Where Are AstroWorld's Roller Coasters Now?

Categories: Random Ephemera

Photo by Chris Hagerman via Wikipedia
Last week I ran across a seller on eBay hawking some of the larger and more memorable aspects of the long-lost but not forgotten AstroWorld. In the course of researching that article I found that many of the coasters we loved so much are still in active service across the globe. So if you want to go on the ultimate AstroWorld nostalgia tour here's a guide.

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Max Landis Perfectly Explains Why Professional Wrestling Is Amazing

Categories: Random Ephemera

Screengrab via Youtube.com.

Why do we fall in love with the things that we do? Why do we not fall in love with the things that other people have fallen in love with?

I ask myself this every time I go see a musical or watch a softball game or hear the blues. These art forms that people I know and love have fallen for that leave me, at best, ambivalent. What am I not hearing or seeing or experiencing?

I love professional wrestling. I have pretty much from the time I could have real human thoughts. From being a little kid in to the larger than life characters to the "smart mark" adult at times more interested in the backstage politics of a carny business than the onscreen product, I have devoted a lot of time over the course of my life to what goes on in a 20 x 20 squared circle.

And at last a video exists that explains why I love this particular art form so.

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Big Pieces of AstroWorld for Sale on eBay

Categories: Random Ephemera

Do you still feel a little ache in your soul when you drive by the empty field across from NRG Park and the Astrodome? Maybe down in the pit of your stomach where you used to get the butterflies on Greased Lightning? Well, if you do and you have some dough to drop, one eBay seller is offering a ton of AstroWorld's leftover iconic items. Thetexasantiquehunter has netted some pretty sweet swag that will make any Houstonian feel nostalgic.

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6 Surprising Things That Are Legal to Own in Texas. What a State!

Categories: Random Ephemera

Photo by Craig Howell
When you need to go on a naighborhood rampage, its hard to beat a tank.

Texas has a reputation as a state which places a high value on personal liberty, and it may come as no surprise that it is legal to own some interesting things in the Lone Star State. How interesting? Well, interesting enough to make a person wonder how viable it would be to become a super-villain of some kind, or at least to create one's own zoo. Let's take a look at just a few of the things that are legal for a person to own here:

6. A Military Surplus Tank

As far as I can tell, there's no law against shelling out the cash to buy a tank, and there are quite a few websites that specialize in the sale of old armored vehicles to civilians, including tanks. A person who wants to ride around his or her property in a several thousand pound tank can buy them for upwards of $20,000 or so, and let the good times roll! It appears that most of the guns would have to be deactivated in order to keep ownership legal, but an individual who owns a tank can probably just crush anything in his path anyway.

Photo by Keith Roper
Because responsible pet ownership includes having a tiger around.

5. A Tiger

This one makes me sad, but it's not that hard to own a tiger in Texas, and let's face it, it should be. There are some estimates that there are more tigers in private hands here than there are running wild in India. As far as I can find, it is legal for a person to own a tiger and other large dangerous wild animals as long as the owner can prove that the animal will be safely caged and taken care of, and he is granted a license to own the animal. Unfortunately, Texas has a bad reputation for enforcement of those meager rules, and it known to be a hotbed for shady tiger sales.

While wild animals aren't legal to own inside Houston itself, and other municipalities have varying ordinances controlling ownership, Texas has few state laws controlling that stuff. So, while it's completely irresponsible for almost anyone to own a tiger, it's possible to buy one for under a grand. Just keep in mind that it will soon grow to be a 500 pound apex predator that eats around 30 pounds of raw meat daily. There's really no valid reason an individual should own one. Go to a shelter and get a striped house cat instead, they'll make a far better pet, and be happier than some poor tiger would be in captivity. They're also a lot less likely to escape and eat the neighbors.

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Hal Holbrook Channels His Inner Mark Twain in Galveston Performance

Categories: Random Ephemera

Photo courtesy of Hal Holbrook
Hal Holbrook in his one-man show, "Mark Twain Tonight!"

A person can find symmetry in the life of a man born shortly after the 1835 appearance of Halley's Comet, and who predicted that he would "go out with it," too. Such was the case for Samuel Langhorne Clemens, who died the day after its 1910 return, and who was better known by his pen name, Mark Twain.

Noted for writing The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Twain was witty, sarcastic, and befriended by presidents and royalty; his obituary in The New York Times labeled him the "greatest humorist and satirist" of his period.

In the early 1950s a young 22-year-old actor named Hal Holbrook developed a show with his first wife Ruby; he would play famous historical people and she would interview him. From this early start was born the one-man play, Mark Twain Tonight!, which was given a national boost in 1956 by television host Ed Sullivan and has been performed more than 2,300 times.

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Complexions Contemporary Ballet Is Moving to the Unexpected

Sharon Bradford

People don't usually associate ballet with the music of Prince and Stevie Wonder, but Complexions Contemporary Ballet isn't interested in replication. "We are not afraid to entertain," says Co-Artistic Director/Co-Founder Desmond Richardson.

Hailing from New York City, Complexions Contemporary Ballet was founded in 1994 by Richardson and Dwight Rhoden--two directors who both value multiculturalism as well as breaking artistic barriers. Their focus is to be continuously evolving, a group that changes with the culture and time. Their success in doing this has brought them such honors as the New York Times' Critics Choice Award.

Rhoden, the company's resident choreographer, has worked with The Joffery Ballet, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and The Dance Theater of Harlem.

"Dwight often begins his creative process with the music, which informs what he has to say...the current social climate also affects the work at times," says Richardson, former principal dancer with The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, American Ballet Theater, and Ballet Frankfurt. "I assist in the studio by workshopping movement before we teach it to the dancers," says Richardson, who also choreographs on occasion.

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Stanton Welch's Romeo and Juliet Brings Authentic Italian Design to Houston

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Juliet_Sketch.jpg
Courtesy of Roberta Guidi di Bagno
Sketch of Juliet
For the past year and a half, world-renowned Italian costume and scenic designer Roberta Guidi di Bagno has worked to design the sets and costumes for the first new production for Houston Ballet in 28 years -- Artistic Director Stanton Welch's Romeo and Juliet.

Guidi di Bagno and Welch met in 1998 while working on his commission of ├śnsket for the Royal Danish Ballet. When it came time to look for a designer, that's who Welch reached out to in his search for authenticity in the classic tale of young lovers doomed by a family feud, a story set in Renaissance-era Verona, Italy,

"After speaking with Stanton, I looked at paintings from the Old Italian Masters of the 1400s," Guidi di Bagno says. "I took inspiration from those real representations of the time period and then I washed a surface away in my mind and added my own interpretation."

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Why I Think Inner Loop/Outer Loop Debates Are Silly

Categories: Random Ephemera

Photo by Mario
Who knew a road could be so devisive?

It's strange. I've lived in and around Houston my whole life, all over the place, and I've noticed a weird "friction" develop between some people in regards to life either in or outside of the 610 Loop. I guess it's part of human nature for some people to look at those with different lifestyles than themselves as being outsiders, or to make judgments about the choices they've made. But that's pretty lame.

In the case of these Inner Loop versus Outer Loop debates, the weird distrust of people living in other neighborhoods just seems dumb to me. Here are a few of the reasons why these attitudes seem so silly when I really think about it.

First of all, one of the things that makes Houston really special is its sheer size and diversity. It's a huge city, and has a vibrant energy running throughout, and it's got many interesting neighborhoods scattered all over town. I have friends all over the the United States as well as in other countries, and I'm amazed at the bad reputation Houston has. So are a lot of them once they actually visit, and discover the city is vastly more interesting than they thought it was based on its national image. It just seems sad to encounter people who live inside the loop who think that nothing outside of it is worthwhile, or outer loopers who view folks living inside 610 as pretentious creeps.

Houston belongs to all of us. There's nothing that prevents someone living on the northwest side of town from enjoying destinations inside the loop, nor are inner-loopers prevented from exploring all of the cool things the rest of the city has to offer. Frankly, anyone who lives in Houston but doesn't get out of his own neighborhood to look around other parts of town from time to time is really missing out on a lot this city has to offer. For example, the Asian shopping centers on the southwest side of Houston are amazing, and they are but one example of many unique areas scattered all over the city. That's true of restaurants, too. Houston is emerging as one of the nation's most exciting food scenes, and great places to eat are spread out far and wide. Sticking to just one area of town is pretty limiting.

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10 Great Spooky Board Games From the Past

Photo by Brett Taylor
There's got to be some spooky games in there somewhere...

Board games have been around a long time, and despite being a now older form of entertainment, there are lots of great ones that still manage to be fun. Sure, the old standbys such as "Monopoly" and "Risk" are a lot of fun, but I always liked the games with a spooky theme to them, and there have been quite a few released over the years. These are but a few I have enjoyed.

10. "Jaws" (1975)

Released around the same time the '70s blockbuster was, "Jaws" is not really a "board game," strictly speaking, but it's aimed at the same crowd who play them. The game consists of a fairly large plastic shark with an open mouth full of junk, which players attempt to fish out with hooks. One wrong move and the jaw snaps shut. A few years later, an "Alligator" version was released in conjunction with the fun "Jaws" copycat film Alligator. While "Jaws" is not the most challenging game ever made, that shark is cool-looking.

9. Ka-Bala (1967)

Billed as "The mysterious game that foretells the future," this weird oddity came out in the late '60s, and it shows. Riding the line between "fortune-telling device" and "game," Ka-Bala consisted of a glow-in-the-dark sculpted board with a scary-looking "Eye of Zohar" that would tell the player's future. It's a pretty weird system, and more akin to a Ouija board than to a typical game. Seeing as how Ka-Bala combined strange elements of Tarot cards, talking boards, astrology and even kabbalistic mysticism, this is also one that probably upset quite a few religious relatives and friends way back when.

8. Fireball Island (1986)

Fireball Island may be the most fun game on this list, and unfortunately it hasn't been manufactured for a long time, and is a collectible -- Copies on eBay often sell for hundreds of dollars. The board is a large 3D representation of an island with a volcano in the center, and players race around the board, trying to get a jewel and then make it to a waiting boat, while being pursued by others who wish to steal the ruby for themselves. There's quite a bit of strategy, and games can last awhile. On top of everything else, there's an evil-looking idol on the volcano that will shoot fireballs (red marbles) that can knock a player out temporarily. While not exactly "spooky," it's a lot of fun, and that Volcano idol guy is pretty scary.

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4 Disadvantages of Being a Big Guy

Categories: Random Ephemera

Photo by Steve Rainwater
Ol' Tex here probably has an easier time finding clothes that fit than some of us do.

I've always been a big guy -- I'm 6 foot four inches tall and sturdily built. I think a lot of people believe that there's an automatic advantage in being a large person, but there is a downside that goes along with those advantages. Stuff like...

4. The World Is Scaled for Smaller People.

Ducking becomes second nature (hopefully) because doorways are often too low. I have to sit down in some showers because the shower head is mounted so that water hits me somewhere in the midsection. Low ceilings make me feel uneasy and claustrophobic. I can only imagine what it's like for my friends who are even taller, but anyone over a certain height really becomes aware of how most things in this world are scaled for people smaller than they are.

3. Finding Things That Fit Can Be a Challenge.

Shopping for clothes when you're a certain size is a challenge, particularly if you are built a certain way. I am tall and while not stick-thin, I'm not overweight, and finding things like jeans that fit well can be rough -- It seems that beyond a certain height, the assumption is that a person is also fairly large in the waistline, but that's not always the case. Things like shirts and jackets can be problematic, too -- either sleeves are often too short or the chest is enormous if they fit. Sizing gets weird, as I'm an extra-large in some things and an extra-extra-large in others. It seems like the standards get pretty vague at some point along the line. Yes, there are "Big and Large" specialty stores, but it's not just clothes that don't fit you when you're a large person.

For instance, I recently bought a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, and I also owned a custom chopper. Now, the chopper was "raked and stretched" -- its length was effectively increased from a more typical stock size. That custom-fit me like a glove, and when I went shopping for a Harley, I figured it would fit well, too; after all, Harleys are big bikes, right? No, not really. There are things that can be done to make them look and feel bigger, but most stock Harleys are not all that big, and like most things, are really designed for people falling into an average size range. Big surprise, I'm now in the market for a new custom bike again.

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