7 Texas Drive-In Theaters That You Can Still Visit

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Photo by Andrew Dupont
The Starlite in Brenham still stands as a reminder of the halcyon days of drive-in theaters

The Starlite Drive-In Theater lies abandoned just off of Highway 290 in Brenham, looking like a dead monument to a time long gone. Anyone taking that route between Houston and Austin will have seen the back of its single screen and a tall metal fence around the perimeter.

Scattered around America, there are many old drive-ins. Most are lifeless husks, either abandoned and slowly being claimed by the elements, or having been repurposed into something entirely different. In other cases, they're simply gone, demolished so the land they sat on could be redeveloped into something more profitable.

Those that have disappeared entirely are relegated to the memories of locals who can still remember going to see movies there, but as time goes on fewer people are around who went to movies when they were open for business. There's a definite ghostlike quality to those old, boarded up drive-in theaters. It seems that most of the ones still standing are usually scattered on the outskirts of small towns where land is plentiful, and not in high demand. There's no rush to buy the theaters, and in those cases they simply stand vacant, as a reminder of a long gone era of American entertainment.

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Places in and Around Houston That Feel Like You've Stepped Back in Time

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Photo by Eric Mueller
A car would help to visit these places, but it doesn't have to be a DeLorean.
Sometimes the pace of modern life can get to anyone, and we long for a simpler time. Unless you have a time-traveling DeLorean, your only option for really reaching back in time is to find places that keep elements of the past alive.

Fortunately for us would-be time bandits (okay, if you can travel back in time, I don't condone stealing anything), there are a few places in and around Houston that will give us a taste of a bygone era without the need for an expensive time-traveling 1980s sports car to get there. Places like...

1. Yale Street Grill & Gifts, 2100 Yale

This Heights diner is one of the oldest left in Houston, occupying a space in what originally was the Yale Pharmacy. The diner area is exactly what one would expect from an old-fashioned malt shop, and the food and drinks are excellent diner fare. The area that used to be the pharmacy is now an antiques mall, so there's cool stuff to browse through if that's your thing. I'll be there for an old-fashioned burger and milkshake. The atmosphere is pleasantly anachronistic, and worth the lines that form on weekends.

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Lawndale's The Big Show Doesn't Disappoint

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"Pinkscape" by Leslie Roades
For 30 years running, The Big Show at Lawndale has been treating Houston to an exceptional collection of local works in an effort to entice art lovers and put the spotlight on undiscovered artists. This year's efforts continue the tradition of offering beautiful artwork from a variety of mediums.

The show, which opened on Friday night, features 115 different works from 106 different artists. The selection was juried this year by Erin Elder, the visual art director of Center for Contemporary Arts in Santa Fe. Elder had her work cut out for her. A total of 981 works were submitted by 382 different artists. They don't call it "The Big Show" for nothing. The exhibition is certainly large and widely varied. I was hard-pressed to find any two artists whose work overlapped in style, which I appreciated.

If there were any common themes, it may have been the idea of the "selfie," which showed up in several pieces. It's odd to think about the "self-portrait" taking on a more technological viewpoint, since it is as old as art itself. It's difficult to even express the difference between the traditional self-portrait and the "selfie," save linguistics. The selfie just feels more egotistical in some respects. Whether this was intended by the artists of The Big Show or not, it felt that way.

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10 Artsy/Cultural Houston-Only Summer To-Dos

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Photo by sozavac
Summer in Houston is, well let's just say the obvious, really freaking hot. Unlike our coasts to the east and the west, the Gulf Coast dampness makes a person want to hibernate indoors from May through September. But even at 99 degrees and 100 percent humidity, we Houstonians persevere. It could always be worse and we are used to it.

In terms of art and culture, Houston's summer months may slow down a bit, but there is still plenty going on - outdoors and indoors - and being a Houstonian means taking it all in.

10. Take a picture at Soto's Houston Penetrable at MFAH

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Jesús Rafael Soto, Houston Penetrable, 2004-14, lacquered aluminum structure, PVC tubes, and water-based silkscreen ink, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Museum purchase funded by the Caroline Wiess Law Accessions Endowment Fund. © Estate of Jesús Rafael Soto. Used by permission. Photograph © The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Thomas R. DuBrock, photographer.
There are plenty of places to take selfies in Houston; why we could even compile a list of them if we so desired. However, only in the Houston summer can you swim through the newly constructed Houston Penetrable at the MFAH, which is a part of Jesús Rafael Soto's signature Penetrables series. On view through September in the mezzanine of the Caroline Weiss Law Building, the Soto piece is a dangling, "kinetic" experience of clear and yellow plastic tentacles hanging from the ceiling. The museum hopes this will be an annual summer exhibit, but for now, you only have until September 1 to immerse yourself.


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Assemble Your Search Party! Find Waldo Returns to Houston in July

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How long will it take you to spot Waldo at the 16 local businesses participating in this year's Find Waldo" scavenger hunt? Sharp-eyed searchers will need to be on the lookout for a red-and-white striped T-shirt and knitted cap this month, as local businesses once again host this fun tribute to Waldo, and awareness-raiser for the Shop Local cause.

"We added businesses in the Heights this year," explained Brazos Bookstore's resident Kids Specialist (and Grand Czar of Teen Romance), Mary Catherine Breed. "We have an existing partnership with Travis Elementary, so it seemed like a perfect fit." Brazos will serve as the Find Waldo Local Headquarters, and returning businesses include Buffalo Exchange on Bissonnet and the Monster PBJ food truck. New businesses include Tulips & Tutus, the oolala boutique, and Heights Candy Bar.

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A Farewell to Gumbys: Monty Python Calling It Quits

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The Flying Circus in their heyday.
The surviving members of venerable British (plus one American) comedy troupe Monty Python are reuniting for a series of shows at London's O2 arena starting today. There will be ten performances total, featuring much more than mere re-enactments of their Flying Circus material:

In addition to famous Python skits, it will be a fully staged theatrical extravaganza with dancers and an orchestra. It will also feature a filmed appearance by Python Graham Chapman, who died in 1989, and a cameo for British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, the Pythons said at a news conference.

The final show, on July 20, will be broadcast worldwide for the teeming hordes of you who won't be able to pop across the pond to see them live (tickets are still available, BTW). As I understand it, you'll be able to purchase tickets to see it streamed live in select theaters (go here for a list), with rebroadcasts on the 23rd and 24th. I also wouldn't discount the probability of a DVD release somewhere down the line.

As a lifelong Monty Python fan, this is bittersweet if not entirely unexpected news. Part of my childhood Saturday night viewing experience was watching Saturday Night Live, then switching over to PBS to watch the Flying Circus, and like many other nerdy adolescents, I annoyed the hell out of everyone in earshot with my ability to repeat entire Python movies from memory. It's the end of an era, and as such, I will reach back to my awkward teen years to share my favorite bits.

No, not those bits.


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Want to See Richard Linklater's Boyhood for Free? Here's How.

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The Houston Film Critics Society (of which yours truly is Vice President) and the Alamo Drafthouse have teamed up to offer a free screening of Boyhood, Texas filmmaker Richard Linklater's latest movie, this Monday at the Drafthouse's Vintage Park location.

What is Boyhood? Funny you should ask:

In the summer of 2002, Richard Linklater began filming the movie in Houston with young actor Ellar Coltrane. Every year for the next twelve years, Linklater would pick up the camera and film another fifteen or so minutes - the story picking up another year later in the life of Ellar's character. The resulting film is a sprawling story of youth itself - a one-of-a-kind document about what it's like to grow up.

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Your Dad Is Cooler than That Tie: Five Gift Ideas for Father's Day

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Photo by Christina Uticone
The author is literally chilling with her dad on Prince William Sound, 2008. Solid Dad time.
Another tie? Bo-ring. A new set of grilling tools? Wow--now that's out of the box. Let's face it, Father's Day may be the most cliché-laden of the gift-giving holidays, but since we're talking about our dads here, let's all agree to give it a little bit more effort this year. Yes, there is still time.

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10 Things You Don't Want to Miss at Comicpalooza 2014

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Chuck Cook Photography
WHAT DO YOU MEAN, YOU DON'T OWN A TENTACLE KITTY?

We scoped out Comicpalooza for you today and although there's a ton of things to see and do, we're pointing out a few things that we think are worth seeking out.

10. Basketball-Playing Robots

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Chuck Cook Photography
If these were auctioned for college scholarships for these kids, you'd bid, wouldn't you?

High school robotics students were charged with the task of creating mechs that can catch a ball, toss it to their "teammates" and put it in a basket while keeping it away from their opponents. In other words, these robots are essentially playing basketball.


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Your Last-Minute Costuming Guide for Comicpalooza

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Phaedra Cook
It's not too late to get your Who on. Bedrock City has plenty of pop culture gear, even for the ladies.

Comicpalooza, Houston's biggest comic and pop culture convention, starts at 10 am on Friday. The six-year old convention keeps growing in size and popularity. This year, it spans four days instead of three. (Hopefully, you already have Memorial Day off and don't have to call in "sick.")

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Chuck Cook Photography
It's OK to be normal. Dark Phoenix still loves you.
So, what if you want to go to Comicpalooza but didn't plan on wearing a costume?

Option 1: Don't Sweat It

First off, it's absolutely fine to not wear a costume or cosplay. Speaking from experience, costumes can be hot, uncomfortable and--if you make your own--require hours, days or even months of work to achieve a high level of quality and authenticity. Based on my own observations at cons, a third or fewer attendees actually cosplay (although it is growing in popularity every year and more and more people are picking it up as a serious hobby). In fact, I strongly recommend to first-time con attendees to NOT cosplay. Just come see what it's all about first and then decide if you want to cosplay for the next one.

Option 2: Nerd Couture

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Phaedra Cook
Bedrock City and other local comic book stores have a wide variety of apparel.

The easiest way to dress in the spirit of the event is to visit your local comic book store and check out the assortment of branded T-shirts. You can probably find one that sports a character that you love. At larger comic book shops, like the Bedrock City Comics on Washington Avenue, there's a lot more than just T-shirts to choose from. These days, the fashionable geek can choose from hoodies, jackets hats and wallets. Gussy up your jeans and jackets with iron-on patches. There are even some extremely cute Doctor Who dresses for the ladies.

If your heart is absolutely set on wearing a costume (or you have a child who is going to be heartbroken to not have one) you still have some options--if you hurry.

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