October 17, 2011 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

THE MAIL BOX — Here’s an interesting letter from Americans for a Better America. “As a leader in the community, your opinion is most valued in making policy for the AmerBetAmer. Please take a moment to fill out the enclosed survey which we shall use in our etc. etc.” Hey, that’s me, a leader in the community. OK, maybe in the neighborhood, or my block or my office, for sure.

No matter, Americans for a Better America need my advice. First question from this independent, non-partisan organization: “I believe President Obama (a) is our best president ever (b) is a genius (c) deserves a second Nobel Peace Prize.” Here’s another question: “Speaker John Boehner should be: (a) crucified (b) ostracized (c) cauterized.” I’m not real sure this is an independent, non-partisan group. On reading further, I am asked whether illegal immigrants should be given either a two- or four-year college scholarship, should brokerage houses be razed and salt sewn on their site and should all branches of the military be unionized.

As a leader of your community, you, no doubt get these questionnaires, too. Sometimes they are accompanied by a personal letter from either Presidents Bush, Obama, Clinton or Bush asking me by name – which is dropped into every other paragraph – to support their party and/or vote for their candidate. They always end with: “To further our goals and preserve America from the pagan opposition which seeks to strangle our children and jail our parents, please make a donation to Americans for a Free America” (or maybe People Who Love Their Country, Citizens Against Bad Things). This donation can be made with cash, check, credit card or beaver pelts. They usually ask for $50 and quickly move to $10,000 which makes me a Friend of Important People.

Here’s another letter. This is from Texans for a More Livable Earth. Must be one of those tree-hugger groups organized by flower children from the 60s. “Most people believe a little arsenic in our water doesn’t hurt. Do you agree or are you one of those leftist-pinkos who thinks we should go back to living in caves?” Strange. Next question: “How warmly would you welcome a job-creating toxic dump in your neighborhood school yard?” This must be a lobbying group which hides itself in a title that means exactly the opposite of its goals. Here’s a clue. In fine type it reads: “Paid for by Friends of SMOG.” They take credit cards made with non-recyclable plastic.

At least I’m not paying for it. My Congressman is constantly sending me news letters touting his success in stopping anything the opposition supports. There are photos of him wielding the gavel in the House, which appears to be empty, along with stories about how he saved civilization by voting to abolish child labor laws and the EPA but to increase Congressional pay raises. At the bottom, in fine print, usually in Norwegian, “Paid for by taxpayers. Speaking of which, my re-election fund could use some help. Please use the return envelope. Cash is preferable.”

Last week I got a letter from Karl Rove. Clever fellow. He, too, knows I’m a leader in this time zone. “Do Democrats deserve a warning shot?” “How much did you donate to the George W. Bush Presidential Library & Swift Boat Yacht Club? That’s not enough.” “Should Barack Hussein Obama be given political asylum or returned to Kenya?” “How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck would only donate to my PAC, Americans Who Believe in Karl Rove? Credit cards are accepted.”

The division between church and state is becoming blurred, which is why the Rev. Leviticus Deuteronomy, head of Americans Who Believe in Doing Good, sent me a solicitation “to throw out the Godless non-Christians who attempt to elect people with funny last names.” Tithing is accepted – and expected.

It’s gonna get worse. Be prepared for an onslaught of donation-seeking missives about the upcoming – like in more than a year – presidential elections. That contest, we will be assured, “is the most important election in American history,” which is self-important twaddle. The most important presidential election was in 1860, which resulted in the bloodiest war in our nation’s history. The 1932 election was important because it resulted in the end of Prohibition. In comparison, the 2012 contest won’t mean much. That won’t stop us from being hammered by letters seeking our advice, and, of course: “In order to continue our fight please donate etc. etc.”

Besides buttering us up as a world leaders, they play the guilt trip by sending us something we don’t want, didn’t ask for and would like to return but it’s too much trouble. Calendars, bumper stickers and, above all, return-address stickers. I’ve got a drawer full of them. Doctors Against Sickness sent me 8,000 stickers and a plea for “contributions to fight this terrible disease.” Is this lobbying group opposing Doctors For Sickness?

The Ralph Nader Kill the Fat Cats Committee asked: “Are thumb screws too gentle for Detroit’s big three or do you recommend water-boarding?” Recently I got a survey from the Mexican-American Immigration Forum. It was in Spanish.

But unlike these objective and neutral surveys, some questionnaires are so slanted and loaded as to make me wonder if the sender really expects an honest feel for the country. “As a leading candidate for sainthood, what is your main source of news? The liberal, anti-American mainstream media. The fair and balanced Fox News. Some guy who told you. Graffiti on the restroom walls. Sarah Palin’s autobiography. Your tax-supported den of liars in the White House. None of the above.” Another survey: “Do you generally identify yourself as a (a) money-grubbing, polluting, Wall Street sleazy, Nazi knuckle-dragger (b) Democrat?”

A final survey: “As a leader of the Western World, do you think these questions are slanted and loaded, or do you agree with us, Texans for a Greater Texas? Either way, please make a generous contribution to….”

Ashby is questionable at ashby2@comcast.net











Green Beans and Guacamole

October 17, 2011 by  
Filed under Blogs

Houston non-profit Friends for Good Launches

“Green Beans and Guacamole”

 Cookbook inspired by special needs and supported by 50 finest Houston restaurants

Proceeds Benefiting ARC of Greater Houston and the ARC of Katy

HOUSTON  – Houston based non-profit, Friends for Good (FFG), proudly announces the much anticipated release of their coffee-table style cookbook, Green Beans and Guacamole, featuring beautifully photographed recipes from 50 of Houston’s finest restaurants.

All proceeds from Green Beans and Guacamole directly benefit children and adults with cognitive and developmental disabilities at the ARC. The cookbook for a cause was inspired by Austin Hansen, an ARC of Katy member and son of FFG co-founder Belinda Hillhouse. 25-year-old Austin, who was diagnosed with down syndrome, has become a local celebrity in his own right because of his enthusiastic attitude and volunteerism. As a graduate of Katy High School and former trainer of their football team, Austin continues to stay busy participating with the Special Olympics. Austin also inspired the name of the cookbook after serving green beans and guacamole at his mother’s surprise birthday party.

“The recipes contributed to the Green Beans and Guacamole cookbook are, as my son Austin would say, ‘outstandable’,” said Belinda Hillhouse, co-founder of Friends for Good and Austin Hanson’s mother. “Throughout the process of putting the cookbook together, we worked with the Houston-area chefs to ensure a wide variety of signature dishes were included.”

Although Galleria hotspot Gigi’s Asian Bistro & Dumpling Bar contributed their signature green bean recipe, and Houston renowned Hugo’s Mexican restaurant loaned their famous guacamole recipe, you can expect more than just green beans and guacamole from this cookbook. The one-of-a-kind book includes signature dishes from the following Houston-based restaurants:


Backstreet Cafe

Bistro Alex
Cafe at Brookwood
Ciao Bello
Cullen’s Grille

Frank’s Chop




Le Mistral
Max’s Wine Dive
Mockingbird Bistro
Olivette at Houstonian

Pappa’s Restaurants


Rainbow Lodge
Ray’s Gourmet Country
Ristorante Cavour
Slow Dough
The Grove
Zelko Bistro

Friends For Good members Belinda Hillhouse, Laurie McNay, Maria Glymph and Shelly Lesikar de Zevallos collaborated with two of Houston’s top food photographers, Deborah Smail and Shannon O’Hara, whose photographs of the signature recipes make the eye-catching cookbook an adornment for coffee tables and kitchens alike. Green Beans and Guacamole also includes a forward from Houston Magazine’s editor in chief Jeff Gremillion, with editing done by Natalie Bogan.

Green Beans and Guacamole’s mission goes beyond bringing exclusive Houston restaurant recipes to dinner tables throughout homes, it also feeds the hope that the ARC of Houston and Katy provide to countless disabled children and adults. Launching just in time for the holiday season, the cookbook makes the perfect gift for friends, family, and corporate and client gifts.

A series of special events will be hosted at Houston-area locations in support of the book including a Chef Fashion Show, Iron Chef Competition, and a Green Beans and Guacamole cook-off.

The cookbook-for-a-cause will be available for purchase on October 15, 2011, exclusively at Central Market and HEB. To pre-order Green Beans and Guacamole, visit http://www.greenbeansandguacamole.com/.

Green Beans and Guacamole, hardcover with jacket, $49.95

About Friends for Good

Friends for Good is a Houston-based non-profit 501c3 that strives to bring people together to raise awareness to worthy causes close to our members’ hearts.

About The Arc

The Arc: Greater Houston is a nonprofit organization serving children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.The Arc promotes and protects the human rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and actively supports their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes.



October 10, 2011 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby



THE PARKING LOT – Most people don’t see the front of their car very often, which is why so many vehicles are on the roads with only one headlight. I park my car in the barn head first and go into the house. Probably so do you. In a parking lot I usually approach my car from the rear. Thus it is impossible to determine when and where this happened: there is a gash in my front bumper, not a bad one, but I find out later it will cost me $375 to get it fixed.

I sure didn’t hit anything hard enough to cause this scar or I’d known it. Perhaps a valet parker performed the surgery. They go racing out to the parking lot of the cockfight to retrieve your car and drive it back at Mach 2. But more probably this slicing and dicing occurred when I was parked in a slot in a shopping center and some other vehicle came roaring in to park and slammed into my front bumper. Whoever did the damage knew it, but chose to just ignore the problem. Why? No insurance, probably. Every time the state insurance board checks, about one-fourth to one-third of Texas motorists have no car insurance.

Simply being in shopping centers is participating in a demolition derby, hazardous to the health of you and your car. First, people drive across the empty parts of the lots without regard to lanes, stop signs and white stripes. We have no way of knowing where that cannonball is headed. It has been observed that a Texas developer’s idea of an unchartered wilderness is a parking lot without white stripes, yet there are the people who don’t know how to park between the white stripes. They straddle them, or park way over to one side so that when you come out to get in your car you have to climb through the trunk.

You have noticed, no doubt, that shopping center parking lots are stop-free zones. Cars just roll through stop signs. Another problem: Have you ever returned from the anvil store to your car and you can’t find it? I used to be lost until I put on my new bumper sticker: “Ask me about my grand-serf” and: “I’d Rather Be Pillaging.” Speaking of bumper stickers, in my local shopping center LSU decals and “Geaux Tigers” outnumber Longhorn and Aggie bumper stickers and shiny metal stick-ons. Around presidential elections no one needs to poll my neighbors. Any car bearing a Democratic candidate’s name gets a parking ticket.

Here are the spaces reserved for the handicapped. Notice the pogo sticks and skateboards in the back seats. These are the same cars we see at lots set aside for marathon runners. Some slots are reserved for 15-minute parkers. Those 15 minutes can last for hours. Ah, here’s a spot up close. No, wait. It’s full of grocery carts. Actually, I see grocery carts scattered all over the lot. Some are spread around the neighborhood. When the anchor store is a grocery, you see lots of carts. When the anchor is a Macy’s or Dillard’s, it’s probably closed.

Here comes a car towards me. Just as some people can’t park between white lines, some ignore the gigantic white arrows painted on the asphalt, and drive the wrong way down the lane. We might think that all the rows of parked cars which are facing the other direction would be a clue as to which way to go. Some people are stupid.

Before backing out from my slot, I always look carefully both ways, and all I see are the sides of SUVs the size of my local post office. Am I the only person in Texas who still drives a car? Not a pickup truck with eight doors, 17-feet high and a front deer catcher, or an RV that holds the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Vans also block out the sunlight. But mostly it’s the SUVs that make backing out in a shopping center parking lot suicidal. With a Dodge X-2 Exterminator on one side and a Ford Outback Annihilator on the other, slowly I back out, only to be greeted by a loud horn blast as someone is telling me that my next visit will be to the body repair shop.

Incidentally, the Highland Park Shopping Center in Dallas claims to be the first and oldest such center in the nation. I was there the other day. You still have to inherit a parking slot. I like shopping centers where you can drive right up to the tattoo parlor, get out and walk in. For that reason I am not a big fan of malls because I have to park miles away. Malls have parking lots with their own ZIP codes. Then, after shopping and lugging packages and/or pushing strollers, wheel chairs or carrying a manikin, you weave your way through the muggers to get to your car.

As I drive around, I look for the car that smashed in my front bumper. (An SUV would have pushed the engine into the trunk.) Playing CIS, I am on the watch for scraps of my paint on the offending offender’s bumper. It seems half the vehicles have some kind of scratch, dent, dog fur or handlebar embedded in them.

Recently I was in a fender-bender in this parking lot. A woman suddenly pulled out in front and hit me. At least that was my version. She said it was my fault. “Officer, are you going to believe me or those two surveillance cameras?” I whined.

All of this reminds me of the guy who scrapes another car in a parking lot. He notices several shoppers waiting to see what he’ll do. So he gets out a pad and pen and writes: “I just scraped your car and everyone thinks I’m leaving you my name and phone number. I’m not. Drop dead.”


Ashby is double-parked at ashby2@comcast.net

Wreaths Across America

October 5, 2011 by  
Filed under Events

For the last three years this has been the largest wreath laying event in the country. This year will be no different as we strive to lay 59,000 wreaths at the Houston National Cemetery. I hope you will help us get the word out as we honor our American Soldiers…One Wreath At A Time.

Date: December 10, 2011.

“Honoring American Soldiers…One Wreath At A Time” is the motto of Wreaths Across America-Houston (WAAH).  In December of 2008, WAAH placed a record-setting 14,400 live wreaths upon the grave sites of  fallen heroes at the Houston National Cemetery.  Again in 2009, they placed almost 23,000 in honor of the fallen.  Last year the group placed an awe inspiring 26,200 wreaths.  This year is no different as the all volunteer group works toward the goal of honoring  each and every one of the 59,000 fallen  heroes with their own wreath.

The mission to Remember, Honor, and Teach is made very personal as volunteers place the beautiful live Maine wreaths upon each grave individually and by hand.  Finances for the project come primarily from the general public sending in $15.00 donations (the cost of one wreath), while other donations come from corporations, grants, and fundraising groups.  Wreaths Across America-Houston is a 501c3 non-profit organization and the event is open to the public.

The Houston organization was sparked by the questions of a young boy asking why wreaths were not placed in Houston National Cemetery like they were at Arlington National Cemetery.  No one foresaw the impact this young boy’s question would have.  Scott deMasi, Director of Wreaths Across America=Houston, states “This event provides a connection for those who have lost loved ones to realize that they are not alone.  It’s very special, and you leave that day a little different, in a very good way.”  Debbie Mangum, WAAH Board Member states “A wreath on a grave isn’t a very big thank you, it is a small gesture of gratitude.  It reminds me all year long that so many men and women are willing to sacrifice so much for people they will never meet and a country they love so much!”

To make a donation or get more information, please visit: http://www.waahouston.com

About Wreaths Across America
The Wreaths Across America story began over 17 years ago when Worcester Wreath Company (a for-profit commercial business from Harrington, Maine) began a tradition of placing wreaths on the headstones of our Nation’s fallen heroes at Arlington National Cemetery during the holidays.  Over that period of time, Worcester Wreath has donated 90,000 wreaths which were placed by volunteers in a wreath-laying ceremony each December. But as word spread, the mission to Remember; Honor; and Teach about the sacrifices made by our veterans has captured the hearts and minds of many communities across the Country.

Wreaths Across America – Houston
Phone:  (281) 540-9444
4582 Kingwood Dr., #247            Web:  www.waahouston.com
Kingwood, TX  77345            E-mail:  info@waahouston.com

Moody Gardens Tenth Annual Festival of Lights

October 5, 2011 by  
Filed under Events

For holiday fun, join Moody Gardens for the tenth annual Festival of Lights! Don’t miss the Grand Opening Ceremony Nov. 12 as Santa parachutes in to flip the switch to more than a million lights in a mile-long trail.  

Admission is just $5.95. In addition, you can skate around on the area’s only outdoor ice skating rink, sip a cup of hot chocolate or watch holiday films in the MG 3D, 4D Special FX or Ridefilm Theaters. On Food Drive Fridays, bring in a non-perishable food item to receive two Festival admissions for the price of one.  On Saturday nights, come play in the snow at the Snow Zone for just $6.00 with your festival ticket. We also invite you to have dinner with us at the Garden Restaurant’s fabulous Festival of Lights buffet.

*Festival Open from 6-10 p.m. Nov. 12, 18-19, 24-26, Dec. 1-3, 8-11, and Dec. 15-Jan. 1

Moody Gardens Presents Home For The Holiday Market

October 5, 2011 by  
Filed under Events

A new holiday shopping extravaganza will begin in Galveston this year with the Moody Gardens Presents: Home for the Holidays Gift Market.  The event is set to take place at the Moody Gardens Convention Center Nov. 25 through Nov. 27.  Participating merchants will offer unique home décor, candles, craft foods, accessories, and much more for an extraordinary holiday shopping experience.

The market will be open from 4 to 9 p.m. Friday, Nov. 25; 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 26; and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 27.  Visitors can purchase a regular admission for $5; for $25, shoppers can buy tickets to the Moody Gardens Presents: Home for the Holidays Gift Market VIP lounge, which will include hors d’oeuvres, refreshments, and private seating.

For more information or to purchase tickets, call 800-582-4673 or visit www.moodygardens.org.  For exhibitor information, visit www.homefortheholidaysgiftmarket.com  or call 281-788-4297.

Magical Realism in Photography

October 5, 2011 by  
Filed under Events

Magical Realism in Photography

On view from November 17, 2011 through January 14, 2012
Opening Reception: Thursday, November 17, 2011, 6:00 – 8:00 p.m.HCP
Curator remarks and Artist Talks: Thursday, November 17, 5:30 p.m. 

The term “Magic Realism” began as a reference to the post-expressionist painters of the Weimer Republic. German art critic Franz Roh coined the term in the 1920s, describing the smooth photographic qualities of the painters Otto Dix, Max Ernst, and George Grosz. Closely related to Surrealists, who dealt with more psychological landscapes, the Magic Realists were noted for depicting a scene that would be considered to be super-normal, in a way that makes it seem completely normal.

The modified term “Magical Realism” took a very strong hold in the literary world in the 1950s and is best known as describing the writers of Latin America: Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Isabel Allende, Leonora Carrington, and Gorge Luis Borges. The basic premise of Magic Realism was maintained, with the unusual twist to something that would otherwise be considered normal, and the histories in the novels by these authors bring vivid imagery to mind of the bizarre events they describe.

Today, super-sophisticated photo-imaging tools lend themselves to this style. This exhibit is a collection of photographs that bring to mind the mysterious and beautiful aesthetic found in Latin American Magical Realism.  Though some of these images are digitally altered and some are natural photographs, there is a consistent attachment to this aesthetic that begins with reality and then takes its own course. This is by no means a comprehensive survey of the aesthetic of Magical Realism in Photography (that would require a far larger gallery space) but it is a small beginning.

Artists Included in this Show:
Meghan Boody
Ruth Dusseault
Sharon Harper
Joel Lederer
Beth Moon
Jean Francois Rauzier
Maggie Taylor
Aleix Plademunt
Guest Curator: Libbie J. Masterson, Interim Exhibitions Coordinator, HCP

HCP is located at 1441 West Alabama in the Museum District of Houston. Gallery hours are: Wednesdays – Sundays, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Thursdays, 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. For more information, please call 713-529-4755 or visit www.hcponline.org .

Bayou City Art Festival

October 5, 2011 by  
Filed under Events

Capital One Bank Bayou City Art Festival Celebrates
40th Anniversary with Art & Entertainment This Weekend

The 40th Anniversary Capital One Bank Bayou City Art Festival Downtown takes place this weekend – Saturday, October 8 and Sunday, October 9 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Celebrating 40 years in Houston, the Festival showcases diverse artwork from artists across the country, a variety of entertainment and culinary favorites.

The nationally recognized Capital One Bank Bayou City Art Festival will transform Downtown Houston into a one-of-a-kind outdoor art gallery featuring over 300 juried artists from 19 artistic media. This year’s featured artist is Kreg Yingst, a painter and self-taught printmaker.

In addition to the artwork, the Festival includes a range of multicultural entertainment with music and dance performances throughout the weekend on the Houston Art Alliance Performance Stage.  And, String Theory, a collaborative ensemble of musicians and dancers, will transform the Downtown Festival environment and architecture into a larger-than-life musical instrument.

“We could not be more excited to celebrate our 40th anniversary with the City of Houston this weekend,” said Michael Piana, Board President, Bayou City Art Festival. “The team of staff, sponsors and volunteers has planned an amazing weekend filled with returning favorites as well new features for every artistic taste.”

The always popular, Gexa Energy Creative Zone will inspire kids of all ages with a variety of art activities.  And, to satisfy every taste bud, the Capital One Bank Bayou City Art Festival presents the Art of Food, offering a broad menu ranging from sweet treats to home-style favorites.

The Bayou City Art Festivals have raised over $2.6 million for Houston area nonprofits and parks over its 40 year history.  And, the Festivals strive to encourage up and coming artists.
This weekend aspiring artists will transform the Reflection Pond in front of City Hall with the returning favorite, Art on Water.  New to this Festival, the Portable On Demand Art Project presents unique works of art using PODS® containers illustrating the vibrant and diverse Houston culture.  Showcasing young Houston artists, SPARK Park will conduct an auction of “Play in the Park” themed collages created by Houston area students with recycled jewelry donated by Charming Charlie.  Additionally, 20 students from The Masquerade Tribble School will take to the stage at The Masquerade Theatre on Saturday and Sunday.  In addition to supporting these public arts initiatives, Festival proceeds will benefit 18 local nonprofit partners.

Ticket Information

Advance tickets are available online at www.bayoucityartfestival.comor tickets are available at the gate on Saturday and Sunday.  (Cash only is accepted at the gate.)  Ticket prices are $12 for adults and children 12 and under are free.  For more information, please visit www.bayoucityartfestival.com.

Parking is available on city streets and for the usual event fee in the City Hall Annex, Hobby Center or Theater District Parking under Tranquility Park. Click here for more detailed information about parking locations and their proximity to the festival.

Festival sponsors include Capital One Bank, Houston Area Cadillac Dealerships, CultureMap.com, Gexa Energy, Houston Chronicle, KTRK-TV ABC 13, New York Times and Budweiser Select 55.

Established in 1972, the Art Colony Association (ACA) is a 501c(3) non-profit organization dedicated to producing high quality art festivals and events to provide financial support to local non-profit organizations. Over the past 40 years, the Art Colony Association, producer of Bayou City Art Festival Downtown in the fall and Bayou City Art Festival Memorial Park in the spring, has raised more than $2.6 million for local nonprofit organizations. The Festivals are funded in part by grants from the City of Houston through Houston Arts Alliance. Visit www.bayoucityartfestival.com for more information.


Miller Outdoor Theatre: November Calendar

October 5, 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!


The Miles Davis Experience: 1949-1959, A Collaboration with Blue Note Records
Nov. 3, 7:30 p.m.
From Birth of the Cool to Kind of Blue, this new immersive musical and historical production recaptures the sound, history and culture of this critical period of American history through the lens of jazz music and its most iconic innovator, Miles Davis. Featuring the Ambrose Akinmusire Quintet.

Presented by Miller Outdoor Theatre

Movies at Miller: Grease (Rockin’ Rydell Edition)
Nov.5, 7:30 p.m.
Grease is the word! Sing-a-long to the tunes you love in this entertaining film musical homage to the age of rock ’n’ roll.
Presented by Miller Outdoor Theatre

Whitney Bank Presents Cirque Mechanics Boom Town
Nov. 11 – 12, 7:30 p.m.
The remarkably talented Cirque Mechanics returns with a new production that stretches the relationship between man and machine to unimaginable limits with more jaw-dropping acrobatics and hijinks.
Be transported to the 1860’s small frontier town of Rosebud, where two ambitious saloon owners have set up shop in the hopes of cashing in on the town’s gold rush frenzy.  A circus ensues when they begin to feud for the townsfolk patronage, which leads to a series of explosive events, exciting brawls, an unexpected romance and a lucrative discovery.
Once again, as with their previous production Birdhouse Factory, Cirque Mechanics explores the relationship between man and machine. Inspired by early mining equipment and the spirit of adventure that brought prospectors and entrepreneurs alike out west searching for gold, Boom Town, features innovative and one of a kind mechanical apparatus that serve both as scenery and performance prop. You will find performers climbing up swaying telegraph poles, dancing on a swinging chandelier, flying high and fast on a revolving crane, flipping and jumping on moving ore carts or balancing on whiskey jugs.

Boom Town takes you beyond the town and deep into the mine to join in the excitement of exploration and experience the thrill of discovery. You’ll be inspired to pick up your picks and pans, hop in an ore cart and come along for the ride!
Presented by Miller Outdoor Theatre

Houston Cinema Arts Festival:
Art Car: The Movie
Nov. 13, 7 p.m.
Art Car: The Movie is a documentary feature from Houston’s own Del Monte Films celebrating the legendary art cars and the artists who create them.
Produced by Houston Cinema Arts Society.


October 3, 2011 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

We must consider this statement: “Aggies are alums of Perry’s alma mater, Texas A&M.” Uh-oh. Explaining that an Aggie is a student or graduate of Texas A&M is so obvious. It’s like explaining to a lion tamer that he shouldn’t wear a meat suit. Not to put too fine a point on it (don’t you just love those pompous English terms?), but the aging Fightin’ Farmers don’t even call themselves “alums,” but rather “former students” or “Turkey Day Depressed.”

The above quote is from an essay in The New York Times by columnist Gail Collins, a remarkably astute journalist who is writing a book on Texas. But obviously, when it comes to the Lone Star State, readers of the Times don’t know beans – which they probably put in their chili. So what’s new?

What’s new is that Collins’s work is only one of many by visiting journalists from the Eastern establishment press who have come to write about our state, because of the impending presidency of Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Many reports will be enlightening, but many will be wrong. So in an attempt to head off errors, distortions and omissions about our beloved home, let us offer some advice, remembering all along: Longhorns and longnecks, no place but Texas, built by God, guns and guts – the last two can be seen in some of our finer watering holes on Saturday nights.

First, we don’t like government, pronounced “gubment.” Texas is a donor state, meaning we send more money to Washington than we get back. This does not prevent us from wrestling every dime we can from the U.S. Treasury, as the Johnson Space Center was telling the Houston Ship Channel and Fort Hood. This is not hypocrisy, but a love-hate relationship. We love the bank. We hate the banker.

A few more points: “Friday Night Lights” is shown on the Religion Channel. The Texas Legislature has proclaimed four Official Heroes of Texas: Stephen F. Austin, Davy Crockett, Sam Houston and – no kidding — Earl Campbell. If you put a hinge on the top of the Panhandle and flipped Texas northward, Brownsville would be in Canada, but this would sure flatten Topeka. Brownsville is nearer to Guatemala than it is to Dalhart. Texans believe the Second Amendment gives everyone the Constitutional protection to protect the Constitution.

Some don’ts: Never say, “Willie’s OK but I prefer Bach.” “Davy surrendered.”

Never walk into a cantina, ice house or saloon and shout: “Draw!” Don’t use your car’s directional blinker. Armadillos are not possum on the half shell. And don’t mess with Texas, ever!

There are some myths which you should not repeat: It is a myth that Texas can leave the Union anytime it wishes. We tried that once, in 1861, and it didn’t fly. Another myth is that only the Lone Star flag can fly at the same height as the U.S. flag. Any state can do that. But we do love our ensign. During the flag-burning debate before the U.S. Supreme Court on March 21, 1989, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor asked the Texas attorney whether a state has as much interest in protecting its state flag as the American flag. Justice Antonin Scalia interjected, “Well, Texas maybe.” The Texas attorney replied, “Texas, absolutely, your honor.” I rest my case.


Religion is important in Texas. We firmly believe God may be an Englishman, but when he retires he’ll move to Lakeway. It is no accident that the largest building in any small town is the First Baptist Church. The second largest is the Second Baptist Church. Listen to the radio preachers who will tell you how they found God. For some it was through the Yellow Pages. You will learn that Texans follow a common faith and a common Sunday prayer, especially if the Cowboys are behind. And note how, before we execute our convicts, they are read their civil rites.

Some of you ink-stained wretches will write of “Texas fatigue” because so many Texans have occupied the White House in recent years. Beginning with Eisenhower, and if Perry wins two terms, a Lone Star Statesman will have occupied the Oval Office exactly half that time. So?

A few pointers on what we say and how we say it: “If at first you don’t secede…” is not a pun on a cliché but a political movement. When we speak of “inside the beltway” we mean our waistlines. “Foreign relations” refers to our cousins back in Matamoros. The “evil empire” is the EPA. When we want you to join us, we say, “Sit rat cheer.” A Yellow Dog Democrat is not a rabid Republican. The “oil business” is the “awl bidniss,” which needs government subsidies without those bothersome tree-huggers nosing around.

We can always spot a new TV weatherperson because they get place names wrong, so try: Refugio, Pedernales and Waxahachie. Despite the Branch Davidians’ fame, it’s WAY-koe, not WACK-o.

“Vanna, do we have a G up there for this cowboy?” We say goin’ and doin’ and talkin.’ When we say we’re fixin’ to do something, it does not mean we will take a hammer and nails to repair something. It means we are about to do something, like fix Perry’s platform.

This brings us to the three newcomers who were driving through central Texas and saw a sign, “Mexia.” Says one newcomer: “Up ahead is MEX-eye-a.”

“No,” says the other, “it’s pronounced, Muh-HAY-ya.”

“You’re both wrong,” says the third. “The town is called Meh-ee-uh.”

They pull into a cafe and order lunch. One says to the waitress, “Excuse me, Ma’m, but we’ve been arguing over how to pronounce the name of this place. Would you say it, real slowly?”

She takes a big breath, and says slowly, “DAY-re Queeeeen.”

Finally, one of our major problems is that so many others want to join us, crowding our schools, highways and jails. So welcome to Texas. Just don’t stay.


Tex Ashby is writin’ at ashby2@comcast.net


Houston Arboretum & Nature Center Nov 2011

October 3, 2011 by  
Filed under Events

Houston Arboretum & Nature Center Calendar of Events
November 2011

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 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!

Register now for Winter Nature Camp: Fabulous Forests
Tuesday, Dec. 27- Friday, Dec. 30, 2011
9 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Ages 5 – 12
Join Arboretum naturalists for a four-day camp to explore the different types of forests in the world and the plants and animals that live in each. Children will learn to estimate a tree’s height, create their own tree and shrub identification guide, make a piece of recycled paper, learn about the plants of the rainforests and find out how animals can survive in the subarctic climates of the boreal forests.  Camp classes include nature walks and hands-on activities indoors and outside on the Arboretum’s 155 acres.  Children are divided into classes by age: 5 & 6 yrs; 7 & 8 yrs; and 9-12 yrs.
Cost for full day camp: (9 a.m. – 3 p.m.) is $215 for Arboretum members; $265 for non-members; Cost for half day camp (9 a.m. – 12 p.m.) is $95 for Arboretum members; $130 for non-members

Wine Tasting and Music
Saturday, Nov. 12
7 – 9:30 p.m.
Sommeliers from The Tasting Room in Houston will guide participants through a comparison of wines of several varietals, as well as a blind tasting.  For an interesting exercise, a portion of the class will be spent testing the theory popularized by California vintner Clark Smith that listening to different types of music affects the tastes of different wines.  The evening will finish with wine and cheese sampling to the live acoustic music by Houston trio Traveler.  Cost is $40 for Arboretum members; $55 for non-members.  Registration is limited.

Home School Program: Earth Science
Wednesdays, Nov. 2, 9 & 16
9:30 – 11:30 a.m.
Designed especially for home schoolers, the fall classes will focus on a different study unit with three weekly classes each month.  November classes will explore soil composition and the impact weather has on earth.  Cost is $50 for members; $80 for non-members

Yoga on the way Home
Thursdays, Nov. 3, 10 & 17 (no class 11/24)
5:456:45 p.m.
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.

Basic Wilderness Life Support
Saturday, Nov. 5
9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Basic Wilderness Life Support® certification is a one-day, fast-paced, hands-on course providing preparation for the prevention and management of real emergencies that can occur in the wild (or even in your backyard). The course covers a wide range of outdoor and back-country topics and will teach participants to assess and handle medical situations with limited resources. The course time will be divided between lectures and hands-on practice. Basic Wilderness Life Support (BWLS) was created for all outdoor enthusiasts including scout leaders, hikers, bikers, skiers, climbers, kayakers, hunters, fishermen and trail runners. Participants will receive a textbook, field guide and upon completion, a BWLS certificate.
Instructors: Drs. Jane Corboy and John Rogers are certified in family medicine, sports medicine and advanced wilderness life support. They have extensive experience in mountaineering, whitewater rafting and backpacking, and are award-winning teachers. Cost is $120 for members and medical students; $150 for non-members Fee includes $50 for BWLS Certification

Designing Your Backyard Wildlife Habitat
Sunday, Nov. 13 or 20
2 – 5 p.m.
Learn how to evaluate your existing yard and implement minor changes so it qualifies for certification by Texas Parks and Wildlife as a Backyard Wildlife Habitat.  Participants should bring sketch or photos of their existing backyard as well as a current plant inventory.  Arboretum conservation director Joe Blanton will teach this interactive and informative class. Cost is $30 for members; $45 non-members

Tadpole Troopers: Owl Prowl
Friday, Nov. 18 or
Saturday, Nov. 19
9 – 10:15 a.m. OR 10:45 a.m. – 12 p.m.
Ages 3 – 5 with an adult
Tadpole Troopers is a nature class for 3, 4 and 5 year olds with an adult.  These fall classes will explore animals of the night. In November students learn about owls and their nocturnal hunting abilities.
Cost is $15 for members; $28 for non-members.

Naturalist Explorers: Armored Armadillos
Saturday, Nov. 19
9 – 11 a.m. OR 1 – 3 p.m.
Ages 5 to 8
This fall, Naturalist Explorers explore the world of nocturnal mammals. In November students will study the adaptations of our state small mammal, the armadillo.
Cost is $18 for members; $33 for non-members.

November 24 and 25:
Building closed

Race: Are we so different?

October 3, 2011 by  
Filed under Events

Explore the reality and unreality of race and racism through history, science and lived experiences in this interactive, socially impactful exhibit

Race and racism.  The words alone can conjure up some of the strongest emotions, both positive and negative, in everyone, regardless of age, race or gender.  Beginning Oct. 15, The Health Museum will approach these social issues from a scientific standpoint with the Houston premiere of the exhibit, RACE: Are We So Different? locally sponsored by Fiesta Mart, Inc.

The RACE exhibit will encourage museum visitors to explore the science, history, and everyday impact of race as well as the realities and unrealities of race and racism.  The exhibit was designed to be a hands-on science learning experience that appeals to all ages, and to begin the thinking, and talking about important social issues and how science plays a role.  RACE is a project of the American Anthropological Association in collaboration with the Science Museum of Minnesota.

The Health Museum has also assembled an advisory committee made up of influential industry and community leaders to help extend the impact of this exhibit in the Houston area.  The committee’s focus has been on public programs and strengthening the museum’s outreach on a broader level.  The chair of the committee, Dr. Janis Hutchinson, PhD. M.P.H., Professor of Anthropology at the University of Houston, was personally involved in the original development of the exhibit, and remains on the National Advisory Committee.

RACE gives visitors the opportunity to explore the idea of race and issues of racism and participate in important discussions in a supportive setting,” said Jon Iszard, President and CEO of The Health Museum.  “The science-based approach of this exhibit really challenges visitors to see these issues from a perspective they may not have previously considered, and if we can achieve that, we are making progress as a community and The Health Museum is proud to be a part of that.”

Additionally, with the support of Fiesta Mart, Inc., this fall, during Free Family Thursday (2- 5 p.m.), when general admission to the museum is free to visitors, the first 5,000 visitors will have the opportunity to also experience the RACE exhibit at no cost as well.

The RACE exhibit addresses the topics of race and racism from three different perspectives. The three sections are interwoven and tell a compelling story of science with deep and lasting social impact.

Science: In this section of the exhibit, visitors will discover that human beings are more alike than any
other living species, and no one gene or set of genes can support the idea of race.

: Ideas about race have been around for hundreds of years, and they have changed over time. This section of RACE demonstrates that, throughout American history, economic interests, popular culture, science, politics and the struggle for power have played a role in shaping our understanding of race.

Everyday experience
: Though race may not be a real biological concept, it certainly is real both socially and culturally. In this section of the exhibit, visitors will explore the personal experiences of race in our schools, neighborhoods, health care systems, sports and entertainment industries, and more.

To enhance and extend the experience of RACE: Are We So Different?, the museum has created public programming events and discussions for visitors of all ages such as Circle Talks, essay contests, lecture series and family-focused activities.  Following are details of the programming.

Visit www.thehealthmuseum.org/race for more information about these and other developing public programs.
Visitor Information
Admission to The Health Museum is $6 for children ages 3-11, and seniors, 65 and over, and $8 for adults ages 12-64.

Admission to RACE is an additional $2 for all students and $4 for adults.  All children ages 2 and under are free.  Tickets are available online at www.thehealthmuseum.org/race. Discounts can only be redeemed at the museum ticket desk. Group discount rates and school field trip information are available by calling 713-521-1515, ext. 335.  For information about the museum or its programs, please call 713-521-1515

Hours: The Health Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. and on Sunday, Noon to 5 p.m. The museum is closed on Mondays and on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.

The John P. McGovern Museum of Health & Medical Science, also known as The Health Museum, is a member institution of the world-renowned Texas Medical Center and is located in the heart of Houston’s Museum District at 1515 Hermann Drive Houston, TX 77004.  Recent additions to the museum include You: The Exhibit, a highly interactive look at the physical, psychological and future you, and the McGovern 4D Theater, Houston’s first 4D theater, where 3D films and environmental effects like wind, rain and fog to create a memorable experience.
The John P. McGovern Museum of Health and Medical Science is an interactive and entertaining science experience for all ages that promotes understanding and appreciation of the human body, mind and spirit and inspires a lifelong commitment to health and wellness.

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