April 29, 2013 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

Stand by for yet another wave of immigrants. No, not from south of the border or even from college campuses where 36-year-olds have overstayed their student visas by 17 years and have no intention of returning to Nigeria. Not the Icelanders and Finns seeking political asylum. I am talking about interpreters, some 8,000 Afghans working for the U.S. military in that war. Now that our troops are withdrawing, the interpreters want to come to America, along with their wives and kids.

Machinery is already set up to bring them here: 7,500 special visas have been authorized, but only 12 percent have been issued. One problem might be that the Afghans are second in line to all the Iraqis who have the same goal. Visas for 25,000 Iraqis have been made available, and only 22 percent of the visas have been granted. The Afghans who worked for American companies, including the news media and nongovernmental organizations, are not eligible for the special visas. However, Iraqis are eligible, along with all family members, siblings, parents, close neighbors, and the guy who serves them coffee in the café.

We can’t blame the interpreters, who have been singled out by the Taliban for execution, and we have long promised a home for the huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of their teeming shore, the homeless, and don’t forget the tempest-tost. (Yes, tost.) We never ask for the rich, beautiful and brilliant. Besides, the Afghans are only following another tradition we have here: we always get the losers. It began with the Scots, survivors of the Battle of Culloden of 1746, in which the English beat the Scots and the losers came to America. Then the French-Canadians in Canada came after the British beat the French – who hasn’t? They landed in Louisiana and today we call them Cajuns. After Katrina they came to Texas. A brief counter-march occurred after we won the American Revolution and tens of thousands of American loyalists went to Canada.

Down through the years immigrants left their teeming shores following defeat or civil unrest that wasn’t going their way. German wars and the military draft sent millions of German refugees to the U.S. in the 1840s and 50s. Today, Texas is loaded with their descendants. Texas got lots of Czechs, too, as the Hapsburgs kept going to war. In the 1840s the Irish Potato Famine sent the peasants, not the landlords, to America. After our own Civil War, thousands of defeated Southerners followed the GTT rule – Gone To Texas. The Yankee invasion began about 1970.

The Mexican Revolution of 1910 sent numbers of Mexicans to the U.S., especially to Texas. Both preceding and following World War II we received lots of refugees. Give us your tired Cubans. Following the rise of Castro, hundreds of thousands of anti-Castro Cubans came to the U.S. and are now a major political force in Florida. And when the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 collapsed, we received many Magyars (that’s “Hungarian” in Hungarian). Behind them were the Serbs and Croatians who stopped fighting each other so they could move here and fight each other.

But before we yell to pull up the gangplank because we’re aboard, we must consider that we got the brilliant and resourceful, too: Bob Hope and Albert Einstein, ditto for Irving Berlin, Elizabeth Taylor, Alexander Hamilton, 10 U.S. astronauts, more than 40 members of the 2012 U.S. Olympic team and, and most importantly, Mr. Nguyen, my yardman. Of course, there is also the Tsarnaev family. To oversimplify, they came to America on tourist visas then asked for political asylum then blew up the Boston Marathon. Michael J. Fox, Madeleine Albright, Ted Koppel and Audrey Hepburn could never have been elected President. They were not native-born. Thousands of anchor babies, on the other hand, can.

Another wave of newcomers joined us in 1979 when Mohammad Rezā Shāh Pahlavī, aka the Shah of Iran, was overthrown. That time we were joined by losers again, but they were the landed gentry, the wealthy and the owners of their own getaway jets. Every civil war in Central America sent refugees fleeing to the U.S. Salvadoran immigrants to the U.S. annually sent back $30 million to relatives in the old country. So important was this in-flow of money to the repressive government that – get this – in 1995 Salvadoran consulate officials stationed in the U.S. actually helped illegal immigrants file claims for political asylum here so they could continue to send money. In other words, the very government that applicants were seeking protection from was helping them fill out their paperwork. When the wars were over, they stayed. Wouldn’t you?

Then came the Vietnamese. The losing side arrived by the boatload, so to speak. More than 700,000 Vietnamese refugees came to the U.S. after the fall of Saigon. The 2010 U.S. Census counted 1,548,449 people who identify themselves as pure Vietnamese and 1,737,433 in combination with other ethnicities. Of those, 210,913 (14 percent) live in Texas.

All of this brings up several interesting points: both our Iraqis and Afghans helpers are not on the losing side – not yet – but still claim to be in fear of their lives. Do they know something we don’t know? Also, the 8,000 Afghans wanting to come here are interpreters, which should make gaining U.S. citizenship easier since one of the qualifications is the ability to speak English or hit .335. And maybe they can help me converse with the guy on the other end of the phone trying to explain how to fix my MN-66 Super Computer Bak Blast.

Another interesting point is that most of these people were losers back in the old country, but many of them somehow became successful in America, as Andrew Carnegie probably told Alexander Graham Bell. Oh, about that give me your tired, your poor, your great chefs and excellent violinists, as everyone knows, that quote is on the base of the Statue of Liberty, which migrated here from France.

Ashby seeks asylum at


The Council on Alcohol and Drugs

April 25, 2013 by  
Filed under Blogs

Jamie Lee Curtis, award-winning actress and best-selling author, had a the crowd silent as she addressed over 1000 supporters at the Hilton of the Americas.  The charismatic star of films including True Lies and Freaky Friday told her story of substance abuse recovery.

“My recovery from drug addiction is the single greatest accomplishment of my life,” Ms. Curtis said.

“Jamie Lee Curtis is a shining example of someone who has had all the advantages of growing up with fame and fortune, and then faced the truth and challenges of addiction with honesty and grace,” said Mel Taylor, President and CEO, The Council on Alcohol and Drugs Houston. “She has a great amount to share with all of us.”

The daughter of Tony Curtis and Janet Lee, Jamie Lee Curtis grew up in the privileged world of Hollywood royalty. After her debut as “scream queen” in Halloween, she later starred in Christmas with the Kranks, Trading Places, A Fish Called Wanda and others. Curtis co-starred opposite Richard Lewis in the sitcom Anything But Love, and performed in the title role in TNT’s adaptation of Wendy Wasserstein’s play, The Heidi Chronicles. Ms. Curtis is the best-selling author of several children’s books, with over 5 million copies in print.

Today Ms. Curtis speaks on behalf of those rarely heard, serving as the official spokesperson for CAAF (The Children Affected by Aids Foundation), where she is a serving member of their Executive Advisory Board. As a recovering alcoholic/addict, Curtis also serves on the Board of Directors of CASA (The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University).

The Waggoners Foundation Speaker Series Fall Luncheon is sponsored by June and Virgil Waggoner, whose personal tragedy—the loss of son Jay to alcoholism—became the inspiration behind their support of The Council’s luncheon series. Addiction affects one in four Houstonians and is included among cancer and heart disease as one of our nation’s most fatal diseases.

This year’s Spring Luncheon will be held Thursday, April 25, 2013, 11:15 a.m.–1:30 p.m., at The Hilton Americas-Houston, 1600 Lamar, Houston, TX 77002. Tickets, starting at $150 per seat, and tables can be purchased online at

For additional information, call (281)200-9333.


Haak Vineyards & Winery Announces Summer Concerts

April 23, 2013 by  
Filed under Events

On Sunday summer evenings, there’s no better place to be than Haak Vineyards & Winery. Grab your blanket or lawn chair, and head to the award-winning winery, located just outside of Houston, for their swinging line-up of summer concerts every Sunday from 6-8:30 p.m. For only $5, guests can enjoy live music and a beautiful vineyard; wine and food are available for purchase.

May 26
The Pee Wee Bowen Band

June 2
Spiny Norman Band

June 9
Luther and the Healers 

June 16
Dave Nevling

June 23
Time in a Bottle

June 30
The Pee Wee Bowen Band

About Haak Vineyards & Winery
Established in 2000, Haak Vineyards & Winery is an award-winning, family-owned winery located in Santa Fe, Texas. With Founders Gladys and Raymond Haak at the helm, Haak has become most known for producing two unique wines from two grapes that are new to the wine world, including Blanc du Bois, a grape with Florida origins, and the Black Spanish or Jacquez grape, which produces a particularly distinctive wine: the Haak Madeira. The first and only working vineyard in Galveston County, Haak is open to the public where tours and tastings are offered daily. For more information about Haak Vineyards & Winery, please visit  or call 409.925.1401. Follow Haak on Facebook and Twitter.

Russian Vase

April 22, 2013 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

JUNKYARD HOG THE ATTIC – These are some dusty Guy Fawkes Day decorations, no doubt made by him and worth a fortune. This calendar is priceless if 1995 ever comes back. What museum wants my battered suitcase I took to Romania to see real paranoid governance, long before the Tea Party existed? Eat your heart out, Randy Buttram. You, too, Ryan Givens. Let me bring you up to speed so you’ll stop wondering why I am in the attic going through my junk collection while thinking of people you never heard of. Randy Buttram is 66, lives in Oklahoma City and, like all citizens of the Okie State, had enormously wealthy grandparents, Frank and Merle Buttram. (Grandpa either owned oil or was an OU halfback). They traveled the world picking up stuff for their sprawling Italian Renaissance mansion back in Oklahoma – art work, furniture, small villages. One of the grandparents’ collectables was actually two. They were ornate vases four and a half feet tall which they bought in 1928 from the Bernheimer Gallery in Munich. The vases were hardly noticeable in a house that had an entryway with twin staircases, and a bowling alley in the basement. But Randy remembered the vases were first put at his grandparents’ main entrance and later moved to a hearth in his parents’ home. One of the pieces was decorated with a copy of the “The Concert” by Dutch painter A. Palamedes, an artwork from the 1600s currently on display in the Hermitage. Both vases came apart so that the several smaller pieces could be stored, which they were for a decade after Randy’s parents deaths.. Recently, the Buttram brothers unpacked the vases and noticed the top portion of one of them had the blue markings of Russia’s Imperial Porcelain Factory used during the reign of Nicholas I, and the date 1833 printed on it. They decided to see if the vases were worth anything, and took them to Dallas for appraisal and auction. The two vases had a pre-auction estimate of $1 million to $1.5 million. They sold for $2.7 million. That’s why I’m looking through my grandparents’ leftovers. They didn’t have a bowling alley in their basement, but did have bowls in their kitchen. Somewhere is my grandfather’s leather razor strap, or strop, with a double-headed eagle at the top. When I asked him what it was, he explained it was the logo of the Imperial Russian Czar. He (my grandfather, not the Czar) was a railroad man and had been asked by the Czarist government to go to Russia and run its railroads. My grandmother argued that he had TB and one Russian winter would kill him. He didn’t go, but never forgave my grandmother for talking him out of it. Since my grandfather wasn’t a czar or even a Russian, in addition to the razor strap he must have left me something from Russia with love. Then there is Ryan Givens and his family. They are the heirs of George O. Walton of North Carolina, a coin collector. When Walton died in 1962, his collection was auctioned off in NYC for a tidy $850,000, except for a 1913 Liberty head nickel that New York numenmatix, numesmattocks… coin experts said was a worthless fake. The coin was stored in a bedside table until recently when new experts pronounced the nickel genuine. The coin, one of only five made, is going to be auctioned off in Chicago shortly for between $2 million and $5 million. You might also have a veritable treasure trove of what we antiquarians refer to as “old stuff” lying about. Remember Michael Sparks, a music equipment technician in Nashville, Tenn. In 2007, Sparks bought a yellowed, shellacked, rolled-up document in a thrift store for $2.48. It turned out to be a rare 1823 copy of the Declaration of Independence, which Sparks later sold at auction for $477,650. In 1989, Donald Scheer of Atlanta bought a painting at a Philadelphia flea market because he liked the frame. When taking it apart, out fell an original copy (about 500 were printed) of the Declaration of Independence. Scheer sold it for $2.42 million, but he got taken. In 2000, that same piece of paper was sold for $8.14 million. Not finding a Rembrandt drawing or Napoleon’s soft doughnut for his saddle – he had terrible hemorrhoids — I go to my library, which is actually a one-by-twelve inch board on two cinder blocks left over from my college dorm room. Did I file that book under G for Guttenberg or B for Bible? Then I remember I traded it for a first copy of Mad magazine. The book wasn’t very valuable because it was in Old German. Who can read that today? Maybe my “How to Change Your Car’s Floor Mats” is worth something. Same for this rare copy of “The Wit and Wisdom of Ma Ferguson.” Maybe you have seen too many shows of PBS-TV’s “Antiques Roadshow.” Then again, you never watch PBS, that pinko screed network. In the program, people bring a sawed-off shotgun and recite their great-uncle’s claim that it was used to blast Bonny and Clyde only to be told it was made in China in 2001. Either way, you still may worry you don’t have anything ancient around the house except for what’s in your freezer. Take a fresh look at your sandals. Did Mahatma Gandhi once walk a mile in them? About that sweaty towel autographed by NBA star center Willie Washington. Is that actually a “Willie” or a “George”? Does your razor strap have a double eagle on top? What’s in my desk that hasn’t been opened since I hid under it during Y2K? There’s probably not much value in this gold Roman coin stamped “25 BC,” mainly because I don’t think it’s real gold. Finally, you’ve been wondering who paid that $2.7 million for a couple of vases? A hint: They fit perfectly as bookends for my collection of Mad magazines. Ashby is still hunting at

Two Outstanding Art Exhibits Presented by the Houston Public Library

April 16, 2013 by  
Filed under Events

The Houston Public Library invites the community to view two outstanding art exhibits now through May. This is a great opportunity to view an exhibit that highlights impressionist art by Emma Richardson, “Emma Richardson Cherry, Houston’s First Modern Artist.” Harvey Johnson’s exhibit “Negro Spirituals: A Triple Middle Passage” is dedicated to the depiction of the human condition, showing the spirit of man struggling above adversity and the commonplace. Programs associated with the exhibits will also be presented. The exhibits and programs are free and open to the public. “Emma Richardson Cherry: Houston’s First Modern Artist”

Thru May 4, 2013

Emma Richardson Cherry (1859-1954) came to Houston in the mid 1890’s and remained a Houstonian for almost 60 years. Through her work as a teacher, lecturer, civic organizer and professional artist, she helped shape the art environment of the City and of Texas. Almost alone at first, she laid the foundation on which the Houston of later decades would build a vibrant art culture. She was a vital conduit, bringing current ideas from the greater art world to a Houston that was a small town of fewer than 30,000 when she arrived, and still fell far short of a million when she died in 1954. As the first woman and one of the first Americans of either sex to paint at Giverny in 1888/89, she arrived in Houston with first-hand knowledge of impressionism, and soon mounted the first impressionist exhibition anywhere in Texas. As a result of her encounter with such artists as Marsden Hartley and Stuart Davis in Gloucester, MA, and as one of fewer than 100 members worldwide (and the only one from Texas) of the avant-garde Societe Anonyme in New York in the early 1920’s, she was exposed to the ideas of fellow members Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray among others, and put Houston in touch with the most advanced art ideas circulating anywhere at the time. After study with cubist painter Andre Lhote in Paris in 1925/26, she painted what are likely the first cubist paintings made by a Texas artist.

The exhibit is free and open to the public at the Library’s Julia Ideson Building, 550 McKinney, 77002, 832-393-1662. For more details please visit . Second Saturday Series: Mrs. Cherry’s Studio (Family Program)

Saturday, April 13, 2013 at 2 PM

Julia Ideson Building, 550 McKinney, 77002, 832-393-1662

A workshop for all ages that introduces creative methods and techniques that Cherry and her students used in their work. An art instructor will provide fun activities to keep everyone engaged as they learn about the exhibition “Emma Richardson Cherry: Houston’s First Modern Artist.” This program is free and open to the public “Negro Spirituals: A Triple Middle Passage”
Thru May 25, 2013
Known for his narrative paintings and outstanding draftsmanship, poet Harvey Johnson has dedicated his work to the depiction of the human condition, showing the spirit of man struggling above adversity and the commonplace. As Johnson leads us through his own expression into self-discovery we discover ourselves at our most intimate. The exhibit displays 32 works of art that include paintings and drawings and one installation with found objects from Johnson’s travels. The exhibit expresses Johnson’s continuous journey in life that he has identified as three central themes he calls the “triple middle passage”: life, the transatlantic slave trade, and human transformation. “Negro Spirituasl: A Triple Middle Passage” explores these themes. African and African-American women function as solid and graceful allegories of creativity, life, hope and the survival of a community and culture. Recurring symbols, such as the shotgun house, are used to express the importance of social ties essential to black American cultural life. Johnson says, “The First Middle Passage is life – how we enter into this life through the boat of Heaven that is the sacred womb of all mothers. The Second Middle Passage speaks to the transatlantic slave trade and its ramifications to the present day, a holocaust of unmerciful human pillage and destruction. The Third Middle Passage is about human transformation not only ultimately from body to spirit, but transforming human and environment abuse into positive spirituality and humanness.”This exhibit is free and open to the public at The African American Library at the Gregory School, 1300 Victor St., 77019, 832-393-1440. For more details please visit Gallery Talk

Saturday, April 27, 2013 at 2 PM
The African American Library at the Gregory School, 1300 Victor St., 77019, 832-393-1440
In conjunction with the exhibition “Negro Spirituals: A Triple Middle Passage” poet Harvey Johnson will give an informal Gallery Talk on his work and the impact of the white-washing of his student murals at Texas Southern University. Lunch with a Legacy
With Harvey Johnson and Willie and Annie Moore

Saturday, May 25, 2013 at 2 PM
The African American Library at the Gregory School, 1300 Victor St., 77019, 832-393-1440
A conversation with poet Harvey Johnson and his former teacher Willie Moore, and the closing reception of the “Negro Spirituals: A Triple Middle Passage” exhibit. About the Houston Public Library
The Houston Public Library (HPL) operates 35 neighborhood libraries, four HPL Express Libraries, a Central Library, the Houston Metropolitan Research Center, the Clayton Library Center for Genealogical Research, The African American Library at the Gregory School, and the Parent Resource Library located in the Children’s Museum of Houston. Serving more than seven million customers per year in person and online, HPL is committed to excellent customer service and equitable access to information and programs by providing library customers with free use of a diverse collection of printed materials and electronic resources, Internet, laptop and computer use, and a variety of database and reference resources with live assistance online 24/7. For further information, visit the Houston Public Library at  or call 832-393-1313.


April 15, 2013 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

The Texas Legislature is wrestling with mighty subjects this session, mainly how to repair the damage they did last session with their smoke-and-mirrors budgeting, their mean-spirited war against poor, pregnant women, their deliberate procrastination in naming an official state pie, their immigration policies, the drought, the… Wait a minute. No life of pie? We have the official state tree, the pecan. Our official snack, tortilla chips and salsa. The grapefruit is the state fruit while the official state vegetable is not the Legislature, as many think, but the 1015 sweet onion, and the state pepper is the jalapeño. The official dish of Texas is chili. Texas’s official dance is the square dance or the Texas Two-Step, depending on how much official state tortilla chips, salsa and chili you’ve had.
But we had no state pie, until finally a new legislator, Rep. Marsha Farney,  Republican from Georgetown, won approval of her bill making the pecan pie the official state pie. It was her first bill, and she is clearly bound for greater glory. Her colleagues asked for amendments that only Texas pecans be used in pecan pies statewide, and that it formally be declared illegal to include chocolate. In honor of Farney’s measure, the state Capitol cafeteria sold pecan pie.

So now is a good time to take a look at what Texans eat and why — besides pecan pie. The early settlers (hold on, this isn’t a history lesson —  I’m trying to make you hungry since I hate to eat alone) ate what the Indians ate: bear meat, deer tongue and, in the case of the Karankawas, unsuspecting visitors. We have long had beef, including barbeque, ever since Spaniards brought the first cattle to Texas in the 1600s. Two centuries later, Travis’s last letter from the Alamo ended with, “We have since found in deserted houses 80 or 90 bushels & got into the walls 20 or 30 head of Beeves.” So we know what their last meal was. In the 20 years after the Civil War cowboys drove five to 10 million cattle out of Texas to the north. “Out of Texas” was the problem. The ranchers could get a lot more money for a steak in Chicago or New York City than in Waco. Thus Texans raised and sold great steaks to Yankees, but were stuck with tough T-bones to gnaw on.

We hear a lot about buying and eating “local products,” as though Mister Grocer invented the idea of consuming what comes from the backyard garden. Silly idea. Local products were all that Texans had to eat until the refrigerated rail car was invented.   Before then, Texans ate what was near. A side story:  The last train robbery in Texas was the Holdup at Baxter’s Curve in 1912 out near Sanderson. The theft was thwarted (try saying that three times quickly) when David A. Trousdale, an express messenger for Wells, Fargo & Co., who was being held at gunpoint, noticed an ice maul, a heavy hammer used for cracking blocks of ice, on the top of a barrel of oysters. Whack! The main point being that in West Texas in 1912 you could get fresh oysters.

Nevertheless, when I was growing up in Dallas, we had one seafood restaurant, 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. Then I saw live lobsters floating in a tank at a grocery store in Kerrville.

Today there are many excellent eating oasises (oasisi?) around the nation — New England clams, Louisiana Cajun, Kansas City steaks, and New York City is undeniable a feast. But Texas has a particularly firm hold on good eating. Here is why: We are surrounded by good food. As we have discussed before, Texas ranks second for total agricultural production. We are first in cabbages, and cattle and calves. Texas is the leading producer of pecans, second in sorghum grain and fifth in rice. Finally, Texas is especially fortunate to be the home of the Texas Aggies, who can grow moss on a rolling stone. All of this may explain why, among the states, we are 10th in the percentage of obese adults and 37th in overall health. And don’t forget Houston was crowned the Nation’s Fattest City

The Texas restaurant scene changed drastically when mandatory BYOB, which held back good restaurants for decades, was abolished. There’s profit in booze. And it is my theory that we are lucky in our geography. To the east we have Southern cooking which has seeped into Texas, particularly after Katrina when 250,000 Cajuns fled here and many stayed. (Wouldn’t you?) To the south we have that wonderful influence of Mexican food, blended into our own Tex-Mex. We have the ranches to the west, only now our steaks stay here. Did I mention Gulf seafood? And Texas has become a magnet for foreigners, particularly in Houston, bringing their own gastronomy of yak fat, ox colon and filet of python.

A good way to appreciate our varied foods is to visit the State Fair of Texas in Dallas next fall and wander through the Agriculture Building. There you will see  agricultural products you never thought of as being Texan, like Christmas trees. But there are also honey, fruits and veggies, pork and beans, wine and roses.

How good do Texans have it? Remember that on Sept. 17, 1989, Boris Yeltsin toured the Johnson Space Center and was on his way back to Ellington Air Force Base when he decided to visit a Randall’s grocery. For 20 minutes he wandered the aisles, and commented, “Even the Politburo doesn’t have this kind of choice. Not even Mr. Gorbachev.” He left a changed man, and when he returned to power, began dismantling the Soviet Union. You can look it up. Paper or plastic?





Ashby eats well at




Marriott Marquis coming to downtown

April 9, 2013 by  
Filed under Blogs

Agreement gives new convention center hotel OK to proceed
Marriott Marquis developers target groundbreaking in 2014, opening in 2016
HOUSTON – Progress on Houston’s second convention center hotel has reached new milestones with the completion of the development agreement to build a 1,000-room Marriott Marquis next to the George R. Brown Convention Center.
Mayor Annise Parker and Ric Campo, chairman of Houston First Corporation, said the agreement between Houston First and RIDA Development Corporation, the hotel developer, has been executed. In addition, Houston First financing for the project has been completed to include funds to acquire the hotel site, build an adjacent parking garage and make related improvements to the convention district.
The documents also authorize the transfer of land for the hotel’s construction from Houston First to RIDA. Geotechnical work on the site is expected to begin within the next two weeks.
“With this agreement, RIDA can now begin work in earnest,” Mayor Parker said. “It’s an exciting project that will help increase our convention business and generate more activity in downtown Houston.”
Construction is slated to begin in 2014, and the projected completion date for the $335 million hotel is spring 2016, said Ira Mitzner, president of RIDA Development.
With the new agreements in place, Mitzner said Morris Architects and their engineers can now seriously ramp up design efforts. RIDA and Morris are both Houston-based companies.
“It is gratifying to be able to partner with another hometown firm with global capabilities in this vital project,” Mitzner said.
The Marriott Marquis designation is reserved for large convention hotels of iconic design in America’s premier gateway cities. Houston will be the sixth city to fly the Marquis flag after New York, Washington DC, San Francisco, San Diego and Atlanta.
Campo said the go-ahead on this project is in keeping with Houston First’s 2025 master plan for the George R. Brown.
“We need almost 2,000 new hotel rooms to keep pace with competitive cities plus additional parking and retail options to strengthen our convention business,” Campo said. “The construction of this hotel will give us a big boost in attaining that goal.”
The new convention center hotel will add more than 1,800 construction jobs and 800 permanent jobs to Houston’s hospitality industry.
In addition, a new parking garage will add 1,800 spots for hotel patrons and George R. Brown Convention Center visitors. Houston First will soon issue a request for qualifications for a garage developer.
# # #
About Houston First Corporation
Houston First Corporation operates the city’s finest arts and convention facilities to position Houston as a world-class destination. Houston First manages more than 10 city-owned buildings, plazas and parking facilities. Properties include the George R. Brown Convention Center, Hilton Americas-Houston hotel, Miller Outdoor Theatre, Wortham Theater Center and Jones Hall. For more information, please visit
About RIDA Development Corporation
Established in 1972 by David Mitzner, RIDA Development Corporation has achieved a national and international reputation for creating innovative, premium quality and economically successful real estate properties. Headquartered in Houston, RIDA, as the managing partner, is currently developing retail, office, distribution, residential, hotel and mixed-use land developments with a total value in excess of $5 billion in the U.S. and Europe.
# # #


April 8, 2013 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

Dear Member of Congress, I can no longer refer to you as “Congressman” since 97, or 18.1 percent, of the 535 seats in Congress, are held by females, and I really don’t know who you are. I just vote a straight party ballot as did a record 64 percent of Texas voters in last November’s general election. Anyway, I write to demand that you cut federal spending. I’m sure you’ll agree, since you and every other member of Congress say you must “scrub the budget,” “eliminate waste and fraud,” “end the pork, cut the fat,” which is fitting, considering all the pigs’ snouts in the trough. You can start with something simple, like the Senate Hair Care Service with its shoe shiner, manicurist and stylists, which I have been subsidizing, and your private gym, too. Speaking of subsidizing, thanks for stopping the subsidies to control towers at smaller airports, including 13 in Texas. They can still operate, only more carefully, but why am I helping pay for these airports which cater almost exclusively to private and corporate airplanes? If the CEO can afford to take the company jet to the company deer lease, he can pay for his own control towers. All of these reductions are due to the $85-billion sequestration, a word almost no one knew or used until now. One target is the defense budget, which has doubled since 9/11. We now spend more on our military than the next 22 nations combined. Maybe chop the $255 million to upgrade our M1 Abrams tanks even though the Pentagon opposes the increased spending — it plans to stop production. According to Sen. John McCain, the Navy has spent in excess of $400 per gallon — per ever-loving gallon! — for approximately 20,000 gallons of algae-based biofuel. The Defense Department is no longer a military operation. It’s a jobs program. The money we are spending on various projects may not be helping. After 40 years and $1 trillion spent, an official of the war on drugs, Richard Kerlikowske, stated in May 2010, “In the grand scheme, it has not been successful. Forty years later, the concern about drugs and drug problems is, if anything, magnified, intensified.” We will spend $114 million on the U.N. Democracy Fund which supports global democratization efforts. The Obama administration has never requested any funding for it. And do we really need to pay $3 million for aquatic plant control? This doesn’t mean Congress should cut all spending. According to, the American Recovery Act of 2011 (aka the Stimulus Act to Recover From the Recession), spread funds far and wide, and we Texans were fighting for our share. The ZIP covering Dallas’ Park Cities got $6.1 million, all of it to the local public schools and SMU. The Houston ZIP that includes Piney Point, the richest city in Texas (average per capita income: $133,558), received $36.8 million in stimulus funds. Midland ranks as the second richest metropolitan area — as opposed to a city — in the entire nation based on per capita personal income: $65,173 in 2011. The Recovery Act gave Midland County $57 million. Granted, all these aaffluent residents have probably sent a lot more to Washington than they got back, but let’s not hear any idle chatter from them about “cutting gub-ment spending.” That’s not hypocrisy. It’s the American Way! Even the ZIP for my own neighborhood, Running Rats Acres, receives $6,129,433 in stimulus funds, including to BP and ConocoPhillips. No doubt they need the money. I mentioned cutting defense spending, which reminds me of Dr. Samuel Smith who was posted at the U.S. Army’s Camp Charlotte, Texas. On July 4, 1879, he wrote, “The whole state of Texas counts on the expenditure of money for Army supplies, and when a Congressman tackles the appropriations bill he joins issue with the whole state from Dan to Beersheba.” I’m all for slicing the military budget, but certainly not our Major John Andre Signal School. You never know — semaphores may come back in style. Military experts (my uncle’s VFW post) say the only thing between national safety and Al-Queda is the Fumble Fuse Ammunition Dump. Slogan: “Home of the biggest dump in America.” Mustard gas is not totally illegal. You said in a speech on the House floor (C-SPAN showed you were actually on the floor itself) those courageous words, “Somebody do something!” Then you got specific: “We must cut some things but not others. We need budget reform of some kind. I have made myself clear.” True, but we can’t throw the pig out with the trough. My mother needs more Medicare, not less. Close the medicine doughnut hole so she can eat more doughnuts. Increase her Social Security checks — she needs them to cover her trips to the Louisiana casinos. Also, our family farm couldn’t exist without all those subsidies. Otherwise, I’d have to get a job. Lyndon Johnson said, “One man’s loophole is another man’s livelihood.” The proposed tax deduction on empty Bud cans is not a loophole, it is my livelihood and an investment in our nation’s future. I am glad you are trying to cut all federal funding for that den of treason, National Public Radio. If that Mozart fellow wants his music played on the radio he should get a better agent. I am told the federal funds to NPR annually are the equivalent of what the Department of Defense goes through every eight hours. Should we just declare an eight-hour ceasefire with Kim Jong-un? You receive $174,000 a year, more if you’re in a leadership slot. As a U.S. representative you get about $1.3 million a year for staff expenses, senators get twice that. Not bad for a one-man band that doesn’t have to pay rent or utilities. Most doctors, lawyers and CPAs would love to have so much cash for expenses. So pay for your own haircut. Incidentally, we could use an eight-lane interstate from Dan to Beersheba. Ashby is in the trough at

Japan Fest

April 2, 2013 by  
Filed under Events


Houston Choreographers Unite for UH’s Ensemble Dance Works

April 2, 2013 by  
Filed under Events

EnsembleDanceWorksDance Showcase Performed April 5 – 7 at UH’s Lyndall Finley Wortham Theatre

The University of Houston is a hotbed for top choreographers and rising dance stars. Its dance program’s faculty includes a who’s who of dance professionals, who deliver performances on campus and in the community.
During the first weekend in April, dance fans can sample the talents of UH dance professors and special guests during Ensemble Dance Works 2013. This showcase of works includes new choreography performed by the UH Dance Ensemble, the university’s pre-professional dance company. Performances are 7:30 p.m., April 5 and 6, and 1:30 p.m., April 7 in UH’s Lyndall Finley Wortham Theatre (Entrance 16 off Cullen Boulevard).

Tickets are $20 and $12 for seniors. They can be purchased at the Wortham Box Office or by calling 713-743-2929.

Choreographers presenting works include:

Teresa Chapman, associate professor, will present “Crawl Before You Walk.” The piece was inspired by contrasting movement patterns and gestures of both old and young people.
Becky Valls, assistant professor, will present “Dangle,” a quirky piece set to Klezmer music and accented by dancers’ facial expressions. ‘
Leslie Scates, adjunct faculty member, shares “HERD,” in which she works with improvised movement from a foundation of sustained and repetitive movement phrases.
jhon r. stronks, adjunct faculty member, offers “Dogs don’t eat egg rolls,” an ensemble work exploring the development and establishment of community.
Sophia L. Torres, adjunct faculty member, will deliver “Ground Swell,” which explores movements that occur both in nature and human nature.
Guest artist Sara Draper will showcase “First Day of Spring.” The piece draws inspiration from traditional ethnic dance styles, as well as contemporary movements.
UH is the only university in Houston to offer a bachelor of arts degree and teacher’s certification in dance. Components of UH’s dance program include the Center for Choreography, University Dance Theatre (student organization) and the UH Dance Ensemble (the university’s pre-professional dance company). For more details on UH’s dance program and upcoming performances, visit its website .


April 1, 2013 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

It is the goal of this newspaper, The Daily Duh, to be as perfect in our job as you think you are in yours. But we all make mistakes. Lawyers call theirs “Number 8876650” or perhaps “death row inmates.” Doctors call their screw-ups “cadavers” and diplomats call theirs “wars.” We won’t even get into the mistakes made by our stock brokers and local TV weather forecasters. A baseball player who makes an out three times out of four, hitting .250, is considered a super star and gets a multi-million dollar contract. We figure we’re battling about .999 percent. The other .001 percent we blame on the umpire’s prejudice.

Nevertheless, our alert readers who fail Breathalyzer street tests, are fired for embezzlement and neglect to make their child payments, take great glee in pointing out a misprint in our fishing report. So once again it’s time for The Daily Duh’s Schadenfreude Follies! The headline reading: Mayor to Boil Children Alive should have read: City Park Opens Thursday. We apologize for the typographical errors, or what we in the trade call simply “typos.” Likewise, the headline: Free Money at Market Bank was not quite accurate. The correct wording should have read: Fee for Money Markets at Bank. A few of our bylines somehow got messed up. The article in our Religion Section was not written by “Good Lord Almighty!” That was a notation in the margin by a copy editor who noted the reporter referred to “Judas the Chariot.” The food editor is not Sal M. Nella. That was an inter-office prank pulled off by a jealous co-worker. In our Letter From Washington, a ratification is not a large rodent.

About the headline: Heavy Storms Approaching — Might Kill Hundreds. It should have included the dateline: Yukutsk, Siberia. We apologize for the ensuing riots at the Ace Hardware store for life rafts and the panic on the Logjam Freeway to get out of town, but are assured by FEMA that help is on the way. Some of our printed obituaries, or “obits” as we call them in the trade, left the impression that the subjects in question were dead. For example, last  week’s List of the Deceased was slightly misleading in that it contained winners of the Rotary Club Bake Off as well as the entire Aaron Burr High School faculty. Also, the previous week’s column, List of the Diseased, was only a letter or two off. In any event, we hope they get better.

It is a tradition in newspapers to allow next-of-kin to write their loved ones’ obits, particularly since the kin are paying to get the death notice in the paper. If the corpse isn’t somebody important, you’ve got to pay to be read and remembered. Unfortunately, this policy can lead to misconceptions. Saturday’s obit entitled: We’re Glad You’re Gone should not have run, nor should a line in another obit: “He left life the same way he arrived — naked, screaming, wet and toothless.” We are still investigating the death notice for the late Simon “the Snake” McCreep that claimed he had received the Medal of Honor, Nobel Peace Prize and was named Man of the Century by Time magazine. Actually, we’re told McCreep was in the Federal Witness Protection Program.

We received this scrawl in Crayola from a reader: “Kan’t yew awl dew annythang rite? My brothur was etten bye hawgs. Not dawgs.” We always appreciate corrections from such sophisticated and intelligent readers. This brings us to the subtle nuances of a reader’s own political views rather than actual mistakes. Our editorial, Flowers Are Nice, was interpreted by some as either supporting marijuana or a “commie-pinko defense” of the White House Rose Garden. The editorial, Support Our Firemen,  generated this from a reader: “Typical liberal media screed.” The message was delivered in a unique fashion — attached to a brick thrown through our front window. However, we’re proud Fox News broke into its expose on the Obama children’s backyard playground, Treason in the Tree House?, to report on the story.

Let’s not get bogged down in nick-picking. True, the TV listing, “Cheerleaders in Chains,” should have appeared only in our on-line edition under Adult Fantasies — Parental Supervision Advised, as was “Lust on the Linoleum — the Johnson Wax Story.” The crossword puzzle in last Sunday’s paper was inadvertently printed in Mandarin Chinese, but was solved by the  hospital’s  neurosurgery staff members, whose visas are about to expire.
The entire sports department has been let go due to illness: the readers were sick and tired of them. An example is the sports editor’s pick of Alabama over Rice in the College Football Championship Bowl. He says he didn’t realize Rice was that good. The story and statistics for the UT-A&M annual Thanksgiving game were slightly wrong, since the schools didn’t play. Our feature, The Score Board, was right on target with 4-5, 9-3 and 1-0, etc., but should have included the teams names.

Our advertising department is still trying to explain why, in the Positions Wanted section, it listed Hit Man when it should have read Assassin, and ditto for Man Wanted instead of Bridal News. To set the record straight, the advertisement, For Sale — Cheap, should have included a photograph of a black pickup, not of Sheriff Blackie Pickford. The caption reading Biggest Loser was unfortunately placed under a picture of Mitt Romney. We still don’t know why the recipe for chicken-fried steak insisted that the steak be fried by a chicken. In that same section, it is easy to mix up possum and poison. We hope the matter can be settled out of court.

Why does The Daily Duh makes so many mistakes? Recently we quoted William Randolph Hearst as saying, “Don’t be afraid to make a mistake, your readers might like it.” We aim to make our readers like it. Unfortunately, we attributed the quote to William Jennings Bryan. In the trade we call that “journalism.”

Ashby corrects at


Three travel tips to preserve your identity

April 1, 2013 by  
Filed under Blogs

Your wallet is a small window look into your entire identity. Think about it. Your driver’s license, credit card, debit card, health insurance card– all those numbers are all stored together. In the event of a lost wallet or stolen wallet, having all of this information in one place greatly increases your risk of identity theft.

Experian’s ProtectMyID ( has 9 great tips for travelers to help keep you a little bit safer. Here’s a quick preview of a few of them, happy to share the others:

1. Keep a record. If your wallet and everything in it were suddenly missing, you´d need to know what you had lost. In a personal notebook you keep in a secure place at home, write down all of the information from the front and back of your credit, debit, driver´s license, medical insurance and other important cards. Be sure to update the list as needed. This will help you make the appropriate calls following a theft.

2. Limit your cards. What you don´t carry in your wallet is just as important as what you do carry. For preemptive protection, only carry what you need on a daily basis. If you have multiple credit cards, only carry the one you use most often. Don´t write PINs or passwords on the back of your credit or debit cards or on pieces of paper you keep in your wallet.

3. Protect your SSN. Your Social Security number shouldn´t be on anything you regularly carry in your wallet. If any of your identification cards from a school, library or gym use your SSN as your member number, ask the organization for a randomly selected number and a new card. Be sure to shred the old one. Carry your actual Social Security card as infrequently as possible. If you need it to confirm you identity, be sure to return it to its safe storage place as soon as you can.