As with so many stories of successful and famed sports, the great Arowana Trailblazer didn’t start out as entertainment. As originally designed, the Siouxsi Bessemer sampling drills were designed as automated surveying and mining probes for asteroids and other potentially hazardous environments. Dropped from high-altitude platforms or launched via parabolic slings, the tips of each drill generated, via cavitation fluorescence induced by supersonic vibrations, a zone of such high temperature that nearly anything it touched was turned to plasma. Originally developed as weaponry during the last Saber Alliance war, the Bessemers were a very successful plowshare of military technology, as they punctured iron and nickel deposits on asteroids as well as they punctured wallship armor. Within ten years of their invention, Bessemers were used for drilling out habitation areas in asteroids in high-radiation systems where neutron and X-ray shielding was too expensive or impractical, cutting transport tubes below-ground on worlds with poisonous or caustic atmospheres, and facilitating asbestos and thorium mitigation on worlds with a surfeit of both substances and a risk of danger to new inhabitants. The Bessemers were particularly adept at vaporizing and consolidating rare earth metals such as cerium and gadolinium, encapsulating these elements in glass slag for easy removal and refining.
It was on a particularly desolate world on the edge of the Segue 1 galaxy that operators conducting routine mining operations discovered the sporting value of Bessemers. Offered a significant bonus for early completion, the crew on the control platform pushed their machines to the upper limits, with drones close to the surface to watch for anomalies. One slip of a control stick, and a Bessemer blasted through the surface in an eruption of blue glass, like a shark jumping, before it drilled back down out of sight. within seconds of catching the drone telemetry, the other operators attempted their own jumps, and they were rapidly leaving a section of the world’s crust festooned with ruptures and boils before a supervisor routine caught the wildly irregular movement of the Bessemer fleet and reported it to a human superior.
In any other circumstance, the team would have been fired on the spot, but the team manager noted that the rapid breaches onto the planetary surface actually brought up more gadolinium and indium than the slow and methodical recommended procedure, and she knew that profit wasn’t the only motivator for a good crew. Instead, she encouraged more stunts so long as neither production was affected or the Bessemers damaged or left offline, and the crew finished their shift hollowing out spaces around a long-buried iron-nickel asteroid core and nicking the discontinuity between the planet’s crust and its still-fluid mantle, producing a veritable eruption of precious industrial metals. The next shift followed suit, and not only was the work completed in record time, but word and video had gotten out, and the entire platform crew was quickly as in demand for their operating skills as their show personalities.
Before long, Bessemer races were an essential part of terraforming efforts, as some people will bet on anything, and betting on the first Bessemer to punch through a planetary crust and instigate a volcano capable of increasing surface atmospheric pressure was better than most. Very shortly after, efficiency was combined with artistry with crack Bessemer operation teams conducting precision drilling routes, visible via neutrino scans and the occasional breach, ending with three or more breaching simultaneously to the delight of their audience.
Eventually, for mining purposes, the Bessemers became obsolete, replaced with nanobombs that conducted pure metals and organic compounds to the surface with minimal interference with rock layers and structures. Bessemer racing, though, kept going for decades afterward, with a combination of new manufacture and salvaged and highly augmented workhorses abandoned after their official end-life. The original four from Segue 1 are not among them: when Bessemer racing outsold and outbet baseball, sawblades, and full-contact chess, the original four’s operators gave them to the Smithsonian outpost in the core of Sag DEG, where they inspire new generations of top racers to this day.
Dimensions (width/height/depth): 18″ x 24″ x 18″ (45.72 cm x 60.96 cm x 45.72 cm)
Plant:Nepenthes albomarginata “Purple”
Construction: Glass enclosure, polystyrene foam, vacuum-formed plastic, found items.
Posted onNovember 29, 2022|Comments Off on The Aftermath: The Last Triffid Ranch Open House of November
As 2022 drags toward its inevitable conclusion, the main focus at the gallery, even during open houses, is on the ongoing renovation and revision. That process leads to significantly increased gallery space as compared to last year, and all of that space needs to be filled. Old container inventory, locked away in storage since lockdown, is coming out, and new enclosures are ready or nearly ready. Sure, it’s a matter of “Sleep? What’s that?”, but this way the upcoming Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas hold lots of surprises.
And if previous visitors think they’ve seen everything so far, they’re going to be in for a shock. The plan is that by the end of the year, visitors will barely recognize the gallery if their only experiences preceded last summer, and the further plan is to make it completely unrecognizable in its old form by the end of January. More painting, more building, more propagating: it may stop, but it never ends.
As previously mentioned, the Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas open houses start for their fifth year on December 3, running from noon until 5:00 pm. If you can’t make that, then make plans for December 10, 17, and 24, and feel free to spread word as far and wide as you want. 2022 is a year many of us never want to repeat, so let’s send it off with an appropriate kick in the butt.
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Hard-copy Dallas Morning News readers saw the Best In DFW Awards listings first, and online readers have to be subscribers to see the listings, but Dallas’s pretty much only carnivorous plant gallery had a singular entry this morning. Specifically, the Texas Triffid Ranch ranked Silver in the “Best Immersive Experience” award, going well with last year’s Bronze for “Best Art Gallery”:
Very seriously, many, many thanks to everyone who voted and who thought the Triffid Ranch worthy of inclusion, and I stand in gratitude alongside the other winners (including our famed goth club Panoptikon, which won Gold for “Best Night Club”). I only hope the ongoing work on the gallery makes it worthy of the award, and just watch out for 2023.
EDIT: The Best In DFW site is no longer subscription-only, and the winners are listed in alphabetical order. Interestingly, the print edition has updated contact information, but the Web site associated apparently hasn’t been updated since 2016. And so it goes.
Last weekend before things get weird around the Triffid Ranch: the gallery opens on November 19 from noon until 5:00 pm, complete with debuts of new enclosures, with the usual “admission is free, masks are appreciated” disclaimer. This will be the last gallery open house until December 3 with the start of the Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas open houses: next weekend, everything gets packed up and hauled down to Austin for the Blood Over Texas Horror for the Holidays show at the Palmer Events Center in downtown. For various reasons, this will run a lot more smoothly than last year’s, mostly due to the horrendous highway construction in Waco being over. (For those who never had to make the road trip from Dallas to Austin, Waco was both the halfway mark and direct pathway to at least three discrete levels of Hell, with highway construction and expansion narrowing the highway to one lane for over a decade, and not being caught up in a 90-minute traffic jam in Waco is a relief and a blessing.) If you’re in Austin or the vicinity next weekend, I’ll see you there.
For those obligated to stay in Dallas, the Triffid Ranch opens again in December, and just in time for a special announcement from the Best of DFW Awards. That announcement comes out on Sunday, November 20, so feel free to check back. Just get prepped for December 3, okay?
Oh, and before I forget, next Tuesday is The 59th, so be prepared. And no, I don’t have any sonic screwdrivers to spare.
We’re now on the final approach on the end of 2022, with all this entails. Combine last week’s weather’s repeated flirtations with freezing temperatures with this week’s blatant PDAs, and the flytraps and pitcher plants are now nicely on their way to their needed dormancy. What this means is that the early morning hours previously dedicated to watering and weeding can be put toward other productive efforts, as well as having an excellent excuse for staying indoors. Yep, it’s time to get back to the gallery renovation.
Besides the ongoing buildup in the front area and hallway, the back and main gallery continues with its creative reconstruction, including a massive expansion of display space. This, of course, means a comparable expansion of new enclosures to fill said space. The plan is to have the whole gallery filled by mid-February, with the hope for at least one new unique enclosure every other week. Naturally, this is dependent upon how badly the various celestial and infernal forces that run the universe want to mess with the schedule, but that’s the hope.
As for shows and events away from the gallery, the last show outside of Dallas for 2022 comes in next week, when the Triffid Ranch heads out for its sixth Blood Over Texas Horror for the Holidays show, out at the Palmer Events Center in downtown Austin. After coming back, there’s a very good likelihood of other one-evening shows throughout the rest of the year, and I’m just awaiting word. Obviously, they’re at times that don’t conflict with the return of the Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas open houses through December, because those are now practically a tradition around here, and I have a sneaking suspicion that we’re going to need a good dose of green on Saturday afternoons this December.
In related developments, the gallery had one more visitor than the usual open house logs showed: client appointments occasionally bring up all sorts of surprises. In this case, the critter above showed up while waiting for a client, saw the “SUCKER” neon sign on my forehead, and moved right in. All efforts to find who he belongs to (he’s been chipped and declawed, although the chip apparently gives the contact info for a pet rescue shut down since lockdown and never updated) have been for naught, so now his name is “Parker,” because from the moment I wake up in the morning, he’s wanting to talk about the bonus situation. Please come by the gallery at the next event (including the open house on November 19) and buy lots of plants, because what spare funds that aren’t going into the pet deposit are going into food, and he eats a LOT.
Finally, after the concern earlier this year about having to move or shut down the gallery based on the purchase of the industrial park in which it sits, there may be some interesting and much appreciated developments in 2023. Let’s get through the holiday season before worrying about that, though. December is going to be weird enough.
Posted onNovember 14, 2022|Comments Off on The Aftermath: The Absolutely Final, Full-Stop, Cross-My-Heart-and-Hope-to-Die Porch Sale of 2022
18 months after the first Triffid Ranch carnivorous Plant Porch Sale started out of expediency, they have to stop for a while. The biggest reason is for allowing all of the temperate carnivorous plants in the inventory to go dormant for the winter, and this coincides with a massive cold wave hitting in the second week of November that regularly pushed or exceeded freezing temperatures for most of the Dallas area. The threadleaf pitcher plants lost their famed leaves and died back to their core, the triggerplants lost their blooms, the Sarracenia pitcher plants show the first signs of windburn at the tips of their pitchers, the “Aki Ryu” Venus flytraps are all the color of fresh pomegranate juice, and all is right with the world. This means that subsequent Triffid Ranch shows won’t have any of these until at least the end of March, and that’s exactly how it should be.
That last first weekend in November, though, was absolutely perfect for the last opportunity to show off what all of the plants would look like come spring, and a great opportunity as well to show off their insect-capturing adaptations. If I had to design a final weekend for outdoor Triffid Ranch shows, I literally couldn’t have done better than that weekend, and it just means that besides subsequent open houses being indoors, I now have only four months to make plans for how to exceed this for 2023.
As mentioned earlier, while this is the end of the outdoor show season at the Triffid Ranch, it’s not the end of Triffid Ranch shows and events in general. Right now, November 19 marks the last open house of the month, but that’s only because everything is going into a truck and heading to Austin for the Blood Over Texas Horror for the Holidays show at Palmer Events Center on November 26 and 27. The subsequent Monday morning, everything comes back to Dallas in preparation for the return of the Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas open houses, where the Triffid Ranch is open every Saturday in December, including Christmas Eve. And that’s just the events at the gallery: as with the rest of the year, this December is going to be the busiest since the gallery opened, and as soon as I get confirmation on a couple of events, I’ll get the word out.
In the meantime, many thanks to everyone who came out for Porch Sales this year, both first-timers and regulars. I promised lots of surprises this time last year for 2022, and you’ll really be surprised at what’s coming for 2023.
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Posted onNovember 12, 2022|Comments Off on The Aftermath: Dallas Arboretum Autumn at the Arboretum 2022 – 3
The end of October is always a very bittersweet time around the Triffid Ranch, and finishing off the growing season Autumn at the Arboretum at the Dallas Arboretum was particularly so. Yes, so many of the plants on display were going into winter dormancy and wouldn’t be capturing prey until March and April. Yes, with one exception, this marked the last non-gallery show of 2022. The end of October is especially painful for personal reasons, and previous memories are now broken beyond repair. However, this was the culmination of what has been the absolute best year the Texas Triffid Ranch has ever seen, and the looks on visitors’ faces as they had the chance to see a live flytrap for the first time or watch a pitcher plant attract flies made up for any remorse or regret. If there had to be a big signoff for the 2022 growing season, the Arboretum was the place to do it
On that note, I would like to give a shoutout to the staff at the Dallas Arboretum, who did an exemplary job at helping me get set up and broken down every day, and who were just as fascinated by the plants’ antics as the attendees. I want to give equal thanks to the attendees and visitors who kept peppering me with fascinating and lively questions about carnivore physiology and distribution, and a hurrah to my fellow vendors, who also had such a great weekend that I’d watch them leave hours before official closing because they were completely sold out. Oh, and both security and maintenance at the Arboretum deserve accolades, too: all of you had a serious job from open to close, and it was an honor to be among such professionals.
Further plans with the Arboretum? Since the original lecture was rained out, the next Learn to Grow lecture is officially on the schedule for May 5, 2023. Other than that, the Arboretum crew is focused right now on holiday events, but I would be ecstatic to be able to come back and show off carnivores again. As soon as I get word, I’ll pass it on.
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The cold front hitting Dallas this weekend makes us all VERY glad we’re not trying to conduct outdoor shows: the 2022 Porch Sales are officially over, so that means that this weekend’s open house moves inside. The Triffid Ranch opens on Saturday from noon until 5:00 pm: the flytraps and North American pitcher plants are now going into winter dormancy, but the gallery will have a lot of other plants, including some new surprises. It’s the beginning of a new season for carnivorous plant enclosures, so people coming out this weekend get to be the first people on the planet to see Texas Triffid Ranch 3.0 in its next stage.
Posted onNovember 11, 2022|Comments Off on The Aftermath: Dallas Arboretum Autumn at the Arboretum 2022 – 2
A little secret for those wanting to see carnivorous plants in action: whether it’s in the wild or in captivity, the absolute best time is in late autumn. Firstly, most carnivores are at their greatest size and best color in order to attract insects before they go dormant, storing the nitrogen and phosphorus gathered in those final days in preparation for reemerging in spring. (This is way beyond my abilities at the moment, but any enterprising biology and botany students looking for ideas on a paper likely to get lots of popular and professional news coverage should look at the sheer number of insects caught in Sarracenia pitchers and ascertain whether the plant absorbs nutrients during its normal dormancy or if the plant only accesses and processes the insect stew inside the old pitchers after it starts to bloom. Either would help explain why so many Sarracenia pitchers remain green throughout the winter, only dying off after new pitchers start up again during the next growing season.) Secondly, the potential insect population is at its height, and it’s hungry. The normal sources for nectar and sap for insects such as flies, wasps, bees, and moths trickle dry by the middle of autumn, and those insects are determined to stave off dying of starvation for as long as they can. With many, it’s going for unattended soda or margaritas, but a lot go for the voluminous nectar secreted by various carnivorous plants, and they get frantic for what usually becomes their last meal.
The resultant arthropod feeding frenzy made showing carnivores at the Autumn at the Arboretum exhibition at the Dallas Arboretum particularly, erm, riveting. It’s one thing to discuss dispassionately how carnivores attract and capture insect prey. It’s something different when a crowd of twenty to thirty people watch different insects at different plants to see which one falls into a pitcher first, complete with cheers and groans when a big fly or sweat bee succumbs to the promise of more nectar in a pitcher float and doesn’t reemerge.
A little aside that the Arboretum attendees didn’t get to experience: driving a van full of pitcher plants back to the gallery on a Sunday evening and listening to the angry buzzes of insects trying to escape their impending tombs. One of these days, I’ll have to record audio: the only thing creepier is when the Sarracenia leucophylla pitchers first emerge and open toward the middle of May, only to fill with click beetles. I can only imagine a field of leucos with every pitcher loaded with click beetles, all thumping the inside of the pitchers as the sun comes up and the pitchers start warming in the sun.
To be continued…
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Posted onNovember 11, 2022|Comments Off on The Aftermath: Dallas Arboretum Autumn at the Arboretum 2022 – 1
As mentioned previously, there’s just something special about autumn shows in Texas, especially on Halloween weekend. The air no longer smells like burning flint, the ground is slightly springy, and the local flora just explodes to take advantage of the remaining days. It will end sooner or later, whether by sudden near-freezes at the beginning of November or by the expected sleet and cold front on New Year’s Day, and we all know it, which is why we get out as much as we can while the magic is still out there. For now, the trees still have leaves and the birds are still out, and there’s no telling what you might encounter in quiet spots away from the road.
The Dallas Arboretum‘s Autumn at the Arboretum annual event manages to capture that magic, which is why Autumn at the Arboretum is one of the biggest events in the Dallas area as we slide toward the end of Daylight Savings Time. Outside for a few precious hours without burning up under the daystar, with others equally amazed that they aren’t having to stop every few steps to rehydrate, all comparing notes on the lovely “Black Pearl” pepper plants throughout the Arboretum (and the Dallas Arboretum is still the place to demonstrate the versatility of the Black Pearl as a landscaping plant) and just stopping to sigh over the views of White Rock Lake in early afternoon.
Suffice to say, this was a perfect weekend to introduce the general Dallas public to the physiology and natural history of carnivorous plants, especially after the very real risk of Saturday rainstorms melted away. Once the likelihood of being washed into the storm sewers and sent toward the Gulf of Mexico was over, the festivities really got going. Every October should end with this level of celebration.
To be continued…
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Posted onNovember 8, 2022|Comments Off on The Aftermath: Dallas Arboretum Autumn at the Arboretum 2022 – Introduction
As mentioned in the past, multiple times, one of the great joys of living in the Dallas area is that once autumn finally sets in, it seems to go on forever. Once we finally get free of summer temperatures from the end of September to the middle of October, it’s not just safe to go outside, but there’s so blasted much to do outside that the challenge is not to wear yourself out. The days are just long enough, and the weather enjoyable enough, that it’s even harder to go to bed on Sunday and go back to work on Monday than at other times of the year. Spring in Dallas is beautiful, but autumn in Dallas is glorious, and half of the time, it keeps going until the middle of December. In other words, it’s a perfect time for a carnivorous plant show at the Dallas Arboretum.
For those unfamiliar with the Dallas area, the Arboretum resides on the east side of White Rock Lake, Dallas’s original drinking water reservoir and major recreational site for the surrounding area. This means that the Arboretum alternates between its own unique exhibits and gardens and spectacular views of White Rock Lake and downtown Dallas to the west. During the main growing season, the Children’s Adventure Garden and the Rose Garden are justifiably famous, but one of the biggest events of the year is Autumn at the Arboretum, with the whole of the Arboretum appropriately decorated with fall foliage and ornaments. For those of us who resist the shift over to holiday displays and continue to scream “THIS IS HALLOWEEN” until after New Year’s Eve, Autumn at the Arboretum makes the inevitable slide to Dallas winter a little more tolerable. Oh, and did I mention the pumpkins? SO MANY PUMPKINS.
It was both an honor and surprise to be invited to show off carnivorous plants at the Arboretum this year: Arboretum staff had tried to get something on the schedule for a while (I’m proud to say that many of the Sarracenia in the carnivorous plant pool in the Children’s Adventure Garden are Triffid Ranch donations), but this was the first year everything actually clicked. After the deluge on Friday, the last weekend of October was cool and friendly, not so cool that jackets were necessary but also not so warm that visitors ended their perambulations early. You couldn’t have planned a better weekend than this for one last big outdoor show before all of the temperate carnivores started going dormant for the year, and the Triffid Ranch couldn’t have had a better location than right inside the front gate.
To be continued…
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Posted onNovember 7, 2022|Comments Off on The Aftermath: Goth Flea Market and Cookout at Panoptikon – November 2022
After Halloween, things slow significantly as far as Triffid Ranch shows are concerned. The flytraps and North American pitcher plants need to go into winter dormancy if they’re going to stay hale and healthy, and winter shows mean a significant risk of overly cold weather on the road, which hits the tropical carnivores in all sorts of ways. In the Dallas area, November events are always a little fraught, because we can have absolutely spectacular weather for the entirety of the month, we can have a repeat of 1993 and get subfreezing temperatures for two weeks, or we can have a repeat of 2016 and get hit with unnaturally hot conditions all the way into December. It’s a pleasure to report that at least this year, the first weekend of November was one of the best your humble gallery owner has ever encountered since moving here the first time in 1979, leading to the opportunity to drag plants to not one but two events on the same weekend. The first one, on November 5, was of especial note, because it involved Dallas’s premier goth club and event center, Panoptikon in downtown Dallas.
First, a bit of backstory. Over the last 15 years, Panoptikon has migrated around the Dallas area before settling in its current location, and always with the idea of doing more than simply being a nightclub. When the original Triffid Ranch location opened, the owners announced something a bit different: a goth flea market, where regulars and occasional attendees could bring used items, new items, and handmade items and spread the wealth in various ways. If nothing else, that original flea market was a venue where I met friends who still stay in touch to this day, and the original idea was to try holding future events every year or so.
As you can tell, it didn’t happen that way, but not for lack of trying. Between other events intruding, COVID-19, and getting vendors for the market, it took a while. That isn’t a permanent state, though, and this is the start of a partnership, to go with the dear friendship of the owners, for future Triffid Ranch presence at Panoptikon events. Now that the Porch Sales are over for the year, expect guest vendor appearances in the future, including more goth flea markets and charity events (you haven’t lived until you see the outpouring of support for toy drives during the holiday season), and I want to reciprocate for Panoptikon staff and crew events at the gallery as well. The live music feeds Panoptikon ran during lockdown kept me reasonably sane all through 2020 and 2021, and it’s time to return the favor.
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Posted onNovember 7, 2022|Comments Off on The Aftermath: Learn to Grow at the Dallas Arboretum
One of the absolutes about any kind of horticulture lecture is “if the weather can ruin it, it will.” The plans for a discussion on carnivorous plants as part of the Learn to Grow series at the Dallas Arboretum originally started in spring, and traditionally October is a rather dry month for month. When the rains do come, though, watch out.
The morning of October 28 ran thusly: rain, rain, more rain, torrential downpours, and the occasional Texas Wall O’ Water. The area desperately needed that rainfall, and there’s something supremely beautiful about the Arboretum in heavy mist, but the constant warnings from the National Weather Service all week involving “waters of the firmament” kept potential lecture attendees from venturing out. Was this an issue? Absolutely not. Not only was the Arboretum filled with people wanting to see the Autumn at the Arboretum arrangements no matter what, but this was a perfect opportunity to meet Arboretum staff who had lots and lots of questions about carnivorous plant care. Sure, the lecture didn’t happen, but the discussions accomplished a lot of good.
As for future Dallas Arboretum lectures, the Learn to Grow lecture was rescheduled for May 5, 2023. This works out perfectly for multiple reasons: among other things, the traditional Texas Frightmare Weekend show usually scheduled for that weekend was moved to the end of May, meaning that the Triffid Ranch returns to the Arboretum loaded with flytraps, sundews, butterworts, bladderworts, and pitcher plants loaded with blooms. And if it rains again…well, speaking from 40 years of experience, May storms in Dallas are flashier than October storms, but they’re a lot more comfortable. Let’s see what happens.
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The rest of 2022 is shaping up to be the busiest the Triffid Ranch has ever seen, and it all starts this weekend. Because they need a good winter dormancy, this weekend is the absolute last weekend where Venus flytraps or North American pitcher plants will be available until next April, so it’s time for two shows: the Goth Flea Market and Cocktails at Panoptikon in downtown Dallas on Saturday from noon until 4:00 pm, and then the absolutely last Triffid Ranch Porch Sale on Sunday from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm. A lot more events are in the planning stages, including the now-traditional Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas open houses in December, but this is vital for a lot of reasons. If you need more information, check it out.
Several bits of ephemera before a busy week of site updates, because if you thought this was a busy year, wait until 2023. Speaking of this year, due to significant interest in upcoming gallery events thanks to Good Morning Texas, the planned last Triffid Ranch Porch Sale of 2022 has been bumped forward a bit, with the absolute last one for this year running on Sunday, November 6 from 10 am to 3 pm. This will be the absolute last, final, full-stop, cross-my-heart-and-hope-to-die chance to view or purchase Venus flytraps or North American pitcher plants, because when they go back into dormancy starting in mid-November, that’s it until next April. Bestir thyselves on Sunday or miss out.
Also, now that the official announcement is out, it’s time to get the word out about the 2023 Oddities & Curiosities Expo shows. The Oddities & Curiosities Expos are undergoing through a bit of a change next year, with additional shows in new cities (the only reason why I’m not schlepping plants to Houston next year is that the Houston show is literally the weekend before the Dallas one), and existing ones either getting an additional day or much larger venues. The Austin O&C show on June 17 still runs at the Palmer Event Center, but the Dallas Expo on March 25 moved from the old Fair Park location to the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in downtown Dallas. For those outside of Dallas, this means a much larger venue, considerably more parking, hotel space for out-of-towners within walking distance, and multiple Dallas Area Rapid Transit train routes passing by, or in the case of the Red Line, passing directly under the Center. Between these and Texas Frightmare Weekend, it’s going to be a lively new year.