1 Take a plume of steam from a power plant, project colored LED lights onto it, and you’ve got public art. The Plume Project, illuminating the downtown St. Paul riverfront now through the Winter Carnival, is St. Paul’s ghostly, ephemeral answer to the nightly animation on Minneapolis’ Target headquarters. The project highlights the green energy process of the District Energy plant, which uses waste wood to heat and cool downtown. And through Dec. 8, the plume has its own phone number: Call 651-383-1378 to play one of six poems triggering the lights in real time. Memo to St. Paul: Your skyline needs a new modern signature. Can’t someone figure out how to make this permanent? www.plumeproject.com
2 Mixology guru Johnny Michaels is back behind the bar at the Alchemist in downtown White Bear Lake. The cozy drinks-only emporium features an industrial glam decor and a rotating list of cocktails. Current offerings include the Old Cuban (rum, mint syrup, lime, bitters, cava and mint) and the Lady Anne (a Champagne cocktail with gin, elderflower and yellow chartreuse). There’s not so much as a cocktail peanut to eat, but luckily there are several restaurants (including Washington Square Bar & Grill and Manitou Station) within walking distance. 2222 4th St., White Bear Lake, thealchemistwbl.com
3 In “Brooklyn,” Saoirse Ronan brings beauty, insight, sorrow and laughter to her first adult role as Eilis Lacey, who emigrates in 1950 from Ireland to New York City. John Crowley’s direction, Nick Hornby’s script, Yves Bélanger’s cinematography and faultless performances create a sumptuous film. It’s a refined period romance, free from schmaltz and sentimentality — a modern classic of the highest order.
4 The critically panned Donald Trump episode of “Saturday Night Live” could have used some help from Brave New Workshop. “The Trump Who Stole Christmas,” BNW’s latest satirical revue, offers a hefty helping of wry, cutting wit. Ryan Nelson plays the title character with pursed lips, smarmy pomposity and zero self-reflection. “Wives are like iPhones,” he says in one monologue, “you have to keep upgrading or people think you’re a loser.” Besides Trump, the sketch show sends up broader themes that emerge as people gather and reflect at the holidays. bravenewworkshop.com.
5 Why would you let a bunch of high school students from San Francisco and Michigan give you a reading list? Just do it. Scenes leap from the pages of “The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2015.” Vivid fiction, searing nonfiction, plus poetry and graphic novels, all picked by students. Wells Tower stalks an elephant with American trophy hunters. Daniel Alarçon traces the tragic consequences of reality TV for a 19-year-old in Peru. Box Brown depicts the life of wrestler/actor André the Giant as a graphic novel. All were worth the time.