When you compare the Gong Show of the '70s to American Idol of today, it becomes more obvious that television programming really is going down the crapper. Sure, Simon Cowell can attack vehemently and Paula Abdul can criticize constructively, but nothing says "Get your sorry butt off the stage" like a gigantic gong. Artist Mark Allen and the folks at the Aurora Picture Show are teaming up to relive the golden days with a Video Gong Show. "It's just what it sounds like," says Allen. The public is invited to bring videos to the Aurora for an audience smackdown. And then everyone gets a little button that measures displeasure with whatever's playing on the screen. "As the video plays, if people don't want to see it anymore, they can hold down their button," says Allen. "This is connected to a little circuit I built that measures the number of people that are holding down the button and translates it into a little bar that goes over the screen. Once it gets to halfway, we made this mechanical robot arm that rings this gong."
Prizes will be awarded at the end of the night for the video that lasts the longest -- as well as the shortest. "You can have people compete to be the most entertaining or the most annoying in the same event," says Allen. "Maybe you've brought something you thought was really entertaining, and you win for most craptacular, and no one needs to be the wiser." 8 p.m. Friday, July 23. Aurora Picture Show, 800 Aurora. For information, call 713-868-2101 or visit www.aurorapictureshow.org. $5. -- Keith Plocek
In With the Old and New
Ecclesiastical rule of thumb aside, sometimes something new does appear under the sun. Case in point: the work of folk artist Joe Harris, now on display at the Blossom Street Gallery. Harris paints with wax pastels on sandpaper for a striking effect that's textural, colorful, primitive and oddly redolent of van Gogh. Harris is one of a dozen artists participating in the gallery's current group show, "The Old and the New." There's no overarching theme to the show, just consistently good stuff covering a wide range of styles and materials. For an extreme contrast to Harris's joyful visual noise, mosey across the gallery to check out sculptor Patrick Medrano's surreal, menacing figures. 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. Through September 1. 4809 Blossom. For information, call 713-869-1921 or visit www.blossomstreetgallery.com. Free. -- Scott Faingold
Anyone who grew up in this town has probably been to the Houston Museum of Natural Science on about a million different field trips for school. You know the giant dinosaur, the glittering rocks and the creepy mummy. But now that you're older, take a look at the Wiess Energy Hall. The HMNS bills it as "the world's most sophisticated and comprehensive energy exhibit." Only in this town would there be a whole hall devoted to the oil and gas industry. (Newbies to Houston, take note: Most of the highfalutin cultural stuff in these parts was funded by the types of equipment on display here.) Take a look and get on or off your high horse as you see fit. 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays; 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesdays; 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays; 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays. One Hermann Circle Drive. For information, call 713-639-4629 or visit www.hmns.org. $3.50 to $6. -- Keith Plocek
The MFAH revives Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
Though cine-weird auteurs Tim Burton and Johnny Depp are planning a new version of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, it will be hard to top the sheer bizarreness of the 1971 original. A girl that turns into a blueberry? Everlasting Gobstoppers? Gene Wilder's uncontrollable hair and purple crushed-velvet waistcoats? No wonder the film is both a cherished Gen-X treasure and an LSD enthusiast's dream. At the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the flick is making a big-screen return, with an interactive screening featuring sing-alongs and a trivia challenge. Tracy Stephenson of the MFAH says she hasn't seen the entire film yet, and her boyfriend's aghast at this obvious gaping hole in her educational upbringing. We hope she doesn't have a phobia about red-faced, green-haired dwarves in overalls. 2 p.m. Sunday, July 25. 1001 Bissonnet. For information, call 713-639-7515 or visit www.mfah.org/films. $2. -- Bob Ruggiero
Sure, the real Houston boat show takes place on summer weekends outside Kemah-area bars, when dudes with gas-guzzling power boats roll by showing off their thong-clad ornaments. But the rest of us can dream about owning a 425-horsepower Genesis 300 at the Houston Summer Boat Show, which features more than 200 exhibitors hawking everything from boats and personal watercraft to fishing gear and accessories. And with a chance to see Twiggy the Amazing Water-Skiing Squirrel taking a spin on those teeny-tiny skis, we're all over it. 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, July 28 through July 30; 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, July 31; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, August 1. Reliant Center, One Reliant Park. For information, call 713-526-6361 or visit www.houstonboatshow.com. $3 to $7. -- Greg Barr