Texas Liberal

All People Matter

Locals At The Grand Canyon Contort Themselves For Tourists

The Houston Chronicle recently ran a story about a new pedestrian observation bridge being built over the Grand Canyon. This bridge represents how difficult it can be for locals to meet the needs of tourists. 

The bridge is being financed by a Las Vegas businessman and is being built under the authority of a tribe of Native Americans called the Hualapai. 

On one hand, the Hualapai need the revenue the bridge would generate. On the other hand, the Grand Canyon is sacred to these folks and some view the bridge as desecration.

From the article— “The Hualapai are completely dependent on the 345,000 visitors who come to the reservation each year to tour the tribe’s end of the canyon by boat or helicopter.”  

If that tribe in Arizona is dependant on tourists for revenue, you can bet they are contorting their identity to an extent that sometimes they must not be able to recognize themselves.

I once read a book called Devil’s Bargains: Tourism in the Twentieth-Century American West by Hal Rothman. One of the topics in the book was the response of Native Americans living around the Grand Canyon to the tourists. Some tried to cater to the tourists and others did not. All options were difficult.

When the place you live in, or the place you work in, is overrun by tourists and/or customers, you risk losing yourself to the demands, needs and notions of outsiders.

Some can walk away when their shift is over. However, if you live in an entire town dependant on tourism, or are part of a tribe that needs tourists, the balance is a much harder one to find. I’m sure that on many levels it must be enraging.       

January 11, 2007 Posted by | Best Posts Jan.-June 2007, Books | 2 Comments

Secrets Of Sappho Of Lesbos

Sappho wrote on the Island of Lesbos which is located in the very blue Aegean Sea. This is far from where I’ve read Sappho in Houston, Texas on the shores of  Buffalo Bayou on its way to the Houston Ship Channel.  

Sappho wrote about 2,600 years ago.

Until recently, the most widely read translation of Sappho was a 1958 edition written by Mary Barnard. However, in 2002 Anne Carlson came out with a new translation. 

People hear the name Sappho and prurient thoughts come to mind. I’d seek to disabuse you of that idea. Sappho ran a clean and wholesome operation.

The main appeal of Sappho for many is that she does not waste a word. This minimalism can for some invoke the image of the bright sun and blue sea of Sappho’s home. It’s a nice thought when stuck in the day-to-day excesses and routines of modern life. 

Sappho’s writings are left to us in fragments. Only one complete poem remains. 

One fragment I enjoy reads– I don’t know that to do/Two states of mind in me.    

Many can relate to that. 

Here is another good one— but I to you as a white goat/And I will pour wine over

What does it mean? I don’t know. Yet it does cause me to imagine some sort of ancient sacrifice or ritual.

Sappho’s poems/fragments can take a person away from the troubles of the moment, while at the same time provoking thought about what she meant.   

January 10, 2007 Posted by | Books | Leave a comment

Keep Democrats At Arm’s Length And You’ll Be Happier & Better Off

Before moving to Houston in 1998, I was involved in politics in Cincinnati, Ohio. What I learned up north has served me well in Texas—Keep Democrats at arm’s length and you’ll be happier & better off.

In Cincinnati, among a few other things, I worked for a city councilman and I ran for the Cincinnati Board of Education in 1997. 

What I saw and experienced was that real opposition and trouble comes mainly from your own side of the aisle. While Republicans were clearly part of the process, you did not have expectations of them. It was Democrats that were the problem.   

On Cincinnati City Council, Democrats held the majority. But they did not work cohesively as a party. Each member had his or her own agenda and each member had his or her own donors that they were beholden to.

In 1994, I was involved in a campaign for the Ohio State Senate. The candidate I was working for criticized the Republican President of the Ohio Senate. The Senate President represented a district in the Cincinnati area. That was trouble.

Many “Democrats” wanted booty from the Ohio Senate. And many big political donors had overlapping connections with both Republicans and Democrats. As the campaign progressed, we found many Democrats who were basically supporting our Republican opponent. 

These experiences have shaped my outlook. I rarely mention or criticize Republicans in my blog. What’s the point? It just ends up as preaching to the choir.  If I were working on a campaign I might have a different approach. But this blog is not a campaign.

As for Democrats–You keep them at arm’s length and embrace the ones who appear to be less for sale than the worst of the lot. 

As for individuals—Individuals should always remain involved in politics. They should do so to ensure that one of the major parties will at least sometimes do what is right. Parties do serve an important function even as they let you down.    

Individuals should remain active in politics because giving up can never be an option. 

January 9, 2007 Posted by | Cincinnati, Politics | 2 Comments

Tip Server Double On Martin Luther King Day

Martin Luther King Day is next week. Here in Houston we will have a big parade.

Beyond the parade, I can’t think of a better day to recall that if you eat out on a holiday, or use any service that normally involves a tip, that you should tip at a time-and-a-half-rate.  

People should be paid what you would expect to be paid for working a holiday. Especially on Martin Luther King Day. King died while fighting for fair wages for sanitation workers.

A comment recently left on TexasLiberal suggested that you might want to tip time-and-a-half at all times and double-time on holidays.

Here is that comment— bill brady Says:
I think you should tip time and half normally because service is a shit job I know I have worked in restuarants for the last twenty five years. I use to depend on tips to pay my bills because in ohio you get 2.13 an hour if your tipped. At the first of the year the min. wage will be 6.85 if you are not tipped and 3.13 if you are tipped. Still below the 3.35 I made at my first job at 14 on the norwood park crew. The wages are well below and standard of living and it makes it very hard for us to tell our kids to get a job instead of selling drugs or whatever way kids will make their money these days. Double tip this holiday it wont kill any of us and will make a huge difference to those who depend on us and work hard for a living.

January 8, 2007 Posted by | Martin & Malcolm, Tip Your Waiter Time-And-A-Half On Holidays | 3 Comments

Texas Speaker Debate Among Democrats Close To Setting Mark As Silliest Thing Ever

A new and extra-silly debate among some Democrats is what process of election would be most likely to ensure the selection of the “right” Republican to serve as Speaker of the Texas House in Austin.

Should it be a secret ballot? A double-secret ballot? Should it go alphabetical order. In reverse alphabetical order? Should names be called at random? 

I say names should be called based on the height of members.

No! Wait! What if more tall House members support Mr. Craddick? Should taller or shorter members be called first? 

Further discussion surrounds to what extent Democratic House members should be challenged in primaries in 2008 if they vote for the “wrong” Republican. 

If you are reading this from out of state I am not making this up. Nope. This is really what is going on.

For some, this is what happens when you’ve reached the point that you are unable to imagine any other outcome but having your ass kicked time and time again. 

Or, for others, this is what happens when you are so tied-in to the Democratic Party establishment, which does nothing but lose, that you have something riding on the outcome of the race.

And, of course, many other folks are good people that in this case I disagee with.   

What options are never discussed in this silly debate? Only options that make sense are never discussed. That’s a big reason why it is so silly. 

Options like supporting one of your own. Or respecting the intent of voters who rejected Democrats at the state level in Texas every chance they got in 2006. Or imagining a healthy two-party democracy in Texas for the first time since Statehood.

These are options that are never discussed.       

January 6, 2007 Posted by | Politics, Texas | Leave a comment

Term Limits, Spending Caps, Ignoring Majority Party In Speaker’s Race—Does Anyone In Texas Trust Democracy?

The Houston Chronicle today writes about Houston City Council seats up for grabs in 2007 due to term limits. Incredibly, the people of Houston once voted to strip themselves of the right to support council members beyond three two-year terms.

A few days ago the Chronicle reported that large portions of the state budget surplus may not be able to be spent because of spending caps. 

In Austin, the Speaker’s race is a behind-the-scenes free-for-all with the party that voters rejected statewide last November seeking to heavily influence the outcome. 

I trust Democracy. I believe in voters being able to vote for who they wish to vote for. I believe in government using all the resources it can muster to help people. And I believe that political parties serve a real purpose.

You won’t find much agreement with, or much discussion about, these positions in one or two of the leading Democratic blogs in Texas. Yet here at TexasLiberal you get the real thing. No ads and no connections to the Democratic Party establishment. Here at TexasLiberal what you get, for better or for worse, is respect for Democracy. 

January 5, 2007 Posted by | Politics, Texas | 1 Comment

Salt Content In Galveston Bay Reflects Our Complexity As Individuals

Galveston Bay is a series of many different environments under all that water. In this it mirrors the places we live and mirrors what we are like as individuals.       

When I’ve looked at Galveston Bay in the past, what I’ve seen is one undifferentiated body of water. I was wrong. Many factors, such as salinity and water depth, create a variety of environments. 

This is something I’ve learned about by reading Galveston Bay by Sally Antrobus and Out of Eden: An Odyssey of Ecological Invasion by Alan Burdick. 

We might term Galveston Bay as an environment both seamless and fragmented. It is one bay. At the same time, certain creatures can live near sources of fresh water and other creatures thrive in areas where the salinity is higher.

This diversity in what might appear to be just one ecosystem, alerts us against making generalizations about other complicated things. Sweeping statements about a certain place or about individuals are likely to be incomplete or just plain wrong.

In moments of frustration, when I’m inclined to see some thing or some person as all or mostly bad, I am going to try and think about the complexity of Galveston Bay.

January 4, 2007 Posted by | Best Posts Jan.-June 2007, Books, Galveston | Leave a comment

Texas House Members Lie & Scheme In Speaker’s Race While US House Elects Speaker Voters Intended

The U.S. House is set to convene and elect Nancy Pelosi as Speaker. For Texans, what will take place in Washington must seem amazing.

In Washington, Democratic members will vote for a Democrat for Speaker and Republicans will vote for a Republican for Speaker. The Democrat will win with Democratic votes because that is what the public wanted.

Some call might call it excessive partisanship. Others with a more firm grasp on the process will call it democracy. Elected representatives will reflect the will of the people that elected them. They won’t be looking to cut sneaky backroom deals for committee chairs and committee posts in exchange for supporting a specific candidate for Speaker.  

It is not about left or right. The new Democratic majority in Washington has many different viewpoints represented. It’s about governing in a rational and coherent way. It’s about having an accountable majority. It’s about having an opposition that opposes and offers voters a choice. 

Texans should flip on C-SPAN and watch Congress select Ms. Pelosi for a good lesson in democracy. They won’t get that lesson here. 

Many good people are caught up in the get-Craddick grudge match and caught up in the prospect of a few shreds of power in Republican-dominated Texas. These good people are in this case fumbling away the future and fumbling away the prospect of a future Democratic House truly governed by Democrats.      

January 3, 2007 Posted by | Politics, Texas | 6 Comments

Wall Of Voodoo Album Recalled After 25 Years–How Many Blog Posts Will Make It Past Next Week?

On New Year’s Day in Houston and in Texas I know I’m supposed to be watching football. I might later if aliens take over my mind. One thing I have done today is read a critique of the band Wall of Voodoo in a book called the All Music Guide To Rock.

Wall of Voodoo had one hit called “Mexican Radio.” It’s kind of a silly song. I had their vinyl album, “Call of the West”, and listened to it often about 25 years ago.  

I write this blog and wonder if anyone will remember its content a week from now. Wall of Voodoo created something that at least one person remembers 25 years later.

Here is part of the review of Call of the West from my rock book—“ …there’s an intelligence and wounded compassion in the album’s gallery of lost souls, and there’s enough bite in the music that it remains satisfying two decades later.”  

That sounds about right from my recollection.

Wall Of Voodoo had an idea and was able to express it in a way that worked. Sometimes all you have to do it is get it right once and you have something that will last. 

Bloggers spend a lot of time with their work and in many ways have reason to be proud. We’ve impacted the political process and I believe that people come upon posts in blogs that make an impact in their lives. Still, for all the effort, I often wonder what gets remembered.

It might be good for some, if inclined, to find the time to try and leave a creative work that lasts beyond the next posting. Or, for many, the effort to make a day-to-day difference may be enough. It’s up to the individual.    

January 2, 2007 Posted by | Blogging, Books, Music | 8 Comments

Dancer Nijinsky & Artist de Kooning Have Message For Liberals, Bloggers And All People

On a very nice winter’s day in Houston yesterday, I sat outside and read de Kooning—An American Master. de Kooning was an American painter who died in 1997. On page 187 I read something of great note. 

In the early 40’s, de Kooning studied pictures of the dancer Vaslav Nijinsky. De Kooning observed that Nijinsky “understood the expressive potential of the area between two bodies or forms…” 

In other words, the distance between two things can be a creative force. And, also, our actions are impacted and maybe even defined by the objects and things around us and by our distance from those forms.

This made full sense from a liberal perspective. All things and all actions have a context. No thing and no person stands alone. 

As another example– Our place on the political spectrum is defined by distance from others. How could one be, say, a “moderate conservative” if there were not others elsewhere who held differing views to be measured against?

Beyond the ideological affinity I found for de Kooning’s observation, the idea that even seemingly empty space had meaning heightened my awareness of my place in the world and of the place of other things in the world. In this view, nothing in existence is without purpose.

A friend of de Kooning, a dance critic named Edwin Denby, said the following about Nijinsky, “The space between figures becomes a firm body of air, a lucid statement of relationship.” 

I think we can translate this assessment of Nijinsky’s dancing to the electronic age. Bloggers use distance to form relationships. Or at least to communicate.

We are alone at our computers and away from the people we wish to reach. This distance is part of what is driving us to express our thoughts. Distance is key to the relationships we seek to establish and to the way in which we communicate.

At the top of this blog it says “All People Matter.” Yesterday I came to a better understanding of the idea that “All Space Matters.”

January 1, 2007 Posted by | Art, Best Posts Jan.-June 2007, Books | 1 Comment