First, he's courtly in a way that only an Eastern European intellectual could be. Just imagine him sipping imported tea from a tiny porcelain cup in his attic apartment as he composes his exquisite poems. Second, he is one of the kindest thinkers living among the rest of us troglodytes; he listens with the patience of a saint. But most important is his work. Never mind the fact that he's won multiple international awards and published well over a dozen books, and that he teaches aspiring poets at the University of Houston every spring. His poetry is the sort that can save you from the darkest night. Any doubters need only read his poem that The New Yorker published after September 11, 2001. The delicate Try to Praise the Mutilated World ended with these powerful lines: "Praise the mutilated world / and the gray feather a thrush lost / and the gentle light that strays and vanishes and returns."

Ripcord
Ripcord, let us count the ways we love thee. Your walls are painted with an eye-catching image of a guy's nutsack hanging below the parted cheeks of his ass. Shirtless men on flashing roller-skates zip around your tables taking orders. Your patrons wear chaps, tiny shorts and leather, and if they get drunk and kinky you're kind enough to offer them cock rings, chain mail and large black phalluses for a reasonable price. Despite your hardcore-ness, you have a lovely, intimate, shaded patio, perfect for a tête-à-tête.

Ripcord, let us count the ways we love thee. Your walls are painted with an eye-catching image of a guy's nutsack hanging below the parted cheeks of his ass. Shirtless men on flashing roller-skates zip around your tables taking orders. Your patrons wear chaps, tiny shorts and leather, and if they get drunk and kinky you're kind enough to offer them cock rings, chain mail and large black phalluses for a reasonable price. Despite your hardcore-ness, you have a lovely, intimate, shaded patio, perfect for a tête-à-tête.

The Orange Show
C'mon, the Orange Show founded the Art Car Parade, the most uniquely Houston cultural event in existence. If that's not enough for you, the organization is also nationally known for its programs, projects and files on self-taught, folk and outsider artists. In spite of its success, the Orange Show remains a tribute to the common man, to the artist in all of us. The bizarre little folk art headquarters off I-45 is a great place to spend an afternoon strolling the mazelike grounds, catching a film and, of course, learning all about the virtues of oranges.

C'mon, the Orange Show founded the Art Car Parade, the most uniquely Houston cultural event in existence. If that's not enough for you, the organization is also nationally known for its programs, projects and files on self-taught, folk and outsider artists. In spite of its success, the Orange Show remains a tribute to the common man, to the artist in all of us. The bizarre little folk art headquarters off I-45 is a great place to spend an afternoon strolling the mazelike grounds, catching a film and, of course, learning all about the virtues of oranges.

Houston institutions have been done in by many forces through the decades -- "progress," development or sheer stupidity. But success shouldn't be the cause of death. Yet a couple of years ago, there it was: Houston's signature event, the Orange Show's Art Car Ball, bloated and expiring right there on the floor of the Astrodome. The ball had grown up from a street festival to a perfect, near-spontaneous parking garage happening, complete with crazy cars and crazier characters, music and noise and laughter and near-nekkid skaters. When the party simply got too sizable to be managed, the Orange Show called it off in 2002. So it was remarkable to see the resurrection, and the return to roots, of the Art Car Ball in a downtown parking garage this year. Praise more than geezus for this born-again blessing for the Bayou City.

Houston institutions have been done in by many forces through the decades -- "progress," development or sheer stupidity. But success shouldn't be the cause of death. Yet a couple of years ago, there it was: Houston's signature event, the Orange Show's Art Car Ball, bloated and expiring right there on the floor of the Astrodome. The ball had grown up from a street festival to a perfect, near-spontaneous parking garage happening, complete with crazy cars and crazier characters, music and noise and laughter and near-nekkid skaters. When the party simply got too sizable to be managed, the Orange Show called it off in 2002. So it was remarkable to see the resurrection, and the return to roots, of the Art Car Ball in a downtown parking garage this year. Praise more than geezus for this born-again blessing for the Bayou City.

The Menil Collection
It's still about the building. Renzo Piano's light-washed galleries are the standard by which to measure all other museums. But the building only sets the art in the best light. It's the curators who choose what goes into the beautiful galleries. And chief curator Matthew Drutt, in his first year, has shaken out some of the dust and cobwebs that had accumulated on the de Menils' remarkable collection. Now the works in the permanent collection get changed out on a regular basis -- no more twice-a-year visits. Drutt also commissioned new works by Vik Muniz and Ann Gaskell, whose premieres had the local art crowd buzzing. Next up: his survey of Kasimir Malevich's suprematist paintings, currently eliciting raves at the Guggenheim. The Menil is an exciting place again.
It's still about the building. Renzo Piano's light-washed galleries are the standard by which to measure all other museums. But the building only sets the art in the best light. It's the curators who choose what goes into the beautiful galleries. And chief curator Matthew Drutt, in his first year, has shaken out some of the dust and cobwebs that had accumulated on the de Menils' remarkable collection. Now the works in the permanent collection get changed out on a regular basis -- no more twice-a-year visits. Drutt also commissioned new works by Vik Muniz and Ann Gaskell, whose premieres had the local art crowd buzzing. Next up: his survey of Kasimir Malevich's suprematist paintings, currently eliciting raves at the Guggenheim. The Menil is an exciting place again.
Kerry Inman's stint in Doug Lawing's downtown space has invigorated the gallery owner, her staff and her artists. Coping with all the street construction is enough to keep anyone on her toes; and while Inman's shows have always been hung well (make of that what you will), it's been especially true this past season. The space has not only allowed Inman's artists to really shine (Tommy Fitzpatrick and Emily Joyce were particular standouts) but it's also helped Inman prepare for her new gallery opening this fall on Montrose. And Inman@Lawing's innovative programming -- bringing in Walter Hopps Award nominee Franklin Sirmans to guest-curate a show, Dario Robleto's two-part exhibit last spring -- has kept gallerygoers on their toes as well.

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