In Steven Spielberg's Into the West, Skeet Ulrich's character desperately hunts for treasure during the 1849 California gold rush. He labors for months, sifting through sand in ice-cold river water, enduring a crappy existence that finally claims his life. But hey, according to the folks at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, this hellish experience can be fun! "Well, not if you're doing it in the wild," says David Temple, who curated the museum's "Gold! Natural Treasure, Cultural Obsession." At the museum's Texas Gold Panning Championships this weekend, professional panners will teach you to sort through a pan filled with dirt and other materials, including pyrite and gold flakes. Then come contests for speed (who can separate eight gold nuggets from a pan of dirt the fastest) and accuracy (who can separate ten gold flakes from a pan of dirt without losing any of them). The competition is open to all ages and skill levels, and winners receive bling like gold nuggets and even topaz gems weighing up to 22 carats (that's so J. Lo). Registration begins at 9 a.m.; tutorials begin at 9:30 a.m.; tournament runs from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, July 23. One Hermann Circle Drive. For information and registration, call 713-639-4629 or visit www.hmns.org. $20 (includes admission to "Gold!" exhibit). -- Steven Devadanam
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Forgive us, o ladies of Houston Roller Derby, for objectifying you. It's not that we guys don't respect your sport, which has you zipping around on your four-wheel skates and pummeling one another with linebacker grit. It's a brutal ballet, yes, and we adore it and your athleticism. But when you offer us a chance to see you -- gasp -- rolling around in your bikinis this weekend, what the hell are we supposed to do? We hope you don't mind that some of us who show up for your fund-raising car wash won't necessarily be driven by the need to buff our Toyotas. 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, July 23. The Mezzanine, 2200 Southwest Freeway, suite 150. For information, visit www.houstonrollerderby.com. $10. -- Steven Devadanam