Texas Liberal

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Barges & Pipes—Pictures And Thoughts

Image, Source: intermediary roll film

Above is a picture of a barge loaded with pipes. The barge is in the Houston Ship Channel back in 1939. The photo was taken by Russell Lee.

Here is information about Russell Lee. He took pictures for a New Deal agency and was later a professor of photography at the University of Texas.  

I like the picture because it looks like such a quiet scene. I used to enjoy seeing barges coming up the Ohio River whenever I was a few miles out of town from home in Cincinnati. Especially in the summer. While I’m not certain that life on a barge is really so nice, it just seemed so quiet to be moving up and down the river past the trees on the shore and past the small towns.  

Pipes are basic to transporting something from one place to another. (Though in the picture above it is the pipes themselves that are being transported.)  Pipes have been used for a long time. Below is a picture of lead pipes from ancient Rome. 

File:Lead pipe - Bath Roman Baths.jpg

Some parts of the world apparently worship pipes. Below is a statue of water pipes in Mytishchi, Russia.

File:Mytischi vodoprovod.jpg

Here is a video about pipelines from Rome to the current day from How Stuff  Works.

Barges are basic as well. Below is the Japanese painting Barges on the Yotsugi-dori Canal. I’d much rather be riding in the barge than pulling it along. This painting is one of 100 Views Of Edo by Ando Hiroshige.  These paintings were made between 1856 and 1858. Please click here to see all 100 views.

File:100 views edo 033.jpg

Here is a good video on barges from How Stuff Works.  

Below you see a picture of barges gone wild. Here is information about the so-called 1985 Election Day Flood on the Monongahela River in Pennsylvania. This was the flood that caused the barges below to go wild.

I think barges and pipes are interesting to consider. We often hear in life that the journey is as important as the destination. For the stuff we use in our lives, it is with barges and pipes that these things reach us.

May 9, 2009 Posted by | Art, History, Houston | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Specter Switch—Republicans Unable To Get A Hold On Senate Since 1929 Crash

File:MLKjr and Specter.jpg

The switch of Arlen Specter from Republican to Democrat leaves Republicans with just 40 Senators in the 100 seat Senate. After Al Franken is seated in Minnesota there will be 58 Democrats and 2 independents who mostly vote with the Democrats in the Senate.  

( Above–Arlen Specter with Martin Luther King. Please click here for the best Martin Luther King reading list on the web.)

This weak Republican presence in the Senate is not out of line with Republican membership in the Senate since the 1929 stock crash. Beginning with the 1930 election, the first after the crash, Democrats have reached 60 or more seats in the Senate 11 times. Mr. Franken’s seating will make that 12 times.

The peak of Democratic control was the 76 seats won in the 1936 election.

(Below–Charles McNary of Oregon was leader of the very small Republican Senate minority after the 1936 election.)

File:Charles mcnary.jpg

The Republican high since 1930 is just 55 seats. This mark was reached in the elections of 1996, 1998 and 2004. The last time Republicans were as strong in the Senate as are Democrats today was after the election of 1920 when they had 59 seats. The Senate at that time had only 96 seats as Alaska and Hawaii were not yet part of the union.

Democrats have won more than 55 seats in the Senate 20 times since 1929 in contrast to the inability of Republicans to win as many of 56 seats since that year.

( Here  is the link to the web home of the U.S. Senate. There is a lot of information to be found at the Senate site. Here is a link to the divisions by party going back to the beginning of the Senate in 1789.)   

The last time Republicans reached 60 seats was the election of 1908. Republicans won 60 seats that year in what was a 92 seat Senate.

Democrats have had two main periods of dominance in the Senate since was 1929.  In the years between and including the first election of Franklin Roosevelt in 1932, and his final election in 1944, Democrats never fell below 57 seats.

( Below—Republican Robert Taft of Ohio was Senate Majority Leader at the time of  his death in 1953.

File:Robert a taft.jpg

In 1958 Democrats won 65 seats and in 1978 they took 58. In between those years, they never went lower than 54 and seven times eclipsed 60.  

(Below–Mike Mansfield of Montana was Majority Leader of the Senate 1961-1977. That is the longest tenure in that position.) 

File:Mike mansfield.jpg

Republicans have only had two stretches since 1929 where they’ve won control of the Senate in consecutive elections. 

In the Reagan years, Republicans ran the Senate after the 1980, 1982 and 1984 elections. After the Republican Congressional landslide of 1994, Republicans won at least 50 seats each election up to and including 2004.  Though after the 2000 election Republican control was ended when Jim Jeffords of Vermont switched to the Democrats giving Democrats a 51-49 edge.

( Below–Howard Baker of Tennessee served as both Majority Leader and Minority Leader of the Senate.)

File:Howard baker jr.jpg

A qualification to all this could be that many Democrats in the years of Democratic control since 1929 were Southern Democrats who often voted with Republicans. True control of the Senate often eluded the more progressive elements of the Democratic Party.

There is truth to that qualification. But it must be said that the New Deal and Great Society programs that conservatives would like to undo were passed in these years. Civil Rights legislation also passed in these years though it took a long time and required the principled support of some Republicans in the Senate.

Today’s strong Democratic majority has moderate members, but nothing like the segregationists of the past. 

For 40 years, since the Sunbelt driven election of Richard Nixon in 1968, we’ve been hearing about the supposed realignment of American politics towards Republicans. Well–Where is it?

( Please click here to read about the Senate’s art collection.) 

Today’s Democratic majorities and the states that Barack Obama won come from all around the nation. In the South, Mr. Obama won North Carolina, Virgina and Florida. Senator Specter’s switch only adds to the 80 years and counting slump of the Republican Party in the U.S. Senate.

( Coming soon -A look at membership of the U.S. House of Representatives since 1929. The story is much the same as it has been in the Senate.)

(Below—Democrat Robert Byrd of West Virginia has seen a lot of Senate history since he entered the Senate in 1959.  He is the longest serving Senator ever.) 

File:Robert Byrd Majority Portrait.jpg

April 29, 2009 Posted by | Art, History, Political History, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

If You Touch The 2000 Year Old Sundial At The Art Museum, You Are Yelled At And Followed

If you touch the art at the Houston Museum of Fine Art, one of the docents in the exhibit hall will yell at you from across the room, run quickly over to you, and, finally, admonish you.

Then, the docent will follow you until you leave his area of the museum. 

This is what I saw happen last week after an art museum guest touched an ancient sundial from Afghanistan.

In my view, the sundial was made out of rock and had already lasted something like 2000 years. I don’t see that touching it was going to hurt the thing.

Maybe museum goers could be provided  with a sanitizing towelette before they touched the art so that they would not get the art all foody or sticky.

When I was at the Lourve  15 years ago or so, there were signs in maybe 8 different languages telling you not to take pictures of the Mona Lisa. 

(Here is the link to the Mona Lisa Suite Hotel in Orlando.) 

(Here is the link to theMona Lisa Restaurant in Wolcott, Connecticut.)

Yet many people were taking pictures, including flash pictures, of the Mona Lisa in any case. I don’t think this was harming the painting. It’s held up for a long time already. Maybe if they handed out wallet-sized pictures as you entered the gallery, people would not take the photos.

I don’t want to say that I approve of touching the 2000 year old sundial or of taking flash pictures of the Mona Lisa, but I suppose you might gather from the tone of this post that I view witnessing such behavior as some good entertainment.

Below is the Mona Lisa. You don’t have to fly to Paris to see the damn thing.

File:Mona Lisa.jpg

April 14, 2009 Posted by | Art | , , , | 3 Comments

A Reason I Disliked School & Notes On Art And Sharks

My in-laws are in town and I’m busy being a good son-in-law. This post will just be some notes. Still—even on busy days— I make time for the blog reading public.

At the Houston Museum of Fine Arts yesterday I got a reminder of why I disliked school so much. Some kids, maybe fifth or sixth grade, were on a field trip to the museum. They were touring the galleries. The chaperons were repeatedly telling the kids not to speak. I’m not sure if the adults were teachers or parents. Though it makes little difference. (Above— One room school in Alabama 1935.)

Why not instruct the kids to offer reactions to what they were seeing? Why not ask questions of the kids? Why not tell the kids to talk to each other about what they were seeing? Other visitors to the museum were speaking in the galleries. If the adults did not feel they could control the kids, then they should not have been leading the trip.

I can remember field trips like that when I was in school in Providence, Rhode Island. We’d go to the Boston Science Museum or the Boston Aquarium–over and over we would go to those places—and get no input from our teachers about what we were seeing.  The high point of the day would be the visit to the gift shop. It was just a day to screw around.  

If you have kids, maybe you could tell them to listen to teachers who have something to say, and tune out the others. There is possibly nothing at all wrong with a kid who does not like school and who is wary of his or her teachers. Maybe the only thing wrong with that kid is that he or she is smarter than the teachers and the other kids.   


At the art museum today I bought the book Movements In Art Since 1945 by Edward Lucie-Smith. It looks like a good book.  I’ve lately been wanting to learn about Alex Katz.Above – A sketch by Katz.)

The first paragraph of the book, as far as I’ve read so far, talks about contemporary art as more widely popular than was art before World War II. I would imagine that this wider popularity comes with the usual trade off  a bigger public following against a more uncertain level of quality. Depending on my mood, I’m generally in favor of the wider public acceptance. People can make the effort to find the good stuff if it matters to them enough.

I read yesterday that fishermen in the Philippines caught a very rare Megamouth Shark and went on to eat it even though they were asked not to eat the creature.  Below you see a picture of a Megamouth Shark. The picture was taken by a Tom Haight.   Here is  some very good information about this sea beast from the Florida Museum of Natural History. It says that Sperm Whales have been known to attack this type of shark. I’d sure like to put film of that taking place on the blog. 

Time now to go pick up my in-laws and go to the deli to pick up the food for Passover.

April 8, 2009 Posted by | Art, Books, Houston | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Dorelia In A Black Dress By Gwen John

Above is the painting  Dorelia in a Black Dress. It was completed in 1904 by Gwen John.

If I could paint someone’s face in a way that conveyed so much about a person, I would be very glad. That’s an ability that allows you to create something that lasts for a long time.  Look how I am writing about this painting 105 years after its completion. I feel that I know something about Dorelia though she is long dead.    

There are many different ways to communicate. This blog is one way.  The painting above is another way. We all have ways to communicate that suit us best. Each way has value. Often when we communicate we are expressing optimism that we have something to say, and that others are worth the time and effort that communication requires. 

Here is information about Gwen John.  She was Welsh and lived 1876-1939.  

Here are a number of paintings by Gwen John.

April 7, 2009 Posted by | Art | , , , , | 2 Comments

Letter Writing/Communication In A Discordant World

Image, Source: color film copy slide

It might be time to write someone a letter.

I’ve been thinking that for myself of late, but I can never get from under the daily need to fill this blog space. Take today for example, I’m writing for the blog instead of writing a letter in the time I have left before I have to go to work.

I’ll just have to make the time.

The poster above is a New Deal poster in support of national Letter Writing Week. Here is a link to a number of New Deal era posters that were commissioned by the Works Progress Administration.

There still is a National Letter Writing Week. It takes place each January. We’ve missed it for 2009, but we can all still write a letter.

A very good book of letters is Letters of the Century–America 1900-1999. I’ve read this book and I can recommend it to you.

I’m behind in responding to a number of people who have e-mailed me in recent weeks. I keep meaning to write a blog post that says nothing but I’m taking the day off from the blog to respond to personal e-mails.

Though if I really meant it, I’d get the address of the people I owe e-mails to and write them a letter. Then they would have a letter to keep that suggested I take my relationships with these folks seriously enough to make a full effort.

Because we are not always in control of our lives, I find myself in frequent communication with people I have no real interest with. This is a source of daily regret in my life. When I go without communicating with my friends for some period of time I feel that I am falling behind and that my relationships are dissolving.

Though the truth is that my friends are just as busy or more busy than I am, and that almost any effort to keep in touch is long-recalled. We should be very slow to give up on or move on from a relationship that at some point had value in our lives.

The very act of communication is an expression of our values. Not just what we are communicating, but the fact that we are communicating at all in a discordant and superficially fragmented world.

Communication is simple enough if you make the time and put some thought into it.

It’s the simplest things done well that often make the most difference in life. Simple things done well are also good in expressing optimism about the value of day-to-day life.

April 1, 2009 Posted by | Art, Books | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Brownsville Sugar Mill Photo/Steam Turbine Painting

The photo above is of the inside of a sugar mill.

The image is from a collection of  of pictures taken along the South Texas border between 1900 and 1920. This photo was taken in Brownsville, Texas. 

Here is a link to the full collection.

The photographer was Robert Runyon.  His life story is interesting. 

Here is the proper credit for the photo —The Robert Runyon Photograph Collection, [image number, e.g., 00199], courtesy of The Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.

Above is a picture of a machines. Below is a painting of machines. The name of the painting is Steam Turbine. It is from 1939 and was painted by Charles Sheeler.  

March 29, 2009 Posted by | Art, Texas, Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

One World Flag Ideas


At the blog Make Wealth History, my blogger comrade Jeremy recently posted the above images of designs for one-world flags that were created in response to a call from Adbusters magazine. 

I did not really like the winning flag in the contest—You can see it by clicking here. Though the idea behind the winning flag is useful enough.

I really don’t have any problem with most people in the world. I don’t feel a border exists between me and most people.

March 28, 2009 Posted by | Art | , , , | 7 Comments

Houston Council Candidate Noel Freeman

Noel Freeman is running for At-Large position 4 on the Houston City Council. Mr. Freeman is a Democrat.

Above you see a picture of Mr. Freeman. He is in front of Houston City Hall. Mr. Freeman works for the Department of Public Works in Houston.

What was Mr. Freeman thinking while posing for this picture? He looks serious enough, but he might have been thinking of something silly.

I think Mr. Freeman was thinking about this truck full of puppies you see below.


Mr. Freeman first attracted my regal notice by making a friend request on Facebook. Blogging is an act of vanity and I’m glad for all attention.      

Mr. Freeman and I later exchanged messages on Facebook regarding the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library  in College Station, Texas. I’d mentioned I was thinking of visiting the library and Mr. Freeman said such a visit would be worth my time.

Reading about Mr. Freeman on Facebook, I learned he is a graduate of Texas A & M in College Station.  

Checking out his campaign web home, I learned he is a member of the Houston Area Stonewall Democrats.

I never get tired of telling people that I was a Stonewall Cincinnati endorsed candidate for the Cincinnati Board of Education in 1997.

Mr. Freeman is a former Republican who supported Barack Obama in 2008. He had a conversion. 

Below is how Michelangelo painted St. Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus.


 Mr. Freeman addressed his political switch in a comment on the Houston blog Dos Centavos.

I’ve linked to Mr. Freeman’s campaign web home up at the top of this post. You can see what he is saying. Of course what Mr. Freeman is saying at his web home is what many candidates for office in Houston say.

Mr. Freeman loves Houston. Mr. Freeman is for safe streets. Mr. Freeman is for a strong economy in Houston.

And that’s great—I’m glad Mr. Freeman has these views.  

Regular readers here know I have a longstanding concern that the Democratic Party in Houston—and in cities across the nation— use minority voters without offering much in return for the loyalty at the polls. I’ve also said that the concerns of Houston’s many poor people are ignored at election time.   

I’d like to see Mr. Freeman please address these issues. What will he do to make the Democratic party in Houston more responsive to the needs and hopes of all Houstonians?   

Houston is a Democratic city. Many council races this year will be fought out between Democrats. I’d like to know what Mr. Freeman sees as the role of the Democratic Party in Houston. 

Politics is at core an act of imagination. You envision something that does not yet exist and you work to make it real. What does Mr. Freeman see as undone in our city? There people in our city who are not on the agenda at City Hall. What will Mr. Freeman do to get them on the agenda?     

I recently met Mr. Freeman for the first time. He seems like an okay guy. He said if I had any questions I should get in touch. All righty—I can do that. I’m going to place the link to this post on his Facebook page and see what he says in reply. I’ll keep the blog reading public updated on this matter.  

(Below—The Bush Library in College Station.) 


March 26, 2009 Posted by | Art, Houston, Politics | , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Pottery Is Gift For Ninth Wedding Anniversary

Time now for a ninth wedding anniversary blogging break.

How long will the break last?

Well—today is Saturday and I will post next on Monday.

You are on your own for Sunday.

What gift should I give the wife for our ninth anniversary?

It seems that the traditional gift is pottery.

(Here is a history of pottery.)

This Rookwood Pottery below would mark the fact that the wife and I met in Cincinnati. Rookwood Pottery was made in Cincinnati.

Or I could just go somewhere and buy all they have on display.

” One of everything please.”

Neolithic people gave pottery as a gift. I’m sure they did. Below you see what may have been a gift for a ninth wedding anniversary back in neolithic times. 

“Ooga booga–Here is gift of pottery.”

“uuguum… Thank you.  Now I conk you over head.”

Below is modern pottery of Japan. (Please click here to learn about pottery of Japan.)

On the pottery from Japan you see a fish. 

With my wife being Jewish, maybe if I gave her the pottery you see below from 4000 B.C. Iran it help bring peace and understanding in the world. At least it would until the National Museum of Tehran announced that a  Jewish woman in Texas had Iran’s 6000 year old pottery.  

(Here is information about pottery in Iran. It goes back 8000 years.)

I’m pretty sure my wife would enjoy a gift of these two giant pottery pieces from Safi, Morocco.

So did I get the wife any pottery for our ninth anniversary? I’m afraid I did not. I only learned that pottery was the right gift when I looked it up for this post.

That’s okay though. Surely being the wife of the best blogger in Texas is gift enough  for the wife.


March 21, 2009 Posted by | Art, Cincinnati, My Wife Is The Best Person Ever | , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Reading Bird Sermon Of St. Francis To A Dancing Duck/Chicken

This is a video of me reading St. Francis of Assisi’s Sermon To The Birds in Houston’s Memorial Park. I’m reading it to a dancing duck/chicken. The video is just under two minutes.

Here is a profile of St. Francis from American Catholic. org.

Here is a link to the Memorial Park Conservancy.

Here is a link to a great deal of information about North American birds from Cornell University.  If you poke around you can learn a lot.

Below is a 1658 painting of St. Francis by Francisco de Zurbaran.

Here is my most recent video before this one—Reading Malcolm X In An Old Black Cemetery.

March 18, 2009 Posted by | Art, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Wife Has Jury Duty—Painting Of Bored Jury

My wife, the best person ever, has beeen assigned to a jury in our Harris County, Texas courts.

Below is the painting The Jury. This was completed in 1861 by the British artist John Morgan. 

You’ll find this painting at the Buckinghamshire Museum over in England. Below is a picture of the museum.

County Museum 

Here is some history of the American Jury System. 

From that history—

“The jury trial was a significant expression of “the consent of the governed” in American history. Among the reasons given by the signers of the Declaration of Independence to “dissolve the Political Bonds” which connected them to Great Britain was the deprivation “of the Benefits of Trial by Jury.” Trial by jury in criminal cases was incorporated into the Constitution itself, and the grand jury, the criminal petit jury, and the civil petit jury all were enumerated in the Bill of Rights.”

March 7, 2009 Posted by | Art | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

More Of Our Colonized Low Wage No Rights Labor Force Dying In Desert For The Chance To Mow Our Lawns

The article below was in the Houston Chronicle today. It is about the increased number of folks dying in an effort to reach the United States from Mexico. They die so they can work in our restaurant kitchens, our construction projects and on our lawns and gardens for poor wages and no benefits. We don’t thank them for it very often. Though we do complain about them very much. 

(Above–Work by a Thomas Castelazo noting border deaths at Tijuana-San Diego border

They are really the perfect workers for a place like Texas. They are good for employers who get what is in essence a colonized labor force that will accept any wage you pay (when employers come through with the money which is not always) and will not stick up for themselves when abused because of fear of deportation

These workers are also good for the political majority in Texas, those Texans who vote, because they are just the kind of low wage and no rights workers that we seem to be asking for when we vote as a state for John Cornyn, Kay Bailey Hutchinson, Rick Perry and John McCain. 

When will a solution to all this be found that is decent and human? 

From the Chronicle— 

BROWNSVILLE — The number of unauthorized immigrants who died trying to enter the U.S. from Mexico declined border-wide except in the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas, leading Mexican officials to conclude that increased Border Patrol presence has channeled migrants to the valley’s most dangerous river and brush routes… While notoriously rugged U.S. Border Patrol sectors such as Tucson and Yuma in Arizona, and El Paso, Texas, saw a marked decline, the number of deaths in the valley grew by 72 percent last year…The tallies also count bodies recovered on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande that are not recorded by U.S. officials. They do not include bodies with identification from Central America or other places. …“What we’re thinking is that people decided to cross from this part of the border because they think others are more dangerous,”…. “Then they come to this side, they see more deployment; they go to riskier places, more isolated places. They cross from ranches that are more apart from the highways.”… Many drown because the Rio Grande in the upper valley can have currents swirling under the surface from recent dam releases. Others fall ill in the brush and are left behind. Still others die in vehicles that crash and overturn while drivers attempt to flee authorities.

March 4, 2009 Posted by | Art, Immigration, Politics, Texas | , , , , , | Leave a comment

In Galveston Today—Extinct Fish, Sea Monsters, Mermaids, Merbabies And Neptune

What do I hope to see and film in Galveston today when I go down to the island with my new Flip Camera to film some videos for this blog?

(Update–Here is the video I recorded in Galveston.)

Extinct sea beasts ( Here is information on prehistoric fish.)  

File:Stethacanthus BW.jpg

Sea monsters  (Here are drawings of all types of sea monsters) —

Mermaids ( Here are mermaids from the American Museum of Natural History.) —

Mermaids with merbabies (Yep–That’s a real painting. By an Arnold Bocklin who lived from 1827 until 1901. Check out this one.)

And, of course, Neptune himself  (Here is a measure of information on Neptune.) —


Here are some things you might also see if you visit Galveston.

Thank you for reading Texas Liberal. Without the blog reading public, what is a blog?

February 27, 2009 Posted by | Art, Blogging, Galveston | , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Texas Liberal Has Best Month—Thank You Blog Reading Public

I’m glad to report that this blog had its best month ever in January, 2009. The blog averaged 1708 page views a day for January. This is due to you—The blog reading public!

If you Google the number 1708, the first non-Wikipedia entry you get is the 1708 Gallery in Richmond, Virginia. This is a non-profit gallery meant to showcase contemporary art. It was established in 1978. It is located at 319 West Broad Street in Richmond. The 1708 Gallery has a blog.

Above is a picture of an art auction at the 1708. I think they are selling the Mona Lisa. I’ve never been to an art auction. 

The current exhibit at the the 1708 are the works of Nichole Maury and Christopher Quirk.  Ms. Maury makes collages and Mr. Quirk is a painter. Mr. Quirk also has a blog.

Here is how Mr. Quirk describes the work he creates—  

“I direct the focus in my paintings to the viewer experience, and away from the notion of the painting itself as a bearer of content. Discordant components and qualities in each painting pose questions for the viewer, suspending resolution, and provide a space for the viewer’s own meditations. The idea is to give, not tell, and for the painting to provide an experience that unfolds over time…”

Good for this guy. It’s good to have the time to create, and good to have the time to think about why you are creating something. More power to anybody engaged in creative pursuits. 

And thanks to everybody who reads this blog.

February 6, 2009 Posted by | Art, Blogging | , , , , , | 3 Comments