Volume 75, Number 40 | February 22 -28 2006

The A List

Rare Reads Every time rare book expert Nancy Cooper opens a box of donations to Housing Works Bookstore Café, she embarks on her own little Antiques Roadshow, digging through yellowed pulp mysteries and obsolete computer manuals to find a signed first edition or valuable art book. On Thursday, February 23 at 6 p.m., Cooper will host a free class at the nonprofit bookstore, teaching amateur antiquarians the fine art of identifying and appraising collectable books. Could granny’s 1892 bible be your winning lottery ticket? Hey, you never know. Housing Works Bookstore Café, 126 Crosby Street btwn. Prince and Houston (212-334-3324; housingworks.org/usedbookcafe). — Rachel Fershleiser

Keeping it Cajun After 19 years of playing together, Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys have just released their 10th album, “Dominos” (Rounder), which pays homage to the legends of Cajun music via covers of obscure classics and the band’s own prolific songwriting. The accordionist, Steve Riley (right), has even played with several of the genre’s greats, including Marc Savoy, Denis McGee, Sady Courville, and Dewey Balfa. “Dewey was such a patient man, so happy to see a young man interested in the music. He took me under his wing,” said Riley, who grew up in Mamou and now lives in Lafayette, Louisiana. He played with Balfa in his late teens.

One of the few Cajun groups that tour beyond Louisiana, the Playboys are cultural ambassadors of a sort. Almost all of their lyrics and liner notes are in French (with English translations alongside for non-Franchophiles to follow). “It’s very important to us to continue that part [the French language tradition in Cajun music]. The music is not gonna die, but the language is in big danger of being lost,” said Riley.

For those who’ve heard the Playboys previous albums, including the two Grammy-nominated ones, “Trace of Time” and “Bon Reve,” expect more of the same from the latest release, as Riley described: “This one’s not much different, really…just traditional, Cajun music.” The Playboys are certainly enamored of tradition in their own way — they still play at dancehalls whenever they’re in Louisiana. “Cajun music is…very much a dance music. We play at dancehalls and festivals, and there’s dancing going on the whole time. The music is a part of every aspect of life…. It’s everywhere,” said Riley. A Cajun-inspired shindig, courtesy of the Playboys, awaits at Joe’s Pub on Friday, Feb. 24th, at 7:30 PM. 425 Lafayette St., between W. 4th and Astor Pl. (212-539-8778; joespub.com). —Aileen Torres

Hudson River School Barney Greengrass may be the sturgeon king, but artist Brandon Ballengée knows how to immortalize our fine-finned neighbor, the Acipenser oxyrhynchus, in a c-print. He joins two other Hudson River-inspired artists to dish on fish, sailboats, decaying docks and other quirks of the New York Harbor. Margaret Cogswell shares her bow watch from the Schooner Adirondack in “Hudson Weather Fugues,” a video and audio portrait of her journey to Albany and back. And Stacy Levy presents a proposal for Tideflowers (left), large-scale petal-shaped collars designed to doll up abandoned pylons along the Hudson’s banks. All three come ashore for “The Hudson River as Source,” a conversation curated and moderated by Wave Hill’s Jennifer McGregor on February 22 at 7:00 pm, Tribeca Performing Arts Center, 199 Chambers Street at West Street (212-220-1460; tribecapac.org/also.htm). — Laura Silver

The Next ‘City of God’? General rule of thumb: Any film widely compared to Fernando Meirelles’ brilliant 2002 epic “City of God” deserves at least a look. And a second truth: The weeks following the announcements of the Academy Award nominations are one of the best periods to catch wonderful foreign cinema floating through the nation’s art houses. South Africa’s “Tsotsi,” one of this year’s nominees for best foreign film, is among the first in a wave of nominees to hit city theaters. And its rough, in-the-streets story about a thug who raises the child of a woman he killed has been compared by more than a few film festival fanatics to Meirelles’ gritty depiction of youth warfare in Rio de Janeiro. Soon to be followed by the multi-national European collaboration “Joyeux Noel,” let’s hear three cheers for world cinema. “Tsotsi” starts Friday, Feb. 24 at the Angelika Film Center, 18 W. Houston, btwn. Broadway and Mercer. (212.995.2000, www.angelikafilmcenter.com). — Steven Snyder

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