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Wednesday University A five-part, biweekly course on American theater as a political forum, taught by University of Washington drama professor Barry Witham, begins this week. Sponsored by Seattle Arts & Lectures. Henry Art Gallery, UW campus, 206-621-2230, www.lectures.org. $75 (entire course). 7:30-9 p.m. Wed., Jan. 11.
Michael Williams and Larry Soriano Following a tough year at the pumps, economist Williams joins Soriano, the president of local fuel distributor Western Pioneer, to predict this year's gas prices. Sponsored by the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce. Rainier Square, 1301 Fifth Ave. (third floor), 206-389-7265, www.seattlechamber.com. $15. 7:45-9:15 a.m. Thurs., Jan. 12.
Jared Diamond In Collapse, which he'll discuss tonight,the author of Guns, Germs, and Steel explores the factors that led to the downfall of outwardly successful civilizations. Town Hall, 1119 Eighth Ave., 206-652-4255, www.townhallseattle.org. $5. 5:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. Thurs., Jan. 12.
Rocky Barker His new book, Scorched Earth, examines the historical intersection of firefighting and environmental policy in the American West. UW Mary Gates Hall (Room 258), 206-616-3310. Free. 3 p.m. Fri., Jan. 13. REI, 222 Yale Ave. N., 206-343-4344, www.rei.com. Free. 7 p.m. Fri., Jan. 13. Elliott Bay Books, 101 S. Main St., 206-624-6600, www.elliottbaybook.com. Free. 7:30 p.m. Sat., Jan. 14.
Film Screening A film series sponsored by Wallingford Neighbors for Peace and Justice continues with the PBS documentary Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin, about the adviser to Martin Luther King Jr. whose work (and status as a gay man) has been neglected in many histories of the Civil Rights Movement. Discussion to follow. Keystone Church, 5019 Keystone Pl., www.seattleactivism.org. Free. 7 p.m. Fri., Jan. 13.
Film Screening and Discussion Local student filmmakers Jessica Eskelson and Nichole Ketcherside explore the lives of homeless youth in their documentary Downtowners. Jerry Fest, author of Street Culture: An Epistemology of Street-Dependent Youth, will speak after the screening, with discussion to follow. Capitol Theater, 206 Fifth Ave. S.E. (Olympia), 360-754-5378, www.youthchangeagents.org. $10-$25 (sliding scale). 7 p.m. Fri., Jan. 13.
Film Screening The documentary Žižek! examines the accomplishments and personality of Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek, whose work deals with pop culture, psychoanalysis, religion, politics, and other contemporary themes. The screening will be followed by a panel discussion featuring University of Washington professors Jennifer Bean, Marek Wieczorek, and Henry Staten. Northwest Film Forum, 1515 12th Ave., 206-329-2629, www.nwfilmforum.org. $8 ($6 seniors/children; $5 NWFF members). 8 p.m. Fri., Jan. 13. 7:15 p.m. Sat., Jan. 14-Thurs., Jan. 19.
Boats That Fly Hydroplane experts Ken Muscatel and David Williams and boat designer David Knowlen discuss the ins and outs of the Miss Budweiser and other legendary raceboats. Museum of Flight, 9404 E. Marginal Way S., 206-764-5700, www.museumofflight.org. $14 ($13 seniors, $7.50 youth). 2 p.m. Sat., Jan. 14.
Magdaleno Avila-Rosa The head of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Projects speaks on social justice in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Rainier Valley Unitarian Universalist Congregation, 4620 S. Findlay St., 206-722-4880, www.rvuuc.org. www.nwirp.org. 5 p.m. Sun., Jan. 15.
Community Reading The Central District Forum hosts a commemorative reading of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I've Been to the Mountaintop" speech, which King delivered the night before his assassination, and which concludes: "I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord." Seattle Center (Center House Pavilion), 206-323-4032, www.cdforum.org. Free. 2:30 p.m. Mon., Jan. 16.
Lecture Series "The African American West: 1528–2000," sponsored by the University of Washington Alumni Association, begins with a talk by UW history professor Quintard Taylor about the evolution of slavery from the 16th century through the Civil War. UW Kane Hall (Room 130), 206-543-0540, www.uwalum.com. $15 ($5 students). 7-9 p.m. Tues., Jan. 17.
Lonnae O'Neal Parker The Washington Post writer (and author of The Seattle Times series "White Girl? A Dialogue on Race") speaks at Kane Hall on the traditional and contemporary roles contained within the concept of black womanhood. UW Kane Hall (Room 210), 206-634-3400, www.grad.washington.edu/gomap. Free. 7 p.m. Tues., Jan. 17.
Carol Padden As some languages, like Yiddish, lie on their deathbeds, others, like a new Bedouin sign language, are born. The UC-San Diego communications professor talks about the latter's intricacies in a Town Hall lecture sponsored by the University of Washington. 1119 Eighth Ave., 206-632-3400, www.townhallseattle.org. Free (tickets required). 6:30 p.m. Wed., Jan. 18.
William Ruckelshaus The former EPA head and FBI director (under Nixon) and current corporate giant discusses environmental concerns specific to the Northwest. 222 Yale Ave. N., 206-223-1944, www.rei.com. Free. 10:30 a.m. Thurs., Jan. 19.