DiverseWorks Art Space Presents Luck of the Draw X: Revolution!

April 28, 2011 by  
Filed under Events

DiverseWorks Art Space Presents Luck of the Draw X: Revolution!
June 22, 2011

The best party of the year is back and we are taking the art world by storm! It’s DiverseWorks’ highly-anticipated summer auction, Luck of the Draw X: Revolution! on Wednesday, June 22, 2011 at 6:30 p.m. at DiverseWorks ArtSpace, located at 1117 East Freeway, Houston, 77002. This is DiverseWorks, so expect a raucous good time accompanied by great food and flowing libations. Co-chairs Karen Niemeier and Michael Coppens, along with Executive Co-Directors Diane Barber and Sixto Wagan invite you to score great art and support DiverseWorks at the same time!

Luck of the Draw is just that. You buy your art chance ticket, you get your number. Numbers are called at random, and when it’s your turn, you grab your art from more than 200 outstanding selections.

There are five ways to support DiverseWorks and acquire great art at Luck of the Draw X: Revolution!:

  • Option 1: The “Dear Leader” Art Chance Exclusive Access ticket allows one supporter to be the ruler of the auction and get first dibs on the more than 200 phenomenal artworks in the Luck of the Draw. One available: $1,000.
  • Option 2: A “Frontlines” Art Chance ticket guarantees the holder a choice from within the next four numbers (#2-5) called. Four available: $500 each.
  • Option 3: A “Radicals” Art Chance ticket guarantees the holder a choice from within the next 15 numbers (#6-20) called. 15 available: $250 each.
  • Option 4: A “Proletariat” $100 Art Chance ticket will offer you your pick of one of the remaining spectacular artworks included in the summer auction. Buy now! After June 6, your Art Chance Ticket is $125.
  • Option 5: If you just want to party with the fun and fabulous crowd at DiverseWorks, pick up a $25 ticket and watch the mayhem from the sidelines.

All art chances include admission for ticket holder.

All artworks in Luck of the Draw X are approximately 8.5” x 11” and were created by artists from all over the world.

Luck of the Draw X sponsorships are available and range from $1,010 to $310; details about the Sponsor Benefits are available on the DiverseWorks’ website or by contacting Tracey Morton, Administrative Manager, at tracey@diverseworks.org or (713) 223-8346.

Funds raised by the DiverseWorks 2011 Summer Auction benefit the programs of DiverseWorks ArtSpace. Viva la revolution!

Tickets for Luck of the Draw X: Revolution! may be purchased online at www.diverseworks.org or by calling 713.335.3445.

Known for its groundbreaking artistic and education programs, DiverseWorks is one of the premiere contemporary arts centers in the United States. DiverseWorks has been a hub for the presentation of daring and innovative work, a commissioner of major artistic projects in all disciplines, and an advocate for artists worldwide. Founded by artists for artists, DiverseWorks continues its commitment to bold artistic exploration, creative risk-taking, and building audiences for contemporary art.

DiverseWorks is located at 1117 East Freeway (off N. Main at Naylor), Houston, TX 77002
Tel. 713.223.8346
Fax 713.223.4608
Gallery hours are Noon – 6 PM, Monday – Saturday
Office hours are 10 AM – 6 PM Monday – Friday

Admission to the gallery is FREE

Houston Metropolitan Dance Company Closes 15th Anniversary Season

April 28, 2011 by  
Filed under Events

Houston Metropolitan Dance Company closes their spectacular 15th Anniversary Season with Sizzling Summer Dance

FREE, Miller Outdoor Theatre, June 3

“The Met has clearly mastered artistry and creativity. If you didn’t catch them in April, don’t wait another 15 years.”
Mandy Oaklander, Houston Press, April 2011

Houston Metropolitan Dance Company (The Met) celebrates the finale of their 15th Anniversary Season with Sizzling Summer Dance, FREE, at Miller Outdoor Theatre on Friday, June 3, 2011 at 8:30 PM. Come see The Met dance under the stars in a program of audience favorites and a premiere of a new work, To the Line by Julie Fox. Included in this evening of non-stop entertainment are video highlights from The Met’s 15th Anniversary Season.

ForeverFleeting by Joe Celej. Photo credit: Ben Doyle, Runaway Productions

Thrill to a diverse program of dance including: ForeverFleeting by Joe Celej; together alone by Kiki Lucas; light before sound by Jason Parsons; and Cinco-Sin Nombre by Paola Georgudis. The evening bill includes a special guest performance by Houston Met Too Youth Company.

Houston Metropolitan Dance Company is funded in part by grants from the Houston Endowment Inc.; The City of Houston through the Houston Arts Alliance and the Miller Theatre Advisory Board; the Texas Commission on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Founded in 1995, Houston Metropolitan Dance Company, familiarly known as “The Met,” embraces a comprehensive dance style that fuses the dance idioms of contemporary dance, jazz, tap and ballet. The Met is committed to commissioning new works by internationally renowned and emerging choreographers as well as nurturing the creative talent within the company.

Houston Metropolitan Dance Company
1202 Calumet
Houston, Texas 77004

Upgrade: Continental’s Business First

April 25, 2011 by  
Filed under Blogs, Travel Blog

I just flew from Houston to London in the new and improved Business First Class cabin.  I’m happy to report it’s awesome. Awesome in the things I care about: seats, entertainment and dining.

First and foremost, the seats. They have adjustable leg rests and lumbar support. And the really great news, they fully recline.  Yes, the leg rest comes up and the back goes down until the seat is horizontal. Horizontal! This is a vast improvement over the old seats where you were almost horizontal but not quite. Now I can get comfortable enough to actually fall asleep.

As if fully reclining is not enough, the new seats are more like personal kiosks.  Next to the headrest is a small holding area you can easily stash your valuables and reading material. You will also find an international electrical outlet.  After years of promise, finally you can work on your laptop – or ipad or other electronic device and not be limited by the battery life.

The entertainment system has also been improved.  The screen is bigger and it is not attached to your seat.  It is actually in front of the seat on top of two personal storage areas.  (note: if you are tall, the top storage area becomes part of your horizontal bed). HUH?

The movie experience begins as soon as you take your seat. You can watch movies, television, classics and more- when you want to watch them.  You are in charge of your own kiosk and what is playing’

Now let’s get to the food.  Food service has always been a major production on International flights, and continues to be the cornerstone of the experience at Continental today.  Houston celebrity chef Bryan Caswell has been tapped to create some of the culinary offerings. His hot appetizers start the dining marathon; choose from soup, chicken skewers or pot stickers.  Next, generous salads and hot rolls lead up to the main course, tilapia and green beans.  The meal finishes with a selection of cheeses and cordials followed by ice cream sundaes.

The upgrade is noticeable.

Get Rich Quick

April 25, 2011 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

By Lynn Ashby                                                            25 April 2010

Did you finished paying your income taxes, or did you get an extension, or like 45 percent of Americans, you don’t pay any income taxes so you really don’t care? Whatever your situation, it’s time you and I stop being poor, start being rich, and figure out a way to avoid those nettlesome IRS guys.

First, let’s set the stage. In this country, wealth is highly concentrated in a relatively few people. The top 1 percent of households owns 35 percent of all privately held wealth. The next 19 percent – mostly small business types — has 50 percent. OK, 1 plus 19 means that just 20 percent of Americans own 85 percent of our nation’s wealth, as well they should. So who has the bottom15 percent of our wealth? The bottom 80 percent of income earners. I guess they have to spread it around.

Ah, but who are these top 1 percenters? There are 1.4 million of them, each receiving about $380,000 or more a year. That’s 25 percent of the nation’s income, but they pay 28 percent of all federal taxes, including 39 percent of federal individual income taxes.

If that top 1 percent has more than its share of wealth, we must not be jealous. Or as the Kennedy family motto goes: don’t get mad, get even. We need to join the top, even at the expense of the great unwashed. A few of them would say we are engaging in class warfare. You bet. We’ve got class and are definitely waging warfare on the have-nots. Besides, we’ve got the trickle-down theory. The poor would call it the trickle-on theory.

Our best bet is to become CEO at a major corporation. Last year Exxon’s chairman received an income package worth $21.5 million. The CEO of Viacom got $84.5 million. The head of Occidental Petroleum: $76.1 million. Oracle: $70.1 million. The median compensation for CEO’s in all industries as of early 2010 is $3.9 million; it’s $19.8 million for those listed in the Dow-Jones Industrial Average. But the median worker’s pay is about $36,000. To compare, the income ratio between an average company CEO and the average worker in that company was 344 to1 in 2007. In Europe, the ratio is about 25 to1.

Some make it on their own. Last year Oprah earned $315 million. Lady Gaga earned $62 million, Michael Jackson, dead though he may be, earned $275 million. Mark Zuckerberg (age 27) received one dollar in salary last year, but is worth $6.9 billion. Forbes says Glenn Beck made $32 million last year. A few Texans do pretty well. Beyonce reportedly made $87 million last year; Sandra Bullock; $56 million, “Dr. Phil” McGraw; $80 million. Good thing we don’t have a state income tax or our kids would have teachers.

If you are 6 foot 8 and can dribble and/or sink a basket, you qualify for a fortune.  NFL owners are locked in a wage dispute with their players – billionaires vs. millionaires. Big money is not limited to the pros. Fox Sports Media Group will pay the Big 12 Conference (which now has only 10 members) $1.17 billion over 13 years to air 40 football games each season. Get your share.

Here’s an idea: Since the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that corporations are actually people and thus can donate to political campaigns, we could call ourselves G.E. That firm last year made $14.2 billion in profits and paid not one cent of federal income taxes.

From 1979 to 2007, the average tax rate for all Americans dropped by 8 percent. For that top 1 percent, it dropped 20 percent. In just the period from 1992 to 2007, the tax rate on the top 400 households — those with an average annual income of nearly $350 million — fell by more than a third. In fact, their tax rate is now less than that for average Americans. Meantime, between 1992 and 2007, when income for the average household grew 13 percent, the income for the top 400 households grew 399 percent.

Warren Buffet (worth $42.2 billion down from $47 billion) figured out that his secretary pays a higher proportion of her income to the IRS than he does. Or as Leona Helmsley told her housekeeper, “We don’t pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes.” Helmsley later went to prison for federal tax evasion.

Stop worrying about the estate tax, or death tax as the deadly rich like to call it. Only 1.6 percent of Americans receive $100,000 or more in inheritance. On the other hand, 91.9 percent receive nothing. Our job is to be so rich that after our death our heirs pay and pay.

Wall Street snake oil salesmen and corrupt hedge fund managers are making a fortune, but some of you are wondering about going to the slammer for all this hanky-panky. You probably remember the S&L debacle of the late 1980s (Texas led the way in sleazy dealings). At that time, special government task forces referred 1,100 cases to prosecutors, resulting in more than 800 banking officials going to jail.

Today, don’t worry about the tax man. IRS eyes are smiling on the wealthy. In 2008 the FBI scaled back its investigation of the Wall Street and housing scandals, and the Justice Dept. rejected calls for more scrutiny. Name one big-time banker or stock broker who went to jail. Bernie Madoff and Allen Stanford don’t count since they had their own Ponzie schemes. We’re safe.

Finally, about those 45 percent of Americans who don’t pay federal income taxes, we must drop the other shoe because this is a deliberately misleading stat. These same people pay directly or indirectly fees and fines plus property taxes, school taxes, sales taxes, taxes on gasoline, switchblade knives and, of course, that other shoe. Individual income taxes only contribute 45 percent to the fed’s budget. Just remember, Texas doesn’t have an income tax, but still wrings billions out of us.

Ashby is taxed at ashby2@comcast.net


Crawfish Festival May 13-15 & 20-22, 2011

April 24, 2011 by  
Filed under Events


Tickets On Sale Now for The Largest Crawfish Festival in the South With 2
Weekends of Live Music, Family Fun and
25 Tons of Texas’ Best Crawfish

The 25th Anniversary of the Texas Crawfish & Music
Festival (www.texascrawfishfestival.com) the largest and most established crawfish festival in the South, returns for TWO WEEKENDS of family-friendly

fun featuring live music on three stages, tons of bands, hundreds of
vendors, carnival rides, interactive games and activities for kids of all
ages, as well as 25 TONS of the best Cajun Crawfish in the South!  The
highly-anticipated outdoor event will take place Friday through Sunday in
Preservation Park in Historic Old Town Spring May 13-15 and 20-22, 2011.
Discounted advance general admission tickets, as well as entertainment, food
and shopping details, are available online at www.texascrawfishfestival.com.
The 2011 Texas Crawfish & Music Festival is sponsored by Bud Light and
Houston Press.

“We are thrilled to be in our 25th year of operation as the largest and one
of the most anticipated festivals in the South,” said festival producer Seth
Sanders.  “The Texas Crawfish & Music Festival has come a long way over the
years, increasing exposure to Old Town Spring’s fantastic shopping outlets,
local “mom-and-pop” businesses, showcasing great restaurants and of course,
being an annual entertainment destination for Houstonians and tourists from
across the country.”

Sanders continued, “This event is extremely important to Old Town Spring as
it serves as the primary fund raiser for the Spring Preservation League.
The funds raised through this festival, as well as other events throughout
the year, allow us to make town improvements as well as help with annual
tourism marketing and special events.”

The 2011 festival programming will include live music from top country/Texas
country, zydeco and rock acts as well as karaoke on Fridays and Sundays.

Each Saturday will feature a special Bud Light rally towel giveaway to the
first 1,000 guests through the gate as well as a series of giveaways, prizes
and more from participating vendors, media and more!

The Children’s Music Foundation hosts Founder’s Day Festival

April 19, 2011 by  
Filed under Events

Media Contact: Tiffany McMillan, tiffany@tcmfoundation.org, 512-923-8956.

Website: thechildrensmusicfoundation.org

Subject: The Children’s Music Foundation hosts Founder’s Day Festival, Sunday, May 15, 2011, at Discovery Green from 12 noon – 4 p.m.

The Founder’s Day Festival is a Houston community event. It is a family-friendly, fun, outdoor festival celebrating our mission and the work we do in the Houston community. We will have live music, good food, ice cream and lawn activities such as making musical instruments and kites, hula hoop contests, and crafts for the children.

Our founder, Daren Hightower, is the recipient of the 2011 Houston Mayor’s Award for remarkable service to the City of Houston. We are very proud of Daren and humbled by this recognition and we are celebrating!

Musical Performers: Houston’s Queen of the Blues, Pearl Murray, is performing with her band The Jewels. Also performing: The Rick Law Band, Houston teen guitar sensation; Skiles Kelley, Jr. (an 8th grade student at St. Anne’s) and the very popular Funk/Rock EmCravens Band from Austin.

The Children’s Music Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit based in Houston, Texas with initiatives in 31 cities and 17 countries. Our mission is ‘Enriching the lives of children and building communities through music, music instruction and scholarship’. We fulfill our mission by providing free musical instruments and free music lessons to children who wouldn’t otherwise have access. All we ask of participants is that they ‘Play it Forward!’ by teaching someone else what we’ve taught them so the music, magic and mission moves from person to person, community to community. We do this through individual lessons and group lessons with community partners such as Texas Children’s Hospital, The Ronald McDonald House, Star of Hope Mission, and HAWC (Houston Area Women’s Center).

Wristbands are $20. Each wristband gets full access to entire festival including all food/drinks/music/activities. To purchase wristbands or for more information, visit the website.

Phone Mess

April 18, 2011 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

By Lynn Ashby 18 April 2011


No doubt you have been victim to the strange inefficiency of our communications industry, in which the cutting edge of technology can’t operate a Swiss knife. The companies stumble over one another, hire phone operators who can’t speak English and send out a Mister Fix-It who has trouble finding the correct end of a screwdriver – and can’t speak English.
My own sad story began when we saw an ad for Fantastic 4-Way Vu, a cable package allowing us to record four TV shows at the same time. That way, I could tape the next four “American Idol” programs and know who won before anyone else. The offer was from my telephone company, Phone at the Mouth. So I called up the agent. He checked, hit a few buttons, then said I lived too far out in the boonies to be connected.
Huh? I don’t dwell on some sheep ranch 40 miles south of Uvalde. I live in the middle of the fourth largest city in America. Specifically, the agent said I live too far from a big green box a few blocks away from my house that controls all telephone lines, TV cables, WiFi and NORAD signals for the Western Hemisphere.
Two years later I noticed a Phone at the Mouth (PAM) truck parked in front of my next-door neighbor’s house. My neighbor explained she was getting Fantastic 4-Way Vu. So I checked again with my phone company. Even went to the local PAM store. Nope, I live too far out, even though my neighbor is farther away from the Jolly Green Box than I am.
Next, PAM started bombarding us twice a week with letters offering us 4-Way Vu which we can’t get. So I called again. The company said it would send a guy out to see if he could wire me up. The appointment was for sometime between now and never, but first we must pull out from the wall all our TVs and computers so the digital surgeon could operate. Have you looked behind your desk lately? So that’s where the Christmas tree went. I had more dust bunnies than Easter. And I had to buy some sort of special plugs for each outlet. So we did, and waited with furniture scattered around the house.
The cable guy finally arrived a week later, poked around and said he didn’t think he could connect me, but said a specialist would come out and check. The specialist came, checked, and said Mister Fix-It would return within an hour. He never showed. I called. PAM which said it had no record of us, our order or our birth certificate from Hawaii. After some digging, the company reported our order had been cancelled. I re-ordered and spent the next week still stumbling over desks, wires and a Christmas tree. Yet another worker arrived promptly – this time zone — and worked on the Jolly Green Box down the street for hours trying to hook me up, but he couldn’t. Well, at least he didn’t disconnect my neighbors’ phones.
My tale of woe goes on and on, but you get the fuzzy picture. I never did get Fantastic 4-Way Vu because our communications companies overlap with cable TV, computers, hearing aids and iPhones. Do you have a burglar alarm system connected to ESPN? Add all the other little black boxes that people are operating when they should be driving a train or performing open heart surgery, and we have this mess of messengers. I’d be better off with rabbit ears, two Dixie cups and a piece of string.
Remember when we had only one phone company and three TV networks? You don’t? Well, unlucky you. One more thing: Have you looked at your phone or cable bill lately? Mine is two pages of small print and large numbers. What is “Federal tax on remotes”? “Cable franchise fee for water district.” “Stuff.” You know that many of these taxes are not taxes at all but company fees. No wonder last year Comcast CEO Brian L. Roberts was paid $28.1 million. His colleague at AT&T, Randall L. Stephenson, received $20.2 million. The winner: Viacom’s Philippe P. Dauman: $84.5 million.
You can probably identify with my unending problems. They get worse. Because meantime, at our lake house in Varicose Valley, we decided to go beyond mere electricity and running water even unto a cable hookup for the TV and – praise Allah – go on-line. We had to deal with the dreaded PAM and, after two dozen phone calls, they gave us a monthly price equal to that of Section C-120 at the next Super Bowl game. We could afford it (I really didn’t need two kidneys – redundancy).
They mailed me a modem with enough wires to string Chicago, but I still had to buy an extension cable and a 12-outlet plug. When we called to set up an appointment so Larry, Moe and Curly could come out and install the system, PAM gave a price twice the one we had agreed upon earlier. The ol’ bait and switch. I had to return the cable and plug and mail back the modem. There went Tuesday.
My Moma didn’t raise no idiots, although she did always refer to me as “the slow one.” We rang up the local communications company, Downcast Cable. An agent gave us a price which sounds fine as soon as I convert it from drachmas. For an extra 10 bucks a month I get 436 channels including the weather channel in Denver. You never know. The D-Lux Fone Service has caller ID with a twist: it tells whomever I’m calling why I’m calling. My ringing is “Best Yodels with Polka” and I get Fone Filter which culls out obscene calls and reroutes them to violators of my no-call block.
Yesterday another neighbor, Bernard, complained, “Ever since that cable truck came to your house, we haven’t had a phone connection.” I recommended two Dixie cups and a string.

Ashby is on hold at ashby2@comcast.net

Magnificent Moorea

April 18, 2011 by  
Filed under Travel Blog

Magnificent Moorea

Don your sundress and flip-flops, leave the stress of your wedding behind, and head to French Polynesia for a dream honeymoon. This idyllic retreat can be yours on the intimate island of Moorea.

The best way to travel to Tahiti from Houston is to catch the 7 pm Continental flight to Los Angeles and connect with Air Tahiti Nui. The Hilton Hotel Tahiti is in an industrial area nestled between the town of Papette and the international airport. Reserve a room for the night prior to your arrival, as the arduous journey and time change will leave you fatigued. Get straight to your room, pull the shades and take a long nap—the beds at the resort are amazing. The view from the fourth floor overlooks Tahiti Harbor bustling with boats—it’s not all that romantic, but the best is yet to come.

Papeete, the capital of Tahiti is a condense, bustling little town full of narrow streets snarled with traffic. The Public Market, a large two-story structure near the town’s center, is where locals sell arts, crafts, clothing, gifts, and fresh fruit. Some vendors have fresh whole fish on ice or hanging from large hooks. Locally produced jewelry prominently features Tahitian black pearls; shops specializing in the regional gem are everywhere. Evenings can be spent enjoying food and music with locals near the ship docks.

Moorea is a 30-minute Catamaran ride from Papette. From the large ferry, it’s clear the island is lush, green, and welcoming—the resort is even better. Individual huts serving as rooms spill down the mountain slope to the ocean and continue over the water. There are about 100 huts, half of which are built over the water in a reef- protected lagoon.

Each thatched-roof hut is rich in natural woods, has a high vaulted ceiling, a big beautiful bathroom, and lounge-esque patio area. Huts over the lagoon have glass panels in the floors to watch fish swim by and private steps for snorkeling in the crystal clear waters off the patio. If that’s not enough, breakfast is delivered by canoe at your request.

The path to the main restaurant and bar is an elevated, polished-ironwood walkway over a large koi pond. The gleaming natural wood theme is consistent throughout the pitched roof facility. Dining at the Moorea hotel is an indulgence. Try the elaborate seafood bar complete with grilled langoustine lobsters and oysters on the half shell. The meal is complimented with white wine, live music, and Polynesian dancers.

Moorea is known for growing vanilla beans, pineapples, and papayas. An island tour from Moorea Transport brings you up close and personal to these native crops.

There are few restaurants in town, but one of them, Te Hono Iti, is featured in the book “1000 Places to See Before You Die.” The tables are situated over shallow bay waters. Stingrays and petite sharks race to eat meat scraps waiters toss over the railing. The food is fabulously French—foie gras, seafood bisque, and Mahi Mahi mousse with rich lobster sauce.

Moorea, rumored to be the most beautiful island on earth, is the perfect place to honeymoon and start your new life as one.


Hilton Hotel Tahiti
Ph: (689) 86 48 48
Fax: (689) 86 48 40

Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort & Spa
Ph: (689) 55 11 11
Fax: (689) 55 11 55

Moorea Transport
Ph: (689) 56 12 86

– Laurette Veres
photo: Tom Flynn


April 11, 2011 by  
Filed under Blogs, Travel Blog

On a recent trip to San Miguel de Allende, I had the opportunity to attend a tequila tasting.  I’ve attended many wine tastings in my time, but this was my first tequila tasting.  Handcrafted in small batches in Tequila, Mexico, Casa Dragones is a new, 100% Blue Agave Joven tequila with an exceptionally smooth taste that is best savored slowly, one sip at a time. One so I sipped.  It was smooth.  Really smooth.

The secret is to discard any Spring Break flashbacks you might have.  Tequila can be good.  And smooth.

Since its United States debut in fall 2009, Casa Dragones Tequila has earned praise from well-known chefs, top sommeliers and tequila aficionados for its distinctive taste, aroma and body that reflect the care and precision that go into its production.

The production is limited due to the meticulous attention to detail it takes to create each bottle by hand.   Co-founder and CEO Bertha González Nieves says, “For us, it’s one bottle at a time, and we never want that to change.”

Swirling a glass reveals its rich, silky body and long, pronounced legs, which leave a sleek texture on the palate.  One sip releases hints of vanilla and spiced undertones balanced with notes of pear for a uniquely smooth taste.

Co-founder Bob Pittman, a former AOL Time Warner COO and a founder of MTV and Pilot Group LLC, says, “Our vision was to produce a tequila with no ‘wince factor’ or harsh aftertaste.  We achieved it, and more.”

The name Casa Dragones is inspired by the legendary Dragones from San Miguel de Allende, who led one of the movements that sparked the Mexican Independence.  La Casa Dragones, the stables where the Dragones spent much of their time, still stands on a narrow, cobbled street in San Miguel de Allende.  Today, La Casa Dragones is home to a new tequila that defies the ordinary.  Casa Dragones Tequila is unique in every way, a testament to the spirit of independence.

To learn more about Casa Dragones Tequila, please visit www.casadragones.com.


Locally Grown Food

April 11, 2011 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

By Lynn Ashby                                                            11 April 2011


THE GROCERY STORE – These days we can buy almost any fruit or vegetable we wish, year ‘round. Here are big tomatoes and little tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, apples from Virginia and Chile. Some odd looking berries from New Zealand. Garlic from — no, it can’t be — China! Must they furnish everything? We’ve got mangos and bananas you can pick right off the tree.

A few years ago organic food was hot. We still see signs proclaiming “organically grown,” although recent studies have shown there is not a fig’s worth, or lettuce’s worth, of difference in organic and non-organic foods – except price. Today, however, those living off the fad of the land offer us everything “locally grown.” Be it fruit, milk, flowers, calves’ livers, if it’s locally grown it’s better.

The reasoning is obvious: if the cucumbers come from down the street, it means they are fresher, fewer chemicals, and grown on smaller farms. Also, by buying locally grown, we are not only sticking it to the plantation owner in Florida paying his hired help a dollar a day, but we are supporting the local economy. Not mentioned is the other side of the locality – the cabbage grower in California or the poor peon in Mexico who is trying to make a living, pay his taxes, and is local to his economy, school district and church. Too bad. Our local is better than your local.

This brings us to Kathleen Merrigan, who recently was shopping for groceries in Washington and saw a beautiful display of plump strawberries and a sign that said they were “local produce.” But she then noticed the package itself, which said the strawberries were grown in California, well over 2,000 miles away. But Kathleen Merrigan was not just any shopper. She is the Number 2 official in the U.S. Department of Agriculture and goes around the country preaching “locally grown.”

There wasn’t much she could do about the misleading proclamation, as there is no official “locally grown” law. On the other hand, if the label says “orange juice” the product has to be just that. This container of OJ in my fridge has an entire side full of information, with lists of potassium, sodium, etc. It tells me more than I really want to know. Who produces it? Coca-Cola. But is it locally grown? Not exactly. The juice comes from the U.S., Costa Rica and Brazil.

Texas has a buy-locally program, Texas Grown. Its website proclaims: “The Texas Grown program was designed by the Texas Department of Agriculture and strongly supported by Commissioner Rick Perry.” Perry left that job 13 bloody years ago! Here’s another flash from our state government for a locally-grown fiesta, “Saturday, March 27, 2010.” Huh? That event may be over by now. We are not competing very well in this regard.

Vermont defines “local” as grown within the state or within 30 miles of where it is sold. Massachusetts has similar regulations for what it calls “native.” Maryland recently proposed requiring retailers to disclose what state a food is from if they advertise it as locally grown.

The U.S. Ag Dept. has no generally accepted definition of local food, thus retailers can use their own standards. Whole Foods Market, based in Austin but now all over the place, says a food cannot be labeled as local unless it traveled to the store in seven or fewer hours by car or truck. Supervalu, which operates some Albertsons stores, defines local as within regions that can encompass four or five states. Safeway, which owns Randall’s, defines local as coming from the same state or a one-day drive from field to store. Wal-Mart labels produce as local if it is from the same state where it is sold.

These criteria may be fine for some states, but complicate shopping for Texans. If you buy an orange from a Wal-Mart in Orange, for example, it could not be labeled local if it came from a mile east, in Louisiana, but could have a local label coming from El Paso, 847 miles away. You go to Randall’s in Amarillo and want to buy a locally grown tomato, which would be accurately labeled if, according to the store’s regulations,

it comes from Texas, maybe Brownsville. But Amarillo is closer to Salt Lake City; Pierre, South Dakota; Des Moines, Iowa; St. Louis, Mo. and Natchez, Miss., than it is to that tomato sprig in Brownsville.

OK, you are in Brownsville and want to purchase some Texas avocadoes from, say, Dalhart. But Dalhart doesn’t grow avocadoes. Fortunately, in Brownsville you are closer to Guatemala than to Dalhart, and Guatemala grows avocadoes. I am in a Whole Foods Market in Houston, and the only fruit that merits a “locally grown” label must have travelled no more than seven hours by car or truck. If the fruit came from 730 miles to the west, it originated in El Paso. Traveling that same distance east, it would have come from near Jacksonville, Fla. Finally, you shop at any Albertsons in Texas, knowing that the store’s criteria for locally grown is any place within four or five states. If “within” means contiguous, or touching, we are talking elk’s tongue from Winnipeg and clams from Delaware. All “locally grown.”

Now here’s the oddity in this. For generations around Texas, all food was locally grown. It came from the garden in the backyard or was shot from the front porch. Not that along ago, the only semi-fresh seafood you could get in Dallas was at Jay’s Marine Grill. Fishermen probably loaded their catch on a truck in Galveston which was driven at 45 mph up Highway 75 and got to Dallas the next day. And tasted like it. For years, if you wanted lobster in Texas, you got frozen lobster tails from South Africa. Recently I saw live lobsters floating in a tank at a grocery store in Kerrville.

If you want locally grown, better pick it yourself.


Ashby is locally grown at ashby2@comcast.net







TUTS presents Rock of Ages

April 9, 2011 by  
Filed under Events

Theatre Under The Stars (TUTS) will present ROCK OF AGES at Hobby Center for the Performing Arts from May 31 to June 12, 2011.  In 1987 on the Sunset Strip, a small-town girl met a big-city dreamer – and in L.A.’s most legendary rock club, they fell in love to the greatest songs of the ‘80’s.  ROCK OF AGES is a hilarious, feel-good love story told through the hit songs of iconic rockers Journey, Styx, REO Speedwagon, Foreigner, Pat Benatar, Whitesnake, and many more. Don’t miss this bodacious good time where big hair meets big dreams and the result is totally awesome.

Coming direct from Broadway, Tony Award® Nominee Constantine Maroulis of “American Idol” fame will reprise his acclaimed performance as Drew in the First National Tour of the five-time Tony Award® nominated smash-hit musical ROCK OF AGES. Rolling Stone says, Rock of Ages has found a perfect lead in Maroulis,” and so like Bartles & Jaymes, big hair and Dep, some things are just meant for each other.

ROCK OF AGES is directed by Tony Award® Nominee Kristin Hanggi (Bare, Pussycat Dolls on the Sunset Strip) and choreographed by Kelly Devine (Jersey Boys – Associate Choreographer). The book is by Chris D’Arienzo (writer and director of the film Barry Munday), the original arrangements are by David Gibbs (Counting Crows, Film: That Thing You Do) and the Music Supervision, Arrangements & Orchestrations are by Ethan Popp (Tarzan; Europe: We Will Rock You, Mamma Mia).

Scenic design is by Beowulf Boritt (Spelling Bee, LoveMusik), costume design is by Tony Award® Nominee Gregory Gale (Cyrano, The Wedding Singer), lighting design is by Jason Lyons (The Threepenny Opera), sound design is by Tony Award® Nominee Peter Hylenski (Shrek), and projection design is by Zachary Borovay (A Catered Affair).

ROCK OF AGES opened on April 7, 2009 at Broadway’s Brooks Atkinson Theatre to critical acclaim, following an off-Broadway engagement in the fall of 2008. The Broadway production was nominated for Five 2009 Tony Awards®, including Best Musical, and New Line Records released the Original Broadway Cast Recording in July 2009, featuring 28 songs from the show. A New Line Cinema/Warner Bros. film of the musical, directed by Adam Shankman (Hairspray), is scheduled to be released in 2011.

ROCK OF AGES will head down under and open at the Comedy Theatre, Melbourne, Australia in April 2011.

ROCK OF AGES is produced by Matthew Weaver, Carl Levin, Jeff Davis, Barry Habib, Scott Prisand, Janet Billig Rich, Hillary Weaver, Relativity Media and The Araca Group.

In celebration of ROCK OF AGES, Theatre Under The Stars will offer a number of special events and opportunities:

  • Power Ballads Sing-Along: Tuesday, May 3 at 8 p.m. at the Continental Club (3700 Main Street)

TUTS and the Aurora Picture Show will partner for a special free screening:  a Sing-Along Extravaganza hosted by Henri Mazza of the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, highlighting the best music videos from the 1980s hair band era. Get ready to “Come On, Feel the Noise” and rock out to your favorite 80’s power ballads. Sing-a-long screenings take the best parts of going to a concert and the best of going to a movie theater, and mix it all together, leaving you with something completely new. Included in the lineup for this special ROCK OF AGES screening are videos from Journey, Night Ranger, REO Speedwagon, Pat Benatar, Twisted Sister, Poison, Asia, Whitesnake and more. Get your lighters ready!

  • VIP Seating: Sit in the “Mosh Pit”!!!

If you “Wanna Rock” in the front row of a concert, this is your chance! Each performance features special stage-side seating.  A total of 6 tables (4 chairs per table) are available in the VIP section, complete with a delicious selection of favorite gourmet concert snacks, bottled water and 8 artisan beers. There are only a select number of these seats available, so buy your tickets today and rock out as a VIP!  Visit TUTS.com or call 713-887-TUTS (8887) to purchase tickets.  The VIP seating is sponsored by Silver Eagle Distributors.

  • Dinner & Theatre Package: Wednesday, June 1 or June 8Guests can enjoy dinner at III Forks at 5:30 p.m. with a performance of ROCK OF AGES immediately following at 7:30 p.m.  These packages are available online only at TUTS.com
  • OUT@TUTS Post-Show Cast Party: Thursday, June 2

A cabaret-style event at Artista Restaurant for TUTS’ GLBT friends.  Visit TUTS.com/OUT for more information.

  • Saint Arnold Brewery Pre-Party and ROCK OF AGES Package: Thursday, June 2Toast to the awesome 80s at the Saint Arnold Brewery (2000 Lyons Avenue).  Embrace your inner rock star with a tour of the brewery, appetizers from Spaghetti Warehouse and mind-blowing, face-melting music from the era starting at 5 p.m.  Keep the throw-back night rollin’ with a school bus ride to the Hobby Center at 6:30 p.m. for a performance of ROCK OF AGES.  The bus will return guests to Saint Arnold Brewery immediately following the performance.  Prices for this package start at $42. Visit TUTS.com or call 713-887-TUTS (8887) to purchase tickets.

Tickets for ROCK OF AGES (starting at only $24) are available on-line at TUTS.com, by phone at (713) 558-TUTS (8887), outside the Houston area at (888) 558-3882, or in person at the Theatre Under The Stars Box Office, located at 800 Bagby at Walker, Monday – Friday 10 a.m. – 6 p.m., and Saturday – Sunday 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.  An audio described performance is available Sunday, June 12 at 2 p.m.; open captioning is available Sunday, June 12 at 7:30 p.m. The Hobby Center is wheelchair accessible.  Discounts are available for groups of 15 or more and may be purchased by calling (713) 558-8888 or via email at groupsales@tuts.com.

TUTS’ presentation of ROCK OF AGES is made possible by the generosity of Fluor and Berg & Androphy.

Theatre Under The Stars 2010-11 Sensational Season is generously sponsored by St. Luke’s Episcopal Health System. For all of Theatre Under The Stars’ 2010-2011 shows, air transportation is provided by United Airlines, the official airline of Theatre Under The Stars. Media sponsors include ABC-13 and Houston Chronicle.  Season support is funded in part by grants from the City of Houston through the Theater District Association and the Texas Commission on the Arts.

Founded in 1968, Theatre Under The Stars is Houston’s acclaimed non-profit musical theatre company under the direction of President and CEO John C. Breckenridge.  TUTS was the first theatrical organization in Houston to perform free to the public in 1968 at Miller Outdoor Theatre in Hermann Park, and is the only Houston arts organization that has performed there free to the public every year since the building opened.  Since its founding by Frank M. Young, TUTS has produced more than 300 musicals including many local, national and world premieres such as Kopit and Yeston’s Phantom,  Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, Jekyll & Hyde, and Irving Berlin’s White Christmas as well as critically acclaimed re-inventions of classics Cabaret and Les Miserables.  Through its membership in the Independent Presenters Network, TUTS has helped bring Bombay Dreams, 9 to 5, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Spamalot, Legally Blonde, Ragtime, Curtains and The Color Purple to Broadway.

As a way to continue the tradition of musical theatre, TUTS Education provides instruction and stage experience for more than 21,000 students annually, allowing students to flourish in a year-round schedule of classes. With a common goal – to expand arts access to children of all abilities – The River Performing and Visual Arts Center (The River) merged with Theatre Under The Stars in 2010, creating a unique, barrier free, arts education model for non-profit musical theatre performing arts organizations. With the merger, TUTS Education now provides extended on-site programming as well as off-site programming for children in schools, hospitals and other community-based sites. Housed in the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, TUTS also annually presents the Tommy Tune Awards, honoring the best and brightest in Houston’s high school musical theatre programs.

Cleaning Products

April 9, 2011 by  
Filed under Edit

Dear EarthTalk: Why don’t cleaning products have to list their ingredients, and are these products tested for what they might do to your health? — Patricia Greenville, Bethel, CT
Since cleaning products aren’t food, beverages or drugs meant to be ingested, they aren’t regulated, per se, by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. However, makers are required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to list ingredients that are active disinfectants or potentially harmful. Otherwise, they usually keep their other ingredients secret, presumably so competitors can’t copy their formulas.

But consumer advocate Sloan Barnett, author of Green Goes with Everything, doesn’t give manufacturers the benefit of that doubt. “Call me suspicious, but I honestly don’t think it’s because the recipe is top secret,” she says. “If it was, there wouldn’t be so many competing products with identical ingredients.” Barnett thinks manufacturers don’t want to scare off consumers by disclosing how many potentially harmful chemicals are flying under the EPA’s radar in their products.

“The government only requires companies to list ‘chemicals of known concern’ on their labels. The key word here is ‘known’,” she says. “The fact is that the government has no idea whether most of the chemicals used in everyday cleaning products are safe because it doesn’t test them, and it doesn’t require manufacturers to test them either.”

She adds that the EPA, under the terms of 1976’s Toxic Substances Control Act, “can’t require chemical companies to prove the safety of their products unless the agency itself can show that the product poses a health risk—which the EPA does not have the resources to do since, according to one estimate, it receives some two thousand new applications for approval every year.” She cites a recent study by the non-profit Environmental Working Group, which found that the EPA approved most applications within three weeks even though more than half provided no information on toxicity whatsoever.

Regardless, consumers should be familiar with what warning labels are on cleaning products. “All household cleaners that contain known hazardous chemicals must carry a warning label that spells out potential risks, along with precautionary steps and first-aid instructions,” reports Consumer Reports’ Greener Choices website.

Some manufacturers are beginning to be more transparent about their ingredients. The Clorox Company, for example, one of the largest manufacturers of cleaning products, now publishes full lists of the ingredients for all of its brands on its corporate responsibility website, CloroxCSR.com. Many praise Clorox for doing so; others argue that, whether or not ingredients are disclosed, the company—like many others—is still in the business of making products that pose health and environmental hazards.

Generally speaking, if you’re looking for safer alternatives, browse the cleaning products sections of natural foods markets such as Whole Foods, which are populated with lesser-known but more green-friendly brands. For do-it-yourselfers, the Greener Choices website also lists recipes for eco- and health-friendly homemade household cleaners using ingredients like baking soda, borax, lemon juice and vinegar.

CONTACTS: Greener Choices, www.greenerchoices.org; Clorox, www.cloroxcsr.com.


EarthTalk® is written and edited by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss and is a registered trademark of E – The Environmental Magazine ( www.emagazine.com). Send questions to: earthtalk@emagazine.com. Subscribe: www.emagazine.com/subscribe. Free Trial Issue: www.emagazine.com/trial.

Miller Outdoor Theatre May 2011 Performances

April 6, 2011 by  
Filed under Events

There’s something for everyone on stage at Miller Outdoor Theatre in Hermann Park. From daytime programs especially for young children to family friendly evening performances of music, dance, theatre and more, this is Houston’s best entertainment value. Admission is FREE!

For a complete schedule, visit www.milleroutdoortheatre.com.

Please note important change in Tickets and Seating policy and procedure this 2011:
***ALL performances except for movies and the daytime children’s performances require tickets for assigned seating under the canopy.

Free tickets are available on a first-come first-serve basis (4 per person over age 16 while they last) at the Miller Outdoor Theatre box office the day of the performance between the hours of 10:30 a.m.―1 p.m. for assigned seating under the canopy. If tickets remain at 1 p.m., the box office will re-open one hour before show time to distribute the remaining tickets. As always, open seating on the hill.

Under normal circumstances, all unoccupied/unclaimed seats are released 5 minutes before the show is scheduled to begin. We encourage all patrons to be in their assigned seats at least 10 minutes before showtime to insure that their seat is not released. Again, there is NO charge for tickets. Tickets may not be reserved by phone. Only four (4) tickets per person. At managements’ discretion, all unoccupied seats may be released at any time for any reason.

Cinco de Mayo Celebration
May 1, 8 p.m.

This program from San Antonio’s acclaimed Guadalupe Dance Company makes its Houston debut! A celebration of folkloric and flamenco dance, the evening also features a performance from Mariachi Azteca de America, live conjunto music and more!
Presented by Miller Outdoor Theatre

Highlights of Houston Ballet
May 6 – 8, 8 p.m.

Three diverse works from two of today’s most sought-after choreographers – Stanton Welch and Christopher Bruce.
Produced by Houston Ballet

Romeo and Juliet
May 9 – 12, 11 a.m.

Shakespeare’s popular story of two star-crossed lovers, adapted from Gounod’s opera. Appropriate for all ages.
Produced by Houston Grand Opera / HGOco

¡Ritmo Latino!
May 13, 8 p.m.

Society for the Performing Arts presents Ely Guerra, 2010 Latin Grammy winner for Best Alternative Music Album.
One of the most original and intriguing musicians in Mexican rock, Ms. Guerra’s songs incorporate rock, electronica and the torchy emotion of her culture.
Presented by Society for the Performing Arts

The Grass Roots
May 14, 8 p.m.

The band performs hit after Top 40 hit: “Midnight Confessions,” “Temptation Eyes,” “Baby Hold On” and more! The Fab 5 opens.
Presented by Miller Outdoor Theatre

Madame Butterfly
(Captioned performance May 20; Audio described performance May 22)
May 20 and 22, 8 p.m.

One of the world’s most popular and beloved operas, featuring Ana María Martínez, the HGO Orchestra, Chorus and members of HGO Studio.
Produced by Houston Grand Opera

Your Name Means the Sea
May 21, 8 p.m.

An American artist and Azerbaijani singer weave a tale about the strength of new love and beautiful art which overcomes the barriers of ethnic and religious differences.
Produced by Houston Grand Opera

Dancin’ In the Streets: Motown & More Revue
May 26-29; 8:15 p.m.

Explosive R&B revue featuring the best Texas artists performing legendary soul hits.
Produced by BACE Productions and One Delta Plaza Educational Center

Houston Arboretum & Nature Center May 2011 Calendar

April 6, 2011 by  
Filed under Events

The Houston Arboretum & Nature Center, a lush 155-acre nature preserve, is one of the city’s greatest natural treasures. Located in Memorial Park, at 4501 Woodway Drive, the Arboretum is home to more than 75 varieties of native trees, 160 species of birds, 16 species of turtles, 10 species of frogs and 33 kinds of butterflies. Visitors can explore and enjoy five miles of walking trails to experience nature at its most dramatic and in exquisite detail. The Arboretum grounds are open to the public daily, except major holidays, from dawn to dusk.

The Nature Center building is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Discovery Room is open every day except Mondays, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and provides fun, hands-on activities and exhibits to explore nature up close. Admission is free, but donations to support this nonprofit organization are appreciated.

A bustling schedule of year round activities and courses are available for adults, children and families to create a sense of wonder and appreciation for nature. For more information, call 713-681-8433 or visit www.houstonarboretum.org.

Pre-registration is required for the following activities/events.
Call 713-681-8433 or visit www.houstonarboretum.org for more information

Summer Nature Trekkers Camp for kids
June 6 – August 12
9 a.m. – 3 p.m.
(limited half day options are available)
Kids can explore everything from hawks and other birds that soar in our skies to the microscopic creatures that live in ponds in the Houston Arboretum & Nature Center’s Nature Trekkers Camps this summer. The week-long classes offer hands-on learning experiences for children ages 5 to 12 under the guidance of staff naturalists, and include both indoor and outdoor activities at the 155-acre nature sanctuary. Camp topics include: “Bird Life,” June 6-10 and July 11-15; “MicroWorld Explorer,” June 13-17 and July 18-22; “Reptiles & Amphibians,” June 20-24 and July 25-29; “Angry Earth,” June 27-July 1 or August 1-5; and “Spiders,” July 5-8 or August 8-12. Children are taught by qualified staff naturalists in classes by age (5 & 6, 7 & 8, 9-12). Full day camp (9 a.m. – 3 p.m.): $250 members; $300 non-members. Morning only camp (9 a.m. – noon): $130 members; $165 non-members. For more information, call 713-681-8433 or visit www.houstonarboretum.org/summercamp.asp

Sunday, May 1 or May 8
2 – 5 p.m.
Build Your Own Rain Barrel

Rain barrels are not only great for collecting and storing water for future use in the garden, but they can also help you reduce your water bill. In this hands-on, make and take workshop taught by Arboretum conservation director Joe Blanton, learn how a one-time investment of less than $100 will allow you to harvest 50 gallons of water from your roof every time it rains. Cost is $75 for members; $95 for non-members. Cost of workshop includes materials to make one rain barrel. All tools will be supplied. Additional barrels and conversion kits will be available for sale at the end of class for $55.

Wednesdays, May 4, 11, 18 & 25
5:45 – 6:45 p.m.
Saturdays, May 7, 14, 21 & 28
9 – 10 a.m.
Introductory Tai Chi

The Arboretum provides a serene, natural backdrop for this graceful and meditative form of exercise. Class will be held outside in the nature sanctuary except when weather conditions are prohibitive. Cost is $15 per session or $45 per month for 1 class per week; $70 per month for 2 classes per week. Note: Beginners are encouraged to attend an Orientation class held outside, the first Wednesday of the month from 6:45-7:45 p.m.

Thursdays, May 5, 12, 19 & 26
5:45 – 6:45 p.m.
Yoga on the way Home

Why fight the traffic? Slow down and relax in the peaceful beauty of the Arboretum during a one-hour yoga session in the Arboretum’s classroom overlooking the forest. Cost is $15 per session or $12 per session when registering for a month.

Saturday, May 14
8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Wildflowers & Texas History Tour

This day trip will include opportunities to see and photograph many species of wildflowers found in the Post Oak Savannah eco-region of Texas. Areas that will be visited include Washington on the Brazos State Park, Chappell Hill, Brenham and the Blue Bell Country Store at the Blue Bell Creamery. Trip leader Glenn Olsen is a former president of the Native Plant Society of Texas. Cost, which includes van transportation, is $70 for members; $90 for non-members

Saturday, May 14
7 – 10 p.m.
Texas Barbeque and Star Party

Enjoy an evening at the Arboretum with food, drinks and star gazing. After a picnic barbeque dinner, stroll through the forest to the Arboretum’s Meadow Deck for viewing of the full moon and night sky with members of the Houston Astronomical Society. Cost is $35 per adult, which includes a one year membership to the Arboretum; $70 for family of 4 (2 adults, 2 children); $10 each for additional children. Registration is limited.

Sunday, May 15 or May 22
2 – 5 p.m.
Build Your Own Composting Barrel

Learn how to reduce your amount of garbage and compost your own yard and kitchen wastes in this hands-on workshop where each participant will build their own 55-gallon composting barrel.
Note: Cost of workshop includes materials to make one 55-gallon composting barrel. All tools will be supplied. Additional barrels and conversion kits will be available for sale at the end of class for $55.
Cost is $75 for members; $95 for non-members

Friday, May 20 or Saturday, May 21
9 – 10:15 a.m. or 10:45 a.m. –12 p.m.
Tadpole Troopers: Slithery Snakes
Ages 3–5 with an adult

Tadpole Troopers is a nature class for 3, 4 and 5 year olds with an adult. In May, children will learn how a snake uses its body to slither and climb up and down. Cost is $15 for members; $28 for non-members.

Saturday, May 21
9 – 11 a.m. or 1 – 3 p.m.
Naturalist Explorers: Butterflies
Ages 5 to 8

This spring, Naturalist Explorers students will explore the insect world. May’s class will study the life cycle of butterflies and go in search of butterflies in the Arboretum. Cost is $18 for members; $33 for non-members.

Saturday, May 21
9 – 11 a.m.
EcoTrackers: Magnificent Metamorphosis
Ages 9 to 12

EcoTracker classes inspire young naturalists with hands-on, engaging activities about a nature topic each month. In May, children will search for butterflies at different stages of the life cycle and learn how to attract butterflies to their own backyard. Cost is $18 for members; $33 for non-members.

Sunday, May 29
1 – 5 p.m.
Edible Wild Plants

The Texas landscape is filled with an abundance of wild edibles. Learn where to find, how to identify and proper preparation of the fruits, shoots, roots, and salad greens growing all around you. Please wear comfortable walking shoes, and bring hat, water, and bug repellent. A pen/pencil and a camera are also recommended. A plant guide sheet will be supplied. Cost is $40 for members; $60 for non-members

Monday, May 30
Building closed.


4501 Woodway Drive • Houston Texas 77024 • 713-681-8433 • www.HoustonArboretum.org

Trailer Park Boys Live Starring: Ricky, Julian and Bubbles

April 6, 2011 by  
Filed under Events

The Drunk, High and Unemployed Tour
Wed, June 8th, 2011 8:00 PM (Doors open at: 7:30 PM)

Wortham Center – Cullen Theater

501 Texas, Houston, TX 77002 (713 237-1439)
All Ages. Tickets Range from $29.00, $34.00 in advance, all seats $2.50 higher day of show. Tickets available from TicketMaster.

Ricky, Julian and Bubbles are back with a BRAND NEW live show – and this time they don’t have parole officers with them and they’re not on Community Service – they are DRUNK, HIGH and UNEMPLOYED! But not for long if Bubbles has his way!

Spend an evening with the Boys as Bubbles tries to create a new career for himself in the movie industry, Julian puts his latest money-making scams into action and Ricky has an idea that can ‘change the world!”

Building on the success of the hit Showcase television show Trailer Park Boys, Ricky, Julian and Bubbles return to present the brand new live show “The Drunk, High and Unemployed Tour”.

Having answered to the law in the “Ricky, Julian and Bubbles Community Service Variety Show,” preaching the dangers of substance abuse to avoid jail time, the crew are now on the road without parole officers. Expanding their reach by leaving Sunnyvale behind, Bubbles tries to create a new career in the movie industry, Julian puts his latest money making scams into action and Ricky has an idea that can change the world.

Originally the concept of creator/director Mike Clattenburg, Trailer Park Boys began as a short film starring John Paul Tremblay (Julian) and Robb Wells (Ricky) which debuted to rave reviews at the 1999 Atlantic Film Festival. The premise: a camera crew chronicles the boys’ adventures living in the Sunnyvale trailer park in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.

Recruiting Mike Smith (Bubbles) to complete the haphazard trio, the idea spun off a mockumentarystyle show which ran for seven seasons and produced two TV specials on Showcase (2001-2008). The show was Showcases’ high-rated Canadian program and airs in over 15 countries. Guest starts included Rush’s Alex Lifeson, Sebastian Bach and Rita MacNeil.

Ricky, Julian and Bubbles’ first full-length film Trailer Park Boys: The Movie hit theatres in 2007 and the follow up Trailer Park Boys: Countdown to Liquor Day served as a finale to the series in 2009.



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First Amendment

April 4, 2011 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby


Xavier Alvarez appeared at a public meeting of the Three Valleys Municipal Water District in California in 2007 wearing a Medal of Honor. Alvarez said he received it while serving as a U.S. Marine. No doubt he was praised for his heroism, maybe somebody bought him a drink afterwards. There was just one problem, as you may suspect by now, Alvarez was a total phony. This obviously makes us think of Gregory Lee Johnson and Texas.

Let’s start with Xavier Alvarez. For wearing an unauthorized medal, he was prosecuted under a 2005 federal law, the Stolen Valor Act, which is pretty self-explanatory. (His case was the first one prosecuted.) He entered a guilty plea in federal court in Los Angeles and was sentenced to three years’ probation, 416 hours of community service and fines of $5,100. But he challenged the constitutionality of the law.

A three-judge panel of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled 2-1 that the law was unconstitutional because it abridged the wannabe hero’s First Amendment protection of freedom of speech. The case went to the full 26-judge federal appeals court which upheld the lower court’s decision, although seven conservative justices disagreed, saying that “the right to lie is not a fundamental right under the Constitution.”

Why are we not surprised? You see, the Ninth Circuit Court is considered in judicial circles to be the Loony Tunes by the Bay. This is the same court where judges ruled in 2002 the “under God” part of the Pledge of Allegiance was unconstitutional. That was overturned.

In the Stolen Valor case, writing for the majority, Chief Judge Alex Kozinski decreed that if the government can go after someone who lies about an award, it can prosecute “the dentist who assures you it won’t hurt a bit.” Hiz Honor also wrote, “Phrases such as ‘I’m working late tonight, hunny,’ ‘I got stuck in traffic’ and ‘I didn’t inhale’ could all be made into crimes.” He compared Alvarez’ fib with perpetuating a child’s belief in Santa Claus.

A brief side note: The medal is not the “Congressional Medal of Honor.” Leave out the Congressional. It is awarded in the name of Congress. Also, we recipients never say we “won” the honor. It’s not a lottery. It is “awarded” or “received.” Finally, isn’t the endearing term, “Honey,” not “hunny”?

Anyway, freedom of speech is a slippery slope. A few weeks ago SCOTUS (that’s journalese for the Supreme Court Of The United States) ruled that those jerks who harass funerals of fallen troops have that First Amendment right. They show up a 1,000 feet from the gravesite singing songs and waving signs that read, “You’re Going to Hell” and “Thank God for Dead Soldiers” as part of their protest of the government’s policy on don’t-ask, don’t-tell.
Albert Snyder, the father of a U.S. Marine killed in Iraq in 2006, whose funeral was protested by the group, sued its leader, Rev. Fred Phelps, and members of his Westboro Baptist Church. A jury awarded Snyder $5 million, but the case ended up in front of SCOTUS which ruled the flock of the Westboro Baptist Church can protest. Even so, Rev. Phelps and his followers are lucky the pallbearers at young Snyder’s funeral weren’t members of his Marine rifle platoon, otherwise the cemetery might have needed more tombstones.

The First Amendment was cited again when some bozo preacher (what is it about our hate-filled Christian leaders?) wanted to burn a Koran. Rev. Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center said he would burn copies of the Koran to protest the religion of Islam. He backed off after he got enough TV exposure. In Amarillo, copycat David Grisham, director of Repent Amarillo, also planned to burn a Koran in public. But just as he was ready, Jacob Isom, a 23-year-old skateboarder, snatched the book from Grisham’s clutches and ran. Later, Isom told a TV crew: “I was like, ‘Dude, you have no Koran!’ ”

As all of us constitutional scholars know, the Bill of Rights was an add-on to the Constitution, and has been in dispute ever since. The Sedition Act of 1798, signed by President John Adams, allowed the prosecution of anyone suspected of plotting against the federal government. The act also made it a crime to speak or write maliciously about the president or Congress. The Sedition Act expired two years later and was never renewed. It’s just as well, otherwise the entire Fox News staff would be behind bars.

Freedom of speech has come under fire especially during wartime. For example, during World War I, Congress passed several laws, including the Espionage Act of 1917, limiting language that could encourage disloyalty to the U.S. Also during that time, a Federal Censorship Board regulated taking “subversive” books off the shelves of stores and libraries. There goes Barnes & Noble.
There have been umpteen legal fights over crosses and the Ten Commandants in public places — Houston had a long-running battle about a Bible in a glass case in front of the county courthouse – all swirling around the First Amendment. Then there was the recent Citizens United case. Judges have generally upheld the freedom issue, but it has long been the rule that you can’t yell, “Fire!” in a crowded theater, unless it is preceded by, “Ready, aim” as I was telling John Wilkes Booth.

All of which brings us to Gregory Lee Johnson. During the 1984 Republican National Convention in Dallas, Johnson set an American flag on fire. He was arrested and charged with violating a Texas law criminalizing vandalism of venerated objects. Johnson was convicted and sentenced to one year in prison and fined $2,000. His case went to SCOTUS and, again, the Supremes ruled that the law was unconstitutional because it limited freedom of speech. Today no one knows what happened to Johnson, and no one cares. As for Xavier Alvarez, he was imprisoned on an unrelated fraud matter. Good.

Ashby judges at ashby2@comcast.net

Breathtakingly Beautiful Bora Bora

April 4, 2011 by  
Filed under Travel Blog

Breathtakingly Beautiful

Bora Bora

Honeymoon a la Nicole Kidman and Kate Walsh on the secluded, mystical isle of Bora Bora.

This past spring we were privileged to experience the allure of this French Polynesian island first-hand. We couldn’t dream up a more majestic place to celebrate the beginning of a new life together.
When we landed in Bora Bora, a private yacht picked us up from the airport and escorted us to the only over-water lobby on the island at the Bora Bora Nui Resort and Spa. Our private over the water bungalow was situated on a little islet, or motu as locals call them. We were just off the coast of Bora Bora and our room directly faced the enchanting island. The walls of our hut were covered in solid, dark wood and authentic Polynesian artwork. The glass paneled patio floor, living room end tables, and bathtub paneling all looked directly into the ocean floor. The roof was pitched 16 to 20 feet above our heads giving the room a palatial, majestic aura. Every night we slumbered in a large canopy bed surrounded by white linens that created a private, intimate shelter.

Relaxation, recreation, and rejuvenation were all we thought about during our time at the resort. Sweeping ocean views, the largest infinity pool on the island, and hillside treatment rooms at the full spa were just some of the reasons we fell madly in love with Bora Bora.
From snorkeling to kite surfing, the island is a paradise for water sport lovers. We joined Maohi Nui Tours for a lagoon excursion. They picked us up in a red, flower-encrusted boat piloted by an authentic Polynesian warrior. His long bushy hair, tanned tattooed body, and tribal dress were slightly intimidating at first. More than once he looked over and snarled, “Who’s for lunch?”
We first snorkeled through a magnificent coral garden. Next, we swam with and fed stingrays with our bare hands. We floated past the island’s protective reef into 30-foot crystal clear water. The water boiled as our warrior guide threw some fish nuggets overboard. The dorsal fins of large sharks zipped past our boat. “Into the water,” our guide ordered us. “You stay in boat, I bite.”
Scary? Yes. Incredible? Absolutely. There were thousands of tropical fish and about 15 black tip sharks ranging from four to six feet in length. They swam next to us, at us, snuck up behind us, and darted out from under us. At first we hug the hull of the boat for dear life (like that’s going to save us!). Gradually we swam out into the open ocean. Far below, a giant shadow slipped out of our view only to return later with a friend. Lemon sharks six to sixteen feet swam along the ocean floor searching for dinner. We spent thirty minutes swimming with sharks, yet the memory will last a lifetime.
Our warrior changed into festive tribal garb as he steered the boat with his feet and played an eight-string ukulele. He sung traditional chants and ended with “Stand by Me” as the boat docked on a private beach. He rolled back banana leaves from a hole in the ground and finally showed us who’s for lunch—a Polynesian barbecue. Half of a pig, breadfruit, bananas, poi, and chicken with spinach had been roasting all morning. Raw tuna mixed with slaw and assorted chilled fruits were ready for us on a small table. No silverware here, hibiscus leaves were our plates. Ice-cold beer accompanied our feast. After our warrior shared stories and lessons from his grandfather, we sailed back to our resort to the hum of his soft voice and melodic ukulele.
As we mourned our impending departure on our last evening in Bora Bora, we looked up and saw the famous constellation, the Southern Cross—a textbook finish to our picturesque, starry-eyed getaway.
From the dramatic scenery to the once-in-a-lifetime adventure, Bora Bora is unequivocally a paradise for honeymooners.

Hilton Bora Bora Nui Resort & Spa
(689) 60 33 00

Maohi Nui Tour
(689) 67 69 94

– Laurette Veres
photography by Tom Flynn

Fresh Air Friday: A Picnic on the Plaza

April 4, 2011 by  
Filed under Events

Name: Houston-Galveston Area Council

When: Friday, April 8, 2011

Time: 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.

Location: Jones Plaza – Between Texas and Capitol in downtown

About Event: Fresh Air Friday: A Picnic on the Plaza is an annual event held in downtown Houston to highlight clean air programs that promote the use of alternative fuels, clean-engine technology and commute alternatives. Now in its eighth year, Fresh Air Friday will provide free food and activities to event attendees.

Texas Crawfish & Music Festival

April 3, 2011 by  
Filed under Events

Celebrating A Quarter Century As The Largest Crawfish Festival in the South Featuring 2 Weekends of Live Music, Family Fun and 25 Tons of Texas’ Best Crawfish May 13-15 & 20-22, 2011

WHAT: The 25th Anniversary of the Texas Crawfish & Music Festival (www.texascrawfishfestival.com), the largest and most established crawfish festival in the South, returns for TWO WEEKENDS of family-friendly fun featuring live music on three stages, tons of bands, hundreds of vendors, carnival rides, interactive games and activities for kids of all ages, as well as 25 TONS of the best Cajun Crawfish in the South!  The highly-anticipated outdoor event will take place Friday through Sunday in Preservation Park in Historic Old Town Spring on May 13-15 and 20-22, 2011. General admission tickets, as well as entertainment, food and shopping details, are available online at www.texascrawfishfestival.com.  The 2011 Texas Crawfish & Music Festival is sponsored by Bud Light.

The Texas Crawfish & Music Festival is the largest and most established crawfish festival in the South and a favorite annual event for Houstonians and tourists alike.  The festival features live entertainment on three stages from some of the top country and Texas country bands, zydeco, indie and rock acts along with carnival rides, midway games, exhibitions and interactive educational stations and activities for kids of all ages, plus the best Southern Louisiana food, Cajun-style crawfish and the spiciest fixings in the land!  The 25th Annual festival benefits the Spring Preservation League organization, a non-profit foundation which is dedicated to the preservation and beautification of Old Town Spring, community projects and maintains contributions to a variety of service organizations.

WHEN:          Friday, May 13 through Sunday, May 15, 2011

Friday, May 20 through Sunday, May 22, 2011

Fridays           6 p.m. to 12 a.m.

Saturdays       12 p.m. to 12 a.m.

Sundays          12 p.m. to 6 p.m.

WHERE:       Preservation Park in Historic Old Town Spring

130 Spring School Road

Spring, Texas 77373


TICKETS:     $12 General Admission tickets; Ages 12 and under are FREE when accompanied by an adult; FREE admission with current military ID; Event is open to all ages; Rain or Shine.

INFO: For more information and a complete schedule of events and entertainment, visit www.texascrawfishfestival.com.

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Galveston Island Food and Wine Festival April 14-17

April 3, 2011 by  
Filed under Events

Like Wine? Sample more than 100 wines from 22 vintners and choose from 11 restaurants for wine pairing dinners during the Second Annual Galveston Island Food and Wine Festival April 14-17. This year’s event offers more events and more wine pairing wines as the festival celebrates “Wines from Around the World.”

See the full schedule below:

Invitation-Only Event-April 14, 2011
The Galveston Island Food & Wine Festival, 2011: Wines From Around The World will officially commence with a Chaîne dinner at the famous Rudy & Paco’s. This is an event for La Chaîne des Rôtisseurs™ members who will be lending Galveston their palettes and picking the festival’s Grand Champion wines.
Premium Tasting- April 15, 2011, 6:00pm-8:00pm
The Premium Wine Tasting and Gulf Seafood Showcase will make its debut. Located inside the beautiful Old Galveston Square Gallery in the heart of the historic Strand District, this tasting will feature premium wines from more than 20 vineyards from around the world, with decadent gulf seafood hors d’oeuvres and exclusive art exhibits. Tickets to this event are $80 per person or purchase an All Tasting Ticket to both The Premium and The Grand Tasting for $110. Tickets are available on http://www.galveston.com/foodandwine
Vintner Dinners- April 15, 2011 Various Times
The successful restaurant and vineyard paired dinners from last year will return. Participating restaurants include Luigi’s, The M&M, Bernardo’s at Hotel Galvez, Olympia Grill at Pier 21, Shearn’s at Moody Gardens, and 901 Postoffice. One of the featured restaurants – Bernardo’s at Hotel Galvez will host guest Chef Pedro Garcia from El Meson Restaurant in Houston for its Spanish Wine Pairing Dinner. Menus, pricing and reservation information can be found at http://www.galveston.com/foodandwine
Grand Tasting in the Park- April 16, 2011 1:00pm-6:00pm
The Grand Tasting in Saengerfest Park is the highlight of the festival. Patrons will embark on a tasting trip through vineyards from all around the world. While getting their wine passports stamped revelers will be able to taste food from the finest restaurants on the island including Olympia Pier 21, Luigi’s, 901 Post Office, Bernardo’s, Shearn’s and M&M Restaurant among others. Live music and the barrage of artisan exhibits along the park will complete this afternoon of indulgences. Portion of the festival proceeds will benefit the Resource Crisis Center. Advance Tickets to this event are $45 available at www.galveston.com/foodandwine.
Champagne Brunches- April 17, 2011 Various Times
The final day of the festival invites visitors and locals alike to brunches around the island at famed hotels and restaurants. You can’t go wrong with choices such as the Hotel Galvez, Moody Gardens, or the M&M. The brunches will be paired with wines and champagnes from the festival and will be the perfect last call for the weekend. Reservation Information available at www.galveston.com/foodandwine
The Galveston Island Food And Wine Festival is coordinated by Yaga’s Entertainment Inc. and sponsored by Spec’s, The Tremont House, Glazers, Galveston Island Convention & Visitors Bureau, Galveston County Daily News, Yaga’s Café, The Islander, Mitchell Historic Properties, Tsunami and Galveston.com.
Media Contact: Erin Dhonau 409-770-0999 yagasentertainment@hotmail.com

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