of people, the station revealed some highlights from its lineup, which is bizarre: Country star Justin Moore will be performing, as will former Razorbacks, local TV personalities, Gov. Mike Beebe and Gov.-elect Asa Hutchinson. The only thing not revealed in the top-secret email was the playlist, so I've taken the liberty of creating one for them. Beebe, I would think, should lean darker, moodier, but with a respectable hint of triumph. Something from "All Things Must Pass," maybe, or T.I.'s "Still Ain't Forgave Myself." Hutchinson, on the other hand, can afford to go a little more off-kilter. Possibly something by The Troggs ("Love Is All Around"?) or "Just Be Good To Me," by the S.O.S. Band. Other acceptable Asa options include "Method of Modern Love," by Hall and Oates, "Clay Pigeons," by Blaze Foley or "Behind Closed Doors" by Charlie Rich.

FRIDAY 12/19

JIMBO MATHUS AND THE TRI-STATE COALITION

10 p.m. White Water Tavern. $10.

Jimbo Mathus, the self-proclaimed "Arkansas Son-in-Law," who founded the Squirrel Nut Zippers and has been compared to Huck Finn (by Jim Dickinson) and Captain Beefheart (by me), is one of the best of the White Water Tavern regulars (there should be a softball team) — a true believer and a genuine, bugged-out visionary. The last time I saw him he was filming a car commercial (of sorts) at the Bernice Garden. He showed up with a trunk full of jump-suits, helmets and antique radio equipment, insisted on a '60s NASA theme, then spent most of the shoot wearing a gas mask and just generally frightening and inspiring everyone in a two-block radius. "Jimbo Mathus is that last of the Mississippi troubadours," as Greg Spradlin once put it (in an interview with Joe Meazle for the Times). "The bastard son of Jessie Mae Hemphill if her baby-daddy was Jimmie Rodgers."

FRIDAY 12/19-SATURDAY 12/20

IMPROV AT THE PUBLIC THEATER

10 p.m. The Public Theater. $5.

There are no good Christmas movies, and there is no good Christmas music. The holidays, slickly sentimental and flush with financial problems and seasonal affective disorder and boredom, just don't lend themselves well to quality entertainment, other than parades and maybe bonfires and, OK, we can make an exception for the 1966 Chuck Jones-directed "How the Grinch Stole Christmas!" but that's about it. The Public Theater, however, aims to rectify the situation with two nights of top-shelf improv, brought to you by the team that performs weekly in Argenta as The Joint Venture. Friday night they'll present an "Improvised Christmas Movie Story," in which they "make up an entire Christmas movie on the spot ... inspired by your ideas and fueled by your mirth." (This is far superior to a screening of any preexisting Christmas movie for reasons already discussed.) Saturday marks the 10th annual ImprovLittleRock Family Christmas. Both performances begin at 10 p.m., $5.

SUNDAY 12/21

RICK ROSS

7 p.m. Barton Coliseum. $50-$120.

Folklorist Alan Lomax made two trips, in 1941 and 1942, to Coahoma County, Miss., a triangular slice of the Delta in the northwest corner of the state, across from Arkansas, south of Helena. Accompanied by researchers from Nashville's Fisk University, Lomax recorded Muddy Waters there, in a cabin on Stovall Plantation, and countless other locals, too. He wrote about it in his book "The Land Where the Blues Began." In 1976, the same year a much wealthier Muddy Waters was playing in The Band's "Last Waltz," William Leonard Roberts II, later called Ricky Rozay or Teflon Da Don or usually Rick Ross, was himself born in Coahoma, though his parents had the good sense to leave before long. They moved to Miami.

Miami is the land where the blues ended. From 2 Live Crew to Flo Rida, the city's hip-hop has always embraced the aspirational, the excitably cartoonish and the danceable. This is the backdrop for Ross' ascension into the pop canon — he took the gorgeously superficial "Miami Vice" worldview, added a patina of reality-rap lyricism and, most importantly, emphasized grunting excess. Whereas the Clipse and Young Jeezy made coke dealing sound generally depressing and panic-inducing, Ross, a former corrections officer (as an infamous scoop by The Smoking Gun proved in 2008), stripped criminality of its paranoia and consequences. Like all great pop stars, he made himself into a character in a very expensive and well art-directed movie. "I'm riding down Elvis Presley Boulevard," as he raps on his latest record. "My face familiar."

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