Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Pickle-Puss Pundits Agree: Evolution Is Where It’s At!

Recently both Charles Krauthammer and George Will, the dour right-leaning duo of The Washington Post Writers Group, delivered up spirited defenses of evolution, with Will bearing the suggestion that attempts by “overreaching” and intemperate social conservatives to impose their Bible thumppery on our already science-deficient public schoolchildren was hastening the inevitable splintering of the conservative coalition. It was downright apocalyptic.

Krauthammer, meanwhile, marshaled his considerable talent for argument in the service of a withering dismissal of intelligent design: suitable as theology but a “fraud” when held out as science, says he (alas, if only Krauthammer could see his way to apply the same exacting empirical standard to our misadventure in Iraq).

We thought these pre-Thanksgiving columns constituted a fairly significant development, especially given the obvious muscle these two flexed in clothes-lining the Miers nomination. We figured it was just a matter of time before “limited-government conservatives,” as Will puts it---or even just folks whose IQs cross the three-digit threshold---would run screaming from the room.

Maybe the stampede’s begun (not that there’s anywhere in particular to run to).

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Case of the "Raving Maniac" Resolved; Angry Mob Disperses, Goes Home Happy

James Campbell, the Houston Chronicle’s doughty readers’ representative (our house stylebook at Slampo’s Place dictates that such falutin’ titles be lower-cased, along with realtor and editorial board) had his hands full with readers’ complaints about the seemingly different messages conveyed by photos of U.S. Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., that accompanied a recent story.

Well, at least one reader, an unnamed and unidentified soul whose e-mail Campbell quoted at length in his column in the Sunday paper. Reader Anonymous claimed the photo of Graham made him look like a “raving maniac” while the one of Bingaman and another Democratic opponent of a Graham amendment made them appear thoughtful.

The anonymous reader detected liberal bias at work, which is not outside the realm of possibility, although there most certainly were at least 10 other more glaring examples in that day’s paper, especially if that paper contained a story on illegal immigration, gun ownership or the death penalty (the only kinds of stories where we really find this “liberal bias” to be bothersome).

Campbell came down on the unnamed reader’s side, concluding that the paper’s sloppy or inconsiderate choices of photos certainly could have given the appearance of bias, even though there most definitely was none intended. A more “thoughtful” picture of Graham would have been appropriate, and one was provided. You can judge yourself by going here, if you haven’t already.

Our own take on the matter is that some people just have too much time on their hands (the anonymous e-mailer, for instance). But for another opinion we turned to a truly unbiased and thoughtful source, our own reader representative, Sr. Hidalgo “Hard” Hidalgo. “Hard” at first begged off, saying he was “going home” for the holidays and wouldn’t be back until after Christmas. (“Home,” he explained, is a “little nowhere place outside of San Luis Potosi---you never heard of it, man.”) After we plied him with a Double Latte (upper case, ‘ccording to our stylebook) and a ride to the bus station, he offered the following:
“This Graham dude---that’s his name, right?---obviously is winding up the last chorus of “When It’s Sleepy Time Down South,” with which he’s entertained friends and associates for years. They say if you close your eyes, you’d swear the older Louis Armstrong was in the room. As for this Bingaman---that's the Bing-man, or Der Binger, isn't it?---well, this guy most definitely is checking out the chick in the low-cut blouse at the next table. Or trying to remember where he put his keys.

Anyway, I see no bias at work here. None at all. But one of a daily newspaper’s prime responsibilities nowadays is not to offend even one reader. I mean, you just can’t afford to lose one reader, what with circulation falling like it is. Also, it’s an accepted practice that a newspaper should publish only flattering pictures of powerful people. So I’d suggest that from now on the Chronicle run just the official congressional portraits of our senators and congressmen, or their officially approved mug shots, or the head shots of them lying in state in the Capitol rotunda, whatever.

Is that enough? Well, I gotta run. See you next year, if I make it back over.”
Thank you, Hidalgo. Again.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

"Out of the Office ..."

Due to family obligations and a much-needed trip to the Hill Country, Slampo's Place will be closed for the week of Thanksgiving. We will open again next week. We appreciate your patronage.

We have many things to be thankful for this week---we won't torture you with the list---although we're never quite sure to whom or to what we're thankful.

There is one item, however, that we forgot to add to our list, although the full-page ad on page C7 of Tuesday's Houston Chronicle sports section jogged our memory. It's the ad with the large picture of the spruce middle-aged gentleman with the inscrutable smile.

We know Maureen Dowd is thankful, too.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Johnny Cash Was a Gunslinger (Joaquin Phoenix Is But an Actor)

The new Johnny Cash biopic* seems to have attracted uniformly favorable if not outright gushing notices, with critics huzzahing and cooing over the performances of Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon as J. C. and June Carter Cash.

We, of course, loved Johnny Cash, as did most right-thinking Americans. We never picked cotton, but we went way back with him, back before Cash, a man with a knack for both a song and a career move, had so deftly chiseled himself into a granite icon of Americana, of realness and gravitas and so forth. All the way back to The Rebel, Johnny Yuma, the first J.C. tune we can remember hearing on the radio (or, more likely, as the theme to the TV show of the same name). Our devotion remained constant, right through the Nine Inch Nails song and his last appearance talkin’ Jesus on The 700 Club.

We firmly believe this sorry ol’ world could always use more Johnny Cash, especially more Johnny Cash songs, or songs by others that J.C. transformed into Johnny Cash songs.

But we’re not sure the world needs a Johnny Cash biopic.

OK, that’s an overly broad assertion: We’re positive that we don’t need a Johnny Cash biopic.

Somehow, we know, Hollywood will fuck it up for us. It being the lacuna of Johnny Cash, the essential unknowability of the public entertainer whose emotional range (when not singing, that is) veered between wariness and circumspection (a manifestation, most likely, of what W.J. Cash [no relation that we know of] called in his landmark 1941 book The Mind of the South the “complex of fears and hates” that marked the 20th century White Southerner).

Joaquin Phoenix may indeed be the fine young actor, but we’d prefer not to have Hollywood filling in the blanks for us, trying to explain Johnny Cash and his motivations through the dated medium of method acting. We still need some mystery in our life.

And besides, in a strictly visual sense, Phoenix and Witherspoon seem too sleek, too pretty and too callow for us to suspend disbelief.

Moreover: These major Hollywood productions invariably are incapable of capturing that ineffable Essence of Peckerwood (see paragraph 4 above). Most often they can’t even get the accents right.

(We were reminded of this earlier tonight as we tried to watch the first half-hour of Your Cheatin’ Heart on TMC, the 1964 biopic with George Hamilton woefully miscast as Hank Williams [although no less an authority than Leonard Maltin calls it one of Hamilton’s best roles, which we believe is damning with faint praise]. We could smell the horseshit coming off this film when we first watched it, at 10 or 11 years of age, but we thought that the distance of time and our carefully cultivated reverse snobbery might have rendered it watchable. But no. Anyone associated with this movie, including Red Buttons, should hvae done time. [As a sidebar note, the fight scenes are some of the phoniest ever filmed---the movie goes out of its way to make Hank out to be some fearsome fight-picker, when in truth he was the frail and sickly sort, an embellishment that would be ignorable except for the fact that G. Hamilton fights like a big girl when he takes a swing at the owner of the medicine show who’s screwed him out of some coin.])

But Hollywood should keep trying. If Walk the Line is a hit, we have some other screenplays in the works:

Little But Loud: The Little Jimmy Dickens Story: Hillbilly fever, birds of paradise, grinnin' like a mad chimp. Lots of Jesus, for sure, with amphetamines a possibility (we’re not saying, we just remember he always seemed very wound up on those Grand Ol’ Opry reruns we used to see on Saturday afternoons). With Tom Cruise as "Little" Jimmy.

Kiss an Angel Good Morning: The Charlie Pride Story: No amphetamines that we’re aware of, possibly some low-key, incidental Jesus, but for sure minor league baseball, failure and eventual triumph, plus crossing racial barriers and overcoming prejudice---a potential tour de force for Denzel or some other actorly actor, possibly Jamie Foxx for a younger demo, or … Tom Cruise, in blackface, for something edgy.

Seven Nights to Rock: The Moon Mullican Story: Coffee, non-filter cigarettes, Red Man chaw, pie. Political intrigue---Gov. Jimmie Davis---and Beaumont at dusk. Made for Tom Cruise.

Dylan and Lennon in the back of a taxi 1966 discussing Johnny Cash and other matters. Dylan appears in this short film as a giggly 12-year-old; Lennon plays himself. Amphetamines, cigarettes, musical legends in transit. Courtesy

Banjo Jones on CNN Radio: No Jesus, no drugs, but lots of stickin' it to the man!

*A currently fashionable term that we believe is shorthand for a movie (pic) about a real-life person (bio).

Sunday, November 13, 2005

LBJ Shat Turds Larger Than John Culberson, and Other True Texas History Facts

Two stories in the Chronicle last weekend illustrated the durability of Faulkner's over-quoted maxim that in the South the past isn't even past---most especially when it comes to the naming of public buildings (the rest of the time it's usually ignored or paved over).

In the first, D.C. bureau correspondent Samantha Levine reported that at least half of Texas’ Republican members of the U.S. House, including Slampo’s Place’s own representative, John “Kid” Culberson, were refusing to co-sponsor legislation to name the Education Department building after LBJ, the first Texan to serve as president. In the second, Eric Hanson detailed a slightly more nuanced controversy in the Fort Bend school district over naming a new school after Billy J. Baines, a longtime educator and the first black principal in FBISD.

Such matters were simpler in the old days: Most buildings and other public projects were named after long-dead white males (not that we find anything intrinsically wrong with dead white males, seeing as we’ll be one sooner or later), and nobody much cared one way or another, if but for fact that a small and select group of white males had all the power and usually made such decisions without further consultation. Now, in this day of asymmetrical identity politics (and our definition of that term includes white identity politics, too,) and hpyer-partisanship, nothing is so siimple.

Culberson initially was on board with the renaming but changed his mind, presumably after pressure from the House Republican leadership not to name a building after the Democratic president. Or, apparently, even a men’s room in the building. This is how Culberson explained his newly discovered opposition to naming the Washington non-landmark after LBJ:

“I strenuously disagree with the way [LBJ] expanded the size, power and cost of the federal government. I just don’t think that he’s a good role model for young people ..."
Since when do long-gone public figures have to have been “good role models" to get a slab named after them? JFK was probably the closet we’ve had to a gangster as president, and of course there are no airports, school buildings or expressways named after him, are there? And what about, for instance, Andrew Jackson, whose name we pull out of the air simply because he's the subject of a hot new bio by Longhorn-turned-Aggie-turned-Longhorn historian H. W. Brands? Old Hickory was a stone killer---one of only two of our presidents to have actually slain another man---and a horrible racist, even by the somewhat loose standards of the early 19th century frontier, who pursued our red brothers with a genocidal fury, a bully and a braggart, etc.---not to mention a war hero and small-D democrat!---but we doubt those documented historical facts have led Culberson to refuse any $20 bills that have come his way. And the very town Culberson represents in Washington of course bears the name of the “Big Drunk.”

True, LBJ was not a nice person. He was crude and boorish, famously did his bathroom business in full sight of humiliated underlings, was a philanderer and probably a crook, pulled on his dog's ears, showed off his surgery scar, lied his ass off about Vietnam (something you won’t find these Texas Republican congress people objecting to), and certainly expanded the size, power and cost of the federal government (although how Culberson can cite this as justification with a straight face, given that the current Texan occupant of the White House has done the same thing---and is in danger of becoming a LBJ-like figure, with the descriptive tragic eternally attached to his name---is beyond irony). But now he's history, which, like life itself, is not so easily reduced to silly talking points about role models.

(And which of these expansions of federal power does Culberson object to? Medicare? The Voting Rights Act? Maybe Culberson could lead the charge to repeal those intrusions. The fact is, though, that Culberson and every other Southern Republican ought to be moving to erect a statue to LBJ in front of every mall on the freeway feeder, because LBJ is inarguably the figure most responsible for the party realignment that eventually made Texas GOP congressmen like Culberson a dime a dozen.)

The Chronicle story even-handedly noted that House Democrats voted along the party line against renaming D.C.’s National Airport after President Reagan, which just goes to show how silly these “debates” are. Who, flying in to D.C. today---including those Democratic congressmen and even, say, Barbara Streisand en route to a Kennedy Center function---thinks, Oh, I can’t land at an airport named after Ronald Reagan. Nobody thinks about it, of course, as they wouldn’t when they carry out the very mundane business of the federal education bureaucracy at the LBJ Building.

In Fort Bend, the move to name a new middle school in the planned communnity of Sienna Plantationafter Baines did prevail despite resistance from those who wanted the name to reflect “the history and flavor of the area’s rural past,” as the Chronicle reported, with River Ranch being their preferred choice. The history and flavor of the area's rural past are not altogether a wholesome and salubrious thing, of course, given that Fort Bend's 19th century economy was almost exclusively underpinned by slave labor, and the area was the site of one of the more notorious episodes of the Reconstruction, the Jaybird-Woodpecker War.

A point in River Ranch's favor, explained one free citizen of the present-day Sienna Plantation to the Chronicle, is that it “does not designate a specific culture group.”

Except Billy J. Baines isn’t a specific culture group. He’s a real living person, an individual who happens to be black, who spent 33 years with FBISD and was the first black school administrator in a district in which African-American students now constitute a plurality. He’s real history, with a face and name and a story to tell, about a life that was at least marginally enhanced by the activist government of Lyndon Baines Johnson.

We know nothing of him personally, but on the face of it Billy Baines seems to be a role model that even John Culberson couldn't object to.

Houston, The Missing City
In keeping with this posting's history theme, we'd like to point out a local Web site brought to our attention by Kevin Whited at the rascally blogHOUSTON. It's called Missing Places, and, in Whited's words, it's oddly compelling (if just a wee artsy-conceptual and whatnot for us). Anyway, we loved Missing Place's description of Houston as
a city whose urban development has long been distinguished paradoxically by the impermanence of its architecture rather than its fixity. Houston is literally defined by geographic disruption---the buildings of the city are quickly altered, roadwork and redirected streets are the norm and volatile weather continuously pummels the city, to cite just a few examples. These disruptions create a city of revolving contradictions and perpetual discontinuity, and the job of making sense of this city is left to a scattered population.
Yep, that's pretty much our agenda: trying to make sense of this place, which can be so weird, wild and wonderful (when it's not so dark, depressing and scary).

Thursday, November 10, 2005

He’s So in Love!

We marked today, Friday, on our calendar because it’s the day that Houston Chronicle columnist Rick Casey promised to reveal why Bill White might be able to defy the traditional wisdom that holds a big-city mayor can’t win a statewide office such as governor or U.S. senator.

That heart-shaped promise was etched in the newsprint of his Wednesday column, wherein Casey ambled on for 17 or so inches on the subject (we fully read about 10 of ’em, including the first and last ones, thus more than qualifying us to issue the forthcoming predictably damning judgment ), quoting a political scientist or two and the former mayor of …. was it Seattle? Yes, it was Seattle. The city in Washington. You were riveted, weren’t you?

In other words, Casey found this to be a topic of such abiding interest that he stretched it over a two-part series, with a slow-motion wind-up and delivery. It comes hard on the heels of his last two-parter, which was mostly devoted to his reminiscences of the judge from San Antonio who’s been named to preside over the Tom DeLay trial. That’s San Antonio, where Casey used to ply his trade and apparently still gets his mail. A Chapter 11 filing of intellectual bankruptcy appears imminent.

(After skimming this week’s first installment, we finally realized that encroaching senility is the defining characteristic of the species Chroniclus columnisticus [with apologies to the senile portion of our readership, which breaches the potentially fatal 75 percent mark, according to the Audit Bureau of Bloggery and Bullshit], a proud tradition dating back beyond Allison “The Motorman” Sanders and through Thom Marshall and Leon Hale. [Other notable characteristics: You have to be older than 50, have virtually no clue what’s going on in the city, be a white male [not that we have anything against white males], never piss any one off too too much, and no habla espanol … We’ll exempt under-50 business columnist Loren Steffy from this broad brush, as he’s far and away the paper’s best columnist, and probably bound for a more prestigious posting before too long, we’d bet.])

We’ve never gotten much of a rise one way or another from Casey since the adenoidal martinet who runs the editorial operation imported him from San Antonio, where we remember occasionally reading his column. To an out-of-towner Casey seemed to offer a pretty good inside-ball take on doings in city government there, something like Tim Fleck could be doing for the Chronicle if the paper had had the stick not to consign him to the anonymity of the editorial page. In San Antonio, Casey seemed to know his stuff. Here, he seems lost, tired and supremely uninterested (and uninteresting).

But we’ve noticed there is one subject that raises Casey’s ardor, that brings a flush to his heavily bearded cheek and a bounce to his step, one that doubtless makes him feel young again and perhaps evokes his days of glory in Old San Antone. That subject is Bill White, who, Casey wrote Wednesday:

…even if he becomes recognized as one of the greatest big-city mayors in U.S. history … has an even greater hurdle than most accomplished, ambitious politicians in reaching higher office.
We’re much too blunt to detect the delicate irony that we’d assume plays along the edges of such a sentiment, so let us just say that there will in fact be no way that Bill White will be “recognized” as a great big-city mayor, if only because of the pedestrian reality that he’ll have only six years in the office, if he so chooses and is so granted, and the terms limit sorta puts a crimp in the “greatness” attainability (at least for the recognizers who can maintain a modicum of critical distance).

Casey also relates that

…Big-city mayors deal with practical problems more than issues, but they also must appeal to an electorate that is generally more, well, urbane and more diverse than suburban and small-town electorates.
To which we can only say, well, “No shit?”

And looka here:

So Bill White makes a name for himself by getting control of a runaway budget, by making a dent in Houston's notorious traffic, by cleaning corruption out of a famously pay-for-play City Hall, by generously and efficiently leading the welcoming committee for Hurricane Katrina evacuees.
Has he done all that already, after less than two years as mayor? (We missed the front-page headlines about cleaning the corruption out of City Hall.) Or is this the Casey-projected White record after six (or four) years, which still may not be enough to elect White governor, Casey suggests, even though the columnist apparently plans to tell us otherwise in today’s installment?
Or do you think there’s an opening for another flack at City Hall? (That’d be our guess.)

Hey, we like Bill White OK. We’ve voted for him twice---considering the pair of stumps who ran against him two years ago, you’d have to be in chronic identity-politics denial or not care much about the city’s future to have voted for anyone but White---and we think he’s done a decent job, even if we’re a bit put off by that overweening sense of intellectual superiority that he can barely contain behind the Jimmy Stewart mask (and which will be his undoing, if he’s ever undone, which we hope he won’t be).

But, still, we just can’t get all moony over the guy.

It’s unseemly for a man our age.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Wanking on Your Ranking

“Chronicle retains ranking,” reads the soul-of-wit-and-brevity headline tapped low and inside the business section of Tuesday’s rank-retaining Houston Chronicle, a choice bit of phrasing that sounds as if it were the tortured product of high-level consultations between the business and editorial sides of the newspaper.

As the close readers among you probably noticed, the sizzling headline did not quite capture the full scope of the story beneath, a one-source official press release that was mostly devoted to various canned explanations attributed to publisher Jack Sweeney for the 6 percent fall in the paper’s audited daily circulation (4 percent on Sundays) during the six months ending Sept. 30.

The Chronicle was hardly alone in its decline, as all of the nation’s 25 largest daily papers reported selling, giving away or tossing off the side of a speeding delivery truck significantly fewer copies over the same period, save for the New York Times, which registered a modest, as they say, 0.4 uptick. Yet the Chronicle’s drop was the fourth steepest, percentage-wise, although considerably less than the headfall suffered by its Hearst Corp. stablemate, the San Francisco Chronicle, which owned up to a circulation decline of more than 16 percent.

The Houston Chronicle headline writers, no doubt aware of the rising reader clamor for more “happy news,” did indeed dig down to locate the nearly obscured silver lining with the factually sound subject-verb-direct object combination “Chronicle retains ranking.” If the paper had not retained its ranking … well, that would have almost risen to the level of real news, since by our ’rithmetic it would have required a gain of about 22,000 daily papers over the previous year to surpass the sixth-ranked Chicago Tribune---that’s a larger numbers gain than reported by the NYT---or a loss of 140,000 or so to drop beneath the eighth place Boston Globe. (It’s all about the art of the possible, we guess.)

We’re not here this evening to offer our complex and turgid explanations for the continuing fall in newspaper circulation and/or readership---we’re available to do that in private, for $250 an hour, with shower and hot towels available---but we can’t let Mr. Sweeney’s sundry rationalizations of the numbers pass without comment. (And we’ll stipulate into the record here that the reporting of newspaper circulation has long been recognized as a notoriously slippery art, one that’s subject to easy manipulation, etc.)

According to Sweeney, the Chronicle's decline "was primarily due to a more conservative auditing posture by the Audit Bureau of Circulations,” which means, essentially, that because of circulation scandals at the Dallas Morning News and other papers, the ABC is now pressing for a more realistic and reliable accounting.
"We used to be able to collect and show proof of payment to ABC on overdue cacounts," Sweeney said. "Now if a subscriber is one day late with a payment over 90 days, the computer system automatically eliminates the address from the paid circulation averages."
We’re not even sure what that first sentence means. What the second sentence means, essentially, is that there will be no more graveyard vote emanating from the Chronicle precincts. Go three months without paying the electric company and pretty soon you’re reading your Chronicle in the dark. Go three months without paying on your credit card and you begin to develop a deep appreciation for the biblical injunction against usury. Go three months without paying the Chronicle and … you continued to get the paper! And were counted as paying subscriber!

Soaring fuel costs have also altered circulation strategies, Sweeney said. "We've pulled our distribution in closer to our core market by eliminating San Antonio, Dallas, far South Texas and parts of Louisiana."
We have no idea how many Chronicles were sold in those far-flung locales, but we'd bet the combined total was something less than the number of unsold editions abandoned daily on roadway medians by homeless paper hawkers, or the number of unread and unbundled Chronicles stacked up for instant recycling outside hundreds of schools in the area that are beneficiaries of the Newspapers in Education program (which we assume aren't counted in the circulation numbers, but then again we're kinda naive).

But don't worry about those audited numbers, because it's those highly dubious, hypothetical multipliers that really count:
Sweeney said overall readership, measured as paid circulation combined with the number of readers of each copy of the newspaper, remains strong."Over the past five years, our weekly cumulative readership has remained stable at over 1.9 million adults 18 and over," Sweeney said.
Here's how the San Francisco Chronicle, which mentioned its percentage drop in the headline over the Web version of its story, handled the same topic:
Newspapers have sought to blunt the significance of circulation drops by emphasizing a different number, called readership, that takes into account the fact that a single copy may be read by more than one person. But, Rick Colsky, who runs an agency in San Francisco that buys advertising space, said ad purchasers s still tend to rely on circulation "because the readership is too iffy."
Yeah, that's probably why the San Francisco Hearst property took such a hit: It's too honest!

(By the way, did you know that in addition to the newspaper, the Houston Chronicle "produces, a direct mail operation, and free publications such as La Voz and La Vibra, both in Spanish ... [and reaches] over six out of 10 adults in the Houston metro area each week." That's according to none other than Jack Sweeney, as said between gulps of Diet Pepsi while washing down a bag of "hot chips" from the Chronicle commissary.)

The Genius of Greg Hurst, Continued

“He’s certainly earned his stripes.”
--- Referring to a local veteran who was wounded in a roadside bombing in Iraq and has received a temporary donation of a wheelchair-accessible van. Hurst made his comment just as the Channel 11 camera provided a chilling close-up of the unsmiling vet’s scarred and misshapen head.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Bedlam Calling

We’re happy to report that our man on the Houston City Council, M J. Khan, is fighting back against the would-be usurper of the budding but eventually term-limited Khan dynasty in District F, K. A. “Scooter” Khan (Scooter is not K. A. Khan’s nickname, at least as far as we know; we just felt like giving it to him to save us the trouble of double-checking whether we were confusing M. J. with K. A., or perhaps confusing K. A. with A. Q. Khan, the Pakistani nuclear mastermind, as we mindlessly tap-tap-tap away).

M. J.’s campaign has rolled out a recorded phone endorsement from Mayor Bill White, and its opposition researchers have discovered that Scooter Khan claims his homestead exemption on a residence outside the district (which appears to be true), even though in filing to run he swore that he lived in District F since June 2004. Not only that, but according to the mailer we received from M. J. (and we believe almost anything a politician tells us, especially when it’s delivered in the mail), Scooter has bothered to vote but once in Houston, in the November 2004 general election, and was then registered using an address outside District F (the address actually appears to be in the district but seems … fishy).

So, suggests the M. J. mailer, Scooter may have committed one of the following: 1.) Perjury 2.) Voter fraud or 3.) Tax evasion (M. J. obviously has retained some professional hired help). Whatever the case, it seems apparent that Scooter, who’s probably reported raising more money than any challenger to a council incumbent, is something of a suspicious character (we’re being polite in recognition of the end of Ramadan, and likewise will refrain from using such vile and ungodly terms as f--k, sh-t, p-ss, and c--------r for the duration of this positing).

The District F field is composed, as every schoolboy in Islamabad now knows, solely of Pakistani-Americans, a development unworthy of notice in the local daily newspaper but potentially all the buzz in the illicit gambling dens of the Punjab, if not for the recent earthquake. The third candidate in the race is Paki-Am John Shike, who on his Web site “strongly” proposes renaming the following: Wilcrest Drive after Rosa Parks, Harwin west to Beltway 8 after Muhammad Ali, Harwin from the Beltway to Highway 6 after George Foreman, and Westpark (all of it, we guess) after Barbara Jordan. While cynics may deride Shike’s proposal as a blatant example of what political scientists call “pandering,” we think each suggestion is worthy on its own merits, and we can easily envision a commemorative plaque and tacky "Rumble in the Jungle" sculpture at the point where Ali Drive meets George Foreman Drive.

Meanwhile, M. J.’s office recently organized a community meeting to rally opposition to what is being called the “expansion” of the renowned Carnival Night Club from its current location in a down-at-the-heels mall on Highway 59 to a site formerly owned and occupied by Gillman Motors near the tenuously ghetto-fabulous Sharpstown Mall. Gillman has sold the Sharpstown property and relocated its operation out to the Beltway, leaving behind only the concrete foundations and its very tall sign that now thanks Sharpstown for “38 wonderful years” (the sign, it probably goes without saying, is an atrocious eyesore and looks as if it were designed by one of the local 11-year-old graffiti artists.)

An excellent story in our local This Week section of the Chronicle by Zen T.C. Zheng paints Carnival as some seething Boschian netherworld right across the freeway from Memorial Southwest Hospital (we’re familiar with Carnival through those live remote advertisements for the place on Spanish-language Channel 61, which always seem to show three very happy guys in cowboy hats rubbing up against one wide-bottomed woman in spray-on jeans … they’re “dancing,” apparently). Some selected excerpts from Zheng’s story:
“… between Nov. 27, 2003 … and Oct. 27 of this year police responded to 377 calls [associated with the club] for loud music, assault, drugs, theft, robberies, gunshots, illegal weapons, underage drinking and a murder … a show at the club on May 12 this year drew 2,585 patrons while its occupancy limit is set at 1,207 ….[the director of the ER department at Memorial Southwest Hospital] said the emergency room has been burdened by [Carnival] patrons who have been assaulted at the club and some club patrons have brought prostitution and violence to the hospital parking lot … the emergency room has become overcrowded in the past 12 months on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday nights between midnight and 3 a.m. with those injured at the club …"
The story quotes auto dealer Ramsey Gillman as saying he was unaware that Carnival planned to relocate to his former property and knew only that he was selling to a “Mexican-American entrepreneur.” He added: “It never occurred to me that certain group [sic] doesn’t like them.” Them apparently being ... Mexican-American entrepreneurs? ... and the certain group being … just who do you mean, Mr. Gillman? Your neighbors in Sharpstown for those 38 wonderful years? Yeah, bye-bye, and enjoy the gunfire and prostitution in your front yard.

Khan has been on the Carnival case for a while, Zen T. C. Zheng reports, having protested the club’s liquor license with the TABC back in January. Hopefully he can continue that work after Tuesday. (And by the way, why was this story relegated to the zoned weekly “community news” section of the Chronicle? It seems to have all the elements for a great story, or for a take from a local columnist, if the paper had one who actually lived in Houston: the hallowed Houston right to do what the hell you want with your property vs. less hallowed notions of greater community good, shifting demographics, changing neighborhoods, multiculturalism and diversity and blah blah, dancing and firearms and cowboy hats and blaring Latino music … oh, yeah---somebody might want to read that.)

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

99 and a Half Won't Do

The following is a transcript of a 30-second commercial that Bill White’s campaign purportedly plans to air in heavy rotation over the weekend leading to what is expected to be his near-unanimous re-election as mayor. The ad features testimonials from real Houstonians, looking like real Houstonians and saying real Houstonian things.

Fade in …

"One Saturday I was changin' the oil out in my front yard---man, it was hot--and up rides this pasty lookin' white dude on a bicycle, looked to be a real expensive model, and he stops, gets off, takes off his helmet and goes right to the junk pile in the vacant lot across the way, I mean there was a ton of stuff people been dumpin' there for years, and he goes right to it, starts draggin' everything out to the curb, even that rusted old Kenmore dryer, and when the city truck pulled up he goes to tossin’ it in himself, I mean he was humpin’ it like a one-man Salvadoran tree crew on Friday afternoon, so I walk over to take a look and dang but if it ain’t Bill White! The mayor himself! That’s one thing I learned about Bill White: He’s deceptively strong.” --- Eldridge "40 Watt" McDonald, folk artist and handyman, Fifth Ward

"Of course no one in my family has voted for a Democrat since before John Connally left the party, but we find Bill to be a delightfully frothy mélange of Ronald Reagan, Pope John XXIII and Oprah. And his wife is just a darlin'!"--- Trudy Bascom-Haffler, gourmet cook and GOP precinct chair, Tanglewood

"When Hurricane Rita try to come to Houston, Bill White stand up and say, 'No, hurricane, go away! Shoo!" And hurricane go to Port Arthur, cause much damage property. Bill White know how to talk to hurricane." --- Nan Nguyen, manicurist and spa operator, Spring Branch

Fade out …

Announcer’s voice: “Bill White: If he’s been even half as good as his commercials, then he’s been a heck of a mayor!”

The election’s over. Jack Josey Terence is sunk. (Again.)