GREENSBORO — Leave it to those folks at The Green Bean (341 S. Elm St.) to come up with a creative stress reliever this close to Christmas. Hot on the tail of their wildly successful Rock, Paper, Scissors tournament, Pete and his crew are serving up the first Green Bean Staring Contest. Yes, you read that right. The newest battle of wits and wills involves looking a stranger in the eye as long as you can. Blink first, and you’re a goner. If this sounds loony enough to lure you to participate or if you just want to watch pairs of people staring each other down, head to The Green Bean about 7 tonight. You’ll also want to check out the live music at downtown’s favorite coffee shop this week. Ron and the Marks play Friday night, and Citizens of the Garage perform Saturday night. Also, keep your eyes (and ears) open for information about a Green Bean New Year’s Eve Bash.

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Where else but in Greensboro can you shop for carpet and art at the same time? The Upstairs Gallery has opened directly above Carpets by Direct (2837 Battleground Ave.), near TJ Maxx. The 2,000-square-foot gallery boasts local and national talent, both widely known and undiscovered. Currently, the gallery has a display of fish sculpture, photography and jewelry. The gallery also has 13 portraits of celebrities created by Florida artist Allison Lefcort. The space is the only gallery I know of on that side of town and is worth visiting for a change of pace.

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It seems that the Triad has gone bull-crazy. I’ve been told that riding the mechanical bull at Arizona Pete’s is a new favorite pastime for the Triad’s college students (see Carrie White’s column on page 24). Now, I learn that professionals (and their actual, breathing livestock) are coming to the Greensboro Coliseum. On Feb. 19, professional bull riders from across the nation will compete in the Jerome Davis Challenge. Tickets went on sale Dec. 6 and are selling fast. If you want to see real cowboys and cowgirls, you need to pony up the cash now. Tickets are $15 to $100 and may be purchased at the coliseum’s box office, www.tickets.com or (888) 397-3100.

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If you’re looking to give something back this holiday season, the perfect opportunity has arrived. Greensboro’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission has just moved into its permanent offices and is recruiting volunteers. The commission’s goal is to do investigative work surrounding the murder of five demonstrators at an anti-Klan rally in 1979. The Greensboro Massacre, as it’s known in local circles, tore the community apart 25 years ago. The Truth and Reconciliation Committee hopes that a thorough investigation and public hearings on the events of Nov. 3, 1979, will ease community tensions that linger over the murders. The commission’s new offices are in the Self-Help Building in downtown Greensboro (122 N. Elm St., Suite 810). If you’re interested in volunteering, call 275-6462 or mail a letter to TRC, P.O. Box 20566, Greensboro, NC 27420.

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Last week, I mentioned shopping local merchants as a way to make a difference this Christmas. One place to make a difference with your dollars is the recently opened Ten Thousand Villages, a cooperative in a strip mall at Mill Street and Battleground Avenue. The company sells products from developing nations and aims to empower individuals and small businesses economically without using sweatshop labor or exploitative policies.

You also can look for the Fair Trade label when shopping online to ensure your dollars are working to better the world instead of further dividing it. Web sites as diverse as Amnesty International (www.amnesty-usa.org), The Body Shop (www.thebodyshop.com) and Starbucks (www.starbucks.com) offer Fair Trade certified products. To learn about nondiscrimination policies and sweatshop ownership for almost every major corporation, visit www.responsibleshopper.org.

So, think before you buy. It will make the holidays a little happier for those around the world this Christmas.

Jennifer Broome is a freelance contributor who covers the buzz in and around Greensboro. Got news on art, music, entertainment, a new nightclub, a new restaurant or something in the community? Contact Broome at msbroome@hotmail.com. Or visit her blog at www.livejournal.com/users/jenn_broome.

WINSTON-SALEM — Don’t miss what promises to be a powerhouse trio of performances at The Garage (110 W. Seventh St.) this weekend. It will be a Saturday to remember.

Headlining is Jeffrey Dean Foster and the Birds of Prey (Andy Mabe, Cliff Retallick and Brian Landrum). Foster will unveil plenty of new songs from his forthcoming and long-awaited album, “Million Star Hotel,” as well as old favorites. Even a few Christmas chestnuts will be performed for your listening pleasure.

As if that wasn’t more excitement than you could stand, Clare Fader and the Vaudevillains also will be spreading holiday spirit. Fader is just back from Sweden and an East Coast tour.

Also, David Mikush, a Triad teenage phenom and answer to Dave Matthews, will perform his first show here in quite a while. He’ll start at 8 p.m.

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While I’m on the subject of The Garage, it seems it has a new dancing partner: the Fiddle & Bow Society. After two years at Morning Dew Coffee Roasters on Burke Street, the Triad’s 23-year-old folk society will move to The Garage in January.

During the past five years, The Garage’s owner, Richard Emmett, has presented various types of music, including alternative rock, country, blues and folk, and has even turned his space into a place to see movies and hear spoken word. The Fiddle & Bow Society is just another jewel in The Garage’s entertainment crown. According to the Fiddle & Bow’s Web site, the organization hopes to host special events that will present some of the top acts on the folk scene, something it believes it has gotten away from to some extent during the past few years.

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Other music notables this weekend include tonight’s Canadian synth-pop tour featuring Daiquiri and the World Provider at The Werehouse (211 E. Third St.). And while you’re at it, stop by Thea’s Rhythm and Blues Club (521 N. Liberty St.) Friday night for the Front Page Band & Show. It’s free before 10 p.m. Rounding out your weekend is The Sams, with local guitar guru Sam Moss. The group will play Saturday at The Rubber Soul (1148 Burke St.). Cover charge is $5.

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Feeling a bit literary this holiday season? Then take note that the Poets of the Enrichment Center will read a selection of poems from their latest book, “Warm Wishes,” at 7 tonight at Borders Books, Music & Cafe in Thruway Shopping Center. Several of the poets will be available to sign copies of the book. Created by individuals with disabilities, the poems are humorous, poignant and insightful. “Warm Wishes” was edited by Tamara Seiler. The book reading is free and open to the public. For more information, call 777-0076, Ext. 209.

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If you haven’t been getting enough holiday mental stimulation from the Toys R Us commercials every 30 seconds on TV, you might want to visit the Richard Scarry exhibit at SciWorks (400 W. Hanes Mill Road).

With conveyor belts, cranes, a tugboat and a telephone booth, this exhibit encourages busy hands and racing minds to explore. Called “The Busy World of Richard Scarry,’’ the exhibit invites young visitors, ages 2 to 10, to work, create, play and explore the wonders of the everyday working world of Busytown, an exhibit under license from Viacom Consumer Products, the licensing division for Paramount Pictures. Created and designed by the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, the exhibit uses the content, settings and characters portrayed in Scarry’s books and on the animated television series “The Busy World of Richard Scarry.” Visitors will recognize Huckle Cat, Sergeant Murphy, Mr. Frumble and other beloved characters, who were introduced more than 30 years ago by Scarry.

Scientific processes, mathematical concepts, coordination, self-confidence and cooperation are just a few of the concepts promoted in the exhibition. For more information, call 767-6730.

Sure beats a Barney Speak and Spell.

Kim Thore is a freelance contributor who covers the buzz in and around Winston-Salem. Got news on art, music, a new nightclub, a new restaurant or something in the community? Contact her at Strutter2B@aol.com or visit www. strutteronthetown.com.

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