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March, 2002:

Out of touch

Tiffany and I depart today for a week in Switzerland, so there won’t be anything new here until next Tuesday. I recommend all the fine links on the left to hold you off until then. See you next week!

It was bound to happen sooner or later…

Playboy is inviting current and former Enron employees to audition for a Women of Enron pictorial. I heard the teaser for this on the news but didn’t catch the segment, which was no doubt presented in a restrained and dignified manner. Is there anything I can actually add to this? Probably not. Good night.

Digital rights

Patrick points me to this article by Dan Gillmor about the SSSCA. It’s interesting that Dan doesn’t hope that a President who is committed to free trade would step in and lobby against this obviously obstructionist bill. Of course, we don’t have such a President, so I guess the point is moot anyway.

(Yeah, I know, the DCMA passed on Clinton’s watch. A pox on his house for it.)

Things I hate about moving

There are many things I hate about moving. Near the top of this long list is dealing with phone and utility companies. Today I spoke to my local telco about switching service. I had no trouble getting through to an actual human, and he was quite helpful for the most part. The problem is that one cannot ever deal with the phone company without having them try to sell you a bunch of useless crap that you’ll never use and barely comprehend in the first damn place.

Case in point: We’ve taken care of the basics, and now my guy launches into his spiel about the two different options for local calling. Option One is where you get a limited amount of local calls for a fixed fee, then you pay a per-call charge. This option, my rep solemnly intoned, is Not What He Would Recommend. Option Two is the Full Package, which includes unlimited local calls, call waiting, caller ID, caller ID for call waiting, phone repair insurance, moon roof, whitewall tires, and a year’s supply of Rice-a-Roni (the San Francisco Treat).

“Well,” I say naively, “I have most of these things already. What I want at the new house is exactly what I’ve got at this house. Can you do that?”

“Okay,” Phone Rep says brightly. “That’s Option Two. Your monthly bill with that service is $84.95…”

“WHAT??? My current phone bill is nowhere near that expensive. What is all that crap?”

“Well, it’s caller ID, call waiting…”

“Yes, yes, yes, I got all that. What I want is what I’ve got now. Give me exactly what I’ve got now.”

We get that straightened out. As far as I could tell, the only difference between his Option Two and my Status Quo was that I do not currently have phone repair insurance. There was some gibberish about CallNotes as well, but I couldn’t tell if it was a subscription to CallNotes or “access to” CallNotes, whatever the hell that means. Not that I care, since I have a perfectly good answering machine and a phone bill that’s a lot cheaper than Option Two.

At this point, I thought I was in the home stretch, but I had one more hurdle to clear. Phone Rep had a sales script for some whizbangy feature-rich phones that supported all of the features I subscribe to and which were on sale at really amazingly mind-bogglingly stupendously how-can-you-not-succumb-to-my-siren-call low prices. I tried to interrupt as soon as I realized that this was a sales pitch to say that we have all the phones we need thankyouverymuch, but Phone Rep was undeterred. He got right back on track and by god he finished his sales pitch. Having to listen to this and decline as politely and firmly as I could made me a bit late for a team meeting, which is the very definition of a mixed blessing.

So local phone service is in place. Now I have to deal with electricity (which means switching companies), gas, water, cable, installing DSL…

The name game

Chron politics columnist John Williams explains how State Supreme Court judge Xavier Rodriguez, the lone Hispanic GOP candidate in Texas, lost the nomination to retain his position to a guy with a simple American name.

This isn’t the first time a serious candidate with an ethnic name has been tripped up by an unknown with a familiar name. In Illinois in 1986, two followers of right-wing nutball Lyndon LaRouche won the Democratic nominations for Lieutenant Governor and Secretary of State by capitalizing on ignorant voters and easy-to-pronounce surnames. And this sort of thing happens all the time here.

The Final Four

I have to say, I like the fact that Indiana made it to the Final Four while Bobby Knight once again got bounced in the first round. For several years, one of my hard and fast rules for handicapping the NCAA Tournament was “always pick the Hoosiers to lose in the first round”. May you never see the Sweet Sixteen again.

It’s awfully tough for a non-BCS conference school to make it to the Final Four. Since Marquette won the championship in 1977 in a Final Four that included UNLV and UNC-Charlotte, only 17 of 104 participants in the Final Four have come from non-BCS conferences. Four of those are UNLV and three are Houston in the Olajuwon/Drexler years. Only Cincinnati (1992) and Utah (1998) have done it in the last ten years.

Personally, I find that I’m more interested in the early games, when the little guys are still around. I know there have been some great games this year, but to me it’s like watching the NBA playoffs: You know in the end there aren’t going to be any surprises.

Oscar thoughts

So last night Tiffany and I attended an Oscar party thrown by our friends Pete and Tory. It was one of those parties where guests are asked to dress up as if they were attending the actual Academy Awards. I’ve never quite understood this, and it’s not just my normal phobia of wearing nice clothes talking here. I mean, do people ever put on cleats and shoulder pads to watch the Super Bowl? What’s up with that?

The good news is that we were not expected to take the whole pomp-and-pageantry thing seriously. We were not there to worship the stars (okay, one woman had a pretty huge crush on Denzel Washington, no big surprise there) but to be snarky about them. That was fun.

What was the deal with Tom Cruise’s spiel before Whoopi came out? None of us could figure it out, though we were too distracted by his retro Risky Business look to really concentrate on the question. When he talked about seeing 2001:A Space Odyssey at the age of six, I blurted out “Holy crap! He’s gonna be forty this year!” (On July 3, in fact. Mark your calendar.)

Oh, and if the idea of Tom Cruise turning 40 doesn’t make you feel old, go check out Modern Maturity‘s movie awards. They call them La Chaise D’Or (The Golden Chair), but it’s pretty clear from the picture that “chair” is a bit underdescriptive. How do you say “Barcalounger” in French?

Nobody, and I mean nobody, liked JLo’s hair. She looked like she was channeling Elizabeth Montgomery from Bewitched. If the sprinkler system had gone off, her dress would have remained dry. Second-worst hair of the evening went to Cameron Diaz, who appeared to have driven to the awards show with all the windows down in her car.

Okay, Woody Allen was funny, but his intro went on waaaay too long. And I agree with Jeff Jarvis – Any decent film montage of New York City should include the Twin Towers. It would have been a nice moment, not a bad one.

(Side note: I was channel surfing awhile back and caught a few minutes of Working Girl. One of the scenes I saw was of Tess on the ferry going back to Manhattan after she’s just caught her boyfriend in flagrante. There’s this gorgeous nighttime shot of the skyline from the ferry, including the Towers, all lit up. Seeing that churned up all sorts of emotions, but none of them was anger at the filmmakers or editors who could have cut that in order to spare my delicate sensibilities. It is respectful to remember the dead, to talk about them and all the things about them that we liked and loved and put up with and miss. It is disrespectful to ignore them and to pretend that by ignoring them we are helping ourselves to “get over” them.)

Second biggest reaction of the evening, right behind the reaction to JLo’s hair, was to the clip from Saturday Night Fever. Admit it – you heard the guitar lick, you saw Tony Manero strut down the street, Barry Gibb’s voice kicked in – your hips started to sway.

I don’t know whose knee Ian McKellen had his hand on, but wowzer. Success does have its rewards.

We didn’t stay very late – I get up very early (5:15 AM) for work, and Tiffany needed to be up almost that early today because her whole company is moving to a new office that’s 15 miles farther away from our house. There’s only so much of that I can take, anyway, even with all the smack talk to keep me occupied. So yeah, I missed out on Halle and Denzel getting honored. And no, I don’t care if their awards were partially motivated by racial guilt. They did good work and they were rewarded for it. Move along, nothing to see here.

Oscar, schmoscar

Who cares who’s going to win Best Picture? The more important news is that Tom Green won five Razzies for his work in Freddy Got Fingered.

Court shopping

Girls in Texas who want an abortion but are required to get parental consent have been looking to courts in Austin and San Antonio for judicial bypass. Houston and Dallas have had almost no such reviews filed since the law took effect in January, 1999 – in fact, Houston has had exactly one case since last September and 19 overall, compared to 191 in San Antonio and 110 in Austin. Dallas has had 13 such cases.

It’s somewhat hard to say why this is, because the rulings are sealed and the Texas Supreme Court does not keep statistics. It’s understandable to a point in that the judges in Dallas County and Houston’s Harris County are all Republican, while the judges in Austin’s Travis County are largely Democrat. It’s not hard to believe that the petitioners think they’re more likely to get a favorable ruling in Austin because of this. The curiosity is San Antonio’s Bexar County, where the judiciary is mixed. Houston judges tend to be tied to local uber-conservative activist Stephen Hotze, who brooks no disagreement on issues like this and has no qualms about endorsing someone else in the primary if he doesn’t like how you rule. Maybe the Bexar County judges have more freedom to actually interpret the law, I don’t know.

In any event, I was surprised that no one was quoted expressing outrage at the prospect of court shopping. Maybe the usual suspects were all out of town. Oh, and one more thing: Go to the Chronicle home page and see how they headline this story there. (For those who don’t read this until Monday, the link is entitled “Girls turning to liberal courts to avoid parental notice of abortion”.) What would Bernard Goldberg say?

Better late than never

After 30 years, The Last Picture Show will finally play in Archer City, the small Texas town in which it was filmed. The town’s lone movie theater had burned down before the film premiered in 1971. The rebuilt Royal Theater is hosting the 30th anniversary celebration.

House update

Well, much has happened since the last update. We have agreed to terms with the sellers of the house we want, and we have a buyer in place for our house. Both houses have been inspected and appriased, so all that’s left from that perspective is the paperwork. Closing is going to be fun, because there’s a bit of a daisy chain that needs to be resolved. The people who are buying our buyer’s house have to close on their house, then they close on our buyer’s house, then on our current house, and then finally on the house we’re buying. Thankfully, our sellers are long gone and seem to be amenable to letting us take possession a few days early so we can move before all the closings occur. It’s still gonna make for a couple of hellishly busy days.

In the meantime, we’re about to take off to Switzerland for a week. (Yes, this trip was planned long before we knew we were going to be moving at this time.) We’ve been doing some packing, but are really going to have to kick it into gear when we return. Then there’s a million other details, like moving phone/cable/utilities, filling out a change of address form, and so on and so on. I’m getting tired just thinking about it.

I’m thrilled about the new house, but man will I be happy when this is all in the rearview mirror.

Road versus rail, round 438

Proponents of the Katy Freeway expansion are howling in protest at a request by Metro to reserve space for a light rail line. sigh This is really painful to watch. We study rail feasibility to death but are chomping at the bit to spend zillions of dollars and more than five years to make I-10 wider than the state of Delaware.

What really galls me is that Metro’s critics have a point when they say our transit department has little credibility. Metro is, sadly, not very well run and in dire need of strong leadership. People are finally coming around to the idea that we can’t pave our way out of mobility problems. There’s never been a better time to make the case for rail, but here we are stuck with Shirley DeLibero and Lee Brown, neither of whom are taken seriously by ruling Republicans like the county commissioners.

Having a GOP-friendly mayor like Orlando Sanchez wouldn’t have helped, since he’s anti-rail in the first place. What we need is someone in charge of Metro with credibility in the bidness world, someone who speaks the same language as Steve Radack and John Culberson, someone who will aggressively sell the merits of rail to homeowners and businesses. I think we have such a person: former mayor Bob Lanier. Lanier came into office by attacking then-Mayor Kathy Whitmire’s plan for a monorail system, but he favored the downtown rail line and I believe is generally for sensible alternatives to more roadways. Could it hurt to ask him to step in and lend a hand before it’s too late?

Bush in Peru

From today’s Chron:

[President] Bush touted free trade as a means of lifting the region’s economies, and said: “We’re going to analyze all options available to help Peru.”

“Unless, of course, if free trade would damage embattled industries in swing states. I’ve got a reelection bid to think about, you know,” he did not add.

More on Brittanie Cecil

More on Brittanie Cecil, the 13-year-old girl who was killed at a Columbus Blue Jackets hockey game after being hit in the forehead by an errant puck. The NHL is revisiting the issue of arena safety. The player who took the shot that resulted in Brittanie’s death is trying to cope with what happened. Doug MacLean, the GM of the Blue Jackets, attended Brittanie’s funeral, while the team is wearing stickers with her initials and had a moment of silence before their next game in her memory.

Texas Twisted

Yet another interesting link in the inbox today, to Texas Twisted, a site devoted to Texas roadside attractions and other weird stuff. My friend Margo, who sent the link, was pointing to a miniaturization of the Chinese Forbidden Gardens located just west of Houston in Katy, TX, and which, along with the Cadillac Ranch, owes its origin to an eccentric millionaire, something else we have a lot of in Texas.

Our tour guide also takes us to meet Big Tex, the unofficial greeter at the annual State Fair and the one attraction I’d heard of many years before I came to Texas. Big Tex is so famous the Austin Lounge Lizards wrote a song about his girlfriend.

As they say, Texas is like a whole ‘nother country.

To comment or not to comment

I’ve been toying with the idea of adding code to support comments on this page. I like getting feedback, and I strongly suspect that more people are inclined to give comments rather than send email. But then I come across comments like the ones on this post, and I’m reminded why I’m reluctant. Who needs that crap?

If you think I’m being overly sensitive and that on balance I’d find comments to be worthwhile, drop me a line. If you know of a comment system that would allow an all-powerful admin (i.e., me) to wipe out obnoxious comments and ban the IP addresses of known buttheads, so much the better. (I’d probably need my own domain for that capability, but it can’t hurt to ask.) Freedom of expression does not give you the right to be a jerk on someone else’s blog.

The priesthood and the saving grace of women

Today Ginger points out this infantile little article in the conservative Cornell Review, in which the author makes the oh-so-original point that we menfolk are just hunks of burning carnal desire who need wimmin around to keep us civilized:

Presumably, women could exercise their true power to tame men by using celibacy (and other ladylike behavior) to induce men into monogamous stable relationships and eventually into marriage.


But women have historically been the civilizing forces for men. That is biological. Moreover, several verses in the Scriptures refer to the important role that women have in the moral uplift of men.

As Matt Welch likes to say, “Whatever, freak.”

Meanwhile, via Jeff Jarvis, I see that Andrew Sullivan has written the following about the growing pedophilia scandal in the Catholic Church:

The Catholic Church in America will not endure as we know it unless the current hierarchy is rooted out and unless the issue of a celibate all-male priesthood is addressed head-on without euphemism or denial. Others may differ, but it seems to me that the exclusion of women from the priesthood is the root of the problem. None of this hideous abuse of children would have occurred in the same way if women were fully a part of the institution. Not only would they have blown the whistle on some of this evil, their very presence would have helped prevent it from happening.

And finally, we have Maureen Dowd on the same subject:

Societies built on special privileges — the all-male Saudi rulers, Catholic priesthood and Taliban, and the boys’ club running Enron — become far too invested in preserving those privileges. They will never do the kind of soul-baring and housecleaning that might raise questions about the kind of secret society that creates that kind of privilege.

Is it just me, or are these three sides of the same coin? I mean, to my male ears, all three seem to be making the claim that women are somehow inherently “good” and “moral”, while men are “bad” and in need of a positive influence. Left to their own devices, men are pigs/child molesters/privilege-preserving oppressors. What they need is a few good women to set a proper example for them.

I’m not here to defend “the patriarchy”, whatever that means. I’m totally in favor of giving women equal access to power, which is to say equal opportunity to abuse it. We’re all human, folks. If men have caused the most spectacular screwups in history, it’s because we’ve always been in the position to do so, not because we’re inherently any less good or moral than women. Can we please just get over it and move on?

Jesus saves! But Gretzky gets the rebound! He shoots! He scores!

Just when you think you’ve run out of things to make fun of, someone sends you links like this one. I really wish they’d shown the Martial Arts Jesus and the Ballet Jesus.

The plastic Jesus figurine, of course, has a long and storied tradition among the faithful. My brush with religious statuary came from my grandmother, who had a little ceramic Virgin Mary statue in her beloved old 1969 Nova. This was not just any ceramic Virgin Mary statue, mind you. It had a magnetic base, which kept it firmly in place on her metallic dashboard, and more to the point it had, in the folds of her robe, a tiny car. This Virgin Mary statue was made specifically to be put in one’s automobile.

I inherited this car after my grandmother’s death in 1986 and drove it down to San Antonio. Both car and statue were an instant hit with my friends, who christened it Our Lady of Automatic Transmission. In 1990, while I was back in New York for Christmas, someone broke into the car. They tried to force the ignition but failed. They broke open the glove compartment, which had a lock on it, but since I was never able to get the key to work on it all they found was some old insurance policies and a windshield ice-scraper. Having struck out on finding anything of value, they wreaked their revenge by stealing the Our Lady of Automatic Transmission statue. I still get depressed when I think about it.

Later that year my roommate went on a trip to Europe, and while there he visited Fatima, where an apparition of the Virgin Mary supposedly appeared in 1917. He visited the gift shop at Fatima and bought a small plastic Virgin Mary statue for me as a replacement. It wasn’t quite the same, as this Virgin Mary did not have a magnetic base or a tiny car in the folds of her robe. On the plus side, however, the statue does glow in the dark. I still have it today.

I don’t care if it’s dark and scary, long as I have my Virgin Mary…

Oprah talks to the Central Park Jogger

Remember her? In 1989, a 28-year-old investment banker in New York went jogging in Central Park, where a group of “wilding” teenage boys beat and raped her and left her for death. Today she’s recovered from her injuries, married, and remarkably bears no resentment towards her attackers, all of whom have served out their sentences. You have to get past the Oprah factor here, but I assure you it’s worth your time to read.

UPDATE: Who knew when I wrote this that there’d be all those revelations about how NYPD and the Manhattan DA’s Office totally botched this case?


I have always thought that long-distance runners are a bit nuts. Now I have absolute proof. Two words: Antarctica Marathon.

Most cities have soul…

Maxim magazine, which for some strange reason doesn’t have its April issue online yet even though the print version is out, named Dallas the “greatest city on Earth”. All I can say is that they’ve obviously never listened to the Austin Lounge Lizards’ song about Dallas.

OK, OK, Dallas isn’t so bad. Maxim needs to hire some fact checkers, though. They claim Dallas is the “least densely populated metropolitan area in the world”. Maybe that’s true if you include all its far-flung hinterlands, but according to the US Census, it’s not even the least densely populated metro area in Texas. In 2000, Dallas County had a population density of 2521 per square mile, more than double that of San Antonio’s Bexar County at 1117 and also more than Houston’s Harris County at 1966. So take Maxim’s advice about Dallas with the same grain of salt you’d take their advice on how to convince your wife she’d enjoy accompanying you to a strip club.

UPDATE: Larry and Alice tell me that Maxim printed 13 versions of this issue, with 13 different “best” cities. Geez, guys, did you really think that Houstonians wanted to read about how great Dallas is? Get a clue.

More on religion

Gary Farber, who’s been quite prolific of late, adds on to Peter Beinart’s piece about freedom of religion, Bush and Ashcroft style. They both attack the underlying theme that one must be religious in order to be moral, and the unstated idea that only certain religions seem to meet the standards of acceptability:

Conservatives seemed genuinely puzzled by the outcry over Ashcroft’s words. “I think General Ashcroft was quite inclusive,” said Ken Connor, president of the Family Research Council. “He made reference to Christians, Jews, and Muslims all recognizing the Creator as the origin of freedom.”

I don’t know about you, but this quote reminds me of that exchange in The Blues Brothers where the lady at the kicker bar tells Jake and Elwood “We have both kinds of music, country *and* western.”

Anyway, Farber’s had a lot of good stuff lately, like this post about why we should always be suspicious of government officials who want to display religious symbols like the Ten Commandments in public places. I’ve often thought that the best way to combat people who want to pray at graduations and football games and whatnot is to volunteer for it, then lead everyone in a pagan prayer. Maybe that will drive home the point that there is no such thing as a prayer which is acceptable and inoffensive to everyone.

Just so we’re all clear here, I’m perfectly happy for you to practice your religion. I only ask that you leave me out of it. I don’t think that’s so much to ask.

Speaking their language

Via Tom Tomorrow comes this story of how U2 lead singer Bono persuaded Republican leaders to give extra aid to poor countries. It’s a fantastic story of pragmatism and speaking the right language. I’d like to discuss a couple of points. First, how Bono got involved:

Is it possible to appear in public with the likes of [Senator Jesse] Helms and [President] Bush and preserve that precious commodity – street-cred? If it’s not, says Bono, it’s a price worth paying. “Edge was pleading with me not to hang out with the conservatives. He said, ‘You’re not going to have a picture with George Bush?’ I said I’d have lunch with Satan if there was so much at stake. I have friends who won’t speak to me because of Helms. But its very important not to play politics with this. Millions of lives are being lost for the stupidest of reasons: money. And not even very much money. So let’s not play, Who are the good guys and who are the bad guys? Let’s rely on the moral force of our arguments.”

Amazing what you can do when your aim is to get something done, even if it’s not perfect in every way. There’s quite a few bitter remarks I could make here about Nader voters and their passion for the perfect at the cost of the good, but once I get started on that rant it’s hard to stop. This in and of itself would be enough to win my deepest respect for Bono’s accomplishment, but this next excerpt puts him truly in another class:

Meanwhile, the US wing of Jubilee 2000 hit on the idea of persuading the Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, a Baptist, to write a letter to Baptist churches across southern US states explaining the Biblical principles behind debt cancellation. Suddenly, Bono found he had access to a swathe of strongly Christian Republicans compelled by his Biblical theme – what Bono calls “the melody line” of his pitch. “We knew we had to get both sides,” he explains. “So we got Billy Graham and the Pope and I went to people like Jesse Helms, who had been very tough on the the concept of foreign assistance and very bleak on Aids. He’s a religious man so I told him that 2103 verses of scripture pertain to the poor and Jesus speaks of judgment only once – and it’s not about being gay or sexual morality, but about poverty. I quoted that verse of Matthew chapter 25: ‘I was naked and you clothed me.’ He was really moved. He was in tears. Later he publicly acknowledged that he was ashamed…”

That’s just impressive. How do you think it would have gone over if Bono had tried to lay liberal guilt on Jesse Helms? I think using the Bible to advance arguments against religious conservatives is a viable strategy that no one ever thinks about. I wonder what Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell and other multimillionaire preachers think about these verses from Matthew, for example:

16 And behold, one came and said unto Him, “Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?”
17 And He said unto him, “Why callest thou Me good? There is none good but One, that is, God. But if thou wilt enter into Life, keep the commandments.”
18 He said unto Him, “Which?” Jesus said, “`Thou shalt do no murder; thou shalt not commit adultery; thou shalt not steal; thou shalt not bear false witness;
19 honor thy father and thy mother; and, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.'”
20 The young man said unto Him, “All these things have I kept from my youth up. What lack I yet?”
21 Jesus said unto him, “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell what thou hast and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in Heaven; and come and follow Me.”
22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
23 Then said Jesus unto His disciples, “Verily I say unto you, that a rich man shall hardly enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.
24 And again I say unto you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of God.”

I suppose they’d respond with verse 26, which is basically “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Still, I’d love to ask the question. There’s plenty more like this if you’ve got the time and a sufficiently devious mind.

Sports tragedy

A 13-year-old girl who attended a Columbus Blue Jackets hockey game died two days after being struck in the head by a puck. According to the pathologist’s report, Brittanie Cecil died from a rare blood clot in an artery, the result of her head snapping back when she was hit. This was the first reported death of a spectator at an NHL game, though a few have been killed in a similar fashion at minor league games.

That’s really awful. My prayers and condolences go to Brittanie’s family and friends.

Show tunes

Greg Hlatky discusses Andrew Lloyd Webber and his place in the pantheon of theatrical composers. For my money, I thought the music of Phantom of the Opera was overrated. Yes, All I Ask of You is a great song, but Lloyd Webber uses its theme, along with maybe two others, to death in PotO. It just gets boring after while.

Frankly, my favorite Lloyd Webber show is Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. It’s lively, it’s bouncy, it contains a wide variety of musical styles and themes, and it hasn’t a pretentious note in its score. Not that it’s impossible to screw it up – Tiffany and I had the extreme misfortune of seeing a local production of Joseph that starred some generic Osmond offspring a couple of years ago. The people who put this show on ruined it in every way imaginable, mostly by taking each song and doubling it in length. It was one climax and reprise after another until you wanted to wrest the baton from the conductor’s hand and cut the band off yourself.

The nadir was the song about Pharaoh’s Dream, which is done in an Elvis Presley style (he’s the King, after all). The song, which describes the dreams that Joseph interprets to mean seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine, is early in the second act. It was also the first one they’d done that was true to Lloyd Webber’s original arrangement. Just as Tiffany and I turned to each other to marvel that they’d finally gotten one right, Joseph says “I don’t understand”, which prompts Pharoah to sing the whole damned song over again from the beginning. It’s not easy to insult the audience of a pop musical comedy, but they did so in spades. We should have gotten up and left right then, but the seats were way up front and we didn’t want to make a scene. And as it turned out, the rest of the audience wasn’t insulted anyway – they gave this godforsaken production a standing ovation at the end. Yes, I’m still steamed about the whole thing.

Anyway. Joseph is my fave, even despite this experience. The rest of Lloyd Webber’s portfolio I can take or leave.

Holidays for men

I got this link from a mailing list I’m on. Somehow, I don’t think Hallmark will do any marketing around it.

Highway to hell

The proposed widening of the Katy Freeway takes another step forward. It’s very much an afterthought, but at least there’s still talk about rail as part of this boondoggle.

Hey, Tom DeLay: We’re gonna spend zillions of dollars on this. It’s gonna disrupt everyone’s lives, will imperil businesses along the way, and there’s not a clear consensus about how it should be implemented. Why isn’t this project being put to a vote?

RIP, Ray Knoblauch

Longtime Bellaire High School baseball coach Ray Knoblauch died in his sleep yesterday. Knoblauch, father of current major league player Chuck Knoblauch, was 71 and had been battling Alzheimer’s.

The article lists his accomplishments (four time state champion) and his innovations (using video tape in the 1960s), and also gives a clear idea of the positive influence that a coach can have on his players. I think a key lesson for anyone in a position of authority is that if you want to be respected, you won’t always be liked. How often is “he wanted to be everyone’s friend” given as a defense of someone’s failings? Sure, you can go overboard the other way (*cough* *cough* *Bobby Knight* *cough* *cough*), but it’s definitely the way to go.

I think this is my biggest fear of fatherhood. I don’t like being disliked. It’s gonna be hard to be the bad cop. Tiffany knows this – I had a hard enough time disciplining the dog. But I have to admit, we’re all better off now that Harry knows what his limits are. And by now I’ve seen enough children of friends, family, and acquaintances to have gotten a healthy dislike of uncontrolled behavior and ineffective parenting, not to mention the fact that Tiffany will kick my ass if need be. So I believe I’ll be ready when the time comes. I’d better be, that’s for sure.

Enron: The saga continues

Newly released information says that questions surrounding Enron’s off-books partnerships started surfacing in 1999. This story refers to some “prominent Houstonians” who were allowed to invest in some sweetheart deals. I can’t wait to hear more about that.

There’s evil, there’s the Axis of Evil, and there’s Carrot Top

Can we please add AT&T to the Axis of Evil for subjecting us to those godawful 1-800-CALL ATT ads with Carrot Top? I swear, I lose brain cells whenever I’m in range of his voice. I would not rule out tactical nukes as a response to this.

I suppose in a world that includes 7th Heaven and The Glutton Bowl, I shouldn’t be too surprised to discover that there are actual Carrot Top fans out there. Personally, I’d admit to being a fan of Le Petomane before I’d cop to a fondness for Carrot Top.

Real truth in advertising

Today I was forwarded an email exhorting me to increase my business income blah blah blah. Like most such junk mail that I see, it was done as HTML, with inline JPEG images. This one was supposed to show some sort of cheesy money image, according to the HTML source. However, someone – presumably someone who didn’t care to receive this message in the first place – decided a different image was more suitable and changed the referenced JPG file. Now when you open the mail, the image you see is this.

RIP, Astrohall

The Astrohall Exhibition Building has hosted its last event and is scheduled to meet the wrecking ball on May 1. A new exhibition hall has been built on the complex that includes Reliant Park. The old site is being cleared for that staple of Houstonian existence, more parking.

Analyzing the primary turnout

The Democratic race for governor brought out Hispanics in record numbers, but Anglos mostly stayed home, according to this report.

The ethnic portrait of the Democratic primary is dramatically evident when this year’s voting is compared with 1994, the last nonpresidential election year with a healthy Democratic turnout. The 1998 primary turnout was too low in all segments to be used as a point of comparison.

About 1,036,000 people voted in the 1994 Democratic gubernatorial primary when incumbent Richards faced only token opposition.

In this year’s race between Sanchez, former Attorney General Dan Morales and two little-known opponents, about 1,028,000 people voted.

Basically, voting was up in heavily Hispanic counties, and down in heavily Anglo counties such as in East Texas. Moreover, black turnout was high in the Dallas area in support of Senate candidate Ron Kirk. This is why, as Ginger notes, Ron Kirk is likely to be the candidate for Senate with the best chance of beating John Cornyn. Take Sanchez and Kirk, and add in Anglo Lt. Governor candidate John Sharp, and the Dems can make a pretty good case that their slate is representative of Texas, especially when compared to the all-white Republican ticket. I’ve expressed my admiration for Victor Morales, and I think he’d run a good campaign and be a good Senator, but the pragmatist in me is starting to lean towards Kirk. The runoff is April 9, so stay tuned.

The Chron gets prickly

I don’t usually bother with the Houston Chronicle‘s Sounding Board editorials, which are written by various members of their editorial board. Most of the time what they have to say is mealy-mouthed platitudes. Today, however, board member James Gibbons lays into a bunch of people, including Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal, the Yates jurors, and so-called victims’ rights group Justice for All for their inability to tell right from wrong in the Yates case. Go check it out, for who knows when you’ll see such an excellent rant on the Chron’s pages again.