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Novel Of Africa & History Of Whaling Top Weekend Reading List

This weekend I’ll be reading Doris Lessing’s novel The Grass Is Singing and, also, a history of whaling called Leviathan by Eric Jay Dolin.

The Grass Is Singing is written by a woman who spent her younger years in the former Rhodesia. (Now Zimbabwe) The book, published in 1950, is set in apartheid South Africa.

It tells the story of the interactions between a white farmer’s wife and a black servant on the farm. 

Imagine writing something people are still reading nearly 60 years later. How many bloggers will ever be able to say that?

I’ve just begun Leviathan. However, I’ve already learned that the explorer Henry Hudson played a large part in starting the British whaling business.

Looking for the Northwest Passage in the early 1600’s, Hudson encountered the bowhead whale. Hudson never found a shortcut to the east, but he did find a whale worth killing for its oil and other products.

I just finished the historical novel Augustus by John Williams. This was the 1973 National Book Award winner for fiction. It is the story of both the rise to power and the long rule of the first Roman emperor.

The story is told by the use of imagined letters between notable and not so-notable figures of the time. I was at first turned off by the format, but I was won over quickly.   

June 29, 2007 Posted by | Books, Sea Life | Leave a comment

Houston Is One Giant Day Labor Hall

The City of Houston has decided to no longer fund a day labor hall for immigrant workers. Given the economic benefit to Houston of these workers, it is difficult to understand why this is being done.

A day labor hall allows immigrant workers waiting for work to be inside instead of outside. 

Democratic Mayor Bill White says he will find private funding for this hall. I don’t vote for Democrats so that private parties can take over the functions of government.

Of course, it is true that a day labor hall in Houston is redundant. Houston is one giant day labor hall of non-unionized, underpaid, transient workers. It has been since day one in Houston for workers of all races and regardless of immigration status. 

This lousy treatment of working people is what has helped make Houston the great engine of housing foreclosures and uninsured children it is today. 

Maybe we should put a dome over the whole city. (Think of all the illegals we would need to build a dome over the whole city.)  Maybe the Astrodome was the prototype for the construction of the world’s largest day labor hall—The City of Houston, Texas.

June 28, 2007 Posted by | Houston, Immigration | 3 Comments

A Suggestion That Shamu Should Eat Trainer

Based on search engine traffic and comments on the blog, a popular subject with the people is marine life and, especially, odd or freaky stories about marine life.

It is wrong not to give the people what they want.

Last year I made a post about a so-called “Shamu” attacking her trainer at Sea World in San DiegoSan Antonio, Texas also has a Sea World.

A few weeks ago I got this comment from a reader—

David Lumley Says: why are you “glad” the handler is ok? humans are not an endangered spieces and by being desperate to have the perfect job handling these animals, which are far too big to kept in a tank, we perpetuate thier captivity.And for what ?…so we can take our children to be splashed when we and they should make the effort to visit them in the wild or watch them on tv instead. I wish Shamu had eaten the handler and then been shot as man eater and put out of its misery. Take your kids to see that!

I get a fair amount of search engine traffic about Shamu. People have reached this blog by asking, “ What do they do with Shamu when he dies?” and  How many Shamu whales have their been?”

I don’t know the exact answers to these questions, but I do know that when one so-called Shamu dies Sea World goes out and gets another one. They get one after another.

I also posted on the blog about the capture of a 100 year old rockfish off Alaska. Maybe that’s why I got a search engine hit asking “How old am I in fish years?” 

Recently an over 100 year old bowhead whale was killed in Alaska. When it was opened up, an old harpoon bit was found in the whale’s flesh. Apparently, the whale had survived an attack by New England based whalers in the 19th century.

Don’t worry though—Humans finally caught up with this whale and killed it. We are intent on bringing to sea creatures the same misery we inflict on our own kind.

Click here for a post on what is done with Shamu after he dies. 

June 27, 2007 Posted by | Blogging, Sea Life | 8 Comments

My New Bumper Sticker Says God Bless All Nations

I have a new bumper sticker on my car. It reads “God Bless All Nations.” Below the words are some religious symbols. Maybe 20 of them. I don’t know what all the symbols represent and I don’t care.

I’ve already written about how a “Texas Democrat” sticker led to an exchange in a supermarket parking lot. A man thanked me for surrendering the country to the Muslims. I told him he was welcome.

A previous bumper sticker I had read, ‘Hail To The Thief—George W. Bush 2000.” People kept taking it off my car while I was parked. Three times I found it crumpled up next to the car.

That was okay though because I had bought four of them for just such an eventuality. I finally pulled it off for good when I had some car troubles in Wharton County.

I love the people of Wharton County, Texas. But as I was waiting for AAA, I did not want some sheriff or local to come and arrest and/or shoot me. The Anti-Bush sticker I pulled off in Wharton County was the last one I had.

We’ll see what trouble my new bumper sticker brings.

June 26, 2007 Posted by | Best Posts Jan.-June 2007, Politics | 8 Comments

Stonewall Democrats Now Get Money I Once Sent To Human Rights Campaign

I got a mailing from the Human Rights Campaign a few days back inquiring about my membership status. They said it was “unknown.” I also still get mailings from them about Houston issues and events.  

I’m not sure how it was unknown since I e-mailed them last year saying I wasn’t giving them any more money. I told them this was because of their support of Republicans such as now former Senator Lincoln Chaffee of Rhode Island. 

(In fairness, I should disclose that I’m a native Rhode Islander. Whenever the late Senator John Chaffee would come on TV my father would swear quite angrily.  He’d say “There’s that f****** Chaffee.” Still, despite the family legacy of Chaffee-disdain, I know I come to my point honestly.) 

You help one (or more) Republican and you help them all.

All I had ever sent HRC was maybe $80 in two donations. I’m not a big donor. Though I did once buy one of their coffee mugs in the HRC store in Washington, D.C.

I’m sending my next $40 donation to Stonewall Democrats. I figure the use of the word Democrat in the name suggests they won’t be giving to any Republicans.

I lived in Cincinnati when that city passed a mean-spirited anti-gay initiative in 1993. (It’s since been repealed by voters.) At that time we had a councilwoman and future Mayor named Roxanne Qualls who had very strong support among gays. Yet she took very little moral leadership on the issue. When you can’t count on your own, who can you count on?

Now that I’ve taken a shot at Roxanne I can move on to my real point.

Gay folks just want to live normal lives like everybody else. Regretfully, one normal thing many of them would like to do is vote Republican on economic issues. It’s just that much of the Republican base keeps saying gays are going to spend eternity in Hell. It’s hard to vote for someone saying that about you.

I’m sending my $40 to these Stonewall Democrats with the trust that they will advocate for both social and economic fairness and that they will not support Republicans.       

June 25, 2007 Posted by | Cincinnati, Politics | 4 Comments

I’m Drunk, I Love My Wife & She And I Once Visited Henry Clay’s Home In Kentucky

It’s 1:30 AM, I’ve been at a party and I had a lot of wine. Wine helps me reconcile myself to the fact that I live in Texas. It also makes me love nearly everybody. Most of all I love my wife.

My wife went with me to this party and she drove us home. Our great national  history is never far from my mind. While driving home I thought of the time the wife and I went to Lexington, Kentucky and we went to the home of Henry Clay. It was cold as hell.

My advice to anybody reading this is to value every meaningful relationship you have a great deal. Little is more important.  Please also recall that you never know where a meaningful relationship will come from. People you don’t suspect may become friends.  

June 24, 2007 Posted by | My Wife Is The Best Person Ever, Posts Made While Drinking Wine | 5 Comments

Poems By Korean Courtesans Top Weekend Reading List

At the top of the weekend reading list this week is Songs of the Kisaeng: Courtesan Poetry of the Last Korean Dynasty. I’ve got a busy weekend here in Houston and all I’ll have time for is some poetry.

Here is a poem by a person named Kungyo who lived maybe 500 years ago. It’s called Who Caught You?

Who caught you, fish, then set you free

Within my golden pond? 

Which clear northern sea did you leave

for these small waters?

Once here, with no way to flee,

You and I are the same.

June 23, 2007 Posted by | Books, Poetry | 1 Comment

Looking Forward To Melissa Noriega’s New Voice On Tough Questions On Houston City Council

Houston’s health insurance crisis was the subject of a front-page USA Today article that ran on Tuesday of this week. The article discussed the large number of uninsured people in Houston and the effects of this reality on individuals and  families.

The Houston Chronicle on Thursday, June 21, ran a story on the Houston city budget as passed by City Council. Incredibly given the needs of a poor city like Houston, a property tax cut was included.

Where were Democrats on Council in advocating for the needs of people in Houston who could use some help? Where was our Democratic Mayor?

Of course, money was found for an extra police recruit class. And earlier this week Harris County announced a bond issue to be placed on the November ballot. The bulk of these new funds would go to jails and other aspects of our so-called “justice” system.

Is the plan to run a police state in Houston and simply give up any notion that life in our city can be made better?

These recent articles and events are why I’m hopeful about Melissa Noriega as a new voice on Houston City Council. Ms. Noriega has shown herself to be an imaginative and long-term thinker in the style of one of her political role models—Former Houston Congresswoman Barbara Jordan.

One new member won’t make our Houston City Council over in the short-term. But one effective voice for economic fair play and basic social justice can leave a lasting impact. I believe Councilwoman-elect Noriega can be that voice for Houston

( This post is cross-posted on the reader’s blog page of The Houston Chronicle. I now have one of five featured political blogs at that spot)    

June 22, 2007 Posted by | Houston, Politics | Leave a comment

Mary Tyler Moore Theme Has Been Playing In My Head For Over 30 Years

The Mary Tyler Moore theme has been running through my head for over 30 years now. It really never stops playing. 

What it says is true—Love is all around. It might take effort and  imagination to find it. But it’s there.

It’s true even here in kick-the-little-guy-when-he-is-down Texas.

June 21, 2007 Posted by | Things Watching Tv Made Me Think About | 3 Comments

Senator Ralph Yarborough’s Grave In Austin—What A Great Liberal He Was

In Austin earlier this week I saw the grave of that great Texan—Senator Ralph Yarborough at the State of Texas Cemetery. 

Senator Yarborough was the leader of the liberal wing of the Texas Democratic Party for many years.

As an assistant attorney general in Texas in the 1930’s, Yarborough won judgments against oil companies establishing the right of public schools to share in profits from oil through a state fund.

Yarborough ran for Governor in the Democratic primary three times in the 1950’s. He lost each time against a more conservative Democrat in what was than a one-party state.

However, Yarborough won a special election for the U.S. Senate in 1957 and held on to the seat in 1958 and 1964. In ’64 he beat future President George H.W. Bush.

In the Senate, Yarborough represented the best impulses of the people of Texas. He supported LBJ’s Great Society, helped write the Endangered Species Act and sponsored the establishment of a number of wildlife sanctuaries in Texas.

Yarborough was defeated in the 1970 Democratic primary by Lloyd Bentsen.

That Texas had such a strong liberal leader nearly half a century ago shows how little we have advanced in that time. Not since Yarborough left Washington have Texans had a genuine representative of the people’s interests in the Senate, or in the Governor’s mansion, except, at times, Ann Richards.  

June 20, 2007 Posted by | Politics, Texas | Leave a comment

It’s Okay To Stop Reading A Book In The Middle

A book I wanted to read for a long time was Khrushchev—The Man And His Era by William Taubman. Nikita Khrushchev once led the Soviet Union. The book was published in 2003.

Maybe a year ago, I happened upon a cheap copy of this book. I bought it. It sat next to my bed for a time. Then one day I finally picked it up.

The book was as good as the review I had read of it maintained. Yet about half-way through I started to lose interest. I felt I had grasped Khrushchev’s personality. I felt I understood the conflict between the better side of Khrushchev’s nature and some of the brutal things he did with power.

So I stopped reading. I moved onto something else.  It was a hard call. I asked my wife what she thought. She said I was silly. She said stop reading if you’ve had enough.

Anyway, I stopped reading the book and I survived.  You can quit a book in the middle. It’s okay.    

June 19, 2007 Posted by | Books | 3 Comments

Barbara Jordan’s Grave In Austin

This afternoon I visited the Texas State Cemetery in Austin. I saw a number of graves of historically significant Texans. One I found interesting was the grave of former Houston Congresswoman Barbara Jordan.

Representative Jordan served in the U.S. House from 1973 until 1979. She did not run for reelection in 1978. She gained national attention for her service on the House judiciary committee during the Watergate hearings.

Ms. Jordan was the first black state senator in Texas since Reconstruction. She was one of the first two black Congresspersons from the South in the 20th Century (Andrew Young  of Georgia was also elected in 1972.) Ms. Jordan was the first black woman Congressperson from the South.

Ms. Jordan’s headstone refers to her as an “Eloquent Champion of Ethics and Justice” and as a “Patriot.” 

Ms. Jordan is buried on a hill in the cemetery that overlooks many Confederate war dead.  

Ms. Jordan lived from 1936 until 1996.

Considering the lives of notable figures of the past is a way to evaluate the present. Doing so in the quiet setting of the Texas State Cemetery was an opportunity for useful reflection. If I lived in Austin, I would visit this cemetery often.       


June 18, 2007 Posted by | Houston, Politics, Texas | 2 Comments

Larry Hagman, Correct That Luck Is What Counts Most, Tops Weekend Reading List

At the top of the reading list this weekend is Hello Darlin.’ This book is the autobiography of the actor and fellow Texan Larry Hagman 

Here’s what Larry says in the introduction about luck—“When people ask for my secret, I tell them it’s been 20 percent hard work and 80 percent luck. I think a lot of life comes down to that….So little is in our control.” 

Larry has that right. Luck about where you are born, who you parents are, and the time in history you are born into makes much of the difference.

You need to work hard to be successful. But anybody who tells you that hard work guarantees success is living in a fantasy land. It never has guaranteed success and it never will.  

June 15, 2007 Posted by | Books | 1 Comment

Thoughts On Stonewall Democrats

A Texas blogger recently posted that he’d been manning the booth of a group called “Stonewall Democrats.” I’d not heard of this group before. I did a little research and I have some thoughts.

Stonewall itself is not new to me. Stonewall is the name of a gay bar raided by New York City police in 1969. That raid, and the protest that followed the raid, is seen as a founding moment of the gay rights movement in the United States.

When I ran for the Cincinnati School Board in 1997, I was endorsed by Stonewall Cincinnati. The Stonewall I knew mostly endorsed Democrats, but also endorsed local Republicans. Stonewall Cincinnati had no formal affiliation with either party. (I ran as an independent.)

I always thought Stonewall Cincinnati was wrong to endorse Republicans. The record of the Republican Party was so bad on so many essential questions, that it merited no allegiance from any group that claimed a commitment to social justice.

So you’d think I’d support a group called “Stonewall Democrats.” No room for Republicans in that outfit.

Well, I imagine I do support the aims of Stonewall Democrats. I’m sure the people involved are decent and the goals pursued are good.  (Here are links to the national group and to the Austin chapter. The web page for the Houston chapter no longer exists. Galveston has a chapter listed but no web page.)

What gave me some thought was the use of the word “Stonewall” linked to one of the major political parties. The website of the national group has a photo of board members with DNC chair Howard Dean.

I don’t wager that the Democratic Party back in 1969 was on board with gay rights. It took a number of years past that point. If gay folks, or blacks, or women, or anybody, relied on one of the major political parties to take the initial actions required for basic human rights, these groups would have a long wait.

We may broadly support the stated goals of a political party. Yet it is also always so that these parties are using us for purposes having little to do with our beliefs. Parties have donors to reward and politicians to elect and reelect. They are entities that exist outside the reasons we offer them our support.

I’ll admit the contradiction here. On one hand, I criticized Stonewall Cincinnati for endorsing Republicans. On the other hand, I’m expressing some pause about linking the Stonewall name to the Democratic Party. Wanting to have it both ways is a luxury open to an observer. It is not an option necessarily open to a participant investing his or her own time and effort for a cause.

That’s okay though. I have no criticisms of the Stonewall Democrats. I just thought the name was interesting and it elicited this blog post. As a matter of fact, I’m going to send them the $35 they request for a membership and sign up myself.

This will make up for the money I stopped sending to the Human Rights Campaign after they endorsed former Republican Senator Lincoln Chaffee of Rhode Island for reelection in 2006.        

June 14, 2007 Posted by | Cincinnati, Politics | 3 Comments

I Stopped At Ron Paul For President Rally On My Way Home From Work Today

I stopped at the convenience store on my way home from work this evening here in Houston. I wanted a Twinkie. After parking I noticed that a Ron Paul for President rally was taking place across the street. There were maybe 40 or 50 people at this event. 

Knowing fellow whack-jobs when I see them, I crossed the street to see what the story was. I figured I would fit in well-enough. I hoped that Congressman Paul was making some sort of appearance at the restaurant that seemed the focal point of the rally.

I thought of questions I could ask Mr. Paul—“What did you have for lunch today?” “Did you get a chance to catch high tide down in Galveston this afternoon? I hear it was really high.”

I crossed the street and a man on the corner holding a Paul For President sign smiled and asked if I had heard of Mr. Paul. I said I had. He handed me a brochure. He seemed like a nice guy. I was thinking here is a right-wink kook and I’m a left-wing kook. We could switch places and who would really know?

I asked the sign-man if Mr. Paul was speaking. He said no. He said that some sort of Republican meeting was taking place and that Mr. Paul’s supporters were here to make some kind of point. He was not sure what meeting it was or what the point was.

I could understand not knowing. Often the less you know, the less life hurts. He was along for the ride. Aren’t we all to a degree?

Without the excitement of an actual appearance by Ron Paul, I went back across the street and drove home.  

June 13, 2007 Posted by | Best Posts Jan.-June 2007, Houston, Politics, Things I've Done | 13 Comments