Tuesday, February 27, 2007

That’s a Relief …

We’ve been away from the city for most of the past week so we have no idea what this is all about (and don’t really want to know), but we still found our self comforted by this correction that appeared on page A2 of Tuesday’s Houston Chronicle:
Houston Independent School District Superintendent Abelardo Saavedra was not among those who visited Pugh Elementary last week to see a baking sheet that some believe bears the image of the Virgin Mary. A story on Page B1 of Saturday’s City & State section reported incorrect information.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Man Bites Dog, Casey Bites Mayor

It was early and we were hurriedly running our eyes over the morning paper when something we read caused us to abruptly gear down and then come to a full stop.

Perhaps we hadn’t fully thrown off the downy blanket of sleep. But no, our eyes did not deceive: Houston Chronicle columnist Rick Casey appeared to be writing something about Bill White that was not a gushing tribute to the genius of the two-term mayor. In fact, Casey appeared to be taking issue with someone else who had written a gushing tribute to the genius of the two-term mayor. As Casey tells it:
It could be one of the most effective political fundraising brochures in Texas history, an "independent study" that paints Mayor Bill White in heroic terms.
That right there got our attention, because it’s usually Casey doing the Soviet Realist-style rendering of our pure-hearted, muscular and forward looking chief executive.

To boil it down beyond nuance, Casey was referring to a paper that three Rice University MBA seekers put together for an independent study project of White’s leadership, which was forwarded to the mayor by one of the trio’s faculty adviser. White was so enamored of the thing that he passed it along to his good buddy, energy executive Michael Zilkha, who according to Casey “made a financial contribution to have it published and wrote a cover letter” before sending copies off to local business types, using a distribution list provided by the mayor. The publication strongly, and wrongly, suggested it had the imprimatur of Rice U, according to Casey.

The columnist relates that
Even Zilkha, in his cover letter, expressed some reservations regarding the paper's breathless conclusion that "Bill White has 'remade our city government so that it is idiot proof and that he has effected permanent structural changes that will long out last him.' "
“… government so that it is idiot proof … ” Is this what passes for scholarship at Rice these days? And they say the public schools are in trouble. (Casey doesn’t offer details, but did the authors provide any examples of these “permanent structural changes?” Hey, we keep an open mind, but from out here in the barnyard this smells like a steamin’ crock of horse doo.)

We found this column disturbing, whether or not that was Casey’s intent. Here he is barely into the fourth year of his probable six-year tenure and Bill White’s already preening for posterity. And we thought Bob Lanier was vain, just because everybody had to blow smoke up his ass telling him how smart he was (and, yeah, he was plenty smart) before he could be comfortably seated. (’Course, on the other hand, under White there’s been a noticeable fall-off from the previous two administrations in federal prosecutions of council members, city administrators and City Hall lobbyists.)

We probably should just be grateful that the city finally got our neighborhood back in order after the year-long suspension of the in-progress water pipe project caused by the bankruptcy of the contractor that got the work despite its history of tax delinquencies. Yes, let’s raise a statue, or two, to Bill White, The Man Who Made Houston Idiot-Proof.

And to Rick Perry … we mean Rick Casey … keep it up. Seriously.


Monday, February 19, 2007

Pedernales River Showdown

In honor of Presidents (or Presidents') Day, a ginned-up holiday for the mailman and the financial markets, we proudly post our favorite picture postcard obtained from the boyhood home of our home state's favorite tragic figure-president. And who's your favorite president?

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Anna Nicole Died for Our Sins (So Let's Kill Her Again)

We took it as evidence of some intelligent design that the DVD of Idiocracy arrived from Netflix in the same week that Anna Nicole’s date with the fella in the brite nightgown preoccupied the cable news from sun to sun and the local TV stations pretended that the parents of the diaper-wearing astronaut hauling bags of groceries from car to house was somehow newsworthy.

Idiocracy is the Mike Judge movie that had a cup of coffee in theatrical release last fall, quietly opening and quickly closing in a half-dozen big cities before being dispatched by Fox to the cinematic netherworld, despite many highly favorable reviews. Slate even called it “the most stirring defense of traditional values since Edmund Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France," a blurb that was sure to drive the herds into the Cineplex.

But the movie wasn’t destined for box-office success: It has its arid stretches and an attenuated, TVish look, and it’s difficult to imagine the masses embracing Judge’s brutally unsparing depiction of a nobrow future. After all, this is us (that is, I and Thou) that he’s projecting forward.

The premise is straightforward and clearly enunciated in the prelude---too many self-absorbed and feckless high-I.Q. types are failing to heed the biological imperative to reproduce while the dumbasses of this post-Malthusian world spawn exponentially. Judge foresees this imbalance continuing until at some tipping point down the way society has degenerated into a non-stop Springeresque carnival of supersized piggishness.

Five hundred years from now, the president is a corn-rowed former professional wrestler/porn star, law degrees can be had at the miles-long Costco, a notable TV attraction is The Masturbation Channel (“Keepin’ America Batin’ for 300 Years”), all citizens are branded with a Universal Product Code and various labor-saving devices, including one that provides medical diagnoses in a digitalized voice, require only that the operator be able to push one of those big, brightly colored keys that today are found mostly on Playskool toys. And check out where the English language has gone ... and what Starbucks sells.

It is the funniest movie we’ve seen in years (although you might want to stop the disc before the happy, uplifting ending that Judge for some reason felt compelled to tag on).

We wonder whether the Houston Chronicle’s upper-cased Reader Representative (who we understand is threatening to launch a subscriber-only blog, Backstairs at the Chronicle, under the alias Rebound Slamdunkee) has had the opportunity to view Idiocracy, since this week he seems to be dealing with some of the same issues explored in the film. The ReRep detects a note of hypocrisy in complaints from readers about the unseemliness of the paper’s Anna Nicole coverage (too prominent, too much of it). He points out that ...
Three of the top five stories on chron.com [Tuesday] all had to do with Anna Nicole Smith. Topping the list was the story about the Bahamas Immigration Minister Shane Gibson commenting about the photos of him and Smith in bed, followed by the story about the release of a tape of a 31-second call between police and paramedics in Florida, followed by my favorite, yet another guy (her bodyguard) claiming to be the father of Smith's baby. Who's next, Mr. T.?
Oh you know T had taste of that.

But seriously, this litany will be familiar to anyone who’s spent time, drunk or sober, in an American newsroom in the past five years, or since the advent of online editions and page-hit stats recited at afternoon editors’ meetings. Invariably the best-read stories have some element of sex, crime or celebrity---preferably all three. Pit bulls are big, too. And the shorter the better. Police and courts widgets are huge online. Meanwhile, the seven-part series on which that team of reporters labored for months barely broke into triple digits, maybe. Oh well. It was extremely repetitious.

Now we suspect that the readers who complained about the Anna Nicole cavalcade are probably not the same readers who went online to read about her and the Bahamian immigration minister, so maybe it’s a bit brash of the RR to suggest that they’re hypocrites. Perhaps they stick to the actual newspaper, the one that’s still delivered to front yards and sold in convenience stores everywhere, the one at which the supposedly outdated hierarchical paradigm of centralized news judgment still holds sway (y’know, like that inverted pyramid thingee) and reader attraction is imprecisely gauged.

But we don’t honestly know. We’re just idly blogversatin’ to our self here.

We do know, however, that if we controlled a newspaper Anna Nicole would still be all over the front page, above the fold, in the most lurid colors printable and in 3-D, if that’s possible.

And we know we love you.

Monday, February 12, 2007

The Sharpness in the Forehead, the Whiteness of Waiting: Why Don’t We Have Political Writing Like This in the United States?

… Probably for good reason, yet we’ve read nothing as entertaining in recent weeks---not even a Houston Chronicle editorial on immigration policy---as Bernard-Henri Lévy’s “Dinner With Ségolène” (as in Ségolène Royal, the comely 53-year-old Socialist candidate for the presidency of France) that appeared on the opinion page of last Thursday’s Wall Street Journal.

Lévy is the noted cigarette smoker and onetime nouveaux philosophe who about 30 years ago wrote a decent (and short) book that we were required to read titled Barbarism With a Human Face (Communism=really bad stuff) and more recently authored the highly unreadable American Vertigo: Traveling America in the Footsteps of Tocqueville, excerpted parts of which we found as predictable as, say, David Foster Wallace on the Iowa State Fair. (Check out Garrison Keillor’s skewering of Lévy’s book last year in the New York Times---it’s too damn funny.)

You can read Lévy’s WSJ piece here, but we know you’re busy so we’ll cut right to the choicest bits:
The maître d' steps in to take our order: salad, filets of sole, a dry white wine. She continues, "Isn't it amusing? When someone else misspeaks, we call it a lapsus, a slip, but when it's me it's a giant misstep, a mistake. Maybe it's a double standard."

[Snip, as they say.]

And we launch into a strange, somewhat surrealistic dialogue of the deaf in which I explain that for the antitotalitarian left which is now steering itself away from her, the Rights of Man is not just a phrase but a concept, one that is filled with memories of suffering, of Resistance, manifestly not to be played with--and she, argumentative, inflexible, a sharpness suddenly visible in her face, her forehead, asserting that it's exactly the opposite, that when one says "Rights of Man" she cannot overlook the literal sense of the words, the rights of the Male as opposed to the Female, the rights of her father versus the rights of her mother--and that is why she prefers to say "human rights."


And Lionel Jospin? I ask--of another Socialist eminence, who was her party's candidate last time around, in 2002. The sommelier pours more wine. I observe she eats and drinks with real gusto, like Mitterrand did before he became ill; and that she has a little of Chirac's hearty appetite--is this a sign?


A man at a neighboring table comes over to tell her he admires her. She stands, oddly moved, blushing a deeper pink than her suit, happy, her long, pretty neck rippling with pleasure.


She tells me she is probably no longer going to wear the famous white suits that have been her trademark, and which have been written about so much--the white of waiting, of the blank page awaiting the inscription of France's grievances as well as hopes for the future.

[More snippin’]

I tell her again why the role of the intellectual is not to join in, rather it is to ask the tough questions, to lay out the issues, to--at the end, as late as possible--finally articulate his opinion. And she listens to me with a humility which belies her image, that of a strict, distant schoolteacher.

It is after midnight.

The restaurant is empty.

A last question about her choice of books: a book about women by Dominique Méda (she is surprised I don't know her), and Victor Hugo's Contemplations, which she has had with her for some time.

I take my leave, still somewhat puzzled, but with the feeling that people may have been unfair to this woman--myself included, and that she does not really resemble the slightly gauche statue into which she has sculpted herself.
Try as we might, we just can’t translate this into American (William Kristol in a custom-tailored white shirt open to the chest interviewing Hillary Clinton? No, but …. Billy Crystal, we could see that.)

The French. You gotta love ’em---especially their obtuseness.

Closer to home, we'd recommend the latest of the “Sunday Conversation" articles the Houston Chronicle runs on its City/State section, this one a dialogue of sorts between Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson and Edmund Gordon, director of the Center for African and African-American studies at UT (although each apparently was interviewed separately and not together over dry white wine), on Confederate flags and statuary. The interviews revealed some surprising areas of agreement between Patterson and Gordon.

Regular readers---those who were sent home by the principal for wearing their “I Got Loaded at Slampo’s Place” T-shirts in class---know that we are a fan of Patterson, the only state or local candidate to receive our highly prized endorsement in the preceding election. Patterson apparently was chosen as counterpoint to Gordon because he recently accepted money from a group of Confederate descendents and because he had declared there was nothing unseemly about Ted Nugent wearing a Rebel flag T-shit at Rick Perry’s inaugural ball.

Here’s how Patterson answered the Chronicle’s question about the second matter:
The more I read about that, the more I think it was a mistake. I'm generally not unprepared for questions. That was one I was unprepared for. ... It was appropriate for him to do that because that's what he does. It was not appropriate for him to do it at an inaugural.
As we’ve said before, Jerry Patterson is probably too honest and thoughtful to win a higher statewide office.

Well, it’s after midnight (in France) and the restaurant is empty, so as our Confederate ancestors used to say, "Au revoir, mofo."

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Bulletin: When It Comes to “Paper or Plastic?” Parents of Diaper-Wearing Female Astronaut Prefer the Latter

Yes, Channel 11, which we mistakenly identified in our previous post as having the “smartest newscasts” in Houston, came up big---huge, in fact---on Friday evening in the All-Nowak Sweeps when it scored footage of the haggard looking mission specialist returning to her Clear Lake-area home after a short trip somewhere---perhaps, the station related, to her "physician's office."

What sort of undergarments Nowak favored for that short trip was left unrevealed.

Even better, from a fleshing-out the story standpoint, was the brief clip of an elderly couple Channel 11 identified as Nowak’s parents lugging plastic bags of what appeared to be groceries from Randall's inside the accused attempted murderess’ home.

Well, Greg Hurst said it was groceries, but for all he knows it could have been more adult diapers---or heroin!

At troubled times like these we again must cite the time-tested wisdom of Dewey Compton, the late, great Harris County Ag Extension Agent, who, back in those faraway days of oil shocks and double-digit inflation, famously observed: “No matter what happens, folks gotta eat.”

Our friend Il Pinguino, who teaches at a local college, we forget which one, checked in to say that the Situationists, “that tiny band of alcohol-swilling successors to the Dadaists and precursors of the punks,” had this Nowakian obsession sussed out decades ago:
The French intellectual/agitator Guy Debord railed back in the ’50s and ’60s against the news and entertainment media's "colonization of daily life."

Debord's best-known work was The Society of the Spectacle. Sound familiar? The historian Andrew Hussey, summarizing the book’s central concept, wrote that Debord described "the controlling powers of the 'spectacle'---the notion that all human relations are mediated by images from television, film, advertising, newspapers and magazines. The 'spectacle' (Debord argued) is the enemy of impassioned human existence."
We couldn’t agree more. We realize it’s past time to return to the moment, to reassume ownership of our somewhat desolate and transitory existence and hope we can motor through the day without getting snagged by one of those red-light cameras.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Nothing Was Delivered: Sex, Space and Dr. Phil

As we sat here earlier this evening in our dank garret, cultivating our Weltschmerz and staring at the bleak gray wall that seals us off from the enveloping darkness, it occurred to us that the diaper has been wrung dry.

We defer to no citizen in our naked yearning to learn more of the proceedings, yet it’s painfully clear that the Lisa Nowak saga has rounded into a cul-de-sac, for the time being, and there most likely will be nothing new (as in “news”) or titillating (as in “news”) forthcoming until the love-sick space gal inevitably pleads out to avoid residence in the Florida penal system.

Now all we can do is await the arrival of next week’s People magazine with its sprightly written rehash of Nowak’s breakdown, which surely will be followed in a matter of mere weeks by Texas Monthly’s slickly parsed rendering of What It All Means, We Think.

Oh, and we can’t wait for those Bum Steer Awards.

Actually, we had this dim recognition on Wednesday evening, when Channel 11 aired footage of a FedEx man delivering a package---from Dr. Phil, he told the reporter---to Nowak’s empty Clear Lake house, part of the station’s effort to fill up the six or seven opening minutes of its 6 p.m. newscast devoted to the astronaut’s bad trip. We had been following the story with considerable anxiety since the news first broke Monday and anchor lad Greg Hurst told us to “stick with Channel 11 throughout the evening” for all the latest updates, as if Nowak were a Category 5 hurricane and our continued well-being required us to remain attentive to the TV news. Somehow, weatherman Neil Frank stayed calm even as he set his satellite in motion and detected no trace of Nowak blowing in from the east.

The premature death of Anna Nicole Smith (and boy, is People going to be torn over next week’s cover) slowed Channel 11 only a step in its pursuit of all things Nowak, as Thursday’s broadcast brought footage of yet another FedEx man ringing the doorbell but this time apparently being successful in the delivery of the package said to be from Dr. Phil, as well as a close-up of a license plate of a car parked in Nowak’s driveway by a fellow astronaut or somebody like that---a car that the station determined to be rented!

We cite Channel 11 simply because it’s the station we watch, and it’s the station we watch because it has the best reporters and the smartest newscasts, despite the losses of Jerome Gray and Lisa Foronda and the continued presence of Hurst and his strangely wooden sidekick, Len Cannon. We’re sure the other stations were much less adept at filling their Nowak quota.

Yet even after all the overkill it appears that no one has conclusively established that there was an actual “love triangle,” since the alleged sides of the triangle wisely are not talking to the media, and even the key element of sex has not been corroborated, although a 900-mile drive in plastic underbritches would suggest that sex---and damn good sex!---was definitely a factor. (And if true it looks as if this guy Oefelein had a thing for redheads--—be sure to put that on Friday’s story budget.)

Speaking of sex, both the Chronicle’s SciGuy blogger and Slate endeavored to answer the Nowak-inspired question of whether sex in outer space is possible and, if so, has such actually occurred. SciGuy reaches no firm conclusion but, based on a perhaps too-close reading of a book by Apollo 11's Michael Collins, strongly suggests that one astronaut or another has spilled some of his Right Stuff in a bout of earth-orbital jerking-off (not his term).

That’s all well and good, but we’re afraid SciGuy had taken a decidedly heterocentric approach to the question of zero-gravity canoodling, with his references to conception and married astronauts and so forth. Perhaps a sensitivity sit-down with the Cultural Coach is in order.

What of the possibilities of two guys firing their re-entry rockets while wafting about the capsule, or, even better (at least from our point of view), two (or three!) Very Hot Ladies of NASA locked in a love ball high above our blue planet?

Let us leave no angle unexplored as we square our shoulders and stroll bravely into this post-Nowakian World.

Related: Freakonomics co-author Stephen Dubner wonders why all the fuss over Nowak and receives many explanations. The best is "because we're bored." Even with that war still going on over in Whatchamacallit.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The Bag You’re Holding That You May Not Know You’re Holding

After an extended hiatus the city employee who posts under the nom de blog Ubu Roi is back at blogHouston with his finely detailed explications and annotations of Houston City Council agendas.

That’s good news for Houston and especially good news for Houstonians such as our self with abbreviated attention spans, because Mr. Roi (or Mr. Ubu, if he prefers) promises a greater degree of selectivity in his postings by using his apparently vast knowledge of city government to concentrate on only the most “noteworthy” agenda items.

And that he has. We especially enjoyed---and were enlightened by---his deft, Derrida-like deconstruction of the mealy bureaucratese that constitutes Item No. 45 on Tuesday’s council agenda, which he summarizes thusly
… the intent of the new ordinance is to divert about $7,000,000 away from the Crowne Plaza and Magnolia Hotels, and toward the Rice Lofts. Everyone's cashed in their chips and left the taxpayers holding the bag on the first two, so the funds aren't needed there anymore. Could it be that the third is about to have "problems" paying the city? Just how much did the Rice Lofts loot receive from the Housing and Community Development Department? In short, this translation is: Dear HUD: thanks for being such suckers. We took your your guarantees and used them to underwrite really bad loans at terms so obviously disadvantageous that we must be stupid. What dummies we are! Of course, we weren't paid, so we just looked innocent, collected our money from you instead, and now we're back to do it again with the Rice Hotel. Oh and by the way, while we're at it, we're tired of pretending that housing funds are really supposed to be for, you know, affordable housing. Everyone knows it's really welfare for deserving wealthy developers. So we're just going to remove all single-family housing from eligibility anyway."
We can’t vouch for the accuracy of Ubu’s interpretation, but if he’s anywhere in the ballpark that sounds like a development, so to speak, worthy of greater scrutiny by some outfit that actually pays its employees to scrutinize such matters (Mr. Ubu, by contrast, is mere public-spirited volunteer who doesn’t let his blogging get in the way of his job, even though he reports spending up to six hours (!) previously crafting his agenda postings.)

To buttress his last assertion, Mr. Ubu cites a section of the Request for Council Action on the ordinance:
Based on the full utilization of all available EDI Grant Funds as described above, HCDD further requests City Council to approve the amendment of Ordinance Nos. 95-349 and 97-1167 to delete single family and multi-family housing projects from the scope of the City's Section 108 HUD-guaranteed Loan Program.
Ubu comments:
It's merely icing on that cake to note that $385,000 of the over $7 million being reallocated is to pay legal fees for "workout activities, default/foreclosure, and collection." For some people, the Houston Housing and Community Development Department is like a game of Monopoly: "Pass Go. Collect $200." Perhaps we should rename it the "Housing and Developer Development Department"?
Along those lines, we’ve wondered occasionally whether anyone in the journalism racket would ever have the time or inclination to undertake a thorough accounting of all the taxpayer money used to subsidize the private redevelopment of downtown, Midtown and adjacent areas. Maybe they're justified and maybe they're not, but these transfers are almost always accomplished with little notice or public scrutiny, and while everything’s new and shiny for a while the shine eventually comes off but somebody’s still gotta tote the note, and by that time nobody’s really paying much mind outside the vested parties.

Further along those lines, we notice that the developer of the Rice Lofts cited by Ubu is a consultant to Lamesa Properties’ planned mixed-use redevelopment of a chunk of the Rice Village that will probably be the last spade of dirt turned over on what’s left of that section’s small independent-merchant character (we know, there’s not much of it left anyway, but there’s still a few scattered outposts tucked in there amid the Starbucks and Jamba Juice). We’re sure the residential developer, who according to reports is to be responsible for 225 condos in a 7-story structure, will grace the West U-Rice area with the refined taste he’s brought to other parts of town.

The entire Rice Village project, you may recall, is the one for which Lamesa persuaded the geniuses on the city council to agree to abandon the 2400 block of Bolsover so it could serve as a pedestrian walkway for the private development. (We are preparing to ask the council to let go of our street so that we may purchase it for a nominal fee, say $15, and turn it into a two-block toll road.) The Houston Chronicle recently came out against the privatization of the street, which was a good if somewhat belated move. The editorial appeared on Jan. 26; the council agreed to abandon the block in mid-October.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Ivins Addendum: Real Texans, Whatever They Are, Aren’t Snippety Twits, and Other Lovely Ironies

The Upper West Siders of the Chronicle editorial page weighed in with a posthumous hind-licking of Molly Ivins Friday that naturally raised the question of why, if Ivins were the Second Coming the editorial cracked her up to be, the newspaper never acquired the rights to run her column in Houston. That couldn’t have been too difficult. Maybe the Chronicle couldn’t afford it.

It’s not an irrelevant question: She was a newspaper columnist, mostly, from Texas, and the Chronicle is a Texas newspaper. We would have liked to have read about that, somewhere amid the gee-hawing.

Obvious question aside, we noticed that the author of the editorial forgot to disable the “insert cliché here” function on whatever program was used to write it. Ivins’ wit, we are told, was “rapier-like,” her barbs “razor-sharp” and one public service (their words) she performed was “comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable” (that should have said “some of the comfortable,” if accuracy were an objective).

Well, you never saw any of those razor-sharp barbs in the Chronicle.

What really bounded out at us, though, was a gratuitous bit of nastiness floating midway through the piece:
One lovely irony of her 30-odd-year legacy is that, more than most other prominent Texans, she embodied the values — the love of country, state, family and friends — that so many of her victims so publicly claimed but so often betrayed.
That so so-so paragraph is screaming for adult supervision. (And we think the writer meant “targets,” not “victims,” but we’re not here to worry the small stuff.) It’s a sentiment worthy of Ann Coulter and the kind of unthinking maliciousness that Ivins either tried to avoid or blunted with humor, sometimes successfully.

Before leaving off, the editorialists use the occasion of Ivins’ passing to offer grammatically contorted instruction on who’s a real Texan, and where real Texans are from. (Hint: Not Texas!) Although born in California, the paper notes, Ivins
was a true Texan — most of whom were not born here, either.
Yes, that’s how it is on the Upper West Side of the mind: Those who live there may tell themselves otherwise, but it’s a very exclusive place.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

A Few Words on Molly Ivins, and Related Topics

We didn’t know the woman and don’t have any funny or revealing stories, just hazy memories of being in a scrum of journalist types at a Dallas or Austin bar and Ivins’ very loud laughter overriding the ancillary conversations, and of the columnist, a tall and formidable presence, standing by herself at the back of the House chambers and amiably chatting up lawmakers as they slipped off the floor.

At that time Ivins was something new and different. Her column in the Dallas Times Herald was funny, pointed and unapologetically liberal and one of the reasons the pre-Singleton TH of the 1980s was probably as good as it’s going to get as far as daily newspapers in Texas go. (Ivins was a sharp polemicist but we’re pretty sure not even she mistook herself for a great journalist; if we remember correctly her TH columns had more than their share of fact errors.) The Houston Chronicle was said to be dickering with Ivins after the Times Herald disappeared into the post-Singleton maw, but it’s unlikely she would have made a good fit at the home of Thom Marshall.

It’s also difficult to imagine one of the remaining big-city papers taking a chance on someone like Ivins today the way the TH initially did, whether that person would be of the left, right or center. They’ve got their franchises and don’t want to put themselves out too much while they try to figure out how to corner the market on this Web thing (y’know, with their 1001 boring-ass blogs).

As for Ivins, she devolved into a highly marketable act with a well-honed shtick, with predictable results (that is, near-consistent predictability). To her credit, though, she seemed willing to at least occasionally entertain an opposing viewpoint or poke at a fellow liberal and to be aware of a larger world beyond the choir she preached to. And to generally be of good cheer.

At least we think she was. We hadn’t read many of her columns in the last decade or so because we rarely saw them. The only place to find Ivins in her hometown was the Examiner chain of throwaway weeklies in the heavily Republican enclaves of West U, Bellaire, Memorial and River Oaks, where she was paired-up with Bill O’Reilly in left-right tandem. She probably saw the humor in that.