I my Dog Ever since the boom in popularity of Paris Hilton's Chihuahua, Tinkerbell, companionship with a dog is no longer just about having a pet; it's also a fashion statement. At this art happening, Charity de Meer's fanciful photography highlights the relationship of owners and their canine companions as well as the unique juxtaposition of the fashion world and pets. Photos by the Orlando artist have been published in fashion magazines and on the pages of this newspaper, but she says she was inspired to organize this themed party/reception/one-night-show here in town after seeing women wearing high heels and trendy clothes walking their dogs like they were the focus of attention on a runway. Dogs of all proportions are featured in her art, not just the typical travel-size pups "worn" by celebrities. Ever the collaborator (and nuts about his art cars of late), local artist Carl Knickerbocker continues the local tradition of live painting at a peer's event, splashing his primary colors onto carefully outlined canvases that turn into vivid, visual, cynical social commentary. (6 p.m.-9 p.m. at Sky60; free; 407-246-1599;

Central Florida Soap Box Derby Toys for Tots Rally It's all downhill at the Central Florida Soap Box Derby's Toys for Tots Rally in Sanford's Derby Park. The race marks the 10th anniversary of the tradition director Eric Griffin calls "our favorite race of the year." (Ho, ho, ho.) Kids feed the need for speed in the morning; then, in the afternoon, kids at heart take the stage for the "adults and celebrities" race. While we're not sure if there will be any celebrities there, we do know the derby is for a good cause. Instead of paying a registration fee, drivers are asked to donate a new, unwrapped toy (worth $25 or so) to benefit the Marine Corps' Toys for Tots drive. (8 a.m. at Derby Park, Sanford; free, toy donations welcome; 407-330-5697;


Samson & Dalila Orlando Opera ain't messing around with their season opener: They're putting forth a production of Camille Saint-Saëns' multilayered version of one of the Bible's most misogynist stories, and they're doing it with Denyce Graves in the starring role. Even if you don't know an aria from an arse, Graves is one of opera's most visible faces and exquisite voices. (She sang at the national memorial service for the victims of Sept. 11.) She continually explores different media such as satellite radio and the Internet to get the word out about opera. It's quite a coup on behalf of Orlando Opera, and there's no doubt that tickets will sell out quickly for these three shows. (8 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. Sunday, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Carr Performing Arts Centre; $25-$82; 407-426-1717;

Great Gatsby Gala Sure, your high-school English teacher forced you to read the F. Scott Fitzgerald book, but, c'mon, it wasn't so bad to hear about the incredible luxury money could buy during the Roaring Twenties. (Then there was the tragic romance movie with Robert Redford that helped even further with the visuals.) This black-tie fund-raiser event mimics the splendor captured in the book's descriptions by being set on the picturesque lawn of the Albin Polasek Museum, overlooking Lake Osceola. It also brings to life the real times during which Fitzgerald and his wife, Zelda, lived and partied, with readings from The Great Gatsby, dancing, music and performances reminiscent of the era. A wealth of art and cultural items are to be silently, tastefully auctioned to benefit the museum. Guests are requested to wear vintage attire, if they don't feel like donning penguin suits and bejeweled gowns. Zelda by Herself, a collection of watercolor paintings, is on display in the museum through Jan. 7. (7 p.m. at the Albin Polasek Museum and Sculpture Gardens, 633 Osceola Ave., Winter Park; $100; 407-647-6294)

Joan Jett & the Black-hearts Sinner, Joan Jett's first stateside release of new material in over a decade, trumpets her return to hard-rock form. We know she's the "grande dame of female rock" and all, but those plaudits are only partly true. The only honest reason to go see her is nostalgia. She does, however, live up to her ballsy reputation — you know, the one she doesn't give a damn about. That's because Jett's daring enough to bring along a couple of seriously rocking bands, easily capable of stealing her thunder. Rolled in a condom of punk, dance and the Stones, the perpetual hard-on of the Eagles of Death Metal's music is a soundtrack to the world's hippest titty bar, and the freewheeling cock-punk of Texas' Riverboat Gamblers is a party of beer-soaked anthems. (with Eagles of Death Metal, Riverboat Gamblers; 7 p.m. at House of Blues; $25-$56; 407-934-2583)


Ekaantha Seetha The nonprofit Asian Cultural Association is best known to the general public for its annual South Asian Film Festival and several-times-a-year performances by master Indian musicians. The touring dance performance titled Ekaantha Seetha, however, brings a different genre of enlightenment. Presented by the Cleveland Cultural Alliance, this quality production allows its skillful performers to tell the story of the courageous women in India throughout the ages using carefully choreographed movement. "From Seetha to Aprajitha, we reap the harvests of the loosened fields of lonely furrows ploughed by such women," says the press release. Ekaantha Seetha is an unusual presentation, gracefully expressing nonviolent resistance of hateful repression. Proceeds benefit local shelters for women. (4 p.m. at Olympia High School; $20-$35; 407-333-3667;

Q Gallery: Runway Fashion Show Event Time to break out some matte foundation for your ravaged knuckles, indie-model types, as Q Gallery at the CityArts Factory gets set to bear witness to the age-old collision of "art" and "fashion." Brooklyn designer Yana Gorbulsky's Supayana fall line should bring a touch of Billysburg to our Smallville, with its expected mix of elegant kitsch (sailor suits!), diffused dowdiness (Laura Ingalls with a stitch kit!) and form-fitting, girly flirtation, assuming that your form is the industry-standard 22 inches in diameter. A runway in the second-floor performing-arts area will be lined by Doug Rhodehamel's ubiquitous mushrooms, then beat to life by the musical musings of DJ Kittybat, models placing one foot in front of the other faster than Tyra Banks can scarf down a BK Whopper. Afterward, fashions will be, as ever, for sale. It may not be Donatella's Fashion Week afterparty, but it's about as close to Parker Posey's loft kitchen as you'll ever be able to get in Orlando. Plus, it's just $5: the price of two uneaten cheeseburgers and a diet soda. (8 p.m. at Q Gallery, CityArts Factory; $5; 407-701-9382;

Carlos Mencia Perhaps once and for all proving the notion that every worthwhile family has an unwanted, drug-addled, loud-mouthed, fat, spotty, potentially diseased cousin pushed into the shadowed corner of the reunion portrait, the Comedy Central clan's Carlos Mencia nonetheless continues to swell in popularity with his plumber's-crack take on comedy as it pertains to current events. Why? Because America loves unbridled stupidity. Even Mencia's signature "Dee Dee Dee" anthem, designed to mock xenophobic and uneducated domestic tendencies, has backfired into a "We're assholes, so what?" affirmation for his idiot masses. Hamfisted allegories dominate Mencia's assault on the obvious, turning most existential conflicts into the equivalent of a Saturday Night Smackdown (literally), but his sweaty smile of common-man camaraderie at the end is supposed to make it OK. It doesn't. Mencia is frankly unbearable, but, well, some people like him. Those people should go. The no-nonsense star of Comedy Central's Mind of Mencia isn't happy until he insults everyone. (6 p.m. and 10 p.m. at Hard Rock Live, CityWalk at Universal Orlando; $40; 407-351-5483;


Orlando's Reggae Awards It's no secret that Orange County has a sizable Caribbean population. Drive down West Colonial alone and you'll see plenty of West Indian businesses keeping Caribbean culture alive in the City Beautiful. Things weren't always so irie here. Once upon a time, Caribbean nationals had to pave the way — for the music scene, club scene and every other scene that people may take for granted. So as a way of showing appreciation, the 2006 Orlando Reggae Awards have been set in motion for annual recognition of strong contributors to the West Indian community. The award ceremony includes performances by Bass Odyssey, Killaman Jaro, Nipton and Poison Dart. Wonie Cotton and Chuck Fender are special guests. (10 p.m. Wednesday at Oasis Lounge; $20-$30; 321-239-7961)

Contributors: Jonathan Cunningham, Amber Foster, Jason Ferguson, Bao Le-Huu, Billy Manes, Susie Orr, Lindy T. Shepherd, Bart Zino

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