Bull's Head Bookshop—Longtime readers of The New York Times' sports pages will recognize William Rhoden as the moral conscience of the section. As one of the highest-profile black sports columnists in the country, Rhoden can be relied upon to point out the inequities of a sports factory that is all too happy to utilize the athletic skills of African-Americans while turning a blind eye to the scarcity of them in management capacities. More recently, Rhoden has been questioning the system of collegiate basketball that earns hundreds of millions each year from March Madness but fails to pay the athletes who make it possible. Rhoden has two relatively new books, and both titles promise to ignite discussion: Forty Million Dollar Slaves: The Rise, Fall, and Redemption of the Black Athlete; and Third and a Mile: From Fritz Pollard to Michael Vick—An Oral History of the Trials, Tears, and Triumphs of the Black Quarterback. His talk and reading begins at 4 p.m. Call 962-5060 for more information. —David Fellerath
ComedyWorx—Though ComedyWorx is no longer partnering with Chicago's iO (formerly ImprovOlympic, and formerly one of the three i's in i3—I know it's confusing, but stay with me, it'll all make sense at the end—), they're keeping the "i" from a previous scene, and using it to present the third annual i3 Improv Invitational Festival. Five teams from Chicago will join seven local groups for two nights of long-form havoc.
The link between the improv worlds of Chicago and the Triangle has grown so strong that the annual southward migration of talent is starting to wear out the carpet. Visitors this year include Belmont Transfer, Insult to Injury, Wing Night and Pudding-Thank-You. If you're a fan of long-form, bring your listening cap, but be warned: These shows are for mature audiences only. Which means (if I know anything about improv) you won't just hear profanity, you'll see it enacted on stage.
Shows are at 8 and 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, tickets $10. Reserve seats ahead of time; space is limited. For reservations and more info, see www.comedyworx.com. —Marc Maximov
McIntyre's Fine Books—UNC-Chapel Hill graduate Todd Johnson is something of a Renaissance man. Not only did he produce the Tony-nominated Broadway hit The Color Purple with Oprah Winfrey, he's also worked as a musician with the likes of Celine Dion, Tony Bennett and Garth Brooks. Now he's written his first novel, The Sweet By and By, about five Southern women whose lives "come together in a journey of courage, hope and humor." Johnson drew from his North Carolina upbringing for this story, along with the experiences of time spent with his grandmothers. The event is at 2 p.m.; Johnson also appears at Raleigh's Quail Ridge Books & Music Thursday, April 16, at 7:30 p.m. For more information, visit www.fearrington.com/VILLAGE/calendar.asp. —Zack Smith
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
Carolina Theatre—Watching the Gold Box DVD set of Twin Peaks, two things are apparent. First is that Peaks, with its cinematic look, large cast, heavily serialized narrative and self-referential attitude, helped pave the way for many of today's most acclaimed shows, ranging from Lost to Breaking Bad. The other is that without question, David Lynch and Mark Frost were making it up as they went along. Twin Peaks' cinematic spin-off, 1992's Fire Walk With Me, did little to resolve the show's final cliffhanger as it recounted just how Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) came to be dead, wrapped in plastic. Booed at Cannes and baffling even by David Lynch standards, it's a weird allegory for how sexual abuse is a crime that is passed from one victim to the next, or not. It's hard to say. The film is paired with the almost-as-strange Tourist Trap (1979) for a double feature Retrofantasma that is billed as "It's a WTF Trap!" To find out more about this enigmatic evening of cinema, visit www.festivals.carolinatheatre.org/retrofantasma. The show starts at 7 p.m., and you'll have to bring your own coffee and cherry pie. —Zack Smith
Allenton and Semans Galleries—It might seem unusual that the term "art" is used to describe the craft and object of quilts. Most quilts are seen solely as a useful and warm thing to have near a bed, and even when they achieve heirloom status, few of us would consider hanging them up in a gallery.
The Professional Art Quilters Alliance-South (PAQA-South) is changing this view with quilts that offer far more to the eye than our grandparents' stitching. The seventh annual exhibition of art quilts chosen by the PAQA-South's jury has expanded to two locations this year, and will include a conference with lectures on design topics. The theme of this year's exhibition is "Transitions," the shifting of life and the world, as seen in these innovative fabric creations. The exhibit could cause a transition in the way we see quilting. For more information, see www.artquiltersouth.org. —Hobert Thompson
Smokin' Joe Kubek & Bnois King
Blue Bayou—Smokin' Joe Kubek slides swinging blues guitar into dangerous melodic lines. Notes twang out, grabbing urban blues and dragging it through the heat, dust and open plains of Texas. Playing for more than 30 years, Kubek brings a rocking braggadocio to his music, offering seemingly infinite variation within the basic blues structure. For the past two decades, Bnois King has backed Kubek with a solid base of jazz chords. King's vocals, though, rival Kubek's playing for the spotlight: Rich, thick and soulful, the sound suggests a hedonistic preacher with deep resolve. Kubek's playing, then, accentuates King's sermon, acting as its bad-ass messenger angel. A bass and drums rhythm section digs the two lead men even deeper into the pocket, descending into a heaven of a type. Arrive at 9:30 p.m. for a service in Texas blues. This won't be one of those times you want to sit in the back of the congregation. —Andrew Ritchey
Sadlack's—Former Six String Drag songwriter Kenny Roby (Friday) now leads The Mercy Filter, but solo sets allow his writing and rich tone to shine. With roots-rock tendencies buttressed by pop hooks that would light up fans of the Liverpool lads, Roby's sets stretch into his back catalog, from Six String Drag to his worthy solo output. Instrumental quartet Starmount (Saturday) suggests electric extraterrestrial atmospheres. Greg Elkins, veteran area producer, drives the melody with eerie pedal steel and help from Rob Davis' synthesizer, both supported by drums and upright bass. The shows are free and start at 7 p.m. —Spencer Griffith
John Edgar Wideman
Sanford Public Policy Institute, Duke Campus—You have to wonder what a guy like noted author John Edgar Wideman thinks of our new president. Wideman came to prominence because of his ability to universalize the particulars of his African-American life, one that few would want to emulate. His brother was sentenced to life in prison for murder. The same thing happened to his biracial son. Wideman has written about these ironies of his upbringing—a son of working-class blacks in Pittsburgh who grew up to be an all-star basketball player, a Rhodes Scholar, an Ivy-League graduate and a MacArthur genius—in acclaimed books of fiction and nonfiction (nominated for the National Book Award and by the National Book Critics Circle), including Brothers and Keepers in 1984.
Wideman's latest book, Fanon, is the subject of discussion today. It's a work of meta-fiction in which he, the author, writes about an author trying to craft a novel about Frantz Fanon. Fanon was an Algerian psychiatrist who provided the intellectual foundation for that country's war for independence. Some found it maddeningly oblique while others found it transcendent. Both responses seem fitting for Wideman, who's often lived separate lives. The talk begins at 7:30 p.m. and is free, but space is limited. RSVP at email@example.com. Visit www.pubpol.duke.edu/news/events.php. —John Stoehr