In America, two of the most incendiary topics are race and politics. Farai Chideya tackles both on a regular basis with her books; her talk-radio show; her Web site (www.popandpolitics.com); and as a commentator for CNN, MSNBC and BET. On Tuesday at the Penn Valley Theater (3201 Southwest Trafficway), Chideya discusses her 1999 book The Color of Our Future, in which she hopscotches across America to investigate the country's shift from black and white to a pallet of multiculturalism. Chideya's interview subjects include a mixed-race couple facing racism in their small Florida town and a Native American computer whiz looking to bring his people into the 21st century. Chideya, who calls herself a "passionate observer," reads at 7 p.m. A book signing and reception follow. Call 816-759-4206 for details. -- Christopher Sebela
Roosters rule this year.
The Chinese zodiac suggests that people who are always shrewd, decisive, boastful, extravagant, and so on are going to have a particularly eventful year. But those of us who adopt those attributes only when we're celebrating at P.F. Chang's after having miraculously beaten someone at tennis have just as much right to an interesting 2005 as those uppity roosters. That's why we're all welcome to a good crow Friday from 6 to 8 p.m., when the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art (4525 Oak) invites us to Ring in the Year of the Rooster with classically trained storyteller Charlie Chin, traditional music, calligraphy demonstrations and a Chinese-style buffet in Rozzelle Court Restaurant. There's also that supposedly awesome Asian art collection somewhere in the back of the museum. Call 816-561-4000 -- Jason Harper
What Is Marmota?
For most people, the biggest mental stress that the weekend presents is what movie to rent or where to order out. For slightly more stimulating challenges, the Alphapointe Association for the Blind (7501 Prospect) presents the Groundhog Trivia Tournament. From 12:30 to 5 p.m. Saturday, teams of eight people match wits over the witless minutiae of trivia, with the winners netting $20 a head. Those without seven friends can be matched up with teams lacking seven, and teams lacking an inexhaustible supply of answers can come up with a funny answer to squeak out a couple of points. Raffle-prize giveaways and a bake sale are going on all day, so even if you crash and burn, there are always cookies. Admission is $10 a person; call 913-526-4439 for more details. -- Sebela