Today’s Montrose Moment

When I went out for the mail, four women dressed as flappers, purporting to be on a “Beer Hunt,” asked if they could (a) pretend my front yard was a public park and (b) photograph me leapfrogging them. Note that whether or not I was willing to leapfrog was never, apparently, at issue.

Sadly, this did not come to pass, as one of the flappers was insistent that my yard was in no way a public park, and that any resulting photograph would be unable to hide that fact, and that it was cheating besides.

So that happened.

Dear Houston Chronicle

STOP THIS. No, I do not want your app. I do not need to see this information-obstructing hyperobnoxious ad every. single. time. I visit on my iPad.

Cron sucks

No wonder they named a town after him

On this day in 1861, Sam Houston was forced to resign as Governor of Texas for refusing to secede and swear allegiance to the Confederacy:

Fellow-Citizens, in the name of your rights and liberties, which I believe have been trampled upon, I refuse to take this oath. In the name of the nationality of Texas, which has been betrayed by the Convention, I refuse to take this oath. In the name of the Constitution of Texas, I refuse to take this oath. In the name of my own conscience and manhood, which this Convention would degrade by dragging me before it, to pander to the malice of my enemies, I refuse to take this oath. I deny the power of this Convention to speak for Texas . . . I protest . . . against all the acts and doings of this convention and I declare them null and void.

Houston retired to Huntsville, and was dead by 1863. To say he’d had an interesting life is to understate things rather dramatically. Immigrants to Texas like myself would do well to review that Wikipedia article, since we missed the no-doubt otherwise inescapable “History of Texas” classes in middle school.

Churches sure love hatin’ on them gays

I guess the folks out at Grace Church in the Woodlands got tired of being the other Houston megachurch, so they’ve decided to make a play for being Houston’s most homophobic megachurch by calling out Mayor Parker for her stance on gay marriage.

Local columnist Charles Kuffner may have the best take:

Unless Pastor Riggle believes Mayor Parker is going to take over the County Clerk’s office and give out marriage licenses as she sees fit, and also take over the Attorney General’s office to prevent any consequences for that, I’m puzzled as to what exactly he thinks she is doing that is wrong. Well, except for the fact that he thinks being gay is icky, because it forces him to spend so much time thinking about what gay people do so he can always be in a state of disapproval about it. You really should be more considerate to the gay-obsessed pastors of the world, Mayor Parker.

Something Else Awesome About Hay Merchant

The current “beer board” is not what Kevin Floyd wanted to begin with:

Although it may seem like no expense was spared, there is one focal point of the bar that didn’t make the budget. The chalkboard beer list, which takes constant updating as Floyd switches out the 80-odd taps, was envisioned originally as an old-fashioned split-flat board like the ones found displaying train schedules in old European stations. Unfortunately, only two companies in the world still make the analog boards, and they’re located in Japan and Italy.

Citing a move toward the digital model, they quoted the board Floyd envisioned at $150,000. He politely declined.

So, how dry WAS Houston in 2011?

The drought in Houston (and Texas) in 2011 came up in conversation with a co-worker today, which set me wondering what the hard numbers were.

First, let’s figure out what “normal” rainfall looks like. Wikipedia says we usually get something like 54 inches of rain a year; NOAA says it’s more like 49.77″.

NOAA also has per-year values. We got less than 25 inches of rain in 2011. That’s less than half normal, which is a lot for a place that typically gets more than four feet a rain a year.

NOAA’s figures since 2000 are below; note that no other year in the list is even close to 2011.

  • 2011: 24.57″
  • 2010: 42.72″
  • 2009: 47.01″
  • 2008: 53.00″
  • 2007: 65.52″
  • 2006: 57.86″
  • 2005: 41.21″
  • 2004: 65.06″
  • 2003: 45.76″
  • 2002: 59.68″
  • 2001: 71.18″ (19″ in June alone thanks to Allison)
  • 2000: 47.61″

So, yeah. Pretty dry.

I don’t care how rich you are. That’s still creepy.

Houston millionaire, polo patron, and drunk-driving enthusiast John Goodman has legally adopted his girlfriend, presumably to give himself access to the trust he set up for his children.

Goodman, you may recall, has been charged with vehicular homicide for killing 23-year-old Scott Wilson with his Bentley two years ago, and is predictably also being sued for wrongful death by Wilson’s family; in that matter, he is also seeking to hide the fact that he now has unfettered access to 1/3 of the trust from the jury.

Somebody needs to clear this up pronto, Mayor Parker

The Chron is reporting that the city’s contract with the red-light camera people had an “out” they could have exercised within 4 months of the vote last November that would have saved millions.

The city of Houston might have been able to shut off its red-light cameras within four months of voters demanding it in last November’s elections, but the Parker administration opted not to use an escape clause that would have meant more than $3 million in continuing costs while the clock ran out.

Instead, the city took another path that has them “arguing” in court for a side nobody believes they actually support (i.e., the removal of the cameras). They just happened to get a ruling they like, too. I smell a rat.

The people voted on this, and rejected the cameras. That should have been the end of it, but apparently referendums repealing city ordinances must happen within 30 days of the passage of the ordinance in question (WTF, right? Almost like they don’t want such repeal efforts to be possible…). The Federal judge’s ruling, though, doesn’t free Parker’s administration from their moral obligation to honor the will of the people.

Turning the cameras back on and pretending to litigate it out — a process that I’m sure will take plenty of time, during which the cameras will remain on — fools nobody.

I supported Parker two years ago, but the apparently cavalier way she’s handled this point gives me serious pause about doing so again. I’m disinclined to reward this kind of behavior with my vote even if she does well on other issues.

Dept. of What We Did Last Night

Broke our longstanding boycott of the hypercorporate House of Blues to see Steve Earle. Verdict: Worth it, but it’ll take someone as good as Earle to get us back in there. Something about that venue just attracts old drunk jackasses from the suburbs. Even so, Earle and his band — which includes Mrs Earle Allison Moorer (who sounds more like her sister than I remember) as well as another entire band in The Mastersons — positively cooked for nearly 3 hours; we definitely got our money’s worth as long as you leave out the $8 beers.

We left mildly vexed that fellow New West artist Robert Ellis was having his Houston album release party over at Fitzgerald’s at exactly the same time; in truth it was probably still going on after we left HoB, but 11:30 is too late to go to a second bar on a schoolnight. Fortunately, Cactus was kind enough to reserve one of the limited edition vinyl copies of Ellis’ record for us, so bully for them.

Best Concert Review We’ve Read Lately

From our new acquaintance Alexander, who wrote this review of the New York Dolls/Poison/Motley Crue show, which blessedly included this bit in the voice of SNL’s Stefon:

Houston’s hottest night club is Püé. Impressario Pamela Tranderson Lee, back from touring with Cirque de Sogay, has done it again. Located at the edge of EaDo, this club has it all: explosions, pyrotechnics, a two-story stripper pole, a kick drum bigger than Vince Neil’s waistline, a drum kit mounted on a 40′ ring that straps the drummer in upside down, two albino cat-women, and a Ben Afflict. That’s that thing where you pretend you earned it on merit, show up to political rallies uninvited and wear Affliction shirts to fit in…

More on the Shuttle

Jalopnik agrees with us, Gawker be damned:

Washington was not the first word spoken on the moon. When a situation turns bad no one says “Los Angeles, we have a problem” because no wants help from Charlie Sheen. Houston is Space City, the birthplace of the shuttle program, and the rightful home of one of the retired shuttles.

I’m not saying any of the cities who did receive a shuttle (New York, LA, and Washington D.C.) didn’t each deserve a space shuttle. I’m just saying none of them deserved one more than Houston, a city that would give the spacecraft the attention and reverence it deserves.

Dear Charles Bolden and NASA

LA, Chuckie? Really? Not Houston? Are you shitting me? And the old Enterprise goes to fucking New York?

Christ. I get that Texas gets to reap what it has sown, what with our statewide pols regularly flipping off Washington at every turn, but leaving Houston off the list of final Shuttle berths is just absurd. It’s even worse than putting the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame somewhere like, oh, I dunno, Cleveland.

The Houston Nostalgia List

I’ve been sitting on this list for months, but it deserves to be posted. I’ve only been a Houstonian for 16 years, but I definitely miss #96, the excellent burgers and green chili stew at Cosmos Cafe (#91), #84 (where I saw Sling Blade), the divey awesomeness of #69, and Charlie Watkins’ wine list at Sierra (#64).

Being at least tangentially connected to Rice, I know that #60 is just “tending at a higher bar.” It will always be Transco to me (#94). I hate we lost the Proletariat (#39), and still have no rail on Richmond. I definitely miss the Book Stop (#35). And my feelings about pre-United Continental (#9) are well documented here.

The loss of #8 (the Ale House) is partly soothed by the Stag’s Head, but it lacks the same rambling charm of the old house-turned-pub. Where’s Allen Hill going to leap from a balcony in the new place, I ask you?

The new Cactus is just fine by me, with a nicer staff and a more sustainable business model, so I’m not sure I miss the old store any more.

I don’t miss #100 at all, and the Daily Grind (#59) has no place on the list. What I miss in the “Heights breakfast and coffee” category is Kaldi, dammit.

Yet Another Reason to Love Houston

The following tweet from our Democratic mayor:

Today I visited our SWAT facility. Great layout. Spent my lunch with my pistols on the academy shooting range.-a

Said mayor is also of note for being the first (out) gay mayor of a US city over a million residents. That’s our Houston: confounding stereotypes every chance we get.

Dept. of Anniversaries I’d Just As Soon Not Have

For a long time, I’ve belonged to a place called The Well. It’s an old-school Internet discussion forum pleasantly (mostly) bereft of the noise and spam that most online discussions have descended into.

Two years and two days ago, I wrote this post there, in an area set aside for sharing terrible news. I actually assumed I’d posted it here, too, but apparently not.

My friend Cary died on Tuesday. He’d been fighting cancer for a while but his most recent and dire prognosis wasn’t common knowledge. He was locally famous in Houston and Austin, partly for being in a band called Horseshoe, and partly for his years of association with Houston’s Infernal Bridegroom Productions. IBP was, until its own unfortunate and premature death in 2007, a tremendous and inventive local theater company devoted to doing the weird, the underperformed, the new, the avant garde, and doing it very, very well. Most (all?) of Cary’s acting was with them, but his roles just got stronger and better with time. He started with their very first production in 1993, but was best known for star turns in productions of the Kinks’ “Soap Opera” (2002) and, in 2006, something called “Speeding Motorcycle.”

If you asked Cary the most important, biggest, best thing he ever did on stage, I’ll bet he’d answer quickly that this show, based on the songs of Daniel Johnston, and done partly in collaboration with Johnston himself, was his pinnacle. Already sick by the time the show went to Austin this summer, he cut his chemo short so he could reprise his role (all three “Joe the Boxer” actors made the move).

Ike’s made it a rough week or so to be a Houstonian. You still can’t go to the grocery store, mostly, or buy gas like a normal person. More than half the city doesn’t even have power yet, which is astounding. Galveston is still flat, and will stay that way for a while. We got lucky in that we had no damage, little to clean up, and good friends a mile away who never lost power and opened their home to Erin and I as well as to some others from our social group. We called it Camp Ike, and tried to make the best of it — but even in a largish house, that many adults is tight, so we were very happy on Tuesday when we got word our block had power at around 8pm. In the midst of dinner when we got word, we didn’t end up coming home until nearly midnight. Sitting on the bed in our delightfully re-lit and re-cooled house, waiting for my wife to join me, I idly checked my email on my phone, and the four-hour everything-is-fine holiday we’d been enjoying evaporated. Cary’d had a seizure Tuesday morning, and was in Ben Taub. I should call for more details.

I think I knew what the details were before I clicked Jason’s number. Cary’d never regained consciousness, and passed away around 1130pm. Erin and I didn’t go to sleep for a long time, watching video I had on my laptop from a still-unfinished and unreleased DVD version of SM. Also on YouTube was this performance of Cary doing a cover of a Johnston song that didn’t make the final show. Cary liked it well enough to work it up for a post-show performance one night, after his much-loved singalong of “Brainwash”.

Cary Winscott was 38.

KTRU, Where Are You?

So Rice sold the parts of KTRU that make it a “radio station” (transmitter, tower) to UH so that, ostensibly, UH can have two public radio outlets: One for full-time classical music, and one for full-time NPR news programming — all for the low, low price of $9.5 million.

I don’t really have a dog in this fight. I didn’t go to either school, and I’ve never been a real fan of KTRU beyond just sort of appreciating it existed — there’s just so much amateur, narrow-cast radio I have time for in my life. Plus, my own radio time has pretty much been “in the car only” for twenty years; at home, there are just way better options than radio.

All that said, the shitsplosion around this development seems to miss some points, and I am of course just egotistical enough to think I have something to add by enumerating them.

Protesting to UH is irrelevant
They’re just buying what Rice had on sale. Rice is the organization to be pissed at if you’re upset about this, but the way Rice’s administrators have gone about this probably means not even a focused and widespread alumni protest could stop it.
Rice doesn’t care
See above. Unless you went there and give them (lots of) money, my bet is they don’t give a rat’s ass what you think. KTRU only had 50,000 watts because of a goofy event 20 years ago; in many ways, that may have doomed them, since a more traditionally-powered college station probably wouldn’t have been as interesting to UH.
Shitting on classical music is a nonstarter
Some KTRU partisans are upset that their baby is getting smothered to make way for stuffy old classical music. This is not an argument that will make you any friends. There *is* a legitimate argument to be made that Houston needs better classical programming (KUHF rarely plays anything interesting), and also a legitimate argument to be made that a national format for yet another station stifles local voices.
Shitting on NPR as “mainstream?” Really?
KTRU fans upset that they’re losing local space on the dial have a point, but insisting that NPR is somehow just another part of the broken mainstream news landscape is pretty silly. It’s the only national news outlet with anything like both journalistic standards and a progressive point of view, and Houston’s been poorer because of how little of this content KUHF airs.
That said, a call-in current-events show will suck no matter what the audience
NPR’s “Talk of the Nation” is only marginally less cringeworthy than any right-wing show. Exchange crystal-gazing moonbats for cryptofascists and you’re most of the way there. There’s a reason those people on the phone aren’t on the radio already.
On the plus side, afternoon naps seem more likely
Seriously, which is more soporific: Ambien or Diane Rehm?
I have very little hope that anything programmed at UH won’t suck
I’m sick to death of their local “news” breaks during NPR programs, wherein some trainee reads a “local story” that is *obviously* a barely-edited press release. I’ve groused for years that I’d pay money to get a pure national NPR feed with NO local voices at all because of how awful the KUHF local content is; it was a tremendous shock to me when I moved here from **Tuscaloosa, Alabama** and discovered that big-city Houston’s NPR affiliate was worse than Alabama’s in every measurable way. If we’re losing KTRU, I’m all for getting a full-time NPR station, but I’m nearly certain local voices at UH will insist on interrupting the professional programming with local blather there, too.
That goes for the classical station, too
Wait. You’re telling me people still give a shit about terrestrial radio?
This is the elephant in the room. Radio is an almost total wasteland. I never listen to anything but NPR or, sometimes (depending on programming) KPFT, and that’s only ever in the car. In my office, my own music or podcasts or Internet radio brings me vastly more choice than any local station could. If I spent more time in my car, I’d pony up for Sirius for the same reason. All the KTRU love is great, but I think it’s mostly nostalgia and not grounded in a real worry about scarcity of, say, easily accessible outlets for weird jazz or Greek music or whatever.

Draft 1: This is one of those times I’m sure I’m going to edit this later.

Good new, bad news

The good news in the Houston food world is that uber-food-writer Robb Walsh is a partner in a new Tex-Mex joint opening in the old Tower Theater location in the heart of Montrose.

Imagine my disappointment to discover his partners, which means I’ll never eat there. I had one of the worst customer service experiences of my life at Caswell’s Reef, when his valets wrecked my pal’s brand-new car and then refused to own up or pressure the valet firm to properly repair it. I’ll be damned if I spend a single dime at any restaurant he’s a part of despite how much I’d like to partake of Mr Walsh’s venture.

Obituary of the Year

How call must you be to have your obit headlined “Cantankerous Hellfighter”? Coots Matthews was that cool, which comes as no surprise since he was one of Red Adair‘s folks before going out on his own.

Also, the obit starts with this joke:

A joke has it that St. Peter was showing a Texan around heaven, with the Texan claiming that everything he saw was better in Texas. St. Peter tired of the routine and pointed to the fire of hell. “Do you have anything like that in Texas?” he asked. The Texan said no, then added, “But there are a couple good old boys in Houston who can put it out for you.”

The Catastrophic Theatre Will Destroy You

The next show, Wallace Shawn’s “Our Late Night,” opens on March 19 (special opening night performance, $50) and continues Wednesdays through Saturdays through April 3. All tickets after March 19 are pay-what-you-can.

The Catastrophic Gala is April 24, with special guest Jim Parsons. See you there.

This is amazing and awesome

Some raving-nutbird-loonie right-winger fundie Texans are all upset that Houston has elected Annise Parker as mayor (the longtime city controller and councilperson is openly gay) and is “allowing” Planned Parenthood to build a large new facility in town, so they’re trying to arrange a boycott of Houston, the 4th largest city in the country and one of the largest economies in the state.

Good luck with that, goofballs. 29-95 has more.

God Bless Texas

Houston, specifically. The Economist has some nice things to say about us:

Mr Kotkin particularly admires Houston, which he calls a perfect example of an “opportunity city” — a place with lots of jobs, lots of cheap housing and a welcoming attitude to newcomers.

He is certainly right about the last point: not too many other cities could have absorbed 100,000 refugees, bigheartedly and fairly painlessly, as Houston did after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans. With vibrant Asian communities alongside its balanced Hispanic, white and black mix, with no discernible racial tensions, and with more foreign consulates than any American city except New York and Los Angeles, Houston is arguably America’s most enthusiastically cosmopolitan city, a place where the future has already arrived.

We Heathen call it Home. The state itself is certainly not without problems (as the article points out), but Our Fair City gets all too few shiny notices such as this.

Things that SUCK

Ordinarily, if a Houstonian goes someplace in the summertime, he gets better weather. Unfortunately, it is presently hotter in Overland Park, Kansas, than it is at home: