Saturday, July 23, 2005

If it’s Saturday, la révolution est morte!

We were set to expel 2,000 or so words on the Karl Rove affair. Then we remembered we've carefully avoided paying attention to any of it. That we have no facts. That we just don’t care. (We did take note, however, when saw Karl fleeing the jackals last week in a Ford Escape, which according to the U.S. Energy Department is the top-rated SUV when it comes to gas mileage. Boy’s a true conservative!)

So let’s talk metrosexuality instead. Specifically, whether the “metrosexual revolution” remains ascendant, or whether the metrosexual is dead. We’re of two minds on the subject, mainly because we made the mistake of reading not just one but two feature stories this week in the Houston Chronicle (OK, we didn’t actually read that much of either, as we’ve had our hands full with this really loooong sentence in the new Cormac McCarthy novel, but we read enough to get the idea.)

The first time was at the suggestion of a learned friend, who directed us to a story in the paper’s "Star" section on Thursday that had something to do with soccer star David Beckham’s shaving of his armpits and the “furor” it has caused in his native land, the one where the assholes keep trying to blow up the subways and buses (and we don’t think our friend was pointing to the story to say, “Hey, this is a great read --- check it out!”). The reporter, the editor, somebody at the paper apparently thought it would be all hip and edgy and whatnot to go down to the West Alabama Ice House and ask the “graying, grumpy” regulars what they though about armpit shaving, given that it’s “two years after the metrosexual revolution.” (Yeah, that’s a direct quote; we couldn’t make that up.) One Jack Howard was offended by the notion. “Hell no,” he told the paper when asked whether he’d shave his armpits. Then, and we further quote: “Howard stood up, tugged at his green hat, clnched his fist enough to dent his beer can and then chugged to confirm, perhaps, that he was still [a] man.”

Chugged to confirm, perhapsstill [a] man. That’s mighty presumptuous of you, young sir or madam. But, yes, we too would question Mr. Howard’s manhood if we found out that he didn’t rear back and beat all the post-collegiate smugness out of the reporter.

Maybe he did, but we stopped reading at the point. This was somebody’s idea of edgy: Set ‘em up with a stupid question, then make fun of ‘em when they answer (cause they’re gray and grumpy etc.) And make sure the person is totally powerless, like a 62-year old drinking at an icehouse. (And they wonder why newspapers are losing readers?)

In the spirit of constructive criticism, we’d like to suggest that next time the reporter put the question before, say, the board of the Greater Houston Partnership. Yeah, that’d be edgy. Sort of.

But that was Thursday, back in those heady revolutionary days when metrosexuality and the armpit-shaving it spawned were good excuses to mock Jack Howard’s archaic notions of manhood. Today is Saturday, and the early Sunday edition of the Houston Chronicle proclaims “The metrosexual is dead.”

Yep. That was the only line of the story we read, but apparently he and his revolution have been done in by the “Palooka,” who, at least this week, is dominating the pop culture whatsis with his more traditional notions of masculinity. Best that we can tell, the metrosexual expired on Friday, and the paper was playing catch-up.

The front page of the early Sunday paper was dominated by a huge picture of a 16-oz. glove smashing the mug of what we suppose was a metrosexual. (Come on –-- somebody seriously thinks that’s gonna move papers?) We know we've ambled in our life's journey far beyond the prized reader demo these poopsy-cute lil' stories are supposed to appeal to, but the picture was too much. It's obvious that the Houston Chronicle is promoting metrosexual-bashing, and we hope you'll join us and Jack Howard in demanding redress from the paper’s reader representive. And as soon as we finish this Cormac McCarthy sentence and figure out what he's saying, we'll also be taking our complaint to the woman who writes that insanely funny “diversity” column.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Deadlocks, Mock and Otherwise

We were surprised to learn yesterday of the government’s failure to nail any of the defendants in the Enron Broadband Services case, a failure that appears to have been abetted by a federal judge who was quick to declare a mistrial after jurors deadlocked on what the Houston Chronicle reported were the “168 decisions” (?!) on which they couldn’t reach unanimity (maybe the judge had pressing summer vacation plans?). We hadn’t been following the trial that closely, but a couple of years ago we served --- “served" isn’t quite the right word here --- on a mock jury for a mock trial of the EBS defendants.

Y’know, it was one of the deals where a firm of “experts” who help lawyers prepare for a trial recruits a bunch of locals to sit in a room, listen to a presentation of both sides of a case, then render a “decision” and give the lawyers feedback to help with their strategizing for the real trial. It’s played up as if it were some kind of reliable approach to trial preparation, but it’s really more like a visit to a carnival in a shopping center parking lot on the edge of town.

At the time, the prize tarpon in the case was Ken Rice, the youngish go-getter who had headed EBS. We didn’t admit it then, but we were anxious to whack Rice on the ass --- even if it were only a mock ass-whacking at a mock trial. We had met him once briefly on a social occasion years earlier, and we remembered him only because he was one of those people who scream “I’m a punk asshole” as soon as you shake their hand. Later, one of our ex-neighbors recounted these drawn-out debates she would get into with Rice over Ayn Rand. Yeah, apparently he, like Alan Greenspan, was at one time a big follower of the late author and social theorist. We wouldn’t be surprised if he had switched his allegiance to Jesus in more recent years, and we weren’t surprised when he copped a plea to securities fraud and agreed to testify against his onetime EBS underlings.

Our fellow mock jurors seemed even more predisposed against the defendants, or anybody and anything remotely associated with “Enron.” You would have thought that they all had taken a soaking on the company’s stock or had relatives who worked there. One old guy even pounded his fist on the table when he made what we thought was a strained comparison between Enron executives and Nazis. We don’t remember too much about the day --- other than that the food was good and they paid us in cash (thanks!) --- but we do recall thinking that it would probably be difficult to assemble an impartial jury in Houston for these EBS jokers.

For our part, we sorrowfully voted to find only a couple of the defendants guilty on only a few of the many counts against them. We think we did wind up tagging Rice on a couple of charges, maybe just because of our extreme prejudice against anyone who would blithely spout the philosophy of Ayn Rand without fully comprehending it.

But we tried to approach the entire production with an open mind --- maybe it was just a mock open mind --- and listen to the “facts” as they were presented. The lawyer for the “government” --- and we thought we recognized him as an ex-federal prosecutor, but maybe not --- did a terrible job of laying out the prosecution’s case (we’ll grant that the defendants and charges were many and confusing and the hours were short). It basically boiled down to, “These guys are guilty because we say they’re guilty.” So we and an older lady on our panel --- a gal whom we had quickly pegged as highly impressionable and easily led --- held out for acquittal on most counts. Everyone else was ready to hang the bunch right there, along with Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling, if they could be rounded up. There was no “deadlock” as such, most likely because the rental time on the hotel meeting rooms was up. Before being adjourned, we filled out a form giving our impressions of the case and the lawyers, and we remember writing, somewhat smugly, that we doubted the real government would present such a shoddy case.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Smooth Jazz: Heeding the Siren Song of Joel Osteen (You’re Next! You’re Next! You’re … )

Yes, we must confess: We’ve fallen under the sway of Joel Osteen, and we can‘t get up. Off of the floor, that is, where we can (and do) lie for hours in front of the TV, letting Brother Osteen’s lulling cadences wash over us, easing all anxieties, letting us know that we, too, are loved --- despite all the incessant, humming “junk” in our heads, as he sometimes puts it, the junk that keeps us from reaching our Championship Potential, or just remembering to pay our electric bill on time.

It’s not something we can easily explain, this attraction to the Minister to the Multitudes, the New Lord of the Compaq Center, the Conqueror of the New York Times Best-Seller List. It’s been building for two or three years, but it reached a sort of bang-out Hegelian resolution with what amounted to our All-Osteen Weekend on Saturday and Sunday, when Osteen’s Lakewood Church opened its new sanctuary in the former basketball arena we never stopped calling The Summit.

Sure, we stand in awe of Osteen’s business savvy, his deft marketing and promotional abilities, his tending and building of the church his Dad and Mom started in a feed store into a national and now a global phenomenon.

We also like the way Osteen smartly steers clear of politics. (Was that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., we saw in the audience for Lakewood’s grand opening? Yes, it was! And wasn’t that ex-mayor Bob Lanier and his lovely and apparently ageless wife Elyse, looking a tad uncomfortable as they queued up to be interviewed by that hyper-happy Holy Joe on the Trinity Network? Yes indeed. And what about Councilman Mark Goldberg? Yes, he was there, too, and was even singled out by Osteen from the pulpit [is that what you call the place where the preacher stands in a former basketball arena?] for casting the decisive vote when the City Council leased the Compaq Center to Lakewood.)

And we truly admire the honest-to-God diversity of Lakewood, an apparently spontaneous, unforced mixing of the classes and races that was achieved without the finger-wagging dictums of academics, journalists and affirmative-action compliance officers.

Yes, it’s all that, but it’s something more. With allowances for the much-diminished mainstream Methodist churches in which we were raised, and which we still haunt infrequently, we’re wary of organized religion, especially an organization that comes with such descriptives as “megachurch,” charismatic” and “non-denominational." We’re cool, of course, with whatever you believe, as long as you don’t push it on us, or try to kill us just because we don’t recognize yours as the One True Religion. But we just don’t have time for all those smiling Holy Joes, with their gleaming teeth and pompadoured hair and blazing eyes, the ones that always seem to be trying to lift our wallets.

But Joel Osteen is different. Yes, we like his message: No judgment, no condemnation. A mother-in-law joke to warm things up. Some feel-good therapy, a little self-help, a few gentle admonitions about personal responsibility, He’s still clinging to The Book, it’s true, but he also stresses good works. His is a modern, inclusive faith, one that subsumes so many church traditions and schools of American thought that it makes our head swim.

But mostly, we think the attraction is Osteen himself. Outside of maybe the Dalai Lama, we can’t think of another public figure who radiates such decency, such kindness, such warmth, such largeness of spirit. Ordinarily, we’d run screaming from such Unalloyed Goodness, but Osteen’s smooth delivery has us mesmerized. We can’t change the channel. We've sworn off the Wellbutrin, tossed our zafu out with the heavy trash.

We’ve even considered visiting the new Lakewood. But that would entail traveling from here to there, negotiating the traffic, finding a parking place, and jostling with the throngs for a seat (just like when we saw Bruce there back in ’78!) It’s a scenario that leaves us feeling agitated and anxious, which could lead to rage, and in that state we couldn’t really love our neighbor as our self. So we’ll lie here on the floor, remote in hand, waiting for Osteen. We know he'll come again real soon.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Skeleton in Her Closet (With Beret)

We tuned to the Municipal Channel earlier this week in hopes of hearing that the mayor and the city council were moving to correct the mucked-up mess on Dunlap Street, where the bankrupt contractor installing a new water pipe abandoned the work in mid-project, leaving the main ingress and egress to Slampo's Place (our real place) looking like some chewed-up, bombed-out World War I landscape. (This is a state of affairs that we care a great deal about, and we'll be mulching it over in eye-glazing detail in some future posting.)

Instead, we got sucked into watching this debate over programming on the city's public access television channel, a subject we care less than nothing about.

As all informed citizens now know, the public access channel is run by a non-profit outfit called Houston MediaSource, and the cable-only station --- home to programs produced by any exhibitionist, religious zealot or teeth-grinding boor who can hold a camera or sit upright while being filmed --- is under the gun. MediaSource's problems began when Councilwoman Addie Wiseman stumbled across an access show full of vile and offensive language that aired in the wee hours of the morning. She got mad, started asking questions. Soon enough, other programs of questionable taste --- including one that featured what we heard described as bare-ass "booty-shaking" --- were unearthed from the public-access netherworld.

It's become a big to-do, with the D.A. being called in, council members rushing to darkened cloisters to view the videotapes, and MediaSource's future in doubt.

Although we like to fancy ourselves First Amendment absolutists, we must concede that Wiseman and her allies have a point. The city grants Time Warner its exclusive cable monopoly, and Time Warner funds the public access channel from subscriber fees as a condition of its deal with the city. So it seems to us that if you avail yourself of "access" on a venue that is essentially provided by a government, then you do indeed subject yourself to the whims, political and otherwise, of that government.

But, to reiterate, this is an issue that we honestly don't give a shit about.

We do care about people, though. And Wiseman, for her efforts, has reaped the scorn and ridicule of Our Town's many sophisticates, which includes the seemingly endless parade of angry MediaSource supporters who harangued her during last week's council meeting with their learned discourses on the True Meaning of Free Speech. This business was starting to annoy us, as the rainwater filled up the gouged-out stretches of Dunlap Street, until one MediaSource supporter, a gentleman who sported a haircut that was fashionable for a few months in 1986, went all ad hominem on Wiseman.

We didn't get his exact quote, but it was something to the effect: "Well, Ms. Hypocrite, you didn't care so much about filth and obscenity back when you were doing stand-up with Sam Kinison at the Comedy Workshop, did you?" Actually, we don't remember whether he used the term "doing stand up"; he seemed to be implying some closer relationship between the prim Wiseman, who has laid claim to having once been a stand-up comic, and the foul-mouthed Kinison, who croaked back in the early '90s (car crash, we think, but we're not fact-checking tonight).

The look that crossed Wiseman's face was priceless. It seemed to say: How dare you besmirch the memory of the sainted Sam Kinison? Then she recomposed herself and blurted out something like, "Well, mister, Sam Kinison never performed his routine on the access channel when kids could be watching."

No, he was much bigger than that. For all our readers in France, and those under 30, Kinison was a short, dumpy, rubber-faced gent who wore a beret to cover his well-receded hairline (and managed not to look like a twit). Sometimes he wore a trench coat, too. He got his comedy start, or honed his routine, whatever, at the Comedy Workshop --- that was the name of it, wasn't it, that long-gone joint at San Felipe and Shepherd? Later he ascended to late-night TV, HBO specials, paling around with Howard Stern and Guns 'n' Roses, etc. His shtick was anger, rage, constant agitation. Try as we might, we can't recall a thing he said --- nary a line, a joke, a riff or a rant --- but we do recollect that he stomped about the stage and hollered a lot. His signature response when offended by some especially egregious outrage --- and we hope we're not confusing him with some other comedic genius of the time --- was to scream "Fuuuuuuuuck!!" at the top of his lungs.

Mention of Kinison perked us up momentarily. But just as quickly as his name was tossed into the middle of the City Council chambers, it disappeared. No one sought to further explore the relationship between Wiseman and Kinison. No one mused aloud whether Kinison, if he had lived, might also have been elected to City Council, and what he might have thought of the cable access controversy. No one offered to rename a street in his honor.

This saddened us. So we turned off the TV, stumbled out into the rain, and, in memory of the late sainted Sam Kinison, stood in our front yard, gazed down at the water backing up on Dunlap Street, and bellowed "Fuuuuuuuuuuccckkk!!!!!" at the top of our lungs.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Quality Control Plummets at Local Daily; Advocates Decry Embarrassing Front-Page Mistakes

It was 6:15 on Tuesday morning and we hadn't fully ingested our first cup of coffee when we settled in to read the front-page story headlined "Fewer teen births in Texas still too many, advocates say." It seemed like "good news," and sure enough, the local daily reported that teenagers have been birthin' babies at notably declining rates for more than a decade in Texas and Harris County, corresponding to a national trend (not exactly "news," in the sense of "newness," but what the hey). We read the story down to what those in the journalism biz call the "jump," then we shifted our one good eye to the two small graphics accompanying the story. The first clearly showed that, yes, Texas' overall teen pregnancy rate had fallen from more than 40 per 1,000 (whether that's Texans or "teen" female Texans wasn't clear) to well below 30. Then we glanced at the other graphic, which clearly showed that the pregnancy rate for Texas females ages 9 (?!) to 17 rose steadily for all three major ethno-racial demographic groupings from 1999 to 2003.

Uh oh. We immediately began checking ourselves for signs of early-onset Alzheimer's, trying to calculate the percentages in our head and scanning the story to see if there were some statistical nuance that had escaped our attention (like we said, it was early in the morning and we hadn't achieved our requisite threshold of caffeine-induced alertness). But no. We looked again, then again, and finally settled on the explanation that, hard as it was to believe, someone at the paper had effed-up big-time and gotten the numbers ass-backwards. Could it be? At that point it was getting to be too damn much work to casually read the morning paper, so we tossed it aside and got on about the day.

This morning our suspicions were confirmed when the paper re-ran the graphic in its corrections box with the explanation that the numbers published Tuesday "correlated" to the wrong dates (and, y'know, once you start "correlating," the margin for error rises exponentially.)

So teen pregnancies actually have dropped across the board. Whew. It wasn't us.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Better than Best!

We can't help but notice that all the with-it publications are doing it. We're referring, of course, to the "Best Of" edition, that stale journalistic convention that's been profitably flailed by every bad "alternative" paper from here to Manitoba, and before that by all those long-gone city magazines, and before that by ... well, the provenance of this particular ad sales gimmick is as hard to trace as that of a Chuck Berry riff, and about as worthwhile. Yet we at Slampo's Place (formerly Slampo's Garden) don't want our readers to feel disenfranchised, so we've come up with what we humbly believe is the better-than-best, ultimate-beyond-ultimate "Best of Houston," one that's so grandly sublime, so truly top-of-the-line, that we could only call it Bestest of Houston. (Bestest of Houston copyright 2005 by Slampo's Place, formerly Slampo's Garden. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use is prohibited.)

We want to make it easy on our readers, so we've picked the categories, we've made the nominations and we will count the votes (although we pledge to have the results certified by a formerly Big 8 accounting firm, if we can find one that hasn't been indicted recently). And we've kept the whole thing considerably shorter than the average Harris County general election ballot. So happy voting, mofos!

  1. Bestest "Blog" in Houston

    • Slampo's Place
    • Slampo's Corner
    • Slampo's Hide-A-Way
    • Slampo's Lil' Church in the Pines
    • Slampo's Carneceria

  2. Bestest Place to Find a Prostitute in Houston

    • Telephone Road
    • Jensen
    • Hillcroft
    • Houston Press classifieds

        Saturday, July 09, 2005

        Memo to al-Qaida: Target Us, Please! (Pretty Please?!)

        It's possible that an al-Qaida cell is plotting at this moment to blow up the Bolivar ferry. Or maybe they've targeted the Lynchburg ferry. Or Minute Maid Park. Or Houston's light rail line (which unfortunately will not rate the description packed with rush-hour commuters in subsequent worldwide dispatches). Or ...

        Possible, just as pretty much anything seems possible after Sept. 11. But unlikely. Highly unlikely. The odds of it happening are so overwhelmingly infinitesimal that it's barely worth mentioning, much less fretting over. Yet in the aftermath of the London subway bombings, the local television stations could barely contain their ginned-up hysteria as they asked: Can it happen here, and if so where?

        Yes, of course, it could happen here. As sure as we're writing this, in 15 minutes a dirty bomb will go off in downtown Houston and we'll all be sprinting down I-10 in our nightclothes. Or a dozen suicide bombers could descend on the Galleria. Or an incoming flight from Mexico ... after Sept. 11, the runaway imagination can conjure endless possibilities.

        But they all seem unlikely. Al-Qaida picks its targets for both maximum murderous effect and maximum symbolic effect, and neither Minute Maid Park nor a plant on the Houston Ship Channel seems to meet those criteria. But if they did, what can we really do about it, other than to "remain vigilant," as all those "security experts" keep telling us to do.

        One local TV station even trotted out a gentleman who was in charge of security on the ferry between Galveston and Port Bolivar (or maybe it was the Lynchburg ferry; we weren't paying close attention). He allowed that, yes, ferry security had been tightened after London, but, no, he wasn't at liberty to divulge exactly how. He cautioned us to remain vigilant.

        We sense that this almost palpable yearning to be targeted by al-Qaida somehow stems from Houston's nagging civic inferiority complex. Y'know, we've got a zillion new stadiums, wonderful art museums, a world-renowned opera, a first-rate ethnic restaurant on every corner, some of those most fragrant air in the country, etc. and so forth. But to be hit by Islamofascists --- that would really seal the deal in our pursuit of that coveted "world-class" designation, wouldn't it? (In lieu of landing the Olympics, that is.)

        Whatever the odds, we here at Slampo's Place pledge not to be deterred. We'll ride the Bolivar ferry, we'll ride the Lynchburg ferry (if it's still operational). We'll take the No. 68 Metro, we'll take the No 4. We might even go downtown. And we'll remain vigilant, even when it's 98 degrees outside.

        Friday, July 08, 2005

        Hardly Knew Ya

        Houston Chronicle sports nostalgiaist Mickey Herskowtiz nearly went slack with grief this morning in eulogizing Calvin Murphy's long association with the Houston Rockets, which ended on a predictable blue note with the announcement that the manic NBA Hall of Famer won't be back as color analyst on the team's TV broadcasts. ''We have known him for going on 35 years,'' Herskowitz declared in launching his wet 'n' warm brief for Murphy's continued presence at a courtside microphone.

        Actually, we (whoever we is) didn't ''know'' him at all, and Herskowitz, in recounting the glory that was Calvin, delicately omitted the most astounding numbers of Murphy's career: his 9-for-14 run (or was it 14-for-9?) in extending his DNA unto the next generation. That is, the 14 children by nine women (yeah, it's 14-for-9) that Murphy fathered, a figure that was revealed just before Murphy was tried and acquitted on charges he had molested 5 of his daughters.

        Oh, Herskowitz did vaguely allude to a "lifestyle" for which, he claimed, Murphy is now being punished by the Rockets (or by "we," the community at-large) after being found innocent of criminal accusations. A lifestyle? Shit, hoss, that's no lifestyle. Those are prodigious, Wilt-like stats, ones that have sealed the local Legend of Calvin for all time. It was Murphy's indiscriminate sowing of seed, and his inability or unwillingness to support some of the resulting spawn, that directly led to his day in court, innocent or not. It's not hard to understand why the Rockets might want to put some distance between the organization and a guy whose knack for knocking up women was almost equal to his talent for knocking down free throws. (And isn't fathering 14 children by 9 women prima facie evidence of some insane compulsion? Think of the grief that can befall a man who fathers a mere 3 or 4 by, say, 2 women.)

        Murphy's forced departure is a shame, though. We at Slampo's Place have been fans of Murphy going back to his college days in the previous century. And our respect only grew when about 15 years ago we witnessed Calvin, soaked with seat after running a clinic for kids at a local Y, slump down against the gym wall and, without catching his breath or toweling off, tear through a three-piece box of Popeye's someone had delivered. We (whoever we is) wouldn't have imagined it at the time, but it's possible that later on that very afternoon the inexhaustible Murphy rinsed the New Orleans-style herbs and spices from his mitts, charged right out to locate a date and set about fulfilling his biological destiny.

        What's really sorry is that Murphy, despite the tiresome banter with straight man Bill Worrell, was a decent commentator. He knows basketball, has a sharp eye for the flow of the game, and certainly is enthusiastic, if not downright insistent, about sharing his knowledge. He'll be replaced by Clyde Drexler, who doubtless will bring to the job all the fire and excitement he brought to his short stint as coach at the University of Houston, and Matt Bullard, the ex-Rocket who used to hang around behind the 3-point line and wave his right hand a lot. Of course, either will be an improvement on Van Chancellor, who, while filling-in for the on-hiatus Murphy last season, almost made us ashamed to be a cracker.