Ruthie's Place Don't let the modernist tin exterior fool you -- inside the red door of this funky joint there beats the heart of a real dive. Amusements are minimal -- sure, there's a large-screen TV, a well-stocked jukebox and a pool table, but the main attraction is the unpretentious (read: "heavy on the cheap domestic") beer, which is dished out from the circular bar that dominates the room. The walls in the men's room are festooned with pinups from Maxim and other lad mags. But none of that is what makes this the best dive bar in town. That would be the conversation. On a recent visit, one crusty old regular was regaling all who would listen about the much younger lady he had picked up earlier that week: the one who rolled him while he slept off a bender. Now that's dive-bar fodder if we've ever heard it.

Ruthie's Place Don't let the modernist tin exterior fool you -- inside the red door of this funky joint there beats the heart of a real dive. Amusements are minimal -- sure, there's a large-screen TV, a well-stocked jukebox and a pool table, but the main attraction is the unpretentious (read: "heavy on the cheap domestic") beer, which is dished out from the circular bar that dominates the room. The walls in the men's room are festooned with pinups from Maxim and other lad mags. But none of that is what makes this the best dive bar in town. That would be the conversation. On a recent visit, one crusty old regular was regaling all who would listen about the much younger lady he had picked up earlier that week: the one who rolled him while he slept off a bender. Now that's dive-bar fodder if we've ever heard it.

The Medicine Show This category is somewhat misnamed, for when the Medicine Show performs, the group is seldom constrained by the stage. The madcap bluegrass/old-time ensemble generally uses the stage as a mere launching point. One minute you'll see guitarist Craig Kinsey picking from atop the bar, the next you'll see multi-instrumentalist Geoffrey Muller standing atop a table, strumming a homemade banjo. Hell, sometimes -- as at this year's Westheimer Street Festival -- the band takes its show on the road, literally. As the fest wound down and the sun sank into the humid night, the Medicine Show strolled down Westheimer, pickin', grinnin' and regalin' passersby with the likes of "Rocky Top" and "Lil' Liza Jane."

The Medicine Show This category is somewhat misnamed, for when the Medicine Show performs, the group is seldom constrained by the stage. The madcap bluegrass/old-time ensemble generally uses the stage as a mere launching point. One minute you'll see guitarist Craig Kinsey picking from atop the bar, the next you'll see multi-instrumentalist Geoffrey Muller standing atop a table, strumming a homemade banjo. Hell, sometimes -- as at this year's Westheimer Street Festival -- the band takes its show on the road, literally. As the fest wound down and the sun sank into the humid night, the Medicine Show strolled down Westheimer, pickin', grinnin' and regalin' passersby with the likes of "Rocky Top" and "Lil' Liza Jane."

Kenneally's Irish Pub
Kenneally's Irish Pub This authentic pub has a standard ol'-sod charm: Guinness pints and whiskey along the bar, dartists playing their game. And then there are the bright silver pizza trays atop their racks -- scores of them. Of course, many bars offer complete menus, but Kenneally's makes no pretensions: It's still a pub. It shuns tired bangers-and-mash plates in favor of a limited but mastered menu offering good sandwiches and some of the best homemade potato chips in Houston. But what the crowds really clamor for is the pizza. It has a crunchy, thin crust layered with thick, tantalizing cheese and fresh, tasty toppings that the most discriminating italiano would adore. With quality Irish drafts to wash it down, consider this the ultimate in fusion cuisine.

Kenneally's Irish Pub This authentic pub has a standard ol'-sod charm: Guinness pints and whiskey along the bar, dartists playing their game. And then there are the bright silver pizza trays atop their racks -- scores of them. Of course, many bars offer complete menus, but Kenneally's makes no pretensions: It's still a pub. It shuns tired bangers-and-mash plates in favor of a limited but mastered menu offering good sandwiches and some of the best homemade potato chips in Houston. But what the crowds really clamor for is the pizza. It has a crunchy, thin crust layered with thick, tantalizing cheese and fresh, tasty toppings that the most discriminating italiano would adore. With quality Irish drafts to wash it down, consider this the ultimate in fusion cuisine.

Chapel at Live Oaks Friends Meeting House If you think James Turrell's tunnel of colored light under the MFAH is cool, check out his chapel at Houston's local Quaker meeting house in the Heights. Every Friday night, if the weather obliges, folks gather to see the "celestial vaulting," as Turrell refers to it. It may look like just a hole, but the cut in the chapel roof frames the afternoon sky like a painting on the ceiling, and as the sun sets and the sky starts to darken, amazing things begin to happen. We suggest lying down on the floor for a better view; the piece plays on the eyes' synapses and perception of color, space and light. Some people cry at the sight of it, and some just can't stop smiling. The room is hushed for about an hour, and when night finally falls, you'll walk out completely changed. Friday evenings only.

Chapel at Live Oaks Friends Meeting House If you think James Turrell's tunnel of colored light under the MFAH is cool, check out his chapel at Houston's local Quaker meeting house in the Heights. Every Friday night, if the weather obliges, folks gather to see the "celestial vaulting," as Turrell refers to it. It may look like just a hole, but the cut in the chapel roof frames the afternoon sky like a painting on the ceiling, and as the sun sets and the sky starts to darken, amazing things begin to happen. We suggest lying down on the floor for a better view; the piece plays on the eyes' synapses and perception of color, space and light. Some people cry at the sight of it, and some just can't stop smiling. The room is hushed for about an hour, and when night finally falls, you'll walk out completely changed. Friday evenings only.

"Inverted Utopias: Avant-Garde Art in Latin America" In 1965, Venezuelan artist Carlos Cruz-Diez constructed an amazing light-based installation -- pre-James Turrell and Dan Flavin. And in the late '60s, Brazilian Lygia Clark created interactive works that employed brightly colored hoods to control participants' senses: Vision was obscured, sachets of spices over the nose provided olfactory sensation, and shell-like earpieces created the roar of the ocean. In the United States our conceptions of Latin American art often involve some sort of vague stereotype (usually involving folk art or painters such as Frida Kahlo or Diego Rivera). But Latin America has long been home to a diverse and thriving art scene - with artists that were often more avant-garde than their U.S. contemporaries. "Inverted Utopias: Avant-Garde Art in Latin America" at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston was the first United States exhibition to explore the subject. It presented an amazing collection of works that purposefully defied preconceptions, as it explored Latin American art from 1920 to 1970. It was a revelation to revel in.

"Inverted Utopias: Avant-Garde Art in Latin America" In 1965, Venezuelan artist Carlos Cruz-Diez constructed an amazing light-based installation -- pre-James Turrell and Dan Flavin. And in the late '60s, Brazilian Lygia Clark created interactive works that employed brightly colored hoods to control participants' senses: Vision was obscured, sachets of spices over the nose provided olfactory sensation, and shell-like earpieces created the roar of the ocean. In the United States our conceptions of Latin American art often involve some sort of vague stereotype (usually involving folk art or painters such as Frida Kahlo or Diego Rivera). But Latin America has long been home to a diverse and thriving art scene - with artists that were often more avant-garde than their U.S. contemporaries. "Inverted Utopias: Avant-Garde Art in Latin America" at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston was the first United States exhibition to explore the subject. It presented an amazing collection of works that purposefully defied preconceptions, as it explored Latin American art from 1920 to 1970. It was a revelation to revel in.

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