Catherine the Great started it all. Back in 1750, engineers designed a wooden-frame ice slide so that the thrill-seeking Russian ruler could sled year-round. A French engineer later turned the invention into the roller coaster, replacing the sled runners with wheels and laying down track instead of ice. More than 200 years later, we're still scaring ourselves silly, and the IMAX film Thrill Ride -- The Science of Fun brings audiences up to speed. Beginning with Catherine, the 40-minute movie works its way up to today's virtual rides, in which computers fool the eyes while hydraulic seats toss bodies around. In between the archival drawings of the old roller coasters and behind-the-scenes glimpses of a graphics studio, the movie takes viewers for a ride -- a total of 12 minutes spent plunging down hills and dodging asteroids. The IMAX theater seats stay still, but the images on the gigantic screen may be enough to turn some viewers green. Thrill Ride opens today at the Museum of Discovery and Science, 401 SW Second St., Fort Lauderdale. Ticket prices range from $7 to $9. For a schedule see "Showtimes" or call 954-467-6637.
If you've had your fill of ooohing and aaahing at fireworks, why not spend the Fourth checking out a show that sounds as if it celebrates another holiday? Actually, The Last Supper shares only its title with the famous pre-Easter meal. In the one-man, musical-comedy production of songs and skits, Artie Butler stars as Lenny Fields, an insurance salesman from Flatbush who has been directed by God to stage a Broadway show about a fat farm called the Velvet Door. As Fields, the rotund Butler opens the show singing the title song -- an ode to fattening foods. He also plays other characters, including Angelo, the Velvet Door employee who runs an underground snack bar. The Last Supper continues through July 19 at the Hollywood Playhouse, 2640 Washington Ave., Hollywood. Performances are Wednesday through Saturday at 8 p.m., with a 2 p.m. matinee Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday. Tickets cost $26. Call 954-922-0404.
In the Black Lab song "Throw It Away," the group's frontman Paul Durham warbles about "wasted years" -- a subject with which he's well-acquainted. "The characters in my songs are immersed in trying to find redemption, usually from the experience of loss," he explains. "They are trying to find some meaning in it, find resolution and transcendence." Durham's success with Black Lab is the end of his own long search. Raised by a Buddhist mother in Twin Falls, Idaho, he was constantly searching for a place where he could fit in. Relief arrived when he was a student at Oberlin College, where he wrote a thesis on Nietzsche. The German philosopher recognized college as a place where one studies life but encouraged readers to actually get out there and live it. Durham, who'd been writing songs most of his life, realized that music was what he was supposed to be doing. So, after graduating he moved to Berkeley and started recording demos. A few years later, in 1995, he formed Black Lab, which performs today at ZetaFest. The music festival will also include performances by the Black Crowes, Stabbing Westward, Semisonic, Candlebox, and Seven Mary Three. Local bands will perform on a separate Florida Stage. The festival runs from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. at Markham Park, 16001 W. State Rd. 84, Sunrise. Tickets cost $13. Call 954-426-4600.
Any parent will tell you it's a kid's favorite question: "Why?" And now moms and dads can answer a bunch of whys at once with a trip to the new South Florida Science Museum exhibit "Odyssey of Wonders." The show lets viewers explore scientific phenomena such as gravity, rainbows, snowflakes, time, and color by conducting experiments. Balancing a "tricky stick" on one hand, for example, kids will learn about center of gravity. They'll also form rainbows with water droplets and light and partake in any of the 23 other hands-on learning activities. "Odyssey" continues through September 13 at the museum, 4801 Dreher Trl. N., West Palm Beach. Admission is $3 to $5. Call 561-832-1988.
Remember clogs -- those blocklike, wooden shoes that were popular during the '70s and made lots of noise? Well, clogging is an American folk dance that also makes lots of noise. But there the similarities end. Cloggers wear special shoes with taps on the heel and the toe. Once the shoes are laced on, dancers perform something akin to Irish step-dancing, moving back and forth, up and down, and from side to side with shufflelike steps. Clogging was adapted from various European folk dances and first became popular in the United States in the Appalachian Mountains. Today the Sea Turtle Tappers Clog 'n Country Dancers will rehearse, as they do every Tuesday, at Pioneer Park in Deerfield Beach, dancing to everything from banjo to pop music. The public is welcome to watch. For $3, folks can also join in. The session takes place from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. The park is located at 150 NE Second Ave., Deerfield Beach. Call 954-480-4429 or 954-748-0604.
To Dutch designer Gerrit Rietveld, a chair wasn't just something on which to sit; it was an abstract composition of surfaces and lines in space. So, back in 1918 he took the concept of the overstuffed armchair, stripped it to its bare bones, and called it Roodblauwe Stoel (Red Blue Chair). Its sleek, simple lines and spare construction lent the piece of furniture a sling-back look, like that of a wood-frame beach chair. Other designers must have thought highly of it, because soon Rietveld's chair was the model for the de Stijl design movement, which saw furniture as "realistic sculptures for our future interiors." Indeed, Rietveld's piece was so far ahead of its time, it looks futuristic even today. A miniature version of the chair is included in "100 Giants of Chair Design," on view through July 29 at the Design Center of the Americas, 1855 Griffin Rd., Dania. The exhibit is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Admission is free. Call 954-920-7997.